Saturday, July 26, 2014

Steve's Birthday & the second annual Shipman visit

The good times before our Jake joined them at the table & spontaneously fell headfirst off his chair in an attempt to avoid eating "food I don't like."
Well, Steve is getting older.  It's evidenced by the increase in gray hair as well as his age. ;)  That's right, he had another birthday!  We celebrated early as a family since our big girls were going to be en route to camp on his actual birthday.  As we were getting ready to head out for dinner, Jake asked, "Are we going to eat Dad's birthday??"  I responded, "Yes, we are going out to eat for Dad's birthday."  He came back with, "Weelllllll, I had a drinking birthday!!"  Whattt???!!  I guess he starts young, LOL.  Then I remembered, we were in California for his last birthday, and he had a milkshake for his birthday dessert, hence a "drinking birthday"!

On Steve's actual 45th birthday, we spent the day driving around, scouting out RV parks to see if we could find a better place for our family than our current spot, and also just getting a feel for what's in the area.  It was an altogether peaceful day with just our three littles.  Amazing how the family dynamics change when you remove a kid or two!

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that we got a chance to see the Shipman's the day after Steve's birthday.  We got to spend Steve's birthday with them last year when they drove through Utah on their way back to Texas from Oregon.  Who knew they'd be vacationing in Destin for Steve's birthday this year, and we'd be less than an hour away??? Kinda crazy!  We had a great time hanging with Joe & Emily & company, as well as Mike & Corinne & crew, and Andrew & Stephanie & kids, too!  Now the question is...where will we be on Steve's birthday next year??!!? :)

Genna and Ashley had so much fun together!
Grilled peaches--so incredibly simple & sooo good!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Johnny's Lakeside RV Resort, Foley, Alabama

This place Rocks!!  Seriously, such an awesome place. Originally, Steve had booked two months here, then changed it to one month because there were rumblings of being moved for work, and then sadly, we had to change it to less than a week because those rumblings were turning out to be true. Although we were bummed we couldn't stay longer, all of us were so glad we were able to stay here for the time we did. The waterpark? In a word, fantastic. This place has a lazy river, three big slides, and a super shallow play area for littles. There are few rules, so Genna & even Jake were able to slide, and they had oh-so-much fun!! And...there was even a day camp for Jake & Genna compliments of  Jake flipped out on the first day & didn't stay, but he had a blast after that.  It was such a great thing for the both of them, a little bit VBS-like.

Our short site that was a little tricky to get into
They had free facepainting
Not sure why the little man is so glum
This place is wildly popular, for good reason. If you ever get a chance to stay here, go for it! You won't regret it. The people here were friendly, the amenities were great, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It would make a great place to have a family reunion, a rally, or just have a family vacation!

Katie had a blast on the swings
The waterslides were crazy fast for adults
Major cuteness
The lazy river was a big hit
They never said 'No Hanging from Bridge"
We must have gone around 100 times

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Exploring Mobile, Alabama

Once we knew we would be leaving Alabama & moving to Florida, we decided to explore Mobile.  We went low-key, starting at the tourist information place and Fort Conde.  Jake & Genna were completely fascinated with the battle display, studying it forever. Then we took the free shuttle & stopped off at Panini Pete's for lunch. We discovered the Fairhope location was featured on Diners, Drive-ins, & Dives. It's definitely worth a stop. The sandwiches we had were good, and the beignets were awesome! Everyone enjoyed themselves!

Panini Pete's
The beignets were incredible
No need to go all the way to New Orleans

After lunch, we walked to the park nearby on Dauphin Street, & Jake & Genna tried their hand at catching squirrels & birds. They never succeeded, but they were convinced that was only because we left too soon! As we wandered down the street, we stopped for coffee. It seems that the coffee-loving gene has been successfully passed to most of our children. ;) As we continued our walk, Steve spontaneously popped into the Renaissance hotel. After a fun ride up the escalator, we relaxed and cooled off in the upstairs conference area. The littles thought it was a super cool playground. We managed to leave on our own before being asked to leave by security :)

Since it was free, we stopped at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, which was beautiful & reminiscent of European cathedrals. It was delightfully cool and quiet, at least until we arrived & Katie discovered that any small noise she made sounded very loud. As we left, Alyssa asked about the confession booths, which inspired some interesting discussions about the Catholic church & the practice of confession.

Inside the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
We cooled off in the lobby of a fancy hotel
Although both Katie & Jake were asleep, we stopped at the Botanical Gardens. The offices were closed, so the bathrooms were, too. Although it was a pleasant stop, it's not worth the price of admission, in my opinion. We left quickly in search of bathrooms & found them at a nearby playground. Although it was ridiculously hot & humid, the kids had a great time playing. I was sitting in the pavilion feeding Katie in the shade, so it was heartwarming to see another dad help Jake down from some of the playground equipment. And, we also saw a little boy give Alyssa a very sincere hug. Apparently, he asked her if she would be his friend, and when she told him we were about to leave, he told her goodbye and hugged her. :) It was definitely one of those, "we're not in Utah anymore" experiences.

The gardens were nothing special so we didn't stay long

On our way back home, we stopped at a Farmer's Market and a Seafood market to gather some good, local food for dinner. It was a "grill dinner," as Jake would say--grilled corn, zucchini, mushrooms, onions, shrimp, and a first for me, grilled peaches for dessert! Yummy! A great ending to a great day together as a family.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Wilderness RV Park, Robertsdale, Alabama

When the kids & I arrived from Utah, our first "home" was Wilderness RV Park.  The owner was nice, & he didn't charge the offensive "kid tax."  The pool was the highlight of our stay here, for sure.  Not only was it useful for keeping the kids happy, I even taught Genna how to swim!!  Yay!! (And thank you, Miss Jayne, for faithfully teaching our big girls to swim...your methods of instruction do indeed work!)

What a huge change of pace from our time in suburbia!  The kids & I were unprepared really for how far away we were from town.  It seems that this area is a good place to go when you just want to get away from it all and mostly just disappear. I can't say that the other camper/residents at the campground were very welcoming or friendly. Many avoided eye contact & ignored our presence while others would be friendly once & then never was a bit strange, honestly. There were other kids in the campground, but they didn't really want anything to do with our kids. But...there was a pool which helped wear the kids out & cooled us off on hot, humid summer days.

Fun at the Railroad Museum in Foley
Besides the pool, the kids & I took advantage of the free attractions in Foley.  Jake was enchanted with the trains at the Railroad Museum.   The older kids especially enjoyed the Holmes Medical Museum, housed in south Baldwin County's first hospital.   It has quite the interesting array of instruments of torture, I mean medicine. ;)  We also scored a couple interesting books at the used bookstore at the corner.  Who knew How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less would make such an interesting read-aloud for school??

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the Derailed Diner which was at our exit off of I-10. It's definitely worth the stop for the interest factor.

We don't have photos of the RV park. These are from a park in Robertsdale where we stopped after church.
It was a warm and sticky Gulf coast day
This is a really good book for teaching effective communication

Friday, July 4, 2014

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Even though Steve had arrived nearly two months prior, he decided to wait until we arrived to go to the beach altogether as a family.  We went twice to the beach pavilion of Gulf Shores State Park in Alabama. We did pay $5 to park, but it was worth it for the bathrooms and showers.  It was indeed crowded, but it was still pleasant. There were lots of fish to see in the clear waters, even several rays, and a small shark??  I can't vouch for the shark myself, but Steve is convinced he saw one!  I can see why so many Texans drive here for vacation as the beach is a much "prettier" beach than Texas beaches.

It was truly great to be together & having fun!  On our way back, we checked our the popular, local Shrimp Basket, but really, save your money & go to something better.  We just weren't that impressed.