OUR L-O-O-O-ONG 4th OF JULY WEEKEND
We've not gotten away as a family for a while. And we'd not been to see family since Christmas. Add in the extra long 4th of July holiday weekend and it was a perfect opportunity to mix it all together and come up with a get-away....almost 5 days to be exact.
On Thursday, after much agony and effort, we managed to feed all the critters, batten down the hatches, pack up all the suitcases (do you know how long it takes to pack for NINE?), and get off purty near on time. We made a pit stop at Super Hubby's sister's beautiful house nestled in a lovely, historic neighborhood along the way and made it to my mom's house on the coast in time for supper and visiting before bedtime.
Friday morning, the 3 oldest girls and I went over to the mall which is within walking distance of my mom's. But no, we did NOT walk. Its stinkin' hot here in the middle of the summer and you know we had to look good to do some shopping! What motivated the trip was 1) my 3rd daughter had managed to pack 99.9% pink stuff and color theme freak that I am, my girl just HAD to have something patriotic to wear for Independence Day and 2) you put American teenage girls withing sniffing distance of a mall, especially one with a Claire's Boutique and the chance of seeing some cute guys, and you just know they're gonna be begging to get there.
Mid-day, my brother's family came over and we had a big ole traditional 4th of July lunch complete with hamburgers and hot dogs cooked on the grill, baked beans, chips, and an American flag cake. After stuffing ourselves, we grown ups sat around talking---mostly bemoaning politics and the election season---while the cousins had a blast goofing off and getting sand in their hair.
That evening, our 2 oldest boys went to spend the night at my brother's house and we took the rest of the kids to the fireworks show on the beach. We parked in front of my brother's best friend's house and walked the few blocks down to the shore. There was a good crowd of folks but not so crowded that you felt scrunched in. There was still plenty of elbow room which was a good thing considering the inebriated patriots who were haphazardly shooting off fireworks. Yes, fireworks are still legal in most parts of our region. 4 year old T was not a happy junior camper. He has never liked loud noises and fireworks are no exception even if they are pretty. He kept his hands clapped over his ears for the better part of the evening and did his share of whining and whimpering, but despite the drama, we all--- even the ear plugger, though to a lesser degree---had a fun time of it. Though it was dark, Super Dad took the younger kids out to splash in the very, very shallow water while 14 year old A and nearly 13 year old B explored on their own.
Once the fireworks started, it was pretty awesome to be able to look straight out over the sound and see one firework show fairly close up while over to the west and across the bay, see the next city's fireworks going off. In fact, as part of the neighboring show, I saw red heart shaped firework displays for the first time. They were very pretty...as was the whole experience with the boat, bridge, and building lights reflecting on the gently rippling waters of the gulf.
On Saturday, we loaded up and drove to my Cousin Beth's house in Mobile, Alabama. She and her husband Sam have a home that is great for entertaining and we enjoyed hanging out with their family. We took my son's oldest along and he plus the rest of the cousins thoroughly enjoyed their time in Beth and Sam's pool. Jim had to step in and perform life guard duties a time or two and Baby M said she liked going down the slide with him though she emphatically declined going down a second time.
After another traditional Independence Day meal (including some amazingly good banana pudding), my dad and his wife stopped by for a visit. We adults sat around the table mostly swapping family stories and looking at old photos and letters while the kids continued just being wild, but surprisingly, well-behaved kids.
As evening set in, we drove back to my mom's thru a typical afternoon rain storm, got back to her house, threw the little kids into bed, and then Super Hubby and I headed out for a date night. We ate outside at a little eatery called Government Street Grocery in the historic, artsy downtown part of the town where I spent my teenage years. Jim was having a hankering for fried shrimp so ordered a poboy. I indulged in a spicy roast beef wrap with fried okra. We split an order of freshly made hummus and warm pita bread. After a large lunch and such a delicious supper, we were full to the gills. A band called Rooster Blues was due to play, but we needed a walk desperately. After strolling through the quiet and quaint heart of the town, we were too pooped to go back for the live music so we called it a night.
Sunday morning, I spoke to my mom's Sunday School class at First Baptist about our trip to Swaziland and the dire situation going on there with the HIV/AIDs crisis. This class had faithfully supported us financially and prayerfully related to our trip and it was a joy to be with them. One lady said that after reading the first chapter "sampler" of RED LETTERS by Tom Davis that my mom had given her she had gone out and bought the book. It has really impacted her. Others asked how they could be involved in helping financially in the future. And one sweet lady, who had often bravely chaperoned many of the youth events and trips I participated in growing up, donated $50 for Children's HopeChest and their carepoint ministry.
After a patriotic-themed service, the church had a huge covered dish lunch and games. The kids enjoyed the chance to eat even MORE sweets plus participate in the activities, and I loved getting to see old friends. One young woman, who had been several years behind me growing up, gave me two bags of birthday party items to send to the children at the Moriah Centre carepoint. The generosity and love of the folks at First Baptist is such a blessing in my life. I told Mama Randolph after my talk on Sunday morning that though I can't remember almost anything said to me or taught to me during my years as a teen there, what I do remember is that I was loved. And that love was what I desperately needed during those often very difficult adolescent years. When I graduated and moved away to college, finding a church home was a high priority for me because I knew I wanted in my college years what God had blessed me with during my growing up years.
As soon as we could load up that afternoon, we headed north to Columbus where Jim's dad and step-mom live. They've built a darling guest cottage so we bunked there with the 3 little ones while the 4 older ones stayed in the main cottage with the grandparents. After a country breakfast, the kids had quite a time swimming and splashing in the good sized creek (actually a small river) on the backside of the property. Then after lunch, it was back on the road to head home Monday afternoon.
Yep, we were worn plum out after all our travels and visits, but it was worth it. Family and friends are true blessings and we are abundantly rich in this area.
Thanks to all of you who helped make this Independence Day holiday such a memorable one. We love you tremendously!
*I'll be adding more photos tomorrow and trying to tidy up the look of it all.