windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
On Sunday, we spent our morning dodging raindrops at the Palm Beach Gardens Green Market, where we bought some homemade donuts and guacamole. In the afternoon, while Graeme napped and I visited the craft store (where I fell off the not-buying-wagon to the tune of $30), Sequoia and her Grandma went to see Date Night at the local theaters. I guess that was embarrassing, despite the PG-13 rating, because of the sexual content and jokes and the, well, sitting next to your grandma part. Both were mortified at the end of the show. We drove down to Darbster for a late lunch and then drove home so that Daniel and I could go out to the movies while the other two girls stayed home watching Graeme. Well, first we had to earn our time off by dealing with some bathtub + stomach upset disasters. And just when the bathtub was disinfected and refilled, it happened again! Oh, thankfully Daniel was there to deal with the grossest of the jobs. ;) So once we boiled ourselves, we went out to the theaters and, in a show of solidarity and to be in on the joke, went to see Date Night, too. It was a lovely evening out solo. :)


Today, things are winding down. My Mother-in-Law flew home this morning and we dropped Daniel off at the airport this afternoon. Sequoia will be here a couple more days and then it'll be back to my empty nest. :) It has been a very busy, very nice week. :)
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
Saturday, Daniel took the day off making us a very happy party of five. We drove to Blowing Rocks Preserve for the morning and then had lunch at Jupiter's Food Shack for a crazy-fabulous lunch. In the afternoon, we went to Jonathan Dickinson State Park and took a guided boat ride up the Loxahatchee River to Trapper Nelson's. It was overcast and breezy, perfect really, and we got some close-up views of alligators, turtles, and ospreys in the nest with their young. Graeme remained pretty cool about the whole inactive tour thing, getting a little wiggly but nothing bad for the two hours. After the ride, we hiked up the boardwalk through the scrub to Hobe Mountain, the highest point in South Florida--83 feet, I think. Worthy of lots of jokes, but a great view, too. :)

After the state park, we drove up to Chuck E. Cheese so that Sequoia and Graeme could play together. The place was a mad-house, so maybe not the best plan. They still had fun, though, which is kinda a tall order with both a toddler and a teenager together. :)



Um. Don't tip over, people. That's a big alligator.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
Friday, after a trip to the library for storytime and the park, Sequoia and Grandma conspired to go shopping for sundresses. We drove down to Wellington Green, the nearest Forever 21 store, and wandered around for awhile. Given my no-buying thing, it was painful. :D I very nearly bought an $80 pair of jeans, went so far as trying them on, before my will power kicked back in. It made for a grumpy day. :) Sequoia did manage to find a cute dress and a necklace to go with it. I bought nothing but lunch. Success!

So what else? Somehow, shopping (or fighting to not-shop) sucked the whole day away. That night, we pulled out my thrifted copy of the Survivor boardgame. My husband and niece voted me off the island. ;) I will never forget it! :D

Graeme's pretending to be his father at the mall.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
Thursday morning, Sequoia and I walked Graeme up to the closest community park for an hour or two. We got home in time to load into the car and drive to pick up Daniel's mother (Sequoia's grandmother) at the airport. Graeme was asleep in the car until we got home with her and then very put out to be home and not somewhere else more entertaining. We drove around kinda aimlessly and then stopped for snacks at Panera Bread.

In the afternoon, we drove to Juno Beach and watched a bunch of kiteboarders taking advantage of the good winds. I collected more holey shells for my Fairie Festival costume. :) That night, Daniel took his mom out for dinner so that Sequoia and I could shamelessly fangirl over Vampire Diaries in peace. ;)

A couple more photos here... )
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (ocean mom)
We woke up late, broke fasts with pizza and breadstick leftovers, and loaded into the car for a trip to the Grassy Waters Preserve. It seems outrageous that just a mile or so from our house is twenty square miles of (relatively) untouched wetlands, alligators and all. Graeme was sad to see that the "park" I'd promised him had no playground equipment. I think he thought it a betrayal. He eventually perked up when I dug around in my backpack for his toddler camera and spent the next hour or more running ahead of us on the boardwalk and taking photos of insects and ferns and his blue velcro sneakers.


It was hot and sunny and beautiful. We saw lizards and swimming snakes, giant fuzzy bees and papery wasp nests, water-striding cypress trees, tiny silver fish and even a silently stalking alligator. We watched in shock as a group, led by an official guide, stepped off the boardwalk in their shiny white tennis shoes, walking through the swamp with only some nervous giggles and walking sticks, knee deep in the murky muck and tannin-brown water.

It was so beautiful and so alien.

At a certain point, we were too overheated to enjoy it anymore. We got back into the car, bought sandwiches at Jimmy John's, and then picked up Daniel at the airport. Here at home, Daniel took the kids swimming at our pool while I talked to Rhiannon on the phone and nursed my sunburns in the cool of our darkened bedroom. We had gnocchi and salad for dinner and have been playing games all evening long. Such fun! :)

More Grassy Waters Photos... )
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
Graeme hadn't been able to go to sleep until 12:30, so it was a real shock to the system when my alarm beeped me awake at 4:45am. I threw on clothes and then bundled a still-sleeping Graeme into the car. The roads were mostly deserted, straight, monotonous down to Miami and I was feeling so tired. It was miserable, really, trying to stay awake. We got to the airport alright and picked up Sequoia, whose red eye flight from Seattle had allowed her about as much sleep as I got. Both of us were feeling sick and puke-y and tired on the drive back where, again, I felt like a zombie and had to do stupid things like pinch myself and tap my fingers on the steering wheel to make sure my attention didn't wander to asleep-with-eyes-open status.

Back at home, Graeme zoned out in front of the television while both Sequoia and I beelined it back to bed. I'd sleep for twenty minutes before Graeme needed some attention or food or a channel change and then I'd be back to sleep for another twenty minute stretch. I just couldn't get up! That went on for about three hours of near-complete parental inattention. Sequoia woke up around the same time and the two of us kinda sat and drooled in a stupor, watching Spongebob Squarepants and saying every ten or fifteen minutes of silence--"We should go to the beach today." "Yeah."

We finally got ready and out the door around 1pm. A couple minutes from the beach, Graeme fell asleep in the car and we were obligated to rearrange our plans a bit. Sequoia ran into the grocery store to get us some chips and bagels and we sat in the car for about an hour, talking and snacking. Once Graeme woke up, we grabbed our towels and toy shovels and walked down to Juno Beach.

The sun was so bright, the sky cloudless, and the beach was hot! It was probably in the mid-80s, reminding me that summertime here will be into the high nineties and all humidity. A lot of man-o-wars in the water and on the shore, making the idea of swimming a little less appealing. We were on a mission, collecting shells with natural holes in them for my Fairie Festival costume plans and really had a great time. (Graeme later said it was his favorite time of the day--being at the beach with Sequoia (which he seems to say as, "Keera")).

After the beach and some time at the adjacent playground, we cooled off in town at Gelato Grotto (Yum!) and then visited another playground in the long hours of sunset before going home to play games (we found an electronic Deal or No Deal game of my Mom's, Sequoia pulled out her card tricks, we played School with Graeme who was excited to wear one of my backpacks around the house) and we ordered pizza in and talked about our mutual love of Vampire Diaries.

Lovely day, overall, despite our total out-of-it-space-cadet fatigue. :) Today, Daniel flies in and joins our party! :D

Mango and Forest Berry gelato!
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (outdoorsy)
Yesterday morning, we drove over to the Palm Beach Zoo.

All the reasons I'm not too keen on zoos and maybe why I should change my thinking...under this cut. )

The place was unrecognizable. Small but delightful. Fewer animals occupied larger habitats, lushly planted with local trees and plants and laced with running water features. Daniel was telling me that they have become something of the great non-profit success story, having raised tens of millions of dollars for all the renovations they've made. As a zoo, it wasn't ideal, but obviously there were a lot of minds at work on behalf of the captive animals. It was shady and tropical, so pleasant to stroller around and take photos. Graeme was especially thrilled by their brochure map and used it to successfully navigate us to the parrots (priority #1), the kangaroos (priority #2), and the white alligator named Mardi.

Animals were separated into geographic areas. The South American section was themed as ancient Mayan ruins peeking out of the jungle. They had big stellae and pyramids. It was crazy and beautiful.

Oh! And along with wild white ibis and chickens running around, they also had free-range peacocks and peahens nesting in the trees and strutting around. Pretty magical at times.

Photos from the Zoo )
After the zoo, I dropped Daniel and Graeme off at home and stole about three hours by myself to thrift shop for clothes at the two biggest Goodwill stores in my area. (I rarely have the time to try on clothes with an unpatient toddler underfoot, so it had been a long time since I got that scavenger joy of flipping through the racks.) For about $60, I about doubled my wearable, "it fits!" wardrobe: two pairs of pants, a jacket, six or seven shirts, a black embroidered skirt, a cocktail dress. I am over-the-moon with my finds. The jacket, for instance, is a brand-new J.Jill in this cheerily spunky watermelon pink/peach color. It was $15 originally but was 50% that day *and* there was a dollar bill in the pocket when I got home. So, what's that? $6.50 for a quirkily brilliant coat. :D Hanging all these tropical-bright purchases in the closet next to a sea of blue-green, gray, and black, I could literally see the depression-fighting powers the Florida sunshine has offered. :) I'm like, a super-powered rainbow now. ;)
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
Friday, the day of my mom's wedding, Graeme woke up with the hot, paper-dry skin of the fevered. He complained of bees in his nose and a sore throat, too, alternating the day between extreme lethargy and sudden torrents of tears. Daniel and I both felt run-down from our busy past couple of months. In Chicago, Daniel was supervising the remodeling of the condo and had spent three days operating on little sleep so he could box and haul away most of our worldly possessions before the floor guys started ripping up and replacing the wood floors. Here in Florida, I hadn't packed for the cruise, had nothing really appropriate to wear to my mom's wedding, and was living in a crazy-mess of a house. We talked on the phone, commiserating with each other, and decided to cancel our participation in my aunt's birthday cruise. It lifted a huge burden off of us. We'll get about 90% of the cruise cost refunded to our credit cards, won't have to drag a sick baby onto a boat in the middle of nowhere, and have gained seven precious days at home together without work or obligation. It has been divine ever since making that decision!

Around five pm, I bundled Graeme up into multiple fleecy layers and strollered to the neighborhood gazebo where my mom was getting married to her long-time boyfriend, Bob. She sprang the wedding idea on us last minute and I was pretty resentful of how she turned my aunt's birthday celebration into her own conveniently pre-paid honeymoon. Still, there was no doubting how supremely happy she was in that late afternoon light. About twenty-five of us witnessed them exchange some moving, personal vows (including one by Bob to act as her "knight in shining armor") and within a few minutes, they were married. We caravanned over to my aunt's patio which had been transformed with only a couple week's notice into this gorgeous wedding reception, complete with orchids and palm fronds and warm pools of candlelight. My mom was sparkling with happiness. For better or for worse, she's embraced this course of her life and looking around at the other guests, most of whom I'd never met, I could see how much my mom's life has diverged from my own. She is her own person and totally unaccountable to me. She has found ways to reinvent what her life is all about and has a whole circle of friends and new family that help her to do that. It was bittersweet but, with Graeme clinging and Daniel flying in later that night, mostly just sweet.


The reception ended early so everyone could finish getting ready for the cruise departure the next morning. I drove over to the airport and picked up Daniel. Such a relief to know, at least this week, he won't be flying away in a day or two and he won't be closeted in his office working until 2am. No, I get seven days with my husband! :)

Saturday, Graeme was snuffly and a bit under-the-weather, but he still announced, "Today, we are going to the beach!". How could I say no to that?! The three of us packed all our beach towels and toys and bundled up for the breezes. My brother Matthew, who'd come into town for the wedding and wasn't able to afford the cruise, called and we made plans to meet in Jupiter at the beach. He brought his wife and our two nephews, Gideon and Elliott (who is Graeme's age). It was such fun to see everyone playing in the sand and the surf. After the beach, we visited an adjacent playground and then drove over together to get lunch at Pollo Tropical, this Cuban fast-food place we love here in South Florida.

After lunch, we split from Matthew's family. I got the sheer luxury of a trip to Goodwill and an after-lunch nap (!!) while Daniel and Graeme played at our park. That night, we played with animals, picked up groceries at Greenwise, gave Graeme a bath and made pasta and steamed broccoli. Mmm. :) It was a perfect family night.

Sunday, I finally admitted defeat. Graeme's homemade whoops!mullet had to be repaired professionally. We drove to a children's hair salon at the Wellington Mall and watched Graeme go from stubborn terror ("I'm scared of the barber! I don't want a hair cut! I don't want my hairs cut!") to proud delight as he announced to anyone who would listen ("Hi, I'm Graeme. I got my hair cut today! I have a new hair cut!").

I'd gotten a completely unexpected refund in the mail for $80 and immediately vowed to apply it towards my Pajama Program collection. I darted around the mall for about an hour and added six big kids sized pajama sets to my collection with the funds.

Oh! Oh! So, I didn't mention the other surprises at the wedding reception. My brother and sister-in-law, as a gift for our 5th Anniversary, gathered 28 pajamas to donate in our honor. My mother even took time from her festivities to deliver five fuzzy fleece sets. That, with my weekend's purchases, brings me to a total of 237 pajamas to donate. How outrageously generous and good-hearted are my friends and family! <3 :)

After shopping, we stopped at Darbster for another amazing, nommy vegan meal. (Hello, tempura-battered cauliflower in sweet chili sauce!)

More photos here... )
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
On Saturday, [ profile] mermaiden and [ profile] willow_cabin's last day with us in Florida, we scrambled a bit to try and get everything done that we'd missed. In some ways, we failed and the boys (Graeme, Daniel and, even moreso, [ profile] radshaun) got crushed under the wheels of our getting-it-done-mobile. We needed a teleporter, frankly. And a babysitter for Graeme.

Daniel gamely tagged along with us and entertained Graeme while we visited Juno Beach for a bit of a beach fare-thee-well and toured the sea turtle rehab and release center at the Juno Beach Marinelife Center...aka "The Turtle Place". Now, let me say that the mission of the Marinelife Center is one after my own heart and getting to see their exhibit on sea turtles and walk outside to pay calls on the patients in the hospital's tanks is wonderful, but the gift shop is out-of-this-world. An entire posh little shop filled with everything sea turtle themed that has probably ever been created. Coffee tables, coffee mugs, bath mats, tub toys, jewelry, bags, books, pens, journals, candies--you name it. It is the most fun shopping in the world.

After that, we met back up with Daniel and a cranky-possibly sick-soon to be sleeping baby Graeme in the car and headed to a restaurant nearby for lunch. Graeme was asleep, Daniel and I were debating who would sit outside in the car with him and skip lunch, and in the end we decided to ignore our growling stomachs a little longer and drive about an hour south to a New Age/crystal shop that we'd visited together last year. At this point, Shaun, who'd been trailing behind in his own car like someone following vague clues on Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? gave up and bailed and Daniel looked like he wanted to bail out the driver's side door. It was a little rough, to be honest, and even moreso when our GPS drove us to the entirely wrong place.

We eventually arrived at The Crystal Garden in Boynton Beach and spent an hour (okay, probably more) shopping amongst its rooms of books, incense, jewelry, and polished crystals. I picked up some beautiful pieces of pink opal, selenite, ocean jasper, along with a couple others whose names are eluding me right now. Graeme woke up, again, in a terrible mood and he and Daniel both got antsy waiting for us in the car. It wasn't pretty.

We piled back into the car with our purchases and drove, grumpy and half-starved, to Darbster, this awesome little waterfront outdoor vegan bistro in West Palm Beach. The food was outstanding. Delicious. Incredible. Crave-worthy. So that went a long ways towards restoring our sense of center.

After a late lunch, showers, and naps at home Sarah and I drove over to the moonlit Juno Beach for a sort of combo Full Moon esbat/early Imbolc ritual. I'll figure out how to tackle my experience of that in another post, but it was perfect.

This morning (Sunday) I got up at 4:30am and drove the girls to the airport. In another hour or two, I'll be dropping Daniel off at the airport again as well. I have a bit of that empty nest syndrome. Everything is so quiet and still after all the activity and company I've had the past week. What a wonderful, wonderful week it has been. :) <3

Thank you, [ profile] mermaiden and [ profile] willow_cabin, for the love and the memories and the many, many, many, many hours spent companionably basking in the wind and water and sun of "my" ocean. :) We love you so much and miss you already. :)



Graeme's Cam:  Jenn and Sarah
(Graeme took this photo of the girls at Darbster. So sweet.)
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (ocean mom)
Friday, we were lucky enough to have Daniel acting as a babysitter. We woke up early and headed out, just us girls, to the unbelievable beauty of Blowing Rocks Preserve on Jupiter Island. It is unlike any other beach I've seen in Florida with water-sculpted limestone forming ledges, caves, and living art pieces right at waters' edge. We arrived at low tide and were able to pick our way through areas that are more-often-than-not underwater. We spent hours meditating, picking our way over (and under) the rocks and taking photographs. It was fucking spectacular. The mad, crazy-beautiful goodness of the earth on display in one place.


A break for photos...lots of photos. )

We eked every second we could out of it until we had to rush back to get Graeme and allow Daniel to get back to work for the day. With Graeme in the car, I think we did some more mundane things like visit thrift stores (mostly thriftFAIL!) and shiver at Juno Beach together just after twilight. That evening, Daniel's generous babysitting continued so we were able to have dinner at Whole Foods (thank you, vegan hot bar items!) and then go to see Avatar 3D together.

I am still processing the awesomesauce that was Avatar. Everything I've read resonates with me. Yes, this changes film-making and Yes, this is a must-see, and Yes, this is a pagan-hearted movie and Yes, it does remind you powerfully of some other natives v. destructive intruders stories like Pocahontas and Fern Gully. It was all that and far more. It has the same crushingly relevant social commentary of Wall-E and made me forget, against all odds, that I had to pee for three hours. ;) What can I say?? It was heartfelt and sobering and crushing and wonderful.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (ocean mom)
On Thursday morning, we (Sarah, Jenn, Graeme, and I) packed up our beach supplies and drove to Jupiter Beach. Graeme happily dragged his t-ball set out to the sand and we played some strange toddler versions of baseball and catch with him when we weren't standing knee-deep in the surf, burying our sunburned feet in the sand, or adding to our truly monumental seashell collections.

The sea has incredible powers of healing. The hours we spent on the beach during the visit scoured all the negative thoughts, the shadowed self-images, the anxiety and darkness clear out of my soul. The sun warms bone deep, the sea air enlivens my lungs, my heart, the sand gently smooths my skin, the sound of the surf and the wind gently block out every other thought. I can't explain it. It is so immense, so unceasing, so calming--like falling into the night sky, vast and silent, wild and watching, and having its presence whittle down, by comparison, every little trouble and pain and worry until they can be shrugged off as unimportant.

After the beach, Graeme fell asleep in the car and we had the chance to drive to Jonathan Dickinson State Park. I stayed in the car (no doubt, playing more Bejeweled) with Graeme while the [ profile] mermaiden and [ profile] willow_cabin climbed Hobe Mountain lookout. (If that's a mountain, I'm a mountain goat.)

We drove further into the park, along the banks of the Loxahatchee River. Another thirty minutes or so, and Graeme woke up feeling fussy. We visited a small playground in the park and then hiked for a short toddler jaunt on the Kitching Creek Trail. He perked up a little at the numbered trail markers, claiming he was on "a number hunt" and looking for each in order.

After the park, we drove by like three thrift stores and found them *all* to be closed. (South Florida, the sidewalks roll up in time for the early bird specials at diners.)

At home, we ordered pizzas from Pizza Fusion, an organic, earth-conscious delivery place in my area that has, bless their hearts, a "Very Vegan" pizza. It was an evening of overeating and watching episodes of The Vampire Diaries in my not-subtle bid to win new fans to the show. (Did I succeed? ;D)

All-in-all, a very pleasant outdoorsy day.

Now excuse me as I get to the real point of these posts--the photos! (A zillion more can be found on my Flickr page. Though strangely I don't have many from this particular day.)


And a couple more under here! )
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (ocean mom)
On Tuesday night, Graeme and I, along with [ profile] radshaun, went to collect [ profile] mermaiden and [ profile] willow_cabin from the airport to celebrate our second annual Winter in Florida vacation together. :D It was late and we'd all had long days, but that didn't stop us from staying up and talking even longer.

Wednesday morning, we woke up late and drove over to Juno Beach, Florida. It is the beach where we spent all our time last year, so it was the perfect place to soak up sunshine and ocean breezes. We spent several hours there, almost always the only people on the beach. Graeme dug holes and molded sand with his beach toys, the rest of us took photos and scanned the sands for shells and coral and those neat little surf-rocks.

After getting well and truly burned at the beach, we drove to a Jupiter new age store with an amazing jewelry collection. Graeme fell asleep in the car, so our next stop at the Jupiter Goodwill store for thrifting left Sarah and Jenn by themselves while I played Bejeweled in the car.

Daniel (newly arrived from Chicago) and Shaun met back up with us for lunch at Pollo Tropical, a Cuban fast food place with lots of beans and rice and yucca on their side item menu.

After lunch, we drove to the Jupiter Lighthouse, the oldest structure in the area (1860) and took their once-a-month sunset tour. The climb up the staircase was tiring (the climb down terrifying) but the view of the Loxahatchee River pouring out into the ocean, the sun sinking behind the horizon, the palm trees waving beachside was awe-inspiring.

More thrifting afterwards in North Palm Beach (the most expensive Goodwill I've ever seen) and then we drove home for dinner, a delivery of vegan cupcakes (from my [ profile] help_haiti winning bid), and a viewing of a Tasha Tudor documentary. (The happiest thing captured on a VHS tape--ever!)

But really--this post is all about the photos.









windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (ocean mom)
Graeme wanted to play baseball at the beach, so we loaded up into the car and drove to my favorite spot in Juno Beach, Florida right across the street from the Loggerhead Marinelife Center. It is both a hospital for injured and ill sea turtles as well as a research center. Juno Beach is one of the most densely nested sea turtle beaches in the world, providing hatching grounds for thousands and thousands (and thousands!) of Leatherback, Green, and Loggerhead turtle babies each summer.

We hadn't reached the beach when we saw quite a bit of commotion. A Disney World "Parade of Horses" 18-wheeler horse trailer was parked along the beachfront road, flanked by Fish & Wildlife Commission pickup trucks, police squad cars, and dozens of onlookers using their cell phones over their heads as cameras. I carried Graeme over and saw the back doors open in the trailer and the entire dim interior was teeming with sea turtles! It was shocking.


A corridor had been flanked off with string and volunteers from the Marinelife Center were taking turns carrying juvenile turtles down the steep dunes, across the wave-packed sands, and finally knee-deep into the surf where they were released and given a good push to help them on their way. Larger turtles were hauled off the truck by five and six volunteers at a time, loaded onto a flat-bed cart behind a four-wheeler, and driven close to the waterline for the release.

In total, over seventy sea turtles were helped back to the sea while I was there.


It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Generally, if you happened to be around to see one turtle released it would cause celebration and cheers. Here, an unbelievable cargo waiting for their ride back home...a veritable parade of people carrying sea turtles into the waves.


You might be wondering, like I was, how something like that had happened. Turns out that with the unusually cold weather in Florida the last couple of weeks, an estimated 2500-3000+ sea turtles have gone into distress. As the water temperature dropped below 60 degrees, they were going into cold shock, developing pneumonia, and bobbing to the surface. They were washing up, lethargic or downright unresponsive, on beaches and bars all around the state. Every credentialed rescue and rehab center in Florida was suddenly receiving huge deliveries of ill, chilled turtles. The batch I got to watch return to the sea were housed and rehabilitated at Sea World and came from the even chillier waters around Cape Canaveral and the NASA Space Center. Now that the temperatures had climbed to the low 70s, healthy turtles from around the state are being released either on Juno Beach or just north of us at Hobe Sound. So those volunteers I saw have been releasing, on and off, for two days and doing emergency triage and working at over four times their facility's capacity for a week.
News Video of Cape Canaveral Rescue and work at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center Under the Cut )


If you'd like to help the Marinelife Center, they're run entirely on donations. You can "adopt" sea turtles on their website or even have your name immortalized on one of their sea turtle-shaped bronze plaques at the hospital. They also handed out material wish lists to bystanders which I'll put behind the cut below.

Wish List for Needed Supplies )
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (ocean mom)

We arrived at the beach, barefoot, after a late afternoon nap in the car. It was the first mild day we've had in a week--the wind had subsided to a pleasant, stirring breeze and the sun warmed the air to a comfortable sixty-something degrees. Still too cold for sunbathers and swimmers, but perfect for us in sweatshirts to spend a few hours playing on the beach as the setting sun painted everything pastel shades of pink and purple and magical blue.

Curious seagulls and sandpipers skipped closer to inspect Graeme's excavations with shovel and pail. He collected shells and sand and bleached pieces of feather-light driftwood and we spent hours ranging up and down the beach, climbing towards the sea grape and the dunes, running back to the hard-packed low-tide sand. Graeme toddled along and would turn around, always excited to recognize the shape of his own feet pressed into the smooth sand. He picked up grubby fistfuls of sand and cycloned them into the air around him, raining sand on his shoulders and hair. He listened to the sound of the waves and claimed, more than once, that he heard a whale in its depths. He borrowed my camera and took photos of the sand, the sea, and the "nice blue sky".

As the sun set, I carried him and his bucket back to our car, making a stop at his request to say goodnight to the sea turtles bedding down in hospital tanks across the way at the Marinelife Center. We blew them kisses through the chain link fence.

Every moment of it--perfect.

God let me never forget the hours spent together, the genius and gentleness of my son at this age, and the way I felt--complete, fulfilled, humbled to be so blessed.

Photos--Both Mine and Graeme's )
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (fallfam)
* Thanksgiving was so pleasant. It is the first year since childhood that we stayed home for the entire weekend and we're reveling in the quiet freetime. No family drama, no suitcase lugging, just the three of us hanging out together. We took Graeme to the park and then headed home to cook once it got dark. It has finally been dry after a week of rain and the air smelled, on Thanksgiving, like burning leaves and snow. Knowing that I'll be spending most of the winter in Florida, I'm able to really enjoy these cold days, this transition into winter now. After dinner, we cleaned up all our autumn tokens and decorations and replaced them with a fresh sheaf of holly in an ice blue vase. By the end of this weekend, we plan to have our tree up, too!

* It has now been eight days since Graeme nursed. I've been sleeping by myself in our guest room downstairs and it has been glorious. No offense to Daniel, but I don't sleep well with someone else. And no offense, Graeme, but you've kept me up for two years. I'm not sure how long this sleeping arrangement will last, but plentiful sleep (and maybe not having the nutritional demands of nursing) have reversed a lot of my seasonal depression. I'm sleeping undisturbed enough to have dreams return, full-force, which is such a relief.

* So my latest dream, I was back in my show choir days and for whatever reason, our director had to separate us into two separate choirs. It was clear, as he was assigning people one-by-one, that Choir A was all the talent and Choir B, not so much. When it was my turn to stand up and be sorted, I gave a rousing argument why the uneven distribution was unfair and that the less-talented, less-disciplined singers would never grow if they weren't surrounded by those better than them. I sorta knew where my impassioned argument was going to lead me but I was still gut-shot when he said, "Fine. You can be in B." We were so bad, we had to stay in an amusement park cave world not totally unlike Goonies. I was herding cats, trying to get everyone to practices so that we could beat Choir A or at least put in a respectable showing next time we met. Then I got word there was some sort of leadership position, over both choirs, up for grabs. I was going to use it to reintegrate the choirs. I signed up, along with a bunch of people from Choir A. We had to sight-sing in elimination rounds but a lot of the music was fevered orchestral stuff, to throw us off, where we'd have to imitate various instruments. Finally, it was down to me and a blond guy who was, frankly, probably better than me. The final challenge format was a weekly showcase from different musical styles. Somehow, I got the pick of the styles, so I knew the only way to beat him was to pick styles that wouldn't mesh well with his Broadway training.

I picked reggae, jazz, and a few other styles. I had a week to (faux)dread my hair and prepare before our first competition--reggae performed on horseback. I killed it. ;) I felt pretty confident that I was going to squeak through as the winner when I woke up. :D

* Today, we plan to finish our Yule shopping. Against my plans to not shop yesterday, I did end up going to Division Street to support some of our local businesses. I bought hoodies from Threadless, a few fair trade gifts at Greenheart, and a bunch of toys for all the kids in my life at Building Blocks. Today we're going to visit the Illinois Artisans shop downtown to pick up some handmade things for the various women in our family and then, with the exception of Daniel, we're done! I've been gift-wrapping for a week, so things are piled up and I hope, by Monday, to have most of it shipped out. This way, we plan to really enjoy the holiday season without the rush, able to sit under our tree and drink cocoa, have dinner together and watch Elf. It'll be nice. I've had presents cluttering up the joint since probably March. ;)

* We're leaving, in less than four weeks, for Florida. The concept of packing our car for a weeklong road trip and then three or more months in Florida is overwhelming. Daniel will be flying back and forth every week, which is good, but I still feel the need to organize and pare down the house in our absence. We considered starting a packing list this weekend and Daniel just closed his eyes, covered his face, and said, "Yeah, let's not." :D I mean, do we have to bring all our kitchen stuff? Bedding? Toys? Who knows. So yeah, we'll get to that later.

* On the perfume front, I've been living in holiday chocolate bliss with BPAL's hot cocoa El Dia de los Reyes and Misery Love Company's dark chocolate and orange Inigo Montoya. Mmmmm.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (beachcouple)
Thank you, everyone, for your kind birthday wishes. Yesterday we managed to both celebrate my birthday and fly home from Florida. Perhaps the best gift I received was a night sleeping in my own bed while dreaming that I had been given $15,000 to spend on gifts for people at an antiques/thrift store. Pure wish fulfillment. Gifts for everyone! :D You have no idea how long it takes to spend $15,000 when the items you're buying are all one-of-a-kind and only $1-$3 each. For-ever. Like, eight hours of sleep hardly got me anywhere. :D

We caravanned down to Panama City Beach's shoreline with my Mom and her boyfriend to say our goodbyes late morning before driving the seventy-some-odd miles west to the airport at Fort Walton Beach. Along the way, Graeme napped until a very fortuitous awakening as we were passing the picturesquely unreal town of Seaside, Florida. It looked like something out of The Truman Show with its perfect white sand beaches, ultra-green town square, and everyone looking well-dressed and riding on colorful beach cruiser bikes.

We parked our car and walked across the street to a colorful taco bar. It was the best veggie taco of my entire life. It was cold and sunny, we were wearing every layer of warm clothes we had, but well worth the sensation of sitting outside with the rustle of sea oats and the subtle sounds of the sea just over the dunes. After lunch, we walked down there and marveled at the beach. Daniel says Seaside has been named, time and time again, as the best beach in the world. I don't know how true that is, but I believe it. I've never seen such soft, fine-grained sand. It was all uniform, too, sparkles of white quartz pouring through my hands like sugar. Unbelievable. The water there was still and shallow as a bathtub. (Though cold and windy--it was no day to be swimming unless you were a polar bear or a particularly enthusiastic 8 year-old boy on vacation.) I've never been on another beach like that...I wanted to roll around in the sand, take bucketfuls of it home, roll around some more. It had an addictive, sensual, cleansing energy to it.

We lost track of time, to be honest, and had to scramble and pray the rest of the way to the airport. We did get checked in with a few minutes to spare and had an uneventful two flights and short layover in Memphis on our way home.

We got in around 10pm and Graeme went right to bed. I heard an outrageous amount of paper rustling downstairs and thought Daniel was reading the newspaper with quite a lot of emotion. I came down to find him huddled in his office over some gifts and big sheets of pink wrapping paper. A few minutes later, he arrived with great pride and a couple wrapped gifts and sang a very quiet rendition of Happy Birthday to me. :D

(He'd snuck into a Life is Good store at an airport somewhere and got me a pair of their cute girl boxers, a little hoodie, and a girly pink hat. :D)

Very happy. :D I'm drinking a mug of the Jasmine Dragon/Rooibos Tropical blended loose tea that Sarah and Jenn got me for my birthday, watching the sun stream through the stained glass heart I bought *myself* for my birthday, and am just feeling centered and cleansed and thoroughly blessed by life. :)


More Photos at Seaside, Florida here... )


windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)

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