Day 8 & 9 with the TN Fritz kids & Amy

Yesterday was the last full day with the kids. They actually let us get some sleep, so I didn’t get out of bed until around 8:00 or so. We got up and the kids played Super Smash Bros. again for a while. Justin and Amy both decided to get some more rest after being up for a little bit, but I kept an eye on the kids.

Once Amy was up and moving again, we made plans for the afternoon. The kids really wanted to go back to the beach again, even though the weather wasn’t looking great. So we packed up lunches and all the things that we use at the beach and packed into the van. The adults picked up food on the way out, since we didn’t have Lunchables like the kids, and then we ate a picnic at the playground and park that’s near where we’ve been going to the beach.

The kids played for a while until Audrey hit her head really hard on something in the playground, and then we decided we’d make our way down to the water. As soon as we got set up, we could see lightning way out over the ocean and the life guard pulled us all back out of the water just as we were getting into it.

That was a bummer, but we all played in the sand for a while, waiting for the storm to pass by. Okay, they played. I took pictures.

Digging holes in the sand
Ethan works on digging in the sand
Amy helps Isaac with his digging
Audrey cleans off her knees in the water
Ethan’s hole keeps getting filled with water

They did eventually let us get into the water, and Audrey and Isaac definitely wanted to go in, so Justin and Amy went in with them. The currents were kind of strong and the waves were fairly choppy, so they ended up drifting pretty far down from where we’d set up all our stuff — which is why this is such a terrible photo.

Swimming WAY away from where I was standing

Ethan wanted to keep playing in the sand for a while, so I stayed on shore with him. It was rough enough out that it was hard to be heard and I didn’t want any of the kids heading into the water without someone watching them. The wind was strong enough it blew our umbrella over and I had to go rescue it.

After a while, it started to rain big heavy drops that stung with they hit skin and sent several of us running back to shore and the protection of the (now on it’s side) umbrella. I wanted to make sure my camera was safe, too. We wanted to stay longer, so when the raindrops got less painful, we went back out to the water. I was walking out to the water and Amy looked at me from where she was standing calf-deep in the water with Isaac and Audrey and shouted over the sound of the surf and rain, “WE’RE MAKING A MEMORY!!”

But it was just too hard to keep an eye on the kids with the weather the way it was, so we packed up and went back to the car. Justin sent us back to get the kids taken care of and he bought all the things — boogie boards, towels, umbrella, etc — dragging the tote with all the dry things all the way back up the boardwalk to the picnic grounds, with the umbrella held above it so things would stay dry-ish. We dried off the kids and got everything packed up, stopped for Sonic drinks on the way back home, and started the 6-person rotation through the showers.

After that, we all went out to Jim ‘n’ Nick’s for dinner, which was probably the best-loved by the kids meal we had the whole week. They ate every single thing on their plates!

We went back home and the kids Skyped with Nathan again and then we worked on picking up things as much as we could, getting toys found and laundry sorted or washed, in the case of the wet beach things, and dried. The kids were exhausted, so they went to bed earlier than almost any other night they were here.

When I woke up today, I was worried I’d missed saying good-bye, since it was 7:30 and quiet upstairs. All the kids’ stuff upstairs had been packed up and taken down, but I ran into Audrey when I was checking her room — she came back up for something that had fallen off the end of her bed.

I went down and the boys were playing games and Amy was working on getting things packed into the van. Justin got the kids to sit down for breakfast and we sat there chatting while they ate. And then we did a last sweep of the house, got all the rest of the stuff packed up into the van, and started the good-byes. Everybody got hugs and “let’s do this again sometime” and then they were in the van and buckled and pulling away. Justin and I stood and waved until they were out of sight and then went back into our suddenly very quiet house.

We looked around a little bit, went “yeah, we’ll clean this later” and I went back to bed. Justin sat up at his computer for a while before joining me there and we both caught up on a little bit of sleep.

It was a long visit, but we really did enjoy it SO MUCH. We enjoyed taking the kids to the beach and playing around in the sand and the waves. We enjoyed taking them to the playground and having fun with them there. We played video games, Justin played Magic cards with Ethan, we did a craft project thing and made brownies and watched movies. I listened to Audrey read and tried to define a new word to Ethan from the book he was reading. We laughed and laughed at Isaac’s crazy antics. We listened to so many knock-knock jokes in the car and tried to answer riddles from the book Ethan brought with him from home. Justin answered question after question after question about so many things. Sure, we had to break up fighting and remind them again and again not to run in the store and not to shout when we asked them to be quieter and keep hands, elbows, heads, feet, legs, bellies, and chests inside their space in the car. And we made our own mistakes, for which we apologized and learned and tried to do better. All in all, we had a FANTASTIC time and we would love to do it again! We LOVE these kids and it was a DELIGHT having them in our lives for the week. And our house, while it’s more clean now this afternoon than it was this morning, and it’s also a lot more quiet, it’s also a lot more empty and we’re both looking forward to the next time we see our nieces and nephews.

Day 4 with the TN Fritz kids

Today was another beach day, this time on Hilton Head Island, following a picnic and playing on the playground at  Jarvis Park.

Everybody had fun, but we are all exhausted. The kids are pretty hyped up right now, I’m pretty sure they’ll pass out quickly once they stop moving. We’re watching the end of a cartoon episode while they eat frozen juice pop things (‘freezies”) and I type this. And then we’re ALL going to bed.

So here’s just a bunch of photos because I’m too tired to write anything! 🙂

Picnic Lunchables
Audrey swinging
Justin lends a hand
Playing on the playground
Running away from the troll under the bridge
Looking for shells in the tide pool
Digging in the sand
Trying to dig a hole under water while Isaac runs back and forth
Trying to fill a hole with water

No pictures of the kids in the water because any time they were in the water, we were in there with them. But trust me that most of the time at the beach we were actually in the water and they were absolutely having a blast.

Tomorrow we want to head to the drive in because the new Planes movie by Pixar is showing. The movies change out on Thursday and it won’t be showing after that. So tomorrow everybody takes an afternoon nap or quiet reading time and then we’ll be up later than usual going to the movies.

And just in case it didn’t come across well in yesterday’s post, when I say the kids are excited or mention that I’m not sure how parents manage to do this all the time, it’s not that the kids are being bad or anything. They’re really being quite good and a pleasure to be around. They’re just little bouncing balls of energy! All three talking at the same time or heading in three different directions! I’m not used to it but it’s not bad and they’re not being bad. I’m just not used to it.

And I get tired really fast. So me and my sunburn are heading to bed!

Day 1 and 2 with the TN Fritz kids

We met Nathan and Amy just south of Atlanta yesterday afternoon and absconded with their children. We met for lunch and then they set off back home and we packed all the kids into our little Nissan, and set off for South Carolina. We stopped at a place called Noah’s Ark on the way because we all needed a little more time to get out of the car for a while.

Noah’s Ark is an animal sanctuary with a LOT of animals and it’s completely free of charge. They run on donations. I thought it was a petting zoo, but that did not turn out to be accurate. They are, however, still really awesome.

Checking out Barney the tortuous

They have tortuosus, horses, donkeys, goats, peacocks, several tigers, bears, monkeys, a lion, and a lot of birds. And possibly other animals than that, but we didn’t get to see everything.

Playground at Noah’s Ark

We didn’t see everything partially because we spent a bit of time running around on this thing playing troll-under-the-bridge and racing down slides and generally trying to burn off energy in preparation for the 3 1/2 hour drive that we still had to go after leaving here.

Tiger photo for Ethan

We did get to see a lot of the animals, though, before we left. Ethan’s camera batteries died and he asked me to make sure I got a picture of the tiger for him. So this is the picture of a tiger for Ethan.

We did make it home, though much later than we’d anticipated, and got everybody settled in. The kids got a Skype video chat with their parents to do good-night prayers and everything. And then everybody got tucked into bed. Some of us a little more exhausted than the others. Okay, so the exhausted ones were mostly just the ones older than 10-years-old. The younger ones were still pretty wound up, but they did fall asleep eventually.

Of course, around midnight, we woke up because Ethan came into the room saying, “Isaac’s throwing up.” Justin, of course, popped right out of bed and ran downstairs before I was even aware that there was a child in the room. Isaac apparently had eaten too much food and too many sweets and with too much excitement or something because he got sick all over the bed and poor Ethan. We were able to get everybody cleaned up, though, and bedding swapped out for clean sheets (thank goodness for the vinyl waterproof sheet we put down on the bed!) and everybody put back into bed without too much worry. Isaac was shaky for a while, probably just because he was freaked out by the puking more than any other reason. Ethan cheered him up by telling him stories while we sat on the floor after getting cleaned up while Justin cleaned up the bedding and pulled down more sheets from the attic.

Audrey, sleeping upstairs in the library, slept through the whole thing.

This morning, they let us sleep until at least 8:00 — we showed Ethan Saturday night how to turn on Netflix and told him he could turn it on after it was light outside in the morning. So they watched some cartoons for a little while. And then the kids and I worked on a crafty kit thing that we picked up from Michael’s while Justin slept a little longer since he’d had to be up later the night before. When he did get up, Justin made everybody French toast for breakfast. The kids played outside for a little while so I could get the kitchen dishes cleaned up and Justin hosed off the bedding from last night’s excitement before throwing them into the laundry.

And then we set off for Savannah. We had hoped to get into the butterfly exhibit in the Savannah Mall, but we mis-judged how long it takes to get everybody moving to the same location — also the butterfly place was not great about explaining how that worked and that they only took a limited number of people through every 15 minutes. So if we were to wait around for a time when we could get in, we would have been late for the thing at the beach later. So we peeked through the windows, grabbed some lunch at the cafe-court and set off for Tybee Island.

Peeking in at the butterflies

Again, we’re still learning how long it takes to do things with 5 people instead of 2 adults, so we almost missed the beach thing, too. The Tybee Marine Science Center has a scientist who takes people on walks and things and tells them about what they’re seeing at the ocean. We thought it would be a nice way to introduce the kids to the ocean and all of the things that are involved there. Of course, parking there is just miserable, so they dropped me off so I could run in and get us signed up for the event and then had to wait for everybody to show up after parking. We just barely made it, which is why the kids were still in their regular clothes when went down to the water. We did manage to get sunscreen on 2 of the 3 before heading down there, though, and the 3rd one got sunscreen shortly after that. My sunscreen was a little later than that, which is why I look like a beet.

Sift and Sieve activity at Tybee

The activity that the kids did was the Sift and Sieve and the scientist lady gave everybody a sieve and told them to fill it with sand from the beach and then take it to the water and sift out all the sand, and then dump what was left into the bucket she had on the beach and she would tell people about the things that they found in the water.

The kids had a lot of fun doing this, I think, once they figured out how to make it work. It was a little confusing at first. Plus the waves were a little surprising because they kept sneaking up on them.

Audrey sifting the sand from her sieve

After looking at what they’d gotten that way, the scientist lady got a handful of people to hold onto a net and they walked through the water to see if they could catch something that way. I stayed on the shore watching our bags because I was wearing a skirt and Audrey and Isaac lost interest and just started playing in the water, so I kept an eye on them, while Justin and Ethan went out with the net for a while. Apparently they did manage to net a fish or two!

Netting for fish

When they came back on shore, since she’d already lost interest in the science thing, Audrey and I went back up to change into our suits while Justin stayed with the boys looking at the fish thing. When we came back, Justin took Isaac up to get his suit on. Ethan already had his trunks on because he was having trouble with his pants before we left the parking lot, so he stayed at the water with me and Audrey. And we all went into the water and splashed around and had a really fun time! Justin and Isaac made it back before too long and everybody had a great time for a while. I didn’t get any good pictures of this, but they’ll be back at the ocean again and the photos that day will look pretty similar, same background and all, you know, so I’ll try to get some later this week.

Ethan went into the water just fine. He had a lot of fun trying to not let the waves move him around a lot and digging around at his feet looking for shells and things. Audrey kept trying to jump over the waves and then trying to also not let them knock her over. Isaac was a little unsure about the whole waves thing, so Justin picked him up and carried him in a little bit. He was a little bit freaked out until Justin got him to put his feet down and Isaac realized he could still touch the bottom. The ocean does not get deep very fast close to shore.

So everybody was doing great and having a lot of fun until Audrey got stung by a jellyfish. I was sitting on the shore. Ethan had come in a little bit before because something had maybe stung his food so he was rubbing sand on it and playing in the sand and I looked up and all the other three were walking in and Audrey was crying. It stung her up her leg, which Justin knows can really hurt. (Ask about our engagement sometime.) He got a little on his foot, too, but she got it more. We packed everything up and went to shore where Justin got some soapy water in a pail so she could wash off her leg a little, and then he ran and got the car while we rinsed off.

And then we all went back home for showers and dinner and the nightly call with Nathan and Amy. The kids had their lines all worked out on the drive home. Isaac’s line was, “I puked.” Ethan’s was, “I got puked on.” And Audrey’s was “I got stung by a jellyfish.” And all of them would say, “But we’re having a great time!”

They got to bed a little late tonight, but it didn’t take long for them all to be completely konked out. Justin went down to look and he said that Audrey turned off her light all on her own for the second night. Ethan was hugging his book tightly to his chest, but his pillow and blanket were on the floor. (Justin got him covered up again.) And Isaac was completely spread-eagle on the middle of his bed.

I think we wore them out a little bit today. But I’m pretty sure we’re all still having a really fun time!

We own our car!

I just sent the last payment for our car!! We now own this baby completely!! Well, as soon as they process the payment and send us the title, but YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.

Now we’re going to be able to get really serious about those credit cards that we’ve been working on FOREVER. No more car payment!!

And we did learn some very valuable lessons about buying cars. Like, specifically, not to get suckered into buying a brand new car when we don’t have the money to afford that. Six years is a long time for us to let that lesson sink in really nice and deep.

We just passed the 100,000 mile mark on this beauty, by the way, but we should be able to get several more years of driving from this car. We just spent a chunk of change getting the works done at the mechanic’s — new brake shoes and pads, a new rear shock (or two?), all new fluids, new filters. I feel like the only thing we didn’t get on this trip was new tires. But she’s a happier car now.

I’m just SO EXCITED to have finally paid off that loan!! That feels AWESOME.

Part Five: April 26 – 27. Georgia Renaissance Festival and HOME!

Saturday morning, April 26, Justin and I set off from Chattanooga heading to Atlanta. We got a later start than we’d hoped, so we got to Atlanta after the opening at the Renaissance Festival. We tried to check into the hotel we’d be staying at that night, but they were totally booked and weren’t able to give us access to our room until later in the day. So we went to the faire.

Missing the beginning meant we missed the few lines that our friends, Becky and Julie, give during that portion of the faire, but we did manage to search them down later on. They decided a while back that working/performing at the Ren Faire was on their “Bucket List” so they tried out to be musicians this year. They somehow managed to end up as Cast instead, meaning they’re part of the crew of people who do different skits during different parts of the day. Becky and Julie spend all day, all weekend, in character, dressed up as peasants who pretend to clean different areas in the faire while singing folk songs to the people around them. It’s hard and it’s hot and they had to do a lot of hard work before hand, like learning the King’s English, to do what they’re doing. But as far as I can tell, they are having an absolute blast doing it. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t trade it for anything. They were also able to score a bunch of tickets for their friends and family, so Justin and I were able to get into the faire for free!

Becky, by the way, is our friend who’s traveling around the States in her Casida camper trailer. If you’re ever interested in hearing about what that’s like, she keeps a blog over at Interstellar Orchard. Julie is going to be joining her later this year when they head out to Nevada to work on the Amazon Camper-Force this fall.

But for now, back to the Ren Fest. As always we had a lot of fun. We tracked Becky and Julie down a couple of times to see them in action. The rest of the day, we wandered around and saw shows and browsed shops and had fun.

We saw one of Justin’s favorites, “Cirque du Todd“, juggling and doing other feats of humorous silliness.

He was followed by one of my favorites, “Hey Nunnie Nunnie,” a couple of singing nuns. (Heads up, that link will automatically start playing music.)

We caught “The Washing Well Wenches” with their usual good-natured inappropriateness.

I made my traditional necklace purchase. I have a weakness for pendant necklaces and they have so many of them there. This year I got a little glass leaf.

Justin still wasn’t feeling well, so he left as soon as we were able to check into the hotel. He went back to rest and recoup a little bit. I stayed and caught a “Barely Balanced” show, a group of acrobat comedians.

I’m really not sure if you can see it in that photo, but that’s one guy laying on his back, propping up the gals thighs, while the other guy stands on top of her thighs, while she’s doing a really impressive split, and the two guys are juggling flaming clubs.

And then I stayed for the last “Tortuga Twins” show of the day, which is always the most rowdy one of the day. They were having a blast and ended up going longer than their time-slot.

After that, I went to listen to the Pub Sing, where the musicians and cast tend to end up at the end of the day, where I got to catch up with Becky and Julie again. After the singing was over, I had to leave the premises along with the rest of the guests, and the girls went backstage to Becky’s camper to change. I waited for them at the staff parking exit, because I had no other way of getting back to the hotel, and then we went to pick up Justin for dinner.

We went out for the traditional after-faire Mellow Mushroom dinner, which was as delicious as always. And then we went back to the hotel, where we pretty much just sat around chatting while the girls each took advantage of our shower. The shower at their campground is about the size of a very small closet, with inconsistent water temperature. Julie is driving back and forth to the faire from home each week, so she has nice showers at home during the week. But Becky is living at the faire campgrounds full-time, so she jumped at the opportunity to take a nice, hot shower.

By the time showers were done, we were all starting to fall asleep sitting in our chairs. It’s a long, hot, tiring day wandering around the faire, so we said our good-nights and everyone set off for bed.

The next morning, the girls went back to work at the faire and offered us another set of free tickets, but Justin and I were tired and decided to head home instead. We had planned to stop at a Costco on our way out of Atlanta, but it ended up being closed, so we went straight home. It was an uneventful drive and we got home before 4:00 that afternoon. Thankfully, the house was still there and everything was in order. We dragged in our luggage, worked on unpacking, and relaxed a little before heading to bed. I had to get up to work in the morning, so I made sure to get unpacked and prepared so I could jump right back into being at work.

The following morning, by the way, was awful. My boss made me cry at the 7:00 meeting. It was embarrassing and frustrating, but he apologized by giving me an orchid.

And that was our whirlwind trip! To quickly recap:

4/16: Justin flew out to California, I worked
4/17: Justin spent time in San Diego, I worked
4/18: I flew out to San Diego
4/19: We went to Desert Hot Springs
4/20: Spent the day in Desert Hot Springs
4/21: Went back to San Diego
4/22: Spent the day in San Diego
4/23: Flew to Atlanta, drove to Chattanooga
4/24: Spent the evening at Nathan’s house
4/25: Spent the day in Chattanooga
4/26: Drove to Atlanta, spent the day at the GA Ren Fest
4/27: Drove back home

And that’s the end of Part Five and the last post about that trip. Now I’ll get back to posting about other things that are happening around here. 🙂