Month: August 2011

  • 5 Years In the South


    Home again, home again, after a most wonderful week in the lovely state of Ohio. I think Ohio is just so beautiful, plus, we spent time with so many wonderful people that my cup is just full and running over. ;)

    There are pictures moved from camera to computer but they are so many that it will take another few days to work on editing. So, another post, another time.

    I was working on this post the whole month of August, since the 3rd marked FIVE YEARS of moving to the Deep South, so I’ll finish this one out…

    Five years seems to warrant some kind of celebration. A medal. A badge, saying “I made it!” or something. :) I’ve heard it said it takes five years to really truly adjust to a new area, and that’s about what it’s been for me.

    Wow. Five years.

    … since we sold our city row home, packed all our earthly belongings, and moved south. Moved into a house I had never seen before, on a dirt road, and back in the trees so far we couldn’t see our neighbors. That was quite an adjustment from living in the city and having our front yard be the sidewalk, where hundreds of people walk just inches from our front windows every day.

    …since I left the rolling farm land of Lancaster County and moved to the flatlands of Georgia, where the only thing that grows is pine trees and onions. (just kidding. Well, sort of. J )



    …since I left the tame farmyard animals of cows and horses to go to the native animals of armadillos, alligators, wild pigs, and snakes.

    [baby armadillo found several years ago outside our house)

    ... where living near the ocean is simply divine.

    [storm rapidly moving in]



    … since I moved away from everyone I had known and moved to a place where I knew Ben’s family and that was it.

    … where you can drive on flat country roads with child in lap


    … where wide front porches are for watching rain and neighbor waves.

    Kitties in the Rain 011


    We now live in town, which is still relative. City here is more like development, and there is nothing over two stories, except a few historic mansions. :) Walmart is nearby, and Kmart, and well, a few little shops in the one-block downtown area and a few more scattered around town, but that’s about it. I was used to having any kind of shopping desirable within 15 miles.

    I felt c.u.l.t.u.r.e. s.h.o.c.k. the first few months that I lived here. That was something I was not expecting. I mean, this is still the United States, right?

    I remember one of the first times I was running errands in town. I went into the bank to make a transaction, and the teller found out who I was. “Ooooh, ah know Bee-yun!” she gushed, because Ben had worked at his dad’s car wash in town several years before we got married, and learned to know quite a few local people through that. We talked for a bit, and before I left I asked her name. “Tay-nuh” she told me. “Okay, nice to meet you, Tayna!” I said. “No, it’s TAY-nuh,” she said. “Okay, Tayna!” I happened to glance at the name tag that was sitting at her desk. Too late I realized I didn’t even understand when someone told me that her name was Tina. I remember wondering if I have to learn a new language to live here!!

    The drawl was only one of the new things about living in the south. Everywhere I went, I felt like I was in another country and totally didn’t fit in! That is probably why I learned to pick up the drawl, if I need to, just so I didn’t feel like such an odd ball every time I went into town! And I used to make such fun of people that move to the south and start talking like that… J

    But even more than the external changes, it feels as though the Lord has really used this time to change me deeper, on the inside.

    Perhaps if one has never moved out of their home area they may not fully understand the identity crisis one goes through who is suddenly the new person, when they were once loved and known. To find a place of belonging when everyone else already has a place. To struggle with the new area when other people seemingly adjust well made a new person (me) feel as though there must be something dreadfully wrong with me. Feeling so stripped as a person that I wondered if I had anything left to offer anymore. And if Idid have something, would people want it, if they knew nothing about me? Leaving the security of family, the safety net of friendships formed by years of connection, to a place where I knew not a soul, and only been with my husband’s family several times…

    Not everyone that moves feels all this so deeply, but to those who do, it is very very real. There is a deep sense of vulnerability. Will people get me? Will they like me? They don’t know anything about me or my family. I’m not known by anyone.

    But I felt as though I didn’t even know who I was anymore.
    And the new people around me didn’t know who I was either.

    They didn’t know anything about me, except that I was Ben’s wife. Which is okay. It really wasn’t about them. But coming from an area where I knew so many people and where so many people know the family I come from,  and doing what felt like starting over with my life, it was a lost feeling.

    Not many people knew…
    … if I was an only child or from a family of 6 kids
    … that I loved music and the arts
    … that I had traveled to 24 countries
    … that I loved playing piano at weddings
    … that I loved being involved in worship music at church
    … whether my family lived in a shack or a nice home
    … that my sisters and I are like this *entwines two fingers*
    that I loved education and wanted to go to college to further mine
    …whether I was quiet or outgoing
    … whether I was a dreamer or a realist
    … that I had loved being involved in camps and kids clubs
    … and a host of other things.

    It’s not that I was upset at people for not knowing. It’s just that I felt so lost, so who I am??

    I still see so many areas that the Lord is at work in me. And like almost everyone, I’m sure there are just as many blind spots not yet revealed. But looking back, I can see how God has really used this move to strip me of my “props” and who I thought I was. Was it easy? Ohmyword, no.

    From the little list above, you can see that music, education, and traveling were huge to me. And really, looking back, I can see that I got my identity from those things. God had led me into so many wonderful opportunities before I was married, but I somehow had gone from looking at those opportunities as gifts to receiving my worth and affirmation from them.

    It’s been a long road, this identity and stripping and growing and learning who I am all over again. Some of it has just been time. I have learned that it takes a lot of time to really feel at home.

    But even more than that, it’s a releasing of what I thought I was. Of who I thought I was. Of what I expected to be. Of what I expected my life to be like. I remember sobbing to Ben once that it felt like I was being stripped of anything and everything that I ever knew and loved and cared out.

    I don’t feel like I’m exactly “on the other side” of it all. But I do know that there is soul-rest within me that wasn’t present before. A fuller God-trust, that He IS good, and that His will for me IS perfect. I do not have to understand everything about life in order to trust, and believe His Sovereignty. And a letting-go, an unclenching of the fingers to be open-handed about what God wills for me. Wanting His glory more than my comfort. A release of expectation, letting go of my own way of doing things and trusting Sovereignty, the One who chose my paths since before time began.

    Onto some every-day life experiences in a lighter note…

    It’s been quite an adventure living here. It’s funny, because now, as I write this, I have to really think about what is so different. I’m much more adjusted to it than I realized I was! I’ve been thinking about this 5 Year Anniversary for a little while though, and thought of a few highlights/experiences/new things about living in the Deep South.

    [and a few pictures of evening boating]

    Family on the River! 073

    ~For a true Southerner, so many things are fried. Fried green tomatoes, fried okra, fried chicken… And smothered in butter. Paula Deen is the epitome of true Southern soul food – I‘ve never eaten at her restaurant but from looking at pictures and her recipes I know that! I can’t say that I’ve adopted this style of cooking, although I enjoy eating it once in a great while!

    Family on the River! 103

    ~For excitement if you’re a teenager: there is “The Strip” [a particular section of a particular road on a particular side of town] where you drive your car, I mean truck, and wave at all the cute girls also riding their cars, I mean trucks. Really!! This actually happened in Ben’s day! I will not say whether or not her participated… J

    Family on the River! 089Family on the River! 044
    [don't these life-jacketed/swimsuits just look hysterical!?  

    ~Other areas of excitement: mud-bogging, tractor and truck pulls, beauty pageants. I must say something about beauty pageants. I have never, never in all my life, seen so many pageants! There is at least one contest for every age girl from very newborn to Miss America age. Honestly!! The majority of Southern women care very much about their appearance, and the appearance of their much-too-young-to-care daughters.

    Family on the River! 075Family on the River! 070

    ~ The local newspaper has mainly two sections: news and sports. And no news outside of the county. Read that: county, not country. Oh, except an entire page dedicated to Nascar! rolls eyes :)

    Family on the River! 016

    ~ There are Rednecks that are proud as can be about being redneck. Even will differentiate between themselves [who they call classy Redneck] and other “lower-class” redneck. I was wide-eyed when I first heard this from a proud Redneck himself! These Rednecks do not say their “TH’s” and thus words become “dis, der,” and “dat” [this, there, and that]. And they say “birf-day.” :)

    Family on the River! 038Family on the River! 036

    ~ Men do not drive cars here. Rarely, rarely, will you see a man behind the wheel of a car. It is just not cool to drive a car! A truck. Yes, a very very big truck. The bigger, the better. And the hugest tires you ever, ever have seen. Some of them look like you need a ladder to climb up into them. Seriously!!

    ~ You can say anything about anyone as along as you end with a “Bless their heart!” Example: “That girl’s teeth are so bad they look like a half-eaten cob of corn! Bless her heart!”

    [This blew my mind when I first saw it - however, Husband did clarify that this is not normal and would not be legal on-road, only in monster truck displays. :) But still......!!]

    ~ I think it is safe to say that the majority of people in this town have not traveled south farther than Florida, and north farther than one or two states (this is what Ben tells me). They simply have no reason to travel, because all or most of their family and friends are within several miles of them, right here.

    Family on the River! 011

    Family on the River! 010

    ~It is very, very rude to answer/address  a person without saying, “Ma’am” or “Sir.” This is something children are taught from the time they start talking. And last names are not used when addressing someone. Instead of “Mrs Yoder” I am “Ms. Clarita” and my husband is “Mr. Ben.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone being called by their last name.

    Family on the River! 028

    ~ I learned to water ski in a lake known to have gators in it! No, I did not see any while we were there, but I know people that have. I was semi-okay being in the water as long as I was rapidly moving. But very very nervous when I was down in the water waiting for the boat to pick me up!!!

    Family on the River! 025Family on the River! 021

    ~ There are two seasons: Summer, and January/February/March. J No, not really. But summertime comes early and lasts late; normally, May through October are really hot months. In the intense heat of June/July/August/September, it’s gets up to 90-100 almost daily, with high humidity. So much humidity that you’ll start sweating at 7:30 in the morning, just from stepping outside the house.

    ~ Most of the local radio stations are Country. There is no classical station to be found. Only one Christian station accessible here. But many Country. Did I mention there are a lot of Country stations here?

    Family on the River! 003

    ~Gardening is very difficult. We have to plant 4 times the amount of fertile northern gardens to get barely a quarter of what they do… There is so much sand where we’re at. Our driveway is natural sand.

    ~“Proper” takes on a whole new meaning here. I was in a local salon one day, talking somewhat but mostly listening, very fascinated, to the locals talk. One of the very preppy ladies suddenly announced to everyone there that she “had to tinkle!” I just try to hide my wide eyes and sudden smile. 

    ~ Everybody is a friend. Some you’re met, some you haven’t! When I go back north I wonder what everyone’s problem is – they’re just not friendly! In the north, sometimes one will see someone they know, and both parties will pretend to not see the other. Absolutely unheard of here, and now I can’t believe the lack of social politeness up north. Of course the friends you have up north are friendly, but here the general public is just nice to each other.

    Here, there is a lot of “shmooze” – not all of which is sincere I’ve found – but the general idea is to make everyone feel as good as you can! It’s like there is an invisible contest to see who can make each other feel the best about themselves. J It’s quite interesting! Here, if you meet someone’s eye, they will at least acknowledge you with a smile or nod, and it’s not uncommon to chit-chat with a total stranger you meet on the street or in the grocery isle.

    But sometimes it’s not as nice as you might hope. I had an experience a little while ago at a shop in town where I was looking at a go-away bag for Zoe. The lady gave me a price about something, all the while gushing and calling me “sweetie” and “darlin’” and all sorts of things, and told me that she is waaayyyy cheaper than another store where she buys them from (and named that store in TN). Little did she know I was going to that very area of TN the next weekend, and that was why I needed a bag! I ended up buying the bag simply because I needed one, but checked out that store when I was in TN. I was chagrined to see a much cheaper price than what I had bought for! And very chagrined to realized she had straight-out lied to me! In the north, there is not so much gush and goo, but my experiences there were that people were at least honest and straight-forward. Northerns are more “what you see is what you get”, and here sometimes it can feel more fake-sweet sometimes.

    ~ These Southern women can. gush. over. babies like you have never seen! In the north, you’ll often be met by a friendly, “Ohhhh, how sweet!” Down here, it’s a, “Looooook at the baybay! Her is sooooo precious! Yes, her is! Her is so SWATE!! [sweet]” and on and on, using terrible grammar reserved only for talking to babies. J Oh, and after being indignant several times over my baby being called this particular thing, I learned that it is actually a compliment (!!) for a baby to be called a “buggar”. Yes, really!

    ~ I think the Civil War is still going on down here. I don’t like to tell people I’m a Yankee. J Confederate flags still fly freely, and there is still a a lot of racism going on… A little bumper sticker and T-shirt I’ve also seen: “Fighting terrorism since 1861.” Are ya kidding me??? :)

    ~There is some Southern lingo that I had to learn when I first met Ben. I remember once when he was visiting when we were dating, and my whole family was seated at the dinner table. Ben was talking and started with, “One time when I was coming up…” and proceeded to tell the story. My whole family, including me, was lost. “Coming up where??” someone finally asked, because he never said his destination. Ben burst out laughing, and said that “coming up” is a term used in the south meaning, “growing up.” It doesn’t mean you’re going north somewhere!

    Another time I heard someone describe a person as a “sorry man.” I thought that meant the man was apologetic. I learned later that really means that a man is a pathetic case, or without much character to show for!

    “Ugly” is another term used to describe bad behavior. “You apologize to your sister right now! You were acting so ugly to her!”

    Another term used frequently is “along and along.” Up north we would say “little by little” or “as we can.” Example: Mr. Smith is fixing up his house along and along.

    ~ Shopping carts are called “buggies” and the signs even write them as such in parking lots.

    ~Your ego could grow pretty fast here! Everyone calls each other “sweetheart” and “darling” and “baby” and “doll” – even if you don’t know each other. The cashier at the grocery store will call an old gentleman “sweetheart” and he’ll respond back by calling her “baby” or some such thing. This was a NEW thing for me down here, and I was not sure how to respond to all these gushy people! Older men in particular can be very “sweet on you”.

    Sooo, five years later, I find myself feeling rather at home in the midst of all this! Yes, it’s taken a while, and Pennsylvania still feels like home to me too. But this has been quite an adventure, a rich experience to live here. I feel that I am bettered for it, and I am privileged to call many people true friends… I can laugh at some of my experiences rather than feel frustrated and out of place. I feel that I am still learning, because there are still some things that amaze me, but I think (most times!) I can take it with humor now instead of a bug-eyed where-am-I feeling!

    Because, I mean, even my two daughters now say “nekked” and “ya’ll” and “don’t be ugly”  and words I never dreamed my own children would say. I’m surrounded, and I give. :)

    Family on the River! 001

     Y’all!  have a great day J



  • Fresh-Squeezed Lemonade and Such…



    lemonade! 006

    This blog has moved to

    Follow this post here.



    lemonade! 017

  • I ♥ Salt Life


    I speak it to God: I don’t really want more time;
    I just want enough time.
    Time to breathe deep and time to see real and time to laugh long,
    time to give You glory and rest deep and sing joy
    and just enough time in a day
    to not feel hounded, pressed, driven, or wild to get it done – yesterday…
    To have the time to… go out to all air and sky and green
    and time to wonder at all of them in this light,
    this time reflecting prism…

    “And this, this is the only way to slow time:
    When I fully enter into time’s swift current,
    enter into the current moment with the weight of all my attention,
    I slow the torrent with the weight of me all here.
    I can slow the torrent by being all here.
    I can only live the full life when I live fully in the moment…”

    [a. voskamp]

    Something that every single person has been given the exact same amount of.
    Some people have been given more riches than others.
    Some has bigger houses, more expensive cars, things some might envy.
    But time. We’ve all been given it equally.
    The challenge is to live it fully.

    Never before has time seemed to pass me so quickly.
    Whether it’s that I’m actually much busier
    or that having active children makes me feel busier
    or that I overcommit myself, I’m not sure.
    But this thing I know: I want to take the time to enjoy my time on earth.
    Not flippantly, not selfishly, but intentionally.
    Being purposeful about being a mother. Being purposeful about being a wife.
    It seems the latter is harder to do these days.
    Not because our relationship has grown stale – far from it! –
    but because several children make it harder spend time just alone. Just the two of us.

    Ben’s birthday was Saturday, and in keeping tradition,
    I asked him what he’d like to do on his birthday.
    That’s the main question around here:
    What do you want to do?
    Not, What do you want me to buy?
    Of course, no one will deny a gift is lovely. Not ever!
    But time together is what makes memories, not usually gifts.

    He decided that a day on the ocean is what he’d want.
    His mom and sisters so kindly agreed to keep the kiddos for the day, and we had us a date!
    Thank you so much!! It was the best gift!

    Time to slow down and enjoy the little moments with each other.
    Time to live in the moment.

    [google images]

    August 6th fell on a Saturday. Perfect.
    Taking off during a week day wouldn’t have been an option, so this was wonderful!
    We could have celebrated later, but there’s something lovely about celebrating that very day.

    We have a small boat that Ben purchased a few years ago.
    A sheriff’s sale purchase. One his wife didn’t find out about until later. :)
    Times have changed since then. :)
    It was an actual sheriff’s boat to patrol the waters. ’911′ is still faintly visible on the side.
    One day we’ll paint it, but until then, it floats just fine. Nothing fancy, but it’s a boat.

    Saturday morning found me packing chicken salad and salsa and chips and fruit.
    It found Ben loading chairs and checking the engine and hauling an extra can of gas.
    By late morning we were at the Jekyll dock, putting the boat in, and giddy with excitement. :)

    i heart salt life 105
    [toward evening, when a storm was rolling in]

    Living close to the coast has wonderful advantages.
    We’re inland far enough that we don’t have the coastal breeze, resulting in great heat for months on end.
    But down by the coast, there are islands, and sandy shores, and constant breezes.
    And we were going to the coast!

    On the way there, I was sort of laughing at all the “salt life” stickers on everyone’s back windows.
    Basically, it means you love the coast and water and all that.
    One thing about the south: what one person does, many many people do.
    I was laughing because I like to be more original:
    if someone else does it, that’s usually reason enough to not do it!
    Remember this little tidbit…

    There are quite a few islands closeby.
    The larger ones are more well-known from Eugenia Price’s books: St. Simons, Jekyll, Tybee…
    and then there are some smaller ones, more unknown.
     Quite a few not even accessible by land/bridge/car, only by boat.
    The private islands and islands only water-accessible I’d never been to.
    Since Ben has had a lot of work [construction] over on two of them throughout the past year,
    that’s where we headed.

    i heart salt life 004
    [shore line hardly visible off in the distance: first destination]

    i heart salt life 007
    [same short line, the sandy outline a bit more clear]

    A hundred memories flooded my mind as the breeze from the speed of the boat
    and the salt water hit my face. I spent four years in Belize as a young child,
    and lived in a remote location that had no roads connecting.
    All our transportation was river and ocean for several hours by dug-out canoe to the closest town.
    I remember traveling with my dad as a little girl, and how exciting it was.

    i heart salt life 023
    [for a minute I thought I was on a tropical island, but the pine trees brought me back to reality :) ]

    As Ben crossed the sound, where the water from the rivers meet the ocean,
    there were bigger waves, spraying salt water, and the boat felt like it lifted off the water.
    There was just a hint of danger, a thrill of adventure.
    So many places on earth man has tried to tame, but the ocean, never.
    It’s wild, and untamed, and it will always be so.

    i heart salt life 013
    [the second island we came to, and spend most of our time at]

    i heart salt life 017
    [finding conch shells to take back for the girls]

    So what did we do all day?
    Well,  we took fishing poles and [tried to] fish, but there was nary a nibble or bite all day.
    I think it was too hot.
    But it was great fun anyway, stopping sometimes to cast and fish a spot along the marsh,
    or trolling the motor and letting our lines out the back.

    We rode along the IntraCoastal Waterway most of the time, rather than far out in the ocean.
    Our boat was fairly small, and to go out too far is rather scary [to me]. :)
    We stopped once, and watched a group [pod? school?] of dolphins played all around our boat.
    They are such graceful sea creatures, and always look like they’re smiling.
    Also, it’s comforting that when dolphins are near, sharks are not.

    See, the Georgia coast has the largest shark breeding ground of anywhere along the east coast.
    Yep. And it’s been reported that Great Whites have even been seen off the coast a ways.
    Okay, a long ways. But still!!
    And almost everytime we’ve gone fishing along the coast, we pull in sharks.
    Small sharks, only several feel in length, but still… SHARKS!

    So even though I just love the water,
    and would have loved to jump overboard the boat to cool off,
    I didn’t.
    Call me chicken, I know, because shark attacks are very very rare.
    But I’m just afraid I’ll be the one they pick for their rare percentage,
    since mosquitoes pick me over everyone else all the time. :)
    So, I just wade. It’s ridiculous, I know, but what can I say?
    I’m not scared of much, but I AM scared of sharks. :)

    So, instead of jumping overboard into the ocean, we went exploring on one of the islands.
    I would have loved to go island to see the remains of this amaaaazing mansion…

    [Carnegie Mansion]

    [Brown's Guide to Georgia]

    All the building supplies were taken by ship to the island, and then built.
    There was no road/bridge then or now.

    It was burned, it’s thought by arson, and now it’s in ruins.
    But even the ruins look amazing.
    I think ‘photo shoot’ when I see these pictures!

    [photo courtesy of]

    But the mansion is inland too far, and we had no bikes or transportation to get there.
    One day. :)

    But instead we just explored along the coast.
    Pulled our boat onto the shore, and jumped on the sand.

    i heart salt life 088

    There were hundreds, maybe thousands, of these little fiddler crabs racing along the shore.

    i heart salt life 074

    Eugenia Price made famous the Spanish moss and magical lighting of the islands.
    It really is breathtaking!

    i heart salt life 049

    i heart salt life 047

    There are a few palm trees. :) Mostly pine and live oaks that must be hundreds of years old.

    i heart salt life 034

    It must have not rained for a long time, or else the ferns on the branches would be vibrant green.

    i heart salt life 046

    When we walked inland, there was a real “wild” feel to it.

    I told Ben I feel like Robinson Crusoe! I love a bit of adventure, and this day was full of it!
    But much more fun than Crusoe must have had, because I had my best friend with me!

    i heart salt life 038

    It felt as though we must have been the first people to ever be there,
    even though there were traces of other human visitors before us.

    i heart salt life 036

    There are wild horses on the island, from when the mansion was occupied and there were working plantations.
    We saw signs of them too, but sadly, nothing other than their “discard piles.”

    Our trek to the interior didn’t go too far, because it’s so wild and tangled.
    Plus, it’s infested with chiggers, a souvenir we did not want to come away with.

    i heart salt life 029

    This tree was laying completely sideways at the edge of the water,
    fully alive because its roots got water! So amazing and strange!

    i heart salt life 066

    i heart salt life 054

    i heart salt life 064

    I think the coastline must have extended much further at some point, because there are so many trees on “stilts”.

    i heart salt life 027

    i heart salt life 090

    After several hours out, we heard thunder rumbling in the distance,
    and even though we couldn’t see storm clouds, we both knew they can roll in fast.
    And we did not want to cross the sound in any higher waves then we did before!

    We headed back to shore around 5pm, and as we were docking, this is what was coming:

    i heart salt life 106

    Thankfully, we missed the storm and even the wind before it became too gusty and dangerous.

    But it was a lovely day, and a thousand lovely memories to last us past the day!
    We felt like two young kids, carefree and enjoying every minute
    of our day together.
    It was Ben’s birthday, and I told him several times I shouldn’t be having so much fun on his day!
    All smiles, he said it was his best birthday ever. :)

    We said we could get addicted to days out on the ocean. :)
    Perhaps we’ll have to make it a yearly tradition, on his birthday…

    And by the end, I was telling Ben,
    You know, maybe we should buy one of those ‘salt life’ stickers….” :)

    “I can only live the full life when I live fully in the moment.”
    [a. voskamp]



  • Of A Birthday and Cake Pops.

    We celebrated a birthday last week!
    It was a much-anticipated birthday. Much anticipated.
    I suppose this was the first year that she really understood what was happening.
    What there was to look forward to.
    It was Zoe’s birthday!

    Zoe - age 4-13-1

    Zoe - age 4-12

    She’s been talking about her birthday for weeks.
    Probably because Olivia’s birthday is just a few months before
    and that gives her even more reason to look forward to her own.

    In keeping of family tradition of doing something special on the day of the birthday,
    I asked her early in the week what she’d like to do for her birthday.
    She didn’t need to think long, and said,
    “Go to the beach!!”
    So a beach day was planned, and a little friend and his mom and brother invited along,
    since daddy wasn’t going to be able to go this time.

    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 4

    The day of the birthday she awoke so excited she didn’t know what to do with herself.
    We had planned a little party for the following night,
    and she suddenly didn’t want to go the beach after all,
    lest she not be able to have a party and turn four!
    Since she thought we all know she can’t turn four before her party.
    And turning FOUR is the event of her year!
    It took a bit of cajoling and convincing and talking
    to make her feel comfortable enough to be okay with the beach idea
    without fear of missing the entire party!
    But at last she was convinced and excited!

    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 014

    Picnic packed,
    beach gear loaded,
    sunscreen grabbed,
    towels tucked in,
    chairs folded,
    off we went!
    It’s a lot of work to remember everything!
    And I even forgot the salsa for the chips I packed.

    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 140

    It was the perfect day to be at the ocean.
    Blue blue skies.
    Enough breeze to cool our skin from the heat of the sun.
    Enough space for active little children to run and jump and play!
    I don’t know if our children or if us mothers enjoyed the day more. :)

    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 076

    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 3

    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 5

    There is something about the ocean that is so soothing and restful,
    even when there are four active children running around. :)
    I wish I could live there…

    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 2Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 135
    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 1
    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 134

    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 031Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 117

    It seems that I have just as pictures of the little sister as the actual birthday girl.
    I think Zoe was so busy running around that it was hard to get a good picture of her!

    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 059Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 082Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 119

    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 043

    We went on a long walk with the wagon and stroller,
    and when we came back we realized we had forgotten how fast the tide can rise…

    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 083

    Not a pretty picture, and it was even more sad in real life.
    My phone was in that pile, and was ruined, losing all my contact information. :(
    That was the only sad thing about the day though, because it was so much fun for everyone!

    We met Ben for supper, since he was working nearby, and he was able to be finish out the day with us!

    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 153 

    And because it was her birthday, she was able to choose some candy…
    much to her great delight!

    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 167

    We gave a bit bigger gift than normal this year…
    [so the next few gifts will be smaller :) ]
    We had wanted a gift that encourages creativity and imagination,
    not just that adds another toy to the collection.
    The wonderful idea was given of a dollhouse…
    so I searched craigslist and found this!
    It included quite a bit of furniture as well, and we were all delighted!
    I say “we” because little sis wants to be in all the action and play as well…

    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 191 Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 187

    It has provided hours of creative play already!
    As well as many opportunities for big and little sis to learn how to cooperate
    and play together without fighting… :{

    The following day was the party day,
    and Zoe and I spent pretty much all day making
    cake pops!

    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 263

    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 253 Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 251 Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 243

    cake pops 006

    I’ve been sucked into the cake pop rage,
    thinking they are just the more adorable little things ever!
    I had shown Zoe a picture several weeks prior
    and that is what she wanted for her party.

    Sooooo, we attempted them, using Bakerella’s recipe.
    We had fun,
    we were almost in tears,
    they were a blast to make,
    they were a trial to make,
    they were much harder to make than I ever thought!!!
    [I may do a tutorial later on in the event that someone else would like to make them,
    and just throw in a few tips I wish I would have known.]

    We finished them up less than an hour before the party started.
    Whew. That’s too close.
    That’s a little stressful.

    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 291 Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 271

    Zoe’s second cousin, Matthew, has a birthday two days after hers, so we celebrated together!
    We invited a few of their mutual little friends to play at the park,
    and had a few dessert munchies as well.

    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 310

    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 305

    My great relief at having completed the cake pops in time lasted only briefly…
    Because it was a very hot day
    (117 degrees with the heat index – I know, crazy to be outside at all)
    the chocolate on my dear little pops melted
    and the pops did a graceful slide down their little poles and plopped onto the tray.
    It was very very sad!

    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 296Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 356

    Little Matthew turned 3!

    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 324

    Zoe informed everyone she was now four.

    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 335

    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 331

    Some of the little friends, looking adorable in their pint-sized chairs.

    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 346 
    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 372

    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 352 Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 362

    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 376

    Of Birthdays and Cake Pops 338

    Happy birthday, sweet girl!
    We love having you in our family!

    And like you love for me to tell you,
    “I’m sooo glad you’re my little girl, Zoe!
    If you would be anyone else’s little girl,
    I would be jealous!
    And I would wish that you were mine!”
    [she asks me to say this to her. :) ]

    Zoe - age 4-9

    Zoe - age 4-13

    You are dearly loved!

    And the flurry of birthdays will be over…
    after this Saturday, when Husband celebrates his!