Posts Tagged ‘Summer Vacation’

Class of 2021, declared major: Aerospace Engineering, emphasis on jet propulsion. Busch Gardens: Where our top rocket scientists get their start!

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Braving Hurricane Barry, I put in my 9 hours’ morning work yesterday and took off at 3pm to go see Jonathan and Southwind’s last performance in the state before they left at 11pm for the rest of their national tour.

The neighborhood was in the middle of flooding but I took advantage of sneaking out between storm bands (no pun intended) to get on the interstate..

It was at least a 3 hour drive upstate, pounding rain and – thank You God – for a friend recommending audio books, so it was me and Brené Brown and her recent book on “Braving the Wilderness” (how à propos!), white-knuckling it up to Millbrook, AL. I had a mission, to see my kid, his band, the competition with other bands, to make good on a promise to get there and to deliver two corn dogs and a large hot fudge milk shake into the hands of said kid.

He reinforced a couple of times (despite my texts to move things up) that it would have to be AFTER the show (which would be circa 10pm) lest he barf up Sonic on the pristine football field and cost his team points.

Because they had the “home state advantage,” Southwind went last. But preceding them were several truly awesome drum corps, competing for a title.

One was Southern Knights, an all-age drum corps (and I saw young as 10, old as 70s) which rocked the stadium kicking off the competition.

In the middle were bands from Atlanta, the Carolinas, Florida, Louisiana and Michigan.

I would like to point out that I was most impressed with the Louisiana Stars from Lafayette, LA – which happened to be from just a hair north of Barry’s landfall, so these kids were safe and sound inland but probably internally freaking out how their families, pets and homes were faring during the storm which made landfall while they practiced here.

Louisiana Stars – God bless those in the path of Hurricane Barry.

The band from Kalamazoo, MI won, Legends, with their extraordinary drill team posing as Sirens of the Sea en masse, along with a dramatic story line about life in the sea with the gods and goddesses.

The Sirens did a creative wave number to the sound of my beloved sea waves, their long hair sweeping to and fro, emulating the waves of the beckoning sea

This drill team evidently was taught to seduce and interact with the audience with their hair-flips, alluring smiles and seductive beckonings. a perfect opening that wowed and wooed the judges.

With Southwind hosting, their last-on-program/late performance was stellar, nonetheless – and, compared to last week’s dress rehearsal (see previous post), the musicians were phenomenally precise, more artistic, theatrical and in the groove. I am excited for the rest of their tour and am confident they will rock the rest of the country!

Southwind’s precision

They handled the “cages” more expertly tonight…intentional in trapping their prey and skillfully orchestrating the profound exhilaration of freedom

Packing up for the next destination

Drilling the Drill Team – they rocked!!

That semi holds a place for each instrument, supply and uniform

The cages waiting to be loaded. What cage are you captive in?

Each member gets a medallion at the end of their home-state show, depending on how many years they’ve participated. This is Jonathan’s second year.

A competition well-performed

Southwind Mom’s Truck

Thank You, God, for children and their pursuits, for infusing them with talents, skills and interests that contribute to our world’s arts, sciences and teaching them all manner of What Life’s About.

God, please bless Southwind and all the kids this summer who are devoting themselves to greater purposes which ultimately make us better people and make the world a better place. May they go on to serve You in whatever capacity You deem appropriate.

(Here, Jonathan’s brother with Down syndrome pipes up, “Mama, you tired of Southwind?” Mama answers, “No, David, I’m tired FROM Southwind last night, not tired OF Southwind!”) David says, “We’re tired from rains and storms,” to which mama says, “Yes, David, and why we’re going to bed early tonight….”

Night night co-musers!

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Today marks the start of the annual tour for Southwind, an elite drum and bugle corps representing the Southeast region’s best percussion and brass players.

(Oh, and coincidentally, today marks this blog’s 8th anniversary – thank you to all my readers and friends for 8 incredible years!!! xxxooo). Back to Southwind:

They will travel nearly 6,000 miles in six weeks, performing and competing in cities throughout the Eastern seaboard and the Midwest, culminating with a world class competition at the Colt’s football stadium in Indianapolis.

Southwind began 40 years ago and carefully selects its members from rigorous auditions and recommendations. This year, its members hail from 15 states. Lucky for us (and our son who plays the euphonium), they chose our county as Ground Zero for their many weeks of rehearsal camps leading up to today, so we didn’t have to go far to visit him.

Last night they held their dress rehearsal, before they leave tonight for Valdosta, GA, their first stop on the tour circuit. We will catch up with Southwind again next Saturday in upstate Alabama for one of their competitions, before they head north for New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Michigan and points beyond.

Some highlights from yesterday:

The schedule is dizzyingly intense, with few breaks

Local high schools house the Corps; boys in the gym, girls in the cafeteria, members over 18 in another room (members are from both high schools and universities)

Shoe blow-out is common – these students engage in marathon-training conditions in blistering heat and are fed special high-energy diets and go through gallons of water a day

Did I say “blistering heat?” This was what the sign said yesterday as I was leaving camp at 4:30pm

The supplies and resources necessary to pull off a tour of this magnitude are phenomenal. How every detail comes together is a miracle of the many staff and volunteers who expertly think of everything!

You just never know who’ll show up on tour with Southwind!

(wonder if this guy ever wishes he’d taken up the trumpet instead?) Everyone helps haul the instruments, props and supplies

Meals are served outdoors and consist of lots of high protein, high carb foods. I’m told that spicy and sugary foods are off the list for the most part.

It takes a crew to wash the uniforms, a crew to cook and clean up, a crew to keep track of the students, a crew to organize and pull off the tour, etc. Check out the Southwind website to see their talented Visual Staff and Percussion Staff.

Warming up on the field while the rest of the Corps unloads

Full percussion warming up with brass getting ready behind (note everyone’s gallon jugs precisely at their sides)

Just like a pro ball team, each position/section has its coaches. For the Corps, this includes experts in fine-tuning (literally, as in ensuring drums are properly tuned). The coach listens to each drum carefully, getting down to drum-level with his ear and instructs each player accordingly to ensure perfection.

Each instrument has to be inspected, each day

For each performance, they have a very short amount of time to assemble all instruments, props and supplies, so they learn, among other skills, how to, um, for lack of a better term, haul ass

The drum majors take the field. Yes, that is a roller coaster in the far background but it was so hot we didn’t see anybody on the rides!

The dress rehearsal turned into an un-dress rehearsal, as the searing heat even after the sun went down, prompted them to spare the uniforms for the tour and they did the rest of rehearsal in their bibbers (and white gloves – never ditch the white gloves, so sayeth the Lady, no matter what the conditions!)

The choreography, precision and talent are mind-blowing!

The performers put their heart and soul into each note

This year’s show is called, “The Cage,” in four movements. The first movement portrays what it is like to feel caged – the constraint, the sacrifice of self, the pain of stuck-ness. The second movement illustrates the frenzied attempts to break out of the cage, unsuccessfully.

Movement three is about what we might call learned helplessness, or accepting our circumstances, perhaps complacency and/or ditching the dream to be free and happy. Choosing to settle. Learning to be “happy” and giving up on potential.

In the last movement, the cage finally opens and we experience the joy of true freedom, being able to live life to its fullest capacity and the relief of being out in the open at last.

The show is copyrighted so we are forbidden to upload videos of the performance (plus we don’t want to give our secrets away to our competition before the tour!), else I would have loved to share the power of the sound and theatrics this talented group of students and staff produce.

Am I outside the cage, or in? What about you?

And, just like a ball team, they have their own mini-ambulance

Away from the action, empty hangers, backpacks and instrument cases line the fence

Ready to roll up the road to the next venue!

I caught up with him after last year’s show in Hiram, GA

Thanks, God, for opportunities You give us and our children to exercise talents, discover new skills and to experience great adventures. Thank You for freeing us of the many cages of our own making in which we ensnare ourselves….and may we always fully trust and be free in Christ.

(This hot summer – and now 16 and driving! – he values a shorter haircut than last year lol) – Godspeed, Jonathan William and all of Southwind!

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It has literally been years since I created a new header, but I was inspired to freshen things up a bit by my (Irish) bff who recently treated me to a yacht excursion.

The “recommended pixel dimensions” and limited cropping windows prevented me from capturing the true moment, so I wanted to share the essence of the day…including the captain casually but expertly steering with his feet!

(Blessings beneath the pics)

Cloudy but calm seas

Thanks, God, for smooth sailing!

The common Irish blessing (and a few others) come to mind here:

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind always be at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

and rains fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.


May good luck be with you Wherever you go, and your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow.


May your days be many and your troubles be few, May all God’s blessings descend upon you, May peace be within you, May your heart be strong, May you find what you’re seeking wherever you roam.


May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been

the foresight to know where you’re going

and the insight to know when you’re going too far


…and, in that vein:

“May you be in Heaven a full half hour before the devil knows you are dead!”

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Boredom simply cannot co-exist in a place like this:


We are fully one week into summer vacation, and already we have tackled some of the most daunting of educational tasks set forth for parents – tasks not otherwise taught in the classroom, such as:


Always a step ahead, I posted this on the fridge shortly after school dismissed. Just in case.


A couple of trips to our fave local swimming hole have highlighted our first week of summer vacation. The pretty pink and green and peach beach bungalows line the street to the right and face the beach, and a short walk under the bridge toward the dunes takes you to the sea. Everyone’s so busy looking seaward, they often don’t see this little gem with clear waters and a swift current in the middle, but calm enough near the shore for children to play without worry. Tourists cannot be found here, but the best shells can, which get cast aside by the current along with fun fish and marine life to swim with. It is known as “the lagoon” to all but our three-year old, who begs daily to “go to the ‘goon.”


We go back and forth between the sea and the goon in any given day. There was some nice surfing and boogie boarding to be had yesterday. I was going to post some of these yesterday for the Weekly Photo Challenge (theme: Today), but once we got home, we had four children to de-sand and we were exhausted. Phoo. I’ll have to find another picture for the Today theme. In the meantime, here’s my “Yesterday” theme:



As a child therapist, I recommend children have no more than two hours per day of “screen time,” defined as any electronic activity, including video games, television, movies, computer, etc. “Educational” screen time is included in this limit. Excessive screen time changes the neurological pathways developed in children’s brains and inhibits their ability to master critical tasks such as delayed gratification, independent thinking, imagination and creative problem-solving. It also invites symptoms along the lines of ADHD, traumatic stress, anxiety, oppositional-defiance and various unwanted house guests.

Here is a picture of what our screen-deprived 13-year-old did with his free time his first week of summer vacation. He was reading a book about local edible plants over one of his uncountable bowls of cereal (he’s at that age, y’know), and rode his bike around looking to harvest elderberry, understanding that only the berries and flowers are non-toxic. He soaked the flowers and concocted a very yummy drink, and took the stalk and hollowed it out and made this, with the intention of making more and selling them at an outdoor market or crafts fair:


Here I was, afraid he was going to saw off his arm when he took off out of the house with a sharp implement. And then he brings this beautiful instrument to me, concerned because he accidentally made the hole at the right too big and unsuccessfully tried to cover it with Scotch tape to make it sound right. It didn’t work. So off he went on his bike with the saw again, and this time came back with a big harvest of bamboo. Maybe that will work better than elderberry.

I’m curious how he hollowed it out, but I’m afraid to ask and just grateful he has all 10 fingers, got a good grade in algebra last week and that his garden is yielding awesome produce for us to enjoy. I will remember those things when he comes to ask me why his baseball jersey is not clean in time for the Monday night game when he forgot it was crumpled in a heap on the floor of his bedroom instead of tossed in the laundry basket….I will remember, having one math geek, one science geek, one special needs and one with a major-not-yet-declared, that some of the best learning happens hands-on and outside the classroom.

God, thanks for summer vacation, for creative pursuits and thinking outside the box. Thank You for children and the beach and “alternative education.” Help us to savor the days….God, thank You for teaching us all in Your own ways, for showing us that learning happens in a variety of ways and places and formats, not just where we expect it. Thank You for allowing us to transition from homeschooling to regular schooling and, for the summers, back to homeschooling. Thank You, God, that education is a lifelong process, no matter how old we are.

Oh, yeah…I was supposed to return to the small campus of a women’s university in Virginia’s Blue Ridge mountains this weekend for my 25th college reunion. Was it worth instead being at the goon and engaging my children in non-classroom educational activities? Heck, yeah!!! (Who else would have assigned the 9-year-old sentences for making oral fart noises?!). Priorities…

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Moon Jellies


Dour-looking lionfish. This non-native species has invaded the Gulf:


(Photo not available: Didn’t have nerve to photograph music stars/entourage from Nashville visiting island…just act normal/nonchalant, you know – they appeared to be cherishing their anonymous privacy)

Underside of a male horseshoe crab:


Um, not sure what to title this…any ideas?


Colorful sunset over a newly mown hay field:

Sunset over hayfield

(Photo not available: this I saw in an amusing, evidently unedited email alert):

“Beachy Middle and Beachy High School delayed releasing students by about six minutes this afternoon while Beachy Police checked out a report of a student with a firearm at a residence near the two campuses. Beachy Police say it turned out that the firearm was a BB gun and the kid was minding his own business in a backyard.”

And the crowning sight of all sights…


Aftermath of first day of summer vacation (or the latest I Spy Challenge at our house):  Tonka truck, upside-down ambulance, Mardi Gras beads, sock under couch, misplaced shoes, mostly-naked Mr. Potato Head, Thomas the Train train wash, grounded airplane, rubber dragonfly, Star Wars DS game chip box (empty), hand bell (middle C), screwed up plastic slinky, upended keyboard, broken craft/mask, Pixar Cars pillow, extended light saber, random assortment of Matchbox cars, John Deere tractor and pull-back school bus with stop sign that used to come out but is now broken off and long-lost.


Hey, God…thank You for distracting me from life’s challenges, with all things beautiful and busy. I figured You brought me back into the field because You needed something else done, but I didn’t expect a mess-o-crap to hit the fan within the same week as receiving that piece of paper. Dang, Lord! I barely had time to celebrate before there came the threat to my livelihood…and no sooner had I begun to wring my hands over that, then came the (unrelated) threat to my life. Thank You for equipping me to do what You need done. Protect and reassure. Thank You for lawyers and doctors and policemen, and all those You use to bring about Your will. Use us all as You see fit. Let us stand tall and be blessed through both good and evil. Let us understand it is You that we serve.

And thank You for my new motto carrying me through these new, fiery trials:  Fear Never Conquered.

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