Thursday, May 25, 2017

Our Beach Vacation!

We are back from the beach, and we had the most glorious time. Truly. I thought I'd share some of my favorite pictures along with info on where we stayed and where we ate in case anyone else is planning a trip to Orange Beach in the near future!

We love Orange Beach, Alabama, for many reasons, and one big reason is proximity! It takes less than 5 hours to drive there, and with two kids that's something to consider. It's a family-friendly community with tons of great places to stay and some fabulous restaurants.

We've been visiting here for about six years now (pre-kids and growing up I always went to Destin, Florida), and each time we've stayed at a Phoenix condominium (there are 19 to choose among!). Our favorite is Phoenix West II, and that's where we stayed this year. We love how clean it is; the amenities are just what we need; and we also love the fact that there's a splash pad, and the pool has a big slide and a lazy river.

We always book directly through Brett/Robinson Vacations (the company responsible for the condos), but I know a lot of people have good success with as well. I've noticed I can find better rates on the Brett/Robinson site, however.


Before I bore you with more lodging info, I'll share our pictures. There are lots! And then I'll share where we ate at the end.

Shortly after we arrived the girls were eager to feel the sand and the water. So we made a quick trip to the beach before coming back up to the room to unpack and get settled in.

Lily got this Trolls bathing suit for her birthday and has been dying to wear it since.


The Paw Patrol trucker hat kills me.

Hadley has food in every picture because snacks make her happy.

We had our favorite meal here. And check out this view! If you're in Orange Beach, you must check out Shipp's Harbour Grill!

This one ate her weight in fried shrimp.

Dinner ended with a surprise chocolate chip cookie with chocolate icing. Winner.

Doing a little dance. Another beach day. Yay! Followed by, "Can we move here?"

With my littlest nugget. How cute is her pineapple suit?

We love a splash pad...and it's surrounded by beach chairs, so Rob and I were able to sit back and relax while the girls played!

The sweetest sisters. So thankful they have one another!

Selfie with the hubs. Wish we could've gotten a family photo too!

This picture cracks me up. Hadley doing yoga at the splash pad!

Our final night, after dinner at Tacky Jacks.

The sunrise on our last morning. Just incredible. I enjoyed watching the sun come up each morning while drinking a cup of coffee. That's one of my favorite things about the beach!

Where we ate

Our beach routine is usually the same each day. Wake up; go to the beach for most of the morning, then cool off in the pool before heading up for lunch. We keep lunch easy and casual and pick up food from the local grocery store to snack on...that way we have more time at the beach. And then after a full afternoon of swimming and building sandcastles, we generally get cleaned up and head to dinner.
We went to Doc's Seafood Shack on night one. We were looking for something very casual, but we wanted some good seafood. Doc's did not disappoint. Don't go for the atmosphere or the views. You won't find either. But you'll get some really good food! Rob had the fried seafood platter (duh), and I had stuffed crab...and lots and lots of French fries.

After a long second day on the beach, we picked up sushi to go and ate on our balcony. That's kind of become a tradition for us, and each time we pick up from Big Fish Restaurant. Best sushi I've ever had. I'm sure the dinner menu is just as good.

A girlfriend recommended Shipp's Harbour Grill, and it's become a new favorite. The atmosphere was perfection, and the food was stellar. I had the Gulf Coast Snapper, and Rob had the Grouper Ponchatrain.
We discovered Cosmos years ago and make a point to return there each year. The atmosphere is fun and quirky, and we ate outside while a band was playing. There's also a fun gift shop attached, which makes waiting for a table a little easier. Rob got the fresh catch of the day for dinner, and I got the grilled shrimp. It honestly wasn't my favorite thing I've ordered there, but we'll still be back. If you go, you must try the firecracker shrimp appetizer and/or the BBQ crab claws!

Our final night we stopped by Tacky Jacks. It's probably more of a touristy spot, but it's casual and laid back and a great place to visit with kids. Our waitress was fabulous (she was from Romania!), and a fun band was playing in the outdoor dining area. I had the Half and Half platter (grilled fish and blackened shrimp), and Rob had the Steamed Royal Reds. It was really tasty. The Firecracker Shrimp appetizer is amazing as well.


So, now we're home...our skin is a little darker (or, mine is more freckled, and Hadley's is just as fair); our bellies are full (we probably all gained a few pounds); and our hearts and minds have some special memories to hold onto (cheesy but true). It was a fabulous trip. Yay for summer!

Let me know if you've ever been to Orange Beach and where you like to stay and/or eat. We're always looking for new places to check out. Are most of you taking a family vacation this summer? Let me hear!


Update: I wanted to source the girls' bathing suits for y'all too! If they're not listed below, they're sold out. We always find our suits at GAP, Old Navy, Target (buy one get one free right now!), Osh Kosh, Carters, and Gymboree.

Lily's pineapple two-piece
Hadley's pineapple two-piece
Lily's blue one-piece with tassels
Lily's purple sparkle one-piece (not pictured)
Lily's Trolls one-piece
Hadley's cactus one-piece 
Hadley's Peppa Pig one-piece
Hadley's flamingo one-piece



Monday, May 15, 2017

Weekend Update + Life Lately

How was everyone's weekend? Did all the mamas reading have a happy Mother's Day? I surely hope so!

I woke up to donuts and purple tulips yesterday, as well as some precious cards from my girls. Lily told me I was her BFF. Doesn't get much better than that. We went to church and visited with my parents that afternoon. It was a simple, sweet day, which was just what I wanted.

 They're laughing in the picture below because I said, "Mommy is going to rest all day and won't have to do any laundry or tidying up." Yeah right. Ha!



Saturday was a really special day. I drove up to Memphis for the day to celebrate my niece McKenna, who just graduated from high school. She's going to Tulane in the fall, and she's just a shining star in every way. The drive up was just what I needed. I was alone for 3 hours (alone for 3 hours?!?!) in my car and listened to music that I hadn't listened to in years. I danced; I sang; I reminisced. It was fun. Once I got to Memphis I was able to see so many family members I hadn't seen in a while. Lots of hugs and catching was so good for the soul.

And remember this face below. She is going to do big things in life, I have no doubt.


We caved and got bags and bags of sand for the sandbox area that came with the girls' swing set. Sand is everywhere, but it's worth it because they love it.


We are winding up the school year this week, and I I need a break from schedules and homework. And come the end of June I'll be ready for schedules again. Isn't that the way life goes? :)

Hadley's school had their annual May Day performance recently, and we had a long talk about being brave and getting up on the stage and singing with her classmates. She seemed ready, and I only prepped her because last time they had a performance she spotted me in the audience and began crying for "Mommy!!!!" I thought to myself how great she was going to do this year...and life laughed at me. As they were walking out as a class, waving their flags, she spotted me and refused to go on stage. I snapped a pic right before the tears fell. Bless her heart. Next year I'm either going to wear camo and hide among all the other parents, or we're just going to skip altogether!


As most of you know, my Dad relapsed last summer and is living with mantle cell lymphoma for the third time. He's been on oral chemo since then and has done pretty well. Recently he's had some setbacks, and his blood pressure has been running extremely low. He'll see the doctor today, and we're hoping for some answers and easy solutions. It's an overwhelming time, and I'd be lying if I said we weren't concerned. We would treasure your thoughts and prayers, dear friends.


We're heading to the beach this week, so I have lots of odds and ends to do around here to get us ready. And I'm getting a spray tan this morning so I won't frighten children on the beach with my whiteness! :) Any tips for making a spray tan stay put?


I hope everyone has a happy day and a great week ahead.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

What Being a Nurse Means to Me

It's National Nurses Week. I've been a nurse for eight years now, and I can say confidently that it's something that I feel like I was put on this Earth to do. With that said, I thought I'd share what being a nurse means to me.

 It means I have the unique ability to sense your needs and the follow-through to get them met. Many of these are simple: I notice that you seem down. Your room is dark, and I suggest opening up the blinds to let the light come in. Or, your neck can't be comfortable in that position. Let's add some more pillows and see if that helps.
 It means giving medications that can treat diseases and illnesses, take away pain, or even sustain life. I take that seriously.
 It means holding your hand after you've heard bad news and just listening. Gosh, I reply, life can be so unfair.
 It means doing a lot of dirty work. But reminding you time and time again that it is really no big deal (and it really isn't).

 It means going above and beyond to ensure that your dignity is intact as long as you're living.
It means washing your hair over the sink and trying my best to style it. I was not put on this Earth to be a hair stylist.
It means painting your toenails so you feel a little more like yourself. I was also not meant to be an esthetician.
It means bringing you a box of ice cream sandwiches because you love them and that's the only food you can possibly stomach at this point.
It means bringing you entertainment magazines and nodding in agreement when you state that Jennifer Aniston "has a smokin' hot bod."
It means swapping stories about our children. And listening to your sage advice about raising them right.
It means treasuring the advice you share about making a marriage work. You should know; you've been married 65 years!
It means calling the doctor when I think another medication might work better for you.
It means knowing the doctor I'm calling is not known for his friendly demeanor but calling anyway.

It means taking a deep breath and praying for a brave face before walking into your room. You're my age, 36, and you're a mom too. You're living with terminal cancer. Why, I wonder? Why you and not me? Why am I the lucky one?
It means advocating for my patients. And then the feeling of someone listening and agreeing with me, the nurse, is priceless. I've just made a positive change for my patient, and there's not much better.
It means holding hands with your family and singing a hymn, watching you as you take your last breath on this Earth. The fact that your family trusted me with that moment was an honor.
It means hugging your family so tightly afterward, as tears stream down our faces.
It means holding you accountable. "Mr. Smith, you're diabetic. Do you really think that box of donuts is a good idea?" Or, "Mr. Smith, no you can't smoke while wearing oxygen."
It means preparing your body for family after you have died. The weight of this is not lost on me.
It means long talks in the hallway with your spouse or children, away from you, as they question their decisions and ask "What would you do?"

It's trying my hardest to help each patient find that glimmer of hope.

It means many times smiling politely and gritting my teeth when you say something that I disagree with: "Donald Trump is the best president we've ever had," you declared. Wow, that took a lot of self control on my part!
It means you yelling at me, telling me to get out of your room because your brain tumor has caused you so much confusion that you were convinced that I was keeping your pain medication from you. That broke my heart, but I also knew that the words weren't really from you.
It means tears of joy when you get good news! Oh how precious these moments are.
It means helping you pack up your room as you get to return home after a long hospital stay. And reminding you of the items you can take with you. FYI friends, water jugs from hospitals are the absolute best. I still use mine!
It means meeting you and your family in the hall, after you've arrived on a flight from out of state. You'd sought treatment in one of the nation's best cancer hospitals, and you were just told there was nothing left to do. You were returning here for comfort care, and the reality of the situation weighed heavily on us all.

It means running into your daughter in the grocery store, years after you'd died, tears filling my eyes as we talked about you.
It means talking to you about NASCAR and pretending to be very interested, because it was something that you loved.
It means removing the clock from your wall. You were dying, and watching the clock made you anxious. The seconds ticking away was too much.
It means teaching you how to take your medications once you get home.
It means helping you walk in the hall so you don't lose your strength.
It means shaving your head so you can lose your hair on your terms. Not cancer's.
It means decorating your room with artwork from your children.
It means putting a "No Visitors" sign on your door so you can get some rest. And so I can be the bad guy, not you.
It means scrolling through the TV stations for nearly 10 minutes so we can find something that cheers you up. Usually Westerns do the trick.
It means wheeling you downstairs for a bit so you can feel the fresh air against your skin.
It means keeping your secret that you still smoke. Is there really a need for your children to know? Nah.
It means asking about your daughter who died as a child. And seeing your face light up as you talk about her and remember her short but precious life. You thanked me after that exchange, for asking questions about her. That was a life moment for me because it made me realize that we all too often avoid the elephant in the room. You told me, "Most people don't ask about her anymore," and then you told me how much it meant to share her stories.
It means a big hug at the end of the day, thanking you for letting me take care of you.
It means bodily fluids on our scrubs many days.
It means stripping down in the garage at the end of a long day for fear of what germs you might bring inside.
It means lunch on the go on a busy day. Yes, crackers and a Diet Coke will suffice!
It means listening to you vent. I have learned that listening is the cure to so much. I don't have to fix everything, nor do I have the power, but listening to you helps a little...and sometimes a lot.

It means smiling politely when your family shows up, hiding my anger that they haven't been here to visit, and you've been alone in your room, days on end, lonely to the core.

It means trying to unclog your NG tube and failing miserably. And you joking that I must have missed that day in nursing school. That tickled us both.

It means bringing you another Gatorade, even though I knew you had nearly 50 stored in your bag from home. Was Gatorade too expensive for your family to buy, I wondered? Well let's stock up.

It means stuffing a few extra supplies in your bag before you leave. You could buy them at the local drugstore, but home was several hours away, and you wouldn't arrive until after dark. It means me winking, telling you this was our secret. (And now my secret's out!)

It means leaving the hospital after a long day and thinking, "Man, why did I become a nurse?"

It means leaving the hospital after a long day and thinking, "Yes! That. That was why I became a nurse!"

It means coming home and thinking about you. Wondering how you are doing, wondering if you are still living. It means thinking about you long after your death.

You see, my patients and their families leave a permanent imprint in my life. Each one takes up a little piece of my heart (and many take up a big piece). I learn from each of them; I grow as a human being. They thank me at the end of the day for taking care of them, but really they are the ones who need to be thanked. It is my honor and privilege to care for people in need. Each time I drive to work, prior to walking through those sliding doors, I pray that the Lord would help me be His hands and feet that day. And being His hands and feet...that's what being a nurse means to me.


Thank y'all for reading. And happy Nurses Week to my fellow nurses.