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Family fun time!

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I live in Florida for so many reasons. I have fond family memories of vacations spent on the beaches. I have a great job. There is no state income tax. The area we live in has so much outdoorsy stuff to do. Probably the biggest factor is my Raynaud’s syndrome that makes it feel like someone is sawing my fingers and toes off when I am in even moderate cold. I don’t know what changed, because when I was a kid I could run barefoot in the snow in the Michigan winter. Then we lived in New Mexico and a few years in Texas before moving back up to Illinois. The first hint of my new intolerance might have been that summer when we went camping in Michigan. We all went running into the lake, then immediately turned around and ran out of the cold water, shivering. Somehow, the Gulf adventures had spoiled us for bathwater-temperature swimming. More than this, I vividly remember being really excited to grab a sled and join my siblings in sledding after our first snowfall of that year. I had a fluffy winter coat, mittens, and hat as my usual protection from the cold. I wasn’t out long before my fingers and toes hurt so much that I had tears in my eyes. While my siblings were laughing and having a great time, I was trying not to cry from the pain and counting down the minutes until I could be home warming up again. Now I can’t even hold a can of cold beer without a stabbing feeling of ice-cream headache pain radiating from my hands to my entire body and clouding my brain. Never mind anything from the freezer! I have to handle frozen stuff with a potholder so that my fingers don’t feel like they are burning off. So I live where it is warm and humid and I rarely need a jacket.
This means that I am geographically far away from the rest of my family who feels the opposite (I’m pretty sure many of my siblings feel refreshed in cold weather and feel oppressively hot in our Florida summers). I also love my family and feel homesick a lot – it’s a balance of trying to maximize vacation time to see as many people as possible (like holiday get-togethers) and trying to lure people down to see me. This weekend, I was blessed to have my sister and my niece visiting. It has been a real joy to watch little V growing up into such a smart, silly, sweet spirit. We all know my sis has won the family sibling competition forever by sharing this little one with us.

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Beach beach beach!!

We spent most of our time enjoying the calm, temperate water in the Indian River Intracoastal Waterway. V is a daredevil who is inclined to leap into ocean waves that will suck her out to sea, so the intracoastal is a nice way for the adults to not have to be on high alert every single moment. We shared the beach with several other families that had kids in a similar age range.

V was the envy of the other kiddos with her awesome T-rex floatie (thanks, Amazon!) and she made a friend immediately. It was such a pure, innocent, and kind meeting and morning together – why can’t adults be like this??

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While at the beach, we also found some cool critters in the low tide!

Nice way to keep from losing the dog and child

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JILONA

We also went on a walking adventure around the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and got to teach Violet about geocaching. I am happy to report that we may have a new young geocacher taking her new hobby back home 🙂

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We had lots of fun in the house with:

Pets

Daisy remembers V clearly and gets super excited when she is in the house. When V was high-chair aged, it meant a shower of giggles and food falling on the floor to get vacuumed up by eager beagles. When she could walk, she would toddle around and hand the beagles her food – which would dissolve her into giggles and the beagles into an excited food frenzy. Now she is more sneaky about slipping them snacks at the dinner table. She is also old enough to maturely sit and pet them and hug them and tell them what good doggies they are. Daisy follows V everywhere with a hopeful grin and wagging tail. Thumper has just met V and I watched her evolve from relative lack of interest to also following her around with Daisy. I am so proud of my furry babies for being so sweet, gentle, and generally polite – it is so hard to be good when a child is holding food inches from your face and laughing! Lafreniere is snuggly as always and followed my sister around to climb into her lap for extra snuggles. I think he can sense she has good kitty energy. Laveaux, aka “hissy kitty”, was surprisingly well-behaved. She followed people around with some threatening meowing and hissing, but otherwise behaved herself. I think she doesn’t mind V since she is very respectful and gives the cat a wide berth (unlike everyone else who wants to force her to love them).

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Crafts

Crafts have always been a big family activity. Drawing, painting, building, jewelry-making, sewing, etc. We got lots of drawings and coloring out of our system and then we found the glitter and glow in the dark stars for some fun glue projects. Our house still has lingering sparkle here and there 🙂 Somehow I didn’t take pictures of any of the pictures!

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Games

One of V’s favorite games is a hide and seek game. At her last visit, we hid sea shells all over the back yard, then set her loose to find them all. This is a great game to keep her busy so the adults can relax for a little bit. She got tired of always seeking, so started hiding the shells for us to find as well. This game has expanded to include the indoors and other objects to hide. Thinking back, this was a game we played for years as children. I remember hiding my glass marbles all over the house and setting my sibling loose to find them all – like an Easter Egg hunt with toys. Another seeking game that she is enjoying now is “I spy”. I can see it is a good challenge of processing obvious clues as well as more developed riddles. She is also learning to be a little duplicitous in this game by sometimes making up things that aren’t there or changing her answers to make it more challenging for the other person to “win”. You’d think there should be scientific references to discuss why children love these kinds of games, but when I typed “hide and seek” into Pubmed, all I got was a list of references that are not remotely related to child psychology and game-playing.

V is old enough now to be able to play more sophisticated games like this card game called “Sleeping Queens”. She shows an impressive level of understanding complex rules and some strategic planning. I may not be remembering well enough, but I don’t think I was near her level of reading, writing, and cognitive reasoning at that age. It is just amazing what kids are capable of when their brains are developing so fast. This is a little bit of a tangent, but I am reminded of one of my favorite TV shows, Masterchef Junior. I am amazed over and over by how skilled and imaginative these kids are. I love how they support each other, the judges are generally supportive and kind, and the kids are incredibly good under pressure. This is held in sharp contrast to the adult version of the show. This season ran the Adult version immediately following the Junior finale. The level of imagination, cooking skill, plating art, and behavior from kids 8-12 years old seem to far surpass those in the adults. What happens to us in adulthood to lose that energy, brisk learning, skill acquisition, and to be able to be kind and supportive to our peers? Stress? Lack of time? Emotional and psychological injury from our difficult experiences? Social pressures? How can we be more like children?

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Tasty food

A family visit is not complete without food food food. How on earth has V evolved to not care about food and see it as a chore? I’m pretty sure it’s all I thought about as a kid (and still do). Jeff made some delicious sweet potato and black bean enchiladas for dinner one night – vegetarian eating definitely doesn’t have to be bland! We also had a nice dinner at our favorite Thai food place and a lunch at Dune Dog. The Dune Dog approach to s child was vastly different from the Thai food place. At the Thai restaurant, the service staff looked pretty nervous about the little wild animal we had cornered against the window in the booth and they generally looked unsure about how to handle such a small human. Despite this, they were still polite and patient, and we made sure to equip ourselves with toys, portable watercolor paint, and crayons. At Dune Dog, she had room to dance, got pictures and crayons for coloring, kiddo meal items, and surprise ice cream for dessert as a reward for eating her lunch. Another reason Dune Dog in Jupiter is one of my favorite places to go on a hot day.

I also made ice cream – rich chocolate custard with swirls of orange-raspberry sauce. Like a chocolate version of our raspberry swirl recipe. Yum yum yum! A can of Guinness stout keeps the ice cream the perfect consistency in the freezer and cuts the sweetness slightly. With all of those custard egg yolks, you have to do something with the whites. I made a bunch of meringues. This time I followed a recipe using gram weights instead of volume measure and I made smaller cookies than I usually do, and they came out perfectly! I also learned you can add some sugar-free Jello for flavoring to add color and taste (yummy raspberry Jello with banana extract tastes like 1980’s candy).

I should have taken pictures because it looked so pretty but we ate it all!

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Toys

Toys toys toys. The challenge in our house is trying to establish an understanding of what are Jeff’s special toys and what are V-friendly toys. This is certainly not intuitive to a kid, since most of Jeff’s toys are things collected from childhood or trinkets from Mardi Gras floats. Fortunately, I have saved up some boxes of things to distract her from the Figment figures and glass cases of toys. Something seems to have changed in the last 3 years. At Christmas in 2016, we were prohibited from talking about “poop” because it would send V into a puddle of giggles and a repetition of “poop! poop! poop! poop! Heheheheheheehhehhahahahahahahaha!!!!!!”. It may just be lax vacation rules, but my sister allowed us to give V a poop emoji plush which quickly became a favorite toy for the weekend. We had lots of dinosaur and horse playtime

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It was just nice to relax and spend time with family, chit chat and reminisce, and just be in the same room together. Until next time!

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