Friday, July 1, 2016

Homeleave 2016 -- A Perfect Summer in Bay St. Louis

Our 2016 Homeleave on the beach in Bay St. Louis, MS, was in a word, perfect. The kids were ridiculously happy, surrounded by all our family. Everything was familiar our second summer in the Bay -- it felt like coming home. As cheesy as it may sound, we filled our love tanks.

Two days after our return from Stockholm, we arrived to a festive homecoming in the Gulfport airport -- Ning, Poppa and the Vlachs were there with signs, hugs and happy tears! Our bags were never loaded in Paris and we lost my purse in Atlanta airport security, but we didn't really mind. We stocked up at Walmart and kicked off vacation with a break from phones and social media. It was like going back to a simpler time.

Summer in Bay St. Louis..... It's roadside peaches and tomatoes that were picked that morning. It's Crab-fest on the Fourth of July, swimming till bedtime, lazy afternoons, fried green tomatoes and root beer floats. It's the beach at sunset and an outdoor shower. It's catching up on a year's worth of guilty pleasures (Diet Dr Pepper and the Bachelorette!), and repeatedly asking aloud if John wore any shoes (no). It's a white-steepled church on Sunday. Every American flag felt like it might have been hung to welcome us home for a bit.
We were so relaxed. The biggest question was whether we wanted to eat shrimp pulled out of the Gulf that morning or fresh gumbo. Pool or beach. Ice cream cone or Snowball.

Madeline and Charlie went to sailing camp, using words like "jig" in everyday conversation and tying ribbons on their life-preservers with each new skill they learned. Later in the summer, they actually sailed in a regatta! John went to vacation Bible school, where all the ladies called him Mr. Hollywood because he was so cool and handsome with his shades. 
First day of sailing camp!
First day of Vacation Bible School for John John!
Rob's parents, Nicki, and her boyfriend, Mike, came down for an week-long visit; Rob chartered fishing guide and went out with his dad and the big kids. I flew up to meet two-week old Teddy and help Andi and Kyle in Granger. Back in BSL, everyone celebrated Ning's birthday! 
Instant love.
Mollie and Kenny came down for a week with their sweet little Evie. Madeline and her cousin had a special connection. 
A few weeks later, Mollie and I flew back to South Bend a second time for a Sisters Weekend with Andi. My sisters and I have a friendship that's practically indescribable. We are just so close.
Sisters Weekend!
A teary goodbye....
It was a perfect summer rolling around in the open-air electric car, swimming at the yacht club, playing at the beach, Freida Fest, Crab fest, a day trip to New Orleans for barbecue shrimp at Mr. B's and antiquing in the French Quarter, and big happy family dinners in Ning and Papa's backyard. 
While everyone was still together, we surprised Rob and my dad with an early shrimp-boil birthday party!

During the kid's second week of sailing camp, my dear friend, Erin, came to visit for three days! She was my longtime roommate, bridesmaid and sorority sister....and she practically moved heaven and earth to coordinate the time away from her busy family life. It meant the world to me.

After two weeks, Rob flew back to Lux; the kids and I stayed on for three more weeks. One afternoon, my dad and Ning took us to the 100 Men Hall on the Mississippi Blues Trail, where Etta James and other greats have performed. We listened to live Cajun Zydeco music, ate jambalaya, and I discovered iced tea with pecan vodka. The kids loved going to the NASA's Stennis Space Center, where rocket engines are built and tested, and the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies.
This engine went to the moon!
The unassuming 100 Man Hall...
We blinked, and homeleave was over. Sandie came back to Bay St. Louis to help me fly the kids back across the ocean -- she's one in a million. The night before we were to take off, Madeline and Bitsy had a violent's a small miracle that we were able to travel to Lux. And then we were lucky enough to have Sandie with us for two very fun, full weeks in Luxembourg before the kids started back to school!
Playing in the backyard tent.
Making apple pie
Grammy and Bitsy both tried their first mussels.