Last Sunday, the three of us enjoyed a gorgeous day in Huntsville's Big Spring Park as we joined hundreds of others exploring Panoply, Huntsville's annual celebration of the Arts. Will and I enjoyed viewing beautiful visual art, listening to local talent, and basking in the sun. Hudson enjoyed watching the huge fish that populate the large pond in the center of the park.


{moving statue}

{beautiful Big Spring Park}

{checking out the red bridge}

{sunshine in our eyes}

{geese & goldfish}


{torch in the sun}

{loving Springtime & Panoply}


What Not to Wear

Despite the fact that we "city folk" could have been spotted a mile away, wearing our sundresses and flip flops....our excursion to the Rattlesnake Saloon went off without a hitch! I have a history of dressing erroneously in relation to the activity for which I am preparing to embark upon. Like for instance, when Will and I honeymooned in St. Lucia. I was delighted when we shuffled to the front desk of our beautiful, beachfront all-inclusive resort, with the intentions of planning one of our last activities for the week.  Everything had been picture perfect during our stay....sunset horseback rides on the sandy beaches bordering the calm Caribbean Sea, whale & dolphin watching in the vast, blue ocean, overshadowed by the natural beauty of the magnificent Pitons, basking in the cool, fresh water of the scenic Sault Falls....now nearing the end of our trip, we just had to choose between a tour of the volcano or the rainforest. After some careful deliberation, we decided to "take a tour through St. Lucia's National Rain Forest".

Now, I love clothes. And I love to get dressed up. So, I had painstakingly packed every kind of island gear I could get my hands on....sensible wetsuits and skimpy swimsuits, linen pants and breezy tops, and sundresses of almost every color.  When we decided to visit the rain forest, I opted to wear a black linen dress, a floppy straw hat, and some really cute wedge sandals. I reasoned that the linen would be cool, and the hat would shade me from the sun that would likely be peeking through the thicket of trees, and the wedges? I'm not sure why I picked those. No cognizant reason, that's for sure. Probably just because they were cute.

Well, we set out to see the sights, and I should have sensed that the expedition wouldn't turn out well. Our transportation was an old truck with makeshift benches attached to the bed, lined on both sides with two-by-fours, presumably to contain us tourists from falling to our death. We were expected to squeeze in the truck bed with 6 other couples, a tour guide, and a cooler full of drinks.  As I teetered into the dilapidated old truck, I casually noticed that the other girls weren't dressed like me. In fact, they were wearing t-shirts and shorts. And tennis shoes! I pretended not to sweat it, as Will tried to read my silent thoughts. Then before I could even assess the situation, we were off....bumping along the uneven, unpaved roads of St. Lucia, deep into the rainforest.  About 15 minutes in, I realized this "rainforest tour" wasn't what I was expecting. Thirty minutes after that, I had a horrible, mounting case of motion sickness.  And one horrible hour after that, we finally arrived at the rainforest. The tour guide proceeded to show us to the beginning of the trail, and things just got worse from there. I was hiking across uneven terrain, nearly dangling from precarious cliffs, and slipping through caves in these wretched 3 inch wedge sandals, all while trying to contain a repulsive feeling of nausea. I turned my ankle on a sharp, slippery rock, as we careened through a cave that was filled with water. My toe was sliced open, and I proceeded to bleed profusely. All I could imagine was that my foot would soon be encompassed with flesh eating parasites that I had contracted in the cave water of the West Indies. And I still had to ride 2 hours back to the resort on that bumbling truck.  Needless to say, I was inappropriately dressed for the situation. And for five fabulous years, Will has laughed about my poor choice in wardrobe. And now I can laugh with him, because I escaped relatively unharmed. Yes, I do have a scar on my toe that I will forever attribute to the St. Lucian Rain Forest, but I did not obtain the dreaded flesh eating parasites, and I left that island with more magnificent memories than I could have asked for.

You would think I would have learned my lesson about what not to wear.....

When one of our neighbors mentioned that he had taken his son out to a little place called Rattlesnake Saloon, we asked him all about it. He told us it would be great to take Hudson; a neat place, off the beaten path, with lots of animals and things to see.  Our friends, and neighbors, Josh & Lisa, shared our enthusiasm for visiting the saloon. We packed up our respective cars, loaded up our little boys (Hudson and Landon who you saw here), and set off for adventure in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.

Rattlesnake Saloon is located on the grounds of Seven Springs Lodge in Tuscumbia, Alabama. On the property, you can enjoy the beautiful, natural wilderness by exploring one of the many trails throughout the site. You can experience the trails on foot, by mountain bike, or even by horse. Sounds good, huh?  Well, considering between us we had two babies under the age of 2, there wasn't much for us to do. Sure, jumping on a horse and riding into the sunset sounds like a blast! Unfortunately, you can't do that with a baby.  At least little Landon was big enough to sit on a horse....and what a cute picture! Will, Hudson, and I just looked on from our seat at the saloon, which by the way was pretty neat.

When we arrived, we probably looked like fish out of water.  Lisa and I in our sundresses, pushing strollers containing our sweet babies....her Landon dressed in Polo and my Hudson dressed in a seersucker bubble suit. We were definitely out of place among the Harley riders, horse wranglers, and good ol' country folk, as we scurried down the dusty, dirt paths.

We were strolling happily along our way, when a big truck (not unlike the one in my St. Lucia Rain Forest story, folks) pulled up and offered us a ride, touting a treacherous path ahead to the Saloon. So we crawled in, strollers and all, held on, a cruised down the mountain into a sanctuary of leafy trees and shadows. There, perched under a humongous rock overhang was the Rattlesnake Saloon. At first glance, I was a bit disappointed that the waterfall that had been shown on the internet was merely just a few measly drops of water in a bucket. But, alas, it was cool under that rock, and the six of us sat down and enjoyed a lunch of prairie fingers and haystacks.....chicken fingers and fries for those of you not in the know. And after a snack, we opted to push those strollers back up the trail, and do a little sight seeing along the trail that overlooks the Saloon. Another discovery....walking that trail isn't easy with two strollers, two babies, two husbands who don't like taking millions of photographs, camera bags, purses, diaper bags, and lastly, Lisa and I, dressed in open toed shoes. But you know what? We may not have been dressed appropriately for a day of roughing it, and we may not have been able to enjoy the experience to the full extent, but we had FUN. And I learned that even when things don't work out the way you've planned....enjoy yourself....because that's when the best memories are made.

{down the trail...}

{....to the Rattlesnake Saloon}

{enjoying some lunch....}

{....as we listened to the trickle of a 'want-to-be' waterfall}

{pretty horse}

{Landon having a fun photo op}

{"Wish I was big enough to ride a horse."}

{cave dwelling}

{"Are we having fun yet?"}

{"Yes, Dad! We're on an adventure!"}

{Little Mommies with Sweet Babies}

{Lisa contemplating in the cavern}


{The Saloon's Namesake- Mother Rattlesnake and 12 Babies found in the cave. Yikes!}

{the trail we traveled}

{big smiles for family fun}

{Beginning our trek. This is when Lisa said...."Have y'all ever seen that movie Wrong Turn?"}

{"Enough with the pictures, Mom!"}

{Love my sweet boy}

{Checking out the sights, as the Newbern Family explores}

{memories of a fabulous day}


Honor Flight

If you read my post from Friday, you know that Will was flying to Washington, D.C. early Saturday morning. The reason for his departure was very special....he was serving as a volunteer chaperone on the Tennessee Valley Honor Flight. 

In 2004, the National World War II Memorial was dedicated in Washington. Many of the brave men and women who fought in WWII were unable to see this great monument, as the average age of veterans of the war was around 78 years old at the time the Memorial was unveiled. The Honor Flight was conceived in 2004, with it's sole purpose being to fly our veterans to Washington, where they would be able to visit the memorials dedicated to honor the many sacrifices they made for our freedom.

The initial Tennesse Valley Honor Flight was in 2007, and since then the organization has sent thousands of veterans to our nation's capitol, completely free of charge. Honor Flight is able to provide this wonderful service because of the kindness of volunteers; Volunteers who are merely ordinary citizens with an interest in honoring our nation's veterans.  Will was selected as a chaperone for the trip, and was assigned to accompany one veteran, Mr. Owen Walker, who served in the Navy during World War II. Will was especially interested in volunteering for the flight, because his grandfather was one of the fortunate veterans who enjoyed one of the past flights.

Will had many stories to share from the trip, and many moments that he will always remember.  After 60 years of waiting, these veterans were able to see what was built to honor them. And best of all, thanks to the Honor Flight, the men and women who served in WWII were able to reminisce with fellow veterans, reflecting on both good times and bad, remembering both victories and sacrifices. 

When the veterans arrived late that night, many people were waiting to shower them with applause and fanfare. Family members offered teary hugs, and elementary school children bearing patriotic hats volunteered their time to offer a warm welcome to these special men and women.  Hudson and I were there to welcome the veterans, along with my parents and Will's parents. I think Hudson enjoyed spending a few hours with both sets of his grandparents! He was such a sweet boy! Through all of the commotion, even the loud patriotic music played by the wonderful Huntsville Symphony Orchestra, our little guy didn't make a peep. He tried soo hard to stay awake to welcome Daddy home, but he just couldn't make it, falling asleep in his grandfather's arms. 

I am happy that Will was able to be a part of this unique experience, and I am even happier that the veterans got this incredible opportunity. If you know a veteran of any war, take the time to thank them for their service....I promise you they will appreciate it.

{Will and Mr. Walker at the WWII Memorial}

{Remembering Alabama's Veterans}

{U.S. Soldiers}

{Will, Mr. Walker, and his grandsons in Washington}

{The Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier}

{The Grandfathers & Hudson}

{Hudson's Grandmothers are feeling patriotic}

{Veterans arrive home}

{Alabamian & American Idol Runner Up, Bo Bice, arrives home after accompanying his grandfather on the flight}

{Mr. Walker receives a warm welcome from his family after the Honor Flight}

{Little Hudson is too sleepy to welcome the veterans}

{"Is that you, Dad?"}

{"Glad you're home. Night Night."}


Stormy Weather

The sun is hidden by thick, gray clouds. A few lone raindrops patter upon the windshield of our car.  The storms are rolling in from the west, as they almost always do this time of year. They say that April showers bring May flowers, so we're all prepared for rain. But here in the South, we must also be prepared for an unpleasant phenomenon that sometimes accompanies the rain.  April frequently delivers severe storms, and specifically terrifying tornadoes.  Between the months of March and May each year, we in Alabama prepare ourselves for stormy weather. On average, Alabamians are slammed by an average of 23 tornado containing storms per season.

I've always loved rain and thunder. When I'm alone on rainy days, I love to get comfortable in cozy pajamas, curl up on the couch, and read a good book. If Will's around during a thunder shower, the two of us enjoy snuggling in and watching a good movie. My favorite thing about rain is the quiet lullaby it produces as it drops on the roof. Plip plop plip plip drip drop. The sound of rain is both comforting and hypnotizing. I can always count on a deep, restful sleep when the raindrops are falling. Even little Hudson sleeps best at night when his soothing Sleep Sheep is set to play the calming rhythm of rainfall.

On the other hand, I can't count on a restful sleep when storms are in the forecast. As a lifelong native of North Alabama, I've seen my share of frightening storms. As a child I had a debilitating fear of tornadoes.  On days that storms were in the forecast, I dreaded nothing more than having to go to school. I could just imagine how my day would turn out...The tornado sirens would sound, and I'd be ushered into the hallway and instructed to assume the crouched position we students had practiced so many times during our monthly tornado drills. There I would be on the cold tile floor, hunkered down outside of science class, stuffed tightly between the stinky boy who just left gym class, and the annoying girl that has no fear of storms and wants to chat loudly about lip gloss instead of obediently ducking her head under her history book. There I would be, cowering with fear, trying to hold myself together by willing the crocodile tears to stay in my eyes and not tumble down my cheeks. This is the scenario that ran through my mind each stormy morning, as my mom would pull into the crowded car-rider line with the intention of getting me to school before the 7:50 bell.  In the third grade, I even devised a sneaky plot which helped me to feel better during storms. As soon as I saw the ominous clouds rolling in, I would quietly sneak out of my desk and head for the tissue box, which was located on the shelf under the tiny window in our classroom.  I would then pretend to blow my nose, which I never actually did, and stare out the window through fear stricken eyes. If I could just check out the situation....get a good look at the color and size of the dark clouds....I could better estimate the seriousness of the conditions.

Now, of course, my eight year old self was no meteorologist, but I did know a thing or two about tornadoes. In November of 1989, Huntsville was devastated by a disastrous tornado that killed 22 people, some of whom were at Jones Valley Elementary School, which was flattened and destroyed by the storm.  I remember that day because it had been stormy when I went to school. My mom had promised me that if a tornado was to come, she would check me out of school. Right before school was dismissed, the dreadful tornado siren wailed loudly from the hall. I was still sitting at my desk, and wondering why I hadn't been called to the office to find my mother waiting to whisk me away to safety. Complete terror pulsed through my veins. I could hardly move. We were filing silently into the hallway as the overhead lights spookily flickered.  I knew I was doomed. And as I walked slowly to my tiny spot on the floor, I noticed something I'll never forget. I caught a glimpse of the sky outside the tiny window at the end of the long hallway. It was a color I've never seen before. The normal stormy gray atmosphere had turned a sickening shade of yellow. Yellow, like when the pollen contaminates the air, and everything is washed in a shade of repugnant gold.  It was ugly. And it was downright scary. To a seven year old, the sky looked like something straight out of a creepy movie. I could sense an impending calamity. And then, my teacher gave me a shout, and standing beside her was my best buddy Scarlett, who I also carpooled with every day. She was calling me to the office. My mom had come through! She was there to rescue myself and Scarlett. I had never been happier to see her.  We piled into her car, and raced down the glaringly empty streets, heading towards Scarlett's house. The wind was whipping like we were caught in a wind tunnel. I pictured our car flying into the sky...just like Dorothy's house in The Wizard of Oz. And then, thankfully, we pulled into Scarlett's driveway, and ran through the wind into her basement, where we sought safety from the storm. Less than 45 minutes later, the worst weather disaster to ever strike Huntsville dropped in with a vengeance. The F4 tornado reached full fury with winds topping 250 miles per hour. In a matter of seconds, 22 people were dead and over 500 were injured. Suffice to say, the damage was unimaginable and horrifying.  And this occurance caused my lifelong fear of tornadoes. And the warning signs I saw with my own eyes that day, the strange sky color and howling winds, were two things I would always look for whenever storms were in the forecast.

So when I slyly snuck to the tissue box in my elementary classroom, I was always watching for my own tornado warning signs. If the sky was even remotely amiss, my eyes would fill with tears. I would take a soft tissue back to my desk, and dab my eyes so as not to tip off my classmates of my fear. And then I would proceed to pray with all my might that a tornado wouldn't come. Or that my mom would rescue me from school.  I just didn't like the feeling of the uncontrollable circumstances of stormy weather. And even now, at 28 years old, these old fears come creeping back into my mind whenever bad weather rolls into the area.

So tonight, here we are, back in Huntsville, my hometown, where I've witnessed and escaped so many tornadoes. And the weather is forecasting severe weather for tomorrow. And that old familiar fear is slithering into my subconscious. This time it's even worse, because Will is scheduled to fly to Washington, D.C. early in the morning. So if your reading this, please keep him in your prayers for safe travels. And while your praying, lets pray that our community doesn't suffer any more damaging tornadoes this weekend.

{aftermath of Huntsville tornado, 11/15/89}

{Huntsville tornado, 1/21/10}


Hug a Tree!

Happy Earth Day! It's that special day dedicated to celebrating and contemplating the beauty, fragility, and health of our precious planet. As a mother, I hope to instill good environmental habits in my son's life. There is an abundance of little things parents can do to encourage their children to make a difference.

- Simply turn off the lights when leaving a room. Energy is in short supply, and by conserving electricity you are saving energy. Even toddlers can help remind others to "switch off the lights"!

- Take small steps to saving the Earth. Teach your children to turn off the water when brushing their teeth. Encourage your family to walk or ride bikes instead of driving to your destination, when possible.  When buying products, try to choose items with less packaging. These easy tasks, when taught early, will likely become second nature and will endure as your child grows.

- Recycle. Create a special recycling receptical, and explain to your child how he or she can help the environment by simply seperating recyclables from trash. Get them involved by letting them help to seperate recyclables.

- Teach your children to donate re-usable items. If your child has old toys that are no longer played with, or old clothes that are seldom worn, explain that you can donate these things to your local Salvation Army or Church sponsored thrift store.  Remember the old adage, "one person's trash is another person's treasure"....it is important to use real life examples of passing along old items to be re-used. Give your used treasures a second life!

- Enjoy our planet. Teach your children about nature. Go for a walk and enjoy the trees, grass, flowers, and sky.  Encourage your kids to talk to you about what they love about the Earth. Speak to them about being aware of their behavior towards nature. Communicate about birds, plants, and clouds....and their relation to things such as gas-guzzling vehicles and energy use. If your children are taught to love this planet, they will value and sustain it as they grow.  

{"Today is Earth Day?"}

{"I like the Earth."}

{"Flowers live on Earth. Are they for smelling? Or eating?"}

{"Save the Earth! I want to enjoy it as I grow!"}

{We don't inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.}