Friday, August 30, 2013

Three Weeks

This has been the week to catch up on all those things I have been putting off.

All summer I have been dealing with pain in my hands.  My right hand has been painful for a few years off and on.  I know I have the beginnings of arthritis and just figured it was something I would have to live with. This summer, I had pain in my left thumb every time I used it....which is nearly constantly.

So, I finally went to my favorite hand doctor and found out I have tendonitis in my right ring finger and a sprain in my left thumb.  So, I got my first cortisone shot ever in my right palm.  Um....yeah....that hurt....for a couple days.  Wow, those are painful shots.  But, hopefully that will take care of my issues.  Then since my thumb needs to heal and it can't since I am constantly using it....getting dressed, cooking, cleaning, typing, etc....I needed a brace..for three weeks.  So, since I am typing this with a brace and it is not fun, I'm not sure how much I will be able to post over the next three weeks.

Then, after putting it off for far too long...I went to the eye doctor.  Yep....I need glasses.  At least it hasn't been bothering me while reading.  Just when I need to see things far away.  I was given my first ever pair of contacts and I am in the day two stage of only taking....oh.....10,000 tries to put my contacts in and then take them out.  UGH!  They tell me it will get easier, but not so sure.  I've ordered glasses and even though I hate to admit it, I am looking forward to seeing better soon!

So, I may be a bit absent on here over the next few weeks until I get my thumb healed.  But, thankfully, that doesn't affect my reading ability! Phew!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Book Review and Exclusive Excerpt: Mom At Last By Sharon Simons

How I Never Gave Up on Becoming a Mother

By: Sharon Simons
Published:  August 1, 2013


MOM AT LAST is the story of Sharon Simons and her husband Rick, who she met just before the age of forty, and their quest to become parents together.  Rick already had children from a previous marriage, but Sharon was longing to be a mother and Rick was on board.  The book takes you through their adventures of finally holding two beautiful babies in their arms.  It wasn't easy, but their perseverance wins out over pitfalls, paperwork, and a medical crisis that would normally stop any other couple in their efforts.

After reading a synopsis of this book, I knew I wanted to read it.  What mom wouldn't?  All moms understand that uncontrollable urge to be someone's mom.  That urge to hold a child, smell in their sweet scent, kiss those puffy cheeks and watch them grow up before your eyes.  Sharon Simons takes the reader through her unbelievable ordeal to become a mother.  At 39, and unmarried, she knows her clock is ticking and if she wants to be a mother, she needs to do it now.  Fate steps in and it looks like it may actually happen for her.  But, it isn't that easy.  Sharon Simons begins the book with her and her husband in Russia waiting to meet their sons for the first time.  That first chapter grabs you and keeps you interested (read the first eight pages of it for yourself below), but what you don't realize are the multiple detours along the way.  It isn't a secret that Sharon and Rick do finally adopt to beautiful boys (see the cover of the book), but what you aren't expecting are the steps that finally got them to the Russian "baby house" in the first place.

I was emotional throughout the book, as Simons takes you through one ordeal after another. Finally after everything they have gone through and they have landed in America with the two boys, Rick is confused and unsure about the ease of their transfer into America.  Trust me, nothing has gone easy for Rick and Sharon at any part of this book.  Rick questions the custom agent who tells him, exactly what Rick and Sharon have been waiting to hear...

"Your sons were citizens the moment they landed on U.S. Soil." page 224

and I am a mess.  I cry tears for them and for the sweet boys who now are finally home.  No matter what happens here on out, they are home and they are a family.  A story we can all appreciate.

MOM AT LAST is incredibly honest, witty, heartbreaking, and joyful depending on what page you are on. Simons' tenacity to become a mother was nothing I could imagine and everything I could understand.  You feel like you are right on this journey with her and are praying that it all turns out ok, even though you know, somehow, it must.

New Jersey native Sharon Simons is a tenacious woman who never allowed herself to be discouraged in her determination to become a mother. With a background in marketing, she used her skills to found Mom At Last , ( a respected website source for women dealing with infertility issues and considering adoption. She recently launched The Adoption App on iTunes & Android (, hosts a weekly Internet show on Mom TV, and is a sought-after speaker and expert. She has appeared on numerous television and radio shows, including The Dr. Oz Show, to share her story. She also has many published articles about her journey to becoming a mom. She and husband Rick are the proud parents of sons Hunter and Dylan.  

When you visit her website, you are treated to photos of her boys and family and know what a blessing they are to each other.  The support she offers to other adoptive parents through her website is something that has, obviously, comforted many.  

For more on Sharon Simons and her story, visit her website, HERE "Like her on Facebook, HERE, and follow her on Twitter, HERE.

Read an Exclusive Excerpt from the Book 
Mom at Last: How I Never Gave Up On Becoming a Mother Written by Sharon Simons, The Founder of Mom at Last

The baby house hasn’t seen new paint in decades. That’s what they call it, the baby house. Where they keep all the abandoned Russian babies. More precisely, it’s where the state agency keeps all the unwanted Siberian babies, or maybe just the Novokuznetsk babies, the small town we have driven hours to reach. The baby house is concrete block covered in dirty stucco and the facade has a slightly depressing rhythm to it: stucco and window and patches of exposed concrete repeated in long horizontal bands across the front of the building. It doesn’t look anything like a house for babies, wanted or otherwise.
The air inside our car is heavy and smells of cigarettes, sausage, and mayonnaise. We sit there at the edge of a dirt parking lot for a long moment and stare out the window. By “we” I mean my husband, Rick, and me in the back seat, and in the front, our interpreter in her punkish ball cap and a bulky Russian driver. Outside, the sky is not entirely grayblue, but strangely the same gray-blue of the baby house. As I sit here staring out the window, what strikes me, other than the bleakness of the place, is that there isn’t a baby, a child, or a wayward teen in sight.
What little I know of orphanages I learned from my father. My recollection of my father’s childhood runs through my mind as we approach the baby house for the first time.
My father didn’t tell me his life story all at once. So I had to get it piecemeal over many years and some of the pieces remain missing. All I have are his cobwebby tales, snippets, sometimes just a sentence I can cut and paste into another story he told me years earlier.
My father’s father was in the merchant marines and thus rarely home. At age five my father’s mother died and a neighbor took him and his sisters in while his father was out at sea. His father soon remarried.
The new wife, my father’s stepmother, was an evil witch, to hear Dad tell it when he’s in the mood to say anything at all about his upbringing. When I dig deeper, he usually shuts up. But when he does let fly with some unexpected chunk of memory, I hold my tongue and listen. I am always amazed how he fills the dead air with more of his story, even when he really doesn’t want to. My father was dumped in an orphanage at nine and was let loose at sixteen. These are my words not his.
I remember a night many years ago when my father and I were sitting in his living room, he in his recliner, me sinking into a comfortable sofa. He spoke slowly in a low voice, possibly to keep my mother from overhearing. He said that as a kid he used to wet the bed and each time it happened, his new mother had taken to tying him to the old red maple in the backyard. After he told me, he turned to face me, paused for a long moment as if thinking how and what to say next, and said, “All I remember is hand-sized orange and yellow leaves. I’d look up into the tree and see all those leaves just days from falling down on me.”
I told him there are now rules about tying children to trees.
“That woman wouldn’t have followed no rules,” my father said.
My father put up with this grouchy stepmother and absent father for four years. That was when
his father died of a “terrible” accident, meaning no one would tell him exactly what happened. The
stepmom promptly hauled the three kids over to St. Mary’s Orphanage in Newark, New Jersey, and left them inside the redbrick building. Saint Mary’s Orphanage anchored the corner of South Orange and Sanford Avenues and looked to a frightened nine-year-old more like a prison than a devoted home for orphans. The orphanage was run by fifteen or so Catholic nuns, each seemed meaner than jailhouse guards and as uncompromising as cold steel.
Orphans like my father and his sisters ate week-old stale food and were glad to have it. For all his
years at Saint Mary’s, what my father remembers the most is being hungry. And fearful. This took place in the 1950s where discipline was revered, especially in orphanages, and included smacking the children with wooden paddles to enforce obedience.
Most years, during the holidays, people bearing gifts for the children visited the orphanage. On
each such delivery event, the nuns would smile and pat the backs of well-meaning businessmen, lawyers, and church leaders doing their good deed for the year. The nuns would mumble as if praying, say thank you, wave, and shut the doors. They then would have several of the stronger boys stack all the gifts in a large room, used mostly when the nuns wanted to hide things from the children, and that would be the last anyone would see of the presents.
While my father was in his early teens, he would hustle up odd jobs in town delivering newspapers and fixing broken fences and anything he could do to earn a few dollars. He would hide the
money in his room where often a greedy nun would snatch up the cash and disappear. Regardless, during his time there my father always endeavored to act correctly, study hard, and better himself.
Future moms and dads would occasionally arrive at St. Mary’s ready to adopt a child and my
father would dress, slick back his hair and stand in line with all the others awaiting inspection. For seven years, he endured these examinations. But despite his efforts to look good, model behavior, and burning desire to leave Saint Mary’s, he was never chosen.
The happy ending to this story is that his older sister, also a St. Mary’s orphan alum, escaped,
married at seventeen, and marched right back to Stanford Avenue and pounded on the big front doors until someone handed over her little brother. Which they did.
But it’s time to enter the baby house and see our real flesh and blood boys for the first time.
“This is it,” Rick says. “Here we go.”
I look at him and smile because that’s what I do, a woman who hankers for the bright side of
things, the good and the positive. If I have to, I’m perfectly willing to put on blinders and blot out all the ugliness in the world, if it helps me get what I want. And right now I want inside the baby house.
I reach for the door handle and this little gesture sets everyone in motion. We crawl out of the
minivan and I take a deep breath and grip the two little brown teddy bears we brought with us. Rick holds a bag of baby clothing and a few other items and hustles us inside. The lobby of the baby house is a spiritless dump, describing it as “cozy” or even “welcoming,” would be a blatant lie. Again, no babies. I learn later that we are not allowed to see any of the other orphans and thus they are hidden conveniently out of sight. I want nothing so much as to hold my baby boys, precious little Siberian tikes I have only glimpsed in photos thirty-five days ago. In one photo Dmitry is dressed in a pink jumpsuit and he stares up at the camera, frowning, his mouth slightly open, ready to say something quirky or maybe angry. Sergey is dressed in a black and yellow bumblebee outfit, arms in the air, and he has this loving, needy look in his eye.
My husband, Rick, is a cardiologist and cardiologists are compulsively alert to looming problems.
He spent I don’t know how many years at Penn State and then medical school and then in his practice looking inside the body’s dark corridors for impending problems. Before we agreed to make the trip, he reminded me what we might be in for. “A lot of fathers and mothers of Russian orphans are alcoholics,” he told me. “Vodka,” he said using his doctor’s voice, in a way that was both stern and caring. “They can’t keep a job and they can’t raise a baby, so they drop the child off at the baby house. Only the child has fetal alcohol syndrome and nobody knows it.” This was a month ago, and I can still see him making a little check mark in the air with his finger listing off troubles to come. Extreme difficulty forming social connections. Check. Trouble with emotional ties. Check. Zero impulse control. Check. Learning disabilities. Check. Check. Check.
“You’re signing us up for a lot,” he said, “if we take in a fetal alcohol child.”
Nothing in any the documents we’ve received says anything about fetal alcohol syndrome or any other disease. Far from it. Every bit of information has given off a calibrated, but incomplete report of the boys, which probably explains Rick’s skepticism.
“The boy’s aren’t sick,” I said.
“I’m just saying.”
“Do you want to reconsider?”
Here my husband softened, as he always did when we talked about the boys. “No.”
“I’ll love them no matter what,” he said.
“Me too.”
The director of the baby house spies us standing sheepishly in the lobby, trying not to touch anything. She marches out of her office and half-shouts something in Russian at us. Our interpreter, a skinny girl with glasses and her cap now tucked away, mumbles something to me I don’t catch. I want to see the boys and I’m tired of being in the car, of meeting strangers without understanding the language, and tired of the way the Russian adoption process doles out cryptic, often conflicting, bits of information in small doses. 
The director is blonde, round-faced and babbles on relentlessly. She has graying teeth and heavy makeup and a body several sizes too big for her clothes. Finally, she stops talking and stares at me, then at my husband, smiles and lets loose a little gruff noise. The interpreter says there is a small problem. They only have us down for one baby. She says it as if we’d stopped at a McDonald’s and the bored sixteen-year-old at the window had forgotten to include one of our milkshakes.
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“The paperwork. It says just one,” she says.
“Two,” I say. “We’ve been over all this. The paperwork, the money, it’s all correct.”
The way it works here, way out in the boonies of Siberia, is if you want a baby, or two, you follow the rules. And here are the rules. You pay thousands up front to people in America, some whom you’ve never met, don’t know, and don’t fully trust. Then, once you arrive in Moscow, you take 10,000 dollars in cash and you put 5,000 in one envelope and seal the envelope. You take 4,000 and put it in another envelope. Seal it. You take the remaining thousand and slip it into a third envelope. At some point on your trek from Moscow to the baby house, a man will ask for one of the envelopes. You give him the envelope. No talking. No questions. Later, at another time and another location, another man will ask for another envelope. You give him the envelope. Same with the last envelope. For two babies, you double the money and the envelopes. No discounts.
What’s the money for, you ask?
No questions. We already told you.
To what degree that money filters down to care for the babies isn’t clear, but it’s not much, judging by the dilapidated condition of the baby house.
The director and our interpreter whisper in Russian. Occasionally, our interpreter turns to me and says, “Is much better, I think.” Or, she says, “Okay, the paperwork, it must not be correct.” Or she says other things equally unlikely to get us anywhere. By now, I’m gyrating with unhappiness, straining to smile at the director, moving my hands and shaking my head, and beginning to feel what mothers must feel who have inexplicably lost a child. I haven’t been a mother for even one second, and I have lost my child. This is a child I’ve never seen in the flesh, never held, never comforted, but the feeling of loss is no less real.
The director shouts and the interpreter says, “You get Sergey,” and pauses and says, “now.”
“Yes, of course I want Sergey, but I also want Dmitry.” Here I pull out a photo, the one of Dmitry in pink, as if proving he is mine. I have his picture, don’t I?
“Is not a problem,” the interpreter says.
“Can I help?” I say knowing full well that I am ill-equipped to track down the whereabouts of a twenty-one-month-old in a far off Siberian baby house, especially if he is not so much lost as hidden.
“Is not necessary,” she says. “The director, she is looking,” which isn’t true because the director is flashing her graying teeth at me, shaking her head as if to say, “Only one baby today.”
Rick quietly intones something to me and the interpreter and the director whisper, but no one is looking for Dmitry.
Our interpreter nudges Rick and me down the hall into another room, this one radiant in its cleanliness and color and aura of hope, all elements conspicuously missing from the rest of the baby house. Without warning a thick-bodied woman appears with Sergey and carries him to the center of a little play area filled with toys and places him on the floor, the floor itself a flimsy ancient carpet that looks much like a giant board game, one that involves trains, train tracks, train stations and the like. Sergey is sitting squarely in the middle of the tracks but doesn’t notice, or if he does, he appears happy to find himself at the center of things. The director casts a frown at us. We have an hour with him and we’d better get to it while she tracks down Dmitry, or at least that’s what she means if not exactly what she says. I sit on the carpet next to Sergey, a fourteen-month-old cutie in his red-and-white striped outfit, and I brush his blond hair with my hand and glance from Rick to the interpreter to the backside of the director marching away, hopefully toward my other boy.
Sergey sits next to me, inhaling giant breaths through his nose as if breathing me in. I speak to him and make soft little cooing noises. Rick kneels beside us and takes Sergey’s arm and strokes it. I show him the teddy bear, wriggle it to get his attention, and then I place it in his lap and let go. Sergey watches me, ignoring the bear at first, then leans his little head forward and smells it and wraps a skinny arm around its body and squeezes and squeezes.
There is more whispering off in the hallway and Dmitry finally appears, a tiny body cradled in a woman’s hefty arms. Compared to Sergey, Dmitry is a mess. Our order for two babies has apparently gotten waylaid, and as a rush job Dmitry hasn’t been properly prepared. He looks as if he’s been plucked from a box of mischievous babies, shaken and lightly dusted like you might a blouse you hadn’t worn in a while, and handed over. He isn’t dirty exactly, but he isn’t as spruced up and prepped as Sergey, as if the kids are only buffed, polished, and put on display when the adoptive parents show up for a test drive. He has red bumps all over his face from what I hope is only spiteful mosquitoes and nothing more serious. The bites, if that’s what they are, have been treated with something blue and pasty dabbed over the red. My little Dmitry is polka-dotted in baby blue and rose-red and, given his sallow skin, the combination isn’t at all pretty.
That, and he is wailing in one long, noisy, burst of anger, pain, or I don’t know what. 
Everyone vanishes. It’s just Sergey and Dmitry and Rick and me off in one corner of the play area, our little family parked on the floor of a baby house in Novokuznetsk staring at each other.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Have You Tried Pinterest?

Have you joined the PINTEREST craze yet? If not, and you like being sucked into looking at neat crafts, delicious recipes, quotes, photography ideas, organizational strategies, gift ideas, fashion, etc.  You get the idea.  You can truly sit on there for hours.  I have friends that refuse to even go to that website for that very reason!

I am pretty good about staying off of it during the day and go on as I am laying in bed from my Kindle app.  I usually fall asleep pretty quickly and so sleep wins out over pinning.

If you don't know how to finagle your way around PINTEREST, you have to open an account.  You used to have to be "invited" by someone or "wait for an opening" but not sure if that is still the case.  I joined up pretty early, before it really got popular so I'm not sure how the site is working for new members right now.

Once you are a member, you can use the boards that PINTEREST made for you or create your own boards based on what you are interested in.  If you are interested in diamond rings (what girl isn't) you can create your own "diamond ring" board.  If you are looking for new meals to make for supper, you can create a board for that.  Trust me, there is something for EVERYONE on PINTEREST.

I would love to have you follow my boards if I have something that your interested in.  I have recipes for breakfast, dinner and, of course, desserts! I have fashion, movie and book boards.  There are organizational and home type of boards, as well as faith and family boards.  I also have gotten a lot of great ideas for the storytime and after school programs that I run, so I have boards for both of those. There is a fitness/health board and even one titled, "Stinkin Cute" for those images that are just too cute not to share. I even have boards related to special holidays like Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Day and Easter.

The link to follow me is, HERE.  You can follow all my boards or just the ones that interest you.

One board you might want to follow is STUFF I'VE TRIED FROM PINTEREST, here.  I find lots of great things and not so great things on PINTEREST.  Rather than reblog, take photos and tell you all about them on here, I would rather redirect you back to the original bloggers page.  They already did all the work and I want them to have the credit for it.  So, once I try something from Pinterest, I repin it and place it in my STUFF I'VE TRIED FROM PINTEREST board with comments on what I thought about it.  I've already added recipes and crafts to that board.  I see so many great things on PINTEREST, but never know how it is actually going to work out.  Once I try something, I pin the item into that board.  It will either get my "stamp of approval" or not. Sometimes, I like knowing if an actual person has really tried it or just posted this great idea.  I'm not crafty or extremely talented, so you can be assured that anything in this Pinterest board is easy enough for the average person to tackle.

There is so much good stuff out there on PINTEREST and it can be overwhelming.  If you are new to PINTEREST, I would definitely set a timer or put a limit on how long you are going to be on the site.  You can truly get sucked in for a hours.  Force yourself to set up specific boards so you are only pinning things you are truly interested in or might actually try to want to remember.  That way you aren't getting too much all at once and it will keep your PINTEREST boards more organized.  You can always edit them later, but again, that takes time and if you do it right the first time, you won't have to worry about it again.  By looking around at other people's boards, you can get ideas for different categories of boards you may want to have in your profile.

Also, if you find something you want to save from any another website, you can add it to your PINTEREST board by either clicking the "pin" button on the webpage or saving the link (cutting and pasting) and adding it
to your PINTEREST board that way.  Often times I will see a recipe or craft I want to remember from another website and so it is nice that I can still save it that way.

If you are having trouble with PINTEREST, leave me a comment and I will try to help you out.  I have helped out a few of my friends when they were first getting used to the format and I would be glad to help you out as well.

Stay tuned to more STUFF I TRIED FROM PINTEREST.....

Monday, August 19, 2013

Scenes From Our Summer - Final Edition

School Began today.  I officially have an 8th grader, a 7th grader and a 3rd grader. Two in Middle School. YIKES! I know we will have a busy year ahead, but I am so looking forward to each and every moment.

- Reagan, Bennett and Patrick -

This was the one summer all three kids could be together in Show Choir Camp.  Patrick had the male lead and did an awesome job. The theme was Movies and Music which made it a really fun show! Songs from Footloose, Ghostbusters and Grease brought a smile to many in the crowd. We are so fortunate the kids in our area have this opportunity each summer!

Bennett turned 12 in July and we spent time celebrating with family and friends..  

He was excited to get the Nike Air socks that he has been asking for....

as well as his new John Cena shirt and hat!

We are now all ready for the football season with his NFL game board.   
He can't wait to keep track of all the teams' records.

Jello Cake in the summer is the perfect way to celebrate!

Bennett couldn't wait to use his new boogie board on our vacation to Pensacola Beach.

We had lots of fun at the pool this summer.  
I enjoyed taking some photos of the boys going off the diving board!

We took in a little mini golf and all got a little better in our golf game! 

We had a visit from our Minnesota cousins and made lots of fun memories with them!

Eating good old Iowa Sweet Corn

Visiting the Kalona Cheese Factory 
and watching cheese curds being made and  then being able to eat them fresh.....MMMMmmmmmm!

Our summer was full of fun, relaxation, and building family memories.  
We also had many, gorgeous sunsets and one night I sat and captured it over the course of several minutes.  

The colors and views were amazing and my photos don't do it justice.

I will never get tired of seeing these images out our back window. 

What a perfect way to end our summer 
and get focused on new routines, schedules, commitments, and making many more memories!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Book Review: Fear No Numbers By Jose Paul Moretto

How to Multiply or Divide and Always Get It Right

By:  Jose Paul Moretto

Published:  September 21, 2012

Have you ever heard your child say, "I don't like math!"? Well, fortunately, my kids love math, but in my time substitute teaching, I have had numerous students ask me, "When am I ever going to use this in my life?". To that, I answer, you may not ever need to use this particular math problem, but learning how to solve problems and work through a process or formula will help you later in life.  I can admit that I wasn't a huge fan of math and even cringe a bit if I have to teach it, but once I have the formula, I can usually figure any problem out.  In FEAR NO NUMBERS, Moretto gives us another way to process math.  By using his formulas and systems, you will be able to simplify large numbers as well as learn a shorter method for solving division problems.  Maybe, just maybe, you will even find!

My aunt and uncle are both retired math professors and so I have grown up with my Aunt Kathy showing me fun math problems or neat tricks for math.  When I saw this book, I thought it might be just another way I could learn more about math both for our kids and for me when I am scheduled to teach math.

All of the methods in this book are simple and carefully explained.  There are plenty of examples and ways for you to try out the formula on your own, with or without a calculator.  Along with the methods and formulas, the author also teaches the reader various areas of math history which I found to be interesting. Learning the formulas and reasons behind them can help you not just in math, but in your way of thinking.

This would be an excellent book for those with an upper elementary to middle school aged child who is struggling with math or just the opposite, loves learning about math.  I think they will have fun trying out the formulas and finding the new ways to work on multiplication and division problems.  This book will teach them another step in the process of checking their work.

Jose Paul Moretto grew up in an orphanage in Southern France with harsh and meager conditions. Later in life, he was inspired by his math teacher to develop newer mathematical theorems.  His insight into math later became essential while serving in the French Air Force.  He wrote FEAR NO NUMBERS in the hopes of encouraging young people in math and giving them a fun addendum to what they are currently learning. He hopes to write his next book about his childhood experiences during and after WWII in the orphanage.

For more on FEAR NO NUMBERS, check out the website,

Friday, August 16, 2013

Gorkow Family Vacation - Pensacola Beach - 2013

Being on vacation made me realize how often I am with our kids, but not really WITH them.  You know what I mean?  I am so focused on the next thing on my list, the next place to be, event to attend, etc that I have been missing out on conversations, fun times, and memories.  I haven't noticed the subtle changes the kids are making in their appearance and demeanor. This vacation was just what I needed to reconnect and refocus my priorities.

In the short time that we have been home, I tried to have conversations, play games, and just be together before they head off to school and our schedule becomes crazy again.

Here are some of the highlights from our trip to Pensacola Beach!

We spent our first night in Metropolis, Illinois and then realized Superman was right next door.  

We then headed to Nashville to spend time with my BFF, Tammy and her family. We checked out this Sky High place that is basically full of indoor trampolines.  The kids and the dads had a blast!

Yes, Tammy, I had to put our photo on here! Send me a bill! ;)

As soon as we got to our hotel, we couldn't wait to get on the beach!

Couldn't you just look at this every single day?

Our view from the balcony of our hotel room.  This never got old!  
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express.  I highly recommend this hotel as the customer service was top notch, the rooms were clean, and the location was perfect! Every room has a gulf view with balcony!

The sunsets were just as amazing as they are in my backyard.

Beach day!

We took a drive out through the Gulf Islands National Seashore, which also led us to Fort Pickens. 

Another afternoon on the beach and the boys tried out paddle boarding.

We took an evening dolphin cruise with Premier Dolphin Cruises
I highly recommend the evening cruise. The sunset was amazing and we saw several dolphins.  

The dolphins were tough to catch on camera, but here are a couple photos.
They were a lot of fun to watch and we were treated to another sighting on our last morning.  
We spotted one while watching from our hotel room balcony just off the edge of the shore.  

We had one rainy day and the water was full of vivid and amazing colors 
of greens and blues after the storm came through.  The photo doesn't do it justice.

Being so close to a Navy base, we were treated to a few fly overs by the Blue Angels.  I also recommend visiting the Naval Air Museum if you ever visit this area.  We toured it on our last trip here.  

One of my favorite things about the beach is standing on the edge of the water 
and feeling the tide roll in and out over your feet.  I could do this for hours!

Our last night on the beach.  We hated to leave, but know we will be back again!

Another great Gorkow Family Vacation in the books!