Make a memory with your children,

Spend some time to show you care;

Toys and trinkets can’t replace those

Precious moments that you share.

~Elaine Hardt

Each year we travel to a special little place in Florida called Anna Maria Island. Sometimes a few times a year. Growing up in Florida our family hit about every beach but it wasn’t until I was older that I discovered the beauty and peacefulness of AMI.

I’m not sure if AMI is so wonderful because of the memories we’ve created there or because it’s just a cute island set away from the touristy beaches that lie just a few miles south. Either way it seems like every time we leave the island we count the days until we return.

Part of it might be the fact that as our kids get older they don’t have much down time and a week at AMI lets them just be kids. It is also some of the only times all five of us are together for any length of time. I struggle with this a lot. All three kids play competitive travel soccer. Most holiday weekends we spend at tournaments and regular weekends we are often split between three field locations and multiple games. Some in town, some not. And any energy we have at the end of those days goes into keeping up with the house, organizing our life to deal with the logistics for the next week and prepping for upcoming schoolwork and tests.

Don’t get me wrong. I love watching my kids play. And I love that they truly enjoy the game. All three absolutely love their sport and would play more if we let them. But as a mom, our life moves faster and the kids are growing quicker than I ever imagined. We only have our daughter for 4 more years before she’s in college. The thought of the five of us not being together makes me sick to my stomach. And so I took it upon myself a few years ago to make the most out of every vacation and make those memories count.

So…we buy lots of junk food for our trip, have ice cream for breakfast and watch the sunrise on the beach in our pajamas, possibly while eating leftover cold pizza and a mimosa. We hire a captain to take us on a boat for a day to see the beautiful waters and marine life of Florida’s gulf coast. We pack a picnic lunch, jump out to collect sand dollars and net on sand bars for sea urchins. We watch as dolphins swim within feet of us frolicking in the water. We paddle board and kayak through mangroves and bike to the pier to fish and chase seagulls. We stay on the beach until the sun sets and snuggle up in bed to watch movies until way after all of our bedtime, falling asleep in our bathing suits and saltwater hair. We bring a volleyball, paddle tennis, frisbees, footballs and kites. And still yet someone always sneaks in a few soccer balls. But we play and we laugh and we forget about our hectic life and the crazy routine we’ll see much too soon.

It might not be much, but AMI is our little piece of paradise. Not because of the gorgeous sunsets, white sand beaches or crystal blue water…but because paradise is where my family is and those are the memories that count.






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