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The Johnstons and Too Much #Vacay

16 Jun

IMG_20170603_094828_608We were all excited to head out to the sunny and hot beach for a week of relaxation.

However, our first beach trip in two years reminded me of the Berenstain Bears book I read to Walter recently, The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Vacation, a book I’ve had since I was a little girl, where Papa Bear envisions this glorious vacation for his family out in the woods, bought from a magazine ad. It doesn’t go very well, as you can imagine, but Mama Bear patiently takes pictures and remembers to bring along the canned food so they can at least eat. This was us in Florida a week ago, except I was Papa Bear. At least at the end of the story they always look back at the memories in the photographs and laugh.

I had blocked off time we really didn’t have to spend a few days in between jobs at the in-laws beach house in Longboat Key, FL. I wanted a break from our calendars and the planning and execution of my ever-increasing to-do list.

Before we could leave we needed to get some minor yard work done (the house is on the market today and we’ve been terribly busy doing home fixits!). Of course after that it took me much longer to pack than I had anticipated, and the drive took us 10+ hours. It was a big day of travel, and not so different from the two Saturdays before that we spent driving to and from house-hunting and brewery-enjoying in Asheville with both boys, and one time with Dave’s parents too!

We finally arrived around midnight and unloaded the car. Put the boys to bed. Unpacked. Settled down with a craft beer of course. At this point I was sincerely looking forward to some time at the beach the next day.

We woke up in the morning to gray skies and light rain. Mimi had a cold, so we were told to stay away, but we played in the surf anyway with her around lunch. She and Pop had flown down in her plane on Friday, the day before we got there, because the weather was supposed to be bad all weekend. It was nice to get out to the beach, and Walter loved the ocean. Afterward he showed off his new swimming skills at their pool. It’s so great to watch him swim like a fish!

IMG_20170604_111015683Rex’s first time at the beach!

IMG_20170604_112636596In his clothes don’t care!

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One look at the ocean horizon is instantly soothing to the soul.

IMG_20170608_190049239Replicating a 1985 photo of David and his dad.

Later, after a delicious nap, I woke up to “hurry up it’s dinner time.” We were supposed to go to dinner with the builders of Mimi and Pop’s beach home renovation. I had been loathe to have any plans the whole week, as my stress tank was quite full, but we happily got ready and into the car. When we arrived we found that the others had chosen a table with two benches. For a nursing mom, it’s necessary to have back support when you’re feeding your child, which I am known to do at the dinner table. And the builder and his wife had a 2 month old too! The restaurant had a little couch area by the elevators, and Rex and I kept the wife and her baby company for a bit over there. I found out through chatting with her that her best friend lives in Asheville, with whom she often visits and loves it up there. It was a good chat, and I’ve found that many people I meet or know have friends living in Asheville. That’s a good sign I think!

IMG_20170604_185213406Walter ate half my fish; it was yum.

Mimi left the next day to take Granny (her mom) to Granny’s brother’s funeral in Texas. The weather forced them to cancel, since they were going to fly the small plane, and good thing too because Mimi came down with a high fever and had to go to the hospital. She was tested and diagnosed with double viral pneumonia.

My mom had arrived at this point with her sweet dog Tashi. We went out to the beach after the rain stopped that afternoon, and we were greeted and attacked by a cloud of bugs at the dunes. There were definitely mosquitoes (hello Zika!) and something else that had white wings and hurt when it bit, maybe a flying ant? Sand fleas? I almost poked my eye out swatting them off when we got to the beach, and Dave did a great job keeping them off of Rex.

We then proceeded to play in the surf and my mom and I took a long walk while Rex slept in my arms. This was a glorious memory from the trip.

On the way back, we ran through the dunes to try to avoid the bugs, and then ran all the way to the street, yet I still had to swat them off of my mom and Rex literally the entire 10 minute walk home. They were trying to get at my mom through her shirt!

I must have gotten at least 50 bites over my entire body, but mostly on my lower legs. I have a very bad reaction to bug bites; if I scratch them they become huge and swollen. Like soft-ball size at times. Once during the summer before my senior year in high school, I was similarly attacked on the beach at night in Naples, FL and ended up being taken to the hospital by the Jewish mom next door “three calls away from the President” because I was down there without my mom and this lady was worried about me after talking to me out on our balconies — top floor pool view; — a couple steroid pills later I was fine.

Oh lordy did my legs itch for several days, and I knew better now than to scratch them. I woke up at 3:30am one night with my whole body on fire, and the best way I have discovered over the years to stop the itching, at least for a few hours, is to turn the shower as hot as I can stand it, and scald my skin where the bites are. It makes me too hot and feel sick when I do that, but cortisone cream only works for a little itch every now and again.

The fun times kept on coming. I felt like I did a thousand loads of laundry — everything was either wet or had throw up or sand on it! — and we still ended up going home with a trash bag full of wet and dirty clothes to do. The dishwasher also ran every day. I happily emptied it except the one morning everyone was sleeping in, and Pop unloaded it for us!

IMG_20170607_074035_616Rexy turned 5 months old! I had forgotten his special sticker tie so we had to improvise. I also left my hair straightener at home, which clearly is the best indication of the condition of my frazzled mind when we left.

IMG_20170606_161625010Mommy/boy pile.

My mom used the leftover vegetables from homemade pizza night (a tradition started in Longboat Key in 2012 with my good high school friend and her husband, who are finally having their first baby girl any day now!) and grabbed some chicken and sausage from Publix to make one of the most delicious pasta dishes I’ve ever had. We think it’s because she “burned” the onions during meal prep. A fortuitous mistake!

IMG_20170605_085456167We had some time to kill inside during all the rain. Walter created this awesome found object piece. We also watched WALL.E a lot!

IMG_20170606_132720_311Walter using his art to show what the storms were like at the beach. He got caught in the rain at least twice.

The storms got so bad at one point that I was literally walking around like a chicken with my head cut off, wondering where to go with the children to hide from the storm. Every wall seemed to be made of glass! It seemed like night outside although it was only late morning, and David was in the salle de bains and my mom was doing a sitting in her room. While hearing things whip around the house, wondering if a tree would come crashing through the wall of windows facing the canal, Dave came out to tell us where we should go and that a tree had fallen on the house. It turned out to be only one giant limb of this huge tree, and it crushed the edge of the roof, the solar panel pool heater pipes, a large portion of the fence, including part on the neighbor’s property, and also their new landscaping. The rest of the rotten tree was still standing, so Dave was worried about that falling too. Some other big trees came down in the neighborhood in the 50mph winds.

IMG_20170607_120957_179Our bedroom window.

IMG_20170607_131125024_HDRWatching the tree guys go to work.

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While Dave did his insurance claim/crisis handling, I put the baby down for a nap and my mom and I went to get our nails done. I thoroughly enjoyed the pedicure especially — I could get foot massages every day!

That night we took our folks out to dinner at The Beach House in Bradenton, a good 20 minute drive — oh, my guilt over how much time we spend in the car is heavy these days! Instead of having cocktails near the ocean, and sitting and staring at the view we tried so hard to get to to enjoy, since it was sunny for once, we sat inside in the AC with a minimal view, because it was too windy. Walter played in the surf both before and after dinner, totally soaking himself, and my mom bought him an awesome long-sleeve shirt. I really should carry around an extra set of clothes for all of us, not just Rex, these days.

IMG_20170607_200148_283Glorious boy in his element.

We stayed up late to make homemade peach ice cream, which my friend had done recently at our house on Memorial Day with the strawberries she and her kids had hand-picked. Because my mom insists on buying only organic food when she can, and we had stopped at Lane Southern Orchards for fresh peaches on the way down, the ice cream was heavenly. A redemption for my bad and sad mood.

IMG_20170607_214347228Some seriously good ice cream.

 

The rest of the short time we had down there was spent either getting tossed by the most violent waves I’ve ever seen in the Gulf, or “steaming” and “boiling” (per Walter) under the fierce Florida sun. The last day, before we drove back home, we went for a walk on the beach. Luckily Dave had left our second sunscreen bottle out on the beach the day before, because the sun had definitely decided to scorch away the storm clouds, and we needed to reapply (which later I think gave the baby a rash on his face from rubbing against me or his dad).

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Dave went back with the baby fairly quickly because he was worried about Rex overheating, and we needed to finish prepping for our departure. Walter had on a bathing suit, and I walked out in my clothes to bob in the waves with him. For a minute I thought Walter had a terrible sunburn, but it was only the reflection of his bright red life jacket, thank goodness. He did, however, have Mimi’s cold. I treated him to a ginger ale on the ride back, which he cuddled with while he took a nap. The ride home thankfully didn’t seem as long as the way down. When we got home, our pups and kitty were happy to see us after having been taken care of so faithfully by my BFF Jason.

IMG_20170608_191238683Looking rough on the last day, LOL.

In the midst of giant upheaval in our lives, moving away from everything we know and love, this really wasn’t quite the break I wanted. But it was still beautiful time with family, no matter what the difficulties!

Cheers to crazy memories!

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Huuuuge News

26 May

This is one of my top five biggest announcements of all time:

We are moving to Asheville, NC in less than a month!

Woah. Just woah.

Some people move around a lot (or at least once!), but I have never lived anywhere but Atlanta, Georgia. Well, except when I was three — my first memories of life are out in the desert in Claremont, California. But everything else in my life has been right here in this metro area.

This is why my brain has been so frazzled lately. I am trying to live life to fullest, transition us up there in the next few weeks, and all while needing to keep the house clean and running after two tinys.

I thought we were done moving for a long time. We finally just got settled in the new house and were enjoying our suburban life as a family of four, when this opportunity came to us. It was literally only a couple weeks after I said to Dave and my mom, “I want to live somewhere besides Atlanta,” but I was thinking of something like Alaska or Canada. Thank goodness we’re only going to be three hours away by car, not six hours by plane. The Universe knew I didn’t really mean that far away.

I’m nervous, but also really excited.

IMG_20170520_221652_716Life will be like this all the time. #SierraNevadaBrewing

It now feels like moving to East Cobb was a baby step for this move. I was very happy to get where we are now, but it had its challenges. I was pregnant, feeling terrible, and spent a lot of time being lonely. Moving 30 minutes away at times felt like an entire state away. But I navigated (and cried) until I got to a place where the boys and I are happy and busy — almost too busy!

Besides uprooting the great life we have here and leaving our beautiful home and yard and all our friends and family, one of the things that makes me the most sad about leaving is the diversity of East Cobb. I have been very happy to be a part of a really diverse (and not just black and white too!) community over the last year. We are sometimes the only white people at an event, like story time at our local library. Asheville, unfortunately, is pretty white-washed. I know the mentality is open-minded there, but still. I like being in a melting pot of culture.

However, I feel in my soul that this is the right move for us right now. Dave is very excited about his new career path. We met our realtor — and so far our only friend in Asheville — through our current next door neighbor, who has been super great to us ever since we moved to Marietta. I’m a hippie at heart who cares more and more about the earth, and I love the artsy, green, sustainable, local culture up there. I’m looking forward to this next challenge and all the opportunities we’ll have. I’ll really miss where we are, but sometimes you just gotta take a leap!

 

A Little Mommycation!

3 May

A month ago I got to go on a little trip to Asheville, NC.

IMG_20170408_223427_508Yay don’t we look happy! I was actually a bit disgruntled until this picture because we hadn’t come up with a good plan of what we wanted to do and had pretty much aimlessly wandered around downtown Asheville to no avail. Thank god for the beautiful scenery.

This trip was a little present for surviving two whole weekends home alone with the kids while my husband traveled — once for work, and once for fun. I felt like SuperWife saying, “Yeah, no problem, go hiking with your friends out of cell phone range while I take care of the 4 year old and 2 month old!”

When W was three months old, I was barely able to make it outside to the front porch. It amazes me the difference in my ability to cope with a baby now versus then (though Rex’s personality is way more chill than W was as a baby). For example, we didn’t take Walter to a restaurant for dinner until he was six months old (and we were exhausted and overwhelmed by the experience). Rex, however, by three months old, had been in six different states.

Both weekends alone with the kids presented different challenges. The first weekend Dave was available by text and phone, but all grandparents were out of town, and I was also dog-sitting my mom’s sweet pups Tashi. Just to make life more fun, the dogs were throwing up around the house, the cat got a bladder infection, Tashi got a couple hot spots that needed frequent attention, and Rex had one of his worst night’s sleep ever. There might have been some crying around 3am one night, and it wasn’t the 2 month old.

The second weekend all grandparents were in town, and we hung out with them, but Dave couldn’t be reached 98% of the time. This is very unusual for us as we have seen each other almost every single day since we met (literally), and we also talk a lot anyway. I had an upsetting dinner Friday night, so I spent almost the entire weekend getting depressed and unable to talk it out with my husband. And then Sunday morning I started reading a really psychologically crazy book The Hike for our book club, making me further nosedive. It took me until Wednesday to get out of my funk.

Hence, a little trip for mommy.

IMG_20170409_113322_732 - CopyHoly crap the chicken and waffles are good at King Daddy’s. We both got the sweet potato habanero sauce on our chicken. Perfecto!

IMG_20170409_100446269Walter loved the crayon bucket.

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We returned to a “favorite” — Juicy Lucy’s — for dinner Saturday night. It was yum but the boys were tired (although cute as always).

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We really are mountain-loving people.

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Soothes the soul to see all this land.

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I wanted to go hiking before we came home. The views were fantastic, but I probably won’t be back to Chimney Rock again. I love climbing mountains, but this was a staircase bolted onto the side of a mountain. And you drive halfway up the mountain on harrowing roads just to get to the bottom of the staircase (which you pay a ton to “climb”). My fear of heights did not enjoy this very much. My legs and brain were jelly so the baby and I didn’t climb the last two staircases to the very top. But my other boys did!

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A boy and his American flag. He’s the most patriotic kid I know.

 

I am Woman, Hear Me Roar: the most extreme road trip I’ve ever been on

24 Feb

I don’t know which makes me feel more accomplished as a person: giving birth twice without any drugs, or road-tripping up to Cleveland, OH for a long weekend with my husband, 4 year old, and 6 week old in an RV.

We left Wednesday night around 9pm. I tried to sleep, as the boys, our most precious cargo, were both asleep, but somehow the back of an RV in the dark feels like a plane about to take off. And I don’t really like planes that much, so every time I was about to drift away, I would suddenly wake up fearful we were going to crash into something or drive off the road.

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One of Dave’s best friends, a former Marine like himself, was getting married. We’ve been friends with the couple for a long time, so we knew we wanted to all attend, especially since Dave was asked to be a groomsman and W was asked to be the ring bearer. And there was no way I wanted to leave young Rex with grandparents for the weekend. After Rex’s birth I became unsure if I would attend, and this uncertainty stayed with me until I got into the RV to leave. I was even texting Jason, who was staying at our house with the animals, thirty minutes into the trip that I was insane and I should have stayed at home.

But I didn’t.

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I won’t lie, it was rough. It was a long trip for an already tired woman, but honestly I did it for Dave. He wanted his boys there, and his wife, to be with him as he celebrated this grand event with some of his dearest friends. There were other Marines there with their wives and kids whom we get together with every couple of years. We are scattered across the United States, but these people are very important to us, so we all make the effort to see each other when we can.

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Wednesday night we stopped at an RV park in Knoxville, TN. We figured the only way we could sanely make the 10+ hour drive was to not have to do it all in one day. We didn’t buy plane tickets because of the expense, for one, and also because we could never be sure who would go, given that Rex’s birth was so close to the wedding.

The first night was a bit of a disaster. We got in around midnight and tried as quick as we could to set up the RV for sleeping. Walter woke up and asked questions as we moved stuff around, and I got Rex fed. Then we all settled down for the night’s sleep (or what was left of it)… and the heat in the RV didn’t work properly. It was also 34° outside. The furnace would turn on briefly, get nowhere near the temperature we set the thermostat to, then turn off for good. If we wanted it back on, we’d have to restart the heat ourselves by getting out of bed and flipping the switch.

Walter seemed cuddled in his comforter (thank goodness I had brought a million blankets), but I was super worried about the baby. My face and hair were freezing to the touch. I bundled the baby up (which made me worry about him sleeping with loose blankets and a hat on in bed), and I climbed in with Walter in his twin — I abandoned Dave in the double bed because it was too cold on his side near all the windows. Eventually we just turned the RV on and ran the heater. I was having visions of all of us dying from exhaust fumes when I finally passed out around 3am. Soon enough I woke again because the inside was too hot, and I immediately ripped the blankets off the baby, worried about him overheating, and turned the engine off, worried that we were going to run out of gas. Falling back asleep, this cold/warm cycle continued until we all, rather tiredly, woke up later in the morning.

img_20170216_091557_648The boys were completely unfazed, of course.

img_20170216_091251_283First time in an RV park. Made me think of this romance novel I once read where they traveled around the country in an RV.

img_20170216_101413Keep both hands on the wheel, little man.

Thursday we drove the rest of the way, and I have to say, I love traveling in an RV. Dave has lots of experience driving large military vehicles, so during the day he seemed very at ease, plus the front seats are more like recliners than regular car seats. Walter got to watch TV, sleep, or draw on his clipboard. Rex slept for the most part. We had food, cold drinks, and a toilet at our convenience, and a comfy and easy place to nurse Rex when we stopped. And best of all, I got to buckle myself in to the couch and rest and read books when I wasn’t tending to other things. That’s the way to do it if you’re going to spend that much time traveling!

img_20170216_142006You know you’re redneck enough for an RV when your food prep area is the same as your diaper changing area.

Around 7pm we pulled into the hotel parking lot in Cleveland, unloaded our stuff, and parked by the trees. We quickly took showers to wash off the drive and headed into the chilly night to meet up with our friends for dinner.

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After a wonderful meal with the group, I actually asked Dave if we could hurry and go, which is very unlike me. I’m usually literally the last to leave any type of party, but I was about to fall asleep on my feet. Another night passed uneventfully. I had been very worried about all four of us sleeping together in the same space, but Rex only woke me during the night when he wanted to nurse. Walter, thankfully, is as deep a sleeper as his daddy!

Friday was reception-prep and rehearsal day. We were late to the reception venue to help everyone and drove the RV there (what else could we do?), and unfortunately a Pyrex dish fell during a turn-around-pothole-miscalculation and shattered all over the tile floor. Consequently we learned where the RV vacuum was and how to use it.

Later that evening we piled into our friend’s van, rather awkwardly but gratefully, to get to the church. I sat there nursing while the big boys practiced their roles. Because of my annual Christmas card mailings, I was approached by the best man’s wife, Dina. She said our card was on her fridge, and she loved the book list I put on the back. It was nice to make another friend, and we chatted during the rehearsal and sat together during dinner as well. She was a very lovely Jordanian woman who is a performance aviation engineer for GE. I find it very interesting to learn about the different, highly specific engineering jobs out there.

img_20170218_095822_584Walter knows how to dress sharp.

Saturday was the big day. It turns out that David had many hours of obligations as a groomsman, so for most of the day I was on my own. This brought out a few tears as I was exhausted and hadn’t made this big a trip so quickly postpartum to be on my own. It was made worse when Walter, after having come to sit with me mid-ceremony when his ring-bearing duties were over, saw Daddy walking down the aisle with a bridesmaid and asked, “Mommy, did Daddy just marry that other woman!?!” I kinda laughed and said “No, honey, he’s only married to me” and Walter replied, “But that was David.”

img_20170218_123409175_hdr#handsomemen #idontliketoshare

img_20170218_175051767We had several hours to kill in between the ceremony and reception while Daddy took pictures around town with the newlyweds. We played in the RV since we had checked out of the hotel earlier that day. Plans were to leave that night and repeat the driving procedure we had followed on the way up.

img_20170218_175129152#cutebaby #cutebabyjeans

img_20170220_095637After watching the first dance, finally in the same room together, Dave bee-lined for us. We ate a delicious dinner — one of the best wedding menus we’ve had — drank some tasty beer, took photos in the photo booth, danced (me with the baby at the breast, Dave holding an almost sleeping Walter, who had run around the dance floor with the other kids all night), and left early around 9:30pm. I didn’t want to go, but we knew we had to get out of there if we wanted to get to Cincinnati at a decent time.

img_20170219_032826631We rolled in around 2am and the blackout shades in the brand new hotel room proved to be very effective. We all slept until 9:30am, ate our last breakfast in the RV, and drove home. We even got to enjoy an extra hour and a half of driving time due to Sunday night road construction. Thank you, Georgia.

img_20170217_121004Thank goodness he loves his car seat. He probably thought we were going to leave him in there permanently.

48 hours of travel, 48 hours of partying. Totally worth it.

Independence Day 2015

7 Jul

I love a good July 4th. July is my favorite month because 1. It’s summer, 2. It’s my birthday month (I was a Christmas-in-July baby), and 3. Do I need another reason?

This year we made plans to drive up to Chattanooga to visit Dave’s sister for the holiday. They’re very busy (a lawyer and a nurse anesthetist student), but the boys love seeing each other. Cousin W is only a year younger than Walt, and at this point it’s not super noticeable except for the verbal communication.

Dave started the day running the Peachtree Road Race in the pouring rain but had his best time in years. He’s been running recently and really enjoying it again. We met up after the race at his parents’ house for a Beer and Bagels event — they have a long-standing tradition of running and knowing lots of other people who run too. We took off after and headed up north to eat a late lunch of homemade BBQ. My sister-in-law’s in-laws were there too and that’s the greatest thing about extending your family. You can find lots of wonderful people in the process. The meal finished off with delicious banana pudding, and then Walt took the nap he forgot to take in the car on the way up.

We ate pizza and calzones at Lupi’s for dinner, then found some fireworks over Coolidge Park. We stayed out of the crowds but our view was perfect. It was probably better that we did because Walter kept asking to go back inside (we were at my brother-in-law’s office). Once we turned on some music he seemed to enjoy the lights and ignore the loud bangs. Dave said that because Chattanooga is in a valley it’s possible that the mortars are extra loud.

It was lucky that the rain stopped for our outdoor lunch and the fireworks, because it didn’t stop the rest of the weekend. Of course I don’t even own a raincoat for my son!

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Like brothers.

After a yummy Sunday morning pancake breakfast, we went to the Tennessee Aquarium.

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Walter is insane about bridges right now, and luckily for him, Chattanooga is filled with them, both the walking and driving kinds!

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These two goofy, sweet boys love exploring — and copying each other!

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Butterfly house, right before Walter promptly slipped in the muddy water and basically ruined the shirt his Mimi and Pop brought back for him from Italy.

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I shouldn’t have been, but I was surprised over how much Walter loved the aquarium from the first exhibit, nay, the first escalators, on. I guess it’s just another way he’s growing up, that he’s actually experiencing things now. We sat in front of the glass at many exhibits and just stared.

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The boys got a kick out of climbing in to the crab tank — over and over again. I thought it was awkward being that close to the giant spiders of the sea.

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Very cool jellyfish that light up throughout their bodies in rainbow colors. One boy didn’t think they were real. I think I liked these best of all, though I didn’t go through the river side of the aquarium. At that point I had a terrible headache from staring through all that thick, distorted glass. A headache that lasted several hours. I wonder how the fish feel about it. The animals don’t look as sad as the ones at the zoo do, but maybe that’s cause I haven’t watched Finding Nemo enough.

Sometimes I get this feeling like we’re not really taking care of the world and its creatures well enough. I don’t really know what to do about it though.

Vacation in Florida part II: Bring it on

3 Jul

For several nights we had 8 adults, 5 children under the age of three, and one dog in a pretty spectacular beach house. And it was wonderful.

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Beach parade!

The C’s arrived with their adorable six month old before Dave even got there. We took Little C out to the beach for the first time, and since he had just been on his first plane ride too, he was a fairly excited little boy (read: didn’t sleep well that night because he was taking it all in!).

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They’re going to be best buds.

I was so excited for Dave to get there that I woke up when he got in at 3am just to go greet him at the door.

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Beach family portrait!

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We took Duggy to the beach the first day before we knew he wasn’t allowed. He loved it so much and ran around like the happiest puppy in the world. It was probably a good idea he couldn’t go again cause he ate a bunch of sand and seemed to not feel well for a few days after.

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We had the Marines come visit us too! Kyle could only come Saturday night, but we were thankful to see him! He had been at a tough security training course all week, and Dave had to lure him our way with promises of a steak dinner.

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We rented bikes and kid trailers/seats, which was awesome because neither Dave nor I had ridden in at least a decade. It was euphoric and fun, and I can’t wait to continue riding at home. Good thing the Atlanta Beltline will be in our neighborhood in a couple years. Dave drove the bike with the trailer, and Walt would say “Faster Daddy!” every time he stopped pedaling!

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There was an ill-fated evening where we tried to go out to eat. The restaurants on the island hadn’t had power for three hours, so all the good ones were still closed. The one we finally picked because we were starving was overpriced and not that good — especially the margaritas. Little C expressed his displeasure by dumping his mom’s marg all over her and her white shorts!

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We found a good view — and got to walk on a bridge, much to Walter’s delight — along the way!

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More friends arrived later that week! Katye flew solo with her 4mo, and I picked them up at the airport in Sarasota. I love that the exit sign out of the airport has an arrow pointing towards “Beaches”! Her husband and another Marine and his family joined us too. It was an eclectic group of friends, the conversation around the dinner table never got boring, but we all meshed really well I thought. What a joy.

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One of my favorite parts of the trip were our sunset walks along the beach.

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Stormy skies. I love summer storms.

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The ocean might lull us to sleep, but it did not disappoint!

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We finally made it to dinner at The Beach House the last night we were there. Dave ordered a bucket to celebrate! The drinks there were insanely good, as was the food… and the company!!!

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Our beautiful friends who helped make it a one-of-a-kind vacation.

Florida vacation to the rescue: part 1

18 Jun

Due to the overwhelming generosity of my in-laws, who own a house in Florida, I was able to take a two week vacation at the beach recently. I convinced my mom to drive down with me and Walt to enjoy a few extra days there since my husband has limited vacation days off of work. I have to admit, I was a little worried. My relationship with my mother can be a test at times, sometimes making a dinner feel like a long event. But we had such a good time that it felt like a miracle. I think it was the best time we’ve ever had together, and we got to experience some very cool things on top of that.

The drive down was pretty fun, although it was an extra hour longer than I would have liked because we had a disappointing stop at the Lane peach orchards. I am usually the biggest fan, as their peaches are always the sweetest and never mealy, but the bushel we got there was disappointing (they molded before they ever really ripened) and the lunch we ordered was downright awful, including them putting chicken on my vegetarian mother’s salad. It is also inevitable that whenever I drive down to Florida I hit a bad rainstorm. The only segment of the drive where I personally drove, we went through this terrible storm where I couldn’t see anything, was terrified, and my mom kept telling me to drive faster. Her car is newer than mine and much more sensitive to the touch, so I was just happy to be on the other side of the storm alive.

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Road trip!

We got to the house late, and Walter hadn’t really napped, so he was running around like a crazy boy at 9:30pm and ended up falling down the last couple of stairs while we were unpacking the car. He was fine, but it scared him enough to be careful the rest of the trip!

The next morning it started pouring. It poured the entire time the AC guys replaced a giant coil in the unit, which would have been expensive but my FIL is a master at negotiation and got them to extend the warranty thus saving himself thousands of dollars. Cool. And we put together the all-terrain wagon.

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Made lugging stuff to the beach so easy!

It stopped raining long enough for a beautiful evening walk to the beach, where there were so many live creatures washed ashore it was neat. We rescued conchs, found a starfish, saw the little sand slugs burrowing back into the sand…

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It looked like writing.

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Learned to wash his hands in the surf!

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I am happy at the beach!

Day two we took advantage of a friend’s membership at the Ritz Carlton nearby. Last year we had so much fun in their salt water pool and on the beach chairs with the great service, but this year Walter hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep (we were sharing a room and tried to share a bed and he had never not slept in a crib/pack-n-play before) and he was, to be honest, a pill. He cried in the pool. He said “No” a lot. But we had a good time anyway.

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We tried to take a nap.

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Walt eventually enjoyed playing in the surf with Nini, and I got to relax and read!

Walt sat in Nini’s lap the whole time we watched Up. He had never sat through an entire movie before. When the old man threw all his furniture out of the house near the end, Walt got so upset (“Oh no, what happened!?” with big tears) that we had to pause the movie and explain to him what was going on!

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He won’t leave that lip alone!

The third day we went to the beach near the house and sat in camping chairs in the surf, which was amazing. We built sand castles. We ate at home a lot that week, but also enjoyed an evening at Dry Dock Grill — yum. Best key lime pie and fish tacos ever. We saw the most incredible sunset, which I tried to find again the rest of the two weeks we were there but failed, even though they’re all pretty awesome.

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Tashi loved it out there too.

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I love walking the beach in the evening, especially with my boy.

My mom also introduced me to Jane the Virgin, a hysterical show I am currently finishing with Dave. The last day we tried swimming at the house but Walt cried. I think he was missing his dad, with whom he usually swims. Walt even asked to go home but stopped after I told him daddy would be there tomorrow. After such a blissful time with my mom, I was sad to see her leave, but she drove down to Miami to spend a few days with my brother and his family too. All in all, a great start to a great vacation. I was ready to see my husband though! I’m not sure we had spent that much time apart since 2008!

Washington D.C. – Just leave me here!

15 May

My mom has this habit of, without fail, proclaiming that she’s going to move to wherever she’s just gone on vacation. I usually don’t do this (even when I adore a vacation), but I am so in love with D.C. that I really wish we could move there. It is such an awesome city. We have tons of friends and family that live there, and as a history buff (hello useless bachelor’s degree) the museums and monuments are amazing. I love that you can just walk right by the President’s house, as if you’re simply strolling through a neighborhood. It’s clean. It feels safe. Public transportation. Easy navigation.

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This was our first real trip without Walter; three nights away from him. I felt sad and glad to have some adventurous alone time with David. Also, I’m pretty sure this is one of the best pictures I’ve ever taken. I’m just sayin’.

We got there and took the Metro into Alexandria to spend some time with my middle school BFF Sarah. She took us around Old Town, where we ate a delicious lunch (with maple root beer, which was seriously syrupy), walked the Potomac, window shopped, and toured the Torpedo Factory, an amazingly unique place where artists rent work space and also sell their stuff. Super fun first day.

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Her husband watched their baby for us so we could hang out a bit! And he cooked dinner for us: stuffed chicken and rice! Yum! What a guy!

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Planes fly in so close (all over the city really) that you feel like you can catch them!

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Lunch was at this really cool old converted fire station. I love how they build the architecture in the D.C. area to last, or at least restore it when it’s falling apart. I really wish Atlanta felt the same way about her buildings.

The next day we took the Metro back in to town to Foggy Bottom, where we stayed at the Marriott surrounded by G.W. students in their last weeks of classes. It was super close to everything and of course the room was nice. It was great to crash there after a long day of walking and sightseeing.

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We did the monuments the first day, which was a good decision because it was rainy and cold the next day when we did as many museums as we could. This picture was taken by a very cool guy from Ireland. We saw so many people with “selfie sticks” that it was almost embarrassing. We are fans of the old-fashioned way: get to know a stranger for a minute and ask them for this small favor. Don’t compartmentalize so much so that you never meet anyone new.

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We ate breakfast one day at Lincoln’s Waffles, an amazing breakfast place right by Ford’s Theatre. It might have been the best breakfast I’ve ever had. Hot wings, waffles, sausage, and eggs… yes please!

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So very tall.

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So very windy.

It was warm in Atlanta when we left, so we weren’t totally prepared for the cold weather, even though I did check weather.com. I thought 65 and sunny would be warm. So I didn’t bring socks. Whoops.

Friday night we ate dinner with my two high school best friends, family style in Arlington. We brought a bottle of wine on the Metro and walked the half a mile to their house. That in itself is so cool, coming from a car-dependent city like Atlanta.

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Walter was with his cousin at Mimi and Pop’s house having a blast. It certainly helped us have fun knowing he was having a good time too.

Saturday was spent touring museums. We waited in line at the US Archives to see the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. It was other-worldly to be a room with the same exact documents that brought about something so incredible. We also went to the Air and Space Museum and the US History Museum. I had recently read The Aviator’s Wife, which made seeing Lindbergh’s plane even more exciting. The other history museum was decent. I liked the First Ladies exhibition the best, with their dresses and china patterns. George Washington ate on those plates!

We walked around til the back of my knees stopped working properly, and we still barely saw half of what we wanted to see, which was a narrowed down list already.

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Great meal, great company!

Dinner on our last night was with Dave’s cousins at Firefly in Foggy Bottom. We had so much fun with them, and I can’t wait to go back to stay with them, as they have both offered their guest suites to us. How lovely! Firefly had some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. Completely worth the mile walk in the rain.

D.C. I’m coming back for you soon!

Texas or Bust?

28 Feb

A couple days ago I somewhat jokingly and also in a moment of profound fury after losing a contract on a house we loved and a hefty amount of cash asked my Facebook friends where in the world I should move if we left Atlanta.

Before I met Dave, I was interested in moving out of state. I had even applied to graduate programs all over the South. So far in my life I have only lived in Atlanta and also one other place (for a year or two). My first memories come from Claremont, California, with our rock garden, tangerine tree, pool, and the coyotes howling in the faraway mountains. But Dave had just bought a house here, had just moved back here after boarding school and college and Marines, and I loved Dave, so I stayed put.

Now, however, the world feels wide open and free. The house will sell. We are not obligated to buy anything else here. Yes, we have lots of friends and family here, lots of responsibilities and loves, but I feel something calling me out West.

Maybe it’s the books I’m reading. I never used to read multiple books at once, but right now I’m still in the middle of a Benjamin Franklin biography, a novel about Nazi resistance, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s On the Banks of Plum Creek, and Chris Kyle’s memoir about being a SEAL sniper since 9/11. Chris Kyle is a Texan through and through, and it has gotten me thinking about my husband. Dave has friends and family in Texas (that I like too!), and Texans really do love their veterans. I like horses, independence, cowboy hats, and *gasp* guns (well, in actuality I love the people who love guns. I don’t mind rifles but I am not comfortable with a handgun). And being closer to the National Parks out West. And Mexico if The Day After Tomorrow turns out to be correct.

Laura Ingalls Wilder is making me thirsty for wide open spaces. And making me wonder if we should hire a horse and wagon to move?

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I had to bring both books to the lunch table because I wasn’t sure which one I would want to pick up to read at that exact moment.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. Maybe we’ll get a house here in Doraville, or find another gem in Marietta, but maybe when everyone reminded me of “God’s timing is the perfect timing,” they were talking about this: a brief chance at freedom and exploration.

Mountain Bling

28 Oct

Walt and I went to music class last week after Dave and I got home from our retreat in North Carolina. I found out our music teacher, whom we love, was also in Black Mountain while we were there. She was at something called the Leaf Festival, where they play music, camp, join in on drum circles, and artists sell their wares. Sounds like a lot of fun, actually.

Adina brought back this very cool instrument that a man named Jonathan Rose had made out of used propane tanks. It makes a most beautiful sound. Who knew?

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I always love the small world feeling you get when you see all these coincidences in your life. My father is on the board of Blossman Gas, a fantastic family-owned propane business in the Southeast. I plan on at least attempting to connect these people together for retail purposes; it could be fun for them both!

And while Walter loves music class and has really blossomed there, Adina has played an even bigger role in our lives. I was struggling with Walter’s lack of talking and looking into speech therapy, but unsure if it was really necessary to spend the money when Walter seems so bright. I was on the fence of “every child develops differently” and “maybe he needs some help”. I mentioned this to Adina and she pushed me again to teach him sign language. My response was: I’ve tried a million times and he just smiles at me! But I’ll give it one more go I guess!

That week was the magic week. He picked up on signing a few words, and it must have flipped a switch in his brain. He went from 30 to 60+ words in the last couple weeks, copies sounds and words we make, speaks in phrases, and uses signs without prompting. He’s really getting it and it’s really fun to watch. I knew it was in there (I wasn’t worried about that part of it), but I wanted it to come out!

The best part has been when we went grocery shopping the other day, without any prompting ever on my part, he pointed to the wine section and said repeatedly, “Wine! Wine! Wine!” … That’s my boy!

“The opposite of spiritual is not material, but impersonal.” – Peter Hobbie