Tag Archives: California

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?

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.


Our California Trip part III, or How Walt cried when he saw the Pacific Ocean

5 Jun

Funny thing about our child. Long plane ride? Fine. Staying up til all hours of the day and night? OK. Seeing a beautiful ocean? Tears of despair.

Our hotel was right next to the Santa Monica Pier.

Estimating whether we could make it to the beach before lunch.

No baby, I’m not trying to torture you. Most people love the beach.

Showing Walter what “ocean” and “horizon” and “waves” are. Before we dipped his toes in, of course.


Meeting up with old friends.

Mama’s happy to be near the ocean!

No, not some peaceful, enlightening experience. True and utter horror.

David got the flu too. The tissues made an entrance into our family photos!

You can’t even tell that a bird just pooped on me.

And then we helped Uncle Frank and Aunt Margaret pack for their cross country move. Residency in NJ!

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Breakfast on the Promenade before the plane ride home. Much bigger plane this time. We were so much more comfortable, and all of us took a long nap together (sweet memories). Delicious ending to a wonderful trip. When are we going back? Walt told me he’s desperate to see San Francisco and experience wine country!

Our California Trip part II, or How we tortured the baby with lack of sleep

4 Jun

Being sick, traveling all day, then dinner with red wine made going to bed “early” on Thursday night easy. Which then made waking up at 4am with the baby less painful. When he’s only a few feet from the end of your bed, there’s not much choice in the matter. Unless you’re David and you can sleep through baby wailing. He’s been able to do that since the baby was born. I am still incredibly jealous.

That morning was hazy. We nursed, fed the baby, played on the king size bed (Walt had a lot of fun crawling around and face planting into the sheets), and went out to breakfast. Half the family went to an invite-only doctor luncheon, father-in-law wanted McDonald’s, and I wanted to walk around to a local coffee shop. Besides, I needed tea for my sore throat. And we had to hit up the grocery store for more baby food.

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Walt got a good nap in after breakfast, and I would have too except David woke me up to tell me he was going to walk around with his dad and brother-in-law. I’m not sure willing myself to go back to sleep for an hour gave me any more rest, but when you’re sick, it’s always nice to be still.

We met up with everyone for lunch at a Thai restaurant nearby, before trying to get Walt another nap before the graduation festivities at 5pm. He briefly slept and we headed off. California weather is beautiful this time of year, and graduation was outside. We were all worried about getting too hot but it turned out to be a little chilly. Walt lasted through two student speeches filled with inside jokes, a commencement speaker who’s sending private citizens into space and revolutionizing medical technology (I want to read his book), and his uncle being hooded before he lost it. We took him to a vacant building nearby, found a bit of the last sunshine of the afternoon, and I nursed him. We were lucky that he fell asleep on us many times this trip. He used to only want to sleep on us when he was a newborn, but the older he grows the harder it is for him to stay asleep on us. It was a treat to be so cuddly with our baby this weekend.

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Walt’s first big vacation was with his whole Johnston family! Great-Granny, all his uncles and aunts (including his gestating cousin!), his grandparents, and his parents!

A lovely Johnston family photo!

Lookin’ good in Cali


Getting lost on the way to a celebratory dinner at Killer Shrimp did not help the baby sleep issue. It was almost 9pm by the time we got there, parked, and ordered our food. Walt hardly ate anything all evening and was clearly at the end of his patience, although he still was delightful in spite of everything. Dave and I ended up getting our food to-go so we could put the baby to bed. I couldn’t imagine trying to keep him up a couple more hours. It would have been cruel. We were disappointed to leave, but it turned out that a little hotel picnic, whispering so we wouldn’t wake the baby, was really fun and definitely a unique experience for us. That shrimp was good!


Our California trip part 1, or How the Johnstons brought the flu to LA

3 Jun

I have to admit that I am really impressed with my child. I don’t think every nine month old could travel cross country with such elegance and awesomeness. I was worried about the plane flight, the time difference, and sharing a room with the baby. Turns out I didn’t need to worry about any of that. He rarely ever cried, slept like a champ in his random hotel crib, didn’t wake us up in the middle of the night (unless you count 4am the first morning as the middle of the night. Which I would have if we all hadn’t gone to bed at 9pm California time), and never complained about pressure changes or cramped spaces on the flights.

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I had been sick the few days before we were supposed to leave. So sick, in fact, that I didn’t think I was going to be able to go on this long-anticipated trip. In all fairness to the other passengers stuck on board with me and to my body, I probably should have stayed at home in bed. But my brother-in-law only graduates from medical school once! And I really didn’t want David to go to Los Angeles without me and the baby. And if I was at home sick, I wanted him to take care of me, which wasn’t going to happen. I had even talked my mother into coming over and staying with me and Walt until I felt better.

So it took me until ten minutes before David was supposed to leave to decide that I was going too. The baby was still napping and neither of us were packed. Luckily my in-laws arrived – to pick David up – and instead of freaking out they helped us get ready. I sure am glad these people love me! We left 35 minutes later than expected, stuffed 7 people in a car meant for 6 (even though everyone had a seat belt on), put on the automated food machine for the cat, and ran out the door. We made it onto the plane right before they closed the doors!

I tried not to cough or breathe on anyone too much. There were tissues everywhere in my pockets and bags, and descending on the plane with that sinus pressure was the worst thing I have ever experienced on a plane. And I have had some bad plane rides before. My head has never hurt like that before, and I thought it was going to explode. Literally. But it didn’t. Thank goodness.

We had to double back to the car rental shop for a larger car seat, and by the time we got to the hotel my father-in-law needed a beer before we even checked in! I would have joined him except I try not to drink until after I’ve put the baby to bed for the night since he still nurses. Which ended up being a godsend on the plane because nursing calmed him down or let him nap whenever he got fussy.

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We stayed at this wonderful hotel right next to the Santa Monica pier that had delicious king sized beds and a housekeeping staff that was nice enough to drop off a fresh box of tissues every day without us even having to ask.

Dinner the first night was early – California time, at least – and at this place with a wonderful outdoor patio. We don’t get to do that very often in Atlanta due to the heat, bugs, rain, and humidity. I enjoyed myself even though I couldn’t hear anything or breathe through my nose. It’s hard to take cold medicine when you’re nursing. So much to worry about concerning milk supply and what the baby will get when he eats. But I stuffed myself with garlic rolls and red wine anyway! And I even had a bite of tiramisu for dessert!

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Walt was a trooper and lasted until the car ride home. Then we quickly washed the plane ride off him and tucked him into bed before falling asleep ourselves. Hello, California!


Reasons I’m excited about California

25 May

In less than a week we leave for California. What was I thinking signing us up for that? Oh right, I’ve been craving adventure in foreign lands.

1. We have a nine month old who likes to crawl. The flight is 5 hours. That’s some good math right there.

2. He sleeps well but according to his schedule he’ll be going to bed at 4pm and waking up at 3am Pacific time.

3. He loves his food but I have yet to figure out how we’re going to feed him across the country without a freezer full of pureed cubes. The only other time we’ve tried canned food he didn’t like it. David says if he gets hungry enough he’ll eat it.

4. I will miss our cloth diapers as we spend money on disposables, those wonderful things filled with chemicals and diaper rash that never leave landfills.

5. Toys? What toys? You have to pay for checked luggage these days (even though California is far enough away it should be considered an international flight).

6. I haven’t shared a room with my angel since he was 2 months old and neither of us slept through the night. I plan on bringing ear plugs.

However, we’re going to have a blast. Even if I come home penniless with a tired, starving child, it’ll be one for the memory books.


Despite my earlier protestations, a trip to California is scheduled for 2013

10 Feb

Although I have been to many awesome places in this world, I also seem destined to travel to the same places over and over again. My brother lived in Germany several years ago, and my father graciously sent me over there every summer and winter for three years. While I did travel some (France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Holland), I also spent most of my time in the same small town in Germany and never went to Berlin or Munich or even a concentration camp. I did visit Anne Frank’s hiding place and was surprised the Nazis didn’t notice it earlier (it was a sizable portion of the house).

So, despite my earlier post, I am going to go to California in May. I was looking at ticket prices Friday night, and they were so cheap I couldn’t not go. So Dave, Walt and I have plans. However, they only include the crazy city of Los Angeles. I used to live in a small town outside of LA when I was a little babe (my first memories take place in Claremont, CA). I visited a friend in LA in high school. In college my boyfriend moved out there and I visited him several times. The last time I was in California I stopped in LA. I have never been to San Francisco. I used up all my rewards points for these tickets (which took me six years to build up), but if the tickets are ever that cheap again next year, Dave and I are going to SF. And wine country. It will happen.

I’m actually pretty excited about it because based on our current travel plans for this year, little boy will be able to dip his toes into the Atlantic Ocean (Ponte Vedra Beach), the Gulf (Longboat Key, FL), and the Pacific Ocean. That is pretty cool, even if he won’t remember it. I’ll put it in his baby book so he knows how awesome and brave his parents are for wanting to travel with an infant, albeit the cutest one I know. I think that will help on the long airplane ride out west. I just decided to go for the craziness because I don’t want to live with any regrets. I don’t want to stay at home because it’s easy and I am afraid to mess up his routine. He’s a human. He’ll adapt.

Last night we took him out to a restaurant for dinner for the first time ever. And I have to say it was a success. We went to Jalisco Mexican Restaurant, which is probably the perfect place because it is such a family restaurant. It was loud enough so you couldn’t really hear Walt when he got bored and whined a bit. But he didn’t even whine that much. He played in our arms, drank water from a cup, and threw his toys across the restaurant. And of course, his favorite toys, the rings, got stuck in between the booth and the wall. I tried very hard to get it out but I couldn’t get my hand in there at all, so we had to ask the nice people behind us to get up so we could move the booth out and retrieve the toy. I am not losing those things! We should have filmed the escapade, my mother-in-law and our family friend laughing at me the whole time. And my mother-in-law was the doctor who delivered the babies for the lady behind us! Small world. You are drawn to the same places, and you run into the same people you know.

I have visions of being more nomadic, losing my attachment to all our stuff, selling the house, and traveling the world with my husband and son. But then again, I do love sitting in front of the fire on Friday night, baby in bed, TV on, a puzzle on the coffee table, and getting to sleep before midnight. I look forward to all the roles I am here to play, because I know there is so much more ahead of us.

First family night out!

Mama meets the idea of traveling with a baby

5 Feb

I had hoped that we would be one of those cool couples with kids that traveled the world with our baby and didn’t let having an infant “stop us” from living our lives the way we wanted.

I guess what you want changes after you have a child.

Oh, I still want to travel. And I suppose I will one day. But right now going to bed before midnight is what I want. Getting 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Finding ways to entertain both a baby and myself 12 hours every day of every week. These are my goals!

I have a few places I’d like to visit this year. I really wanted to go to California for Dave’s brother’s graduation. See a few friends out there. Visit San Francisco (I’ve never been). Tour wine country. I’ve heard it’s spectacular, and I’m a huge fan of red wine. But the thought of a three hour time difference with a baby who naps 2-3 times a day… well, we’d pay a lot of money to sit in a hotel room on the other side of the country. And could we afford a really nice hotel room to make it worth it?

We have several friends who live out of state we like to see every year. Many of our best friends are out-of-towners. It exhausts me just trying to figure out how to see a couple of them. Do we fly on a plane? That will be a quicker commute but we’re limited in the baby stuff we can bring. Do we drive? We can bring all the baby stuff we need, it’s cheaper, but then we have to subject Walt to 5-8 hours in a car. I don’t even like doing that, and I’m not sure he’s old enough yet to logically understand what we’re doing to him and that there will be a beach at the end of the road! I think maybe it’ll be more fun to travel with him when he’s closer to two, but I don’t want to miss out on everything for two whole years. Even though I believe if I had to stay in my house for two years without even leaving once I still would be a happier, more awesome person for having Walt in my life.

I am someone’s mommy!

I called my girlfriends for a girls night last weekend. Three friends and I went to Dip ‘n Dab, a BYOB paint class that’s oh so much fun. You sit around for three hours drinking wine and beer and talking while a nice teacher tells everyone step by step how to paint the painting you’re doing that night. It was packed Friday night and the coolest thing was that even though there were 40 people painting the same exact painting, every one of them looked different. I can guess it’s similar to how God feels when he says “Let there be X and Y chromosomes” and then 6 billion different interpretations come out of two tiny cells joined together…

Blue Shutters
My Masterpiece.