Tag Archives: Florida

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!

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.

Road Trip!
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!

Longboat Key

12 Aug

It has been a welcome whirlwind of vacations this past month. And now back to reality. But a different kind of reality. Walter started preschool for the first time this week, and he loved, loved, loved it! And mama loves having this time for herself too! Last week,  however, we got to enjoy the beach all week long. A whole, glorious week of eating, napping, and playing in the sun.

Walter didn’t always enjoy car rides. When he was an itty bitty thing, he would scream like he was being tortured every second he was in the car. It made it hard to leave the house. Switch to 2014 Walter, and he doesn’t make an 8 1/2 hour drive worse than an 8 1/2 hour drive already is.

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We’ll keep his seat turned around as long as he’ll let us.

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One day that will be an iPad.

We’re extremely lucky that’s Dave’s parents have a [super nice] beach house and that they want us to use it. I invited my parents to join us; my mom drove down the same day we did, and my dad flew in the next day. Having my mom there really helped it feel like a vacation since she would get up with Walter in the mornings and change his diaper and other awesome things like that.

IMG_20140803_115231929Walt and his Nini

Jan and Frank gave us several restaurant recommendations, and we tried as many as we could. The first night we went to the Dry Dock Grill. It had a beautiful view and the best fish tacos and black beans I’ve ever had. If you have a boat, you can pull right up to the restaurant to park.

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The beach started out unbearably hot, and I was afraid we had gone too far south to have any fun. The sand was scorching, the sun melting, and the ocean felt like a steamy bath. We only stayed out there a couple minutes before I wanted to go back in. But the next day it was cooler, and the day after that cloudy, and we could really enjoy ourselves.

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Beach babes.

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He knows how to relax like a champion.

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And play in the sand.

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David started digging to Australia, and Walt liked that.

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He loved being buried after we filled the hole back in so we didn’t kill any beach walkers or sea turtles.

The second night we went to Owen’s Fish Camp in Sarasota, where the bourbon pecan pie was gone in seconds (oh yeah, the fish was good too). And dad found a new best friend. The atmosphere was very fun.

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There is nothing like a vacation where you are also puzzling. Jan got this one for me for Christmas several years ago, and it ended up being really fun to put together. I have a new favorite brand now. I admit, I am a puzzle snob, because if the quality isn’t good, it’s not very fun putting pieces together if you’re not sure they actually go together. So I usually go Ravensburger or Suns Out (which can be spotty). But Pomegranate Puzzles have very fun pictures, and my mom even spilled a bottle of water over most of the pieces, and they didn’t fall apart. Now that’s sturdy.

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My parents had dinner one night with my dad’s business friend who lives in Sarasota, and he and his wife kindly set it up for us to visit the Ritz Carlton on Lido Key on their membership. For many years, due to a family friend who worked for the Ritz, we were able, when I was growing up, to spend several Florida vacations at various Ritz locations (and once in Barcelona too). Not only is it extremely nice there, but it made me nostalgic for my teenage summers spent with my friend Kate on the beach. It reminded me just how nice I had it and continue to have it!

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It was a salt water pool, which tastes weird if you’re used to chlorine.

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Walt feels at home wherever he is.

We’ve had Walter in pools before, but it was at the Ritz that Walt, Dave, and I had our first real fun time in a pool. I had just ordered Walt some water wings, and it was fun to get Walt used to swimming by himself. Walt didn’t really like being let go in the ocean, but he had a blast floating around the pool, and we even dunked him a few times. He took to the water like a fish. We swam a lot after that since the beach house also has a pool!

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Kicking and all!

We had a great time, and I was sad to have to come back home. We did manage to avoid an extra hour’s worth of traffic on 75 by taking a detour on what looked like the road in the movie Jurassic Park.

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Our smart phones knew where to take us but Garmin wasn’t sure we were even on roads.

After Bartow, Nashville, my birthday, and Longboat Key, it’s been an eventful month!

Palm Sunday in the land of palm trees

27 Mar

This weekend was an incredibly successful travel adventure to Florida. Perfectly timed to avoid the snowy cold climate only 440 miles north in our hometown (well, what Atlantans pretend is snow).

Friday I prepped the house for departure. This included eating leftovers, getting some cleaning done, and wondering if we would be able to fit all the baby gear we would need into the car. One task that had been hovering on my to-do list for weeks finally was accomplished. The back deck had sticks and debris all over it from the squirrels Dave said sat up in the trees laughing and throwing down the clutter. I used our trusty garage broom to help in my efforts, but it ended up leaving more bristles than ever. Even though we’re wallet conscious, I’m pretty sure that we need to spring for a new one. At this point, what is left is probably the smaller half.

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The drive to Orlando was epic. With only three long stops, we made it in 8 1/2 hours. The baby was mostly happy but there were long bouts of crying, namely when a thunderstorm from Tifton to Ocala woke him up from his nap and kept his awake. Needless to say, he didn’t sleep much that day. We arrived and put him to bed immediately, beginning our weekend of delicious food with Asian chicken that Jenna and Jacob had prepared for us. We were very happy that our friends wanted to host us and a baby for the weekend. As I’ve said before, friendship dynamics certainly change after you have a baby, and it’s great when friends make the effort to keep up with you.

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Pit stop on the way there.

And Walter couldn’t have acted like a better baby in reward for their bravery. We almost left him there since Orlando Walter rarely cried and always took his naps and slept well at night. I don’t know if it was the pack ‘n play or the salt water fish tank Jacob had in his office, the humidity or the heat, but I’m pretty sure we convinced them that we’re the perfect parents with the perfect baby.

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It was glorious to feel the oncoming summer heat when you stepped outside even though it rained a lot on Sunday. At one point it was storming so hard you couldn’t see the tree in their front yard ten feet away, the cable went out, and our phones were alerting us to take shelter in the path of the oncoming tornado. I was ready to pull Walter up from his nap and hide in the inner bathroom, but nothing came of the storm, thank goodness.

After a night of wine and the Walking Dead board game, which Jacob won even though he was the only one of us to get eaten by zombies, we went to our yearly Spring Training game. I love spring training games. The Disney stadium is small, decorated like it’s at the beach, and close enough to make you think you’re at a little league game when really you’re watching grown men lazily play ball, warming up for the season. The weather was a breezy and sunny 73 degrees; perfection. And the best part was it was Walter’s first baseball game out of my uterus. He was of course outfitted in his Braves onesie.

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Mama, why am I wearing your hat?

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Jenna and I have been friends since 7th grade.

At one point Dave and I are standing above the bleachers, Walter napping on Dave’s shoulder, no cloud in sight, watching America’s past-time, drinking a beer, anticipating all summer will offer, and thinking to ourselves it can’t get better than this.

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We drove home that night, leaving at Walt’s bedtime, hoping that he would sleep the entire car ride, saving us from the emotional trauma of listening to our son cry all day and not be able to do anything about it. It worked and we got home in record time. Definitely a parenting travel tip to keep in our back pocket. I really appreciated Dave’s willingness to drive into the night to make this happen!