Three Women, Two States, One Awesome Time: My Crazy 48 Hour Road Trip

When my best friend told me her baby shower would be in New York in July AND it just so happened to be the same week my mom was on vacation, I knew a road trip was in order.

After a quick Google search, I realized that where I would be on Long Island was only about a 2.5 hour drive from my brother’s new digs in Connecticut (he recently began working at ESPN) so I called my mom and told her to get ready for a whirlwind weekend of awesomeness.

She was game, along with my Aunt, and the three of us set out at 5 am Friday morning for the trek to Long Island.

We made really good time and only battled a few obstacles, like our GPS losing service right after the George Washington Bridge in Manhattan and us scrambling to type in our destination. Other than that, we chatted, looked out the window, talked about anything and everything and just enjoyed some girl time together.

I was driving and mom was riding shotgun, so there was a lot of gasps and her pushing her imaginary brake pedal as what I deem “aggressive and necessary driving” on major roadways she saw as “reckless and terrifying.” LOL. My poor Aunt just sat in the backseat and tried to “see both sides.” She is the ultimate peace maker and of course we are already laughing about it.

We made it to Islandia, NY, where we were staying and popped into the hotel to take a breather before heading out to explore. First selfie was a fail. Blurry as all get out.

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We traveled to Old Dock Inn in Kings Park., NY for lunch and had this beautiful view out the window.

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After lunch we decided we’d head to Jones Beach. Mind you, we were totally relying on Google Maps for this entire trip and although mostly accurate, it’s nerve wracking to say the least.

Jones Beach was supposed to be just a short 45 minute drive so we headed out. Google Maps said something odd like “this route has restricted roads” and every time I entered on to a new road, I was waiting for someone to pull me over and ask me what the hell I was doing. I realized those restricted roads were for private beaches, so we were all good.

We got lost about 3 times. Basically, you go in on a one way road and then have to do a U-turn when you get to the beach you want to get to on the other side of the road. We screwed that up a few times and drove around the Jones Beach Water Tower where the traffic circle is a few times too many (think Clark W. Griswold in European Vacation below).

Finally, we found our way and somehow turned a 45 minute drive into about an hour and a half. By the time we got there, parking was free, since it was after 4 pm, so I guess that worked out to our advantage and we spent the next few hours enjoying the crash of the waves and the warm sand on our toes. The ocean makes you forget about crazy driving, or rushed schedules, or work. The breeze, the smell, the sounds. We had a few hours of pure heaven right there on that beach and it was a beautiful day with loads of sunshine.

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Exhausted from a long day of traveling, we headed to TGI Fridays for dinner, then back to our hotel to crash.

Saturday morning we got up early (like 6 am early). My mom is the queen of early mornings. On a regular day, she has probably had 2 cups of tea, did 3 loads of laundry, and watched an entire documentary on Netflix before I even get out of bed. I’m a night owl, along with my Aunt, so we struggled with the lack of sleep, but another busy day was ahead so they headed to breakfast and my best friend picked me up for our morning together.

We headed to a diner and had a nice big breakfast, catching up on life, enjoying the moment together, just the two of us. She lives in Orlando and I live in Pittsburgh, so every chance we get to spend together is special.

Then we headed back to her house to pack up and get ready for her baby shower! We picked up balloons and cake and headed to the restaurant. Cindi and I below :)

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We enjoyed an awesome meal and great conversation at the shower and before I knew it, my mom and aunt were outside ready to pick me up for our road trip within a road trip to Connecticut!

We headed out around 3:40 and arrived in Southington, CT at about 6:00. Great timing and not a bad ride at all! Just a few more gasps and Oh My God’s from my mom, but we made it in one piece.

My brother met us at the hotel: reunited! Missed this kid, a lot. Then we headed to dinner!

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We ate at J. Timothy’s Taverne in Plainville, CT and as Cousin Eddie in Christmas Vacation would say, “It was GOOOOOOOOOD.”

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And they had the coolest glasses…

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We enjoyed a great meal and caught up with the bro, then went to check out his apartment. After that, headed back to our hotel (which was amazing by the way: Homewood Suites) and we talked and hung out for a while longer before he had to head back. He had to work Sunday so it was a short, short visit but a much needed one for all of us. Lots of hugs. Lots of tears.

Hotel pics:

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They are Suites, so there was also a full kitchen with a stove, dishwasher, large fridge, etc. We were only there for a short time, but it was fantastic!

Sunday morning we woke up (early again, thanks Mom), had some breakfast at the Suites, and then started the long 7 hour drive home. The drive was super easy and we didn’t hit any traffic and by 3:30 pm, I was home with my boys.

It was a FAST and CRAZY 48 hours. But it was a trip we will always remember. Not often in our adult lives, after marriage and kids, do we get to hang out with our parents and family like this. I will cherish this weekend and the time I got to spend with two lovely women in my life. We really missed my sister and wished she could have been with us, but she was working. Sorry, Lisa. We love you!

And a big thank you to my husband for holding down the fort and spending quality time with our son while mommy was away. They had a blast during their boy’s weekend and I even came home to this:

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Every memory you can make, please take it. Don’t miss out. Do the crazy drive. Take the long flight. Pay the money. Find the time. Moments are worth it all.

Now just a few more weeks of work and our first family vacation of the year is coming up. Can’t wait to share all about it.

Where are you going this Summer? Ever have a crazy road trip??

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My Baby Is Going To Preschool

Our son turned 4 last month. I didn’t think too much of the age change. Cenzo has always been slightly delayed due to his premature birth, so we don’t look at age very closely. We look at milestones and developments, and as they come, they come. We champion and celebrate each one, no matter how long it takes, or what age it happens. We don’t worry about what is typical. We are absolutely proud of every single challenge and obstacle he has overcome in his short life and we know he still has many more to conquer.

His speech therapist recently said to me that he is “academically advanced” and already has most of his preschool skills. That was an amazing thing to hear and I almost burst with pride.

I see him as my baby, even though he proudly proclaims he’s a big boy, to which I must agree. And I didn’t realize how big that baby was getting until I sent in a deposit to his upcoming preschool. Ever since I mailed that check, my heart has been beating faster.

When my husband and I drop him off that first day in September, it will be impossible to hold back tears. I cry just thinking about it now, and it’s months and months away.

My baby is not a baby. He’s a preschooler. He’s ready to listen to a teacher, follow routines, meet friends, sharpen his skills, learn new ones. He’s growing up, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.

While some are so naturally gifted at being that quintessential supermom, I sometimes struggle to find my place. I run my business and strive so hard to maintain the right balance between business and parenting.

I wrote in my mom’s Mother’s Day card (and she’s the best mom on this Earth) that I was thankful for her advice and guidance as I stumble through motherhood, because that’s how I feel a lot of the time. I never feel like I give enough, do enough, am there enough. I’ve made mistakes and wish I had done some things differently, but then again I don’t.

I look at our Cenzo and he’s really the picture of polite. He’s caring and feels deeply for others. He says please and thank you. He waits his turn. He smiles and waves at all. He would never tell a child they couldn’t play with him. He has open arms and an open heart. He has taught me a lot about true kindness and love.

Since I work from home, I know my life will be a bit easier when he goes to school, but I will miss him so much. For those few hours a week that he is gone, the house will be far too quiet, a deafening silence. I will write. I will work. But, I will never be the same, because my little one, my star, my best friend, will be growing up and changing in his new world.

I know all parents struggle with their kids going to school. It’s life changing. If anyone has any advice, please let me know how you got through those first few weeks!

For now, it’s a focus on the Summer. Vacation and time with family and friends, soaking up the sun, and enjoying these last few months of true mommy and Cenzo time, before school begins.

Yesterday we read some books and Cenzo fell asleep in my arms. It was the middle of the day, and he never naps anymore, so it was a welcome surprise. I covered him with his blanket and came over to write this blog. I kept glancing over at him and thinking that no matter what, he will forever and always be my baby. I love you, my son.

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Feeling My Age

When I was a kid I thought there was this magic moment when you kind of went “poof” and turned into an adult. I thought your mindset changed and you instantly knew how to do things like pay bills and invest in stocks and bake gourmet dinners. And you knew how to take care of a family and plan vacations and you’d go to your dream job every day and come home to your perfect little house with your perfect little family.

It was a naive notion and if I told that little kid that at 31, almost 32, she hadn’t hit “poof” yet, I bet she’d be quite surprised.

Of course we know that “poof” doesn’t exist. It’s more like “steam.” We gradually rise from childhood into “adulthood.” Although I’m not really sure what that means.

I’ve grown and matured. I understand how to do adult tasks. I have a husband and a child. I work every day (dream job part did come true) and I guess by all society’s standards, I’m a well-functioning adult.

But I’ve never really felt my age. I still have the same crazy imagination and need for fun than I did at 13 or 18. I still worry about really dumb stuff. I still need to call my mom when I have a question. I still feel like I’m playing dress up sometimes. I still watch shows geared towards a  younger demographic on TV and still relate to it all.

I always told myself that no matter how old I got, I’d never get too old for parties and fun and general rowdiness.

Of course those parties look a bit different from they used to, and my friends and I cannot believe what we thought was ok to post online back in those days. But I’ve still never really felt 31. Until a few days ago…

My husband and I were going to be hosting a little get together for St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday always celebrated in our household, and we were looking for some green attire.

Back in the day, you could find me in any number of get ups from giant green and white striped hats, to feather boas, and green hot pants, but I was just looking for a shirt this year.

We went to Spencer’s, at our mall, because they always have a lot of fun novelty shirts. They had a big selection and a really cute, perfectly sized tank top that said “Let’s Get Sham-wrecked.” Now a few years ago, pre kiddo and all, I wouldn’t have thought twice about buying that shirt. I would have totally bought it. But good old 31 crept up and I thought to myself, “You cannot possibly wear that,  you are far too old. What if someone posts a picture of you and one of your clients sees it? Or one of Cenzo’s therapists? (Told you, I worry about dumb stuff. Honestly most of my clients would laugh and love it).

As I was looking over the shirt, caressing the awesome criss-cross shoelace detail in the back, I noticed a few teenage boys come in. They were looking at me like I was their principal and I swear kinda snickering. I was instantly embarrassed, like I had to get out of this store. My husband and son were perusing in the back, and I had to walk past the teenagers to get to them. I accidentally bumped into one of them as I was getting through the aisle way and when I apologized, he said, “It’s cool, lady.”

Lady?

LADY???

I feel like lady equals old in this exchange. I then became intensely aware that everyone around me looked super young, even the people working, and I kinda nodded at my husband and did the big eye thing, like, “Hey let’s get outta here.”

I know I was probably making all of this up in my head and no one was looking at me weird, and lady might be the coolest thing going to call a girl these days. But at that moment, I kinda went “poof.”

Even though I will always party and have a good time, (and let me tell you, our St. Paddy’s party this year was off the hook! Is that still cool to say? LOL) I know I’m in my 30s. I get it and I embrace it.

My sister and I at the party

My sister and I at the party

The day after our party, after a few hours of clean-up, and spraying lots of air freshener to remove the stale beer smell lingering in the house, we picked up our son and went to breakfast as a family.

At one moment during a break in the party recap chat, my husband and I looked at each other across the table and smiled. We both knew what it meant. We love the parties and the friends and the wild times. But there was nowhere we would have rather been in that moment, than right there, just the three of us, enjoying Sunday Brunch.

Cheers to the “poof!”

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Life Transitions: Getting To The Next Slide

I’ve been thinking a lot about transitions. Life transitions. Some of my friends are going through major ones in their lives right now.

I have friends that have ended long relationships, friends dealing with divorce, friends dealing with loss of friendships, all the way to the other side of the spectrum where friends are welcoming new babies, new jobs, and new homes.

I was emailing one of my friends and relayed to her that life transitions remind me of PowerPoint transitions. You know, good old PowerPoint. That ever so user-friendly, not so much used anymore, presentation tool we have come to both loathe and love.

Transitions are the things that happen in between slides. Just as in life, transitions are the thoughts and actions that get us to the next part of our story, the next slide.

I opened up PowerPoint on my Mac, literally for the first time in years, and looked at the many, many choices.

The Cut for instance – quick and easy. Nothing much to this one. One slide one moment, another the next. Blink, and you won’t even notice.

Checkerboard is a wild one. It not only cuts up the pieces of the slide to get to the next one, they flip and turn, a very intense and dramatic graphic.

Ripple – blurry becoming clear. Vortex and Shred – my GOSH! They look just like they sound, blatant ripping and colors changing and a million pieces scattered everywhere.

And then pretty ones, like Flip or Switch. Just like they sound. Not too much going on. Again, a change for sure, but neat and happy, no drama, if you will.

Life transitions follow these styles. Some of them are fantastic. They may change our view, they may flip us around or switch us to a new understanding, but the transitions are fun, like a ride at a carnival, exciting and thrilling.

And some of them are MESSY. They rip us to pieces, they take things out of focus. One day your content, your story, your life is perfect. Bullet points, images, colors, everything fits right on the page. But along comes a transition and life is turned upside down.

The good thing about transitions is that they don’t last. You eventually get to the next slide. The pretty content. Things always go from blurry to clear. In PowerPoint, you can even set the duration of those transitions. Wouldn’t that be a nice feature in daily life?

But to everyone going through a transition right now. To everyone trying desperately to get to that next slide, remember this…

Those transitions in PowerPoint do serve a purpose, and life transitions are important tools, as well. They make us stronger. They show us that no matter how dark our life may seem, there will always be a clearer day, a clearer slide ahead. Whether you find that new strength in faith, family, friends, or even an unlikely source, you will find it.

Those transitions teach us how to write the content for the rest of our slides. They give us perspective, they hurt us, they help us, they make us grow, they make us change, they give us chances, they take those chances away, they bring people in and out of our lives, they create our presentation.

No matter what you are going through in your life right now, I hope today you smile reading this silly analogy. I hope today is a little easier, a little brighter. I hope today is one day closer to your new slide. I believe in you and I feel for you.

Fade out…

 

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We Just Booked Our First Flight Ever…And We Need Your Advice

I just spent the last half hour booking our first flight ever. At ages 31 and 32 respectively, people always balk at the fact that neither my husband nor I has ever been on a plane. “Never?” People repeat it like maybe we just forgot. Nope, never. It’s not that we haven’t been to a lot of places, we just never had to fly, so we’ve always driven.

But the time has come. My best friend, Cindi, has been living in Orlando for many, many years, and she has made countless trips to Pittsburgh to visit me. She has been here for my shower, my wedding, my kid being born, and her husband, Zach, has traveled with her to visit, too. So now that our kiddo is older and loves staying at Grandma’s house, we are ready to take the trip down to the Sunshine State.

Cindi and Zach were married in September and we were all together in New York for the wedding. (Yes, we drove, lol). We were realizing that we didn’t have any future plans to get together after this, and that made us really sad. Cindi and I are two peas, and when you only get to see your best friend every couple of years, it’s depressing. So I knew Justin and I had to plan a trip for this summer. Plus, Justin has never been to Disney World, and I haven’t been there in about 15 years, so we need to go!

This summer, it’s happening. And Justin and I are nothing short of anxious, nervous, excited, pumped, did I mention anxious??

This is where all of you come in. We want your expert advice! Because we are starting with absolutely zero knowledge.

Our flight is very early in the morning on a Saturday. I’m talking before dawn, so how early do we need to get there? What’s the best luggage to bring? Brands? How about for carry-on bags? Any special things we should know before we go through security? Walk us through that process.

We are flying Southwest. Is it worth it to get that early bird check-in? Or just take our chances on when we board? What seat do you think is better? Aisle or window? Can you have your phones on up there? Is this what the elusive airplane mode thing is?? LOL. I know both of our flights say free Wi-Fi.

I’m terrified that my ears are not going to handle the flight well. This is legit my worst fear. I have nightmares of blood running out of my ears or having tunnel hearing for the rest of my life. I have crappy ears. They don’t pop on their own (something about a large ear canal?) and sometimes I get crazy dizzy and off-balance due to these buggers. So my fear of elevating into the abyss is real. Everyone tells me not to worry and the plane is pressurized and all that malarkey, but until I’m up in the air, or down on the ground, and can still hear everything, I’m going to worry. It’s just me. Anyone else have this issue? Ear plugs? Benadryl? What works?

I am also afraid of the claustrophobic factor and I think just the lack of control. Even though I know flying is much safer than driving, you have a false sense of security when driving, because you feel like you are technically in control. It’s a short flight, only about two hours, so I’m hoping we are pretty much there before we even know it. Tips on overcoming this? Music? Movies? What is the best way to relax?

We really welcome any and all tips, suggestions, advice, etc., and we thank you for being a part of this journey with us. I can’t wait to write about the actual trip and give you all the details :)

Thank you so much!

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My Greatest Love: A Pen and A Piece of Paper

I met someone new yesterday and they asked me what I did. To which I quickly responded, “I’m a writer.” As soon as I said it, I felt embarrassed. I’m a writer who hasn’t posted a new blog since October. I’m a writer who spends so much time on other people’s content, that I haven’t been writing anything of my own.

I may be a writer in the traditional sense, but my goal for 2015 is to get back to my favorite thing in the world, which is to share stories and posts with all of you. My blog is my own personal heaven. I love being a part of this giant world of bloggers. Even if just one person reads this, even if just one person is inspired or motivated, then I did my job and my heart is full.

So to you, my reader. Thank you for being here. And I promise to do a better job of writing for you, and writing more often.

I started this blog post when I was sitting at my son’s speech and occupational therapy sessions. One day a week, I sit in the waiting room for one hour while he completes his tasks. Sure, I could run errands or go back home. But I like to be there in case he needs me, and it also gives me one uninterrupted hour to do whatever I please.

There is no Wi-Fi, and due to my already over usage of data, I stay off the phone. I read books, I doodle on paper. But today, I did something really old school.

I had a client’s newsletter that I needed to edit, so I printed it out and brought it with me. I took a pen to the paper and began using the ever so familiar editing marks. The caret, the slash for the letter that shouldn’t be capitalized, the three lines under the one that should. I can’t tell you when the last time I did that was. I am always editing on a bright screen, barely taking in the message while ads, social media posts, emails, and sounds swirl all around me. It. Was. Awesome.

I wrote this post out long hand. It felt good. Not only was I much more focused on what I wanted to say, I could actually feel myself being brought into the post. Living it.

My hand was cramping, my nails were digging into my hand giving my palm that indented look that only people whose brains works faster than their hand can understand. I irritated that ever present little bump on the side of my middle finger from pressing it against my pen. I could smell the ink, got it on my hands. My heart was pounding as I wrote. No clicks of keys, just scribbly words that I am now sitting here deciphering.

Pen to paper, or pencil to paper, whatever you prefer will NEVER be replaced. I don’t want to say words and have them magically translated into text. I don’t want to use one of those fancy digital pens and write on a tablet. I don’t even want to be typing this, but I guess that’s the only way to share with you right now.

I should have just taken a photo of my handwritten blog with all its cross-outs and numbers and arrows and posted that for you. Because then you would really see me and how my brain works when I write. You would understand my chaos, you would see my transitions, and how my mind bounces all over the place.

Writing is a beautiful and perfect thing. It’s the love of my life (of course Justin and Vincenzo, you are, too).

My 2015 resolutions are simple.

1. Be thankful
2. Love
3. Give to others
4. Write often

As if by magic, last night I got a notification that someone had commented on one of my blog posts from 2013. It was a blog I had written about my son being my best friend, one I hadn’t even really remembered I had written. But a mom sent me the most beautiful comment. Part of it is here:

“Then i came across your article and started bawling and laughing because that’s us. More than anything it finally showed me I’m not just a authoritative figure, a teacher, a chef, a maid, a chauffeur… I am their world. I am so blessed God gave me my best friend i had been praying for…”

This is why I write. This is why I will never stop. Thank you for reading. Thank you for letting me write.

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A Day In Cook Forest: Family, Nature & Mini Pumpkins

This Saturday was one of those perfect days. When everything you planned worked out, the rain mostly held off, and your preschooler was impeccably behaved. I have been doing some work for the lovely Clarion River Suites in Cook Forest, PA for the past few months, but haven’t had the opportunity to actually visit. It’s a few hours from my house, but this weekend, my husband and our son, along with my mom, sister, and brother, made the trip.

The drive there was nothing short of breathtaking. I think this weekend must have been the peak of fall foliage, because around every corner and bend we were given oranges, reds, and yellows galore. Not to mention, it was an overcast, chilly day. The ominous sky was oddly comforting and added to the October/Spooky/Halloween feeling. There were hardly any cars on the road and we thoroughly enjoyed the dark and rainy country drive.

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After getting slightly lost, (we really were in the middle of the forest) we found the sign that would lead us up to the Suites.

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They sit on top of the world, at least it feels that way, right above the Clarion River and literally in the heart of Cook Forest. The rain was impending, and we did have a few bouts of downpours, but in the dry time, we were able to capture the essence of this beauty. When you look at these photos, picture the smell of a bonfire all around you, as the fire was burning strong. A true smell of fall, if there can be a smell of the season, and if you mix that with the smell of rain, well geez, if I could bottle that all up and bring it home, I would never need another candle.

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This is the deck where many people snap photos, as you can see in the next few shots, what lies behind you is just a blanket of color.

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My husband walked down the hill a bit to get some closer shots. You can see him blending in to his surroundings. I think he would have stayed down there all day.

photo (14)And here is the view from inside one of the Suites. I mean, really? I could sit on this balcony for hours. I wouldn’t even need to say a word. A good book, a cup of coffee, good company. It’s one of those places that doesn’t quite seem real. Photos don’t even do it justice. It feels like a place in your favorite book or a place from another time. You have to experience it to really understand it. And that sky!

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My mom, sister, and brother, who got a little more lost in the forest than we did, ended up finding us and we got to spend some quality time together taking photos and taking in nature. Cell service was shoddy and that was honestly wonderful. To not be able to get a call or a text, to not hear those emails streaming in, or see what everyone was posting on Facebook. It was just us, on top of the world, family time, no distractions. The sound of the river and birds all around. It. Was. Everything. We. Long. For.     …    Peace.

Soon it was time for lunch, so we headed close by to Iron Mountain Grille and sure had our fill of pizza, salad, sandwiches, soup, and more! Photo below courtesy of their website.

grilleThen we decided to just drive along the road and see where it led. Going somewhere without a plan, although scary to an obsessive planner like me, is always fantastic. Not knowing what you’ll find along the way makes the trip that much more exciting. We found a craft fair going on and stopped into this general store.

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My sister ordered me an amazing candle online last year for Christmas, and low and behold, this store carried those very same candles. Of course we had to purchase some of those and I suggest if you ever find these near you, buy one! This one has three different scents and they not only engulf the room in aroma, but they last forever! I adore the jar look to this, handle, and screw off lid. Not only smells great, but looks great, too.

candleLining the outside of the store were mini pumpkins and my son was thrilled to pick one out for himself. He carefully looked them over and then grabbed one, clutching it the entire rest of the trip. He brought it with him into every store and I think he would have slept with that thing if I let him. The fact that he picked it out himself and that it was just his size meant the world to him.

photo (20)We also stopped at the Pickle Barrel. Another cute shop with all sorts of gifts, and a lot of, you guessed it, pickle-themed novelties. We started to do some Christmas shopping for one another and sat outside on the rocking chairs just enjoying the beauty all around.

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My brother captured this shot of my son and it pretty much sums up our day. Pure joy.

photo (21)If you can get away from it all, do it. We can always spend more time with family. We can always make more memories. We can, and should, always be reminded of what’s important in life.

Enjoy these last few weeks of Fall, East Coasters. Soon, the snow will cover our colors and it will be another year before the magic of this all-too-short season returns.

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