Streak Breaker

Note: Post contains video. Read at mommie2zs.com for best results.

I broke a long streak of many months with at least one post when I didn’t post anything in April. Living life and not writing about it.

Buds and Monkey are still working on moving the blog over to a private server. I’m a little mentally stalled by that since I know it will mean changes to how things work and look.

Many things going on with the our crew. We’ve had trips to Vermont, Virginia, Florida, Iowa, and soon to Ohio. We’ve had birthdays and Girl Scouts, and love, laughter, and tears.

And I was the target for musket shots at a Civil War Homeschool event because I teased the Lieutenant.

Please note that Yessa shoots at me with much less alacrity than many of the other children.

A few random photos with explanatory posts to follow eventually.

A few long drives.

Beautiful day for being out and about.

All getting so big.

So tall.

Saturday workouts.

Beloved nieces come in all heights.

The new game store space.

Monkey’s smile/look intrigues me in the above picture. She’s an enigma.

These “smiles.”

That’s better.

Still Laughing

Buddie’s brain amazes me. As he said in his guest post: You can’t be married for 21 years without knowing your partner pretty well, but you can still learn new things.

This morning as we had a few quiet moments snuggled in bed before we began our Sunday, I learned his side of a story from our trip to Universal Studios. I’m still laughing at the different perspectives on the world.

Her perspective:

Monkey and I were finishing packing up the hotel room. The plan was to check out of the room, then head over to Universal to ride those last few rides all of us wanted to get in.

We had one inner tube left from the original four that we had for the Lazy River at the hotel.

Bob, bob, bobbing along.

Tube tower

I handed the tube to Buds, Yessa, and Buster and said, “Hey, you guys go give this away to someone in the lobby while Monkey and I finish up here. We’ll meet you down there to walk over to the park.”

Monkey and I quickly finished packing up the car, and headed to the lobby, chatting happily about our upcoming day at the amusement parks.

We walked into the lobby, and sitting on this blue couch:

The scene of the crime.

was Buds, squeezing the air out of the inner tube while Yessa and Buster looked around guiltily.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

Buds got that look on his face that says, “You asked me to do something I didn’t want to do.”

“There was no one to give it to.” he said, completely sincerely.

I scooped up the partially deflated tube, walked over to give it to another mom who said, “Thank you so much, you are so sweet.” Walked back over to my crew and off we went to the park.

His perspective:

I walked into the lobby. There was no one in line waiting to check into the hotel. There were people waiting in line to get tickets for the park, so they were obviously wanting to get out of the hotel.

I considered the employees at the check-in desk and envisioned myself asking them, “Hey, do you ever come float in the lazy river and would you like this inner tube to use?”

That didn’t seem right.

I looked around some more; the bartender, the guy playing a guitar…nope, nope, nope.

I asked Buster and Yessa if they wanted to give it to someone.

Nope.

Do I have a knife in my pocket? I asked myself.

Nope.

Okay, I can deflate it and hide it before Ginnie gets here.

Almost made it.

Then, this morning:

I asked Buds, “What would you have said when I asked you if you found someone to give it to?”

“I would have said, ‘I disposed of it in an environmentally responsible way.’ because I would have let all the air out, and you wouldn’t have wanted it to go the landfill with all that air in it, would you?!”

“And,” he continued, “I wouldn’t have put it in a plastic bag to throw it away, so that should have made you happy. In fact, the only thing that could have made you happier is if I had put it in one of your cloth bags and thrown it away in that.”

Oh my gosh, this man makes me cry with laughter. He gets me, he truly gets me.

This is what happens when the introvert and the extrovert are bonded for life.

Flanked by two extroverts…his worst nightmare.

Orlando- Day 1!

Editor’s note: this post contains video. View at the website for best results.

Huge thanks to Paula and Kelly for kindly sharing their photos (mostly Paula’s) to enhance blog posts. I’m not giving individual credit by photo because I’m already having trouble getting these blog posts written since life keeps moving on, but it is hugely, hugely appreciated!

The big trip had been discussed for months. It was our kids’ Christmas present. Kate and Betty’s birthday present.

Gina and crew had just stayed at the exact resort where we were headed the week before, so we knew specifics about rides and the hotel.

(I think sending Gina ahead to do recon on all our trips should become the new standard. I just told her about the trip to Germany last night. We’ll see what she thinks about being the advance team for that one.)

Anywho…our tribe was driving down from Atlanta, then K, P, K, and B would fly in that night. Our stay was at the Cabana Bay Resort on Universal Studios property in Orlando.

Having a suite with a kitchenette was important for me, Buds and Paula loved the idea of being on property, and Kel was the reason we began planning this whole adventure since she had a work conference on Monday-Tuesday of the time we’d be there.

We immediately loved the resort and the room. The 1950’s theme is done so wonderfully, so neatly, so tongue-in-cheek. (Whenever I’d call the front desk, they’d sign off with, “Have a swell day!”)

Our living room space

Our living room space

The kitchenette

The kitchenette

The bedroom

The bedroom

Shower room- there was a separate room with the toilet.

Shower room- there was a separate room with the toilet.

The bathroom area.

The bathroom area.

The screen between the bedroom and living room.

The screen between the bedroom and living room.

The little touches that made you feel you'd stepped back in time.

The little touches that made you feel you’d stepped back in time.

We had time before the dear ones arrived, so we tested out the pool.

Let’s get this vacation started!

There were two pools. The one closest to our section of the resort had a splendid water slide. The other pool had the lazy river, and that was the one we ended up using most frequently.

After the children had their fill of swimming, Buds and I headed out to get a feel for our location relative to the parks, to see how long it took to walk to the parks, great places to eat, etc.

The resort has a bowling alley.

You already know who we bumped into.

We didn’t ever eat here, but the cafeteria was like being in The Jetsons.

The Jack LaLanne gym was a big hit with Buds.

Jack’s trophies

Part of the gorgeous, retro lobby.

Our section by day.

Our section by night.

The park was about a 15 minute walk on adult legs.

After Buds and I got back to the room, Buster, Yessa, and I decided to wander up front in the hopes that our friends would be arriving soon. THEN vacation would really begin!

Their taxi was pulling up as we walked up the sidewalk. Oh, glorious day!

They’re here!

SO HAPPY TO BE TOGETHER AGAIN.

We carted all their stuff to the room, quick switch into swim suits, and over to the other pool to explore the lazy river.

Already talking our lips off.

For our family, in addition to loving the time we were going to get with some of our best buddies, we were so happy, amazed, and a little doubtful that Buds was actually going to take vacation during our Florida time. We knew he wanted to, but Buds taking two days off in row…that just doesn’t happen.

But it…mostly…did. And it was magical.

Off he sprints to join the crowd in the lazy river.

Kel starts reconnecting with our kids.

And he’s nearly as tall as her.

Four adults, 5 kids, everyone comfortable, relaxed, and ready to play. Great times ahead!

Zachary’s face balloon had a leak. We blew him back up the next day.

Which Village Person Was He?

For November this year, Buds joined the cause of No Shave November, which we call “Noshavember.” This made me ponder his facial hair evolution over the years.

When I met Buds, he didn’t even have chest hair.

Not sure he could even grow facial hair back then.

Not sure he could even grow facial hair back then.

Christmas of 1994, we were apart for the last Christmas. He went home to Vermont and came home with a goatee.

Our last Christmas apart before we were married, he grew a goatee while in VT as my Christmas surprise.

Our last Christmas apart before we were married, he grew a goatee while in VT as my Christmas surprise.

The goatee was a huge hit and it will appear as a gift to me randomly.

The goatee didn't always grow in gray.

The goatee didn’t always grow in gray.

He'll often grow  a goatee on vacation. Gem-Fest two years ago.

He’ll often grow a goatee on vacation. Gem-Fest two years ago.

Gem-Fest this year.

Gem-Fest this year.

This year, by the end of Noshavember, the beard was loud, proud, and gray.

Noshavember 2016...I love this face.

Noshavember 2016…I love this face.

He headed to Virginia to celebrate the end of 2016 with his co-workers and promised them a holiday surprise.

Dropped down to this for the work holiday party...and to send Yessa into hysterics.

Dropped down to this for the work holiday party…and to send Yessa into hysterics.

Paula pointed out a few similarities between his caterpillar and…someone else…

Photo from http://tinyurl.com/z23y595

Photo from http://tinyurl.com/z23y595

I think the cowboy. Maybe the construction worker.

And, thankfully, while he was with Kel, Paula, and the girls in VA, he ditched the moustache. K & B helped him shave, and we were all grateful.

Had a little help shaving.

Had a little help shaving.

Shaved while in VA for that holiday party.

Shaved while in VA for that holiday party.

Thanks, K & B, for giving us back our regular Buds.

Saying Good-bye to Massadoah

In an unusual twist for the last few new family selections, the partnership found a partner family to replace us quite quickly. Despite the rational knowledge that this was the best decision for the partnership and our family, it was still with an underlying feeling of sadness that we realized our time as Massadoahans had come to an end.

So many fantastic memories with so many dear ones.

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Thanks for the memories, Massadoah.

Ginnie’s Birthday Weekend, In Which All Our Foibles, Follies, and Brain Floofs are Exposed

A few weeks ago, Kel sent me a message saying they had an opportunity to head to Atlanta for a friend’s celebration the first weekend of August, could we meet them there?

I looked at the calendar. In MY MIND, the first weekend of August was my birthday weekend. My birthday is August 1, which happened to be a Monday this year. So, I put “Weekend in Atlanta” on the calendar for July 29- August 2.

Kelly and I are people-people, so we excitedly talked about what we could do while we were all together. Specific dates were never mentioned between us. We picked out a place to stay all together, got the reservations all paid for, and dreamed happy dreams about seeing each other.

The Monday before we were driving to Atlanta, I sent Kel a message saying how excited we were to see them in only 5 days.

“Two weeks,” said Kel.

Oops. My “first weekend in August,” was not actually the first weekend in August.

Our weekend couldn’t move. Kel and Paula couldn’t change their date. So, we sadly realized we wouldn’t be seeing each other as soon as we hoped. (Luckily K and P are kind and forgiving friends and didn’t hold this against me for too long. Our children held their frustration for a little longer.)

Time to readjust to the new plans.

My mom was in town visiting, so she and Monkey decided they wanted to stay home, so on Friday, Buster, Yessa, and I loaded up the car. We got to the far side of Nashville before rush hour kicked in, and waited at a gas station while Buds finished up his work day and drove over to meet us.

The plan was to drive both family cars to Atlanta so Buds would be able to easily drive to work in the Atlanta office on Monday and Tuesday, plus we had some furniture items we wanted to purchase at Ikea and needed to be able to get them home.

After Buds joined us, we’d been on the road about 40 minutes, when I noticed smoke or liquid wafting out from under his vehicle. I called him and said, “Keep an eye on your heat gauge…”

“Accchhh,” he yelled. “It just shot through the roof.”

We pulled over at the next exit, parked on the side of the road in the shade, and called the insurance company. They arranged a tow, and we had a lovely family visit while we waited for the kind tow truck driver. Took about two hours total, and I was so grateful several times for having an air conditioned vehicle in which to wait, the pleasure of three other people who are among my favorite on the planet, and insurance. (In a nice karmic twist, I had added towing to our insurance the week before this incident.)

I always prefer when we are in one car together because I love that time to visit with Buds, so I was happy to enjoy the rest of our drive in his company.

Jack Johnson sums it up for me: Broken:

Tow truck towed the car off to the dealership to await our return to Nashville. We headed off to Atlanta.

In addition to the other adventures, the drive was beautiful.

In addition to the other adventures, the drive was beautiful.

We had a chosen a Suites-based hotel since we wanted to be able to make our own meals and share meals with Kel, Paula, and the girls. (Best-laid plans…)

By the time we arrived, it was too late to try out the outdoor pool, but the next morning, we gave it a splashy try.

Gettin' some air.

Gettin’ some air.

Ready to launch.

Ready to launch.

I love how this series looks as Buds disappears:

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#1

#2

#2

Blub, blub.

Blub, blub.

Crazy Jumps:

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Due to the car incident, the new plan became to get a rental car to replace the lame Subaru. Buds found a great deal, and we headed to the rental car office at one’ish to pick up the rental car.

The rental car office had closed at noon.

Wow. That was strike three on this birthday weekend. We just had to shake our heads ruefully and laugh at our misses for this whole trip.

But, after we shook that off, we started to get our mojo back.

Saturday ended up being a quiet day, while we took a collective deep breath to gather ourselves.

Then, on Sunday, we headed to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta. This large church was both beautiful and friendly. It was the annual lay leader service, and the personal insights and essays shared were poignant, funny, and inspirational. It was also a Sunday where they had a gathering afterward, and though our crew was interested in the bouncy house out front, we bustled them off to Ikea for lunch and a scouting trip.

UUCA

UUCA

The plan was to make an initial Ikea visit, get the few small items we’d need, then make another attempt at picking up the rental car early on Monday morning, and drive down to Ikea on Monday night. Phew…

After Ikea, we turned our thoughts to issues much more important than a new mattress.

Walking through Centennial Park to the Civil Rights Center:

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We headed down to Centennial Olympic Park to tour the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. This was a powerful place to visit. Our country’s history, as well as the Human Rights issues around the world…so much to learn and ponder and mourn. And it felt good/valuable to me for our family to be in an environment where we were the minority. There were plenty of other white folks there, but black folks were the majority. It was also good for me to remember this is part of our country’s history, not someone else’s history.

Heading in to the Center.

Heading in to the Center.

Buds and I could have spent many more hours here, and Buster and Yessa both found different parts that interested them.

There was a recording booth where you could take a picture and add a caption, or record a video about what the center meant to you, then a space to watch the pictures that had been taken over the years.

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We headed back to the Suites for an evening of time together spent watching The Food Network or HGTV. These are the two channels our crew loves when we are at a hotel. After watching several episodes of “Tiny Houses” on HGTV, Buds and I were ready to move into one. The children were not so sure.

In addition, I discovered that IKEA has altered their previously horrendous shipping costs, and now we could have large furniture shipped to our house for less than the rental car cost.

Turns out it was a win that we hadn’t picked up the rental car! I could feel our luck beginning to turn.

Buds took the car on Monday for his work day, and the kids and I walked to a movie theater a little over a mile away to see The Secret Life of Pets. It was a hot, humid, sunny day, and the walk proved to be character-building for the children. (That’s parent-speak for “They hated it, but I was glad we did it.”)

The movie theater was one of the most luxurious we’ve been in. Fully-reclining leather seats for each of us. It was restorative after our walk.

If only airline seats had this much room.

If only airline seats had this much room.

After the movie, which we enjoyed, we headed to a gelato cafe we had noticed on our walk past.

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That gave us the strength we needed for the walk home.

Tuesday morning, I dropped Buds off at work, and the kids and I packed up the car and said good bye to our Suite home-away-from-home. Due to an accident, the drive downtown took over an hour, so we were happy to finally land back at our favorite parking lot by Centennial Park, and trot on over to The World of Coke.

I was probably the most excited for the place.

I was probably the most excited for the place.

The tour begins with an offer of Coke, Diet Coke, or Coke Zero. Then, you head into the first room.

Viewing hundreds of items of Coke paraphernalia.

Viewing hundreds of items of Coke paraphernalia.

Coke was invented in Atlanta, and it was interesting to hear about some of the items in the room.

I love the Polar Bear...the children wanted no part of this picture.

I love the Polar Bear…the children wanted no part of this picture.

Heading into the vault to see the Secret Formula.

Heading into the vault to see the Secret Formula.

The tour overall was part Disney, part Coke sales pitch. There are some interesting exhibits as you make your way to the “Actual Vault where the only hand-written copy of the formula is kept.” They even have a “guard” standing by the vault to warn you not to get too close. My crew was intrigued when an alarm went off with some small kids got “too” close.

How close can you get to the true taste of Coke?

How close can you get to the true taste of Coke?

This made us laugh all weekend. What happens if one of the people die?

This made us laugh all weekend. What happens if one of the people die?

The vault room looks like you are walking into an inferno.

The vault room looks like you are walking into an inferno.

I made us walk through the “factory” part of the tour where they are bottling Coke, but my crew was most excited to head upstairs to the Tasting Room and the 4-D theater.

The theater was one of the coolest of its type that we’ve done. Chairs raised, lowered, shook, and tilted. Water was blown at us and dropped on us. Air and chilly wind were puffed around, and in one scene with 3-D dragonflies zooming around, you even felt jabbed in the back. That was startling.

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They also had a replica of the Olympic Torch that Buster and I took the chance to examine:

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Finally, the Tasting Room.

We don’t drink soda very often, so this was an adventure for us. There are over 100 different soda drinks that Coke produces for different countries around the world. The room is sorted by continent, and it was fascinating to try to get a gauge on unique flavors and tangs from various regions.

Grab your plastic cup and dive in.

Grab your plastic cup and dive in.

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Some were delicious, some were sickeningly sweet, some tasted like water, but we tried samplings of a whole lot of them and it was a good time for all.

We picked up our souvenir glass bottles of Coke on our way out the door, then meandered through the gift shop. Buster found a few items of interest.

Not sure what to say.

Not sure what to say.

Then a final visit to the adored playground at Centennial Park:

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We stopped for lunch since we weren’t picking Buds up until 3. I took the children to Olive Garden, which we all enjoyed, then we scooped up Buds and headed home.

Despite the many foibles and flops of the whole trip, it was a great birthday.

The not-complete family.

The not-complete family.

Surprise!

Kel, Paula, and the girls were driving from VA to visit Kel’s family in Ohio. Kelly had the idea of meeting up somewhere after we checked out of the Kalihari.

Then, later in the morning, after we’d checked out, Paula, who seemed to magically know Ohio geography better than Kelly who had grown up there, said, “You are only about an hour from Kel’s parents’ house. Want to spend the day with us there?”

It was perfect. The girls didn’t know were coming, and we arrived at the house before they did, which we didn’t realize at first. Grandma Darla was gracious and welcoming, despite goofy people at her front door.

We scurried away to move the car and hide, just as K, P, K, and B drove up.

We spent the day swimming:

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Snacking on the best cookies in the world:

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Meeting cousins, chatting by the pool, noshing on bean dip, and generally catching up.

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As always, it was over too soon, and planning for the next visit becomes a priority.

Asheville Adventures- Spring Break 2016

After many, many weeks of anticipation, the time had come for our annual spring break trip with Kel, Paula, and the girls. Two years ago, country fun in Nashville. Last year was snowy Vermont. This year we were keeping it warmer, we hoped, in beautiful Asheville, NC.

Buds had flown up to work with the Virginia crowd the week before the trip, so he hitched a ride in the K + P party van while the kids and I drove over from Nash.

We had a tasty stop at Steak and Shake on the way.

Fries and Dragons.

Fries and Dragons.

Buds and Paula found the house during extensive online searching, and the minute we all saw it, we knew it was the one. We had too many bodies for beds, but the Buster was great about sleeping on an air mattress, so all was well.

The house was way up a gravel road.

The house was way up a gravel road.

We were first to arrive at the house, so we quickly unloaded, then explored.

We’d been waiting at the house for awhile, and finally connected on the phone with Kel. They were lost, or had been lost, and had been attempting to drive the van up a 90 degree hill, but they were back on track and not far away.

Here they come!

Here they come!

The house was a delight for all of us.

Monkey had her own secret space downstairs:

Swinging bookcases are cool!

Swinging bookcases are cool!

In front of the closed bookcase.

In front of the closed bookcase.

Buds and I had the yoga studio on the very top floor:

Paula's photo of the view out our circle window.

Paula’s photo of the view out our circle window.

The daytime view

The daytime view

Our round window from the outside.

Our round window from the outside.

The indoor slide was used by nearly everyone:

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And the landing at the bottom of the slide was another great play space:

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The bedroom the younger kids shared had a beautiful custom loft:
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The tree house was a hit:

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Inside the treehouse.

Inside the treehouse.

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There was even a tire swing up on the hill that looked like it would launch you into space:

A Bets and a swing.

A Bets and a swing.

View from the swing.

View from the swing.

We had time by the fire:

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And time on the porch:

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Delicious meals were made (mostly by Buds and Paula), including scotch-blocked (spatch-cocked?) chicken.

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K + P are great about getting out and exploring, and always offered to include our crew in their adventures. (Buds worked all week, and I worked a couple of the days, so our schedules were varied.)

They took the younger girls out to the Nature Center:

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K and Monkey had a great time ziplining with Paula along for the photographic historical record.

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B and Yessa had an outing to a “Paint Your Own Pottery” spot:

Focused!

Focused!

The Final Product.

The Final Product.

One of my favorite parts of the whole week was when the adults would gather on the couches each evening to have a drink and share stories: The Blond Assassin, Paula’s path into computers, retelling the story of our early relationships, kid stories, parent stories, dreaming of the future, where should we go for Spring Break next year…I loved them all.

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I was dying with anticipation to show everyone The Biltmore, and that trip was fantastic! Plus, thanks to Kel and Paula having sports team shirts, we got $10 off each admission! That makes baseball worth it!

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Monkey was sooo happy to see that rowers have been around a long time.

Monkey was sooo happy to see that rowers have been around a long time.

An awesome shot Paula caught of flying stuffies.

An awesome shot Paula caught of flying stuffies.

My favorite room.

My favorite room.

The Youngers enjoyed the audio tour.

The Youngers enjoyed the audio tour.

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Ghostly.

Ghostly.

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Passing time at the end of the tour.

Passing time at the end of the tour.

A display I loved at the end of the tour that showed what was blooming in the extensive gardens that day.

A display I loved at the end of the tour that showed what was blooming in the extensive gardens that day.

The nearly-whole crazy lot of us:

Might have been a little bright that day.

Might have been a little bright that day.

We had a picnic lunch after we left the house. Paula asked around and found an awesome spot on the lagoon on the far side of the property. We were joined by a very pushy duck and goose. They obviously had enjoyed human food a time or two.

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Another day was spent hiking at a couple awesome spots Paula hunted down for us. (Do you see the trend here?)

Two different waterfalls, great, easy hikes, and some fun climbing and splashing.

First stop:

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Kel wanted to look tall.

Kel wanted to look tall.

Second hike:

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A butterfly looking for sanctuary in Kelly's sleeve.

A butterfly looking for sanctuary in Kelly’s sleeve.

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Buds and Monkey stayed home to work on hike day, so they met us at an awesome pizza restaurant at the end of the day. The pizza place used to be a movie theater, so tons of character, and fun old-school video games.

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Dividing up the tokens to play.

Dividing up the tokens to play.

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Monkey's eyes are closed because she hated the video on the screen.

Monkey’s eyes are closed because she hated the video on the screen.

Buster had a chance to serve as “Dungeon Master” as a few folks played “A Faerie’s Tale,” something he has wanted to do for a very long time.

Much giggling involved.

Much giggling involved.

One night we headed into town to explore. Asheville has the first indoor mall, Grove Arcade, which is beautiful. (Buster was a little disgusted to find the use of the word “arcade” being used in the old-school sense.)

This is not your teenagers’ mall:

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Monkey and I wandered into a fantastic bookstore that had a wine bar/restaurant, and all sorts of amazing nooks and crannies for meetings and settling in with a book.

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Before we headed to Curatè for our dinner reservation, we joined the protest of an atrocious state law that was passed while we were in town.

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Dinner at Curatè was deliciously delightful. I’m glad we got to share with our beloveds. As a tapas place, we shared plates and plates of food.

Buds makes a strategy.

Buds makes a strategy.

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We attended church on Sunday morning. The Associate Minister was a former intern at UUCF, and it was a delight to see her and hear her message.

Other great meals were had at awesome restaurants. (All of which, I’m pretty sure, were discovered by Buds and Paula. Kel and I are along for crowd control.)

Waiting to be seated.

Waiting to be seated.

Waiting to be seated, again.

Waiting to be seated, again.

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Our last breakfast together.

Our last breakfast together.

And finally the week drew to a close with happy hugs and loving tears:

All the shades of red.

All the shades of red.

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And a few of my last favorite shots:

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I love how our families mesh together. I love that they love our kids as they are, and vice versa. I love that Paula took the vast majority of these pictures and doesn’t mind me posting them (though we need to get her in many more of them in the future), and finally, I love that we have so many ways that we are alike, and so many ways that we are different, and our friendship continues to grow and deepen.

I miss much about Northern Virginia, but these four are what I miss the most.

Now, where shall we go next year?