Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Week in Florida

My birthday on the beach was a great start to a full week on the beach! The day after my birthday was Mother's Day. Unfortunately, I don't get to see Connor on this day anyways, so it was exciting to spend the day on the beach with Adam. We slept in and then went down the street to grab some deli sandwiches to have later for lunch.

Our resort had cabanas you could reserve for free, so we definitely took advantage.

We spent most of the day rotating between the ocean and the cabana. I got caught up on some magazines, and we enjoyed some good tunes via our bluetooth speaker. There was a giant inflatable slide on the beach, so we acted like kids and played on it for a while. Eventually, we made our way to the pool for a bit before heading over to check out the paddle boats.

There were swans in the little waterway! It was a pretty neat activity.

We had dinner that night at a local seafood spot where I got a free piece of key lime pie for being a mom. We got back in time to watch the sunset from our balcony. This is always my favorite time of day on the beach.

The next four days were work days. Adam had his conference sessions, and I was working remotely. I can't complain about working with a view though!

Adam's conference had receptions the first two nights, and I was able to tag along with him. It was fun to put on a summer dress and go enjoy some food and drinks with his people. We met people from all over the country! 

I enjoyed seeing the swans as we came and went most evenings, too.

We found some good spots for dinner each night, and we also spent time in the resort sports bar so we could watch the Predators in the playoffs a few different nights (we couldn't get the game in our room, lame). 

On Friday, the conference was over so Adam and I both took a day of PTO so we could spend another full day on the beach. We had another cabana and spent a ton of time either in the water, relaxing in the cabana, or playing on the slide.

We found another great spot for dinner that night and enjoyed another nice sunset.

On Saturday, we got up and checked out of our room/stored our luggage before heading to the beach for a few last hours. Time went by quickly, and we soon had to make our way to the airport and back home.

Tucker was THRILLED to see us Saturday night after we'd been gone for a week. We had a neighbor check in on him a couple of times, but he's really not used to being home alone for so long. Not only did he have a lot to say about it, he also stayed planted on us for several days!

Even though it wasn't a true vacation with us having to work four days, it was still so nice to get away from our normal life for a week. It got us really excited for the trips we have planned throughout the rest of the year!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Happy Birthday to Me!

On May 13, I turned 34! It's sort of a weird number to me, and it's really strange to be entering my mid-30s!

When I was a kid, your parents maybe took photos of you every month, but they didn't have something in them telling you how many months old you were and they certainly weren't shared in a ton of places. So I thought it would be fun to take a photo showing how many months old I was on my birthday this year!

The night before, Adam took me to the Ryman to see Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors as one of my birthday presents. (My other present was a vacuum, which I feel like says something about being in your mid-30s, ha!)

It was a great show, and it was worth staying up until almost midnight to get to see it.

While I'm not so old that I can't swing the late night, the bigger thing was we had to be up at 4am to get to the airport. That's right - for the first time ever, I was going on a trip on my actual birthday! Adam had a work conference the next week at a resort on the beach in St. Pete, FL so we decided I should tag along and to go a few days early.

On the plane, Adam managed to secretly tell a flight attendant it was my birthday. She surprised me later with a birthday crown and a free drink coupon. Yay for Southwest!

We got to our resort, and the view from our room/balcony was AWESOME!

We changed into swimsuits and spent some time on the beach, followed by some time at the pool. Not so shabby of a birthday! We changed again and went to one of the hotel restaurants for some lunch. By that time, it was getting a little cloudy. We were running on 4 hours of sleep, so we decided a birthday nap was in order. I'm so glad we got some rest because I knew Adam had a dinner planned for us that I wanted to enjoy.

He surprised me by taking me to an awesome steak place in St. Pete called Rococo Steak. It was sooooooo good. Seriously, look at my filet mignon.

I also got a fun and yummy birthday dessert!

It was really special to have a nice meal with my handsome husband to celebrate my birthday.

After dinner, we walked around downtown a bit and then found a grocery store to stock up on a few things for the week. Once we got back to the hotel, we watched a little Netflix (we've been working through The Walking Dead) before calling it a night.

All in all, it was a super awesome birthday!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

My Grandma

I mentioned in my last post that my Grandma had gone to the hospital a few days before Thanksgiving 2016.

She'd been in and out of the hospital a good bit over the last few years, and we honestly thought we were losing her several of those times. I wasn't quite sure what to think when she first went in this time, but I made a point to try to get by there as much as possible to see her.

We also tried to take Connor several times. Even though he had only know her a few years, he loved her and she really loved him and having a great grandson!

On the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, we had tickets to the TN vs. Vanderbilt game in Nashville, so we decided to go visit Grandma on the way. We had just gotten our Christmas cards, so we delivered hers in person. She was special because she was the very first person to get to see it this year!

Connor also demonstrated some of his karate moves for her. She loved it! I also told her about getting to see Dolly in concert, going to Dollywood, and how we had finished grad school - and she told me she was proud of me.

We went to the game that night, which ultimately was an awful experience. TN lost, which was unexpected. That really wouldn't have mattered because we're definitely "it's just a game" kind of people, but we had some Vanderbilt fans in front of us who were super unsportsmanlike and quite frankly just inappropriate, especially with children all around. I actually went to tell a police officer about them, and he didn't seem to care - super frustrating. It didn't help that by this point we knew Grandma was not doing well, and I think we were all just a bit on edge in general.

I stopped by several times that week to see Grandma, and I got to talk with her alone a few times. I'm really glad I had that time to say some things I wanted to tell her since I knew it was probably the end. I think she was glad because she had things she wanted to tell me, too.

A few days later on December 2, I woke up to a text from my mom that we needed to get to the hospital. I got there before they started Grandma on "comfort care." I was able to tell her I was there and that I loved her, and I think she was still there enough to know. We sat there all day, but she was on morphine and resting... Nonetheless, I like to think she still knew we were there.

She passed late that night, a little before midnight. This is a picture collage I posted that night after she was gone.

She was 86 and definitely lived a long, full life. But that didn't mean it wasn't hard. She was my last grandparent, and she was the one I was always closest to. It hit me a lot harder than I really expected, and it's still hard even now as I write about it.

Over the next few days, I helped my mom with the funeral arrangements and went through a ton of pictures to help make a video slideshow to play at her visitation.

Here's a photo of mom and Grandma when mom was little.

I really like this picture I found of Grandma and Grandpa together.

This one came from my very first trip to Disney World. I only have a few memories of the trip since I was so little, but this character breakfast is one that stands out to me. I like that I go to do Disney with my parents and grandparents at one point.

This last picture is one that has always been a favorite. I'm not sure why we went to Olan Mills and had a picture of us, but I'm glad we did. I suppose it has something to do with being the first grandchild, and ultimately my sister and I were their only grandchildren. I mentioned to mom this photo has always been one of my favorites. It must have been one of Grandma's favorites, too, because mom found a copy of it in the wallet she was carrying in her purse up until she passed.

It's been really strange over the last 6 months knowing she's gone. Christmas was really different and pretty bittersweet being our first without her. It was strange knowing that just the year before she was at our house for Christmas dinner.

My parents cleaned out her house and sold it recently. That was really sad, too. My grandparents had lived there for 60 years, ever since mom was a baby. I spent almost every Saturday growing up out at their house, and I have a ton of memories there.

The memories will of course be there with me forever, and I have a few things that belonged to my grandparents in my home now to help remember them by. I know death is part of life, but it's definitely something that never gets easy. I'm thankful for all the time I had with my grandparents for sure.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Thanksgiving 2016

Connor was with us for Thanksgiving 2016, and we had a pretty nice holiday!

I was able to take that Wednesday off from work to hang out with Connor, and I took him to a pottery painting place to make Christmas ornaments for family members.

On Thanksgiving, we had our family over to our house. Adam's brother was even able to join us from Arkansas, which meant we of course went on the back deck to shoot BB guns and air guns into the woods behind the house. (We live in the south. Don't be surprised. When we go to his brother's house, we shoot real guns in his back yard, ha!)

My dad's birthday is right around Thanksgiving, and this year it was about 2 days after the holiday. Connor was pretty excited to give him a birthday card!

Connor loves Aunt Meredith, and they spent time playing with the GeoSafari we got him. Anyone else remember those?

Connor also loves Uncle Tony. He is pretty awesome.

Here's the Riddick family with our Thanksgiving spread.

For dessert, we had birthday cake for Papa! We opted for his favorite carrot cake!

My Grandma had gone to the hospital a few days before Thanksgiving, so my parents left soon after dinner to go see her and take her a plate of some Thanksgiving dinner.

Connor and Gram stayed at the house while Adam, me, Tony, and Meredith went out downtown! I've honestly never been out on a holiday, and it was super fun. Not everywhere was open, but it was so nice going to some of the hot spots around town and it not being all that crowded. It was pretty fun being two brothers and two sisters out on the town.

The next day, we took Gram and Tony to Waffle House before breakfast, and then they each had to hit the road back to their homes.

We really don't get to see Tony all that often, so it was fun getting the Riddick men together!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Dolly in Concert

Just a few days after our weekend in Gatlinburg and our visit to Dollywood last fall, I saw that a friend had tickets for sale to see Dolly Parton in concert in Huntsville, AL.

I immediately showed it to Adam, and we made a quick decision to buy them and make the drive down for the show later two nights later. We both love her, and I had never seen her live (and Adam had only seen her at a show with multiple artists where she only did a few songs).

The show was on a Wednesday night, and Huntsville is about a 2 hour drive from Nashville. We had work and all, but I love that we're crazy enough to leave work, drive to another state to see a show, and drive back that same night to be at work in the morning. It reminds me a lot of when we did the same exact thing in 2009 to see a DMB show in Atlanta.

We left work, made the drive down, and found a pub in Huntsville to grab some dinner before heading to the show.

I was so excited! Dolly Parton holds a special place in my heart. I had several cassettes of her albums when I was like Connor's age, and I've just grown up knowing and loving her. I also loved watching her Christmas special that she did in the 80s that I had taped to a VHS and would pull out each year, In fact, I went on to make Adam watch it with me this year on Christmas Eve when we were at my parents (since they still have a VCR).

Anywho, the concert was amazing. I literally cried during a few songs. They just reminded me so much of my childhood, and some of them reminded me of my grandparents.

She did so many great classics and some of her newer stuff as well. I loved every minute!!

The show ended pretty late, and then we made the drive home. I'm pretty sure we got all of like 5 hours of sleep before getting up for work the next day. It was a struggle to get through the next day, but it was totally worth it! I'm so glad we got the chance to see her perform live!!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Dollywood Weekend

Adam and I finished grad school in October 2016, and he decided we needed a little weekend getaway to celebrate. I knew we were going away, but he didn't tell me where or what we'd be doing. (This makes it challenging to pack, but fortunately he did give me some insight into the types of things I might need.)

We took off work on a Friday and got up early to hit the road. I knew we were heading east, but that meant quite a few possibilities of where we could be heading.

However, as we got off at a certain exit in East TN, I was pretty sure I knew where we might be going. I guessed right, as we went to Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg. Adam had rented us a cute little cabin in the woods. It was the first weekend in November, so the fall drive was beautiful! (Side note: This was about 3 weeks before the fires that hit the Smoky Mountains/Gatlinburg.)

We got checked in and explored our cabin before heading out to walk around the strip in Gatlinburg. I know some folks reading this might not have any idea what I'm talking about, but this part of the Smoky Mountains is very special to most of us born and bred Tennesseans. It's just sort of a kitschy tourist town, but there's something beloved about it. I've been there more times than I can count. It's just sort of a fun little weekend getaway kind of place. It's also where a lot of the parents of people my age, including my own, honeymooned in the 70s when it first sort of became a thing. Much of the town still looks like it's in the 70s, which is part of its charm.

We went to the Old Mill in Pigeon Forge for dinner. It was your typical down home country cooking, and it was delicious! I also loved seeing all the Christmas decorations around town. After dinner, we went back to the cabin to enjoy the hot tub before heading to bed.

On Saturday morning, Adam surprised me with Dollywood tickets! Despite living so close by all my life, I had never been! Adam had never been either, being from West TN and all. It was so exciting to get to go do this together for the first time.

We spent all day exploring the entire park and riding every single ride, some of them multiple times. We were actually really impressed with the roller coasters and with how neat we found everything in the park to be. We also found some neat things in some of the shops for our home.

As it got dark, all of the Christmas lights came on. It was really cool seeing all the lights and decorations as well as riding a lot of the rides at night.

We were there from open to close and had an amazing day! Once we left, we went to the cabin and enjoyed the hot tub for a bit before crashing.

On Sunday morning, we packed everything up to check out of the cabin. We then went to Paula Deen's for an amazing breakfast.

Seriously. Look at all of this delicious food.

We did a little shopping around town and visited a few of the local wineries before hitting the road back to Nashville.

It was such a nice getaway, and it was really special to get to do Dollywood for the first time with my love!