Welcome to the New Year

If you’d asked me a couple of weeks ago whether or not I had plans for the new year, I would have said, yes. Like making 2018 a year of more two-wheeled adventures (sorely lacking in 2017). Seeing more of my family and my friends. Working less and playing more in general (my job was very demanding in 2017). Getting back to the hobbies I enjoy — reading and writing blog posts, quilting, crafting, furniture painting, photography, etc. — but am always too tired for.

The unpredictability of life has a way of changing things, though, doesn’t it?

I learned a few things over the holidays, and now my outlook has shifted a bit. I still have plans, just different priorities.

L-R, K and Belle

Let’s talk about happy stuff first.

All of our kids, their spouses, and grandchildren were together at our house for Christmas this year. The last time we were all together was April 2013, for our son Eric’s wedding. Why so long? Because we all live in different states, have busy jobs, our own interests and commitments, and rarely enough time and/or money to get together as often as we’d like.

It really was great having everyone together.  Hubby Mike drove to Maryland on December 20 to pick up his mom. Shannon and Chris flew in from San Diego on a Christmas Eve red-eye. They told us they’d be arriving the morning of December 26, but surprised us on Christmas morning. Amy, TJ, and the grand kids drove down from just outside of Indianapolis on December 26. Eric and Kelsey drove down from Maryland on December 28 and 29.  It was a happy time.

L-R, Eric, Amy, and Shannon

It’s hard having the kids spread so geographically far apart. We want them to live their own lives doing what they want, where they want to do it, but we do miss seeing them more often.

Everyone left on Saturday morning. Eric and Kelsey drove back to Maryland, Amy, TJ, and kids left for Indiana, and Hubby drove Mom to Maryland before dropping Shannon and Chris at the airport. Which meant I was left home alone with the dogs.

This is the scene in our driveway that greeted me on Saturday afternoon…

All Gone

Now for the not-at-all-happy stuff…

That image perfectly captures the happy chaos of Christmas week. It really was awesome having everyone together. Just imagine how quiet and empty the house felt after everyone left.

It was just me and the dogs. I hadn’t been able to think too hard about the dogs since the day after Christmas. In fact, I’d had to consciously push focused thoughts of the dogs to the back of my mind for that entire week.

Belle and K, some time during Christmas week.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas day, we noticed K was having a bit more difficulty than usual getting around. She was having trouble with her back legs. We don’t know exactly how old she is. We adopted her after she’d been pulled from a kill shelter, so we don’t know her history. They guessed her to be about three at the time we adopted her, which would make her 12 now, but I think she’s two or three years older than that. She no longer hears well. She’s had cataracts for a while now, so her vision has been getting progressively worse. She has a heart murmur. And she’s been slowing down.  She’s always been a loud breather, but that’s been getting louder, too. It’s not laryngeal paralysis, which seems to be common in Brittanys, but we hadn’t been able to figure out why it’s been getting worse. She’s had unusual head twitches and tremors for awhile, too, which are apparently not uncommon in older dogs, but can look like a dog has neurological problems.

Long story short, her health has clearly been declining with age, but her rear-end weakness was very concerning. So we went to see her vet the day after Christmas. After a very thorough exam, including full blood work and x-rays, the vet was surprised to discover that she has very severe arthritis in her hips, which explains the rear-end weakness. She’s apparently been hiding chronic pain for quite some time (instinctual in animals). Her spine looks great, though. Sadly, the vet was also very surprised to find a large mass in the front lobe of her right lung. There’s no evidence of cancer in her lab results, which means if it IS cancer, it’s not a blood malignancy and it is still encapsulated.

Removing the mass would require invasive and very painful thoracic surgery.  The anesthesia that would be required is very risky in dogs her age. Lung cancer is not very common in dogs, so there’s a good chance it’s some other sort of cancer that’s metastasized to her lung. We could have it biopsied to try and determine exactly what it is, but that would require anesthesia, too, and would be painful. Knowing what it is would not change anything. We don’t want to subject her to surgery or any other painful, invasive procedures. If it is cancer, we wouldn’t subject her to chemo and/or radiation at this age either. She’s just too frail.

My Sofa Buddy

We WANT her to live forever, as a healthy, happy dog. But we do not feel like it would be fair to subject her to pain, prolonging her life for our own sake. So we are doing what we can to manage the arthritis pain and make sure she is happy and enjoying life. That’s the status quo for now. Of course, we have no idea how long that will last, so we are struggling with this knowledge daily.

K, before her Christmas haircut.

She’s still got a strong appetite. She’s still able to get around okay and the meds seem to be managing the inflammation and pain. We are all trying to go on as usual, but are taking each day as it comes, hoping the inevitable is in the distant future, but preparing to handle the worst, but most humane thing for our Special K, whenever the time finally comes.

Taking Life One Day at a Time

Fun with Family

Joey (age 8)
Joey (age 8)

Our time in Washington went by way too fast. But isn’t that always the case when you are enjoying yourself immensely?

Eric (youngest kid) and his wife Kelsey weren’t able to join us in Washington. Shannon (eldest) and her boyfriend, Chris, flew up from San Diego for the weekend. Amy’s husband, TJ, had to work during the day on Saturday and Sunday (he’s in the Army), but we did get to see him in the evenings.

We didn’t do a whole lot besides hang out and enjoy each other’s company both days. It was awesome.

We didn’t need to do anything, really, besides just relax, chat, laugh, carry on a bit, etc. It was perfect. Especially since we all live so far away from each other. I would never be one of those parents who insist that their kids stay close geographically just for the parent’s sake. I am a firm believer that your children, when they are adults, need to make their own places in the world.  I do miss all of them, as does Hubby, but we try not to dwell on it.

Breakfast Chatter
Breakfast Chatter

I, of course, had to walk around taking pictures. Who else is going to document events like this?

Some of Joe's art work.
Some of Joe’s art work.

I couldn’t help but smile at Joey’s creations.

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I guess he likes his privacy.

Meanwhile, back downstairs…

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Tech support? Or online shopping?

 

Flowering Tree
Flowering Tree

I’m not sure if that’s a Rose of Sharon tree (in their front yard), but it sure is pretty. Especially with the blue-sky backdrop.

Since the sky was so clear, I decided to borrow Amy’s car and drive about seven minutes to a place from which I know Mount Rainier is easily seen. I never get tired of seeing that mountain.

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Mount Rainier as seen from Lake Tapps

Yes, I zoomed in to capture that photo. The mountain is not as close as it appears. Also, I was sort of shooting into the sun, which is why the sky behind the mountain looks so gray.

Saying “the mountain is out” (referring to Mount Rainier) is the local way of saying it’s a pretty day.

When I got back to the house, I was tickled to see Amy sewing.

She's sewing!
She’s sewing!

She apparently also favors using a machine that was built before she was born. (She borrowed the 70’s era machine from a neighbor friend.)

The Grand Kids - Brianna (15), Joe (8), and Gaige (12)
The Grand Kids – Brianna (15), Joe (8), and Gaige (12)

Joe did have a baseball game in the early afternoon, so we all went to watch. Brianna had lacrosse practice, too.

Family Spectators
Family Spectators

 

Joe is a very good catcher.
Joe is a very good catcher.

 

Interesting weeds.
Interesting weeds at the ball field.

That little guy LOVES baseball.

He's a natural.
He’s a natural.

He’s very focused, can you tell?

Joey and Amy
Joey and Amy

After the sports stuff, Shannon, Amy and I did some shopping for lunch and dinner fixin’s, adult beverages, and some other local specialty items.

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Cheers!

Then, after lunch, we got to sit outside and test TJ’s special beer coozies.

Hubby matched his coozie.
Hubby matched his coozie.

The hand-shaped coozies were fun, but wouldn’t a Sasquatch hand be REALLY cool to have? And fitting, given the area.

The next day, Joey made chocolate-chip pancakes for Hubby and I to celebrate our 23rd wedding anniversary.

Chef Joseph
Chef Joseph

 

Chef Joseph
Chef Joseph

 

Hubby and Me
Hubby and Me

We had to get a family photo or two. I’ve always been able to get the kids to pose nicely by letting them do a goofy shot or two at the end of the session. Chris wasn’t used to that. LOL. The goofy shots often end up being some of my favorites.

Goofballs
Goofballs

Later, Shannon and I decided to walk to the park to watch the sunset.

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Orange Azaleas

I absolutely love those orange azaleas, which Shannon and I saw during our walk to Sunset Park. Yes, that’s really the name of the park.

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Gorgeous Azalea

The sunset wasn’t anything extra-special, but we did get a nice view of the mountain bathed in the late-afternoon light.

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Mount Rainier as seen from Sunset Park in Auburn

 

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Mount Rainier as seen from Sunset Park in Auburn

 

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Sunset as seen from Sunset Park in Auburn

It wasn’t long after that when Shannon and Chris had to head to the airport. 🙁

All-in-all, it was a great weekend, even if it was far too short!

Hubby and I have certainly been blessed in so many ways.

Whirlwind of Activity

Holy cow it’s been a crazy week. But GOOD crazy. Fabulous crazy, really.

A couple of posts ago, I said, “More adventures are on the horizon. Could it involve family, friends, a road trip, airplane rides, surprise visitor(s) , a voyage to another country, a boat ride? Or maybe all of the above? One never knows. I do know, however, that exciting times are definitely ahead.”

In my anniversary post, I meant to enlighten y’all a bit and reveal that we are in Washington, which is where that handsome, pancake-cooking grandson lives. But I forgot. Sorry!

I’m guessing if you follow my Instagram feed, you know — or have been guessing! — where I am. We are in Washington State. Our daughter, Amy, lives outside of Seattle with her husband, TJ, and three kids. Our daughter Shannon and her boyfriend, Chris, flew up from San Diego for the weekend. So we were just a son and daughter-in-law short of having a full house for our anniversary.

The Family
The Family

It was awesome having everyone together for the weekend.

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We drove this route counterclockwise.

Shannon and Chris left on Sunday evening. On Monday, while the kids were in school, Amy and I set off on a little road trip adventure, choosing to take the scenic route to Port Townsend (PT), a historic seaport town on the eastern side of the Olympic Peninsula.

I gave Amy the option of a fast, medium, or slow, scenic ride, with me driving, of course. I was very happy when she chose the scenic route, which involved two ferries and a quick visit to Whidbey Island, one of my favorite locations in the state.

It was really, really nice spending the day with Amy. I don’t get to see her much, since we live on opposite sides of the country and all. 🙁

While we were off on our girls adventure, TJ and Hubby went to the Lemay car museum in Tacoma. Then they went to the Army base to see TJ’s boat (he’s a boat captain). The guys seem to have enjoyed their day as much as us girls did.

I’ll share pics and tell you more about PT later. But first, there’s some other excitement.

Amy and TJ had to go away for a few days, so we are in charge of the kids. Which means we need to be here to chauffeur them around to various activities, make sure they eat, bathe, go to bed on time, don’t kill each other, etc. Hubby and I are both working remotely from here, unless something else comes up.

Most evenings are pretty busy. Wednesday (yesterday) was one of the few days only one kid had any place to be (Brianna had lacrosse practice), so I decided to escape for an adventure.

Selfie in Victoria, BC
Selfie in Victoria, BC

I drove into Seattle and took the Victoria Clipper (a passenger-only ferry) up to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada for the day.

Victoria is a beautiful city. I took LOTS of pics. But want to know what the highlight of my day was?

Happy hour!

Not just because it was happy hour, but because of who I got to enjoy happy hour with!

Darlene and Me
Darlene and Me

Darlene, aka Princess Scooterpie! We’ve been following each other’s blogs for a few years now. I’d been to Victoria previously, but was traveling with friends so wasn’t able to squeeze in a visit. This time, I was very determined to meet this cool lady in the flesh.

She’s every bit as awesome as I knew she would be. Our time together FLEW by. Hopefully, next time we’ll get a couple of days together, instead of two, too-short hours.

I took a ton of pictures in Victoria. It really IS a beautiful city. I’ll share more when I get back home.

But guess what? Tomorrow — Friday — Hubby and I get to meet some more moto-blogger buddies. I really shouldn’t wish my time away, but I have been looking forward to this for quite some time.

I’ll leave you with this for now…

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Sunset over the Olympic Peninsula

I captured that pic from the back of the ferry as we headed back to Seattle. It was a beautiful end to a fabulous day.

 

A Very Special Day

Twenty-three years ago today, I married the love of my life. It’s been a long road, filled with ups and downs, joy and sorrow, happiness and pain. But it’s been a fabulous ride. Hopefully we’ll have many more years together.

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Mike and Me, Christmas 1992

Look how young we looked. That picture was taken in 1992, about four months before we tied the knot.

We didn’t make any children together, but together we raised three fabulous kids.

Family trip to VA Beach, about 1994.
Family trip to VA Beach, about 1994.

We’ve had lots of fun over the years. And together have shared many adventures, big and small.

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Christmas 2014

We’ve enjoyed lots of travel together, too.

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Mike and I at the not-so-famous Treviso Fountain.

 

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Me and Mike upon his completion of his ride around the US.

 

We are both lucky to have each other. Not only have we been blessed with three children, we have three grandchildren, too.

One of those, Joseph, age 8, made use a special anniversary breakfast this morning.

Chef Joseph
Chef Joseph

Chocolate chip pancakes. My favorite.

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Chocolate Chip Pancakes

I am a lucky, lucky lady. I have a beautiful family and a wonderful husband who loves me. I love him right back.

Here’s to many more very happy years. And a whole lot more laughter.

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety-jig

I am quite happy to report that my dear Hubby made it home safely from his “little” ride around the USA.

Complete Loop
Just a little loop around the USA.

It seemed like he was gone for a really long time. Unfortunately, between the extra-busy load at work and a rather long to-do list of chores, I didn’t have much time to kick back, relax, and enjoy the single life. Not that I would prefer being alone all of the time, but brief intervals of being able to do what I want to do, or not do, according to my own schedule and/or preferences does have its perks.

Anyhoo… I was a happy girl when Mike pulled into the garage on Sunday.

Mike in Madawaska, Maine (the fourth corner)
Mike in Madawaska, Maine (the fourth corner)

In all, he rode 10,116 miles (16,280 km) in 14 days. He was gone for 17 days, but spent a day in San Diego with Shannon (our eldest) and her boyfriend, Chris. Then, after making his way north to Washington, he spent a couple of days with Amy (middle kid), her husband, TJ, and the grand kids. (Riding to Spain to visit Eric (our youngest) and his wife, Kelsey, is not an option.)

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Shannon and Mike

 

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Amy and Mike

 

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Gaige, Amy, TJ, Brianna, Mike, and Joey

He didn’t take nearly as many pics as I would have. But he did capture some especially for me.

Safeway sign in Lakeview, Oregon
Safeway sign in Lakeview, Oregon

Look closely and you’ll see his motorcycle in front of that sign.

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Big Fish Selfie in Ashland, Wisconsin

 

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How about that for a mount?

Then, a couple days later, he shared this pic of him with the Babe he found in Rumford, Maine.

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Mike and a Babe

Ok, it was some other guy’s Babe.

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Paul Bunyan Selfie

Those selfies made my day, of course.

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Paul Bunyan and Babe

He and I stayed in touch via text messages and phone calls, and we entertained each other with random pics during his trip. Like the next one.

Rain gear, again.
Rain gear, again.

He could’ve just said, “It’s raining. Again.” But pics are more fun.

It pretty much rained on him, more on than off, from around Wallace, Idaho (near the Montana border) to Madawaska, Maine. It was cold, too. He wasn’t a happy traveler. But he persevered. He didn’t really have a choice, though, did he?

At least it wasn’t like the torrential rain he drove through in East Texas. Or the tornado-spawning thunderstorm he sat out in the wee morning hours on May 25 in Del Rio, Texas.

He knew, but didn’t tell me at the time, that that tornado hit about six miles (9.65 km) from his hotel.

Thick fog in Duluth, Minnesota.
Thick, Superior fog in Duluth, Minnesota.

That fog was courtesy of Lake Superior. He says it looked much thicker in person.

He did come home with a pretty interesting tan.

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Tan Lines

And here he is with me, shortly after his arrival back at the Virginia homestead.

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Yay! He made it!

Now we can get back to relative normalcy.

I wonder what’ll be next?

Four Corners Tour, Complete
Four Corners Tour, Complete

If you enjoyed following along and wondered how the tracking was accomplished, here’s the scoop.

He used the SWConnect for iOS phone app and the SpotWalla personal location manager. You can learn more on the SpotWalla site.

I think I’ll try it out on my next adventure. 🙂

Best Birthday Weekend Ever

This post, which is [finally!] being published a week after returning from our fabulous trip, is dedicated to my favorite son-in-law, TJ, who has undoubtedly been thinking, “Damn, she ignored us AGAIN!” Or something to that effect, but probably a bit more colorful… (I still haven’t shared the pics and report from our visit in September 2013.)

BBWE_1aFebruary is a melancholy month for my mother-in-law. So this year, to give her something to look forward to and create some fun February memories, we decided to take her out to Washington to visit with Amy and family.

Since my birthday happens to be in February, I planned the trip to coincide with that date. That was a fabulous idea, if I do say so myself, because it ended up being the best birthday weekend ever.

While winter can be an iffy time of year to travel to or from the East Coast, winters in the Seattle area are typically pretty mild. February temps in Seattle average between lows in the mid-30s and highs around 50. Snow is pretty rare. They might get a trace of snow a few times a year. Every four years or so, they might get a big three-inch snowfall. And it doesn’t usually stay around very long.

When we were there, the low was 21 and the high was 31. It was windy, too, which meant it was COLD. As you’ll see soon enough. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Back to my birthday (February 6)…

We flew to Seattle on Wednesday. The grand kids all had dentist appointments on Thursday morning. TJ, who ferried the kids to the dentist, stopped at Legendary Doughnuts on the way home to grab my birthday breakfast.

Legendary Donuts
Legendary Doughnuts

The place is aptly named. Those things were OMG delicious.

After sampling pieces of several of them — they were HUGE — we all loaded into Amy’s friend’s Expedition, which seated all eight of us, for a drive into the city.

I’d been to Seattle twice previously, but had never made it to the world famous Pike Place Market. That’s the only touristy thing I really wanted to do. So my birthday seemed like a logical day to do it. I didn’t realize it’s an indoor/outdoor kind of place. With temperatures in the mid-20s, it made for a chilly excursion.

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Pike Place Market

 

Pig
Rachel the Piggy Bank (market mascot)

 

Cold Kids
Cold Kids

 

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Checking out the market wares.

 

Dungeness Crabs
Dungeness Crabs

 

Chocolate-covered Washington Cherries
Chocolate-covered Washington Cherries (yes, we brought some home)

 

Frog!
Frog! (no, I didn’t bring her home)

 

Cool Sign
Cool Sign

 

Kid Entertainment
Kid Entertainment

 

Lunch Spot
Lunch Spot

 

From the restaurant... a Washington State Ferry
From the restaurant… a Washington State Ferry

Sadly, it was too cold for the Ferris Wheel. But I was tickled to get such a lovely peek at the Olympic Range, the mountains on the Olympic Peninsula we’d visited back in September.

View of the Olympic Range
View of the Olympic Range

After a delicious lunch,we paused for a photo op…

L-R, Gaige, Joey, Brianna, and Me
L-R, Gaige, Joey, Brianna, and Me

…and then headed to another Seattle landmark.

Space Needle
Space Needle

Actually going up into the Space Needle is TERRIBLY over-priced — $19 per adult! — but we figured the kids and my mother-in-law would enjoy it, so up we went.

They took this cool group photo for us.

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Family Shot

The view from the top was nice. There’s an outdoor viewing platform as well as a fully enclosed space, which is good, because it was REALLY cold up there.

Braving the cold. Briefly.
Braving the cold. Briefly.

 

Brianna
Brianna

 

Me
Me

 

Dena (mother-in-law), Amy and Mike
Dena (mother-in-law), Amy and Mike

 

Pop and Joey
Pop and Joey

 

Mike and Amy
Mike (aka Hubby) and Amy

 

Pop giving Joey a lift.
Pop giving Joey a lift.

When we left the Space Needle, Amy asked if there was anything else I’d like to do. She did a good job of not acting too disappointed when I said, “No. We’re here to visit with you guys. And since it’s so cold, let’s just go back and hang out at the house.”

Little did I know what surprise waited for me there.

Shannon!
Shannon!

Our oldest daughter, Shannon, had flown in from San Diego to spend the weekend with us, too. Hubby, MIL, and I were all completely surprised. And even more delighted.

But wait, there’s more. Shannon promptly got to work preparing one of my favorite dinners.

Pretzel Dogs!!!
Pretzel Dogs!!!

I love hot dogs and I love soft pretzels. So you can probably imagine how much I love pretzel dogs.

Chillaxin after dinner.
Chillaxin after dinner.

But wait, there’s still more. It was my birthday, right? So there was cake and ice cream, too!

Chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream icing.
Chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream icing.

Man oh man. It really was the best birthday ever. And we still had a couple days of visiting ahead of us.

I was hoping to get down to Portland on Friday, but that city was frozen, literally, by an epic snowstorm. Instead, after the kids went off to school, the adults headed to the Sun Break Cafe for a light breakfast.

Half-order size of a chicken fajita omelet.
Half-order size of a chicken fajita omelet.

After breakfast, we went back to the house to relax. That afternoon, Amy and I drove to Sumner, Washington to visit Kristi’s Country Store, Amy’s closest Annie Sloan Chalk Paint retailer.

The mountain (Mount Rainier) was “out” (visible). Amy found a spot on the way back to her place where I could snag a picture.

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Mount Rainier

 

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Mount Rainier

 

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Me taking pictures of Mount Rainier (as captured by Amy)

It’s a really big mountain. We weren’t close to it at all, despite what you may think from the pictures.

We drove past Sunset Park on the way back to the house. So later, near sunset, Gaige and I walked to the park. I told him I’d be REALLY disappointed if I didn’t see a cool sunset from the park.

Gaige
Gaige

I wasn’t disappointed.

Gaige, jumping in the sunset for me.
Gaige, jumping in the sunset for me.

That shot of Gaige is one of my all-time favorite captures.

Later that evening, it was more chillaxin…

Joey and Pop
Joey and Pop

There’s more, but it’ll have to wait until the next post.

Amy, I promise not to make you wait too long!