After hearing of this magical place called the beach and all the summer adventures we would go on while there, he was ready to learn all about what we had in store. It was truly the most perfect trip ever. He loved having our undivided attention for almost two weeks straight. He experienced so many new things and met a ton of new friends. One of my favorite memories from the trip was the first time he saw the ocean.
All morning we talked about where we were going and what he would see. We loaded toys, chairs, blankets, towels, and a tent into the van and out of the van and into the wagon. He helped as Daddy walked everything to the beach to find our perfect spot. He touched foot to the sand and stopped. He looked around in absolute astonishment. I can only imagine what he must've been thinking. He stood in one spot and stared...and stared...and stared. He felt the sand on his feet. It didn't seem that he disliked it at all, but that he was just taking it all in. He is his momma's son. Enjoying every...little...tiny...detail and soaking it all in is what I enjoy most (proof is in the way I eat...I savor every bite). He seemed to be doing just that. After a minute, we walked towards the spot Bret had picked out just for us. While he was busy getting everything set up, I decided to go ahead and take our little man into the water. I hoped and prayed he would enjoy everything about the beach as he did last year. We slowly walked to the water, hand in hand. Once we reached where the waves just barely touched our toes, he began to giggle. He continued to giggle the further and further we stepped in. He seemed to burst with excitement each time a wave hit us, even when we got so deep that they could've easily knocked him down if he weren't holding tight to my hand. My heart continued to melt as I watched his face. All I could think is "remember this moment forever". I loved watching his reaction as the water inched further and further up his legs. He would giggle and look at me and sometimes break out into a huge laugh. He was in love and this, my friends, made my heart so insanely happy.
His reaction was the same each day, each time we stepped into the "pool". He was more and more brave each day. Once he walked in where the water came all the way to his neck and I still had to convince him to let me pick him up. He, of course, didn't like for me to pick him up because being held in the water made him more and more sleepy with each and every wave that moved us around.
After our wonderful, peaceful naps on the beach last year, I thought for sure that wouldn't happen again. I was amazed that this year, the naps were even better than last. We have always had him on a very good routine that we stick to as much as we can so that things like this happen. Last year, when it was time for his nap, he would walk up to me and climb in my lap and fall asleep. This year, the signs were obvious that it was, in deed, nap time. Sometimes he would go right to sleep, other times Bret would simply walk with him and come back with this...
Most days he slept in this. Others, he slept in the wagon (worked just like a basinet), or just under a tent. We would always leave at some point during his nap. He would sleep through to the walk to the car, into the car seat, into the condo, and into bed where he would sleep a lot longer. Most naps were at least 3 hours long. A sleeping baby is so beautiful and so peaceful. The snuggles were the best. We went took a ferry to a little island one day. He fell asleep under the umbrella. It rained shortly after. He got rained on until I covered him with a blanket and carried him back to the ferry (which was quite a walk away). He slept through all of that and then on the ferry and then into the car and then into his bed. The whole world vanished to me. It was just me and my family enjoying these beautiful gifts that God blessed us with. I'll always remember that day. I'll remember his amazement as he took his first boat ride. He just stared and watched the water splash up on us. I'll remember how excited he was to see the dolphins, and the anticipation as we walked to the beach. I'll remember how we were shocked when he mixed ketchup and tartar sauce together. I'll remember swimming in the calm water and feeling for seashells. I'll remember him carrying his little bucket up the beach to find the best seashells and rocks, only to throw them back into the ocean. I'll remember the coolness of the rain as it hit my back while I tried to block him from the rain, hoping it would pass in just a second. I'll remember the heaviness of the rain as it came down on us while we ran to cover. I'll remember the peaceful snuggles as we waited and as we rode back on the ferry. I'll remember watching him as he slept in the car on our drive back to the condo and the way he snuggled up to Bret as he carried him in. I don't know why, but I think I've always dreamed of carrying my baby to bed. There's something so parental about it.
I will also always remember the time when we ran over him with this thing...He learned to unbuckle at just the right time. He unbuckled himself, fell through the bottom, and we couldn't get stopped before it was too late. I was so sick to my stomach turning around to see him laying on the blacktop. It was so awful. I jumped out before we got all the way stopped and picked him up. He was fine, but he did have tire marks on his hand. Nothing was hurt, we were just all scared. So were all the people in the parking lot that heard me scream. I still get sick to my stomach thinking about it. It's true, toddlers figure out things like unbuckling themselves at just the right time.
We took a day off from the beach to visit the Clearwater Aquarium.
Of course, there is always time for ice cream...
I'm so thankful he (knock on wood) is very good on steps. He walked up and down these a million times and we never had to worry about him falling (well, we worried, but I don't think we had to).
My most favorite part of every beach vacation we take is seeing my dear friend Stacey of Stacey Woods Photography. She is not only so uber talented, but such a kind soul. I was glad that this years vacation allowed us time to really spend together. We even had a girls night. I love seeing my family through her eyes. This year was by far my favorite. She saw my family exactly the way I see it. Happy, giggly, cuddly, and loving. Of course, there's a lot of tears and messy stuff in there too and I cherish all of the messy as well. But these show the perfectly imperfect beauty of my family. My. Family. My heart just melted a little. Excuse me while I pick it back up. It's funny because I've had these pictures of the Kennedy family pinned forever. I loved, not just that it was the Kennedy's, but the way they were photographed. I love that there are these timeless images of their family just being. They aren't posed. They are just doing. Picking up babies, giving baths, playing, just being. Stacey got that without me ever showing her what I had wanted. Every photographer sees a family different. See a moment differently. I love getting the different perspectives and am so lucky to have so many wonderfully talented friends. I have loved the way each of them have seen us for different reasons. This time, it was for that. Seeing us exactly the way I do. The next photos are all taken by Stacey. See more of her work HERE.
Lastly, a moment that was so special to me. Bret had a meeting he was going to Skype into, so I thought it would be a great time for a little Mommy and Steffen date. He was so excited and kept saying Mommy "dake". I wasn't sure what we were going to do. I thought maybe we would go out to my favorite part of the beach. A place that has been so special to Bret and I. I love it because it's perfect for exploring. There are tons of rocks and shells and new little things to discover. My favorite thing to do is come here at sunset. When it started to rain, I was really lost as to what we were going to do, but I decided to head out any way. Let's really make this an adventure. So, I grabbed steff a hat and jacket. I grabbed my phone and a grocery bag. Luckily, the rain slowed a little. Just enough to let us explore. We were still soaked by the end, but it was just the right amount of soaked. He loved every bit of it. He loved exploring and picking out new rocks. He loved the rain and the waves. He loved just exploring and being able to just be. My heart was so happy. It was the most perfectly imperfect adventure. His Daddy and I both love adventure, but just different kinds. He would not have enjoyed being out in the rain. In Steff I have found someone who loves the same kinds of adventures I do. I pray he always does.
Now, I'm ready to go back on vacation. This was absolutely the best part of our summer.
Peace and so much love to each of you,