Home Again.

And just like that, vacation is over and we are back to grilling on the deck and playing on our favorite playgrounds.  Thanks for giving me the space and time to truly unplug – it felt wonderful!

Of course the only thing I didn’t unplug from was my camera.  I shared the first half of our vacation with you last week, and here is the rest of it.  I assure you that despite the number of pictures here, I used great restraint in not posting hundreds more.  I am nuts.

As the week carried on, we got into a good groove.  Beach in the mornings, breaks for the afternoon nap, and either the pool or the bike trails (or both!) in the afternoon.  Tough life, right? 

Casey and I snuck away for a couple of lunches while eager grandparents relieved us of our duties.  I cannot even begin to handle southern humidity, but I can eat my weight in hush puppies. 

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Cullen was mostly a beach guy, as the pool was a typical “adult” pool with no area for him to swim or stand on his own.  He wasn’t a huge fan of being held in the water, so he preferred to stand on the side and jump in (over and over again) or play with water toys with Grandpa.  Because of this, he also learned to count to three!

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Malone boys – I wonder what the next one will look like!

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I brought a small backpack of Cullen’s toys with us – just a handful of things.  While we got cleaned up and made dinner in the evenings, he usually ran around the living room and bowled Sesame Street figurines over with his wind up cars. 

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We had one fabulous night of thunderstorms, which I was hoping for since they are such a rarity in Seattle

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The day after was perfectly gloomy and overcast – perfect for a long morning at the beach.  Funny how I used to pray for full sun and high temps, and now I found myself wishing for cloud cover and grey skies.  It was much more comfortable with a nice stormy breeze and indirect sun. 

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Couldn’t love this fish more if I tried.

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Each day when we’d get to the beach, Casey would dig Cullen a “pool” to play in, and we’d all take turns making trips to the water with buckets.  He liked this much better than the ocean itself, and it made it much easier for us to keep tabs on him.  He also used the sand mountain as a water slide!

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First dip in the ocean for Baby Hadley!

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Here’s a shot of our beach setup with our condo tower in the background.  With two youngsters in our group, it made a huge difference to be oceanfront.  We could be indoors as much as needed, without feeling like we were missing out on the beach action. 

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Grandpa gave Cullen his first surf lesson.

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And Hadley joined him for a short ride of her own. 

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Way too much fun, way too many pictures, way too many times I’ve longed to be back on the beach since we left.

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An afternoon bike ride took us to Harbor Town for a trip to the playground and a round of ice cream cones. 

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We are so grateful to Mimi and Grandpa for making this trip possible.  It’s not always easy to gather family living in Seattle, Indiana, and Atlanta, but I’m so glad we were able to make it work. 

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And it was a huge treat for us to spend the week with Hadley!  I was encouraged by Cullen’s reaction to her.  He showed a lot of interest but was always gentle, and seemed to be aware of her presence.  He did tell her “NO” quite often when he was snacking or playing with something coveted.  Good thing she is so good at sharing. 

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Evenings involved relaxing out on the balcony as a family. 

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And biking around the island to a few of our favorite spots!  I wasn’t sure how biking would go being 30 weeks pregnant, but it turned out to be no big deal.  I felt totally comfortable, as we were on trails the whole time and cruising along at a really slow speed. 

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I even took Cullen out for a ride by myself!  We rode past my grandparents house and all around the lagoon I used to fish in as a kid.  We looked for turtles and “chomp chomps” and spotted a few!

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Our final day at the beach was spent stretched out in the sand as a family.  We were blessed with gorgeous weather, low tides that worked well with our mornings, and a happy toddler who would have stayed out there all day. 

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I had a blast chasing Cullen around, but also felt the limitations of being this far along.  I had a hard time keeping up with all that Cullen wanted to do, and hauling all the stuff to the beach and pool and back all day long.  Thank goodness for a few afternoon naps!

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I did toddler swim lessons with Cullen for the past month, and started out wearing a much more modest tankini that covered up my giant belly.  It ended up riding up on me and feeling really bulky and uncomfortable.  Despite feeling (and looking) enormously pregnant, I decided that ultimately I just wanted to be comfortable and enjoy the water with my kid. 

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Some day we’ll look back on these photos and be able to show baby brother that he was there too!

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And I got plenty of good newborn practice in with Hadley, although she is quite possibly the world’s best baby.  I hope to be blessed with a little one that sleeps half as much as she does (no seriously – sleeping through the night at eight weeks, sigh).

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On our last night at the beach, we ventured out for some family photos.  It took about an hour longer than planned to get our whole group out the door, which resulted in Cullen being the world’s biggest grump.  Oh well!

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Love these three!  I loved getting to spend so much uninterrupted time with them, including 12 hours road-tripping just me and Katie (with the kiddos in the back). 

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The original Malones – a good looking group!

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I really don’t think any child has ever loved a Grandpa the way Cullen loves Eddie.  It is equally special and painful to watch, as I wish they’d be able to be in each other’s lives more often.  We do our best though, and we certainly make the most of the time we are together! 

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The only one who was able to get him to crack a smile…

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And Malone girls!  Still outnumbered, but we’re getting there.  Most importantly, the lefties currently outnumber the righties (me, Kirt, Eddie, and Cullen).  We are eagerly trying to recruit Hadley to our side.

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Where the wild things are…

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After everyone packed up and went inside, I ended up sitting on the beach until well past sunset just soaking up one final night of ocean breeze.  I ended up being in Hilton Head on the one year anniversary of my Grandma’s passing, and it felt so fitting to be sitting there thinking about her on the very beach she walked for so many years. 

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We packed up and left early Saturday morning, but not before I squeezed in one more beach walk.  I set my alarm for 5am and was out the door in the dark, determined to take the sunrise walk I’d promised myself all week long.  I waited until the perfect day for it, and was greeted by an amazing pink sky, a giant ball of orange rising over the water, and I even saw a few dolphins swim past.  A perfect ending to a wonderful week.

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After a road-trip back to Atlanta, we spent one more night of vacation visiting with local family and keeping Cullen up way past his bedtime (10pm!).  We also finally got that all-important cousins photo. 

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Twenty one months and twelve weeks – I can’t wait to see how this changes as they get older and new little ones join the group. 

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After two days of traveling, we are back home in Seattle – missing the beach and our family, but happy to be back on schedule and chasing our dogs around again.  We’re looking ahead now to the next big thing on our calendar – having a baby!  Gulp.

Hoping to squeeze in a bit more summer fun, house projects (um, like START a nursery), lots of work, some good recipes, and a good amount of down time until that happens.  Nine weeks to go!

If you are still reading and want to hear even more about our trip and vacationing with a toddler, you can check out the latest over on Babble10 Things That Change When You Take A Toddler To The Beach.  Enjoy!