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Visiting Family in Central California

9 Dec

So here I am, writing from my broken laptop in California, watching reruns of Chopped and trying to love on all the cats like there’s no tomorrow. It feels just like every day I spent in my second trimester of pregnancy waiting for Jonathan to get out of boot camp. Not kidding. I spent the whole time trying to tune out the TV and gather my thoughts, and failing miserably, and as a result  just churning out rambling blog posts and run on sentences and trying to remember why I’m staring at a text box and… anyway. Allow me to share my visit to California thus far via Instagram! Cuz it’s really not gonna happen any other way. (And forgive me for the rambling. We’re watching Kid Snippets on YouTube now.)

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Tessa and I spent the morning yesterday lazing around the apartment with Jonathan, not getting packed till the very last minute. We barely made it to the airport in time, because what kind of adventure starts with timeliness and promptness and all that boringness? Not baby Tessa’s first adventure, that’s for sure!

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Tessa was completely enthralled by all of the people in the airport. If I suspected before that she is a freakishly, abnormally awesomely chill baby, I know it for a FACT after yesterdays travels. With 8+ hours of travels, Tessa did not cry ONCE! She flirted with everyone, got a trillion compliments on her pixie hat, and had every passenger on the planes going on and on about how cute and calm and wonderful she was. She was giggling and chattering and watching the world when she was awake (which gave me great company when I’d finished reading through the two books I’d brought) and she was sleeping snugly and soundly in her ring sling when she was conked out. It was the easiest thing on the planet! Tessa kept watching the passing clouds out the window, completely entranced. She gets so focused and calm when she’s encountering something new. She’s already such a smart baby. Have I mentioned how much I just love her!?!?

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My flight was about 40 minutes behind schedule. Which meant I left my dear friends (whom I’d never before met in person, haha) waiting at In and Out Burger for awhile. I first “met” Josh and Kristen when I was looking for breast milk donations for baby Tessa awhile back. Kristen provided Tessa’s early colostrum heavy milk and has become one of my favorite people. We like to tease each other about how we’re mutual blog / Facebook / Instagram stalkers. I am so blessed to know this lovely couple and Tessa is blessed not just with amazing nutrition, but with an amazing Auntie and Uncle in Southern California! I was so dang excited to meet these guys!! We spent so much time visiting we didn’t hit the road for Hanford till.. what? 8ish? I think?? (I stole some of these Instagram images off of Kristen’s page.. cuz I’m baaaad like that.)

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So when we finally hit the road, my mom was all like, “Waaah wah waaah, I have to pee!” So we started to pull over at the nearest exit (Lyons Ave in Valencia) and then we realized, hey! Dennis from Billy Hill and the Hillbillies at Disneyland usually plays with his bluegrass band The Grateful Dudes on Saturday nights at a pizzeria right off of Lyons, let’s see if they’re still playing! And lo and behold they were! We stuck around for an hour or so to listen to the band and catch up on old times, then when we hit the road for the Central Valley it was well past 10pm. See? Timeliness = BORING.

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After much coffee and soda and other unhealthy caffeine laden beverages, we finally made it home past 1am. Lots of visiting and settling in ensued and finally, around 3:30am, we headed to bed. Look at Tessa, all snug as a bug in her borrowed bassinet!

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This morning we headed to Marshalls so I could buy the Christmas gifts for family that I didn’t have room to pack in my bags. Jessica had fun trying out the ring sling with Tessa. Check out their matching penguin hats:

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My brother Jeremy and his lovely wife Angie visited from the coast to meet baby Tessa for the first time. Tessa LOVED them. It just kind of dawned on me today… she’s going to have an auntie and uncle that are going to spoil her rotten.

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We headed over to Grandma Ree and Steve’s house in Lemoore for a kind of impromptu family reunion. Look, here’s my brother, me and my sister as babies!

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Grandma Ree and Steve meeting baby Tessa for the first time!

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THEN! My Aunt Peggy stopped by and Tessa got to meet her Great Aunt. It’s funny to me that Tessa was an angel on the flight -didn’t fuss or cry ONCE – but once we got to visit with family she decided to go all teething infant on me and drool on everyone. She got a tiny bit of a fever today, and kept trying to bite everything (but mostly her overalls). But still, Tessa was being a super cutie, and loving on everyone with her perpetually alternating “oh!” and “wtf?!” faces.

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After the family get together, we all headed back to my old apartment (now my dads super secret lair) and spent some more time loving on Tessa. My mum sniped this shot of all three of us “kids” with the first grandbaby. I can’t wait till Tessa has some cousins to play with!

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Anyway, I’m going to head to bed now. SO. VERY. TIRED. It’s only been a day and a half and we’ve already had some fun little adventures. Sorry for the rambling nature of this post. I’m tired, I’m distracted, and I’m… I can’t even remember what I was going to say. Yeah, that’s my cue for bed time. Goodnight, ya’ll!

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Emergency Car Kit Checklist – Baby Edition!

26 Oct

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So one of the major changes I’ve noticed in myself ever since becoming a mother, is that I now feel the need to be freakishly organized and prepared for any and every worst case scenario. My new nightmares consist of finding out that we’ve run out of toilet paper or lightbulbs or that we need a screwdriver that we just don’t own. EGADS!

Anyway, a couple of months ago I made a “Things To Keep In Your Car” checklist. Prior to having Tessa as a resident in my uterus, I just wasn’t all that prepared – ever. And I was (and still am) chronically forgetful. So now that Tessa is here, I thought it would be wise to add another tubful of goodies to my car kit checklist and stay on top of this whole being prepared and taking care of my family thing.

I’d like to mention that the brands that I have stashed in my baby car tub is NOT indicative of brands that I support or regularly use or endorse in any way. These are all quite literally baby shower gift leftovers and gift registry freebies. Since I don’t anticipate actually having to use this bucket – it’s meant for the direst of emergencies – I figured I’d use them in the car stash rather than just toss them. That said:

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Emergency Car Kit Checklist – Baby Edition:

DIAPERS – My little poop factory is only 7 weeks old, and I’ve already come to realize that you can never have too many of these stashed away. While we’ve never been completely diaper-less when I’ve needed one, I have forgotten my diaper bag on some quick 30 minute outings (like going to pick up my husband from work). And had the poop machine decided to blow, I’d have been screwed.

BABY WIPES – Again, I don’t like using store bought wipes on my baby. I use all natural DIY baby wipes for her little tooshie. But in the off chance we’re in a situation that requires wipes, and there are none on hand (for instance, just last week she decided to poop all over her car seat and her diaper decided to have major leakage issues), we have some hypoallergenic baby wipes stashed away for cleaning things and / or baby.

HAND SANITIZER – I have SO MANY of these stashed away… at her changing pad, at our nursing station, in the stroller, in the car, in the diaper bag, and now in the car kit. You can usually find little three packs at a dollar store.

FORMULA AND BOTTLE – This is for the “oh crap, I forgot the diaper bag and we are nowhere near civilization oh god oh god oh god” emergencies. To date, I have not given my daughter a drop of formula. She has been exclusively fed with donor breast milk, and Lord willing, she’ll continue to be so till she is weaned. But in the extremely unlikely event I somehow fumble in her feeding duties on a road trip, I have a random freebie formula sample I was given from Babies R Us stashed away so my darling doesn’t starve.

BURP CLOTHS – Like diapers, I am loving having tons of these scattered around everywhere. You will always need them around with babies, and since plopping this emergency car kit in the car, we’ve already dipped into our burp cloth stash once.

RECEIVING BLANKET – In case she soils the one in her car seat, or if for some unforeseen reason it gets too cold and one blanket just won’t cut it.

EXTRA ONESIE – I don’t know if it’s normal to go through these frequently on outings, but about every other trip out of the house since she’s been born, she’s decided to poop on, massively spit up on and just general wreck her outfit. There’s been a couple days where she has soiled the outfit she left the house in, AND the two extra onesies I had stashed in the diaper bag. So I’ve got a few more hiding the car tub as well.

EXTRA SHIRTS FOR THE PARENTS – I haven’t had a massive wardrobe disaster yet (knock on wood), but I have arrived to functions with spit up stains or huge wet spots on my blouse. So I’ve got one of mine and one of my husband’s spare shirts hiding in the trunk for that inevitable emergency.

BUCKET TO HOLD ALL OF THE JUNK – Slap some Velcro on the bottom so it doesn’t slide around the car when you’re driving.

Other things you might want in your tub, that I have covered in my regular car kit:

FIRST AID KIT – With baby Tylenol and kid specific items

BOTTLED WATER – For mixing formula, cleaning up messes, etc.

ANY IMPORTANT MEDICATIONS FOR BABY

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Baby Tessa With Daddy In New Orleans

15 Oct

My favorite part of our New Orleans trip? I loved watching Tessa’s face as she took in sights and smells and sounds. She was always looking UP. As we sat in Pirates Alley for a short break, between the Cabildo and St. Louis Cathedral, Tessa couldn’t stop staring at crows landing on the wrought iron crosses along the tiled roof. Her eyes kept flitting to and fro, trying to keep up with the movement, with her little brow wrinkled and mouth pursed into an “O” in her concentration. Then she’d look around, at the water trickling along the cobblestone water gutters, at the artwork hung along the Vieux Carre, at the sidewalk performers tap dancing, performing solo jazz… it was making my heart so happy to see my daughter soaking in the beautiful swirl of life all around us, snug and safe in her daddy’s arms.

Anniversary Weekend In New Orleans

15 Oct

New Orleans is always pulling me back with its siren call of cobblestone walkways, French courtyards, lush ferns hanging from bead strewn balconies, Spanish moss, lamp posts, Dixieland jazz, creole and Cajun cuisine, the mystical and muddy Mississippi River, and history ranging from cultured plantation life to primal voodoo bayou life. I just can’t get enough.

Jonathan and I fell hopelessly in love with this place when we first visited with our best friends David and Shauna when they were living in San Antonio, Texas. We immediately started making wedding plans for a small and intimate gathering at our new favorite getaway spot. It was quite the feat, planning for a wedding in Louisiana from California.

Now, a year and many many life changes later, we find ourselves living just a short three hour drive from the spot where we said, “I Do”. Hello first year wedding anniversary trip!

Last year, it was just Jonathan and I, enjoying life together. Now, we are SHARING life with our little girl. It was so nice to be back in New Orleans, reflecting on our past year and dreaming about the years to come.

Oh. And the BBQ Shrimp, Jambalaya, Red Beans and Rice, Beignets and Café au Lait was nice too. (Sometimes my love for New Orleans is 99.9% the food!)

A couple of repeat visits to The Big Easy are in order before we have to leave Pensacola, methinks. *nods*

The Historic Pensacola Lighthouse

28 Aug

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So. I am still stuck in the hospital. I was told that I would be induced TONIGHT and would be having Tessa TOMORROW. But then they keep changing their minds based on the bazillion and one tests they keep insisting they run. One moment it’s a huge emergency – No water! No food! No going home to check on your cats! Continuous fetal monitoring! You may be induced any moment now!!!- and the next its completely chill. Here, have some food. You don’t need to be on the monitors now. You most likely won’t be induced, but you can’t go home either. We’ll let you know. When will we let you know? We don’t know. Just wait.

The last I heard I won’t be induced because Tessa’s amniotic fluid just stabilized due to my bed rest. So they may just be sending me home any moment now, with bed rest orders and frequent check ups. Who knows? I certainly don’t. It’s nerve wracking, beyond upsetting, and driving me absolutely batty. And in the meantime, I’m stuck in this tiny dimly lit room with my laptop, playing on Facebook and blogging.

So for a distraction I figure, why not catch up on my first week living in Pensacola?

So! Last weekend I told Jonathan that I just couldn’t do stairs anymore. The relaxin in my hips, getting my lady parts all ready to squeeze a watermelon sized infant out, was making going up and down my apartment steps hell. Every step feels like my tail bone wants to fly out and my hips want to pop off, like some comical mechanical toy springing gears everywhere.

So when Jonathan and I had our “date day” this past weekend, what did I want to do? Climb the 177 nearly vertical spiral steps up the historic Pensacola Lighthouse – the fourth tallest lighthouse in the nation. Because I’m brilliant like that.

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The lighthouse was built in 1859 and is one of the oldest still working lighthouses in the nation. It is one of the many fascinating historic spots located inside NAS Pensacola. The top of the tower offers stunning views of Pensacola Pass (where Pensacola Bay meets the Gulf of Mexico), the three forts, the Pensacola skyline and the historic Navy Yard… or so I’m told. It was pouring rain when we arrived and our view consisted of squinting through the fogged panes being pelted with rain.

When we arrived, the gals at the museum urged us to “hurry up” because they close the lighthouse when there is lightening present. Apparently the lighthouse has been struck by lightning multiple times in the past, most notably when it was zapped in 1874, and then struck again on the exact same day the following year. Anyhoo, the rain was really coming down, and lightning didn’t seem unlikely, so we paid our entrance fee, and I rushed us to the foot of the stairs. The first thing we were greeted with is a sign urging pregnant women to back the eff off. I took a picture, thumbed my nose at the sign, and plodded on ahead while my husband tried to gently tell me how dumb I was being.

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It wasn’t until about a quarter of the way up that I realized that climbing this tower may not have been the smartest plan. My hips and legs were KILLING ME. Tessa was riding up high under my ribcage, so I couldn’t get enough air. And to make matters worse, we see a bright flash of lightning right out the first window. Jonathan insisted we just come back on another day. But me, being, well, me – I took this all as a challenge and decided we HAD TO reach the top of the stairs before staff came and dragged us down.

So, at 8 months pregnant, I raced up the stairs with my husband, practically crawling along the railing, with lightning flashing out the windows every step of the way… and we made it to the top, me breathless and shaking. The second we reached the top step we were met by a gentleman who greeted us with, “Great job! Now go back down. We’re closing the lighthouse up.” So we had roughly 60 seconds of staring around the top, and viewing the huge lights, before making our descent back to ground level.

Despite feeling nauseous, weak and breathless from the excursion, and having our victory climb cut short, it was quite the adventure! It’s definitely a story to tell Tessa one of these days, haha.

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So! Here are some fascinating facts regarding the lighthouse, mostly stolen off of pamphlets and internet searches, haha!:

Soon after the United States took control of Florida from Spain in 1821, the federal government recognized the importance of Pensacola’s harbor and moved to establish both a naval yard and lighthouse there. On March 3, 1823, Congress authorized $6,000 for the Pensacola Lighthouse. On March 24, 1824, Winslow Lewis, responding to an advertisement in the Boston Patriot, offered to build the lighthouse and dwelling.

A nice little podunky light tower was built with the funds, but by 1850, regular complaints were starting to be voiced regarding the lighthouse. The trees around the house got in the way of signals. The light was too dim and ships were like, “WTF?” So on and so forth. So by 1852, the newly established Lighthouse Board recommended that a “first-class seacoast light” with a height no less than 150 feet be built at Pensacola. Congress allocated $25,000 for the lighthouse in 1854, and an additional $30,000 in 1856.

A site was selected one-half mile west of the original lighthouse, and work on the tower (the one we climbed!) was supervised by John Newton of the Army Corps of Engineers. Construction was completed in 1858, and the lamp in the tower’s first-order Fresnel lens was first lit on New Year’s Day, 1859 by Keeper Palmes. The tower, which has a basal diameter of thirty feet and gradually tapers to fifteen feet, stands 160-feet-tall. The bottom third of the tower remained white to stand out against the trees, but the top portion was painted black to stand out against a possibly cloud-filled sky.

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Now here’s where the lighthouse history gets really interesting! On January 10, 1861, Florida seceded from the United States. Union forces abandoned Fort Barrancas in favor of Fort Pickens, located on the western end of Santa Rosa Island, allowing the lighthouse to fall into the hands of Confederates, who eventually discontinued the light and removed the lens. The opposing forces warily watched one another across the bay for months.

Then on November 22, 1861, a two-day artillery battle erupted. The “Lighthouse Batteries” were frequent targets for the guns of Fort Pickens, and roughly half a dozen rounds struck the tower. Confederates evacuated the area on May 9, 1862, and the lighthouse fell under Union control. None of the rounds penetrated the outer wall of the lighthouse, and the tower was found to be in good condition. A fourth-order lens was placed in the lantern room, and the tower was lit again on December 20, 1862.

During the twenty-three years following the relighting of the tower after the war, eleven individuals served as head keepers. Nine of them had to be removed for reasons ranging from intoxication to dereliction of duty. Finally, in 1886 the appointment of George T. Clifford ended the string of short-timers. Clifford served thirty-one years, until his retirement in 1917.

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Pensacola Light Station was switched to electricity in the late 1930s, and in 1939 the tower was transferred to the Coast Guard. The station remained manned until automation in 1965. With the dwelling unused and the tower posing possible risk to jets using the airfield completed nearby, plans to demolish the station were discussed. These plans added fuel to a growing preservation movement in Pensacola, and in 1971, Gulf Islands National Seashore was established to help preserve Fort Barrancas, Fort Pickens, and Pensacola Lighthouse.

Oh yeah, and the place is supposed to be haunted. I guess it’s been featured on all kinds of TV Ghost Hunter type shows? I don’t particularly care for all that drivel. But you can YouTube search the lighthouse and find hundreds of paranoid ghost hunters with “video proof” of the frequent hauntings there, if you care to check it out.

But anyway, this was actually my first excursion up a lighthouse! Jonathan’s too. We’d never been in one before. And while we didn’t have time to leisurely stroll the spiraled ascent, chasing the lightning storm and all, it was a blast! It’ll definitely be a fun story to share with Tessa one of these days…

The Advanced Redoubt of Fort Barrancas in Pensacola, Florida

22 Aug

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When my dad and I concluded our 2500 mile road trip from California to Florida, we pulled into the Pensacola Naval Air Station base with about 30 minutes to spare before liberty call, when Jonathan would be freed up to leave the base and go sign the lease on our new home. While waiting for Jonathan, my dad and I decided to stop at one of the many tourist spots within Pensacola NAS – and yes, there are many tourist spots at this base. It’s insane. It feels more like a vacation resort than a military complex. But I digress.

About a half mile into the base, I noticed what looked like ancient ruins half buried in the landscape off to our right. We pulled over to find the Advanced Redoubt of Fort Barrancas, an historical American landmark protected by the National Park Service.

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The Redoubt was built between 1845 and 1870 as part of a defensive network along with Fort Pickens, Fort McRee and Fort Barrancas to protect the entrance to the harbor in Pensacola where the Navy Yard was situated. To put this into proper perspective, when ground was broken on this bad boy James Polk was the president (16 years before Abraham Lincoln was elected President). Florida had just become the 27th state in the United States of America. And Edgar Allen Poe’s “Raven” was first published. So, yeah. Kind of a long time ago.

The design of the Advanced Redoubt – an enclosed fortress protecting a strategic point – exhibits the idea of defense in depth. As an attack began to beat back the defenders, the attacking soldiers would meet new obstacles to further advance. The goal of the Redoubt was to make an assault as costly as possible to exhaust the attacking troops before they could gain access to the Fort and the Navy Yard beyond.

As an attacker, you would be exposed to cannon and musket fire from the main wall (the scarp) as well as musket fire from the top of the outer wall (the counterscarp). Defending soldiers are protected, while attackers are exposed.

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At the moat are windows that serve as embrasures for cannon called flank howitzers. Canister, cannon-sized buckshot, would be fired down the ditch at attackers. The vertical windows in the walls, called loopholes, are where infantry could fire muskets while being completely protected by the walls. Anyone caught in the moat would be caught in a deadly crossfire of musketry while facing a hail of canister from the howitzers.

If the enemy ever did manage to reach the back of the fort (the gorge), additional musket fire would come from galleries atop the demibastion on either side. Due to it’s strategic defences, the Fort could literally only be taken by siege.

The only action the Advanced Redoubt ever encountered was on October 8, 1863, when Confederate Brigadier General Clanton led an attack against Fort Barrancas, which was defended by the U.S. Colored Troops of the 14th Regiment Corps d’Afrique and the 7th Vermont Infantry. After a brisk skirmish the estimated 200 Confederates retired into the woods. The next day the Confederates returned and engaged the pickets with musketry at Advanced Redoubt. The federals blazed back with small arms and a few howitzer rounds. The Confederates retreated again with no casualties reported on either side.

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The Advanced Redoubt was built at the end of an era, incorporating the lessons of many centuries of engineering. For over 500 years, cannon had hurled round iron balls to batter down walls. Cannon ended the age of castles, and had let to the designs found in seacoast forts like Pickens, Barrancas and this Redoubt. Among the most advanced buildings of their day, these structures were built to last for centuries.

But rapid changes in technology rendered the Redoubt obsolete before it was even finished in 1870. By the end of the American Civil War in 1865, rifled cannon and ironclad warships had made this fort, and all others like it, archaic. Nevertheless, the fort was completed because engineers had not yet solved the problems presented by the new weapons.

The Advanced Redoubt is a study in changes. It was begun with slave labor, but was finished by free men. In an age of brick and stone, its walls were built using cement. It was designed for the ages, but was outdated before the last brick was set. And to this day it is nestled amongst the weeds and sand of a Naval Station that continues to forge the newest technologies to potential threats against our nation.

So! This was my first sightseeing excursion at my new home! I hope you enjoyed. I’ll be sure to post more adventures as they come! ^_^

Road Trip from California to Florida

19 Aug

These are some snapshots from my 3 day road trip from Hanford, California to Pensacola, Florida with my dad, my dog and my five cats. We crossed through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama on our way to my new home. We were hauling a little 5×8 Uhaul trailer behind us stuffed with as many of my belongings as we could cram into the tiny space, so we were puttering across the countryside at a roaring 55mph the entire trip. Even with our trailer-induced slow pace, we made the nearly 2500 mile trip in good time… we left at 9am on Tuesday August 13th (my birthday!) and arrived at midnight on Thursday August 15th.

The majority of these pictures were snapped through the dirty windshield of my little Ford Escape. We really did not take the time to stop and sightsee. My animals did amazing on the drive, with my cats being happy, playful and purring each night we smuggled them into the Extended Stay hotels we stopped at.

The most stressful portion of the trip was my fear that my cage of cats would be spotted and we’d be hotel-less for the night. Extended Stay hotels allow animals, but with a limit of two per room. Whenever you ask management, “Hey, can I bring five cats and a dog into your facility?” The answer is always a very quick and oftentimes bitchy, “Hell no.” Since my cats are amazingly well behaved, socially adjusted and clean little buggers – and because they stayed in the crate the whole time and were only let out in the bathroom for a quick cuddle and playtime – I didn’t see the harm in making sure the coast was clear and then carting my cage of cats through the exit doors at 1am for our 8 hour stays. So I can now add, “Smuggler of Cats” onto my growing list of random things I’ve accomplished in my life.

While it got long, boring, redundant and stressful at times, I had a blast on this road trip with my daddy. I know I could not have made this drive at 8 months pregnant all by my lonesome. Since we arrived in Pensacola we’ve been busy beyond belief, and I’ve only now just found a chance to upload these photos and find some free WiFi at a local Starbucks. But I’ll be sure to update with more of my travel / moving in weekend when I get the chance!