As soon as Spring started approaching, I started planning all of the fun things we would do as a family. To be completely honest with you, we don't take vacations very often. I suppose we could, but I stay home to homeschool my children, so I budget very closely. So instead of doing big vacays, we will go camping a few times, go to water parks nearby, or venture to a new park for a day trip. This Spring I wanted to do something that I had been dreaming about for a while now. We are baseball lovers in my family, and with the Atlanta Braves being our favorite team, I knew I wanted not only myself, but my middle root to experience what it's like to go to a major league baseball game. Lucky for me, I have a sister who lives not too far from Atlanta, and we would also be able to go to a baseball game, visit her family, and as luck would have it, celebrate the 4th birthday of my beautiful niece Jane, making it a trifecta of winning-ness. I have to admit, we are a family of plans that typically fall through and I wasn't 100% sure that we would be able to make it happen on that perfect weekend, but when my brother in law says he will make it happen, trust that it will.
Friday morning we loaded up early. Honestly, I was pretty much mentally packed for 2 weeks prior, but as with any situation that requires me to pull myself together and actually organize and pack, I was tying up the loose ends as we were walking out the door. My idea of packing consists of ample underwear, bottled water, debit card, and sandals. Unfortunately, when traveling with tiny roots who aren't into being in the car, we had to plan a bit more carefully. Thank goodness for the family patriarch/hoarder/over-packer extraordinaire. One thing I did take care of were the carefully crafted kits for each root to keep them entertained. Books, crayons, puzzles, snacks, Benadryl. What? I'm totally kidding. Certainly, you don't think I would try and make my children sleep just so I could have 5 hours of peace and quiet in the car and actually have a bit of uninterrupted conversation with my handsome hubs rather than hear the lovely sound of two roots aggravating one another. Nevermind that, we were overcome with excitement and packed up to start our adventure South. Cue National Lampoon's Vacation music.
For those of you that know me well, you know that if you smashed together the best working parts of every vehicle the husband and I have ever owned since marriage, you know that the culmination would result in a 1999 piece of shit. When I pull into a service station, I do so to check the gas and fill it up with oil. Our options here were to borrow my oldest roots car (she's the first grandchild, enough said) or to rent a reliable vehicle to get us to our ultimate destination. Lucky for me, my parents are the absolute best and craziest parents on the planet. My dad, who would give you the shirt off his back but might curse you a blue streak the next moment, was able to convince my mother, who would give you anything as long as it isn't hers, to let us take their Nissan Pathfinder. Can you say "third-row seat"? I'm not even sure why I bothered to mention the third-row seat because we didn't even make it to Birmingham before the middle root could not stand the less than two feet distance between him and the one person on the planet that enjoys inflicting pain on him. Whatever, let's do the seat switcharoo, grab lunch (tiny root’s first Happy Meal), and get back on the road, shall we?
We finally arrive in McDonough (pronounced Muck-Don-Uh, not Mick-Done-Uh) and to the lovely home of my sister, bro-in-law, and my sweet niece Alabama Jane. I'm not going to lie, you guys, I have spent the better part of my married life with a child that, upon leaving the home, would almost always forget they were human, so traveling to Georgia to visit my sister has only happened 4 times since the birth of the middle root. My children are fantastically fun and funny and loving, but will cry if you let them. When I say cry, I mean, "wrap it up we are leaving the restaurant" kind of upset. No sooner than the middle root grew out of tantrums, along came the redheaded root, and she is a force to be reckoned with, to say the least. “The Red Tornado” as she is lovingly referred to is 50% comedian, 25% mean as hell, 25% smother you in your sleep, and 100% beautiful. Wait, that's...nevermind, you get the idea. What I'm getting at is that traveling ain't easy and I made it to the home of my beloved sister in one piece. I absolutely LOVE my sister's home. It's super clean and she has a fantastic decorating hand. There is always amazing scents flowing through the air which has a hint of Gardenia and there is ALWAYS a room temperature bottle water within a short distance to the pantry. When I say their outdoor space is divine, I mean, I wanted to sit in the grass because it looked far comfier than my sofa, and I'm certain it has been peed on fewer times (Whatever! I steam cleaned it!) despite her proclamation that there are rogue cats on the premises. The Fig tree and the Magnolia are pretty much life, not to mention all the Jasmine wrapping the front porch columns and the beautiful roses. It's my happy place.
The first night we were at the Phillips home, we kept it low key. My sister had put together an amazing cheese board and to say it was divine is an understatement to say the very least. Of course, there was fig jam, I mean, with a fig tree in your backyard, why wouldn't there be right? My brother in law is a beer enthusiast, meat enthusiast, and has a bit of a gift for teaching the middle how to do lots of fun stuff, which during our first evening would to my surprise included teaching him to cook a smoked sausage pasta that was amazing! The best part of the evening was getting to watch my sweet niece Jane open her birthday gifts. This sweet puppy has a piece of my heart. We talked and sipped until everyone started falling asleep one by one and we all finally decided to call it a night. Our cups, plates, and hearts runneth over.
Saturday we got up early and my brother in law, true to form, loaded the middle root up into his Jeep and off they went to obtain breakfast. I think this has become a bit of a ritual of theirs when they are able to hang out together. It's so funny how this small little outing creates such amazing memories for the middle. It usually takes a few weeks, but over time Charlie will share with me tidbits of conversations that he has had with his Uncle Justin, and we will laugh for days. My sister and I sat outside enjoying the cool Spring air and our morning coffee while we waited for the boys to bring provisions. When they finally arrived, they had managed to obtain a game day baseball hat for the boy, a pink baseball glove for the tiny root, and thank goodness, some pretty tasty biscuits. Spoiled, I tell ya. We all scrambled around to get ready for the game. No game day is complete without gear to show your support for your favorite team. I'm not going to lie, I was prepared for this aspect of the trip, far sooner than I care to admit. We found our adult fan gear on a super cool Etsy shop by the name of Ninety5Prints. The tiny root was also in need of last-minute fan gear when her shirt didn't arrive in time, and thank goodness it didn't because Hot Mess Designs came in and fixed us up with a much better design than I had originally purchased and at an amazing price.
By the time we were ready to pile into the vehicle and head to Suntrust Park, I almost couldn't contain myself. One thing the middle and I have in common is that we both talk non stop when we are excited. Charlie would proceed to spend the 45 minute drive asking everyone 1 million questions about the baseball game. You see, my brother in law had purchased batting practice tickets for the boys, and there were so many things he wanted to know. Where would they stand? How close would they be? Who would they see? Would he get any autographs? Whose autograph would he get? The husband played it cool, but I know he was possibly more excited than anyone and probably had the same questions swirling around in his mind. When we entered the Battery, my sister and I let the boys go about their merry way while we walked the tiny root around, listened to music, and sipped our beverages. If you are an only child or you have siblings but not a sister, you can't know the love I have for this gal. We are different in the biggest ways but when I'm around her, she is literally the most beautiful woman I know and makes me laugh harder than anyone I've ever met. To my children, the sun rises and falls on her advice and opinions, and what she bring to the table of my life is invaluable. We don't get the luxury of spending much sister time together and I was soaking up every single moment. She let me be the total fangirl tourist I wanted to be, and believe me, I have no shame. The tiny root was completely smitten with all the music and people, and most of all the Home Depot bucket, drill, and Chick Fil-A cow. Watching her dance around and beg for hugs from a big cow with large, visible, and by all accounts milkable udders was too good for words. Batting practice lasted about an hour and when we met back up with the boys we decided to grab some pizza at Antico. The smile on the middle root's face was so big that I had no doubt that he would be able to fit a big slice of pizza in there, but whether or not he would be able to stop talking about his amazing experience was another thing altogether. By the time we finished dinner, it was time to grab a beer and head to our seats. Keep in mind, the entire time this trip had been in the works, I had no idea where our seats were going to be. I'm not even sure that I cared at the time. My brother in law was in charge of obtaining tickets for the game and I had all the faith in the world that he would handle it. I wanted my family to experience a major league baseball game and the placement of our seats was of minimal importance, that was, until I saw our seats. Let me say, if there's ever a time that you can go to a baseball game at Suntrust park, and you have the means to splurge on amazing seats... DO IT! Our seats were on the first base side of the dugout and the view was incredible. When the Braves came out onto the field, the boys were in a prime spot to get more autographs, and that's exactly what they did. The tiny root had spotted a Dippin Dots vendor just outside the park, so while she was making a mess the color and size of the rainbow, the rest of my brood were fanning the shit out of everything in sight.
There was not a single solitary part of that night that wasn't perfect. Now, was Frances the most well-behaved child at the park? No. She had the typical 3-year-old behaviors and, as with any first-time event, she was overly excited and a bit manic over it all. She would have spent the entire night in front of Blooper the mascot and the Home Depot crew and been completely content. For most of the game, there weren't any points on the scoreboard, but when the Mets took their last at-bat, it wasn't looking good for ours. Then, when things were looking bleak, the Braves showed up and showed out for my bunch (I like to think they did it just for us) and won the game. Suntrust Park lit up with fireworks, the crowd was going wild, and my little Charlie who was starting to pout a bit when he thought the Braves were not going to win, jumped to his feet and cheered until he was completely exhausted. While walking back to the car, the chaos was evident but the happiness of the entire experience outweighed the enormous crowds and the parking garage fiasco. I wasn't behind the wheel and lucky for us, we had experienced Atlanta drivers to navigate through the traffic, otherwise, I may still be there.
The next morning we started packing things up. Everyone was still on cloud nine from the amazing experience the night before. Chatty Kathy aka Charlie was still feeling the after-effects of getting to meet some of his baseball heroes and Frances just wanted to capture the remaining moments of the soft backyard grass. I was anticipating the goodbyes that were about to happen and I wanted to rip it off like a band-aid and try not to cry, which is never successful. I gave my Jane a few more post birthday kisses and gave all the hugs I could give before we buckled up and drove away. For the first couple of hours of our journey home, I thought about our trip. I thought about how the tiny root was a little hard to deal with and how I accidentally spilled beer on my sister's handbag but acted like it came from the sky. I thought about how my sister let me borrow an old broken in pair of Tretorns because I couldn't find the exact shoe I wanted to wear and those fit the bill perfectly. I thought about how I wish I had more late nights filled with conversation and wine with one of my very own genetically linked dime piece. I even gave at least 30 seconds of thought to the fact that I attempted to eat leftover pasta directly from the container but was caught red-handed, and how I didn't regret it at all. There is no way to cover all of the memories that I made with my family on our trip but I can tell you that it far surpasses good pizza and baseball. It was a reminder that 5 hours isn't a lifetime away and that some bonds surpass space and time. See you next time BeBe and Justin. We had a blast.