My all-American sweetheart
Did you all have a wonderful Independence Day yesterday? I hope the rain stayed away for all your outdoor activities and barbecues and fireworks, and you were able to enjoy a wonderful day!
Ellie and I were really missing Eric yesterday. I came to realize that the Fourth of July is actually my favorite holiday, even over the classic favorite of Christmas. I love Christmas, don't get me wrong, but Christmas also tends to bring a lot of stress and obligation, hectic schedules and exhaustion. The Fourth of July is so much more relaxed and filled with fun summer activities. The food is good, you generally spend the day outside enjoying the sunny summer weather, and I just adore fireworks. It's just such a fun, carefree holiday.
And Eric and I have really had some incredible Independence Days together. I couldn't help but reminisce thanks to my Timehop app, which pulls your social media history from the past four years each day so you can remember what you were doing on this day in history. When I opened that app to check out our past July Fourths yesterday, I was overcome with nostalgia and good memories. Last year: our new little family of four spent Ellie's first Fourth at the splash park, walking along the waterfront and watching the NYC fireworks from Hoboken. Two years ago: we camped out along the Hoboken waterfront to see the fireworks with that beautiful skyline view behind them. Three years ago: we toured lower Manhattan, then walked two blocks west from our Hell's Kitchen apartment and watched the fireworks from the West Side Highway. Four years ago: we went to Coney Island for the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest. Basically, we rocked the past four Independence Days.
My Timehop app, refreshing my memory of Independence Days gone by
But, we know that there will be other Fourths to spend together. I look forward to celebrating as a family of four (that includes dog) again next year!
As for this year, Eric was able to golf with his brother, who happened to be in Jacksonville for the weekend, and then spent the day taking care of business. The latter part wasn't necessarily so fun, I'm sure, but I'm glad he was able to get out and do something he enjoys early in the day.
Ellie and I spent the day with my sister, which was great fun. I'm so glad she was able to get the day off work and was willing to spend it with us! She spent the night at our house on Wednesday, so we could kick our July 4th off right as soon as Ellie awoke yesterday.
Actually, Ellie has sort of been "counting down" to the holiday by wearing a different patriotic outfit every day since Sunday. Hey, the girl looks good in red, white and blue, so I figured I should put all her festive attire to good use.
Top: Looking preppy and subtly American in a white polo dress and festive bow on Sunday; Sweetly nautical in red, white and blue on Monday.
Bottom: Sporting a star-spangled Osh Kosh dress with sun hat on Tuesday; and oh-so-patriotic in a red, white and blue sundress with blue bow on Wednesday.
And then, of course, she had her actual 4th of July outfit:
She is the sweetest.
Inspecting a flag
Ellie was up early and woke Auntie Heather up as soon after as I would allow.
Rocking her patriotic PJs and waking Auntie Heather up all at once
We all had breakfast and after some debate, we decided to go to Madeira Beach for the Fourth of July Fest they were holding all day. Everything we read said it started at 8:00 a.m., which we thought was perfect, because we really wanted to fit in a morning activity before Ellie's usual 11:00-ish naptime. So, we got ready, gathered our things, and went out to the beach, where we had some trouble finding parking (and encountered a couple of very rude people). But, ultimately, we got parked and to the festival.
Or rather, the so-called festival. Despite everything claiming it started at 8:00 a.m., when we arrived around 10:30, all the vendors were still setting up. There were no open vendors, no music, nothing. I'm sure it was a great time later in the day, but our plans to find something to do early didn't exactly pan out.
Left: Ellie's stroller was even festive! Right: Ellie and her Auntie Heather at the festival
But, Ellie didn't care - she wasn't so much there for the vendors as she was for the walking around in the sand. And walk she did, looking as adorable as could be, with little flag in hand.
Staring out at the Gulf and contemplating what it means to be an American, I'm sure.
Just being generally adorable.
Enjoying our beach time!
Ellie was already getting tired by that point so we packed it in pretty quickly. She passed out right away in the car, however, which meant she
Sometimes, food just tastes better al fresco.
Then, we soaked up some sun.
Bathing beauty (and still red, white and blue!)
Time for a swim!
And, we tried out a new toy: a sprinkle mat, which quickly became known as THE SPLASH ZONE!
It was like our own splash park, right in our backyard.
We also tried out a new carrier I bought at a consignment store recently, so I can wear Ellie in the water. Success!
Yay, swimming with Mama!
While we played, Heather and I also consumed some Straw-ber-ritas, which are delicious, by the way. Ellie wanted in on the action, too, but unfortunately she has another 20 years or so to wait.
No babies got wasted in the making of these photos.
Although we wouldn't share our drinks with Ellie, she discovered the joy of sharing her Cheerios with Achilles. They've come to appreciate each other in new ways now, I think.
Soon Ellie was looking sleepy again, so we went inside and put her down for a nap. Heather and I relaxed a bit and tried to go back outside, but that's when the rain started. It didn't matter much, as Ellie only took an hour nap (tops) so we were back "on" again pretty quickly.
My dad got home from work shortly thereafter, and Heather, Ellie and I ran to the store to pick up some final supplies for dinner. When we got back, we introduced Ellie to sparklers.
She was mildly intrigued, but just mildly. She was disappointed she couldn't touch them.
Then, my dad cooked up some hot dogs on the grill, which we enjoyed with baked beans, potato salad and a couple of red, white and blue treats: Jello Pretzel Salad topped with blue Cool Whip, and festive cocktails made of crushed raspberries, raspberry vodka with Sprite, and topped with blueberries.
Patriotic and tasty!
After dinner we got Ellie right to bed, then Heather and I debated whether or not to gamble on the weather and head downtown for fireworks. Ultimately, we decided to go for it. We managed to find parking and made our way to a good fireworks-watching spot, where we only had a little while to wait before the show began.
Waiting for fireworks!
I love fireworks, don't you?
Red, white and blue!
The other highlight was the "second finale," when after the big display at the end there was a brief pause, and then it started up again, even bigger and better. The crowd went wild!
I was really missing Eric during the fireworks, though. I spent most of the show trying to call him via FaceTime so he could watch the display with me, but alas, I couldn't get a functioning signal. Again, I'll just have to look forward to next year, when we'll all watch the Jacksonville fireworks together!
When we got home from the fireworks, Heather and I made s'mores, although the grill had gotten too cool so we had to improvise and we made them over the gas stove. Hey, whatever works, people.
We also watched the D.C. and NYC fireworks on TV, and I couldn't help but let my thoughts drift back to our years in those two places and how we spent our holidays there. Those years will always be some of the very best of my life.
I do hope you all enjoyed your holiday. I'm so grateful to Heather for making mine so much fun and keeping my mind off missing Eric. We had a wonderful time. Thanks, Heather, and happy birthday to America!