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Goodbye Paris, Hello World (Our European Adventure: Day 10&11)

June 22nd, 2019:

It would take a long time for me to ever get used to sleeping in, yawning and looking out the window of my hotel room to see Paris, but with the warm welcome it had given us over the last two days, I looked out at the already sunny city, tipped my imaginary, bed head filled hat, and said good morning.

There were no concrete plans on the agenda today, just nine people ready to see the city and their iPhones ready to help them do it. So we set off from our hotel and walked down the streets of our new temporary neighborhood to O Coffee.

Since the group of us was so large and the restaurant was so small, we were met outside by the kind, Australian owner, who offered to take our order and prepare it for takeaway. We got five avocado toasts, four banana breads, a few coffees, a couple orange juices, and an apple juice, and then the owner threw in some madeleines for us to try. Everything was absolutely delicious and I could not recommend this place more.

As we ate, we came up with a plan:

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Starting at the Arc de Triomphe, we would walk down the Ave de Champs Elysees to do some shopping and sightseeing, and then follow the Seine River all the way up to Notre Dame. It was a three mile walk that we figured would be more like five when we added in browsing steps, but we were ready and the day was beautiful and so we finished our last bites of breakfast—and I spilled most of my apple juice—and then we were off.

The Arc de Triomphe is probably one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Built to honor the lives lost in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, it is imposingly stunning. It is also the center of one of the scariest intersections I’ve ever seen in my life.

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The Champs Elysees reminded me of Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles. Huge designer stores lined the street and they tempted you to come in and spend money you definitely didn’t have. At one point we walked into a Sephora that made me say, “I can’t believe we haven’t reached the back yet.” On top of that, the street was freckled with beautiful greenery, including this little patch that I actually volunteered to have my picture taken in.

The Grand Palais, while we didn’t go inside, was gorgeous and made me want to go to Rome, and the Petit Palais made us all laugh because the phrase “small palace” is one that both contradicts itself and doesn’t exist in our day-to-day vocabulary. If I ever make my way back to Paris, I will go inside these beautiful museums, but for this day, we fell in love just looking at them.

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The Pont des Artes, the “bridge of arts”, is most famously known for the love locks people used to clip to its chain link. In 2015, all of the locks were removed because they were too heavy for the bridge and were causing parts of it to crumble. This however, has not stopped people from clipping locks to other bridges. On our walk, we came across a bridge named the Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor, which has started to collect locks of its own.

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The Louvre was something my museum loving heart was over the moon to see in person. After seeing pictures of it and hearing references to it for my entire time as an undergraduate art student, actually finding myself in front of it’s famous pyramidal structure was pretty surreal. We didn’t go inside, but only because we decided to save that for the next morning when we could buy tickets in advanced and skip the lines. But since the courtyard was so pretty and the nearby restaurant, Le Café Marly, came so highly recommended, we decided to have lunch there.

I ordered what had become a favorite of mine in French cafes, a croque-madame, which is a fried ham and cheese sandwich with a fried egg on top. I didn’t take a picture of any that I ate, but to give you an idea of this true gift to humankind, please look at this photo from this recipe on foodnetwork.com:

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IMG_7494Sainte Chapelle was one of the only places that we took the time to stand in line and go inside to see, and I’m so glad that we did. I had heard that it was a beautiful church, but nothing really prepared me for how beautiful. We walked around on the first floor thinking it was amazing, but when we climbed the stairs to the second floor the line of us gasped in a row like dominoes. I was speechless.

Notre Dame, while tragically having been damaged in a fire not long before we arrived, was still gorgeous. Even as someone who doesn’t know nearly enough about its history and the grandeur that it has held in the city for so many years, my heart ached looking at the large pieces that were missing and the construction that was going on trying to repair it.

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As a final stop to cap off our day, we walked to Berthillon ice cream. It came recommended from a friend of my aunt’s, but it was clear when we got there that this was no well-kept secret. Multiple shops holding the same name were open mere meters from each other, and all of them had lines out the door. I got one scoop of dark chocolate and one scoop of salted caramel (because #saltedcaramelforever), and while they were delicious, I was bummed by the shop’s “no free samples” policy and I still think about the fig ice cream I left behind. #I’llneverfig-etyou

Now, I understand this next part might bring shame/judgment/open mouth gapes but I’m here to say that we did it, we don’t regret it, and we would 100% do it again.

That night, after getting back to our hotel and showering, napping and freshening up, we went…back to McDonalds for dinner. I know, I know, we’re in Paris, what are we doing at McDonalds two nights in a row? And to that I say: LIVING.

I will tell you right now, Parisian McDonalds is better than American McDonalds and there is absolutely no way you can change my mind. After having an iconic egg mcmuffin the night before, my sister and I both ordered the goat cheese chicken wrap and then I ordered a Kit Kat McFlurry. I mean, how dare you, Paris. How absolutely dare you.

We then walked back to Eif and took a seat on the lawn to watch him sparkle. Because what else can you do when you’ve had a wonderful day besides end it with a dose of pure magic?

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June 23rd, 2019:

For our very last day in Paris, we woke up a little early and immediately made our way back into the city.

Since we hadn’t truly experienced a Parisian sidewalk café, we took a seat at Café de la Comedie and took in the beautiful morning. My sister and I ordered the breakfast special which was the equivalent of the petit dujour we had in Epernay and I was in absolute bliss.

From breakfast we walked over to the Louvre, where I’d purchased nine tickets online the night before. NOW, listen carefully here because apparently this is a mistake that people make all the time.

In buying nine tickets, I apparently flagged us as being a “group”—as a note, this label is given to any amount of people greater than six—and as a group we were apparently required to be assigned a guide and were supposed to meet said guide in the “group reception area”. So when we got in line and our tickets didn’t work, we were sent to this area where a man behind a desk told me there were no guides and it would be impossible to get one and I should not have bought “group tickets” if I did not want a guide. Oh, and also my tickets were non-refundable and that he couldn’t do anything to help.

First of all, no.

Second of all, if this happens all the time, don’t you think that’s an issue you should deal with, Louvre?

Third of all, we’re in Paris, I paid good money for these tickets and I WILL be going inside.

Needless to say, after walking up and down the stairs a few times and talking to four or five different people, we were eventually let inside. And was it worth it? YES.

I was floored by both the art and the museum itself. Once I was in and amongst the work, my frustration with the (clearly poorly designed) website and the (not nearly as helpful or sympathetic as they could have been) staff, melted away. I also got to say hi to Mo, though she seemed a little busy with some other fans at the time.

From the Louvre we headed to lunch at an Australian café called Café Oz and it was…well, a conundrum you might say. The menu was a hodgepodge of options including burgers, risotto, and chicken parmesan—all of which we ordered by the way—and they had a picture of the All Blacks (the New Zealand national rugby team) on the wall, which is practically a sin in an Australian themed bar. Like I said, a conundrum.

For our very last night in Paris and the very last day of our trip, we decided to go out in style. We had 8:00 p.m. reservations on a Seine River Cruise and we’d paid €5 extra for front row seats—which was totally worth it! For an hour and a half we glided along the river, seeing the sights from a whole new angle, and seeing the people of Paris enjoying their evening as much as we were.

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We saw friends chatting and laughing and comforting one another. We saw couples sharing snacks and smiling and staring off into the setting sun. We saw people walking and running and biking and salsa dancing. We’d all had a different day, and yet we were all here, in Paris, watching the same sunset, so that we could wake up again tomorrow and start over.

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As sad as we were for our trip to be over, we were happy to be going home. It was going to feel good to be back in our own world, in our own homes, in our own beds and get back on our own schedules. But as we watched the Eiffel Tower light up for the final time that night, I took note of all of the people around me. Maybe some of them would be leaving tomorrow too. Maybe others had only just got here. Maybe others just moved here and others still had lived here their whole lives.

No matter our stories, no matter our backgrounds or our likes or dislikes, we were together in that moment and we were sharing the awe of the Eiffel Tower. And even if none us would ever see each other again, there was still something special about that moment. It was our own little piece of history that we’d always share. Just like our trip will be something that the nine of us will always share. In the grand scheme of things, these 11 days will be a blip, but to us they will mean the world. And at the end of the day, it’s about remembering those moments because those moments are the world.

 

 

Salted Caramel & the Buck (Our European Adventure: Day 6&7)

June 18th, 2019:

So there we were, boarding a plane in Ireland. It would be a short flight. Like, 10 hours shorter than our flight to Ireland and I was determined to soak in every minute.

So naturally, I fell asleep.

When I woke up, we were in London.

My mom, sister and I had been to London before, but it was over 10 years ago and the only thing I remember is hiding in a red phone booth from the wind, and the time we all got separated on the tube and thought maybe we’d just be lost in London forever.

So while we weren’t a wealth of information on the city and its history, we did know how to handle the tube. We knew to move quickly and mind the gap, and we brought that wisdom to our group of nine as we boarded at Heathrow Airport.

For my dad and Uncle Bruce, the tube, while slightly overwhelming at first, was a welcome change to the high anxiety driving they’d been doing for the last five days. So when I showed them a screenshot of the directions to our hotel via maps and they realized they just had to sit back and relax, I think I visibly saw three or so years added back on to their life.

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Once we made it to our hotel, we checked our bags into the luggage room (because that is apparently a thing in hotels that I am just finding out about now?) and then headed to Nando’s.

If you are unfamiliar with Nando’s, it’s a South African restaurant chain (popular basically everywhere except the US) that specializes in Peri-Peri chicken. When we walked in, our waiter told us to pick our chicken, pick our spice level and pick our sides. Most of our group chose the Lemon & Herb spice level (I went with plain because #babytastebuds) and then our side selections included garlic bread, fries, roasted veggies and corn on the cob. It was all delicious and I miss it already. Unfortunately for my fellow US dwellers, as of now you can only find Nando’s in Chicago and DC. #nandNO.

Being a group on foot now, after finishing our lunch, we again pulled out our phones for directions, this time to some nearby landmarks. We were prepared to walk off our lunch—if only to earn an even bigger and better dinner.

Our first stop was Hyde Park.

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Having spent the last five days in Ireland, our awe-tolerance had gone up. We weren’t going to be impressed with just anything. But as we walked into Hyde Park, we couldn’t help but “wow” and “okay, beautiful” and “oh my gosh” our way through the expansive green gardens and scenic pathways.

At one point a man ran by us, seemingly on a casual afternoon run, and I audibly gasped, thinking, he gets to run through THIS every day? An average run for me consists of a high school, a Subway, and that one house with a really great tree.

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Nevertheless, we made our way through Hyde Park, stopping in at Kensington Palace, the Wellington Arch and Royal Albert Hall to take all the touristy pictures and make all the touristy comments. I apologize to anyone and everyone who might have overheard our terrible British accents. We were just trying to sound classy and charming and less, you know, DUDE than we do back home.

(Which you can tell we are nailing in this photo)

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Our ultimate destination of the day was Buckingham Palace, which we almost immediately started referring to as “the Buck.” I can’t tell you why, because I honestly don’t remember which one of us started saying it first. But I like to think it was our way of making the prospect of seeing such an iconic building more casual.

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Once we’d thoroughly exhausted our cameras in front of the Buck, we all suddenly became very aware at how tired we were. Unbeknownst to us and our touring ways, we’d walked a total of almost six miles and were desperately in need of a nap.

Vacation pro-tip: a perfect itinerary always leaves room for a nap.

So, we hopped back on the tube, officially checked into our hotel, and promptly crashed for about an hour.

Right around 7:00 p.m., we headed out in search of food and landed at Phoenix, where the food was delicious (I highly recommend the Chickpea burger!) and our drinks were even better (if you’re into sweet drinks, try a Strawberry Woo Woo—trust me.)

Afterward, we moseyed our way into Snowflake Luxury Gelato where we learned—and I can’t stress this enough—that Salted Caramel is the best and only flavor you should ever order, thank you and goodnight. (The thank you being for Snowflake Luxury Gelato for their gelato service, and the goodnight for every other gelato flavor because take a seat.)

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June 19th, 2019:

When planning our trip to Ireland, I spent a lot of time booking things in advanced. But when it came to London, our group decided to play a lot of things by ear. So as we ate breakfast at our hotel Wednesday morning, I was Googling possible plans for our day in between bites of a croissant and sips of a mimosa.

“Okay,” I said, holding my phone up to our group like it was a tri-fold presentation in a high school science class. “Picture this.

I then took them on a hypothetical journey of our possible day, complete with dramatic hand motions and an aptly timed announcer voice. When I received an overall enthusiastic nod of approval, we all stood up, got in a circle and did a youth soccer hands in! cheer to send us off.

Okay, so we didn’t do that last part, but honestly, we should have.

Being tube regulars now (or, you know three timers) we walked to our nearby station as casually as if it were the frozen yogurt place down the street from our house.

“Where are we headed first?” my dad asked.

“Harrods.”

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The department store giant that is Harrods was something that I’d only ever heard about and never thought I’d actually see. But now, having been there and spent a hefty amount of time walking around/getting lost inside the seemingly endless collection of shops, I understand why it’s a “you have to see it to believe it” type of places.

There was whiskey literally more expensive than my entire livelihood. There was champagne that shot confetti when you opened it. There were jackets and scarves and gloves so soft that I almost got emotional. But perhaps the most fascinating thing we found among the twists and turning of the Harrods hallways were these displays that allowed you to squeeze a rubber handle you might find on a perfume bottle and lower your nose to the mouth of what looked like a trumpet so you could smell whatever was displayed under the glass dome. My favorite was “leather glove.”

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From Harrods we took the tube the Piccadilly Circus, which is like the London equivalent of Time Square. People moved in seemingly every direction and cars and double decker buses drove in what I can only describe as complete chaos. We stared up at tall marquees and listened to a street performer sing Ed Sheeran and trick naïve tourists into thinking that Beyoncé was arriving shortly to perform “Perfect” alongside him.

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For lunch we ate at St. James Tavern, and then we got back on the move, navigating our way through the misty London day to Westminster Abbey. On our way there, as we were passing through Parliament Square, we noticed a long line of taxis, none of which were moving. Then, when the man in the first taxi started to move, every single taxi to follow began honking. Turns out, there was a full-blown taxi protest happening in front of Parliament. We would later learn (from our own taxi driver) it was in response to the rise of Uber and the damage it was doing to their business, and while I can’t make any comments on this since I don’t really have the grounds to, I can say that the protest itself was pretty badass.

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For our last site of the day, we got off the tube at Tower Hill to see the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. We also had plans of seeing the Crown Jewels, but discovered the exhibit had closed a mere 15 minutes before we arrived. By that time however, nothing could get us down, because the sun had come out and was glistening off the River Thames, making our afternoon in the city absolutely beautiful.

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That night, we walked to Santorini—the Greek restaurant near our hotel, not the city 2,000 miles away—and if there was ever a time to say I miss a specific food, I can truly and honestly say I will dream about their fried feta rolls for the rest of my life. Cue that middle graduation song that makes everyone cry.

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Knowing it was our last night in London, we decided to go HARD…

…so we went back to the same gelato place because #saltedcaramelforever.

We then finished the night with a few drinks at the Beachcomber. And as we made our final walk back to our hotel, I was happy to commit all of the sites and sounds from the last two days to memory. In fact, as I glanced up and down the streets of what had become our temporary neighborhood, I imagined what it would be like to call this place home.

It’s a weird feeling to imagine yourself living and growing in a different city, different country, different continent than your own, but there’s something about falling in love with a new place that makes you think it might be possible. That’s not to say I got home and repacked my bags or start international job-hunting, but it was a good reminder of just how big our world is. There is so much to see, to learn and to experience. And in those new discoveries we find new pieces of ourselves. So should you ever get the chance to travel, be it one hour from your house or thousands of miles, go. See more. Do more. And learn. Always learn.

Castles, Cliffs, and a Horse Named Peppy (Our European Adventure: Day 2&3)

Friday June 14th, 2019:

Upon meeting our Airbnb host Carmel the evening before, she gave us a rundown of the house she’d so graciously rented to us for the next two nights. She also gave us a guidebook of the area and pointed out some of her favorite things that we might want to add to our itinerary.

Waking the next morning, feeling only slightly disoriented by the fact that we were on vacation in Europe and not at home getting ready for work, our group made breakfast in the kitchen. Carmel provided us with a wide variety of snacks, including waffles (that weren’t frozen?), fresh fruit, and something called “breakfast pudding” that none of us were brave enough to take out of the refrigerator.

Our first stop of the morning was Belvedere House Gardens & Park—a Mullingar locale that none of us had heard of but came highly recommended by Carmel.

The morning offered slightly cloudy skies and a chill in the air none of us were quite ready for, but we bundled up and headed out, my dad and Uncle Bruce taking the wheel and bravely setting off the on “wrong” side of road once again.

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Being a Friday morning, Belvedere House was not overly crowded, and we were able to saunter and explore at our own pace, flipping the hoods of our raincoats off and on as the rain came in spurts.

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We took a tour of the house, marveling at its architecture and grandeur, walked the grounds, and strolled through the fairy garden.

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Overall it was a very charming and welcome start to our day, and the perfect pit stop en route to the day’s main attraction: the Cliffs of Moher.

You know, these old things.

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We spent a good two hours here, blessed with a sunny sky and only periodic gusts of high wind that made my dad close his eyes and ask us to please stand at least 4 miles from the edge.

Among the many (hundreds?) (thousands?) of pictures we took, my sister and I made sure to get another hair by the Cliffs shot, paying homage to those we took a few years ago.

And I got to recreate one my of my favorite shots from our trip—this time with my brother in tow.

Quick sidenote: Can we talk about how tiny my hands look compared to his?

From the Cliffs of Moher, we headed to Galway, my cousin Taryn’s favorite city from her stay in Ireland, and she took us to her favorite pizza place (Mizzoni’s) and her favorite bar (The Skeff).

As we hung out and listened to live music from Vicaria Band, my sister and I introduced the gang to our favorite Irish born drink: Jameson and ginger ale, which aided in our table’s karaoke performances of Britney Spears, Tina Turner and Darius Rucker (among others).

The drive back to Mullingar, while a little long and dark, again provided us a place to call home and the group of us sat around the living room, sipping on nightcaps and laughing our way through the memories of the day. This was our last night in Mullingar, but Carmel and Fintan promised to send us off with a bang, and at 9:00 a.m. the next morning, that bang arrived in style.

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Saturday June 15th, 2019:

BANG.

Okay, so it wasn’t really a bang. It was more of a knock. Two or three of them. And then a call into the house: “Peppy and I are ready for ya!”

As you might (never) have guessed, Peppy was a horse, and Fintan ushered us outside to meet him, and take us on ride in the Peppy-drawn carriage.

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Pro tip: if you are ever given the opportunity to go on a carriage ride through the Irish countryside, say yes. There is truly no better way to start your morning.

After each family got a ride, we loaded back into our cars, waved goodbye to Carmel and Fintan (and Peppy) and got on the road to Cork.

Just under three hours later, we pulled into the parking lot at Blarney Castle.

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Now, Blarney Castle was a favorite from our last trip, mostly because of how beautiful both the castle and the grounds are, but also because of the undeniably funand for some, understandably terrifyingprospect of kissing the Blarney Stone to receive the “gift of the gab”. For a full recap of what that means, you can check out this post, but to keep it brief: you lie on the ground, have an Irish man help you more or less hang off a ledge at the top of the castle, and then kiss a thousand year old rock.

Legend says that after you kiss the rock you will be blessed with eloquent speaking abilities, though for anyone afraid of either heights or, more commonly I assume, being held over a ledge one hundred feet in the air, the sheer anticipation of kissing the rock can bring out profanity as eloquent as anything I’ve ever heard.

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To come down from the excitement/danger/fun/terror (depending on the person) we walked around the grounds, once again surprised by how beautiful everything is, though slowly getting used to the fact that Ireland is simply, consistently, even reliably beautiful. (Hear that, Irish tourism department? Reliably Beautiful. Call me.)

Our hotel for the night was the River Lee in Cork. While it was tough finding accommodations that fit a group of nine, or even a family of more than three, the River Lee was beautiful and we settled in nicely to three rooms, each with three single beds. (I found a great deal on Orbitz.com!)

We also enjoyed—once could argue too much—the hotel restaurant, where we spent a large chunk of time eating and eating and drinking and eating before heading out in search of one (or three) Irish pubs, where we spent the rest of the night drinking and drinking and laughing and dancing and singing our hearts out.

One request, Ireland pubs: play more Whitney Houston.

Other than that, you’re perfect.

Uh, Hey, We’re in Ireland! (Our European Adventure: Day 1)

June 13th, 2019:

So there we were. Overstuffed backpacks making our shoulders ache, wheeled suitcases constantly hitting bumps and threatening to topple over, and ankles far too bare for the unexpected wind that welcomed us into the Dublin morning. After 13 hours of travel, my family had landed in Ireland and were making our way to our European rental car, which promised a complete shattering of muscle memory.

Our plan was to make our way around Ireland in four days, and had decided to forego a bus and a designated schedule in favor of a terrifying adventure on the wrong side of the rode, a passionate new dedication and reliance on the design of Apple Maps, and the freedom to stop for pee breaks whenever we wanted. The pro and con list really could have been a novel in itself.

So there we were, in our just big enough car for a family of five with five suitcases, five backpacks and a lot of emotional baggage provoked by sleep deprivation. But alas, my dad started the car—from passenger seat, so it seemed—and we skittered into the streets of Dublin, each of us wondering if this was such a good idea.

Now, for any of you who have read my blog before, you might know that my sister and I went to Ireland a few years ago. And if pictures from that trip are any indication, we were disgusted to be back. I mean, imagine having to look at this for a SECOND time.

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Aside from simply wanting to visit this friendly, welcoming and beautiful country again, our main reason for making Ireland our first destination was to show my mom, dad, and brother the country that had stolen our hearts. We wanted them to see what our (pristinely executed) slideshow from three years ago couldn’t. And although we showed them ridiculously unmoving, definitely not borderline spiritual photos like this:

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…they still agreed to come along.

Our first stop after landing was the Guinness Storehouse, (pro tip: buy your tickets online in advanced to save money, skip the line and get a free pint!) where my sister, Natalee, and I had previously become “certified Guinness pourers.” We were excited for our family to achieve this status so we could finally stop looking down on them.

Our reservation was for 4:30 p.m., and although we landed late and took a few (or six) wrong turns trying to navigate our way through the city streets, we were still running a little early by the time we parked in a nearby parking structure and made our way to the front door. So to kill time we headed to Harkin’s, a pub in walking distance from the Storehouse, and dove headfirst into some burgers, beers, and Irish coffees.

As we ate, we met up with the other half of our adventure crew: the Stevens. My cousin Taryn had just finished up a three-week study abroad stint in Ireland and was the catalyst for our entire vacation/hijacking of her family’s vacation. What started as a “wouldn’t it be crazy to meet you in Ireland?” was suddenly a very real, “uh, hey, we’re in IRELAND!”

Once we finished our meal, we made our first walk as the newly imposing yet undeniably fabulous group of nine. We took our tour of the Storehouse, were all successfully certified (and recertified) and shared our first (and free!) pints of Guinness.

To my absolute unsurprise I still hated it.

Back at our car, we were met with our first dose of pure luck and (undoubtedly) heaven sent Irish hospitality. Being from Southern California, you’d think we’d be better equipped at reading street signs and might notice that our parking structure closed at 7:00 p.m. To our great fortune however, even though it was nearing 8:00 p.m., a security guard just so happened so be walking by and was able to unlock the gate, saving us a €100 retrieval fee, and a whole lot of over exhausted family angst. Slainte, you broad, Irish angel.

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In the planning of this trip, we had a lot of conversations as to how we wanted to get around Ireland, where we wanted to stay, etc. My sister and I had previously taken a clockwise route around the country, making pit stops in five main cities (Dublin, Cork, Gallway, Londonderry and Belfast) and so initially I assumed we’d do the same thing. However, in looking up lodging, I found that that route was going to be pricey. So, instead we opted to pick a city in the middle of the country to act as our home base—at least for the first couple days.

Which is how we wound up at the gate of this Airbnb in Mullingar.

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photo credit: Airbnb (check out the profile and rates for this place here. It’s way more affordable than it looks!)

Though it was a bit of a trek, the hosts, Carmel and Fintan, were incredibly charming and made us feel so at home that we were able to unload, unpack and crash—hard.

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As I lay there in the moments before falling asleep, with the Irish countryside sitting right outside my window, the trip became both real and completely unfathomable all at the same time. I knew we’d made it, to both this country, this house and this adventure, but I also wondered if I’d wake up the next morning and it would all be a dream.

Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.

Learning Internet Slang (Part 3)

One of my favorite series that I do on my blog, and probably one of the most requested is when I teach my family (and myself, honestly) current slang terms that are circulating the internet. It’s always both fun to see what they come up with, and educational in that we often start using the words in the context we create because it’s way more fun than the actual definition.

This time around we also had our friend Cody in town, and it proved that for these posts, the more the merrier.

Here’s how they did:

1) Has Left the Chat

Urban Dictionary Definition: when someone has left some kind of impact, typically bad, that forces a person or group of people to check out or leave out of embarrassment or disinterest.

Natalee’s Guess: When you’re in a group chat and somebody gets roasted and then they say,  “woah,” and they leave the chat because it’s been too much.

Dad’s Guess: When you leave a conversation but you don’t think that anybody else knows you left.

Mom’s Guess: When you’re really done with a conversation and so you leave.

Cody’s Guess: When people are gaming and someone stops responding and so everyone goes, “Hey, where’s mike?” He left the chat.

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2) Skrrt

Urban Dictionary Definition: to move away, get away from somebody

Natalee’s Guess: Well it’s in an Ariana grande lyric from her song “Imagine.” “Step up to the two of us, nobody knows us, get in the car like skrrt. So going off of that I think it means we gotta go, we wanna get home and you know.

Dad’s Guess: When there’s a good looking girl around and so you say, “Bro, skrrt!

Mom’s Guess: When you see somebody and they’re eyeing you but you’re not interested so you say,  “No thank you, skrrt!”

Cody’s Guess: Making a move to the side.

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3) Mood

Urban Dictionary Definition: used to express something relatable, or to sum up your life

Natalee’s Guess: When you’re describing something that is extra. Like if someone said they are eating a bunch of McDonalds after work, that’s a whole mood. 

Dad’s Guess: I think it’s the combination of “dude” and “mood” to describe when two dudes are having a moment of friendship, a mood.

Mom’s Guess: When you’re trying it get in to a club and you say,  “Mood dude, let me in.”

Cody’s Guess: When a good song comes on, that’s a big mood.

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4) Thicc

Urban Dictionary Definition: when a person has fat in all the right places, creating sexy curves

Natalee’s Guess: Do you remember that movie Summer Catch? There was a guy in that movie, Marcus, and he loved thicc women.

Dad’s Guess: It’s a polite way of saying that you are not into someone, you say, “they are tough, they are thicc.”

Mom’s Guess: A lot of woman.

Cody’s Guess: Girls with big butts.

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5) Glow Up

Urban Dictionary Definition: an incredible transformation.

Natalee’s Guess: All I can think of are those Instagram posts that got popular a couple months back where everyone was saying “then vs. now”.

Dad’s Guess: When you want to go out but you don’t want to get recognized so you put on a disguise, you glow up.

Mom’s Guess: When you’re going out on the town to party, you’re going out to get glowed up.

Cody’s Guess: Getting all prettied up to go out.

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6) Let’s Get This Bread

Urban Dictionary Definition: a phrase originally used to mean “let’s get money”.  Nowadays, the term”let’s get this bread” is more loosely defined as a sort of battlecry in a sense, calling upon the will of the person(s) to succeed, not necessarily in just gaining monetary fund.

Natalee’s Guess: The night is young, let’s get this bread, we have so much to accomplish.

Dad’s Guess: When you’re trying to help your friend get a girl you would say, “hey man, you’re butter, go get that bread.”

Mom’s Guess: When you’re wanting to, you know, get some, you want to get some bread. 

Cody’s Guess: It means to get money, to go out and have a good day.

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7) Smol Bean

Urban Dictionary Definition: someone who is innocent and/or adorable

Natalee’s Guess: It ain’t no big deal, it ain’t nothin’ but a smol bean.

Dad’s Guess: Maybe the opposite of thicc? Like a super skinny girl.

Mom’s Guess: She’s too young for you, she’s just a smol bean.

Cody’s Guess: You’d say it to someone to put them down, like, “you’re nothing, you’re just a smol bean!”

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8) Phubbing

Urban Dictionary Definition: snubbing someone in favor of your phone. 

Natalee’s Guess: Fibbing is kind of like lying, and fat with ph means something is cool, so maybe “phubbing” is lying to go somewhere cool.

Dad’s Guess: Being someone’s substitute spouse for the night, like you’re subbing for the real one.

Mom’s Guess: When you go on a binge, like, “woah, that was way too many Oreos. I’ve been phubbing all night.”

Cody’s Guess: I think it’s a replacement for “fucking” like, you’ve gotta be phubbing kidding me.

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9) Bruh

Urban Dictionary Definition: word you say when someone says something stupid.

Natalee’s Guess: A term of endearment. “That guy over there, he’s my bruh.”

Dad’s Guess: It’s just like, “what up, bruh?”

Mom’s Guess: I was also thinking it was a term of endearment for your friend.

Cody’s Guess: It’s like, “Come on, bruh, what are you doing?”

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10) Ratchet

Urban Dictionary Definition: of poor quality; very bad

Natalee’s Guess: This is an adjective and it is used to describe someone who is doing the most in the trashiest of ways.

Dad’s Guess: When you wanna kick things up a notch. “Hey guys, let’s get some Jameson and ratchet.”

Mom’s Guess: When somebody looks like a mess.

Cody’s Guess: Someone who is gross. “Bruh, she’s ratchet.”

 


 

See the previous edition of this post here.

A Weekend at Spring Training

If you’ve been reading my blog for a little while, you probably know that I’m a big baseball fan. My whole life I’ve grown up watching the Dodgers and two years ago I crossed a major goal off my bucket list by attending my first ever World Series game at Dodger Stadium.

This year, my family and I decided it was time to cross another item off the list: Spring Training! And so this past weekend, we did just that.

On Friday morning, as my normal work alarm went off, I (for once) didn’t hit snooze. I popped out of bed and finished packing my suitcase, ready to be out the door as soon as possible. My sister Natalee and I had a quick flight to Phoenix , so naturally I slept through almost the entire thing, giving me a nap that would come in handy later.

Upon landing, we met up with our friend Cody, whose parents, Darryl and DeeDee, had spent the first half of the week in Arizona with our parents, and Mel, who’d flown in from Utah. While our parents looked relaxed, slightly sunburned and well slept, the four of us all looked a little worn out and so relieved to be on vacation we had no idea where to start. Lucky for us, our vacation didn’t waste any time. Once we were all unpacked at our Airbnb, we grabbed some jackets and headed to our first game of the weekend.

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Natalee, Mel, Cody and I had tickets on the outfield grass, so once we got to Camelback Ranch, we just had to pick a plot and roll out our towels. Next, we raided the food court, where we were reminded that hot dogs at a baseball game, no matter where you are, will always be delicious, while Shocktop in a can is not. shrug_emoji-modifier-fitzpatrick-type-4_1f937-1f3fd_1f3fd

Natalee and Mel both brought their gloves with them, and Mel had her eye on getting a ball from one of the players. At the start of every inning, she stood up against the outfield fence, waiting patiently for the outfielders to finish warming up before she waved her glove in the air. This proved to be no easy task however, as each inning she was forced to field off crazed children who were willing to go full Lord of the Flies for these balls, often climbing the chain link, body sliding across the grass, and literally putting their glove inside your glove in order to catch a ball.

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But while most kids went home with nothing more than grass stains and a little bit of shame, Mel persevered, catching a ball from an outfielder on the opposing team (shout out to Heath) causing our entire group to erupt in cheers even though the Dodgers were only a few outs from losing the game.

The next morning, after unexpectedly staying up until two in the morning talking, playing card games, and laughing so hard I woke up with an ab, our group pulled back on our hats and made an early start back to Camelback Ranch.

While the game wasn’t until 1:05 p.m., we wanted to try and see the Dodgers (and the Mariners, Darryl, DeeDee, and Cody are from Seattle) practice before the game. We also wanted to get a chance to fully explore our culinary options. The night before, Mel and I had browsed the Food Map (the best kind of map) provided in the program, and all but drooled when we read about the BBQ Macaroni and Cheese helmets.

Wow.

Even now, just typing it out. Reliving it. What an absolute blessing.

I promise you it was as good as it sounds.

Our group also tried the bacon wrapped sausages from the right field grill, and just about every beer available at the park. My favorite was the Four Peaks Peach Ale.

After the game (which the Dodger’s won smiling-face-with-open-mouth-and-smiling-eyes_1f604) we headed to dinner at Salt. As it happened, the Los Angeles Kings, our favorite hockey team, were in town to play the Arizona Coyotes, and being the sports fans we are, we decided to go FULL SPORTS—this may not be the ideal vacation for some, but for us, it was heaven.

PSA: if you commit to a FULL SPORTS vacation, you may or may not find yourself staying up until three o’clock in the morning dancing, practicing proper diving form, doing yoga and attempting other various athletic feats—be sure to properly stretch.

The next day we had tickets to a Mariners game at the Peoria Sports Complex. And while my loyalty to the Dodgers will never falter, I’ve got to say: Peoria might have a slight edge on Camelback.

DON’T COME FOR ME.

Not only are the food options off the charts (loaded tots, funnel cakes, deep fried Oreos!!) the outfield has tons of kid friendly activities (meaning less Lord of the Flies antics in the outfield), and down the first baseline there is a “Craft Beer Courtyard” (which is actually just a booth) where for $20 you receive four tickets that you can cash in for beer, wine or liquor. Between Mel, Natalee, Cody and I, we bought two entry tickets, giving us eight drinks to split, which was essentially my dream because I got to try a little bit of everything.

As beautiful as the day was however, and as delicious as all the beer we drank and all the food we ate was, we couldn’t quite transfer all that goodness to the Mariners (we were fans for the day against the Indians) who ended up losing the game 16-3. Sorry, M’s.

From the game we headed somewhere completely random, somewhere you’d never expect us to go when you consider the weekend we’d had thus far. That’s right folks, we went to Top Golf, where we added our final explanation point in SPORTS!!!

Pro Tip: order (at least) one of the big sweet drinks in the souvenir cups, it only makes golfing more fun. 

Once we got back home, we did what anyone does when they realize a good trip is coming to an end: we found excuses to stay up late, even though we had early wake up calls, because it seemed like the only way to make the trip last a little bit longer. But even when mine and Natalee’s alarms went off a mere three hours after our heads hit our pillows and we knew we officially had to say goodbye to this one, as we walked down the jet bridge to our plane home, we already started counting down the days until our next one.

Learning Internet Slang (Part 2)

Back in June, I posted this blog where I had my sister, Natalee, and my parents guess the definitions of some popular slang words. It was an educational experience for all. So much so that I thought we should do it again.

Gotta keep up with the times, you know?

Here’s how they did:

1) Sus

Urban Dictionary Definition: short for suspect; suspicious

Natalee’s Guess: I think it means, that’s what’s up. Like, you wanna tell me I have tacos tonight? Sus.

Dad’s Guess: Short for suspect, like when a kid is talking in code and says, “I think my parents sus me.”

Mom’s Guess: I went for: “seems you suck.” S.U.S.

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2) Shoot your shot

Urban Dictionary Definition: to take a chance no matter if your fail or not, especially regarding someone you’re interested in.

Natalee’s Guess: Go for it, bro. Shoot your shot. Live your life. Get your dreams.

Dad’s Guess: Hit me with your best shot. Whatever you throw at me, I can take it.

Mom’s Guess: Tell me your opinion, let me know what you think.

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3) Tea

Urban Dictionary Definition: gossip or personal information; the scoop; news.

Natalee’s Guess: gossip. Like, that’s the tea. That’s the word on the street.

Dad’s Guess: Awake.  Like I’m still on the tea. Or if you were drunk you’d say,  “I can’t drive, I’m still on the tea.”

Mom’s Guess: I think it’s like saying, “got it.” We’re gonna go down to the shore and fish? TEA.

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4) Receipts

Urban Dictionary Definition: evidence or proof, often in the form of screenshots.

Natalee’s Guess: I’ve heard this and I know Taylor Swift talked about this but I don’t actually know what it means. In the song she sings they got their receipts and reasons” so I’m going to say facts, but not actual facts. Evidence.

Dad’s Guess: I think it means I understand. If someone told you they weren’t interested, you would say I totally understand, receipts.

Mom’s Guess: Taking it all in. Receipts. Got it.

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5) Bae

Urban Dictionary Definition: abbreviation for “before anyone else”; baby; sweetie.

Natalee’s Guess: I know what this one stands for but I said before anything else, because I like to associate it with more than humans. For example, Laycee (our family dog) is my bae.

Dad’s Guess: Boyfriend or husband. I would be mom’s bae.

Mom’s Guess: It means before all others, right? Bae? Wait. No. Before…all…wait I have to know it now. Before anyone else! That’s it!

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6) Thirst Trap

Urban Dictionary Definition: a sexy photograph or flirty message posted on social media with the intent of causing others to publicly profess their attention.

Natalee’s Guess: When you’re trying to get at someone. Like posting a dirty picture to get someone to pay attention to you. 

Dad’s Guess: A bar. Like if you were driving around you might say I’m going to stop at the first thirst trap I see.

Mom’s Guess: I said the same thing: a bar!

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7) Throwing shade

Urban Dictionary Definition: to diss someone without actually saying their name but making it obvious who you are talking about.

Natalee’s Guess: Insulting someone. I’m coming for you because I don’t like you. You have a dumb face. OOH, shade was thrown.

Dad’s Guess: Talking shit behind someone’s back. As in, why is Natalee throwing so much shade at me?

Mom’s Guess: Talking crap.

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8) Yeet

Urban Dictionary Definition: an exclamation used to express excitement; a word one may scream while propelling an object through the air at alarming speeds and heights.

Natalee’s Guess: I’m sorry, what? I have no idea. Maybe drugs? Like, “hey you got any yeet on ya? Can I score some yeet?”

Dad’s Guess: Yeah, I’m stumped on this one. Is it when you eat when you’re not hungry? I’ve been yeeting all day for no reason.

Mom’s Guess: A teenager that’s trouble. That one’s a yeet.

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9) Gucci

Urban Dictionary Definition: a versatile slang term based on the luxury fashion brand meaning okay/good/great/awesome/fresh/etc.

Natalee’s Guess: It’s all good. What’s Gucci? What’s good? What’s cracking?

Dad’s Guess: If you’re wearing it and it’s Gucci, it’s expensive. This belt is totally Gucci.

Mom’s Guess: I thought similar to dad. If you’re talking about somebody and say “oh, she’s Gucci,” it means she’s rich.

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10) Finna

Urban Dictionary Definition: abbreviation for “fixing to”. Normally means “going to”.

Natalee’s Guess: Trying to. Like I’m finna get full on tacos tonight.

Dad’s Guess: You completed your task, whatever it might have been. If you wanted to get drunk and you did, you’d say, I’m finna drunk. 

Mom’s Guess: She’s finna. As in, she’s fake, she’s plastic, she’s not real.  

Dear Baby,

I know we just met, but I thought I’d go ahead and tell you that I love you.

It’s funny, love isn’t always an easy thing. Sometimes it’s messy and hard and confusing, but when it comes to you it’s as simple as can be. I thought it would only be this easy when I became a mother. I thought it would take me all those years and then nine more months to finally have that moment when I can love something, someone so instantly, and yet there I was yesterday, holding someone else’s baby, holding you, and I felt it.

I can probably blame your mom for that. I’ve known her a long time. We all have. And by the time you can read this, I hope you’ll know good and well who we are.

We’re a group that’s been through a lot together. Some good times, some bad, but mostly good. We love each other, and now we love you.

I tell you this to let you know now, and to remind you every day here after, that you’re not alone. You have so many people behind you, rooting for you, and admiring you.

We’re a unique tribe. We laugh hard, mostly at our own jokes, and then at the jokes we make off of each other’s jokes and so on and so on. We come in all shapes and sizes, with our own trail of fails and successes behind us. We all try our hardest and we have all been the one needing a shoulder to lean on. But that’s what makes us great. We care. We listen. We love. And just by being here, baby, you’re one of us.

We’re here for you. We are here for you and your mom and your aunt, and everyone else that makes up this big circle of ours that we call a family.

So dive in, baby. Dive into this thing we call life.

We’re so happy to have you in our world, and we can’t wait to see you build yours.

 

 

 

 

 

Also, about the jokes…

At least give us a courtesy laugh.

It would mean a lot.

 

10 Christmas Gifts My Siblings and I Loved/Hated (As Told by Photos) (List-cember #7)

On Christmas Eve, the day before those who celebrate Christmas sit around and eat and laugh and open presents and then crumple wrapping paper into balls and shoot them into trash bags being held by family members across the room, I sit looking at the gifts under my tree. I’m excited to give them to everyone and excited to see their face when they open it, I might even take a picture or two.

My family is full of picture takers, especially on Christmas, so I’ve made it a tradition during List-cember to share some of my favorite photos taken while we were opening presents. I like guess what was going through our heads in that moment.

And I think I’m probably right.

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What I’m (probably) thinking here: Remember Troy, no matter what’s wrapped in that paper, I’m one of the best gifts you’ll ever get.

 

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What my sister, Natalee, is (probably) thinking here: Every badass, superhero, fashion icon, and historical figure needs a soundtrack. And since I’m clearly all four, it’s high time I’ve finally found mine.

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What I’m (probably) thinking here: Okay, okay, okay, guys, PICTURE THIS: Pantsless Pez-days. Who’s in?

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What I’m (probably) thinking here: Yeah, the gift is great. It’s a Barbie and I’m super excited but uhh…does anyone else see the look she’s giving me? Does anyone else think she might be planning a homicide?

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What my sister is (probably) thinking here: I always hoped my future daughter would look like me and I mean, would you look at this?! It’s practically uncanny!

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What I’m (probably) thinking here: I GOT MONOPOLY! AND NOW I’M TOTALLY SLAUGHTERING DAD! HE HAS NO IDEA WHAT’S COMING NEXT TURN! THIS IS THE BEST GAME EVER.

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What my brother, Troy, is (probably) thinking here: Block!

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What my sister is (probably) thinking here: First step Fashion Factory, second step runway model. Is this smile pretty?

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What I’m (probably) thinking here: Do these bracelets make the fur of my Santa hat look a little more subtle?

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What my sister is (probably) thinking here: Yes, that’s right Santa. Check that list twice. 

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Merry Christmas, everyone!

You can check out the previous editions of this series here and here. 

Happy Birthday, Grandpa

It was a Saturday afternoon, right when the Camarillo breeze started to creep its way through the trees, when my dad pulled up in front of my grandpa’s house. We made sure not to park in front of the mailbox—that was one of grandma’s biggest rules—and then we open and shut our doors, carrying in some groceries, the mail and most importantly, lunch, up the pathway to the front door.

I stood on the porch, peeking through the black mesh of the screen at my grandpa sitting in his chair, as I waited for my dad, who was a few steps and a free hand behind me, to open the door. That’s when I saw a sign taped to the wall.

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“Ding dong!” I yelled.

“Well, hello there,” my grandpa said with a laugh. “I see you like my new doorbell.”

“I love it,” I said as we walked in.

He smiled.

Growing up, I was told by many people—frequently—how much they loved my grandpa.

Howard is the best.

Howard is my favorite.

Your grandpa is truly one of the best men I’ve ever known.

As I got older, these compliments were passed down to my dad.

Your dad is the best.

Your dad is my favorite.

Your dad is truly one of the best men I’ve ever known.  

And then to my brother.

Troy is just the best.

Troy is my favorite.

Troy is one of the best guys I know.

While nice to hear—albeit annoying at times because, like, don’t you know how great I am?!—it wasn’t new information for me. It was no secret I was growing up surrounded by incredibly strong, kind and caring men. To be honest, it kind of ruined me. Because if I know there are men like them around, why waste my time with anything less, you know?

My grandpa taught my dad who taught me (and my sister and my brother) how to love. How to care for people and make them feel like they matter. He taught us by reminding us that we matter.

In college, when I studied abroad in Australia, my grandpa sent me postcards and letters, giving me a sense of home when I was scared and needed it most. And to this day, whenever we get together as a family, my grandpa always goes out of his way to ask each and every one of his grandchildren (and children and great-grandchildren), “What’s new?”

When I think of my grandpa, I think of love. Of joy and fun and safety. I think of the mini donut holes he always had out on the kitchen table when my family moved in with him and my grandma.

I think of going to Dodger games, of eating hot dogs and singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, and of the time my cousin Spenser was wildly booed for popping a beach ball that was being passed around, because my grandparents knew the usher and didn’t want her to have to chase it—which he never did again, by the way.

I think of sitting around in he and my grandma’s living room with one arm leaning on a cousin, the other on an aunt or an uncle, and my legs propped up on my brother’s shoulders as we all sat close and opened presents on Christmas Day.

I think of going to the mall during the summer to walk around, just so we weren’t cooped up in the house, and how occasionally we would convince grandpa to buy us a blizzard from Dairy Queen.

I think of bowling on Thursdays, watching golf on Sundays, and eating pizza on Friday nights after sitting in the bleachers at my parents’ softball game, learning how to keep score next to my grandma. (When someone would ask who was winning, my grandpa would either say “good guys” or “bad guys”—monikers I still use to this day.)

When I think about these things, it’s no wonder why people go out of their way to tell me how great my grandpa is. But oftentimes I wonder if they really know how great.

It takes a special kind of man (and a badass lady partner in crime) to raise the kind of family I grew up in. And it would be one of the greatest successes of my life to find a partner worthy of our traditions and to raise children with as much kindness and compassion as was given to me.

I can only hope that one day I have grandchildren looking at me the way we all look at you, grandpa—and I hope I’ll stick my tongue out and make them laugh the way you’ve done my whole life.

We’re so very lucky to have you by our sides—and there are a lot of us, so that’s a lot of sides, but you still manage to make each one of us feel just as important and cared for, and I pray we make you feel that way too.

Happy (one day early) birthday, Grandpa.

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P.S.- Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone I’m your favorite.