Jets, Cake Smashing, and Sand Castles | Vacation photographer
I never thought I’d be able to work fighter jets AND a cake smashing into one blog post, but what do you know…here it is! My best friend (Jon) from the beginning of time, ok, maybe since 1979 when we were born, serves in the US Air Force and is currently stationed at Tyndall AF Base in Panama City, FL. He was just on deployment for six months and his wife Jen decided that it would be cool to fly me down to surprise him at the airport so I could document the homecoming. They have three adorable little girls aged 6, almost 3 and newly 1 so this homecoming was to be a big event! A week before I was to leave, I got a message from Jen saying that Jon was coming home early and that I’d miss his arrival. Ugh, I thought I was SO looking forward to documenting this awesome time in their lives and being present for it, but then I remembered how cool it must be for the them to get him back early…that memory and feeling can’t be felt in photos.
After arriving I was slowly accepted by each of the girls–they really didn’t know me since I don’t get to visit them often because of the distance…but after about an hour they were already chatting me up like old friends. Being around 3 little ones for 4 1/2 days was not something I was used to, I am the friend that comes over, plays with your kids, visits with the parents and then goes home and has a beer, this was a challenge at first, but I quickly began to like the idea of hanging with these crazy kiddos every minute. I will say that my appreciation for Moms everywhere has grown to a infinite number and to think that their mom had done this for six months all on her own made my head spin….she truly is a super hero in my mind.
Two of the days we went to a great beach called St. Andrew’s, a state park that had the ocean on one side of the dune and the Bay on the other side. The bay side was a perfect spot for kids, you could walk out at least 50 yards and the water only reached my knees and it was clean and clear. We spent a lot of time in the water splashing around and looking at fish near the rocks. Of course, just like old times, Jon and I (and the kids) made a huge sand castle. I made sure his wife took photos of this for our mom’s back home—they are sure to get a kick out of us at age 34 doing the exact same thing we did just about every summer together….some things never change.
The highlight of the trip for me (although just hanging out with these awesome people was all I needed) was visiting the AF Base early in the morning and getting to watch the jets take off for their training missions. Ever since I can remember, my friend has talked about flying jets and Top Gun was the movie of choice when we were young. When he was attending Penn State University and joined the Air Force ROTC program, I knew that there would be no turning back for him. He now flys F-22’s and is an instrutor at the base. It still blows my mind that he is so dedicated to his dream that he’s had so long. I am in awe of what it takes to do what he does.
Another major moment that happened while I was visiting was a multipurpose party at their good friend’s home. Their youngest had turned 1 recently and so had their friend’s youngest so a dual 1 year old celebration for the two girls was needed once Dad returned home. The party was also to welcome him home and many of the other families in their squadron came out to celebrate. The woman who hosted the party, Alicia, was in charge of the decor and Jen was in charge of the food. I have to say….best decorations and best food I’ve seen/had in a long time! Pulled pork sandwiches to die for and a awesome backdrop to the cake smashing area. Speaking of cake smashing, photographing two kids, each with their own cakes turned out to be quite a hilarious time. Their little hands kept grabbing for each others cake and the expressions that I caught during those moments are too funny!
Now that I am home and don’t have the sound of little girls yelling, singing, crying, laughing and chatting, I find that it’s too quiet and I miss their little voices and my friends so much.