December 26, 2011


Well, Ben just graduated from grad school. He is now a Nurse Practioner and I am so proud of him. He has worked so hard the last 2.5 years to get here. We missed his graduation ceremony so we could go on a cruise to celebrate the end of school and the beginning of, hopefully, much more time together as a family. I didn't take many pictures, but I will never forget this trip as long as I live. I had the hardest time leaving the kids for six nights, but after about a day I got used to the idea of no cooking or cleaning, sleeping until 9 and tons of alone time with Ben!

Here is the stack of books (minus 1) that we took with us. It was ambitious, but I just wasn't sure which one I wanted to start with. We each finished 1 and started our 2nd on the boat.

We drove most of the way to Charleston on Tuesday night. Here is Ben at our hotel in Columbia, SC.

On our way to Charleston to get on the boat. I had such mixed emotions. I was so excited for some tropical weather and rest, but did not like the idea of having no contact with the kids for so long. I called them right before we boarded the ship and Braden was like "Hey, love ya, Bye!" I felt better knowing he was having fun with his cousins and not missing us at all!

View of Cooper River Bridge from the boat.

View of downtown Charleston from the boat.

Sun setting as we take off.

So excited!

I kind of forgot it was December while we were on the ship. It felt like Summer outside and you felt like you were at the beach. It was really fun to see little reminders like this and know that even when the cruise is over, we had lots to look forward to.

Ready for dinner! Thank goodness for the self timer or my arm would be in every picture!

What is it about turn down service that I love? The towel animals are fun and I always thought "the kids would love this!" Something about freshly fluffed linens is so inviting. Maybe that is why we slept so much!

Beautiful blue water in Nassau.

In Nassau we got off the ship and took a cab to Paradise Island. We walked around Atlantis for a while and checked it out and then went to a local public beach and relaxed and read and napped. Then we walked around some shops and ate lunch.

Johnny Rockets. Home of the $15 burger..we shared! :)

A side view of Atlantis

Holly, this is for you! A bench made to look like an ice cream sundae. It wasn't zoomed out far enough to see the whole thing, but I was too embarrassed to take another one.

It was Christmas in the Bahamas too!

The taxi ride back to the ship took about three times as long as the one to get to the beach. The drivers there are crazy and traffic was awful. Needless to say, I was so glad to see this sign and get back on our ship!

The brand new Disney Dream parked beside us at port. Yet another time I thought of the kids and how I hope we can do that when they are older.

We did absolutely everything there was to do on the ship, including all the water slides! Here is Ben about to slide.

I have no idea how is legs got way up in the air. It was fun racing down this slide side by side.

Freeport from the ship...the only way we saw it. We decided to stay on the ship and just relax that day.

Carnival Water much fun!

Ben cannot make a normal face in our pictures!

One night they made it snow in the lobby area and sang Christmas carols. It was really fun and made me excited for Christmas when we got back!

This area is called Serenity. It was for adults only, in the back of the ship, had two hot tubs and really comfy chairs and was our favorite hang out! This was the last day so we had to order our favorite drinks and soak in the last little bit of sun!

Our waiters Deni and Gustav. They were so sweet and took great care of us. We had our own table, which is a rarity on a cruise ship. I loved not having to be social at dinner! ha ha. I wish I was about to go eat dinner there and not cook right now! :)

Singing us a farewell song. All the wait staff entertained us nightly with songs and dances. That's not so different from real life, only the kids usually do the entertaining.

Last night of turndown service. Our room was such a mess, but I had to get a picture of our room before we left. When we first walked in I was like this room is tiny and claustrophobic. But I grew to love it and would love to go back right now!

This was actually the sunrise our last morning. We got off the ship around 7am on our last day. It was so pretty seeing the sun come up over one of my favorite cities. I would have been tempted to hang around any other time, but I could hardly wait to get back to my babies. Again, I had such mixed emotions. We had so much fun and I did not want our trip to be over, but at the same time I was ready to get back and see the kids and have Christmas.

We are so thankful we got to do this trip! It will probably be years before we even think about another vacation alone. Thank you to Amy, Pops, Cayce, Connie and Carol for all your help with the kids! Thanks for feeding them, changing diapers, cleaning up their messes, bathing them, playing with them, doing fun things with them. They had so much fun with each of you and Braden is ready for us to go somewhere again. Now that I've had a few days back in real life I would gladly go again! :)

December 6, 2011

Swimming in December

Yesterday we had an unseasonably warm day. It was so weird...70s and humid. Anyway, the kids had a great time playing outside while Ben cleaned the cars and I organized toys inside. I looked out the window to find this. I had forgotten we left the baby pool out a few weeks ago after it housed our pansies. A little cold water and potting soil never hurt anyone!

November 28, 2011

Christmas Cards

We love Christmas cards! Each year we probably get 50 cards and display them in our card holder. I love this picture of Braden from 2 years ago checking out the assortment. This year we are ordering our cards from Tiny Prints. It was so hard to narrow it down, but we finally decided on one. Check your mailboxes soon!

November 15, 2011

California Day 8&9

Our last day in California we just hung out by the pool. It was nice to have one more day of relaxation before traveling back to the real world.

Grandmama and Kate hanging out on the stairs

Two kids can fit in the float!

Our last night we got to play one more game of Catan.

When it gets ugly, I just turn up the bottle! ;)

Alas, the time came for us to fly back. We were sad to leave and sad to face 5 more hours of flying with the kids! Fortunately the way home went much more smoothly than the way there. Kate contained to a carseat helped tremendously!

The boys! Braden couldn't be bothered to look at the camera. He was too busy scoping out the flight attendants so they could get him some root beer!

Success! Kate slept...only 20 or so minutes, but she did sleep! Notice how close the seat in front was. The lady reclined all the way and Kate kept kicking her seat. I felt bad, but the seat beside her was empty so she could have moved or not reclined.

In Dalls waiting on our final flight. I took Kate to the bathroom to change her diaper between flights and the girl on the other changing table asked if we were flying to Hawaii. I felt like a loser when I said "No, just Knoxville." ha ha! But I really was happy to be going home. I was just jealous of all the people near our gate about to go to Hawaii.

This is from my phone, so excuse the poor quality. This is our "last flight...woohoo!" face.

What a wonderful trip! I really was so thankful that we got to take such an amazing trip. We saw lots of great things and got to spend lots of time with Granddaddy and Grandmama and check out where they are living. Carl and Carol, thank you so much for flying us out there and letting us take over your place for over a week. We had such a great time! I was sad looking through these pictures again to blog because I hate that it's over. But as much fun as it is to visit new places, we can't wait to have you back in Tennessee! Love you both!

November 12, 2011

Day 7 - Sequoia National Park

On Monday morning, we left Yosemite and drove a couple of hours to Sequoia National Park. Just so you know, no picture can accurately show how huge these trees are! I was so excited to get to see them in person.

I took this picture because my Grandmother's brother's (my great uncle) name was John Muir. I'm pretty sure it's not the same one, though! ;)

Another picnic lunch!

Poor Kate, always confined to the stroller!

The sign is neat because it explains this fallen tree and how early settlers used this tree for settlers and when they designated this area Grant Grove in 1890, they used it as camp for employees. That made it more fun that we got to go in.

Standing in the Fallen Monarch

You can walk all the way through it.

From inside looking out.

This was the only tree that you could walk this close to. Braden is demonstrating just how big this tree is. Notice the burn marks on the bottom.

See, I was there too!

I couldn't get the sign and the tree all in one picture. Nor could I get the whole tree in the picture. It is the 2nd largest Giant Sequoia in the world.

There she is! See, it doesn't fit, but you get the idea.

Believe it or not, these are baby Sequoia trees and in a few thousand years, they too will be as big as the others. Isn't that crazy!

Don't make me get back in my carseat!

So...there was road construction leaving the park. If you time it just right there can be up to an hour wait. Well, we timed it just right! We were the 2nd car in line waiting our turn to go. So we had a 45 minute break. We had been in the car so much already I wasn't sure how the kids would do. The adults could get out of the car, but about one foot out of my door was a huuuuuge drop off. I was not letting those kids out of their carseats! Ben and Granddaddy were brave and got snacks and beverages out of the back for us. Thankfully, Grandmam packed some of my wine! And the kids didn't seem to mind the wait at all.

And even thought it was close to 100 degrees in Bakersfield and pretty warm in the parks, in the distance we did see snow. It's hard to see, but there in that distant mountain range you can see it. Never seen snow in August before!