Category Archives: Travel

Up to the Mountains

In June we had an exciting thing happen for the very first time; a family vacation!

We have had lots of mini-trips over the years of visiting family and friends in different areas (Mississippi, Alabama, all over Florida and even through Louisiana and into Houston). However, we had never actually taken a trip, just us and the kids to a place all on our own.

It was amazing! Seriously, so refreshing and relaxing. Stephen took the reigns and picked out a week to rent us a cabin in the Mountains of North Georgia. My heart was bursting when he told us. The girls were so excited, so we made a countdown on our family calendar for the trip.

We went to the library the Friday before we left so stock up on books for the road. We’d been to St. Augustine and Houston with them when they were younger so this wasn’t the longest drive they’d had, but we were also adding a 6 month old to the mix this go around.

I packed us lots of snacks and drawing supplies, and the added surprise of bringing movies in the van that they’d get to watch on the DVD player that we had YET TO USE in the almost 2 years we’ve had the van. They were so surprised when Tangled started playing about 4 hours into the drive.

We left on a Sunday morning and got back Thursday evening. We stayed in a 2 bedroom cabin on a nice sized property, lots of room where the girls explored and played. We took family walks, which is pretty much my biggest love language, and watched Star Wars together one night and Stephem and I got lots of card game time in at night. My cup was overflowing. We ate out for dinner a few evenings, which we never do, and the girls did wonderful. Piper was the sweetest little chilled out baby, which was such a great bonus since we were usually out and about during her naps and them again past hers and the girls bedtime.

Now, on to what really matters here, the photo evidence of our First Family Vaca 

 

Mississippi Blues Run

Around Christmas my friend Nicole asked me if I would run a half-marathon with her. She missed the race the year before and we have talked for months about a girls weekend, so it was the perfect excuse to take a trip. Plus, I think I’ve caught a little thing called “run all the races” bug. When she asked I immediately said yes, bought my packet and then asked Stephen. Ya, I didn’t do those in the right order. Thankfully I have a gracious husband.

Nicole booked us a hotel online and we awaited our trip to Jackson to run the Mississippi blues race. During the weeks leading up I did a horrible job training. I probably ran once a week and met up with Nicole one Saturday morning so we could do a 10 mile run together.

The Friday before race day I dropped the girls with my mom where Stephen wuld pick them up after work. Nicole met me there and we loaded up in the van and started our trip.

 

 

It’s about a 5 hour drive and after we got there we stopped at the race expo to pickup our packet which has our bib, local info, race tag and shirt.

We went from there to the hotel. The hotel. Ya. When we drove up we both looked at it and thought “okay, this’ll do for 1 night”, then we went to our room. When we walked in it made me think of the 80′s, only no one had been in it since then, or at least no families had. I’m sure it’s had a lot of visitors, just not the kind that stay for an extended period of time. After sending a photo to her husband for laughs, Nicole and I sat in the room a few minutes discussing dinner ideas. We checked the room out which had cleaning products on the front table, a sign that informed all guests to deadbolt their door and not answer unless expecting guests, and the bathroom was just…ick. I was making a joke about not sleeping under or on the covers when Brandon, Nicole’s hubby, texted her that we should go find a new hotel. We debated for about .03 seconds and decided the $74 loss was worth it to not be there another minute, much more overnight.

 

We drove across the highway and the second hotel we checked had a room available. Hampton Inn to the rescue. When we walked into the room to a giant king sized bed, bright working lights and a shower with normal sized towels we didn’t look back for a second, except to laugh at the concept of staying in the other place. I think it was only $35 more for this room, which had a later checkout (so we could shower after the race), continental breakfast and an immeasurable amount of peace of mind.

That morning we woke up to rain, just like the Pensacola half I did in November with Miriah. We got dressed and headed out to wait with the crowds.

 

The race started promptly at 7 and it only took about 35sec for us to get across the start line.  I felt good when we started. I usually take about 3 miles to get in my groove and that held true for this race. Then, the hills. So many hills. At one point I heard the man behind us telling the people he was running with that we were about to reach the highest point in Jackson. I looked right at Nicole and said “then why in the world are we running to it?” That sums up how I was about to start feeling. The first 5 or so miles weren’t bad, we pushed through the city hills and we’re keeping a good pace. We eventfully turned and ran along the interstate and under an overpass to the other side. Nicole took a little video which made me laugh and we kept trucking along. Then we hit mile 9. Oh the dreadful 9th mile and its jerky jerk hill. I took my first chew at that point, which for me says I’m seriously feeling it. We ran through some downtown neighborhoods, which I always enjoy because of the different architecture of homes in old towns. Then we made the turn back into the city. One thing that was different about this race was how thankful and appreciative the volunteers were. They were thanking us for visiting their city and running the race, it was really nice and encouraging. The ladies were so southern and sweet. At mile 12 I got a nasty cramp and our pace slowed down but knowing we had just a little over 1 more mile I knew I could push it. We made the last turn, which an older man called the “time to smile turn” and we sprinted to the end. Crossing that line felt great. We walked a bit to let our legs relax and then grabbed a photo at the finish line.

 

After we finished and walked around to cool down we both got hungry fast. The pizza, cookies and chili that was offered was not sounding good to either of us and after checking the time we saw we had 25 minutes left until breakfast ended at the hotel. 

 

After a huge and filling breakfast we both cleaned up and packed our overnight bag to head home. The drive was a lot easier than I thought it would be, but Nicole and I had a lot to talk about and catch up on so that made it fly by.

When I got home the day continued as normal and then that night I ate most of an x-large pizza from papa johns. What can I say, I run to eat

Oh ya, my bad…

Oh kind productivity, I’ve missed you.

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My wonderful friend Sara pointed something out a few posts back that I forgot to share. I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’ve been getting a bit lax about that lately. Going from having the summer off to capturing births again has got my website updates a bit more spaced.

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You know we have been a one-car family for most our marriage. Up until Stephen got a work vehicle when he worked with Bayer, we were riding in the same vehicle pretty much everywhere we went. It was a huge and lovely change having a 2nd vehicle, especially a truck we didn’t have to pay for.

So we went from 1 paid off car, to having a paid off car and company vehicle. Not having car payments was one of the reasons I was able to stay home when we had children. The small things really add up each month.

We love not having that debt, especially me and my don’t-owe-people-money brain. Having student loans is another toughie for me. I think we are still paying for my 1 semester at FSU, and that’s after 8 years of payments. Eesh. So not having car payments with 2 vehicles was not only awesome, but a necessity for us.

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We talked off and on about getting a van for a few years. Stephen knew I wanted one one day, so we started saving. I know he loooooves it when I monitor every single teeny tiny purchase from our account. It’s one of those things he has learned to accept about me, or at least I think so. That’s why love is a choice folks, you choose to love everything about your mate – everything, and my Mr.  is super kind to me and my money micro-managing self.

 

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We saved for a while and would occasionally check online to see if there were any great deals out there. It surprised me how hard it was to find minivans, at all, and at a great price was even rarer. Apparently people don’t let go of them very easily. Which makes sense to me now. People keep them til they fall apart, kind of like the matrix we sold, only it didn’t fall apart as much as have a fun visit to the shop ending with a years worth of car payments as the bill. I’m putting it all out there for you guys. After all, that was part of our decision process.

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After lots of searching, making lists of dealers and individual sales to check out, we visited a few places and got ourselves a new vehicle! Well, not new-new, but new to us. The best kind in my opinion ;)

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Somehow it’s already been two months, because it was back in August we made the jump and got a mini-van. We sold my car, which I’ve had for over 8 years, and made the beautiful leap to a roomy mom-mobile. You guys – all the room. The spacious spaciousness is so amazing. When we go places we can now fit my sister, my niece Addison (in a spare carseat we keep in the back row), my mom AND still have 1 spare seat, 2 really if you count the one in the middle that the girls use as a stepping stool.

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It took a bit of getting used too, and I still don’t know the buttons, but we are really enjoying the new Ringl-mobile. I even got a sticker for my back window this week. It’s similar to our old one in that if you understand what the sticker means then kudos, you are an awesome person. If you don’t get it… well, then you will just stare at it confused and think we are weird, which is also true. Embracing your inner weirdness is a beautiful part of life. Especially when you do it boldly and without regret ;)

Funny enough, the car search story doesn’t end there.

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The week after we got the van Stephen got a job offer.

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His job with Bayer was great and he was doing really well. I’m talking “win a free all-paid vacation to a private island” well. He was in the top 10 of the company. Not 10%, but top 10 people! I don’t unbiased’ly brag on my husband much on here, so you’ll have to just bear with me during this part of the story.

Stephen was doing awesome in the company, our insurance was wonderful (which is unheard of these days), he had a free company vehicle, he and his boss got along amazingly, and there were several end of year bonuses to look forward too. When he first got the job offer I didn’t think much of it. The Bayer job in itself was unexpected and an answer to some heavy prayers. Stephen needed change at that time for a few heavy reasons and the Lord provided. So this job offer really caught us off guard. It was actually from the company he used to work with, and while we loved him being nearby at a local job, there really wasn’t any topping the current job and incentives he was in line for.

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Then stuff got weird. Like, Jesus is pointing things out in a way you can’t ignore, weird. Stephens schedule was somehow getting busier, which I didn’t know was possible. I never really talked about his job much except with close-close friends and family, but his hours and the traveling was HARD. His trips up north for training weren’t too bad because we knew what to expect, but the frequent overnight trips, or being gone until we were all in bed, that part was hard to get used to. I think it took me 7-8 months to adjust. Thankfully I’m a pretty laid back person. I don’t run on schedules, so that made it easier for my personality type. Of course, that’s not including the girls adjustment period. The weekends were often “office work” days, which were nice because he got paid, but not nice in that he was working during the weekends. He was doing what was required of the job – hence the wonderful incentives and bonuses; Bayer knows it’s a time consuming job so they compensate you the best ways they can.

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However, you can’t buy weekends, you can’t pay for missed family gatherings and date nights. There is no getting over being exhausted and missing worship, discipleship and church opportunities. Really, just time in general. You can’t rewind, and if you know me I’m not one that cares much about monetary things in this world. Getting new stuff is nice, sure, this job is what made us able to save and buy the mini-van I was just raving about, but when it comes to the short time we have in this world, that van doesn’t mean a thing to us. We would rather drive my old hatchback together, shuffling and car pooling, than miss out on the life the Lord has given us.

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I guess after all of that it shouldn’t be a super huge surprise when I share that we prayed about that unexpected job offer. We prayed, we made pro-con lists, we talked and then we prayed some more. And despite everything we thought and expected, Stephen accepted the offer and is now working in the IT world again. The job came with a few adjusting changes for us, but in the 6 weeks he has been back it’s been amazing. I can see a huge difference in the girls and their bonding with him. We’ve gone on a few dates, which has been awesome. Most have been date nights in, but a date night is a date night folks, and this wife was missing them.

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With this job change came a huge contender on the pro/con list of ours – no more company vehicle. We just spent our car-fund on a van, and now we need a vehicle for Stephen too. Being a 1-car family wouldn’t work for us anymore. Not with me doing birth photography and the weird schedule that involves. We had 3 weeks to search and find something before the new job started. We wanted to pay cash, no loans involved or car payments.

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While things didn’t go exactly like I budgeted and hoped we did find Stephen a car. We went in with a number and left spending exactly that, not a penny more. Of course it took about 45 minutes of back and forth with the dealer, but that was more than worth it.

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So we went from a 1-car family, to 1 car and 1 company vehicle, to then a van and company truck and ending up with 1 Honda van and 1 Honda accord. From zero hondas to two. I can already see the kids learning to drive in them, mostly because that’s how long we’re going to have them ;)

New job, new cars; I think we are filled up and don’t plan on any new changes soon.

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A Quick Trip

Last weekend Stephen and I took a fun trip to Orlando with our friends Brandon and Nicole.

We have talked about going somewhere together since our last adventure to Houston in March of 2014, for our friend JD’s wedding. We randomly decided in July that if we did go somewhere it should be to Orlando to visit what I’m just going to call the amazing World of Harry Potter. Well, that is just what we did.

Stephen turns 30 in a few days, so we used his birthday as a reason for the trip. Not that we really need a reason, but it felt more justified this way for my budgeting brain.

We left on Thursday and got back Sunday afternoon.

Visiting Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade were just awesome. It made me wanna re-read the books and watch all the movies. 

We stayed at a Universal hotel, so we took the shuttle to the parks each day, and also got 1-hour early admittance. The line wait was less than 25 minutes the whole time, except the Hogwarts castle ride. It seemed like everyone was in the HP areas so riding The Mummy and Jurassic Park rides was so quick. A definite nice break from the humidity and heat.

In the afternoon we grabbed the shuttle back to the hotel for a nap then got up for dinner and back to the park at night. It was so relaxing. In the evenings we would play cards down in a quieter spot in the hotel, in true McKenzie-Ringl spirit.

Thanks again to my parents for sending me pictures of the girls during their stay at Papaw and Nanas house. They had a blast swimming, going to the train store and eating loads of chocolate ice cream with marshmallows for 3 days :)

Here are a few photos of our adventures.

   
    
    
    
    
    
   
It was a wonderful trip and I’m already looking forward to our next one :)

7 Years

A few weekends ago Stephen and I went to Destin for a short getaway. Our anniversary was on the 19th, but I would be on-call for 2 births so we celebrated a week early.

The weather turned freezing, just like the weekend we got married. After dropping the girls off at my sisters, we drove down and checked into our room. Getting there was such a relaxing and fun drive. We were able to [uninterruptedly] listen to “Ask me Another” during the short trip. Driving  without kids is so different, and because I am in the car with them almost daily I always take full advantage of a quiet commute.

We only live about 45 minutes from the Santa Rosa Beaches and when we got there I noticed what a difference it is in visiting the Destin area in January versus any other time from March until Christmas. Between tourists, the beach and the outlets, the traffic is always horribly nutty and stand still, especially for such a small area. We pretty much got married in the perfect month for our traveling taste.

We are hoping to visit the mountains in the future, like we did on our honeymoon.

During the trip we did the usual getaway things. We ate at some yummy local spots and on Saturday afternoon we went to a movie, which we never do. I made the mistake of getting sour patch kids for the movie and my tongue was raw the rest of the evening. Stephen advised me to get skittles and I totally ignored the man. My mistake for sure.

I don’t post pictures of Stephen and myself much, so here are several to last until our next Anniversary ;)

 

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(a great advertisement to show why it’s always good to get photos with something other than your phone!)

 

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A Houston Wedding [day 4]

Day 4. The last of our trip. It was time to pack, load up, and head home. We did ourselves a favor and slept until 8:30 that morning. We headed down for our last free meal and loaded up the car to head out.

About an hour outside Houston we stopped and picked up some donuts. Nicole snapped these awesome shots…

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We drove and only made stops for gas and taco bell. I’m not sure what exit we used for lunch and a bathroom pitstop, but it was the worst I’ve ever encountered. The sink/faucet was corroded and they had a beaten up bottle of dial dish soap to wash your hands. Then, at the taco bell up the street one of the stalls had a door hanging off the hinges, and well, it made me create a mental ‘never again’ list for interstate exits. Classy place, obviously.

During the drive Nicole and I rode in style by watching one of my childhood favorites – Mighty Ducks: D2. I love watching movies from the 80′s & 90′s and seeing how awesomely corny they are. It’s something I think Stephen finds weird, silly, and hopefully kinda cute. I don’t ever make him watch them with me, but you can be sure our kiddo’s will be raised following my cinema expertise!

We got back and dropped off the McKenzies and then headed to pick up the girls. When we arrived their reactions were beyond ideal. Sarah opened the door and was saying “Daddy! Daddy! ” while jumping into his arms and Elanor was getting super excited pumping her arms saying ‘Dada! Dada!’ I followed in behind him and Elanor practically leapt from my dads arms into mine. She immediately smiled and laughed while pumping her arms and then laid her head on my chest. It was perfect.

I didn’t realize how much I missed them until that moment. They are so amazing. I missed them like crazy, but we kept so busy doing stuff that I didn’t let myself over-think it. In case you don’t know, or have an extra amazing brain that allows you to not do so, a mom’s worst trait can be unnecessary worry. The devil is sneaky.
Our girls are amazing, and we love them so stinkin’ much.

When we got home I went ahead and started all our laundry to get it over and done with. The next morning I was unloading the dryer and I found this in the lint trap…

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Nicole, I found one of our missing room keys! Turns out it was hidden inside my dryer at home the whole time ;)

That wraps up the Houston trip of 2014, Ringl & McKenzie edition. The next trip we have planned isn’t until July 4th weekend to the Lake House in Alabama. That’ll be a blast! I’m already looking forward to the watermelon and bbq. And the bacon at breakfast. Oh guys, the wafting smell of bacon… is it July yet?!?

A Houston Wedding [day 3]

Well, it’s official, I love vacation. Thankfully being a part from the girls didn’t feel as real as it was because facetime and instant texts/pictures. I sent them videos and mom and dad were fantastic at sending me some as well. It definitely didn’t feel like they were over 8 hours away from me. Thank you again, mom and dad, we couldn’t have gone on this trip without your willingness to take them in for 4 whole days. Now that my brain is thinking about it, we should probably go on another trip so Stephen’s parents can have them equal time! What do you say, mom? ;)

Back to trip recap… We are now on Saturday. The wedding day. The main reason for this fun trip. Once again, we all woke up strangely early. I was feeling nice and lazy so Nicole and I headed up to the gym and did a little workout. After feeling refreshed we grabbed some grub and headed out for another day of who-knows-what.

 The view from our room

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We grabbed some fajitas for lunch, because, when in Texas, right?!

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Nicole is awesome at grabbing phone shots!

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Heading out to watch two awesome people get hitched

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Group shots with a phone… quality stinks, but better than nothing!

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The reception was at an arts bar. It was packed with all these old tiffany lamps and chandeliers.

Our awesome friends Sarah and Stephen Shaw were at the wedding and reception. It was so awesome to get to catch up and talk. They have a new baby girl, Ada, and I wasn’t sure if they’d be able to come, so when I saw them both after the wedding I was so excited. Hooray for adult time!

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The reception was a lot of fun. Nicole and I danced and then Stephen got out on the dance floor, and that, friends, is a sign of true love!

After leaving the reception we headed back to the hotel and played some more cards. You think I was kidding about cards, but we don’t joke around about games. Or actually. that’s exactly what we do. That’s sorta the point.

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After heading up to the room for the night we put on a movie, ‘Catching Fire’, the second of the Hunger Games trilogy. Stephen got it for me for my birthday. I watched it while everyone else slowly drifted off to sleep. It was a pretty long and fun-packed day so it didn’t take me long to follower their lead.

A Houston Wedding [day 2]

Friday started off just like any good vacation. We slept until 7 and woke up totally refreshed. Of course the fact that I automatically woke up at 7 AND felt refreshed is far from my norm. I’m telling you, those mattresses were magic.

Nicole had gone for a quick run and after she got back we all headed down to eat. The hotel had free hot breakfast and it was really good. Eggs and bacon at zero additional charge?! Yes please!

After filling up we decided to go and visit some shops and had a real relaxing time just walking around. It was so nice not having a set schedule or somewhere we had to be until that evening.

 

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Nicole and I walked around a few girly shops and the guys surprised us with some coffee. I’m definitely a fan of venturing out and returning to a tasty beverage from a handsome man! I should meander more often.

Stephen and I were attending the rehearsal that evening and Brandon and Nicole took advantage of the alone time to go on a hot date ;)  Look at them looking all spiffy. (Spiffy?! I promise I’m 30, not 60…)

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At the rehearsal

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The Rehearsal dinner was at the restaurant JD and Kate had their first date. It was really nice inside and had amazing landscaping right outside all the big windows. The food was delicious, which was an extra awesome bonus!

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After catching up with a lot of friends, and meeting some new people, we were dropped off at our hotel and found Brandon and Nicole hanging out on the roof in the hot tub. We went to visit them after hitting up the cookie bar and it seems a load of kids decided to follow suit. It didn’t take long until the hot tub turned into a crowded warm kiddie pool.

After heading back inside we decided to hit up the hotel lounge and play some cards.

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Brandon and Nicole are our euchre partners. We love playing cards, and pretty much any game for that matter. Nicole and Stephen stomped Brandon and me. I love playing cards, a game where you can talk and goof off all at the same time.

Not surprisingly, day two of our trip was another resounding success. Rest, relaxation, lots of laughs and even more tasty food. It was exactly what we were needing.

A Houston Wedding [day 1]

A few weeks ago Stephen and I had the amazing chance to travel to Houston. Our friends JD and Kate were getting married and we made the trip over with our awesome friends Nicole and Brandon.

We left out on Thursday after dropping the girls off at my parents. We made it about an hour out of town and stopped for lunch at a bbq place in Daphne called Moes. It was delicious.

 

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Back seat hangs with Nicole. We spent the drive chatting, watching movies on a laptop and playing a boat load of 20 questions. The drive went decently fast. The boys swapped driving and navigating. I’m definitely a fan of hanging out during a drive and having zero responsibility.

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The hotel had a cookie and drinks bar from 8-10, so of course we hit that up our first night there. To celebrate turning 30 I had myself a white chocolate macadamia, and it was so good. I never buy packaged cookies and these reminded me why – nothing tastes as good as desserts straight out of the toasty oven.

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We got to the hotel around 8:30 and decided to head out on foot in search of some dinner. We landed at a pizza place that was exactly what I wanted. Pizza is by far my favorite food. I have no idea why, but it never gets old. Ask Stephen, he can attest. I’m pretty sure if there was one food he’d have me limit for dinner it’d be the amazing, delicious, cheese covered delicacy of pizza.

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-A photo to always remember my 30th BDay-

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Nicole and I were really excited to check out the hotel, so after dinner and the cookie bar we headed to the rooftop. It was a bit chilly so the pool was out of the question but it was fun seeing all the city lights.

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Sharing a room with these two was a lot of fun. Nicole and I passed out while the guys watched an episode of Star Trek.

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The room was really nice and the beds were so insanely comfortable. I didn’t wake up one time the entire night. I don’t remember the last time I slept that good and that hard.

We had an amazing drive over and that awesome night of rest was the perfect start to an amazing trip.

The Big 3 Adventure

For Sarah’s birthday this year we decided to surprise her and take the girls to The Gulfarium. It turns out it’s only an hour drive and it was a great success! Sarah kept saying we were going to a “sueprise” and kept asking if there were going to be animals. Clever girl was on to us.

The moment we walked through the aquarium doors both girls were speechless. They went straight to the portholes where they saw dolphins swimming.

I think Sarah’s face says it all…

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They both really loved the giant aquarium

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Waving to the fishies

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We spent the afternoon looking at all the different habitats while also going to see the dolphin show and then a sea lion show.

Checking out the shark moat

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Lookout point where Sarah and Stephen went to view the beach, alligators and giant turtles.

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Checking out the sting rays. Some of them were huge. They shared the tank with baby sharks, which I think were hammerheads.

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Stephen got Sarah an ice cream sandwich as a birthday treat.

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Then, at the Dolphin Show, a complete stranger, a teenage girl, gave Sarah a sea lion stuffed animal. She held on to it like it was the best present in the world.

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At the end of our visit we let the girls play at The Sea Lion Beach. It’s a great little area with sand and beach toys for kids to play with. A great little area to sit down and relax, until you tell kids it’s time to go, haha. Kids never wanna leave a giant sand mound, especially when there are lots of other little kiddos around. We saw many “noooo, I don’t wanna leave” tantrums take place. It works out though because it makes all the parents feel good that there kid isn’t the only one ;)

 

 

A giant chair picture, because why not…

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While leaving the house that morning Sarah got to open up a card she got in the mail. She carefully peeled the envelope and was very excited when she saw a picture of flowers and I told her it was a Birthday Card from GG. She kept stating “A Birthday card for ME?” in question form. Silly kid.

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A well deserved nap on the car ride home.

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Happy 3rd Birthday, sweet girl!

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