Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Perfect Day

This day had it all. We woke up on Saturday at my mom and dad's in Carthage. We knew we didn't have all day to play as we needed to get on the road and head back to home in KC but it did give us time to have breakfast with everyone--including my brother, Zack, his wife Lindsey and their little girl Miss Maddie, even though we had spent most of the evening before with them. Hey, when we are in town we try to fit as much family time in as we can. Can you blame us?

After breakfast came the hard part. Saying good-bye. I had given Leah a few hugs here and there leading up to our good-bye because I didn't want to break down on our last good-bye hug but it didn't matter how many I gave the girl, I still broke down. Having her with us for the past three weeks was seamless, it felt so good & we were just so sad to see her leave. She has such a wonderful heart and her love for Jesus is never ending. She will continue to grow into a wonderful young lady and will do great things in this world. 

As we said our good-byes (and yes, Logan wore the same clothes for two days straight--he didn't want to change. I didn't want to fight it.) I hugged her first and then made my rounds and hugged her again as I climbed into the Yukon. As I was pulling away I looked back and saw my dad pulling Leah in tight for a hug as she wiped tears from her eyes and then I lost it too. Those three weeks flew by way too fast...

We then came home to Justin smoking some meat on his new BBQ smoker---name is still being decided on & went straight inside to put on our swimsuits and to unpack a little and headed to the pool where we spent the next few hours. The boys took turns jumping in, diving down for dive sticks, and splashing each other---the laughter was good to hear. 

We headed back to the house around 5 where Justin had his masterpieces waiting for us. Soon after the Walshes joined us and once dinner was done, Jake brought out the fireworks. There were a few shrieks of excitement as they each quickly huddled around him and patiently waited their turn. It didn't take long before we ran out of fireworks but it took no time for them to find something else to entertain them.

First up, the truck & chasing Kaden around the cul-de-sac. Luckily for us, the 17 year cicadas had died or returned to where they came from and we could actually carry on conversations. 

Once the sun started to go down we moved the party to the backyard where the lighting bugs were starting to glow. The boys---along with Jennifer, Becky and I---chased those little bugs around the backyard capturing as many as we could.

One look at these boys and all I could think about was how joyful they were. Pure joy just seeping out of every ounce of their body. And how they are destined to best friends forever---it makes my heart swell.

Bedtimes---what are those? They weren't even thought about because we would've been crazy to interrupt the fun that was going. But, when the time came, it was lights out & quickly too. I barely had a chance to run downstairs, lock all the doors and make my way back up before they were all snoozing away. Colton was so tired he was asleep backwards in bed, feet on the pillow and no covers, had a hard time reaching him since he was on the top bunk but I got him tucked in all snug. 

Like I said, the perfect day. We got to see both of our families in the same day---not sure when the last time that happened was---and we got to hang out with some of our very best friends and enjoy a beautiful evening. This is what life is about. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

We Got Blake Too.

We couldn't have Leah come and stay with us for 3 weeks and not have some time with Mr. Blakers too so  we made plans for him to join us for the last week. We just needed to figure out how to get him to KC, his mom was headed to Vegas and at the time when we were planning this, we were just getting back from the lake. Luckily my mom and dad came across some Royals tickets for Father's day and brought him up with them.

We met them after church at a gas station where my dad got the boys on a sugar high with slushies & where Kaden showed off his mad magics skills.

Kaden is a little obsessed with magic these days. It's pretty cute.

We didn't have much time to talk with my parents as they were headed to the game with their friends but we did manage to get one pic in with my dad--after all it was Father's Day. Why does Blake have on only one sandal? You got me.

Three weeks earlier we were just a family of four, now we were a family of six. And let me tell you, six is a game changer. Eating out became ubber expensive but we still did it. Silence was non-existent but then again, we didn't miss it. The best thing about having Blake with us, watching him and Leah realize just how much they missed each other over the past couple of weeks and how great it is to have a sibling, even if you don't always like them.

And even though Blake was going to be with us for about a week, I wasn't going to get to spend that much time with him. I was headed out on a flight first thing Wednesday morning and wouldn't be returning until that Friday, so Justin became a single dad to 4 kiddos. Not only did Justin become a single dad, the big kids, Leah and Blake, watched the little ones for us since Ms. Brenda was on vacation. I was never worried that Leah wouldn't be able to handle them, I was worried that she wouldn't be able to handle Blank and that they would spend more time fighting than watching the kids but they proved us wrong each and every day. The kids, Kaden and Logan, had such a fun week with their cousins---they painted pictures, wooden letters, tie-dyed shirts and even baked cookies and cupcakes. Leah may have just earned herself a summertime job being a nanny if she wants it---she did that great.

Blake too. He helped out with t-ball and went with Justin.

Nights were either spent at the pool or at the ballpark. & as the end of the week drew near, we started realizing that we were going to be saying good-bye and I don't think a single one of us was ready for that.

Monday, June 22, 2015

STAYcation Part Two--KC Lovin'

So since we came home a few days early from our staycation at the lake, we figured we should continue the fun and pack our days full of things we wouldn't be able to normally do once we went back to work. & pack them full, is exactly what we did.

On Thursday we spent pretty much the entire day at the pool, that is before we loaded up and headed out to the Royals game. Justin was wanting to spend his "Father's Day" at the K so who was I to get in the way of that.

He found us some great tickets and we only had to deal with a few minutes of rain. The boys had space where they could walk around and not have to sit still in their seat but they were still anxious to get up and move around so we headed out to find Sluggar during the 4th inning.

& on the way back we stopped to pick up some Dip'n Dots. Neither of the boys have had Dip'n Dots and to no shock to anyone, they loved them!

It was a late night for everyone but that didn't matter, only one of us had to get up and get out of the house by a specific time and that wasn't me, Leah or either of the boys.

So Friday rolled around and when we all finally rolled out of bed and got around we headed off for another KC adventure, the zoo. The last few times we have been to the zoo we have had a time limit on how long we could be there, not this day---we had all. day. long.

Our first stop was of course Nikita. We recently learned that our favorite friend at the zoo will be leaving us soon. I guess the female in the exhibit doesn't want anything to do with Nikita, he does tend to show off for everyone which is what we love about him but I can see a mate not really digging that. Anyways, they are looking to breed Nikita and will be sending him to North Carolina to a zoo where they hope he takes an interest to their female and make little Nikita babies! He seriously provided the best welcoming to the zoo with all his back flips in the water---we will miss him so much.

After watching Nikita for a little while we headed off to Australia, stopping at the new orangutan exhibit and at Tiger Trails.

We rode the train and the tram to Africa which were all firsts for the boys since we typically walk but we wanted to ride the newER Africa Sky Safari and just went ahead and signed us up for a Friends of the Zoo pass that included everything---we do love the zoo & hopefully this will get us out there more! 

And the selfie stick for the win again---love the older gentleman smiling in the background. Too cute. 

 Most every time we have been to the zoo we have either done Australia and the Tiger Trail and called it good or we go to Africa---penguins get hit up on both trips, so does Nikita. We love walking around Africa but you never really get a chance to get up close and personal with the animals---the Africa Sky Safari changed all that. It was so incredible to be flying over the animals and seeing them from such a unique viewpoint. At one point I thought the giraffes were going to nibble on our toes but they weren't quite tall enough...

I wasn't sure how the boys would do either on the sky lift. for one, they had never been on something like this before, would they be scared? Would they fall off because they wouldn't sit still? And how do we ride it---do I ride with both boys or do I let one of them ride with Leah and if so, which one, Kaden the one that tends to want to do everything on his own or Logan the one that would sit still and listen to Leah. Kaden was taller and could get on more easily by himself where Logan would need help. I tend to overthink things, this being no exception but in the end, the decision was made for me. Kaden was technically tall enough to ride on his own (never would I allow that to happen) but Logan had to ride with an adult. So Kaden jumped on with Leah and Logan with me.

They both thought it was "SO AWESOME" that we rode it back too. And even though it looks as though Kaden is sad in the below picture, he was quite the opposite, just had something in his eye. Leah actually said that Kaden was taking everything in and didn't want her to talk to him so he could concentrate. 

We ended our trip to the zoo with a ride on the Merry Go 'Round. I seriously can't get enough of these kiddos and the day we had. It was pretty special and just how we needed to end our vacation. 

Our staycation officially came to an end the following morning and there was only one way we could celebrate such a wonderful relaxing week with the ones we love and that is with a trip to the BEST donut shop in the country--John's Space Age Donuts. Yum.

And of course, a trip to John's Space Age Donuts would not be complete without a little hill running. They boys love running around in this little area next door to the donut shop. It does make for a great spot to sit, relax and take it all in. 

So there you have it--The Great South Staycation of 2015. Might not have been what we had planned for but it certainly gave us everything that we needed.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

STAYcation Part One--LOTO

We are very fortunate to have a place to get away from all the hustle and bustle that is only a few hours away and more appreciative now than ever for our little cabin at the Lake of the Ozarks. Having just canceled our Disney cruise, I didn't really have the energy to plan anything else so we marked our family down for a week stay at the lake. 

Vacation week was upon us and instead of packing swimsuits, summer dresses for me, nice clothes for the boys, we packed swimsuits and lounge clothes---which actually is way better than summer dresses. 

We were a little worried that we might need to take two cars seeing that we had three kids and a dog that was headed down with us but I was able to do a little magic when it came to packing and off we drove, in one car. (Brodi doesn't get to go to the lake very often with us because he gets really bad hots spots and it would be torture for him. Stoli, well, she is happiest when basking in the sun.)

The weather wasn't looking too promising but we were keeping our fingers crossed the sun would grace us with its appearance more than once & that the rain would hold off for the evening. As soon as we arrived I got to unpacking, Justin took on the yard and the boys fished out their swimsuits. I could barely get mine on before they were pulling me out the door wanting to head down to the water. (We have a couple NO EXCEPTIONS rules---life jackets on at all time when on the dock or near water & no going to the dock without an adult. Safety first.)

As soon as we got down there I made them take the obligatory lake picture. We have done this picture for three years in a row now and they'll be taking this picture every year from here on out if they want to enjoy the lake house. 

We were excited to see that Adam and Becky had donated the Maui Mat to the lake and left it down for everyone else to enjoy. This mat, if you don't know, can hold 1600lbs above water and allows for the boys to run and jump off of it into the water. This was best case scenario for Logan because he loved EVERYTHING about it. It was just what he needed to feel comfortable in the water and eventually comfortable enough to jump in. 

A couple of the days it rained more than we would have liked to have seen but that only made us venture out and try a few new places that we wouldn't normally have gone too. That's a lie, we always go to the outlet mall, if we are there for more than 3 days or it rains. Miner Mike's was new to us---the boys ran around in a giant hamster wheel playhouse and then played some arcade games with Leah. We also ate at a new to us restaurant--JJ Twigs--which is known for its BBQ and pizza, we had pizza and it was delicious and we will certainly be hitting that up again. 

The sun finally made another appearance so we raced down to the water only for Kaden to lose his first tooth. And now it sits at the bottom of the lake. I had seriously just gotten done taking this peaceful shot of the lake when he started hollering that he lost it. Sure as shit, he did. 

We got up when we wanted to and we went to bed when we wanted to. Same for the kids, they played hard all day---when it wasn't raining---and pushed through nap time, most of the time. 

 He tried so hard.

& on the last day, well really we still had three days left, we decided to head back to KC. The weather was calling for more rain at the lake and back in KC it looked sunny and nice so we called it good. We spent the morning cleaning the cabin and getting everything ready for us to head home and at lunchtime we jumped in the car and headed out for one last adventure--an indoor water park, what else could we do, it was still raining. We arrived at Tan-Tar-A, grab a little grub and then turned the kiddos (and Grammy) loose. We could hardly pry the boys off of the slides...

I mean, really, is there a better way to end part one of our staycation? We don't think so.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

At the Bottom of the Lake

About a month or two ago we were checking out Kaden's teeth while brushing and came across a SINGLE loose tooth. It was barely loose but nonetheless, loose.

He would wiggle it pretty much every day and say things like, "Can you believe it Mom? My tooth is loose." You'd think this was the best thing that ever happened to him from the way he was carrying on.

And then shortly after the first tooth became loose, we found a second loose tooth. His front bottom two teeth were put on notice.

About a week or so ago we noticed that one of his loose teeth had really become loose and we figured it was only a matter or time before it popped out or I got to pull it out but we still felt that was days away…

The next thing I know, Kaden is shouting at me from the water that he lost it. I asked what he was talking about and he said, his tooth, that it was gone. I cheered for him and quickly asked where it was, his response,

"Down there." as he pointed to the bottom of the lake. "I lost it in the lake Mom. It went to the bottom."

And honestly, it's fitting that it is at the bottom of the lake. Only Kaden. 

He was a little concerned about how the Tooth Fairy would be able to find his tooth and someone had passed along the idea of writing a letter to the Tooth Fairy and that is exactly what we did. I wrote the letter first and then he copied it. He explained that he lost his tooth but that it fell to the bottom of the lake and that he was sorry. That night as he went to bed he placed his letter securely under his pillow. 

Luckily, the Tooth Fairy had a GPS and knew exactly where to find Kaden and his letter and he woke up one happy but one tooth less boy. He immediately ran over to show Leah, came in to show his Dad and I and held on to those dollars as tight as he could until he found his wallet.

Upon closer inspection of the dollar bills that the TF left behind once s(he) had taken Kaden's note, we found some pink fairy dust. No joke, there was actually glitter/fairy dust on the bills & although I had this grand plan of what I was going to do when he lost his first tooth---may or may not have included a glitter stick and rubbing it on his forehead---we were at the lake, I wasn't prepared and so that master plan, didn't happen. But somehow the fairy dust still showed up and he is more a believer now in the TF than he was before.

And he will never forget where he was when he lost his first tooth.

And I can't get over how OLD he looks now. He looked so much older once we gave him his summer buzz, could totally pass for a 7 year old, but add a missing tooth & our baby is all grown up.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Change of Plans

For about a year we had been planning a big family vacation---a Disney Cruise. We never really considered taking the boys on a cruise, especially a Disney Cruise, but we came across a deal that we couldn't pass up. Basically, it was discounted to what an employee would pay, or so we were told.

Our itinerary had us arriving in Orlando on June 12th, boarding our ship on the 13th and sailing away. We would spend 7 nights aboard the ship with stops at Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Cozumel and Cast Away Cay--Disney's private island. The ship offered loads of activities for the boys and had a kids club so that Justin and I, and the other adults going with us, could enjoy some adult pool time without feeling guilty. We would dress up as pirates one night, order Mickey ice cream treats every night before bed. Sit on the veranda with the Garrett's late at night as the kids snoozed away---The Garrett's had the room next to us and our patios were joined.

We had read and reread as many blogs as we could get our hands on that offered the best tips and tricks to a Disney Cruise. I had been saving my extra hotel room key cards, bought a couple push lights for being able to maneuver at night while not waking the kids, searching for something to leave behind at the concierge desk when we board the boat to have all the characters sign & return to us on the last night---which led me to these cool things...

Shortly after we signed up for our cruise, we got the following in the mail and we were getting excited. 

We continued to check in with our travel agent to make sure the timeline was still intact and while there were a few bumps, we still were confident that everything was on track. Our account would zero out by the end of March and at which time we could log-on (which we already had access to) and could schedule all our excursions, travel details, plan our meals and most importantly, check-in online making the boarding process that much quicker.

And then around the beginning of March things started feeling a little sketchy. Along with our cruise package that we purchase, we purchased flight vouchers-$125 round trip vouchers with Southwest. We kept getting the run around when we were trying to book our flights with this travel agent. That they needed to wait until a little closer to the actual date of the flights so they could get the best deal, so on and so forth. Things just weren't adding up. So we started digging and then things started popping up on their own. It wasn't looking good for a mid June departure, or a departure of any kind.

Going into this, we had a friend, who not only knew a friend who had gone on the same type of vacation and used this lady, but knew of others that had gone as well. Heck, her friend had just gotten back from a different vacation package when all this was starting to go down. & another friend of this friend's went on the cruise the week this all went down, her account had zeroed out and she said it was the best trip they had ever been on, hands down.

After finding out everything that we did, we pulled the plug on the trip. It was either that or pay the remaining balance and even though we could have done that, making it a VERY expensive vacation, we chose to cut our losses and figure something else out. We luckily were able to get our entire deposit refunded by Disney, which went back to the travel agent, & then our credit card company went after her. In the end, we got our money back from them as well & other than some crushed vacations dreams, we weren't out anything.

And while all this was going down, there was so much going on in the lives of our family and friends that it really put things into perspective. If this had happened two months prior, I would have been furious but thankfully, I could see that there were more important things than our little dream Disney vacation that didn't go as planned.

I've been following the stories that have developed since we pulled the plug on the travel agent and her business and it's not good. Sadly, our group wasn't the only one she was "scamming", over 1300 complaints totaling more than $1.3 million dollars. Two lawsuits have been filed, one by Square.Inc (that little credit card company that you can pop on the end of your iPhone) & the district attorney for this county (I won't mention the county or the name of the individual for privacy reasons) also filed criminal charges and if convicted she could spend up to 60 years in prison.

I truly believe that this agent wasn't looking to scam all these individuals but got completely in over their head, it's sad any way you look at it. Lesson learned. Now onto Plan B.