Business Owner · Family Cruise Director

Great Wolf Lodge: 8 Ways To Create Lasting Memories

Our family recently stayed at the Great Wolf Lodge and I swear that place is perfect for families!  So here are my tips on 8 ways to create lasting memories as a family at the Great Wolf Lodge!

**Be sure to check out my money saving tips at the end of this post as well as a video I put together to show you first hand what an amazing memories your family will create together.

8.  A family that bunks together stays together. {snicker}  You have got to check out all of the amazing themed rooms at the Great Wolf Lodge.  Ours had a kids cabin inside our room!  The boys absolutely loved having a room to themselves and Jason and I really appreciated how quiet it was and of course the privacy.

Tip:  Check-in starts at 4 p.m., but you can come as early as 1 p.m. to enjoy the water park. Also, check-out is at 11 a.m., but you can stay until 9 p.m. when the indoor water park closes. There are locker rooms in the water park  where you can rinse off, dry your swimsuit and change before the ride home.

7.  It’s Sweet!  The lodge has plenty of places to eat or grab a sweet treat, five to be exact.  Don’t forget the darling photo ops that come along with cute food. {wink}

Tip:  Bring a few snacks or treats to keep in your room. All the rooms come with a mini-fridge but your room is the only place in the hotel where they allow outside food and drinks to be consumed.

Great Wolf Lodge 26.  Scooops Kid Spa – A darling spa specifically for kids!  It’s perfect for birthdays or a special little treat. Your daughter will love the ice cream-themed manicures and pedicures where you can choose your favorite flavor.

{Image Credit}

5.  Cub Club® – If you’re kiddo is ready for a little break from the water park, then head on over to the Cub Club where they’ll enjoy activities and crafts designed to entertain your younger ones for hours.

Northern Lights™ Arcade

4.  Northern Lights™ Arcade – You’ll find just about everything here at the arcade like exciting games of skill for the older kids, as well as fun games of chance for the little ones, and everyone can redeem tickets for prizes.  It boasts hundreds of games for even kids-at-heart.

3.  gr8_space™ -This space is for teenagers only!  This hang out is pimped out with teen-appropriate internet access, mp3 docking stations, and multiple gaming systems including PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii.  It even has it’s own tech jockey who not only plays the latest tunes but hosts Rock Star Karaoke in the evenings.

Great Wolf Lodge Howlin Interior 
Great Wolf Lodge Howlin’ Tornado ~ Photos courtesy of Great Wolf Lodge

2.  Indoor and Outdoor water parks – This theme park is an adventure with Fort Mackenzie, a 4-story interactive tree house, a lazy river, toddler play area, and wave pool.  You’ll also love Coyote cannon with a trilling ride and a 40′ drop!  If that’s not enough, the most thrilling adventure is Howlin Tornado where you drop into the 6-story funnel with 3 friends.  There is also outside water fun to boot!

Great Wolf Lodge Magi Quest

1.  MagiQuest Adventure and Compass Quest™ Games –  Because we have all techy boys, our favorite part of the hotel was the MagiQuest game!  With a magic wand in-hand, you explore an enchanted kingdom and join in the ultimate adventure as you enchant objects, befriend a pixie, learn from an ancient wizard, battle a goblin and outwit a dragon. It’s a live-action adventure game is unlike any other you’ve ever played.

Tip:  Take the stairs!  Once you have your wand activated and you take the elevator ~ points are deducted from your score. This is a great perk for parents as your kiddo’s expend a lot of energy running up and down those stair wells. {snicker}

great_wolf_lodge_water_parkTips for First Timers

Money Saving Tip:  Most guests invest in a Paw Pass to experience all the different activities at Great Wolf Lodge. This offers an over 20% savings over buying each of the activities separately. Activities included on the Paw Pass: MagiQuest Wand and Game, Paw Prints, an animal at Great wolf Stuffing Station with outfit, ice cream in Bear Paw,  a small Glitter Tattoo, one “Color Your Own” item in Cub Club, and 20 tokens for the Northern Lights Arcade.

Time Saving Tip:  For other ideas before you arrive, be sure to visit their website and select the “Explore” tab at the top of the page. These will take you to pages with more information about all the family fun activities at Great Wolf Lodge.

Adult Activities:  There is a lot for grown ups to do as well.  Check out the various dining options, places to shop, make a reservation at the Elements Spa Salon  and work out in the Iron Horse Fitness Center.

 We Heart Great Wolf Lodge!

Upcoming Fall Events:

  • Howl-O-Ween – Enjoy thrills and chills as you celebrate Howl-O-Ween. This spooktacular event is fun, safe, and just a boo-bit scary.
  • Novembrrr Savings – It is getting cold outside, but our water park is always 84 degrees inside. Check out the deals and savings.
  • Snowland

Video: A Magical Time At The Great Wolf Lodge and inside MagiQuest Game

Family Cruise Director

At The Fishin’ Hole

One of the main things the boys like to do when we visit Gramma and Grandpa is fishing!

The boys love baiting the hooks, casting it out, and the anticipation of a bite.

This is pure bonding time and I let Jason and Gramma do their thing with the boys.  While I try to learn more about my camera and try different settings and angles.

Their river is full of fish so they usually catch a few and love the thrill of a new fish.

Oh how we LOVE to catch fish.  The entire family gets so excited and then I’m on duty do take lots and lots of pictures of the catch.  {snicker}

My favorite part is watching the sunset and the relaxing ambiance as everything seems to be settling down for the night.

Well… everything but my boys of course.

Family Cruise Director

A Twinge of Nostalgia ~ Universal Orlando Resort

Can you tell that I still really miss summer?  I know that I shouldn’t be so obvious about it but I really do.  We created several wonderful memories as a family but hands down the best ones were at Universal Orlando Resort.
If you’re planning a trip, I blogged about all my travel tips over on Tip Junkie:

I created a vacation count down calendar with my new Silhouette machine so that we could all anticipate the trip together.   In each roller coaster is a piece of paper with information on a ride or attraction that we’ll get to experience.  I wanted the boys to really get a feel for how amazing this trip would be, know what to expect, as well as bond our family in the anticipation and conversation.  It worked!

It was Drake’s first time to ride in an airplane. {technically 2nd but he was an infant}  He absolutely LOVED it.  Actually the first thing he asked when we told him about the trip, was if he would be riding in an airplane.  The boy was seriously stoked!

{Um… to clarify, that Diet Coke is mine – not his. HA!}

If you stay on-site at the Universal Orlando Resort then you have access to all 3 Hotels’ pools.  I swear this was Drakes favorite part.  He absolutely loved the pools and the Hard Rock Hotel pool was his favorite.  It was really convenient to be able to hit the pool whenever you needed to relax or cool down.

I was really worried about Davis this trip.  Turning 12 has brought about so many more emotions, harder transitions, and insomnia.  However, all that worrying on my part was in vain.  The staff was incredible, we prepared Davis properly, and he had the most amazing time!  I was really proud of him as he was able to ‘enjoy the ride’ the entire week and stay on his best behavior.  I know that he had to really work at it and I was so grateful for all of his extra efforts.  It made the week as a family one of the most pleasant and exciting trips to date.

I can’t say enough about the parks! They were clean, technologically advanced, and a flippin’ good time!  We can’t wait to go back.

Deanna was our tour guide at the park and made us feel so special.  She seriously has such a cool job and has met so many celebrities.  I tried to get her to dish, but she’s way too professional for that.  HA!

Jeanette and I became fast friends and this trip introduced me to so many new bloggers who I absolutely ADORE!  It’s been so fun to see them at EVO and then again at BlogHer.  I’ve been spoiled seeing them so much this summer.

I just got my SLR camera and needless to say I have a lot to learn. But it was so much fun trying out new settings, learning about lighting, and using all of the photo op’s in the park to practice some new skills.

Did I mention the kids loved it?

It was so cool when I got an email from  MSNBC that the Today Show featured our family’s photo from Harry Potter World.  I took a screen shot of it to prove to the boys that they were featured.  But um, they were very unimpressed since I didn’t come with cash or a prize.  {whatever}

My new peeps!  Yes the trip was amazing but so were all of the bloggers.  My goodness these are ‘my people’.  There was zero drama and zero ego’s with this group.  They made it so easy to get to know them and their kiddos.  I have no doubt that these people will be in my life for years to come.  Yes, they are THAT cool.  Jason and I felt so blessed to be amongst such talented and warm people.

At the Universal Orland Resort they have child care!  So we dropped all of our kiddos off at camp {which gave me hives I was so worried about their behaviors and staying up so late in a strange place} and we went to dinner and the Blue Man Group as couples.

Once again my worry was needless, because when we picked up the boys from camp they didn’t want to leave!  They completely bonded with all of the other children and the staff was so accommodating and playful that they didn’t miss us one bit. 

I must be living under a rock because I had no idea how flippin’ cool the Blue Man Group is.  My favorite part was when the paper towels came down and everyone was grabbing them to take them to the front.  Dude… that was cool!  I loved it.

HA!!!  Since I currently have a bit of a Diet Coke addiction I had to take this picture of Drake in the Coke misting machine at Universal Studios.  {bwaahaa!}

Thanks for indulging me in my nostalgia as the summer comes to a close and I come to terms with the realities of a rigorous fall schedule.  {big sigh}

I would also be remiss if I didn’t thank everyone at Universal Orlando Resort for making the week so extraordinary, so well planned, with a variety of activities and experiences that we’ll never forget!  Have I mentioned how much I miss summer…

Business Owner · Family Cruise Director

Sea World San Antonio of Texas: 7 Insider Secrets To Plan Your Trip

Visiting Sea World San Antonio of Texas this summer?  Then  you’re going to need these insider secrets To Plan Your Trip!  Sure you can just show up to Sea World San Antonio in Texas and wait in an hour line for a hamburger… or you can be armed with an easy game plan and really enjoy your trip to Sea World.  {wink}

Tip #1 ~ Plan Your Day Before You Arrive at the Park
Did you know that SeaWorld San Antonio has an iPhone and Droid app?  Yep, first things first and download the app to your phone.  You’ll love it!  It has the show schedule {which changes frequently}, a map to the park, and you can even take pictures of your day ad upload them.  It’s seriously cool.  You’ll be able to find a restroom and pick a place to eat right at your finger tips.
Create a Food, Show, and Ride plan.  
So use the rest of these insider tips to really plan out what you are going to be doing every hour of the day to maximize your experience, money, and family fun!  Please don’t just show up unprepared – you’ll get frustrated and stuck in line after line.
Also, buy your tickets, quick queue passes, dine-in passess, and dining experiences all online so you don’t have to wait at the park.  Believe me when I tell you the lines can run up to an hour long.  So this is key.
When To Visit the Park
It’s good to know that April, May, August and September are not as busy so it’s a great time to come and visit the park.  On the flip side, the busiest time of the year is Spring Break and the 4th of July.
Tip #2 ~ When to Arrive?
The parking lot opens at 8am, cashier opens at 9am, the front gate opens at 9:30 in the morning.  The front of the park opens at 9:30 and others at 10am.  While the entire park opens up at 11am.
My advice is to find out what time you can feed the dolphins and get there at 9:15 to do that first!  Otherwise you can wait up to 3 hours trying to feed those friendly creatures since they’re only fed a few times throughout the day.  It’s a Sea World tradition and an amazing photo-op for your kiddos.
Tip #3 ~ When to Ride the Roller Coasters

If you have older kids and want to ride the Steel Eel and the Great White go back to the park first thing in the morning {11am}.  My boys were able to ride each ride twice with zero wait! 

In the summer hit the water rides in the Lost Lagoon before the dry rides between 1-2pm to avoid the lines and long wait times.  If you have a two-day pass for Sea World Texas, go early into the Lost Lagoon and stay the day.  There is so much to do and your family will absolutely love it.

RIO at Sea World San Antonio

Tip #4 ~ Best Time To Eat

Hands down the best time to eat is near a stadium during a show, especially at Rio during the Shamu show at noon.  You’ll see that the majority of the people are either inside the stadium or in a different side of the park – leaving Rio empty without a line and perfect for a quiet family lunch.

Tip #5 ~ Where To Sit at the Shows

If the park is really crowded, then you are going to want to get to the shows 45-60 minutes before it starts!  Um, yes.  I know that sounds a little excessive but if you have come with another family then this is really easy.  You tag team it!  Have one adult sit and wait at the show with the small kiddos while the other is having fun with the older ones.  My husband and I take turns waiting and it actually ends up being a really nice break.  Buy some popcorn, cotton candy, or lunch and enjoy the peace and quiet.

I was wondering where are the best places to sit and watch the shows at the park so I asked Brian, their PR director and this is the inside scoop!

  • Azule – Sit left center.  Away from the funny guy that splashes people during the warm up show.   If the seats are wet around you – you will get wet!  So pick a dry spot.
  • Sea Lions – At the front left you will get wet – so sit in the front on the right side to stay dry and get a great view.
  • Shamu – You’ll want to site right behind the side out {the white landing place where the whale shows off}  Or when facing the stadium from outside – sit on the left bleachers, middle.  You’ll get a great view and stay dry.

Tip #6 ~ Re-create Family Traditions

Don’t forget your family traditions while at the park.  For instance, I always take a family picture of us eating cotton candy when we visit.  Also, if you match your families clothing it not only makes darling pictures but it also helps with safety as you’ll be able to find your family at a quick glance.  Another thing I love to do is take a picture of my kids at the same place every visit.  This way as they get older I have fun collage of growing up pictures.

In order to get a picture of the big Sea World sign at the front of the entrance {like the 1st picture in this article}, you’re going to want to take a U-turn at the entrance at around 9:00am.  This way no one else will be in your picture, there won’t be a wait, and you won’t back up traffic. {wink}

Tip #7 ~ Don’t Forget to Bring:
  • Make sure your camera is fully charged.  You’re going to love all of the photo ops!
  • Sunscreen – Especially if it’s a little overcast you’re going to want protection from the sun.
  • 8 Quarters for the Lockers – There are lockers in several different places to keep your personal items secure.  You’ll need more if you’re at the Lost Lagoon to hold your camera and wallet while you’re on the wet rides.
  • A small bag or light backpack that you can wear on your back to carry small items.  I would not bring a purse ~ you’ll be walking all day long and the extra weight will just get cumbersome. 
  • Portable iGo Charger for your iPhone.  You’ll be taking pictures, using the Sea World app, and texting each other to stay in touch.  You’ll need a lot of extra juice to get through the day without a hitch.
  • Stroller for young kiddos.  Just make sure that it has a basket to hold a diaper bag, water bottles, and individually packaged snacks.  {that’s the only type of food allowed to be brought into the park}

That’s it.  Even though we live 5 hours away, my family and I have been to Sea World San Antonio of Texas over 6 times and I we still can’t get enough of it.  It’s a wonderful family vacation and there’s so much to do for families with kids of all ages! 

Enjoy your trip, you’re going to love it!

Business Owner · Family Cruise Director

Holi Powder War ~ aka Billy’s Mystery Baseball Party

{Our Before Picture}
Over the weekend Lisa {my sister} threw her man a mystery baseball birthday party.  When we were brainstorming themes I quickly remembered the Holi Powder party  I featured from Jordan’s blog in 2007.  I’ve been dying to do it since the day I read about her outrageous party!
{We warned each guest in the invite to wear grubby clothes and old shoes.}
After discovering that we wouldn’t be able to buy the Holi Powder in bulk, we decided to use it to play baseball.  This way it would last a little longer and we would all be engaged in a fun game.
Where did we get the holi powder? 
Lisa purchased twenty four 7oz packages from Bombay Bazzaar in Arlington. She negotiated the price of $2 a package. In your area, Google “india store” and then call around asking if they sell “holi powder”.
It was perfect since all our men have been on the same softball team for years and the season just started. 
How did we play? 
Lisa pored small amounts of the holi powder in a square of fabric and then tied it together with yarn the morning of the game.  During the game she grabbed a fabric pouch and then inserted it into a wiffle ball and untied the yarn, so it would explode the powder on impact.
Where did we play?
Um…. we found a flat spot in my green belt and set up the game.  {my poor neighbors, HA!}
How Did We Make the Shirts?
We made ‘Team Billy’ t-shirts using iron on printable transfer paper from Michaels. {$10 for 10 sheets}  It came with software instructions, so the design was easy to make.  
In the middle of the bullseye is Billy’s face!  {snicker}  We wanted everyone in white so the pictures would be uber fab!  Also, we didn’t want to ruin anyone’s clothes.
Tip:  The holi powder goes through at least 3 layers of clothing.  Do not wear your favorite bra!  {just sayin’}
It was such an easy party to plan.  Lisa hired a professional photographer to take pictures of the game so we could all sit back and just have fun.  It was worth every penny!   The photographer did such an amazing job and edited the pictures so beautifully.  Now we’ll remember this day forever!

How To Tag People Out?
 To get a player OUT at each base, the baseman had to have the wiffle ball in their hand AND tag the other team member in the bullseye with their bottle of holi powder.  
We bought the clear empty ketchup bottles from Walmart.  One package filled the bottle to the top.  I made little fabric holsters for each base.  However, it didn’t end up being necessary.  It was better to have the bottle in your hand ready to go. {wink}
Instead of being graceful and a productive team member, I missed the ball and it beamed me right in the forehead.  {“L” on forehead with a big red dot!} I suck.
When it was time for our giant color fight, Jason took me aside to give me some pointers.  Yep, my man had my back!  {he knows I need it. snicker}
Then it was on!  Every man/woman for themselves.
 With bags of powder in hand we just went to town throwing handfuls of powder at each other!
 Lisa and the Birthday Boy
Billy got the brunt of it.  {bwaahaa!}
This is my favorite picture of the day.  Happy Birthday Billy!
{Our After Picture}
Party Favors ~ Big League Chew
I didn’t get a picture of the party favor.  But I cut out blue paper the length of the big league chew.  Then printed the “team billy” image small {from the tshirt graphic} onto white paper.  Fold the blue paper in half (1/2 on front and 1/2 on back of gum) and put the “team billy” on top of the blue paper and I stapled it onto Big League chew on the black line of the graphic {under team billy}.  It was so simple. Jason actually made them all. 
Thanks Lisa!  It was the most amazing day and one I’ll never forget.  I swear I have the best sister on the planet.
Business Owner · Family Cruise Director

Reliving Christmas Memories {cuz I’m finally uploading them – HA!}

{Visiting Nana}
 Ahhh, Christmas memories…  This year December was a complete blur as I overcommitted myself with work.  It was a good kind of work which brought once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and made this Christmas extra special for our family.
I worked with TJ Maxx/Marshalls and GameStop which was a lot of fun and once again made me get out of my comfort zone and learn something new.  
Free Printable Crafts Homemade Gift Ideas
DIY Party Ideas Homemade Christmas Crafts

I also launched 4 new sites, which took me 2 months just to design on paper {{giggle}}:
I adore these new sites!  Not only are the Tip Junkie girls all dressed up cute, but these new blogs feature “the best of the best” within their niche.  They are perfect for quick browsing with powerful search functionality. {{love it!}}  
They have exceeded my expectations and I believe are the next generation of “content aggregation” blogs. Believe it or not, they are only in phase 1 – as I have big plans for these new Tip Junkie girls.  {{evil laugh}}
{Drake w/ Barry’s Kids}
I was teaching them to tilt their head for the photo.  HA!

We visited a lot of family before Christmas.  Scott {my 3rd brother} game up from College Station for a quick visit.  It was great to see him and the boys LOVED rough-housing with him.  He reminded me so much of the time when Jason was in college and I was working.  Man, that was such a stressful time in our lives.  Being broke and not knowing what the future holds – just sucks!  {{poor Scott}}
Then we headed over to Houston and saw my Mom and Barry’s family {my 2nd brother}.  My mother flew in from California for Christmas.  Sadly, I only took one picture while we were visiting.  I was having so much fun – I completely forgot to capture the moments on film.  {{“L” on forehead}}

Lastly, we spent a couple days with Jason’s family.  Betty {Jason’s mom} and Gary live on the river.  So the boys had so much fun fishing, shooting, and all things outdoors.

After several attempts, Drakie finally successfully fed the cat 1/2 a fish.  Yep, we had just caught it from the river and Gramma chopped it up for Drake to feed it to the cat.  {{grodie}}  Not your everyday occurrence in the burbs where we live.  {{snicker}}

As the sun was setting I took a quick picture of Jason and I on the dock.  {{awe!}}

It just goes to show that “environment” has a LOT to do with your upbringing.  Who would have known that three little computer nerds would love being outdoors so much!  I can’t pay them to play in the back yard at home.  I guess I need a … lake… dead fish … tractor… ?

{sigh} Ok.  So I married a native Texan.  Yes, when I met Jason he was a wrangler wearing cowboy who ironed his jeans.  {no kidding} I’ve done a great job at prepping him up – but a girl can only do so much.

Jason fondly remembers getting his first gun when he was 10.  Therefore, he’s been wanting to get the boys a gun for quite a while now. Living in the burbs – I’ve been able to successfully dodge this issue for quite some time now.  Well, no longer…

As of this Christmas, my boys are now the proud owners of their own air pellet gun.  {{what?!?}}  I know, I know.  I assure you it was beyond my control.  
We let them open it up early since we were in the country at Gramma’s & Grandpas.  They have their own little shooting range all set up and ready to go.  So Jason and the older boys spent days shooting guns.  
Seeing how strict Jason and Grandpa were with them, and how particular they were with the rules, I have to say that I’m no longer freaked out.  I was seriously impressed at how careful the boys were and how much they respected the rules and understood the seriousness of holding a rifle.  They spent hours just learning about guns, safety, and proper technique.  I would have thought they would have gotten majorly bored – but they didn’t.
It’s so weird seeing my little boys grow up right before my eyes!
Christmas Morning

So the ONLY thing Drake wanted for Christmas was the Trio Batcave.  Santa did not disappoint. Drake could not have been happier Christmas morning.  Although, to this day – he has yet to play with it alone.  {{pulling hair out!}}  He’ll only play with it if I make on of the boys play with him.  Dude – I don’t get this kid.  He spent 2 months asking for it.  {{scratching head}}
For the older boys, I set up a 3 clue scavenger hunt for them to find their big gift from Jason and me.  Sorry Santa – you don’t get credit for this one.  It’s all mine!  {{evil laugh}}
After running up and down and around the house, the boys arrived into the study where their new computers where waiting for them!  They were blown away and completely shocked.  It was a cool moment as a parent.

Jason’s work has this program where they earn “reward points”.  Over the year, he had earned enough points for 2 free computer monitors.  {{squeal}}  Shhhh… don’t tell the boys but their gifts were not as expensive as they appear.  Jason built the CPU’s.  Now Jason, Davis, and Dylan can all play their game against each other at the same time!  They’re loving it.

It’s not very often that you get to look like a rockstar in your child’s eyes.  Jason and I thoroughly enjoyed this moment. {{boy do we have them fooled}}

I have a philosophy for Christmas morning fun for everyone. Therefore, I try to get the boys:

Something to build
A video game to play
A toy for their imagination (usually the toy to build)
Something to play with outside
A board game
A big gift from Santa

Pre-Christmas work is mine, but Christmas Day work is a Jason!  He’s the one that gets to put batteries in everything, put things together, and do all the dude stuff.  He’s great at it.
Like last year, most of the kiddos gifts came from the companies I worked with.  GameStop sent Drake a new DSi and some games.  {{thank heaven}}  He loves it.

Jason got a smoker and a gaming mouse for WOW.  My gifts came from TJ Maxx & Marshalls.  I was boring and very practical:  new plates, pot, towels, and bathroom decor for Dylan’s bathroom.  I know, I’m so boring. I can’t help it.

{Davis is always good at being overly grateful}}

Christmas morning was a wonderful memory that we’ll all cherish for years to come.  Looking back, I’m just so flippin’ grateful for the opportunities that Tip Junkie has given us.

Even the boys have expressed their gratitude for “my store”.  That’s what I started calling it years ago when they were too young to understand what a blog was.  Our lives have most certainly been enriched.  I’ll always be most grateful for this ride and this special opportunity of doing what I love.  It’s so rare.

Family Cruise Director

Thanksgiving in Hot Springs

This Thanksgiving was hands down one of the best we’ve had so far.  Now that the boys are older, traveling, bunking in a strange cabin, and being away from the Xbox is a lot easier!  The boys seem to surprise me daily as they’re growing up and becoming responsible young men.  Who knew that would actually happen?!? {{giggle}}

This year was just like the past two, we traveled with some of our favorite people on the planet and picked a mountainous place to celebrate Thanksgiving.   This year it was Hot Springs, Arkansas.

We’ve created our own traditions and rhythm:    Hiking, Cooking, Eating, Playing board games, Campfire, Smores, Skit Night, Turkey Bowl, 3D Movie, and a lot of laughing!

This year the cabin was out of this world!  It had a huge hot tub and the kiddos took full advantage.  Never-mind the 40 degree weather. {{snicker}}

We all went hiking, took family pictures, and had a picnic lunch.  It was 2 years ago during our hike that I ruptured a disc in my back.  Needless to say, I was a little freaked out on the walk.  I desperately tried to hide it as my boys kept asking me if I was OK and begging me not to hurt myself.  Man, I’m hoping one day to fully  heal emotionally from that experience.  
Good news is I didn’t have any problems and it was an unforgettable day.

Here’s our annual family picture in the mountains.

Thanksgiving is always a treat as I have my sister-wives to cook all the important stuff!  {{not really sister-wives of course, we were just joking about how great it would be to share the cooking every night.}}  
I was in charge of the stuffing and pies.  Dude, I get off easy every year.  This is proof that I can cook – I just hate every minute of it.  The girls are always surprised when I come with baked goods. {{bwaahaa!}}

I’m also in charge of the kids table every year.  Having my new printables site made my job uber easy!
I went all out this year with placemats, straw labels, mini root beer labels, and muffin toppers.  It was so much fun to put together!  That’s so my thang.  I will be really sad when Drake gets too old for the kids table.  Thank heaven I have a few more years.
This was the first year that we had 12 year olds in our midst.  My goodness this is such a strange time in our lives as a parent.  {{you know what I mean!}}

All the little kids were absolutely darling and had a blast.  By far this was the easiest year to entertain them and play with them.  It was a true delight.

This year, I am exuding gratitude.  I’m exhausted as I’m not used to this strenuousness work load.  However, every day brings something new.  I’m so honored to have this man by my side through it all.  It’s been a rocky ride with the boys, but it’s such a relief to be able to see the fruits of our labors.
Speaking of, Davis bore his testimony in front of the entire congregation at church 2 weeks ago.  Sadly, I wasn’t there to hear him as I was in bed from being sick for 5 days.  But, he came home beaming and recounted the entire thing.  
 You know, you take care of them day in and day out desperately trying to teach them to be good fathers and husbands.  You feel like you’re a complete failure because they fight you to brush their teeth, and then they stand up in front of hundreds of people and tell a story about an experience they had while on a camp-out that strengthened his testimony of Jesus Christ.  Talk about a 180.
My little boy is most certainly turning into a man.  Thank heaven for these little glimpses of strength and that what you’re trying to teach them is in reality sinking in.
I have much to be grateful for.
Family Cruise Director

15 Years Together

To celebrate our 15 year wedding anniversary Jason and I went to St. Augustine, Florida for an adventure.  It’s the oldest city in the United States and has a lot of rich history.

One of our favorite things to do is be cheesy tourists and discover new cities.

St. Augustine is perfect for us because it’s right on the beach yet it has a lot of things to do and see.

We did it all!  Rode the trolley tours, toured the forts, and enjoyed the time together.

We even made it up all the stairs to the top of the lighthouse!

Ripley’s Believe it or Not! was a lot of fun with some cool photo ops.

It was just a cool weekend with a lot of yummy food and quality time together.

On our way to the airport we decided to take a leisurely drive along the coast and made a lunch stop quick stop in Daytona Beach.

My goodness I cannot believe that it’s already been 15 years that I’ve been married to the most wonderful man.  It seems like just yesterday we had our first baby and were in the throws of trying to figure out parenthood. 

The last 15 years has been a wild ride but one that I would absolutely do again but only if Jason is by my side.

We have endured sickness and health.  We have been broke, wealthy, and broke again.  We’ve had to endure the pain of having two children diagnosed and medicated.  We’ve had our dreams dashed and other dreams fulfilled. We have lived in 3 states and have finally found our permanent home here in the DFW area.  We adore it here! We have been tested beyond our abilities.  We have laughed together, at each other, and as a family.  We have cried together, been in pain together, and have been the rock each other needs to keep moving forward.

I’m honored to have picked a man who completely gets me.  Who loves my excitement for html {web coding}, Sci-Fi and action movies, my OCD and OTT tendencies, and who appreciates all that I am and overlooks all that I am not.

I would never have guessed 15 years ago that we would live in the DFW area, have 3 boys, and I would be a professional blogger.  {{bwaahaa!}}  If I had gotten that fortune I would have laughed my head off in disbelief.  However, I am truly grateful for my husband, for my boys, and for the life I have today.  I’m honored to have the responsibilities and opportunities that I have and try by best to fulfill them with integrity and the best of my ability.

I live life each day with the moto “Where much is given much is expected” and I earnestly always try my best.  Every morning I also tell myself, “Today is a new day with no mistakes in it!”  Hopefully, I’ll live the next 15 years the way I have the last.