Friday, October 12, 2018

Family Trip to the Beach

In the middle/end of September, we went to the beach for a week with two other families. It was so much fun and we all had a blast. I kept meaning to get pictures and a short post about our week up here and kept saying "oh, I'll get to that tomorrow, or in a couple of days." Well.  It's now one month later. I am getting to it eventually! I was finally getting to it and then our computer wouldn't recognize the USB drive for me to be able to upload any of my pictures from my phone. I might end up just emailing a couple of my favorites to myself so I can access them on the computer to add to this post. Super frustrating! (and bummer for you all if you were hoping to see lots of pictures, because I'm not going to do too many now that I'm having to save them this way) Thanks for your patience, because I know there are several of you that have been waiting for this to be finished.

We stayed for an entire week at a house right on the beach in Fort Morgan, Alabama. The weather was perfect (only one day really that it rained) and we filled our mornings and evenings out in the water. It took Elaina a day or two to get comfortable (and Evie too) in the water, but after she did there was no stopping her! She had her life jacket on and would just lay back, relaxing and floating in the water. Anytime I came near to bring her back to where we were, she would say "No, no no!" We had fun going out to the sandbar (one day there was a group of pelicans so close to us as we were going out!), watching schools of fish swim by, seeing the dolphins nearly every morning, finding crabs and seashells, building sandcastles and becoming sand mermaids. On top of all of that, dance parties among the five little girls there and loads of laughter, a treasure hunt, visits from the Beach Fairy, and eating lots of fun treats made our time at the beach a week to remember.

Also, I fell in love with Portrait Mode on the iPhone on this trip. Pretty much all of the best pictures were taken on Graham's phone (or on a friend's) that had Portrait Mode. Hope you enjoyed the pictures!

xoxo, Marissa 

Thursday, July 26, 2018


Wahoo! Graham and I recently got back from the best vacation ever. We went on a cruise! All by ourselves! We definitely missed our girls and talked about them often (though not all of the time), but it was so great to go on a trip just the two of us. Our cruise left out of New Orleans and stopped in Cozumel and Progreso, Mexico.

First off, let me just say that road tripping without children is so much easier. I seriously forgot how quickly you can get gas, snacks, and use the bathroom without even trying to rush! No car seats to buckle, no messy children to clean up, no 3 year old saying "I need to use the bathroom" and then you stop and they don't have to pee...Get the picture?

Friday: We checked into our hotel, then discovered there was a music festival going on in New Orleans that weekend (which is why there were absolutely NO hotels under $500/night actually in New Orleans when we were looking). Quick FaceTime call with the girls and then we drove into New Orleans for dinner. We made reservations at Bon Ton Cafe per the recommendation of a coworker of Graham's and it did not disappoint. So stinking good.

Saturday: The next morning after breakfast we went into New Orleans and explored for a bit before heading to the ship. Graham had never been to New Orleans before and I'd only been once, after my senior year of high school (which, was a really fun and unique trip. My forensics group was asked to perform a Readers Theater at the Rotary International meeting--so fun! And we basically were given free reign to explore. Thinking about that now seems sort of crazy, but maybe the kids under 18 had more supervision? I don't even remember, hah). We walked down Bourbon Street (which, even at 10:30 in the morning was kinda nasty: bars/clubs blasting music, work crews in the street hosing it down, smell of urine, bleh.) and made our way into the French Quarter. Walking in the alley to get to the front of St. Louis Cathedral was magical. All the sounds vanished and it was incredibly peaceful. We went inside and looked around, taking it all in. I remembered it from my last visit, and it didn't disappoint. We had a 40 minute wait for beignets (this store on the corner had a crazy long line, and only one girl on checkout, it was ridiculous!) then a fantastic lunch at Olde Nola's Cookery (crab cakes and the fried seafood platter). Made our way to the ship, spent the afternoon reading, and explored, getting our bearings.

Sunday: Days of the week don't mean much on a ship. We did skip exercising when we thought of going, and made sure to read scriptures. We had our formal night at dinner, "cruise elegant." So much fun! I am blessed to have fantastic friends, and Niki didn't let me down. She was coming to visit and go to the pool the day before we left for our cruise and I texted her that morning (perhaps the night before? I don't remember. It was pretty last minute though.) asking if she might have any dresses I could borrow. Good thing we are close to the same size, and she even had a pair of heels that fit! It was fun to get really dressed up and go to dinner. Loved it! However, I kept taking to big of steps which caused me to trip over the back of the dress, heh. Also, I had been a stickler for taking the stairs, but relented on the way to and from dinner ;) Our room was on Deck 10, and our dining room was on Deck 4. I was not about to walk that in heels and a long dress.

Monday: Port of Call--Cozumel, Mexico! We booked an excursion for Deluxe Beach, Sail + Snorkel. Well worth the cost! It rained a few minutes, right as we got on our boat, but was gorgeous afterwards. We got to snorkel for 40 minutes. It was otherworldly. The first time I put my face in, I was in awe. All the other sounds were blocked out and I got to be a part of a completely different place. The fish were prominent, mostly black/white striped, and silvery-grey ones with a bright blue stripe across their top. Also saw some small jellyfish, one right in front of me that I easily could have touched. Graham loved it. We had inflatable life jackets and he kept his deflated the entire time so he could keep diving down to see and experience more. I went down twice, but I couldn't equalize so the pressure was too great in my ear to stay long or enjoy myself. I'm proud of myself for trying though. Then we went to a gorgeous, white sand beach where they had kayaks and big inflatable water slides. So much fun! We also found some good seashells to bring home, as well as a few souvenirs from the shops back at port. The crew on our boat (Fury #5) was so fun! They played music on our way back and were dancing along with everyone, were extremely talented at their jobs, and were funny. The head of our crew, Alfredo, said "Welcome to Cuba!" when we got to the beach. Hah!!

Tuesday: Port of Call--Progreso, Mexico! We took some pictures with some guys dressed up in Mayan attire (they tried to ask for $20 but were quite happy with the $10 counter offer) and did a bit of shopping. We didn't plan any excursion for this port, so we just spent a short time off the boat. More reading, more napping, and we went and exercised at the fitness center. I bought a dress for Evie and a wraparound skirt for me. Each night they played a movie on the Lido deck and we went and watched the new(ish, when did it come out? Fairly recently) Jumanji. We missed the first couple of minutes because we were at dinner, but I feel like the trailer contained the gist of what we missed out on.

Wednesday: Another day at sea. This is when I took the time to write in my journal, and I mostly recapped all the occurrences and added another couple pages I called "random bits" (will include later). Worked out at the fitness center again, after going to Harry Potter trivia. Graham sort of rolled his eyes at me for wanting to go (like I said, we mostly skipped out on the activities during the day, choosing to read instead). I couldn't pass up a chance to test my Harry Potter knowledge though. All things said and done, I should feel proud of how well I did, but instead (like the overachiever I am) I was bugged that I came so close to winning and didn't quite get it. Especially when there were two questions I had the correct answer, but went back with my initial thought instead of switching. Blah. Also, for anyone interested: Nicholas Flamel retired in Devon and there are 142 staircases in Hogwarts. (Those were two that I missed, but not the two I was second-guessing myself on) The winner had 29 points. I had 28.

Our favorite server, Putu Agus

Thursday: Good to be home. Tonight getting the girls to bed was a breeze (Cinda had them in pjs, ready to go). I enjoyed reading to them and snuggling. Evie loved seeing what we brought home: seashells from Cozumelj, toucan magnetic puzzle for Evie, maracas for Elaina, nativity ornaments in gourds (1 for us, 1 for David and Cinda as a thankyou for watching the girls), wraparound skirt for me, dress for Evie. Graham and I had a wonderful, relaxing vacation but I'm glad to be home with my girls and to sleep in my own bed.

I mean, this view!! Taken from our balcony

Random Bits: 

  • Our room steward was Iputu (Indonesia), and our waitstaff at dinner were Ujang (Indonesia), Putu Agus (Philippines), and Satish (India). All fantastic, know our names, and know that Graham wants Mr. Pibb at dinner. One night both Ujang and Putu Agus both brought one out to Graham (without knowing the other was grabbing it), and another night they had it waiting on the table for him when we arrived.
  • The Carnival Melting Chocolate Cake is to die for. I had it for dessert 3 of the 5 nights. 
  • I tried Graham's Chile Rellenos and it was so spicy! I had to keep eating to get the taste out (I had the Indian dish that night--lentils, basmati rice, papadam and raita--not exactly sure what all it was but it tasted fantastic!) 
  • Most of the crew I've seen is from southeast Asia, but these are all the ones I saw (each employee had their country on their name badge): Indonesia, Philippines, India, South Africa, United Kingdom, Russia, Romania, Bosnia+Herzegovina 
  • Love our balcony even though we have loud/obnoxious neighbors (one side was even smoking, so I reported it to our room steward) 
  • The first round of mini golf we played I won, but Graham creamed me the other two times we played. 
  • We consumed lots and lots of soft serve
  • Showing Evie our room via FaceTime before we got off the ship was so much fun! She freaked out when we showed her the balcony 
  • Both girls were all smiles and full of hugs when we got home at 6:30pm on Thursday 

The Girls: David and Cinda watched the girls for us while we went on the trip and it was comforting knowing that they were being well taken care of and loved on in our absence. They went swimming a couple of times, splashed in the kiddie pool at David and Cinda's house lots, hit up Sam's Club for samples, went to story time at the library, went to a special tea party (Sock Hop themed) at the library for 3-5 year olds, and went to Cow Day at Chick Fil A. 

xoxo, Marissa 

Friday, May 11, 2018

Visiting with Family

My older sister, Michelle, lives in the Seattle area. She recently came to visit  came to visit at the beginning of April and I had the opportunity to take the girls down to my parents' house in central Arkansas to see her. It was so much fun getting to spend time with her and my other siblings. While we were sad Graham wasn't able to make it (working nights and a random schedule make planning trips difficult), we were glad we could make the trip.

We left on a Friday afternoon and we drove through rain the entire way. Both girls napped and I listened to podcasts (At Home With Sally Clarkson, Brave Writer, Speaking with Joy, Risen Motherhood). It was nice to have a couple of hours in the car to be able to listen!

Bedtime was a mess that night, because (as aforementioned) Evie had napped in the car. She hadn't napped one bit for the previous week straight, so that threw her off. Annnd being in a new place. Annnd the arrival of Rebecca and Camille (my younger sisters) in the midst of it all. Best quote from the night (around 9pm?) "Mommy!! Did you lock the door or are you just holding the handle?" I cracked up laughing. Because I had been holding the handle. Thankfully I learned my lesson from this travesty and remedied it for the rest of our week in town. (I put Elaina down first so that she would be asleep in the room, then went in with Evie and laid next to her while she fell asleep. I read an ebook on my phone after snuggling with her for a couple of minutes, and each night within 5 minutes of starting to read she was fast asleep.)

Saturday morning we got together with my friend April. Her little girl is between Evie and Elaina so it was fun to get together. And as always, the time goes by too fast!

Michelle came in late Saturday night, arriving at my parents' house around 10:30pm. I had been baking chocolate chip cookies to have as dessert for our Sunday dinner, so I put some of them out with milk and also had yogurt and fruit out. At the time I was in the middle of reading Sally Clarkson's book, The Lifegiving Table, and it inspired me to lay a beautiful feast out for her arrival :) Complete with a candle. I felt so very civilized ;) We stayed up far too late playing a game of Trivial Pursuit (from the version produced in if I wouldn't have been bad enough at a current version, heh). We learned an array of useful facts, including which two countries the Khyber pass goes through (Afghanistan and Pakistan, the location of the Kon-Tiki Raft (Oslo, Norway), and a myriad of others I'm sure. Someone who gets more sleep than me might be able to remember. Mom, Michelle, you guys remember any other super interesting facts we learned?

On Sunday we went to church out in the little Branch where I went when I was a kid. It was so fun! My mom went to class with Evie, so I was actually able to attend Sunday School and Relief Society (meeting for the adult women in our church). At home I serve in our children's organization (Primary) so I don't normally get to attend lessons with other adults on Sundays. Elaina was a champ even though she was so very tired. I grabbed a couple toys out of the nursery for her to play with during RS.

We did a big lunch/dinner that afternoon around 3pm. My older brothers were all able to be there (Bob and Parker live in town but Patrick and his girlfriend Allison made a long drive to come). Aunt Rita's potato salad was a huge hit (as expected). One of these days I might actually try my hand at making it...maybe.

On Monday we went to dinner with my second family, aka the Schulte family. Always love getting together with them so my girls can have some time with Grandpa Tim and Grandma Chris :) If Evie can get past her fear of Sadie (the dog), then we'll be golden. Elaina, of course, is best friends with Sadie.

More mornings at the park, more afternoons working in the garden. In between times going through the house with Michelle and helping Mom declutter :)


On that Thursday morning we packed up and headed out (after one last trip to the park to hide some painted rocks). Both girls fell asleep right away, but unfortunately neither slept very long. I'm talking, even little Elaina baby only napped for 45 minutes. Evie probably slept for about 20-30 minutes. So we stopped at a random place marked "Overlook" and stretched our legs. It was fun to spend some time running around in the grass and soaking up the sunshine before getting back into the car. The girls each had a couple of books and some snacks to eat to keep them fairly occupied. They also enjoyed tugging back and forth on a blanket. I, once again, listened to some podcasts and it was great!

We were thrilled to get home and see Graham that night. A week is a long time to be away from someone you love :)

xoxo, Marissa

 P.S. Here are some more pictures from our week :)