October involved a lot of travel, both business and personal. We kicked off the month with a trip to Raleigh for a football game, which we “cooked” for our crew by having catered BBQ. It’s a bit challenging preparing food for 20 people when you live three hours away, so we took the easy route. Brayden and Hanleigh had a joint field trip to the Schiele Museum of Natural History & Planetarium and had a great time learning more about constellations, something Brayden really appreciates.
We ventured back to Raleigh for the NCSU/Notre Dame football game with our great friends (and loyal ND fans), Mike and Tonya. Unfortunately, Hurricane Matthew was also in town that weekend. But, that didn’t slow us down in the least bit! On Friday night, we went to Whiskey Kitchen for drinks before heading to Poole’s Diner (one of our favorite restaurants in Raleigh) for some absolutely delicious food. The next day, “we built tent city out of tarps and poles” among the mud and pouring down rain. Everyone donned their favorite pair of rain boots and rallied from 7:30am-12:30pm tailgating before kickoff. Although the stadium attendance was sparse and the game looked more like a slip n’ slide than anything else, we had an absolute blast (and State won!). We continued the evening with a large group dinner at Jimmy V’s Osteria and then went dancing at The Library where I pretty much “dropped it low” for a couple hours (so much that the next day my quads were on fire!). The adults-only weekend was a blast and Mike & Tonya lost the bet, which meant they had to fly our NC State flag at their house for the next week (see the nighttime video footage of Trent and the girls swapping out their flag for ours).
Brayden celebrated her 10th birthday with friends from her school at Laser Quest and then went to Cookout for burgers and shakes. It was honestly the least expensive birthday party we’ve ever had for her. Plus, the kids had a blast! The next day, I flew to Orlando for my annual work conference, which went really well. Every year, we seem to improve the quality of the event and surpass our customer and partner’s expectations. This was my 16th one and it always makes me proud to watch the hard work throughout the course of the year all culminate at this event! While I was in Orlando, the girls had their fun run at school (it was Hanleigh’s first one) and did a great job. This was the first time they ever turned it into a color run for the 3rd-5th graders, so Brayden finished the race with her hair and face covered in powdered chalk! Hanleigh had her reading level assessment and she is currently a level D, which is awesome for kindergarten! Go girl!
Thursday of that week, Trent and the kids flew down to Orlando to meet me for what would be an absolutely amazing (and much needed!) vacation and time together as a family! For Brayden’s 10th birthday, we surprised her by taking her to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. Harry Potter is her most favorite book series by far (she read them all in a five-month period when she was in second grade and has read them all again since), so when we entered Diagon Alley, the expression on her face was priceless. She was absolutely beside herself. We stopped at Olivander’s (the wand store), bought each of the girls a wand and walked about the park “casting spells”, and riding the coasters and the Hogwart’s Express. The attention to detail in the parks was incredible…Hogwart’s looked exactly like it did in the movies, etc. After a day of Harry Potter, we were exhausted and got a good night’s sleep before heading off on our long-awaited trip…a Disney Cruise!
We took a 45-minute bus ride from the Orlando airport to Port Canaveral and went through a number of lines (security, armband, and photo) before boarding. We were in awe by how large the boat was. When we boarded, they announced our family in the grand lobby, so that was pretty cool. We did a bit of exploring before our best friends, The Mazzolas, got there. We had been planning this cruise with them for nearly a year and the day was finally here! Our rooms were connected and we had balconies where they removed the separator, so we had an extra-long balcony. We had two days at sea, which gave us a great way to check out all the ship had to offer: kids’ club, nightlife, pools, waterslides, mini golf, etc. Each night, we went to a different restaurant, but had the same servers. This was really cool because they grew to learn what we liked to eat/drink (for example, Joe had an iced coffee waiting for him each night). The girls really loved being sneaky each day and placing gifts in each family’s fish extender pockets. Everytime we would return to our room, they would run down the hallway anxiously awaiting to see if we had gifts in ours. Even though it took a really long time to put all those gifts together, it was really fun to watch the girls enjoy giving gifts to others.
The weather was relatively mild and a bit overcast, but we were able to get some sun. The first stop was Tortola, BVI where we walked around the port and did some shopping before our catamaran/snorkeling excursion to Norman Island. Hanleigh was a bit nervous with the whole snorkeling concept, but finally calmed down enough to enjoy the water. Brayden, on the other hand, is a little fish! She loves to dive down underwater and check everything out. I think we may have a future scuba diver on our hands, which makes me elated!!! After snorkeling, we went to a beach where we indulged in the best conch fritters and painkillers I’ve ever had in my entire life. Perhaps it was that they were just that tasty, or perhaps it was because we could see the Willy Thorton pirate ship from the beach (look up this place!), but that experience was the essence of heaven on earth. I am pretty sure the conversation that day entailed how in the world we were going to buy a place in the BVI with Joe & Les. One day. On the way back to the ship, we had a dance party on the deck of the boat (thank you, painkillers!). It was a blast!
The next day, we woke up to a beautiful view of St. Thomas. Our excursion that day involved a high-speed catamaran that took us to another small island where we snorkeled again and saw lots of turtles, a stingray, and of course, many tropical fish. Hanleigh was enamored with the turtles and was a bit more adventurous in the water that day. The crew of this excursion made the trip. They were all 20-30 somethings that had made their way from the states to the islands and just never went back to the “real world”. What a life! I admire their freespirited-ness!
Throughout the entire cruise, all four of us were training for our half and full marathons, so there were a few mornings I made my way to deck 4 to run up to eight miles around the track. On day five, we were at sea again and it was a nasty day with 12-15 foot swells, so running on the outdoor track wasn’t even an option. Trent and I decided to put the kids in camp so we could tackle the treadmills for what was a bout of “extreme running”. We had to hold onto the arm rails of the treadmill so we didn’t lose our balance…it was a bit crazy!
Our last stop was at Castaway Cay where the four adults participated in a 5K (it was very humid, but really fun) and then laid on the beach the rest of the time while the kids played in the water. The cruise was absolutely amazing: the food was delicious, everything was kept incredibly clean, the kids club was convenient and provided them with all kinds of activities, the shows before dinner were very well produced, etc. The entire experience was unforgettable and the fact that we got to spend it with our best friends made it that much better. We are excited to do another one, but would choose an itinerary that stops at more ports as we love to explore!
We returned from the cruise and jumped right into Halloween where Brayden was a vampire, Hanleigh was a witch, and Trent and I were pirates. We went to Nina & Keith’s house for a party and then went trick-or-treating.
- She was watching football on TV and shouts out, “Look how big that stadium is! Holy jinkers!”