August may have been one of the best months ever! My 40th birthday celebration was nothing short of spectacular, thanks to some secret planning by some of my best friends and Trent! On July 29, I thought I had to leave for the airport around noon, but while I was getting the kids ready for us to leave, Kendall and Tonya came over and kidnapped me! They whisked me away to this delicious little lunch spot in Southend where we drank mimosas and shared some tasty food. Then, we did a detour to Duck Donuts and then had manis/pedis at a nearby salon. Just when I thought the surprises were over, they took me to Ballantyne Spa to lay out and then have massages. We got cleaned up there and then we were going to “have a drink” at the bar before going out to dinner somewhere. When I rounded the corner to go into the bar, I saw Kyle, Trent, Mike, and Andrew all waiting for us! I got teary-eyed and felt so loved and celebrated! We had the most delicious dinner at Gallery, drank three bottles of delicious wine that they let us bring in, hung out a the bar again, and then went to Agave wine bar for some drinks, followed by Brazwell’s for some dancing. It couldn’t have been a better day. It was so well-rounded and the biggest surprise ever. The thought and effort that everyone put into that day made me feel so incredibly special. I was very humbled and couldn’t stop smiling. I love you all! And that was just the start…
The next morning, we really did have to leave…so, we said goodbye to the kids, and drove to the airport. I told Trent that I didn’t want to know anything about where we were going, so I put in my headphones, cranked up some booty jams and kept my head down while he went to the check-in desk. I made it all the way past the gate agent, down the jet bridge, onto the plane, and even the entire flight without looking at the monitors, screens, or hearing the announcements! I was determined! About two hours into the flight, I felt the plan start to descend. I started doing some calculating in my head…I knew I needed a passport (well, unless that was a lie), but I wasn’t sure where we could be landing that was only two hours away from Charlotte. The only place I could think of was Bermuda. As we got closer to land, I noticed that the city was organized into a large grid and there were very tall buildings. I knew this was not Bermuda. It was WAY too populated. Ah, bingo! It was South Beach Miami! I started getting excited, but was still wondering how this passport was going to come into play!
We landed in Miami and Trent was trying to throw me off at the airport in terms of if we were going to another gate or actually leaving the airport completely. We ended up leaving the airport, so now I’m thinking “Ah, we are headed to the cruise terminal…now it all makes sense.” We got in an Uber and her phone said “Taking you to the Raleigh Hotel”. I thought, “Hey, we are staying in a hotel? It’s a Sunday and cruises leave on Saturdays or Sundays. I guess we aren’t going on a cruise. What in the hell is going on?” So, we drove to the Raleigh Hotel, threw our stuff down, and hung out in the room for a bit. It was now around 2pm and I was getting HANGRY. Finally, we left the room and headed downstairs. When the doors opened to the lobby, I looked out and saw Joe and Les sitting down! I ran up to them, gave them a hug, and started crying! What an awesome surprise!!!
The four of us ventured around Miami, first starting off with lunch on Collins Avenue, then followed by some shopping. Unfortunately, the weather was really crappy, but we made the most of it. Thanks to our awesome friends, Rob and Heather, we got the hookup with access to the SLS Hotel invite-only party. This place was ridiculous. It was around the pool and was full of the most intriguing characters everywhere. Let’s just say I wouldn’t have gone swimming in the pool. They even had something called a “spray package” where you could buy 200 bottles of champagne to spray all over people for $10,000. Crazy! And no, we didn’t do that! We headed out for some delicious sushi that night and then to a speakeasy bar that was really fun! The next day, we enjoyed breakfast and then hung out at WatR at the 1 Hotel…it’s an amazing rooftop bar with the most gorgeous view of the beach! It would definitely be a cool place to stay! We headed out to dinner for some farm-to-table southern cuisine for dinner and then watched a bit of live karaoke. It was SUCH an amazing time hanging out with our best friends. We travel so well together and I wish we could’ve hung out longer…but, the trip continues!
The next morning, we ventured to the airport once again. This time, I told Trent, I wanted to know where we were going because it was a bit challenging keeping my head down for the entire flight to Miami. We got to the gate, which said St. Maarten! I was definitely excited as we stayed there for a week once before and also stopped there on a cruise. We arrived in St. Maarten, but this time, we didn’t leave the airport. This is when I was told where our final destination was…St. Barth’s (I was secretly hoping that’s where we were headed!)!!! I was SO excited. St. Barth’s is an island we had talked about going to for many years in a row, but it was just too pricy. We were finally going!!! The flight there (which we had all to ourselves!) was an adventure unto itself…when you land in St. Barth’s, you come over this mountain and then dive down very steep onto the runway (check out the video!). When we landed, we had our own driver take us to what would be our home for the next five nights…Eden Rock. It was voted one of Forbes’ best hotels in the world in 2017 (this is also the place we had researched over the years and our #1 pick of where to stay!). We stayed on the bottom floor of a villa that was so incredible…no detail was left behind. The service there stood out unlike no other…they offered to iron our clothes (I didn’t take them up on this), they gave us a car all week to explore the island, all of the staff knew our names (not sure how this was possible!), and we had our own beach chairs reserved (complete with Evian water spray) all week.
While we were there, we went hiking to a natural pool (this was a comedy of errors the first time as we hiked to the wrong place and got caught in a major rainstorm). But, we ended up finding it toward the end of our trip. There are no signs telling you how to get there and you have to park your car in this hidden lot, walk along a beach, trespass on someone’s property, walk on top of washed-ashore sea rocks and coral, hike up a steep hill to an open field that looks like it belongs in Scotland, then scale down huge boulders until you discover this little hidden gem. The ocean fills up this gorgeous pool very slowly with each crashing wave, allowing every hue of blue and green to shine in the sunlight. It was absolutely incredible and definitely something not to be missed if you ever visit there! While on our trip, I scuba dove at Pain de Sucre, we took a beautiful catamaran ride and snorkeled (which concluded with me sipping on rose and floating on a noodle…heaven!), and we paddleboarded in the ocean. The food was absolutely scrumptious every place we ate: italian, thai, sushi, etc. Definitely a gastronome’s paradise! Thank you, Grandma and Grandpa Jones for watching the kids! It was the trip of a lifetime! Unfortunately, a few weeks after we got back home, hurricanes started wreaking havoc on the Caribbean and destroyed some of our favorite islands, including St. Barth’s. Apparently, our resort was OK and they anticipate reopening next spring.
After we returned, we celebrated Hanleigh’s seventh birthday at Mellow Mushroom. How she is seven, I have no clue! She is such a little ham and decided to spread her chocolate dessert all over her face at the restaurant. This is pretty par for the course with her (being silly, in general). Hanleigh continued taking swim lessons and as the summer came to an end, so did their camps (gymnastics, cooking, visual art, outdoor adventure). Brayden took a stroke clinic where she worked on perfecting her swim strokes. We are hopeful that she will join the swim team again next summer since she loved it so much this year! We had our 16-year wedding anniversary, which we celebrated a week later, because Trent took the girls to an F3 2.0/Dad’s weekend at Camp Thunderbird while I had my annual girls’ staycation downtown! We booked a poolside cabana at the Sheraton (complete with a DJ) and had an absolute blast dancing and hanging out. We went out to dinner at Halcyon and then dancing at Dandelion Market and Rooftop 210. It was an awesome 24-hour trip, as usual. Trent had a blast with the girls shooting rifles, ziplining, doing obstacle courses, and enjoying a hillside slip n’ slide. That weekend concluded with Hanleigh’s birthday party with her best friends at the American Girl doll store. We sat at the bistro counter and enjoyed some tasty food and treats! She had a blast and was so excited to be with her buddies and their dolls!
We celebrated our 16-year anniversary a week later at the US National Whitewater Center rafting, climbing the deep water solo wall (a climbing wall over a swimming pool, so you just drop off!), scaling ropes courses, and drinking good beer. It was an awesome day to celebrate and be outside and active! I enjoyed a massage at the Ballantyne spa, we had a date night dinner with a bunch of Trent’s F3 friends and their wives, and Brayden spent the night at Cora’s house. Trent had an awesome guys’ night at Danny’s house watching the boxing fight while I took the girls to meet up with all the other wives and kids for dinner and then we took them to the movie Leap! We spent a half-day at Carowinds with Tonya and Kaitlyn before the first day of school kicked off for the girls (1st and 5th grades)! I was able to drive them to school and walk them in, then had to say my goodbyes to fly out to Seattle for a global marketing meeting. I really look forward to these meetings because it gives our team time to connect, boost morale, discuss accomplishments, and plan for the future. We always integrate some awesome teambuilding into these trips, too. This time, we spent an afternoon whitewater rafting. Our raft of all girls was nothing but smiles and apparently, we navigated a class four rapid and didn’t even know it because of how well we paddled through it! I don’t know what was more fun…the rafting or the car rides there and back (there was a lot of loud singing and silly dancing going on).