Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Birthdays, Motorcycles, and More!

So since the last blog we've had so much going on!

The best of which ((in my not so humble opinion!)) was my BIRTHDAY!!!! Time to brag on my amazing husband - he had the whole day planned for me and it was INCREDIBLE!!!! I was woken up with the smell of bacon in the air, kisses from my husband, and a rose. He had a string of notes with clues for my plans for my birthday, each with a rose and a present of some kind. He made a delicious breakfast and had a dozen roses on the breakfast table. I had to keep 6 month old (teething) Luna for the day but Andrew made sure my birthday was fun anyway and set-up with my friends to keep me entertained and kept the presents coming! While Andrew was at work my friend Hala took me out for my favorite... Starbucks! My friend Cheryl came over (with more Starbucks!) too! Andrew suprised me by coming home 3 hours before I expected him to spend my birthday with me! Once he got home I got a gift every 45 minutes... my big gift was a completely awesome Kitchen Aide 600 series mixer (which is the top of the line restaurant quality mixer!) Some might find that an odd gift, but I have been wanting a mixer for ages (pretty much since mine was stolen out of my storage unit) so I was STOKED! If anyone has ever questioned my domesticity, this should clear it up! My friend Tricia took me out for drinks at 5:30 and by the time I got home there were candles and rose petals leading to the house - a total of 60 red roses and 90 candles! When I walked into the house the whole place was full of candles and there were rose petals leading to where Andrew was..... Later I got to take a candlelit bubble bath while Andrew made the most wonderful dinner - bacon-wrapped filets, mashed potatoes, and garlic bread! After dinner we had cheesecake and my favorite champagne that I had been saving for my birthday (in the new champagne glasses that were a gift from my in-laws!) It really was the perfect birthday! Andrew also took me out dancing my "birthday weekend" to celebrate too :) Best. Husband. Ever. 

Also since my last post Andrew took a motorcycle safety course and got his motorcycle license! He's so excited about it and I'm super proud of him - he aced his test! He's been working 12 hour days all month so he's been incredibly busy! 

I've gotten to "christen" my new mixer and baked up a storm - sugar cookies, my Grandma's strawberry cake with homemade icing, and my masterpiece - Snickers cake! I have so enjoyed it! (But my oven has since broken for the fourth time in 2 months... really hoping our landlords will replace it this time!) We had friends over this weekend for dinner, which was a blast! I so enjoy cooking for people! 

I finished up my Servicing English Language Learners class (after investing over ten hours in my final project!) and I'm very proud to say I got another 'A', maintaining my 4.0, putting me in the top 15% of my class, and earning an invitation to the Golden Key National Honor Society! I also received clearance from Ashford to double my course load - I'll have a ton of work but it will allow me to finish in half the time (my classes will double on Sept. 26!) Which means I should officially be a teacher by 2013! I started my next class - Child and Adolescent Psychology! I should be an expert by now with as many classes (5) I've taken on the subject! Its a really heavy work load but I'm doing well with it so far and no matter how many classes I've had I still find the subject fascinating! 

Lots of great things going on in our lives right now! We have a lot coming up and a bunch of fun things to look forward to (I won't share now so it'll be a surprise later!) We're feeling really blessed - we thank God for our beautiful (slightly crazy) life everyday!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Oops.... Sorry y'all!

I'm sorry I've neglected my blogging - I swear it wasn't because I was slacking - I have been insanely busy! :) You'll have to forgive me this time! So I'm going to update you readers digest style on the past few weeks and promise to do better in the future!

We had a fantastic visit with Tristan (we were both sad to see him go.) He settled into our routine with us so smoothly - it amazes me how adaptable he is! While he was here we got him a "big boy" bike which he LOVED! Pretty much every evening Andrew and I would sit in the front yard and watch him ride up and down our street after dinner. He had fun riding our friends' son's skateboard (i.e. sitting on the skateboard and rolling down the driveway) and a Lightening McQueen car too! We also have an awesome park in our neighborhood that has 3 different sets of playground equipment and a water section that we enjoyed going to visit regularly. For some special Tristan and Emmy time I took him to see the new Winnie the Pooh movie while Andrew was at work one day - very sentimental for me since I was totally in love with Pooh as a child and Tristan really liked the movie (its about Eeyore losing his tale and trying to find a new one - every time one of the new tails didn't work Tristans would whisper "ohhhh no!") He cracked me up "shushing" the little girl that was talking in front of us! The second weekend he was here we took Tristan to the Sacramento Zoo which was a blast - we got to feed giraffes! We went early in the morning so we got to see several of the animals being fed. Its a smaller zoo but has a lot of exhibits and lots of big cats. His last weekend we took him to Bounce U (a gym that has all the big inflatable bounce toys) which he loved. His days here with us were filled with picnics, painting, playing, and as much fun and love possible! While Andrew was at work Tristan would ask me throughout the day "Dad, work?" and "Dad, home?" and as soon as Andrew would walk through the back door Tristan would run for his hug and ask Andrew how was work (well, translated from some mumbling followed by the word work...) When I had to do school work I would build Tristan a huge fort that took up half our living room for him to play in so I could focus and get some work done (although the frequent interruptions of "Emmy watch!" and "no, Emmy, play!" were hard to resist!) We spent our afternoons playing together as a family followed by dinner and more playing together! My favorite part of the day, though, was bedtime story! I have fond memories of my parents reading to me every night and Andrew and I feel its important that Tristan get to have that too (at least during the only times we get a say so) Every night Andrew and I would curl up in Tristan's room and read to him (well, I would read and Andrew and Tristan would listen - Andrew insists that my animated voices were much more entertaining) Tristan's favorite book was Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Goodnight Moon. He took to "reading" to us too - flipping through the book and pointing out pictures or remembering key words from where we read to him - he liked to grab his books and sit beside me and "work" while I was doing school work too, which cracked me up! Our time with Tristan flew by so quickly and it was all too soon that Mom 2 was here to take Tristan back to TN. However, they got a "bonus" day here when the cargo door on their plane caused so many delays that they missed all connecting flights out of Dallas and we had to go get them and they had to try again (successfully) the next day! Being a step-parent and having to deal with some of the challenges and nonsense that comes from having to deal with another set of parents is hard but when that sweet little boy loves on you and smiles at you none of that matters anymore - its all worth it. 

Also during that time I finished up my first class with Ashford University - and I'm very proud to say that I got an 'A'! I've almost completed my second class - Servicing English Language Learners (basically, I'm learning how to diagnose learning disorders and how to help students in my class that aren't proficient in English and creating lesson plans to accomodate both.) One more week of hard work (in this class) and then I'm on to the next two! I can't wait to finish up this degree and go from being the student to being the teacher! 

Andrew has been working 12 hour days since Tristan left so I've had a lot of free time on my hands (and my house is eerily quiet!) I'm a very "crafty" person - I love projects and creating things. So, to fill the extra time that I have when I'm not busy with school I've started a new hobby that I'm really enjoying - painting and etching wine glasses (and 1 wine bottle!) 

Another exciting land-mark - Andrew quit smoking and has been cigarette free for 6 weeks! WOO so proud of him! 

We had so many pictures from Tristan's visit that I don't really have room to share them all (and they are all adorable) so instead I will post a like to the Facebook albums: 

I think that sums up whats been up with us lately! I PROMISE I will do better at keeping the blog updated :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

An absolutely WONDERFUL week

We've had such a great week! We spent last weekend relaxing and just enjoying each others company and getting ready for Tristan's visit. Its so great to be married to my best friend - I never get tired of spending time with him, even when we're doing nothing at all!

Tuesday Andrew treated me to a date night in Roseville! I ordered my bridesmaids dress for my sister's wedding - SO very excited to be her matron of honor! We had dinner at Outback - the only negative to our wonderful night was my car being backed into in the parking lot (at least insurance will be replacing the damages with a nice new bumper!) I finally found a comforter in the color I wanted for Tristan's room and we finished getting his room ready for his visit! We snuggled up and watched The Green Lantern too - I absolutely love that movie! 

Thursday was the day we've been looking forward to for awhile - Tristan's arrival! Andrew's parents brought him out so we got to spend some time with them too! Tristan was SO excited to see his dad - as we pulled up to the airport he was jumping up and down and shouting "DAD! DAD! DAD!!!" As soon as Andrew got out of the car Tristan was running full tilt for a hug. I don't think he let go of Andrew at all if he could help it - it was so precious. We had a delicious lunch at BJ's Brewery and enjoyed spending some time with my in-laws. (Quick aside - I am SO blessed to have the two best in-laws ever. They have been so outrageously kind and accepting and welcomed me into their family with open arms. I was truly touched when Diane called to tell me she was "so excited to finally have a daughter!" That was the moment I truly became part of the family - well, besides the obvious a few months later when Andrew and I said "I do!") After lunch mom and dad #2, as I affectionately refer to them, headed off to Napa Valley for Chris to get started working for a weekend concert and we took Tristan "home." After working so hard to get Tristan's room ready for him it was very rewarding for him to be so excited about his Cars room! We spent an hour or so playing and exploring his new room - the bonus to having two households for our kiddo is that all of his toys were brand-new to him again! He drug everrrryyyttthhiiinnngggggg out of his toy box and exclaimed over them! We also played in the cool sprinkler toy we got for him - not only does it spray water but you put a ball in and it shoots out of the top and floats on the water. Playing in the sprinklers morphed into us using the dogs' dishes to splash each other! Tristan was all smiles - he kept hiding behind his Emmy (me - short for extra mommy) and telling me to "wun!" when daddy came to splash him! We curled up to watch Despicable Me and both my boys drifted off to sleep after playing so hard all afternoon. 

Daddy and Tristan
at the airport
Tristan playing in his new room
Happy family after playing
in the sprinklers!

Friday morning we woke up to find Tristan curled up asleep with our bed skirt as a blanket surrounded by his motorcycles - we got a good laugh out of that! Andrew had to work so Tristan and I spent the day hanging out together! Before 8am I had been pounced on, shot (with a Nerf gun), hosted a motorcycle race on my legs, and cleaned up three times - a nice welcome to motherhood, I suppose! When Andrew got off work we drove up to Napa Valley to meet mom and dad #2 - Tristan was asleep after about only 2 minutes on the highway! We got to Napa Valley and met up with mom 2 at the beautiful Meritage Resort and took Tristan to the "poo" (we have to work on getting the 'L' into pool ha ha!) Tristan is our little fish - he loves swimming! After swimming we went to dinner at Rutherford Grill. They have THE most delicious prime rib sandwiches. Seriously. Tristan loved playing with the doodle board and drew us pictures all night! We were exhausted by the time we made it back to the hotel - I think we were all asleep within seconds of lights out! 
Tristan curled up by our bed
My boys in the pool
at the Meritage Resort
Tristan showing me his
art work - I asked if this
was a dinosaur to which
he replied "oh yep!"

Saturday dad 2 had to work all day so mom 2, Andrew, Tristan, and I headed out to explore Napa. We ended up at an Arts Festival, which was really neat. Tristan is such a good eater - I was worried he wouldn't like the gourmet food at the festival but he loved his chicken waldorf sandwich! There was the cutest little dog in one of the specialty shops named "Romeo" that became fast friends with Tristan. We had to treat ourselves to some delicious pastries from Bouchon Bakery, too. Tristan and Andrew headed over to Robert Mondavi winery where dad 2 was getting set-up for the Festival del Sole concert to hang with "Papaw" for the afternoon. Andrew tells me Tristan was absolutely fascinated at all the neat stage stuff going on! My mom 2 and I had some girl time and went for a champagne tasting at Mumm - it reminded me of how lucky I am to have such a wonderful mother-in-law! The Festival del Sole was an absolute BLAST! The legendary David Foster performed, accompanied by the Canadian Tenors, Rueben Studdard, Kenny "Baby Face" Edwards, and Cherice. At the end of every song Tristan would jump up with a huge smile on his face and give a standing ovation! He danced and "sang" along with daddy and Emmy too - it was so adorable! After the concert we got to go back stage and enjoy a private reception for the performers and workers thanks to dad 2. Tristan was a being quite the show-off, hamming it up for his growing audience - by the end of the night all the celebrities were huge Tristan fans! When Rueben Studdard walked over to meet us Tristan looked him up and down and announced "whoa!" He was a really big man - with a kindness that matched his height! When he picked up Tristan for a hug Tristan giggled and instruced him to "sing!" We cracked up! We got to meet David Foster, Baby Face, the Canadian Tenors, the pianist Bo, and the drummer Ken (who was slipping Tristan M&Ms all night) also! It was really a neat experience! 

At Bouchon Bakery 
The boys enjoying the
Festival del Sole

The boys dancing at the concert
Tristan and American Idol
winner, Rueben Studdard
Tristan and the legendary
David Foster

Sunday we were all worn out so we slept in - including Tristan! We hung out at the hotel and had breakfast before heading over to Rubicon Estates. Tristan had a great throwing pennies into the fountain, smelling all the flowers, and playing an ant smashing game on my phone while we enjoyed a wine tasting. We went to the Oakville Grocery, which serves all organic and locally made food and had a picnic lunch before heading back to our house. Tristan was excited to show Papaw and D his Cars room and all his toys so we had some serious playtime when we got back to our house! I made dinner and we enjoyed an evening of family time. 

Tristan and daddy at Rubicon

Our family at Rubicon
Today mom and dad 2 headed back to Nashville - Tristan spent the morning playing with Papaw before they left. I was grateful to have them here so Tristan was entertained while I finalized my final paper for my psychology class - I'm officially finished with my first class through Ashford University! My next class, Servicing English Language Learners, begins tomorrow. Tristan and I are enjoying some T and Emmy time while we wait for daddy to come home from work - not sure what we're going to get into the rest of the day but I'm sure we'll have fun as usual! 

Tristan enjoying some
quality time with Emmy!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Better late than never!

Well, this post is much later than I intended for it to be! So sorry for the delay but our hectic life got the best of me last week!

I hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July! We certainly did! Andrew got a 4 day weekend for the holiday so we headed over to Santa Cruz to visit our "bonus" family - Andrew's biological mom (Ash), her husband (Jason), and his half brother (Zack) and sister (Brittany)! Andrew worked a half day on Thursday (thanks to being called in at midnight the previous weekend) so we were able to get to Santa Cruz in time to go to a beach party at a local bar called The Crow's Nest with Ash and Zack. I love live music and even though the band they had was definitely sub-par we had a great time!

Lake Anderson 
Andrew tubing

Friday we went out on the Cartee's boat on Lake Anderson for a day of sun, swimming, wake boarding, and tubing! It was a blast! Although, we both came away with sunburns! It was a windy day so the wake on the lake was pretty extreme, which made for some knarly tubing! Though Andrew and I both grew up on the lake this was our first chance to go to the lake together! Being out on the lake made me miss my favorite lake buddy, my dad!

Speaking of my dad, my parents, younger sister (Blakeley), and her boyfriend (Josh) were in Seaside, FL for the 4th of July weekend - one of my most favorite vacation destinations! While in Seaside Josh popped the question and asked Blakeley to marry him! WOW! She said yes, of course, and we started planning wedding #2 for 2011! After much deliberation they decided on a beach wedding in Seaside for 11-11-11 (Josh will never have an excuse to forget their anniversary!) With only 125 days til the wedding its been a flurry of wedding planning for the ladies of my family the past few days! This morning I helped Blakeley shop for her wedding dress from 2,400 miles away - I praised God for technology that allowed me to be a part of that special experience! Let me just tell you, she is going to make one beautiful bride! Check out the wedding website I designed for them for pictures, all the details of the proposal, the wedding, and other fun stuff!

At Sky Park

At the Cypress Lounge

Saturday morning we just hung out at the Cartee's house and recovered from the day on the lake. That afternoon we went to Sky Park with Ash and Brittany for a Hops and Barley festival! It was way hot but the live music was great (minus the reggae, which I got more than enough of in Jamaica! I'm just not a fan....) When we couldn't take the heat any longer we headed back to the  Cartee's to recooperate for a while before Ash, Andrew and I headed over to the Cypress Lounge for drinks and to hear one of Ash's friends, Lucille, do a music set. Due to some technical difficulties we didn't get to hear Lucille perform for long but she had a truly amazing voice! After Lucille's set we went over to The Red, a cool trendy bar to hang out for a while before heading back to the Cartee's house to crash!

Sunday Andrew and I took it easy hanging out at the Cartee's house while they had other things going on. Ash's parents had a barbeque at their house so we went to the cook-out. 

Fireworks at the Pyro Spectacular

At the Pyro Spectacular
After a very late night on Sunday we slept in the morning of the 4th and had breakfast with our bonus family before heading back home. As odd as it may be, we thoroughly enjoy road trips together - most likely because of silly singing and "car dancing," we keep each other laughing! I was happy to be home to see our fur babies (their "Aunt" Nicole took care of them for us while we were out of town - she's just awesome like that!) We curled up on the couch and caught up on our favorite shows that we missed while we were out of town before heading to Sacramento for fireworks at the Cal Expo Center's Pyro Spectacular! My parent's gave us reserved stadium seating as a gift so we had a perfect view from our awesome seats! It was hot but we had a blast! The Air Force Band played the few hours before the fireworks started, which Andrew really enjoyed. We ran into Andrew's friend from work, Matt, and his girlfriend, Kourtney while wandering around the Expo Center exploring the different venders and spent the rest of the evening with them! They were able to come back to our booth to sit with us thanks to the ticket checker that didn't quite check the tickets thoroughly ha ha! There was an adorable little girl (probably 2, maybe 3) sitting in front of us and she kept us entertained with her dancing in her seat, whacking Andrew with her pink light up sword, and trying to put her pink feathered, sparkly, light-up bunny ears on him! The fireworks show was AWESOME! It was timed to popular songs like Katy Perry's Fireworks, Ke$ha's This Place About to Blow, and Miley Cyrus's Party in the USA, which was super cool! It definitely wasn't a sparse show either, there were constant and multiple fireworks (not the like the wimpy shows that have fireworks go off one at a time with delays!) We, of course, jammed to the songs while enjoying the fireworks, too (our turn to entertain the little girl in front of us who thought we were way more interesting than the fireworks, apparently!) It was one of the best fireworks shows I've ever seen, and I'm a major fireworks fan! We got stuck in terrible traffic on the way home so we were completely exhausted and happy to be in our own bed by the time we finally made it back!

Tristan's poster I made
 (which was a lot harder than I expected!) 

After the holiday weekend we settled back into our weekly routines of work and school and our cherished family time (i.e. us and our pups) in the afternoons! As I mentioned, I've been doing as much as I can to help my sister and my mom get Blakeley's wedding plans underway this week, as well as working on a couple projects for Tristan's room (he'll be with us this time next week!) I'm really enjoying getting his room fixed up for him (even though he's too young right now to really appreciate it.) Andrew is appreciative enough for the both of them, though, it makes me so happy to make him happy! We still have some final touches and things we would like to get before Tristan is here next week but I think the room is coming together nicely, if I do say so myself!
The lid of Tristan's toy box
I just couldn't stand to leave it plain!
(that would've been way too boring!)

Our plans for this weekend are to kick back and relax since we will be traveling with Tristan every weekend for the rest of this month! Check back next week for more of Life With the Taylors!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Another Week in the Life of the Taylors!

What a week we've had! I suppose I should start with our biggest event -
Me and my Daddy
My Wedding Day -April 30, 2011

I was one of those blessed girls who got to grow up with a dad who was the very definition of Super Dad! Like most dads my dad taught me to do things like ride a bike, play a handful of different sports, ride a horse, and drive (including a tractor, four-wheeler, jet-ski, and a boat!) But what qualifies my dad for the Super Dad "S" on his chest were the outrageous number of "above and beyond" things that he did for me. I probably couldn't even count how many hours my dad spent just driving me to dance rehearsals over the years (well, sixth grade through my junior year before I got my license it was a 3 hour drive round trip from my studio to my house, at least 3, up to 6 days a week... you get the idea.) Not to mention all the all the performances, recitals, conventions, and competitions he came to. Now, for those of you who haven't experienced the life of a competitive dancer that may not mean much to you. You may think, "A dance competition, huh? Big deal." Reality is, that it is a huge commitment, not just on the dancers part, but the parents - driving to a different state weekend after weekend for dance competitions that would last all day Saturday and Sunday (sometimes Fridays too - I loved those days 'cause I got to miss school!), not to mention at least one national competition every summer all across the U.S. from Florida to Las Vegas, that was an entire week of competiton! Not many dads would put up with that, but not only did my dad put up with it, he supported me 100% every step of the way and was always there cheering me on. My dad is the kinda guy that you can go to with anything. He's unfailingly kind, caring, and he goes out of his way to help others. I could go on and on about all that my dad has done for me and how incredible he is. But bottom line is, my dad is the best ever - he definitely earned his Super Dad "S"! I didn't get to spend this Fathers Day with my dad but he was in my thoughts all day and I once again thanked God for technology like FaceTime so that I  was able to see my dad 2400 miles away!

Andrew and Tristan
January 2011

Andrew with his Father's Day goodies

This Fathers Day I got to celebrate another incredible dad in my life - Andrew! Its a very long, involved story (and not a very pleasant one at that) but Andrew had to fight very, very hard to get to be a part of his son's life. A lot of dads would've just turned and walked away thinking it wasn't worth the trouble - but Andrew stuck to his guns because he loves his son, and he was rewarded for it. I love watching Andrew and Tristan together - it makes me all "warm and fuzzy" as my Grandma used to put it. When Tristan looks at Andrew his whole face lights up - its just a testament to how great a dad Andrew is and how much that little kiddo loves him. Unfortunately, Andrew didn't get to have Tristan here with us to celebrate Fathers Day this year so I just had to love on Andrew extra for him! We had a picnic lunch (although it was way windy and almost lost our food several times - next time I'll plan picnics a little more carefully!) and spent the day doing all the things Andrew likes to do. Andrew got to Skype (video call) with Tristan that afternoon so he got to see him too - Tristan spent the call showing Andrew his trucks and boo-boos, typical 3 year old! Andrew's all time favorite dessert is banana pudding so I made some for him to celebrate the day and had a photo collage "from Tristan" made for him with pictures of the pair from over the last year. "D" (Tristan's name for Andrew's mom) helped Tristan paint a picture and sent it to Andrew, too - its now hanging proudly on our fridge! Overall, a successful, happy Fathers Day!

I have been keeping quite busy with school! I've always been one of those people who enjoy being in school and Ashford University is feeling like a really great fit to me! My transfer hours haven't been evaluated yet but if things play out like I'm hoping I should be graduating with my Bachelor's in Education Studies, specializing in Early Childhood Education with my teaching certification NEXT FALL!!! The class I'm currently taking I've studied quite a bit before - psychology and development. Its going great - only a few weeks left of this class and then its on to the next (I'm really loving these excellerated courses!)

Andrew has had a particularly busy week with work! He's still working weekends, which he is actually enjoying (suprisingly.) He's done with physical therapy now as well! Its getting to be extremely hot here! Normally Andrew and I walk the dogs in the evenings but its still so hot that we have just been sitting on the patio with them - we keep them inside most of the time now, though, they're well trained and it its just too hot! Axel actually burned the pads of his paws on the cement, the poor baby! We've mostly spent our after work/school hours running errands and relaxing in the air conditioning!

I've always enjoyed projects and finding outlets to let my creativity go into, and I've had a couple very good ones lately! While Andrew worked last Saturday I decided to finally get started on writing the book that has been slowly evolving in my head over the past few years! I'm off to a good start!  Also, we're preparing for Tristan to come stay with us in a few weeks so we decided to personalize his room! We've ordered a few things to give his room that "Tristan flair!"I couldn't find any posters or prints that I liked so I spent all afternoon (no, seriously, all afternoon...) making a photo collage of different Disney Car's characters, each with a letter of his name, to put on his wall!

Thats our week in a nutshell - come back next week for more of Life With the Taylors! :)

Cars collage for Tristan's new room!

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Solomon's visit & adventures in California!

Napa Valley
Alcatraz Island
Muir Woods
Golden Gate Bridge
Santa Cruz
My parents flew in for their first visit to California on Friday June 10th for a long weekend! We were so excited to have them here and to get to share California with them! There was so much to see and we did our best to share ALL of it with them! My dad's birthday was May 28th so since I had to miss it I fixed a make-up birthday dinner Friday night with homemade lasagna and dirt pudding for dessert! We hit the road early Saturday morning and drove to Napa Valley. We toured and tasted at 3 wineries - Mumm Estates (sparkling wines), Rubicon Estates, and Castello di Amorosa (aka The Castle.) At Rubicon and The Castle we got to do our tastings in private VIP type tasting rooms since Andrew and I are wine club members which really made the experience more enjoyable rather than crowding around the wine bar with everyone else! We had hoped to fit in another winery before leaving for San Francisco but we ran over a bit at our last stop and decided we would rather check-in to our hotel than try to cram one more winery in. Thank goodness for that, we hit crazy stand-still traffic going in to San Francisco and found ourselves rushing to Pier 33 to catch our ferry to Alcatraz for the creepy night time tour! The view from the ferry was stunning (but we were very cold! I stayed huddled against Andrew when I wasn't snapping pictures (the bay was incredible - a photographers dream for such perfect light!) For my dad's birthday he got two Alcatraz books and he was as good as the guides and was able to share tons of history and facts with us on the ferry! Turns out, we were visiting on the anniversary of the successful break-out of the supposedly "inescapeable" island, which I thought was really cool! We took the audio guided tour and had former inmates and guards narrating and explaining the prison's history which made the experience even more fascinating! We ferried back to San Francisco and finally made it to the Marine Memorial Hotel late - too exhausted to go anywhere we ordered pizza to be delivered to our room (it arrived at 11:50pm...) before we finally crashed for the night. My mom wanted to go see the Redwoods at Muir Woods National Park early the next morning so we could beat the crowds. We reluctantly consented, thinking we would go and see to appease her, have a "hi tree... bye tree" experience and maybe sneak in a nap before exploring the rest of San Francisco. What we didn't anticipate was how amazing it was going to be - I kicked into photographer mode, thrilled with the unbelieveable light and vivid colors filling the forest, and we stayed for a couple hours (my camera snapping the whole time...) On the way back to the hotel we decided to stop and walk over the Golden Gate Bridge - it was really croweded and really cold (but definitely neat!) We decided walking half-way across and coming back counted as walking the bridge! We managed to make the tail-end of breakfast at our hotel and ate looking out over the impressive San Francisco sky line. After brunch we headed out to explore San Francisco - we walked through China Town (which was quite scary, not gonna lie), Fisherman's Wharf, and Ghiradelli Square before catching a Cable Car back to Union Square where we were staying and heading off to Santa Cruz! When we got to Santa Cruz we checked into our hotel and relaxed on the balcony enjoying the beautiful view of the ocean, the wharf, and the Boardwalk! We walked down to the wharf for dinner and stopped to see the sea lions that had perched up on the wharf! I've been to Santa Cruz many times but this is the first that I've gotten to see the sea lions! They were so cute! My dad imparticular loved them (mom's theory is that its because he identifies with them with their loud snoring!) We had a delicious dinner at Fire Fish Grill on the wharf while we watched the sun set over the ocean and then the moon glitter on the water before heading back to our room to crash for the night! The next morning we lazed around and enjoyed the ocean before heading to Kelly's French Bakery for breakfast and then to "our" lighthouse - I call it our lighthouse because Andrew took me there for our first Valentines Day together and I fell in love with it, then he proposed in front of it, which only furthered my "claim" to the lighthouse! We walked the beach, soaked up the sun, watched the sea lions play in the waves, spotted star fish and crabs scuttling across the ocean rocks, and had a blast. We met Ashley, Andrew's biological mom, and his half-sister Brittany for lunch at a restaurant on the beach before we walked the Boardwalk (got mom some cotton candy for the genuine Boardwalk experience) and paid one more visit to the sea lions on the wharf! We drove back to our home in Marysville and I took my parents for the consumate California experience - In'N'Out Burger! Andrew had to work Tuesday morning so my parents and I spent some time in Yuba City before I took them to the airport. I was really bummed to see them go but we had an incredible time with them and can't wait for them to come back (if we stay in California long enough for them to get the chance!) 


Since we've returned from Jamaica our lives have been quite chaotic!
Andrew has been super busy with work, including weekend duty (bleh!) He has also been going to physical therapy to regain strength in his right hand from where it was broken - he is improving quickly and his doctor is happy with his progress!
Soon after we got back I got really sick with a gnarly case of strep throat and bronchitis in my right lung - after struggling with it for a few days I finally gave in and went to the doctor for a shot and some antibiotics. I don't get sick often but when I do it usually puts me on my back - this was no exception! I was laid up on the couch, going stir crazy, for a little over a week. Andrew took such great care of me doing everything from fixing me soup, cleaning the house, getting my favorite movies, to just playing with my hair and holding me to help me feel better. I was grateful to have our wedding and honeymoon pictures so that I was able to work on our wedding photo album during that time so I didn't feel completely like an invalid! Once I was finally healthy I got hard to work at sorting out my school situation - as most of you know, I'm in pursuing being an elementary school teacher. Unfortunately, this created a pretty sticky situation since most universities don't offer complete teaching BA degrees and teacher certifications online. After hours (and hours and hours) of research, phone calls, and general frustration I finally found the perfect school - Ashford University! Its based in Iowa (who would've thought?!) and they were amazingly helpful and accomodating! My advisor handled pretty much everything, expedited my acceptance based on my grades from my unofficial transcripts, awarded me a military spouse scholarship, and got me set up to start classes on June 14th all in a matter of three days! Of course, I had a TON of follow-up paper work, phone calls, emails, and some more chaos but God put His hand on the situation and on Tuesday I started my class! Andrew was extremely patient and supportive through it all, cheering me on and comforting me when I got overly-stressed; he arranged celebratory dinner dates on the day I was accepted and the day I began classes (reminding me that I really do have the best husband in the world!)
Meanwhile, Tristan was moved to Tennessee (with his mother) at the end of May. Mom and Dad #2 (as I affectionately refer to my in-laws) have gotten to spend some time with Tristan since he has been back in Tennessee which is GREAT! We were so excited that they were able to get time with him and we are praying that it can become a regular thing! Andrew was also able to set up for us to have Tristan here with us July 14th-August 2nd, which we are both looking forward to! Hopefully we'll continue to have good developments with this situation.
 My parents came to visit as well, but I'll give that visit its own post since it was such a fun-filled, jam-packed trip!

ALL about our honeymoon - Its Jamaica mon,' no worries!

Sandals Whitehouse Resort - French Pool from our balcony
At the Main Pool on our second day in Jamaica

YS Falls

YS Falls
Our private dinner on the beach - such a beautiful sunset!
For our honeymoon we went to the beautiful Sandals Whitehouse Resort in Jamaica! We left bright and early (and by that I mean 4am) the Monday after our wedding. Little did I know that when we arrived in Jamaica the bus rides were going to be an experience in and of themselves! Not only do they drive on the "wrong" side of the road they have the curviest and most narrow roads I have ever seen - when passing a vehicle (especially the 18wheelers, which was very frequent) you could literally stick just a finger out the window and touch the passing car (not that I actually tried this.) I have no idea how they didn't slam into each other or grind into the other vehicle every time. Now, I'm not ever one to scare easily when it comes to dare devil-ish experiences but I found myself holding my breath and leaning over into Andrew's lap to get away from the window and leaving nail marks in his arm from clinging to him; sitting on the other side of the bus wasn't much better, then you found yourself staring at the side of a mountain or a tree just an inch from the bus. At least I only held my breath when they passed, lots of passengers screamed out loud (to which the bus driver just laughed...nice.) Two hours later we were met by smiling resort staff giving us cool damp towels when we finally arrived at the resort we were greeted with a cool, damp towel and a pink champagne punch - they knew just how badly the first time Jamaican passengers would be needing them, I suppose! We were ushered into the gorgeous lobby and seated on a cozy love seat while they checked us in (I was stoked, it was at this point that I realized I wasn't going to have to do a dang thing alllll week long... perfection.) We were escorted to our room, which had an amazing view of the ocean and the pool area. We grabbed lunch at a beach front grill called Bluefields while the afternoon rain came through - Andrew discovered he really loved jerk chicken and I loved a Jamaican pastry called a cocktail patty (seriously... so good!) We spent the afternoon bouncing between playing at the pool and the ocean. Sandals is an adults only resort - which was divine - there was no screaming, splashing, sand-flinging, or rough housing, (outside of my husband dunking me, that is) and a swim-up bar that could make pretty much any drink you could think of and then some! The ocean was perfectly smooth, crystal clear, and warm - it was like being in a sandy pool! We were exhausted from traveling all day so we went for an early dinner at the Italian restaurant called Guiseppes. After our delicious dinner we stopped by the fire eater/dancer show (where I literally had to sneak and hide behind a tree because they kept trying to pull me on stage and I was so tired at this point I was nearly falling asleep standing up!) The next morning after breakfast we went to the main pool (yes, there were 4 pools on the resort) and spent the morning lounging and swimming until our 11 o'clock snorkeling trip! It was beautiful and the fishies seemed to be particularly fond of my shiney silver earrings because my face kept getting nibbled! We swam around pointing out all the tropical fish and cool coral to each other for about a half hour (which is when Andrew's back got nice a burnt!) My favorite was the blow fish, though I couldn't make it expand no matter what I tried! Just as our boat docked the rain started pouring again so we fled to Neptunes for lunch by the ocean, safe under an awning! After lunch Andrew had arranged for a special suprise for me (yup, my husband is the sweetest ever!) I thought we were headed back to our room to change out for some dry clothes to take a walk on the beach but he subtly guided us to the spa where he had scheduled us a couples "Champagne Celebration" - an hour long couples massage, a sea salt scrub, and then fruit and champagne served to us while we soaked in a jacuzzi tub! It was amazing! Although, the jacuzzi tub water was hot and after soaking for about a half hour we were both burning up, but we had been strictly instruced not to get out of the jacuzzi until the spa staff came back to help us - we thought maybe they had forgotten about us but they eventually showed up and finally "freed" us! We decided to try the Asian restaurant, Jasmine's, for dinner. The line to be seated was long so as we waited to be seated we made friends with another newlywed couple from New York and decided to sit together during dinner. Dinner wasn't quite what we had hoped (especially me... there was something blue in my food and I just couldn't bring myself to find out what exactly that was!) So, the benefit of staying at an all-inclusive resort was that we were able to go have dinner #2 at the Italian restaurant! We woke up early the next morning to grab some breakfast before we took our Southern Island tour - we went to the Black River, YS Falls, and Appleton Rum Factory. We floated down the Black River on a pontoon boat where we saw crocodiles, several species of native birds, and of course the plush greenery surrounding the river. At YS Falls we hiked to the top, took turns going off the rope swing several times, jumped off the second largest tier of the falls, and went under one of the water falls! At Appleton Rum tour we got to see the grounds that were established in 1749 and how they made the rum back then compared to now - we sampled 13 different rums that they make (not all of them were good either!) That evening we attended Sandals White Party by the main pool - they had a live band, a chocolate bar, and everything was, of course, white! We had a blast dancing for hours until I was way too hot to keep it up! Fortunately, a staffer had suggested that we wear our swimsuits under our white attire so we jumped in the pool (where I kept dancing!) The next morning we were up early once again to go zip-lining through the rain forest canopy! It was SO FUN! We did 9 zip lines, reaching up to 45mph on the longest line, and 1 repel that went straight down! The repel made me a little nervous but once my feet hit the bottom I was ready to do it again (unfortunately, the only way that would've been possible was if I was skilled enough to shimmy up the tree George of the Jungle style...) Andrew was quite proud of me for not being like the other ladies in our zip-lining group who were reluctant at every line and screamed the whole way across - I was running off the end of the platforms to go faster and the only sounds coming from me was laughter! As we rode the crazy bus ride back to the resort the afternoon rain rolled in like clock work. When we got back to the resort we grabbed a snack at Bluefields and relaxed in our room for a little while before our special dinner! We had a private four course meal on the beach, complete with personalized menus, flowers, a white-gloved butler, and the most beautiful sunset! I scouted out the locations on the beach that were options for the dinner and strategically chose the perfect location at the perfect time - it was one of the most romantic experiences of my life. After dinner Andrew had arranged for another suprise - when we walked into our room there were red and yellow rose petals scattered on the floor and forming two intertwined hearts leading to the seating area of our room, which was full of candles, and a bottle of champagne waiting for us. It was the perfect way to spend our last night in Jamaica! The next morning we had a breakfast delivered to our room and ate on our balcony, soaking up as much of the island as we could before we had to leave. After breakfast we had a little time before we had to catch our ride to the airport so we went to the pool and the beach one last time! When we went to the fire eater performance on Monday I saw people walking around with drinks in coconuts and was dying to have one but they were out; when we asked when and where we could get one we were told that it was only on Monday nights so we had missed out. However, a sweet staffer that overheard had the grounds keeper go climb a tree and get 2 coconuts (he did climb the tree George of the Jungle style - he asked if I wanted to get them myself, jokingly, and was quite shocked I said "heck yes!"I was bummed when I couldn't actually do it!) I saved the coconuts in the refridgerator in our room and as we were leaving I had the pool bar tender fix us our coconut drinks - the perfect way to say good-bye to the island! After another crazy bus ride, making it through customs twice, hours at the airport (we saw the guy who plays Tony Dinozo from NCIS in the Miami airport- I kicked myself for not running to catch up with him and get my picture made and an autograph!), two flights, and a long drive from the airport we finally made it home around 2:30am, dead tired and sad to have had to leave paradise but happy to know that we have the rest of our lives ahead of us for more trips just like it. It was the PERFECT honeymoon and memories we will cherish forever!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Just a little something to get started....

Since Andrew and I are so far from our family and friends I wanted to find a way to share what is going on in our lives with everyone, so, a blog seemed like a great solution to keep everyone informed! I will try to post weekly updates, as well as additional updates for anything particularly exciting! And don't worry, I'll include photos for you all too! I will put up a "proper" post tomorrow to catch you up on all our recent endeavors since we became "the Taylors" but designing this nifty blog has used up all of my creative juices for the day! 

So, in the words of my Granny Dot, "yall come on back now, ya hear?!"