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?!"