It’s Good To Go Away. It’s Good To Come Home.

It’s my first real post of 2016 and there’s so much that I want to talk to you guys about! So much actually, that I realized I need to divide it up into 5 separate posts, so as not to make your eyes bleed from exhaustion by trying to squeeze it all into one. See how much I care about you guys? You’re welcome.

It’s been a very busy few weeks around here. Christmas happened. 15 of my relatives came to town to celebrate with us, which including my local family equaled 25 of us all together. It was quite the Griswold style affair. I hosted our traditional Christmas Eve dinner, so I don’t mean to brag or anything, but that’s a lot of people and if you need me I’ll just be over here high-fiving a million angels because DISHES.

Here we all are, squeezed into one photo in my kitchen.

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It was a lovely time with family and- bonus! It turns out my children thrive on extra chaos. They loved it.

Here’s our own little family on our porch on Christmas Eve, because for some reason that has become our tradition since moving into the Forever House.

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Every holiday we take a picture on the porch. It may feel redundant as the years pass by, but one day it’ll just be Husband and I standing there and I want to document all the years we have with our littles on this porch.

As you guys know, we’d been planning to surprise the kids on Christmas morning with the very big news that we’d be leaving to join our best friends in Hawaii a few days later. You also know that I held on to this secret for an entire year which is basically the biggest accomplishment of my life. I’m happy to report that all my be-labored efforts to keep a lid on it were totally worth it and their reactions fully lived up to my expectations.

They basically lost their minds. It was the best. I really wanted to include the video of their reactions here so you could see for yourself, but unfortunately I’m not tech savvy enough to figure out how to do that so you’ll just have to use your imagination. But just know that it was totally magical.

There was a minor (major) kerfuffle the day before we were meant to leave when we realized that we (and by we I mean Husband) booked tickets to the WRONG ISLAND. Yes, he did. After some very expensive last minute rearranging, and a rather pointless pit stop in Honolulu, we joined our friends in Maui for 9 whole glorious sleeps. In fact, on the plane ride home Husband and I had to recount this together at least three times on our hands because it went by so quickly that we were convinced the whole trip was only 4 or 5 days long. It turns out Hawaii is a strange vortex where time has no actual meaning. The days were long and leisurely but the collective whole of them felt as if they were so fast they’d never even happened. Like some kind of dreamy and tropical mirage in the desert of regular life.

It was wonderful.

The grown-ups  lounged, visited, and drank Mai Tai’s while the kids ran at the ocean like savages, built sandcastles, and donned mermaid tails in the pool (except for Jaxon because a man must preserve his dignity).

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They fully entertained themselves and each other- and last time I checked, that is basically like finding the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for a parent. Husband and I kept looking up at each other from our beach chairs and high-fiving over the fact that at ages 6 and 8, our kids are actually delightful travel companions. They can carry their own bags, wipe their own butts, sleep wherever, and even sit at their own kid-table at restaurants. (Yes, they wanted to and no, we aren’t those elitist parents who think children should be seen and not heard). (Unless mommy happens to be watching Scandal).

This was the first time we’ve ever vacationed with friends and I’ve got to say, it was so fun that I want to do it all the time now. Everyone had someone to play with. Even with two families sharing close quarters (a two bedroom condo) for a week straight, everyone got along better than we could have hoped. Other than the kids having to work out who got the couch and who got the floor each night, they were mostly easygoing and excited to be having 9 slumber parties in a row.

Jax and Violet were as entertaining as ever and had no shortage of riveting conversations.

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While taking turns burying each other in the sand I overheard them saying, “Let’s pretend to be a mom and dad.”

“Yah, and we’re from TEXAS!”

imageLater while sharing a bag of pretzel thins Violet looked over at Jax and said “You have a crush on me Jaxon.”

“Yah Violet, I do.”

At this juicy tidbit Bella’s ears perked up and she asked, “What are you guys talking about?!”

“One day I’m going to marry this girl right here next to me”, he answered matter-of-factly.

“Yes. I think we will”, Violet agreed, with her usual amount of confidence. Bella looked at me like, “Are you getting all of this?”

Jax looked suddenly concerned and his shoulders slumped. “But wait, I don’t think we can get married because we might be cousins”. (This has been an endless source of confusion for the tinies, as Amber’s family and mine are not actually related, but our kids all call us “Auntie Amber”).

All I know is that ever since these two could talk they’ve spoken of marrying each other. Either they’ll grow up to have the truest love story of all time, or they’ll be super embarrassed about these conversations one day. Only time will tell.

The girls all matched outfits at every possible opportunity and considering that Amber’s oldest is 12 years old, that’s saying something, so we’re going to ride that wave as long as possible.

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Jax, however, could not be persuaded to don a flowery one-piece. Because dignity and manhood all that.

My personal highlights of the trip were waking up to this view every morning as I sipped my coffee,

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Relaxing and spending time with Husband outside of our normal setting, (It just does something good for the soul, to get away with your person)

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Celebrating 30 years of friendship with Amber,

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Making memories and watching our kids bond,

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And hanging with another great family that we don’t get to see very often.

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In the spirit of keeping it real, I’ll also share with you guys a personal low moment, when I had a very real brush with death in a jungle port-a-potty.

We’d all piled into two cars, promised the kids a waterfall hiking adventure, and driven over an hour, only to discover upon arrival that the trail was closed due to excessive mud. We decided to trek through the treacherous, ankle-deep mud to a different, more accessible waterfall and assured the kids that this was all part of the “adventure.”

But before any of that was going to happen, I had to pee. Lucky for me, there was a row of port-a-potties right there in the jungle. Nothing says relief like a hot, muggy, portable toilet. I held my breath, went inside, and told myself that all that gunk on the ground was just mud. As I was hovering, mid-pee, using all my concentration to NOT TOUCH ANYTHING, I felt something strange brush my shoulder.

That’s when the screaming started.

You guys.

A HUGE, leggy, hairy, brown jungle spider had landed- nay!- jumped on my shoulder. This sucker was the size of a small dinner plate. Okay fine, maybe a saucer. But it was enormous. And it was JUMPING. By this point I think I had succeeded in frightening the spider with my death-cries and it had jumped from my shoulder to the door, but considering my hovering stance and the general size of the port-a-potty, it was still basically less than an inch from my face.

What was I to do? I was mid-pee, pants down, and helpless.

So I did what any rational woman would do and I continued to let out long, murderous screams from inside the port-a-potty. This brown little beast might kill me, but I was not about to go quietly.

I started to hear a commotion just outside the door so the second my pants were up I ran out of that portable toilet like a bat out of hell, toilet paper in hand, almost colliding with a young couple waiting in line. They were very concerned for my well-being, and by the looks of their faces and the direction of their gaze, they were also more than a little concerned about the toilet paper in my hand.

“Are you okay?!” They asked.

I was darting around like a crazy person mumbling about a spider when I saw it again. The wee beasty had fled the port-a-potty with me when I flung open the door and there it was, right in front of me, trying hard to blend in with the mud.

NOT TODAY, DEMON INSECT!

I lunged at it and stomped on it repeatedly, (a little more than necessary, if I’m being honest) until I remembered I still had toilet paper in my hand. I quickly discarded it in the toilet and ran away from the stunned young couple and back to my group who were all laughing heartily at me by now.

I am happy to report that I did not die, and that we did eventually make it to the other waterfall, where we overcame bad attitudes, a cut foot, and excessive amounts of mud. But look how happy we all look in the picture!

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Proof that social media tells us nothing of real life.

All in all, I’d say it was a very successful vacation because the children had so much fun they’ve been near comatose since we got home.

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So in the spirit of catching up, dear readers, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and remember:

Be careful. It’s a jungle out there.

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