Sunday, October 9, 2011

Dear Smoker...

Last week I was sitting in the underground pick-up place at the airport, waiting for my husband who'd gone to get the car to come get me. I was enjoying the beautiful weather, refreshing breeze, and the glory of sitting outside away from most of the traffic and listening to the roar of planes taking off. And playing Sudoku.

You walked up and sat down next to me, looking as ordinary as I, seeming to enjoy the weather as well while waiting for the bus or your ride or whatever it is that you were waiting for. Suddenly, without warning AND WITHOUT EVEN ASKING, you whip out a cigarette, light up, and start puffing away as if you were the only person within a 30 yard radius.

So I got up, dragged all 4 of my bags (briefcase,purse, and 2 roller bags) far enough away to where I couldn't smell you - literally dragging a bag b/c I couldn't carry/roll everything. There was no bench. I sat on the concrete surrounded by bird poop and bugs.

Thank you for being so selfish that you didn't even ask if I minded. Let's not forget that I was there for a full 5 minutes before you arrived. Let's not forget that the air was made sans smoke to begin with. Let's not forget that smoking is actually harmful to others. Let's not forget that NOT EVERYONE SMOKES!!!

I think this is what bothers me most about "tolerance" - you expect me to let you do your thing. And I will. I didn't start shouting or quoting health studies. But why don't you show some respect and tolerance towards the rest of us and let us do our thing. In this case they CANNOT coexist. I don't appreciate you ruining the wonderful outdoors that I was enjoying at the moment. You are selfish and I did not enjoy being subjected to your nasty smoke.

Too bad you'll obviously never understand,
the person whose 10-minute wait was rudely interrupted by your smoking last week

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I'm a big girl

This week I did something that I actually found really difficult to do and feel so proud of myself that I want to share. Plus it's almost the end of the month and I owe two posts :)

The volleyball team does "Secret Panther" gifts for every home game. My sister (on the team) asked me to swing by Claire's and pick up some cute studs for her Secret Panther gift on my way home and then bring them to school on Thursday. We live right next door to the shopping area that has Claire's so it was going to be no problem.

Wouldn't you know that I found the CUTEST set of studs that was EXACTLY what my sister was looking for. Of course earrings were buy two get one free, and hair accessories were buy one get one 50% off, so within a matter of minutes I had two more pairs of earrings and cute hair accessories - I've been loving the cute headbands and hair clips that everybody's wearing these days. Plus I haven't bought new earrings since I got married. So I figured that I DESERVED it and told myself that it'd been so long since I had bought hair accessories and earrings that I really NEEDED to do so.

Almost immediately, I thought of the budget we're working so hard to keep and wondered what envelope the money would have to come out of - there wasn't any money left in our "blow money" or "clothing" envelope. The only money we have left is dedicated to food or gas. I thought of the notes I'd just looked over from conference and remembered President Monson's talk where he said that it was easier to obey 100% of the time than just 98% of the time. Now, this may be a little bit of an abnormal application of that concept, but it makes perfect sense to me.

So what did I do? I placed that darling headband, the cute hair clip, and the two sets of darling earrings down, paid for the earrings my sister asked me to get, and promptly left the store.

Saying no to those accessories was hard - I LOVE me some cute earrings and have been wanting cute hair stuff for a while :)

As I drove away, I felt an immediate sense of accomplishment and pride and a renewed sense of gratitude that I was exercising the self-control to say no to such a frivolous thing. We've been SO blessed these last few years as we're working so hard to be better with our money. It feels good to have zero debt and a 6-month emergency fund in the bank. It feels great to have, on top of that, a car fund for the car problems we seem to have every 4 months on the dot :) It feels wonderful to have things that we're working for and saving for and knowing that we're doing everything we can to be wise stewards of the financial blessings God has given us. We've seen blessings in SO many forms (including almost $5000 of money that's been placed in our laps at key points in our journey) and I love feeling like we're working hard for something worthwhile!

Anyways, I know it's something little, but I felt awesome about it and wanted to share my pride and gratitude for the financial choices we're trying to make!!! We feel secure, happy, and oh-so-blessed :)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Rio

We just watched another fabulous kids movie, RIO. Set in Brazil, it made both of us laugh and yearn to visit Brazil (Justin lived there 2 years while serving a mission for our church).

The "bad guy" in the movie had a really familiar voice and when he sang his bad guy song we figured out exactly who he was. Happy guessing :)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Be Prepared

We just finished watching the old movie It Happened to Jane and have a new favorite song. Enjoy the following clip - you want to start at about 1:00 and it ends at about 3:20. We're not sure why they made the clip so long and we only care about the song!!! But we have a new favorite theme song for our future children and especially for den meetings in cub scouts.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Life Update

Back on the grid! Sorry it's been so long. I keep thinking "when I'm less busy, THEN I'll have time to blog" and as the time absolutely flies by, I realize it's always going to be busy and that's just the way life is.

Spring flew by. I coached lacrosse this year and loved being outside every day. At the beginning of the season (February) it would take hours to warm up from being outside for so long, and then at the end of the season I had the start of a farmers tan. I love sunshine. I don't think I could ever live somewhere like Alaska where they literally don't see the sun for months at a time. Utah winters were hard enough - no green, no blue, no colors... Pretty bleak. I love my green Georgia and my blue sky, thank you very much!

The summer was full of wonderful things that of course made the time pass all too quickly.
Before our school got out: Holly graduated from HS, so we went to Springfield to celebrate! Highlight of the trip: homemade Qdoba style salads!!!
Week 1: Post-Planning
Week 2: Girl's Camp Mon - Fri!!! LOVED going. LOVE my YW.
Week 3: Justin was part of a small group that sang the National Anthem at a Braves game. Go honey! I prepared for the family reunion. Left on Friday for NC.


Week 4: Houghtaling Family World Summit - YAY!!!! Highlights include: the beach, Austin's family history highlights, Beach Olympics, Weenie Mania, daily trips to the grocery store, yummy food, lots of games, playing with cousins, watching family videos, and just relaxing!

Week 5: leave on Thursday for LA where we spent a romantic Thurs - Sat in LA for Justin's birthday. Went to see LES MISERABLES, walked around downtown, ate delicious food. SUCH a relaxing vacation. Then headed down to San Clemente for the weekend with many of Justin's friends. Beach + amazing fun people + lots of laughter = wonderful weekend. Including capturing our host's baby and doning the official Old Navy onsie despite there being an official ban on such t-shirts :)

Week 6: return from LA to go to Scott's Basic Training graduation in Ft. Jackson, SC. He is now stationed in Ft. Lee (VA) doing advanced training in Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD - aka the bomb squad). Then Fri/Sat Justin and I were both at youth conference as chaperones. One really fun thing about both serving in the youth program is that youth activities can almost double as date nights :)

Week 7: nothing except for Harry Potter midnight premiere and Zumba classess with friends and sister Claire.

Week 8: I re-read all 7 Harry Potter books after being inspired by a Lifetime bio on J.K. Rowling.

Last week of summer: Watched the other HP movies and got stuff ready for school. Justin took a day off work to take me to Whitewater for my birthday. Then my friend from high school got married and it was WONDERFUL to see so many old faces and remember how things used to be. Then we celebrated with family and again with friends. Yay for birthday weekends!

I think this may have been the best summer ever. It was a wonderful mix of vacation, new places, things to look forward to, LOTS of memories made, catching up with old friends/family and making new friends... I love the people in my life and love that they inspire me and make me want to be a better person.

And here we are, back in school. Teachers went back (and volleyball started) Aug 1. Justin went to some of the scout lake campout and had a BLAST. The kids returned last Monday Aug 8. This year I'm the assistant Varsity vb coach - which means a much busier fall. I forget how busy it is to work 12 hour days... especially after having free time all summer. I find myself resentful when other teachers say how busy they are after school that their kids didn't get in bed until 8pm b/c it was such a busy day. I feel "excuse me - I don't even eat dinner or get home until 8pm or later sometimes... What do you have to complain about?!?" But then I remember that I signed up for this and I love it and busy or not, I wouldn't choose something else.

So: I will try to blog maybe twice a month? Not sure I can do any better than that, but that's my goal! And see below for pictures from our various summer activities!






















Friday, July 29, 2011

26 reasons I am SO glad Erin Nicole Houghtaling Badger was born 26 years ago today!

1. Her constant and unconditional patience with me and love for me
2. She has super-human reading powers that allows her to read the entire Harry Potter series in one week
3. Her high-pitched, cackle-like laugh and snorts when she watches America's Funniest Home Videos
4. She loves musicals and loves me for loving them
5. Her infectious and inspiring love of the Savior and the gospel
6. She gets giddy over DQ blizzards or Costa Vida
7. When she talks baby-talk to all cats
8. The fact that when we went to pick out a movie the other night she picked an action thriller
9. She LOVES watching football games
10. Her unyielding drive to stand up for what is right, even if it isn't always fun or easy
11. Her incredible musicality - seriously, it's almost annoying how good she is sometimes
12. Her boarder-line obsession with all things Disney
13. When she gets so excited about something that her voice gets high pitched and she jumps up and down clapping her hands
14. She is a great judge of character and picks wonderful friends
15. She is passionate about the importance of family and family time
16. Her wonderful family
17. She is low maintenance - her idea of the perfect vacation is on a hot sunny beach with a book
18. She has an infectious zeal and love for life
19. The goofy look on her face when she thinks that she is dancing well - but at least she has a lot of fun trying
20. The fact that she will chase down a parade float to get another cheap Frisbee
21. Her knockout good looks
22. Her amazing teaching ability
23. Her ability to immediately connect with people and make them feel special and welcome
24. Her desire and ability to have fun in almost any situation
25. She is my best friend
26. The fact that she married me and made me the happiest man and luckiest man in the world!

I could come up with 26,000 reasons, but on her 26th birthday I will stick to these. Happy birthday sweetheart. I love you!






Seriously, you can't help but just love this girl!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Garden 2011

Well I guess it is time we start blogging again. I will leave the long and detailed updates of what we have been up to to Erin, but I thought I would share with you our garden update for this year.

This year we actually have two gardens, one on our deck and we also have a plot at out ward garden. Since our zucchini and squash really didn't do great in containers last year, we did the squash at the ward garden and kept the tomatoes, peppers and beans here at the house. Erin makes INCREDIBLE zucchini bread and wanted to be sure we had plenty of zucchini. I tried to warn her that two plants would give us more than enough, but she wasn't convinced so we ended up with FOUR zucchini plants, two yellow squash and a pumpkin at the ward garden and needless to say, we have zucchini coming out our ears. The other day I picked a MASSIVE zucchini so Erin decided she would grate it to make some bread. Well when all was said and done she had 18 cups out of ONE zucchini! So you live and learn, but it has been fun and quite humorous to have so much zucchini. Anyone have a good zucchini recipe?

Our container garden on our deck is also doing well. We have picked a bunch of tomatoes and okra, and our peppers are doing really well, which is sadly more than I can say for our green beans. However, regardless of how much fruit it all produces, I still love to see what can come from a little seed and some TLC. It is a neat feeling to watch life happen right before your eyes and extremely fulfilling to pick a bright red tomato and know that you had a part in helping it grow.

Here are some pics that were taken a few weeks ago. Best of luck to all my fellow want-a-be gardeners out there.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Bucket List, check!

I've never actually made a bucket list, but in my head is a list of things I know would be on it. Today, I accomplished one of said things.

I beat the expert level minesweeper.

How did I become such an expert? Well, lots of practice. When we got new computers at school this summer, I soon realized that they didn't uninstall the factory games :) Sometimes my brain gets overloaded and it's nice to be able to take a very short break (5 min or less) and play a mentally challenging game. It reminds me that I'm capable of higher level thinking. In fact, I encourage my students to play chess/minesweeper/mahjong titans (the tile matching game) because all of those require higher-level, deductive reasoning - very important in math and life.

After getting good at the "intermediate" level, I decided it was time to play expert. Mind you, this was back in last semester. Fast forward 85 games, and I am proud to say that on game #86 at the expert level, I BEAT IT in 8 minutes, 18 seconds. My winning percentage is 1%. I feel like Ben Franklin or any other genius who tried a million times before succeeding.

And knowing how they feel, I can definitely assure all dreamers out there - IT IS WORTH IT.

Never give up, never surrender!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Would you like to change your life?!?!?!?

So I'm trying to find out how I add the "follow me" link to our blog (you tell me, is it there? I haven't done anything to put it there yet... maybe I'm so good I don't have to try).

Anyways, I'm messing around in blogger clicking on all the tabs trying to find one that will do what I want, and I click on the link "Stats".

Wouldn't you know, but it will tell you how many page views you've had today, this week, this month, or all time (complete with graphics)!? NOT ONLY THAT, BUT YOU CAN SEE WHERE THE PEOPLE LIVE THAT ARE CHECKING OUT YOUR BLOG. You can see what kind of device they're using (mac, pc, ipad, ipod, etc...), the internet browser they used, and the most common referencing sites. For example, I know that my sister looks at my blog more than anyone else! And we've had 22 visits from people in Denmark, 15 from Brazil, several from Russia and other parts of the world. How cool is that?

1- Go check it out for your own blog and prepare to be amazed.
2- If you are reading this and you're not currently in the US, will you pretty please with sugar on top leave a note saying how you found this happy place and tell us your blog that we can become blogging pen pals?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

January Update

I am so glad to see January ending. That means we're one more step toward warmer weather and all the happy things that come along with it!!!

January has been a blessed month for us. We finally bought a new bed!!!! And we paid cash for it, which feels almost as good as sleeping on our new pillow top :) We also hit our 3-months savings in our 3-6 month emergency fund (Baby Step 3!!). We are going to continue to keep saving that up, Justin wants it to be a 10-month stockpile fund just for safety. Once we finish that then we'll start saving for a downpayment for a house. One day we'll get there. For now we just LOVE our apartment and are happy to stay put! It's fun to own everything completely and to not have a mortgage hanging over our heads. We love being out of debt and loved putting in the work to get here.

Now that we've hit our 3-month emergency fund mark, we're going to start Baby Step 4, which is investing!!!!! We've been so excited to start doing this. We met with our financial planner last Tuesday (one of Dave Ramsey's ELP's in Peachtree City) and will meet again with him tomorrow to actually open our Roth IRA accounts and sign forms, etc... SO EXCITED. We absolutely love this guy and love Dave and highly, highly, highly recommend all of you to this plan. LOTS of hard work and some sacrifice, but TOTALLY worth it!!!

New Year's Resolutions: some are going well, like making new dishes. We had some really yummy new food in January. Lots of things are joining our family favorites list. Working out is going great for Justin - Delta's new gym just opened and so he enjoys going before/after work. Working out for Erin is not going as well, but I really think I'm ready to commit :) At least I'm eating super healthy and getting plenty of veggies - that's all I eat for lunch :) Plus a little peanut butter ;) We're both staying healthy busy and being productive with our down time.

We're really feeling blessed with having some amazing people in our lives. There's a wonderful family we have just fallen in love with. They are truly uplifting and brighten our spirits every day. And while we know that technically we're giving service by being their ride to church/ youth group each week - WE are the ones who feel blessed beyond measure. I don't know how that works but I'm so grateful it does. You would never realize their situation because they are so happy and positive all of the time. It makes us feel much more grateful for all of our many blessings and want to do more to help others out.

In other news, we found out this weekend that...

the Atlanta Temple is reopening!!!!


The rededication will be Sunday May 1, 2011. The Open House, which is for ANYONE who would like to tour the temple before it's been dedicated for worship, will be April 9 - 23. We are SO excited to have this opportunity to share our beautiful temple with our friends and family, especially those not of our faith. Yes, that's what I said, you don't have to be a Mormon to take a tour of the temple during the open house!! So, for any of our friends who would like to check it out, just let us know and we'll be sure to get you tickets to one of the tours. We don't know anything else about tour times/ticket dates right now, but I'll be sure to keep you posted.

In the meantime, if you have questions about Mormons or our temples, there are answers on this website.


YAY JANUARY! Thanks for being a fan-tabulous month!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The end of Les Miserables

In March of 2009, Justin and I set out to conquer our own Mt. Everest. We wanted to read the complete, unabridged 1463 pages of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables.

(Note: NOT our table cloth/pet hair. Only a depiction of how big this book is.)

Fastforward 9 months to December 30th and 31st, and we completed the book (Justin - 30th, Erin - 31st).

We could not complete such a life-changing, MARATHON of a book without expressing our love and gratitude for Victor Hugo and for the amazing spiritual upliftment that is Les Miserables.

I received my copy of the book in high school when my parents gave Katie and I the book for Christmas (with 2 tickets to see the broadway show tucked inside). The show was AMAZING. I really can't describe how touching it is. To me, when discussing Broadway shows, there are the fun ones like Mary Poppins or Lion King (ground level), and then there's a step up to Beauty and the Beast or Aida (top of Empire State Building), and then there's a step up to Wicked (top of the Burj Khalifa). And then there's a giant leap learger than the distance from the Sun to Pluto, and that's where Les Mis is sitting.

I always wanted to read it, but never did. When Justin first started with Delta Oct '09, he was throwing bags and had a LOT of down time. He read several books and then decided he wanted to read Les Mis. So he goes out and buys the book, brings it home, and then I remembered that I had a copy too. So I dig around a bit and find it, and we decide to start it out together and that when we finish we'll go see it on Broadway in Europe (the only place it was playing at the time).

Now, word to the wise: choosing to read Les Mis is like committing to run a marathon. Not kidding. 1463 pages is a LOT of pages, especially when the print is not very big. But I promise that if you will stick it out, it will be worth EVERY minute. I'll definitely read it again in the future.

I'd heard that Victor Hugo can be wordy at times, or describe things that are seemingly unimportant for pages upon pages... Rather than be annoyed with this, I let myself be submerged completely and in the process found out what it really means to be a hopeless romantic. Stop and smell the roses doesn't begin to express the love affair Mr. Hugo had with his characters. By spending so much time in every detail of his story, I felt like I really got to know these people (plus I had the songs they sing in my head). By the middle/end of the story when people start dying, it was tragic and sad and I cried like my own friend had died. At the very very end when our giant angel dies I wept.

If you would like to immerse yourself in a book that will literally change your life, that will touch the spiritual and human side of you, that will teach you how to be better than you ever thought possible, how much you could do for someone you truly love, that people are human and can be cruel and unforgiving, that God is merciful and kind and full of grace and truth, that there really are angels in human form among us, or that God's love and forgiveness apply to ALL of us, then I recommend you read Les Miserables.

In Victor Hugo's own words (p.1242):

"The book the reader has now before his eyes - from one end to the other, in its whole and in its details, whatever the omissions, the exceptions, or the faults - is the march from evil to good, from injustice to justice, from the false to the true, from night to day, from appetite to conscience, from rottenness to life, from brutality to duty, from Hell to Heaven, from nothingness to God. Starting point: matter; goal: the soul. Hydra at the beginning, angel at the end."

Amen.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

New Year, New Goals

In all the excitement of going on our cruise, planning our next one, and having FOUR SNOW DAYS (I wish they'd just cancel Friday too instead of doing this day-by-day thing... Definitely getting old by now), I have neglected to share our Goals for 2011. For some reason sharing them to anyone who could possibly read makes me feel more accountable and thus I think I'll have a higher likelihood of achieving them. Justin and I made a huge list with goals for lots of things (physical, financial, spiritual, homemaking (me not him), spouse, personal, professional, and "other"). Since it's a pretty detailed list, I'll share the most important/difficult ones.

1. If you've ever been my roommate, you know that I can sit on a couch and watch tv with the best of them. Really, I love to veg. I don't know or care about Kim and Khloe, but as soon as I flip on E!, I get sucked in and can't cut it off. Please say that this happens to some of you? My husband calls it mindless television, and that's exactly what it is.

Recently I've been reading this talk called "Reflections on a Consecrated Life" by one of the big leaders of our Church. Whether or not you belong to our church, I highly recommend this talk! In it, Elder Christofferson talks about how a consecrated life is a life of purity (as demonstrated by Jesus Christ), a life of labor (again, we have a perfect example in Christ), a life that respects the gift of one's physical body, a life of service (Christ = example), and a life of integrity.

Anyways, coming back to my love to veg. While reading this talk, I stumbled across the following quote (in the "life of labor" section):

"Having spoken in praise of labor, I must also add a kind word for leisure. Just as honest toil gives rest its sweetness, wholesome recreation is the friend and steadying companion of work. Music, literature, art, dance, drama, athletics - all can provide entertainment to enrich one's life and further consecrate it. At the same time, it hardly needs to be said that much of what passes for entertainment today is coarse, degrading, violent, mind-numbing, and time wasting. Ironically, it sometimes takes hard work to find wholesome leisure. When entertainment turns from virtue to vice, it becomes a destroyer of the consecrated life. "Wherefore, take heed...that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God" (Moroni 7:14)"

I italicized the part that stood out to me. He was talking to me!!! It's amazing how every time our church leaders talk, they talk to me as an individual. So cool. Anyways, it hardly goes without saying that I am resolved to spend my time more wisely. In the same talk, Elder Christofferson quoted Richard L. Evans by saying "Life offers you two precious gifts - one is time, the other freedom of choice, the freedom to buy with your time what you will." I'm not exactly maximizing either choice when I choose mind-numbing and time wasting television over more productive alternatives. So, this year I will be using my time more wisely and come December will let you know how it goes. And feel free to ask/prod/give ideas on how to do this. My ideas: cook more new things, finally finish the 2 quilts I started last year, learn how to do other crafty things, be a better housekeeper so it's always 100% straight, read more books, blog more, keep in touch with friends, read scriptures/journal (I count blogging as a journal), exercise/learn tennis, etc...

2. Other than using my time more wisely, I would like to be more healthy. Eventually, I would like to enjoy running. My friend from high school LA did this and I really admire her for it - she's even done a 1/2 marathon. Another friend did a 10K. I'm thinking maybe I'll set a goal to run next year, but for this year I'd like to get back to eating healthier (for a few months in the fall I ate 100% veggies for lunch and I felt SO good) and just good old exercising. Justin and I bought P90X in November. I started it and lasted a few days, but allow myself to whine and take a few days off... I'm still on that little break and feel the athletic angel on my shoulder saying to buck up and just do it. I love exercising, really I do, but I don't like hurting and boy does P90X hurt :) So my goals were to eat healthy and do P90X twice this year. Maybe not in 180 days, but to just get through the program to where the push-up/pull-up workout doesn't make me cry anymore and I can honest to goodness do EVERYTHING in the workout 100% like they do.

3. Build a better relationship with Christ. In church on Sunday I taught the 14-15 year old young women for the 3rd hour (it's like another Sunday School but the youth split up for this one). The topic was on Building a Relationship with Christ.

This picture was part of the lesson. Something compelling is that the outside of the door has no handle. Reminds me of Matthew 7:7 "...knock, and it shall be opened unto you." Of course Christ wants to be in our lives, but it's US who has to invite him in. It's ME who has to work to cultivate that relationship. I can do SUCH a better job of this, and so one of my resolutions is to improve in all of those things that can build a better relationship with Him. This is definitely the one I'm most excited about.
*I'm super pumped about my major goals this year. I feel like they all tie in together really well. As I build a better relationship with my Savior, I will naturally choose more uplifting leisure activities. and vice-versa. As I do a better job taking care of this wonderful gift of a body, I will fill my free time and come closer to Christ, etc... How fun will this be?!?*
Wish me luck! And ps - I'd like to point out that I have already surpassed the total number of blogs we posted in all of 2009 and I'm one short of 2008. I guess it's easy to improve when you have SO MUCH improvement to make. Hopefully that's how I'll look back at this year when all is said and done :)
What were your New Years Goals?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

And we are SO excited :)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Day 8: Arriving in Tampa/going home

Day 8: Arriving in Tampa :(

Day 8 began less pleasantly by the other days because we jolted back to the reality that our cruise wouldn't actually last forever. Dang it! (see Claire's farewell video at the very bottom - it accurately expresses how we all felt having to say goodbye for the final time)


We went to our sit-down breakfast one last time with Sariyono (LOVED him). Then we waited for our group to be called. We were one of the first ones off the boat b/c we were trying to catch an earlier flight. .

We took a quick taxi to the airport. There was zero traffic and zero wait at the airport. We were off the boat and at our gate in no more than 20 minutes NO KIDDING. Then, to continue our magical experience, not only did we make the flight but we were in first class. YAY!.

We returned to Atlanta and it didn't feel too cold, but there was snow on the ground! It was the first white Christmas since the 1800's (Claire was sad to miss it). Justin had to scrape our car before he could drive it back to get me (he parks in the employee lot when we travel so we don't pay for parking).

Here's a picture of the parental's house: Now, for Georgia, this snow is really exciting so you Northerners are not allowed to bash it!


Got home, took a nap, unpacked, etc... We've been drinking our juice out of wine goblets and wearing tropical colors ever since. It's been a hard adjustment back :(

Things we loved the most: chocolates and animal towels EVERY night (always SO fun to plan for the next day's activities on a freshly turned down bed), taking showers every day that were the PERFECT temperature and the PERFECT pressure, fresh towels once a day, having the bed made twice a day and turned down each night, not having to make dinner or clean up after it, just showing up and eating as much as we wanted (which was usually a LOT - we basically paid for our dinner - the room/entertainment/etc... was all free!), soaking up the warm Caribbean sun, having zero responsibility besides getting to the next meal on time :), it was so romantic!!!, and lastly and most importantly, we had so much free time to just spend together - so much time to bask in our love. SO MUCH FUN.

We're seriously trying to plan our next cruise and are 95% committed to the week of Thanksgiving 2011.

One other bit of happy news: Justin is on his way home from work right this very minute via the Original Mattress Factory to purchase our BRAND NEW BED!!!!! Yes, that's right ladies and gents, we finally saved up enough in our savings fund that we are allowing ourselves to get a bed! The bedroom furniture is right behind it - we'll get that hopefully by the end of the month. The bed should get delivered on Saturday and our lives will be changed forever. YAY!

video

Cruise Day 7: Christmas at Sea

Day 7: At sea

Day 7 was a nice, lazy, Christmas day. We were able to sleep in because there was nothing we had to get up for. Justin had a migraine the night before, so we'd actually gone to bed relatively early. Now, I'm usually a pretty light sleeper, and all night I'd been up to the bathroom a few times (I drink too much during the days :), so imagine my GREAT surprise when there a full Christmas stocking next to our bed the next morning. I was SHOCKED. Totally didn't expect anything, but somehow Santa and his helpers found us all the way on our boat in the middle of the ocean! So that was a fun, magical start to the morning.

We met up with everyone at breakfast. I think we all felt like Claire at the thought of leaving the next day :(

But before I can truly begin with the rest of Day 7, let's rewind to the wee early morning hours of Day 7. (Maybe even all the way back to the end of Day 6 - I don't know, we were sleeping!)

There was an adult air guitar contest. Scott really wanted to do it, and finally convinced Katie to do it. Good thing he did, because they BOTH won another trophy!!! This was #2 for both of them! Way to go kids! There they are with Carnival Cruise Entertainment friend Jonathan.

Katie's only a little bit excited to have 2 of these, don't you think?

Anyway, so back to Christmas breakfast. The following picture is just to let you know how indulgent we really are on a cruise, because I don't think you're understanding what I'm trying to explain. Every morning for breakfast we get to order juice. I think we all order 1-2, but Christmas morning I'm not sure what happened, we ordered and drank more than what you see below (the rest of us still have at least one glass in front of us):

Love this pic :) What more could a girl want that a fun, handsome, wonderful, WONDERFUL husband with her on Christmas day... on a big boat... in the middle of the warm ocean... in the warm ocean sun... with unlimited food... *sigh* I've found the REAL heaven.

Yes, we like our grapefruit juice!

Throughout the day everybody spent time with the friends they'd made during the week. Scott and Claire were nowhere to be found, but here's Katie with Team Michigan, playing putt-putt. Good thing she had practice during the Amazing Cozumel Race!

Dad took his shirt off to lay out and ended up with a "fanny chest" - it's a cousin to the "bro" (a bra for men). It's all the rage these days.

There was an ice sculpture demonstration that was SO cool. Just before the ice sculpting, there was a men vs women synchronized swimming competition. Of course me/Katie/Dad/Justin entered (along with the 2 boys and 1 girl in Team Michigan, plus one other new cruise friend) - nobody was there to take pictures. Mom video taped the whole thing (PRICELESS), and she doesn't have 3 hands, so we have a great video (I'll try to get it from them) so you can see the winning routine. The boys won by a LANDSLIDE, and also meant that Justin and Dad each earned ANOTHER trophy.

Celebrating the win with some chocolate/fruit sushi. YUMMY!

Nursing the loss with cups upon cups of the strawberry bisque I mentioned earlier. They had it at the lunch dessert buffet the last day! SCORE!

The sun is lowering for the last time :.....( (that's a lot of sobbing teardrops)

Dad doing his favorite activity (say it with me, you know it by now!): NAPPING. See what I mean about the drooping arm? You can see where he just closed his eyes mid page, and the book fell down.

Because it was Christmas, there was organized Christmas Caroling in the main lobby between dinner times. SEVERAL hundred people showed up. This was the best picture I could get (sorry - crappy flash), but it was really a one-of-a-kind, wonderful experience! And the coolest part: we sang real Christian hymns too - not just wintery songs!

LOOK WHO WE SAW THERE! I know him! We were sure to thank him for the stocking and were grateful he stuck around. After such a long night, a cruise does sound like the perfect vacation. Hey, if the big guy is on a cruise, isn't that a sign that it really is the best vacation ever?

At dinner we had salmon for the (count it) fourth time! Each time seemed better than the last. SO DELICIOUS.

Now, you've heard me mention these little Carnival Legend trophies that we'd won throughout the week. By Saturday night, the count was up to 9. So we decided to bring all of our trophies and our medals (there should be 7 there - K/C forgot theirs) to make a Winner's Circle Centerpiece for our final meal.

Breakdown of the final count:
Dad won 2 trophies, one for winning the Hairy Chest Contest, the other for winning Synchronized Swimming)
Erin and Justin combined for a total of 3 (Erin's Minute to Win It, Justin's Synchronized Swimming, and combined effort to win Name That Tune in the piano bar)
Katie won 2 trophies, one for winning the women's division of the Air Guitar Competition, and one for winning a Karaoke competition
Scott won 2 trophies, one for winning the men's division of the Air Guitar Competition, and one for performing with the live band during a Karaoke event.
7 medals: 1 per person for taking 2nd at the Amazing Cozumel Race.

Again, I hope you've been listening: we're THE Coolest Family EVER. I think we just proved it.

As if that wasn't enough, as the family's walking off the boat, our friend Jonathan asked Mom and Claire how many trophies we ended up with. They said 9. He said that we were just so awesome we needed another as a tribute to our awesomeness. So M/C were awarded another trophy as they walked off the boat. We're so cool that we get trophies just for being cool. Final total = 10 trophies.

Here's a picture of our wonderful wait staff. They were such a joy and delight, we really looked forward to seeing them every night. We love you Rex and Santos!

I just thought this was so funny I had to include it :)

Mom and Dad with Nancy - THE hostess with the absolute mostest. She was a JOY, delight, and pleasure every single time. She brightened our day each morning and evening and if you are able to go on the Legend between now and May when her contract is up, PLEASE take the time to meet and get to know her just a little bit. SUCH a darling, precious, sweet young woman!

Sorry we didn't do a great job of taking pictures of food. Like I said - weird flash. Plus we forgot a lot :) But here's the Christmas dessert. Justin could tell you more about it.

Our last animal. I think it's a puppy? It was almost as much fun trying to figure out what they were as it was to come home and find them :)
Home Sweet Home. I miss it already...