We decided about 2 weeks ago (totally last minute :) to take a trip to Florida and go on a Cruise. Then we were off!
We flew into Florida very early on the 5th of August and settled into our hotel in Fort Lauderdale right on the beach. We spent 3 days playing in the sand and swimming in the ocean.
I enjoyed watching my boys run along the shoreline. I loved watching them throw their heads back in laughter and the sun beam down on their sun kissed cheeks. There is no greater joy for me to sit in the quiet and just watch them. Watch who they are and what they are becoming. I love to watch my Husband with them and think out lucky we are to have him in our lives. Protecting us. Providing for us. Loving us.
He works so hard so I can stay home with these precious boys. So I won't miss a moment. And I haven't, not one single moment. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world sometimes and God has blessed us and made all that possible.
So, as I sat there and watched and got involved with the excitement of their lives, I couldn't help but smile. Even with a scarred heart, I found complete joy and happiness there on the shoreline of Ft. Lauderdale basking in the sunshine with my precious husband and children.
It is in those quiet moments, the stresses of life are a distant memory. Where nothing around you even matters, but you and those by your side. Not a care in the world. Just laughter and love and joy.
I had so many moments like that on this vacation. Just us. Just love.
I have learned that these vacations, just us, are my favorite. I don't have to be on any one else's schedules. I don't have to entertain and make sure others around me are content. I just go with the flow with my boys and we are full of joy. I have found such happiness here.
After three wonderful days in Ft. Lauderdale, we headed to Miami to catch our ship.
We were going to take a 5 day cruise on the beautiful Carnival Imagination. This ship was the perfect one we chose to take the boys on. Everything from the children's activities to the water park on the back of the boat were just "perfect" for our active little boys. Rick and I were able to slip away for a few hours that week while the boys attended Camp Carnival, but mostly we just spent family time together. So many precious moments of family time.
From the wonderful fancy breakfasts and dinners, to the days spent ashore our ports of call, every minute was precious. Rick and I found ourselves in awe while watching our sweet boys explore and enjoy the environments around them. So many times I found myself just standing still and watching them.
And in those quiet moments I couldn't help but think how blessed I truly am. How lucky I am to be a mother. How sweet moments of childhood really are...
I thought a lot of Maddie Grace this week too. I tried not to think of how she wasn't there, but the ways that she was. In our hearts. In our memories. We talked of her often and even decided to honor her in a precious way. I'll share more about that in the below photos.
There were so many baby girls on the cruise and while I missed so much that Maddie wasn't there with us in her little bikini splashing around with her brothers. I tried to stay focused on them. At one point the boys in their excitement were shouting "Mommy, look at this." and "Mommy, look over there." "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy."
It hit me that I would never hear her say those words to me and it broke my heart. I miss her. My heart continues to ache for her. I wanted her there with us. But... In those moments I realized just how precious those moments were. We were making memories to last a lifetime. All 6 of us. And though Maddie wasn't there physically, she surely was in our hearts.
We spent a day in Key West driving around an eclectic car (hehe) and exploring the Island. I watched my boys point and giggle and run down the pier. I enjoyed walking through the shops and eating snow cones. Just us.
We made our way to Cozumel and I watched Rick and the boys swim with the Dolphins. I watched these magical animals move through the water with my boys. We watched a sea lion show and laughed as they asked Rick to throw the sea lion it's ring. We played along the gorgeous shoreline and made sand castles with the boys. We ate a wonderful Mexican lunch over looking the beautiful ocean. Just us.
I saw the light in my children's eyes and the joy on their faces. No words needed to be said. Everything we needed to see was proved by their little faces, but yet we heard "thank you" over and over and over. "Thank you Mommy and Daddy for this trip." What a blessing.
And in those precious days riding through Key west and upon the shoreline in Cozumel, I got it. I really truly got it. I am so blessed. So lucky. So happy.
Everything we've been through has made us stronger. More in love. More aware. More in tune with the blessings in our lives.
Maddie did that. Maddie made that happen.
And every night as we tucked our boys into bed after reading devotions and saying our prayers, I went to bed rejoicing. My heart felt lighter. God was and is healing me in so many ways.
Yes, for now. My dreams and hopes of raising a little girl have fell from my sight, but what is very clear is what is in front of me right now.
I think I like living in the here and now much better. Something Rick has taught me to do. I used to plan and over plan way in advance. I had already "planned" our summer vacation with the Boys and Maddie. And we see that never came to be.
So where am I now?
I'm in the moment. I'm making memories with my children that will last a lifetime. I am blessed.
And I can't think of any better place to be. =)
Here are some of the precious moments and memories we captured on our trip...
Checking out the hotel in Ft. Lauderdale!
The boys LOVED these fish tanks!
Eli thought the fish were real. lol.
Ready to go to the beach!!!
Rick's sand man. lol.
Surfer boy =)
On the ship! Checking everything out!
The boys thought it was cool they had their own rooms and beds!
Eli's happy dance =)
Rick and Noah in the Atrium
Elijah and the towel elephant =)
The boys loved the glass elevators!
Top performers this week! =)
My love and I...
Eli and Mommy at dinner!
Daddy and Noah at dinner
The loves of my life <3
Eli getting a medal for best dancer at the Camp Carnival party!
He LOVED funship freddie!
Exploring the ship!
Eli LOVED the towel animals!
We explored Key West in an Electric car. So fun!
Southernmost point of the US!
Chillin in Key West!
Smiles from my loves.
Enjoying the water park!
Coming down the slide!
Splashing in the waterpark
Elijah was not so happy. lol.
Back from a fun time at Camp Carnival!
Elijah with his towel elephant.
Don't worry. It's a dolphin. =)
This is the only picture I have of the boys swimming with a dolphin. On top of the pricey excursion, the photos cost a fortune! So we only bought one...
Enjoying a day on the beach in Cozumel...
I brought Maddie's shoes to photograph in special places.
I asked Rick to make a heart with her initials and Noah wanted to make a hear too. =)
You are always with us Maddie Grace. We carry you in our hearts.
The boys with Maddie's heart. These shoes were the ones I used in my maternity shoot.
Running through the fountains
Chankaanab park! We had fun here!
What a fun day in Mexico!
Lol. Where is Elijah?
My three amigos... soon to be four!
They looked so tiny compared to the ships!
My matching boys
They played all day here on the days at Sea...
More water slide fun!
Rick and I the last night of our cruise
Me and Jonah 6 months along =)
What a wonderful vacation...