Category Archives: travel

Beach Vacation 2014

Vacation.

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Such a lovely idea, no?

A few weeks ago, we packed up our gang and headed to a place we’d never been– the beaches of Pass Christian, MS. Neither of our children had ever seen the ocean before, so we were excited and nervous about how they would respond.

Honestly, I had pretty low expectations for how relaxing the trip would be because we were bringing small children along. We met my sister along with her husband and daughter at my brother-in-law’s family’s beach house. I must say, the whole trip was a welcomed surprise.

July was a crazy month for us at the end of a busy season, so having a chance to relax with people we love was such a gift!

Wonderful weather (cool and sometimes overcast when it was predicted to rain each day). Happy, napping children every day. A practically private beach. Total flexibility to change our plans according to how the kiddos were faring. I can see why people love beach vacations, especially with young kids!

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We dined out one night, visited a local playground and bookstore, and one day rode with a fisherman out to Ship Island, which was a breathtakingly beautiful and uninhabited beach island. Other than that, we just stayed in our little corner of beach house, pool, and ocean. Bliss.

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Overall, the perfect getaway. It really is too bad you can’t be on vacation all the time 😉

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Memorial Day Fun

We had such an enjoyable Memorial Day this year! I am grateful for all of the men and women who have lost their lives serving our nation. And in honor of their memory (and Hub’s day off of work), we loaded our crew and headed down the Natchez Trace. Our good friend, Micah, joined us in the fun.

We drove all the way to the furthermost point and then made all of our stops along our way home. (Furthest point for us, anyway. The highway stretches 444 miles) The kids did surprisingly well on our little excursion. I think it was all the fresh air 😉

First stop: Jackson Falls. A beautiful little spot just 900 feet from our car

First stop: Jackson Falls. A beautiful little spot just 900 feet from our car

Micah at the top of the falls

Micah at the top of the falls

Liam soaking in some time with Micah. What a guy, that Micah.

Liam soaking in some time with Micah. What a guy, that Micah.

Daddy and Ellis girl

Daddy and Ellis girl

Finding a little snail friend

Finding a little snail friend

The kiddos enjoying some pretzels at Baker's Bluff Overlook

The kiddos enjoying some pretzels at Baker’s Bluff Overlook

Gordon House

Gordon House

The clearing at Gordon House

The clearing at Gordon House

Skipping rocks, creek stopping, and picnic-ing at Garrison Creek

Skipping rocks, creek stopping, and picnic-ing at Garrison Creek

The girl just loving the water (and the rocks). The scab on her nose is from a recent climbing misadventure.

The girl just loving the water (and the rocks). The scab on her nose is from a recent climbing misadventure.

It was such a beautiful day. The water and shade were therapeutic to me, and the kids were so curious about everything. It was just lovely to be in a secluded spot on Memorial Day. And to think, we almost didn’t go because of forecasted rain!

 

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When Things Don’t Go As Planned (aka Parenthood)

Let me tell you about a trip that didn’t go as planned. I believe this is what they call life.

Last week, our family packed up and headed to Memphis for a few days.

The hubs had a work training there, which meant all of his travel-related expenses work were compensated. And when we realized that my days off coincided with his training days, we thought we could take advantage of an opportunity for a cheap, mini-vacay.

I’d never been to Memphis, so I had fun looking into the free or cheap kid-friendly attractions. I was a little nervous about exploring a city with just myself and my two little ones, but I was getting excited about it. About a week before we were supposed to leave, we learned that his company paired him with a roommate–someone from a branch in Florida. Big bummer. The hotel was our largest expense. So, we debated it and decided we’d still go. I found a good deal on Hotwire.

We got there around 10pm on Monday night. The kids were in pretty good spirits, but a bit over tired seeing as it was hours after bed time. To make a long story short, the crib they promised us (twice) wasn’t available and the girl wouldn’t sleep. So, we packed up and moved hotels after midnight. It was about as much fun as it sounds.

Ellis slept pretty horribly for the majority of the trip. She was cutting a tooth. Our neighbors next door asked if we were the ones with the baby crying all night.

To make matters worse, I developed mastitis on Tuesday (uncommon at this point in the game, I know) and felt like I had the flu. I was definitely questioning if we made the “right” decision in coming.

I share all of this for two reasons. One, this is life with young kids (as every other parent can attest). I knew the trip wouldn’t be easy, but I underestimated how challenging it would be with two little wild cards. Everything is just a little trickier where kids are involved. After talking about it, we realize we need to adjust to the phase we’re in and see this trip as a way to pick up a few tricks for the next time around.

More importantly, though, this trip served as a microcosm of what parenthood is for me: learning to let go and trust Jesus. I’m not in control of my life the way I think I am. I like to stick to the plan and know the path ahead. But, there are so many extenuating circumstances over which I have no control. And in the midst of my stress and fear there is an invitation to be perfectly cared for and walk minute by minute, trusting. I am making progress. I’m not there yet.

Memphis wasn’t all bad. I think Liam had fun. The new hotel was a better location and fit for our time there. The kids slept beautifully the last night we were there. We had some great local food even though we didn’t manage to get to most of the places on my list. It was all provision for what we really needed.

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Pictures include our time at The Memphis Firehouse Museum, Shelby Farms Park, The Memphis Zoo, and some sweet sibling love 😉

 

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The Inside Passage Cruise

We’re back!

After a wonderful week in Alaska, followed by a busy week of settling back into normal life and overcoming land sickness (have you ever heard of such a thing?!), I’m going to attempt to describe some of our beautiful trip!

Note: all pictures were taken by the lovely Mariah Uttz. We didn’t even unpack our camera the entire trip (typical), so we’re eternally grateful to her for capturing these memories!

Two weeks ago today, the entire McLaughlin family (minus my sister, Mariah’s, husband whose work duties kept him home) gathered in Seattle, Washington from all over the country for a pretty remarkable trip.

View of the Seattle skyline from our boat, the ms Amsterdam

My parents wanted to take all of their children and grandchildren on an Alaskan cruise for years, and this proved to be the year it could actually happen. We’re so grateful for such incredible memories with people we love that we’ll keep for a lifetime.

We set sail (or whatever it’s called) from Seattle on Friday and arrived at Tracy Arm on Sunday. That had to be one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Tracy Arm Fjords are encompassed by an inlet unreachable during much of the year because of snow, fog, and icebergs.

Snow, waterfalls, and low clouds were our view mountain after mountain at Tracy Arm.

I really can’t describe the beauty, magnitude, and reverence in that place. We received lessons in fjords, icebergs, glaciers, and Alaskan wildlife over the loud speaker while took in the beauty. There were also moments of silence to respect the wildlife when we could hear the “white thunder” of glaciers cracking and breaking. Incredible!

This is a great shot to give scale to what we were experiencing from the bow of the ship.

The boat scarcely looked as if it would fit through the winding passageways until at last, we came to an opening where we saw the majestic Sawyer Glacier. From here, we eeked around a small island and retraced our steps back out.

The glacier offset by the icebergs in the water.

On this small island is an orange tent where someone was camping. I can’t imagine waking up to such views!

As we crossed this island, we noticed the tent without a boat or plane in sight. Not sure how they got there, but I’m sure it was an experience of a lifetime for them!

I spent a lot of time that day thinking about such beautiful, hidden places in this vast expanse of an earth that God created. I couldn’t help but think, Why? Seen by so few, it must please him to create for himself. Certainly, it glorifies him when we see beauty and turn to give him praise, but places like this must bring him glory just by him seeing and feeling satisfied with what he has made.

a family shot

The next day, we docked at Juneau, Alaska’s capital. It’s a tiny town, and largely touristy. It actually reminded me somewhat of Gatlinburg, TN in that way. We spent the morning, taking a bus down to hike around Mendenhall Glacier: another exquisite site to behold.

The whole gang at Mendenhall

Jonathan, and Liam on his back, were part of the group that hiked down to the waterfall near the glacier while I stayed back at the visitor center to help watch kids in strollers.

Jonathan, Liam, and Brian overlooking icebergs in the lake at Mendenhall

With all these pictures to choose from, I guess we need to send a Christmas card this year!

When we went back into town, some of us rode a tramway with amazing views of the city of Juneau.

Basically overlooking the whole of Juneau, Alaska

On Tuesday of that week, we docked at Sitka. A beautiful little port town that reminded me a lot of parts of New England. Sitka didn’t have a port where we could dock, so we took smaller boats over.

Our boat anchored with boat taxis that took us to Sitka

We took a bus tour and hiked around  at Totem park. Sitka happens to be the first city in Alaska that the United States owned, bought from Russia in the late 1800s.

There were some extended times on the ship, where there was plenty to do including eating, more eating, cooking classes, mixology classes, dance classes, swimming, a piano bar, karaoke, a workout room, evening shows, and much more.

Mariah, myself, and Jonathan enjoying high tea on the boat one afternoon.

Everyone at one of our two formal nights

We unfortunately encountered some rough waters Tuesday night as we headed to our next stop: Ketchikan. This town is much dingier than Sitka, but had tons of character! It was built on boardwalks with houses practically built layer upon layer above. This is a picture of Creek Street, which was originally part of the town’s red light district.

Looking across historic Creek Street

Finally, on Thursday evening, we made port in Victoria, British Columbia. My parents graciously watched all the little ones on the boat so that all the “kids” could go out into town together. We took a limo tour that included the tallest totem pole, the Govenor’s gardens, and a lovely castle (where the X-Men movies were filmed).

Totem Pole stretching 189 feet high

Look familiar? Not to me. I’ve never seen X-Men.

The gang in front of our ship in Victoria (sans Eric, who was taking the picture)

Things I learned about Alaska:

This is not a cruise for those prone to sea-sickness. This includes me 😦 I had never been a cruise before, but from what I’m told the waters are a bit choppier and we had longer periods in the open sea between destinations.

The towns feel timeless. Alaska is so different from so many other places, partly because of its remoteness and difficulty importing or expanding. The towns are all small, and each day we docked, you really couldn’t tell which decade you were even in. You can lose your sense of time in a place like this.

Bald eagles abound. It was incredible how many bald eagles we saw. Like, it was no big deal. I learned that half of the population of bald eagles reside in the inside passage of Alaska.

The towns are still flourishing with Native American influence. It’s no surprise, I’m sure, that all of these places began as Native American tribes that were pushed out by the Russians (and Americans, depending). But the areas are still rich with the heritage. The towns were listed in English and along with an indigenous language, and many of the people are of Native American decent.

Alaskans don’t bother with exterior decorating. Because the land is so harsh for much of the year, you will rarely see a manicured lawn with landscaping. And all of the houses are built out of wood (which is less durable, but cheaper to import).

The thing I loved the most about our time in the inside passage is that it felt so different from everywhere else in the world I’ve been. The scenery, the wildlife, the towns were all so uniquely Alaskan.

It. was. awesome.

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