First and foremost, I’d like to formally apologize for my lengthier-than-usual hiatus on here, although this post will go on to explain the (good, or at least reasonable) reasoning for that. This month – which is not even over yet – has been made up entirely of beautiful, soul-enriching memory-making, with occasional spurts of chaos and exhaustion thrown into the mix to keep us on our toes. Over the course of about 3 or so weeks, I celebrated another year of life in one of my all-time favorite places (as did Tim), dipped my toes in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, ventured through five different states (on opposite ends of the country), got a new tattoo, did some front porch sitting, visited the happiest place on Earth, road tripped a couple times with the love of my life, spent irreplaceable time with loved ones, and caught five different flights just to make it all happen – and that’s just rattling off a few of what made up this whirlwind and absolutely incredible July.
The weekend of July 4th was our formal start and kicked things off in Las Vegas. My birthday was on the 2nd, and Tim and I – now that we’re within reasonable driving distance from one of my favorite places on the planet – had decided months back that I would be ringing in my 23rd birthday there. Somewhere along the way, it was decided that my mom and sisters, too, were coming along and before I knew it, we’d orchestrated our first family vacation in over 5 years. Due to our increasingly chaotic personal lives , this has only gotten harder to organize as time goes on, so it really meant a great deal that we were able to pull this together. Tim and I arrived a night before the others as our travel time was more flexible, and we partook in some birthday fun as a party of two. We explored tons of the amazing shops, grabbed dinner on the Strip, and made our way to the Stratosphere hotel for cocktails and dessert at their 107 Sky Lounge. We settled into a cozy booth with the most incredible aerial view of the Las Vegas Strip, although taking a stroll around the lounge when we eventually made our way out provided an unparalleled 360° view of the local area as a whole. The next morning, my family arrived and we relocated from the Strip (where Tim and I had spent that first night) to Downtown Las Vegas. That first night we explored the hustle and bustle surrounding our hotels, found a surprisingly awesome $10 prime rib dinner, and zip lined down the Fremont Street Experience. The rest of our time together was spent predominantly by the Golden Nugget’s one-of-a-kind shark tank pool with drinks in hand to beat the 115° heat as best we could. We ventured back out onto the Strip to walk around Caesar’s Palace, caught a bit of the Fountains of Bellagio’s show, took in some of the famous sights, and enjoyed a family dinner to celebrate my birthday together (complete with singing). We visited the Taco Bell Cantina – we’re big Taco Bell fans, so much so that it was our anniversary dinner last year – and even checked out the Seven Magic Mountains out in the desert. The weekend seemed to fly by entirely too quickly, as our time together always feels like it does, but I am so grateful that this was something we got to do. It’s also a tradition I pray we keep going, no matter how our family may grow or change in the years to come. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve only grown more appreciative of my family and look to keep that lifeline as strong as possible.
We came home for one entire 24-hour period before embarking on the next portion of our adventure. My sister had returned to California with us instead of leaving directly from Las Vegas so we could all fly out of San Diego and head for home together the following morning. Tim had to work, so she and I spent the day attempting to recover while simultaneously trying to prepare for the next leg. We went to the beach and enjoyed California Burritos (with Blue Powerade and extra Chipotle sauce) together; pretty successful sister time in my book.
Scrambling out of the airport in San Diego proved to be slightly chaotic to say the least, but with a little hope and a lot of sprinting to our gate, we made our flight home just in time. Arriving in Northern Kentucky was a little surreal; after not being there for almost a year, it was strange seeing so many familiar things paired with so many foreign ones. We quickly got settled in and dove straight into our long list of must-see/do things and people. We ate foods we’d grown up on. We got new tattoos from the shop we’ve been loyal to for 5+ years now – an appropriate travel-inspired piece for me, and a sentimental one for Tim; his mother’s maiden name down his ribs in honor of his grandparents. We rode the new ride at Kings Island, stopped by my old job, and visited with those nearest and dearest to us. I was honestly blown away by how many made the genuine effort to come out and spend time with us – long distance has a way of really showing people’s true colors, so it was refreshing and endearing to see so many really did value our friendship. Not all, of course, as there will always be those who no longer find themselves on our wave length and that we must outgrow throughout the stages of our life. But those simply make more room in our hearts for true friends and family and remind us to treasure them that much more.
Next on our list was our trip to Jacksonville, Florida! A handful of months ago, my mother-in-law proposed that we go visit her and my father-in-law at their new home there during our time off and I don’t think I could’ve agreed more quickly. Especially since my mother and sisters ended up meeting us in Vegas, it wound up being a wonderful month for quality family time. Something about being on the other side of the country – which sometimes might as well be the other side of the world – can feel rather isolating, especially when it comes to family. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve established a life of our own out here and have done all we could to make the most of our temporary home. Technology has come a long way, too, but physically being with our blood, the ones who helped form our start to this life is so much more special now – or at the very least, we’ve learned to revere it properly instead of taking it for granted as we may have in the past. We flew out with my mother-in-law and spent an extended weekend with them and my husband’s grandmother, which was an unexpected bonus, too. I hadn’t been to Florida in years (since my last vacation with their family in high school, if I had to guess), so it was all the more special. We went to Daytona Beach (my first time there) conveniently during a truck meet, visited St. Augustine and the Castillo de San Marcos, ate seafood on the water, celebrated Tim’s belated birthday, spent a day at Walt Disney World, swam in their pool and relaxed in their amazing hot tub, did some shopping, and really soaked up getting to be back together again. I couldn’t have gotten luckier when it comes to my in-laws. The man I married is the human embodiment of their best characteristics and I like to remind them every chance I get of the magnificent job they did with him. I am so blessed to have them as part of my family now, too.
From Florida, we returned to NKY for about a day and a half before our trip came to a formal close. We finished up the last of our visits with everyone we still could, but as time went on, we were ready to return to California. The not-so-good that still resides where we came from served as a reminder that we are only in control of our own growth and that not everyone else does so at the same pace – if at all. Come Friday morning, we were more than happy to board our return flight(s). I’d also started to miss our fur kids as soon as we’d left, so I was more than eager to finally get back to them, too. These goodbyes weren’t as painful as the initial ones before our trek out West; they weren’t all rainbows and butterflies, but at least for me, I was too happy to have gotten to do and see all and everyone that we did to waste any time being sad. The process of Tim’s saving up the better portion of a year’s worth of leave to make any of this possible, paired with the overall unknown of when we’ll be able to come back for our next visit certainly made us pro’s at relishing and making the very most of the time we’re given anywhere, but especially back home with our loved ones.
3 different vacations in 3 weeks is quite a feat, even for us. Most people get maybe one a year (if that), but I guess we’ve never really gone with the majority. My body might be a little tired and my mind may be a little jet lagged, but my heart is so completely full. As happy as I am to have returned to our sweet little babes and have our family back together, I’m already looking forward to our next visit to Kentucky (as well as eagerly anticipating our permanent return).