Branson Getaway: Part 2

This is a post about our Branson trip, but it’s the second half, head back one post to get caught up.

   We had just arrived at Silver Dollar City…..

Where we watched local craftsman, listened to folk and gospel music, rode fun rides and ate some good home cookin’.


Be still my heart…….


The Breakfast of Champions


After our, oh so healthy, breakfast….we headed to Marvel Cave. A one hour tour that is actually what started Silver Dollar City!

Marvel Cave is known for being one of the largest caves in Missouri, having one of the largest cave entry rooms (the Cathedral Room) of any cave in North America, and for being one of the longest running tourist attractions in the Ozarks.

If you can’t stoop and fit through here to enter the area to wait in line, you might as well just go do something else, because the cave gets very narrow and very low at times!




The Cathedral Room is one of the largest cave entrance rooms found in North America. The room measures 204 feet high, 225 feet wide, and 411 feet long. Entrance to the cave is made through a sink hole which is 94’ deep. Two large openings are at the bottom of the sink. On July 7, 1963 an underground altitude record was set by Don Piccard, by flying a hot air balloon around the massive room. Later, in 1994 five hot air balloons were flown simultaneously in the Cathedral Room in celebration of the 100th year anniversary of giving cave tours.

Yes, it’s THAT big!


Looking down….


After all that walking, an hour total…the cable train pulls you the last 218 feet out!


After that, we had fun walking around…..


Watching some crafters at work,


Rode some rides, and walked through Grandfather’s Crazy Mansion with sloped floors…


Then, this happened.


Which equals this:


After waiting a half hour in a food joint, we decided to head back to the condo, and change into warm, dry clothes and wait out the rain storm there. I couldn’t stop chattering, so I took a swim in the jacuzzi tub. You know its going to be a good soak when you walk in the bathroom and the bubbles are all the way past the top of the tub!!!!!


I left the camera in the condo to dry out, but wished I had taken it back to Silver Dollar City for the AMAZING concert we got to see at the parks close. They offer it for any guest at no additional charge, and it was one of the best ones we have seen!

Branson has something they call, “The Strip”, like Vegas has, but smaller, cleaner and nicer. My favorite part about this town, is unlike Vegas, it is full of the Good News of Jesus Christ. People aren’t afraid to speak, pray and sing about Him at their concerts, or even write a note to Him on their billboards. You can feel the Spirit of the Lord everywhere you go! LOVED it!

There were bad tornadoes recently, and a lot of damaged buildings…thus the sign.


Just in case you were confused, this building is SUPPOSED to look like this. 🙂 The kids saw this picture, and thought maybe the tornado got ‘em.


After much debate, we decided to do the 2 hour Titanic museum instead of some of the other light-hearted ones. It was fascinating!


No cameras allowed inside, so no photos of it, but we were each handed a passenger to “be” as we walked through. At the end you found out if you were a survivor or not.


  Along the way you got to see a stateroom, the grand staircase, feel the crisp, damp, FREEZING air “on deck” of the ship overlooking a starry night. We walked up a length of flooring the exact steepness that night as the ship slowly sank below surface. We also stuck our hands in FREEEEEEEEZING water that the people floated in for up to 20 minutes before hypothermia set in and they passed away. It was horribly cold, I could only stand it about 30 seconds before my finger tips started to sting.  It was well worth it, I’d recommend it to anyone!

 We wanted to go out nice, just once before we headed home, in honor of 10 year anniversary and of course, Beauty from Ashes. Drea bought me a little black dress for my 30th birthday, and I had yet to wear it. IMG_2537_thumb1

This trip seemed like the perfect time to use it! Guess what? It fit!

We went out to eat at this great restaurant called Cosmopolitan….where we had a FANTASTIC 3 course meal. {Special deal of $20 each!!!!!!! PTL!}


And then headed to the SIX concert afterwards…..

Each of the singers had a Camaro in “their” color parked out front.


SIX is six (of 10) brothers that sing together, a capella. They are voted best show on the strip for a reason! We highly recommend this hilarious and jaw dropping show with amazing vocals, sound effects and humor!!!!!


What a great way to end an AMAZING 5 days!

We headed out early Tuesday morning to go see our babies, the trip home seemed to take forever.

We walked in to 4 VERY excited Ferguson’s and a very tired Nana.

And, these:



Turns out, our friend Miss Kalene had come over to help the children make a special welcome home for us! Ball jars with painted treasures, and a huge Ball jar full of rocks and sunflowers!!!! What a great surprise!!!!!!

She sent me this collage later, of them working on it….precious.


Oh and poor, poor lil’ Peanut got hit in the eye with a match box car by Paxton and now has a lovely shiner to show for it.  And the rug burn on her nose is from a tussle session with Tylan.


We came home just in time for school to start the next day!!!!

Praise the Lord for His provisions for this trip, and for great friends, aunts and Nana’s that made it possible for us to go. He knew we were starving for time to invest in US, as a couple.  As Dale and Tonya, learning to live, laugh and love all over again.  I came home to a busy reality, but for the first time in over a year, I am content with Dale and I.  No longer starving, but full and satisfied.  Thank you, Jesus!

What a perfect ending to a great summer….



Back to Oz

  Our Florida trip is done, suitcases unpacked, laundry caught up (for but a moment).  Here are all the rest of the photos from an amazing 2 week-long dream of a family vacation!  (Thanks Drea for sending me home with all the photos you took, too! Very helpful as I filled in the blanks on all these Florida posts!)




Paxton found the glass dining room table quite perplexing!





Hello homemade Long John Donut.  I love you.





One of those embarrassing Bring A Trail of Toilet Out of the Bathroom with you moments.  Paxton seems unfazed.



What is it with Paxton and toilet paper this week????????????




Now this is a drool-worthy Birthday dinner if I ever saw one!10861084


This is my plate, wonder where everyone else’s is?


Avery’s 3rd birthday:


Heading home again:


  It was a pretty uneventful trip home, other than the second plane having a broken Air Conditioner.  Oh the misery of hot little people wanting to be held in a stuffy plane with only 2 seats on each side of it and barely any cool air blowing!  Ugh.

Oh, and that 1 extra suitcase I had to bring home?  Yeah, it about put us in a major bind as we had trouble finding room for everything in the Tahoe!




Thanks for sticking with me through my “Family Vacation Slide Show”.   🙂 Tomorrow, its back to the Land of Oz.



A Day at Disney

  Part of this Florida trip was a surprise stop at Disney for a day of fun.  My kids had no idea what was in store for them, since we had been referring to it as “Going to Dairy Queen” the entire time.  (if we didn’t call it SOMETHING, one of us would’ve slipped up!) Destiny wondered why we’d be going to Dairy Queen in Florida since we have one in Kansas? 

  So first, we went to Ocala to see Uncle Chad and Aunt Lauren, visit the Furniture Store called “The Carriage Trade” that Chad manages for Dad, and visit a couple of their favorite restaurants they wanted to take us to.  We made a day trip of it, knowing all along, we’d drive to Orlando that night and stay in a condo there until the next mornings big “Dairy Queen” announcement.


Let me be a commercial for one minute:

Carriage Trade has over of 4,000 pieces of new & consigned name brand, quality furniture and décor, all in one big 30,000 sq. ft. show room. It is SO fun to walk around and see all the cool stuff.  If you live close by, you should go, you seriously can’t beat these prices!!!!!! 




Watching Uncle Chad hard at work


We ate lunch at Lorito’s , this authentic Italian hole in the wall restaurant.

Oh. My. Goodness.  In-stinkin-credible!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


We put away 2 larges in about 10 minutes flat.


We spent the rest of the day hanging out at Chad and Lauren’s so the kids could nap.  Papa gave Tylan a wooden replica of the Sprint Car he used to drive when I was a kid, so you can imagine that kept him entertained the rest of the afternoon!  Look how proud he is!  He gasped when Papa handed it to him and couldn’t believe it was his to keep. “Do I get to take back to Kansas?” Sure buddy.  “WOOOOAH!”



  Sweet Lauren made the girls’ day by French braiding their hair. (I have GOT to learn how to do this, with 2 girls I have NO excuse not to know how!)


They treated us all to Brewster’s Ice Cream for snack time.  What a darling Ice Cream place! We don’t have a Brewster’s which is too bad, it was great!!!! Oldies music, bubbles blowing from the roof top, hula hoops and free ice cream for little ones.


We left after supper and arrived late in Orlando with the kids sleeping in the back of the coach.  We carried them in and put them 3 wide in the bed, away they slumbered, having no idea what the next morning held!!!!!!!!!!!!


 Sweet dreams little ones! Tomorrow will be such an amaaaaaaazing day!

  They woke up bright and early, ready to eat the cupcakes Drea had promised them the night before if they’d lay down and go right to sleep.  (Apparently, Grandma’s have all sorts of privileges we momma’s do not! Like bribing with sweets for breakfast!)   🙂


As they ate, we talked about what kind of fun adventures we could go on while we were in this fun condo for the day.  Papa says he already has some fun plans for us.  Then, real casual-like, “We are going to Disney World today….

The photos, although not the best, tell the rest of the story:

The little kids got it right away, squealing and saying Yay!


 Sweet, responsible Destiny had to think about it a bit longer, saying “I thought we didn’t have any money for extra things right now.”

(Can you tell she has been paying attention during our year of financial discipline?! That, and when she had asked about Disney in the past I told her we’d have to save up all our dollars for a long time before going.)


We assured her that Papa and Drea had it covered and were treating us to a day at Disney.  THEN the smiles came! 


“Wait, we really ARE going?  TODAY?” (Giggles)


“We are going to Disney! We are going to Disney! We are going to Disney!”




Getting 4 adults, 4 kids, a cooler, a diaper bag and 2 strollers into the tram was interesting!



  It took us an HOUR to get into the actual park.  Wow! Guess we won’t be popping out to the coach for lunch and naps after all!



First stop, Mickey Ears and meeting the Princesses:





Look at Avery staring adoringly up at Belle….Pax thinks she’s pretty great too!








IMG_6457Later, we saw Rapunzel, but her line went CLEEEEEAR around the building. The kids were bummed!

All that was forgotten though, when they got to meet Buzz Lightyear!


We stayed from 9 am – 7 pm with happy kids, I couldn’t believe it!  Pax napped on and off in the stroller, and Avery even took a nap!  She must have been exhausted, because she stayed asleep when transferred to Daddy’s arms for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. 




  By 7 it was stormy, they were unsure of whether or not they were going to have the evening parade or not, so we called it a day.  I wish now that we had pushed through for the 9 parade, but man, at the time…we were DONE!  Our rule of thumb is to leave while everyone is still happy.   🙂

  We got back to the condo just in time to take a swim in the big tub and off to beddy-by. 


It was an incredible day!  Thanks Papa & Drea for blessing us with this AMAAAAZING trip!


Sunset Cruise, Sea Sick & Sweethearts

My dad planned a special surprise birthday outing for us birthday ladies: Drea, Lauren and I all had birthday’s in July and August.  I think if you average us out, we all turned 30 this year.  tee-hee 🙂


1095  So Dad announces he is taking us out for Drea’s birthday and Aunt Ashley sweetly offered to babysit the kiddies.

(They had a blast by the way, and asked when I could leave again so she could babysit some more….)

  The surprise was a Sunset Dinner Cruise!!!!!!

  No joke! I was so excited!!!! I mean, you just don’t get date nights like this in Kansas.


We head upstairs on this lovely boat, to the top level, where he has reserved a table for us.  We found this:


  Woah! What a thoughtful Daddy I have. I was so blessed and blown away at this amazing evening he had planned for us, as well as the fact that he bought flowers for all of us and dropped them off at the boat earlier that day.

“Grrrr, Clay! Way to make us look bad!”





My new “I’m Not Mommy Tonight” shoes: My first pair of BCBG’s!!!! (they are TALL)

Man, I love the discount stores here!



The food was amaaaaaazing!   Thick slabs of Prime Rib with both Creamy Horseradish & Dill sauces, Lemon Salmon with some sort of white cheese butter sauce, rice, steamed veggies, salad and rolls.


For dessert we got Key Lime Cheesecake, Red Velvet Cake and Death By Chocolate cake….then the server surprised us with this darling birthday cake!

More dessert? SURE, why not?!


At this point, we were stuffed and waddled out to the back deck to enjoy the view:  First these dream homes, then later, a gorgeous sunset painted by the Creator Himself.





Thanks, Daddy for a great birthday celebration!!!!!!  Between my surprise party in Kansas and this birthday cruise, I can’t imagine a better way to turn 30! 🙂


   One of my goals while in Florida, is to eat as much seafood as possible.  We were supposed to get to take Papa’s boat the 45 minutes it takes by sea to get to dinner, but it was POURING down rain! So we drove there instead, hoping to take the boat out afterwards.  We ate at this great little sea food place.  Oh man, was it ever delicious!!!! 

  Kansas seafood doesn’t taste quite the same now.  🙂



IMG_6469  The rain stopped just as we finished eating, so we headed to the dock to get the boat. 

Check out this “Boat Garage”, they store the boats 4 high. You just call ahead they have your boat down and ready for you to take out for the day.


  Ty was in HEAVEN!  He sat at the front of the boat grinning the ENTIRE TIME.  Every time Papa revved the engine, he’d turn around and just grin from ear to ear.  Little motor head!



Pax had that finger going left and right as fast as he could to show us “Dis” and “Dat!” Sweet big boy!!!!




   It was so peaceful and the view was just stunning!  I would never get tired of watching the sun melt into the ocean each evening.



  995Unfortunately, this was the part that Avery and I got very sea sick, it sure can sneak up on you quickly!  We headed back before anyone had to sea food again. Oh, I mean see their food again.  (I am cracking myself up here…..)

  Once on shore, she was fine.  This Momma took a bit longer to stop swaying inside, but it was all good!


   What a fun way to end the day!

  The last weekend we were in Florida, Papa and Drea offered to put the kids to bed for us, so Dale and I could go walk on the beach and watch the sunset.   Oh my goodness, do you know how long its been since Dale and I could just walk together….no car seats, no diapers bags, no sweet sticky little hands grasping ours or sweet ones walking between us. It was wonderful!

  We kicked our shoes off and strolled along the waters edge, just talking and walking until we could no longer see our blanket in the sand. 


We doubled back just in time to plop down on our blanket and enjoy the sunset.





  Told you I’ll never get tired of seeing the sunset down into the ocean!!!!!! 


Especially in the arms of the one who still makes my heart go pitter patter. 

1180{SIGH} It was simply wonderful!1182

  So, are you tired of hearing about our vacation yet? Sorry, there is just so much to document! Remember, I plan to make this into a book each year for my kiddos, so bear with me. Only 1 to more post to go, maybe 2: Disney, Avery’s birthday, plus all the leftover pics that I can’t catagorize! See, that’s not so bad, right?!?!?!


Wedding Bells


  My baby brother, Chad (FINALLY) proposed to his girlfriend, Lauren, a few weeks before our Florida trip.  She said “Yes! It’s about dang time!”  (Ok I am not for sure that’s what she said, but I bet I am close…)


  After much debate, they decided to get married while we were in Florida.  Meaning they planned the entire thing in…….

20 days. 

Can you IMAGINE?!?!??!

  They did this so we could be a part of it, bless their hearts!!!!!  They knew there was no way we could save up to fly back again this year.  Lauren pulled it off, and it was AMAZING! 🙂


  They asked our children to be part of their big day. They, of course, were thrilled.  Lauren’s wedding colors, Fushia & Tangerine Orange, were the ones I had picked out for my wedding 10 years ago, but I guess I was ahead of the trends, because back then we couldn’t find anything in those 2 colors, and people looked at me like I was NUTS! lol 🙂  To say I lived vicariously through Lauren would be a small understatement, I had so much fun sending her cake and flower pictures using those colors. And, she let me pick the little girls flower girl dresses! {squeeeeeeeal}

I immediately began scouring bridal sites….too expensive and too fancy for an outdoor Florida wedding.  Then, I remembered Etsy, my favorite new addiction.  I hit the JACKPOT, praise the Lord, finding a gal on there who would sell me a 3T fushia and tangerine tutu with matching headband for $20 AND custom make me a matching size 7-8 with flower clip for $25 by Monday (it was Thursday I do believe). 

  And boy, did she deliver!  These tutu’s are made from an excellent quality tulle and the hair accessories are well made.  I HIGHLY recommend her!   Check out her shop here at Caroline’s Boutique, and please tell her Tonya from Kansas sent you.


We love you Uncle Chad & Aunt Lauren, thanks for making us a part of your special day!  xoxo

Here are the photos from their amazing day!










Proof that I should’ve taken my children’s photos BEFORE the wedding rather than after: 


(But who has time for that when trying to do hair and get little people dressed between afternoon naps and a 3:00 ceremony!?!??!)  🙂 



Considering that we were drenched in sweat by this point and ready to go inside, they did very well.



I had Chad and Lauren’s photographer snap a family photo for me….easier said than done.


SO close, thanks Ty!


I tell ya, the more kids you have, the harder it is to take a good family photo!

Oh well.

Congrats to Mr. & Mrs. Bontrager! We are SO happy for you two!



Headin’ to the Beach

  Out of the 2 weeks spent in Florida, we only managed to make it to the beach 3 times, even though its only 10 minutes away.  Gotta love life with young kiddos! 🙂

   This was Avery’s first time to be old enough to remember the beach.  Last time we went to Florida, she was this age…..Where has the time gone?!


  Papa and Drea loaded us all up one evening to go to the Jetty to see if we could spot some dolphins.



  We did eventually spot some, but not as close as they sometimes come, Papa said.


Paxton sure seemed intent on staring at the water, I was amazed at his interest.  136

137Oh wait, he’s dozed off again. Poor tired kiddo!


Once he woke up, he loved to look at the water, even copying the big kids by pointing at the dolphins….


We decided to go wade a bit before heading home for bed.  The beaches here are just littered with shells, I couldn’t get over it!


Paxton’s first time at the beach….


Yup, not feelin’ it!



Beach Attempt 2 took 1 1/2 hours to get out the door, 6 adults with very full arms, trudging through the sand….only to stay 30 minutes before the rain clouds rolled in.  Nice.

Beach attempt 3 was a roaring success, with us making it there mid-morning and staying late into the afternoon! Woo hoo!


Our “Camp” for the day





It was a PERFECT day! (Despite the fact that all the Kansans got burnt, even with sunscreen!)



Can we go back now? Pul-eeeeeeease!?!?!?!

More to come Monday….


Florida Fun

  We just got home last night at midnight from an AMAZING trip to Florida thanks to my Dad and Drea.  Nearly 2 weeks of non-stop fun in the sun!  Trip highlights included Uncle Chad’s wedding, a surprise stop at Disney World, swimming at the beach, boat rides and so much more. 

  I will take the next few days to share photos of our grand adventure.  Bear with me though, I took 1200-some photos over the 2 weeks and am still trying to get caught up on bills, mail, phone messages, laundry and unpacking in addition to weeding through said photos.  Not to mention our cupboards are BARE and I need to make and menu and go grocery shopping.

  Check out this table I had Dale set up in our room the week before our trip:


  This is where I packed us. You are going to be so proud of me, out of all these choices, in the end, I only took 2 suitcases and 2 carry on bags for the 6 of us for 2 weeks, thankyouverymuch!  (However, I did have to bring an entire extra suitcase home thanks to some new birthday gifts and clothing bargains.  Too bad the airlines charge $25 a bag, that ticks me off!)

  We got up at 3 am the morning we left.  I was not sure what I was thinking, booking that early of a flight, but there are limited choices out of our small town.  The other flight option put us arriving at 10 pm and blowing the whole first day, so I took a chance that our kids could handle it, and you know what?


They did AWESOME!


016Avery says “Thumbs up!”

Pax napped on a bed pillow across my knees both flights like a little champ. (*Note to you traveling Momma’s, this is my FAVORITE airplane travel tip: Take a bed pillow along! It frees your hands up to help the other kids or read a book. Baby sleeps much more peacefully because they are not hot and sweaty in your arms.)


  The other kids played and colored flight #1, did great during our 1 1/2 hour layover in Atlanta and watched a movie flight #2.  (reason number 1001 to limit daily TV, it’s a special treat and they didn’t MOVE a MUSCLE during this 2 hour flight!)


Apparently tray tables are super fascinating as well.


 028 We arrived right on time to sunny Florida.  Papa and Drea aren’t equipped for 6 extras in their sporty vehicles, so Papa picked us up in their coach. The kids thought that was super awesome!


  Thoughtful Drea loaded the fridge with lunch fixin’s so we were able to eat sandwiches while we drove the hour to their home.  Check out the view!


  Our fearless driver, Papa:


We traveled nice and comfy on the recliner front seat! 🙂

  First thing on the agenda when we got to the house? Unpack, then a dip in the pool.



Traveling is such hard work, everyone was wiped! Pax got sleepy early, so it was off to bed for him well before the sun went down!



  The other kids needed  to get to bed too, but first? A game with Papa.


Then, hanging around the pool with Drea and a lizard visit.


Avery says “Bleh.”


  Destiny caught the teeniest little lizard! Somehow during his release back into the wild, the kids accidentally made his tail fall off. Oops! Poor lizard, good thing it grows back. It totally thrashed around and made everyone grossed out, long after the baby lizard ran away to nurse its wounds!



NOW is it bedtime?  3 am was a LONG time ago!!!!

  Nope, the kids are still going strong.  So, how about a quick round of “Golf” out back. 


Oh well, we are on vacation, what can it hurt? But only for a little bit then it’s off to bed, Mr. Sunshine is on his way to bed too!


There is so much more to share, and  I am sorry to leave you before I even get started with this trip, but this is as far as I got on the editing for today. 

  Come see me tomorrow!  🙂  I promise this won’t be like those boring hour-long click and whir slide shows of yester-year. 

There are lots of fun photos to come!!!