happiest place

if we still mailed out christmas cards, this would not be the picture :) i always, i mean always, have high hopes for a decent family picture from our vacation. and always, i mean always, i get a last minute "get in this picture!" kind of picture. i have a picture that sits on my desk from years ago. it looks very similar  we are all smiles, mismatched, make-up-less and a little sun fried. 

our vacation plans changed last minute.  the rental agency had inadvertently double booked the house/boat we had reserved. (not good)  this left us scrambling. mini-lobster season means there's not a house available for miles, so we knew instantly that our week would have to change. the only week we could coordinate our plans would be the week of the fourth. the thought of traveling that far in predicted record breaking traffic had us debating if we should we even try to go. 

a frazzled week later and we had another house reserved. we even managed to reserve last boat in the florida keys! not really, but it sure felt that way!

the drive is long. 14 hours straight if you can limit the restroom breaks. mentally i began preparing for a drive that could take 17-20 hours.  praise God, the traffic from south carolina to homestead florida was heavy, but we made it to homestead florida in the projected 12 hours! right on schedule! 

and then traffic stopped. literally. the last two hours took five! after 17 hours, being greeted by the most comfortable beds and fluffiest towels was a blessing. the owners had kind notes posted everywhere. mary claire said, "i think the owners are very nice people!" everyone agreed. the house just felt kind and welcoming. i was able to find the owners on Facebook and thank them for their kindness. yep, they were very nice people! my kids wanted to leave them a little thank you gift for the hospitality.  i was so happy that our plans were changed at the last minute.  (message me if you would like the vrbo link)
we also had the best boat experience. we rented (the last boat) from tropical boat rentals. so much better than the boat that came with the house last year. i highly recommend them!

when we decided to stop trailering our boat and renting instead, or vacation instantly became more relaxing. 
our vacation was full of sunshine with perfectly timed rain. it was full of laughter, sunscreen, picture taking, good coffee, bandages, heaps of fish bait, and bigger heaps of dramamine. 

it was full of the bitter sweetness of the reality that our nest would be more empty than full.  it was full of memories and stories from the past, new stories made with new people, and the hearts of these parents overflowing with thankfulness for all of our blessings! 

we finally fully embraced "stopping in the middle of the ocean and hoping in." in the past, only bennett was fearless enough to do this. 
chase mastered the boat anchor.

 mary claire mastered the snorkel.
 bennett mastered salt water fly fishing.
elizabeth mastered saltwater camouflage!
anna katherine got a blazing tan!

i  mastered made baby steps towards overcoming my irrational, paralyzing  fear of being in the ocean. 

jeff was the best boat captain ever!

we enjoyed calm waters and currents so fast it seemed as if you could be quickly swept to sea. 
we loved the smooth boat rides and rides so fierce we whipped out the emergency vests. 

we kayaked. and we kayaked. 

we fished. 
more on that later.

we ate out a lot.

we watched the very beginnings of lobster season.

we loved the cove!

we savored "unplugging" and being surrounded by nature!

i loved the mornings. my family loved our evenings.

aahh... the sunsets!

 and the locals!
you're pretty awesome!
a thank you to the cochrans for providing us with the perfect home! a thank you for all of your advice and help during our stay! we finally caught sharks! (kind of... the snapped several of our poles, but reeling them in was awesome!) 

 i loved being on the boat from sun up... to sun down. 
every day!

 praise God for a safe trip and hearts so full!
here, surrounded by my favorite people, is the best place!

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