Wednesday, September 14, 2016

the story of Dylan's birth

My little man is 6 months old now, so I guess it's about time I finally finished this, huh?!  Dylan's birth was pretty much the complete opposite of Lilly's.  I am still amazed at how fast everything happened, and am incredibly thankful that I was able to have yet another med-free natural birth, this time without an induction.  Even though the birth experience with Dylan was much, MUCH shorter than with Lilly, the story is still long.  So get your popcorn ready, and get comfy. :)

Tuesday, March 1st - 38 weeks

I woke up at around 3:45am with some cramping pains.  They were coming and going, and at first I just thought it was a stomach ache.  I got up to go to the bathroom several times, and as I laid down the pains kept coming back.  Just as I would start to drift back to sleep, it would hurt again.  After probably 30 minutes or so, I realized these were probably contractions.  (WHAT?!)  They felt like they were coming somewhat regularly, and although they weren’t super painful they hurt enough to wake me up, and eventually I recognized the feeling and knew exactly what it was (although I was in total denial, and beginning to freak out just a bit).  I downloaded a contraction timer app on my phone, and started timing them...sure enough they were somewhat regular, every 10 or 15 minutes.  I also had to get up and go to the bathroom multiple times, and had diarrhea.  I quickly remembered that this is common in early labor, and I freaked out just a little more.  I desperately tried to go back to sleep, but the pain kept waking me up.  Matt woke up at one point, and I told him I thought I was having contractions.  I’m not sure he believed me at first, or fully realized what I said.  I remember telling him that I was definitely having contractions, and they were the real deal.  He didn’t know what to do, and neither did I, so I told him to go back to sleep and I continued to time them while trying to sleep.  Lilly was in our bed, and I remember in the very early hours of the morning laying in bed, snuggling with her, wanting to savor what could be one of the last mornings waking up as a family of 3 (little did I know that would be the very last time!)  

Once morning rolled around, I got up and attempted to go about my normal routine, but I was still having contractions, and once I was out of bed and the more I moved around, the more painful they got.  I could still talk through them, but they were definitely causing me to pause and breathe every time they hit.  I decided to go ahead and work, but would just bring my laptop in and work from bed.  I had an appointment with Dr. Carriker that afternoon, so my goal was to make it through the day and to the appointment and take it from there.  I honestly hoped that if I took it easy enough and drank lots of water throughout the day, that I could get them to go away and hold labor off for a little bit longer (looking back, it’s quite humorous that I actually thought that).  I emailed my team at work to let them know what was going on, and told Matt I would keep him posted as to how I was feeling throughout the day.  I did manage to stay in bed for the majority of the day, trying to wrap up everything I could at work.  I had several meetings and calls, and for the most part was fine through my contractions and was able to talk without issue.  I tried to continue to time them, and found that they were less regular when I rested, but anytime I got up they would get more intense and closer together.  About halfway through the day I decided to take a shower, and went ahead and finished packing my hospital bag “just in case” (HA!).  During this time they got much more regular (every 2-3 minutes) and much more painful, causing me to stop and breathe through them.  I was starting to come to terms with the fact that this was probably actual labor at this point, and focused a little more on preparing things and letting go of the denial.  I remember talking to a friend on the phone, and she said “wow, you might just be having this baby tonight!” and I just laughed and thought “no way”.  Little did I know!

I made it through my work day, had my hospital bag mostly packed, fielded a steady stream of calls and texts to check on me, and then it was time for my doctor’s appointment.  Matt came home early to shower, and went ahead and packed himself a hospital bag too.  We brought them in the car with us just in case they sent me straight to the hospital, but I was hoping that wouldn’t be the case.  My appointment was at 3:20, and I had my weekly sonogram first to monitor fluid.  In the car on the way there, and in the waiting room I was having much more regular contractions, I was trying to time them still and they were around 5-6 minutes apart at this point, lasting closer to a minute.  They called me in for my sonogram, and I let the tech know that I had been having contractions all day.  As she went through the biophysical profile, she mentioned that she didn’t see much fluid, but otherwise baby looked great.  When she was finished, she said “I don’t think I’ll be seeing you again!” (AHH! It got a little more real with that.)  We went back to the waiting room, and waited FOREVER.  They finally called us back, I told the nurse what was going on, and we waited FOREVER again.  Finally Dr. Carriker came in, and apologized profusely for making us wait when I was most likely in labor.  She did an exam and found that I was 3cm dilated, and said lucky for me I was already in labor - if I wasn’t, then they would have induced me because of the low fluid once again.  She asked how quickly we could get over to the hospital - we said we still needed to go home and pack our bags (just a minor fib…) and that we wanted to go see Lilly before checking into the hospital, which she was fine with.  It was around 5 by this time, so she asked us to be back at the hospital by 7.  I was slightly bummed that I wasn’t going to get to go home and labor on my own, and she acknowledged that, as she knew my wishes, but she said that with such low fluid they really needed to be able to monitor the baby.  We left the hospital, called our parents, and stopped at Planet Sub on the way home to get dinner.  I had barely eaten all day, and I knew they wouldn’t let me eat once I checked into the hospital, so I wanted to get a good meal in to build up some energy before labor got more intense.  I was very anxious, and not hungry at all, but I ate anyway because I knew I needed to.  The contractions were still every 5-6 minutes, and intense enough that I had to breathe through them, but hadn’t changed much in the past couple hours.

After eating and packing up the last few things, we headed over to see Lilly at my parents’ house.  She had no clue what was going on, so when we got there I said to her “guess what?  Mommy & Daddy are going to the hospital after this, and baby brother is coming!”  Her face absolutely lit up, and she said “TODAY!? REALLY!?”  It was the cutest thing, and I almost burst into tears at that moment.  She was so excited...I’m not sure she fully understood what was about to happen, but I was so relieved that she was excited and not sad or nervous.  We told her that she was going to stay the night with Grandma & Grandpa, and we’d call them once baby brother was here so they could come visit.  I gave her tons of hugs and kisses, and didn’t want to leave, but eventually we had to go so we could head to the hospital and get this party started.

Once again, the drive to the hospital was not quite what I expected.  I was actually in labor this time, but we weren’t rushing there like I always envisioned.  We arrived around 7, got parked, and went to check in.  Apparently there was another woman with a name very similar to mine there for an induction, and at least 2 or 3 times during the process of getting checked in they asked me if I was there to be induced.  (NO!  I’m already in labor!)  We finally got checked in and taken back to a room….low and behold it was the exact same room that I delivered Lilly in!  I couldn’t believe it.  Our nurse was Reagan, and she had me change and went through the millions of questions to get me checked in.  She also checked me, and I was still around 3-3.5cm dilated, so it was just a waiting game at this point, and a matter of getting through the contractions and trying to get things moving.  I was having a very hard time with constantly comparing this labor to Lilly’s, which obviously was not a good idea because they were completely different, and frankly I was terrified of having another 2 day labor.  Reagan assured me over and over that 2nd babies often come much quicker, and the fact that I wasn’t induced this time should also make a big difference.  She had just started her shift at 7, and I remember asking her if she thought I would have my baby before she got off at 7am.  She laughed, and said that although she can’t guarantee anything, she was fairly sure the baby would come before that.  

After getting all checked in, we decided to start walking the halls to get things going.  As we walked, my contractions did get stronger and more painful, but it was nowhere near as intense as I remembered them being with Lilly.  Once again I was stuck playing the comparison game, and Matt actually said to me at one point “stop comparing this labor with Lilly’s!  This is a completely different experience, so just focus on what is happening now.”  I really needed to hear that, because I just could not get out of my head that we were in for a long haul of labor.  We continued to walk, stopping back at the room for breaks every now and then, and the contractions continued to get stronger.  They weren’t really getting closer together, but they were getting to the point where I had to stop and couldn’t talk through them.  I remember thinking it was very strange because in between contractions I felt completely fine, even joking around with Matt as we walked, but once one hit it would stop me in my tracks.  After a while, I decided I wanted to try some different positions to get through the pain, as standing wasn’t feeling good.  I tried the birth ball, and leaning on Matt and the bed in a few positions but they just weren’t helping.  I think it was around 9:30 or 10 by this point, and I decided I wanted to get into the tub to try and relax and see if that would help me through the pain better. Reagan checked me before getting in, and I was at a 4 (I think, maybe a 5 - I know I hadn’t made a whole lot of progress).

The tub felt AMAZING.  I was able to relax sooooo much in between contractions, to the point I was almost falling asleep.  The pain was still getting more intense during each contraction, but being in the water helped me to relax and breathe through them.  I would say I was in the tub for around 30 minutes, and I decided to get out, feeling like I needed to be able to move around a little more.  As I was stepping out of the tub, another contraction hit that almost dropped me to the ground, if it weren’t for Matt being right there to hold me up.  Looking back, we think my water may have broken either in the tub or during this contraction.  After that contraction, everything got incredibly intense.  I sat on the toilet after that contraction to pee, and felt a slight urge to poop, that I mostly ignored (Reagan had told me previously to tell her if I felt that urge at all, which I really should have done right away).  I could barely get myself to the bed, but felt like I could do nothing but lay on my left side.  The contractions were insanely intense at this point, I was screaming and moaning through them.  I had started shaking, and once I finally did mention that urge to poop from earlier to Reagan she said she needed to check me right away.  I was likely in transition at this point.  She checked and I was at a 6 - she told Matt to call the birth photographer ASAP, and she also called the on-call doctor who had left the hospital but headed back then.  I don’t remember much after this point, but I know everything moved very very fast.  I continued to moan and scream through every contraction, they were so overwhelmingly painful and intense.  I also continued to shake, and started to dry heave.  Reagan knew the baby was coming soon, and was getting everything ready - I remember seeing her turn on the “baby warmer” and I looked at Matt and said something along the lines of Holy Crap!  She’s turning on the baby warmer, he’s coming soon!  A few more contractions later, and I was pushing without even trying.  I yelled to Reagan that I had to push, and she calmed me down, tried to get me not to push yet (as there was no doctor!), but that was a joke.  I pushed through one contraction, and his head came out, with Reagan there to hold it.  The hospital staff doctor came rushing in at that point, and with the next contraction I pushed again and out he came.  My sweet Dylan Matthew was born at 11:17pm.  At that point, though, we had not decided on his name yet, so he was still “baby brother”.  He was placed on my chest, and Matt and I were both completely overwhelmed and crying tears of joy.  He was screaming and crying, and the nurses said this was a good thing, but after a few minutes they weren’t happy with how he was breathing, and wanted to take him over to check him out.  The cord was cut, and they took him over to the warmer and gave him just a few seconds of oxygen, while the Doctor finally showed up to deliver my placenta.  This was honestly the worst part of my whole labor, and was SO painful.  It took a long time for my placenta to move down, and I had to push through a few pitocin-induced contractions to get it out.  I suppose it was a good distraction from what was going on with Dylan, but my oh my was it painful.  After they cleaned me up, the other nurses were happy with Dylan’s breathing and they brought him back over to me for more skin-to-skin. We started breastfeeding as well, and he latched on immediately!  He was so tiny, at 6lbs 3oz, but he was perfect and amazing and I could not believe that once again I made it through a natural labor and birth with Matt by my side.  

This time, there wasn’t a whole slew of family and friends waiting in the waiting room for us, so we got to enjoy the first hours of Dylan’s life together just the 3 of us.  I was really missing Lilly at that point, but she was set to come bright and early the next morning to meet him, and I couldn’t wait.  We got transferred up to our room, and took turns snuggling Dylan, and I also continued to nurse with him latching on great but falling asleep within minutes every time.  He was such a sleepy little guy, but we loved every second of snuggles we got with him during that time.  Matt fell asleep on the couch, and I tried to sleep but it was probably 3am at this point and I was still on an adrenaline high, so I didn’t get much sleep that night.  Around 7am the next morning, my parents came and brought Lilly to meet her baby brother, and it was just some of the sweetest moments of my life.  She was so in love with him, and so sweet to both of us.  The nurse gave her a special “big sister” hospital bracelet, and she just beamed with pride at this new role. It was completely overwhelming and amazing to see both of our children together, and to be a complete family.  My recovery was so much better this time, and I felt great the day after giving birth.  Overall the experience was completely different from Lilly’s birth, and was really the natural birth I had always hoped for.  I am so thankful that I got to experience going into labor on my own, and feeling my body take me through the whole process.  Overall, I was only in labor for around 20 hours total this time, but from the time I got to the hospital it was only a little over 4 hours until he was born.  I still can’t believe how quickly everything went, but I am thankful that it wasn’t a repeat of the last labor, and I am even more thankful that I had Matt by my side once again. Between him and my fabulous nurse, I had a wonderful support team, allowing me to have an amazing, empowering birth experience, that brought my sweet little man into this world in a beautiful way.

And, your reward if you made it through all of that: this beautiful slideshow by our amazing birth photographer, Sarah Maxey. Make sure you watch allll the way to the end.

click HERE
password: dylanmatthew

Thursday, June 2, 2016


Dear Lilly,

You are THREE, can you believe it?!  I can't even remember what life was like before you, but at the same time it seems like just yesterday we were bringing you home from the hospital (and yes, I'm probably going to say that every year! get used to it!).  This has been such a big year for you, and you have changed so, so much.  You are growing up right before our eyes, and we couldn't be more proud of you!

This year you went from just starting to talk and form sentences, to pretty much talking all the time.  I still can't believe some of the things that come out of your mouth, but you are just so smart, and you pick up on EVERYTHING.  You are such a kind soul, and you are genuinely concerned for others.  If someone is hurting or sick, you always want to make sure they are ok, or lend some comfort.  You are a rule follower, and you like to make sure everyone else is, too.  It's adorable, and I hope you hang on to this quality as you get older!

You changed in so many other ways this year, it was like you just grew up overnight.  You gave up the binky, you started wearing big girl undies, and now sleep in a big girl bed at night.  You also weaned from nursing, which was so bittersweet for mama.  I love that we had that bond for almost 3 years, and was so sad when it came to an end, but I'm just thankful that I was able to allow you to wean when you were ready, when we both were ready.  You did all of those things in the course of just a few weeks, which is why it felt like you grew up so quickly!

Daddy and I threw a lot of curveballs at you this year, and I can't say enough how proud of you we are for how well you've adjusted to all of the changes.  We found out that you were going to be a big sister this year, and I must admit I was nervous about how that would affect you, and how you would feel about it.  I should have known better, though.  You were nothing but excited from the very beginning, and I know you are going to be the best big sister to your little brother, and you two will have a lifelong bond.  Not only were we growing our family this year, but we decided to grow into our own home as well, which I know was another big change for you.  As usual, though, you took it in stride and never skipped a beat.  I'm so happy that you are in the home that you will grow up in with your little brother, and that it is OURS.

I want you to know that you will always have a special place in my heart, my baby girl.  I don't think I will have any trouble multiplying my love for your little brother to share, but I will always have a special bond with you, and I'm excited to see how that grows as you get older.  I love that we can have our "Mommy and Lilly days", and that you get so excited for them, even if we are just hanging out at home all day.  I love the time I get to spend with you, even though it's harder to come by now with a baby in the house, but I am so grateful that you are understanding about it.

I promise that your next birthday will be special and amazing, and all about YOU.  I am still overcome with mom-guilt that we spent your 3rd birthday bringing baby brother home from the hospital, and didn't get to have the fun day together that I had planned.  I'm so thankful to your Grandma and Grandpa, though, for helping us to still make it a special day for you, taking you to dance class and coming over for your "pizza party" afterwards.  Once again, you amazed me with your maturity and didn't even bat an eye at the situation, and I couldn't be more thankful and proud.  I'll make it up to you  next year, I promise!!

Like I keep saying, I just can't believe how much you've grown and changed over the past year, but I am so thankful that we get to witness it every day.  This past year has been full of fun and laughs, and although everyone says three is tough, I know this year will be a blast too.  Watching you grow into your role as Big Sister is going to be wonderful, and I know you will just blossom.  Keep being that beautiful, smart, kind, funny girl that you are, and make sure to teach your little brother all of those great qualities.

Happy number THREE baby girl, I hope you know how much we love you, and hope this is the best year yet!!


Wednesday, May 25, 2016


Oh, hello there!  It's been a minute year, hasn't it?!  I realize that I pretty much abandoned this thing for an entire year.  I didn't intend to, but, well, life happened.  A lot of life. A whole new life, in fact!

Meet Dylan.  (born March 1, 2016)

To back up just a bit...right about the time I abandoned blogging, we got the surprise of our lives and found out that I was pregnant with this little guy.  Don't get me wrong, it was the most welcome surprise I can think of, but it was still a big fat SURPRISE.  It took us 3 years (YEARS) to get pregnant with Lilly when we were trying, so I really honestly never expected that it could happen all on its own without any intervention.  Matt and I had discussed the possibility of another baby several times, but were still very much on the fence.  Ok, I was on the fence.  Matt has always wanted 2 kids, but I wasn't so sure.  I mostly just had zero interest in going through the drama of trying to get pregnant all over again, plus I was a very happy only child, so I was content with our family of three.  Welp, the universe had other plans!  One day in June of last year, I thought I was coming down with the flu or something.  My stomach just did not feel right, I felt sick, but hungry, but nothing sounded even remotely good to eat, and I was tired.  SO TIRED.  It took me all day to realize that I have felt all of this before, and oh but it wasn't the flu.  The next morning I took a pregnancy test (3 actually) and sure enough...SURPRISE!

Life pretty much completely changed from that moment on, and my head has been spinning ever since.  I would love to say that I am going to take the time to go back and post about all that has happened in the past year, but we all know better than that.  So I'll put it in a nutshell:  I was soooo sick for the first few months of pregnancy, I'm still not sure how I survived.  Exhaustion, all day nausea and a toddler at home just do. not. mix.  Speaking of the toddler, she had a busy summer of dance lessons (which she LOVES), many trips to the pool and the lake, and started her first "school" in the fall (a Kids Day Out program at a nearby church, one day a week). We also found out that Matt's sister was pregnant too, due 10 days before me!  I somehow made it through all of the craziness while trying not to puke 10 times a day, and then we decided to buy a house!  We spent most of the fall searching for the perfect home, and finally found it just before the holidays.  We moved 2 weeks before Christmas (while I was once again super pregnant), and had a couple of months to settle in before Little Man made his entrance into the world, 2 weeks before his due date.  He is now almost 3 months old, I'm at the end of my maternity leave, and I'm still in awe at how much things have changed but how amazing this little guy is and how perfectly he completes our family.

{all photos by Janean Grey Photography}

So, I'm going to make an attempt to revitalize the old blog.  I don't know that anyone actually reads this thing anymore, but I'm ok with that as it's always been mostly for me anyway.  It's just a little place to document life as it happens, and one of my favorite things to do is go back and read old posts, so I would really like to try and get back into the swing of somewhat regular updates.  I would like to go back and post about Lilly turning 3 (THREE!  Can you believe it!?) and Dylan's birth story, but other than that I'll just try to pop in here and there with updates on how life as a family of 4 is going.  I can tell you now, it's pretty much just a whirlwind all the time, but I welcome the chaos and feel so thankful to live this life.

Well, here we go again!  Welcome back? See ya soon?  Something like that. :)

Sunday, July 5, 2015

{365 project} ~ June

I have lots to blog about from May and June, but as usual I am behind.  So for now, you will just have to settle for the highlights...

~Old Shawnee Days (twice!)
~a brutal 2 weeks of sickness and rash for Lilly
~date night!
~the start of Dance classes!
~a trip to the lake
~the start of our Texas vacation

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

{365 project} ~ May

Highlights from May:
~swimming lessons!
~Daddy's birthday
~Mother's day
~a trip to the lake
~as much time outside as possible, but a whole lotta rain

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Easter {2015}

This time of year seems to be when life gets crazy and I get behind on catching this blog I guess there's nothing new there.  At least I'm blogging about Easter before the end of the summer this year! ;)

Let me also just start this off with a warning.  Right before Easter this year I finally purchased a new camera {something I've been wanting to do for a LONG time!}, and this was the first time I really used it, aside from following my kid and pets around the house.  All that to say - I took a lot of pictures. :)  I am trying not to post aaalllllll of them, but still.  There are a lot. Sorry. (not really!)

Anyway, Easter!  Lilly is at such a fun age right now, holidays are just too much fun.  Easter was no different.  She had the time of her life, and we loved every minute of watching her!

We started off Easter morning at home with her Easter basket.  I may have gotten a little excited when shopping for Easter basket goodies.  No Easter grass needed in this basket!  I filled it with a few books, 2 pairs of shorts, a bathtub duck toy, bubbles, an easter egg shaped cup, some crackers, 2 pairs of flip flops, and probably other things I'm forgetting. There were also a couple things that I had to leave out because I ran out of room. Yes, I may have gone overboard.  I seem to have an irrational fear of not having enough things to fill the Easter basket...

After digging through all the goodies in her basket, we had a small egg hunt for Lilly in the living room.  She did a great job of finding eggs, and got so excited at each one. I attempted to take a video on the new camera (HD video! woohoo!) but I had no idea what I was doing and didn't realize that my photo settings also carried over to the video.  So I got a mostly blurry video.  But hey, it's something! 

Once Lilly found all her eggs, she went through and opened them with Daddy (and Daisy felt the need to help too apparently)

My newest tradition is holiday pancakes.  I always want to make some sort of fun breakfast for holiday mornings, and then never have time and we end up eating cinnamon rolls from a can.  So I've decided pancakes is easy and quick enough but can still be a fun tradition, so that's what I'm going with.  I even made Easter bunny pancakes...sort of. 

 We did the obligatory back yard photoshoot as well, once she was changed into her Easter dress. (side note: I think I purchased 3...maybe 4, potential Easter dresses this year.  All came from consignment sales and were less than $10, but clearly I was having a hard time making a decision.  Not sure when she's going to wear the other dresses that didn't make the cut, but oh well.   I finally settled on this one, which I think looked super cute on her!)

This kid has become such a ham.  She seriously has the most expressions and they are so funny.  Easter egg hunting was quite the production, and that's part of the reason I have so many photos - she was just making some of the funniest expressions!  Case in point:

After the fun at home, we headed to Grandma & Grandpa's for brunch. Lilly opened 2 more Easter baskets, one from Grandma & Grandpa, and one from Great Grandma.

She also clocked some quality time with Great Grandma, which just warmed my heart.  They were so cute together!

After all of that fun, we headed back home to get ready for the other side of the family to come over and continue the celebration.  Lilly took a short nap, and I got a few things cooking in the kitchen.  Once everyone arrived, Lilly and her cousin Lexi opened their Easter baskets (so. many. baskets. this year)

And then it was time for the big egg hunt.  We hid a ton of eggs for both girls all around our backyard, and I got such a kick out of watching Lilly hunt.  Like I mentioned: ham.  This girl just cracks me up!

(maybe it runs in the family...)

I told you.  The excitement was endless.  And I could have included probably twice that many pictures!  Love my animated girl. :)

The girls came inside and opened up all of their treasures - and our collection of little crap multiplied by about a million I think.  Between 5 Easter baskets and 2 egg hunts, we have more than our share of little toys and trinkets around here!

Before they insisted on changing out of their Easter dresses, we got the girls to sit down for a couple pictures.  Things started off very classy...

And then they got cute.  Super cute.

After the cousin bonding time, we ate a delicious meal, and all sat around watching the girls run around together the rest of the evening.  I'm telling you, kids are the best source of free entertainment around. :)

And...that's a wrap, folks! We had a wonderful Easter this year, and I had even more fun playing with my new camera.  I pretty much haven't put it down since, so be warned that there are plenty more picture-filled posts on the horizon. :)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

{365 project} ~ April

Just a little late posting this, but better late than never...right??  April flew by in the blink of an eye.  But we are happy for the start of Spring and (somewhat) nicer weather around here!

Highlights from April:
~celebrating Uncle Zach's birthday (and Uncle Zach just happens to be one of Lilly's favorite people these days)
~Easter celebrations
~lots of outside play time with warmer weather
~a date night and a concert for us
~2 1/2 year checkup for Lilly

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

311 cruise {round 2}

As I'm sure you have gathered by now, at the end of February we went on a 311 cruise.  Yes, another one.  I realize that some people may think it's a little crazy the number of vacations we go on that revolve around this band.  It probably is a little crazy.  But this band encourages such a positive vibe that all of these trips and vacations end up being with such an amazing group of people, it just makes it that much better of an experience.  Hearing their music, being with like-minded people, and going on an awesome vacation - you just can't beat it.  So, call me crazy if you want, but I plan to keep attending 311 events as long as they keep putting them on. :)

So this was the 2nd 311 cruise that Matt and I have been on.  It is the 4th cruise they have put on (see!  we don't go to ALL of their events!) - the first one was just not a good time financially for us so we couldn't swing it, and the 3rd one set sail the day before my due date with Lilly.  So there was that. :)  We made it on the 2nd cruise (as you may remember) and then once again for #4.  This one was a 4 day trip, and we went to Jamaica.  It. Was. Awesome.  Our friends and fellow 311 lovers Ash & Zach joined us as well, which made the trip that much more fun.

We spent the first day of our trip doing nothing but traveling.  We flew from KC to West Palm Beach (not the typical destination for a cruise that leaves from Miami, but we had the HARDEST time finding flights.  This was the cheapest and best option based on flight times as well.).  We then took the Tri-Rail from West Palm Beach allll the way to Miami.  It took us about 2 hours.  Although it was a long ride,it only cost us like $7 a person.  Waaaay cheaper than a cab.  Once we got to Miami we took a cab to our hotel for the night.  We ordered some pizza, drank a few beers, and got to bed early knowing that our vacation was starting for real bright and early the next day!

On Wednesday morning, we caught a shuttle from the hotel to the Port of Miami.  We went through all of the fun registration, waited around in a giant room for a while, and then finally made our way onto the ship!  It was huge, and so nice.

We had a few hours to kill before we were allowed to get into our rooms, so we just explored the ship and got lost for the first of many, many times.  We found the buffet and got some lunch, and what else but a Margarita!  Walk by me with a margarita in a 311 souvenir cup, and you bet I'm buying one. :)

After getting to our room and getting our bags, we found our way to the pool deck where 311 was playing their first show of the trip, as we sailed away.  Such a great way to kick off vacation, I must say. :)

All of us were pretty darn excited! We soaked up the afternoon sun, drank some beers, and waited for the show to start.

Then the staff came around and gave everyone a free shot of tequila to enjoy as we sailed away.  Sold!

The view as we sailed away was breathtaking!

The view once Nick Hexum and 311 came onstage was equally beautiful. :)

And as you can see, about 3,000 other cruisers also enjoyed the show with us.  The energy was unreal, and we loved every minute of it!!

We spent the rest of the evening checking some of the various other shows on board (being a music cruise, there is pretty much a concert happening at all times.  it's awesome!).  Eventually we called it a night...after far too many buckets of beer. :)

The next morning we woke up slowly...and eventually made our way out of the room.  Everyone was feeling a little rough, but when you're on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean there's no time to be hungover!  So we sucked it up and enjoyed our day.

Ash & I started the day off with some yoga - this was such a fun little activity.  I wish they had it every day!  Bonesaw from the band Full Service led our yoga class, and it was such a lovely way to start the day (and cure a hangover!).  Yoga is already relaxing and peaceful, but doing it with nothing but the ocean and sunshine in your view takes it to a whole new level.

Later that afternoon was one of the highlights of the trip.  Our photo with the band! Now, you may remember how this experience went for me last time.  And if you don't, I'll remind you: I HAD MY EYES CLOSED.  I may be a little bitter about it still.  This time however, I made darn sure to keep my eyes open and we ended up with a much better result!

Totally printing and framing this picture in my house....

Just like on the last cruise, I was pretty much all smiles the rest of the day after getting to meet the guys and take this photo.  All of us were pretty darn excited.  We spent the afternoon watching more concerts, and again discovered some awesome bands.  Full Service, Pepper & The Green are some of the bands that we fell in love with.  Really, all the bands on the ship were great, there was always good music around!

We watched The Dirty Heads (who Matt & I discovered and fell in love with after the last cruise) that evening, with a pretty awesome view of the ship, the crowd, and the sunset.  

That night, the girls threw in the towel early while the boys continued the fun.  I'm glad I decided to go to bed, but the boys kept telling us how much fun they had that night so apparently we missed out. :)

Friday morning, we once again got up slowly (can you see a recurring theme here?), but we didn't have too much time to poke around as we had arrived in Jamaica and we had a full day of fun ahead of us!  We grabbed mimosas and bloody marys and enjoyed the view from the front of the boat before heading down to get off and start our day.

Once we did make our way off the ship, we got on a bus to go to our excursion in Jamaica.  

The excursion was a 2 part adventure, where we could go to the beach or the river.  We started at the beach.

It. Was. Beautiful.  

We found ourselves a spot in the sand, laid out in the sun, enjoyed some fruity drinks, and just relaxed.  It was so nice!  Full Service showed up right where we were sitting for a little impromptu beach show, which was even more awesome.

We were also treated to a Jamaican lunch, which was quite tasty! After getting our fill of the beach, we hopped back on the bus and went over to the river.  The drive through Jamaica to the river was quite interesting as well.  Definitely a different culture!  The river was completely different from the beach atmosphere, but it was equally beautiful there!

The tent you see in the photo below housed a local Jamaican Reggae band that was playing when we arrived.  (This was called the Irie River by the way...)  We got in the water to enjoy the music for a bit, and then explored the rest of the river and surrounding jungle.  It was just beautiful all the way around, and there was always something to see.  

We were wishing we had more time, because we felt like we had to leave so soon after getting there!  I think we easily could have spent 2 days there (if not more) just enjoying the atmosphere and all there was to see.  But, we had to be back on the ship by 5, with a full night of activities ahead, so off we went.  On the way back, there were tons of little shops set up where you could buy souvineers.  Unfortunately, though, the line to get back on the ship was SO long that we had to get in line right away, and it ended up moving so fast that we barely had time to look or shop.  I managed to buy a little dress to bring back for Lilly, but that was pretty much the only souvenir I was able to bring back from Jamaica.

Here's a view of the ship as we were walking back from Jamaica.  Told you it was huge!

As tired as we were from a full day of fun in the sun, we had a night of activities ahead of us that we had to get ready for.  It started with another 311 show, where they played their Soundsystem album from front to back.  Such an amazing show!

Another Dirty Heads show followed, and then there was the costume contest.  Don't ask me how I stayed awake and alive through all of this, but somehow I did (the contest STARTED at midnight...)!  We reused our Halloween costumes, and dressed up as the Wizard of Oz group.  We actually put our costumes on before the Dirty Heads show, and unfortunately our scarecrow bowed out during that time (and by bowed out I mean stumbled back to the room and passed out. Lightweight. ;) ).  So, I never managed to get a picture of all of us together...but I did at least get one of our sleepy scarecrow before we lost him!

We entered the costume contest not realizing what we were in for...we ended up having to wait for what felt like hours (no idea how long it actually was) to then go out on the pool deck and be "judged".  I'm not really sure how it all worked, but we stuck in it, and got nothing in the end. Ha.  We got an official photo taken, so I guess that is something?  It was insanely windy on the pool deck that night, so that made it especially fun for a dress... :)

I once again called it a night early (well, it was after 1am which I do NOT consider early by any means, but Matt & Ash were still up so I guess it was early compared to those party animals). They wandered the ship for a few more hours, saw a few more shows, and who knows what else.  I was happily snoozing. :)

We woke up the next morning for one more day of this adventure.  We took it easy that morning and day...I think everyone was getting pretty worn out by that point.  We spent most of the day hanging by the pool, which turned out to be pretty awesome as we had a great view of the stage for the shows that were going on. It was wonderful and relaxing, and a really nice way to spend our last day on the ship.

We decided to be proactive and get most of our packing done later that afternoon so we could enjoy the rest of the night and not have to worry about it in the morning, knowing they would probably be scooting us off the ship bright and early.

We had a nice dinner out on the deck on the back of the ship, and took a lovely little group photo in front of the sunset (sort of.  the sun is over to the right, but there were a bunch of people in the background over there so this just had to do).

That night we had one last 311 show to watch, and it was possibly the best one of the trip.  We ended up getting a great spot, pretty close to the stage, and it was just a really fun show! 

Afterwards, we watched a comedy show in the theater, followed by one last Dirty Heads show, which was a close second for one of the best shows of the whole trip.  I can't even explain it, but the energy inside the theater, along with the music, was just electric.  Not to mention the wind and the ocean was rocking, making the boat do some serious swaying.  Watching a whole crowd of people sway back and forth together with the boat was crazy.

I tried to talk everyone into calling it a night after the shows, but I was overruled.  I wanted to be responsible and get to bed knowing that we had to get up early the next day, but everyone else wanted to make the most of our last night and go to Headphone Disco.  I reluctantly joined, but am so glad I did!

I don't think I can properly explain headphone disco to you, it's one of those things you just have to experience.  I'll try though. :)  Basically it's like a dance club, except everyone is wearing headphones.  There are 2 separate DJs, playing completely different music, and your headphones can switch back and forth from one DJ to the other.  Sounds weird, right?  I thought so too.  But from the minute we walked in and put our headphones on, I was in tears I was laughing so hard.  Half the room is dancing to one song, while half is dancing to the other.  You can't hear anything but the music, so you can't talk to anyone (but you inevitably try, and end up just randomly yelling).  It was absolutely hysterical, and so. much. fun.

I really wish I would have taken a video of that adventure (well I did, but it was really short and Ashley thought I was taking a picture the whole time, so it's funny in it's own way!) - but it was quite the way to end our trip.

We took one last walk around the deck of the ship before heading to bed, and took one last group selfie to remember our trip by.

The next morning, we were woken up bright and early, and just as I suspected, were pretty much scooted off the ship.  Although, at one point, before we had made our way to the line, they came over the speakers to say that they were backed up so we needed to wait a bit...which was fine by us.  We got some breakfast, and just hung out until it was finally time to go.  The rest of our day was another travel marathon...taking the tri-rail back to West Palm Beach, then flying to Atlanta, and finally making it home.  Of course the very last leg of our flight was delayed, just the icing on the cake.  We finally made it back to KC around 11 that night, then promptly lost our car in the airport parking lot.  Eventually we found it, and finally made it home.  Everyone was ready to just be home at that was a looong day.

All in all, it was an amazing trip!  Like I said after the last one, I'm not sure that I could go on a "normal" cruise after having now been on 2 of these music cruises, I don't think anything could compare.  They've already said another cruise will be happening in 2017...I'm hoping we can break the every-other-cruise streak and actually make it on that one.  But a lot could happen between now and then, so we shall see. :)