July 25, 2015

Disney World

We spent this past week in Orlando with my family. It's been almost 3 years since we have all been together, and we spent it at a place that my family loved to visit growing up. We stayed on the Disney boardwalk, which had lots to see and do. Plenty of beach, play areas, restaurants, ice cream shops, and boat rides to enjoy. We arrived on Tuesday afternoon and everyone was very excited to see the boys (and us of course too). We spent most of that afternoon exploring and getting caught up. The boys taking my mom for a walk on the beach.
Checkers anyone?
Plenty of space to run.
Uncle Aaron found his nephews :)
Caleb trying to figure out how to use Grandpa's camera.
Happy to be reunited!
The boys had fun digging and building Disney World, while we sat and talked.
We saw a great fireworks show after dinner, then called it a night.
The next day we had fun at the pool.  Ben jumped and jumped in the pool, and both boys had fun riding the waterslide. 
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Back to the beach to dig. 
My brother's girlfriend, Sunnie, flew in from California that evening. We are enjoying spending time and getting to know her, and she is having fun seeing Florida for the first time. We all enjoyed dinner together on the boardwalk, and a beautiful sunset.
 No rest for the weary. The next morning we were all up bright and early and was at Disney by 8am!
Hello from the Magic Kingdom!
The boys had fun riding lots of rides and seeing a few familiar faces from the Disney channel :).
The Disney parade.
Jungle Cruise
Train ride around the park.
You've got a friend in me :).
The boys were super troopers that day. It was very hot and crowded, but we managed to see a lot.
The boys really wanted to ride the monorail so we rode a big circle through the Disney hotels, before taking the Mickey Bus back to our hotel.
It was a fun few days with my family, and we are looking forward to the next couple of weeks to visit with more family and friends!


July 21, 2015

Southern Illinois Days

We had a wonderful rest of our visit with Nathan's family. The boys got lots of grandparent, aunt/uncle, and cousin time, and we really enjoyed the extended time with everyone and watching the cousins bond. One of the weeks, we overlapped in Salem with the Jolliffs, which was a lot of fun. Sam and Benjamin became good buddies, and we caught lots of cute moments between these two :).
Mark and Betty had a great idea to get all the boys lanterns, so we could take adventure walks at night. We didn't get to the nature trail because it rained on and off a lot that week, but we took a fun bug-filled walk one night down the street.
Andrew and I having fun with shadows, while he was talking to me in English, Arabic, and German!
One day we took family photos with all the Purcell and Jolliff crews at the park.  I can't wait to see how they turn out! Boys practicing their smiles.
We may have bribed all the boys with big lollipops in exchange for the smiles....and it worked!
Sweet Abigail and mom :) 
After picture no shirt wearing, mushroom hunting, and park playing with grandpa.
Another day Benjamin, Nathan, and I went to visit one of Nathan's good family friends Jim and Cindy. They were neighbors growing up with 4 boys and a girl, and Nathan has lots of great memories playing with their kids as a little boy. We had a nice time visiting with them, and Benjamin really enjoyed his tractor ride with Jim.
We were lucky to stay in their cottage for a few nights one of the weeks, which is right next door to where Nathan grew up. It was an adorable house, and lots of fun to let the boys play in the woods where Nathan used to play.
Nathan's first house growing up, next door to the cottage.
The cousins spent a lot of time building damns in the gutter. We had lots of rain, so there was lots of damning to be done!
On Caleb's birthday, we went to Indy to spend the day with the Jolliffs. We were supposed to be there a couple days prior, but this was in the middle of the Streph endemic we were all going through, and it was our boys turn at the time. They are staying at a beautiful farm house during their time stateside, which is where they stayed before they left for overseas 3 years ago. Nathan visited 3 years ago, but this was my first time. It is a beautiful piece of property and great for the boys to play! Sam and Andrew gave us a tour through the woods as soon as we arrived, and Jake gave me a tour of the barn.
Then we went to eat and go to a park that had lots of fun play structures.
Elizabeth is an amazing mother to her 5 kids, and I am just in love with these little twins. It was so nice to get to spend time together :).
Post birthday picture of most the crew:).
Big and little cousin buddies.
The next day, we went to visit with our friends the Mintons. Nathan and Mike have been really good friends their entire life and were college roommates. They are such a sweet family, and we really enjoyed our time visiting with them and letting the kids play together. First order of business was lunch from Jimmy Johns.
Aubrey and Caleb are a few weeks apart. We enjoyed the little moments of them running off together to pick apples or hide in the woods.
Caty is a sweet and nurturing little 6 year old. She loves gymnastics, playing guitar, and spending time with people. She was only 6 months old at our wedding, and it has been nice to watch her grow over the years.
We took a walk to their neighborhood lake to feed the ducks. Ben was so happy to ride a scooter again, even though it was pink he didn't care one bit.
Aubrey and Caleb enjoying a wagon ride.
All 5 kiddos in age order.
Make a funny face :)
Great lifetime friends.
Another day we met Betty's sister family at a park for the evening. We had a nice time catching up with Carol, Mary, and Kara, and letting the cousins play.
Keegan and Caleb on the see-saw.

Hunter and mom :)
Brothers turn.
Always lots of swinging when we go to the park.
Cousins :)

It was a fun evening and we were glad to meet up with their family while we were home!
Another day, Betty, Nathan, the boys, and I wen to the Salem Fire Station. The fireman on duty was their distant cousin, and he gave us all a great tour. The boys got on all the fire trucks, played with lights, cameras, and saw the big toys they have to fight fires and save lives.
One thing we did a lot on this trip was eat ice cream. Not any ice cream, but Dairy Mart lemon, raspberry, orange, and chocolate ice cream. Grandpa Mark and Benjamin are some of the best ice cream eaters around town!
On one of our last trips, Caleb decided he wanted to eat a ring pop instead of ice cream.
We spent a lot of time at the Salem pool these past few weeks. It has a great kids play area, little kid pool, water slide, and diving boards. The boys had a blast at the pool, and they came a long way with their comfort in the water. Both boys float great on their own and will now dunk their heads under water. Benjamin is getting really brave and he likes to jump in by himself. Here's a cute video of the boys jumping in with Grandpa, from our last full day in town.
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We also took a few nice walks with Mark and Betty at the reservoir nature trail. Running on this trail is one of my favorite things to do in Salem. I can't say I ran too much this trip, but we got in quite a few nice walks, the boys liked throwing duds (rocks) with grandpa and grandma, and they had fun running and exploring the trail.
We all enjoyed lots of time in the backyard playing, talking, watching beautiful sunsets and some sunrises too. And Betty's beautiful zinnia flowers bloomed right before we left.
One last photo shoot by the cornfields :)
We had such a wonderful time with Nathan's family and friends. Mark and Betty are so thoughtful, truly made this a special trip for us all, and we are so appreciative of how they serve our family. Our times together may not be often these days, but they are meaningful quality days that we cherish. We love you so much, and thank you for a great trip to Illinois! Until next time...