Road to Chicago (Day 1 & 2)...

We began our annual road trip adventure bright and early on Saturday morning. Radley set his alarm for 4:30am y'all and I'm not sure he even slept because he was so excited to begin - we all were! We loaded up the car, grabbed some coffee and we.were.OFF!

Our first stop came from Holly's recommendation from their trip to Memphis. If you are ever near or headed close to Hot Springs, Arkansas then you need to plan a trip to Garvan Woodland Gardens. We packed food for a picnic and enjoyed the beautiful sites and sounds (and WEATHER) before heading out to explore.

We stayed about an hour longer than we intended but we could have stayed all day long. Every inch of this space is beautiful and enchanting. It's seriously gorgeous and a GREAT way to get rid of some of that energy from sitting in a car all morning.

These are the kind of pics and adventures I really hope they look back on with fondness. The big trips and elaborate days are awesome, but these moments of us in our shorts, tshirts and flip flops with messy hair and unscripted fun are the memories that matter. 

(We are currently working on our selfie stick skills.)

The kids had a list of items to find in the gardens and I'm pretty sure all of them liked the fairies the best. I mean - that's the TOOTH FAIRIES house (including teeth!)... Emmy was SO PUMPED. 

Everywhere you turn is something beautiful. The kids and I decided that Ryan's newest project is making our backyard look like this. Good luck, babe! 

My four favorite people in the whole wide world.

And look - I even got in a picture! :)

Our last stop in the gardens was the Anthony Chapel and we lucked out and got there just as a wedding was finished so the girls got to see the bride leaving which was basically like seeing a real live princess. 

Poor strangers that always have to be the ones that take the pictures for the crazy lady.


We hopped back in the car and made the 3 hour drive to Memphis and headed straight to dinner. We helped the wedding photographer to her car as we were leaving the gardens (because of course we did) and she recommended a place called "Westy's" as her number 1 favorite all time place to stop in Memphis. We've already had the BBQ on Beale Street so we figured - why not!

The beer was amazing. 

And the food wasn't so bad either!!! I ordered the Mediterranean which was olives, ham, cheese and some special sauce with a side of homemade onion rings. Clearly living my best #Whole30 life over here.

Gina, the sweetest waitress you ever did meet, hooked us up with the "biggest fudge pie I have EVER made"...

We pretended we weren't going to be able to eat it all but spoiler alert: we did.

Sunday morning we were up bright and early again. We had big plans to make it Chicago by 3pm so we could explore some of the city! Our first stop was another Holly recommendation - Gibson's donuts. Y'all - we ate for $8.94 (not pictured: coffees and milks).


The only thing sweeter than those donuts were these faces!

We met the Peabody Duck Master (seriously, that's a thing) while we were eating at Westy's (which should clue in on how good this place was). We missed him walking the ducks down and were leaving too early to see them on Sunday, but he gave the kids some duck pins, told them all about the ducks and told us to come visit the duck palace the next morning.

Goodness, it was a BEAUTIFUL day.

And our selfie skills are improving.

The kids were also such good sports and then....

Yep. Landry and Emmy discovered that the momma duck had laid and egg and were so excited to show me. As they were running away I said, "no running"... they kept running and well.. 

Natural consequences are some of life's greatest lessons. Poor Landry scraped her entire face and her shoulder and then as Ryan was picking her up, she got sick. Everywhere. On the roof of the Peabody. So, we got delayed a bit on our start time but we made it to Missouri... 

Which has an awesome welcome center...

and Illinois ...

which also has a welcome center but not so great of a picture spot...

got settled into our hotel and then went to Ryan's cousin's house for dinner. Day two ended just as sweet as it started!


Hard to say goodbye...

Almost nine and a half years ago we walked Radley into his first day of school.  We dressed him up in his little St. Joseph's Eagles Nest tshirt, loaded up the car, and walked him into school. He was four months old and when we walked out of that school, I cried. And cried. Ryan and I went to McDonald's for breakfast and as I picked at my Egg McMuffin I looked up at Ryan for the first of many times and with tears in my eyes said, "What am I doing?!" 

Meaning, why were we leaving our sweet baby in the care of someone else? Why wasn't I going to stay home with him? And I have since answered those questions many times - with the basic answer being this is what works for us.

Fast forward 15 months - we changed daycare and  found ourselves dropping him off again for his first day of school on June 2, 2008. We would go on to drop the girls off for their first day of school at the Weekday School again in 2010 and 2012. 

This school is special for 1857 reasons, but my favorite reason is simply because of the people we share it with. Josh and Cindy enrolled Caroline here and when things started to be less than stellar at our first child care center, we decided to switch. The Baileys switched, the Kurtens enrolled here and so many more people that have come into our lives because of these walls. 

And here we are, nine years later and we are saying goodbye. A bittersweet goodbye.  A Boyz to Men hard to say goodbye, goodbye. So much of their childhood is wrapped up in these walls. Almost all of it. There have been many weeks when these women have seen these faces more than we have. We have all cried all the tears (really, sweet Landry LOST it during prayer time the night before her last day) (She gets that from me) (#emotional)

They have done so much more than taught them how to read and write... they taught them how to care, how to be compassionate, how to share, how to love. And they loved them right back.

They know their favorite games, their least favorite foods and what makes them smile. 

They changed as many diapers as we did AND are basically the reason all six of them potty trained so early.

These women gave us the gift of peace of mind. Knowing that while we were at work, these precious kiddos were being loved and cared for. 

They shared silly stories with us, they documented milestones, they celebrated their success and helped them try again after failures. They listened and loved and gave us such incomparable support. 

Pam was actually the reason we chose our first school - we just adored her when we were searching. She switched roles during our time there and then ended up moving to WDS after we did and became Landry's teacher, too. Isn't God grand?

I am going to miss these faces and these hearts and the stories that we shared. I can only hope that we did a good enough job letting them know how grateful we are to them. 

We5Kings couldn't have survived without them and we are forever grateful for the role they played in shaping these kids.

We may have carried all three in, but they walked out of those doors with confidence and compassion and the capability of conquering all of their dreams.

Goodbyes are hard but this one is made easier knowing that we will come back and visit... the WDS isn't rid of us yet!


Camp Carolina...

Emmy spent the first half of the week at one of her favorite places, Camp Carolina! After a much-too-quick for me drop off I couldn't wait to get home and sit in front of the computer for 8 hours check the campsite for uploaded pictures. The first day is rough for me, "Is she having fun?" "Is she being kind?" "Is she doing something crazy?" "Is she learning?"

Well this is the first picture I saw of her... 

Haha! She is never at a loss of attitude. 

Camp Carolina has been a real blessing for us - close enough to home for comfort, affordable, and most importantly, centered in Him. I love knowing that they are spending their days being lead by "big kids" that just LOVE Jesus. I pray regularly for my kids' friends - that they be lights for my kiddos and that my kids shine lights for them. Because I know that no matter how many times I repeat myself, it takes one friend, one time to suggest something that my kids will want to do. 

I loved peeking in on her and seeing that smile and getting to join in her days. She was always be someone new but never far from Kelly. 

I didn't got to a sleep away camp until I was in junior high ... I just remember FREEZING to death because I only brought sheets and no blankets. It was awful. I look at her and I just see courage and bravery - she's barely seven and already so willing to try new things and meet new people and she totally ROCKS at it!

Their theme night this year required them to dress up like lost boys/girls/pirates/Peter Pan peeps... her cabin wins the award for best Lost Girls ever. 

I mean, really... how adorable are they?

And then the morning arrived for pick-up... there is nothing like the full-on tackle hug of your kids. The smile on her face playing with her friends  turned to sweet elation at seeing us... goodness... nothing like that feeling!

This year Emmy was recognized for being "bold" in showing confidence in believing and expressing God's truth... just as Paul did (Acts 19:28). She was apparently never at a loss for words during devotional time and wasn't afraid to speak up... I have no idea where she gets that from.


We made our way to the ark for one final worship hour and man, did they go all out this year! The set was amazing and details of the story of "foreverland" was just too cute. Emerysn got home and immediately started playing "foreverland"!

So proud of these two amazing girls - for being kind and loving and bold and beautiful daughters of Christ.

And thankful that these two missed her so much that they waited 17 whole minutes before getting into an argument. :)

Happy to have our girl back in my arms... right where she belongs!

See you in August, CC...