Bamapalooza-Chocolate (Yeah Baby!)

It’s no secret that our family loves chocolate.  So, while in St. Augustine we visited the home of Whetstone Chocolatiers.  Oh my people!  Is it safe to say that all eight of us (Malachi doesn’t count…he gets mom’s milk), loved it.  The samples were so worth the tour of the chocolate factory.  Of course, the history lesson and information the kids received were wonderful too. 

Ace took the pictures for us and I have no idea what this machine does.

Or this one.

However, I do know that some of the samples included dark chocolate to which I almost didn’t try but am so glad I did.  I’ve never tasted a smoother or more rich dark chocolate than I did at Whetstone.  Oh yummy!  And yes, we did leave home with some of it too…which I have to hide from Bryant.

Just a side note:  Apparently, Whestone didn’t have any oompa loompas much to the disappointment of the kids.

Bamapalooza-Castille de San Marcos

We ventured into the city one day with the kids and all our crew.  Ace took over camera duty when we made it into the Castillo.  Wow, this structure was amazing…but don’t take my word for it.

Here is Zoe’s first ever post!  Enjoy (oh the joys of homeschooling and making your kids practice their writing skills for all the world to see).

Castillo De San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida was very interesting. It was never taken by force. Instead, it was handed over in peace treaties. Castillo De San Marcos, which is pronounced CasteeO DE San MarcOs, was first occupied by the Spanish, then it was handed over to the British, then the British to the Americans. The Fort was made of coquina, which turned out to be surprisingly strong. The British changed the Castillo De San Marcos name when they occupied the fort to Fort St. Mark. Castillo De San Marcos still stands today in St. Augustine. by Zoe, age 9

Dad’s favorite shorts.  Great shot, no?  All pictures provided by Ace.

Bamapalooza-Alligator Farm and Fort Matanzas

We took another trip on our Bamapalooza ventures to the Alligator Farm.  Charming fella, isn’t he?

Getting ready.
This is an albino alligator.  I’ve never seen one.  And they, like me, can get sunburned.
Our gators chomping at the bit.
Hands down the coolest (and most dangerous in terms of poo) was the Rookery.  Thousands of birds in trees all over laying eggs and raising babies.  The kids were amazed they could see this:
And even babies in nests.  Lots of beautiful birds too.

And we all enjoyed feeding the alligators from the bridge and watching them swarm (we fed them those food pellets found at all zoos).
But, watching this zookeeper feed the alligators fresh rats.  Now that was quite interesting (if not a little gross).
On the way home from the zoo, we stopped at Fort Matanzas which isn’t really a fort.  It’s more of a watchtower.  The locals just began calling it a fort and it stuck.  Very neat old structure and the kids enjoyed the ferry ride to and from it.
Safe to say they got some “larnin'” in while on vacation.  Ah the joys of having a mom who enjoys history.
Bryant was a bit tired from all our site seeing.  I had forgotten the sling so I had to use this carrier for Malachi.  By the afternoon, Bryant was asking to get in it.  He loved it too!

Bamapalooza-Cinnamon Beach

It’s been over three years but the “gang” all came together again. Bamapalooza is the gathering of all of Mark’s friends/roommates from college. There are five guys total. Then the wives (each just has one though) and the kids. So, for a head count, ten adults and fourteen kids. Now, keep in mind that half of them were ours. And all of them were nine and under.

We had a wonderful time. Mark and I both said that was the best vacation we’ve ever taken. We stayed in a mansion on the beach and enjoyed the ocean, pool, and trips in to St. Augustine, Florida.

I’m starting off this series with our beach and pool ventures. I wish I had gotten more pictures of the house because it was just wonderful.

The last time we were at the beach, Bryant was a baby (a little bit older than Malachi).  He loved it!  He kept talking about the big wata.  When we went back in the first night, I told him we’d be back tomorrow.  He looked at the beach and ocean and said, “Bye wata, see ya morrow.”  And that bump on my front is Malachi.  He helps to cover up my mommy tummy.
Josiah found some digging buddies.
We may or may not have had some issues with the hurricane shutters (the switch for them was placed right near the light switches…instant kid toy).  Luckily, two of the engineers figured out how to fix it.
A view from the third story!
Uncle S enjoyed cuddling with all the kids.

And building sand castles.

One day, I had the smart idea to have Ceili Rain get the clothes out of the dryer (I don’t know what I was thinking).  About 30 minutes later, we all realized the door to the laundry room was closed and had been for quite some time.  This is what we found when we opened it.  What you can’t see is that Bryant is covered in clothes on the floor.  The peek-a-boo head is Big A who is Ceili Rain’s age.

Ceili Rain got a stuffed monkey as a souvenir.  Here she is feeding it (yes, she’s breastfeeding it).
The rewards of building with Dad.

This is how I spent most of the trip, cuddled up with Mr. Malachi.  I didn’t mind it one bit though.
Uncle M was all alone building a volcano for his boys…
Then the boys all came to destroy it.

Bamapalooza Wrap Up

And now we’re ending our Gatlinburg vacation with group pictures (wipe those tears away, I’ve got some cute pictures of the kids coming up).

Yep, this is par for a family picture. Someone making silly faces. Check. Ceili Rain screaming because she’s hungry and tired. Check. Josiah with his finger up his nose. Check.

This is all but one of the kids. Zoe is holding A and Ace gets the screaming Ceili Rain…although she kind of looks like she’s smiling. One of the kids, R, decided he didn’t want to get a group picture. It didn’t help that we were all getting ready to leave the kids with the BDs as well. Here, we also have Josiah finishing off what was in his nose in his mouth (ewww, gross).
When we all went out to eat, we attacked found an older couple sitting at the gazebo to get our picture. I must say, if you are ever in Pigeon Forge you must eat at The Pottery House at Old Mill Square. Wonderfully beautiful atmosphere! The food was excellent. My only qualms was that it was raining and we couldn’t eat outside by all the pretty waterfalls!
Group picture! Ten couples and nine children six and under!! What a good time!

Putt Puttin’

On Wednesday of our vacation, all the ladies (including the baby ladies and BDs) headed out to shopping. The boys’ headed out to play putt putt. It was raining but Gatlinburg took care of that with indoor mini-golf. Mark said everyone had fun. Since I wasn’t there, I’ll let the pictures (mostly) speak for themselves.

J with his daddy R.

M with R and E.

Uncle E discussing his scorecard with his mummy (I crack myself up!).

No trip is complete without finding something to climb on!

A Bushel not a Peck

To top off our week, we went to the Apple Barn. It had been raining and we didn’t really want ot push it by trying to go some where outdoorsy only to have to turn around and come back…so we went here instead. It’s an apple orchard/apple cider/yummy apple pies place…with a little bit of a general store thrown in. To top it off, I bought our annual bushel of apples while there. Fresh off the trees and a little cheaper than getting them at the chain stores. While the fried pies and apple cider were awesome…there was not much to do but it was relaxing as is.
What a sweet picture of one of our BDs with Josiah. I wish we could’ve gotten all of Josiah in but you take what you get.

Another BD givin’ some love to the fake birds.

She’s so smart, she can figure out them hard thinkin’ puzzles…I do declare.

See, Cindy, we did have some school!! I actually, I think we bored her to tears with all this shopping.

They had this plastic painted Santa so all the kids just had to sit on him. We humored them, since they’ve never had their picture taken with Santa (gasp all you want to…not a big deal to us, nor them).

In a freaky sort of way, he looks real!

At the Cabin

Funny, how they kind of have the same look in their eyes. This is Uncle S with Ceili Rain. He was pretty much a baby whisperer and loved getting another baby in the cabin asleep! Practice for later.
Last minute, I told Mark we needed to take some toys, so we loaded up the box of trains. What a hit! Josiah loved sharing them with R and J who are both close to his age.

We forced the BDs to play Horton Hears a Who. Not sure if they enjoyed it but we enjoyed making them act silly!

My kids enjoyed acting silly too.

Our BDs were delighted that the pool table was right outside their door. They played quite a bit and got pretty good at it. Here is the final tournament as Zoe looked on in suspense.

The Pool

Now we come to the scene of the crime…I was a little late getting to the pool. Basically, all our friends and family went to the pool while Ceili Rain got in a good nap. So, I walked up a hill, down a hill, up a hill to get to the pool. By the time we got there, everyone was getting out of the pool. I was determined, after my workout, to get Ceili Rain in. So, in we went.

Not sure what Uncle R was cheesing it for but he was.

All the kids went on the deck with the BDs and the next thing I knew Zoe was screaming. I turn around and see Liam’s little rear running back and forth on the deck. I about lost it. Mark thought it was quite funny too…but he had more composure and told him to clothe himself.
They sure are cute in their towels!

The next day, we were getting ready to go to an indoor water park and Liam informed me, “Mommy, I’m not going to take my swimsuit off again.”

“Great! Liam that’s a great idea. Why did you do it yesterday at the pool?”

“I just wanted to be naked.”


The Great Smokies

Here come our pictures from our vacation. After finishing up a homeschool conference from, I’m refreshed and recharged and focused and ready for the next week. I think.

So, we traveled up to Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge for our vacation. This vacation is a sequel to a vacation we took two years ago. A sequel in that we met up with Mark’s college roommates and their families for “Bamapalooza 09.” The weather was a little wet, but we all enjoyed our time together and exploring the outdoors and the towns. Not to mention a girls’ shopping trip!

On the way up the mountains, this was a view Mark, the kids and our borrowed daughters (two teens who agreed to come with us and be attacked help out. I, however, was waffling through cigarette smoke and listening to motorcycles roar by while trying to get Ceili Rain to pay attention enough to nurse. We got to spend about 45 minutes in Cherokee in a car, in traffic while looking at every kind of motorcycle known to man (apparently there was some kind of convention going on there).

On Monday, we hiked. You just got to click on the picture to read the sign. It’s enough to make a mama paranoid. Very grateful for our borrowed daughters (oh, we’ll just call them BD for short) then!

I love seeing the sun through the trees and since this was one of the few days we saw the sun, I’m glad I got this picture.
A nice big rock for my boys to climb on!

One of our friends.

Zoe enjoyed the climbing too but was never too involved to not stop and pose for the camera.

The BDs themselves!! Such beautiful and responsible young ladies! Except they hiked in their Converse. Which looked cool but I don’t think was that comfortable.

Sorry, I forgot to turn J rightside up. Not one of mine but he was adorable in his hiking gear.

Made it! To the top of the rock. Not the end of the hike.

A view of on eof the mountains. Some of the leaves are starting to change too…as can be seen by the picture.