Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Home is where your friends are...

A few weeks ago some of my best friends came down to Orlando for a visit. It was such a fantastic weekend, and I had forgotten how much anywhere can feel like home when you are with family, whether they are true relatives or those you've adopted in.
After a long weekend of fun and a late night on Sunday night, Brad dragged himself out of bed nice and early on Monday morning, and I settled back in for a few more hours of sleep. I was awakened not long after he left by Erika checking in to see if I wanted to go running. That was not the morning for a run, but I loved that she woke me up to check. Not long after that I was again awakened by Chrislyn climbing into bed with me so she could get another hour or two of sleep since little Emma was not going to let that happen. Although I have met so many wonderful people out here, having MY best friends here sharing in the day to day of life was so precious to me.
There is something so great about being with the people you've known long enough that your home is their home. I felt more "at home" in Florida than I have felt since moving here, as Brad and I shared our home and our lives with our "SSS" family.

Chrislyn and Emma with their "1st time" buttons at the Magic Kingdom

The Woolstons just before fireworks in front of the castle. Emma LOVED the fireworks

Cute little Emma playing with me at the hotel

Bonding at Time Out for Women

Brad wearing crazy Mickey ears when we wandered at the Boardwalk with Annie and Erika

Habitat for Humanity

Last month Brad and I joined in with several other members of our ward for a day of Habitat for Humanity. I was not super excited about waking up at 6am on a Saturday morning, and I was still wishing I had told Brad I'd meet him later when we were just standing around at 9am waiting to be told what to do. But once the day got started I was so glad I was there. Brad, JD, and Chris (2 other great guys in our ward) were a hilarious combo, and although we worked hard we had some good laughs all through the day.

Brad's Epic Birthday Cupcakes

Brad is pretty easy to please, especially when it comes to treats. But I wanted to make him something special for his birthday. I knew he liked funfetti cake, which we had last year, so I thought I'd do something else equally as fun... just a little different. My favorite cupcakes in the world are at Magnolia Bakery in NYC, and so I thought I would find the recipe and see if I could make them myself, with a littel twist. I was pretty satisfied with the results.

We not only got to enjoy some epic cupcakes, but we also go to enjoy the company of our family for the whole weekend as well! 

Florida Gators

The very first time Brad asked me if I would consider living in Florida I said, "Um... yes but, I'm kinda scared of alligators." He asked if I was serious and I said yes I really was afraid of alligators. He said, "No! I meant would you really seriously consider moving there?"
There was an engagement, marriage, and honeymoon that took place before the option to move to Florida actually became a consideration. And in all my trips to Florida I had yet to see a single gator. However, I still was afraid of being chased and eaten one night while out for an evening jog.
Let's be honest, there are millions of people who live in Florida, and you rarely, if ever hear about a human being eaten, so I realized that my gatorphobia might be a little ridiculous. But one night Brad kindly spent an hour with me looking up how fast gators can run and the likelihood of being killed by a gator to bring a little more peace to my heart. For the record, you should NOT run zig-zag to outrun a gator (seriously, once I realized most native Floridians think that, I knew I should probably not worry about happening upon a hungry gator often).
Since there had been much discussion of gators before moving to Florida, I was a little disappointed I hadn't seen a single one wandering down the street or climbing out of a random pond, although I definitely only wanted to catch a glimpse from a car, or from many yards away.
Brad and I decided that we needed to pay a visit to GatorLand so I could catch a glimpse of not just one, but MANY gators, and find out all about them since we were to co-exist in our new city. It was AWESOME! If you're planning a trip to Florida and time is limited, this is probably not something to put above Disney and Universal, but if you have the same fear and fascination of large reptiles I do, it is worth a few hours of time.
We watched a 5-year old girl feed a whole bunch of alligators, we watched a guy wrestle a gator, we walked through the homes of several crocs, and we even got to wrestle a gator ourselves (and by wrestle I mean we got to sit on a gator with his mouth taped shut and get our picture taken). Yeah that's right, we SAT on an ACTUAL GATOR!! It was AWESOME!! I wasn't going to do it, but Brad said I needed to, and since we had just moved here and we paid for my picture, they let him do it too for free! Sweet!

The Gator expert. This one didn't have his mouth taped shut!

Me looking a little unsure of whether this was a good idea.

Me feeling a little more confident... or ready to appear so.

Brad taking the bull by the horns... I mean the gator by the jaw.

Do you see all those gators???

Welcome to Florida!

The Cottle family made the last leg of the journey with us, and were such an incredible help in getting us moved in and settled. Thursday night we got everything into the house so we were ready to start unpacking. On Friday Dean, Brad, and Tiffany spent several hours putting together furniture, while Mama Jean put away my entire kitchen and I started putting our bedroom together. I could have easily spent the next several days doing nothing but unpacking because I don't truly feel at home until everything has been given a place. This is one of the things that marriage is helping me overcome...somewhat. It was good for us to go out and enjoy some fun things Florida has to offer while we had family in town, and so we did.
Brad was very excited to visit Medieval times on Friday night, and it was a fun experience to see a real jousting match (or as close to real as one can get), and just spend some quality time with Brad's family. Saturday it was off to Universal Studios where we rode roller coasters, drank some butter beer (of course!), and starred in a fake movie. It was a great adventure, although I was sure tired at the end of it. What a long week!
The Cottle crew headed out on Sunday evening, and Brad and I found ourselves alone for the first time in many days. And although we were so sad to say goodbye to everyone we love, we knew our Florida adventure had finally begun, and it's been a beautiful journey every day since.

Brad carrying me over the threshold of our new apartment

Medieval Times

The DISASTER attraction at Universal

Feeding Brad to JAWS

Tiffany and I with the Minions

The Christmas Tree at Universal

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Move

Brad, Dad, and I pulled out of my parents driveway on Monday morning, November 21st in our rented moving truck and cars and left Centerville, Utah behind, not knowing when or if we'd be back. It was a little rough saying goodbye that morning, as my mom packed us some breakfast and sent us on our way. Knowing we were doing the right things brought peace, but it was still hard to leave my family behind. Luckily, I didn't have to say goodbye to all of them at once.
We headed southeast through Price to catch the I-70 trying to avoid any bad weather, and had made it through Denver and just over the Kansas border by the end of the first day. The drive between Grand Junction and Denver was one of my favorite parts of our whole trip because the scenery was absolutely beautiful, although the canyons were a bit hard on the moving truck. We had slowed to about 30 mph as we climbed to the summit of a couple of canyons. One of the funniest moments of the trip was when Dad and I were climbing through one of the canyons and there was a sudden "POP!!" between us. We both jumped and looked at each other in shock, wondering what had happened. I opened our bag of snacks to find that the altitude change had forced a bag of chips to explode from the pressure. In Brad's car we had a box holding several bags of chips. Luckily, they did not all explode, but they were so taut they were definitely on the verge.
We spent most of the second day driving the 400 miles through Kansas, and then made our way through Missouri, just passing into Illinois before stopping for the night. We were able to catch a few glimpses of Kansas City and we were excited to be able to see the temple and the arch as we drove through St. Louis. I was wishing we would have taken a little more time to spend in a couple of cities, but it would have been hard to navigate around with a moving truck and another car, and it was hard to plan for that when traveling during the winter. So, I guess we'll just have to do another road trip sometime in the future.
The third day, which was the day before Thanksgiving, we were able to get to Atlanta to spend the night. Mama Jean had a delicious Thanksgiving meal ready for us that we all enjoyed together, and then we spent the evening hanging out with Brad's family.
Brad and I dropped my Dad off at the airport on Thanksgiving morning. I wrote on facebook that I cried like I was a 10 year old girl again when it was time to send him back to Utah. He wrote back that he laughed because he was trying to keep from crying too. I think it was a little harder to say goodbye to my dad because that was the last of my family I would see for possibly a very long time.
Brad and I left the airport and started on the last of the drive to Orlando. Brad's family left ahead of us with the moving truck and their van, and we met up with them just before the Florida border and followed each other the rest of the way. When we got into town we decided to unload the truck that night, rather than waiting until morning, so we spent a few hours getting unloaded and then finally headed out for dinner.
I didn't really consider that on Thanksgiving it would be tricky to find food. As we drove that day we were very limited on choices for food, even fast food. But we were DEFINITELY limited when it came to finding dinner. So, we ate Thanksgiving dinner at Denny's at nine o'clock that evening. And I think that is probably one of the most memorable Thanksgivings I will ever have. And surprisingly, Denny's wasn't so bad.


Our view for 3 days straight

The St. Louis Temple

Another famous site to see

We really thought about stopping to say hello to Clark Kent... but there just wasn't time.

Ode to Fourth Ward Primary

I have to admit I was excited for a new calling in Florida as we planned to leave Utah. Although I adored the kids, we had a primary of about 5 or 6 regular attendees (yes we really were living in Utah), and it was a tricky thing to try and plan for such a transient group. But Brad and I had fun with the kids, and I actually enjoyed putting together the primary program.
Our primary program was the very last Sunday we were in Utah. We had a practice on Saturday morning, packed the moving truck and took everything to my parents that afternoon, then had the program on Sunday and left for Florida Monday morning. I had more than a few moments when I wondered what we were thinking planning things so close together. But as stressful as it was to put together a program with about 8 kids, and then throw about 20 more into the mix the day before, the Lord filled the weekend with peace and blessings. And the biggest blessing was feeling the payoff of the last 9 months of working with our sweet primary kids.
When I was first called into the primary, my biggest stress was figuring out how to teach little kids to sing Praise to the Man. I mean seriously, how are you supposed to teach kids about "traitors and tyrants"? But I will never forget what it felt like to hear Carson and Michael singing out those words, and how amazing it was to hear them sing out the songs Brad and I had taught them. I still tear up a bit when I hear kids sing that song. And all the kids did such a beautiful job with all of their parts.
Brad and I fell in love with our sweet primary kids, especially 3 year old Carson. At the end of sacrament meeting after the program was over, Carson ran up and handed me a package his parents had put together for Brad and I. I burst into tears as I finally accepted that I was saying goodbye to the kids, and to our life in Utah.
We still quote Carson on a daily basis, and miss all of our friends in Utah. But we are grateful for the new opportunities the Lord has given us and the new challenges we've been given here in Florida.

Carson as "Dash" on Halloween


In order to fit Thanksgiving, a goodbye party, and a move all into the month of November, we decided to hold Fakesgiving. I think I would be happy to do Fakesgiving every year, since we enjoyed the delicious culinary tradition of Thanksgiving, and brought many people together who had other family to gather with on the official holiday. Brilliant! And best of all, that meant we got to eat Thanksgiving dinner again in Atlanta on our drive to Florida.

Uncle Jerry with Emma and Tucker

The Woolstons and the Cottles

Just a few of the Randall Clan gathered

The Thornes

Gideon and Alyssa

Monday, March 26, 2012

Our first Randall Family Vacation Together!

What do you get when you pile 2 Cottles, 5 Nortons, and 5 Randalls into 2 Port Townsend condos? CRAZINESS!! But so much fun! Brad and I spent a week with the family in Seattle and Port Townsend and had such a fun adventure! Of course with so many people there were lots of varying schedules to work with, but Brad and I were able to spend a full week in Washington.
Playing with the kids is always so fun for me, and I made sure to get in lots of quality Ben time since he's changing the most right now. He was such a good kid, even when he started getting sick.
While in Port Townsend we went on a walking tour of the town, celebrated birthdays, played games, visited the Olympic Game Park (a zoo/park with animals you feed as you drive through. I've never seen anything like a car full of grown men that turn into giggling little boys as they feed animals), and of course had our first annual Randall Family Talent Show. It was such a good time. We sure missed Brian and Bryn, so it's a good thing there will be more vacations to come!
After we all left Port Townsend Brad and I spent another couple of days in Seattle. We had a few hours to ourselves one afternoon and I decided it was finally time to officially experience the Space Needle. I thought with as few hours as we had, it would give Brad a chance to get a glimpse of the beauty of Seattle since he was just a young kid the last time he was there. I was sad we missed out on Pike's Market, but we enjoyed a gorgeous view of Seattle while eating some amazing food. A little piece of my heart really does belong in Seattle.

Yep! He's freaking adorable!

On the ferry

Brad practicing up on his daddy skills. I think he'll do pretty good.

On the pier at Port Townsend

Libby in chains at the Port Townsend jail

Sarah equally as concerned about her detainment

I just love those kids!!

nerdy Ben

Me giving Ben his first official haircut

Seirously can't get enough of his cuteness!

The Space Needle

What do you expect? We're newlyweds!

Back to where it all began...

For our honeymoon it only made sense to go back to where it all began. We really did have an amazing trip. We ate delicious food, met a few princesses, and even paid a visit to Hogwarts. There is nothing quite like a honeymoon. The reality of figuring out what would come next didn't matter for one more week while we just enjoyed being together and celebrating the beginning of forever.

At the Caribbean Beach Hotel

Back to the very spot we first met

You can't go to Disney World without getting a shot in front of the castle

An early birthday surprise from Brad. A signed card from the princesses

Enjoying some butter beer in Hogsmeade

The coolest hibachi chef every in Epcot

Belle - my favorite :)