Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Nassau, Bahamas was our last stop on the cruise. We had been there a couple of times before and decided to just grab a cab and hit the beach. We loved it the last time and I had to get in one more day of relaxing and listening to the waves crash before heading back to reality.

This day did not disappoint. We headed out with Josh's and JD's gang, Kaylee and our family to the beach. We grabbed a taxi, crammed in and looked like a bunch of clowns unloading a vehicle. We rented two lounge chairs and set in for a relaxing and fun day.

Most of the kids headed out to the big waves while Hayden and Coby started digging in the huge sand pile they found. It was "awesome" they exclaimed while digging tunnels through the mound.

I look at Thomas and wonder how I was ever so lucky to get him. He is absolutely amazing and I love every minute I get to spend with him.
The waves were huge and so much fun. I love all the kids playing together running away from the waves and then diving in.
Tanner, Kaylee, Bryson, Braden, Brinley, Dallin, Hayden, Coby, Casen and Austin. They all had so much fun playing together!
It makes my heart smile that Hayden has so many great cousins. Having an only child was never my plan and it breaks my heart that he doesn't have siblings. But, looking at these pictures, he is so blessed with a bunch of cousins that are so great to him and he loves. I hope that some of them treat him more like a brother as they grow. I do love watching his relationships that he is developing with each of them.
I LOVE this picture and it may go on my wall.... so much emotion. Hayden and Coby a little more timid and bracing to run... just in case. Kaylee standing firm and screaming in delight and Bryson, as always, laughing his heart out.
This one brings a smile to my heart. I cannot express the love I have for these two. I sat and watched them as they talked, discussed seashells, the ocean, how much sand is there in the world and what makes waves. Hayden is so lucky to have Thomas for a father. And, there is no possible way for me to describe the love and respect I have for both of these two.
I love that Hayden cherishes the "little things" in life. He doesn't need anything big or grand to play with. He treasures a new rock or seashell as much as a transformer and has the imagination for it to be anything. He would be content playing with a rock and a seashell in the sand for days on end. I love his imagination and zest for life.
It is no surprise when you know his dad. Thomas gets so much joy out of a cool seashell, coral piece or unique rock. He has taught me to sit back and enjoy the moment, no matter how small. He has taught me to notice the small things in life that make you realize how much our Father in Heaven does for us, including making beautiful sunsets, unique seashells and beautiful sand beaches. I asked Thomas one day why seashells, and he said that each unique shell reminded him of our own uniqueness... the ones that have their own qualities, own way, own look are the ones that are cherished. That is my Thomas, he doesn't necessarily go with the crowd, he marks his own path, his way and there is nothing I would change about him or that. Boy has he taught me to look at life in a different and more positive way.
This is me saying goodbye to the beach, the waves, this vacation. I may have left the moment and that place on earth. However, I have taken each of those treasured memories, tucked them deep in my heart and mind, and I get to relive them whenever I want to. As I type this, I can feel the movement of the air, the smell of the salt water in the breeze and my heart is beating in rhythm of the waves coming in, going out and crashing. It is a serene place, one where I go when I need to relax and clear my mind to think. I relax as I settle back into that moment and am grateful for all that I have been given. My life may not be perfect. I definitely have my own set of challenges. But, I have been so blessed. I wouldn't change my life or my trials because all of it, the good, the bad, the heartache, the joy, the learning and teaching, has brought me to this beautiful place.

A place where I am loved, I have lots of people that I love and I am surrounded by those that I so love being with. When it all comes down, all of these people and experiences have brought me to where I am today. And that, is a very good place to be.
So farewell beach until I catch up with you on the other side of the world in Oceanside, California this summer. Where I will be once again reunited with not only the beach and relaxation but this wonderful brother and his family that I love and miss so much. You are loved, JD, and as much as I love the ocean and being in paradise, I miss you more. Saying goodbye to you was so much harder than the vacation being over. I love you and miss you, though I do not tell you that enough.
Thanks, Dad and Bonnie for an amazing trip. It is one I will always cherish, hold close to my heart. I know that in the years to come, these pictures and memories will take me back to the time when we were all together, laughing, playing and enjoying each and every moment that we were blessed to all be together! I have to think, no firmly believe, that my mom was on this trip with us. This would have been her dream. All of us together, playing and enjoying each other and the love that we share. Knowing her, I am sure that she was right in the middle of all of her grandkids, running, laughing and jumping the waves. Her loves in life, my dad, us kids, her grand kids and the ocean. I have to think this was a vacation of a lifetime for her, too.

Deal or No Deal-Norwegian Style

Jake was picked to play Deal or No Deal on the cruise. Look at all the support he had. That is one long row of Simonton's. We all came out to encourage and cheer him on.
Jake had great luck and sold his case for $235 cash. Fantastic, he thought, until he opened his case and he had the $1000 in it. He was a little bummed.
This is Jake headed back up to the group of us and JD, Josh and Dad all telling him what he should have done. He said that he just didn't want to make a fool out of himself, so he sold it to make some and not look foolish or greedy. OOPS. He looks like he is going to pull out his hair.
It was a lot of fun yelling and screaming for Jake and encouraging him on. His girls absolutely loved it!

St. Thomas

When we got to St. Thomas, we split up and went on different excursions. My dad gave Thomas an excursion with most of the adults and older grand kids to ride scooters on the ocean floor. According to Thomas, it was the coolest experience ever. I guess they put scuba gear on and then go ride the scooter, seeing all types of animal life and plants at the bottom of the ocean. He loved every minute of it.

Meanwhile, Jake, Jodi, Troy, Steph and I headed out with all the kiddos 10 years old and younger to go snorkeling with sea turtles. I was so excited for Hayden to do this after Thomas and I swam with them in Hawaii.

We loved the boat ride out. I love the breeze in my face and the sun beating down. I love the up and down as the boat glides across the water. I love it all. Kiley was in heaven that she was able to spend her 9th birthday snorkeling in St. Thomas. What a way to spend your birthday. I love this cute picture of her and her dad. Kiley is such a daddy's girl.
Hayden sure loved his new sunglasses that he bought for the cruise and used them any chance he got.
I love any chance I get to spend time with my sister. She is amazing and simply my best friend.
Kiley, Katelyn, Jake, Bryson and Hayden all taking in the magnificent boat ride out to the sea turtles.
Bryson and Hayden were so cute with their snorkel gear on. They were big talk about how brave they were and how many fish they were going to see.
That is until.... the guide told the kids not to touch the black spines because you will end up in the hospital for a month. And, if you touch some porcupine fish then you will have to be pee'd on, and not to do this and that or touch this or that. Their faces and attitudes went from bravery and excitement to sheer terror....
After much convincing, we were able to get all the kids into the water, one by one. Jake went in first, swung Kiley, Katelyn, Bryson, Brigham, Brooklyn and then Hayden into the water. Jodi and Troy got in and I headed down next. When I hit the water, I felt as if I stopped breathing. As I started gasping for air, Hayden screams, "My mom. She is having a seizure." as he panicked. This all while, all of the kids, minus Katelyn are crying. As I climbed back on the boat, Hayden, Brooklyn, Brigham, Kiley and Bryson all came right back up with me. Only Katelyn stayed out with Jake and Braden with Stephanie.
Yep, me and the kids all sat back on the boat trying to "snorkel" from the boat as they called it. We did see a sea turtle, a dolphin and some fish. Probably as much as if we were in the ocean. Note to ourselves, our 5 to 10 year olds are not ready to be die hard snorkelers or scuba divers. They are land bodies. They love the boat ride and are a little intimidated by the wildlife in the ocean. And, you can probably guess our conversations the entire time we were there.... Do you think anyone got bit by a shark? Do you think someone is going to the hospital because they touched the black spine fish? Am I going to have to pee on anyone? Do you think someone is going to go missing at sea?
After the captain, nicely asked if I could MAKE the kids quit crying, I laughed and said apparently you don't have any children yourself because I haven't figured out how to MAKE any of them do or not do anything. I did suggest that if he would open the galley and snack bar that I would buy them all Sprite's and skittles and that was a guarantee to stop the crying.

All in all we had a great day on the boat, loving the breeze, being together and laughing at our high hopes for this incredible adventure that was fun, was an adventure for sure, but definitely NOT the one we had planned.

Lest I forget, after the snorkeling, we headed downtown and found the best purses and wallets. I love my Prada backpack and Coach purse. Love them. Hayden purchased his little trinkets and then met Thomas in the marketplace. We absolutely loved our time on St. Thomas.

Hanging Out Cruisin'

Jodi had a brilliant idea the first day on the boat. If any of us were eating, we would head to the very front of the boat, where less people were. We always seemed to gather there, eat, talk, eat, laugh, eat ice cream cones, kids play, more ice cream, talking and then deciding where to head next. We could go there almost any time and run into someone that was eating or at least having ice cream.
Each morning, the kids all sat together and the adults did. We had a great time and the cousins all loved the freedom they had.
Like I said, we never went very long without some ice cream.
Hanging out waiting for the talent show that Coby danced in, Kaylee did gymnastics in and the others all performed afterwards just goofing off. They did a great job!
Making our own pizzas. There were fun family activities and Hayden, Bryson, Coby and Tanner loved decorating their own perfect cheese pizza.
Hayden sure loves his Batman headphones. It would take some of the noise out of the room and he was so darn attached to his I-touch. He loved it!
Me and the boys making pizzas. Sure love these boys. I tried to soak in any minute I could get with them. I sure miss them when they are in Minnesota.
I guess the Dad liked pizza making, too! Thomas and JD were among the boys making their own pizzas.
We sure loved going to dinner every night. We loved the shows. We loved the kids club. We loved talking and hanging out together and with the entire gang. We honestly loved everything about this cruise.
My sweet sister and adorable niece. Oh how I love these two.
Suzi, JD, Thomas, Jake and I had to get in a few rounds of cards. Absolutely a neccesity.
We loved the great skits, plays and entertainment. Too fun. In order for something to be a hit, they just needed our group to show up.
Of course, the I-pad, I-touches, Nintendo 3DS and any other electronic were definitely utilized in the waiting and down times. The boys loved them and loved playing video games together.
They even got Grandpa in on the action, showing him the latest apps and what the best games were.
My Coby! Oh, how I love my sweet Coby! He and I have had a connection since he was little. He wasn't wanting to smile but what could he do? He loves his Aunt Jer so much? He couldn't resist. This picture makes me miss him so much! I think this one was really supposed to be mine. What a doll!
What can I say? This one is mine. He is my joy. He is my life. He makes me smile in all situations. I love experiencing the world through his eyes, his joy, his laughter and his smile! Having him with us made all the difference! I LOVED every minute with him.
What a fabulous time we had just hanging out on the cruise ship!

St. Maarten, Caribbean

We were so excited to get to go the the crystal clear beaches in St. Maarten. We were all headed to one of the local beaches. Of course, we had to stop for a few pictures with our cruise ship along the way.
Jer, Brinley, Suzi and Steph
Tanner, Brigham and Brinley and Hayden playing in the waves.
Thomas and Hayden on the gorgeous beach.
The three of us loving the weather, the ocean, the rhythm of the waves and the sound of the kids laughing and having the best day.
The waves were gorgeous, the kids had so much fun, the weather was the exact mix of sun, breezes and warmth. It was definitely a day in Paradise.
Jodi and Brigham - headed out to Boogie Board. That kid is going to be a serious surfer someday, he is already so good.
Jake with all the girls.
Hayden in that crystal turquoise blue water that was warm. He loved it!
Hayden, Bryson and Braden had so much fun together. Of course, Hayden will follow Kaylee anywhere, oh how he admires and looks up to her. They did great with their boogie boards and the waves.
I absolutely love this smile on Hayden's face. It is his I'm so happy and in a complete state of joy, face. I love how much fun he had.
We relaxed on lounge chairs, under umbrellas, right at the edge of the water. Better yet, waiters from the restaurant came out to the beach, took our orders and brought the food back to us. We talked, slept, relaxed, read, took in the sun, took in the laughter of the kids, relished in the beauty and enjoyed every single minute on that beach. Definitely one of the best moments of my life. My family was all together, in the Caribbean, playing on the beach and everyone was smiling. It was better than a great day, it was simply heaven on earth.


Is it possible to go on a cruise ship and not play at least one game of Bingo? For Thomas, absolutely not. He loves it, is so optimistic and always has high hopes that we will be the winners of the next free cruise. I smile, I laugh and enjoy one round of bingo with him. I think he really is disappointed when he doesn't win and was convinced that we had the winning ticket.
What I loved most about Bingo? Hayden. He was tired, worn out and only wanted his mom. Thomas played bingo and Hayden spent most of his time, like this, looking down at the numbers. It was fun playing with all of us, but we all basically spent money for an hour together, listening to funny bingo jokes and watching all the nieces and nephews get so excited that they were going to win the jackpot. I smiled, loved seeing the hope and anticipation on Thomas' face, especially when we were only one away.
All the while I was getting lots of cuddles from my nine year old. Sheer heaven! I hope he never gets too old for his mom. Cause he makes me feel like a million bucks!

Just Us

Not the best picture, but I sure love Hayden's face in it. He came up behind me, hugged me and told me how much he loved us all spending time together. I loved every minute with my entire family but looking back, some of my most tender and rememberable moments were just the three of us in the room, talking at night, getting ready in the morning or relaxing between events. I am so lucky that I am this sweet boy's mom and I feel so blessed to be this incredible man's wife. These two are my absolute world and I am thankful for every minute we get to spend together whether playing, touring the world, or laying in bed at home or on a cruise ship, talking, laughing and giggling.
I feel like the most loved person in the world with these two by my side. Thomas treats me like a queen and he is raising Hayden to do the same. They both love to take care of me and I am so grateful for them! Let us not forget the time sitting out on the balcony talking. It was sheer heaven with the beautiful breeze, bright blue ocean, occasional bird or dolphin and not a care in the world... just the three of us enjoying and being there in that moment.