There are many reasons for which I feel blessed to have married Mike. One of those reasons is his sweet grandparents, Ken and Veloy Bollinger. From the moment we were engaged (we didn't date very long lol) they welcomed me with open arms. I hadn't had grandparents for a while and they made me feel like I was one of their own. I always know when we visit they are happy to see us and sad to let us leave. I also know they won't allow us to leave with food in our bellies.
As parents, I think it is natural to be hard on ourselves. Ken and Veloy always tell me what a great mother I am and how beautiful, smart and talented my children are. Of course, I feel that they are absolutely fabulous, but to hear if from people I greatly admire makes me feel I am doing something right.
Summer always had a special bond with Veloy. I say "had" because she passed away in November. Even now, when Ken sees Summer he tears up and says, "Oh how Veloy loved that little girl." I recall Veloy feeling to fragile to hold the boys when they were babies but when she first saw Summy she anxiously embraced her in her arms and they had an instantaneous connection.
Ken and Veloy are EXTRAORDINARY examples of selflessness and of giving of to others. This summer they generously announced they wanted to take us all (meaning over 40 people) on a cruise!!! Unfortunately we couldn't all get away at once so two cruises were proposed from which we could choose.We opted for the Christmas cruise because it was Disney and most of us with kids could get away easiest during the holidays.
30 Bollingers boarded the Disney Wonder in San Diego. Whenever another family in our group boarded it was like opening an early Christmas present. The kids all screamed and hugged and high-fived and yelled and laughed.......let's just say we were really excited to see each other. It was apparent from day one Summer was going to be the center of attention the entire cruise. Maybe it was because she is the baby of the group but the girl cousins wanted to take care of her and the boy cousins wanted to pamper her. I don't think she walked more than a few steps this trip because someone was always there to carry her. I don't blame anyone. She is a pretty darn cute little stinker.
We watched the ship sail away from the top deck and headed out for a week long adventure at sea. The celebration began right away with a "Welcome Aboard Party".
Partaaay on the big blue sea.
Days at sea can be relaxing. You aren't pressured to get on/off the ship at a certain time and you can just eat, sleep, eat, play, eat, swim, eat see shows and eat whenever you want! We spent much of the day by the pool. In fact, with so many of us, we kind of dominated the pool. Well, the hot tub at least. We also dominated the ice cream machine. Every time I saw one of the kids in our group they were holding a sugary cone of frozen goodness. I swear my kids ate at least eight ice cream cones each day we were gone! I am totally NOT kidding!
Oceanside in Manzanillo.
While it was fun experiencing life at sea, we were anxious to explore some new place on land. We got this opportunity at the port of Manzanillo. To see palm trees in December made my heart skip a beat.
I love these little girls as if they were my own little nieces. They treated Summy like she was their little sister. Aren't they all gorgeous? They are sweet too. Mike and Ted had just as much fun digging in the sand as the kids. Summer was really concerned after I buried Everett and came to his rescue. She was almost in tears! She was also in sand-LITERALLY! Good thing I love the beach and view a little girl covered head to toe in sand as a happy sight.
The coordinating swimsuits were not planned. I just think Jolynn and I have awesome taste. ;) Our kids are fortunately all great swimmers so, while we still kept a constant eye on them, they actually got to swim in and enjoy the rolling waves. Tracy, especially, is quite the little fish.
Pirates, palm trees and Puerto Vallarta. Ted and Kelley took the kids on a "genuine" pirate adventure. The toilets were covered in skulls and Summer REFUSED to go potty in them. Kelley said she kept holding it and holding it and when she couldn't hold it anymore she went in the SINK! Luckily it was #1 and not #2. I am so grateful Trace, Ev and Summy have fun, adoring grandparents. Not many people are willing to hold a little girl over a sink while she does her thing.
While the kiddies were having a piraterrific time with Grandma and Grandpa, Mike and I took to the canopies for a little zip line/repelling action. We had such an awesome time! I thought there would be stomach-dropping excitement..... it wasn't so. But, it was a fun way to swing from tree to tree while getting a great workout. We climbed 60+ft rope ladders and repelled I don't recall how many feet. The drive home was almost as much of an adventure! The rickety Unimog gave NO shelter from the wind. Short hair + wind = crazy, outrageous, tangled hair! Haha. It was worth it. We had a blast.
Day one on Cabo San Lucas.
I had gotten up early to work out and as I looked out the front windows of the ship, I about fell off the treadmill. GRAY SKIES!!! I kept thinking that it was early and everything would clear up by the time we left the ship. Unfortunately, I was dead wrong. We had payed to play at a beach resort for the day and although it was overcast we had a great time. We sat in the hot tub and shopped through town. Ironically, the resort where we played was where Mike and I stayed four years ago. Random!
Tonight was the night we had all been waiting for.......PiRaTe NiGhT!!! We donned our swashbuckling attire, unsheathed our swords and prepared for a nautical night of fun.
Our first stop was a photo shoot with good ole Capn' Jack Sparrow. With Ted dressed as Blackbeard, Sparrow felt he had met his match. Ted looked so awesome that people asked us if he was a character and if they could get a picture. Haha.
We danced and laughed late into the night. Following the festivities there was an incredible fireworks display.There is nothing quite like watching fireworks while sailing in the middle of the ocean. One thing I have learned over the years is that no one does fireworks like Disney!
Day two on Cabo San Lucas.
The weather was much better today but, unfortunately Summer and I were not. I had one of my frequent "Bennett Bowel" issues and was forced to stay near to the bathroom all day. Summer had thrown up the previous night and was still fighting a fever. Luckily by afternoon we both felt well enough to spend a couple hours poolside as we awaited the return of our guys.
Mike took the boys ashore where they were greeted with an adorable lion cub.
Not much different on Christmas Eve. Chillin' poolside and enjoying each other's company. I did, however, have some fabulous lobster for dinner. Thank you Disney!
We didn't realize until days into the voyage that Summer was SICK! She never complains and we thought the reason she was tired all the time was due to the excitement. I finally checked her temperature one day and, Yep!, she had a fever. A little ibuprofen blasted the fever but she wasn't herself for a few days. She only threw up the one time, but we could tell she was miserable. Irregardless, she didn't miss a beat. She played along all day and just CRASHED at the dinner table. :(
Christmas day was bittersweet. We were obviously excited to be together, on a beautiful ship, overlooking the expansive blue sea, celebrating the holidays with Mickey and his friends. Our hearts were fragile because Christmas day is also Veloy's birthday. Sweet Veloy who went back to her Heavenly Father just weeks before our trip. KB really wanted to celebrate her birthday with a cake so we asked what could be done. Good old Disney pulled through FABULOUSLY!!! They made us a huge cake and let us use an empty club for a party. A few words were said, many tears were shed and a LOT of cake was eaten. I am grateful we could all be together with KB on this day to remember such an amazing woman.
Disney knows how to do Christmas at sea. There was fake snow, as shown by Dagan, a Goofy, Mickey AND human Santa, gingerbread houses, tattoos......it was fun, fun, FUN! We even got a pic with Cruise Director Jimmy. For some reason Trace was really excited about it. He even got his autograph. Haha. Love that kid.
As I mentioned before, the ice cream was available 24-7, so our last night we had a pajama ice cream party in our room. Even I, someone who dislikes ice cream, partook in the festivities. The kids donned their new jammies made by Grandma Kelley.
Here are some random pics. Ev often passed out at dinner, during shows, while talking....he has a talent. The angel towel on Christmas day. Ev and his little Toy Story alien. It was his present from grandma and grandpa. Lastly, Ev got stung by SOMETHING! We aren't sure if it was a jelly fish or a sea monster, but he was itchy and in pain. Poor guy.
Time to say, "Adios". I was soooooooo sad about leaving. Not just because the ship was beautiful and we were in a warmer climate, but because I love Mike's extended family SO much! We all got along and the kids had such a great time together.....I don't know when we will ALL be together again. Some people can't wait to have a break after spending such an expansive time with family, but this trip was different. I know this sounds cheesy, but the cruise sort of made me think of what heaven will be like. We are always with our families, we can see cousins and loved ones whenever we want, the scenery is beautiful and there is always something to eat. ;) I like to think there is food in Heaven.
Thank you Grandpa Great for the most memorable vacation EVER! xoxoxo