The first leg of our trip took us to Gulf Shores, Alabama, where we stayed for two nights with our dear friends and their children. 10 kids and 4 adults in a three-bedroom condo- and yet I felt like we could have fit another person or two pretty easily! I think this might have been Caeli's first time to really experience the ocean. We all enjoyed lots of sand and sun, empty beaches, fishing, and late-night conversations.
I have so many photos, so I'll keep the words to a minimum! I want to share what I am thankful for during this part of the trip!
Glee-filled baby smiles of her first real romp in the water!
Sugar sand and water as clear as the sky.
My sweet little family, posing impatiently because of all the play that's left to be had.
Friends that hold a special place in our hearts, friends whom we deeply cherish.
The gift of a true, deep friendship that allows us to ponder in our hearts the meaning of this life. The value of our children and the importance of family, the sharing of a community that not only introduces new experiences, but creates memories that will last forever.
So many people, watching out for each other. Wading in the still water, waiting for a bite.
And success again!
Someone is thankful for her pacifier and a bit of quiet time in the sand.
I'm thankful to have been standing next to him in a quick moment of terror, thankful that a quick pinch is all he felt. That the sting ray left me alone so I could aide him.
The ray that stung Luke? We'll never know.
Sweet children whose friendships know no age boundaries. True friendships that I pray will last a lifetime.
Beach time naps for sleepy girls.
The summoning of gulls.
This man, my life, my husband. Another chance to stick our toes in the sand together.
My sweet baby, almost 21 months. Her tanned, beautiful skin. Exhausted by sun, sand, and water.
The chance to make up new games, make new memories.
A beautiful sunset that you just wouldn't believe, and children's silhouettes even more beautiful.
The chance to take the intentions of family, friends, and followers to Jesus and beg
Him for answers to your prayers.
The next leg of our trip took us to a tiny town in North Carolina, where my mother played an excellent hostess and put all fourteen of us up for a few short hours. Ryan and I dread the interstate between Mobile and Montgomery, but coming up to Atlanta always feels like a bit of a landmark on the drive. We shared children amongst the vehicles; we took two of theirs and they took two of ours. It made the drive so simple when they each had a new face to look at. Luke and Fina made silly faces at each other for at least an hour!
After a day filled with traveling, we managed to stay up late chatting, wake up relatively early, and hit the road again. This time, we split up- they went a little northwest and we went a little northeast. Our destination was the northwest tip of Delaware, and the drive was beautiful.
We arrived to happy cousins a little after dinnertime, drank wine and gobbled up dinner, found legos to play with, and eventually went to bed.
The next morning was Wednesday. Back in the car again, but this time just Ryan and me! Our two-hour trip took felt like nothing as we drove into Washington DC to attend holy mass with our Holy Father, Pope Francis. That day, he canonized Saint Junipero Serra, founder of many of the missions in California. We met our friends, drove into town together, and hopped on a charted bus that took us to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. (Ryan and I had been here once before, when Beth and Luke were little in 2009.) We had tickets to a standing-room area, which was a blessing in disguise! We didn't realize Pope Francis would drive on the street in his pope-mobile, so once we realized what was happening I encouraged Ryan to run to see him while I held our standing-room area. He was able to be caught up in the moment of all the people, got some great pictures, then ran back to me to hold our spot! The mass was completely in Spanish, though I was able to mostly see the screens to see the translation of his homily.
Our view during mass wasn't fantastic, but I did enjoy being by the full orchestra and the several choirs that were there. We were also standing right behind one of the cameras that filmed mass, and that was very distracting yet intriguing for me to watch! Before mass started, we talked to the man who moved the camera arm around, and he told us a little about how they filmed. It reminded me of when I went to Rome in 1998 and we found a Swiss Guard who would chat with us about some of the behind-the-scenes stuff. I also noticed the security around the top of the dome. I love it!
Toward the end of mass, would you believe we ran into someone we knew? Of the 25,000 people there, I turned around and was face-to-face with a friend's sister and her husband. This world is small!
After mass was over, we took our bus back to the hotel. We had been offered the chance to purchase tickets to a bishop's reception after mass, which included over 200 bishops and cardinals who were ready to unwind after a busy day! I had snuck off to the bathroom and when I came out, I walked into a hallway flooded with bishops and cardinals. I was a little overwhelmed and starstruck so I just stood there for a minute and soaked it all in.
I walked back to find our group and I realized I recognized a bishop- it was Bishop Mike Sis, my beloved pastor from St. Mary's in College Station! I skipped up to him and gave him a big hug, which I realized later might have been completely inappropriate! We sat by him during the reception and had the chance to chat and catch up a bit, and it was such an honor and pleasure to speak with him.
That night, we stayed up late (again) then crashed on a blow-up mattress on the floor of our generous hosts. We left by 9 the next morning to drive back to Delaware- and I'll post more photos of that portion of the trip soon!