Usually when people use the term "elope" they're talking about running away to be married, and although Kyle and I are now almost five years past that point, we did decide a day and a half before we left that it'd be fun to take a quick road trip together to do some exploring. So in the true spirit of elopement, we packed up our car with a suitcase and Emery and took off like the young lovers do to literally one of the most "wonder"-ful places in the world - Niagara Falls!
Niagara Falls is without a doubt one of those types of places where pictures do not do it justice at all, and I think it's because one of the things that made seeing The Falls so incredible was the fact that when you're right there in front of them you're doing so much more than just looking. At any point while we were close to the waterfalls, you could see, hear, smell, and even feel the mist from the falling water on your face, and that combination of senses made it so easy to see why this place is considered one of the great wonders of the world.
One thing that surprised me about Niagara Falls was that outside of the actual waterfall area, the National Park itself is fairly small. Being from Utah, I think when I heard the term "national park" I was expecting something along the size of the Grand Canyon, and totally overpacked us with hiking gear and supplies for the experience. It turned out that Niagara Falls State Park is actually more of a little city (they even have their own downtown area right outside the park), the entire park is sidewalk paved, and with the exception of one hike that ended up being closed when we were visiting (Cave of the Winds I think?), you can take a stroller or wheelchair literally anywhere in the park without any problem. It ended up being the perfect spot to take a super high energy toddler, and honestly felt like a family stroll through a regular park with the exception of the incredible waterfalls right next to us for enjoying the entire time.
Kyle and I agreed that our favorite part of the Niagara Falls experience was the "Maid of the Mist" boat tour. It's a little pricey (about $20 a person - kids under 5 are free though) but was SO worth it for the experience of getting that close to the falls, and actual entry into the state park is free so we figured if there was an activity to splurge on that this would be it. Kyle snapped a picture of one of the boat tours before ours (above) to try and show how close the boat takes you up to the falls, and once we were actually down on the boat it took us even closer than we'd originally thought, easily making this the highlight of our trip!
Every time our family takes one of these last minute trips together, it always goes down in the books as an experience to remember. More than anything I love the memories that we're all making together, and doing it in neat places like this is just sprinkles on top of the cake. It was really weird thinking that this last May break will literally be the last one that we'll have in our dental school journey, and sending off this last graduating class has me feeling incredibly nostalgic. We've got one more year of dental school before we're officially through with the "student life", and intend to enjoy it to it's fullest extent before moving on to our next adventure!
In my 28 years of living and 24(ish?) years of living as a sort of "student", up until this year I'd never experienced a spring break vacation. Between work schedules, being overly pregnant with Em, and Kyle's heavy school loads these past few years, spring break always felt more as a week to catch up on to-do's and chores instead of a chance to escape real life for a week and explore. Now that we're FINALLY on the downhill with Kyle's schooling, we felt like this was the year that we needed to get out and have the Spring Break that we've always talked about. We didn't really have anywhere specific that we wanted to visit, but both thought that it would be fun to go somewhere that we'd never been before, and because Kentucky has been really late with any actual Spring type of weather, we wanted to go somewhere warm. The week of Kyle's break also happened to be the exact same week that the entire east coast got hit with a HUGE cold snap/winter weather, so we looked at a map, booked an Airbnb, and drove literally as far south as we could until we couldn't anymore, finding ourselves in Mobile, Alabama!
If I'm being honest, Alabama had never really been on our radar for places to visit, but after making the trip we were so glad that we decided to take a chance on it! An old friend of mine that had lived there for a few years was able to give us a ton of great suggestions as to what to see and do, and we found once we were there that we were able to find activities that fit all of our different interests and see some really neat things! To satisfy Kyle's enthusiasm for U.S. history we went to see the USS Alabama. For those like me that need a quick lesson as to why this is a good place to visit, the USS Alabama is a gigantic battleship that was used in WWII, and is one of Mobile's biggest spots for tourists. We had the chance to actually go onto and inside of the ship, and it was absolutely crazy to walk around the ship and see how the soldiers lived while on it! Inside of the ship they even had a few of the United States flags that were on the ship during some of the influential battles, and it was a humbling experience to see and experience something that was such a big part of our nations (and the world's) history.
In an effort to soak up as much of a Spring feel as possible from our trip, we also made a stop at the Bellingrath Gardens & Home. These gardens basically consisted of over 65 acres and about a 2 mile walk through constant gorgeous greenery and flowers. They had a rose garden, a conservatory, a bayou boardwalk, Asian-American gardens, and tons of gorgeous fountains and other breathtaking landscaping throughout the entire walk. Kyle and I agreed that the entire walk really just felt good for the soul, and Emery had a blast running throughout the trail looking at and trying to touch alllllll of the "fow-ers". 😉
While in Mobile, we knew that we were going to be close to the ocean, but what we didn't realize was that the ocean we were closest to happened to be one of the MOST gorgeous perfect beaches and oceans that we'd ever seen before in our lives. We spent an entire day in Pensacola, Florida on the beach (it was only about an hour drive from our bnb) with some dental school friends that were also spring breaking down south and now I'm convinced that Florida beaches will be somewhere that we regularly take our family to vacation. The beach was nowhere near to being crowded so there was plenty of space for Em and her friends to run around and play, the water was blue and not too cold, the sand was white and sooo soft, and there was a perfect breeze all day that kept us from getting too hot, and made all of our clothes from that day smell like the ocean. There was also a darling little boardwalk filled with seafood restaurants that we stopped to eat at, and even though I can't personally speak to the seafood, everyone that tried it definitely approved! Kyle and I also realized that by visiting this specific area, we've now seen/been in all of the great bodies of water surrounding the states (Atlantic, Pacific, Great Lakes, and the Gulf) so that was a neat thing to experience as well!
This was our first family vacation with Emery as a fully mobile toddler (in South Carolina she'd barely learned how to walk a week before we'd gone) and I knew that she'd want to walk EVERYWHERE that we went, so before we left I did something that I swore I'd never do as a parent and bought her a little toddler backpack with a safety strap in the front and a leash in the back. Seriously the best. decision. EVER. With the exception of the beach Emery had that backpack on her everywhere that we went, and it gave me such a huge peace of mind knowing that she could walk and feel free to explore but would also always be literally within my reach. She also loved having her own backpack like "mommy's", and would carry her water bottle and snacks in it while we were out and about, clearing up a little more space in my diaper bag for other things. If there was one learning experience from this trip, it was to never judge an item until I've actually had a chance to use it, because that backpack is now one of my favorite baby items that we own and will definitely be joining us on future zoo days, trips, and flights!
(side note: this isn't sponsored and I paid for the backpack with my own money, but I had quite a few ask which specific backpack we got for Em so you could get one for your little - her's is the Skip Hop Zoo Little Kid & Toddler Safety Harness Backpack in Otis Owl. For the sake of free one-day shipping I got Em's off of Amazon, but Target & SkipHop carry them online as well)
This trip was SUCH a hard one to come home after, partially because we came home to several inches of snow (which literally never happens in Kentucky, especially in March 🙄) but also because it was such a great opportunity for the three of us to escape all the craziness of dental school life and just focus solely on each other. From watching Emery explore, talking with Kyle during the car rides, eating too much ice cream, seeing new sights and everything in between, I found myself going to bed each night just feeling so much gratitude and love for Kyle and Emery and the memories that we were making together. Visiting new places is always enjoyable, but doing it with my two favorite people makes for the greatest of adventures.
I've always been more of the sentimental/nostalgic type, and becoming a parent has magnified those specific traits of mine tenfold. Emery hit her 18 month mark on Christmas Day a few weeks ago, and it made me a little sad realizing that she's now fully into her toddler stage of life, and that this is the last "monthly" age mark that I'd be able to document without sounding like too much of a weirdo. So before time slips away from me anymore, I'm going to take a second to slow down and reflect on my sweet baby girl and all that she's currently doing. 💕
weight & height: 25 pounds and 33.3 inches long. She's in the 75th percentile for her weight and the 88th percentile for her height, and her doctor figures that as she grows she'll probably end up being long and lean like her parents.
current vocabulary: mama - dada - Chelsea - please (vocally + the sign for "more") - thank you (vocally + signed) - hi - bye - see you - peek a boo - breakfast - banana - blueberry - yes - no - mine - sorry - show - book - bath - dog - baby - all done (vocally + signed) - high five - bow - wow - yum - yay - again - uh oh - milk - water (vocally + signed) - bite - happy - beep - love you. ❤️ If we're remembering everything then she currently knows how to say over 30 words on her own without prompting/in the correct context, and will also say a few others (mainly colors and people's names) with prompting.
family & relationships: Emery absolutely adores Kyle and will ask for "Dada" several times a day while he's away at school, but is also my little shadow, rarely ever being found far from my side. She has also taken to calling me "Chelsea", despite all of my best efforts to get her to call me "Mama" again. 🙄 She's rarely shy and loves pretty much everyone, especially her grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, and her dental school baby/toddler friends.
energy levels: Kyle & I are convinced that Emery has somehow inherited the energy of about 16 fully grown adults, and unless she's sleeping, will spend almost all of her time, running, jumping, dancing, climbing, and trying to get into everything that she shouldn't. She doesn't love taking long naps and we're lucky if she sleeps for longer than an hour and a half most days, but she gets a solid 13 hours of sleep at night so we count our blessings and don't complain.
favorite foods to eat: Breakfast is usually Emery's favorite meal (buttermilk waffles, milk, and a banana/blueberries), but she also loves most fruits, yogurts, cheeses, and any type of cracker/graham. She's not a super picky eater, but refuses to eat raw vegetables, and will take mac & cheese over anything else if it's being offered. She's also a huge fan of peanut m&m's, and if I ever grab myself some as a snack you better believe I'll be expected to share.
favorite things to do: Aside from taking apart everything in our apartment, Emery LOVES playing pretend and is under the impression that she's a fully grown adult about 60 percent of the time. She loves playing with her kitchen and cooking food, trying to get herself dressed, talking on the phone, taking pictures, shopping (grabbing her purse and walking around the house opening and closing doors while saying "bye" to everyone), and brushing her own teeth. She also loves getting out of the house to either go outside or at least go somewhere new, and will usually cry if someone leaves for somewhere without taking her with them, even if they're leaving to their own house. 😆 She loves reading books and taking baths, and is EXTREMELY affectionate, giving hugs and kisses to everyone and everything as often as she can.
mom & dad's favorite part of this stage: Kyle loves that Emery is in a constant state of learning and that she's at a point now where if we try to teach her a new skill, she'll catch onto it fairly quickly and work it into her everyday routine. He'll always be first to jump to the task of teaching her something new, and loves whenever she does something that he considers "adultish". I love that we're currently at a point where I feel like I'm getting the perks of a sweet little baby that loves to cuddle and give kisses, and a sweet spunky toddler that finds no greater joy than following me around and keeping me company every day. Although there are days with plenty of sass and tantrums, more often than not Em is filled with so much enthusiasm and excitement for the life around her and it's contagious. I love how quickly and readily she loves, and I hope she never loses her incredible spunk for life. We sure do love this crazy, sweet girl!
(photo credit: photos by wendy g.)
Due to a sick toddler this past week, I've decided to officially throw out the first seven days of 2018 and start the New Year as of today. So to all of our friends and family out there reading this, Happy New Year! 😉 One of my favorite (albeit cliche) traditions around the New Year is to take a chance to reflect on some of our favorite moments from the past year. Last week when the rest of the world was reflecting, there was a "top nine" pictures going around the social media world that compiled a person's nine most "liked" images on Instagram into one collage for posting/sharing. I looked at my own personal "top nine", and although the memories all made me smile, I wouldn't consider them my absolute top favorite memories from the year. So in the words of another wise mama on Instagram, here's some of our real top memories from 2017, "likes be damned", because at the end of the day, they really have nothing to do with the level of joy that comes from the actual experience happening behind the picture. These are the memories that made us personally the happiest, and I hope that you'll all enjoy sharing them with us. ❤️ So without any further adieu, here's our -
Pett Family 2017 in Review
1. Kyle finished his hardest year of dental school yet, passed part one of his boards, and officially started working on real life human patients. He has worked SO hard to get to this point in his schooling, and now that he's here genuinely loves being able to work with all of his patients at school. He's officially on the "downhill" now with his schooling, and is loving the new experiences that it has to offer.
2. Chelsea made the official leap into being a full-time stay at home mom, which sadly meant having to say goodbye to the two sweet littles that I had been nannying for the past 2 1/2ish years. There are days that I miss the kiddos like crazy (I started watching them both just as tiny new babes) and I still follow their mama religiously on Instagram to see how they're growing, but I've been so grateful for the time that I've had to dedicate solely to Emery.
3. Emery grew leaps and bounds throughout the past year, and can put crawling, walking, running, jumping, talking, eating solid foods, growing enough hair to show in pictures, and breaking her first teeth (and several others) on her list of "firsts" that she's hit this year. She starts most of her mornings at 8 AM and doesn't stop moving until it's time for bed. Her energy levels are through the roof, and she's loved every second of her new found freedom through movement.
4. Kyle mastered the making of authentic Mexican tacos and horchata, and as a true lover of Mexican cuisine, has been really pleased with the results. So far he's made them for several of our friends and my family, and I'm sure will find a way to fit them into our regular meal plans.
5. Chelsea & Emery had the chance to visit family in Utah three times this year (Kyle twice), two of which were to celebrate my younger sister getting married and a new cousin being born on Kyle's side of the family. Throughout all of the visits we got to spend a lot of time with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other extended family, and as always were grateful that Emery is able to keep in good contact with her long distance family members.
6. All three of us took a chance to do some exploring around the east coast, and were able to cross Nashville (TN), Beaufort (SC), Biltmore (NC), and Savannah (GA) off of our list of places visited. We also all had the first of experiencing the Atlantic Ocean, and all agree that the warm ocean water is WAY better than any of the freezing cold Pacific that we'd seen before.
(To see the blog post with all of the pictures from our summer vacation click here)
7. Kyle & Chelsea came to the realization that baby free dates are an AMAZING thing, and have tried a lot harder to do baby sitting trades with close friends so that we could have some time to spend with each other without having to stop and deal with toddler control every 30 seconds. Because of school schedules/life it didn't happen quite as often as we'd set as a "goal", but we're still grateful for the time that we got.
8. Emery celebrated her first birthday this past June with a fruit/outdoor summer theme and since then has grown into quite the social butterfly. She LOVES all of her little baby friends back home, and sees them several times a week for playdates or errands with the mommies.
(For more pictures/details from her first birthday party, click here)
9. All three of us fully embraced the "poor dental school student" life, and had some fun with doing crazy things for free food. In April, we camped outside for just under 20 hours with friends to earn free pizza for a year from a pizza place down the street from our house (and yes I'm thoroughly sick of the pizza 8 months in 😝 ), and in July we all dressed up as cows for the sake of free Chick-fil-A.
10. All three of us more than ever have come to love and appreciate our sweet dental school community and group of friends. When times have gotten rough, it's so nice to know that we have an amazing group of friends to get through it together with. We play & explore together, cry together, and celebrate life's big events with each other, and even though I've said it before, I know that this group of amazing friends and people will be some that we'll love and appreciate long after dental school is over. ❤️
Cheers to 2018 and all of the adventures ahead.
We can't wait to see what this new year has in store for us!
Another year, another December, and yet another holiday card being sent out blog style because I procrastinated making them until a few days before Christmas. 😉 I feel like this month and year have seriously flown by, and if there's one thing I've learned since having Emery, it's that life's moments most often become memories when looked at with a perspective of JOY. Our lives are far from perfect and most days are ridiculously messy ("perks" of raising a toddler), but they're always filled with love for each other, and thanks to Emery's sweet, pure, childhood perspective, an appreciation and excitement for the little joys found in everyday life.
(a BIG thanks to my sweet friend Meg for always being willing to be on the other side of the camera when I want an updated family picture. You are a the best, and the only reason all three of us are looking at the camera in these. 😂 )
(outfit details) emery || dress + tights: baby gap | moccs: freshly picked | bow: little poppy co.
me || shirt + tights: j.crew factory | skirt + shoes: target kyle || shirt + pants: gap factory
So from our little family to yours, we want to wish everyone a wonderful Christmas filled with JOY and LOVE for each other, the season, and of course for life's little everyday memories that make life so special. We have so much love for all of you as our friends & family, and wish you all the merriest of Christmases this year spent with those you love most! ❤️
I'm Chelsea. I'm a wife, mommy, photographer, and lover of life's little adventures. Join me here to celebrate the beautiful things in people and life.