The Henricks family has successfully taken another vacation. We just returned from a weeks vacation in North Carolina. Our trip was full of so much fun. The memories are just beginning to imprint themselves on my mental family vacation album. We went to North Carolina to visit Patrick's dear parents. They live in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains, so we got to have many experiences and view many wondrous things that are unique to the area that they live in. Because we flew into Atlanta (and also because Patrick is a master trip planner) we enjoyed a day at the Georgia Aquarium. It was absolutely spectacular! We saw sharks, whales, Nemo and Dory and even were allowed to pet a stingray. Atlanta is the home of Coca-cola, therefore, I could not find a Diet Pepsi to save my soul. However, it was a sacrifice worth making to visit this world famous aquarium as well as play in the fountain located at the popular Olympic Park. When we were dried off and changed, we settled into the rental car with movies and I-pods (thanks to Grandma Oman for the one for Meredith!) to keep us entertained on the long drive from Georgia to North Carolina. Along the way, we were re-introduced to the curvy roads and the beautiful landscape of this area of the country. When we pulled into the long driveway leading up to Grandma and Grandpop's house, our tummies were relieved and we were so excited to finally get there! The train that runs below their property greeted us right away, welcoming us back, wondering when we would make our way to the tracks to lay down our pennies to be flattened by it's enormous wheels. One of the things that we did over and over was play in the river. The "French Broad" is the river that is below my in-laws house, and it's powerful beauty is breathtaking. We logged many hours of memory-making in this river, both at this location and another where we paddled our selves downstream on a raft. When we weren't playing in the river, we were swinging on the rope swing that the kids and Daddy hung a few years ago when we visited. The kids' legs were all a little bit longer and they wanted to be pushed a little higher than they did the year the swing was built. Marky could even "self launch" as she called it. We stayed in a cabin that is just below Grandpop and Grandma's house, allowing for us to make our mess without disturbing Grandma's peaceful world too much. The cabin gave us the space to spread out, to play a little louder and stay up a little later than we normally would. The cabin blissfully had the Disney channel, thus the songs of Hannah Montana and the Jonas' Brothers filled the cabin long past our normal bedtime hour. It wasn't unusual for all of us to sleep late the next morning - it was truly vacation! One day, Patrick planned for us to take a raft trip on the French Broad river. I was skeptical at first, not really knowing if the kids could handle or would enjoy such an adventure. However, once our raft hit the water, all of my worries were put to rest. The kids had so much fun!! The night before we went, Meredith asked Daddy, "Who's going to row our boat?" and balked only slightly at him when he announced... "We are!" The kids proved to be up for the task of rowing, not really clear on what they were getting themselves into, and each one of them added their own personality to the trip. Maddie provided laughter and provoked Mommy to impatience, Marky paddled excellently and was characteristically hardworking and helpful, Meredith took a 2 hour nap under an umbrella while the rest of the family did her share of the rowing, and Michael just wanted to bounce on the raft and turned his paddle into a "shoot gun". (side note: this week Michael perfected all of his shooting noises - his repertoire is extensive now. He is ALL boy - bang bang!) Aside from the 2 little downpours of rain and the lack of a "real potty" for Meredith, the river trip was spectacular. I am so thankful that Patrick didn't listen to my apprehensions about it. Another highlight of the vacation was taking a day trip to South Carolina to visit where Patrick grew up. We were even able to traipse around on the farm that he lived on. I could see glimpses of joy on Patrick's face as he recalled days of his childhood - exploring in the woods, swimming in the creek, enjoying nature - all fostering his love for the outdoors and his appreciation of all things adventurous. This place really shaped the person that Patrick is. As he and his dad talked about yester-year I could almost hear he and his brothers as little boys whoopin' and hollerin' around the farm, imagining his mom wondering what to make for dinner and how to keep their messes under control. A life so parallel to mine, just many years earlier. A special treat for all of us that evening was time spent with a few of Patrick's friends and their families. We met at his friend Brad's house and had a cookout. I think there were about 15 kids there and as kids do, they all became friends quickly and eternally. Michael developed a crush on a sweet 16 year old named Jody, the daughter of Patrick's long time friend Russell. A crush very similar to the one that Jody has had on Patrick for years!! How cute it was! The girls became BFFs with several of the other girls there and we even had tears upon leaving. That evening was definitely one of the best memories of our vacation. After our roadtrips to Asheville and South Carolina, the kids (and me!) were ready to hide the keys to the rental car so we didn't have to go anywhere, and they spent the remaining 2 days re-visiting the swing, the river and the Disney channel. As we packed up and made our last double checks under beds and couches, I could sense the sadness at leaving our peaceful mountain home and our wonderful grandparents. We are so blessed to live near one set of grandparents and we knew that it was going to be hard to say goodbye to the other set. I saw the pages closing on this chapter of our summer, wondering how the time in North Carolina had gone so quickly. I could feel the fast approaching days of the school year crowding out the time we had left in our summer. Goodbye was inevitable and we waved farewell to the cabin, to Grandpop and Grandma, to curvy roads that made our tummys ache, to late nights and lazy mornings, to unscheduled days, to little minnows and caterpillar friends, to "Hannah Montana" and the "Wizards of Waverly Place" (our new favorite show!). We left these things behind knowing that we will visit again, and when we do we will add even more memories of North Carolina to the ones that we made this week. As we made our way to the Atlanta airport, I got the calendar out and started planning for the upcoming weeks filled with things such as school shopping and back-to-school nights. I'm actually looking forward to the routine that school brings. That routine makes us appreciate vacation days even more when a schedule is the furthest thing from our minds. Now that we are back home, we are cherishing the last week of summer. We have plans made for the pool and maybe a few play dates. And as we look at the pictures from our vacation, we are so thankful that we had this time together. It was everything we wanted it to be and more.