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woo woooooooo

As I am entering my final vacation week before heading back out to sea, so many things have happened, and I have some new exciting news to send your way. I did not expect to be on vacation this long, but I am loving every extra minute I have had to spend with friends and family!
Immediately after landing on the mainland, my mom and I headed out for a mother daughter getaway. Our destination was The Chateau on the Lake in Branson, Missouri. Within twenty-four hours I had gone from a ocean and mountain view to a lake and hill view. While some would see that as a downgrade, you must keep in mind that I left my dark inside room for a room with a balcony! Yep, that is right, fresh air flowing through my room! We met up with Mark, Jonathan, Christian and Taylor for lunch, and went to their show that evening. I promise my mom really was there. She is just the anti-picture type. It is like a preacher's kid that is known for rebelling. The photographer's mom refuses to be in photos.
The next day we got to see one of the shows Mark is producing. In the parking lot we found these signs. Only in Branson, Missouri do handicap bald headed people get to park closer to the entrance than the average handicap person. Maybe it is so they will have less sun exposure so their heads don't get burnt!

We got home and got pampered so that we could turn right around and head out to the Richmond/Reagan wedding! Mom and I spent the day at the spa sprucing ourselves up from head to toe. Then it was off to Marion, Kansas.
Erin and Corbin had a day that was absolutely perfect. The weather was great. The sky full of puffy clouds to shade us from the sun. The setting was beautiful, and the bride, well she was the prettiest of all. It was like something you would picture in a magazine, and I am so glad I got to be a part of it. Even better, I got catch up with some of my favorite friends during the festivities. They sealed the deal, and we ate, danced, and learned more than we ever wanted to know about sugar gliders! (Now that is a story I don't have time to type about, but feel free to ask. It is a doozy!) Oh, and did I mention our bridesmaids dresses had pockets?!? I told you... it was perfect!
 Next stop on the non-stop vacation train was a visit to see a five year old obsession of mine! I was jumping for joy, and the twins were too when I rolled into town. We went to Silver Dollar City to see the dog show, get drenched on the Lost River, and brave Fire-In-The-Hole.
The next few days were full of sister time, Just Dance competitions, giggle fits, and a father-daughter trip to Roaring River. We had a picnic on the river, went on a hike, fed the fish, and enjoyed the scenery. Thank goodness for the nice breeze and good weather. 
I took off and headed out for a reunion with a few good men, Vegas style! I was on a mission to explore a city I had never been to and hang out with my buds. They were on a mission to convince me to move there with them. I think we both accomplished our goals.
In spite of Patrick's apprehension and fear of heights, we convinced him to walk across the bridge at Hoover dam with us. We walked from Nevada to Arizona and back, and we live to tell about it! Plus, we got a great view of the dam below, then headed down to see it up close!
From the dam, the bridge looked so high, and so far away. I already know what you are thinking, and the answer is yes, we told every dam joke we could think of. Can you blame us? Patrick and I love puns, so we could not resist!
While Scott is away, Patrick and Melissa will play. We did just that while Scott worked one day. We heard there was a Las Vegas Zoo, so we decided to check it out. It was the best and worst zoo experience ever! As we drove into a fairly unsafe part of Vegas, Patrick decided that maybe this zoo excursion was a bad idea. I reassured him that the Kansas City Zoo is in one of the scariest parts of Kansas City and it is a beautiful zoo. With that being said I persuaded him to continue on, little did I know what we were getting ourselves into! The zoo felt more like a prison, and the extreme Las Vegas heat forced many of the animals to hide. The only animals visible to us were a few birds. The ostrich was so big that we couldn't miss it, and the peacocks did not have a cage and roamed freely. It was awful. We couldn't help but laugh at the situation. I was worth going just to say we went. After visiting the zoo we did a little research online and found review after review of people that had the same experience as us!

Sarah W. said "what makes this place most depressing is the ironic fact that Siegfried and Roy's estate is right down the street -- less than a mile away, white lions, tigers and panthers are lounging in custom-habitat luxury, while here at Auschwitz Zoo their poor unlucky cousins are languishing in sun-baked exile."

Bonnie H. said "We seriously thought this was an elaborate prank."

Ann P. said "go see this zoo. It's not the best zoo around, ok maybe it's the worst zoo around, BUT... they clearly need your entrance fee to support their non-profit-ness... don't wear your best shoes."

After reading the reviews and seeing it for ourselves, Patrick and I agree with Ann P. We will return, and we will take friends too. They need money to help these poor little guys. So beware, if you come to Vegas, there is a good chance we will make you see this joke of a zoo for yourself.
The next few days were full of good shows, good food, and good fun. I got to see Patrick perform one night, and checked out what all the strip had to offer. Patrick and I went to the Monsters University premier. It is so wonderful to have a friend that appreciates animated films like I do! One night, while Patrick was working, Scott and I raced home. He beat me and proceeded to lock me out of the apartment. A little while later the door opened a crack, Scott set food and water outside and relocked the door! What a jerk! (I promised Scott I would not lead people to believe he is a nice person in this post. I wouldn't want to ruin his reputation.) I can't wait to head back after this contract to continue more adventures.
I had heard a rumor that the Iowa state capitol building was home to an awesome spiral staircase. Of course, I had to see it to believe it. The day I returned from Las Vegas, I hopped in the car and headed north. Michael, his roommate Brandon, and I went to the capitol to scope things out. We took the free tour and were so glad we did. Not only did we get to see the library staircase, our tour gave us tons of interesting facts, took us to the top of the gold dome, and even allowed us to vote in the Iowa house of representatives! Plus, for taking the tour, we were each given a complimentary temporary tattoo of the building. Well played Iowa, I approve!
After our guided tour, we went on our own walking tour of the city to see what Des Moines had to offer. I really fell in love with the little big town. Turns out, I am not the only one. Just this week the Kansas City Star wrote an awesome article about how fun and interesting Des Moines really is. In the city's east village, the sidewalks are painted near manhole covers encouraging ninja turtles to apply within! We soaked in all Des Moines had to offer, then went back to meet Amanda as she rolled into town.
Our night out on the town brought an early morning the next day. Amanda and I packed our bags and went out to the car to find it had been towed! Apparently we had parked in a private lot. We tracked down the car, then went to visit the National Balloon Museum. You better believe we bought the t-shirts to commemorate all the new hot air balloon facts we acquired.
That weekend marked two of my favorite holidays, 4th of July, and the ever important July 6th... my birthday! Amanda and I kicked off the 4th in a "suite" way. We got to go to the Royals game and watch them win while relaxing in the luxury of the triple crown suites! Gardner lake was our next stop, my parents hosted a shrimp boil while the boat parade passed on the lake, and my cousins launched all the fireworks a little pyro's heart could desire. The food was good, the sunset was great, and the company was even better. I always like to think that the fireworks are just a fancy way of ringing in the next couple days of birthday celebration.
For the big day we loaded an SUV with an air mattress, blankets, drinks and snacks. We drove over to the drive-in theater, and watched Despicable Me 2 in an ultra comfortable, sugar-filled oasis. Amanda then gave me my birthday present, or maybe I should say presents. She showered me with 15 gifts to represent the 15 years we have been friends. Many of them had me laughing at the hilarious memories we share. I am so blessed to have an awesome friend like her.

So why the extra vacation days? Well, I have taken a different opportunity. Yes, I am still going to Europe, I am just going to visit some other ships first. I will be going to each ship that currently has a studio to help in the studios across the fleet. I will be able to explore Alaska and the Bahamas before heading over to the Mediterranean to open the studio there. I am so grateful for the chance I have to visit these fun ports. I am crossing my fingers that I will get to go dog mushing while I am in Alaska. 
Don't worry, I have filled these extra vacation days with tons of awesome moments. I saw the Mangold Monkeys, checked out my brother's latest real estate investment, went on a walk through Loose Park with Amanda and Meghan, and explored Union Station's Real Pirates exhibit. The best adventure of all has been my most recent one. Amanda and I have made it our mission to find all of the fountains around Kansas City. Stay tuned for a recap of our awesome expedition!


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