Tag Archives: Kentucky

That is one BIG houseboat!


IMG_0607 (2)We have now been home from our Texas trip for about a week. Upon arriving home I got hit with a killer flu and was down and out for five days. Now that I have emerged from the world of the living dead it is time to wrap up the recordings of our travels with a recap of our final day on the road.

On our way back to Pennsylvania we traveled northeast through Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky, with the intended purpose of visiting the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Kentucky.

I had seen pictures and read the reviews of this amazing structure, but nothing could have prepared me for the visual impact of seeing this massive boat sitting in the middle of the Kentucky countryside.

The 511-foot-long gorgeous, timber structure was awe-inspiring from the moment we arrived.

Upon arriving we found ourselves in the middle of a massive parking lot with a shuttle station situated in the center. It is here we purchased our tickets for the Ark. From our car we could see the Ark in the distance but to get to the Ark visitors are loaded onto shuttle buses and driven a mile to get to the Ark.

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We arrived 20 minutes before opening and were among the first visitors taken into the park. Because we had to be back home by 4:00 for Gracie’s evening work shift, we only had 2 hours to explore the Ark. We made sure we arrived as early as possible to beat the crowds.

The bus dropped us off in front of the Ark, and there up close, we were able to really grasp the massive size of this ship.


The outside was beautifully landscaped and the Ark sat behind a reflective pond that created beautiful photo opportunities.

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As we neared the Ark it seemed to increase in size. Standing at the base and looking up was incredible. Pictures simply don’t do it justice!

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This life-size re-creation of Noah’s Ark, built to biblical specifications, is the largest timber framed structure in the world.  The craftsmanship is amazing and completely impressive.  It is hard to describe what you feel when you first see the Ark.  Even before stepping a foot inside I would say that this sight alone would have made the trip worthwhile:

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You just can’t fully grasp the enourmity of the task God that was placed before Noah until you are standing at the base of this structure.

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Using the dimensions given in the Bible (in Genesis), the ark is built to be a full size Noah’s ark replica.

God gave Noah the dimensions for the Ark in cubits. “And this is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it  thirty cubits.” (Genesis 6:15)

How long is a cubit?

About this long…

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The Ark was 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet high!

The Ark had the same storage capacity as about 450 standard semi-trailers. A standard livestock trailer holds about 250 sheep, so the Ark had the capacity to hold at least 120,000 sheep.

The thing was HUGE!

So what is the Ark Encounter all about?

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It is the opportunity to  walk through the decks of this replicated Ark to experience how Noah, his family, and the animals might have lived during their time on the Ark.

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The Ark Encounter helps you answer questions you have about the Noah’s ark story. How did Noah build the ark? Did he fit all the animals in the ark? What methods were used for Noah and his family to take care of all the animals? What was life like on the ark? Using Bible scriptures from the Old Testament, we got an idea of what life may have been like on the ark.

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I will say that while much of the experience was biblically sound, there was some artistic license taken in their interpretation of what Noah’s sons and their wives were like and what life on the Ark would have been like. Signs throughout the Ark explain that because of limited information given in Genesis as to the details of everyday living, creative interpretation has been taken in the recreation of many scenes.


In addition, not all who visit will agree with the science behind some of the exhibits. While I found some of the renditions not fully in line with what I  believe to be true, it did not diminish the experience for us. Overall, I found it to be an amazing experience.

Tyler loved the animals on the ark. As we walked through we enjoyed peeking in the many cages, filled with two of each animal. I loved the added touch of sounds as you passed by some of the cages. You may hear hissing to represent snakes and bears roaring.

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The visual impact from the inside was as powerful as that from the outside. My carpenter husband appreciated the sheer artistry of the woodwork within the ark. It was all so beautifully done.

“Ark Encounter is the largest timber frame structure in the world, built from standing dead timber, in part by skilled Amish craftsmen.”

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We found going to the Ark Encounter made us want to learn more about Noah and his life.


When Tyler was younger I remember him trying to explain to us what Bible story he learned about in church as we drove home one Sunday. He couldn’t remember any names or details.  He finally summed up what he learned with:  “You know, the one about the old man, with all the pets, who lived on a houseboat!”

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Well touring Noah’s “houseboat” and seeing all his “pets” made me want to go back and study the story of Noah in more depth. 🙂

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Life on the Ark would have been challenging…

Remember, it was just Noah and his family that had to feed ALL those animals! Have you ever thought about how they could have done that? The Ark Encounter gives examples of ways that all the animals may have been fed.

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The visuals of food and water storage and the logistics of how that massive task might have been accomplished was fascinating to me. That was my favorite part of the experience.

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Have you ever wondered about how Noah made sure all the animals had water to drink and their living area cleaned?

Maybe not…but the Ark Encounter answers questions of how it might have taken place. And many other questions you have not even thought of. Find out for yourself things like a possible ventilation system, jobs that needed to be done on the ark, and a possible light source! Theories are based on what is known from the Bible.

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The family friendly Ark Encounter offered interactive displays, reading, and life-like visual exhibits. We found it to be very kid friendly and engaging.

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Ever wondered what life was like on the Ark? Noah was told to build the Ark and how to do it. But, he wasn’t told how long he was going to be on it. The Ark Encounter gives examples using very detailed, life-like props!

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It was fun to walk through the living quarters and imagine ourselves in the same scenario and what life would be like on a daily basis.

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There were three floors (or decks) of exhibits  available to explore! On the first floor we learned about why God caused the flood. The second floor explored how life may have been onboard the Ark. (This was my favorite part of the Ark experience.) The third floor answered questions about  what happened when the floods receded.

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We managed to see the entire Ark in the two hours we were there without feeling as though we were rushed through any part of it. If we had a full day to explore we would have stopped to watch some of the videos playing throughout the ark and explored the grounds outside where there is a petting zoo and other fun activities, but unfortunately we had to run.

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It was an awesome thing to see. I’m glad we stopped.


The Houseboat Revisited


After months of struggling to get Gracie’s “ode to the houseboat” video uploaded I was finally successful!

In September we went on a fantastic family vacation with dear “like family” friends. We spent a week cruising Lake Cumberland (Kentucky) by houseboat. It was an amazing vacation. Gracie and Olivia artfully captured the magic of that special week using music, photography and videography.

Here is a peek at the video journal of our houseboat vacation.

(It makes me wish I could wiggle my nose or nod my head and be back. It was a perfect week!)


“Life was made for good friends and great adventure”


We are now on our way home

after an amazing week of fun, friends, and adventure on the water.

After our week of living the houseboat life on Lake Cumberland, Kentucky

it is hard to say goodbye.

The weather was perfect with temperatures in the low 80’s during the day and low 60’s at night. The lake water was still warm enough to be comfortable, feeling more like pool water than lake water.

The week was filled with special memory-making moments with friends.

Lucas and Rusty

Lucas and Rusty

Here is a final look into an amazing vacation with friends:

IMG_1780The food just kept getting better and better as the week went on, making mealtimes a time to look forward to each day.

Dinner on the patio.

Dinner on the patio.

One Molly and Tatum's dinner night they made chicken pot pies, fruit salad, cesaer salad and chocolate chip cookies for dessert.

On Molly and Tatum’s dinner night they made chicken pot pies, fruit salad, caesar salad and chocolate chip cookies for dessert.

On our final night we had shish kabobs on the grill. The kids making their shish kabobs.

On our final night we had shish kabobs on the grill. The kids enjoyed making their own shish kabobs.

They were so yummy!

They were so yummy!

The bulk of our days were spent in the water…

swimming, jumping, splashing and floating.

On our final night we camped at a beautiful, secluded cove with this trickling waterfall to climb and jump from.

On our final night we camped at a beautiful, secluded cove with this trickling waterfall to climb and jump from.

The boys tiing off the boat.

The boys tying off the boat.

The water felt wonderful and it was such a treat to be able to float away the hours of our day with nowhere to go and nothing to do. It is going to be so hard to go back to reality!

The water felt wonderful and it was such a treat to be able to float away the hours of our day with nowhere to go and nothing to do. It is going to be so hard to go back to reality!

I can't remeber the last time I had the luxury of being able to just sit and read in the middle of the day.

I can’t remember the last time I had the luxury of being able to just sit and read in the middle of the day.

Olivia, Grace, Lucas, and Rusty.

Olivia, Grace, Lucas, and Rusty.

The girls watching the boys jump from the rocks while enjoying a mid-afternoon snack. :)

The girls watching the boys jump from the rocks while enjoying a mid-afternoon snack. 🙂

Swim time also meant “bath time.” Rather than wash in the boring shower most bathing took place in the lake.

Dip, lather, rinse with a ride down the slide into the water…repeat!




DSCF2750After climbing from the lake the next stop was usually the hot tub, to warm up before drying off.


After a nighttime swim Tyler found the hot tub water extra toasty!

After a nighttime swim Tyler found the hot tub water extra toasty!

Whether working together:

IMG_2538Cruising the lake:


IMG_2560Primping together:

IMG_2689Or playing together,

this group knew how to have fun!


Craft time! Scratch art pictures.

Craft time! Scratch art pictures.

Painting river rocks..

Painting river rocks..

Beautiful wild flowers Rusty picked for his Momma...love that boy!

Beautiful wild flowers Rusty picked for his Momma…love that boy!

I loved playing Yathzee with the giant dice and laundry basket we brought from home.

I loved playing Yahtzee with the giant dice and laundry basket we brought from home.

Molly's turn to roll the dice!

Molly’s turn to roll the dice!

With all the fun we packed into our days on board,

by nightfall we slept hard.

After evenings spent watching movies, star-gazing, playing cards and board games, snacking and talking we all wandered off to our separate corners for a good night sleep.

IMG_2953DSCF2775On our final morning the kids woke with the sun for an early morning swim,

with the fog still rolling across the lake.



Four brave souls!

Then we headed back to Beaver Creek Marina, where we packed, unloaded the boat,


Tyler helping the marina employee run loads of our gear back up to the van.

and cleaned up the last of the evidence that we were there. 🙂


Just about ready to leave…

IMG_2979Good-bye, Kentucky. We had a wonderful time!


Cast Away Your Troubles


“A bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work”

IMG_1723That is what we kept telling ourselves this week.

IMG_1917The upside of fishing on Cumberland Lake is that it was much better  fishing then the fishing we experienced last time

on Lake Sutton, WV.

IMG_2463But it didn’t quite measure up to the fishing they imagined in their daydreams.

IMG_2436Instead of large stripers,

blue gills were the catch of the week.

IMG_1849They also caught some bass and spotted a carp or two.

IMG_2120While the fishing was a bit of a disappointment for the dads, the kids had no complaints,


IMG_2204especially Tyler who spent most of his waking moments with a fishing pole in hand.

IMG_1854They only thing Tyler likes as well as a football in hand is a fishing line in the water.

IMG_2429And there is no one he’d rather have fishing by his side than his Daddy.

IMG_2418While the fish may have been small, the memories made were huge!

IMG_1848“There’s always time for one more cast”

“Loot, Plunder, Pillage, and Play”


“Now and then we had the hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates.” –Mark Twain

IMG_2775September 19th is “International Talk like a Pirate Day”

No, we didn’t plan our houseboat vacation around this much-loved holiday, it was simply sweet serendipity.

On our last houseboat vacation with the Hudak family the kids were in 8th, 7th, 6th, and 5th grades. At the time one of the assigned reading novels was Treasure Island. We decided to bring the book on vacation and read it aloud to all the kids as we boated along. It was a perfect fit and made the experience all the more fun. At the end of the week we decided to surprise the kids with a pirate treasure hunt to wrap up our week of reading Treasure Island.

While the kids were swimming we slipped a bottle into the water containing a map that led to a buried treasure found on shore.


The kids LOVED it and talk about it being one of their favorite memories of that vacation,

So we knew we wanted to plan something like that again…

And then we realized that our vacation just happened to fall on

“International Talk like a Pirate Day”


We had all sorts of fun things up our sleeves for this band of scallywags.

But first everyone needed their pirate names.

Using a site online that takes the first initial of your first, middle and last name to determine your new pirate name

everyone was renamed for the day:

Tyler: Redhead Holystone

Ozzie: Jolly Eddie

Tatum: Red Cackle

Rusty: Stinky Spike

Lucas: Bucko Head Bart

Molly: Deadman Creeper

Olivia: Jolly Bones

Grace: Sharkbait George

Lucas then entertained us with some pirate jokes that he had saved up for the day.

DSCF2724Jokes like:

“What has eight legs, eight hands, and eight eyes?”

Answer: “Eight pirates”

“What’s a pirate’s favorite letter?”

Answer: “You think it’d be ‘R’ but it’s really high ‘C’”

“What’s a pirates favorite pace to eat?”

Answer: “I-hop”

What do you call a pirate with two arms, two legs, and two eyes?”

Answer: “A beginner”

Our day was full of high seas fun, beginning with a breakfast of pirate pancakes.

IMG_2692After breakfast Lana and I began preparations for our treasure hunt while some of the kids swam outside and others decorated our spyglasses.


IMG_2693We both brought “treasure” for the chest. In other words: candy!

We sorted the treasure into individual baggies for the eight kids and placed them in our treasure chests.

IMG_2699The big sisters contributed their artistic talents to the surprise by drawing our treasure maps. We burnt the edges for authenticity.

IMG_2701The first map (the map to the island) was placed in a bottle and dropped into the water. Ozzie was the first to spot it but Tyler was the one to climb out to retrieve it with the fishing net.

IMG_2712The bottle was brought inside, opened, and the crew discovered that the floating bottle held a treasure map…

IMG_2719That map led us back to the island where the kids played on the first day.

Now that we knew our destination

we could set sail.

While the captains steered us to the treasure the kids began gearing up for the hunt in their pirate garb.

IMG_2750Then the island came into view.

IMG_2759After dropping anchor the hunt began.



IMG_2787When our little buccaneers stepped onto land they discovered another map. This one was a map of the island. With map in hand they began exploring.

IMG_2753It was fun to see such excitement and enthusiasm.

IMG_2791They hunted and explored until the treasure was found.

IMG_2822The treasure boxes were carried back to the ship where the booty was divvied up among the mates and lasses.

IMG_2825ARRRGGG…Happy International Talk Like a Pirate Day

From our scurvy crew to yers!


“Shine Bright!”


“The darkest nights produce the brightest stars”

This is true whether you are talking about heavenly orbs or “stars” of a different kind…

Last night was our glo-stick dance party!

IMG_2683The darkness found in the middle of Cumberland Lake made for the perfect backdrop for our stick-man party on the top deck.

After dinner we pulled out the glo-sticks we brought with us and began cracking them into life. As they began to glow red, yellow, purple, and green we separated them by color.

IMG_2603The kids picked their stick-man color and began taping their “body parts” on with clear packing tape.

IMG_2601Glo-stick glasses were added to finish off the look.

IMG_2604Then upstairs we went.

IMG_2605The music began to play,

and the party began!!


When the kids had their fill of dancing

IMG_2639IMG_2660our glo-stick dance party” turned into a “glo-stick swim party” as our stick-kids moved the fun into the dark lake.

IMG_2680It was neat to see the glowing stick figures float in the water below.

IMG_2674After everyone had their fill of swimming

they all moved to the hot tub to warm up before we moved back indoors.



These kids really know how to SHINE!

IMG_2654They must get it from their mothers!

IMG_2612“You have to find what sparks a light in you so that you can, in your own way, illuminate the world.” – Oprah Winfrey

Learning to Fly!


Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 10.08.45 AMYesterday my children learned to fly.

I am so grateful for a husband that counters my natural tendency to hesitate and be cautious.

I live with the fear of falling.

He lives with the possibility of flying.

The week has been spent enjoying the sun and the water.




IMG_2304The kids have spent the majority of each day in the water

swimming and sliding.

IMG_2486The big blue tube slide, that begins at the top deck of the houseboat and twists down to the water, has been the hit of the week.

IMG_2511The kids discovered that with the addition of a drop or two of baby shampoo the speed going down the slide doubles, and you can REALLY get going!






Yesterday the water fun advanced from riding the slide and jumping from the ledge to a whole new level of fun.

IMG_2334After a lot of big talk the dads took the plunge and jumped from the top deck of the houseboat into the water,

teaching their children how to soar.


IMG_2365I’ll admit the idea of the kids flying off the top deck into the dark waters (and hidden dangers below) made me more than a little anxious.

But after the dads tested out the safety and showed the kiddos how it is done there was no stopping them.

IMG_2373My little chicks took flight, one by one, soaring from the safety of the boat into the unknown.

IMG_2394Oh, how scary!

IMG_2481But they didn’t fall…they flew.




IMG_2369And they soared and soared again,

IMG_2349until the sun began to sink in the sky.

I thank God for blessing me with a husband that is not afraid of falling,


because if it was up to me my chicks would never leave the safety of the nest,

and they would miss out on the thrill of flying!

Hope Floats


“Beginnings are scary.

Endings are usually sad,

but it’s what’s in the middle that counts.

So, when you find yourself at the beginning,

just give hope a chance to float up.

And it will.” – Hope Floats

Today marks the halfway point of our houseboat vacation. Last night we had a magical experience planned.

Woody brought with him two sky lanterns we could set off into the sky.

The dark night, lit only with stars, made for the perfect backdrop.

We told the kids we were sending our hopes to heaven.

Everyone took a slip of paper and privately wrote down a wish or a hope they have.

IMG_2437We then all moved to the top deck where we taped everyone’s hopes to the sky lanterns.

IMG_2446The lanterns were lit

IMG_2448and as they filled with hot air they began to rise.

IMG_2450We watched as our hopes were carried to heaven.

IMG_2451We stood on the top deck watching until the lanterns were faint specks in the distance.

IMG_2457“Just give hope a chance to float up…”

and they will!

A Day on the Houseboat


So, how does one spent their time on a houseboat, you might ask…

IMG_2264How do you fill a week-long vacation while trapped on the open water?

IMG_2260It’s easy!

Here is a peek into some of our daily activities.

Everyone wakes at different times with Woody and the little boys usually up first with the sun. Woody usually heads out fishing and I get the boys breakfast and put on a movie in an attempt to keep them quiet so everyone else can sleep in.

IMG_2211Then the boat slowly comes to life.

Our day seems to revolve around meal time, much like being at home, with meal prep, meal eating and meal clean-up.

IMG_1839Before we left on our trip Lana and I sat down and made a menu for the week,

IMG_2256splitting the groceries we needed to purchase between the two of us.

IMG_1840For meal prep and clean-up we either take turns or cook together.

The kids each have a night in which they planned a dinner and are responsible for making that meal.

Molly and Tatum also made a fruit pizza for everyone one day, and Olivia and Grace made mock fried ice cream for dessert on their Mexican night…YUM!

IMG_2459Grace and Olivia also had another fun treat up their sleeves. They thought it would be fun to surprise everyone with a homemade snack each day. They decided to do different flavored popcorn each day. They found seven different recipes online and bought the ingredients they needed before they left.

IMG_2196Some of their delicious creations included:

Ranch flavored popcorn

Peanut butter and Jelly popcorn

Salt and Vinegar popcorn

Caramel popcorn

Jello popcorn

Party popcorn

IMG_2207Our daily schedule looks something like this…

After waking and eating breakfast, the morning is spent swimming and fishing. Around 1:00 we have lunch and clean up. After lunch we untie the houseboat from the spot we parked for the night and we head out to explore more of the lake and find a new spot to tie off for the night.

IMG_2249The kids love riding on the top deck while the boat’s moving. The little boys have to wear life vests while the boat is moving since they are under 12 years old, but the big kids can roam the boat unrestricted while we drive.



P1030496Sometimes they ride while soaking in the hot tub. What a life! 🙂

IMG_2144The remainder of the day is spent exploring our new location,

IMG_1829skipping rocks,

IMG_1816Looking for geodes…they are everywhere here. So cool!


IMG_2195 (2)Enjoying the water,

IMG_1872riding the water slide,



IMG_2204soaking in the hot tub,

IMG_2403and doing crafts

before dinner is served around 8:00pm.

At one stop we found hundreds of fossilized crinoids

IMG_2468The girls collected enough to make themselves souvenir bracelets using the beads and string Molly brought from home.

IMG_2471The kids enjoyed playing Apples to Apples while waiting for dinner…

IMG_2215We usually have a late dinner and then Ozzie and Tyler are tucked into bed around 9:00.

After the little boys are in bed the big kids and adults will watch a movie, play board games/ cards, lay out on the top deck, or enjoy the hot tub under the stars.

IMG_2210The stars are gorgeous here. There are so bright with no ambient light to dull their shine.

Then it is time for bed, with the adults usually turning in before the teenagers, who giggle and talk into the night.

Everyone sleeps hard after a full day of swimming and sunning.

What a glorious way to spend a week!

An Island Adventure


“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all” – Helen Keller

One of the best parts of our houseboat adventure is the fun of exploring new places.

P1030506At our first location we overlooked a small island. The kids immediately zeroed in on it, upon waking in the morning, and asked it they could try swimming out to it.

Toby estimated it was about ¼ mile away.


We decided the teens were strong enough swimmers to swim without supervision and so they took off with floats and boats to assist them in their travels.

IMG_1930 (2)The little boys stayed back with us and swam as we watched the teens swim across the lake, waiting to see if they would send up a distress signal:

 two oars raised up in the air.

When they were almost to the island we hopped into the fishing boat with the two little boys and motored over to them.

IMG_2005 (2)The big kids climbed to the top of the island, feeling victorious about their accomplishment.

IMG_1935 (2)It was on the far side of the island that the kids discovered the real treasure:

IMG_1999 (2)A perfect cliff ledge to jump from and crawl beneath.

IMG_1942 (2)We spent about an hour, watching as the kids played and jumped from the rock formations.

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The little boys even joined in the fun.

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IMG_2033 (2)It was a perfect find that came as a result of some adventurous kids with a desire to explore…

Let the adventure continue!