Sam's birthday was on the 26th of May!
(That was the Sunday before Memorial Day.)
And it just so happened that my sister, Breanne, had planned to drive out and see us for Memorial Day weekend.
So when she called me a few days before her visit and suggested that we make the 3.5 hour drive to Huntsville, Alabama to see the US Space and Rocket Center and then stay in a little farmhouse Airbnb, I thought it would be the perfect surprise for Sam's birthday.
I've never surprised Sam with a trip before, and the family trips we've taken together have been VERY limited, so I was actually pretty nervous.
It's a super crazy time for him at work right now and he's working most evenings and Saturdays, so I wasn't sure how he would feel about leaving town for Memorial Day.
I sent him a quick e-mail after Breanne proposed the idea, asking what his plans were for Memorial Day,
and I was pleasantly surprised when he told me he wanted to spend the whole day with us and not work at all!
I checked and double-checked possible issues before I felt confident enough to go ahead with plans.
But I was still jittery about the surprise.
On Sunday evening we had Sam's birthday dinner (steak fajitas) and then we opened presents!
I had printed some pictures on a paper and when I explained what we would be doing he was excited!
I was happy and so relieved I had taken everything into account.
My parents gave us a family membership to the Pink Palace (Memphis' science & history museum) for our birthdays, and that membership gets us into 360 science museums in the country for free, including the US Space and Rocket Center!
We followed up presents with oreo cream cheese layer cake and Blue Bell (of course).
Monday morning we woke up, loaded up, and hit the road.
The US space exploration facilities are divided into three areas: Houston (mission control), Huntsville (rocket building), and Merritt Island, Florida (launching).
We've now gotten to visit 2/3 of them!
The rocket center was really fun and fascinating with rides, rock climbing, rockets (namely the Saturn V), simulators, and TONS of cool exhibits.
This ride was for kids under 8.
It started off all well and good...
but then the kids got a little spooked as it repeatedly raised them high into the air and dropped them in jolts (a lot spooked, in Maxwell's case).
Talmage went on the Moon Shot with Aunt Breanne. It was his first time riding a non-kiddie ride and he barely made the height requirement. Phew! He loved it.
We all loved going on the G-Force simulator!
Something happened to Wesley and I and as the force built we started laughing and couldn't stop! The pressure on our abdomens made us laugh...and laugh...and laugh as we spun around wildly, suspended in the air and plastered to the wall by the force. When we tried to lift our arms they flopped around like noodles as they slammed back against the wall. We were all highly entertained.
Breanne volunteered to stay with Benson while the rest of us went into an airplane simulator. It shook us around while showing us a movie and the combined effect made it feel like we were flying a stunt plane. Maxwell started out yelling, "It's too scary fer meeee!!!" and then thought the second half was way fun.
Then the kids tried out the Mars climbing wall with Aunt Breanne.
We left the park late in the afternoon and headed to this adorable farmhouse to stay the night!
We were delighted when we saw that the barn cat outside had two little kittens with her!
They were surprisingly tolerant of the kids and they were thrilled.
Breanne kindly bought pizzas and we had a pizza party for dinner.
The kids ran around the house, which was full of charming little nooks and crannies, playing "sardines."
(Have you played it? It's a classic backwards hide-and-go-seek game I loved as a kid!)
That night we set up our hammock and did some star-gazing. Sam and the kids played croquet in the dark and somehow we managed to not lose any balls.
The farmhouse was so peaceful and the furnishings were so quaint!
I felt very much at-home there.
I wandered around admiring the flowers and the MASSIVE magnolia tree that was bursting into bloom in the front yard and Breanne and I sat reminiscing about our grandparents' farmhouse and the memories we made there.
The next morning we woke up bright and early and loaded up the car while watching the sun rise over the farm fields.
We packed the kids in and pulled out before 6 am so we could get Sam back to work before too late in the day.
It was such a lovely getaway and I'm so glad Breanne took the initiative to plan something exciting for us homebodies!