A Trip to the Dead Sea

Last Wednesday, we packed our bags for a surprise weekend getaway planned by Ron for our wedding anniversary. We hit the road early Thursday morning en route to...

...the Dead Sea!
We hadn't been to this part of the country yet, so I was excited to see something new and to "float in the waters of the salty Dead Sea", as described in Kaitlyn's Let's Visit Israel book. The desert surroundings were a lot different from the usual crowded streets we see in Tel Aviv. It was a nice a change of pace.
The Dead Sea's surface and shores are 1,388 ft below sea level, the lowest elevation on the earth's surface. There were roadside markers that let us know how far below sea level we were.
We saw a couple of camels on the side of the road, which sparked Kaitlyn telling us "I want to ride a camel" (also learned from her Israel book) for the next day and a half. We promised her that we would look for more camels near the hotel and she could ride one of them.

On our way to the hotel we stopped at Qumran National Park, best known as the settlement nearest to the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found between 1947 to 1956.
It was a beautiful day, but VERY hot!
We took a lunch break at the park. They didn't have any highchairs in their cafeteria so Jonathan had to sit in a regular chair--he looked like such a big boy!
After the kids ate, they chased each other around the relatively empty room. As I watched them laugh and play with each other, I got choked up. At that moment, I felt so blessed. Blessed to have two beautiful and healthy kids and a husband who loves his family more than anything. Was it a strange place to have such an emotional moment? Probably. But it was special and I don't want to forget that feeling.

After lunch we made our way to the Ein Gedi Hotel where we'd stay for the next two nights.

We spent the afternoon at the Ein Gedi Spa pool and took our first dip in the Dead Sea. Unfortunately, we left the camera at the hotel. After dinner, we put the kids to bed and snuck outside to toast to our 4 years of marriage.
Chilled wine sipped from paper cups (leftover from Jonathan's birthday party), our song (Tim McGraw's "My Best Friend") playing on the iPod with the kids tucked in bed inside...it doesn't get better than that.
Saturday morning we woke up and went to Masada, a national park which is a site of ancient palaces and fortifications and is best known for the violence that occurred there in the first century CE.
When you arrive at the park, you can choose how you want to get to the top plateau--a 45 minute hike on the snake-path (seen on the left side of the picture above) or a 5 minute cable car ride. Despite the extreme heat, Ron decided to hike. Of course Kaitlyn wanted to go with Daddy so the two of them made their way up the path. Jonathan and I browsed the gift shop for a bit then made our way to the cable car. In the photo below, you can see Ron and Kaitlyn on the first part of the path that angles towards the right.
Jonathan was happy to accompany Mommy on the shorter, less strenuous route.
A view of the hikers of the family from the cable car.
We enjoyed the view from up top while we waited for Ron and Kaitlyn.

Although they only had a short distance to go before reaching the top, Ron took advantage of one of the few shady spots along the path to rest.
They made it! As expected, Kaitlyn didn't want to walk much (can you blame her?) so Ron carried her most of the way. He was exhasuted! It was extremely hot (our car's external thermostat read 101F later that afternoon).
Jonathan was parched from just watching them.
If you'd like to learn more about the history of Masada, take a look at the Wikipedia site here. There was also a TV mini-series of the same name made about the final battle of the First Roman-Jewish War, which took place there.

Kaitlyn was tired of sitting in the stroller so she switched transportation modes with Jonathan. Silly girl.

For some reason, Kaitlyn was fascinated by her stinky feet. She gets that from her father...

Since Kaitlyn was still asking to ride a camel and we had yet to find any near our hotel, we decided to drive back to the original ones we saw.
Much like Kaitlyn was with Santa and the Easter Bunny (all talk), she didn't want to go near "Pistachio". She wouldn't even pet him.

Ron and Jonathan went for a ride instead, hoping that would encourage Kaitlyn.

No such luck!

Later that afternoon, we went back to the Spa to take another quick dip in the Dead Sea and spend time at the pool. The Spa had a tractor/trolley that took you down to the shoreline.
Just in case you were thinking about it, "BATHING IS PROHIBITED AT THIS SECTION OF THE BEACH." Really??
The kids watched from the shore while Ron and I passed our camera to a nice German tourist and quickly got in the water. Because Kaitlyn didn't like it the first day (the very salty water hurt the cut on her leg), she didn't stay in very long this time. We didn't even try with Jonathan for fear that he'd rub his eyes with salty hands.
For those of you that aren't familiar with it, one of the really neat things about the Dead Sea is the high salinity (saltiness). It is 8.6 times saltier than the ocean, making it much more dense and easier to float.
When you submerge yourself in the water and lean back, your legs just pop up to the water's surface. It was pretty cool!
We also rubbed ourselves in some Dead Sea mud, which is believed to have special healing qualities.

We had a great trip! Kudos to Ron for being thoughtful enough to plan such a nice surprise for us.

Not related, but still interesting: Driving along the wall separating the West Bank from Israel. It was kind of surreal.


Four Years ♥

Today, Ron and I are celebrating four years of marriage. We're heading out of town for 2 nights to celebrate (with the kids), but I have no idea where we're going. Ron planned it all and I'm excited for the surprise! I'm sure there will be lots of pictures when we return.

Ron, thank you for making the last 4 years the best years of my life. I'm a lucky gal to call you mine and Kaitlyn and Jonathan have no idea how lucky they are to have you as their father. And thank you for being thoughtful and planning this trip. I know it's going to be wonderful!

Happy Anniversary, Bubba! I love you. xo


Jonathan's First Year

Almost a month later, but I've finally finished Jonathan's First Year video!  In some ways we can't believe how quickly the year went by, but in other ways it feels like we just brought him home a few days ago.  In just one year, he's brought an immeasurable amount of happiness into our lives.  We love you, buddy!

You can check out Kaitlyn's first two videos here and here.


Weekend Adventures: Caesarea & Israel Railways

Two weekend's ago we got out of the house and braved the heat to go see some sites.  Sorry for the delay in pictures...

We drove about 30 minutes north to Caesarea, an antient port city built by Herod the Great over 2,000 year ago.  I won't bore you with the details here, but you can check out wikipedia if you want to learn about the history.

 Ron having his "Gladiator" moment.
There were some cool holograms of historical figures that told of their influence in the area.
 They kind of freaked Kaitlyn out at first.
 Jonathan zonked out on our way back to the car and slept the whole way home.
It was nice to get out and see some of the amazing history that surrounds us in Israel.

Whenever we go to the mall or to the pool, we pass some of the Israel Railways train tracks.  More often than not, we have to stop at the crossing and Kaitlyn loves watching the trains go by.  She even gets excited when she can hear the trains while we're swimming in the pool at the Rec Center.  Ron decided we needed to surprise her and take her on the train.

We didn't tell her where we were going and when we pulled up to the train station, she kept asking where we were.  She was quite surprised when a train pulled up to the building a few moments later.

We only rode the train south a few stops. When we got off at the 3rd or 4th stop, we just headed to find the northbound train back home, never leaving the train station.  Once we were back in our car on the way home, Kaitlyn cried because she wanted the train to take us to our house.  The kids really enjoyed it and Kaitlyn still talks about it.

A fun day out wouldn't be complete without ice cream!

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