Camp Arcadia

We just returned from a weeklong vacation in Arcadia, Michigan. The majority of our time was spent at Camp Arcadia. Even though we didn’t actually get to stay at the camp (there are a limited number of rooms and it’s a lottery system), we were fortunate enough to get to spend our days there. The camp sits on the waterfront of Lake Michigan and is just beautiful. There are daily activities for the kids and lots of adult activities as well (i.e. wine and beer tasting events)! There are nature walks through woodlands, people bicycling everywhere, and the cool summer climate can’t be beat (think: San Diego on a budget).

Thanks to my good friend Gretchen’s hospitality, we stayed about 2 blocks from the camp at her Mother’s cottage along with some of her family. The cottage was a hub of activity with people arriving from all corners; Gretchen came in from Bangkok, others came from Chicago, St. Louis, Eastern Michigan, Texas and there was even an Aussie in the house! All the kids were piled up in one room and Liam finally fulfilled his dream of having a sleepover and sacking out in the top of a bunk bed.

Gretchen graciously allowed us to tag along on her daughter’s annual fishing charter trip. We caught the boat at 5:30 AM and watched the sun rise over the lake with our hooks already in the water. I’m definitely not a morning person but the sunrise was beautiful and worth losing my beauty sleep for. The kids loved reeling in the fish and my biggest kid enjoyed it too!

The sunsets reflecting over Lake Michigan sure give our West Texas sunsets a run for the money. I could sit by the water and watch those every night and never tire of them. I had to keep reminding myself that in just a few months winter would descend and the lake would be iced over.

Click on the image below if you would like to see some of the photo highlights of our trip.

Port-A Party

A couple of years ago we went to the Corpus Christi / Port Aransas area for an extended weekend with Glenda and her son Slaydn. We had a chance to repeat that trip last week and once again had a terrific time splashing in the ocean, spending time with friends, and getting our fill of seafood! This time, we were also joined by Georgina a.k.a. “GiGi” and her boys Nolan and Blake.

We stayed at the posh Port Royal and the boys loved the water slides that were at the end of the elaborate set of 5 interconnecting pools. Glenda even worked up the courage to zip down the twisty water slide tubes!

Of course, we had to eat at The Crazy Cajun for the Cajun boil!

Thanks to advice from Dave I., we all went out on a 4-hour bay fishing charter and had a fun time reeling in Gafftop catfish. What’s more, the bay dolphins sensed that Dede was about the fishing boat and came along for a few visits. And our catch was promptly cleaned then we took the fillets right over to Kody’s to have them fried up with trimmings just minutes off the boat. The fish was terrific!

We also had a great time at the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi. We got to touch Sting Rays and watch a dolphin show from a unique underwater perspective.

Later, we enjoyed a special viewing of The Lego Movie from poolside at the Port Royal. Adults watched from the patio areas while the kids floated in swim rings during the whole show.

Click on the boardwalk photo below to see pictures from our vacation!

Liam on the beach

Virginia Beach 2013

We just returned from a fantastic 10 day vacation to Virginia Beach! We flew into Washington DC and stayed a couple of days with our friends Chris & Teresa and then we all drove to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg. It was very hot and humid but the park was not crowded at all. Liam rode all the rides they would let him on, including the Loch Ness Monster (his first roller coaster).

The next day we drove to Virginia Beach and spent the next 5 days there. Our hotel was right on the beach and Liam loved playing in the ocean! We visited the Virginia Aquarium and took a ride on The Lost Pearl. Those pirates really work at entertaining the kids!

On our last day at the beach, Troy and Rachel drove down to meet us. We’ve been following each other’s blogs for years, but had never met in person. Their son Daniel and Liam hit it off famously just like we both had predicted they would. It was so nice to finally meet. Thanks again for making the drive down!

What wonderful memories and it was so nice to spend time with Chris, Teresa and Anna again!
Click the link below the picture to view more pics of our vacation.

Liam on the beach

Beach Bums

It’s been 2 years since our feet last hit the ocean, so last week was a special treat as we finally got to relax in the sun & sand!

This was our first trip to Padre Island and we really enjoyed the Texas coast’s warm water. In the past, we’ve usually visited San Diego and the chilly Pacific beaches, so this was a nice change. We met up with our Brady friends and Liam got some expert skimboarding lessons. Although he never truly mastered staying on the board, he put his whole heart into it and never gave up trying. He would definitely be a surfer dude if we lived near a beach!

We arrived just in time for Hurricane/Tropical Storm Don warnings. We knew something was up when news crews starting setting up equipment on the beach—the Weather Channel crew was setup right on the same area of beach where we had been playing all day! We were told to gas up our vehicles and be ready to evacuate the island. It was projected to hit exactly at our location but fortunately it fizzled out before it got there and all we got was a little wind and no rain. We have much stronger winds on an almost daily basis in West Texas.

We pretty much did absolutely nothing but sit on the beach all day and swim in the pool in the evenings and as a bonus, we saw some dolphins playing in the water. I call that a PERFECT vacation!

Padre Island 2011
Click above for photos from our Padre Island vacation trip.

Easter 2011

Liam had his first Easter egg hunt of the season on April 16th at the hospital’s annual Easter egg hunt. Liam did quite well, his bucket was overflowing with treat-filled eggs.

MCH Easter Egg Hunt

Next, his Pre-K class had their egg hunt on April 21st at the park across the street from their building. It was lots of fun to see the kids clear the grounds in less than 5 minutes. I noticed that one inventive little guy, finding no more eggs, starting filling his bucket with pine cones instead. 😉

Pre-K Easter Egg Hunt

We were out of town for Easter weekend. We went to Round Rock for shopping at our favorite Ikea store (more on the Ikea purchases in a separate post). Liam is such a good traveler and we are so fortunate that is he is completely content just riding in the car patiently for 6 hours. He took a few books and things to play with but mostly he just likes to ride, look out the window, ask questions, catnap, talk, and sing along the way. He was very excited about going to Ikea because he loves the Småland play area where he can dive into the giant ball pit.

After we filled the car with Ikea boxes, we headed home on Easter Sunday. We stopped off to see our friends in Brady and Liam got one last egg hunt in.

Brady Easter Egg Hunt

I hope you all had a Happy Easter!

Spring Break 2011

Since my job is now part of the education system, I had last week off for Spring Break—yay!

We went to Washington DC & Virginia to visit our friends Chris, Teresa & Anna who we met in Moscow back in 2008. Although we hadn’t seen them since we left Russia, we’ve kept in close touch with them through the years and they graciously invited us to come stay in their beautiful home for a few days.

Chris and Teresa

Liam studied the presidents in his pre-school last month and was looking forward to seeing Abe Lincoln’s statue. He and Anna had a great time playing together and we really enjoyed our time there!

Click here to view photos from our trip.

Labor Day Weekend 2010

If you’ve been following our blog, you know that the past few months have been kind of chaotic for us so even though we have a dozen ongoing projects at the house, last weekend we decided to take a much-needed break and get out of town for a couple of days.

So we headed to Round Rock, Texas (just north of Austin). Admittedly, we also hoped to do a little shopping, but we planned the trip around a train ride for Liam. Thanks to Thomas the Tank Engine & Chuggington, he’s really crazy about trains and has been asking about riding one for quite some time now.

I found a vintage train that goes from Cedar Park suburb to the Oatmeal Festival in Bertram that was about an hour ride each way. The train was scheduled to be pulled by a restored steam engine but it was out for repairs so we had to settle for an old diesel engine. The train was named the “Oatmeal Flyer” but we’ve decided they should change the name to the “Oatmeal Crawler;” man, that train was slow! Anyway, Liam was thrilled to finally get to ride on a train and loved meeting the Conductor.

Liam and the Conductor

Liam on his first train ride

Liam looks out the window of the train

Liam gives Oatie a hugDuring our stop in Bertram, we walked down to the Oatmeal Festival parade which was really nice; they’ve got a lot of small town spirit going on there!. Liam got his first experience of racing to scoop up candy that was thrown from the parade and he loved meeting Oatie, the mascot of the Oatmeal Festival. The parade also included the local villain, The Grits Guzzler, who was apprehended by the local police during the parade and drenched with oats.

After the s-l-o-w train back to Round Rock, we headed to our favorite store, Ikea. It is also one of Liam’s favorite stores because he loves their play area. We were all set to shop and he was all set to play and then things took a turn for the worse. They had the play area closed down for renovations. That did not set well with our boy and he let the whole store know about it. There were tears throughout the departments until we reached the kid’s section of the store. Yes, he now owns a new soccer ball and wooden train set that helped soothe his disappointment of the play area renovation. We wouldn’t normally buy him something to make him stop crying, but I just felt so sorry for him since he had talked about playing at Ikea the whole 7 hour car ride there.

Things went pretty smoothly after the Ikea fiasco and we got a bit more shopping in at the Outlet Mall there. On our way home, we we stopped off in Brady. We spent a few hours there visiting with our friends who always spoil him. This time, with help from Glenda, he even got to drive a “Mule,” which of course he loved.

Liam drives a Mule

So, it was a fun-filled weekend but we were glad to get home so we could get some rest. I am so thankful that Liam is such a good traveler. He loves riding in the car and staying in hotels.

How about you, what did you do for Labor Day weekend?

Back From the Beach

We just returned from our first official family vacation. We spent a week of sun-drenched, fun-filled days in San Diego, CA!

Liam did great on the plane ride and loved the water activities. We went to Sea World and the San Diego Zoo. The dolphins & Shamu were a big hit but the land animals at the Zoo were not as entertaining for him. His favorite thing to do was just to splash around at the pool or any body of water.   He fearlessly charged into the ocean waves—the very chilly Pacific water didn’t intimidate him the least bit.

Rob, Dede, and Liam on Pacific Beach
Click above for photos from Liam’s first trip to San Diego.

My friend Karen (a.k.a. Nanny Karen) from Kansas City met up with us in San Diego. She’d never been there before so it was great to experience S.D. through new eyes. Also, my friend Gretchen and her daughter who live in California drove down for the day to visit with us. Liam loved having a new friend to hang out with at the beach.

The trip was also bittersweet for me as I scattered the ashes of my Uncle Whit there who passed away last December. I had spent many summers out there with him in my high school & college years. He had moved to Texas 13 years ago but his heart was always at his beach house so I wanted part of him to be back there.

Rob & I used to go out to San Diego once or twice a year (in fact, you can still view photos of our 2005 San Diego – Bakersfield trip on Kodak Gallery) and I’ve gotta say that this trip was quite different! For those of you who have not vacationed with your new children, be prepared… things go much slower and you run out of energy much faster!

I overloaded our itinerary, forgetting that I needed to cater it to the attention-span and dawdling pace of a 3 year old doesn’t move at the same pace we do. A few travel tips too: take lots of new things to entertain your child in the hotel room (thanks, Nanny Karen!) and be prepared for your child to be very cranky & moody at times since he/she will be way off of the normal routine. (Being cooped up in a small hotel room where there’s little to do sure doesn’t help.) Don’t get me wrong—we had a great time and San Diego was wonderful as always. But vacationing with a toddler was a very different experience and everything happened at a far different pace than I would’ve imagined.

Texas Road Etiquette

For Texans, there’s a set of unwritten, yet fully understood rules of etiquette that apply when driving on highways.   If you’re the slower-moving vehicle on one of the hundreds (thousands?) of two-lane highways that weave throughout the state and a faster one approaches behind, it’s simply expected that you’ll ease over onto the shoulder and let the faster driver pass without having to occupy the oncoming lane.   And accordingly, if you’re the faster driver who’s just been afforded this courtesy, it’s expected that you’ll give a little wave as you pass and/or after that slower car has moved back into the lane after you’ve gone by.

If you’ve never been a part of this graceful driver’s version of the Texas Two-Step, it may sound a little complicated, but it’s not — it happens so frequently throughout any trip within the Lone Star State, it’s instinctual.

trucks passing on a Texas two-lane highway

Over the Easter holiday, we found ourselves on many of these two-lane roads and noticed how this Texas road courtesy is becoming a thing of the past.   Out of about 6 hours of driving on two-lane roads on that trip, there were very few drivers who would move over and allow us to pass.   Also, I noticed that when I pulled over to let people pass me, not a single person on this trip gave me the customary “wave” to say thank you.

All of this really bothers me a lot.   I’m saddened that people aren’t teaching their children the common driving courtesies that my parent’s did.   It seems that it’s mostly my generation that has done this.   What happened?   Have we become so impatient & self-absorbed that we’ve completely done away with common courtesy?

Where Ya Been?

One of the wizards at Google’s European Engineering office, Douwe Osinga has created a web app that maps the states of the U.S. and countries of the world that you’ve visited.

My coverage of America seemed pretty good, but as much as I felt like I was well-traveled, the worldview map paints a bit less impressive picture…

visited 21 states in America (42%)
Create your own visited map of The United States

visited 7 countries (3.11%)
Create your own visited map of The World

So, how about you? Where ya been?