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!
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.
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.
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.
I hope you all had a Happy Easter!
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.
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.
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.
During 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
As Dede & I were gearing up for our return trip to Moscow, Russia, we struggled to find a way to pack a large box of provisions that would still be well-sealed even after security inspection. I was concerned that the TSA officials might not be especially thorough about re-taping the box seams which could lead to the box tearing open in transit and spilling out much-needed cargo. Clems came to the rescue with a simple, but incredibly effective solution — the Balikbayan Box Cover.
The Balikbayan Box Cover is a heavy-duty canvas bag with reinforced seams, industrial-strength zipper, & side handles that’s designed specifically to fit a 20″ x 20″ x 20″ cardboard box (commonly available at paper goods companies and/or office supply shops). At 60 linear inches, this conforms to major airline luggage size restrictions, although I discovered that you do have to be pretty creative to keep the weight within the 50 lb. limit in such a large box. The beauty of the box cover is that after TSA officials inspect and reseal your box, they can zip the top flap on the bag closed and your box is further protected from re-opening. The bag also helps guard your box (and its contents) from rough airline baggage handling.
Maybe it’s a generational thing, but even though I was only 5 years old when it originally debuted, I can’t get The Beatles’ Back in the U.S.S.R. outta my head. Why? Well, we are. Sorta. Okay, technically, the "U.S.S.R." hasn’t existed in many years (extra history class bonus points to anyone who can name the year that it dissolved — without using Google!) but we’re back in Russia, so that’s close enough!
We had a nice, impromptu sendoff at the airport from our pal Rhonda L., who just happened to be also be jetting out early Friday morning.
As before — but even moreso now — there’s no way to thank you all enough for the tremendous outpouring of love, support, & prayers. We’re truly blessed to have had so many of you rallying for us during the long journey to our adoption!
Keep an eye on our Russian Adoption Journal over the next 3 weeks for updates from Moscow.
Not long after I posted my January Blogtipping article dedicated to travel blogs, I discovered Mike Richard’s excellent Vagabondish weblog. Although relatively new, this group blog offers some awesome and very practical travel tips & techniques for nearly every kind of traveler. Just a few of the standout articles I’ve come across on the site are: