Sunday, October 16, 2016

School Pictures

Here are Emily and Ali's first day of school and their official school pictures for the 2016-2017 year. Emily wants to be a teacher and Ali wants to be a "dog owner" when she grows up. ;) So far, my girls are loving their teachers and this school year has gotten off to an amazing start!

Emily's teacher, Mrs. Sentell and their class pet, Annie the rat!

Emily's School Picture, Primer 2016

Ali's School Picture, Creative School 2's

Ali's School Picture, Creative School 2's

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

#30AVacay: Part II

Our rental house was great and there was plenty of room for the 3 families. It was right on the beach and it had a hot tub, which made it so much easier to navigate all the kids. Unfortunately, Mother Nature wasn't on our side this trip. It rained off and on every day, and for the first time, we had lifeguards and double red flags. This was the result of a rip current, and lifeguards were making multiple rescues every day! It's illegal to be in the water above your knees when there is a double red flag, so when it wasn't raining, we took full advantage of it and played on the beach and in the hot tub. I've never seen waves that big in Florida and it was crazy!

The only good thing about the rain was having the Olympics on. We watched more events this year than I have in my entire life and it was awesome. We also took the girls shopping and to do arts and crafts when the weather wasn't cooperating. All the kids got along so well, and they seemed to be happy just being together and playing. The girls took a lot of fun baths together. I know this isn't always the case, so we were all so thankful!

We divvied up meals between the families and cooked at home most of the week. Thankfully, we had a wonderful babysitter come over one night to watch the kids so we could go out to dinner and let loose. After stopping by a couple places and checking on the wait, we ended up at a bed & breakfast that has a small restaurant. It was perfect because we practically had the entire place to ourselves and we could be as loud and as crazy as we wanted! After dinner we went to Red Bar, because it's just what you do on 30A! It's small, loud and dark, but definitely a must-do and an institution in the area. We had so much fun and it was definitely a much-needed night out! Vacation is hard work. ;)

Because we drove, we decided that when we checked out of the house, we would leave first thing Saturday morning and drive to New Orleans for the night... Stay tuned for the finale of our trip in New Orleans!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Bonus Beach Trip: Part I

This year we were lucky enough to make two trips to the beach! A short 4 weeks after our 4th of July trip, we went back to 30A with some friends and their kids. They rented a 3-bedroom house on the beach and their third family had to back out due to a family illness, so we were called up from the bullpen and joined them! You don't have to ask me more than once to go back to the beach. ;)

Mark, on the other hand, needed some encouraging. He was worried about taking off so much work, so our compromise was that he would work during the week while we were there. We're so lucky he has he can work from anywhere. He said having the beach as his scenery made it a pretty great work week, and he was still able to have tons of fun with all of us.

The other part of the deal was that we would drive instead of fly. This made me really nervous at first since we've never done the drive with the girls before, but I had to get over it quickly because it was a deal breaker. All of our friends that make the same trip with their families drive, so I knew it was doable. And luckily our girls are no strangers to road trips.

We left Thursday after lunch time, Ali napped in the car, we stopped for a Chick Fil-A dinner, and arrived around 2:00am. Honestly, it wasn't that bad at all. The girls watched a movie after dinner and then slept the remainder of the drive. We didn't have the house until Saturday afternoon, but my sister's in-laws generously offered their condo to us Thursday and Friday night. That way we could extend our vacation and have all day Friday and Saturday together before our friends arrived.

We all slept in and relaxed Friday morning and then went to Baytowne Wharf in Sandestin to shop and eat lunch. We went straight to ACME for oysters, po-boys and a beer, and it was the perfect way to start our vacation! Ali napped in the condo while Mark worked and Emily and I went and hung out at the pool. That night we went to dinner and came home to watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.

Saturday morning we went to the Gulfarium first thing to beat the crowds. We had to drive through Destin, and the traffic can be brutal, but we went when most families were checking out and new families were still in route. The timing was perfect. It's a small indoor and outdoor aquarium and the perfect size for a morning activity. The best part was the live dolphin show and we all absolutely loved it! Emily and Ali could not get enough and they still love talking about it and watching the videos.

After nap time on Saturday, it was time to head to our beach house for the week and start the fun with our friends!

Go to the blog to see the Dolphin Show videos:

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Labor Day Weekend in Cloudcroft

One of my favorite weekends of the year is when we spend Labor Day weekend in Cloudcroft with my parents. By then, we are all pretty sick of the Texas heat, so it's a breath of fresh air to be in cooler weather in the mountains. It's opening weekend of college football, the weather is perfect for golfing and walks around the neighborhood, and we cook lots of yummy meals. The icing on the cake of the weekend was the Longhorns pulling off a huge upset of Notre Dame, which none of us were expecting!!

Friday night we had a sitter come over to stay with the girls so we could go to dinner at the Western. We usually take them with us, so we took advantage of a kid-free meal and sat in the bar area and even stayed for karaoke. Don't worry, I stayed far away from the stage. My dad and Mark both sang, and lets just say that only one of them belonged up there! ;)

Saturday we relaxed, did some shopping in town, took the girls to the playground, and cooked dinner. Sunday we golfed and Emily stayed with us the entire 9 holes and really enjoyed herself! I love my annual round of golf in the mountains. :)

The weekend always feels too short and it's hard to go back to reality, but Christmas is only a couple months away and we can't wait to go back!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Football + Camping

The weather has finally cooled off a little, and we enjoyed a perfect fall weekend. Friday night was Lower School Night, complete with food trucks, bounce houses, and face painting before the game. Then the younger kids got to run on the field with the football players, and Emily had the time of her life. Last week she went to a cheerleading clinic and they got to perform with the Varsity Cheerleaders at half time. It was a late night, but Ali did great and loved seeing all of her favorite babysitters. I see a lot of Friday Night Lights in our future at Parish!

To see the videos, visit the blog!

Saturday afternoon, we headed to Eisenhower State Park on Lake Texoma to camp with some friends. It was my first ever camping experience, and I'd being lying if I said I wasn't nervous about it! Thankfully it was a gorgeous day, we found a perfect camp site, and all the kids had the time of their lives. We walked to the lake and enjoyed a beautiful sunset and "fished," and then grilled hot dogs for dinner, and relaxed by the fire after all the kids were asleep. And thanks the the Watch ESPN app, I was able to keep up with all the college football going on! ;)

We awoke to a beautiful sunrise, had one last visit to the lake, made breakfast tacos, and hit the road. We all survived sleeping in a tent together and I'd say it was a huge success! Don't get any ideas, I don't see myself camping again anytime in the near future, but I definitely had a great time. I love fall!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Europe Trip Part II: Germany

Considering we'll be celebrating our 10 year anniversary this week, I think it's time I try and finish up our Europe trip from last year!

After Switzerland, our next destination was Germany. It was about a 2 1/2 hour drive to our first stop, Neuschwanstein Castle. It serves as the inspiration for Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castle and I was so excited to see it and tell Emily all about it. We called our car's navigation, "Siri," and for the most part, "she" did a great job. When we entered the castle as our destination, the navigation took us to a random backwoods parking lot. We knew we were close because we could see the castle, but it was clear that we weren't where all the other tourists were parking. Turns out, we were at the foot of the mountain and we stumbled upon a tiny biergarten and restaurant. It was a little gem in the middle of nowhere and was ridiculously awesome and cheap. We had 2 beers and a pretzel for $5. We hiked up to the castle and it definitely lived up to our expectations.

After the castle, we headed to Munich to check in to our hotel. Since we were going to be in Munich during Oktoberfest, hotel rates were outrageous (most were 4x their normal rates). I was able to find an apartment-like place as a reasonable cost and it had a little kitchen, which was nice. A quirky thing about the room was we had to use a key once inside to turn on the lights! The beds were funny too - there were two twin beds pushed together to make a king and it was sitting on the ground. We were met up with Tran in Munich, so the three of us went to dinner in the pouring rain. Our hotel was a little off the beaten path, and since it was raining we wanted to stay close and get something easy. Easier said than done... ;)

The apartment had a little map of a few restaurants, and the one that was receommended by the guy working was a Chinese restaurant. When we arrived, we quickly realized the entire menu was in German and no one at the restaurant spoke any English. This was honestly the first time we couldn't communicate with someone during our trip, and it was hysterical. We ordered spring rolls for an appetizer, but quickly gave up and abandoned ship. We decided to walk in the rain to an Italian restaurant that looked legit. It turned out to be an amazing decision and dinner was delicious. The only drawback was we were soaking wet, but the wine cured our problems! ;)

The next morning we had a private walking tour scheduled for Munich. Our guide showed up wearing a suit and driving a fancy black Mercedes. We quickly realized that it wasn't a walking tour, and he even poked fun at my clothes. He asked me if I was going out for a run, ha! The day with Christian was awesome. He was able to find us a parking spot (miracle) near Oktoberfest so we could walk around and say we did it. Hearing all that goes into making it happen made it that much more incredible. It's basically like Mardi Gras + the State Fair. There are lots of fair-like games, parades, food, and even more drunk people. He showed us the "tents," which are more like giant buildings that hold thousands of people. Some have music entertainment, but the real show is the beer. It was only 10:30 in the morning when we went in and you would have thought it was 2am. It was definitely a sight to see and the "waitresses" that carry the giant beers are impressive!!!

After Oktoberfest we went to old town and walked around and learned about the history of Munich. Christian took us to one of his favorite lunch spots and he and Mark had a traditional German meal, and I had the best chicken caesar salad I've ever had. Seriously, I still remember a year later how much I loved it! Mark teased me that I was really branching out, lol. I had another "tea gate." I tried ordering black tea and a cup of ice so I could have iced tea, but it was lost in translation - Mark told me I should get over it and just start ordering beer. We learned a lot about Christian and German people in general during lunch.

1) His son's name is Noah, but pronounced "New-uh."
2) When he got married he took his wife's last name.
3) All stores, including grocery stores, are closed on Sundays. Only restaurants are open. This happened to be the day we were there, so we couldn't go shopping. :(
4) BMW cars are everywhere, but they pronounce it "BMV."

After lunch we spent the rest of the afternoon driving around Munich and seeing the sights with Christian. That night we went with Tran to the Andechs Monastery. They have a brewery on site and it was probably our favorite night of the whole trip. The scenery was breathtaking and I was even able to find prosecco so I didn't have to drink beer! #priorities

Dinner was delicious - which I hadn't been able to say very many times if I wasn't eating Italian - and we even found a breathalizer outside the bathroom that provided lots of entertainment! We drove home on the autobahn and blasted our music. It was definitely a night we'll always remember.

The next morning, Mark drove Tran to the airport and then our plans were to go shopping and get the girls a traditional outfit since the stores were closed the day before. Rush hour traffic was no joke and when we finally found the store, we quickly realized all of the "outfits" were ridiculously expensive, and rather ugly if you ask me! So it was kind of a fail and we didn't get anything, but at least we tried. We had a full day planned, so we hit the road.

We drove about an hour outside of Munich to Dachau Concentration Camp. It was one of those things we knew may be difficuly to see, but we knew it was something we needed to do since we were there. It was very educational and the memorial is very well done and we were glad we did it. *Side note, we saw some of the Pfeiffer's family friends from when Mark lived in Nebraska as a kid. Small world!

Next up we drove to the city of Nuremberg for lunch and and visited their Great Old Town. It's a small, beautiful town on the river with lots of shops and tents. Mark had a phenomenal brat for lunch. He joked that it took him 3 days of being in Germany to find one - it's not really a traditional German food, it's definitely an American thing! We climbed up the castle and were in awe of the moat surrounding it and all the beautiful buildings.

Our final stop of the day was the town of Rothenberg, which is one of my favorite places we visited the entire trip. It's an amazing medieval town and Mark bought his beer stein here (we may or may not have argued about which one he was going to buy because some were so expensive!). The town is known for their Christmas festival, and everywhere you looked, you can buy a stein or a Christmas ornament. We walked around the castle (every town has one!) and window shopped. All the houses and buildings were so unique and colorful. We found an Italian restaurant (shocker) on the square and sat on the patio and watched the sunset. It truly was the perfect ending to a jam-packed day. It was our last night at our Munich apartment, and the next day we started our drive to Salzburg, Austria!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Beach Pictures

Thankfully we were blessed with a beautiful sunset on the evening Lizzy took our family beach pictures. Unfortunately, it was windy, but I guess I should expect that at the beach! I guess need to embrace the beach hair. ;) We never know if the girls are going to cooperate, but our goal is to get at least one good picture of all of us and I think we succeeded!