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Thursday, August 20, 2020

Surfside Beach

 We did it!! We finally made it to the Texas waterfront! Surfside Beach was clear, shallow but still had surf, it made for a fantastic day trip!!

These kids were exhausted and happy - my favorite combination

We haven't flocked to the beach here for several reasons, the main one being that it is usually a lot of work. Parking, dragging all of the stuff - in the heat - and then managing young children in natural water has been more work than we were willing to do in a day. This is where Surfside was ideal, you drive right along the beach looking for a parking spot on the sand. Your stuff is right there!! Once we parked, we put up a tent for shade and tailgated on the beach. Someone needs a snack - we've got a cooler, someone needs a drink - we planned for that too. The only thing lacking was a fully built bathroom, port-a-potties were the only option. 

Our friend's son Jacob was an immediate Alex fan - and Alex loved every second of it!



The sand went on forever, with just enough water to keep you cool




We will absolutely do this again!

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Lexington Summer

Halfway through our visit, we left White Stone for Lexington to visit the second set of grandparents. Virginia summer did not disappoint, with lots of hot sunny days and a few spectacular thunderstorms. 

On the days that we too hot to handle, we were able to spend them in the water. The pool available to us in Lexington was near-empty and fully equipped with a good ol' deep end and full sized diving board. Our water babies were in heaven. Especially the daredevil.
The 3-year-old was on repeat jumping off of the diving board only to swim to the side, crawl out and do it again. Times 100. Daddy and Gretchen made sure that he always made it back to the side.
Alex is a diving board champ in his own right, and was showing off his best moves to the nonexistent crowd.

After working up that kind of appetite, there is only one true solution. Pizza. Homemade - down to the oven itself - and perfected over the last 10 years. These little balls of dough are a labor of love, that we a look forward to each visit.
The fire is closely monitored - and insanely hot!

Gran is a master pizza builder, with toppings as far as the eye can see. Alex wants all of the cheese, but she makes sure that this young pizza-maker doesn't overload his dough with too much sauce or topping. For the biggest kids, we get fancy options like Thai Chicken, Buffalo, Veggie and Potato. It's our own personal pizzeria, with the additional perks of dessert pizza at the end of the night.  
Gretchen takes her topping choices very seriously.

Poppa is the expert oven master - but Daddy did a pretty good job after some advice




This little dreamboat kept busy with the new puppy

When we kids want to stay cool and want an alternative to the pool, Gran and Poppa have the brilliant idea for more water play! Sliding! Pushing! Running up hills time after time! It's Slip and Slide!! This is not the plastic tarp with a hose strapped to the top of my youth - it is complete with inflated bumpers, a sprinkler system for your trip down and little inflatable sleds to cushion your ride. My memories of a jagged rock-studded trip down a semi-dry plastic sheet are gone after this incredible summer heat-buster was in full effect!



We love visiting Virginia, and look forward to new adventures, and repeating fun traditions each year when we are able to get back east. 

Sunday, July 26, 2020

WhiteStone Summer

In a locked-down, global pandemic world, we were faced with a choice. Keep staying home (as we have done for months and months) or take a risk and fly to see our families. We chose life on the edge. 

So we packed up our masks, our anti-bacterial wipes and gel and boarded a plane for Virginia. 

It was one of the fastest, easiest flights we've ever taken. No more than 50% full, it took off early and landed early, and not a single middle seat was taken. The airport was also laughably empty. 

So we made it! We rented a huge yellow Jeep Wrangler and drove right down to see my family in the Northern Neck. 

And it was a fantastic decision every way you look at it. The mental break from being in the house, apart from family and the joy of being on the water was more needed than we knew. Jon took all of the kids on wave runner rides, slowly they got more and more comfortable with the natural water of the river.

Graham and Grammy keeping the birds happy

Lucky for us, my brother and his family coordinated their visit with us, so we had a full visit with our nieces! And look at how perfect they are!

I challenge you to find a moment where Aubrey isn't smiling ear to ear

Everly is a natural born lie detector. She'll see right through you.

We caught the biggest crabs in memory, and after several years of manhandling the crabs like barbarians, we got the hang of picking good, whole-lump crabmeat.


At the end of the week Uncle Robbie took the big kids tubing on the waverunner. They have been skiddish in years past, but this year everyone was very brave - even excited to get tossed into the water! We've come a long way!!



Not to be outdone, I got up on skis, proving to myself that I'm not quite too old to participate in river adventure. 

We snuck in a trip to Pirate Beach, where the kids used the boat as a diving board and attempted to catch minnows and crabs. One nice side effect of the COVID pandemic is that we had the beach to ourselves.



We love having adventurous little swimmers

Our growing family (missing Chris). Not even a pandemic can keep us apart

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Aren't We Going To See The Basement?

Pee-Wee Herman's embarrassment at the Alamo is a joke that will never get old. After living in Texas almost six years we finally made the trip to San Antonio to "Remember the Alamo" for ourselves. As most people warned us, it is quite a bit smaller than you might imagine, but we were there on a beautiful day and the grounds are much more than one simple building.

There was an incredible line to go into the Alamo, so we decided to spend our time outside. We saw re-enactors, old style weapons and coy fish that would make Grammy green with envy! With a quick trip to their clean bathrooms and a 20 minute video on the history of the grounds, we spent about an hour at the Alamo and then were eager to move on and explore the rest of the city along with our cousins!

It was great to have my cousin J'Vette and her family join us in San Antonio for many reasons, not least of which is that our kids ADORE their 2nd cousins (2nd cousins? Is that the relationship?) and want to spend all of their time playing together.

Eric and Graham, happy as can be!

Eating at Tycoon Flats, a burger joint we found for our first night in SA
My favorite part of downtown San Antonio was the riverwalk. It was a bit nerve-wracking at times because the sidewalk is really close to the water, but we all made it through the weekend without any missteps!

We took a riverboat tour, which is different from the water ferry but done on the same kind of boats. It was a great way to see the city, gather some facts along the way, and everyone loved the novelty of riding in a boat. 
After the tour, it was time for pizza. And taco pictures.

And once the kids were full and starting to get tired, it was time for the biergarten. This place was a fantastic spot to watch some football, listen to a live accordion band and eat an enormous soft pretzel. AND drink an enormous stein of beer. Everybody's a winner!

Graham was tuckered out from our day on the walk.

The next day was another beautiful Texas winter day and we spent it at Pearl Brewery. They have indoor food options and outdoor play areas. The hotel is beautiful and incorporates many of the original brewery details like tanks, pipes, exposed beams and all kinds of handles and knobs. It's beautiful and delicious and took up all of the day for me, Jon and the boys.


Gretchen had the great fortune of being the oldest and tallest and was able to join JVette's family for her first trip to Six Flags! They were incredibly generous to take her, and she had lots and lots of fun. And I didn't have to brave any roller coasters - which were lots more fun before I developed such a weak stomach.


One of my greatest joys of the trip was getting out and running with my lovely cousin Julia. She was a trooper and handled my directionless run with ease. I was so glad for the company and even more happy for the conversation - this is one incredible kid! 

San Antonio was just what we needed to break up the 2.5 week Christmas/New Years break from school. We had a comfortable house that we rented from AirB&B, and truly enjoy the fact that we could spend so much time together with some of our in-state family. Happy 2020 everyone!

Friday, September 20, 2019

Alex Turns 6!



This kid.

The card is right, the best way to describe his personality is "AWESOMENESS!". He is excited and happy and smart and just plain awesome. He has undergone an enormous amount of growth; physically, mentally, emotionally in this 5 - 6 age year. He is now a kindergartener, a solid reader AND an incredible swimmer. We are so very proud. 

The child we know today is a far cry from the little boy who would tantrum when he couldn't get his point across. He still takes his own, sweet time when doing just about everything (he CANNOT be rushed into getting dressed, putting on shoes, eating or getting to the point of a story), though he has a unique and thoughtful way of describing the world that both amazes me and cracks me up. He still describes yesterday as "the day before this day" and a little piece of me hopes that he always does.

Texas had a pretty serious tropical storm (Imelda) roll through the week of Alex's birthday. We were fortunate in that we had no flooding and the kids' schools came through pretty close to damage-free. We were extra lucky that his birthday party wasn't planned until the Sunday after his birthday, so our Houston-area friends were able to attend without any water issues. 
So the actual birthday DAY itself was spent indoors, with our family of five, eating his favorite spaghetti and meatballs dinner followed by cupcakes with a side of presents. 

In a weekend of "favorites", Alex had a birthday party at his favorite place to go: Little Beakers. I have to admit, this is also one of my favorite places to take kids (ages > 4). It is a science lab geared for hands-on experiments and learning. It is rarely crowded, you pay per hour for open lab and birthday parties are prepared and led by a staff member. They pre-arrange your experiments and clean up after your kids (and you) are wowed. I am not much for making a mess at our house... so this is ideal.

We got there early to set up, so Gretchen and Alex spent some time assembling molecules. Look at the cute coats! And the goggles! And the counter height that is perfect for children!



This birthday party was a great mix of long-time friends that we are thrilled to live close to, best buddies from preschool AND some new faces from kindergarten. The kids were at a perfect age to be amazed at the acidic reactions, create take-home fake snow and glow slime (though the slime NEVER comes inside the house. We've been burned before...) and the birthday boy got a special grand finale.

This picture shows what happens when you mix Mentos and diet soda, and Alex pulled the trigger on the Mentos drop. He was all smiles, which is the point at a birthday party!

For our middle child who has kept his sensitive side while maturing into a big-kid, Happy 6th Birthday!! Keep loving science and swimming and reading and Bey Blades, you are such a terrific kid!