Friday, December 30, 2011

Holiday Road Trip Part 2

After a pretty tough couple of travel days, we were sure happy to see our cousins Ellie and Nathan and their parents, Aunt Mindy and Uncle Steve.  They came outside to greet us, and then had tons and tons of toys for us to play with.  While the grown-ups helped unload the car and get ready for dinner, we all played with the toys and got to know our cousins.  Aunt Mindy made a delicious Hanukkah latke dinner and we lit the candles together and all opened some fun presents.  We were so excited it was hard to get to sleep.  Mom and Dad didn't seem to have much trouble falling asleep though.

The next morning, Uncle Steve made us some of his famous waffles for breakfast.  We played outside in their yard for a while.  We also Skyped with Aunt Staci and Uncle Daryl who live in North Carolina.  That's when I told Aunt Staci why we were in Arizona; we were there to celebrate Hanukkah.

Since it was Christmas Day, there wasn't a lot open.  In the afternoon, we went to Reid park and played on a playground. Mom and I walked around a large pond where we saw lots of birds. I told her what kinds of birds they were and Mom took a bunch of pictures of me with them. A nice lady gave me some tortillas to feed the ducks, which really made me laugh.  Mom remembers feeding ducks bread when she was a little girl; apparently, we use tortillas in the southwest.

Meanwhile, Dad played chase with Ellie and Uncle Steve made Nate and Hazel laugh a lot.  For dinner, we went to a Chinese restaurant.  Turns out, although we were on our best behavior, bringing five little kids to a busy restaurant isn't the greatest idea in the world.  Still, it was a fantastic day in Tucson.

Turner and I were a little under the weather on this trip, and this time, it was Ellie's turn to get sick.  Aunt Mindy stayed home with Ellie on Monday, while Uncle Steve, Nate, Mom, Dad, Hazel, Turner, and I all went to the Tucson Zoo.  We saw lots of great animals there - elephants, giraffes, a zebra, a rhino, monkeys, and even some peacocks who weren't officially part of the zoo but have taken up residence there.

Turner wanted to join the monkeys
Thanks to Uncle Steve who served as our unofficial zoo tour guide.  After the zoo, Uncle Steve took Nate home, and we did some driving around Tucson.  We drove to one of Mom's favorite places - Trader Joe's, which we don't have n Austin.  We grabbed a late lunch at In and Out Burger, which we also don't have in Austin and Dad really likes. We drove up a huge mountain at the edge of town and saw some really great cacti.  Mom took lots of pictures and lamented the fact that the one thing she left at home in the interest of lightening our load was her camera lenses.  We also drove around the University of Arizona campus.  It was a decent looking campus, though Dad muttered something about still being bitter regarding the 1997 NCAA basketball championship.  Monday night we had another great dinner, lit the Hanukkah candles, and opened presents.

On Tuesday, Ellie and Nate went to school, Aunt Mindy and Uncle Steve went to work, and we were on our own again.  This time, we went to the Tucson Children's Museum.  It was pretty fun and their staff was really welcoming.  In the first room they had a firetruck and a motorcycle that you could ride on.  The next rooms had a Lego table where I spent a lot of time building things.  They also had a neat room where you could write with light pens on the walls.  Hazel did that for a pretty long time, then she went over to another room to draw on chalkboards.  The last room we went in had fruit and vegetables you could pick from trees, shopping carts, and a kitchen with blenders.  I made Mom and Dad some smoothies.  It was a fun time, and after driving around a bit, we headed back home for a Tamale dinner with our cousins.

All of us kids got along so well during our visit. Hazel followed Ellie around a lot, and loved playing with Nate. I spent a lot of time talking with Ellie too. Mom and Dad thought it was really great watching us all interact.  

We were very sad to leave Tucson, but it was time to go home Wednesday.  Our drive back was not nearly as eventful as our drive there.  We stopped to find out what "The Thing?" is and later, Mom and Dad pulled over at an out-of-the-way gas station, and a bunch of bees got into our car.  After that, we just decided to go home, so we did the whole drive in one day.  We got in before midnight - all of us kids slept for the last four hours of the drive.

Thanks to our cousins for hosting us on such a fun trip!

Click here to see our photos!

Holiday Road Trip Part 1

I have two weeks off school and Dad has vacation to burn by the end of the year, so last Thursday, Mom and Dad woke me up super early in the morning and told me were going to Arizona.

They had been telling me about our cousins Ellie and Nate in Tucson, Arizona, for the past few weeks.  Ellie is my age and Nathan is Hazel's age, and they sure sounded nice. So, I at least knew something about a trip to Tucson in the works.

This trip was different than our last few road trips though because we left very early in the morning - five o'clock! The drive was so long that even splitting it over two days was going to make for some very long driving days. Dad wanted to leave early so we would have time to stop at fun places along the way and still get in before it got too late. Plus, Mom doesn't like driving at night. So they loaded up the car, put us kids in our car seats -- still in our pajamas -- and headed out.

Hazel, Turner, and I immediately fell asleep, and so did Mom. Unfortunately for Dad, who was driving, the weather was not too cooperative. It was rainy and foggy, so Dad had to drive pretty slow the first few hours. He did get to enjoy watching the sun rise though.

By the time Mom woke up, it was light outside and the weather had improved significantly.  Before too long, we were making good time and already making our first stop. We stopped at a gas station, where we gassed up the car, changed out of our pajamas, used the bathroom and ate a nice breakfast. By the time we finished all of that, we had spent almost an hour at the gas station. That was pretty typical of our pace the first day -- we'd stop about once every three hours for around an hour. Mom did a great job of packing snacks, books, and toys for everyone, so Hazel, Turner and I did great on the drive.

A lot of people had warned Dad that there wasn't a lot to see or do on the drive out to West Texas, but we found plenty of things to do. For lunch, we stopped in a town called Fort Stockton. In case you don't know, Fort Stockton is home to Paisano Pete, the second largest road runner statue in the United States. (The next day we drove by the place outside Las Cruces, NM, where we could see Pete's nemesis, the country's largest road runner statue, overlooking the highway.) Hazel and I thought Paisano Pete was pretty cool.

Unfortunately, there was no place to eat around Paisano Pete, and it was very cold outside. Mom had made a delicious lunch for us, but we really didn't want to eat it in the car, since we had already been in the car for six hours. That's when Mom spotted the Fort Stockton Visitor Center and Chamber of Commerce. Dad ran in to see if they had an inside table we could use. The people in the Visitor Center could not have been any nicer. They offered us their very spacious and nice business meeting room to have a picnic lunch in, and even offered us extra food and drinks. The also gave us Paisano Pete pins and stuffed bears.  Dad took Hazel and me on a tour of a railroad car at the center as well. We were so thankful for the kindness and generosity of the Fort Stockton Visitor Center. If you are ever nearby, I definitely recommend that you visit.

After lunch, we proceeded on our drive to El Paso, Texas.  With the help of an extra hour due to the time zone change, we made it to El Paso way ahead of our goal. In fact, we were so early, Mom and Dad took us to the El Paso Science Museum, where we played for an hour and a half.  We then checked in to our hotel for the night, eager to get a start on what would be a much shorter drive on Friday.  Mom and Dad agreed that the trip so far had gone surprisingly well.  It was getting pretty cold outside though....

Hazel woke up pretty early in the morning with some screaming that got all of us up.  While we would have preferred sleeping in a little later, Dad thought that maybe it was for the best since we could get an early start and end up with moe time to spend in Tucson with our cousins.  Dad took us kids to the breakfast buffet at the hotel.  He was shocked to see on the TV that the road to Tucson, I-10 through New Mexico was closed due to bad weather!  He looked at the window and sure enough, everything was covered in snow!  Mom had no idea it snowed in the southwest. This was definitely a bummer  Not only did it delay our trip, the roads were so bad in El Paso that everything in town was closed, and we were pretty much stuck in the hotel the whole day. We did have one surprise - there was a Rudy's barbecue next door, so we walked over there for lunch.

Even with our fun lunch break, we were all going a little stir-crazy by the end of the day.  Around 4:00, I-10 opened back up, so despite Mom's hesitation, we packed the car and headed out to see if we could make it to Tucson.  Unfortunately, the roads were still very icy, and we wound up having to turn back and spend another night in the El Paso Holiday Inn Express.  Hazel even noticed how much our minivan was sliding on the ice -- she said "That was crazy" after one bridge, which was Dad's cue to turn back and try again the next day.  The hotel staff couldn't have been nicer, and  were especially nice to me, Hazel, and Turner.  I passed a lot of time by playing on the computers in the business center.  Mom's habit of overpacking toys and food finally paid off.

Saturday, I-10 was closed again but opened up again mid-morning. Mom and Dad decided to give it another shot, this time during the early afternoon when they hoped the sun would melt the snow.  They started driving, and even though there was a lot of snow on the ground, the roads were no longer icy.  It was a huge relief.

However, traffic was pretty bad since everyone else, like us, had been waiting for road conditions to improve.  We spent a lot of time just sitting on the highway.  At one point, Mom actually got out of the car, grabbed a big handful of snow from the side of the road, made a snowball, and got back into the car.  She gave the snowball to Hazel to hold, and then to me.  It was pretty neat.  Then, before it melted, she threw it back out of the car.  Mom had been smart to bring her camera along, and took some great pictures along the way from the road.  She took pictures of wind farms in West Texas, prairies in New Mexico, long, long trains, and mountains in Arizona.We also saw strange signs, like a notice that a prison was nearby and not to pick up hitchhikers and another sign that said dust storms sometimes kick up in the area, and there can be zero visibility.

We sped through Arizona pretty quickly, stopping only in one area.  Signs had been up for over 100 miles advertising "The Thing?" and we all fell for the advertisement.  Having anticipated "The Thing?" for over an hour, we were extremely disappointed to get there and find it closed for Christmas Eve.  Undaunted, we kept going, with our cousins' house only an hour away.  Just before dinner time we finally made it!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Hazel's bunny

Hazel and I have been pretending a lot lately. I usually pretend to cook, and it's usually when I am in my kitchen or the sandbox.

Hazel, on the other hand, pretends anytime, anywhere. Her favorite thing is to pretend she is holding a bunny. She likes to pet and feed it lettuce, carrots and broccoli. One day she handed the bunny to Dad. He pretended to eat it and Hazel really cried. She wasn't pretending -- she really cried and got mad at Dad.  Dad felt pretty bad about it afterward.

Hazel also sometimes pretends her bed is a sandbox, and she digs in it. When she reads books, she pretends to take food out of the pictures and she eats it. The other day she took a cow from Doctor De Soto and said she was holding it. After about 10 minutes, Mom forgot she was holding it and Hazel said she was going to put it down. After a while, Mom forgot about the cow again and then Hazel told her not to sit on it.

Life is pretty fun when you can imagine whatever you want!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Hanukkah!

Hanukkah started this week and we're having a blast. 

We started celebrating Sunday night, two nights early because we're taking a road trip over most of the holiday. Our friends Clark, Benjamin and their families came over for latkes, candlelight, a mean game of dreidel, and presents. When we played dreidel, once one of us got hey and got an M&M, we all just started saying we had hey every time, which Dad thought was pretty funny. It was nice to see them and we had a lot of fun.

We're only two nights into it, but the presents we've gotten have been fantastic. Hazel has a garbage truck with realistic trash cans, Duplo animals and people, an airplane with Little People and a school bus with Little People.

I got a drum called a djembe, an ice cream set, a sock monkey game, and ABC Duplo blocks.

Turner got some cool toys and some much needed bibs. He also has had his first tummy bug and now a cold too, but that's not really a gift.

We all got a radio for our toy room, a zoo membership and renewed Children's Museum membership, mixing bowls and spatulas, and lots of books.

Mom and Dad are having fun opening their gifts too, but by the time they get to them, Hazel and I have already run off with our loot. Tonight I didn't even hang around long enough to open my second present. I just took my ABC Duplos and ran upstairs.

Happy Hanukkah!

Turner at 9 months

Hard to believe, but Turner just turned 9 months old already. Time sure flies! To mark the occasion, he had his 9 month checkup with the doctor. Good news - he is still growing. He weighs 18.25 pounds (15th percentile), is 27 inches tall (25th percentile), and has a head circumference of 43.5 cm (10th percentile). You can see Turner's latest growth chart here, or on the right side of the blog. Turner did really great at the doctor's office, even after getting a shot.  Hazel came along to keep him company.  The doctor kept telling Mom how cute Turner was. I wonder if she said the same thing about me when I was Turner's age!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The drive home

Our drive back was over three days, just like the drive to Atlanta. We tried to stop at the Jackson Children's Museum again, but when we got there it was closed because it was Monday. It was also rainy and super cold, so we couldn't even stretch our legs at the playground. All that was a major bummer, so we took a detour through Dallas the next day so we could stop at the Children's Museum at the Museum of Nature and Science instead. It made up for it.

The night we stopped at the hotel, we got in earlier than on our way to Atlanta, so we had time to eat in the lounge. We had a nice dinner that Mom packed.We jumped and ran all over the place and sat on the arm of a chair, which we pretended was a school bus.

Hazel made us all laugh in the car by saying, "Mitch is a penguin and I am a fish."
 Our trip was fun, but we were all ready to get back to our house, rooms, and regular routines again.