Category Archives: travel

A Trip to the Big Apple

We recently surprised Matt with a long weekend in New York City.  It was a big birthday surprise and we had the BEST time.  We kept this secret for months.  I had scoured the internet finding the best rates on plane tickets and really cool hotels and we honestly hit the jackpot.  When it came time to give him his birthday presents, Milo gave him a book about a little boy that goes for a walk in NYC with his dad.  This didn’t throw Matt off too much because Milo is always talking about going to the Big City.  He loves cabs and subways and tall buildings.  He’s a funny kid.  Anyway, it was only when Cady gave Matt tickets to Wicked on Broadway that he seemed a little confused.


The tickets were for 2 days later so we were all “We are going to New York!”.  Haha – his face!

Milo studied the books and knew all the places he wanted to go.


And the next day we were off!



We wasted no time after arriving.  We caught an uber to Manhattan and then headed out to find something to eat.  We settled on a deli just up the road from our hotel.


Milo was thrilled about all the “taxi cabs”.  We ate our $80 spaghetti, pizza and Reuben and then Milo and Matt headed back to the hotel and Cady and I went ice skating.  I had done a ton of research on what to do while there.  We knew we didn’t want to do some of the more popular touristy things – we’ve done most of those.  So I picked some low key alternatives (aka inexpensive).  Instead of ice skating at Rockefeller center, we elected to head to Wollman Rink in Central Park.


It’s a smaller rink and we had tons of room and NO lines and the prices are way more affordable.  The NYC skyline is at your back and you walk through Central Park to get there.  Definitely a must do if you are there in the winter months.

Next morning we were up early for breakfast and LOTS of adventures.


Another tip is to stay somewhere that has complimentary breakfast.  Our hotel had a super trendy restaurant on the bottom floor.  Literally, people lined up down the block to eat there during the day.  But during breakfast hours the restaurant closed and was only open for hotel guests.  And if you wanted to eat there for a regular meal you got to go in the back door and immediately be seated.  It was crazy seeing the long lines of people waiting hours to get in and we could skip the line because we were staying at The Blakely.  The restaurant is called Black Tap if you are interested – it was YUMMY.  And the crazy shakes are in fact…crazy.  And the balcony on the top floor wasn’t bad either…  Our hotel was classic old school NYC.  We elected to get a suite so Cady could have her own room with a daybed – we loved it and it definitely made our trip better.


Next up was a walk to Grand Central Station.


And of course we had to try out the whispering walls


Grand Central Station is obviously free. It’s a beautiful landmark and Milo knew it from his New York City books.  Next up was the NYC Public Library!

They just don’t make buildings like this anymore.


Amazing marble floors and columns on every floor. We walked around a bit, bought vintage NYC maps in the gift shop, and even headed down to the children’s floor so we could rest our feet and Milo could play legos.


Next up was lunch in Times Square and maybe a visit to the M&M store…



Later that evening Milo and I headed out on a date to Central Park… We followed our map and watched people throw frisbees, play saxophones, and sing opera.  We played “pretend” checkers at the Chess & Checkers House in the park and we visited and chatted with almost every statue.  We headed to the boat house and marched around fountains.  I think Central Park may have been his favorite part of the trip.


The weather was amazing.  I was so scared when I booked the trip back in Nov/Dec that a blizzard would happen in February (which would have been pretty common).  However, we had temps in the 50s & 60s.  Perfect for walking around the city!


While Milo and I were at the park, Cady and Matt got ready to head out for Wicked.  Matt loves Wicked and he had been wanting to take Cady to see it so the opportunity to see it on Broadway was extra fun.


The next day all 4 of us spent some time walking through Central Park (we were staying only 2 blocks away).  Milo and I were Central Park pros at this point, so we gave Cady and Matt a good tour.



I love this boy… So happy he let us make his birthday a family vacation!


And we couldn’t go to NYC with the kiddos and NOT go to the Museum of Natural History.  We’ve all seen Night at the Museum so this is a must stop.




We had lunch at Black Tap and here’s a pic of one of their shakes for your enjoyment.  There is a poptart (I think we may have already removed it by the time I remembered to take this pic) and a rice krispie treat and candy stuck in it…  Some of the shakes have pieces of CAKE on top!


Not gonna lie, our final night there we grabbed the kids McDonalds and then Matt and I went and walked around Times Square.  We had such a great time.  I wish all of our family trips were this easy and fun!


Until next time – Thanks for reading!




A quick trip to the shore…

Semesters are ending, temps are rising, and this family is easing into summer mode.  Big exhales.  I can’t wait to “open our pool” soon and spend hot afternoons lounging on my recently purchased pizza raft. ha!

The semester for the school where I was helping to teach English recently ended.  We celebrated our graduating students this past weekend.


Of course that means that Milo’s preschool time there ended as well.  It was truly a gift to be able to work with the refugees and also for Milo to have the chance to go to school with children from different parts of the world with varying cultures.


Preschool performance…

Our local preschools and even the elementary school he will attend are very Dallas suburb with very little diversity.  I loved the time we were able to spend there.

After the graduation, Matt, Milo, and myself loaded up for a quick weekend road trip.  The Bigs had other weekend plans so it was just the three of us.  We had two missions – 1. to see the giant sand box called the beach that I had been telling Milo about 2. Visit with one of our sweet friends and her new baby!  I’m happy to report we succeeded with both.

First night on the beach…


searching for seashells…


Big Boy talks…

We were up early the next morning for breakfast and headed back out for more exploring…and sand play…and burying Daddy…



Matt can sleep anywhere…even with a bucket pillow…

After we were adequately full of sand, we headed back to our room to shower and explore other parts of the island.  Milo loved the sand so much that he was literally rolling around in it.  His ears and hair and shorts were packed with sand and he loved it!  Meanwhile, I get just a little sand on me and I immediately feel sticky and want to rinse off!

We ate a seafood lunch at one of my fave restaurants and then headed to the pier.  I committed to riding the giant Ferris Wheel and super regretted it about 5 minutes in.  I know this pic looks like I’m having fun, but that’s a lie.


I was scared to death.  And also we totally saw SHARKS swimming around when we were way up there.  I mean come on!  Heights and ocean water are two of my biggest fears!  I don’t even go in the ocean because I’m afraid of what’s in there.  I was SO happy to get off that thing…


Next we let Milo ride a few rides on his own and he fell in love with the bumper cars.  The kid is obsessed with cars anyway and has talked about bumper cars nonstop since…


After finishing up an afternoon at the pier and then doing a little shopping we headed back to our room.  We napped and then headed back out to the beach for a final sunset that evening.


Chasing birds

We were lucky to have the beach almost to ourselves the whole time we were there.  It was such a fun experience for Milo.  We have plans on heading to a beach much further from home in the future but we’ll just have to plan that when it’s possible.  For now, it was a short fun getaway for a couple of days.

And of course on the way home we stopped in and saw that new baby…and she was perfection…


In the next couple of weeks, we’ll be celebrating all three of the kids birthdays!  I can’t wait!  And also, Mother’s Day was a success as well.  We lunched at my favorite restaurant and ate loads of cheesecake and Matt waited on my all weekend (which translates to he let me take tons of naps which is my favorite hobby).


Hopefully your summer plans are shaping up and like us you are readying yourself for patio dinners and cold drinks!

Until next time – thanks for reading!



Adventures in Camping

This is the best time of year for camping.  I think I took the bigs at least twice a year every year when they were younger – it’s cheap and forces them to just play and get dirty and explore and be kids.  We took a break for a couple of years after Milo was born but now he’s old enough to enjoy the great outdoors as well.  Last year we did camp in a small cabin up in the Ozarks but it was a cabin that had…amenities…so it wasn’t quite roughing it.  I will say this, I learned several years ago that we are NOT tent campers.  I mean I’ll do it if necessary, but I enjoy the screened shelters.  You still get the same experience you just have a structure over your head.  This helps because if you have ever been camping in a tent and it rains, it is MISERABLE.  And it rains so often in the spring…

Gage has been in Kentucky for school so he wasn’t able to join us, but the rest of us packed up early on Friday afternoon last weekend and headed out.


After 10 minutes on the road…

We decided to camp at Bob Sandlin State Park this time.  It’s a nice park that isn’t too crowded.  There are several other parks in the area but this one is only about an hour and a half from our house.  It’s East and I love the piney woods of East Texas (feels like home).


We chose a cabin (screened shelter) right on the lake.  Such a great view!  Since we arrived in the evening on Friday we mostly spend time setting up camp, building a fire, grilling burgers and having smores.  I had brought dominos for us to play but Milo discovered them and they are now one of his favorite things to do.


Dominos in the dark.

The next morning we were up with the sun (thanks Milo).


I usually make a big breakfast one of the days we camp.  The rest of the days we have pop-tarts or cereal.  But the first day I knew we’d be doing lots of fishing and hiking so I made breakfast burritos.  There is something so yummy about breakfast burritos when you are camping!?  They taste extra good for some reason!  Next up… fishing.


Matt did not grow up fishing… It’s just not something he enjoys.  I, however, can remember fishing all the time as a kid.  We fished in lakes, ponds, rivers, even the ocean a few times.  We fished in bass boats, aluminum boats, from banks and from piers.  I’m not an expert, but it is definitely an activity that I am familiar with.  Matt was a champ though, and I think he may have even liked it a little.  I’ve taken the older kids fishing a few times, but not that much.  We have all the equipment but for some reason we just don’t go often.  Well, Milo has been begging to go fishing lately.  We frequent our local nature preserve and he always sees people fishing there, I think that’s where he got the idea.  This particular state park that we camped at is not only on a lake, but also has several stocked ponds along trails. We were told that we had pretty much 100% chance of catching something but…we mostly just fed the fish all the worms off our hooks! ha!

After our first attempt at fishing, we decided to hike for a bit.


We can’t go too far with a 3 year old, but he’s good for a couple of miles.  We stop for lots of snacks and to study every flower, rock and stick that seems interesting. 😉  We headed back to camp after our mini-hike for lunch.  I am always hungry when I go camping?  Maybe it’s all the fresh air…  We made sandwiches and worked on a scavenger hunt.


These two decided to hang out in the hammock and Cady and I decided to embark on a longer more difficult hiking trail…


in our cute camp socks…


We hiked for several miles and saw some beautiful parts of the forest.


pic on left…there was a huge section of the trail that weaved thru all that beautiful foliage, Cady kept saying, “it’s like being in a fairy tale movie!”


Cady taking a few pics…

At the end of the hiking trail…


And a random pic of a dropped “goldfish” – not sure why we thought it was so funny – maybe we were delirious.


When Cady and I got back to camp, we found the boys were pretty bored and Matt admitted he was in need of some caffeine. hahahaha!  We decided to take a drive and grab him a coke and get more bait while we were out.  Bob Sandlin State Park is surrounded my some pretty country and several farms.  We drove down a few dirt roads and even found some polite horses to chat with.


That evening we made frito pies and more smores.  Cady and Matt lit everything they could find on fire because they are irresponsible and like to see things explode.  (lol)

Next day we were up and ready and determined to catch a fish… well, some of us were up…


“Some people” slept in a bit while Milo and I ate cereal and enjoyed the early morning.  Eventually, we all made it back to the pond though.


See that little bag that Milo is carrying?  It’s full of his matchbox cars.  I think he may have been over the whole “I love fishing thing”, so he brought alternate forms of entertainment.


We gave it a good try though and caught ZERO fish.  Again, we got tons of bites, but I think those fish must have been super smart.  They knew how to eat the bait right off our lines.  humph.

Once we decided we weren’t going to catch any fish this trip, we headed back to camp to pack up.  We stopped off one more time for a family hike…


And then headed back to the city.  And yes, we totally stopped at the nearest Sonic for fries and shakes!  I love getting away for quick weekends in the woods.  I also love coming home.

I just booked our next camping trip for the end of June.  We are actually road-tripping to Illinois to camp in the Shawnee National Forest.  We’ll have Matt’s mom with us so I chose a cottage type place that has access to a lodge for meals, etc.  The hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding is supposed to be crazy good though!  Can’t wait!

Thanks for reading,



A cup of African tea


I’ve mentioned that I have recently started working at a refugee center where I help teach English.  It has been a rewarding experience and a place that I am happy to spend my time – the students and the staff are amazing.  I always thought by this time in my life I would be preparing to move across the globe where I would become a long-term missionary teaching ESL…I had hoped to be in Sudan, I do believe a big part of my heart stayed there.  Life is good at throwing us curve balls though, so obviously I am not exactly across the globe – I’m planted firmly in the suburbs of DFW.  Back to the tea story though…  Last week, a student asked if I could come to her apt. and tutor her.  She needs some extra help studying for her citizenship test.  She and her family are Sudanese refugees.  I have loved visiting her in her home over the last week and getting to know her and her family!  We have shared stories of Sudan and I have felt like I was right back there. But the best part?  The first day I was there she made me African tea from Sudan – the same tea I drank every single day when I was there.  It was my FAVORITE part of the day.  Sometimes I’d even manage to get someone to make it for me twice a day.  The conditions in Sudan were pretty bad…and we didn’t get to eat much…  At the end of long teaching days we were often SO hungry…  I had actually forgotten how hungry we were until I recently reread through my journal from that time.  But that tea?  It was divine.  I did not care that it was over 100 degrees outside – I’d sip that tea like I was drinking iced sweet tea on a front porch in a rocking chair.  And I didn’t care that it was always served in a glass and I’d burn my fingers and tongue every.single.time because I was too impatient to wait for it to cool.  I was all about the “tea time”.  My fellow missionaries didn’t share my love of the tea, but they went along with it most days because it’s “what you did” in the afternoons! ha!  When I think of my time in Sudan, I mostly have fond memories…(these are pictures of pictures from a photo album).

The classes we taught…




Check out the window on the right.  There were always village kids looking in!


Going to church or hanging in the village and being surrounded my all these beautiful kids that would sing and sing!  And also, try to look cool to have their pic taken…  They were fascinated when they would look at the pics on my digital camera after I’d take them.




And sometimes when I was teaching I’d get the strangest visitors outside the window…


We’d walk over to the banks of the Nile and watch the boats come in…you can see some crazy stuff down at the river!


And I even found this old rusty bike at our compound and I’d ride it around and around where we lived.  I was really into triathlons back then so this bike was one of my favorite things to do!


The day we left, I had someone take a pic of me and the other teachers drinking our tea.  I remember them laughing at me because I knew I was going to miss that tea so much!


Who knows if I’ll ever get back there…Maybe some day.  For now, I’m lucky.  Parts of Sudan have been brought to me in the forms of my students.  I recognize the smiles and languages and best of all… that TEA!