Our Toddler Beach Bucket List

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Luna recently returned from her second annual family vacation to Hilton Head Island, SC. This summer vacation was a different animal compared to last summer. Last year, Luna was a 6-month old not-crawling-yet baby. This year she is a fearless running wild toddler with a will to jump in deep water at a moment’s notice. Meaning? This year’s beach trip was the best (and sometimes scariest) one yet.

Luna had such a good time that I decided to compile a bucket list of her (well, my) favorite beach activities.

  1. Watch the sunrise on the beach. Luna and I did this a few times because someone likes to wake up at 5am, but one morning we shared a special sunrise time with some of our favorite people and we added champagne.
Champagne sunrise!
Champagne sunrise!

2. Let the littles swim naked. Luna’s favorite skinny dipping time with during the sunrise.

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3. Take lots of bike rides and stay active. We rode bikes every single day around the island, and while it may not look like it, Luna loved being pulled around in her private cart.

She is clearly overjoyed...
She is clearly overjoyed…

4. Buy a puddle jumper and let them swim. Luna LOVES her puddle jumper. She begs to wear it, and I love it even more. Luna went swimming in the pool and in the ocean every single day.

I swear she normally looks more graceful
I swear she normally looks more graceful

5. Get a little dirty. What else would you do on the beach if not play in the sand?

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6. Dress that baby in white and force them to take a photo on the beach. You’ve just got to do it.

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classic

7. After the photo, let them just be their silly selves and get that new white dress all broken in.

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8. Finally, spend as much time with your crazy family as possible. Even if it means learning weird new yoga poses. This is one of the few times you are all together and that everyone gets to bond with that toddler of yours. Embrace it and enjoy it.

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Anyone else have any fun beach traditions or activities to share?

Cheers!

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Finally, a Unique Family Beach Photo

Another year, another big Hilton Head family vacation. It’s our favorite week of the year and while I was nervous about having a wild toddler around a pool and an ocean every second of every day, I still had the best week of the year at our favorite beach house. Seeing Luna enjoy the beach as much as her parents makes us as happy as clams…as does the many various family members who beg to watch her every waking second. #yay #freetime

I’m positive that every single family who takes a beach vacation, spends at least one evening taking advantage of “magic hour” to capture the classic family-in-the-sand photograph. We do it every year and as often as we try to mix it up and get a bit creative, but every year they look likes this…

2013 vs 2014 (and one person is missing!)
Top is from 2013, bottom from 2014.

Of course, nothing is wrong with these photos. They’re adorable, traditional and bring back great memories. However, they aren’t exactly unique or exciting. So, this year we FINALLY mixed it up a bit. It took a few of us to put our heads together, and what we came up with is now my favorite group Hilton Head photo.

Soooooo…..here we are!

Hilton Head Island 2015 family photo
Hilton Head 2015

I mean, how could we not take a photo in the most enormous shower? AND, how could we not wear towels in the shower?

Happy Summer yall!

Cheers!

P.S. I must apologize for my very looonnnngggg blogging vacation. I did not want to be gone this long. It’s just a lot harder than I expected to start a part-time job, be a mostly-stay-at-home Mom, write and keep up our adventures. To be honest, I usually write at night when everyone goes to bed, but lately I have just gone to bed! (Or maybe watched some OITNB, which is kinda disappointing this season, right?) I’ve missed you! I’ve missed my Internet life and I’ve missed this creative outlet!!! I WILL find my way back. Pinky Promise!

Yes, It’s Hard

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For the last eight years, I have been asked time and time again if it’s hard to live so far away from “home”, from my family. The answer has always, and will always be, yes. It is not easy to live so far away from my parents, sister, other relatives and many close friends (they are in Texas, I have been all over the place, but currently Tennessee). I miss them constantly, but I also choose where I live for so many reasons (that would be a whole different post). It’s hard, yes, but THANK GOD we make it work. Thankfully, we have phones, texts, video chat, Skype, email, Facebook, etc etc. We make it work, and more importantly, we still make lots of efforts to see one another as much as possible.

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Last week, we were in Texas. Oh how nice it is to go home and be spoiled and loved on by your parents. That’s one plus side of living far away….lots and lots of love and attention when you get together! We drove all night so Luna could sleep and knocked on my parents’ door bright and early at 6:30am. My Mom immediately took over with Luna and told us to catch up on our sleep. If you insist!  She was more than happy to get some much needed quality time with her Granddaughter. I retired to the living room couch where I lightly napped. Between napping, I spied. I spied on Luna and her Honey (my Mom). I spied because I didn’t want to interrupt or spoil the precious moments unfolding before my eyes.

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The two of them ate breakfast together at the tiny Mickey Mouse folding chairs and table my Mom bought. Honey taught Luna to color, and Luna taught Honey the joy of taking the crayons out of the bag one at time, and putting them back into the bag one at a time…and out…and back in…and so on, and so on. They ran all over the house, keeping each other on their toes. They snuggled in the recliner and watched cartoons. Honey blew bubbles for Luna to chase around in her PJ’s. They loved on each other as if they lived next door to one another and played side by side on a regular basis. I can’t tell you how full my heart felt as I watched them bond.

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There were many many full hearted moments that week. Seeing my parents be Grandparents is really special. I hate that I can’t see it everyday, but maybe it makes it even more special this way, more appreciated, no moment taken for granted. (Though, my fingers are still crossed that they will one day move to Tennessee!) I also got to see my nephew, who I haven’t seen since Thanksgiving! Having my nephew and Luna together was the best!

bath with micah

cousins

Then, there my cousins, aunts, uncles, friends, babies, babies and more babies! Every trip to Texas is a crazy whirlwind of visiting one person after another. There is never enough time to see everyone I want to see or see enough of the people I do get to see. Texas just has too many awesome people living in it! (That’s right, that Texas pride never fades, nor does its modesty.) While we may have been ready to get home and get Luna back on a normal schedule, we weren’t ready to say goodbye.

beach day

beach hat

So, yes, it’s hard to live so far from “home”, but we make it work. While the distance may be hard, staying connected isn’t. Sure, it takes a little work, but doesn’t everything worth anything take some work?

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Until next time, Texas…

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Cheers!

I Conquered Everest! (The race, not the mountain)

As you may have heard, we went to Disney World a couple of weeks ago and IT WAS AWESOME! We have been dying to go to Disney since having Luna, and we found the perfect excuse to plan a trip: a race. Several months ago, we signed up for the Expedition Everest Challenge. So, not only did we get to spend 4 magical days at our home away from home, but we also got to experience a magical run and after party. I think Disney runs might be my new obsession!

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The Expedition Everest Challenge is a 5k through Animal Kingdom at night with obstacles and a scavenger hunt! I’ve got your interest, right? It was an extra special race because it was the 8th and final challenge. Why? I’m not sure, but I believe it has something to do with the Animal Kingdom expansion… Anyways, to prepare for the run we picked out Winnie the Pooh themed costumes. I was Pooh, Bella was Piglet and Husband was Christopher Robin. (BTW, I don’t know if Husband will ever allow me to dress him in costume for a race again… apparently Christopher Robin isn’t super cool. Whatevs. It could’ve been worse, my original plan was the three kittens from Aristocats.) We also prepared by doing Insanity Max 30 and running almost never. It’s so hard to stick to a running schedule, am I right?!

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You’ve got to admit, it’s a cute idea!
Here's what we went with instead...
Here’s what we went with instead…

our group

Even without running we totally kicked butt! We ran our fastest 5k ever at 22 minutes and 51 seconds! Husband placed 15th out of individual men, Bella placed 7th and I placed 8th out of individual women. I am super proud of us, and impressed with Insanity Max 30 for keeping us in good shape. It was very intimidating to start the race in the first heat. We were surround by individuals and teams who have placed or won the challenge in previous years. Some had run every single year. We were shaking in our tutu’s, but we managed to keep up with the pack and it was a blast!

Before the race began
Before the race began

We ran through the parking lot, through the park, through three (albeit mediocre) obstacles and across the finish line. At the finish line we were handed the usual bottle of water, a cool towel and a clue! That’s right, the challenge was only halfway over. We were to solve the first clue, run to the second, give the correct answer, receive the second clue and so forth. It was not easy to keep running, but we pushed through it and took a few breaks to solve some serious clues. There were a total of 6 clues and at the second finish line we had to hold up the “hidden Yeti” with our 6 solved clues in order to cross and receive our medals. It was exhilarating and so much fun!

We did it!
We did it!

Then, the after party. We celebrated at the post-race private after party in the park. The Dinoland and Asia sections were open for us to enjoy. There were characters, open food and drink stands and rides! Yay, for rides with no lines! We rode Expedition Everest, Dinosaur and Kali River Rapids. It may have been a mistake to get soaking wet on the rapids considering it was chilly out and night time, but it was still worth it to be in Animal Kingdom at night during our own private party.

We conquered Everest!
We conquered Everest!

We didn’t get back until almost 2am. (Wild night for us lame parents.) After spending the entire day at Magic Kingdom and running all night we were EXHAUSTED! It was definitely a night to remember. In fact, it was such a good time that we are already planning our next Disney Run: The Disney Princess Half Marathon!!! (And, by “we” I mean me and Bella. Husband is thrilled to be the babysitter.) Who’s with me???

There were characters all along the course cheering us on and Mickey and Minnie were at the after party.
There were characters all along the course cheering us on and Mickey and Minnie were at the after party.

Also, who has advice? I am SO not prepared. Good thing I’ve got 9 months to whip myself into running shape!

Cheers!

Minnie Mouse Love

tta

We are home from our first Disney vacation with Luna, and I am very tempted to say it was our best trip yet, and considering, we met, got engaged and got married there, that’s saying a lot. We love Disney, but seeing the magic through our daughter’s eyes makes it much more magical than I ever imagined. We spent our three days at the parks doing lots of what we thought Luna would like (and a little of what only we would enjoy). I had not doubt that Luna would enjoy running around, dancing to the music and looking at all the sights, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that she not only enjoyed, but interacted with the shows, rides and characters. Her favorite  (and our favorite) part of the trip was by far, the moment she met Minnie Mouse.

My mini Minnie!
My mini Minnie!

Luna has a small stuffed Minnie Mouse that she has loved since she was just a couple of months old.  In fact, it is the first object she ever smiled at. I have said for a while that she loves Minnie Mouse in general, but Husband has refused to believe that she actually recognizes Minnie Mouse. That is until we went to Disney World.

pink minnie
Waiting for Disney Jr. Live

 

Every. Single. Store. we went into had rows and rows of stuffed Disney characters. There was Mickey, Goofy , Donald, Pooh, Simba, Nemo and of course, Minnie. Luna would scan every aisle until she came to Minnie. She then instantly pulled Minnie from the shelf and ran with her to either me or her Daddy. This happened, not once, but in ever single store and gift shop.

picking minnie big minnie stuffed minnie

Obviously, I convinced Husband to buy her one. I mean, how can you not buy this girl a Minnie Mouse during her first trip to Disney?

stroller minnie

Then, the most magical moment of all happened. Our last day at Disney was spent at EPCOT. We decided to use one of our fastpasses for a character spot. We were somewhat apprehensive about spending time in line for Luna to meet characters that she would most likely be terrified of, but we decided to give it a shot, and I am oh so so glad we did!

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minnie kiss

She met Mickey and loved him. Next, was Goofy. She loved him too. Finally, the grand finale was her supposed favorite character, Minnie Mouse. We slowly set her on the ground about 6 feet from Minnie and nervously waited to see what would happen. Luna’s little eyes lit up when she spotted Minnie. She ran to her, arms out and hugged that giant mouse! Minnie “kissed” her head, held her hands, hugged her and interacted with her for a good three minutes before we stepped in for photos. It was magical!

meet minnie hey minnie

Minnie Mouse was the highlight of our trip, but I have SO much more to share! Stay tuned for Disney tips and tricks as wells as some adorable photos!

all mickeys

Chees!

Pretty Churches

During our trip to the UK we visited lots and lots of old churches and cathedrals. Husband especially loves touring old churches. There is so much history, architecture, art and intrigue. The United Kingdom had some especially beautiful old churches, and we were lucky enough to spend lots of quality time in them.

york hubs

When we visited Westminster Abbey in London they were about to start services and weren’t allowing visitors, sooo we did the only logical choice and told the guard we were going to services, which we did. We sat and and listened to the choir and services start, but Luna wasn’t exactly enjoying it or sitting quietly, so we left after about ten minutes. Unfortunately, that was the only time we had in that famous Abbey, BUT have no fear, we made up for all of that lost time in the York Minster, my all time favorite cathedral, er minster? Does anyone know the difference?

york minster

The York Minster is HUGE. Huge and gorgeous. We spent hours and hours covering every inch, brick and stained glass window. We toured the basement, which goes 2,000 years back into the Minster’s history. Husband and Dad-in-law climbed the winding staircases to the top of the Central Tower. (I had to stay back thank to some baby and “it’s too dangerous for kids” rule.) I spent a lot of time in “the orb” It’s a new exhibit that gives you a very rare opportunity to see some very cool, very old ancient stained glass. I’m not typically a huge fan of stained glass, but I found a whole new appreciation for it after spending time in the orb, and in the Minster for that matter.

york mins more minster minster faces minster ceiling church minster roof

In Scotland, our favorite Cathedral, and Husband’s all-time fav church, with the St. Giles Cathedral. St. Giles is over 900 years old and is located in the center of The Royal Mile. It’s dark, mysterious and has some incredible stained glass windows. However, the most interesting part of the church is the Thistle Chapel. This little room caught Husband’s attention because it was off limits, due to theft. Obviously, he was intrigued and determined to go in, after a little research and a convo with one of the workers, the doors were unlocked and we were taken in right before closing for a little private tour.

stained glass more glass little room

I REALLY wish I would have immediately written down everything we were told because it was so interesting, but of course, i didn’t write down a single word. Here’s what I do know… The Thistle Chapel is a room created for the Order of the Thistle (Scotland’s great order of chivalry). There are 16 members of the Order. Each member has their own stall in the Chapel with their own “heraldic device” on display. After one member dies, another is invited to join the Order. The room is full of the most detailed and intricate carvings and designs. There are many symbolic details, and some silly ones too…like an angel playing the bagpipes. It was a cool room, made cooler by the fact that we got a private tour.

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Oh, so many gorgeous details.

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Where will our next ancient Cathedral be?

Cheers!

The Noble Trip To York

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While planning our trip to the United Kingdom I knew I wanted to start in London and end in Edinburgh, but I was not sure where we would stop in between. In fact, I basically looked at the map and thought, York looks about halfway…okay, done. My handy dandy  Fodor’s travel book, as well at the Internet, helped me outline an itinerary for York while staying in London. I knew NOTHING about York prior to our trip, so I needed all the help I could get, especially since I was the designated tour guide.

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Our first stop was Grey’s Court, which is a magical country cottage hidden between the Minster and the city walls. It’s a home that is over 900 years old and is now a restaurant/hotel. We had lunch and coffee and it was oh.my.gosh. amazing. Great food. Great service. Great ambiance. And, a great view. Everything we ordered was delicious and when we finished our waiter offered to give us a tour of the rooms and the property. Let me just say this; if you ever find yourself in York, book a room at Grey’s Court.

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No high chairs, but Luna enjoyed eating on the comfy couch
No high chairs, but Luna enjoyed eating on the comfy couch

Next stop was the York Minster and I swear to you this was the most interesting church I have ever visited. St. Peter’s Basilica is unbelievable, but there was something so captivating about the Minster. Maybe it was the lack of tourist, the stain glass exhibit or the underground rooms… whatever it was, it kept us there for hours. The boys got to climb the spiral staircases to the top in capture some amazing views, but it was “too dangerous for children” so Luna and I stayed down below.

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There was on room with dozens of these heads, each one different and so detailed.
There was on room with dozens of these heads, each one different and so detailed.

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poor baby was terrified to walk on the glass floor!
poor baby was terrified to walk on the glass floor!

We spent the rest of the day walking and touring. We went through the Shambles (old narrow street that was once all butchers and now touristy unique shops). We naively hiked to the top of Clifford’s Hill, only to learn that the tower was closed. We drank beer and cider at the Trembling House of Madness, a cozy pub adorned with dozens of stuffed animal heads and is apparently haunted, and did some shopping, of course.

The Shambles
The Shambles

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Day 2 we did some extreme walking. As soon as the sun was up we walked through the Museum Gardens before having breakfast in the gardens. After our huge meal, we spent a couple of hours walking the full loop of city walls. After that long walk (with a stroller) we earned a coffee break at the Perky Peacock, which is inside an older bridge tower. Then, off to the National Railway Museum! (Somewhere in here we went to the Yorkshire Museum..it lead much to be desired.)

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I am not typically interested in trains, but these trains were so very cool! We saw royal trains with complete designer bedrooms, living rooms, offices, kitchens, dining rooms and bathrooms. Fancy overnight trains for very wealthy people. (Why can’t we all travel by train these days?), bullet trains, very old mail trains, enormous engines and so much more. Every single person told us that the museum was “must-do” in York, and I now agree.

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Our last night in York was topped off with one of their famous ghost tours. Yes, York is apparently the most haunted city in Europe. The tour was cheesier than I had hoped, and we froze our butts off, but whatevs, we did it. Next stop, Edinburgh!

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Cheers!