Thursday, July 29, 2010

15 years

15 years ago today, on a very hot-113-degree evening, I married Matt.  I was 21 at the time, he was 22, and everyone thought we were crazy to get married so young.  I was in the middle of getting my Bachelor's and unbeknownst to me, some thought I would not finish school (ha- little did they know!!).  It was a wonderful evening, one that went by way too fast, but one that I will cherish a lifetime.
So 15 years is a long time..... where have we been?  what have we done?
1996: At the end of our "wanna-be-a-cowboy" phase; living in a 400 sq feet apartment; still in school (ha!), and learning how to be married (the hard way).
1997: Both working at least 2 jobs each; both attending school (double ha!); and attending lots of friends wedding this year?!
1998: Look who graduated now (it never could have been done without the support of my hubby); a big move to Dallas to look for a career; saying goodbye to Illinois
1999: both found great jobs; meeting fun friends; and having fun travels thanks to dual incomes (whoo-hoo); we went to Mexico and Colorado that summer
2000: Our first house; our first dog; we're really the established married couple now; what's next?
2001: Parenthood!  Along came our sweet daughter and life has been forever changed for the better.
2002: And we added another Darling to the clan; parenthood times two was fast and furious.
2003: But we still found time to enjoy life together; Our first cruise (sans children)
2004: Again, a busy year filled with raising 2 kids the best we could; Summer included our first camping trip, a Wiggles concert, and a fun wedding
2005: 10 years! Wow!!  A special trip to the Big Apple for our 10 year wedding anniversary
2006: And we followed that fun with a family trip to see the Big Mouse!
2007: Our vacation destinations have improved, as we have been to Costa Rica, Cabo, France, & Italy; I have found a fantastic traveling companion in my hubby.
2008: A Big year for us with a big move, a European vacation, and a confirmation of our faith.
2009: Little Bubba completed our family.
2010: A busy year filled with all the energy of 3 amazing children!

15 years.  Wow. I am more in love with this man today as the father of my children and best friend, than I was the day I married him.  Back then, I never could have imagined how amazing these past 15 years would be.  So full of memories and sweet moments.  I am completed fulfilled.  Thank you God for being the ultimate matchmaker and mapping out the wonderful life we have had so far.  I can't wait to see what more there is to come.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Meet Me in St. Louis

St. Louis....a town we have driven through oh so many times, but hardly ever stopped and enjoyed what the city had to offer.  I always seemed to snap a picture of the Arch as we drove over the bridge of the Mississippi, but we never stopped.  Until this summer.  My fan-tab-u-lous (it's a word, right?) SIL had lived there for many years and suggested we go down for the day.  She said she had heard of this fun kid's museum that she thought the kids might like.  Oh yeah...they liked it alright!  But our first stop of the day was the Gateway Arch:
So, did you know:
 ~ The Gateway Arch was built in February 1963 and was completed 2 1/2 years later?  And they didn't have fancy computers to help with the surveying and building like we do now....
 ~ The Gateway Arch is the tallest national monument in the United States at 630 feet?
 ~ These tiny trams to get to the top of the Arch have been in operation for 30 years?  They only sit 4 people and take about 4 minutes to get to the top.  But it's a long 4 minutes......
 ~ The room at the top of the Arch fits about 100 people and has lots of tiny windows to "look out" onto St. Louis?
~ The Arch can sway in high winds???  Yikes!  Glad it was a nice & sunny day in St. Louis when we were up there!
 ~The Arch was built to honor the westward expansion that was started here, in St. Louis, along the Mississippi River?  This muddy, brown, still river is the Mississippi.  Somehow, not as I pictured it when I read about it in History.  
 ~ Lastly, the distance from one foot of the arch to the other is the same as the height, 630 feet?

And how'd ya like that little lesson in history?  Your welcome.  The experience was great.  The kids loved it and the museums that are underneath the Arch as well.  Funny story- as we were heading up to the line for the trams, we ran into some Texas friends...girls who are in Sissy's Girl Scout Troop!  Ironic, isn't it??  Proving to us, how small the world really is.

After our History lesson, we headed to the "fun, little" museum that Aunt Ginger recommended.   The City Museum is so much more than "fun".  It is hands-down the BEST children's museum I have ever been to.  It is built in an old shoe warehouse in downtown St. Louis.  A local artist was commissioned to build it out of children's playground equipment, planes, school busses, crazy metal objects,and much more.  It has an outdoor area that you can crawl around in for hours.  Everyone of these structures has a way to climb and crawl into it.  
The City Museum has underground tunnels that I got a little claustrophobic in (but come on, they were built for kids!).  It has tree houses made of wood and metal, a huge whale to crawl around it, slides to slide down (including a 10-story circular one), and the list goes on and on.
The kids had an amazing time.
Here they are, 13 stories high, climbing inside a metal snowman. Huh?
Some of the indoor structures.  
What did these kids think of it?  I think it's safe to say that they liked it.  We were so bummed that it closed at 5, we could have stayed all night.  And it was only because of the wonderful treats found a Crown Candy Kitchen, that these kids were ok with leaving.
I found Crown Candy Kitchen while googling "kid fun restaurants in St. L".  CCK is an incredible soda fountain that has been around since 1913.  It's not in the best past of town, but since it was for lunch, we thought it would be fine.  Unfortunately, there was a line out the door at lunchtime (popular place), so we came back at 5 with no wait.  Turns out, this place was featured on "Man vs. Food" from the Travel Channel a few years ago (he had to drink 5 large malts in 1 hour and failed!!).  It was like stepping back in time.  And the food was amazing.  We each had wonderful toasted sandwiches topped with the most original sundaes:
Marshmallow creme sundaes, turtle sundaes, and death by chocolate sundaes were enjoyed that night!!!

All-in-all, it was a wonderful day and one that I highly recommend.  No more "driving through" can meet me in St. Louis anyday!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Down on the Prairie (State)

                Many of you don't realize that this born-n-bred Texas gal has not lived here all her life.

what???  No!!!

                Yes, I know, I can hardly believe it myself.  In fact, I am very well traveled, living in 4 different states, 13 different homes and attending 9 different schools all before I graduated from high school (but that's a story for another time).  Back to Illinois.....

                From 1995 to 1998, my hubby whisked me away to the great state of Illinois, where I attended the University of Illinois Springfield, eventually graduating from there May of '98.  My very dear in-laws (and family) live there and we have great memories of living in Springfield.  Now, each summer, my 2 older kiddos go to visit their grandparents for a week or two.  This summer, we decided to drive up to meet them with the baby and stay for a while.

                My kids were already sufficiently spoiled by the time we got there, but we had so much more still to do......

Like eating traditional Illinois foods such as thin crust pizza, Mellow Creme Donuts, and horseshoes.  Huh?

           A Horseshoe is a plate that originates in Springfield, IL and everyone from here loves these "heart-attacks-on-a-plate".  Matt & I tend to like them, so we thought it would be great to introduce Sis to her first.  So what is it?  2 slices of texas toast (ironic, isn't it?) piled high with your choice of meat (I like ham, Matt likes corned beef).  Cover that with crinkle-cut french fries and smother it with a white-cheddar cheese sauce.  Mmmm. Mmmm. Mmmm.  You can't even imagine how delicious this is.  I even had a taste of a gourmet one as well with cornbread, pulled-pork BBQ, sweet potato fries and pepper jack sauce.  Ummmmmmm.
         And did she like it?
what do you think?

              All of the brothers & sisters were home for the fourth and it was great to see everyone!  We had so much fun over the 4th, celebrating the nation's birthday along with a certain sister's birthday.  We may have even gotten to go out as adults one evening.  It was a very eventful night complete with a donkey, 2 am Steak n Shake, and tons of laughter.  I felt like a kid again. Just sayin' Bradley

            With everyone home, we were able to really get to know our sweet niece & nephew:

          And sweet Bubba really learned how to walk while we were in Illinois.  By the end of the trip, he was toddling around everywhere.

            And we did plently of touristy things too, like spending the day in St. Louis and an overnight trip to Chicago (posts coming soon).  And visiting New Salem, where President Lincoln spent his young adult years.

            While here, we introduced PaPa to geo-cacheing and had so much fun.  Turns out, he was better at it then we were.  I'll tell ya'll about that soon too.

             We crammed so much into our 2 1/2 weeks there, that is has taken me a week to recover to finally get this post up.  It was one of the best times I have ever spent with my kids.  So incredibly relaxing, yet we were on the go every minute!  It was great quality time spent with our extended family and that was the best part about it.  No matter where you live, you always feel at home when you are with family.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Vacation is...

endless fun in the pool

trips to new & exciting places

exploring amazing museums

trying over & over to get the perfect grandkid only have yours be the uncooperative one

spending time with our favorite aunts & uncles

seeing cool & amazing new sites

playing around in the big city

seeing the world from 103 floors up

shopping at all our favorite places

having one-on-one time with each of your kids

more swimming...this time fully clothed

or not

watching your baby toddle around in some of the neatest places

and endless smiles of joy 

       We had an amazing trip to Illinois for our summer vacation!  We visited with tons of family & friends, had a blast in St. Louis & Chicago, went camping in Arkansas (not for me- but I'll get to that later), and had wonderful time just being together.  We are still recovering from being gone almost 3 weeks.  But I'm sure you'll see more details of all the fun coming up soon.  As much fun as we had, it's great to be home!

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