A Houston Christmas

We made it to Houston this year to visit my parents at their retirement home. The whole trip was a bit of a scramble to get out the door, get to Houston just in time for a Harry Potter spinoff play, and finish everyone’s presents in the hotel.

But getting everyone together for a couple of great outdoor picnics (due to Covid) made it all worthwhile.

DC Taco Party

My first week of summer vacation with the girls this year was a trip to see Uncle Tim and Aunt Cindy in DC (okay, technically Arlington, Virginia).  The official reason/excuse for the visit was that Tim and Cindy were having a taco party.  So naturally, we were in!

As usual, I’m mostly going to slap some pictures in here as a reminder of the trip. ¬†But let me take quick note of a few funny or noteworthy things from the trip…

The taco party was catered by District Taco¬†ūüėč

Some other girls around Claire and Molly’s ages showed up too. ¬†The older girl, who was 213 like Claire, was a little snarky and didn’t want to talk to anyone. ¬†When leaving the party, her very polite mom said, “Remember to smile!” and the girl said, “I already did.” ūüėā

Claire and Molly got a little bored and headed upstairs to play Roblox for much of the party.

We spent most of one day at the National Museum of Natural History. ¬†I kept talking to the kids about how fascinating the stuff about evolution was and the fact that dinosaurs were real. ¬†I hope I didn’t overdo it. ūü§∑ūüŹĽ‚Äć‚ôāÔłŹ

We saw a movie there about evolution. ¬†It started out with a monkey looking through a scrap book of his “relatives” (other mammals) and planning for a “family reunion” with them. ¬†It made evolution look silly! ¬†But the film got better from there.

When Molly talked to her mom on the phone, her summary of the trip was “I spent $6 on candy, and I liked eating it.” ūüėÜ

Tim, Claire, Molly, and I made a massive Jenga tower at a food court after dinner. ¬†We just kept saying “this is the last move, you’re out of blocks!” and then someone made it work. ¬†It was crazy. ¬†See pic below.

We took Lyft all around town.

Claire had a running and completely made-up joke that our first Lyft driver was complaining that Molly fell asleep in the back set while he was driving. ¬†“She shouldn’t be doing that. ¬†That’s disrespectful.” Claire claims (falsely) that he said in a flat deadpan voice. ūüėā

I had a lot of fun conversations with the drivers, including an exceptionally nice and clean cut immigrant form Tajikistan.  I distinctly remember talking with another driver about history and us both noting that history was unfolding right now in DC (the Trump Russia scandal and possible impeachment).

Over and out.

dasd

Fourth of Juliowa

We made it up to Iowa for a Fourth Of July family reunion (Kit’s mom’s side) this year. ¬†This trip was Molly’s first to Iowa and her first time to meet most of the Iowa¬†side of the family.

The girls had a blast. ¬†They met their first-cousin-once-removed,¬†Jayvon, who was a boy but was close to Claire’s age and was lots of fun. ¬†He and Claire really hit it off and spent lots of time playing tennis, basketball, and just goofing off during the boring family farm meeting at the hotel. ¬†Molly tagged along some with them too. ¬†I keept an eye on them, but Claire didn’t want me to hover too close.

The whole family¬†got to ride in the (locally) famous Yale, Iowa 4th of July parade, which really was a heck of a parade for a tiny little farm town. ¬†We set off daytime fireworks on the family farm. ¬†We¬†spent hours in the hotel’s indoor pool. ¬†Molly was the lucky recipient of a swimming noodle with a head and tail. ¬†We named it Hydra, and she spent hours riding it around the pool. ¬†Hydra got silly and mad and tired. ¬†I spent 95% of my attention making sure Molly didn’t drown herself, so I didn’t get to play much with Claire in the pool. ¬†Luckily, Claire got to play with¬†Jayvon and his dad, Scott, who had some really good ways to splash and toss the kids.

Here are some photos of the fun and patriotic weekend.

A Fun Day in SA

Kit was schedule to run an audit at a hospital¬†in downtown San Antonio on Monday, and she had a nice hotel room right across the street¬†on the Riverwalk, so she invited the rest of the family along to enjoy a quick trip to S.A. ¬†We had lots of fun for a one-day trip, mostly exploring the Riverwalk, swimming, and eating. ¬†The girls did not want to leave on Monday morning after a final¬†swim at the hotel, but I had to get back to work in the afternoon to catch up with the team on the¬†happenings at Apple’s 2015¬†developer conference (WWDC).

dsad

Enchanted Rock

We finally made it out to Enchanted Rock on this¬†beautiful Saturday afternoon. ¬†The kids were tired by hiking up the rock but had a good time. ¬†I’ll just let the pictures do¬†the talking on this one.

Sunshine State (Part 2)

After the big family meet-up in Siesta Key, the four of us headed towards Clearwater, Florida.  While in Florida, we had to meet the most famous dolphin in the world: Winter!  Winter is the real-life inspiration for the movie A Dolphin Tale, a favorite of 8-year-old girls around the globe.  Claire had even donated some of her allowance money to Winter in the past.  That is how much she likes Winter.

On the way up to Clearwater, we toured Sarasota a bit. ¬†We spent the¬†morning¬†at Selby Botanical Gardens, which Kit really enjoyed. ¬†The girls got to see some amazing tropical plants. ¬†Kit had also been scouting great local dining locations, and we ended up having some fantastic lunches at little restaurants like¬†The Serving Spoon in Sarasota. ¬†We headed up to a family-ish resort called Tradewinds, in St. Pete’s Beach. ¬†It was not as cozy as our house in Siesta Key, but it was nice to have a swimming pool and a beach cabana. ¬†We did the paddle boats around the resort too, and the girls¬†loved feeding the swans as they followed us. ¬†Kit nearly had a heart attack when she realized that her iPhone had slipped out of her pocket on the paddle boat. ¬†By almost freakish luck, the phone ended up safe and dry on a little inch-wide lip on the exterior of the boat. ¬†It was a quarter inch from becoming swan food.

Once in Clearwater, we spent most of the day at Winer’s home, the¬†Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which is really a marine animal rescue and rehab hospital that suddenly got famous with the Dolphin Tale movie. ¬†Claire had talked about seeing Winter for years now. ¬†We¬†got to see Winter floating around in her tank. ¬†The poor thing was indeed missing¬†her tail and was somewhat lethargic. ¬†Having come all this way to Florida, Claire got do a special (as in expensive) “dolphin encounter” with Hope, who is Winter’s friend and apparently the star of the upcoming Dolphin Tale 2. ¬†Molly was too young to do the dolphin encounter but¬†was familiar with the movie and enjoyed seeing Winter and all the sea animals. ¬†Molly got a Winter stuffed animal, unique with its missing tail. ¬†

After many hours at the Clearwater aquarium, we headed off¬†for our last night of the trip, near the Tampa airport. ¬†Kit had picked out a local Greek restaurant for a nice final meal. ¬†When we finally fought¬†our way there through the St. Petersburg sprawl, hungry and thirsty from a long hot day with only a small snack or two, the family restaurant was closed for two weeks for vacation. ¬†This was a disappointment to us all, especially our stomachs. ¬†Trying to avoid a small riot, Kit directed us to a family-owned Italian¬†restaurant nearby. ¬†It was also closed for two weeks! ¬†We all started to complain bitterly, and Kit even went so far as to say that it was “Un-American” to just close like that. ¬†Late and now¬†really hungry, we¬†found a Chili’s on the iPhone and headed¬†there, mostly on the grounds that it would probably be open and have, you know, food to eat. ¬†Mercifully, they were indeed open, and we stuffed ourselves on steak and pizza and even shared a big dessert.

Then next morning, we flew home.  Claire and Molly spent the next two days resting up from our big, busy family vacation in sunny Florida.

Sunshine State

To celebrate my dad’s 80th birthday, the family met up at his favorite place: Siesta Key, Florida. ¬†Phil and Noni flew in from Houston, Uncle¬†Tim and Aunt¬†Cindy came down from¬†DC, and Kit, me, and the girls flew in on on¬†our first family flight since last summer to¬†the two Washintgon’s.

What you’ll find below is lots of pictures¬†of this great¬†but¬†brief family gathering. ¬†We all stayed in a cozy¬†off-the-beach house together. ¬†We had only one full day all together, and a couple of nights, but it was really amazing¬†to have everyone together, especially for an occasion like my dad’s big¬†birthday. ¬†His official birthday meal was a “taco bash”, which meant a huge volume of taco meat, shells, and fixings delivered to¬†enjoy on the sunny patio, truly Phil-style.

A few quick¬†notes, and then on to the pictures…

  • Claire was fanatical about swimming on the beach. ¬†She was brought¬†almost to the point of tears when we had to leave each night.
  • Molly¬†was fanatical about the beach toys that came with the rental house. ¬†Her favorite was her little plastic beach wagon, which is featured prominently in the pictures. ¬†There was also a¬†little plastic dinosaur, which Molly named Rexi. ¬†Molly built entire sand castles for Rexi and carefully took him around everywhere. ¬†Tragically,¬†at some point Molly¬†lost Rexi to the¬†sea. ¬†She handled it pretty well, and we hoped¬†that a mermaid might adopt it.
  • Molly also had a project make the ocean “less deep” by dumping one tiny shovel-full of sand at a time into the ocean. ¬†She got her little scoop of sand from a spot about 20 years inland and carefully carried each scoop to the sea, making sure not to spill any until she actually got to the water. ¬†She did this for nearly two hours.
  • Besides Rexi, we also lost two pairs of goggles (mine and Claire’s) during the trip, plus Molly’s at home just before the trip. ¬†When Claire lost her goggles to the sea, she was in a near state of panic because it meant lost ocean swimming time. ¬†After some negotiation, Molly kindly agreed to share her replacement goggles with Claire.