I got a call from my Uncle John letting me know that he and my cousin, Cami, were in our great state of North Carolina. What??? We never have family this close. They were at a work convention, but had a few free hours on Sunday afternoon. Andrew and I decided it would be worth it to pack up a big picnic dinner, throw the kids in the van, and head down to visit them.
Our visit was short. I think we spent a total of about 2 1/2 hours together. But it was so fun to visit with family! And we got to meet Cami's husband, Brian. He is a great storyteller. I will always think of his homemade sectional sofa when I see him now.
It's a good thing our kids are good travelers, because we spent more time in the van than we did with our family. Totally worth it!
Days like this don't come along very often. Or maybe ever again.
Last Saturday was awesome. I started off the day sleeping in. Then my breakfast Valentine's Date with Andrew. Chocolate chip pancakes and hash browns. Delicious. Mmmmm.
We hurried home from our date just in time for me to head up to Durham with Becca and Greylyn to watch:
Oh. my. gosh. It was a last-minute plan because Becca ended up with an extra ticket. I was so happy that I got to tag along. The show was AMAZING. The singing. The British accents. The costumes. The special effects with Mary flying off the stage with her umbrella. Twice. My absolute favorite scene was "Step In Time." They put on a huge tap number to it. Loved it. My second favorite was "Feed the Birds." The actress who played the beggar woman had a gorgeous voice. So, so fun!!
I got home from Durham just in time to meet Andrew and the kids for dinner at a friend's home. (Nope, I didn't cook a single meal that day!) It was delicious, the kids were good, and we had fun conversations. Perfect.
When we left dinner I hurried home to get all dressed up for:
Downton Abbey party!
A whole slew of my friends love this show as much (or more?) than I do. Shelley bought the season on Amazon and invited us all over to watch the finale together a day early. So. much. fun.
I'm glad I have friends that I can still play dress-up with.
Whit and Caroline were jealous.
Shelley had the house decorated all fancy for us.
We had yummy treats and [caffeine free] tea.
It was so fun to pretend to be refined for a night.
After our tea party, we were ready for the show.
And, boy, did it make us mad!
I *still* can't believe they killed MATTHEW.
Matthew? Really? Boo.
But I was happy to be surrounded by friends
who made his death a tad bit easier to swallow.
I'm always looking for a good excuse to celebrate. Our latest reason: Valentine's Day!
First, Andrew took Whitney to the Daddy-daughter dance at school.
They rocked the dance floor...
as much as you can with a partially-torn ACL.
Whitney has got some moves!
She loved hanging out with friends.
Seeing them all dressed up.
But she especially loved having one-on-one time with her Daddio.
We continued our yearly tradition
of mailboxes for love notes.
The kids weren't as into it this year,
but we shared a few nice messages.
We made and decorated sugar cookies one night.
Yum. I wish I was eating one right now.
On the actual Valentine's Day, the kids had an early release day.
It was a beautiful, sunny day, so we headed to Triad park,
a place we used to frequent when the kids were younger,
but haven't been in a long time.
It is a GREAT park.
I just wish it didn't take 25 minutes to drive there.
All of us had a good time practicing our rock climbing skills.
I loved watching the kids help each other.
Especially these two.
We've got some good climbers on our hands!
They also had sand volleyball courts.
SO fun to hit the ball around with the kids.
And it's good sand.
The girls felt like they were at the beach.
(I know where I'm taking them next time they want to build sand castles!)
We enjoyed their great playground, too.
Love the spongy asphalt.
No mulch in our shoes!
Care Bear loved this big green swing.
And they have fun, flat trails for riding bikes.
I think this park should put me on the payroll.
Have I said enough good things about it yet?
Our other tradition is to go out as a family on Valentine's night
and then as a couple the weekend before or after.
We stopped at our second-favorite Japanese place.
What a fun day.
For our Valentine's date, we had to do some rearranging because of last-minute activities that came up. We went on a breakfast date. It was fabulous. Why didn't we think of this sooner? I didn't take any pictures, so you'll have to take my word for it. The chocolate chip pancakes were scrumptious.
I truly love the phase of parenting that we're in right now. No one in diapers. No one with a driver's license for me to worry about on the road. No teenage drama. It is a fabulous time of life. Brandon has been asking (begging?) us to go to the circus for the past few months. I'm not sure where that request came from. We went when he was four and five, but haven't been back since. I told Andrew, "We don't have many more years when our son is going to be asking us to take him to the circus." And the girls are at such fun ages for it, too. Andrew agreed and I got the tickets.
I intended to use them as stocking stuffers...but accidentally left them sitting in one of my favorite gift-hiding-locations. Finally about a week before the circus, we did a treasure hunt for our Family Home Evening activity and the circus tickets were the prize at the end. The kids SCREAMED with delight.
And the show did NOT disappoint. All of us loved it. I would love to go back. Especially to see the trained poodles. They were my favorite. Andrew loved them, too. Whitney's favorite was the tigers. Caroline loved the tightrope walkers. Brandon thought the trampoliners were pretty awesome.
I think they've done some remodeling at the coliseum.
They have MINIMIZED legroom.
In our long-legged family, that doesn't go over well.
So, the above picture is totally blurry
(circus lighting is not ideal for photography),
but it is a man hanging from the ceiling,
holding a noose-like rope in his mouth,
while a woman holds onto the rope and swings around.
How does he do that???
Apparently his mom didn't have the rule,
"Teeth are not tools!" in his house.
We loved this beautiful white tiger.
I think the last circus I went to had four or five tigers.
This one had a ton! I think at least 10.
It made me a little nervous for the tamer.
Especially when the tigers would bare their teeth...like this.
Before they launched the girl out of the canon,
the ringmaster warned us, "Don't blink or you might miss it!"
Caroline held her eyes like this for the next two minutes until launch.
Trampoliners--a new addition since our last visit.
The awesome trained poodles!!
I want more!
It blows my mind that they can get elephants to do this.
My other very favorite part of the night:
watching the kids reactions to every little thing.
You could tell how much the kids loved it
because for the next several days,
the circus came home with us!