Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A 3 year old in our house!

I am so over due posting pictures from Eli's birthday! (I am making myself sit down to write a quick post before we have a party for Cai next week.) This little man is an absolute joy to our life. He sure is a handful, but man oh man do we love him! Everyday he surprises us with how much he is learning, growing, exploring, and loving life. He has a laugh that is contagious and a "I just swallowed a canary" look that could win awards. He is always climbing up in a tree wanting to go higher and higher. or swinging on the hammock wanting to go faster and faster, or running ahead of me wanting to go farther and farther. I had someone ask me the other day what I did to work out...Eli...that is my total body workout. This little man pushes me to be creative, hold my tongue and think before I speak, to dig down deep and get to the root of my feelings, and to lean hard on the Lord. David and I frequently find ourselves reliving the day and telling each other our Eli quotes of the day.

For all of you who have heard the epic Eli roar we decided to fittingly through him a dinosaur party complete with dinosaur foot prints going up the mile long sidewalk we have here, dinosaur eggs for decorations, gift bag with you guessed it DINOSAURS, baby dinosaur egg hunt in the dirt and even a dinosaur pinata. We had a blast hanging out with friends and running from activity to activity. Eli was so tired by the end of the party (noted in picture below) but it really was a great day. Thank you Tia Alicia for the incredible handmade pinata, Nicole thank you for picking up my camera and taking pictures, and thank you to everyone that could come and celebrate Eli with us! And a Happy Birthday to Emma, too! (E and Emma are Birthday twins!) 

Photo credit: Nicole Chewning

Photo credit: Nicole Chewning

Photo credit: Nicole Chewning

Photo credit: Nicole Chewning

Photo credit: Nicole Chewning

Photo credit: Nicole Chewning

Photo credit: Nicole Chewning

Monday, August 4, 2014

Just trying to tempt you to visit...

Before I start there are two statements/disclaimers to this post (and those rules do carry over)...

1. I really really am not trying to brag about living in Spain. 
2. But we really are enjoying our time here and are so thankful that God has given us this opportunity. 

Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that I am going to post as many pictures as I like about our adventures here with the hope and desire that they inspires at least a couple of you to come and visit! (I mean seriously, I finally have a guestroom with an actual bed in it so you don't have to sleep on an air mattress in the living room!) 

Here we go. Many moons ago (back in May) we had our first experience of Feria. I am still learning all that the Spanish culture has to offer, but have quickly found that Feria is a huge favorite around here. From the horses, to the lights, to the casetas ("little restaurants") filled with tapas ("appetizers") and dance floors, to the amusement park, and don't forget the bold and colorful dresses (didn't wear one this year...I pooper!). We went during the day time so didn't get to see the lights on, but the kids sure had a great time on the rides and Cai even had his first carousel ride (just for you Mima!). 

Can I just say that I LOVE shore duty! It has been an incredible breath of fresh air for our family to be able to spend so much time together. I get a smile on my face every time I think of how David got to hear Cai say his first words ("Daddy " and "EEELIIII"), how he is getting to see Cai crawling around, and even just the simple little things like watching little Mr. dropping his food on the floor when he really should be eating it. David missed all those milestones in Eli's life because of deployment. I am beyond thankful to have him home with us.

We have really been trying to spend intentional family time and one of those times involved an overnight trip to Sevilla. The cities and towns surrounding us are incredible, but we have really had to bring our hopes and expectations of our adventures to lets just have fun. No huge itineraries. No seeing absolutely every tourist spot. No stressing because it just makes grumpy kids and crabby parents. When our expectations are low we have found ourselves enjoying every second of our family time and actually getting to do more than we had hoped. Some of the highlights of our overnight to Sevilla included walking through the streets lined with gorgeous buildings (and of course flying our airplanes along the way), treating ourselves to Starbucks (thought of you Sarah!!!), and going on a carriage ride to see all the tourist spots (best decision ever! David and I got to be tourists, e thought the horse was the best thing ever, and Cai fell asleep).

At the end of June Stephanie (a dear friend that we have known since we were in South Carolina that puts up with our crazy family) came to visit us (just ask her, we really do have a guest bed!) and we had to do some sightseeing before she left. Bring on Gibraltar (guess what...I didn't forget our passports this time!). What a fun place to go. If you ever have the chance it is a great day trip. We took the "easy" way and paid the money to go on one of the taxi tours. Best way to see the island with a 3 year old and almost 1 year old. Our guide was hysterical and so accommodating with our big old stroller and two little ones.  

I have so many favorites from this trip, but here are a few (ok, a lot): 

- You have to cross a jet way to get onto the rock ("Alright kids, stop and look both ways. Are there any airplanes coming?")
- English, but not just any old English. English with a British accent! LOVE! Their accent makes me smile every time I hear it. 
- Phone booths. I don't know how many the boys will get to see in their lives, but at least e has a picture with one here. (Sad day how they are become a novelty verses a commonality.)
- The monkeys! E was not sure about them, but must have enjoyed them because he kept talking about them after we left. We also got to see the one of the caves, some of the siege tunnels and a look out where you could see off in the distance Africa (gets me every time that we are that close). 


These last two pictures are quickly becoming some of my favorites. That double stroller (thank you Mary!) has gone with us so many places and I can't get over how much I love getting to see those little feet of our boys sticking out. The last picture melts my heart. It goes right along with what I wrote above. God is so good to us and I am eating up every minute of watching David with our boys. 

ps...I promise that you will be seeing more of Cai in the upcoming pictures. He is now entering the stage of wanting to investigate and be a part of the action instead of enjoying the ride from the comfort of his side of the stroller. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Granada, you know you will miss us!

Here I am again playing more catch up. I for some reason can't stop taking pictures and am beginning to see that "catch up" is my life motto these days. Going back to April once more brings us to our trip to Granada. As I was going through the pictures I took I found myself loving that I have a camera and dying laughing from the memories. I apologize in advance if my memories don't seem as fun to anyone else but me! Humor me and laugh just because it feels really good to have a good laugh now and then. 

WARNING: This is a REALLY long post! 

Architecture! The buildings in this country are incredible! The detail and intricacies are mind boggling. Each building is an artistic masterpiece. The more you look the more you see and find yourself standing in awe. I am so that person that is hopelessly trying to not be a total tourist while carrying a 9 month old in a wrap doing contortions trying to get images of these buildings. I can only imagine what people think of me! Look at them, though! They are truly spectacular!  

We went to Granada with the infamous Slouffmans. Poor dears having to put up with us again! You would think they learned that Bundys = chaos. We sure had a blast, though. Our kids get along great usually, and we really do enjoy their company. 

We went to Granada over Easter weekend. There are a lot of things that I associate with Easter, most obviously the resurrection which gives us hope, but now living in Spain I have one more, wax. I would never have thought of it! Seriously though, candle wax. It is such a big deal that the Naval base sent out a warning letter to remind us to be careful when driving because of the wax, and there are even special signs up to warn drivers. (Insert image of tall blonde that can hardly walk here. Now add slippery cobblestone that is worn from years of wear, make that cobblestone slope at a ridiculous angle, and now add the candle wax. Oh my goodness!!! you can continue reading.)

We, well at least us girls, loved getting to walk through the markets looking for treasures. There wasn't a whole lot of time for perusing since most of our time was spent keeping the kids from grabbing everything within sight and trying not to completely block the narrow passage ways with our strollers (and might I add trying to keep the husbands happy by not taking too long). The kids sure did have fun, though, peeking around corners playing hide and go seek.  

Here we were in beautiful Granada with 5 kids and two umbrella strollers. What were we thinking! We were given a map and saw that one of the attractions was an old wall. We love seeing the history and decided that would be our activity for the day. Our map showed us the wall but failed us on two parts. First, it should have included elevation. Bless David and JR because once again they pushed those strollers up hill for far too long. I honestly don't know how we didn't decide to turn back or how the umbrella strollers made it up to the top in one piece. These pictures really don't give the slop of the streets justice (in my defense, I was trying to get low but had poor little Cai in the wrap and that sweet little boy finds himself in far too many awkward positions while his mom takes pictures). 

You can see just how thrilled everyone was. the face! 

We finally make it to the top after going through more back streets and allies that we probably could have done without! However, what the map also failed to tell us was that even though we made it to the top you don't get to see the old wall. Seriously! If it weren't for the nice man randomly sitting in an alley (that sounds so sketchy) we would still be trying to find it. Apparently they built another wall in front of it! 

"Yes, Eli. We don't get to see the old wall...just this newer wall that is now covered with graffiti and is falling apart that was built in front of the old." I had so much fun! You should have heard us walking through the maze of streets dying laughing as we came to dead ends and alleyways that never seemed to end. I would do it all over again! And lets be honest, the view at the top was worth the walk. 

Yes, we did celebrate once we made it to the bottom. I was just thankful that I didn't slip and fall on the way down! (Or get hit by the drivers that some how can change gears while going up such a steep slope and narrow streets.) 

Being that it was Holy Week there were many processions. We made it down the "mountain" in time to see one. My favorite part was when the kids ran out into the street after the procession had passed to dance to the music. They have some serious moves! 

Once the procession and dancing finished it was time to head back. Haha! Heading back...that because a feat. You see, most of the city had been blocked off and of course the one street we needed to cross to get to our bus stop was barricaded. Bring on the sketchy alleyways!!! We finally found an alternate route, but we made sure to stay in a single file line. (It really wasn't that bad and I actually love how the picture of everyone walking single file turned out.) 

We found ourselves in a plaza where the kids became mesmerized by a street performer (seen in the image below, actually, in the crazy blue Hawaiian shirt) who did a pretty spectacular job with his clown act. Of course we had to finish the day with ice cream. 

Day 2. We took our time getting out the door and made our first stop lunch. I seriously love all the faces in this picture. Annie, you never fail to give me a great face! Jack, "Seriously, Tia Kristi! Another picture!" Emma, I think she is going to throw something at me. And of course, my boys...they never look at the camera. 

Our adventure for day 2 was up to the look out. We probably could have walked back up the slippery slopes to the look out, but decided to wise up and take the bus up instead. SO MUCH EASIER!!! David and Eli made sure to get their wiggles out before the bus ride. I cannot get enough of these two. It brings me so much joy to see them playing together. 

The look out was gorgeous! Looking out over to the Alhambra was breath taking even with the cloudy skies. I am sure that I should know more about the Alhambra from history classes and all, but if you are like me and need a refresher, it was the last Moorish stronghold in Europe and actually was taken over by Ferdinand and Isabella the same year that Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas (thank you Encyclopedia David. Love that my husband is a walking wealth of knowledge! Although, it makes me get lazy with my facts because I depend on him so much now!) 

One picture boys! Just one! Yeah...apparently not going to happen! 

Cai and I finally making an appearance! We do go on these trips, too. 

I was looking through the images from this trip and another commonality I found was that JR, Alicia, David and I were taken in by the history, the architecture, the incredible opportunity to be in Granada. I would have taken picture of a building and then turn around and find myself taking a picture of e playing in the dirt. The picture below is a perfect example. There the adults are taking in the view and e finds a chain to play on. I love that he can find joy and excitement in the simple things of life. He is a continual reminder to me to take in the moments even when they are simple ones because sometimes those are the very best.

Day 2 was way less hectic than day 1, but still came with plenty of moments like the one below. David and JR pouring over the map, Alicia with her camera, Jack sleeping soundly in the double jogger (we got smarter! Only one umbrella stroller.) Annie taking care of the baby, Emma being Emma, and Eli...well...he was always running off. I'm pretty sure the next words out of David's mouth would be, "Eli, get back here!"

Our last Day in Granada was spent getting to take a tour through the Alhambra. For those of you who have made it this far in this crazy long post... BLESS YOU! I know that this one is a little long winded, but I need to write down our memories somewhere so here they are. 

Getting to the Alhambra was a bit of a trick. The skies were cloudy and promised nothing but rain. We gathered up the troops, strollers, and our bags of diapers, snacks, water, jackets,etc. and walked as quickly as we could to the bottom of the hill (thank you JR for running to catch the bus) where the bus was waiting for us. We awkwardly unpack our things as this particular bus was not capable of holding a filled stroller like the others had been. All of us looked ridiculous as we had kids thrown over shoulders or under arms while juggling all our STUFF as quickly as possible trying to avoid eye contact with the already full bus of tourist who were I am sure thinking, "Oh boy! Are they really coming with us?!!!"
We get to the Alhambra and JR runs in to pay for our tickets (they were already quoted for us) but come to find out that we were going to be charging us an arm and a leg instead. He runs out to grab the phone that has the price quoted and runs back to the ticket counter while the rest of us stand there with our strollers and crazy kids running around in circles still trying to avoid contact with the tour guides who keep asking us if we are ready. Finally everything gets sorted out (THANK YOU JR for taking care of all the details!!! You are the BEST!!!) and we tell the tour guide we are ready to go. The tour guide then passes by me and says, "Strollers aren't allowed." REALLY!!!! REALLY!!!! We loaded them onto a bus, unloaded them, have been standing waiting for quite a while and only now someone told us that we couldn't take our loaded to the max strollers. Haha!!! All you can do is laugh. But, I did want to shout "SERIOUSLY!" Everything ended up working out great. They had a locker area that we could check the strollers into and the kids did amazingly well considering they couldn't climb, walk, or step on most of what they saw.  

The Alhambra truly is a breath taking place to visit. Pictures bring no justice to the incredible artistry that each of these buildings was made with. When you are looking at the pictures below you will just have to squint and use your imagination to come close to how magnificent it is.  

There have been several many times that we have wondered what our experience would have been like if we had been given orders to Spain before kids. Don't misunderstand me. We LOVE our boys!!! And, we would not trade them for the world. When I can capture them in their little moments on our adventures it reminds me of how much I love getting to be a part of their little world and would not have it any other way.  

I will end this novel with one last picture. If I had to give it a caption it would be this, " mom really did put me in time out at the Alhambra. Worse yet, she thought I looked cute while IN timeout so she took a picture! I think she put me in timeout just so she COULD take a picture of me."