Thursday, August 29, 2013

First Day of School-2013

Ahhh, time for a new school year.  This summer just flew by!!!  The kids were all smiles at Meet the Teacher night.  Kaitlyn has a teacher new to the school this year.  She seems super nice though.  And we lifted up many prayers that Preston would have the same second grade teacher that Kaitlyn had.  He does!  We're so thankful!  I am especially thankful to be the Room Rep for BOTH classrooms again.  I love being involved and so do the kids.

Preston's teacher left a special treat for each of her students.

We had new backpacks, shoes, and lunchboxes laid out the night before the first day.

For breakfast, I made muffies (muffin tops-thanks for the idea, Panera Bread!). I promise, they are muffins, not cookies. 

Even though they were all smiles for the pictures, Kaitlyn and Preston were not ready to go back to school.

Here are 3 years of pictures on the same bench in front of the school:

2011-Kindergarten and 2nd Grade

2012-1st Grade and 3rd Grade

2013-2nd Grade and 4th Grade

They have changed so much!!!

The kids got right to work putting away their belongings.  Preston looked so depressed when he walked in, it was comical.  

We left the poor, miserable children (haha) and went home to watch TV and sit around the rest of the day.  Yeah right!!!  We had errands to run, then Craig worked on the yard for most of the day and I cleaned, did some work, and baked their after school treats-white chocolate chip snickerdoodles.

Mmmm, lots of cinnamon and sugar.

So soft and full of deliciousness!

As tradition, Kaitlyn and Preston always get a special surprise when they come home.  They spotted these books at Target a couple weeks ago and said they wanted to read those books.  Surprise!  

They also get to pick out whatever dinner they want for their first day.  They picked ribs!!!!  Yes, ribs!  So, Craig grilled ribs and I made all the sides.

They loved the meal, especially since they don't eat ribs often.

They showered, relaxed, read our devotion together and then off to bed for another day of school.  

Monday, August 26, 2013

Travel Tips

Our recent California trip was the biggest vacation we have taken as a family.  Our goal is to visit all 50 states, preferably 2 states a year.  Since we just started last year, we've only hit 4 states.  However, we already know what 2 states we are visiting next year.  :)

When planning out our trips, I do a TON of research.  I always check out things to do in the area we want to visit, nice hotels or resorts, and whether we have to drive or fly.

City Websites:
City websites, like the chamber of commerce, can offer so much info like best places to stay, favorite restaurants, and upcoming events.  Sometimes it's nice to plan a vacation during a city festival or event.  Just beware that hotels will be booked far in advance for those certain times.

Hotel Reviews:
Always read the reviews for any place you are going to stay.  The reviews may vary from good to bad for the same place.  However, if the majority of the reviews are not good, I am not going to book that place.

Trip Advisor:
I LOVE Trip Advisor.  In fact, I am a top contributor to the site.  It's a large travel site to book hotels, flights, rentals, etc.  It's also FULL of reviews.  After I check out a hotel or restaurants reviews, I always check it out on Trip Advisor as well.  In fact, this site is where I found most of the cool eating places in Ruidoso, NM.

Travel Agents:
For our California trip, I had some help.  First, Heather Newton from Shipsmart Travel, Inc. booked our lodging for Anaheim and San Diego.  She was also able to include the San Diego Zoo tickets in our package.  If we chose to, she could have booked our flights as well.  Going through a travel agent requires a down payment at time of booking and then you pay off the rest of the amount over time.  Payment must be paid in full 30-45 days before your trip.  I loved doing it this way because we had options to choose from and we saved some money in the process.  Plus, we had peace of mind knowing that our rooms were secured.  

Our second travel agent was Abbey Mings from Vacations Gone Goofy.  She helped me get my Disney tickets and knew exactly what I needed.  She can plan out entire Disney vacations as well as cruises.  She offers tips just for her clients and is so eager to help in any way she can.

Cover Photo

Maps and Gas Buddy:
It helps if you know where you're going. Ha!!!  There are so many map sites to provide directions.  We usually use Google Maps.  Since all of our trips have been driveable so far, we look at every possible route to get to our destination.  Some routes may be a little longer, but they are more scenic.  If we are going to a new place, we like to stick to the main interstate.

Gas Buddy is a great site that lets you know the current gas prices around the country.  That way you can budget your gas cost for your trip.  We used this for San Diego and our actual amount was spot on to what we had figured it would be.

Using all these great resources, I have already been doing lots of research for next year's trips and are so excited.  If you have any tips to add, please send them my way.

I have not been compensated by any of these sites.  All opinions are my own.

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Kelley-fornia Adventure, Part 5: A Reflection

Day 7:
Begrudgingly, it was time to pack up and begin our journey home.  Cue sad music.  We absolutely loved our vacation.  The places were fun.  The sights were breathtaking.  Weather was perfect!  We certainly were not ready to go back to triple digit heat and humidity.  I loved that the kids wanted to spend just a few more moments taking in the serene waters.

We stopped in El Paso at our favorite restaurant, Leo's.  We had to enjoy the food one more time because we didn't know when we would have it again.  Plus, Preston had been talking about it the whole trip.  My family was also in town for a conference and we saw them at the restaurant!

By the way, they looked like this on purpose.  They were laughing and having a good time, but as soon as I said "smile", they did this.  And I was laughing so that made the picture blurry.  Oh, my family!

Day 8:
It took us a day to drive across three states.  It took us another day to drive 3/4 of the way through Texas!  As much as I talk about moving to Arizona or California, I am a Texan, born and raised.  We got home in time for dinner but didn't stay up long.  It was so nice to sleep in my big, comfy bed again.

As I reflected upon my absolutely favorite time of the trip, I will say it wasn't the parks or the characters we met, even though it may have been for the rest of my family.  But it was this moment.

We had stopped at Torrey Pines State Reserve on Day 5 as we were headed to San Diego.  This was my kids very first experience with the ocean.  We all had fun rolling up our pants and shorts and walking into the water.  Preston loved running through the waves.  Craig did too.

But in this moment, as I stood back watching my daughter, and I was listening to the sounds of the water that always calms me, I saw how at peace she seemed to be.  She was taking her time finding rocks, "washing them off", and stacking them in a nice, neat pile on the beach.  She had a constant smile on her face and everything seemed to be perfect.  I wanted time to stand still.  And for just a short period of time, it did.  And I wanted to cry.

My family is so incredibly blessed and I thank my Heavenly Father everyday for it.  We are four hearts that beat as one and love the many journeys that God has given us.

It was a very fulfilling week, with forever memories made.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Kelley-fornia Adventure, Part 4: San Diego!

Day 5:
It was time for us to leave Anaheim and make our way down the coast to gorgeous San Diego.  I was beyond excited, simply because my kids had never seen the ocean before.  It's so easy to take for granted if you live close to it, but it's definitely worth appreciating.

We didn't get too far out of town when we started to see this:

I just love how the water blends into the sky, with no beginning or end.

We pulled over at a scenic area to get a couple pictures.  We were also fascinated with the birds.

We stopped in Torrey Pines and spent time on the beach, which I will write about in my final post.  We were so eager to get to San Diego.  We headed straight to Seaport Village for some lunch.

We loved seeing all the boats,

military ships,

and fancy yachts!

We also browsed the stores,

made wax creations in a candle shop,

and checked out the cool kites.

Finally, we were able to check into our hotel.  We had requested a bay view room and that's exactly what we got!  We were able to open our patio door and walk directly out to the beach.

Immediately, we all changed into swimsuits and went outside to play!  Look who loved building sandcastles!!!

Preston also helped him while Kaitlyn and I collected seashells.  It was actually starting to cool down, so we didn't stay outside too long.  It was time to head to dinner in the famous Gaslamp Quarter.

We love going to Hard Rock Cafe when we visit different cities, even though we have one in our own area.  The food was delicious and plentiful!!!  Plus, we always enjoy checking out the music memorabilia.

We were exhausted and the kids fell asleep immediately.  Craig and I headed to the patio to enjoy the sounds of the night.  Shortly afterwards, we had our own firework show!!!  We found out Sea World is across the bay and they have fireworks almost every night. Thank you, God, for such blessings.

Day 6:
It was time to head to the famous San Diego Zoo!

We saw all the typical animals...

...and had some fun too.

In our usual Kelley fashion, we spent a long day at the park, taking in as much as we could and left with hearts full of memories.

We enjoyed the beautiful water and scenery again that evening.

Then, it was off to bed for one more night of sleep in beautiful California.

Hotel Accomodations and zoo tickets in San Diego were made possible with the help of Heather Newton at Shipsmart Travel Inc.