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Family Travel

In just 3 days this girl….

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(photo courtesy of Chinnici Photography)

…turns 5!! I can’t quite wrap my head around that fact. She has been in our lives for half a decade, HALF A DECADE! Seriously, how is that possible? Can’t wrap my head around it.

A while back, before we knew we were moving to Seattle, Maya said that for her birthday this year she wanted to have a fancy dress party. She wanted to have her best friends come over, all dressed up in their finest, and have a birthday ball. It sounded like such a fun idea, and I was looking forward to planning it. Then we moved, and the idea of throwing a birthday party without her best little friends made me sad. I had to come up with a way to mark this occasion the way it deserves to be celebrated, and yet not bring attention to the fact that her best friends no longer live close enough to come to her party. What to do?

Well, Lorne and I talked it over and decided that the trip to Disney World we had been hoping to make sometime soon, would now be a trip to Disneyland, and it would happen now. We decided to keep it a secret. So, to celebrate her 5th birthday we will wake Maya up on Thursday and tell her that we are taking her to the “happiest place on earth”! I can’t even begin to imagine her reaction! 5 days at Disney to celebrate her 5th birthday. I can’t wait :)

This birthday may not be what she had originally wanted and she may not be surrounded by her best friends, but it will definitely be the kind of birthday little girl dreams are made of. And, since we are going to the world of princesses she will get that fancy dress party after all 😉

Last week my Mom was in town for a visit. She flew in last Saturday and spent 10 days with us. It was the first time she has been down here to see us in a really, really long time. It was nice to have her in town and get to show her around our beloved St. Louis. Maya enjoyed having another person around to play with 😉

With my Mom in town, Maya’s last day of school and her dance recital all happening last week it was an very busy week. We packed so much into last week. We took my Mom to a bunch of our favorite spots in St. Louis.

Our first stop was Montelle Winery. We met up with my good friend, Heather, and her kiddos. We spent a hot day hanging out on the patio drinking wine, eating lunch, listening to live music and watching the kiddos run around. It was the perfect way to start our week with Nana.

A trip to St. Louis wouldn’t be complete without a trip to our fabulous zoo. The girls and I took my Mom to the zoo early last week while Lorne was at work. It was a gorgeous day. Maya had fun showing Nana all her favorite animals and taking her for a spin on the carousel.

The middle of the week we were busy with school and dance class and didn’t do much in the way of touristy things with my Mom. We spent a lot of time outside and Maya took my Mom to her ever favorite book store after school. But once school was finished we got back into the great St. Louis tour by taking to my Mom to Grant’s Farm on Friday. Lorne took the day off work and joined us. It was very hot but still a lot of fun. The girls and Lorne had fun cooling themselves in the mister.

Saturday was all about my favorite spot in St. Louis, the Missouri Botanical Gardens. This weekend was opening weekend for the Lantern Festival so not only did we get to see all the beautiful blooms but were treated to some magnificent displays put up for the festival. It was super, super hot this weekend so we hit the gardens early and managed to have a wonderful before it got to crazy hot.

The rest of her visit was spent playing in the backyard and keeping cool in Maya’s little pool. We had a wonderful time while she was here and hopefully she’ll be able to visit again soon.

On December 17th we woke bright and early to start our Christmas vacation. We loaded the car with all the stuff necessary to travel with two small children (which is A LOT), and headed up to Canada to spend Christmas with our families. The girls kept themselves busy as we were getting things ready so we could head out the door.

The drive went so much better than I ever could have imagined. Given that Anna is not a fan of being in the car I had visions of us driving for hours and hours with a screaming baby in the back seat. Instead, Anna surprised us all and did really well. She fussed and cried occasionally, but for the most part entertained herself very well in her seat.

We spent the first week of our Christmas vacation with Lorne’s family. Maya had a ton of fun playing with her Uncle Cliff and Aunt Emma. The girls were totally spoiled and except for the fact that Maya, Lorne and Anna were all sick with the Christmas Plague of 2011 we had a wonderful time.

Christmas Eve we said goodbye to the Mitchell clan and headed to my brother’s house to spend the final week of our trip with my family. We hadn’t seen my family in a year and a half so it was so wonderful to spend time with my mom and my brothers. Maya had a blast playing with her Nana, her uncles and her cousins. Anna wowed everyone with her constant smiles and laid back ways.

After a fun filled two weeks with our families we packed up the car with all the stuff our girls got for Christmas, boy were they spoiled, and headed back home. Christmas vacation 2011 will go down in the history books as the year we all battled the neverending Christmas Plague of 2011 and the year Maya decided to talk about poop, toots and stink endlessly :) Good times!

 

Tomorrow morning, bright and early (well not too early) we will be hitting the road. We are making the trek up to the Great White North to visit our families for the holidays. I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone. I am not, however, looking forward to the travel part of it. But, since they haven’t invented a teleporter yet I guess I’m stuck with the travel part of it *shrug*.

Since we’ll be traveling with a baby who still enjoys eating every 2-3 hours we’ve decided to break the 14ish hour drive into 2 days. Breaking it up is nice in that neither day will be too crazy driving wise. But, at the same time, it is nice just to get it all over and done with in one day. I’m hoping Anna does well on the trip. She has, recently, started tolerating her carseat a little better. She certainly doesn’t like it by any stretch of the imagination, but she doesn’t cry as much now and can entertain herself a bit with her toys back there. Hopefully there isn’t too much crying so we can all maintain our sanity. The night in the hotel could get interesting too. Hopefully we all get a little sleep.

Today I’m busy packing and organizing, 100% sure I’m going to forget something. Hopefully it all fits in the car!

Yesterday I took the girls to see Santa since I had been procrastinating and needed to get it done before we left. Maya had a blast and talked Santa’s ear off. Anna was determined not to crack a smile for the lady taking the picture and burst into tears moments after the first picture was snapped when the lady tried to tickle her. Oh well, at least the first shot was a good one :)

I hope you all have a great weekend. Please keep your fingers crossed that our weekend of driving, driving and more driving goes smoothly.

I can already feel the shadows growing in my memory. The moments and memories that I brought back from one of the most amazing experiences in my life are less crisp. As each day passes they are slowly, but surely, beginning to fade.

Moments and memories like this one.

And this one.

And this one.

I’m lucky, because as time does what it always does and the memories from our time in Australia begin to fade, I’ll have the posts I wrote about our adventures and the hundreds of pictures I took, to look back and regain some of the vividness of my memories. These moments and the many others we had will never be gone completely, I’ll always be able to look at a picture or read a post and bring them back.

I want Maya to remember her trip too. She may not remember much, she may only remember a single moment or a feeling. But I want her to have something to hold onto in her mind. The things she got to experience are things that some people dream their whole lives about but never get to do. I want her to have something to spark her own tiny memories, so I’ve decided to make a book for her. I’m working on getting all the posts I wrote about our adventures, along with some of the pictures, bound into a book for her. I hope that as she gets older and she only has some distant memory of being in a land far, far away when she was very young, that she’ll be able to look at the book, read the stories, see the pictures and for just a moment remember how incredible the spring of her 4th year of life truly was.