Tuesday, July 31, 2007

That Little Creamery in Brenham...

...is not only big on taste, but also big on generosity. Two weekends ago, they celebrated their 100th anniversary by giving away over 2000 gallons of various-flavored ice cream! We went with Matt's family out to Brenham, TX to help them celebrate. Here are some of our favorite pics from that weekend!

Is this not a dreamy picture? Elizabeth's Ghido Ghido(great-grandfather) sharing his ice cream with her?

Of course, Daddy shared his ice cream with her.

After the ice cream, we walked around to see the various exhibits, including this one featuring the actual cows who have been in Blue Bell commercials. Here Elizabeth posed with her Siti (grandmother).

Elizabeth really enjoyed making this old-fashioned pump work.

An emu? (I think Elizabeth is thinking the same thing!)

She got a little washable tattoo to remember the day by.

Finally, some good clean fun as Elizabeth played in the jump house.

You know, Blue Bell claims it is the best-tasting ice cream in the country. Not having traveled widely across the US, I'm not sure if their claim is true. I can acknowledge that there might be better ice cream out there. However, what I can say is that there is no better ice cream in Texas than Blue Bell, and when it's on sale, I stock up!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Lesson Learned

As new parents, we are constantly learning what we should be doing, what we could be doing better, and what our little girl does and doesn't like. Well, here's a quick lesson we learned while in Austin.

It happened on the day we were planning on going to Whole Foods. Elizabeth was particularly interested in playing with the toys in the house where we were staying. In fact, she was so interested in them that even when we told her there were fun new foods to try at this place, she actually told us that she didn't want to go. This continued for an unusual amount of time. (Note: Elizabeth is a friend to all foods; there are very few foods she won't try or eat.) Anyway, the conversation ensued thusly:

Matt (M): Well, I guess Mommy and I will have to go and eat all those foods by ourselves, and we'll leave you here to play.
Shannon (S): Yeah, Elizabeth, we'll have to eat all those foods without you.
Elizabeth (E): (in her tender high-pitched voice) Wait! I want to come!!

Yes! A parental victory of sorts!! We got in the car and began driving south towards downtown. There was no need to discuss our superior parental strategy since it worked like a charm. However, about 15 minutes into the ride, Elizabeth asked us a question after having been silent that entire time (also highly unusual).

E: (with a note of concern) Mommy, y'all weren't really going to leave me at their house?

Eek! Are hearts breaking out there? Mine and Matt's definitely were. We looked at each other and knew we needed to correct our mistake as well as E's understanding of the situation. We would never leave her all by herself.

Well, it gets better (story-wise)/worse (parenting-wise). The next day as E and I had a girls' shopping day, we got in the car and drove off to Kohl's and Target. E's first question for me was...

E: (mixed concern and confidence) Mommy, you're not going to leave me at Kohl's, are you?

Then, after shopping at Kohl's and getting back in the car not an hour later...

E: (same notes of concern and confidence) Mommy, you're not going to leave me at Target, right?

Each time, I did my best to reassure and comfort Elizabeth and also to affirm the truth that we would never leave her somewhere. However, suffice it to say, our parental blunder had made a huge impact on our precious almost three-year-old. Whew!! Note to self: never threaten to LEAVE my little one! Hurt, confusion, and sadness will follow.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Austin Vacation

After our illustrious trip to Paris, we came back to Houston and to a teary-eyed reunion with Elizabeth! We love her and missed her so, so much. She and Matt's mom met us at the airport. We then spent the night in Houston and the next morning left for Austin. If I had to sum up our vacation in two words, they would be eating and resting. :)

We arrived in Austin and picked up the key to our home for the week from my dear friend Heidi Cook. She had arranged for us to live in the home of a very generous Crusade staff family that was in Colorado for most of the summer. It was the perfect set-up for our family because they had an upstairs playroom, stocked full of girl toys. Elizabeth was able to sleep in a twin bed just like at home, and Matt and I stayed downstairs. We were able to do a bit of laundry and buy some groceries for the week. We were hugely grateful for this wonderful blessing!! While we were settling in, Matt used the computer to locate the nearest Chuy's, a legendary Mexican food place. (I suppose he was done with French food. :)) I have to admit it was very good, and E ate her fair share of chips and queso.

We spent the morning of Independence Day exploring all the new toys in the playroom. It was actually raining, so it made it extra easy to stay inside, take it easy, and wear our pajamas until noon. Later on in the day, we did take showers and venture out to a cookout with Heidi and Joel's small group from their church. They grilled ribs and chicken, and they had even bought chips and dip from Chuy's. It was some of the best food we had EVER had at a cookout EVER! (Is that too dramatic?)

Matt planned our activities in Austin, and the first place he wanted to take us was to Zilker Park. We visited the Nature Preserve which featured some native Texas animals. We then ventured over to the kids' playground and rode on the train!

I know she looks nervous here, but she really did have a great time on the train.

Loves to drive! And yes, she has already asked us if she can drive our cars.

We then went to Kerbey Lane, an Austin "must-eat" restaurant. It was there that we took this (blasphemous perhaps) picture.

We visited Whole Foods, a great organic supermarket, and really enjoyed looking around at all the choices of yummy foods. This was our second visit, so we felt more comfortable with the store and found some of our old favorites, unique salsas and "Barbara's" cookies. We also ate lunch: Matt had Indian food and I had salad; E had something in-between. Finally, we went outside and up to the second floor, where E could play on the playground. Awesome day!

Elizabeth and I had a girls' day: we went shopping while Matt prepared his sermon. Since there's not much more to say about shopping, I'll leave it there. Later on that night, Joel and Heidi kept Elizabeth overnight so that Matt and I could have a date night in Austin! We went to Macaroni Grill and then saw Oceans 13. It was wonderfully unique to have a date in a different city. :)

Matt had been asked to speak in the morning services at a great church in Austin called Grace Covenant Church. From this particular ministry, we get a lot of our best student leaders, so it was a real treat to be with them. As a special bonus, we connected with some old friends from college and young married life in Dallas. We loved having lunch with them and catching up.

This was our last official day in Austin and the only other day we took pictures. Matt wanted to take us to the children's museum because he had heard that it was good and also because E loves going with her Siti and Ghido to the one in Houston. E explored everything, but by far her favorite place was the kitchen. I tied an apron on that girl and she was off!

Then it was necessary to go to the grocery store to get more food for the kitchen!!

Other highlights include:
Fixing, not playing with, the chess pieces that had fallen down,

And now the black pieces...,

Playing doctor,

Pretending to be on a work crew with Daddy,

And my favorite, driving the bus! (Note: not a real bus!!)

Overall, we had a great time in Austin. What a treat to spend a whole week together with almost nothing we HAD to do. We thank God for His provisions and for our family!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The View from Paris

We're back and feeling well-rested! Matt and I had a great time in Paris, and then we had a wonderful family vacation in Austin. This post will show our Paris pics and then the next ones will have Austin pics. :)

Let me begin with a brief word about why we were in Paris. Every summer our church sends out teams of students to go abroad and share the gospel in international contexts. This year one of the teams went to North Africa and then had their debriefing time in Paris. As a ministry, we send our own staff to help with the debriefing, so Matt and I got to go to Paris. I cannot tell you excited we were not only to go to Paris, but also to hear from this first team first-hand. They had a great team dynamic, and we really had a blast talking with them and popping around Paris with them.

We arrived one day before the team, and so the first night we were able to get our bearings and settle into our hotel. We were also able to meet up with my darling disciple and friend, Lauren. Here we were in front of the gorgeous Opera building, which looks deceptively small from the front.

We were then off to the Eiffel Tower.

Nothing really compares to the Eiffel Tower at night, and at 10 p.m. it sparkles - literally!

The first place we took the team was to the Arc de Triomphe via the Champs-Elysees, a very famous Parisian street.

There are many streets that connect to the circle that the Arc sits on. This particular street is a view looking towards the northwest (fyi - the center of Paris is to the south and east of the Arc) at the Grande Arche de la Defense - the big open square at the end of the street.

This was just one view from the top. You can see the Eiffel Tower in the background.

This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. We had just taken the team to see Notre Dame. We were going to cross the bridge over the Seine River and then do some more walking and sightseeing. However, it was dinnertime, and everyone was hungry! So we bought some great sandwiches from a steet vendor and paused to eat on the bridge and enjoy the view, all the while a few feet away a man played his accordion (very French!).

Of course, there was kissing; it's Paris!!

Relaxing in the courtyard of the Louvre - we are facing the infamous glass pyramids.

Silliness in the courtyard of the Louvre

We took the team to Versailles, the former summer palace of the king of France. This view is of the back of the castle and just some of the gardens and fountains!

Do you see us in the flowers?

Look at this amazingly large bee!

Personal Reflection: I really, really enjoyed being in Paris again. After the last time I was there, I sincerely thought that that would be the last time. Never did I seriously think I would be so fortunate as to return. So after the first day I resolved to take every opportunity to use my French and to take in as much as possible the sights, sounds, and feel of Paris. I felt very comfortable there and felt reasonably confident leading a group of 17 other people around a city that was completely new to them. It was also beautiful to finally share Paris with Matt. We had both been there separately, but now we can say we've been there together. Interestingly, I was pregnant the last time I was in Paris, so I guess you could say I like to take every baby to Paris at least once. ;)