Saturday, February 23, 2019

Two: A Birthday Letter to My Eli

To My Big Two Year Old E,

It's strange to think that you won't remember this year of your life, but I hope I always will. Your sweet little blonde hair that refuses to give up its stubborn bedhead ways after every three hour nap, the precious little grin that makes your eyes squint just like mine, and the way you fit perfectly in my lap when we're chanting "I think I can" and tapping along on your "Choo Choo" book just one more time before bed. The way you incessantly ask for more "crack-oos", cling to me when I'm forced to leave for work, and boldly call for watching "tra-toos" whenever you want Daddy to turn on Gold Rush and snuggle with you. I hope that I can remember the joy that you brought us when you were so little and yet growing so quickly. This time when even your biggest concern can be calmed by wrapping you tightly in my arms and kissing your soft cheeks again and again.

I know that this letter won't mean much to you until you are older, but I hope that it shows you just a tiny glimpse of how much Daddy and I love you. How we loved and cherished this season (and every other one) with our precious son- you, a gift from God, a treasure in our family.

I marvel at the wonder of watching you learn. You are inquisitive and curious, already climbing under your Cozy Coupe to "work on cars" just like Daddy and sketching masterpieces with your bathtub crayons. You are a helper, always game to put the laundry away, wipe a paper towel on the window, or help me unload the dishwasher, one fork at a time. You are a little parrot, repeating every word and every song, lifting up your own little melody of praise when I least expect it, or getting mad when Daddy and I forget to hold your hold while we're praying. You are kind and thoughtful, always telling people "Bye Bye", "Night Night", and "Love You". Oh sweet boy, it is such a privilege to be your mama.

I can't quite explain the feeling I have when you run over to me in those pants you can't quite keep up around your skinny waist. The feeling of wonder and pride when you ask me to put on your shoes so you can "run run" fast, or "step and throw". You beg for me to "giddy up" with you around the kitchen, lifting your hands in the air and boogying with such joy. You plead for just one more piece of bacon, one more fry, and one more cookie. To ride in Daddy's truck or to go outside and slide just one more time, saying "No" and "Okay". but never "Yes". It's so hard to tell you no because it brings me such joy to see you happy.

But sometimes I do say no, even though it may mean tears and a tantrum, because at the end of the day, I love you so much that I know you must learn how to deal with rejection. How to follow the rules, how to handle your emotions, how to listen and disagree and still be a calm and rational human. I want the best for you, and sometimes that may mean that you don't always get what you want. But some day, I promise you'll thank me for that.

But on this day, your second birthday, your 730th day on this Earth, I'm not wishing it was some day already. I'm holding tight to this world of Pete the Cat and Paw Patrol, SleepSacks and snuggles. I will do my very best to not wish any time away because I know that it will go so very quickly. It already has. So here's to you, my little love. You light up my world. I know that you have your moments, and will continue to, but I also know that we have so many wonderful moments ahead that will make even the most frustrating two-year old behavior fade away from my memory. Here's to another whole year of loving and learning and living life to the full.

I love you so much, no matter what, and I always will.


Monday, February 18, 2019

Three Days in Austin: A Travel Guide

In early January, Aaron and I escaped the Kansas City cold and hopped on a plane for an adult's only trip to Austin, Texas (our first kid free getaway since our Hermann Getaway back in August). We had never been to Austin before, and it was the perfect non-stop flight to somewhere warmer. Plus, I had always wanted to make a little trip to Magnolia, and it was less than two hours to Waco! If you're looking to spend a long weekend in Austin, you've come to the right place. Here are my tips for things to do and places to eat while you're there!

To start our trip, we flew into Austin and rented a car (Side note: EasyRentCars offers incredible deals and coupons on rental cars! We got a steal of a deal on our Toyota Camry!). From there we hopped on the highway and drove straight to Waco (see farther down in the post for more), but you've got so many options for kicking off your own adventure in Austin. You'll definitely want a car to get around, as the city has so many different areas that are fun to explore- and not all of them are close together. There are lots of scooters and bikes you can rent, but we found that driving and parking, then just walking around was pretty time and cost efficient.

If money is less of an issue, you can definitely stay right in the heart of downtown, with Rainey Street and 6th Street being major areas to visit. We chose to stay in the quirky and fun South Congress area, just south of downtown, where there are numerous restaurants, music venues, and touristy areas to explore up and down South Congress Avenue. Once you get here and park, it's easy to walk up and down the avenue. We stayed in a cute Airbnb that was just minutes away, and was a great home base to explore from.

Explore the Austin Murals

One of the things Austin is known for is being "weird". And Austin wants to keep it that way. They celebrate their unique music and art culture, and have numerous fun murals throughout the city. They're fun to find and take selfies with (or make friends with people who are willing to take your picture)!

The Greetings from Austin Mural 

The Hi, How Are You Mural: "Jeremiah the Innocent"

Austintatious Murals on Guadalupe Street (Near the University of Texas)

Willie for President Mural

Party @ The Moontower Mural

I love you so much mural- outside Jo’s Coffee Shop on South Congress

Eat LOTS of Yummy Tacos (And Other Food)

One of the very best things about Austin is trying all of the delicious food. There are definitely tacos and Mexican restaurants in abundance, but we weren't disappointed by anything that we had. Here are a few big ones to hit! 

Torchy’s Tacos

Torchy's has locations all across Texas. We ate at the one on South Congress. I had the "trailer park" and the chicken fajita tacos, and they were delicious. So was the guac, and I loved the Austin sodas that were featured in their fountain drinks options.

This place was a diamond in the rough, and honestly may have been our favorite meal of our entire trip. We just happened to pull off and grab breakfast tacos here, and they were incredible: so fresh and cooked to order. Click the heading for more info and for location- you won't be sorry!  

Guero's Taco Bar

Guero's was our first stop for Mexican and it was super yummy. We hit happy hour for a great deal on Margarita's, and they had excellent enchiladas. They also have free live music every Wednesday through Sunday outside of the South Congress location. (6-8 on Thurs, 6:30-9:30 on Friday, 2:30-4:30 on Sat.) Check it out!

Homeslice Pizza

Homeslice Pizza is great if you'd just like to grab a quick slice without a line. They also have a sit down restaurant where you can order whole pizzas, calzones, or other items.

Dolce Neve Gelato

I never go on vacation without scoping out great ice cream options, and this one did NOT disappoint. They have delicious, unique gelato options and I would say it was pretty authentic to what I've had in Italy.

Enjoy Live Music (Often for Free!)

Austin is home to lots of great live music, and many of the options are even free! If you look up "Free Music in Austin" you can usually find lots of great options for when you'll be in town! 

One place that has been home to live music for years and years is the Continental Club on South Congress. Depending on timing of the show, they have free music or a small cover charge. Check out their website for more info!

Another option is to check out free music in the nearby Zilker area at the Saxon Pub. They often have free music from 6 -7:30 pm, and you can register ahead of time online. Definitely take in a show while in town!

Take a Dance Lesson (Or Grab a Drink)

If you know much about the story behind me and Aaron, you know that I love dancing, and that it has always been special for us. We couldn't take a trip to Austin, Texas without doing a little bit of counry two steppin'. I checked around and found free two step lessons for us at The White Horse.

It felt like a major hole in the wall, but just minutes after we showed up, a whole crew of people walked in and suddenly there was a full house for the lessons. We had a lot of fun and the instructors were really great. Other than asking if anyone wanted to tip, it didn't cost a dime. I would highly recommend it- they didn't make anyone feel silly and I didn't see a single person having a bad time.

We also made a little stop at The Austin Winery. It was a super fun space in what appeared to be a little warehouse area in a small part of town. There were several breweries and different areas nearby, so there was something for everything. We enjoyed sharing a bottle of wine, playing games, and watching playoff football games on their drop down screen. It's also really cool because they make and store the wine in the same space, so you can see it all from the long farmhouse tables. It's definitely a hip area worth checking out.

Take a Walking Tour

One of my very favorite things to do anytime we visit a new city is to go on some sort of tour. We found a great downtown Austin walking tour through Tipster Tours. Tipster doesn't have a price for their tours- you just tip what you feel is fair afterwards. It was a perfect 70 degree day in Austin, and we had a great time exploring the Capitol area and downtown, while learning more about the history of the area. 

The tour ended at the popular and gorgeous Driskill Hotel, which has a whole lot of character and its own restaurant and bakery. We didn't eat there, but I've heard it's delicious! 

Road Trip to Waco! 

If you've got time for it, and if you're just as big of a fan of Chip and Joanna as I am, hop in the car for the easy drive from Austin to Waco. In less than two hours, you'll be able to check out Magnolia. If you've watch any of the Fixer Upper series, especially the one where Jo renovates the bakery at the silos, it will really mean a lot to see it all in person. We had a ton of fun exploring the grounds, snagging a delicious cupcake (or two- don't judge!) from the bakery, and perusing the store to pick up a shirt and magnet before we left. And of course I was totally drooling over all of the cute decor in the store. But then it wouldn't have fit into my cute carry-on!

Magnolia is open from 9-6, and their Magnolia Table restaurant closes at 3 pm. Because of the timing for us, we didn't eat at their restaurant, but I've heard that it is amazing! It was really fun seeing all the things they've done the Silos. We did also make a quick stop in downtown at the Waco Winery and the Harp Design Co. before heading out of town. Waco is so cute!

All in all, we had an amazing time in Austin, and our bellies and hearts were pretty darn full after this getaway. You should definitely add it to your list! Let me know if you have any questions, and be sure to follow along on Instagram and Facebook if you aren't already! You can also follow along with the city with my tour on GPS My City here!

Can't wait to share more of our adventures with y'all soon!