Thursday, October 20, 2016

Zika Zuills.

We have officially taken our first vacation as a family of four and survived to tell the tale! Traveling with a baby is a daunting task for sure but I think we were all ready for a change of scenery, break from work/school, & the excitement of seeing things completely new to us. So during Henry's fall break (plus a couple of extra days, oops) we set off to visit Puerto Rico and were dubbed the "#zikazuills" by our quick-witted Gilliam friends.

Our weekend trip to Ohio in September made it crystal clear that my precious good-sleeping Charlie turns into up-every-hour-or-two Charlie when she's away from home. She also hates travel cribs. You can imagine where she ended up sleeping every night. Strong willed, this one. Cute too.

When we left Tennessee the weather was finally beginning to have mercy on our poor souls and giving us temperatures in the 70s and 80s! Landing in San Juan was like an August flashback! It was right around 90 degrees in Puerto Rico the entire time we were there. Mr. Zuill was in internal thermostat heaven. We stayed at a hotel in San Juan. Henry adored it. The hotel presented so many out of the ordinary 5 year old delights - elevator buttons, a little private beach, swimming pools, a fish feeding dock, morning cartoons, & pancakes. Henry heaven.

While we did spend some time at the hotel playing in the pool and building a good sandcastle (and feeding the fish every day), most of our time was spent out exploring.

Day one:

Our first full day there we drove the rental car a few miles away to Old San Juan to visit Castillo San Cristóbal. It was amazing. Even at the very end of our trip, Henry still proclaimed it as his favorite part of our vacation. No kid can resist secret tunnels and free roaming iguanas.

You can't even imagine how stinky and sweaty we were by the time we'd explored the whole fort. But that didn't stop us from trekking another mile or so down the coastline to visit fort #2. Old San Juan was so busy on a Saturday. Locals and tourists alike filled the streets with energy. (p.s. Those ice cream carts sell the most delicious passionfruit ice cream known to mankind.)

By the time we made it down to the other fort we were hot and pretty exhausted, so that fort tour wasn't quite as lengthy. Luckily we conserved enough energy to fly a kite (along with hundreds of other people) in the field of El Morro in front of the fort. What a cool experience and awesome first day in Old San Juan!

Day 2:

On day two we took a little diversion from outside sightseeing and drove to the Museo del Niño de Carolina. It was by far the coolest children't museum we've ever been to! We all happily spent a few hours in their glorious air conditioning (ha) and explored and played together. It really was such a fun family day!

Day 3:

Day three took us back outside again. This time we were off to the rainforest! We hopped in the car for a 45 minute drive that took us to the El Yunque National Rainforest. We immediately saw a beautiful waterfall and then climbed spiral stairs to the top of the viewing tower. Just beautiful!

Back to the car we went to drive just a little further up the park road so that we could explore a different area. I don't think Henry took more than ten steps at a time without pulling out the trusty binoculars he got the day before at the children's museum.

Henry hiked that trail like a champ. The hike into that part of the rainforest was downhill and pretty leisurely. With my additional (and adorable) weight I didn't even feel bad for missing Jillian workouts for the week (especially after the mile hike back UP!). What a prize for our perserverence.

Day 4:

Day four was the day we chose to further explore Old San Juan. We parked the car and then proceeded to spend the next few hours walking on blue cobblestone streets (yes, blue! amazing!) & among the banyan trees. It was just gorgeous and there was so much so see, including the cats that roam the streets like true free spirits. The cats were so loved by the local folks there!

As usual, Charlie was thoroughly impressed.

Eventually all the street walking plus the heat got to us, so we found the perfect spot to cool off (thanks to my friend Mel's recent trip and recommendation). This spot came with treats like milkshakes bigger than your head and (brace yourself) chocolate grilled cheese!

Day 5:

Our last full day in Puerto Rico and we definitely saved something amazing until the end! A 45 minute drive took us to the Rio Camuy Cave Park. They take people into the cave in groups and we had a little extra time to kill before the tram left for the tour, so while we waited-

The ride down to the caves was fantastic and really set the mood!

The cave was really one of the coolest things I've ever seen. The rock formations were amazing as was the waterfall! The water allegedly gives the gift of youth if you drink from it, as I'm sure you'll notice the next time you see us! ha!

We were all happily exhausted afterward. Both kids nearly immediately fell asleep once we got back to the car, which gave us some peaceful time to take in the scenery on the way back to the hotel. I loved all the roadside stands and restaurants in Puerto Rico!

The next day it was time to go home. We packed up and made one last trek down to the dock to feed those beautiful fish, then back to the airport we went. We had (mostly) uneventful and tear-free travel on the flight back. We had such a great vacation, but it was so sweet to be back home!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Fall so far.

Towards the end of a Tennessee summer you begin to think the heat will never let up. The grass mowing seems endless. It's too hot to even want to be outside because your shirt is starting to get those embarrassing sweat stains 30 seconds after you've stepped out the door. Then one day it happens. Literally overnight the temperature goes from 12,379 degrees to 70. Poor Mr. Zuill, he starts freezing to death immediately, begrudgingly pulling jeans out of the closet. But the rest of us, we celebrate. Suddenly you can't keep the kids inside-

Kindergarten brings big fun in the Fall. It's time for Fall Festivals, pumpkin decorating & Spirit week! Spirit week was as much fun for Mamas as it was for kids, I'm pretty sure! Henry and I made our plans, and every morning he donned his outfit for that day's theme, and then we hurried next door for a couple of photos before school. Superhero day-

Decades day-

Country day-

Henry was so proud of his pumpkin for the decorating contest at school this year. We got online and looked at different ideas and he quickly made his decision. Clifford it was. He painted, cut and glued with great intent & scored a 2nd place prize ribbon for his efforts! Ava scored 1st in their class for her awesome elephant pumpkin!

So far, Kindergarten has been really great for Henry. He seems to love it. He's kept his clip on "groovy green" most days (although we did have one talking incident that moved his clip to "bring it down blue". Where he gets that talking from, who knows?). He loves playing soccer at recess with his friend Diego. He takes his lunch most days, but gets to choose one day a week to buy lunch at school. Friday pizza day is usually the winner. His reading skills have grown by leaps and bounds over the last several weeks. Every night he's going to bed looking at a book or a comic. Last night I found him like this. Sweet boy.

Charlie has had big things on her agenda lately as well. Houston, we have a baby in the upright position.

And that one curl. I'm surprised it doesn't throw her off balance.

It's crazy to think this baby will be 6 months old NEXT WEEK! What? She is our happy smiley girl for the biggest part of the time.

This has got to be my favorite baby age. I remember thinking this with Henry too. Sitting up is a game changer, and soon there's introducing Charlie to foods. So much fun! We bought a nifty little high chair that attaches to the edge of our kitchen island. Charlie is super content to sit in it. She watches us cook from her new perch, but more importantly she has a front row seat to the Henry Show. She is highly amused.

Sometimes when she's sitting there watching us make dinner, Will or I will give her a big stick of celery to gnaw on. She doesn't really get any bites but that cold celery sure must feel good on her gums because she loves it. One night I decided to give her a few baby puffs just to see what she did with them.

A few weeks ago Charlie went on her first airplane ride! My mom, Charlie & I headed off one Friday morning to catch a flight up to Columbus. We had places to go and people to see.

I did Evy Ruth's (slightly belated) 6 month photo session while we were there. It was really so much fun. Babies just change so darn fast, and it was crazy to see how different she was from when we last saw them in June. Of course, it seemed like the perfect chance to get some photos of our youngest set of girls together. Charlie still can't figure out what on earth that was that Aunt RoRo put on her head, but she went with it. ha!

She wasn't too crazy, however, about Evy's ear flicking activity. Robyn and I couldn't help but just sit there and laugh. Poor Charlie. We did rescue her, after a couple of photos of course.

One family member proved that the apple truly doesn't fall far from the tree.

With the weather steadily cooling off, that meant Charlie and I had to get it in gear to try to catch some photos of her in the family washpan before it gets too cold to have a naked baby outside. Henry had his turn a few years ago.

Five years and 4 months later, same pan-

Thanks for stopping by and check in on us again soon!