Yellowstone

This past Sunday, we set up a private tour of Yellowstone with Big Sky Shuttle. Our tour guide, Bruce, was very knowledgeable and we were glad we could all be spectators (versus one of us having to drive).

Even the scenery on the drive from our house in Big Sky to Yellowstone was amazing. I tried taking pics from the car – you can imagine how those turned out.img_9476

Louise fell asleep on the hour drive. Saving energy for the park I guess!img_9469

We stopped at the visitor’s center to get our passes for the park. The National Park Service is amazing – one $10 senior citizen pass granted our entire van access – and access to all other parks for a lifetime!

We headed in to the park and, lo and behold, the first thing we saw was a bison lumbering along the side of the road. We were pretty psyched about that.img_9665

Our first stop was Gibbon Falls, a waterfall that drops over a remnant of the Yellowstone caldera rim.img_9575img_9486img_9482img_9478

Celine wasn’t jazzed at this moment of the trip because I asked her not to sprint down a hill (crushing spirits, that’s me). We tried to get her to give Juliette a high five.img_9492

She was also complaining because her sunglasses were in the van. So I gave her mine…and she complained that they were too big. #toddlerproblemsimg_9489

We packed back in the car and headed to Artist Point – the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. It was majestic…for real. Look at it:img_9507

Obviously we took six thousand photos in front of it.img_9582img_9577img_9576img_9506img_9501

Notice Celine acquired her sunglasses.img_9497

Some photo attempts were less successful.img_9583img_9509

After that, we headed over to the Lake Hotel for a picnic lunch. We had the option of eating our lunch inside, but we wanted to sit on a picnic table by the lake and take it all in. Which is what we did…img_9511

…until it started hailing on us!img_9666img_9578

We packed up our lunches and headed to the car, finishing up lunch and playing around while we waited for the hail to stop.img_9515

After lunch (and a brief rest at the Lake Hotel), Bruce drove us the 1.5 hours to Old Faithful. Juliette wasn’t interested in napping but Celine took some time to herself.img_9518

We got to Old Faithful about 15 minutes before it went off, so it was good timing (it erupts approximately every 90 minutes). We looked inside the Old Faithful Inn while we waited – it’s a pretty impressive place!img_9521img_9519

Mike stayed in the car with Celine as she was still sleeping, but she woke up just in time to see the geyser erupt. She was calling all geysers and hot spots “fireworks” all day.img_9522img_9579img_9526

The next stop was the Grand Prismatic Spring. It was probably the fan favorite of our van – SO interesting. Celine in particular couldn’t get enough.img_9547img_9542img_9538img_9553img_9555img_9556img_9561img_9560

The water dribbled down to the adjacent river.img_9532

We saw some other hot springs, geysers, fumaroles, and paint pots.img_9580img_9581img_9563img_9534

Many of them smelled of sulfur which delighted the girls. Lots of shrieking about things smelling like toots!img_9584

We were all pretty beat at this point, and the kiddos had done their best at being good kids but were tired as well.

All in all, Yellowstone was almost exactly as I imagined – amazing, beautiful, awe-inspiring, and vast. It was really cool to get out in true nature and remember what’s out there. I was slightly bummed we didn’t spot a grizzly…but it gives us a reason to go back! πŸ™‚

Montana

Whew…where to begin!

Earlier this year, we planned a week in Montana with Michael’s side of the family. Mike’s mom heard of a place called Moonlight Basin in the southern part of Montana (Big Sky), so that’s where we booked. We headed out last Wednesday for a week of excitement!

We weren’t exactly sure what we were going to do when we got there since the three girls are too young to do any of the outdoor sports stuff (whitewater rafting, mountain biking, etc), but we ended up filling our days quite nicely.

DAY ONE:
Grammy, Grumps, and the Chauvins had an early morning flight to Dallas, and we were all on the same plane up to Bozeman. The plane had screens and was only about 3/4 full, so it was an easy flight and the kids did great. We shuffled around quite a bit to visit each other and before we knew it, we were in Montana!img_9223img_9145img_9153img_9157

The Bozeman airport is really small which made for an easy exit. Getting our rental cars took about 10 minutes – really wish Boston could learn a thing or two from the Hertz counter in Montana!

The ladies piled in one car to take the kiddos to the house while the men took the other car to Costco. It took about 45 minutes to drive to the house which included multiple animal spottings (elk, mountain goats, and deer). We spent the rest of the evening unpacking and frolicking around in the gorgeous weather. The views weren’t crystal clear because of the forest fires but it was still a beautiful place!img_9158img_9170img_9178

Sweater weather! I kept calling the girls’ fleeces “sweaters” which really irritated Louise. “They’re jackets, mom!!”img_9212img_9203img_9186img_9222

As I tend to do, I decided last minute to get matching mountain pj’s for the girls (we can all agree that matching clothes is VERY important). Look at these cuties! “The mountains are calling and I must go.” (John Muir)img_9224img_9225

DAY TWO
We started out strong with a hike to a waterfall. We rented hiking backpacks with the house which worked out perfectly. Louise and Celine both were a little cranky on the hike back, but in general it was a great way to spend the first morning in Montana.img_9236img_9320img_9321img_9277img_9269img_9253img_9251img_9634img_9264img_9266img_9245img_9319img_9322img_9291img_9281img_9305

We took it easy for the rest of the day, acclimating to the altitude. We headed into the base camp area to check it out and get some ice cream in the afternoon.img_9330img_9325

Juliette had a toy that was plastic cake slices in different colors. She and Celine immediately clashed over the pink cake slice. Louise tried to mediate, hiding the slice in different places in the house. Celine would wait until Juliette was distracted and swoop in to snag it. Here she is hoarding all of the slices under her legs. We all learned lessons about sharing on this trip. *sigh*img_9323

DAY THREE
We took it pretty easy the next day (Friday), too. Lots of hanging out around the house, hot tub time, and matching pj’s. (Notice the cake slices next to Celine)img_9335img_9362img_9366img_9365img_9357img_9360img_9363

Mike and I decided to take a jog while the girls were resting…turns out we weren’t super prepared for a hilly run at such a high altitude. We completed two miles but it wasn’t easy!img_9343img_9345img_9341

We headed back to base camp for some playground time. Celine found an enclave of candy and launched into a five minute rationalization of why she should have some.img_9347img_9339

A little puzzle time!img_9348

DAY FOUR
We stuffed quite a bit into Saturday – another hike, boating, and an evening concert in the town square of Big Sky.img_9369ce6ad406-e769-46b2-9773-dd029fddc6f9

We started with a hike on the ski mountain.img_9437img_9404img_9431

Celine was not into it until we started picking flowers.img_9435img_9412img_9436img_9418

Booger Queen.img_9421

Trying to get a picture with three small children…img_9434img_9639

Oh well. Let’s head down!img_9426img_9420

We hung out for a bit at the base of the mountain, soaking up the good weather.img_9430

After nap/rest time, we gave Grammy a bit of alone time and took the girls to the lake for paddle-boating and canoeing.img_9636img_9637img_9638

We headed back to the house to pick up Grammy and motored to the town center for an outdoor concert. It was easily one of the most enjoyable parts of the trip – the girls were free to frolic, we had pizza and drinks, and the weather was absolutely perfect. Also, I learned that a can of wine is two glasses…good to know.img_9443img_9441img_9459

Grammy tried out a huckleberry smoothie which immediately gained interest from the grandgirls. So they each got their own to devour.img_9642img_9643

In between bursts of energy, all three gathered grass in cups – followed shortly by dumping the grass clippings all over everyone. Rinse, repeat.img_9641img_9450

Celine and Juliette decided we were stationed too far back, and ventured to the pit for some dancing.img_9640

Mambo Kings’ biggest fans!img_9635

DAY FIVE
Sunday was our all-day tour of Yellowstone. I’m doing a separate post on that. It was amazing!

DAY SIX
We had scheduled an expedition to the peak of the mountain at 8:45 in the morning, but we awoke to rain and cold weather. We moved it to 11:30 which worked out much better. The morning was spent lounging around and watching Mary Poppins.img_9610img_9609img_9611img_9612

Then we headed out! We waited around for a few minutes before the trip began, and the girls played some putt-putt and Celine found a walking stick.img_9587img_9613

To get to the peak we had to take the chair lift to a covered truck to a gondola/tram. The truck and tram really tested Dominique and my height anxiety, but Louise and Celine LOVED the chair lift. Might have been their favorite part of the whole trip. Celine couldn’t stop exclaiming “this is so FUN!” the whole ride up and down.img_9588img_9604img_9616img_9615img_9617img_9614img_9596img_9597img_9599

Celine absolutely loved being above the clouds. I had an iron grip on that klutz!img_9595

Visibility was not great, but there were breaks in the clouds so we could see the surrounding mountains.img_9598

The excursion took about 2.5 hours, and after getting back, we relaxed at the house and the boys cooked one final, delicious dinner. We started getting everything together for our trip back the next day.img_9621img_9622

DAY SEVEN
We were out of the house around 10am and drove back to Bozeman. We took a quick detour to check out the downtown area and then headed to the airport. We were so sad to leave the beautiful house and perfect weather, but we were happy to be back home!img_9626img_9630img_9633

Toledo Bend

Just like last year, Louise is spending a week in New Orleans with her grandparents. We headed to the border of Texas and Louisiana to make the hand-off with Mike’s parents over the weekend. There’s a reservoir called Toledo Bend, and we met up at Cypress Bend resort for the night. Dom, Ross, and sweet Juliette came as well so it was a fun 24 hours with cousins!

The resort was lovely and had beautiful views of the reservoir.IMG_0909

We were there for less than 24 hours, so our primary activities were swimming, coloring, and eating – and taking copious photos of the cousins giggling around town.IMG_0911IMG_0913IMG_0914IMG_0915IMG_0929IMG_0918IMG_0931IMG_0916IMG_0917IMG_0932IMG_0926IMG_0927IMG_0919IMG_0920

Good times. πŸ™‚IMG_0922

Colorado vacation

The Fausaks planned a trip to Colorado Springs this year, and Mike and I tacked on a Denver trip for a couple of days prior to see some of our friends and explore the city. It was a fun trip and I’m already missing the weather!

We flew in on Thursday afternoon and settled in our hotel for a few before heading out to dinner with our friends, who moved to Denver for a job about a year ago. Louise and her friend Amelie picked right up where they left off last year, as did we! It was bittersweet seeing them because it reminded us how much we like their company.img_8390

A little screen time so the parents could chitchat in peace. πŸ™‚img_8391

Friday morning we went to breakfast at Syrup around the corner from our hotel. We were not impressed – very slow service and the food was bland. We should have just eaten the free breakfast at our hotel!

After breakfast we grabbed the stroller and walked to the Children’s Museum. It was about a two mile walk across LoDo and down a trail along a river. The Children’s Museum was great, and we could have spent hours there…except for one thing – we lost Celine. She walked out of a play area without us noticing and ended up going downstairs and outside. After a frantic 15 minutes of searching, I found her holding hands with a staff member (who looked just about as worried as I did). Both Celine and I had a good cry…and then she promptly revised history and informed me that we walked outside and left her. Oh Celine.img_8408img_8415img_8423img_8405

We headed back to the hotel to rest, and then found a park around the corner from our hotel that had live music, mini golf and other games, and a beer garden. We had planned on spending a short while there before heading to dinner, but ended up getting brats at the beer garden and calling it a night due to Celine’s crabbiness.img_8431img_8429img_8438img_8448

Saturday rolled around and my parents drove up from Colorado Springs to pick us up. Before heading down, we hit up the Aquarium. Celine was pretty ambivalent about it (except for the otters and tiger) but Louise was super interested.img_8465

Louise and Papa spent 10+ minutes watching all of the stingrays swim around, picking up pebbles on the ground and dumping them as they swam along.img_8485img_8474img_8478

The tiger rolled out right as we walked by. Louise casually took three big steps back, but Celine was entranced. #kittyimg_8492img_8508

After a (surprisingly delicious) lunch at the Aquarium restaurant, we packed up and headed to Colorado Springs.

The original house my mom rented was further north, but between booking and our stay, they sold the house and cancelled our reservation. We were scrambling a little bit until my mom found this house – it had just been renovated and was recently added as an option. It turned out to be perfect! There was an amazing view of Pikes Peak right out the front door (and Mike and my bedroom), and it was a half mile from Garden of the Gods and super close to all the things we wanted to do (the zoo, Cave of the Winds, etc). There was an enormous park directly across the street with a playground, tennis courts, and a baseball diamond, which was great to help the kids work out some energy or when the boys wanted to throw the Frisbee. It was great!img_8503img_8538img_8618img_8694

We didn’t do much the first evening there beyond go to the grocery store and cook dinner. I managed to take a little jog around Garden of the Gods and took about 200 selfies…so pretty!!img_8536img_8527

Sunday we woke up and headed to Garden of the Gods for a nature hike. We were wondering how the girls would do on a hike. Celine was carried on various shoulders for the majority of the trip, but Louise happily hoofed it the whole time – over two miles!img_8593img_8592img_8549img_8594img_8550img_8563img_8595img_8603img_8604img_8600img_8602img_8583

Celine was all about climbing, even when she would slip down on the gravel.img_8577img_8576img_8575img_8581img_8557

I thought I was taking a picture of my two cuties strolling along together, but instead caught Louise red-handed, hitting Celine with her water bottle.img_8560

We were pretty pooped after the walk, so we took it easy the rest of the day. Mike cooked dinner again because that’s what he does, and then we utilized the fire pit in the front yard for s’more making. Celine’s first s’more!img_8605img_8615

Our big outing on Monday was to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. We mobilized early in anticipation of the zoo crowds, which proved smart – it was a madhouse when we left and parking was completely full! Since it was the day before Independence Day, the girls wore spangled leggings.img_8619img_8631

We’ve decided that Louise is an aquarium girl and Celine is a zoo girl. Celine was super into the animals and kept saying she wanted to “meet” them. Sorry girlfriend, you only get to meet the giraffe and a couple of reptiles!img_8642img_8645img_8660img_8662

“It’s so SOFT!”img_8663

Because the zoo is on a mountain, it made for some pretty epic views. Not that I was very good at capturing them…img_8647

After we were done (translation: when Celine’s body language told us she was done), we headed down the mountain a bit for lunch at the Golden Bee at the Broadmoor. The food was ok and the ambiance was nice, but we were all grouchy because it took over an hour for our food to arrive. Boo!

Once again, we ate at the house and cooked s’mores afterward.img_8679img_8682img_8689

Tuesday was INDEPENDENCE DAY! We (well…the girls) donned our red, white, and blue, and headed out early to check out the Cave of the Winds. Celine: not impressed.img_8701img_8712img_8707img_8713

The organization of the place was not great: we were told our tour started at 8:40am but it ended up being the 9:40am tour. In any case, it was an interesting tour of the caves and both girls did a good job. There was one section where they turned off all the lights and had Louise blow out a candle to show how pitch dark it is down there. Naturally, Celine immediately shrieked out “it’s too dark! I don’t like this!” and everyone in our tour group giggled. Celine was fine once the lights came back on and enjoyed reminding everyone for the rest of the day how “her face was dark and she got scared.”img_8722

We headed home and the girls played in some water while my parents and Rusty headed to the Manitou Incline.img_8747img_8748img_8753

My grandma and her sister came over for dinner in the evening. Β Louise wrote my grandma a note on the sidewalk since her birthday was the next day.img_8740img_8739img_8760img_8736img_8756img_8757

We hung out in the front yard waiting for fireworks, chatting and playing Outburst.img_8759

The next morning we packed up and headed out! My parents dropped us (and Taylor and Hillary) at the Denver airport and then started their drive back to Dallas, so we had a few hours to kill waiting for our flight. We were all pretty tired.img_8769

Louise was part of the backpack crew. πŸ™‚img_8772

All in all, it was one of the more relaxing vacations we’ve been on in recent history – considering we travel with two young kids. It was nice to have activities every day, but no day was too jam-packed. Here’s hoping we can do it again next year (this time with the entire Fausak clan)!

Mother’s Day

I had to leave to London for work on Mother’s Day, so early on I wanted to plan something with the girls and my mom to get some QT before I headed out. I decided on brunch at the Arboretum, and it was a hit! I dressed the girls up in smocked dresses and we headed out.IMG_7599IMG_7600

All the ladies!IMG_7611IMG_7620

It was a lovely brunch and it was nice to get the grandmas together for some quality time!

Rusty and Jess’ wedding: the flower girls

Rusty and Jess got their professional photos back from their wedding, and other than the photos doing a great job of highlighting how beautiful and perfect their wedding was, I finally have pictures of Louise and Celine in their flower girl duties!jessica-rusty-wedding-187jessica-rusty-wedding-188

Notice Mike in the background, miming throwing petals on the ground for Celine πŸ™‚jessica-rusty-wedding-189jessica-rusty-wedding-193

There are also a couple of photos of me doing my reading.jessica-rusty-wedding-240jessica-rusty-wedding-241

Love these people!jessica-rusty-wedding-335

Rusty and Jess’ wedding!

This past weekend, the Haydels headed down to Austin for the Rusty and Jessica wedding extravaganza!

We picked up the girls from school on Thursday and headed down. We stopped in Hillsboro at the Wendy’s and it was deserted, which gave the girls an opportunity to run out some energy.IMG_7004

My parents rented a house in south Austin and it was pretty amazing. We enjoyed the large patio and backyard for a bit before heading to bed.IMG_7012IMG_7013

The girls had their own room, which was good except they were giggling together until after 11pm. Come on ladies…your parents are tired!IMG_7006

Friday was full of running errands. My mom and I picked up the flowers – we were in LOVE! They were so pretty!!IMG_7018IMG_7019

My brother made the wooden flower boxes. They were enormous – four of them plus the arrangement for the arbor barely fit in our Tahoe.IMG_7024

We also ordered flower crowns for my little flower girls. I had to try them on, of course.IMG_7025

We all got ready for the evening and headed out to the rehearsal! (Notice the awesome Austin traffic all around us)IMG_7033

Both girls fell asleep in the car…IMG_7035

…which meant that they were at the rehearsal like this:IMG_7036

When Celine is grumpy, she tucks in her bottom lip and peeks at everyone through her eyelashes.IMG_7040IMG_7045

They perked up a bit for the rehearsal dinner…and then promptly got bored. Luckily we live in the digital age and can provide easy entertainment via our phones.IMG_7048IMG_7056

The rehearsal dinner was at Max’s Wine Dive, and my mom did super cute Lord of the Rings centerpieces with Lego LotR ensembles. They were so cute and SO Rusty.IMG_7052IMG_7058

The food was delicious and of course the wine!IMG_7054IMG_7057

My parents gave a little welcome speech and my mom thanked everyone for coming…and promptly started crying when talking to Rusty and Jess. Only the second time she cried that day – the first was when she picked up the flowers. At least now I know where I get it from!IMG_7059

Mike and I left with the girls around 8pm and headed back to the house for the girls’ bedtime. Both girls weren’t in the best moods (see: 11:30pm bedtime the night before), and Celine had one of her epic meltdowns. At one point she clawed me in the face, leaving a gash on my right cheek and a couple of other marks. I was pretty bummed about it considering the wedding (aka lots of pics) was the next day, but the silver lining was that it shocked Celine so much, she stopped her fit.

The next morning was wedding day!! The boys and Katie hung with the kiddos while the rest of the ladies went for blowouts in the morning.IMG_7061IMG_7063IMG_7064

After a morning filled mainly with driving to multiple hamburger joints, we headed over to Rusty and Jess’ to see what we could help with. The girls were surprisingly good while we set the tables, made corsages, and other things.IMG_7072IMG_7073IMG_7078

The flower boxes didn’t fit on the slim tables, but my mom found a great place for them and everything worked out beautifully. The flowers on the arbor also turned out amazing – I think they really set the tone for the ceremony!IMG_7086IMG_7167

I headed back to the rental house with the girls to get ready, along with my parents, Katie, and Hillary. Mike and Taylor stayed with the groomsmen and Liz stayed to make sure everything was set up and ready to go, both for her officiating duties and all of the sound.

My parents left for the wedding with Hillary a little before 4, and Katie hopped in her car to drive Elliot and herself over. At 4pm our babysitter arrived, so Louise, Celine, the babysitter, and I got in the car and headed to the wedding! I loved our babysitter (Laura). She is a sophomore at UT in Texas Spirits and the girls took to her almost immediately…mainly because she had long blond hair LIKE ELSA.

We arrived at Rusty and Jess’ around 4:40, and Laura hovered around the girls while we got ready for game time. Katie was stressing out about keeping Elliot clean and not getting into anything, but finally just let him run around pre-ceremony, shrugging and saying “what’s the worst that could happen?” Finally it was time to go!IMG_7083IMG_7089IMG_7091IMG_7111

Everyone did their thing, and it was time for the ring bearer and flower girls to make their trek down the aisle before Jess. Elliot enthusiastically started trotting down the aisle, but tripped, causing the rings to fly out of their box and into the grass. There was a frantic three minute search for the rings while Louise and Celine anxiously waited for their turn to walk. Someone found Rusty’s ring but Jess’ was still missing. Everyone decided to wait until after the ceremony – Liz gave Rusty her ring to use in the interim – and it was time for the girls to walk.

I ushered Louise and Celine to the start of the aisle and told them to walk to Papa, then went around the side and met them at the end of the aisle. I was surprised and pleased that both girls walked down the aisle and actually dropped their petals! Celine had an overhand throw technique and was only throwing one at a time, but overall they did a great job. I wish someone took a video of their walk, but I’m sure there are a couple of pretty good professional photos. Looking forward to seeing those.

Liz did an amazing job with the ceremony, and I managed to get through my reading without choking up. It was special seeing the two of them commit to each other. Neither of them are typically weepy/emotional people, but they made an exception for their wedding.IMG_7126IMG_7128IMG_7139IMG_7142

The kids did an exceptional job being good children during the ceremony!IMG_7131IMG_7137IMG_7138

I tried to get as many pics as I could, but I didn’t get one of the Haydels, of me and Jessica, or of the entire Fausak family. Oh well!IMG_7106IMG_7079IMG_7149IMG_7155IMG_7163

But I DID get one with the groom!IMG_7145

There was some dancing…IMG_7169IMG_7175IMG_7186IMG_7195

…a couple late-night pics…IMG_7199IMG_7202

…and that’s all she wrote! It was a wonderful wedding and it seemed like everyone had a great time, bride and groom included! Congrats again, Rusty and Jess!