Category Archives: Travels

Worthington Glacier : Valdez, Alaska Part Four

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When we were making our way down to Valdez we were stopped for quite a while for construction with a view of the Worthington Glacier. It is absolutely stunning. When we finally continued on our journey we noticed there was a park for it and with some additional research we decided it seemed like a great place for exploration. So, on our way out of town, later that weekend we decided to make a stop and do just that. The time we spent here may very well have been my favorite of the entire trip. There were no expectations, no rush, and no crowd. We got to explore, be silly, and just enjoy nature before making our long trek home.
















This one is definitely in the running for Hays Christmas Card 2017.

And this is a prime example of why it takes me approximately 162 pictures to get one that is Christmas Card worthy!

Being kids and getting messy!

VERY messy.


To see more pictures from our time at Worthington Glacier, click HERE.

Columbia Glacier Cruise – Valdez, Alaska Part Three

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If you missed out on the first two parts of our Valdez adventure you can catch up HERE and HERE.

Per the request of Grandma Judi Lunchbox (yes, that is precisely what my children call her) I wanted to share a little bit about the campground we stayed in. It is operated by the MWR and you can book a trailer to stay in that is already down there which is super convenient. It is closer to the Valdez Glacier than Valdez itself, but we loved how quiet and secluded it was in comparison to the campgrounds in town.


This is a view standing at our camper door. Not a bad sight to wake up to. The next photo is a  picture from  the campground of the view we had of the Valdez glacier. So pretty!


As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, our original wildlife/glacier cruise plans were thwarted because of a boat engine not working, however, we were able to get tickets for a different cruise for the next day. The girls were so excited we weren’t going to miss out on the chance to see a whale after all! We ended up being out on the boat for nearly 9 hours, but it was absolutely incredible. The views were breath taking. I barely sat down the entire day and drank insane amounts of hot coffee at hours of the day I shouldn’t have in attempt to warm up! It is quite chilly out on the water!

The girls ready to head out on our adventure!


We started out on the outside portion of the upper deck. We wound up migrating downstairs to the inside area of the inner deck, though. It was a lot easier to sneak out for pictures — and a lot warmer!

Away we go!

Here are some of the amazing views of scenery that we took in as we first headed out:



 

This is where the pipeline comes to an end!







Commercial fishing boat at work!

We got to see a variety of wild life on our journey, too! Right out of the gate we saw some sea otters:



We also got to see a bunch — and I mean a bunch — of sea lions!







This was just one of the gathers on the coast of the sea lions if that gives you an idea of how many there were!

We also were fortunate to see a humpback whale as we were heading back at the end of the day. I didn’t get any pictures because it all happened so fast and I was holding baby, but it was truly one of the most incredible experiences in my life. Mr. went on a fishing charter the following day and was able to see a lot more whales — including orcas! I was really hoping we’d see an orca (and Baby will tell you we did — we didn’t), but there is always next year, right?

After a while we began to get closer to the glacier and the landscape of the water began to change. At first you’d see little baby pieces of ice floating around and all of a sudden they were getting bigger and bigger. Fun fact of the day, only 10% of the ice is above water. So the bigger chunks of ice you see are actually A LOT bigger than they appear.

At this point, when we first started seeing some ice floating around, I believe we were still about 40 miles away from the glacier itself!







The girls loved being at the bow when the boat was cruising along really fast. It was frigid and I about lost 3 fingers due to the cold, but it was totally worth it! They had a blast!




The one to watch in this picture is Baby…

Yup, that’s Baby dancing on the Bow of the boat. Just shaking her little tushy like she just doesn’t care… oh and those are windows behind her with a boat full of people. Always an entertainer, that one!

We finally arrived at the glacier and it was spectacular. When we were first within sight my initial thoughts were, “Oh that is a lot smaller than I thought it would be.” The captain mentioned the fact that we were still over TWO miles away at that point. As we got closer the magnanimity of the glacier began it set in. We couldn’t get another closer than a 1/2 mile away for safety reasons since the ice tends to break off unexpectedly all the time and yet still the glacier loomed. I can only imagine how tiny we would have felt right up next to it!











Hays Girls with the Columbia Glacier!


I’ll just leave it here. Pretty amazing, isn’t it? I am so glad we were able to go visit. If you want to see more of our Columbia Glacier cruise, you can view the entire photo album HERE.

 

Valdez, Alaska Part Two

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Our first morning in Valdez was a perfect first morning of vacation. We didn’t have any pressing engagements and so we slept in, took things slow, and made a special breakfast:

Everyone brings their Princess Waffle maker (thanks Mollie for giving it to the girls!) with them camping, right? To be fair, the waffles were delicious and I absolutely do not regret making space for a waffle maker among all the other things I probably could have done without but decided I needed anyways.

As we were finishing up breakfast the girls started hollering at us that there was a bear outside. Before I go any further, let me fill you in on two things. First, the Hays girls are known to be both dramatic and irrational about wild life and camping in general. Two summers ago we went camping with my folks and Bug insisted on staying in the truck to guard it from bandits — if that gives you any idea of how cut out we are for camping. The whole trip down to Valdez and the whole first day the talk was all about one thing — bears. We insisted that we wouldn’t see any because bears don’t like people, etc. etc. etc. Secondly, Alaska isn’t an episode of National Geographic. Yes, there is plenty of wild life and yes, you do see it. However, Alaska is huge and you don’t see said wild life constantly or even very often. Anyways, Andy went over to look out the window where they were insisting that they could see a bear out of and I was taken a little off guard when, instead of telling them not to ‘cry bear’, he asked me, “Hey, did you leave the car doors open all night?” I thought it was a joke. Car doors? My initial reaction was, “Shoot, did someone break into our car?” I had already been up and out earlier that morning and the car doors had been closed. So, either someone broke into my car or he was pulling my leg. I brushed him off, but quickly regrouped when he said, “Get your camera and come over here right now — I’m serious.” So I hopped over and what do ya know…

Sure enough…. apparently bears can open car doors. When I looked out the window I saw both of my car doors wide open and there was our friend (who the girls later named Robberro for his attempt at car jacking) sitting in the driver’s seat of my shiny, new SUV. Thankfully we didn’t have any food or trash inside and thankfully once he noticed us watching from the window and he took off. Extra thankfully, he didn’t do any real damage to the car. I have two tiny scratches below the driver’s side door where he tried to climb in and I’m actually kind of okay with that. It’s not every day you can say, “Yeah, those scratches came from a bear climbing into my car.” What a start to our adventure in Valdez!

After our morning bear encounter we headed off to the harbor to catch a boat to go see more wild life! The girls we most excited about this part of our trip in the hope that we would see some whales!


As we were waiting for boarding along came a plot twist — the captain informed the waiting crowd that the engine of the boat wasn’t working and the trip was cancelled. The girls were super disappointed and we had no Plan B. So we hopped over to a gift shop to look around while we brain stormed ideas. I have come to believe that in order for something to truly be an adventure it can’t go completely according to plan. Since we didn’t really know what there was to do in the town we decided to head to something we did know which was the Valdez glacier by our camp site. It ended up being a very beautiful and very fun way to spend a morning. Lots of skipping rocks, taking in beautiful sites, climbing, and just being kids!














In this last one, Bug is holding a piece of ice from the Valdez Glacier — pretty cool! We had so much fun at the lake! If you want to see more pictures from the Valdez Glacier Lake you can see them HERE.

After our morning at the lake we decided to head back into town for some lunch and exploring.

We opted for lunch at a restaurant called the Fat Mermaid. The girls learned some new words thanks to a belligerent drunk seated at the restaurant bar and it was quite literally the worst fish and chips I’ve ever had in my life, but at least we got these silly pictures:


After lunch we decided to check out the museum!

My goobers with a life boat from a cruise ship that had to be used for some reason I don’t  remember. I do remember that it was a cool story, but obviously it didn’t stick.


I love the zeal that Bug has for learning. It is so much fun! She is constantly coming up to me and telling me about something new that she learned! My personal favorite part of the museum was this gem though:

Meet the North Pacific Fur Fish! You can read all about this unique specimen here:

We also visited the Whitney Museum which was a bigger hit with the girls. I called it the Valdez Zoo. It only took Princess about 10 minutes to realize and then be equally traumatized that all these animals had been killed and were stuffed. Thankfully it was post-picture taking. I have priorities, obviously. If there aren’t any pictures of crying, it didn’t happen, right?

These kids are clearly no fun what so ever. I’m pretty sure they kept all the other grown-ups visiting quite entertained.

Bug had been reading a lot about wolves before/during this trip — so this was definitely a fan favorite!



The girls with the moose gives you an idea of why in addition to the “don’t talk to strangers” spiel that we give the girls before walking to school like any normal parent, we also have to give the “turn around and run the other way if you see a moose” spiel.

I had to include this last one simply because of Baby. This is her in a nut shell. She always has a joke, always a silly story, always some sort of antic. She is, hands down, the most hilarious and witty little kid I know. She is basically her Daddy in little girl form. You’re welcome, world.

The fun doesn’t stop there, though! We also spent some time playing at the park which was pure torture with all the beautiful views.






Posing like happy little tourists with the Fairbanks street sign because that’s how we roll.

Before heading back to our campsite for the evening we decided to drive around the old town site that got wiped out by a tsunami. There is nothing left except land and signs explaining where things once were, which was cool, but I think the views were cooler. So, here are some more pretty things to look at:






We ended our day with good news — we got a spot on a different wild life and glacier cruise that was headed out the next morning! We celebrated by having a campfire, roasting hot dogs for dinner, and making s’mores! Thankfully Robberro decided not to join us for dinner.






To see more pictures from our time exploring Valdez you can do that HERE!

If you missed Part One of this adventure, you can catch up on that HERE!

Valdez, Alaska Part ONE

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As I was going through the pictures that I took on our trip to Valdez last week I knew that they would need to be shared through a blog post. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but some pictures just need the words to go along with them. There are just too many moments I want to preserve and share.

With that said, I logged on to start writing this post and realized that I haven’t posted a blog since our first Alaska snow … last October! My apologies! The Hays Family has been up to quite a lot since those first snow flakes fell. We successfully survived our first Alaskan winter that included temps into the -40’s, never ending months of darkness and temps being generally below 0, a year of abnormally large amounts of snow, and so much beauty that words can’t even begin to describe it. Alaska is truly beautiful covered in snow. More recently, though, we have been enjoying another amazing summer in the land of never-ending sun! The girls have been enjoying some fun camps, we’ve done some hiking, fishing, swimming, and just have been enjoying the sunshine and being able to be outside in this beautiful frontier we call home. Have I mentioned that we absolutely love Alaska? Because we do.












Also of significance is the fact that we have added a new member to our family! He is quite furry and quite adorable and I can’t imagine how we ever lived without him. We adopted our Retriever/Lab/Husky mix, Bo, from the local shelter in May and we couldn’t have gotten more lucky. He may just very well be the perfect dog and we love him to pieces. He has been the perfect fit for our family!

Bug finished up 2nd grade in May and is getting ready to start third grade here in a couple weeks. She also turns 8 a week from tomorrow. Yes, you read that correctly. EIGHT. I don’t really know how it is possible, but apparently it is perfectly legal and acceptable for your baby to grow up and do things like turn 8. If that wasn’t enough for this emotional Mama, Princess is gearing up to start Kindergarten in a couple weeks and the Littles will be turning 5 and 6, respectively, this fall. In all honesty, as sad as it is to have them growing up so quickly, I am completely in love with this stage of our lives. I love their silly antics and imaginations. I love that they are learning to play games more complicated and interesting than Candy Land. I love that they can make themselves breakfast — they even make me coffee sometimes, too. I miss my chubby babies, but these beautiful girls that I have now are equally awesome.

Without further to do, though, let me share with you a little taste of the absolutely amazing family vacation we took to Valdez last weekend (with more to come!). Valdez peaked our interest because there is a MWR campground there with trailers on site that you can rent. We aren’t exactly outdoorsy people. We are getting there slowly but surely, but we aren’t quite there yet. We don’t own much in the form of camping gear and, quite frankly, I think that all camping in Alaska will probably be trailer camping for this family — mostly due to the abundance of wildlife I’d rather not get eaten by in this beautiful state.

The drive took us about 7 hours from our lovely little home in the Interior. I was very thankful that my new, pretty little SUV has a rear camera because, as you can see, I most definitely over packed. The girls did great on the drive there and back. If you have been following our adventures for a while you will be able to share in my excitement to announce that NO ONE threw up! We may have *finally* outgrown that lovely stage of life/travel finally (knock on wood).


Baby rocking the “Princess Leia” hair. We recently watched  all the Star Wars movies with the girls. They had seen some of the newer ones, but never the original ones. They fell absolutely in love with the originals. The Littles have been asking for Princess Leia hair on a regular basis and Bug now has a crush on Luke Skywalker, naturally.

I will post again, soon, to share about some of the adventures we had on the actual trip, but for now I’ll just flood you with the absolutely amazing views we had on the drive down (and back, obviously). It was simply breathtaking. To be completely honest, though, you can’t go far in Alaska without encountering beautiful things.

The Pipeline runs through Fairbanks and we enjoyed getting to follow it down to where it ultimately comes to an end in Valdez. It is pretty amazing to see how far the pipeline runs — especially since Fairbanks isn’t even where it starts!




Please don’t judge my dirty windshield. Some (read a lot) of these pictures were taken in motion because if we were to stop to take pictures of every view we found picture worthy on the way to Valdez we’d still be driving there. So, just ignore the bird poop and dead bugs and enjoy the view. If nothing else, it adds some realism to the experience of the drive, right?

As a girl who grew up in the PNW in the shadow of, in my opinion, the most beautiful mountain in the whole world, I was absolutely loving being surrounded by all these peaks. Fairbanks has “the hills,” but no mountains near by. On a good, clear day, we can catch a glimpse of Denali in the distance. I miss being so close and being forced to accept just how small I am in the grand scheme of things. It is so humbling — especially when I think about how small these peaks are compared to my Creator. As we were driving and I was soaking in the beautiful views and glorious peaks I told Andy that this is what I imagine Heaven will be like someday.



“The mountains shake before Him, the demons run and flee at the mention of the name, King of Majesty! There is no power in Hell, or any who can stand, before the power and the presence of the Great I Am! Hallelujah! Holy, Holy! God Almighty, the Great I Am! Who is worthy? None beside thee! God Almighty, The Great I Am.” — Great I Am by New Life Worship


We just had to pull over for a shot of our sweet girls with this particular peak behind them. As we were approaching it one of the girls commented that it looked like a giant chair. Another suggested maybe it was a throne. Then our sweet Princess said, “I bet that is God’s throne!” It was so precious and I knew we just had to stop for a picture to encase that memory — our sweet, Jesus-loving girls and a majestic peak that they deemed only God was worthy of a place upon. I love them so.

To view more pictures of our journey (and get a sneak peak of Valdez and some of the pictures and memories I’ll share soon) feel free to check out the entire album HERE.

Hello from ALASKA!

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Hello there, it has certainly been a while! I have really struggled with the decision about whether I should, or shouldn’t, continue on with our family blog. It felt easy and necessarily when we lived in Europe and were exploring amazing countries and places all of the time. It truly felt like an adventure. While Alaska has proven itself to be insanely beautiful and full of adventure, too, the adventures available are of a much different kind. Initially we felt like, okay, we are here we have to dive in and embrace this life. However, I think we very quickly came to the honest truth about what life is like in a house full of women who don’t like bugs, getting dirty, or being physically uncomfortable. We just aren’t hikers, fishers, hunters, or wilderness campers. We prefer adventures that include walking around ancient castle ruins or admiring the beauty of a centuries old piece of stained glass in a cathedral. So I haven’t written and I haven’t posted because I felt like there wasn’t really anything worth sharing about our lives here in Alaska so far, nor did I think I would have much worth sharing.

Until…… I came to the realization this week that adventures are simply exciting tidbits of life waiting for us to claim them. Our adventures may look a lot different now — they may not be checking wonders of the world off our bucket list — but they are still adventures. We may not be traveling much anymore, but we are still growing and exploring what it means to be a family in this new, beautiful place we are calling home-for-now. And I think it is worth sharing — even if my sweet Grandma Lunchbox is the only one who cares about reading it. So, Grandma, if only for your sake, may the blog live on!

(Warning: This will probably be a LONG one.)

In February the girls and I bid Deutschland and all our many friends there farewell! It was so tough and full of lots of tears. It was a long day of traveling many, many miles with three little ones on my own. But we survived — and no one puked! So I consider that a success. And, really, moments like this where we are reunited with family make all the stress of moving and traveling completely worth it! :

We had many, many sweet moments with family. The girls and I were lucky enough to get to spend just shy of two months in the PNW!

We were able to be there for lots of birthdays while we visited which was a real treat since we normally miss out on celebrating those (and most holidays) with our families. I think one of my favorites was being there for my Grandpa’s birthday. This has to be one of my favorite pictures of all time:

I got to go on a Ladies’ Retreat with my Mom and what we consider our home church in WA. It was located in the beautiful Leavenworth which I had never visited before! It was a beautiful and super fun weekend.

We got to attend a fun round-up that our home church put on! The girls loved dressing up… Baby insisted on going as gangster Sassy Kitty, naturally.

We also took the girls to see the musical ‘Hairspray’ put on by the high school I graduated from that has an absolutely incredible drama department. Baby slept through it, but the older two loved it to pieces. They even got to get autographs afterwards — which I think may have excited the actors and actresses more than my girls!

Naturally Grammy & Papa spoiled them and loved on them with every ounce they possibly could. Papa, knowing Bug is super into dinosaurs, buried some mini-dino skeletons in their garden and let her play archeologist. Consider her life-made at this point.

My Christmas present from Mister had been his blessing for me and the girls heading out of Germany ahead of him so I could be apart of so many special birthdays, ladies retreat, and other happenings. As well, it made the move slightly less stressful for me since he took care of cleaning and handing back over our home as well. After three long weeks, though, we were beyond ready to have him with us to enjoy a month of family-time!

We enjoyed so many fun things while we were in WA. We took the girls to the Great Wolf Lodge for a mini-vacation. We visited the Children’s Museum in Olympia which was incredible. Mister and I got to go on our first ever sibling-date with my siblings to see Ben Rector in concert in Seattle:

We also got to visit with a lot of Mister’s family on the eastern side of the state, most of whom we hadn’t seen in 3+ years. Many who hadn’t even had the pleasure of meeting Baby yet.

Another bonus of our trip was that it fell over Easter Sunday and we were able to spent an actual holiday with extended family!

Easter Sunday was an especially special time with family because we were also able to help my Grandparents celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary! SIXTY! I am so thankful to have grown up with such an amazing example of marriage!

Our time home was simply incredible. It was refreshing, full of love, and joy. It was so hard to leave. I know I cannot wait until the day when we fly into Seattle and just get to stay. Until then, though, it was time for our Alaskan adventure to begin!

We spent almost exactly a month living in a hotel before we got our home here. I will be honest, it has taken me some time to love our home. Our days still occasionally are filled with little ones asking when we are going back to Germany. Moving is never easy. BUT! We have been so blessed in so many ways. We have great neighbors. God led us to an incredible church that simply feels like home to us while we are here. We have started making amazing friends. It hasn’t all been butterflies and roses, but slowly and surely the positive and the good that awaits us here in Alaska has outshone the tough stuff.

One perk of our new home is a giant basement that provides us sweet relief on the rare-hot Alaskan summer days. Family camp-outs in the basement have become a fun tradition!

In June we needed to head down to Anchorage for a medical procedure mister needed done. We got to spend the whole weekend there despite only actually needing to be there about about 2-3 hours total. It was a nice mini-vacation getaway for us. A break from the unpacking and settling in. And it sure was a beautiful drive and beautiful weekend!

A couple weeks ago my parents and sister came up for their first visit. What a huge blessing that we are only a short, 3 hour flight away now. We are thrilled to be getting to see family more often these days! We did a bit of local sight-seeing with them. We visited the pipeline for the first time, the Alaska bowl company, the Farmer’s market, and a few other places around town. We mostly just enjoyed their company, though.

Lots of snuggles were had during their week with us. We also visited North Pole, Alaska and got to see Santa which was a fun little trip. My sister is a Christmas-crazed woman and so it was a little slice of heaven for her, I think.

So fun. And another perk of their visit was that it fell over Bug’s birthday! She turned SEVEN! We had so much fun celebrating her! She got her ears pierced and had an insanely cool Jurassic Park themed cake.

I simply cannot believe our Bug is already 7! She even started 2nd grade last week! How do these things happen so quickly? I seriously blinked.

And! Mister and I celebrated our 6th anniversary this past month, too!

So thankful for this sweet guy. Even though our adventures are changing, I am so thankful that I get to share them with HIM. Life is never dull with him by my side!

We are looking forward to more family visiting this upcoming week! And I will do my best to continue to share our new and different types of adventures these days in a more timely manner. Like how crazy light summers are in Alaska! We had 22 hours of daylight on the longest day of the year — I will definitely have to share about that phenomenon next summer! In the nearer future, though, we are about to enter into our first winter here. That will surely be a new and mostly likely comical adventure for our family! So stay tuned!

 

 

If you would like to see more of what we have been up to, you can visit our Photo Share Site HERE.

Auf Wiedersehen Deutschland

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I cannot even begin to express the strangeness that comes with writing this particular blog post. Who knew that 1,133 days could go by so quickly. When we began our adventure in Germany the idea of three years in a foreign country seemed like an eternity. Now, though, I feel like I blinked my eyes and it is now time to say good bye. Oh, what an adventure it has been.

This farewell is a bittersweet one. It breaks my heart to leave this amazing country. I don’t know that I will ever be able to enjoy pretzels, fries, or brats again in my life. I don’t know that playgrounds will ever hold the same wonder for our kids. The amazing sights we have seen and places we have visited will forever be some of our most cherished memories. And the friends we’ve made here, who have really felt more like family, feel impossible to say ‘see you later’ to.

I think our future will hold some pretty amazing adventures ,too, though. Was are so excited  to explore Alaska. What a treat it will be to be so much closer to our family! So, as we say so-long-for-now to this amazing country and the amazing people we’ve known here, I will do my best not to be overly sentimental as I share some of my favorite memories from our wonderful German Adventure.

I found this one especially fitting since Valentine’s Day was our last day in Germany. The girls on our first Valentine’s Day in Germany. We’d only been in our home a couple weeks. My, oh my. They sure have grown!

Our very first exploration in Germany to Heidelberg. It is seriously a wonder that we survived this trip! We had no idea what we were doing! The internet and travel resources have come a LONG way in three years!

Another hilarious novice travel experience. We paid a lot of money to basically watch a family show us their farm animals. And it was all in German so we had NO idea what was going on. It was still a lot of fun, though!

Stuttgart Zoo was also quite the learning experience. All that separated Lily from being a tiger-snack was a chain-link fence.

Trier was our very first Cathedral and completely took our breath away and started our Cathedral obsession!

Trier also fully made us aware to just how stinkin’ cool our German adventure would be. Here we are playing soccer on the grounds of an old Gladiator stadium… amazing!

Walking along the Rhein in Koblenz. The Rhein was SO flooded that year. Those are the tops of trees sticking out of the water!

Another from Koblenz. We literally just hopped in the car that day and wound up in front of the palace. I’m not sure what we were thinking. We didn’t even have a diaper bag with us!

Our first German Fest in down town Wiesbaden. Completely blew our minds! Nothing will ever compare!

Posing with some awesome graffiti in Frankfurt!

Our very first Christmas Market! Christmas will never be the same with out the markets!

A date night at the Wiesbaden Christmas Market and perhaps our best selfie of all time!

Bug went through an obsessive Tangled phase. So one day we dressed her up, hopped in the car, and found the tower that inspired the Grimm brother’s story of Rapunzel!

We went on a getaway with our closest couple-friends here to Cocheim… kid free! The past part, hands down, was being serenaded in the morning by Randy singing ‘The Sound of Music’ of their room window to the beautiful Moselle River valley. Never a dull moment with these friends!

And then there was the Koln cathedral. I literally gasped the first time I saw it. The Christmas Market and being on a date with my handsome Mister only added to the magic!

We went to the Black Forest and bought a Cuckoo Clock! Oh, and this was the first (of many) trip where one of our kids inevitably barfed during the road trip!

The Hannover Zoo! We went to A LOT of zoos! This one was definitely in my top 3!

We ate hamburgers in Hamburg! It was a fun little British place… they served the burgers on english muffins rather than hamburger buns!

And visited the Miniature Wonderland in Hamburg which was arguably one of the coolest things we’ve ever seen!

We visited the Berlin Wall. It was one of the many “I cannot believe we are HERE” moments of our time in Germany.

And saw the tallest dinosaur skeleton in the world in Berlin! If only this trip had happened AFTER Bug became obsessed with Jurassic Park and all things dinosaur!

Our first trip out of Germany was to Luxembourg City, Luxembourg! We love, love, LOVE Luxembourg! We even took a second trip back here because we love it so much!

And Chateau Vianden in Luxembourg might still be my favorite castle we’ve ever visited!

Somehow I convinced my husband to let me go to Milan with out him?! It was amazing and I wish we had gone as a family!

The Hays family took on Prague and fell in love! The Czech Republic might be my favorite country… its a tight race though!

… and lets be honest. Whats not to love about Prague?!?

We went cave exploring in Homburg! We are terrible at researching before we go. They weren’t doing any English tours that day. But instead of making us ‘suffer’ through the German one they were just like “Have fun… go explore!” Amazing.

This was our 3rd trip to Playmobil Fun Park! I think we took 5 total! It was definitely one of our favorites! There have already been MANY tears shed over not being able to go back here again. A certain 6 year old might just think this is actually a happier place than the happiest place on earth.

Nuremburg was also pretty spectacular! And having a friend from back home to be our local tour guide was an added bonus! We also got to experience just how much Germans LOVE their soccer that night. As we went to dinner restaurants had TVs place outside with huge crowds around. Every goal resulted in the city erupting with cheers. And when they won — WOW! Lets just say I am really grateful that we got to experience Germany winning the world cup in Germany! That was insanely cool!

We visited the Nazi Rally grounds and stood where Hitler address his troops. One of the more somber visits of our trip. I’m glad we can visit these historical places, though, that we’d otherwise only have ever read about in books.

Playing at the beach in Kolobzreg, Poland! Not a soul here spoke English. It was truly a hidden gem!

We went on a Reisling Rheingau Tour. These views. How can this be real life?!?

Our first trip into France — to Metz! Is it any wonder why we are Cathedral junkies?!

We went to Rome! Serious. We went to ROME! Another “is this real life?” moment!

Rudesheim is definitely one of my favorite places! And getting to share it with our family was an added bonus!

I love this picture my sister snuck while she visited. This is us traveling Europe in a nutshell!

Burg Eltz. If I could sum up Germany in a single word it would be MAGICAL.

The Olympic Park in Munich! It was so much fun. One of those places I can’t wait to tell the girls about when they are older. How many kids can say they have run around, playing tag at the Olympic Stadium in Munich?!

Neuschwanstein Castle. I love Bavaria. I want to move there after Alaska.

… and us squeezing onto a tiny, crowded bridge trying to get a picture with it. ha ha

Rothenburg Ob der Tauber! An old medieval town that we love to pieces.

My Dad at I at The Cavern Club in Liverpool, England. Taking my Dad on this Beatles trip was seriously one of the high lights of my time in Europe. It was SO stinkin’ cool. I can’t even.

Mister and I went away for our anniversary… and stayed the night in a castle! No big deal.

My sister took our family pictures downtown… right outside our favorite Gelato shop! Now every time I look at it hanging on our wall I can be reminded of how I am completely ruined and can never eat American ice cream again.

Playing at the beach in Oostende, Belgium! I love that we have touched the ocean in some many different places around the world.

We went to two billion Christmas markets. This one was the first of our second Christmas season in Germany — in Bonn! I will totally miss it being socially acceptable to be drinking a mug of warm wine at 10am.

Strasbourg, France! Exploring new places AND going to Christmas Markets are the best combo!

When you grow up in Germany you spend afternoons exploring castles. This one is in Konigstein.

Maastricht, The Netherlands. It was one of our favorite markets!

Brussels, Belgium and an insanely cool light show! …. and then later this night at the hotel we all came down with a stomach bug. It was awesome. Only not really.

Colmar, France. A random, hop in the car on a sunny day trip. I’ll miss being able to just visit France for the day.

Amsterdam! Another one of our more sporadic, unplanned trips. It was SO much fun though.

Keukenhof Tulip Festival! It was really very high on my list of places to see, but I am SO glad we made the time to go… other than Lindsey ending up being SUPER sick that day.

Reims, France! Nothing like taking a break on a long road trip to eat lunch next to this beauty. A lot of French Monarchs had their coronations here!

We surprised the girls with a trip to Disneyland Paris! Oh my word. It was SO much fun. When traveling with kids we didn’t always see all the famous sights or museums, but we had a lot of fun seeing and doing the things we did! I wouldn’t trade this trip in for the world!

This one still makes me pinch myself. We went to Thessaloniki, Greece!! Just the two of us. We went to literally every museum and saw so many things that just blew my mind. Things THOUSANDS of years old just sitting out for you to be able to touch. It was insane. I love Greece.

We visited Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora (aka- the bone church). It was a must with a Rad Tech for a husband. And this begun our long road trip in the Czech Republic. We stayed at a house in a tiny village in the middle of no-where Czech Republic. We didn’t really see any ‘big’ tourist sites… I think we came across Americans/tourists at only one of the locations we visited. I love just being and experiencing corners of the earth we never even knew existed.

We hiked around Velka Amerika in the Czech Republic! We didn’t need strollers! It was so awesome. Traveling has gotten increasingly easier and easier as our kids have gotten bigger.

Mikoluv, Czech Republic. We literally just picked a random city on the map… and it was seriously incredible. The drive there was breath taking. The city was amazing. We ate the BEST food here.

The Brno Zoo in Czech republic and THE best photo-bomb of all time. (Also probably my favorite zoo we visited in Europe!)

This was in Dresden. You can’t really see any of Dresden here, but this is traveling Europe with a two year old in a nut shell! Whether it be through barfing on the side of the road due to car sickness or leaving shoe prints on the wall… I think it is safe to say we left our mark on Europe!

Saafelder Feengrotten aka the Fairy Caves. Quite possibly THE best hidden gem we ever explored. I know, I saw that a lot. It was seriously amazing, though. The girls got to run and explore an awesome park area that was Fairy themed and got their faces painted by real fairies. And these caves… wow! Not for the claustrophobic, but completely worth the trek bent over through hallways barely wide enough for one!

Den Haag. Embracing our European life and enjoying the beach in undies… well, the kids anyways! I have no idea why we didn’t wear our swim suits to the beach this day. We are seriously the most random travelers of all time.

And these are just a few of my favorite memories. Can you imagine what I hold in my heart?

To all the friends and wonderful places and adventures… we will miss you!

October 2015

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Hello! I hope you all are having a great fall so far! I think that Autumn is my favorite season of all! The colors are just so beautiful and nothing beats a cozy Autumn day with a yummy cup of something warm and a good book!

October was a busy month for the Hays family. I am happy to report that we survived our month and a half of having two 3 year olds and now one of those precious girls is FOUR! Mister had his knee surgery mid month and is recovering better than expected which is nice! We are really enjoying having him home while he recovers! We are also really thankful for all of our amazing friends here who helped us get through his surgery. Having to drive 60-90 minutes to the hospital and not being able to bring kids was a bit chaotic at times between the various appointments and the surgery day. We seriously have the best friends in the world!

Along the lines of knee surgery… due to Mister’s surgery we won’t be moving in December and heading to San Antonio as planned since he needs time to recover before our move. While we don’t have many details we do know that we will be back stateside in the February or March time frame. We still have no idea where we will be going, but hopefully we can share that exciting news sometime soon! We are really, really looking forward to being at least somewhat closer to our family and friends though! Germany has been a wonderful adventure, but we are ready to go home.

Princess and Baby both got to start preschool this past month and are absolutely loving it. They are in class on alternating days and so they each have their own classes and they each get days with Mom all to themselves. It is working out really nicely. Before school started, though, we got to go on an adventure to pick apples! They had so much fun!


Speaking of preschool! The girls shared a class for one week before Princess started in her new class. On one of those days the firefighters came to their class and Princess made the local newspaper!


Our Littles are seriously the best of friends! Some call us crazy for having two so close together, but I wouldn’t trade it in for the world!


Bug has been LOVING first grade! She is reading like a champ and is really starting to love to read which has been a lot of fun! Here is a picture of her with her first book report:


We also had some fun this month celebrating fall/halloween and getting into the spirit. One of those was a short day trip down to Ludwigsburg for their annual Pumpkin festival! It was such a beautiful day out and it was so nice to get out of the house for a little while. We enjoying some great pumpkin – foods, too!







Closer to Halloween we opted to get some pumpkins of our own to carve which was a hilarious disaster. The girls refused to touch the pumpkin guts and wound up just having a dance party while Mister and I did all the work. Just for the record, we had gotten 5 pumpkins with a vision of us having fun gutting them, carving them, etc. Instead Mister and I spent hours cleaning, cooking seeds, carving, etc. It was fun and yet also very tiring. And the pumpkins rotted and had to be thrown out within the week and no one really cared for the seeds and those ended up getting thrown out too. We totally nailed that holiday tradition! Mister did a really great job carving the pumpkins, though, and we really enjoyed them before they started smelling disgusting.




The girls had some fun shirts to wear to school the day before Halloween, too!







Halloween night was an absolute hoot! Poor Mister was still not super mobile at that point so he wound up getting put on ‘passing out the candy’ duty. The girls and I, though, got to join a nice group of friends and neighbors for the evening! We walked around collecting candy and finished the night at a BBQ put on at the park! Can’t beat a free hot dog dinner on Halloween! 😉









We’ve spent the past 3 Halloweens with the same friends! I am so sad that we won’t be able to share in all the festivities with them next year! Going trick or treating with them has become our tradition!

To see more of our October fun, you can view the entire albums HERE or HERE!