Holiday Fun, Then & Now

We were able to spend some time at Texie's house while we were in Abilene and as always, she was ready to go with lots of Christmas fun! She didn't know we were coming, but she was all decorated for Christmas and even had all of the kids' presents wrapped and ready too!  Super-grandma! It was very fun to have a couple of nights to relax and enjoy time with Trav's family.  We missed Shaye and her family and Brian's family too, but so great to enjoy Katy, Todd and JT! 
 When we were here for Thanksgiving three years ago, Texie was all ready to make sugar cookies with the kids...
So sweet!  Ava loved doing that with her and has since done several more times with Texie at our house.   
So serious spreading that frosting! 
Look how little Carter was!  
 Two little peanuts back then  :) 
This was the year of Baby Stella, ha ha!  I can't believe that was 3 years ago already.  
Oh, that little smile...I miss those days! 
We had so much fun then, but how sweet life is now!  It was fun to be back at Texie's with Walker in the mix and now, with Aunt Katy, Uncle Todd and JT.  
 Texie had a Gingerbread Train kit for the kids to work on and the girls and I tackled it together.
 So cute, huh? 
 Ava was totally into it...
 Carter was semi-interested in between taking a break from his movie and JT was a little too busy for sitting still this year! 
 BUT, as soon as Texie announced it was time for presents, everybody was interested! 
 Love that sweet, little face!  He and Carter are cut from the same rock, they are BUSY!!
 Ava and Carter barely came up for air! 
Walkie scored on some Christmas socks...
 ...and the big kids got lots of treasures from Texie and Craig too!
 Love the hat!!  Perfect for a Minnesota baby! 
 Texie bought the cutest Christmas jammies for everyone!
 Sweet little cousins!  Just missing Dominic, Addison, Jules, Emma and Lily to make this picture complete.  
 Those faces are precious!  Pretty easy to tell they are related, huh? 
 Gotta get Walker in the mix!
We spent our last morning in Abilene together at the Prairie Dog park.
Can you see two of them popping up?  
 Because I can't help myself with the nostalgia, here we are 3 years ago at the same park.
Can you stand it??
That's Carter peeking out of that hat!
On that same trip, here's Carter with Daddy and Granny, he had just turned 1 here. 
 And here they are with Nana and Papa 3 years ago!
Time flies when you're having fun! 
 It was such a treat to spend four days with family and to soak up all the face to face time.  
Trav's uncle Ron especially thought so!  Ha! 

We are so thankful we got to see everyone and celebrate Thanksgiving together.  It was a blessing for you all to love on our kids and welcome us with open arms.  I wish Texas wasn't 15 hours South, but I'm thankful every time we get to come visit! 
 Here's to our next trip down 35 South...

Giving Thanks for Family

We woke up to Thanksgiving in a hotel this year!  Not exactly traditional but we embraced the adventure and made the most of it!  I did mourn missing out on the parade with my coffee and pjs, but that's ok, next year :)  After breakfast we got ready and made a special visit to a Nursing home so we could see Trav's precious Granny.  
I'm so thankful we were able to do this, seeing his Granny was one of our top priorities in getting to Texas.  We don't know how long we'll have with her and yet we had such a sweet time talking to her and catching her up again.  
It was also a treat to have so many of her family members streaming in to love on her! I know she loved in the moment, although she likely didn't remember it soon after we all left. 
Granny has now been able to meet each one of kids when they were babies, which is a precious memory to have!
These are from our last trip to Abilene, when Carter was about 5 months old and Ava was just shy of 2! 
 So cute!
Life has changed for all of us just 4 years later.  
Ava especially was happy to see her Great-Granny!
After our visit it was apparent that we needed to get some wiggles out and thankfully it was a sunny day in the 60's!  We won't see the 60's in Minnesota for quite some time so we took fully advantage of the local park!
Ava had Papa talked into doing some underdogs in no time!

And Carter just ran wild from thing to thing..., until I spotted him!
We were bundled up watching it snow last year so this was a nice treat!

After they played for a long time, we booked it back to the hotel to get a little cleaned up for our big meal. 
So fun to introduce Walker to his Aunt Katy!
We ate at the hotel buffet, which was very nice!  They served like 800 people or something that day...I don't think I'm wrong in that estimate, I swear that's what they said, but don't hold me to that! Ha! It was nice to totally escape any cooking or cleaning up this year  :) 
Happy Thanksgiving from the Armstrongs! 
This little turkey did great on his first Thanksgiving! 
The kiddos swam in the afternoon and we gathered that night with everybody at the hotel, laughing and telling stories, eating some more, playing was perfect! So nice to enjoy that time together and really great that we were all at the same hotel together.  
The next morning we all made another visit to see Granny.  How fun for her to be surrounded by so many of her family members! This is only a fraction of all of us, but it was so fun to see her again. 
I love this picture, 4 generations together!  Walker had just fallen asleep and was already strapped in his car seat, but I love her hand on his head.  This is a keeper for sure!
Super fun for us to see two of our favorite college students and their Mom, Nancy. 
We'll be cheering for Chris (#49) next year when he's playing for West Texas A&M! 
Ava, Lily and Henry were taking over the craft room in no time! Ha ha!
And proudly displaying their art work on the fridge!
After we visited for awhile, we all went to the Abilene Zoo to spend the afternoon. 

Look how little these two were the last time we visited this zoo??
 This is Carter, by the way, do you see Walker in him??
Our favorite thing at this zoo last time, was feeding the giraffes on this bridge!  Wouldn't you know that days before we got there, they tore this exhibit down in order to re-design it??  SO SAD!!  
Andrew was my hero and took over the stroller duties for Walker! 
We didn't have room for our big infant stroller in the van, so we had to pack the umbrella one and we weren't totally sure how Walker would do in it.  Thankfully he was the most bundled up of all of us and he stayed pretty cozy in there!
Admiring the reptile house, which still gives me the creeps thinking about it!
Lots and lots of flamingos...

Immediately Carter zero-ed in on the little train that goes around the zoo.  From the second he saw it, he couldn't wait to get on it!

Walker's first time at the Zoo!

Love these two!
Although it was windy, it was a beautiful day to walk around and be together. 
I've seen prettier zoos in my life, but they had animals and in the end, that what the kids care about the most! 

Feeding the ducks kept everyone entertained for awhile...

Carter and his cousin Henry were best buds that day!
Our nephew JT was taking it all in too! 
Love his little jacket...
...and those big blue eyes!

Ava and Lily were joined at the hip too, what a gift to have this time with cousins we don't get to see very often!


After much waiting, Carter did get that ride on the train!
And Walker did settle in for a nap too. 
Lucky for Carter, Papa was game for a ride and these 4 got to share a car together :) 

You're a good Grandpa, Ron!  I'm not sure how you squeezed in there! 
Lily had the magic touch with Walker.  Future babysitter! 
We are so thankful for this time with family and it so sweet to see the next generation of cousins growing up and making memories together too!