God Bless Texas!

I'm wrapping up these Texas posts with a bunch of pictures from our trip, of just our own little family.  We loved seeing so many loved ones while we were there, but we always love to schedule a few days that are just for us to make memories with our own kids and to do some of the things that we enjoy doing as a family.  These are the pics that spark the memories and make me realize that all the work to get out of town and in the car is worth it!  
Considering we threw a million changes in schedule, environment, routine, and familiarity at this little guy, Walker did so well! We brought the pack and play with us and set it up in two different hotels, and this boy napped and slept like a champ.  He didn't seem to mind the changes, he has reached that sweet age where he loves to snuggle up with his little bear lovie and some soft blankies.  We paced many a night, singing and bouncing him to sleep, trying to maintain the same bedtime/naptime habits and thankfully he responded well. 
I snapped these one morning when he woke up because he was so happy and darling!  I'm a believer in getting our kids used to change from an early age, although it can be stressful and doesn't always go as planned, but Ava and Carter have traveled so many times now that they are pros.  Hoping Walker will follow in their footsteps.  Is he cute or what??
Swimming in the hotel pool was a HUGE highlight for Ava and Carter!  They are little fish, especially with their floaties on, and they begged us everyday to swim, which of course we indulged them in!  If you're paying for a hotel stay, you might as well make the most of it  :) 
It was so fun to see them grinning from ear to ear, jumping in and out of the pool, giggling like crazy, and just loving life!  Of course there were also tears and some arguments here and there, but that goes without saying, right??
Sometimes we all came to watch and sometimes I stayed back with Walkie so he could nap...
Are those vintage cowboy pants adorable or what??? I figured the Texas Ranger needed to dress the part while in Rome! Those were Carty's pants and I forgot all about them, but I do love them! 
There are always some unexpected, impromptu moments when you have kids that you can't script or even duplicate again...we were getting ready one morning and I looked over to see this sweet!!
We brought a few Thanksgiving books along and while Walker was laying on the bed with Daddy, the big kids climbed up to look at this book with him.  
I just love these pics because I just love them!  
How fun to have siblings, God has been so gracious to our family.  

After we left Abilene we took the troops to the Dallas area to spend two nights together in Grapevine.  We stumbled on this little community on our last Thanksgiving trip to Texas and we just love it.  It's got lots of family-friendly stuff and it's named the "Christmas Capitol of Texas" so of course, it's gorgeous in December! 
Lucky for us (I'm winking while typing that) our hotel happened to be right next door to a huge Bass Pro Shops store and we took a little stroll over there one afternoon.
Naturally we needed a pic with the huge longhorn... 
Another Mom saw us and offered to take our family picture, so great!  And when she left I checked it out only to see our darling Carter, looking SO happy about it!  Classic.  That face is something else! 
Little did we know the Bass Pro is a Christmas wonderland for kids!  They were thrilled to get inside and discover many fun things to do and see, along with tons of animals everywhere to look at!

Please note this was also the last time we were all in shorts and t-shirts.  The very next day a major cold front blew into north Dallas and since we are now back in the tundra, this was our swan song in summer clothes for the foreseeable future. Whomp, whomp...
That night we had a wonderful treat waiting for us.  We got to meet up with Olivia, Annette, and Suzanne for dinner!
I was Olivia's nanny in North Carolina from the time she was 3 months old until she was 2.5 and we moved to Minnesota.  They moved to Texas a few years ago, which is great for us because we get to see them when we are in their neck of the woods!  It's a full circle moment to have "my first baby" (Olivia) holding my third baby! 
Ava and Olivia were full of giggles all night!  Ava has quite a few things in her wardrobe, passed down from Livie!
So sweet to see my dear friend Annette again! 
I've missed them and I was so thankful we got to enjoy a night together.  It wasn't nearly long enough but it was so great to pick up where we left off and enjoy the chaos of all of us at dinner! 
The next day we bundled up for the cold day and set out to enjoy my favorite little Christmas town!
Is this place cute or what??  So many darling shops, I could have spent all day there, but with little kids in tow, that dream was not in the deck of cards.  
They have amazing decorations all over the place, tons of photo-opp spots!  
Again, someone offered to take our pic so I could actually be in one!  
So sweet, gotta love those friendly Texans  :)
We didn't last nearly as long as this Mom wanted to because it was just too cold and nobody could really obey the "no touching" rule in every store...  
So we hit up the local chocolate shop and warmed up with some treats instead  :)
Travis and I split that piece of Italian Creme Cake, which was about the size of the state of Texas and probably a thousand calories...but oh my word, it was fantastic! 
And meanwhile, Walker kept sleeping!  That face is just the cutest thing in the world to me. 

After we warmed up and filled our tummies, I lost the vote and we headed back to Bass Pro Shops for a visit with Santa.  
We don't really care one way or another about getting Santa pics every year, but this one sure is cute!  It was such a nice set-up there and wouldn't you know it, we chatted for a long time with an employee from Minnesota! I'm so amazed that everyone is in this and no one is crying or wishing they could get out of it.  
 I posted this pic on Instagram and said that I couldn't believe the most darling downtown, all decked out for Christmas, got trumped by a tacky winter wonderland but it totally did!  One of the many sacrifices of don't always get to do what you want to do, unless you're a glutton for punishment I suppose?  
Not surprisingly, our kids loved everything about being there instead of being outside taking pictures...shocking, isn't it??
We pulled ourselves away from all the stuffed animals and met up with Melissa, Henry and Lily for dinner at our one of our must-visit spots in Dallas...Babe's Chicken!  
It's so sad that we only took a pic of our food and not all of the kids, but good grief, have you ever seen chicken fried steak that big???  I promise you, you haven't tasted it as good as this either!  
We LOVE this place!!  
Because my husband loves me, and also because he mistakenly left our diaper bag at the chocolate shop, Trav indulged me and took us back downtown to see the lights and take some pictures!  
Isn't it cute??
Almost looks like he's poking Carty on the shoulder :) It was freezing outside that night and there was not a Texan in sight.  Leave it to the Minnesotans to brave in our light jackets with no gloves! 
There are all kinds of photo spots set up in between the shops and this tunnel of lights! 

So festive!
Love these little cuties!  Look at Walkie all bundled up in that hat and coat  :) 
Baby's first Christmas! 
Again, not a Texan in sight to help us out, but we couldn't resist a little mistletoe booth fun! 

Ava was all about this wooden soldier!
We loved that night!  We were freezing by the time we were all done, but not before we giggled a ton and took a lot of pictures.  Side note, I have the best husband who knows I love that stuff and makes it happen.  All with a smile on his face!
As expected, the glass elevator was a huge hit at the hotel.  
We managed to lose a pacifier on one of them and never did find it!
This little guy is quiet and stealthy now, but so darn cute, isn't he??
This is what a luggage cart looks like for 5 people, on vacation for a week and a half, in two hotels! 
Travis is my hero.  
On our last day in Texas, we met our friend Jake for some coffee at TCU!  Trav and Jake spent a lot of time together while he was in High School, so it was so fun to meet up with him on campus! 

Our kids were so excited to see Jake too!  Sadly, we lost Carter's striped hat somewhere in that Einstein Bagel and one month later, I'm still not sure I'm over it.  Oh well! 
After we said goodbye to Jake, we hit up a local boot shop in Ft. Worth and pretended we were Texans for a little while.  So cute in those hats!!
Ava left with a pony, Carter left with a cattle hauler toy...
...and then promptly fell asleep!
And Merry Christmas to me, I left with the most beautiful boots!!!!  Aren't they gorgeous??  Travis treated me big time and I thanked him profusely by wearing them the whole way home to Minnesota  :) 
And speaking of the whole way home, we left Texas that afternoon and drove through the night all the way home to Minneapolis.  We did that so the kids would sleep for the majority of the drive, and they did!  But we had a really fun treat in Oklahoma at our dinner stop. 
We love Rudy's BBQ and decided to stop at the store in Norman, outside the campus of OU.  
I'd like to introduce you to the smoked potato with brisket.  Lest you read that incorrectly, not only was the brisket smoked, but so was the whole potato as well!  And oh my word, was it delicious...I still have dreams about it in fact!  
We were simultaneously enjoying our meal and being out of the car when suddenly a sweet, local lady informed us that we picked the perfect night because Coach Bob Stoops would be coming in soon to film his weekly Football show!  We love college football and that was a sell for us to stay a few more minutes so we could see what that was all about.  Before we knew it, the whole place had filled up with fans and that same sweet lady was leading us to the front of the line during a commercial break to meet Coach Stoops!  It was hilarious!  
He was such a nice guy and welcomed us right up for an autograph and a picture, even put Carter on his lap!  Which turned out so great!  It was such a fun surprise and made our drive home a little more exciting.  I just love when stuff like that happens!  Of course I managed to get a "Go Hawks!" in our conversation, as he played there and coached there.  I also told him we would welcome him to come back and coach if he was interested? Ha ha!  He smiled and laughed at that! 

It was a jam packed last day, but such a great one too!  The Lord kept us safe and awake as we made the trek North.  He also gave us a wonderful time together throughout our whole trip.  I am so thankful we were able to get away, to see family, and to enjoy making memories with our kids. 
We do love a road trip!  If you've made it this far through this post, you must also love that our road trip is OVER!!  You should win some sort of medal for enduring all the pictures  :) I'm done now!