Saturday, February 21, 2015

Shanan's 14th Birthday

(Written by the birthday girl Shanan)
The Zavocki family has several venerable birthday traditions. On a typical birthday, the birthday personage chooses the menu for the day, including a meal out at a restaurant of their choice. They are allowed to schedule the activities of the day, at least to a certain point. The birthday cake is per their desire. In past times, the birthday girl would go on a special outing with her father to pick out a bouquet of flowers, and when she was younger, an accompanying balloon. A day off from chores is an added benefit. 

Now for the reality! Hypothetically, it all unfolds without a hitch, but sometimes real life throws a bit of a monkey wrench. Each year my birthday (and everyone else's) has its own twist. Thankfully, in spite of the stomach bug that knocked down everyone but Genna just days before my birthday, this year's birthday experience turned out to be outstanding! 

My birthday started out on a great note. Dad made my day by helping me set up my own Facebook account, to my utmost pleasure. The festivities quickly accelerated when Mom and Dad presented me with a purity ring decorated with the Bible verse "True love waits," and my birthstone, Amethyst. 

Stomachs rumbling, I and the rest of the Zavocki clan piled into the van for the remaining birthday activities. In my search for a comparable substitute in place of my favorite Vietnamese Pho, I decided upon Wasabi House in Pace. I ordered a shrimp tempura, per Dad's recommendation - and boy was it heaven! I don't have to be a genius to tell that everyone highly enjoyed the restaurant experience. 

Enjoying my birthday lunch!
My tasty shrimp tempura.
It was my lucky day! Alyssa's sharp eyes spotted the Sally Beauty Supply a few stores over from Wasabi House, and that promptly became our next stop. I think it's safe to say that beauty stores are generally girl paradise, and although I'm not quite as enthusiastic about them as the majority, Alyssa easily makes up for whatever I lack. Alyssa, Genna, and I happily browsed the clearance section, scrounging for any sign of a good deal. As we exited the store some time later, I carried the rest of my birthday presents - even Jake had found a gift for me that was to his liking. I believe I am now equipped for a hearty nail painting spree! 

Our following occupations were mostly uneventful, until Dad made a surprise stop at Village Inn, a common Saturday evening dinner haunt for us. But this time we weren't there for dinner! Dad and I went in alone to pick out my special treat. I couldn't help choosing the heavenly key lime pie, with its fluffy cloud of whipped cream!

This was the delicious key lime pie that had entranced me.
I determined to postpone my homemade birthday dinner of chicken posole and chips with guacamole, so I could save the delectable taste for my fully recovered stomach. Instead, Mom cooked tomato soup and cheese quesadillas, which was a tasty alternative.

That evening we got to test Village Inn's promise of "Best Pie In America." Was it true? you ask. Nope. Homemade always beats store-bought. But if you think that means the pie tasted awful, you're totally wrong! It was divine. Thanks Dad, for buying it for me! 

I couldn't wait to taste it!
About two weeks after my actual birthday, Mom baked the miracle known as my birthday cake. Now, I've had birthday cake before. Many times. But this birthday cake was another story. Let me rephrase myself: It was another book! This year I couldn't resist choosing a white chocolate cheesecake, because the one Mom made for my 13th birthday was so amazing. I am so glad I did! Mom used a no-bake recipe (with an Oreo crust) this time around, and we served it up with chocolate chips and sugared strawberries - there is positively no way to go wrong with that! 

Doesn't this make your mouth drool?
Everyone was excited for the cake!
Blowing out the candles...
Because we barely escaped getting caught in the worst of sickness over my birthday, I consented to spread out my birthday meals instead of having them all on one day like usual. Although I wouldn't choose this option every year, I must admit it was a real treat to enjoy the last remnant of my birthday a whole 2 weeks after the date. That's one long birthday celebration! 

Wow. I am so unbelievably grateful that I have a Mom and Dad who love me and are willing to put such effort into making me feel loved and special. I love my family and wouldn't ever want anyone to take their place! Thank you all for such an incredible day, there's no one I would rather spend it with! 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Meeting the Hubachers in Savannah

Our friendship with the Hubachers goes all the way back to our time spent traveling full-time.    How our kids formed great friendships in just the blink of an eye is nothing short of miraculous! they have actively maintained those friendships over the last two and a half years is amazing!  When Katie was born, they made the trek cross-country to come see us & meet our little miracle.  Now that we're living much closer, we decided to meet up somewhere in the middle over a long weekend. Having agreed upon Savannah, we began to make our plans.

When the Hubachers finally arrived on Saturday afternoon, it was so cute to see how some of their kids were amazed that we had coincidentally ended up in Savannah, at the same place, at the same time as them! ;) They had opted to completely surprise their kids about meeting up with us, while we had opted to tell our kids in advance. Both ways worked for both families!

The remainder of Saturday & Sunday consisted of much, much play! Thanks to Shannon's Marine status, she was able to secure a hotel room for us on base, which was super nice! Unfortunately, while she & Steve were getting checked in, Katie threw up in her seat.  The remainder of the weekend for her was spent on the puny side, with more puking & generally not feeling herself.  Fortunately, that didn't ruin the fun for the other kids! Jake, Genna, Philip, Levi, & David all played war endlessly outside the hotel rooms, while the big girls holed up in their own hotel room getting reacquainted & doing girly stuff!

While I stayed back with a sick Katie, everyone else took a drive around base & got the chance to do a little rope climbing. Steve offered monetary rewards for those who climbed. There was a frayed rope hanging about 2 feet from the top. Anyone who could touch the frayed rope would earn $5. Most everyone tried, but Rachel and Alyssa were the only ones who won the reward.

Later in the day we met up at the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens  with some of the Hubachers' old friends who live in the area.  It's definitely still in the planning stages, but it will be amazing when it's complete! The kids had a blast running around, but their favorite part was climbing the giant dirt piles! Watching them all scramble when Shannon cried, "Snake!" was pretty priceless. ;)

After breakfast on Sunday morning, we said our goodbyes. It was a short but fun visit! 

Sleeping beauty at the park while waiting for the Hubachers
The girls were excited to see each other
Shannon helping Phillip and Genna copy what the big kids were doing
Dwight and Phillip relaxing after dinner in their hotel room
Drawing and makeup were the main activities in the girls room
"Someone" loves playing with makeup
Phillip and David in front of a Vietnam-era attack helicopter
Nearly everyone took the rope climbing challenge
Shannon showing off the proper technique to rope climb, leaving her with some battle wounds on her feet
Rachel touched the frayed rope and won a $5 dollar reward
Alyssa also won a $5 reward
The fruit of the child tree is almost ready for harvest

Climbing dirt piles was the kids favorite thing about the botanical gardens

Friday, February 13, 2015

Beautiful Savannah Georgia

A trip to meet up with our old friends the Hubachers, provided us with the perfect opportunity to visit beautiful Savannah, Georgia. Steve has been working long hours, so it was really nice to get away for some family fun.

The donut-holed ottoman in the Savannah visitors center was very much enjoyed
We decided to leave after work on Thursday to make the drive a little less painful. Sadly, Katie has reached the stage of being altogether disenchanted with being strapped in her seat for very long. We thought it would be no problem to just snag a hotel along the way when we got tired, but we were wrong!  Plan A didn't work, nor Plan B, nor Plan C. Steve finally found a Red Roof Inn with availability, & it was indeed a place to stay, but by no means did it encourage us to ever stay at another Red Roof Inn again!

February means the Camellias are blooming
The squares of Savannah set it apart from most any other city that we have ever seen
Getting to Savannah earlier on Friday helped make the drama of the previous night worth it though! It was crazy cold, but it was beautiful!  We had a lot of fun just walking around the downtown historical area.  It was clean & quaint, reminiscent of European cities.  We founded an amazing-- seriously the best we've ever seen, I think--playground. Considering the dearth of playgrounds in the area we are now residing, the kids had an absolute blast, even the big kids! It was so cute to see how Jake just finds any boy, then latches on to him & makes friends with him. He's such a fun-loving, outgoing little man! An old friend of Steve's from our summer camp days met up with us after he got off work while the kids played & played.

I don't know if there is a place in the South with more Spanish Moss growing than Savannah

On Saturday, we returned to Savannah to explore a bit more while we waited for the Hubachers to arrive. We found a Cuban restaurant that was incredibly yummy for lunch! And, we played at the playground some more, although it was crazy crowded because the weather was nicer & it was the weekend.

Beautiful Fountain in Forsyth Park
Such a beautiful spot
A good place to kiss
Thanks to one of the visitor guides, we were able to find this delicious Cuban restaurant

Next to the Cuban restaurant was this store selling dinosaurs and other unusual items
"Dad, take my picture with the horse in the background"

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Fun in Fairhope

Having unsuccessfully attempted to visit Fairhope, Alabama on New Years Day, we decided to head back for another attempt. Everyone loved the beignets at Panini Pete's in Mobile, so we were excited to go to the original location in Fairhope & score more beignets!

It was a beautiful sunny day, and we were all starving! As we arrived in Fairhope, it became obvious that something was going on because there was crazy traffic! Parking was an issue & we were getting worried about being able to execute our plan. Turns out there was a big Mardis Gras celebration, with a dog parade happening as we arrived and another huge parade scheduled for the evening!

These two beauties enjoyed their burgers. Dad was the only one who actually ordered Panini at Panini Pete's
It was a long drive, so we determined to make it work. Steve found parking on a side street & we walked through the dog parade traffic & found Panini Pete's. Although there was a pretty big line, it was moving fast. We managed to get seated & ordered...only to discover that this particular location doesn't guarantee beignets after 10 a.m. Seriously??? Oh well, the burgers were great, and everyone ate happily.

After lunch, we decided to wander around the shops. Steve bravely entered the Wild Olive, a shop with specialty olive oils and vinegars. You could sample everything, so sample we did. And, we did not break anything! Aren't you impressed? ;) Actually, I was super impressed with the people who ran the store, because they did not seem bothered at all that we were in there with all 5 children! Their products were amazing, and their attitudes towards us were fantastic, so they scored our business. :)  I highly recommend them!

We all enjoyed hanging at this eclectic art/furniture gallery.
We wandered out of the Wild Olive & down the street. Steve found this unique artsy place, with lots of cool outdoor stuff.  Steve was chatting with the owner, an art teacher. We wandered around her place, & the kids discovered a bathroom at the back of the place & took advantage of it. Before leaving, I decided I should take Jake, so off we went. In the front of the store, there were colored glass marbles & floral stones on the ground as decoration, & the owner told the kids they could each choose one.  Jake, of course, managed to drop his in the toilet...and so I had the pleasure of digging it out of the toilet.  My favorite...  And, there was no lock on the bathroom door, so after he went, I gave him strict instructions on where to stand while I went. Of course, no sooner than I had my pants down, he leaned against the bathroom door & it popped open, and of course, there were other customers giggling at my predicament.  And? When I admonished him to grab the door & close it, he just stood there...whilst my pants were down. Sooo...I had to yank my pants up & grab the door closed myself. Haha...making memories!

Steve had given the kids each $5 to spend on whatever they chose during our time here (not to be saved & used at a later date), so of course, it became a challenge to find something that they could buy for just $5, no easy task!  Finally, we found a bookstore that provided what we needed. Genna chose a Frozen coloring book, Jake got a dinosaur sticker play kit, and Shanan found a Nick Vujicic book that came with a free t-shirt. Of course, the Nick Vujicic book cost more than $5 dollars, but we paid the difference because she can share the book with us. ;) Alyssa, on the other hand, held out & didn't find anything worthy of her $5. ;)

They had Yuengling on tap (center), so Steve asked for some, and they obliged. Free beer? Why yes please!
As we continued to wander, Steve found a couple art galleries that we browsed. I don't know if I had ever browsed through art galleries before I met Steve, but that's something we've always done together when we come across them.  And? I certainly would have probably never chosen to take our littles through art galleries because well, littles are so unpredictable, and art is so expensive. But, Steve has never hesitated, and I'm actually grateful. It's helped our kids develop an appreciation for art, and it has helped them to learn how to keep their hands to themselves & show respect for property. It's been a really good thing. I was super impressed by the people working at the art galleries here because again, they didn't seem bothered by our kids. And? We happened upon one art gallery that had free beer on tap! Wow! What a neat concept! And yes, we took advantage of it...and had to explain to Jake that no, he could not taste the "beerd."

We realized that shops were closing early in preparation for the big Mardis Gras parade, so we hastened to make our way back to the van. However, Alyssa still hadn't spent her $5. As we were leaving the shops area, we saw a chocolate shop still open, so we decided to check it out.  Her $5 bought her 4 gourmet chocolates, and she was happy! :) Although our day in Fairhope didn't turn out quite like we anticipated, we had a great time & would definitely go back!

Loved these watercolors
The pictures don't do justice on these paintings