Destination: Big Bear Lake, California

January 2-4, 2017

Seeing snow while spending the holidays in California was like the cherry on top, the Mendezonas planned a skiing/snowboarding trip to Big Bear but I was more excited that Cassie was going to have her first snow experience. I was already assuming that she would fall in love with snow so quickly given the fact that she has a current obsession with things cold (ice, A/C, freezer, ref…and the list goes on) also explaining one of her all-time favorite expressions “told told” (cold cold).

There were 14 Mendezonas and half of us haven’t encountered snow long enough or don’t live in snow. Period. It’s a good thing the L.A-Mendezonas had enough snow gear for the rest of the Mendezona boys while Mami made sure the ones who didn’t have snow gear had one especially the babies. We even visited the snow gear outlet store a few days before the road trip. Wow, I didn’t think staying warm and comfortable at the same time would be a lot of serious work . I guess its different when you take solo skiing trips, I remembered my first trip to Colorado a few years back and packing wasn’t this crazy but when you prepare for a family of 14—it is a PRODUCTION. Imagine all the snow boots, all the thick jackets, all the thermals, all the mittens, all the gloves, all the snow goggles not even counting the snowboards and the ski equipment, yes, it was definitely a production.

Day 1

Our drive there has got to be one of the least boring drives I’ve taken in my life, not because Cassie was screaming until almost half way through the drive but because the scenery was absolutely breathtaking. For some reason snow makes things look so magical.

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3 cars and 2 hours later the Mendezonas made it to their Air bnb cabin in Big Bear and the boys were in charge of most of the hard labor of carrying the luggages up the stairs. (photo below for reference, hahaha).

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The kitchen and dining area. Excuse our luggage.

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The living room by the fireplace

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Bedroom on the 1st floor

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Upstairs bathroom had one of Cassie’s favorite animals—Owl.

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The loft upstairs aka the boys area

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The second floor’s very own cozy nook

Once we kinda got settled in and we semi-explored the house, we headed out for late lunch at this local place that was called Mountain Munchies. It might have presented itself like a hole-in-the wall but service was excellent in the form of our server being really patient with us.

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What I got, chicken Fried Steak. It was meh.

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Our view from outside the diner.

After late lunch, we headed out to a play area where the kids could play with snow but Cassie was fast asleep so I decided not to wake her up so we decided to stay inside the car to keep warm. The remainder of the day was spent on cooking, running errands, settling down and family bonding time over random movies by the fire place. Oh,  and marshmallows by the fire place.

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This one is out cold and missed playing with snow.

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What dinner preparations looked like

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These two cousins bonding over giant marshmallows

Day 2

Of course we tried to follow our planned schedule to leave by 9am for our snow activities and of course we failed miserably. Did I mention there were 14 of us and 2 bathrooms? One thing I’ve learned from situations like these is the “Early bird gets to bathe in hot water”, I’m telling you icy baths are no fun especially when they’re least expected.

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Good Morning!

Our view outside the cabin.

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The girls and one little pikachu photo bomber, my godson Teo. Haha

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She just wanted me to put her down so she could play with snow

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“let go of my hand mommy”

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Chilling (literally) by the side snow with these cuties while waiting for everyone to head down

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Photo op before heading out to the slopes

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Two hours and thirty minutes after our planned time we made it there.

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We parked our snowboards. What a stash, haha.

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And even then we still took long in buying our lift tickets and renting out snowboard boots and what not

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This one wasted no time and started exploring

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Ordering lunch to this view

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Cassie wanted to see the view for herself

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The scenery from up the slopes

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Cassie: It’s about time daddy

Marco, finally came down after a few rounds of snowboarding and he decided to play with the kids in the snow

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Me and Pilica with the babies

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Mami and Mikel had to make a miniature snowman to stop Teo from crying, he loved it but wouldn’t take a picture with it. (Yes, that’s beans and mac and cheese. )

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Although someone gladly posed next to the itty bitty snowman. Haha, Hi Dieg.

A short recap of today’s events, most went snowboarding, some went skiing, one got sprained and mami and I stayed with the kids. The highlight of my day was seeing Cassie go crazy over snow, she loved it so much that she’d get mad at me for taking her back to our waiting area. In fact she loved it so much she was willing to go with anyone who could take her back to the play area even if it wasn’t mommy.

Day 3

Everyone else had the rest of the morning to do more snow activities but Marco, Javi, Mami, Pilica, Anya, Cassie and I had to go down first since Marco had to fly to Houston earlier a day before me and Cassie for an interview.

~Rhea

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Destination: Palm Springs, California

December 25, 2016 (Christmas Day )

Found myself on the road on Christmas Day for the very first time in my 30 years of existence. Christmas day was always spent at home and it always seemed like a perfect day to take breather from all of the Christmas hustle and bustle, it was just family tradition for both sides but this year we decided to break the norm and do something different. We accepted a complimentary stay at Palm Springs, the younger Mendezonas (and when I say younger I mean the unmarried ones— Javi, Dino, Pilica, Mikel and Anya) had to leave in the wee hours of the morning to check in, I guess they’re kinda staying there for two nights. The rest of us including abu had a convoy to Palm Springs as soon as we were all ready.

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Since we were all hungry, Elmer’s was our first food stop. There was a 30-40 minute wait so we ended up playing with the kids up front.

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Me and My mini-me in our coats in Palm Springs. Yes, it was kinda cool.

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Our family on Christmas Day, waiting for our food to be served.

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Teo’s pretty excited about the shake.

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And this little one was just on the floor in her Christmas suit, picking up crayons, without a care in the world.

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Cassie’s pancake. is this a bear or a mouse?

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My cutie patootie

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Merry Christmas from my family to yours. 😀 Checking in the hotel in awhile.

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Once we were all settled in mami, Pilica, Anya and I left to go buy bathing suits since we all forgot to bring ours. We completely forgot that it was Christmas Day and most of the stores were closed, we found ourselves in Walgreens buying groceries and drink for our over night stay. After dinner we had family game time—Charades and Munchkin.

December 26, 2016

Checked out just in time for lunch, we ended up eating in Sammy G’s Tuscan Grill. The name personally didn’t sound so inviting but it supposedly had good ratings and everyone at that point just wanted to settle down.

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It was Christmas Candyland at the reception area.

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The inside of the restaurant just felt warm and inviting, very apt for Christmas and they were playing classic Christmas songs as well.

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The family enjoying our appetizer—Calamari (except for little Cassie I guess, look at that face, haha)

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Loved the intricate wood carving on the pillars within the restaurant

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Cassie, Ninong Dingz and Baba posing with the snowman

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Explored the strip after lunch

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These palm trees are intriguing

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The girls (missing Pauline, Abu and yaya Diday)

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Twinning with this one for the millionth time

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If you find yourself in Palm Springs, Great Shakes is a MUST visit and a big stress on the “must. It’s said to have one of the best shakes in the whole world

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And you’ll see a bunch of this around the store just validating that claim. You can even check yelp or google this place, ratings are excellent.

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Here’s my cranky baby…

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Here’s my no-longer cranky baby thanks to Great Shakes’ shakes. Haha. I’m telling you they don’t disappoint

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And lastly a family photo of us three before we leave this place. Of course we took it at a random parking lot but its okay, at least you still see some palm trees in the picture. Haha.

Again, Merry Christmas one and all.

~Rhea

Of Texas and Teepees

This fascination of wanting to sleep in a teepee has been around for awhile especially since  it first came out on Groupon a few months back. The only thing with these deals is that they have a time period and even at a steal I didn’t want to purchase the Groupon until I could find someone to come with me, Marco and Cassie. The deal ended and I wasn’t able to convince my family or even friends to go, a constant struggle for people who live in the US—finding a “common” vacation schedule for everyone in the party even if it’s just a day, besides the Groupon was date specific so we couldn’t just randomly purchase it and use it anytime in the future.

A few months later, we finally found a family who wanted to make the trip with us—Charles, Ann and Olivia, it was like a family date! We were just going to pick a date when everyone was free and still push through without the Groupon. Well what do you know, as soon as I got a “go” signal from the Garcias to book for specific date they were free, Groupon brought back the deal and we ended up making the reservations at a discounted rate. God’s on our side, yep..this trip was meant to happen.

Reservation on the Guadalupe is one of Best Texas Travel ‘s unique vacation properties and it literally did not disappoint. I mean really people visit the place because they want to try and sleep in some place “different”, or probably because it “looks cool” vacationing in a teepee or whatever reason they may have. And I’m not going to lie, I looked at the photos before booking, it looked amazing and I was aesthetically drawn to the place. This is one time where aesthetics surpassed comfort and I didn’t mind but you know what, the place was comfortable anyway and I felt at home. It kinda gave me that “province-feel”, at night it was pitch black and early morning it was calm and serene, it literally felt like I woke up in my Daddy Pakong’s bukid.

I can go into detail about their amenities but I’ll let you check out the links so you could see for yourself. The place sleeps 6; it has 3 queen beds and a kitchenette with pots, pans, stove, grill and all utensils to use during your stay. Parking is limited to two per teepee but arrangements can easily be made with management. The best part is checking in and checking out— everything was done electronically, they send you a link to their app and you have to download it, that app will contain all the instructions, map, directions, digital codes for access to the teepee, the rest room and the tree house. (YES, digital meaning no KEYS!).

BOTTOM LINE is this place was an amazing breather for all of us and it DEFINITELY was worth the drive. ( It was a 3-hour drive from Missouri City, TX where we live, just in case you were wondering). I can keep going but I’ll let the photos speak for itself.

Day 1

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Here’s a picture of our teepee, Teepee #8, Rising Moon, with no filter.

We arrived an hour early before check in time so we decided to check out the common area first since we already had the codes for treehouse anyway. I know it has its cons but it felt pretty good not having to go through a front desk to check in.

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What’s across—other teepees and the treehouse, a common area for the guests.

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There’s an indoor dining area, as well as outdoors but it was too hot to stay outside.

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And a very comfortable living/ game area. I forgot to take pictures of the pingpong table downstairs.

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Similar outfits again. Mommy bought fringe moccasins to match Cassie’s.

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Daddy’s little love.

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The view of the area from the tree house.

Finally got to check our place out at 3pm, 30 minutes before the actual check in time and this little baby approves. We settled down while waiting for the Garcias to get there.

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When the Garcias arrived, of course we checked out the tree house and took our fill of outfit photos. Thank God for stage moms who can relate. Haha.

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We then checked out their direct access to the river, how convenient for tubing season.

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Found an old wooden bench swing by the river

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The Ramas-Mendezonas

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The Almacen-Garcias

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We spent the rest of the afternoon outdoors, the mommies played with the babies while the daddies took care of dinner, grilling.

By the time dinner was ready, it was dark so we headed up to the tree house instead of eating outside to avoid the bugs and enjoy dinner indoors in the comforts of “civilization” a.k.a A/C. haha.

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Thanks for dinner boys, you guys are the best.

Day 2

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Good Morning, New Braunfels. It was a cool, misty morning, like waking up in the bukid.

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Baby Shennanigans

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My little boho baby and her little boho outfit. Her little feather head dress c/o mommy of course. #PipandTumbleweed

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One last family picture with our teepee before leaving.

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Yay for camera timers and making group photos possible.

Look at Cassie and Olivia having a private conversation. Awww…

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The Garcias knew of a perfect place to have lunch before heading back to Houston but first, the outlet mall at San Marcos. It was hard to resist especially since it was on our way home.

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It was hard not to take a stroll after lunch especially when you find yourself in old Luling, Texas. Thank you for the lunch treat Garcias! It was a first for us to have barbecue at City Market and you’re right, they aren’t pricey and are one of the best.

This overnight trip was definitely a much needed R&R for all of us. Texas, you continue to surprise me with your hidden vineyards and unheard of teepees. Which part of Texas are we off to next? Can’t wait for my next family adventure.

~Rhea

 

 

 

Destination: Brownwood, Texas

In the area we live in we’ve unconsciously established an annual tradition with our neighbors of going camping on spring break. It’s gotten bigger the past few years with more families joining in and It’s great that we get to bond over hiking and fishing and campfire stories and a bunch of other outdoorsy stuff. Unfortunately, this year we had a conflict of schedule with our camping trip but my family decided to just push through with the plan for our own family bonding. Besides, it was Marco and Cassie’s first time “camping” so we ended up driving 6 hours away from home to Lake Brownwood State Park. I was a bit paranoid being a first time mother taking her almost-5-month old to camp, I had to google “What to pack for baby’s first camping trip” and that did help a little. The rest I had to rely on my own “mother’s instincts” to figure out what to pack and I’d have to say Marco and I did a pretty swell job. It really helped that I was breastfeeding Cassie as we didn’t really have to pack a lot of bottles and I barely even got to use my Medela breast pump since I was feeding her per demand during the trip.

Day 1

The Ramas family never leaves on time (except when we go to church) so being true to our nature we left the house late and even passed by HEB for some last minute groceries. Being the big family of  10 (including Cassie) that we are, we had to take to cars and convoy all the way to the campsite. The drive with Cassie was surprisingly bearable, she only started fussing the last stretch of the drive and it helped that I breastfed her during our stops. I really appreciated how my family patiently waited for Cassie to finish feeding before proceeding. And that is why I think they’re the best…EVER.

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On our last potty break, we accidentally stopped over a place that was known for their pecans and they were the most hospitable bunch. You could almost sample every single thing they were selling and they even offered pecan flavored coffee/tea for free.

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Mom relieved that we finally made it to the state park. Her face while checking-in. Haha.

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This is what our cabin looked like and it was a steal at the rate we got it for. The best part was it fit ALL of us..and more.

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This was how it looked like when we walked in. Sorry for the clutter, we were still unloading. 😀

The place had 5 rooms, three to the right upon entering and two to the left. Every single one of them had a full sized bed so obviously it was (1) Mom and Pop, (2) Me, Marco and Cassie, (3) Pauline and Marie, (4) Angelie and Nicole and (5) John alone. Paulo would have been his roomie if he didn’t cancel out last minute.

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Kitchenette right next to our room, there’s also another one on the opposite side of the cabin.

They also had two restrooms (not in picture), one located in each side of the house.

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OUR ROOM.

All the rooms in our cabin had full sized beds, it’s going to be a little bit hard for me and Marco to co-sleep with Cassie.

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Grandmy duties—mom changing Cassie’s dirty diapers as soon as we settled down.

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Poor baby with her eczema, we set up her play yard and she doesn’t look too happy about it. All of her woodlands were present.

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Munchkin Night after dinner.

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Marco teaching my siblings to play Munchkin. They loved it. 😀 Marco also told them some ghost stories before going to bed. Yep, I heard some screaming. Haha.

DAY 2

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Breakfast ready…Eating up before going on a hike with the family.

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We found the cutest bear at the campsite and her name is Cassie.

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Tita Jelly spotted on the hammock

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We haven’t even started the hike and we already had to take a break to take pictures. The view was wonderful.

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Cassie’s first hike ever and my first hike carrying Cassie, this is going to be a work out.

Notice how Cassie’s outfit matches my shoes.

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Trekked the wrong trail at the beginning, we only realized that when we saw signs for the actual trail. What a fail. haha

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Poor Cascas slept in the heat of the sun, had to slow down my pace as not to wake her up so I stayed behind the rest of my family for the most part.

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Came across another camp site with smaller cabins at the end of the trail, the skies were beautiful so I had to take a picture.

After the family hike, my family and I headed back to the cabin to freshen up and have lunch. We spent the afternoon driving out of the state park to check out the local area for flea markets and antique shops and we found a few.

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An antique wooden horse, a vintage rocking chair and a porcelain doll—-all would make a good horror story.

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Can’t believe I considered collecting porcelain dolls at one point, my husband would kill me if I started one right now. He’d probably just say one word and it would end the conversation—Anabelle. Haha

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Funny how they had a Filipino Sky Flakes can at the antique store

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Funnier how they were also selling a Philippine salt and pepper shaker set

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S’mores-ing with the family.

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The man behind the barbecue 😀

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Daddy Marco baby wearing. Our little Cascas is wearing the squirrel onesie she got from Ninang Pauline and Ninang Marie.

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A family picture just outside our cabin

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Eating out—literally, Thanks for cooking pop!

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Our poor baby was pooped from the night’s festivities, here’s our little Cassie in her squirrel onesie and her woodland friends.

Day 3

Driving back to Houston but first things first, Sunday mass at the closest Catholic church within our route—St. Mary Queen of Peace.

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What a very welcoming community, two random strangers just approached Marco to tell him how beautiful our family is and how beautiful Cassie is. I’m feeling very thankful and very blessed at this moment, just got reminded how much love I have for my big family and my little family. Thank God for moments like these, we miss you Paulo!

And yay, we survived Cassie’s first camping trip (with a little tweaking ofcourse), next time we’ll be ready to rough it out in real tents.

~Rhea