Kicking Off 2023 by Keeping It Weird

After spending New Year’s Eve with some of our favorite people, we started off 2023 by hopping in an Uber at 5:45 am and heading to the airport. One of the many benefits of living on the Best Coast (not a typo) is that we can easily celebrate the New Year at 9 pm PT with an official New York ball drop, which I remember fondly from my childhood, and still get to bed in time to start the year off early. For posterity’s sake, the hosts were Miley Cyrus and Dolly Parton, which were a big hit.

This year we headed to Austin to visit Bart’s family where the girls got aunt, uncle, cousin and grandparent time! Unfortunately, our trip started with an Airbnb snafu… We’ve stayed at LOTS of Airbnbs in our travels, and this time we booked a small condo just to have one extra bed. Easy right? Nope. Three days before travel, Bart reached out to the host to ask for the address. No response. One day before travel, Bart reached out again to ask for address and access code, to which the host responded that he would of course provide that the following day. That was the last time we heard from him, period.

After 6 hours of trying to reach the host, directly and through Airbnb support, we ended up using points to stay at a close hotel for the night, arriving around 10 pm. We ultimately ended up both finding another Airbnb and having Airbnb compensate us for our issues, though not a super start. Thankfully in between all our coordination we were with family and the kids were oblivious.

But that was certainly not the good part of this trip. When these cousins are together, we have 4 incredibly cute little girls, close in age, who really know how to have fun. From hanging out making all sorts of messes in their rooms to outdoor play, it seems like they moved and talked nonstop from Sunday to Friday… But let’s take a look at a few outstanding moments we captured in photos.

We explored a couple of parks, including the Alliance Children’s Garden, with swings (for kids and adults!), climbing structures made of rope, underground (sort of) tunnels and more. After posing for a quick pic, Zoe instantly climbed to the top of rope structure, then those girls proceeded to explore the whole park.

After play time, we headed to a delicious restaurant called Loro, an asian smokehouse that I’d highly recommend. They had ample outdoor seating, something for everyone, and that signature “Keep Austin Weird” vibe that all their great venues offer. Austin is actually quite a pretty city (see downtown shot from the bridge below featuring the Jenga Tower) and definitely weird (yep, that’s a man on a horse on the sidewalk of a busy street):

Another fun adventure was a trip to The Thinkery, a hands-on kids’ museum with all sorts of science-led exhibits. Check out Zoe making some magic at one of the stations (CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO):

Oh, and this photo of Zoe across the street atop a “a lovely, mystical statue of Nessie” outside the Mueller Park playground:

Who is that grown-up looking kid?! We followed that up with a meal at North Italia at the Domain with (almost) all of the family, and of course, the girls found a playground outside there, too!

The Domain is a trendy outdoor shopping area which, in true Austin fashion, has fun art on the walls (in addition to the random small playground near the restaurant) and lots of shops. I failed to mention, though surely you noticed it on the armadillo above, Bart’s sister did hair and makeup for all 4 girls before leaving the house, which they loved. With all that cuteness and the artistic backdrop you’d expect from Austin, we did what any smart adults would do: A photoshoot of The Cousins, a future girl band in the making. You can thank me later for these masterpieces, as I’m sure they will, too:

But inarguably one of the most exciting developments from our Austin Trip: Ella learned how to ride a bike! Never underestimate the power of peer pressure. One evening early in the trip the girls were out in the low-traffic street outside the house, along with several neighbors, all riding bikes. Apparently when our highly competitive Ella saw kids younger than her deftly riding their bikes without training wheels, she hopped on her cousin’s bike and just rode (CLICK FOR VIDEO):

We had literally given up on her having interest in riding a bike after lots of training wheel adjustments to a Frozen bike she got from Santa last year. She was so nervous she kept falling over, and we assumed (rightly, I suppose) that when she was ready, that would be the time to ride a bike. To not miss out on her momentum and interest in bike riding, the day after we got home from Austin we headed to a bike shop and got her the same bike her cousin has, in her own choice of colors, and she’s been riding ever since. You know what they say, “It’s like riding a bike.

The week after Austin we were back to the normal grind of school and work, trying to recalibrate after the girls had 3 weeks off of school, and we all spent one of those weeks adjusting to a new time zone. Bart and I brought home head colds, though the girls were just fine, and the Sunday before school started I talked the girls into making some new goals around their choices with iPads and money. We agreed on a few consistent chores they could do weekly to earn an allowance (not the first time we’ve done this) and some guardrails on how long they spend on their devices. I’m hopeful, but then, I’m an optimist.

On Friday Zoe’s Girl Scout troop earned a Night Owl badge by designing and hosting their own money-making event for younger Girl Scouts, which included glow-in-the-dark face painting (Zoe did this), tours of the night sky with telescopes and more. While Bart was at the event helping with setup, greeting and takedown (what a guy!), Ella and I had a girls’ night in, where we did what she wanted: Poquito Mas for dinner, followed by my first ever Roblox training session. Let’s just say I wasn’t that great, though Ella was patient and encouraging, and I played the “Best Game Ever”, called Every Second You Get +1 Damage.

I wouldn’t want you to miss out on the fun, so we’ll end on this (CLICK FOR VIDEO). That’s me in the orange hat:

Feeling exhausted from just one blog this year? Me, too. And I didn’t even cover everything we did in the first two weeks of this year… Maybe this is why I put it off so many times last year? Regardless, I’m committed. Stay tuned for more exciting adventures with the Johnson girls in 2023!

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