Sunday, December 25, 2016

Well, here we are at the end of 2016.  It's late Christmas night and everyone is in bed except this lady.  I've been going through my pics and already reminiscing about today.  My babies are starting to leave the nest.  Abby leaves for college again in a few days and won't be home except for short visits for a year. She plans to teach English abroad during her semester off this year, so we won't be seeing much of her until next Christmas.  Joey will probably be submitting his mission papers around this time next year.  I reflect back to the 24 Christmases that I've been a mother and I just sit here feeling super nostalgic.  I watched my kids play and have fun together all day today and I just feel so blessed to be a part of it all.  The life that Chuck and I have built together is something that I am very proud of and I look forward to the next phases of our life.  
Well, now for the fun part- the pics!

Yep, it's our tradition too.  No matter how old they are, they must wait for permission to enter the living room on Christmas morning.  Daddy was taking FOREVER to make the cinnamon rolls and they got seriously impatient! 

 Opening stockings from Santa. 

 Joey with his new hair accessory. 

I just love, love, love this picture of T!  He has been hinting/asking/begging/pleading/cajoling for a telescope for months.  He couldn't even tell me why he wanted one other than, "but mom, it's educational!".  The kid's got me figured out.  Anyway, I really thought that this was a passing fancy and hadn't planned to buy him one.  These things are pricey for a decent one and, honestly, I figured it would end up in the deep land of unused kid junk after it's first or second use.  However, two days before Christmas I saw this telescope at Sam's Club.  In a moment of weakness and Tom's incessant "educational" argument ringing in my ears, I bought the dang thing.  After opening Legos (which he LOVES), awesome books, clothes, treats, drones, remote control boats, superhero stuff and the like, his response to all that stuff was polite, but hesitant joy.  I had totally forgotten about the telescope because it had been shoved behind the tree because it was so big.  Joey handed it to him and again, my mind wasn't registering what was in that big box.  When he pulled off the paper of this last gift... the look on his face: be still my melted heart. Needless to say after that,  I don't even care if that thing does end up in the back of a closet next month. But, I don't think it will.  Daddy and Tommy took it out for a spin in the backyard and came back to report that they couldn't see any stars because it was too cloudy, but that the people who live half a mile away on the hill have a really pretty Christmas tree sitting in their living room...  


 Sam's haul: lots of clothes, movies, coloring goodies, and a new portable TV. 

 Abby's haul: lots of clothes, heavy coat for school, makeup, purses, Fit Bit, Kindle... you know, college girl stuff.  

 Tommy's haul: aforementioned crap that takes a backseat to the mighty telescope! 

Joey's haul:  This guy chose to put the bulk of his Christmas dough towards new tire rims for the Sequoia that he inherited from his dad.  The rims are black. The rims are round. The rims are teenager cool.  The rims are overpriced for a 14 year old car, but what does this old mama know?  I should probably get a pic of the rims.... Anyway, he also managed to get a mini drone to fly with his little bro, some clothes and ifly and NBA tickets. Oh, and a healthy supply of Nutella snack packs to keep all to himself in his car for after basketball practice when he's so hungry he could eat the steering wheel off said 14 year old car.  

 CHEERS!  We went all out with our plastic tablecloth and mom's special "I got them for my wedding and we've only used them four times in 25 years, but you better not break them" crystal goblets.  

After waiting through opening gifts and church, we were starving and daddy's dinner was wonderful as usual.  I love the look on Joey's face as he dives into those funeral potatoes.  Those aren't seen in these parts very often, and he'd been waiting all day for those babies! 

 As a Utah girl, I'm still blown away a bit by a 75 degree Christmas Day.  As Grandma was snow blowing 10" of snow off her driveway, we headed out the front door in our T-shirts and flip flops on a walk around our neighborhood to enjoy the lights.  #welovetexas

To close out the day, we got the wii fired up.  It's kinda our thing to do on Christmas.  Nope, no new games or accessories (do they even sell wii games anymore??), but for some reason the wii, that isn't touched all year long, comes out every Christmas day.  My kids, particularly Abby and Joey, are very sentimental. Nine years ago today we got that wii.  We have a Christmas home movie of the kids opening it and jumping for joy.  That year we had just been on a cruise that had a kid area with a wii and our kids LOVED it.  We aren't really a video gaming family, so their exposure to the wii on that cruise was a real eye opener to them to the world of video games and actually getting a wii for Christmas was almost too much for them.  Anyway, they watch that home movie about the wii a lot.  Not just because of the completely over-the-top-spaz-out they all had when they saw it (it's got good EV: we all know by heart the little ditty that Abby sings over and over as she is just bursting with joy over the thing: "we got a wii, we got a wii... "), but because of what happens right after the wii clip. Chuck and I gathered the kids around us in a circle on the floor and quietly announced that they were getting a new sibling.  They were stunned to say the least. Joey was eight at the time and we had long thought that any more babies weren't in the cards for us.  Anyway, their reaction to a new baby was even more euphoric than the wii and we caught it all on tape.  And, therefore, the wii and our new little brother are all tied up together in one happy Christmas moment many years ago.  So, when they dig out the wii every Christmas and try to figure out how to get that thing all hooked up, I smile inside because this here is happy stuff.   

Merry Christmas, y'all.  

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Guadalupe River Camping Trip August 2015

We had such a busy summer moving and getting settled that we didn't camp at all this summer (with the exception of the camping that we did DURING our move to Texas).  We had such a fun time camping at Guadalupe State Park and love that it's less than 30 minutes from our house AND the place where we store the trailer is on the way!  We simply stopped and hooked on the trailer and off we went!  It was so much simpler.  We decided to start the weekend on Thursday so that we would get a primo spot in the campground.  We all slept there on Thursday night and then got up early and got kids to seminary and school and work.  Abby, Sam and I went back over Friday morning after drop offs and spent the day in the river.  It was fun to spend time with just my two oldest kids.  We headed home after several hours to pick up Tommy from school and for Abby to get to work.  That night we all headed out (minus working Abby) for the rest of the weekend.  Saturday morning was our main river time.  We floated down the accessible part of the river and had a blast.  We also just sat and relaxed in the water.  It was fun to eat a quick picnic lunch by the river and then when it got too hot and crowded we headed back to the trailer to relax, nap, watch a movie, read, play games, etc.  That evening after dinner we headed to town to get an ice cream.  When we got back we watched War Horse and went to bed early.  We got up early Sunday and were packed and gone by 8am.  We had dropped off the trailer and were home by 9am.  That's awesome!  We are looking forward to going back and taking the kayak next time and floating a few miles down the river.  I didn't get any pics of us floating the river because I'm too paranoid to carry my phone with me on my tube.  It's too bad because it's absolutely beautiful- so green and the slabs of granite walls are amazing.  Gotta get a waterproof camera!
 Getting ready to float!

 Sam asleep on the picnic table.

 Fixing the A/C- have to have that!

 We saw our first Texas Armadillo!  We found out that they are very skittish and will run away when you try to get close.  They are also VERY noisy while they are munching on whatever they eat.  I think they are super cute!  We also saw our first Texas scorpion while at the dump station.  I think they are NOT super cute. 

 Joey and I pumped up all the new float tubes.  Bought them at HEB and they worked great!

 Chillin outside in the shade.  Chuck and I sat here and read for at least two hours.  The weather was so nice.  

 Meanwhile... inside the trailer :).  

Sam adores his sissy.  He had a hard time when she wasn't there.  

 He coped by sleeping (yes, he is sound asleep leaning on daddy's knee).

Time to go home.  Dad gave Joey some lessons on hooking the trailer on the truck.

 This guy had a bloody nose.. again... so he got to rest during pack up. 


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Texas or Bust

KEEP CALM AND MOVE TO TEXAS - - - - The big day is getting closer, I'm so excited!

We've been talking about it for years, but in February of this year we got serious about moving to Texas.  Chuck inquired with the Gentiva branch in San Antonio and found out that Gentiva had bought out several home health agencies in Texas.  However, there were no open positions in San Antonio area.  Chuck sent his resume to the Gentiva branch in Dallas, where there were posted openings, and they called him right away.  He told them that his first choice would be to go to San Antonio so they called the SA branch director and told her about Chuck and forwarded his resume.  She called him right away and said that they would create a position for him because they wanted him at their branch.  They didn't even interview him in person- just over the phone.  It was a very easy job hunt this time!  This was a great blessing because we really felt that San Antonio was the place we were supposed to be.  

Pulling off a move from California to Texas seemed a big feat, especially because as we were choosing to move, Chuck's company couldn't pay any of the moving expenses.  This meant we had to move on the cheap :).  I started purging our entire house in March and worked on that for three months straight.  I even quit my job as an online teacher to prepare for the move.  I went through every room, cupboard, closet, drawer. and nook and cranny in our house.  Anything we didn't love or need did not make the cut to head to Texas.  I decided not to haul the majority of my teacher stuff to TX, so I sadly sold that off to teacher friends.  The kids talked me into having a yard sale and we managed to purge our lives of a lot of stuff.  We also took several trailer-fulls to the DI trailer and even did OK at the yard sale.  Good thing we purged all that.  We BARELY fit into the moving truck we rented!

I worried for those three months about the actual drive to Texas.  As we have three vehicles and two trailers, we would have to caravan 1,600 miles AND Abby would have to drive her own car the entire way.  We hadn't let her venture out driving very far from home so thinking of her driving that far (and thru some very large cities) had me very worried.  But, she did awesome!  No problems at all. Brownie kept her company with Sam occasionally riding with her.  She was our caboose in the caravan and watched both the trailers (that Chuck and I were pulling) to make sure everything was fine.  We kept in contact with hand held radios and the kids were all pros at talking like truckers by the time we arrived in Texas.  In all, the drive to Texas was a grand family adventure.  We even checked off one of our RV bucket list items: camping in a Walmart parking lot!  

First night of roadtrip: Our Walmart "campsite"

This Walmart was somewhere on the outskirts of LA, about a six hour drive from MH. 

Headed in to stock up on supplies for the drive.

The second night we decided we needed a hotel room.  We were all ready for a shower and to stretch out a bit.  We stayed in Tucson, AZ.  We decided that we didn't really like Tucson because while we were swimming in the hotel pool someone tried to unhook our utility trailer (we can only assume to steal the entire trailer and contents) only to find that it was hooked onto my truck with a chain and padlock.  We also had the grossest dinner at Denny's that night as it was the only restaurant within walking distance to our hotel.  So, we were ready to leave that town the next morning.  
The first Chick-Fil-A we came upon.  So happy to eat there for breakfast after our yucky Denny's dinner. I was lucky enough to drive Chuck's truck the whole time (rather than drive my truck pulling the RV- not my fav thing to do!), but in exchange, I got to listen to the straps holding the kayak on whistle to me for 1,600 miles! 

Joey was my co-pilot and photographer for the entire trip.  This was our view the whole time.  I now have every inch of the rear of our RV memorized.  
I think this was Phoenix. 

Well, he was the photographer and co-pilot between naps :).  

We were glad to say goodbye to Arizona and hello to New Mexico.  The kids had never been to NM, so they were excited to see a new state.  I was impressed with how pretty and green some parts of NM were.  The highlight of NM was the Continental Divide but it was a short lived highlight.  I guess we thought it would be something to actually see, but it was pretty much a little tourist trap gift shop and a sign.  Oh well... it was a good place to stop and make a sandwich. 

Sam was a good co-pilot for Abby for a good portion of the drive. 

Needed to be silly for a bit.  Driving can get super boring!

This was a cool rock formation somewhere in NM.

YAY!  We were soooo excited to see this sign!  We made it to Texas finally... but still a LONG way to go to San Antonio!

The next night we decided to camp again.  Chuck found a cool spot somewhere west of Houston that had a large spring that people swim in.  We had no idea just how large this spring was!

This place was just amazing.  The water was cold, but felt great on such a hot day.  The bottom of the spring was super slippery and in places was 20' deep.  There were scuba divers exploring down there.  One fun thing was the diving board.  I haven't jumped off a diving board in years and thought that was a blast.  No pics of that one.  Too dangerous to take my phone all the way across the spring!  

Tommy wasn't a fan of this place until we bought him this floaty tire.  Then, he was happy as can be.  After swimming all day we did this:

Hanging out playing games in the trailer is always fun. 

Going to some small town burger place and not cooking is also fun. 

Even when it's 90 degrees outside, a fire is always necessary when camping.  As are roasting hot dogs! 

We had so much fun at the Spring that we decided to take a break from driving and stay here an extra night.  The next day we were up early and ready to get back on the road!

We spent A LOT of time at gas stations.  Pulling the RV, Chuck was only getting about 8-10 miles per gallon.  At one point, we were on a long desolate stretch in Texas and Chuck didn't think he had enough gas to get to the next station.  We stopped at a TINY town in the middle of nowhere that had no gas stations, so we bought five gallons of gas from a tow truck driver for $25.   
Tommy spent most of the drive right here sandwiched between our mini-fridge and all of his entertainment supplies.  He needed a lot of "butt breaks" as he called them, but did a good job tolerating such a long drive.   illustration by ryo tokemasu
After five days we were happy that we were going to be arriving in our new town and even better, at our new house that afternoon.  The first thing on our agenda when we got to our new home?  A dip in our new pool of course!

These pics were all taken within 15 minutes of arriving at our new house.  We made it!!!