Italy- September 2017

Chris had traveled internationally on and off during his almost ten years working for this company. The bulk of his trips were to Rio, but he had also been to Rome about half a dozen times. His travels also included several trips to Calgary and once to Tunisia, along with some travel within the US. In all of those years, this was the first trip that I joined him on. He had wracked up quite a few frequent flyer miles, so I basically flew for free which included splurging on a business class seat with Chris on the flight home (since he wasn’t about to sit in economy when his company flew him business). Chris and Vance were working through Friday, so those hotel nights were covered, as well as the rental car through Saturday and any taxis we took during their work week. So it was a really nice Italian vacation for a very modest amount of money. Just like I like it!

Tuesday-Wednesday, September 19th-20th— Jenna and I left for the airport in the early afternoon on Tuesday. We had a layover in New Jersey and landed in Rome around lunchtime on Wednesday. Vance and Chris had rented a car for the two weeks they were there, so Vance picked us up at the airport and took us to the hotel before heading back to the office to finish out the workday. Vance was an ex-pat in Rome for seven years, so we basically had an ex-local with us who was fluent in Italian and familiar with driving in the city, so that was nice.

We stayed at the Hotel Panama Garden. It’s located north east of the busy city center, close to the Rome branch of their office. The hotel is fairly small and doesn’t have a lot of amenities, but it’s quiet and clean with a lovely breakfast buffet and the front desk staff is very friendly and helpful. They even remembered Chris from all of his business travels and gave us a discount when we brought the family this past November.


Jenna and I walked around the corner to a cafe for a quick bite and then went back to our rooms until the boys got off of work. I’m pretty sure I showered and napped, but two years is a long time ago, so who knows. I think dinner that night was a short drive away to Vance’s favorite restaurant near his old apartment. The owner was happy to see his old customer and treated us well. That’s where I was stunned to see a kid at the table next to us eating a hot dog and french fry pizza.

Thursday, the 21st— Jenna had been to Rome before, so she served as my tour guide for the next two days while the boys were at work. We took the bus and hopped off at the Piazza Venezia in front of the Alter of the Fatherland and walked the rest of the way to the Colosseum.






This was the only picture I took of the two of us.


After seeing the Colosseum, we wandered along a secluded street adjacent to the Roman Forum for a while and then took the subway to another piazza. I don’t even remember which one. Jenna was on a quest to find several resale shops she had located online. If I recall correctly, we didn’t have a whole lot of luck. We had a quick piece of pizza somewhere and just hopped on and off the bus and subway until making our way back to the hotel.


I can’t remember which night it was, but one night we took a taxi to the Piazza Navona where were were meeting their co-worker Cascone and his wife for dinner at one of their favorite restaurants. We walked for a long time through dark narrow streets trying to find it only to discover that they were closed for vacation. So we went to another place nearby and had a nice dinner on the patio. I loved Cascone! He’s the quintessential Italian– a bit exuberant, fun-loving, friendly and most importantly, he likes busting Chris’ chops. Chris is so good at messing with people, so it was nice to see someone not afraid to get a few jabs in. Ha!


Friday, the 23rd— This must have been on Friday, because I’m wearing different clothes. :) Chris and Vance met us for lunch perhaps?


Which means these are a little out of order. Friday morning Jenna and I strolled through the Villa Ada Savoia, a huge, sprawling park directly across the street from the hotel.


We then walked to the Catacombe di Priscilla, which is not too far from the hotel. We lucked out and were able to join an English speaking tour of the catacombs beneath us. The entrance to the catacombs is the convent of the Benedictine Sisters of Priscilla pictured below. There were only about 8-10 people allowed on each tour. As we walked through the door to the stairway descending underground, the tour guide locked it behind us. That was a little creepy, but the tour itself was fascinating. I think we were underground for around 45 minutes, walking through the maze of tunnels. Romans were very short back then, so we had to duck as we passed through “doorways”. The walls were lined top to bottom with niches to lay the bodies, including small ones for babies. The niches were then covered by tile or marble slab and decorated. Very few fragments of the slabs remain, but there are some frescoes still intact. All of the bodies have been moved from the area we toured so we didn’t see any bones. I believe that further into the catacombs some bones remain out of view of the public. If you are ever in Rome, I highly recommend a tour of the catacombs. This one is smaller and less well known than ones inside the city walls, but it was still a wonderful history lesson.


We took the scenic route back to the hotel meandering through the city streets and popping into shops along the way before meeting the boys for lunch. We had dinner at one of the boys favorites near the hotel, The Ristorante Mangiafuoco (we also took the kids there at Thanksgiving).

Saturday, the 23rd— Finally the work week was over! Yay! We split up Saturday morning and Chris and I walked down Via Salaria towards the city, stepping into shops and churches without any real agenda. This next picture is outside the wall of the city. We went to the Trevi Fountain and back to Piazza Navona so that I could see it in the daytime.





We met up with Vance and Jenna at the Pantheon and walked around inside for a bit before walking over to a tobacco shop not too far away. Or maybe vice versa. Chris and Vance spent an inordinate amount of time there perusing the pipes and chatting with the owner.



After a long day of walking, we took the bus back, grabbing some gelato before heading back to the hotel.


Sunday, the 24th— The next morning, the four of us loaded into a cab and took a train to our next destination. Chris and I left our luggage at the hotel and just packed one outfit into our backpacks for a night in Venice. We traveled with Vance and Jenna for a portion of the trip and said our goodbyes as they traveled on. When we stepped out of the train station and saw the Grand Canal for the first time, I was just blown away. Venice is such an amazing place. I know some people think it’s overrated, but I loved it! There’s just no other place like it on Earth and I feel so privileged to have been able to experience it, twice now.



It was overcast when we got to Venice around noon and sprinkled on and off all day. We rode the vaporetto down the Grand Canal to our hotel near St. Mark’s, got checked in to our hotel, checked out the amazing view and then walked across the street for a really late lunch of pizza. I had no clue what to expect from our hotel. I chose it because of it’s proximity to St. Mark’s and it’s great reviews. This corner room with canal view was a splurge, but it was only one night and we used frequent flyer miles, so it didn’t seem too bad. :) I was in heaven when I opened the window to find this view. We had a corner room with four or five huge windows that looked out on to the canal. Opening the windows and looking out onto the canal below was one of my favorite memories from this trip. We spent that evening walking around, just getting lost in the maze of streets.





Monday, the 25th— Since we were only spending one full day in Venice, we wanted to get an early start. After a lovely breakfast buffet at the hotel, we walked over to the Rialto bridge before the shops had opened for the day. Then we did a quick tour of St. Mark’s.



After that we hopped on the vaporetto for Lido. It’s a small island with a quaint main street down the middle. It’s probably pretty busy during the summer, but since it was off-season, the whole island was vacant. We stopped in for gelato and strolled along the beach for a little while before heading back to the main island.


Here we had gotten off the vaporetto from Lido and were waiting for the one to Murano. You can see the island cemetery in the background.


And here’s the cemetery as we passed by it on the vaporetto. I would have liked to visit it, but we didn’t have time.


By the time we arrived at Murano, it was close to closing time for a lot of the shops so we quickly (and carefully) went into a bunch of them to find gifts to bring back to the kids. I found some pretty glass ornaments for my Christmas tree.


We came back to Venice and walked though the streets on the way to the train station. I don’t remember where we had dinner that night, but we were pooped from all of the walking we did that day, so we got to the train station several hours early and sat for a very long time until our night train arrived. That was the worst part of the trip. We had to check out of the hotel around noon, so we didn’t have a comfy spot to hang out all day. I think our train left the station around midnight.

We had no idea what to expect in a sleeper car. I’m glad we did it, but the train was old and it was far from luxurious. It wasn’t the most comfortable night’s sleep, but it wasn’t terrible either. We had a little sink and mirror in our berth but had to go down the hall to use the stinky bathroom.


Tuesday, the 26th— We got back to Rome early Tuesday morning, ate breakfast near Termini and for some reason decided to walk the two miles back to the hotel. I don’t know; I was probably lamenting paying for a cab. :) Back at the hotel we had a new room with a lovely balcony view of the park across the street. We headed to the Vatican Museum, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel for a guided tour that afternoon.









Thursday, the 28th— We had a nice cushy flight back home in business class with my cozy socks, Saks Fifth Avenue blanket and yummy food. They really do spoil you and it makes for a much more pleasant trip.


After posting all of these vacation photos, I realize it’s time for another vacation! I haven’t done a lot of traveling but I absolutely LOVE it and can’t wait for our next adventure!

Robert’s 8th Birthday

Because our camper was occupied, we weren’t able to take our Thanksgiving camping trip like we usually do. We went to Temple instead. Robert’s birthday was on Thanksgiving this year. He hates that his birthday falls around Thanksgiving, but being on the actual day is a real bummer. I went easy on myself this year and decided to do cupcakes with store bought tubes of icing. He wanted Ninjago cupcakes and they didn’t turn out half bad if I must say so myself.



We paused the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade long enough for him to open his gifts. He got several Ninjago lego sets and a Beast Quest boxed set of books. He was obsessed with these books for about a year. There are probably 150 in the series and I’m pretty sure he read and re-read over half of them. For months we scoured the library and used book store shelves on our own quest to find every last book. This series is what really sparked a love of reading in him.


We bought this cute little mini pinata for him for a special touch on his birthday. He’d never had a pinata before.



I ended up not feeling well that afternoon, so Chris was a good daddy and took the kids to the arcade while the rest of us took it easy. We played several games of Ticket to Ride that week and just hung out.

November 2017

I was a little late getting my caramel apples made, but I eventually did make a batch to share with friends and neighbors.



One evening Clara and Malana sat the table for dinner and added a special touch with place cards for everyone.


We made it to the Buddy Walk this year at the Sam Houston Race Park to walk with Justin and his family in support of the Down Syndrome Association on Houston.





Clara loved her violin Christmas ornament I got for her this year. :)


I helped Robert’s teacher with their classroom thankful party. Robert was not very thankful to have me there. This was the best picture I could get.


Trevy-Ann celebrated her 15th birthday right around Thanksgiving as well, so her mom threw her a little party and invited some family friends over for cake and ice cream. The little one seems to be fascinated by the chandelier.



The next week was Thanksgiving and Robert’s birthday and we went to Temple to spend the holiday with Dan and Linda. When we got back, our friends’ house was getting close to completion. The toilets and showers had just been installed and their kitchen was close to being finished, so they decided to move back into their house at the end of November. They were all itching to have their own space again and get back into a routine. They lived with us for 80 days and were one of the first families back in their neighborhood, which was 100% flooded. We celebrated their new home with dinner with dinner out the night they moved home.


Chris and I have had people live with us on several occasions, but never a family. Having houseguests for that long and in such stressful conditions was not without it’s difficulties, but Chris and I both agree that we were overjoyed to be in the perfect position to be able to share God’s blessings with their family and we would do it again in a heartbeat. We fully believe that God puts people in our path that we can be a blessing to. We just have to keep our eyes open and be willing to step out in faith, have our routines disrupted a bit and make some sacrifices. Through the act of sharing our blessings, our faith, family and marriage is always blessed and stronger because of it and we pray that Clara and Robert will learn to listen when God nudges them to step out in faith.

September 2017

We went to pick up the camper on Monday evening and got it set up in the driveway and cleaned up for our long term guests. They ended up living with us until right after Thanksgiving. We didn’t get permission from our HOA to set up the camper; we just decided it was easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. I think most people were ok with temporary set ups like our own because the devastation was so widespread everyone knew someone who was affected. It was kind of a community-wide effort to get people back on their feet.


Mike and Wendy-Ann slept in the camper and their two girls, Trevy-Ann and Malana shared our guest bedroom. We had Clara and Robert shower and brush teeth in our bathroom so they could have the guest bathroom to themselves. The girls would get ready in the mornings and then go to the camper where they could have breakfast together just their family. Some meals we would eat together in our house and other times Wendy-Ann would cook for them in the camper. I think it really worked out well to give them space and privacy but at the same time, they could come inside if it got to feeling too cramped or to do laundry or just hang out.

If I remember correctly, they moved in that Friday or Saturday and the kids were to go back to school the following Monday after two weeks off. Chris was set to leave for Rome on Sunday. Wouldn’t you know it, this view greeted us on Friday. We called the water company and waited. And waited. And waited. Finally our neighbor came over and said that because the leak was on our side of the sidewalk, the water company wouldn’t do anything. He had a tool to turn it off at the street, so we turned off our water and Chris got to digging.


We got a plumber out Saturday night and it turns out because of the flooding, when the clay started drying out and hardening, it caused the pipes to break apart, so it was a quick fix thankfully.


Robert would not pull this tooth. And you know I wasn’t about to touch the thing. Yuck! So Wendy-Ann came to the rescue and pulled it for him! His adult tooth was pretty much halfway in already.



Our guests brought with them their pets, Max the parakeet and Brady, a chihuahua mix. Here Max and Robert are getting to know each other a little better.


Chris and Vance were working in Rome for about two weeks. Near the end of their trip, Jenna and I flew together to meet them for the last couple of days of their work trip. We then spent a day or two in Rome and then got on a train together and went our separate ways. Chris and I to Venice and Vance and Jenna headed further north to visit friends. Dan and Linda came to watch the kids while we were gone. It was quite a lot to ask with the added chaos of having guests in the driveway, but they were good sports about it and didn’t even complain (at least to our faces). :)

These next few pics are from their stay. They had dinner at Pappasito’s with Dan’s cousin and his wife who live in Katy one night. And they went to see The Lego Ninjago Movie. Robert was all about Ninjago those few months, so he couldn’t wait to see the movie.



Clara and Malana were just learning their new instruments. They were a month into the school year and missed two weeks because of Harvey, so you can imagine what practice time sounded like. Like I said, they’re really good sports. They left their quiet home to spend a week with a family of four they didn’t know, a dog, a bird, two kids to get ready for school each day (including picture day), and two new musicians. Ha! I know they were counting down the hours ’til we’d be home.




Here’s Clara and Robert with the banner they made (along with Malana and Trevy-Ann) for our return. It was filled with questions about our trip and lots of words in Italian.


We were so grateful for Dan and Linda’s willingness to take on the huge task of childcare and displaced guest care for us so that Chris and I could enjoy some long overdue time together. I think it’s about time for another trip. Surely two years is enough time for them to have recovered. 😉

Happy Harvey Times

After getting set up at Vance and Jenna’s, we picked up groceries and then Jenna and I headed to Gallery Furniture with one of her teacher friends. Mattress Mack had opened up both of his furniture stores for displaced people, so Jenna wanted to go paint kids faces and read stories to the kids. They had gathered up a bunch of books to leave there as well.

We came in through the back loading and warehouse area that housed lots of dog crates and pens with pets in them. There was a steady stream of people dropping off donations and volunteers sorting everything coming in. People were interacting with their pets and taking them for walks out behind the store. Mack was also feeding the national guard and giving them a place to sleep those first few days, so the entire store was filled with guardsmen and civilians milling around. They were all welcome to make themselves comfortable and sit on all of the display living room furniture. A long atrium area was set up with tables running down the middle and individual stalls each with mattresses lining each wall. It was so cool to see him open up his businesses like he did during Harvey. He really is an amazing person.

Anyway, to say I’m not an artist is a massive understatement, but I did attempt to paint some faces. Jenna had a book with some ideas, so that helped. Sorta. Thankfully most people had the understanding that it’s the thought that counts. :) We even had a few adults come up and ask to have their faces painted. It was nice to put some smiles on people’s faces. I think a balloon artist had been there right before us, so the kids really were getting to have some fun amidst the chaos.

Once we got back to the house, the body painting marathon began. Oh my goodness, they painted themselves and each other all week long!


I was impressed with Robert’s Yoshi he painted on his own arm.


Clara was a really good sport all week and let Zoe paint necklaces and a crown on her on this particular day.


They found a frog that they passed around for a while, made lots of paper airplanes, ran all over the backyard and had a picnic with the neighbors. We spent a lot of time on the back porch when Chris was there because they have cats. I seem to remember the weather was pretty pleasant, so it wasn’t bad.









We spent Sunday night back in our own house and it felt really nice. On Monday, we went back to get the camper because we needed to get it to our house and cleaned up for our houseguests that we invited to move in while we were at church on Sunday. :) We were so grateful for Vance and Jenna’s hospitality that week.

Hurricane Harvey- August 2017

We had just started getting into a routine with the start of the new school year when we got a visit from Harvey. I’m trying to remember how things progressed and am going by timestamps on my pictures, so I could be off. The kids started school on Wednesday, August 16th. All eyes were on Harvey as it was forming in the gulf during the second week of school. Schools all over the Houston area were canceled on Friday the 25th to allow people to make preparations and evacuate as Harvey approached. We decided to stay put and ride it out. Chris was more than happy for me and the kids to go to Temple leaving him to hold down the fort, but after what happened when Houston evacuated during Rita in 2005 right after Katrina, I just get sick thinking about being caught up in such a nightmare. Plus, I feel like those of us further inland should keep roads clear for the people that live right on the coast since they are in much more danger.

Anyway, here’s a timeline of Harvey and the days following. It made landfall in Rockport (about 200 miles from us), at 3:00 a.m. on Saturday, the 26th as a cat 4. We were up watching news reports and I remember watching live footage from some storm tracker guy that ended up riding out the storm in a carwash in Rockport. His footage was intense– debris just flying past him. My heart was racing just watching him go through it on his livestream for over an hour. All night our phones were going off with emergency alerts.

The storm quickly weakened but then just sat on us, moving back into the gulf to pick up more moisture and then back on land to soak us again for days. We never lost power and I don’t recall the actual hurricane being too bad for us. In fact, these first few photos were taken Saturday morning. I knew we might be cooped up for a while, so I let the kids go run in the puddles during a break in the rain. As you can see, there’s no flooding whatsover in our neighborhood at this point. I sent these pictures to reassure the parents that we were all perfectly fine. I knew that watching the news would be nerve wracking for them.




Sunday morning, the 27th, still no standing water in front of our house.


I believe Sunday is when officials started to sound the alarms that the reservoirs were filling up and were trying to figure out when and how to start releasing water. That’s when I got a bit nervous, because it was all very wishy washy. It was hard to know who should evacuate. I kept checking the creek and reservoir levels near our house online. I’m not sure, but at this point I believe our window of opportunity to be able to drive out of our subdivision had either closed of would soon be. I found this Washington Post article that explains really well what was going on and why there was so much confusion for residents. Our house is just inside a 100 year flood plain and was predicted to be affected by the release. Our plan was to wait until the water started coming inside and then we would load up our kayak and mosey on out. Didn’t know where we’d go since so many people were affected, but hey, it was sort of kind of a plan.

Officials started releasing water during the night Sunday night (early than they had announced) and advised people to wait and leave their homes when it was light out. I was so torn. I didn’t get much sleep those few nights and spent a lot of time watching flood gauges rising and officials updating, all while my emergency alerts kept sounding. Thinking back, it was an extremely mentally draining few days even for those of us who didn’t flood.

I walked around the neighborhood with our neighbor Jamie first thing on Monday morning. Our street was still clear, but the water was rising at the front of our subdivision. Jamie was also torn on whether or not to leave. Her two kids were with their dad, so she didn’t have to worry about them, but she has several pets including a senior cat and snakes, so that made it difficult for her to leave for an unspecified amount of time. I think at this point I started feeling like we should leave. Some homes around Houston had huge amounts of water in them. They were already doing high water rescues and I just felt like we should get out. I think I started moving things upstairs and getting stuff off the floor of my closet and bottom cabinets. I put all of my photo albums and photos in garbage bags upstairs, but I didn’t really do any packing. I’m pretty sure my mind was just so overwhelmed with the possibility of us leaving our home and coming back to complete destruction. I was just kind of frozen.





We moved the kids downstairs the night of the hurricane because it just made me feel better having them close to us on the first floor. They ended up extending their stay for the next couple of nights. You can tell they were really concerned. Hey, at least someone was getting good sleep.



Sometime Monday afternoon I got a text from Jamie. Her dad wanted her out of her house so he had people with kayaks on their way to get her out. Her dad would be waiting at the gas station near our house and could give us a ride if we were interested. The gas station would be inaccessible soon and they were on their way, so we had to act fast. Chris left it up to me and I HATED the pressure, but I decided we should go. I knew I’d sleep better if we got out and so would our parents.

Clara and I packed up some clothes and got ready for us to leave while Chris got the kayak ready to go and turned off the electricity to the house. As we started to leave, the neighbors on both sides of us (who don’t speak English) ran out with their phones and wanted us to talk to their adult children to explain what was going on. I totally thought the Chinese couple had left to stay with their daughter so I was surprised to see her run out. They saw us leaving with Jamie and thought maybe it was mandatory evacuations. Like I said, everyone was confused on whether or not we should go or stay. Our Russian neighbor ended up staying and my friend Hind and her family who live around the corner stayed. I believe they came through with the high water rescue vehicles later that day or the next.



We walked for about 1/4 to 1/2 mile down the road where a truck with lifts was parked waiting for us. They kept calling their friends with the kayaks while we were getting packed up telling us we needed to hurry because the water was rising and they were about to have to get out. We made it just in time to a parking lot pictured below. The parking lot is next to a small lake that’s usually very low and you can see the bridge that goes over the lake.


We left our kayak with one of the guys who had been out rescuing people and planned on going out some more. In fact, I think he went back and got some of our neighbors. It was a plus for us because we didn’t know what we were going to to do with it on the other side. It was perfect for rescues because of the pontoons and trampolines. You could easily load it up with kids, pets and belongings with no danger of it tipping. The only downside was the weight and length. You can’t just throw it on top of your car or in your truck bed like smaller kayaks. Chris gave him a business card with his phone number and said just let me know when your done with it and where I can come pick it up and if something happens to it, that’s ok. We weren’t sure if we’d ever see it again, but were glad it was being put to good use. About a week later we got a call and it was in Katy, so not too far of a drive. :)

When we got to the gas station, Jamie’s dad and stepmom graciously offered to take us where we needed to go. We were all soaked and were very grateful for their offer. Houston was in such chaos and roads and subdivisions all over were affected by flooding so it was difficult to try and figure out where we could go. We decided to go to Chris’ office first to get dry and come up with a plan. We found some towels and got changed into dry clothes. Well most of us anyway. Someone forgot to pack clothes for Chris. :( Yeah, still feel bad about that one. It was late afternoon at this point and Chris’ co-worker Kelly brought us some food and bedding in case we’d be sleeping there that night. We would’ve stayed with her, but she has cats and that would not have been a good idea for Chris. We really didn’t need his asthma flaring up and adding to our adventure. He was able to get ahold of another friend and co-worker, Scott, who lives close to the office and he got us set up with a vehicle and a place to stay for the night. He graciously gave up his only bedroom for us that night and even had cots for the kids to sleep on. I slept so well that night. I guess not having water rising around you helps put your mind at ease. I really was at peace with the whole situation. We had no idea if we’d lose our house and cars, but I really didn’t care. The only thing that made me sad was the thought of losing my photos. The kids did so well. They really seemed to get it. It was just “stuff”. What mattered was we were all safe.


The next day, Tuesday, the guys went out to see if the roads were clear to our camper. He had no problem getting it. Well, mostly no problem. He didn’t bring the keys with us when we left home in such a hurry. A window had been left unlocked though, so they shoved Robert through to open it up. We were so blessed and lucky those few days. I felt so taken care of. With the kayak and camper and friends pitching in to give rides, house us and get us a vehicle, we really didn’t have too stressful of a time. It was so much worse for a lot of people.

These pictures were taken on the way to Vance and Jenna’s. Their home is a little secluded and they have a long driveway for our camper, so they graciously took us in for the next week. (I took quite a few pictures while we were there, so I’ll put them in their own post.) There were military high water trucks, civilians hauling boats and rescue vehicles from all over the country. It was so cool to see help coming in from all over. It really just made me feel good to witness. This truck was from Miami. There were also helicopters flying overhead all day that whole week.



On Wednesday, our neighbor sent this photo of our driveway. When we left home on Monday, I believe the water was just getting to the end of our driveway. I don’t remember if the water was actually receding by this point, but I don’t believe it was expected to rise any further at least. You can see the sky is at last clear after 3-4 days of non-stop rain. In all, I believe our area got around 32-33 inches of rain. It was such a relief to see that we hadn’t flooded! We could rest easy now knowing we just had to wait for the water to recede.


Chris was getting antsy just sitting around, so right after Viktor sent the last photo, he decided to try to get back to the house. He drove to the back of the apartment complex that butts up very close to our backyard, climbed the fence and jumped down into nasty standing water behind the neighbors’ house, and then came through Viktor’s back gate. He took this picture from inside the house, turned our electricity back on and brought some clothes back with him. He had to use the neighbor’s ladder to get back over to the complex.


Someone sent us this picture from the intersection that we turn on to get to our subdivision. I’m not sure which day this is, but I think it’s Tuesday or Wednesday. Out of the frame to the left is the gas station we were picked up at.


By Saturday, September 2nd, this is what our street looked like. I think Jamie had gotten back in on a kayak and sent us this picture.


We were planning to go to church on Sunday, so we decided to see if we could get to the house beforehand. This picture is Sunday morning right by the parking lot that we took the boat to. You can see the water was still pretty high. We couldn’t have gotten in if we had been in a shorter vehicle.


Ahhhhh! Home sweet home!!



On the drive out of the subdivision, scenes like these were still all over the place. Flooded vehicles, downed fences, debris, flotation devices, water stations, etc.


This next picture is of the lake that was flooded when we evacuated.


And this is the intersection with the gas station and the apartment complex across from it where the people were walking in chest high water earlier in the week. Most of the apartments near us had their first floor flooded as well as a handful of homes in neighborhoods in our school zone, so there were quite a few kids affected in the kids’ schools. Our small neighborhood fared very well though. I don’t think any homes flooded or if they did, only a couple with minimal damage.



This ended up being the staging area that volunteers and the national guard worked from getting people in and out of the subdivisions and apartments near our house. In fact, if you look at the video in the Washington Post article I linked to above, they are filming here at this intersection while doing rescues from the surrounding apartments and homes.


And here you can see just how close we came to flooding. The debris line came right up to our garage door, but not a drop inside. We were so very lucky. Feeling blessed and wanting to share our blessings with others, we took a family in that had flooded, but that’s a story for another post. :)


Random Summer Pics 2017

As for the rest of the summer, here it is. And as always if I didn’t take a picture, I probably do not have a recollection of it. :)




Just a rat, going for a little swim. Don’t mind him.


Clara was so excited to get prescription sunglasses at the beginning of the summer. Turns out taking off her regular glasses to put on sunglasses is a massive chore, so she’s hardly worn them. Grrrr


We went to Tutti Frutti for some frozen yogurt on Father’s Day this year.




And to Vance and Jenna’s house for the 4th of July. This was the only picture I took all day. Vance and Chris had been traveling together quite a bit that year. They had already spent a couple of weeks each in Rome and Rio and would be leaving for Rio again in August and Rome in September. Jenna and I would be traveling together in September to join them in Rome.



This is one worn out, but content girl when we picked her up from her first year at Bandina Church Camp. She absolutely loved it and went last year and we’ll be picking her up later today from her third year.


During the week Clara was gone to Bandina, Robert went to Grandma and Grandpa’s for a few days. He went to the splash pad, did some painting, played games and Grandma took him on a little one night road trip to Glen Rose to the Fossil Rim Safari and to see The Emoji Movie. And the only reason I know all of this is because Grandma is not a slacker like myself, so I was able to swipe these pictures from her blog. I need to be more like Grandma.



At the beginning of August, we got Clara all set up for her orchestra class. Nanny had given Clara her violin several years before she died, so I took it in to the orchestra teacher and a shop to make sure it was suitable for her to play and they didn’t see any problems. So we got her a new bow, case and music stand and she couldn’t wait to get started.



The zoo had a special exhibit of lego animal sculptures so you know we couldn’t miss that. We found the elusive dodo bird and this chameleon was my favorite.



Robert’s new back to school haircut. He always looks so handsome when he leaves the salon, but when it’s up to him, he hates putting any kind of product in it (or even brushing it for that matter).


I took the kids on one final hurrah at the indoor trampoline place before hitting the books. If I remember correctly, Chris was gone to Rio during this time and got to miss all of the fun back to school stuff. I think he got back right after they started school.


Pecos-June 2017

Not long after our trip to Wimberley, the kids and I made our annual trip to Pecos at the end of June in 2017. I had to take a picture to send to Chris when I pulled into town or else he wouldn’t have believed that I was stuck in a traffic jam! In Pecos! I sat at this light where Highway 285 crosses I-10 for probably 10-15 minutes. Two years later and the oilfield traffic is still just unreal.


Of course we loaded up the kids and headed to the parade. I didn’t have my sunglasses for some reason, so it looks like I couldn’t even pry my eyes open in this picture. That sun was brutal and I’m a weenie without my sunglasses.




As always, Robert was none too happy about the sirens and horns blaring.



Tenley loves playing with the big girls. Or more accurately, bossing them around.


We had the rare treat of a good soaking thunderstorm while we were there. If I remember correctly, the storm knocked out power for a while, so we retreated outside.


We went up to the rodeo arena one morning to watch Uncle Tim and his brother (or friend, don’t remember which) compete in the team roping. As we were walking past the steer pen and avoiding stepping in piles of horse apples, I looked over and saw Robert covering his nose with his shirt. Ha! He cracks me up. Poor guy is not a country boy.






As always, we spent a lot of time invading Myrt and Joe’s backyard to keep cool.



We went to see the new Pecos Bill statue outside of the museum one morning and then took a picture in front of the mural.



Ah, the good ‘ol days. When Clara would smile and humor me for pictures and even looked like she might be having a bit of fun. Seems like such a long time ago.


The Pecos Dairy Queen earned the city this big ‘ol boot as well for selling the most Hunger-busters of any DQ in the country. My parents did their part.


That evening we went by Donna’s house to see her silkies and then out to the farm for a little while.





After playing with Mason’s fiesty baby goats, he took the kids for a ride on his…. whatever this thing is– go cart, dune buggy? I don’t know.



I forget what this bird’s deal was. I think he would come up on to Mason’s porch and eat the dog food. He was so tame that he’d actually sit up on Mason’s shoulder.



While the adults chatted, the kids were playing on Mason’s zipline contraption he set up. In the picture, you can see the ladder up against a pole that the kids climb up and Robert on his way down. Mason’s handle is just a big piece of old rusty iron bar. Right after this picture was taken, Robert had climbed to the top of the ladder when Clara threw the iron handle up to him but he didn’t see it coming. I thought we were going to be making a run to the ER for stitches, but thankfully it missed his eye and stopped bleeding pretty quickly. He had a decent black eye the next day and still has a scar.




6th and 2nd Grade

All good things must come to an end and before we knew it, it was time for back to school. Here is Robert at Meet the Teacher with his 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Teague. We LOVE Mrs. Teague. He was so excited when he found out he was going to be in her class because everyone knows and loves Mrs. Teague. She just exudes joy as she walks through the halls. He didn’t even want to talk about going back to school until finding out he was going to be in her class and then he couldn’t wait to start. She’s that awesome. :)


Clara came up to the school with me a couple of days when I was doing PTA back to school stuff. She was a big help to Mrs. Teague and I kept having to go find her because other teachers were stealing her to help out in their classrooms. She loved it!


She got to get her schedule a few days before school started and then walk around the school to meet all of her teachers and find her classrooms. She was so excited to finally be starting junior high.


First day of school! First day in two different schools and start times. The junior high started at 7:35 this year and the elementary at 8:20, so she loved getting home an hour before Robert every afternoon.




Day 3- Pompei

I had been watching the weather forecast since before we left for Italy and Tuesday was the one day of our trip that was concerning to me. Forecasts were showing thunderstorms all day and I had booked a tour (rain or shine) and train tickets to Pompeii that day. :( So we grabbed our rain gear and were off! Our tour had contacted us to let us know our guide was sick and we would have Maria instead. I mentioned the weather and they said it looked like there might be a break in the storms late morning. I asked if we could move our tour up from 12:30 to 11:00 and they obliged. Our plan had been to get to Naples and do some sightseeing for an hour or two before taking the train to Pompeii, but this change in plans meant we needed to head straight to Pompeii.

We took the subway to Termini, which is the train station in Rome. Our train was leaving at 7:55 and I had planned on us eating a little earlier, not knowing at the time that the breakfast buffet at the hotel didn’t open until 6:45. We ate breakfast really fast and then hoofed it over to the subway station. We had to wait a few minutes for the subway and it was getting close to 7:30 at this point, so I was starting to get antsy, thinking we’d miss our train. I knew the ride was only around 10 minutes and the metro station was close to Termini, but wasn’t sure how close or what platform our train would be at. The subway stop turned out to be very close and we just hopped off the subway and walked (very quickly mind you) a short distance underground to get to Termini. Popped out above ground, found our platform and made it on board our train with no more than five minutes to spare. :)


We were on a fast Trenitalia train to Napoli Centrale station. The ride was about an hour. Once we arrived in Naples, it was a quick walk to the Circumvesuviana ticket windows to buy one way tickets to Pompeii out of the Garibaldi train station. The Circumvesuviana is a regional, old and run down train that takes you to the cities around Naples. It was about a 30 minute ride to Pompeii with about 20 stops in between. We stood almost the entire time. I believe the trains do not have a/c, so I imagine it would be terribly uncomfortable in the summer. It was packed even though it was not peak tourist season.





I had also booked this tour through the same tour company as the Vatican tour because I wanted to make sure the kids got a good understanding of what we were looking at. Our guide Maria was great! She was friendly and was continually quizzing us on what we thought we might be looking at, calling us all by name the entire time. She was a little hard to understand sometimes and I kept getting a hint of an accent that I just couldn’t place. Turns out she learned English from a British person, so she had a thick Italian/British accent.

The grand theater is well, grand. It could seat 5000 people. It’s huge and just so impressive to think about how long it’s been here. The original marble VIP seats are still intact.



From the top of the theater, you have a great view of Mt. Vesuvius.






Next to the grand theater was a smaller, more intimate theater that could hold 1,000 spectators. Clara wanted a picture of this statue of half a griffin.


One of the homes we went into had just opened to the public about 20 days earlier. It’s incredible to see the frescoes that have survived all these years. And only around 2/3 of Pompeii have been excavated. They’ve mainly turned to trying to conserve what they have uncovered. Tourists and exposure to the elements has caused a lot of damage to existing structures and some of the buildings have crumbled.



Trying out the crosswalks. The stones were raised so that you didn’t step in the sewage that was just thrown into the street to be washed downhill. They were placed a certain distance apart to allow for wheels of carts to pass through and you can still see the indentions left by the carts.



Here Maria is explaining that this counter with it’s sunken terracotta bowls was a take-out restaurant. There are lots of them in Pompeii because most people were too poor to have a kitchen in their home.


I noticed this older gentleman was lurking around for awhile. I believe he was soaking up some free tour guide info from Maria.




Here are a few pictures from inside the men’s and women’s bathhouses. The cutouts are lockers in the changing areas.




Here we are in the Forum with Mt. Vesuvius in the background.


And a selfie before heading back to Naples.


Notice anything about these pictures? Like the first day we’re not wearing coats? It ended up being a picture perfect day and the rain stayed away all day! It did look dark off in the distance, but we didn’t get a drop!


We probably could have easily spent a couple more hours there, but we were hungry and had a 30 minute train ride back to Naples, so we went on. Had pizza in a shop on Piazza Garibaldi just outside of the train station and then headed back to the station via an underground shopping area that connected the piazza to the station, popping in to a few stores on the way.

Our train was leaving around 5:00 and I booked us a little bit nicer seats for the ride home since I knew we’d be tired and wasn’t sure when we’d be eating. It was nice to get a drink and snack on the ride home, along with a bit more comfy seats. Chris was impressed that I would splurge. We paid maybe $5 bucks more per person than the cheap seats. Hey, I’m a generous individual when it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. 😉

We took a bus from Termini back to the hotel, but I can’t remember what we did for dinner that night. I think we were all full from our late lunch in Naples.