Judd Family Christmas Vacation- Part 2

The office was closed when we got to the park but they had our reservation and a site assigned for us to pull into. A gray foxed crossed the road as we were pulling in to our spot. We woke the next morning to a family of javelinas rooting around right outside our door. There was so much wildlife at this park. Poop everywhere.


Here they are with our tree complete with the ornaments we made at Garner. They kept calling it our Charlie Brown christmas tree.





That first morning we spent some time at the interpretive center watching birds feeding at a station they had set up and tried identifying them. The cacti outside the center were all decked out for the holidays.




Later on we drove up Skyline Drive in the park to this observation point which also happens to be one of the only places you can get a cell signal in the park. We decided to drive it because it was a loooong several mile hike up to the top and I’m not sure we would’ve made it.











Afterwards, we had some lunch and then left the park in search of letterboxes. We found two on the highway out to the park and another in a cemetery. One of the boxes was just placed last month and we were the first to find it, so that was fun. We looked for another that was placed by the same person that same day and unfortunately, something had gotten ahold of it before us :(  It was in a duct-taped ziploc with magnets attaching it to the back of a fence post. We were letting Robert retrieve it all by himself and keep the little prize for the first finder, so he was upset that it was all torn up. I searched around in the tall grass, but couldn’t locate the stamp.


We walked around downtown for a bit and then had ice cream in the drugstore since it had warmed up by then.




And then cocoa and popcorn that night. Robert was about done with my incessant picture taking by this point.


The next day we visited the Fort Davis National Historic Site. I was kind of expecting the kids to be bored, but as it turned out, they loved it! We spent two hours walking around and they didn’t even notice that it was past lunch time :)


I couldn’t get the kids to pose with this buffalo soldier in the museum, so I took a selfie with him.


The visitor center is attached to the museum and the kids received an activity page to complete as they walk around the fort. They could turn it in at the end of our visit and become a Junior Ranger and receive a badge. They each had to find things around the fort and note where they found it. Clara’s was a little more in depth and she had to answer questions based on things she read. Chris and the kids had gone on into the museum portion of the building as I was talking to a park employee up front. I looked over to see that Robert had come back into the room, sat himself at the computer, and had proceeded to click on different pages that explained some of the things you would see at the fort. That booger was checking off all of his scavenger hunt items in one fell swoop! I convinced him that while that may not technically be cheating, it wasn’t exactly in the spirit of the activity :)

There were a lot of interactive things all around the fort to keep things interesting. It not only insured that the kids remained engaged, but I too found it very helpful to have those visuals. There was a sign not far from the hospital that gave short snippets and drawings of 5 actual patients and what was wrong with them. The kids were like, “eh”. But then it said, go to the post hospital to find out who survived. All of a sudden, their faces lit up and they were racing to get there first to solve the mystery. You had to explore the entire hospital to find all of the answers.






Some of the buildings have been restored and decorated while others are crumbling and there were many buildings that only had foundations left. As for the restored buildings, we looked into the officer’s barracks as well as a married offiicer’s barracks which had a room for his boys and was all decorated for Christmas. And we saw inside a kitchen and servant’s quarters as well as the enlisted soldier’s barracks. The commissary had this game for the kids to play. You take turns spinning the wheel and try to be the first to get your covered wagon safely from San Antonio to Ft. Davis. All of their supplies came from San Antonio and if I’m not mistaken, it was a 6 week trip by wagon.



I really wanted to go visit the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center as well. I had read it has a great hike down into a canyon with a spring or creek at the bottom. Chris had started to feel bad as we were walking around the fort though and wasn’t up for a hike. We had thought about going up Skyline Drive for a star gazing thing the park was hosting, but that too fell through as Chris was feeling worse and worse. He slept terrible that night but with the help of Day Quil, he was able to make the hour long drive to Pecos the next morning.


Judd Family Christmas Vacation- Part 1.5

The drive to Ft. Davis gets it’s own post. We debated about whether or not we should stop off at the Caverns of Sonora on our way to our next destination. It was already going to be a long drive, we planned our grocery shopping on our travel days and we had just done a pretty big hike the day before. On the other hand, we had already skipped one of our planned excursions by not going to Lost Maples, so I really didn’t want to miss another.

So we did it. We hit the donut shop for a late breakfast in Junction and also the grocery store and that put us at the caverns at close to noon. We had to wait until 12:30 for a tour. The caverns were 72 degrees with 98% humidity. They kept warning us about how warm it would feel, but I was quite cool and comfy :) I had been to these caverns once growing up (no doubt on the drive to Garner one summer) but I don’t remember too much from that visit. I really enjoyed these caverns. The tour lasted close to two hours and we went to a depth of 150 ft. The kids really enjoyed it, but by the end, they were ready to be back at the surface.

Of course, pictures can’t capture the awesomeness of this underground wonderland. Everywhere you turned was a new type of formation. You had to duck in places, turn sideways to get through some passages and watch your step else you would brush against stalagmites growing right next to the path. You could see an occasional formation that looked as if it had been accidentally broken by tour goers. Chris has some pics on his phone that I’ll add later.







We decided the original cave explorers who gave some of the formations their names must’ve been hungry. We saw popcorn, cave bacon, applesauce, fish tails and soda straws. The formation that these caverns are best known for is their “butterfly”. Unfortunately, about ten years ago, a person at the back of a group broke off a portion of one of the wings. I can’t even wrap my head around what would compel someone to do something so awful. I asked the guide about it. It is located at a turn in the path and the guide is supposed to stop by it and direct the group around the corner until everyone has passed and then rejoin them at the front. On this particular day, the guide didn’t do this. I saw somewhere that he was purposefully distracted by someone else in the group. It wasn’t discovered until the next tour came through. Our guide said they eventually found who it was and the guy was sued for millions, but I looked and wasn’t able to find anything about it online. I do believe that is when they made their tours smaller. They do not allow more than 12 in a tour now.

It was after 2:00 when we finally exited and we still had a 3.5 hour drive, needed to get lunch and gas. It was almost 7:00 when we pulled into Davis Mountains State Park but I’m glad we made our stop at the caverns.

Here are some of Chris’ pics. Proof that I was actually there.








Judd Family Christmas Vacation- Part 1

We just got back from our Christmas vacation out west. The kids got out of school on the 16th and we left the next day on a 12 day camping trip. Our first stop was  three nights at Garner State Park. It was gorgeous out when we got there mid-afternoon. Our campsite was near the old pavilion, so we went exploring around it. Although I grew up going to Garner every summer with my dad’s side of the family, I don’t ever remember checking out that area.



Then we walked down to check out the Frio. We didn’t really think it through and it wasn’t until we were looking through the kids’ Junior Ranger booklet, but we shouldn’t have been skipping all the rocks we did. Oopsie. I know you aren’t supposed to remove things from a state park, but you aren’t even supposed to move things that you find in nature. Makes sense. If everyone that visited threw as many rocks as we did that evening, the Frio would be dammed :) Robert talked about our illegal rock skipping for several days thereafter.




That night, the temperature dropped into the mid-20s, so we had no water until it got above freezing later in the day. We hung out in the camper and made ornaments for our little camping Christmas tree, played games and colored.



Yes, I brought my glue gun camping. Along with sequins, pompoms, pinecones, pipe cleaners and sticks.




That afternoon we decided to try to find some letterboxes at a nearby cemetery in Leakey. Oh my goodness, we froze! It was so cold and it was crazy windy. We did find two of the three letterboxes we were looking for though. We then drove in to Uvalde to look for something to keep our hose from freezing but didn’t have much luck. We grabbed a few more cold weather accessories for those of us who still a bit chilly.

The next day warmed up quite a bit by the afternoon and the wind had died down so we decided to go on a hike to see Crystal Cave. It may have been a bit more of a challenge that I was expecting. By the time we got to the trailhead, we were starting to warm up and discard our layers. I was carrying all of Robert’s layers less that 15 minutes in to our hike.



Another letterbox! Woohoo! Someone had placed a series of four boxes along this trail. We looked for the other two, along with another one without luck. But two out of four ain’t bad.

The trail was very rocky in parts. Robert was scared of falling off the edge in a few places so Clara was being quite helpful when he got nervous.


Crystal Cave was pretty neat. We always camped here in the summer and I’m not so sure I’d want to make this hike when it’s 100 degrees out. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I figured it was probably more like “Crystal Hole in a Rock” When we got to the cave, Clara took one look and turned around :) Not Robert though. He grabbed the head torch and went in all by himself. It was quite a way down and then it opened up into a big room.


Once she saw the coast was clear, Clara bravely joined him in the darkness.





Once we got to the top, we were all a bit surprised at how high we had gone. I was pretty proud of everyone. We don’t have elevation changes in Houston, so this was quite a workout.








We found one last letterbox and had a rest on a boulder as we neared the end of our two hour hike.


I really wanted to go for a hike at Lost Maples State Natural Area, but unfortunately that first freezing day put a damper on our plans. Oh well, we got in one great hike, found four letterboxes, did some illegal rock skipping and spent lots of time reading, watching Christmas movies and making crafts, so it wasn’t a total bust.

Happy Halloween

Clara wanted to go as Athena for Halloween this year. She’s been very interested in Greek mythology lately after reading the Percy Jackson series, but I was still a little surprised by her choice of costume. When she informed me that Athena, who is the goddess of war and wisdom, has an owl as one of her symbols, it all made sense. So if you’re like me and know next to nothing about Greek mythology, that’s a gorgon on Athena’s shield. Medusa to be exact. I had planned on making a helmet for her as well, but that proved to be difficult when I waited ’til the last minute. She also thought it would be cool to figure out a way for her costume to depict Athena’s birth, which would mean her bursting out of a Zeus head using an axe. Ummmm…..yeah……


Who is this teenager and where did my little girl go? It is so weird to see her without her glasses on.




Ok, she’s back. Whew!


And how cute is my little Gilligan?



They both loved their costumes. Anyone over 40 knew who Robert was. I think the life preserver helped. We went to Smash Burger before trick-or-treating and he didn’t have it with him. The guy behind the counter asked if he was a fisherman.




A few minutes after their photo session, Robert dropped his foam life preserver and it broke before he got his picture with The Skipper. We glued it and left it to dry while we went to dinner.




It wasn’t dry when we got back but I found some packing tape and it was good to go.





Our neighbors were getting ready to go out with their almost 2 year old and some friends the same time we were. They’re Chinese and they were so funny. Our neighbors and their friends were directing the kids and snapping pictures like crazy. Clara and Robert were a little taken aback by all the attention. The grandmother doesn’t speak English but she loves Clara and Robert and was trying to get their picture, a picture of them with Laura and she wanted a picture of herself with Clara and Robert. She seemed to be enjoying herself immensely :) It was kinda chaotic as I was trying to translate to the kids what she wanted, so I didn’t get any pics. We walked with them most of the time. I asked Deanna, Laura’s mom, if she knew who Robert and Chris were. I then had to explain what Gilligan’s Island was :) Then we ran into Clara’s friend Lauren and her family and ended up going around the neighborhood with them too. The kids had a blast; it’s so much more fun trick-or-treating with friends.


Labor Day in Wimberley

We took the camper to Wimberley last weekend to visit my cousin John and his wife Kelsey. John is the outdoor coordinator at Texas State and they live in the caretaker’s house on the University’s campground. You should already know this because we had our Griffis family reunion there this summer and I should have already blogged about that. Ahem. John has told us for several years now that we need to come camping out in the hill country with them, so we finally got around to setting up a date.

Since it was Labor Day and the campground was full, John had a couple of fires (figurative fires, not literal) to put out. We just parked ourselves in their driveway and hung out while the kids played together all weekend. John made us blueberry waffles two mornings and he and Chris did some dutch oven cooking. The Kelsey’s ended up not having to do much food prep all weekend. It was alright :)

The four of us ventured off down the trail for a little hike. We came to this spot this summer, but the creek wasn’t flowing then. They’ve gotten lots of rain since then, so it was flowing nicely and coming over these rocks and then underground. It was a little hard to get to this spot and I was helping Robert walk over a fallen tree to get to it. It had rained, so one leg kinda fell through a spot of packed dirt and he was a little messy. He fell through all the way to his bottom. He wasn’t hurt, just a little shocked. I wish I had a picture :)

He wanted to clean off a little in the cold, clear water of the creek.


Clara didn’t want to miss out on the fun of course :)


These pictures are at the creek bed right above the little grotto.




It’s kinda hard to tell, but this is them sitting right on the edge of the rock where the water is falling over. It looked a bit more impressive in person 😉






We also went down to their preferred swimming spot and I didn’t take any pictures. We avoided the most popular spot for campers (where we were this summer) because John said it was packed. We walked downstream a ways and the kids enjoyed using their snorkels and masks. John found an endangered fish under a rock that he was able to point out to Clara. It took some time and effort to walk back as the current was really strong.

Here are a few pics of the shenanigans going on back at the house.






Most of our time was spent just sitting around sweating, some of us cooking, eating and watching the rain and kids play in the yard. We had lots of fun and are so thankful for John and Kelsey’s hospitality. The kids are already looking forward to our next visit!

May, AKA Crazy Busy School Month

The first weekend in May, Clara had a scheduling conflict between two of her extra-curriculars. She had an Orff Festival and the last 1.2 mile finishing race for Read Deed Run. It was at the stadium and included all groups in the district. She was so distraught when she found out she would have to choose. I felt bad for her, but in the end, making hard choices is something she needs to learn, so I left it completely up to her. We asked her RDR sponsors and they said she could run the last 1.2 miles on her own and she would still get the finisher’s medal and t-shirt and would get to go on their end of year fun day, so she chose to attend the Orff Festival.

That Friday night, we had a family from church over for dinner for the first time and we let the kids swim. Clara had Orff the next morning and we had Becky’s family over for dinner and swimming that night. Two guests in two days is a massive amount of entertaining for us.

The next day was Mother’s Day. We hadn’t planned to do anything special, but we did stop for kolaches before church. Robert was very sweet and said he wanted to sit by me all day on Mother’s Day and my birthday. The rest of the time they both fight over who gets to sit by Daddy :)

I took the kids to their classes and then met Chris at our bible class and was surprised to see Dan and Linda seated next to him! They knew how stressed out I’ve been between all my dental work and helping Becky, among other things, so they decided to surprise me. They got to town the night before but stayed in a hotel so I wouldn’t have to worry about entertaining guests. I totally could’ve managed it, but they didn’t want to add anything to my already overflowing plate :) We just went to a nearby Mexican restaurant for lunch knowing it wouldn’t be a Mother’s Day hotspot and they headed home right after. It was very sweet of them to make the drive to come see us.

The next week was STAAR testing and I won’t get on my soapbox. You’re welcome. Thankfully, kindergarten scheduled their field trip to a nearby farm on one of the testing days so at least some of the kids got to have fun that day instead of remaining silent in their classrooms all day with no specials or recess so as not to disturb the students testing. Oops. Sorry, I just can’t help myself :)

I went along as a chaperone. Two other moms and I had our three boys plus two extra boys. Our three weren’t listening very well and kept wandering off, but the other two were perfect gentlemen. Why is it kids are so bad for their parents? Drives me crazy. Robert was pretty good actually. The “cars” on a racetrack just kept singing their siren song and he couldn’t help himself. He loved the hay maze and probably went through it five times. There was a huge hill with multiple slides, a massive jumping pillow and a tractor “train” ride. I was beat after a day at the farm and ready to get him back on the bus. Lots of parents were going up to the school to check their kids out early. I was like, “Are you crazy? I’m going to take a nap before they get home!” They wore me out!

The next week, Clara had her RDR trip to Main Event. There were only about a dozen kids who finished, so it was a pretty small group. Abby was the only kid in school to earn a certain amount of dog tags to be able to go on a special field trip so they let her go along with RDR. They were so excited. Clara’s teacher, who is one of the sponsors, along with her teacher last year and the librarian all went along and played right alongside them. They had a blast and stayed from 9-2! They bowled, played laser tag about 5 times and did a gravity ropes course several times. I asked the librarian if they ever got bored and she said no. The adults eventually had to sit down but she said the kids could’ve gone all night.

The day after that Clara was gone all morning with the Orff Ensemble to an Instrumental Showcase at a high school along with several other elementary musical groups in the district. It was actually rescheduled from the week of the floods.  They performed and watched the other groups all morning before heading back to school.

Here’s just some silliness after school one day. I think that’s Clara’s RDR medal she’s sporting in the pic.


And then came Robert’s “awards” program. About halfway through, and before he had gotten his “award”, I got several calls from Chris and Becky within seconds of each other. I was texting them to tell them where I was and then Chris said I needed to get home because someone was on their way to look at a piece of our pool equipment that was broken and we were trying to get it fixed under our home warranty and it had already been a week. (Oh, and he couldn’t go because we only had the jeep that week because the rover was in the shop getting a new roof because the old one had a huge crack from hail during our bad flooding in April.) Becky was in pain and sent several texts all in a row. It’s very disconcerting when it happens because I can tell she’s scared and confused and disoriented and there’s just nothing I can do to help. Ahhhh! I snapped Robert’s picture when they called his name and then told a teacher he knows to please let him know I had to go home to meet someone there and I couldn’t stay for the end. I felt so bad. I’m sure he was sad and confused watching me walk out early :(


Both kids had dental appointments this past Monday. Clara had a cleaning (that was rescheduled due to her Main Event fun day) and Robert got sealants on his two 6 year molars that have erupted. I then picked them up early at the end of the day for an orthodontist appointment for Clara. He took x-rays and after comparing them to her two previous ones, he’s decided that it looks as if two of her bottom permanent teeth have changed direction a bit and are coming up between two teeth instead of pushing out the baby teeth. Looks like she may end up having to have those two baby teeth pulled in the future. Still keeping an eye on her bottom ankylosed tooth and it looks ok for now, but it will definitely have to be pulled at some point. He thinks we can wait and pull all three in about a year if they don’t correct themselves. Sigh.

Because STAAR testing is the most important part of a well-rounded education in Texas, there can be nothing that might possibly interfere with the kids test prep in the spring. Which means that teachers couldn’t even put it on a parent’s radar that “Hey, your kids are going to have to do a science project in the last couple of weeks of school so you might want to be thinking about that.” I had already decided that she probably wouldn’t participate in the science fair this year because Chris was out of town one weekend and I was having my wisdom teeth out the next and I just didn’t want to add anything more to these last couple of weeks of school. After STAAR testing was done though, the assignment went home that it would be due on the 24th. Ugh.

She didn’t have to enter it in the science fair but we figured why not if she has to do it anyway. We weren’t the only ones. There were probably 3-4 times as many projects this year because they were mandatory for at least some classes. For her experiment, she wanted to see if making water wheels out of different materials would change their speed. I don’t know why she chose that, but she was soooo excited about it so I didn’t try to change her mind. Chris helped her build the frame and wheels with three different paddles–spoons, cups and popsicle sticks. She recorded the three different water wheels and then slowed down the video to count the number of rotations per second. Chris helped make sure her calculations were correct, but we didn’t give her much assistance with any of her findings or presentation of them and she spent probably 12+ hours on her project that weekend. She was just plain giddy all weekend. That girl loves her some science. She received an honorable mention for her project. She wore this dress because it matched her project :) I couldn’t even get a good picture because they had the kids crammed in there so tight. The kids spent almost the entire day at the science fair. All of the grade levels came through to see the projects and the judging happened after lunch.

Wednesday was the 4th grade “awards”. I had asked Clara if she really wanted me to come and she seemed ok to not have me there. (They’re a pretty brutal waste of time.) At the last minute I decided I should suck it up and be supportive and I told her I would be there. Well, I found out that Becky had been taken by ambulance to the hospital after a seizure that morning and her husband wasn’t with her. Her oncologist had hoped that if they got her to her neurologist’s hospital that she would be more likely to get in for surgery. If she walked in, she could expect to wait about 24 hours to be seen! Well, they wouldn’t take her to that hospital, only to the nearest one, so they were releasing her after a few hours saying, “yep, tumor’s still there; you need to get into your neurologist”. I brought her lunch and when they discharged her, we dropped her prescriptions and I took her home. I needed to go back for her medicine, so that meant I would miss Clara’s awards. I felt bad that I was skipping out on it when she was now expecting me, but I knew she would understand.

Thursday was her class field trip. I decided one field trip was enough for me this year, plus the kids have a four day weekend and we were getting ready to go camping on Friday, so I wasn’t going on this one. I was working in the workroom for a couple of hours that morning though, so I was there when I heard that the buses got about 10 minutes away from the school before having to turn around and head back. The ranch had received too much rain and they had just lost power. Talk about disappointing :( I felt so bad for all the kids.

When she got home, I could tell she was sad and had been holding it in all day. Not long after, I got a call from the state park saying they were closing their trails and that although the park would still be open, the sites were going to be pretty flooded. I called Chris and we decided to go ahead and cancel. He tried to find something else nearby, but everything was full for the holiday weekend or was also experiencing flooding. Clara just couldn’t hold in in anymore. It was just too much disappointment for one day and she cried and cried. Emily was disappointed as well. She was going to come with us and it was going to be her first time camping. We got a call the next morning from the park and they did have to close. The lake rose 6 feet overnight and the bridge into the park was covered in water. This weather has been crazy!

Later that night after I had taken Emily home, I noticed Robert was acting weird. He didn’t eat much dinner and was laying on the couch under a blanket. I took his temperature and sure enough he was running a fever. As Chris and I talked about what we should do (we were going to have Emily Friday and Saturday while her dad was at work), I looked over just in time to see Max pee right at my feet. The day just kept getting better.

I let Becky know that night because I didn’t want her getting sick right now and possibly having to postpone her as of yet not scheduled surgery. Thankfully, he woke up Friday feeling fine with only a slightly elevated temperature, so we planned on having Emily until Saturday night. We were waiting for her to wake up to go pick her up when I got a call from my neighbor. Her 4 month old had just woken up coughing up foam and choking on it. Jamie needed me to drive her to the ER because she didn’t want to strap her into her carseat and potentially choke again.

I got dressed real fast and left the kids watching cartoons and headed across the street. The Children’s hospital is very close, so we were there in only a few minutes. I watched her 3 year old Barrett in the waiting room while she went back. The baby was fine and I don’t guess they ever really determined what the foam was. She was just very hesitant to feed her without getting her checked out first. Her hubby got to the hospital and brought me home before going back up when they discharged her. So I got showered and headed on over to pick Emily up. It really has been an eventful week over here.

It rained a lot on Friday, so the kids just played inside all day and watched movies. This morning I took all three kids to Barrett’s birthday party at an inflatable play place. They swam after lunch and then I made them a picnic in the driveway. They had hotdogs and smore’s from our camping food stash. When life gives you lemons…….

Emily is at home now. Maybe I’ll have her Monday? Becky has been assured she’ll have surgery by Wednesday but still hasn’t gotten the date and the kids get out of school on Thursday, so we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing and hopefully things will start to work themselves out real soon. And good news. I’m all caught up on my blogging! Woohoo!


The kindergarteners had an Easter egg hunt at school right before the holiday, which kinda surprised me. I didn’t think any schools did egg hunts anymore. They were scheduled to do it during recess in the afternoon but of course it rained that morning and was too muddy. Robert’s teacher had asked me to come up and help the bunny hide eggs and it was decided to do it in the library. All 130 kids. At the same time.

We had to wait until a class finished up in the library and then about four volunteers had about 10 minutes to hide almost 1500 eggs! Thankfully the librarian and library aide helped and we grabbed a couple of fifth graders that were walking by doing who knows what to assist as well :)


It actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I was pleasantly surprised that the teachers weren’t trying to keep them quiet and they just embraced the chaos. Of course they were like locusts and the room was cleared in only minutes so it wasn’t too much of an interruption for the rest of the school.


We did yard work, cleaned up the pool and got ready for company on Friday. During the night Friday, I woke up in excruciating pain on the right side of my mouth. I had had some dental work done on the left side earlier in the week and I assumed it was related somehow. I took some medicine but it wasn’t cutting it, so I didn’t sleep well at all that night.

Dan and Linda came to visit on Saturday afternoon. I was still hurting and so I hadn’t made it to the grocery store that morning like I had planned. We went to lunch at a Chinese restaurant because soup was the only thing I thought I’d be able to eat. Oh my goodness, the sensitivity to heat was off the charts! Chris left the restaurant to go get me some anbesol and told me to call my dentist. You know what, my dental adventures probably deserve their own post, so I’ll stop right here. Suffice it to say, I’m a big weenie and I hurt all weekend.

Chris and I had made plans to go see a Beatles cover band with one of his co-workers and his wife Saturday night. We were supposed to go the Saturday before, which was Chris’ birthday, but we canceled because we couldn’t find a babysitter. It turned out they had the wrong night and was actually the next Saturday. I was hurting pretty bad but we didn’t want to cancel on them again, so I downed some more pain reliever and toughed it out. Afterwards, around midnight, we had to run to the store for lunch stuff for Sunday.

The pain had settled into a single tooth by Sunday morning and was tolerable with meds, so I actually made it to church. Barely. It was no small feat getting us out the door as I wasn’t exactly myself the whole weekend and not really feeling it as far as holiday stuff goes. I did manage to get pictures of everyone after church. I think Chris grilled for lunch? I don’t remember; it’s kind of a blur.




The kids hunted for eggs in the front yard after church. Robert wanted to get full use out of his bunny ears he made at school. This year the bunny brought some of those confetti eggs, so everyone ended up with a head full of confetti, even Max :)









I felt bad that I was such a drag the whole weekend; I was camped out on the couch and napped the weekend away. The kids still managed to have fun and I’m pretty sure I didn’t scare Dan and Linda away for good. It’s times like these that I’m so very thankful that I have a family with fairly low expectations :)


Dan, Linda and Tim joined us here in Houston for Christmas this year. They got here on Christmas Eve Eve and Linda, Clara and Robert got straight to work on baking and decorating our sugar cookies. Amazingly, Robert helped until every cookie was cut and decorated. I thought for sure he’d last all of 5 minutes, but he was in it for the long haul.




The next day was Christmas Eve and we started the morning with biscuits and gravy courtesy of Chris. Then Grandma and I helped Robert and Clara with their gingerbread house construction that morning. Clara is holding up the North Pole in the third picture, in case you’re wondering.





I decided to do our big Christmas dinner on Thursday so that we could just be lazy on Christmas. For lunch, I had pre-made a few appetizers and put out a veggie tray so we weren’t overstuffed come dinnertime. I didn’t want to do a ham this year, so instead, I made pulled pork in the crock pot over mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, pasta salad and green bean casserole with pumpkin pie for dessert. We all got plenty stuffed and we didn’t have to be in the kitchen all day long.

The kids watched ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas before bed and humored us by posing in front of the tree for a few pictures. Max even moseyed into the picture and I was able to get some good ones with him. He really seemed to perk up for the holiday and has had a little more pep in his step this past week or so.

Right as they headed to bed, they realized they forgot to leave cookies and milk for Santa. Oy. I have to tell you, part of the magic is gone for me; I just wanted them in bed. I sent them downstairs by themselves and yelled for them to only give him one cookie because we were running low. And to make it one of the small ones. And then I told them to give him rice milk because we were almost out of the regular stuff.





Uncle Tim was sleeping in Robert’s room, so Robert and Clara were enjoying a sleepover in her room. There was some giggling going on when they first went to bed so we thought for sure it would be a long time before they were out for the night. Amazingly, it got quiet almost immediately and I peeked in to find them both fast asleep not five minutes after they laid down.

They were instructed to stay upstairs until 7:00 a.m. when they could come down and look through their stockings as we waited for everyone else to make their way downstairs. They were up at about 6:15 so they were dying to come down to find out what awaited them.




Santa brought Robert some lego sets that he asked for and also a few Dinsey Cars. Clara asked to be surprised by Santa this year, so she received this snap circuit set that she loves.




Max even got some yummy Christmas treats from Santa this year.



While the kids were enjoying their treats from Santa, I got some monkeybread in the oven so it would be ready and waiting for us when we finished opening gifts.




Chris got three Jeep hats from me and the kids. He’s lost his last two, so we got him some back ups this time.



Clara had been eyeing these silly socks at Target for some time, so that’s what Robert got her. He also got her the third book in the Menagerie trilogy that she loves so much (that she devoured in two days) and a 6 pack of cute no-show socks. She switched socks all day on Christmas Day and then used them as cozy Beanie Boo sleeping bags, so I’d say he hit a homerun with her gift.



I wanted to get her reaction to this polar bear robe she opened from Grandma and Grandpa. It was the one last thing she had asked for that she really, really wanted.



And it made her quite happy. Robert got a cool, red Ninjago robe.



I looked over to see the polar bear attacking this big box and had to snap a picture :)



Washi tape! Clara’s been a washi taping fool these last few days. Don’t leave anything laying around in this house or it may end up getting washi-d.






Nerf accessories and skates from Bia and Pawpaw. She has a special pen to write secret messages on the darts and these glasses allow her to read the messages.





I didn’t request my family pic in front of the tree quick enough, so I’m the only one still in pajamas. Clara wore her belt with her nerf gun strapped to it all day.




The kids headed outside for a nerf war that afternoon. Robert had his serious face down. Clara couldn’t do it without a smile though. The rest of the day we spent watching The Love Bug, playing with new toys and eating leftovers and then we made pizzas that night.



Everyone humored me and let me get a picture of all of us on Friday morning. We then had a nice breakfast together at a local cafe before they got on the road to head back home. It was a fun, low-key, low-stress few days and I loved being able to have everyone together in our new home. I’m also grateful for a family with fairly low holiday expectations :) Everyone seemed to have a good time with minimal prep or work on my part. It was a lovely holiday indeed.



The Polar Express

The last big thing to get through this past week was our ride on The Polar Express. It was a struggle to get through the weekend, but we did it!

The Polar Express runs on the Texas State Railrod from the station in Palestine, so about a three hour trip for us. I made reservations over a month early and weekend evening times were already starting to sell out. We decided to do the 5:00 Sunday one even though it would mean a late night getting home. On Friday, Chris decided maybe we should spend Saturday night there so as to break up the trip. It was a rainy, dreary weekend and rained most of the drive there and all night Saturday.

Chris slept terribly that night and upon waking on Sunday decided he was probably getting sick. He felt pretty terrible and we had an entire rainy, cold day to kill in a small town. If we hadn’t spent the night, Chris would not have been up for the drive there and it would’ve just been me and the kids. But he hung in there and downed the Sudafed and cough drops all day. We hung out at the hotel until checkout time. Then we had lunch, drove around downtown and went to see The Good Dinosaur. 

We got to the station early and took some pictures and browsed the gift shop. The rain had finally subsided and the sun even started to peak out from the clouds right before sunset. I liked the idea of a 5:00 start time so that we’d get the daytime and nighttime experience.







They were so excited when the train pulled up to the station.









Our waiter kept trying to get kids to dance in the aisle with her when the Christmas carols started. Robert wasn’t quite sure at first, but she finally talked him into it. He never took his eyes off of her and couldn’t wipe this grin off of his face.





They got sleigh bells from Santa and snow globes as we got to keep our coffee mugs as well.




So, the kids had fun, Chris survived but wanted nothing more than to be home in bed and I was just giddy that we made it through Sunday. Barely, but we made it! Woohoo! Because Chris felt so bad, I got to drive home. I just love driving down dark country highways at night. There were thunderstorms predicted as well, but the rain stayed away, so at least it was nice and dry the whole way. Only four more days ’til Christmas vacation!