Italian Thanksgiving– Getting There

Chris and I have been talking about taking the kids to Italy ever since our trip there last September. Chris and his co-worker Vance were in Rome for two weeks and his wife Jenna and I flew together and joined them near the end of their trip. The whole time I kept saying how much fun it would be to bring the kids. Fast forward a couple of months and Chris had lost his job and spent several months job hunting. All of a sudden, a European vacation wasn’t looking very feasible.

Chris’ new job is remote and our finances had stabilized, so at the end of August we decided to just do it. Chris’ airline perks like priority boarding and usage of the lounge expire at the end of the year, so we decided Thanksgiving would be a perfect time to travel. Plus, it’s not Thanksgiving in Italy, so we wouldn’t have huge crowds to contend with. We decided to surprise the kids, so they had no idea until we picked them up from school and headed to the airport. Since we had talked about a trip to Italy possibly next summer, they didn’t question why we were getting their passports. We just told them it takes a while to get them. They should have known something was up when we were rushing to get them as soon as possible since we’re massive procrastinators. Side note: Being born outside of a hospital, in say, a birth center like Robert, means that you can’t just use the short form birth certificate. They may not be able to actually tell you why it will be rejected, except to say that it doesn’t have an “I” on it like your other child’s birth certificate (which looks identical except that it has an “I”). You can ask what the “I” means, but they either are telling the truth and don’t know or they enjoy watching you become increasingly frustrated because you made sure you crossed every t and dotted every i before you came in and you just want to know what the “I” stands for! Google nor the US Dept. of State never mentioned an I! So then you will have to leave your appointment until you can secure the long form (which could take up to 25 business days if ordered online) or go into the vital statistics office. And then proceed to make another appointment and possibly have to check your child out of school early for it because passport processing hours are not at all convenient. Sigh. FYI- The “I” on the short form stands for institution, aka hospital. Any birth at home, on the side of the road, or a birth center will not have an I and will require the long form for a passport.

On Friday the 16th, we were set to leave on a 7:15 p.m. flight to Rome with a four hour layover in Frankfurt. Not wanting to cut it too close on time since it was the Friday before Thanksgiving, we planned to pick the kids up from school at 2:30. Boy am I glad we did, because we got in the car to go get them and it wouldn’t start. Lovely start to the holiday :) Took the Jeep to get both kids, got home, jump started the Rover and drove to Auto Zone. The guy was great; checked it out, found out it was bad and had it replaced very quickly. We got checked in to our flight right at two hours early so we were able to relax for a bit in the United lounge. The kids enjoyed all the perks that come with having a dad who’s a frequent flyer.

Thankfully the flight was uneventful. I don’t think Robert slept a wink. The rest of us just dozed a bit here and there. Clara’s screen wasn’t working, but we had brought a handheld console and she had her Kindle, so it wasn’t complete torture. The flight attendant even came over and praised her on being so understanding and then gave us some frequent flyer miles for the inconvenience. There was an occasional lament from Chris over being stuck in economy. He’s become a bit spoiled from all of the years flying business on international flights for work.

We were so tired when we got to Frankfurt. Chris was only allowed to bring one person in the Lufthansa lounge, and he knew better than to ditch me with a kid, so we found a comfortable booth in a restaurant where we could all sit together for lunch.


After a short one hour flight, we landed in Rome around 5:45 p.m. on Saturday and it was about a 45 minute taxi drive to the hotel. Robert finally conked out in the taxi after around 15 hours of travel. We stayed in the same hotel that Chris has stayed in for work these past few years. When we booked the room, they recognized his name and even gave us a discount. Since it was late and we were exhausted, we dropped our bags and then walked a couple of blocks to get some take away pizza and a “coca”. Had to get pics of their first Italian pizza even if it was just fast food. We ate it there, but they’ll cut you a large rectangular piece (you pay by weight), warm it up, fold it in half, wrap a paper around it and you can eat it as you walk down the street. We had it several times because restaurants don’t open until 7:00 or 8:00 in Italy, but after a long day of sight-seeing, you just want to get back to the hotel and not have to get back out.





After showers and full bellies, we all slept really well that first night.


Judd Family Christmas Vacation- Part 4

We wanted to leave Pecos really early on Monday, but we ended up sleeping in a little. I had meant to raid my parent’s pantry Sunday night and grab cereal so we could just eat a quick breakfast before hitting the road, but I forgot. So, it was almost 9:00 when we pulled into McDonalds on the way out of town. The kids sat down as we were ordering and then Clara ran back up to tell us she found Pawpaw :) He was at the table next to them having coffee with a neighbor. So he sat and chatted with us as we finished up our breakfast.

Chris was feeling ok when we left and we had a long, 5.5 hour drive that day to our final stop at Inks Lake State Park near Austin. As we got closer, he started feeling worse and worse. By that evening, he felt terrible and didn’t sleep much at all he was so congested, blowing his nose non-stop with a killer sore throat. Turns out juniper was through the roof there and I’m going to go out on a limb and say he’s highly allergic to juniper.

I headed into town the next morning to get meds and kleenex. Unfortunately they didn’t seem to help much. He was a trooper though and managed to hang out when Dan and Linda arrived for our belated Christmas celebration around lunchtime. Linda graciously offered to bring out an entire Christmas dinner so we had roast with all the fixins and pasta salad and green bean casserole of course with apple crisp for dessert. We had lunch right away before everything got cold.

Before Dan and Linda arrived, the kids were and trying out a couple of their gifts they got in Pecos, including their rc cars. Robert got a pogo stick and Clara got stilts. She was doing pretty good on them after a few minutes. Robert couldn’t quite get the hang of his pogo stick though so after falling off one time, he angrily told me that he wanted me to throw it in a lake of lava :)


After our yummy lunch, we opened gifts. It was a beautiful day, minus the juniper.


Several months back I had the idea of painting these little wooden dolls for the kids when they first started watching Gilligan’s Island. They were making scenes out of legos and making mini figures to resemble the characters so I thought they’d really like these. I let Linda in on my idea and asked if she’d like to make them since she’s a painter and all and she said yes :) They turned out so cute and the kids love them.






This is his “Why?” face. He loves his big Why? book he got from Uncle Tim.




And a couple more Modarri cars to round out Robert’s collection, along with a case to carry them all.


Grandpa is known for his creative gift wrapping skills. This flag holder required three boxes to get it wrapped just right. And she got an owl flag for all seasons.





I’m glad they could join us, but I hate that Chris was feeling so horrible. He went through about 3 boxes of kleenexes those couple of days. Linda’s allergies flared up when she got to the park too so it wasn’t quite the picture perfect holiday we all hoped it would be.

That night before bed, we decided to go ahead and leave the next morning to come home, which was a day earlier than we had planned. It was obvious that he wasn’t going to get better until we got him out of there and would probably be dealing with an infection soon. It was a bummer because our last excursion was going to be hiking at Enchanted Rock, which I had really been looking forward to. But that’s ok. There’s always next time. We just needed to get him home.

So that night and the next morning I tried to do as much of the packing up as I could so he could save his energy and not go outside until he absolutely had to. I’m a total wimp and haven’t pulled the camper, nor have I ever pulled any type of trailer in my entire life, so I was sick with worry with the thought of me having to drive. Pulling a camper that I can’t see around. Through the hill country. And Austin. Both of which I am unfamiliar with. Turns out I’m a terrible person and Chris drove :(  I have done all of the unloading and camper cleanup, washed about 10 loads of laundry and bagged 6 bags of pine needles though so I hope that at least makes up for some of it. He was able to breathe better as we got on the other side of Austin, but then he started feeling worse and by the time we got home around 2:00, he was running a fever :( He is slowly improving and has been fever free all day, but he’s still feeling pretty puny.

And so ends our 2016 Christmas Vacation. Hoping we start 2017 illness free!


Judd Family Christmas Vacation- Part 3

Moving right along…..

Chris was feeling better during the day. We had lunch at my parent’s house and then he left me and Robert to do laundry and lounge while he and Clara headed out to the farm to get the camper set up. That evening, everyone met out at the farm to roast hot dogs and s’mores while kids played and adults chatted.




The next day was Christmas Eve. Tim and Linsey and the kids got to town and we all went to Myrt Myrt and Joe’s house around lunchtime. We played a couple of games, like this one called Googly Eyes.




And the kids played Pie Face. I think it would be funnier to watch adults that don’t want to actually get hit in the face with whip cream play. As it was, all the kids just kept turning the dial until they got hit in the face.



It was really nice outside, so the kids were in and out all day long jumping on the trampoline and the dads took them down the street to ride their bikes at the skate park. I knew I’d be a nervous wreck watching them, so I opted not to go. Clara had a pretty bad wreck only minutes after arriving.








We had dinner then donned our festive hats and got down to business after it got dark.










After the kids got done with it, the birthday girl got to take a whack at the snowman.




Here Cody is stuffing his jacket with candy alongside the kids.


Wyatt and Clara posed with their kill.



We headed out front to sing Christmas carols and Santa must’ve heard us, because he and Mrs. Claus  came around the corner with their bag of presents. The Grinch showed up though and took off with the bag. Thankfully Clara managed to get it back and we could get on with the festivities.



The Grinch was still lurking as Santa was emptying his sack.






I looked down and this lovely sight greeted me. Ewww! Don’t think he wore shoes at all that day.













James, a friend from church, joined us for dinner and fun and Santa even had a gift or two especially for him. I’ve only met James a time or two, but I can honestly say I don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone who is so filled with joy and love as this guy. He loooooves everybody and lets them know it. Just can’t keep it in :) I think he enjoyed himself.







I was sitting by Clara and Linsey and Tenley were in front of me, so I pretty much only took pictures of them.



I had to capture Robert’s excitement upon receiving this monstrosity of a toy that he really really wanted. It’s a Power Ranger Super Charged Dinosaur Mega Something or other and he LOVES it.


Tenley is really into horses, so she went nuts when she opened this gift. She was clawing at it trying to get it out of the package and then started kissing it. It was so sweet.


It was after 10:00 when we got back to the farm but I forced the kids to take a quick shower anyway. They were not happy with me. Everyone else had decided to open everything on Christmas Eve, but my kids were pretty disappointed to not have anything to open on Christmas morning, so we saved the gifts they made for each other and also their gift from us and then got up early and drove into town to see what Santa had brought.

Santa brought Robert three more Modarri cars and a car hauler and Clara got a Kindle, not to mention an overflowing amount of stocking stuffers.



We got both kids rc cars. Chris really did a lot of the gift buying this year. He researched cars and went with real hobby shop ones that we can replace pieces on. He also helped choose both of their bikes for their birthdays.



On top of that, on his own, he decided to help them make gifts for each other. He came up with the ideas, purchased what he needed and helped them make it. Clara got a string art owl to hang on her wall and Robert received a clock painted with all of the racing flags, with a picture of his favorite race car driver’s car at the bottom. He’s a good daddy.






I had packed a bag to bring in to town with the kids and my shoes and some of our clothes so we could just jump in the car in our jammies and get ready for church at Bia and Pawpaws. Wouldn’t you know it, I left the bag in the camper. So after breakfast, Chris made the drive back out to the farm to get my bag. We had church, lunch at Myrt’s and then back out to the farm for rest and to figure out how on earth we would get all this stuff packed into the camper. We went back into town for dinner and to say our goodbyes because we were leaving early the next morning for the final stop on our Christmas tour.

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!