Sunday, April 10, 2016

And then this happened...

It has been far too long since my last blog post.  I guess because things have just been chugging along, mostly normal as usual.  Or in the case of our house, abnormal as usual.

My parents came for a visit from Wyoming.  We hit the aquarium and the zoo and had a blast!  We've been loving our Texas spring weather with lots of bike rides and picnics.

We spent an amazing spring break camping with awesome friends.

One of our recent awesome highlights was Grace's 9th birthday.  My baby girl is so not a baby anymore.  I get emotional on all of my kids birthday's, but this was such a fun day for Grace our whole family that I didn't cry once.  We started the day with a family breakfast at Waffle House.  I played hooky from school to spend the day with my sweet baby.

After breakfast I took Grace for a special treat haircut and one of those obnoxious little girl spa places.  It was early on a Wednesday, so we had the whole place to ourselves.



After her haircut, we came home and played until dinner.  She choose Chinese takeout as her special birthday dinner treat and a cookie cake for desert.  Then presents and more play.  After she had opened all the gifts from her brothers, sisters, grandparents, and aunts, she turned to me with a brilliant little lit up face and said, "Thank you so much for the wonderful birthday.  I loved everyone of my presents!" Music to a Mama's ears!!!

Then the very next day this happened...

Someone stole our travel trailer.  Our brand new to us, only owned since November, present from Brian's parents, our beloved family travel trailer was stolen in the middle of the night from the storage facility, just a few miles from our house.  Someone broke into the area, cut through a back gate and through an alarm cable.  They took someone else's trailer first and then when no police arrived (because it turns out the alarm system was not turned on) they came back and stole ours, too.

It has been over a week now since it was taken.  No, it hasn't been recovered. Yes, we have insurance. Yes, we will get back some kind of settlement.  No, we don't have any idea if it will be enough to get as nice a trailer as we had before.

We are all understandably very blue about this event.  It's, of course, just a thing, just a piece of property.  But even in the short time we owned it, we filled it with a million lovely family memories. We also filled it with a lot of personal items and sentimental things.  The pink fleece blanket from Grace's first big girl bed is in that trailer.  The Spider-man sleeping bag that JoJo got for Christmas is there. Five brand new pairs of kids hiking boots in all different colors of the rainbow are tucked in a storage bin under the couch. Our hammock that held all my kids for hours and hours of swinging.

They all just drove away in the night with a mean spirited stranger.

But it's just a thing.  And we'll get new things.  And we'll go camping again and make new memories. JoJo is already scouring the Craigslist pages for the perfect new trailer. Say a little prayer for our trailer search, that we can find just the right fit for our just right sized family.  Sleeps 8 and doesn't weigh too much for our van are sort of hard to find.

And hopefully sooner than later.  I just read an article that hiking is good for your brain and that it improves the symptoms of kids with ADHD.  I'm a believer.  I need to get my kiddos back to the woods and quick!!!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Camping Makes Me a Better Parent: Reflections on a Nearly Perfect Holiday Season

As you might have guessed we did some camping during my Christmas vacation break. As soon as my vacation started we packed up the trailer and headed off to New Mexico to spend the holiday with Grandma and Grandpa.

We celebrated our "family" Christmas a few days early.  Everyone got hats and scarves for their winter camping trip.
I must say, camping really does make me a better parent.  It probably doesn't hurt that my kids are the best versions of themselves when we are out in nature together.  Walking trails, collecting firewood, throwing rocks, and climbing every tree in site, makes them all happier than a hundred hours on a tablet or in front of a TV.

Our first stop for a picnic at a crazy little city park in a tiny town in Texas.

"I love my bwother!"
And it makes me happier, too.  No distractions, no real world problems.  Our biggest worry is whether to have smores or just plain marshmallows.  I'm more calm in the forest, more centered.  All my attention can be focused on my family, where it always should be, but never seems to be in the craziness of home.

An old time gazebo was perfect for climbing!
Our first stop was Dinosaur Valley State Park.  The weather was in the 70's (don't you love Texas winters), the campground was nearly empty, and the hiking was great! Prepare to be overwhelmed with shameless "I love my adorable kids" pics!

Dinosaurs are big.  JoJo is small!

Pretty little Kit Kat :)

"Look Mama, I'm a bird in a bird nest!"

Full of the Nic, as my grandma would say!

But, also sweet as pie!

The water was too high to cross, but apparently we were standing right next to dinosaur tracks.
Daddy and his kiddos!

Daddy the playground equipment.

I see you!

We came across these bones while hiking.  Seriously!

Hanging around.

Sisters are forever!

Next stop was Clovis, New Mexico!  We spent the holiday with Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Cathy and Uncle Craig!  The kids had an amazing time, they were completely spoiled with gifts and attention, and they were in heaven! We went to the park, did Aunt Cathy's hair, Opened far too many presents (and Uncle Craig will tell you they required far too many batteries), and we played with the coolest toy ball ever!


Pretty in Purple....

...and Pretty in Pink!

And just cute as a bug!

Aunt Cathy has the patience of a saint!

Silly kids!

That's a lot of stockings!!!

Uncle Craig installed about 150 batteries on Christmas morning.

If you don't have one of these, you need to get one!

A giant kids hamster wheel.

Push Grandma, push!

The hamsters inside the wheel.

Feeling blue :)

Christmas dinner!

My handsome Boo Bear!

Birds of a feather....

....flock together!

Speaking of birds!

A beautiful New Mexico sunset!  I miss the "Land of Enchantment".

And then the forecast called for snow.  Which we thought would be wonderful, until the forecast started to call for blizzards.  So we hurriedly packed up the van and trailer to try and get out of the bad weather zone before the storm hit. We almost made it.

We stopped for the night at San Angelo State Park.  The next morning we woke up to snow and we ended up driving through it all the way to San Antonio.  We got home a few days earlier than we expected.  I was not very happy that we had missed out on our coming home camping trip.  But we did celebrate our new year with our traditional batch of homemade fried won-tons!  That always cheers me up!

Just outside of Brownfield, Texas.  Thus the name.

Look!  There's...nothing!

Oh, look!  More nothing, next to that oil well!

Watching for tumbleweeds.

Just outside of San Antonio.  

And then we hit snow.

And more snow.  Eek!  Wish we could have gotten out to play!

Finally home after the LONG drive.

It's won-ton time!

Everyone took a try at filling and rolling!

Haven and Grace are getting to be pros!

After a couple of days home I just couldn't stand it!  I had to get outdoors again.  We are lucky to have some campgrounds very close by, so we packed the trailer back up and headed to Brazos Bend State Park.  It's only 45 minutes away, but feels like you're really out in the woods. Brazos Bend is famous for its alligators, but we didn't see any the whole time.  The weather was cold and drizzly, but it don't slow down our hiking, biking and tree climbing!  It was a great trip to top of a really, really great vacation!

Four out of six ain't bad.

And five!

And six!

The first of a kabillion trees we climbed.

Daddy and all his peeps.

I think there is a JoJo hidden in the center of that hug!

Do not feed my alligators!

Grumpy dwarf.
Hot chocolate... a winter camping staple!

Just hanging out!
This might have been the coolest tree climbing pic ever if someone hadn't decided to put that stupid bike rack in our way!

More climbing.

And more!

Spanish Moss was EVERYWHERE!  

Taking a breaking.

And doing some sleep walking.

The end of the trail.
And now we are back in the groove of Spring semester.  Back to work, back to school, back to regular life.  Regular life is not as fun as camping.  If I could somehow figure out how to make a living while traveling around the county in an RV I would.  Crazy, huh?

In the meantime, I guess I'll have to keep myself content with daydreams about our next trip.  Lake Livingston, here we come!
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