Sunday, April 13, 2014

Road Trip: Texas, Day 10

Day 10

6:16am

Ripped from our beds while it was still dark by screaming fire alarms throughout the building. 

I grabbed our room key and my phone (but not our car keys) and went out of our room to find our kids covering their ears and still in their beds. 

I stayed calm and said, "Alright kids, let's go."

J grabbed her flip-flops and headed towards the door, O wondered what was going on, H and Z doubted the validity of the alarm and asked why we had to go outside. 

In response, I asked them, "Where's Daddy?"

Some organization we have! No one had any natural sense of danger while fire alarms are blaring all around us. 

J was obedient to my instructions, but the three boys took the "Question everything," to mean, "Question Mama about everything." And C had gone to the front desk to find out what was going on. 

We used to practice fire drills when kids were little, but it's probably time to reinstitute some kind of plan in these situations. 

We walked outside and waited by our Sequoia, C joined us soon after, with news that it was a prank. 

The air was already warm. We could not hear the alarms outside, so it was quiet and dark. Better to be there than in the room with alarms blaring. So we waited until they were shut down. 

On the bright side, we were up early for the drive home. 

8:30am

Car loaded. Breakfast had. On the road. I'm driving. (I typed this note before I was actually driving.)

10:27am

Stopped in College Station, TX for potty/snack break at Chick Fil-A. 

12:25pm

Stopped in McGregor, TX at Brookside Brothers Grocery for potty and to switch drivers. 

2:15pm

Stopped in Brownwood, TX at Stripes for potty. This one was disgusting. The bathrooms were wrecked and the fresh made food area was not appetizing. 

Moving on. 


3:24pm

Stopped in outskirts of Abilene, TX for gas. $3.45/gallon. 

4:14pm

Stopped for linner and potty in Sweetwater, TX at Subway and Golden Chick. We blew the diet one more time on vacation to have some of their crunchy-good chicken tenders and some of the most heavenly rolls ever.   What I mean is that they are so good, there will be an endless supply of them on the buffet table in heaven and they'll contain no calories or fat, but all the buttery, tender goodness. 


This is pretty much a halfway point between Houston and Albuquerque. We stayed here on our way...but now we are trying to do this in one day. One long, exhausting day. 

But we're still having fun. 

I'll be driving again from here till about 7:30pm. Then C will drive the rest, during the nighttime parts. 

7:00pm MST/8:00pm CST

Crossed border. We are back in New Mexico. 

7:30pm

Stopped in Clovis, NM at the DQ to let the kids run around on their play set and get everyone a treat. 

After ordering and paying, word was given that they ran out of ice cream. The kids got some extra minutes on the playground while we waited for new ice cream to be churned. 

We loaded up and realized J never got her mint chip Dilly bar. C ran back in to grab it and found out they only had the plain chocolate-covered ones. Good thing J was flexible. 

C is driving the rest of the way ... About 3-1/2 hours left in our trip. I started getting a headache about an hour ago. No good. 

8:15pm

Stopped again to refuel. $3.46/gallon. 

10:56pm

I took some Tylenol and snoozed off and on while C drove. I tried to stay semi-awake and alert to be certain he wasn't falling asleep at the wheel. 

At one point, I thought he was snoring and grabbed his arm so suddenly he probably almost swerved off the road. I was feeling delirious with exhaustion and headache. I'd confused H's snoring for C. 

Poor H has spent years being nasally congested. We have tried so many remedies. Before the trip it was slightly worse than normal, but I decided to wait it out, hoping it was just a cold on top of normal stuffiness. By the end of the trip, he is much worse and his breathing sounds labored. I will definitely take him in to the doctor when we are home. He may have a sinus infection or something. The poor guy has ridden most of the trip home with tissues lodged in a nostril. 

Anyway, a few minutes ago, I was jolted awake from my snooziness only to feel overwhelming nausea. I rolled down the window and that, plus some prayer and deep breathing kept me from vomiting. Between the headache and the curvy mountainside roads we were crossing on our way back into Albuquerque, I think my body has had enough of this long drive. 

Thankfully, the kids slept through that portion of the drive or a couple of them most definitely would have gotten ill on the curves. 

11:29pm

Home again. Time to hit the hay. I'm exhausted. 

Mmmm...so glad it'll be my own bed tonight. 



9:15am (Sunday morning)

I slept like a rock. 

I woke to the baseball crowds cheering (for me) over at the fields nearby. It's good to be home again. I wonder what morning will sound like when we make our home in Texas. 

I love it there, but there are definitely things I've become accustomed to here in New Mexico and I will miss those things. I will miss so many people here, too. 

The good news is, we have discovered that we CAN make it in a long day of driving (even though I think I prefer to stop in Sweetwater - the midpoint - for the night. So when we miss our family and friends in New Mexico too much, we are just a day's drive (or two) away. 

Moving yard sale countdown: 6 days. 







Road Trip: Texas, Day 9

Day 9

I woke early. C and the kids were still sleeping. I used the quiet time to read my Bible and talk to God for a while. I also posted to the blog for the day before. 

By 8:45am, the others were waking for breakfast. The regular routine of breakfast at the hotel has been good for us, but I'm growing tired of the same ol' choices, day after day. All I really want are more Texas-shaped waffles. But I limited myself this vacation. 


After breakfast, we headed to some new-to-us neighborhoods, closer to downtown Houston. Ideally, a shorter commute for C would be great, unfortunately, we are not city-life people. 

We did give it some thought though. We ultimately decided we couldn't do it. 

While in midtown (Houston Heights), C visited Penzey's Spices. It's his happy place, that store. 





I don't think we'd fit in living down in midtown, but of all the city spaces, I liked that part best. It appears to have had some urban renewal in recent years to turn what may have formally been quite run down into more of a trendy, artistic community. The markets are small and specific, the homes are mostly historic (in appearance) with splashes of fresh paint and the center divide down the main boulevard has unique sculptures evenly spaced for fun photo spots or artistic pondering. The Art Car museum is in that neighborhood. So is Penzey's. Everyone seems to be walking where they need to go. 


A small part of me thinks she would like being a city girl - bringing her basket on wheels to town, browsing tiny shops and just buying what she'd use that day. But the way I imagine it, that is more of a solo life. An independent girl takes on a big city and supports herself with the arts. It's just not practical for our lives as a family. Most of me knows this definitely and so I squash that girl down and only let her out in the in-between moments and in my imagination. 

That girl seems a bit selfish. She wants more time for herself and more quiet moments. The good news is that she can find happiness in other surroundings besides the city and she finds joy in the small moments of solitude. She doesn't need long periods of time alone and sometimes having one-on-one time with another family member or good friend is surprisingly satisfying and special. 

I'm talking like a crazy person. 

Anyway, overall, no. I do not want to live in the city. Ideally, we'd live on a waterfront. Water soothes me. And it's interesting!  When I think about water, I think about homeschooling opportunities. Exploring. I think about kids swimming on hot days. Refreshment. I think about the Lord's replenishing grace and goodness. Living Water. 

All good stuff. I want to think on these things and living by the water would be a constant reminder of my purpose and God's provision. 

Even in Texas, living by the water costs a premium. But I'm praying God will work this out for us. That He leads us to a house that blesses us and allows us to bless others. 

If not the water, then a house with pretty wilderness right on the property. We have been pent up in a cookie cutter neighborhood for too many years -- these kids need space to run and to discover. 

Lord knows what is best. 

Lunch at Smashburger was met with mixed reviews. C and I had it in San Diego and we liked it there and here. I think mostly, we were getting to the end of our vacation and the kids were either bummed or anxious to go home. 



After exploring Houston city life, we headed over to Deer Park. No. Not a good fit. Although this is where H felt the most at home (he likes all the restaurants none of us like, too, if that says anything).

We drove down Bay City Blvd. to look at a couple neighborhoods there. We love the park in Brook Forest and we spent time playing and exploring there. But the houses all seem quite rundown and stuck in the 70s. Besides, now that our kids let their real selves show to other kids in the park and we already got a talkin' to by an adult who decided she new best what was happening (and it was all our kids' fault), I'm not sure we would be welcome additions there. 





Brook Woods is the next door subdivision and C and I really loved it. It was so quiet. And that's why we can't live there. It wouldn't be so quiet once we moved in!

Ultimately, we really like the communities of League City and Seabrook. Unless God springs a big surprise on us, I think we will end up in one of those two places. 

The day was just about spent. We went back to our hotel and packed most things up. We got some loaded in the car. 

H had been on about spending birthday money on a cowboy hat and belt buckle. So when packing was as complete as it could be before morning,  we went by Cavender's Boot City and he realized he didn't have enough for both. He ended up with a fancy leather belt and a silver longhorn buckle. 

C dropped the kids and me at the hotel and they swam in the pool for a bit, while he went to get an easy dinner for kids and sushi from Sushi Coast for our last night on vacation. 

To bed by 11:00pm. Not the best bedtime the night before departure!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Road Trip: Texas, Day 8

Day 8

C woke me this morning just before 6:00am on his way out of our hotel room. He was heading to the dining room for breakfast and to complete the standard job application for the company with whom he was interviewing today. 

I spent time in the Word and did some house searches on my tablet. Eventually, I rose to get the kids rolling for breakfast. 

The meals here at the hotel aren't spectacular, but they are "good enough."  Additionally, they are free. Or included. For some reason, our kids love hotel food. So they all get out of bed with a good attitude and head over to the dining area each new day. 

C texted me when he could to update me about when he arrived, the check-in process, how each section of interview went, etc. I missed him. 

After breakfast, J and O joined me for a walking adventure. C had the Sequoia, so our only options were to hang out at the hotel or take a walk to see what was right around the hotel. The older boys opted to sit around the hotel and play video games. Not surprising. But I didn't argue because taking just the younger two would make things easier on me, which is the option I choose every time while on vacation. 

So we set out and headed right down the major road our hotel is on. J, naturally wary, stayed by me cautiously. Where there were wide sidewalks, she walked next to me and often reached over to hold my hand as cars and busses went whizzing by. 

O, on the other hand, who is rarely cautious enough and always abounding in energy unless he's ill, ran (or skipped) way ahead, often teetering on the edge of the busy road like a balance beam. I had to keep reminding him to be as far away from the edge as the walkway allowed, as well as reeling him back from being too far ahead that he could not hear my instructions. 

J and O are good for one another. J constantly mothers him and helps him learn to stop and think about things, while O does a good job helping her not to take life too seriously and to occasionally throw some caution to the wind. I have no doubt that left to their own devices, they could probably work themselves out of any situation, as often as they manage to work their way into many situations. These people are going to be outstanding adults someday and I can't wait to know them then. For now, I'm blessed that they call me Mama and that I get to witness their personalities and gifts on a daily basis. 

The first shopping center contained a Dollar Tree store and a cool comic bookstore, among other things. We visited Dollar Tree first, so we could pick out some sand toys to take with us to the beach in the afternoon. 

I forgot to mention that as we crossed the parking lot toward Dollar Tree, I kept O close and at one point, a car was pulling out and he stuck his arm out in front of me the way parents naturally do when they're driving and must stop quickly. Maybe it's just me, but I instinctively stick my arm out in front of whomever is sitting in the passenger seat as if to protect them from flying through the windshield (those nationally certified seat belts just can't be enough).  I pondered his action a moment and felt proud; his reaction to a car pulling out in front of us, was to see it and protect me. I had also seen it and slowed our group down while it backed out, thus protecting them, but for a lot of years, O didn't pay attention to his environment and this was a small indication to me that he is learning to have some caution of his own in the world.  A good thing. 

Over at the comic bookstore -- Bedrock City -- we browsed a bit and ultimately walked out of their with three Captain America t-shirts because they had them on a good sale. We got one for Daddy and J and O each got one.  I thought about getting them for the boys, but decided against it because they didn't even want to come. This way J and O were rewarded for their interest in getting exercise and exploring the world. 

In the next shopping center, was my goal: Nothing Bundt Cakes. C hadn't gotten a cake on his birthday and while my goal was to surprise him on his actual day, there was not a window for me to sneak out and get to this bakery without him. But his interview gave me that window. 

The kids were rewarded again with cake samples in the shop. I labored over my decision for the cake for a few minutes, when J offered her logical advice: why not order a dozen Bundtinis (cupcake size) so we could get a mix of flavors?

Great idea. This girl is smart. 

The lady in the shop suggested we get a box with three each of their top four flavors. Done and done. 

I looked for candles, but could only find these things called sparklers. So I grabbed a 4 and a 1 and some matches and we were out the door. 

Everyone was carrying something, so it was time to walk back to the hotel before any whining began. The walk back began the same as our walk down. Dr. Danger ran ahead and Miss Cautious stuck close. 

Ironically, it was J who found danger in a grassy section we crossed where there was no sidewalk. She stepped into an approximately 6" hole, disguised by grass cut the same height as all the surrounding grass. It turned her ankle and she crumpled to the ground in shock, pain and tears. Poor kid. 

O came back to check on his sister and offered to carry her bag. She was able to stand and leaned on me as she hobbled and whimpered the rest of our way back.  When she saw her big brothers, she was so happy to tell them about our adventure, she was instantly cured from her fall. She walked fine the rest of the day. 

C texted me that his first interview went fantastically. There were some clear God moments in it and things were going well. 

We all sat in the dining room for awhile and Z and O went out to play basketball for a few minutes here and there. I was looking at more homes online and H and J were racing one another on their Nintendo DS's.  I told the kids I'd take them next door to McDonalds soon for lunch, as it was approaching that time. 

At 12:08pm, C called. He was heading back. All the interviews went well and they said they'd follow up with him next week. He also said he was starving, so we waited for his return, and went back to Jimmy Changa's instead of having McDonalds. 

After that, we headed for the beach.

But first, we stopped in at Target because C wanted to find an umbrella for the beach. I wanted to get some bottled water since we were out and went to that section. J came with me, while the boys followed their dad to get the umbrella. 

As we stepped out of the water aisle, a Target crew member asked if I needed help finding anything. I told him I didn't and then said, "Well now I'm looking for my husband." 

He looked at J and me and asked, "Is he wearing a Captain America shirt?"  The question surprised me, but I told him he was.  He said, "I just passed him in Sporting Goods."

I felt puzzled and a little weird that he knew who my husband was when he said, "Captain America, huh, must be a family thing," then he walked off. 

I looked over at J and she was wearing her new shirt, too. I found out later, O also had his on. No wonder we stuck out so well!

On some recommendations, we decided to try Sylvan Beach in LaPorte. It did not disappoint. It had C wondering if we could find a home in that area. Close to the beach without living on Galveston and yet still a decent commute to downtown Houston, should he find work in that area. 

Sylvan is a family friendly beach with a playground, picnic areas and restrooms, as well as a fishing pier. We had a lot of fun and stayed for a few hours. I didn't get nearly enough pictures in my opinion because my phone was dying and my big camera's memory card was full. But I managed to get some. 














We got back to the hotel in time for dinner. The kids were exhausted, so they all got in bed after that and C and I got their permission to get some non-hotel dinner just up the road a bit. They had the kid-cellphone and we could be back here within minutes if need be. This is one of our first times trusting all three boys to stay (without us) together, but they were fairly worn out and we knew J would call as soon as they had a problem together. 

We ate dinner at Freeb!rds World Burrito (I had a burrito bowl), which is like a Chipotle on steroids. It was good, not only because of the food, but because I was getting a few quiet moments with my husband to discuss the day. 


Our original travel plans were for us to leave on Friday morning and get back to Albuquerque on Saturday evening. However, we decided we would extend our stay one more day and we shall get back on Sunday instead. We weren't ready to go back to the hotel to pack things up and roust tired kids from their beds to help. 

Back at the hotel, we pulled the Bundtinis out and prepared to sing to C. 



He was very pleased. I attempted to light the sparkler candles but they weren't responding to my match. C grabbed a match and lit them with ease, but burnt his finger while lighting them. Hmm, this was not the plan. However, the cakes were delicious and in spite of his burnt finger, he seemed pleased with our efforts to celebrate him. 




To bed! It's been a very good and very long day. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Road Trip: Texas, Days 6 & 7

My note-taking in the past two days has been sketchy (if any at all), so I'm going to compile my thoughts as I put this post together, throw in some low-quality phone photos and call it a day-- or rather, two days. 

Day 6

7:02am

Good morning. I'm claiming this attitude in spite of a restless night of sleep. Jesus, please make it so. 

Today is C's last day of 40. He has some good things planned for tomorrow, so I'm praying that he will have no major interruptions. 

On the high level, he hopes to get up early to spend some time on his own and bring back doughnuts for everyone.  He started last Father's Day this way and discovered it suits him. He is hoping to fit in a visit to Penzey's Spices and the Space Center. Of course, we are all excitedly awaiting his gift opening. 

Tomorrow night also includes a visit to church and youth group and probably sushi at some point. 

2:41 pm

Our goal today is to use two of our CityPass tickets today, as well as visit the American Girl store so J can spend the money she's been saving. 

(And this is where my notes leave off, in hopes my memory is enough.)

At this point, my note plan was to reflect back a month or so to when I posted on Instagram about J's desire for an American Girl Doll and share with you God's blessing of an anonymous gift from one of our Instagram friends who felt called to fulfill J's hope. She received her American Girl Doll soon after and she looks just like her - straight brown hair and blue eyes. Someday back home, I should post the video of her receiving the doll. She was so completely joyful, she had me near tears as I witnessed her receive a gift so special from someone special God put in our lives. Since that day, she's had a new desire: to outfit the doll she calls "Jessica" with the finest clothes and accessories. 

Anyway, we headed downtown to visit the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston (MFAH). as it was one of our remaining tickets. This museum did not disappoint. It has a lot of large, dramatic empty spaces like most big city art museums seem to have, which make an equally defining statement as the abundance of art displays. The art was not only plentiful, but diverse and high-quality. There were original works from artists I've actually heard about, like Picasso, and large collections of work from artists I know less about, such as Braque.  There was a variety of artistic examples from sculptures to oil paintings and spanning thousands of years and cultures all around the globe.













The place was huge. And rich. And inspiring. And had more to take in than even 20 visits could cover. 

That particular day, it also had four kids who just wanted to go to the beach and whose levels of interest in art varies quite dramatically. We are their parents. So, we had to skim through most of the rooms and completely skip others. The good news is, I think Thursdays are free at the museum, so we can definitely go back repeatedly when we live here, in hopes of taking more in each time. 

While browsing numerous works of art, C's phone rang and it was a company here he'd applied to. They scheduled an interview with five people from the company to take place midday on Wednesday. Woohoo!  Wednesday would be C's birthday, but it didn't matter!

From MFAH, we headed over to Memorial City Mall in Houston. This was a more normal-sized mall, although it still offered an ice skating rink and valet parking. This is where the American Girl store is located. This store had J declaring that mall to be her favorite mall ever (and she actually enjoys malls, unlike her mama).



She purchased a seat that latches onto the table, for Jessica, so her doll no longer will take up human space when she joins us for breakfast. 

From there, we went to Cheesecake Factory for lunch. I had my favorite: Firecracker Salmon and totally abandoned my healthy eating habits to have Dutch Apple with Caramel Walnut Streusel Cheesecake (yes, it was as delicious as it sounds).




After cheesecake, we drove back to the Kemah Boardwalk where our CityPasses covered all day rides. Yes, more carnival rides. There were more at Kemah than at the Downtown Aquarium, though, so that meant even more fun. I rode some spinning ride with O (C refuses spinning rides, but they don't bother me).  O went through every emotion seven times while we rode. I kept reminding him to stay focused on my face when he would have terrified and nervous emotions, followed by sick feelings. Then he'd burst into a chuckle and try to say, "Weeee!" but before he could, he'd bust into maniacal laughter, which would return him to terrified tears again. 

Then I rode a double-decker carousel with J. I just sat on the bench and didn't try squeezing onto one of the circus animals. I worried that if I had, I might have been arrested for animal cruelty -- especially after the huge slice of sugar and fat I ate before we arrived. Believe me, the bench made for a fine ride. 










After that, I spent a lot of time on the boardwalk, watching seagulls and pigeons and trying to figure out if that big brown lump in the water was a rock or a seal (it was a rock).  Before we left, C and I (with Z and O) went in this ride that took us up high to see all of the area around Kemah. H and J opted out because of the height or maybe they just wanted to ride other stuff instead. 

We returned to the hotel by 6:30pm for dinner of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and salad and quickly headed back out to celebrate the anniversary of our good friends. Maybe you've heard of them? Their names are Ben and Jerry. Anyway, they were giving out free scoops of ice cream. 


In that same strip mall was Sushi Coast. C was anxious to find better sushi, so he picked out a couple rolls to try. We took those back to the hotel and enjoyed them on the patio while our kids went swimming in the pool and played basketball. 




What a long (but fun) day!

I was exhausted and fell asleep before 9:30pm. 

---


Day 7

I woke up at about 6:35am.  Today was my husband's birthday. After he showered and finished some extra research on the company where he was interviewing, he modeled his interview clothes and got my opinions. Then he headed down to the hotel computers to print out the company's official application for employment that they'd asked him to bring in (they had his resume for a little while), and that's when he got the message. His interview was rescheduled for Thursday morning. 

This was both a bummer and a relief. He was anxious to do the interview, but by pushing it off a day, he was able to now spend his birthday doing more of the things he originally wanted to do in celebration. 

After breakfast, he opened gifts. I told you previously I was excited for our gift to him this year ANNNND he loved it. The gift was meant to be a trip down memory lane of his first 40 years (before we lose our memories).  It included trinkets and examples (each item with a note to explain) of things from his life. There were some original Tinker Toys from his childhood (found those at Savers), a miniature model of the 1969 Ford Mustang he drove as a teenager, chocolate coins representing each of the jobs he's held and various reminders of marriage and fatherhood as well, among a number of other things. It was all wrapped inside an old Tupperware box (another Savers find) because I know how he prefers his wrapping to be something useful. 

After that, we headed to NASA's Johnson Space Center. This was birthday boy heaven, for sure. Turns out, every one of our kids enjoyed it, too. We barely scratched the surface of learning opportunities in that place. It definitely will go on the list for annual membership when we get here more permanently. The guided tour took us to Mission Control, to the Astronaut Training Facility, and to the Saturn V rocket, as well as pointing out many other locations along the way around campus. Did you know they still use the same bikes from 1965 when the campus was built to get from building to building? Pretty cool. 



















When we left the space center, we took a drive around Seabrook. Originally, I thought we'd want to live there. But we worried they wouldn't have as much opportunity for the kids. So we turned our attention to the slightly bigger League City. But today, we learned that Seabrook's library is much more like ours back in New Mexico and that made a certain boy very happy. With a library like that, they are sure to have some good community events for kids as well. Of course the proximity to the coast there is very appealing, too. So now I'm feeling torn between League City and Seabrook. Well, it's good to know we have options. 


We hurried back to the hotel in time to grab a bite before church. Chicken Parmesan. 

We visited the same church in League City a second time. The boys got to check out junior high youth group this time. H had a good time. Z wouldn't admit to having a good time, but he's also slower to warm up in newer environments than his brothers are. Grownup service and kids' service are identical to Sunday mornings, so we will definitely need to decide what is best for our family. Anyway, I got more out of the message this time and J left feeling more confident this time, so I'm glad we got to fit in two visits this week. 


We headed over to Burger House for C's birthday dinner. The whole vibe of that place was kind of a downer. Service and facility were tired and unenthusiastic. However, the food was all made to order and tasty. C enjoyed his, but due to the elements that lacked, he called a "birthday dinner do over," so we will probably do that tomorrow night. 

Back to the hotel. Exhausted again. 

When we arrived at our door, we noticed the do not disturb sign on our door. As soon as we went in, it was apparent we did not receive maid service today. Turns out, O thought he'd hang the sign this morning. He didn't know what it said or what would happen, but I don't think he'll do it again. He was as annoyed as any of us that his bed wasn't made. 

Well, that's it for now. Sorry so long. Goodnight.