Thursday, December 18, 2014

Hangin' with the Bigs

Our two little boys went to Mimi and Grandpa's on Tuesday, so they could head out to the ranch with them on Wednesday. Jeff had a business meeting in Dallas yesterday afternoon, so all the rest of us tagged along. When the work was done, the fun began. Jeff and Ruth had already made plans to go see The Hobbit, so Weston and I decided to see Big Hero 6. Both movies were a hit with their respective viewers. (Here's a funny aside about that movie going experience: We decided we better buy the movie tickets before Jeff's business meeting, since it was opening night for The Hobbit and we wanted to be sure they didn't sell out. We picked the theater closest to our hotel, which turned out to be in a mostly abandoned, very run-down mall, that sort of gave me the creeps when I went in to get the tickets. But, on the up side, the tickets were dirt cheap. On the way back from the meeting, after a fairly lengthy stop at REI for some necessary travel gear, we got caught up in some crazy rush hour traffic and realized we weren't going to make it to the theater on time. So, since we had already promised the kids we would see the movies, we rerouted to the nearest theater, which was in all ways the opposite of the previous venue. We've never been so thankful for rush hour traffic!)

Today there was more one-on-one fun to be had. The boys headed over to AT&T Stadium to watch four of the high school football state championship games, and Ruth and I did some serious shopping, had an opportunity to eat at The Cheesecake Factory, and then took in another movie (Mockingjay).

It was so special to have some alone time with each of the big kids over the past couple of days. (I'm sharing our selfies, even though the ones from my phone are horrible, since I recently dropped it and produced a lovely crack in the screen that goes right through the camera lens. Still, they are the best we have, and I want to remember these wonderful days.)

My handsome date and I after Big Hero 6

Waiting on our table at The Cheesecake Factory

Two happy football lovers

Sunday, December 14, 2014

When Nomads Buy Insurance...

Several months ago, Jeff was shopping around for travel insurance for our big trip. He came across a policy with IMG that he liked, that met all our requirements. When he started crunching the numbers, he realized that we could save a ton of money on the policy if we started it now, rather than waiting until May. The only catch was that the policy could not be activated while we were on U.S. soil. But the savings was such (and we're crazy enough) that we began looking into ways to leave the country on the cheap. And what I mean by that is that we literally looked at a map of flights and left our parameters for destination and date completely open, and then we picked the cheapest one: Buffalo, NY (because, surprisingly, it's not a popular destination in December, which is weird given the ridiculous snow storms it is prone to at this time of year). From there, we could rent a car and drive into Canada. We then checked to see if there were any Starwood hotels nearby (since we collect points with them and had a surplus). We found a gem of a place, sitting just across the border and overlooking Niagara Falls. As a bonus, the hotel is part of a resort, which includes an indoor water park, which we could get a discount on by being hotel guests. Win, win, win! This is my favorite insurance policy we've ever bought, and it was a good practice trip! One other thing that's super cool about this trip is that it has allowed us to add to our travel map over on the right hand side of the blog. If you're interested, you can scroll over the map to see where we've been. We will be adding more and more places to that map, with a goal of seeing it turn mostly green.

Welcome to Canada

Rooms with views (from left to right, top to bottom):
1. The view from our balcony at night
2. The view out the side window during the daytime
3. The continued view from the side window around dusk
4. The view from the balcony during the day time
5. Fallsview Restaurant, two floors above our room
6. The view of the falls, from the water park
7. The ridiculous view from our bathroom!
8. Sheraton on the Falls
9. Bonus view of dinosaurs (near the the ferris wheel)

Snow fun!

Fallsview Waterpark
(Your eyes do not deceive you.
We do, in fact, look like dwarves in that family photo.
We couldn't resist playing with the funhouse mirrors.)

Friday Night Fireworks at the Falls

So much sweetness at the Hershey store

Monday, December 08, 2014

Family Fun

We had an opportunity to visit Jeff's brother's family this weekend. They have only recently moved back to Texas, after living in Mozambique, Africa for several years, so these kinds of get-togethers are still pretty novel for all of us. We all had such a wonderful time and look forward to getting to do it again soon!

The best brother is the one who shows up with the 99 pack

Girl Power

Lots of lovin'

You know when you're at Uncle Alan's house you're going to play with fire!

Victoria's first "Rumble, Rumble"

Our first opportunity to drink a beer together.
(Note: That huge mug was NOT full at any time! )

Clay was fascinated and somewhat terrified of the deer in the backyard.
The deer were fascinated with Clay but not the least bit terrified.

Many books were read during the weekend

Amazing Sunday brunch at Dosey Doe--
amazing food, amazing venue, amazing music, amazing dining companions

Taking in the live music and the scenery at Dosey Doe

Thoroughly embarrassing the children with too much PDA during the family photo shoot

Friday, December 05, 2014

All I want for Christmas is a new front tooth

When I was about 9 or 10 years old, I was thrown from a swiftly moving golf cart, while laughing hysterically. Right up until the time my face made contact with the earth and the rest of my body came skidding along behind it. At that point, the fun and games pretty much seemed to have run their course. When I got to my feet, I was a bloody mess, with more than a few pieces of gravel embedded in my knee and a significant portion of my permanent (not-so-permanent) front tooth broken off and planted in my lower lip. A root canal followed sometime later, along with the building of a fake tooth. And, that was that.

Flash forward a few decades. You may remember that I had some "mysterious face pain" a little over a year ago. I convinced myself that I had a crazy sinus infection, and when the pain went away after a few days, I mentally patted myself on the back for having been right.

But then, about a month ago, I experienced a day of pretty intense pain in my front tooth, followed by two days of ridiculous celebrity-facelift-gone-wrong swelling in my lip and face. I made an appointment with the dentist. She recommended I see her husband, the oral surgeon, to discuss a procedure that seemed fantastically over-the-top to me. I politely made the appointment but cancelled it when I got home, because I was no longer experiencing pain and swelling, and it all just seemed like too much. I mean one day of pain a year didn't really seem like that big a deal compared to the very involved and expensive procedure she was suggesting.

And, then, three days ago, someone hit the replay button on the days of pain and swelling, and I realized things might be worse than I thought. I rescheduled my appointment with the oral surgeon for today. As he showed me the x-ray, he explained that I have a fractured root and diminishing bone. He continued by telling me the problem will only get worse, and I will have more and more days of pain and swelling unless the tooth comes out. But, since it's a front tooth, and since I'm rather vain, it's not enough to just take it out. It must be replaced with an implant, which requires a bone graft, which will require months of healing before the implant can even be placed. Throw in a serious time crunch because of an already-scheduled trip around the world, and you can see what an awesome situation this is.

So, long story short, in ten days, I will begin the process, with the tooth extraction and bone graft. We won't really know how the rest of the story looks until the doctor has a chance to see what the existing bone looks like. It wasn't exactly what I wanted for Christmas, but it is a gift that will keep on giving, so there's that.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving Finale

We have certainly had a full week of fun festivities, and we have so very much to be thankful for, but according to my jeans, it is time to eat a few hundred fewer calories per day for a while. Our Thanksgiving finale took place at the ranch, and here are some of the highlights:
  • Clay got to go out to the ranch a couple of days early to help Grandpa build a shed, which explains his absence in our Thanksgiving Day pictures. 
  • Weston dropped a six-point buck, with one shot, a feat he is pretty proud of. (I was not there when it happened, so there is no photographic evidence.)
  • We enjoyed another delicious Thanksging meal.
  • We continued Weston's birthday celebration.
  • We celebrated Ruth's half-birthday.
  • Several family members reported success with various essential oils: Lavender for eczema, Breathe drops for stuffy nose, Serenity for insomnia, and Frankincense for vertigo. It just makes my day to have something I can offer to help with these kinds of issues when they come up and to hear these happy testimonies! 
  • Ruth had another successful driving lesson.
  • Max got to go quail hunting for the first time and got very close to hitting one.
  • I read a fantastic book called The Traveler's Gift, which I think you should all read just as soon as you get a chance.
  • Many hours of football were watched.
  • There were appearances by pirates and robbers.
  • We took a late night drive around the ranch, with a couple of mostly-working spotlights, with the purpose of counting and categorizing all the deer. The deer were not all that interested in our little project, so most of them stayed in their beds or out of sight. But, we still had a good time and quite a few laughs as we rode around the ranch.

The Bird seems relaxed in his cast iron hot tub,
probably not realizing he is about to be devoured.

So thankful for these amazing people!
(Also thankful for Clay, but he just couldn't stay awake long enough to join us for the meal.)

Just half of the birthday message for the half-birthday girl

Robber Max

The "Buff" Pirate is no one to be trifled with

Mighty quail hunter

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Day

Creepy gingerbread people at Whole Foods

Non-traditional but delicious Thanksgiving lunch at 24 Diner
(The overwhelming burnt orange is a testimony to how much we all love Weston!)

One happy birthday boy!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The last single digit

Weston, it doesn't seem possible, but you are nine! Nine is a hard year for me to grasp, because it declares that half of your time at home has already passed, in nothing more than a blink. It's not a time of sadness, just a really tangible reminder of how quickly time passes. Because, honestly, in my mind, you should still be two. I just don't know how the years slip by so quickly! But, here you are, already nine. And, what an amazing nine-year-old you are! Every day you make me proud.

You are a hard worker, but you also like to have a good time. You are quick to help out, bidden and unbidden, not only at home, but in other settings as well. You are well-respected by your peers, as well as adults, and people often look to you to be a leader in a variety of situations. For many years, leading did not come naturally to you, but I can see really excellent leadership qualities in you now and hope you will continue to develop those traits, which I believe will serve you well from now on.

You have a wonderful, understated sense of humor, that often catches us off guard and leaves us rolling on the floor in laughter. You even did a stand-up routine at Campmeeting this year, which was a huge hit with everyone in attendance. You love to entertain, and you are very good at it.

Football is still your passion (though, in the off-season, you are pretty much up for all other sports). And, though you've always preferred not to be called by a nickname, you genuinely enjoyed having your teammates and coaches call you "Big Show" again this season. You improved throughout the season and loved every minute of every game and every practice. Even players on other teams noticed your size and skill and spoke of you in awed tones from the stands. You have also continued to be enthralled with watching the sport on television. You always pick a team to root for (no matter how obscure the teams playing may be), and you cheer for that team with all your heart. You have an amazing catalog of stats and schedules and rankings in your head, for both college and professional teams. You are still a crazy committed UT fan, and we gave you tickets to tomorrow's game for your birthday. I'll be borrowing a shirt from you, because 1). I don't own anything in that awful burnt orange color and 2). you and I wear the same size. They don't call you "Big Show" for nothing. You think about football all the time, and not long ago you declared that you definitely intend to play college ball. We assumed you were talking about playing for UT, but you thoughtfully added that you weren't too concerned about which school you played for, you just wanted to play for one that would offer you a scholarship, proving that your big brain is churning away inside your big body.

Speaking of your big brain, you are doing so well in school. You became a Memory Master in CC in the spring, and you are planning to try for the honor again at the end of this school year. You are also practicing for several PSIA events and are rocking your regular school work every day. Your special academic loves are Math, Science (particularly Chemistry) and Latin, but we have seen so much improvement in the last year in your Reading and Spelling and Writing. You really enjoy reading mystery books, and, in the last year, you have especially enjoyed The Boxcar Children series, The Magic Tree House series and the Encyclopedia Brown books. You still use the "calculator in your throat" (a term you came up with when you were very little) to store and churn through important information and to play with numbers in a variety of interesting ways. You are always noticing curious arrangements of numbers and making up your own just for fun.

You are an avid and eager game player, embracing every kind of board game. A few you have really been enjoying recently are Settler's of Catan, Toss Up, Trivial Pursuit, Scattergories and Scrabble. You also love the IQ Fit game you got from Nana and Papa for your birthday. And, you still love playing Forty-Two and Yahtzee. Another activity that has been endlessly entertaining for you in the last year are the Extreme dot-to-dot puzzles, with hundreds of dots to connect. These make me a little dizzy, but you excel at completing them.

Recently, Dad observed that you live in a state of "satisfeito," which is the Portuguese word for "satisfied" and a very accurate description of your normal state of being. You are generally content and calm and satisfied in whatever situation you find yourself. You are easy-going and fun-loving, which is why so many people are drawn to you and genuinely enjoy being in your company. You inspire me in so many ways, and I'm so proud to be your mom! I'm thankful for these last nine years with you, and, though I'm not eager for you to grow up too quickly, I am excited to see you grow into yourself more and more. You are truly a delight! I hope you have a very special birthday!

Much love,