Do the Locomotion With Me

We have three in college this year.  What WERE we thinking?!

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Just before we returned Lois to A&M last week.  Though not a standard back-to-school photo, Rachel said it was “the most accurate representation of our sisterhood you could possibly imagine.”  (l-r)  Hannah is a freshman at UTSA.  Birds up!  Rachel is student teaching in preparation for graduation from UTSA in December.  Let’s Get Rowdy!  Lois is in her middle years at A&M.  Whoop!   And Julia?  Eighth grade, baby.  Last year of middle school.

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Hannah with a few thousand UTSA Class of 2018 buddies on Monday.  She’s the one in the orange shirt.

I held off posting an obligatory “first day of school” blog Monday awaiting happy news from Rachel, which arrived via text a few hours ago.  She got her student teaching assignment….drum roll….envelope, please….she’ll be at NEISD’s brand spankin’ new middle school, Tex Hill.  It opened this week, and is only 5.6 mi. from our house.  It’s the last middle school NEISD will build.   She’s over-the-moon excited to be assigned to the English department head.  We’re thrilled for her.

But in the meantime….speaking of education….Keith and I will be attending my 40th high school reunion this weekend.

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My senior photo which appeared in the All New & Quite Exciting 1974 Madison Marlins Mariner yearbook, of which I was editor – a great learning experience 

So what’s life like with three in college – and a middle schooler?  Julia needs breakfast and lunch made and her gym clothes are everywhere, Hannah wants more Lean Cuisines stocked in the freezer, Rachel dashes in and dashes out leaving a trail of Post-it Notes, the house stops when Lois calls?  Well, it’s a lot of activity to handle.  Reminds me of a song I expect to hear this weekend, because it was my favorite dancing tune in 1974.


Posted in Family, School Rules | 3 Comments

Engines and Freezers and Turtles – Oh My!

Did you ever have a day – or series of days – where little seemed to go right, but everything worked out in the end?   That was our vacation this year – a long weekend at Padre Island carefully arranged months in advance to accommodate the five jobs and two summer school classes that bound our family.

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This is “Middle of Nowhere, Texas.”  Actually – it’s a highway-crossover about 53 miles north of Harlingen, Texas – the location of the closest Ford dealership, which we called when our Expedition made a whirring noise, then stopped.  We were on our way to Padre Island (where Julia got that shirt last year), about an hour south of Harlingen.  It was 102 degrees, but as Bill Paxton quipped in “Aliens,” “Yeah, but it’s a dry heat.”  We saw very little traffic as we waited an hour for the wrecker, but two guys in a pick-up did stop and offer us water.  God bless Texas!

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Huge kudos to Boggus Ford in Harlingen which sent not only a wrecker for our kaput Expedition and Keith, but also a blessedly air conditioned Expedition for the rest of us.  We’d had breakfast but no lunch (planned to stop in Harlingen), so we scarfed up their free popcorn.  They brought water bottles to each of us and invited us to cool off while Keith handled the paperwork.  Mr. Boggus himself – a 1949 graduate of Texas A&M – stopped by to admire my sweat-soaked “Aggie Mom” T-shirt.  They searched for and finally located a rental vehicle big enough to hold the six of us, then helped us unload/reload our small mountain of beach provisions.  We thanked them by allowing one of our bags to slip thereby breaking a wine bottle on their service driveway.  There’s a letter to Ford Motor Company in their future.

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After a five-hour delay, we arrived at Padre in time for the girls to take their traditional first-night walk along the beach.  Keith and I walked the aisles at HEB instead.  We freeze main dishes to bring and buy bread, produce, etc. there.  But this year…omigosh, this year…..Thought I’d bought mixed plastic cutlery.  Nope, it was all forks.  I thought I packed a lasagna.  Nope.  It was a Mexican casserole.  Thought we had corned beef hash for breakfast.  Nope.  It was fajitas.  First thought I had packed pulled pork, then thought I didn’t then the last night realized I had packed it.  Sigh.  Lesson learned – next year, food gets double-labeled “beach” plus what it is.

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We have loved having Lois home this summer.  She goes back to A&M next week, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.  (sniff)  But a quick word about my husband.  Keith is the single best “we’ll figure this out” person I’ve ever known.  When he’s around, I know something like a stopped-dead-in-the-middle-of-nowhere, fully-loaded, pulling-a-trailer-hitch Expedition adventure in 102 degree heat is going to turn out okay.

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We’ve gotten three or four years out of these wave runners (amazingly.)

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Julia l-o-v-e-s the ocean.  Can you tell?!

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Hannah is our “finder.”  If there’s something neat to be found, she’s the one who finds it.  This year, it was a barnacle-crusted coconut which Keith surmised bobbed in from Florida.  Every year, I look for a deal on beach toys, then we leave them by a trash can our last day.  Couldn’t find any deals on beach toys this year, but did find some neat metal gardening buckets and tools at Target on clearance – $3.28@ set.  Perfect!  I saw kids carrying them off as we walked away.

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Saturday we went snorkeling with Breakaway Cruises.  We’d been on their sea life excursion before and loved it.  This one….not so much.   We booked for 9 a.m., got there and were told they’d had engine trouble and had to reschedule to 1 p.m.  Well…okay.  Kind of threw our day off, but those things happen.  But then on the excursion itself, the organization was sloppy, as in they didn’t bring enough snorkel masks to the back of the boat (where we were), and when we went up front after folks starting getting in the water because we were one short, the captain was actually rude about it.  Has she not heard of Yelp?!  We have.

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Very shallow water.  You needed the flippers to keep from stirring up the blinding sludge.

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Again – “Hannah the Finder” – the only one of us who found critters in shells.

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Sea Turtle Rescue is a must for us on every visit.  We missed a turtle release by one day – darn it. 

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I’m sure this is a security thing, too, but what fun to watch!

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This one-flippered turtle fascinated me.   He’s sporting a prosthetic tail, too.  He’ll never be released, though most of their turtles are.

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The staff gives the kids fresh lettuce to throw into one of the huge tanks, which Julia was only too happy to do.  Julia enjoys puzzles, too.  On our way out, we bought a 500-piece turtle puzzle that’s now half-done on our coffee table.

Turns out our Expedition engine blew a rod.  Miraculously – Boggus Ford replaced the engine (still under warranty – whew!) in nine days.  Keith and I completed a one-day-turnaround drive to the Valley last Saturday to return the rental and get our car back.  While we were at it, we crossed the border and ate a fabulouso lunch at the mucho deliciouso Angel’s.

I planned to blog this as soon as we got back, but my laptop fried.  Keith’s spent several days building me a screaming-fast desktop.   It’s a beast.

Even though this vacation didn’t go quite as planned, we did what we wanted to do, which was have a ton of fun w/the girls.   And really – what’s wrong with fajitas for breakfast?!


Posted in Away from Home, Family | 7 Comments

Holy Frio Bat Cave!

Two summers ago, we visited the largest bat colony in North America, coincidentally 20 miles from us in the Bracken bat cave.  It was a fabulous evening with 20M furry flyers, and is now sadly closed to the public.  With our great niece Laura visiting from Houston last week, we decided to pile into the old family truckster and head to the second larges bat colony in North America, coincidentally 90 miles from us in the Frio bat cave.  Only 12M bats, but still all kinds of awesome.

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The front of the Frio cave.  You can see the Mexican free tail bats swirling, ready to fly out of the cave at an unknown signal.  These bats are nursing mamas who will return to the cave as many as four times in an evening to feed their babies.  A mother bat will feed only her baby.  If Mama becomes dinner for a hawk – and the hawks circled above/dived on the bats ferociously – the baby starves.

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People of the Bats:  (l-r, clockwise) Hannah, Rachel, Lois’ boyfriend Alex, Lois, Keith, Laura, Julia.  Hannah didn’t feel so great, but still wanted to go.  Found out the next day she had tonsillitis and strep.  Lots of Gatorade and ice cream around here now.

Standing on the rocks near and above the cave – you could practically touch them. 

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Keith warned the girls to keep their mouths shut while looking up.

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Hard to see, but there’s a rainbow, and the sight of the bats silhouetted against it was just gorgeous.

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We were told to arrive by 7 p.m. – which we did – but we really didn’t expect the bats to leave until dusk – maybe 8:30 p.m.  Nope.  They were flying by 7:20.  Near dusk, they were trickling out, not funneling out. 

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Near the cave entrance is a giant kiln which was used during the Civil War and WWI to dry bat guano and produce salt peter for gun powder.  As Keith commented, ‘Wow.  This was a munitions plant.” 

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While the bats winter in Mexico, their guano is harvested for fertilizer.  Keith estimated each of these large bags weighed one to two tons each.

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And in contrast to all that poo – a cactus flower on the walk out.

So much fun, and the eight of us in the Expedition – also very “cozy.”  I think I may need the Google machine to tell me the location of the third largest bat colony in North America sometime soon.

Posted in Away from Home, Family | 2 Comments

Sisters Day (Palooza) – Part Eight

The girls and I celebrated Sisters Day today – our eighth anniversary of Julia coming home from Russia.  Many adoptive families celebrate “Gotcha Day,” which focuses on the child being added to the family, but we weren’t too keen on leaving the rest of the girls out.  So we do Sisters Day, this year (1) a month late, because of their school/work schedules and (2) without Keith, who’s visiting his mom this weekend.

The girls decide (within reason) what we’re doing, and at Rachel’s suggestion, they chose painting.  Have you seen these (often BYOB) painting place popping up lately?  Ton of fun!  They announce weeks in advance what’s being painted (with instruction) at a two-hour session.  For a private party – you can pick your own design.  We had an absolute blast at Paint Palooza, owned by a now-retired AT&T friend, Shirley.  She hosted a private party for just the five of us, sparing others the hang-your-head-in-shame-because-we-are-so-talented embarrassment.

All four girls have always loved dream catchers. Hannah has 15 dangling from the bottom of her top bunk.  They wanted to paint dream catchers, and fortunately, Paint Palooza had that design available for a private party.

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Like with much of life – start with a blank canvas!  Lois, 20; Rachel, 23; Julia, 14; Hannah, 18; Me, mumble-mumble

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Patient instructor Beverly pointed to the sample on the wall, plus painted along with us. 

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Shirley also offered individual instruction.

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Okay, the colorful base is finished!  We started with the yellow (sun) in the top left corner, then moved into green tones (earth) and finally blue tones (water.)   Rachel’s base was about perfect, likely due to the influence of her “artistic head band.”.

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Let’s give the base a little help drying.

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Outline that circle that will become the dream catcher, first using chalk.  Hannah has always been good with spatial relationships.….

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….unlike her sainted mother.

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Lois’ feathers were a-mahhh-zing.  She’s always had a lot of talent.

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Julia’s feathers also really impressed me – light, wispy, looked like they were wafting in a summer breeze.

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Rachel’s braiding looked like braiding, probably because she braids her hair and Julia’s hair so often.  Mine pretty much looked like the small wads of Juicy Fruit one finds under theater seats.

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Hannah was the only one of us that mixed a true pink to incorporate in the design.  She also created more feathers.

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Two hours later – Ta-Da! 

The dream catcher pattern was perfect for us, since the girls love them so.

And because Julia – now home eight years – was the dream it took us 18 months to catch.

Happy Sisters Day, girls!  Now….where am I going to hang my masterpiece?!

Posted in Adoption, AT&T, Celebrate, Family | 10 Comments