As my online journal, I have been meaning to document our trip to the motherland here. It was a whirlwind of friends and family and things we love and miss, followed by the beauty of arriving back home to your own precious bed. While it’s still fresh on my mind (well, as fresh as it’s gonna be), I’m going to give a play by play.
Day 1: We had a late flight on a Thursday night, arriving into the big D after midnight. We connected in St. Louis and were delayed for awhile due to rain. Blake was the most patient, of the 3 of us. His patience had a great deal to do with his uncontainable excitement.
Day 2: Spent the morning at Aunt D’s, with the cousins playing. Aunt D wooed Blake with blueberries and Gatorade (he’s a simple man). Late morning, we headed over to Aunt Ali’s and Uncle Matt’s to finally meet Baby Carter. He was all new and tiny and sweet and perfect. Blake brought his suitcase, because he was headed for an a big adventure with Migi and Big Daddy. In fact, when we got to Aunt Ali’s, B couldn’t get rid of me fast enough. As we pulled in the driveway he said, “Mom, I’m not going to miss you, but I still love you.” ha. Actually, I’m so happy that he feels comfortable away from me. It would be heartbreaking to know that my boy was homesick. Migi, Big Daddy, and Blake pulled away and all of us were wearing smiles. I was about to get some free time with my lovie and the grandparents were about to get some time with theirs. Win/Win. The afternoon was filled with a serious family basketball game and pizza. As it turns out, I’m kind of awesome at basketball. Kind of. Friday night, both my precious nieces talked me into a hair party. Laci wanted a blue streak like mine. To achieve that on brown hair, you have to bleach the hair first, then dye it blue. Once we got the bleach going, Alexa’s interest piqued. She asked for just a blond streak. I was…nervous. I would never bleach my own hair, and yet, there I was bleaching theirs. Eek. Despite that, I had lots of bleach leftover, so I sprinkled some in Tyler’s hair too. Laci liked the blond, and no longer wanted the blue (until I returned the blue dye, then she wanted it again :)), Alexa loved the blond, and Tyler seems apathetic. What a sport.
Day 3: Saturday morning, Stu and I woke up and went out for a run together. With no stroller. We decided to run to the mall to return the blue dye. It was a fantastic run. Probably my favorite of the whole trip. Why can’t they all be that great? It was long, for me, though, and Daina picked me up about a mile from the house (mercifully). This was St. Patrick’s Day and happened to also be the night that we planned to go dancing with some dear friends from college. Stu courted me on a dance floor, and two-steppin’ in each others’ arms will always be our favorite place to be. Before dancing, though, we met up at a bar downtown where I heard my first Celtic Rock Band play. They were amazing!
After dancing with Todd, Rina, Russell, Daina, Ritchey, Krista, and her man, we were hungry. Luckily, most dance halls in Texas are equipped for that problem and we walked outside to find a nice lady smoking links. God Bless Her. I raise my hot dog.
That night, Stu and I went home with Russell to check out his brand new house! It was a short visit (for me-Stu returned there), but a great one. The house was fantastic, and upon initial examination, I only found one flaw: he doesn’t own a coffee-maker. I had a baby heart attack, but he assured me things would be ok and I trusted him.
Day 4: He totally delivered. My Grande White Chocolate Mocha 3 pumps 3 shots showed up within 15 minutes from waking and it was…mmm…perfection. Cause for further salivation was brunch at Esperanza’s in Fort Worth. Be still my heart. I had huevos rancheros and I wish I could have it forever. And ever. The potatoes. The tortillas. The Mexican Bread and Empanadas. Holy Enchiladas, I have to move on or I’ll pass out. Todd and Rina carted us back to Alix’s house in Dallas, where we began our next leg of the trip. We hopped back in our rental with Alix and Carter and headed to Nac. This was Alix’s first trip with her 4 week old, and I was very impressed with her! Is there anything more nerve-wracking?! She is already doing an amazing job as a new mama. When we got to Migi and Big Daddy’s, Blake breezed past me, then stopped in his tracks: “What are YOU doing HERE??” HA! He was terrified that I was going to infringe upon Camp Migi and his very own morning, noon, and night Blake Party.
Day 5: I can’t remember what Blake and Migi were doing, there was still lots of awesome Camp Migi happening. That morning, Stu went to the range to do some shooting with his Daddy. Good, clean, family fun. I headed off for another kid-free run. Exhilarating. I got back to the house around noon. I have no idea what else was happening because at that point, I started developing one of the top 3 headaches of my life. In desperation, I made (more) coffee, tried aspirin, tylenol, advil, and a decongestant (just in case). Various people in the house tried to help by giving me meds to squirt in my eyes and nose. Don’t try this at home. Around 2, I called my doctor and asked for narcotics. He promptly put me on some sort of addict watch-list and told me that he wouldn’t call in an rx for narcotics across state lines. He said I’d have to go to a hospital or urgent care. I was more than willing, because I was starting to think this headache would kill me. I was going to visit my oldest (not in age :)) friend, Kelli, that night, so it occurred to me to sift through her medicine cabinet. She said she had hydrocodone and I said I’d be right over. It took the edge off, which was a huge relief. I stayed on it til the next morning, though, when I woke up to a newsflash.
Day 6: On Tuesday morning, Big Daddy made the discovery that we had finished off all the DECAFFEINATED coffee yesterday. They keep it in clear containers, and I’m not completely sure they weren’t trying to kill me. So, as it turns out, I have a serious caffeine problem (which is really only a problem if you take it from me). It’s all funny NOW. After having a bucket of coffee, Blake, Big Daddy, Alix, and I decided to enjoy the rainy day by getting some of our most-missed fast-food and having a picnic and movie lunch. Stu spent a precious day with his own grandpa, Paw Paw. How lucky is he, to still have a grandparent in his life? That evening, we got to spend some more time with Paw Paw and Blake really warmed up to his great-grandfather. Precious.
I also got to visit Kelli again, so I was feeling pretty lucky, too. Dinner was followed by Blue Bell (ahhhhh) and some dancing in the rain (by Blake). Migi totally encourages this sort of thing (even if it IS 50 degrees). He had a blast. One of my favorite parts of being in Nac was getting to snuggle the sweet baby Carter. I already miss him so much.
Day 7: It was time to leave Nac, and that blow was only softened by the fact that Blake and I were headed to Nana and Papa’s. Stu went back to Dallas to spend the rest of his week on renovation projects with Russell. If you want to know what Stu did for the rest of the week you can read his blog. Oh, wait… Well, anyhow, you can look at this picture at least.
Blake and I got to Beaumont and went where everyone goes upon arriving in Beaumont, to Casa Ole. I miss that crappy Tex-Mex so much. We then took a hardcore family nap, followed by a run through my old stomping grounds, Bevil Oaks. Boy, if that wasn’t a very special wildlife study! Besides the fascinating array of insects, reptiles, birds, and rodents flitting about, there were DOGS. I had forgotten that you really are supposed to carry a large stick to run the streets of Bevil Oaks, because there don’t appear to be any rules about who’s rabid dog can run where. It’s a freaking free-for-all. Apparently people just get puppies because they’re cute, then they grow big and ugly and dumb (and untrained-because who needs to put any work into training a cute, little puppy??), so the people just put them outside to menace society. They’re everywhere. Clearly, I have strong opinions about this, but I’m going to stop there. Wednesday night, B and I some great Thai food with some really great friends. We got to laugh with Christopher, Lana, Kim, and Sam. Kim and Sam live waaaaaay up in Seattle, so this one night together was very well timed. Yay!! When we got home, Papa read the story of Daniel and the Lion Den to Blake. I loved watching them hang out.
Day 8: My mom has Bible Study on Thursday mornings, and she invited us. It is held at the church in which I spent my entire childhood. It has been so many years since I had been there, and walking the halls felt surreal. Wow, the memories that washed over me of “big church”, Sunday night church, choir, Fine Arts Festival, youth group, my baptism, my mentors, holidays, my wedding shower, and so much more. One thing I’ve never done at that church, though, is use the childcare services. I told Blake that he was going to play with some brand new kids, and I was very nervous that he’d cling to me at the thought of going somewhere new without me. My son was ecstatic. There were some kids walking out ahead of us and he asked if he could walk with them. They ran and skipped to their room. I could just hardly get his attention to tell him goodbye. His teacher told me that he behaved well, but was “a bit loud.” No surprise there. For lunch, we got to eat at the wonderful Jason’s Deli with mom and her bestie, Mrs. Mac. I love Mrs. Mac to bits and pieces. Just love her. From there, we got to take part in an exciting dr’s visit where mom got her finger pricked to check coumadin levels. Blake’s never met a stranger, so we even left there with new friends. After a valiant nap attempt, we decided to pop in on another dear old (in time, not in age) friend, Ashley. Blake was so excited to play with her kids. Ashley has 4 kids, and another on the way, so I also breathed in her feriliteous vibes. I know that’s not how babies are made, but at this point, we’ll try anything. 🙂
Day 9: Another running day. See a theme? I ran every other day during the entire trip. I’m doing the couch to 5k training program and I’m determined to conquer it. However, I still gained weight in Texas because of my insistence at eating everything either a. fried b. covered in queso c. dipped in ranch or d. all of the above. After running, B and I scurried into the city of Port Arthur for a lunch date with another old friend! Phelicia (yay!!!), Christopher, baby Bella, Blake, and I grubbed down on more Jason’s Deli. Oh it was so good to talk to Phe after years of only social media communication!
After lunch, we headed off to the scrapyard to visit Papa. A trip to Beaumont is not complete without riding the forklift and eating that weird peanut candy that dad has kept in his office since the eighties.
Friday night was when “the cousins” started arriving, and Blake knew it. The excitement was building and I knew getting him to sleep would be no small feat. Daina, Richey, Tyler, Lexa, Laci, and Brady were to arrive around midnight. I decided I’d go out before that and see an old high school friend who was playing in his band on Crockett Street. I couldn’t get B to bed before I left because he and his Papa were very busy pummeling each other with pillows. Dad agreed to (eventually) make him sleep, so I left. Apparently, mid-pillow-fight, B announced that he needed to cover up and promptly conked out. My night out was filled with more great nostalgia, and seeing more faces that I had only seen on facebook since high school. I got home to a bunch of people who were too darn excited to sleep. I do love me a crowded house-full of family.
Day 10: The Southeast Texas State Fair. So. Exciting. Made immensely more exciting when Papa handed us a wad of cash to sponsor the trip. A “Willy Grant”, if you will. The fair is dadgum expensive ya’ll (and we were there on one of the cheapest days!!). Blake rode his first (children’s) roller coaster.
When he eyed the adult roller coaster, he didn’t hesitate for a moment. I could see that it was no joke, and I did not think he’d like it, even if he was tall enough to ride it. Which he was, much to my surprise. Barely, but I was still shocked. Maybe they should go by age, because I’m 99% sure that ride was not intended for (ginormous) 4 year olds. He loved it. He loved everything at the fair, except being told to sit and eat (incidentally, MY favorite part). Things we tried at the fair, among the bunch of us: Shrimp on a stick, pizza and corndogs (borrrring), gyros (mmm), boudain balls (whoooop!!), funnel cake, and fried oreos. I know, we should’ve had gator. Truth be told, if it tastes so much like chicken, I’d rather just eat chicken. I wish I could’ve eaten more. I wish I could eat there RIGHT NOW. Speaking of places I want to go, we had Casa Ole for dinner that night. Happy. Sigh. Now that I’m documenting everything, it’s becoming crystal clear that my scale is NOT broken. later that night, the rest of “us” arrived, Chris, Krista, Nate and Andrew. This trip was no joke, we got to hug SO many necks.
Day 11: Dang. This is a lot of days. If you’re still reading this, kudos to you. I hope you’re not a stalker, because besides my mom, I can’t imagine who else would be. First, it was a running day. I started the run with a fantastic entourage.
This Sunday morning, my brother and I pulled out the iron skillet and made a meal that, we are fairly certain, only we cared about. We made sausage gravy. We didn’t just make it, though. We really caressed it. It was lovely and beautiful and creamy and perfection. We discussed our different techniques, when is it best to add the flour? does it need more fat? cream or milk? more salt? more milk? definitely more pepper. I had just washed my hair so that I could carefully blow it out and then hang it over a skillet of sausage gravy for an hour. That’s a southern perfume right there. I was wearing my grandma’s apron and I hope I smelled like her. I think everyone else ate the pancakes and bacon that Ty made, but we don’t care-that was a beautiful morning.
Some old friends of Chris’ came by, and then we all settled down for a rest. One important thing I haven’t mentioned yet is that, in the midst of everything that was happening at Nana and Papa’s house, there were always golf carts in motion. Dad has 2, and they were constantly circling the house.
I was terrified, because some of the cousins have priors on these things (not to mention when Daina, Chris, and I nearly killed a dog on one), but Blake did start hanging on better after he got thrown off his seat that one time. Sunday night, Mom and Dad had coordinated a dinner at a Tex-Mex place (thank goodness) to meet up with even more (yay!) friends who we had been missing. It was just sweet. So sweet. We were at that restaurant for 3.5 hours, and thanks to the company of Baby Bella, everyone had a great time. Blake and Bella finally just got a booth and played pretty well out of the reach of their parents. We’re pretty sure it was their first date.
When we got home, Chris, Krista, Mom and I started digging through grandmas old trunk of treasures. It was so neat to see her needlework again. It made me wish for her. I wonder what she would’ve thought of this crazy clan? Tyler was the only great-grandchild she ever met. That perfect night was capped off by our 3rd showing of the Muppet Movie for the week.
Day 12: This is the day we went home. However, we didn’t even have to start driving until 3, so we filled up the first part of the day nicely. By now it was just the Chicago and Baltimore families left at Nana and Papa’s. We woke up and drank our coffee while watching golf carts circle the house like buzzards. Mom had the idea to pop in on our old friends the Gualdings, who have a teensy (<–sarcasm font) crawfish and rice farm in Winnie.
Ah Crawfish, the lobster of the south. Little baby mud lobsters as I like to call them. Mudbugs, Crawdads, Crayfish. Feel free to add anything else you like to call them, but this is a Southeast Texas delicacy. You boil them up with potatoes, shrimp, corn, and whatever seasonings you see fit. Then you plop them on a cardboard box lid and go to town. We bought entirely too much, especially when you consider how many people in that group sustain themselves on peanut butter, bread and cheese. It was a beautiful sight, to see Chris standing over that pot of mudbugs (even if we did secretly admit-while starting at all of them crawling around their net bag-that they’re kind of gross).
I was so excited to eat some. However, once I started I remembered that maybe I loved the IDEA of eating crawfish more than actually eating them. Seriously, I burped the next day and it was confirmed. I don’t actually like them. Don’t tell. They’re full of some things that make me really nervous and don’t even get Beaumont people started on “sucking the heads.” ::Shudders:: We had so many left over…still alive… that I decided to call someone who doesn’t have to send out one single invite to have a crawfish party: Ashley. Her and her family of 6 took the rest and we were happy to give them a good home.
Christopher and Bella drove us the 1.5 hours to the airport that afternoon and there I spied one of God’s greatest blessings: Pappasitos. Blake and I sat down to our last Tex-Mex meal before the flight. On our way to the gate, there were lots of space station displays, so we stopped to have a homeschooling moment where I imparted on him the laws of gravity. A few minutes later, at another display, he burst out with, “Mom!! They’re floating around because they’ve got no ronicles!!!” So yeah, he totally understands gravity. On the plane, I actually took some pics of B because he played so well by himself with his “plane toys.”
It’s good that we had the whole row, however, because his exhaustion began kicking in during the second half. The fit was epic. I finally just tightened his seatbelt and scooted over one seat. No reasonable conversation was going to be had, and Blake should know by now that I don’t negotiate with terrorists. I did have the sense to be mortified. Some of the things he yelled went like this: “I’M SO TIRED!!” (duh) “I DON’T WANT TO LAY DOWN!” (oy) “I WANT TO BE HOME!!!” “I WANT TO SLEEP IN MY BEEEEEEEEEED!!” “I WANT MIGI!” “I WANT TO PLAY WITH YOUR PHONE!!!” “NOOOOOOOOOO!!” (In response to no question asked). As the plane was about to hit the ground, he collapsed on my arm into a deep sleep. I took deep breaths to contain my fury and it was well concealed thank-you-very-much. Upon hitting baggage claim, that darling boy was handed to his father, for everyone’s sake. He perked up by the time we walked in the door to the house and gave an adorable monologue about how wonderful it was to be home, while caressing his sheets. I agreed.