Valentines 2013

Valentines 2013-Love for Life Conference in Lynchburg, VA "Up Close and Personal" Each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself. Ephesians 5:33 Someone has said, "Love is blind, but marriage is a real eye-opener." How true. You start marriage from a distance. Your honeymoon view is soft and fuzzy, filtered through a fine mist of warm feelings. Goose bumps. Everything appears to be perfectly put together. But the closer you get to one another, the more flaws you see. If you were looking at me from across the room, there are some things you couldn't tell about me from that vantage point. You wouldn't be able to see that a childhood case of chicken pox left a noticeable scar on my forehead. You wouldn't notice the little nick I got right above my eyebrow from sledding into a fence when I was five years old. Marriage is much like that, isn't it? The longer you are together, the more things you learn about this man or woman--this person you once kissed at a candlelit altar--that are not very pleasant, not too pretty. Marriage truly is the process of two selfish people learning to love one another in the midst of their imperfections. For some, that's where divorce is born . . . if not actual legal divorce, then emotional divorce. But for you, it can be where love and commitment grow, as you draw closer and closer without rejecting the other or fearing rejection yourself. That's what Jesus did when He saw you. Love motivated Him to move toward people who were unlovable. And in the ongoing experience of marriage, He gives you the opportunity to embody His kind of love each day, getting up close and personal, forgiving, persevering, growing in Christ by refusing to grow apart. In marriage, life is lived in very close proximity. You need Christ to love your spouse through you, despite your spouse's flaws, disappointments and weaknesses. Thomas and I attended the conference and truly enjoyed it. We spent the night in Lynchburg then when we woke we were ready to have breakfast. We went to Historic downtown Lynchburg to eat at "Market at Main". The morning is overcast with occasional snow flakes as we walked downtown and enjoyed our time together. With 8 years of marriage we both agree, I would choose YOU again!

December 5-12, 2009 Trip to San Antonio and Austin, Texas

Well friends/family, this will be my first trip home to Texas for any holiday since I married my amazing, handsome husband 5 years ago. Yes I know this is not Christmas yet but I’m learning in my older ages not to be so rigid that I miss an opportunity. You might be saying “opportunity, what opportunity is in a holiday” and I’d say an opportunity to NOT be closed minded and therefore making memories at times that I typically would not exercise because I would claim it to be sac religious because its “not yet the holidays” so I’m getting out of my ruts! Anyway, last year at this time when Thomas and I attended the AARC National Meeting in California they announced this years meeting to be in San Antonio, TX. Oh my, I have a chance to mix business with pleasure since Austin, TX is home and it is down the highway about 72 miles-lucky me. So Thomas and I booked Caitlynn’s flight using a free voucher on US Airways from Roanoke to Austin for the dates and we booked ourselves later (when there was a good sale on flights from Delta) to fly to San Antonio for the conference but extending our stay to include time with my family. As time prevails, Justin got scheduled for his first swim (Saturday the 5th and Sunday the 6th) meet in San Antonio during our stay. Caitlynn’s flight was to and from Austin so that she could visit Nicole and her family while we were in San Antonio for our meeting but now Nicole’s family will have to be in San Antonio for the swim meet by 9 AM. Caitlynn arrives at 11:20 AM-Austin, we arrive at 12:30 PM-San Antonio so we will figure the change out as it transpires….

We started packing and getting ready for our trip on Friday the 4th. I prepared Marcus’s family’s gifts and Nicole’s family’s gift and shipped them to myself at Nicole’s house because we will be celebrating Christmas at her house on the Friday the 11th while we are there. I have not seen the kids open their Christmas gifts since Justin was a baby so I am excited. Nicole is going to cook the traditional meal for all of us also. I shipped the boxes to be sure their arrival beat ours so we’d have gifts to share with everyone. The work day came to a close and we began completing tasks to prepare for our trip-Thomas doing Sleep EZ payroll, personal accounting and back ups for computer files (he said in case our house catches on fire while we’re gone-ok?). I packed for both of us (this works best for us), prepared the Rat Dogs food, etc., cleaned out the refrigerator, took out the trash and consulted with Caitlynn as she packed herself and talked to several friends on her cell. It got to be almost 1 AM and as I completed my expense report for Sleep EZ, I had to get the calculator off Thomas’s desk then returned to work from our dining room table. Thomas came up to me and asked “what did you think of the sack?” I was unsure what he was referring to so I kept trying to get him to give me more details. He finally told me “the sack sitting in his desk seat upstairs” but I was still clueless. He wanted me to go upstairs and look at it……I followed him to his office and in his desk chair sat a big black gift bag with red tissue paper draped over the edges of it. He looked at me and smiled to indicate ‘that is the sack’ he referred to. I walk over to it and began unpacking it to find a black/white Michael Jackson designed purse (the one Caitlynn had Diane at She’s International in Salem, VA hold for her until she returns Dec 15th) then below it was an awesome saggy bag purse tote that I spotted that same day Caitlynn and I were “window shopping” at She’s International. I loved it the minute I saw it, it was made in Morocco but even with the discounted price (discounted 75%) it was still out of my league. So I just marveled over it but put it back on the shelf as my lust for it must have been obvious to Diane the owner. She is a flight attendant the flies internationally and opened this store 4 years ago this coming January and stocks it with items she purchases on her travels so they are very unique, which I love!! Thomas had bought my gray pearl drop earrings from here last year so Diane must have contacted Thomas to tell him of my drooling over this bag and in Thomas fashion-here it sits before my eyes! He had also bought the Michael Jackson purse for Caitlynn and I told him to go ahead and give it to her since we were leaving to celebrate Christmas in Texas. He thought it would be funny if he put the bag on the front porch then ring the doorbell, after all it is almost 1 AM and Caitlynn is in her room talking to Lindsey Page on her cell. Naturally I grabbed my camera and waited for the excitement as I was first standing in the upstairs hallway right outside her bedroom. Thomas did just as he calculated and rand the doorbell several times, just enough to get the Rat Dogs on alert! I heard her tell Lindsey, “oh my gosh, who is ringing our doorbell this time of night!” I guess she then looked out her bedroom windows to see if she could see a visitor’s vehicle in our driveway-when she did not she commented to Lindsey, “who in the world is here?” Thomas opened the door and yelled up the stairs (as I crept down and positioned myself to take pictures when she came down) “Caitlynn there is a girl here to see you”. She kept saying “who is it, I don’t see any cars?” Thomas told her a couple of times he did not know but he pretended to ‘tell the girl to wait on the porch until she gets here’. Finally as she continually commented as she got off her cell and started coming downstairs, Thomas waited next to the front door. He said, “she’ll just stand outside until you come down here”. As she rounded the bottom steps she asked Thomas where I was and when she looked around the corner and saw me she said “why are ya’ll being so creepy-this is just weird”. She looked outside and did not see anyone and so she started to open the front door as she reminded us, “There better NOT be someone jumping out to scare me-this is creepy!” Caitlynn finally opened the door and saw the big black gift bag sitting there and she retrieved it to the living room where she took the tissue paper out and then saw the purse she had asked Diane to hold for her so she could purchase it after her return from Texas-she was so happy! She thanked Thomas then hugged us as she returned back to her room for a couple of hours before we are to depart; she was sure to move her things over to the new purse so she could take it on her trip to Texas though.
I washed my face and completed our packing. The Rat Dogs always know when we are getting ready for a trip and pull out the luggage so they mope around in sadness as I gather things but they are always ready for bed when we are! Thomas and I called it DONE at 1:40 AM and I set the alarm for 3:30 AM (nice cat nap)….

The alarm disrupted my fragmented sleep as I can’t ever sleep well if I have a flight because I go over in my mind everything to pack and things needed so my mind just won’t go off. It was raining and they are predicting 2-3 inches of snow here today. I woke Thomas and Caitlynn 15 minutes before we needed to walk out the door at 4:15 AM so we would have time to stop at the ATM also. I got Caitlynn checked in at the ticket counter as Thomas parked the car then she headed off thru security. Thomas came inside and we got our tickets then we went thru security and sat with her at her gate until she departed. As we made our way to our gate for a 30-40 minute wait we ran into Robyn Goodpasture (owner of StudioFit 365) and her husband Richard, all 3 kids and her mother-in-law as they are going to Disney for a week. We visited with them and chatted as we all made our way thru the Atlanta airport and said our good-byes as Thomas and I were in search of some place to eat breakfast and kill the next 3 hours of our layover. Chili’s Too served us breakfast and I played with my cell as I answered emails then started reading my new book that Thomas got for me earlier this week by Sarah Palin “Going Rogue” and he played with his new 10” inch netbook (mini laptop) before we made our connection here then we were in flight to San Antonio. Caitlynn had made her layover and connection in a timely fashion en route to Austin as scheduled-she sent me texts to update me. Upon our arrival to San Antonio, I gathered the luggage while Thomas went to the Hertz counter and retrieved our reservation. He asked the gentleman if they had gotten snow and he responded “I counted 13 flakes”. We left and drove to the Convention Center to register for our conference and attend the exhibits. The weather is cool at 45 degrees and windy but no rain here. Nicole and her family were picking Caitlynn up at the airport in Austin since Justin had just finished his first swim meet in San Antonio-doing well and will continue tomorrow here in San Antonio.
The Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center sits on the Riverwalk (the Paseo del Rio) which we will see in more detail later; this is Thomas’s first time in San Antonio ever! San Antonio, deep in the heart of Texas is the 7th largest city in the U.S. The cultures and milestones of San Antonio’s history converge like tributaries of a great and colorful river, always flowing and vibrant with life. Indian roots and foundation of the Missions. European immigration, Spanish and Mexican heritage create the rustic reach of frontier days, the city-slick style of cattle baron boom time. A festive spirit of scents and sounds surrounds La Villita Historic Arts Village that welcomes you downtown along with the thick stone walls of the unforgettable Alamo. I brought Jason with me and Caitlynn one time when visiting home but Thomas was working and not able to come with us. Jason loves roller coasters so we went to Sea World and Fiesta Texas just to ride coasters while I had him here-we had a good time!
Thomas and I went through the exhibit halls to see products, etc. that this conference is known for-it is actually overwhelming at the volume. One of the booths had massage chairs that you sit in and place these ‘glasses’ on with ear pieces and a video that shows while you look through them. We like to stop at the various booths to see new products, ask questions, and gather samples if needed. We also made our way to the Roche pharmaceutical booth to register for the 5K run/fun walk that I will do in the morning at 6:30 AM, Thomas has decided he would do the fun walk while I run (after I coaxed him along with the lady at the booth). He first suggested that since he walked at the Drumstick Dash week before last he wouldn’t need to do another walk but we encouraged him to step outside his normal routine for the good of our bodies-especially at our age. I always say that at my age when I show up for a race and finish; in my mind I’ve won. I’ll keep running until the good Lord decides I’m done!
Talked to Nicole and Caitlynn as they were going to take a nap since both of them were up so early today, Thomas and I were listening to Karen (the GPS) direct us to check into our condo which is near New Braunfels, TX. but is actually located right in Gruene, TX. We had originally booked our stay here because Marcus and Michelle were living in New Braunfels, Nicole in Pflugerville and our conference would be in San Antonio so it would allow us to be in the middle of all that we would be driving to and from for the week. But since then Marcus’s family moved from their house closer to Austin so we are further than we need to be to see the family but good for the conference so it’ll work for us. We had not had lunch and its late afternoon now so we were in search of something with Texas style for my husband. Ahhh yes, “Chuy’s”-an Austin area tradition so Thomas and I bellied up to the bar area because the NCAA Football playoffs are in full force and we needed to sit where we could see a TV as Florida #1 and Alabama #2 are playing as we speak. We ate Mexican food and I drank Sangria (the best I’ve ever tasted!) and had sopapillas for our dessert. You can stand by the kitchen area and watch them make these along with tortillas by hand-ummm the taste of fresh tortillas! We left at the halftime during the game and went to check in at the condo: WorldMark by Wyndham located at 1546 Gruene Rd., Gruene, TX. As usual we were very pleased with our accommodations and resumed watching the football game with Alabama upsetting Florida and winning. Next is U.T. #3 vs. Nebraska #22 playing in the new Dallas Cowboys stadium with an attendance of 76,200 people-Texans LOVE football! Thomas and I only went to 1 V.T. (VA Tech) game this season and it was against Nebraska. It was as exciting as V.T. won in the last 3 seconds of the game so this will be a good game to watch Nebraska again. This year Heisman nominees consist of both Colt McCoy-the U.T. quarterback and Tim Tebow-the Florida quarterback, just like last year so this year it will be exciting again. During the first half of the Texas game Thomas ran to the store to gather basic essentials we will need here at the condo for the week, he made a pit stop at “Rudy’s” for Texas barbeque and brought it back to eat as we watched the game. I couldn’t eat because I still felt full from our late lunch and I was watching the game. The Longhorns won within the last 3 minutes of the game, I thought I would be sick before it was over! It was won by a field goal kick in the last second of the game-holy cow!! After taking a deep breath and relaxing its time for bed so I can be rested for the run in the morning. Talked to Nicole and Caitlynn earlier as she’s staying the night with them-they were going to bed earlier…..good night my family.

Up and at ‘em by 6:20 AM as we drove into San Antonio on a cold, drizzly day with 41 degree weather-expected high of 53 for the day. Not much traffic to contend with since it is Sunday, December 06, 2009. The Roche pharmaceutical 5K Run/Fun Walk is this morning at 7 AM with the start being at the convention center intersection of Market St. and Alamo St. During the run it was cool to see several groups from the army and marines running (they are all respiratory therapist), they sang as they ran. After the race Thomas and I drove to the facility address that Nicole had given us where Justin’s swim team would compete again today. It was actually only 2 ½ miles from the convention center and when we arrived I called Nicole. She and the girls were driving from Pflugerville and had left later than Juan and Justin so they were still about 45 minutes away but she thought the boys should already be here. We went in and saved enough space on the bleachers for most of us but no sign of the Palacios boys yet; there were a lot of people! Thomas and I were among tons of swimming kids and their parents but knew no one, shortly after we scoped out the place I noticed at the opposite end of the warm-up pool Juan and Justin coming around. Of course I ran up to them and hugged Justin first then Juan. Justin had to find his coach/team so he could start his warm-up laps. Thomas and I watched all around us, this place has 3 pools with lanes and the middle one being used for competition when it begins at 9 AM. The girls arrived about 8:40 AM and I immediately hugged Allison as she went to sit by Uncle Thomas then hugged Nicole and took the baby-Miss Lauren with me to sit here with Thomas and Caitlynn since Nicole needed to sit down by the team. Justin was in 2 different events today (breast stroke and butterfly) with 1 being this AM then the last would be closer to lunchtime after the other heats. As we waited we played with the girls and Justin would come down to “update us on the stats and times” periodically. As Miss Lauren got bored Caitlynn and I would walk around with her to see all the sights. She loved looking at the Christmas tree in the entrance. Towards the end before Justin’s finally heat she was restless so Nicole put “Yo Gabba Gabba” on her IPhone for her to watch-she is always mesmerized with that show. It’s creepy as it seems to have a very calming affect on her.
Justin was lining up for his heat when I positioned myself for some great photo ops when I realized that the referee was moving him to a different lane then back, no now to another one. Coach Flow was with Justin but I knew that he would be frazzled by this since he likes plans to go as planned-we waited in anticipation. As the start began I took multiple pictures as I did all day so far and a lady next to me started talking about her son who was also swimming right now. He is actually 2 years older than Justin and she told me the story of him doing this event (butterfly) to compete when he first started 2 years ago and she specifically asked the coach not to put him back competing with this particular stroke because of its difficulty since she didn’t want her son to be discouraged by it and not compete; until he could develop into a stronger more confident swimmer…..blah, blah, blah as she talks I see Justin dropping back as he swims then the motion of the ‘line referee’ that he was disqualified at the wall where he turns and my heart sank! He kept swimming but I knew why this lady chose for her son not to compete for a couple of years for this stroke, its difficult and tiring. At the completion of the event we all made our way to Nicole’s sitting area as Justin was coming with Juan. As he got close to his mom I could see he was upset and as he leaned toward Nicole to tell her what happened (disqualified for not touching the turn with both hands) he was teary eyed with disappointment. I thought it was best to tell him how well he had done for his first meet, hug him then let him talk to his parents as we took the girls with us to head to our vehicles. As Nicole came walking outside Thomas and I had opened the back of her Explorer and let Lauren play around as we played hide and seek with her laughing the whole time. I told Nicole the story that the lady had shared with me in hopes that they would later request Justin not compete in the breast stroke for the next few events to let him get stronger-this is his first time to compete and he’s only been swimming a few months as an organized sport. Justin came walking out with his dad and walked straight to Juan’s Mustang and got in. Thomas and I took Allison with us in her booster seat while Nicole drove Caitlynn, Lauren in her car seat. She has a new car seat that faces the front now-she’s getting to be a big girl. Justin was in no mood to talk and he was disappointed but I think he did very well. His personality is an achiever and he has that passion to win. As Vince Lombardi said-Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is. Justin needs a little time with his dad and he will be fine.
They followed us to the condo, (we decided that “us girls” would all go get lunch for the crew and bring it back to eat at the condo together) while we drove Allison entertained us with her conversation of many things. We asked her what she’s like to eat and as usual she responded, “chicken, but I still don’t have feathers yet!” She says this because she eats chicken everywhere they go when eating out so Justin tells her she is going to turn into a chicken-everytime! Then the song from the Black-Eyed Peas was on the radio so she sang “Boom, Boom, Pow…..” as Thomas and I looked at each other she laughed and covered her mouth as she winked at Uncle Thomas. She asked about where we were staying and I described it to her, the stairs that go upstairs and all. She responded “did you know I don’t really like steps because one time I came down them and fell”. I assured her we’d keep a watchful eye on her so she didn’t get hurt while visiting there with us. Allison wanted to know if we were there yet, I told her “about 15 minutes”. She said, “my dad gets tired when he gets home, swimming makes him tired” and we chuckled at her comment. She added “one time after swim lessons I tried shrimp but Justin would not try one bite, I liked it” then Uncle Thomas and I had to agree because we both like shrimp too. As we continued our drive from San Antonio to Gruene she tells us that she and Justin always ask their mom “are we there yet so my mom says about an hour and its really only 50 seconds”. Kid’s concept of time cracks me up! Then I asked her about her alphabet and had her tell me what several words started with, she said her class is learning about the letter “C”. “Like Cathy Cole” she reports to us. I told Thomas that her teacher calls her “Ally” at school and Thomas commented “Alley Cat”, Allison replied “yeah my mom calls me that.” Thomas and I looked at each other and smiled as we have heard stories from her mom about her Alley Cat moods at times. I told Thomas that Allison is left-handed like him and so I had her show me which hand she writes with; Allison told us “Kristen my Sista Girl does too but Ashley has red hair and doesn’t write with this hand” as she holds up her left hand for us to see…..
The kids came running in the condo and were excited about its size and the arrangement of the rooms upstairs. Allison decided to stay with the guys so Nicole drove the rest of us ladies to Ruby’s (we ALL agreed on Rudy’s even though Thomas had it last night-he was ready for it again) to pickup a family size serving of their variety of meats and sides (our favorite side is their corn, it’s a creamed style and is delectable!). Caitlynn sat in the vehicle with Miss Lauren as we retrieved the goods. I had to get a Big Red to drink since we do not have them in VA (I got a 20 ounce only though). Upon our return, Thomas had been playing with Allison as he taught her to hold his hands, walk up his body then when she got high enough he’d flip her over-she loves this! We organized the food, blessed it and partook of it together as we watched the pre-game for the Dallas Cowboys. Juan and Thomas are both huge fans (for life) and were ramping up for the game. After we ate Caitlynn and I walked down to the Recreation Room to take Justin to play pool, Allison to play video games, and Lauren to admire all the sites (or things she could get into-haha). After a bit Nicole joined us so she, Allison and I went into the lobby and fixed ourselves some hot tea and had our own version of a tea party. Justin met a young man his age that was there with his grandmother and smaller brother so they played a couple of pool games together and enjoyed themselves. I showed the girls the outside hot tub and heated pool but its too cold for the kids this time, maybe next time. We returned to the condo and finished watching the football game with the guys. Nicole and I laughed because every time Lauren would be brought down from the stairs she’d immediately walk over to Thomas and hold her hands out so he’d pick her up then she’d put her head on his shoulder and just stay there for a bit as he rubbed her back-then down again she’d go. Thomas loves cuddly little girls and how can you resist those cute cheeks? The game came to an end and it was around 6:40 PM so the Palacios loaded their kids and my daughter and drove to Pflugerville for school and work tomorrow. Caitlynn and Nicole had been talking about KK coming and visiting, every day on their cell phones for weeks so she went with them so Thomas and I could go to class to next 2 days in San Antonio. After they left Thomas and I made a trip in the dark to the hot tub and relaxed a bit. The day has been cloudy and drizzly but it is coming to a close. We went back to our room to catch the Heisman nominee presentation then off to bed with my new book by Sarah Palin “Going Rogue”-it’s very good (thank you husband for getting it for me).
And if tonight my soul may find her peace in sleep, and sink in good oblivion,and in the morning wake like a new-opened flower then I have been dipped again in God, and new-created.~D.H. Lawrence

Monday, December 07, 2009-Class, class, classes. After Thomas and I had gone our separate ways for different topics-he did homecare and I did sleep, we made our way to have a beverage at the Wyndham that is attached to the convention center when we were finished. We watched highlights for Monday night football for tonight’s game then decided since the weather was still gloomy to back to Gruene for dinner then we’d be settled in for some football and a nice quiet evening. Thomas had walked a little on the Riverwalk in between a couple of his classes but since the weather was still wet and cool, we’d give it another day or two to clear before walking on the Riverwalk together for a stroll. As we drove back to Gruene I suggested to Thomas the Gristmill Restaurant since they have good steaks and awesome chicken-fried steak (which I preferred) and he had not eaten there before. Since it was dark when we arrived, the town was brilliant with Christmas lights decorating their old-fashioned town. Historic Gruene’s town motto is “gently resisting change since 1872”. The story is that German farmers were the first settlers arriving in Texas in the mid-1840’s with one being named Ernest Gruene and his bride Antoinette that established the new city New Braunfels but acreage was scarce. Ernest and his 2 sons purchased land just down the river, and Ernest built the first home in Gruene in early fachwerk style. His 2nd son built his home and planted his surrounding land with cotton. Having become the number one cash crop, the cotton business soon brought 20-30 families. The rest is history as they say.
We walked past Gruene Hall (oldest dance hall in Texas and it still functions as a dance hall too) and then down the pavers to our restaurant of choice. The restaurant is beneath the water tower in historic Gruene district. Situated on the banks of the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels (between Austin and San Antonio), the Gruene cotton gin processed crops raised by area farmers until the wooden structure burned to the ground in 1922. All that remains of the water-powered mill today is the three story brick boiler room – now the Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar. As suspected we ordered just that, Thomas a steak and I ordered their awesome chicken-fried steak. Our meal was good, scenery great as the restaurant was quiet but a roaring fire was inviting as we ate with soft Christmas music playing amongst us. We even had dessert-Thomas said it was the best pecan pie he’d ever eaten (Jack Daniels whiskey was an ingredient), I’m thinking it was the Blue Bell vanilla ice cream that topped it!
We drove back to the condo to call it a night and I talked to Nicole and Caitlynn as they were planning our Christmas meal for Friday and preparing their list of groceries we would need. The kids were enjoying KK being with them.
So here we are in bed after our fulfilling meal at the Gristmill, watching Monday night football. During a commercial Thomas pulled up yahoo news on his wireless netbook and informs me that Danica Patrick will be driving in Nascar next year. She has been driving Formula 1 series for the last few years now-that should be exciting! As I have a very full belly, I'm warm and comfortable, lying next to the best man in the world (whom I happen to share my life with since he is my soulmate), and at peace-fell right to sleep before the 1st quarter was completed. I was out for the count. Ready for more classes tomorrow; Good Night Texas.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009-today looks like yesterdays weather, drizzly and 51 degrees-high expect 57 degrees when we woke bright and early to travel since our classes start at 8:30 AM. As we drove into San Antonio there was the usual I-35 traffic, backed up so Thomas saw a sign for Shipley’s Donuts (he LOVES donuts) and he exited off. I looked up just as he started to make the exit and saw the sign myself and I knew exactly what was going through his mind!
Welcome to Shipley Do-Nuts: For over 73 years, we have been providing people with delicious do-nuts and pastries. And we continue that tradition today with over 220 locations throughout Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico. We are always serving up fresh do-nuts, warm kolaches, freshly brewed coffee, ice cold milk and many other delicious breakfast favorites. Come visit your local Shipley Do-Nuts and Make Life Delicious™
He ordered 2 kolaches and an apple fritter that he delighted in eating, we shared the kolaches as he merged back onto I-35 and we resumed our route….
Our classes were finishing up today but I had a complete full day-he would finish before me today but we were meeting up for our lunch break. Our lunch break began at 11:10 AM so that gave us a good amount of time to walk along the Riverwalk as the rain/mist was minimal; Thomas and I headed left at river level for a stroll. We walked until there was construction on one side then went up and over a walking path that out us on the other side as we weighed our options for lunch. I still feel full from last night's meal! After evaluating our options we chose Rio Rio (one of Nicole’s favorite restaurants. I brought the Booth’s here to eat last Sept when Matt graduated from Air Force Academy also) as the prices looked more reasonable for lunch and the environment was festive and offered good Tex-Mex food as it sits on the Riverwalk. We always enjoy our meals together, it just slows time it seems to me.
I had been texting Marcus to see if we could meet for dinner afterwards somewhere in between them and us. He picked out San Marcos and was picking the girls up from school, taking them home to change them and we’d meet around 5:30 PM. Thomas finished before me by several hours so he drove around San Antonio to do a little sight seeing then picked me up as my classes ended.
Thomas and I drove to meet Marcus, Mihailey, and Mallorey at Jason’s Deli in San Marcos for dinner and to give them their Christmas presents from us and spend some time with them. I haven’t seen the Miller girls (or their parents) since January 2009 so I am excited. I love to see the little people that they become and grow into each time I get to visit them. Michelle got a migraine this afternoon so she will not be joining us, maybe we can catch her later this week before we go home. The girls came in with Marcus and of course I immediately ran to them and hugged them both then their dad. Marcus never changes but it’s always good to see him-he’s such a good dad. Mihailey and Mallorey are only half a head difference in height but they’ve both gotten tall, still cute as buttons! Mallorey reminded me she is in PreK now (she goes to Primrose School where Mihailey used to go) and Mihailey is in 1st grade. Mihailey made note to me that they typically learn cursive writing in 2nd grade but she’s already doing it. I asked her if she liked printing or cursive better and she replied “printing for now.” Mallorey’s favorite food when I asked her is strawberries and Mihailey agrees those are her favorite too! Mallorey has really developed quite a personality, she talks much more-and freely; I love it! She said her favorite class at school is art, Mihailey agreed that she likes it too. The 5 of us ate as we talked and got caught up with each other. It was neat to me that Mihailey recalls the trip when I took the 2 of them with Justin and Allison to Wildlife Ranch and Landa Park to paddle boat with them all-by myself. We had a great time, including riding a train thru the park not once but twice in one day and we ate ice cream twice in one day-good times! As we talked and ate, Mallorey just sat right next to Thomas (with me on the end of the table) and gave him a hug and kiss. He grinned as he didn’t even have to ask or negotiate for either! Mallorey displayed her counting skills for us as she counted very well until she got to 50. Mihailey practiced singing Feliz Navidad as she is taking Spanish classes after school. She wasn’t shy a bit as she belted out the tune, she and her sister wanted to sing a Christmas song before they opened their presents for us-so we all did. After Feliz Navidad, Mallorey chose Jingle Bells and we sang along. Mihailey was curious where Caitlynn was and I told her at Nicole’s so I had them pose and took a picture with my phone and text it to Nicole to share with Caitlynn and the kids. We opted to sample the ice cream for dessert at Jason’s Deli so we all went to the salad bar/ice cream area and indulged. Some of us topped our cones with chocolate syrup-that would definitely mean me! The girls opened their gifts when we all finished our desserts and the girls giggled because Thomas picked out the gift bags to put the gifts in-Mihailey got the large bag with Barbie on it and Mallorey got the small bag with Tweety. Mihailey has always loved Tweety Bird so we explained to them it was only because of their gift sizes that it actually ended up that way, they really didn’t care. The girls danced, told us stories and then Thomas joined in as the girls were teaching him a little hand holding, tangling, and dancing-they giggled as he did it with them as they stood next to our table. Mihailey showed us her doubled jointed pointer fingers and Mallorey practiced writing her name for us as she is left-handed it seems. She says she writes her name well “when she does it 3 times” so we watched as she did it 5 times and chuckled. I asked the girls how their 2 dogs are (Desi and Sadie-Desi’s a Rat Terrior) and they told me “fine”, Marcus replied “getting old”. I laughed as Caitlynn and I have always thought they had the best behaved dogs as they have never slept on the beds or gotten on the furniture but instead have their dog beds on the bedroom floor in Marcus and Michelle’s room, even go to bed and stay when Marcus tells them to-who’s dogs do that? Marcus said now that Sadie has gotten to snore so bad they have her sleep in the closet with the door shut, Mihailey smiled as she reported to us “I open the door in the mornings to let her out.” Thomas was amazed; we told them that our Gizmo would have the door torn apart by morning if we tried that! Mihailey has a miniature rabbit now that she got for her birthday this year and its crate is next to Marcus’s desk so when it ‘rearranges the cedar shavings, it decorates his desk’ he told us; we all laughed. Marcus said that Mihailey gave up cheer camp to do dance which she will have a camp this coming weekend in Austin.
After the time slipped away quickly, it was almost 7 PM before we knew it and it was time for them to head home so the girls could be in bed at their bedtime of 8 PM. It’s sad to say goodbye and it never seems that I get to spend much time with them but its time now. We took pictures and escorted them to their car and I helped each of them into their seats, hugged and kissed each then said our farewells as I told them that I would check with their dad to see what their schedules are for later this week-hopefully we will be able to see them again before we leave for VA.
Thomas and I were amazed at how much the sky had cleared since we arrived here in San Marcos and it continues to be clear enough to see the stars, off to the condo. We arrived and immediately changed and walked to the hot tub. There was 1 older lady in the heated pool that we spoke to a little then she was joined by her son shortly. When he got into the hot tub he and Thomas began talking about travel, accommodations, etc. His mom then joined us and we all talked until it came to talking about what we do for a living and ironically the lady wears a CPAP so the conversation shifted to that subject. She had 3 children (1 was this son with her) and lost 1 in a car wreck with a drunk driver after being in a coma for 8 months, back in the 90’s. I shared with her that I too had lost a child and she agrees that no matter how long the time has been (14 yrs in Aug this year for me) it still seems as if it were just yesterday. She has also buried 3 husbands and is married to #4 who is on a CPAP also-funny the people you meet in life. They left after a bit and Thomas and I were behind them shortly as we were going back to our place and settled in for the night. After all my journeys in life, I still have mountains to climb at this point in my life. Before I take another step down that path of life or make mistakes, I ask that God allow me to live as if love is all that matters. I want to fill that space in your heart Thomas with every kiss and warm embrace, all the days of our life’s journeys. Sweet Dreams to all.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009-woke to a clear sunny morning with the wind 14 MPH and the looks from inside is deceiving as you step outside to the 39 degrees! The high is expected to be 48 degrees for the day. Happy Birthday Juan Palacios and Deborah James. Thomas and I actually had no immediate agenda this morning so I let him do what he loves the most while on vacation-sleep in until he wakes. It is rarely past 9 AM usually but I think its just the thought of not ‘having to get up at a specific time’. I fixed us breakfast as I played music on my laptop Itunes as we enjoyed a low key morning. I packed our things for the nights stay in Pflugerville at Nicole’s and straightened the condo since we are trading places with Nicole and Juan tonight as they will come and stay here for the night to celebrate Juan’s birthday-quietly and alone!
Thomas and I drove into Gruene, TX (2-3 blocks from our condo) to the Gruene Winery. We had seen signs pointing to the ‘New Gruene Winery-Now Open’ when we came to eat Monday night so our wheels had been turning and we were curious. We knew we’d have a little bit of time today before we needed to be in Pflugerville to get Nicole on the road to our condo so she could meet Juan. So as you all know, Thomas and I love our wine and the times we can visit wineries is a luxury for us. I tease our kids and tell them that our goal in life is to spend their inheritance on stocking our wine cellar! As we parked the car and got out I looked around with great Texas pride when I gazed upon several birdhouses on the porch of the winery that were made out of old cowboy boots.
The Winery on The Gruene is located at 1308 Gruene Rd., Gruene, TX. Their motto is: The best wine I ever had, I made myself. They have fruit infused wines because they do not grow any of their own grapes. The juices are shipped from Canada mostly (Thomas was proud as the gentleman told us this) and from all over different parts of the country. They get the grape juice and bottle here and label. They do not provide tours because our host informed us “there really is nothing to see other than a bunch of plastic bottles and labels being put on”. We moved to the tasting area and sat on bar stools and began talking to our host as he turned on his computer and pulled Pandora (online free internet music) up to play Christmas music for our enjoyment. I pointed out to Thomas that the tasting fee was only $1.25 for 4 wines and $5.00 if you wanted to keep the glass, we have plenty of glasses so we will pass on that. (we actually have more wine glasses than we do any other type of glasses so Caitlynn’s friends drink sweet tea or juice in wine glasses when they visit us) Thomas and I got to know our host as we chose our samplings. Thomas chose his 4 to be: Texas Dark Rose (good fruit, smooth, robust finish), Pinot Noir (extra smooth), Rosa Grande (great fruit), and Harbor Red (awesome). My choices were: Gruene Watermelon (I rated it a 4 out of 5-nice summer wine with hint of watermelon on its finish), Harbor White (lovely smell of chocolate, pecan, amaretto. Warm flavor but its smell is better then its taste), Cool Breeze (typical ice wine-good with balanced flavor), and White Tail (slightly dry, crisp clear and clean-rated 4 out of 5). A “batch” is what they refer to as a case, it’s average cost is $199-289.00. Our host is retired military and ship yard since 1996, works part-time here and enjoys it. We discussed the wine laws and the difficulty shipping in/out of Texas. I told him that Lubbock is now “wet” as of about 2 months ago. He was familiar with that area of the high plains. Lubbock had always been “dry” and people had to drive to The Strip to purchased alcohol or beer of any kind. The Strip was an area located outside the city limits and it was lit up like Vegas with multiple stores to choose from for your purchases. They tried passing a law to legalize alcohol/beer in Lubbock for as long as I can remember and it just passed here recently.
Our host began pouring our samples that were 1/3-1/2 glass in size-EACH. So after our samplings we were thinking that if you’re on a limited budget and wanting a little wine tasting-this is your place! When he poured Thomas’s red wines he used an aerator-wine decanter called “Soiree” that fits in the mouth of the bottle. It has a glass chamber that allows wine to achieve its fullest taste, bouquet by adding the essential ingredient that every wine needs-oxygen. Giving every glass a breath of air!
Speaking of air-we were ready for some as we are now going to find a winery that Karen Richter had given me a bottle of wonderful wine, way back in the day (maybe 8 years ago?) from the winery named Sister Creek. We put the name in the GPS but it couldn’t find it so I googled it on my cell phone and it found it and gave me the address, which I used it for the GPS to map our route. The google search said that Sisterdale, TX (the town that the winery resides in) has a population of 25-25 whole people, is that a town? Thomas and I drove thru the Texas Hill Country looking for the winery established in 1988 and is home of Sister Creek Vineyards in a cotton gin that originated in 1885. The story goes like this: Sisterdale-A vineyard in its past.
Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels came to Texas in 1845 and founded the town of New Braunfels. Two years later, Nicolaus Zink started the Sisterdale settlement in the valley where the East and West Sister Vreeks flow into the Guadalupe River. The Sisterdale settlement, the second oldest town in the Texas Hill Country, attracted a group of German “free thinkers”, also known as the Latin Colonies who studied Latin and shunned organized religion. These immigrants very judiciously cut cypress trees from the Sister Creeks and used the wood for home construction, furniture and cabinet making. The Latin Colonies, which included nobility in their ranks, lasted only a few years. Thinking they would be able to farm part of the day and spend part of the day studying poetry, literature, and music, they quickly realized they knew nothing about farming and that survival would consume most of their time. After the initial settlement, Sisterdale enjoyed continued growth over the next few years with the influx of Germans fleeing the failed European revolution in 1848. In 1850, Ernst Kapp and Dr. Rudolph Wipprecht, also immigrating for political reasons, established the Hydropathic Instuition in Sisterdale which promoted cures with mineral waters. The Comfort Museum displays Hermann Lunkwitz’s lithograph illustrating water cure processes. Kapp became the first professor of languages at Texas A&M. Recently, a professor from the University of Chicago doing research on ancestors from the area, discovered a historical publication indicating that vineyards were planted in Sisterdale in the 1860’s. In addition, his research indicated that the small limestone building adjacent to the current winery was probably the site for the first permanent home, after the initial log cabin, in the Sisterdale area; the Zink home. The 1885 cotton gin which houses the Sister Creek winery was in operation until 1927. At that time the boll-weevil infested the cotton fields in the Sisterdale Valley. Inability to eradicate this infestation eventually forced the closing of the cotton gin. Sisterdale Valley Historic District has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975.
So we have arrived at 1142 Sisterdale Rd., Sisterdale, TX, 78006, 830-324-6704 They are known for producing an extraordinary, slightly carbonated Muscat Canelli (the one I sampled years earlier and LOVED-that’s why we ARE here, need I remind you?). For over 20 years they have been employing Bordeaux and Burgundy wine making techniques to produce fine traditional wines in addition to the Muscat Canelli. The winery was very cool as it is a very nostalgic setting with original wood floors and currently decorated for Christmas. I had no idea they would have such a wide selection of wines when we arrived. They offer a self-guided tour and the older gentleman at the counter was on the phone taking a wine order but excused himself long enough to inform us about the tour. We took the sheet and went on our way to see their processes for their wines. Their wine is aged in 60 gallon oak barrels, while minimum filtration and fining allows retention of the fullest flavor. Upon completion of the tour we joined our host at the counter and chatted with him a bit about their wines. They have the traditional wines; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon blends and Merlot. The host informed us that they get all their grapes still with stems and what they do not grow themselves; they get mostly from the High Plains of Texas-Lubbock. They ONLY do business with vineyards not wineries. Once the grapes are received it takes 2 days at the most to get the tubs back, ready for more. He explained to us about the Muscat grape as Thomas had confused it with the Muscadine grape that he does not like. The Muscat grape is from the Old World and was the 1st grape known to be cultivated, here in Texas they refer to it as “the Mustang” grape. As you can see by most of their wines they are dry (my least favorite) so Thomas did a full tasting and when he thought I’d like one, he would give me the last sip. I, on the other hand knew without a doubt that I would be sampling both the Muscat Canelli and Muscat Canelli Reserve. Oh yes, I was not disappointed nor was Thomas with any of his samplings. Our next chore was to figure out how to take some home but of course we joined their wine club (Caitlynn will roll her eyes if she finds this out so we just won’t tell her). We chose the Platinum Club which gives us a 20% discount of 6 bottles shipped 6 times a year; we chose the mixed types of wine. We decided to take our first shipment with us now so he gave us our discount with this purchase of 6 bottles and he sold us a box that could be used for shipping. The only downfall to that is it has to be shipped within TX because of the shipping laws but where it goes personally after that is no concern of theirs so we gave them Nicole’s address (she’ll love that). After our nice visit and grand selections we took pictures outside near the cotton gin entrance and put Nicole’s address into Karen (GPS) so we could be on our way to her house. It indicated we were about 70 miles from there so off we went, admiring the hill country with the many ranches along the roads.
With a Dairy Queen sign down the road a little distance, I thought now would be as good as any time to grab a bite and let Thomas experience a steak finger basket at the DQ. I was shocked when I moved to Virginia and realized they also had DQ’s but more shocked when I first went to one to get a steak finger basket (which was what I typically ate at DQ’s) and they are nowhere on the menu-what? So I had said something to Thomas thinking maybe they ‘used’ to offer steak finger baskets on the menu and just didn’t now-he looked at me like I was crazy since they obviously have never offered that on a Virginia DQ menu. We went inside to use the bathroom and place our order and when we got back into the rental car, I divided it in half for both of us. He didn’t even dip his steak finger in the gravy (like us Texans do-we love gravy!) so I asked him why. His response was “I need to be able to taste its full taste to see if I like it”, what-how could you NOT like it Sweetie? Well we ate and he seemed to enjoy it but not anywhere near the level I did-It’s all good!
Arriving at Nicole’s about 3:30 PM she told us Justin did not have swim practice today so we wouldn’t be taking him this afternoon. We sent her on her way and she looked great as she left, all dressed up for Juan’s birthday. They were meeting at our condo for the night to celebrate and we were keeping the kids-life is good! Lauren immediately gave Thomas and I hugs, Allison wanted me to play and Justin was in hopes Uncle Thomas liked video games because I don’t do them well and he remembered that. Caitlynn and I were trying to decide on dinner shortly around 5 PM (we wanted to keep the kids on their schedules and Justin had some homework to do) and we decided on pizza. I try to give each of the kids some one on one time when I get to visit, I think this gives them time to really talk and open up about things they enjoy, want to talk about, or just be together. Thomas had been outside to love on Biscuit (their Rat Terrior) then Justin fed/watered him, then worked on his homework. Allison played the piano (to practice for Thursday night) for Thomas and I while Lauren just ran around with all of us. So I asked Allison if she’d like to go get the pizza with me while Thomas and Justin played video games and Caitlynn started feeding Lauren; she would love to go so we grabbed her booster seat and put it in-off we go. Everyone in Pflugerville must have called pizza in to be picked up or delivered because the 2 people working the counter were on the phone taking orders for at least 5 minutes each before they were able to take our order. As we waited for 30 minutes, Allison and I walked outside (in the cold, drizzly weather) around the strip mall area and talked. She talked about school, Justin and Christmas-wondering again when we were having our Christmas with them then we returned back inside and watched football previews for the upcoming games….
We got ready to eat and blessed our meal and enjoyed the time together. Justin reminded us as we were eating and talking that we didn’t do “best and worst”. Allison explained to Thomas that they do this at night with their parents, “all you have to do is tell your worst thing today and your best”, spoken like a true 5 year old. Then Allison said she was going first and she did. Justin’s turn next and he said “best, Uncle Thomas playing video games with me” and I asked “worst?” but he had none. This is good times. We finished eating and Justin put Biscuit in the garage since they are expected to have below freezing temperatures tonight. Thomas worked with Allison to teach her how to tie her shoes since Nicole says it’s difficult for her since she is not left-handed. Next it is bath time, I corralled Justin and Allison while Caitlynn wanted to put Lauren to bed so we all took turns hugging and kissing her-then off to bed the other two went also. I tugged them and hugged/kissed them, suggesting if they go to sleep well “we could probably go to the Donut Shop in the morning”, Allison clapped and Justin lit up like a Christmas tree-I believe they’d enjoy that. We got the kids in bed by 7:45 PM (Nicole would be proud) and Thomas, Caitlynn and I watched TV. Nicole and Juan had set the TV to record several things so we decided to watch something that they had already recorded, I have no patience for TV so whatever was simplest was fine with me. As Caitlynn scrolled thru our options we chose Texas Country Reporter. It is a show that is narrated as a country man from Texas drives around the state finding interesting places or people to talk to and report on, at a casual laid-back pace for 30 minutes. I used to watch this show with Brandon if the weather/wind were bad outside, we loved it. Then when Nicole came to live with me, she and I would also watch it together. Back in those days you were lucky to have a VCR but no one had even heard of a DVR like now! Thomas, I’m sure had never seen this show but I felt like he’d enjoy it as he likes to learn interesting things. It was so weird because on the preview for this episode it talked about a ‘gifted piano player from Petersburg, TX(a very small cottonfield town near Abernathy, TX outside of Lubbock). I couldn’t believe it because it must have been 6 or 7 years ago that Charlotte Nolen introduced me to his music when we were together. I enjoyed it so much she burned me a copy of her CD and its on my Itunes, I listen to it a lot and even have another copy at the sleep lab to listen to. Evidentially as the story unfolded before us (on the DVR at Nicole’s that she had previously recorded) he was driving a year or so ago and fell asleep which caused him to have a wreck that resulted in him becoming a quadriplegic. They interviewed a neurologist and his P.A., the P.A. was named Devin and I worked with him at the Lubbock hospital back in the day. He explained that the injury could either be an open or closed injury with very little or no return of muscle use, his was an open injury. But with his comment as they showed him playing the piano again with his hands wrapped, he described himself as becoming self-centered and had lost focus of his God given gifts as he didn’t appreciate the gifts he was given any longer but through the accident he realized how fortunate he is to be alive and is thankful every day of his life. He said he recalled saying before the accident “I can’t imagine my life without playing the piano” and he reintegrates, “I am here playing the piano again because I can’t imagine my life without playing the piano”. What a great story, but I had no idea! I immediately called Charlotte and when I told her about it she said she did remember something about it but didn’t know how he recovered exactly. I told her the story and at that moment I realized she did not know how much I have enjoyed the CD she copied for me-I truly have.
It wasn’t long after that when Thomas and I were ready for bed. I moved my next load of laundry to the dryer and folded the finished load. I set my alarm for 5:50 AM since I would be getting the kids ready for school, did my devotions after kissing my husband and telling him goodnight, then off to sleep.
O bed! O bed! delicious bed!That heaven upon earth to the weary head.~Thomas Hood, Miss Kilmansegg - Her Dream

Thursday, December 10, 2009-Wow, it’s really cold this morning as I got up at 5:20 AM when Miss Lauren woke up. Mighty brisk at 31 degrees and a high expected to only be 43 for the warm side of the day! Justin had gotten up a little after we did and watched the Star Wars Clone Wars cartoon before he got ready for school and our trip to the Donut Shop for donuts and kolaches (our tradition with my visits). I woke Allison at 6:20 AM and she got up around 6:35 AM. Caitlynn was my next victim as I woke her to take care of Lauren while I took the school kids; Caitlynn cooked Lauren an egg and a piece of toast for her breakfast. We left and Justin was excited as he got to sit in the front seat (he’s old enough now without even a booster) and I had the ‘bun warmers’ on in both of our seats to warm us up. I personally love bun warmers (my car has them too) but Thomas doesn’t really care for them, I told Justin this and he said “man, I wish we had these in our car”. Arriving at the Donut Shop, Allison immediately went to the refrigerator area to get her small chocolate milk while Justin ordered his usual cinnamon roll and a glazed donut then went to get his large chocolate milk. He made sure that I was ordering kolaches which I had already beat him to the draw, I ordered a dozen (some for Thomas and KK) then Allison ordered her usual chocolate covered donut with sprinkles and another donut. We ate together and I enjoyed their conversation as I asked them questions about school and the plans for today. Justin was curious to see how long Thomas and I would be visiting this time, he remembered that KK would be staying 2 days longer that us. He and Allison wanted to be sure the plans hadn’t changed and we would be having Christmas with them Friday-I assured them that we would not be missing that and I personally was looking forward to the meal! Finishing up and wanting to stay timely (Justin watches the clock because he does not like to be late for anything) we cleaned our table and left for school at 7:15 AM. Driving in the traffic pattern for drop-off I reconfirmed that Thomas and I would be joining both of them for lunch. Thomas hadn’t been to eat with Allison before and the last time he was here was when Justin graduated from Kindergarten, we made the trip to surprise him in time for videoing the occasion as we drove in from VA.
Upon my return Caitlynn and Lauren were entertaining each other and Thomas had already gotten in the shower. Caitlynn laughed as she said Lauren kept going to her parent’s bedroom door trying to get in not understanding that Thomas and I had slept there as her parents were not here. Thomas needed to do some computer work and we were not able to access their wireless internet (without bothering Juan last night and we wanted he and Nicole to have a quiet, alone evening without any interruptions so we did not try too hard) so I was taking him to a coffee house this morning so he could get his stuff done-I knew exactly where to go. I dropped him off then came back to Nicole’s to relieve Caitlynn from babysitting Miss Lauren. Lauren and I played in the floor with her toys and I called the office to catch up on things. Kim Wells’ (she works for me and is a personal friend also) mother has COPD and has been ill for the last couple of months with her health deteriorating but more progressive this last week so she and I had been texting back and forth this week. It’s always difficult for me because I think everyone deals with stress, sickness and end of life processes differently and I never really know what to do to help others that are dealing with these things so I try to give people their space and not make demands on them to allow them time to deal with the things at hand with the focus being on the person that is ill. In my life with everyone that I have lost by them dying as been swift and mostly immediately-no lengthy illnesses so I can’t fathom watching a loved one suffer for days, weeks or months so I try to encourage everyone to just spend the time they feel they need with the ill person. You have to do what you feel is necessary for you (individually) to be able to accept, deal and not have any regrets. Life is not dress rehearsal, this is the real thing! You should never have regrets, sometimes you never get another opportunity to make things right…
Nicole arrived back at the house from the overnight stay at the condo around 9:30 AM, we chatted and she noticed that I had done every bit of her laundry while they were away-she chuckled. I have a little OCD when it comes to laundry, well really I guess truly I have a lot of OCD in many areas I’m sure-not medicated; I just deal with it! I left Lauren and KK with Nicole while I drove to pick Thomas up at the Marble Blue Java Hut where he had completed his use of their free wifi and we headed to Pflugerville Elementary to join both Allison (10:40 AM) and Justin (11:45 AM) for their lunches. I teased Thomas about only getting coffee while he was at the Marble Blue because they also offer Blue Bell ice cream and personally I can not resist indulging in Blue Bell-ever! When I was pregnant with Caitlynn I craved their Banana Split flavor, so good, so good! Today when I ask her if she likes banana splits, she responds-NO.
Thomas and I went to the office to get our passes and then went directly to the lunchroom. When Allison joined us at the Guest Table she told us that “I had blood from my tooth today!” as I had her open her mouth for inspection, I realized her bottom right tooth was already pushing the baby tooth out-won’t be long now I assured her. Thomas shared a story with her that he recalled when Caitlynn had a loose tooth and would not pull it (of course I think teeth are the worst things and I DO NOT pull my kids teeth, thank God they’ve always come out naturally or the dentist would remove them by necessity!). He convinced Caitlynn to let him look at the tooth and he had a tissue in his hand, reached in her mouth and then pulled his hand back. He asked her “how does your tooth feel now?” and Caitlynn told him “it still hurts” and then she realized it was missing. Thomas opened the tissue and the tooth was in it-problem solved. Thomas told Allison after that story that he could use a tissue with her if she wanted him to; at this time she’s not thinking so.
Justin finished eating with Thomas and I; he then wanted to walk in the halls to show Thomas his school. They had many interesting projects on every wall that different students and classes had completed; we enjoyed the displays. We found one wall with a giant world map on the wall so I was showing Justin where Belize (Central America) is located since this is a trip we try to make yearly and we are headed there in January. This will be the first time ever that we will actually stay for 2 weeks instead of 1, though we have threatened it for 5 years. Thomas then pointed out to Justin where he was born in Canada and where we traveled to in June when we went to British Columbia and Vancouver. Justin showed us places where he’d like to visit one day.
As the time rolled around for Justin’s class to return from the lunchroom we said our goodbyes for now and watched him walk to join his classmates. It is just amazing to me how grown up he has become. It’s funny because he is kind of quiet but he really has a good sense of humor that he shows on occasion but it’s very rewarding to see him being as compassionate as he is. Nicole had shared a story with me that he had ‘volunteered’ her to take the Christmas cards that his class made to a local nursing home for the residents. Justin told her he was writing his to “Joe” who is a resident that Justin states to his mom that he knows. I assume from visits that his class has made to this particular nursing home. Justin wanted to be sure to share some holiday cheer with his friend Joe which is an admirable trait for such a young man.
Thomas and I returned to our rental car in search of Fry’s Electronics and Lowe’s. Thomas loves to shop for things at Frye’s whenever there is one in the area. It is a huge electronics supercenter-if you can imagine a Sam’s Club and a Walmart joined under the same roof, it would be comparable. We found the ‘goods’, checkout and then drove back to Nicole’s house. Lauren had been trying to sit in Thomas’s rolling computer bag so Nicole had to close it up-Nicole laughed when she reported it to Thomas, he was holding Lauren as she ate the butt of his slice of pizza. We told Nicole about Allison’s tooth (this will be her first to loose one and she’s been telling us for months that it was loose). Justin would roll his eyes and tell me “her tooth is not even loose yet”, I’m sure she had classmates loosing teeth and she’s wanting to be sure she’s not missing out on any experiences...). Justin used to tell us when he started losing his teeth that he hoped a gold one would grow in its place, we all laughed as Nicole reminded us of his comments. Ally’s tooth is SO loose, Thomas told her “all I need is a tissue”. It was time for Nicole to get ready to leave so she could get her hair done (cut and colored), she would be finished by afternoon and return back to the house then. KK and I would be picking the school kids up when they get out this afternoon. While Nicole was gone
Thomas replaced Nicole’s fluorescent lights in her laundry room that had been out for at least a year and a half-I told her I would have gone on strike because you can’t see in there! When she returned and KK pointed it out to her she was so excited, she said “this is one of the best days of my life’ and hugged Thomas. We played with the kids and Thomas worked with Allison on tying her shoes some more; we enjoyed the afternoon. KK and I left the kids with Thomas so she and I could go to HEB’s for the purchase of our Christmas meal list. Caitlynn had “2 disposable aluminum pans” on the list and when I inquired what they were for she told me “the turkey and stuffing”. I did not realize Nicole did not own an enamel baking pan for the turkey so we decided to make that one of our purchases for her, then just get 1 disposable pan for the stuffing. I told Caitlynn that I have had my enamel baking pan since I was married to her dad so at least 28 years, they’re not something that you have to continually replace. I figured Nicole would enjoy its use.
Allison’s 1st piano recital is tonight at 6 PM in the community outside Pflugerville named Hutto, at the music instructor’s Catholic Church. Caitlynn made pimento cheese sandwiches to take and I sliced them to place decoratively on a serving platter (as my daughter requested). I took this opportunity to share the story with Caitlynn of Nana Miller (my dad’s mom) making homemade pimento cheese in the summers when I visited her, I have never tasted ANY as good as hers since then! As Nicole left with Allison at 4:45 PM and we would get Lauren ready and take she and Justin with us. Juan was not going to be able to make it since he was working in San Antonio and had the company accountant there with him and had to catch a 7 PM flight, he would be taking her to the airport in San Antonio so Nicole would video. During our drive to the recital I kept singing songs that had a line in them in relation to what Allison, Justin, Caitlynn or Thomas said-Caitlynn was telling me “what is up with that song recognition thing your doing?” The kids and I just laughed as I continued with each new comment as Thomas drove us to our destination.
The recital was very nice and Allison was the 3rd to perform, she did well. After everyone finished and pictures were taken we got ready to leave. Caitlynn would be staying with Nicole and kids while Thomas and I went back to the condo in Gruene for the night so we moved the booster seat and gave hugs/kisses to everyone then departed for our 50 mile drive. We decided we were going to stop and eat dinner somewhere that we could watch the NFL game tonight. Thomas searched the GPS for places along our route and he decided on Pluckers Sports Bar . Upon entering inside, it was obvious that since San Marcos is a college town (Texas State University)-they all hung out here. It was a loud atmosphere with big screens in every direction-good place to see any game I’d say. Pluckers tagline is “if you don’t like our wings, you get the finger”. Thomas took the waiters recommendation and ordered “the Cheech and Chong”, I went with bones skinless wings-Honey BBQ. The fries they serve are waffle fries, very good! Thomas let me sample his and it was wonderful with queso and guacamole on it-we both enjoyed his selection. As we left, the drive is only 17 miles from here and I drove us-ready for bed, it’s been a busy day.
Blessed is the person who is too busy to worry in the daytime and too sleepy to worry at night…

Friday, December 11, 2009-cloudy morning at 39 degrees as we woke at the condo and my husband’s back has been bothering him so he went to the hot tub for some relief before getting our breakfast fixed. I was up and started doing a little bit of laundry (it’s that OCD thing I have-it chases me, even when I travel) and kind of gathering things for our trip back to Nicole’s since this is our day for the Christmas celebrations with them. Thomas and I decided that we would go thru Wimberley and visit a couple of wineries in the area. Texas has a wine passport that you can get and as you visit the wineries they stamp it, upon completion you can receive their rewards program gift they offer. We had already had 2 stamps from Wednesday so we lack 2 more-that is our goal for today as we drive toward Pflugerville for the evening.
Nicole called my cell to update our plans for the Christmas Meal and gift exchange with them for this evening. I asked her if Caitlynn was helping her with all the cooking (Nicole loves to cook!) and she replied, “oh yes, I have her chained to the table dicing” and we both laughed. Thomas and I loaded and started driving a little after noon time with the GPS (Karen) leading our way. We are traveling on the Texas Hill Country Trails and the road signs say “Ranch Road” instead of “County Road” like it does in West Texas. This is some of my favorite parts of Texas as it has rolling hills with country life surrounding us. This area is known for the Live Oak trees, Spanish moss that grows on most tress and ranches as far as the eye can see. It was funny as we dawned a hill and Thomas commented as he drove, “wow I can see a long way”-that’s Texas I thought to myself as I snickered. Our route took us over Blanco River and Cypress Creek as we drove into the small town of Wimberley. I had not been in this area since Brandon was in elementary (so must be about 15-20 years ago). I had told Thomas that the main area had the wooden sidewalks and a little train that you could ride on for a short ride thru the town. I remember us coming here in the summer and hanging out on Blanco River swimming and floating then we would go into the main area for ice cream and walk around to see all the little country shops. They even had blacksmiths working on horses as they would shoe them in the town area and mash out the shoes for everyone to watch. That was not as cool for us to watch, mostly because at that time we lived out in the country in Anton, TX where we had roping horses that Brandon and Lynn used for head n’ heel roping. Not to mention Brandon’s pigmy goats, chickens, and 4-H calves so we were used to seeing horses being shoed. I’m not thinking Thomas has ever seen it though….As we got into town it didn’t take long for me to see how much it has changed in all these years-wow!
Thomas had put the GPS to search and I looked for the signs we had seen Wednesday referencing ‘Wimberley Winery’ and we drove thru town, turned and the road wound around to where our destination should have been but it was not there so we searched for another winery in the area. Our next place would be Driftwood Estate Winery (4001 Elder Hill Rd., Driftwood, TX, 78619, 512-858-9667 ) and we found it and arrived parched (perfect place to be!). This seemed to be a fairly new winery that advertised its “Texas sunsets” as it had chairs in sets all around the edge of the hills in this area to see panoramic views of the rolling hills and a covered deck. There were 2 ladies providing the tastings and we visited with both of them as we admired our surroundings. The tastings were $5 each for 6 selections, without a glass so we made our selections. Thomas chose: Chardonnay (Gold medal), Vionier (Gold medal), Lone Star Cabernet (Gold Medal-8 times), Cabernet Sauvignon (Gold Medal), Red Rhythm (Gold Medal), and Orange Muscat (Gold Medal). My choices were: 2007 Sweet Blush, 2009 Orange Muscat, Sweet Red, Plum, Sangria, and Mulled Wine (it is seasonal so I couldn’t NOT try this one-you can heat it and add cinnamon sticks or orange slices, sounds like a party to me I’m thinking). My first 2 are actually Driftwood Estate wines and the last 4 are Wimberley Valley wines the ladies informed us. This winery produces Mediterranean style wines. As we enjoyed our tastings I looked over at a bar stool under the counter where a big, fat gray cat was lounging. One of the ladies told us when I commented about the cat her name is “Momma Kitty”. There tasting noted for their wines had wine/grape trivia on the back of them to read as you sip their wines:
One acre of land averages
5 tons of grapes
850 gallons of wine
4,290 bottles of wine
13.56 barrels of wine
357.5 cases of wine
21,450 glasses of wine
One barrel of wine contains
740 pounds of grapes
300 bottles of wine
25 cases of wine
1,500 glasses of wine
One bottle of wine contains
2.4 pounds of grapes
5 glasses of wine (6 ounces each)
Upon completion of our assignment here we made a selection of several bottles that we could take with us, for sure we would need to finish our wine case carrier (box with Styrofoam to handle/support 12 bottles that we would ship to ourselves as we left Texas) so we selected 4 bottles and I picked out some jalapeno jelly for a gift to Tracy for dog sitting our Rat Dogs. The lady who checked us out gave us a small map that had another winery on it that was just 5 miles away. Thomas and I felt like we’d have enough time for one more, besides we wanted to complete our Texas Wine Passport. (I will go online and process the wineries codes and they will ship us our prize for completing-sweet! As if we need enticement to go to wineries??)
Thomas and I continued our hill country drive to our next destination, as we pulled onto the Ranch Road a flat bed truck was in front of us with an obvious ‘fake animal’ that was life size, had the body of a longhorn with a huge rack of antlers on the head of the body-Thomas and I laughed as we realized the awkwardness of it and I thought to myself: only in Texas. The winding road took us to a beautiful layout named Mandola Estate Winery and Magnolia Restaurant located at 13308 FM 150 West, Driftwood, Tx, 78619, 512-858-1470 . This establishment is very large with a lot of acreage that you can see the grape vines in the entire front driveway area. Cypress trees and Live Oak trees surround outside with picnic tables and chair scattered throughout the winery entrance. Their advertising states “our winery combines warm hospitality and beautiful architecture with great wine and food”. The wines here are made from traditional Italian grapes varieties in American, French and neutral barrels with all their white wines being un-oaked. The winery has young grapes here (less than 5 yrs old) on their 17 ½ acres and they get the rest of their grapes from the High Plains of Lubbock also; this winery has been opened for 3 years. Winery motto is “La Dolce Vita” meaning “A toast to the Sweet Life”. The wine tasting is $5 for 6 selections and the host explained that all of their wines are mostly dry, even their Moscato so I opted to only try 1 which was the Rose’. Their wines average $18-26.00 a bottle and Thomas chose 2 to buy and finish our case that we would mail home. They also featured Italian food products to be sold in the winery along with a line of all natural items (Miller Creek Lavendar ) for sleep, body lotions/sprays, butters, salsa, and sauces so I bought a couple of items to take home to VA.
Thomas and I had concluded our wine tours for this Texas visit so we were headed to Cabela’s (Justin’s favorite story he told me one time when we drove past it) because Thomas had never been in one to see its grander size. I drove since I had only sipped at the last winery (way too dry for me) and they gave Thomas classic ‘tasting samples’ which is a very small amount. As we drove past the Salt Lick Pavilion and Restaurant I was sure to point it out to Thomas since we will have to eat there on one of our visits to Texas, anyone who has visited this part of the world has eaten here, except my husband of course-what the heck? Continuing our drive to Buda where the Cabela’s homeplace is, Thomas had been spotting mistletoe on the trees during our drive in the hill country so when we got right on the outskirts of Buda I pulled over and had him run to the trees we had just passed, shimmy up the tree to retrieve some mistletoe. You should of seen him when I just pulled over and shared my idea with him, he said “now, you want me to run back there” as I was pulling over and putting the flashers on. “Yes I do” and off he went! Upon his return with the greens, we drove the last few miles to Cabela’s. I dropped him off at the front then parked and met him inside. He was looking at house shoes, he had been wanting some wool slippers because he said “they don’t make your feet smell sweaty”. He found some he liked and also picked Bruce (Collins) a pair out for Christmas then when we got to the front of the store (after looking around at everything, I mean everything-I got a new pistol holder, pocket knife for Justin, etc.) I had gone to the bathroom and when I returned he had found some women’s wool house shoes and suggested since they were on sale I should get some. Then I had to wonder if my husband of 5 years was trying to tell me something?? We walked around looking at all the taxidermy animals throughout the store and when we got ready to check out a nice young lady started the process; when she go to the total she told Thomas if he spent $15 more he would qualify for another discount so we tried to find something. He suggested sunglasses for me but I usually get mine from the dollar store so I was struggling. She suggested a Cabela pullover that was on sale for women for $19.98, since blue is Thomas’s favorite color I got a blue one for me. I looked at him and he was just grinning-we completed our sale. We started to leave when he noticed the aquariums to the left with all kind of fish. He commented “usually people are in awe at fish like this but since all our trips to Belize we are less impressed it seems but still beautiful” and he turned to me and I took a picture of him with my cell phone standing there then we walked out the front door. As we walked out of Cabela’s I posted the picture on Facebook that I had just taken of Thomas standing by their enormous aquariums. Then I told him “you’re now on Facebook with that picture”, he just said “wow, that is crazy!” He has a Facebook page but may have looked at it twice with me helping him. I laughed when I was on his with him and he said, “why do all these people want to be ‘my friend’, I didn’t like them in high school so why would I want them to be my friend now!” Now I do Facebook, but I am not addicted to this social networking wonderland that people seem to be crazed about. I spend 10-15 minutes a week on my personal page and less than that on my business page for Sleep EZ. I do enjoy briefly scanning my friends who live here in the Roanoke area in addition to those that are across the country. It is fun to find family members/friends from years ago and see what’s going on with them or find similarities in our personalities after all these years. As my daughter describes it “stalking their pages, Mom”. I think it’s funny to see if we have any quirks that come from being in the same family too. But I also like to see what’s going on in everyone else’s world occasionally. There’s a wealth of information (I love information) not only about people I know but also about businesses, charities, cult favorites (for some) and every other topic under the sun. Holy cow, a person could spend all day searching but who has that kind of time? I do browse around my daughter’s page (and her friends) every now and again. Although they may not believe me, I don’t scrutinize their information or posts-they do deserve some privacy and even though they think I inspect their pages daily for any misdeeds or questionable comments, they haven’t given me reason to question their content. Besides, it works both ways. My daughter really probably doesn’t want to know everything about me anyway. So I’ve learned over the years when to keep my comments to myself and when it’s okay to speak out. Some people on Facebook don’t seem to get that thought and it is amazing how many private details a person will tell the world. There seems to be no barrier between what they think and what they post. What I try to remember is that when I open a window to my world, not everyone will understand, or even like my version of sanity or humor. Facebook can’t relay who I am or what I am about but it can allow me to let my personality show a little. I can comment about things, support my beloved Texas Longhorns, check out charities that I support or just comment about traveling that Thomas and I love to do together. The randomness of Facebook is what I think makes it so appealing to most. Don’t like what you see or hear? Just wait a few minutes and someone will post something funny or irrelevant. Either way, it can be a chance to be entertained if your bored…this not-so-new social media is a lot like life-not always exactly what we want but we have to take the good with the bad. Not everyone sees the world the same, thank goodness! Facebook is a public forum that allows diversity but it is a terrific illustration of the power of American ingenuity. Facebook was created in a Harvard dorm room in 2004. The young creator did not get a government grant-he just did it on his own like generations of other American entrepreneurs. Its creator sprang it out of nowhere and virtually overnight it became a powerful tool for communications of all kinds-personal, commerce and even political action. It’s easy to post our political or religious views without thinking if our message is being received as intended (unless someone comments or “likes” it). It’s easy to be misled by the written word when we can’t hear the intent of the typist. Facebook is the medium but it’s left up to us to be sure the message or photo is one that we’re okay with showing to the world. So feel free to friend request me but if you start sending me Christmas tree ornaments or Farmville requests, I will filter you….
My husband had walked over to an outside sales trailer in Cabela’s parking lot as I offered to go get the rental car and pick him up after his purchase. The sign read “porkskins” which I was not even aware he liked porkskins?? I picked him up in the front of the trailer as he so proudly held his bag of rinds and commented as he got it the car, “huumm I never knew they had ranch flavored porkskins”, then he offered me some from his bag. I accepted his offer in amazement because I had never seen him eat pork rinds before, it was kind of funny to watch him indulge in his new purchase. I personally enjoy porkskins with a nice cold Big Red….
Thomas and I arrived at Nicole’s house around 6 PM and she had been cooking, cooking with Caitlynn assisting. Now that we are here, we took over entertaining the kids-they were glad to see us again as we were them! The smell of the turkey and other things being prepared was overwhelming as we had a late breakfast and nothing else (but a few porkskins) as we anticipated our dinner here. Eating habits during the holiday season seem to be split into two groups: those who eat whatever they please, party after party, and gain the yearly five pounds, and those who do their very best to diet throughout the season and end up deprived or guilty. I’m feeling positive about the later-“guilty” today as Nicole is a good cook and I’m looking forward to eating! She had both the kids table (breakfast nook area) and the adult table (it sat on the cream colored carpet in the formal dining area) totally set looking like Martha Stewart’s house. The smell was heavenly and the sights of the pies awaiting my lip lock to partake on them-woooweee I my friends am a lucky girl! There wasn’t anything to help her do though I offered and it wasn’t long before it was time to bless the food as we held hands and eat. We have so much to be thankful for my loved ones. Thomas and I knew we would be sharing the Sister Creek Vineyard’s Muscat Canelli with Nicole and Juan as she tends to like sweeter wines like me so we opened the bottle and toasted at our table, indeed both Juan and Nicole liked it. The kids finished first and were anxious to open gifts so we put off cleaning the kitchen until after gifts and I personally was waiting on dessert or desserts. Our options are pumpkin, pecan and chess pie or “not your mama’s banana pudding”-chess pie is my favorite, pecan is Thomas’s favorite. Allison wanted to show Uncle Thomas that she could almost tie her shoes so she hopped on the couch to demonstrate to him-almost! She’s been practicing she told us.
We exchanged gifts and I think the kids (Justin and Allison) were all pleased with their’s; Lauren had found hers and opened it before we got there. Thomas, Caitlynn and I were all pleased with our gifts also but more importantly-just to be here with them. Now time for desserts, that we did! Afterwards Nicole and I cleaned the kitchen while the kids gathered their clothes so they could go back to the condo in Gruene with us for the night since it will be our last night for this trip. Lauren was already in bed so she stayed the night with her parents. Caitlynn loaded her things and Justin and Allison’s and we left Pflugerville around 9 PM. But we will make a quick stop in Manchaca where I have a childhood friend whose brother is having his 40th birthday party, we were invited from 7-10 PM but I had told her we were having our Christmas celebration tonight so I wasn’t sure if we’d make it. Robin Ross-Flowers and I have been friends for many years and her mom and my dad worked at the bank in Austin together for years before my parents divorced, we have remained in touch all these years. Her brother Richie is her only sibling and he’s never married. Robin has 2 kids, Ross (13 yrs old) and Morgan (11 yrs old) and her daughter had us take her “Flat Stanley” which she named “Flat Morgan” with us as we traveled 3 years ago and I journal the trips we took it on then returned it to her when I went to Texas in the Spring. She presented all the journals to her class for an assignment.
With both Allison and Justin were out like lights (Allison first-Justin tried to hang on), we found the Stardust Banquet Room where Richie’s party was being held and we pulled in the parking lot at 9:55 PM. I recommended to Thomas that I’d run in to say my regards and get Robin to come out and meet Thomas then we’d go. I believe Caitlynn woke up as we pulled in the parking lot and stopped to let me out. I walked in to what I thought was the front entrance to a classic Texas western club and immediately saw Robin’s mom Janice and walked toward her. Richie turned around and said, “Oh my God, I know exactly who you are!” and hugged me the same time Janice turned around and was so surprised to see me. I had not seen Richie since Brandon was a baby and he no longer had blonde hair, it’s dark but it’s not gray like mine yet; probably because he has never married nor had children. We hugged and he took me straight over to his dad, Terry to show him I was there. Terry and I hugged and he asked about the family, I told him to come to Virginia to see us some time! I then spotted Robin with Janice’s help and we hugged and I explained to her my great niece and nephew were in the car asleep as we headed back to Gruene for the night, so she walked out to meet Thomas and hug Caitlynn. She had cowboy boots on with her skirt (like I wear) and she laughed as she walked out to our car commenting she thought Thomas would think she was crazy but I assured her that Thomas was used to that as “he take the girl out of Texas but not the Texas out of the girl”. We visited briefly and then we left to continue our drive then unloaded the sleepy kids. Thomas carried Allison in and she never even woke up as I changed her. Caitlynn and Justin were upstairs shooting video with her new hand-held HD Video that Thomas and I got for her for Christmas-giggling every few seconds. I’m scared to know what they are actually videoing up there! Thomas and I settled in the bed since we will need to pack early in the morning then get ready to fly home after we meet Nicole around lunchtime to tag off kids. Thomas worked his Suduko while I washed my face and read my devotions. Good night….
“Good wine is a necessity of life”-Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, December 19, 2009-Overcast and drizzling again this morning. Caitlynn and I fixed leftovers out of the refrigerator for the kids since we would need to send it all with Nicole anyway when we check out at noon today. I washed Caitlynn’s dirty clothes for her (a treat since I never do her laundry, it’s been her responsibility since 6th grade) and repacked them because she would be going back with Nicole and fly home on Monday evening. Caitlynn and the kids went to the Registration Office to play pool, Justin loves playing pool-he even brought his own quarters. Thomas and I gathered things to pack and then realized we would need to go ship our box of mistletoe and case of wine home to ourselves so we’d have enough room for kids and luggage to meet Nicole. The kids returned as I asked “who won?” Justin said he did, KK said she let him-they both laughed. Thomas, Allison and I were about to leave to run our errands and Allison was going with Thomas and I but she wanted to show us she could tie her shoes and she did! Then we had her do it again and again as we prepared to leave. Our first stop was at the Gruene Harley-Davidson store to get shirts for Sam Booth as he dog sat our 3 Rat Dogs (they escaped on Monday so he had to make a mad dash over there to re-contain them) while we are gone this time and he loves Harley t-shirts. Allison picked out all the motorcycles she wanted to drive she said (all of 5 yrs old). Next stop was Fed EX to ship our liquid goods then back to the house to load kids and luggage. We called Nicole as we were meeting at mile marker 200 near the Tangier Outlet mall, the Whataburger parking lot. When we arrived Miss Lauren was grinning as I leaned in to hug her and she hugged right back. We then loaded Caitlynn, Justin and Allison into her vehicle; they were going to go thru the drive-thru here at Whataburger but Thomas and I had time so we were going in to eat lunch. We all hugged and said our thanks and goodbyes then waved as they left the drive-thru while we were sitting inside waiting on our food. I think Caitlynn’s a little homesick and ready to get back to her home but she always enjoys her time with her cousins.
Our flight is 3:45 PM out of San Antonio airport so we went over to the outlet mall to the Samsonite store to see if we could purchase a reasonable priced carry-on to repack a few things. Since Delta charges $15 per piece of luggage we felt we could pack more efficiently and one of our bags we check is already served its time well or is overdue so we expect it to go anyway-preparation. With our new sale purchase we reorganized our luggage in the parking lot then headed to the airport and returned the rental car. We got our tickets and found a restaurant that we could watch football until we needed to be at the gate to board, enjoyed a beverage and I had a sense of loneliness briefly as I realized we were leaving and the time here with my family had flown by; briefly until I remembered we would be back in April for the Southern Sleep Society Meeting to be held in Austin, so I was better… coming home; until next time.

Babysitting in Texas-October 17-23, 2009

October 17-23, 2009-Trip home to Texas

So the adventure began several months ago when I got a call from my niece in Pflugerville, TX. as her husband’s (Juan) company was planning on some training in Canada. At that time Nicole had asked me if I would consider coming to keep the kids at their house since she had not intentions to leave them if they had to have their daily routines disrupted, especially since Justin is a 3rd grader and Allison started kindergarten this year not to mention the new addition who was 1 year old this August-Miss Lauren. Now mind you-the 3 kids are my great nieces and nephew. At the time we talked about their trip Thomas and I were in British Columbia with Caitlynn, Denyse, and Hans for his 81st birthday trip. I assured Nicole that I’d not have a problem coming as I wouldn’t miss that opportunity! I believe that this is the first time since Juan and Nicole married that they have taken a couple only trip for more than a night together (10 yrs?) We live so many miles away that I take every chance I can to visit for any length of time; some trips have to have business mixed with pleasure to get there. Nicole is very good about keeping us informed of all the activities/events in the kid’s life, along with sending pictures on our cell phones, etc. but that would never replace getting to spend quality time with them.

Thomas and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary yesterday and I got things caught up at the sleep lab, packed and left this morning before 5 AM to get to the airport in Roanoke in a timely fashion since my flight is scheduled to depart at 6 AM. Caitlynn said her good-byes to me as she went off to bed last night because she really didn’t want to get up this early to see me off but Thomas was a trooper and drove me to the airport and got me through the ticketing process. We said our good-byes before I took the escalator up to make my way through security-what all good Americans love! The weather in Roanoke this week has been cold and wet with a high temperature of 52 so far, the forecast for Austin is bright, sunny and 70’s for the week-whewwwwwhoooo.
I changed planes in Atlanta and had a 3 hour layover so I ate a healthy breakfast at TGIF’s then headed to my next gate as I “window shopped” while I walked that direction. For those of you who know me, I don’t watch TV unless it’s a movie that we watch as a family or football but being in the airport for a while you can’t help but see a TV somewhere. So the headlines today are the Category 5 storm named “Rick” and the 20th anniversary of the earthquake in San Francisco: Hurricane Rick continues "remarkable" development in the words of the National Hurricane Center with sustained winds nearing 145 mph Saturday morning. The storm has an estimated central pressure of near 938 mb and is moving WNW near 12 mph. The NHC's morning discussion update calls for Hurricane Rick's maximum sustained winds to approach 160 mph on Sunday, putting Rick into rare category five status, albeit for a brief time before weakening begins around Monday. With sea surface temperatures near 84-86 F and very little upper level wind shear (winds less than 10 kt.) Rick will remain in a very favorable environment until Monday as the massive storm nears the central/southwestern tip of Baja California.
1989-Loma Prieta, CA-Today is the 20th anniversary of 6.9 Richter scale earthquake which were three events about 1.5 and 3.0 seconds apart, respectively. Sixty-two people killed, 3,757 injured and damage estimated at 5.6 billion U.S. dollars. Maximum intensity IX in parts of Oakland and San Francisco. Numerous landslides occurred in the epicentral area and liquefaction occurred in some areas of Oakland and San Francisco. Felt from Eureka to Los Angeles and east as far as Fallon, Nevada. Also felt in highrise buildings in San Diego. A small tsunami with maximum wave height (peak-to-trough) of 40 cm was recorded at Monterey. Known as the World Series Earthquake. The earthquake caused game 3 of the World Series to be cancelled.
I arrived in Austin a little after noon time with a bright sunny day outside and temperatures in the mid 70’s-now this is Texas! You always know when you step off the plane and you’re in Texas because people all around you wear cowboy hats and boots. I wear my boots with suits and dresses in Roanoke now. As Thomas once told me when we were dating, he’s never been to a place where people are truly proud to be from as Texans. U.T. (the University of Texas) is playing football as we deplane and the game started about an hour ago so I’ll be looking for the score as soon as possible. The game is in Dallas at the Cotton Bowl since they are playing OU (Oklahoma University) huge rivalries so there has to be enough space for everyone and the drive for both teams. As I walked toward the baggage claim area I sent Nicole a text to let her know I had arrived. She sent one back telling me she and the kids are here and would drive around to wait on me. When I walked outside the doors, it wasn’t long before they drove up to me as I waved. I’m so excited to see them all! I haven’t been back to Austin since January when Lauren was 5 months old-now she’s walking and chattering, Allison’s now in real school and Justin grows more every time I see new pictures! So I hurried to their vehicle to put my backpack in, grab Justin and return before the luggage carousel started. Justin and I talked about everything from school, swimming to football. He loves to give me a rash since he lives in Austin but was born in Lubbock so now he’s a Texas Tech football fan. Naturally I no longer live in Texas but grew-up in Austin and remain a U.T. Longhorn fan so we always have football to talk about. Today he’s wearing his “Marathon Kids” t-shirt and so I told him that I am preparing for a half marathon in April but just ran a 5K last weekend. I asked Justin if he knew what a triathlon is, he did not so I explained to him that it is 26.2 miles like a marathon but has 3 different events such as cycling, running and swimming and that a strong swimmer usually wins because they can make up the time so well. I assured him that I felt like this should be something he investigates doing next! He looked at me and said yes and grinned like a possum-not sure if he agrees with me or thinks I’m crazy? My luggage finally came and we made our way back to their vehicle. Allison’s feet have definitely grown and Lauren-wow, she is getting so big so fast I can’t believe it! I asked Allison who her best friend is and she replied, “Reed” and then I asked her if she had any other friends and she said “Cameron”. Unsure but thinking that those were 2 boys names I then followed up to ask her if she had any girlfriends and she quickly responded, “no, I am too young for those!” We all cracked up in the vehicle, I especially did since I am sure these are words she’s heard from her mom and dad as they prepare her and themselves for her teenage years! Nicole tells me that she calls her friends that are girls “Sista Girls”, now that is funny…
I thought we were driving to Nicole and Juan’s house but Justin was hungry and when he thought to tell his mom she informed us that we would be stopping at Whataburger to pickup lunch for us all, in my honor. I LOVE Whatatburger!! Nicole always says that she thinks their ketchup packets are the best, I laugh as she reminds us of this since I’m not thinking that the Texas burger chain does anything ‘special’ to their ketchup (it’s manufactured in Corpus Christi, TX)…
We sat at their dining table all together, blessed the food and enjoyed our Whataburgers. The kids had so much to show me including Justin’s new bedroom set-a bunk bed! This setup gives him a lot more room but I’m not thinking I’ll be hiking up that ladder to sleep with him like I have in the past. He plays a fort battle game with his dad sometimes as his dad can sit in his bedroom with Justin in his as they run some cable between Juan’s laptop and Justin’s PC so they can build forts and stuff-he loves doing this. Allison has a big keyboard that she has borrowed from a friend and its in her room to practice playing the piano (her new project), a cute shoe holder on her closet door and she loves to play CD’s in her player on top of her dresser-she loves to sing! Miss Lauren has discovered that her room is pretty entertaining also as she walks in there a lot now and seems to always find something fun to check out. I can’t believe how much she’s grown in the last 8 months since I’ve seen her! She’s a happy baby and I love to see her dimples when she smiles. She is such a lovebug, when you pick her up she immediately lays her head on your shoulder and rubs your back-I love it! We spent the evening chatting as Nicole and I got caught up while she started doing some laundry. The kids and I played and Nicole showed me the “notebook” she had made for me to follow with the kid’s schedules, etc. in it. It will be a good guide for me but I’ve always been an independent thinker pretty much but I appreciate the help. It has everything from Tamara’s phone numbers (Nicole’s friend) to the eye doctor’s contact information-not to mention her meal planning for us (and she had already bought the groceries needed-wow). Now let me just tell you, Nicole had emailed me the “agendas” a week or two before I came and she teased me as she said Juan told me I’d be tested over the information later. I cracked up as I reviewed it and she had written on Monday “this is our busiest day” and at the end of the agenda for Monday she wrote “one day down”. I reviewed it and told Thomas that I have created a niece that is me on steroids, he laughed. My employees and family think I’m ‘agenda driven’ but Nicole is more so than me it seems. So I emailed her back and said, “I can do this blindfolded and with a limp”, she just chuckled up as she read it. So here am I and will put it in action tomorrow after taking Nicole and Juan to the airport-I believe we will be just fine with a few modifications of mine! The evening winded down as we looked at pictures on Nicole’s laptop that she has taken in the last year. We had an awkward moment when Nicole was clicking thru pictures she had taken when Justin was young and all of a sudden there was a picture that obviously she and Juan had taken during a private time and Nicole just about freaked out as she covered Justin’s eyes and raised her voice at Juan who was just laughing as I was at this point. Juan said, “WHAT I didn’t do it”. She changed pictures and then she decided it was time to put Justin to bed. I jokingly asked her why she yelled at Juan when she was the one in the picture not Juan and the 3 of us just laughed together. After we visited, Juan had already gone to bed (not sure if he was tired or embarrassed?) and it got to be midnight Nicole and I decided to call it a night since everyone else had gone to bed. I joined Allison in her bed and cuddled up with her. It’s been good to be back with them, I’m trying to go to sleep as I ponder: My niece and Juan are examples of people with attitudes of gratitude. I don’t understand when this attitude of entitlement entered our nation’s consciousness as I commonly witness these days. I seem to recall a pretty good speech by John F. Kennedy (a few years back) admonishing us to “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” Well, that concept went out with the hula hoop I believe. The Greatest Generation has replaced by a younger In-Gratest Generation and I think our nation’s founders would all turn over in their respective graves and grit their collective wooden teeth in despair if they could see it today. Now we live in a culture where parents want to be their children’s best friends more than they want to be their children’s best parents. And they think children need things far more than they need them. I can whole-hearted say that I feel Nicole and Juan make an attempt every day with all 3 of their children to teach them the importance of appreciation and gratitude for even the simplest things in life. As I have told Thomas on several occasions when talking to Nicole or even visiting their home; this is when I feel like I have arrived. To see their family and the relationships that have developed with each of their kids and each other makes me feel fortunate to have been a part of Nicole’s early stages in life and hopefully in some small way I contributed to her adult life and I feel so proud to watch them in action as a family-good night all.

Sunday, October 18, 2009-Today in history:
1867-The United States took possession of Alaska from Russia
1892-The first long distance telephone line between Chicago and New York was opened
1931-Inventor Thomas Alva Edison died at age 84 in West Orange, N.J.
Chuck Berry turns 83 years old today and the R & B singer, actor Ne-Yo turns 30 years old today.
We woke up and got ready for church. We would all be going at the same time this morning as they have a young couple in their Life Group who just miscarried on Friday so Juan will be taking his kids class for him today. Nicole has a 3 year old class that she helps a couple of ladies with for first service so Justin and Juan left first (in the guy’s car-the Mustang) and went off to their classes then Nicole and I took Lauren to the babies class (she loves the older man to in her class-she went right to him and he rocked her). Allison’s class was around the same hall so we took her there and then went to Nicole’s class she teaches. Today they are merging 2 classes so we had 13-3 year olds but 4 of us adults counting me. Together we read, sang and made crafts after their snacks. Our class finished and we met Juan to go to the main sanctuary for services. I do enjoy their church as this is my 3rd time of visiting here. They play contemporary Christian music which I enjoy and listen to this type of music on the radio most of the time at home so the songs are familiar to me. After services we retrieved all 3 kids and made our way to the house to indulge in Nicole’s famous pot roast that she does in a crock pot. She actually put it on late last night before we went to bed so it should be nice and tender. This is Justin’s favorite meal that she fixes, I too LOVE pot roast! The afternoon was spent getting Nicole and Juan packed for their trip, each of them packing for themselves. I laughed as Nicole had packed her blow dryer and I informed her that I felt sure the Wynn would have one in the bathroom since Steve Wynn owned most of Vegas. As a typical woman she had packed 4 or 5 pair of shoes for 5 days but she was unsure what she’d want to wear since this is her first time of ever going to Vegas. I warned her that they would be doing a lot of walking! Juan has been to Vegas before but not with enough time to do much so he was also excited. I’m happy that they are excited about their trip and being able to spend some quality time together, alone as a couple-it will be good for them. The kids and I played and Lauren took her usual afternoon nap before Justin was picked up by Tamara to go to a friend’s party at 3 pm then the girls and I took Juan and Nicole to the airport around 4:40 pm and sent them on their way. Allison cried a few minutes after we drove off but she subsided when I told her we could go to the new Pflugerville McDonald’s so she and her sister could play a bit and eat. McDonald’s fries always makes things better, regardless of your age! Lauren had a great time and so did Allison, they ate well for me too. Tamara called when they were 5 miles from the house so we loaded up and met them at the house. Justin had a good time with his friends. We picked out Justin and Allison’s clothes for morning then started the bath routines for all 3 of my kids. Allison washes her hair every other night which she doesn’t really like to do, Justin totally takes care of his showers on his own but you have to be sure he brushes his teeth his mom reported to me and Miss Lauren loves her baths. I put Lauren to bed first then the other 2 kids and we discussed our 3 blessings for each of us for the day (a tradition Caitlynn-they refer to her as “KK” and I have had until she got in 8th grade, I still practice it myself), said our prayer and off to sleep. Nicole had washed her bed sheets before they left and I placed them in the dryer when we returned from McDonald’s then put them on their bed since she said I could just sleep in their room while they were gone. I offered Allison and Justin to sleep with me, Allison accepted after I mentioned the nice thing is they would not have to make their beds each morning this way! Justin denied as he wanted to sleep in his bunk bed so off he went to his room. It wasn’t long before I heard him coming down his ladder and then came down the hall and looked in the room at Allison and I, she wasn’t asleep either as they waited to talk to their mom and dad when they changed planes in Dallas. I asked him if he was sure he didn’t want to sleep with us in his parent’s room and he again said no but he wanted to know if I had set the house alarm. I had not so he offered to take care of it then my cell phone rang and it was Nicole and Juan as they were changing planes. They talked to both kids and Justin knew the exact time difference for us and them once they got to Vegas, he kept telling me our time then what Vegas time would be. They all said their good-byes and off Justin went back to his room but I did not hear him going up on the ladder then I looked down the hall and he stood there, he asked me if I wanted to borrow his alarm so I would be able to get up in the morning. I told him I wake up pretty much on my own, especially when I’m not at home. I again asked him if he was sure he didn’t want to join us, this time he agreed but whispered to me that he “did not want Allison to sleep next to me because she kicks me” so I offered to sleep in the middle. He climbed up in the bed with us and it wasn’t long before both of the kids were off to sleep. I can hardly believe that I am actually here with them-what a great day!

Good morning all-it’s Monday, October 19, 2009 and I was up around midnight with Miss Lauren. She woke up crying so I went into her bedroom and rocked her for 15-20 minutes as she went right back to sleep. I placed her in her crib and spread her favorite blanket (Pink with large brown, pink and bright green poka dots-very soft!) over her and she remained sleeping. I returned to Nicole and Juan’s bed with Justin and Allison. I woke up around 6 AM so I reviewed my agenda for the day and starting getting Justin and Allison thinking about waking up at 6:30. Justin’s alarm went off shortly, Ally got right up and I had her waffles (chocolate chip that Nicole had made and put in the freezer for us this week-their favorite!) ready with apple juice. Justin was shortly behind her and he had the same thing but with chocolate milk (all that chocolate should get him moving). I stood outside with them to wait on Tamara with backpacks and waterbottles in hand. It’s cool but clear this morning at 54 degrees and expected high of 75 degrees. I then realized that Lauren watches a 30 minutes portion of “Yo Gabba Gabba” in the mornings as she ate so I had to get Justin to run back in to instruct me how to turn on their TV. He got a kick out of this but struggled thru the instructions with me-I am challenged since I hardly ever watch TV and theirs is a fancy, modern techno challenge setup for me! This week at Pflugerville Elementary is Red Ribbon Week. It is when children and adults across the U.S. promote the importance of a drug-free lifestyle. So this week at the kid’s school they will have each day with a dress-up theme to help the kids celebrate it. Today is wear blue day ‘drugs give you the blues!’ Allison and Justin picked out their clothes last night and both picked blue t-shirts, and they both chose shorts to wear since the weather will be nice. Justin is all about checking and knowing the weather forecast. So I taught him how to check it on my cell, he thinks that is cool! The kids are all excited as they told Tamara when she arrived to take them to school at 7:15 AM that I will be coming to school each day but Tuesday…she just laughs as they drive off to school. I cleaned the kitchen and realized I needed bleach and stove top oven cleaner so I started a Wal-Mart list. It wasn’t long after the kids left with Tamara for school that Lauren woke up ready to cuddle a bit then eat. Of course, I did manage to find the recorded (DVR) of her show to watch “Yo Gabba Gabba” for about 30 minutes before we started our morning. We got to the school at 10:30 so we could unload the stroller and check-in at the front office. Everyone in the office knew Lauren and she laughed as they all talked to her while they took my driver’s license and scanned it then it printed out a sticky pass (just like the picture on my license) that I had to place on my shirt to display at all times while here as a visitor. It even has the location that I should be at such as: cafeteria. Wow how times have changed in schools. We greeted Ally as she was grinning ear to ear when she spotted us; she was earnestly looking for us when she entered the cafeteria. We sat at the Guest Table but I gave her the choice of sitting here or we could all sit with her class. She chose to sit at the Guest Table but went back and forth telling her classmates who I was and reminding them that Lauren is her baby sister. She thought this was quite a treat. Since her lunchtime is 10:40 AM (that is really brunch time to me) I decided to eat an apple and Lauren snacked on peaches while Ally had chicken nuggets for her meal. Several of the teachers that came in recognized Lauren and asked me where her mom was, I explained to them that I am their great-aunt and came from VA to babysit while their parents went to Vegas for their first trip away together since they married. One of the teachers couldn’t believe I am the great-aunt, I assured them that with 3 little ones I will feel like it by the end of the week but will love every minute of it! We hung out then until Justin’s class came in at 11:40 AM for his lunch time and we ate with him. He too wanted to sit at the Guest Table and as kids he knew walked by us he was sure to tell them ‘hello’, the kids would all yell “Justin” and wave to him. Lauren loved all the attention and would go back and forth to Justin and I. We said our goodbye’s at 12:25 PM to get back to the house for Lauren’s nap in a timely fashion. I put her to bed and turned her CD on and off to sleep she went. Almost immediately upon entering back into the living room the door bell rang. I looked out the front door to see a delivery man standing there with a package in hand and a clipboard for signing. I opened the door and he told me he had “a delivery for a Raquel Rothe”. I told him, “ok, that’s weird” and I signed for it. The return address written with my last name-Rothe but this address and it was actually addressed to me here at this address, awkward. I opened it to find the gift bag outside a very nice jewelry box, then opened it to find the ring that I had liked at the Gem Gallery’s display of their ‘Rebecca’ signature line of jewelry earlier this week. When Thomas and I had gone to dinner last Friday for our anniversary I told him about it. He asked me why I didn’t buy it and I said because it was too much and he told me to use my $100 he gave me in my anniversary card and get it for myself. He always says “You deserve it” but I still feel guilty if I indulge in myself something of that caliber, besides it is always so much fun getting for others! Anyway it was the ring and my husband had gotten it and mailed it to me here, he is so good to me-all the time. My day was bright already just having the opportunity to be here with the kids even without Thomas’s little surprise but now it’s amazing-I am blessed to have family that loves me as much as I love them! I continued my afternoon before it was time to pickup the kids from school so I busied myself as I did some laundry and checked on the sleep lab and Kim Wells since her mom is scheduled to have a back procedure performed today. It got to be 2:20 PM and so I had to wake Miss Lauren up so we could get to the school since Ally gets out at 2:40 PM and Justin at 2:50 PM. The procedure for pickup after school is the parents/adult has to park and then the teachers release the children to you. This makes it a little difficult when you have to get a small one and their stroller unloaded then make your way to the sidewalks to gather your child(ren). We got it done though. We loaded the vehicle and headed to Allison’s piano lessons (luckily the teacher lives 6 streets from Nicole’s) since it is at 3 PM. We dropped her off and I took Justin to the house for a snack and to gather swim team stuff then we retrieved Ally and made our way to Gilleland Creek Pool since Justin’s swim team practice is at 4-5 PM. Our little Michael Phelps changed and put his swim cap on, gathered his fins and made his way to the pool. Coach Flow (not kidding, I believe his last name is like Florindo or something so they shortened it to Flow. Funny since he watched the kids ‘flow in the water’…..he started them on 100 meter freestyle, then kickboard, next was streamline and so forth. We watched for a bit then Ally was restless along with Lauren so we walked behind the pool area to a playground. Pflugerville ( is a nice community with a population of 47,000 and as typical Austin-style they love the outdoors of any kind. They have a trail that goes around the entire town and there is always someone cycling, walking, running or just strolling and enjoying the creek on the trail. The trail is alongside the pool so it is really nice and serene, I took the girls to play and run around a bit as we kept an eye on Justin’s practice. When he got finished I thought we’d do what all good aunts do (out of the ordinary-a treat) and we went to Baskin-Robbins for a “treat”. Now I know you’re thinking its 5 o’clock and they haven’t eaten dinner yet and yes you are correct. My Nana Miller (my dad’s mom) always told us “life is short, eat dessert first!” so I feel like I need to pass such history down to these kids. I got my usual-Rocky Road in a sugar cone, Justin got his favorite-chocolate chip cookie dough, and Ally got Rainbow Sherbet. The young ladies working there saw me letting Lauren lick some of mine and offered us a sample size of their soft serve-vanilla for Lauren. She liked it!! Justin tells me she’s never had ice cream “her whole life” he says exactly, I am so proud since I pride myself on doing “firsts” with them when I get the chance. After we finished our dessert we went back to the house to eat leftover roast that Nicole made yesterday. I did tell the kids that if we ate dessert first they WOULD have to eat a good dinner for me and they did. Miss Lauren always eats good so I wasn’t too worried about her. I find it ironic that she loves mandarin oranges like me! Every time they are on sale in the can, I buy them up to enjoy as much as possible. Lauren would eat a whole can if you let her but then she has “blow outs” and that can be interesting (I have discovered on this visit already…..) After dinner we did homework, baths and started bedding down. It was cute as Justin, Allison and I sat on their parent’s bed and talked about 3 blessings from today. I went first then Justin and Allison. I was proud that each of them said me visiting was a blessing for them-no more than for me! Justin and Allison slept with me in their parent’s room again but after I got them situated in bed I came in the living room to call Caitlynn and Thomas then maybe watch some of Monday Night Football. As I talked on my cell Justin came around the corner and told me he was having a hard time going to sleep so I let him sit in the living room with me and watch football until 8:15 PM. I was also writing this story and he sat by me as he inquired what I was doing. I explained to him that any time I spend a night away from home I journal the story and post it on my blog. He said he was learning about blogs at school so I showed him my blog site: and read with him the trip I made here last which was in January. He chuckled as he read parts with his name in it. We decided to go to bed and I rubbed his back until he fell asleep. I of course had to sleep in the middle (Justin’s request), is there really a better place to be-I’m not thinking so. Good night!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009-woke a little before 6 AM with 54 degrees and high today should be 79 degrees. My baby (Miss Lauren) slept all night! I put her to bed after her bath and lotion at 7:45 PM and she slept until 6:50 AM. Today for Red Ribbon Week it’s inside out day ‘drugs turn you inside out’ so the kids wore all their clothes inside out, Ally even wore her socks inside out! Fed the 2 big kids breakfast and as they ate so did Lauren. After they were off to school I got on the elliptical for my exercise. Tracy and Joy ran the Fincastle Run on Saturday at home in VA and they were about 2 minutes apart in finishing Tracy tells me so I have to keep my pace up and could use some improvement before our 5K run in Lynchburg on Nov. 21st. Lauren busied herself watching her show while I utilized my 30 minutes. She was enthrottled with “Yo Gabba Gabba” this morning and ever so often she would look around at me but kept watching the TV.
Today I did not eat lunch with the big kids since I had a conference call with the Sleep Centers of Excellence committee as we prepare for our panel discuss on “The Role of Accreditation” for next week in Chicago at 12:30 CST. So beforehand I fed the little lady and got her down for her nap a little early-right at noon and was on the call for about an hour. I then called the office and checked on things, sent a couple of emails and an e-card to my wonderful handsome to thank him for just being him and then talked to Caitlynn a bit. Nicole had sent me a text to see how the kids were today; I replied “great-enjoy your time!” In no time it was 2:15 PM so Lauren and I got things gathered and left to pickup the big kids. Lauren and I strolled around the school 4 times before Allison’s class came out and we greeted her, we enjoyed the exercise and sights. Their teachers are so cute as they hug each kid to say their goodbyes and release them to their family. Ally came running over and hugged me then Lauren. Lauren lights up each time she sees either of her siblings, its so cute. Ally stood there with us talking to different people and waving. As Kristen went past, Ally yelled “Bye Sista Girl” and they waved at each other. Reed went past and Ally yelled bye to him then she took off and ran over to him and hugged him tight from his backside. He just grinned and she came back over to me. Justin was 10 minutes later and we walked on the cross-walk this time since Justin reminded me yesterday that we did not cross on it and that is the rule. We loaded up and I needed to return something to Target so we made a quick dash there then to the house to get Justin a snack and gear for swim team then left so we’d be on time. While Justin practiced the girls and I strolled around the trail, took turns swinging each of them and let Lauren push her stroller for a bit, returned to watch Justin again and take a small video. As we walked back to the vehicle with Justin, his coach, Coach Flow came up to him and told him how proud he was of his effort and told him the next 2 days they would be learning the breast stroke and the butterfly stroke, Justin grinned with excitement. He assured Justin that even though he is new and learning new strokes everyday he is doing well and practicing effectively. He also told him how nice it is to teach a child that listens. We checked the binds under ‘Palacios’ and there was a newsletter and Justin’s US Swim Team member card for the year, he was very proud as we walked and he read every bit of it to me. He chose Sonic for dinner since they have ½ price burgers on Tuesday from 5-close, of course Ally wanted to eat chicken strips. Justin says she’s going to grow feathers if she doesn’t quit eating chicken everywhere they eat at. She frowned at him when he told me that. Justin’s favorite drink here is watermelon slush and Ally always chooses Sprite. We got our food to go and went to the house to eat, do homework, go thru their backpacks and sign all the necessary stuff. I had started a stack for Nicole and Juan to review upon their return and added to it daily….Everyone bathed and got their pajamas on and Lauren was the first one down when Nicole and Juan called to talk to the 2 big kids. Ally was next in bed at 7:35 PM and she wanted me to scratch her back so I did. Then she decided she wanted me to rub it so I did, then she decided she wanted me to scratch it ‘under her night shirt’ and I did. After all our options she was fast asleep. Justin stayed in the living room with me for a bit. He told me it was hard sometimes to go to sleep and when his parents are here he just lays there in his bed until he ‘finally goes to sleep’ so I let him play Xbox 360 for 30 minutes and he would stop at different times to come sit next to me and peek at my story I’m typing and grin. Last but not least its time for Justin to bed it down so he headed to bed (Ally, Justin and I are still sleeping in their parents bed-they like not having to make their beds in the AM…) and I went with him. We barely got situated in the bed and in typical boy fashion he let out some gas! “Oh my Justin” I said, he giggled and waved the bed sheet and said “Ally won’t notice since she’s asleep” and we just giggled together then got still for a minute. He then kept moving as if he was restless so I told him I go to sleep each night praying in my head and I think about everyone who needs special prayers then I start thanking the Lord for my family, friends, loved ones and blessings I’ve been provided in my mind then I just fall asleep. I scratched his back for a few minutes then told him I have an app on my IPod for ‘e-sleep tunes’ and he laughed and asked me if I was serious, I assured him I was and went to get it. I explained that some people have to listen to soft soothing music to relax enough to sleep (spoken like a true sleep expert to a patient) so I got the free app to check it out a few months ago. He grinned as I placed my ear buds on him and started it then he giggled. The ocean waves and soft cosmic reflection music started playing and Justin said “and in the beginning the process begins” we both laughed. It wasn’t 7 minutes and he was out like a light! I of course remain sleeping in the middle but who cares, it’s been another great day with my great nieces and nephew-Life is good!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009-Our baby slept all night again and woke around 6:50 AM as the other 2 kids were eating breakfast. It must of rained last night as the ground is wet, it’s 65 degrees with expected scattered showers for the day. Justin told me the meaning of precipitation (though he had a hard time pronouncing it so I taught him a simple way to do so) he learned in science-he loves anything weather related. Today is cowboy day for red Ribbon Week ‘Texans give drugs the boot’ but Ally didn’t have any boots (she reminded me she ‘used to have some pink boots but my mom sold them on eBay because they got too little for me and never bought me more’) when we went to pick out her clothes last night for today. So I thought it’d be appropriate to let her wear her Tony Romo Dallas Cowboy jersey to school-besides her dad and uncle Thomas are huge die-hard Cowboy football fans so they would be proud. Justin wore a cowboy hat that KK had gotten while she was here visiting in August and since she had no room to pack it (she had gone shopping several times it seems while here for the month!) and had to leave it for another time. I told Justin she would love for him to wear it so he put it on with a smile, even this early in the morning. Off they went with waterbottles in hand and I had washed both of their pairs of glasses to start the day off bright even though it was overcast outside……Miss Lauren started her 30 minute increment of “Yo Gabba Gabba” while I used my time on the elliptical. She snacked on Cheerios and when I got finished I fixed her an egg, slice of cheese and ½ piece of toast. She is a good eater so I sat with her to eat my Activa with a handful of nuts and we faced out towards the back yard to enjoy the quiet morning’s rain shower that just began. “Biscuit” the Rat Terrier dog of theirs lies up in the cushion of their lawn table/chairs under the porch. I’ve been coming out each morning to love on him and play a bit. Early each morning I have been opening the windows in the house (closing them before the day heated up) and enjoying the freshness and today was no exception, except not as much to prevent the rain from coming in. Lauren enjoyed the gentle breeze as much as I did with her. We finished and made our way to get ready for the day as Justin had decided he’d like Arby’s for lunch at school today. I talked to Caitlynn and she’s helping out at my office today and Thomas went to Dr. Priddy for his annual checkup, I will wait to hear the update this evening when we talk.
I gathered my baby and we left the house at 10:15 AM so we could get the 2 big kids lunches and make it to their school by 10:40 when Ally eats. As I googled Arby’s on my cell I realized that most restaurants will still be serving breakfast until 10:30 AM then I would be late getting to the school so I opted to go get Chikfila for both of them then let Justin pick out dinner since he’d have to eat chicken and he really wanted roast beef. So I got them both Kid’s meals with the chikin’ minis and got to the school just in time after checking in. It had started to rain again so I decided I would not get back out to get Justin something different even though we’d have an hour in between Ally eating and Justin’s time for his class to eat. Lunch went well and I broke the news to Justin that he’d get to choose our dinner and where to eat and he was thrilled with that. He is always so easy going, as along as it is within the rules…haha. He laughed as Lauren got fussy and I wouldn’t let her back out of the stroller again and she had eaten all her snacks so I grabbed a baked Cheetos of Justin’s and gave it to her as we only had a few minutes left before we’d leave. I looked up at him and said, “see she likes them because you do”, he grinned and said “wait until I tell mom that Aunt Raquel fed Lauren ice cream and Cheetos”. I said “Justin, it was a baked cheeto-there is a saying that goes ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’, when Aunt Raquel is here-what happens here stays here” and he looked at me and we both chuckled. I did tell him afterwards that I’d let his mom know before I left though, he just grinned. Nicole and I have often agreed that he’s got the typical first child attitude in the aspect that he never wants to let his parents down and wants everyone in the family to go by the rules as he does, he’s such a little man. We finished our lunchtime and left for the house to get Miss Lauren down for her nap in a timely fashion. She’s such a good baby, she went right to sleep after I hugged her then kissed her before putting her in her crib and said ‘night night pretty baby girl” and she didn’t fuss at all and was asleep in less than 10 minutes. I then got busy in the kitchen as I’ve been cleaning the oven inside and out (it is gas so the burners tend to get very difficult to clean without soaking and scrubbing which I’ve been doing for the last 2 days), microwave and countertops with bleach. Nicole makes specialty cakes and decorates many edible things with her business (’s Creations) so the icing will stain depending on the color, I am getting it all nice for her to come home to after their trip. I know from experience that women LOVE to come home to a clean house, especially when they left it clean. It’s hard enough for me to come home with dirty laundry so I like things to be tidy and I’m sure with her daily schedule and 3 kids it will be pleasant for her.
It’s rained off and on all day but the temperature was still 79 degrees, just humid. I woke Lauren up at 2:20 PM so we could leave to get both school kids. We all returned home and made chocolate chip cookies while Justin ate some Ravioli that was left over from Sat night (carbs are good before a work-out, right?) before we were off to swim team practice at 4 PM. Since it was wet and muddy I decided to take the girls to Hanna D’s while Justin practiced, he agreed as we let him out and watched him walk to his area that the team meets at then we drove off. Lauren got a little fussy as she saw all the wonderful colors and bling, I’m sure she was anxious to touch it as us girls love to do. I had handed her my wallet to entertain her thinking that she would not be able to open it-SURPRISE….she sucked on my book of checks so the routing number has disappeared off the bottom. Oh well, I didn’t need to write a check here in TX anyway. Ally found a necklace and she decided that the couple of dollars her parents gave her at the airport would be useful now. I found Caitlynn a Christmas gift and me a pair of earrings. It was time to leave so we could be back at the pool where Justin was practicing before they were finished, he likes timeliness. We accomplished that as we were 7 minutes early and waited on him, he walked to meet us in the vehicle and my mind wondered as I again realized how big and responsible he has become. He is so good with both of his sisters even though Ally’s at the age that she pushes him at times, he still takes the high road and that is an admirable trait in any age of person.
Justin picked Arby’s for dinner so he ran his mom’s GPS as we drove in the rain; it directed us to Round Rock where we went in to eat. Ally said, “We never get to eat in, we just take it home”. I explained to her a lot of that is because of the little lady since its hard to keep her occupied and its more sanitary for kids not to be touching then eating after many people. As we started to leave when we finished eating the rain was really coming down so I hustled the kids in the vehicle one at a time so they wouldn’t be totally soaked. On the drive home Justin (I called him a fart blossom after he repeatedly ‘expressed himself’ today, not to mention last night-haha) again had some gas and I told him if I didn’t know better I would think something had died it smelled so bad, he just laughed and laughed. Ally said, “Justin always does that and next time I’m going to do it to him when he sleeps”. To be so young he is such a man at times.
Nicole called at 7:05 PM just as we were about to start baths and both of the big kids talked to her then we finished our nightly routine. I told them we would go to the new Donut Shop in the morning if they went to bed and got up well in the morning. They are excited since this has been a tradition that I do with them each time I come. Justin tells me that it is the same donut shop but just another location so I felt we needed to approve it or not and there’s no way to do that but give it a shot in the morning. Justin was the first in bed as he asked to wear my IPod with the e-sleep tunes again and he shared 1 ear bud briefly (she couldn’t be still) with Ally then she was next in bed as I bathed Miss Lauren. They were all in bed by 8 PM after we counted 3 blessings a piece then prayed. They are very good kids and a joy to spend time with. They all went right to sleep so I finished my journal entry for the day and bleached the silverware holder and the dish drainer in the drawer that I repaired in the kitchen today, straightened the baby’s toys after I left Thomas a message and called Caitlynn to visit and tell her good-night. Answered a few emails for work and my business class, folded the laundry and Thomas called me back. He had his 50 year old check up with his Family Practice physician-Dr John Priddy this morning so I wanted the update. His blood pressure is 124/82 and his weight is down 7 lbs. from his last yearly checkup which Dr Priddy was pleased with all- good news! I did my devotions and made my way to bed. It’s been another good day-my 3 blessings of today: being able to kiss each of these 3 precious children; and tell them I love them as I tuck them in bed for the night after we prayed together.

Well our baby got up several during the night, I would hold her and rock her and she would slowly go back to sleep after I changed her diaper. I’m not sure why other than it has been raining most of the night and maybe it’s her molars? We called it a night at 5:40 AM and welcomed “Yo Gabba Gabba” to our new day. Today is the day the 2 school kids get to wear their PJ’s in support of Red Ribbon Week for “Follow your dreams-don’t do drugs”. The students can wear their PJ’s to school (how cool is that!). So we are going to the new Donut Shop-our tradition that I have done with Justin and Ally since they moved here to Pflugerville so this is a 1st as I get the take all 3 kids this time. I told them if they got up well this morning then we’d go, just jump in the car after brushing their teeth and hair since its PJ Day. Justin’s alarm went off at 6:20 AM and I know it wasn’t 5 minutes when he and Ally came around the corner into the kitchen area with their PJ’s on and ready to go to the Donut Shop! It’s amazing how fast they can move in the mornings when they have their own agenda-haha. We immediately got their raincoats on and left for the Donut Shop. It was drizzly outside so Ally wore her cute little raincoat that is red with big black poka dots on it, like a ladybug. I got our baby covered up and the four of us were in pursuit of fresh kalaches and donuts as we left the house by 6:40 AM. It is 61 degrees with rain and an expected high of 70 for the day, today is Thursday, October 22, 2009. This is the last day for Nicole and Juan’s visit to Las Vegas as they fly out for home tonight.
We stayed busy for the day as we rounded up all our little projects (including fixing the silverware drawer as it needed to be placed back on track). Lunch was good with both kids when we visited the school and Lauren took her scheduled nap. She is such a good baby and I have really enjoyed spending time with her. I got the school kids picked up and Ally was disappointed because I would not let her “run around to play tag with her friends” today since I had parked the vehicle on the side so I could see it from the sidewalk because Lauren was asleep in the car seat. She had a fragment sleep night so I guess she’s making up for it now. It wasn’t long before Justin came out with his class, I stood watching each class come out and laughed to myself at all the cute PJ’s the students and teachers wore today. All loaded in the vehicle we went to the house for a quick snack before swim team practice. Ally was getting cranky again and Justin kept saying to me, “Ally is t-i-r-e-d” as he would spell out the word each time. He told me when she acts that way with their mom; Nicole makes her go to her room until she can get a better attitude. I look at it this way, they’ve been without their parents for 5 days and that has never happened in the history of the kids so I gave her grace. Besides, isn’t that what aunts are all about?? It rolled around to 3:45 PM and we left so we’d be at the pool in a timely fashion. We walked Justin to the pool and then the girls and I walked on the trails and took turns swinging in the swing for Allison and playing on the playground equipment for Lauren. We started walking back to meet Justin and I let Lauren walk the trail instead of sitting in her stroller. I laughed so hard because as she walked she would stop and step over every crack that separated each section of cement. I told Allison to watch her as she continued doing this for the whole distance of the trail-we both enjoyed watching her as we giggled at her, she’s just look up at us and grins with those cute dimples. Justin finished up and we decided that we’d eat frozen pizza that his mom had bought for us tonight because he has quite a bit of homework including preparing for his spelling test for tomorrow. This way we’d have time to play with “Biscuit” also since we had been doing that a little each evening. “Biscuit” was out of the last litter that my dad bred for Nicole’s pick when they got “Biscuit” and we got “Val”-Thomas’s dog. It’s hard to believe they are 3 years old now! One of Justin’s chores is to feed and water “Biscuit” daily-he loves to see his boy Justin when he comes outside to him…….it a dog’s life. I myself love dogs. Some people are cat people (not my daughter) or horse people (I used to be but wow-a lot of work) or gerbil people or fish people, but I’ve never been anything but a good old-fashioned dog person. The Miller family has had Rat Terriers since I can remember. It’s the only breed of dog I remember my grandparents (Nana and Granddad Miller) having. The tradition continues as I have 3 and Nicole’s family has their 1. Justin chose the name “Biscuit” from a book series he read in school.
Well, as we arrived back at the house and started unloading backpacks, waterbottles and kids I was holding the house keys in my hand and laid them down to assist Allison more effectively. Then I reached for Lauren and as I pulled her out of the car seat Allison helped me by shutting the vehicle door and Justin had pushed the ‘lock’ button before he shut his door (which was before Allison closed hers). So much to my fear as I looked around for the keys-I spied them sitting in Allison’s booster seat, with all of the doors shut and locked. Now I know Justin well enough that he doesn’t like anything to go wrong with an agenda as it causes him distress. We have had a great week without being late (in fact early for almost all events we had on our agenda) and no distress for our boy but I’m thinking we are about to break our ritual. So I thought about how to tell him so I could decide what to do to get in the house, not to mention how I would pick Nicole and Juan up at the airport at midnight tonight……I had been opening the windows of the house in the early mornings as I spoke of earlier on in the story and continued to do so today since I was cleaning the inside of the oven and did not want our baby to be exposed to the fumes so I opened the house and worked mostly while Lauren took her mid-afternoon nap. I began to calmly explain to the kids that the keys were just locked in the vehicle but then I told Justin that I felt like he could probably go in the back yard and get in thru one of the windows that had been left open. We would have to take the screen off and my fear was that we’d need to perform this operation in the back yard since I don’t live here and if someone saw us “trying to get in the house” it would not be a good experience and if it caused further disruption Justin would BE distressed with that scene! Especially if someone called the cops and they came squealing down the road with their lights flashing before they pulled in the driveway and pointed their guns at me I’m thinking about now. Justin thought it was cool because he had the responsibility of taking care of us girls and as we waited (me entertaining the girls-watching and waiting) it wasn’t long at all before Justin came right out the front door with a grin on his face. I asked, “How did you get in without me helping take a screen off?” He just grinned big and said, “The back door was unlocked so I just came right in!” I felt relief but then remembered that I had fed “Biscuit” scraps before leaving to get the kids from school this afternoon and obviously did not dead bolt it back-lucky us! Nicole and Juan I want you both to know that I locked every door, closed every window and set the alarm every night-I promise!!
We did homework, ate dinner and began baths. I put Allison to bed first as she was giving Justin a few fits and at this point I figured she was T-I-R-E-D so I’d try her mom’s trick and put her to bed after her bath by 7:05 PM and she fell fast asleep. Lauren was next and Justin lagged a bit and by 8:15 PM I told him he’d better try to bed down since his parents would be home around midnight and I was sure they’d come in and kiss them each and tomorrow is a school day still. He wanted to read some of my story so I let him (for this trip); I smiled as he enjoyed reading different parts obviously. I had put the 2 big kids in their beds tonight since their parents were coming home to sleep tonight. Tamara’s niece has babysat the kids before and Nicole had talked to her about coming tonight after her job to stay with the 3 cute sleeping kids while I drove to the Austin airport to retrieve their parents so she called to reconfirm the time she needed to arrive for me to leave. I talked to Thomas and Caitlynn as I look forward to seeing them tomorrow and they’re likewise. Nicole and Juan’s flight arrived right before midnight and we got back to their house at 12:47 AM and chatted a bit as Juan went to bed 1st then Nicole and I followed around 1:10 AM. I was texting Kim and Dottie at the lab until 2:25 AM and then climbed in bed with Ally to hold her for the last night of my stay-this time.

Well today is Friday, October 23, 2009-woke up to a brisk 52 degrees, at home (in Roanoke) this is a good temperature but here it seems colder. Red Ribbon day is to dress crazy “drugs are ridiculous” so the kids can dress anyway they choose. Justin and Allison both chose to wear their new t-shirts that their parents brought them from Vegas. Allison did wear shorts that didn’t match but Justin did no-his clothes matched. Nicole and I got up around 6 AM and chatted before she woke the kids up. My heart skipped a beat when I came around the corner of the living room when I woke up and she was holding Miss Lauren (they were cuddling), Lauren looked up and saw me and actually stuck her arms out as she grunted and wanted me to pick her up-I was so excited and Nicole just smiled as she handed her to me! Ok, now I have to go home today-what? Nicole went into each of their rooms as she woke Justin and Allison up. They were so excited to see their mom and she shared with them their t-shirts, M&M’s from the factory in Vegas and some pictures on her camera. Juan is off today so he’s sleeping in. The time change is always tough to transition to when returning from the west coast. Nicole fixed them breakfast and Justin’s class today gets to have “game day” (Mrs. Barnett) so he is taking his DS to play and for snack it will be 2 kalaches he ‘saved’ for today from yesterday morning. As he got ready we seemed to have misplaced the kalaches, not sure how but he seemed a little distraught (it’s that 1st child syndrome-he likes systems/routines that stay the same) so I offered to drive them to school so I could go get more kalaches for his special day-right, what are aunts for again? Nicole agreed as I assured her that way she would not have to get Lauren out this morning either and she accepted my offer with a grin. (She says the kids will have to come back to reality after I leave….) I pulled up at the school to drop them off and they both asked me when I would be coming back again (we talked about this earlier this week) and I told them Dec. 5th. Justin knew what day today is so he counted the days as I gave him an approximate total of days and reminded them that Uncle Thomas and KK would also be with me for a weeks visit. They were both excited as we talked of the future plans, then Justin realized he left his DS at the house as we left so I told him I would go get kalaches and his DS then return them to school for his play day. Off I went on my mission and when I got to the house Nicole was feeding Lauren, I told her what I came to get and she had realized after we left that he left it so I took his things and returned to the school. I went into the main office at the elementary and told the ladies I was leaving to go back to VA today as I gave them Justin’s things. They said, “I’m sure the kids will miss you, they have enjoyed you being here”. I smiled as I departed and as I drove off I did have a bout of sadness come over me but then realized how fortunate I am to be able to come and spend this time with them. It’s been a great week and as I drive and think back to the many conversations we’ve had together this week, I realize how important it is to listen to their ideas and to keep them challenged and energized. Now more than ever we need to listen and encourage the future leaders of our society to build on their gifts and strengths and to live with an adventurous spirit. In this way, we teach them to spread their kindness, understanding, love, beauty, and joy to our families, our communities, and the world which we live. What children gain through education can guide them through any situation and take them to great levels in their lives. Someone once asked Helen Keller what could be worse than being blind. Her response? Yes, her response is one of my favorite quotes for life: “Having sight but no vision.” (For anyone who knows me well knows that she and Thomas Jefferson are 2 people that I would love to have met-I think they are both amazing, long before their own time) We must embrace and encourage our youth to be the shining stars they deserve to be. Encourage them to be whatever they want when they grow up, so long as they enjoy it. Teach them to work with passion and dedication-to live healthy, active lives. And most important, appreciate their vision and creativity. Everyone has a talent-a gift to share with this world that we live. Let’s allow our children to dream big! Be bold! Go for it! Fortunately I am blessed with 2 great nieces, 1 great nephew, 11 Rothe nieces/nephews and my brothers and sister have 7 nieces and nephews between them all. Today I am filled with wonder and amazement at life and I am reminded that each of us is the author of our unique mission here on Earth-give birth to your dreams!
I returned to Nicole’s to do my morning run for 50 minutes, take a shower, finish my packing and head to the airport to see my husband and daughter-it’s been a good time here! Juan and Nicole wanted to take me to eat Mexican food (one of my favorite food when I come home to Texas) and I didn’t want to miss out on that so we had an early lunch together. Thank Goodness I ran this morning! Nicole, Juan and Lauren took me to the airport. As Juan drove, Nicole chuckled as she told me the kids would have to get back in the routine since I would not be there to cater to their every want like I had all week long. I politely reminded her that is what aunts are supposed to do! I thanked them for allowing me the opportunity to spend time with their great kids and hugged everyone as I said my good-byes. Home to Virginia, home sweet home.