Texas Tour, Part III

So, I got up yesterday and planned to post the final installment of our whirlwind trip, but I just couldn’t bring myself to edit any more photos or stare at my computer screen.  But I’m here today to wrap up our series of unfortunate events.  🙂

We had our day in San Antonio on Tuesday.  Late that afternoon we drove to New Braunfels to spend a couple of days with friends there.  We had a truly delightful time with Cory and Whitney and their three kiddos.  On their property is an old German-style cabin with a living room, small kitchenette, bathroom, and bedroom.  It was just about the most charming thing I’ve ever seen.

The city of New Braunfels is apparently quite the safe haven for deer.  They are virtually over-run by them.  And they are extremely bold in how close they will get to you.  New Braunfels/San Antonio were/are in a severe drought and hadn’t had rain in nearly a year (tuck that in the back of your mind, as this detail will be important later).  It seems that this is part of the reason for the boldness of the deer.  Anyway, they were everywhere and would get close enough you could almost feed them by hand.

You can see our cabin in the back ground on the right, for a perspective on how close they would get to people. This photo was taken at the same time as the one above, so Matt was standing on the porch while this deer was in the yard.

So, Tuesday night we just relaxed and enjoyed a wonderful dinner with Cory and Whitney.  I hadn’t laughed that hard or that much in a long time.  On Wednesday, Whitney took us on a tour of local hot spots.  First up was the quaint little town of Gruene.  Like the cabin, I’m not sure when I’ve seen a place more charming.

Matt, busted for abandoning Whitney and myself to seven children in a toy store.

Ellie enjoying a marble maze

We spent the morning strolling through the little town, the girls picked up trinkets at the general store (including Emma’s choice:  a bow and arrow set, complete with bowie knife), and we ate lunch at the Gristmill.  The forecast for the day had been 40% chance of rain (take notes, as once again, this detail will be important later), and we got showered on briefly while dining on the patio at the Gristmill, but other than that, they day was glorious.

That afternoon, Whitney took us all to “the island”.  Apparently, with their property comes access to an private island on the Comal River.  And, once again, it was unlike anything we’d ever seen before.

Riding the golf cart to the island.

At the Comal River

Ellie refused to get in because we didn't bring her floatie ring. Her loss.

Ellie's brief foray into the water.

Grace jumping off the diving board into the river.

Sylvie (Cory & Whitney's daughter)

Emma walked out to the end multiple times but never would jump off. She didn't like the fish swimming under the diving board. No, she doesn't take after her mother at all. (Dont't ask me how I feel about swimming in lake water.)

Rett jumping in.

I was also blessed to get to meet another Facebook / blogging friend in real life.  Abby brought her kids out to the island and we had the chance to meet and visit.  Getting to meet so many people on this trip was definitely one of the highlights!

At some point int he afternoon, the kids found a turtle and decided to build it a home in the sandbox.  I’ve never felt so sorry for a turtle in all my life.

The poor, helpless turtle that the kids tried to "help" for much of the afternoon.

Bridger observing the construction of the turtle habitat.

About half of the kids working on the turtle habitat. They just kept adding more and more water and more and more features.

Wednesday night, as we sat around the table with Cory and Whit, the topic of Sea World came up.  I was lobbying hard for it and Matt was reluctant.  His points were extremely valid – we were all exhausted, it would mean another day added to the trip, it was rather expensive, etc.  My points were that we wouldn’t be this close to a Sea World again for quite a while, the girls had just finished up a year of studying about sea creatures in school, and they had been looking forward to it ever since someone (not me) mentioned at dinner a month before that we would be going to an amusement park.  Ahem.

Thursday morning we got up and the discussions of Sea World began again.  We remained divided on the issue, but eventually Matt caved came around and bought the non-refundable tickets.  We woke the girls up without telling them our plan for the day and immediately began loading up the truck.  Everyone was tired and grouchy but I kept telling myself it would all be fine once we got to Sea World.  Right????

The forecast for the day was a 50% chance of thunderstorms, but we had been seeing that all week, so surely it would be fine.

Because Sea World San Antonio has a water park inside, we put on swim suits and sundresses (Matt didn’t wear a sundress) and the girls couldn’t figure out for the life of them why we were wearing swim suits to drive home.

We managed to get the entire truck packed and girls loaded up by 9 am, with the goal of being to the park by the time the gate opened at 10.  We strapped our luggage on top and re-duct taped the carrier before heading out.  The girls snuggled back in to their pillows and blankets and, I’m guessing, mentally prepared for the long drive home.

It’s worth pointing out here that New Braunfels is about an hour closer to Kansas than Sea World is, so in going to Sea World, we were actually making a longer drive home for ourselves.  But it was going to be worth it!  Oh the memories we were going to make that day!  At least that’s what I kept telling myself.

So we started to head south toward San Antonio.  As we were driving the sky became very ominous, having a distinct green color to it.  Being from Kansas, a green sky typically only means one thing – tornadoes.

We are all very quiet at this point.  I’m starting to feel rather sheepish and silently, fervently, praying that the weather will turn and God will redeem the day.  I can only imagine what Matt is thinking, but I’m confident it’s not very flattering toward me.

The closer we get to Sea World, the worse the weather gets.  First rain starts to fall, then the wind really starts to pick up.  I watch the indoor thermometer on the truck and the outside temperature drops nearly 15 to 20 degrees as we’re driving.  Heavy, heavy rains begin to fall, along with hail.  Whitney is texting us weather updates and finally calls, saying the news is saying tornadoes (what’d I tell you?) and severe weather all morning.  ** heavy sigh**

At this point I suggest pulling off the highway until some of the weather passes because I’m honestly concerned that the wind is going to rip our suitcases right off the top of the vehicle.  But, in keeping with our Griswold theme, we kept right on trucking.

I call the Sea World hotline to discuss the possibility of getting a refund on our tickets.  The woman on the other end is sympathetic but unmovable in regards to their no refunds policy.  Our moods are now about as gloomy as the sky outside.

We pull up to the gate at Sea World a few minutes before the gate is scheduled to open.  A handful of cars have already lined up at the entry.  As 10 o’clock comes and goes, Matt says dryly, “This is starting to look familiar.”

The moment when I was genuinely concerned Matt was going to go "Clark Griswald" on me.

As we wait, we see a couple of school buses come out, full of children.  This is not a good sign.  After a few more minutes, a couple of cars give up and turn back.  A couple of other cars go in through the open Exit gate to see what’s going on.  We follow them.

Inside, the security guard says that Sea World is closed for the day.  Matt said later he contemplated pulling out a water gun and insisting that the guard take us to see Shamu, but he restrained himself.

And so, an hour further from home than when we started, we turned back.  On the one hand, we had done the right thing (in my mind) by the girls and at least tried to go to Sea World.  On the other hand, we were now out more time and a lot of money with nothing to show for it.

We drove silently north, trying to make the best of things.  Once the rain lifted enough that I could actually hear myself think, I made another attempt at calling Sea World.  I told the nice woman our sob story and, eventually, she was able to refund our money.  Thank you, Lord

The whole way home I felt like I was waiting on that last bit of disaster.  The icing on the cake would truly have been for the luggage to blow off the top of my truck.  At this point in the trip, it may have even been funny.  Fortunately, the Lord didn’t see fit to stretch our senses of humor that far and the luggage stayed firmly attached the whole way home.

On the way home, we stopped back in Austin to return beach chairs to our friends that loaned them to us for Port A.  Then we stopped for an early dinner with great friends Dan and Laurie near Dallas and dessert with another family of friends Jamie and Julianne.  At 9:30 on Thursday night, we got into the Sequoia and Matt was finally able to push the “Home” button on the GPS.  At 4:30 Friday morning, we finally pulled into our driveway and dragged ourselves up to our beds.  Home never felt so good.

A lot of things went wrong on our Texas Tour and it would be easy to focus on that.  But we had a wonderful time as well.  Matt got to see friends he hadn’t seen in 20 years; I was able to meet “friends” I only knew through his stories and Facebook.  We spent a lot of time as a family and shared a lot of experiences and, without a doubt, this is a trip we will all remember for a very very long time and I’m truly thankful for every last bit of it.

Oh yeah...we also saw this big guy up close and in person our last night in NB. Wouldn't have missed that for the world! 😉

For God’s Glory ~

~ Sara


Texas Tour, Part II

So we left off our adventure yesterday with horrific sun burns, among other things.  We left Port Aransas a little before lunchtime and headed over to San Antonio.  We gave thanks for the warm temps with intermittent clouds that protected us from the sun.  Grace felt so miserable when we left the condo that she couldn’t bring herself to change out of her pajamas into regular clothes.  Not thinking, I threw all of her clothes into the suitcase and then handed it to Matt to strap to the truck in our now red-neck car top carrier.  So, upon arrival in San Antonio, poor Matt had to drag that monster of a suitcase back down so she could change.  I got the award that day for thinking ahead.  😉

Feeling the way we did, our goal was to keep it low-key and still have a good time.  We strolled the River Walk and checked out the Alamo.  And, of course, ate mexican food.  That was about all any one was up for on Tuesday.

San Antonio appeared to be a beautiful city.  The River Walk was gorgeous and would be such fun for a couples get away and the Alamo was everything I’d heard about it – cool, but not much to it.  There appeared to be a ton of things to do in SA if one were to spend more than six hours there.  Sadly, we were ready to keep moving on our trip.

Still, good times were had and more memories were made.  And fortunately we made it through Tuesday without incident!  Woo hoo!

Grace "feeling the burn", so to speak.

I don't even know what this face is about.

A smiley one!

Emma enjoying her lunch.

River Walk

Another spot along the river.

Ice cream!

Maybe she thinks I'm going to steal her cone?

Of course she picked the "Krazy Kolors" flavor. I love the spot of ice cream on her nose.

The Alamo

Reading up

Matt felt like we should document the fact that I was, in fact, on this trip.

While taking the previous picture, a man walked by and offered to take a photo of all of us. Props to him for actually getting my manual lens to focus!

Relaxing when we couldn't walk any more.

While San Antonio probably could have been more fun had we all felt better, we made the most of it and made more memories.

Up next, a couple of refreshing, relaxing days with friends and more unfortunate events.  🙂

Happy Wednesday, friends!

~ Sara

Texas Tour, Part I

In case you haven’t ever picked up on it, we love to travel.  We love to see different places and enjoy the change of pace that comes with a get away, be it long or short.  The girls have been begging us to take them to the beach (they speak their mother’s language).  Matt and I lobbied hard for Lost Valley, because as much as I love the beach, Lost Valley is the most magical place on earth when it comes to vacationing as a family.  But, the beach won out.  So we looked into road tripping it to Florida and the beautiful beaches we heard about there but we (Matt) just couldn’t get our (his) heads around the idea of driving 17 hours each way.  So, we looked at other options.

Throughout and right after high school, Matt was involved in a home schooling ministry that resulted in him having wonderful friends all around the country (and the world, in some cases) and a whole slew of those friends live along I35 in Texas.  So, after consulting some of these friends and Google Maps, we decided a Texas Tour, complete with a stop at the beach in Port Aransas, was in order.  Little did we know the “excitement” that lay ahead of us.  😉

*photo disclaimer – I did a horrible job taking pictures of the people we visited on this trip and I’m really annoyed at myself for that.  So, all these friends I’m going to mention over the next few days….not a single picture.  😦  I do have some great ones of the girls, though, so enjoy!

We left our home early two Saturday’s ago (i.e. 1:30 a.m.).  We loaded up a truck full of sleeping babes and headed south.  We stopped near Dallas, Texas, to see our sweet friends Justin and Melissa.  We enjoyed coffee and visiting with them, seeing their sweet new baby girl.  It was so great to visit and catch up, even if only briefly.

After Dallas, we headed on down to Austin.  Grace managed to get car sick between Dallas and Austin.  I rummaged through my purse and found the benadryl and we were up and running again. (Our family doctor said once that benadryl is good for nausea.  I question whether it actually affects the nausea or if it just makes you so darn tired you don’t notice how sick you feel.)

In Austin, friends Drew and Jessica put us up for the night.  We enjoyed catching up with them and loved having dinner with them and more friends (Brian and Peggy and family).  Mother’s day was slow waking up, coffee, very yummy breakfast tacos (in Kansas we would call them breakfast burritos – but they were tacos all throughout Texas), and getting back on the road.  Oh, but not before duct taping our car top luggage carrier back together and saying a quick prayer that our suitcases all stayed securely on top of the vehicle.

After Austin, we embarked on what seemed a very long drive to Port Aransas.  I think we had meant to take the interstate as far as possible, but the GPS took us down state roads through little towns.  It was scenic, but we all just really wanted to be out of the car and on the beach.  The highlight was taking the ferry across the waterways to Port A.  This was quite a thrill, as I was the only one of us who had ever done that before.

We stayed at Port Royal and were thrilled with our accommodations.  Two bedrooms, full kitchen, balcony overlooking the gulf.  We seriously considered staying another night, until Monday happened (I’ll get to that).  The wind on the beach was rather brutal, but the sand was wonderful and it was just fabulous to be near the ocean, soaking up warm sun and moist air.  The hotel also had a great pool, so when we wearied of the wind we headed over there.

Sunday night we (of course) were craving Mexican food.  (Because, let’s be honest, if we are what we eat, our whole family needs green cards.)  The parking spots at the resort were a little unusual.  These are privately-owned vacation homes and each parking slot was designed so that up to three vehicles could park in a line, one behind the other.  Since most of the parking garage was empty, there weren’t very many slots filled three-deep, so Matt just assumed they were deep enough for two cars.  Each bay of three slots was partitioned off with concrete columns.  Matt carefully counted back enough columns for two parking spaces, slowly began to turn to go out of the garage, when we suddenly heard a horrible crunch.

So, let’s pause a moment and begin a running talley of misadventures, forty-eight hours into our trip:

  • car sickness
  • shredded & duct taped car top carrier
  • smashed bumper

All right then.  Moving on.

We gathered our discouragement and headed on out to dinner, counting the right number of columns this time.  Matt had heard good things about a restaurant there on the island and we went in search of it only to find it was closed for Mother’s Day.  All right.  Moving on.  We found another mexican place with a pseudo patio and had a rather subdued dinner, trying to make the best of things.  Really.

Monday morning we woke up, eager to hit the beach and enjoy a day in the sun.  Matt and I were still seriously discussing the possibility of booking another night as this place was just so wonderful and relaxing.  By that night, however, our tune would change dramatically.

We thoroughly enjoyed our day in the sun, going in only to eat lunch.  We played on the beach until a couple of the girls and I had had all the wind we could take then we headed over to the pool.  Later in the day, we headed back out to the beach for a while longer.  I promptly fell asleep on the sand and Matt entertained all the girls.  By the time I woke up, Emma and Ellie were officially DONE, so we headed back to the room.

I knew when I woke up that I didn’t feel great.  I was hot and felt somewhat dehydrated.  I assumed the girls felt the same.  I took them back to the room and had them take showers.  As our skin cooled from the heat and our eyes adjusted from the sun, I began to see that they were all pretty sun burned.

We headed out to dinner, trying that elusive mexican restaurant again.  They’re closed on Monday’s.  😛  So we tried yet another mexican place.  Halfway through dinner Matt was horribly chilled and nauseous and we were all exhausted.  We stopped by the local IGA and picked up some aloe vera gel (with lidocaine!) and I slathered everyone in that, dosed them up on tylenol, and we vegged out watching Extreme Makeover Home Edition reruns on CMT.

Tuesday morning everyone woke up feeling utterly miserable.  I’ll be honest, I’ve not seen sun burns that bad.  Ever.  We did apply sunblock, but apparently spray-on sunblock doesn’t adhere well when you apply it in 20 mph winds.  Matt and I both felt horrible, not because of our own burns (mine were pretty mild really), but because of how the girls now felt.  It was clear we would not want another day at the beach, so we packed up and headed out as quickly as all our aching bodies would move.

So that we don’t lose track, let’s recap our events once again:

  • car sickness
  • shredded & duct taped car top carrier
  • smashed bumper
  • sever sun burns
  • sun sickness

Honestly, we were all feeling pretty darn discouraged by this time.  Vacation was not turning out at all like we had planned.  Matt stopped us all, we prayed.  We gave thanks for the good times we were having and for the discouragements we had faced so far.  We asked the Lord to be with the rest of the trip.  And then we headed out, carefully counting the columns lining the parking spaces.

Tomorrow: San Antonio and our (mis)adventures at near Sea World.

Monday Morning

After nearly a week and a half of non-routine and vacation and re-integrating to the real world, what a gift to wake up to a Monday morning and feel the return of “normal”.  Early morning quiet, a run with a friend (and almost conquering an ugly hill), Shred work out, and time in the Word to feed a very hungry soul….all feels right and I pour out thanks for the past few weeks of gifts.  God is good.  He is so good.

1206.  Resurrection Sunday

1207.  a day of baking

1208.  finding joy in food preparation

1209.  school year in the books

1210.  glorious sunshine

1211.  help grooming the dog

1212.  Haiti meeting

1213.  daughter insightful

1214.  date afternoon

1215.  sunburned shoulders

1216.  many hands working cheerfully

1217.  grace to survive on not enough sleep

1218.  five miles of pavement under my feet

1219.  snuggles with the youngest who is rapidly outgrowing my lap

1220.  family road trip

1221.  time with friends far away

1222.  long drives

1223.  hot sun, moist air

1224.  ferry ride

1225.  the beach!

1226.  all my heart in the water, laughing joy

1227.  busted bumper

1228.  too much sun

1229.  shredded car top carrier

1230.  missing keys

1231.  struggles that find us, even on vacation

1232.  stopping, as a family, to pray and give thanks, even for the difficulties

1233.  days with friends, wonderful memories

1234.  home at 4:30 a.m.

1235.  clean house

1236.  a weekend to recover

1237.  a Monday morning return to routine

I am hopeful, as we ease into summer and slower schedules, to return to more regular posting.  This week I plan to share about the comedy of errors that was our recent family vacation.  Be sure to stay tuned.  😉

May you find time this Monday morning to give thanks and find joy in the routine of daily life.

For His Glory ~

~ Sara