Texas 2014

I saw my first 85 mph speed limit sign on August 2nd in Texas. I said, “Eighty-five miles an hour? No, thank you!” I can barely hold it together at 70 mph. Late that afternoon we checked into our bed and breakfast in a Greek revival home in downtown San Antonio. Upon entering the house and seeing the dark woodwork with the elegant furniture, Roman said, “Mom, I bet you five bucks that if I asked you to upgrade our house to this, you would say no.” (He’s right.) A little later he said, “Wow, this is amazing,” and still later, “Man, you gotta love a bed and breakfast.” I think he could get used to luxury!

The boys were at their happiest when they were watching Phineas and Ferb on Netflix while drinking the Coke and Sprite they got out of the small refrigerator in our room. You would think that was the only reason they took this trip: to watch Netflix and drink pop, something they can do at home.

Our first meal in San Antonio was at Tito’s, a Mexican restaurant down the road from the B&B. I discovered that authentic Mexican food is not as spicy as Tex Mex. It was a pleasure to be able to eat without tongue pain! Ironically, the boys ordered cheeseburgers, which were delicious.

On August 3rd we enjoyed our first breakfast: fruit compote, blueberry pancakes, and sausages. The innkeeper alternates between sweet and savory breakfasts, and each day there is a story about how the recipe came about. I ate my fruit and Roman’s; my pancakes and Julian’s. I can’t keep that up! At least we walked some every day. 

When the housekeeper was making the beds, she lifted up my son’s pillow and found a kleenex graveyard: about 15 rumpled up kleenexes under the pillow. She said, “Whoa, Mr. Sneeze-a-lot!” We told the kid to pick up his kleenexes, but the lady said, “Don’t worry about it,” and quickly picked them up with her bare hands. I think he was sufficiently embarrassed because he didn’t leave used kleenex under his pillow again the whole week.

We took a bus tour of San Antonio; went to a wax museum and a mirror maze, which made Roman dizzy; had a picnic of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches downtown; and took a long hot walk through the market square. I would have liked to shop, but I know the boys would have lynched us if we had, so we just walked through it and back “home.” 

The wax museum was creepy, of course. The worst part was the horror section with the hanging body bags, and it was made worse when somebody cropdusted and I had no choice but to walk through the cloud. Roman’s favorite part was the display of Jesus’ passion week. He said it was “intense.”

The best part of the day was the cave tour we took in the evening. The whole park was beautifully landscaped. It was easy to forget you were in a hot, dry place with all the greenery around us. I thought the cave would be chilly, so I made everyone take a jacket, but with the humidity, it was warm. The warmth increased when the walk up became strenuous. 

The boys bought souvenirs. It was so cute and so typical of each of them: Julian bought himself a keychain that said “The Boss.” Then when Roman paid for his own keychain, he dropped all his disorganized dollar bills all over the floor. There isn’t much that kid does neatly. 

Julian had a little case of swimmer’s ear. He was talking unnecessarily loud, and every time someone said something, he would say, “WHAT?” 

On August 4 we went to Splashtown, a water park like White Water, but not as nice. We saw a cockroach and some hair in the wave pool. But in spite of the grossness, we had a great time. My cheeks hurt from smiling so much. The only reason we got out of the water was because a certain little redhead needed more sunscreen. The boys did not want to get out, but as soon as they did, they realized how tired they were and were ready to go home. We went to an Italian restaurant because our innkeeper, admittedly a foodie, recommended their pizza (but nothing else). The pizza was definitely worth it. And we ate and slept very well after a day in the sun.

On August 5 we saw the Alamo movie at the IMAX theater and then toured the Alamo. It was much smaller than I thought it would be. But I learned a piece of history, even if it was about 30 years late.  Julian was irate with his father for making him put sunscreen on. He emerged from his sunscreen application experience scowling, with his hair sticking up and his face redder than his hair. He complained all the way to the museum about walking in the sun: “You don’t care about me at all! You need to start caring about me!” Rick rolled his eyes, and I could hardly control my laughter. Julian yelled, “Stop laughing!” I stopped. Then he screamed, “Stop laughing in your mind!” He did not calm down until we hit some air conditioning and he could sit down and rest. 

Grandma joined us that afternoon. After eating some leftovers and resting, we went to Villita to look at the artists’ work. We went to Tower of the Americas. I liked the view and we were going to eat appetizers at Happy Hour, but we left because it was crowded and dizzying. Instead Grandma treated us to dinner at a BBQ restaurant. The place was nothing fancy, but the meat tasted good! We walked on the Riverwalk, then watched a movie with popcorn and brownies, compliments of the B&B. 

We started August 6 with a boat tour of the Riverwalk, then we visited the museum of Texan cultures. I was museumed out by then, but I did enjoy the string- and fabric-making demonstration by an elderly lady. When she finished demonstrating how to turn cotton into string, she said, “Well, you can’t just wear a string,” and she showed us how to weave that string into fabric. 

We walked to the Market Square to shop. My mother-in-law is a good shopping buddy – she enjoys it instead of complaining like the boys do, so I bought a few things. We had dinner at Mi Tierra. It was the best Mexican food I’ve ever eaten. I loved my chalupas. The place was loud and garishly decorated, with shiny, colorful pinatas hanging on the ceiling and lights everywhere. There was nothing muted about the place. Like a grownups’ Chuck E. Cheese. We were just glad the Mariachi band didn’t come to our table. After dinner, Grandma bought the boys dessert at the Mexican bakery. They had the pastries my grandmother used to buy us when I was little! I watched a street magician perform, then we walked back on the Riverwalk, when the heat finally lifted. I enjoyed the luxury of pound cake with lemon drizzle at the Bed and Breakfast, that I got from a crystal dish in the  entry. I miss that. Nobody bakes for me at home 🙂

On August 7 we went to the art museum to see the Matisse exhibit, then to the Witte museum of natural history. Julian woke up a prairie dog and we watched it crawl through its artificial underground tunnels. Then we felt like we couldn’t hold any more information in our heads, and we let the boys chill in the room, watching TV with their favorite beverage in hand. After pizza for dinner, Rick and I had a little date on the Riverwalk, to say “goodbye” to it. We spent Friday and Saturday at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, where the boys played with their Texas cousins and we got ready for the long drive home.



The River

We went camping at Hootentown on the James River, with cousins and friends. The river water was cold. I expected to see ice cubes floating by as I waded painfully into the water. But I figured it was OK – either I’d get used to it or I’d just spend the whole time floating on my inner tube. Then someone saw a snake or two in the water. I love the water, so I thought, Well, we can just stay away from the snakes. But when my niece found a leech, I said, “That’s it. I’m done swimming.”

The camp bathroom was so dirty that it needed to be burned down. And that’s all I want to say about that.

At the river I heard my first cry of, “Geez, Mom, you’re embarrassing me.” “Well, I’m sorry if you’re embarrassed, but I can’t help screaming when my bike hits an unexpected sand pit.”

But in spite of all that, we had a great time. The weather was perfect for being outdoors, where I feel most relaxed. Taking the kids to the river is starting to be a fun tradition. I’m grateful to the friends who organized it.

Roman on the way home from camping

Roman on the way home from camping; This guy has never been a napper, but he was wiped out!

the four camping

Cousin time


Blanca's marshmallow barette

Blanca wore a marshmallow barrette and a marshmallow beard and mustache after eating her roasted marshmallow.

Roman and the Saint Bernard

This dog smelled our cooking and decided to camp with us. Roman bonded with him, and decided he was going to get a Saint Bernard of his own. (Oh, really?)


Roman in the innertube

My handsome surfer dude

Julian celebrating in the water

Julian looks like he’s just been baptized, but he was just having fun.

Rick pulling Roman in the innertube

This is the way Roman likes it.


Memorial Day Weekend 2014


The boys are on a baseball kick lately. Even Roman, Mr. Anti-Sport, is excited about it. Whenever they can, they get together with their athletic neighbors and play ball with ghost runners (which I’m pretty sure they don’t fully understand). When their friends are not available, they ask me and Rick to play. We’ve had some pretty fun backyard games. It reminds me of when I was little and our parents would play “baseball” with us in the yard. We didn’t have a bat or a baseball, but we improvised. We played by batting at a tennis ball with our hands.

Today we do have bats and baseballs. When we play, I’m ridiculous: Every time I miraculously make contact with the ball, I run screaming to first base.

Julian is nothing if not competitive. He’s been known to throw the ball at a player a few times to get them out. It hurts!

Lucy is annoying. We don’t need a big 14-year-old dog in the way of our game, but she just wants to be with us, so she lumbers over and stands right in front of people. We send her to go lay down, but she says, “If I can’t be right in the way, then I’m leaving.” She exits the yard and acts like she’s going to run away. But we know better. She knows we’re the only ones who would want her, so she’s not going anywhere.


The Mall

On Saturday, the boys were at Mom and Dad’s house with their cousins, so I went to the mall. I had one specific thing I needed. I found it right away, but was unable to “shop like a man.” I had to circle the whole mall looking in every store, trying on every pair of black sandals (none of them compared to my old ones that broke where we had already glued them together once, so I bought no shoes).

On my way out, I passed a kiosk of Dead Sea beauty products. The salesman held a little sample packet out to me and said something I didn’t hear. I said, “No thank you.” Then, when he very quietly said, “Can I ask you something?” I uncharacteristically approached him, and before I knew it, I was using a salt scrub while he rinsed my hands into a bowl. It made my hands soft and silky. Then he pulled out this clarifying gel and put some on one of my forearms. As he scrubbed, these dead, gray skin cells came off. He said, “See? You actually have very fair skin.” (So that’s why my children are so fair-skinned! I’m not really dark; I’m just dirty!) Hours later I asked Rick if he saw any difference between my right and left forearms, and he said, “Definitely. This one’s lighter.” Great. OK. Maybe I’d like the Dead Sea products, but I’m not buying them. But the salesman would not let me go. Three times I had to say, “I’m not buying anything today,” and after the third time, he quickly said, “Have a good day.”


Sunday was my turn with the toddlers at church. The story was about Jonah. The lesson idea was that God protected Jonah while he was in the big fish, and God will protect you too. I wondered if anyone would ask about all the times when God did not protect good people who trusted in Him, but allowed them to suffer and die. I thought about addressing that, but decided that my kiddos are very young and that assuring them that God takes care of them would do. I would say more if someone asked. That felt right. And nobody asked.

Sick Day

Sunday evening we had a fun get-together with my family. Roman developed a fever and spent the whole afternoon on the couch. Julian was bored, constantly wanting someone to entertain him, and complaining when we didn’t. When I announced that we were going to where he could play with his cousins, he jumped right up and was in his seatbelt before I could finish the sentence. Maybe I should use the cousin line every time I want him in the car. Anyway, Roman and Rick had to stay home and miss the party. We were a little worried about Roman, because he had a fever of 102 in spite of Tylenol, and he had recently had a tick that he had only partially removed. He was coughing and had a headache. We were going to take him to Urgent Care in the morning (because these things never happen when his pediatrician is in the office), but the next morning he woke up feeling fine, no fever, and in a fabulous mood. He was happy and cooperative all day. He was so grateful to be feeling well, and so are we. By the way, Julian served himself Ginger Ale in this huge cup. I took it away from him.IMG_2378


We’ve always taught the kids that you don’t spend all your money; you save some and you give some away. They each have three money jars, each labeled with where the money will go. I found a piece of making tape covering the money slot in Julian’s “Give” jar. Someone is going through a little stingy phase.

Misbehaving Boys

Two little things have annoyed me recently. See what you think:

The other day I had plans for what to make for dinner, but I was gardening, Rick was working out, and the boys were playing, so it got late on us and I hadn’t started dinner when the boys got hungry. But instead of asking me if I had supper-making plans, they helped themselves to white bread and Nutella. So basically they had sugar sandwiches for dinner. I wasn’t happy, because I had gone through the trouble of stopping at the grocery store after work, and I had a plan for what needed to be eaten before it went bad. Plus I wanted them to get nutrition from our meal. And I like us to sit down to eat together. So I made each of the boys peel carrots, and asked them to eat some. As they peeled, they munched on the carrots and also nibbled on dinner with the family later. Everyone ended up happy. Hopefully next time they won’t raid the kitchen for snacks without checking with me first. I try not to be a kitchen Nazi, but it’s hard when your plans get thrown out the window.

Every day when I ask Roman, “Do you have homework?” he says, “No.” But the other day we got an e-mail from his teacher saying that only a few kids had turned in a writing assignment she had given them. Apparently you can’t trust fourth-graders to do what they’re supposed to do without teacher or parental prodding. Roman was not one of the kids who had turned in his assignment, so we made him do it. He was supposed to interview a person over age 50 about technology and then write a report on it. He asked Rick if he could interview him, but Rick said, “I’m not over 50.” Roman said, “Oh. You know.” A little later he said, “The teacher really shouldn’t do this when we only have a week of school left.” Boy, that was the wrong thing to say to his teacher father! He got the lecture, the one about working hard and doing your best until it’s actually time to play.

So how often do your kids do what they’re supposed to do without being told? At what age do they become independent enough that we don’t have to manage them so much? Does it ever happen before they’re grown?Image

May fun and the Minecraft birthday party

The month of May is my favorite month of the year. After a snowy winter during which the toilet pipe busted under the house, my brain forgot how to sleep, we all got the flu, we nearly emptied our savings fixing things that broke in the house, and I got stir crazy, it’s so nice to be able to open the doors and let the outside in. That is, when I’m not outside myself. I plant a garden, one of my favorite things to do. I hang the laundry on the line to dry and fold it on the patio table. Even when I’m playing Monopoly with the boys, sometimes I insist on playing it outside. It’s a pain having to pin all that money down so the breeze doesn’t take it away, but it’s worth it. It’s so much easier to hide your crazy when the sun is shining.

Marrying Rick was the best spring break ever; Roman’s birth was the best Halloween treat I’ve ever received; and Julian was the best Mother’s Day gift I’ve ever gotten. You can’t beat a sleepy little redhead perched on your shoulder all day, for a Mother’s Day present. He was so gentle and quiet at first, then when he became a toddler, his fiery, spirited side came out. I found him: climbing the attic ladder alone, dumping my carefully planted seedlings on the living room floor, sitting in the dresser drawer with the clothes all over the floor, and so much more. He misbehaved early and surely. And he is so much fun. He turned eight years old yesterday. And he certainly had a happy birthday. Video games at 6 a.m., more video games after school with his neighborhood friends, dinner at ReRico with his family, a long bubble bath, and some new Pokemon cards from his brother. Spoiled little boy! And that was after his birthday party with kids, which Rick and I have said is the last one we’ll do 🙂

I made a Ghast pinata for Julian's birthday party.

I made a Ghast pinata for Julian’s birthday party.


Julian's turn to hit the pinata

Julian’s turn to hit the pinata






Rick is a talented artist, and that side of him comes out when we throw a kid’s birthday party. This year I joined him in making decorations, though mine don’t even compare. I took the ideas from Pinterest.


Creeper, made by Rick

Creeper, made by Rick

Enderman, made by Rick

Enderman, made by Rick

Creeper, made by Adrianna

Creeper, made by Adrianna

Julian loves soccer and basketball, and plays with all his being. He’s always been at the zero percentile for height, so maybe that’s why he pushes himself. He keeps up pretty well, too! It’s kind of surprising that we have an athlete in the family. None of the rest of us like sports much. The only reason I ever put on sparring gear and hit people, or exerted myself to make a basket or kick in a goal, was because of Julian. He stretches me and makes me jump out of my comfort zone, and I guess that’s good.




Labor Day Weekend

I was so happy to walk out of the office Thursday afternoon with a whole four-day weekend ahead! After music school that night, we bought a quart of Andy’s frozen custard, and had sundaes at home to celebrate not having to go to school the next day. I was looking forward to spending Friday with the boys, but all they did was fight and complain. Except they enjoyed lunch at Incredible Pizza, which they did not deserve, but I just had to get out of the house and use their free game cards. We ate pizza and watched cartoons, played a few games, and left. Even though we weren’t there long, they did not complain when it was time to leave. Good attitudes at last. Julian and I played some board games, and he honestly beat me at Monopoly. That kid likes to win.


On Saturday we went to White Water. It was so crowded you couldn’t really swim without bumping into someone, but we had fun anyway. Roman was especially in a great mood, swimming and splashing around in the wave pool. We left early because the boys had a date with Abuelito and Abuelita to spend the night at their house. They were pleasantly surprised to find that two of their cousins were spending the night too! Rick and I went out to dinner at a restaurant that is not fast food and that doesn’t have cartoons. We enjoyed ourselves a lot.

Sunday we slept in, then painted part of the dining room brown. I trust Rick’s artistic eye, and we think it looks good! Mom made a delicious chicken dinner and some of the kids swam in the pool while the rest of us read, visited, or napped. In the evening we went to some friends’ house for taco night – fun! My little niece and her friend, two adorable toddlers, were entertaining as she tried to get him to jump on the trampoline. She followed him around saying, “Will you jump with me? Say yes!” Finally he had to give in because he couldn’t avoid it any longer. Nobody can say No to those huge dark eyes of hers!

On Monday, the boys played video games with their neighbors, and then we went to Lowe’s to buy supplies for all the little home projects that have been piling up – from a broken toilet seat to a missing window shade. In the afternoon we went to the park down the street. Roman just had to take the wagon that Uncle Jim made them to the park. Two reasons: 1) He reads a lot of Calvin and Hobbes. 2) A while ago they had a good time at the park riding a wagon down a hill with their neighbor friends, and he wanted to relive the experience. Rick and I rode the wagon down the hill too. I’m sure we looked ridiculous but it was fun!

playing on the toilet display, making the employees smile

playing on the toilet display, making the employees smile


boys park fam park Roman parkToday is Lucy’s 14th birthday! (We assigned her a birthday based on the vet’s estimate of her age.) She can’t have sugar because of her diabetes, but we ate pie, and she had beans and cheese. I think she enjoyed it!

Slicing apples for pie

Slicing apples for pie

Lucy bday