Sunday, June 30, 2013

When the kids are away, the parents will play

On Wednesday, Jeff's parents picked up the kids around noon, on their way out to the ranch to prepare for the Watts' family reunion. That left us with a couple of kid-free days, so we set out to make the most of them.

We kicked off the fun with lunch together in Marble Falls at a place we hadn't tried yet. Then, we were back at the house for a few hours to get some work done. (A necessary evil before more fun could be had.) And, then, we were off to Austin to check in on the work being done on our house there, which may or may not have involved an attempt to break into the (tenant-free) house. Since we were already in Austin, we decided to slip over to the Alamo Drafthouse for dinner and a movie. We saw Now You See Me, which we really enjoyed. After the movie, we headed back to Marble Falls, where we stopped in at Chili's for drinks and dessert on the deck overlooking the lake. It was lovely.

Thursday morning, I had a pedicure and did a little shopping, before collecting Jeff for a surprise date I had planned. Before my plans kicked in, we stopped in Johnson City for lunch at a place we had never tried. Then, we were on our way to Fredricksburg, where the adventure ramped up. Our first stop was at Grape Creek Vineyard for a tour and tasting. What a beautiful place! We thoroughly enjoyed the tour and the wine.

From there, we made our way to Cotton Gin Village, where I had reserved a quaint little cabin for us for the night. We spent some time in the cabin, resting and reading, before enjoying a fabulous meal at the Cabernet Grill, a wonderful steak and seafood restaurant on the property.

Our after-dinner plans took us to the Rockbox Theater, where we experienced a most enjoyable music and comedy show.

Finally, back at our cabin, we enjoyed coffee and s'mores, before turning in for the night. It was a really wonderful and much-needed break from the every day.

Grape Creek vineyard

The barrel room

Cotton Gin Village

Cabernet Grill

Monday, June 24, 2013

West Texas

Tragedy struck the small west Texas town where Jeff grew up this past week. One of his classmates lost his father to long-time illness. Another classmate's younger sister unbelievably and unexpectedly died in childbirth. In a town of fewer than 1000 people, one death in the community makes an impact, but two rocks it to its core. Even though Jeff hasn't returned to Wink too many times in the last few years or kept in close contact with most of his classmates, we felt strongly that we needed to be there for these two memorial services on Saturday. So, we left the kids with Jeff's parents early Saturday morning and headed west. It was wonderful for Jeff to have an opportunity to reconnect with the people and places of his past and for me to get to be there with him, though we would have much preferred to do that under different circumstances.

Between the memorials, Jeff took me on a comprehensive, street-by-street tour of Greater Wink. And later in the day, after leaving Wink, he took me out to the Monahans Sandhills State Park, which proved to be a special, unexpected treasure.

We are hoping to plan some sort of reunion with Jeff's class of 26 sometime soon, and we hope to take the kids out there, so they might also might have an opportunity to connect with these unique people and places that are indirectly shaping their lives in some ways.

Silhouettes in the sand

The Sandhills
Meanwhile, the kids enjoyed some time in the redneck pool at Mimi and Grandpa's house

Friday, June 21, 2013

When the Watts go to town

We had to go in to Marble Falls today for a follow-up appointment with the pediatrician regarding Max's ear infection that just won't end. Clay (in his new big boy undies) came with us, because he is a major deterrent for getting anything productive done, which was an activity Jeff needed to engage in this morning. While waiting for the doc to call us back, I noticed a funky smell coming from the direction of the toddler. Obviously, since I had just bragged on him in the post yesterday, he had to prove me wrong. So, I gathered him up and headed to the van for wipes, pull-ups and new clothes. (This incident comes on the heels of yesterday's outing to the pool, when Max was blindsided with a bout of unstoppable diarrhea that coated his swimsuit, but thankfully in the confines of the bathroom instead of out in the pool). Back in the doctor's office, we found out Max still has a pretty yucky infection, so another round (but a different version) of antibiotics was ordered.

While waiting on the prescription, we visited a few shoe stores, in the hopes of finding me a pair of decent summery black dress shoes to wear to two funerals tomorrow. I didn't find anything I liked in the first couple of stores. And, then it was time to pick up the prescription at HEB. We paid for it and were headed out the door on our way to one final shoe store, when the now-diapered two-year-old declared his need to go potty. Because, of course. As I bent to help him take care of his business, the strap on my flip-flop snapped, and I fell off the small heel and twisted my ankle. So, we made our harried way over to the cheap plastic, oddly bejeweled selection of summer sandals in the "Seasonal Department" of the store, where we ran in to someone we knew. Because, of course. And, then, with a brief stop at the trash can to ditch the old shoes and tags from the new ones, we were on our way. (And, in case you're wondering, I did find a decent pair of black shoes at the last store we visited).

To get to our house from Marble Falls, we must pass over the bridge that spans the lake. There is really no other way to get here. I don't know if there was an accident or what, but traffic seemed to shut down just as we pulled on to the bridge. We sat there for a full fifteen minutes, which seemed much longer due to the repeated requests for food from the back seat from children who had been pushed well past their normal lunch time. And, sitting there, it suddenly dawned on me that one of the things I was supposed to do in town was to go to the bank. But, I had plenty of time to reconcile myself to the fact that it just wasn't going to happen today.

What can I say? We are a fun time waiting to happen. Come to think of it, there may be a reason we have arranged our lives so that we are home most of the time.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

So, this is happening

A little over eleven years ago, we diapered the first tiny Watts' bottom. Except for a few brief stints of having someone potty trained before someone else came along, we've been a continuous diapering machine for all those years. (Oh, what I wouldn't have given for a diapering machine!) But, as you can see, those days are almost over! (Can I get an "Amen?!") Clay has been sporting the smallest-size-availabe-but-still-fairly-huge-for-his-tiny-bum big boy undies this week during waking hours, and even out in public, and has not had any accidents. I feel as if I am about to be released from so many years of indentured servitude. I'm thinking there will be a party. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Proof Positive Prayer Works

While our house was still being built, and while I was huge pregnant with Clay, we were wandering around on the property and came across a fairly large rattlesnake. Trust me when I tell you you have never seen someone carrying so much extra weight move that quickly. For two weeks, snakes filled my dreams, and I would wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night, crying and terrified. (I think I mentioned I was pregnant, which might be sufficient explanation for the sweating and crying, and maybe even the weird dreams). I began trying to convince Jeff we shouldn't move in, but he wouldn't be swayed. So, I began doing what every paranoid mother does when she's worried about something: combing the Internet for solutions and getting more freaked out. The reviews for all the rattlesnake-be-gone products were mostly terrible. And the only real natural predator was the roadrunner. So, I decided I would just buy myself a roadrunner. I mean, I had heard of people buying swans and geese and chickens online, so how different could roadrunners be?! But a web search brought up sites with huge red banners, stating the illegality of purchasing or catching roadrunners. I admit, I wondered if it would be worse for my children to be killed by rattlesnakes or to grow up with only occasional visits with their mother in prison. Ultimately, I decided to let go of my dream of owning a roadrunner (or rather a pair of roadrunners, because, in my research, I learned they mate for life), but I would look longingly at any I saw running around on some other lucky landowner's property. Instead, I decided to just ask the Lord to watch and protect my children even when I wasn't able to, and He confirmed in my heart that He was more than capable of doing that. And, just like that, the nightmares ended. I have almost stepped on two different rattlesnakes since we saw that first one and have gone into small degrees of cardiac arrest, but I have not forgotten the Lord's ability to watch and to protect. And, today, perhaps to reward me for not going criminal, He brought this friend to our yard:

I don't mind telling you I raised my hands to heaven and did a happy dance in my kitchen! I hope he (or she) and his (or her) mate will be very happy here and will feel free to kill any and all snakes for as long as they are able. I'm not usually much for birds, but I think this one is the most beautiful one I've ever seen!

Friday, June 14, 2013

This Week...

  • The big boys attended Nana Camp, which included swimming, bowling, lazar tag, a play date, an overnight stay in Arlington, a Texas Rangers baseball game and probably a whole bunch of things I don't even know about. 
  • We acquired a foosball table, which we measured not quite accurately and so punched a hole in the wall while trying to carry it up the stairs. 
  • Wall repair.
  • Ruth started a new job, working for Strongpages (Jeff's company), and she has done an amazing job.
  • Ruth got to watch a bunch of movies the boys are not quite old enough for yet.
  • Our tree trimmer has gotten mostly finished, and our property looks so much better.
  • Our landscaper finally got back to us with some plans, and we are super-excited to move forward with that, hopefully in the near future. 
  • The door that leads from the house to the garage was falling out of it's jamb, so we had someone here to repair that.
  • I attended a CC conference in the morning and taught a training class in the afternoon for three days in Austin.
  • The exterminator's rotation began, and we are really looking forward to fewer ants and scorpions around here.
  • We are all packed up for a weekend with family, celebrating the imminent arrival of our niece/cousin.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Friday Faves

This cream has a luxurious feel, a light, pleasant fragrance and it absorbs quickly.

I know.  It's summer. But with the AC on, I get cold.
This Danskin jacket is the perfect weight to cut the chill and take along.
Also, it doesn't wrinkle, is semi-fitted, and has cutie thumb holes.
This is my new go-to for headaches. It's like a miracle in a bottle.

Jeff and I sort of got addicted to satellite radio in the rental van we took to Disney. 

Another miracle in a bottle.
I have been amazed at how well this has worked on my hormonal acne.

Best. Flip-Flop. Ever.
Durable and comfortable for all day walking. Plus, they're cute.
I wore mine (which are pink) every day at Disney, rain or shine,
and my feet were not yelling at me at the end of the day

Love this stuff for smoothing the rough spots, treating ingrown toenails and plantar warts
and helping fingernails to grow. (I use HEB brand, but I'm sure all E-Oil is pretty much equal).

"Miracle" actually might be too strong,
but "better-than-your-normal-face" is harder to fit on the label.
A nice, light, tinted sunscreen that sort of glosses over some of the flaws.
These plug-in fragrances help eliminate some of the boy funk around here.
 There are a ton of styles and fragrances to choose from, and some of them are even night lights.
It is REALLY hard to find hotel rooms that fit our family very well,
and I doubt all hotels under this name are created equal, but the one in Orange, TX
was absolutely perfect, and the breakfast was one of the best hotel breakfasts we've had.
The Clarion Hotel in Covington, LA had a beautiful lobby,
connected indoor/outdoor pools, and huge multi-room suites.
If we had to have car trouble, we were glad it lead us here. 

Thursday, June 06, 2013


Hey, Cheek. You're eleven. And that's pretty unbelievable! The years are just racing by, and I am completely powerless to stop them it seems.

I'm not going to lie to you. This year has been a little rocky for all of us, as you have entered the baffling "tween" years--so aptly named because you are truly between a little girl and a young woman. When you were about three or four, we had a book called "Big and Little," which showed many of the ways a child that same age was big but still little. We are definitely in the next stage of that. You are big, and you're little. Some days, you still enjoy playing with your dolls and watching silly cartoons with your brothers. Other days, the very insinuation that you might do those things will send you into a fit of eye rolls that seems like it might require surgery to correct. Some days you are congenial and chatty. Other days, you are snarky and abrupt. Some days you go through the gamut multiple times and you don't even know why, or how to stop it. You may not believe this, but I remember what it was like. Heck, some days, I do the exact same thing, even though I'm a grown-up, who is supposed to have it all together. :)

Your body and emotions are changing, as is your way of thinking about the world around you. I want you to know these things are normal. And, I want you to know that Dad and I love you very much! I'm telling you this because you aren't always going to feel like they are or that we do.

There has been more to this year than all that, though. You got your braces off in September and had your hair cut short on the same day. And, before and after, you were and are absolutely beautiful!

You started taking horse riding lessons in August, which instantly became and remains the highlight of your week. You are still taking piano lessons and have improved so much in this last year. You memorized a handful of songs to play for a National Piano Guild audition in April, and you received the very highest marks they give. You played basketball in the winter, and before games, you worked in the concession stand alongside your best friend's family to help them raise money for the adoption of a little boy from China. You even donated some of your own money to their cause just because you were touched by their story. You participated in PSIA again this year, in five different events, and you qualified for the state meet in two events. You also became a CC Memory Master, which required a great deal of hard work and focus. It was a goal you (and Dad and I) set and were glad you met, since it was to be your last year in the Foundations program. Next year, you will be moving up to Challenge A, with students who are, for the most part, a year older than you and will be working at a seventh grade level. This is absolutely the right place for you, and Dad and I are confident that you will do great!

I know it must be frustrating sometimes to be the only girl in a household full of loud, messy boys, but you are such an amazing big sister! You love on and take care of all of your brothers, and you generally seem to enjoy their company. You have your own special bond with each of them, and they are all very fortunate to have you in their lives.

Dad and I are also so very blessed to have you in our lives! We love you so much and just couldn't be prouder of you! Sometimes it may seem to you like we are completely detached from reality or that we don't understand you at all or that we are just plain ridiculous. And, frankly, that may be true to some extent. But, you need to know that we are always on your side and that we love you beyond what words are able to convey! You are, by far, our favorite eleven-year-old!

I love you, Sweet Girl!


Sunday, June 02, 2013

Epcot Redo

We decided to use our last day at Disney to revisit Epcot, and we were all glad we did. It doesn't have as many thrill rides as some of the other parks, but the front part is basically a giant science/children's museum, which our kids thoroughly enjoyed. And, Jeff and I loved that the crowds were significantly less dense than at Magic Kingdom and that many of the activities took place inside air conditioned buildings. There were several "design-your-own" experiences and virtual rides, which the big kids really got a kick out of. And Clay would have been happy to spend every moment of the day on the Nemo ride and in the aquarium. The back part of the park is set up to resemble different countries from around the world, and we all enjoyed seeing the sights, tasting the foods and visiting with a few of our favorite Disney characters. Early tomorrow morning, we will begin our journey home. Thanks for coming along with us on this crazy vacation!

Ruth and Weston designed their own roller coaster ride
and then took it for a virtual spin.
Habit Hero
(a fun, interactive game that teaches healthy habits)
My big helper in the Great Piggy Bank Adventure
Practically perfect in every way
Meeting Mulan seemed especially appropriate
since we just watched the movie last night.

Mission: Space
Clay LOVED the fish!

The dolphins and their trainers put on a little exhibition for us

Mayan ruins in Mexico

So excited about the new Monsters University movie,
coming out later this month

Max's goal for the day was to see if he could get a picture
that looked like he was holding the big silver ball up over his head.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Magic Kingdom, Part 2

We were up and at it bright and early this morning, hoping to get some rides in before the crowds reached an overly insane level. In fact, we got to the park just as Mickey and some of his friends arrived on the train. And having finally figured out how to make the most of the Fast Pass system, we rode a good many rides before lunch, though we did run in to a few rides that were experiencing technical difficulties, and the rules about when five-year-olds can ride seem to be a little inconsistent. We also lost a child before lunch, making our Disney experience complete. It was possibly the longest ten minutes of my life, even though we had prepared for this eventuality before we even left home with wristbands printed with our phone numbers and lectures about what to do if separated from the group. When we were all tearfully reunited, we had lunch at Tony's Restaurant (from Lady and the Tramp). The crowds picked up after lunch, but we continued to ride rides and visit characters until we just couldn't take it any more. Then, we headed for the resort for some clothes washing, pool time, dinner and an in-room movie, of the Disney variety, of course.

Mickey arrives at the Magic Kingdom
Splash Mountain
Flying high in the Astro Orbiter
Weston and Goofy
Watching Lady and the Tramp in style, while waiting on our table
We were all impressed with the chocolate stamp on Jeff's dessert plate
Ruth and Minnie, under the Big Top
Pool Time