Texas is my birthplace, and Trent has family roots there as well, so it’s no surprise that we have spent more time in Texas than anywhere else (except home in Denver) over the course of the first six months of sabbatical. About four weeks of the first 26 were spent crisscrossing Texas.
I do love Texas, but I think I have had my fill of margaritas and enchiladas for a while. Just kidding. Who could get tired of Tex-Mex? Add it to the list of things I will probably miss while in Thailand.
After moving 60 boxes of personal items and four wardrobes of clothes to the basement in preparation for renting the house, we loaded up the dogs and everything we would be taking to Thailand with us, which wasn’t much, and started the long drive south from Denver.
Life lesson #1: When it comes down to it, you need a lot less stuff in your life. Choose experiences instead.
The basement packed with all our personal odds and ends to ready the house for renters. And we lived without it quite well so why have it at all?
My brother Shane down in San Antonio agreed to watch (ie. love and snuggle with) our dogs while we are out of country. I know they will get lots of love from him and our 9 year old niece Brooke.
Thankfully we did not have to make a 15-20 hour drive directly to San Antonio because we had a few layovers to make first. In fact I was so excited that we would be taking our first trip to Morton, a little old dustbowl of a town in west Texas, where Trent’s Mom grew up and where his aunt and cousins still live.
Trent’s cousins Leland and his wife Jessica welcomed us with open arms and a bottle of homemade booze made by Trent’s stepdad. I knew from experience we were in trouble.
Trent and Leland eating a tiny little hot pepper grown by Jess
Leland and Jess are modern day farmers, growing cotton and corn and some other crops that I can’t remember right now. It was pretty cool to see it all first hand. Especially since I grew up hearing stories of picking cotton from my Nanny. She said her fingers would bleed after a day in the fields. I picked a little myself to understand what she was talking about.
Life Lesson #2: Farming the land is a hard life and we would all be better off understanding that life a little more deeply.
Molly and Tucker got to run through the corn fields like farm dogs, and they seemed to fit right in with the real farm dogs. We stayed in their daughter Bailey’s room, and it felt just like home with all the homecoming mums on the wall.
We stayed for a few nights with Leland and Jess, and true to form when we hang with these two, we got a little tipsy and maybe had a little too much fun playing cards.
We also visited with Trent’s Aunt Helen and Uncle Bill who we had not seen in over a decade. Actually, I had never met Bill before. They were so kind and generous, just the kid of good hearted folks you would imagine having a sit down with in a tiny little one stoplight town.
They too farm the land, and have a nice little farm house with a giant shed that is four times bigger than the house! I should have taken a picture. Farmer’s toys are BIG!
It was so fun to hear stories about Trent’s grandmother and small town life, but after my three minute tour of town, I knew that I was a city girl at heart. The top draw in town seemed to be the brand new gas station, and it was nice, no disrespect. But it was still a gas station.
However, I do think I’d enjoy driving one of Leland’s tractors. Next time.
After a few nights in Morton, we got back on the road and drove on to Dallas (about 7 more hours because everything takes longer with dogs) where we would spend the next two weeks watching after our two nieces Charlotte (5) and Claire (3) and our nephew Nolan (1) while my sister Tara and her husband David took a fabulous vacation of their own to New Zealand. Nolan, 1Claire, 3Charlotte, 5
The original plan was that we would keep the kids for two weeks and my sister would keep the dogs for six months in exchange. It didn’t work out for them to keep the dogs, but we were still super excited to have all the quality time with the kids.
Not gonna lie. We had been a little nervous about two weeks with a one year old, a three year old and a five year old. It didn’t help that every time we told someone the plan they would look at us like we were crazy, stating that we got the short end of the stick. Not so!
We had some ups and some downs for sure, but we loved it all. There were definitely some meltdowns, and the worst one happened while Tara and David were FaceTiming with the kids, so that was embarrassing.
Life lesson #3: Always have a Plan B, especially when kids are involved. “You don’t like carrots? How about cheese?”
There was sickness, there were bumps and scrapes, there were sibling fights, and too much sugar on Halloween (my bad), messes at dinner, and accidents at night, and the list goes on. Oh, bath time. That’s the worst. If I had kids, they would be filthy. And tired because nap time isn’t a home run every time either.
And the one night the kids all slept through the night without calling out “Aunt Rana” during the night, Tucker threw up on the floor and woke us up. There is always something.
Life lesson #4: Buy stock in baby wipes.
We also had some really good times at the fall carnival, playing tickle monster, singing songs and telling stories at bed time, dancing at the end of every Disney movie, playing with the dogs, and just being silly together. And that baby. Oh that baby. I’ve never been a big kid or baby person, but Nolan is absolutely the sweetest most loving baby to walk this earth and I almost wanted my own just for a second, but then Claire and Charlotte broke the mood fighting over lipgloss and the moment was gone. But I mean look at that face!
Early morning play timeNap time ended with me covered in stickers. Who won?Halloween candy before school? Of course!
Life lesson #5: When in doubt, sing and dance.
One Saturday morning, I introduced them to Michael Jackson and taught them to moonwalk. I also taught them how to say “loco en la cabeza” and a number of other things I’m sure that my sister will thank me for later, like singing “I’m gonna wash that boy right outta my hair” at bath time.
I was just so glad that we didn’t have to work during the days, so we could recover and plan during the day while the kids were in school. It gave me a new and deep respect for my Mom who raised three kids by herself after my dad left when we were not too much older than these three. How she did it and managed working too is baffling. How we survived is even more baffling. But I guess she did something right.
She was there with us to help as well, and when I asked her how she did it all by herself so many years ago, she said you just do what you have to do and you get used to it. Truth.I gave up trying to convince her not to wear Christmas dressesClaire loves food so she loves to watch you eat
Life lesson #5: You can get used to anything if you just go with the flow.
We learned how to give a child two options instead of engaging in open ended terrorist negotiations. We learned you have to hide half the candy after Halloween and never never never let them eat too much or you will pay dearly. With a very serious look on her face, my niece Brooke said the Sugar Monster was living in Charlotte. She was right and it was my fault as she ran circles through Shane’s house screaming “Get away from me!” after we tried to take away the candy.
I learned why my sister never wants to talk until after 7pm or eat out at a nice restaurant. I learned why kids are so often dressed in inappropriate clothes. You have to pick your battles. I learned how to brush hair the right way with no owies and how to anticipate a meltdown, but sadly not how to prevent it every time.
Thankfully, we were a great team. Trent covered school drop off and pick up. He was also an excellent bedtime storyteller. I covered getting ready for school and meals and snacks and baths. All hands on deck for temper tantrums and play time.
Life lesson #6: Divide and conquer is the way to go. We are better together and when we act as a team.
Towards the end of our time, we took the oldest with us down to San Antonio to drop off the dogs and we left the other two with David’s parents for a few days. Not sure we could have survived the 6-7 hour drive with all three, plus the dogs, plus Mom. As it was, we seemed to have potty breaks every 20 minutes.
Leaving the pups was an emotional journey all its own. We warned Shane we will need to FaceTime with them regularly. After we left I kept sending him texts with things I had forgotten. Like how they like ear scratches and how to know if they aren’t feeling well and to check for stickers after the dog park. I finally had to see the insanity and just stop. I mean clearly they look pretty happy.
Life lesson #7: One person’s kiss might be another person’s rude awakening (see picture above).
Finally back in Dallas, Tara and David returned and she said “Sis, you look tired.” Yes but in the best way! We bonded with these little dudes and I am so grateful for the time that we never would have had otherwise. I hope that they feel a little bit of the same way and remember some little bits and pieces of it as they grow up.
Manicures by Charlotte whose favorite color is yellow
Now on to the next adventure! We fly out of Dallas to San Francisco then Tokyo and then on to Bangkok. Twenty-eight hours of travel time. If we can handle these three, surely that will be a piece of cake! Honestly, I can’t wait to get some solid sleep on the plane…