Tuesday, August 25, 2015

First Day of School 2015-2016

Yesterday was the first day of school for the 2015-2016 school year.  We had meet the teacher last week, and both boys are very happy with the teachers and classes they will be in this year.
I can't believe Will is in 3rd grade and Ben is in 1st grade.  I know they are growing up because they didn't even let us walk them inside to the their classes for the first day.  We dropped them off and they hit the ground running.  I always think about the advice our pediatrician gave us years ago, "Our goal as parents is to continually encourage our children to become independent from us." At times, that is a difficult thing to do, but mostly I'm thankful to have boys who are independent.

Here are my big guys before school.
I've made it this far with first day of school pics and the signs have survived.  I hope I can keep the tradition all through their school years.  It's neat to have the photos for memories to look back on, and I love to compare the old photos to see how much they have grown up.  It's amazing the difference that a year makes.  They look really big here!

I took several photos with the "first day of..." signs and a few without. 

For some reason I love this photo.
This will be the last year that Will and Ben will be in the same school.  They won't be in the same school again until they are in junior high with us.

Look what awesome teachers the boys have!

Ben's teacher sent us this photo of Ben in his classroom. 

Will's teacher sent this of Will in his class.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Monday Morning Encouragement: Colossians 1:17

Monday Morning Encouragement
Colossians 1:17
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

I get overwhelmed with life and worry about things that don't matter, and then I read God's word and it changes my heart.

I can't read about Christ and his ultimate sacrifice and not have a different outlook.

We are facing many unknowns in our future.  Mainly these all revolve our living situation and building our new home.  We are not sure when we should sell our current home and we don't know the exact date of when our new home will be complete.  These might not be big problems compared to what other people struggle with.  In fact, I have to remind myself often that my problems are all good problems to have, but they are still things I worry about.  

Instead of worrying and letting that consume my thoughts, I need to focus on Christ.  All the things that really matter in life are provided for.  In him all things hold together.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Road Trip 2015 {Texas Hill Country}

Road Trip 2015 
Texas Hill Country

Everybody's Somebody in Luckenbach.

Continuing our Texas adventures, we left Houston on 7/18/15 and headed west to the Texas Hill Country.  Mark and I've spent time in Austin, San Marcos and San Antonio but never in the heart of the Hill Country.  I hadn't been to this area since I was in college (cough, cough over 15 years ago!) and I was excited to be back.  

I'll write down the itinerary before I forget everything. 

Left Houston and drove toward Luling, Texas on I-10.
The line at City Market BBQ in Luling was extremely long and we didn't want to wait.

Drove 15 miles north to Lockhart for BBQ instead.   
Mission accomplished--Got our BBQ at Black's in Lockhart!

The Caldwell County Courthouse in Lockhart

We were going to stay near San Marcos because I wanted to check out the home furnishing outlets.
 We spent a little time at the outlets. 
My shopping goals are much different than the boys.  I'm looking for a good deal and they are looking for a chair to sit down.

Mark found a comfy couch to rest while I looked around the Pottery Barn outlet.

We made a quick stop by the grocery store HEB before returning to the hotel.  We don't have them where we live and I've missed shopping at it.  It's where I bought groceries when I was in college.  Maybe it's strange to love a grocery store so much, it's ok to judge me.

We chose a local church to start the day.  We worshiped at Southern Hills Church of Christ. I love visiting other churches.
After church we ate some snacks in the car as we drove toward Fredericksburg, Texas.
I wanted to stop by Luckenbach and take photos and buy souvenirs before we got to Fredericksburg.  
We knew once we left Fredericksburg we would head home through Llano and get some more tasty BBQ at Cooper's.  

I'll go into more details about Sunday now.  These photos are from Luckenbach.  Like I mentioned above, we only planned for a quick stop and we were going to spend most of the afternoon in Fredericksburg.  Once we got to Luckenbach we realized there was a free concert and it was someone we really liked--Carrie Rodriguez.  She's a talented and gorgeous singer-songwriter from the Austin area. (Thanks for introducing me to her music, Andrea!)  Luke Jacobs and Susan Gibson were also performing.  Susan Gibson wrote the song "Wide Open Spaces" and I swear that was the song my friends and I sang over and over during college.  This whole trip made me feel very nostalgic for those college years in the late 90s. I couldn't believe our luck to happen upon this concert.  Anyways, we changed our plans and stayed for a couple of hours and listened to the music.  A kind lady who works there gave the boys each a bottle of bubbles to play with.  She said she gives the kids bubbles and the dogs dog biscuits.  That kept the boys entertained while we sat under the big live oaks and enjoyed the music.  I bought a funnel cake to eat and the boys turned it down.  Can you believe that?  I know they've eaten them before but they didn't want it.  Oh well, more for me and Mark!  I took lots of photos.  This one of Will and Ben in front of the General Store is one of my favorites.

Playing with the bubbles and you can see the stage in the background to the right.  It wasn't crowded.  The atmosphere was chill.

I'm not sure if you can see it in any of these photos but there was a rooster running around under the picnic tables and there were chickens on the stage.  I made a video to send to my sister-in-law and you can hear the rooster crowing in the background. 

Ben wanted to take our photo.  He's only 6 but he's got the artistic angle down perfectly. 

Luke Jacobs, Carrie Rodriguez, and Susan Gibson

We missed the turn onto Luckenbach Road from HWY 290, but it was a happy accident when we turned around at this peach stand.  I hopped out and bought some of the best peaches I've ever had.  Will said they are the very best peaches he's ever eaten.  

Once we left Luckenbach we knew we needed to start making our way home.  We drove through Fredericksburg but we didn't stop.  We plan to go back when we can spend more time. 

Cooper's Pit BBQ in Llano was our final stop before leaving the Hill Country.
I'd been a long time ago but this was Mark's first time.  It was good but he preferred Black's in Lockhart.  He's the barbecue connoisseur. I'm a connoisseur of the side dishes.  I liked the beans and potato salad at Cooper's the best.

It was a good trip and I'm thankful we took an extra day to get home.  Our plans for this short road trip changed numerous times (we originally planned to go to College Station instead of the Hill Country) but all those changes made it spontaneous and memorable. It was perfect!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Road Trip 2015 {Houston, Texas}

Road Trip 2015 {Houston, Texas}

Since we are building the house this year, our summer has looked different than summers in the past.  We've always taken a road trip except the year that Ben was born in 2009.  This year we didn't drive across country to follow the Rangers (like last year--Seattle, Oakland, and Anaheim) but we did make the trip south down I-45 to see the Rangers play the Astros at Minute Maid Park in Houston on July 17th.

Can you find Mark and the boys outside the stadium?

Family photo at Minute Maid Park
Making memories!

We were some of the first inside the ballpark once the doors opened.  We wanted to watch the Rangers during batting practice.

Mark took the boys to right field hoping to catch a ball.  Best moment of the night happened during batting practice. Choo caught a ball and Mark held up Ben who was wearing his Choo #17  Texas Rangers shirt and yelled at Choo.  Choo saw Ben and threw the ball in their direction.  Will caught the ball.  It landed perfectly in his glove.  That would have been a perfect moment, but it gets even better.  Josh Hamilton was walking around the ballpark and he stopped in their area and he signed the baseball.  So we have a ball thrown by Choo (who is Ben's favorite player) and it's now signed by Hamilton!  I stayed at the dugout hoping to get autographs.  I didn't have as much luck as they did but I did get two autographs, Delino DeShields and the manager Jeff Banister.  I think they are both old enough to always remember that happening.  Awesome memory!

The Rangers lost but we still love them!

We stayed for the entire game and the post-game fireworks show.  Once the game was over the retractable roof was opened.  It was nice watching the game in shade and air conditioning.  That felt strange compared to the heat we suffer through during Rangers games in Arlington.  Overall, we liked the ballpark and it was fun to mark another one off our list of MLB parks to visit.

Here's how the count stands after that game:

MLB Ballpark count for Will is 10:
Rangers, Yankees, Cardinals, Reds, Cubs, Orioles, Mariners, A's, Angels, Astros

MLB Ballpark count for Ben is 9:
Rangers, Cardinals, Reds, Cubs, Orioles, Mariners, A's, Angels, Astros

MLB Ballpark count for Mark is 13:
Rangers, Yankees, Cardinals, Reds, Cubs, Orioles, Mariners, A's, Angels, Dodgers, Padres, Diamondbacks, Astros

Friday, August 7, 2015

Road Trip 2015 {Tyler, Texas}

Tyler Road Trip

Our second short road trip was to visit family in east Texas. We had a fun-filled weekend with our cousins. We visited the zoo, a train museum, the kids jumped at a trampoline park, we ate frozen custard and delicious Tex Mex. When we weren't out and about the kids got to hang out and play and the adults got to sit around the kitchen table and chat. It was fun and relaxing.

This was our first time to take Will and Ben to the Caldwell Zoo in Tyler.  

This is the cutest!  They are reading the map and deciding where to go next.

Petting zoo

These two were the real animal lovers.  
They even wanted to go into the hot (and smelly) rhino barn.

The whole gang!
It's a great thing to have family who are friends.

Tex Mex in downtown Tyler

Cotton Belt Depot Train Museum
The kids were tired after the zoo and I didn't know if they would find the museum very interesting. It ended up being one of their favorite things.  The gentlemen who gave the tour was knowledgeable and kind.

What can I say?  It was delicious!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

This summer we didn't take an epic road trip across the United States.  Since we are building a new home our travel budget has gone to that project.  Even though we didn't drive cross country we were able to take smaller road trips in our great state.  We took 3 short trips--Texas Panhandle, East Texas, and Houston to the Texas Hill Country.

The first road trip was to the Texas Panhandle.  Mark's parents have made that trip a lot and they wanted to take our boys there.  I traveled to west Texas growing up because we had family in Amarillo and the surrounding areas.  Usually we don't stop longer than an overnight visit there but this year it was our destination. 

 We stayed in Amarillo and drove to Palo Duro Canyon about 25 miles away.  We visited Palo Duro Canyon State Park to hike in the morning and then we returned in the evening to see the Texas Outdoor Musical.

Texas had a record-setting amounts of rain in May and you can tell in this photo that areas of Palo Duro Canyon State Park have water flowing in places that are normally dry.  
This photo was taken June 16, 2015.

The photo above was taken on a bridge and the photo below was taken looking off the other side.  Both views were incredibly scenic in their own ways.

The boys love to hike.  They took off to climb these rocks before I even had a chance to catch up.  It's nature's playground.

Ben found a rock in the shape of Texas.

It's awesome that my boys didn't inherit my fear of heights.  Will might have tried to rock climb to the top if we let him.

Mamaw and Will before a short hike.  We ate lunch at the picnic table behind them.

Mark's parents and the boys

Lizards, lizards everywhere!

The boys like to complete the Junior Ranger Programs at National Parks, and we found a Junior Naturalist Program for them at Palo Duro Canyon.  Here they are showing of the badge they received for completing the program.

One of the coolest things we got to do was recreate a photo from Mark's childhood.  There's a cowboy dugout on a hiking trail in the canyon.  Mark posed in front of that dugout when he was a little boy probably around Will's age.  We had Will and Ben stand in the same spot and we also had Mark pose for a photo with them all together.  Here's a collage of the photos.  Will obviously looks the most like Mark here (even though Ben really favors him) because their ages are similar at the time of the photo.  Ben is standing just like Mark when he was a little boy in the photo.  We didn't pose the boys other than tell them where to stand.  Isn't it neat to see genetics at work.  We not only inherit physical features but mannerisms are passed along too.

Just a few more photos when we returned to the canyon that evening.  It was overcast in the morning but later in the day the views were majestic.

The boys at the Texas musical.  They really enjoyed the show and laughed at all the jokes and followed the plot of the story.  The show starts around 8:30P.M. as the sun is setting in the west.  Will stayed awake for the entire musical, but Ben fell asleep after the intermission.  

I'd definitely like to go back to Palo Duro Canyon State Park with our tent and camp.  There were other trails and places we'd like to explore, but this trip was a great introduction to this area for Will and Ben.  Good times and great memories!


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