Finally…The Vacation Post!

For Spring Break, we rented a little cabin in Arkansas, at a place in the Ouchita Forest.  It was amazing.  I loved sitting on the back porch, feeling the cool breeze and looking out at the trees surrounding us.

I could also see a horse and hear it whinny from time to time. They offered horseback riding there – really trail riding – but unfortunately, you had to be at least 9 years old to ride alone, and Samuel is only 8. He could go, but would have to ride double with me or Brad, and having been there and done that before, I wasn’t about to spend all the money they were asking for the privilege. And it was a ridiculous amount of money. To sit on a horse and watch the back of the horse’s behind in front of you for an hour. I’d rather walk the trails, thank you.

There was an interesting mix of Cedar and Pine trees there. And Oak. We saw all a lot of cool things during our hikes. Our first was just on the property. We had a little hand-drawn map and what appeared to be a trail – although I use the term loosely. We walked down to the river, then followed a harrowing trail with one edge that was a sheer drop-off to the swollen Ouchita River and the other a steep hill. Or mountain, as the boys described it. Eventually, we had to move up the hill and the trail, which involved grasping at tree limbs and bushes and whatever you could reach to pull yourself up and keep from sliding down into the water. The boys scrambled up like it was nothing, of course, while I was just glad I kept from spraining an ankle or rolling back down into the water. That hike, which was supposed to be a short jaunt around the property, ended up taking around two hours and probably a few miles. Funny thing is, by the time we realized we didn’t want to make the entire round trip, we were through some of the worst parts of the trail and didn’t want to backtrack.

The boys quickly grew tired of walking, just about the time we realized we were going to have to make the entire trip. They started acting like they were going to pass out, complaining of thirst and hunger and anything else they could think of.  I was contemplating putting Samuel on my back when Brad whispered that I just needed to wait until they found something to take their mind off of it.  Sure enough, they found a fallen tree to bounce on and took off running as if they hadn’t a care in the world.

When we got back to the cabin, we had a “rest time” (aka, “give mommy a chance to nap time”), then took off for another hiking trail that was nearby. This time, we knew where we were going (sort of) and how long the trail was (1.8 miles out and the same length back). And again, we forgot to bring drinks. Thankfully, I brought my cellphone. It turned out to be invaluable because it has a compass app on it. I honestly never dreamed when I saw that on my cellphone I would ever have need of it, but lo and behold, I used my compass.

We didn’t hike the full way because, hello??? 1.8 miles!!! But we went a good distance – further than we had planned, in fact, and Brad and I sprinted part of it when the two little boys disappeared ahead of us and didn’t respond to our repeated attempts to call them back. I was proud of myself for not panicking for a full minute or two. But then I started imagining them missing the trail and getting lost in the woods and it getting dark and they wouldn’t know where to go and they would be cold and I could just picture the people volunteering to come sweep through the woods…and then we found them, running merrily along the trial ahead of us, splashing through mud puddles and having a blast. They were very sorry. They are even sorrier the next day, when they lost all screen time for the day. You wouldn’t think screen time would be a big deal staying in a beautiful cabin in the Ouchita Forest of Arkansas, but then again, you wouldn’t expect to find a hot tub on the back porch either. Or a flat screen TV with Dish Network. But there you have it – I agreed to vacation in a cabin in the woods, so long as there were proper amenities.

No one enjoyed the hot tub as much as Samuel.
No one enjoyed the hot tub as much as Samuel.
Driving to Arkansas, we went through some rain and fog, just about the time we got into the mountains…and some pretty winding roads.  Even Samuel was complaining of feeling car sick by the time we found a place to stop and catch our breath.
Our first night there, it rained.  And since every meal I planned involved the grill, my man did what he had to do – he grilled holding an umbrella.
Inside the cabin, the rest of us stayed nice and dry.  In fact, we had a fire every night we were there – the place replenished our supply of wood whenever we ran low.
FireplaceThe upstairs loft had two twin beds and the boys took turns sleeping up there – and one night, Samuel slept on the floor between the beds.
LoftBut once Matthew had a turn on the couch downstairs, he decided he preferred it to the loft and that became his new bed.  That was fine at night, but during the day, when we all wanted to use his bed, it caused a lot of conflict.
Here’s some nature pics from our trip, in no particular order:
On our last full day in Arkansas, we drove up to Queen Wilhelmina State Park.  Unfortunately, we didn’t bother to look at the website and see that it closed in March 2012 for major renovation and will not reopen until early 2015.  That was kind of a bummer, but we got to see some pretty spectacular views on our way down the mountain, so we weren’t disappointed.  Plus, there was a train!

Someone built this as a summer home years ago. It had something like 4 stories, including the basement.

different side


Mountaintop view2014-03-10 15.26.11 2014-03-10 17.05.20

The Vacation That Almost Wasn’t

Let me start by making something clear: I like to shop as much as the next girl. I really do. But somehow, car shopping isn’t nearly as fun as shopping for a new pair of cute sandals or a new outfit at Nordstrom. It’s just not.

Add to it that I spent today car shopping in 90 degree heat – which is actually pretty mild for South Texas (it’s only June) – and that I’m doing it in San Antonio. Where our car died on IH-10 yesterday. And you’ve got a pretty bad start to our week off.

The good news is that I found a new (to us) car. The bad news is that it’s white. As in, only slightly better than the grey of my old van. But it’s 5 years newer, and is a pretty pimped out ride…as much as a minivan can be anyway.

Speaking of my old van, it was a pretty tense couple of minutes on the freeway yesterday, when we started smelling smoke and realized it was coming from our car. Then the car dropped out of gear and we literally had to coast off the highway to a place where Brad could check the engine.

Yep. It was smoking alright.

But God is so good! We were extremely close – just a couple of miles – from a Honda dealership! Brad pulled in, we piled out of the car – all of us including the dog – and waited for them to confirm what we already suspected, that our transmission got really angry and blew up. Actually it blew a gasket – apparently a really important one, because it leaked all the fluid out (sorry, San Antonio) and seized up.

You know what really is ironic about that? We JUST PAID to have Aamco look at the transmission. Again. And they put some kind of engine mounts that were apparently made of pure gold onto the engine so it wouldn’t shake or something. I’m not very good with the technical stuff. I know you’re shocked.

Also, I spent like 2 hours without wifi at Goodyear getting the brakes fixed just last week!!! All that time and money down the tubes because when we heard the cost of the repair on our car was almost exactly the same amount that the car was worth, well, we just threw in the proverbial towel. There’s only so far you can go until words like “money pit” start coming to mind.

So that was yesterday. Again, thanks to the providence of God, my mom was able to come pick us up in her SUV – just took her around 40 minutes to get here – and we all packed in like sardines. That’s the point at which it really hit us that we were in need of some new wheels.

So today I rode back to San Antonio with my parents, who were already headed this way, and walked around sweltering hot car lots until I thought the soles of my cute sandals were going to melt and become one with the pavement. But my perseverance paid off! Because we now have a way to get home, which will become infinitely more important after I spend the next few days lying around in the A/C at my parents’ house.

Let the real vacation commence!!!



Limping Across The Finish Line

Today is the last day of school.  Finally.

I thought it would never get here.  I thought we wouldn’t make it.  But we have.  We’re all sick with sinus stuff (except Brad), but we’re here.  And after 10:00 today, the kids will be marked “present” and we can check them out and bring them home early.

Not that we will because, well, free childcare, but the point is that we could.

The teachers made kind of a big deal about telling us this.  I can’t imagine why.  Smile

And speaking of school being out, I’ve noticed a rise in fresh, young faces at all the local places I normally shop.  I attribute it to the college kids being home and taking summer jobs.   But I could be mistaken, because the young woman who checked me out at CVS yesterday afternoon – well, let’s just say her engine wasn’t firing on all cylinders.

First off, she took a really really  long time to scan everything in.  As in, I felt the earth grind to a screeching halt while I watched as she turned each item over.  And over.  And over again.  Until she located the UPC code.  This would have made sense had she been scanning in, oh, I don’t know – groceries.  But I was buying cards and gift cards for teacher gifts because hey – nothing says “thank you” like the purchased-at-the-last-minute gift card.   

My point is, the UPC code is in pretty much the same place on cards and gift cards.

Her speed would not have bothered me as much, except that a) I was in a hurry because we had company coming over and b) my two younger children were playing with the electronic doors, jumping in front of the sensor, then off to the side, etc.  And since there were two separate doors leading in to the store, they each had their own.  It was a delightful thing for a mother to watch from too far away to threaten them. 

So as I stood shifting from foot to foot, trying not to be impatient, the cashier reached the end of my stuff and then started looking at one of the fliers that was sitting by the cash register.  Having seen this before, I naturally assumed there was a coupon she was going to scan in that would give me a better price on something.

So I waited – again – while she looked through every page of that flier.  I was just about to tell her not to worry about it, that the coupon – whatever it was – wasn’t worth the wait, when she muttered under her breath “I can’t find the UPC code”.  Thankfully, there was a more experienced cashier standing close enough to her to hear her comment, and he came to her (and my) rescue. 

“What’s that you’re looking for?” he asked.

“I can’t find the UPC code!” she replied, clearly getting frustrated.

“What UPC code?” he asked.

“You know, the product code, so I can scan it!”

“Oh, we don’t charge customers for those fliers.  They’re free.”

It took me a moment to process it, but then it clicked – she was looking for the UPC code so she could charge me for the ADVERTISEMENT FLIER next to her cash register.

I. Kid. You. Not. 

The only possible explanation I could come up with that makes any sense at all is that her brain is totally fried from taking finals.  At least, that’s what I’m going to tell myself whenever I despair over the future of in our country.

This entry was posted on June 7, 2013, in Family Life.

Snake in the Grass

2013-05-27 13.12.41

Brad recently found this little guy crawling around in our yard when he was mowing.  He had us all come out to look at it (and, in Samuel’s case, touch it…eeeewwwww), and we stood their like fools trying to remember the little rhyme about red and yellow.

I came inside, Googled it, and behold, I found this: “Remember ‘Red and Yellow kills a fellow, Red and Black is a friend to Jack.’”  I don’t know who Jack is, and I doubt there is a snake alive who is his friend, but since I found it on the Texas A&M Vet website (, I will treat it as the gospel truth.  

Laundry Day

When it’s laundry day at my house…

I have to be careful when I grab for a sock to fold…

because yesterday, I grabbed Snicker’s ear and yanked it on accident!

Happy Turkey Day!