Last Friday morning started with another treadmill run – this time just a 5K – and then we were packing up to drive the remaining four hours to my parents’ house in Conroe, an hour north of Houston. It will be a few more days before I’m able to sneak some alone time to wander downtown for some cute pictures of where I grew up, so for now I will have to populate the blog with pictures of the fun we’ve been having 🙂
My dad – quality time with Daniel
We arrived to a yummy snack of fruit and cheese which delighted the children since they had been begging for food for miles. They played on the swingset and were generally just ecstatic to run around revisiting Grandma and Grandpa Rickwalt’s house, which several of them claim is their favorite place. They really like it that they have their “own room,” complete with a tv/blue-ray player my parents just set up for this visit. Before our last visit at Christmastime, 2010 (we stayed for six weeks when John was on deployment), they put up a wooden swingset, and they bought several carseats, a booster seat for meals, a bouncy seat for a baby, and lots of kids’ plastic dishes and such. Needless to say, the house was ready and waiting for our brood to descend upon it! 🙂
That night my brother Gerrit came over with his wife Robin and their two girls roughly the ages of Gabriel and Claire; they live about five miles away, right across the street from the High School my brother, his wife, and I attended (and at which he now teaches Astronomy.) We all ate ribs and drumsticks, pasta salad and broccoli salad, and had a relaxing evening.
My brother’s wife Robin meeting Daniel
The next day was jam-packed, though…
It started off when I ran about 7 miles over to my brother’s house on a round-a-about course weaving through old downtown Conroe. I had intended to cut through from the last major road to their neighborhood via a small private road marked on the google map. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the road to be lacking – only a forest or a rough path along a utility easement were where I expected at least a gravel path. I, incorrectly, chose the forest and soon was greeted by about 5 pit bulls barking at the top of their lungs in two different yards. Thank the Lord – they were tied up, so I am here to write about it!! Through the forest a bit in the undergrowth, and I came upon a pond – more like a huge puddle of standing water, but sort of a pond. Eventually I realized I was not on any sort of path, so I turned around and ran back to the main road – making my mileage 6.7 by this point. I borrowed a cellphone from a lady wearing a “West Conroe Tabernacle Church” shirt who was out on the road with a few others setting up for a yard sale and quickly dialed my brothers’ house to hopefully reach him before he started to worry about my failure to materialize at his place. We were planning to run another 3-4 miles together to make it a ten mile run for me, and I was supposed to be there by a certain time. Ideally, I would have liked a ride to their house from one of the nice church ladies, but they were all busy, and although I was offered a ride, it was from a scruffy looking guy carrying a fishing pole, so I politely declined. Now, I have nothing against fishermen in general, but as I retold the story to my brother later, he described a Saturday Night Live skit that seemed to apply perfectly to the situation:
Some comedian did a skit along these lines: See, if a gangster kidnaps you, that’s it. You know you’re going to die. He’s going to kill you. But if a hillbilly kidnaps you, he’ll keep you in a box under his bed.
We had a good laugh about that, but you can see my point – I didn’t ride with the man kind enough to offer but instead waited for my brother to come get me since I was literally right behind his neighborhood. Running around the side to his house was too long, though, and would have made me so late (and put me up to about 9 miles) that he would have been really worried, and I would have been wiped out.
He and I then ran another 2.7 miles and called it a day. We had an awesome breakfast at the 105 Cafe next to Conroe High School and caught up on each other’s lives. Good times 🙂 Then I had the tour of his home because they’d done major remodeling in the time since my last visit, partially due to some severe flooding. Gerrit took me home, and I showered and changed before the kids, John, and I returned to Gerrit’s house to spend the day playing with his girls.
Greer having “tea” at Uncle Gerrit’s house
After playing around inside for a while, everyone moved out to build model rockets for this week’s rocket launch with Uncle Gerrit.
Building model rockets with Aunt Robin and Uncle Gerrit
My brother Gerrit with Gabriel
Around 3:30, Grandma and Grandpa joined us, armed with scooters, bikes, and snacks, and we all ventured across the street to find whatever fun could be had at the Conroe High School track. They kicked around little balls, ran up and down the bleachers, jumped on a few things, and walked the track looking for spikes from peoples’ cleats – my kids had never played at a track before, so it was full of lots of original experiences for them 🙂
Gerrit running after a ball
Claire, looking determined
Robin with kids
Next off, we regrouped at the parking lot across from the school and next to their neighborhood for some serious scootering. Robin, my mom, and I abandoned the men to return to her house for primping. We had “Girls’ Night Out” ahead of us, so my mom watched Daniel and Greer, and Robin and I left at 5:30 for dinner. Robin and a few girlfriends (two of whom I also know from growing up in Conroe) meet about monthly for dinner and fun, and I was invited this month 🙂 We started off we some great Mexican food (of course!)
Sopapillas for dessert 🙂
Next it was on to Starbucks for a bit more chatting — here I am with Katie (the friend who came over to England for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in June and gave us all the Old Navy flag tshirts) and Robin – first my friend, and later my sister-in-law!
Katie, Robin, and me
The real GNO group, being silly