To Market To Market to Buy …

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No fat pigs were purchased that day, but we did buy a few little jars of tiny rocks.

I should mention that I can attribute errors in this post to having withdrawal from going pretty much cold-turkey with the chocolate on Saturday.  John did supply me with half of a tiny wedge of dark chocolate filled with caramel around 8pm, and the other half around 9pm, and when I sweetly begged for some dark chocolate and berry granola around 11:30pm he said I could have a tiny bit.

I have found myself craving chocolate SO MUCH all day long.  It’s more of a feeling that comes over me making me feel a bit out of control or overwhelmed, then I think how chocolate would make it go away (or it’s suddenly feeling tired and drained, as when I’m nursing Daniel or while I was playing the bagpipes), and then I can’t get the idea of eating the chocolate out of my head.  A few times I actually felt like I started to get flushed as I do when I have a sugar rush from eating too much candy or something.  Just a few more sips of iced tea (caffeinated until 5pm and then decaf afterwards – I brewed two pots last night in anticipation of a great need today) often did the trick, but as the evening wore on, it got worse, probably because I was more tired as well.  I think it should get easier after a few days when my true dependence on caffeine (what little of it there is in cocoa – I still think it’s affecting me a lot, considering even regular tea gave me the jitters when I was pregnant), and then it will just be the emotionally soothing properties of the chocolate from which I will need release. 🙂  Setting up the punching bag (finally!) in the garage this week should cover some of that (for when I feel overwhelmed) and lying down to rest should help the other times when I am just a bit worn out (and a big piece of chocolate is all the pick-me-up I need….)  Anyway, wish me luck!! Tell me if you have problems with chocolate!

Now it’s Sunday night, day two “off the bean” – the cocoa bean this time – and I just finished a chocolate-peanut butter-almond milk protein shake even though it’s 11:30pm.  I just couldn’t take another minute without some chocolate!! I made the “rule” for myself Friday night when I started this challenge that I am allowed a chocolate item if I make it myself using cocoa powder.  (This means no chocolate chips or using chocolate bars in something.)  A quick little shake just now has done the trick. 🙂  Now.  Here’s a fun afternoon at the market, as seen by my iphone:

Of course the kids beg for one of these every time we see them - but they are EXPENSIVE!!

Of course the kids beg for one of these every time we see them – but they are EXPENSIVE!!

lots of these going around

lots of these going around

Any trip to downtown with the kids requires a stop at the Kapla Block Store!

photo-486 photo-485 photo-484 photo-483
The BEST find of the day was this neat little rock shop.  Oddly enough, everything you can find at the Swap Meet (okay, not everything)  at Aloha Stadium on Oahu was for sale in this shop — at LOWER prices.  Tourists frequent the Swap Meet – even driving 30 minutes to get there from Waikiki – because they can find coconut purses, little wooden frogs that “croak” when you pull the stick over ridges on their backs, scarves, bracelets with jade, bracelets with hemp, etc, etc, etc, at lower prices than in the markets and gift shops in Waikiki.  It all looks like “authentic” Hawaiian kitsch, but no, it’s probably been made in China, and that’s why you can buy it here, too.  The kids loved this store and thought it worthy of their pennies, with which they purchased tiny bottles of rocks.
photo-481 photo-480 photo-479Time for bed now – with the hope that tomorrow the chocolate detox will go much more smoothly.  Definitely time for the punching bag! 🙂

North Andover, Massachusetts – Part II

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First time to really sit down at the computer all day – with the exception of placing  an order on Amazon and trying to take care of some business – and it’s 11:16pm.  Going to feed Daniel for the last time tonight and then head to bed to get up “early” (for me – 7:30am is early) for our day at co-op tomorrow.  Here are a few more pictures from our visit to North Andover, Mass.  It’s not where our friends live exactly, but it ended up being the town where we went for fun 🙂  Not that we didn’t have fun in their town – I honestly have no idea what town we were in from day to day as we traveled around but only know where we went to the farm (because I could google it) and where we went to dinner on our double-date because of, again, Mr. Google.  Here are a few more pictures from the Tree Farm on Friday which I forgot to include in yesterday’s post:

Guess who!? (Greer – in case you’re trying to figure out which blonde-haired beauty it is)

Liesl looking down on Greer and Claire

To catch you up more quickly, though, we will pick up with Friday night.  After the Tree Farm we drove up to South Berwick, Maine, where we own a house.  All we did was drive an hour north, show up at the house, meet the new tenants, tour the house, and then hop back into the car for another hour drive.  This spoiled any plans to reheat Thanksgiving food for dinner, and, unfortunately for us all, we ended up at The Ale House in Amesbury, Massachusetts.  I am totally kidding, though, because the restaurant had amazing food (Cajun Fish Chowder, delicious bruschetta, coconut shrimp salad) which we didn’t have to prepare, and we sat in a very two-family-ten-kid-friendly table upstairs in a corner.  We picked that restaurant, though, because John and our friend Ryan were meeting about 6 other guys there for beers at 7pm, so we had perfectly positioned ourselves there for dinner at 6pm.  Here are a few pictures I took in the restaurant and on the walk back to the car:

The rear entrance for The Ale House

Saturday was an AWESOME day.  It started with turkey-mashed potato-gravy-cranberry sandwiches on croissants.  Then Georgia and I left for a noon pedicure (with a quick Starbucks run) at which we just relaxed and chatted, kid-free.  It was so, so long overdue!  We then shopped for shoes so we wouldn’t mess up our fancy toes:

Matching polish, and matching shoes we bought (which we picked out independently of each other – we also have matching Tarte lipsticks in the same color which we bought while separated by a continent and an ocean)

We browsed the stores a bit longer (with another stop at Starbucks for lunch) and both ended up with a single sale item from Gap for one of our kids and – surprise – matching shirts from Old Navy. We are so cheesy awesome!  We rushed home to ready the children/house/husbands for date night, briefed the babysitter, and then made our escape in their minivan because we are just that cool.  First stop was an incredible Mediterranean place in North Andover called Yella.  I certainly regret not having photographed our delectable food, but really, it all went so fast that I wouldn’t have gotten to taste any of it had I paused to ponder and record the event.  IT WAS DELICIOUS – every appetizer, each entree (because, of course, I tried them all.)  I cannot praise the place highly enough.  The red wine was great, too – the best I’ve had in some time – and we left cheerful and well-fed.  I can’t remember the names of all the things we had, but I can tell you about some of them.  There was, of course, hummus, bubba ganoosh (that’s my phonetical spelling so you can figure out what I’m trying to say), meat pies, and grape leaves with stuff in them.  My meal was salad with a seared salmon on top, John’s was pasta with artichoke hearts and shrimp (which we all decreed the best meal on the table), Georgia’s was…scallops, and Ryan’s was something equally delicious.  Lamb maybe?  Either way, the strawberry/chocolate/hazelnut crepes with pistachio ice cream topped it off wonderfully, paired with superb dessert wines and complemented by my baklava and Ryan’s pot o’ chocolate (there was a fancy name for it, but it was basically dark chocolate mousse.)  We finished up the night with coffees and teas at a Starbucks, where we continued to prove how much fun we are by sitting around on four iphones taking pictures of each other taking pictures (and playing words with friends, showing one another random videos, and tagging each other on facebook multiple times in pictures and such.)

Georgia took this one of Ryan taking a picture of me (which you can see on his phone in the picture) of the stack of cups topped with some stirrers John and Georgia managed to attach to one another

I set these cups up purposefully to get the bunny on the window and the three pictures on the cups, along with John in my union jack scarf. I am so artistic, am I not??

John getting in on the picture-taking party

Being silly with Georgia

Do you like Mediterranean Food? What is your favorite dish?

When was the last time you went on a DOUBLE DATE for double the fun?

Do you have your tree up yet?

Tuesday Trip Report: North Andover, Mass. – Part I – Smolak Farms

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A few days late, I know, but finally an update of part of the weekend:  I tell you what – we were a pretty crazy group all together — 4 adults, ten children ages 10 and under.  Quite a crowd!!  We spent Black Friday at a nearby Christmas Tree Farm (it’s open year-round and is also known for its peaches and apples and animals) where we did not, in fact, buy a Christmas tree but instead spent the time playing pirates and eating apple cider donuts.  I don’t think any of the four adults actually made any purchases – at the farm or online – that were not related to filling our tummies, so I guess we all really failed on finding great Black Friday deals.  Add to that that we weren’t out of bed til late and didn’t manage to leave the house until around 2pm, and you could say that we skipped the major shopping day in its entirety.

Arriving at the farm, we all browsed the animals for a few minutes before descending on the play structure – a giant pirate ship.

John and Daniel after we got out of the van

Patience, contemplating the deer

Daniel was made Captain of the Pirate Ship (with Liesl and Braden Mathison and a stranger as part of his crew)

Claire at the water pump

Georgia and Miles

The pirate ship underway

Lily Mathison

Greer walking the plank

I was called in to help with the flag…

Claire looking out a porthole

I think that one’s Liesl? No, it’s Claire again.

Patience, issuing orders to the crew

Daniel, holding down the fort

Ryan Mathison took these of me, Claire, Gabriel, and Carter

And there’s Liesl (with a grape in her mouth)! with me and Carter

Back to Daniel…

Daniel, chilling out in Ryan’s sunglasses

Picking out some apple cider donuts – Claire and Liesl

After playing around outside for a while, we retreated to the warm cafe/shop for their famous apple cider donuts and Ghiradelli hot chocolates.

cute little country store

Georgia showing off the reindeer in the greenhouse where we ate

Claire with her cider donut

Greer, pensively enjoying her donut

silly Lily face whilst donut dining

“Smolak” on the stockings – the name of the farm

An old sleigh

John and Georgia laughing about something

Why is Daniel laughing?

Ryan is tickling his teeny foot 🙂

Greer and Claire playing hide-&-seek with Braden (where’s Claire?)

That’s Liesl trying to bargain for some more hot chocolate. One last photo – Claire running around high on sugar before we left.  Tomorrow I’ll tell you about what else we did in North Andover 🙂

Tuesday Trip Report – Washington, DC (on the outside)

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Telling you about my marathon weekend will take a few posts, because we had such a fun and busy time with our good friend Christine.  So, first, since it’s Tuesday, I’ll just tell you about what we did and saw in DC, and then tomorrow I’ll try to write about the Marine Corps Marathon.  For some reason, it seems like sitting down to write about the MCM is giving me a sense of writer’s block.  I think about all the things I want to say over and over as I make food, pick up after kids, wipe bottoms, and change laundry.  But then, as I relax on the couch with my feet up (which I’ve endeavored to do as much as possible today), I just want to check Facebook and research this and go read that — I just don’t want to tackle the huge task of conveying my experience from this weekend, because it seems like it will be impossible to really show you how it was.  I wish I could have had a camera  recording in stills or in a movie the amazing things I saw — not just the scenery, but the runners, their shirts, the signs held by masses of cheering spectators….I will try, though, tomorrow. 🙂


Where did we leave off?? How could I forget– Adam’s Ribs!! Ooooh, wishing I had some of those around right now.  We had a decent night’s sleep on Friday and  then were up around 8:30am on Saturday for the Marine Corps Marathon Expo.  For the non-initiated, an Expo is full of vendors peddling various shoes, nutritional items, running performance clothes, self-massage gizmos, and any number of other things remotely related to the sport of running.  It’s like going to a gun show, or a classic car show, but it’s a “running” show.  And after a few days of the “show” (sometimes there are various races during the days of the expos, like fun runs, 5K’s, 10K’s, etc) the runners go out to “show” what they can do. 🙂  Probably most of the serious runners don’t attend an expo the day before a race (they might go on an earlier day if the expo runs for days) because it’s hard on the legs to be walking around a lot, and even worse since they are usually held in stadium areas with concrete floors.  The Expo was a fun time for getting pumped up about the race, though, and we got a bit of swag from various booths.  We also had to pick up out Bib Number and official shirt at the Expo, along with the bag and luggage tag for checking a bag at the race start.  It was really well organized, and we easily found our friends, Brent and Carole Shrader (Brent was on John’s submarine in Hawaii, and Carole was running the Marathon now that they live in DC.)

Meeting a random cow at the Expo

Posing with Carole – Notice I was holding my bib number backwards 🙂

Got a kick out of this one. My picture in front of it wasn’t a good one.

John with Brent

The nice lady at the Newtons Running Shoes booth remembered my picture from their facebook page from when I was running my half marathon and 10K in the Spring 6 and 7 months pregnant. 🙂  We didn’t buy anything at the expo, so we escaped unharmed.  Afterwards, we took Brent and Carole in our van on a mini-tour of DC looking for a place to eat.  We ended up at Truorleans, a great Cajun place conveniently located to the DC Armory (home of the Expo.)  I had a delicious “Crab Benedict”, and John’s bacon cheeseburger and fries were so amazing I had to take a picture of them, too.  Here are a few pictures of the children that Christine passed along as well…

This was where an ATM was installed about ten minutes after the picture was taken.

Crabmeat piled atop an English Muffin with hollandaise sauce

Note the hush puppies in the background — oh my goodness they were SO AWESOME

Lunch took us up to a crossroads in the day – go back to the hotel for less than an hour, or kill time until the Run to Honor dinner at 4:30pm on the other side of DC.  We chose to stay out and took a drive around the Mall to show the kids all the landmarks they had learned about in homeschool seen in Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian.  Repeatedly, I had told the children we could go to one of the Museums from the movie, but the day was going by too fast for that (Lunch with Brent and Carole was a pleasant surprise, so we had planned on a museum if we had not been able to hand out with them.)  Now I promised them we’d see a museum on Sunday after the Marathon (no such luck.)  Here is some of what we saw petering around the city in our big Armstrong-mobile: (I took a few of these, and Christine captured the rest on her phone.)

National Botanical Gardens and the Capitol

The kids playing around outside a Starbucks – giving Christine a silly pose for the camera.

So that’s it – all we saw of DC.  The family and I saw more the next day – as they chased me around via the Metro and the streets and as I ran through Arlington, Georgetown, DC, and Crystal City.  We have now had to promise the kids another trip to DC.  Mostly it was Christine who missed out, since this was her first trip to DC, and she didn’t get to enter a single museum or landmark.  We promised to rectify that situation soon – probably during cherry blossom season. 🙂  More about DC on the blog tomorrow once I’ve finally figured out how to put the marathon into words sufficient for the magnitude of such an amazing event!



A Capital Time


Friday was a day in which we visited two capitals – Washington, DC, and Annapolis, MD!  We left Annapolis Friday night with full tummies – thank you Adam’s Ribs!!!!!  I had a salad with shrimp (and a she-crab soup I didn’t really like) as well as 3-4 ribs from someone’s plate.  The kids scarfed their ribs down, and John probably ate 3/4 of a rack of ribs by himself.  We can’t come to the Annapolis area without a trip to Adam’s Ribs (They catered our rehearsal dinner as well the night before our wedding.)  John says that Greer (who turned two just a few months ago) probably ate half a rack by herself.  They were a big hit!

We started out Friday morning in Roanoke Rapids, NC, where I ran my last three miles on a treadmill at the Holiday Inn while John had breakfast with all six kids by himself in the hotel lobby.  After a quick shower we were on the road in plenty of time to pick up Christine at the airport at 3:30pm in Baltimore.  Unfortunately, at our fuel stop just north of the Virginia border, I remembered that I had left the freezer pack with the extra milk for Daniel in the fridge back at the hotel.  So, back we went, and by the time we hit DC it was already 3:15pm, so there was quite a bit of traffic.

Leaves on the beautiful drive

I was a bit frustrated that the GPS had us going right through DC (but perhaps the big loop around the city would have taken longer); however, seeing a few of the sites along the marathon route was pretty exciting:
We didn’t end up at BWI Airport until around 4:50pm, which didn’t really ruin any plans but was just annoying because of the stop and go traffic.  At least I remembered it before it was too late to go back!  Marathon success depends a bit on having extra milk for him.  Once we retrieved Christine from the curb, we were on our way to show off our Alma Mater.  None of the children have been there since Patience was 6 months old and John’s submarine was the “touring” ship for Homecoming one year.  (I just recalled another trip to Annapolis when we lived in Maine and popped down to see the Naval Academy Spring Musical – a Gilbert and Sullivan one – but I don’t think the kids went over there since we arrived in the late afternoon and took them over to the babysitter’s house straightaway.)
Fun times were had by all as the children stared wide-eyed at the huge buildings and beautiful campus.  They particularly loved Dahlgren Hall, where John and I used to go on “dates” for pizza and ice skating when we were midshipmen and couldn’t leave the Yard during the week. 🙂  Christine was enamored of the campus as well, and the place was made a little more magical by the presence of many strange people clad in odd costumes.

Driving over the Severn River into Annapolis

Naval Academy N* on the Water Tower

The outside of Dahlgren Hall, built in 1901 (I think that’s what the sign said) – this is where we could go for pizza or subs, to study, or to ice skate on nights when we couldn’t leave the campus.

Looking over at the Chapel dome

The roof inside Dahlgren Hall

Hanging inside Dahlgren

Tecumseh, the statue we painted before every home football game

Kiddos with Christine

Looking down Stribling Walk

The front of Bancroft Hall, our dormitory

the kids standing by a mock-up of one of the rooms (my room never looked like this because they were remodeling the building while I was there.)

Right inside Bancroft Hall – “The Rotunda”

The kids and John walking into Memorial Hall (also inside Bancroft Hall)

Running to Honor tomorrow – LT Darin Pontell, my company-mate and classmate, killed 9/11/01 at the Pentagon

Also LT Jonas Panik, my teammate on the Powerlifting Team, another victim of 9/11

Apparently this weekend there will be many oddities as the Naval Academy’s organist performs his annual Halloween Concert on the grandiose pipe organ in the Chapel.  This annual production began my junior or senior year and has grown annually, now incorporating special effects, costumes, and plenty of antics.  I have never been to the concert (It was sold out by the time I noticed that it was going on this weekend.)  but I’m sure it would be memorable — We don’t celebrate Halloween in our family, but the concert is just famous “eerie” organ music, and the organist (Monty Maxwell) is one of the country’s best — things from “Phantom of hte Opera,” Toccata and Fugue, and things from a few Requiems.  One of these days —
Saw this hilarious picture  and thought I’d share it:
I hope you have been having a good weekend! 🙂  We plan on braving a hurricane, dragging 6 kids around Washington, DC, and running a marathon.  Sounds like we’ll be pretty busy!!

Tuesday Trip Report – A Pleasant Day at Fort Sumter


Our group before getting on the ferry to Fort Sumter

Okay, really, it was a HOT day at Fort Sumter, but we took the ferry out there from MOUNT PLEASANT, and I’m cheesy enough to stick that in the title 😉  We also toured around Mt Pleasant a bit since John and I used to live there…but I am getting ahead of myself.  For the first time in a while there’s nothing going on, and it’s Tuesday, and we took a trip this weekend from which I have tons of pictures!  I just finished Daniel’s last feeding on Monday night, and since I only have 15 minutes left in the episode of Glee I was watching on the internet while I fed him, I decided to enjoy Glee in the quiet of the house while describing our visit to Mount Pleasant and Fort Sumter on Saturday!  My parents had this one weekend here after dropping off our VW Golf before they flew back to Texas Monday morning.  My dad came up with the great idea to visit this landmark that we somehow missed during our last sojourn in South Carolina, and having their help with all the children was an awesome idea because we had lines to wait in, a ferry to ride, and a hot sun to combat.  After my twelve mile run Saturday morning, we had delicious breakfast burritos using the leftover taco meat, beans, and cilantro from our tacos the other night, along with 14 eggs.  I’m sure we used a few more eggs because my parents were here, but I think we have officially crossed over to the “dozen eggs at a sitting” family.  We also use a whole block of cheese if we’re having cheese and crackers, a whole loaf of bread when sandwiches are on the menu, and a whole bag of grapes at snack time.  Just a few more years before it’s double that I’m sure, but at least I have four girls and two boys right now instead of the other way around, or we might already be eating that much!

Now it’s Tuesday night, and I am finally sitting back down to post all these cute pictures.  We accomplished a lot today around here – four loads of laundry, finally finished unpacking and organizing all the clothes and suitcases in my room, unloaded and loaded dishes, then unloaded again before dinner, made eggs with leftover sausage and potatoes for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and honey baked chicken for dinner, ran four miles (8 was on the schedule and would have have worked out, but my calf muscle started bugging me after a mile), and made a quick Exchange/Commissary run while dinner cooked for tennis balls (to roll around on my calf muscle in the absence of foam rollers) and a few grocery items for the rest of the week.  Probably the most productive I’ve been in months!! It was nice that I had Patience and the girls helping switch the laundry and Gabriel to load dishes after I rinsed them, plus Daniel pooped in the potty a few times, and that always cheers me up 🙂  Oh and did I mention he slept til 7:38am? Yippee!!  Okay, so back to the trip report…

We left for Fort Sumter on a ferry from Patriot’s Point Maritime Museum in Mount Pleasant, across the Cooper River Bridge from Charleston.

The Cooper River Bridge, newly built since our last time in Charleston, viewing it from the ferry boat before departing for Ft. Sumter

The USS Yorktown in a museum now and is moored at Patriot’s Point.

Greer, riding in style.

USS Yorktown

Lots of watersports going on around us…

Reading some of the signs describing the harbor and the attacks

My little swamp angel

The flag which flew April 12-13 when Ft. Sumter was bombarded – it was taken to New York City where the Union soldiers who left Ft. Sumter were given a hero’s welcome.

The following picture is the description from the sign.

Stuffing Raisinets into her mouth on the ferry ride back

Too much cuteness for one picture…

Daniel looking cute with John 🙂

Here he’s saying, “Hey – wassup?”

We had tickets to see Patriot’s Point as well, but by the time we had finished wandering Fort Sumter in the hot sun, we were all ready for some food.  We will just use those tickets the next time they visit 🙂  We did a quick driving tour of Mount Pleasant to show the kids (and to document it at all, since I can’t find a single picture of our time in Charleston) where we had lived and whatnot.  We’ll do another day trip over there I’m sure (it’s only 20 minutes away) when I can take pictures of our favorite haunts as well, but for now it’s just some neat local scenery, and a bad shot of our apartment balcony 🙂  We lived here from January 2001 until some time that summer while we both went to the Naval Nuclear Power School (that’s where John is working now.)

Our apartment at “Long Grove at Seaside Farms,” a fairly posh place 🙂

Images captured while driving from the apartment over to the Isle of Palms (our place was on the Isle of Palms Connector.)

We ended up at Shem Creek Bar and Grill, and I went out back to snap a few…

The waterside bar and crabshack

The dock from a house across the way

A cow-shark? maybe?

Yes, the crabcakes were THAT good, as were the hushpuppies, the filet, the salmon, the wedge salad….

That about wraps it up.  We had an early night since it was Saturday and we needed to rest up for church.  If you’re ever in Mount Pleasant, I have to highly recommend that you drop in to Shem’s 🙂








Lake Conroe Condo


From the family photo shoot out at the lake

Lake Conroe holds a special place in all of our hearts because my dad worked on the lake for 30 years.  After he left active duty (Navy) in the 70s, he managed a marina for a while on Lake Travis in the middle of Austin, Texas.  My brother Gerrit was born there in 1974.  A while later, he ended up working on Lynnhaven Marina in Virginia Beach, VA, while it was being built, and I was subsequently born in Norfolk, VA.  Before I was two we had moved back to Texas, this time to Conroe, for my dad to manage the marina at Walden on Lake Conroe.  From my earliest days I remember spending what seemed like every waking moment at either the Yacht Club pool, a condo pool, or the marina.

The Walden Yacht Club – other than swimming, we often ate here, my brother’s rehearsal dinner was held here, and I gave a piano concert here when I was 16.

Looking over at the Yacht Club from our condo balcony

Sometimes we would stay overnight at the condos or lake houses of people my dad knew (or maybe would rent one for a day or two), but most of the time my mom would just pack up the gear, the food, and the kids, and drive the 20 minutes out to the lake first thing in the morning.  Often my dad would pop in for lunch on his break to see us at whatever pool we were at for the day, and we’d end the trip with dinner together after he got off work – either at the pool with food my mom had brought or some quick pizza place, and always long, long after the sun had set.  Many a night I fell asleep in the front seat of my dad’s work truck with my head on his lap on our drive home.  Most days my shoulders and nose were peeling from sunburns.   My bangs never quite laid flat because my hair was always drying all slicked back from the pool water.

A view of the marina from our condo balcony (his office was in the brown odd-shaped building to the left of center)

Another shot of the marina, and the Yacht Club is off to the left.

As we aged, and the long months at the pool changed to just summers at the pool, the draw of the lake changed as well.  We would frequently use the water toys rented by the marina (for free of course!) like paddleboats, sailboats, skiboats, and the like.  They even had a huge party/houseboat docked at the marina that we jumped off for fun.  Some days we’d play with friends all day in the houseboat (it was two decks high and had a dance floor and kitchen) – just listening to the Top 40, eating snacks, and swimming in the lake, never untying it from the pier.  By this time my mom was working, so if we wanted to go to the lake we’d spend the whole day by coming and going with my dad.  Around when I was 10 years old, the changing times meant the needs of the marina and the resort were shifting, and they no longer required a fulltime marina manager.  My dad moved on to selling real estate, still at Walden though.  I had begun to play tennis as well (my parents had always played), so through the junior high and high school years the Tennis Club also became a hangout.  My brother was a lifeguard each summer during high school and college, too, at the Yacht Club, and he even worked at a neighboring resort on the lake in their lawn crew taking care of the golf course.  It was fun having Lake Conroe as our playground while still living in our modest home in Conroe (most of the homes and condos at the lake were second homes for the pretty-well-off set.)  We spent probably a third of our lives out at the lake – most of it together as a family – even on in to our college years.  It was not until a few years ago that the last families we knew with homes and condos moved away (hence ending our ability to borrow pools, patios, and boats) and my dad finally stopped selling real estate out there.  It’s still a place where his name is known, though, and the connections for our family will always be strong there.

Flags at the Yacht Club

a good shot of the Yacht Club pool with me and Robin

When we started planning our trip to Texas, we knew it would still be hot, so my parents called around trying to find out if waterparks or pools were still open.  Eventually, it occurred to me that we could just rent a condo out at Lake Conroe for a few days, and then my brother’s family and my parents could come out for the day to hang out and swim.  We ended up in a beautiful spot which far exceeded everyone’s expectations (especially since we probably hadn’t seen inside one of the condos out there for 15 years!)  They had done some beautiful upgrades, and we had plenty of space.

Looking at the condos from the street

“The Lodge” – the complex where we stayed

Looking at The Lodge from the Yacht Club

Here are a few pictures of the interior of the condo:

We went out Sunday afternoon for a quick swim with Gerrit, Robin, and their girls before a family photo shoot.  The plan was to swim at the Yacht Club pool for a bit and then jump into our nicer clothes, with my parents meeting us there as well for the session.

Greer “jumping” in

Patience on John’s shoulders, chasing the duck that was frolicking in the pool


Here’s Greer really jumping in 🙂 to John this time


My brother Gerrit with his two daughters

Gabriel again, not quite “braving” the water, but fully prepared instead for danger!


Liesl again

Robin, Liesl, and her girls

Liesl and Claire in the baby pool

John and me with Liesl, Claire, and Greer

The pictures were quite painless and turned out so nicely!  They are going to be Christmas presents for my parents, and of course my brother and I will put them up in our homes as well 🙂

The family pictures – with Gerrit’s family, our family, and my parents

After the pictures we all had a quick Mexican dinner at a restaurant near the lake, and then Grandma and Grandpa came back to the condo to stay the night with us.

playing at the park after the pictures

We swam the next morning after my run – just at the small condo pool this time.  After lunch and naps, we resurfaced and enjoyed the Yacht Club pool in the evening.

Gabriel, making the water splash magically!

We had delicious steaks, along with my mom’s pasta salad and a green salad, followed by Bluebell Rocky Road ice cream (a Texas original.)

Grandma with the girls 🙂

Grandpa being a sea monster!

launching Patience…

My parents went back to Conroe that night (this was the night my dad spent getting sick and two of my girls had high fevers 😦 ), and we settled down with popcorn and a movie.  The next day I ran another five miles, and then we packed up the condo and returned to the Yacht Club pool for a few more hours of fun in the sun.  We really enjoyed the time in the water and had delightful weather for it – we will have to do this again the next time we visit during the summer months 🙂

Louisiana On My Mind

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WARNING – lots of cute pictures in this post – but you have to tread through deep waters to reach them…

It’s been difficult to write while visiting the family in Texas for more than one reason.  We’ve of course been keeping busy with all the fun people and places, but also I have been trying to rest as much as possible in my down time, and I just haven’t felt compelled to write much.  It’s hard to explain, but I don’t feel quite myself when I am back in the house with my parents, and I think most adults might agree with this — I see it when we visit John’s family – in John – and when we visit mine – in me.  It seems like I halfway revert back to who I was when I lived in their house.  That’s because when I’m there, I am a fulltime wife and mother still, but I’m also a fulltime daughter.  And when I’m in my own home – even when my parents visit – I feel like I’m more of the grown-up me, and less of the kid me – the fulltime daughter.  When I’m in my own element, and my parents come to visit, I’m the friend who talks to them on the phone and on facetime and who tours them around my town, takes them to hear my band, and introduces them to my favorite restaurants.  I like having the Grandparents come to enjoy my hospitality and to frolic with my children, and I don’t feel compelled to respond to them in such a parent-child way like I do when I’m at their home.  Anyway, I am not saying I don’t like visiting my parents (I know everyone likes being in his own home and showing his own brand of hospitality to friends and family, so it’s nice to visit people as well as to be visited.) — just that I am a different person when I am visiting them than I am when they come to see me.  And this different person doesn’t really feel like blogging 🙂  This different person who I am in Texas also doesn’t mind just lying around resting while my mom or dad is doing dishes, and also doesn’t mind “wasting” the day just sitting still. When I am in my own home, I can’t seem to stay on the couch five minutes without blogging, folding laundry, making lists, or practicing my chanter.  I always have to be doing something.  Also at home, I clean up my own kitchen most of the time and won’t leave it after a meal until either a child or myself is working on the dishes.  (I am totally not counting the times I’ve had help in the home – like my mom, Merriwether, Christine, etc, who are specifically there to help me with things when I’m very pregnant or have just had a baby :)) How is it that in my parents’ home I suddenly morph into this near-helpless person who can’t put a dish in the dishwasher? (In my own defense – I did at least rinse the dishes after meals :))  I am really curious to hear if others have noticed this behavior in themselves or in their spouses.

Another reason for being remiss with the blog is all the resting I was doing which was a result of 1) lots of running and 2) the whole family being sick.  These could be used as excuses, but really, I think the above explanation is more applicable 🙂  Speaking of the running, though, I got in quite a few runs while in Texas.  I’ll start with San Antonio and list them all for you, since I know you are so curious as to my running progress 🙂
Sept. 6: 4 miles – treadmill
Sept 7: 3.2 miles – treadmill
Sept. 8: 9.4 miles
Sept. 10: 3.2 miles
Sept. 11: 5 miles
Sept. 13: 3 miles
Sept. 14: 10.5 miles
I was pretty happy with the long run I did yesterday since my average pace was 10:45/mile, and I almost stopped while going up a steep hill eating my gel.  There were quite a few difficult hills, so I know my pace on those had to be pretty slow.  I’ll have to check out the splits once I upload it to Nike.  I was pretty psyched when my shipment of “Chocolate #9” showed up the day before my long run.  I had been using some I got at GNC the other day as an emergency stop-gap — Powerbar brand gels.  I would definitely NOT RECOMMEND these, at they were really hard to get down since the taste was so – harsh.  I tried the Latte, Strawberry/banana, and Berry flavors and hated them all.  I had hoped to get to a store to purchase the Chocolate #9, but the only reliable place to buy them is at REI stores.  So, I ordered them online on Monday and received them Thursday.  They are certified to be “slow-burn” energy and have a “Low Glycemic Index” because they are made only with Agave and Cocoa powder.  They taste like the fudge packet that comes in a box of Brownie mix “with fudge.”  Awesome Sauce, in a convenient little pouch.
I know it’s out of order, but I’ll be posting about the drive (through Louisiana – hence the post title, although the rest of the post has nothing to do with Louisiana!) today, and then tomorrow will recap our stay in a Condo on Lake Conroe, which was actually the middle few days of the time in Texas.  On our last few days, as I mentioned, we were recovering from a virus of some sort.  My dad was ill and had a really high fever for over 24 hours, and Liesl and Claire were very hot as well.  Neither of the children actually got sick, though, and they were over their fevers in less than a day.  Patience just woke this morning with a fever and feeling like she would get sick, but so far, with lots of rest in the car, she has held it together.  When I say fever, I mean that they’ve all been hot enough for me to touch them and say, “Whoa! You’re really hot!!” and to give them ibuprofen, which I normally reserve for fevers over 101 degrees.  I didn’t take their temperatures, but since my dad’s was almost 103, and they were burning up, I’m pretty sure they were over 102 as well.  We came back from the Condo on Tuesday afternoon and just laid everyone down to rest the remainder of the day.  I went out that night to my brother’s Astronomy Lab, which I wrote about here.  On Wednesday, John went out in the morning to have a duplicate drivers’ license made, since he holds a Texas license and had lost his wallet in Scotland a month ago.  I went out in the afternoon to register our Volkswagen Golf, with my dad as well since he had to sign the title back over to me (They had been holding on to the car for the past year for us.)  That was mostly a “movies in bed” day for the children.

Gabriel helped me bathe Daniel

On Thursday, after a short run and shower, we went out to The Woodlands Mall with my parents and all the children.  It was our first excursion all together in our new van which was kind of fun 🙂  It’s nice to have something large enough to take everyone around in style!  We were still a bit under the weather, so we didn’t stay out long – just popped in to a few stores, Barnes and Noble and the Lego store being the most notable (Grandpa had promised Gabriel a trip to the Lego store while he was here.)

At the mall — I noticed the “do not climb on rocks” sign when I went to snap this

This is always what happens at the Apple store — it’s a sad day when there are any other kids in there besides ours 🙂 (Daniel is even in the picture – can you find him?)

On the way home from the mall we stopped at James Coney Island for hot dogs because Grandpa had also told Gabriel it was on the plan (Gabriel kept talking about it since he loved it on our last visit to Texas.)
I went over in the evening to my brother Gerrit’s house – just me and some of the children, since John’s tummy was still upset – to attempt the model rocket launch that Gerrit had planned and for which they had built rockets earlier in the week.  Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side, and rain thwarted us.  They were, however, able to light sparklers and smoke bombs, which entertained the children probably just as much 🙂

Aunt Robin holding Daniel while her daughter looks on – she liked Daniel more than she liked the fireworks 🙂

Gerrit had ordered pins for all the children to wear when they launched rockets that were a set of wings that said “Rocket Scientist.”  He gave them all their wings Thursday night even though the launch was scrubbed – so here are the children showing them off for the camera:

Not sure who took this picture, but I just found it on the camera when I uploaded 🙂

I think my brother must have stolen the camera and put Woody’s hat on Daniel 🙂

Friday dawned early for me with the 10.5 mile run after Daniel’s 5:45am feeding.  It was made enjoyable by a different play list I made the night before, completely new scenery, and pleasant temperatures leftover from the night’s rain.  It was my first double-digit run since my Half-Marathon in March, so I was both excited and nervous before I set out.  My right calf muscle is feeling pretty sore from it, so I didn’t run this morning and am resting until Monday or Tuesday.  After the run I had a delicious protein shake with frozen banana and mango.  Then I quickly showered off and headed over to Conroe High School to visit Gerrit on his lunch break with his wife Robin and daughter Camille.  I also brought Liesl and Claire, and I love the breakfast burrito supplied by my mom (homemade with sausage, rice, and black beans – yum!)

Liesl, Claire, and Camille in Gerrit’s classroom about to eat lunch

I laughed when I saw this on my run around Conroe High with my brother last Saturday (I got the picture off the internet, but it was the same sign – the “foul ball” pole at the Baseball field :)) – Chick fil A sponsors the team’s scoreboard, too.

The theme for the pep rally that afternoon was the 70s – so I caught this bunch outside a classroom who were all decked out

The dance team window box “Conroe Golden Girls” – Robin was in this group

I think this is one of the “historical” costumes, but I could be wrong 🙂

The Marching Band uniform I wore my freshman year in high school

We were the Conroe Tigers.

After lunch, Robin, the girls, and I went to Starbucks for a short visit and an iced coffee.  My dad was out with Patience and Gabriel on a few errands when I returned from lunch, and my mom was napping on the couch with Greer down for her nap, so once I had Daniel napping and the other two girls watching a movie, I left John to supervise and holed up in the dark, cool bedroom for a delicious two hour nap.

This Barista asked why I had a nice camera – what were we out doing? When I told her it was just because I take a lot of pictures for my blog, I promised she’d be on it.

Claire and Camille outside Starbucks

Friday was our last night in town, so Gerrit and his family came over for pizza and ice cream.  We also had a visit from two old friends — Robbie and Wes with whom we went to high school.  Gerrit had been friends with both of them since middle school, but I didn’t really get to know them til Conroe High.  Since then, Gerrit has kept in touch with them both, and they hang out quite a bit, helping each other with woodworking projects, going to Aerosmith and Kiss concerts, and generally goofing off.  The funny thing is, Wes knows my husband John because they were in Nuclear Power School in Orlando, Florida, together when John was enlisted in the Navy before the Naval Academy.  Small world!

Robbie was throwing the children around –

Claire, Robbie, and Camille

Grandpa and Daniel

Camille holding Daniel one more time – she loves babies!

That finishes out the big “trip to Texas” – all we did today (Saturday) was pack up.  We left around 1pm and plan on stopping a little after midnight in whatever town we can reach by then 🙂  Going to post this from the mobile hotspot while underway.  We miss you Grandma and Grandpa!! We miss you Texas!! We’ll be back before too long, though (only 17 hours away — that’s nothing!)

A last look at my parent’s house…until next time!

Do you feel like you turn back into a kid again when you stay with your parents? Does your spouse do it?
Guess how many states we’ve driven through in a month (We flew in to the US on August 14, so it’s been one month today!)
When was the last time you ran double-digits? Have you never done it? (When are you going to? :))

The Stars at Night are Big and Bright (****) Deep in the Heart of Texas!

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You know that song, right?  The **** are for the “duhn, duhn, duhn, duhn” in the song 🙂  I’m going to skip the retelling of our few days at a condo – save it for tomorrow – because this will be a quicker post, and it’s already 8pm.  Last night I was excited to join my brother Gerrit and students from his astronomy classes for an outdoor Astronomy Lab.  There are not a lot of schools offering Astronomy these days, so for Gerrit to be exclusively teaching Astronomy is quite the dream come true for him.  Astronomy, Meteorology, Navigation – these things used to be just his hobbies, but through a strange series of events, including never giving up on your dreams, he now teaches 6 sections of Astronomy per day, for his second year in a row.

Gerrit tells his students that he did not do well in school.  They never believe him.  They incredulously say- but Mr. Rickwalt! You’re the smartest guy we know! (or other things along those lines.)  Growing up, I always thought he was the smartest guy I knew, too.  I couldn’t understand why the teachers never agreed!  I remember when we were younger that there were often parent-teacher conferences.  Then came a math tutor for a year.  The real impetus to pass his classes came from wanting to stay qualified to run Cross-Country for Conroe High School, which paid off when they went to the 5A State Championships his Senior Year – the first time in ten years a team from our school had made it to State, and there has not been a team to do it since that year (1991).

The Cross Country team – Gerrit is the one pointing up in the air with his right hand, in a yellow jacket.

Gerrit is shirtless and right in the middle of the photo, black shorts.

Here he is, looking on the verge of passing out…I used to think 2 miles was a long distance, but now that I’m a runner, I realize it’s a sprint!!

(Don’t you just love facebook? I found all sorts of pictures of Gerrit that were taken by other people around 15-20 years ago and posted to facebook!) He was my older brother, so of course I thought he was a genius — why couldn’t everyone else see it??  He started off college at Texas A&M, Galveston.  Eventually he moved up to the Main Campus in College Station.  That didn’t go too well for him, and he had to leave school at the end of his third year.  He kept at it, though, and the summer after that year he applied to the Naval ROTC program back down at Texas A&M, Galveston.  His grades weren’t too hot, but he was provisionally accepted.  This was finally where he wanted to be, and he maintained high grades in order to stay there.  We had grown up with tales of the Navy – my mom’s dad retired as a CDR after being the XO of the War College up in Newport, RI, and commanding a few ships, and my dad had joined up right out of college as a surface warfare office for a few years himself.  At the time, I was just starting my second year at the United States Naval Academy, so it was neat that we were both wearing uniforms at last.

With his ROTC unit – he’s on the far left.

He earned an ROTC scholarship through hard work and determination once he was already at school paying for it himself.  He got a tutor for Calculus, and FINALLY, he was able to see things the way he needed to in order to make the right grades.  He just needed to figure out a few key concepts, and then the rest of it made sense.  He did well enough to finish out college on the Navy’s dime and to become the Commander of his ROTC Unit in his Senior Year.

At his wedding with his best friend Robbie – Gerrit was still a midshipman in ROTC at the time, so he and Robin spent their first year in Galveston finishing school.

He was commissioned a year after me and went to his first ship as the Gunnery Officer.

Gerrit’s ship pulled in to Newport, RI, so I drove over from Saratoga Springs, NY, where I had just finished Nuclear Prototype training.

Fast forward a few years, and he was the Navigator on board a frigate based in Mayport, Florida, meaning their deployments took them through the Panama Canal to bust drugrunners.  Now, navigating by the stars was truly a hobby for my brother.  He had the charts MEMORIZED (if you’ve learn CelNav – he memorized the long charts on which we filled out all the star declination information and stuff out of the Nautical Almanac) and had used celestial navigation a few times for his own sailing trips.  Finally, he was doing things he already loved, and getting paid for it.   Eventually he either was put in charge of communications in some way, or he just sort of took charge  – not sure which it was.  Either way, he took some of his guys over to a local South American Radio Shack on a port visit and purchased some wires and metal poles with his own money.  Then he proceeded to build his own HF antenna array, mount it to the ship, and use it himself to track down drug boats.  Yes, that’s what he did.  A few of their drug busts containing lots of cocaine (I don’t know the exact amounts, but, whatever :)) were directly a result of my brother’s homemade antenna.

Navigating the ship…

These criminals tried to incinerate the evidence after Gerrit’s ship chased them down. Gerrit is on the far left.

He left active duty a few years later but is still in the Naval Reserve based in Ellington Field.  He used the “Troops to Teachers” program in Texas to become qualified to teach high school sciences, and he started out on the bottom teaching a combined physics and chemistry course to students who were, shall we say, underachievers.  I am sure he saw a lot of himself in some of the students — untapped potential waiting for the right opportunities and some encouragement — but for the most part, that first year was pretty frustrating because generally speaking, the kids just didn’t care about school.  Then next year they added in three Astronomy sections for him.  When we were little our parents routinely took us to the Johnson Space Center in Houston to tour Mission Control and Rocket Park.

I visited what is now “Space Center Houston” with my dad, my children, and a few little friends back in December 2010 — here we are in front of the Saturn V rocket.

We both went to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama — Gerrit, twice.  Yes, we were the typical “big dorks” of high school fame, except that we were both jocks as well, so perhaps that made us a bit less nerdy 🙂  He always wanted to be an astronaut…He’s even been building and launching his own model rockets since he was four or five (he has big launch days with his classes, too, after they all build rockets — they compete for the highest altitude and some even buy cameras to mount on their own rockets!)

After a year on Active Duty again with the Navy in Djibouti, Africa, he came back last fall to a full day as the high school’s only Astronomy Teacher.

Now he mostly teaches Seniors, and his students are there because they want to learn about space.  The “Lab” last night had 30-40 kids; some even brought their parents, siblings, and friends.  Most of the telescopes belong to Gerrit, as does the HF antenna he mounts on the back of his truck so they can monitor frequencies when the Space Station passes overhead.

Gerrit mounts this antenna to the top of a ten foot pole in his truck bed (I’m estimating the height, but you get the idea)

They don’t get any extra credit for attending, but there is an excitement in the air because they know they are doing something “extraterrestrial.” 🙂 (Also, high school kids like having a place to hang out together at night to just chill out, and the environment was pretty chill.) He handed out a star chart to everyone of the September night sky at a latitude about 10 degrees off of ours, and then he would line up the telescopes – and teach the students how to adjust them as well – to point at the stars he wanted them to learn.  I swear that looking at Saturn and its rings through the telescope seemed like I was seeing a little white picture of Saturn taped to the end of the scope.  It was just too perfect!  I couldn’t believe it.  This was the telescope my dad bought years ago – before I can even remember – and through which we did our star-gazing as children.  Brings back memories 🙂

Gerrit with the old Celestron telescope we had growing up

Getting setup for the stargazing

Gerrit bought a super powerful laser pointer which he uses to show the kids particular stars. You can sort of see it in the picture, but when you’re outside looking at the sky you can clearly see it pointing all the way up to the stars.

Hope you liked the long story about my brother.  If he’s reading it, I am sure he will find a few discrepancies since I don’t remember details very well, but it’s close enough for government work 🙂  We started the day yesterday at the condo out at Lake Conroe, and I snuck in a 5 mile run before breakfast.  Then we packed up our van and spent the early afternoon at the pool again before heading back in to Conroe.  By this point, there were some people notably under the weather — Claire and Liesl had had high fevers the night before and were complaining of sore tummies and heads, and my dad had been home getting sick all night, too.  Astronomy Night had been planned as a family activity, but in the end, John stayed behind to watch the children and only I was able to take part.  On the way out I took a circuitous route through the old downtown part of Conroe for some pictures – I’ll be seeing these again on my run through town in the morning!

The sun was just setting as I meandered through town.

The top of the old Crighton Theater, still in use.

The original Bus Depot

To Grandmother’s House we go…

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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