(This post was written TWO summers ago and for some odd reason I never posted it. What’s good about me posting this now is, you have time to make some summer plans! So…here you go, y’all!)
Ha! Bless the sweet Greeter’s heart, he tried a couple times and just could not get the family in focus!
(I guess that could be said of us on many levels…)
No matter, our main focus, during a recent vacation, was a side trip to the Texas Panhandle to see Texas! The Outdoor Musical!
Our oldest son had to finish up his summer baseball season, so he was unable to join us on the first leg of our vacation, so ThrillCam and I loaded up our youngest and started the drive toward Montana, with an intentional stop in Amarillo. We told our youngest that if he really wants to consider himself a true Texan, then he needed to see Texas!
Texas! Outdoor Musical, is performed, every summer, in the beautiful Pioneer Amphitheater, nestled in the basin of the Palo Duro Canyon (which is amazing and entertaining, all by itself).
Sidenote: Palo Duro Canyon suddenly appears out of nowhere and drops down into the earth, revealing beautiful reds, browns and greens. (see above picture) Did you know, Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the United States?
(We’d love to go back and spend time there hiking and camping for a few days.)
We planned out our whole route, with a couple stops along the way, obviously, including an extra night just to see the musical.
(As we left town, we stopped here: another Texas must!)
The musical is about…you guessed it…Texas. It’s a little bit of history and a whole lot of entertainment.
Yes, the show is sort of cheesy at times.
Yes, it’s even occasionally corny.
(Would that be cheesy-corny?)
But, by golly, you learn a little Texas history while being entertained.
(And who doesn’t want to learn more about Texas?!)
And, because we drove straight there, we opted to eat dinner, on the grounds, before seeing the show. (Your ticket can include dinner, if you’d like. Click on the first link above and you can see the ticket prices. The earlier you make your plans, the better!)
I’m not going to lie and say it was the best BBQ in town, but it certainly wasn’t awful!
While waiting to be seated, we milled around outside the amphitheater where we noticed a huge map of the world. Folks could purchase a pin and show where they traveled from to see the show. There were numerous people from almost every country of the world. (Shown are the pins from just around the Waco area.)
The stage is set, literally, in the cliffs of Palo Duro Canyon. As the sun sets, the special effects become a little more impressive and way fun for the kids.
(I may not remember any of the songs and dances, but I can still remember, as a young kid, seeing the Lone Horseman atop the cliff.)
(Oh! And, the lightning strike!)
(You just have to go to know what I’m talking about!)
No cameras are allowed during the show (that means phone cameras, y’all!), so I don’t have pictures of the set or the actors/dancers, but I can tell you, the colorful costumes are wonderful, the characters are sweet and funny, and the songs will make you tap your toes. It’s, honestly, not a bad way to spend a few hours.
TIP: When selecting tickets, don’t sit at the VERY front. Choose more toward the center middle to center upper-middle, so you can see the stage and cliffs fully. The place will fill up, so order tickets early for best seating choices.)
Honestly, if you plan to visit the Texas panhandle (or just visit the state), this is a fun event for the whole family! There’s singing, dancing, decent BBQ, a few variety acts before the actual show. Of course, all of this while you sit under the great and vast Texas sky.
(“The stars at night…Are big and bright!”)
(clap, clap, clap)
(“Deep in the Heart of Texas!”)
If you’re a native Texan like me (6th generation, y’all!), I’ll tell you, like I told my son, you can’t truly call yourself a Texan until you’ve seen this show.
There’s really no way you can drive through, or even near, Amarillo, Texas, without making the jaunt over to the Cadillac Ranch.
As the daughter of the now deceased Queen of Everything Texas, whether kooky or historical, there was no way, I, personally, could bypass this famous (or infamous) tourist stop.
(I texted my sister later to say how proud our parents would have been of me for the little side stop in our vacation.)
Honestly, though, even if I weren’t still trying to impress my (deceased) parents, I would so stop at Cadillac Ranch! It’s just one of the Texas things to see and do!
Cadillac Ranch has zero educational value, unless you count quirky “art” and the mere ability to say you’ve been there, educational.
And, I do.
My youngest son has added to his culture bank, fo’ sho!
(Now, to make sure we inserted something educational into the visit, we discussed the importance of Route 66 and the various, often quirky, attractions along the famous highway–Cadillac Ranch is located in a pasture along Interstate 40, but the road the pasture is on is the original Route 66.)
Cadillac Ranch was originally created by three artists, back in 1974 , by sticking 10 Cadillacs into the ground, a la Stonehenge style. (Although, the degree of tilt corresponds to the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.)
The pasture where the cars reside is private property, but it is encouraged to cross onto the land via an unlocked gate.
Once you’ve entered the field where the cars are on display, you begin to notice, unfortunately, trash.
Empty spray paint cans.
Besides “trespassing,” you are also encouraged to “tag” the cars.
We had not come prepared (with our own can of spray paint), but there were plenty of partially used cans on the ground to pick from.
When in Rome…
We all got in on the act!
Once you look closely, you realize just how many years of graffiti/paint has been coated on these cars!
Look how thick the paint is!
There is not a single inch of any of the cars that hasn’t been colored upon.
Really and truly, if you are ever in Amarillo–or anywhere near there–you should take the 30 minutes to see the Cadillac Ranch.
Just to say you did.
My family recently did the Griswolds’ thing and drove to Montana for a family vacation.
We drove from Texas.
(that in and of itself should be impressive)
Three days to get there.
Three days to get back.
Through seven different states.
Worth every hour on the road.
My husband and I put this family vacation WAY high on the list of favorites. (My boys may disagree, simply because the last three days–with nothing planned but hard 8-12 hour driving–really shrouded the good memories of the trip. I know, though, as they forget the boring drive home, they will begin to remember the highlights of the trip. And there were many!)
Here’s a short list of some of our adventures:
We visited new friends in Montana and ate some of the best steak ever.
We drove to Wyoming, more than once–more on that soon.
We hung out Yellowstone–we saw lions and tigers and bears. Oh my!
(Okay, we didn’t see lions and tigers.)
We hiked in Teton National Park–I didn’t pack the proper shoes, so I hiked in flip-flops…
We stopped at every state sign and took a picture. (See picture above.) My boys were THRILLED every time we stopped. Thrilled, I tell ya!
We had F.U.N., fun!
I’ll unpack our trip over the next few posts, if I may.
It’s not how it sounds.
These twins are FAR from being sorry.
These twins are precious and wonderful and they steal my heart every time I get to visit them!
The sorry part comes from a couple million rounds of the game Sorry!
You know I love to play games.
You know I like to win.
…even if it’s against a couple eight-year-olds.
I show no mercy!!
Unfortunately, though, I got my hat handed to me in every single game I played with these two little munchkins.
I am sorry at Sorry!
But it was worth it.
Because I adore this family.
Earlier this week I wrote about some new friends in our new neighborhood that are on the way to becoming lifelong friends. …much like the above family.
Doug and Margo have been a part of our lives for over 15 years…don’t ask me to do the math.
I don’t know math.
But, I do know good friends.
Margo and ThrillCam served together on staff at a church in Austin a number of years ago. Our hearts were permanently woven together.
We walked through heart-ache when both ThrillCam and Margo left the church. We grieved alongside Margo when her father passed away. We shared in their joy when Doug and/or Margo got new jobs. We served alongside them in Honduras when they were living and serving as missionaries there. Over all the years, we’ve laughed deep belly laughs and shared many stories over our very favorite card game, Nerts–never does a visit go by without a round or two, or seventeen…
But, one of the happiest times for them AND us was the day they brought the twins home from Guatemala.
ThrillCam and I had the beautiful and delightful honor of meeting Doug and Margo at the airport as they stepped back into America carrying two very round, squishy, beautiful, perfect babies who were now a permanent part of their forever family. I’m not sure I know of any two children who were wanted and/or loved more than these two little bambinos.
Suffice it to say, our friendship has lasted over many miles and many more memories.
We don’t get to see them as often as we’d like, but we make a point to visit when our family makes its annual trip to Missouri to pick up kids from camp. They live about 2 hours from the boys’ camp grounds, so there’s no way we’d miss the opportunity to hug their necks and to check how fast the twins are growing.
When I leave them, I feel uplifted and encouraged, filled and loved.
And, I feel sad, knowing it will be a whole year, most likely, before I lay eyes on this special family.
Of course, it may take me that full year to get over my multiple losses at the sorry game of Sorry!
I know I’ve mentioned it before, but every summer ThrillCam and I make the trek up to the Branson, Missouri area to retrieve our son from their favorite place on earth: camp.
Our oldest punk attended the same summer camp for many years and had to eventually choose between camp and baseball–baseball won. But, those years he attended were as equally as precious for him as they have been for our youngest son (and their cousins, who also now attend).
Summer is just not summer for our youngest son without two weeks immersed in scripture and every conceivable fun activity. You name it, they do it: basketball, baseball, dance, bikes, swimming, two-stepping, bubbles, campfires, singing, archery, tribal competitions, Bible study, the Blob, paddle boats…the list is too long to go through. Suffice it to say, the kids have a blast!
I’ve said for years that Disney has nothing on camp–Kamp is truly the happiest place on earth, at least it is for my boys.
This summer was no different.
Well, actually, it was a little different.
You see, our youngest son was given the honor of leading his tribe, the Choctaws, as their Chief. (Last summer the tribe voted him in as their 2013 leader.)
I must warn you, bragging is about to begin. So, if that bores you, please move to the next blog on your reader. I’ll give you a moment to leave. I totally understand. But, if you stay, I promise not to take too long.
Our son was given the Leadership Award, along with the honor of being Chief of the Choctaws.
For a parent who has seen that quality, or at least the potential in him, well, it caused the heart to expand few sizes. I’m always…well, mostly always…very proud of my boys. (Let me say this: I’m ALWAYS proud to be their mother.) But, over this past weekend, I stood a little taller, smiled a little bigger than usual.
I was told by counselors and the camp director that my son stepped up to the plate and apparently knocked it out of the park.
So, so proud.
(Okay, bragging done! Thanks for humoring me.)
Some people you just hit it off with immediately.
Some people fall into the “they will will be lifelong friends” category.
You know them.
You have a couple of friends like that.
ThrillCam and I have a number of those friends from our old stomping grounds, south of Houston.
I am happy to say, we can now add a few new folks to our list here, as well.
We moved to the Waco area nearly a year ago. While it seems like a long time, it has flown by.
Our first few months we spent holed up in the new house getting things moved in. We weren’t spending a ton of time meeting people. We didn’t really start to church shop until after the new year. We sat alone in the football stands for most of our son’s football season. I did not go up to the school to volunteer. And, on top of that, our house is set off the road with a few acres, not in a typical neighborhood.
We pretty much made it very difficult for anyone to get to know us.
If we were going to actually make friends, it sort of rested on the shoulders of the very people we needed to meet, but weren’t. THEY were going to have to be intentional about meeting us.
Enter: Mark and Julie.
Look closely at the picture above. Those two are the poster children for the term Good Neighbors.
They immediately reached out to us and invited us to church, to their home, to share deep and thoughtful conversations, to eat. (Offer food, and I’m so there!)
They took a risk.
Julie took it upon herself to introduce me to more girls in the area. We started having lunch out. Or, I’d invite the girls over for coffee. I was even invited to celebrate a new friend’s 40th birthday, which is huge in my book!
Or, Julie and Marlo and Kim would take me walking or to Zumba and cause me great pain the next day because I was (am) so out of shape.
But, that’s another story.
Mark asked ThrillCam and our youngest son to join him, his sons and a few other dads and their sons, to hang out on Sunday evenings. Mark wanted to just pour into the neighborhood boys and foster stronger father/son relationships.
This couple has made our transition a little easier, a little sweeter.
Learn from these sweet folks; reach out to someone you don’t know well, open up your circle of friends to a new (or not-so-new) neighbor, take a risk.
Who knows? You may gain lifelong friends!
We often think others don’t want to be bothered, but you may be totally surprised if you reach out. Honestly, don’t we all want friends, to be cared for, to be loved? ThrillCam and I did!…do.
Of course, it may not work out as supremely as my new friendship has, but you will be better for trying, for risking, for loving.
That, I do know.
So, get out there, and be a Good Neighbor.
I didn’t blog much last Summer and into Fall of 2012. There was a lot going on.
For one thing, I was too busy packing, moving, and unpacking.
To be honest, though, the packing didn’t start until later in the summer, so, I really have no excuse.
I just didn’t spend much time in front of my computer.
Nor did I use my DSLR much.
I tended to rely on my phone to capture moments.
Instagram became my new vice. Or helpmate. Whichever.
The following is brief and choppy view of the end of 2012. (Sorry, in advance, for the horrible grammar tense changes, etc.)
Here we go!
So, in June, my oldest punk graduated from high school!!
It was a thrilling moment for us when our son decided to become a Crusader! (More on that, later.)
But, before he started college, we followed him around all summer, watching him do what he loves best…
By mid-summer, I was packing my son’s stuff for college and our stuff for a move away from the Houston area to Central Texas.
I believe there are documented studies that show the psychotic breakdown that happens to a human mother when she has to both pack up her own belongings, as well as her son’s. It’s hard enough to have a child move away. It’s a whole other thing for the entire family to move AT THE SAME TIME!!
In the meantime, we made our yearly July trek to the Branson, MO area to retrieve our youngest son from summer camp.
Every single year, we MUST stop in Conway, Arkansas at the Market Place Grill.
The Chocolate Mess.
It calls to me annually.
(These phone pictures do no justice to the decedent, fudge-y, peanut buttery, vanilla ice creamy-ness that it is…)
Upon returning from summer camp, I had to say goodbye to some of my dearest friends. (Shannon will probably kill me for posting this picture, but this was the last time I laid eyes on them. It was late at night, right after we cleaned and loaded up their belongings for their move to Alabama. No one dresses pretty for moving day. No one. So, they are excused.)
(I’m pretty safe in saying, not a single one of the four of us smelled any better than we looked.)
A few weeks before our oldest was to take off for college, we decided to take him and his brother to New York City.
And, since our teen-aged sons were on the trip, we HAD to visit the Nike flagship store.
I believe my sons would call this place, “mecca.”
While walking around Times Square we saw The Naked Cowboy.
Only this guy was an impostor.
He was too short.
Among other things.
While visiting the M&Ms store, in Times Square, my youngest purchased a pound or two of mixed M&Ms. I think that bag lasted a whole 2 days…
We took the boys to Ground Zero.
And, there was no way they were going to miss this place…
Finally, back at home, we continued the process of packing and moving.
One of the many steps to our somewhat complicated move, was to store most of our belongings in PODS. Someone smart thought of this idea. We’ve used them in the past, on another move. Genius.
(We had to store our things for 6 weeks, and PODS was a great solution.)
Packing and moving is no fun…for many, many reasons. One, it makes me tired and grumpy.
Two, I don’t like leaving people I’ve grown to love and depend upon.
Three, it makes me very aware of all the junk I’ve moved 30 million other times and never threw away.
Four, it’s no fun.
This was the view of our OTHER storage solution. UHAUL has its own version of PODS. Smaller version.
Don’t ask me to explain the convoluted a crazy process we devised to move ourselves….
So, there you have it. That brings you to August 2012.
Stay tuned for September through December!