Monday, October 31, 2011

Getting Back To Normal

I'm back! My husband was working out of town for two weeks.  We picked him up on Thursday, and things have been insanely busy ever since. I'm so glad to have him home again.

When we said goodbye to him, he drove seven hours away to a job site in the middle of the desert.  The nearest town was two hours away from where he worked, so he had a four hour round trip each day to get to and from the hotel.  He drove in heavy equipment several miles on this rough road to reach the pipe they were welding. It was a tough job with long hours and no cell phone service.

And there were rattle snakes....

Snake in the headlights

Lots, and lots of rattlesnakes. The place was crawling with them!  He brought  home a dead Mohave Green Rattle Snake that someone ran over, and the rattlers off of two additional dead snakes for our kids. My husband always brings home unusual gifts from the places he works, but dead snakes and rattlers top our list of ummmmm.... "unique" gifts.

"Oh, Love, you brought us home dead thoughtful of shouldn't have."

The kids LOVED them!

(The snake is in the freezer, waiting to be skinned, pics. Sorry.)

He also saw a bunch of these.

 This one was the size of  a Zinger snack cake. I know this because he took a blurry pic of it with a Zinger next to it for size comparison.

Sounds like a great place to work, doesn't it?

As soon as my husband got home, life went back to warp speed.  I'll post more about our exciting weekend adventures in other posts.

Meanwhile, I'm just glad things are back to normal around here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Few Things I love about Texas

A Few things I love about Texas:

- Longhorn Cattle in pastures near the ranch houses just for "looks"

-Friendly drivers who drove on the shoulder so people could pass.

-American Flags and Texas Flags flown side-by-side in front yards

-Good Country Music played in EVERY store and restaurant.

-A radio station called "Kicker Country"

-Charro Beans

-Nice People

-Cowhide Furniture

-80 mph speed limit

-Big Hair

-"Yes Ma'am"

-The shape of the state of Texas etched in glass at fast food restaurants, on door mats, inside gas station bathroom stalls, on napkins, on billboards, on paper cups.  Texas is EVERYWHERE!

-Their deep love of Football.

-Bling is the norm, not the exception.

-Deer Corn is sold at every gas station

- Ford Trucks...everywhere.

- Grill guards on every vehicle

-Beef, beef, and more beef

-George Strait

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Meet Sneakers. He's quite possibly the most evil dog that ever lived. I know because he was our family pet from the time I was in 6th grade until he died a few years ago. He's a legend in my hometown, and people still tell his stories to this day. My mom picked out the name "Sneakers" because his white paws made it look like he was wearing shoes. But no-one else ever called him by that name. We all called him Pookie. It was ironic that he had a lover's pet name because there was no love in that dog. While I lived at home, he slept under my bed. I would have to superman dive under the covers at night so he wouldn't bite my toes. He said goodnight with a 2 minute growl from under the box spring. He chased away every cat in the neighborhood. Come to think of it, he chased every solicitor away, too. When the door bell rang, he'd jump up on the chair next to the window and try to attack people through the glass. He made Trick-or-Treaters drop their candy and run for their lives. He ruined a lot of curtains.

Throughout the day, he would move from hide-out to hide-out, lurking behind chairs, in corners, or under the recliner. You definitely didn't want to get up in the middle of the night for a drink of water. Pookie could be anywhere. He wasn't a dog that you could kiss on the nose, either. He'd rip your face off. In fact, virtually no-one outside of the family could even pet him. It became a game to our friends to see who could touch Pookie without getting bit. The trick was to dangle your arm on the side of the couch for 5 minutes and let him slowly come to you. If he nudged you with his nose, you could scratch him behind the ears. But God forbid you make any sudden moves or he'd turn around and bite. On the rare occasion that someone actually pet him, they'd want us to take a picture to prove it. It meant serious bragging rights because everyone was terrified of that dog. We knew that if good dogs died young, Pookie was going to live forever. And he practically did.

Looking back, I'm surprised my parents kept him. He was a real liability. But my mom never saw it that way. She loved that dog. In fact, she called him her "love pup". He'd ride with her in the car when she took us to school, and he'd keep her company throughout the day. Whenever he'd growl, she'd say, "Sneakers, quit being naughty." Right. Like that was going to help. Mom had the patience of Job with that dog. She was the only one that could bathe him, and cut his hair. She would do it in sections as he would allow it. For several days, he'd look absolutely ridiculous walking around with a quarter of one side clipped. Sometimes, Mom would cut whatever side was facing up while he slept. Then she'd wait for another day when he was sleeping on his other side, and she'd finish the job....with only a few minor puncture wounds on her hands. Everyone wandered what in the world she saw in that dog.

That's the thing about my mom. She saw the best in everyone...even our evil dog. In my thirty three years of life, I can't remember a single instance when she had ever said an unkind word about anyone. It's remarkable, actually. No matter how mean, or ridiculous, or awful a person was, she would find something kind to say about them. If we spoke of political leaders we despised, she'd say, "Now Nell, have you prayed for that man? He is our leader, and he needs our prayers during this time." Whenever I came home from school and complained about a bully, she would tell me to pray for my enemies because it would soften my heart toward them. When I passed judgement upon someone who did something horrible, she would say, "But for the grace of God, that might be us." She always, always, always put herself in someone else's shoes. She always considered the fact that at any given moment, people could be going through something so tough that it made them act in a way that was out of character for them. She chose to see the spark of goodness in the darkest of people.When people hurt her, she would pray that they would experience the love of Jesus. Then she would remind us that hurting people hurt other people. She encouraged us to pray that God would take their hurt away.

That woman was one of a kind, and I miss her horribly. It would be a struggle to imitate a fraction of her overwhelming kindness. I feel so blessed to have had her loving example in my life.

Pookie got old, and lost his sight, his hearing, and the ability to stand up. He had seizures quite often, and my mom stayed right by his side through it all. After he died, my mom cried for days. It was no big loss to most people, but it was devastating for Mom. She didn't see an evil dog like the rest of us did. No. She saw a companion and a friend. She saw a dog that just needed more love, extra kindness, and a little understanding. Mom's "Love Pup" died at nearly 22 years of age.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mechanical Failures

There comes a time in every gal's life when she reflects back on her teenage years and wonders if she should have done a few things differently.  Nothing makes a girl re-think her high school elective choices more than a frustrating mechanical failure.

My deep questioning came at a crisis moment on Friday.

Here's the situation:

My hardworking husband was welding two hours from civilization with no cellphone service. I had to haul water to the cows so I loaded the water tank, generator, pump, toolbox, and water hose.

I loaded the kids in the truck and popped in some classic George Strait tunes.  We rolled the windows down in the old truck and took a leisurely drive down to the pasture. It was a beautiful fall day for hauling water.

I drove down the little two track path, backed the truck up as close as I could to the stock tank, submerged my pump in the water tank, hooked up the hose and drug it to the stock tank.

It was a routine job.

I pulled the cord and the generator fired up on the first pull! I plugged in the pump and 20 seconds later the generator died.

"Hmmm...that's odd." I thought.

I pulled it again.  It started up and died 15 seconds later.

"What the heck?" I thought.

I checked the gas.  1/2 a tank.

I checked the oil.  Full.

I checked the fuel

I let it sit a minute and pulled the crank again. It ran for 5 seconds and died.  again.

I messed with the choke several times.

Pull. start. die.
Pull. start. die.
Pull. start. die.
Pull. start. die.

Now I'm sweating from cranking the thing twenty times.  My husband was unreachable, so I did what every girl would do:

I called up my dad on speed dial.

(I've been calling my dad with crisis related mechanical questions since I got my first car.  He's used to my mechanical language. We have this complex diagnostic dialogue that we do over the phone.  Here's a piece of the actual conversation. )

"Dad, I need you to tell my why in the world my generator won't run.  It starts and dies in 5 seconds."
"Well does it have gas?"
"Of course it has gas! I'm not a dork."
"Tell me everything you've done."
"I turn the switch to on, put it on full choke, and pull the crank.  It runs for 5 seconds and dies. If I move the dies. No matter what I do, it dies."

"Try to start it and let me hear it over the phone."

I set the phone down on the toolbox and crank. Same thing happens.

I pick the phone back up.

"It sounds like it's starving for fuel."

I mess with the choke a little.  Nothing.
He has me do like 15 more things....cranking in between each thing so we can see if it works.  Nothing.
I take some pictures of the fuel line and send them to him so he can have a visual.

Now the cows are gathered around. They lick the hose to mock me.

I tell them, "Patience, Ladies! I'm workin' on it!"

25 minutes has gone by. I'm out of breath from cranking.

Dad asks me about the carburater.
I say, "Is it the silver thingie hooked to the fuel line?"
He seems doubtful about my engine skills.

He asks if the air intake is clean.
It's spotless.

He tells me to take apart the fuel line to see if there's a clog.

Here's the part where I rethink my entire high school experience:

"Dad, why in the heck was I a cheer leader in highschool???? My cheerleading skills have done nothing to help me out in real life.  What I should have done is take auto mechanics, and small engine repair classes.  That way, I wouldn't have to call someone every time something goes wrong with the machinery on this outfit!! What was I thinking???"

I hang up the phone.

I check the fuel line as best I could. I actually have no idea what I'm doing.  It seems satisfactory.

By now, my arms are trembling from starting the generator 46 times. I'm covered in gas, oil, mud, and manure.  I decide to take a break and wallow in self pity on the back of the truck tool box for a good 3 minutes with my feet kicked up on the generator. I ponder life as I stare at a black heifer nudging my hose with her face.

Then I pray.

"Dear Lord, I could really use a little help right now.  If you would see fit to help me start this generator, I would sure appreciate it. Amen."

When it comes to prayers pleading for help, it's best to keep it short and sweet.

I decided to give it one last crank.

Miracle of Miracles, it ran like a champ!

I cried out, "THANK YOU JESUS!!!!!

A minute later I called my dad so he could hear the purr of the engine.

He said, "What did you do different?"

"I prayed."

I thanked my dad for all of the help and hung up the phone. I watered the cows and drove home with a sense of satisfaction.

Everything I've ever learned about mechanics has been from little challenges like these throughout the years. I can put all of my knowledge in a little sack and it wouldn't amount to squat.  But there's one thing I DO know. I've got a 24 hour help line available to me at all times. When my husband is away, it's nice to have Dad on speed dial.  

Oh, and....

When all else fails, it never hurts to talk to God about it. After all, He does do miracles.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Personal Rebellion

Last night, I wore jeans, a long sleeved shirt, and my favorite black vest filled with down feathers  to my son's football practice because it's getting colder.

But....I wore flip flops on my feet.  I wore the flip flops as a form of rebellion against the cold weather.

I wore flip-flops to signify my disapproval of  the impending 6 months of brown grass and naked twigs that will cover the ugly landscape.

I wore flip-flops to protest the coming season of chipping ice, hauling water, feeding hay, and shoveling snow.

I wore flip-flops to show my disdain for the driving spring winds and cabin fever that will ensue.

I wore flip-flops.....because I was a complete idiot. I froze my toes off.  I shivered for two hours at the ball field.  I lost all feeling in my limbs.  It took three hours and a steaming hot shower to regain blood circulation to my big toes.  My rebellion against cold weather became my own personal misery.

I'm still not ready for winter to come, but I shall show my disapproval in some other way from now on.  A way that is not so painful to my body.

For now, I will tuck away my beloved flip-flops in hopes of warmer weather.  For now, I will settle for socks and closed toed shoes.  For now, I will look forward to the day that the weatherman says there is more than a 2% chance of snow so I can pull out my cherished Sorrel Snow Boots. For now I will choose to be content in all seasons.

Good bye flip-flops. Hello Snow Boots.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

7 Random Things

1. We drove to Payson, a town that's two hours away from us, so we could return the rental car from our vacation.  Whilst there, we ate at Macky's Grill.  For dessert, I was lured into ordering this divine piece of heaven on a plate.  It's called "Southwest Cheesecake."  It's a piece of cheesecake wrapped into a tortilla, deep-fried, rolled in cinnamon- sugar, sliced, topped with strawberries and whipped cream, served with vanilla ice cream.



(I was mentally tortured because I shared this with the whole family, but I secretly wanted to eat the whole thing myself. Being selfless is next to impossible when Southwest Cheesecake is concerned.)

2. Now that we're back from vacation, we picked up our trusty dogs from my in-laws.  They live the retired life over there with no kids to poke at them, no cows to pursue, and no patrols around the chicken coop.  After a little R & R, they were ready to come home. Boone was happy to take up his post as captain of the truck bed when we hauled a load of steers to the butcher on Saturday.
Feeling the wind in his fur = 1 happy dog

3. I came back from vacation with a yucky head cold.  To add insult to injury, I burned charred my little ol' tongue on some scalding hot cocoa.  Stuffed up nose + burned tongue =  pure misery. I can't breathe, smell, or taste anything at all.

4. I've been looking forward to devouring my 5th  mini Pumpkin Pie Blizzard this month at Dairy Queen. They only have them for a limited time, so I try to enjoy them as often as possible before they're gone for another year. As a bonus, the new mini size allows me to indulge in my cherished blizzard with only a fraction of the calorie guilt. However, with my stuffy nose and burned tongue, I'm going to have to put off my weekly DQ date until I can taste again.  Boo Hoo.

5. During school, I've been teaching my baby how to count money.  We play a game where she buys things around the house and counts out the correct amount of change. She decided to buy our little hooligan dog, Chigger, for 15 cents.  She asked her dad if  Chigger could "really" be hers. He said, "Sure!"  From that moment on, she's taken her ownership quite seriously.  She has him sleep on her extra pillow, puts her doll blanket over him, and brushes "her dog" every day.  She was devastated when she tried to kiss him goodnight on the lips last night and he tore through the house and retreated under our bed, never to be seen again.  I don't think he likes all this new attention from his new "owner".  

6. We got a hold of the entire Andy Griffith series, and my kids have been watching an episode every day after school.  They LOVE it! The only problem is that the show is so old that none of their friends have ever seen it.  My kids go around making obscure references to Barney Fife and their buddies get a blank stare on their face.  But when they tell these things to my dad, he can remember the entire episode, and laughs right along with them.  Sometimes old shows are the best shows!

7.The feline warrior who keeps the mice at bay around here is looking a bit ragged.  We are currently in the heat of our annual hairball wars.  Here's how it works: I catch her sleeping peacefully somewhere and I sneak up to her with the scissors.  Then I commence to cutting chunks of matted-up fur off of her back until she wakes up, comes to full conscious awareness, and tries to swat at me with her evil claws.  We are currently on our 7th session.  Each session lasts approximately 2 minutes and 17 seconds. I'm considering wearing our welding gloves and having an all-out war with her until I get the job done. The kids call her "Kitty-Cutes."  I call her "that @#$%  CAT".  Doesn't she know this is for her own good? Doesn't she know that I have her best interests at heart?  I have only one thing to say:  I shall be victorious!!! 

Thanks for reading this madness,


Monday, October 17, 2011

San Antonio

After entering Tennessee politics and serving two terms in Congress, Davy Crockett became disillusioned with political life and decided to leave it all behind him to explore Texas. Upon his departure from Tennessee, he made the famous quote:
"You may all go to hell and I will go to Texas."-Davy Crockett
Crockett fell in love with Texas, and died a year later fighting for its independence in the Battle of the Alamo on March 6, 1836.
On the last leg of our vacation, we stayed with good friends in San Antonio. You can't go to San Antonio without touring the Alamo. That's like living in Arizona your whole life and never hiking the Grand Canyon. Oh wait, I've never hiked the Grand Canyon. Bad Example. Moving on.

The story of the Alamo is absolutely fascinating and inspirational. It embodies the spirit and pride of Texas, and seeing the old architecture makes history come alive. Since returning home, I've been doing more research on David Crockett, Tejanos, and The Battle of the Alamo. It's all very interesting history!

After touring the Alamo, we decided to do some sight seeing on San Antonio's famous River Walk.

After a short jaunt down the river walk with six kids in tow, it became apparent that this could be a whole day shopping adventure in itself. After our history lesson at the Alamo, we decided that what we really needed was sustenance. Serious sustenance. So we ditched the river and had to go and experience a cuisine that is unique to San Antonio. Henry's Puffy Tacos. Pretty tasty stuff!

Our time in San Antonio was way too short. We realized that a family could realistically have an entire vacation in that city alone.

We had a LOOOOONG drive ahead of us, but we did manage to stop in El Paso long enough to know that we want to go back to take advantage of their dirt cheap western furniture, decor, jewelry, and boots.

I almost bought a pair of Texas Longhorns to hang in my living room, but upon further reflection, I realized that they wouldn't fit in the rental car. The horns would have had to lay across the kids' laps and out the window if we wanted to get them home. That would have been a torturous 7 hours in the car. (But don't think for one second that I didn't consider doing it!) Perhaps we will have to make a special bargain hunting trip to El Paso with our truck in the near future.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

South Padre Sea Life and More!

While we were on South Padre Island, we decided to do some exploring.  We visited the Sea Turtle Rescue, and toured the tanks with various types of sea turtles in all different stages of rehabilitation.  Many had shark damage to their limbs, or damage to their bodies from getting caught in floating debris. Most will be released back into the water, but the most severely damaged turtles will stay at the rescue.

The one thing that all sea turtles have in common: they look grouchy.  Really grouchy.

 This big guy woke up on the wrong side of the tank.

 This one had a gorgeous shell.

This one would easily fit in the palm of my hand.

Another grouch.

After visiting the sea turtles, we made our way up the island with 4 wheel drive.  This is one thing I LOVED about South Padre.  After passing the last of the buildings, there are miles and miles of open beach, accessible with a truck, or jeep.  We just drove right out onto the beach and up the coastline.  There were tons of families  having barbecues on the beach.  It was so laid back.

As soon as we started barbecuing, the seagulls became our very best friends.  They hovered our area by the droves in hopes of getting a little snack.

Few people ever make it up the beach this far, so there are tons of seashells for the picking.

On our way back, we stopped to look at some of the new beach subdivisions going in.  

I think these houses are so classy looking.

After our tour of the island, we all had a delicious lunch at a restaurant called "The Big Donkey".  It had the finest and most unique salsa we've ever eaten.  It was orange in color from the variety of Serrano peppers used in the salsa, and it was served warm.  I can almost taste it now!

Another perk of vacationing with another family is that we were able to each have a nice date night without the kids.  We watched their kids one evening, and they watched ours on the next night.  On our date night, we ate tasty fish tacos with Charro beans.  Then we relaxed on the patio pier overlooking the bay at sunset.  What a relaxing evening with my sweetheart!

I'll end with this picture.  This sign made me laugh because it combines two of my great loves: Texas and Dr. Pepper!
God Bless Texas.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Texas Vacation: Day 2

When our friends invited us to join them for a week long vacation at a beach house in South Texas, we were beyond excited! When we left our house, it was 37 degrees and snowing!!!  22 hours later, we were soaking up sunshine on the beaches of South Padre Island, Texas! It was a balmy 89 degrees with a low of 77.  Pure Paradise!

Most folks think "wild spring break" destination when they think of South Padre Island, but we practically had the beach to ourselves! The water was warm, the waves were perfect, and the beaches were clean.  It's the most laid back, family atmosphere I've experienced. 

Nothing says "relaxation" like having warm sand between your toes.

We started off our beach trip with a lesson on building sandcastles from a professional sand sculptor.  Who knew that  you could do so much with sand? After we learned the tricks of the trade, we put our new skills to good use. We had the rest of the trip to perfect our new art form.

The best thing about vacationing with our friends is that we all have kids who are the same ages.  That means that the kids always had a buddy or two to play with.  Whether they were swimming, building sand castles, riding scooters, or just hanging out, we never had to worry about them.  They got along splendidly, and they stayed out of our hair.  It was a brilliant plan! Our family had the downstairs house, and our friends had the upstairs home.  Our kids were together 24 hours a day, and had a blast!



Waiting for a wave.

 Totally cute!

Building sand castles with intricate canal systems and moats.

Boogie boarding and body surfing.

The bay side of the island is very calm, but we stayed on the gulf side, where the waves were terrific for boogie boarding.  The ocean was so warm that it felt like bath water.  Our kids stayed in the waves for hours and hours every day.  We had to yank them out of the water against their will at dinner time. I'm convinced they would swim from dawn to dusk every day if we would have let them.

The island has gorgeous sunsets, too!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fabulous Family Vacation!

You'll never believe where I've been!

That's Right!!!!T-E-X-A-S.  WoooHoooo!!!

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I feel like I was supposed to be Texan, but somehow I was born and raised in Arizona.  I would be an amazing Texan! I love big hair, bling, boots, and leather.  

Our Texas vacation began with a stop to visit the World Famous King Ranch!

The King Ranch is the largest cattle ranch in the United States. It sprawls over nearly a million acres, an area that is larger than the state of Rhode Island!

There is a rich history on this ranch, and we were thrilled to get to see it in person.

If you'd like to read more about the King Ranch, they have a great website:

The famous "running W" brand has always been synonymous with the King Ranch.

The King Ranch is also known for their high quality horses and development of Santa Gertrudis cattle.  The Santa Gertrudis breed is a blend of 3/8 Brahman and 5/8 Shorthorn cattle. 

After touring the ranch, we headed into Kingsville to visit the King Ranch Saddle Shop. I was expecting to walk into a regular saddle shop with tack and aisles of saddles.


I was SO wrong.

I walked through that door and entered into Texas Heaven.

My husband scraped me off the floor, and then we shopped.

I wanted everything in the store.  I wanted much.  I wanted all.

I need this bovine in my life.

Now that I've seen this furniture, my living room feels uninspired and mundane.  I need more cowhide in my life.  I need more leather.  I need to live at the King Ranch Saddle Shop.

Yes, Please.

I need this before Thanksgiving.  Every turkey should come served on this plate.  Every cut of beef should be served on this plate.  Every ranch wife should own this plate. I should own this plate.  I do not yet own this plate, but it will be on my Christmas wish list.  It's so pretty that it should be on my wall for the world to see.

And this Christmas tree.... it has "Texas" written all over it. Texas Christmas trees are cooler than Arizona Christmas trees.  Deer antler trees blow the Arizona Tumbleweed Christmas tree out of the water.

Now that I've been to the King Ranch Saddle Shop... my life will never be the same.  These pictures don't even scratch the surface of the rugged western beauty in that shop.  It's "Cowboy Classy" to the max.  There is jewelry, clothing, luggage... you name it, they have it.  

With a heavy heart, I left the store without even getting the chance to buy the whole thing.  But  there is hope...

They have a website!

Go. Browse. Be Inspired.

Our visit to Kingsville was a great start for our fabulous trip to TEXAS!

Note: This is NOT a paid advertisement for The King Ranch Saddle Shop. They have no idea who I am.  I just think their stuff is dreamy, and I want to live there.  Forever.  Amen.