Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Texas Road Trip Continued!

What would a trip to Texas be without a stop to an awesome feedlot? There were cattle as far as the eye could see. In our part of the world, cattle get sold to "buyers" and they load them up on cattle trucks to be shipped to that far-off land called "Texas". My kids thought it was cool to see pictures of the type of places our cattle go to after we sell them.

Every road-trip needs an ice-cream pit stop.  At this Dairy Queen, you can "Texas Size" your meal. So funny!

We also stopped at Cavender's in Amarillo because we don't have one in Arizona.

I bought my husband a little souvenir there. It's a cowhide Bible cover.

After we arrived in McKinney and made our huge surprise stop to pick up Gina, we spent the rest of the day shopping in McKinney Square.

First we ate breakfast at a place called "Spoons".  Then we made our way around the square to shop.

I fell in love with this vintage license plate wall art.  I almost bought it but it was just a teeny bit more than I wanted to pay for it.  Now I'm sad that I left it in the shop. I don't know where I would have put it in my house, but my walls look bare without it. 

Funny sign. We couldn't stop saying "dadgum" after that.

Here is the only armadillo we saw on the whole trip.  We were all looking forward to taking a picture of a real armadillo, dead or alive,  because none of us have ever seen one and Gina told us that armadillo road kill was everywhere.  Evidently they must hibernate in February or something because we never saw a single one! We had no plans to touch one though because we've been told you can get leprosy from them.  Does anyone know if that's really true??? Please enlighten us all if you do.  I always wanted to taste armadillo after hearing a George Strait song that says, "I know a man who cooks armadillo, tastes so sweet he calls it pie".....but now I won't touch it with a ten foot pole because of the leprosy scare. LOL!

I digress....

This shop had the most gorgeous tops in it! We all fell in love with everything on the racks.

Next, we went into a swanky shop called "Sharla's" that had imported goods from Europe. They sold luxurious soaps, perfumes, make-up and more.  They had $200.00 umbrellas from Paris and the most gorgeous hats I've ever seen! They were made by the same designer who makes hats for Princess Kate.  Wouldn't it be fun to buy a fancy hat for the Kentucky Derby or some other event? This hat cost more than my entire trip to Texas...that's all I'll say. I'm not sure we could have afforded anything in that shop, but it was fun to experience it's elegance.

We shopped at an antique mall and I couldn't resist taking these pictures of the creepiest dolls I've ever seen.  I decided to share them with you in case you needed a chuckle today.

 It was a gorgeous day to sip on some iced tea and watch the hustle and bustle of the square.

Later that evening, we changed clothes and came back to the square to eat dinner at an Italian restaurant called "Sauce". It was so much fun!

Then we went back to "Spoons" for dessert and coffee.  We sent this bad camera phone pic below to our husbands who all got together to have a barbecue back home with our combined 21 children! I can only imagine the chaos that ensued.  

 The next day, I didn't take many pictures. We went to a mall in Frisco to eat at The Cheesecake Factory. Then we saw a movie, and shopped 'til we dropped! (At home, our nearest mall is 3 hours away.)

Later that evening, we threw a Baby Shower for Gina!!!

On Sunday, we had to say good bye and make the 17 hour drive back to Arizona.  We always take a foot picture before we leave.  We had our traveling shoes on that day, and I think our different shoes are representative of our vastly different personalities.  We come from all walks of life with unique strengths and interests. What's amazing is that we each have something special to add to the group and we are all the very best of friends!

We had a ball in Texas, and made lots of fabulous memories that will make us smile for years to come.!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Texas Road Trip

I just got back from a fabulous Road-trip with some of my very best friends! Our friend Gina and her family moved to Texas a year ago and we were missing her. She's due to have her fourth baby at the end of April, so we thought it would be exciting to hop in a car and go to Texas to see her and throw her a little baby shower.

We had a 17 hour drive through New Mexico and the panhandle of Texas before arriving at our destination in McKinney.  Here we are passing through New Mexico...only 15 hours to go!!!

Here we are with crazy wind-blown hair at the Texas border.  Some strangers took our picture and it was too funny to leave out. I think the winds were at least 50 mph. Ha Ha!We arrived at our hotel at midnight Texas time.  After a little rest, we woke up in the morning, and got ready to go and surprise Gina at her front door step.

We wore these crazy shirts to commemorate the day.  The guy in the lobby took our photo for us.  We were only 20 minutes away from our big SURPRISE!

Don't we look excited!?!

We rolled up to her little place in the countryside, piled out of the car and waited for the big moment!!! We caught a little video of it with an iPhone. It was windy out!

Here I am with Gina!

Her baby belly was the main event!

More of our adventure to come!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

7 Random Things

1. We've been having a ton of drama on our little road this week.  First, a low- rider ghetto car careened off the road into the ditch in front of our house late one night. The driver was going so fast that he popped up out of the ditch and ended up in our front yard, high- centered on a boulder with his two front tires spinning in mid-air. The back seat passengers ran off into the forest immediately.  When the driver spun out in our yard and realized he was going nowhere, he and the passenger switched seats before the sheriff arrived. Turns out, the real driver (now the passenger) was heavily intoxicated and his girlfriend (the real passenger) said she fell asleep at the wheel.  An hour and a half later they finally removed the completely totaled car from my yard.  No one was ticketed because it happened on private property and the sheriff couldn't prove that they switched seats because it was my word against theirs. The sheriff didn't even go looking for the passengers who were hiding in the woods. Nice. Real nice.

A few days later, a car crashed into the pasture next to my house, taking out the stop sign and the corner of the fence.  Sometimes people take our "back road" to avoid the highway when they've got something to hide. I'm ready to move off of this road.

2. I'm doing our taxes this week so I have stacks of papers EVERYWHERE! With any luck, I'll be done today. Hallelujah!

Pureology Hydrate Condition Large 1/2 Gallon

3. I really like this stuff. It's Pureology Hydrate Shampoo and Conditioner. It costs a small fortune but has lasted over 4 months. I have long hair and wash my hair daily.  I spoke of it in THIS post, and I'm finally convinced that it has improved the condition of my hair dramatically from the time I started using it. I'm a believer.

4. I made an impulse purchase of a beautiful Red Velvet Cake with cream cheese frosting on Saturday while I was in the valley, and then proceeded to leave the whole darn thing sitting in my dad's refrigerator. I didn't remember to grab it until I was over an hour into my three and a half hour drive home. By that time it was far too late to turn around for it.  My beloved cake is gone, gone, gone and I didn't get a single bite. I hope you enjoy it, Dad.

5. My dad had his hands full babysitting my three kids and my three month old niece all by himself this weekend for long periods of time while the rest of us prepared for a bridal shower. He took the grand-kids out for pizza and games, went to Bass Pro Shop to practice shooting and casting lures with fishing poles, and  they helped him split wood. I'm proud of him. Babysitting is tough work!

6. We're going to tile the wall behind the bathtub this weekend. And by "we" I mean my husband. Say a prayer for him.

7. I'm off to go look at a horse prospect for one of my kiddos.

Happy Tuesday!


Monday, February 20, 2012

Valet Parking Debacle

Have you ever experienced valet parking?

I went down to the valley for a bridal shower this weekend and had to do some shopping for the bride.  Twice in one day I was faced with the dilemma of having to either use valet parking, or park far away and walk.  This NEVER  happens to me in my "real" life. There is not a single place on this mountain that has valet parking.  But evidently that's how they "roll" in Scottsdale.

I have to tell you that I totally panicked!

I pulled into the parking lot of my first stop and there was a sign that said "valet only". There were six guys waiting to open my door and take my vehicle to an undisclosed location. I started to sweat because:

A. I had no cash in my wallet for a valet
B. I have no idea how much you tip a valet
C. I didn't want to use valet parking.

I was trapped! There was no way to turn around.  I just rolled the window down and embarrassingly told the guys that I didn't need them to park my vehicle. They looked at me like I was a lunatic because there were no other options.  So I practically squealed the tires as I gunned it past the parking kiosk and went down the road. I ended up parking in a neighborhood a block away and then proceeded to jay-walk across a four lane highway to get to the store.

I felt like a total dork/cheapskate/nerd/hillbilly/redneck/loser.

After that humiliating episode, I went to Scottsdale Fashion Square for my very first time to buy a bridal shower gift from her registry at Crate and Barrel.  Unfortunately, the only one I knew of was at the most posh shopping mall in Arizona.  Scottsdale Fashion square feels a bit like Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.  There are expensive cars everywhere, and trophy wives with designer handbags abound.  As soon as I pulled into the parking lot, there were valet parking signs everywhere and my hands got cold and clammy.  I made a bee-line for the exit and parked in a construction area.  It was a nice day for a long walk.

For some reason, the thought of valet parking brings up a ton of  hidden emotions that I apparently need to work through.

1. I feel like parking in valet is a total rip-off. There are starving children in Africa and people pay $10 to have someone park their car for them. Waste of money!!!

2. God gave me two legs to walk from the parking lot myself.

3. What if they wreck my truck?

4. The thought of valet parking is an invasion of privacy. What if they don't like the country music on my radio? What if they think my truck isn't nice enough when they park Ferraris all day? What if there's a french fry wedged in the back seat? What if they look into the glove box and find the emergency toilet paper roll?

5. What if they steal the change out of the ash tray?

This last question brings up the worst of my issues.  I have a hard time trusting strangers.  In the back of my mind, I think that there is a risk of them stealing something out of my truck. And I'm not just talking about valet parking attendants.  Whether it's at the car wash or the tire shop, I have a phobia about people stealing my junk.  Whenever I have to hand the keys over to someone, I dump all of the change into my purse, take out all of the CD's and my i-pod, lock the toolbox and take out the registration papers.  Over-kill, I know. But I don't get that warm fuzzy feeling about handing my keys over to teenage boys.  I have visions of them joy riding in my Ford with the radio blasting loud rap music, buying their friends sodas from money out of my ash tray....all while I'm picking out dinnerware in Crate and Barrel.

I love to shop, but I've never been so glad to leave a mall before!  I was totally out of my comfort zone!

Do you think my feelings on valet parking are justified, or am I totally paranoid?  How about you? Do you ever valet park?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Triple Holiday means 3x the Fun!

Today was a trifecta of holidays! 
1. Valentine's Day
2. Arizona's 100th Birthday
3. A Snow Day!

Three holidays means three times the fun!

We played in the snow this morning.

Then we drove to the shop to pick up Dad for a Valentine's lunch with the 4 loves of his life, and ate at Mickey D's. 

After lunch, we dropped our date off and drove home in heavy snow with 4 Wheel drive.

When we walked in the front door, we peeled our winter boots off, stoked up the fire, and warmed the kitchen up by baking some sugar cookies to deliver to our neighbors and favorite older folks.

I made the dough and frosting, and let the kids do all the rest!

If the size of the mess is any indication of the amount of fun they had, then I'd say they had an absolute blast decorating cookies!

Hopefully the recipients of our baked goods appreciated the "uniqueness" of each cookie they received. 

Would you like a little bit of cookie with your frosting? Ha Ha! This one had to be culled from the gift selection. It may put someone into sugar shock.

Here are the Royal Tasters making sure that the cookies passed inspection before they made their deliveries.

They also took snow shovels with them on their cookie deliveries to clear walkways as acts of neighborly "love" for Valentine's Day.

After the deliveries were made, it was time to burn off all of that sugar with some more fun in the snow.

Happy Valentine's Day!


Monday, February 13, 2012

Homeschooling: A Saul to Paul Conversion Part II

For Part 1, click HERE.

The Saga Continues:

...Out of the blue one day, my husband approached me.

He said, "I know this is going to sound totally crazy, but I think we should consider homeschooling the kids."

Then I cried.

The tears flowed freely because I knew at that moment, without a shadow of a doubt, that God was speaking to us both very clearly.

I said, "I know. I've been feeling the same way, but was afraid to tell you."

Being the whole-hearted person that I am, I decided to submerge myself in a monumental quest for knowledge. And I DO mean monumental. I wanted to know the good, bad, and ugly of homeschooling.  I was still concerned that I would uncover the "smoking gun" that would convince us that this was a bad idea.

Within days, I had 16 books on my kitchen table about homeschooling and public education.  I had websites bookmarked about homeschooling laws in our state. I had printed copies of the first long term studies on homeschooling that followed  hundreds of children from elementary school to their 30's. I also had data from public school studies.

I poured over those resources as if my very life depended on knowing every detail.

Then it happened! Just as Saul had a life changing conversion on the road to Damascus and went from boldly persecuting Christians to following Christ and  passionately proclaiming the Gospel, my eyes were opened to truth of homeschooling, and for the first time, I was a believer!

At first, I was angry because everything I had believed about home education was a total lie, and the myths had been perpetuated throughout all my years in public school. I never thought to question them, or think outside the box.

Then I felt like a fool for never having researched it myself before forming an opinion on it. I'm usually a skeptic by nature, and I felt ashamed for blindly believing what I was told without checking the source.

My studies continued with interviews of 6 public school teachers. We even had high ranking school officials from our district over to our house for dessert. We peppered them with questions. Surprisingly, more than a few of them were quite frustrated in the classroom and wouldn't fault me for homeschooling. More surprising, were the additional 5 teachers I met from our district who quit teaching and are now homeschooling their own children because of what they witnessed happening in the classroom.

Every night when my husband got home, I would share with him what I learned about that day during my research. Then we would sit side by side bantering back and forth about passages from the books we were reading.  We devoured every piece of published literature about education that we could get our hands on. We had so much to learn about the truths of homeschooling and so little time to do it.

We were about to drop an educational bombshell of epic proportions on to our families , and we knew without a doubt that we better have our facts straight during the interrogation period, or we'd be viewed as lunatics for homeschooling our kids.  We wanted to be prepared for the fall-out.

In June, my mom came up for a week to help me paint my house.  It took me two days, but I finally worked up the courage to talk to her about it. I knew that out of everyone, she'd be the most open to the idea. We were both on ladders painting the eaves of the house when I approached the subject:

"So...we've been sort of  thinking a little bit about maybe, possibly...*cough* *cough* homeschooling the kids." *cough*


"I said,  we're sort of feeling that God might be calling us to teach the kids at home. How do you feel about that?"

There was a pause.  Then she said, "Homeschooling was almost un-heard of when we sent you to public school, but it seems like more and more people these days are doing it. If that's what God is calling you to do, then who am I to stand in your way?"

Then I began to tell her about all that I had learned over the following days.

After the first stage of our research, we were convinced that homeschooling was beneficial, but we had to shift our focus.  The second phase of research involved interrogating every veteran homeschooling parent that we knew so that we could work out the nuts and bolts of what to do. We specifically sought out the ones who had completed their homeschooling journey and had kids who were grown and gone.  They had so much wisdom and insight to offer us.  We also talked to several homeschool graduates to hear about their experiences: what they liked, what they would do different, and what their over-all opinions were of their education.

As if that weren't enough, we went to our state's homeschool conference and convention and took every class we could to educate ourselves.  Then we poured over tons of different curriculum choices, and read their reviews on-line.  We carefully selected our kindergarten materials and ordered our books.

All that was left to do was drop the homeschooling bomb on our friends and family.

Their reactions were all over the map.  Some were supportive, some thought we were stupid, some thought we would wreck our kids' lives. Others chose to reserve judgement and take a "wait and see" attitude.  My church friends went slack jawed when I told them of our decision because they knew the old me, and I had to convince them that God had changed my heart and I that I had finally done my homework about homeschooling.  I also had to eat a LOT of humble pie. Thankfully, they all still loved me despite my bad judgement in this area.

I'm convinced that God allowed me to be a homeschool hater for a time to keep me humble and help me have compassion when the worst of the fall-out hit.  We had a few people who shot us some real daggers. One asked us if we were associated with some bizarre family who claimed to homeschool and were arrested for making their kid live in a tent.  Then on another occasion someone told us our kids would be in high school and not know how to read if we chose to homeschool.  It cut us to the core because after all of the years of knowing us and our character, they still said those things.  Yet God quickly reminded me that not so long ago, I too had a horribly flippant mouth about things in which I really knew nothing about.  But for the grace of God, I might be going around with the same ignorant views today.

Throughout the summer, God kept confirming to us that we had made the right decision over and over again in a myriad of different ways. My mother and I attended an all-day craft class with 30 other ladies, and across the table sat all of the kindergarten teachers at the school my son was enrolled in.  Throughout the day, they complained about their whiny little students, the terrible parents, and how they had too many kids in their class.  My mom just looked at me wide-eyed when we left that evening and said, "Nell, I think you made the right decision."

My husband went to the school and withdrew my son's enrollment in kindergarten.  The week before public school started, I was outside watering the flowers along my driveway when a big yellow school bus stopped in front of my house.  The bus driver opened the door and introduced herself. She told me that she would be driving my son to school each day.  I told her that we withdrew him from the school and that she could scratch him off of her bus route list.   I watched the bus disappear down the road and the smell of the exhaust lingered in my nose.  At that moment, it became real to me.   My family was about to embark upon the biggest and most challenging adventure of our lives; filled with all sorts of unknowns and nay-sayers.  We were breaking new ground and blazing our own trail with many people watching and waiting for us to fail.

My stomach was suddenly filled with butterflies as the weightiness of our choice and its implications began to sink in.

Could I really do this homeschooling thing?

To Be Continued......

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Snippets of the Weekend

A 4-H Horse Meeting

Bringing Protein Supplement to the cows.

Rollerskating at the Park

A Bike Ride on "The Road to Nowhere" with Pop Pop

(They all look like teeny tiny dots at the end of the road, but the sky looked so blue and the mountains looked so pretty that I just couldn't bare to zoom in on them and miss the scenery.)

Going for a ride with Grandma.

Eating the best Chile Rellenos on the mountain.

Dog sitting our favorite girl, Milly.