Thursday, December 31, 2015

Closing the Book on 2015

The time has come to, once again, close the book on another year. Like those that precede it, 2015 was a year of growth for our little family. Wonder Boy literally sprouted up a couple of inches, coming nearly eye-to-eye with his dad as I start this write up. But he grew in some less noticeable ways as well. He is so much more independent and mature. He can cook a few of his favorite meals (in other words, he learned the joy of using a crock pot), he can handle laundry for the whole family, and he discovered there is quite a large world out there waiting for him away from the small pond that is our home town and family.

Wonder Boy handled these leaps in size and maturity with perfect ease. Wonder Dad is also coming to grips with this jolly brown giant that shares our home. But I'll admit to some trepidation on my part. I am SO BEYOND PROUD to see him stand so confidently on his own. But I do not trust the world around him at all. That's my job, right? But I am learning that an even bigger part of my job is trusting in the lessons we have spent the last 14+ years trying to impart. He's ready for these small steps away from the security of home and family. And by taking these small steps now maybe he'll be prepared to help ME get past the BIG steps that loom ever larger on our horizon.

When we were ringing in the start of 2015, I confessed that what I really wanted for the year to come was to step away from my computer and get out there and enjoy a few adventures as a family. I am happy to say, as I close out this year, that we really did it! We made a couple of big trips together, but more than that, we just stepped away from the path of least resistance - that well worn rut that is our daily routine - and tried new things. I enjoyed our trips and am hoping we can fit in a few more in the year to come.

Mas y mas (more and more). That is my goal for 2016. We got off on a good foot in 2015. Let's just push those boundaries a bit further in 2016 and see where it takes us!

Happy New Years Everyone! May your year be blessed beyond measure!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Holiday Wrap Up

There was much for our little clan to celebrate as we close out another wonderful year together. We were blessed to see many of our family and friends over the course of this Christmas break. We didn't get the chance to all gather at once, but that just means we got to spread the holiday cheer a bit longer this year.

We started off our holiday tour of Texas with a trip down to Wharton to visit with Nanny and the crew down there. They rolled out the red carpet and welcomed us with open arms and a stuffed table. Our time ended too quickly, but at least we got to spend the afternoon together as a family. Nanny has had a rough year, health-wise, and it was a joy to spend this time with her. I am hoping that our visit helped to bring a bright spot to her day as well.

Just a few days later, the 3 of us enjoyed our traditional-for-us Christmas Eve festivities: an early service, a special dinner, a reading by Wonder Boy, and an always anticipated gift exchange! There were some FUN THINGS under the tree this year. One of the highlights (for me) was watching Wonder Boy open a seriously surprising gift: a melodica. As he unwrapped it, he looked rather confused and it was obvious he just didn't even know how to react to it! But by the time he unboxed it and tried out his first tune, he was hooked! I'm also pleased to say he entertained us throughout our holiday travels with it. NOTHING breaks up a 3 hour car ride like a lively tune from the back seat.

Christmas Day brought the Huntsville family into town. We enjoyed another over stuffed table and another afternoon of catching up with family. The 3 youngest had a great time unwrapping gifts and playing with Wonder Boy. Wonder Dad and I enjoyed having the littles around too. There is just nothing like the holidays with young kids. And while I am in no rush for grand-kids, I do get glimpses of things to come and it warms my heart.

After 3 separate family Christmas celebrations, we were able to prolong our holiday gatherings with trips to see friends in San Antonio and in Katy. It was a great way to wrap up our vacation. And it was our yearly reminder of the things that truly matter in life - precious time with those we love the most. I feel renewed after this time away from the hustle and bustle of life, surrounded by those I love the most, my heart completely full.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Fall Premiere

Woo hoo! It's concert season again for the Boy and his pals in the middle school orchestra!

This term has seen the Boy move up to the more advanced orchestra at his school. And with that move, the music has gotten exponentially more difficult. But it has also gotten even more beautiful to hear!

2015 Fall Symphony Orchestra Concert

We have all been looking forward to this performance. I know that Wonder Boy has been a bit nervous, but the time he has spent practicing has really paid off.

The concert was just as wonderful as I knew it would be. And the only drawback is that it has me itching for their next performance (less than a month away!).

Monday, October 5, 2015

Fantastic Fourteen!

It's here. Wonder Boy's big day! He's knee deep in the waters that make up his teenage years now. And we are as proud of him as ever!

Wonder Boy ...

Your big day takes us back to the day you were born,
Like a little angel you opened your eyes, your beauty they adorned.

You looked at us and gave us a smile so divine,
even in the darkness, your sweet smile did shine!

Today when we see you, the smile seems much the same
As are the deep chocolate eyes, from Heaven they came.

But even more than your looks, we love your precious heart,
we love also your keen mind, so probing and smart.

No one else can touch us like you do,
And we hope you know just how much we truly love you!

Happy Birthday Wonder Boy!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Project 14 to 14: Day 14

Today, on the Boy's last day as a 13 year old, we will be sharing some "words of wisdom" found safe inside some crunchy cookies:

These came from a special almost-birthday dinner of take out from of our favorite places. And really, I wish the Boy could have seen these the day BEFORE this special dinner. Because, unfortunately, these are lessons he had to learn the hard way this morning - especially the top "fortune."

Since the Boy's birthday falls on a Monday (and a very busy one at that), we had hoped to spend the day celebrating his last moments as a 13 year old. But instead, we spent a large part of the day in discipline mode. BUT, in the end, we all came together for this special dinner and we got these wonderful little reminders of how the world really works.

We all have bad days. Even on "special" days. But love, especially the love of one's family, is just the fire to keep us all going.

At least, that is the message that I hope the Boy will take out of this day.

In our look back to 2014, about a month before the Boy's 13th birthday, we see BOTH of my guys together:

This little snap shows the guys enjoying a new family hobby. For Wonder Dad's birthday that summer, the Boy and I surprised him with a bow. It's something Wonder Dad had always wanted to try. And he had SUCH a great time with his bow, that it didn't take long until the Boy was clamoring to join him at the range. So, we invested in a second bow and let the Boy give it a try as well. Some of our best times (when the weather is not too hot) come out at the archery range these days. It is my hope that the boy will long enjoy this sport.

And with this share, we wrap up this project for the year.

Tomorrow the Boy will celebrate another birthday. And I'm sure that I will again wonder why it is that time has to march on so quickly.

But for today, I am going to sit back and enjoy knowing that, even on his not-so-great days, Wonder Boy is a good kid, with a good heart. And I hope that, as he looks back on this day, he will understand that he has a family that loves him no matter what.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Project 14 to 14: Day 13

Day 13 has arrived and it's GAME DAY once again! Wonder Boy's team is off to a FANTASTIC start to the season as they picked up their second win (4 to 2) over another very tough opponent! Wonder Boy didn't score this week, but he had a GREAT assist and took some pretty nice corner kicks as well!

We got a breath of fresh air for this game too! It's not what I would call "cool" just yet, but the more moderate temperatures sure made a noon ball game more enjoyable for all involved!

In our look back to 2013 today, we see the Boy enjoying his 12th birthday!

This "balloon prank" might be one of his all time favorite birthday pranks. The night before his big day, Wonder Dad and I stayed up quite late, huddled in our closet (in order to keep things on the DL) blowing up more balloons than either of us ever imagined we would be inflating! Then we filled the alcove outside of the Boy's bedroom with said balloons. When he opened his door to start his big day, the balloons went flooding into his room. I don't think we've ever managed to surprise him that much before or since!

I think this might have been one of the Boy's most memorable birthdays. We started with an epic prank, followed it up with ANOTHER prank (we re-gifted a still un-opened Christmas gift), watched the Boy and his soccer team win in spectacular style, and ended the day at dinner with his 2 best friends at his all-time favorite restaurant. It was a GOOD DAY. And I know Wonder Dad and I enjoyed it as much as Wonder Boy!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Project 14 to 14: Day 12

It's Day 12 now and for today's look we get a look that one day will surely be called the classic millenial look:

Phone in hand, Wonder Boy is just like almost all boys his age. He likes to keep his phone handy for those times you need to text a pal, google some interesting fact, or work his way through the latest Crossy Road level.

I think cell phones are to the Boy's generation what big hair and neon clothes were to mine.

I wonder what the in-thing will be for my grandkids? (not that I am in ANY rush to find out!)

For our look back, today we flash back to the Boy's birthday in 2012 (his 11th birthday):

In case you can't tell, that's a pile of brand new underwear wrapped up with paracord bows and a cute little card. These little "gifts" were scattered throughout the house while the Boy was at school that day. Each card had a cute little poem which revealed a clue leading to the next little surprise!

You see, the Boy had been not-so-subtle in letting us know EXACTLY what he wanted for his special day. And the ONE THING he really did NOT want to receive was underwear. SO ...

being the loving, supportive parents that we are, he got a HUGE pile of new underwear and a string of frustrating clues that actually DID lead him to his heart's desire.

Wonder Dad and I MAY have enjoyed this more than the Boy. But only just a bit!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Project 14 to 14: Day 11

On Day 11 of this count down to the Boy's big day, I wanted to show you a glimpse of the Boy in his happy place - sitting at the computer.

Not only is he at the computer, but he's working on a game project. This particular game project is for school, but this is something he would never consider "work." No, this is the boy at his happiest these days. He loves piecing together all the moving parts and creating something he can't wait to share with his friends (and teammates on the Robotics team at school)!

I am always in awe of his creations. And I can't wait to see idea he works on NEXT!

Our look back today, to the morning of his 10th birthday, is one that always makes me laugh out loud!

Come on - you laughed too, right??

Does this look like the face of a boy with one of his favorite foods on the morning of his BIRTHDAY?? NO! It looks like I feel on the morning of an extra early meeting before my first cup of coffee.

But the reality is that this is what the Boy looks like most mornings - including birthdays and even Christmas! He is just not a morning person and never has been. By the time he finished his milk and started in on the cinnamon rolls, he was good to go and ready for a day of fun and celebrations and PRESENTS! But he needs that blood sugar boost like I need my morning caffeine.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Project 14 to 14: Day 10

For Day #10 of this super fun project, I wanted to show off one of my favorite times of the day: BED TIME!

So what is it about bed time that is so special? Well ... I would say that the truly special part is that on most nights (schedule permitting), we still have reading and/or cuddle time with our favorite Boy before lights out. And how many parents of a nearly 14-year-old get to say that?

I really savor this time of day night.

We're a family of avid readers. Wonder Boy has a book he's reading for school and another book he keeps loaded on his e-reader for fun (or long car trips). He has a book he's reading with Wonder Dad. And yet another book he's sharing with me. Yay for books!

So the first part of our nighttime ritual involves quality time with the Boy and a beloved book.

The next part of the process depends on which of us is in there with the Boy: when it's my turn, reading is followed by cuddle time and a discussion of plans for the next day. I find it a great way to wind down and to know that we're all set for the next day. When Wonder Dad has tuck-in duty, serious silly time starts as as the book is closed. I LOVE listening from the next room as the sound of uncontrollable laughter rings out.

And THAT is what makes bed time such a vital part of our routine.

In our look back today, we see Wonder Boy at school on his 9th birthday.

Just look at the glee on his face! Almost every picture I have from this day (and from the party that followed on Saturday) show the boy just like this: bursting to the seams with joy and excitement!

It's an expression like this that just warms me all over. Seeing this kind of joy on the face of your child ... well ... there just are not many things in this life that can top that kind of happiness, imho.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Project 14 to 14: Day 9

Today I want to highlight something that has been a TRUE blessing when it comes to having a teenager in the house:

You don't hear it mentioned very often, but having a teenager in the house can be down right USEFUL!

The Boy is capable of all manner of help these days! He can run a load of wash - and I mean from start to finish. He grabs clothes from all around the house, sorts by color, etc., and when there is enough, he runs them through the washer and dryer, folds and hangs them, and then puts them away!

I got VERY spoiled this summer as this was one of his main duties (when he wasn't away at camp). He also helped out with dusting, vacuuming, care of the dogs, and many more household duties.

It has been such a blessing to ask for his help and know that it will truly be HELPful!

Our look back today is a bit more lighthearted though:

This image, taken just after the start of 2nd grade for the Boy shows off one of his many creative pursuits: balloon twisting!

During this phase, he filled our home with all manner of balloon animals and structures. I loved all of the animals, of course, including the above featured octopus. But my favorites were the structures. And specifically, his "pyramid of Giza." That one led to all kinds of interpretations! He made it once with green balloons to which we then tied smaller, multicolored balloons and used it as a Christmas tree centerpiece for our Christmas Eve celebrations!

I love this aspect of Wonder Boy's personality. He likes to learn new things, to use his hands and raw materials to make something new.

I can respect that.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Project 14 to 14: Day 8

If you haven't noticed it already, there are a lot of sides to my favorite nearly-14 year old! He is a young man of many talents. And he demonstrates one particular skill that always leaves me in awe:

He's a Rubick's cube-style puzzle MASTER!

He started with a pyramid-shaped puzzle, just a little marketing freebie Wonder Dad brought home from a conference. From there he moved on to the classic 3x3 puzzle. And by the time he had that mastered, there was no stopping him. He has a 4x4 cube, a 5x5 cube, a 6x6 cube, a 7x7 cube, another pyramid-shaped puzzle called a "professor pyraminx." And some other odd-shaped, twisty puzzles as well. I can't name them all (I can't recall the names, truth be told). But I LOVE to watch the Boy whiz through them. He can do elaborate patterns and likes to time his efforts to solve even the most mixed-up jumble his Dad or I can produce.

In our look back today, we see what is probably the last of the Super roles the Boy assumed in his youth: Iron Man!

I'll bet you didn't even know Iron Man was a soccer star, did you? I loved that the boy didn't care what he was wearing - if there was a chance for a bit of soccer practice, he was ON IT. He's still that way when it comes to his favorite sport.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Project 14 to 14: Day 7

Wow! A full week down already! Usually, it is when I am not paying attention that time seems to have flown by so quickly. But with this countdown project, you KNOW I have been as attentive as I get. But this week has flown by faster than I care to admit. *sigh*

I'm having fun though - and I think the Boy might be enjoying this too!

And speaking of fun ... the Boy and some of his buddies have been trying out something new on Sunday afternoons for a bit of fun ...


I'll admit, I don't know the first thing about lacrosse. But one of Wonder Boy's closest buddies got a taste for it at camp this summer. And then, as luck would have it, a couple of weeks before school started back up, the University coach decided to see about getting a developmental team put together in the community.

Wonder Boy and his buddies gave a it a try and decided it wasn't a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon (despite the Texas heat). No games yet, mostly just drills and skill building. I think they may get a chance to see a University game some time next month. Should be fun!

In today's flash back, you get to see the Boy as the Amazing Spider Man!

As you can see, the Super Hero phase lasted more than a couple of years in our home. And I've got to tell you, I enjoyed each and every moment of it! Wonder Boy had no doubt in his mind that he would set right all the wrongs in this world. I know he certainly did in my world!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Project 14 to 14: Day 6

Day 6 is here and I'm happy to say that, not only are we counting down the days until Wonder Boy's birthday, but today we celebrate the opening of the fall soccer season! Can I get a hearty "WHOOP!"?

I love watching the Boy play soccer! His game has grown almost as much as he has physically grown! He's a confident midfield man, much like his dad.

This year we threw a bit of a wrench into things though - we moved him up a division. He's now playing in the U16 division instead of U14, so he gives up at least a year to almost every player in the division - and some will even be more than 2 years older. Since this is the age in which boys begin to mature, that age difference can be a pretty big obstacle, but we wanted to push the Boy a bit. In this division he will have to rely on skill and not so much on size to be successful. And another bonus is that he can play again with one of the best coaches he as ever had in rec-play.

They kicked off the season in style, winning 6 - 1 over a very tough team! I am already looking forward to next weekend's game!

In our look back today, I am sharing one of my ALL TIME FAVORITE photos of the Boy:

At this age, the Boy wouldn't answer to his given name. Instead, we all had to refer to him as "the Dash," as in the speedy young man from the Pixar movie, "The Incredibles." Note: I did not say "Dash" - he would respond only to "THE Dash."

Even at preschool, he would only write his name as "Dash" or "the Dash." I am SO thankful we had such a caring and fun-loving teacher that year. She took it all in stride and even allowed him to wear his mask as long as it didn't get in the way of any activity (like splash day!).

Of all of his Hero phases, I think the Dash might be my favorite. I'm not sure why, but seeing this picture (or the others from this age), give an extra tug on my heart strings.

What can I say, I'm just an unabashed sap!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Project 14 to 14: Day 5

I had to wait a while today to get this post done because I really wanted to highlight this part of Wonder Boy's world:

This is the boy and his instructor, Mr. J, at piano lessons! The first year or so the Boy was in lessons, he went through 3 different instructors until we finally landed with Mr. J. All of them were great people and they were all so encouraging in getting the Boy started down this musical road. But Mr. J has been such an important part of the Boy's development at the keys. Mr. J makes lessons fun and exciting - even when working routine scales and pieces. The Boy works very hard to earn Mr. J's praise and we look for that smile on Mr. J's face at the end of each lesson. And Mr. J has been such a blessing all around to our Boy. He has come to hear orchestra performances. He introduced the Boy (& the rest of the family) to a Percussion Studio on campus. He encourages and inspires at every turn!

Lessons are on Friday nights, which is just the perfect way for Wonder Boy to wind down after a long week of school and homework. I know the Boy looks forward to these lessons as much as we look forward to hearing him practice!

In our look back today, we flash back to the Summer of 2005:

Here we see the boy working on a Shrek puzzle. He has always been a fan of puzzles, problems, and brain teasers. And, as you can see here, he started at an early age. But one thing that has always flabbergasted me is that he never solved puzzles in the way I was taught to solve them. For me, I always started with the edges and then matched things up by color until I found a match. However, Wonder Boy never worked that way - he always matched things up by shape. It used to take me by surprise when he would try to match a one piece to another when they were obviously not the same color. I asked him once why he did it that way and he just shrugged and said that it looked like the shape would fit.

It was one of those ah-ha moments for me, where I truly understood that this little person was NOT an extension of myself or his father. That his is completely his own self. At this young age, it can be hard to remember that. But every day I see more and more evidence of this kind of thing. Personally, I get a lot of satisfaction seeing the Boy's unique personality emerging. He's a fun guy to be around and I am enjoying this stage as much as I can!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Project 14 to 14: Day 4

For Day 4's dose of Wonder Boy goodness, I thought I'd give you a healthy helping of puppy love!

Just LOOK at that! My boy and his best girl cuddling on the couch before school. For the longest time, they had a complicated relationship. He was probably 3rd on her list of places from which she would seek attention - unless he had food or wanted to play fetch with her. But straight up cuddling was something she mainly reserved for the cold, wet months (and we all know those are few and far between in this part of the world).

But after Wonder Mutt came into our lives, she loosened up quite a bit. Wonder Mutt garners, no DEMANDS, quite a lot of attention. And since he is usually right under foot, that left the Puppy Princess having to adjust her own expectations. And I think it's worked out pretty well for her. Wonder Boy is ALWAYS in the mood for some puppy love. He never turns her away. I think, on the whole, she probably gets even more attention now than she ever did before the Mutt came into our home. And watching their relationship grow like this has been a joy for all of us.

In our look back today, we get another glimpse of Wonder Boy's softer side:

This picture was snapped a few days after the Boy's 3rd birthday. This time in his life marks the start of his "hero phase." And one of his first heroes was Buzz Lightyear. Oh, how he loved Buzz! And you have to admit, Buzz is pretty darn COOL. The Boy would perch precariously on the edge of any chair, bed, or sofa within reach, stretch his arms out wide, and proclaim "to in-fee and benon!" (translation: "to infinity and beyond!") at the top of his lungs and then launch himself in an attempt to fly (or at least "fall with style", like his hero). And even though I knew I should chastise him for such behavior, it was just SO CUTE, that often I turned a blind eye.

It may be hard to tell, but the Boy is giving a hug to a soft, cuddly version of Buzz in this snapshot. He took that toy with him everywhere we would allow it. It sat beside Wonder Boy in the car (strapped in safely, of course). Buzz had place of honor on the bed. And we couldn't settle on the couch to watch a movie without making sure Buzz had a clear view himself.

A part of me will always see the Boy at this age in my mind's eye. It was such a precious time and I just can't make myself let go of it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Project 14 to 14: Day 3

It's day 3 of this project and so far, the Boy has been a pretty willing participant (even if I haven't told him where the pictures are going)!

Today I wanted to highlight a particular fashion statement that is a signature of Wonder Boy and many of his friends: plain black crew socks.

Honestly, this particular looks could pretty much be representative of Wonder Boy on any given day: cargo shorts, plain colored t-shirt (though the color is not terribly important as long as it's not "girly"), black crew socks, and running shoes. That is his chosen uniform.

It doesn't matter if we are going out to dinner, heading out to church, or preparing for a school day - given a choice, THIS is what the Boy will pull out of his closet.

One of the ladies at work (who has a son just a bit older than my Boy) calls these plain black crew socks "old man socks." I'm not sure I would go that far in describing them, but it does strike me a bit funny - you just never know what the "in" fashion thing is going to be at any age. And please note: she's not putting down Wonder Boy (or her own son who often sports the same fashion statement). It's just one of those quirky things that strikes a chord with her - with us both, I guess.

I have no room to talk, of course. I grew up in the days of big hair and neon EVERYTHING (*shudder*). Heck, even our wedding photos look like the colors were pulled right off of an episode of Miami Vice (oops! there I go showing my age again!).

But seeing the Boy pull these on each morning does bring a smile to my face. And it makes me wonder if he will look back on these photos some day and wonder (much as I do when I browse my high school year books) "What was I thinking?!"

For our look back today, we flash back to the fall of 2003, a couple of weeks before the Boy turned 2 years old.

I don't have some great story about this image, but I wanted to share it anyway. Our Boy has always been easy to share a smile (in familiar settings, anyway). And he's always had an abundance of energy. One of the ways in which we siphoned off some of that energy was regular trips to the neighborhood park - that's where this picture was snapped - on the stairs leading up to the twisty slide. You can tell by the look on his face he's ready and rarin' to go!

That's our Boy!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Project 14 to 14: Day 2

On day #2 of this project, I want to look at Wonder Boy and Wonder Mutt. I really love seeing these two together! The Boy loves his mutt and the Mutt adores him in return. They play and rough house together. The cuddle on the couch. Wonder Boy plays an active role in feeding and caring for his special Mutt. And the Mutt looks after the Boy, even sleeping in his room to guard against ferocious storms, savage dust bunnies, and any other perceived threat to the well being of his favorite teenager.

This particular scene ALWAYS makes me chuckle just a bit. The Mutt actually willingly submits to this - he lets the Boy grab him and cart him off to whatever couch is close by so that they can sneak in a few extra snuggles before school in the morning.

Mind you, if I were to try and lift the Mutt like this, he would wiggle and squirm and do his level best to get all 4 feet back on the floor. But when the Boy scoops him up, the most the Mutt will do is try to lick him all over - he just can't get enough!

For our look back today, we see our Boy on his first birthday. He had SO much fun that day as all manner of friends and family came to celebrate with him. There was cake (his first taste), games both inside and out, and, of course, a stack of presents higher than the Boy could reach.

I know Wonder Boy doesn't have any real memory of this day, but I sure do. It was just one of those great days that I hold onto deep in my heart. The kind I pull back out when I need to focus on something good and pure. And that, for me, is the greatest gift of all.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Project 14 to 14: Day 1

Goodness gracious, it's happened AGAIN! I turned around and my Wonder Boy is approaching ANOTHER birthday!

Last year we were facing the start of the teen years and I'll admit to a fair bit of trepidation. And while, yes, these are some very new waters in which we find ourselves swimming, so far we are treading water together as a family. And really ... who could ask for more?

So ... like we did last year, we're on a count down to the Boy's big day. And as he is turning 14, we're going to start 14 days out and look at where he is TODAY as well as a flash back to the "good ole days."

Let's start with a look at today:

Life with a teenage boy, at least life with THIS teenage boy, is an adventure to say the least! He is this wonderful mix of serious, sappy, silly, sometimes sullen, and smarts all rolled into one big, tall ball of big-guy-in-training. He can be as silly and carefree as a toddler on a playground or as serious, confident, and focused as a PhD student who just defended his dissertation. And he switches back and forth between these facets of his personality on a dime.

If you are not careful, it can take you by surprise - give you whiplash, but the journey really is a fun one at this age and I am truly trying to soak it all up.

Looking back, we get a small glimpse of us with the Boy on his actual BIRTH day.

Talk about a WILD RIDE - bringing this boy into the world was the stuff of (family) legend. But at the end of 16 hours of labor, Wonder Dad and I both just basked in the glow of transitioning from couple to a family. I can say that, nearly 14 years into this chapter of our lives, there is no other way we could be. This one special, miraculous, magnificent day has shaped every day that has followed it and that ever will follow it.

And we couldn't be more blessed.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Big Man On Campus

Well ... it's happened, we blinked and another summer has flown past us. And today our Wonder Boy kicks off his 8th grade year.

As you can see from this look back to his first day of kindergarten, he is no longer the shy little boy content to huddle on his mom's lap. Of course, having him on my lap these days is not quite the same experience it was all those years ago. He towers a good 6" over me now and those long legs of his have to fold quite a bit in order for him to fit.

But that shine in his eyes - that remains, as does his excitement over the start of a new school year.

This summer has been a pretty busy one for him. And while I know he might wish for a few more slow paced days, I also know that there is a big part of him that is ready to spend time with his "buds," learn a few new things, and to see what 8th grade has in store for him.

As for me, I am once again hoping to slow things down a bit. I want to savor as much of this year as possible... before I blink again and find that he's off to high school!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Operation Exodus: Part 6

For our last afternoon in CO Springs, one of the Cousins volunteered to show us around the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. She and Wonder Boy are only about 8 weeks apart in age, and though they haven't had much of a chance to just hang out together (since they do live a 14-hour drive apart), they got along marvelously. We all really appreciated her tagging along - it made a fun little excursion even more enjoyable to have her with us. And on the plus side, she inherited her mom's sense of humor and kept us grinning and laughing the whole afternoon.

Like so many places in the area, the CM Zoo is simply picturesque! Just imagine - a zoo on the side of a mountain! The drive up was so pretty and the zoo itself was quite a lovely setting all in itself.

It was such a nice way to wind down on our last afternoon in the area. The zoo closes earlier than I would have expected, but I guess the sun dips below those peaks a bit earlier than flat-landers like I are accustomed to experiencing. We missed a couple of exhibits since we had to duck out before the gates closed, so I am going to put the CM Zoo back on my list of things to do the next time we come back to CO Springs.

On our last morning, after checking out of the hotel, we made our way over to Manitou Springs to stroll along the main drag and check out the local shops. Shopping is not one of Wonder Boy's favorite activities, but it was a beautiful morning and I'll be honest, I was not quite ready to bid farewell to this little patch of Heaven on Earth, so we kept schlepping him from store to store until we had made it all the way up and down the street.

One thing I started contemplating while we were walking along is the ever-growing list of things I want to do on our next trip to the area. There were a few things we missed out on this time like the Broadmoor's Seven Falls and the Manitou Incline. If we find ourselves visiting again in summer, then next time I would like to find some place to go white water rafting or maybe we could bike Pikes Peak. There are quite a few places I would like to hike as well including Helen Hunt Falls in North Cheyenne CaƱon, the Paint Mines Interpretive Park, or maybe the Cheyenne Mountain State Park.

And even though we've already been-there, done-that, I don't think I could return to the area with out revisiting the Garden of the Gods and probably even the Pikes Peak Cog Railway again. I would love to see the Garden of the Gods in winter. And I bet the Pikes Peak Cog Railway trip in fall is something not to be missed!

Our time here may have been short, but I feel like I left a part of my soul there. So I guess I'll just HAVE to go back some day to re-claim it.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Operation Exodus: Part 5

As our time in CO Springs started drawing to a close, our bodies were a bit worn out from all of the hiking we had done. So on our last full day in town, we decided to treat ourselves to a train ride up to the top of Pikes Peak aboard the Pikes Peak Cog Railway.

Part of the reason we thought this would be a good idea was that I sometimes have trouble driving on twisty, turn-y, narrow mountain roads. And in general, Wonder Dad concurs with my sentiment in this matter. So we thought taking the train would give us a break both physically and mentally.

And it did. Sort of.

But it also scared the pants off of me! Perhaps it was because of my seat assignment - I was sitting in such a manner that I could see DOWN the mountain as we rode along the track.

But whatever the cause, I found the trip up to the top to be quite a harrowing ordeal. Truth be told, I was doing all I could to avoid a full on panic attack. This really isn't normal for me. I may not like heights like our thrill-seeking Wonder Boy, but I can usually keep it under wraps for as long as need be to get me through whatever we are doing with little more than a pounding heart beat. Unfortunately, that was not the case on this trip.

ANYWAY ... because I couldn't bring myself to take my hands off of my seat long enough to point the camera at all the pretty places around us, all of the pics from the first half of the trip were taken by Wonder Boy. Thankfully, he is getting very comfortable with my camera and has a really nice eye when it comes to composition!

Once we reached the summit, my nerves finally settled down but by then the altitude REALLY started to hit me. It's a bit over 14000 feet above sea level at the summit of Pikes Peak and we started our ascent at a mere 6500 feet above sea level back in Manitou Springs. A jump that big had all 3 of us pretty light headed, as you can imagine.

I was actually surprised at how COLD it felt up there as well (especially for a group of Texans)! Temperatures were at a brisk 32F with a windchill of 22F - in AUGUST! I was so glad we were in jeans and jackets. We saw a number of folks that were dressed for life at the base of the mountain and were in shorts and tank tops!

There was even a bit of snow and ice on the ground, but we opted to head inside the visitor's center to enjoy some donuts and check out the view sheltered from the driving wind.

I am glad to say that the trip DOWN the mountain was a completely different story for me. I'm not sure why - the train didn't turn around, so I was still facing DOWN the moutain the whole way, but this time I was OK. And I really enjoyed soaking in the many sights I had not fully processed on the way up to the top.

We talked about it and, if we ever get to go back, we all agree that we definitely want to ride again! But maybe the next time we'll take the option to get off at the half way point and hike down the mountain. It looked like a SUPER cool hike! And maybe I won't have as much trouble with the heights if I am firmly on my own two feet.

Despite the strain on my blood pressure on the ride up the mountain, this little expedition is one of the true highlights of our trip. Even Wonder Boy, in all his teenage apathy, couldn't contain his enthusiasm. I would even dare to guess that this adrenaline rush of a ride might be the most memorable moment of our vacation. And you can't get much higher praise than that!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Operation Exodus: Part 4

It's hard to top a full morning of hiking through the Garden of the Gods, but our afternoon adventure proved to be pretty fun for the whole family as well. Temperatures were a bit higher than on the previous day, so we were looking for something a bit more .... sheltered ... to fill our afternoon and the Cave of the Winds seemed like a good place to put that plan into action.

As a family, cave tours are something we all enjoy! We have sampled most of the big cave attractions in Texas, including the Cave Without a Name, the Caves of Sonora, Natural Bridge Caverns, Longhorn Caverns, and Inner Space Caverns. Though there are still a few more we hope to see in the future.

So you can understand why the Cave of the Winds was high on our list of Colorado Springs area "things to do" when planning our trip.

And while we all enjoyed the tour of the cave, I think Wonder Boy might have enjoyed the chance to indulge his thrill seeking tendencies a bit more. He got to ride the "Bat-a-Pult" which is a kind of zip-line ride that sling shots the rider over Williams Canyon at speeds of about 40 mph. The thought really didn't appeal to either Wonder Dad or myself, so we were glad there was another kid in line that needed a partner for this particular attraction. Wonder Boy always acts like it's no big deal to endure these heart thumping joy rides, but I can promise you that, even from the side lines, my heart beat more than fast enough for us both!

Wonder Boy also got to spend a fair amount of time on the Wind Walker Challenge Course, which is a three-story ropes course balanced on the rim of a 600-foot drop into Williams Canyon. And this is where I think Wonder Boy really enjoyed himself! It wasn't long before he was comfortable enough on the ropes and secure enough in his harness that he let go with his hands and practiced life as a tight rope walker. This lack of fear of heights is something for which I truly envy the Boy. Wonder Dad and I both have a .... healthy respect ... for heights. And while we will both swallow that fear when needed, we see a freedom in the Boy in facing things like this that neither of us experience first hand. It's cool!

Upon finishing up our time at the Cave of the Winds, we decided to try our luck at the Broadmoor's Seven Falls and see what the fuss was all about there. Unfortunately, the falls were closed for renovations. I guess we'll have to put that back on the list of things to do the next time we visit.

After the disappointment at Seven Falls, we just started driving around. While tooling around, we saw signs for Green Mountain Falls so we thought we'd follow the signs and see where it led us. And where it led us was to a tiny little mountain town with a pretty little park. We were a little disappointed that there was no public hiking obviously available, but it was still a nice stop.

And that's kind of the thing with Colorado - around every corner (or mountain pass), there is some pretty little place just waiting to be discovered!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Operation Exodus: Part 3

Our next day in Colorado started out much like the day before it - except there was no sleeping in this time - our bodies were still on Texas time anyway (which is an hour earlier) so it still FELT like we were sleeping late. We hit the breakfast buffet early with the hopes of some early exploring before the sun got too high in the sky. And after that first taste of Garden of the Gods, we decided more time was needed to FULLY explore the park. With backpacks laden with lots of water and walking sticks in hand, we set off for the park. The early hours were most certainly in our favor - both in terms of the cool breezes and the blissfully empty parking lots!

On this visit, we enjoyed several hours of ambling along the many trails. We covered paths we had missed the day before and got to see some familiar sights from a whole new angle. We took one trail that wound its way through a truly beautiful field of sun flowers. I loved meandering along with the red rock formations making for a stunning backdrop against the bright yellow flowers. Wonder Boy, however, was not as enamored with this part of the trek. Those sun flowers are a pretty big attraction for local insects - especially the honey bees - and while they were not interested in us in any way, he made sure we made our way through that section of the trail as quickly as possible.

Every time we visit Colorado, I want to pack our bags and bid a final farewell to Texas. And if ever a place evokes that desire in me, it is most certainly the Garden of the Gods! This place feels like a serious slice of Heaven on Earth. I would love to live close enough to make spending time there part of daily life. If nothing else, I certainly want to make sure we come back here some day - and not too far in the future. In fact, I would love to see the park in winter, with a fresh coating of snow transforming and recreating this amazing landscape.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Operation Exodus: Part 2

Our first full day in Colorado was a FULL day, in deed.

We started our day by sleeping in a bit to recover from the 2 days of driving that it took to arrive in this little patch of paradise. But not long after breakfast, we met up with the Cousins and headed for one of the most breathtaking places in the area, an amazing park called Garden of the Gods. Admission to the park and its accompanying visitor's center is FREE to the public, but I advise that you arrive early because parking goes FAST, especially on weekends.

We enjoyed a lovely couple of hours touring the park. The trails are well laid out and easy enough for just about anyone to amble along. There are also plenty of places for the young, or the young-at-heart, to climb and explore. And the advanced mountaineer can even get permission for rock climbing and off-trail hiking. But there are just as many amazing sights for those who want to stick to the main trails. I hardly knew where to point my camera, there were so many beautiful sights.

After the sun started to take its toll on us, we left the park in search of lunch. We enjoyed a satisfying serving of BBQ and then left the Cousins to do a little exploring on our own.

This time our wanderings led us to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings.

There are a lot of really cool things to see at the Cliff Dwellings - once you survive the twisting, turning, dizzying drive up to the museum and grounds. Here you are allowed to walk through and TOUCH everything you see. We climbed through the different chambers and got a most magnificent view of Manitou Springs down below.

Touring the cliffs and enjoying the cool of the museum was a really nice way to wrap up our evening. And it set the stage for another GREAT day to follow.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Operation Exodus: Part 1

It's been a wild summer - both in personal and professional arenas. And to be honest, I was really starting to think that a family vacation might not be in the cards again this year. But somehow, some way ... the stars came into alignment and the guys and I managed to pull off a full week away from work!

You may recall that my goal for this year was to break away from my desk and my comfort zone to embark on more adventures. And, nearly 2/3 of the way through the calendar, I can look back and say that, as a family, we certainly made a good effort to that end. But I was still hoping and dreaming of MORE. So MORE is exactly what we set out to do!

Wonder Dad and I talked it through and decided we wanted to really push the Boy out of HIS comfort zone as well. So we thought taking him on his first trip out of the great state of Texas was a good way to expose him to something truly novel.

A few years before Wonder Boy came along, Wonder Dad and I took an amazingly memorable trip to New Mexico and Colorado. And that sounded like a good place to start in planning this next adventure for our family. On that last trip, we concentrated on the southwest corner of Colorado and northwest corner of New Mexico. This time we decided to explore the eastern portion of Colorado, with Colorado Springs being our home-away-from-home-base. And lucky for us, we have cousins living in the area who offered to show us around a bit!

As is always the case, clearing Texas is the toughest leg of the trip. So on our first day on the road, we didn't even attempt to approach the Texas border. Instead, we found a landing spot in the panhandle and hoped it would make for an easy drive to Colorado Springs the following day. The weather wasn't exactly in our favor and we had to endure a serious storm between Ft. Worth and Amarillo, but we made it safely to our hotel and prayed the skies would clear by morning.

The skies hadn't exactly cleared by morning, but it was only a light rain and the radar map promised a more pleasing horizon by midday. So we packed back up and bid farewell to Texas. We found ourselves crossing the state line long before lunch and we laughed and joked as the Boy took his first breath of New Mexico air. He seemed a bit underwhelmed by his time in NM, but we only skirted the northeast corner on our way to Colorful Colorado, so I wasn't worried about that at all. In fact, I think we were in NM for only an hour or two before we crossed into CO and found ourselves in the 3rd state of the day! For a kid who spent 100% of his life to that point in only 1 state, I would think that stepping in 3 different states in one day is quite the accomplishment.

The drive up I-25 is a pretty easy one. We stopped for lunch in Pueblo and then pushed hard on to CO Springs to find our hotel and unpack. The closer we got to CO Springs, the more excited I became to get out of the car and start exploring! But after 2 days in the car, my body was crying for rest more than adventure. So I was quite relieved when the Cousins invited us for a quiet afternoon and evening at their place. And their place is just this side of Heaven! Their whole neighborhood looks like something out of a picture book. House on the side of a mountain, butting right up to a national park. I mean REALLY, what more do you need out of life? Well ... this amazing view came with a cool mountain breeze and great company as well. Talk about icing on the cake!

I really enjoyed hanging out and catching up a bit while the teenagers enjoyed some quality "playstation" time. Then we piled in the car for a tour of the incredible neighborhood. And we followed that with dinner at a local diner with AWESOME burgers before the sidewalks were rolled up for the evening (seriously, everything closes early in these small mountain towns)! It really was about as good of an end as we could have scripted to a great day beginning our visit to the CO Springs area!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Happy Camper, part 2

After only being home 1 week, 7 short days, from his first sleep-over camp, it was time to pack Wonder Boy's bags again and get him started on his NEXT camp of the summer. For the Boy, I think it was just a week to re-charge before jumping back into some serious summer fun. For me, it was a week to soak up time with my young man, trying to get a picture of all he did on his first camp experience.

And while that week ended much too quickly for my taste, by the time Sunday rolled around, Wonder Boy was packed and ready to go with hardly a second look back.

For this camp, at least, he was housed at the University here in town. And I'll admit, it was a lot easier saying our good-byes when I knew he was not a 3 hour car ride away this time.

We checked him in to the Youth Adventure Program (or YAP) for six days of robotics classes (& races!) and a LOT of fun and time with friends (both old and new)!

I can't answer for the Boy, but the highlight for me was the robot showcase and time trials on the last day of camp. Families and friends were invited to campus to see the robots the teams had built in only 4 short days and watch them travel a special course mapped out on the floor of the Rudder Exhibit Hall. Wonder Boy's team dubbed their bot "L.A.B.B.Z." and styled it to look like a tank. I was very impressed watching it run the course. The drag race was first and while "L.A.B.B.Z." was not the quickest off the line, it made a respectable run. But where it shined was on the full course. Many of the other bots got confused in tight turns and back tracked or even ended up completely off the track. But "L.A.B.B.Z." stayed the course and managed a very good time both times it ran. In the end, they finished in 3rd place. I think the guys did a GREAT job!

YAP Robotics Races - Team L.A.B.B.Z.

I don't know why I worried so much about sending the Boy away this summer. As you can see, he has had two really incredible experiences already! It's been an adjustment for me (now *I* am the one struggling through transitions), but to see how much he has matured through this process is truly a blessing. It's hard to let go, but to see him stand on his own (and to do so well with it) really helps me loosen that hold on him.

We don't have any other sleep-away camps planned for this summer, so I get some time now to enjoy some family time with both of my guys. But I hope we are not done with our adventures for the summer.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Happy Camper, part 1

Every summer, since the summer between his first and second grade school years, Wonder Boy has attended a local day camp for the majority of his summer vacation. It's been a great experience for the whole family - a fun, active schedule for the Boy and the peace of mind for Mom and Dad that the he was in a stimulating, yet safe environment.

However, as the Boy moved on up to Middle School, he aged out of the summer day camp opportunity. *sigh*

I'll be honest, as we faced this summer, I knew we would have to look at more than just day camps as there are just not many local day camp options for teenagers. So, no matter what plans we made for the summer, I knew we would have to let Wonder Boy venture out on his own a bit.

I will confess that this caused some serious misgivings on my part. Prior to this summer, Wonder Boy had never even been to an overnight sleep over. And, I may have mentioned that, in days past, Wonder Boy hasn't been one to thrive in novel environments.

But I guess that this too is a rite of passage. And one that we were going to have to face sooner rather than later.

During the school year, Wonder Boy was honored to be selected as part of the Duke Talent Identification Program (or TIP). This program singles out academically gifted 7th grade students and invites them to take college entrance exams to further determine their areas of academic success. Depending on the scores received, students are encouraged to attend summer programs. Wonder Boy qualified for one of these programs and when we asked him if he was interested in this kind of camp, he surprised us and JUMPED at the opportunity.

The first week of June rolled around and we packed up the boy and his bags and made the road trip to San Antonio. We checked him into a dorm room and, as hard as it was, said our good-byes so he could enjoy THREE SOLID WEEKS of "Engineering Problem Solving" camp.

Looking back, I can see this was an amazing opportunity for the Boy. He had a GREAT time. He made new friends. He learned new things. And he got his first taste of life away from home - kind of an "early introduction to college life." And Mikey, he LIKED it!

I need not have worried. He was ready for this step. In fact, it's safe to say he was much more ready for it than I was.

But I suspect that is the way of the world in general.

I'm really proud of my Wonder Boy. And so very glad that he got the opportunity to attend this incredible camp! I just need to work on his communication skills so that I'm not so starved for information while he's away from home.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Another Year in the Books

As I sit here, looking at Wonder Boy's stack of graded papers, discarded flyers, and spiral notebooks on their last leg, I can't believe another school year has come to a close.

I'm not sure how time seems to fly so fast for me, but so slowly for him, but as we close the book on Wonder Boy's 7th grade year, that again seems to be the case. The Boy and one of his best buds are upstairs playing video games and "unwinding" after a final farewell to 7th grade. They spent the afternoon telling me how LOOOOONG the school year had been and how they were ready for a nice, slow summer. And the whole time, all I could think was how fast this academic year had passed for me.

It was an action packed year, to be sure. The start of 7th grade brought a new school, new electives, and PLENTY of opportunity for the Boy to both learn and grow. And I have to say, he took to it like a duck to water. And watching him swim in these new waters was a true joy for me.

When he was small, transitions of ANY kind were ... well ... let's just say they required a serious adjustment period.

But that was then.

Now, my dear Wonder Boy is almost unrecognizable when it comes to facing and accepting changes and new challenges (unless we're talking about dinner time, but I won't get on that soapbox today). This is something that has been building with each passing grade. I noticed it as he moved from our small neighborhood elementary school into intermediate school and now even more so into middle school. He has a confidence, almost a swagger even, that back in those days of dreaded transitions I wondered if we would ever see in him.

This is the best part of watching your child grow - seeing them turn into PEOPLE; people who can stand on their own; people who can blaze their own trail; people you are proud to call family. Wonder Boy takes great strides down that path these days. And this mom is sure enjoying watching it all happen.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Spring Recital

Showcasing their UIL performance pieces, this week we got to enjoy the full school orchestra playing together. That is, all 7th and 8th grade orchestra students (both Symphonic and Philharmonic groups) came together for tonight's show.

As is usually the case, hearing the full concert piece of music is quite thrilling. We generally only get to hear Wonder Boy's line during his afternoon practices, so when the full group comes together, it's always a treat. But this concert was exceptionally enjoyable since both groups played together. Below you can watch the full performance.

Spring Orchestra Full Concert

The first 3 pieces played are the ones they performed for UIL. The others were recruiting pieces they played at area elementary schools this spring to encouraging in-coming 5th graders to give Orchestra a try.

We are so proud to report that the group did very well in competition this year, earning a superior rating for both their UIL performance as well as their concert at the Bluebonnet Music Festival in San Antonio. And while we are a little sad to be attending the final show of the school year, it sure gives us something to look forward to for next fall.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Road Trip - Part 4

Our last day was spent much like the first day - trying to make our way back across the great state of Texas. And like we did on Day 1, we planned a fun little caving adventure to break up the trip.

This time, we visited the Cave Without a Name in Boerne, TX.

We have been able to visit about a half dozen caves around Texas and I just have to tell you that this cave, the Cave Without a Name, was one of my most favorite experiences. I think maybe only the Longhorn Cavern northwest of Austin tops the Cave Without a Name in my book.

The tour was not as long as some of the others we have visited, but for some reason I just felt like we were closer to the formations. While touching is a strict no-no, everything in that room feels like it is right in your face. And for some reason, that just made the whole experience seem more personal.

We learned that the owners occasionally host musical events inside the cave. I would truly LOVE to experience a concert of this nature at some point. I'm going to have to keep an eye on their calendar of events for the next opportunity.

All in all, it was another great stop in a whirlwind adventure that I will carry in my memory for many years to come!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Road Trip - Part 3

Day 3 of our Spring Break Adventure didn't go quite like we had planned.

We had PLANNED a second day of exploring Big Bend. But a huge storm over night and continued rain off and on all day forced us to consider other options. In the end, that's pretty much what we did - we explored other options.

To start off the day, we drove from the tiny West Texas town of Alpine to the even smaller West Texas town of Marfa. Marfa was a pretty little town, but it is definitely one of those places that rolls up the sidewalks except on major holidays. We were a bit taken aback by how many things were closed. Even finding a place for lunch was a challenge - though the place we ended up had some of the best, fresh food I've ever enjoyed.

After lunch, we hit the road in search of more to see and do. And to that end, we wound our way to Fort Davis. Fort Davis was an unexpected and most pleasant surprise! It's a truly pretty little town with a lot to see and do. Our first stop was at the Davis Mountains State Park. We got really lucky and the weather cleared off a bit allowing us to get in a short, but enjoyable 3 mile hike through the park.

After all that hiking, we made our way back to town and strolled up and down the town square taking in the fun shops and storefronts surrounding it. The one thing that struck me as we ducked in and out of each place was the friendliness of the Fort Davis locals. We were welcome in each spot and made to feel right at home.

When our legs became weary from the walk, we hopped back in the car and headed back to Alpine, where we did some exploring as well. We spent some time in a couple of really lovely art galleries and some local artisan shops. Then we topped off the day with a tasty dinner and a soak in the hotel hot tub.

So while the day was not as planned, we ended up getting to visit areas we had noy planned on our itinerary. I also added a few places to my "must see if we ever come back here" list, most notably the McDonald's Observatory. Due to the weather, it was not an option for this particular visit, but I hope one day to head back in that direction in order to check it out.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Road Trip - Part 2

Day 2 of our Spring Break '15 Adventure we finally made it to Big Bend National Park as planned!

Day 1 of our trip was rainy and we worried we were not going to be able to spend the day outside hiking as we had hoped. But the weather cleared just enough to make it work. It stayed grey and cloudy all day, but that worked to our advantage as there is not a lot of shade in this arid part of Texas.

I have to tell you, as much as I enjoyed each and every adventure on this vacation, hiking Big Bend was the highlight of the trip for me! I spent the whole day in awe of the raw, natural beauty all around me. If it were not such a long drive to the park, I would go back monthly for as long as my car holds out.

We chose a mountain trail day hike called the Pinnacles trail. We parked at the Chisos Mountain Basin Lodge located in the park and started climbing from there. We covered about 8 miles of trail round trip and climbed to an elevation of about 7,000 ft above sea level. We had been hoping to make it all the way to the top of Emory Peak, but the Pinnacles trail proved to be enough of an effort for our first day of hiking.

Signs along the trail kept warning us about the presence of bears and mountain lions. We never saw any such beasts, but we did see a deer (mule deer are native to the region) and a Mexican Jay.

I would really love to stay at the Chisos Mountain Basin Lodge if we ever get the opportunity to return. To be able to just BE in that environment would really be a treat.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Road Trip - Part 1

I am not at all sure how it happened, but this year for Spring Break Wonder Dad and I managed to wrangle a couple of days off (at the same time) so we could embark on a family adventure!

For those that don't know, distance in Texas is not measured in miles - it's measured in hours. And we have played out about every tourist attraction within a 2 or 3 hour radius from home. So for this family expedition, we decided to broaden that radius to include just about any spot within the great state of Texas. In the end, we chose a location to which no member of the family had yet had the chance to visit - Big Bend National Park.

However, getting to Big Bend from home is no small feat, so we decided to take a leisurely path and planned several stops on our way out West.

Our first big stop was at about the half-way point for day 1 at the Caves of Sonora.

The caves turned out to be just about the perfect spot on our trip to stop, take a break from the car, and stretch our legs. Things were hopping and we had to hang around a bit before our tour started, but it gave us plenty of opportunity to check out the peacocks hanging around the grounds.

The grounds were fun, but of course, the highlight of the stop was the trek through the caves themselves. We took the "Crystal Palace Tour" which covered almost 2 miles of cave passages, taking us to a depth of 155 feet below the surface.

Unlike some of the cave tours we have taken in the past, this was a really warm cave. They told us that the air temperature was about 75F, but with the humidity nearing 100%, it felt more like 85F. It was MUCH cooler outside, but it did make for a nice walk.

If we ever come this way again, we'll have to try the "Discovery Challenge Tour" which takes you off trail passageways and even includes a rappel fifty feet into a chasm dubbed "the Devil's Pit." That's a weekend-only tour and not available on the Wednesday afternoon we came through. But it definitely sounds like fun!

After this sweet little stop, we pushed hard to make it to Alpine, TX where we made home base for our adventures over the rest of our trip (more on that in the next post).

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Reflections and Resolutions

As is my tradition on the first day of the new year, today I am sitting back looking over snapshots from the last 12 months. And, as with years past, I cannot help but marvel at how much things change over the course of those 12 short months.

There are several things that pop into my head as I look back at 2014. The first is how much Wonder Boy has grown. As we were closing out 2013, he had just passed me up in height. But since then, he has sprouted another couple of inches and is starting to gain ground on Wonder Dad now! Even when I am in my tall shoes and he is barefoot, I know I will have to look up in order to make eye contact. *sigh* And while there is a big part of me that remembers him fitting perfectly in the crook of my arm, there are some nice advantages to having a strapping young man around the house. He kills spiders for me, reaches for things on the top shelf of the pantry, and even pumps my gas. A mom could get spoiled with help like that.

2014 saw all 3 of us branch out to learn new things. For example, we enrolled in a new martial arts class, Modern Arnis, this past summer. We have all really enjoyed the class, but Wonder Boy has taken to this art like a duck to water. For me personally, I struggle with some of the coordination needed to be successful in Arnis, but neither Wonder Boy nor Wonder Dad share that particular challenge. We were also introduced to archery with a couple of compound bows. Wonder Dad has always wanted to learn, so the Boy and I got him a starter kit for his birthday. And we had so much fun just watching him with his bow, that it wasn't long before we picked up a second one for the Boy and I to share. Wonder Dad is the natural at this new endeavor. His bow seems to just be a part of him. And I gotta tell you, I really love the sound when the arrow is released like a little carbon fiber missile streaking for the target.

Due to some changes at work, we didn't have quite as many adventures in 2014 as I had hoped. So now that my gaze is turning to 2015, with the hopes and dreams a new year brings, my resolution - if you can call it that - is to step out of my comfort zone and embark on more adventures. I need to break away from my desk, my computer, and even my phone and GET OUT more. No excuses! That is my goal for 2015.

What are your goals for 2015?

Whatever your set your mind to do, I hope that you find the time, the motivation, and the resources to follow through this year.

Happy 2015 Everyone!