Anyone who has been fortunate enough to join the grandparents club knows the amazing joy of loving (and spoiling) the offspring of our offspring.
I’m so lucky that 7 of my 9 grandchildren live 2 miles away. I get to see them regularly and I’m very thankful for that.
My other 2 grandchildren live 6,469 miles away in Tokyo, Japan. I don’t get to see them as often. However, I’m very thankful for the technology that allows me to video chat with them regularly.
I’m also thankful I’ve gotten to see them twice in the last 6 months.
In December, our son, Joshua, brought his expectant wife, Emma, his son, Donny and Emma’s parents, Takei and Kazue, to Texas for a visit.
We enjoyed their visit so much and had tons of fun spending Christmas with them and showing off some of the wonders of the Lone Star State.
When Joshua and Emma’s new son arrived in April we knew we wanted to meet Baby Alan sooner rather than later so my husband, Ronald, and I made the trek across the Pacific to spend time with them.
Alan is so adorable and that furrowed brow? I’m totally owning it as he definitely gets that from me, his Nana.
Big brother, Donny, is just as handsome and at an ideal age for discovering new things every day.
For this trip my main objective was to give – and get – as many cuddles and kisses as two little boys would allow. Luckily, they are still very young and weren’t opposed to Nana constantly loving on them.
Snuggles, hugs, first baby coos, new baby giggles, toddler babbling and a lot of laughter from everyone made for a great vacation and visit. It’s not easy being far away – I love them and miss them so much – but the life they have created is sweet and I cannot deny they are where they should be.
Matthew 19:5 ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’
If I told you our recent outing to Palo Duro Canyon resulted in scraped knees, a sprained ankle, an attack of wind and sand, car trouble and temps in the 100’s you might be left with the impression it wasn’t a very good day. But, take my word for it, it was. Surrounding those mishaps was time spent together hiking, exploring, eating, watching wildlife and a great musical.
When we arrived, our first stop, before going down into the canyon, was at the scenic overlook. Rugged, simple, beautiful – that seems an apt description of the view. Everyone enjoyed the scenery, the visitor center/gift shop and even took this first opportunity to meander down some paths and explore some old ruins.
The sun was hot but soon, cloud cover moved in and provided a welcome respite. With the clouds came a few rumbles of thunder and we searched the sky to see which way things were moving but, weren’t overly concerned since it seemed to be moving away from us. We had been there for 15-20 minutes when I took the grandbaby, Colette, and stood on the path to admire the view. Suddenly and without warning, a gust of wind whipped the hat right off of her head. It landed just over the side and got caught on a small branch but, between juggling her and the ‘big’ camera I wasn’t sure how to retrieve it. That predicament was short-lived and ended up being the least of my problems because just a few seconds later the wind became ferocious and big, fat drops of rain began to pelt us. Trying to run – into the wind – we were assaulted with grains of sand while getting drenched. Trying to shield the baby and the camera from the rain and sand I finally made it back to the car where, luckily, the door was unlocked. Meanwhile, in haste to seek shelter five-year-old Gianna fell and skinned up both of her knees. Two minutes and two band-aids later all was calm again, and the brief storm both Mother Nature and Gianna unleashed had passed. The camera and Colette – baffled by the commotion and Nana’s antics – were fine.
As the saying goes here in the Lone Star State, “If you don’t like the weather wait 5 minutes and it will change.”
Just like that, the sun came back out and we decided it was time to move on. We gave the teenagers, Patrick and Ben, a moment to alert their peeps that, once in the canyon, there would be little to no cell service. The anticipation anxiety of being cut off from social media required some deep breathing on their part but after a moment they too recovered and we began to make our way down.
At the bottom, it was HOT – about 111 degrees – with very little shade. Meandering the two-lane road we kept the a/c in the car on full blast while we took in all of the rugged beauty. Undaunted by the heat, we got out and braved the high temperatures to hike, play and explore. And, drink lots of water.
Our first stop was to look at some rustic cabins that we hadn’t seen on previous trips. We marveled at the Cow Camp Cabins and the man who, in the distance and in the oppressive heat, sat with his easel painting.
Unfortunately, Ben stepped off the side of the asphalt wrong and twisted his foot. Immediately, it swelled up but since we had coolers filled with ice and drinks we were able to get a nice cold-pack on it quickly. It was sore and swollen for the rest of that afternoon and evening, but the park hosts provided us with an ace bandage and that, along with ibuprofen and ice, kept the discomfort to a minimum.
Moving on we discovered a cave in the side of the hill so all of us (except Ben and Granny) jumped out to explore it. The pictures tell the story better than I can.
Following that fun, albeit hot and steamy hike we stumbled across a surprise snow-cone stand. Without a second thought, we overpaid for the luxury of cold, refreshing flavored ice and enjoyed it in the only spot of shade around.
Days like this make me feel like I’m the luckiest person on earth and I’m very thankful to God for the opportunity to have these adventures. I love my family and I love spending time with them. Even though we were missing several members we had fun with those who could be there. $$-wise we didn’t spend a whole lot of money but the memories we made – priceless.
I hope this summer you find fun, too. Even when things don’t go absolutely perfectly.
To all the father’s out there – have a very Happy Day! And may God bless you and your families.
Recently, several members of our family took a day trip to Palo Duro Canyon just outside of Amarillo and Canyon, Texas. We hiked and played and had the best time despite high heat and several mishaps along the way. Since childhood, this has been one of my favorite places to visit.
Part of the plan for the day was to see the musical production of TEXAS. The Pioneer Amphitheater, nestled in the heart of the park, is a family favorite and a visit to Palo Duro Canyon is always more complete when we eat barbecue and see the show.
As we enjoyed our meal a few clouds along with some nice breezes moved in and felt great. After an afternoon of hiking and playing the adults were happy to sit and enjoy a cold beverage while the kids continued to climb the hills.
As it always is, the show was terrific. The lone cowboy riding across the top of the canyon with the Texas flag was poignant. The music, dancing, and singing were superb. The fabricated lightning and gunshots made us all jump – even though we knew they were coming – and the finale with the dancing water and lights was amazing. After the show ended the actors were gracious and patient while they chatted with the audience and posed for many pictures. Eight-year-old Claire was excited to get a photo with some of the main characters, especially Calvin Armstrong and Elsie McClean who were two of the leads.
After we loaded up the cars and began the drive out of the canyon I exclaimed, “This was a great day!” Hubby Ronald, looking in the rearview mirror, mentioned that our son-in-law, Leslie, kept turning his headlights off – presumably to try and see the stars. As we neared the top, and a good cell signal, his phone began to ring and our daughter, Krista, told us their car was acting up and they were losing power.
Limping they made it to the entrance where we were all able to pull over without blocking all the traffic behind us. Popping the hood it looked like it was either the battery or alternator. Hubby Ronald is always super prepared, the handiest person I know and incredible to have around in an emergency like this. We would be back on the road in no time….no problem! Except this time, with all the tools somehow the jumper cables were missed.
The traffic coming out of the canyon had slowed to a trickle but we began to wave our arms in hopes someone would take pity. Several people offered to stop but no one had the jumper cables we needed until a young man came along. He rolled down his window and told us he could definitely help.
As Ronald and Leslie got busy we began to chat with this nice young man.
“Did you see the show?”
“Um, actually I’m in the show”
“Oh, really? Do you have a part or do you work behind the scenes?”
“Oh, I have a part. I play Cal – Calvin Armstrong”
Remember Cal? One of the leads?
Mouth opened and foot inserted.
The good news – he had taken so many pictures with fans that he didn’t recognize us, either.
The car started and, giving Sean (that’s his real name :)) many thanks before saying our goodbyes we finally made it back to the house around 12:30 in the morning. Pretty much dropping dead-weight and deeply-asleep kids into their beds the logical thing would have been for the rest of us to follow. Instead, we ended up in the kitchen where we laughed until we cried and rehashed the events of a spectacular family day.
Car trouble resulted in us being saved by the star of the show.
p.s. – it was the alternator but a couple of hours under the hood and Ronald and Leslie got it all fixed. And, in the end, it was….no problem.
Well, maybe I should say…it wasn’t a big problem.
Coming up next – a day of hiking, hot temps, and more mishaps.
Last year we spent two weeks in and around Jiading, China – a ‘suburb’ of Shanghai. Our oldest son, Joshua, was living there with his wife, Emma, and we were fortunate enough to visit. A rainy day had given us a break from sightseeing and when it stopped we ventured out. What we stumbled onto ended up being one of my most satisfying and favorite memories.
When the rain tapered off we ventured out for lunch and ended up exploring the streets and shops in the surrounding area. Our group split up which left my son, Patrick, and I hanging out together. We were wandering around, ambling in and out of the little shops when I spied a sign with a teapot. Loving all things tea, and especially drinking tea in Asia, we went into the shop to see what was what. The shopkeeper seemed excited to see us and began talking. Unfortunately, we had no idea what he was saying. We wanted to ask him questions but were not able to communicate effectively with him.
Between using hand gestures – and speaking super slow (as if that would help) – we found no success asking if his teapots were for sale or just display. We left the shop to find Joshua – who speaks fluent Mandarin-and, upon our return, discovered this gentleman was completely delightful and wanted nothing more than to share his tea while working on his painting and flute-playing.
One of the things I love about staying in less touristy areas is stumbling upon these amazing experiences that you can’t buy with money. It had been a lazy, rainy day calling for a ponytail and no make-up. No matter that I was ultra-casual, our host could have cared less. Discovering this hidden gem and being treated to an absolutely wonderful encounter completely made my day and ended up being a highlight of the trip.
If you would like to see other posts from our China adventures check out these pieces:
Leaving the central Texas area around Schulenburg – and not feeling tethered to a strict timeline – we were making our way toward Huntsville and enjoying the scenery. We had visited all the churches on our list plus one more and were satisfied with our exploration of this small section of the Lone Star State.
All of a sudden we saw a teeny tiny building in the distance that looked like a small church. As we flew by at 65 mph we saw the sign and, indeed, it was a church!
Hitting the brakes and making a U-turn we quickly made our way back to see what was what. As the sign states, visitors were welcome to tour the grounds and the building.
On the altar was a notebook for prayer intentions along with a note which stated that Mass is held once a month.
St. Martins – It was the most charming stumbled-on find of the weekend.
Thanks for joining me on this journey to visit The Painted Churches of Texas- I hope you enjoyed seeing the pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them.
If you would like to see the other churches we visited that weekend I’ve included the links below:
The green rolling hills of central Texas provided a peaceful backdrop as we rambled across the countryside in search of more churches.
We were not disappointed.
The United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Freyburg was a picture of quaintness tucked among a lush landscape.
And, the simplicity of the sanctuary was peaceful.
Moving on to Dubina, Texas the Church of Sts Cyril and Methodius was in the middle of Mass so we wandered around the outside.
A bit of a deserted town lay at the edge of the property and made a stark contrast to the striking house of worship.
Along with the ‘bathrooms’. And this is something to note – not one of the churches we visited had an indoor bathroom within the original building. Not too surprising, I guess, considering indoor plumbing wasn’t a thing when they were built. There is still debate among my better-half and I as to whether this set of outhouse amenities was the only one available. Funny – as social as we can be we did not pluck up the courage to ask any of the parishioners. Or maybe we just forgot. Either way we didn’t get an answer.
Despite the bathroom debate there was no arguing that the church itself was, once again, beautiful and amazing.
Next up: We thought we were at the end of our tour until we stumbled onto a gem of a tiny church.
If you would like to see the other parishes we visited on this tour check out those pieces by clicking on the following links: St. John the Baptist and Queen of the Holy Rosary, here. St. Mary’s in Praha and Ascension of Our Lord, here. St. Mary’s at High Hill, here.
There is joy in slowing down and relishing the journey. Preferring to meander and not dash through the weekend we were delighted to experience these amazing, stunning, ornate, intricate and exquisite churches. Attending Mass at St. Mary’s in High Hill, Texas (known as the Queen of the Painted Churches) gave us even more time to slow down and soak in all the beauty. Indeed, she was a splendor to behold.
I got the distinct impression this parish really loves their barbecue. Their grills and smokers were some of the largest I’ve seen. I think I’d like to attend one of their parish picnics!
Next up: Sts Cyril and Methodius in Dubina, Texas.
Click here to see my post on parishes in Praha, Moravia and St. John. Click here to see the post on Hostyn and Ammansville. Each church is stunning. Enjoy
Linking up with a travel blogger who chose the theme ‘eyes‘ for this week I am sharing pictures from China.
I love to watch people. I love to take pictures of people. Our stay in Jiading – a ‘suburb’ of Shanghai – offered me ample opportunities to sit and soak up the local atmosphere.
The plaza just on the other side of the canal from our hotel was a perfect spot to sit. During the day the children ran and jumped and played and roller skated. They loved that I was taking pictures and would come right up to me and pose. Their eyes shone with curiosity about the blonde-haired, fair-skinned lady with the camera.
When the work day ended the adults would gather, the music would start and an impromptu dance would begin. They danced and they laughed and they left the stress of the day behind. It was absolutely delightful and the happiness in their eyes was contagious.
Several times I was approached by those who wondered who I was, where I came from and why I looked so different. They were not shy about asking gesturing for me to take pictures with or of them. Like this mom – you can see the excitement in her eyes. She was so eager to have her baby ‘meet’ me that she took out her Iphone and asked gestured for me to pose with her little girl. I reciprocated and asked gestured for her to pose, too. I think the baby was just confused – that’s what I see in her eyes.
This man was taking a break from his street sweeping as I made my way back to the hotel. His eyes look a little tired – maybe because his day had been long and he wasn’t quite finished yet.
These guys. My three boys. Walking across the plaza they did not see me. I had to yell out a couple of times before they figured out who was making a racket. Their eyes were covered but, I promise you, they are the most beautiful shades of brown, green and hazel.
And, finally, these beautiful eyes. They belong to my new grandson. Babies are wonderful. Just wonderful.