Saturday, August 30, 2008

Self Discovery...Sort Of

I've been wondering when this was going to happen...and today it finally did.

This evening, Faith and Grace were standing in front of a mirror. I walked into the room to see what they were doing, and they were admiring themselves, being typical girls.

When I asked them, "What do you see in the mirror?" they each pointed toward their reflection. Faith said, "Grace!" and Grace said, "Faith!"

I'm not sure they are 100% aware that they are separate people!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

History in the Making

Tonight, as I was making dinner, I turned on the news...just as I always do. Despite the fact that the six o'clock news has been broadcast from the Democratic National Convention in Denver for the past three days, I still turned my head toward the television set to see why Katie Couric sounded so different. Oh yeah...the DNC.

I haven't paid much attention to the DNC and, next month, I doubt I'll pay much attention to the RNC. The truth is, these conventions are just a bunch of pomp and circumstance from which no real news is generated. But they do serve to unite and rally their respective parties and there is something to be said for that.

Regardless,'s not very interesting to those of us who aren't there.

Tonight was different, though. The news was being broadcast just as the roll call vote was beginning. If you're not familiar with it, the roll call vote where each state takes turns announcing who their delegates and super-delegates have voted for in the primaries.'re not wrong that this information was available months ago. This is what I mean by a lot of pomp and circumstance.

The roll call vote was interesting nonetheless. I'm a sucker for all things American. My heart swells at the sight of Old Glory waving in the wind and rarely is the Star Spangled Banner played without bringing a tear to my eye. These conventions, as well as a lot of other things in our government, may be antiquated traditions that truly serve little points today, but that may be what I like the most. It's a link to the history of our country.

But today was even more special. Today, for the first time in United States history, a minority was given the Presidential nomination.

I truly don't believe that it matters if you are Republican, Democrat, Independent or certified Wack-Job...seeing Barack Obama get the Presidential nomination is something everyone should take pride in.

Look how far our country has come! Only forty years ago, African-American citizens weren't able to vote. They drank from different water fountains, sat in separate areas of restaurants (if they were allowed in at all) and were given lesser educations than white kids. Their churches were bombed and they feared for their lives at times. And all of this in a country that touts, "freedom and justice for all."

Wow...with friends like that, who needs enemies?

Racism (against any minority) is still alive in the US, but to think how far we've come in such a relatively short amount of time is truly awe-inspiring and today, as much as any other time, I am especially proud to be an American.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Another Milestone

Today, I took my first born and dropped him off at the local elementary school where he started Kindergarten. That little bundle, who came home from the hospital what seems like only days ago, is now in "big boy school." It was a momentous occasion.

The day started early for us, but Todd was home to celebrate the big event and we managed to get all three kids out of bed, dressed, fed and out the door by 7:20. We arrived at Devin's school and ended up parking in the grass, amid a sea of minivans and SUVs. We marched straight into the cafeteria and found the table at which Devin's class would meet.

We met Devin's teacher, Mrs. S., last week and so he spotted her right off the bat. Luckily, one of D's friends of his Pre-K days last year was also in his class, so he sat right down and began chit-chatting. Todd, the twins and I sat back and watched, snapping pictures and even taking a little bit of video.

Soon it was time to go back to the classroom and we followed 22 five-year-olds down the hall. We were behind the class and by the time we reached his room, Devin had already found his cubby and put his backpack away. He was looking for his seat and promptly found it. And there he sat, a Kindergartener among many.

There was a little ceremony at the flag pole shortly after school started, so we waited outside Devin's classroom while they talked about where they went this past summer, told a little about themselves, etc. I loved being able to peek in and see my son's interaction with his friends and teacher. I got a warm-fuzzy inside and felt very good about where Devin was.

We weren't able to stay for the ceremony, so as D's class walked down the hall, we said our goodbyes and gave our final kisses. I told him how proud I am of him and that Daddy and I love him very much. And then Devin looked me square in the eye, hugged me and said, "I love you, Mommy. I'll miss you, but I'm going to have a good day."

And with that, he was gone. Down the hall, in a straight line, remembering to be quiet and use his manners. My son, the elementary school student.

Todd and I were left standing there. We looked at each other, shrugged and said, "Well...I guess that's it."

So we shuffled out, quietly, and loaded in the girls into the car. Neither of us cried, though neither of us said much, either. We both sort of took in the surreal morning in our own minds, and dealt with the bittersweet feelings of letting go by ourselves.

I've had a good morning. I've enjoyed the quiet and not battling over who's watched too much TV or what we're going to have for lunch. I'm enjoying some one-on-one time with the twins and am getting some more packing done.

But as I type this, the whole event is sinking in and I'm getting a little misty-eyed. Devin is my true love -- I doodle his name in the margins of pieces of paper and my tummy gets all fluttery when he gives me a kiss. I still go into his room at night, after he's fast asleep, and run my fingers through his soft hair, whispering, "I love you," one last time before morning. I have joked for more than five years now that I have a crush on him -- I want to be his prom date.

But life goes on and I will let go just like my parents did and so many other parents have done. Devin will do great, will share his own personality with others and will learn life's lessons. It's sad that not every lesson is from me, but then I remember that I didn't learn everything I know about life from my mom and dad -- I learned them from the world and people around me.

So Devin, the world is yours. Go explore it, love it, learn from it and teach to it. I love you, son, with all my heart.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Whirlwind of Activity

I know...I know... I am painfully aware of how long it's been since my last post. And I won't lie to you... it's not likely to get better anytime soon. Allow me to explain.

As you know, per my last post, our house sold. This means that we've been on a mad-dash to find another house, lest we be homeless at the end of this month.

Well, find a house we did! We found a great home that fits all of our needs and that is brand new. Apparently, it went into foreclosure before the residents could live in it for more than a few days. I'm not exactly sure how that works, but if you could see this house, you'd know that no one has lived in it -- no nail holes in the walls, no traffic wear in the carpet, no paint on the walls. The microwave even still has some of the original package left around it. It's a gem! And being a foreclosure, it's also cheap. About $30K less than we should have paid for it!

But you don't get something for nothing and buying a foreclosure comes with its own set of issues. There is about three times the amount of paperwork (if you can imagine, since buying a house is already paperwork-laden as it is) and every process takes about three times as long. Todd and I signed the contract nine days ago. The selling party just signed theirs today. Fabulous.

In all of this, too, is the issue of elementary school. Since early spring, Devin has been enrolled at the school nearby our current home. The new house, though, is in another elementary school's attendance area. That means that I have to go down to the school district's central office, bring my buyer's contract and get a letter stating that we are, indeed, moving into a house in the new school's area. Then I have to take that letter to the new school and get Devin enrolled there.

Sounds like a pain, huh? It is. And to make matters worse, school starts next Monday, so I need to get this worked out by then and somehow convince Devin that going to his new school is way cooler than going to the school I've been talking up for over a year now.

He's not buying it. In fact, the poor kid is really having a hard time with all of this. The timing is great for making a clean break -- new house, won't have to change schools, etc. But the timing is terrible for a kid who doesn't like change -- new house, new school, etc. I guess it just depends on how you look at it.

So, with all of this comes the craziness of moving -- packing up five people and six years worth of stuff, shopping for homeowner's insurance, doing mortgage paperwork, running around looking for special boxes in which to pack the good china, changing addresses on statements and bills, transferring utilities from the old house to the new one, get the old house ready for the new owner, finding a mover... The list goes on and on. Needless to say, our days are long and our patience is thin. We're looking forward to being settled in and into a new routine!

If you were in the middle of all of this, what would you do? Why, take a vacation, of course!

Late last year, long before we ever put our house on the market, my parents decided to rent a house in Flagstaff, AZ for the month of August. Not knowing much about Northern Arizona, I couldn't figure out why my parents wanted to trade summers in Houston (where it is 95 degrees and 99% humidity) for a summer in Arizona (where it's 110 degrees and 0% humidity). Weren't they just substituting one extreme for the other?

Apparently not.

Flagstaff is an oasis of cool weather and summer storms in what is believed to be the hottest, driest state in the country. Near the center of the state, Flagstaff sits at 7,000 feet elevation and looks like something right out of a coffee table book about mountain towns -- towering pine trees, crystalline lakes, soaring mountains and breathtaking views. The highs in August are in the high-70s to low-80s with brief summer storms almost daily. For a girl who grew up in the flatlands of Texas, hearing thunder rumbling from one mountain to another is a sound that won't be soon forgotten.

So the call of cool weather and a pre-Kindergarten getaway was too much for me to pass up and I booked a trip for Devin and I to go visit Nana and Papa during their time in the Southwest. If I had known it would fall during the middle of all of this, I would have never done it. But since I haven't yet learned to see into the future, I booked the trip during the worst possible time (in our lives, anyway) to do so.

Oh, but I am so glad that I did. Flagstaff, and all of the surrounding areas, was amazing. Simply beautiful and not easily described in words.

Devin and I arrived in Phoenix at 8:30 on Wednesday morning. It was already 95 degrees outside and I just had a hard time believing that a two hour drive could really make that much of a difference.

Lo and behold, though, it did and by the time we arrived in Flagstaff, around noon, it was 78 degrees and perfect. Oh it felt so good!

We pulled up to the mountain retreat that my parents rented and Devin and I both drew a breath. Picture in your mind what a luxury house in the middle of the mountains should look like. Are you seeing log-cabin detailing? A huge front porch and an even bigger back porch? Wood floors and soaring, beamed ceilings?

Well add to those things a gourmet kitchen that is about twice the size of my current kitchen, three bedrooms, three-and-a-half bathrooms, a huge loft, an enormous laundry room, a dedicated study, high-speed internet access, big screen TVs, and upgraded and custom amenities and you've got quite a retreat. It was fabulous, all the way from the in-suite bathroom to the 400-count cotton sheets on the pillow-top king bed. San Antonio? What San Antonio?

We were pretty exhausted when we arrived, so after a quick lunch we took a nap. Not long later, we were refreshed and ready to go. Dad and Jean took us out to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument where we got to hike (I use the term loosely -- it was more like a walk around a park) around the base of a volcano that erupted about a thousand years ago. The path that the lava flow created is still more than visible and you can even see the cap that blew off the mountain about a mile-and-a-half away from the mountain itself. The park was beautiful and we had a great time peeking into caves and looking at different types of lava rock.

We were pretty tired that night, so after dinner and some good conversation on the back porch, we hit the hay.

Arizona is two hours behind Texas, so Devin woke up on Thursday at his regular time -- 7:30. Only it wasn't 7:30. It was 5:30. Good morning, sunshine. *Sigh*

We got ready pretty quickly, as Devin was excited about the day's adventure. We drove to nearby Williams, AZ, where we caught the local steam locomotive to the Grand Canyon.

The ride was about two hours long, during which we saw incredible landscape, were entertained by musicians and actors and learned about the Grand Canyon and its surrounding area from our tour guide. It was fantastic!

We arrived at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon around 11:30 and headed to the Arizona Room for lunch on the rim.

This was my first trip to the Grand Canyon and it's far more than expected. As with everything else in the world, pictures just don't do it justice. The enormity of the expanse, coupled with the peace and profound beauty was enough to bring tears to my eyes.

After lunch, we hiked along the rim of the canyon, up to Yavapai Point, where the view was spectacular. Of course, there's not a bad view of the canyon, but this was certainly something special. Again, words just can't explain.

After our trip to Yavapai, we took the bus back to the train station and after a little shopping, boarded the train back to Williams. Along the way, we were "robbed" by bandits and the town sheriff came on board looking for them. It was very entertaining and something I doubt we'll soon forget!

Our Grand Canyon day was a long day, so after a quick pizza dinner, we all folded in for the night.

Friday's wake up call also came nice and early - 5:45 a.m.

After a yummy breakfast at a local Flagstaff eatery, Dad, Devin and I drove to the Arizona Snow Bowl, which is the local ski park. During the summer, they run the ski lift and you can take a ride up to 12,500 feet and get a bird's eye view of the whole region. You can even see the Grand Canyon from way up there!

It was a fantastic sight and Devin even got to use the highest toilet in Arizona. What a claim to fame!

After the 35 minute trip back down the mountain, Jean picked up Devin and Dad and I got to do some father-daughter bonding on a hike down Kachina Trail. Hiking is one of my favorite past times, though I admit I haven't done any serious hiking since high school. There is something about being able to get out there, with the trees and the rocks and the wildlife and just walk.

The trail started off pretty easy and pretty typical -- dense trees and underbrush that would suddenly open up into a field of yellow sunflowers. A way into it, though, it became very rocky and Dad and I found ourselves clamboring down boulders and slides to follow the trail.

We knew we needed to turn around and had back, as clouds were rolling into the area and there was thunder in the distance. But the trail just kept getting prettier and prettier, so we kept saying, "A little further... a little further..." Finally, we couldn't deny the approaching weather and turned around to go back.

What we found, though, was that those rocks we'd climbed down a few minutes earlier now had to be scaled up. It wasn't easy, but it was a lot of fun. My stamina kind of surprised me, as the inclines didn't do much to phase me, but the rocks really made me huff and puff. I had to make my poor dad stop more than a few times so I could catch my breath. I couldn't figure out why I was having such a hard time until my dad reminded me that I am used to a 650-foot elevation in San Antonio while we were hiking at nearly 8,000 feet. Oh yeah! The air is much thinner up there! Whew! I thought I was losing my mind!

We were pretty tired upon our return, but true to his word, Dad took Devin to the local fire station where the owner of the home they are renting works. He took Dev on a personal tour of the station and Devin came back with the dreams of being a fireman. Keep dreamin' kid...keep dreamin'.

Saturday came with another trip to Williams, this time to see the classic car show. Everything from 1930s roadsters, to 1950s Chevy Bel Aires and 1960s Ford Mustangs lined the Mother Road, Route 66, as old coots and young fanatics alike gazed at the cars of their dreams.

We ate lunch at a classic 1950s diner Cruiser's and headed back to Flagstaff for a nap and relaxing afternoon. Dinner that night consisted of Thanksgiving dinner, with a roasted turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, green beans and two pies - pumpkin and pecan. Yum!

We went to Mass on Sunday and then just spent some time hanging out before having to head back to Phoenix (where it was 106 degrees) to go home to San Antonio.

This was such a fantastic trip and I loved having one-on-one time with Devin. He loved being the center of attention with his Nana and Papa and I loved watching him discover a part of the country he didn't even know existed. Pictures will follow soon.

So there you have it -- that's what we've been up to. Sort of sorry you asked, huh?

I apologize for the long post, but like I've always said, this blog is as much for me as it is for everyone else. I want to make sure I write down every detail before the memories begin to fade, so that one day, my kids can look back and know what my thoughts and recollections were at the time.

Forgive me for what I am certain will be a long time before I post again. Life is crazy and I just can't seem to help it. :)

PS - Todd re-synced our Internet browser with his browser at work. So now we have all of his favorites bookmarked, but managed to lose all of mine. That means that if you haven't gotten a comment on your blog from me recently, it's because I lost your link and haven't memorized your URL. I'd love to have your pages back, so please leave me a comment with your URL or send me an email.