Sunday, March 27, 2016

easter in texas

The Easter Bunny came to our house early this morning and left behind wonderful baskets for the children. There was very minimal candy - just one small solid chocolate bunny - because the EB knows that we're doing our best to embrace a healthy eating lifestyle.  In addition to a dozen cascarón eggs and 500 water balloons;  he also stocked their baskets with things like Band-Aids, toothpaste, and deodorant - because he is very practical.

Immediately after church this morning, the children got out of their Sunday best and in to something more comfortable.


And with 2,000 water balloons ... it looks like this is how we'll be spending our afternoon.


Happy Easter!  


We hope that you feel DRENCHED with the blessings of the day!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Day 1 @ 10,500' AMSL

Here are a few pictures from our first day of skiing at approximately 10,500 feet above mean sea level.  You might notice a theme.


For the record, we live at approximately 150 feet above mean sea level, and at elevations roughly 10,350 feet higher there tends to be slightly less oxygen.   Oxygen it turns out is very helpful when you are exercising.  Or, you know simply walking, sitting, eating, moving, living, breathing ... what not.


I'm sure we're just getting acclimated...


Heave ho little one, up on your feet!


Our house was on the top of the ridge, 100 feet away, but as evidenced from what appears to be a slope side crime scene, the children weren't able to make it back.


And .... that concludes Day 1 of our Colorado ski adventure!

Monday, March 21, 2016

colorado rocky mountain high!

Two weeks ago, I was on a business trip in Puerto Rico.

This was my view on Friday, March 11th:


After flying home from a Caribbean paradise Friday morning, I quickly packed for the entire family, and helped Charlie load the car, so that we could depart on a 1,000-mile road trip to Colorado for Spring Break, once the children arrived home from school on Friday afternoon. We started driving at 7 PM and this was our view Sunday morning, March 13th:


While we've driven through Colorado before, I'd never been there for an extended period of time.


And after this trip, I can certainly understand the mass appeal.  The hills were alive with the sound of music ... John Denver music that is, blasting the whole drive up!

In no time flat, the kids were singing along with us, "When we first came to the mountains, our lives were far away ... on the road and hanging by a song. But the string's already broken and we don't really care - it keeps changing fast and it don't last for long.  But the Colorado Rocky Mountain high!  We've seen it raining fire in the sky ... the shadow from the starlight is softer than a lullaby.... ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH!" 


Our destination were the western mountains of Colorado, which is where Charlie's cousin - Johnny, and his wife Lis, and their four children reside, year-round.   If my mid-life crisis ever comes to fruition, it is likely where we will reside, too.  We just need to work out some minor logistics of where we'd live and what we'd do to support ourselves.  I'm thinking a career as a ski-lift operator sounds promising.

This is Charlie and his cousin, Johnny, approximately 43 years ago.


The pin striped bathing suit cracks. me. up. 

It was so great to see Johnny and Lis and meet their children.


The last time we visited each other was in October of 2001, when Johnny's younger sister, Stephanie was married.  At that time, their two oldest sons were aged two, and a few months.  Back then, Jack and Luke were sweet little tots riding around in carseats and strollers.  Now these two strapping young men are 17 and 15, and were engaged in a near constant wrestling match with their 13-year old brother, Adam.   It hit me like a ton of bricks that scene will soon be MY reality because teenage boys are prone to do this type of physical challenge thing?!

Our kids loved them.  And they really enjoyed getting to know their second cousins - whose grandmother, Mary, is their grandmother, Jeanne's, younger sister.


On the last night of our trip, their youngest child, Annie, who is a year younger than the triplets, spent the night with us in our condo.  Although they weren't yet out of school for Spring Break, Johnny and Lis graciously consented to let Annie miss school one morning, so she could ski with us.  

It was St. Patrick's Day and everyone was sporting their green!


(Charlie and Annie picking out the routes for the next day.)


The children, who didn't go to sleep until past 11:00 PM, were in the hot tub just before 7:00 in the morning before hitting the slopes.  Never underestimate the will of a child to get out of bed ridiculously early when a hot tub is involved...


Seeing as she learned to ski at approximately the same time she learned to walk, and she skis every Friday with her school gym class (how outrageously cool is that?!) ... it's no surprise Annie's an EXPERT.  I did my best to keep up with her on each of the runs, and was in absolute awe at how she moved so effortlessly ... like her skis were simply a beautifully coordinated extension of her feet.


While our family was scouting out all of the green and blue runs, when I prompted her where her favorite places are to ski, Annie informed me that she typically skis the double black diamonds at the TOP of the mountain.  For the record, since a green circle in Colorado, translates to a blue square on a mountain any where else ... I can only suspect that a double black diamond in Colorado, translates to vertical cliffs and instant death elsewhere.

Sorry Liz, until such time that you can stand up for a picture on a flat spot of the slope ... you absolutely CANNOT follow Annie down the mogul run between the trees. 


I'll post more photos of the trip this week, but in short order - our Spring Break was wonderful and fun and perfect in nearly every way.  


The only thing that could have made it better is if Annie had a twin sister, because she was in very high demand.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

le gustaría venir a nuestra casa para la cena?

There's a large contingency of people from my company, who are this close to retirement and because they didn't want to separate from the company - have made the very difficult decision to move to Houston, while their families are still in Virginia.   They'll travel home as often as they can, but it hasn't been easy.  So we've taken to inviting several of these colleagues over for dinner and as a result... they're becoming very good friends.

One of my colleagues especially dreaded the move to Houston.  He's been so resistant to live here, and feels that his situation is so temporary - that all of his furniture is inflatable.  Despite the fact that he very much has the financial means to buy actual furniture, he has an inflatable couch and mattress in his studio apartment.  He recently told me about having some of our other transient colleagues over to his apartment to watch football, and while one man was seated on one end of the couch, another man sat down next to him, which catapulted the first one in to the air.

True Story!

This man lived in Texas before, and has explored every inch of the state, but now his adventurous heart, wife, and young daughter, are in the Appalachians.  This past October, we had him over for dinner one night, and a few days later at work he said to me, "You know what? It just dawned on me why I'm in this Godforsaken place.  I was brought here because of YOU.  Think about it!  I have a Suburban so while you are recovering from brain surgery, I can come help you and Charlie however you need.  You need someone to shuttle the kids around?  Get them from school?  Take them to soccer?  Dentist?  I AM YOUR GUY.  You call me anytime you need me, and I'll be there."    

And he meant it. 

His act of kindness floored me.  As did the act of kindness of neighbors and friends - several of whom it felt like we hardly knew that came forth with dinners and offers of help.   Some of my other colleagues from California and the mid-Atlantic region sent us five weeks worth of dinner, delivered each Friday to our doorstep.   The community of friendship and support that sprung up around us was unbelievable and inspiring and awesome.  And what it's taught me is that people want to help.  They want to be part of a community, something that is bigger than them.

You know what??  Me, too!!

A few weeks ago at Henry's soccer practice - I noticed that the little sister of Henry's teammate had a cotton ball in her ear, and a bandage on the back of her head.  So I mentioned to the mother that her daughter's dressing looked like she was recovering from a surgery I had just had.  That led to a conversation, and lo and behold, the mother told me that her little one just had a basal skull tumor removed.  Lo and behold ... by the very same neurologist in Houston that removed my basal skull tumor.  

And not only that, this family had just moved to Texas.  Her husband was relocated for work (I was relocated for work!) and they had previously lived in the Carolinas (I previously - like 25 years ago - lived in the Carolinas!) and within weeks of moving here, they discovered that they had a brain tumor that required immediate surgery.  Sound familiar??

We talked for the entire 1.5-hour practice.  Drawing upon my own adult experience, I told her what the surgery was like, and what helped me most during my recovery. (Medication. Sleep. Medication. Jane Austen movies.)  I also told her that her daughter's hearing would likely return - as mine did - and that awful popping noise would subside after seven weeks, give or take a day.  But the pressure in her ear like she was at the bottom of a pool, would possibly remain for the next 6 to 12 months.  Or so I've been told, I still have it - nearly four months post-op.

This family? They'll be joining us for dinner at the end of the month.

Later, at the triplet's soccer practice - I was talking with a fellow parent who speaks virtually no English.  I speak even less Spanish.  But somehow, with the help of the Translator App on our iPhones, we managed to communicate and for the next 1.5-hours, we talked about all kinds of things like, "How do you say ....?" and "Como se dice...?"   She desperately wants to learn English, and I desperately want to learn Spanish - so we've agreed to help each other.

This woman and I totally connected and now she is on the way to becoming mi nuevo mejor amigo.

The Spirit moved me, and I invited this non-English speaking family over to our non-Spanish speaking home for dinner on Valentine's night.   Charlie wasn't with me when the invitation was extended, so once I told him, he kept asking, "Seriously? What are we going to talk about?  If they don't speak English and we don't speak Spanish, how do you see this night going?!"  Geez. I don't know ... we'll have wine and cheese and it'll just fall in to place, I'm sure of it!

Turns out, the evening was perfect.  


With the help of our iPhone App and a father that spoke a little more English than we expected -we had a maravilloso time.


After dinner, we split up in to two teams ... adults versus children ... and we played Pictionary. And we learned a lot of new words in espanol.  For example, Charlie without his goatee is a papacita!


My mother did this type of thing a lot when I was growing up ... she opened our home up to everyone, and she always made people feel so welcomed and appreciated.  I hope to impart that same value to our own children; open your home to people - be a friend.  I'm convinced that to have a friend - you have to be a friend.  And the best way to have friends, and build your community, is around the dining room table.

Seven months in and we are really loving Texas.  If our moves have taught us anything, we've learned the critically important lesson that you've got to bloom where you are planted.

Aquí está a la floración! 

(y pasar los guisantes favor!)

(Translation: Here's to blooming!) 

(And pass the peas, please!)