Thursday, December 6, 2018

Thanksgiving Fun and Flu

Being a new physician, means that you might not get the best holiday working schedule. When we found out our son had to work the day before and after Thanksgiving, we decided to make the trip to Kansas City to spend the holiday with them. 

Of course, getting to spend time with our granddaughter again was good incentive to make the 6-hour trip.

We were joined by Carter's other set of grandparents for Thanksgiving together. We love that our sons have married into such great families, as we love their in-laws! We're not sure how we didn't get a group picture, but we did get a picture of both grandmothers with our favorite (and only) granddaughter.

No pictures of the Thanksgiving feast, but we think that the brined turkey was the best we've ever eaten. That evening we walked to downtown Kansas City for the 89th annual lighting festival. The streets were blocked so the entire area became a huge pedestrian mall. The stage was set and the Plaza District was packed for blocks around.

Even with all the crowds and excitement, Luke managed to get little Carter to sleep.

For the rest of us, we waited with anticipation as the Plaza District buildings went from Ho-Hum to . . .

Ho-Ho and Merry Christmas! After the lights came on, we watched as fireworks lit up the sky.

As we made the two-mile walk back to their home, we could see the lights of the Plaza outlining its Christmas finery. We enjoyed our first experience of this long-standing Kansas City tradition, and we certainly had perfect weather for it.

We packed up early the next morning, as we had the 6.5 hour drive to the Oklahoma panhandle for the Engelman Thanksgiving celebration. But besides all the Thanksgiving fun, we had also picked up the Thanksgiving flu. Mark managed to dodge the bullet, but Denisa spent the next day quarantined away from all the food and fun. No pictures of the turkey, but this was Denisa's "Thanksgiving feast."

Instead of just spreading holiday cheer in Kansas City, it looks like we were also spreading holiday germs! Tis the season!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Family Fun in Oklahoma City

After spending nine days of mother-time, Mark picked Denisa up at the airport in Oklahoma City to start some family-time. Our first stop was Denisa's sister's house in Edmond, where we spent the day making peppernuts. This is a family tradition started by our grandparents, who gave these spicy little cookies away at Christmas time. Rolling and cutting these tiny cookies is a labor-intensive process. We were so busy that we forgot to take a picture of Connie, Joe, Mark and Denisa working in the kitchen. But we did remember to take a picture of some of the finished products. We noticed that some of the peppernuts were getting bigger as the day progressed and the bakers got more "creative" with the dough.

We were also blessed with two evenings of family time, as nieces and nephews and their families came to see us in Edmond. What fun family time! After a couple days, we moved to Oklahoma City to spend time with our son and his wife. Claire was working, when Blake took us to the Oklahoma City zoo on a beautiful weather day.

It has been years since we had been to the zoo in Oklahoma City, and Blake and Claire have season passes. We were excited to see all the changes inside, such as the brand new Asian section with its beautiful buildings.

But of course the stars of the show are the animals, who were enjoying lounging in the sunshine and enjoying the weather. Seeing the grizzlies up close reminded us of our visit to Glacier National Park and the bears we saw on the trail.

The lighting made the color of these pink flamingos really pop in the sunshine. In contrast, the juvenile bird in the center seems to have his head bowed, as he hasn't gotten his pink plumage yet.

Denisa's favorite is the giraffe, and they were close to the fence for the feeding. He was enjoying the $5 pieces of lettuce that were being handed over the fence.

We have to say that the Oklahoma City zoo has some first-class exhibits, with well-done enclosures. It allows you to get up close and personal, while the animals still have a large space to enjoy.

Also, spread throughout the zoo are statues that are good for pictures. Sometimes it's hard to differentiate the animals from the visitors.

One of the newest members of the zoo family is the baby elephant born this fall. Mom and baby were walking right toward us when Denisa snapped this picture that seems to highlight the fence more than the animals.

We had a great day at the zoo! This was followed by more fun activities, as we spent a couple evenings with Claire's parents too. We really love it that our sons have married into such fine families that we enjoy spending time with. We also spent some time playing piano duets . . .

and yoga. Denisa enjoyed yoga while in South Texas, and Claire is a certified instructor. So we had our own private exercise sessions as we cobra-ed our way to more flexible muscles.

Claire is also working on her certification in HIIT--for those not up with the latest fitness jargon, that's High Intensity Interval Training. She needed a group of volunteers to practice her teacher-skills. Along with Claire's parents, we volunteered for an evening of exercise without thinking this through. Below is a picture of the upstairs studio, overlooking the Christmas lights on Broadway. It's a beautiful view for the intense workout that we will remember for a long time! Claire did great, but some of her volunteers were feeling it the next day.

Besides all this playing, we also got some work done. We bought them a new dining room light fixture for Christmas, which also included the labor to hang it. Mark and Blake also installed a new wooden window blind. But the big project of the weekend was installing this macrame hanging in their living room.

Made by Claire's aunt and uncle, this was the beautiful back-drop for their wedding vows in the park. Thanks to Mark's handiwork, it now hangs in their living room.

So we are enjoying some good family fun and fellowship here in the Oklahoma City area. Denisa has been living out of a suitcase for two weeks now. This makes her appreciate how easy it usually is to travel in the motor home, where no packing is necessary. But with it winterized right now, we are glad to have family who welcome us into their homes. This two-week suitcase trip isn't over yet, as we have plans for more fun in Kansas City!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Mother-Time in Two Climates

We had a fast couple days of getting the motor home moved to the Oklahoma panhandle, and then Mark prepped it for the freezing weather that was nipping at our heels. Then we planned to split up and spend some "Mother Time." That meant Denisa jumped into her Mother's car to take her on that looooooong drive to the Rio Grande Valley where she spends the winter. Denisa and her Mother spent a night on the road in Junction, Texas, where several major highways come to a common point. Since we are deep into Texas barbecue country, we had a smoking plate of meat at Lum's. This recommended local smoke house will now forever go into the itinerary as the required food stop on the way to the valley. That's the leanest brisket and ribs we've found in a long time.

It's a 13-hour drive to the tip of Texas, so we arrived the next afternoon to Bentsen Grove Resort in Mission, Texas. This is where Denisa's Mother has wintered for the last 33 years. We always play a game to spot the first palm tree on the drive south. We had seen many by this time, but this street of the resort is lined with some of the tallest palms around.

The best thing about this resort, however, is the fruit trees. Citrus trees line many of the lots. Denisa isn't used to being in the valley this early, to see that most of the fruit is still green this time of the year.

But a few early-ripening trees had enough orange-colored oranges and tangerines ready to get her citrus-fix during her week in south Texas.

She did enjoy some of the resort's amenities, including pickleball, water aerobics, yoga, bingo, etc. But our real focus was getting her Mother's park model home out of its six-month storage status into its six-month living status. After a few long days of work, things are looking like home again.

We had some cool weather and rain during the week, but that gave us incentive to stay in the house to get work projects done. Denisa's 88-year-old Mother says her little street in this resort feels like home since she's lived here so many winters.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch in the panhandle of Oklahoma, Mark is not looking at palms trees. Instead, he is looking at snow. It's a good thing it is winterized, because this is a mighty cold view of our home.

Remember that husky puppy that chews up anything left unprotected? Well, they found out that she absolutely loves the snow.

Snow cover over the grass means that the cattle must be fed every day, so Mark was on feed duty while he was visiting Oklahoma.

He was the gate-opener as he and his Mother rode the snow-covered pastures with his rancher brother. The new baby calves are following their mothers up to the feed line. So the pick-up crew gets a great view of the newest members of the herds.

One cow had twin calves, and it's seldom that a mother can successfully raise both. So Mark's new job was feeding this baby that had been stealing milk from other cows until they brought him up to the barn. Denisa was a little jealous of this job, as she was always the designated surrogate mother to all the orphaned and twin calves when she was growing up.

Besides outdoor chores with the cattle, Mark was also keeping busy inside. Just like Denisa, he was helping his 90-year-old Mother with projects around the house.

After a week of being separated by 820 miles, it was time for Denisa to fly north and get a real taste of winter. Since we are used to spending 24/7 together, this unusual 9 days of spending time in different climates helps us to appreciate each other more. And we must say that our moms don't seem to mind this mother-time either.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Tough Day of Travel

After two weeks of baby-sitting our six-month-old granddaughter, we are fast-forwarding three generations and heading to the panhandle of Oklahoma to see our Mothers. We are travelers that usually move the motor home one to two hours to its next location. So this was a huge journey from Independence, Missouri to the panhandle of Oklahoma. What a tough day!

We had the slides in and things packed up the night before, planning for an early departure. We wanted everything to be ready. But in the morning Mark found water pouring out of the bottom of the motor home and the cement underneath completely wet. That wasn't according to plan! 

But before we could look for the source of all that water, it started raining. Now it is wet everywhere, and all we know is that everything in the basement storage is now drenched. What a start to a tough day!

Our long journey started with the drive in Kansas City morning traffic--in the rain. Add some construction and stopped traffic just for fun. What a tough day!

We crossed the Kansas state line, and Denisa didn't even try to take a picture. That's how tough this day has been! Then the winds picked up, and we had some 30-mile-per-hour south winds hitting our tall motor home. Anyone that has ever tried to drive a big vehicle in these conditions knows that Mark was having to work hard to keep us between the lines. What a tough day!

Cold weather is coming our way, and we need tomorrow to winterize the plumbing (after we determine what is leaking). So we pressed on and made the entire seven hour drive with only one stop for fuel. That would mean that we had lunch while rolling down the road. We started the generator so Denisa could warm up some leftovers, and she fed Mark spoon-fulls while he drove. Sorry, no picture, but it would have been a good one. Just imagine Denisa standing between the front captain chairs, spoon-feeding the driver and hoping she didn't drop that plate of food if we hit a sudden bump in the road. What a tough day!

After a long, tough day, we arrived at the ranch outside of Beaver. We're worn out, but glad to have this long boring drive out of the way. The forecast calls for freezing temperatures and even snow almost immediately. So the next job is detective work to find the leak in the plumbing. It looks like this is the culprit--the kitchen sink drain pipe. What a tough day!

Mark unloaded everything in the wet basement storage bins and set them out to dry. That's when we found out the new ranch pup has a chewing problem. She might be cute, but she chewed up our sewer connector and our tow bar cover. What a tough day!

Even with the broken pipe connection, Mark managed to get the pipes filled with anti-freeze to protect them from Oklahoma's cold. What a tough day! So after a tough time getting it here, this is our view of our motor home's parking spot for the holidays. It is our "home, home on the range." Unlike the song, we have heard a few discouraging words as we got through this tough day.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Firsts of Grandparenting

We are staying near Kansas City for two weeks, catching up on time with our granddaughter, Carter. We are enjoying lots of her "firsts." Since she is our first grandchild, these milestones are also our firsts of grandparenting.

For example, on one of our baby-sitting days, we strolled to the playground for her first time in the swing. It was a beautiful blue-sky day, and perfect weather for some time outside.

We took a padded insert, and she loved her first of many years of swinging at the park. I think Dad and Grandad have prepped her well for that swinging motion with all the lifts and swings they do at home.

Our timing was good to be in Kansas City for her first Halloween. Mom has her dressed up as Rosie the Riveter. A little part of us wanted to take her trick-or-treating. But she obviously isn't old enough to eat candy, and there's few things worse than old people going door-to-door begging for candy.

We know it's not a Halloween costume, but she looks like she has long bunny ears in this shot when we were taking off her jacket. And what a cute bunny she makes!

We were also at the house on her first half-year birthday. It's hard to believe that she is already six months old!

We really enjoyed being in Kansas City for Carter's first autumn. We had heard that Kansas City has nice fall foliage, but this was also our first time to experience it. We had great weather, allowing us to go on stroller walks through the neighborhood almost every day.

So we got to see autumn for the first time through Carter's eyes and hands.

On the news, they are exclaiming that this year's fall color is even better than usual. So we are all spoiled to see the best color for our first time.

Carter is being raised in a football-watching family, so this wasn't her first weekend of football. Dad is trying to recruit her to be an OU Sooner fan, but this picture seems to indicate she's not that excited about his choice.

She and Grandad were up after dark, watching the OSU Cowboy game, and she seemed to be more interested in this team.

Six months is the recommended time to start some solid foods, so we got to be present when she had her first taste of oatmeal. She was actually more interested in the spoon than the food on it. Earlier she was giving that spoon a two-fisted hold that was hard to pry her loose from.

It's fun to see things through the eyes of a baby experiencing life events for the first time. We've found grandparenting to be another of the wonders that we are enjoying wandering through. We're convinced that she is another of God's wonders.