Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Keeping a Twenty-something Entertained in a 55+ Park

We were so excited to get news that our youngest son, Blake, was flying in to see us here in South Texas! He was able to visit us because he still has good antibodies from when he and his wife had Covid in November. They know they have Covid antibodies because they have given blood and plasma ever since, and they are still getting good antibody numbers each time they are tested. Blake's wife teaches at a university, and she couldn't get off to make this trip south for some much-needed warmth and sunshine with Blake. We worried a little that we wouldn't be able to keep an active twenty-something young man properly entertained here in a resort designed for the 55+ crowd.

The normal activities, like Friday night dances and other musical entertainment several  evenings each week, are cancelled for the season because of Covid restrictions. But our activity office is working hard to provide activities that can be done outside and socially distanced. A scavenger hunt fits both of those criteria. Armed with 5 pages of pictures taken around the park, we went looking for the colorful things that people put in their front yards.

We're glad that Denisa's Mother has that new shiny three-wheel bike. We took turns riding it along with our other two bikes so the three of us could do the scavenger hunt together. We found all but one of the scavenger hunt items in 50 minutes. We also got some good exercise as we rode down every street in our park.

Another day, the activity office set up a 7-stop poker run. We borrowed that three-wheel trike again to make the ride and gather a playing card at each of those stops. We also gathered snacks and/or drinks at each stop. We enjoyed ice cream, pretzels, pop corn, cookies, rice krispies . . . It was a delicious ride that culminated in an outdoor hot dog lunch and entertainment. Too bad Blake's poker hand of two pairs didn't hold up to win one of the cash prizes.

We had absolutely beautiful weather while Blake was visiting. We enjoyed days with temperatures in the 70s and 80s while they were fighting ice and snow back at his home in Oklahoma City. He enjoyed being able to bike and then hike in shorts and a t-shirt through the state park just three miles from us.

Even though we have been to this state park many times, we had never noticed these interesting white things hanging on tree branches in one section of the park.

We're not sure why these little white snails are hanging on the trees at the very dry Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park.

For more exercise, we played pickleball and shuffleboard. Then we spent evenings cooking up meals and playing games at Mema's house. We're obviously behind in getting this blog published, because Blake was here on Super Bowl Sunday. Because we were enjoying such beautiful weather, he wanted to watch the game on our outside television. We rarely use this fourth television in our tiny home, so it was nice to put it to good use this day. One of our neighbors made sure that we had the proper plates for our pre-game nachos.

Blake should always remember the year he watched the Superbowl outside while sitting under an orange tree.

The sun went down on the day, and the hopes of the Kansas City Chiefs winning another Superbowl. Blake probably won't remember the mediocre football game, but we hope he'll always remember another fun trip to the Rio Grande Valley. We do think we kept our twenty-something son entertained in this 55+ park. And that doesn't even count a couple road trips that we made while he was visiting. But we'll blog about those next time.


Friday, February 19, 2021

How to Make Your Mother-in-Law Happy

While we usually blog about cool hikes and neat places to kayak, we are going to use this blog like a "how-to guide." Mark is the master, so today he is giving advice on "how to make your Mother-in-law happy."

First step is noticing when things need to be done around her house--and doing them. We first raked all her leaves and bagged them up. Then Mark tackled all the yard-work, including some bushes and trees that haven't been trimmed for their entire lives.

Mark spent the rest of the day making his Mother-in-law happy as he trimmed and pulled and hauled away debris that his 90-year-old mother-in-law, Betty, couldn't.

Betty is pretty excited about her new transportation. When a good friend left to enter assisted living, she gave her rusty old three-wheeled-bike to Betty.

It was a great gift, but all the chrome was covered in rust.

Because he wanted to make his Mother-in-law happy, Mark read on the internet how to remove that rust. One source suggested using a wet piece of aluminum foil to scrub away the rust. When he tried this trick for the first time, he saw what a difference a little foil and a lot of elbow grease can do to shine up part of a rusty bike fender.

Mark and his Mother-in-law scrubbed on that bike to bring the shine back to her new ride.

Mark worked many hours on the tough spokes to turn them from rusty . . .

to shiny! That really made his Mother-in-law happy! Then he greased the chain, adjusted the seat and the chain, and now it looks and rides like a new bike.

Another way to make your Mother-in-law happy is to recognize and then fix problems that she can't even see. The hurricane that hit this section of Texas last summer blew off car ports and porches, and blew down trees in this park. Betty was lucky in that she only lost a few shingles. Mark made many trips to the roof assessing damage, and then buying the supplies needed to make the repairs. She didn't like watching him go up and down her shaky ladder, but having the damage fixed did make his Mother-in-law happy.

While Betty still drives her car, Mark took over driving duties to make his Mother-in-law happy. He drove her wherever she wanted to go. He drove her to the pharmacy, the post office, the bank, and to favorite restaurants to pick up food. We did all the grocery shopping and Walmart runs for Betty. We took her and our friend Barbara to Padre Island for a road trip.

We also took them on smaller road trips, like a drive through Mission, Texas. We were looking for the 40 different butterfly statues scattered around this town that also hosts the World Butterfly Center.

This statue at the Mission City Hall also included a monarch caterpillar and chrysalis. 

Barbara enjoys going on our little road trips, and she has been spoiling us with special treats. One day she made a sour orange meringue pie, another day it was banana bread, then coconut cake, apple pie, flan, cinnamon fried apples, then we had taco soup and chicken pot pie soup. It's fun to hang out with someone that loves to cook and try new recipes!

We had to fit in that beautiful meringue pie picture, but now we must get back to Mark's how-to-guide. Besides giving her more mobility by driving to new destinations, Mark also recommends helping with other forms of transportation to make your Mother-in-law happy. He pushed her in an all-terrain wheel chair all over the trails of a nearby state park.

One of the most important drives we took was to Edinburg for Mother and Barbara to get their first Covid vaccination shots. It made his Mother-in-law very happy that Mark filled out the on-line shot scheduling and dropped her off at the door for this important vaccine. Denisa went inside with them to help fill out forms and make sure that our 90-year-olds understood the process. They both felt like they won the lottery when they got their invitation for the vaccine through the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley medical campus.

With all those things accomplished, Mark knows that probably the most important way to make his Mother-in-law happy is to spend time with her. We've been over to her house to share meals and play games every day during this month of our visit. While there, he rewires light switches, repairs sagging bathroom cabinets, gets her new I-phone set up, deciphers confusing mail, washes dishes, and takes out her trash. Yes, he's the master of making his Mother-in-law happy. But then again, he's also the master of keeping his mother-in-law's daughter happy as well. 

P.S. After Mark proof-read this blog, he insisted that we add that Denisa also helped with those projects and trips. So we'll add that note, because Denisa wants to keep Betty's son-in-law happy too. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The Motor Home is getting Pampered

Since most of our usual RV resort activities have been canceled, we made a long list of projects that needed our attention. Sitting in one place for a month gives us the rare opportunity to order parts and pieces that we need to complete projects. It is a good time for the motor home to get a little pampering.

Mark pulled the couch into the middle of the room, and scotch-guarded our new sofa. Note to self: check the humidity before attempting this, as it took a looooong time to dry during a week of high humidity. Then it was ready to be bolted down to the floor with the seat belts secured in place.

We went shopping for an end table to fit beside that sofa. We wanted an end table with storage, that was 16 inches or less in width, and that would match our other woodwork as closely as possible. We found they don't make such a thing--at least it's not available through the six furniture stores in this area. But Denisa's Mother offered us an old wooden file cabinet she had. Mark shined it up . . .

and it fit perfectly! It's not exactly our color and kind of wood, but it was closer than anything we had seen in the stores. That wall of the motor home looks quite different than it did a year ago. We have a new file cabinet, new sofa, and new three-drawer chest in the last ten months.

Because this sofa has two recliners, but no sleeper, we also used this time in one place to order a queen-sized air mattress. There is room to store it behind the file cabinet, and now we still have a bed for guests. There is just enough room for the mattress between the dining table and the couch.

During the day, the queen-sized air mattress can be stored on top of our bed to get it out of the way.

The motor home also got its annual roof cleaning and waxing. Denisa took this picture of Mark on top, cleaning off the fiberglass roof.

Then Mark took this picture of Denisa on the ground, juicing oranges for breakfast.

After it dries from its cleaning, the roof gets two coats of wax. Whew! That's a good job to have done for another year!

We're taking advantage of the dry weather to do our outdoor chores. We washed the outside of the motor home on another day. We had planned to do just the two long sides one day, and then do the front and back another day, and the tires another day. But when Mark gets going it's hard to get him to stop. We did it all in one day, and we were pooped!

We're having problems with a leaky shower drain, so that was another project to conquer. We got this "fixed" in Alabama last spring, but their fix didn't hold. So Mark ordered better parts and did it himself this time. Below is a picture of the underneath side of our shower and its new drain. It's a very small space to work in, and it was not a fun project!

We also have cleaned every inch of the woodwork inside the motor home. Denisa wanted to clean the kitchen cabinets . . . 

but we ended up doing everything. Unlike a home with painted walls, almost every inch of our 35-foot home is wood. So that's a really big job to clean it all with Murphy's Oil Soap, and then go over it again with scratch cover.

So our little home on wheels is getting some pampering while we are hanging out in South Texas. We must say that it looks pretty good inside and out as it enjoys its spot among the citrus trees and under the palms on a full-moon night.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Settling in to Resort Life for a Month

We're settling into life at the RV resort. At first we didn't know if we would even make it a week here since most of the fun activities were cancelled. But we are getting used to the Covid restrictions and learning to live with them. We love the indoor air-conditioned pickle ball courts, even though we really hate to play it wearing a mask! It's hard to play ball when you can't breathe and your glasses are fogging up from wearing a mask.

Denisa has also found a group of hard core line dancers that dance masked. On a year when she thought she wouldn't get to do her favorite activity, she's glad to get to dance! That keeps her busy several mornings each week and is great exercise even when your glasses are fogging up.

We can also ride our bikes around the park for exercise. But our favorite place to ride is the Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park--just three miles away. We've been here many times before, and it's always fun to find the resident birds and those that are visiting here for the winter. This bright orange altamira oriole is obviously enjoying the local citrus as much as we are.

The pretty colors of the green jays are also a special treat in south Texas.

We always seem to find a yellow-breasted kiskadee,

It was a colorful-bird bike ride, as we also saw this golden-fronted woodpecker with the bright yellow and red spots on its head.

But Denisa will take pictures of the less flashy mockingbird, if it frames itself so well on a beautiful blue sky background.

Since we know this park well, we were anxious to go to our favorite bird blind. But there wasn't a bird anywhere in sight. Then we noticed that all the feeders were empty and the water feature was dry. The only living thing we saw at the bird blind was a javelina resting under a bird feeder.

When we asked at the ranger station, we found that they quit stocking this bird blind with food because of this javelina. He has taken up residence here, enjoying the bird seed that falls to the ground. But he has became aggressive to the rangers that come to fill up the feeders. So they're waiting for him to leave this spot before they start feeding the birds here again.

We were at another bird feeder site when we heard a rustling in the tall grass. Then another javelina stepped out from the grass to clean up the stray bird seed on the ground here.

Javelinas have poor eye sight, and he didn't even know that Mark was close. But Mark was ready to run when the startled javelina took off in his direction.

It's nice to be able to go to church again, even if it's outside. The owners of the RV park won't let large groups gather in the recreation hall for church, so an individual has organized an outdoor Sunday morning worship service. He sets up a sound system and sings the music, and the preacher gives the sermon from under the carport. It's one of Denisa's Mother's neighbors, so we have front row seats.

Some people bring their lawn chairs and others sit in their golf carts up and down "A Street" every Sunday morning while we social distance in this outdoor church service.

This is a 55+ park, so people are being careful to social distance and masks are required inside any building. Some of the residents are finally getting their first vaccinations. We would love to get Denisa's Mother's Covid vaccinations while we are here and can drive her. But with a larger-than-usual elderly population here in the winter, there doesn't seem to be enough vaccine to go around. She is registered with two different groups, but has yet to get the magic ticket for a vaccination. 

So we are settling in for a month in the Bentsen Grove RV Resort during this year that Covid has changed life in so many ways. We enjoy the palm trees and the moonlight, but we're really not liking the cancelled activities, masks, and the social distancing from our South Texas friends.