Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A glimmer of thankfulness

"There's the way it ought to be, and there's the way it is." - Platoon 

^^ That quote my dad wrote in a book, as to one of his favorite quotes in life. 

Most days I am among a lot of people and do the "Why me?" It's easy to do. Think about how many times a day you think to yourself how bad things are, or 'ughhhhh why does this always happen to me'. I am frequently that person. In my childhood years I was convinced I was cursed, that if something bad was going to happen, it would happen to me. Now, after having two grandmothers die on my birthday and among other problems like car accidents, hip surgeries, arthritis I felt like it was all ONLY happening to me.

So then last week, when I lost my Dad. I was reflecting on his life. He was drafted into the Army, shot twice, lost jobs, got divorced got cancer and then ultimately lost his battle with cancer. I started thinking man, maybe HE had the bad luck!

But, then today. Today it was like the song, 'I saw God today.'  It's how I felt. I felt like FINALLY (after being a debbie downer for a while) I realized how good my life really is. (please don't judge me). I thought about my Dads life. He LIVED. I mean, he really did. He did things he always wanted to do. He had a child and watched her grow up, he walked her down the aisle and then got to welcome three grandchildren into the world.

Now, his last year/years of life were ridden with pain and suffering so he was ready. The last week he was alive he was on hospice care in the hospital. They finally got him comfortable and he would fall asleep. He would randomly open his eyes really fast, look around (like he was lost) and then say, "Shit, I thought I had gone."

If that doesn't show you how ready he was to see Gods face, I don't know what else there is. He was ready, he had accepted his fate and knew it could be unchanged. Instead of soaking in self pity and depression he was accepting of what God wanted for him. I wish last week I would have had this revelation that I did today. Because honestly, he had a good life. There is nothing more I could have asked for than to have my Dad my whole adolescent/young adult life. Leading me and teaching me. There are kids who lose their parents as BABIES, and then there are BABIES who lose their life. It's a heartbreaking and mind numbing thought when I think about those people, I hurt for them. I know God has a reason for everything he does, sometimes it is hard to believe and equally hard to accept but, I know that God has put me through trials in my life to make me stronger and it undoubtably has made me stronger in my personal life, my motherhood skills and the most important in my faith, the faith that occasionaly has a hard time weathering the storm.

Sorry this was kind of a ramble. But, If there is one thing I hope to get across, it's that we all have such an abundance of blessings in our lives and sometimes we are unwilling to acknowledge them. Think about the things you are thankful for today. I would love to hear them.

Here are a few pictures of my Dad throughout his life. Blessings and memories that I am going to hold in my heart, instead of the last few years of heartache.

 ^^ In the book my dad left some of his favorite quotes in he said
"All battles are fought by scared men who'd rather be somewhere else." - Movie In Harms Way. He said this was exactly how it felt to be in a war, scared to death all the time.
^^ My dad flying an airplane (cropduster, for all you To'Mater fans out there)

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, in a cloud of smoke. Thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming WOW, what a ride.

Traveling with kiddos.

Out of country adventures with children.


Tips for flying is found HERE!

A little back story.

Three days before a weekend trip to Kyoto, Japan I decided to text the guy (airbnb) just to reassure the travel/direction plans. He tells me  he accidentally double booked our apartment with another family........ as my head about flew off I jumped right to what we know.

Booked a hotel room.

Looking back this was SUCH a blessing because the place ended up being NOT kid friendly. Bless our friends for trying to help us out. But, after Ian fell down these wicked steep (3 flights) of stairs we ended up moving to a hotel.

If there is one thing I think I am learning after taking more trips with kids is ideas/recommendations for others after we have major fails. 
My top 8 for traveling.

1. Itinerary

Do not set your standards too high for what you want to do/what you think you can do in one day. Then after you lowered them, be prepared for those to be even lower when it comes down to it. I put a tentative itinerary together highlighting the MUST SEE places, then we try our best to see the others but it doesn't always happen. I used to get really upset about it, but after Spain I realized I am just thankful to be there experiencing new things with my family in tow.

2. Kids and meals

Schedule your days around meals. Kids need 3 squares a day, and we all know when you miss one full meltdowns are on the horizon so, bring snacks. Trains/buses/subways get long, tiring and boring. Snacks help along the way. BUT, many times kids will not be held off just on snacks alone. Life was so much easier when we made sure we had lunch (although many times we didn't eat at the places I really wanted to go to because of the time crunch.) 

We have knocked full liters of sangria all over tables, had kids puke everywhere and much much more..... sometimes you just gotta roll with it. 

3. Take time to smell the flowers

Remember that the kids don't really care about the sights your looking at. I mean once you've seen one temple... you've seen them all. Let the kids run around in the grass and along the paths. Make games and play like,  I spy. This keeps them guessing and occupies their mind while hopefully giving you enough time to check out the sights you want. I did a lot of reading up prior to going, as well as listened to the information on my headphones during the trip. ALSO, make one day ALL about them... let them decide what to do, you'll be surprised how good they are when they're in control.

4. Pictures

I know we want pictures of them, I do, I beg and plead and argue and beg some more to get my family (husband included) to take the pictures that I want. Candid are always a good option. In Europe we really tried harder to just BE there, and not focus as much on the pictures.. this resulted in literally ONE selfie with all of us together, and many of different parts of the family. It's not going to go on your wall, but there were a lot less pouty faces and angry husbands. 

Also! Your kids watch you take pictures of everything... they want to do it too. Get them a little camera. Whether it be polaroid/digital/film/disposable, they want to take them with you and will enjoy walking around looking at boring old buildings if they are taking pictures along with you. ( If you get a polaroid it could be stressful because they'll take pictures of dumb stuff and run out of pictures real quick, so remember that ha).

5. Restaurants

Ask if they have a separate room, if they do it will lighten your stress level knowing your kids aren't driving everyone else crazy. Also, go during off times. In Europe many don't eat breakfast at all they just drink coffee and have a pastry, so hotels with breakfasts are smart as well as bringing oatmeal to the hotel to make in the room using the coffee makers hot water is always a good option, and budget friendly.

6. Hotels/ AirBnB

Read the reviews!!!! Many of the sites you can look for the family reviews settings. That will give you a better picture of the place you're going to instead of just someone doting because they want to be nice. Watch out for stairs, like our above disaster, and find a place your kids will be comfortable. If you're consistently forced to tell them no so they don't break something or hurt themselves they won't be able to relax and de-stress after a day full of sightseeing. It's always better when the kids are refreshed and happy.

7. Where to stay with kids what is a better option?

AirBnB can be great, when you're going with a ton of people and you know you'll cook a bunch of meals and need lots of space. With 3 kids we have realized that the prices are usually pretty similar staying AirBnB, to staying at a hotel (we are hiltonhonors members and love them). So, you need to weigh the options. In Europe like I said above about breakfast, it's worth it to get the free breakfasts that come along with a hotel stay. A family of 5 saves a lot on breakfast, and we all know kids NEED a good breakfast if we're going to have a good day.

8. Have fun!

Remember, it's called vacation for a reason. If you just want to spend a whole day lying around in the hotel eating room service and swimming at the pool it is okay. If you miss one castle the world will not end and I promise the kids/husbands and your feet will thank you for it.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Palo Duro Canyon, Texas

This week, one of the last things my Dad told us to do was to go drive through Palo Duro Canyon. As he told us this, I found an old picture of my Mom, Dad and I at this Canyon when I was about 6 years old. There is an outdoor amphitheater there that showcases awesome plays throughout the summer. I cannot remember for the life of me actually seeing one, but I guess I have. I hope one day I will be able to come back and take the kids. But for today, we did the drive through and checked out the main sites.

My Dad told me that this is where the Texas Rangers trapped many of the Southern Plains Indians during the battle of Palo Duro Canyon in the Red River War. They then killed 1,000 wild horses (most of which belonged to the Indians). Which, led to the end of that war of Indians against the 4th Calvary Rangers. That it was one of the big reasons that there were no Indian Reservations in Texas. 

When we went, surprise surprise my dad was right. (although it didn't say anything about why there were no Indian reservations in Texas) He always had a knack for history and loved to tell a good story. If you ever needed to know something, especially about History or Geography he was the one to go to. He read so many books and was able to remember phrases and plots from books he read 50 years ago, right up until the day before he passed away. 

I can only hope that I will remember half of the stories my Dad told me. I sure do miss him. But, I know that on Thursday that beautiful sky and perfect day was for us, from him. 

Here are the pictures.

I am so glad that my Dad was true and loyal to his roots here in Texas. He raised me in Las Vegas however each summer sent me to Hereford, TX (beef capital of the world) so that I would have/know some of my Texas roots and culture. I experienced farmlife, driving tractors, running through cornfields and made memories with my cousins I will remember forever. I love this state of Texas and I am so thankful that my Dad raised me to know what family really looks like. I have been blessed with so much care since I have been here and since my Dads passing that it's hard to think about the fact that I may not be back for a while. I sure hope when we are done with the Marines we can lay down some roots here in Texas. 

But for now, I am glad to call Texas my home away from home.