One Perfect Spot for Kids- Lehnis Train Museum, Brownwood, Texas

When thinking of perfect places to tote a trio of grandkids on a road trip, Brownwood, Texas might not be the first place that pops in your head. However, Brownwood does have a lot to offer. One of those cool offerings is the Lehnis Train Museum. Daughter #3 is in her last semester at Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas. She also just celebrated her 22nd birthday, so on a whim, Tony and I decided to take a road trip with the trio.

We were super impressed with the space and scale of this museum. The kids loved all the model trains and watching them speed along the tracts. The volunteers are fantastic. The fellow running the model trains was also building new cars and engines as he spoke to us. We learned a lot and will avoid a lot of mistakes when we start building a set of our own.

The museum offers a lot of interactive exhibits. The play area is quite large and offered a lot for the kids to build and interact with, the trio spent about an hour and a half in this area and cried when we said it was time to go. The time spent here was so fun. You could see their brains working as they manipulated the levers, latches, and physics demonstrations. No one asked for a video all day!

But, the highlight of the day was the mini train that we got to ride. The cost is $2.00 per person (4 and under are free) in addition to the entrance fee which is $4.00 per person (4 and under are free). And this was the best spent $2.00 ever! The conductors were fun and let the kids blow the horn at the end of the ride.

Brownwood, Texas offers a lot of fun, low key family fun. The train museum is not the only attraction in Brownwood. You can learn more about Brownwood and other great places in Texas if you look in the Texas Travels category over on the sidebar. I have been traveling with kids for almost 30 years, and simple is a good thing.

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It’s National Homemade Soup Day- Recipe!

I am a huge fan of soup. It is the first meal I made solo at the age of five. Yes, I was five- you can read all about it here. My mom made this soup frequently and she taught me how.

Soup comes in so many forms ranging from extremely difficult to super simple. What we called homemade soup is super simple. Because I only know how to make soup in a large quantity, I often freeze portions in quart size freezer bags. This soup reheats well making it a great option for daily lunches. This recipe is very flexible making a great way to repurpose leftovers such as pot roast or pinto beans.

Recipe for Homemade Soup

1 lb. of ground meat or ground turkey
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 medium potatoes peeled and chopped
2-3 cups of mixed veggies- any kind you like
1- 13 once can of stewed tomatoes
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp ground sage
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

In medium skillet, brown the ground met with the onions. 

In an  8 quart stock pot or Dutch oven (you can use a larger stock pot- then you don’t have to worry about over-filling) bring water and potatoes to a boil.  Add enough water to boil the potatoes, but not so much that you have to pour a lot off, because the water does have lots of nutrients in it.  If you are using fresh or frozen veggies, add them now.  Boil until the potatoes are fork tender.  Add the ground meat, stewed tomatoes  and veggies- if you are using canned or leftovers.  Add seasonings and more water or broth as needed to achieve the desired consistency.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes then let  cool a bit.  This soup is great with cornbread or crackers.

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Getting More of What You REALLY Want- Intentionality

Since Jonathan swore an oath and joined the United Sates Marines the day before Thanksgiving, I have been living intentionally. The intention was to make the most memories, accomplish what really mattered to each of us, and to feel like we had properly closed this chapter in our lives.

We had the best time! I cooked the things he requested, planned the parties, the baptism and whatever else any of us wanted to do “one more time” before he shipped out and the schedule was not our own.

We hung out on the couch and watched our favorite movies or shows. This might be considered by some to be a waste of time. Not for us, this is how we bond. We pile up on one couch and laugh together then later we communicate in movie quotes. Movie quotes for us is like a secret language. This was an intentional waste of time and it was the best use of that time. I got to feel him resting his head on me one more time just like he did when he was little.

The last two weeks were especially perfect. It all happened because we were intentional about how we spent our time and what we did.

I came away from this time with a renewed desire to live intentionally. This is not new for me or us, but life got really intense for a couple of years and the intention of the day was to survive. That, my friend, is not living.

All of our married life we have asked ourselves what we wanted to have in 20 years or 50 years. What did we want our kids to look back and remember about home? What kind of marriage did we want? Then, every action or decision we made was based on those answers. Dose what we are doing move us toward that end goal? We haven’t been as intentional as I would like us to be.

So, Tony and I are having conversations about how we want to schedule our time and what memories we want to create. We are now living with intentionality again. You do have to schedule the important things or at least schedule time that gives enough space that the important things can happen.

intentionality

Pronunciation /ɪˈntɛnʃ(ə)nalɪti/ 

NOUN

mass noun

1The fact of being deliberate or purposive.

‘Therefore, intentionality and deliberate programming done in camps often resulted in positive youth development.’

More example sentences

Synonyms

1.1Philosophy The quality of mental states (e.g. thoughts, beliefs, desires, hopes) which consists in their being directed towards some object or state of affairs.

‘The latter, it will be recalled, is characterized by intentionality, directedness towards an object.’

http://www.lexico.com

Time goes by quickly. I want to look back as see a full life with the best memories.

Some of the things we are intentionally scheduling:

  • Sunrise fishing
  • sunrise kayaking
  • full moon gazing on the beach
  • family dinners
  • day trips with the grands
  • emails to family friends
  • hand-written letters
  • texts to friends and family
  • dinner with new friends
  • monthly hiking trips
  • weekly business meetings for us
  • regular fasting
  • prayer
  • and whatever else we think of.

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See You Later- What A Wonderful Thought

This past weekend, we traveled back to Canton, TX and celebrated Jonathan as he embarks on his new life.

He has chosen to serve and departs for boot camp in less than a week. It was time to say, “See You Later.” Watching him interact with his friends and family was such a gift. Knowing that there wouldn’t be another moment like this was sobering. All of his friends will be very different when Jonathan sees them again. As it stands, we won’t see him again before August. One set of newly married friends will have welcomed their first child, his sister will be in law school and who knows what that much time will bring to the rest of their lives.

So, we soaked it all up. Laughter was in abundance as were smiles. He won’t look the same when he gets back. He will not be the same when he gets back. But, that is a thing to be celebrated, not grieved. Nothing stays the same, he is choosing to become more.

See you later, Big Boy! We could not possibly be more proud of you!

Strong Women

This last Saturday, my family celebrated my grandmother’s 90th birthday. I am 48 and I still have my grandmother. Not only is she still alive, but she is LIVING. She works in her garden, goes to church, mows her yard- she is still living. We share a lot of interests- gardening, reading, and cooking. I am her oldest grandchild.

She has a sister who also lives around the corner from her. We call her Auntie (said Ain-tee). She makes the best cakes and pies of anyone I know. She also loves to read and for several decades was the librarian at the Junior High School in our small town.

I am her oldest great-niece. I have learned a lot from these two ladies. Mostly, I learned what it looks like to be strong. Both have suffered loss and faced difficulties in their lives. They both raised a large family and loved hard. My Auntie had four boys and my grandmother had 3 girls, 1 boy, and 1 more girl. I had 3 girls and 1 boy- had I had one more I am certain it would have been a girl. My mother and all my aunts showed me what strong looked like, as well. We are all Texan born and raised.

Not only did they live examples of strength but they told stories of the women in our family that handled their stuff. One great-aunt got tired of a drunk and abusive husband. She waited till he passed out, sewed him in a sheet, and took a broom handle to him. Things greatly improved in their marriage. As a kid I thought, “Oh, this is how you handle that situation.” Another great-aunt got tired of her husband running around on her. He woke up with this petite lady sitting on his chest and a .45 aimed at his face. He straightened up. Again, I was taking notes.

Now, I have never had to use any of these particular lessons. I married a great guy who is a faithful man. However, I have tools in my toolbox and this is empowering. As a matter of fact, Tony worked with a guy who didn’t see anything wrong with a little “extra” on the side. He had a very sweet wife who just kept paying for all his toys and putting up with his behavior. One day while they were on duty at the fire station this guy looks at Tony and says, “You mean you would never sleep around on your wife. Why?”

Tony replied, ” Because its wrong. AND because my wife isn’t as nice as your wife.”

Guy, “What do you mean?”

Tony “I mean my wife isn’t a nice as yours. She’ll take a sledge hammer to my knees while I sleep.”

He was not wrong, I am not that kind of “nice”. I come from a long line of women who don’t put up with that kind of mess. Boundaries matter, it’s also good to understand what happens when lines are crossed.

Now, some of you are having issues with my words. I mean how can a decent person advocate such violence. I am a God-fearing Christian, how can I advocate such violence? All I can say is that sometimes, violence is the answer. I know this just seems wrong, but how many times have people needed to get out of an abusive situation and had no help from law enforcement because a crime had not been committed or there was a crime and the abuser paid bail and was back on the doorstep within hours?

Sometimes you have to be your own hero.

Here’s the thing- I have never had to get physical in defense of myself or my family. I even tried once and the girl wouldn’t engage. Some punk beat up my younger sister on the bus. I wasn’t there and the girl, who was close to my age, jumped my sister who was 4 years younger. That would not stand. I chose to ride the bus to school the next morning. We exchanged nothing but words, however she did not hit on my sister again. Bullies know who to target. They target those they can attack without any repercussions. I am not one of those people. I may wear an orange jumpsuit for a time, but there will be repercussions if you mess with one of mine.

This cute little lady in the pictures above drove a school bus for a couple of decades. She drove a bus in the more “questionable” parts of Dallas. When my grandmother married my granddad, she was 5’4″ and weighed 105 lbs. By the time I was riding along on her bus routes, she weighed a little more but was still a small woman. This particular day, she was running a route that was predominately high school kids from a rough part of town. One boy mouthed off at her and I was like “uh-oh”, where I come from you do NOT mouth off to the women. I was also scared because she was going to need back-up and at around 10 years old (when I married I also weighed 105 lbs. and was 5’4″), I wasn’t going to be much help. So she looks up in her mirror at this kid and says, “You think you’re bad? You ain’t bad. I’m bad, now turn around and shut up.” I was in awe. He did it, too. The whole ride was calm and no-one gave her any trouble. Again, I was taking notes in my head and I thought “That is how you handle your stuff.”

So, now here I am at 48 and I write books with strong lead females. I don’t know how to write anything else. The women handle their stuff, they love hard and value their husbands and their families.

I am so grateful to have had my grandmother in my life this long. I am grateful to have been raised by a strong woman and been in the company of strong women my whole life. I am also grateful to have raised strong women, as well. Pictured below is five generations of the oldest daughter having an oldest daughter. The line goes back for seven generations.

What To See In Galveston- Galveston Railroad Museum

Traveling with children is one of the best experiences.  It can also be one of the most challenging.  Galveston is an incredible destination for families.  One of the attractions that make Galveston awesome is the Galveston Railroad Museum.

With 5 acres and over 40 pieces of rolling stock, there is plenty of room for little legs to run.  Many of the cars are open and you can walk though different kinds of cars ranging from dining cars to postal cars.  The different types of engines are on display and open to be toured.

Not only are the cars open, but they are staged with era-specific models wearing clothes or eating a snack from the era in which the train car was in operation.  Its really interesting to see what was considered “luxury” travel at that time.  You can also sit on the benches or take a picture in a berth and imagine what it felt like to travel through the night with the clickity-clack of the train tracks and the sway of the railcars as they rocked you to sleep.

A caboose makes a run down a mile of track most weekends. There is also a Polar Express during the holidays. You can access the website here.

There is also a museum exhibit open that details the history of the railroad in Texas and Galveston as well as how the museum came to be.  The museum is open daily with admission for adults being $10.00 and children ages 3 and older being $5.00.  There are various discounts listed on the website.

So, whether you are looking for an interesting stop on vacation or an interesting field trip while you homeschool, the Galveston Railroad Museum is a great stop.  For more on what to see and do in Galveston, click here.

What is your favorite activity with children?

A Writer’s Day

Today was a perfect day.

I woke up happy.

Spent time with God on my balcony.

Reflected on a sweet evening with daughter #2.

Did my workout.

Snuggled with a grandbaby.

Worked a couple hours at my paying job (transaction coordinator)

Worked several hours and wrote 5000 words at my dream job. (Writer)

Marked chores off my list.

Cooked dinner

Took a walk with the love of my life in the fog and misty rain.

Completed the week’s homework assignment.

Soaked in a hot bath.

I mean, it really doesn’t get better than this! I wanted it documented so I can reflect on it when the day isn’t so perfect.

I don’t want to blow by the sweet everyday moments that add up to a beautiful life.

The Key to a Long-lasting Marriage

Who was the person or persons that impacted your marriage the most?

Mine would be my parents. They embodied commitment.

We just celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary. I am so proud of them!

They were committed because they made a promise and you keep a promise- through the good and the bad. There was plenty of good. But building a marriage is a hard job and 50 years is a long time. I am grateful for that example. They weren’t committed because it was all good- it wasn’t. They weren’t committed because everyone’s needs were met all the time- they weren’t.

I understood going into my marriage that I was going to be in it for the long haul. It made a difference for me when the dreamy romantic ideas of what marriage would be collided with the reality of unexpected pregnancies, bills and growing up. I made a promise of till death do us part and I would keep it.

My husband made the same promise and his parents had set the same example for him.

We made it through the tough parts and what was on the other side was definitely worth the fight. Now, as we enter new seasons where the kids are gone and what was working isn’t such a good fit any longer, we know that we will make the adjustments. Divorce isn’t even a word in our vocabulary- working through the difficut spots is the ONLY option.

We are committed to making this thing the very best it can be.

I love my husband and my marriage is my most valuable possession. It is the rock my life and my family is built on. So, I take care of it. That relationship is my priority and the rewards of treating it as such are HUGE!

So, tell me- who made the biggest impact on your marriage?

My Favorite Love Story- Part One

As you know, I love a love story. I believe that every person does, too.

I am often asked what is my favorite book or love story.

The answer is easy- our love story.

Tony and I met in college. It wasn’t love at first sight. As a matter of fact, we crossed paths for months before we were even aware of each other.

The first time Tony saw me, we were in the cafeteria and his best bud- the guy I was dating- pointed me out. Tony was interested in my roommate. She was more his type, short and fleshy with dark coloring. I was 5’4″ and weighed in at 105 lbs, no curves just long an lean. Dark blonde hair with green eyes. Not what he normally dated.

Before Tony I could count the guys I dated that were shorter than six foot on one finger. His best bud was 6’4″. The first time I really noticed Tony was while on a date with the best bud. A group of us had gone to the West End in downtown Dallas. I wound up walking behind him and thought, “Wow, he has a nice backside.” And he did. As a college athlete planning to return to Turkey and play pro soccer, he worked out about 8 hours a day.

We became more aware of each other. One night the team had come back from an away soccer game and we were all hanging out in the co-ed. A remark was made that someone had taken Tony’s shirt from the locker room. I asked him where it would have gone and he said he had no idea. I have no idea what possessed me, but I hooked my finger in the neck of his jacket and pulled it out. Looking down at his bare chest took my breath away. He had the biggest set of pecs I had ever laid my eyes on. I am certain I blushed. I began to look at Tony in a different way.

If you are wondering about the best bud, we were never serious. He and I had no business together- we were both way too self-involved. He would one day be the best man at our wedding.

A few weeks later, Tony and I went on our first date. Dancing at Billy Bob’s Texas, and it was life changing.

I am not joking and I am not being overly dramatic.

We may not have been love at first sight, but that date? That was it. Being with Tony was like soaking in a hot tub. I was at ease for the first time in my life. Wrapped in his arms, I never wanted to be anywhere else.

Tony says he knew then that he was going to marry me.

But, that is not where the story ends. I broke up with him a few weeks later. But that is a story for another day.