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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Thanksgiving Break at the Beach!

Right this minute, I am supposed to be at this event where lots and lots of Christmassy desserts are being served. But my son fell asleep in the car on the way, having not napped today, and if I'd gone on and waken him up when we got there, *that* would have counted as a nap, and he'd have been awake until we finally just shut out all of the lights and bored him to sleep sometime between 10:30 and 11:30.

Don't worry, though. I'm eating a couple of the Little Debbie and Hostess Halloween stuff James and I bought a couple of months ago. And I have a quiet house, both kids asleep, and my brain all to myself, at least for a few moments.

So, I thought we'd catch up about our trip to Port Aransas for Thanksgiving.

First, if you don't like long reads and just want the visuals, you can go here to see the pictures from the week (toward the end of the November album). I post relatively very few pictures on social media. There are probably a hundred here.

I've only been to Port A during November, this being my third trip, and the weather this time was absolutely perfect. It was the first visit, too, but when James, D, and I went four years ago, it was so cold and rainy we didn't get to do a lot of the outdoor stuff.

This time, we lived outside!

Last Wednesday, we caravanned with my parents from Austin to Luling, for a first stop at Buc-ee's, because of course we did. Then we drove on a bit further to Goliad, where we got take-out from Blue Quail Deli, and took that for a picnic at Goliad State Park.

Veggie Panini!

Little big guy
After lunch, we toured the Mission (long Spanish name, not my forte) and got all of the cobwebs out before driving on to Port Aransas.

We checked in to our condo, retrieved our beach buggy (more on that in a moment), and got settled in. Soon, we were on the beach, and vacation had truly begun.


Right here, I have to give a shout-out to the Beachhead Condos, and specifically 505. It's right on the beach, it's really quiet in November (except for my little kid), they have a pool and a great playground, and it's a perfect location for a home base. Each condo is individually owned, and you can tell the owners take pride in their condos, decorating them with fun beachy touches. My parents stayed in 503 and liked that one a lot, too.

Amazingly, we got hungry again, so we drove the buggy to Virginia's on the Bay. The food was great, but of course Mal wasn't in for sitting. We had a beautiful view of the sunset over the yachts, and Mal and I found a resident cat, so even without being able to eat an entire meal whilst seated, it was still a nice time.



The next day, Thanksgiving, all four of Team Dave's made it down to the beach for the sunrise. Mal was a little freaked out by the water (he hadn't been the afternoon before), so we went back to hang with my parents while James and D enjoyed the morning.


You can see all three of my people in this picture! Oh, and I think one rando.
Mal played at the complex playground some more, then we took my mom on a buggy ride to the beach. My dad stayed in; he'd fractured his foot two days earlier. I'm glad he was able to come on the trip at all!

We planned a light lunch at Coffee Waves, though maybe not as light as it was, since they weren't running gelato as they were closing early. Still, good sandwiches to get us through until the big T-Day dinner. Also, a lady asked if she could take "her [Mal's] picture from the back, because I post it on social media. But she's so cute!" Heh. This happened multiple times on this trip. This wasn't even a ponytail day. Oh, another person said later, "She sure is dressed for Thanksgiving!" Um. Look at that picture up there. She is??

We visited the Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture, whch was beautiful even though the day was growing quite overcast.We saw a goose-stepping heron on the drive out.


He only goose-stepped with his left leg, though. It was peculiar.


Immediately after I took this picture, while my camera was still on and the zoom engaged, Mal was trying to sit up on a rail like I was. Problem was, he was going head over. So I reached out to right him, and when I did, he kicked out at random, knocking my camera off of the ledge. It broke. It broke real good. I tried not to think, "If only I had my 65x zoom!" the rest of the vacation, and mostly I didn't think that. My mom was kind enough to loan me her camera for the remainder of the trip. My replacement camera should come in tomorrow, and do you think I bought the $35 two-year accident plan?

That evening, we ate at Kody's because their Thursday prime rib special was on for the holiday. I had some awesome crab-stuffed shrimp. But, really, this meal was exhausting. Mal wanted to play with the video games inside, but James said he was pushing other kids out of his way so he could commandeer the steering wheel, etc. So we got a table outside, and he enjoyed walking around the mini-golf for a while, but then he didn't. I was short with him at one point and made him cry. It had been a long day and I was actually pretty determined to have a nice mixed drink with my dinner (they have a "Girl Scout Cookie" on their menu: Kahlua, Bailey's, and Rumpleminz), but they were out of the last ingredient. So I asked for a frozen drink, and she pointed over her shoulder at the empty, turned-off mixer. Sigh.

Mal kept wanting to go inside, and crying when we wouldn't open the door for him. I stalled him for a while with pouring a bunch of ketchup on his plate and letting him eat it with a fork. After I'd crammed most of my food down my gullet, I just took off walking toward the condo with Mal.

That was actually nice. He needed to be moving. I carried him in my arms across the highway and quite a while before I put him up on my shoulders. That freaked him out, so I carried him again. Then I needed to pull up my pants, and he wanted to walk anyway. He got some energy out, and about that time, the family was behind us in the car and we rode the rest of the way home.

(This was the one car trip we took all week, because you can't drive the buggies on the highway.)

The next morning, Mal and I just went over to my parents' to watch the sunrise from their balcony.

Pappy's more fun than the sun, anyway.

Then all of us motored over to the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center. It's a great boardwalk near some wetlands, where you can see but even moreso hear a bunch of different birds. There's also a resident alligator, Boots, whom I did not see, but D, Mom, Dad, and James did. I think I was nursing a small person at that moment.

Anyway, beautiful place.

My older kid, surveying the land.

The land.

This thing sounded very silly.
D has a more contemplative moment with Pappy.
We dropped D off at the hotel, took a little breather, and then headed back into town for tourist season. 

My mom's camera warned me, "Blink detected." Um, no. It's a wink. Or a squint? But definitely not a blink.


We stopped at some shops, including, of course, Winton's Candy Company. I won't say I went back three times during the week, but I won't say I didn't. This time, I just got a quick look-around because Mal wanted to touch stuff, even though I repeated constantly, "Do not touch anything with your hands."

That's some good brains!
We stopped at Bernie's Beach House to get a picnic to eat on the dock while we waited for our dolphin-watching tour. Yes, we saw dolphins. And Mal got a good hourlong nap in. It was very relaxing for all!




It's kind of funny,. Mal had cried to drive the "bus" when we first boarded. Later, the captain did let any kid who wanted to take a turn at the wheel but, of course, "she" was sleeping and missed it.

"I could totally do this, mom!"


That night my parents watched Mal (no one watched D; pretty low-maintenance, that one) so James and I could go out to dinner. We chose Shell's, a place we knew Mal could never handle, and enjoyed very different but very delicious seafood pasta dishes. We also got their amazing mango and avocado ceviche. Before dinner, we found the Chapel on the Dunes and walked around there a bit, then after, we went -- to the grocery store! Alone! It was magical!




The next morning was super cloudy, so even though we went to the beach for sunrise, we saw nothing. That morning, James and Dad went out to breakfast at the Port A Beach Lodge. Breakfast out isn't my favorite, but it is James'. And they both got shrimp and mushroom omelettes, so that could actually win me over.

When it opened at noon, we visited the UT Marine Science Institute and wetlands. Mal loved "fishing" and doing the magnet puzzle. And I was glad we got to do the wetlands walk, something that got rained and winded out last visit.




Tons of birds here. Lots of sea birds, but I also saw one dove!
For lunch, we went to Restaurant San Juan, famous for their shrimp cocktails, which I got.


This was another meal that was rough for Mal, as most are. But it's also one of my favorite stories of the week!

We chose our table because it was right beside a coin machine that dispensed bouncy balls, and Mal was looking at it, so we figured he could amuse himself that way. I decided to let him get a ball, but the machine took two quarters, and I only had one. I ended up getting another one from my dad, and then talked with Mal about the bouncy ball we were going to get. He played with the quarters, actually "losing" them up the chute once before I retrieved them, put them in the machine, and helped him turn the paddle.

When the bright pink bouncy ball came out, he immediately popped it into his mouth. No! It's a ball to play with, not to eat! He cried when he realized this. He went back over to the machine and said, "Eat! Pink ball!" I said, "No, they're not gumballs. They're fun to bounce." 

We went out into the vestibule where there were more machines. I showed him how tall his ball would bounce, and he was moderately interested, until he found a gumball machine. He knew what it was. "Eat! Ball!" I said we couldn't because I didn't have any quarters.

When we got back to the table, Mal's lunch was being delivered. He knew he was getting beans, but didn't understand they'd be refried, so he cried about wanting "beans" even though he really does like refried beans. After we walked back out and came back in, he sat down and happily ate refried beans, because, um, he really does like them. He also likes regular beans. But, dang, those are messier for him to eat.

Anyway, he was beyond done and my mom and I went outside so he could walk around. We ended up back at the buggy (more on that in a minute), and Mal climbed up to look around. A few moments later, he said, "Bluddle" (kind of; more like just rolling his tongue; it's how he says "quarter." And "butter."). He'd found a quarter that had been in one of the cupholders for a couple of days!
I said, "That's right! You want to go get a gumball?"

So we walked in, put the quarter in, and you know what? He got a pink gumball! That he could eat!

"Eat. Pink. Ball!"
He won!

After an afternoon break, we went to Roberts Point Park to try to see the sunset, but it was a little cloudy. Still, Mal ran off energy for an hour, and the skies were beautiful, anyway.


Merry Christmas, too!
Sunday morning, Nana and Pappy headed back toward North Texas, and we still had a whole day left.

We decided to drive as far south as we could on the beach, and realized we could get to Corpus Christi. But at 15 miles per hour, we got about 3/4 of the way there and decided to turn back around. But we still drove up to the north side of the island and back around to get to the condos.

According to Google Maps Timeline, this is where all we went this day.
We drove around for so long that this happened.


We went to lunch at Moby Dick's, which was a lot of my chasing Mal around because, unfortunately, James' Achille's tendonitis had started acting up. Oh, and in BOTH FEET this time. Nooo!

On our way to get lunch, we sadly turned in our beach buggy. It wasn't cheap, renting that thing for four days. But it was worth every penny. We loved not having to strap Mal into a carseat. We loved that all six of us fit in it. We loved that we used 2.5 gallons of gas, max, during the week. We loved that we could go hang out there to wait for each other and still be outside. We loved experiencing the outdoors on the road. I know that there is some animosity toward the buggies by some locals. We tried to stay to the right and not be obnoxious. But I highly recommend this mode of transportation if you want to really feel "in" a place, connected to it.

If your hair has to be perfectly in place all of the time, then maybe not so much. However, 1) you can use a scarf like my mom did, just to keep her fly-aways out of her face. And 2) people pay big money to get "beachy waves" at the hair salon, and you can get them FOR REAL.

Like this! Wind-blown and happy!

Later, James and Mal hung out so that D and I could go enjoy the beach one last time.

That was not there two days prior.


 ]
D was noticing these shells. They'd be unearthed by the waves, especially if we were standing above them. After the waves receded, the shells would dig back into the sand and disappear.


It was amazing! We watched them do this over and over again for half an hour. D learned how to find them by looking for bubbles in the sand. I videoed the process several times, but learning curve with my mom's camera, I didn't manage to save the movies to my computer before deleting them from the card. But I can never forget our special time watching these little guys do the same thing over and over and over.

I needed to get gas and some dinner, so I left D on the beach to enjoy the sunset and a little Port Aransas after dark. We both got home an hour or so later, and I'd brought this amazing pizza from Slice of Chicago, which is, unfortunately, a pain in the booty to get to with the highway construction.

But so, so worth it.
The next morning, we got up, got ready, and headed out. D filled in the gaps because James couldn't walk at this point. He's going to schedule surgery early next year (because we only want to have to meet that deductible once; great way to make health decisions, right?).

Our drive home went swimmingly. We went through Corpus Christi and up through San Antonio, which was a little faster (by maybe 20 minutes) and a lot more boring, because it's all highway. Mal slept a while, and when I pulled into McDonald's to use the restroom, awoke with a happy "dah-dyes?" (French fries) A lady borrowed my phone, but then said, "I'll be over here" and went and sat down with it for longer than I was comfortable for.

We got home around 1:30, but it took me almost 24 hours to catch up with everything (cat clean-up, trash, wash/dry/fold/put away, groceries, etc.) because of James' inability to help much. It helps me see how hands-on he usually is! I miss it, but mostly I'm just bummed that he's hurting so much.

It was a great week, and moments of stress (normal for us and our son) aside, was probably the most laid-back and easy vacation we've taken since we had the little one.

And don't forget to check out the Google album for more beautiful pictures!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

How Not to Teach a Kid ANYTHING

James said the other day that a younger version of him would have been horrified that any kid of his would ever associate himself with Mr. Rogers. However, Mal's recent obsession with Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood is kind of sweet. It's a nice show with really repetitive themes that are nice tools to have in our pockets when needed: "When you can't get something you like, stomp three times *stomp stomp stomp* to make yourself feel better." Sung, of course.

But. There is a segment from the inagural show that makes me vibrate with frustration. Do I need to get a life? Maybe. But, oh my goodness, this is insane.

By the way, yes, we've watched all six seasons, many episodes multiple times, since I realized it's on Amazon. It saved my life because we were watching it on PBS Kids, where there are only 4 or 5 episodes. If we've repeated already given that we have 3 dozen or so to choose from, you can imagine how awful it was having only 5.

Now when Mal says, "Tiger?" we're happy to oblige.

But this segment.

A kid goes to the bakery to "help" bake a cake. It's cute. All of the "neighbor" kids wear a red trolley sweater for their segments. There's one where this boy goes to the bathroom and washes his hands, and he's wearing chipped black fingernail polish. Edgy!

This kid isn't edgy. He's just adorable. But, God bless him, he's about to be really frustrated.

After the baker shows him all of the ingredients that he's going to use to make a cake, she tells him the order and he goes to make the first addition.


I guess she's trying to guide him so he doesn't spill any sugar, but her hands are smashing his hands against the glass bowl.

Next, they need to add eggs to the sugar.


"Here. 'You' crack the egg."


Why is she not just doing this herself?


Okay, I kind of get not wanting egg shells in the mixture (my kid throws the shells in and I just fish them out, but I'm pretty laid back, apparently), but why can't he dump the eggs into the sugar, lady?!


Next, they combine the dry ingredients. He would probably just muck that up, too, so good thing this lady is all up in it, patting the cocoa out. He'd probably try to blow it out using his nose or something. Stupid kids.


THIS POOR CHILD CANNOT EVEN WATCH THE MIXER WITHOUT HER HAVING HER PAWS ALL OVER HIM.

But, seriously, I or my older child would seriously have lost it by now and either run out crying or yelled or punched a cake-makin' wench.


Next, "he" gets to spread the cake batter out in the pan. He's like barely touching it because she's all business, speeding it along.


Why is he even here?!

Now it's time for the frosting. Okay, even if she was worried about the cake not turning out, at least icing, though messy, can't ruin a cake. Surely she's going to let him ice it, right?


Well, he gets his own offset spatula, but once again, she's icing the crap out of that cake.


He eventually gives up and starts eyeing the decorations.


"She doesn't even notice I stopped helping. She doesn't need me for this. I am redundant. I question all of my life choices."

The good news is that her hands don't show up in the final decorating bit AT ALL. However, look at this spread.


Now, if a little kid had been given free reign of the cake, is this the kind of restraint you think he would have shown?


Um. No. Every piece of candy would have ended up smashed onto that cake. Someone was "guiding" him even if she learned to keep her grown-up phalanges out of the shot.

Now, the only saving grace is this part. This is where the kid gets his due.


Bless him.

Actually, she cuts the cake and puts it on a plate. And in my mind, this is his saying, "Screw you. I eat how I want to eat."

Here's something I had to teach myself with D when she was little (and we made a three-day-long-project gingerbread train): When you cook with kids, it's messy. It takes forever. And it won't turn out Pinterest-worthy, especially not at first. But the point isn't to make a beautiful thing that you can send to some slick magazine. The point is to connect, to bond, and to eat yummy things and laugh.

This kid was smiling when he walked in and didn't crack a grin again until he got to eat cake. So this is how you teach kids not to mess with grown-up stuff and just to wait until we handle it for them.

I'd love to see them redo this bit, letting the kid take control. In fact, it would go a lot better with the actual episode if they did. This way, it seriously raises my blood pressure.