I was very fortunate to be able to take a 10 day vacation to see my Granddaughter, who just turned 2 on May 19th. Before being laid off from my job I had requested a vacation to head to Texas and spend some time with what I call the Texas clan. That was denied but then I was laid off so the door was open.
I don't think I can do justice to this story but I will try. Allow me to lay a little ground work. My youngest daughter is probably the most active person on this earth. She runs ultra marathons, triathlons, and does CrossFit. That is just for starters. No freaking way I can keep up or anyone else for that matter. During our stay she ran 16 miles one day and on the day we left she ran 17 miles. In the meantime she walked with me every day. Oh, let's throw in the Houston heat index of around 100. I think you get the idea. The stage is set.
It's an 18 hour drive, if not more, from my house. As luck would have it I have a passenger, my ex-wife. Yes I know Ex-Wife! I won't go into details but I learned a very hard lesson many years ago. This woman is their mother and she is super important to her kids no matter my feelings. If she is important to them she is important to me. Plus, she is one of the best travelers known to man. Just super easy to get along with on a long drive. So it's no big deal.
She has a lot of health issues so I let her set the time frames. I'm not a road warrior anyway.
The first day we only got about half way. My fault big time! She came to my house so she could keep her car in my garage. After she successfully parked she asked if she should close to the garage door. There's a keypad on the outside. Nope, I got it, I'll hit the remote on my visor. We get down the road several miles. She asks, did you close the garage door? She said the look on my face was fatal realization. Crap! We get off the next exit and head back. Sure enough the garage door was open. This time I watched it close.
On Saturday, May 16, we arrive at our Daughter's home at around 7:45p. It was too late to see my granddaughter. They try to keep her on schedule. Trust me anything outside her normal routine is a disaster.
They had just bought a new home last September. It is gorgeous! 2 story, 4,700 square feet, many bathrooms and many bedrooms. It is HUGE! I have never seen any homes like the ones in her neighborhood ever! All of them are customized to fit the lots and brother, they get creative.
We settle in and talk for a bit. I get a very nice bedroom on the second floor with what I would say was one of the most comfortable beds I ever slept in.
I even get my own bathroom. Nice! Well except the next morning I'm getting ready to shower and the curtain rod falls and hits me on the head. Realizing I'm a bit more than a guest I fix the contraption and very well I might add.
Of course the talk soon turns to Ava, my granddaughter. She is so precious and all of the other adjectives you can associate with a granddaughter.
My daughter was saying that Ava has been no problem and worries her next child will be quite the handful. Her in-laws told her, "Wait until you have a real baby! I'm still chuckling over that one, even as I write this.
That was on the 16th. The next couple of days we go to the grocery, to the shoe store, and I take my daughter's mom to McDonalds daily. She gets up late and then has a long routine to get ready for the day so she misses breakfast. Generally I make breakfast for myself my daughter, and my granddaughter. It's usually scrambled eggs, hash browns, toast, and pancakes or some mix of those. At McDonald's I grab just an unsweet ice tea and my ex grabs a breakfast sandwich. She had her own routine.
The grocery we went to was H.E.B. Wow, I love that store. Just an incredible selection and just so helpful.
On the 17th my daughter starts the day with the 16 mile run. Then later we go for a walk. They have a nature preserve in the neighborhood. How cool is that! So we take the nature trails, see the quail, turtles, bunnies, pigeons, and hordes of lizards. My Son-in-Law said the lizards are every where. I didn't see any the first night but that certainly changed. They were on every single log in the preserve, on the house, the railing, fences, bushes, well, you get it. I wondered what they would look like on a kabob.
Tuesday, May 19, was my Ava's birthday. It looked like Christmas. My daughter ordered a very special cake from Three Brothers Bakery. It was $60 bucks! Since my daughter had to work from home her Mom and I picked it up. Thank goodness for GPS. We found it. Then what the heck, we got a Blackberry Roll. We took it back and shared it with everyone. It was Great! That cake was so incredible. We didn't eat supper because of the cake and Ice Cream.
The Birthday party was a success. Ava had a great time. My Ex bought her some bath toys. They were so cool. My Son-in-law found out that they squirt water the hard way. Yep, I'm laughing at that but so was he. Ava loves her Bubble bath!
I just have to add, Ava speaks pretty good, knows lots of words and can even put a sentence together now and then. Yet, I spend quite a bit of time trying to learn Baby Dialect. Since my daughter spent a lot of time working from home she had a baby sitter there that also works at the daycare where my daughter takes our granddaughter. She said the first persons to understand what a baby is saying is the parents. I know it sure took me a minute to get it down.
The next day, May 20, it was to Galveston and the beach. We drenched Ava in sunscreen and yet forgot a little piece of her ear. That looked weird. It was like she was morphing into some type of pig critter. Fortunately the next day you couldn't tell it. As for me, I missed a part of the top of my feet. I was so sorry. We put some lotion on it and it healed up.
Going back to the "A Real Baby". The plan was that Ava would fall to sleep on the way to the beach. Buddy, that never happened! It was nap time and no nap. Soon she was crying and crying and crying, Mommy! sob sob sob, Mommieeeeee, sob, tears, tantrum, sob. I was heartbroken. Ava, did you dirty your diaper, Tears, crying, sobbing all stopped. "yeahsss". She draws out the yesses. Btw, I'm in the back with her. My daughter responds, no dad, she's just trying to get out of the car seat. Clever rascal! Sure fooled grandpa or as she says, Papa. Oh grandma is MeMaw to Ava.
We finally, thank heavens, made it to the beach. That little girl has boundless energy, digging in the sand, running into the sea, up and down the beach. Yikes! She never stopped!
On the way back Ava sleeps 15 minutes and cries 45 minutes. I think we have a Real Baby for sure. We get back to my daughter's house around 6:30p. Her husband is waiting for us in the driveway. He takes Ava into the house, gives her a bubble bath, and has her dinner prepared. I tell you the man is a super hero. Ava quiets down. Ava just loves her Daddy. Oh, she ate big. She ate spoonfuls that I thought would never fit into that tiny mouth.
Then she watches Boss Baby, her favorite. It's pretty good. Then off to bed, Night Memaw, night mommy, night papa. All said in a calm manner. She has this super cute routine when she goes to bed. You can see it from the baby monitor. She has all these stuffed toys in her crib. She goes around and pets each one on the head before going to sleep.
Dinner! That night we had steak that had been marinated for 12 hours and then grilled to perfection. Oh my! In fact we had steak twice that week, BBQ ribs one night, lamb, and grilled burgers. There was probably something else in there but you get the point, fantastic eats and all homemade. I slept well every night, often 9 hours straight.
Not sure what we did on Thursday, May 21. I think some walking and another trip to the nature park. All really good times.
Friday, May 21, the adventure really begins. We went to Brazos Bend State Park. This time Ava took her nap before we left. Better but she sure hates the car seat. We also bought more water this time. I was giving Ava drinks from a bottle but she insisted that she was a big girl and could drink the water right out of the bottle while holding it. Well, she lured me into a false sense of security. As soon as I turned my head she dumps the water into her car seat. Rascal! Oh well.
Now Brazos Bend is loaded with Alligators, 300 adult alligators according the signs. Then there are signs that say, Stay off the grass, venomous snakes, Back away from Hissing Alligators, watch your dogs, etc. My daughter has run races there. She said she's had to go around gators that were laying on the trail. I'm apprehensive. Is that a euphemism for Scared!? All I can say is that I searched every blade of grass for any signs of any critters.
My daughter pushes Ava in the Stroller and I push my Ex-wife in a wheel chair. Now I'm no superstar here. I have been walking quite a bit but to push someone in a wheelchair is going to be tough, especially with a heat index of near 100. Short story, I paid for that. The other option was to push Ava in the stroller. I visualized her jumping out the stroller numerous times and me not keeping up, maybe fainting from heat exhaustion. I told my daughter, nope, I can handle Memaw. She won't run.
We first head to a pier or observation deck. We didn't see any gators. I did glance under the deck and could see what I believe were footprints from a gator. A family came over, they said they saw a gator on 40 Acre Lake. So there's hope.
We start on this trail around Elm lake. We see people walking dogs. That is tempting fate. Later we ran into a man and his son. They said they had seen three gators. It's getting better. I keep pushing Memaw. After a while my daughter said, hey let's go completely around the lake. It's only 2.08 miles and we're about half way. That was way off distance wise but hey, I'm on a mission now.
We get to the back side of the lake. I figure I best take some pictures of the lake and it's flora and fauna.
We visit about every observation deck on the back side of the lake. No luck on the Alligators. Then I push on but my daughter calls me back. I run back. Dad, you forgot mom! Oh, I run back and grab memaw. When I get there I see a gator looking at us. You could only see the eyes and nose. Really cool. I tried to take a picture but miss.
So we head down the trail with my daughter and Ava ahead of me. When I look further up I see a gator climbing out of the lake and then hunkering in the shade of a tree right beside the tree and not far from my grandchild and daughter. Jenn! there's a gator to the left of you hidden in the shade! It was big! Maybe 5 feet, maybe 6 feet. I'm not sure what to do. My daughter takes one step and the gator raises, makes a U-turn for the lake.
I captured it swimming. Not good quality but hey, I got it.
We continue our journey. When we started we weren't even a 1/4 of the way around that lake and like I said it was hot. I started to get nauseated. When this happened I would pull into the shade and cool down. Ended up having to do that several times. In the end I made it. At one point I looked back and my daughter was chasing my grandchild down. Ava was running the wrong way. At that point they were probably a quarter of a mile away. I made the right choice.
That trip to Brazos Park was just awesome. I've included a few pics from our trip below. A note on the house. That's not my daughter's house. It's in her neighborhood. What I thought when I took the picture was, A multimillion dollar is cool, A multimillion dollar home that you drive through to get to the garage is way cooler.