When Kevin was about Katelynn’s age, his dad was stationed as a soldier at Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma. Since the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge is lining up with Fort Sill, my parents-in-law took their three boys and went camping and/or hiking in the mountains for the weekends. Many years later, Kevin always talked about going back hiking in the Wichita Mountains. At the Labor Day weekend in 2014, I said: “Okay, the girls are big enough. Let’s pack the camping gear and give it a shot!”
When we made it to Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, we went to the visitor center to get some information, before we drove to the campground. Once, Kevin had set up the tent we traveled to The Meers Store & Restaurant, which is located in Meers, one and a half miles north of the refuge. Kevin, Katelynn, Sara, and I never had Longhorn burgers before. So, there was our chance. The restaurant opened as a burger joint in 1901 and is now known as its “Best Burger in Oklahoma”. Since the place is so famous, we had to wait about 2 hours in line to get a table. The experience was so worth waiting outside at 95℉.
Brothers and Sisters Day is celebrated on May 2 every year. It is a holiday meant to honor the bond that siblings share. It’s also a day to strengthen or repair broken relationships. The day was inspired by a woman who realized she had never properly told her brother how she actually felt about him until after his death. Read on to find out more about this amazing day and how we can honor our brothers and sisters!
These five beautiful lakes — Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario — are celebrated on Great Lakes Awareness Day, which takes place on the Monday in the first full week of May. This year, it takes place on May 1. This event is the United States’ chance to honor this series of large interconnected freshwater lakes that (mostly) border us. Celebrations on this day have also taken on themes like water conservation, lake preservation, and other current issues and have included participation by aquariums, schools, governing bodies, and even museums. The annual observation started as a protest against the advancement of the dangerous Line 5 pipeline passing through Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Since 2018, the day is about raising awareness regarding the grave issues that threaten the freshwater ecosystem of the Great Lakes.
As the weather warms up, so does the trail season. While many people use them all year long, America’s trail system gets its real workout between April and October when the weather is ripe for outdoor activity. The number of established trails grows every year. Some take the form of well-defined foot or bike routes while others take us onto a beaten path. No matter what kind of path you choose to take, the day encourages you to appreciate the thousands of miles of trails and to bring a friend with you, too!
In late March/early April 2013, I browsed around on Facebook. And while I worked on my page, scrolled, and clicked, I saw a few photos of Bald Eagles nesting in the Dalles/Fort Worth area. I did some research about the birds and found out that their nest is at John Bunker Sands Wetland Center in Seagoville, Texas. Just southeast of Dallas. After a bit more reading, it said the center is open to the public every first Saturday of the month. “Perfect”, I said to Kevin. “The weather is supposed to be beautiful this weekend. I’m going to take Katelynn to see Bald Eagles in Seagoville this Saturday.” He replied he can take care of Sara. She’s still too little for walking around for a long time.
The following Saturday, Katelynn and I packed a couple of snacks and water before we hit the road. It was about an hour’s drive to get to the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center. Katelynn was really excited to get to see these beautiful birds. We both have never seen Bald Eagles in the wild.
When we arrived at the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center, I paid our entry fee. The ladies at the desk had a few questions. One was how we heard about the center. I replied: “Facebook.” The ladies were surprised. I explained to them how I found their page … “and now we are here to see some wildlife.” Before we got on our self-guided hike, Ron wanted to show us a few animals inside the center. “Katelynn, are you ready to see a two-and-a-half-foot ‘gator? We’ve got a couple of snakes, too.” Katelynn cheered “YEEAAHH! I’m ready for that!” Ron got Ally, the alligator, out of a fountain. He had to be quick. Ally and her brother wanted to go after his hand. But at the end, he was holding Ally tight in his hand. Ron explained to us the anatomy of a ‘gator, how they swim, hunt, and even chill at the banks of a river. He also told us that Ally’s momma is a big alligator, which lives in the marshy swamps of the center. “So, don’t get too close to the waters”, Ron warned us.
Next, we moved on to see a Western Hognose and a Corn snake. As a child, I was always terrified of snakes, since I had no knowledge of snakes. Over the years, I’ve learned so much more about these animals. And now, I have no problem touching and holding them. The Western Hognose was the first snake I’ve ever put in my hands. It was very interesting, how these reptiles contract their muscles to slide forward. This little guy had a good grip on my hand and fingers. It was very fascinating. After the hognose, Ron pulled out the corn snake out of the terrarium. I almost jumped back. Looking at the snake, I said: “Yeah, this one is a bit too big for me. I’ll pass and watch Katelynn holding it. The corn snake really liked Katelynn. She immediately had to check out Katelynn’s soft hair. Katelynn enjoyed having the snake around her neck and learn the difference between venomous and non-venous snakes. And we found out, how to tell between a boy snake and a girl snake.
Once we were done looking and learning about these wonderful reptiles, Katelynn got equipped with binoculars. We were also advised to walk on the trail and stay away from the water’s edge. On the way to the transmission towers in the west of the center, we saw beautiful yellow Spring flowers and some waterfowl. The American Coots made quite some noise out on the water. And we’ve seen tons of ladybugs along the way.
At the end of that trail, we finally got a good glimpse of the adult eagles. The Bald Eagle couple arrives around October/November in Texas. The female lays eggs in January. Both parents take care of their offspring until early mid-May, before they all migrate back up north. In October/November it all repeats itself again. Due to the marshlands at the center, the Eagles have a lot of food resources. I guess, this is why they always choose to come back to the same place.
On the way back to the building of the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center, we’ve seen some footprints (I believe from a raccoon), more flowers, and birds. Once we left, there was a mare with her foal. So adorable! I parked on the side of the road for a moment, so Katelynn could look at the horses from the car.
On the road back home, I noticed that Katelynn had a long morning. She took a short nap in the car. I guess, the fresh air, the walk to the eagle’s nest, and learning about alligators and snakes knocked her out. It was a lot to take in for a 9-year-old. No doubt! 🙂
After the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, Kevin, Katelynn, and I walked to the House of the Seven Gables. On our way back to the Central Wharf, we ate lunch at Finz. Katelynn ate her first whole lobster in the restaurant. She really enjoyed the “sea cockroach”. It wasn’t cheap. But, it was fun to watch her breaking the lobster apart to get the meat out of the claws. Since she needed longer to eat it, I ran over to Coven and purchased a new purse. Once we were ready to walk around, we made our way to the Salem Witch Trail Museum. I found some gravestones dating back to 1692. Most of the stones were not readable. Three hundred thirty years of weathered rock can do that. Some gravestones were restored and newly engraved. And then it was time to go back to the car. Kevin and I definitely have to come back to Salem, Massachusetts.
The House of The Seven Gables
The House of the Seven Gables (also known as the Turner House or Turner-Ingersoll Mansion) is a 1668 colonial mansion in Salem, Massachusetts, named for its gables. It was made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1851 novel The House of the Seven Gables. The house is now a non-profit museum, with an admission fee charged for tours, as well as an active settlement house with programs for children. It was built for Captain John Turner by Samuel Wardwell and stayed with the family for three generations.
The Salem Witch Trails Memorial
Striking in its simplicity, the Memorial is surrounded on three sides by a handcrafted granite wall. Inscribed in the stone threshold entering the Memorial are the victims’ protests of innocence. These protests are interrupted mid-sentence by the wall, symbolizing society’s indifference to oppression. Six locust trees, the last to flower and the first to lose their leaves, represent the injustice of the trials. Benches within the Memorial perimeter bear the names and the execution dates of each of the 20 victims, creating a quiet, contemplative environment in which to evoke the spirit and strength of those people who chose to die rather than compromise their personal truths.
Kevin, Katelynn and I hiked on the Jericho & Muttatuck Trail for a little bit. We entered the trail on Echo Lake Road and made our way to the powerlines before we walked back. Not very many plants are green yet. But Spring is coming. Katelynn enjoyed walking in the woods and listening to the woodpeckers drumming on those trees. Hopefully, the small hike will help Katelynn to get rid of her jet lag.
On the morning of October 19, 2012, (the final weekend of the 2012 State Fair of Texas, and on Big Tex’s 60th birthday) a fire started inside the framework of Big Tex. The figure’s clothing, face, and hat were completely destroyed in minutes as onlookers watched. An official investigation determined that the fire started in an electrical panel (fixed wiring) under the attraction’s right boot. This panel was believed to have powered the air compressor that kept the clothing of the statue ‘inflated’. News of the fire received national attention, and fair officials committed to rebuilding Big Tex “bigger and better” in time for the 2013 fair.
Working under secrecy, a new Big Tex was created in 2013 by SRO Associates and Texas Scenic Co. at a cost of $500,000. The recreated statue weighs 19,000 pounds (8,618.3 kg) more than the previous version, bringing him to 25,000 pounds (11,339.8 kg). This allows Big Tex to withstand 100 miles per hour (160.9 km/h) winds without needing support wires as in previous versions. The height was increased by 1 yard (91.4 cm) to 55 feet (16.8 m) tall. Big Tex Circle, the location during the State Fair of Texas, was also enlarged and reinforced for the larger statue.
The recreated structure for Big Tex that appeared in 2013 required new clothing and larger sizes. The new Dickie shirt features a 14-foot collar, and 23-foot sleeves and weighs 130 pounds (59 kg). The shirt is made from 150 yards (140 m) of awning material. The new Dickie jeans feature a 27-foot waist, and 22-foot inseam and weigh 100 pounds (45 kg). The jeans are made from 100 yards (91 m) of denim material.
My greenhouse arrived toward the end of February 2013. It was a Thursday. And on the following weekend, I began to build the greenhouse kit. To my dismay, I noticed two frame pieces were broken. I had to call the company the following Monday and wait for the pieces to arrive. UGH! That sucked.
In the meantime, Kevin fixed the chainlink fence and gate poles for the garden space. It’s an area to prevent the dogs from pooping in our garden. Katelynn and I cut a bush down and pulled its roots out as well as we could. Once she found a worm, she was too busy playing with it. So much about helping me with digging roots out of the ground, LOL.
On Labor Day 2013, Kevin, Katelynn, Sara and I went up to Tishomingo Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma. We wanted to get out of the city to take a little walk. So, we went north of the refuge by Murry 23. We walked along the lake and watched some butterflies. One Gulf Fritillary landed on Katelynn’s arm. We didn’t make it far, because it was very warm and humid. A short time later, we made it back to Texas.
In mid-January of 2013, we weren’t expecting snow that day. Even FOX4’s Head Meteorologist, Dan Henry, said what a surprise it was getting snow. But in Texas, the weather is possible and very unpredictable. It can say light rain on the radar. And then we end up with snow the following morning. The birds were all fluffed up to stay warm in the cold breeze. Katelynn liked it. She didn’t have to school and could play with her little sister in the snow that day.
National Winnie the Pooh Day on January 18th commemorates author A.A. Milne’s birthday in 1882. He brought the adorable, honey-loving bear to life in his stories, which also featured his son, Christopher Robin.
Milne’s lovable Pooh Bear, as he was fondly called, is a fictional bear inspired by a black bear named Winnie. Winnie lived at the London Zoo during World War I. The author’s son, Christopher Robin, would visit the bear often and named his own teddy bear after her and a swan named Pooh. This friendship inspired a collection of books starting with When We Were Young in 1924. E.H. Shepard beautifully illustrated the books. Their adventures took them and millions of children through the Hundred Acre Woods. Each character played a unique role in the books. Whether the wisdom of Owl or Rabbit lead the group awry or a celebration ensued, the story’s characters became beloved around the world.
In the 1960s, Disney bought the rights to the Winnie-the-Pooh characters dropping the hyphen from Pooh’s name. The illustrations were a bit different, too. Milne’s stories have been translated into over 50 languages and are considered classic children’s stories today.
Every time, we visit the State Fair of Texas we can’t miss out on the Texas Discovery Gardens in Fair Park. The girls love to see the flowers outdoors and the Butterfly House. This year, they had a special treat for Katelynn at their expo: Snakes, spiders, and bugs. Katelynn loves all these creepy crawlies. There were some venomous snakes and hairy-legged spiders. Not to forget to mention the cockroaches. Thank goodness, they have been locked in their terrariums. I like them much better when there is a protective glass between those critters and me.
We walked on the fairgrounds to look at some sculptures and go to the Texas Discovery Gardens. Big Tex celebrated his 60th Anniversary at the State Fair of Texas. Unfortunately, 13 days later he burned down to his frame. He had an electrical short in his wiring, which moved his jaw. It was a sad day in Dallas’ History. The following year, he was rebuilt.
The few days before Christmas, I was very homesick. No day went by without me wanting to return to Texas. When Katelynn arrived in Denver, Colorado she called Sara on Christmas Eve. Her box arrived on time. And in that box was a Texas Waffle Maker. Awww, that made my day.
The following day, on Christmas morning, Sara wanted waffles before opening the presents. Our pets had to wait a little bit longer for their new toys. Joshua, Chewbacca, Luis, and Benny were patient. On the other hand, Zoey and Ozzy were going crazy. They wanted to play with the wrapping paper so bad.
In 2010, Kevin, Katelynn, Sara, and I went to our local Christmas Parade again. This time, the girls got a glimpse of Santa. Katelynn was in first grade. Her class had the school play “Santa’s Suit”, where she was the “Lego” Elf. On Christmas Eve, Katelynn lost her first tooth. So, the Toothfairy and Santa visited our home on the same night. Unfortunately, Sara had a bad cold on Christmas Day. She wasn’t too happy. But we made the best out of the situation.
Santa left apples, oranges, nuts, and candy under the tree. Of course, Sara found the candy first and wanted some. Kevin and I said, she could have some after breakfast. Instead of listening, she was very sneaky, put one in her mouth, and acted like she didn’t know what we were talking about. Lexi was happy, she had a new toy duck, which was shredded by her and Ranger the same day.
This was the last evening at Walt Disney World. We took the kids on as many rides as possible, before we watched the firework and went to the bus station. That night my feet were hurting from all the walking around in the park. And I couldn’t wait to lift them up in our Resort room. Sara was ready to go home and sleep in her own bed, again. It was a long week. But I knew from my previous two trips to Walt Disney World in 2002 and 2007, it would be exhausting after so many days. I was beaten.
Christmas 2003 was bittersweet. It was Katelynn’s first Christmas, but at the same time, it was our last Christmas in Germany.
In December 2004, we had a Dallas Holiday Wish Celebration. The Beach Boys had a concert, and even Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto came for visit to sing and dance in front of the Dallas City Hall. I have it all on video tape footage and didn’t captured too many photo of the event.
In 2005 we bought our house in Texas. The same year, we celebrated Christmas/Yuletide in our new home.
Christmas stars shine on high, Golden stars in the wint’ry sky; Christmas candles in windows bright Send s greeting into the night; While in our hearts the Christmas flame, Glows with a love like his who came, The infant Christ of lowly birth, To bring good will and peace to the the earth.
Our family went for dinner in the late afternoon at the Crystal Palace. There we met Eeyore, Piglet, Tigger, and Winnie the Pooh. It was great food. Especially, Sara enjoyed her Macaroni & Cheese and vegetables. She made quite a mess on the table. But, that is the fun part.
In November 2012, Kevin, Katelynn, Sara, and I went to the Chinese Lantern Festival in Fair Park, Dallas. We arrived early. So, we still had time to walk around Fair Park. When the State Fair of Texas is over, that place looks very empty. But the Texas Star® Ferris Wheel is there year-round. Katelynn posed for some photos. When we came back to the Festival entrance area it was almost time to go in. …
Katelynn loves going to the pumpkin patch because she can jump in the bounce house, go on hay rides and pick a pumpkin. Sara just enjoyed crawling around between the pumpkins. Every pumpkin had to be tested by giving it a good slap on top. We also went to the Pirate Days. Unfortunately “Boo at the Zoo” got rained out the day, we went to the Fort Worth Zoo. But it wasn’t the end of the world, either. The girls got out and had fun, anyway.
On the morning of St. Patrick’s Day, we went on a scavenger hunt to find Peter Pan and the hook he stole from Captain Hook. While we were waiting for our tour guide, Daisy crossed our way and waved Hello. After some time, the “Accountant” came out and excused the tour guide that he had an emergency. Then the accountant ran back into the office. Two minutes later he came back out with the Scavenger Clues, wiped the sweat off his forehead, and said, that he will guide the scavenger hunt, and we all have to help him. 😄
Off we went on our journey through Disney’s Magic Kingdom. On Main Street, we posed as Disney characters, in Tomorrowland we had to find hitten Mickey’s and say Hello to a piano-playing alien. The accountant dragged us to the wishing well by the castle, where we had to wish for something before we rode on Peter Pan’s Flight in Fantasyland. Somewhere between all this spectacle, I ended up dancing and clucking like a chicken and couldn’t stop until we made our way to Adventureland, where we danced the Hula in front of the Tikis across from The Magic Carpets of Aladdin. In the court of Pirates of the Caribbean, we finally found Peter Pan. He had one more task for us: looking for the hook he took from Captain Hook. And sure enough, Rylee found it. Out of two dozen scavenger hunters, she was the one who held the hook up in the air. As a prize, we got to shoot photos with Peter Pan and the “Accountant”, who was happy we made it safely through the scavenger hunt. Captain Hook and his crew could have sneaked up on us any moment.
Katelynn wanted to help me with the pumpkin carving. So, I’ve got her a little pumpkin she could play with and get the pumpkin guts out. She always loved to say: “We need to get all the pumpkin yikes out!” And then she played with the gooey inside of the pumpkin.
Sara was only twelve days old when we celebrated Halloween in 2009. She was such a cute little Pumpkin. Katelynn wanted to help with the pumpkins again, while her little sister took a nap. Katelynn was very proud of being a big sister. She really enjoyed taking Sara out for her first Trick-or-Treat. All bundled up we walked through the neighborhood and collected candy on this cool October night. The fresh air was good for the little munchkin.