Friday, November 10, 2017

How I See It

So it's been three months!  Three months since we uprooted the last decade of living in Pennsylvania and hightailed it to Texas.  Everyone keeps asking me for comparisons and what I think.  So here it goes...

First and foremost, it has been a major blessing and a miracle how much this feels like home already.  It's been astounding to realize that we feel much more assimilated in our church, schools, and community than we have ever felt would be possible in 3 months.  I can't help but think that it has more to do with our attitude than anything.  Something about going on absolute faith, knowing that God has something there for you, really does help to settle things down and put your whole heart into the move, but here are some things I have noticed.

Size Really Does Matter:
Daily down here, I hear about the size of Texas - the state itself, I'm bombarded with the hulking trucks zipping down the freeway, and I see spreads of land that my brain could never fathom before here.  Bigger is better is a colloquialism they truly believe in.  Including their school PTO budgets.  I've never seen anything quite like it.  In the spirit of bigger is better is the similar vein of anything you can do, I can do better.  It's not quite so invasive, but still a periphery concept that is fast gaining momentum.

Urban and Suburban (which is which):
This has been the biggest surprise to me our whole move so far.  Everyone down here thinks of the North (especially Pennsylvania) as all city.  Clearly they have never visited as anyone who has been there knows we are the Turnpike State with huge anchor cities on each of the states eastern and western edges and a whole lot of rural, raw, green earth everywhere in between.  Small towns are the life blood of Pennsylvania and growth has leveled off and even dropped in recent years.  Counter to that, Texas is one of the fastest growing states.  They have 3 out of the 10 most populated cities in America in their backyard.  Their small towns are booming and in most every measurable way, this feels far more urban to us than we have ever previously known.  So despite this being the town Travis grew up in, it feels totally different.  More on growth here!

Friendly vs. Cold and Emotionally Distant
It's true what they say.  This state is friendly.  This is not your garden variety, wave and say hello as you pass friendly.  Although they have that going for them...this is all of your neighbors stopping by to greet you as you move in, that person in the grocery store picking up your crying toddler to help you in those crisis moments is the norm, and everyone learns everything about you because they are truly interested kind of friendly.  I have been genuinely surprised time and again at how friendly you can be: no one opens their own door, everyone greets with hugs, and compliments are the first words spoken.  It gives you all the feels.  Adversely, Pennsylvanians can come off as distant and harried.  People might mistake you for being cold or unfeeling, but what they are really seeing is single minded focus that may not include you in their line of vision.  But don't worry, once you break through that "icy" exterior there lies the warm, ooey gooey center.  A friend in Pennsylvania, though hard won, is a friend for life - a true, blue, died in the blood, has your back, thick as thieves, brother in arms.  TBD if Texans are all surface in their niceties or if they have roots that travel deep too!

Have You Found God:
Texas is known for being in the south, ever heard of the Bible Belt.  It's real.  Everyone knows, loves and talks about Jesus.  He's real, he's here and no one is afraid to mention it.  It's not considered taboo to bring him into any conversation.  Pennsylvania overall may not be quite so church going openness, but where we came from - Lancaster County, we were home to some of the nation's largest Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren church populations.  What we may have lacked in actual numbers felt more than made up for in depth of conviction, actual conservative values, and personal sacrifice in the name of religious belief.  This has been the most similar category of the move so far.  Both are a God loving and fearing people.

Yum, Yum, Yum, Yum:
Both states love their hole in the wall diner type establishment that excel at comfort foods and home cooked favorites. After that, it's all over for food comparisons.  Texans like to think of themselves as foodies and have enough food brands specific to this area:  Frito-Lay, Whataburger, Blue Bell Ice Cream, Big Red Soda, and Dr. Pepper - this last one I have never seen so much drunken in my whole life.  They even have their own grocery store chain, HEB, but seriously, this is the bulk of it.  They live on bbq, meats, and starches.

Now consider, Pennsylvania is the snack food capital of the world.  It may not be healthy, but it is delicious.  With a large German influence, the dinner foods are rich and heavy and often play on sweet and sour themes and a fair amount of bread product.  After that, you look no further than to see 3 major cities (DC, Philadelphia, NYC) close by and so you get an influx of ethnic food abounding.  Everyone argues over what is the best and what is not, but the ethnic choices are almost unlimited.  Both states are enthusiastic eaters and I can get behind that!  That being said, Texas does pie and I love pie.  I wish they had more fruit pie, but they have such an abundance of pie I will never  rarely complain.

Good Old Fashioned Manners:
Texas is kicking butt.  Truly, the manners are like the friendliness.  It is out of this world, over the top (but in the best way), amazing the manners.  Everyone, kids included, yes ma'm and no sir"ing" at every chance.  They look at you while talking to you, they shake hands and hug and give respect to most every adult.  It really is A-MAZ-ING!

I'll never not miss the four seasons of Pennsylvania, the buds popping forth in spring, the lush green vegetation everywhere and the height of the surrounding trees, the color show of leaves come fall and the blanket of white snow in the winter, but Texas has more beautiful, perfect, sunny days than anywhere I have lived to date.  With so few overcast days, I spend a lot of time in my backyard hammock under the trees where the breeze blows reading books.

Laid Back or Incompetent:
This will be by far the harshest, most critical thing about this post.  And I'll admit, I'm probably still a biased "Yankee", but what they say about Texans being laid back is true.  So true, so frustratingly, painstakingly, annoyingly true.  Their response time to emails or issues is like molasses being poured through a very small funnel in a Minnesota record low winter.   Unless it is important to them, they will not take the time or energy to be efficient.  I'm convinced most of them wouldn't even know how to be fast and effective, even if they wanted to.  Add to that work that is not focused or detailed oriented. The drawback of being laid back is that your attention to detail is sometimes not as acute.  Oh, how this state will make or break me in this area!

Appearances and Such:
The Texas woman is not one to be messed with when it comes to her appearance.  She will generally fall into one of two categories.  She is either a country girl or over 40 and she fits the idyllic mold of bigger hair, full face of makeup, bright lipstick, and sparkles, or she is a city girl and under 40 in which case she is beautiful, lithe, well maintained, bleach blond hair, contoured makeup and accessorized to be auditioning for the next spin off of Real Housewives of ... or Stepford Wives.  This is not a critique but an observation of 100% diligence to being made up before going out in public every time.  So imagine my neighbors' surprise when one morning while running late, I went out to the bus stop with my kids in my PJ's and a robe over top.  It was a chilly morning and the bus stop is my corner of the neighborhood.  Pennsylvania may have a bit to learn in this department as I have been witness and myself been casual to these displays of self care.  That being said, looking so put together all the time does raise a red flag or two in my book, but that's a post for another time.
For as much as every Northerner may think that the south, including Texas, is a bit back woods, every Southerner thinks those Yankees sure are weird.  But truly the similarities are more than the differences.  Both are filled with good people, country music, a love of nature, a desire to fish and hunt.  Both love their country and state with a fierceness unparalleled by most other states.  Family is a big part of living and both are wishing for just a little less government interference. They are filled with people who I love or will grow to love.  So here's to our new home.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

What's In A Name?

Wyatt and Kody are tame in the cowboy themed pool of names here in Texas.  Names like Sterling, Ranger and Magnum are everywhere around us and not one person has asked me how you spell Wyatt!

Likewise girl names are boy names and I am ever befuddled and amused as Isabella introduces me to friends like Reese, Hunter, Kody, Layne, Frankie, etc...

Just another day in the culture shock that is Texas!

Friday, September 29, 2017


After a cross country move, a forgotten password, and the world's longest most intense password recovery process, I am in.  I have missed blogging and will be catching up immediately.  I am going to date them (as they occurred) just so I am chronologically accurate.  But know that everything from June to current has been done retroactively.  (All of this is for the blog book to be read and treasured for generations to come) Hopefully!!!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Camping With Cousins

So my niece Haley is basically awesome sauce!  And through a set of circumstances we became ridiculously close in the last two years of her high school.  That closeness led her family and mine to become more close than we had been.  It was such a good experience and it made leaving that much harder.  But before we left, we took a combined camping trip up to northeastern PA to the Aaronic Priesthood Restoration Site. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Run, Run, Run

The end of the year always brings running events.  We had the elementary school fundraiser, Race for Education.  The middle school also has Track and Field Day.  It's very fun for me to always watch, run, and cheer like a maniac.

It's almost like I love to be the loudest, craziest, cheerer just to embarrass my kids.  Somehow it bonds me to them even more.  They may be embarrassed, but I have convinced myself they secretly love it!

We'll never know for sure.  Well maybe we will, but it won't be for another 30 years, in the midst of their midlife crisis, I'll get to hear about all the ways I failed them as a parent. Probably not, but I'm mentally preparing myself just in case.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Field Tripping - It's a Verb

 I love my kids. 
I love them so much I go on all their field trips and volunteer all the time. 
I want to be near them. 
I like to have shared experiences with them. 
I like to be able to talk with them and this is the thing that sparks lots of conversations.
 I love my kids so much that I do the same field trips over and over again.
I've seen our town's wetlands, gone to County Envirothons,
and Philadelphia has nothing I haven't seen. 
But I love being with my kids, and we do talk.
So I think my plan is working.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Old Man Knees

In early May, Travis had to have scopic knee surgery for a torn meniscus.  It went surprisingly well.  He has healed like a champ and he is learning to take it a little easier on his body, because despite what his mind thinks, he knows that his body parts might not be as young as he feels. 

Even better than the knee surgery was my first opportunity to see Travis under anesthesia.  It was pretty funny and a little sad.  Sad because it took him forever to come out from under the medicine and he was very vulnerable which I know he would hate if he could remember.  Additionally as he did start to wake up enough to get dressed and ready to come home, his uninhibited state was one of randy"ness".  It was very comical and despite his wishes, I had to put the kibosh on any ideas he kept proposing. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Sentimental Series Part 1

The Best Friend

Clearly not our prettiest picture - but the perfect one.

On Saturday, I met up with my best friend for what was to be the last time before we moved.  She was back in town for just two days and wanted to meet for breakfast.  She just had a grandbaby and so has and will be out of state helping to take care of her newest grandchild. 

It was a laughter filled morning despite beyond busy schedules and earlier in the day crying jags because of my leaving.  We discussed all the normal stuff which was our lives, food, and anything that will make us laugh.

Despite being old enough to be my mom, Sue has been my best friend for the past 5 years.  Our friendship started a few years before that with a simple act of service.  I brought her dinner while she was healing from hip surgery.  In her post surgical, drug induced state, she invited me to sit on her bed and keep her company, where I laughed at her lack of inhibition.  To this day, she still remembers very little of our conversation.

We since then have constantly bonded through our love of honesty, our laughter at human foibles, and the sheer crazy brilliance of our spouses, who we adore, but sometimes make us bonkers.

Sue and her husband have a business in our town.  Their business is one of the lifeblood’s of Manheim and they sponsor every team and every club, donating to everyone who may need it.  This isn’t what makes her so amazing though.  Sue is special because she is one of the most selfless people I know.  She takes care of everyone around her constantly.  She is endlessly loyal.  She is empathetic and sensitive, kind and compassionate.  She'll be your biggest champion and your greatest friend.

She’s who I call when I need to talk to someone and it helps that she’s my late night buddy.  She doesn’t sleep much which makes her an ideal companion to my limited sleeping habits too.  More often my random thought texted to her after midnight is answered within seconds.  And just this morning I started getting texts at 6.  I will miss seeing her for lunch and breakfast anytime we can sneak it into our schedule.

So I’m beyond excited we found one more day and a half mid July to sneak away together before I move, that we have a loose time frame for her first visit to Texas and I plan to return often to see her.  Love you Suzie, Q.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

You Might Not Know That...

...fried onions are my caloric kryptonite.   I can eat a whole Costco bag of them like potato chips.
...I love to lay in the sun, not for the tan - although that's nice, but because it makes me feel good.
...I once put a boogie on every single one of my sister's dresser handles because I was mad at her.
...the preposterous things I say are to distract from someone else that I can tell is uncomfortable.
...I care very little what most people think of me.
...for all my outgoingness, I usually prefer to be alone or with just my family.

...putting puzzles together is one of my favorite past times.
...I have stacks of books all over my house waiting to be read.
....usually I keep two fans going every night to keep me cool.
...I can't stay awake for movies anymore.  I've reached "that age" and tiredness level.
...despite all my energy, most days I go to bed near tears I am so tired.

...I value nothing more than my relationship with the Lord, but I can become complacent in that. adventures are my most favorite things, but that's next to my family of course.
...going on vacation for my birthday is the best gift ever.
...I can't conceive of ever not wanting to travel every corner of the world.
...I'll choose a new experience and unknown over a great thing I've already done every time.

...for all my outgoingness there are a million facets of me, I keep very close to my vest.
...I generally love people and think most everyone I have met is incredible in some way.
...seeing the good in life is a choice I hope I can make for the rest of mine.
...that most days seem very tiring, but when I look at my life it feels like a dream it is so good.
...I think I am doing okay at this thing called life.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Teach Them Young

I have learned that service is one of the highest and noblest ways to show love to God and to our fellow man.  It's become a major tenet of my life.  I find peace in serving even when things feel crazy, hectic, and overscheduled.  It also shows me how great my kids and husband are.

And even though it's usually me overextending myself, my husband and kids will step in 100 out of 100 times to help me.  So whether you teach your kids to serve their own family members, their friends, their community, schools, or church, teach them to serve.

The dividends are countless.

Monday, May 8, 2017

My Second Home Will Be My First Home

A month ago, I was praying.  This is something of a regular occurrence for me.   I was pouring my heart out to the Lord.  I was feeling like my life was in somewhat of a rut.  I was at a plateau in growth and as a Type “A” personality, I was feeling restless.  I told Heavenly Father I would do whatever he wanted to continue growing and progressing.  Heavenly Father answered me, which wasn’t a first for me and he spoke saying “Even move to Texas?”  I immediately burst into tears.  Well this wasn’t what I had been expecting or even considering and it was totally overwhelming.  I pondered on this throughout the day, wondering if we were really supposed to move to Texas or if I was just supposed to be willing to do the proverbial whatever and this really was asking a lot.  The more I thought on it, I really did think we were supposed to move to Texas.

Next time I saw Travis, I told him about my feelings.  He laughed at me and said well good thing I haven’t received any revelation like that.  I was a little surprised by his flippancy regarding this, but in my desire to not really move, I let it go.  This really wasn’t a decision I would want our family to make based on something only I was getting. 

Three weeks later Travis was in Texas helping his brother prep his land to build a home on.  Travis was telling me how much he was loving Texas and how much he was loving the work he was doing.  I was glad that he was having so much fun, but didn’t think much of it.  The next morning as I sat to pee, once again I heard God speak from heaven and ask “Are you willing to move to Texas?”  Having been this course before, I didn’t burst into tears, but my eyes started to water.  I stopped and asked, “Heavenly Father, am I really moving to Texas?”  My body shivered from top of my head to the tips of my toes?  “Seriously?!?!?” once again the feeling came.  I looked in the mirror right in front of me, searched deep into my eyes to do a reality check and asked one more time, “You want us to move to Texas?”  Shivers one last time.

That day I started dropping finding questions to my kids about living in Texas.  Travis was still in Texas and I called him and told him I was getting some serious revelation.  I wanted him to pray and ask God if there was something he should know or be doing?  He agreed to pray about it later.  The next day he called me and said that he had gotten some answers to his prayers.  Clearly I was dying to hear what is was and feeling relief that all of this didn’t rest on my shoulders.  He continued to share and he told me that God had told him that his wife was indeed getting revelation and that he needed to heed the revelation she was receiving.  He then asked so what is this revelation.  I took a deep breath and told him that I had been getting the feelings and words that we were supposed to move to Texas again.  More than being willing to but actually doing it.  He was a bit floored, we moved to other topics.  We hung up and that started the pattern for the next week.  Each morning I would wake up and the first thing would be the voice of God or telling me we were moving to Texas followed by shivers, my go to spiritual confirmation.

Instead of burdening Travis I got started.  I started looking into homes, school districts, neighborhoods, church boundaries.  Each day, Travis and I would check in.  By the time he got home we were pretty serious about this and decided to hold a family fast.  We told each of the kids what we were thinking and feeling and that we would like to hold the family fast.  We did and most of us got the same answer that we were to move.  This exercise has done more for each of the kids than I ever imagined.  Now when the sad days come and they do, they can remember how they felt and it helps resolve their concerns. 

So how are we doing, well I tell people mostly we are 70% excited and happy for a new adventure, 15% sad to leave friends and family and 15% overwhelmed by all that we have to do.  There is comfort in doing what God tells you even if it seems like something dramatically different than what you had every imagined for yourself.  I know because something similar happened to us ten years ago to lead us here to Pennsylvania and I have had more joy and happiness than I ever imagined while living here.  So bring it on!

Friday, April 28, 2017

I Don't Home School My Kids...

but I am the number one educator of them.
I'm not one of those parents who sends my kids to school assuming
their teachers will teach them all they need to know.
And that goes for Math, English, Science and Social Studies too.
Teachers have their hands tied by a million rules and laws and bosses.
They are severely outnumbered.
Overworked and underpaid.
They are amazing, teachers, truly some of the most selfless people ever;
they are romantics and idealists.
The perfect people you want helping to teach your child.
But leave them as that - HELPERS in educating.
So I'll get off my soap box and get to the point.
I love learning.  I feel responsible for teaching my kids.
I like to give them experiences, broaden their exposure, and explore what they love.
I like to travel with them, tour around.
So once again instead of PSSA's,
we continued to learn...
about how guitars are made,
mining, the freeze/thaw patterns in areas near glaciers,
geography, and land features.
We went to the Poconos to visit friends too.
We live life to learn!

Friday, April 7, 2017

It's Become Our Thing

In high school, I hated to run long distances.  I was an excellent sprinter, and a lazy, unmotivated runner.  Had you told me that in my adult life I would spend huge amounts of time running, I legitimately would have not believed you.

But four kids and a crazy life later, there aren't many physical activities to do that are great workouts that you can squeeze into a 10 minute or 90 minute time frame, having no equipment, no other team-mates or gym buddies, at home or while vacationing quite like running.

It's become my thing.  So imagine my surprise when it became Boo's thing too.  Probably because she saw me doing and probably because every child wants to please their parents and this is a way she thought she could do it.

But now three years in, she's a total convert too.  It's in her blood.  She runs before school and every race I enter, she wants to be right there with me.  She's getting faster than me each year by leaps and bounds.  I can't wait to watch her lifelong love affair with this sport.

It really has become our thing.  And nothing is better than all that time to just talk while running on back country roads with no one but my favorite daughter by my side.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Birthday Wrap Up and Review

So much love.  The kids are responsible for their own gifts for one another.
Sometimes they get me to take them to the store.
Sometimes they give cash,
sometimes homemade gifts.
But almost always they do good work.
All the love, you can see it.
Not only in the gifts, but the thought behind it.
Her party with friends was fun. 
They decorated cupcakes.
Her friend got her a cicada pin.
It's her nickname.
Her joy is my joy.
May she always be happy, this year and 100 more to come!

Friday, March 31, 2017

We Got It

It was touch and go. 
It looked like we wouldn't get our white winter.
I love a good snow storm.
So even if it came late, it came.
We loved it.  We played.
The End.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Bang, What's Up With That Thing?

Our school has a rifle team.  Of course Isa joined.  She was amazing as always.  She's a little wonderful like that.  What doesn't come easily she is not afraid to work for.  They had an end of year parent/child shooting competition.  It was fun, Travis was better than me, neither of us were as good as we wanted to be.  Isabella impressed us ever more because of it.  Isn't life amazing?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

It's A Big Deal

How does a function of living become such a huge source of happiness in your life?  Does the repetition make me appreciate the exceptional, is my mouth and taste buds different than others, do I have weird issues with food?  Probably yes to all of the above. 

So yes, I'll admit it.  My name is Mary and I am a foodie!  I am not a picky eater, have no problem with adventurous eating, but prefer not to see insect legs and bodies in my food.  I love all kinds of foods, and so wasn't totally shocked to see how frequently I take pictures of my food. 

For your viewing pleasure I'll show you some of the things that get me excited!

When Isabella makes homemade rainbow bagels for national bagel day.
They were good too!
 Party food.  It's the best sampler of all foods you probably shouldn't be eating.
But no worries, someone always brings fruit. 
Indulgent binging is suddenly justified.
 Crepes.  Is there anything better?  Not for breakfast anyway! 
And they are actually very easy to make.
College was where I learned how.
Late night study sessions weren't complete without one of us busting out this goodness.
Any homemade dough product is top notch.
Fasnacht Day clearly calls for homemade fasnachts.
Square pillows of puffy sweet goodness!
Perhaps my 2 favorite foods - tacos and French fries.
Do they have anything in common?  NO
Can I say no to either of them ever?  NO
So imagine my friend Sue and I's surprise to learn that a local restaurant has taco Tuesday,
with tons of different French fry platters.  These have bacon, cheese, ranch, etc... 
 National Pie (Pi) Day is Isabella's birthday.  Clearly we need apple pie.
She's a pro at making it.
I'm not so shabby. No it can't be bought from Costco.
It must be moms.
I won't complain.
Are you hungry yet?