Sunday, March 20, 2011


Dude ranch, that is. 

First, a little background.  My family never took vacations when I was a kid.  We never went ANYWHERE.  But that was because my parents had no money.  It wasn't that they didn't want to take us places, but they just couldn't.  I want things to be different for Kendra.  I am not a wealthy person.  For heaven's sake, I'm a single-mom teacher.  But, I have decided to take a smidgen of our tax return each year and make some vacation memories for us.  I want Kendra to see different parts of our great country and experience things.  Last year we blew a huge wad of the return for our Disney trip.  We won't do that kind of big bucks trip very often, but a couple of days here and there is manageable. 

This year, we decided to go to a Dude Ranch!!!  Oh my goodness, what a blast we had!  I simply googled "dude ranches in Texas" and up popped a list!  We did a little research and settled on the Mayan Dude Ranch in Bandera, Texas, which is about a 5 1/2 hour drive from our place. 

We arrived and got our cabin.  OH SO CUTE.  It was a stand alone building, and it had two double "wagon wheel" beds, a fireplace, several very "country" appointments that just made it feel so homey.  Outside was our very own porch swing! 

After depositing our stuff, we set to exploring the place.  It is in the beautiful Hill Country of Texas and the views were breathtaking.  We lucked into some fantastic weather--highs in the low 80s and mostly sunny!  Shorts and t-shirts were the name of the game, except for horse riding, of course.  The package included three meals a day (great food!), accomodations, and two horseback trail rides per day.  We signed up for our afternoon trail ride right away.  We were so excited, but I didn't know if it was ok to bring a camera horseback so I didn't take pics the first time.  We donned our cowboy boots and hit the saddle for a really nice ride. 
*Note: I don't own boots. My brother in law sent me his to borrow all the way from Michigan. They were pretty big, so I ended up only wearing them the first ride. I worried that if I needed to react quickly with the horse my boots could fall off or I wouldn't have the footing I needed in the stirrups. I do think I may need to buy some boots in the future though. All the ladies were wearing them with cute skirts, dresses and shorts, and looked adorable!

Each day they had snacks in their pavilion before dinner and some sort of neat thing to do.  Thursday night we got to meet and take a picture with Oreo, the Longhorn Steer.  He was super sweet and patient!  Look close...he is smiling!

From about 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. they had an open drinks area in the pavilion (behind us in the Longhorn pic).  We could get all the soda, lemonade, ice cold water, and fresh popcorn we wanted all day long.  Oh, and if we wanted, we could have had all the beer and wine we wanted too.  But we didn't.  :-)

One neat thing they do is they have the meals at all different locations on the property.   You take a hayride out to the location each evening.   We quickly learned that hay is pokey and itchy, so we preferred to move the hay out of the way!

The first night we had a barbecue, with roasted chicken and pork tenderloin and all the fixin's, including spice cake for dessert.  YUM.
On our first trail ride, Kendra and I were actually pretty far apart.  They order the horses carefully---some of them are fast friends and some like to irritate each other!  So I had this darling little girl behind me and we got to chatting.  She was telling me it was her first ride, and she had a baby sister who was with her grandma, and that she had a Golden Retriever who was crazy, etc.  Well, we came to this turn in the trail, and her horse decided it would be able to make it underneath this low lying tree.  Unfortunately, the horse had forgotten it had a pint-sized rider on its back, and little M got hooked on a low branch!  The horse tried to keep going, too!  I was panicked for her but I didn't know what to do.  I tried telling her to pull back on the reins to make the horse stop, but it wasn't working.  It all happened very fast.  Her dad was a few horses behind her, and was shouting for one of the cowboys to help.  Luckily he came running and got her off.  M and her dad decided to walk the rest of the way back.  Luckily, it was almost the end of the ride when it happened.

After we got back to the corral, I wanted to be sure M was ok, so we waited for her and dad to come up the road.  We got to chatting with the family (Mom, Dad, and M) and we all hit it off!  We ended up hanging out together the entire trip.  The girls got along famously, and Kara and Chad (the parents) were fantastic!  It was perfect---a friend for Kendra and adult conversation for me, too!

Each evening they had some sort of entertainment.  Thursday, they had a DJ and dancing.  They did several country dances, and we learned how to do the Cotton-eyed Joe.  Kara is the same kind of mom as me---not embarrassed to get out there and have fun with her kiddo, so we had a blast!  Here are the girlies two-stepping together (or at least trying).

The ranch offers a complimentary coffee and OJ wake up service (they bring it to your door!) but we decided to pass on that.  We did, however, take part in the Cowboy breakfast out on the trail.  You had the option to either ride a horse down (and that counted as your morning ride) or take a hayride to the location.  We did the hayride option.  The hayride driver scattered corn on the way down, and this big group of deer came to nibble it.  They were so close! 

They had scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage, biscuits, hash browns and juices.  OH MY.  Here we are at the wagon down at the cowboy breakfast.

The hayride took us back and it was perfect timing for our morning trail ride.  We saddled up--Kendra rode Paco and I had Star. 

This was my favorite ride of the trip (but not Kendra's--more about that later).  We went up into the hills, and it was breathtaking.  I was lucky to have people around me who didn't chat, so I got to hear all of the nature around me.  Birds everywhere, heard a wild turkey, saw deer running through the woods, saw the spectacular views.  Oh wow.  I won't soon forget that.  These pictures don't even begin to do it justice.

This is Tommy, one of the cowboys that helped us.  He led our trail rides every day.  If you look closely behind him,  you can see some of the deer we saw.
Like the ride the day before, Kendra and I were separated.  I was near the front, and as almost at the end.  I was completely off my horse when she finally came through the trail.  We took a few pics with our steeds, and then headed up for lunch.

Lunch was yummy, and soon it was time for our afternoon ride.  Kendra got put on Paco again, and she didn't look right.  I wasn't on a horse yet and she summoned me over.  She said she was scared.  We had already done two rides, so I thought it just had to do with the fact that Paco decided to wander off to the watering trough instead of stay with the cluster of horses.  The cowboys had me get on Angel, and we were ready to go.  All of the sudden Kendra bursts into tears and says she can't go.  She started panicking, and I knew we couldn't ride.  I called to the cowboys to help us get off--the horses were already lining up and weren't going to stop just cuz I said so!  So we got off.  I confess I did not earn Mother of the Year award after that.  I was pretty frustrated at this rapid change of Kendra's. 

We headed back to the cabin where I finally figured out what happened to make her scared.   Remember the morning ride in the hills that I loved?  Well, it included several steep inclines and declines, as well as some pretty rocky terrain.  I had confidence in my horse and enjoyed it, but apparently Kendra was petrified.  It didn't help that she was nowhere near me---she couldn't even see me at all.  She never told me any of that after the ride, and so when we got ready for the next ride and saw that we were heading direction, she lost it.  I told her that she should have talked to me BEFORE the next ride and I could have helped.  You can request things like being on horses that are able to be near each other, and also the ride was NOT going in the hills again, but on a different trail that just led out the same way.  If I had known her fears, we could have handled them.  She learned that communication is KEY!

The ranch has a really nice pool and the two girlies were bound and determined to swim, even though the water was only 68 degrees!  The air was good and warm, though, so they plunged in!  CRAZY kids!

At snacktime, a gentleman came with his buffalo named Lakota.  Yep, a buffalo.  We couldn't get close to him, though, as he was a bit ornery.  It was neat to learn about him, though.

Dinner was served in Hicksville, which is a little tiny "town" for the kids and bunch of picnic tables for eating.  They had Indian tacos, fajitas, roasted turkey, mashed and sweet potatoes, veggies, and pumpkin pie for dessert!  Kendra had to go to jail for not eating her veggies.  Just kidding.

Earlier in the day, Kendra got to do some archery in Hicksville, too.

 That night, there was a magician/illusionist who was fantastic!  We were pretty tired so we headed back to the cabin where we read for awhile, Kendra watched a tiny bit of a movie, and we hit the hay.

We decided to eat breakfast in the main dining room the second morning, and I was glad we did!  They had an omelet station, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, and they even brought me a diet Coke (bless their hearts!).  We had our final trail ride, and Kendra gathered all of her bravery to do it.  I told her I wanted her to walk away from this trip with a good final memory of riding, and even though there were a few nervous tears she did it.  We made sure we had horses who would be together, so I got to ride Captain Jack and Kendra had Rusty.  Kendra also got to ride right behind Tommy, which I think helped her be calm, too.  It didn't help that Rusty decided to trot for a bit at the beginning, though!  We had a good ride, and Kendra did great.  But then at the end, Rusty decided to be ornery to Tommy's horse and bit him in the bo-hiney!  Tommy's horse didn't like that at all, so he kicked.  Rusty had to skitter out of the way, which of course scared Kendra half to death.  But she held on like a trooper, and stayed in the saddle just perfectly.  She gathered her wits for the last bit after much encouragement from me, Tommy, and the mom riding behind me.   Horses can be unpredictable, even if they are used to doing what they do all day long like those.  She did great!

A few miscellaneous pictures of our fun...

Hayride to dinner Friday.  Note the cute "DUDE" shirt Kendra is wearing.  I got one too!

Pure bliss for me:  Diet Coke, porch swing, beautiful weather, and a good book.  Ah.

The adorable girlies.  What a great family we met!  I wish I had gotten a picture of all three of them together!

I totally recommend this place.  VERY reasonable, exceptional service, a really neat story to their family (the ranch is run entirely by family--too long of a story for an already long post).  I think we will probably go there again in a few years, to be sure!  Maybe we can make plans to have our new friends come, too!  :-)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fashion Show...

A couple of weeks ago, Kendra's dad came for a visit.  He comes about every two months or so, and has been participating in our school's Watch D.O.G.S. program.  D.O.G.S. stands for Dads of Great Students, and basically the program encourages dads to take a day or two off in the year to help out at our school.  It is a great program, and it is neat to have the dads around.  When Kirk comes, he does the school thing, then we all hang out together, and this time Kendra had a piano competition so he got to be here for that. 

A "first" happened this visit...Kirk actually took Kendra shopping for clothes.  He has NEVER done this before ( was at the suggestion of his new girlfriend.  I think I like her!)  Anyway, they headed out and went to Justice, Kendra's favorite place for clothes.  I rarely buy her stuff there because it is pricey even with the regularly offered 40% discount cards.  But Kirk can afford it, so off they went.  Kendra was so excited to show off her purchases in a fashion show when she got home.

The skirt she is wearing in the first four pictures is one she already had--she is showing the new shirts.

Not sure what the deal is with the bent knee.... :-)

The last picture is a whole outfit.  Long story, but decisions without a mama sometimes require some rethinking (aka:  returning), but overall a good effort! 

Most of Kendra's clothes are hand-me-downs so it was particularly fun for her to get a whole bunch of BRAND NEW stuff.  Don't get me wrong--the hand-me-downs are fantastic and we LOVE them, but it is nice to have new sometimes, isn't it?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Peaceful Protesters!

Much is going on here in Texas.....mostly the government is in a budget crisis and cutting education is at the top of the list.  It is ridiculous, honestly.  Most recent news is that they cannot even pay school districts for the rest of THIS year.  Don't you wonder how they can do that?  "You have this much to spend this year.  Oh wait.  Never mind."  How can they DO that?  At this point we are trying to get through this year, let alone worrying about the BILLIONS of dollars in cuts proposed for the next congressional budget session (which lasts two years).  Anywhoo, a rally was organized to speak out against these cuts--it was called Save Texas Schools.  It took place on the steps of our Capitol building in Austin, and Kendra and I put our bo-hineys in the car, drove the three hours, and protested peacefully against this atrocity. 

Here's my peaceful little protester with our friends, the Rodgers's kids Reagan and Reilly:

The volunteers handed out stickers to count the people, and they ran out at 11,000.  Everyone was very nice--no grumpy-pants people to be found, even though many of them stand to lose their jobs if something doesn't happen to fix the mess.
After the rally, we took a stroll through the Capitol building...none of the session rooms were open to see, but it was neat showing the Rotunda to the kids

View from the fourth floor in the Rotunda area--a few in our group got the queasies from looking down (not me!)
Cute girlies hesitant to stand near the rail
After we toured, we headed out to find some dinner.  There are many awesome food options in Austin and the surrounding area.  We decided to do the Salt Lick BBQ in Round Rock.  We had beef brisket, smoked turkey, slaw, beans, and potato salad.  My mom will be happy to know that her slaw, potato salad, and beans are WAY better, but the meat was excellent, as was the sauce.  But the piece de resistance?  The blackberry cobbler!  I swear to you the bowl weighed 10 pounds!  Best. Stuff. Ever.

We stayed overnight and went to the Texas History Museum in downtown Austin.  You can't take any pictures in the exhibit areas, so I just took one of Kendra with the gimongous Texas star out front.
The museum was cool for the adults, but had more reading than stuff so the kids just tolerated it.
After the museum we went to the Holy Grail of good Austin food:  The Hula Hut.  We actually tried to go there after the rally, but it had an hour and a half wait, so we went mid-afternoon after the museum and walked right in. 
This beast is what they call a Tubular Taco. 
 I had eaten half of it by the time I took the pic.  It contained the most delicious chicken and cheese goodness and was nestled into a bed of guacamole heaven sauce.  And the chicken?  I have never had a taco in which the chicken was more delicious.  No dry, shredded chicken here, folks.  They slow roast their birds and hand pull the stuff.  To. Die. For. 

Every single person said it was the best "insert food ordered here" they had ever eaten.  Even Kendra.  She orders chicken fingers and fries pretty much everywhere.  She said these were the best.
So yeah, we ate our way through Austin.  Not really great for my calorie-restricted self right now---clearly abandoned that ship this weekend.  And it was worth every bite. 

Rally, great friends, fantastic hotel, and amazing food.  Can't ask for a better weekend for a bunch of peaceful protesters! 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


You may not want to read this...It is really here for the journal aspect of my blog.  Read on if you must, but feel free to abort at any time...

I had a toenail issue.  (Leaving yet?)  A yucky thing of which I will not speak led to having the nail fall off (which, remarkably, doesn't hurt at all).  Bandaid, bandaid, bandaid (repeated daily for about 6 months) and the nail is growing back nicely.  Yay me.  I see toe polish in my summer's future. 


A week or so ago, I noticed the toe around said nail was red.  Hmmm.  Then it started hurting.  Uh oh.  Then it had some other issues, again of which I will not speak because it is a bit ooky.  DANG it.  You see, I have sort of chubby toes.  The skin likes to "hug" my toenail.  Gotta be careful how I cut them so as to not get one in-grown.  Sadly, when the nail grew back it did not follow the directions about not being pointy and such.  So it grew into the chubby toe skin.  Today, I took toe to the doctor.   MUCH discussion ensued.  She wanted to take the whole thing off.  I countered by asking, "Won't it just happen again when it grows back like it did this time?"  She doesn't think so, but obviously there is no guarantee.  We decided on a compromise, which without too much detail is that some nail remains and some is gone. 

It hurts, cuz this time it was a nice healthy nail that was attached properly.  Poor toe.  And poor arm, where I had to get a tetanus booster (which is actually the most sore part of me right now).  And poor bo-hiney, which had to get an antibiotic shot.  And poor wallet.  $227.  Ew.