Friday, April 18, 2014

The Big D--Day 7

This morning, we had breakfast with Hubby's aunt and uncle, as well as one of Hubby's cousin's daughters and her husband. [Update: found out a few weeks after we got home that cousin's daughter and her husband are expecting their first child in November!] It was a great breakfast in a quirky restaurant. We got pictures with everyone after we ate and then we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.
We ended up at the Perot Museum for Science. It was pretty cool. LOTS of stuff to see. We didn't spend nearly as much time there as we could have as we didn't have all day. But the variety was cool. We grabbed a late lunch and then headed to the airport.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Big D -- Day 6

Today was cat day! We drove an hour north (on George Bush Turnpike... Cleverly named with no middle initial so as to honor two presidents with one toll road, I presume) to Wylie, TX to visit the In-Sync Exotics Wildlife Sanctuary. Not sure why it's named that as it really only harbors cats. Big cats (for the most part). Tigers, lions, cougars, bobcats, ocelots, and lynx to be exact. Lots of tigers.

Our guide, Betty, was amazing, and it was clear that she loves her job as a volunteer there. She mostly works with three Bengal tigers. Cleaning their living areas and working with them on training. The only training they do at the sanctuary is for the benefit of the cats' health. In other words, they train them to go into the "vet chute" (a pass through between living spaces that is not much bigger than the cat) and lie down. They teach them to stay still. They teach them to roll left and roll right. And they teach them to open their mouths. Because of that training, the vet can examine the cats, give shots, and do what he/she needs to do without anesticizing them for the most part. The cats are also taught to stand up on their back legs against the fencing of their enclosures so their undersides can be visually examined.

They all seem to be very happy and we'll cared for. The enclosures are large and clean. They are all double-fenced, with a walk-way between the two fences. The enclosures for the smaller (climbing) cats are enclosed above, as well. They have never had an escape.

The very first cat we saw was a Siberian... A white one. He was beautiful. He was the last one we saw before we left, too. He got a little agitated with our picture taking, I guess, and growled at us and reared back on his hind legs. Happy for the double fencing at the point. :)

We saw TONS of Bengal tigers. Lots of cougars. Several bobcats. And three lions. Two males and and a lioness. We even got to see one of the tigers playing with a barrel. Hubby took a video. It was actually up on the barrel rolling it like a lumberjack rolls a log! Pretty agile for such a large animal.

Apparently the sanctuary lost.a bunch of cats last summer to canine distemper. The Fort Worth zoo lost some animals, too. The cats aren't supposed to get canine distemper, but they did. And it spread and claimed lives. It was apparently devastating to the staff there.

Anyway, it was a wonderful two hours, and I would recommend touring it or supporting it to anyone. :)

We went back to the hotel for about an hour and then went over to visit Hubby's grandma for the last time before we leave. She was so happy to see us again. She even took pictures of us with a digital camera before we left. Not bad for 93 years old!! ;)

Tomorrow: breakfast with some family and then not sure what we will do until we need to be at the airport.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Big D -- Day 5

We didn't set any alarms today. And we missed breakfast at the hotel as a result. But that's okay. We went to IHOP once we were finally all up and showered, and after we'd talked to USAA about Keeper Boy's debit card and Hubby and Keeper Boy had had a blow-up. Sigh. We made it to IHOP around 11. And then we slowly made our way back down to Fort Worth. I swear the construction here is ridiculous!

Our destination today was the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. It's the only other place that prints paper money (or "notes") other than the BEP in Washington, DC. It was pretty cool, and the amount of money that's in the plant is staggering. We did the self guided tour, which is on a enervated walkway, with an audio device that you listen to at each stop. Then there's a small museum. No pictures. We couldn't even bring our cell phones in to the plant.

When we were done, we ran back over to the stockyards, and I returned the photo album I bought on Monday. It occurred to me that I've been doing Shutterfly books for our vacations the last several years, some didn't really need a photo album. We got there just before the 4pm cattle drive, thankfully. Mission accomplished, we fought traffic back to Irving to meet Hubby's aunt and uncle for dinner at a BBQ place called Sweet Creek. Yummy place! They took us for ice cream after dinner and we sat and talked for awhile. Nice evening.

After we got back to the hotel, the boys stayed outside and threw J-Mav's new football for awhile, and I walked over to Target to buy a new charger for my phone. Now we are watching playoff hockey.

Tomorrow: a trip to the big cat rescue, and another visit with Grandma June.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Big D -- Day 4

Today was all about sports. And what a day it was. We didn't expect much from the American Airlines Center tour. It only cost $4/person for the tour, so how much would/could we really see? Well, Ron, our tour guide was amazing! We spent two hours with him and it was just the four of us. We tons of stuff, including the Stars locker room, which I don't think was supposed to be part of the tour. He even grabbed a couple pucks from the Stars training room and gave them to the boys! That tour of the locker room was worth the price of admission right there. The boys sat on the Stars bench. We got there right after they'd finished painting the Stanley Cup Playoffs graphic on the ice, so that was cool, too. Something we aren't going to see in Washington this spring. :(

The arena is very nice, and quite clean. Lots of cool mosaics on the floors throughout the arena. We saw all of the different levels, and several different restaurants and bars and got the stories on all of them. We even saw a couple of Mavericks practicing on their practice court. We don't really like basketball, but that was kind of cool. Apparently they were leaving this afternoon for wherever they are going for their playoff series.

At the end of the tour, Ron let us into the team store (which was open; he just let us in from a closed gate to the arena). Keeper Boy wanted to buy a jersey. I'm not sure how much (or little) he thought he was going to get said jersey for, but he had a bit of sticker shock when he looked at it. He settled for a t-shirt. However, when he went to pay for it, his debit card was declined. Weird because I knew he had more than enough on his card to cover it. I logged into our bank accounts real quick and saw that his balance was actually a couple dollars lower than the cost of the shirt. That didn't make sense, but more on that later... the cashier then gave him 10% off so that he had enough money to cover it! How nice was that?

As we were leaving, I looked at his account and discovered a fraudulent charge for $49.99. Ugh. That explains the low balance. I'm working on that, but didn't have a very good experience with the bank this afternoon. I'll work on that again tomorrow. Not too worried about additional charges right now since Justin's current balance is about $2. But it looks like his card will need to be cancelled and re-issued. Pain in the butt.

Lunch at Olive Garden and then on to AT&T Stadium.

We did a self-guided tour of the stadium. We started by looking down at the field. They were working on the field, but it was still impressive. The jumbo tron is just as massive as it looks on TV. I mean, it stretches from 20 yard line to 20 yard line. HUGE! The "TV" cost as more on its own than the entire previous Cowboys stadium cost to build. Crazy!

Next, we went down on the field (squishy!). The boys ran around awhile, but we didn't have a football for them to toss. I got my picture in the end zone with the Eagles t-shirt on. ;) From the field, we went to the Cowboys locker room. It was beautiful. Apparently the wood that each player's locker is made from is imported from South Africa. Apparently it would cost $9,000 PER LOCKER to replace. Needless to say, you are not allowed to sit in players' lockers. From there, we went into the media room, where players and coaches meet the press after games. The boys hammed it up on the podium. And then we went into the Cowboys Cheerleaders locker room. Keeper Boy declared that "they are all hot." We talked to a very nice guy (employee) in the locker room, who had a lot of information.

After that, we were pretty much done, so we headed back out to the Team Store (where, of course, the tour starts and ends). Keeper Boy found a PURPLE polo shirt with the Cowboys logo on it that was on sale, so we got that for him. Told J-Mav he could get something, too. He wanted a football of all things. Once we paid for the stuff, we asked if we could go back to the field and were told, "of course!" Woo hoo! So John and the boys tossed the ball around ON THE FIELD for about 10 minutes. Very cool.

When we were leaving, we asked the concierge if they had a listing of where specific pavers were that people purchased when the stadium was being built. Because as we were walking in, I remembered that the boys and I had gotten one for John for Father's Day one year. We were given a phone number to call to get the section number. John called and got the information, and luckily, the section his paver was supposedly in was right outside the door we had gone in. We went out and scoured the section, but it was nowhere to be found. We were disappointed. Hubby said, "maybe they figured because we were in Virginia we'd never come to see it and they didn't really do it." I think he was only half joking. But we checked the section right next to it, and J-Mav found it! We took some pictures and then headed back to the car.

Then it was off to Hubby's cousin's house. We were meeting them there and then going to dinner at a place called Chuy's. We had a great dinner. The four kids got along great both Saturday night and tonight. You'd never know that they had never met each other before this week!

Another great day in Texas... need to figure out what we are going to do tomorrow... nothing on the agenda.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Big D -- Day 3

Today we ventured a bit south to Fort Worth... specifically to the Historic Fort Worth Stockyards. We saw a "cattle drive," wandered the in and out of stores and shoppes, took pictures of the boys sitting on a long horn, perused the Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame, ate at Riscky's, and watched the boys navigate a maze made of wood panels like stable walls. It was COLD out today... barely got to 50 degrees, and it was windy. Not an ideal day for walking around mostly outside, but we survived and warmed up when we were in the shoppes. :-)

When we left the Stockyards, we went to the Bureau of Printing and Engraving to do a tour. However, we neglected to see the part of the website that said they aren't open for tours on Mondays. Oops.

We went back to the hotel and rested for about an hour, and then headed over to Hubby's grandma's to visit. We pounded on the door, but there was no answer. We called from outside her door, but there was no answer. But as we were leaving, we ran into her downstairs neighbor who helps her out. He pounded on the door with his cane, and then used his key to go in. She was just getting in bed. Oops. But she wanted us to come in, so we went in and visited for about an hour and a half. I had taken my laptop and external hard drive so we could show her some pictures, and that's what we did for most of the time we were there. The boys had taken a deck of cards, so they entertained themselves. We sat much closer to her tonight and she seemed to be able to hear better. :)

After we left, we stopped at a Golden Corral for dinner and then came back to the hotel.

Several things I/we learned today:

1. You aren't going to necessarily have warmer weather if you go south. (It was almost 30 degrees warmer at home today than it was here.)

2. While we had fun, the Fort Worth Stockyards were much more entertaining in Hubby's and my mind from our visit 17 years ago.

3. Golden Corral, no matter how many times we try it when we travel, is just a really bad restaurant, even though I remember it being so awesome from eating there as a kid.

4. No money printed in Texas on Mondays... or at least not so the public can see.

5. Construction around here is almost as bad as in Pennsylvania, which makes traffic on some roads almost as bad as I-66 at home.

On tap for tomorrow: Sports!! Cowboys stadium tour and Stars arena tour. :)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Big D - Day 2

Gotta roll with the punches! Got up this morning and it was raining. While eating breakfast at the hotel, we saw that there was severe weather in the forecast for today, along with tornado warnings. Didn't think those were ideal conditions under which to go to Six Flags. Plus, Hubby's neck has a huge kink in it, and Jack's eyes were bad this morning. Luckily, we hadn't yet bought tickets to go to Six Flags. We decided, instead, to go to the Dallas World Aquarium.

What a great place! We had a good time and saw lots of neat fish and birds... and a jaguar. Yeah, not quite sure how he fit in, but he was beautiful! We finished up there early afternoon and grabbed lunch at a local BBQ place in the West End Historic district. Keeper boy branched out and ordered fried okra as a side. We all tried it and decided it was pretty good (except J-Mav... he thought it was pretty gross). Then we decided to go ahead and walk over to Dealy Plaza and do the JFK stuff.

We went to the museum first because we knew it closed at 6, and we figured we could walk around outside after that if we needed to. The museum was really excellent. Everyone got an audio tour device and the self-paced tour was full of information. We all liked it, I think.

We paid an extra $2.50 for the cell phone walking tour of points outside, which was also cool. The boys stood in the middle of the road by the X that marks where JFK's car was when he was assassinated, and Hubby took their picture. Then told them to get out of the road because cars were coming. ;) We saw the memorial. We saw the jail where Oswald was killed. A somber day of history.

Then we walked over to Patriot Plaza to show the boys the sculpture of the cattle drive that we remembered from our visit here 17 years ago. We walked through it and took pictures. It was larger than we had remembered. But it's possible that we didn't walk all the way through it when we were hear before because I was very pregnant with Keeper Boy...

Quick pit stop at McDonald's so J-Mav could go to the bathroom, and we walked back to the car and headed back to the hotel. It was after 7 when we got back, so we just drove down the street to Chili's for dinner.

J-Mav's eyes looked awful today. He's got red, irritated patches under both of them, but particularly under the right one. Hopefully it'll be better tomorrow.

Since we were planning to do the downtown stuff tomorrow, and we've already done it, we are going to go to Fort Worth Stockyards tomorrow (instead of Wednesday). It's supposed to be very cool for here (not even 60 degrees), so I'm glad we all brought a pair of pants. At least I assume we did. I have no idea what Keeper Boy packed...

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Big D -- Day 1

Our alarms went off at the ungodly hour of 4am. Whose idea was it to book a 7:30am flight, anyway? Oh yeah, mine. We got out of the house within 15 minutes of the time we were shooting for (not bad for two kids who are super slow in the mornings), and made it to the airport with no issue. We parked, caught the shuttle to the terminal, checked our bags, got through security and got to our gate by 6:25. Our flight ended up being moved up to 7:10... Nice that they let us know!

Uneventful flight. I sat in the exit row while Hubby and the boys were in the very last row. I was thrilled to watch "Frozen" in flight! Finally. :)

Got our rental car and went to the hotel hoping that perhaps we'd be able to check in early. No such luck. It was only 10:15, and check-out time isn't until 11. We were starving but it was too early to get lunch anywhere. So we drove over to the mall (which is actually close enough to walk to) and by the time we walked all the wall through the maze of a mall and found the (underwhelming) food court, it was after 11. We ate lunch and went back to the hotel. Still not ready. Walked next door to Target and got some "necessities," such as Diet Coke, water, beef jerky, bananas, and Twizzlers. Then we camped out in the lobby for about a half hour before the room was ready... Still a couple hours before official check-in time. :)

Hubby took a nap; the boys watched TV. Then we went to visit Hubby's grandma. We had a nice visit. She was very happy to see Hubby and meet the boys. We were there for just over an hour. And then we went to Hubby's aunt and uncle's house. We had a fun evening with them, as well as Hubby's cousin and his wife and two kids. Much laughing and a new food, which I presume to be a southern thing... Grape salad. It was gooood!

Very windy and we were outside the entire evening. J-Mav is miserable. Hopefully a good nigt's rest and the wash cloth he fell asleep with on his eyes will make it all better by morning.

Hotel is nice. Not fabulous, but nice. Dated. But the room is huge. It's like a studio apartment. Two beds, sofa bed, bathroom, and kitchen. And some weird nooks and crannies that are perfect for stowing suitcases!

The plan for tomorrow: Six Flags Over Texas