So a few weeks ago Clay and Eric decided that they wanted to come visit us for part of their Spring Break. Needless to say, we were estactic. Thanks to my hard-working dad, they were able to bum some SkyMiles off of him and fly out here (Thanks Dad :). They arrived Saturday morning, and we allowed them no time to rest from their travels--too much to do! Clay said that as he looked out the window onto El Paso, we thought "this place looks awful". Eric concurred. So we greet them at the gate, and then take them outside, where their worries were confirmed: sans the mountains, El Paso is not too easy on the eyes. But, there are things to love and appreciate here! Like the mountains. So after they got over desert-shock, we took them to Kiki's, an awesome Mexican restaurant here. If you come to visit, we'll probably take you here. A) It's delicious, B) after some serious polling by me and Brian, it's the best Mexican we've found here (so far). Although, Bri and I tend to find a place, deem it delicious, and never try another...not because we don't want to, just because we're loyal like that... :) ha!
After lunch, we brought the brothers to the apartment, dumped their stuff, and gave them the grand tour of Ft. Bliss. Brian just so happens to work on the farthest away point on all of Ft. Bliss/Biggs Army Air Field, so the tour lasts awhile :) They were impressed to see that we had some really green fields of grass! Until we informed them that it's AstroTurf and probably has staff infection all over it. Something that I've gotten used to (just because it's everywhere) is that in place of grass, there are rocks. Not pretty rocks--jagged rocks that would probably shred your bare feet. This is the desert's replacement for grass. If you're not lucky enough to get rocks, you get a patch of dirt. But you don't really need to fear that it turn to mud, because it's the desert: it hardly rains here! Honestly, I think I'd be happier with dirt...
Sorry-that was a bunny trail. Back to Day 1. We also chauffuered them around the bend of I-10 to show off our neighboring city: Juarez! They also got to see the Rio Grande, which since it's been dammed further upstream, is more like a slow moving creek...not too impressive. I was expecting a raging river...no wonder Emily and I couldn't spot it on the way out here! After our drive we decided to take a hike up in the mountains behind our house. I think I've mentioned this before, but our front door literally opens to the mountain. There's a retaining wall, and then mountain. Best backyard EVER, right?! Haha expect when it's covered in sharp prickly plants!
We drove up to the trailhead and began our ascent. Ok, I'm a fast walker, but I'm not so speedy going up mountains...those boys left me in the dust! Although, I should probably define "hiking", because it's probably not what you're accustomed to. The trails here are basically all rock/gravel. It's gravel down low, where it was possible (and the grade is low enough) to lay gravel. After that, you're walking on/over rocks. So yes, I was bent over half the time, using every appendage to haul myself up some of these rocks! The trail also isn't very wide, so you have to be careful of vegetation. I'm known to grab onto tree trunks, rocks, saplings...to help me haul my body up while hiking. No can do here in the desierto...because every plant has a natural defense system, and in the Southwest, apparently that means thorns/spikes/prickly things. Literally, you can't grab any of them! Which is quite scary when on parts of the trail there's a ravine to your side and running through your mind is the thought "If I slip, I'm going to fall about 15 feet, tumbling over sharp rocks and pokey bushes"...it's a lovely mental picture...I also had to hike in my glasses, because after an eye visit with the doctor, I have an infection in my eye, so I have to wear my glasses for a bit. If you know me, you know I wear my glasses about 5 days out of every year or right before bed, so I'm not a skilled glasses wearer. Which means that when I look down/to the side, I don't turn my head...so naturally, this created some problems (and a headache) as I tried to "be aware" of my surroundings as I attempted to mountain-goat up this mountain...It was funny though :)
So finally we reach the top! And it's an incredible view. You can see both the east and west sides of El Paso. This mountain range divides El Paso right down the middle, so in order to get to the other side you have to either drive around it or take the pass through the mountains. We were up there about an hour before sunset, so the lighting was beautiful and it was so much fun to be up there with the boys. Clay and Eric traversed on a little on the ridge to "explore". You have to be careful though; the wind up there is intense! It'll whip you around! We only stayed up there for just a bit because we were losing light, so we began to descent. No sooner had we started down and Eric slipped on a slick rock. A lot of the rocks we climbed up were smooth from water running down them/people walking on them...yet another precarious situation! Well, like I mentioned before, treacherous plants line the "trail". So as Eric went slamming into the ground/rock, his hand went slamming into a plant that has about a 2 inch needle on the end of it. It went deep into his palm, near his fingers, and immediately starting gushing blood and swelling up...we thought the tip of the needle had broken off in his hand due to how swollen it was. Thankfully Clay had on a disposable t-shirt so we wrapped up his hand in that and proceeded to hurrry down...after a few minutes the bleeding subsided but it was still swollen. After further investigation, we realized that the tip of the needle was not in his hand, but he did have a few splinters from other plants in some of his other fingers...poor Eric. We thought for a minute we were going to be spending the night in the ER....Eric has bad luck when all 4 of us do something outdoorsy...for example, once when riding horses in Tennessee, his horse balked and he got thrown off, resulting in us creating a splint out of a belt and two sticks, and driving to the ER to find out it was a really bad sprain. See--you should pay attention in first aid class! Especially wilderness first aid! When he first fell down and we saw the damage, both Clay and I (we determined this after we all settled down) had the same train of thought: we're going to have to slice open his hand to get the needle of the plant out, and to do that, we'll need to sterilize the knife, get some hydrogen peroxide....and on, and on. The ER never crossed my mind: Brian came up with that one. Probably because he and Eric spent so much time there as children. :) Seriously, I think between the two of them they have about 5-7 ER trips...and what does that bode for our kids?....Mrs. Cindy is going to have to teach me how she dealt with that...ha!
We came back, cleaned up, cleaned the wound, and settled in for a night of dinner, libations, and fun games! Eric and Clay also decided to try and catch a fish from our tank with their hands...and then with the net. They were not successful. They also "redecorated" my fishtank, since during their attempts they uprooted all of our (fake) plants. It was funny though! We also played this game called "Monopoly Deal"--look it up! It's Monopoly in card form, and it's so much fun! Believe me: I despise real Monopoly, and this is awesome. It's totally luck of the draw, and you can't really scheme up a great plan--you just have to work with what you have, and the "winner" of the game can change in just one round. It's great!
Sunday I had planned (and did make) Monkey Bread for breakfast. Monkey Bread (also known as sticky buns and a variety of other names, some including the word "monkey") is delicious...so I thought it'd be a nice treat for the boys. Well that night I was looking up a recipe for it, and Eric caught a glimpse of a photo of it and he remarks, "Oh, what is that? That looks disgusting." To which I promptly replied: "That's breakfast." Stunned, he was speechless. Again, hilarity ensued. But we won him over the next morning with how delicious it is!
Sunday we decided to take the boys to White Sands, where we went with Dad. Although this time, we took sledding devices! They allow you to slide down the (massive) sand dunes. Nothing like Florida's! Clay and Eric got to chalk up another state: New Mexico: Land of Enchantment. After having a picnic lunch, we hit the dunes with our sleds--aka, pool air beds, you know, the ones you lay-out on in the pool. We found some beginner level dunes and tested out the sand and the sleds-both were great. Brian, our scout, went out and found a monster of a dune and then it was no holds bar: the fun really began. Clay and Eric pefected the sledding technique, which was a running start with a parallel jump onto the raft, while hold on. You only got so far before the sand stopped you, but they made it look easy, and so did Brian. So I decided to put my photography to the side and give it a whirl. Now usually I pride myself on being a good learner. Err, not so much when it comes to sand sledding. Here's a log of my attempts:
Attempt 1: Forgot to hold onto the raft (got too excited when I jumped...), which resulted in me face planting in the sand and rolling awkwardly down the hill. Hilarious.
(Note: the sand is really soft and cool to the touch...at least for now!)
Attempt 2: Stupidly, I decide to attempt again. This time, I hold on, but don't jump correctly, leading me to only sled for about 2 feet.
Attempt 3: Suicide. I enthusiastically try again, get a good running start, and dive into my raft, plunging down the hill. Well, you're supposed to jump parallel to the ground; I dove head first. Also, I let go of the raft. Too many things to think about at once! Well, this led to the following sequence: my head submerges in the sand up to my ears. I do a headstand. That headstand turns into an extended-leg backflip. I land sideways, roll down the hill. The boys die laughing. It actually, surprisingly, did not hurt!
Attempt 4: total bust.
Attempt 5: there was no attempt 5. I was done. I resumed photography duties.
It was so. incredibly. funny. And to make it worse, it's really hard to climb up a sand dune while you're hysterically laughing! The boys had some more good runs down the hill and then we just laid there, taking in the sun and relaxing. After awhile we attempted to shake off all the sand that was everywhere--hair, underwear, ears...and we headed back. Brian had to go to bed early (had to get up at 3:50 this morning), so the boys and I hung out and talked. It was a great day.
Today Brian left before the sun came up, so it was just me and the boys again. We went to the outlet mall and then to this insanely huge Southwestern store that has everything imaginable...sarapes, Mexican rugs, turquoise jewelry, saddles, cowboy hats, furniture, Day of the Dead relics, pottery...you name it, it was there. We had a lot of fun milling around. We even found a Jesus action figure. Don't worry: I took a picture!
After grabbing a quick lunch I sadly had to take the boys to the airport...the weekend absolutely flew by! I really tried to remember some of the funny things they said, but I'm terrible at remembering quotes, so they'll have to tell you themselves...we had so much fun and it just made me remember how much I love and miss both of our families! Living out here is great; we have met some wonderful people and have some great "old" friends from Benning, which has made the transition much easier. People really make a place; I think I could live anywhere as long as I was surrounded by friends and family, be that they are new or old! Although sometimes having a taste of home makes you wish you were either still in Starkville or home in Huntsville/Madison with all the old crew...we just need some epic reunions!
Aside from their visit, Brian and I have just been trucking along. Our good friends Stuart and Dana are finally able to pack up their house in Benning and come out here, so we're really excited about all of the Bliss/Benning crew being reunited! Not all of our friends from Benning came here, but including us there are 4 couples that we knew at Benning who are here, so that has been just wonderful! Brian's been doing a lot of field training lately; with the upcoming deployment, they're pretty much in the field 2-5 nights a week. It's really good though because he gets to spend valuable time with his platoon, training them, getting to know them, and learning to work as a team, which will be so integral during their deployment. We have found out some information about the deployment though; he will definitely be in Afghanistan, so we're attempting to learn more about the country and their culture. After reading a few books (Three Cups of Tea, Stones into Schools, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and some more for some classes I took in grad school), I have really developed an interest into the Middle East and how they "do life", as well as their history, beliefs, and other things. It's just such a different way of life than what is normal to us and it's become a real area of interest for me...I'm thinking about trying to learn Pashto! Brian gets to go to a school in May to learn it, and I figured if I learned some of it too we could practice :) And I don't think it'd interfere too much with my Spanish...haha!
I'm still looking for jobs, but I have a good lead for a potential ESL teaching position...the position doesn't open for interviews until April though, so I'm still prayerfully searching...I have recently become the "co-leader" for our FRG (Family Readiness Group), which helps spouses to be prepared and equipped for a deployment as well as pass on information and support. The other gal I lead it with is really nice and fun and has been with the military longer than us, so she's got some great experience. I'm really looking forward to working with the wives and helping them feel confident (and myself too! :) about the deployment. It's given me some "projects", so I'm thankful for that!
Well, I believe this post has gone on long enough! I'll leave you with some pictures; there are more on Facebook!
|Where we went hiking! Franklin Mountains|
|The boys in front of the first cave|
Back on the ground again...post-puncture wound
Learning to sand-sled!
Jumping off the dunes
The beginning of my epic sled run...
The boys had me lay down and then they jumped over me as I took a picture.
Took a few tries, but here's what we got!
Jesus action figure....he even had wheels!