Visiting the Girls in Texas (Post-Deployment)

After my three-day mandatory reintegration period following my six-month deployment to Romania, I was going to drive down to Belton, Texas to visit my daughters. They had about two months left of school, but we all wanted to see one other before they came back to Kentucky permanently. I had the list of available activities, all the places we probably wanted to eat, and a clean car ready to receive them. Here is the post about my visit to Texas to see my daughters, an event six months in the making.

Not an optical illusion; they have definitely gotten taller.

As soon as I learned when I was expected to be home, I contacted their Mother to let her know and to see if they were available that weekend. Thankfully, they were not only free, but it was also a three-day weekend, so I would get an extra day with them. The girls and I were very excited that I was going to be there soon and we talked about it for weeks beforehand.

The reviews said she was the best farmhand in the entire show

Gabriella had her school musical on Thursday evening, so I was able to drive down very early that morning and make it for the event. I met them at the performing arts center, and to say that I was in shock at seeing them, would be a vast understatement. Elaina was almost as tall as her Mother, Gabriella was more talkative than I have ever seen, and I just could not believe how much they had grown and how much I had missed of their lives. With the girls holding me tight, we preceded into the theater while they caught me up on the last year. Gabriella did amazing during her musical, playing a farmhand in her Grade’s rendition of Old MacDonald.

Yes, they probably had too much ice cream…. but we were on vacation!

After getting some clothes and three suitcases of toys from the Mother, the girls and I headed to Chipotle for dinner and Freezing Point for ice cream; it only took them about ten seconds to realize that Dad was back AND on vacation, so they took full advantage of the situation to eat what they wanted to. Vegetables had already been sparingly on my menu since I got back, so I could not be that much of a critic while visiting.

The hotel with the better continental breakfast was definitely worth it

The girls still had school the next morning, but their Mother allowed them to stay the night in the hotel and let me take them to school the next day. How they had grown so much became readily apparent when we stepped out for the continental breakfast, as Elaina ate three plates worth of food and Gabriella went back for multiple servings of sausages and bananas. Let the growth spurts continue!

Perfect lunch: Dad brings you Chipotle

After dropping them off at Spartan Elementary School that morning (Go Sabercats!), I did more research to prepare for our activities, as well as pickup Gabriella food for lunch. I ate lunch with both of them on Friday, but Elaina chose to eat from the cafeteria while Gabriella wanted me to bring her… you guessed it: Chipotle. Considering that I had not had lunch at school with them since COVID started, this meant a lot to me.

Well that is just not coming out…

After going to Pho for dinner, reading Mrs. Piggle Wiggle to them, and watching movies the rest of the night, the girls and I woke up the next morning ready to go back to the Mayborn Museum in Waco. We had such a great time during our last visit, that we all wanted to go back there. Unfortunately, the Scooby Doo exhibit was not going to be there for another week, but they were relieved when their Mother agreed to take them to it.

Finding random playgrounds since 2013

We got to Waco a little early, but thankfully found a playground on the Brazos River to kill some time. Great time for Dad to burn off some of that ice cream calories chasing them up, down, and around the playground area.

The Girls: “The T-Rex seems a little smaller than last time…”

Since most of the patrons were there for a special event, they let us in a little early. This was great because the girls were once again very excited about going to the Tea Room without any of the smaller children getting in their way. We hurried up to the second floor and got to the room, but after about a minute of looking around, the girls wanted to do something else. While I am a little happy about the prospect of no longer having to attend tea parties, it also means that my girls are growing up, which is not so great.

I think they pull off the bonnet look a little better than me. Just barely.

Instead they headed to the Old West room, where Elaina churned butter, Gabriella drove a wagon and rode a horse, and they both dressed up their Old Man Dad in old timey clothes… female old timey clothes. Thanks, Girls, because I was not embarrassed enough attending your tea party.

Future Dinosaur Cloners or Hunters (their choice!)

We stayed quite a while in the Dinosaurs Augmented Reality exhibit, where the interacted a lot more with the creatures than during our previous outing. We also ended up answering several dinosaur trivia questions, which made me proud. I wonder where they got that from…

I would not be surprised if they asked me to build one of these contraptions for them at home

Next we went to their favorite room: The Bubble Room.

This only took about 25 takes to capture

We stayed in this room for about 30 minutes, with the girls and I trying to get the bubble cylinder as high as we possibly could. And since there were very few kids in the museum, we had the whole room to ourselves.

Papa Bob would be very proud of them

They eventually switched to the bubble wands, which they were surprisingly good at. They understood the technique of taking it slow, not whipping around the wand and making the bubble pop. More stuff that I am going to have to buy when we get home to keep them entertained on hot and humid days in Kentucky.

If they ever need an extra laser harp player on the USS Enterprise, look no further

We then checked out both the music and light rooms, where the girls were certain to have a blast. A la the movie Big, nothing is quite as fun as dancing on a giant piano!

Even Grogu gets a little worn out from time to time

After a quick snack and rest break, we decided to check out the restored pioneer village that was behind the museum.

Oh no! Not another one of Elaina’s sermons!

After checking out the horse-drawn carriages, ambulances, and hearses, the girls headed over to the church to get their prayer and singing on. Gabriella played the piano while Elaina thumbed through the Bible on the pulpit. She closed the service by ringing the bell over and over by pulling the rope in the foyer of the church.

Obviously my favorite building in the museum

We then hit up the Commissary, which I was very excited about. It was basically an old country store, with about everything you would need for running a farm in the Old West. And for anything that they did not keep in stock, there was an old Sears, Roebuck & Co. Catalog to sift through to find what you needed. I was very impressed, but I will take the Fort Huachuca Commissary any day, thank you very much.

Future Elementary School teacher

The girls then went to the school, where Elaina gave lessons for about ten minutes. She asked a series of questions, called on Gabriella and I, and then we had to go to the chalkboard to write down our answers. She is definitely going to make an amazing teacher one day.

Of course we were going to stop by Freddy’s

After stopping at a local ice cream parlor first (they promised to eat all their food later… I am such a pushover sometimes), we stopped at Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers for lunch. It was just as good as we remembered it. By this point in the trip, I was starting to feel a little more comfortable, back to my usual self. We were back in our routine and I was starting to feel more at home. Took a little while, but I eventually got back there.

This is not helping me with my trauma from the Boo Batter

The next day we decided to stay in the Temple / Belton area, visiting some more playgrounds and some of the local stores. And of course that included some shaved ice to keep cool on the hot Texas day.

Not as good as our old sectional (RIP), but it will do

We eventually found our way over to the local theater, where we had pre-purchased tickets to see The Super Mario Bros. Movie. The girls had already seen it, but were more than willing to see it again with me. We left the theater singing the “Peaches” song, and two weeks later, that still has not stopped. They even recreated the music video for me.

So many playgrounds, so little time

On our last day in Texas together, we decided to go to several different playgrounds in the area to see what else we were missing. Some were tall, some were very spread out, while some were covered and kept us out of the Texas sun.

They were surprisingly nice to each other on this

Regardless of what playground we were at, we always managed to have a lot of fun. It may have taken a few days, but we were back to our little family again, having a great time playing, eating, and talking. Unfortunately, the girls had to go to school the next day and I had to start moving into our new house, so we eventually had to say goodbye.

This is only the second time we had Pho on this trip, I swear!

After eating dinner at our Pho restaurant again, we headed to HEB for drop-off (and because the girls wanted macrons). Saying goodbye was rough for all of us, but it was amazing to see one another before they come back to Kentucky for half of the Summer and then the next school year. While we did not do anything particularly exciting, expensive, or even memorable, this trip was about us getting back to our routine as well as just being together as a family again. Mission accomplished.

My babies are growing up… *tear*

Thanks for checking in on us.


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