February 4, 2012

Speaking Civilian and Christmas Leave, Part 1

When I met the Hubs, I had no idea what a military life would be like... a lot has certainly changed since then! Sometimes the difference between then and now simply staggers me.

In the beginning, there were times when I thought we needed an interpreter just to carry on a conversation. I can't count how many times I said, "Slow down, and speak 'civilian' for me!" There are so many shorthand words, phrases, and acronyms that I can barely keep up. Even now, after four years of marriage, he still adds a definition for me here and there when I'm completely clueless. (Sadly, this happens much more often than you would expect!)

One of the first, and easiest, phrases for me to learn was 'leave', a.k.a 'vacation', for all the regular people out there. I still don't know why it's called leave instead of vacation, but I do know one thing - we finally get a much needed break from all the crazy!

It's not easy spending quality time with your spouse when he's away at school in another state, or training for weeks on end, or the worst... deployed. Even on a regular day, there are few hours to sit and relax together. Family time is precious. Every second counts, especially when your circumstances change from one heartbeat to the next.

While time away can be one of the disadvantages of military life, there are many advantages as well. One of the biggest for us is the ability to travel and see new things at every new post we inhabit. 'Leave' becomes an adventure, and this year has been no exception for us!

Because we are close enough (reasonably) to drive, this year we visited family for Christmas, a true blessing. I love visiting with my in-laws, shocking as that may sound to some of my fellow wives out there! I got pretty lucky in that department, thank goodness. This year, I was also able to visit with one of my favorite uncles (shhh, they are all my favorites!) and his family, who recently moved into the area as well.

 Where did we visit, you wonder? The great city of Dallas, Texas!

With two weeks at our disposal, the only problem was deciding what to do with our time and where to spend our vacation fund. Naturally, all the planning fell to me, which is exactly the way I like it! Did I mention that I'm not only slightly neurotic, but also OCD? Well, now you know. I take great pleasure in plotting our travels, down to the tinniest detail. I keep notebooks and printouts, options, and back-up plans. I even pre-plan our snacks.

Yep, 100% OCD. But the Hubs loves me anyway.

The plan this year was to visit family for a week, and then broaden our horizons with a trip to New Orleans. I've always wanted to go, and since it's only 9 hours from Dallas, why not?

Today, I'll focus on the first leg of our trip, with plenty of helpful tips for you in case you ever decide to visit there yourself! While we spend most of our time with various family members, that doesn't mean we can't all go out and see the sights together. Here are just some of the things we did together:

1. Tour Cowboys Stadium - the ultimate for any football fan, and an especially orgasmic moment for the Hubs who is a diehard Cowboys fan (We all have one or two flaws, I've mostly forgiven him for this one)

We took the basic tour, which included a tour of the locker rooms, and as much time as you wanted to play on the field. The Hubs almost stroked out when he made a 'field goal' from the 20 yard line. Pick your tour and get the details here: http://stadium.dallascowboys.com/tours/tourInfo.cfm

2. Visit the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens - Not only are the gardens gorgeous, but there are a variety of activities year-round. We attended Christmas Tea (with champagne, ahem) before wandering the gardens.

Check out their website here: http://www.dallasarboretum.org/

3. Eat at the infamous Catfish Plantation - Reputedly the 'Most Haunted Restaurant in Texas', we found the grub to be great! No personal experiences with a ghost this time, but reports abound of supernatural experiences.

The Catfish Plantation may look like a normal home, but inside the food is hot and the service is wonderful. Check them out here, and be sure to stop in if you're close by:


4. ICE at the Gaylord Texan - Every year for Christmas, the Gaylord hires ice sculptors from around the world to carve a magnificent fantasy land for you and your family! For Christmas 2011, the theme was Shrek the Halls with, you guessed it, Dreamwork's Shrek.

To start, Gaylord employees hand everyone heavy-duty parkas, because it is freezing inside the exhibit. By the end of our walk through, I was having a hard time feeling my fingers and toes! If you're visiting some other time of year, you can still take the time to wander this magnificent hotel. It includes restaurants, shops, and an enormous center arboretum and garden. Check them out:


Those were the highlights of our trip to Dallas this year, but there are so many fun things to see and do there! Some of the things we've done in the past include:

* C.A.R.E. - Don't miss a visit with the beautiful large cats!

* Southfork Ranch - Visit the setting for TV's famous show, Dallas!


* The Sixth Floor Museum - Explore and learn about the day JFK was shot


And many, many more.... No matter how many times we visit Dallas, we never seem to run out of things to do and see. If you have the opportunity to enjoy the city, take advantage of it!

We ended this family visit on a high note before heading off to New Orleans, the Big Easy... as military families, we have to take our opportunities where we can find them. I seem to find them all over the place! Traveling suits me and the Hubs down to the ground, but maybe it's not the thing for you. What opportunities do you find in your military life that makes the hard times a little more bearable?

That's all for now, but I'll be back soon with pictures from the great city of New Orleans and some tips on what to see if you visit. TTFN

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