We enjoyed a wonderful long weekend with my in-laws down south.  I hadn’t realized just how long it had been since the last time we saw them until about a week before our trip.  It made our time together especially precious and dear to me.  The weekend was full of time together and some unexpected surprises.

On Thanksgiving, I felt so incredibly blessed to be eating a delicious meal surrounded by so many I love.  My mother-in-law spent days preparing a feast for her family.  It was time well spent.  Before our meal, the house was loud with laughter, talking, and playing.  Moments after saying prayers and the first bites reached our mouths, the entire house hushed as we longed for and tasted all the flavors of Thanksgiving.  I think it’s easy to get wrapped up in the decorations and atmosphere of a holiday but what I find most important to me on Thanksgiving is the time spent with family sitting together and chatting while thanking God for making it all possible.  How often do we do this anymore just within our immediate families?  I know how difficult it is to gather the six of us for dinner on a regular basis let alone gathering with extended family for a meal.  I also cherished the care and thought put into the meal by my mother-in-law.  It’s an act of love on her part to dedicate that much of her time for a special family meal.

An opportunity arose on Friday.  Shopping.  Just Niki and myself – something we have not done in years. There’s something about not having to deal with boys hiding in clothes racks, messing with each other, touching everything they pass, or begging for something every ten feet that makes me feel like Black Friday shopping will pale in comparison.  We first attempted the midnight sales at an outlet center.  We turned back.  Wow.  That’s all I have to say about that one.  Then we went to the mall after 2pm on Friday.  Much better.

On the way home, we stopped at a grocery store to pick up some items for a birthday party for Les and Chris.  Niki went to get some face cleanser while I was a couple of aisles over looking for stuff on my list.  Within a couple of minutes of being gone from me, Niki came jogging back to me.  “Mom, there’s a guy following me.  He kept staring at me so I went to the next aisle and he followed me there.”  She was in the make-up aisle.  What guy is browsing through the make-up aisle?

“Stay next to me.  You’ll be fine.”

We keep shopping.  The guy shows up again.  He’s quite obviously trying to flirt with Niki only it’s coming across creepy and disturbing.  He follows us to several more aisles.  I had enough.  I stared at him and he left us alone.  We’re picking out some vegetables when I see this same guy walk out of the doors to the back area of the store – he’s an employee.  We finish up and leave for home.

I tell Les about it when we get back to his parents’ house.  He’s not happy.  He decided to drive down to the store to tell the manager about this.  When he returned, Les had some disturbing news for us.  The manager was very receptive to Les and was already suspicious about an employee and asked Les for a description.  Les gave him the description I had provided him.  Then the manager asked Les to follow him. While they are walking, they found this employee peaking around an aisle staring at two college age girls and taking a picture of them on his cell phone.  The manager immediately asks the employee to hand over his phone to him.  There are many, many pictures of girls in the store on his phone.  The manager hands the phone to Les and asks him if any of these were his daughter.  Sure enough…there was a picture of Niki on his phone.  Les deleted it.

I immediately apologized to Les for thinking he was going a bit overboard by going back to the store to talk to the manager.  Niki hugged her papa several times.  Les told me, “I’ve learned to trust your instincts.  I had to go back to the store.”  I’m glad Les was paying closer attention to me than I was about myself.  I guess, for me, if there was an immediate danger I would have – without a doubt – taken action.  But I had just spent the day shopping with Niki and two other guys were flirting heavily with her (at least trying to since Niki wasn’t paying attention to them) that I ignored this guy even though the previous two weren’t being creepy about it and he was.  We had a talk with Niki on how to approach this situation if it ever happened again – especially if she’s by herself and I learned to not ignore my initial instinct.

On Saturday Niki, Les, and myself went to the gun range with his dad.  This was a first for both Niki and myself.  We had never shot a gun before. Not so for Les since his grandma gave him his very first (real) gun when he was a kid.  We are in Texas, afterall.  Have you ever met a person you felt was born in the wrong era?  When I see my father-in-law, I always think he should be a sheriff in a small, budding city in the 1800’s.  My mother-in-law would have a welcoming home and a hearty kitchen, wanting for nothing, in this pioneer community.

While we were at the gun range, my boys were making bread with grandma.  Niki and I are slightly jealous.  They didn’t just make bread. They made bread from scratch.  The boys got to grind the wheat first before mixing all the ingredients together to bake a loaf of fantastic bread we would all share later at dinner with our soup.

We put together a special birthday party for Les and Chris.  Everyone enjoyed a feast which included but was not limited to pumpkin juice, butterbeer, and chocolate frogs.

We said our goodbyes and headed off for our drive home.

On the way – I couldn’t help it and stopped the van to have the kids stretch their legs and learn a little Texan history.  We read about Sam Houston and wandered up a trail to take our picture with his gigantic statue.