Category Archives: Family

Merry Christmas!

I know it’s really Christmas Eve, but we celebrated our family Christmas today. Two reasons: it allows the kids to spend Christmas morning with Caitie’s family, and Peggy and I are flying out tomorrow morning for a business/pleasure trip to Florida.

This was the first Christmas with a grandbaby, so it was a new experience all the way around. Delightful in every way, but totally new.

The kids came in yesterday and the fun commenced. I won’t bore you with details of all the Christmas foolishness that takes place in our home, but it is something different every year. This year Peggy found Christmas “crackers” that make noise when you open them and then reveal a prize inside. Our prize was a paper crown. I wore it proudly.

Family photo with the king of Christmas

Mostly we spent today pretending that a four-month-old baby has any idea of what is taking place around her. She got a lot of presents, most of them things that her parents needed. That plan will likely work for one more year since babies seem to more interested in the wrapping paper and bows than in the actual presents. After that, though…

It was a wonderful day and we cooked a wonderful Christmas meal. The kids are gone now on their way to Pumpkin Center, Louisiana (yes, that is the actual name of the town) for Christmas with Caitie’s family.

Santa and Mrs. Claus have to pack for an eight-day trip to Florida. It’s a mullet trip — business in the front followed by party in the back. I am sure I will have something to say about it, but for now I have only one thing to say.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Mrs. Claus holding the baby and overlooking a mound of Christmas joy

White Christmas

I surprised Peggy with tickets to see “White Christmas” in New Orleans, so we stayed in the city tonight and will attend the play tomorrow. We love coming to New Orleans for a night every now and then, and the touring company of Broadway plays give us a perfect opportunity to do that. “White Christmas” is one of Peggy’s all-time favorite movies, so I am counting on the fact that the play will be just as good. And she needs a break from the stress I have created for her with the upcoming move!

We had our own version of a white Christmas a few weeks ago, but the weather has returned to normal. We were comfortable walking around the city tonight. We had dinner at the Palace Café then went to the different hotels to see how they were decorated for Christmas. Each hotel has its own personality and the decorations are completely different at each.

The Roosevelt Hotel is famous for its decorations and they are stunning each year. We actually preferred the Ritz Carlton’s decorations this year. It’s like choosing your favorite dessert at a five-star restaurant — you’re going to enjoy whatever you get!

Tomorrow we will get up and have breakfast and stroll around the city until it is time for the play. We love to stay at the same hotel on Canal Boulevard that is convenient to the theater and to the French Quarter, and we much prefer visiting the Quarter in the daylight. We will likely walk to the Café du Monde and see what is going on there, as well.

It is her trip, so we will do whatever she wants to do. And then we will go to the play.

I hope it’s as good as the movie!

Some of the decorations in the lobby of the Ritz

Giving Thanks

Peggy and I have so much that we are thankful for. Though our lives are in a bit of a state of flux as we wait to sell our house in Baton Rouge, both of us are healthy, happy and grandparents!

I got home on Wednesday afternoon in time to help with preparation for Thanksgiving Day with the kids. They came to our house to have Thanksgiving lunch with us before going to spend the weekend with Caitie’s family. We are fine with sharing the holidays with her family, and it usually works to our advantage.

For instance, today after we ate we went out in the backyard to take pictures for their family Christmas card. It was a challenge getting a picture where the adults were smiling and the baby was looking in the general direction of the camera. This is the eternal challenge of trying to get any picture with a three-month-old. We had plenty of successful shots. I’ll share this one since they aren’t going to use it for their card:

She’s almost smiling, too — you have no idea what I was doing behind the camera to catch her attention…

We had a wonderful day with the family. Then, on Friday, Peggy and I went out to eat at one of our favorite restaurants. We have always had to drive across town to eat at this restaurant, but this fall they opened a second location in our neighborhood. You know, just as we are about to move. Classic timing. We have known it was coming for a year, but it took them forever to build and open. We’ll just enjoy it while we can.

If our house takes a long time to sell we will enjoy it for a while. We went out today because there are several showings scheduled at our house this weekend. Since it is a holiday a lot of people are taking advantage of the time off to hunt for a home. We try to make it a point to get away and do something we enjoy while the house is showing. We don’t want to think too much about it — we know the move is coming, but this is just a time to be together and enjoy our blessings.

Dinner at Superior. And it was.

That’s our motto: Enjoy where we are and be thankful for everything we have.

It’s a good way to live life.

Happy Birthday

I have written before that we have a family tradition of not celebrating birthdays and anniversaries on the actual date. It is a tradition born out of necessity. We’re better at getting the dates right now, but sometimes…

Thursday was my 55th birthday, but I was in San Antonio on Thursday. So we celebrated this weekend. By telling the kids we are moving to San Antonio.

They left the baby with us and embarked on a Bonnie and Clyde spree across South Louisiana. OK, none of that is true. Well, they did leave the baby with us.

LSU played Auburn on Saturday. One of those days that makes you proud to be a college football fan. One of the largest comebacks in LSU history against an opponent ranked number 10 in the country. On an absolutely gorgeous day. Perfect way to celebrate a birthday, even if it was actually on my sister’s birthday.

On Sunday the kids stopped by to tell me “happy birthday”. We told them we are moving. They had come to town to attend a party, so they really did leave the baby with us. We took her out to dinner with us to show her off.

I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow so I will be home for a couple of extra days. We have some things we want to do to the house before we list it. But tonight we just went to dinner at our favorite place and took our granddaughter with us.

I don’t know how many opportunities we are going to have to do this sort of thing. I just know that it was a perfect way to celebrate three days after my birthday.

Showing her off at Superior Grill

Unexpected time

The appearance and subsequent damage from Hurricane Harvey has given me an unexpected amount of time at home. Much of Houston is under water, so driving back to San Antonio right now is probably impossible and certainly not the best idea.

We lived in the Houston area in 2001 when Tropical Storm Allison came and sat over Houston for three days. The flooding from Harvey looks worse. And since it kept bouncing back out into the Gulf and coming ashore again, it destroyed things all the way from Corpus Christi to Lake Charles.

I have my computer here so I can work, but this also creates unexpected time with my new granddaughter. And, frankly, my new cat. And the new tiger at LSU (yes, I have been back to see him again). Interestingly, before he becomes Mike VII he will still be known by the name he had before he arrived on campus, which happens to be Harvey. Coincidence?

Back to the important stuff: we went to New Orleans yesterday to visit the baby. It was fun. She’s a genius and is eating, sleeping and pooping like a champ. You know, all the stuff a three-day-old baby has to master.

I hate that our friends in Houston are suffering, but I am going to take advantage of the opportunity that it presents. The whole lemons/lemonade thing.

I will stay here through the Labor Day weekend and then head back to San Antonio. I am sorry for the circumstances that created the opportunity, but it is good to have extended time at home.

Father and daughter. Cat-approved bonding.
This rottenness is what we came home to

Full Circle

Life is funny. My family moved away from New Orleans more than fifty years ago. Since then I have lived in Baton Rouge, Jackson, back to the New Orleans area (Slidell), Dallas, Baton Rouge, Waco, Dallas, San Antonio, Houston (Katy), Austin and Baton Rouge.

Today my first grandchild was born in the same hospital where I was born nearly 55 years ago. Full circle.

I have written before that I never thought I would get the opportunity to live in Baton Rouge again. I knew I would never live in New Orleans again. I guess I should have realized it was possible that my granddaughter could be born in the same hospital when Mike and Caitie decided to move to the New Orleans area, but there are a lot of choices in a city that size; including one just down the street from where they live. I never gave it a thought until it happened. But it’s pretty cool.

In case you are wondering, my daughter-in-law is a stud. She was in labor for well over twenty-four hours before she delivered. Before she delivered my granddaughter.

She’s perfect, Caitie and Mike are both doing well, and we are headed back to Baton Rouge. I have been awake since yesterday morning, so I am ready to get home. But I am doing OK, because I am now a grandfather.

There will be more to tell, and we are still worried about our friends that are dealing with Harvey. Right now, though, we are going home and going to bed.

As grandparents.

Aren’t they both beautiful?
I put the sleeper on her. My specialty…

Weather or Not

My family has what my wife calls “the weather gene.”

My grandfather owned a farm and a nursery (in addition to being a mortician and funeral director) and my father graduated from college with a degree in botany, so there is no real professional aspect to the weather expertise. Mostly just good ol’ practical experience.

But, whenever something starts churning around in the Gulf of Mexico this time of year, Peggy just kind of expects me to know what is going to happen. It is flattering if not always accurate.

I returned to San Antonio on Monday this week only to have a surprise of a hurricane show up in the western part of the Gulf. I know what you are thinking — San Antonio is pretty far inland to be worrying about a hurricane — and that is a true statement.

However, I have a grandbaby scheduled to come this week in New Orleans, and wherever that hurricane decides to go is likely between me and said grandbaby. Let me just say that the phrase “Come hell or high water” seems particularly appropriate.

Using my high-tech weather forecasting skills I determined that the hurricane was going to come ashore between Corpus Christi and Houston, so I decided to leave today and get on the other side of the storm. This decision became more important when Peggy called to tell me that Caitie was in labor and headed to the hospital.

There is nothing quite like driving into an area that is expecting a hurricane. Fill up your gas tank whenever you see gas available because there is not likely to be any available the closer you get to where the storm is supposedly headed. And don’t even think about finding bread or bottled water. Fortunately, fast food was readily available on the road.

I left San Antonio a little after noon with Peggy giving me updates on baby status via text message. Weather updates were a little easier to get — stick my hand out the window.

Getting through Houston was a predictable nightmare, but I got out of there before it got too bad. What should have been a nine hour drive turned into eleven before I got to the hospital in New Orleans.

Good news — I have not missed the birth of my grandchild.

Bad news — Caitie has now been in labor all day with no baby to show for it.

Good news — Hurricane Harvey is not likely to hit Baton Rouge or New Orleans, so I think we are in pretty good shape now that I am here.

Bad news — Hurricane Harvey is now between me and getting back to work. And he is going to do some damage before he is done.

I got here, and I will let you know when I have a grandchild.

For now, we are just waiting. And praying for those that are now in Harvey’s path.

The all-nighter. Visiting with our son and waiting on a grandbaby…

Father’s Day at the Beach

I have written before that Peggy and I end up in Destin each year for Father’s Day due to a conference that I attend each year. It is becoming a fun little tradition that we really enjoy. Apparently, we were not the only people who thought Father’s Day at the beach sounded like a good idea. Here is the view from our table at lunch today:

That’s a bunch of umbrellas…

It was a perfect day for hanging out outside. Not too hot. Bright sunshine. There are going to be a lot of sunburned people in Florida tomorrow.

The “tradition” we have started got me to thinking about the men in my family. Now that my son is married I have thought that it would be fun to try to get all of the Skaggs men together and get a picture of the event. It would be challenging since we live in several different places, but I think it would be a great thing to do while my father is still alive.

I wasn’t sure where the idea came from, though. Then I came across this picture:

All the Skaggs men — circa 1990. My brother, my cousin, me, my father and my grandfather.

I did not remember this picture being taken, but that is all of the Skaggs men. I know it was taken before 1992 because that is the summer my grandfather died, but I do not really know when it was taken. The length of the shorts — and the loudness of my shirt — makes me think sometime between 1988 and 1990, back when real men wore short shorts.

When I look at that picture and see my cousin, I realize how fortunate I am. Tommy’s father died before he was a teenager. My father did the best he could to be the “father figure” for his brother’s son, but I know it was tough. Tommy (he’s not called “Tommy” anymore, except by us) has two grown sons of his own, so a current picture would now have seven men in it.

I just think it would be something that one of the young men would look back on in twenty-five years and think, “I wonder what we were doing when they took that picture?”

I hope you still have your father to celebrate with this year. If you do, enjoy every minute — and take pictures of it!

Happy Father’s Day from Destin!

Broken Vows

Nothing means more to me than the vows I made to my wife. She is the most important human being in my life, and I pride myself on keeping the promises I have made to her for the past thirty-six years.

This week I stumbled. I have to come clean. I broke a vow to Peggy that I made almost exactly nine years ago.

I couldn’t help myself. She was so cute; a true damsel in distress. There was really nothing else I could do but stop to help. And that was it…

Nine years ago I went for a walk and came home with two kittens. Actually, I only came home with one. The other was brought to our house a day later because he had been returned by the kid who took him home. I had a feeling it might happen, so I had told the owner to bring him to me if they brought him back.

After that incident Peggy made me promise that I would not bring home any more animals.

This week I broke that promise. I had ankle surgery six months ago, and three mornings a week I go to rehab trying to regain the use of and strength in my leg. This morning on my drive to the facility I saw something in the road and thought an animal had been run over. As I drove by I saw that it was still alive and basically frozen in the road with fear. I turned around and went back, fearing that I would arrive too late. When I got back to the spot she was still alive, so I picked her up and took her home.

Peggy wasn’t expecting me back so soon, so she immediately assumed something was wrong with me. I told her, “I don’t want you to be mad at me, but I really need your help.” The kitten had climbed up behind the glove compartment in my car and I couldn’t reach her — I needed Peggy’s much skinnier arms. I told her to put on her gloves and come to the car.

The kitten was so young she still had her bright blue eyes. She was still scared but she let Peggy reach her and bring her inside.

She has now been at our house for a week. Her eyes have changed to their real color now that she is weaned. And she might be the cutest thing I have ever seen. After a couple of days of adjusting our two adult cats are playing with her.

I am still guilty about breaking my promise to Peggy, but I think she is going to forgive me. In our thirty-two years of marriage this is now the eleventh cat I have brought home (along with three dogs). Our animals live forever, so we will have plenty of time to get used to this one. Since I found her in the road in Louisiana we named her LaRue (but I spelled it LeRoux because all of our animals have names that are food-related — it’s weird, but deal with it). 

Meanwhile, Peggy seems to be warming up to the idea…

My beautiful girls
Being a kitten with two adult cats is just exhausting
Eating like a big girl

Family Time

My cousin — first cousin once removed, in case you are Southern — got married this weekend in the small town my family comes from. It was exciting to see everyone and just to spend some family time.

It’s about an hour from our house to get to Amite City. My mother is buried there, so we make the trip a couple of times a year. See some family, stop in Independence on the way home and pick up some Italian sausage. If you like traditional Italian sausage, the Piggly Wiggly in Independence is important to know. Just a public service announcement.

The young lady getting married is my cousin Jerry’s daughter, and he and I are only four months apart in age. We have always been very close, and he and his wife Michelle have been together as long as Peggy and I, so we all know each other very well and love to see each other when we can.

I was surprised to see that the wedding was at the golf course where I learned to play as a small child. I did not know they had a facility for weddings, but the wedding was held outdoors (always an iffy proposition in Louisiana). All I can say is April 29 came through with a gorgeous day for an outdoor wedding. Jessica was beautiful and the party was a lot of fun.

My son and his wife joined us for the wedding. Since we always lived in Texas when he was growing up he has not spent nearly as much time with this part of the family as I did when I was growing up. It was fun to see him enjoying the family time as much as Peggy and I were. Our kids all like each other and seem to enjoy spending time together.

Every time we get together we always wonder why we don’t do it more often. I think that is the eternal lament — we spend so much time doing the things we have to do that we sometimes forget to do the things we want to do.

It was a wonderful day and I hope the rest of Jessica’s and Kris’ days together live up to the beginning!

All dressed up and some place to go!
Family photo — after two hours in the wind…