Thursday, December 11, 2008 Houston!!

I had to share a couple of the pictures we took yesterday - when it actually snowed in Houston! This was not the typical Houston barely-there flurries that were last seen here 4 years ago. This was a good, wet snow with huge snowflakes that came down for hours and actually covered the ground and tops of bushes. We were even able to make a small snowman and had some friends who made a huge one!

The kids had a blast playing in it and trying to catch snowflakes on their tongues. And I think Uncle Kyle had just as much fun as they did when they all jumped on the trampoline and had a snowball fight.

One of the things the kids say they miss about Amarillo is having snow around Christmas, so this was an unexpected and fun treat!

This is our house as covered in snow as it will probably ever be.

Pike, Grace and Emma enjoying the big flakes!

Pike, Kayla and Grace on the trampoline. Adrian is actually on there too - he's hidden behind Grace.

This is our little snowman we made with a carrot nose and M&M's for eyes.

Our friends made a big snowman! This is Craig, one of Pike's friends, with his mom Adriana, one of my friends. They made it as a surprise for Christina whose birthday was the next day. Adriana said some UPS delivery drivers were coming through their street and stopped to take pictures with him!
All the kids got to bed late, but it was worth it!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Happy Birthday Grace!!

Today Grace turned 9 - WOW!
This is for the birthday girl or, as her dad would say, his Princess:

My Dear Sweet Grace,

I love that I have always been able to call you my "Saving Grace". Your sweet spirit, kindness and helpfulness have blessed me more than you know!

I love how much you love your family. And how you think about your brother and sister when you're at a birthday party on your own - and you always bring them back a small prize or share your goody bag.

I love the way you are always wanting to play family games of any kind - board games, card games, dinner table games and car games. The "Two Truths and a Lie" game is a dinnertime favorite - and a great way to find out about everyone's day.

I love the way you use the phrase "for no odd reason" all the time for no odd reason!

I love how you have grown in your faith and have a real sense of who God is, how big He is and how much He really loves you. When you were 4 I was putting you to bed and you looked up at me and said, "You're the bestest mommy in the whole world." And I said, "Well, you're the bestest Grace in the whole world." And you quickly said, "Oh, no, Mommy, God's Grace is."

I love how you have wisdom beyond your years and can see God in so many things, like the time you were playing your DS at night in the back of the car and said, "Did you know this light from the DS is just like Jesus? Everything else is dark, but He is a bright light that we need to focus on to see what we're doing." Such wisdom from such a young girl!

I love to listen to your heartfelt prayers every night and imagine what a prayer warrior you will be.

I love how you started kindergarten full of excitement and came home after the first week so frustrated that the other kids wouldn't sit still and listen all day. You threw up your hands and said, "Don't these kids know they're in kindergarten!"

I love that you love to learn and that learning comes easy for you, but I really love that you are still a humble person who knows you've been given a gift - and that everyone is gifted in some way. You told your 1st grade teacher that you didn't want to move from sitting next to a boy who was autistic, because you liked helping him; and his mother was so grateful for your friendship to him.

I love the way you can't say the word "approximately" and the sound of your laughter when you try!

I love how you sit back and take in a new situation carefully, but you are so spontaneous and silly at home and with good friends.

I love the way you enjoy to make lists, organize and label everything - especially when we make a big breakfast on Saturday morning (one of your very favorite things to do) and you set up everything buffet-style and number and label each spot - #1 plates, #2 silverware, #3 napkins, #4 eggs - and you make sure we all go in order.

I love how affectionate you are and how your hugs last a long time. Sometimes I take the time to slow down and allow you to let go first - and those are the longest, best hugs ever!

You are an amazing child of God and you are such a blessing to our family. You said tonight that the present Daddy and I got you was the best gift you've ever been given and I left your room thinking, "Oh, sweet girl, you are the best gift that we've ever been given."

Happy Birthday...I love you dearly!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cupcake Boycott

Grace and Emma's elementary school had its Fall Festival this past weekend. The PTO does a silent auction (as well as several smaller fundraisers) in conjuction with the Festival. Because of Ike, we had to cut back on our auction items and we had very little time to get everything ready. We were also doing a pumpkin decorating auction, selling snow cones and a giant cookie cake. It was a busy time!

Did I mention that I'm the president of the PTO? Important to know for later...

One of the games at the Festival was a cupcake walk and the school was having a contest to see which class could bring in the most cupcakes. I got the notes that were sent home and just threw them away. Emma never mentioned it, but Grace would ask about it.

The day before the Festival, I had my parent conference with Grace's teacher.

During the conference, we start talking about the Festival coming up and how much fun it will be. I see some cupcakes sitting on her back counter and mention that it looks like they did pretty good collecting cupcakes for the contest.

She said they did fairly good, and had a funny story about that.

The day before she asked her class if anyone else had cupcakes to turn in and Grace raised her hand.

"My mom said she does enough for this school already and she is not going to send in cupcakes."

Yep, that's what I said...word for word...

Friday, October 10, 2008

He Called You a...What??!?

As most parents, we really try to curb name-calling between the kids. When they were younger, anything that ended in 'head' was outlawed...and we're just talking about things like 'stinkyhead' and 'dumbhead' - it never got much worse than that. I even called Grace a 'sleepyhead' one morning and she burst into tears.

Which leads me to the latest episode of name-calling. As the kids have gotten older, their techniques to put each other down are more sophisticated. Add Pike to that equation and you have trouble! But, I actually had to laugh (behind closed doors) about this one...and I apologize in advance if anyone is offended.

I was cooking dinner while Pike and Grace were in the front room playing. I could tell there was some sort of disagreement, but it didn't sound too bad, so I waited to see how they would handle it. I remember Grace wanting Pike to give her something, but she didn't want to do anything in return (as I found out later, this was a very important part to the disagreement).

They continued to discuss their opposing points of view when Grace bursts into tears (yes, this happens alot) and comes running into the kitchen. I was trying to get her to calm down enough to find out what happened when Pike walks in the room.

"Pike, what happened? Do you know why Grace is crying?"

"She wanted me to give her one of my (insert anything here...I can't remember what it was) just because I have more."


"I just shook my head and said..."

Then Grace blurts out, "He called me a Democrat!!"

And then I heard myself say, very seriously, "Pike, do not call your sister a Democrat...that is not a nice thing to say." :) And, yes, we made him apologize.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Hurricane Ike

I can't tell you how many times I've started this post over, because I felt like it was getting way too long and didn't want to bore you to pieces...but I finally realized this is a record of what happened for me and my family, and I am a very detailed person by nature, so - fair warning - this is going to be long!

We knew there was a possibility that we would get some sort of fall-out from Hurricane Ike, but early in the week, it didn't look like it would be too bad. My friend, LaDonna, who had already planned a trip, flew into town on Wednesday, Sept. 10th. I'm sure I encouraged her and said something like "Oh...we'll get some rain, but that's about it", and our biggest concern was losing power on Saturday and not getting to watch college football! Honestly...that was the biggest concern for us - even into Saturday! I guess that's why we've been friends for 35 years - we have our priorities in order!! :) She came in with her daughter, Alexia, who was turning 5 on Friday, Sept. 12th...and the adventure began.

As we looked at the hurricane tracker throughout Thursday, Ike turned just enough and was headed right for us. At one point, I saw a projection of where the eye would come inland and it was going right over our house - and it was big! Mandatory evacuations were given on Thursday (which did not include us) and the roads were packed heading north. Stores and gas stations were so crowded - I really have never seen anything like it. I had almost a full tank of gas, but Jeff made me sit in a line (about 8 cars long at every pump) and top of my tank. Later, I would be grateful. We started getting messages from the schools that they were all closing on Friday and Jeff didn't have to go into work on Friday. The strangest part was that Thursday was a beautiful day - sunny, not too hot - really nice. It was hard to imagine in less than 24 hours, we would be in the middle of a hurricane!

We spent the day Friday getting as prepared as we could...which included taking the girls to get pedicures for Alexia's birthday! Regardless of what was coming, we all had sparkling toes! :)

Alexia, Grace and Emma

Sparkling Toes!!

I had already stocked up on food and water, so I did all of my laundry - just in case we didn't have power for a few days. We heard that our area lost power for 3 days after Rita, so I wanted to be ready. (Little did I know how not ready I would be!) We also moved all the outside stuff into the garage...the grill, patio furniture, the trampoline...we took away all the potential projectiles!

We spent most of Friday evening watching the news and we knew it would start to get bad for us around 9:30, so we got the kids to bed at a good time with the hope they would sleep through everything. The wind started blowing hard right around 9:30 and then the rain came in sheets, but we didn't lose power until 12:30 in the morning. We were able to stay up and watch the news and stay as updated as we could.

On a side note, LaDonna and I were checking out FoxNews online and found that video clip of Geraldo getting knocked off his feet by the waves in Galveston. If you haven't seen that clip, watch it here. It is hilarious! We probably watched that thing 20 times and laughed until we cried every single time! I think it was the highlight of the night!

OK - back to the story - Ike went over us at a category 2 and we did get a break from the wind when the eye went over us around 5:00 in the morning. Jeff went out in the eye and he said it was beyond eerie - completely still - no wind, no rain, no clouds, no sound and completely dark. Then around 7:00 a.m. the second wave started. And, yes, all of our kids slept through the whole thing!

Saturday we went out to assess damage and, thankfully, ours was minimal. My sister's fence was blown down and our neighbor across the street had a 60 ft. pine tree fall in their yard and it just knicked the corner of their garage and fell across their driveway and into the backyard. We were able to drive around a little bit and see the remnants. I was amazed at the huge trees that were either snapped in two or completely uprooted. Trees, limbs, fences, debris and power lines were strewn everywhere. These pictures are from Kyle:

A neighbor's yard

This is usually a 4 lane road right by Angie's house.

This is the main entrance to Summerwood. By comparing the tree to the man in the yellow jacket, you can see how big it was. He's standing in front of the top of it and those branches are from the trunk that's laying across the road. It knocked down power lines with it. This road was actually closed for over a week.

This is my neighbor's garage that was knicked by their tree.

Grace, Pike and Adrian playing on Angie's back fence that was blown down.

Phone lines were down and cell phones didn't work, so we went and checked on friends and had some come and check on us. One of our friends had an extra generator and that ended up being the biggest blessing to our family!

When we got the generator set up - we were able to save our refrigerated food, run a few fans and - get this - watch TV - yes, our satellite TV was working! The hardest part was finding gas to run the generator. All the gas stations ran out of gas on Friday before the hurricane hit and, even when trucks came to deliver gas, there was no power to run the pumps. We would hear through word of mouth where there was a station that had both gas and a generator to run the pumps. Jeff sat in a line for over 6 hours one day and they ran out of gas right before he got there. We were planning strategies with our neighbor on the best way to get gas, and we shared and borrowed. It was crazy! That was the part I was not prepared for...I knew we would lose power, but I didn't think about the widespread ramifications - everything was shut down. There was no gas, no grocery stores, no Wal-mart, no Sonic, no restaurants. Our oven and microwave didn't work, so we grilled and grilled and grilled...and ate alot of sandwiches.

LaDonna was supposed to fly out on Monday and her flight was cancelled. She ended up getting to leave on Tuesday. I always hate to have friends leave, but I didn't want her to stay under these circumstances. I have to say that I am glad we experienced it together - one more thing to add to our list! :)

The next few days were almost all the same...a lot of cleaning up with neighbors, trying to find gas, checking on friends and trying to keep the kids entertained with no school.

We did get a change when Kyle and Angie decided to take a camping trip and took all 3 of my kids with them. They are amazing...2 adults, 6 kids and 1 large dog camping for an undetermined number of days! They loaded up bikes, old clothes and mosquito spray, and headed out on Wednesday. They ended up in Bastrop, which is outside of Austin, and had a blast.

I ended up driving to get the girls on Friday and we went to Austin and stayed in a hotel. Jeff and I had 2 tickets to the UT/Rice game and decided that I would take Grace before everything happened. We went ahead and kept our plans to go to the game. Jeff drove to Austin on Saturday to get Emma...and Grace and I headed to campus to walk around and go to the game. We had a blast! She loves her football and we stayed the whole time and yelled and sang fight songs and saw the tower light up orange. We stayed in Austin overnight and headed back to Houston on Sunday. Pike stayed with Kyle and Angie to camp through the weekend.

When we all got back on Sunday, we had been without power for 8 days and heard it might be Thursday before we got it back. Apparently our subdivision had extensive electrical damage. We were so thankful to have a generator and a little bit of power - even though we couldn't run the A/C, stove or microwave. I was able to vacuum a few times and run the washer. The biggest inconvience was hand-washing dishes everyday and hanging out clothes to dry on a makeshift clothesline. It brought back memories of helping my mom and grandma do the same things, so we really didn't have it too bad.

We finally got power back on Wednesday night - 12 days after Ike hit, and my sister had to wait until Saturday. The rest of the subdivision and the school were up and running on Sunday, so the kids were able to go back to school on Monday. They missed 2 weeks of school and we just found out that they don't have to make it up. The district got a waiver from the state for the days missed. I was glad to hear that...I would hate if they had to be in school until the middle of June!

That's enough for now...I have some things that I learned during the past few weeks, but those can wait for another time. If you're still with me, check back and I'll make sure the next post is more of a short story than a novel! :)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Are You Ready For Some Football...

I absolutely love football season and I'm so glad it's here! As much as I love watching the Cowboys and Monday Night Football...College Football is my favorite.

Jeff and I went to Austin on Saturday to watch the Longhorns home opener. We had a blast! One of my friends kept all 3 kids, so it was a date for us. We got to Austin around 1:00 and had plenty of time to walk around the campus, eat lunch and shop. We got to the stadium about an hour before kick-off and it was already full. The 3-year renovation on the stadium was complete and the attendance for the game was over 98,000. It was great!

We also saw Vince Young as he got his jersey retired before the game. The best part was when they played his highlight video and the last 2 clips were of him running into the end zone to score the winning touchdown against USC to win the National Championship and when he was standing amid all the confetti after that game. That always gives me goosebumps!

Here are a few pictures we took before the battery on our camera went out...

This is us on our way to the stadium...there were blocks and blocks of was crazy!

We had already gone into the stadium and then decided to go out and take a picture in front of the seal. We almost didn't get to go back in because we didn't get a stamp when we left. That would have been bad!

The Longhorns were coming out of the tunnel for their pre-game warm-ups. The stadium was already packed. It was also great weather - not too hot, surprisingly!

Here's Vince Young on the jumbotron during his ceremony. I think they actually call this the godzillatron - and I can see why - the thing is beyond huge!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

First Day Pictures!

Here are some pictures of the kids from the first day of school! They are all doing great and enjoying the year so far. The biggest surprise has been how well Pike is adjusting to middle school. He absolutely loves's "awesome"...and I've been amazed at the dramatic signs of maturity in just 3 days. We are very proud of him!

OK - now that makes me laugh! I just finish talking about Pike acting more mature and the only picture I have of him by himself is where he is climbing up the basketball pole! He is one of a kind...and we are still proud of him!

Monday, August 25, 2008

First Day...

Today was the First Day that I wrote "I Love You" notes to my 3 kids and secretly put them in lunchboxes and backpacks to be found later in the day.

Today was the First Day that Emma joyfully skipped down the hall on her way to kindergarten, pulling me along, singing "I am so excited! I am so excited!"

Today was the First Day that I watched her find her nametag, hang up her backpack and find her seat. I watched as she sat down for the first time and realized what an amazing journey she had just begun.

Today was the First Day that Grace didn't want me to walk her to class, but she looked back, smiled and waved quietly as she turned down her hallway.

Today was the First Day that I watched Pike slowly get swallowed by (what seemed like) much bigger kids as he walked into middle school, and an unknown world, for the first time.

Today was the First Day that I tried really hard not to cry as I walked out of the school, then saw some sweet friends who asked me how I was doing, and I let the tears softly fall as I got some much-needed hugs.

Today was the First Day that I drove to the grocery store and shopped alone - not because I got to, but because I had to.

Wasn't it just yesterday that I couldn't wait until Emma could sit up by herself, so I wouldn't have to lug that heavy baby carrier into the store while trying to hold the hands of her 5-year-old brother and 3-year-old sister?

Wasn't it just yesterday that I wished I could run errands by myself without having to buckle and unbuckle five-point harnesses at every stop?

Wasn't it just yesterday that I wanted a quick errand to really be quick and not include instructions on how to behave?

Wasn't it just yesterday that I longed for a quiet house so I could get everything done in peace?

Today was the First Day that I prayed for God to take care of them while they are away from protect their precious give them courage to make wise choices...and to come home full of joy and ready to be with a mom who has a plate of fresh-baked brownies!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

All About Emma

It's time for an Emma update...

Most of you know that Emma gave herself a haircut last October. She had her hair in 2 ponytails and tried to take them out to put on a crown. When they got tangled and started to hurt, she got out the scissors and cut them off! (I found them in the trash can still bound in the rubber band!) She sported a mullet for a long time and we usually had between 4-6 clips in her hair to keep down all the layers.

Well...last week we finally got the haircut we've been waiting for for almost a year! The sides were finally long enough to get a cute bob!! It looks great and she loves it!!

Here are some pictures of our adventure...

This was taken in September right before The Haircut.

The night of The Cut...before I took her in to get it as fixed as possible.

After going to get it 'fixed'. She had this mullet look for a long time!

Her new look!!! We made it...just in time for kindergarten!!

Emma is also the one of my 3 who always makes me laugh at the way she gets words mixed up. My other two grasped the English language at a very early age. I absolutely love the way Emma gets things confused, even though she doesn't do it as much as she used to.

An early example...When Emma was 2 and her friend Macy (who had a new baby brother named Jack) was 3, we were headed to the car. Macy was putting on her new coat and this is the conversation that followed:

"Emma, Did you see my new jacket?"
"I know you have a new baby Jack."
"No, Emma. I got a new jacket."
"Macy, I know you have a new baby Jack."

Then sweet Macy looked at me, smiled and just shrugged her shoulders, as if to say, "That's just Emma!".

Well, that Emma gave me a chuckle today when she was singing a new song she learned last week at VBS. Along with a very serious face and hand motions, this is what I heard...

"Get up, Get up...and tell the world.
Get up, Get up...some people haven't heard.
Jesus paid the price
So we could have eternal lice..."

I love that girl!!!

That didn't last long...

In my first post, I talked about my blog not being very cute. Well, thanks to a link on a friend's blog, I've jazzed mine up just a little bit. It was very easy...and free! What do you think?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Best Surprise (another update)...

Wouldn't you know soon as I start this blog, my children have completely stopped giving me any kind of interesting antecdotes to write about! So, I'll go back in time for another family update.

Have you ever been so completely caught off guard with a joyous surprise that the only thing you can do is cry? Until recently, I would say that I've never been 100% surprised my entire life. I'm usually aware of things going on and, even though I might not know what is going on, I know something is going on. That is...until my 40th birthday.

I knew I wanted to celebrate with friends so I told Jeff to not even try a surprise party. My sweet (and sneaky) sister, Angie, said she would start planning and she set up a great party at a friend's house for the night of my birthday, which was a Saturday. That morning the kids had a swim meet and after my shift as a timer, I was hanging out under our tent watching the meet. I heard my sister calling my name asking about Adrian's (her son's) race. Everytime I tried to look into the pool area to see where he was, she kept calling me. Then I finally saw it...a hand waving high in the air that caught my attention. That's when I noticed the group of people walking around was my entire family from Amarillo!! My dad, my stepmom, my brother, sister-in-law and their 3 kids!! They had all flown in for my birthday. I absolutely could not believe they were here in Houston and all I could do is cry...and those were the most joyous tears I've ever shed! I found out later that they had been planning the trip since January - and I never suspected a thing...Wow! I can't even do the moment justice by trying to describe it here...I was so full of joy and gratitude and I couldn't quit sobbing! It was great!

The party ended up being better than I could have ever imagined. We talked, ate and laughed - and you should hear some of these people sing karaoke! :)

Here are a few pictures from the occasion - starting with me when I notice my family at the swim meet and ending with a picture of all the grandkids together.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Just a Few Updates

Since I'm just starting, I'm going to give a few updates on our family...

Emma graduated from preschool this year and cannot wait to go to kindergarten. She asks me just about every day how many more months/weeks/days until she starts school. Here are a few pictures from her graduation...

These are her amazing teachers - Ms. Jackie and Ms. Kerri

The girls were on the swim team this year. It was Grace's 2nd year to swim and Emma was finally old enough to be on the team. Pike opted to play tennis instead, but he said he wants to swim again next year. We had a great team and, even though it can be time-consuming, it was a lot of fun and the girls learned so much.

Here's Grace doing the freestyle

Grace is getting ready to get in the water for the start of her backstroke. She's really good at the backstroke, but doesn't like it too much because she tends to hit her head on the wall at the finish. They can't turn over until they touch the wall or they're disqualified - and for some reason her head always hits before her hand or arm!

Here's Emma on the starting blocks getting ready to jump in during her freestyle relay.

I love this picture! If you could see her before she jumps in, she has her hands over her head and she is bent over like she is really going to dive...then she just stands up and jumps - I love it!!

It's hard to see her, but this is Emma doing her freestyle. She started the season not being able to swim much at all...and by the end of the season she could swim the length of the pool by herself.