Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Out of the mouths of babes...

Maggie is now three years old. Like most girls, she LOVES to talk. These are some of her recent sayings:

-"What are you waiting emma-na-gentation?" {Invitation} Said at a stop light, waiting for a car to turn. 
-She goes into her own room, promptly steps on a lego and says ''Who left the damn Legos out?"
Her: "I want to be able to see my brain Mom"
Me: "Sis, we can't do that. Our brains are very important body parts, that have to stay inside our head".
Her: "I just want to take it out and see it Mom."
Me: "Hon, we can't see our own brains. They are inside our head, kept safe by our skull. That's part of our skeleton."
Her: "Mom, I just want to see my bwain. Spongebob does it. I want to take mine out and see it too. I'll put it back when I'm done. Pinky promise!"
Yesterday Sissy comes running downstairs saying her room is SPARKLY clean. "Come see, Mom...Come see!!" as she is tugging me toward the stairs. So we go up and I notice that yes, her floor is VERY clean. Everything had been picked up and her floor was no longer covered in stuffed animals, mini lalaloopsies and dress up clothes. "Sissy your floor is very sparkly clean, and I'm proud of you for cleaning your floor but did you maybe just shove everything under the bed? It looks like there is a lot of stuff under your bed..." *huge dramatic sigh* and she says "Mom,  I just yike my stuff under the bed. That's where I keep it.  It makes my room SPARKLY clean Mom...see?!"

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Proud Mama Moment!

My kids LOVE to draw, color, paint, play with play-doh, use markers...anything ''artsy'' and all four are immediately interested. Last year at this time, Logan had submitted a drawing to a PTA Reflections contest and he placed first in his grade level at his school and then went on to the European level. Unfortunately, he didn't place at European's but we were still VERY excited for him and proud of him and his work.

Well here were are a year later and last week we received a letter from Ryan's art teacher that she had submitted a piece of Ryan's art to the Houston Rodeo K-12 Art Exhibit and that Ryan's artwork was chosen to be displayed. Very exciting! We were invited to a small reception at the University of Houston last night, to see his piece, a watercolor silhouette that he name ''Whoa Cowboy!"

Isn't it just the cutest? I have no clue how he is able to blend the sunset sky so well at age 7. This isn't the first piece he has done in watercolors that I have been uber-impressed with either. He painted this picture (on the right) of ''trees at sunset" at the beginning of the year, then I had it matted around Christmastime.

Needless to say, the whole family was excited to see his art displayed. He received a second place, red ribbon on his work as well. So proud of my Bubba! 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Almost four years ago...

We made the switch to a mini-van.

I dreaded the thought of it. I hated the idea. I didn't want to be a stereotypical stay-at-home-mom carting my kids off to soccer practice in a mini-van. But finally, we caved and bought what we affectionately call ''The Swaggerwagon".
Now it didn't happen overnight, but each day I liked it a little bit more. The sliding doors were genius...the kids didn't whack the walls of the garage anymore. I could buckle the baby in at Target without blocking an entire parking spot. I had room to change a diaper, when needed. I could fit both the stroller and my groceries. The stow-n-go feature on the Chrysler Town and Country is GENIUS! I can keep my reusable grocery bags in there, a spare change of clothes/jackets, snacks. When we travel it seriously saves so much space because you can fit a lot in those floor cubbies. Dare I say, I learned to love it?
And the kids did too...until they learned there was better out there.

Amy drives an SUV with a DVD player in it which prior to becoming friends with Amy, I don't think my kids knew that this feature existed. Then the more friends we made in Italy, the more the kids realized everyone's vehicle except ours, had a DVD player. I was fine without having one. In fact, when we bought the van years ago I insisted on getting the base model. I didn't want power doors that little arms could get caught in. I didn't want to worry about the fighting over which movie to watch. I didn't want leather that carseats would tear up. I was secure in my decision, knowing that the kids were little and well, dirty and that some day I would have a nice car again. And the kids learned to live without a DVD player.

However, when we returned from Italy, we had to rent a van as ours was on an ocean carrier. We rented a 2013 Town and Country Touring. It was ''just" like our van but leather, had a DVD player, power windows, power trunk gate, satellite was like our van but better!
When the kids spilled a little Sonic drink, I just wiped it right off the leather. When they were arguing, jet-lagged and wanted to be anywhere but the car on the drive from San Antonio to Houston, I popped in a movie. When I had eleventy-billion things to carry and the dogs, I just pushed a button and the doors opened like magic.

I was intrigued.

So here were are, having been stateside five months now and I was still thinking about that rental van...especially after driving to Kansas and back at Christmas. Our van was at the point where it needed help. I won't go into all the issues, but it seemed like we had two choices: put in about $1000 of work or put that money toward a new van.

Today, we made a decision and it came with a DVD player.
While I still don't think we ''need'' a DVD player, I no longer feel guilty about turning the screen on the second we get in the car. For one, I'll take peace and quiet any way I can get it. Secondly, we don't have cable nor watch hardly any TV during the day at home, so it's not like they watch it all the time. Third, I no longer care, to be honest. It makes them happy. Happy kids means happy parents. 

Now I don't mean to turn my blog into a complete review of the 2013 Chrysler Town and Country, I'm pretty much going to do just that. Reading a review on edmunds or consumer reports is dandy, but really getting to know the vehicle from a mom's perspective, its more practical when it's moms who are buying the van!

So, on the outside, it looks almost the same as our old one. (It was a 2009, this is a 2013).
The color we got is called "Maximum Steel" it's not really black, not really navy, not really a dark gray but all three colors depending on how the light hits it. As Maggie put it, "it's very sparkly!". Exterior wise, it looks pretty much the same but this does come with nice rims instead of plastic/fiberglass hub-caps. We also opted to make sure we got the roof rack/rails package because we have used our van to move mattresses or IKEA furniture before and this would make it much easier. Standard on the 2013 is fog lights and a rear back up camera too.

On the's heaven. It's just like the rental we had. Satellite radio, DVD, leather, power doors/gate, and a REAR BACK UP CAMERA. (Amy, now we're twins!) I can make phone calls by pushing a button on my steering wheel (through the dash's uConnect system). There are FOUR USB ports in this van and four lighter/chargers. So I can use the GPS, charge my phone and charge Sissy's leappad. I can charge the boys cameras while we drive to our destination, rather than completely forgetting and having the batteries be dead on arrival, only to have disappointed kids. I can listen to my iTunes music by plugging my phone into a hidden USB port inside the glove box, which will charge my phone while I listen! (In our 2009 van we had to use an AUX out cable and then my phone had to be plugged into the charger to do this).

There are SIX cup holders just between the driver and passenger seats (eight if you count the ones molded into the driver and passenger doors). Which while I admit is a little overkill, it's convenient on road trips when Ron and I each have our water bottles, then drive thru Starbucks for coffee. I don't have to hunt for my nalgene bottle nor risk it rolling under my feet while driving. The center console is huge, without being bulky. It sits much higher up than the old one and has two separate compartments as well as a handy little inlay that my phone can rest on. The first compartment is semi-hidden by the phone tray and has a power outlet. Perfect for keeping the GPS in. Then with the press of a button, the console slides open to reveal a much bigger compartment, perfect for fitting DVD's in. I love the fact that there is no clutter like in our old console! The entire console can also slide back, I imagine so whoever is in the second row can reach the cup holders, but with Connor and Maggie, neither can reach. Like the 2009, this one also has two glove boxes. With four kids, I use one to store the first aid kit (we have to carry an epi-pen with us at all times with Ryan and while I keep one in my purse, if Ron takes him somewhere it's good to know there is one in the car) and the other to store the car papers.
The 2013 is also flex-fuel and I finally live in a big enough city to take advantage! While it doesn't offer 8 passenger seating like Honda or Toyota, that doesn't bother us. I LOVE having the two captains chairs and the ease of being able to walk down the middle if the kids need something on a long road trip. And the stow and go in phenomenal. When we need more room, we can put Maggie in the third row with her brothers then fold down the van seat into the floor and have room for all that stuff we bought at IKEA. It's literally a lift of the handle and pull of a different loop handle.

Yes, I'm not yet thirty years old and pretty damn excited about a mini-van.

Could we have gone with the more ''trendy'' Honda Odessey or Toyota Sienna? Sure. But the features of the Town and County, with that stow-n-go that I love, comes with a price that is so much more 'down to earth' that the competitors.

So for now, I am basking in the stereotype. Enjoying the peace and quiet that an episode of Scooby Doo can induce. With the push of a button I can open the doors from inside the house without having to hear ''I wanted to open the door and *insert kid here* didn't let me." I am a card carring member of the ''Minivan driving, stay at home mom" club. What, what!?

Just don't expect to see any stick people decals on my back window. I haven't completely lost my mind.


A Day Trip to Galveston

When we settled in Texas, we settled in a suburb equal distance to Houston as it is to Galveston. So this weekend when it was 65 degrees and sunny and we were left with ''What should we do today?" we opted to see Galveston. Now we had been a couple times before but for the beach. This time I first went to the Galveston tourism website and searched ''budget friendly''...since we really were just wanting to sight-see. We found two things that sounded like good, cheap, family fun: The {free} ferry from Galveston to Port Bolivar which dolphins can often be seen from and a candy shop called LaKings located on the Strand. Off we went.
We chose the Ferry first.

The kids loved it! They couldn't wait to depart the landing and get out of the van.  It's a 20 minute Ferry ride across the channel so it's just enough that they have fun without getting restless.   
 Logan is "Star Student of the Week" this week and with that honor comes the responsibility of taking care of the class mascot :Brown Bear. Now he can say that Brown Bear saw a ferry this weekend :)

After the ferry we spent about twenty minutes at Port Bolivar before the kids were itching for that taffy we had talked about. Most of the homes were built up on the stilts, which the kids thought was neat.

 Ron was amazed and actually pulled the car over...those ''rocks'' on the ground are all oysters!
A quick ferry ride later and we were on our way to The Strand.
If you've ever been to Lawrence, KS ''Mass Street" well "The Strand" is a lot like that but bigger, right by the Gulf and from the Strand you can see Cruise ships dock in the port. We (in the fashion that we do) just hopped in the car and went and were pleasantly surprised to discover that the day we went was a Chili and Beer Fest. Lots of yummy 'fair' food and microbrewery beers. I enjoyed sipping on a Strawberry Daiquiri while we explored. At last we found La King's Confectionery...also known as "the taffy place". Walking into La King's was like walking back in time. Soda bar, candy cases, adorable little tables and chairs everywhere and the sweet smell of sugar!

I got so wrapped up in it all that I didn't think to take photos until we were at the back of the shop, watching him pull the taffy. D'oh!
 He puts forty pounds of taffy on this belt and it stretches it out. The end of the belt will cut and wrap each piece of taffy. 40 pounds of taffy will be cut into about 3000 pieces and it takes about 30 minutes. This flavor was ''Mardi Gras'' and was yellow with ribbons of purple and green. It tasted like ''tutti frutti".

 As the machine started wrapping, the sampling begun! After tasting a warm piece, it wasn't as exciting to pick pieces out of bins. We bought peanut butter, pina colada, strawberry, orange, watermelon, root beer and cherry. I didn't taste all of them but there were no complaints. All in all, a fun afternoon followed up with dinner at Rainforest Cafe. The kids LOVE Rainforest Cafe.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

I'll be home for Christmas!

We have been in our house for about three months now. Long enough that we have most of the pictures hung up, the bedrooms have curtains and tiebacks, we've ripped down the wallpaper in the master bathroom and have the necessary tools to patch/prime/paint (just need to find the time!). We celebrated our first Thanksgiving and finally feel settled. Decorating for Christmas was a blast. Having a mantle to decorate is new and really helps pull it all together.
Overall, it's gone well but we were REALLY looking forward to going ''home'' for Christmas to Kansas. We had planned on being in Kansas from the 21st-31st but the weather had other ideas. Luckily we left Texas a day early because the weather turned ugly quick!

We had a lot of fun in Kansas. A LOT of fun. And it snowed EIGHT inches the day after we arrived so we had a white Christmas. Snow, baking, was great and much needed after not being with extended family for a holiday in three years.


We were very fortunate to be able to visit Grandma Great (my dad's grandma), whom we hadn't seen in over two years. She had a few falls and was hospitalized a few times while we were in Italy and I honestly didn't know if we would get to see her again. Don't quote me, but I'm pretty sure she's 94 years old. Other than her vision, she does really well...still lives on her own in an apartment for seniors. Our trip to Kansas in October was so quick, we didn't have time to drive to the town she lives in (almost 2 hours from where we were in Oct) so I was really thankful we had plenty of time to see her. 

She still tells it like it is ;)

So we saw Grandma Great on Christmas Eve as well as Papa Bob (my dad's dad) who we saw again on Christmas Day.
Christmas eve we went back to my parents house to settle in and wait for Santa. The kids were so freaking pumped up on Christmas Eve that they were up until almost 11pm!
For real. It was a long night but made for a fun morning!

The kids all got exactly what they asked Santa for, everything they asked Nana and Papa for, plus lots of extras. Spoiled? Probably but they are good kids :) After opening up presents and getting ready for the day we packed up our stuff from Nana and Papa's house and headed down to Grandma Phyllis' house to see everyone, open more presents and for Christmas dinner.


 I got to snuggle and spoil my nephew again, so that was fantastic!
We also got to update our four generation pictures...
And the Dads/Papas took the kids outside to enjoy that White Christmas before it melted. They made both a snowman as well as a snow pyramid. It wasn't very cold out with the sun and no wind, which made it a lot more fun (according to them).

 All in all, a perfect Christmas!

But as a family we learned an important lesson...home is Texas now. It's kinda sad to say but makes me happy that we're all happy here. By day seven in Kansas the kids wanted to go ''home''.  Asking to just go home. They had a blast but they missed their beds, their house, their rooms and they wanted to play with their toys. We headed home 2 days earlier than planned and it worked out great. We slept in. We spent Christmas money at Build A Bear. We enjoyed our new waffle iron and air popcorn popper with late breakfasts and afternoons spent cuddled up watching movies.