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Monday, September 18, 2017

Out of the norm

We had a few out of the norm occurrences last week that are worth sharing (and yep, it's true, this is about as exciting as it gets in the world of mom blogs!):

1. I had my first professional picture taken. I've been in the workforce for 12 years, 10 of which have been spent with my current employer, so I'm kind of impressed I've made it this long. In fact, my ID badge is still rocking my first-day-of-work picture that was taken a decade ago. But apparently there's an internal publication being put together that requires an updated picture (of me not wearing a pink sweater like I did on my first day, apparently), and so this took place last week:

I asked the photographer if he could make me look tan, but apparently even photo editing applications have their limits... sigh.

2. Allison and Avery picked the twins up from daycare to take them out for two (separate) weekday outings! Clara was first and got to join Allison, Avery, and a few friends at an indoor play place for playing and lunch:

The next day, it was Colby's turn, and they headed to a new (to him) park for - you guessed it - playing and lunch:

The twins were really excited about their "adventures" and as a full-time working mama that experiences a lot of guilt about not getting to take them out regularly to do this kind of thing, it made me pretty happy, too. Thanks for being a sweet and thoughtful aunt and cousin, A&A!

3. Speaking of out of the ordinary weekday experiences for the twins, I took them solo to a Skeeters game on Thursday night. My company was offering free tickets and even tough Brian had a poker night scheduled, I thought the twins would enjoy going, so I decided to be brave and take them on my own... and I'm glad I did! 

The highlights for them were eating ice cream, jumping on the bounce houses, and Colby getting a game ball - a man actually caught it and gave it to Colby which was super sweet (... even though I had gone to get the twins some water and totally missed the whole thing). 

When I was on the fence about going and fretting to a co-worker about whether or not I could handle it, she told me I wasn't giving myself enough credit, and she was right. But truthfully, I also wasn't giving the twins enough credit- yes, they still whine and act out plenty of the time, but for the most part, they are pretty good kids and I think I make them out to be much more difficult in my mind than they actually are. 

4. I got to meet one of my best friend's newest babies!! Kristen and Bryan welcomed their third baby, Cohen, into the world and I was so excited to snuggle him when he was just a day old... he was such a sweet, squishy, little muffin and I can't wait to visit him again soon!

5. Last, but certainly not least, the twins started their second soccer season on Saturday. I know I mentioned this in last week's post and any of you who know me in real life OR read my blog last Fall know that their first season did NOT go well for any of us. They were uncooperative and spent the majority of the time protesting on the sidelines. Meanwhile, I spent most of the time losing my cool and acting like a psychopath.

When they insisted on playing again this year (which I still insist is only because of the post-game snacks and Gatorade...), I was very resistant. We finally agreed and I tried to convince myself to lower my expectations and not freak out if we had a repeat of last year. I felt somewhat at peace when we headed to their first game on Saturday, though still admittedly a little on edge.

I'm thankful to report that the first game went a million times better than we expected! There was no crying and only minimal complaints about being too tired to play. Clara was more interested than Colby (who spent most of the time jogging slowly behind the team and yawning- see below), but they still both seemed to have a decent time, and they sure looked cute doing it.

Clara before the game with her favorite cousin/cheerleader and after with her sportsmanship award sticker!

I'm not foolish enough to think the whole season will be a breeze, but the first game at least gave me hope, so I'll take it!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Getting back into our groove

Disclaimer: I don't know how to not seem shallow blogging about our everyday happenings while there are still so many people whose lives won't be back to normal for quite some time. Hopefully those of you that know me/read the blog won't take my regularly scheduled blogging to mean that I don't care! And also, if you are still looking for ways to help with the recovery, I wanted to point you to our church's website where there a number of different needs listed!

Alright, so let's get on with it.

Flashing back to Labor Day weekend (which seemed like anything but a holiday weekend because at that point, as everyone has pointed out, we had no idea what day it was and we were frankly all a little tired of having the time "off"), we were thankful for the opportunity to get back to some of our standard weekend activities. We went on a couple of walks to get donuts, hit up Costco (where we ran into the Olivers, go figure), and visited my grandmother.

We went to church and watched the Aggies play on Sunday, and any of you that watched that game know which of those 2 experiences was a better use of our time.

On Labor Day, Brian and Wade headed out to gut houses while Allison and I held down the fort with the kids. We wanted to involve them in the relief efforts, so we took them to Target to pick up some supplies to donate. What I envisioned: the kids happily and selflessly picking out things they knew people that were displaced from their homes would need and enjoy. What actually happened: my kids (mainly one of them) whined at me because they wanted to keep the apple sauce/peanut butter/etc. for themselves and not give them away to strangers. Touching, right?

Thankfully I did not let my frustration prevent us from ending the day the way every holiday should end: with a trip to get DQ blizzards.

We squeezed in a relatively normal (albeit still short) week at work/school before another weekend rolled around. Again, while we're always thankful for the weekend, it almost felt like it was too soon to have time off again?? Anyway, we still made the most of it, thanks in large part to the beautiful early "Fall" weather we've been experiencing!

On Saturday we went to a birthday party for a friend from school, where the twins spent half the time avoiding the actual fun (see pictures on the left) and the other half actually participating (see pictures on the right):

I know daycare can be hit or miss as far as making friends goes but I feel like we've really lucked out with the kids in the twins' class AND their parents- love all of these little nuts!

We also made a visit to our favorite outdoor restaurant, played at the park with friends, and went to Target for the 8 millionth time in the past 2 weeks.

We wrapped up the weekend with dinner at Brian's parents' house, where the twins were excited to go out on the pier and do some fishing... especially considering the last time we were there, it was under water!
In upcoming news, the twins start soccer on Saturday so we're praying that this unexpectedly pleasant weather sticks around... and also praying that (a) they are more excited about actually participating this year and (b) mama doesn't have to go on anxiety meds as a result of the experience :)

Friday, September 1, 2017

Hurricane Harvey Chronicles

Thursday, August 24th:
The whole area was abuzz about the incoming tropical storm/hurricane named "Harvey." People were stocking up on bottled water, groceries, and gas, but because it's not uncommon for people to freak out about storms and overreact, I wasn't too concerned. In the late afternoon, I learned that the twins' daycare would be closing the next day, as would Brian's office. "Wow, this seems a little excessive for a storm that's not even going to directly hit us," I thought to myself.

We took Clara to her first dance class of the semester that night, and then Brian left for a meeting at church. After he got home, he went to the grocery store and filled the cars up with gas just to be on the safe side.

Friday, August 25th:
We woke up to stormy skies that morning and a light but persistent rain. I went to work that morning while Brian stayed home with the twins. Once I got home, we ran a few errands in an effort to get out of the house as we figured we'd be "hunkering down" and not getting out much for the next few days. This included stops to buy tortilla chips, cookies, and margarita supplies (aka: the essentials). We knew the incoming weather was serious, but still didn't figure we would be in for much more than a few days of bad weather.

That night, we met up with some friends for Mexican food. Shortly after we got home, the wind and rain were picking up and we started getting periodic weather alerts on our phones. We decided to let the twins sleep in our room just in case we needed to shelter in place for any particularly bad weather. We went to bed around 9 pm not knowing that our sleep would be interrupted no less than a dozen times with flash flood/tornado warnings and some very loud weather outside.

Saturday, August 26th:
It rained intermittently throughout the day, but nothing serious, so although we spent most of our time at the house, we did get out to run a couple of errands and splash in the puddles. The Olivers came over for the afternoon and then hit the road after dinner to beat what looked to be some more unpleasant weather coming our way.

The tornado and flash flood warnings started back up again mid-evening, so after a few nearby tornado scares, we once again had a family slumber party in our room. And once again, we spent the entire night getting weather alerts and listening to the storm outside.

Sunday, August 27th:
Again, the weather calmed down a bit and the rain came and went throughout the day. Some time that afternoon, word started to spread that the nearby Brazos River was anticipated to come out of its banks and reach a record flood level in the coming days. Because we're a few miles away (and because I had no clue how levees worked), I didn't think this would be a concern for us... until that evening when they announced that our neighborhood, along with several others, was under a voluntary evacuation.

The Olivers live closer to the river, so they had come to our house to spend the night, thinking they might stay with us for a few days to avoid any potential flooding coming their way. Once we learned our area might be affected as well, they made the decision to head to higher ground in Dallas the next morning. We stayed up until 1 am trying to decide if we should stay or go and I don't think I got more than an hour of sleep that night tossing and turning about what to do.

Monday, August 28th:
The rain consistently started pouring overnight and continued to do so that morning. I kept waiting for it to let up for a bit, but it simply would not stop. We decided that because there wasn't a big enough risk to our house actually flooding, we would stay put, so the Olivers left for Dallas while we stayed behind. A couple of hours later, our friends in a nearby neighborhood that was put under a mandatory evacuation came over to ride things out at our place.

They mentioned there was already some high water on one of the streets in our area, and as we watched the rain pour down, I started to question our decision to stay. Early in the afternoon, our power suddenly went out and I started to panic. All I could think about was that we might be stuck in our house for DAYS with 4 children, 4 adults, 3 dogs, and no power, and I could not sanely bear the thought. We quickly packed our bags, moved a few items to high ground, packed up some food, shoved the dogs in the car, and hit the road.

We made it to the end of our street and noticed a group of people gathered in the rain. When we started to turn, they motioned at us with a warning and we quickly discovered why. I have no idea how high the water we drove into was, but all I know is that it terrified me and I was not certain we would make it through without our car flooding.

Brian was more confident that we could make it through and by the grace of God (and with a neighbor videoing us on her cell phone - neat), we made it through. It was then time to make another turn to get out of our section but it was clear the water on that street was even higher. We debated what to do and once again, I was certain we wouldn't make it. A truck drove ahead of us and once we noticed he was parting the water some, Brian drove right behind him and once again, by the grace of God (and with me LOUDLY leading the twins in a prayer, as if that would help Him hear us better, ha), we made it through to the other side.

We made it onto the main highway to get out of our neighborhood and a few miles later, we were at Brian's parents' house. I know it sounds dramatic, but I can think of maybe 1-2 other times in my life I had been that terrified. As we drove down the highway, we saw entire neighborhoods filled with water and I literally worried at the moment that the entire Houston area was going to be swallowed with water and that we would be swallowed up with it.

(Meanwhile, our friends that had come to stay with us tried to leave as well and were not able to make it through the high water, so they had to turn and go back to our house where they spent the next 48 hours without us! Thankfully the power came back on for them!)

The lake behind Brian's parents' house

We collapsed in exhaustion once we made it to Brian's parents' house, where Brian's aunt/uncle/cousins had already evacuated- in all, we totaled 10 people and 3 dogs, and Brian's parents very graciously accommodated all of us comfortably! We ate dinner, glued ourselves to the news, and continued to watch MORE rain pour down. Again, I tossed and turned all night wondering what the next day would hold, what would happen to our house, etc.

Tuesday, August 29th: 
Though the bad weather seemed to be behind us, somehow it was STILL raining. We checked in with our friends and neighbors to get updates on our house (which was thankfully staying dry), and again glued ourselves to the tv where we watched much of the devastation start to unfold... people drowning in submerged cars, houses filling with water, families being evacuated by boats- truly terrible.

View from our house- we're at the high end of a cul-de-sac, so our part of the street stayed dry but you can see the flooding creeping in at the end

And here's a view from the other end of our street (our house is out of view at the very end on the left)

Meanwhile, this is the street around the corner that runs parallel to ours- the house in the picture did take on water, unfortunately.

This was the street that runs directly behind our house!!!

At some point, the rain started to slow down and by the evening, we even saw the sun peeking through. I assure you that no one in the area was ever that happy to see the sun.

Wednesday, August 30th:
We woke up to the sun shining and after reading reports of some of the water on the roads receding, decided it was safe to head back home. There was still some high water on our drive back, but it was an entirely different picture than what we saw 2 days before. We were so relieved to drive into our neighborhood and find everything - our house included- relatively in tact.

Our friends' neighborhood was still not accessible, so they stayed with us that day as well. We took the kids to an indoor trampoline park to get out some pent up energy, grabbed some dinner at one of the few restaurants that was open, and once again collapsed in exhaustion that night.

Thursday, August 31st:
Brian went back to work (mine announced earlier in the week that they would be closed until next week) and so I was solo with the kids. Normally, this would be no big deal, but after 5 solid days stuck inside with them, my patience had run out as had my sanity. I muddled angrily through the morning and beginning of the afternoon until Brian made it home to assist. In the meantime, our friends (probably scared of me, ha) left to stay with family while they waited for their neighborhood to open up. Our area was so dry that it was really hard to believe there were still places just a few miles away that were partially or completely under water!

Some time in the afternoon, the fog I had been in started to lift and I started to feel a little less like a zombie. I also started to feel a fair amount of survivor's guilt since we had fared so well when others had not. Even though my cabin fever-induced frustration was understandable, I kept having to remind myself that if cranky kids were the worst we were dealing with, then we were incredibly fortunate.

Friday, September 1st:
Which brings us to today. The sun is shining, which still seems very strange. There are so many people nearby (and along the entire coast) that have lost their homes or worse, their loved ones, and yet it looks relatively normal here at our house. There are a few reminders for us as we navigate around our immediate area: many businesses still not open, grocery stores out of bread and other staples, an infiltration of ants trying to find dry ground, and some roads still impassable. Perhaps the most unexpected change is that neighbors seem to be making more eye contact and in addition to the normal courteous head nod, everyone is asking everyone else if they and their houses are ok.

The Brazos River should crest today or tomorrow, at which point many of our friends nearby will find out whether or not water made it into their homes. Houston and the other areas hit by the storm still have a long way to go when it comes to recovery, and we are hopeful that the generosity of people all over the world will continue as the needs continue to arise. And of course, we ask that you please continue praying for our community!

In the meantime, if you want to help from afar, consider making a donation (we made one to the United Methodist Committee on Relief, but you can find plenty of others here).

Hurricane Harvey, good riddance!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Five on Friday

1. Moisturizer 
I decided to join the grown-ups of the world and go to the dermatologist for the first time ever earlier this summer. I went for a general check-up and thankfully there were no concerns, but I did ask her if there was anything I could do about the dark spots that I've had on my face ever since being pregnant. She gave me a prescription cream that is slowly but surely fading the dark spots, but she also set me straight about what kind of moisturizer to use.

There were a lot of words used and all I really caught is that I should be using sunscreen with "physical" blockers (vs. "chemical" blockers) in order to effectively prevent sun damage. The ingredient she said to look for was zinc oxide, and after some googling, I settled on this (inexpensive!) option from Eucerin. I've been happy with it so far, so I figured I'd pass along my budget-friendly, dermatologist approved recommendation... you're welcome.

(For the record, my tinted BB cream also has zinc oxide and I highly recommend it as well, though it's not as budget-friendly: Tarte BB Tinted Treatment

2. Mr. Grumpy Pants
When we went to the library a couple of weeks ago, both of the twins were being major grumps, so of course when I came across this book, I knew we had to check it out. We have read it regularly since then and even though it hasn't prevented them from being grumpy, they get a big kick out of it... especially the reference to the penguin wearing "grumpy underpants" (underwear jokes get them every time!).

Upon my request, my sweet SIL gave me this t-shirt for my birthday and it is seriously the most comfy shirt I have ever worn!! And fear not, non-Texans, they have them for other states, too ;) 

I was looking for freezer meal options to make for a friend and came across this one. I decided to go ahead and double the recipe so we could have it for dinner this week and it is so tasty! As a bonus, it was simple enough that the twins were able to "help" make it. As an even bigger bonus, Clara asked for seconds when she ate it (... Colby at least tolerated it, so there's that).

5. This article that was basically written about me
Though I have always considered myself tightly wound and I admit that I obsess about things, I've never really described myself as someone that has anxiety because I always associated "anxious" with someone that was a worry wart. I don't worry about things that are likely to never happen, but more so, I get rattled any time things don't go exactly according to my plans (which is, un-shockingly, very often). 

Last Fall, I briefly visited a counselor and in talking with her, I realized that a lot of my less than desirable behavior stems from anxiety. When I came across this article last week, it really resonated with me and thought I would share it in case any of you also struggle with being "rage monsters" (and then beating yourself up about it, causing you to feel guilty, causing you to feel anxious, and then causing the cycle to repeat itself).

Even if you can't relate, it's an interesting read! And because I needed a picture to go with this item on the list, I decided to share a relevant picture: me completely losing my cool when my children wouldn't cooperate for pictures (aka: a major source of rage for me, unfortunately)!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Catching up: end of summer edition

OMG, y'all, can you believe summer break has come to an end? Ha ha ha JK, I don't get summer breaks. But the season itself is wrapping up, and any small hint of sadness I have about not being able to go to the pool, etc. is overshadowed by how anxious I am for this offensively hot and humid weather to go away. I know, I know- I have at least 2 months before that will become a reality.

Anyway. We have been up to many exciting things, I assure you:

We had an impromptu sleepover with the cousins at our house. This entailed minimal sleeping, lots of playing, and most importantly, donuts. 

Colby and Clara got back-to-school haircuts (... even though they never stopped going to school and therefore aren't really going "back"). Clara was hesitant about getting hers cut, as I think she equates long hair with princess status, but was anxious to show it off once all was said and done:

On the flip side, Colby had no qualms about the actual haircut, but as usual, acted like a tortured prison inmate when I asked him to take a picture. Also as usual, incorporating a Transformer in the process eventually helped him come around.

Daddy took the twins solo to a swimming birthday party and handled it like a pro (translation: no children drowned.) This is actually a significant victory because in case I haven't mentioned it on here already, the twins took 2 weeks of swimming lessons at the beginning of the summer and have since deemed themselves as professional swimmers that in no way need puddle jumpers or other assistance. We've been simultaneously impressed and terrified by their newfound independence in the water.

We went to the zoo with some friends this past weekend- yes, in August- AND lived to tell the tale! They were having a "snow day" and since Clara coincidentally has been praying recently for God to make it snow (how's that for faith?!), we figured it was worth braving the heat to go.

Of course, we had to visit all of the other regular exhibits, too, making sure to spend as much time in the indoor exhibits as possible!

This is Clara waving to me when she insisted she was "big and brave" and didn't need me to stand with her. She dismissed me to the bench a few seats back to watch from afar. Sniff sniff. 

I also hosted a baby "sprinkle" for my sweet friend, Kristen, that's going to have baby #3 in the next couple of weeks! While we opened presents and I helped myself to 2 servings of the cake you see below, Brian and the kids enjoyed pizza and a shared milkshake for dinner, so all of us were fat and happy by the time the evening was done.

Our church had a "Back-to-School Bash" on Sunday, complete with snow cones (... and water bounce houses, which we pretended we didn't know about and therefore didn't bring their swimsuits - mean parents).

And to officially end summer, Colby and Clara moved into the Pre-K room at daycare this week! Of course I had to document the occasion:

I just can't wrap my brain around the fact that 5 years ago yesterday we found out we were pregnant, and seemingly 10 minutes later, here we are about to start their last year before Kindergarten. Trying hard not to blink anymore!