Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gracie my 3rd grader

Monday was Gracie's 1st day of 3rd grade! We are thankful that she was able to start at the school she will be at once we move into our house (which we close on TOMORROW!) We are also thankful that she loves 3rd grade so far and has talked about quite a few little girls who are new friends and has a very sweet teacher! When we went to the curriculum meeting at "Meet the Teacher" Mrs. S asked if we wanted to leave a note for our child to have when they came in Monday. I'm all about the "little things" like that, and it was neat to see the kids reading their notes Monday morning.

It's been-and still is-a crazy week due to driving back & forth to her school and trying to pack (with a 2 month old?!) Next week we'll be walking to school which will be so much nicer on our gas bill! Here are some pictures of our big girl on her big day.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Meet the Teacher~3rd grade!

Yesterday afternoon was the day that Gracie's new school posted the class lists + the classrooms would be open afterwards, so we made the trip over to the school to see who her teacher would be this year. I thought it was funny because there were sooo many people lined up waiting for the gym doors to open. Once they did open, people swarmed inside to the lists. We kind of hung back because I had all 3 girls (with Ellie in the huge travel system stroller) + I figured the lists weren't going to change even if I wasn't the first person in the door, right? Plus, I'll admit to being a little intimidated at this whole new school thing. I've been so used to being at Millbrook in Aiken and knowing so many people & teachers that I really felt like a 'fish out of water.' Thankfully, this kind of thing doesn't phase Gracie much at all! I know we were new to her school where she finished up last year, but that was different because we were there for such a short time and just kind of 'slipped in' without too many people even knowing we were there! I was really missing my friend Mary Beth who was my 'sidekick' at Millbrook! Never fear, I texted her throughout the whole process! :-)

Once we finally got inside, I had to send Gracie to squeeze up to the front to try to find her name because there was no way I was going to get my huge stroller up to where the lists were posted. She got up there and found her name but couldn't find where the teacher's name was. So...I ended up making my way up there to find out the teacher's name. In her defense, it was a hard name to read and was also hard to find among all the other things on the piece of paper.

We left the gym to try to find the classroom and quickly found the 3rd grade hallway. However, we couldn't find what we thought was the room number nor could we find her teacher's name listed on any of the signs. We saw lots of teachers standing outside the classrooms greeting students, but her teacher's name wasn't on any of the signs. I stopped and asked someone for help, and we were directed to her teacher who was actually standing right at the next doorway talking to some parents. Apparently she had gotten married over the summer, and they had her maiden name on the official class list, so there had been some confusion-and not just for us.

She was very friendly and told Gracie her sister lived on "Gracie Lane" which kind of 'broke the ice.' She had the classroom decorated very nicely and neatly. I always pay attention to these kinds of things! It was a good mix of still being "cute" but not too cute since 3rd grade is an "older" grade. She seemed like the kind of teacher who will be really sweet and will have lots of energy.

The official "Meet the Teacher" night wasn't until tonight, along with a "New Parent" meeting for parents & students new to the school and "Curriculum Night" where the teachers would go over different things pertaining to the class and school year. Chris wasn't able to meet us last night, so I told her we'd be back tonight so he could meet her.

So tonight we met Chris at the school. He was very happy that his commute to the school (which is about 2 blocks from our new house) was about 20 minutes or so FASTER than he currently has to our apartment. He's hoping that holds true once we actually move! We were early, so we let the girls play on the playground that is located in a park right next to the school. We are really happy that this park is within walking distance of our house and one of the neighborhood pools is right across the street too! I don't know what the deal was, but there was actually a really cool breeze blowing too!

When it was about time to go inside the school, we walked over to the front of the building where we had to wait outside until it was time to go inside. Again, there were TONS of parent & students there. Once it was time, we went inside and easily found her classroom where Mrs. Shah happily greeted Gracie and was able to meet Chris. There were various things to sign for areas where we were willing to volunteer then we went to the gym for the "New Parent" meeting. There were a lot of people there for that meeting. I am grateful that they held this meeting because they explained things like carline, paying for meals & checking grades online, and introducing the principal, asst. principals, nurse, counselor, P.E. coach, etc. Since we are a bilingual school, one of the asst. principals translated the meeting into Spanish which Gracie thought was pretty cool. The principal said that they understand we might want to walk our child in for the first day or so, and he said it is a district policy that we can do so for the first 3 days and then we need to let them walk in alone. It was funny the way he said it. He also said that the counselor would be in the Kindergarten hallway for the first week in case anyone (parents OR students) needed to cry. Again, it was funny the way he said it.

When that meeting was over, we went back to the classroom where Mrs. Shah explained all sorts of different things about how the class will be run throughout the year. Chris & I both are anticipating a great year based on all she told us. There were 18 students on the class list and probably 10 parents/sets of parents at our curriculum meeting then I think I saw 2 or 3 others coming in for the 2nd meeting, so I'm already impressed with the parent involvement. I thought it was sweet that one of the moms came up to us and asked about us being new (I think it was pretty obvious that we were the "new kids on the block" since most everyone else was chatting it up and we were sitting by ourselves!) and introduced herself and then introduced her daughter to Gracie.

Mrs. Shah was also very sweet to seem genuinely concerned about whether or not she answered our questions and really seemed to care about making us feel comfortable about being at a new school, so I appreciated that a lot. One thing she did that I loved is that right as parents were leaving she asked if we wanted to leave our child a little note that they could get Monday morning when they got to school. I was all over that! She got out a flower post it note pad and several of the parents wrote notes and left them for our children. Such a seemingly little thing, but I love those kinds of little things!

I can hardly believe my baby is going to start 3rd grade next week! Next year we'll have Katie going to Kindergarten too but THAT I CANNOT think about right now! We are anxiously awaiting moving into our house where we will be close enough to walk-it was neat to see little groups of parents/children walking down the sidewalks from their houses to the school. There were tons of cars also since not everyone lives within walking distance, but I'm glad we will...but not right next to it which is also good.

We should be closing on the house a week from today and then moving in 2 days later! Yippee! For the weekend, we have plans to go to some friend's house tomorrow night then more plans to have some different friends over to the apartment Saturday night. Once we move in, we hope to have lots of people over who have helped welcome us to Houston! Blessings abound!

Dear Lord,

Thank you for all of our blessings! Thank you so much that Gracie is able to start the school year where she will finish the school year-SUCH a huge blessing! Please bless her as she starts 3rd grade and help her to find her 'niche' at this school as she has at her other 2 schools. Please help Mrs. Shah to be a good teacher for her and please help her to be the teacher you want Gracie to have. Please help us to be a blessing to her during the year so she knows that we appreciate all the positive things she will be doing to teach Gracie. Please bless sweet Gracie with friends & wisdom and please her to continue to grow in her love for You and in her desire to learn about You. Please bless Katie & Ellie as well and help me to be the kind of mom to them & Gracie that I need to be. Thank you for how hard Chris works so that I can continue to stay home with my sweet girls which is exactly where I want to be right now! Thank you immensely for allowing us to find a house that we really love and please help us to truly make it our home that is built on You.

In Jesus' Name,

Friday, August 15, 2008

Gracie's 8th birthday post (late from July 28th)

I never did an official birthday post for Gracie. Since this blog is mainly for the purpose of recording our lives for my children to have one day, I think I need to do that so she won't wonder why I never wrote one.

Dear Gracie,

You are a precious little girl who amazes us often! You sometimes seem wise beyond your years but still have an innocence to you that I cherish. God knew what He was doing when He created you to be our firstborn. I am in wonder at what a wonderful 'biggest sister' you are to Ellie. Sometimes I'm not sure how I would have survived the last 7 weeks without you to help me. I love the way Ellie stares up at you when you talk to her. She seems to already know that you're someone special. I love to watch you sing to her, talk to her, and help to calm her when she's fussy.

Although you spend your fair amount of time 'fighting' with Katie, you are also a great big sister to her, too! I love to watch the 2 of you play together and to see you help her do things like pouring milk for her and holding her hand when my hands are tied up with carrying Ellie. I know you watch out for her, and I know you'll continue to do so. I love thinking that you're going to be someone they can look up to as they grow. You will be such a good example to them, and I just know that they'll come to you for advice throughout the years.

Thank you for being so mindful of the rules we give you. You try so hard to follow the rules and to do the right thing, and we appreciate it! The rules are there for a reason-usually to keep you safe-and we appreciate that we can trust you-most of the time-to do what we ask you to do. I love to see you reading your Bible and it makes me so proud that you're so self motivated to learn your memory verse for Sunday School and to do your work for school. You have mentioned that you don't understand some of the things you're learning in Bible class, but I think you understand more than you think you do. I hope you will feel comfortable asking us questions when you're confused so we can help you. You're getting older so you will start having 'deeper' discussions & lessons in Bible class, and we are so proud of you for wanting to understand. Be confident in yourself and know that it's okay to ask questions and to say, "I don't get it."

Things you are into right now: watching shows such as "Suite Life of Zack & Cody" on Disney Channel. You also love watching 'Science' type shows with Daddy, "High School Musical: Get in the Picture," 'Animal Planet' shows, & "Funniest Home Videos." You love the song, "You're Gonna Miss This" by Trace Adkins and "Cinderella" by Steven Curtis Chapman. I catch you humming or singing often-lots of time a church song. During church you like to fill out the sermon outline. I know you don't understand everything "Mr. David" is saying, but I figure something will sink in from time to time at least. You love to read and will devour a chapter book in a matter of an hour or two sometimes, if even that-and comprehend what you read. It amazes me! You like to draw and to do crafts. You are working hard at learning to swim and have become much more brave about it which has made us proud. You learned how to ride your bike this last year and have been doing great! You love horses and you like dolphins. Your American Girl doll and accessories are prized toys. The other day you took a purse with you when we went out and had it stocked with things you might need-including a band aid! Subway is one of your favorite restaurants to go to where you will order a ham & cheese sub with only ham, cheese, tomatoes & cucumbers-no mayo or anything like that. Your favorite meal is fettuccine alfredo, and you also love broccoli. If we go to a restaurant with bread that comes before a meal you will eat until we make you stop, but you are still one of the smallest 8 year olds around! You won't let us put butter on the bread though, although you did like butter on the tortillas at Alamo Cafe. You will choose water over any other drink pretty much all the time.

You are a bit of a goofball right now which I think comes with your age. You have this funny little face that we have to keep reminding you to stop making because it looks so silly. You still don't care too much what you wear which is good & bad. You may not care what you wear, but you sure do care about what I put in your hair. You do not like hair bows anymore, and I'm lucky if I can even get you to wear a barrette or headband anymore. You've started to get a 'big girl' attitude from time to time, complete with eye rolling & tone of voice! Sometimes you act a little 'out of it' which is frustrating because you are so smart! I say that's like your daddy! :-)

Your best girlfriend is Leigh Ann who we left behind in Aiken. The two of you have been keeping up with each other through the occasional phone call and a journal that you both write in and mail back & forth to each other. Your plan is for the 2 of you to be roommates in college. You have made a good girlfriend here in Houston and are working on others too. You love church activities and are getting to hang out with the older kids a lot, but you still will play with the younger ones too although I can tell you tend to desire not as much time with the younger ones anymore. There are lots of boys around here, and you definitely have a different attitude around them than you used to have...more giggling & blushing-much to our sadness! :-) You are about to start 3rd grade which is so hard to believe! I know you'll do great because you are one of those people who was 'made to go to school.' You love it and do well and respect the rules. I know in your Bible class you have been talking about sharing Jesus with others and I pray that you'll continue to learn how to do that and to be bold in your faith. You can shine your light wherever you go!

These past few months have been so full of changes, and you have endured them all so well! I know it was hard to leave Aiken. You have cried tears over the move and that's okay. You took the transition from your Aiken school to your Houston school so well-it hardly phased you at all! You will be at a new school again this year, and I hope it will be the one you'll stay at for the rest of elementary school. It made the move easier for us knowing that you were doing so well. You're such a trooper!

We are blessed beyond belief that God chose us to be your parents and we love you and we are sooooo proud of you! Thank you for being such an incredible daughter! I pray that we are raising you in such a way that pleases God.

Mommy & Daddy

Thursday, August 14, 2008

contract....or not?

news from our lives:

Last Wednesday, 8/6, Chris & I were thisclose to making an offer on a house. We decided to look at 2 others first and then look at "the house" one more time. We ended up really liking one of the other houses, so we actually decided to make an offer on that one rather than the one we orignally planned to make an offer on that night.

The time crunch with this whole house thing is that I DO NOT want Gracie to have to start school at one school and then have to switch to another one. She had to do that last year, and I felt so bad for her. She did GREAT, and I know she would again, but I don't want her to have to do it. School starts the 25th, so if we can get a contract before then I plan to take that to register her. I'll have to drive about 30 minutes one way to get her to school until we actually move in, but I'd be willing to do it.

So, we made an offer on the house Wednesday evening. Whoo hoo....or so we thought. We had already made plans to go to San Antonio over the weekend, so we went ahead and left early Friday morning and headed to Sea World. While there, we got a call from our realtor saying that the people had another offer and were trying to decide. ugh So, a little later we got another call saying that they had decided to go with the other offer. I was sad and stressed about having to start the search over, but I figured it just wasn't the house God meant for us to have. Well, a couple of hours later I noticed on Chris's phone that the realtor had called & left a message so I called her back. She said that it wasn't over yet. The sellers were frustrated with the person making the other offer and we could submit another offer. So, we verbally submitted the offer and were told shortly afterwards that we got the house! Whoo hoo again....or so we thought.

All of this happened Friday. Our realtor faxed some things to us in S.A. that we signed and faxed back to her. We didn't hear anything about the sellers signing the contract Saturday, but we knew our realtor was busy, so we didn't think too much about it. Sunday morning we got an email from her saying that the listing agent had contacted her and said that he now thinks the first contract may still be valid. WHAT?!?!? We had been told that WE had the house but now the listing agent is saying that the other person may have it. What kind of realtor are you to tell one person they have the house without knowing for 100% sure that someone else doesn't already have a contract on it?!?!

So, by this point we're beyond frustrated! The whole thing from the beginning has been more than a bit strange. They hadn't even countered on our first offer-had just taken the other one-then come back to us-then hesitated again. We were wondering if the sellers had signed both contracts which would have been illegal we would think. The realtor emailed us saying that neither contract had been signed??? I'm really not sure what the deal was.

We finally found out that apparently what happened was that the "buyer" had made an offer but hadn't actually signed everything??? This "buyer" also happened to be a real estate agent himself. The bozo took the contract to the title company himself and tried to get it executed rather than letting the listing agent do it. He also made at least one change to the contract without the seller's approval!!!!! So, the sellers had decided they were frustrated with him and the listing agent came back to our agent to see if we wanted to make another offer so we had and were told we had the house. However, then the agent thought the other contract might be valid so he & the sellers halted on signing our contract to make sure they weren't signing 2 contracts and possibly committing a serious crime. Yeah, good move!

So, Monday was full of waiting to hear about the other contract. We had told our agent we wanted to withdraw our offer and get all of our money back, but she hadn't withdrawn the offer which we were kind of glad about b/c I'd spent hours online looking at houses Sunday night and just nothing was really impressing me near what we wanted to pay. Finally, Monday evening, we hear that they had decided to go with the other offer. WHAT?!?! I was so upset. I shed quite a few tears and wanted to beat someone up. HA! We just didn't (and still don't) understand why they ever offered the house to us and told us we had it when there was another contract on the house. We are seriously thinking of filing an ethics complaint against the listing agent over everything that happened.

So that night I was upset. Thankfully, Cindy & I had already planned on going to the movies. PERFECT night for a girls' night! We went to watch the "Sisterhood" movie and spent lots of time talking-it was a good "1st Houston girls' night!"

Here's the "BEST" part of this whole saga. Chris & I had decided to make an offer on a different house-the house that we'd originally been planning to make an offer on in the first place. I had made a list of some other houses to go look at, but I just didn't really like any of them that much and Chris really didn't like them, so we'd said to forget looking at those. So.......the next morning Chris gets a call from our realtor and guess what?!?! THE BUYER BACKED OUT! HA! Yes, after all of that.....making us wait to see if his contract was valid.......him making illegal changes to the contract.......him getting the contract over us........he BACKS OUT!

So, of course the agent wants to come back to US to see if we're still interested. We said, "No thank you" and made an offer on the other house! *sheesh* We just really didn't feel like we could trust them. I mean, we didn't have the house, then we did have the house, then we might not have the house, then we didn't have the house, then we were offered another chance. We could only take so much and just felt really nervous about dealing with the listing agent and the sellers too, so we walked away. It was hard to do because we liked the house, but we just let it go.

We went to the realtor's office Tuesday afternoon and signed an offer on the other house. The one we'd liked from the second we saw it and had originally planned to make an offer on! It is really beautiful and has so many things we like. We love the area it's in and the neighborhood is so pretty (same neighborhood as the other one but not right by each other). The girls will each have their own room which Gracie is thrilled about and the house has a great playset that is staying in the backyard! Gracie & Katie are happy about that. We are too because that means we don't have to go buy one and Chris doesn't have to put it together! It's within walking distance to the elementary school with sidewalks pretty much the entire way. We'll have access to fun stuff like pools, etc.

I JUST NOW got a call from Chris saying that we are now 'executed' meaning that both of us have signed the contract and it is OFFICIAL!!!!!!! Whoo hoo for real this time!!!!!!!! *whew* Now I can take papers to Gracie's new school and register her. We plan to close the 28th and Gracie starts school the 25th so I won't have too many days of driving her a long way. The sellers are actually going to lease it from us for 3 days, so we won't take possession until the 1st which is Labor Day. I hate the thought of the actual process of moving but am so looking forward to being settled into a home! I may NEVER move again! write about our San Antonio trip-minus the house drama.....

We had told the girls we'd go to Sea World for part of Gracie's birthday gift from us. Last weekend was the weekend for the big trip! Chris & I LOVE San Antonio, so we were just excited to be going there. Ellie (who has been pretty consistently sleeping through the night!) got up a little before 5 (funny how that seems like sleeping through the night, but it really is when you're 6 weeks old!) so I just stayed up after feeding her. Chris & the girls got up soon after that and we left a little before 7:00 to head out.

We got to Sea World around 11:00. Sad for Gracie-she threw up right before we got to the parking lot. Driving up, we saw this huge roller coaster and had been teasing her about riding it. I was saying that I'd probably get sick if I rode it. Literally, like 2 minutes later, she lost it! We felt bad. In our defense, she was in the back of the van and she tends to get car sick, but I think the roller coaster comments put her over the edge! So, she got to change her clothes in the van in the parking lot before going in.

We got all of our stuff together and headed in. Man, it took a lot of stuff to take 3 kids into the park-one of them being 6 1/2 weeks old! We were taking in bathing suits & towels for the water park along with diapers, wipes, etc. We quickly realized that most people-regardless of what kind of shape they're in-just wear their bathing suits all day throughout the park. Some did this modestly, some not so much!!!!!

We enjoyed the sea lion show, drank lots of water, loved the Shamu show, drank lots of water, watched the dolphins & whales, looked at the sharks, drank lots of water, looked at the Clydesdales (at Sea World?), watched 2 Shamu shows,and drank lots of water! I think Chris figured up that he bought around 8 bottles of water by the time the day was over and we drank almost all of them! Chris & the girls enjoyed the water park too. We could have spent more time there I think! It really helped to cool them off while Ellie & I found some shade to sit in. Not quite as cool as the water but better than the direct sun anyway. By the time we did all of that and supported the gift shop, we had spent over 8 hours in the park! A long but fun day! We bought 2 day tickets, so we have 1 more chance to go back before the end of the year which we plan to use when it's a little cooler.

We were all so exhausted that we decided to order a pizza at the hotel through a 'catering service' they had. Because of the slooooow service, we were told we would receive a check for what it cost which is a good thing since they charged us $45 for 1 pizza and 3 20 oz. drinks!!!!! Seriously?!??

Saturday morning we went out to the Riverwalk. We LOVE that place!!!!!!!! Katie didn't so much love it, but she did okay. It was just a little boring to a 4 year old I guess. Gracie was a trooper. I don't think she complained about 1 thing the whole weekend...fought a little with Katie perhaps. We ended up going to Target and getting a sling for me to carry Ellie in. It's hard to have a stroller on the Riverwalk because of the narrow sidewalks and all the stairs, so it worked out much better.

We ate at Casa Rio (YUM) and rode the tour boat and enjoyed the beautiful scenery that is San Antonio. We walked quickly through the Alamo (told Gracie we'd go back later b/c she wanted to spend more time there, but it was so crowded) and then left to go back towards the hotel. We went to North Star mall and walked around a bit then went back to the hotel to rest a bit. We ate dinner at "County Line" where I had a good chopped beef bbq sandwich and some GOOD sweet tea! Sweet tea in Texas-a miracle!

Sunday morning, we went to church where Tracy & her family attend! Too bad they were out of town, but now I know for sure that's where she goes and hopefully we can see each other some other time that we're in town. We then ate where we'd been looking forward to eating ALL WEEKEND-Alamo Cafe! YUUUUUUMMMMM! It is sooooooooooooooo good! The tortillas are AMAZING and the sopapillas sure were good too. Not that that's all we ate......we ate SO MUCH! It was sooooooo worth it to be so full!

As with most kids, the girls loved staying in a hotel!

We then drove back to the concrete jungle that is Houston. San Antonio is just so pretty that it kind of made Houston seem even more....well, 'un-pretty.' That's okay though. :-) That's one of the reasons we like the house so much that we're has beautiful trees in the front yard and the backyard is so nicely landscaped. We were really wanting a house with trees, and we feel blessed to have found one we like so well. I hope we will make God happy with the life we create while living there. We are excited to start our life in this new suburb too as many people we know from church live there and really like it!

Yesterday was Chris & mine's 14th anniversary!!!!!!!!!!!! I love you, Chris! We didn't really do anything too special with it being in the middle of the week. Plus, we didn't do gifts since we are buying a house. I think that's a pretty good gift for each of us! Chris said, "I bought you a house for our anniversary." I said, "No, you mortgaged a house for me for our anniversary!" HA!

I'm excited that tonight Cindy & I are going to a "Secret Pals" event with ladies from church. I really want to go and try to get to know even more people. I'm not sure to what extent I'll participate in it throughout the year, but I want to go tonight and enjoy spending time with a group of ladies from church!

Little "Ellie Roo" is doing great and growing so much! She did so good on our trip, even though she spent a lot of time in her seat. I love her little chipmunk cheeks and her little fuzzy hair that is coming in on top of her head! I say that she looks like a chia pet! She is pretty much sleeping through the night now 'til around 5 then goes back down, so life is good in that department!

Lots of exciting things will be happening in the next few weeks as we continue the process of buying the house and moving in, etc. My friend Melissa is coming to visit me next month too so I'm waaaaaaaaaaay excited about that! I'll leave this happy picture I took yesterday for your enjoyment!