Headed to the North Country

Ah, and we are off, by the time I post this we’ll be sitting in a warm house on the frozen tundra of Iowa. Thanks to Jared’s new trusty computer I can write on the way. The 1200+ mile drive from Houston to NE Iowa is not an exciting one; it becomes one of those road trips where your goal is to get from point A to Point B as quickly and efficiently as possible. That efficiency plan would be called I-35. In past trips we have always drive from Houston to Des Moines in one day. But now Erin is potty trained (although a blessing in every-day life), her pea-sized bladder and addiction to liquid means we stop every 100 miles. And then add a nursing baby, so this year we decided to do the trip in two days, which thus far has proven to be a great idea.

We left at 10 am yesterday and headed north through the sprawling metropolis of Houston, past the refineries and miles of concrete. North of Houston is the Sam Houston State Forest, showcasing beautiful towering southern pines ,that makes me jealous that I live by the bay, and one Texas-size statue of Sam Houston that stands next to the interstate. It’s a four hour drive to Dallas, one strait long drive, where the radio stations of Houston fade and there are only three music genres to listen to: gospel, country, and Dallas gospel-country.

For once we made the transition from I-45-I-35 and again headed north. We saw a swarm of birds, they almost looked like locusts, turning the sky black, winding and diving in the sky completely synchronized. And then we hit the Oklahoma border. For the first time in months, I see topography, the interstate winds through the dormant oak savannah, and then scrub junipers. As the sun sets the road cuts through large limestone outcrops and my memory reverts to my childhood playground of the towering limestone bluffs of NE Iowa and the Mississippi. And I am ready to be home, ready to see the rolling miles of fields dotted with towns. I am ready to see seasons, and to breathe clean air, and to wear a pair of carharts and work, really work ….and as I reminiscence about the land and upbringing that is a closed chapter in my life, I pass a bill board that says “We’re more than a feed store…” with a woman in a black party dress wearing a diamond necklace and earrings. And I thought, are they attempting to break into a high-income market of ranchers or are they running a prostitution business on the side? Get your grain..and your woman, talk about one stop shopping. And that’s where my deep thoughts of the trip ended.

We made it into Oklahoma city about 6:30 and stayed with Amy & Derek, one of my close high school friends and her husband. It was so good to see them again, we sat around and caught up on the last year and watch part of “Animal house”. They just purchased a cute house in the burbs of the city, who would have ever thought we would both end up in suburbia. We were laughing because they had a lien put on their house for having a brick mail box, now we both answer to a grass Gestapo.

After a scrumptious breakfast we headed north once again through upper Oklahoma where Erin boredom was relieved by “count the radio towers game” We started with “I spy” but there isn’t much besides towers and miles of brown grasslands. We stopped at a few rest stops in north OK and southern Kansas and there are massive groups of Asians traveling today. They were all from Dallas traveling to Kansas City and were very excited about the teepee bathrooms at one of the rest stops…..and we head north...

At the Iowa/Missouri border we hit the fog that preceded a blizzard front. We made it to Des Moines safely.



Completed bikes ready to be delivered

Saturday we took our church youth downtown to Reliant Stadium and joined 4600 other volunteers to build bikes for needy children. There is an organization that raises money to donate 20,000 bikes each year (yes I said each year) to children in low-income neighborhoods in and around Houston. Those 20,000 bicycles come in 37-50 lbs boxes....and in lots of pieces :)
My SIL Britt and I volunteered to work the "box pit". We spend most of the day in the wearhouse part of the operation loading boxes of bikes on carts and wheeling to the building teams on the floor. It took some convincing that us two women could lift 40+ pounds, but we let out Iowa work ethic shine. These two farm girls still have some bailing skills, we loaded over 800 bikes each in about two hours. There were about 6 of us loading and we would load up to 60 bike on a cart in a few minutes and wheel them out. We would barely get out of the gate and you would step away as people mobbed the cart to get another bike. I think everyone had a great time, except my back, who keeps telling me that I'm not 18 anymore :)
Wonder how they deliver the bikes? They bring in 100+ semis. The semis each take a neighborhood, they open the back doors and hand the bikes out as they drive down the street. There is more to the project than just giving out bikes, they have been tracking the socio-economic stats of these neighborhoods over the past five years. They are finding that gang violence is down, employment is up, and parents are more involved in their kids school because not only do the youth have transportation, the adults also use the bikes to get to work and school.
Have a Merry Christmas!


Chick Party...

Erin decided to paint my nails for me last night, she did an ummm......abstract job :) We had a good time, she was so excited.

Fa la la la freaken la

Tis the season. Everyone finally finished puking and we passed the nasty bug on to some good friends. I found out that red powerade was a bad idea to give Erin to help keep her hydrated...maybe Santa will bring Emmy some new carpet for Christmas.

My holiday spirit is lacking its typical luster. The tree is set, the lights are hung and half of our glass ornaments have been shattered. I think part of my less-than-enthusiastic Christmas spirit is because its still warm out and probably that I have been covered in puke for the last week strait.

So I ventured out to Hobby Lobby yesterday to pick up some decorations and a few yards of fabric to make a Christmas present. I hate how the "hobby" part of the store is not in the "lobby"- its freaken in the way back of the store. And on top of the practical things being on the back wall they make you walk through narrow isles of ugly chickens and fake grapes - all of course are breakable.

So like any mother, I load Eliza in the cart and take a deep breath and tell Erin "Don't touch anything"! And like clockwork that small phrase triggers something in my childs brain that says GO GO GO! Before I could finsh my thought I saw Erin take off, pulling her knees to her chest, her body angeled forward and head thrown back like an Olympic 100 meted dash sprinter, her tongue hanging out the side of her mouth like some rabid animal on the prowl and her scrawny arms flailing beside her as the immense speed makes the glass ornaments hanging on the shelfs chime as she sails by coming within inches of knocking something off.

I stand there knowing I can't catch up lugging Eliza, so I wait there and contemplate how it is I don't beat my child some days and wait for the gracefulness of her feet to give way as I listen to Deck the Halls being broadcasted over the load speaker. There it is, she face plows into the tile, just barely missing a shelf full of vases and I make my move. And then I spend the next twenty minutes listening to her scream because she has to sit in the cart.

I made it out alive, with my fabric, but left my sanity somewhere in isle 5.


Solitary Confinement

What a week. We have been passing the flu back and forth all week. Erin picked up a stomach bug and was really sick for about five days. Eliza also picked it up and I spent the first part of the week doing massive loads of laundry and wondering if my carpet will ever be the same.

Then yesterday after avoiding getting sick all week, Jared and I both came down with it last night. So todays we are just laying around the house, hoping that everyone will recover. Hopefully tonight i'll feel well enough to bleach down my house.


Keep Her in Your Prayers

I found out yesterday that my good friend Brenna from highschool was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma. She is in her mid twenties and is 24 weeks pregnant with her first baby. The good news is they caught the cancer in the early stage and she was given a high survival rate, but the pregnancy make things more complicated. The baby has not be affected by the cancer and is healthy.

Please keep Brenna, her baby boy and her Husband in your prayers this week.

And I said unto them, that it should be granted unto them according to their faith in their prayers....
Doctrine and Covenants 10:47


The Thanksgiving Saga

Ahh, finally the Holiday is over. We actually had a good Thanksgiving day, we spent it with good friends and gathered for our annual orphan dinner, as we all lack family here. Jared's sister came down from the city and stayed a few days, as always it was fun to have her here.
Our saga started two days before Turkey Day. I was at the store getting food for Thanksgiving Dinner and some shopping Nazi chart-checked Erin. She completely plowed Erin over and didn't even say she was sorry. We got home that night and Erin said her leg was a bit sore when we put her to bed. When she woke up the next morning she couldn't put weight on her left leg. Being the day before Thanksgiving we couldn't get into the pediatricians until 4pm. In the meantime I took her to see "Enchanted" at the theater and carried her around all day. We spend Thanksgiving eve in the E.R. waiting for x-rays.

But Thanksgiving morning she made a miraculous recovery. She severely bruised the muscle, but no breaks. We spend most of Thanksgiving day at Anderson's. We had a fantastic meal and even better desserts.

Friday Jared got up at 5 a.m to shop the black Friday deals. He got a really nice laptop and a bunch of things to deck it out with. He got everything he needed by 6 a.m and then Brittany and I ventured out. Best Buy and LNT were a nightmare and I don't do crowds, they make me want to curl up in a ball and hyperventilate. So we went to Half Price Books for free canvas book bags and donuts. They were giving out $5.00 gift cards so we each got a free book.

Then we stopped at Hobby Lobby and picked up supplies to build our own wreaths. We were really happy with how they turned out, both being wreath building novices. We put up our tree, which finally looks decent this year, thanks to a 50% off sale on ornaments and called it a weekend.And it actually felt like Thanksgiving, we had temperature in the mid 50's this week, yuppie!


Party Hardy

Erin turned three on Saturday and had a "princess party." You forget what its like to anticipate your birthday. For a week all I heard was how she wanted a pink party and how she would wear pink socks, and pink shorts, and pink shirt, and pink underwear (we are still working on the sidell rule of, just because its the same color does not mean it matches). And that everyone would bring her beautiful presents (vain eh?). By the way, Erin is madly in love with the boy in the photo above. Their family moved here a few months ago and he swept Erin off her feet with his dashing good looks and kindergarten maturity.

So Saturday came and she jumped out of bed to open her presents.
We got her an art easel, grandma and grandpa got her light up LED butterflies for the garden, Uncle Max got her a farm set and she got lots of princess dress up things and jewelry.

We had a good sized party (9 kids and 17 adults) at the house Saturday night for friends and parents of friends. Just good old fashioned cake and ice cream, none of this spend $500.00 and rent out the zoo crap.

And I am happy to say all the kids survived, as did my furniture and walls.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the night, except for Eliza who just kept getting dressed up by the girls.


Beggars Night Gone Dixie

This was really our first Halloween we celebrated down South. Our first year we didn't know anyone and lived in an apartment and last year Erin and I were home for my uncle's funeral. Last year it was about 30 degrees in Iowa and Erin was freezing cold (and probably a little young to understand the concept) and didn't enjoy herself too much.

Last Friday we went down to the Kemah boardwalk. You could go trick-or-treating in the shop stores. There is nothing more nerve-racking then attempting to herd a dozen kids though a glass specialty shop without them breaking a $200.00 vase just to get a tootsie roll.
This year she showed little fear. She would run up to a door, ring the bell three or four times, knock on the door, ring the bell again, get her stash and run to the next house. We went with a group of friends and we all have little girls - they were fun to watch.
When we moved here it kind of surprised me that a lot of Christians down here don't celebrate Halloween at all because its a pagan holiday. I just thought, hello, do you put up a Christmas tree? But the ones that do take it pretty seriously. The weather is still warm here and so a lot of people set up a few chairs and a table with candy in their driveway and just sit outside their houses and chat with people as they come and go to trick-or-treat. Its a great tradition, I really enjoyed talking to people.



I finally have a second to sink back in my office chair and breathe. My blog has been fairly photo heavy in the past month, for lack of time and coherent thoughts. I might still be lacking the coherent thoughts....but here is an update on… well life.

Eliza will turn four months this week. Nineteen hour days sure makes life move quickly. She started sleeping though the night last week and my sleep-deprived body is addicted. Oh that seven hours of sleep is heavenly.

Houston has two seasons; HOT and makes the Devil look good in a down parka HOT . We are just entering back into the mildly hot season and the under 90 degree weather is a relief. Our air conditioners only run eight-hours a day now and water out of the tap is no longer scalding. I am getting ready to pull out my winter sweater and corduroy pants, not because I have become one of those thin-blooded sissy Texans, but because I might, just might see temperatures drop into the sixties and I can sport my favorite winter clothing.

Jared is gearing up for upcoming missions and has found that he is a meeting rat. He had this mission off, which has been nice since he has worked the last five. In between meetings and his cubical cell he is getting ready to start grad school in the spring. He has also started playing touch football this fall. And he started running a few times a week, which makes think he must have rabies or some other disease that affects brain function, because Jared Renshaw does not run :)

Our family is growing once again….and no I am not pregnant. We adopted two, not one, but two male guinea pigs. They are about 9 months old and are pretty cute for being large rats. Their names are MECO (the NASA acronym for Main Engine Cut Off) and Leopold (after the great Aldo Leopold). Erin loves them and they are probably the best fed guinea pigs in the area. She tries to be very gentle with them but frankly she scares the heck (and sometimes the poo) out of them. She likes to dress them up and put them to bed. She’ll say “my piggies love me, they don’t run away”, when in reality they are widen eye and frozen from fear.
As for me, life is life. About two months ago I was called at the Young Womens president at church. I had served in the presidency for three years so the transition has been fairly easy, just a lot a reorganization, meetings, training and so forth. It’s going to really be a fun year. It funny how quickly forget how crazy the teen years were, attempting to find out who you were and where you fit into this great plan.

With the cooler weather my addiction to running has returned. Even after all these years fall weather makes e want to pound out five miles on a winding gravel road. Now I settle for a hard concrete path that winds through blue-dyed ponds and million dollar show houses. Either way a few miles under your feet puts life back into perspective.


Heart Walk 2007

Today was the Heart Walk. The even raised over $85,000 for research and development and our team, Wild Beats, raised over $800.00 We really had a good time, thanks to all who donated & participated!

This is the design I did for Erin's T-shirt today


Super Bunny

Erin is running around the house tonight as "Super Bunny". Erin was asked today to be the poster child for Saturday's walk. She gets to appear on stage with the Director of NASA to promote research and development.

This is one of the few photos where Erin and Eliza look alike. Who is who?


Just a Few Days

A big thanks to everyone who has donated thus far. As a team we have raised $700.00. If you would like to donate, you can donate online through our team page and then click on the walker you want to donate to ( I have met my goal, so donate to others) . The walk is set for Saturday morning.

When Erin was diagnosed with Congenital Heart Disease at 20 weeks gestation. I had never heard of it. I had no idea it was the #1 major birth defect. And I had no idea what it would be like to put an infant through surgery. So many time people asked us what brought us to Houston, and typically the reply is, a job. What really brought us to Houston was the hand of the Lord. Our move to Houston three years ago placed us 20 miles from one of the three children's hospitals in the nation that had a successful pediatric cardiology surgerical program.

Because of medical intervention and early diagnosis, Erin's severe heart defects were corrected giving her a healthy childhood.

Congenital heart defects, both simple and severe, are structural problems with the heart present at birth. They result when a mishap occurs during heart development soon after conception and often before the woman is aware she is pregnant. It is estimated that 1 in 85 children have some types of congenital heart defect. 32,000 babies born in the U.S. alone will be born with a heart defect each year. There are over 35 forms of CHD recognized. Today CHD is the #1 major birth defect.
Erin was born with it....Erin Survived.
Help educate. Help save lives.


Show Stealer

Ever wonder what life is like with two kids? Here is our typical nightly ritual. Eliza is starting to coo....if you can hear her over Erin.....


Couch Potatoes

Eliza has found the TV. She will turn herself 180 degrees to see it. Not much new this week, lots of rain, just a few new pics of the girls hanging out at night. One day we'll burn our "ugly couch"(the one in all the photos), but then again its bound to come back into style any day now.


Four Years

Today is our 4th anniversary. Four years ago it was about 50 degrees colder than it is today (in Houston.)

In four years we have experienced....

* Living in a 400 sq/ft apartment (and survived to laugh about it)
* One Christmas Tree that puts Charley Browns to shame (Imported from a field)
* Toured Central America (and a parasite to make it memorable)
* Two degrees (and the student loans to prove it)
* Moved 1200 miles aways from home (understood that being farm kids is a good asset)
* Learned the art of city driving
* Stared blankly at over $400,000 in medical bills (and realized the blessing of good insurance)
* Had two kids (put one through heart surgery and almost had one in the parking lot)
* Participated in the nations largest mass evacuation (Caught in grid lock running from a CAT 5 mega storm
* Took on a strapping mortgage (and its worth every penny)

And who said married life is boring?

Its been four great years, who new life could be this good?


Camera is Back

Finally got my camera back again..... Eliza has changed a lot in a few weeks. She is watching football with dad today.


2007 Heart Association Walk

This year we are putting together a team to walk for Erin. Hard to believe its been three years.....hard to believe this was Erin.

Help us raise money for R&D and education.

If you want to support the cause you can donate online or send a check to us by Oct 10th.




Missed by Hurricane Humberto

Humbert shifted northeast last night and is moving up the Texas coast. The shift put us on the "dry side" of the storm. We did get some rain and wind out of it. It was pretty cool to see the outer bands of the storm come in - the sky looked like some sci-fi movie.

Humberto was classified as a CAT1 hurricane early this morning, with winds up to 85mph


Ahoy Mate ~ Tropical Storm Humbert Hits Tonight

This will be the first tropical storm we weather since our move to Houston three years ago. We participated in the mass evacuation for Rita two years ago, but Rita turned north at the last minute, sparring us and devastating Beaumont. Rita was huge, it would have been the hurricane of the decade if it wasn't in the shadow of Katrina.

Tropical storms don't carry the wind sheer or storm surge of a hurricane, but flooding is a major concern. In 2001 a tropical storm dumped 18 inches on Houston in 48 hours causing massive flooding and damage costing in the billions.

Humberto is showing a similar pattern, large and slow moving - only six mph. Total rainfall is expected to be anywhere from 6"-16" in the next 48-hours on top of an already rain saturated area. Storm is expected to hit the Houston mainland at 10p.m. tonight. We are already seeing the outer rain bands.

So......here is my rain song for the night.....

row row row your boat gently up the street,
hope my flood policy is in effect
when Humberto comes ashore......


Its Sunny Out!

Wow, we might have a morning without rain. I should go tame my lawn before the Grass Gestapo sends me another nasty letter.

Just posting a few last photos for a while, my camera is back in the shop....again.


My Chunky Monkey

Eliza had her two week today and is 75% for height and weight. She weight 11 lbs 10 oz and is healthy. It so funny how your kids vary in size. Erin didn't even register on the charts until almost 12 months. Eliza is starting to wear clothes that Erin was walking in, thus she is my chunky money - she got the Fenton German Iowa Woman build.

Its raining again, story of the month here. Yesterday we took the girls to the zoo only to walk in the front gates and watch it open up and pour. At least it was a free day. So we hung out with Britt all afternoon.

Is everyone that works is Customer Service an idiot? I spent half my day attempting to cancel a pathology bill for a test that did not happen on a date that Eliza did not even step foot into a hospital or clinic.....grrr.....


4 Friskings, A wedding, & Exciting places to pee

Two weeks ago we said adieu to the benzene laced air of Houston and headed north to greener pastures. It has been eight months since I have seen a gravel road lined by dairy cows and after that long I was feeling claustrophobic in my sea of suburbia.

We got up at 3 am to drive across the city to catch a 7 am flight out of Bush. This was our first time flying with both kids and I attempted to pack lightly but in reality thats an impossible action with a month old and a toddler. We got to the airport with plenty of time. Jared was to cheap to pay someone to help us with our luggage so we struggled to the ticket counter with five bags, two car seats, two carry-ons, two kids and a stroller. It was a feat but we made it just in time for them to tell us our flight had been canceled due to a mechanical failure. American found us a flight on another airline to Ohare that left within the hour...the catch was it left from two terminals away. Me and my pack mule (Jared) caught the tram and got checked in with about twenty minutes to spare. We stepped up to security and Jared was pulled for a random security check. I thought to myself, this really can't get any worse..... but as life goes it did. I guess the Renshaw family is a threat to national security. They frisked Jared, then me, and then proceeded to frisk Erin, which she was leary about. And the final sticker, I had Eliza in a front pack and the also frisked her. We got out just in time to make our plane.

Jared's younger sister Ashley was married in the Nauvoo temple, the same place Jared and I were married almost four years ago. We stayed Thursday night in this great Bed & Breakfast the was built in 1853 just outside of Nauvoo. Ashley was married Friday and then the reception was Saturday back in Des Moines. It was fun to see all the family again. Erin was a flower girl. Grandpa and Grandma Fenton took her to the State Fair the morning of the reception so she showed up at the reception in her beautiful white dress with the traditional Iowa State cyclone tattoo on her arm.
The 1850's guest house B&B we stayed in outside of Nauvoo

A sign on a local store in downtown Nauvoo
Erin in her dressErin & Aunt Ashy

Nauvoo Temple Facade

Renshaw family car decorating tradition (they are oreos)

Then Sunday We blessed Eliza at Jared's home ward in Waukee. It worked out really well since my family came to Ashley's reception the night before in Des Moines. We got to have both families there, except for the honeymooners.

Jared flew home a week early and the girls and I stayed with my parents. One day we to the Amish village not far from my town. I asked Erin if she had to go to the bathroom because they didn't have bathrooms. Erin looked at me and rolled her eyes, like ya right mom. And of course the first stop out she was doing her pee dance in middle of the bulk food store. The lady was really nice and pointed us to an outhouse attached to the barn. We walked in and Erin said "Where is the water?" She has this thing where she will not use a toilet if someone didn't flush, needless to say the outhouse was an experience.

Erin got to go fishing for the first time and she caught what she calls "a huge, beautiful fish"....it was a 3" bluegill out at Backbone State Park. She was so excited. We were upstream when she had to pee so grandpa just threw her over the side of the boat and told her to go in the water. That was great until we were sitting in the luggage claim office and the women asked Erin where she went for vacation and Erin exclaimed "I went fishing and I peed in my swimming suit" The lady said "but not on purpose right?" "Yes, I did it on purpose, grandpa and mom said its okay to pee in your swimming suit". I about died..

While in NE Iowa we took Erin to the Field of Dreams, the National Mississippi museum and she got her first ride on the old trolley elevator in Dubuque.
The trip home was worse. I flew alone with the girls for the first time. They did great on the plane, wish the airlines could behave the same way. I flew into O'hare and found that my flight to Houston was canceled due to another mechanical failure. I am beginning to wonder if its going to start raining American Airline planes. The first flight he gave me was an 8-hour delay in Chicago, but then with two screaming kids (and I can cry when it counts) he must have found pitty on me and booked me on a another flight that left from the next terminal within 20 minutes and gave me a $30.00 food voucher that had to be used at O'hare. We raced to the next terminal, picked up a pizza and 9 bottles of snapple ( that is all they sold and I was all about using the full voucher. I supplied the last three rows in the plane with Strawberry Kiwi snapple). Jared had the cell and I forgot my phone card so I had to call my parents 800 number and have them relay the message that I was flying Continental, which everyone in Houston knows terminal C at the Houston airport is the continental hub.....I got on the plane only to find out it was a continental express flight, which lands at terminal B.
So We finally got to Houston, Jared is a mile away waiting patiently for a non-existent flight in the wrong terminal. I finally got a hold of him and went to pick up my non-existant luggage ......all four bags and two car seats. When I really thought my day could not get any worse the luggage claim specialist asked for the claim tickets and I realized that either the guy who re-booked me never gave them back or I accidentally threw them away. We spent almost two hours at the airport attempting to round up loaner car seats and filing claims.

All of our luggage arrived the next day in the course of three different shipments....I need a vacation from vacation...And life is about to get a little more hectic..and no I am not pregnant :)