What the Freak?

Lets see some creativity from the readers, what caption could possibly describe this photo?.....

I'll give you a starting hint about the situation, it took two hours of our morning to undo the curiosity of Eliza...

Merry Christmas!

Erin and her pink flamingos at the Festival of Lights

We had a wonderful Christmas. This was our first year away from family and it felt odd not to have the commotion of family dinners and get-togethers. But we enjoyed starting our own family traditions and getting some time to spend together as a family.

Erin was prime age for Santa this year, she was so excited and it provided great leverage in the weeks leading up to Christmas. When we asked her what her favorite gift was, she replied….” I love them all!”.

We hope you all had a Merry Christmas!


Hopping on the baby train….

I think everyone we know is pregnant (that’s what happens when a hurricane hits and there is no electricity for two weeks).

Yes the rumors flying around are true, Little Renshaw the Third is well on his/her way. I don’t know if anyone caught the 2.5 kids on my blog header. Its been up for a month, but then again, maybe I just blog to myself.

I am about 12 ½ weeks along and am due at the end of June. I had my second appointment with my midwife today and everything looks great. We are very excited to welcome one more into our family!

We’ll find out at the end of January what we are having. I love the surprise of not knowing, but it drives Jared nuts, so after Erin we decided to find out. Plus my nursery had a big purple Gerber daisy on the wall, not real masculine :)

For namesake lets hope it’s a girl. Erin is determined if it’s a girl we are naming her Isabella and if it’s a boy….Cheese. What can I say, Iowa blood still runs through her veins :D We will be happy with what we get.


The Upgraded Christmas Tree

Our First Christmas Tree in all its glory
(stop laughing! Its called living within your means :)

Our tree this year
(it does not look that crazy, the flash just picks up the silver of the fir needles)

We decided to hang in Houston this year for Christmas. 1. to finish up Ike repairs, 2. Ike killed out travel budget and 3. I am becoming a Texas weenie and I am pretty sure if I am exposed to -20 temperatures my thinning blood might freeze and I will die.

This year we actually splurged and got a real tree (of course a fir tree since we live on fir tree). Unlike our childhood escapades of trudging through crotch-deep snow in ten degree weather wondering if your lower extremities would need to be amputated before Dad found the “perfect tree”, we headed down to Houston Garden Center, located a mile from our house and picked a pre-cut one off the lot and some guy even carried it to the truck (much easier, less painful).

This is the first real tree we have had since our first Christmas married and its 1. larger, 2. less prickly, and 3.doesn’t look like its been violently tortured. But every tree there is a good story. Our first Christmas tree made Charlie Brown’s tree look like it belonged on Rockefeller Center ….

Jared and I were married in September of 03 during our senior year at college. Like all college kids we were broke (of course most were broke because they were buying beer…we were buying health insurance). We went home to visit my parents and talked about getting a real tree, but could not fork out the $25.00, plus our attic apartment has no room for a kitchen table, let alone a tree.

Before leaving my dad suggested we go out to the farm pasture and cut one down (part of his woody invasive management program). We searched the pastures at dusk, finding a small red cedar that would suffice. We cut him down, and tied him to the back of our 94 achivea and started the 3 hour trek back to our apartment in Ames. We stopped in Waterloo only to find that our securing skills lacked and our precious little tree had been dragged down I-20 for unknown miles. We franticly tied it back to the trunk as the winter winds pierced through layers of clothing…..and the guy in the nice SUV next to us watched, laughing hysterically.

It made its way to Ames in the sub zero temperatures, hooked to a car not much more valuable than the tree itself. We quickly put it in water (in a juice jug because tree stands cost as much as the tree), but between its miles of contact with the frozen pavement and being ripped from the clutches of its native habitat, the damage had been done.

Its sad branches were brown and flimsy, but were enough to hold the two ornaments we owned. Jared pouted all that week that our tree sucked. So five years later I granted Jared the privilege of a “real Christmas tree”. So far it has survived both kids, is still green and smells soooo good!


Eliza's ears

I took Eliza to the ENT specialist yesterday and found out she has mid range hearing loss. Luckily they think its temporary due to a large amount of fluid in her ears. They put her on 6 weeks of an antihistamine in hopes that meds can alleviate the condition. If there is still fluid present at the end of January they will put in tubes and possibly remove her adenoids. She did awesome at her appointment! Her ENT and audiologist were really good with her.

I spoke with a speech therapist today and she had some really good tips about communicating with her and stating some basic signs. She’ll start with the speech therapist at the end of January. She can hear us talk, but the doc said it like trying to hear someone in the next room with the door closed, very muffled if it comes thorough at all.

The good news is it sounds like it could be a quick fix and they don’t foresee any long-term hearing loss. As for now its just an adjustment for everyone.


Winter Wonderland

Yesterday morning…..

I woke up today to a chilly 34 degrees and a stiff rain beating on the windows. This is unusually cold for this time of year (it was 75 a few days ago, the dramatic temperature makes me feel like I am back in Iowa).

We are staying her this year, a feeling which is bittersweet. We are excited to start our own family traditions, but as the day draws near I long for the big family gatherings in warm homes as the bitter wind howls and a layer of pure, seamless snow blanket the earth.

Last night:

Some wishes are fulfilled. I went to mutual tonight and we were planning on a hayride caroling excursion through town. When we arrived at 7pm it was about 35 degrees and sleeting and we were debating about going (30’s is really cold for the kids down here). The youth were arguing if it was sleeting or hailing (they really have not see either to know the difference) when a little girl came in and said “its snowing!”. We went outside and flurries were in the air. We jumped on the wagon and headed through some neighborhoods. It was great caroling because the snow was actually accumulating and dozens of people were out in their yards playing in it.

On the way home I watched the roofs turn white, then the lawns and finally the side streets. I was a bit nervous about driving, Houstonians have no idea how to drive on icy roads and they were a bit slick. They have no snow equipment down here, no salt or sand trucks, so even a little snow can make it treacherous.

I got home about 9:30 and we bundled Erin up and went out in the front yard and made a 5ft snowman (it took almost all the snow in our front yard), made a snow angel and played for a while.

. It snows like this maybe once every 10-20 years. Just a few counties received snow. It was just a freak collision of a wet and cold front off the coast. But it was a welcomed introduction to the Christmas Season for all!


Erin's Snowman
Neighbors palm tree

Getting gas :D



I can't believe it! It snowed enough tonight to make a snowman (granted it took all the snow from our front lawn). Very cool :)


My Life

Things I've Done. To participate just copy and paste in your own blog, and bold all of the things you have done. Thanks Wanonie....

1. Started your own blog (obviously)
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped (but I have gone cliff diving)
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen an eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee


Christmas Parade

Last night my friend Melissa and I took the girls out to the League City Christmas Parade. They have a huge parade at night and a carnival with lots of little food and craft vendors. Jared and Zoran were both hitting the books so we decided to take the kids and give them some time to study. The girls had a blast running after candy at the parade and we picked up some yummy caramel apples. We had to park about 1/2 mile away and the three of them were not up for walking, so Eliza kindly shared her stroller. Eliza thought it was hilarious that she was squashed between Erin and Melina. I thought the wheels were going to fall off of our single stroller, but it held up well to the 80 pounds of laughing cargo.

The $5 desk

Now that Erin is in school her crayons and papers are strung across the house. I picked up this little desk at a neighbors garage sale for $5.00 last week. It was a bit rickety and needed a new finish. I got it sanded down and purchased some "L" bracket braces and I hope to have it primed and painted in time for Christmas.

I love working with old furniture, but sometime I realize that a $5.00 desk is really only worth $5.00 :) We'll see if I still have a magic touch.

Well check!

Erin and Eliza both had the well checks and we are happy to say that Erin officially hit 50% for height and 50% for weight! She was not even on the charts until she was two years and she is finally growing well! Erin's heart sounds good and Eliza is doing well.

The only hiccup is Eliza's hearing. She just turned 18 months and only says about three words. She communicates very well through gestures and expressions, but lacks language skills and rarely responds unless she is looking at you. Its actually pretty cute, she sounds like a little E.T. They ruled out autism (which was not even a concern for this little social butterfly). They checked her ears and there was a large amount of fluid behind them. So we see the ENT in a few weeks to see about the possibility of tubes and start seeing a speech therapist sometime this month. Her pediatrician was not too worried that it was anything more serious than that.

Weight: 35lbs - 50%
Height: 41 inches - 50%

Weight: 20lbs- 25%
Height 31 inches - 50%



Since we moved to Houston, we have a tradition of camping over Thanksgiving, frankly because the weather is tolerable enough to sleep in a tent and maybe even tolerate a light a campfire. Since we moved down here, we have gone several times with the Ethingtons, but we had always been cursed with rain and this trip was no different.

Even with the rain, we had a great time. This was Eliza's first camping trip and she love it (that's my girl!) We also found out she loves fire. The kid needed a leash because every time we sat her down she made a beeline for the fire ring. And Erin loved seeing the birds and fish. We went with five families from our ward, a bit of an assortment of people, but it made it really fun and it was fun to get to know some new people.

We camped about two hours away in Sam Houston National Forest, at Double Lakes. It was a great park and the ranger was very hospitable. We got a group camp site so we were all together.

Friday night it rained on and off, hard. We just got a new tent a while ago and about midnight when rain was dripping through the roof I realized I waterproofed the fly but forgot to seal the seams. We stayed drier than what I thought.

Saturday the day was bleak and chilly, but no rain so we took advantage of it. Erin got to go fishing and we all pitched in and rented a canoe from REI so we played around the lake and did some hiking.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The girls at 4:45am getting ready to volunteer

I love Thanksgiving, if fact it’s my favorite holiday; good food, good company, and little stress (unless you are the one cooking the turkey). Growing up Thanksgiving was a huge ordeal where a score of family members would all cram into a little house. There was the year we got snowed in for days on end and who could forget the year dad thought it was a good idea to buy a live turkey and we ended up riding home in the cab of the truck with Jacque, our dinner sitting comfortably on our lap, enjoying the scenic drive before his impending death. It took an hour and a game of rock paper scissors for someone to muster up the courage to kill and dress the turkey with character. What we didn't realize when we picked him out a six year old boy had raised them and they were more pet than farm animal. (That was the last live turkey we ever purchased, but one day you'll have to ask Jared about the chicken we had the first time he visited my parents). But it was the most depressing turkey dinner I have ever eaten.

Jacque, the turkey...

Anyway away from the sidetrack...... Thanksgiving morning I got up at 3:30am and headed into town with the young women from our youth group to volunteer at Superfeast. We worked the 4:45-7:30am shift (early, I know!). I was really proud of them, they were all up and dressed and ready to leave by 4:15am. Superfeast is a dinner by Waste Management that serves 20,000 homeless (although this year it was a lot more families feeling the financial pinch of the economy). It is an outside dinner on the mall of Houston city hall. It is a huge operation with dozens of smokers and ovens. We set up tables, carried in food and beverages and helped put together silverware. I think we'll do it again next year, although we'll probably get there earlier, by 4:45am we were already #170 for volunteers and by 8am that had over a thousand volunteers sign in. Downtown Houston at Sunrise

We got back about 8:30, I threw in a ham to cook and we headed over to some good friends for a mid afternoon dinner. The food was amazing and we had a great afternoon, eating, visiting, and playing games.

This year we have so much to be thankful for, our family has been greatly blessed. We have two amazing, healthy children, kind family and great friends. It been a rough fall for everyone, but it was a great opportunity to reflect on how blessed we really are. We hope you all have a great Thanksgiving Day!


Who Says Steel-shank Ain't Sexy? - The Fence Building Saga - Part I

Right, so there is no argument that steal-shank, knee-high rubber boots are or will ever be sexy, but I am sure the neighbors had a rolling laugh at us as we tromped around in ours last weekend.

Jared had last Friday off, we got up early and rented a gas post hole auger. We drilled 32 holes in about two hours. It was well worth the $40.00 but still grueling work. It had rained all week and we have a clay-based soil and lots of tree roots, so it took both of us to hang on to that beast.

Saturday morning, we set the posts. Home Depot had a special if you purchased 1800 lbs of cement you got an electric mixture for free for the day. Our calculation was only a few hundred pounds shy of that and it worked out perfectly. We set 18 posts in about three hours....and were still talking to each other by the end of it.

We did put on a good show for the neighbors when Jared thought he could set two posts at once and the second one began to cure before we could place it. You could hear us yelling across the yard... "Em, its fine"..."Jared, rip it out, its not perfect!" "I'm not digging 100 pound of concrete out, its fine". "I said rip it out, I am not spending $2500 on a fence to have it hung on a non-level post." "Em, you are being unreasonable." "I SAID..RIP IT!" Needless to say since Jared does not have the OCD I have and we now have one post that is less than perfect. (He was luckly, we were running out of time and had to get ready for Erin's party, so I let the post stay...at least for this week). We'll see how it looks when we get the rails on it. Moreover, we'll see what these DIY projects do to our marriage. Jared is a "good enough" type of guy and I am a obsessive compulsive perfectionist tyrant. But between the two of us we have enough experience to hopefully build the sturdiest fence in the neighborhood. ...Thank you Larry and Eldon for all those years of manual labor, we might have learned a thing or two :)

So repairs will probably be our blog fodder for the next three months, as uninteresting as it may seem, its life.

Photos courtsey of Erin....


Princess Party

Erin turned 4 on Monday! Last Friday we has a princess party. She demanded a "sleeping beauty cake", which I took my best shot at creating. Most of our friends have 2-3 kids now so gatherings are huge! I figure the more the merrier, but we really need to buy more chairs. We had a few mishaps, one tumbled down the stairs, one fell and bit her lip and one ran into the wall, but we figured it was a successful night, all those kids and no one went to the ER.
She got lots of barbies, outfits and make up kits. Jared and I got her a digital camera.


bump -d - y- bump

Eliza is a monkey, her favorite thing is to stand on the top of the couch and jump off or stand on the kitchen table. Erin was crazy, but never had an older sister to teach her how to correctly crawl on the counter or stand on a chair.

Eliza got her first major goose egg last night....and she managed to get to by just walking into the corner of the cupboard. She wan not even running. We are still not sure how she even managed it... The girl has her moms graceful skills :)


Hello Mr. Insurance Check, Where Have You Been?

I'll just say it has been a process, and not exactly a consumer-friendly one. I officially deposited our insurance check on Friday, one day short of eight weeks. Luckily, we had no roof damage, so it was not a big deal to put the repairs off for two months. However the dozens of neighbors around us are still sporting blue tarps instead of shingles and are antsy to get their money and get the repairs started.

Texas has a state issued windstorm policy (hurricane insurance). Its pricey (like selling my spare body parts expenisve and I shutter what it will be next year after this), but the state had to step in because so many insurance companies decided it was not profitable to cover windstorm (can't imagine why, I read Ike made over 50,000 insurance claims and that was within a week of the storm). Except for State farm and talking to people, they are getting hosed by State Farm.

Texas Windstorm uses independent adjusters and were paying a good price, we really didn't have to fight to get our claim, the process was just tedious...

  • 4 canceled vists by the adjuster (one of those we'll show up between 8-5 and you have to be there which = fours days of waiting).
  • 5 contractor estimates (also we'll show up between 8-5...if your luckily and you were even luckier if they actually got a quote back to you).
  • 4 weeks to process the claim
So the check comes back with your name, and your mortgage companies name (thanks to all you crazy Katrina victims that purchased cars and junk instead of a freaken ROOF!). Which pretty much means your mortgage company controls how and where the money goes since they have to endorse it. From what I hear its a real pain, you have to put up the money up front and turn in receipts and photos to get a reimbursement or have the mortgage control who does the work for you. I see why they do it, they were the ones that got hosed in Katrina since people spent their insurance money frivolously and let their house go to pot and then the bank was stuck with a house worth nothing when the owner defaulted.

Luckily we were under the limit so we just had to have a banker at our mortgage bank endorse it and we could deposit it without any going back and forth. Bad news was we had two mortgage companies. Countrywide does not have a local endorser (I about jumped over the desk, a hurricane just hit the 4th largest city and you don't have a local check signer?) So we spent another two weeks mailing the check to California for someone to place their John Hancock on the back (which to my dismay was a stamp).

We got the check back Thursday and Friday I spent another two hours at Wells Fargo getting the last signature (which almost didn't happen, long story). In the mean time my well behaved children managed to devour a basket full of complementary cookies, play 500 pickup with a stack of deposit slips and break a phone at the local Wells Fargo branch. And finally, after countless hours, I deposit the money! Saturday we had plans to start rebuilding 160' of property fence......
...Until Saturday morning Jared found out he was #5 on the list at Home Depot for a post hold auger.... so the repairs will start next week. Heck whats another week right?


Photo Shoot

We have a friend at church who did a series of black and whites for a RS super Saturday project. She was so excited to photographic Eliza because she is always smiling, not so the day we did the shoot. It was about 60 degrees out, the coldest day we have had yet and Eliza didn't appreciate being striped down to her diaper in the chilly weather. On the other hand Erin had a blast, she loved it! These are scans, the original prints are much better. I absolutely love the one of Erin and the one where Erin is trying to get Eliza to laugh. I have never seen Eliza look so stoic.


Happy Halloween!

Friday night we had a big group of friends and neighbors over for homemade pizza and then we set out to trick or treat around our neighborhood. It was a really good time, lots of houses participated. It is so warm down here, everyone just sits out in their front yard. I loved the old couple down the street, sitting on their tailgate, glass of wine in one hand, smoke in the other handing out candy :)

Eliza caught on quickly. She is a sucker fanatic, so as soon as she had a load of suckers, she retired to her stroller to start eating them.

Erin was Princess Aurora from Sleeping Beauty. Overall she went trick or treat four times.....check out that candy stash!


Trunk or Treat

Our Ward had their annual Trunk or Treat Saturday night and it was the blast. The weather was beautiful, almost chilly (a.k.a 70 degrees). It has been cool enough that the swarms of skeeters from the hurricane have finally died down and for the first time in months, outdoor activities are enjoyable.

The turnout was huge (then again our ward is madly growing)! I made 70 bags of puppy chow and probably turned down the last 20 kids. They had a big dinner, games for the kids and then everyone decorated their trunk and the kiddos went around the parking lot trick-or-treating. I was pretty impressed with my trunk, considering I couldn't find I costume I figured the least I could do was decorate a little.One of our friends is a stanch democrat and he came as a republican, it was a great costume. Eliza was a elephant so they worked well together. I don't think I saw Erin all night, just a swarm of her princess possie darting through the dark wildly waving wand and gigling.

The Quest for a G - Rated Halloween

Halloween has been a big event this year. For a month Erin has been set on being "Princess Aurora" from sleeping beauty. Last week she made the comment, "I will be the princess, Eliza will be Flora and Dad will the the King". Jared asked her who mom was going to be and she thought for a second and replied..."Maleficent".

Feeling great from such a loving comment from my daughter we went to the party store to see if they had a sleeping beauty costume. They just have photos of the costume and then you give them the number and size and they go and get it for you. While we were waiting for them to retrieve Erin's beautiful pink dress, she excitably yelled, Mom! Look, we can both be princesses, I can be Aurora and you can be Snow White!

.....and this is the outfit she had picked out for her old mother. Classy I know. On the bright side, being 5'3" those white sock would extend far above the knee on me. I declined thinking that Maleficent was looking better and better, but then again, for some reason the old evil witch who is always dressed in layers and layers of floor length black sheathes of fabric in the books looks like she would be working the corner right next to Snow White. Would someone please make a costume for adult women that is G rated?