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!