North Bound

(this was a paved hi-way, made for a long day of driving)
We headed off Saturday morning to my mom’s family Christmas north of Mason City. We got the car and kids loaded and found out our the sliding door latch on our van had sprung so the door would not stay shut (and thus we could not shift the car into drive). After some consideration we borrowed Jared’s family Jeep and left our van at the mechanics (again, our Iowa trips are getting expensive). The roads were less-than spectacular so in the end it was good we had a vehicle with full 4WD.

We spent the next to days at my aunt Julies having a blast. We played lots of spoons and catch phrase and just caught up on old times. Sunday afternoon we drove across the state to my parents. Its was a long trip with the roads. I was really surprised how expansive Iowa’s wind turbine farm have grown since leaving five years. We saw hundreds of turbines in north central Iowa. We finally arrived in NE Iowa Sunday evening.

(A Norwegian clothes-line)
(Erin with her hand-made bear from Great Aunt Julie)

Iowa - Week one - Into Des Moines

So far our vacation has been a bit crazy but we’ve had fun. We drove 19 hours straight through to Des Moines. Our intention was to stay overnight in Kansas City, but there was bad weather on the radar and Erin got car sick just south of KC so we pushed it through to Jared parents.

The weather was a bit crazy, for days they forecasted what sounded like an Armageddon storm so the big family Christmas was canceled and we sat around for three days waiting for it to hit and it didn’t do much. Some ice and 6 inches of snow. It was enough to make us shovel Christmas Morning but that was it. It did make driving across the state not-so great.
Christmas Eve The girls acted out the Christmas Story out of Luke. Erin got into it, Eliza just looked mortified that she had a towel wrapped around her head. We sang Christmas songs around the piano, played some games and called it a night. Jared youngest sister Heather got engaged on Christmas Morning. Most of the week we just relaxed with family and it was so nice to see everyone.


Merry Christmas!

This is as close as we could get for a Christmas Eve photo with all three kiddos

As we reflect on the past year during this Christmas Season we are thankful for the many blessings in our lives including the birth of our son Isaac Nathanial. This year marks five years living in Houston.

This is our 2009 synopsis:

Last spring we put our pride on the shelf and did something we promised ourselves we would never do… We purchased a minivan. Not only a minivan, but we went all the way and got a gold Kia minivan. In Renshaw fashion we scored a deal we couldn’t refuse, so laugh all you want…and then go pay your car payment.

In April we took our first family vacation outside of Iowa. We took the girls to SeaWorld San Antonio. Minus we spent most of the first day walking around in a monsoon (of course the drought ends when Renshaw’s decide to go on vacation) we had a great time. The girls loved Shamu and Jared even talked Erin into going onto the Journey of Atlantis ride. She had a blast until she realized she was at the top of a hundred- foot drop. Needless to say dad’s definition of fun did not coincide with Erin’s.

We traveled back to Iowa in September for Emmaly’s brother’s wedding and enjoyed a couple weeks of a beautiful Midwest fall and also came back for Christmas.

Jared: spent most of the year in his cubical or in meetings. He is still working for United Space Alliance as a Flight Design Manager for the shuttle. NASA had a successful year of flight and Jared worked in Mission Control for several flights. He continues to work on his Masters in Engineeering Management through University of Colorado and serves as the ward clerk at church. Jared has been saving his pennies since we have been married and finally had enough saved up for his plasma TV, now if he only found time to watch it. The highlight of his day is being greeted at the door by his girls (and frazzled wife).

Emmaly: spent most of the spring freelancing graphic design and then closed the last project by early summer. The highlight of her summer was hand delivering her new baby boy solo (not planned but an amazing experience). She has adjusted well to having three kids (although some days are more successful than others). In true mother fashion she has found herself saying things such as “if you’re going to break your leg do it tonight because I am not making two trips to the ER” or “we don’t stab people with forks at the dinner table”. With all the craziness of having three kids in five years she loves the commotion of a very busy household. Emmaly is still serving as young women president and loves working with teenage girls (reasoning with a 15 year old is much easier than any toddler, at least that is what she thinks now).

Erin: tuned five in November. She is the upcoming intellect of the family. She loves preschool, is grasping the concept of reading, and loves anything art or space related. Typically Erin can be found in her room reading or drawing. She is very mild mannered except when she is drawing. We often hear the phrase “it’s not pretty enough” as she rips up her most recent masterpiece (Can’t imagine who she gets that from). Erin is a great big sister and loves to help mom keep the house from burning to the ground.

Eliza: is 2 ½ and her sheer strength is amazing. She will climb anything that is scalable and loves anything that involves a ball. Eliza has tubes in her ears last spring to help correct temporary hearing loss and now does speech therapy once a week. She is in constant motion and is passionate about play-doh. Jared finally got his sports fanatic and Eliza loves to watch football with dad. She loves to antagonize Erin and loves her baby brother (sometimes it’s tough love).

Isaac: was born on July 5th at 8lbs after being a week overdue. He decided to make a fast entrance and came into the world bright-eyed and happy. He must have felt a bit guilty about the drama surrounding his birth because Ike is the BEST BABY EVER. He is very incredibly well natured. We would like to think we are just amazing parents, but I’m sure the Lord knew that is all we could handle. Isaac means “he who laugheth” and as his character matures, his name sake is a perfect fit. This little guy is full of constant smiles and laughter (partly due to the three-ring circus provided by his sisters).

We hope this finds you all well and happy. May your Christmas be full of joy of family and friends.


Ikes First Food

mmmmm. This rice cereal is spoon-licking good. I am a happy man.
I have a concerned sense of an odd presence behind me

Oh no, not them! I’m so stunned I can’t shriek but my excessively big eyes scream Help Me!

*Sigh* Dad rescued me from my burley sisters.

Worst. Week. Ever.

Okay probably not ever, no one died but it was what I would consider a sucktastic seven days. After a wonderful week I was walking home from the mail box thumbing through the letters to see what looked like a red-light ticket. Mentally paging back through the week I thought to myself I have not ran any red lights. Unlike all natural born Houstonians I make it a point not to blow through on red. Sure enough there was a $75.00 fine and citation waiting for me. Still confused how I got it, I watched the video online and it all came back to me. I didn’t exactly run a red light…. I didn’t stop behind the white line when making a right-hand turn. Erin had an asthma attack that day and I found myself without her inhaler and was racing time to get home. So a Renshaw confession that little right hand turn was the least of my traffic violations that day trying to get home. To say the least I was miffed, more at myself than anything. So I wrote a letter to the mayor to make me feel better. All I can say is Merry freaken Christmas to me….so much for new running shoes I have been saving up for.

Wednesday we spent most of the day at the ENT with Eliza and by the time we left I started feeling achy and chilled. I came home and took a nap, turning my household over to a five-year old. By that night I was feeling really cruddy so I made the mistake of taking some heavy duty cold medicine. I slept great; Jared woke me up about 6:45 to help get Erin ready for school. I was making Erin’s lunch when I thought to myself I really don’t feel good. Next thing I knew I woke up on our tile kitchen floor clutching a piece of bread watching the ceiling spin. I must have lost consciousness somewhere between the ham and mayo and slammed my nose on our granite counter on the way down. Over the course of our marriage it has happened enough that Jared just drags me back to bed. Jared stayed home and I slept most of the day and had to spend the rest of the week explaining to people the black and blue nose and black eye.

By Friday night I was feeling a little better. Friday we had snow flurries and the City of Houston completely shut down. Toys R US had a sale until midnight. At 11 pm I figured all the crazies who don’t know how to drive on ice were in bed so I headed out. I got my load at the toy store and headed home. On Bay area I hit something big because my tire went flat to the rim so I pulled into the vacant Office Depot parking lot. We have free roadside assistance so I called and they said they would be out in 45 minutes…great. Nothing like being a single woman in a deserted parking lot at midnight….and then my car died…great now I am a solo woman with a flat tire and a dead battery in 20 degree weather…..and then my phone died….are you freaking kidding me? Is like some kind of bad horror flick? Now it was past midnight so NOTHING was open. So I sat there clutching my mace waiting for the first mass-murder to come along. Really it was more like a couple of stray dogs and someone making a weird midnight delivery to Party City in an unmarked truck.

So the tow guy finally came, plumber crack and all and changed my tire AND jump started my van. And to complete the night my spare was also flat. So I finally made it home around 1 am, glad to be home safe. And went to bed thinking it was all over….Jared came home from the tire shop the next morning with a new $125 tire and just said “I hope your trip was worth it.” It kind of belittled the $40.00 I saved the night before.
Spent most of Saturday and Sunday still not feeling well. So I was happy to see a new week, hopefully this one is a lot less expensive.


Houston Aquarium.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Brittany and Derek came down for dinner and we just relaxed the whole day. Friday we got up early and went to the Houston Aquarium downtown. There were very few people there so the girls got to ride the carousel and Ferris wheel several times. At the end of the Aquarium they have a white tiger exhibit. Eliza LOVED them; she just kept saying “Whoa, that’s a big kitty!”

Britt and Derek offered to watch the girls so Jared and I headed to IKEA for the afternoon to start our Christmas shopping. Santa will be bringing the girls some colorful forks so they stop fighting over the only one we have with a black handle.


We made it - Five!

Erin turned five last week. Five! She is so mature and vibrant; I can’t imagine what life would be like without her sweet sing-song voice and big toothy grin.

For me it was a bit of an emotional day, more than I anticipated. In my mind age five was a milestone. I always thought if we can get this kid to see five she will live a full and healthy life and this week she made it.

I lay in bed the morning of the seventh thinking how blessed we have been as I thought about that morning five years ago. Erin was born in the early hours of the morning after a long exhausting labor. Like any mother I wanted to take my first born and hold her tightly but the wheels of circumstance were in motion and she was taken to the NICU with only a glance. It was ten hours before I would have the chance to touch her for the first time. I remember being wheeled into the NICU looking down the row of babies realizing I had no clue which one was mine and wondering if my maternal instinct failed. And then I saw the little pink sign that said ERIN and looked down to see this beautiful child with more hair than body and it all became real, she was finally here, and now what would become of her? I questioned in my mind if in the coming weeks we would bring home our little girl or would she return home to her Father in Heaven.

We found out at a routine ultrasound at 17 weeks that Erin had a series of congenital heart defects. The initial diagnosis was that she would not survive and if she did she would have a low quality of life. To make matter worse when I found out Jared was 1000 miles away, he had just moved to Houston and I was completing my undergrad thesis at Iowa State. I found out the day of my defense, it should have been the capstone of five years of study but I was devastated. I sat on the limestone steps on the east end of Brookside Park in Ames talking to Jared watching my life fall into shambles.

The coming weeks I moved, settled into Houston 7 ½ months pregnant, went through a slew of doctors, each night pleading with the Lord that we would make it through, that we would be blessed with a healthy child and only getting the conformation that we would be able to handle the trial that we faced.

Erin was born fighting; the nurse said it was the baby she had to physically restrain in years (that’s my girl!). Over the coming days her condition would deteriorate and the third night we were told surgery was our only option. The next evening she was given a name and a blessing and my fears were comforted. The night before our surgery the nurse let us hold her, it was a huge ordeal with tubes and lines, but I was so thankful for the first time, knowing it may be the only time, I would hold my precious little girl in my arms.

At five days she was prepped for surgery, we kissed her forehead as she headed into the OR and would spend the next eight hours waiting anxiously for those hourly updates and we finally got the conformation that she was out of surgery and stable. Sleepless night would follow as her little body adjusted and she was slow coming out of anesthesia. Erin would slowly progress in the following days and her recovery and almost seamless.

Jared retuned to work and my mom flew down and we lived at the hospital. By the time she was ready to come home I could talk the talk, I knew the function of the heart, all about the meds and signs of heat failure and infection. I had my A game on and then we signed the discharge papers and as they handed her to us, I asked if we were really qualified for this (while everyone else was taking child birth classes learning how to feed and change diapers, we were meeting with surgical teams)? But I knew she was finally ours. The coming months would be full of echos and follow up appointments and slowly she had the life of a normal child. Our home would become full of firsts and laughter.

Every now and then I hear people say it must be just a faint memory, as a mother the reality of it is still alive. There is not a night that passes that I don’t lay my hand on her chest to feel for a rhythmic breath and thank the Lord for the wonderful blessing he has given to us. She is my personal miracle. She has brought so much joy and love into our home and is a constant reminder that the Lord has a hand in all things.

As the next half decade progresses we can close the health chapter of life and open the chapter on starting school, boys and all that comes as little girls turn into young women.


Little Man with the Big Eyes

(The life of having two older sisters)

Seriously I can’t get enough of this little guy. He is growing I am in complete denial that he will ever walk, run and destroy things like boys do. As for now I will savor the snuggly moments with those baby blues starting back at me and a big grin. Btw, I have never been a sweater vest kind of gal, but after seeing him in this one, I’m sold.


Second rate circus, first class fun!

Last night we took the kids to the circus. It was a one ring circus (literally) in a mall parking lot, no Ringling Brother, but the kids don’t know the difference. There were lots of light, food, big animals and old women that needed more coverage. Our friends had $5.00 tickets and we are always up for an adventure. It seems like a Mexican cultural tradition, you see little carnivals and circuses set up everywhere. My kids were the only blonde hair ones there, people kept rubbing their heads and saying something in Spanish (which I had no idea).

The show was not anything spectacular (what you would probably assume you would see in a mall parking lot), but the kids LOVED it. I have never seen Eliza be so attentive. She was glued to the trapeze artists and the elephant show. They had a contortionist that could fold himself in half and fit through a tennis racket, a guy riding a motorcycle on a cable and lots of little acts. Jared and I even enjoyed it.

Anyone want to take bets how long it will be before Eliza breaks her leg this week pretending she in the circus?

Em's deal of the month

I did it...I broke down and got a double stroller. With three I have no time to exercise and the price of a gym pass out well outside of our discretionary fund. I have been watching them for a while but people wanted around $200.00 used, ugh!

Ebay had this model, new; clearance with shipping it was $100 (typically runs around $240.00). So I was really happy with the bid. They shipped it Fed Ex. I'm pretty sure the guy tied it to the back of his truck and dragged it down I-45 at high rates of speed because he rang the door bell and ran. And I found myself looking at a mangled package that once resembled a box.

I was bummed because there was some damage to the stroller, mostly on the plastic parts and a few scratches on the metal. I talked to the ebay guy and he said he would send me new parts (they just need to be replaced by a screw) and take $35.00 for the scratches. Wohoo, a good deal made better!

The kids LOVE it, Eliza Isaac and I have been walking 3 days a week while Erin is at school. Now to start running…..


Growing up

Can't believe Erin will be five in a few weeks. How time quietly slips away.


Trick-or-treating and Blue Angels

Quote of the day “I don’t want to go trick-or-treating; I JUST WANT TO SEE THE B-L-U-E A-N-G-E-L-S. She is Jared’s daughter :)

We had a wonderful Halloween weekend. Erin hit the mother load of candy this year. I have no idea what we are going to do with it all. They went trick-or-treating two days this week at preschool. Erin decided to be belle and Eliza wanted to be a kitty….thank you craigslist for making my Halloween economical.

Friday night we had our ward trunk-or-treat at church. Eliza finally got what it was all about this year and it was so much fun. I decided to dress up this year; I was a piece of damaged luggage from American Airlines. I stopped by the resale shop and picked up a suitcase and used a dremmel to make it work. I ended up winning the “most inventive”, not bad for $2.00 and an hour to make it.
Halloween day Erin had her last soccer game. She has been playing on a league with kids that have mental or physical disabilities. They invite siblings and friends to play on the team and it was a really good experience for her.

Then we spent the afternoon watching Wings Over Houston air show. We didn’t buy tickets this year, but there is a park within a mile of Ellington Field and we watched it from there. The park was packed, but it worked out well. The weather was fantastic and the girls could kick around the soccer ball as we were waiting for the next set of planes to taxi. Ike LOVED the air show (or loved being outside), he even the f-16 flying over head with after burners.

The main show this year was the Blue Angles and they were awesome! I also really liked the stunt planes that stall out and flip head over tail.

We got home just in time to go trick-or-treating. Eliza loved it! She walked for over two hours and came home with her bucket full. We have a neighborhood with lots of kids and a lot of people who are gone for the night taking their kids around just set a bowl of candy on the driveway with a note that says take one. I thought I would do the same, Jared was kidding me that the candy was going to get stolen, I didn’t care. But when I came back I was surprised not only did they steal the candy, they took the bowl with them.
Here is what they ended up with this morning, after munching on it all weekend, Jared taking a portion to work and the youth group ravaging it after the fireside last night. Now the question is what the heck do I do with all this candy?