My Boys

My Boys

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Book 2 Suzuki Party

On September 29, 2017, Caleb passed off his 2nd Suzuki book. He had 14 songs memorized to play at his recital including all the appropriate technique, dynamics, and other nuances to make each piece musical. He worked so hard and put on a phenomenal recital. Way to go Caleb!

8 friends from the ward attended, who all play the piano. His Grandpa Call was also in attendance. We celebrated with brownie sundaes afterwards. 

Utah Visit

September 22 - 24 I took a mini-vacation to Utah in order to be there for my college roommate's wedding. Elise and I roomed together for our freshman and junior years of college, and we were close friends. We have stayed in touch over the years, and I was so excited for her chance to start her forever family.

This trip was a much-needed break. For the previous 4 weekends, I had been on my own on kid-duty since Matt was out helping with hurricane clean up at every opportunity. I look forward to the weekends so much to have a break from my day-in and day-out responsibilities with the kids. Not having my husband's help for 4 weekends in a row was so tough. One of the things I fell in love with about Matt is his absolute love and desire to serve, so I knew what I was getting into when I married him. Those weekends I tried not to complain too much recognizing that his service was very needed (even though most other husbands just served Saturday OR Sunday and not both, which I felt was adequate!). 

By the end of that month though, I was ready to get away for some "me" time. In order to save a significant chunk of money, I had a 7 hour layover on the way there and a 3 hour layover on the way home. I spent the time catching up with a friend on the phone and preparing for my next Relief Society lesson.

Lindsey picked me up from the airport Friday night at 8:30pm and graciously hosted me that night and all of Saturday. We chatted that night with Derrick and spent time Saturday playing a game together, running errands, making lunch together, watching a movie, and watching the Women's session. It was fun to spend time with her and see her cute kids. Derrick was very kind to take the kids most of the afternoon so Lindsey and I could hang out together.

Saturday morning Lindsey dropped me off at the Provo City Center Temple for the sealing. I was so excited to see this new temple, and especially to be in a temple now that the Houston one is out of commission due to flooding. The temple was huge and quite stunning inside. The sealing was beautiful, and I was glad I was there to support Elise.

Elise, her new husband, Matt, and her twins

 Teddy and me in front of the temple

Lindsey and me with her cute new haircut

Elise and me later that night at her reception 

After the Women's session, Lindsey drove me up to Salt Lake where we visited with Grandma for a little bit. Then Lindsey went home, and I spent time catching up with Ali. She generously spent time looking at Family Search with me and giving me some tips for greater success. After Sacrament meeting the next morning, Ali drove me to the airport for my flight home.

It was a quick weekend trip, and Matt held up the fort very well by himself at home.

I do have to record how stressful it was leading up to this vacation. I am the Volunteer Coordinator on the PTO at Caleb's intermediate school this year. I wish I wouldn't have let myself get talked into this! I love the opportunity to be involved in the community, but I imagined myself being more involved in the schools and PTO when I didn't have young kids at home. Before my parents left on their mission, my mom would come every other Wednesday to give me the opportunity to go volunteer in the library at the elementary school, which was perfect for my stage in life. Attending PTO meetings and making frequent trips to the school is a lot trickier with two kids in tow, trying to make sure they don't touch anything or get in the way while I'm doing my work. One of my responsibilities as volunteer coordinator is making sure there is a room parent for each of the 56 teachers in the school. Many parents only wanted to volunteer as room parent if they had a partner to work with. So I am overseeing 90 room parents. The Monday after I got back from my weekend trip, I conducted a room parent meeting about their responsibilities and gave each a folder with papers they will need throughout the year. It was a lot of work assembling those 90 folders! I had to have them all ready before leaving on my vacation and got less than 5 hours of sleep the two nights prior to my trip. Now that that meeting is out of the way, my responsibility isn't so time-consuming. For about 6 weeks though in August/September, I averaged 5 - 7 hours a week doing work for PTO--organizing all the volunteer forms that parents turned in, inputting the data into spreadsheets, coordinating with teachers if a parent hadn't volunteered for their class, creating/collecting Teacher Favorites Lists, and prepping for the room parent meeting. It was SO much work. Most of our Friday night date nights consisted of me holed up in our study room putting in the time to stay on top of my PTO work. Matt wasn't happy about it. Between teaching preschool, piano lessons, my church responsibilities, and PTO, I knew I had taken on too much and was swimming in water over my head.  I just kept telling myself I only had to make it through September and then my responsibilities wouldn't be so time-consuming any more!!!

Another difficult thing about the trip was that I decided to do a whole30 challenge with friends. I felt like I had a sugar addiction where I craved a sugar fix after most meals. I heard that whole30 will change your relationship with food. A close friend that has done it a few times talked about how she had never run faster than while doing whole30. These promises intrigued me, and I jumped on board when 4 other friends said they were going to do it. We postponed starting due to the hurricane and officially started on September 11th. The whole30 eating plan involves giving up all sugar (no sweeteners whatsoever), and cutting out dairy and grains. I'll do a separate post about my experience, but needless to say, it has been very difficult. It was even harder doing it while traveling. I was grateful that Lindsey was willing to put up with my shenanigans in how she cooked for me.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Austin is 2!

Last Sunday, this little boy turned 2! Caleb tells me frequently that he thinks Austin is the cutest toddler ever. His speech has picked up a ton these last few months, and it has been so fun!

He has been my hardest kid in terms of attachment to Mommy and being so needy all the time. The hours after his afternoon nap, when I'm teaching piano (only on 2 days) and typically prepping dinner, he is the most cranky. Since he can talk up a storm now, it has improved some since he can communicate better his needs/desires.

He has also been the most difficult in terms of eating. He is a very picky eater and doesn't like to try new foods that I put in front of him. Often he will take one pinch of a bite, put it in his mouth, and immediately spit it out saying, "Disgusting!" His favorite foods are macaroni and cheese, broccoli (yay!), popsicles, and cereal (Cheerios and Rice Krispies). He's not a big milk drinker--when I offered it to him after quitting nursing, he refused to drink it.

Austin's favorite activities: 


Wagon rides

Playing with/holding babies
(This is his new cousin, Benson)

And helping Mommy in the kitchen

Another favorite activity of Austin's is reading stories. We read lots of stories every day!

Austin opening his birthday presents:
He got this chick that hops out of an egg from Grandma and Grandpa. The chick makes pecking noises until it pops out. Austin loves to scream, "Yes! Yes!" when the chick comes out. He's had a lot of fun with it.

Austin also got this turtle that crawls on the ground and can go in the bathtub as well as a Nemo fish that will swim in the bathtub as well.

Blowing out his two candles

At his 2 year check-up, Austin continues to measure very small for his age. He is under the 20th percentile for his height, so he is going to be short and small like all my other boys (except maybe Carter who tends to favor me the most).  One continued painful problem since he was an infant is his bowel movements. He has a difficult time and always comes up to me and says "Bum hurts. I need medicine." (I will rub some diaper rash cream as a placebo.) It is kind of heart-wrenching every time. We've started adding Metamucil to a beverage every day per the doctor's suggestion to see if that helps.

After a careful examination of his teeth the other day, what I thought was a lateral tooth is actually a 3rd front tooth,  just like Bryson. :(

Lately, when Austin is trying to get my attention and I don't respond right away, he will switch from calling me Mommy to Mrs. Haley, which is what the preschool kids call me. It's really funny. Austin is getting better during preschool; he's also been my toughest in this area as well. He is starting to sit on a carpet and do the activities with the kids, which helps a lot!

When you ask Austin for a kiss, he will lean his head forward so you can kiss his head. He loves his older brothers and copies their words and behaviors. Sometimes the boys like to have too much fun with that. He loves to give hugs. If anyone gets hurt, he likes to run over and give them a hug. He also likes to "hug" animals or people in books.

Austin sleeps and naps really well. He is my first child that will wake up and stay content in his crib for awhile. How nice this is! Due to our previous baseball schedule, he goes to bed at 8 pm every night and wakes up around 7:30 am every day. He takes an awesome 3 hour nap most days in the afternoon. That helps me gear up for the crankiness when he wakes up!

Despite any challenging moments, we are all in love with Austin and so glad he's a part of our family!

Hurricane Harvey

When we got news that Hurricane Harvey was headed our way, we were mostly concerned about losing power and flooding in surrounding areas. Our neighborhood has survived really well in past torrential rainfalls that caused flooding, but we have never been tested with 50 inches of non-stop rain. Friday, the district cancelled school so that people could prepare for the storm, even though rain wasn't supposed to start until Saturday evening. 

Sunday morning I woke up to get ready for church, and there was quite the thunderstorm going on with heavy rain. I was playing the organ so I was up early to allow time for me to leave early and play prelude. At 7:30 am, the call was finally made that church was cancelled (for an 8:30 am church). We still had power, so did some church activities as a family to wait out the storm. We were mostly concerned about Matt's parents who live in an area that has flooded in the past. Sure enough, by Sunday afternoon, the streets outside their home were flooded and they were stuck in their home. Our neighborhood continued to drain well, but we did lose power for about 3 hours Sunday afternoon. We thought we were in it for the long haul and were surprised when the power came back on. The rain did let up on Sunday, which was a much needed respite for the draining. We got a notice Sunday that school would be cancelled for the next few days as Hurricane Harvey wasn't finished.

We had notice that on Monday, water would be released from Lake Conroe so as not to burst the dam. This was bad news for us as the water heads our direction to the large creek outside our neighborhood. Monday at about 1pm, the water on our street stopped draining...and the rain kept coming. It was all fun and games for a little while. The boys had fun splashing in the water and watching cars drive through the water. As a precautionary measure, Matt moved his truck on the big hill across the street from our house since it doesn't fit in our garage.

 The boys enjoyed being outside with Matt who sat with our neighbor and watched about 6 vehicles stall out trying to drive through the deep water. As we continued to watch the water rise and rise in our front yard, I started to get very nervous. We lost power again Monday afternoon, and this time it stayed off until midnight. We shared our generator with our neighbor and ran our refrigerators on it. 

This is our neighborhood ditch, built for potential flooding, full to the top.

While Matt was out Monday evening rescuing some people who chose to evacuate due to the rising water, the boys and I went to work in the house. Matt still didn't think that we would flood, but the water was over halfway up our driveway. I knew that if the rain continued and the water rose at the rate it did during the day, that we would have water in our house that night. Carter manned the flashlights while Caleb and I moved furniture. We moved several pieces upstairs, and when Matt finally came home, he helped with the larger pieces. 

The power coming back on at midnight was such a tender mercy. It gets depressing to constantly be in the dark. Matt woke up periodically throughout the night to check on the water level. I was content to know whatever will happen will happen, and we'll work through it. I should mention that, funny enough, the areas that were close to flooding on Sunday, drained well on Monday despite the rain. We had spent quite a bit of time Saturday night and Sunday morning trying to convince Matt's parents to come to our house, and we got closer to flooding than they did! I was shocked when I watched the water level rise outside our house steadily. I thought the side of the neighborhood closest to the large creek would have to flood before we would, but apparently our street dips lower so all the water came  our direction.

When I woke up Tuesday morning, I really was surprised that the water didn't come in our house. It got 2 feet away from our door and then at 5 am it started to recede. I had been praying all night for the rain to stop!! At that point it seemed we were safe if we survived the two controlled releases from Lake Conroe and the rain finally slowed down. Harvey just sat on top of us and dumped and dumped--the most rain in the shortest amount of time ever in Houston. The flood control district estimated that one trillion gallons of rain fell in 4 days. The amount of damage this storm caused was massive. We had 4 members of our church flood in our ward and since the storm ended, there has been non-stop work to do. Matt spent all day Tuesday helping muck out some homes in our neighborhood. The roads were clear enough on Wednesday that he had to go into work, but most people were off of work for the entire week. School was cancelled until the day after Labor Day. Our weekends consist of me staying home with the kids and Matt gone all day both Saturday and Sunday helping surrounding neighborhoods. Last weekend they went to Beaumont and this weekend they went to southeast Houston where water was finally receded enough to start working. Since the storm, we have only had Sacrament meeting for church each week to allow for as many people as possible to go help.

Because Bryson was asking for it and I thought the other preschool moms and kiddos might be interested as well, I held preschool on Thursday and Friday. Caleb and Carter thought it was so fun to help me, and I really appreciated their help!

Since Matt is much more effective at mucking out homes than I am, I've had to look for other opportunities to serve. He has also been asked to be a crew leader each time he has gone. I got involved with a neighborhood drive to raise money and collect donations to those in our neighborhood that flooded (approximately 35 homes). I left Caleb to babysit while Austin napped so I could sort and deliver those donations. I also have made a meal and helped watch kids, but my contributions feel minimal when there is so much devastation and work to be done.

I am very grateful that our house didn't flood and grateful we weren't without power too long. We did have a boil notice for several days after the storm due to some damage to the pumps.

The boys were excited when they heard they do not have to make up the missed days of school. It was interesting for them to go back since it was like starting all over again. Besides the work on the weekends, life has slowly continued to move back to our normal. Coming up this fall, Caleb will play basketball and Matt is going to coach Carter's baseball team. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Caleb's 10th Birthday

Caleb is 10 years old! His birthday was also my first day of preschool, so I ate lunch with him at school the day before. He also had a Cub Scout pack meeting on his birthday. In his down time, he played with his new Hot Wheels tracks that Grandma and Grandpa Shurtliff gave him for his birthday. He also got a new bike, glow-in-the-dark baseball set and a new Wii game. His Pawpaw and MeeMaw have a tradition of bringing over $10 in quarters for each grandchild. My boys always look forward to that!

Caleb is such an awesome kid! He's a great helper, fun to play games with, great at sports, does well in school, and an accomplished pianist. Any time I have a friendly conversation with Caleb's church teacher about a minor struggle with Caleb, she just can't believe it because she thinks he's the perfect kid: always respectful, pays attention, kind to his peers, prepared for class. He can play well with his brothers but tends to fight with Carter after they've been playing for awhile. He still doesn't like to read or do any chores that require him to get his hands dirty (clean bathrooms, weed). His favorite foods are cinnamon rolls, lettuce wraps, ice cream, and popsicles. His least favorite food is any kind of soup. He claims his favorite color is neon pink. He wants to be a baseball player when he grows up. He's a very cautious kid (wants to wear his helmet etc.) and very aware of germs (refuses to share food or utensils with family members and doesn't want anyone near him if that person is sick). We're excited for Caleb to be in the double digits now!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

1st Day of School 2017-2018

First day of 5th grade at an Intermediate school and first day of 2nd grade.

First day of preschool
(The shadow from his face makes his face look distorted. :o/)

Neither Caleb or Carter was excited to go back to school so it wasn't a great first day likely due to their attitudes. Carter complained that one of his teachers yelled at him for a silly reason (when lining up, he wasn't exactly behind the person in front of him--his shoulder stuck out...according to him) and also complained that he didn't get to go out to recess. After 3 days of no recess because the heat index was above 95 degrees, I finally decided to go to battle to get him recess. (It was the first thing out of his mouth each day when he got home!) I made a complaint about it last year as well and was told that staying inside was for the safety of the children when it is that hot outside. This year, I wrote the principal an email explaining how much my son looked forward to and loved recess. Going from playing all summer long to sitting in classes with little movement, even during PE as they establish rules/routines/procedures is tortuous! My request for a compromise was a modified recess--not the full 30 minutes when the heat index is above 95. It worked and Carter has been happier having the chance to play outside to break up the day.

Caleb was nervous about being in a new school with lockers and new faces. He has enjoyed the later start time, and has done well at getting his piano practicing done before school. The intermediate school is further away, but he still rides his bike to school with friends. He has 3 teachers this year for his core classes and has PE and his elective (choir) daily. So far things seem to be going well. I've been nervous for him!

Bryson was so excited for preschool to start. This is my first time teaching 9am-1pm with students bringing a lunch each time. The extra hour makes me feel less rushed, but it's also exhausting. I'm still just doing two days a week. Bryson loves having his friends come over for school.

In addition to my life already being busy with teaching preschool, teaching 5 piano students, my church calling (Relief Society teacher and Self-reliance specialist), I was asked by a friend to be on the PTO for Caleb's school. I didn't realize quite what I was getting into... Fortunately my position (Volunteer Coordinator) will calm down in stress-level in the next month. Initially my responsibilities of securing a room parent for each class and entering data into spreadsheets (areas where parents are willing to volunteer this year) is taking quite a bit of time.

School is off and running!
(Except for the unexpected cancellation of school on Friday in order to prepare for Hurricane Harvey. So far we're holding up fine, but the worst is yet to come.)

Summer 2017

I'm playing catch-up! Our summer started out with baseball....

Caleb and Carter both played baseball during the Spring season and both did very well!

Carter improved so much during his season, starting out towards the end of his line-up and finishing towards the front. He made the All-Star team and continued to improve in all areas, but especially in his consistent batting. On the All-Star team, he batted first and had some great plays in the outfield! He is a hard worker and was a great asset to his team.

Caleb was a strong player on his team, batting first and playing 2nd base. He had some great plays and great at-bats. He also made the All-Star team, and his team won their district tournament! At this point though, we were very worn out. We already had survived a season of practices for both boys, which then stretched into our summer further while they played on the All-Star team. Caleb's All-Star experience was more intense than Carter's; he had practices every single day except Sunday!! Occasionally the coach gave a mid-week night off from practice, but we felt like we lived at the baseball field. And it was so hot! Caleb continued to get better, and it was a good experience to play with boys that could all play well, but during the games Caleb did a lot of bench-sitting. This affected his self-esteem and the times he was given an opportunity to play, he didn't always perform well after sitting. So when his All-Star team made it to regionals we were all ready to be done and wanted so badly to bow out, especially since the games were 2 hours away!!! We persevered, but those two weeks in July were so tough on the family! The games were from 7-10pm, but Caleb had to be there at 5:30pm. Matt wasn't able to take off work having just started his own company so friends and babysitters helped out. One of us left at 3:30pm everyday and got home after midnight each time. It was so difficult. If it's up to me, we won't be playing All-Stars again! Caleb's team came in 2nd place at the Regional level. (If they would have won, they would have advanced to state!) Once baseball season was finally over, our summer could officially begin!

Summer here means water. We made a weekly trip to the local water park and almost a weekly neighborhood pool visit as well. Carter and Bryson did 2 weeks of swim lessons, and the rest of the summer was games and playing with friends. Caleb and Carter are both obsessed with a dodgeball game called Poison ball, so he and his friends got together several times over the summer to play. It's essentially a dodgeball game that never ends since you can get back in as soon as the person who got you out gets out.

Caleb was also devoted to finishing the Harry Potter series this summer. He did books 4-7 on audiobook though because reading by himself is right up there with weeding the yard or doing chores. (Doesn't he see how passionate I am about reading?!?) We were two peas in a pod this summer with our ear buds and audiobooks. (I like to listen to audiobooks while I clean the house.)

Matt started his own company with 4 other co-owners in March doing the same thing he has done for the last 17 years--in the oil industry selling overhead cranes. This summer he put in lots of time, leaving the house at 6am most days and coming home around 6:30pm. It's been a tough adjustment to see him less when his hours at his previous job had some flexibility.

I stayed busy prepping for preschool. I beefed up my science curriculum big time and added in some new themes for this next school year.

Summer was so relaxing and laid-back that we were all complaining as the start of school grew closer, especially since it started a week earlier than last year. Our summer felt so short this year due to that and baseball!