Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

McIver's End of the Year Program at school was Tuesday night. I tried to get a video the night of the program, but we were just too far away. So, I asked him to sing it for me by himself this morning. He only sang one verse, but you'll get the idea... (Imagine him with a paper plate covered with orange and brown yarn glued all over it to look like a lion's mane and a hole cut out in the middle. It was terribly cute!)

There were about 24 kids on the steps in the Sanctuary during his performance. McIver was the ONLY one who sang the 'huh huh' part leading into the chorus. (He tried to get his buddy Sam to sing along with him but Sam wasn't interested.) He'd been listening to the song on my iPhone for weeks and practicing and was very pleased with himself!

PS: Don't ask me where he got that accent for 'liiiiiiii-on.'

McIver's new pet

McIver still really wants a pet rabbit, but settled for a worm and a snail today. With all the rain we've had lately, there are plenty in the backyard. He has been told that there are NO CIRCUMSTANCES which make it okay for either to come inside our house!

McIver with "Ooey Gooey" the worm

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Children's Museum

Olivia has not had a chance to visit the Children's Museum since their grand re-opening. Actually, the last time McIver and I went, only the outdoor waterpark part was open so there was a lot of new to be seen. They have a 35 foot, multi-story climbing tower in the new Power Play area. The only problem is that there are 3 different levels where the kids can climb in and out. How in the world is a parent supposed to keep up with one child, nevermind more than one!? The space inside the climbing area is far too small for a grown-up, so I just worried the whole time they were inside.

Once they got the climbing out of their systems, we spent some time in the new basement. They have a climbing wall which McIver loved. They also have a scooter race course - the kids sit on scooters and use only their arms to propel themselves through the course. Maybe they'll go to bed on time tonight after using up so much energy!

They always love building a dam with sand, sticks and stones in the EcoStation.
And, Olivia finally spent some time in the WaterWorks!

Japan Festival

Japan Fest was this weekend in Hermann Park. We decided to go since Olivia is taking Japanese at school and this would probably be our last chance to do something like this in Houston. There were lots of booths selling Japanese goodies (fans, umbrellas, Hello Kitty paraphanalia and comic books, etc.) as well as food booths. I couldn't convince Olivia and McIver to try any of the food, aside from the typical and expected snow cone.

I promise Olivia was having more fun than this picture shows.

We saw a little bit of the martial arts demonstration, but the Kofu Daiko (drums) were way more interesting.

We also managed to get a few pictures in front of some Houston monuments...
Sam Houston Monument at Hermann Park

The Reflection Pool at Hermann Park

It was a really beautiful day so we decided the fun wasn't over yet. We made our way back to the car and headed over to the newly renovated Children's Museum.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Day Trip to Galveston

Finally! A weekend with no plans at all. Will was not on call and Olivia's plans changed so we decided to pack up and head to Galveston for the afternoon. We have not been down since Hurricane Ike so it was interesting to see how much is still devastated by the storm. The pocket parks are still there, but the facilities are non-existent. (Last year we were able to use bathrooms and showers, buy snacks and rent umbrellas.) The weather was not as nice as we had hoped, but the kids still had a great time playing in the sand and water while Will and I sat wrapped in beach towels talking about our new house!

Olivia had big plans to dig a huge pool and fill it up with water. (She's wearing her first two-piece bathing suit in years - I'm NOT READY for this little girl to grow up!)

McIver gave the beach a thumbs-up even with all the debris all over the place.
I can't believe I got them to stop long enough for a picture together.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Artwork by McIver

"This picture is of an Easter Bunny."
"McIver in the rain"

Austin with the Stricklins

Will and I went to Austin with Gay & Don last weekend to celebrate one last grown-up hurrah before our move this summer. I took the kids to Parents' Night Out at Palmer to meet up with Olivia, the babysitter. Then, we met Gay & Don at our house, loaded up the car and hit the road.

First stop: Guero's Taco Bar on Congress - It was the Lonestar Rod & Kustom Round Up so there were all kinds of 'kars' to check out. (Lots of 'krazies,' too, for that matter. Austin's logo is "Keep Austin Weird" for a reason!) We did not stop by the hotel to freshen up before going to dinner so we're looking a bit tired in this picture. We didn't get to Austin until 10pm.

After dinner, we checked into the hotel and walked around on 6th Street in downtown Austin. Again, more interesting people-watching. I just don't understand the thought process behind the outfits that some of the girls were wearing. We went back to the dueling piano bar which was a bit of a bust. Maybe we were just tired - or maybe the piano players really weren't that good.

Anyway, we went to bed about 2am and were so glad not to have to follow any schedule at all on Saturday morning. We finally gathered ourselves and headed to our favorite breakfast spot - Kerbey Lane Cafe. Delicious! No trip there is complete without an order of Kerbey Queso - queso cheese with a dollop of guacamole and a basket of chips. We laughed that Kerbey Lane is the only place where you would eat queso and panckes in the same meal and not think twice about it. (I'm pretty sure we made the same comment the last time we were there 'because that's what we do in Austin!')

We wandered around 'the drag' of UT for a little while - more people watching. Some guys with freaky-looking masks were protesting outside of the Scientology building. I didn't really understand their signs or their costumes, but they seemed very proud of their efforts. Since we were far too clean cut to hang around there for too long, we went to the Crown & Anchor pub and enjoyed the beautiful weather.

Will went back to the hotel to nap, but Gay, Don and I decided to wander the other direction down 6th Street. It didn't take long to find Little Woodrow's so Don took a seat at the bar to wait for us. Gay & I found lots of great shops, more grown-up (less loud and freaky!) bars and Z'Tejas where we decided to go for dinner. We couldn't help but laugh at the sign at Little Woodrow's.

We found Mother Eagan's Irish Pub and stopped to listen to some live music and wait for Will to emerge. Dinner at Z'Tejas was delicious!!

After brunch at Magn Cafe, we hit the road to get home. It was a FANtastic weekend. We hope to do it again in 2011 when the SGO Annual Meeting is in Austin.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


We've noticed Murphy having a hard time going to the bathroom lately. Took him to the vet in December where they ran some tests, gave him some prescription dogfood and put him on some arthritis medication. He seemed to get a little better, but then started barking in the night to be let out which was really unusual. I took him back to the vet last week and we got some sad news.

Murphy has a tumor on his bladder. The vet seems to think that it is to big to be removed, but we are going to take him to an oncologist to get a second opinion. (We don't really trust this vet's ultrasound machines because they missed Murphy's kidney stones two years ago.) If the vet is right, then we'll have about 3-6 more months with him.

Murphy still loves to play with the dummy, go for runs and bike rides and wags his tail whenever you look him in the eye. So, we have decided not to tell the children the news yet. We're just making a point to really love on him and treating him to some Scooby Snacks (McIver picked them out!) which had been a forbidden delicacy. Please keep him (and all of us) in your prayers.

We got an offer on our house!!

Last Thursday after school, I took the kids to Randall's to get them a cookie (for them) and an iced coffee (for me). My phone rang while we were there and our realtor was calling to tell us that we had an offer on our house!! We made a counter-offer which was accepted. The inspection was this morning so now we're just waiting to hear what was found. We're prepared for a few things (things that we never repaired as a result of our inspection 4 years ago) and are praying that there aren't any surprises.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

McIver Riding his Bike

Easter Sunday

Will was on call for Easter weekend so we did not make plans to go to church Sunday morning. He had to round so the kids and I made plans to do absolutely nothing. The forecasters had called for thunderstorms Easter morning so we were looking forward to just staying in our PJs most of the morning.

Olivia woke up first and seemed to have forgotten about the possibility of a surprise from the Easter Bunny. But when she got to the kitchen, she shrieked and then ran back to my room to tell me that her basket was full. She didn't even know what was in it yet!

Purple Crocs, Sleeping Beauty, Hannah Montana toothpaste and stickers, some bubble gum and a few Easter eggs filled with quarters and Chuck E Cheese tokens.
We'll never know how long McIver would have slept because Olivia woke him up as soon as she finished checking out her basket. His was very similar - new Crocs, gum (which didn't last the day) and the Prince Caspian movie.
The weather was overcast for a while and it did eventually rain buckets, so we curled up watching movies (Prince Caspian and Homeward Bound) and waited for Will to come home. He called to check in on his way and we decided to celebrate Easter with a KFC lunch. Maybe we'll host a fancy Easter dinner next year in our new house!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Eve

Easter Eve Family Service at Palmer

McIver in front of the church
Olivia singing with St. Nicholas Choir -
She was excited because they sang from the choir loft and from the front steps.

Olivia & Abby on the playground after the service

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Hannah Montana - The Movie

Our friends Mae and Lana invited Olivia to go see Hannah Montana: The Movie on Friday because no one had school. I couldn't stand the thought of not seeing it with them, so McIver and I tagged along. It was hard to tell who was more excited, the kids or the moms.

A quick picture with the movie sign while we waited for Mae and her mom.
We had lunch at Harlow's, the restaurant in the movie theatre. Lana brought the words to the Hoedown Throwdown so we could learn it while we ate lunch.
I treated myself to a Flip video camera for Easter. Here's one of my first videos - McIver singing the Hoedown Throwdown. He's pretty good!

McIver always has 'breakfast for lunch' at Harlow's (not that we eat there that often!). His waffles came with a strawberry compote, but when the waitress brought it, she called it 'compost.' I don't normally take pictures of food, but that was just too funny!

Olivia and Mae with the movie sign

To top it all off, the movie was great! We all loved it and would easily go back to see it again.

For the grand finale, here are the kids doing a few steps of the Hoedown Throwdown after the movie.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Palmer Family Retreat - Horseback Riding

Horseback riding at Camp Allen went much more smoothly this year. Olivia was nervous but eager to ride the horse this time around. She had plenty of time to get used to the idea and knew that it was okay if she decided to back out.

Here she is atop Shug. Check out that grin.
McIver popped up on top of his horse, Chuck, like he's been riding all his life.
After a few laps inside the arena, they took the horses out for a quick walk around the pasture. Still smiling!

McIver & Olivia after their ride.

Abby & Olivia posing on the gate.

Palmer Family Retreat - Fishing

Fishing at the Family Retreat this year was a team effort and an exercise in patience. Every child who wanted to caught a fish. McIver caught the first fish again this year. Olivia caught one the second her line hit the water. Last year we fished with canned corn, but the fish seemed a whole lot more interested in our bread this year.

It turned out that fishing from the shore didn't work so well.

McIver with his catch, grinning from ear to ear.
Olivia was quite pleased with herself, but not interested in holding her fish.
It's a good thing Will was there because I would have had to cut the line to let the fish go.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Palmer Family Retreat - Miscellaneous

We spent last weekend at Palmer's Family Retreat at Camp Allen, near Navasota, TX, with several other families from church. This was our second year going and we loved it. This year's 'theme' was the Sabbath. A priest and her husband joined us from Dallas to talk about the importance of rest, observing the sabbath and how we can incorporate it into our lives. We came away with some good ideas and did feel pretty well-rested at the end of a fun-filled yet relaxing weekend.

Again this year, Gay and I drove up with the children right after school with the hope that we would miss some afternoon traffic. It worked and the kids did a great job of getting along on the drive up. Olivia and Abby tried to come up with cheers for our cabin - Cabin 8.

First thing's first - gathering in 'the pit' to hear the camp rules.
(One of our cabin rules was 'no kids in the cabin unless they have permission from an adult.' This one was instituted after I came into our cabin and found kids throwing, literally, food across the cabin from one top bunk to the next.)

The marshmallow roasting/s'more making was a bust this year because the Camp Allen folks did not have the fire set-up for us. Our kids played on the playground and ran around for a little while and then were ready to head back to camp to wait for the dads. The other families who stayed ended up making mock-s'mores by putting their flashlights in the fire pit. I hate that we missed out on that, but our kids were ready to start settling down.

We had several sessions of 'group time' with our leaders for the weekend. Each family made a "REST" poster. Olivia wrote the word 'rest' in the middle of our poster and then each of us drew pictures of different activities that we find restful. We drew the ocean, a hammock, Olivia's bed and a sea monster, along with several other things. Since Will had not arrived by this point, he added a golf course and Corona Light to the poster later.

The Stricklin & Merritt kids on the steps of Cabin 8

There are a lot of things to love about Camp Allen. McIver's favorite thing was going through the food line and making his own plate. Pickle anyone?

Gay and I joined in one of the group times while Will & Don took the kids to the lake for canoeing. McIver was bored by the whole affair, I think because he didn't get to paddle or have a seat. Who can blame him?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Spring Break 2009 - Part 5

I took a day off from skiing one day to wander around all of the villages of Vail. One of my favorite stops was this little general-store-type shop. It was full of candy in old-fashioned apothecary jars, all kinds of souvenirs and this little perch for the shop dog. He had the perfect spot for people-watching - what a life!

Since the kids had been in ski school all week long, we decided to get them out early on Friday so we could ski together. McIver had had a guy instructor all week long, but Jessie was his instructor for the last day. I'm sorry that I don't have a picture of the fellow, but Jessie seems to have a special place in McIver's heart.
McIver made me a nervous wreck on the chair lift! But, isn't he super cute all bundled up with his helmet and goggles?!

He loved showing me this 'jaguar legend tunnel' that the ski instructors use to help teach the kids.
McIver did a really great job with his skiing. He can turn well, if he so chooses; he just doesn't often choose to turn. He prefers to squat down on the backs of his skis and go straight down the slope.

Then, when he gets near the lift line, he just sort of splays out ... like this. Don't worry, no one was injured!

Olivia really liked ski school a lot. She had the same instructor, Andrew, all week. At the end of each day, the instructors gave us a pretty detailed report of what was covered. Olivia was able to go up the gondola pretty early in her ski school career, which made her feel like quite the accomplished student. She also made a friend or two. I didn't get to take too many pictures of Olivia because she ended up skiing with Will. She had no patience for McIver and all of his falling and taking 10 minutes to gather himself and get up.

I knew we were in trouble when Olivia said those dreaded words: Mom, follow me! (Dawn's dad had warned me that it would come.) She wanted to take me to a run called Chaos Canyon which is an old bobsled track. It's perfect for teaching the kids to turn and really not as scary as it sounds. My problem with following her was that Will was stuck with McIver, I didn't have a map and had no idea if she really knew where she was going or not. She was not at all happy that I made her wait for her brother. Chaos Canyon ended up being lots of fun. I am convinced that I'll need to take a lesson next year so that I can keep up with my children on the slopes!