Friday, June 19, 2009

Recycling and The Orange Show

We went to Shannon & Reagan's brother's All-Star game the other night and had S&R come home to spend the night with us. It was a good thing b/c the game was a disaster for Blake's team. The game didn't start until after 8:00 and we left around 10pm - the score was 2-16 when we left... at the end of the 2nd inning! The only good thing is that McIver ran around making friends and having a ball.

Friday morning we loaded up the huge bags of cans that McIver (with limited help from Olivia) has been collecting. Shannon and Reagan were excited to join us on our trek to the recycle center. The kids thought the whole experience was pretty cool. We had $3.50 worth of cans and received one $2 bill, a dollar coin and two quarters.

McIver had to sign his name on the receipt this time.
We weren't quite ready to end our little adventure so I looked up directions to The Orange Show. It's a funky little monument in east Houston built in 1956 to 'showcase' Jefferson Davis McKissack's love for oranges. Interesting fact: Jefferson McKissack went to Mercer in Macon. The kids loved being able to just run around in the maze, sit in the crazy seats, climb on the sculptures and turn the wagon wheels.

McIver wants to go back 'just one more time before we move, pleeeeeease.'

Lots of mosaics and sayings all around. This is a good one to keep in mind!

They actually managed to be (still) in the same place long enough for a picture.

Olivia with her buddies.

Then, the big kids started to complain about how hot it was so we left.

Bubba's Texas Burger Shack: Round 2

We're trying to squeeze in as much fun with as many people as we possibly can during our last weeks in Houston. So, the other night, we met Mae (Olivia's friend from preschool) and her parents at Bubba's Burger Shack - the one under the freeway with delicious buffalo burgers. The kids had a great time sitting outside and running around. Mae brought her new DSi - a recent birthday present - and, of course, McIver took his box of Bakugans.

We had already decided that Mae would come home and spend the night with us, but the grown-ups weren't finished visiting so we gave the girls my camera and sent them off to take some pictures. Here are just a few shots that we came home with:
Me & Lana


And here are the girls all snuggled up on their pallet in Olivia's room (don't ask me why they wanted to sleep on the floor when she has two perfectly good beds in her room!).

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Love Your Neighbor Cookbook

A friend and fellow Vestry member, Randy Byrd, at Palmer has a blog called Love Your Neighbor Cookbook . Randy is one of the most faithful people I know. He loves working with the youth at Palmer and is a fantastic musician. He's a great cook and loves to be in the kitchen at church. Randy and I went through some 'stuff' together this year as ministry leaders and vestry members - it was not at all pleasant, but Randy held firm and was both faith and grace-filled through the entire ordeal. He and his wife Sherry have been married for 38 years, but you'd think they are still newlyweds when you meet them. They can't take their eyes off each other and it is so fun to see them together.

I'm pleased to say that two of my recipes are included on Randy's blog - neither of them is mine and he included that disclaimer with each recipe. He asked for the Oyster Pie recipe when he heard me talking about it after Thanksgiving last year. And he also included the Shrimp Pilau recipe that I made for the Vestry meeting this week. I've added a link in my sidebar.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Last Vestry Meeting at Palmer

When we moved to Houston 4 years ago, I would never in a million years have predicted how much I would come to love Palmer Church and the people there. We started out just going on Sundays. Once the school year started, Olivia joined the Cherub Choir and we began going every Wednesday evening for Great Wednesdays (choir for Olivia, nursery for McIver and an adult Bible study for me - not to mention the delicious $5 meals for adults and $1 per slice of pizza for the kids!). McIver eventually joined the Cherub Choir and Olivia moved up to the St. Nicholas Choir. I felt like I was missing out on Great Wednesdays, but I just couldn't keep the kids out that late on school nights once Olivia started kindergarten (and school started at 7:50am). It wasn't long before I became active with the ECW (Episcopal Church Women) and was nominated and elected to serve on Palmer's Vestry.

Thankfully, the choir schedule this year allowed for a large group of us to enjoy time together every Wednesday on the playground while the big kids were in choir. The little kids played and we all just enjoyed talking about everything that Moms talk about - politics, child-rearing, schools, husbands, books, and more. The big kids raced down the steps after their choir to play until the bell rang 5:00 which meant the pizza would be arriving soon. The party moved upstairs to Fellowship Hall and we loved that the kids were tired and fed - and we didn't have to do anything to prepare or clean up! We'd all go our separate ways with the promise of doing it all over again the following week. It was usually a highlight of my week - I will miss that fellowship of being with these women who have similar hopes and prayers for their children. (I know full well that I will find a similar group of friends in Columbia - but it certainly doesn't make it easier to leave these friends behind.)

Anyway, Tuesday night was my last Vestry meeting. After the regular business, there was a brief 'celebration' of my time at Palmer. Different Vestry members made some very nice comments about me and how our friendships have evolved over the past few years. We also had a delicious dinner, cake and champagne (a long-standing inside joke at Palmer!). There were quite a few tears on my part, but also a lot of laughing and story-telling. Leaving Palmer will be one of the hardest parts of leaving Houston.

Here I am with Kristen Sullivan, one of our priests at Palmer, and a glass of champagne (in church - shh! Don't tell anyone!)

Bellaire Pool with the Netherys

Went to the Bellaire Pool today with Shannon & Reagan. After a little bit of drama because Reagan and McIver were not tall enough for the slide or high dive, we made our way inside and they all ended up having a great time. There were plenty of other activities to keep them busy... including the most delicious snowballs ever.

Shannon & Olivia during a snack break.
Reagan, McIver & Dominique (the Netherys' neighbor who entertained everyone for a great portion of the day so that Blakely and I could just relax and hang out!).

McIver wouldn't stay in one place long enough for a group picture.

A huge water gun - see, plenty of other ways to keep him entertained!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Merritt/Stricklin KidSwap

There's no denying that our move is fast-approaching. In the interest of spending as much time together as possible, Gay & I kid-swapped today. She took Olivia and Abby to her house (and their neighbor's pool) while I let the boys entertain themselves at our house. There was not a single scream or shriek at either house and there were no hurt feelings or bodies.

The boys spent most of their time playing Bakugans at our house. They started out in the living room with all of the Bakugans and game cards spread out everywhere. They even got out the mini-trampoline to use as their Bakugan Table (I didn't know such a thing existed). After a good little while, they packed everything up and moved out to the garage to do the same thing all over again.

We invited the neighbors over to join in the Bakugan fun. Patrick (the older brother) is really into the whole thing so he was a bit frustrated when Sam & McIver didn't really care to play the way he plays (which is actually the correct way).

Once the neighbors packed up, we went to Chuck E Cheese to play some games. We ran into Mrs. Hunter, McIver's Monkey Class teacher, and her children. Her daughter babysat for us last Friday for Will's graduation so McIver thought it was especially great to see her.

And, we even ran into one of our very favorite Houston babysitters, Miss Toya. She used to work in the nursery at Palmer and babysat on countless occasions. She kept the kids over the weekend that we went to Austin with the Stricklins the first time. She was also the one who dropped everything to take care of McIver the day that Will had his emergency appendectomy. She moved to the Big Apple about 18 months ago and has finished her first year of law school at Columbia. She's home for the summer working for CPS and was at Chuck E Cheese monitoring a visit. We were so glad (and shocked!) to see her. I'm so glad I had my camera!

Once I realized how late it was getting, the boys cashed in their tickets at Chuck E Cheese so we could make one last stop at the pet store. McIver was so excited to show Sam all of the cats, fish, birds and rodents. Sam was particularly impressed with the hamsters and mice. McIver's not actually choking Sam - they were both giggling like crazy at this point!
Both sets of children had a great day. We're looking forward to spending Saturday night with the Stricklins, but I hope that we can somehow manage to keep the squeals and shrieks to a minimum. Either we'll send the kids outside, or we'll move the grown-up party outside!
**Updated to add this picture of the girls enjoying a picnic lunch during their day-o-fun.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

MD Anderson Graduation

It's official, but it not over yet! Will's graduation dinner was held last night at the Houstononian. He received his diploma and an 'heirloom' chair. Even though he's officially graduated, he works until his last check-out on June 29. Then we'll all head our separate ways - Yvonne is probably joining USC (California, not SC!); Mike and his family are going to Louisville, KY and John and his family are moving to Dayton, OH.

Will with his colleagues - Yvonne, Mike, Gwen & John

Trying out their new chairs

Mike, Will, John & Yvonne with Dr. Bodurka, fellowship program director

The third year fellows took over the podium to 'roast' the graduates. They poked a little bit of fun at everyone and presented the graduates with a few parting gifts - Will was the lucky recipient of a bottle of Gentleman Jack, a scrub shirt with a buillt-in bow tie and a bib. Dr. Frumovitz put together a little slide show...

Going Away Party

Several friends from church planned a fantastic going-away party for us on Thursday night. It was a very casual Texas-style (Tex-Mex and margaritas) send-off and everyone had a great time. And there weren't too many tears!

The hostesses are all friends from church: Stacey, Margaret, Gay, Wendy & me
(Courtney and Leslie are missing from the picture.)

Don & Will

"Mom" friends - I'm so lucky that Olivia's friends have great moms!

Mindy's son Bryce was in Olivia's preK and first grade class and McIver adores him.
Emily's daughter Adrienne was in Olivia's kindergarten and 1st grade classes.
Blakely's kids are the twins, Shannon & Reagan - it's going to be tough to leave such dear friends!

Lana's daughter, Mae, went to preschool with Olivia and we've managed to keep in touch despite the fact that they go to different schools now. Lana and I hit it off right from the start so we've been buddies for all 4 years.

And then there's Gay ... 'nuff said.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Peter & the Wolf

Blakely and I took the kids to see the 'musical story' of Peter and the Wolf at Miller Outdoor Theater on Friday morning. I had already thought about going, but when we found out that her neighbor was playing the oboe, we decided we had to go. Let's just say it was a good thing we had the popcorn with us.

I actually enjoyed the first part of the play. Narrators dressed in black told the story while instruments 'played' each character. I think it was hard for the children to follow, partly because it wasn't what they were expecting an partly because they decided it was "boring." After the first run-through, the actors began talking about the instruments and asking the audience which instrument played which part. I was shocked that our kids were yelling out the correct answers (the french horn was the wolf, the oboe was the duck, the kettle drum was the grandpa, the clarinet was Peter, etc.). Then, they acted out the play again in more of an allegory form. Not sure how to explain it - but it was a hit. The actors wore costumes, used the props on the stage and were very animated.
Afterwards, we made a quick trip inside the Houston Garden Center. I had one tired, grouchy little girl on my hands who did not care to be in any pictures, but McIver was more than happy to pose for me.
This picture doesn't do the gardens justice at all, but this is where McIver was chasing butterflies so this is where he wanted his picture taken.
In the pagoda.

McIver's Latest Favorite Toy

McIver was introduced to Bakugans by his buddy Sam Stricklin. It didn't take long to become a hit in our house. They're based on a Japanese (I think) cartoon and are little round balls with magnets that pop open when they land on baseball-type Bakugan cards with magnets inside. A little boy who lives on our street has about 40 Bakugans so McIver packs his (he only has 7, poor thing!) up takes them over to play Bakugan. Apparently, kids trade them and there's some sort of actual game that they can play. McIver's not really into the game yet, but I found this picture on my camera...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Dinner with the Stricklins

We called the kids' latest favorite babysitter, Laura (she brings origami paper and beads to help the kids make all sorts of fun crafts when she comes) and went out on the town Saturday night with the Stricklins. Time is running short, so we have a few special get-togethers planned before moving day.

We met Gay & Don at The Flying Saucer in downtown Houston and then walked to Sambuca, a very cool, hip restaurant. The dinner was great - the music was great (not too loud, but great songs!) and the company couldn't be beat!

After dinner, we went to Hotel Icon for a drink and dessert. Will had a fancy dessert that involved a 4-step process to put each bite together. If you ask me, it wasn't worth the effort. But, we were able to prolong our evening that much longer and had a great night out!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Downtown Aquarium

Will is officially on vacation! It was supposed to start at 5pm on Friday night, but he ended up having an emergency surgery and didn't get home until 2am (to find a little girl sleeping in his bed!). Anyway, he's on vacation now and we took full advantage of it today by going to the Downtown Aquarium (I'm not sure that there's another one but that's what it's called). Olivia had been last month on a 1st grade field trip and insisted that we take McIver before we move because she just knew he would love it. And love it he did!

Posing with "Sharkey" Olivia under the stingray exhibit - she tried to convince me to get under there, but there's no way a grown person can fit.

McIver touching a starfish - it felt like rocks, I was expecting it to be squishy.

McIver figured out how to take a self-portrait (which later costs $8.95 in the gift shop) with the giant white tiger so he's hamming it up for the camera. Glad I was able to take the same picture for free!

Nero, the white tiger, was beautiful. The signs say that they have zoologists and there lots of talk about conservation so I tried not to feel sorry for the tiger. His habitat is supposed to be like the ruins of an ancient Maharajan temple, which seems plush, but it sure doesn't seem natural.

The train ride around the park was cool - we stopped in a shark tank so we could watch several different types of sharks swim all around us.

We actually did the train ride twice so that's how I ended up in a picture with Olivia, too.

Kids on the Aquatic Carousel.