Thursday, May 7, 2015

Cruise - Cozumel

We were at sea the first full day of our cruise and it seemed like everything was madness. We didn't get super involved in the on board activities, but I wanted to go to the gym (because I knew I was going to gain so much weight on the trip) and we wanted to lounge at the pool. The gym was so crowded and hot and sticky. Ugh.

Then we changed and headed out to the pool and there was just about no where to sit. We finally found two seats in the shade, but sadly it was just upwind of the smoking section so every now and then the stench got to us. We swam a little, but the water was so cold (since they filter it straight from the ocean) that it wasn't all that enjoyable to swim. So we ended up going to our room and reading books on our balcony. I can't say enough how worth it I think it was to have a balcony. If (when) we go on another cruise we will most definitely have a balcony.

Our first port of call was Cozumel. We decided that we would splurge and do an excursion at each port. In Cozumel we did the excursion that encompasses the entire time we were at port by going out to some ruins, heading to a lunch and time on the beach and then back to the cruise ship. This ended up being our least favorite excursion (and the most expensive).

First, after disembarking from the cruise ship we had to take a ferry and then a bus. I had been warned that a lot of people get sea sick on the ferry and they weren't kidding. Even with Dramamine I felt so ill - I didn't throw up, but it was close.
Check out my handsome hubby

Those of us who chose this excursion had been divided into 2 groups and handed over to 2 different tour guides. We were really put in the wrong group. Our tour guide was a little on the rude side and (having been a tour guide myself years ago), I really felt like he just made up a bunch of crap. Once we got to the ruins, it was a bit of a walk to actually get to where we could see anything and he kept telling us not the separate and he told us stories about some of the different buildings. I personally felt like he dragged out that part of our time and then when he finally gave us our own time and gave us a time to be back on the bus, it was only 15 minutes. But since we were a 5-10 minute walk back to the bus, that wasn't hardly any time to actually look around ourselves.

We ended up getting back to the bus a few minutes late and we weren't alone. However, after waiting and waiting for the last couple to show back up, they finally made the decision to leave that couple and they left someone who would transport directly back to the ferry so that they could get back to the cruise ship.

By the way - these guys were everywhere at the ruins:

Once we made it to the location where we were having lunch we were given only 45 minutes to eat and swim in the Gulf before we needed to be back on the bus. Justin and I both decided that we would just eat lunch and then walk on the beach because that was hardly time to eat, change, dry off and get back on the bus again. 

Overall this excursion was too much travel time (and then add in the extra 20+minutes that we were waiting for the couple back at the ruins) - but ferry ride from the port and back, bus ride to the ruins, bus ride to lunch and then bus ride from lunch back to the ferry. I think we were traveling between 2 - 3 hours of our time.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

10th anniversary

Justin and I celebrated our 10th anniversary in June of this past year.

We had discussed going on a cruise, but felt like maybe we shouldn't spend the money to go after we had just gone to Disney the December before. However in February after we filed our taxes and realized how much we were getting back and we thought back to how much we saved on our Disney trip (by driving instead of flying, staying off Disney property using my parents' timeshare, and preparing almost all of our meals ourselves without eating out much) we decided to go for it.

My mom agreed to watch our kids and we booked a week long cruise departing out of Galveston that went to Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Jamaica. We decided to go the last week in May (left on Sunday May 25th and got back on Sunday June 1st) so that the kids would still be in school and that way it would be a little easier on Grandma. (What wasn't easier for Grandma was that she had no kitchen to use - the countertop was installed the Friday we were gone but even then our faucet wasn't installed until Monday or Tuesday after we got back. What a trooper Grandma was!)
Bye-bye Galveston with your ugly brown water
We splurged and got a room with a balcony. We LOVED having a balcony. The days we were at sea and we went to the pool, there were rarely chairs to sit in that were in the shade. So sitting by the pool and reading just didn't happen for us - we are too pale to sit in the sun for long. We sat on our balcony probably everyday reading books and enjoying the breeze off the ocean as we traveled.
Our view from our balcony while we read books
We didn't do many of the activities on the cruise ship, but we did do an excursion at each port of call (which is where things get REALLY expensive cruising). We also did two dinners at specialty restaurants on board and lunch once at Johnny Rockets.

We went to the Japanese/Sushi restaurant but since we don't like sushi we did this thing where you cook the meat on super hot rocks at your table. We thought we ordered a meal for each of us and were a little surprised when our food came and there wasn't much for 2 (but it would have been way plenty for 1). But when the check came we realized that they misunderstood and brought us one meal to split, which was fine and filling enough.

Another night we went to the steakhouse on board and it was REALLY good. Almost as good as Ruth's Chris steakhouse. However, in the future I don't think we would do specialty dining - it added to our tab and the food in the main dining room was usually really good without costing extra. Neither of us were very impressed with the buffet/casual dining area's food.

The others assigned to our dinner table were all varied - an older couple who were only there 1 or 2 nights we were there and didn't talk to us much, another older couple who were really nice and we got to know them pretty well and then 2 other younger couples - 1 who were living together and trying to have a baby, the other who had only been dating for a few months or so.

It was weird to us that we were the only ones at our table who had kids at home. Our last night on board the two older couples didn't come to dinner so it was just the 6 of us. That night it was a little strange for Justin and I to be the "older" couple.

Last night on the cruise
I'll post about our excursions later.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Summer 2011

We recently were told a really cute story about Jacob that we weren't aware of before, and I just had to document it. The other day the kids were playing outside and a couple of Jacob's things ended up in our backyard neighbor' yard. When Justin went over to recover the items our neighbor, Holly, told him this story.

Just a little background first.

When the twins were born our lives were thrown into complete chaos. Poor Jacob was often left to entertain himself and play alone while I cared for the twins. As long as the weather was nice in the afternoons, Jacob would play in the backyard. He could frequently be found at the fence, putting leaves or blades of grass through any gaps or holes in our standard 6 ft tall wooden fence. One day he came in very upset and I realized he had been taking his spoons outside and putting them through the fence into our backyard neighbor's yard. I didn't want to load up all the 3 kids to go over and try to get the spoons back so we just waited for Justin to get home from work and he went over and retrieved the spoons.

This must have happened sometime after that.

Holly was working out in her garden or yard and when she looked up she noticed a little set of eyes watching her through the fence. She said hello, but normal for Jacob, he didn't respond. A little while later, she looked up to see a little hand holding out a little flower through a small hole in the fence. She took the flower and thanked him but Jacob just ran off.

A couple more times after that Holly would be doing some work out in her garden and she would notice that Jacob was back at the fence again, holding out a little flower for her.

So sweet.

Monday, January 26, 2015


I went back to work in the fall of 2013. The department chair took it really easy on me and only assigned me two sections of college algebra. It had been over 3 years since I had taught the course and we weren't using the same edition of the textbook, so I had some work to do writing up a plan for what to cover in class, but I decided that it had been so long since I had taught I basically used exams that I had used the last time I had taught the course.

I prepped and graded either at night or while the twins were napping during the day and the only time I felt really stressed was at the end of the semester when I had to have everything done before we left on our Disney trip.

For the spring semester I was assigned to teach Calculus 2 and a course called Finite Math. Finite Math is pretty easy and encompasses a lot of things that come really easy for me, so even though I hadn't taught it for over 4 years at this point I wasn't concerned about teaching that. I was a bit concerned about teaching Calculus 2 - I hadn't taught it since Summer of 2008 so it had been almost 6 years and the material is not easy.

Sure enough, I spent every single night Sunday - Thursday after the kids went to bed re-teaching myself Calculus 2 so that I could teach it to my students. I also spent the twins' nap time usually working on grading, planning out homework assignments for both classes, etc. 

It was such a relief to be done teaching in May just because it was so much work. I was off all summer because summer classes are too intensive for me to teach with little kids.

For this past fall I was given 3 classes - College Algebra, Statistics and Trigonometry. I was excited to teach stats because it had been well over 6 years since I'd had a chance to teach it, but I knew that meant it would probably take a bit more prep work writing exams almost from scratch. I had never taught trig before and I was not very excited about it - I've never cared much for trig and I'd be doing everything from scratch.

Teaching 3 different classes was A LOT of work. I think I worked about as much last fall as I did in the Spring. And my trig students did horrible - worse than any of my students have ever done (although one student aced the class and a couple others got A's). 

I'm currently teaching 3 classes this semester, but at least two of them are the same course just 2 different sections. And I've taught all these classes very recently, so hopefully that means lots less prep time. I'm glad for the extra income in teaching 3 classes, but hopefully I'm not regretting agreeing to teach 3 classes by the time we reach the end of the semester.

Splash Day 2014

Every year toward the end of the school year the PPCD and LifeSkills kids at school have a "Field Day" that is really just a splash day. This past year the Splash Day was happening right in the middle of all of our kitchen construction. I thought I was going to have to miss seeing Jacob and Jeremy at Splash Day, but then a friend offered to come over and be at my house while the workers were there so that I could take Joel and go. Yay!

Joel was a little standoffish at first, but all the kids had a ball.


Jacob covers his ears like this a lot because sounds can overwhelm him
A year ago I was given a lot of forms to fill out for Jacob and even had an interview with a child psychologist about him. Since Jacob had turned 5 and was starting kindergarten in the fall, we were having him evaluated to determine if he is on the autism spectrum or not. We were scheduled for a meeting the week before the kids were on spring break (so during my spring break) to go over all the results.

At first I was going to go to the IEP (Individual Education Plan) meeting by myself like I usually do, but then I decided that Justin needed to come with me.

While we had been assuming for a little while that Jacob had an autism spectrum disorder, it was still a little rough to go through all the things that make your child different, still a little rough to discuss all the things that your child does that aren't necessarily considered "normal" or "typical", and still a little rough to officially be given an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis.

I think that anytime your child does something annoying or that you don't want them to do, you try to teach them to not do whatever the habit is. With Jacob, he is constantly doing the things we try to get him not to do whether it be to play in the kitchen sink, spit just because he likes to watch it fly through the air, scream and throw a fit because something is on TV that he doesn't want to watch (even if it is something that he used to love to watch), etc, etc.

Part of what was upsetting for me was that although I never really believed that he would one day just outgrow a lot of the weird, quirky things he does was realizing that it is going to take more work than I ever imagined to get him to function "correctly" in society. That's a difficult thing to come to terms with. And I hear from people all the time that they have the same struggles with their kids - but I hear these things all the time from people whose children do not have a developmental or behavioral problem which means our struggles trying to teach our children are no where close to each other which honestly just makes it that much more difficult to deal with on an emotional level.

And even though I know not to expect from Jacob what most people expect from their 5 or 6 year old, sometimes it is hard to deal with. The other day I saw a 3 or 4 year old having a discussion with an adult saying "if I pout, Daddy says I can't play". Wow - I feel like I can only dream of my child understanding a concept like that.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

New Kitchen

For a while I'd been wanting to re-do some of our kitchen, but wasn't sure how to re-do parts of it and leave other parts the same. For instance, our counters were in really good shape, but I hated the wasted corner space in two corners of our kitchen and I wasn't fond of the boring beige coloring. A couple years ago or so, we had a water leak under our kitchen sink. We aren't sure how long it had been leaking when we found it, but after we cleaned it up we could tell that the cabinet under the kitchen sink was warped and the cabinet next to it had a moldy smell even after wiping it out with bleach.

So sometime in March last year we went to Ikea for something and I picked up one of their kitchen books. While some of their kitchen cabinets definitely were not anything I might like, some of them looked really nice and they are quite a bit less expensive than most places. I kept flipping through the catalog and even went as far as to measure our kitchen to get an idea of how much it would cost to replace our cabinets.

We knew we had some money coming to us in May so when Ikea ran a special to save 20% on a new kitchen we decided to go for it. We didn't replace our fridge, dishwasher or freestanding range/double oven but we did replace everything else including the garbage disposal, above range microwave and kitchen sink and faucet.

We shopped around and had different people handle different parts of the work in order to save as much money as we could - so we hired a contractor to rip out the existing cabinets and backsplash; install undercabinet lighting; paint the kitchen, breakfast room and family room; rip out a pony wall between the kitchen and breakfast room; relocate the dishwasher to the other side of the sink from where it was; install the new faucet, new garbage disposal and then the dishwasher. We hired a flooring company to rip up the existing tile floor and install the new floor and backsplash. We hired the company associated with Ikea to do the cabinet install and install the above range microwave and Ikea already contracts out the kitchen counter to a company who measured and installed the counter and kitchen sink.

I'm glad that we saved money, but it really was a pain to have so many different people that we worked with and trying to coordinate it all while minimizing the amount of time we were without a kitchen. Most frustrating was that they couldn't come map everything out for the countertop until the cabinets had been installed and then it was a 2 week wait after everything was mapped for the countertop install which meant 2 weeks of no work being done and still not having a kitchen to use.

Here's a little slideshow of the process:

Easter 2014

Easter weekend was also the weekend of my parents' 40th wedding anniversary. We decided that all the grown-ups would go out for a nice dinner together on Friday, April 18th (the night before their anniversary). We went to Texas De Brazil in Fort Worth - it was very yummy and I think we all ate way too much.
Fuzzy and Rick is totally washed out in the backrow, but this was our crew at dinner
But earlier that day we had an Easter egg hunt with my sister's 2 kids. Joel was the most interested in the egg hunt out of our 3 boys.

The next morning we took the boys to ride a train in Fort Worth. We had to wait a while for the train to get there, but it was a nice little ride and super inexpensive.

That night we had the boys set out their Easter baskets for the Easter Bunny to come the next morning. We put the boys to bed and about 10 -15 minutes later Jacob got up and was very intent on checking out his Easter basket. We were pleasantly surprised because this was one of the first times that Jacob has shown eagerness or excitement about a holiday.

Luckily we easily got him back to bed and actually to sleep this time so that the Easter Bunny could come.

The boys were really excited to see their goodies the next morning.

The twins were really excited about the puzzles they got
Jacob was really excited about his Planes underwear
We drove back home on Easter which we are never doing again. Driving back home on Sundays is hard enough because there aren't any ChickFilA's open for the kids to play, but since it was Easter there were so many places closed.

Spring Break 2014

Spring Break last year was actually timed pretty nice. I had spring break the 2nd full week in March like almost every school in Texas, whereas the kids had spring break the next week. At first it was a little aggravating that we weren't going to have the same spring break, but then I realized how nice it would be. There were only 2 school districts in the Houston area that had spring break the 3rd week in March instead of the 2nd week. This meant that we were able to do things like go to the zoo and go to the rodeo without having nearly as big of crowds, and it meant that my spring break was a bit more enjoyable since Jacob and Jeremy were both still in school.

Justin took off work Tuesday through Thursday of the kids' spring break since I had to work that Tuesday and Thursday. After I got off work on Tuesday I was in charge of making 5 dozen cupcakes for a Relief Society activity that night, and Thursday after getting off work we headed to the zoo.
Nutella filled chocolate cupcakes with Nutella buttercream
White almond sour cream cupcakes with strawberry swiss meringue buttercream
On Wednesday we went to the rodeo. We didn't realize until after we'd already decided to go to the rodeo this day that Wednesdays are "bargain" days with discounted entrance fee as well as less expensive rides so it really worked out in our favor since Wednesday was the only day we could go.

When we first got there we let the kids do a pony ride. They loved it, but none of the pictures really turned out very well.

After that we walked around looking at different animals. We knew that the kids just wanted to head to the carnival part of the rodeo, but that didn't open as early as the rest of the rodeo.

We got to see some pig races which I think were only slightly interesting to the kids.

 Their favorite part was definitely the rides and we're glad that they were slightly less expensive on Wednesday because they were pretty pricey.

Rodeo Field Trip 2014

Jacob got to go on a neat field trip to the Houston Rodeo in 2013 and we thought it was a one-time only kind of thing. So I was very surprised to get a notice last January about their upcoming rodeo trip. When I went to the informational meeting the PPCD teacher told me that they were already planning on Jeremy going on the field trip as well (even though he still hadn't been evaluated for the program yet).

They got to go on the field trip the week before Spring Break and again provided us with some of the pictures.

Love, love, love this picture