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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Haircuts

Somebody's hair was getting long! Not ponytail long, but there was some serious shag around the ears and it was driving a certain Daddy crazy.


 So we headed to Cartoon Cuts. Alex was a bit uncertain about the haircut at first, lots of trepidation on his face, but he held still, didn't fuss and ended up really enjoying it.


Not to be outdone, big sister requested a "really little trim, I still want hair like Rapunzel." This was Gretchen's first non-mommy haircut. She was really excited about the spray that smelled like grapes and getting to watch Lightening McQueen while getting the trim.

And this is our 10.5 month old's SECOND salon cut. He has this amazing mop of hair that makes him look like a mini-grown up.

I can't stand the cuteness!

You know who didn't  need two haircuts at 10.5 months? This girl!! Although look at how similar these two rugrats look with similar haircuts. Clearly siblings.

Haircuts done, we are trimmed and ready for the new school year that just started on Wednesday. Gretchen anticipated her first day for a week or so beforehand, and was prepped and ready to go Wednesday morning. When did she become such a big kid?

These little chicos are becoming big chicos before my very eyes. Between Alex's haircut and two (!) new front teeth, and Gretchen's tallness and enthusiasm for school, before I know it they will be sleeping in on the weekends and having sleepovers. Phew, I'm having trouble keeping up!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Visiting Virginia

With the summer in full swing, we packed up and headed to Virginia with a smile for our first visit since moving back to the US. It is amazing how much easier the trip is when; 1) the flights are short, 2) we are not traveling across the border and 3) the seasons are the same in both the origin and destination locations. This trip was extra special because the last time I was in Virginia with the kids back in February, my mom was just starting treatment for stage 3 non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. She has since completed her treatment, and we found out during our visit that she has beaten the disease! She plowed through treatment and is in full recovery mode - take THAT cancer! Needless to say, it was good to be with family.

We spent most of our time at my parent's river house, a complete oasis of a place out in the Northern Neck. If I'm being totally accurate, it is actually their Rivah house (at least that's how everyone refers to it locally) but I'm not sure anyone is really wrapping their minds around that one.

We spent time grilling out, feeding the fish and swimming in the pool. We even had a few days together with Gran and Poppa, though I was (again) terrible about taking photos. Jon wasn't able to stay more than a couple of days, but he got a lot accomplished in that short timespan.
  

Long enough to become a master crabber with me. We caught, steamed and picked the crabs - who knew we are outdoorsy?!?

We caught the crabs right off of my parent's dock, it was super cool! Look at how brave Brook is holding these live crabs - she was right in the thick of things!

And we had a chance to finally recognize a huge milestone in my Dad's life, retirement! After 38 years, he completed his professional career back in March - and it's taken this long for the family to be together to celebrate. Congratulations, Dad, you deserve lots of rest and relaxation.


We also received the best news of the year during this trip - this picture was taken the night that we found out my mom is cancer free! Greatest. News. Ever.

Great enough to take a hilarious silly-face photo. My favorite part of this picture is Alex looking at his Papa Mas.

The captains in our family have come a long way from their boating abilities of last year. It was great to be out on the water, we got to see porpoises, eagles, ospreys, nature all around.

Gretchen loved going down to the little beach, watching the small crabs crawl around the shore and throwing snails into the water. It was great to share these little moments with our cousins from Austin - they joined us for the last few days of our trip. Gretchen is completely infatuated with Jenna and Brook and the girls are patient, kind and wonderful with the kids.




We had so much fun enjoying family and the outdoors. Gretchen keeps talking about wanting to go back to the beach - especially now that we are in the thick of a Houston summer. We are so glad to have such a fun summer oasis to visit for years to come!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Aunts and Uncles and Friends, Oh My!

We have had a busy month! Between hosting family at our home and visiting family in Virginia, it has been a month of new friends for Alex and lots of spoiling for Gretchen.  It has been a great month.

It started with a visit from the Gura family, our cousins in Austin that came for a quick weekend in early June. We lit up the fire pit for the first time - sparking Gretchen's obsession for collecting twigs for the fire - and swam until way after bedtime only to get up and swim the next morning too. It's hard to believe that all of these years our Texas cousins seemed to live so far away - now it's just a short drive to see each other.
Rob and Alex watching the action in the pool
Gretchen swimming with "my cousins"
A week later we were thrilled to host Kyra and Ted, who are fantastic with their niece and nephew. We spent time in the pool, played with stickers and enjoyed an extended spring in Texas.

There were lots of selfies involved:


Gretchen was even treated to unicorn shaped pancakes. It was, perhaps, the best breakfast of her life. While they were here we booked a future trip to San Francisco. We are going to take full advantage of living closer to the Aunts and Uncles in our lives.
It was great, we had fun, I'll bring the camera out more next time. We did take some time that weekend to celebrate Father's Day, which resulted in this adorableness:
Celebrating Daddy Day
We are so happy to have our friends the Newhooks in Houston so that we can spend fun times with them once again! It is great to see our newest little ones getting along as well as our rambunctious 3-year-olds do.
Giana and Alex getting to know each other
Daddy love all around
A few weeks later, we were thrilled to meet our FIRST niece, Eve, and introduce Uncle Dan and Aunt Lian to their new nephew Alex. It was an introduction of cousins, and it was incredible to meet this little person we have thought of, read about, exchanged pictures of and loved way before we ever met her. Look at this little princess on a most patriotic day:

And a throwback to our little butterball on her first Fourth. I love that her clothes are getting a second life:

I also love spending the Fourth in warm weather:

How fun that we have had so many visitors in the first few months after our move! It helps us keep motivated to be settled into our house, and reminds us of how good it is to live near family and friends. The pool is getting lots and lots of use - I am so thankful that our house has a pool and was available the weekend we were searching!

The friends and family visits are going strong, but first we made a trip to Virginia to see our grandparents in July - a trip that deserves a post all its own!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Before and After

Back in February, we were thrilled to find a house that we loved, in a great neighborhood, ready to move into the day we landed in the US. To be precise, we closed on the house 24 hours after landing - virtual perfection. The trouble is that with an international move, especially one from a country with questionable import/export restrictions, you end up waiting for your belongings for anywhere from two to five months. We were thrilled to hear that our wait was on the short end of that range, and after a mere 7.5 weeks in Houston, our shipment arrived.

Let me note that those 7.5 weeks were very long and echoey in our big empty house. We were thrilled to see our things again.

On the other side of that coin, we sold lots of items in Argentina that we knew weren't going to convey well into our new home. This allowed for lots of home goods shopping, and lucky for me, Jon's parents came to town to help with the transition and his mom was willing to come along and lend her eye to the cause. We did a LOT of shopping. In a matter of days (weeks if you include the delivery time), our living room went from this: 
Note the priority item, chosen by Daddy
 To this:

We also purchased an entire master bedroom set and my parents sent us my childhood bedrooms set for Gretchen's room. There were 3 rooms that had lots of furniture, the rest of the house was pretty sparse.

The other positive side of living in a half-empty house for a few weeks is that you can take stock of anything you want to change - and get the changes done without having to move furniture. There were some unfortunate paint choices made by the previous owner and one DIY project that (in my opinion) was a bust, so we had an easy opportunity to make some design changes.

The dining room before and after is probably my favorite. Before:

The room was incredibly dark, with lots of conflicting patterns and textures. The yellow paint sample was my own doing...
After:

So much lighter, a wainscoting rail and in general, a much simpler look. Score.

There is a landing at the top of our stairs that we are using as a kid's playroom. When we looked at the house it was more of a game room/pool table area, including some mirrors and a drink bar. 

Before:

Pay no attention the random assortment of toys and knick knacks everywhere. Again, a super dark space and the design was not cohesive with our idea of a playroom. No to mention that I had a serious dislike for those mirrors.

After:

We added some much needed storage to the room and some additional sleep space with the pull out couch for future sleepovers (kid or adult varieties).

Let me add that none of these projects were of the do-it-yourself variety. While I'm happy to take on little decorating projects, big woodworking is not something we were prepared to dive into, so we used a contractor named Tom Stump with Stump Custom Cabinets. He was prompt, did much of the work himself and was more reasonable than I had expected going into these projects. He completed two built in cabinets (including the one pictured above), removed the mirrors/drink ledge and personally installed the wainscoting. If you're in the Northern Houston area and looking for a contractor, I highly recommend him.

I am pleased to report that with the completion of these rooms, we have unpacked our last box! The actual unpacking and reorganizing will go on for a while yet, but there is something exhilarating about not having to open anything else. Now it's just putting things away. Also, exhilarating holds a different meaning when you're in your 30s.

The house is coming together. It has a much more "moved-in" look and we're feeling more steady on our feet in Texas. Gretchen has stopped asking about "the next time we put all of our things on a ship...", and Alex is consistently sleeping through the night for the first time since the whole moving transition began so we feel like the kids are getting settled as well.

Now we can focus on important things like standing...

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Brotherly Love

Pre-baby silliness
I spent a wonderful weekend on a girl’s get together with friends that I haven’t seen in a (what felt like a) lifetime. More specifically, all of us have had our second (or third) child since we saw each other last – so it has been the lifetime of our kids – but a lifetime nonetheless. We gabbed about all sorts of things, but one topic in particular made me remember how far we have come with our family since Alex was born. I’m thrilled to say that our kids love each other now, but this was not an altogether smooth transition from one to two children for us – and I’m relieved to know that we are not the only ones that had a tough period to work through.

Gretchen was two years and seven months when Alex was born. She was a happy, fun, energetic little girl that potty trained perfectly, loved her frequent weekend morning trips with Daddy only (I was horribly uncomfortable at the end of my pregnancy and Jon was great about giving me mornings alone) and in general, seemed to be unaffected by my huge belly or the impending baby-to-be. Then, September 20th happened. 
Not sure what to make of this intruder

For the next six weeks, our fun-loving little girl turned into an angry, frustrated, whiny, difficult child. She went from a self-sufficient, confident kid to needing to spend every moment with Mommy and then spending many of those moments angry with Mommy.

In many ways, we were lucky. She didn’t regress with potty training. She wasn’t aggressive or difficult with the baby. But as parents, you can’t always see the clearing through the weeds and we were terrified that this was her new personality. Grandparents came to the rescue. Between Grammy, Papa Mas, Gran and Poppa, we had multiple weeks of extra people doting on Gretchen. I’m convinced that this is what made the difference. She still had some incidents of being frustrated, but I think her “Bank of Attention” just needed to be filled. Two exhausted parents, one recovering from a c-section, just weren’t enough at the time. After the grandparent visits, our fun loving girl was back.

A little zoo time was just what the doctor ordered
Reading with Gran puts a smile on my face!
Suddenly baby brothers aren't so bad...
Once the hurdle was cleared, she refers to her brother as “my baby”, makes him laugh, makes him smile, suggests foods that he might like and has become that mini-momma that I was hoping for. She helps with diapers, hates to see him sad and understands that sometimes Mom and Dad need to spend extra time with the baby.  Their relationship now is something that I am excited about, especially now that Alex is more mobile (yikes!), responsive and not such a little-ball-of-baby. Granted, she’s not thrilled about sharing her toys and loves to scold him with a “Buddy, NO!”, but I’ll take that any day over the sad, frustrated, Ms. Hyde of a little girl that we knew during the month of October.

And now the two of our children together melt my heart:






I write this now to remind myself that it wasn’t always fun and roses, there is an adjustment period for everyone when someone else joins the family. Though this adjustment can be difficult, I take solace in knowing that my family is not the only ones to go through it. For anyone ready to bring home another baby, things most definitely will be hard at times, but chin up! I hope that there are incredible sibling moments on the horizon for you as well.