Thursday, June 30, 2011

Vivienne Bedtime Cuteness (Video)

This is mainly for the grandparents.  No mind-blowing excitement here. She's just so cute.

Bon voyage, Rav4!

Well, my little black Toyota Rav4 just drove away with its new owner.  We sold it for the price that we listed it for (a fair price, I think).  The new owner is a young lady who just graduated from college and is moving to Missouri to teach 7th grade history and coach squash.  Her aunt and uncle, who were helping her buy the car, go to our church.  Small world!  She was the first person to test drive it.  The whole process almost seemed too easy.

I'm very excited for her, because I think this is a great car to start her new life.  However, I do have to admit that it was a little hard to say goodbye to that car.  We brought our babies home from the hospital in that car.  It carried us around as a family of four for nearly a year.  I loved my little black Rav4, but I'm glad that she's in good hands.

Good, Kitty!

We have two cats, Noah and Chloe.  They have all of their claws, but they have never scratched anyone (at least not on purpose).  They are the sweetest kitties.  Chloe usually hides upstairs in our room during the day, but Noah likes to hang out with the babies, even though Miles is crawling and grabbing his fur like crazy.  Noah doesn't really run away.  He'll move a few feet away from Miles.  Then Miles will crawl up to him.  Noah will look at me like,"Seriously, can we please take this thing back where it came from?" and then move a few feet away again. 

Good, good kitty.

Not a single scratch.

Miles' First Tooth

Miles got her first tooth a few weeks ago, and it's still pretty small, but it's there.  I finally got a picture of it yesterday.  Vivienne only has her 2 bottom teeth, and Miles just has this one tooth on the bottom.  I can't believe that they only have 3 teeth between them and they are almost a year old!

Digging In

Vivienne is so cute when she stands up.  She still only stands when she has something to hold onto.  She's too nervous to let go.  I think she thinks she's going to fall (which she has done a few times), but she has very good balance.  When she's standing up, she digs her little toes into the carpet, like she's holding onto the carpet with her tiny little feet.  One of the million reasons I love this baby girl...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Legacy of Love

Thomas Alexander Houston was an incredible man.  He loved his beautiful red-headed wife, Nancy.  He loved his family.  He loved golf.

He was strong - very strong.  I remember him having these big, thick sailor arms.  He always looked to me like he could lift a car with one hand if he really wanted to.  I will always remember him with those big, strong arms.  They were extra handy for giving hugs.

Pop Tom raised one of my best friends, Rusti.  He was a great (grand)father.  When I would go spend the night at their house, we would get up early on Sunday mornings to get breakfast with him at Tate's in tiny, sleepy Manchester, Georgia.  Then we would head off to church with him.  I remember that they had free donuts.  We always looked forward to the donuts.

Pop Tom introduced me to the heavenly glory of buckwheat pancakes.  On Saturday mornings, he would make us buckwheat pancakes with bacon.  There was no skimping on breakfast when Pop Tom was cooking.

When I wrecked my dad's car on my 16th birthday (long story), he handled the entire situation so gracefully.  One would expect him to yell at us or at least "give us a good talkin' to", but he was forgiving and gracious and loving even after one of the biggest screw-ups of my life.

Pop Tom and Gamma even came to my college graduation.  They drove all the way up to Atlanta to celebrate with me and cheer me on.  It meant so much to me that they would drive that far to support me.  It's hard to believe that that was the last time that I saw them in person.  

Pop Tom was a patriot.  He served in the Army during WWII and the Korean War and was awarded a Purple Heart.  I will always remember his heart. 

We will miss you, Pop Tom.  I can't wait to see you again someday.

Now, THAT'S a Yard!!

I promised better pictures of our yard.  Luckily, it absolutely poured yesterday evening.  This gave our new lawn a much needed boost of moisture.  Here's what it looked like this morning.

Here is a reminder of what a cross-section of our "grass" used to look like:

And here is what it looks like now:

I also wanted to post a picture of my amazing deal of a hutch that I got at 90% off last week.  Yes, folks, I got this for $35.80.  It's all wood - 72 inches tall, 4 feet wide, 2 feet deep.  Don't hate me because of my awesome deal.  ;-)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Father's Day Cards

I ordered special cards for Jason for Father's Day.  I wanted to scan them and include them in the blog so that we have them in our printed blog books someday.  Here are his first Father's Day cards.

Miles & Viv Like the New Ride

We're loving the Sienna!  So much more room!

Curb Appeal

Over the past month or so, we have made steps to dramatically improve the curb appeal of our home.  Our yard was never very pretty, but over the past few months it was probably one of the worst yards in the entire neighborhood.  We knew that we were going to have it redone, so we didn't want to waste any time maintaining it.  Here is an actual picture of what our "grass" (I use the term "grass" VERY loosely here) looked like:

Honestly, this was one of the greener sections.
We had a major drainage problem in the front yard.  When it would rain, we would end up with a moat in front of our house.  This was great for keeping out bandits and evil doers, but it wasn't very attractive.  So, we brought in a landscaping company (thanks to Adam at The Natural Accent for the beautiful work!) to till up our entire yard, grade it, fix our swale and lay zoysia.

For the past couple of weeks, I have spent many, MANY hours out in the yard digging holes, moving dirt around, planting plants, mulching, etc.  Here are a few before and after photos.  These pictures aren't great because I took them on an incredibly hot day when the grass was really thirsty.  After we water it, it greens up very quickly.  I'll have to take more pictures when it's nice and watered.

Our pitiful yard

New sod and beds

Ruby lorapetalum, knockout roses, purple pixie lorapetalum, firepower nandina, dwarf gold thread cypress

Before - you can see the big brown patch where our old Bradford pear used to be




Japanese maple, camellia, gardenia and azalea
My gardenias and azaleas have already bloomed.  The gardenias smelled heavenly as you approached our front door.  The Japanese maple should only get 6 to 8 feet in diameter, so it should make a beautiful addition to the front of our home.

The previous owners had planted 2 bizarre, unwieldy honeysuckle bushes on both sides of the sidewalk in front of the columns.  They were awful.  I was so glad to replace them with Green Spire Euonymus.

Two super cute lawn ornaments

My beautiful girl eating enjoying the new grass
I also planted a lot of plants (rhododendron, azaleas, hydrangeas and a few others) around the back of the house.  I'll take pictures of those soon.  I can't wait for all my plants to grow and bloom. 

We plan to have Adam and his crew lay sod on the left side of our yard in the next few weeks.  I have a few plants that I'm going to put on that side of the house as well (Texas quince, barberry, crepe myrtle, blueberries).  Luckily, a nursery nearby was having a ridiculously awesome sale and I got a TON of plants at 90% off.  I also got this enormous wooden hutch for $35.80 (90% off of $358).  I'll have to post a picture later.

We also plan to eventually paint the shutters and door of our home black.  We're not huge fans of the muted blue color, and some other homes in our neighborhood look very classy with black shutters and doors.  That probably won't happen any time soon, though.

Sleeping Through the Night (Again)

Since our trip to Cleveland last month, Vivienne and Miles have stopped sleeping through the night.  I think the travel just threw off their groove, and they started waking up once a night to nurse.  I don't really mind nursing them at night, but I have to admit that full nights of sleep are wonderful.  Luckily, for the past 3 nights or so (except for one other night terror Miles had earlier in the evening around 9 PM), they have been sleeping through the night again.  Now, if I can just get them to sleep a little later than 6:30.  That is SO early!!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Swagger Wagon

 What's that you say?  You think I have some extra swagger in my step?  Well, I just might.  Last week while my mom was here, we spent the weekend out test driving vans.  We had it narrowed down to either the Honda Odyssey or the Toyota Sienna, but after driving a few, I decided that I liked the Sienna the best.  I'm not sure if this is because I already drive a Toyota (Rav4), so the Sienna just feels familiar, but I definitely liked the interior of the Sienna better.

We didn't want to buy a brand new van, because we didn't want to eat the depreciation of the first few years, so we knew that we wanted to buy used.  I have been looking on Craiglist for Siennas for sale by private owners, but found very, very few in our range (55-80k miles).  Most individual sellers were selling vans with well over 100k miles, and that's just too much for us.  So, we bit the bullet and started looking at dealers.  (I just threw up in my mouth a little just thinking about it.)

We found "the van" at Toyota of Apex.  It was just the right amount of van - Sienna XLE, both power sliding doors on the side and power rear door, which are a huge help with twins.  It also has some other features that I don't care about - an upgraded stereo and alloy wheels.  Seriously, it's a VAN.  Nobody is going to be checking out my sleek alloy wheels.  But, luckily, it didn't have leather or the DVD or navigation, because we really didn't want to pay the extra money for those.  We would rather have a removable DVD that we can use for trips, and we already have a Garmin and 2 iPhones, so navigation is really unnecessary.

After MUCH negotiating and walking out of the dealership (right when they slid the buyer's agreement across the table with a $500 "documentation and processing" aka pickpocketing fee)... after a few tears and a few choice words (at least I cried when we got back to our car - I was so angry at how the conversation went that I just lost it)... we got our van at an awesome price.  I feel really good about it in the end.  We got them to lower the price of the van to compensate for the ridiculous fee (which, after some research, is apparently something that all the dealerships do around here - totally boggles the mind).  I think we probably got that van for about as much as we would have paid for it from a private seller in the end.

And here is my new baby - 2005 Toyota Sienna XLE, 74k miles.  She looks practically brand new.  The previous owner took excellent care of her.

I have now gone from a hot little blue Mazda Miata to a still somewhat cool black Toyota Rav4 to a baby blue Swagger Wagon.  My cars just keep getting bigger.  What's next?  A school bus?  I hope not.  (Though I would be an OFF THE HOOK awesome school bus driver, wouldn't I?  The school kids would love me.)

Thanks to Mom for babysitting while we test drove the vans and for the emotional support after the evening of failed negotiations.  Thanks to Jason for helping me test drive all these vans.  And thanks to Toyota of Apex for giving us a great van at a great price in the end.

Grandma and Granddad Visit

My mom and dad came to visit us over the past week.  Mom came first - arriving the Friday before last, and Dad flew in from Singapore (he was there for work) on Tuesday.  It was a great week with family. 

We horsed around.

We had crazy hair days.

We played with Grandma's iPad.

We tried on Granddad's Boeing hat.

We took a few dips in the neighborhood pool.

And we crashed after having too much fun with Grandma and Granddad.

The Pool Aftermath
Thanks, Grandma and Granddad, for coming to visit us!  We can't wait to have you come again!  We love you!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

First Father's Day


... are some lucky babies, because they have this guy...

... as their dad.

Jason is an incredible father to our two children.  He is a "hands on" daddy - not sitting on the sidelines. 

Jason goes to work every day and works hard to support his family.  He gets up early and helps me get the babies started with their day - changing diapers and cleaning up the kitchen after their breakfast.  He spends all day at his job (running or swimming during his lunch hour every day so that he doesn't miss out on time with me and the kids) and comes home eager to jump right in.  As soon as he walks in the door, he either picks up one of the babies or plops down on the floor to play games with them and make them giggle.  He helps feed them at dinner time, gives them baths and reads them books every night before bed.  When they wake up for 4 am feedings, he gets out of bed and brings them to me so that I can nurse them.  When they're done eating, he gets back up to change their diapers and tuck them in bed.  He even did this early on when the babies were waking up 3 and 4 times a night EVERY night.

Jason does seemingly little things that make a huge difference to me.  He sifts the kitty litter every day.  He takes out the trash every day.  He vacuums the floors on the weekends.  He puts the diapers in the wash every other day... all without ever being asked. 

Jason makes sacrifices for us.  Before we had children, he ran in 4 Ironman triathlons.  Since we started our family, he has "downgraded" to marathons.  He used to train for 2-3 hours on weekdays after work and for at least 4 hours every Saturday.  Now he trains during his lunch hours at work, because his family is his top priority.

Jason, I often find myself thinking about how lucky I am to be married to you, how lucky I am to have a man who invests so much of his time and energy into his family.  We get the very best of you, and I know that that takes a lot of effort on your part.  I often think of how lucky Miles is to have a daddy who is an ideal model for what a man, husband and father is meant to be.  We love you so very much.

Thanks for all of your heart, energy, courage, endurance, strength, wisdom, patience and love.  Thanks for being our Irondaddy!