Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!!

I just love New Year's Day.  There is something refreshing about a clean slate that comes with the start of a new year.  Over the last week, the girls have been playing with new toys and wearing new clothes.  The house has been restored to a pre-holiday state, the decorations safely stored away for another year.  My scale breathes a slight sigh of relief since I am about 40 pounds lighter.  My closet has been thinned a bit as well, with my largest sizes in a bag ready for a trip to Goodwill.  I have also been fiddling with my new toy, a brand new Nook Color from Barnes and Noble, my hard-fought winnings from our family Biggest Loser challenge.  (A tip of the hat and a "thank you" to Tracy and Missy for pushing me all the way to victory!)

I am excited to see what 2011 holds for us as a family.  I still have about 80-90 pounds to go to reach my goal weight.  To help along the way, we are planning on Season 2 of our Biggest Loser challenge.  I am also registered for a Warrior Dash in March.  The Warrior Dash is a 5k race on steroids, with 13 various obstacles along the way (think mud pits, fire jumping, cargo net climbs, etc...).  We are also looking forward to seeing what the local Y has to offer to keep our family fit and active.

Professionally, I am hoping to give some wings to a personal business, Chisholm Trail Foods.  We will use another side business, S Bar C Catering to accomplish this goal.  All of this of course will only be possible if I can manage to reduce the travel my day job currently requires.  There seems to be plenty of reason to believe that is possible though.

Grace and Hailey continue to grow into beautiful little girls, inside and out.  They are at a fun age right now and developing into 2 really distinct little jewels.  Both are blond haired beauties, just like their beautiful mommy.  But both show plenty of me in their personalities.  Hailey has an independent streak and fearlessness that I definitely recognize.  Grace has a palate that grows more sophisticated by the meal.

A review of the family budget shows that we won't be able to do everything we want to do, something that is hard for me accept.  But I can see that we are certainly not lacking and I count it a joy to name my blessings as a remembrance.  Big dreams, supported by ambitious plans and unyielding faith will show itself in plentiful fruit.  That to me is what makes New Year's Day such a great day.

Here are my New Year prayers for you.  May you and yours be blessed beyond your comprehension in the year to come.  And may your efforts be rewarded, your love returned and your laughter contagious!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dress Up Girls

Last Friday, after I returned from my business trip (the last of the year, yeah!), we loaded up the travel trailer and got the girls and headed over the river and through the woods to Gramma and Grampa’s house.  It made for a long day, but it was worth it.  After getting unloaded and settled in a bit, Gramma was ready to play Santa Claus.  The girls scored big.  Grace got a play grill that looks a lot like my little grill that I use at tailgate parties.  We put it together Saturday morning and she seems to really like it.  But the big hit was definitely the dress up clothes, shoes, jewelry and tutus.  The girls were adorable.  I think I might be in trouble with Hailey.  She already has a thing for shoes and jewels.

More pictures have been loaded on our public album, but here a few favorites.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Clean Bill of Health for Grace

The week of Thanksgiving, we took Grace to a pediatric surgery center to have an umbilical hernia repaired.  She has had it since she was born, and early on our pediatrician pointed it out to us.  She told us that it may heal on its own, but cautioned us then that we may need to consider surgery if it didn't correct itself by age 4.

It was a minor surgery, we were home with Grace resting on the couch by 9:30am afterwards, but it was still pretty scary to watch a couple of nurses wheel your baby girl into an operating room on a gurney.  She did great and rebounded very, very quickly.  The surgeon told us that we would likely have a hard time containing her after the first couple of days, and he was definitely right.  I can't tell you how many times Brenda or I had to remind her to take it easy, she had stitches in her belly!

There is no keeping a 4 year old down.  I asked her teacher to try keep her from jumping off the top of the monkey bars on the playground.  That seemed like about all we could ask.  This morning, during Grace's chapel service, the kids all performed their Christmas program for parents and grandparents.  Grace did really well and made an adorable bunny.  After school, we took Grace for her follow up appointment at the pediatric surgery center.  The surgeon was quite pleased with how Grace is healing.  From what we can tell, aside from a bit of bruising that is fading away, you can't even tell she had anything done.

Its been a busy holiday season so far, as it seems they always are.  While we always have no shortage of things to be thankful for and to celebrate, a happy, healthy little girl is a great place to start for us.

I haven't uploaded the pictures yet, but I will post some pre and post surgery pics and some pics from Grace's Christmas program soon.

Merry Christmas, Y'all!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween 2010

With several recent trips and weekends spent tailgating, we hadn’t gotten around to carving our pumpkin.  Since today was Halloween, I figured we better get on it.  This year, Brenda had found a great little ladybug costume for Hailey that she ordered online.  We had asked Grace what she wanted to go as and she had told us she wanted to be a tiger.  We hadn’t found the “right” costume for her yet and we are glad we didn’t.  As soon as Brenda had Hailey’s costume in hand, we tried it on her to make sure it fit well, and Grace decided she wanted to be a ladybug too.  Gram and Granddad came over to handle candy duty at the door, while Brenda and I took the girls on the walk.  Here are some pics from the day!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

An Abrupt Reminder of Things Important

Cherish the people and opportunities that matter to you, because all too often, they can be taken from you.  I know we have all heard it time and time again.  After all, each of us have lives full of “wish I could have”, “know I should have”, and “could I have?”. 

I am going through this exact type of moment right now.  About a year ago, somewhat out of the blue, I received a call from Terry Cornish.  Terry is my biological father, whom I had not spoken with in about 12 years, and hadn’t seen in about 30.  I have a family that is not too dissimilar to a lot of stories from our generation.  Terry was a veteran of the Vietnam War, who upon returning home continued to wage the same battles, this time within his own mind.  In today’s military, there are resources for our American heroes that return and struggle to adapt to civilian life.  We are aware of posttraumatic stress syndrome and its affect on military families.  In Terry’s day of returning to the civilian life, it just wasn’t something that was dealt with very well. 

His battle continued in the dreams he dreamt each night.  Reliving memories of the villages and orphanages in Vietnam made restful sleep an elusive goal.  About the only friend Terry could find that could help him escape his memory, turned out to be a foe that would destroy him.  Terry sold his soul to the bottle.  I don’t know if he ever escaped his dreams or not, but I know that alcoholism cost him his marriage, a relationship with his family and probably more than a job or two along the way. 

My mom remarried, and I feel blest to be able to say that I have an incredible family.  I have brothers and sisters that I dearly love, and a dad in my step-father that I would never trade.  My family is absolutely crazy, there is no doubt that we put the “fun” in dysfunctional.   We find plenty reasons to give each other a hard time, but we are also the first ones in line if one of us needs a hand or a kick in the pants.  When the clouds start to roll in, I can hear the thunder and life starts to get hard, my family is the first thing I think about when I begin naming what I am thankful for.

Thirty years is a long time to try to recapture.  When Terry first called me, I was taken aback to say the least.  A flood of emotions overwhelmed me, fear, anger, sadness, shock, and certainly happiness.  This was a man who had left us all those years ago.  No birthday cards, no Christmas calls or visits, just gone.  As I mentioned before, I certainly had plenty to be thankful for in my family life, but a divorce decree and a new marriage license certainly is no match to a biological bond with a man who makes up half of who I am as a person. 

I kept our renewed relationship at an arms length, which is one of the regrets I am dealing with today.  Over the last year, as he and I talked more, I remained protective of my world.  I mailed pictures of my family, and I could sense his bubbling pride in his beautiful granddaughters.  But I never introduced him to Brenda and the girls, believing that would be something I would open up after I had a chance to visit him face to face first.  The approach still seems logical, I felt I had a lot to protect.  After all, this was a man who had walked away from me, I wasn’t about to let him do that to my girls.  No, the approach was right and I had reasoned that with my work travel, I would find a business trip that took me within a reasonable proximity of Philadelphia so that we could visit.  That visit never did take place, and now I am saddened that our first reunion will be at his funeral. 

I recognized on our very first phone call that this man was a shadow of his former self.  His voice and demeanor sounded old, tired and sick.  A near miss with death had prompted him to search for me, and he knew that he didn’t have many Christmases left.  He tried to be jovial when we talked, fighting back coughing bouts brought on by COPD.  We shared a few memories and it was obvious to me that he had some very fond recollections of the 4 years we had as a family.  Most often we talked about the girls, the weather and whatever sport was in season at the time. 

I never did press him on why he left, that topic just felt taboo to me.  I reasoned that these types of questions were only appropriate with a face to face visit.  It was a conversation that felt on par with breaking up with someone on a voicemail or with a text message.    All I knew was that now I have a 4 year old baby girl that I dearly love and I just can’t imagine what could allow me to separate myself from her without so much as a phone call.  It was clear by the sound of his voice, that I was not talking with someone with immense mental clarity.  The years had been hard on him and hard on his family in Philadelphia. 

I have come to peace with knowing that we won’t ever have that discussion, and frankly, why in the world would he owe me an explanation?  I am trying hard to remember that he is worthy of the grace I have been given.  I wouldn’t want to take a step in his shoes, let alone walk a mile.  Besides, what would his response possibly benefit me?  Regardless of what the answer was, the hands of time were not going to rewind.  The way I see it now, the obligation I have is to simply remember. 

Life is short, life is precious and life is worth living to its fullest.  I tell my girls daily that I love them and that they are precious to me.  I also ask them both everyday, “who loves you?”, and even Hailey has learned to respond “Daddy does!”.  It is so important to me that as I go through my life, that no matter how big of a mistake I make, no matter how much I mess something up, that my girls will always be able to look back and know that their Daddy loved them fiercely. 

This week, we will bury Terry in a family plot in Philadelphia with the military honors he earned.  His military service was a source of pride and it is fitting that he will be buried in his uniform, with his VFW hat.  I am also looking forward to getting to know my uncle, aunt and cousins, whom I haven’t ever met face to face. Even though we are going to Philadelphia for a funeral, it is going to be a good week.  My twin sister and I are Terry’s legacy, and these are not wasted lives.   For that, we will celebrate Terry’s life and we will use this time to renew a relationship with my cousins that I hope will be lifelong bonds. 

Count your blessings, name them and thank God for each one.  And if you have the opportunity, tell your blessings what they mean to you before you have to count them as a memory as well.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Amnesty Posting

I am guilty!  Good grief, how in the world have I managed to let our family blog get so out of date.  I assure you it isn’t because nothing exciting has happened in the last month and a half.  So much is going on, it is hard to keep up.

I have updated some photo albums, so go check that out if you haven’t already. 

We have a 4 year old!  One of the many exciting things we have celebrated as a family since my last posting was Grace’s 4th birthday.  I keep reflecting back to see if I think the 4 years have flown by, but time has a funny way of staying relative.  I find it so hard to imagine our family without her, that it seems that she has been here “forever”.  I even have a hard time remembering when she wasn’t a toddler.  What a fantastic little girl she is growing into. 

Just before Grace’s birthday it was “back to school”, or rather back to pre-school.  Going to school everyday has done so much for Grace’s development.  She has definitely opened up into a more outgoing, social little girl.  I am excited that she will begin reading this year.  How fun is that?

Work has kept me busy, and on the road a bit more lately. As I write this blog posting, I am sitting in the airport in Houston awaiting my return flight to Austin.  Over the last 2 weeks, I have been in Poughkeepsie, New York and Charleston, South Carolina.  I enjoy the travel, it is great to visit some of our country’s gems, but it is always so nice to come home.  When I travel, Brenda makes it a priority to call me before the girls go to bed.  Its so nice to hear those sweet, angel voices each night.  Hailey is starting to put words together in distinguishable sentences.  So when she says “I love you, daddy”, it’ll melt your heart.  Her new one this trip was “Sweet dreams!”  Awesome stuff.

With Grace’s birthday, and kids returning to school, that signals our entry into a familiar season in our home.  Naturally, it is football season which means of course means tailgating.  Grace has become quite the helper when it comes time to get things ready and Hailey has a ball too.  The fact that our girls like it so much, I think makes it more bearable for Brenda.

We are in the midst of a bit of tailgating break right now as the Longhorns start a 4 week period where they will be on the road before returning to Austin on the 23rd.  I am excited that Uncle Craig is coming to town for that one.  Should be a lot of fun, and Grace is already asking when he will get here.

Good things are happening at our house these days.  Notably, we are chasing after a new, healthier lifestyle.  Over the last 8 weeks, I have lost over 20 pounds, and Brenda has lost 10!  We are getting the girls outside more (the cooler weather is definitely helping), going for walks and bike rides and eating better portions of healthier foods.  I confess though that these last 2 weeks on the road has put a considerable dent in my progress.  Nonetheless, we are undeterred!  We aren’t doing this alone, I am engaged in a bit of a family rivalry with 2 of my sisters in a family-style “Biggest Loser” battle.  It’s fun to have some accountability and I have to admit, I still get a kick out of competing with them.  Tracy and Missy joined Brenda, the girls and I for a local 5K here in Austin a few weeks ago and this week Missy is doing the Susan G. Koman in Houston.   Brenda and I will be taking on another 5K soon and I am pursuing an ambitious goal of training for a triathlon next year.  There will need to be many more 5K in my future to make my goal a reality.  I have registered for a Warrior Dash in Houston next March.  If you haven’t heard about these crazy events, it’s a 5K on steroids.  Specifically, it’s a 5K run with a dozen obstacles like scaling walls, climbing cargo nets, logs, fire jumping, etc… I am participating with a group of tailgating buddies for that one, and I can’t wait. 

All right, I think that’s about enough for now.  I will try to be better about updating my blog.  Oh, here’s a scary thought for you… assuming you only get to do any serious shopping on Saturdays, you now only have 12 shopping days until Christmas.  Better get on it!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

This is NOT a test!

Last week when Grandad was cleaning up the boat in the driveway after a fishing trip, Grace had so much fun “play fishing” that Grandad decided that she might be ready for the real thing.  This morning, Grandad and Colton picked up Grace after breakfast for her first fishing trip.  Near Gram and Granddad's house is a nice little pond that the boys have pulled some nice catfish out of.  It was close enough to not ruin the day if Grace lost interest, but well stocked enough to allow Grandad and Colton to have a little fun. 

Grace didn’t bring home any trophy catches, but she had fun, and she looked good doing it.  Here are a few pictures from the trip.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Picture This

Brenda and I had decided long ago that we would have professional portraits taken of our kiddos every 3 months for their first year, and then annually thereafter.  We also decided to take those photo opportunities to get family portraits taken.  Today we went to Portrait Innovations for Grace’s 4 year old pictures.  If you have read this blog for long, you have heard us rave about Portrait Innovations, and they do take some good pictures.  I just think that we have gotten just about all that we can out of their studios.  We end up with very similar pics each time.  Today’s portraits didn’t knock our socks off, but I do think we got some good portraits.

I have included a sampling below.  Being able to get the CD of all of the pics that were taken is one of the things we love the most about using Portrait Innovations.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Gone Fishin’

Grace has a new fascination, fishing.  There is no doubt that all the grandkids love their Granddad, and so far, the boys have enjoyed a monopoly on Granddad’s fishing time.  But times are a changing here in Round Rock, and it doesn’t look like it will be long before Grace and Hailey are ready to stake their claim to some dedicated lake time with Granddad. 

To celebrate Granddad’s birthday (Happy Birthday, Granddad!), he took Clancy and his buddy Colin fishing.  Grace and Hailey got to enjoy a little driveway “fishing”, while Granddad cleaned up the gear and got things put away.  The fish may not have been biting in Gram’s driveway, but the fishing bug may have gotten a hold of Grace!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Love my chip off the ol’ block

“Does Grace like blueberry muffins?”  This was a question that Brenda asked me while she was on the phone with Gram.  I am sure she does, I can’t think of any reason she wouldn’t!  She always eats some of my muffin when we eat at Mimi’s Cafe, and I can remember making strawberry muffins with her before.  And we KNOW she loves fresh blueberries! 

For breakfast the other day, Gram let Grace help her make the muffins.  And to put the question to rest in a decisive manner.  Yes, she likes blueberry muffins.  The only question left is, why didn’t Daddy get a muffin??? 

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Re-purposing leftovers

If you know me well at all, you probably already know that I HATE eating leftovers. With the exception of soups and stews, leftovers never taste better the second time around. Either you don't have all the necessary components, or the breading gets soggy, or the sauce separates, or the meat gets dry, or any other number of potential pitfalls and maladies. So rather than putting things away to eat as leftovers, in our house we prefer to re-purpose. For example, a dinner of Pot Roast with roasted veggies will get re-purposed into 2 completely different dinners. First the leftover roast gets shredded and seasoned with Mexican spices so they can be made into beef enchiladas. The leftover mushroom gravy and roasted veggies will take a spin with the immersion blender and some beef broth to become a killer vegetable soup.

Over the last 2 weekends, we have enjoyed some great meals courtesy of the grill or smoker. Last weekend, while camping with friends, we grilled up some quite large and tasty burgers. With more patties than necessary, we made it home with leftovers. We re-purposed some of the grilled patties on Friday when Brenda crumbled up a couple of patties and used them on a pizza. The grilled flavor of the hamburger really added a nice touch to otherwise pretty plain hamburger. Tonight, the last 2 patties were crumbled up, mixed with some of my Daddy's Rub spice blend to turn into some awesome taco meat.

Later this week we will have tortilla soup, which is one of my all-time favorite re-purposed meals. For the chicken, I am going to re-purpose the barbecue jerk chicken we ate last night. Since the skin will be removed when I pull the chicken from the bone, the sauce on the grilled chicken is of no consequence to me. I have posted the tortilla soup recipe before, and I am posting it again below. Some of you are cooking novices, and you may write down every ingredient, go to the store to pick up the perfect quantity and brand names. And that is perfectly okay. This recipe is a classic restaurant style recipe because it came about while I was rummaging through my pantry and fridge. I literally used ingredients that remained in my pantry after we stocked up before a hurricane scare. I have used canned chicken, rotisserie chicken, barbecue chicken, jerk chicken, "fajita" chicken (you do know that there is no such thing as fajita chicken, right?), smoked turkey, and leftover roasted Thanksgiving turkey. I have often wondered how it would taste with leftover deep fried turkey, but honestly, I have never had leftover deep fried turkey to try it with!

Often, when a chef is interviewing for a head kitchen position, the restaurateur will take the chef candidate into the kitchen and challenge them to create a tasty, savory soup with the "leftovers" in the fridge. So my hope is that some of you will take the recipe and use it as a launch pad for you to see your fridge and pantry in a different light. Got some leftover corn on the cob? Perfect in soup. Leftover roasted veggies? A natural in soup of any shade. No cream of chicken? Just about any "cream of..." soup will work. Or better yet, forget the canned soup and make a roux. The most important ingredients in any re-purposed soup are creativity and love. So whatever you do, don't just reheat your leftovers and bear through a weak encore of last night's dinner, make it something special.

Here's the recipe:


1 lb diced or shredded chicken
1 medium onion (diced)
1-2 tablespoons garlic (diced)
1 tablespoon of Cumin
2 teaspoons Chili Powder
2 teaspoons of Black Pepper
1 teaspoon of salt
1 jar of picante sauce or Salsa (you pick the heat level)
1 can of corn
1 cans of Cream of Chicken
1 carton of beef broth (32 oz)

In a large dutch oven or stew pot, sauté the onions until translucent.
Add the garlic to the onions and sauté until it just starts to color.
Add the seasonings and salsa (don’t get carried away with salt – the broth will add some as well)
Add the canned chicken (including the water that the chicken is packaged in), stir frequently until heated throughout and the water begins boil lightly.
Add the canned corn (once again, include the water), stir frequently until the water returns to a boil.
Add broth to thin the soup. (I recommend the beef broth over chicken broth because it deepens the flavor. Chicken is fine, beef is better).
Let the soup return to a light boil and add the cream of chicken soup to thicken to desired consistency.

The soup is ready to eat once the cream of chicken is fully incorporated into the soup. However, if you have an hour to let it simmer, it will taste better… if you have several hours it would be even better.

Serve with shredded cheese and crushed tortillas chips (stale tortilla chips really works better than fresh if you have some).

If you like more heat to it, add a can of green chilies or chipotle peppers.

Friday, July 9, 2010

East Texas Blueberries and Family

For the 4th of July weekend, we packed up the travel trailer and headed to Gramma’s house.  Aside from Independence Day, the 4th of July also is the time of the summer when blueberries in East Texas are at their peak.  If you have kept up with me on Facebook, you probably already know that I have a soft spot for blueberries, particularly a recipe for blueberry pie that I stole from America’s Test Kitchen.  Over the last couple of years, my family has made some fun and fantastic memories reviving the near lost art of canning.  It’s something that has been a big part of our family heritage, something my grandmother and mom have done for decades, but it quite nearly slipped right on by “our” generation.  Capturing fruits and vegetables at their peak of freshness and flavor and suspending that quality to be enjoyed offseason is truly a special treat.  If this is something you are considering, I would caution that it isn’t necessarily a cost saving measure.  With the investments we have made in kitchenwares, jars, ingredients and time, it isn’t much cheaper than what you would pay in the store.  But the reward comes in the primo quality of the ingredients, the lack of additives and chemicals, and most importantly, the invaluable time and memories with family.  As a family, we have done strawberries, blueberries and peaches (those are the most common and favorites), but we have also done tomatoes and mangoes with spectacular success.

For fresh blueberries, we prefer to freeze them, rather than canning.  They hold up amazingly well and are really quite tasty still frozen.  Freezing them also makes them easy to use for a wide variety of purposes, such as the pie I mentioned earlier, or pancakes, or muffins, or smoothies… did I mention pie???  My sisters were looking more for blueberry preserves, which by the way, was also amazing.  My mother, being the wonderful mother that she is, made several trips to the blueberry farm to pick up all the many gallons of fresh blueberries.  By the time we got there late Friday night, she had already cleaned and froze some 12 gallons of blueberries in quart size bags.  With that chore out of the way, we were able to spend Saturday making the preserves.  While Brenda, my sisters and mom worked on the preserves,  I spent my morning focused on the task of LUNCH!  Smoked pork tenderloin was on the menu and man, did we ever feast!   We may have gone a touch overboard, since we ended up packing up 7lbs of tasty pork to freeze after it was all said and done. 

Sunday, the girls went to Canton while Richard and I took the kiddos to the indoor water park near my parents house.  I know, I know, it sounds positively crazy to take kids to an indoor water park when it was a beautiful sunny weekend, but these kids burn way too easily.  Richard and I would have been in deep trouble if we brought home 4 little beat red lobsters!  Sunday evening brought more family and friends and MORE food!  I was back on the grill manning the burgers and dogs.  After dinner Richard and I put on a fireworks show that only scared half the kids.  It was definitely not a typical day as the kiddos were all still up and eating ice cream at 10:30 that night!  Needless to say, they all slept well that night.

I have about 20 quarts of frozen blueberries safely stashed away in my freezer, just waiting for the yearn for a blueberry pie to overtake my senses.  We also dutifully delivered another 20 quarts to my favorite in-laws.  I am hoping that will keep Cheryl out of MY blueberries, though I can’t be certain.  :0)~

Other exciting news for the weekend, Hailey can now face forward in her car seat.  It only took 14 and 1/2 months to get there!  Brenda bought her front-facing car seat on her way home from work on Friday, so the trip to Gramma’s house was her first time to use it.  She was thrilled!  We didn’t take many pictures this weekend for some reason, but I have posted a few cute ones in the photo album.

Monday, June 21, 2010

It’s Summertime!

I keep thinking that things will slow down as soon as the “next” season gets here, and so far, I have been wrong.  During the fall its about tailgating and football, then its the holidays, then its birthdays and anniversaries in the spring, then its summertime.  I imagine lazy days in and around the pool, weekend cookouts and camping trips.  Thankfully, we do find time to fit some of those things in, but it seems we are having to work harder and harder at squeezing in these little jewels into our busy, hectic schedules.

We have just returned from our vacation and as usual are exhausted and ready for a vacation from our vacation!  We packed up our travel trailer for 5 nights in Sam Houston National Forest on Lake Conroe (near Houston, for those unfamiliar with the area).  We swam in the lake and hiked and biked around the trails.  We also spent a day in Houston, taking the girls to the zoo and to the Children's Museum.  It was a great week with the family, even though it was pretty miserably hot outside.  Seems strange to say we went camping even though we never lit a campfire.  Heck, I didn’t even take the foldout chairs out of the trailer stowage compartment.  It was simply too hot to sit outside much.  After our camping trip it was a quick day and a half at home to clean up the trailer, do some laundry, have dinner with some friends and then we were back on the road.  This time we went to Abilene for a 1 year old birthday party.  It was a quick overnight trip but we got to spend some time with good company and wrap up our vacation week.

On Sunday, we drove back home in time to get the grocery shopping done, unpack and grab some dinner with Gram and Granddad, who had also spent a week of kid-free relaxation in Florida.  I never did get to float in the pool Sunday, which was definitely on my list of things to do for Father’s Day.  Oh well, plenty of time for that I suppose.  Tonight, we start swimming lessons with both girls, and then its going to be time for me to pack for another work related trip.  This next weekend, we are excited to welcome Dawn and Nathan back from Lithuania!  The grill will be fired up, smoking some tasty treats, the pool will be clean and ready and it will be great to spend a couple of days with them before they return home to Canada.

Like I said, we keep things pretty busy at our house.  I have updated the public photo album with some albums from our vacation week.  There are zoo pics, and museum pics and pics from Abilene.  There is a link on the right-hand navigation to our public photo albums.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Hailey’s First Birthday

This was a fantastic weekend in our home.  On Friday, Brenda and I started our weekend a little early.  While we weren’t taking the day off for rest and relaxation, we did get kick-off Hailey’s birthday celebration.  We didn’t have to wake up at 4am as we did a year ago, instead we slept in, to a leisurely 7am!  After dropping Grace off at Gram’s for breakfast with Grandad and Gram, we took Hailey for her 1 year check up.  After 4 shots and declaration of a clean bill of health, we were off for a full morning of errands and house cleaning.  Later in the afternoon we took the girls to Portrait Innovations for pictures.  On Saturday we filled our home with family and friends for Hailey’s party. 

We are blessed to have family and friends that made Hailey’s birthday such a big priority.  Tracy and Josh arrived before the party, something made remarkable considering that Tracy had been on a plane returning from Iowa the day before and managed to make it to our home despite a brief 9 hours spent in her own home after a week of travel.  Missy, Richard and the boys came in Friday evening and were at our house Saturday morning early to help us get ready for the party.  Unfortunately, they had to leave the party early because they also needed to attend a 50th birthday party on Saturday evening in Houston.  Todd, Melanie and Jaden driving in from Abilene and making a weekend of it was a fun treat as well. 

Dinner at Posada's, church with the family and brunch at Mimi’s Cafe wrapped up a busy, fun and blessed weekend.  The girls (including Mommy) enjoyed a well deserved nap while I sorted out pics!  Speaking of pictures, I have added a fist full of pics from Hailey’s 1 year portrait session.  If I am feeling really industrious, I will sort and upload pics from our weekend this evening some time. 

Happy Birthday to my lil’ Sweet Pea!


Friday, April 9, 2010

A Dance with Daddy

Tonight was our big Daddy/Daughter date night.  What a fun night it was.  I made sure that we went all out.  She wore her beautiful Easter dress, Daddy wore a tie, she had a pretty fresh flower corsage, candle-lit dinner and a dance.  It was quite a night.  We ate dinner at Main Street Grill in Round Rock.  We caught quite a bit of attention as we walked in.  I know I had one of the most beautiful dates in the restaurant.  Lots of very nice people stopped by to tell me how precious and beautiful my date was.  Grace’s behavior was fantastic and we made it to the dance mostly unscathed.  Grace had chicken fingers with steamed broccoli and fresh strawberries.  She was really cute cutting up her chicken fingers with her knife.

At the dance we got to make Grace a little jeweled crown, have a tea party, see a magic show and do the chicken dance and the “YMCA”.  They also had carriage rides, though we never made it out there.   But most importantly, we were reminded that dances with precious little girls don’t last long.  They grow up quickly and even when Daddy is right there, sometimes they would still rather dance with their friends (even if Daddy paid for dinner).   Little girls also have a way of causing Daddies to dread the future.  All around us there were reminders that one day we may share a similar dance with our sugar bears, only they are likely to have a brand new name then.  Daddies were reminded that if we hope to have a positive influence on the young man, whose name our daughters may take, nights like tonight cannot come often enough. 

One very nice lady tonight at the restaurant pointed out to her daughter, that at my table was a young lady who was learning early what to expect from a date, and she was right.  I hope that any young man that hopes to take Grace out on a date will know that she is woman who deserves his best.  Tonight, I hope Grace felt like a crown jewel.  But mostly, I hope that she always knows that she has a daddy that loves her and adores her and wants her to taste the best that life has to offer. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Photo Album has been updated!

Check out our Photo Album from the right hand navigation area.  I have uploaded several photo albums going back to Christmas.  There are some great ones also from yesterday that Gram sent us.  Spring has definitely sprung in central Texas!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

An Amnesty Blog Post

Yes, yes, I know.  I did it again.  It has been brought to my attention, on more than one occasion, that I have been woefully neglectful of our family blog.  So, I am declaring an amnesty blog, a catch-up of sorts in a single blog post.  Our last blog post came back in January when we posted Hailey’s 9-month pictures.  Since then, we celebrated my 35th birthday, our 5th wedding anniversary, Valentine’s Day, both mothers-in-law’s birthdays and a sister-in-law's birthday.  This month we will celebrate Hailey’s first birthday and Brenda’s birthday. 

I have stayed very busy with work, including lots of travel.  So far this year, I have traveled to Iowa, Arizona, Louisiana and Oregon.   I am tentatively scheduled to add trips to Virginia, Minnesota and return trips to Iowa and Oregon before the summer.  It is very hard to be away from my girls, but I do really enjoy my job, including the travel.

Grace just finished her first Spring  Break, a definite taste of things to come.  Brenda and  I are extremely pleased with our decision to send Grace to a 3-day per week preschool.  She has really opened up and come out of her shell with all the social interaction she gets now.  She loves her school and is looking forward to going all 5 days each week next year.  Next week, we have our first Daddy/Daughter dance at her school.  She and I are both looking forward to it!

Hailey is “this close” to walking.  I was actually afraid she might get up and take off while I was away in Oregon.  She will stand up in the middle of the floor, and she walks well with the assistance of a steady hand, chair or a walker.  She is such a fun and happy little girl.  We definitely detect a stubborn streak that will serve her well as she competes for attention with her sister.  She doesn’t have the early vocabulary that Grace had at her age, but she has this studious contemplation about her that leads me to believe she will end up being dumb like a fox.  Nothing escapes her!

Brenda is the anchor of our busy household.  I don’t know how she does it, but she keeps up with the girls and she keeps me in line.  It is a full-time job just keeping up with the many, many directions my mind takes us, but she manages to do so almost effortlessly as well as managing the girls, the house and her own job. 

Brenda reminded me that we have pictures still on our camera going back to Christmas.  Looks like an “Amnesty Photo Album” will be coming soon as well!

I hope everyone has a fantastic Easter, and has a moment to reflect on the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior and the glorious miracle of the resurrection.  Oh, and don’t eat too many Peeps and chocolate bunnies.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hailey is 9 months old today

Yes, it is rather cliché, but where does the time go?  Today, Hailey is 9 months old!  I can hardly believe it.  It won’t be long until she is walking, talking and giving her sister fits! 

Of course as a parent, we want to let our kiddos develop into their own unique best.  And while we certainly don’t want to always compare Hailey to Grace, it is hard not to look for the similarities and marvel at the differences.  For each of the girls, we have had studio pictures taken every 3 months for the first year of their lives.  This has given us a great chance to see at least physically how much they have in common. 

Here for your enjoyment are 2 albums from today’s sitting.  The first are some wonderful pictures, many of which we had prints made.  The second album is well… expressive.  I figure by the time the girls reach “marrying” age (you know, 30 something, or long after I am dead and gone), I should have a huge stockpile of pictures to use as bribery and fodder for a great slideshow during the rehearsal dinner!