Thursday, May 31, 2012

She's swimming!

The past few weeks Ella hasn't wanted to wear her swim vest in the water because she wants to be a big kid when she's swimming and she has decided that it's not very big kid to wear it.

She's very cautious about going under water and so without her vest on, she holds the wall a lot and stays close to the steps, and mostly wants to be in the 3 feet deep where she can stand (or even better, with one of us holding her :)).

Each time we go to the pool we try to encourage her to do more under water to get more comfortable.
She completely surprised us this last weekend when she put the pieces together and started swimming for a few seconds at a time!

Check out this video of her actually swimming on her own -

I'm so proud of her, I love when she accomplishes new things, especially when it's a goal that she's set her mind on reaching.

She asked to take swim lessons, and so I signed her up for a summer swim class that starts next week. I think the timing is perfect and she's really ready to learn; I can't wait to see how she does!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Feeling thankful

I'm in a hotel room for the night on a trip to Raleigh for work, so I have a few quiet hours to myself. I spent the weekend with my family in Charlotte, have felt right at home being back in the office the past few days, and have enjoyed wonderful time with friends the past two evenings. Steve is having a good week at work, and Ella is having a blast on a little vacation with Grammy at Great Wolf Lodge. All is good, and I am feeling very thankful for our current stage in life.

It's hard to explain, but after feeling so unsettled and unsure about which direction we were heading for the last several years, it's almost like couldn't imagine what it would be like to be free from a a lot of it and not always have something big hanging over heads...I know this phase we're in is short-lived, and I want to take the time to get it down on 'paper' before life gets crazy again and I forget. 

Here are some of the things that I am grateful for, that have resulted from our move, in no particular order:

1) We sold our house and haven't seriously begun looking for a new one, so we have a few months of time between big projects...which is a really great feeling. Our life became so crazy the last few months of 2011 and straight up through our move, that it seemed like I'd never get a chance to catch my breath. It took many weeks for things to start to feel settled in TX, but for the last several weeks I've just been feeling content and thankful the current phase that we're in. I'm so used to worrying that I am constantly trying to tell myself I can just relax and enjoy the moment.

2) My daily life is so much easier than it used to be and I get to enjoy more free time with Ella during the week. My evening routine used to be: race from work to pick up Ella, get home, make dinner, clean the kitchen, play/bath/bed for Ella. Then start all my prep for the next day - pack lunches for both of us, take care of the pets, clean up, talk to Steve on the phone, catch up on work that I didn't finish during the day, then go to bed. Working from home has made it so much easier - I work on east coast hours, so I am done around 4:30 and can be back home with Ella by 5. I usually start dinner before I get her, so when we get home we can go to the playground, take Cory for a walk, ride on her scooter, or play whatever she is in the mood for. Steve and I usually split up kitchen clean-up and bath/bed routine, and then the two of us have some time together every night.

In the mornings, I try to get up early and have some quiet time - sometimes I get up early to go to the gym, sometimes I read my bible and write in my journal, get in an early walk with Cory, or I might just drink coffee and get some work done before I need to wake Ella up. And on my really ambitious days I actually do my hair and makeup :). Time is just about the most precious resource there is, and I am really enjoying having more of it.

3) Being in an apartment has its benefits. Even though we have a storage unit stuffed to the gills with our stuff, with the exception of our beach chairs and beach umbrella, I haven't wished for a single thing in storage and we've been just fine with everything we kept out. Our place is small and so there's only so much cleaning to be done. We're a 2 minute walk from the gym and a 2 minute walk from the pool, and there are plenty of places to walk Cory around the complex. While I will absolutely enjoy being in our own home and permanently settling down in the area, there is something very nice in the interim about having so little house responsibility and more time to spend on other things.

4) Cory is a different dog since we've moved. Having me at home all day has given her a new lease on life. She seems content and relaxed most of the time and loves me working from home. Her separation anxiety and other fears and phobias have really lessened and I'm working on weaning her off some of her medicines.

5) We've had entire weekends without anything planned. In months and months leading up to our move I don't think we had a single weekend without multiple things planned, weeks in advance! Instead, we've spent fun afternoons at the pool, lots of time outside, going to try out new restaurants, exploring the area, and just enjoying time with just the three of us. Before our move we had so much scheduled all the time that it seemed like a special occasion to do anything with just the three of us, and now it's the norm.

6) We've met some really great people. Steve has two classmates that live in the area, both who are married with small children, and we hang out with them a lot; and I've met other moms that I'm enjoying getting to know. Ella has new friends at school and is comfortable with her church class. Because we're in an apartment complex, there are people around all the time to strike up a conversation with, and I've met all kinds of interesting characters.

7) Steve's job. He is working incredibly hard, is challenged every day, and is really excelling at it. Who would've thought that after doing nothing engineering-related in all this time after college, he'd end up as an engineer, uses his degree every day, and is really good at it! I am so proud of him. He has to work late a few nights a week and feels bad that he's not home with us - I tell him that he is doing the most important thing, working to secure our family's future.

8) That I still have a connection to NC through work, and get to come back with some regularity. This is my second trip back for work, and both times I've had a chance to bring Ella and see family, and it's given her some extra 'grandparent time' each trip while I've driven over for work. I was able to see friends last night and tonight, and to spend a few hours with them and feel like no time has passed was so awesome. Bittersweet for sure, because I know it'll be a few months before I see them again, but such a blessing to have the time together.

9) Perspective. Perhaps most of all, I am grateful for the perspective that I have now, that I feel so good about all of the above. There are plenty of things that I miss about NC, days when working from home isn't all that appealing, times when I wish Ella was as comfortable as she used to be at school and that she had her old friends again, I miss my friends and old routines, don't like being far from my family, etc. But instead I am trying, on a daily basis, to choose gratitude for where we are right now, and to fully embrace the present instead of worrying about tomorrow. And hopefully I'll come back to this list the next time I'm struggling with that!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

First Trip to the Beach

We decided to go to the beach for the day on Sunday to celebrate Mother's Day. We went to church and then headed out around noon. We're about 45 minutes from Galveston Island, and it's really neat, you just park alongside the road and there's the beach!

Ready to hit the beach

It was a perfect sunny day and so relaxing and fun. Because it's the Gulf of Mexico instead of the ocean, the water is pretty warm and the waves aren't very big, so it was great for Ella.

I even took a nap for a bit while Steve and Ella played in the water, can't beat that!

My favorite part of the day on the beach is always once the beach starts to clear out and the sun begins to set, and I never want to leave...Sunday was no exception and we stayed later than we had planned just enjoying our time.

We left the beach and headed to dinner at "Boudreaux's on the Bayou"...we had to google what a bayou was because I thought it was just a Cajun word for bay but is actually a whole different body of water  (you learn something every day!)

We sat overlooking the bayou and had a beautiful view.

Beautiful ending to a wonderful day!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Picture Post

Some cute pictures from the last few weeks - 

All dressed up for a walk with Cory - everyone needs a purse, bracelets and boots for a walk in the neighborhood, right?

Fun at the pool

At Clear Lake Park - this park is so neat, it's right on the water with amazing views of the bay

Playing in the sand at our apartment complex

Jumping on Jake's new trampoline

So cute painting 

Showing off the bracelets and anklets we made

One of Steve's bosses had us over for lunch on a Sunday afternoon. They have several grandchildren that live nearby, so their backyard was full of kids stuff, it was like a playground for Ella, she had a blast. 

Down by the creek

Little cutie in her "cheetah pants" - these are her favorites right now

Spring Fling

Ella's school had their Spring Fling event last Friday night. It's a fundraiser for a two local charities, and there were lots of games and other things for the kids to do.  

Ella did the football toss many times - she especially liked getting to pick her prize out of the bucket after every turn

The school has a splash pad that they built at the end of last summer that the kids will get to use during water play over the summer, and they turned it on for the first time at the Spring Fling. 

It was definitely the highlight of the night for Ella and I am really excited for her that she'll get to enjoy a mini water  park right at her school all summer!

Getting her hair spray painted - she asked for 'rainbow'

Happy girl :)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

My Little Chippette

One of Ella's favorite things to do right now is listen to Alvin & the Chipmunks songs and dance to them. I took her to the movie theater to see Chipwrecked after Christmas, and Mom took her a month or so later, and for the last few weeks, she can't get enough of the songs from the movie soundtrack.

They have all these different recorded cover songs of current songs and she just loves them. There are both Chipmunks and Chippettes (the girl chipmunks), and Ella prefers the Chippettes of course. She doesn't know the 'real' songs, and is very surprised when I know them too. She constantly asks for my phone so that she can play the songs on You Tube, and then sings and dances like a wild woman. It is hysterical and I could watch her all day.

Erin reminded me of Ella's "Born this Way" obsession when we visited them a few weekends ago - she must have played it 60 times! I am guessing Cameron will be forever grateful for his introduction to the Lady Gaga  as sung by my little Chipette.

Here is a video clip I put together of several different times I've caught her dancing (which isn't easy because she usually likes to hold my phone while she's dancing so I can't record her!). I just can't get enough of her moves!!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Visit to NC

The last week of April I went back to NC for my first work trip, and I took Ella with me so we could extend it into a family visit weekend. We left first thing on Wednesday morning and flew into Charlotte and Dad and Donna picked us up at the airport. They took Ella to their house, while I went to Fayetteville for two days for an event my company was holding.  

Steve had been stationed at Fort Bragg, so we lived there from 2001-2003, and I haven't been back since. The nostalgic part of me was excited to drive through our old stomping grounds, and I took a little detour to our old neighborhood to see the house we used to live in. 

Twinflower Court

Here it is, quite the little mansion :)

Now that I work from home, I appreciate seeing my colleagues a lot more than when I used to see them in the office every day. One day in early April I drove into Houston for an event and saw a bunch of people from our Austin office, and this was the first time I had seen several people from my office - it was so nice to see everyone and the event went really well. 

Dad and Donna took great care of Ella and she really enjoyed her time with them. Ella told me her favorite parts of her trip were taking Chico on walks, trips to the playground, and riding in the golf cart. She asked me later if we could get a golf cart, I had to break the news to her that it's not in the cards for us right now :)

I drove back on Friday afternoon and got to spend Friday and Saturday with Dad and Donna. It was great to spend the time with them and catch up on everything we've been up to since our move. On Friday night we went to a 5k that Donna was running in. Ella's favorite part was the goodies for the runners at the end.

Getting some drinks with Grandma

Big smile with her new whistle (around her wrist)
Ella and Grandad chasing Chico on Saturday
Taking the little guy for a walk

Pretending to drive the golf cart

When we left Dad and Donna's on Saturday, we drove up to Charlotte to see Erin, Josh, and Cameron. It was so good to see Erin and Josh, and Ella and Cameron were just adorable together. Also, Cameron was beyond sweet, so happy and precious, and gave me lots of hugs and kisses which was just awesome!

This is one of my favorite pictures ever of Ella and Cameron, playing together in his ball pit

They were so cute together and played the whole time

After his bowl of black beans!

Big hugs!

Bath time

Ella reading to Cameron...I love how this picture looks like Cameron is so studiously listening to Ella read...very deceiving :)

Beach hunk!

Could they be any cuter???

On Sunday afternoon we went to Freedom Park for a picnic 

And, they're off!

Beautiful girl and beautiful scenery :)

We flew back on Sunday night and Ella gave me a run for my money on the trip home, but it was well worth it for a really great weekend and visit with family!