Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bye Bye Baseball

Tonight was the most heart-breaking part of our moving business, so far: saying goodbye to Will's baseball team. :'( He's the ONLY player that won't be coming back on this exact same team next year. :'( Coach Jamie was so great, b/c he blended good humor with honest critique and real passion for the game & excellence with a calm demeanor. We *loved* going to practice and went to every extra, optional one we possibly could. We were so blessed to get drafted on this team - there were others with dysfunctional coaching/parent issues; but not ours. We had the most wonderful group of parents who all got along and became trusted friends. Leaving this hurts... A lot...

But we still had a ball at the season-end pool party tonight. :-)

Will getting his trophy tonight:

Will & Coach Jamie:

2012 L.C. Dixie PeeWee Brewers:

Silly faces:

Sliding pool fun for Will & Annelise:

Monday, May 28, 2012

Last South GA Weekend with Daddy

This was our last south Georgia weekend together with JB home as a family. (He leaves this Saturday morning for Texas; the kids & I have just over two more weeks here.) We made the most of it!

Not only were we productive - we cleaned out our closets and made a huge Goodwill donation - but we took advantage of the things we love so much about our home & resort-like backyard. It's still too chilly for Mommy, (I need my water above 85°F - NO negotiation!!!) but the kids & JB swam for hours in our backyard pool. [It had to be almost 80°, b/c Annelise only got a couple bumps Saturday and none Sunday. :-)]

Today, we went bowling at the kids' beloved Fun Park, had fro yo at their newest fave Swirl, and finally they went fishing for the last time with Daddy in our backyard lake...even in the sprinkling rain! :-P

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Quoteworthy

"Christians who don't show grace are like firefighters who are stingy with water."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Annelise's Dance Recital

Annelise had her year-end dance recital tonight! Wouldn't you be shocked if I came back reporting it was anything other than precious and wonderful? :-P No worries - it was. ;-)

Grandma & Grandpa sent her sweet flowers:

I felt like a rockstar mom: did her hair & makeup and got her costume on so Daddy could take her early while I taught my 5:45 Zumba class, and I still made it to my [reserved!] seat in the auditorium with time to spare! Woohoo!

Backstage with her friends:

Her ballet recital number, "Lipstick is Fun" (she's the 2nd one in from the left)


Her tap recital number, "Leave It To Me" (she's the 2nd one in from the left - slightly irritated that a backstage mom didn't snip that super long piece of fringe hanging off her skirt...)


I know the stage lights washed out their faces on video, but I am *SO GLAD* that Annelise is one of the super smilers who steals the show, instead of one of the girls with namby-pamby movements (esp. weak arms! oooo, dance teacher pet peeve!) and one who never smiles. [Nothing is worse than watching a girl dance with half her heart & no smile onstage. I mean, WHO thinks that's OK?!?! *stepping off my soapbox*] Annelise had a ball, and it showed! So pleased & proud!!!

PS - best recital commentary ever, a la Will: "That girl looks like Kaden." "That girl looks like Billy's brother." [All baseball guys :-P And the best part? He was pretty right on! :-D]

End of the School Year

Annelise finished Kindergarten and her last year of Montessori (*sniff, sniff*) last week. Her class (Kindy-3rd grade) put on a fairytale performance Thursday night, and she was thrilled to play Goldilocks!

I curled her hair for the first time in her life:

With her class:

The performance:


On Friday, her teacher Ms. Marlowe awarded Annelise with a Geography Medal:
To achieve this, she was one of five kids who could:
*identify & name all 50 states by shape & location on map
*rebuild the US puzzle map from memory
*identify directions - N, S, E, W, NE, NW, SE, SW
*label world map, naming oceans, continents, & several seas from memory & complete "globe project" (making their own stuffed globe)
*identify your "place in space" - Milky Way galaxy, Earth, North America, United States, Georgia, town, street name, & house number
*name five land & water form pairs (i.e. isthums & strait, island & lake, etc.)
*identify the layers of the earth
*say the Pledge of Allegiance
*identify the captial of the US and locate on map

After Annelise's ceremony, I helped to give Will's year-end 2nd grade class party! We had a beach theme, so the kids did the limbo:

And then did a relay race (boys vs. girls) where they had to put on a lei, sunglasses, grass skirt, floppy sun hat, and giant Hawaiian shirt:

Such a fun way to go out! :-D

And not to let Will's year-end achievements slip under the radar: he ended up with another Good Worker award, another Good Attitude certificate, and 114 A.R. points just for this year. (He "slacked off" the last month. :-P ;-))

For the first time in my parenthood, I want to *gulp* at their growing up. 1st & 3rd grade, here we come! (Whether Mommy likes it or not! :-D)

Garden Treasures

I planted strawberries, tomatoes, and zucchini (& cukes, but the zucchini overtook them :-P) in March, and we've been enjoying their bounty for a few weeks now. I'm not sure what will become of my precious pots when we move in 3 weeks, but I figure we'll enjoy as much for as long as we can!

My tomatoes actually survived a horrific battle with evil tomato hornworms a couple weeks ago. Their attack last year was 100% fatal, so my heart sank when I discovered them so early. I was so mad, I ripped off all the branches they were devouring and hurled them into the woods. I thought it was futile...but they have yet to come back!!! And I saved virtually the whole crop w/o spraying any harmful insecticides. Score me!

Strawberries & what's left of the grape tomatoes:

Even sweeter this year!

Zucchini:

Yesterday, Annelise & I made the most AMAZING chicken/veggie/pasta salad for lunch with leftover chicken breast JB grilled, fresh tomatoes & zucchini *from OUR patio*, and Trader Joe's steamed & peeled baby beets, high fiber pasta, & corn! I ate FIVE bowls... Right before we mixed:

Phillip Phillips "Home"

I'm pretty sure God gave Phillip Phillips the song "Home" esp. for us at this perfect particular juncture, as we prep to leave his hometown and make another new place our home...

HOME as performed by Phillip Phillips

Hold on
To me as we go
As we roll down
This unfamiliar road
Although this wave
Is stringing us along

Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m gonna make this place your home

Settle Down
It’ll all be clear
Dont pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost you can always get found

Just know your’re not alone
Cause I’m gonna make this place your home



Our new family anthem! And SO PROUD that it's from our newest local hometown hero! :-D Leesburg is rockin' tonight!!!

Friday, May 18, 2012

House-Hunting In Absentia

"So when are you going house hunting?"

Ummm, JB already went. Yeah. This last Sunday. :-O

Now all you ladies pick your jaws up off the floor at the ridiculous notion that I would blindly let him choose the abode in which I'll be the family inhabitant spending the most time. :-D

JB's new company would only pay to fly him in to find a place so he could then spend Monday meeting everyone in their company. If school were out & our myriad of obligations (dance, baseball, Zumba) disappeared, we would've bought a ticket for me & tried to get my mom (in NC) to keep the kids. But honestly, that would've been a logistical nightmare for essentially the 2 or 3 hours I'd have been involved Sunday morning; so we agreed to let him go it alone with my ultimate input.

I'd been keeping tabs on the rental market there for about four weeks, just in case. [No, we're not buying! We're never buying another house until we know we'll be somewhere at least 3-5 years.] The turn-over is CRAZY! I found good options with every search: I'd save my top 6-8 each time; when I checked again for curiosity's sake each week later, fully HALF were ALWAYS already gone, and I'd start a new search. Not a single home I was interested in that first search was still available this week!

It was an easy hunt. [It usually is for us. Both of my parents are Realtors; I grew up in this world. I know what I want, and I do NOT waste time. If a house has one deal breaker when there are other options, I walk out. We even found the first two homes we bought in one day each, so choosing a rental is even less pressure, esp. when there are options to choose from.]

I made my list of acceptable elementary schools first, [only 10's on GreatSchools & must have a 2011 TEA (Texas Education Agency) Accountability Rating of "exemplary" - not just "recognized".] The kids' school was our #1 choice factor. Other criteria: 2 car garage, open floor plan esp. b/t kitchen & family room, fenced yard (praise! they are very *standard* in the area = finally for sweet Bonnie Blue Beagle!), will ALLOW Bonnie, neighborhood pool, angles in the layout (not boxy), & built in last 5 (maybe 10) years.

Like every new locale, once you start actually digging in, you discover the area's quirks and "normals" for homes there. In ATL 10 years ago, it wasn't standard to measure square feet to tell the house size. In MI, it was impossible to find a fenced yard or a neighborhood that would allow it, (b/c it's too cold to leave your dog outside nine months of the year. ;-)) In Naperville (outside Chicago), there wasn't any new construction. Here in our tiny south GA area, we had exactly three homes to choose from. Now we've found outside Houston that the houses are just plain smaller; if we wanted to go up over $1000 *MORE* per month (shhhhhyeah, right!!!) we could get much bigger; but any less than that, the standard range is about 600 sq ft less than we've had in our last four homes - since we've had two children. So it's a concession we'll make to get in a quality, safe neighborhood - obviously worth it. (But we may be checking out storage units...;-)) I'm thinking of it as: at least we don't have to get a tiny city apartment downtown! :-D

I whittled down & approved our set of listings, and JB texted me pics from every single one on Sunday. We talked it out, decided on our top two, put in applications, & waited...

Our 1st choice was 150 sq ft smaller than our 2nd, but also $400 less per month - the best value for the size by far! It got another offer WHILE JB was seeing it :-( so we did also submit paperwork for the 2nd choice... but we found out Monday night we got the first one! :-D I gave it up to God, knowing that He'd put us in the best place for us; but I was surprised at how relieved I felt - I love that it will be less monthly than our last two homes!

Now, I'm sure *I* would take more flattering pics [esp. of the front!!!] myself ;-) but a la the internet:

Now y'all have seen as much as I have!!! :-D

JB's going in two weeks, our movers here will come mid-June, the kids & I will go home to NC for a couple weeks, and then we'll fly from CLT to our new Houston home the beginning of July! WELCOME TO OUR NEXT ADVENTURE!!!

See also: how this happened, my pros & cons list, how bittersweet, & info begging...

No More Suffering in Silence

Y'all, there are not words for what the last few weeks of not being able to talk about this have been like!!! Constant churning 24/7. I am a nester who likes to travel, but NOT to move; so every time we uproot & start over, it's stressful. JB has it a bit easier transition-wise: his "new" life is pretty much all lined up for him upon arrival - his work schedule, his commute, his new circle of acquaintances - not that he has instant BFFs (he'll probably have a few irritating jerks in there :-P) but he *does* instantly have colleagues, peers, & most of his daily life set up.
The kids & I start 100% from scratch: new school registrations, finding new *trustworthy & quality* doctors, dentists, grocery stores, sports leagues, dance schools, gyms, & the biggie: a new church. That all falls on *me*.

And it's ok - I've gotten pretty quick & like to hit the ground running now after 7 other moves...but while sometimes it feels like a fun adventure when we move to a new place like this that has so many options, it's still a HUGE weight on my mama heart until I get all that sorted out.

I've googled about everything possible to prep, and honestly, I'm overwhelmed by a lot of the sports options: there are EIGHT baseball leagues in the one suburb we're focusing on - I know it sounds slightly trivial, but picking the "right" one is truly important, not only for the quality of instruction, but b/c these sports leagues are where our initial friendships are so often formed. It DOES matter.

I usually whip right into action & find out all I can from everyone we know when we get the official word; but this time, b/c it's a change to a new company & not just a transfer, I couldn't blog or talk about it online until now. SO FINALLY: PLEASE TELL ME EVERYTHING Y'ALL KNOW ABOUT HOUSTON!!!

See also: how this happened, my pros & cons list, how bittersweet, & house hunting...

Bittersweet

This move is different than any other of our previous seven. (Yes, this is #8 in 12 years! :-/ *sigh*) With every single one in the past, I've either been completely gutted & devastated to have to leave or absolutely thrilled to pieces to get to the new locale. I've never truly felt both together...until now. I *am* excited for this new opportunity in a fun new place, bursting with culture & activity! But I'm also still so very sad to leave south Georgia... Y'all have listened to me wax poetic about how idyllic our sweet Southern life has been here since last February. It's been everything I'd longed for since we left ATL in 2006 and then some... Dream life... And it hurts to fly away...

I think it feels so dramatic, b/c this place feels just like the small Southern town I grew up in. Very non-transient - the people who are here have been here forever, along with their families; there's not much moving away. The roots & connections are extremely deep. They say, "You can never go home, again," and that's true: my hometown will never feel exactly like it did when I was growing up; it's grown, as I have. But living here feels JUST like my hometown *used* to, and what a rare treasure to find that sensation? We've only been here 15 months, yet I feel completely bonded, like it's my HOME. Part of that is having our kids old enough and engaged enough in school & the community to make solid connections through them. Part of it is, b/c it's just like where I grew up, I jumped right in here, clearly understanding how life flows. There was no learning curve whatsoever.

I feel like I'm leaving my hometown all over again to go out into the big, wide world...and just like the last time I left "home", almost everyone else is staying put. Staying in our safe, comfortable, familiar enclave.

I love travel, adventure, & worldly cultural pursuits, and I *am* excited for this new chapter of our lives...but unlike w/ my "original" hometown, I'm sad, b/c I don't think we'll have much opportunity to get back to visit this one. :'( Praise God for FB!!!

See also: how this happened, my pros & cons list, info begging, & house hunting...

Moving to Houston: Lots of Good, Bit of Bad, & Hopefully Little of The Ugly

So other than JB's stellar job opportunity & worthy pay raise (w/o which this move would obviously NOT be happening) what am I bummed over & excited for?

Cons:
*Not drivable to visit any family (I used to be the low airfare queen; time to rehone my skills.)
*No Spanish moss in the trees
*No small town feel (I love literally one degree of separation!)
*Having to start over building a whole new Zumba practice in an area already highly saturated with established Zumba instructors

I can't count "having to leave precious friends, church, teammates, Zumba peeps, & schools" as a con, b/c we'll have to do that no matter what. We can't stay here. JB fixed everything he needed to, so his job here is virtually eliminated; they want him to move on. There are also no other companies hiring for his specialized skill set or pay level around here - he's been checking ever since we fell in love with this place last year. So early in April, I mentally started to accept that we'd probably be leaving this summer. I found my thinking subconsciously shift from "if" to "when" a few days before JB received his official Houston offer... Moving this often is nothing I ever wanted or expected for my life, but God always preps me & carries me through. Sometimes I feel like a domestic missionary. :-P

So yes, I (reluctantly ;-)) have lots of experience - this is move #8 in 12 years, and I am *VERY* good at focusing on the positives!

Pros:
*Almost EXACTLY the same warm, virtually winter-free climate!!! ♥♥♥ (This is #1! Nothing affects my mood more than the temp!)
Where we are now:
Where we're going:
*About 1.5 hrs from the beach! [Living at the beach (Charleston, SC) is our ultimate goal, and every mile I get closer to a Southern shore, the better I feel!]
*Back to all the amenities of civilization: Costco, Ulta, bubble tea ;-) (I'm happy that we've thrived just fine w/o easy access to those things this year...but it'll be nice to be able to treat Sis to Sweet & Sassy and find exciting "Top Chef"-esque modern fine dining, again.)
*Trader Joe's even just announced March 29th that they're finally arriving there this year, too!
*Better schools and more activity options for the kids (gymnastics, baseball, etc.) than our other job option locations
*So many (better & *cheaper*) housing options, as well
*Central Time Zone is THE BEST EVER for TV!!! ;-)
*JB said he has always dreamed of living in Texas, so score a major one for his bucket list! :-D
*They still have Southern accents. (I am sooooo 100% serious that this is a PRO!)

So what's the "Ugly" component? I'm praying this doesn't happen much this go-round, but so often people begin to change at your first actual mention of moving. I talked to a few friends (from Chicago & SC) about this, how people distance themselves from you to protect their own feelings as soon as you announce you're moving - like it will hurt them less when you go, if they disengage now. I can see their side, but it sure does hurt. :-/ I love how my friend, Emily, articulated her recent heartbreak over a BFF moving away from her: "...Departure Day was coming. This is the kind of thing that makes me want to put up a wall and backtrack in some futile attempt to numb the inevitable. I'm glad I didn't. We kept living out our friendship in vivid color, making the most of the months that were left. There were lots of tears shed on Friday. But in the end, I was thankful. That's a good kind of hurt. That's how you know it was worth it. That's the kind of friendship that is more like an extended family. And it's the kind of family you won't let go of just because you are separated by miles. When a good-bye hurts like that, you know it's the beginning of a new chapter. But it's definitely not the end."

Several sweet BFFs here have already made me feel better, even though I know they are sad; so I know I can stick with them to the end. :-D They have extolled the virtues of Houston and boosted my confidence in this change even more = perfect friends. ♥

See also: how this happened, bittersweet, info begging, & house hunting...

We Knew This Was Coming

We knew this was coming.

When we first moved here last year, we were told it was a temporary assignment (up to 18 months - however long it took JB to straighten out operations in south GA) after which we'd move up to Peachtree City (outside Atlanta). We were good with that; we lived outside ATL 2002-2006 & loved it! But what we *didn't* expect was how hard we'd fall for this podunk little, middle-of-nowhere, one-Sbux south Georgia area. Yeah, I miss Costco & Trader Joe's...but when I can stock up on drives home to CLT, I don't mind sacrificing them for the perfect weather, the Spanish moss in our trees, the best public school system in the state, the genuine church home we finally settled into, the amazing baseball organization Will is getting such a solid foundation in, the true Southern culture that has my kids ALWAYS saying ma'am & sir (even though I taught them that up north, when no one around you practices it: no reinforcement = not really a part of life), and the wonderful sense of community. I talked before about local businesses here donating profit percentages to my JL friend's cancer bills. More are also doing it now for Phillip Phillips' family, so they can afford to fly out to CA to see him on AI. I love this community that takes care of each other in sadness & celebration, and I want my kids to grow up knowing that as "normal". JB & I both never imagined we'd be this content so far off our usual metropolitan grid...and now we don't wanna leave!

But just as our hearts shifted, so did JB's company's plan for him...
They no longer want us in PTC. The day after my joyous here-a-year post, they told him they want him in Vicksburg, Mississippi. (That's where their biggest operation in his division is, and they want him to fix it like he did here, instead of going to corporate in PTC.) Now, if we were still stuck up north, we'd be on Vicksburg like white on rice...but we can't stand the idea of uprooting the kids for a place that's not much different culturally than where we are now, is 12 hours from CLT instead of 6.5, and doesn't have our stellar school system, when this isn't even a big promotion. Hard option to swallow. Luckily, this transfer has kept getting put off further & further down the road, buying the kids their complete school year, dance, & baseball season here and buying JB time for options, (a new thing for us.)

One option popped up several weeks ago. JB asked me, "What about Houston, TX?" to which I simply replied, "Nope." We've spent years taking mediocre transfers, and now that we've gotten a taste of what it feels like to be happy in our locale, again, I'm not giving that up laissez faire. With no further discussion, I woke up with TX on my heart the entire next day. Why had I been so quick to poo-poo it? I decided to do my standard "google everything I love" session, which I do whenever we're moving to a new area, just to see what it's like...and I was impressed. [Thank you, God prompting. :-)]

Turns out, a head of HR whom JB has worked for had left for another company in Texas. He called JB to offer him the chance to develop the new HR policy for the entire company! (So nice to be called & offered, instead of going through recruiters & interviews ad nauseam!) If we're going to uproot our fam, I feel MUCH BETTER doing it for an entirely fresh experience, not for just the same old thing again in a different state. JB loves his career, but a major thing that discourages him is not being able to bust through corporate bureaucracy that is failing his employees; in this TX opportunity, he will get to be the one making the policies in the first place, instead of having to fix the failed messes. It's an incredible opportunity for him, and even though I HATE moving, it's for something TRULY NEW - *with* the accompanying financial compensation to go with it for once!!!

Plus, Houston is super close to the beach! (See my priorities? ;-))
And yes, they have Costco. :-D

Up next: my pros & cons list, how bittersweet, info begging, & house hunting...

[PS - This is my 600th post! My 300th was announcing our happy move here. :-P]

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

100 Books Medal

CONGRATULATIONS to our Annelise, who earned her Kindergarten Reading Medal for reading 100 I Can Read Level 1 & Dr. Seuss books from April 10th to May 10th!!!


She read so many Fancy Nancy books that she says she never wants to read another one ever again! :-D She couldn't get enough Biscuit (I thought b/c they are so easy; but no - she just loves the dog! :-P) and while *I* could stand to not hear another Seuss for the next decade, she didn't tire of it. ;-)

Here's her reading list:

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Phillip Phillips Idol Homecoming

So Idol-mania *DID* take over our tiny town yesterday. :-D A BFF of mine from Orlando loooves P2 and has said for a couple months now that if he made it to hometowns, she was coming up...and she DID! It was *such* a good excuse to get to see each other for the first time in almost 7 years!!!

We recreated our TiaraFest 2003:
[Sept 2003 - we were mid 20's & pre-kids! :-D]
much sweeter with our daughters:

Then we headed out to the high school stadium for the concert:

If you want to see better-than-any-I-took, non-cell-phone concert pics, click here! We thought he'd only do 2-4 songs, but he played for ages, including songs he's done on the show - Thriller, Superstitious, Volcano (the best!), etc. The one disappointment: no big announcement from one of the judges re: their song choice for him for the week. Do they not do that anymore?

The weather was GREAT: deceptive cloud cover (yes, we all got sun - oops! :-P It was supposed to rain, but completely held off!) 84°F and sweet breezes. The concert started *TWO HOURS* late - 5 PM instead of 3, which was less than pleasant with a 5, 6, & 7 year old; but the good part was that they got to run, play tag, and do cartwheels all over the football field. :-) I have to say, the whole event - while exciting - was completely exhausting. I felt (& still feel!) more drained & tired than after teaching a day of multiple Zumba classes. Honestly.

We recharged at the most apropos place I could think of: the now-famous :-P El Maya!
Mmmmmm...chips & cheese dip! :-D (P2 went earlier. ;-))