Archive for February, 2014

Beach, the sequel, with seagulls!

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Last month on MLK Day, when Baba Jean and I brought the girls back to Dansby from their maiden foray into the Gulf, Papa Chuck allowed as how the beach can be really pleasant this time of year. I have fond memories of beach outings with my parents, and I decided that I would endeavor to entice him to come out with us the next time.

It’s taken me a month to get us back to Galveston, but it was worth it. Both girls were super excited to go back to the beach. Sam was so excited that during the ride down, when a brief stop interrupted her 5-10 minutes into her rolling nap, she woke and exclaimed, “we’re at the beach!” and declined to go back to sleep. [I had told the girls that we would be in Galveston by the time they woke up. Oops.]

Galveston offered up some of my very favorite weather: 60s, crisp, and foggy! After lunch, we drove to the end of the Seawall and parked.

This time, Papa Chuck came with us, and we brought treats: a giant bag of Kroger cheese puffs for the seagulls, and a big bag of Cheese Toes for the rest of us.

I remember pitching puffs to the gulls from the balcony of our first Galveston apartment with my Dad. But that was 29 years ago, and I couldn’t remember how we attracted the seagulls. I naively wondered whether there would be gulls already when we arrived, and if not, how we might lure them to us.

Never fear.

Somehow, the sight or sound of our toddlers walking onto the beach holding big crinkly orange bags was sufficient to attract a swarm of seagulls and grackles.


Seagulls swarmed out of the fog upon our arrival


While my parents opened snacks, both girls offed clothes to go swim.

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The time stamps on these photos indicate that feeding the seagulls held the girls’ attention for 5, maybe 6, minutes before the siren call of the water lured them in. The water is still just 65 degrees — chilly! — but Cate and Sam were undeterred.

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They’re rapidly getting more comfortable with the surf, and boldly charging in further. I’m rapidly getting less comfortable with lifeguarding solo. I’m eager to get them more swimming lessons this summer.

I asked them repeatedly about the temperature and whether they were uncomfortable. Over and over, they paused — their pale skin plastered with myriad tiny goose bumps, their teeth chattering, and their hands shaking from the cold — just long enough to respond, “I’m not cold!” and the temperature was “just right!”

Uh, huh.


Cate and Mama Bob


Papa Chuck talking with Sam


Baba Jean and Papa Chuck with Bob and girls

I know that elsewhere, it’s much colder, or even snowy, where some of you are reading this. If a spring getaway to the Texas Gulf Coast appeals to you, please consider yourself invited.

And a final word of thanks: I’m most grateful to our nanny, Nane, who not only helped us all schlep to the beach and back, but also captured a few nice photos of all of us!

Catherineism #17: Glee!

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Two mornings after Christmas, a still-sleepy Cate, wearing her reindeer jammies, performed “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” for my camera. Enjoy!

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ModHome: Round 2

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

It’s been a while since either of us posted an update on the progress toward a new house. Interest rates are rising and the Houston housing market is one of the country’s hottest (about 3 months of inventory currently being listed as of this writing). All of that speaks to rising costs, and a need for us to get our house built before the combination of increased financing and construction costs takes its toll.The silver lining to all of this is that when we go to sell our existing home, we should see some additional price appreciation versus where I originally budgeted. But I get ahead of myself…

Back in August, we had a preliminary plan and exterior renderings for what we thought would be an AWESOME house. It was quite a bit bigger than we had expected/asked for, but having been completely transparent with our architect about our budget, we were hopeful that we could cut a few corners here and there, and get almost all of what we had drawn. Nope. We got bids from six builders, and the cheapest was $100,000 over our construction budget. The others climbed rapidly from there. The insult-to-injury part of it was that the low bid provided me with a copy of his spreadsheet, and I found tens of thousands of dollars of missed construction costs (e.g., insulating and air sealing the floor of the “floating” master bedroom over the lanai). Poop.

Well, after a bit of anger and grieving, we got back to work in November and December with a revised concept: smaller, more compact, fewer embellishments. We are now in the process of finalizing the rough design to put it back out for bid. Our hope is that we get bids that are much closer to our budget, so that we can quickly get through both the final design and construction financing hoops so that we can break ground. There are still a few issues to work out with the rough exterior rendering (e.g., not having a flat roof, adding some windows to the front and back), but we’re pretty close. The floorplan is also pretty close, so hopefully we can regroup with our architect this week or next in order to provide final feedback.

Looking at the house from what would be the southwest corner…
West Side

…Looking at the house from what would be the southeast corner…
East Side

And from the front:
Front

We’re not sure that the super-stoop-cum-porch will survive scrutiny from the planning and zoning commission, but maybe the architecture team can be persuasive. Also, the roof is currently shown as a ‘flat’ (low slope) roof, and there is no visual distinction between the foundation and what is planned to be a board-based siding (e.g., Hardie or Stained Western Red Cedar). However, those fixes should be in progress. If everything goes well, and with a bit of luck, we might break ground by… Nope, not gonna say it. Fill in your own blank there, while we’ll be tight lipped until we get a bit further along.

UPDATE: Here is the floorplan as proposed by our architect. Here is closer to what we would hope to have, given a re-allocation of space/footprint. There are many details to work out, but we’re definitely closing in on a desirable goal.

Hotel Development

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

It’s been a bit since we took an extended weekend trip to San Antonio, but the girls still talk about it every now and then. They REALLY liked staying at the hotel and visiting San Antonio.

This week, I had to travel to Cleburne, south of Fort Worth (or Eff Tee Worth according to Google’s turn-by-turn directions…), to attend some meetings at a facility there. With the girls being very sensitive to their environment, Bob and I felt it important to have a proper send-off with the girls to talk about things like daddy’s trip and daddy coming back home.

Yeah, that wasn’t really what happened. Sam insisted that she go with Dad. To San Antonio. After it was explained that Dad wasn’t going to San Antonio, she allowed that this was okay, and that she wanted to stay in a hotel even if it wasn’t San Antonio. Not to be outdone, Cate also chimed in that she should go, too.

Well, that covered getting out of the house yesterday. Today, we had a pre-bedtime discussion on the phone, and it had a wonderful discussion with Cate (Sam was a bit distracted):

Cate: What .. is .. in .. your .. hotel .. room, .. Dad?
Dad: I have a bed and a desk in my hotel room.
Cate: Are .. you .. in .. San .. Antonio?
Dad: No, I am in Burleson right now. It is north. San Antonio is to the west.

Seriously, without prompting, I was getting cogently-formed interrogation from Cate. I’m still not convinced I got the wording correct with the sentences Cate used, but call this one astonished (and proud) papa.

Big two castle Saturday!

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

It’s Saturday. With the new year, we’ve *finally* begun enjoying 6-7 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night. However, last night was fragmented (Sam’s making a new tooth and Cate lost her binky) so we woke up tired at 7:30a.

We elected to let the good people at Whole Foods make us blueberry pancakes, challah French toast, bacon, migas, and berries. Auntie Em met us there, and we ran amok: climbing the bike rack, hanging from the railing, and sliding down the plastic chaises.

Next, we ventured to Heights “Train” park for the first time. The wooden train that Paul Carr built in 2013 is truly outstanding! And the castle-like climbing structure is the most elaborate one we’ve encountered in Houston.

There were a ton of toddlers and parents, and we even ran into two families we know from BAMOM. Brooke’s cute girls are just a few months older than ours. Glenna’s boys, W and W, were celebrating their first birthday, and she gifted the girls with bubble wands, which they managed to wave and make bubbles all by themselves.

After a quick pee-stop behind some verge, we dropped Em at her car and got home just in time for nap time.

Girls only slept 90 minutes before Cate declared, “Hey, Mom! I need to go potty!” and they were both awake. Instead of a snack, they both insisted that we go play at a park.

They asked for Weir Climbing park, but looming gray clouds convinced us to hit Wilson Wonderground quickly before it rained. We did get sprinkled on, but not enough to drive us away.

We spent time on the castle wall, banged the giant chimes, climbed and slid, then took off shoes and climbed some more. Both girls are getting pretty adept at scaling bendy ladders, chain nets, and the like, and both are suddenly tall enough to lean forward and grasp the monkey bars in the back west playground. They rocked like mad on the lion and rocket, and then, shifted gears to sit in the big sand berm and quietly load, dump, and reload their big red and green dump trucks over and over.

90 minutes of park time later, we wandered up the block to survey the new houses that our architect, Erick, designed for Jonathan Farb and his dad.

Finally, we hit Hickory Hollow for dinner. Both girls ate voraciously — salad, zucchini, tomato, beef, mac — and Cate especially liked Dad’s “barbecue” chicken.

Before we left, we sat and listened to a song or two. Hickory Hollow hosts live music on the weekends, and I think this may have been the first time the girls have seen real guitars in action.

Tonight’s group, Tuna Sin?, is three old hippies who ended their set with a nice cover of The Band’s song, “The Weight” (aka “Take a load off, Fanny”). They’ll perform again on March 1 and other first Saturdays, and I’d like to hear them again. Anyone game to join us?

A quick ride home again and it was bedtime. We dispensed Advil for teeth, a little last milk, brushed teeth, read “The Cat in the Hat”, donned jammies, and peed one last time. As we put on sleep sacks, both Sam and Cate sang along through “Do, a deer.” We put girls in beds. Ten minutes later, Sam was monologuing and said she needed a Baba Jean blanket, which turned into both girls wanting to go potty again.

Ten minutes after that, Cate declared, “Hey, Mom! I want water!” “And a hug.” After an hour of curtain calls, they’re finally asleep a little before 9 pm, and I’m spent. I hope they sleep well, because I’m sure ready to. Today was a long day, and a good one.