Posts Tagged ‘Izzy’

Ship Channel boat tour!

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

A couple of months ago, Bill declared we had reservations for a boat tour. The Port of Houston Authority operates the M/V Sam Houston on a free 90-minute tour of Houston’s Ship Channel. Baba Jean and Izzy joined us for this outing, Sam and Cate’s second ride on a boat!

Baba Jean, Bob, Sam

Bill, Cate, Izzy

Sam dancing

Tank farm

Pine 5 freighter

Cate and Sam in the fantail


Jean and Izzy

About an hour into the ride, I realized my camera auto-focus was disabled. Sorry!





Ship Channel Bridge

After the boat tour, we crossed back over the bayou and headed to Brady’s Landing. The parking lot was packed — they had 5 events that morning! — but the restaurant was wide open. We enjoyed their seafood buffet, dessert, and their panoramic view of boats and birds along the bayou.

Sleepy Cate

Sleeping Sam

Looking at how this sleeping Sam neatly fills her car seat, I’m reminded of an earlier trip to the Ship Channel, while a tiny Sam dozed. Such changes in two years!

Adventias: Grateful for local family…

Saturday, October 5th, 2013

I don’t remember exactly, but I began accompanying Sarah to all routine physician visits sometime eight or nine years ago. At some point, I began taking notes on my laptop instead of on paper, and that Word doc goes back to July 2006.

Along the way, I shepherded Sarah through the emergency room on several occasions. While I am impressed by the breathtaking array of diagnostic tools and tests that modern medicine presents, I am more convinced than ever that no one should ever go to hospital alone.

Having someone to hold a patient’s hand and offer reassurance is nice. But having someone to pay attention, take notes, and make sure that the care received over time remains consistent and appropriate seems essential.

The 11 days I spent in hospital when our girls arrived did little to disabuse me of this view.

Physicians and nurses both vary by day and time. Continuity of care in a hospital setting relies on written notes in patient charts, and oral summaries passed along at each shift change. The longer one is in hospital, the more cursory the hand-offs seem to be. Many times, I have served as third party glue holding Sarah’s treatment on course.

With that in mind, I am immensely grateful to our family for being there for Sarah when I cannot. In particular, huge thanks to our cousin Sharon who, again, dropped everything to be the first family member on the scene when Sarah arrived at the Methodist ER. In addition, Sharon stopped by to check on Sarah and query her nurses every morning on her way into work, at a time when I had to be home tending to toddlers. Thank you, thank you, thank you!


Thanks also to my Mom for covering Sarah two days so that I could go into Central Houston and concentrate on my shiny new job. I don’t have any photos of your visits, but I’m glad you were there. Finally, thanks to my brother, Chris, and his family for coming to visit Sarah, too.

Chris with Sierra

Shawnacy with Alles

Izzy with Alles

Chris and Bob

Enjoying a binge of quality girl time

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

At the end of August, my nieces started back to school. Sierra is now a 6th-grader at the middle school in our neighborhood, and Izzy is a 1st-grader at Sierra’s former charter school. They both get out of school at 3:30 pm. However, Chris is working in Sugar Land and Shawnacy just started an MFA program in San Marcos, which means neither of them are available three days a week.

In general, they plan to have a babysitter collect the girls on those days, but that fell through on several days in the early weeks of school. The upshot is that I got to be Aunt Bob for four days and enjoy some quality time with my nieces. One day, we ran errands together to the post office and grocery, but other days we sat together at the dining room table and tackled important stuff, like:

  • making sure we all ate a healthy afternoon snack and talking about what kinds of foods are good for growing strong bodies and brains,
  • having Izzy practice her writing/spelling to tell a story instead of just drawing pretty pictures,
  • insisting that Sierra do her math homework before reading “The Far Side” for fun, and talking about how math processes are like recipes for cooking, to make sure you get the correct result everytime, and
  • going through Sierra’s schoolwork binder together daily to make sure she clipped loose papers into the right sections, so that she can learn where everything is and reduce her odds of losing something important.

Keeping the two of them engaged and on task required both patience and undivided attention. By the end of the fourth day, I was exhausted, but it was totally worth it. (I’m also thankful that by the time I have to shepherd my own girls after school, I won’t be 7 months pregnant anymore.)

As a bonus, we enjoyed family dinner together each night, too. One night, Chris and I cooked chicken fajitas and quesadillas; another night, we went out for Vietnamese with Sharon; and a third night, we met our parents at Barnaby’s.

Somewhere in there, I introduced Sierra and Izzy to the joy of being kicked by our baby girls. The shared experience of their little hands pressed to the top of my belly, their looks of quiet concentration as they waited for something to happen, and then their simultaneous joyous exclamations of “I felt her!” when Baby B finally kicked for them, were absolutely delightful. Good times!

Bob, Sierra, Izzy
Jean’s photo of Bob, Sierra, and Izzy outside Barnaby’s

With my energy level dwindling by the day, and my to do lists for both work and home still endless, it’s good that Chris and Shawn have other after-school arrangements for their girls. But I sure enjoyed the heck out of the four days we spent together.

Happy belated Fathers’ Day!

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

Here’s another catch-up post…

With babies on the way, June 19th was Bill’s first Father’s Day. The folks at Marble Slab were giving dads free scoops of ice cream with one mixin that day, so we met up with my brother and his family to celebrate Father’s Day. Much yumminess was had by all!

Bill, Izzy, and Chris
Bill, Izzy, and Chris

Shawnacy, Bob, and Sierra
Shawnacy, Bob, and Sierra

Happy belated Fathers’ Day, too, to my Dad and all the special men folk in our lives!

Odd and the Frost Giants!

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

Our friend Rob Kimbro recently adapted Neil Gaiman’s 2009 book Odd and the Frost Giants into a kid-friendly play. The world premiere is running at Stages Repertory this month, and this afternoon we went to see the show. It’s a marvelous bit of story-telling that combines live acting with clever puppets.

The show is delightful and we all enjoyed the heck out of it! Afterward, we visited with Rob and his daughter, Eleanor, as well as the Hawes family who saw the show today, too!

John, Izzy, and Sierra with Thor

Rob, Eleanor, and Susan listen as Robert shares his thoughts on the play

Chris and Rob

Sharon, Sierra, and Shawn

Rob and Susan

Rob and Bill

Sierra, Izzy, and Shawn

Odd’s final public performance is next Saturday, May 21st. If you’re in Houston, I encourage you to go!

Birthday baking with Sierra and Izzy

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

We spent Saturday celebrating my nieces’ July birthdays. Chris and Shawn both had commitments earlier in the day, so I collected the girls around 11:00 am for party prep. We baked their cakes together, reprising the rainbow cake batter (click image for larger):

licking beaters

Sierra mixing batter

Izzy filling her cake tin

colorful cake innards

decorated cakes

When the cakes were ready and the table was set, the girls and I went to collect Gran’mom. And everyone else gathered around 3:30 pm to enjoy the cake and punch and celebrate:

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

It’s striking to me how much Sierra and Izzy have grown up since their birthday two years ago. I really enjoyed spending the day with them, and I hope that it will be for them another happy birthday memory.

Girl fun: rainbow mini cupcakes!

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

When I read HeatherAnne’s post about Rainbow Cupcakes, it sounded like a perfect activity to do with my nieces. Izzy and Sierra will be 5 and 10 respectively in July, and baking is well within their abilities.

Sierra’s school lets out at 12:30 pm on Fridays. It took me six weeks to carve out a work-free Friday afternoon, but I eventually did. I picked up the girls, we hit the store together, and spent the rest of the afternoon baking and icing. Meanwhile, Chris and Shawn enjoyed some kid-free time for a change. Much fun was had by all!

giggly girls
Lots of giggling made for great stress relief!

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

rainbow mini cupcakes
Gorgeous colors outside…

rainbow layers inside
… rainbow layers inside!

The resulting cupcakes were both beautiful and delicious. But I have two observations for anyone who wants to try these:

  • the girls wanted some in “proper rainbow order,” but they also really enjoyed coming up with their own color combinations, and
  • pouring leftover batter into layers in a loaf pan was easy; carefully spooning thin layers into 24 mini muffin tins was a tedious PITA. Next time: we’ll use regular or even over-size muffin tins.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Bill and I were delighted to host Thanksgiving for our immediate families again this year. Chuck and Jean came up from Galveston, Nancy came down from Conroe, Sarah came over from Belmont, and Chris and Shawn came from across town with their girls. Better still, Shawn volunteered both to roast the turkey and bring her famous flourless chocolate cake for dessert. Yum!

Izzy and Sierra
Izzy and Sierra (click for larger and here for another version)

Chris carried in the turkey
Chris carried in the turkey

Chuck and Izzy
Chuck and Izzy

Holzer-Blackwell family gathered
Assembled Holzer and Blackwell families (click for larger)

Shawn's chocolate cake
Shawnacy’s famous chocolate cake

chocolate cake stars

Much friendly conversation and yumminess was had by all!

While our dinner carried on long-standing traditions, our schedule was new. As Sarah’s dementia has advanced, she experiences a common effect called “sundowning.” Essentially, her cognition is best early in the day when she’s rested, and declines rapidly later in the day as she gets tired. Planning her schedule and ours accordingly is helpful for everyone involved.

So after 30+ years of evening Thanksgiving dinners, we’ve now done “dinner” at 2:00 pm twice. That means getting up earlier to finish cooking and prepping. But it also means that by 6 pm, the food was put away, the dishes were clean, the house was back in order, and Bill, Tibbs, and I were relaxing on the couch. Which was awesome. I don’t know how the rest of our family feels about it, but I’d love it if this midday timing became a new family tradition.

Bittersweet: UH lab school closes today

Friday, July 31st, 2009

I’ve previously reported that my Dad is losing his position at UTMB at the end of August. While he exercised his right to appeal, the university president upheld the initial termination decision. Chuck has plenty of opportunities to continue consulting, so I expect he’ll be fine. But the process has been irritating. Grumble.

However, I’ve failed to report that my brother Chris is in a similar boat. In May, I was horrified to read that UH decided to close its lab school, where Chris has taught for more than a decade.

In The Houston Press, Richard Connelly said this of the school:

There is an acclaimed — if ominously titled — place on the UH campus called the “Human Development Lab.” No cyborgs are created there (that we know of); instead it’s a pre-school where UH students in relevant majors can come in and watch, often behind a two-way mirror, as tots grow up and learn.


Our kid went to HDL, which is/was open to anyone in Houston. (This was back in the College of Technology days.) We can’t imagine a better pre-school.

It was run according to Jean Piaget’s Constructivist theory, which….well, we were never really into the gobbledegook of educational theory. Whatever the academic underpinnings, it worked.

Teachers were great; the place was tiny but no one cared. The usual kid problems got worked out, and it seems every child we know who went there went on to great success in the more formal school system.

The place really was a gem.

The closing appears to be deeply political and the process has been ugly. While parents made a valiant effort to save the school, collecting more than 500 signatures, the university was not turned from its course. Dozens of kiddos and families are affected.

Today — July 31 — is the last day of school, and the teachers are required to clear out their possessions by 6:00 pm. Chris borrowed our truck this morning to help haul his things home. While I was overcome with sadness, he seemed resolute, saying “the school had become like a dinosaur with too many parasites, and it was time for it to die.”

While it’s not clear yet where he or Izzy (she was a student in the school) will land, Chris seems optimistic that whatever comes next will be good. By all accounts, my brother is an effective, creative, compassionate pre-school teacher. If you know any schools in Houston that could use his talents, please point them his way. Chris is the sole breadwinner as his wife Shawn finishes college, so it’s important that he land somewhere good by the end of the year.

Chris heading to his last day of school at UH

p.s. As I wrote this, Chris called to describe his hot, tired trek home with a motley truckload of his teaching tools, including a cow puppet, a rocking recliner, a tank of fish, and a live basil plant.

Happy birthday, Daddy!

Monday, May 25th, 2009

My dad turns 66 on Tuesday. In honor of the occasion, we convened the fam for dinner. Since Chuck’s birthday always falls in the general vicinity of Memorial Day, that’s usually when we celebrate it. Dad proposed that we meet at a restaurant halfway between Houston and Galveston so as to minimize anyone’s exposure to holiday traffic, and that’s what we did. A lovely and relaxing time was had by all!

Sierra, Chuck, Izzy, and Jean
I love this photo of Chuck, Jean, Sierra, and Izzy!

After everyone got home, I taught Mom how to upload the photos into FaceBook, where her family and friends can see and respond to them. You can check out the other dozen photos there. Enjoy!