Happy 7th Birthday Eliza!

Oh how I promise that if Thomas Jefferson had met you, he’d have never dreamed of leaving you out of the original.

You are such an original.

Lover of rats, rodents, other uncute and under loved animals.

Holder of many personalities, still including Baby Dragon and Curly Durly.

Student of math. You amaze me daily with how you see patterns and probabilities that I could never find.

Stoic of immense proportions. You believe vulnerability is a sign of weakness which makes your soft spots a treasure to us.

Believer in the redeeming power of laughter.

Chillaxer extrordinaire. You can veg out with the best of them. Blankets, pillows and Netflix on auto play are your love language.

We, again, are so blessed to have parented you this past year. You are still the child of my joy and I love you (and Ratty) so very very much.

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Happy Birthday Marion

This girl is the most tender-hearted child.

She is sweet, unselfish, empathetic, and a seeker of all things beautiful.

She is a jokester (the goofier the better), is without a rhythmic bone is her body, and is an absolute space cadet (she wore two skirts to school today without noticing.)

She is poetic to her bones yet is unfailingly honest and blunt.

She is a joy and is the child of my heart.

She is nine.

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Summer Camp #1 – Cooking Camp

This year, we did summer camps for the first time. Marion and Eliza each got to pick their own camp and then at the end of summer, they’ll do rock climbing camp together. First up, Marion had a turn at a cooking camp through the REACH program at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church. It was two hours a day, Monday through Thursday.

Marion’s Review:

I wanted to do a cooking camp because I enjoy cooking and I like the challenge.  I made zucchini bread and cheese crackers and monkey bread and peach cobbler.  (Mom insert – she made lots of other things too, each day they made at least three things and one drink.)  I really liked my teachers; they were very nice.  They gave us a lot of directions and I learned that when you crack eggs, crack them closer to the bowl, not far away.  I wish they had a recipe book that you could take home.  I’d like to take another cooking camp next year.

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Marion had an absolutely wonderful week at this camp. She went without any friends or siblings and was just as confident as she could be. Which makes me hesitant to say anything about it because does it really matter what my opinion is when she had such an amazing time? I’ll add it anyway. This was much more of an assembly camp than a cooking camp. She didn’t actually cook anything, everything was done for them. It was so much sugar. So much sugar. (One “recipe” was sticking donut holes on skewers with fruit) But, like I said, she loved it so it was worth it. We’ll do another camp next year though.

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Gracie Lou

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Gracie Lou
October 31, 2001
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When the Man waked up he said, ‘What is Wild Dog doing here?’ And the Woman said, ‘His name is not Wild Dog any more, but the First Friend, because he will be our friend for always and always and always. – Rudyard Kipling

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Gracie was truly a Wild Dog and very much a First Friend. Back when I was living in Mississippi, my roommate at the time called me and said, “Hey, do we want a puppy?” I said sure (DUH!)and she joined our lives. Her story was that a mom adopted her from a rescue but found out that puppies and two year old (apparently she had one of those as well) didn’t mix. So she was going to take the puppy back, but this other person said let me see if I can find her a home. That other person brought Gracie to the coffeeshop where my roommate worked and then I had Gracie for 15 years. That’s how all good love stories go, right?

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Lou was a one person dog and I was her person. She was the first of us to fall in love with Josh but I always had her heart.

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Then I went and had those rug rats and she turned white.

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Gracie Lou loved to be outside and she would pull the with the strength of ten thousand oxen. She never got exhausted until day three of hiking trips. She snarfblatted when she ate.

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If there was an inch of water, she would wallow in it. She loved to swim but hated baths. She was not a dignified dog. She once got so excited when Josh looked at her that she peed all over me. One cold night in Indiana, we woke up to find her between us. Under the sheets, with her head on a pillow.

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Gracie could be a hard dog to have. She ate everything but unpredictably. You’d think it’d had been ages since she’d counter surfed and then boom, a pound of chocolate covered espresso beans were gone and she didn’t sleep for three days. She was possessive and an excited pee-er. She was neurotic and borderline insane.

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But the hardest thing about Gracie was telling her goodbye.

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Summer Park Stop #3 – Brazos Bend State Park

We braved the gators (or lack thereof) to pay our first visit to Brazos Bend State Park

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Spoiler alert, it’s our first park to get five stars!

Marion’s Review
There was plenty of shade and I liked that we saw the turtle. It was a really cool, good park. I liked going to the ranger station and the park rangers were really nice. We saw a lot of cool stuff and they answered a lot of our questions. I like climbing the trees. I liked that there were long and short trails so you could chose what you wanted to do. I did not like the bugs or that there were alligators just running loose.

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Eliza’s Review
I really liked the alligators there and that you needed to stay 30 feet away from them. The park rangers were really nice and let me pet the baby alligators. I liked holding the animal shells and you could see the alligator mouth. I liked having a picnic and going hiking. I didn’t like the playground because there wasn’t any shade and there were lots of spiderwebs.

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Mama’s Review
To be completely honest, I think if it had been any hotter or we’d actually seen more than one alligator, I could have given this park like one star, lol. But we had absolutely incredible weather, we were one of like five families there, and we only saw one alligator that conveniently stayed in the water, so it gets five stars from me. There were plenty of lovely picnic spots, the bathrooms were clean and they even had a playground with an old fashioned metal slide!

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The park rangers were so very nice and really made the experience enjoyable. There are plenty of trails of various lengths and difficulties. We only went on two but took the Bob Ironman on both with no problems. Honestly, you really can’t go wrong with a state park, especially on a gorgeous off season day.

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Graham is absolutely turtle obsessed at the moment so it was a real treat to see this red eared slider laying eggs right outside the bathrooms!

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Did I mention what a gorgeous day it was?

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Baby gator!

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The girls had so many questions and he patiently answered them all.

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All your turtles belong to him.

All of them.

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Eliza calls dibs on the armadillos though.

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Great picnic spot

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He’s so stinkin cute!

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Always sketching, this one.

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We even got to see a garbage truck!

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He’s got a stick. He’s good.

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They have a fun, if not modern, playground.

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The kids were just as happy to climb trees.

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We had such a great time and can’t wait to go back!

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Summer Park Stop #2 – Exploration Park

It’s been less than a month since my last post! Clearly the summer heat is getting to me.

And stop #2 on our park tour did nothing to help my temperature come down.

Exploration Park in Katy

Marion’s Review
My tenderhearted child can’t look past the fact that as soon as we got there, Graham busted his head, so she holds the park personally responsible for that. Otherwise, she said “Not enough to do, but a fun park for big kids.”

Eliza’s Review
It needs better stuff to get you wet. It was fun that it had things you don’t see everwhere

Mama’s Review
There’s a lot of thoughtful design elements in the park which I appreciate. I also love it’s not 100% safe (see Graham’s injury). There’s so much climbing to be done over rocks where they could have easily put stairs or ramps. Most of the features there I haven’t seen at another park so the uniqueness is pretty cool. I just don’t understand how you can build a park in Houston and not include a playable water feature. Or bathrooms.

Notables
There’s a small water thing but not enough to really cool anyone down.
There are no bathrooms.
There’s a lovely covered pavilion with lots of tables. Other than that, almost no shade. Be prepared for that.
There are no bathrooms.
You have to cross a small road from the parking lot to the park, just as a heads up if you have runaway kids.
There are no bathrooms.

Overall
Three stars out of five

(The girls and I agreed if it hadn’t had been such a long drive for us, it probably would have gotten 3.5 stars)

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Graham’s injury (he did a header into the edge of the rocks)

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The water feature

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I think this is supposed to be the toddler area but right now, it’s just an artificial turf hill (watch out for carpet burns if they slide down)

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Spiderweb/climbing feature

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They only have two slides and one is a tunnel slide (a three story one though)

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So if your little ones are scared of covered slides (like Graham) it’s not a great choice

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Roller slides are always fun

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This see-saw swing combo was something I’d never seen before!

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They have the same sort of life sized tinker toys as they did at Levy Park, but they’re permanently attached to the poles. Not as much fun.

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Log/rope sort of swing thing (and an idea of the lack of shade)

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Nest swing

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The run off from the weather cycle clouds creates these little rivers. I imagine if it had recently rained, you’d get pretty muddy

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Super fast spinning stools (I’m sure that’s their official name)

I don’t ever see us making a trip out just to go to this park again but if I were ever needing to kill time in Katy with kids, I’d go again.

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Summer Park Stop #1 – Levy Park

It’s been more than a hot minute since I’ve blogged but let’s not talk about that! We’ll just jump from November 2016 to the summer of 2017 like nothing happened.

Last summer, the kids and I came up with a summer bucket list that we kept in an actual bucket. It was fun and all that but didn’t work out super well for us. Enter this year and the list to end all list in my bullet journal

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A sub list to this is that we’ve come up with ten parks in the Houston area that we want to visit this summer. Most are new parks but there’s a few old favorites in there too. The kids played an active role in helping me find parks and boy, they’ve got opinions on them too!

So first up, Levy Park.

(Graham and I had been here once before but the girls never had)

Marion’s review
There was plenty to do, but not too much.
(What she means is that she never got bored but no one threw a fit when it was time to leave)

Eliza’s review
I liked that there was water and lots of playing

Mama’s review
The park is super clean, so much to do, beautifully laid out. It’s definitely not as much fun when it’s crowded, so get there early. While there is a fence around the playground, the gate isn’t secured in any way and there’s one area that’s not gated.

Notables
An overhead water feature that can be strong for little ones
Lots of climbing but no swings
Bathrooms (including family rooms with changing tables) and water fountains
No picnic tables but lots of lawn (some shaded) for picnics
Both times we’ve been, parking was easy. I think though that if you go on a weekend or later in the day, it could definitely get hard to find a spot.

Overall
Four stars out of five

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Rock wall!

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Easy enough for Graham to do as long as he had a helping hand at the top

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Another fun climbing structure.  That’s Eliza at the top, of course.

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Picnic time!

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The concrete slide is a lot of fun – just watch out if it gets wet.  It gets really fast!

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More rock wall fun

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The water feature (I don’t remember kids slipping and falling so no need to bring water shoes)

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There’s also mini golf!  Or you know, survival of the fittest once they all get to swinging those putters around.

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Life sized tinker toys!

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So much climbing!

We absolutely love Levy park and this will be a regular in our rotation now!

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