"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Back to Reality

I am really excited about our move to back to the USA, really excited.  I had hoped for Houston or Covington, and although I may have had my moments where I felt like I was being dragged kicking and screaming to Midland, I do feel as though that is where God wants us.  I would have supported Nick in another overseas assignment, but this past year has really done me in, and I am so thankful that this is how things turned out.  I would love to stay in the states until at least, God willing, our next and probably last baby is born (although that might change, the more babies I have, the more I want!!!!).  Things are just so easy in the USA and so kid friendly, and we have been wrung through the wringer (or is it rung through the ringer?) the past months.  So I have been so happy that our lives should be easy and simple over the next few years…

That is I was happy until I started to really process what returning to the USA meant.  I sat down to make out a USA budget after two years of not really having a budget and I realized that we have been ridiculously spoiled.  No bills, no car, no mortgage, extra money, and dream vacations, Nick will get less than half of the time off… ouch!  We need to buy a house, a car, a washer and dryer, probably a refrigerator, a vacuum cleaner… the list goes on and on.  I was reading an expat blog that I follow about a fancy vacation, and I started to really miss the fantasy of living overseas and completely forgot about the difficulties.  I always say that people from the Woodlands, TX don’t really live in the real world, but actually after living overseas, I realized that Americans don’t really live in the real world. We have things so easy compared to almost everyone else (thank you capitalism and individual liberty, I love you).  But actually the people who really, really don’t live in the real world are international expats!  Life is pretty cushy, even if it is harder is some ways.

And I’m already missing that cushy life.  How quickly I forget how hard and frustrating and lonely and isolating it could be.  Plus we had to travel without Nick much more than I would have liked.  Definitely, moving back to the states, even if it wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be, is the right choice. I just need to not forget it!

Here are some things I am really, really looking forward to about being back in the USA (imagine an exclamation point after every single bullet)!

  • Being back in Texas! Yes, I can live anywhere and dearly love other places, especially Louisiana, but being a Texan is a huge part of my identity and I get so homesick when I have been away too long.
  • Being closer to family. Its still pretty far, but closer than Russia.
  • Buying our own home. I am excited, even though prices are ridiculous.  We should be able to pay cash for an older home, which will be so exciting.  We have been working for that since we received Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover a year after we were married.
  • Have a yard for Isla and Gemma to play in. I would love to get them (and Nick) a trampoline and maybe a sandbox, that is if our yard is not already a sandbox…
  • Getting our own furniture back, and I am going to redo our master bedroom.  I’m pretty excited about that… and also maybe, maybe having a playroom.
  • Chick-Fil-A!!!! Love chicken biscuits, the kid friendly menu and the playground at every facility.  I have such an appreciation for fast food playgrounds now… indoor playgrounds are wonderful creations.
  • A lot of updated parks to take the girls to, Midland has a lot of great parks.  I checked them all out on their parks and recreation website.
  • HEB – yep, there everything is better Smile.  I have missed US grocery stores so much, especially that one.
  • Cooking in the USA, and having access to every ingredient I need.  It will be so much easier to work on our “Eat to Live” lifestyle change.  We have been making better food choices permanently since we read it last year, but we would like to transition even more, and it will be so much easier in the states.
  • Getting Isla into a permanent MDO program and signing her up for swim lessons.  She will love it!  The local YMCA also has baby swim lessons in the evening and Nick wants to take Gemma, which is so cool.
  • Being able to explore Texas more.

I admit that I am not excited about finding another church and making new friends that we will inevitably leave.  I am getting tired of moving to towns, making wonderful, life long friends and then just leaving them. I don’t know if becoming a mother and wanting stability for my children is what changed me, but I am tired of leaving my sweet friends. The reasons that I have been down on Midland are necessarily Midland’s fault, although I do not like the desert and its remoteness, plus the expensive housing.  I am sure it’s a nice town and I love small towns. I just wanted familiar for a few years, but I knew as soon as Midland came up that we would be accepting the offer.  I know God wants us there, and what’s more, I think He is going to greatly bless us there… I guess I just like to be in control.

BUT, I should know better! Isn’t it our blog tagline “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”? Smile  He has determined our steps, and I am really looking forward to this move!

Love,
Stori

Ps. Of course the year after the Aggies moved to the SEC we had to move farther west we probably won’t make any Aggie games… grrrr.  I will try to get over that one.

Pps.  It is wrung through the wringer.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Tuesday Tidbits

It’s the return of the Tuesday Tidbits!  Its been a while, but today was one of those Mommy-needs-oatmeal-chocolate-chip-cookie-dough-for-dinner days, and so I am taking some ME-TIME to do one of my favorite things – blog!  I had big plans to be productive after the girls were in bed, but I am doing this just because I want to, and then I am going to bed!

  • So, its looking like this little cutie may have inherited her daddy’s dimples. I am a little bit giddy about this… just a little. <BIG GIANT MOMMY GRIN>photo (4)
  • Also, little Dimples slept an 8 hour stretch last night Smile.  It is ok to hate me… that’s just ridiculous for a five week old.
  • Today was my first day flying solo with both girls.  I dropped Isla off at MDO, and took Gemma to the Doctor.  Then I picked up Isla with Gemma in tow and attempted my first errand at the post office.  I completed my task successfully, and I am feeling quite brave and keen to do something else with both of them!
  • I finally ordered what I thought would be the perfect double stroller for our family, the Joovy Caboose Ultralight… it came in the other day and I had been itching to try it out.photo (5)photo (6)
  • I tested it at the Post Office, and it turns out that at Isla’s age, I should have consulted my little rider because this pretty much sums up her reaction to it… photo (7)
  • Smart girl, she knows when she is getting the short end of the stick! Apparently she wants a full seat with a full recline.  I am going to try to get her on board with this one, but if it doesn’t work, I may be in the market for yet another stroller.  As much as I love strollers, I am not happy about this… it is getting embarrassing the number of strollers I have. I could sell some, but I have a hard time letting them go… I love them.
  • OMGoodness, Isla was horrible today!  She was so bad – happy and smiley but BAD.  Except she wasn’t really happy Sad smile.  Bless her heart, she is missing her daddy and asks about him constantly.  She is just acting out.  One thing that I absolutely feel very passionate about is limiting her time away from Nick.  We have never had to do more than 3 weeks apart while overseas, but even that length is too long.  That is one thing I will not miss about being an expat!
  • During Nick’s job transition he had the option of two very good positions that involved either a lot of travel (25%+) or were rotational (14 and 14).  We passed on them and now I am confident that we made the right decision – these girls need their daddy.  Midland was the right choice.
  • Oh man, speaking of Midland, I am getting so depressed about house hunting.  They are in the middle of a housing bubble.  Its an oil boom town so prices rise and fall with the price of oil.  I looked at house I liked that sold in August of 2012, it has just been relisted at $43,000 higher than it JUST SOLD 7 months ago!!! We are always a day late and a dollar short.  And I just know the bubble will burst just when it comes time for us to move again… I do not want to lose money on another house like we did in Covington.  We work too hard for that. 
  • Isla experienced her first Texas thunderstorm today.  She said is scared her and asked me to turn it off… bless her heart, I told her I’d try and it seemed to really comfort her. Of course it started up right at bedtime so it took her forever to fall asleep, this after a day of being rotten and also fighting her nap – she is the Evander Holyfield of nap fighting.  Me thinks we are in for another tough day tomorrow Sad smile.
  • I love saying “my girls” and “the girls”.  I always thought that if I had all of one gender, it would be all boys.  I am still a little bit stunned that I have TWO GIRLS!  Of course we aren’t done yet, but I absolutely love having two adorable girlies.  They make me so happy.
  • And now as a mother of girls, I feel like I need to really figure out how to do hair.  I hate doing hair.  I always wear my “wild and wooly” hair back or up.  Every attempt to figure out how to style it in the past has lasted about 10 minutes before I got bored and went off to read a book.  But for Isla and Gemma’s sake, I am making an honest effort. 
  • My two attempts at doing Isla’s hair have been embarrassing and only made it look worse. Basically at this point I am begging for anyone to direct me towards some hair styling resources, like a good website or something.  If a woman’s hair is her glory, then I want to make sure that my girls can at least wear their hair down without shame.photo (8)
  • Also, I think that’s why I am so obsessed with bows on babies.  It’s a pretty hair accessory and so adorable, and best of all, easy. I am so frustrated with myself for leaving most of my bows in Russia.  I was so convinced Gemma was a boy!
  • I have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism.  Its helping me lose the baby weight faster, but it is also making me even more scatterbrained.  Just what I needed.
  • Do I use too many exclamation points when I blog?

Okey dokey, this tired, scatterbrained, discombobulated mom is going to bed. God bless and good night!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Welcome to the Thistle Patch

First of all... someone got an iPhone today!   I am so excited to have this!  In the past two years I have bought two small cameras so that I could take everyday pictures without needing to pull out our big camera, both of which broke (ok, one I may have put through the washing machine...).  I finally gave up on them, and I am so happy to have a quick, easy way to take pictures of my kiddos.  Not to mention all of the other great things that you can do with a smart phone- like GPS... thank goodness for the navigation system.

Here is the first picture taken on my new iPhone!  Our little celebutot promptly squelched all of my mamarazzi dreams with her "No mom, stop.  I don't want to take pictures!" Sigh.

IMG_0001Anyway, today I want to share one of my favorite places in the entire world, my parents home, also known as "The Thistle Patch."  This is where I live when I'm not in Russia, and where I have been for most of the past 2+ months.

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First of all, I love the name!  Its a pun on my maiden name and also named after my dad.  My dad is a former marine and also a fightin' Texas Aggie and member of the Corp of Cadets at Texas aTm.  As a fish in the Corp, he was dubbed "Thistle" by his buddies, and the name has stuck ever since (and so have his buddies, who subsequently became my "uncles" - dubbed with their own nicknames, Buzz, Duck and Steelie). 

I love that its a nod to the "Oil Patch" the industry where my dad has worked his entire career. Also, The Thistle Patch is on 36 acres in Magnolia, TX; just north of Houston. I think 36 acres is a lot, Nick who grew up in south Texas disagrees, but that's ok... it might not be ranch material, but that just makes the "Patch" part all the more perfect and appropriate.

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So come on in...! 

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This is the first "house" that my parents built out here, we call it the Barn.  Originally they planned to use it as a home base while they went on another expat assignment as my dad worked overseas a lot so they kept it small.  However, they became grandparents soon thereafter and decided that they were done traveling and living away from the US! At this point they are full time grandparents first, and everything else second.

The Barn is a big garage with a very cute two bedroom, one bath apartment above.  If it were just my mom and dad it would be perfect, but its NEVER my mom and dad.  They are very social and always have many, many guests, including squatters like me who come and stay for a long time!  At this point my sister, Shawna, is living here with her two boys, my nephews, Aiden and Fin.

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After nine years in the Barn, my mom and dad finally built a new house, and just in time too!  The timing was perfect for Gemma's arrival and my sister needing to move. 

Here it is!  Its only about six months old and shortly thereafter my mom shattered her heel, so finishing it off has been slow.  They are just now working on the landscaping around the house.

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Its a great house and my favorite part is the BIG front porch :). Here is my mom sitting with Gemma and doing her bible study.  I love Texas weather, yes August sucks, but we have had the most beautiful Fall, Winter and Spring.  I always say I'll take a Texas summer over a Yankee winter any day!  I HATE cold weather.  Its so nice to be able to sit on the porch in this gorgeous weather!

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Here's our little treasure :).

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My dad is always busy out here; he has a hard time sitting still.  He loves it because he loves to work, and there is always a lot of work to do.  He can often be seen roaming around on his small tractor. Sometimes, when he needs a BIG tractor, like this one, he rents.  He has a lot of fun with his toys.

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Isla loves to go for tractor rides with her Pawpaw!

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I always say that my parents are trying to build a Venus Grandchild Trap! There is so much for small kids to do.

There's Gator rides.

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Isla loves the animals.  Here she is hunting for lizards.

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This is the only resident pet, Penelope the pot bellied pig.  Isla loves to feed her.  They have had other animals through the years, mainly many birds and dogs, but they have not have much luck keeping them.  Penelope seems to be here to stay though! :)

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A bird made a nest on the porch and the eggs hatched a few weeks ago.  Today was the first day they ventured out of the nest so we had all of these little baby birds flying all over the porch... OMG... talk about precious!

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This spring the butterflies have been out in full force.  I have seen so many different species, and it has been so much fun to go and look at them with Isla.

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Oh but there's more! My parents put in an awesome playground about seven years ago or so.

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And here's the latest toy... the "Tramp Queen" as Isla calls it! My brother Steelie (yep, named after my dad's Corp buddy) bought this at Christmas for his daughter and nieces and nephews to use at my mom's house. We love it and have spent many hours playing and having fun in it.

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Nick loves to come out here because there are always so many projects for him to do, and my parents love to put him to work!  He loves wood working, and clearing brush and just being outside.

He's been able to build a bridge over the creek that runs through the property for the Gator path... a very exciting project for a structural engineer.

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This is the tank.  We do catch and release fishing which the kiddos love, and the picnic area is on the other side in that grove of trees. Nick built the sturdy picnic tables we use.

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And perhaps my favorite of Nick's building projects (some of you knew this was coming)... the gazebo!  Nick designed it on AutoCAD and built it for our wedding 100% by himself.  The fact that I was married here on the Thistle Patch is one of the many reasons why its so special to me!

Here is the tent area (still called that 8 years after my wedding), the gazebo and the tank just beyond.

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And just for fun :).

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And I won't take pictures of the entire inside, but this is where the Wanns have been sleeping.  We get the entire top floor of the new house.  This is Nick, Gemma, and my room, my parents bought me a glider (not pictured) which was so thoughtful. Gemma sleeps in the nap nanny on the floor.

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Isla gets her own room.  This is her new bedding for her new room in Midland.  My mom refinishes furniture and refinished that adorable night stand for Isla.  She bought it for only $25!  She does great work.  We bought a set of dressers and a desk for cheap on Craiglist and she is going to refinish those too.

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And the best part of being on the second floor... the playroom!  I told you they were grandparents first.  They even made sure to put a playroom in their new house just for the grandkids to go and play.  A lot of the toys are my nephews' since there isn't a playroom in the barn.

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I hope you enjoyed the tour.  This is one of my favorite places on earth and just about perfect... now if only my parents would install a pool (hint, hint)!  We always enjoy our time at the Thistle Patch!

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