Saturday, August 23, 2014

Mo Ranch 2014

Every couple years, my Dad's side of the family gets together for a family reunion at Mo Ranch in Hunt, TX. It's actually not too hard to coordinate, because his side of the family is (unfortunately) quite small.  My Dad is the only remaining living member of the original family of 5 that emigrated here from Holland many, many years ago.  One of his brothers had 3 sons before he passed away, so those cousins and their families, and my dad's three daughters and our families, get together with my parents for a fun weekend.  It's a very laid-back place, where you get to roam around and choose from an array of activities like fishing, swimming, sand volleyball, tennis, hiking, riding the rapids, or going down the famous slide.  The funny part about this year is that Mo Ranch is very slowly renovating their rooms, and Meezy and I happened to get one of the only already renovated rooms! Nobody else in our group got one, yet we paid the same price.  Lol!

It's so nice for all the cousins to be together in one place at the same time, because we're usually spread out across Texas in different cities.  Our kids have an awesome time together too!

Jill, Joanna, Janet, Nick, John, Charles

The cousins and their spouses

All our kids!

We typically eat our meals in their main cafeteria, but on Saturday nights, they always do a BBQ by the river.

Doesn't matter how pregnant I am, you know I'm not going to pass up tennis and sand volleyball.

Dutch was hesitant about the long catwalk suspended high above the road.  He cracked me up with his timidity.  It was going to be quite a long journey if we hadn't intervened!


In my opinion, the coolest thing about Mo Ranch is the slide that terminates into the river.  Here's Meezy going down the slide:

Now imagine it without the protective guards along the side of it.  When I was growing up, that's what it looked like!  Those extra guards are a fairly recent addition.  I rode it when it was way more terrifying!

Since we go every two years, it's fun to see the changes taking place in our family between trips.  Here's Dutch and I two years ago, and again this year:

Bye, Mo Ranch.  We'll see you again in two years when we are a family of four!

Pensacola Beach Trip 2014

With baby #2 making his arrival later this year, Meezy and I decided we needed to try and get a vacation in while we still could.  We threw around the idea of having a getaway just for the two of us, but after talking with a cousin who told me about the great trips they take their toddler on and how fun it is to see him experience new things, we decided we should do a family trip.  Since Dutch had never gone to the beach, we started researching destinations with beautiful beaches.  Galveston was out, because I've been there many times, and I'm just not a fan of the beach there.  We thought about Destin, but the more I read about it, the more popular of a tourist destination it seemed to be becoming, and it is a little further away from us than other beaches.  We decided on Pensacola Beach.  The drive seemed manageable, online reviews were good, and we found an affordable hotel directly on the beach.

Dutch LOVED the beach.  From the first moment we took him out there, we knew we made the right decision.  He giggled like crazy when we took him in the water and would love to run away from the tide as it inched toward his feet.  He also thoroughly enjoyed playing in the sand and his favorite part seemed to be knocking down the sand castles we would build!

We tried to take a dolphin tour one day, but after heading out on the water for about 20 minutes, the captain decided to turn the boat around because the water was getting too choppy and dangerous.  It actually wasn't too bad, because we got a free boat ride and Dutch seemed to enjoy it.

One day we found a food truck/bar on the beach for lunch, and it was perfect for entertaining a 2 year old. After he ate, he enjoyed time in the sand while we got to leisurely enjoy our food!

Many of our afternoons looked like this:

We also threw in a visit to a children's museum and enjoyed some pool time:

All in all, it was a great experience for our family, and Dutch was a trooper on the extremely long car drives. I'm so glad we were able to take a few days out of our busy schedules to enjoy time together.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Not Enough Ladies, Too Many Mans

Well, we got gender confirmation on baby #2!  At 18 weeks, we got a very clear sonogram picture confirming we're having another boy.  I think I was leaning towards wanting a girl, but giving Dutch a brother will be a great gift.  He needs a little playmate who can hang with him.  The kid has loads of energy, typically at like 9:30 at night.  He runs, he yells, he crashes his cars, he rides his bike around the house, etc. I don't think he'd know what to do with a sister!  The main benefit, of course, is the fact that we get to reuse all of Dutch's baby stuff again!  Whew.  No need to obtain a whole new wardrobe or accessories catered to a girl. The new baby will inherit Dutch's nursery and all the furniture, and we'll work on furnishing a whole new room  for Dutch.  I'm having to give up my current home office setup, but such is life!

I'm not gonna lie - when I heard we were having another boy, I got a little overwhelmed. There will be 3 males in the house!  I'm severely outnumbered.  It made me think of a Flight of the Conchords song. (Make sure you have a sense of humor before you proceed with watching this.  Also, NSFW lyrics.)

My favorite lines:

"You guys are dorkin' up my vibe with all the dicks."
"Not enough ladies, too many mans."

Monday, July 7, 2014

Outdoor Living Remodel

We enjoy having a pool in our backyard, but that was the extent of our outdoor amenities. The sun beating down on our uncovered patio was brutal, so we knew we needed to provide some shade and comfortable seating.  We wanted an area for lounging before or after being in the pool and an area appropriate for outdoor dining.  This is what we had before:

It was nice for laying out, but the smaller chaise lounges weren't very comfortable, the pillows faded quickly, the heat was scorching, and it wasn't a convenient place for eating. Once we cleared all the furniture out, here's what we had:

The area was a good size, so we decided to get a pergola installed. We used Lawnmaster through Home Depot.  We liked their options and thought they were affordable.  Once we met with a rep and decided on the features, they sent us renderings for approval.  After we signed off on those, installation was scheduled. That process took about 5 weeks, in total.  They told us it would be 3-4 weeks, but whatever.  The actual installation was done in 5 hours, so that was nice.  The crew was efficient, answered all my questions and provided suggestions, and cleaned up after themselves.  I was happy with their work! Here is the finished product:

It's a 12x14 Deluxe Pergola with upgraded stripping.  That means we got more wood slats on the top, so that it would provide more shade.  I love the red stain on the wood and the end-cuts on the headers. We had them start the first header at 7'6" high instead of 7' so that we could add a fan or misters later, and it wouldn't feel too close to your head.

Now that the pergola was installed, we needed furniture!  Considering how long it took us to pick out our indoor dining furniture, I was dreading this task.  I looked at a few stores in person, and then checked out a lot of sites online.  I came across Chair King in Plano, and decided to stop by there on the way back from an appointment.  They were about to close, but I got a good feel for how many options they had and figured it would be worth a return trip on another day.  When Meezy and I found time to go the next day, I realized there was a location closer to our house. We drove there instead and discovered the store was closing that next weekend.  The inventory was quite limited, but they were offering 50% off!  Score!  We had figured we would spend a few thousand and get a small table with 6 basic chairs.  Thanks to the sale, we were able to get a huge table with 8 upgraded chairs.

The table comfortably seats 8, as shown, but this is with just one of the leaves installed.  If we have more guests, we can add the other leaf (that is stored conveniently under the table), and have room for at least 2 more.

The end chairs are upgraded swivel chairs.

    The side chairs don't swivel, but they're all sturdy with nice, decorative arms and fade-free fabric.

I'm so glad we went to the location that was about to close, because we either would've spent double on this set, or not gotten the one that we really wanted, to save money.  We put the new stuff to use immediately, with a family meal on Friday night - homemade pizzas!  I'm looking forward to more outdoor fun this summer and fall.

Project Costs:
Pergola: $3,900
Furniture: $4,200 (total also included a large serving cart, not pictured)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Meatless Mothers Day

I bet the title of this post has you confused. It'll make sense shortly.  Let me start from the beginning.  I've never been a fan of hunting.  When I see people post pictures online next to an animal they killed, sometimes just for the sport of it, I cringe. My mind just doesn't process the desire to shoot an animal for the heck of it. A beautiful buck's life is worth more than a dozen likes on facebook.  An antelope deserves more than getting an occasional glance from you as you pass by its stuffed head in your living room.  Don't get me started on people that hunt exotic or endangered animals. What selfish, arrogant pricks those guys are.  But, I digress. It makes me sad to think about animals dying for trophies, which leads me to the next scenario. Some hunters will justify their actions by saying they kill animals for food.  "I use all the edible parts of the deer, so it's not like I killed it just for fun."  Let me make sure I understand - you had a desire to eat a certain kind of meat, so that made it okay to kill the animal.  Was that the only food source available to you?  Do you live in the wild and procure ALL your own food by hand?  I doubt it.  There were most certainly alternatives.  

So, that has been my stance on hunting for many, many years, but I never took it any further than that. A couple months ago, a possum mom and baby decided to take up residence in our yard. It wouldn't have bothered me much except that I worry what diseases they might carry, and my dog wouldn't stop confronting them.  I feared a fight was imminent.  One day, Meezy informed me that the baby possum was hiding under the control box for our electric gate. He said, "I was going to kill it, but I knew that would make you mad."  I was shocked!  "You were going to kill it?!? How?"  He said that he probably would've found a large stick and beaten it to death.  Oh. My. God. (I know most guys reading this would have chosen the same route he did, so I understand the majority of my disdain for this approach is related to my gender).  I told him how I couldn't believe he would have it in him to literally beat an animal, a baby no less, to death.  There were alternatives!  I grabbed a small stick and scooted the possum out of our yard, into the alley.  Boom, problem solved, and everybody lived.

Fast forward to Mothers Day weekend, and we were making the 5.5 hour drive to Amarillo. I had lots of time to let my mind wander, and it wandered back to the possum scenario.  I thought again about how I definitely wouldn't have had it in me to kill a possum, and I certainly wouldn't have condoned Meezy doing that either.  Uh oh. That raised an interesting question for me.  If I don't condone other people killing animals, how can I allow myself to benefit from it?  And thus began the meat dilemma.

Was I any better than a hunter? I let someone else murder an animal, where I don't have to watch, so that I can enjoy a burger.  Man, I'm cringing just writing that.  An animal had to lose its life just so I could have 5-10 minutes of my brain telling me I was eating something yummy. It's very easy to ignore all the steps that happen before that burger shows up on my plate. Ignorance is what made eating meat so easy before. At any point in my life, I guarantee if I had to stand in front of a cow, and watch it get murdered, I would not feel comfortable eating its meat. With that said, just because I don't stand in front of it for that doesn't mean I should have a different response.  The same action still takes place, whether I'm there or not.

And that brings us to meatless Mothers Day.  I made a decision in the car, on the way to Amarillo for Mothers Day, that I would become a vegetarian.  Wouldn't you know it, we had a big cookout to celebrate the holiday.  Lol.  I enjoyed a meatless burger, and it actually wasn't bad.  There were plenty of side dishes without meat for me to partake in, as well.  It's been a month since I made the big change, and I'll honestly say it hasn't been too difficult.  There are plenty of options for me to eat, and most things are still good without meat - salad, nachos, queso, enchiladas, pasta, fried rice, sandwiches, etc. I do miss loaded queso - that was probably one of my most favorite things in the world. But, it's for the better.  I don't feel the guilt, and I actually think I'm becoming healthier.  There are a lot more leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables in my diet now!

Do I restrict Dutch from eating meat? No. He can make a decision about his diet when he's older.

Do I prohibit meat from being purchased in our house? No. Meezy is his own person, and my feelings don't dictate his actions.

Are you preaching to me? No, I don't preach about this. Just because I decided to be a vegetarian doesn't mean anyone else should feel like I'm pressuring them to do the same.  It is a completely personal decision, just like religion, politics, etc. I'm only writing about it because it's a substantial change for my life.

Do you think you'll make a difference in the world? No, I don't feel like me not eating meat will make even the smallest difference in the world. It is completely the result of me not wanting to feel guilty about what I eat, and where it comes from.

Are you vegan? No, I am not vegan. I am still figuring out what I feel about where dairy products come from. The animals aren't killed, but they are bred strictly for production of products for me. Many aren't kept in humane conditions.  Where I'm at right now is that I try to buy products that mention humane treatment, but I've got a long way to go before I'll feel like a responsible dairy consumer.  

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sorry, Seat's Taken!

That 4th lounge chair gets filled this December!  We're expecting our second child, and we couldn't be more excited.  We decided to get some family pictures taken that could double as our announcement.  Special thanks to RGE Photography for capturing our joy. Here they are:

OMG, with the cuteness

 Big Brother in training

Oh  Baby!

There will be two soon.

He's super kissable.

Dutch looks so grown up here!

One of my favorites.  Baby is waving at you!

And the best one of them all: