Sunday, December 29, 2019

Jude Turns Five

Since Jude's birthday always falls around Thanksgiving, we prefer to couple the celebration with a family get-together. He's lucky to have a lot of cousins around his age, so we have a full house of kids already. But, I'm guessing next year will be the year he makes us throw him a friend birthday party!

Some of the funniest/wittiest things that have come out of Jude's mouth over the past year were:

"I wish the things that wipe the rain away were called rain shields."
"I didn't kick you; I cannon-balled on you."
"I will eat anything you put in front of me."
"I couldn't chill out."
"Some days I'm sad when dad goes out of town...some days I'm not."
"I like rock, but I don't like roll."
"You got a 'bad guy' mustache."
"Water has no calories. I love water."
"Mom, instead of playing guess the song, we should play guess the album."
"Yeah, I got really rowdy with it." (After getting marker on himself)
"You're eating popcorn? That's a nice little snack."

This past year has involved quite a transformation for Jude. We enrolled him in Spanish Schoolhouse instead of leaving him in daycare for the last year before Kindergarten because he already knew how to read and we figured this was our chance to see if he could pick up the foundation for another language. And, it couldn't hurt to give him a year of practice in an actual school setting since he's not quite emotionally ready for what Kindergarten is going to involve! He's picking up the fundamentals of Spanish, but he's certainly not going to be conversational after just a year. But, I think it will prove to be a good experience for him. 

Jude impresses us with his memory recall and how quickly he picked up reading. He's advanced in a lot of ways, but he's also still very young in other areas! He's quick to get upset and cry when his big brother slights him and he has a hard time sitting still. He often has to be told the same thing a few times before he'll listen and he definitely likes to test the boundaries. He certainly does NOT like to be the center of attention and can get very shy, especially in groups. But, despite that, something happened recently that will go down as one of my favorite moments with him, ever. I signed up to read a book to Jude's class during a holiday party. After finishing it, the teachers asked me to read another. Jude came up and sat in my lap and said that he wanted to read the book. So, we took turns on the pages, reading the book aloud to the class. I was so proud of him for reading confidently, and out loud to the teachers and students, no less. I want to remember that day forever!

I can't wait to see what the coming year holds for Jude. Transitioning to Kindergarten will be a big change, but he'll be excited to be going to the same school as his big brother.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Life is Better at the Lake

My blog posts are few and far between, and there's a couple good reasons for that! I started a new business, which I'll save for a future post, and Meezy and I fulfilled one of our long-time dreams! For the past few years, we've checked out lake houses for sale every few months. We've seen what's available on the local lakes and even driven 1-2 hours outside of town if something looked promising. A couple properties piqued our interest along the way, so we made offers under list price. But, we never came to an agreement on any, usually because we didn't LOVE anything enough to pay more. We would have settled for a good deal on a house that checked most of the boxes, but luckily for us, those sellers weren't interested. We didn't know at the time that something much better was in store!

The best part of this story is where it all began. We embarked on this adventure because of a casual conversation at a neighborhood moms get-together. I was chatting with a neighbor I met for the first time that night, and we were discussing our upcoming weekend plans. She said her family was heading to their lake house, which obviously caught my attention. I inquired as to what lake the house was on, and she informed me it was Callender Lake. I had never heard of that body of water before, but I smelled an opportunity! She told me it was a private lake located 1.5 hours outside the metroplex. I told her how long we'd been searching for a house of our own, and she said, "There's a cool part of the lake called "The Island" and I know there's at least a couple houses for sale on it." Well, that's all it took! That night I went home and searched listings on Callender Lake.  I found a couple that seemed to fit our requirements and Meezy agreed. We scheduled showings for the next day and hit the road.

As promised, it took us 1.5 hours to get there, with the last 30 minutes spent on winding 2-lane country roads. (The ones that are fun to drive on). The entrance to the lake is gated, so we had to call the sellers for access. They buzzed us in and we eagerly drove the last 2 miles to The Island. After pulling up to the first property and seeing the half acre lot and view, I'm not even sure we had to go inside the house! The excitement was growing. This could be the one!

The lake access was wonderful with an established retaining wall and dock, there was an existing boat house, the backyard was large, flat, and grassy, and the rear of the house had a massive deck facing the lake. This is definitely what we had envisioned over the past few years. Now it was time to check out the house. Meezy and I weren't all that interested in nice, new, and fancy furnishings (or paying for them). We really just wanted good space so we could have friends and family over and everyone would feel comfortable. This house checked that box! It was 3,700 square feet with 5 bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms. There was an upstairs master and a downstairs master (with adjoining bonus room). One of the upstairs secondary bedrooms was massive, with room for multiple beds. The living room, kitchen, and breakfast nook were the heart of the house, with easy access to the back deck. Most of the house had probably been remodeled in the 1990s, and it was certainly livable as-is. Meezy and I were pretty certain we had found the one.

After leaving that house, we visited the other house for sale on The Island. It couldn't hold a candle to the first one! Yes, it was nicely updated, but it didn't have the space and lake access we were looking for.  We left Callender Lake ready to make an offer on the first house we saw.

I called my mom on the drive home to tell her about our findings. She had often shown interest in our lake house searches and sometimes I'd bring her along for a showing. She loved what she was hearing and asked if she could check it out with me the following day. I was fine with that, because seeing the property one more time and getting someone else's opinion before making an offer wasn't a bad idea.  The two of us hit the road the next day and made another visit to Callender Lake. As I suspected, she fell in love with the place too. So much so, that she turned to me and said, "I think your dad and I would like to get in on this." I couldn't believe it! Not only would this cut our cost in half, but it would truly make it a family lake house!

We came to an agreement with the seller on a reasonable price, negotiated a couple of repairs, and even purchased the majority of the sellers' existing furniture so we didn't have to start from scratch. I really can't believe how this dream of ours finally came to fruition, but I'm so grateful for the awesome memories we've already created during our first year of ownership. We've turned this house into such a fun hangout place. Here are a few of our improvements:

-We bought an old-school Off-Road arcade game, a foosball table, and a video poker machine for indoor fun
-We installed a trampoline in the backyard
-We installed a brand new built-in hot tub on the back deck
-We replaced a built-in ice maker in the kitchen with a built-in beer fridge
-We strung up outdoor lights around the boathouse and above the back deck
-We bought a small fishing boat, a kayak, and 2 jet-skis (and tubes)

There have been repairs needed along the way too, but that's expected with any house you own. Luckily, there are two families splitting all the costs, so it softens the blow! Here are some pics from our adventures this past year:

And these are the views that make you forget all the stress of your daily life:

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Dutch Turns Seven

For Dutch's seventh birthday, he told me he wanted a sleepover. So, we let him invite a few of his closest friends over for pizza and video games. First up, though, he got to see his happy birthday message on the electronic sign in front of the school.

I ordered him a Mario Kart cake and they spelled his name wrong. They left out the 'C' so I had to carefully move the 'H' over and make my own out of white frosting and red food coloring I luckily had on hand. Crisis averted.

The boys had a ridiculously good time and provided us some laughs with their antics. Our favorite moment of the night was probably this:

I know Dutch enjoyed it, but I'm not sure I'd do it again as it was pretty exhausting to manage this many boys, especially around bedtime!

As I've done in prior years, here are some of my favorite quotes from Dutch over the past year:

- "I'm gonna be honest with me. I'm not doing very good."
- "I have a hard life every day."
- "Can't we just buy it from amazon?"
- "Dad, do you think one country like Africa or Florida has run out of gasoline yet because they used all the gas from the dinosaurs?"
- "Have fun doing your mom things."
- "That was one mom with four kids. How does she even handle that?"
- "Is it gonna get more hype than this?"
- "At least he knows how to use a blinker."
- "Can I use the Tesla to see if I can drive?"
- "What does it feel like to not exist?"
- "This is how a noob does it."

Dutch Goes to Europe - Day 6

Alas, our vacation in Europe was coming to an end. We had to fit in as much time with Kim and Fabian as we could, so we headed to Koln and spent the last day with them. We started at the Koln cathedral and even though I've been there before, it was still worth another visit.

We also checked out the famous 4711 eau de cologne store (with perfume fountain) and the schokoladenmusem (chocolate museum). You can guess which one Dutch liked better! They handed out free samples of chocolate and I'm pretty sure Kim grabbed a couple extra.

We finished the night with dinner and Dutch Blitz back at Kim & Fabi's apartment and tried to delay the inevitable!

We snapped a few more pics so we'd never forget the fun adventure we had with some of our best friends!

We drove back to Frankfurt and then departed for the USA the next morning. I feel really lucky to have been able to experience this with my son, sister, and niece. I hope to get back to Europe again later this year or next. If you get the chance to travel, especially internationally, do it!

My little jet setter

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Dutch Goes to Europe - Day 5

Before we departed the Netherlands to head back to Germany, we made a stop at the beach in The Hague. It was quite cold, but it's never a bad day when you can collect seashells on the beach.

The next activity we went to was truly breathtaking for me. It was like giddy schoolgirl pee your pants caliber excitement. I've seen a professional soccer game between 2 countries before, but to actually watch the Netherlands versus Germany, in Germany, was beyond. The fans are so dedicated and there's just an energy in the air that is addictive. Dutch has really started liking soccer over the past year, so to be able to take him to this as his first professional game was really neat! Also, Kim is half Dutch/half German, so she found a way to support both teams! The game was intense and Holland made a crazy comeback in the end. What a night!

Still one fun day left before we had to head back to the US!

Dutch Goes to Europe - Day 4

Day 4 started with a drive from Heerlen to Rotterdam. We did a little shopping and eating, and of course had to try some yummy treats.

We continued on to The Hague and checked out Madurodam, which we discovered was an amazing place for photo ops! We were especially lucky to be there around sunset. Madurodam is a miniature park with scale model replicas of Dutch landmarks. It's truly a fascinating attraction and I think we all enjoyed the visit. These are definitely some of my favorite photos from the whole trip!

We finished the day with dinner near the beach in The Hague. Since it was vacation, Dutch got another yummy treat!

Day 4 was pretty great, but Day 5 was what I had been especially looking forward to for months!!