Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Go Texan Day

This time of year always means one thing in Houston: Rodeo Time!! Last Friday was Go Texan Day, which is when half of Houston decks out in their finest Western wear in support of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. The kids love to join in the fun with their hats and boots.

We take the Rodeo very seriously around here, ha!

Howdy partners!

Connor in his gear at school on Go Texan Day.

A pink cowgirl hat is the perfect accessory to any precious outfit!

This year, we aren't planning to attend the big Houston Rodeo but decided to check out the local Katy Rodeo instead. We joined some friends on a gorgeous night for lots of Rodeo fun. The kids usually enjoy the carnival part of the Rodeo the best, and this year they really got into the action.

Daddy with his little cowgirl.

Connor and Benjamin on the dragon roller coaster, their favorite ride of the night.

Connor, Kaitlynn, and Jeff whizzing by!

Kaitlynn loved the train ride.

The Mommies had fun, too!

Our 5 cowpokes at the Rodeo.

Before we could head home, a funnel cake was a critical requirement.

Headed home after all the fun.

And here's a random tidbit about the Houston Rodeo...the Trail Riders have a long journey to get to the Rodeo and they ride in from all directions. We encountered one such group on our long commute to Connor's school last week. As much as we love the Trail Riders, they can definitely cause some traffic headaches, ha!

Trail Riders on Highway 6. The kids loved them!

We have lots more Rodeo fun coming up, stay tuned!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Big Changes, Part 4

Read part 1 here, part 2 here, and part 3 here.

After getting Connor situated in his new school, I realized that I had to turn my attention to Kaitlynn. In a bit of bad timing, we bought the new house a week AFTER next year's preschool registration had concluded in the Katy area. Kaitlynn will turn 4 this summer, which means she needs to be signed up for a Pre-K program in the fall. And since she is one of the youngest kiddos with a summer birthday, we've known for a while that she needs a strong Pre-K program with potentially an extra year of "Bridge" school before entering Kindergarten. There are many wonderful preschools in Katy, but by the time I attempted to get her registered, all of the recommended schools I knew about were booked with long waiting lists. 

I spent one afternoon doing Google searches for preschools and making phone calls to find additional recommendations from other parents and friends. In a stroke of good luck, I landed on a preschool in Katy that I hadn't heard of before, and they had 1 -- just 1! -- remaining spot in a class that sounded perfect for Kaitlynn. I quickly secured the spot and agreed to tour the school the next day. When Connor and I visited the preschool the next morning, I was floored by what a great fit it was! Their curriculum is outstanding, the school has a strong Christian influence, and they even offer a Bridge program if we decide to pursue that the following year. I was so grateful to find the school that after paying for registration and securing that final spot for Kaitlynn, I headed to the car for a good cry. I really felt God's hand in allowing so many big changes to fall into place!

So after writing such a long saga about all the big changes in our lives lately, I guess it's only fitting that I include a sneak peak of our new house. Without further ado, here it is:

Our new home!

It's going to be a crazy spring for us, but stay tuned for lots of pictures and updates as we make the big move and start the next chapter of our lives!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Big Changes, Part 3

Read part 1 here and part 2 here.

It has been a rough couple of months here in the Courtright household, but we are trying to focus on the positive. The silver lining of the entire situation is that with the sales contract of our new house in Katy, Connor was able to get early enrollment into his new school and actually started attending there this week. The Katy school district is renowned for its academic excellence and exemplary schools, and the elementary campus is literally a block from our new house. The junior high and high school campuses are also exemplary and less than a minute's drive from the house.

Connor's new school is Woodcreek Elementary and their mascot is the Woodcreek Ranger. When we visited for registration, we noticed that the lobby of the school is decorated so cute with a woodsy, forest theme to go along with the Ranger mascot. So fun! After a week of homeschooling with his Mom, Connor was more than ready to get back to school. (And can I say, I was ready for him to go back, too? Ha!)

The Woodcreek Ranger in the lobby of Connor's new school.

When it was time for Connor's first day, we were both SO excited and nervous! We left our house, dressed and ready, by 6:45 a.m. on the first day to make sure we would arrive on time. It is a LONG drive with LOTS of traffic each way. We got to the school by 7:45 a.m. and we were both giddy with excitement. I warned him to expect a TON of questions from me about his day later and he wanted to know exactly how many I would ask. I told him "1 million and 63!"

There were 4 other new students starting that day so it was a busy morning. We finally walked back to Connor's classroom and met his new teacher, Ms. Vaid. She was so sweet and welcoming, and Connor was assigned a "Forest Buddy" named Cayden to help him throughout his first day. Before I left Connor in the classroom, I could tell he was feeling some butterflies and a little nervous. I was, too! I gave him a kiss and a hug and told him I'd see him after school.

Connor on his first day at his new school. Look at that smile!

As I walked out of the school that morning, I felt an overwhelming rush of emotions. I made it to my car and bawled like a baby! I was so overcome with relief at getting Connor into a positive school environment. All I could think was, "We made it!" So much thought, worry, heartache, change, and MONEY had gone into this decision to move in order to get our kids into these exemplary schools. To realize that we were finally beginning this new chapter was so comforting and such a relief.

I couldn't wait to hear about Connor's first day at his new school. It felt like such a LONG day! When the time finally came for me to pick him up, he hopped into the car grinning from ear to ear. I was squealing with delight and said I couldn't wait to hear about his day. He said, "OK, Mom, let's start the 1 million 63 questions." Ha!

Connor in the lobby on his first day.

Connor told me that it was a great day and he loved the school. The number of kids in his classroom was smaller than his last class, and he really liked that he could go to the restroom whenever he needs to without asking permission or going together with the entire class. He really enjoyed hanging out with his Forest Buddy (a fellow classmate) throughout the day, and he even earned some Ranger Rah-Rahs (student rewards) for good behavior at lunch and gym. At one point after he answered another question about his day, Connor signed and asked, "Which question are we on now?" Ha!

The most telling comment he made after his first day was when I asked him if he liked his new school better than his old school. His answering was a resounding "Yes!" followed by, "I want to go to this school for the rest of my life!" Boy, did that speak volumes to me!

Love seeing that sweet smile!

The next couple of months with a killer commute to Connor's new school is definitely going to be a challenge for the entire family, but we feel so blessed to know that his and Kaitlynn's futures are secure in a great community with outstanding schools.

And speaking of Kaitlynn, there was just 1 more issue that I had yet to tackle...

Stay tuned for Big Changes, Part 4 (the series finale, ha!).

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Big Changes, Part 2

Read Big Changes, part 1 here.

Recently Connor's classroom was assigned a long-term substitute, which of course was causing the behavior issues in his classroom to escalate. Connor had been coming home telling me how awful it was, and he even wrote a paper describing some of the incidents that occurred, including a child that threw his heavy book bag at the substitute and another child that kicked a fellow classmate in the privates. Jeff and I read Connor's written account and kind of looked at each other in surprise. 

Connor in his classroom (Dec 2012)

A few days later, I was in Connor's classroom for a Junior Achievement session. Before the kids came into the room, I encountered the substitute who was visibly shaken and telling me about the terrible behavior of the kids that day. I was a little nervous but assured her that we could get the kids back in order once they returned from Art. I was wrong.

As the kids came back into the classroom to take their seats, I attempted to get everyone's attention and corral them towards our floor circle so that we could start our Junior Achievement lesson. There were many well-behaved children in the room, but I was floored/shocked/appalled at the behavior of the others. They were out.of.control. Fighting, screaming, whining, kicking, cursing, and completely ignoring both myself and the substitute teacher. The sub was in tears and wanting to leave, and by the end of my visit, I was shaking with anger and disbelief at the complete disarray and chaos of the classroom.

I left the school that day overwhelmed with disappointment and regret because it finally dawned on me that I've left Connor in this horrible situation all year, despite his telling me over and over how bad it was. I was only in that classroom for 30 minutes and couldn't believe what I saw; Connor has been dealing with it for almost 6 months. My emotions went into a tailspin and I felt like I had failed him as a parent!

I informed the school counselor and assistant principle about the situation, and they began taking steps to rectify the classroom issues. However, it was just the last straw for us. I immediately withdrew Connor from the school and decided to keep him at home until we could figure something else out. In God's perfect timing, Jeff and I reached a deal on another home in Katy that very same day.

Connor spent a week at "home school" which included trips to the library, his favorite.

Jeff and I are extremely relieved about getting Connor into a new school, but we are also dealing with a ton of stress and disappointment. We are truly crushed about having to leave our house and community.

"Heartbroken" is the word I use to describe how I feel about the entire situation. I spent about a week in a constant state of tearing up over every little thing. I had a heart to heart conversation with Connor about everything and told him that I was so sorry for not really addressing his classroom issues before, but that after I witnessed the classroom behavior, I truly understood how bad it has been for him all year. His chin quivered and his eyes teared up and he said, "I know, it just really stinks." It broke my heart into a million pieces. I hugged him and explained that those behaviors I witnessed in his class were unacceptable and not the way we expect for our peers to act, and that his new school would be completely different. He teared up again because he said he would really miss one of his school friends. I said, "It's OK to be sad," and then we actually cried together as he buried his head in my shoulder.

Stay tuned for Big Changes, Part 3.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Big Changes, Part 1

Jeff and I have known for a long time that we weren't in a top-rated school zone, but we love our home and community so much that we have worked hard to make it positive. We have considered multiple options over time but ultimately decided that we were probably going to have to move to a different school zone or school district at some point in the future. We were hoping to delay that decision, and in the meantime, I have been very active in Connor's school and volunteered a lot of my time to make sure I felt positive about the environment he was in.

One of the many reasons we love living here -- the beautiful view from our back patio.

Connor's 1st grade year in school has gone very differently than we expected. From his very first day, Connor came home talking about the "troublemakers" (his word) in his classroom and how his teacher had to handle multiple behavioral issues with many kids in his class. I dealt with it by telling him that sometimes in life we have to deal with stuff like that and we just try to set a good example and work around it. Also since day 1, Connor has complained incessently about being bored at school and he has just not been challenged at all this year. I've talked to the teacher and counselor about these things, but the issues continued to get progressively worse. With Connor's negative experiences this year in 1st grade, we started feeling a lot more pressure to take action and make a change in the school situation.

The "brag" board in Connor's classroom -- 3 of the 5 papers posted were his! :-)

For that reason, we started looking at homes in different school zones. We were considering some areas in Cypress (northwest Houston) as well as Katy (west of Houston), which is renowned for its excellence in schools. We weren't in any rush to move because we wanted Connor to go ahead and complete his 1st grade year at his current school. He was still complaining about the behavior and boredom at his school, so I had started working with him at home after school and on the weekends to supplement his education.

One of Connor's recent assignments in "home" school. His last answer made me laugh (next to last word is Wii, his favorite past-time, ha!)

After weeks of considering areas, searching for properties, and even touring some homes, Jeff and I decided that it was time to inform the kids about our decision to move. We sat down for dinner one night and carefully approached the subject. We started by telling Connor that we were considering moving to a new house so that he would have an opportunity to go to a different school. After some brief discussion, these were Connor's first three questions:
  1. Can we just stay in this house and change schools? (Oh, how we wish this were true!)
  2. Am I going to move closer to any of my friends?
  3. Can we move to a school that has more challenging tests? (LOL!)
Fortunately, Connor adjusted to the idea of moving very quickly and easily. We told him that regardless of when we find a new house, he was going to go ahead and finish out his 1st grade year at his current school. He was very excited about the prospect of starting 2nd grade at a new school that is more challenging and that has better behaved kids (I'm not making this up, ha!).

Little did we know how quickly things would change...

Stay tuned for Big Changes, Part 2.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Roach

I recently discovered this unpublished blog post in my list of Drafts. I'm not sure why I never posted this before, but reading back through it brought back some funny memories and made me chuckle. I decided to go ahead and publish it because it describes a classic Courtright moment and probably explains a LOT about our, um, LOATHING of roaches. Ha!

Back when I was in grade school, I developed a terrible fear of cockroaches. It probably had something to do with the fact that East Texas was full of them and there was just no escaping them no matter how much bug spray you used. I remember waking up in the middle of the night in my bedroom, listening to the tell-tale jingle of little bells -- proof that the little critters were crawling through the homecoming mums displayed proudly on the walls. I even remember one night waking up and noticing that something was crawling through my hair. Yep, a roach.

After college I moved south, and that's the first time I remember learning that those little suckers could FLY. Yes, flying cockroaches. I never considered myself afraid of bugs or insects. If I saw one, I would find the nearest magazine or flip-flop and just go after it. But the flying cockroaches, NO WAY. Because as soon as you would try to smack it, it would spread it's nasty wings and fly, usually right towards it's assailant. I'm assuming this is some kind of defense mechanism they teach in Roach School, because it's a brilliant tactic. No way do I want to go after the roach if it's gonna come right back towards my face. Not only that, but it takes a LOT to kill one of those bad boys. One smack is never enough. They have to be downright smushed to oblivion to be considered "dead" and even then, you're lucky if they don't make a last-ditch effort to survive by flailing their feelers at you and provoking yet another attack from the Us Weekly.

I realize that roaches can't hurt me. I know that. But I still hate those things with a passion. Over the years, it has become known in the Courtright house that I don't DO roaches. It doesn't matter what time of day or night it is. If I see a roach, I wake up the man of the house and make him go after it. It should be noted that he's not a fan of the flying cockroaches either. When he is trying to kill one, he'll usually emit a strange noise or two before the ordeal is eventually over and concluded with a shudder.

On the rare but sometimes necessary occasion that I have to confront one of these roaches on my own, it is not a pretty sight. What I have failed to mention thus far is my reaction to said flying cockroaches. It usually starts with an "Oh Crap!" and concludes with a series of shudders. In between, it involves lots of shrieking, ample screaming, arms flailing, feet hopping, heart palpitating, and perhaps a "No! No! Arggh!!" or two. I'm not proud of this. In fact, I have often tried my BEST to control my reaction to roaches on account of my impressionable 6-year-old son. You see, when Jeff isn't around, Connor is my best chance for escape from the nasty roaches. If I can teach him how to kill the little buggers on his own, then I have a good chance of never having to do it myself while he's with me. Right? Except that when he sees his mother doing the "roach dance" and screaming like there's no tomorrow, well, he doesn't seem to be buying into the plan like I had hoped.

So eventually, Connor and I made a deal. If Dad's not around and we see a flying cockroach, I have to kill the thing. THEN, and only then, will Connor step in and dispose of it. (See, that's the other thing. I hate them even when they're dead. The crunch, UGH!) There's been a time or two that I've labored to kill a roach, asked Connor to throw it away, and then the darn thing comes back to life and scrambles away. I remember one specific time that happened and Connor sprinted away saying, "I am NOT going back in there!" Poor kid.

We live in the South, around water, and in a warm climate. There is just no escaping the flying roaches. We rarely deal with pests but in the event I see one of those roaches in the house, you can bet I'm on the phone with an exterminator within minutes. Lately we've been doing a lot of work in our backyard and disturbing the roach inhabitants on our property. Therefore, they've decided to wander into our residence on occasion.

Last month, one such incident occurred. It was around 7 am and we were in our usual before school routine. As I was fixing breakfast for the kids, something flew past my head in the kitchen and landed on the kitchen cabinets. I thought it was a huge butterfly at first because of its massive wingspan. But no, it was a flying cockroach. Cue the "Oh crap!" and heart palpitations. I immediately began my "roach dance" accompanied by the screaming and shrieking, albeit in a toned-down manner. Because, you know, the kids were watching.

"Connor, get me a flip-flop!" I yelled, as the giant roach scrambled inside the kitchen cabinet. "Scratch that!" I amended. "Get me the bug spray!" I proceeded to try to open the kitchen cabinets where the roach was hiding, but I couldn't even pull the door open without a shriek escaping my lips and some sort of tribal dance taking over my body. I just knew that sucker was going to fly directly at me as soon as the cabinet doors were open. Finally I managed to pry the doors open and catch sight of the nasty bug in the corner, right underneath my entire collection of pots and pans. I didn't think twice, I pointed the can of Raid in the roach's direction and practically emptied the canister into the cabinet, all the while screaming and hopping. I didn't release the trigger until the disoriented creature came flying out of the cabinet and landed onto the kitchen floor. This commenced another round of shreiking and hopping, as well as an additional 3-5 seconds of nonstop Raid action toward the offending insect.

At this point, it appeared the roach was dead. I was breathing heavily as if I had just completed a strenuous workout. In my attempt to kill the flying cockroach, I had apparently forgotten the presence of my 2 small children. I looked up from my fresh kill to find Connor wide-eyed and Kaitlynn terrified and crying. Oops. The aftermath was interesting: my house smelled like a fumigation room, my pots and pans were hazardous to our health, and my children were traumatized for life. But, the roach was dead. And that's all that mattered!!

The event must have made an impression on Connor. When he brought home his writing folder from the last 9 weeks of school, I found this story and picture he had written/drawn about the roach. To say that his Mom "freeckt" out is, perhaps, an understatement.

Connor's story (he wrote this last spring in Kindergarten), in case you can't read it from the picture, goes like this: "This morning, in the kichen there was a flying roach. it was NASTY! My mom freeckt out a little bit. I freeckt out and Kaitlynn was crying."

Gotta love a kid's perspective! And his picture of the roach cracked me up -- I love how it dwarfs me in size and has a menacing look on its face. Roaches may be tiny, harmless creatures in real life but in our minds, they are huge, killer beasts, ha!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Connor's Trip to the Dentist

We found a wonderful pediatric dentist for Kaitlynn when we were dealing with her broken teeth. Since we loved the office and dentist so much, I decided that Connor should get established as a patient there as well. The first appointment we could get was on Valentine's Day, and Connor happened to be home with me and Kaitlynn, so it turned out to be a fun adventure for all of us.

Upon arrival at the dentist's office, Connor and Kaitlynn quickly felt at home in the lobby with all the toys, comfy seating, and movies playing. What kid wouldn't love going there!

Our first stop was the X-ray room. They took x-rays of Connor's teeth, and we got to see all his permanent teeth coming in right behind the baby teeth that haven't fallen out yet. It was really cool to see how large the new teeth will be compared to his current ones.

After X-rays, Connor had his cleaning. He was all smiles, especially when they gave him cool sunglasses to protect from the bright overhead lights. I think I need to ask for some of those the next time I visit my own dentist. Those bright lights always make my eyes water!

During Connor's cleaning, the dental assistants were explaining some of the equipment they were using. They showed Connor the tooth-cleaning machine and also the water rinser and water-suction thingy that we call "Mr. Thirsty." (We remembered that name from our previous dentist.) At one point while Connor's teeth were being cleaned and rinsed, Connor started waving his arms because his mouth was full of water and he was wanting to have the water suctioned out. He gurgled out, "I need Mr. Thirsty! I need Mr. Thirsty!" It was so funny, we laughed so hard!

Connor had a great checkup and no cavities! He got to pick several stickers and things from the prize machine, and Kaitlynn wasn't left out either. They even gave me a red rose since it was Valentine's Day. Man, times have changed since I was a kid going to the dentist. Connor said he couldn't wait for his next visit!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

I'm spending my day with these Valentine's cuties. Thanks, Meme, for the fun Valentine's Day shirts!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Justin and Christina's Wedding

The Courtright family was thrilled to celebrate the wedding of Justin (Jeff's brother) and his lovely bride, Christina, late last month. It was such a beautiful ceremony and we were all so lucky and thankful to be a part of their big day. Jeff was one of Justin's groomsmen, Connor was the "Ring Security", and Kaitlynn was the Flower Girl! Oh, what fun we had!

The celebration started on Friday when we flew out to Saint Augustine Beach in Florida where the wedding was held. Justin and Christina rented a home on the beach for their wedding party, and they hosted the rehearsal dinner there, too. Saint Augustine is such a quaint town, so we decided to try to do some sight-seeing on the morning of the wedding before the day got too hectic. We took a trolley tour to downtown Saint Augustine and learned that it is the oldest town in the United States. It was fun seeing some of the old buildings and architecture on our tour.

Some of our fun in Saint Augustine

Justin and Christina's wedding was held at this beautiful old hotel called Casa Monica in downtown Saint Augustine. It was the perfect venue for their special day!

Jeff and Connor arriving at the wedding 

Justin asked all of his groomsmen to wear Converse sneakers with their tuxes, and they pulled off the look. Connor even got in on the fun wearing his own pair along with his "Ring Security" shirt and fireman's badge.

Connor in his official Ring Security gear.

Kaitlynn, no surprise here, was OVER THE MOON about her role as Flower Girl!! We found this precious dress to match Christina's wedding colors, and we added some accessories including a headband and crystal necklace. Kaitlynn felt (and looked) like a little princess and loved every second of her big night. I tried to tell her that the evening was all about the Bride but Kaitlynn wasn't hearing any of that, ha!

Kaitlynn the Flower Girl

When it came time for the processional, we were a little nervous about how Connor and Kaitlynn would handle the pressure. We had coached them a little bit, telling them to walk slowly down the aisle and head straight for Jeff at the alter. We even told them all about the Wedding Fairy who brings gifts to the wedding party for doing a great job in the Wedding. That was a huge hit with both kids and really encouraged them to try hard at their roles.

Side note: When it was time for Kaitlynn to get ready and dressed in her Flower Girl gown, we joined all the girls in the Bridal suite where they had been doing hair and makeup. When it was Kaitlynn's turn to get her hair fixed, she was NOT feeling it. She was tired from a late night and long morning, and I think she was just extremely overwhelmed at all of the attention from the Bride and Bridal Party. As her hair was being fixed, she proceeded to have a HUGE meltdown. She sobbed and wailed uncontrollably as she had her hair braided, and she continued to melt down when I got her dressed. I'm fairly certain that Christina was wondering what in the world we were in for because it did NOT appear that Kaitlynn would hold up for the wedding. I assured everyone that Kaitlynn was just overwhelmed and would be fine at the actual wedding. I wonder if they could see through my own panic?? Ha!

To my pleasant surprise and delight, Connor and Kaitlynn did GREAT during the processional. They walked slowly down the aisle, Kaitlynn tossed the rose petals, and they made it to Jeff at the alter where they stood quietly for the remainder of the wedding ceremony. Phew! I was so happy they performed their roles so well for Christina, and I'm fairly certain she breathed a big sigh of relief that there wasn't any drama, ha!

Kevin took this short video of Connor and Kaitlynn walking into the wedding:

We were so proud of our Ring Security and Flower Girl. They made Uncle Justin and Aunt Christina proud, and they had extra special treats from the Wedding Fairy as a reward! ;-)

Posing at the wedding

Kaitlynn was working her role big time

A sneak peek of the bride -- can't wait for the official wedding photos!

I managed to take a few pics of the Courtright brothers and family after the wedding while the photographer was busy with the Bridal shots. A big thank you to Amanda for working her photo magic on some of these pics!

The Courtright brothers: Jeff, Justin, and Chris

The Flower Girl and Ring Security

Daddy with his little flower girl

Family pic

Jeff with his little ones

Back inside at the Wedding Reception, everyone had SO much fun! We had such a lovely dinner and then danced the night away. Jeff and Kaitlynn were quite the little pair -- they danced almost every song together and Kaitlynn was in full Cinderella mode with all her twirls and dips.

Daddy and daughter dancing

Connor and Kaitlynn's signature dance moves.

Kevin and Jeff enjoying the party.

Jeff and me, Jerry and Cheryl (parents of the Groom), and Doug and Cheryl (uncle/aunt of the Groom)

We had so much fun at the wedding, no one wanted to leave! It was such an exciting night and we couldn't have been more thrilled for Justin and Christina. We enjoyed our time with family and friends, and we left the next morning to head back home.

Kevin's way of transporting Kaitlynn through the airport.

What a great weekend! Congratulations, Justin and Christina Courtright!!! :-)