Sunday, June 30, 2013

Cabinets and Cousins

Back when we bought our new home in Katy, the living room looked like this:

Someone please explain to me why builders leave these empty, good-for-nothing niches on either side of a fireplace like that?! We had the same niches in our last house and had to pay someone to build some cabinets for them, and here we are at the new house faced with the same dilemma. So, I attempted to be proactive (and also tried to save a little money) and I asked my brother Jeb if he'd be willing to build me some built-ins for these niches. He is an amazing carpenter and has tackled many projects like these, so he graciously agreed to take on the project.

So during the madness that was my spring and at the height of the stressful season of commuting between Houston and Katy, my brother asked me for the measurements so that he could get started on the niches. Sure, no problem, right? Except, I was mad in the head and measured wrong. I was off by about an inch, which doesn't seem like much until you try to fit too-large of a cabinet into too-small of a space.

My brother spent countless hours building these cabinets for me only to discover in the end that they wouldn't easily fit into the niches. When we discovered the measurement error, I was SICK. I had many sleepless nights feeling guilty and trying to figure out a solution. I felt SO BAD. But Jeb, ever the patient brother, reassured me that he would make it work. His plan was to drive down to Katy for a weekend and demolish the drywall on either side of the fireplace, slide the cabinets in, and then trim them out to match. As grateful as I was that he was willing to do that, it was SO hard to agree to demolish walls in our house that we had just bought and then remodeled.

Before the cabinets were installed. (Jeff had the fireplace tile removed so that he could replace it himself later.)

To make the long story short, Jeb and his family traveled over 6 hours to Katy on Memorial Day weekend so that Jeb and Jeff could work to get the cabinets in place. They worked about 10 hours on Saturday and they ran into a few snags, but they were successful in the end. Those cabinets are wedged in there so tight, you'd have to knock the house down to get them out, ha!

Jeff enjoyed playing with the power tools when he demo-ed the drywall.

Is it going to fit??

The left side finally went in, after removing both sides of drywall and then repairing with paneling.

A grainy shot of the cabinets after they were installed with trim.

It was such a relief when Jeb and Jeff were able to get the cabinets installed and trimmed with molding. They worked SO hard, and I thanked them both profusely for saving me from my dumb measurement mistake.

One good thing that came out of the cabinet debacle was that we had a great weekend of fun with the cousins. While Jeb and Jeff worked their butts off, Alli and all the cousins had a great time hanging out and spending time together. We visited a local arcade complete with an indoor roller coaster, we watched the movie Epic, and we even made a visit to Julie's house to swim and jump on the trampoline. All while the guys were working.

At the arcade, the kids were so excited about the roller coaster.

Happy faces before the ride.

And during the was SO fast! Kaitlynn turned green, ha!

The cousins playing and ready for a swim.

After all the work was done on Saturday, Jeff took the kids to swim on Sunday.

Before they left Katy, we stopped at our favorite frozen yogurt hangout, U-Swirl.

Back to the cabinets... After Jeb and Jeff finished installing them, the only thing left to do was get them painted. Seemed simple enough. Except, when I came home to find this:

The entire living room was taped off to repair the drywall and paint the cabinets.

Almost finished.

I couldn't believe the mess in our living room from this project. Sanding and painting left dust everywhere! And worse than that, when the plastic was removed and the workers gone, I discovered that they had really done a poor job in repairing the drywall and moldings. So then guess what?

They had to come back and do it all over again! Argh.

After weeks/months of planning, building, installing, repairing, painting, and fixing, the cabinets are now done! They are such an improvement from the empty niches!


The right niche.

Close-up of the left niche. You'd never know that they had to bust out the drywall on both sides!

The finished project, except for the fireplace surround and cabinet hardware. Those are next!

I never imagined what a project that would turn out to be. When I was explaining to my new neighbor about my brother's trip down here and all the work that had to be done because of my measurement error, my sweet neighbor summed it all up by saying, "Your brother must really love you." Yep, I believe that's right! I'm a lucky girl to have such a loving, patient, and talented brother. Thanks Jeb, and I sure love you back!!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Finishing Up 1st Grade

The last few months were a whirlwind for us as Connor transferred to his new elementary school and finished up his 1st grade year there. It went by so fast because he was so busy! We couldn't believe all of the fun packed in to the end of the school year.

Towards the end of the year, each student in Connor's class was assigned a project on an inventor. They were required to research the inventor and create a PowerPoint presentation with their research. Yes, I said PowerPoint. In 1st Grade. After I read the instructions and picked my jaw up off the floor, I introduced Connor to PowerPoint and he did a great job with his research project on Alexander Graham Bell.

Another activity that Connor completed in May was his Star of the Week poster. He decorated a poster with pictures and stickers describing himself for his class.

When it was finally time for the end of the year, his school celebrated by hosting a Celebration of Learning. Each student stood in front of the classroom of kids and parents and read a paper describing their favorite things of 1st grade. Then we all watched a tearjerker of a slideshow with pictures throughout the school year. It was such a neat way to close out the year and get the kids excited to move on to 2nd Grade.

The 3 of us at Connor's Celebration of Learning.

Banner welcoming the parents.

Ms. Vaid presenting Connor with his end-of-the-year album.

Kaitlynn showing her big brother some affection.

Ms. Vaid and Connor with Kaitlynn refusing to let go, ha!

Connor showing one of his classroom activities.

When the last day of school arrived, the kids came downstairs and we all promptly began singing Alice Cooper's "School's Out for Summer!" It's our summer theme song and the kids love singing it everywhere we go, ha!

Connor on his last day of 1st grade.

Jeff and I are just so proud of Connor's progress this year. He had a rough start at his other school, constantly complaining of being bored and dealing with the behavior issues of his fellow classmates. When he transferred to his new school, he was exposed to many things academically that he had not seen before so he definitely had some catching up to do. But Connor adjusted so quickly and had such a steller end to his year. He finished the year with a 96 average, the Principal's Award for behavior and academic excellence, and the Bookworm and Rock Star awards from his teacher.

For the last day of school, the kids had early release and then we headed over to Julie's house for some afternoon swimming and fun. It was the perfect kickoff to our already hectic summer of fun!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Kevin's High School Graduation

Kevin is now officially a high school graduate!

The whole family was in town to celebrate Kevin's big day. Collin drove in from San Antonio and Nana flew in from California. Kevin's graduation ceremony was held in the massive Berry Center of the Cypress-Fairbanks school district. Look at all of those graduates!

These pics are blurry, but here is Kevin walking across the stage to receive his diploma.

After the ceremony, we all congratulated Kevin and took a few pictures.

Family shot, love!

Jeff and Kevin.

Nana and Kevin.

Kevin and his girlfriend, Helen.

The proud Dad and brother.

Nana with her grandkids.

Collin and his girlfriend, Martha.

Kevin's choice for his graduation dinner was our favorite hibachi grill restaurant called Toro. Yum!

After we were stuffed from lunch, everyone came back to the house to enjoy some celebratory cake and ice cream.

Kevin opened his graduation gifts and then we all just hung out for a while. Collin wanted to wash his car, so everyone else suited up to "help" him.

It was a great weekend of family time and celebration in Kevin's honor. Kevin plans to attend Blinn College in Brenham this fall with the hope of eventually attending A&M University in College Station (whoop!). Congrats, Kevin!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Nana's Visit

Jeff's Mom, a.k.a. Nana, arrived last week from California to attend Kevin's high school graduation. We were SO excited to have her here!

Nana arrived with treats for the kids!

Connor and Kaitlynn were overjoyed to play with Nana, who was such a great sport to get down on the floor and play all of their crazy games, including restaurant/waiter, spy, and family dollhouse.

Playing in the play room.

More playtime. I think Nana looks good with a princess tiara!

During Nana's visit, she took the opportunity to have a birthday celebration for both kids. We enjoyed cookie cake, ice cream, and even gifts!

Kaitlynn enjoying some ice cream and cookie cake.

Connor loved it, too.

Connor's gift: The first 12 books in the Magic Treehouse series. He LOVES them!

Kaitlynn's gift: a new (updated) Repunzel dress. She is in HEAVEN!!!