Friday, May 30, 2014

Our Little Graduate

It has been a BIG month in the Courtright household. The baby of our family is now officially a Preschool Graduate!

Kaitlynn's official preschool graduation photo.

Is it just me, or does this strike anyone else as TOO SOON?? We've had such a busy May that the big day completely snuck up on me. One day the school sent home these graduation photos and it just hit me that it was coming up.

When we woke up on graduation day, Kaitlynn wanted to make sure she wore a beautiful dress that twirled. Every dress in her closet is judged on the twirl factor. I made sure to take her picture on graduation morning. I think she looks like such a big girl. Sniff sniff. Oh and her "accessories" are all her own doing. They matched perfectly, ha!

The twirl-worthy graduation dress and selected accessories.

This girl, love her!

Since this was our first year at His Kids Preschool, I didn't know what to expect with their graduation ceremony and activities. When the big day arrived, Kaitlynn and I were impressed by the stage setup in the auditorium. Such a cute theme!

The graduation stage with circus theme.

When it was time for the ceremony to begin, I snuck outside and got a quick picture of my little graduate. She was all lined up with her class and SO excited!

Lined up in her cap and gown.

When it was time for the ceremony, the kids all walked in to the graduation song. So cute! Then they lined up on stage to perform some songs for the parents. After their performance, we watched a slideshow of all of the children. When I saw Kaitlynn's name up there with some pictures from when she was a baby/toddler, I *may* have gotten a little emotional.

Kaitlynn's toddler pic in the slideshow.

After the slideshow, it was time for the kids to walk across the stage. One by one, the preschool director called the children's name and they walked the stage to receive their diploma. I caught the tail end of Kaitlynn walking across the stage but not when they called her name. She was such a big girl!

After all of the children received their diploma, it was time for a celebration of cake and punch! But not before we made Kaitlynn sit through a few more photos. ;-)

Proud parents with the little graduate.

Kaitlynn and her Sweet Daddy.

Grainy iPhone picture with my girl, love her!

At the graduation reception, the kiddos got cupcakes and clown noses, ha!

The preschool graduates had such a great time celebrating their big accomplishment! We were impressed with the ceremony and all of the great work by the teachers, too. When I think back to our last-minute registration for pre-K and how Kaitlynn got the LAST spot available in her class, I just know that God's hand was guiding us all along to His Kids Preschool and that this was where Kaitlynn was meant to be for her last year of preschool!

End of school party in her classroom.

Kaitlynn has learned and has grown leaps and bounds during her 4th year. She is not quite 5, but she is reading 50+ sight words, writing on her own, and showing incredible improvements in her listening and behavior in a classroom setting.

End of school picture of Kaitlynn's pre-K class.

We are SO proud of Kaitlynn's accomplishments in pre-K! And after MUCH thought and consideration, Jeff and I have decided to let Kaitlynn try her hand at Kindergarten this fall. She'll be one of the youngest kids in her class, but she seems to have the personality that will rise to the challenges that she is presented.

For now, we're enjoying some much-deserved time off with our Little Graduate. Congratulations on graduating from preschool, Kaitlynn! Watch out Kindergarten, here she comes!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Because I'm a Mom

Every year when Mother's Day rolls around, I am blown away by all of the lovely messages, posts, emails, cards, and kind gestures that I receive just because I'm a Mom. From my immediate family members, to sweet personal friends, to all kinds of strangers we come across when we're out and about -- they all share such sweet words thanking me because I'm a Mom.

This past Mother's Day was no different. We were lucky enough to spend the Saturday before Mother's Day together as a family (out by the pool, of course!). Then on Mother's Day I woke up to two precious kiddos and their sweet hugs and kisses telling me they loved me and had a surprise for me. Along with their Dad, they led me upstairs to a scavenger hunt where they had hidden sweet messages for me along with some fun spending money! 3 sweet messages from each of my babies, telling me why they loved me and were thankful for me on this Mother's Day.

Connor's messages in red, Kaitlynn's in purple.

The messages and scavenger hunt were such a fun idea, but then Connor pulled out some special projects he had made for me at school: a special poem and a Mother's Day booklet answering lots of questions about his Mom. One of my favorite answers was if he could give me anything, he would give me a turquoise $100 bill! That boy knows me well -- my love of anything turquoise and of course money, ha! And my other favorite... I got very teary-eyed when he described how he thought I was as a child ("a pretty little girl").

This sweet poem Connor wrote for me for Mother's Day.

A Mother's Day booklet from Connor.

Not to be outdone, Kaitlynn had made some special projects for her Mom as well, and she presented these to me at a very special Mother's Day Tea hosted by her preschool. They did such a nice job hosting a luncheon for the mothers and presenting us with their craft projects. Kaitlynn drew a portrait of me that was framed by her teachers, and she had her own questionnaire to complete about her Mom. This is the 2nd year in a row she has stated that salad is my favorite food. She clearly has me confused with other Moms!

Kaitlynn's questionnaire about her Mom.

Portrait of her Mom, at the Mother's Day Tea at Kaitlynn's preschool.

We had such a special time together at the Mother's Day Tea!

Me and my girl.

The kids performed a song for the mothers in the classroom before heading to the luncheon.

The kids even served their Moms with beverages and fruit cups! I had the cutest little waitress ;-)

Love this girl of mine!

I have been a Mom for 8 years now, and I'm still blown away by all of the love and gratitude I receive year after year on Mother's Day. To me, the day belongs to MY mom and all of the other mother figures in my life (you know who you are!) because THEY are the ones who deserve to be acknowledged and pampered for the amazing women that they are!

But, I have to admit, it sure is a great feeling to be showered with love and recognized for my contributions to my family. Because I'm a Mom, and that's the greatest and luckiest role I ever aspired to have.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Backyard Transformation

Back over a year ago when we were looking for a house in Katy, we had high hopes of finding something similar to our Sunset Lake home. With the amazing lake views and pool in that yard, it was an impossible task. But when we first toured our eventual Katy home and saw the backyard, I had a vision of it turning into something as close as we could get to Sunset Lake. That vision, of course, included a swimming pool. But with the move and new house and all of those related expenses, a pool was just not something we could do right away. Then in the fall, I was given such an amazing opportunity to return to work part-time. One of my first thoughts was that I would hopefully have the ability to help pay for the backyard transformation that I had been envisioning since moving here.

When springtime rolled around, we began meeting with pool builders. We came up with a pool design that was very similar to our last pool but with some minor improvements and changes to fit our new backyard. Jeff took a little convincing, but the kids and I were bursting with excitement! We finally agreed to the cost and design with our selected pool builder, and then it was GAME ON!!

The process of building a pool is quite fascinating. There are periods where progress is happening so fast and the transformation is amazing, and then there are times where it seems like nothing is happening and it'll never be finished. I did my best to document our process along the way.

The first step of construction: staking out the pool area.

Here comes the Bobcat! It was so fun to watch the digging.

But man, what a huge, muddy MESS!

When I picked Kaitlynn up from school after the digging was completed, I showed her a picture of the finished hole which now actually resembled the shape of our new pool. She was so surprised and excited!

The big hole! All finished digging and boarded up.

Connor and Kaitlynn were giddy with excitement over the big hole that would soon be a new pool.

The next step: steel frame of the pool along with plumbing for the water features.

The next step was the Gunite, which is a special concrete that is sprayed in to form the shape of the pool. Now THAT is fascinating to watch. It is a time-consuming, labor intensive, and LOUD process.

All of these trucks and more showed up at 6:00 am to start the Gunite. The Gunite is moved from one truck to a special mixer where it is mixed and then pumped to the pool. The mixing process is so LOUD!! It was definitely a rude early awakening for our neighbors.

Gunite completed! It looks like an actual pool now!

Next up was the tile and materials for the pool. Now this is where I was SO NERVOUS!! I have done my fair share of remodeling homes and I'm usually happy with the end result, but lately something has happened and I seem to make all the wrong choices. Our Katy home, bless it's heart, has gone through more re-dos than I care to admit. Whether it is paint colors, tile or flooring choices, or fabrics, I just can't seem to get it right lately. Not sure what has gone wrong with my decision making?? My poor husband is at his wit's end with me!

So imagine my stress when it was time to pick materials for the pool. I was so terrified of picking wrong. I poured over pictures and surfed Pinterest and Google images for weeks, hoping to prevent a disaster of choices. The day finally arrived and Jeff and I went to the pool office to choose materials. Here is what we had to decide: a stone for the pool coping (the edging of the pool), a tile for the pool wall/ledge, and a tile for the waterline. 3 choices to make. I was quite panicked.

Based on a picture that Jeff and I both liked, our pool designer picked out samples for 2 of the 3 choices for us and laid them down. Then Jeff pointed to a blue mosaic tile he saw and said he liked that one for the 3rd choice. After over 2 hours of debating and deciding, we went with those initial 3 choices. And guess what? It turned out GREAT! Probably because I picked none of them. :-)

Tile and coping mostly finished.

Here's a close-up of the back pool wall with the tile.

Another close-up. When the sun hits those blue mosaic tiles, it's sparkles so beautifully! Great job, Jeff!! :-)

OK, so now was the part of the process where progress seemed to stop. There were multiple inspections, electrical work, and a ton of plumbing to take care of. Jeff even got involved to try and repair the extensive sprinkler system damage that was caused by the heavy equipment and digging.

A muddy mess with all of the plumbing work.

The kids stand in the empty pool cavity. How much longer will it take to complete??

Finally, things seemed to move again a few weeks later when it was time for the concrete deck. We wanting lots of deck space for patio furniture and chairs for lounging, so there was a big area that needed to be steeled and framed for new concrete.

Here's the pool deck all framed for concrete.
Concrete poured and dried.

Cool deck material sprayed on top of concrete.

And finally, the cool deck was painted and the inside of the pool was plastered and tiled!

Wow, we are almost there now! The water hose was connected and dropped into the deep end, and we waited for the pool to fill with water. It took about 3 days for it to completely fill up with water!

Pool filling -- almost there!

The pool finished filling with water on a Friday, and then the pool company was back to hook up the water features, including the fountains and bubblers. By Friday afternoon, it looked and sounded like a completely finished pool! When I opened the back door to walk outside and take a look, I walked outside to the most wonderful sound of rushing water and water fountains. I was immediately transported back in time to when we had our last house and those water noises greeted me every time I walked outside. I realized right then how much I had missed those soothing, relaxing sounds in our yard. So excited to have them again at our new house!!

On the very same Friday that the pool was turned on, the kids wasted no time in suiting up and jumping in. And the water was COLD, but that didn't stop them! They were SO excited to have the new pool and couldn't wait to use it.

Before the inaugural swim. So excited!

A little dance for joy.

Oh yeah, they were happy!

Since then, we have been in the pool every. single. day that we've been home! Yes, we are a Pool Family and that will probably never change. Bring on the summer weather, we're ready!!!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Flat Connor

Earlier this spring, Connor's 2nd Grade class at WoodCreek participated in a fun project. Mrs. Sartor read the children's book called Flat Stanley, which tells the story of a boy who is suddenly flattened when a bulletin board falls on him and then he discovers all sorts of cool things he can do since he is flat. After reading the book, the kids were asked to mail their own "Flat Stanley" to a friend or family member. You know, because Stanley is flat and can therefore travel by mail. :-) The person they chose would then be asked to take their Flat Stanley on all sorts of adventures and then send back a report that could be shared with Connor's class. What a fun and creative idea!

Connor wasted no time in deciding who he should send his Flat Stanley character to. He ultimately decided that he wanted to send him to Nana and Grandpa Spencer because they live in California, and Connor was convinced that Stanley would have a lot of fun there!

Well, let me just say, Connor made a great choice because Nana and Grandpa took this assignment very seriously! They researched the Flat Stanley character, they called Mrs. Sartor and got more details about the project, and they even added their own creative twist to make Connor's result more fun.

Here's the final report that Nana and Grandpa sent to Mrs. Sartor:

Flat Connor’s Excellent Adventure in California
When Ms. Sartor’s 2nd grade class started their Flat Stanley project, Connor Courtright decided to send Flat Stanley to California to visit his grandparents.  So, Flat Stanley flew on an airplane from Houston to San Francisco…about two thousand miles.  But Flat Stanley didn’t see much on the airplane since he was inside an envelope which was inside a mail bag.

Nana and Grandpa Spencer were excited when Flat Stanley was delivered to their mail box.  They decided to turn Flat Stanley into Flat Connor.

(Pics #1-2)  Flat Connor liked his Grandparents’ townhouse and he visited their pet parakeet, who is white and named Frosty.   Frosty is very old for a parakeet (9 years old) and he was nervous when Flat Connor stood by his cage and Frosty squawked loudly at Flat Connor.

Grandpa took Flat Connor for a walk around the Richmond Marina where he and Nana live.  (Pic #3)  The City of Richmond, California sits next to San Francisco Bay and the Richmond Marina is where people dock their sailboats.  An Italian restaurant (Pic #4) has a nice view of the San Francisco Bay, and Flat Connor was interested in the green sail on the catamaran sailboat. (Pic #5)

Flat Connor stopped at the Rosie the Riveter Memorial (Pic #6), which honors all the women that worked in factories during World War II.  Nana’s town house is in the background.  During his walk around the Marina, Flat Connor saw Canadian geese, seagulls, and pelicans.  Grandpa mentioned that swimming in San Francisco Bay are grey whales, sharks, bat rays, harbor seals and salmon.

Flat Connor then got a ride in Grandpa’s car (Pic #7) for some sightseeing.  The first stop was at the Berkeley Marina with views of the Berkeley fishing pier and the Golden Gate Bridge. (Pics #8-9)  The famous Golden Gate Bridge is actually orange-colored and it separates the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco Bay. 

Across the water is the San Francisco city skyline. (Pic #10)  San Francisco has about eight hundred thousand people, compared to Houston which has two million people.  And San Francisco is much smaller in area than Houston.  Actually, Houston and the San Francisco Bay are about the same size in area.

The Bay Bridge (Pic #11) goes from Oakland to San Francisco and is one of the busiest bridges in the United States with two hundred forty thousand cars, trucks, and buses going across every day.  This bridge was damaged during the 1989 earthquake that was felt all around the Bay area (6.9 Richter).  And it stopped the 1989 World Series game #3 between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics.  Both Nana and Grandpa felt this strong earthquake, but it didn’t damage their townhouse.

Flat Connor then stopped at a bakery in Berkeley (Pic #12) to check out their famous San Francisco sour dough bread.  Then he helped Nana pick out some fresh produce at the grocery store. (Pic #13)  And Grandpa decided to cool off Flat Connor in the ice cream freezer. (Pic #14)

And just before he left California, Flat Connor got a scary ride on a huge merry-go-round. (Pic #15)  Nana and Grandpa will miss Flat Connor, but hope that he will have a nice story to tell his buddy Connor and Ms. Sartor’s 2nd grade class.



Wow! I'd say that Nana and Grandpa get an A+ on their Flat Stanley assignment! I just love how they shared such neat landmarks in their pictures, even throwing in some history and culture along the way. They totally hit it out of the park! Awesome job!

To finish out the assignment, Mrs. Sartor read all of the returned projects out loud to Connor's class. Connor said his classmates got a real kick out of Flat Connor, ha! Then, the culmination of the spring project was the 2nd Grade Field Trip to the Flat Stanley musical presentation at Houston's Theatre Under the Stars followed by a picnic lunch.

Mrs. Sartor sent this pic of Connor in the lobby of the musical production theatre.

Enjoying a picnic lunch after the musical.

What a fun semester-long project for the kids! And we are so thankful for Connor's awesome grandparents, who submitted such a well-planned and thoughtful project in support of our 2nd grader. He is one lucky (Flat) Connor!