Saturday, April 30, 2016

Cheers to 10 Years!

I posted last week about the surprise 10th anniversary trip that Jeff planned for us in October. Our actual anniversary was on November 5, and we enjoyed a nice date night, just the two of us.

Anniversary date night selfie.

Cheers to 10 years!

When I reflect on our 10 years together, in many ways it seems to have gone by in a flash. But in other ways, it has felt much longer! We only dated a short time before we jumped feet first into our "shotgun" wedding, ha!

One of our very first Texans games together.

A getaway in Galveston where we realized how much we love being near the beach.
At the Houston Rodeo to see our favorite artist, John Mayer, in concert.

Our first trip overseas together, a beautiful getaway to Jamaica.

Jeff and I feel quite proud of our 10 years together, and we have a true appreciation for overcoming all of the obstacles in our path along the way.

Our wedding day in beautiful Granbury, Texas.

In honor of our 10-year anniversary, I picked a random photo from each year of our marriage to illustrate our journey together as a couple and family. It took me quite a while to pull all of these together, and there were MANY more pictures to choose from, but I sure enjoyed this walk down memory lane.

Year 0 (2005) : Becoming a stepmom to these precious boys was not easy -- for any of us. The road was tough but I'm so thankful to have been accepted as part of their family and for their eventual role in my own kids' lives.

Year 1 (2006): Becoming a Mom to Connor fulfilled me in a way I never expected. The addition of a new baby brought our family of 5 together, and our home was filled with so much love and joy.

Year 2 (2007): Our family trip to Hawaii remains one of our favorite memories together. Of course, Connor doesn't remember a thing!

Year 3 (2008): Juggling our full-time jobs was difficult at times, but we made sure to work in some family fun whenever possible.

Year 4 (2009): Our lives changed once again with the addition of Kaitlynn, the final and perfect addition to our family. I fought hard to get her here and our faith was stretched before her arrival, bringing Jeff and I closer together than ever.

Year 5 (2010): Learning how to navigate life with a family of 6 took some getting used to, but we wouldn't have it any other way.

Year 6 (2011): Life with 2 teenagers and 2 youngsters was always interesting and busy. Looking back at year 6, I think that was my favorite time -- the memories and family bonding moments are ones I'll always cherish.

Year 7 (2012): To me, this photo depicts so many things representative of our marriage -- our love of family and fun in the sun. The beach has always been our happy place!
Year 8 (2013): Celebrating milestones and achievements has always been a big part of our marriage and family life. With busy schedules and the older boys moving out of the house, Jeff's big 5-0 brought us all together again.

Year 9 (2014): Getting away together has always been a top priority for us. Leaving the stresses of family life behind for a while is always so rejuvenating for our marriage.

Year 10 (2015): Jeff and I wearing big smiles in a photo taken by one of our kids. Amazing to consider what an incredible life we've built together and what all is still to come.

I'm so thankful for a wonderful 10 years of marriage, and I can't wait to see what we have in store for us in the future. Here's to the next 10!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Halloween 2015

Connor and Kaitlynn's elementary fall parties coincided with Halloween this year. I was able to attend both parties and really enjoyed hanging out with some of their friends.

The 4th grade party turned out to be really fun, with several active games for the kids and a yummy cookie they could decorate and then eat. Connor managed to get the chocolate icing all over himself; nothing new there!

Connor's 4th grade table mates decorating their cookies.

Connor with one of his best buddies, Jayden, during the pumpkin walk game.

Quick pic while Connor enjoyed his party snack.

The kids in 1st grade had a different agenda for their party. The homeroom Moms (that's me) always meet in advance to plan some sort of craft for the kids to enjoy during the party. I have to admit, I'm quite the dissenter of the group when the craft debate is happening. We've had some disastrous crafts over the years so my vote would be to skip the craft every single time! This year, we ended up planning a craft that turns a paper plate into a spider. I was anxious for Kaitlynn to finish up that spider; definitely not my thing!

Working on her Halloween craft. I guess it's worth it when I see that smile.

Kaitlynn and her best friend in 1st grade, Dominique, do some post party socializing.
Our good friends, the Lettows, threw their annual Halloween party again this year. This time, they asked everyone to dress in an 80s theme. So fun! After much debate and deliberation, Jeff and I dressed in costume from one of his all-time favorite movies, which just happens to be a classic film from the 80s.

Our 80's costumes, the Terminator and Sarah Connor.

I think Jeff might've fulfilled a lifelong dream with that Terminator costume, ha! He sure did enjoy using the accent all night. "I'll be back!"

Connor and Kaitlynn went with miscellaneous costumes. Kaitlynn found a cute witch costume and was happy to have a fancy dress and headband to wear. Connor went shopping at the costume store and immediately decided he wanted a morph costume. It's basically a giant, single colored sleeve that you wear to look like some sort of shadow. The funny thing is, Connor chose the black morph costume. So when his friends would ask him what he was going to be for Halloween, he would reply, "a black man." Lol!

Connor and Kaitlynn's Halloween costumes. Connor's "black shadow" cracks me up!

Party photo.

Kaitlynn poses with one of the party decorations.

When the night of Halloween finally arrived, I was happy to let Jeff take the kids trick-or-treating while I stayed home. I may or may not have been hiding upstairs in the house with all the lights off to avoid trick-or-treaters.

Kaitlynn and her sweet friend, Lauren, ready to trick-or-treat.

Monday, April 25, 2016


Kaitlynn and her very best friend, Anais, went most of the summer and early fall without seeing each other. By the time we got around to planning a long overdue play date, the girls were SO excited to be reunited.
Big smiles and hugs for their happy reunion.

Anais came to our house for a sleepover, and the girls couldn't wait to get started on their long list of activities. They had some fun with crafts, then played teacher and dolls. But the most fun of all, as always, was the constant source of entertainment they found in Kaitlynn's closet. The fashion shows are too much fun to watch!

Sticker crafts - they were busy and quiet for a full hour!

The finished products.

The girls showed off their matching nightgowns - a gift from Anais last year for Kaitlynn's birthday.

Elsa and an Indian princess. Beautiful girls!

Fancy dresses for themselves and their dolls. And don't forget the purses!

Cheerleader and cowgirl. You just never know what/who will come out next!

Anais came to church with us the next morning.

Enjoying breakfast donuts while watching a show. They just woke up but still look pretty tired.

It was heartwarming to see these sweet friends soak in some much needed together time after such a long absence. No matter the distance or time apart, they have such a special friendship and enjoy every minute together.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Work Update

As I looked back over the blog highlights from 2015, I realized there was a big change in the Courtright household that I never got around to blogging about. (Or if I did, I've already forgotten about it!)

Back when Kaitlynn was 4 and in preschool, I wrote this post about returning to work part-time as a project manager for my former company, Total, on a short term project assignment. I worked about 10-20 hours per week, mostly from home with occasional trips to the downtown office. It was a perfect transition back into the workplace.

That assignment ended about a year after it began, and I was hopeful that it would lead to additional projects. Unfortunately, there wasn't a project fit at the time so I decided to wait it out to see if another opportunity at Total would come up. In the meantime, I threw myself into my home life, family, and volunteering at my kids' school. As I blogged about last year, as much as I wanted to enjoy the blessing of being a full-time wife, mother, and PTA volunteer, those just aren't the things that fulfill me.

So in early 2015, I put some feelers out to find another job. My goal was to find something part-time with flexibility of working from home, but that is pretty tough to find, especially when I was seeking a role outside of my former circle of work contacts. Through a neighbor, I managed to get an interview with a Houston technology company and it turned out that they had a role very similar to what I was looking for. They offered me the job, and despite the lower pay, I was so excited to work again that I accepted.

As I prepared for my upcoming position, I reached out to my former Total manager to meet for lunch. I consider her a great friend and was looking forward to catching up since we'd been out of touch for a few months. I picked her up at the Total offices downtown and I began to fill her in on my updates, including the new job, as we headed to lunch. When I finally sprung the news about my new position, her reaction wasn't quite what I expected.

"Well, that's disappointing," she said.


It turns out that she had been working to create a new position in her current department at Total, and she had hoped to hire me for that role once she worked out the details. When I heard this, I immediately regretted taking the other job because I was so excited about the possibility of returning to my former company. In the end, it all worked out perfectly. I regretfully declined the technology firm position and accepted the role offered by my former Total manager.

My new position is a Project Manager in charge of overseeing new system implementations in the Purchasing department. I work out of my home office primarily and drive downtown as needed for meetings with occasional trips to our plant locations around the Houston and south Texas area.

My very first office selfie on a VERY bad hair day.

The transition back to being a working wife and mother wasn't an easy one. Jeff will admit, my decision to work wasn't his preference. As much as he wanted me to be happy, it was sometimes difficult on the family for Mom to be preoccupied with the stresses of work. Occasionally, I had to ask Jeff to fill in for me with the kids if I had early meetings or long weeks of conferences. Some weeks I would be working full-time hours, and Jeff had to pick up the slack while he was working full-time as well.

Conference room selfie before a full day of workshops.

A year later, I can say that the story of my return to work has a happy ending. A few months into my new role, Jeff paid me the biggest compliment by telling me that he had noticed how much happier I was. We have really learned to work together as a team to make sure we can fulfill all of our commitments at home and in the office. I am so thankful for his support, because I have been a much happier and more fulfilled person, wife, and mother.

Cuddling with my girl before school and work one morning.

A sweet, surprise note from Jeff and Kaitlynn that I found hidden in my work notebook one day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Connor's First Sleepaway Camp

For a few years now, Connor has been attending Pine Cove camp each summer. It's a Christian-based experience for kids focusing on fun through nonstop sports and activities all while praising Jesus. Connor has enjoyed the camp so much that we've talked about sending him away to the summer overnight version. In fact, I was already planning on booking him in a week-long session next summer.

Recently our church planned a weekend trip to the Pine Cove Silverado camp for kids in 4th and 5th grades. Once I saw this 2-night option, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity for Connor to experience the overnight camp. We gave Connor the choice to attend, but it was a difficult choice for him because it would require him missing one of his fall football games. After much thought, Connor opted to attend the camp.

We arrived early to enjoy a pizza dinner with the camp group. Connor seemed excited about the trip, but I noticed that he didn't know most of the other kids there. After eating pizza, we saw the big chartered bus outside and decided to peek inside.

Enjoying a quick pizza dinner before the campers left.

The chartered bus for the campers.

Very nice and comfy bus.

Connor and his buddy, Lucas, ready to board the camp bus.

When it was time for the campers to load up, we prayed over the group for a fun and safe trip. Everyone went outside and it took a while to load up everyone's things on the bus. As we were loading up, I noticed Connor clamming up and looking a bit apprehensive. The boys that he knew had not been assigned to his cabin, so he was going to be bunking with a group that he didn't know. I think that, plus this being his first sleepaway camp experience, was making Connor feel nervous. I tried to stay positive and reassure him how much fun he would have. We gave hugs and said our good-byes; I was so excited for the amazing experience he would have.

Ready with his bin to load the bus.

The camp leaders were using an app called GroupMe to send camp updates and pictures. When I got back home after dropping Connor off, I pulled up the app and noticed a new photo posted with the entire group on the bus. In the picture, Connor was in one of the front rows, and he did NOT look happy. I was surprised and wondered if he was ok. My Mom intuition kicked in and I was wondering if I had done the right thing by sending him to overnight camp.

I should stop here and say, at NO time in my kids' lives have they ever shown signs of homesickness or apprehension away from home. They've stayed with many friends and family members without ever having any issues. Especially Connor, who is my laid-back, easy-going child in any situation. So it just never occurred to me that he might feel nervous or homesick about going away to camp.

After seeing that very first GroupMe photo, I began scrutinizing every new update and photo posted the rest of the weekend. I noticed a couple of pics where Connor seemed withdrawn, but for the most part, he seemed to be having a great time.

Paintball wars (Connor in the back).

Camo night. Connor seemed more himself here, ha!

Connor's cabin posed for a photo at the Pine Cove Silverado entrance.

Connor's weekend at Pine Cove was a 2-night experience. When it was finally time to pick him up on Sunday afternoon, I was SO ready to hug my boy and hear about his weekend. It felt like forever for the bus to unload, but finally Connor disembarked and greeted me with a smile.

After loading up his things, we headed home and I couldn't wait to hear about his trip. Based on the latest photos shared with the campers' families, I assumed Connor would be full of fun stories to excitedly share with me. He was smiling but also somewhat pensive.

"So. How was it?!" I asked in anticipation.

"Good!" he responded. "It was fun."

Hmmmm. Not quite the reaction I was expecting. "Fun? That's it? That's all you have for me? Come on!"

He proceeded to tell me about some of the activities they'd had and all about the camp experience. He shared about the cabin environment, the late-night activities, the yummy food, and the worship and Bible times. He said he had fun and he was glad he went. But I could tell he was holding back.

"So, what do you think? It sounds like so much fun. Maybe you'll go to the full week of camp next summer?"

Without skipping a beat, he replied, "No, I don't think so."

I found out later from the church group leader that Connor had been a little sad on the bus ride over. There were some tears, she told me. I was so surprised, but more than that, I felt awful! I'm just not used to Connor experiencing emotions like that. It turns out that he was feeling quite lonely from not knowing most of the kids there, which was worsened by the fact that he was placed in a cabin without a single friend.

He had a great weekend and really enjoyed the camp experience and the Pine Cove environment, but we learned a very valuable lesson. Next time, assuming there is a next time, we will make sure to partner Connor with friends so that he doesn't feel isolated or lonely.

Here was the whole gang from our church.