Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 in review

This time last year I was a stay at home mom working from home on contract here and there. Alex was home with me, and we were attending 2-3 playdates each week, and Ashley was finishing up her elementary years. Life was GREAT! Here we are facing the new year and I'm just overwhelmed with how each year is better than the last. We have grown so much this past year. We had some major milestones and made so many wonderful's a little piece of my entries from the past year.

January 12 - Ally (our adopted dog) went back home to Joe. This year we have been fortunate enough to have several opportunities to have her back for visits.

January 16 - It SNOWED! Remember that?

January 19 - Ashley and I started a Taekwando class together. We only did the 6 week class, but had a ton of fun together.

February 2 - Mark and Ashley played hookie and celebrated the 2nd anniversary of the "official" adoption.

February 14 - I made Pink Mashed taters and heart shaped meatloaf.

March 28 - Mark constructed our Rain Barrel, which turned out GREAT and got PLENTY of use! I hope to talk Mark in to doing another for the back yard this spring.

April 5 - Dad, Ruthie, and the Urbens travel to Port Aransas for Sand Fest, where we met up with the Kendalls, the Keas and the Woodworths.

April 30 - Dad and Ruthie gave me my early birthday Nikon D40, which I have yet to put down.

May 21 - The Urbens go camping at Inks Lake.

May 27 - I officially said goodbye to my 20's.

June 10 - The Urbens travel to Plano to celebrate Keller's first Birthday!

June 13 - The Urbens discover the Wii world.

June 15 - Camp Urben kick off with Ashley, Kelly, Savannah, and Emily.

June 28 - The bottom fell out and central Texas recorded over 30 inches of rain...and more was on the way. The San Gabriel River flooded and warnings were sent out to neighbors to evacuate.

July 13 - The Urbens travel to Fredricksburg, VA to visit the Steele's. Nana tears down a complete strangers door after getting locked out. Hehe.

July 27 - The Urbens travel to Florence, AL to visit Granny Frannie, Papa Jack and Mamaw.

August 15 - Momma and Daddy spend all weekend doing a surprise makeover in Ashley's room while she's in Alabama.

August 23 - Day 1 of our bathroom remodeling. If we ONLY knew it would be nowhere close to 2 weeks...

August 27 - Alex had his first day of Kindergarten and Ashley had her first day of middle school.

September 10 - My first day of work!

October 1 - Moms weekend in Canton with the girls. What a BLAST!

November - 12 Weeks later the bathroom remodel is finally COMPLETE!

November 16 - The Urben's find Mandy on the way to sofball and aquire pet number 4. We miss our Mandy girl.

The rest is a few pages back...the kids are ready to play, gotta run.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Things that make ya go hmmmmmm

Why is it, you ask, that mom is NEVER in any family snapshots? Well, here's your answer....

Yep, that's one blurry picture....
heyyyy now, what were you thinking I was gonna say???

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Day with the Urbens

I woke up just before 7:45 to a VERY quiet house. I came down the stairs only to hear Nana preparing our traditional Christmas breakfast....cream chip beef on biscuits. Nana is ALWAYS the first to wake up on Christmas, she has this internal clock that refuses to let her know what it's like to sleep in, which honestly, REALLY works out well, because the rest of us are just the opposite.
So I make my way downstairs, and carefully tread through heaps of presents to turn on the tree lights. It's very obvious that Santa has been here, and these kiddos MUST have been very, very good this year. I get a pot of coffee brewing and get my camera ready, because I know the kiddos will be up and minute now. To my surprise, I was able to enjoy a cup of coffee, take a dozen or so photos and become slightly over-anxious before the kids ever got up.

Finally, just after 8:30, I hear Ashley's voice from downstairs, giving me the cue to escort them upstairs. This is a known rule in the Urben household. NO ONE sees the tree until AFTER mom takes her first thing in the morning pictures and prepares for the entrance. Now that I'm actually typing this it does seem a bit silly, but this is the way we did it when I was growing up and by golly that must be the only way, right?

The kids bum rushed the living room, faces glowing with excitement, paws writhing with anticipation, as they reluctantly passed up the tree and headed straight for the filled stockings...stockings MUST come first. That's just the way it is. The rest of the morning was spent taking turns opening gifts, which I was extremely impressed with. This is the first year that Alex was a bit more on the human side when it came to patience. He definitely surprised me when he shared in everyone Else's joy as they opened their gifts. I was almost in tears when dad and Eddie Faye showed up...Alex stopped opening his gifts and ran to the tree searching for something and when he found what he was looking for he ran up to Eddie Faye and patiently waited while she greeted the rest of the family. Finally, once all the hugs were taken care of he handed her a gift with the biggest smile on his face, and watched as she opened the chocolate covered cherries that Santa brings everyone each year. Our self absorbed Alex is growing up, and somewhere inside that little creature is a boy with a caring heart. It was the best Christmas present ever to see what sweet boy he's turning in to.

For Ashley, this was definitely a landmark Christmas. Aside from a few silly stocking stuffers, this was the first year that Ashley did not ask for nor receive a single toy. Instead, all 5 foot 2 inches of her sat with her long legs criss crossed in front of her while calmly opening earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and electronics. Later on that morning, she would intermittently appear dressed in something new, with matching accessories and new hair dos showing off her new look. From fairytales to fashion all in the blink of an eye.

The kids really raked it in this year. Each gift has recieved a great deal of attention, and I don't think they've watched a bit of TV in the two days since Christmas. The toys are all over the place and will be until I can't take it anymore.

Ashley has spent a lot of time in her furry faux Uggs, and has already decorated her room with her new picture frames, and hung up her jewelry box slash photo collage, and she's already bugging me to take her to use her gift cards and cash. I bought her a package photo paper and an ink cartridge of her own, so she can use my photo printer without me bugging her not waste paper. She'll have a ton of fun filling all of her new frames. Her mp3 docking station is getting a LOT of good use as well.

As for Alex, he's played non-stop with just about every gift he received, including his hyper dash, hyper slide, Nerf dart toys (of which he has PLENTY), remote control cars, and his eyeclops. It's funny watching him use his eyeclops. Basically, it's a magnifier that plugs in to the TV and magnifies 200x. To watch him wretch and turn his face from the TV when he sees anything relating to the body up close reminds me that he's definitely his fathers son. Although, it is slightly on the creepy side to be able to see hair follicles and skin cells. I can't WAIT to get ahold of this toy when I don't have to compete for turns. I must mention the #1 played with toy so far. What else but the cheapest gift under the tree....the dollar store cap gun. He has already gone through an entire package of caps...which is about 10 boxes of caps. He gets so excited watching the sparks and smoke that he creates...he really can't quite figure out why it's ok for him to be playing with this dangerous toy. He has told me multiple times, in a slightly concerned tone that he can make sparks and it almost looks like fire. I think there's a small part of him that's double checking that he's safe. It's precious.

And me! I have to share the ME gifts. After opening one of my gifts from Mark, I momentarily lost my ability to read and speak, and had to read the box at least 3 times before I allowed myself to believe what I was actually getting.
My darling thoughtful husband surprised me with a 200mm lens for my camera. Shocked is a very conservative way to describe my reaction once I believed what I was reading on the box. My elation lasted a good 24 hours, and in fact I still can't believe he got it. He wrapped the lens in a huge box to throw me off, and in the box were 6 or so matching frames, to go with the other 4 frames I had already opened. He's been bugging me about framing some of my pictures for months now, and this was definitely the kick in the patootie I needed. He also got me an AWESOME wireless keyboard and mouse. It's a Logitech MX 3200 and it's SWWWEEETTT! I had no idea they made such capable mice! This thing can do just about everything but turn the computer on! I can zoom, scroll up, down, left, right, go back a page, and if I highlight text on a webpage and click a button, it automatically takes me to google with search results relating to my highlighted text! Very cool! He really out did himself this year.
I also got some incredibly cozy leather isotoner gloves and matchin cloth napkins from dad. All items that I was definitely in need of. I'm so excited to have leather gloves, but I'm a little worried that my fixation on the leather smell might attract a little unwanted attention. I'm beginning to look a lot like Mary Katherine Gallagher (Molly Shannon) from Saturday Night live. All I need is the plaid skirt.

As for the man of the house, he was a little less surprised opening his pre-selected 100 gig hard drive and Zune docking station, both of which were highly anticipated, but pre-selecting definitely comes with it's drawbacks. (I'm sure he'd disagree) I also threw in a few small fun things...a coffee grinder, a metal sign for his "man space" downstairs and some goodies for his stocking. So far he has spent most of the hours following Christmas morning playing with each of the above pre-selected gifts.

As tradition would have it, Mom and Andy came over in the late afternoon and we munched on tamales, left over lasagna, Paula's jalapeno jelly with cream cheese and crackers, pops' spinich artichoke dip and all of the yummy treats that Nana brought over. The kiddos opened their gifts and afterwards we spent a couple of hours playing with all of the Christmas toys and sharing stories from the mornin. Eventually, we made our way down to the basement where I whipped a few Shwiff's at Ping Pong, and ended up GETTING whipped by one overgrown Urben. (And yes dear, that WAS the first time in years, I don't care what you remember ;} We ended the night with a little Dance Dance Revolution and said goodbye after 10:00 sometime. We had a LOT of fun hanging out with Mom and Andy and are anxious for another ping pong tournament in the near future.

We certainly missed quite a few people this Christmas. David, Cara and Keller had their first Christmas at their home with Keller. While I totally get that need, I missed them dearly. And Jason was also unable to make this year as well. Christmas without my brothers definitely feels different, but we made the best of it and are so thankful that despite the distance, we are all in good health. We have so, so much to be thankful for.

I hope that all of our families and friends had wonderful holiday season with the ones they love and that the next year brings many, many new and precious memories to cherish. Merry Christmas everyone!

Pictures will follow asap.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Pre-Christmas with the Urbens

This year our family celebrated Christmas just as we do each and every year. The festivities begin long before the 25th with baking and spending quality time together, which for us, is what it's all about. This year we didn't do the full baking day like we do every year, although we did to a few little goodies here and there, like Raspberry fudge and peppermint bark. We also do the traditional chocolate Advent Calendar to countdown to the big day. As I mentioned in a previous post, we make the trek to the Big Christmas Tree in Austin and make the 5mph stroll through the neighborhoods OOOOing and Awwwing over Christmas lights while listing to festive music.

By the time Christmas Eve arrives, the kids (and I) are just giddy with excitement and can tell you approximately how many hours there are until the big day at any given moment. Nana-clause arrives in the evening with her car loaded with gifts and goodies and whatever she's whipped up for dinner...this year she brought her famous homemade lasagna, tamales and a plate full of all the goodies that we neglected to bake this year...fudge, peanut butter candy, molasses cookies, and seven layer bars. It was like seeing an old friend when she brought out the goodies...I was sure I would miss them this year, but good ol Nana brought us together and I'm pretty sure I let out a small screetch of excitement when I saw the shiny plastic wrap covering the sugary goodness. After dinner we all hopped in the car and went on a successful light hunt with the kiddos and even managed a Mars sighting after a phone call from Big Daddy. Alex fell asleep in the car on the way back, but was awake and ready for more excitement once he discovered he'd dozed off.

We managed to work in a movie (A Christmas Story...what Else??) and some egg nog before reading The Night before Christmas and setting out our cookies and milk for good ol Santa, after which the kiddos retired to the basement where I'm certain they giggled and fought off sleep, in effort to catch a glimpse, or a jingle of the old fat man. Eventually, their eyes and minds must rest and they doze off for the last time before the big day.

Friday, December 21, 2007

"THE" Tree

(Click to see full size pics.)

Yesterday, we made our trip to the Christmas Tree at Zilker. Once again we outsmarted the masses, which are oh so proud of. We picked up dinner on the way and were able to park and walk up before dark, with no line and no parking fee. SCORE. (Did you know sunset is around 5:30 these days???? I didn't realize that until we started making these plans. That's SO EARLY!) Showing up early has many getting to watch the worker with the big crane truck unload the massive logs in to the fire pit. That was amazing...and something I've never had the opportunity to experience, but was always just a tad curious about.

Alex and Ashley got along unusually well and spent most of the evening running around playing games together. They'd disappear for a bit and we'd find them hand in hand under the tree spinning together, or playing tag in the trees. Love was definitely in the air that night. Mark and I were reminiscing back to Alex's first trip to the tree and how he just laid in his stroller bundled up sleeping while we took turns spinning around with 5 year old Ashley. And then back to the first year we were sans stroller, and how FREE we felt. Wow, the years just seem to be flying by so fast! That must mean that we're having loads of fun, right?? Someday, I'm hoping the kiddos can reflect back with smiles and warm heats like Mark and I do.

The kettle corn and funnel cake were awesome as usual and the weather was just right. Cool enough to have to make frequent trips back to the fire pit to warm up a bit, but not so cold that we were miserable. We left around 7:30 only to find the line to get in was backed up all the way down Mopac. A perfect opportunity to show the kids just how smart their mom and dad are. ;)

Today we're just enjoying being at home together. Mark is working from home, but his presence certainly makes it feel like a holiday. I think the kids and I will do a little baking today and just enjoy our time together.

I'm working on the pictures right now, and will post a slideshow shortly.

We made it!

The kids had their last day of school on Wednesday. Up until today, it seems like we've been sprinting to some imaginary finish line, and somehow we've finally made it!

After years of hearing about Ashley's class parties and wishing he could be a part of them, Alex was finally able to experience the excitement and anticipation that being in school at Christmas time brings. Ironically, this was Ashley's first year to NOT have that experience. Middle School comes with it's privelages, but also has its drawbacks. She did give out little gifts to all of her friends and recieved many herself, so that made the week a little more festive, but I still think she missed elementary a lot this week.

Alex had so much going on at school this week it was hard to keep up with what to bring, and where to be. On Tuesday his class made Gingerbread houses in the morning and in the afternoon they had their class party where they made scarves, snowflakes and handprint wreaths. Periodically, one of the kids would break out a Christmas song and before long the whole class was singing and working on their creations. It was so fun to be a part of it all. Mrs. Ayala made it so special for the kids. It's so obvious how much she loves her children. She has the patience of a saint and the biggest heart you can imagine. She's been teaching Kindergarten for over 20 years and it's obvious that she brings the experience of all those years to school with her each day. This week was all about FUN. She made sure of that. There was no rushing, and she made her best effort to keep the day as open as possible so the kids could just enjoy. They spent well over an hour making their little gingerbread houses and she was right there encouraging them to eat their candy and lick their fingers and just have fun. She is so awesome!
Wednesday was pajama day and OF COURSE sweet Mrs. Ayala was dressed in her Christmas P.J.'s and houseshoes to boot!

The Dad's Club opened car doors in Santa Hats:

Friday, December 07, 2007

Doggie Heaven

Sweet Mandy went in to be spayed and to have her cherry eye surgery this morning. Unfortunately, she didn't make it through her surgery. She left us and went to doggie heaven. From day 1 she had our hearts and she always will. She will be missed dearly.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Fa la la la la, la la la la

When I was a kid, Christmas was so, so special to me. That feeling of togetherness, and family was something I cherished, and Christmas was a time when we, as siblings were able come together and appreciate what we had together. We could put our squabbles aside and just enjoy being together. Now, sometimes our bonding wasn't exactly pure in spirit, but it was bonding nonetheless. Laughing at the Meme gifts, and watching Jason sneak the "adult" egg nog to name a few. Now that I'm a mom and watching my own children celebrate this special time of year I'm learning to appreciate the little things that my parents did for us when we were kids. And I'm learning that those little things are not necessarily "little things".

For example, putting up Christmas Lights - Dad, holy crap, now I know why you cussed like a sailor and heaved such large ridiculous sighs when I begged you to put up lights. WHAT A ROYAL PAIN IN MY BUTT. So far I have spent approximately 7 hours on this task and I'm not even done. I have cut myself on broken glass, shocked myself twice, had at least one near death experience while atop the ladder...while pondering how if I do fall, how on earth I will ever be found considering Mark is out of town and the kids are not home. I have been tangled up, chewed up and spit out by these demon lights and continue to ask myself WHY, oh WHY am I doing this!!!???
And then I remember.
Hearing Alex tell me how this is so "special to him" and reflecting back to how special it was to me is all it takes. And I remember with a smile.
Annnnnd I keep going...attempting to find that one damn light bulb that's messing up the entire chain of my 5 to 6 strans of lights...which are now beginning to smell like smoke...or is that a neigbors fire place burning because it is so damn cold out here?
So I've had my "lightbulb moment" (haha) and can now thank you, Dad, for all those years of putting up lights. Now if I can just figure out how to get them as straight as you always did!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

I want a Charlie toilet seat NOW DADDY!

Anybody happen to be in the market for a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Toilet Seat? I know someone has to have the matching shower curtain and toothbrush holder....riiiiight

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Meet Mandy

Hi, my name is Mandy, and I'm a young Cocker Spainiel with big floppy ears, and fluffy little feet that don't make so much as a sound as I glide across the floor in my new house. My new family found me on a cold, dark night on their way to a softball game that happens to be right next to an animal shelter. My new family tried to find my owners and even left their phone numbers at the shelter, but no one has called for me. They're pretty sure that the people I lived with before decided they didn't want me. You see, I'm not perfect on the outside, because I have Cherry Eye, but on the inside, I'm just as fluffy and sweet as can be. I'm so, so excited because now that I've been in this warm cozy home for over a week, they've decided I can stay! So far, I have done pretty well with my new family, even though I'm still sort of a puppy and can drive my four legged family members crazy. When they finally give in and play with me we have soooo much fun and that's when I know they like having me around. We went to another house this weekend, where I met my new cousin Wendel. OH BOY! Me and that Wendel, we're like two peas in a pod! We both like to play and that's pretty much allll we did for FOUR days straight! Now that we're back home, I'm missing my new cousin, but I know we'll be together again soon.

So that's me in a nutshell. I can't wait to meet all of my new extended family and friends, and I know my new mom an dad can't wait to show me off.

Chow Ciao!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Gobble Gobble

Today is our first official day of the Holidays! We arrived at Dad's this afternoon with all four dogs and two children in tow. (Yes, I said FOUR dogs and will explain later) A cold front is on the way, but at the moment it's a whopping 92 degrees in Seguin, Texas. Tomorrow at about this time, we'll be about 30 degrees cooler. Certainly a welcome change.

We'll have our turkey dinner here at dads on Saturday and I will do my Turkey dinner at home with the whole family in about 2 weeks.

I hope everyone has a thankful holiday!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"Guided Math" rant

Guided Math by Prentice Hall

Ashley is in 6th grade GT Math, which basically means that she's doing the 7th grade math curriculum. She has always done very well in Math, and before this year had only ever received one "B" on any report card ever in Math. Since beginning this new curriculum, she has struggled to learn the material. Her grade this 9 weeks was not bad, an 88 (her second ever "B"), but after doing homework with her time and time again, I'm not convinced that she's learning what she needs in order to be a successful Algebra student in the coming years and that is primarily because of this new "Guided Math" curriculum. She brings home work that Mark and I struggle to help her with. And it's not necessarily the simple math problems, it's the way the questions are asked, and lack of instruction within the text. Like I said, we've been struggling with this text since August. I've talked with her teacher briefly about it and she dislikes the curriculum as much as we do. She told me that a conference wouldn't be much benefit because she has no idea what to tell me. She's just as put out with the curriculum as I am.

So last night I get to digging. I'm trying to find something that can help guide me through instruction, maybe a teachers guide for the text, something. What I found has me more up in arms than I can even begin to describe. Here is a quote from the material I found that comes to the teachers with the curriculum. This is a block of text that stands alone:

“Connected Mathematics may be very different from curricula with which you are familiar. Because important concepts are embedded within problems rather than explicitly stated and demonstrated in the student text, you play a critical role in helping students develop appropriate understanding, strategies, and skills. It is your thoughtful engagement with the curriculum and your reflections on student learning that will create a productive classroom environment.”

I read this paragraph probably 5 times in hopes that somehow I could wrap my mind around why important concepts are NOT explicitly stated and demonstrated for the students. While I do understand that there is a "bigger picture" that the students need to see, why on earth do they need to DECODE! These are middle schoolers. These are not adults taking a math class because they have an overwhelming desire to learn. They're trying to learn what they NEED to learn. TELL THEM WHAT THEY NEED TO KNOW! Tell them HOW to do a problem! This text is designed so that students can NOT miss a day of school, can NOT be anything but an auditory learner, and can NOT have parents at home that are uneducated. The role of math teacher has now become ours. And don't get me wrong, I WANT to help my child learn, but without a text that expicitly states and demonstrates important concepts, how can I fill that role? We have questions that are extremely difficult to decipher and decode, with NO examples given. These questions that have "embedded" concepts. GRRRRRR! I can research all I want on how to an algebra problem, but with this text it's not as simple as that. Most of the time spent on homework is trying to understand WHAT type of answer this text is looking for. It's extremely frustrating.

For example, here is a snippit from the guide I found online:

The role of the teacher in a problem-centered
curriculum is different from the curriculum in
which the teacher explains ideas clearly and
demonstrates procedures so students can quickly
and accurately duplicate these procedures.A
problem-centered curriculum such as Connected
Mathematics is best suited to an inquiry model
of instruction.

What this means is that instruction is reverse. The students are assigned problems for homework, (GRADED homework I might add) and it is not until the homework is being graded in class that the students are taught how to work through the problems. I have confirmed that this IS ACTUALLY the way it's done. So, now we have this "guided math" that "best suited to an inquiry model of instruction", yet the inquiry begins at home, where there is a terrible lack of material provided for instruction.

My negative interpretation of this curriculum is that little time was spent on developing the text, and the justification is that this is "guided math". This leaves way too much ambiguity. Lets hope our teachers are all well trained in Connected Mathmatics and that they are supporters of this curriculum (which so far, from what I'm hearing they are NOT). With this curriculum, expect big problems, HUGE problems. including complete frustration and disinterest in mathmatics from even the sharpest students.

This will NOT be our classrooms next year, and I will make sure of that.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Halloween 2007

Yes, the Urben's DID celebrate Halloween this year. I'm getting better, only one week overdue!

I took this one before school. Ash can't dress up in costume at her school, so she came up with this adorable festive outfit. She's so creative!

The kids at Alex's school did a parade around the campus for all the parents, followed by a parade through the main areas of the nursing home next door. What a treat! Later on Mark and I went up to Alex's class for his class party where we made our witches brew (the same concoction from Alex's birthday party) complete with the dry ice and molded hand. This time we had each child add a spider to the mix, which later we ladeled in to their cups for them to keep. Each kiddo got a turn at stiring the witches brew. That was a huge hit with the kids. We also did a pumpkin craft with pumpkin seeds and ate graveyard cake and other goodies. Everyone had such a great time, including myself. I love, love, love being in his classroom especially now that the kids have warmed up to me. Last week I subbed for his class and Mark was able to come help for a short time. Hopefully, I'll be able to do that more often.

Back to Halloween! Ashley dressed up as a pirate and Alex dubbed himself "The Unknown Phantom". I learned a lesson about costumes this year. I don't so much like the ones where you can't even tell your son is the one underneath. I'm setting up to take pictures and thinking how silly it is that I can't even see who it is! I could have picked a really awesome costume from the internet and just cut and pasted it in. No one would ever know! Seriously though, the kid in black in my pictures IS Alex, promise. (NEVER AGAIN!)

Kel, Savannah, Ciara and Matthew came over and we made the rounds in the neighborhood. The weather could not have been any more perfect. Daddy and Brian stayed home to hand out candy and scare the few children we actually have around here out of the neighborhood. He kept the the door open with just the glass storm door closed, and when the kids would ring the bell he would jump out from around the corner and slam himself up against the door. I think found himself a new Halloween job.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Rub a Dub Dub, we have a TUB!

The plumber finally made his last trip out to install the tub fixtures yesterday. Lastnight the kids got to stay up late and enjoy their very first jacuzzi bath.

The tile surround for the tub was finished today, but other than that, nothing has changed. Thursday will be 10 weeks since the first day of demolition.

"I'm STILL six"

After singing Happy Birthday to himself everyday for a week and anticipating this special day. Alex is SIX! This weekend we had Alex's 6th Birthday Party (which I'll get to shortly) and according to him, he turned six on the day of his party because "why else would we put a big 6 on the wall??" After debating and explaining, I finally decided to just leave it alone and let him be 6 a little early because even though I know he gets it, I refused to argue with this FIVE year old. Fast forward to this morning. Daddy and I wake him up singing Happy Birthday, we finish singing and I sit down on the bed in the dark and give him a big hug and ask him "how old are you?" I'm thinking how exciting it is to finally be able to say you're a whole year older right? That's how it always is, they get so excited to hear themselves say it, what better way to start the day. This headstrong little booger replies "I'm STILL six".

On Saturday we did a Halloween costume party complete with pumpkins, games, ghoulish treats and witches brew. It was a big success and probably one of the most laid back, fun parties we've had to date. I guess I'm finally learning how to ENJOY the party as opposed to running around like a mad woman trying to make everything perfect.

As soon as most everyone had arrived, we all got to work on our witches brew. The kids had a BLAST helping with our concoction. They especially enjoyed adding the hand (a frozen rubber glove makeshift mold) and dry ice.

After snacking on witches brew, fingers, spiders, and apple bites Mark told the story of Hal O Ween.After each gooey part of the story, the kiddos would go reach inside the box and feel the gooey parts of what was left of Hal. Ashley did an awesome job of preparing each body part and making sure no one looked inside the box. This turned out to be one of the most exciting activities of the day. The kids got a really big kick out of touching the gooey body parts and trying to guess what each really was.

After that we moved on to pumpkin decorating. Everyone decorated a baby pumpkin to take home with them with stickers, glitter glue and whatever else we had in our craft box. The kids all did a super job and managed to keep their costumes mostly clean. wonder the costumes were so clean...lets take a closer look at Mr. Matthew. Hey buddy, you're off juuust a tad.

And then there was the haystack scavenger hunt, and cake cutting. Most of the kids stuck around for quite a while playing in the backyard since it was an absolutely gorgeous day.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A great outlook on life...

This is so touching to me. This reminds me of all our sweet angel pets and how special they are. Just today I was thinking about how short our pets lives are. My brothers best friend and cat Omar passed away a few weeks ago, and last week we got news that our"other" dog Allie has lymphoma. Fortunately, after further testing, lymphoma may not be the correct diagnosis afterall, but we're still unsure.

Thanks for sending this to me Tiesa, it couldn't have come at a better time.

A great outlook on Life…
A Dog's Purpose (from a 6-year-old)

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound, named Belker. The dog's owners, Ron, his wife, Lisa, a nd their little boy, Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.
I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the Family we couldn't do anything for Belker, and offered to perform The euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.
As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would Be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt As though Shane might learn something from the experience
The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker's Family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.
The little boy seemed to accept Belker's transition without any Difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker's Death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are Shorter than human lives. Shane, who had been listening quietly, Piped up, "I know why."
Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I'd never heard a more comforting explanation.
He said, "People are born so that they can learn how to live a good Life -- like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?" The Six-year-old continued, "Well, dogs already know how to do that, so They don't have to stay as long."

Live simply.
Love generously.
Care deeply.
Speak kindly.

Remember, if a dog was the teacher you would learn things like:
~When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
~Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
~Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
~Take naps.
~Stretch before rising.
~Run, romp, and play daily.
~Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
~Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
~On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
~On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
~When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
~Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
~Be loyal.
~Never pretend to be something you're not.
~If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
~When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.

Live simply.
Love generously.
Care deeply.
Speak kindly.

Blackbird fly, Blackbird fly

Every evening just as the sky is beginning to darken, and dusk has settled in, just up the road from home, a massivie congregation of birds make their way to Georgetown. Hundreds of birds start their evening off with a little conversation near the post office, and eventually, make their way to the corner Jack in the Box, some 200 yards West. They settle in for the evening on power lines, trees, and even the stoplight crossing the main road. On those evenings when we happen to cross paths, one thing is always for certain. The windows MUST come down. Whatever your mood, to hear their sweet conversations inevitabley give the corners of your frown a slight lift. This is one of the few times that a red light is welcome. After I dropped Ashley off at Cotillion Saturday night, I noticed more than just the sound, but the beautiful sunset in the distance and had to rush home and arm myself with the Nikon.

Bathroom Remodel Day 1,573,984






And shower fixtures, and rugs, and towels, and a half hearted attempt at decor that will only be around for the weekend. Monday, it all comes out for more construction, but for now, we will enjoy!

Don't forget to click to enlarge!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Living La Vida Loca

La vida es muy loca! Pero, la vida es muy bien, tambien!

I have so much to update!

First of all, I haven't updated about my trip with a group of my girlfriends to Canton. We took off on a Saturday morning at 7 am and had a weekend full of relaxation and shopping. It was an all around awesome trip. There were 6 of us, and we were all such a perfect mix of friends, we had an incredible time together. We're already chomping at the bit to get back. What's Canton? Well, Canton is this teensy tinsy town of about 5,400 that holds "Trade Days" or as it was formerly known "First Monday", on the weekend before the first Monday of each month. I like to refer to it as a flea market on steroids. It's the oldest flea market in the United States and I'd have to say it's probably one of, if not THE, biggest as well. You could shop for 3 days straight and still not see it all. Here's an interesting little tidbit I pulled from Wikipedia: "In the past, due to the success of First Monday, the city of Canton had no property tax, however, as of 2006, that is no longer the case." WOW!

Right in the heart of all the shopping is a what we Texans call a "mountain". Its literal definition is probably more like: large hill, but here in central Texas, it's a mountain. The Mountain is a well known hot spot in Canton, with the cutest little shops and Bed and Breakfasts ever. When you're on the mountain, you're back in the early 1900's and occasionally you'll hear gun shots, or see a reinactment of what it was like back then. We stayed in a little Bed and Rest right in the heart of it all, called Flat Creek Mountain Bed and Rest. This place was A-Dorable!!! After we got done shopping, we all sat out on our covered deck that looked down the mountain, and right on to a little stage where they had live music and dancing at night. (And a mens wet T-shirt contest that was in full view, but I'll skip that and leave it to the imagination) The trip was a blast, and I'm so, so anxious to go back. Nana, you would LOVE this! Next time we go, I'm kidnapping you and bringing you with!

As for miss Ashley, she's doing great in school and staying busy with more homework than you can imagine, which means *I* now how more homework than you can imagine. We sit together each afternoon and do math homework together. We sit at the table with a book between us and we both do the homework together. Ashley really enjoys this one on one time, and I am REALLY enjoying that she's not up until 11 struggling to stay focussed. She actually looks forward to doing her math homework now!

Last weekend, Ashley went to her first overnight camp with her good friend Ciara. They were at Camp Penielall weekend, where they swam, rode horses, learned some archery, and they even got to ride a zip line! When Belinda and I went to pick them up on Sunday, neither were ready to go home. After hearing all about it from Ash, Mark and I decided that we're going to go do the family camp in the spring.

Mr. Alex is trucking right along in Kindergaten, loving every minute of it. His teachers adore him *almost* as much as I do, and have done an incredible job of keeping him interested, and stimulated. He's the teachers "helper", and has done a super job helping the other kids in the class to read. He has a love for reading that I truly believe has come from the encouragment from his teacher. Before Kindergarten, reading was not at the top of his priority list (understandably so), and just last week he came home from school telling me how much he loves to read. I'm so proud of him! Alex is not participating in anything exracirricular right now, which is just as well considering all the changes he's gone through with starting school. I think we'll probably just wait until spring and sign him up for baseball again. He still talks about baseball alot, and tells me he's going to be a baseball player when he grows up.

Mark is continuing to work his rear off at work. As if working 50 hours a week wasn't enough, he is also running some sort of community involvment group at work. Right now he's working on the Susan G. Komen race. Although I'm not sure what exactly his group is doing just yet. (Sorry Mark, we'll have to talk later) He's still doing Meals on Wheels once a month, which is also part of his community involvement at work. On top of all that he's joined the Dad's Club up at Alex's school. This group of dads is such an amazing group. They used their big guns to help unload and distribute the cookie dough from the fundraiser, they held a family game night where familes could come play all sorts of PE type games like kickball and basketball. And each Friday the dads open car doors for all of the kiddos being dropped off, and after they're done with that they collect all of the recylable paper from each classroom and take it to the recycle dumpster on campus. Mark is really enjoying being involved up at the school, and of course watching him open car doors with his "dads club" badge makes my heart go pitter patter.

Mark and I just finished our 2nd season of coed softball, and have just signed up for another season which starts in about 2 weeks. Most of the people on our team have kiddos, and they all look forward to Friday nights up at the field. Most nights we have to DRAG them home.

As for me, I'm doing great. I volunteer at the kids schools on a daily basis, and serve on the executive board for both PTA's. I run the student store at Ashley's school on Monday's, which is a lot of fun. Ashley has been right there with me EVERY Monday, helping me. We really enjoy that special time together. I am so, so fortunate to have a husband that works so hard for us, and a job that allows me to make my family my priority.

The job is going well. I work with an awesome group, whom I learn from everyday. I go in around 10, and get off around 2:30. Perfect hours, perfect job, who could ask for more!

Oh, and one more little thing. I'd like you to say hello to my little friend the Palm Trio 700wx. As soon as I get use to this thing, I have ZERO excuses for being forgetful. Scary thought.

The bathroom is coming along nicely. We're SO close to being done. Yesterday, the plumber installed our shower head, and we got to take our FIRST SHOWER!!!!!! All that's left to be done is texture, paint, a few light fixtures, a few plumbing fixtures, a toilet, and some small touchups.

The wood floors came in, but unfortunately, they were not the ones we ordered, so we're back to playing the waiting game again. We've been told that they will have them here Monday and will be able to begin. I'll believe it when I see it. Meanwhile, we're living in a construction zone and have been for waaaay too long. We're more than ready to be done with this.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Here's the ONLY picture I have from Canton this weekend. I cannot believe I left my camera at home!!! There were so many things to take pictures of that I was just ill thinking about all of these missed shots. We're going to make this a regular trip though, so I will definitely get a redo.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Yin and Yang

I've said it probably a hundred times, but this morning I received yet another confirmation that these children are about as different as two people could possibly be. Our fashionista Ashley spends each morning primping in front of the mirror, making sure that the outfit she picked out the night before is the right one for the day...and it usually isn't, and neither is the next two or three that she tries on. She makes sure each hair is in it's proper place, necklace and earings match properly. Belt and other sparkly accessory must reflect light in the proper direction in order to acceutuate each article of clothing. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Aaaand then there's Alex.

I made the mistake of pushing the snooze button one too many times this morning. As a result, I had no time to spare and Alex did not wake up to a coordinated outfit laying on his dresser ready to go. Instead, I left the task up to him....with slight hesitation I asked him to pick out his own clothes. From the bathroom I can hear each article of clothing in his drawer being either unfolded, pushed aside, or strewn across the floor, in attempt to find whatever it is that this boy is searching for. A few short minutes later he yells that he's ready. Great! No fuss, no hassle. Ha, I wish. He walks in to the bathroom where I'm fixing my hair, dressed in a long sleeved shirt from last year, possibly the year before, which is fine, except for the fact that it's so short that his little belly is peeking through the bottom, and the sleeves are an unintentional 3/4 length. And for shoes, he has on the famous brown leather slip ons that have created more than their fair share of arguments due to the fact that they can NOT be paired with shorts because of how absolutely ridiculous they look. They are a semi-dress shoe and just don't work with shorts. Of course, they also aren't working with the 3 inches too short wind pants he's chosen today either. Had he not been on his way to school, I probably would have let him get away with his choices, afterall, he did look pretty cute in a "that's my precious little boy" sort of way. However, I decided to forego the phone call from the school counselor telling me how to obtain assistance from the local clothes closet charity and asked him to change. He put up a small fight, and showed me how he could "do this all day"... as he pulled his sleves down over his palms and held them with his fingers in effort to make the sleeves appear long enough. No, no, no honey that just won't work, you have to write and play and use your hands, right? So reluctantly, he ran off to change clothes while I continued fixing my hair with a little cloud of guilt looming over my head. He's 5. I love his innocence and how he doesn't care what he looks like. He's just the way I wish the rest of the world could be, carefree.
So anyway, he comes back, this time a tad better. He walks in straight faced, wearing jeans, another long sleeve shirt (that actually fits), the good ol brown slip ons AND five (yes 5) hats stacked on top of his head. I just didn't have the heart to object and sent my little boy off to Kindergarten looking like a clown dressed for winter. It was an interesting walk down the looong hallway full of moms and dads walking their perfectly primped children to class. It was hard for me to keep a straight face, and I'm sure it was even harder for them. So today our little Alex is sitting in his Kindergarten class 1 foot taller, in more ways than one.

I can't wait to see each chapter of this guys life unfold...there's just no predicting what's going to be on the next page.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Bathroom Remodel Day 5 and beyond

We're moving along slllooowwwly, but we're getting super close to being DONE!

Here's Day 5....most of the tile is in place, we're anxious to see what it will look like once the grout and trim pieces are in place:

And here we are after days 6 and 7.... a wee bit more tile and grout later and now we're talkin':

And after day 8 (Friday Sept. 28th), Mark and I are getting more and more impressed with our design! It's actually starting to look like a bathroom! We're getting so close

Since the last pictures were taken, the only change is the arch above the opening to the water closet is back. Now we'll contiue to wait for the plumber and electrician to show up, and after that all that's left is patching, taping, floating and texturing the walls, and getting the glass enclosure installed around the shower. That's IT! We are now in to week 6 of the remodel.

As for the wood floors...nothing has changed. They were supposed to start demo this morning, but it's not much of a surprise that I came home to an empty house with no changes. PLEASE LET ME KEEP MY PATIENCE with these people!!!!!!

I'm hoping to find some more time to update with all of the recent happenings at the Urben house as soon as possible. Right now, I'm off to the dentist AGAIN, but this time for some relief. I'm pretty sure I have dry socket from the molar I had pulled last Thursday. I'll be feelin' good in no time, I'm sure!