Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The beginnings of Extra Ciricular

Channing has finally reached the age where I was nice enough to let her start a sport ;). She chose to do dance and was super excited to start at Profusion Performing Arts. She is doing Ballet 1 this year.
 Her class is on Mondays at 4:00
She gets to dance with her best friend Avery so she is so excited about that!! I am sure she will be a great dancer as she is always dancing and singing around the house. 
Cavin also began another season of soccer. He was unable to play with his old team as he missed a season doing flag football. They also changed the age brackets so he is now younger and we didn't switch him to play up with his team. With all that and them not being able to find a coach, I was a little hesitant for him to play. He ended up having two friends from church on his team, so he is grateful for that. They had a rough first game, but I am sure they will improve! Go Tigers!

School year 2017-2018

The kids FINALLY began school on September 7, 2017. The school calendar was already really late this year and they weren't supposed to start til August 28th. Due to the flood it got pushed back even farther. I'm not gonna lie, by the time it started, I was mentally spent. I love having my kids home for the summer, but coming back from Germany a couple weeks before the flood and having school delayed and the stress of the hurricane and such, I was so ready for some normalcy and to have them go back to school. They needed something to focus on besides what was happening around them. So with much excitement, they began the school year!
Here are the cute older 3 kids. Cavin is starting to tower over Ella and just keeps growing! He is now in a mens shoe size!! It's rather annoying because now I spend more on the same shoe that is in the kids section but because it's in the mens section it's at least $20 more!
Cavin started 4th grade. He has Mrs. French as his homeroom teacher. Mrs. Ibera and Mrs. Taylor are his two switch teachers and so far he really likes his class and teachers. 
Channing is now in 1st grade. She has Mrs. Petzold as her teacher. She is the same teacher that Ella had in first grade. I was a little nervous about her having the same teacher because she is a little more strict and Channing does better with the soft, sweet, more fluffy teachers, but so far she loves her. She just loves school in general which is great!
Ella, Ella, Ella! Oh my, I just wanted to cry when she left for school. She is now in 6th grade which puts her in middle school. I hate that she is starting the harder phase of life where you have to deal with weird boys and self conscious girls. As she was standing at the bus stop I kept praying she would remember who she was and keep the confidence that she has always had in herself. She is a bright girl and I know she will succeed.
I was the only parent at the bus stop, of course, so she indulged me as I waited with her. She's never ridden a bus before so I wanted to make sure she got on. As you can see from this picture, she was a little embarrassed as she waved goodbye. Oh how I love her and wish her the best year!
And......who can have a back to school post without having a picture of my blue eyed baby! I love spending time with this sweet, energetic boy. I truly treasure the time we have alone and I look forward to making fun memories!

A visit from Natalie

My parents were due to leave on their Alaskan cruise exactly one week after the hurricane. Luckily the airport began running the night before they left so they were able to catch their flight and go. With that, Natalie got to come stay with us for about 17 days while they were gone. We tried to make the best of the time we had. The kids enjoy talking with her and playing Uno. 
Labor day weekend after cleaning out houses we went as girls to see the movie Leap. It was about a cute red headed ballerina with big dreams. We enjoyed it. 
We also hung out with cousins and Chira was a saint and took the older 3 kids for a couple days to play since everyone was so tired of being homebound from the flood.
Natalie and I went with some friends and took Deacon to the zoo. 
 He's always gotta be cool with glasses on!
Zoo selfie. It was such a beautiful day outside. The weather was perfect. I sure wish it was here to stay, but it's already disgusting again.
Then on September 14, 2017 at 8:32 CAI JOSEPH SPEERS was born at 7 pounds 15 ozs. Natalie, Deacon, and I went for a short visit to the hospital to take a peak at the cute baby!
I am glad to add Cai to our extended family, and for the time I got to spend with Natalie. She is a special sister who we love having around.

Hurricane Harvey

On Friday, August 25, 2017 Hurricane Harvey started its descent on Houston, Texas. The winds and the rain came in full force. We had been anticipating the storm for many days, so we were as prepared as we could have been. We had enough supplies and food. There were many tornado warnings and it was an unsettling few days. The news was on non stop showing all the flooding from the 52 inches of rain that fell in just a few days. What the hurricane left behind has been heart breaking and devastating to this place I call home. 
We live in a wonderful subdivision with a great drainage system so this is as high as the water rose. It got to about the curb. Still unsettling knowing so much rain was yet to come. Luckily the rain broke a little and it drained really quickly and our home and subdivision was spared.
We spent a couple tornado warnings in the closet hoping for the best. The kids were mostly fine to be huddled all together.
This was a picture of the day by day flooding. Downtown Houston looked like it had become a lake. 
Overall our power only went out for 3 hours on Sunday afternoon. The worst we had was having to ration our milk as the stores couldn't get more supplies. My parents and brothers homes were fine, we all just couldn't get to each other because all the roads were flooded around us. We felt like we each were on our own island. So many areas were completely under water and we have been spending the last weeks cleaning out home after home of flooded victims. It's so heart breaking to take everything they own and throw it to the curb for the trash man.
I have spent many days in these boots cleaning out houses. Some were not too bad and others were terrible. The first few days I tried to go to a shelter to help and was turned away because so many people were stepping it to help.
This home that Ragnar and I worked on together was terrible. It was an older man who wanted to keep everything, but his home had sustained 16 feet of water. There was nothing salvageable.
After many days it was great to see these tractors that came to load up all the trash that is piled on the street. These people don't need a reminder out their front door of their losses, they already know.
I was so glad to serve along side members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I love the Mormon helping hands organization and being a part of a church that is known for service. People would welcome our help and the news was broadcasting that after all of our crews coming in to help that people would say, "I knew the Mormons would come" That warms my heart. I want to be helpful and although this has been hard and has put everyone's lives on hold for weeks, I am grateful that it has humbled hearts and allowed people to love and serve. We are Texas and we are Houston Strong. We will pull through.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Europe Trip 2017- Part 2

The beginnings of Austria..
Day #7
Today was a day I got to check an item off my bucket list. We went to tour Neuschwanstein castle. We love Disney and since I knew we were going to be in Austria on the border of Germany where it is I wanted to take a day trip here. It was really neat to see the inspiration behind the castle. We took a horse drawn carriage to the top which I thought really added to the charm of it all. 
Here was a our carriage ride. Ragnar's sister Sandra and her family joined us to view the castle.
They were doing construction on a part of the castle, but it was interesting.
Here we are at the top of the castle. I love this cute family of mine!! It was a beautiful site at the top. It was very different than I expected it to look like and be, but I was glad that I was able to see it. I couldn't believe how much of a tourist spot it was, it was packed!! We came early and I was so glad! 

After we finished our tour, we walked down and then got in the car and drove about 3.5 hours to the resort we stayed at for the reunion! We stayed at the Talheim which was a nice little, family owned place.

Day #8
Today was the first official day of the Hartzheim Reunion. We gathered to hold a sacrament meeting. 
There were 23 people in that small room due to the rain. It was a neat experience. 
I think this selfie picture with 23 people is pretty cool!
We took a gondola ride to the top of the mountains when the rain stopped.
This is Deacon's cousin David who is a month older than him.
We took a beautiful walk back afterward. This place was filled with so much beautiful nature.
That evening we played minute to win it games with everyone.
Some of them were the m&m game which Ella and Mia played.
Deacon and David did the kleenex box game. The most memorable game was "potato poop" where you had to walk with a potato in your legs and drop it in the bucket. That gave us all some good laughs! It was a nice first day together.

Day #9 
August 7th was Ragnar and I's 13th anniversary. It was kinda fun to be together will all these family members 13 years later. We spend the day climbing the Austrian alps! The weather cleared and it was a beautiful day and you could see so far.
We hiked the Montolino path today. It was fun for the kids. They had to follow this clown guy for clues down the mountain.
 Ursula and Hellmut relaxing before it began!
Here he is.
Deacon was flying down the mountain. He has no fear. He would just run and it was so stressful for me because I had to chase him so he wouldn't fall down or off the side of the mountain cause parts were steep! We made it though!
 Some sightseeing..
I had to take a picture of this "Edel Weiss" house since I love the sound of music.
We took some pictures at the top of the mountain!
 Happy 13th to us!
Channing wanted her own picture!
 Deacon caught a ride on Ragnar's shoulder toward the end!
The silly boy kept dabbing the whole way down :)
This was a super long slide toward the end. It was not the most comfortable to go down, but the kids enjoyed it!
We came home and had an Austrian version of a BBQ. I was a little scary for me as we had to cook the raw meat ourselves and I was worried someone would get sick, but it ended up being delicious!

Day #10
Today was a day of persevering. We went on another hike today but this one was much harder and much longer. The front half of the hike was very steep. Deacon didn't want to hold my hand because he thought he could do it, but I would not let go because he would have fallen right off the side of the mountain! That kid is fearless and so athletic that he thinks he can do anything! That will serve him well in the future, but at 3 it's a little challenging for this mama!
Ella and Cavin before the hike!
Deacon found a swing at the top of the mountain!
Such pretty views, I really cannot believe how beautiful God's creation is! 
I love this picture of Ragnar and his dad. I think it's a special picture to be back where they used to hike together when Ragnar was young.
We hiked down the mountain and the stopped at a restaurant to get drinks and then we hiked uphill in a circle around back to the gondola to take us down. The uphill was very difficult for the kids. Ella and Channing were so tired and there were moments they said they couldn't make it. Cavin did great keeping up with his cousins, and I carried Deacon a fair way of the way up. Good thing I have been lifting weights! I was so proud of the girls for enduring and making it to the end. I told Ella this experience will give her a lot of great opportunities for analogy's in her church talks ;) haha
The gondola ride down the mountain!

Cavin was so tired, he couldn't even make it to his bed so he fell asleep on the floor!
We rewarded them with an evening cooling down at the waterpark. It was called Captain Hook's ship park. The slides were a lot of fun and we enjoyed it!

Day #10
Somehow after the hike yesterday and the ropes course we went on today we are still alive in Austria.
They gave us a short training and sent us off to our deaths!
The first course was challenging as we were learning how to clip and unclip everytime. The kids barely met the height requirement and I think were a little short, so I had to do a lot of clipping in. My hands were raw when we finished.
Ella preferred the zip lining sections. Cavin got stuck on one of the zip lines. He didn't quite make it down. He struggled for a little while but I was so proud of him when he figured it out and pulled himself up the rope and on the ledge. He was pretty spent afterward. They have had two very physically challenging days and I am so grateful they have tried hard things.
While we were doing the ropes course, Ragnar took the two younger kids on the "Golden Gate Bridge of the Alps". He said it was pretty scary how high up you were.
The kids loved the hats called "Zipfelmuetze" that they got to wear along the bridge.
Channing and her cousin Mia had a great time walking along. 
The endless dabbing.
When we got back Deacon always liked to go down to the play area in our place and play. Ragnar's Aunt and Uncle Klaus and Ruth joined us for a couple days and it was nice to see them as well.

Day #11
it was a musical kind of day! We drove an hour and a half to Salzburg, Austria to see the town. We first toured the Hohensalzburg castle/fortress. We took a train that was one of the oldest trains built up to see it.
Salzburg was an interesting city with lots of history.
This was the awesome site from the top!
We sure drug our kids around everywhere and they walked and walked and walked this trip!
The beloved Aunt Daphne!
Some fun cousin time!
The "Sound of Music" city. We stopped to get a pretzel and an Oma bought an icecream cone for us all.
Next we went to tour Mozarts birthplace. He was an incredibly talented man and it was intriguing to see his birthplace and the museum of his life. 
A replica of the love/locks bridge.
And this was the much anticipated Mirabellen garden where parts of the Sound of Music were filmed. It was beautiful even though the weather wasn't great.
Here we are!! Doe a deer, a female deer........
This was a long day of waiting for everyone. 23 people in one place is hard to move along, but we made it and had a good time.

Day #12
We finally got a relaxing day in!! We went to the Tauern Spa!! It was a neat place. There were pools with slides, and heated pools, salt water pool, a lazy river, and all sorts of fun pools! The kids were excited to get their own robes and not have to walk ANYWHERE!
A great retreat for this rainy day!
Four adorable kids!
It was a nice day. Ella, Cavin, and Ragnar went to town after to eat some "Kaiserschmarrn".
Ella was excited to see "snow"!!!

We had a great family reunion. It was so nice to see everyone. There are definitely some language barriers we face, and I really wish German was taught in our home, but we all did our best and we are part of a great family.

Day #13
Today we drove the long long road back to Germany. We stopped halfway in Albershausen, Germany to see Fabian, Ragnar's oldest nephew be ordained as a priest, and then we continued the last 5 hours of the journey. Overall the kids did well. It was a long hard day, but great scenery along the way!

Day #14
Today we went to church together and celebrated our last full day in Germany.
Ragnar has a nice ward and he was excited to see everyone again.
Ella had a great imagination while we were there, they had a nail salon one day, and today we did a post office. She had everyone write letters and she stamped and delivered them all. It was neat to have everyone participate and write their thoughts down.
 The post woman!!
Deacon loves his Opa and had a great time being with him. It was such a great trip. Ursula was such a saint and she did the laundry for me every night and that was a huge help. She made foods that my kids loved and was just so hospitable. It was so nice to go and be with the Hartzheims. We had a lovely time! We do enjoy the a/c, ice and no paid bathrooms, but Europe is breathtaking. Until next time!!