Don't Mess With Texas

Originally uploaded by Mainline Mom
The rest of our trip yesterday was a piece of cake. Both kids were fabulous the whole 1500 miles. We couldn't get into our apartment yesterday so Mike got the brilliant idea of staying at the Sheraton Suites by the Galleria (a famous upscale Houston mall) which has a corporate rate for his company. His office is just next door, and we got a very nice suite on the eighth floor looking out at downtown Houston. Tons of room for the kids to run around, private sleeping area so the kids could go to bed before us, and Pepper was welcome too.

Last night we headed over to the Galleria for walking around and dinner. Nathan loves the very cool fountain, the ice skating rink, and the tall glass elevators. I found a Pumpkin Patch store, which was significantly less expensive than the Pumpkin Patch clothes I usually buy at Nordstrom. I didn't buy anything yet, I am waiting till the Texas sales tax holiday coming up and then I will do some serious shopping.

This morning we had a very expensive but delicious breakfast at the hotel. It was so nice not to have to rush to pack up and eat and get on the road again! Alex is napping in the bedroom while we hang out and relax before heading to our apartment. I'm looking forward to getting settled in our new community, Cinco Ranch.


1100 Miles Down

Tired Alex
Originally uploaded by Mainline Mom
We have made awesome time, have hit zero traffic, and the kids have been great. Alex is a little sick with a very runny nose, a new tooth coming through, and who knows what else bothering him. He kept me up all night the night before we left, but he was great in the car and slept great last night. We got two separate hotel rooms and I stayed with Alex so that at least one driver would be ensured a good night sleep. But not to fear, Alex and I slept from 8:30 pm to 5:45 am in our Holiday Inn in Bristol, VA.

Today we drove from Virginia, through Tennessee, through Alabama, and all the way to Hattiesburg, Miss. Home of Southern Miss University. That leaves 400 miles to Houston tomorrow, but we can't get into our apartment till the following day anyhow. I can't wait to sleep somewhere other than a hotel.


Weekend Recap

Originally uploaded by Mainline Mom
Still haven't actually left Pennsylvania yet. Unless you count going to the Macaroni Grill in Delaware for dinner on Thursday night with nine people including four under age four. We waited a long time, and it was already late when we got there. It was crazy but we managed.

What we couldn't imagine was that the weekend would only get more chaotic from there. My sister's kids are busy. Mainly the two year old, but the baby demands attention too pretty frequently. I'm not sure how my kids and her kids share some of the same genes, because the personality differences and energy levels are startlingly different.

Friday night after we put all the kids in bed, my sister and Mike and I went down to the Iron Hill Brewery in Wilmington to hang out while we waited for her husband to come in on a very late night train from Richmond. That was fun.

Saturday my mom and Jack and I took just Nathan to Longwood Gardens. It was fun but a LOT of walking and it was really hot. Their new indoor children's garden is really cool, I highly recommend it. The giant treehouses are cool too. The food at the cafe is really good too, but they need more beverage/ice cream carts along the long walking paths for hot days.

Saturday night we all celebrated Alex's 1st birthday, which isn't till next week but we'll be in Houston by then. He devoured his cupcake like the eating machine that he is. Unlike Nathan, who barely touched his first birthday cake. Alex is much chubbier than Nathan was at his age.


Goodbye Phoenixville

Well the movers left yesterday with all our stuff. We won't see it again for a month. I'm sure the time will go by fast, but I can't wait. Right now we're hangin' out at my mom's and we'll spend the weekend with her and my sister's family who is coming today.

I'm gonna miss the charm of suburban Philadephia, especially the rolling hills, tall trees and little farms all over. They don't have any of those in Houston. Here's what I won't miss... the Schuylkill Expressway, that south Philly accent, months of freezing weather, and the prices. I was pleasantly surprised to see that when Forbes ranked the best counties in the country to raise a family, Montgomery county, PA where I live ranked 9th and Chester county (I'm right on the border between the two) ranked 10th. Fantastic schools, good shopping, short commutes and not-too-outrageous home prices went into the ranking. Great education is one thing Philly excels at, for sure.


Packing Week

Originally uploaded by Mainline Mom
So we're back home and now the less than fun part begins. We have to pack enough clothes and toys to last us this week while the house is packed, next week driving, and three weeks in a furnished apartment. We're planning to spend this weekend with my mom before starting to drive south very early next Monday morning. We're hoping to make it in three days, with minimal crying and whining from the back seat. That's about 8 hours of driving time a day, not including lunch and potty breaks. We're trying to find pet friendly hotels with two room suites so that we don't have to go to sleep when the kids to every night. Not easy.

The matching outfits are really Nathan's idea, not mine. Although I happily oblige.


I miss my kiddos!

Originally uploaded by Mainline Mom
Five days so far without my kids and one more to go. Yeah, the freedom is kinda nice but I really miss their company. They are so cute! I talked to Nathan on the phone for a couple minutes today but he didn't have much to say. He keeps saying he doesn't want to talk to Mommy and Daddy on the phone.

Today we visited the neighborhood YMCA and I was very impressed. It's not as fancy as our current one but it's also cheaper and all the childcare and group classes are free and don't require pre-registration. There are LOTS of yoga classes on the weekly schedule so I'm determined to get back into it. I also may try pilates again, I loved it before. Also they have soccer and basketball for Nathan's age group, something our Y doesn't. So I think it would be cool to start him in some group sports.

Before our home inspection this morning we talked briefly to the sellers and asked if there were any little kids around. They pointed out at least five houses immediately surrounding us with multiple small children. Sounds like the perfect street for us. The sellers seem so nice, a strong Christian black family originally from L.A. They say they are moving locally and we didn't ask why, I hope it is not because they couldn't afford this home. But we will take good care of the house they had built two years ago.



Originally uploaded by Mainline Mom
Ok so we toured the daycare center around the corner and enrolled Nathan and put Alex on the waiting list. Got a really good mortgage rate too. Our inspection is tomorrow, so we get to go through the house one more time, yippee! We love it. Here's a set of photos.

Five bedrooms plus a gameroom for our pool table. Rockin' kitchen with granite counters and a huge breakfast bar. A pantry! (I don't have a pantry now and could really use one) Big two story den with a little catwalk between the upstairs bedrooms. I can totally see Nathan throwing paper airplanes over the rail.

The backyard is big and bare, (well, big by some standards, still tiny compared to our current yard). Nobody behind us but a drainage ditch and behind that is our elementary school (top rated) and the daycare and the community pool and play area. We will have to install some kind of covered patio, because shade is super important in Houston. Also I'm definately getting Nathan a playset for his birthday.

The garage isn't huge so we will need to use half of it for bikes and lawn equipment, but thankfully the other care will be parked under the porte-cochere so it is protected from blazing sun and pouring rain.

Hard to believe this house is 1200 sq ft bigger than our current house and 15K cheaper. Oh, did I mention it's essentially brand new, built in 2006? Yeah, perfect condition.

Our New Digs!

Our New Digs!
Originally uploaded by Mainline Mom
We bought a house! We saw 20 houses on Monday, went back to five of them on Tuesday, made an offer and came to an agreement on this one. Details to follow....gotta run :)



Originally uploaded by Mainline Mom
It really is amazing what good photography can do for a house when you are trying to sell. Of course, that didn't seem to matter for us because our house sold before we had any photos online for the buyer to see. But I have looked at a LOT of listings online and there are some that I just think "If that were my real estate agent, I would FIRE them." It's ALL about the marketing. I found out when shooting my house, even if the place is flooded with natural light, flash really makes a huge difference. Gotta use flash when trying to show brightness in a house. But the opposite is true when shooting people...I try NOT to use flash if I can get away with it.

I've been starting to freak out about how we are going to choose the perfect house in one day. Well, maybe two days. There are so many nice ones, but the perfect one? I'm just used to having more time to make such a HUGE decision. I don't want to have any regrets. The good thing is a house JUST came on the market that looks fabulous, appears to be in a good location, and is priced significantly lower than most of the others we're seeing. AND it's vacant! Which would mean no temporary apartment for us :) But we'll see.

I'm really itching to do a newborn photography shoot, but I think I'm gonna miss Jenifer's baby and none of my other friends have had babies lately...well at least not locally. Guess I'd better make some new pregnant friends when I get to Texas :)


The G.P.s

Originally uploaded by Mainline Mom
I refer to my grandparents as the GP's.* I'm lucky to have my dad's parents still around and in good health. They are pretty amazing people really, I think they are both 88 years old and very active. They are originally from Boston and still own the home my great-grandfather built there, and they spend every summer in that house. But their primary residence for the past fifty-plus years has been Houston, where they have a lovely house as well. Every summer they DRIVE from Houston to Boston, and every fall they drive back.

This summer their annual trek has been delayed due to my Grandmom getting a knee replacement. I was shocked when I heard her doctor thought she was a good candidate for it, but supposedly she is doing pretty well. Unfortunately now my Grandad's feet are both swelling up, and they won't know why until they see a doctor later this week. I very much hope it isn't serious, but swollen feet are often a sign of a circulation problem of some sort and he does have a history of heart trouble. Both of their sons, my dad and my uncle, died of heart failure before they turned 50.

We keep trying to tell them it isn't a good idea for him to drive so far, but they are stubborn and habitual. They come up with tons of excuses for not flying up and back, such as the flexibility and freedom to stick tons of stuff in their car at the last minute. They have two NEW cars, which they don't need because they only have one driver, so clearly they could leave one of their cars in Boston. Ah well, they are their own people.

Needless to say they are overjoyed that we are moving so close to them. They have not had any family nearby for many years, although they travel to see us quite a bit. I'm glad my boys may get to know them a little in the sunset of their lives. My grandfather especially is so interesting to talk to, he really is brilliant, a PhD in chemistry from MIT. The only trouble is we tend to disagree somewhat on religious and sometimes political matters, but we enjoy discussing them. Maybe someday I'll convince him :)

*This reminds me that my dad used to use the term G.P.s to refer to the phrase "general principles". Usually in the context of me asking "Why can't I do such-and-such?!" and he'd say "G.P.'s". And that'd be the end of it.


Happy Fourth

Originally uploaded by Mainline Mom
Since we had zero specific plans for this weekend, the family decided to walk down to the Phoenixville First Friday festivities. They had the "beer garden" set up with a bounce house and a dunk tank and the world's slowest balloon animal twister. We decided to have dinner at Molly McGuire's, which Nathan refused to eat and Alex ate SO much and whined for more nonstop. It made Mike very cranky.

It started to rain pretty hard on our way home and I figured the town fireworks would surely be canceled. Since Nathan hadn't napped, he wouldn't be able to stay awake for them anyway. So we were pleasantly surprised when they started going off promptly at 9:30, despite the rain, and we had a PERFECT view from our house. I was a little bummed that the continuous drizzle prevented me for setting up my tripod and taking photos (these photos are two years old) but the display was terrific, and at least we were in the dry comfort of our bedroom.

This morning we got up and headed to the Phoenixville Farmer's Market. The market is consistently rated one of the best in Philly, and in four years of living here I had never been. I was thrilled to see all the fabulous homemade breads and I bought several loaves, and a mouth-watering cinnamon roll from Sweetwater Baking Co. Not to mention some fresh produce and sausage. Upon seeing all the bumper stickers in the parking lot and the granola types walking around with their reusable shopping bags, Mike declared himself the only Republican there.



Giant Elmo
Originally uploaded by Mainline Mom
This is a throwback photo of Nathan when he was the same age as Alex is now. Alex has more hair and I think he is a little chubbier. Mike wants me to cut Alex's hair but I love his little curls. Alex recently got two more teeth, for a total of four. This last one is really bugging him, making him terribly cranky. I count my blessings though because it doesn't interfere with his sleeping, since he is a champion sleeper.

It's a good thing because our new house in Texas will have the master bedroom on the first floor and 3 or 4 bedrooms on the second floor. Also the playroom will probably be on the second floor too, so I'm hoping most of the toys will stay contained up there. That may be a bit unreasonable, but we'll see.

One idea I have is to use either the study (always off to the right of the foyer and generally enclosed by french doors) or perhaps a media room if the house has one as a dedicated photo studio. It would take a bit of investment in equipment to really set it up professionally, but with more space in the house and more time when Alex is in daycare part time it's a possibility. The idea is pretty exciting to me.


Babys in Hats

Grammy and Alex
Originally uploaded by Mainline Mom
This photo is for Neel too, but also for me to remember my lovely time at the beach. I wish I could go to the beach again before we move, but no such luck. So far we have zero plans for the holiday weekend, although I'm talking to some people about having a last minute BBQ.

Last night I went out with some of my girlfriends for one last get together. It was lots of fun but also bittersweet. Some of them are envious of our big adventure, which is a nice change from all the sad, sympathetic looks when I first told people we were headed south.

One friend pointed out that you get a chance to start over and essentially create the person that you want to be. I don't really feel the need to change much about me in order to make a certain breed of new friends, I'm perfectly happy with how my relationships have turned out so far. Perhaps I have a knack for avoiding drama, but I can't think of any relationships that have really gone sour since leaving college...with the exception of work situations, but I don't count those. In fact now that I work from home (and not with any women until recently, I might add) I successfully avoid any drama there too. I think the secret is space. When I see people creating drama, I create added space. Maybe that's not always a good thing, sometimes these people really need a good friend, but I am not one to sit and listen to people complain about other people endlessly. Life is too short!!

On the plus side, when we move I am looking forward to meeting a few of my internet friends in real life. One girl I met in a birthclub forum when I was pregnant with Alex. She was due with triplets the same week I was due. Of course her baby boys arrived much earlier than mine, but she is an amazing person, the most positive and uplifting woman I've met in years. Her husband has a job that takes him away from home for months at a time and she has these three baby boys to take care of. She NEVER complains! She has the attitude that she is truly blessed in her life. I feel that way too but I still complain sometimes! She lives near Houston and I can't wait to meet her an her boys.

Speaking of being blessed, I don't know if I mentioned how great my husband is lately. For our tenth anniversary we got a babysitter and went to Ruth's Chris for dinner. He brought me home a big bunch of yellow roses (of Texas, right?) and they were gorgeous! And he got me a beautiful five diamond anniversary band. What a nice guy :)


Soaking It Up

Soaking It Up
Originally uploaded by Mainline Mom
This photo is just for Neel.

Alas, the great house with the big yard and pool already sold. Well there are 20 more great houses to see. My agent seriously thinks we can see them all in one day, and then go back to the favorites the next day. Is she serious?! They will surely all blend together.

Alex is more and more mobile, although he doesn't quite have crawling down yet. He leans forward from a sitting position onto his hands and one foot and pulls his butt forward. He's starting to pull up a little too. Makes it tough to get any work done while he's home. Good thing he's going to daycare as soon as we move. Now I just gotta find a good school for both boys...
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