Well, we’ll have to change the name of the blog again…
Here’s a slideshow of photos from our family adventures in 2013. We hope you will enjoy it! For the best quality click on the little gear and change the video quality to HD.
Happy New Year! May 2014 be a blessed year for us all.
Five years ago, Aaron and I were making our last-minute preparations for our wedding. I was quitting my job (very unexpectedly) and Aaron’s summer position was coming to an end. We were moving his things into my/our tiny converted-garage apartment. We were also about to begin our senior years of undergraduate study. Life was crazy and busy, but also so incredibly care-free (other than that whole newlyweds-and-jobless business, but it was barely a blip on our worry radar). We were married on an absolutely scorching day in August. The high was 103 and I was so terrified that my professional (read: expensive) makeup was going to melt. I finally got around to putting our wedding pictures into an album this past spring. Elizabeth really loves to look through the photos and so I look at them frequently with her. In our pictures we look SO young, especially Aaron. Without his man-beard (that I adore), he looks all of 14 years old 😛 It was a blur of excitement and preparation right up until my dad walked me down the aisle. My dad just barely made it in time, we forgot to ask our friends to hand out the programs, and my maid of honor nearly forgot Aaron’s ring in the dressing room. I honestly don’t remember the exact moment of walking down the aisle. I have a video and a photo of it, but I can’t see it in my mind. It is all such a blur now. The things I remember most about the ceremony are:
Our reception was wonderful. I so much enjoyed walking between the tables, meeting my new family members, and introducing Aaron to his new family. It was really wonderful and at the end of the night when we got to our beautiful honeymoon cottage we were dead tired. Part of the wedding night package was an 8×10 photo of us when we arrived. I tore it up because we both looked terrible. It is hard to believe we’ve been married 5 years. On one hand it feels like we’ve been together so much longer and we’ve experienced so much that it must be at least 10. On the other hand I still sometimes feel as though we can’t possibly be 26 yet. How did we get here and where did the time go? We’ve managed to live our lives to the absolute fullest extent and even to bursting these last five years. Here are some of the most memorable moments (some are highlights and others not-so-much):
The last five years have been rather nomadic and slightly chaotic. We’ve constantly stepped out in faith and been so incredibly blessed. We’ve made amazing friends, learned hard lessons, and grown even closer together. We have worked side-by-side together for most of our married life, something that not many married couples could ever imagine doing gracefully, but we relished it. Aaron is my best friend, the same as it was back in 2006 when we began dating, the same as it was in 2008 when we were married. He is a wonderful, steadfast, and loving husband. It has been the greatest joy and pleasure of my life to watch him become a father. He is so wonderful with Elizabeth and Owen. He’s taught Elizabeth all about photosynthesis. She can pronounce it and explain it to you (with hand motions and everything)! Owen adores his Dada and for a frustratingly long time referred to me as Dada too 🙂
Sometimes people are surprised that we are married with two kids at only 26. They ask why we got married so young; are shocked that we are not only happy about having kids already, but that we actually had them on purpose; and they wonder if we have regrets. Sure we still rent and have student loan debt. No, we aren’t well-off financially, and we may not have as much “freedom” as others our age , but the last five years have been more full of love and happiness than the preceding 21 years of my life combined and I have absolutely no regrets.
Happy anniversary, Aaron. You’re the love of my life and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us as we grow old together.
I’ve been reading Money Saving Mom for a while now, and she does regular posts about freezer cooking (preparing food ahead of time and putting it into the freezer to save time later). I finally got around to tackling some freezer cooking. So far we have made freezer burritos and pizza hot pockets from scratch! Today I’ll post about the burritos and save the hot pockets for another day.
Here’s the recipe I used. I adapted it a bit to fit what I already had. First I warmed up a can of refried beans on the stove. I had some leftover chicken and so I shredded it up into the beans, then added rice (I made a double batch of rice just so I’d have some for the freezer burritos). I spooned some homemade salsa into the mixture too (SUPER easy and delicious recipe can be found here).
I spread my filling onto a tortilla added some shredded cheese, then rolled it up into a burrito.
I rolled each burrito in a bit of plastic wrap, then foil, then added them to a ziplock freezer bag (writing the contents and date).
Aaron and I both really liked them. To heat them up we just unwrapped them (saving the plastic and foil by putting it back in the bag), then wrapped them with a paper towel, and tossed them in the microwave. I did mine for a minute, then flipped it and cooked for another minute. My husband eats everything way hotter than I do, so he did 3 minutes. We just made another batch of these and put them in the freezer today. They’re great for lunch or when you’re hungry for something more substantial than a snack, but don’t feel like cooking.
We always seem to have so much to say when we do these posts, so I’ll go ahead and get started on the incredibly long update 🙂
We are working back at Happy Hill Farm, which has been renamed to North Central Texas Academy at Happy Hill Farm, but it’s NCTA for short. We came out to visit my mom for the 4th of July holiday, (Sidenote: Mom moved back out to Glen Rose and her job at the nursing home when we moved into our CARES apartment back in February. It was a good move for all parties involved and we’re all happier in our current places) and while we were out here, we stopped by to see our friends here at the farm. There were lots of changes going on and we were excited about some of them and intrigued about others. Elizabeth had a great time seeing the kids and our friends and I was feeling very guilty about how Owen wasn’t going to have the same great experience that his sister did. Since my mom was no longer living with us, it was a possibility for us to consider coming back to the school and working with the kids again. On our drive home we were discussing it and decided that since we had our two year agreement with Apartment Life to fulfill, we would revisit the idea of becoming house parents again once our two year end date was closer.
Well, we got back home and just a few short days later, we got a call from our Apartment Life supervisor stating that the new management company at our apartment complex had called and said that the CARES program was against their company policy, since their employees are supposed to be in charge of planning all events and resident retention. They were giving us 60 days to find either a new apartment or a new CARES team placement. We immediately thought that it was sign that we should reapply with Happy Hill. I was a complete and nervous wreck. I really loved my job at ACI; those kids are so precious to me, my coworkers had become my friends, and I just absolutely love the challenge of that work. However, it was taking a toll on me to be away from my sweet family for 10 hours a day. I left before they got up most days and came back just in time to eat dinner with Elizabeth and put her to bed. The commute was just way too much and Aaron basically got no time with me since I was so tired and he just wanted to unwind by playing some Minecraft at the end of the day.
We prayed about it constantly for about 2 weeks. I called my closest friends and my wonderful mentor, Christy. She of course gave me great advice and we submitted a written request to the farm to return to our work as house parents. We were on edge for a few days while we waited on an answer. We finally got it, and they said that there was a position for us. I immediately had a rush of relief and felt like a burden was lifted off me. This was the choice we were supposed to make and this is where we needed to be. Telling my coworkers and the families of my kiddos was tough, but they were all so very sweet and understanding.
We packed up again and with the help of our awesome friends, we moved for the 3rd time in 10 months. This time we moved into the Junior High boys’ house. We have 5 boys; one is in 7th grade and the rest are in 8th, one of whom is from China. There are a lot of things that are different being in a boys house, but most of them are good. One thing we do miss is the elementary 9:00 bedtime 🙂 Our guys are very different from one another and interact with us and the kids in unique ways. They have all grown very fond of Elizabeth and Owen, and the feeling is mutual. Elizabeth absolutely adores the 7th grader. He is always very sweet to both Elizabeth and Owen. They have their moments, but overall they’re good kids and we enjoy them. Aaron is especially liking the fact that he can be more involved and that they like video games so much. We are in the midst of hosting a big Madden football league season with them. The two single guys that work in here on our days off are also playing and they’re all really enjoying it. It’s really sweet to see Aaron practicing and trying to create a strategy when he knows he’s playing one of the boys who are really good. The boys are about to start their semester finals tomorrow. I was helping two of them study for their English exam tonight. It’s good that we can tag team pretty much any of the stuff the guys need whereas with the girls, there was a lot that Aaron couldn’t help them with. We are having our Christmas party with them this Thursday before they go home for the break and I’m looking forward to it.
Elizabeth has grown so very much. She’s so smart and can carry on the sweetest conversation. She likes to count and can go all the way to 16. 17-20 get a bit muddled, but she tries. She knows her ABCs, but only in song. We’re working on being able to recognize the letters. She definitely has E for Elizabeth and O for Owen down though. She went through a little spell there right as she was turning two, where she was throwing monstrous tantrums, but thankfully it passed after just a few weeks. She got a big girl bed for her birthday from Aaron’s parents and does an awesome job sleeping in it. She gave her pacis to the paci fairy once she turned two and got a leapfrog tag reader as her surprise big girl gift. She also started preschool two days a week back in August. She goes to a local church’s preschool program 8:30-12:45. Their program is actually 9:30-2:30, but she just couldn’t/wouldn’t nap there so we decided to do the early-bird drop off and just pick her up after their lunchtime before they lay down for their naps. She has been doing much better about naptime at home though and so after the new year, we’re going to try and do regular full days again. Elizabeth is a ballerina and will show you her sweet ballet dance moves if you ask nicely. She loves to sing and dance and her favorite song at the moment is Zaccheus Was a Wee Little Man… It’s so fun to have her sing along with me. She is a good big sister, even if she can be a little rough with Owen. He’s pretty sturdy for a little guy and can dish it out too (most often in the form of pulling sister’s hair).
Owen is fun. He is a ball of energy, always on the go. He is trying hard to start walking already and once he figures that out we are in some serious trouble. I can see him being a climber too, so I’m just preparing myself for lots of worrying/bruise-kissing in the near future. He is in a very mama’s-boy clingy phase, but it’s mostly due to teething pain. He has his bottom two front teeth and one of his top front teeth broke through the gum just today. He is quite tall and skinny, so his onesies are either too big everywhere or a bit snug in length. He loves his big sister and screeches happily anytime she’s near. He also likes to watch The Fresh Beat Band with her. It’s pretty cute to watch them both enthralled by the computer (they watch it on Netflix).
Aaron and I are really enjoying being back here on the farm. We have weekly Men’s/Women’s Bible study which we’re enjoying having with our coworkers. We are also enjoying having more time to spend together as a couple as well as family time. We’re trying to find something to do together that we both really enjoy that isn’t work/parenting related, but it’s a little tough with two little ones. Mostly we just hang out after all the kids are asleep, sometimes watch a movie on Netflix, and try to enjoy our days off.
I am loving that there are so many other moms here with little ones. There were quite a few here before too, but we never got together. Now, a teacher’s wife has started a playgroup on Wednesdays. The kids and I go and they play while we have grownup conversation and lunch all together. It’s really wonderful, and some of us even get together regularly to work out three days a week. I only go twice since Elizabeth goes to preschool on Tuesdays. I take that as my chill out day and Thursday I go to women’s Bible study.
I am enjoying still being a stay-at-home dad but with the added bonus of having my wife around too 🙂 Getting to stay home with the kids when Tori was at work was great, but I could see it was hard on her to be away from us all day, and when she got home we pretty much were both exhausted. Now we are working at finding something we can enjoy together. We’re trying to cook more, seeing as working at NCTA means we eat in the dining center for most meals and we just don’t cook as much anymore. We’re hoping this can be an activity we can share, but usually one of us just ends up taking care of the kids. I’m very happy to be in the middle school boys house. There is just so much more they can do and that I can do with them. They have their challenges, but for the most part I can’t complain 🙂 I’m looking forward to the upcoming break though, and having time that we don’t have any real work responsibilities so we can just relax with our family.
Well, that’s the end of our blog catch-up. Merry Christmas to everyone!
Aaron, Tori, Elizabeth, and Owen
Hard to believe that I have been this terrible about updating, but here we are 8 months later, and I still haven’t posted about the birth of our son. Oh well, life happens and so here is an update on him and his arrival.
Owen Cody arrived on Good Friday, April 6th. I started having contractions at about 4:30 in the morning and was able to go back to sleep until 6. Then we got up and started our day, fed Elizabeth, and then about 8 we dropped her off at the home of our good friends to have a play date while we headed to the birth center. Aaron’s parents drove up from Houston and picked Elizabeth up so she could be the first to meet her brother. He was born at 2:03 while his sister played in the grass and dirt outside of the birth center. I had a water birth and caught him myself. It was amazing and I fell instantly in love with my sweet boy. He was 7 lbs. 14 oz. and just shy of 21 inches long (almost 2 lbs heavier than his sister).
Here is his first picture
He had a little birthmark on his cheek, but it went away after a couple days.
Here he is getting his first kiss from his big sister, Elizabeth!
Owen has since grown very tall, but is rather lanky, especially for a baby. He’s incredibly active and at 8 months he is already crawling, pulling up to a stand, letting go to stand unassisted, and is cruising around from object to object. I’m afraid he’ll be walking sometime in the next month or so. It’s terribly nerve wracking, because I worry so much about him falling. He has his two center bottom teeth, his front top right tooth is just about to break through the gums, and he and chews/drools on everything.
Owen is in constant motion. He must be involved in whatever is going on at all times. He is very hands on in his exploration, never satisfied to just look at something, but wants to hold it/touch it/eat it. This has led to many a fit as he is not nearly as easy to distract as you might think a baby would be.
His favorite person in the world is probably his big sister. Everything she does is funny to him; everything. She can make him smile and laugh like no one else can. I think part of the reason he is so physically advanced for his age is because he wants to be with Elizabeth, running around the house just like her.
He has gorgeous, big eyes just like his daddy, except they’re blue instead of brown. His hair is an almost white blonde and he’s got quite a bit, but you can hardly see it because it is so light.
When we go to hang out with our baby friends at playgroup on Wednesdays, Owen has to be kept separate from the other babies because he’s too aggressive with his friends and makes them cry. Elizabeth did the same thing, so maybe it’s mine and Aaron’s fault.
Owen will say “Da-da”, the very rare “ah-ma”, and when he gets to babbling you might hear “Da-deeee”. Mostly though, it’s a whole lot of excited screeching.
On the whole he is an incredibly laid-back and easygoing baby, with one exception: teething. He is (pardon the expression) a big baby when it comes to teething, which we were not prepared for. Elizabeth had a very easy time with teething, but it is truly a painful struggle for our little guy. When he isn’t fussing about his teeth though, he is all smiles. He’s got two dimples that come out when he’s really laughing and happy. He is going to be quite the handsome fella as he gets bigger, so we’re already steeling ourselves for the broken hearts 🙂
Here’s a more recent picture from our play date last week. Notice the drool-soaked hoodie? It’s his standard attire these days. Hope you’ve enjoyed seeing my little man, and I’ll try to update again soon.
Just a quick post before we leave for church.
My wife is a wonderful person, mother, wife, friend, and on and on.
Let me list some of the ways:
She spends most of her days providing for our family, driving an hour or more to work and back.
She actively instills our children with good habits, manners, and knowledge.
She holds herself to high moral standards.
She considers the feelings of others before (and while) she acts.
She gives me time to relax and just play a game at the end of the day. She even occasionally shares that time with me, even if there’s probably something else she’d rather do 🙂
She looks to some fantastic role models and takes lessons from them in order to better herself.
She puts others, especially our children and I, above herself.
She loves her family. This may just be a given, but you should see her face light up when she sees some video of Elizabeth from earlier in the day.
She runs our budget, even though that is a tough and stressful job all on its own.
When asked if she were to die today, what is the one thing she would regret not telling someone, and why hasn’t she told them already, she said there are millions of things she hasn’t yet told Elizabeth. She is and is going to be a fantastic role model for Elizabeth, and there’s no woman I’d rather her emulate.
There’s obviously tons of things I could write here, but really there aren’t words to express my thankfulness that I have Tori as my wife.
Happy Mother’s Day!