Wednesday, April 4, 2018

And on the Seventh Month, the Lake House Rose Again

This past weekend, almost 7 months to the day since I last drove to Houston and pulled up to devastation of Hurricane Harvey, I walked back into my parents' house.

They just moved back in, the first of their flooded friends to do so.

It looks fantastic. Back to the way it was before the waters rose, when they'd just finished the renovations on what they thought was their retirement/forever dream home. The kids and James never saw it any other way, but it was a remarkable transformation for me to see.

It was such a relief to see my parents in their home again, to see them enjoying themselves and my kids in their home again. From the pictures of the weekend, you could think everything is back on track- that was what broken was fixed and we can all move on, with them finishing out their final years of working and teaching in Houston and us looking forward to many more lake visits in our future. But in reality, they're done with that house. It broke their hearts. The rebuild was necessary and I hope they are able to regenerate some of their original love for the house over the next two years before they retire and sell it, but they're done. In a surprise move, they bought a house in the Colorado mountains over Spring Break and it's really that house they were far more excited to talk about during our visit. It makes me sad- I was really looking forward to finally having retired semi-local parents and I loved how much they loved their new nest, but after a really difficult year, I'm glad they're so excited about this next step. Harvey hit them much, much harder than they expected. Not just physically, which was obvious, but emotionally. It's really not surprising when you think about it, but I know the impact came as a surprise to them (and us) just the same.

But let's get back to the fun times we are back to making in the house while they have it because we did make them! We had Claire's soccer game at 8:30 a.m. Saturday morning, so we packed up the car at 7:30 and headed off. For a 24-hour visit, we needed a surprisingly large amount of things: swim suits! church clothes! secret Easter bunny items! Easter baskets! the desserts I made! lunch to eat in the car so we won't have to stop after soccer! car entertainment! SO MANY THINGS to pack. We got to the game 5 minutes before it started and declared it a victory all around.

As always the soccer fields were 50 degrees colder than our driveway 8 miles away, but after four years of soccer I think I have FINALLY nailed my outfit: lined leggings, thin tank, new Patagonia 1/4 zip wool Better Sweater, and a light North Face windproof shell jacket. For the first time in all the soccer games I've attended, I was comfortable and it felt amazing. Oh, and Claire played well too.

Soccer game completed, we piled back in the car where Claire immediately changed into a lake appropriate maxi dress in the backseat and I stripped off a few of my layers and we were off to Houston! Where James and the kids hadn't been since last summer! As I noted above, their house looks beautiful, but most homes in their neighborhood are still visibly under construction and rehabilitation. So many small businesses we loved along Kingwood Drive and West Lake Houston Parkway are still closed, many probably forever. The storm left so many scars. But the day was beautiful and the pool was back to being bright and beautiful with a pleasant lack of dead fish, mud, and other people's jet skis. The kids got in immediately.

I wore a new swim suit and a new hat (I finally bought one! I'm adjusting to it) and carried my own little island of shade with me around the yard to protect my now 2-year-old skin cancer scar slathered in sun screen. At some point James and I shocked everyone by schooling my parents in Bocci Ball. Landon disappeared to read and the girls were mermaids on the rock fountain. It was lovely.

The kids ate early and made s'mores and then once they were tucked in their triplex bunk bed upstairs, we had a fancy grown-up meal in the beautiful new/old kitchen. Post-delicious dinner, the Easter Bunny roused itself to put together the kids' baskets and hide them around the house. The hunting grounds were much improved over our own house, with its lack of built-ins and closets, and we had an overload of ideas on where to hide things and a debate on how difficult the search should be.

On Easter morning the children were released from the second floor a little after 7 a.m. and the hunt began!

As predicted by James, Claire found hers first (and it was really hard!), then Cora, and then last Landon.

Everyone got new swimsuits and flips flops, as is traditional, plus a few fun Spring clothing items and books. Basically all stuff the Bunny would have had to buy for Spring anyway, with a chocolate bunny thrown in on top.

Landon was SUPER excited about his new books. He started and finished the Young Reader's edition of Unbroken on the car ride home. The Bunny also brought him I am Malala, Hidden Figures, Irena's Children, and Snow Treasure. It's Wednesday and he has two left. He is very hard to keep flush in books, but the suggestions you guys gave me are helping tremendously! (Other huge hits so far: the collective works of Gary Paulsen and Will Hobbs.)

Everyone loved their new swim suits and immediately had to try them out in the pool.

I love the sunrise in the background of the picture. It was still REALLY EARLY.

We pulled the kids out of the pool at 8:30 and got them ready for church.

I had run to TJ Maxx earlier in the week to buy myself a new Easter dress, but walked out with dresses for the girls instead. I'm such a giver.

But seriously aren't they beautiful? (The girls too.) And only $12! (Not the girls.)

My mom and Cora matched perfectly. It wasn't planned, but it's an excellent display of the Gigi's sartorial powers. I feel certain she directed the TJ Maxx gods to put Cora's dress into my hands.

We went to my childhood church, where I always reminisce a bit about getting married up on that stage, now 12.5 years ago. There were treats in the fellowship hall after and we managed to emerge without green cupcake frosting all over our new dresses. High fives for everyone. After you wash your hands.

My mom had bought the CUTEST Easter egg for the kids' egg hunt so she and my dad went back a little early to get to hiding. When we arrived the kids changed into their hunting gear and got busy.

The eggs looked so adorably eager to be found.

Cora had the pink bunnies and was surprisingly good at catching them unaware.

Claire's were yellow chicks and she had a novel approach to search from higher elevations facing the wrong direction from where they were hidden.

But she still found hers!

Landon's were orange carrots and some of them were hidden REALLY well. Each discovery was a victory.

The kids were thrilled to their toes at finding their FAVORITE candy inside each egg (mints and gum; all the chocolate for Cora) and then we went on a boat ride. This required yet another wardrobe change.

Hurricane Harvey also ate my parents' boat, so we got to check out the new one and it is SNAZZY. We also saw some remaining evidence from the storm- the roof of the boat house where the shingles were pulled up by the water that was OVER THE ROOF. It's so hard to imagine.

Slightly less hard since the lake level is still so high, the water lapping up my parents' yard, past the fence, when normally it would be way down by the dock. We had to dodge new sand bars on the water and saw lots more debris leftover from the storm and stuck up in trees, but it was still a really nice ride.

All the kids enjoyed it.

My mom made fresh squeezed orange juice and the grown-ups added champagne to take along on the ride. The mimosas went perfectly with the gorgeous weather and our spring dresses.

It's so hard to believe this was our picture 7 months before. We've come a long way! (And one of us now owns a home in Colorado!)

We had a delicious fajita lunch when we got back and the kids swam more. A four-hour drive and full week ahead of us, we were supposed to leave by 2, but ended up pulling out around 3:45. It was rough getting back and unpacking the car, food, Easter goodies, feeding the kids, starting laundry, and making grocery lists at 8 p.m. but it was a wonderful weekend trip. We had three unconscious children when their alarms went off at 7 a.m. the next morning for school- Claire remained non-responsive through the overhead light turning on, me gently (then not so gently) shaking her shoulders, and Cora yelling at her from across the room. But the week began and they made it to school mostly on time, and if everyone cried at me at some point Monday evening, well that's the price for a great weekend.

And it was a great one. Fast, fun, full of food and splashing (and adorable eggs!). After seven months, it was so nice to see them settled in their home, for my kids to do something as normal as go visit their grandparents' house, for my parents to get to host us again. The effects of Harvey remain in so many ways all over Houston and beyond (and in us, I will never ever forget driving up to their house at twilight that first day to find my mom standing in waterlogged garbage covered in the front yard covered in drywall), but I was glad that on Easter weekend our little piece of the flood plain got to feel like it was brand new and shiny again.


  1. Ha! We also do swim suits, flip flops, sunglasses, hats... stuff we would have bought anyway but it's FUN and NEW in a basket! I throw in bubbles, chalk & a book or two, and a few pieces of candy and DONE! We also put small boxes of raisins in our Easter eggs (the worst, according to my oldest son).

    I hate they aren't loving their house anymore, but I get it. We bought a house 2 years ago we thought we would stay in for the next 15 years. It required a full renovation, that wasn't complete when we had to move in, and since then, have had to do additional renovations and more projects and I'm just... done. We are meeting with builders and doing a custom build because I have very little good memories of this house and it's causing significant frustration with me. I wanted to love it and I don't. And I don't want to keep dumping money and time and effort into it, and so, we will build. Same neighborhood (we own the empty lot next to our house, and both are on 5+ acres) but I'll get what I want and it will all be new, and that sounds amazing at this stage of my life with 4 young kids. So, I understand where your parents are coming from.

    If your sister is in CO, and your parents move there... when will you transfer to the Denver office of the SEC? Haha.

  2. I'm excited that your parents are back in their house! My mom's house got destroyed by Irma and she's still in the process of renovating. My mom also feels "done" with her house. Even though hurricanes rarely hit where she is (Naples, FL) she feels like it's just going to happen again and she just can't do it anymore. I get it. I'm urging her to sell once it's complete.

  3. So exciting that your parents are back in their home! And I think a bit poetic, that it happened at Spring/Easter. All things are new again. :-)

    Sounds like a perfect weekend!

  4. I welled up with tears seeing your mom's eyes behind that mask again, and I am also so happy they are back home. Congratulations on all of you surviving such very hard & painful circumstances! My cousins are just moving back in to their place (along with their two little boys), too. It's been so hard on so many. I hope CO will become a new and special memory building place for y'all. Your whole family looks Easter-beautiful!

  5. It's truly amazing that your parents are back in their home after 7 months! Our friends in Kingwood (Barrington) are hoping to be living downstairs by June! They have been living upstairs with some modifications since two weeks after Harvey decimated their forever home. Mitzi said that after this experience she could live in a tiny house and be content!

    Easter baskets: Michelle & I were just having a discussion about Easter baskets. Bruce & I grew up with just candy in our baskets & hunting real dyed eggs-not plastic. Before the kids were old enough to eat candy they got a book & a beanie baby or something like that. I'd never heard of people actually giving gifts for Easter until about 10 years ago. We were taught that the greatest gift was already given in Jesus' resurrection and forgiveness of our sins. Michelle couldn't understand how people that weren't Christians could even celebrate Easter because it's not about a big, dumb bunny that hides eggs :) Seriously? Who came up with that idea?! hahaha So when my grandkids are asked at school, "what did you get for Easter?" their response will be eternal life-and some candy. :)

    1. We always got gifts for Easter growing up. I’m not sure swim suits gets in the way of eternal life, but to each his own.

    2. We always got small gifts for Easter as a child too.

  6. I'm so glad your parents are back home. I've been wondering about them, though it's sad they aren't going to be staying at the lake house. How are renovations going at your mom's school? Will they be back for the start of the next school year?

    I always do swim suits in my Cora's Easter basket too. This year we also did a beach towel and a snorkel set (all to be used when we go to Cozumel in a couple of weeks, we're supposed to get snow tomorrow). Random side note, Cabana life is doing a warehouse sale and I typed in the code that you shared long ago and it took 20% off my total! Order up!

  7. Since you like baking shows... Have you watched "Nailed It!"?

  8. Unrelated to this post, but thought you might like this map: