Sunday, September 28, 2008

Feeling Nostalgic

September 28, 2007
September 28, 2008

I cannot believe that it has already been a year since Zoe came into our lives! So many things have happened in the past year; not all of them good, but I am happier than I have been in a long time, and don't feel like I am carrying the weight of the world anymore.

I am still amazed that I have this wonderful little girl to share my life with. Zachary is awesome too, but there is a special bond between a mother and her daughter. I now have someone who can relate to me, and who will be honored to receive my cherished possessions, and the scrapbooks of our lives that I hope to someday complete. Because of having Zoe, I am now pursuing a career that I would have never imagined being interested in.

It's incredibly hard work being back in school, and we are all having to make sacrifices because of it, and because of me quitting my job, but I am confident that it will all be worth it in the end. I am able to spend more time with my kids than I ever thought I would, and I think we will have a better relationship because of it. Yes, things are incredibly tight financially, and some days I wonder if we will be able to make it, but I know that I made the right decision to quit teaching. I am sure I am a much nicer person to be around now.

I look back at the past year, and am amazed at everything we have been through as a family. I have had two surgeries, Darren totaled his car, Darren lost two of his aunts, we've been through a major hurricane, and I made a major career change. On the positive side, we've done a lot of fun things together, Zachary was able to go on vacation with just my dad, my sister had an adorable baby boy, we were able to spend Labor Day weekend with family (because of Gustav) and I was able to take the kids and spend a week with my parents in the middle of a semester (thanks to Ike).

Post-hurricane, I would say our lives are getting back to normal. Our fridge is a lot barer than it was before the storm, and that is due to our newfound frugality. When I was still working full-time, we wouldn't have hesitated to go to the grocery store and fill it up. Now, we shop for necessities only. I wouldn't say we're missing out on anything, though. I go back to work tomorrow after a two-week break, and it will be like the first day of school all over again. There are some areas here that are still without power, and that is such a foreign concept to me.

Darren's dad in Galveston was able to move back into his house Friday. They have power, sewage, and water. They lost a few roof tiles and window panes, and their downstairs air conditioning unit was submerged. Their house survived the 1900 storm, and this time, water came within two steps of their front porch. They are truly lucky, considering they live 5 blocks from the sea wall! Darren's dad is back at work at NASA, and I think his step-mom won't return to work for a couple more weeks. She works at UTMB, and they had some damage.

Darren is going to continue working from home for a while. It's hard leaving him alone during the day, but now that I am going back to work tomorrow, he'll have his peace and quiet. We are saving so much money on gas, tolls, and lunches, and don't have to wait until 6:30 anymore for him to be home. It will be strange when he goes back to leaving every day.

I have my first test in anatomy and physiology 2 tomorrow. We have had four days to take it, and I am waiting until the last day. I have to make an A this semester to get into nursing school, and I have found that I can't study for much more than an hour at a time without totally daydreaming. We watched the Amazing Race tonight, and now it's time to hit the books!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Home, Sweet Home

Since I last posted, life has returned to semi-normalcy around here. Darren stayed home until Friday, and he cleaned up the yard and the house. Our power came back on around 5:30 Wednesday evening, and the landline came back on intermittently after that. Cable and internet are also back up, yay! Darren's office had damage, so he is working from home indefinitely. His company is looking for new office space, and in the meantime, rented some temporary space where they will meet every Thursday. We'll save money on gas and tolls, and won't have to wait until 6:30 for him to get home each day. It will be hard to go back to him being gone all the time. Or, all this togetherness might turn out to be bad...

The kids and I had a nice time with my parents, even though they are in the middle of a stressful bathroom remodel. Zach was able to spend some time with his cousin, we did some shopping, and my dad took us fishing at a catfish farm. Zachary caught his first fish, and was very excited. The kids and I also went out to dinner with an old friend from high school, and it was nice to catch up with him.

Darren came in Friday night, and we decided to go ahead and celebrate Zoe's birthday, a week early, while we were there. We spent Saturday preparing and shopping, then had everyone over that afternoon. I was a little disappointed in the turn-out; we had it there because we thought more of Darren's family members would come. It turned out to be his sister, her husband, and their daughter, and Mom and Dad's neighbors. It rained during the party, and Zach and his cousin Maggie had a great time playing in the rain. Zoe did a great job of smashing her cake, and ate an amazing amount for such a little person. We may do something small at our house this weekend, since we did invite people over.

Saturday night, we fried the fish that we caught Friday (plus extra fish that was store-bought). We also had homemade potato chips and hush puppies, and it was so yummy. Zach even ate some, so we'll have to fry fish at our house sometime soon. Yesterday, we left Mom and Dad's around noon, stopped to buy some cracklins (fried pork skin), and made it home around 4:45. There were no restrooms available near the state line, and there were several places where we saw power trucks and tents set up on our way back.

Once we made it home, we unloaded the car, including all of the laundry that my sweet mom washed and folded for us, then scrubbed out the fridge and freezer. We went to the grocery store to stock up on essentials, and picked up a pizza for dinner. I put a tired baby to bed, and Darren, Zach and I watched some TV. It was so nice to be able to do that!

Today, Zachary had school, and Zoe went back to her babysitter. I don't know when I will start work again; the church still doesn't have power. My classes start again tomorrow, and I am trying to get as much work done for my online classes as possible. With all of the new TV shows starting this week, I know I won't do a whole lot of school work. I do have a test this weekend in my Anatomy and Physiology class, so I'll have to carve out some time to study for that. My birthday is Wednesday, but finances are limited at the moment, so there won't be much of a celebration. I got an iPhone about a month ago, and that was my present. I love it, so I am okay with that. More later...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Alive and Well

We made it through Ike just fine. We didn't have any damage to our house, and no major branches or trees were lost. We got a lot of water in our backyard, and had a mess of branches and leaves to clean up, but that was about it. We lost power around 5:45 Saturday morning, and Entergy is saying it could be weeks before it is restored, which is so surreal to me.

We spent Friday night on an air mattress in our office. It was added on from part of the garage, so there are no windows in there. Zachary slept under the computer desk and had a ball. Zoe decided that she didn't want to sleep, and crawled all over Darren and me all night. We were all awake by 8:00, and not very happy about it, considering that we had stayed up watching the news until after 1:00 the night before. Saturday, it rained all day, so we didn't do much. We lounged around and watched the backyard fill up with water. Late that afternoon, we couldn't stand being in the house anymore, so we went and drove around a little bit to see some of the damage in our area. Some of the roads were blocked with trees, and we saw houses with trees on them, but didn't see houses or cars smashed in. We heard on the radio that a catfish restaurant in Conroe had opened, so we picked up my friend Jennifer and headed over there. There was a line out the door, and the restaurant was running on generator power, but we didn't have anything better to do than wait! You stood in line to order, then could get a table while waiting on your food. They had a limited menu, and only tea or water to drink, but it was hot food. We waited an hour after we ordered for our food, but it was delicious.

Saturday night was kind of hot to sleep, but we managed to sleep for eleven hours. There was another storm during the night, and it was still raining when we woke up. Sunday, we took our time getting dressed, and finally finished folding the laundry that I washed on Friday. We managed to clean up our front yard while Zoe took a four-hour nap, but the backyard was still flooded. We drove around some that afternoon, trying to find ice and gas for the car. Some of the grocery stores were open limited hours, and would only let a few people at a time in. We drove by one and saw the line, and realized they didn't have bread, produce, dairy products, or meat. They also weren't selling any alcohol. We managed to break into our neighbor's house and get Darren's car out of their garage, since it had a full tank of gas, and is much more fuel-efficient than my car. I didn't realize how skilled Darren is with a butter knife! We decided that it was time to clean the fridge and freezer that evening, because the popsicles were starting to melt. Our neighbors shared some ice with us, so we were able to save milk, the kids' medicine, and a few other things. We grilled the meat that we had in our freezer, and set up a table on the driveway. It was nice to sit outside and chat with our neighbors, something that we don't do too often.

I decided Sunday that I wanted to try to come to my parents' house, since we were all hot, tired, and bored. We drove out to the interstate to get cell phone service, and coordinated meeting my parents in Beaumont on Monday with a generator, fuel, and ice. Darren didn't want to leave, because he wanted to clean up the backyard, possibly try to check on his dad's house in Galveston, and find out about his office. My only concern about leaving was not knowing when school would start again, for both Zach and me. The school district predicted a Wednesday start date, but I knew that was unrealistic without power. I don't want to miss any of my classes, but my college's website is still down, and an email that I sent to my professor was returned to me.

Monday morning, we loaded up Darren's car with clothes for a week, the cat, dirty laundry, and my schoolbooks. It took over three hours to make what is normally a two-hour drive. We stayed off the interstates, and the highway that we took had many, many stoplights. People had a hard time with the concept of a four-way stop, which is the norm. What amazed me on our drive were the lines of cars snaking from the gas stations, and these gas stations weren't even open. I can't imagine going and sitting in a line if I wasn't positive I was going to be able to get gas at that station! Darren was able to check email, and found out that his office had water in it. The good news is that everyone's work computers are laptops, so they weren't in the office at the time.

We met Mom and Dad at a park in Beaumont, since they hadn't seen any open restaurants or gas stations since they had passed the state line. We were all disappointed, because we were counting on getting a hot meal, and Darren being able to fill up his car before heading back to Houston. It was hard to say goodbye to Darren, because I didn't know when I would get to talk to him again. He promised to drive out to I-45 each day to call me, and to come when he had finished with cleaning the yard.

We stopped and ate at Chili's in Lake Charles. They had a limited menu, but I just appreciated being somewhere with electricity and hot food! Radio and text messaging had been our only source of communication with the outside world since Friday night, so it was really nice to see a TV. By the time we arrived at Mom and Dad's house, we had been on the road for seven hours. I called and texted as many family members as I could, to let them know we were all right. We sat out on Mom and Dad's patio and had cocktails, and I felt guilty doing that while Darren was at home without power. We also went and stocked up on groceries before collapsing into bed. I thanked Mom and Dad many times for coming to my rescue!

We decided today to have Zoe's birthday party here on Saturday, since so many of Darren's family members are around. Zachary went with his Poppa to his office, and sold $100 worth of Cub Scout popcorn to the people there. Mom and I took the kids to do some shopping this afternoon, just to get out of the house. We ordered a cake for Zoe, and Zach's cousin Maggie came over the evening. I took the kids to get McDonald's and to play at a local park. The weather is so cool, I am sure that people at home without power are enjoying it. Friends who live on several streets near our house now have power, so hopefully it will come on at our house tonight or tomorrow. Darren spent the day cleaning the house, but I don't know if he had a chance to tackle the yard. My friend Jennifer flew home to Iowa, and I am so glad that she did! She couldn't find gas for her car, and only had a few more miles to empty on her tank.

My mom has started washing all of the dirty clothes that I brought with me, and I plan to spend some time with family and friends this week. It's nice to have a mini-vacation, since I didn't really get one this summer, even though the circumstances aren't the best. I am sure we will have to make up the time missed at some point, and since I am not on salary this year, I won't get paid for this week. I guess it's good that I don't have to pay Zoe's sitter... Darren's company found temporary office space, but I don't know when they plan to start up again. I'd like to get some schoolwork done this week. I was supposed to have a test this weekend, which obviously isn't going to happen now. I can't do any work for my online classes, since the website is down. I also am going to lose another week of working out for my kinesiology class. I just wonder how long it is going to take for life to return to normal, and how big of a financial impact this is going to have?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Over and out

I think we're going to bed. Darren is tired and wants to go to bed, and I don't want to stay up alone. It's much too creepy to be out here, especially if we lose power.

One last thing

In case we do lose power, which seems imminent, please text me if you need to get in touch with me. I do have Internet access on my phone, but have no idea if it will work. I've heard that texting is the best way to keep communication during a storm like this, and there has been a request on TV all evening to text instead of making phone calls. I guess that way more people can use the phone lines?

If you don't have my cell phone number, and want it, send me an email: alanaransley at gmail dot com. I only get 200 text messages a month, and don't want to waste them.

The rain's here

It started to rain a little a few minutes ago, and the lights keep dimming. I think the eye just made landfall in Galveston. Darren and I are thinking about going to bed, but are too keyed up to sleep right now. Maybe we should have made a batch of hurricanes, so then we wouldn't know where we are. We did get invited to a hurricane party at my sister-in-law's, but didn't want to leave the house.

I guess I'll have to drown my sorrows in all of the junk food that I stockpiled today.

Friday, September 12, 2008

No news yet

Well, it's still a normal night here. I heard some wind for a few minutes around 10:30, but there hasn't been any rain here so far. The kids are both passed out, and Darren and I just watched some dumb TV show about vampires, supposedly set in south Louisiana. As usual, the characters had fake, unbelievable accents. I thought it was a movie, and was somewhat upset when there was no resolution at the end.

We've been watching the news on TV all day, and it's becoming mind-numbing. Let's get this over with already. People south of I-10 are losing power, and our lights have flickered a couple of times. I hope that if or when we lose power, it will be during the day. I hate when the power goes out at night, and I'm not ready to go to bed. Plus, I still need to dry my hair.

That's about all that I have right now. More later.

Just received this email

I just figured out how to do links, and Woodlands Online has set up an area of their website where residents can send information or pictures about Ike. The address is here. If you don't live here, hopefully you can find out how this area is doing that way. Also, I strongly recommend joining Twitter (pointing the finger at Mom and Natalie), and following chronhurricane, hurricaneike, trackingike, and redcross. That will give you constant updates from the TV stations and newspapers here.

It still hasn't started raining here, and I am surprised. I expect it any minute now.

Never a good sign...

I just finished taking pictures of our house and yard. When I came back inside, this image was on the TV. Isn't the little hurricane icon so cute?

We should be getting rain soon. The sky is getting darker, and the wind is starting to blow. Both of our cars are safely in garages, and I guess the dog will have to come in soon. Besides that, there's not much left to do but wait.

I guess there's still laundry, and eating junk food, but those don't really qualify as hurricane preparation.

My ears are stopped up, and I wonder if it's from the change in air pressure. It's the weirdest feeling. I hope that it undoes itself soon, because it's kind of annoying.

I am going to post the pictures of our house to Flickr for safekeeping. I am backing up the almost 7GB of photos I have on our computer to the external hard drive, but having them somewhere else as well makes me more comfortable. More later...

Ready for Action!

Well, it looks like the hurricane is going to come very close to us, unless it turns at the last minute. I don't know what else we could do to prepare at this point. We don't have plywood to board up, and we have somewhere around 26 windows, so that's not an option. We plan to spend the night in our office, which was added on from a former tool area in the garage, and has no windows.

Darren came home around 3:00 yesterday. It didn't take him that long to get home from work, which was a relief. We cleaned up our yard and garage, and my car is safely inside. My neighbor left earlier this week, and her husband is stuck in London. We cleaned up their yard, and I think we are going to go and put Darren's car in their garage.

Darren went to the grocery store this morning and bought a few more things, and Zach and I just went back and bought mostly junk food. Knowing the stores are going to close soon makes me want to hoard things, just in case.

I still plan to do laundry today, and need to take a quiz for my online psychology class before we lose power. Fun stuff!

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Darren and I decided that we are not evacuating for Ike. The only reason why I would leave would be if we were without power for a few days. In that, case, I will go to my parents' in Louisiana. I can't tolerate the heat, especially with my thyroid condition. Besides, I get really angry, and I don't think anyone would want to be near me.

Anyway, I've done a couple of things to prepare. After going to three different gas stations with ridiculous lines, I managed to fill my car up. The gas station attached to our grocery store probably had a 30-minute wait for a pump. After fighting for a parking spot, I walked into the store and saw the endless lines of people waiting to check out. I walked farther into the store and saw that there was no bread. There were people coming from all directions, and at that point, I decided that it just was not worth it to stay there. I left there, filled up my car, and drove past another grocery store to see how crowded it was. It looked pretty bad, so I went to CVS and stocked up on can goods, crackers, peanut butter, water, trash bags, and toilet paper. We're fine on diapers and formula, and like I said, I have no intention of staying here for several days if we lose power.

Zachary's school is canceled tomorrow, and Darren's dad may evacuate here. My school is closed tomorrow, and I am debating on whether or not to go to class today. I don't want to burn the gas to go to campus and back, and I suspect there won't be many people in attendance anyway. I have about 40 minutes to decide what to do.

Darren is going to hopefully leave work early today. I am afraid that his commute is going to take him several hours; I think it took him 4 for Rita three years ago. We were supposed to have Open House at Zachary's school tonight, and I was going to have a table set up with information for Cub Scouts. I guess we'll have to figure out what to do to change that. I have all sorts of flyers printed up, inviting potential new Scouts to our pack meeting next Thursday. That date is set with our host church, so it can't be changed. Maybe we'll have to invite people for the one in October, but that is the night before our district camping trip, and new members would probably like to attend that. Giving them one day's notice wouldn't be fair, though. I am sure this decision is up to me, but input from other members of the pack would be wonderful. I doubt that will happen, though.

I'll post as much as I can for the next few days. Even if we do lose power, I have an iPhone now, so I should still have internet access. I've heard that text messaging is the best form of communication during a power outage, so I am sure we will be taking advantage of that. Be safe!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Sunday, September 07, 2008


Here are some recent pictures. I'll get around to putting the rest on Flickr soon, I hope.

Zachary's seventh birthday

Cousin Maggie

Zoe playing with her brother's birthday gift wrappings

Zoe and Poppa at Zach's birthday party

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Bye, Gustav. Hello, Ike!

Where did the last week go? I think I blinked, and it was gone. We ended up having a nice time with our "evacuees". We took everyone out to Market Street on Sunday, and Zach and Maggie played in the fountain. I'm working on uploading pictures; it's been a while. My pictures are all about 3MB, so they take FOREVER to upload. Anyway, Sunday night we grilled burgers, and besides the dog pacing around all night (his toenails clicked on the wood floors), we all slept well. Mom and Dad brought a new air mattress with them, which Darren and I attempted to sleep on, but it was too springy for more than one person. The couch is comfortable, too.

Monday, we decided that the girls would go and check out Houston's new outlet mall. My dad and brother-in-law went to Home Depot and stocked up on tarps and gas cans, in case they couldn't get those at home. My dad confessed later that he had also bought a chainsaw. Five of us girls, including Zoe, drove out to the new outlet mall. If money wasn't an object, I would have had a great time purchasing things from Juicy Couture ($78 sweatpants), True Religion ($178 jeans), and Burberry ($600 trenchcoat). Since I don't have that kind of money, and won't be getting any more teacher pay checks, I didn't splurge too much. I bought some clothes for Zoe at Carter's, and a new backpack for myself at Columbia. At that store, my mom and I each bought a $15 trench coat as well. Mine's red, of course, and I can't wait to wear it!

I thought I was going to have a quiz on Tuesday in my A&P class, so Erin and her family went over to Jamie's to visit Monday night. I studied until after midnight, and of course, we didn't have a quiz the next day. Figures. Our company all left on Tuesday, and they had power at both of their houses. I think they both had minor damage at home, but nothing too bad. Mom and Dad left for San Francisco Thursday, and with the threat of other hurricanes behind Gustav, they left everything boarded up at their house. I talked to my mother in law, who lives outside of New Orleans, and they evacuated to Natchitoches, Louisiana. There was a tree on their garage when they made it back home, but their house was fine. They are worried about Ike hitting where they live now. Darren's stepsister, who lives near them, wasn't so lucky. During Katrina, she lived in an upstairs apartment. Afterwards, she moved downstairs. There is a bayou running right by where she lives, and when she arrived home from Birmingham, where she had evacuated, there was six inches of water in her apartment. Her landlord had already starting gutting it, because that bayou water carries God-knows-what in it.

I feel pretty good about my classes so far this semester. It's a pain to go to my campus class, because parking is at a premium. My teacher feels that we shouldn't work or really take any other classes besides hers. That could be a problem...I'm learning a lot, but it's taking her a long time to cover the material, and she expects us to remember everything from one class to another. On the other hand, my online Psychology class is a breeze so far. My only gripe about it is that some of the people who post things to the discussion groups need some help with their grammar and spelling. I wish I could edit their posts and send them back to them!

I started work this week, as well. I worked two hours on Tuesday and Thursday before I had class, all day Wednesday, and was supposed to work until about 1:00 on Friday. We had our "meet the teacher" yesterday morning, then we were going to have some training. Zoe's babysitter had been trying to get in touch with me since 9:30, because Zoe had thrown up, and Darren finally called me around 11:00. I picked her up, and we spent an afternoon snuggling. She's already been to the doctor twice this week, so I didn't call them again. We went to the ENT Tuesday, and after waiting two hours, he spent about two minutes with us, deciding to put tubes in her ears. Surgery is scheduled for October 13th. He didn't address the fact that she had fever and a green, runny nose, so I took her to the pediatrician Thursday. She had the beginning of an ear infection, so she went back on Augmentin. Today, she has a rash all over her stomach and back. Who knows what is going on with that child?

I'd better go get some sheets back on our bed before one of us passes out tonight. I'm really good at washing clothes, just not folding them or putting them away.