Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Rhianna's Performances

Rhianna was happy to be chosen by her teachers as the Student of the Month. She is really enjoying Intermediate School and switching classes - she likes that her teachers really know the subject and are good at teaching her.

Rhianna is playing the flute in the band. She practices at home every week day. Usually she is just with the flutes in class at school, so she really liked playing as a whole band. Here is the song they did together (you can see part of Rhianna in the bottom left):

Rhianna is also doing a dance class this year. She is taking tap and jazz. They did a performance outside at an amphitheater for Christmas at the Creek....and this year it was literally freezing. We had to be there a little early for her to meet her group. So we watched a few performances and then took off for home and hot chocolate as soon as she finished dancing.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Moving Forward with the House

It has been a long time since my last post about our house. There is a good reason for that. I was waiting to make sure that we were truly moving forward before I did another post.

In the first post I described the process of picking the lot and the design. The actual design and layout of the house are still very close to that last post. In fact, the layout of the house hasn’t changed, the only things that have changed are just some interior details like door widths, kitchen layout, etc. If you are interested in seeing the very final floor plans let me know and I will post updated pictures. However, despite the fact that the design is still mostly the same, a lot has happened since the last post. I want to describe some of the major things that have occurred.

Choosing a Builder
One of the biggest decisions we had to make was who was going to build our home. We talked with lots of different builders and this was a harder decision than I thought it was going to be. In College Station, most new homes are built with builders that are really only doing a semi-custom design. What this means is that the builder has a set of home plans that they use regularly and then you pick the interior finishes from a set that they use. This process is great for a lot of people because it results generally in slightly lower costs because the builders already know what it takes to build those plans, and because they know the costs of the materials.

However, we were doing a fully custom design. Once you have made this choice then you need to find a builder that is fully comfortable working with architectural plans and drawings that they did not prepare and your set of options expands dramatically. College Station has a very robust custom home building scene and so there were still a number of high-quality builders to choose from. We got recommendations from our realtor, from friends at work and from friends at church. We initially contacted 7 or 8 builders and we had face to face meetings with 5 or 6.

One of the things we learned was that the builders in the area tended to operate under one of two models. The first model is one where you give the builder (or builders) a set of rough plans and they prepare a bid for your job. The bids are filled with estimates for what they think it will cost to build your house. As part of the bid they include “allowances” for the homeowner as to how much you can spend on appliances, fixtures, flooring, tile, etc. You pick a builder based on these bids and then you sign a contract to begin building. Generally the construct is structured as “cost-plus”. You pay the actual costs of construction plus a percentage fee to the builder for their services. The advantage to this method is that you get multiple bids from different contractors and you are generally able to start construction quickly. The disadvantage is that everything up to this point is truly an estimate and usually the final cost of construction is higher because the allowances are not enough for people to pick what they truly want (because they haven’t gone shopping yet, so they don’t know what they want).

The other model is to work with one specific builder to generate a fixed price contract. In this model you pick your builder in advance and you don’t get multiple bids. Instead you work with that builder to go through your plans and to make all of your choices in advance. So you select your appliances, fixtures, flooring, tile and everything else to know exactly how much you will spend. The builder also goes to their subcontractors and gets hard prices on what it will cost them to do the various jobs such as framing, concrete, plumbing, HVAC, etc. The advantage to this method is that at the end of the process you have a hard number for what the house will cost you. The disadvantage is that it takes a long time and generally you are locked into that price because the builder is taking some risk to guarantee a maximum price, they build that risk into their prices and it will not go down.
We were really uncomfortable with the risk of a true cost plus contract. So we talked with the builder that we felt most comfortable with and asked if they would be willing to do a fixed price contract and they were. So we chose CGM as our builder and started moving forward. In order for them to generate the price to build our home they needed full construction drawings from our architect and we had to go pick out all of the items in the home.

Picking Everything
So mostly what Stephanie and I have been doing since the last post is picking out everything that will go into our house. Here is an abbreviated list of the things we had to pick. Exterior stone, exterior siding, roof material and color, flooring, bathroom tile, kitchen appliances, faucets, sinks, lighting, ceiling fans, garage doors, windows, doors, door hardware, built-in cabinetry, and more.

It was exhilarating and exhausting. Luckily Stephanie and I had done a renovation project before and we watch a lot of home shows. This really helped us because we already had a very good sense of what kinds of things we liked. Most of the time we were able to easily see the style of things we like and eliminate things that we did not like. It also helped that we have very similar taste. It is not identical, but we like mostly the same things. My parents also did a great job of being decisive here.

The way the process worked is that our builder worked up an initial estimate to help guide us when we were making choices. So we had told him approximately what we hoped the house would cost to build, and then using that number he had worked backwards to generate numbers to guide us as to what we should spend on the various categories. This was very helpful and we tried hard to stick within these guidelines.

However, what I was constantly amazed and frustrated by was how difficult it was to get the pricing of various things when we were trying to make choices. When you are building a custom home, you generally do not just go to Home Depot or Lowes and pick everything off the shelf where the price is neatly displayed. You are generally working with wholesale firms who can get better prices for your builder. However the prices are never on display and are often difficult to see until after selections have been made. So mostly we would go to a distributor and have to make our choices without really knowing what they would cost. Then a few days (or a week) later, they would generate a price which we would then have to try and reduce. There were so many times I wished we could have gone in and told the person that we wanted to spend a certain amount, and then they would show us what is available in that price range. But that is not the way that things work. What I tried to do as much as possible was do lots or prep work online before we would go to a meeting to try and reduce our options, and also to try and do some figuring out of prices. Overall it worked out, despite being frustrating at times.

Working on the Budget
After making all of our selections we also had to have our builder meet with subcontractors to get estimates and bids on the various aspects of the job. This was at times, nerve-wracking because we had a number of instances where the bid was much higher than our builder’s initial estimate and so we were worried about whether the entire budget would work out. However, John at CGM has been very great throughout the process of advocating for us and trying to make sure everything works out. At the end of this long process we decided to slightly modify the type of contract we went with. We ended up signing a contract that is a cost-plus not to exceed contract. CGM was willing to do this kind of contract because we had gone through the long process of making all of our selections in advance. The advantage of this type of contract is that we know the final amount will not exceed the top number, but if we have cost savings along the way, we can capture some of those back and either spend less or use that money to upgrade some things. It is kind of the best of both worlds for us.

Moving Forward

Today we had a meeting and we officially signed the construction contract on the house. Afterwards I dropped off the plans and contracts with the bank. I have already worked out financing with the bank, but the bank needs to take our plans and specifications and appraise them to make sure that the house we will build will be worth the money they are lending us. It was very exciting to be moving forward. It looks like we should break ground sometime in December.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Another Lost Tooth

Seth has lost his 4 bottom teeth and the 2 on the top were starting to get wiggly. On Wednesday, Seth plays with his friend Henry while Rhianna and Rand have piano lessons from Henry's mom. When I went to pick them up this week, Seth said they had been sword fighting, he got stabbed in the mouth and so he was pretty sure he was going to loose his tooth.

When we got home he was wiggling it and tasting blood. So after dinner he said he wanted an apple to help get the tooth out. He worked at biting it for a while, then he just bashed the apple into his face. I think maybe one more bite and then he pulled his tooth out. He rinsed his mouth and then finished his apple. I hate pulling teeth out so I guess the kids get them out in creative ways!

Picking up Speed

Maren started taking a few steps just before she was 11 months...and that's about where she stayed for a full month. Then all of a sudden these last few weeks she figured out she could walk farther and now she goes faster. I thought I would share a little video of her - She also loves crackers. I think it is that she can say "cra" so we know what she wants and she can hold them and eat them. We go through a ridiculous amount every day in part because she is so stinking cute when she asks me for them.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Halloween 2013

The kids are quite happy with all their Halloween candy - We had a trunk-or-treat at the church on Wednesday night where they got some candy and played a few games. Then last night we just did a small loop in our neighborhood for more treats.

Rhianna (Hermione) Rand (Ninja with his own symbol) Seth (Spiderman) Maren (80's aerobics girl)
*Luckily it is our first year here so no one knows they have used some of these costumes for the past 3-4 years...we promised a bit more planning next year....but they were beautiful nights outside and the kids had fun!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Seth's Birthday

Seth had one of the best days last Friday - his 6th birthday! All of the kindergarten classes went on a field trip to Dewberry Farm. He liked the bus ride and had fun with things like a giant slide, hay ride, and picking a pumpkin. He brought our chocolate chip cookies for a treat for his class.

Then his request for his birthday was to have his friend Henry over to play and do a treasure hunt. So we sort of went with a pirate theme....We made his cake look like a treasure map...

Seth and Henry did a treasure hunt through the house stopping for little activities along the way (like dancing a pirate jig, Rhianna leading them in pirate exercises, and Rand leading them in frog vs. crocs in the bathtub). This all lead to the X and the treasure at the end...

(Our friends the Neumillers remembered that Seth wanted a pinata and sent him one from Arizona!)

Everyone made their own pizzas, we ate cake, Seth opened presents, and he got to play with his friend. It was a really great night! We are so glad to have Seth in our family and for the fun and happiness he brings to our family!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Maren's Birthday

Yesterday was our celebration with Maren. I don't think I can fully express how grateful I am to have her in our family. She is so much fun right now. She is learning more words and is very vocal. As she is babbling, it really sounds like she is trying to imitate us and copy us which is super funny to hear. She also answers most questions with a "yes" or "yea" so we have had some silly times asking her random questions. She has also learned "uh-oh" and likes dropping her sippy cup or hiding toys and saying "uh-oh." She is mostly pretty happy and good to go along with all our activities. She also likes eating and so we were excited to see what she would do with her cake.

She was actually quite calm and methodical as she just played a bit but enjoyed eating the cake.

Eventually we just had to stop her because she was starting to get pink in the sun.

After a quick bath, she had fun opening presents. She had a few cards and the older kids were surprised a baby got money - thanks Grandpa & Grandma! She likes ripping paper and I think she was surprised there was something in there after she ripped it. The shape sorter made her a little mad because she got her arm stuck reaching through the hole.

She also wore her beautiful new clothes from Hong Kong to church today - thanks Grandma & Grandpa!

We Love You Maren!!

Thursday, October 17, 2013



Saturday, October 12, 2013

Golden Gators!

Here in College Station each grading period is 6 weeks. At the end of the 6 weeks at Creek View, each class or teacher chooses a boy and girl Golden Gator - someone who exemplifies the qualities they are trying to teach the students.
G - Gracious
A - Accountable
T - Trustworthy
O - Outstanding Effort
R - Respectful

Both Seth and Rand were the first Golden Gators for their classes! It made us (and them) feel so happy that in a new school their friends and teachers still recognized their hard work and kindness. The teachers kept it a surprise and invited us to the quick celebrations that they did this week. Congrats Boys!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

11 Months!

I am feeling a little nostalgic and tender hearted as Maren nears 1 year old! It is so fun to watch her learn and do more, but at the same time I feel like I don't want to forget the look of her little face as I look down at her. Or the sound of her babbling. Or the way she points. Or her open mouth kisses and the way she snuggles up to me. I certainly am enjoying being her mom!

She now is really great at sleeping - both naps and at night. You can see her little birth mark spot on her leg that is kind of like mine.

Her first word was "hi" while waving. Now she also says "bye." And she babbles all the time in her own little super cute language. (Notice matching clothes on Rhianna and Maren!)

I am still nursing Maren a few times each day, but she also has figured out her sippy cup. She eats most things we eat. I even have started letting her try to do it herself sometimes. Vanilla yogurt works good for this since the mess is still all white.

She still has a pretty happy personality, though she is starting to express her opinions about things by yelling or pointing (for food or toys etc).

This month she has gotten better and better about walking around holding on to people or objects and just on Sunday took her first real steps. Just a few, but she is on her way.

Monday, September 16, 2013

#9 for Rand

We had a nice weekend celebrating with Rand. On Friday, Maren and I surprised him and stopped in to eat lunch at school. He brought homemade chocolate chip cookies in for his class and they loved them. That night he opened his presents - Legos and books. He already spent time making some of them. Friday night was a church party at Adamson Lagoon - with cheeseburgers (one of Rand's favorite foods) and swimming and water slides. It was a really fun day. Then on Saturday his friend Landon came over. We ate pizza and chocolate cherry cake and watched the movie Epic. We love you Rand!
(Rand eating cake on his first birthday)
(Rand's cake this year)

Monday, September 9, 2013

Building our House

Stephanie and I have begun the process of building a home here in College Station Texas. We are excited about the process and want to share it with our family and friends. For as long as I can remember, I have had the desire to build a house. In high school I can remember sketching out floor plans for possible houses and dreaming about my future house. As an adult, I love to watch home shows, look at cool architecture, and I even follow a number of home building and design blogs. This is why I am so excited that I finally have the opportunity to build a house. When I accepted the job at Texas A&M one of the things that was very appealing to me about the location was the fact that it seemed very feasible for us to build here.

Stephanie does most of the posts about our family stuff, but during the next year, I am going to try and post regularly about the house. I will try to post at least once a month with an update and relevant pictures. I have followed a number of home building blogs throughout the years, and so I am going to try and be pretty open about our choices and what we are doing. If you have questions feel free to ask them in the comments or send us an email.

When Stephanie and I came out to find a place to rent, we also looked around at some of the neighborhoods where there was land for sale. We were hoping that we would be able to rent a home in a similar area to where we planned to build. After we got here we started looking for lots in earnest. We thought we had found the right lot, but before we made an offer we showed the architectural committee some drawings of the house, and they told us that it was too radical for their neighborhood and so we moved on.

Eventually we decided on a lot in a neighborhood called Sweetwater Forest. The lot is just over one acre and is heavily wooded. It is nice and flat and will be pretty close to lots of our friends from church, our kids’ schools and a grocery store. Here are some pictures.

Initial Design
Our architect is Wes Christensen. Wes is a friend of ours that we met in Tucson, but he now lives in Utah. Wes helped us when we remodeled our house in Tucson, and he is a great architect, and so we immediately thought it would be awesome to work with him on this project. When he put together the initial floor plan and renderings these were our priorities:

1)    We needed to have space for my parents. My parents are retired and they decided to move to College Station. We had always told them that when we were going to build, if they wanted we would be willing to build a home that included space for them. So we needed separate space for them. (The cool phrase for what we are doing is that we are building a multi-generational home).
2)    We wanted our master bedroom on the main floor. We hope this is a house we live in forever, and so we wanted all the main components on the main floor (kitchen, master bedroom, laundry).
3)    We wanted a big family room separate from the living room for the kids to play, make noise, watch TV, etc. Stephanie and I both grew up in areas where you had a basement for this. It is very difficult to build a basement here, so we decided on an upstairs family room.
4)    We wanted the home to have a fairly simple shape to make it easy to build.
5)    We wanted a home that fit our style. We like modern/contemporary homes, and if we were going to the effort and expense of building a custom home we wanted something we would love.

So here were our early-stage floor plans and renderings.
Main Floor

Second Floor

Most Recent Design
After a number of iterations and changes to the floor plan (a lot of them were to reduce the overall size), here are the most recent floor plans and renderings of the exterior.

Main Floor

Second Floor


That is probably enough for now. I will be posting more in the future.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Seth is in Kindergarten

Seth's kindergarten teacher asked us to write her a letter about him, to help her better understand him and help her be a good teacher. I tried to really capture his personality, and so I have decided to post the letter here as well. Here it is.

Seth Michael Boivie is a truly terrific kid. I think you are so lucky to have him in your class and to be able to be his first teacher. There are so many wonderful things about him that it will be difficult for me to keep this letter short, but I will do my best to be brief. Seth has a very vibrant personality. What I mean by that is that he is hard to miss. When he is in a room, you can always tell. When he is happy, which is most of the time, he is tremendously happy. He lights up a room. When he is sad, he is very sad. For him almost every day is either the best or the worst day of his life. He does not live life in the middle.

Seth has the desire to be great. He always wants to do hard things. In fact, one of his biggest challenges is that he is only five. He has an older sister and an older brother, and he does not like it when they can do things that he can’t do. He wants to be able to do everything, and do it now. For instance, he is starting to get frustrated that he can’t fully read. He wants to read books, and he doesn’t like that other people have to help him. He also doesn’t like it when you tell him he can’t do something because he is too little, or too young. He is proud of the fact that he got to go to school a couple of days a week last year to work on his speech, because it made him feel like one of the older kids.

Seth is very helpful around the house. He is almost always willing to help when asked. Seth is also very funny and full of joy. He loves to laugh and make jokes. As he will tell you, at times he can be mischievous. He often comes up with very elaborate plans about how he could trick or prank someone, but luckily we are usually able to talk him out of actually implementing those plans.

Seth likes to play outside. Even though he doesn’t formally do any sports, he really likes whatever sports he tries. He loves to be moving. At home he has a hard time sitting down the whole time when he is eating because he has so much energy. He also likes movies and video games, but he only gets to do those a little bit. He really loves to build with Legos and to play games with his family. He is quite good at a lot of card and board games, even ones that are geared towards older kids.

Seth is also kind and loving. He has been a great big brother to his little sister Maren. He loves to hold her and play with her. He tries very hard to teach her how to do things. He also really likes being around people and other kids and makes friends wherever he goes.

I hope this tells you a little bit about Seth, and I hope you enjoy having him in your class as much as we enjoy having him in our family.  

Monday, August 26, 2013

First Day of School

We had been starting to feel like it was a long summer and all of us were looking forward to school. We got school supplies and schedules and met teachers....but then it felt like it came up quickly. Over the past few days it has been good to talk to the kids about their excitement as well as their worries. I am thinking of them now as they face this first day in a new place, new school, with new kids and teachers. I hope they are happy - I think it will be a good place for us but the beginning is hard...

Yesterday Steve gave all the kids father's blessings. He was able to use the priesthood to let them know his impressions as their father and from our Father in Heaven about things that will help them this year. It was particularly special this year.

One funny moment yesterday as I was reading to Seth and Steve said he thought Seth would just love reading once he sort of put everything together - Seth said, "Yeah, I think it will just take me 1 day of Kindergarten to learn to read. Maybe 2." We will see - maybe this was an amazing day!

This morning Steve got us some breakfast from Kolache Rolf's (kolaches are all over here - we had never heard of them before). I am letting the kids pick what to put in lunches this week so I packed what Seth asked for for all of them. The others will take turns the next few days. Seth was so excited and bouncy all this morning. Then we all walked together - I am so excited that we/they can always walk.

 We went in the front doors. All the grades have their own hallway area with a big meeting space in the middle. As we got to the kindergarten hall Seth turned and said, "I know what to do now - you can go." Cracked me up. And he did - he has grown up around school and is so social and fun I think he is going to love school. I hope his fun personality comes out in class. We did walk him to class and give him a hug and he headed to his table to start.
Then we walked Rand to the 3rd grade hall. I think it was good for him that the teacher had instructions up and so he knew what to do. It feels like both of them have good classes with smaller groups of kids so I hope they will really enjoy learning here. Then we walked across the field to the intermediate school. Here elementary is K-4, then intermediate has 5-6. Rhianna turned back for a hug before heading in to the cafeteria with the other 6th graders - it is a much bigger group of kids per grade and she had to sort of jump in only knowing about 3 kids from church.

And now it is just me and Maren at home. We went to the library. We played (which usually means we go room to room pulling objects out of cupboards or off of shelves). We ate lunch. And now it is nap time. For me too - yeah!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

10 Months

Maren turned 10 months old yesterday - and this was her first time eating Rudy's! She had some creamed corn, turkey, banana pudding and peach cobbler. Man that food is good. It was also Grandma & Grandpa's 47th wedding anniversary and our friend and architect Wes was in town. So it was a good day all around. Maren is sleeping good now and eating most things just in small or smushed up form. She does now drink from a sippy cup besides still nursing about 4-5 times a day. She has a great smile and laugh and fun personality. We have been watching videos of the others kids when they were little and it is super cute and silly. And now Maren is doing more and more.

Just a few other tidbits - Early in August we went up to Dallas and Rhianna actually stayed a week up there with cousins. It will be fun to get together regularly. The kids have played and built Legos (see a few above by Rand) and done well this summer, but they are getting bored (though sometimes this leads to creative ideas like Seth making Maren a skirt out of crepe paper) - it is definitely time to get back to school. We bought school supplies, Seth was super excited to get a new backpack, and Rhianna just got her schedule last Thursday. The boys will meet their teachers this Thursday and school starts Monday, August 26. We also made great strides on the house this weekend. We have pretty firmly settled on our design and home layout with Wes. We walked around the lot and figured out how we will place the house on it. We talked with and looked at houses by 4 builders and so are narrowing down that choice. The lot will officially be ours when we close on September 6.