Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Road trip

Over the 4th of July weekend we visited Matt's relatives in Louisiana.  We had never done a significant road trip with the whole family, and it went quite well.  Our two big boys are finally old enough to be bribed with screen time and money (.50 per well-behaved hour in the car; thanks to my friend Andrea for the idea), and our baby is the most agreeable baby anywhere, ever, so the six hour drive was tolerable.

This gas station somewhere between Austin and Waco had so many kooky, wonderful things.

1. An aging Elvis impersonator with a karaoke machine and a tip jar.
 2. Several different pieces of bovine-themed public art.
 3. An abandoned cafe/gift shop in the shape of the Starship Enterprise (right?  We're definitely a Star Wars family, but I googled it to be sure).
On the morning of the 4th, we went to a little neighborhood parade, after which the sheriff's department did fingerprinting at one of the booths.

Alec: Why do you want to get me fingerprinted?
Sarah: Well, so that if something happens to you, it might help us find you, like a clue.
Alec: But...I'm never gonna do a murder!
The fire truck set up a high-powered sprinkler, which gave my water conservationist heart a bit of anxiety, but the kids adored it.
 The city of Shreveport put on an impressive fireworks show.
There was also good food, bowling, and lots of family time. 
 Oh, AND a fantastic pool right in the back yard.  We clocked a lot of hours in there.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


Matt and I had an anniversary a few days ago, and I was sentimentally browsing my photo files when I came upon this, one of my favorite pictures of us.   The Eiffel Tower!  So romantic!  Check out that golden light from the setting sun!
But the very next photo that I looked at was this one:
This was taken while we toured the hall of mirrors at Versailles.  We scrunched together as quickly as we could and pretended to take a mirror selfie (long before the word "selfie" even existed, remember those wonderful days?) so that we could capture the lady behind us without being too obvious.  Acid green pantsuit and matching top hat?  Is she related to Cornelius Fudge?
Seventeen years and three children into this marriage, I'm feeling thankful for someone who can endure and even appreciate the absurdities of daily life with me.

Although, as I look at our painfully bland clothes, I wish that we had been a little more chic.  The lady in the top hat was probably like, "Well, hello, American tourists.  You're visiting one of the most extravagant buildings in western civilization.  Way to dig out your fanciest khaki shorts and t-shirts."

What can I say?  We were living out of two backpacks for sixty days, one of which was devoted to that massive digital camera you see hoisted on Matt's shoulder.

Friday, May 30, 2014


I made a quilt!  All by myself!
I bought this fabric just before Alec was born, so that means it's been waiting for six and a half years to be made into a baby blanket.  Fortunately, I had another baby.  Unfortunately, he's already a year old and growing fast.  He can use it next winter.
Over the course of raising three babies, I have actually gotten super tired of the zoo/farm/Noah's ark/etc. animal motif that is so prevalent on baby boy clothes and accessories.  But this Alexander Henry fabric is so fab in design and color scheme that I love it anyway.
 "Make a quilt" has been on my bucket list for a few years now, and I'm excited to cross it off, even if half of my corners look like this:
 Finished just in time to wrap my baby in flannel on this 87 degree day.  Heh.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


I am so in love with my little garden.  Here's what I planted in mid-April:
Here's how it looked a couple weeks later:
Then a couple weeks later:
 And here it is today, about six weeks after planting:
 It looks particularly lush and green because we've had a couple days of rain.  This makes me happy.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A few child-rearing tips: Create traditions, tell stories, and avoid snakes

Last week while my parents were visiting from Chicago, Matt took my Dad out to a friend's cabin so they could camp and fish.  Once they arrived, they called to tell Mom and me that there was a rattlesnake coiled up on the porch.  They also sent a picture.
A few minutes later, they called back to assure us that it had been disposed of.  There is a picture of that, too, but it's disgusting.  I have a somewhat paranoid nature in general as well as a fear of snakes in particular, so you can imagine that I was not happy with the situation.  (And I was SO GLAD that we had decided against them taking the boys along for the trip.)

Last night during family night, we made a summer fun list for the second year in a row, so it's officially a tradition.  You can find all kinds of seasonal bucket lists on Pinterest, scrolled out over a chalkboard-painted wall or made into a decorative garland, but all your kids really need is a pen and paper.  Naturally, one of the first things the boys came up with was the thing I am most loath to support.

Sarah: Ok, think of things you want to do this summer.
Kids: Go to the deer cabin!
Sarah: Put it on the list.
Sarah's internal voice: Over my dead body.

And what's that coiled up next to the rocking chair?  A snake, of course.  "But don't worry, Mom, I put an X over it."

Gather your family every Monday night, and it's a ritual.  Make a summer bucket list every May, and it's a tradition.  Take your kids into the Texas wilderness, and it's this Mom's worst nightmare.

One of my recent favorite reads about raising kids is this New York Times article about telling family stories.  
An excerpt: The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned. The “Do You Know?” scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.

Another is Bruce Feiler's book The Secrets of Happy Families.  It's so good.

Oh, and one more tip.  We are taking a page from the OSHA handbook:

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Making things into other things

Yesterday was fun and inspiring.  It was the last day of my parents' visit to Austin, and I took them to some of my favorite places.  There was lots of repurposed, upcycled beauty to be found.

The people at the Natural Gardener have turned mulch and rope into a giant guitar.
The guy at the Cathedral of Junk has turned trash into a giant, sprawling, kooky treasure.  (Stay tuned; this place will get its own picture-heavy post next week!)
And the main attraction for me at the Texican Cafe is the sour cream enchiladas, but they also have a great mosaic.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Taking small bites

I get an occasional e-newsletter from an organizing website, and several times the author has mentioned the power of breaking large projects into smaller chunks.  It's pretty common advice, and I've finally decided to give it a try.  Here are a few ways I'm tackling big things in small ways.
1. Journaling
Last year I read a book about jump-starting your creativity (The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron), and it suggested writing three pages of longhand journaling every morning.  I've adapted it to a single page each morning in a very small notebook, which means that sometimes my journaling is a few mundane sentences.  "Need to clean the floors today."  "Baby slept through the night.  Hooray!"  But sometimes the single page is enough of a hook to get me started, and I end up writing much more.

2. Cleaning & Organizing
Yesterday, I looked at the giant laundry basket that is filling up with clean clothes that need ironing.  I did about four shirts, then put away the iron and ironing board and patted myself on the back for at least making the pile a little smaller.

3. Exercise
Baby is a year old now, and it's time to get serious about fitting back into the other 98% of my wardrobe.  I've started walking one mile a day, which is just perfect.  Fifteen minutes later, I'm back home.

Edited to add that the reason I titled this post "Taking small bites" is that the topic reminded me of a Shel Silverstein poem.