Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Austin art

 It's been a week of culture around here.  I took the kids to the Blanton Museum on Thursday.
They were less enthralled with the cats & dogs exhibit than I had hoped, except for the video of a cat playing piano.
Six thousand dollars in pennies!  My kids love earning allowance money, collecting gold coins in Super Mario Brothers, and gathering precious metals in Minecraft, so this was right up their alley.

I saw this on Friday (on my way to a concert with just adults!), painted on the side of a building downtown.
 Today we visited Laguna Gloria for some outdoor art.

 The main attraction was an installation called Current.  It's huge waves woven from lobster rope.
The lady in the office told us that we could climb on it, but then a guy outside stopped us and said that we could climb or step on the low parts, but not the high parts.  Um, okay, we'll give that a try.  So I told my kids to climb only on the parts that were waist high or lower, and they followed that rule about as well as you would expect.  Time to go.
The Blanton is free on Thursdays, with $4 parking available in the garage next door, and Laguna Gloria is free on Tuesdays.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Containment systems

My eight-year-old came running to me this morning, screaming half in horror, half in exultation.  "BLOWOUT!  BLOWOUT!  COME CHECK THE BABY'S ROOM!"  My big kids think the term "blowout" is hilarious, so while they were grossed out by the poop, they loved announcing it to me.  Sure enough, inside the crib was a serious breach of fecal decorum.  (Actually, A Serious Breach of Fecal Decorum is the perfect name for my future memoir on raising three boys.  I call dibs.  Trademark.  Copyright.  Etc.)

I've dealt with this issue before, when the big boys were two and four, and big brother would say in their shared room at bedtime, "Hey, Alec, you should take off your diaper.  Just pull the tabs like this..."

I thought I'd share the solution we came up with, in case anyone else out there has a toddler doing the same thing.  Footed pajamas that zip all the way up can be helpful, but in the middle of a 100 degree summer, they are not a great option.  I found a couple pairs in a lightweight fabric on sale at The Children's Place or some other strip mall store, then cut off all the excess that I could.
Then you put it on them backwards and hope that they don't have long enough arms to reach the snap closure and zipper.  Or a helpful and mischievous older brother.
You can buy similar products online, but they are obviously more expensive than this DIY option.
Besides containing the contents of the toddler's diaper, we are also trying to contain the toddler himself.  Here's the tent that we installed when Alec started climbing out of his crib.
In the shot above, you can see that he has reached his arm through the bars and pulled the folded laundry, a piece at a time, into the crib with him.  In the shot below, you can see that he pulled on the tent frame until it flipped concave.  Ohhh, toddlers.  Am I really heading into this again?
My uncle Phil used this product with his own little Houdini, and the child destroyed the mesh by poking holes in it with his fingers, then reached for the zipper to free himself.  Phil said it best, "It's the only product that you buy, then realize it's crap and doesn't work, but totally buy again when it breaks."
Check out Alec below.  You can really hear the wheels turning, can't you?  "Let's see, if I can't reach to undo the zipper on my back, at least I can figure out how this thing works..."
The crib tent is no longer available due to safety recalls, but I must admit that I'm so glad that we had one during that insane time period.  Consumer Reports has this advice:

What to use instead: If your little one is climbing out of her crib, it is time for a toddler bed, which looks like a regular bed but uses a crib mattress.

Shut up, Consumer Reports.  Have you ever tried to explain the concept of "Stay in your bed until morning" to a 17-month-old?
The best alternative seems to be a sleep sack, which just might solve the diaper and crib problems at once.  But remember how it's 100 degrees here?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Breaking up

I'm about halfway through the book Wonder by RJ Palacio.  It's great, so far, and I totally recommend it.  It's told from multiple perspectives, and the section I'm in now is the big sister describing her first days of high school and the shift she feels in her relationship with her two oldest friends.  Basically, they are breaking up with her, and as I read it, I felt like I was fourteen again.    It's funny, isn't it, how easy it is to remember that sinking stomach feeling of an awkward teenage experience?

I had a best friend dump me once.  I was sitting on the edge of her bed, and I thought that we were just hanging out like a normal day, when she got serious and said, "I can't be your best friend any more."  I felt so stupid, sitting there wearing a gold plated necklace that was half of a heart, split down the middle in a jagged line.  My half either said "best" or "friends", and of course she had the other half.  I probably started crying.  I cry really easily when I'm sad, but also when I'm angry, frustrated, or embarrassed.  It sucks.

Don't get me wrong; I don't hold a grudge about the situation.  We just grew apart.  We actually reconnected several years later and are friends to this day.  (Hi, you!  You are awesome.)  In fact, she deserves a lot of credit for just putting it right out there.  Around the same time, I broke up with a boy via a note telling him that I was "fighting with my parents a lot lately, so it's not a good time for me to be going out with anyone right now".  I thought I was letting him down easily, because it seemed awful to say, "I'm just not into you any more."  He responded with a note back that said, basically, "I'm not really sure what you fighting with your parents has to do with me, but I wish you the best."  We are friends to this day as well.  (Hi, you!  You are also awesome.)

Pausing to read over the anecdotes that I've just written down, it occurs to me that these two people were far more mature than I was.  Note to self: figure out how to instill confidence, sincerity, and frankness into my children.

For further reading:
Do you want to delve into friend break-ups even more?  Mindy Kaling has an anecdote about it in her book, when she goes out one day and sees that the other three girls in her BFF foursome have gone to the mall without inviting her.  My So-Called Life and Freaks & Geeks cover this ground beautifully with their Angela/Sharon and Lindsay/Millie storylines.  Those two shows are the very best ever at depicting high school reality.  If you haven't watched either of them, you need to remedy that.  Like, this weekend.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

This is why we can't have nice things. Not for a few more years, anyway.

You may recall that back in January, I decided to spend out.  I can't say that I've made great strides, but we have eaten on the nice dishes a couple times, and I'm trying my best to change my hoarding nature.  It's very hard to do, in case you were wondering.

I've recently decided that a little hoarding is in order when it comes to some of my precious possessions.  For example, my bright, colorful afghan is one of my favorite things in the world. 
My grandma made it from leftover yarn.  I can look at those flowers and imagine a thousand other crocheting projects that she did.  I decided to take it down from its "for display only" location and throw it onto the back of the couch so that we could really use it.  Two days later, Alec was rolling himself into a human burrito, and Theo was pushing his fingers through all the little holes.  I folded it back up and removed it from their reach.
I inherited four of these juice glasses from the same grandparents as the afghan.  Are they beautiful, or what?
The first time one of my boys broke one, he started crying and waited for me to freak out, because he knew that they were special to me.  (I didn't freak out.  It was a rare moment of zen parenting.)  Just the other day, another son broke another glass, leaving me with just two.  I kept my cool again, but decided to take them out of circulation.  Now they drink their smoothies from vintage Tupperware cups that Matt inherited (stole?) from his parents' kitchen.  Tupperware bounces.

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.