Archive for the Family Category
9
That Christmas

I was 7 months pregnant with Zoe for Rachel and Claire’s second Christmas in 2009. I don’t remember a lot about that holiday, other than being tired and uncomfortable. What I do remember is that particular Christmas was not a joyous season for me. I was exhausted and devoid of Christmas spirit. Decorations were sparse because I just didn’t feel like dealing with them. There were no lights out front. We didn’t even put up our tree because in my rotund state, I wouldn’t be able to keep our not even 2 year old girls out of it.

Due to our growing family, finances were tighter than usual that year. We’ve always been able to pay our mortgage and bills and get groceries with no trouble, thankfully, but there wasn’t much extra. Christian and I had decided not to exchange gifts in order to put that money toward the kids, and even then they weren’t getting anything big.

The excitement and energy of the holiday shopping season gets to me sometimes. It makes me strive more than ever to set a good example for my children and demonstrate that there’s so much more to Christmas than presents, while simultaneously sending me on a wild goose chase for the perfect gifts for every member of the family. This year more than ever I felt conflicted. I knew that my girls were too young to care whether or not they got 5 presents or 25, large playsets or small  toys. But I still bemoaned the fact that there was so much I couldn’t get them. All I could see was what we didn’t have instead of what we did.

snowman ornament

I found myself in Target one night, smack dab in the middle of the holiday hustle. My kids were home in bed and I was making a run for necessities alone. All around me families conferred with one another about whether or not Aunt Sarah would like this necklace, or do you think this sweater would fit your mom? I was filling my cart with diapers, wipes, and toilet paper and feeling sorry for myself. I wondered if those people appreciated the freedom they had to spend.

I finished my shopping and left the store with a heavy heart. I imagined my girls opening their presents Christmas morning, but instead of seeing the joy in their faces as they unwrapped each exciting thing, I only felt the dread that I wasn’t giving them enough. Even worse, my heart ached at the innocent ignorance that they had no idea.

I should be able to give them more, I thought. I should be able to give them the world.

Lights flickered in the distance as I pulled onto my street and neared my house. There, in the middle of our yard at 9:00 at night,  stood my husband, surrounded by tangles of lights. He had planted a pole in the ground and was running strands from the top to the ground in a tree formation. It was crude, and more than slightly crooked, but the lights cast a warm glow across our yard. Stunned, I got out of the car. He looked at me, looked back to his handiwork, then back at me, a goofy grin spreading across his face.

Maybe I had texted him while I was out. Maybe my mood had shown before I left for my errands. But he knew I needed a little light in my holiday season. He knew I needed some Christmas cheer. It was one of the most touching things he’s ever done for me.

peace ornament

I shake my head and sigh a little when I think about that year, about how much I focused on the things, specifically the things we didn’t have. It could have been the culminating stress of adding another child to the mix: another mouth to feed, another bottom to diaper, another wish list to fulfill. It could have been a case of wanting what you can’t have. At not even 2, Rachel and Claire were too young to know or care about how many presents they got. All they knew is that people were throwing toys at them right and left and not even giving them time to play with them before tossing another one their way. Turns out Christmas is quite stressful for young children.

Three years later we find ourselves with a bit more wiggle room. The growing ages of our children makes it easier to talk to them about not just receiving, but giving to others, both in our family and those in need, thoughtfully and with purpose. 2009 was also the last year we spent Christmas Day with my family. It was the last time my grandparents got to experience Christmas morning through the eyes of little ones. We stay home now, relaxing in our pajamas, opening our gifts, creating our own traditions.

This year there’s no crooked, multicolored tree of in the middle of our yard. The lights are hung in a more deliberate fashion. Inside our stockings are up, and our Christmas tree stands tall in the corner, the ornaments hung not nearly as evenly spaced as I would like, thanks to the young decorators. I catch them sometimes just sitting at its base, basking in the warm glow in the early morning. I stare at them for a while, until they turn and give me a goofy grin, so proud of the fact that they turned the lights on themselves. And I have all the Christmas cheer I need.

************

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6
Thankstagram

Did you have a good Thanksgiving weekend? I hope you stuffed yourself full of turkey and carbs like I did. I also hope you’re feeling 10 pounds heavier like I am. Thanksgiving detox starts NOW.

I could write all about how we went to Dallas and had lots of fun with my family. Or I could SHOW you how much fun we had in pictures.

And if you follow me on Instagram or we’re Facebook friends…well, you have likely already seen these, and now you get the pleasure of seeing them again. So Happy Thanksgiving to YOU.

Clockwise from up top: 1. Delicious cookies we made and (I) decorated. Dudes, getting decent looking icing on cookies is a job and a half. I’m still exhausted from it all. What they lack in looks they make up for in flavor. 2. Zoe thinks her cousin Cheyenne is hiLARious. 3. I gave the kids cookies, then caught R&C sitting in this rocking chair together. Like twins or something. 4. We swang. Swung. What’s the past tense of swing? 5. Wide shot of the kids’ tables. They ate a whole lotta NOTHING. 6. More swanging.

So glad that Baby Keesa approves of our hotel. She slept with Rachel and Zoe snug as bugs in one bed, while Claire and I snuggled in the other. Christian had to rough it on the pull out couch. I would feel sorry for him, but he’s not the one that got woken up at pre-6am on Friday, and it wasn’t for shopping.

1. Cousins feeding the ducks. Me freaking out that someone’s going to fall off the dock. 2. Claire found a caterpillar and named him Silly. Or Puma. It kept changing. 3. A later than usual dinner at a busy restaurant. It’s painfully obvious that we don’t go out to eat much. And that my kids are used to instant gratification. 4. Another shot of Silly. Or Puma. 5. ERMAHGERD!!! DERKS!!!

Waco, TX (halfway between Austin and Dallas) is known for 2 things: The Elite Cafe, which used to be a cool diner whose claim to fame was “ELVIS ATE HERE!” but has been remodeled and is now kinda “meh,” and those Branch Davidian bozos. But nestled behind the Elite Cafe and not anywhere near the Branch Davidian compound is a tiny little joint called Health Camp. I’ll tell you a secret. It’s not really all that healthy. But it’s stupid good. And THIS is where you need to stop on your road trips.

Even though my family is only a 3 hour drive away, we only travel up to Dallas a couple of times a year (due to expenses, not lack of desire to see them). And it’s moments like these that make it all worth it.  It sums up everything that Thanksgiving is all about: family, togetherness, and being grateful for all we have. I’m thankful that these two got to see each other again and quickly became best buds.

Happy holidays, y’all!

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19
SOPA, the circus, and oh yeah, I have a job!
What is SOPA?

I wanted to get this up Tuesday night, since Wednesday was the day everyone was protesting, but as usual, I’m late to the party. Things just weren’t working in my favor yesterday, mainly the hands on the clock. But this is important information to have, so here you go!

Have you heard of SOPA? If you’re a blogger, techie, or communications person, you probably have, and you’re probably not happy. Basically, the Stop Online Piracy Act is “a pending bill geared toward preempting U.S. property theft by promoting creativity and innovation (techopedia) .” While putting an end to online piracy is good, the bill leaves a lot of room for interpretation, which could open the door for a lot of online censorship, causing a lot of sites, particularly social media and sharing sites, to more heavily police their content. Sites like YouTube and Reddit would definitely suffer, if not shut down completely.

What can I do?

First and foremost, educate yourself on the issue. You can then contact your congressman and urge them to vote against SOPA by either calling or sending them an email. You can also send a prepared message through americancensorship.org. Don’t let the government censor the internet!

 

Okay, on to more cheerful topics.

Saturday we went to the Shriner’s Circus. I have no idea who the Shriners are, but they wear funny hats and put on a show that’s great for the kiddos. I hadn’t been to the circus since I was a kid myself, and my friend Heidi (more about her in a little bit) got us some killer seats to the show. R&C knew what a circus was, so they were pretty excited to see clowns, elephants, and of course cows. Aren’t there cows at the circus?

Shriner Circus 1

Those cows are huge! And my kids refuse to make normal faces at the camera. That's if they both look at the same time at all.

Shriner Circus 3

What's the best part of an elephant? Their butt. Naturally.

We ended up having to split at intermission. Claire was getting a little nervous that the lights went out and never came back on, and she kept asking to go home. Christian took her out of the main arena, causing pure pandemonium from Zoe, and Rachel was quickly starting to lose it. It was close to lunch, so we called it a day. I sometimes have to remind myself that we’ll have plenty more years to enjoy things like this — where they’ll hopefully last more than halfway through.

And when I asked them what they’re favorite part was? “Kai- Lan!” Of course. Because who doesn’t come to the circus to get a blow up Kai-Lan toy. That deflates before you even get home.

Shriner Circus 2

In hindsight, it may not have been the best idea to have everyone look into the glaring sun. But be jealous of our mild winter!

I’m gainfully employed! Since the beginning of the year (you know, like less than three weeks ago), I’ve been helping my friend Heidi with her website Free Fun in Austin. If you live in or around Austin, you know this site and you know it well. What started out as a way for her to keep herself accountable for getting out of the house with her four kids has now turned into the go to source for family activities around town. And now she’s all big time, speaking at a conference, and she was on the newsTwice. She’s a rockstar.

So while she concentrates on the businessy end of things, I’m doing my best to help her out and take a little of the every day posting off of her shoulders. It’s a perfect fit for me: posting on a blog platform that I’m familiar with, working at home, with a super cool boss lady. If I miss a beat here and there on my blog, then that’s why. Because I spend the entire day making meals, pushing swings, wrangling kids, and being a parent and all, I only have between the hours of 7:30ish and whenever I start to fall asleep at my desk to do anything, so some things have to give. But I’m thrilled to have the chance to help her out and make a little money doing something I love.

So now that we’re all caught up, what’s going on in your life?

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30
New Years…when you’re a parent

When you have kids, New Year’s takes on an entirely different meaning.

Correction: When you have kids, New Year’s takes on an entirely different meaning unless you’re on of those lucky bastards who has a nanny, baby sitter, or selfless family members in town willing to sit with your kids all night and maybe even get up with them in the morning so you can sleep off the previous night’s bender.

When you’re a parent, you’ll look forward to a pajama party with good friends, where everyone wears silly Happy New Year hats and watches their kids destroy someone else’s house for a change.

You’ll {gasp!} abandon your drink in favor of an intervention of what could have been a fatal blow to the head from a plastic golf club.

You’ll start chugging water the instant you feel a slight buzz, remembering that dastardly Halloween party you went to, the 7am wake up call that your kids gave you, and the splitting headache that accompanied it.

Your kids will rue the day that they distracted you from getting a second piece of sopapilla cheesecake, the jerks.

Your thighs will thank your kids for distracting you.

So will your scale.

You’ll carefully weight the options of taking your kids home because they’re getting cranky and rambunctious, or ignoring their obvious cues of fatigue, grabbing another beer, and shouting, “WHO WANTS TO WATCH CARS???”

“Pajama jeans” will be added to your 2012 Christmas list.

You’ll get super irritated at your drunk and insanely chatty spouse on the drive home. Because remember, you were the one chugging all the water?

You’ll go to bed before midnight.

But you won’t go to sleep because outside your window it sounds like the Battle of Stalingrad what with all of the fireworks the a-hole neighbors are setting off up and down the street.

You’ll welcome a sleepy three year old into your bed when she wakes up sad.

You’ll breath a sigh of relief when she asks to return to her own bed.

Actually, scratch that. You’re not really breathing at all because you live in Austin and it’s cedar season. So you get up at 4am to take an allergy pill and lay in bed waiting for it to take effect, wondering if one can actually function on 2 hours of collective sleep.

You’ll bring a sweet little 21 month old to bed for snuggles at “it’s too early” o’clock, then shamelessly distract her with an iPhone game so you can catch a few more Zs.

You’ll marvel at the numbers 8, 4, and 5 on your clock when you realize the other children have just woken up. You now believe in miracles.

You’ll stand in the middle of your kitchen, one kid in your arms, one tugging at your pajama pants, and shriek “Happy freakin new year!!!!” only to be drowned out by all of the screaming of hungry and cranky children.

Amidst the screaming you’ll wonder where in the world that third child got off to.

You’ll get to make memories like these:

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8
On the night before Christmas…

Christmas Eve is magical. Especially with young children.

We Skyped with Grandma and the rest of Christian’s family in North Carolina. The girls opened their lovely presents, thanked everyone gratefully, and went along their merry way playing with their new goodies.

{Um, actually the kids all went berzerk, crying about opening presents while Dad tried to get his mom’s Skype to work and Mom fratically threw goldfish crackers their way to suppress their whining. They tore through the presents, asked for more, then ran off to sling around their newest toys, narrowly missing each other’s heads in the process while Mom rubs her eyes in distress and fatigue.}

We had an idyllic family dinner of freshly steamed tamales, spicy Spanish rice, and black beans, in which everyone ate sufficiently and Christmas carols played softly in the background.

{Actually, Mom made turkey sandwiches and grapes. She had no idea how much they actually ate, because she checked out to lay on the couch and read Mockingjay, leaving their poor, defenseless father to tend to them. Plus she had filled up on kettle corn that afternoon.}

We took baths, got cozied up in our warmest jammies, and ran excitedly to the kitchen to put out cookies and milk for Santa.

{Yeah. It was damn near impossible to keep six little hands out of the cookies and milk, even though the big girls DID get the idea. Poor Zoe. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t have a cookie.}

Time for Christmas stories! We snuggled up around Mom and Dad, reading The Night Before Christmas and You Are My Miracle. Everyone gave copious hugs, kisses, snuggles, and “Merry Christmases” before settling down in bed, visions of sugar plus dancing in their heads. Mom and Dad

{More like Mom gave threats of going straight to bed if they didn’t sit down for the damn story, while Dad removed a hysterical and cookie crazed Zoe from the room. Halfway through The Night Before Christmas, Claire made to leave the room to “go do something.” She feigned looking for her McQueen car, but Mom knew she had cookies on the brain. More threats ensued. Mom hurriedly finished up the book, ignoring one “Whass he doing?” after another, and plopped them in bed with a “Santa won’t come unless you’re asleep” warning. It worked.}

Mom and Dad ate a little leftover ham for dinner, drank some hot cocoa and apple cider, built some bikes, folded some laundry, wrapped some presents, stuffed some stockings, and settled down to watch Elf and bask in the remaining few hours of pre Christmas cheer.

{Okay, so all that did actually happen. Throw in a rather intense discussion about how Santa actually makes his mark on a household and some last minute panicking that the stockings were a little lean. Then Mom got elated because a package containing stickers and candy has arrived from a certain wonderful friend, and she quickly decided this friend is now Santa.}

Mom and Dad giggle while eating Santa’s cookies, careful to leave some crumbs behind, and craft a letter from the big guy to his three biggest fans.

{We totally got to eat cookies.}

Santa cookies Christmas

 

Thank you all for your love, support, comments, shares, and friendship. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

 

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18
Merry Birthday/Happy Christmas cookie delivery

 

 

This is my dad.

genie in a blog

On the right. Not the left. That would be weird.

 

He turns 66 on Saturday. Now I know it’s rude to give away his age like that, but he’s a modern man who doesn’t care about such trivial things. He’s rockin his 60s.

My dad has the misfortune that is the December birthday. When I was growing up my sister and I waited anxiously for the Christmas stuff to come down from the attic, but it was always the same answer: “We don’t put up Christmas until after Daddy’s birthday.”

We’re nothing if not considerate. Well, maybe a little impatient.

We tried our best to ensure that the man’s birthday didn’t get lumped in with all of the Christmas brew ha ha of the season. Birthdays are special, right? But there’s one problem.

Whether it’s his birthday, Christmas, Father’s Day, or freaking Tuesday, ask the man what he wants, and he’ll always give you the same answer–a shrug.

“Ohhh…there ain’t nothing I can really think of….” {I was raised on impeccable grammar, no?} “…maybe a new screwdriver…”

This man, I tell you.

But if I know one thing about my dad, it’s his sweet tooth. Like father, like daughter.

And the Annual Merry Birthday/Happy Christmas Cookie Delivery was born.

Christmas cookies peanut butter cup cookies, sugar cookies

Who wouldn't want a tub full of goodness delivered right to their door?

 

This year’s shipment contained:

Holly cookies — I had never even heard of these, but some ladies on the Twitter were raving about them, and I had to check them out.

Cinnamon sugar cookies — seriously the best sugar cookies I have ever made. And eaten. That’s why there may have only been like 5 in the box up there.

Brownies — an easy go-to addition, but this year’s turned out like poo. Sorry, Dad.

Reese’s peanut butter cup temptations — Less like temptation, more like evil. My absolute favorite. Chocolate. Peanut butter. Heaven.

I started doing this birthday cookie shipment about 3 years ago. It was the perfect solution to two problems: 1) my dad’s inability to tell anyone what he wanted for his birthday; and 2) my desperate need to partake in all types of holiday baking as soon as the calendar flips to December. And by the time I’m done making all of these treats, I never want to see another Christmas cookie as long as I live. Well, until next week anyway when the nausea has subsided.

Happy birthday, Dad! You deserve all the cookies in the world!

 

What’s your favorite holiday treat? What do you get that person who just won’t tell you what they want?

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20
Holiday rememberance

The holiday season is exciting and magical with young children. As they grow, little moments start to come out of the woodwork–moments that will become traditions and things that I want my children to remember when they’re older and attempting to create their own lives.

Like holiday baking. As soon as people start talking about Thanksgiving, I start thinking about all the yummy things I can bake during the season and through the end of the year.

Decorating cookies. And I use the term “decorating” very loosely.

More like pile on as many sprinkles as you can. Who cares? This provided sheer minutes of entertainment, people.

Playing at the park on a crisp day. No Black Friday for us, thankyouverymuch.

Ridin high. I’ll be so sad when she’s old enough that overalls aren’t cute on her anymore.

Hangin with our bestie cousin.

Feeding the ducks. I distinctly remember when I was about R&C’s age and going to this same lake with my grandmother to feed the ducks. I was wearing my fuzzy blue coat and was absolutely terrified of them. But a nice man snapped my picture, and there I was in the newspaper the next day. I wonder if someone still has that paper?

Holding hands on the ride back to Austin.

Did you have a good Thanksgiving? What are some of your favorite holiday memories?

iPhone Photo Phun

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9
An Attitude of Gratitude #21

They're going "in the car." The balls are wheels. Because, well, duh.

Welcome to my Sunday Attitude of Gratitude! Read here to find out why I started this weekly gratitude post.

I know. I’ve been a little absent with AoG. Life has been getting in the way and I haven’t really been feeling it. But like Christian said, I need to push on through and remember the little things that I’m grateful for. November is the month of thanks, after all.

 

So this week I’m loving:

 

  • My health, and that of my family.
  • Days in which we play outside all. freaking. day. In our pajamas, no less.
  • My awesome, hard working, loving, and bad ass husband.
  • Butterflies.
  • Mother’ Day Out, and getting to spend two mornings a week with just Zoe and me.
  • The fact that Rachel and Claire have more than gotten accustomed to their MDO class and absolutely love their teacher and classmates.
  • Loving and helpful MDO teachers who help me get my circus together when it’s time to go home.
  • Claire’s newfound love for Lightening McQueen.
  • November: October is my favorite month, but November brings Thanksgiving and the anticipation of spending time with our loved ones. And eating. Lots and lots of eating.
  • Kipper: the girls’ latest on screen obsession. We’d never heard of it until we cancelled our cable and started streaming Netflix, but they think it’s the best show evah! I have to admit, it is kinda cute.

 

 What made you smile this week? 

 

 

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46
Pumpkin? Too bad, you’re a butterfly.

This is probably the last year that I can dictate what Rachel and Claire are going to be for Halloween. They’re starting to form those pesky opinions of their own. But I went ahead and chose something for all three of them.

As the holiday neared, we talked about dressing up. They were excited about their glittery butterfly wings and tutus, flying all over the house and the backyard. Claire loved the headgear. Rachel, not so much.

I tried to incite conversation, asking them what they were going to be for Halloween. The answers?

“I wanna be a pumpkin!”

Because they are obSESSED with pumpkins this year.

To which I answered, “Well too bad, you’re being butterflies.”

But this year? Halloween was a family affair. Mainly because we had a Halloween party to go to and I would feel lame next to my friend’s family Pac Man board costume.

I introduce you to the Torres Family Butterfly Farm!

halloween costumes twins butterfly

Rachel's on the right, sans antennae, Claire on the left, engrossed in something far more interesting than picture time. And of course little pink butterfly Zoe.

Never mind the fact that I can never get my 3 kids looking at the camera at the same time.

And yes we ARE going to rock this entire ensemble to go trick or treating tonight.

 

What are your little goblins dressing up as for Halloween? 

 

This post is linked up with Four Plus and Angel and Sellabit Mum’s BOO in the Blogosphere…


…as well as By Word of Mouth Musing’s Howlerific Halloween
Photobucket

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38
How do you go on?

My friend Charley died on Sunday. He was 34 years old. He leaves behind a beautiful wife and a 6 year old son.

From what I know, which isn’t much, Charley died of complications from multiple sclerosis, and it was somewhat sudden. Although I hadn’t seen them in probably over two years, Charley and Christian worked together until just recently. Christian had just met him for lunch 3 weeks ago. He said he looked great, like he was doing much better.

I found out on Facebook. Skimming status updates, I saw something peculiar. I clicked over to Charley’s page and saw nothing but memos of “I love you,” and “Rest in peace.”

My heart stopped. How could this be?

Getting alerted that someone you know has died suddenly is a shock to the system. I knew this person. We shared beers, good times, and kids’ birthday parties. And now he’s gone.

I can’t make sense of this situation. I can’t make sense of my feelings.

Do I feel sad that I never got to say goodbye to him?

Regret that our friendship as couples had faded, like so many do?

Unsure of how to be there for his wife and child?

Intense fear that any one of our loved ones could be taken from us at any moment?

 

As I lay in bed last night, burrowing my face in my husband’s chest and taking in his warmth, his scent, his embrace, I couldn’t help but think of my friend Andrea.

Her husband gone.

Her bed empty.

The tears.

Still having to get up and continue life for her son, maintain some sort of normalcy.

How much her heart must ache for her best friend, husband, and father of her child. A man she’ll never see again on this earth.

The dreading of night time, when all is dark and quiet, and it’s just her and her thoughts.

The intense void she must be feeling having him taken from her so suddenly.

I know the uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach is nothing compared to hers. I know the ache in my heart pales in comparison to the pain she must be feeling.

How do you leave your loved one’s bedside, knowing you will never get to see them, speak to them, hold them again?

How do you return home to an empty house, an empty bed? Their things still strewn about the rooms they once walked?

How do you go on?

 

Charley was a son, a brother, and a friend. He was insanely witty, the kind of person who made intelligent jokes that went way over my head. He was a beloved husband and an amazing father.

If you have a prayer to spare, please send it up in honor of Charley, his wife Andrea and their son Connor. Donations to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society are appreciated, in memory of Charles Evans.

Rest in peace, Charley. Thanks for the memories. You will be missed by many.

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