reclaim the good parts of parenting

get the behavior you want without being the parent you hate book review deborah gilboaI’m going to start off by saying right up front that this book – Get the Behavior You Want…Without Being the Parent You Hate – has pretty much changed my outlook on parenting. Family doctor and parenting expert Dr. Deborah Gilboa has put together such a well-organized, easy to read manual on effective parenting, with advice for whatever phase of parenting you’re in.

I hate to break it to you guys, but I am pretty much a perfect parent. We eat dinner as a family just about every night, my girls are doing well in school, and I take my well-behaved children on fun outings where absolutely no one loses their shit, like ever. Basically, my life is a damn rainbow.

But every once in a blue moon, I lose my way on the parenting path and start to see that I’m headed down a wayward road. It happens gradually; I fall into a routine of ease and laziness, overlooking this behavior or that attitude. But before I know it it’s all Lord of the Flies up in here.

It starts with us

It was during one of those phases that Dr. Gilboa’s book fell into my mailbox. It’s not only given me great ammunition in small doses against a lot of my most notable parenting challenges, it’s also given me ideas for changes to make that will make this parenting gig a little more pleasant. Seeing as this is something I’ll be doing for several more years, putting the work in is worth it.

Get the Behavior You Want…Without Being the Parent You Hate is broken down into four parts:

  • Part I: Respect – That’s My Kid!
  • Part II: Responsibility: Count On It
  • Part III: Resilience: Raising Problem Solvers
  • Part IV: Making Change Happen: How to Actually Get Kids to Do This Stuff

The first three sections cover topics that parents may not necessarily struggle with, but should keep in mind when raising awesome kids. Things like being a good guest (respect!), asking how they can help (responsibility!), and managing relationships with siblings, friends, and teachers (resilience!).

Gilboa explains WHY it’s important to teach kids these things, then goes on to give real action items broken up by age group. And if there’s one thing I love, it’s an actionable item for those times when I’m just out of ideas and I’m all, “Seriously. Someone please just tell me what to do here.”

But the meat of the book lies in Part IV, where Gilboa goes beyond the tidbits of advice she’s given, and gets down into the nitty gritty of how parents can make change happen for their kids. And I have a secret:

It starts with us.

So all you have to do is change how you respond to your child’s words and behavior. Your change will lead to their change. — Dr. Deborah Gilboa

Problems and solutions

Each of my children comes with their own special challenges when it comes to parenting them, and juggling those different challenges is often where I struggle. Life would be much easier for me if their problems came straight off the conveyer belt and I could just methodically hack at them one by one.

Claire tends to get easily frustrated and gives up on herself before she’s really even tried.

Rachel is impulsive, and not in a good way.

Zoe suffers from – how should we say? – “I’m the littlest, and I’ve gotten away with so much for so long, that now I’m really pushing my boundaries and seeing if you’re serious with these attempts at disciplining me.” You can imagine that one’s going over REALLY well at preschool.

I was able to pull specific strategies from the book that have given me more guidance in their individual challenges:

When Claire gets frustrated because she can’t ride her scooter as fast as her sisters, I remind her that it’s not a race, and I just want her to do her best. But throwing the scooter in the neighbor’s yard is not acceptable, and you can either continue riding it around the block or carry it. Or we’ll leave it here for another neighborhood kid to enjoy.

When Zoe puts on her sassy pants, we swiftly inform her that she’s being disrespectful and give her options for more respectful ways of communicating. Being respectful to her teacher is important to us, but if we let her get away with having a little attitude at home – no matter how cute it can be on a 4-year-old – she will most definitely try to push those same boundaries at school.

Finally let’s take Rachel as an example, because this is an area in which I feel we’ve seen great improvement.

Have a plan

Lately Rachel’s temper has been getting set off at the smallest thing. We read only one story at bedtime, but she wants two. She’s bored and wants to watch TV, but we’re screen-free for the moment. Regular stuff that might cause a kid to groan, but for her, it causes all-out tantrums. She completely loses control of herself and her actions. As a parent, it’s extremely difficult to control your temper when your child is flailing her arms and hitting you.

One of the things Gilboa stresses the most in Part IV is that as a parent, you must have a plan. Things will go so much smoother if, when these challenges arise, you have a roadmap of how you are going to handle it. We were able to take several things from the book and put them together into a plan that worked for us in quelling these terrible tantrums.

  • Remain calm, but stay firm, because this behavior is unacceptable. The angrier I got, the more out of control she got. I had to keep myself in check. (That part is HAAAARD.)
  • Deliver consequences. Items thrown across the room (or at me!) will get taken temporarily, or sometimes permanently, depending on the item. I’ll throw out a cheap, plastic toy, but the favorite blankie becomes mine for the time being.
  • Do not respond to irrational behavior (as long as she is safe from harming herself or anyone else). Every time we opened our mouths to try and calm her, it was like going back to square one. Depending on the severity of the situation, we choose to either leave her in her room alone to chill or sit with her, but we do not respond to her verbal lashes.

Maybe we’ve just been lucky, or maybe this stuff is really working, but each tantrum got increasingly shorter and spaced further apart. Before we instituted The Plan, we had a stretch where they happened several days in a row, and I thought I was going to LOSE my MIND. But the most recent time, within minutes of being left to calm down, she emerged from her room, all hugs and sincere apologies. And I am not even kidding you, I feel like I have my child back.

Your kids will love you. They will not always like you, and they will not always thank you or be able to explain your value. But they will love you. So don’t hold back on what they need. Don’t hesitate to guide behavior for fear of upsetting your child. To change a behavior, we have to get out of our comfort zone.  — Dr. Deborah Gilboa


Think your parenting can benefit from Dr. Gilboa’s strategies? Purchase your copy of Get the Behavior You Want…Without Being the Parent You Hate on Amazon and start reclaiming the joy of parenting. You can also find Dr. Gilboa on her website, Ask Doctor G, and on her YouTube channel.


I received an advanced reader copy of this book for review. Amazon links are affiliate links.

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the power of a tuesday

Tuesday, man.

Tuesday was one of those days that you have a lot you really hope to accomplish, and then the universe just kind of body checks you into submission.

(I say “hope to accomplish,” because honestly, the only things I NEEDED to do that day were make sure the Zoe was fed and entertained and pick up the big girls from school. The rest of the day was relatively open, and I had mentally filled our schedule with a list of incredibly stay-at-home-mom-ish errands that weren’t essential, but you know, I don’t think it’s an accident that all of the spoons in my kitchen have mysteriously disappeared, AND there happens to be an IKEA nearby, with a Garden Ridge on the way home when I really need a wicker basket to put by the front door for soccer cleats and shin guards. It’s like some kind of First World Housewife Science or something.)

Tuesday I was also very tired. My back has been bothering me the past few days – no sciatic pain, but a general achiness that makes me want to kill people – and my run that morning was less than stellar. Add to that the 4-year-old that just would not. stop. talking, and it’s safe to say my patience was in short supply.

So you can imagine the string of mental expletives that ran through my head when I went to start the car and I had no car key.

I know exactly when this happened. Monday afternoon when Zoe and I walked over to pick Rachel and Claire from school, I felt something fall out of the hand that was holding my keys. I turned around and say my key fob sitting in the middle of the street, so I ran the few steps back, grabbed it, then hurried across to the sidewalk before the oncoming traffic ran me over. We live in this super inconvenient spot that’s practically right across a busy street from the elementary school, but because it’s not an intersection, there’s no lights or crosswalk or even a stop sign. We basically have to wait for a break in traffic and hope for the best (hooray for school zones!). So I had to do this all while holding Zoe’s hand with one of mine, and making sure my phone didn’t fall out of my pocket with the other. Ninja style.

I couldn’t figure out how the key fob fell off of my keyring, but I didn’t really have time to contemplate it, with the oncoming traffic and all. I just grabbed it, put it back on, continued on to the school, and forgot about it once I picked up my very loud, very shouty children.

And now here I was, sitting in my car on a Tuesday morning, realizing that my damn key must have fallen off with it.

Tuesday, you’re a foul beast, but now I know your friend Monday had a hand in it.

I went to look for it. I nervously stood on the median in the middle of the street while cars whizzed past – NOT during school zone time, by the way – while Zoe sat obediently out of the way in the corner of someone’s front yard, but nothing. I found the busted keyring, and a Lone Star bottle cap, but no key.

The bad news is I didn’t get my spoons or baskets. I declined Christian’s offer to run home and bring me his key, because I’m not a high maintenance girl, and in the grand scheme of things, this wasn’t anything that couldn’t wait another day. I can deal with shoes on the floor and stirring my coffee with a fork for one more day, if I must.  The good news is that Zoe and I got to hang out at home. We rode her scooter and bike around the block a few times. We snuggled on the couch watching a terrible Monster High movie.  I considered picking the big girls up early, because I missed them so much. Or maybe it was because, although I love days with my girl, I really needed someone else to bear the brunt of all the “Did you see me take that bite of applesauce?” and “Watch me swing! No. Stand HERE. Now watch!” and “Mom, do dogs know that they are….dogs?”

I almost cried from relief when Christian walked in the front door at lunchtime, handed me his car key, and said “Let’s go get lunch!” I will never again underestimate the freedom that a car key can bring. Or the madness that a chatty 4-year-old can bring on. Or Tuesday. I will never underestimate a Tuesday.


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some stuff – mother****ing fall edition


some stuff

• It’s fall! October in Austin really is the  best time of the year. That means it’s a brisk 85 degrees during the day, and I still got a sunburn at the soccer games today. But the blast furnace that we call summer seems to have finally made its leave.

• I’ll be at BlogathonATX on Saturday, October 25. You should go to if you’re in town. It’s a fun day of blogging, talking about blogging, listening to other people talk about blogging, and eating tons of great, local food that will probably make you a better blogger. Get tickets here.

• Guess what! My friend Anna Whiston-Donaldson’s book, Rare Bird, is officially a New York Times bestseller! Right up there with Go the F*ck to Sleep. While I hate the events that led her to write her book, I’m glad that her words are reaching so many people. Read my review of Rare Bird here.

• We had some great conversations over on the GiaB Facebook page this week. You know what people are passionate about? 1) Whether or not to pull kids out of an activity that they really aren’t enjoying; and 2) What show I should be watching on Netflix right now. TL;DR answers are NO and Sherlock.


some links

Haven’t you heard?

I will die in this corn maze.

Completely fascinating – The Overprotected Kid

Funniest GIFs of all time. (Although my favorite is the double-puppy in this post)

Aspirational (h/t Corrin from Oh Hey, What’s Up?)

My friend Angela from Jumping with My Fingers Crossed – and fellow Listen to Your Mother producer in Metro Detroit – is amazing, and this video of her  on stage for the Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers is definitely worth every one of its 18 minutes. It’s all about moms and mental health and drugs and fear. Go here if you can’t see the video.


Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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how to get interaction on twitter

It’s safe to say that Twitter, at least for most of us bloggers, isn’t the same as it used to be. The days of sitting around on Twitter, chatting with our friends, while our kids napped or ran circles around us or unrolled 8 rolls of toilet paper, but it’s okay because the 6 minutes of quiet were totally worth it, and that’s why you recycle anyway…well those days are over, at least it seems so. I look at my twitter stream now, and all I see are tweets that link to posts I’ll never read, tweets that link to Instagram photos I won’t look at, and tweets that link to Facebook status updates, which is seriously the most annoying thing in the world.

And then I went in and looked at my own twitter profile, and guess what I saw? Tweets that link to posts I have written, tweets that link to posts I have read, and tweets that link to Instagram photos no one ever looked at. Twitter has gotten insanely boring, and I’m part of the problem.

So I’ve been trying to chat it up more there.


No one replied. Which helped, I guess, because then I just kinda, you know, went to sleep.



I could tell by the way that time seemed to stop twitter-wise, that everyone was concerned. I mean, was my house infested with cute, furry rodents, or did my garage freezer go kaput? I felt the need to clarify. I mean, dead squirrels happen, but I can’t have the neighborhood association thinking I have unsafe food handling practices.



…And few things are worse than burnt popcorn. Later I went out to open the garage doors and air out the stench, but….



To which someone replied “Texas heat FTW!” Seriously.


Then today…



And with that, my Tuesday was complete, at least until the ebola virus started breaking out on Facebook faster than it ever would if we were all hanging out with the infected.

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guess what i did today?


I ran. I RAN! I ran.

It was only a mile – 1.09 if we’re bring specific – but it felt so, so good.

Actually I’m lying. It felt terrible. I’m so out of shape.

I survived the mile with no pain, really. Honestly, my back was a little off that day, so after the run I did my therapy and hoped for the best. My legs and hips are sore, good feelings that mean I challenged my body in a way it hadn’t been challenged in a while. My back is feeling…okay.

To back up a little bit here, this was my first run since January, when I finally hung up my running shoes because the sciatica was too painful. I went straight to an orthopedist, where I learned that sciatica isn’t really a diagnosis; it’s a symptom being caused by something else. In my case, that something else was a herniated disc.

Few things make you feel old like having a herniated disc.

My journey to wellness has been a roller coaster of frustration, small victories that didn’t last long, and painful setbacks that did last long.

I visited a chiropractor regularly for several weeks. She told me that by visiting her x number of times per week, I could get better in several months. I eventually stopped going because I was busy and stressed (LTYM season), running around to doctor or therapy appointments or meetings almost every day. I needed a break, and the regular adjustments didn’t seem to be helping anyway.

I started physical therapy with the orthopedist’s PT branch in March, where I learned about McKenzie method. I usually left there feeling pretty good, but even just sitting in the car on the way home was enough to put me right back into pain mode.

In April, with no end in sight, I relented and went in for a steroid shot. I laid face down on the table, and the doctor injected me with a shot of cortisone right in the lower back. And the pain was gone. It was like a miracle. I kept expecting my left side to be weak when I walked, or expecting pain to start shooting down my leg, but there was none. I was all, “Did you see that? I got up from that chair and didn’t want to cry!”

Seriously, it’s the little things.

But alas, it wasn’t meant to last. I got the shot just days before I left for the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop, and I can tell you that I never would have survived that trip – flights, hours sitting in sessions – without that shot. It was a godsend, but a short-lived one. Within weeks I felt the pain creeping back again. Like that psycho ex-girlfriend that just won’t go away.

And honestly, I felt like this pain was never going to really go away.


Here’s the frustrating thing about this injury, and probably any injury. You don’t know what’s really going to work for you unless you try all the things. And that takes a lot of time, and before you know it’s you’ve been living with this pain for months. Everyone has a different opinion on what will help you. And a lot of the time, those opinions contradict each other.

The orthopedist said I’ll likely have flare-ups the rest of my life. They seemed to think PT would help, but if that didn’t work, “You should get a steroid shot.” And if that doesn’t work, come back and get another one. They didn’t seem to think I should ever run again.

The physical therapist said that I could be better in 6 – 8 weeks. He seemed to NOT want me to get a shot, because although that would alleviate my symptoms chemically, it wouldn’t really solve my problem. But I would run again someday.

The chiropractor was all for getting a shot if it helped manage my pain, but she still wanted to see me 87 times a week for the rest of my livelong days. (I’m exaggerating.) (But not by much.)

When the physical therapist cut me loose after 12 weeks or so, waiting to see what the orthopedist would say at my follow up, it was just kind of a “Well, good luck to you!” send off.

That’s when I really started to feel helpless.


Some days I felt better, some days I didn’t, and the fluctuations weren’t consistent with any of my treatments. Around that same time, a friend who was suffering from a similar issue recommended her therapist, who specialized in Active Release Therapy. I was no stranger to the name Dr. Wag, since a few of my other running friends had also waxed poetic about him for their various injuries. But the most enticing part? This friend was feeling loads better and was back to running and CrossFit.

When people ask me how ART differs from regular physical therapy, the only way I can think to put it is, “Well, it’s kinda like a good, old fashioned butt rub.” Also it’s important to note that I am not a doctor.


When you’ve been in pain for so long, sometimes it’s hard to tell if you’re improving, or if you’re just so used to being in pain that you’ve kinda grown accustomed to it. Me and pain, best friends forever!

Twice a week I would go in and lay on a table and move my leg around while Dr. Wag tried to convince my stubborn muscles to let go of that nerve and give my poor aching rear end a break already. Over time the ART, along with some Trigger Point therapy and me doing about a million McKenzie press ups per day, really started to work. After maybe 3 months I was able to say I was at 85%, then 90%. Unlike the other doctors and therapists, I felt like here they treated ME, not my symptoms. Dr. Wag knew that getting back to running was important to me, and from the beginning, that was our goal.

I went from feeling like I would never get better – and I’m not being dramatic; I really did think that – to actually feeling better.

And then I was given the okay to slowly start running again. Slowly. I haven’t run since January. I am extremely out of shape. I started off slow, to see how my back held up. And it felt so damn good, until my legs got tired and my breathing was off, and my brain was confused because it was accustomed to leisurely strolls to the voice of Ira Glass and now there was music coming from my earbuds and the expectation that my body was supposed to move faster.

Dr. Wag thinks I will definitely be able to train for a half marathon in the spring, “Or maybe even a full!”

Slow your roll, Doc. I don’t plan on running a full marathon until, well, never.

But for now, I hope my body is indeed ready to run. Because my mind is more than ready.


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tears for fears of leaving my kids for a night

A few weeks ago at a splash pad, my friend Lori asked if I thought Christian and I could get away for a weekend and drive up to party town Thakerville, Oklahoma for some kid-free time and to gamble and the WinStar Hotel and Casino.

I told her I didn’t think so. I mean, who would watch our kids?

“Just drop them off with your parents in Dallas on the way up. That’s what we’re doing.”

And I said, “Oh, Iiiiiiii don’t knowwwwwww……..probably not…..” Big sigh of disappointment.

But Lori was all, “Come on. It’s your anniversary weekend! They’ll be fine! It’s just one night! We can play some poker, enjoy time with NO KIDS, and, I don’t know, Tears for Fears or somebody is playing there that night….” Her voice started to trail off, but not before I caught onto the most important bit of information.

And I was like, “WHAT? TEARS FOR FEARS?”

I LOVE Tears for Fears. I’m a little young to be a true child of the 80s, so I was originally introduced to them through their 1993 album Elemental, which featured one of my favorite songs of all time. I still remember sitting and watching it over and over on MTV. Because yes, kids, MTV did show music videos at one time.


And she was all, “…..Do you like Tears for Fears?” She looked at me incredulously, like I had just admitted to carrying Justin Bieber’s love child.

And I was all, “Are you kidding?” I started sit-dancing on my little towel and jamming out, “Break it down again!

And she was all, “…………”

And then I was like, “Shout. Shout. Let it all out!

And she looked at me like, “…………..”

And I looked at her like, “………..Sowing in the seeds of love! The seeds of love!”

And she was all, “Well, yeah, I guess we can –”



So then I went home and completely flooded her Facebook wall with Tears for Fears YouTube videos, because although she’s 3 years older than me, she obviously isn’t hip to the music of her 80s brethren. I will forgive her.

We booked the hotel, nabbed some VIP-seating concert tickets, and then I was like, Oh. Maybe I should call my mom and make sure they can actually watch my kids that weekend.


This was a big step for us. See, I’ve never really left my kids with anyone else before. We stole a night away a couple of years ago when my mother-in-law was in town, but that was here in Austin. We were only a few miles away. This time they would be in a completely different setting where they’ve never slept before, and I would be over an hour away. Where would they all sleep? Could my parents and sister handle all three of them, plus my sister’s daughter? Would they brush their teeth?

I may be a bit of a control freak.

And then Lori was all, “Who cares?”


We got to Thackerville around 2:00, checked in, and headed downstairs to the casino to find our friends. Massive doesn’t exactly describe the WinStar – it’s an understatement – and I regretted not bringing my step counter, because I imagine I walked about 10 miles in the 22 hours we were there.

We hadn’t gambled since we got married and spent a couple of days in Shreveport. You know, the post-nuptials trip that you don’t really want to describe as a “honeymoon,” because spending 2 days in a musty-smelling riverboat isn’t exactly how you want your honeymoon to be perceived. But it is what it is. Christian was looking forward to playing some Blackjack, but I hadn’t planned on much of anything. Some of those Blackjack players were SERIOUS. I was like, “Dude. This is a $5 minimum bet. Take your drama over to the $10 table.”

Lori taught me how to play 3 Card Poker, so that’s where I lost most of my money. The odds were crappy and there was a $.50 ante every hand, but what the hell. It was more fun and comfortable and I didn’t have to pretend I wasn’t holding a flush, which is a shame, because I actually do have a killer poker face.

tears for fears concert

Look at us. We’re so Bri-ish!

Now you may laugh and say, “What in the hell is Tears for Fears doing playing in a ballroom in a casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma?” I’ll tell you what they were doing. They were killing it. 

Sometimes I think about bands that have been together for 30+ years (they did break up from ’91 – 2000), and I wonder if they still love the music, or are they just keeping their noses to the proverbial grindstone? Do they still get a thrill playing their biggest hits, or do they groan every time they have to play the songs that gave them their greatest success?

I really hope not. Roland and Curt (can I call you Roland and Curt?) really did seem to have a great time on stage with each other and with the rest of their band. They were personable and funny and oh-so-British.


The next day my children were all present and accounted for when I picked them up, and 30 minutes into our drive home I kinda wanted to take them back just a little.

And now, a million concert photos.

tears for fears concert

My friend Chris: “So which one’s Tears and which one’s Fears?”

tears for fears concert

Surely I’m not the only one who prefers present-day Roland to 80s Roland who wasn’t sure what to do with his curly hair?


tears for fears concert

Seriously, these guys aged, um, GRACEFULLY. Ahem.


tears for fears concert

Mad World indeed.



Middle age concert for the win. WOO HOO! I LOVE THIS SO—wait, I don’t know this one. Let’s all sit down until they play SHOUT.


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rare bird: a memoir of loss and love


If there is one sentence I can say to sum up how I truly feel about Anna Whiston-Donaldson’s Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love, it would be this:

This book is a gift.

And I will always feel like I cannot do this book justice in a review.


Just over three years ago, Anna was an ordinary mom with two children. Then one day, just over three years ago, Anna’s life was turned upside down when she lost her 12-year-old son, Jack, in a freak flash flood.

That summed up all I knew about Anna’s story before I read her book.

What I didn’t realize was how much I would be changed by reading Anna’s story, how much her journey through grief and pain and faith would comfort me. How it would make me a bigger believer in forces at work that are larger than all of us.

rare bird book review

Rare Bird is not meant to be a sad book. There are moments that made me tear up, moments that made me sob, and moments that left me heartbroken as Anna and her family grapple with the fact that life must indeed go on after losing her son. But as one makes their way through the book, Anna’s journey is peppered with surprises, signs, and incredible wisdom. I came away in awe of the unshakable faith in God that Anna describes Jack having. I came away comforted by the closeness that Anna felt with God as she grieved.

“It’s about anger and profound sadness, but also about a flicker of hope that comes from the realization that in times of heartbreak, God is closer than our own skin. It’s about His being real and showing up in the pain.”  — Anna Whiston-Donaldson, Rare Bird

Whether you’ve suffered a tragic loss or not, Anna’s words are relatable and her voice real. Because Rare Bird is not a story of a little boy dying. It is the journey of a family who endures one of the most difficult things imaginable and how they come together, fall apart, and live through this terrible time. Throughout the book, Anna is incredibly honest and transparent about her fears, her doubts, and even her faith, and how each of these plays a part in her tumultuous trek through grief.

But best of all, Rare Bird leaves the reader filled with hope in the knowledge that our loved ones are still with us long after they’ve gone. 

Rare Bird is a gift.


You can find Rare Bird at the following retailers:

Barnes and Noble
Convergent Books

You can find Anna at her blog, An Inch of Gray.


I received an advanced reader copy of Rare Bird for review. All opinions are my own.

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some stuff

Based on my traffic lately, two things are coming up: Halloween and training/race season. Thanks to that, these two posts of mine are getting crazy amounts of traffic:

No sew bat costumes for the super lazyno sew bat costumes bat wings diy

14 tips to pass the time on that long run



some stuff

buick enclave 2015

We had a chance to drive a Buick Enclave for a week, kind of as a last hurrah before school started. We took a day trip to San Antonio to go to SeaWorld, where we actually spent the entire day at Aquatica because Christian thought SeaWorld itself closed at 8, and we’d still have plenty of time to go check out a few exhibits we missed last time (I am a SeaWorld Wildside blogger, so we have season passes/fun cards). Only the whole park was closing at 6, so we had all of half an hour to book it over to the penguins – my favorite – before the park closed, only to find the entire penguin habitat pitch black. Turned out they were mimicking the penguins’ true habitat in Antarctica, which is completely dark this time of year. Boooo.

But Rachel DID make it over to see the stingrays about 324 times. Every time we went to the bathroom or walked through the park. It was borderline obsessive and completely adorable.

I pretty much wanted to marry that Enclave (I say EnCLAHVE, because it makes me feel fancy). It was really no bigger than my Explorer, and since the middle row contained bucket seats, we had to put 2 kids in the back and one in the middle row, meaning our storage was limited. But it still felt plenty roomy, and I would trade storage for satellite radio and a back seat entertainment system in a heartbeat, y’all. 

The only thing I didn’t care for – and this is a stretch – is that the doors all unlocked immediately upon putting the car in park. So as soon as my kids heard the caCHUNG of the doors unlocking, they were on their way out before I could warn them to BE CAREFUL! DON’T HIT THE CAR NEXT TO YOU! like the helicopter parent I am.

I’m sure that can be fixed with child locks and the like, because really, there isn’t much on that car that they didn’t think of. I want it back.

some links

One of my other homes, Free Fun in Austin, was named BEST LOCAL BLOG in the Austin Chronicle’s Best of Austin poll! Heidi works her tush off for that site, and it is well-deserved.

This story is a scary sign of our times. From Haiku of the Day: “Is everyone so terrified of the world that they sit in their Wall-E chairs, watching 24-hour “news,” rifles on their laps, and their phones pre-dialed to 911? How do we make sense of the dichotomy that our country is safer than it’s ever been and yet small town police departments have tanks and automatic weapons? How do we teach our children that it’s OK to play outside and to learn on their own, to enjoy a taste of freedom – but to be very, very careful when wearing a hoodie especially if they have dark skin?” (PS she’s from Austin.)

I can’t stop watching this video. I’m not a Taylor Swift fan, but these guys make me miss college. 

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super easy craft: diy bird plaque (+ new gallery wall!)

This project would work so many ways, I hate to call it something so terribly exciting and narrow as “diy bird plaque.” But, well, it’s a bird on a wooden plaque, so here we are.

photo 3

I’ve been putting together a gallery wall for my dining room for ages. Only it’s been all in my head, so the majority of the pieces have been leaning against the intended wall. The kids kept tripping on them, one of them broke, and I kept having to vacuum around them.

Actually my husband had to vacuum around them because he does 96% of the vacuuming around here.

My goal was to start it with several pieces, mixing sizes and styles, and expand the gallery wall as I collected more. Basically, I wast willing to wait until I had a whole wall’s worth of pieces. But I hadn’t hung anything yet because I felt like I needed a few more things to make it doable. I finally bit the bullet one weekend and decided that I needed to get it started. That tends to happen when you have a news crew coming to your house and you realize that the gigantic red wall you’ve been staring at for 8 years looks kinda stark. (More on news crew later. It’s ridiculous in the most fun way what happens when people find your blog sometimes.)

ANYWAY. Along with the framed items, I wanted to mix in other types of hangings. I discovered a package of bird prints that I had gotten from IKEA a while back (um, last year) tucked away in my craft shelves in the garage. None of the frames I had on hand were a fit for either the prints OR the gallery wall, since I was dangerously close to having too many plain, black frames of similar sizes. But I did have some wooden plaques sitting around from another project that never really saw its way to fruition.

bird prints

See, it kinda pays to hang onto stuff like a semi-hoarder, right?

I am going through a bird phase, and I love fun little bird prints. And then I just had the perfect idea for how to marry the prints and the plaques.


First step, I used some slightly old white craft paint to paint the plaque. Like, if paint came with an expiration date, this one would be well past its sell-by date. That’s the price I pay for being spontaneous. (Fun fact: I’m never spontaneous. Just woefully unprepared.)

Since I wanted the bird to blend into the plaque as much as possible, I needed the crispest white there was. It took a few coats, and because I’m lazy, I just let it glue itself to that paper I was using as a table cover. When it was dry I just tore the paper off. A wiser person might use an X-Acto knife.

diy bird plaque

Next I cut out the bird, getting as close to the edges of the illustration as I was comfortable. Because the fun lines of the outer edges of the bird needed to stay intact, I didn’t cut right along the lines.

I played with composition a bit with the bird to find exactly the right spot. The most pleasing compositions are slightly off-center, but depending on the image, sometimes smack dab in the center works too. I really wanted my bird friend to look like he was about to hop right off the plaque. Not to high, not too low, not too centered. I’m happy with where he landed.

diy bird plaque

I used Mod Podge to adhere the image to the plaque. After a few minutes (because I am impatient), I then covered the entire plaque with a layer of Mod Podge. It dries completely clear. Since the only brush I could find that was large enough to give me god coverage was an old oil painting brush of mine (coarse bristles) there are a few brushstrokes showing in my piece. A softer brush or even a foam brush will give a smoother finish. But like I said – impatient.

After the Mod Podge dried, I had to attach a doohickey on the back for hanging, like so.

I adhered it with Liquid Nails because I don’t mess around.

diy bird plaque

You may say that my dining room table is scratched up to hell. I prefer “rustic.”

And here it is, in its home on the not-quite-completed-but-at-least-I-got-started gallery wall.

diy bird plaque

From left to right: thrifted mirror with forest green frame, thrifted 3-d Italian villa-looking thingy, framed drawing of Rachel’s, Banksy’s Balloon Girl print, bird plaque, Stephen Dickerson print I bought at an art festival years ago, metal T, caffe latte.

You like the ring of beads hanging from my chandelier and that white spot that indicates a missing chunk of red wall? Me too.

I love the various sizes and styles of the pieces. Some of them are thrifted, and some came from other places in my home. The center piece is a Banksy print that my husband gave me for my birthday last year, and I love it to pieces. I am NOT in love with the Caffe Latte piece. I actually bought that with the intention of painting over the caffe latte. But that’s another spontaneous project for another spontaneous day.

diy bird plaque

Another view of the wall behind our dining room table. What’s funny is that I finally arranged a desk in my bedroom that gives me CLEAR WORKING SPACE PARAMETERS. I guess I missed sitting on this crappy bench in the middle of the chaotic house. But seeing as Zoe was next to me making snowflakes, I think the company was worth it.


What projects are you working on?


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kids are so unreliable

First grade started off kind of lacking in some fanfare. Rachel and Claire pretty much knew the drill, so there were no indignant cries of “We have to go back TOMORROW???” or crying each night because the day was too long.

We have, however, already started the ritualistic Refusing to Get Out of Bed.  And a few Battles of the Breakfast.

I try to get as much information out of them as I can, but it’s tough. Instead of “How was your day,” I ask specific questions about P.E. or art class or recess. Who did you sit next to at lunch? What did you do in music class? Why in heaven’s name do you never eat your grapes?

The problem is, they kind of like to make stuff up.

In Rachel’s class last week, they played Marco Polo, which also happens to be one of her favorite games. And Claire (who’s class is across the hall) was there. And another girl from Claire’s class. And Claire’s best friend (who is in an entirely different class). All convening in Rachel’s classroom to play Marco Polo. A standard part of the first grade curriculum, I’m sure. I chalked it up to excitement about the day and let it slide.


On the walk home one day, Claire described in great detail how she went on a field trip that morning. Just her and her teacher. To a farm. I asked her if she was thinking about how she went to the pumpkin patch the year before, but no, she assured me, she and her teacher rode a bus to a farm. Just the two of them.

“So…just you and Mrs. C?”

“Yeah. Oh, and Serenity.”

“Uh huh.”

On this delusional field trip, they held baby chicks and even got to bring one back, and they named her Coconut, and now I’m kind of suspecting that this story MIGHT contain a few embellishments. Like all of the embellishments. I’m also kinda jealous that I didn’t get to go to the farm.

So I said, “Coconut’s a really great name, but are you sure you really went to a farm today?”


I love that my girls have imaginations. Some might even use the term “overactive.” But all good things must come to an end, and since flat out calling your 6-year-old a liar is frowned upon, I decided it was time to bring her back to reality by asking her if this really happened, or if she was making it up. Basically, I threatened that if I asked her teacher, would their stories gel?

And she was all, “Oh, you’re right Mama. I was just kidding.”

Uh huh.


Earlier in the week I had asked Rachel if she remembered the names of the kids she sat next to, visualizing her desk near the backpacks, where it was on the first day of school.

“No. I don’t sit there anymore,” she told me.


“Yeah. I – I moved.” She stutters and looks all shifty-eyed, and I’m not sure if I believe her.

“Oh, why? Where to?”

“I sit over by Isabella [her bestie] now. Mrs. H moved me. Because she wanted me and Isabella to be together.”

“Uh huhhhhh……” I’m starting to lose confidence in her story. Who else do you sit next to? What part of the classroom is it in? The Marco Polo and the farm have made me cynical and suspicious.

So the next morning I walked her to her class as usual, because you can’t make me drop them at front the door yet, teachers. Please, just give me this.

I peeked into her room, and sure enough, her desk was in a completely different spot, practically back to back with her best friend.

So the moral of the story is that I have absolutely zero ability to tell when my kids are telling the truth or not, so they had better take advantage of this before I figure things out. Kids, this is your chance to stay out past curfew and spend time at some less-than-first-grade-approved locations. Just tell Mom and Dad you’re at the bouncy house at the mall.

And yesterday when Rachel pulled one of those “crazy straws” out of her backpack and said that a monster named Bloober gave it to her? I was like, “Okay! Whatever.”

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