Tuesday, January 31, 2012

For you fashionistas out there: HELP!

For me, clothes have always been more about function than fashion. I wear what's comfortable and what's affordable. I don't follow fashion trends. I don't even know what's cool. In fact, when I look at magazines that discuss fashion or (rarely) visit trendy boutiques, I usually end up feeling like I just don't get it. In the past, I have tried to look "nice" but really haven't cared about being "fashionable." But lately, just walking into my closet makes me feel frumpy and unattractive. And, if I ever do try to put together a somewhat fashionable outfit, I end up feeling like I'm playing dress-up or that I haven't quite hit what I was aiming for. I need to spice things up, but I don't even know where to begin. I SERIOUSLY NEED SOME HELP! That's where you all come in. I know some of you out there have an eye for fashion. Tell me where you shop. Give me some go-to brands. Send me some online shopping links. Explain to me what goes with what. Or better yet, just go out and buy me several outfits and come over and put them together for me.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Culinary Adventures

In the last couple of weeks, we've tried some new and wonderful things in the kitchen. Our first adventure was making our own sushi. We didn't have bamboo sushi mats, so we got a little redneck and purchased bamboo place mats from Wal-Mart. They worked beautifully, and we were able to make extra-long rolls. Since it was our first attempt at sushi, we didn't want to get too wild, so we just stuck with California Rolls, Tuna Rolls and Tuna Sushi. Everything was absolutely delicious, and I even made my peace with Wasabi. We will definitely be having another sushi party in the not-too-distant future.

Ready to roll

California Roll

On Friday evening, we took on another fun culinary challenge by making our own pasta. We received pasta attachments for our Kitchen-Aid mixer a couple of years ago as a gift, and we've talked at length about using them, but somehow, have just never gotten around to it. Well, I can tell you, we will definitely be using them often in the future! We decided to try a fettucini pasta and a homemade use-up-all-the-leftovers-in-the-fridge sauce. We got the pasta a little too fat, but, man, was it tasty! And, much easier than I expected.

extra-long noodles

And, tonight, Jeff made the most amazing paprika chicken fajitas, with cilantro pesto and black bean and corn salsa. They were, quite possibly, the best fajitas we have EVER had--and we've had some good fajitas! (Sorry, I have no picture. I was too busy stuffing my face)!

If you know the Watts, you know we love to cook, and we love to eat. And, we really enjoy trying new techniques and recipes. If you have any must-trys for us, please feel free to share.  

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Pinewood Derby

The "W" racer with a jet engine--designed completely by Weston

careful placement on the track

Friday, January 27, 2012

This Week

  • Jeff worked in Dallas until Wednesday, and his time there seemed to be very productive. 
  • I was also productive, taking on some little projects around the house--a first stab at cleaning out the garage, feet on the highchair, deep-cleaning of leather furniture, a small painting project, a pantry organizing project, Spring Break trip planning session, fridge clean-out, ordering a couple of parts for a couple of kitchen appliances, unpacking several neglected boxes in the loft.
  • Max missed school and martial arts on Monday because he was running fever and complaining of ear pain over the weekend.
  • Weston had a trial run with his Pinewood Derby car.
  • Dr. confirmed an ear infection in Max's other ear and tested him for RSV. Thankfully, that came back negative, and she is giving Max a conditional reprieve from antibiotics. He is taking allergy medicine and a decongestant to try to clear out some of the fluid.
  • Clay finally got his dot up on the first line of the growth chart, which allowed him to escape blood testing and not have to come back for a weight check for a month!
  • Ruth met a reading goal and has been planning a party for tonight to celebrate.
  • I started (and continued) the second week of workouts for the Couch to 5K plan. (Jeff and I are not following the weekly schedule but are moving a bit slower. We started on week 1 right after the New Year).
  • It rained and rained and rained!
  • Weston caught a coon in his trap--the first he has caught at our house.
  • My van wouldn't start when it was time to go get Max from school on Wednesday, and of course, it was before Jeff got home from Dallas. Thankfully, my wonderful neighbor was available to come give me a jump. 
  • My van wouldn't start on Thursday, when it was time to go to CC. And, of course, Jeff was at a meeting in Marble Falls. But, he was able to wrap up the meeting quickly, come home and give me a jump, and follow me into town to take the van in for a new battery.
  • Max had the mother of all fits yesterday afternoon at CC. He was tired and his emotions just got the better of him, and he couldn't control them (and neither could I). My CC friends were very supportive and didn't make me feel like a horrible parent. And, when Max had played himself out, he crashed and woke up with a much more pleasant disposition.
  • An old family friend, who we haven't seen in a long time, came by for a nice visit.
  • Clay was snotty, poopy, fevery, and sort of sad, as he worked on bringing in a new tooth.
  • Jeff received the first completed course for Strong Academy for the fall semester from a professor he hired to develop the curriculum (from syllabus to power point slides to quizzes), and it is awesome. 
  • I consciously decided to use sunglasses as a headband to keep the head squeezing down and the cool factor up.
  • First time making our own pasta...but not the last.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Grapevine weekend

Encouraged by our relatively successful night away a couple of weeks ago, the ramping up of another travel season for Jeff and the offer of grandparents to babysit, Jeff and I decided to slip away to Grapevine for the whole weekend.

We dropped the kids off with Mimi and Grandpa on Friday afternoon, and then made our way to the Killeen airport in two cars. We left the van there for me to pick up on Sunday afternoon, since Jeff would be staying in Grapevine for a few days, promoting his school, and I would be flying back. We enjoyed uninterrupted adult conversation and very few potty stops as we proceeded from there to Grapevine.

Our first destination was the Texas Star Dinner Theater, where we enjoyed a wonderful meal and a comical who-done-it, acted out amongst the dinner tables. We had such a great time, we weren't surprised that both shows of the weekend had been sold out. After dinner, we made our way to our hotel, not far away.

We slept in on Saturday, which is such a novelty since we have little kids at home, who struggle to wake up on school days, but never fail to see the dawn's early light on weekends. When we were finally up and about, we grabbed a muffin from the market in the lobby, and then headed over to Grapevine Mills for a unique movie theater experience. It was a dine-in theater, with a full menu of tasty food and drink options. Dine-in theater we had experienced before, but what made this one unique was that all of the seats were fancy recliners with their own tables and waiter call buttons. We saw the movie The Descendants, which was certainly not the best movie I've ever seen--though definitely not the worst, either. Overall, though, the experience was quite enjoyable.

After the movie, we wandered back over to the hotel, where we donned our swimsuits and spent some time in the hot tub, before having a nice little nap. When it was time to choose a dinner venue, we settled on Javier's in Dallas. The food there is authentic Mexican and delicious, and the atmosphere is charming. One review we read said "it is a place to go to see and be seen." Just standing in the parking lot full of $100,000 cars made me feel like a bit of a celebrity. I didn't see anyone I recognized as famous, but I'm sure glad all the other patrons saw me. I'm sure they were all very impressed! (smile.wink.)

We finished dinner and headed downtown for the next fun event on our agenda: an improv comedy show called Ad-Libs. Though we were among the more sober audience members, we still found the show to be very funny. We were actually sort of thankful for the crazy crowd, because our table was right up front and center, and we were afraid we were going to be picked on. However, the actors found plenty of other people to pick on and left us alone to just enjoy the show. We admire improv actors so much for their ability to come up with all sorts of hilarity on the spot, and we always enjoy seeing improv live.

This morning we breakfasted at the Old West Cafe, before heading over to the airport to await my flight. It was such a fun weekend and a much-needed time of reconnection for us. We are so thankful to Jeff's parents for making it possible for us to get away, and we hope it won't be too long before we can slip off on another adventure.

(Apparently, when my children aren't with me, I also forget that my camera is with me. I don't have a single picture from the entire weekend).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What's Up, Doc?

Here's a glimpse at my calendar for January:

Jan. 5--Max pediatrician 9:30
           Clay weight check 9:30
           Ruth orthodontist 3:00
Jan.6--Weston audiologist 9:30
Jan. 9--Mandi doc 10:30
Jan. 17--Jeff dentist 8:00
            Max dentist 8:30
            Weston ENT 10:30
Jan. 18--Ruth dentist 12:30
            Weston dentist 1:00
            Mandi dentist 1:30
Jan. 24--Max pediatrician 9:30
             Clay weight check 9:30

I have never spent so much time in waiting rooms.

(And, in case you're curious, Max was seeing the pediatrician for an ear infection and will be going back in next week for the follow up. Clay has gained a few ounces but still isn't on the chart. He will go back next week, and if he still isn't on the chart will undergo a few blood tests just to make sure there isn't any problem lurking under the radar. Ruth got green rubber bands put on her braces. I was having my knee injury from Thanksgiving looked at before starting an exercise program. Weston had a hearing test with the audiologist, who recommended he see the ENT. The ENT said that Weston doesn't really have hearing loss, but that he hears like someone with fingers in their ears. The ENT also discovered a sinus infection and put Weston on antibiotics and nasal spray to hopefully clear out some of the fluid in the ears before reevaluating early next month. And the whole family was cavity-free!)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

This Ol' House

As I've mentioned before, new house does not perfect house make. So, we've been dealing with a couple of issues this week. Not long after we moved in, a tile popped off the staircase and broke. Recently, several more tiles popped off and some grout started coming up. I should back up at this point in the story for some background info. The man we originally hired to do the tile did a TERRIBLE job. He and Jeff had a heated argument, he was fired, and the next thing we knew, one of our hot water heaters was missing. (Now, I don't know for sure that he took it, but the timing was crazy suspicious). Anyway, Jeff hired a couple of other guys to come over and fix the first guy's mess. They did fix it, to the best of their ability, but warned us at the time that it might not be a permanent fix. Unfortunately, it lasted an even shorter time than they thought. So, they were here today, re-fixing it. They are still not fully confident that this is going to do it, but we are keeping our fingers crossed, because the worse case scenario is that we have to rip out ALL of it and start over.

We also recently started having some dryer problems. We called someone to come check the exhaust vents. When he got here, he couldn't find the exhaust vents. BECAUSE THEY AREN'T THERE! Apparently, the vents were put in place while the masons were putting the stone on the outside of the house. Something was placed over the top of the vents to prevent stone and mortar from getting in, and then the roof people came along and roofed right over the vents, without ever realizing they were there, and without ever cutting a place for them in the roof. WE HAVE BEEN RUNNING OUR DRYER ALL THIS TIME WITHOUT HAVING IT VENT OUT. Of course we're having dryer problems! I am just so very thankful we didn't catch the house on fire. Now, we are waiting on a call back from the roof people to see when they can come cut some vent holes for us. And then, of course, we will have to have the vents vacuumed out. 

And, I just found out that something weird is going on with one of our garage doors! Ugh!

But even with all this, I still just love our house so much! It's not perfect, but it is ours. And it's a beautiful, wonderful, perfectly happy place to be!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Party

Birthday Boy

downhill racer

Taking a whack at the pinata

Tow Mater sandwiches for lunch 
talking Tow Mater

Max-sized tent

Tow Mater cake--it's almost too much to take in!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Intensely Four

Hey, Mac-O. Today we are celebrating four fun years with you! You have grown up so much this year, and I don't mind telling you this has been my favorite year with you, so far. There are many words to describe you, Max. You are smart, funny, cute, silly, competitive, helpful, sweet, energetic, fast, athletic, muscular, sneaky, creative and charming. But I think the word that fits you best is intense. Whatever you are feeling or doing, you are all in. You are intensely passionate about everything, which is something I absolutely love about you--and also something that sort of drives me crazy at times. I believe that, in addition to getting you into some trouble, this intensity will serve you very well during the course of your life.

You became a big brother in May, and you take that job very seriously. You are always helping with Clay, and making sure we are taking good care of him. You play with him and love on him. You read to him and sing him songs. You love him SOOO much, and he is lucky to have you in his life!

You started preschool in the fall--three days a week. At first you weren't too sure about it, mostly because I think you thought you were missing out on something fun at home. But it wasn't long before you were telling me that "it would really be better if [you] could go out for two recesses, rather than just one," which meant you wanted to be able to stay at school longer on the days you were there. You don't give me many details about your days there when I ask, but if I pay attention, it is easy to pick up on all that you are learning there. You have learned all the letters and the sounds they make, many of the numbers, lots of fun songs and several Bible stories. You can also write your name with the letters in the correct order now. Your classmates are always very excited to see you, and your teachers brag on you all the time. One of your teachers even told me last semester that she often uses you a model of good behavior for your classmates to mimic.

You became obsessed with Tow Mater this past summer, when we saw the real truck they patterned the movie character off of on our Route 66 trip. You now have a plan to own the "real" Tow Mater when you grow up, along with a blue dump truck, a shredder and a cement truck.

We enrolled you in martial arts this week, after seeing that you had watched and memorized almost every move from Ruth's classes. You definitely have a need to be active, and we are hoping this will give you an outlet for some of that energy.

You are still our most finicky eater, sometimes gobbling down insane amounts of food, and sometimes not even taking one bite. You love almost all fruits and many veggies, grilled steak (your words, not mine), pizza, sausage, venison and pretty much anything sweet. You call every meal lunch and every meat chicken. And you may well be the thirstiest person I have ever known.

You love to play sports, climb trees, shoot (play) guns, build tracks for your trains and cars, draw pictures, squirrel things away, go adventuring and make up stories. You are a whiz on your grandparents' ipads, just naturally knowing how to get it to do what you want. You are still attached at the hip to Charlie Beetle, but when we opened up moving boxes, you found Popeye (a stuffed dog), and he has been tagging along with you and Charlie quite a lot since September. When you want to be extra-sweet to Clay, you bring him your special friends to play with.

It has been so much fun watching you learn and grow this year. You are really starting to seem more like a big boy to me. I am often very impressed with you, and I'm always so proud of you. You are such a neat person, and I'm thankful that I get to be your mom. I love you so very much! You are my very favorite four-year-old! Happy Birthday!


Monday, January 09, 2012


Jeff and I left ALL the kids with my parents yesterday and made our way to San Antonio. I had some backlogged birthday gifts to cash in: September's sleepover, November's musical date and January's dinner out with no kids. We checked in to our river-view room at the Riverwalk Westin and then headed out for some river strolling and awesome people watching. (I am not even kidding when I tell you we saw Elvis)! Our goal was to try to visit some places--preferably serving Mexican food--along the river that we hadn't been before. The weather was absolutely perfect for our little walk-about and for patio dining. We came across the Mexican Manhattan restaurant in a less-travelled corner of the river and decided to have drinks and appetizers. The drinks were delicious, and the nachos were some of the most unique we have seen. They were also pretty tasty. After that, we had to pick up my jacket at the hotel, where I managed to nearly rip the pocket off my pants while retrieving my room key. After a wardrobe change, we were back out on the Riverwalk, taking in the sights and enjoying the weather, the lack of children to corral, and each other's company. Eventually, we came across another place we wanted to try: Las Paloma. We shared an excellent shrimp dish and enjoyed some unique cocktails. Shortly after we finished eating, I realized my phone was missing, so we retraced our steps to the hotel and the previous restaurant. Thankfully, the restaurant had the phone and I could relax once more. Our final eating destination for the evening was The Esquire Tavern, which purports to be the oldest bar on the Riverwalk. It was a very cool, old building, with beautiful fixtures. We tried some drinks we had never had before and then had a very yummy fried apple pie with Bourbon carmel. The dessert was really wonderful, though I wasn't really crazy about the drinks. We had a good laugh about eating and drinking our way down the river. We had primo patio tables at each location, which made the whole experience super-fun. After dessert, we decided to take a ride on one of the river boats. It was such a lovely evening.

This morning, we slept in and then went out in search of a place along the river offering a nice Sunday brunch. We found just what we were looking for at Las Canarias. Once again, we scored a perfect patio table. The brunch was truly amazing, and we stuffed ourselves completely. Our main reason for being in San Antonio this weekend was to see Les Miserables at the Majestic Theater. We had seen the show once before, in college, and it was wonderful once again. We love San Antonio and have gone often, but this may have been our favorite trip there. We are so very thankful to Nana and Papa for taking on our crew so we could have this time together!

View of the river from our balcony

Right outside the hotel

Trees all aglow 

Night view from the balcony

Thursday, January 05, 2012

8 months

My Little Bitty is 8 months old. He is getting better at executing a proper crawl, but he still reverts to the army crawl when he really wants to get somewhere in a hurry. However, what he would really like to do is get up and walk, I think. He has an awesome bear stance, which he can turn into a perfect sitting position. This kid has a crazy big appetite, but it isn't helping much with the weight gain. He weighs 15 pounds, 10 1/2 ounces, but he still hasn't found his place on the growth chart yet. He has set a Watts kid record by producing a tooth in the last week, outpacing the others by a good two months, at the earliest. Maybe with the addition of teeth, he will be able to add steak to his diet and put on a few pounds. He has outgrown the 0-3 month clothes and is even wearing a few 6 month onesies. But most of his wardrobe still consists of 3-6 month stuff and size 2 diapers. He had a great time splashing in the water at Great Wolf Lodge, but he also enjoyed many a nap poolside. He is very good about playing quietly by himself and is just the most content little guy. But, he also loves to interact with his siblings and pretty much anyone who will stop and talk to him. He has the cutest little laugh and he feverishly kicks both feet when he's excited. What a special little blessing he is!

Great Wolf Lodge

We were looking for a little get-away for just the six of us while Jeff was between recruiting gigs, and a little vacation to the Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine fit the bill perfectly. It is a hotel/indoor water park, with something for everyone. And we all had a blast!

Welcome to the lodge

View from the lobby

Ready to play

Splish Splash

Lazy River

First time down the green slide

Just coming off the slide

It doesn't get much better than boats and guns

Wolf tail accessory

Copying big sister
Flaunting the tail

King of the lily pads

Clock tower story time

Max and Violet

Warming up by the fire

Four cuties and a big bear

Origami wolf

Water Baby

Ruth (in the turquoise swimsuit) about to get soaked...

...by this deluge!
All tuckered out

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

years ending and beginning

2011 brought us a new baby, a new house and a couple of new job opportunities, as well as many adventures. We were blessed in so many ways! The last couple of weeks were full of food, family and fun. And 2012 has us on another adventure, which I will write about soon. I hope you all had a wonderful 2011, and I pray that 2012 will be full of blessings for you.