Sunday, March 30, 2014

Progress Report

From the kitchen door

Grill Station

Stairway to Heaven
(See those little square "stones" in the middle of each step?
They light up! This just makes me happy!)

From the lower patio

Bar (and Grill)

The big picture
(Kitchen door on the right, grill in the middle and lower patio on the left)

The front bed

Front walkway, leading to the garage

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


  • I used a new formula of body scrub this morning to try to combat the ridiculous dry skin that this never-ending winter has made unbearable. It was a Vanilla Coconut Scrub (#5 on the list), that smelled divine and felt incredible on my skin. (I will just go ahead and count that as my Pin of the Week, even though it's been so long since I've done one, we might ought to call it Pin of the Month, or even more appropriate, Pin of the Quarter!)
  • During breakfast, Clay asked me what a Binglebob was. When I told him I didn't know, he explained to me, as if I were a special kind of dense, that it is a fish. 
  • I sent CC emails this morning, while assisting Max with some of his school work.
  • I had an opportunity to leave the house without children for a few hours to attend a class about doTerra essential oils. I have been fascinated with essential oils for a while now and was thrilled to get to do this. I can't wait until my oils arrive and I can try them out!
  • I didn't have lunch until 2:00. 
  • The landscapers, who are absolutely transforming our property, said there was a chance they might finish the project ahead of schedule, and we could be relaxing on the completed patio within the next week or so!
  • I was almost sideswiped by a wild turkey on my way to drop Ruth off at horse riding.
  • We picked up Max's t-ball uniform, and he is super excited for his game on Saturday.
  • I enjoyed some yummy Mexican food for dinner with the men of the family. Max's comment when we pulled into the parking lot: "You know what is so funny? That this is Mexican food, and it's not even in Mexico!"
  • I had a delicious dessert (while everyone else had dinner) in Liberty Hill at the Dahlia Cafe, with Ruth, my mom and my cousin's sweet wife. 
  • I left my baby girl with my mom for her first out-of-state trip without me. She and Nana are headed to NYC tomorrow, where they will meet up with Papa and have all kinds of amazing fun, I'm sure!
  • The cows knocked our trashes over, which they do every Wednesday evening or Thursday morning, because that's when we take the trashes out for the weekly collection. But this time we outsmarted them with bungee cords. Ha!
  • I ordered a tricorn hat for Weston for his half-birthday, because that is something he specifically wishes he owned and who am I to deny that kind of dream?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Opening Day

Weston and the A's had their first game this evening. Weston had a triple-double (which is a basketball term, I know, but that's a sport I actually know something about, so we're going to go with it): He hit two singles, crossed home plate two times, and got two outs as first baseman. I think it's safe to say he had a blast!

Awesome outfielder!

First time up to the plate...

…lands him on first!

Rounding the bases

Sliding into home

Making a play at first

Monday, March 24, 2014

Strong-willed, to the HNL

There is a child in our family who takes strong-willedness to the HNL. If you know our family personally, you know who I'm talking about. This child is intense, to say the least. When he was a toddler, I spiraled into depression, thinking I had failed, not only as a parent, but as a person, because I didn't know how to deal with him. As he and I have grown as people and have learned more how to control our respective emotions, I have found much delight in his intensity. He is all-in, for better or worse, reminding me of the old poem about the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead: "When she was good, she was very good indeed, But, when she was bad, she was horrid."

In the last year or so, we have been learning better, through trial and error, how to handle this strong-willed one. What he craves and demands is respect. We are embracing a discipline system that utilizes those needs of his. Just today, I videoed him throwing a passionate fit while refusing to do his Math assignment. He despised having to sit and watch it when he finally calmed down enough to see it. But, then, I gave him an opportunity to make a new video that he could be proud of. One in which he could see himself as a hard worker and a big boy. He loved the second video! I asked him if he wanted me to delete the first video, which, of course, he did. Then, I made a deal with him: As long as he was behaving in a way that he would be proud to watch on video and be proud to show to others, we would keep the second video. But, if he chose to revert to the previous behaviors, we would make a new video to replace the one he was so proud of. Throughout the day, just the mention of making a new video was enough to get him to change his tune. It was a discipline method that worked. For today. I fully expect to have to come up some other creative means of reigning him in at some point in the future.

He is, according to this article (that I unfortunately didn't come across until I had already discovered most of these things for myself, but that I'm glad to have in writing to refer to on my less confident days) "a person of integrity who isn't easily swayed from his own viewpoint." Hmm. That's some really useful perspective. Thinking of him as a person of integrity, rather than a disobedient rebel helps me help him through the struggle of growing up and will hopefully allow us both to escape mostly unscathed from this tumultuous childhood.

Perhaps your family also has a very special, HNL, strong-willed child, who will someday change (or rule) the world. Maybe you are beating your head against a wall, like I have done so many times (and still do so often). I want you to know that you are not alone. If you can glean anything from my experience or the tips in the article, I definitely want you to do that. And, if, in your experience, you've come across a thing or two that works (even if only occasionally), I'd love for you to share.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

I had forgotten

It has been at least six months (not an exaggeration) since we have had a free Saturday at home, with nothing on the schedule. So, yesterday actually came as sort of a shock to me. I had forgotten what it's like to sleep in, and to take care of neglected chores around the house, and to sit and read for more than a handful of minutes at a time. It was just the right mix of productive and restful. A blessing I had forgotten I needed, or even wanted, but am so very glad I received.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Best Day

Well, I don't normally do two posts in one day, but this day just requires it, because it was quite possibly the best day ever. It was the first day of spring, and our little part of the world celebrated by acting truly spring-like. I wore flip-flops today for the first time in months (even though I am badly in need of a pedicure). Our bluebonnets have come out of their shells and are starting to show off. Great progress is being made on our landscaping project. And, our palapas for our man-made, non-quite-finished, private "beach" arrived today, and that just pushed us over the edge of happiness. We popped the tops of some chilled Mojitos, turned on the ocean sounds app, pulled the grill around and had our first official patio party. I'm pretty sure this is what Heaven is like.

front retaining wall and back decorative stone wall

view from the bottom patio looking at the back of the house

back of the house, with the palapas peeking around the corner

The "Beach" in the back

retaining wall along kid's side of house

First lovelies of the season


enjoying our own little piece of paradise

Fly Boys

Max and Clay had an opportunity this morning to go to a Junior Freedom Flyers class in Burnet, where they got to tour an airplane hanger, learn about airplanes and even build some of their own. As a bonus, we saw several planes and a helicopter land and take off while we were there. The boys were absolutely thrilled and enjoyed every minute!

What a wing span!

Checking out the real planes and learning about rudders

Learning about all the parts with a coloring activity

Clay's model plane

Amazed by his plane

Ready for take off

Modified plane being launched with a ruler

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A new season for sports

Jeff and Ruth are taking archery classes in Austin.

Weston is playing baseball for the A's

Max is playing t-ball for the Red Sox

Monday, March 17, 2014

Life Lessons from Improv Class

Jeff and I finished our improv class before Spring Break, but I haven't taken the time to put down my thoughts about it. It was a wonderful experience overall, even though parts of it were hard, uncomfortable and exhausting. For us, it wasn't about acting or being funny, it was just about learning to be better people and how to roll with whatever life throws at us. After all, what is life but a great improvisation, despite our best efforts to plan it all out? I think a class like this would be beneficial to anyone, so if you're feeling brave and want to stretch yourself a bit, give it a try. (We think it's so great, we are planning to enroll our kids in an improv summer camp). I think there are classes all over, but we took our class at The Hideout Theatre in Austin. They have tons of classes and great staff. Here are some of the life lessons we learned:

  • Have fun. This is the most important thing! 
  • It's o.k. to fail. In fact, sometimes the greatest failures produce the greatest successes. Acknowledge the failure, laugh at yourself, and then move on. You don't accomplish anything by dwelling on the failure, except to ensure more failure. 
  • Be obvious. It's o.k. to say, think, feel, or act out the thing that is most obvious. Many times this will be a relief to those around you, because they don't have to try to figure you out. And, this, in turn, will make things run much smoother. 
  • Be affected. It's o.k. to be affected by others, to let your guard down, to give up or share control sometimes. It's also important to ask for details and the feelings of others, and to be willing to share your own. 
  • "Yes, and." This is one of the most amazing principles of improv. Acknowledge a situation, emotion, statement, etc. without trying to resist it or judge it ("Yes"), then go from there to make it your own ("and"). "Yes, and" works every time, however "Yes, but" and "Yes, or" don't work, because they bring in judgement and conflict and keep you from moving forward. I dare you to try this in everyday life. It's a game changer. 
  • Taking it a step further, "Yes, and, because" works the best, because it allows you to give meaning to every situation. 
  • Be in the moment. Don't be distracted by what has already happened or what you think might happen. Sometimes it's important to act like no other moment exists except the one you're in. Also, don't let your mind wander. Train yourself to focus just on this moment, just on this subject, just on this person, etc. 
  • Be committed. Be all-in, for better or worse. I was able to apply this principle on our ski trip when moving down the mountain. I noticed that the times I fully committed to my turns, I skied very well. When I couldn't quite make up my mind and hesitated or became wishy-washy, I lost my balance and almost tumbled down the mountain. A few times on difficult blues and blacks, I even said out loud to myself, "Commit!" It made all the difference. 
  • Confidence is key. Speak and act with confidence (even if you have to "fake it to make it")--like you mean it and like you believe it. Sometimes this can be as simple as changing your body language or words: having an upright posture, making eye contact, speaking in complete sentences, enunciating vs. looking down/averting your gaze, touching your face, mumbling, giving one-word answers, being fidgety, drawing yourself inward. 
  • A similar principle is the idea of "Jump and Justify." Jump in with words or actions, even if you're nervous or unsure, then justify why they are meaningful. Very often in my life, I have tried to justify first, and then I never got around to jumping. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Pi Day, all day long

We kicked off our Pi Day celebration at lunch time,
with this delicious pecan pie from Goode Company, in a very appropriately labeled box.

And the party continues, with Mimi's amazing homemade pies this evening.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Red River Day Five

We made the most of our last day here at Red River by going on every lift and skiing on every color of slope, some of which were very challenging, but nothing our little pros couldn't handle. We also threw in a few other fun activities, like lunch at the top of the mountain and tubing at the end of the day. The kids say this is their favorite vacation they have ever been on, so I suspect it won't be too long before they are hitting us up to do this again. Thanks for coming along with us. We'll see you back in the real world soon.

Scavenger Hunt at the top of the mountain

Aspen forest and blue skies

Moonstar Mining Camp

Our lunch time view

Lunch at the top of the mountain

Weston braving a small black (The Face)

Ruth takes on "The Face"

Though Max slid part of the way down "The Face" on his face,
when he regained his footing, he was like a pro.

Tubing at the end of the day

Spinning out of control

So much fun!

Throwing 'noballs

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Red River Day Four

Ruth coming off a jump

Max nails the landing

Perfecting the "pizza slice"


Beautiful Red River

Mr. Winter

A little bundle of cute

"You picture of me, Mom?"

Loving the snow

Playground fun

Other noteworthy tidbits:

  • I forgot my camera, so the few pictures I took on the slopes were taken with my phone. And, that's hard to do with gloves on! (The phone pics plus the gloves probably help to explain the poor quality of the photos.)
  • This was the first day of skiing that we haven't had to purchase a new pair of sunglasses for one member of our group. Lost or broken glasses seem to be a somewhat normal occurrence on the slopes, and may be equally experienced by child or grown-up. 
  • During the course of a spectacular crash, Weston tried to rearrange some of the signage with his shin on his first run of the day. But, once he recovered from that (mostly from the fear of that), he really got the hang of skiing and was finally able to master the little green practice slope. 
  • Ruth and Max and I were looking for a little more challenge, so we decided to try out a few jumps. (Actually, I WAS NOT seeking out this type of challenge. I only agreed to participate at the insistence of the kids. Thankfully, I didn't fall on any of my three times through the jump course!)
  • Everyone was comfortable enough on their skis this afternoon to move on to the bigger lift and one of the more challenging green slopes. 
  • Clay has been hanging out in the daycare every day that we've been skiing, and he has had a few interesting things to report to us each day. The first day, when asked what they did in his class, he began naming things while numbering them on his fingers: "There was changing. And there was pooping." Then, he told us he was kicking and hitting his friends. Yesterday, he reported that one of his friends was crying and saying he wanted his mom but it wasn't him. And, today, he declared that his friend was "the hairy one." (This was a kid named Harry.) He has really been loving his "class" and looks forward to going every day. 
  • When the ski day was over and we had recovered a bit, Jeff and I decided to walk the boys down to a little park to use up the rest of their energy. There is a neat covered bridge spanning a lovely little creek and a playground, where they played until Jeff and I were almost frozen. The boys, however, seemed completely oblivious to the cold. 
  • It was s'more night again at the lodge. Apparently, everyone staying here right now is from Austin, so it was fun to chat with everyone around the fire, while the kids played and we all enjoyed the ooey gooey s'mores.