Friday, February 27, 2015

He may look like a Mexican, but he's all Texan

The boys and I have been diving into Texas history recently, which is always a favorite subject around here. We have been reading about The Alamo and the heroes who defended it, and we've been talking about Texas' Independence, which seems so appropriate as we approach Texas Independence Day on Monday. We are also planning a field trip to the Alamo for next weekend. All of us are caught up in the excitement of the courage and bravery and honor of a people seeking liberty, but perhaps none of us more than Clay.

This morning, after breakfast, he disappeared into his room for a while. When he reappeared, he had his sombrero secured to his pants with a belt or two and declared, "I'm a Mexican." I quickly retorted, "Mind if we call you Santa Anna?" He did not miss a beat, but looked me right in the eye and said, "No! I'm on the Texans team!" Don't tell me his little ears aren't listening!

Victory or Death!

Monday, February 23, 2015

South Beach

Several weeks ago, Jeff had a business trip to Phoenix. One of the nights he was gone, he texted to say that he wished I was there. I texted back that I wished I was there, too, and then half-jokingly added that we should plan a weekend getaway for ourselves sometime soon. He immediately texted back, without joking, to say that if I would figure out a weekend and arrange kid sitting, that he would plan us a fun weekend. With an idea that our alone time might be severely challenged in the next couple of years, as we travel around the world, and being in the midst a very stressful time, it seemed like the perfect time to get away. So, everything was arranged, and I knew we were going somewhere, but I didn't have any clue as to where. This weekend finally arrived, and we dropped the kids off with Jeff's brother (and family) in Houston, on Friday evening, and then pointed our vehicle toward the airport. It was only then that I found out our destination was to be Miami, specifically, South Beach. Neither of us had ever been there before, and we had such a lovely time! I miss it already!

The W Hotel (clockwise):
The W from the beach, looking left from our balcony, looking right from our balcony,
Hello Kitty fountain, hidden table in the garden by the pool, light fixture in room,
amazing bouquet of lilies in one of the attached restaurants

Art in Collins Park

Crazy Cars

South Beach

We experienced some fantastic cuisine while in South Beach--
everything from Mediterranean to Cuban to Peruvian, etc.!
The SOBE Wine and Food Festival was also going on,
so all the stars from Food Network and The Cooking Channel
(the only stars we really know anything about) were around,
doing food demos and hosting incredible events on the beach and in the local restaurants.
We caught Giada de Laurentiis hanging out in one of the restaurants in our hotel.

(Clockwise: orange juicer at the Peruvian restaurant, churros at The Dutch--where Giada was seen the following day,
Cuban deliciousness,  lobster roll at the poolside grill, Giada, Peruvian sangria, SOBE WFF tent on the beach)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The joy of lower expectations

For much of the time Jeff and I were dating, we were in a long-distance relationship, and we only saw each other on weekends, if that often. Just about every time Jeff showed up at my doorstep, he delivered a lovely bouquet of flowers or at least a stem or two. Imagine my shock and surprise after we got married and all that sweetness seemed to come to a screeching halt. It's not that he wasn't ever sweet or romantic. It's just that we lived in the real world--together--and that level of awesome is too much for anyone to live up to. But, still, I was disappointed and sometimes angry, which didn't inspire Jeff to bring me flowers more often and only sapped the joy out of our relationship at times. I didn't even know I had an expectation, until I would catch myself saying in my heart, "He used to bring me flowers, but he never does that any more."

When I started having children, and when they were big enough, I thought, "I'll just teach them how to put their things away and clean up after themselves, and my house will stay clean." Wasn't I surprised to find out that that is the furthest thing from reality that could possibly be. I have taught the kids how to clean up after themselves, but the house certainly doesn't stay clean. (And, that's not just because of the kids!) This has often led to me feeling stressed and frustrated, and taking that out on the people around me, even though expecting six people who live and work and school at home to keep the house clean all the time is pretty crazy, when you stop to think about it.

It's not just relationships that suffer from the Exasperation of Expectation. Sometimes, I put unreasonable expectations on myself (especially when comparing myself to someone else). Or on other drivers on the road. Or on the washing machine. But I have been learning (and relearning, over and over again!) that there is joy in lowering expectations. 

I don't mean lowering in a sense of becoming negative or pessimistic about things. I mean it more in the sense of letting go of all expectations, so that I can look for opportunities to be thankful for the things that exceed my (non-existent) expectations. That is, so I can be thankful for all the things. I'm working on a new life motto: Expect nothing, appreciate everything. And, you know what, there really is joy there.

My hubby still brings me flowers sometimes. And, since I don't ever expect him to do so, it gets me every time. I'm all giddy and silly, and just plain happy. And, when my kids put their dishes in the sink after dinner, without having to be reminded--or better yet, when they just decide to load the dishwasher because it needs to be done--I breath it in as a breath of fresh air, and my heart rejoices. 

Unreasonable expectations lead to grumbling and complaining--sometimes inwardly and sometimes outwardly--which leads to discontent and unhappiness. But letting go of those lofty expectations provides an opportunity to be thankful and happy in the face of any circumstance. I've been struggling with this the last couple of weeks, so I decided to write it down to remind myself. When I'm out of whack emotionally, I can usually (eventually) trace it to some misplaced or unreasonable expectation. 

If you're feeling overwhelmed with frustration or disappointment or anger, I dare you to give it a try. Let go of your expectations, and let life surprise you with a million little things to be thankful for. And, just see if that attitude of gratitude doesn't make you happy.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

3/8 of 100

Today is my half-birthday, and my mathematically inclined husband informed me that I am now exactly 3/8 of 100. If that's not something to be excited about, I'd like to know what is. If you've been following this blog for a while, you know that half-birthdays are kind of a big deal (on a small scale) around here. Basically, the half-birthday person gets to pick dinner, and if that person is also under 18, he or she also usually gets a small gift. Obviously, that last part didn't apply here, but my sweet kiddos did write me some special notes. Dinner was a no-brainer: Mexican. Deciding where to have the Mexican food was a little harder, but I finally decided on Iron Cactus, where we had so much fun sharing most of the appetizers and desserts on the menu around the table. 3/8 of 100 = awesome (as you can see from the note Weston wrote to me)!

Flattery AND secret code

Bs and Ds are still a little confusing, but "dorthbay" is kind of a cool word. 

Ruth knows the way to my heart is through the beach!

My people are the very best people!

Monday, February 09, 2015

Texas Realtor of the Year

My dad was awarded Texas Realtor of the Year tonight, and we were honored to get to celebrate with he and my mom at a special reception in Austin. The fun part was, he didn't know he was receiving the award or that any of his family (aside from my mom) would be there. He was genuinely surprised, which made it all the more special! We are proud of him and all his accomplishments, and we thoroughly enjoyed the party!

Texas Realtor of the Year and his beautiful bride

Max was pretty excited about the sliders;
he couldn't even put it down for a picture!


being silly

Papa and the youngest members of the celebratory crew

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Science Expo

Here is a video of Ruth giving her presentation at the Science Expo (practice science fair, with just friends and family) yesterday. The sound is not super loud, so I suggest you turn your volume all the way up, listen in a relatively noise-free environment and/or listen with headphones, if you have them. Ruth did a fantastic job, and we are very proud of her! We're looking forward to the actual Science Fair in Austin in a couple of weeks!

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Moving in a way I've never moved before

Jeff and I have moved a number of times during our marriage, but our next move is pretty different from all the rest. In the past, if I wasn't ready to commit to getting rid of something or if I wasn't sure if I should keep it, I simply boxed it up with everything else, to deal with "later." It was easy to become "sentimental" about things I just didn't want to think about. But, this time, with a vision for minimalism fully in place and not the slightest clue about where we might eventually land, I am eying everything with a critical eye. I'm not completely disregarding sentimentality, but I'm adjusting and fortifying my definition of the word and giving myself permission to let go of so much more than I ever have. I don't have to keep every item I received for a wedding gift, even if I got it from someone I adore. It is wonderfully freeing, and I shall continue to purge in the next couple of months.

However, there is one area that is still giving me some trouble, and in which sentimentality continues to rein: old print pictures. My children will never face this dilemma, having been born in the age of digital photography, but for me, it is truly agonizing. The intellectual side of me says, "Digitize your photos, get rid of the originals and enjoy all the extra cabinet/bookshelf/closet space." But my heart cries, "But digital pictures, in a folder on my computer, just aren't the same!" Now, mind you, I never really pull out the old photos to peruse, and I don't have long family history lessons with my kids about the (de)merits of 80s hair and clothes (though I probably should). But, still, the paper photos just seem better somehow, and I seriously struggle with the thought of not having them sitting there collecting dust or sticking (not artistically) to the pages of old photo albums that have seen better days. Most of the photos are not the least bit organized, so I'm a little worried that I'm just being sentimental because I don't want to think about it, and because I don't have the time to organize them enough to get them digitized.

So, I turn to you, dear readers. What should I do? What have you done? How do you minimize the clutter/stuff but keep the memories? Have any of you gone completely digital? Did you have to go into therapy afterward? Help me out. I'm running out of time, and I need to make some serious decisions about this soon.

Sunday, February 01, 2015