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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Review: GlassesUSA internet optical store

Although I haven't had medical insurance in more than a dozen years, when James' job has offered it, I have had vision insurance. I am myopic to a ridiculous degree, and my dad's eye history is abysmal (although by my age, he'd already had at least two retinal detachments - and, yes, I know you only have 2 retinas, but one detached twice -, glaucoma, and cataracts; so I kind of feel like I've dodged a genetic bullet at this point).

I had planned to go in for a check-up when James lost his job and before the insurance expired... truly, I did. I don't know whether I've mentioned this, but I have a baby and that often gets in the way of my plans. Point is, I never made it, and three days after it expired, I sat on my 17-year-old glasses.

Fortunately, we'd built up a reserve in the HSA, so even though I had to pay for my eye exam, it didn't put a dent in our household budget. As an aside, Modern Eyes at West Campus is awesome! James had planned to watch Mal for me while I got examined, but he'd been up late working on a prospective job homework assignment, and I didn't have the heart to wake him. The doctor and the staff were so calm and accommodating to my having a squirmy and occasionally noisy kid with me.

One good thing: the last time I got a contact prescription (which was probably at least 6 years ago, and maybe longer... but thanks to the doctor who kept faxing that aged prescription into 1-800-Contacts), the doctor said that he thought my eyes were getting lazy. One of my eyes was at -750, and the other at -850. He dialed them both back to -650 and said my eyes needed to work or they'd get worse. Well, this time, the eye doctor said she felt like I could go back to a -600 in both eyes (the glasses prescription is different, closer to my old contact prescription, which I don't understand, but I'm not an optometrist!... or a postmistress, which is how spell-check suggested my original misspelling of optometrist be corrected.).

She gave me a laminated script for my glasses, which I brought home and immediately got online at GlassesUSA, My friend (whom I've never officially met, but have known for more than a decade and a half, and who sent me her fat clothes after I had D and most of my wardrobe was in storage in Spokane for 3 months) had recommended them, as they have a fairly wide variety of frames that aren't too expensive.

Here's the first good thing: If you sign up for an account and to get email from them, you get 50% off of your first purchase. Understand that you also have to purchase a care package for your lenses, depending on which level of frame you get; mine cost about $50 for scratch-coating, and... whatever else was part of the deal. Anyway, the half off is for the frames and base lenses so, for instance, my discount was $52 but I paid about $100 total.

Have you brought frames in the store lately? That's a mere pittance!

Okay, but here's the sort of awesome fun part about GlassesUSA: You can upload a picture of yourself (facing straight ahead, please) and then work to center some hash marks on your pupils (or center your pupils on hash marks, whichever) to get a virtual preview of how the glasses will work on you.

Pretty cool, right? Also, you can search by size of frame (s,m,l), style (square, circular, browline, oversized, etc.), color, material, brand, and several other parameters. You get to view the glasses front-on both by themselves and on your own face (or pick one of their stock models, all of whom are more attractive than I am, so that doesn't help me.), then also from the side and at an angle.

In the end, these are the ones I chose.

Now, as someone with extreme myopia, I knew one thing for sure: The glasses would not look like this on my face. I have thick lenses, even with the new, awesomely-improved-over-grade-school thinner lenses. Still, the lenses make my eyes look smaller and beadier, so that would be a thing.

After I placed my order, I immediately realized that I'd stupidly forgotten to put in my discount code for half off! So I both clicked on "live chat" on the page, and when I was holding for a rep there, I also called them. Within five minutes, they'd refunded the $52 to my debit card, no problem. That was great customer service!

It took about two weeks to fabricate, ship, and receive my glasses. They sent out email updates when the glasses were put together and preparing to be tested, and when they'd been shipped.

I love that the box they come in is tiny; it's just the exact size of the glasses case... which is really sturdy and nice! Maybe all glasses come in such cases now. I wouldn't know; I have never died. (That's true, but it was an auto-Harry-Potter reference.) I wouldn't know; I haven't bought glasses in nearly two decades!

I was super excited to find them a lot brighter than the glasses online. I like the plum better than the blackish purple. Also, nice wipe. Hopefully I can keep that in the case for ever and never have to use the tail of Mal's onsie again.

How fun are they?! I love them!

And last night, there was a really cool sunset... or at least it seemed so from the light pouring into the back of our house. The back of our house is opposite the sunset, which meant that although it was cloudy, brilliant sunlight was spilling all over the tall condos behind us and reflecting our way. I wanted to see it, so James and I walked down the street and all the way up to the top of a parking garage (yes, I was carrying my baby in my arms; I'm kind of a rock star that way... a very tired rock star) so we might catch a glimpse of it. But what I noticed most was the detail of everything!

I was looking out over the Austin skyline and the trees and the office buildings, and everything looked like Google Maps 3D or something. It was like seeing a high-def television for the first time. I guess I was so used to seeing perfectly in contacts and whatever it was in my old glasses, that I hadn't realized how inappropriate the prescription was. Now I can see everything! Although it took me about two hours to get used to how things seemed to slope up from the bottom, and be closer to me than they "felt" before.

And what do they look like on? Here.

I like them! They're actually not too terribly close-looking to how they appeared online, though. Don't remember? Don't want to scroll up? Well, let me help you out there.

Now, aside from the fact that one of those photos was taken (and doctored) by a professional and the other was a living room selfie (and the first taken back when I was able to actually fix my hair), you can see the the frames are actually quite a bit larger on my real face than they were the picture I uploaded. The website actually gives physical measurements so you can compare it to your existing frames, but... me? Math? Pehh. 

Final conclusion: Neat experience, great money-saver, and the glasses are not flimsy crap. They are well-made and have a 365 day warranty. However, I'd probably stick with small frames (these are medium) because I do like that general line. The upshot of having bigger frames, though, is that my field of vision is a lot wider than it was with my old glasses. Last night when I drove to Krispy Kreme for doughnuts at 9 PM, I had none of the "I hate driving at night!" fear that I have had in the past when trying to navigate traffic in the dark. So I'm happy with my purchase and thrilled with what I paid.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Fourth and final full day of the Texas Unschoolers Conference 2015

This morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (and ready for cacao!), James and I went to a funshop put on by Chocology owner Linda Johnson (and her daughter, Madeline). This was the first seminar/class/what-have-you that we've attended where there have been children! At 9 AM, even! (Daphne was still asleep; she had waited for the wi-fi to come back on last night.)

Linda briefly went into what chocolate is and where it's grown, but then quickly got to the tasting. She imports and resells chocolate from Belgium, so we were given a piece (called "couverture" by people who care about that kind of thing) of white, milk, and dark chocolates.

It was interesting to me that the milk and dark chocolates appeared identical (there is actually more color difference in this picture than when I held them in my hand), so I thought maybe I'd gotten two of the same kind. But no. The chocolates were smooth and had the perfect "snap" (white "chocolate" doesn't, though) and amazing. American chocolate can try, but we can't do it.

Next, we were given samples of Fat Ass Fudge, recently obtained by Chocology and featured at some point in the past on Shark Tank. At the risk of offending my father and his Christmas offering, this is the best fudge I've ever eaten. So smooth. So "bedicious."

Dark chocolate with nuts, white chocolate, and cappuccino. Yursss.
Linda and her daughter are on a very long road trip, a "Giving Back Tour," which you can follow here at their blog. This is literally where the rubber hits the road, educationally-speaking. I was about to get on a soapbox, but am choosing to avoid digression.

Finally, Linda had a challenge: she'd hidden gummies in chocolate pudding, and whoever found 5 got fudge. One dad got into the act (James probably would have, but he'd taken Mal outside so I could finish the event, since Mal had decided to be fussy and noisy; I have a great husband!), and watching the kids' different strategies was a lot of fun.

After that, we came back to the cabin, regrouped a little, and headed over to "coffee chat," which was a discussion about talking about sex and establishing bodily autonomy with your child from an early age. It was very good; mostly, I did the right stuff with Daphne (even though it hurt my Mema's feelings when I defended Daphne's right not to physically greet her :( ) but the refresher is always good. She recommended a couple of books and I'm going to order the first soon. For younger kids, there's It's Not the Stork! and then for older kids, It's Perfectly Normal.

One of my favorite things about this talk was the introduction, where Amy mentioned that, regarding cookies, we don't keep cookies away from our kids until they're 10, then kind of say, "They have flour in them" if they ask a question, then give them a book when they're 12 and tell them not to make cookies until they feel like they're ready. Just starting the conversation from a young age helps. I use the word "penis" with Mal, but do still call his scrotum "junk" sometimes. I probably won't stop that. I think it's important for kids to learn slang.

James was going to go to Jack in the Box to get us lunch so that I wouldn't have to get Mal into the car seat, but then we realized it's so close, we decided to walk. Hot, muggy, sunny, but a good time together.

Outside of the fence line, we scavenged about 50 Nerf bullets, only about 6 of which were marked. Score!

We got to the restaurant, ordered our food (for Daphne, an ultimate cheeseburger with ketchup as the only sauce; "So no cheese?" Um... no. Why would we order a cheeseless cheeseburger? "So, cheese... and do you want mayo?" NO, JUST KETCHUP!), and Mal was so good, sitting in the stroller and chewing with intensity on one of the Max Nerf bullets. But ten minutes later, we didn't have our food... and they weren't busy. At fifteen minutes, I remarked that we should have gotten the food to go. James posited that our special order had messed things up. After 20 minutes, he went and told the cashier we'd like the things to go... and found out that they'd totally cleared our order out of the system and never would have made it. *sigh*

But it worked out, because we got to eat as a family. And Daphne's burger did have mayo on it.

Mal was tired but resisting sleep, so I took him swimming. I tried to fashion a pool noodle I bought in the park office as the "boat" device we used in swim classes, but a) it's been too long and he FREAKED out and b) he needs a sturdier noodle 'cause dude is a hoss. But he laughed and enjoyed the pool for about half an hour, then started zoning out.

We came back to the cabin for him to nap, then went over to the swap meet and market. We ended up buying a pound and a half of "scratch and dent" fudge (it was just the label; I mean, who cares? but yay for a discount!) from Linda, and I got a DK animal encyclopedia for Mal. It's perfect in that it's a small format (thick but not unwieldy), but of course he just wanted to eat it, so we'll save it for later. If he's anything like Daphne was, he'll be buried in that book for hours one day. (I know, so far he's *nothing* like her, but he does seem to appreciate animals.)

There was a cookout at 6:30, and I met another lady from Austin. Her son is 12, and I don't think Daphne met him, but maybe we can reconnect at home.

At 8 was a showing of "Class Dismissed," which I wanted so much to see... but after only one brief and one hour-long nap today, Mal was DONE. I started packing up in the cabin, but he was sobbing by 7:45, so we came upstairs to play a while in the dark and help him unwind, then he was out by 8:30. We will leave in the morning after a final "good-bye" (to which Daphne wants to go) and should be home in time for lunch, but able to miss rush hour traffic.

It's been a great long weekend!

Some things to think about from the Texas Unschoolers Conference 2015...

This is just some random stuff that's been knocking around in my brain all weekend. I don't have answers or maybe even anything remotely interesting, but just things over which I have been ruminating.

They don't have a homogeneous appearance. A friend posted this to my Facebook timeline last week:

When my mom saw it, at first glance she thought it was a picture of my friends and me. Looking at it on my phone, it could have been. Although the girls are individuals with slightly different takes on the look, it is still very certainly one specific look. And there is the same sort of similarities in todays' girls (boys just kind of look classically boyish most of the time... except for mullets). They might have variations on a theme, but there is a conventional norm that is overall the aim. Not here.

The girls here, you'd be hard-pressed to lump together in regards to inspirations for their style of dress, hair, or deportment. Flock of Seagulls? Blue? Pink-to-blonde? Afro? Shaved except on top? Long? Straight? Ponytail? Trucker hat? Big floppy sun hat? Sweat jacket even though it's 80? T-shirt? Sci-fi captain-inspired outfit? Same thing the entire 4 days? It all goes, and they all hang out together. It's like when no one tells a kid what is "normal" appearance-wise, they have the freedom to pick. Maybe it flatters them, maybe it doesn't. No one tells them they have to change, and they're comfortable and happy. 

I was telling James about this and thought of two things: First, the recent story about the girl had to fight for permission to wear a tuxedo to her school prom... and, honestly, this shouldn't have had to be championed by a lesbian rights group, because straight girls might want to wear a tux to their prom, too, and what's the big deal? I can't even believe that this is a thing. But secondly, I remembered a girl who once rented an old-time Southern belle dress from a costume shop instead of getting a modern dress when she went to her senior prom. Was it the best look for me? Um, I mean "her"? Not according to her stylish friend, who after the fact advised her what the styling should have been (if only I'd known him in high school! She. Him. Someone else entirely). However, that person was excited about the idea, and comfortable, and happy. I'm not sure how I escaped the vortex of "normal," but I did. And in that case, I was totally un-self-conscious.

Anyway, it's satisfying to know that these kids get to be themselves without having to fit that expression into the confines of what is considered "not distracting to the educational process" or tantamount to social suicide or labeling.

There are a lot of dads here! Dads in the seminars, dads watching kids so the moms can go to seminars, dads baby-wearing, dads up to their eyeballs in the process. When we were having dinner with Dr. Gray on Thursday (yes, I'm going to milk that for all its worth), he was talking about how it's often the fathers who push back against unschooling, and how he's always wondered why. After exploring options such as personality, ideas about formal education leading to better jobs, etc. he said he thinks the actual explanation is the most boring: That moms make the educational decisions about their kids, and that dads are left either to agree or oppose. The dads here aren't passive. They're present. I love it!

Discipline vs. Coercion 
This is one of the big ones. I have to think on this one a lot. Unschooling is practiced on many levels, but at its core is the idea that kids have passions to follow, that frog-marching them through extraneous curricula is disservice to them, and that they will learn what they need to know.

For a lot of families, that carries over into their parenting. I've read from and heard about parents who think if you tell your child "no" about anything, you're not technically "unschooling," but I think that is actual "unparenting," and it's not what most of us are about.

However, in talking to another mom about attachment parenting, she said something that sort of bridged a gap for me in regards to how unschoolers make the leap to less (or no) demanding parenting: I had mentioned that I'm not philosophically an attachment parent but had become one in practice, due to Mal's sensitivity. She said, "Well, at its heart, attachment parenting is about responding to a child's needs, and that's what you're doing. It's considering the child a full person from day one, and it sounds like you've got it."

That sounds so simple.

And maybe it is.

Bridging the gap between infant care to parenting a toddler and child, and then pulling in another bridge from the educational philosophy of "they have what they need and it will work," I've started really considering the difference between disciplining a child and coercing or attempting to control them.

In the past few months with Mal, I've felt very ashamed and regretful about the ways I tried to control Daphne when she was a baby ("It's too early for her to be waking up!" and angry about it), and then when she was a little kid ("Sit here and do this!" while she cried, but I was determined to win a battle of wills, even if the actual thing wasn't important).

I've rolled my eyes when I've read things about not "making" kids say "thank you" or "please" but just modeling it for them and trusting that they will pick it up. Things like that. But then a couple of things have happened:

1) I see my 13-year-old, who very dutifully said "thank you" and "please" and was quite pleasant and often compliant as a child (though not always), and who never swore, though she knew of swear words, etc. now testing the limits, as teenagers are wont to do. Eventually, and for the rest of her life, she's going to have to choose whether to be socially engaging or not, inoffensive or not, and all of the etc.s again, so where did that "training" get us? She has learned to express gratitude in her own way, and my forcing her to say a cursory "thanks" really didn't do anything for that. I could have done the same thing by thanking people myself, and talking to her about how kind they were to be so generous. Then her expression of thanks would have been genuine instead of mandatory.

2) I read something that appealed to the "black/white"-I-get-how-kids-think part of my brain: Forcing a kid to say something to receive something or stay out of trouble is, in practice, teaching them to lie to get what they want. "I'm not sorry, but if I don't say that I am, then I will get grounded."

When I worked at Boys Town, I was continually frustrated by the process of behavior modification. I saw them playing the system. They would act compliant to build up points to get things they wanted, but they weren't internalizing the discipline. They were still sneaking out, acting out, running away. I talked about it to our house coach guy, and he said, in essence, that it was the program for all of this time because it worked... that if the kids acted a certain way long enough, they'd become the person their behavior indicated. I'm not sure I believe this. I think it has to be the other way around. That whole "overflow of the heart" thing the Bible talks about.

What is the point of all of this? At present, it has more to do with Daphne than Mal, but I need to think it through for him, too. We don't have any "screen time" limits with Daphne but have thought about it because of how late she stays up and how late she sleeps. Also, I have signed her up for things she might be marginally interested in, but wouldn't choose to go if I weren't forcing her. And I'm really thinking about my motives and am reconsidering a lot.

I need to think about it for a while. Like I said, I don't have any answers. I was listening to "Focus on the Family" recently when a guest said that he thinks one of the biggest mistakes parents make is trying to have "a great kid," when we actually need to parent toward "a great adult."

Thinking... thinking...

This group and The Church
Oh, man, unschoolers are an eclectic group. But you know what? So far, everyone with whom I've talked, even if they've had a different idea about something than mine, has been lovely. If they disagree, they'll often first affirm me and then reframe what I just said toward their thinking, without making me feel like I'm doing it wrong. There are families with two parents, single moms and dads, at least one lesbian couple, every color of the pigmentation rainbow, different socio-economic levels, varying ages, etc. And everyone is getting along and I think has genuine affection for and interest in each other. This is how The Church should be! I've experienced it before, where it feels like "home" from the beginning, but not always, and not even a majority of the time. It's a wake up call to me to create that vibe myself.

Third Day of #TexUns15

This morning, Mal woke up super early. He had been fussy all night, and drinking all night, and I was just exhausted by morning. We'd also managed to kick/roll the fitted sheet off of the mattress, so we were lying on the waterproof mattress cover which is fabric, but also plastic and hot. James hung out with Mal for a few minutes so I could wash my face and get dressed, then Mal came downstairs with me.

It rained heavily during the night, and I had the front door open. Mal loved the sweet morning smell and the sopping floor boards on the porch. We went out there for him to eat some breakfast, and by then James was up, having apparently been awakened by the dealing with the boy first thing in the morning.

After James' breakfast, Mal was already threatening to get fussy, so I decided to take him over to the young 'uns childcare area,where there are tons of toys, so he could play and make all of the noise he wanted without bothering his still-sleeping sister.

At the chilcare center, I met Nadja, who is a recent Austin resident. We have RV living in common, and it was nice to have someone to talk to while Mal burnt off some energy and James tried to catch up on emails (job stuff... but also the connection here in the park is spotty, and it takes about a million hours to do anything).

Mal was sleepy but overstimulated when I got back; he fell asleep, but only for about ten minutes. After the mini-nap, James and I took Mal to the swimming pool to work off some energy. He giggled and had a big time the whole 45 minutes or so we were there (which is double the time he could hack in swimming classes).

We had lunch and I woke Daphne up in time for the Nerf Gun Battle.

Here's a sort of funny thing:

In Peter Gray's book “Free to Learn,” he talks about games his generation of children invented when they were left to play on their own. He says something about how they'll talk and discuss and hammer out rules and plans for two hours before they start playing. This is what we witnessed, arriving at the Nerf battle site. Two kind of leader kids seemed to take over, finalizing details between them (when you get hit, this is what happens; no head shots; etc.). Kids kept arriving, and they kept shuttling them into one team or another. About 15 minutes into the process (which was ridiculous; I kept trying to get Daphne just to open fire on people), an adult showed up with flags so they could do it “capture the flag”-style... and he had the rules for them. He also chose two captains and when their team-selection slowed down, he divided out the rest of the kids. It was probably more expedient than what they were doing, but it was also extremely ironic, given the whole “kids need time to play that isn't directed by adults” world view that is espoused by a lot of us (and one of our keynote speakers).

That said, there were several adults involved in the Nerf Gun Battle. But they were playing as fellow team members, not as authorities, and the kids accepted them as peers. Actually, the grown-ups might have gotten a wee more intense than the kids. Daphne and James ended up being on different teams, and she pretty much killed him a lot.

Click below for full album.
From April 2015!

I wasn't playing because I was wearing Mal, who was on the verge of a nap. He fell asleep for about an hour, waking up right as James and I sat down for the “Unschooling Teens” talk by Sue Peterson. Fortunately, he was happy to crawl around on the floor, playing with stuff out of my purse, pretty much the whole time.

I will say that there are several things I've heard so far that have given me a lot to think about. In this session, during the Q/A, especially, I was convicted to check my motives about sending Daphne to things like coding camps. *sigh* I really hate being convicted.

When James and I got back to the cabin, Daphne was already gone for the cosplay funshop. James had a snack and headed over to the unschooling dads' roundtable, while Mal and I just hung out and watched TV and got snacks ready for tonight. D dropped in when the seminar was over, dropped off a foam sword she'd made, and disappeared to a friend's cabin.

James, Mal, and I went to dinner but didn't see Daphne until hours later. We didn't stay for the “sock hop” because dinner was so raucous, we were already burnt out from the noise. Now the internet appears to be down for the count, so this post and all of the pictures are going to have to wait until tomorrow. Think I'll go downstairs and talk to D about her afternoon.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Friday at #TexUns15

This morning, Mal and I got up before everyone else (natch) and hung out for a while on the front porch. It had rained all last night, so was coolish and extremely muggy... but we got no more rain during the day, so that was nice.

At about 9:30, we walked over to the event center for a pancake and get-to-know-you breakfast.

We have met two families from Austin now. One lady, whose youngest daughter hit it off with Mal yesterday, is Hannah from Belly Love Massage Therapy. Hannah is very generously offering free 10-minute chair massages this weekend, and James and I both got to take advantage of that (while the other made a name tag at the craft table). I'm going to call her and set up an appointment when we get home!

At noon, Daphne went to a teen pizza and pool party, then after James and I had some snacks at the cabin, I took Mal swimming. We ended up in the indoor pool, as the outdoor pool was so chilly and noisy, Mal was sort of catatonic. He loved the other pool, which only had a half dozen kids in it and was significantly warmer.

This afternoon, we got to hear Dr. Gray speak. Mal was kind enough to fall asleep while James and I walked around the park a bit (and I waxed nostalgic about living in an RV park, if not necessarily the inadequately-insulated RV itself).

James listens to Dr. Gray.
After the Q/A, there was a group photo (where we met the second family from Austin) and then we were all on our own for dinner. James, Daphne, Mal and I went to Cooper's Old Time Pit Barbecue, and lord o'mercy, was it incredible. We got the family (of 4, so maybe some overkill) pack of brisket and sausage. It came with cole slaw and potato salad, but we also got corn on the cob and mac and cheese individually. They had bread, sauce, beans, and onions available in the dining room. Well, the most amazeballs thing was the brisket. It had a salty, crunchy rub that was delicious, and we got the lean meat but it was still fall-apart soft and packed with flavor.

We ate ourselves into a food coma, then came home and Daphne went to do a teen hangout but saw a cat she liked, and the cat followed her home, and they sat out on the porch for a while. We had a quiet evening and got to sleep through some awesome thunderstorms.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Texas Unschoolers Convention 2015

This afternoon, we took the minuscule road trip to New Braunfels to the Hill Country RV Resort for  Tex'Uns 2015 (see what they did there?). Today was mostly about getting set up, signed in, settled in, and saying "howdy" to people.

We got everything put up in the cabin, took a bunch of art supplies over to the crafting area, walked around to get the lay of the land, and then cooked some Pizza Rolls for the informal pot luck tonight. I know, I know. But I have a baby. It was enough to get everything here; I literally could not think of anything to make for dinner.

We signed up for a few things, including a cosplay "fun"shop (instead of workshop, because unschool, mkay?) for Daphne, 10-minute chair massages for James and me, and a pool/pizza party D will go to tomorrow.

From April 2015!

Malcolm loves our cabin. We let D have the bedroom with the king-sized bed (so she can close the door and use her white sound machine), and we're sleeping in the loft with two full mattresses on the floor. We can't stand up, but it's huge and Mal has been crawling all over the place, looking at the window, and giggling about the whole thing.

When we went over to the main lodge for dinner (fortunately, other people brought things like fruit and veggies and sandwich fixins and Dutch oven cake cobbler), we were kind of off to the side while people arrived. I saw Dr. Peter Gray come in; he's speaking tomorrow evening. He got his food and went outside to sit at a table, so James went out with his dinner and sat with him (I might have asked him to).

We enjoyed an eclectic meal with Dr. Gray, who said he was born in San Antonio but has no memories of Texas, as they moved away early. Also, that it was 50 when he left home today. Ugh, it is so humid here. But the humidity beats the thunderstorms that were predicted.

I hope we have a chance to swim tomorrow. The pool has a 6-inch section, and I think Mal will have a blast. I hope D will meet some kids; I saw a few girls sitting in the main lodge this evening at dinner, and I feel like if they have a chance to say "hi," just maybe. Several people told D they liked her Pine hat.

Very tired; looking forward to the weekend. Click on the "April 2015!" link above (at the cabin) for more pictures.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Mal's first games

Twice this week, Mal has initiated games of sort. He's participated in "peek a boo" (and enjoyed it) as well as rolling a ball or car back and forth, but he's never started the process. Until this week!

The first "game," if you will, just involved Mal forcing himself to laugh to get us to laugh. When we laughed back, he actually cracked up a lot. (And mostly without hiccups, thank God! FINALLY!) I got a video of his fake laughing... I had to keep feeding him, though. :)

When Mal was a newborn, after I'd change his diaper, I'd pick him up and lay on my back, then say, "Baby attack!" and have him come at me like he was tackling me. I'd lay on the floor and pretend to be knocked out, and say things like, "I never saw that coming! I can't believe it!" I've done it more recently as he's been fussing to get out of his "seat" toys like the piano and ExerSaucer... but not in the past month or two because he's way too heavy!

I don't know whether this was a throwback to those memories, or just something he made up, but today's game had more of an actual structure, simple as it was. Mal started off by standing beside me where I lay on the bed and then throwing his head into my torso. He would then giggle, stand back up, yell, and do it again. Of course, I acted very shocked and injured. He did this about a dozen times.

My husband saw it and went to pull out my camera, saying, "What do you bet he won't do it again?" (as per usual, when we get out the camera) However, he did catch it a couple of times as Mal was tiring out. Oh my goodness, it was the cutest thing!

He's feeling a bit better from the ear infection, but we're still fighting it! I think it spread to his other ear, too, so I'm even more determined to wrestle him twice a day to get as much of that medicine down as we can. If we can just get him well, he's being a lot of fun and happily busying himself on his own a bit nowadays. The good times are starting. Yea!

Monday, April 20, 2015

An open letter to Mom from Mal (loosely translated)

Dearest Boob Lady:

You might have noticed as of late both that I have matured physically and that I have a will. The convergence of these two milestones means that, henceforth and into perpetuity, I shall no longer bend in the middle.

Oh, do you wish to posit me in this elevated dining chair? You shan't. Is it your desire that I might slip gracefully both legs into the preordained slots of this shopping cart? Prepare to be disappointed. And this abomination of a rear-facing vehicular torture restraint system? Nay! I must adamantly refuse to be compromised at the waist and shall remain as upright and solid as several 2 x 4s tacked together with wood glue and carpenter's nails. Additionally, my emergency broadcast system will be invoked, lest the good people of this parking lot remain ignorant of your base treachery.

Now, this bath? For this I will condescend to--- HA! I fooled you! Now that I am sufficiently warmed and covered in slippery bubbles, I shall once again rise to the aforementioned heights! Never let it be said that I fell prey to your negativity, to your doubt in my ability to right myself upon these bulging legs, in the confines of this sink. If I trust you, it is only in that I know you would never allow me to injure myself on the side of this basin. This is a thing of which you are incapable.

Perhaps I have understated my trust in you. I will say that I am confident that you would never use your bulk or superior understanding of physics or more practiced gross motor skills to bully me into a 90-degree angle against my... WHAT IS THIS THING! I expressly said I SHAN'T and-- Oh, this? Oh, this isn't too bad. Never mind then. Carry on.

Warmest regards,

Sunday, April 19, 2015

20th anniversary of the OKC Bombing

I probably won't get this posted before midnight, but it seems worth the effort.

My memories of finding out about that awful day are foggy.

I know that I was under water that month (-ish). Part of me thinks that we just found out about it through a regular weekly news update. But I don't ever remember getting one of those. I think that I probably found out in a letter from my Mom, dropped off when we surfaced to deal with a crew member who'd gone crazy or gotten injured.

I think the letter boiled down to "Someone blew up the building where your Uncle Bill works. He's OK--he had to go out in the field because someone else called in sick." Or something along those lines.

But the brain's funny. I think I remember finding out about it while we were out at sea, but that isn't the way things work. Complete and total isolation and boredom is vital if you ever have to do that job. You have to be cut off from your humanity before you can participate in massive carnage.

I know that I learned the details that I've managed to pick up in bits and pieces.

Lots of people died. My uncle was OK. My mostly-deaf grandmother heard the explosion in her home miles away.

I might be able to dredge up more details from that time, but I'm glad that my brain has shuffled those details into the discard pile.

The big thing that I remember from that day is laughing at the idea that killing 168 people (possibly including a relative who was at the top of my parents' will to take custody if they died too young) was a big deal.

We spent our days drilling for the day we needed to make Hiroshima and Nagasaki look like sock hops.

Thankfully, that day has not arrived. I pray that it never will. If it ever had, I took solace in the basic fact that a retaliatory strike was almost guaranteed to kill us so we wouldn't have to live with what we'd done.

I don't have an ending here. Just memories that I wish would go away.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

1st official "Mal"ady

We stayed home from church Sunday because Mal and I weren't feeling great. Mal's had a few roughish nights since then, but last night was the worst. Today, he pretty much fussed from the time we got up, and I told James that I could not handle another day of just crying. So I called a nearby pediatrician and set an appointment for later in the day.

Fortunately, it was 22 blocks north of here and about 7 blocks over, so I was able to ride my bike. I think Mal appreciated it. He fell asleep when we were almost there, but immediately woke up and played with the toys in the waiting room. The sick child waiting area is about 5 times the size of the well child area, and it has all of the toys. So them chillens can share errythang.

Mal weighs 21 (officially), which puts him in about the 92%. He is 27ish inches, unofficially, from when I was waiting for the nurse and held a yard stick up to him, without trying to straighten his legs. This is about average for his age, which is 6 months, 3 weeks. He is a big-booty baby!

I loved the doctor he saw. I don't think we'll keep using her; a lot depends on what insurance James ends up with at his next job. But she was quick and to the point and didn't lecture me about a dang thing. She asked the questions about symptoms and whether he'd been pulling on his ears. I told her no, until this morning when the Tylenol was wearing off, and he pulled on the tip top of his left ear, but just once and he wasn't being fussy.

She listened to his chest and back, and said he sounded fine. She looked in both nostrils and said they were clear. She looked in his right ear, and said, "It all looks good, which is good, but I know you want to know why he's been this way..." just as she was looking (or trying to look) into his left ear.

He didn't want her to. He turned his head and started getting nervous. Finally, she said, "Oh, yeah," then he pulled away. She said, "I don't want to call it until I see it," so I repositioned his head against my chest and she got a good look. "Yep. There it is." She described what she saw, which I will spare you, but he has an infection in his left ear.

What was awesome was that her office was able to send Mal's antibiotic prescription to CVS electronically, and by the time I rode my bike over there, it was ready. Because James had put money in a Healthcare Savings Account, even though we had to pay for this stuff (insurance expired the end of last month), we won't "feel" it in our regular budget.

Mal did so well, even stopping at CVS and having to hang out a few while they finished mixing his meds. He fell asleep about 5 blocks from home, so when we got back, I held him for an hour while he napped, then gave him his first dose of meds.

We decided not to go to small group, since Mal's been super fussy and probably wouldn't take to too much stimulation, but I had a doughnut shop I had to do between 6 and 9, so James and I decided to make it a sort of date to take advantage of a couple of Tax Day deals, and give D a break from Mal's crying (she had her white noise machine cranked this morning, since he woke up earlier than she did and he was clearly in pain).

Mal got to use his brand new convertible car seat today! I can't believe I forgot to take a picture; you'll just have to take my word for it. He cried/whined a bit, but fell asleep about the time I got onto the highway. We went to Sonic first, for James to get a 1/2 price cheeseburger and an order of chili cheese tots (I'd had some pizza from a lunch job). Then we went to the doughnut place for my job (a dozen to go, so tomorrow's breakfast is ready!). Last, we headed way down to Orange Leaf Yogurt for their $4.15 16-ounce yogurt. Mine weighed about 13.5 ounces, but James' weighed in the neighborhood of 18 ounces, and the cashier totally let him get away with it!

$4.49 with tax, baby!

Mal loved jumping around on that orange vinyl couch! He ate a pouch of apple raisin quinoa baby food while we had our yogurt, and then I let him have a taste of mine. He didn't seem overly impressed. I tried one more small bite, and he just wasn't interested. Not at all like the time he surreptitiously started gnawing on the frosting can and giggling like a bad movie villain. Well, glad he enjoyed his healthy meal better, anyway!

After that, we walked around the back and found a playground I didn't realize was at Southpark Meadows. On our way to the car, we saw three maybe ducks in a tree talking, seemingly trying to decide where to go. One flew out to a lamp post, then a few minutes later, the second one did. Finally, the last tried, overshot the post, and ended up in another tree. They were really cute, and it seems like Mal is going to be as interested in animals as Daphne was. Is. Was as a baby and is now.

Aww, duck it.

Now I need to get to sleep. Last night was ROUGH, and I'm ready to hopefully get a better night's slumber all around. Hoping the meds kick in fast!

Oh, I told James that my rule of thumb needs to be: If I feel myself thinking, "I cannot be around this kid one more second," I need to take that kid to the doctor. The only time I felt that way about Daphne, when she was about 9 months old, she had double ear infections, double conjunctivitis, and an upper respiratory infection. Glad we only had one ear giving us a problem on this day!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Mal's crawling!

I forgot to mention that it's official: Mal is crawling! All over the place, including off of the bed into the floor (so far, we've caught him every time). Because we don't have much space, the only places he can really practice are in his floor or on our bed. Can't wait to move... I think he'll be walking fairly soon after!

Jumbled thoughts of a tired mama

I might be wrong, but I think my son is out for a pretty good nap. I'd tried to lie him on our bed to put him to sleep in the tiniest glimmer of a hope that I'd be able to get up and get started on this beautiful Wilted Spinach and Mushroom with Bacon and Strawberries salad for dinner, but, alas, my husband was in there on a phone screen when I walked into the house with Mal screaming in fury, so overtired that he wouldn't fall asleep in the carrier on our walk. I swear, James has talked on the phone more in the past 5 weeks of job seeking than he did to me in all of the months we dated long distance.

So, I'm sitting here on the couch, typing over him. And I've thought a lot in the past few days, which I'll basically barf all over this post, in no particular order.

Sometimes, when I slow down, like I'm sitting in Mal's floor and he is doing something alone for a moment, and I can just think... I realize that I'm very, VERY tired. So, mostly, I keep moving.

Because I forget things, I've been reading through my blog from when D was Mal's age. She didn't get her first tooth until she was about the age he is now; he already has 2. She "got" waving at around 9 months, and I had totally forgotten that she didn't really nap more than 30 minutes at a time until she was about 8 or 9 months old, either. So there's hope, maybe, for this chronic case of non-sleeping! He sleeps more than half an hour, but only if I'mrighttheretouchinghim.

I had to stop reading, once I got a bit past D's first birthday, because I found myself settling into a funk. Stuff was super stressful and hard back then, and I kind of started wallowing in that as though it were my reality now, too. One of the things that keeps repeating in my brain is that I'd quoted someone as saying, about reading my blog at the time, "I can feel my brain cells dying, reading about Daphne picking her nose." At the same time, when I go back and read it, I find I'm only interested in the daily record of stuff we did. I don't really want to read about my thoughts on homeschooling or biblical doctrine or the dreams I had. I want to know what we were doing, where we were going, the funny stories about Mackenzie trying to climb into the bathtub with Hannah, or Daphne... well, picking her nose.

I don't write like that anymore. I usually only write when I think I have something to write about. Back then, I tried to capture every day, even in its monotony. If I were doing that, this would be my narrative of this day:

"Mal woke up early and in a good mood. His eyelid wasn't as swollen as I had expected, and it wasn't bruised. It was just scraped and puffy. He seemed no worse for the wear. I got him up, dressed, we hung out a while, and then I put him in the bike seat so we could check out the UT Tower playing 'Texas, Our Texas' live and in person!

"We got to the spot about 15 minutes early, so sat in the grass and enjoyed the cool, moist morning. Mal, of course, ate some leaves and grass (even though I'd brought him puffs), and a very cute long-haired blonde girl came over and told me, 'Your baby is very cute!' Well, of course.

"I was ready at 8, but thought the clock would chime first. It doesn't; it just heads into the song. So I missed the first couple of notes, but want to go back later, anyway, when the day isn't so overcast. It was neat to stand there and hear it, right between the tower and the Capitol.

"After that, we came back home, had breakfast, and Mal took his morning nap.

"I was super excited, because Daphne and I had a date to go to the mall for free stuff. When she got up, we headed over to Barton Square Mall and hit the Godiva booth first. They had their Easter candy on sale 40% off, so I got a bag of egg truffles, and Daphne selected our loyalty club free chocolate, a strawberry truffle.

"Next, we went up to Great American Cookie to use some coupons from a book we'd bought to support a friend's kid's school. We each got a free cookie, then headed to the second GAC to use a second set of coupons.

"On the way, we stopped to look at Hot Topic, and I saw a shirt that would be perfect for my sister: 'I would have picked Ducky,' with a picture of the Duck Man.

"At the second GAC, the cashier turned and asked an older lady, 'Do we take these?' The older lady asked where I got the book. I explained it, and she said it was only for the city where it was sold. I informed her that I was told differently, and she said, 'Well, it depends. We're franchisees, so we can choose to do it or not.' In other words, you're not. But she condescended to take my coupon 'just this once.' 'What about my daughter?' She said, 'I'm really only supposed to take one coupon per person.' Um, yeah. She's a separate person. Look at her, all walking around independent of me and whatnot.

"What was weird is that when we walked away, I'm pretty sure I saw tears in D's eyes. Dude, we got cookies. We won.

"But on the way home, Mal started babbling (this was after he was crying when I first locked him in the carseat) and Daphne turned the music up on the radio. I just started crying. I told her I liked hearing his happy noises, and talked to her a little bit about how sort of difficult our outing had been... like she had only gone because she felt she had to (she kind of did) and how I wish we could have fun together. I realize she's probably exactly like I was at this age. My mom used to come home and tell us, 'I am respected and appreciated at work, then I come home and you treat me like stupid garbage.' I would roll my eyes (internally), but now I *so* get it. I miss my girl a lot. I want to enjoy the young woman I have, but she seems bound and determined to have as little of that as is humanly possible. And it hurts.

"It's difficult to balance my reasonable expectations as a parent, respecting her need to be herself against my fleshly feelings and need for affirmation. Blergh.

"When we got home, Mal finished the nap he'd started in the car, and I ordered pizza for a job. We ate while James finished up a job test thing he'd been working on all morning, then Mal and I went outside to sit on a blanket in the shade and figure out his new car seat. As much as I'll miss his sleeping in the old one, I keep jamming his over-hanging feet into stuff, and every time I put him in or get him out, it loosens the belt because he is SO heavy that it's difficult to lift the carrier straight up and I end up pulling it sideways instead.

"James had finished up his test by this time and came out to hang for a while, then he kept Mal company while I put the car seat in the car. It's nice! He's going to be riding in style."

So... see? I believe "blog" is short for "weblog," right? That's what I used to do. Logs. Captain's logs. Star date: every few days from the early 2000s. Sorry if you lost any brain cells to that; someday, I might be happy that I recorded it!

I'm pretty sure Deuteronomy 11:19 implies co-sleeping. It doesn't say, "When you put them to bed," does it? So maybe I am the one growing my kid God's way, Ezzos. Think on that.*

James wants to film a movie trailer for a movie "along the lines of all of the game movies that never should have been made" (think: Battleship, Mario Brothers, etc.): 2048. In his version, it is people maybe dressed in squares hooking up or trying to find each other, etc. In my version, it's like a Liam Neeson vehicle where someone appears to have been kidnapped, but they're really just walking in from the car REALLY SLOWLY because they're playing 2048.

Ooh! Wakey baby. Salad time! Oh, here's a pic.


*No shade to people who don't co-sleep. Believe me, I wouldn't if we had any other option that included parental sleep, but we don't. This is part joke, part satire, part justification for my reality.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Best Burger EVER

I want to show you something. It's the best burger I have had in Austin, and maybe ever.

I've eaten quite a few burgers here in the ATX: Hopdoddy, Freddie's (yeah, the Fredelvis AND some of my daughter's Stuffed Frederonie), Twisted Root (the first one, before it closed, on West Campus), In N Out, Elevation Burger, P. Terry's, Phil's Ice House, etc. Although I haven't tried the burgers at Spec's at South Town Square (290 and Brodie), which a friend says has the best he'd eaten here in town. That one's on the list for "next time we're down there," fo sho.

However, this one right here... I made it! And if I'd had any idea how awesome it was going to be, I'd have made it a point to do the "food blog" thing and photograph the process. But I didn't. So you'll just have to read text absent food porn, for which I would apologize, but if you do this thing, you will be *so* happy, you'll just totally forget about the lack of snaps.

First of all, I had a bag of the pretty incredible "Traditional Italian Style" pizza dough that they sell at the Randall's deli (there's a review of it here, though the price has gone up from 2011 to $1.25 now). I took it out of the bag and separated it into 4 pieces, which I rolled somewhat imprecisely and put on a sprayed pan, baking at 350 for 17 minutes (we turned the rolls after 15 minutes, just to kind of brown the other side).

I had gotten a pound of ground turkey on closeout last week (actually, my mom bought my groceries... Thanks, Mom and Dad!), and was planning to make burgers. My husband, who, incidentally, used to work the grill at a family-owned burger and ice cream joint back in Van Buren, Arkansas, said, "I don't know why I just had this vision, but it's something about trying to cook turkey burgers. When I get hamburger, I always get the leanest possible, but with turkey, for some reason, I'm picturing it falling apart or sticking to the pan or something because it's too lean."

With that in mind, I grabbed one of the avocados we had, mushed up the whole thing, and mixed that in with the pound of ground turkey. I added garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, Kosher salt, and pepper... I would say "to taste," but I don't recommend sampling it. I guess "to your taste or preference" would be appropriate. And that was it.

As the buns were finishing up, I heated our cast-iron skillet. Then I poured about a tablespoon full of hazelnut oil (which, incidentally, I purchased on clearance at that exact same Spec's more than a year ago) on the skillet, gave it a minute to heat up, and placed the 4 patties.

We cooked the patties covered for about 5 minutes per side. Then, for good measure, I flipped them again and did 5 more minutes on the first side. When I flipped them the final time, I topped them with Colby Jack cheese slices and turned the heat off about 2 minutes in. But always keep them covered! It helps the cheese melt perfectly, too.

We prepared our buns to our liking (I had ketchup and mustard, as you can see in the picture above; James had mustard and mayo, and my daughter had ketchup and mayo), and dressed it only with spinach. Oh, and, of course, some of the caramelized cheese that had melted off of the patties. Crunchy and salty and, as my nephew says, "behdicious."

James said he really liked the pizza crust bun. It was denser than the typical hamburger bun, which stood up well to the patty. With the turkey, although it won't shrink like hamburger when you cook it, it will swell up and not be quite as wide -- as long as you don't "smash" it with a spatula/turner. And PLEASE, don't smash it! You *want* that juice inside the patty! That's the rule with all burgers always. Don't squash them!

Adding the avocado seemed to eliminate everything that makes a turkey burger less desirable - dryness, crumbling, difficulty cooking, lack of flavor - and added good fat, folic acid, and more! Try it and let me know what you think!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Review: Arturo's Underground Cafe and Bakery

One of our favorite places to eat around here is Arturo's Underground Cafe at 314 W. 17th Street. During the week, they operate as a take-out and bakery, serving sandwiches, breakfast tacos, quesadillas, and pastries. If you look on Yelp, they have very good reviews. We've never been during the week, though.

We've always gone to their weekend brunches, when the cafe is open. I can't believe I haven't written about it before, but since we did a first today, I decided to let you guys in on our secret!

The cafe is literally underground. That window in the background is just above sidewalk level. On the bar to the side, they have all of their condiments and coffee, tea, ice, etc. If you ever visit their restroom (which appears to be just past the bus sink) and see how tiny their kitchen is, you'll know why they bring as much of the cafe operations downstairs as possible!

On the weekends, they have a more limited menu than during the week, apparently. We've never had any problem with choices, whether we wanted something savory (James always does) or sweet. Or a mix. They used to have on the menu a Mexican/French toast, which was made with their cheese jalapeno bread. Although it's no longer featured, they still have the bread and they still offer French toast, so I'll bet you could talk them into it.

They do have a really good Caribbean French toast now, which is made with rum caramel and bananas. I thought I'd end up with left-overs, but no.

Today, however, due to my and my baby's feeling under the weather and our not wanting to fight the closed streets for a bike race after yesterday's Longhorn Run "fun," we ended up not going to church (and, in fact, vowing not to get in the car at all) and finally made it to Arturo's "Heathen Happy Hour."

What is Heathen Happy Hour? It's from 10-12 (church hours, typically, see?) on Sundays, and they have $3 mimosas (that's a buck off regular) or a pitcher (about four drinks) for $10, AND *FREE* chocolate chip cookies as long as they last!

I started off with a Mimosa and chocolate chip cookie (fresh out of the oven!).

The cookies were delicious and had a real "homemade" feel about them (as opposed to the cookies we get across the street, which I love, but which are very uniform in shape whereas these look like they're crafted more by hand). My husband tasted his and saved all but that bite for proper dessert, but I think he's from another planet because there was no way I could let a warm cookie cool like that.

In addition to the fun offerings on the menu, there was this:

... which is what James got. I ordered something I've had my eye on for a long time: bagel and lox. Pretty straight-forward, but we've been several places here in Austin AFTER church, and they've always already run out of lox! Since we'd gotten to Arturo's just as it was opening, I knew this was my shoo-in opportunity.

I got a plain bagel, but you can choose an "everything" if you want. It was piping hot and very tender! This made a great, fresh, satisfying sandwich.

That's James' Chupacabra (with the cookie waiting on him... weird-o) and it was fabulous! There was a lot going on, flavor-wise, but nothing overwhelmed anything else. The Hollandaise was rich and creamy, and the poached eggs were absolutely perfect. The potatoes are well-seasoned with one side nice and crunchy from the pan, and the others soft. So good.

Now we just need to try Arturo's during the week. The menu looks a little cheaper, but the portion size is also smaller. James did have left-overs from his meal.

The weekend brunch, though, we can heartily recommend. I'm not telling you to skip church, either, but if you go to a church with Saturday night services or really early/late Sunday service, the Heathen Happy Hour is a fun little kick, too. Try to get there early, as the first batch of chocolate chip cookies is apparently the best!

The price for weekend brunch is a little higher than some of the other mom/pop places around here, but the food is elevated more than some of the places around here. My bagel and lox was $8.50 and James' meal was, as you can see, $13. With two mimosas and a coffee, it was about $33. We don't eat here super often, but Arturo's is tied with Clay Pit for the walking-distance restaurant we have patronized the most in the past two years.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Austin Google fiber space and event

This morning, we braved the "traffic delays" (dead stop for half an hour) to go downtown... And, yes, we could have walked faster, but my daughter had somewhere to be at 11, so we needed to be able to get out quickly (at which time the streets were back open again).

Where did we go?

The old Austin children's museum!

...Which is now the HQ for Google fiber here in Austin. We've been meaning to go check it out, anyway, but today they had an event, Saturday Morning Cartoons, wherein they were showing stuff from Disney Junior and, allegedly, XD (which is how we got my 13-year-old to go, though they never showed any XD when we were there), and having breakfast.

The first thing I have to tell you is that about nine months ago or so, there was a similar event at a downtown hotel that was a pancake breakfast (I think affiliated with ACL or some other larger event), and they took RSVPs, but they had reached their fire-marshal-approved limit about 20 minutes before the event even started, so even though we all got there when it was supposed to begin, we were turned away. So, I was a little nervous about arriving at this thing as it began, but our road was closed down for the run, and my teen doesn't do really early mornings.

However... there were more staff there than visitors when we arrived! (5:2 before we got there.)

First, the space.

It's a big, wide-open room with various couches and poofs on which you can sit and watch the big-screen television or use your own device using Google fiber's 1 gigabit internet. (See my girl there on the left in the "Gravity Falls" pine tree trucker hat? "Gravity Falls." You know, from Disney XD. We were kinda hoping.)

There is an interactive area to compare the regular internet speeds versus Google fiber. I loved the mouse. There are a couple of other televisions streaming programming, too. 

The space is very comfortable. A lot of the couches have blankets, in case you get chilly. Nice touch.

The Star Wars cartoon actually looked pretty interesting.

Also, there are signs up in the common area that say, basically, your presence is acknowledgement and agreement that you might be photographed and your image used without compensation or further permission, so if you don't like it, you

Today, though, was special. In addition to the displays, wi-fi, and complimentary copies of the NY Times newspaper, they provided...

... breakfast! Including...

...a doughnut bar! It included chocolate, glazed, blueberry, and cinnamon doughnut holes as well as scones. They had chocolate syrup, vanilla icing, maple syrup, sprinkles, and bacon bits for toppings!

Oh, and milk, coffee, and OJ.

I was super impressed by my idea of chocolate syrup and bacon. However, it was the cinnamon doughnut holes that were super addictive! Nonetheless, my husband ended up co-opting the choco-bacon thing, too.

If you're in the downtown area, Google fiber space is worth dropping into just to check it out. But you might as well take a gander at their website and see if anything special is going on. They have a couple of kick-off (and closing) happy hours coming up, and a tailgate party next Saturday afternoon!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Tightening the Belt (but only metaphorically)

Most of you know that I have and ADORE eMeals. If you're tired of trying to think of what to feed your family all of the time, I highly recommend it! It's healthy, easy, and they make your shopping list for you! I don't have an affiliate link, and it does me no good to tell you that, but I'm telling you... Go to Groupon and other similar sites until you find a good deal on breakfast, lunch, and dinner for six months. Save all of the menus and shopping lists. You can change dinner menus (there is only one breakfast and lunch menu) every month, so try a few and you'll end up with a variety at the end of the six months. They try to use seasonal produce a lot, so if you do it for a year, then that's even better. Also, they send out periodic special menus, like a dessert menu on Valentine's and a full meal menu for Thanksgiving and Easter.

But I digress.

Since James has been out of work, I've been doing groceries a little differently. First of all, I haven't been using Instacart (that *is* an affiliate link; use it and you save $10 on your first order AND get free delivery!), since, although it's affordable, you can't take advantage of in-store sales with their service. Instead, I've been going to Randall's and buying only what's on sale.

For instance, I'll start in the produce aisle and last week got a treat when all of the berries were on sale! Strawberries were only $1.25 and blackberries and blueberries were $2.50. I ended up putting them all together, and we've had fruit salad a couple of times this week. This coming week, my parents will be here and want to take us shopping. Personal watermelons are on sale $2.50, avocados are only $1.25, and bagged salads are $2.50, too. So we'll start there. :)

Then, I go back to the lunch meat kind of area. I start at their "ah, crap this is about to expire" stuff and can usually get a few Lunchables or Hormel Revs or whatever those protein things are that have meat, cheese, and nuts on sale half off.

After that, I hit the manager's "specials" (again: expiring) at the meat counter. I've gotten some dang good deals, and today cooked 14 drumsticks that I bought for under $2. They were delicious!

Meat for the week in hand, I think of what might complement the protein and go look at the dairy sales. There are usually at least a couple of cheeses on sale, and maybe even half off if they're expiring. Also, there are two other sales kiosks near the refrigerated stuff.

Anyway, all of that to say (I'm ready for sleep!) that I'm spending about $60-80 per trip instead of $150-180 per delivery. This will last us at least a week, sometimes longer. Plus we are still eating out a bit, but only if we have coupons or there is a special. 

It's sort of fun, and I'm having great luck just Googling stuff like "mushrooms, bacon, spinach." Ooh, stuffed mushrooms?! Yes, please! Or the other day "skillet chicken thighs" came up with this awesome creamy balsamic chicken. Tonight, I Googled "baked drumsticks" and found this, which was easy and delicious. I did all 14 of them, so we have 8 for left-overs.

Tonight, I also made biscuits with chocolate gravy, and we finished up that berry mix I mentioned before. Kind of an unmatched meal, but it worked. For lunch, I used left-over shredded chicken and beef broth from the freezer, the rest of a package of frozen mixed veggies, left-over black beans (had used half a can for something yesterday), the rest of a package of frozen onion, some frozen green beans, cumin, garlic powder, and pepper to make some awesome chicken tortilla soup.

So, we're making it work. I'll be glad when James is working again; we needs us some income! But figuring ways to make money stretch farther is also kind of fun.

Night, humans!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Our anniversary!

This week was James' and my second anniversary. We got married on April 1, James said because it'd make a good joke. I think that's only partially true. I also think that he wanted to be sure he remembered our anniversary for the rest of our lives.

We have a tradition of not doing anything "special" on holidays so they don't feel like duties, but he did actually plan a family outing and took us to The Salt Lick.

I don't know whether you've ever been to The Salt Lick, but there's typically a two-hour wait. We got there 10 minutes before they opened at 11, and we got right in (after playing on campus a bit; it is beautiful! There are even a couple of playgrounds for the kiddies) and had a magnificent feast, then were done (stuffffed) by noon!

And while that's all well and good, I wanted most to share this (understand, I'd like to share more, but the baby's only temporarily asleep in his car seat and I'm boiling eggs hoping to make them deviled soon and we need to leave for a group lunch in half an hour, so... life). It's something I've realized over the past few months, and it's the thing I appreciate most about my husband and our life together:

James loves me. He loves all of me. He loves my flaws (or tries to) and quirks and everything about me. That might be a "duh" thing for some people, but I can honestly tell you that, except for my parents, I have never had someone who absolutely and unconditionally adored me. I can't be too loud or too big or too much or too passionate about stupid things. I can't embarrass James. I never feel self-conscious around him. He makes me know I'm loved all of the time no matter what.

And he's seen me at my worst, with the back injury and again in the past few months when I've reached the end of my rope parenting a newborn. He's seen me at my worst and still looks at me like I'm the best. All of the time.

I don't worry that my skirt is too bright or weird or age-inappropriate. I am not concerned that I haven't managed to shower in two days when he leans in and rubs my leg. I'm not self-conscious about the fact that I just a few minutes ago was talking about trying to eat less to get ready for weaning but now I'm shoving a Tiffwich into my face... probably because he's the one who bought it for me! I don't feel embarrassed when I yell something in public before I really think about what's going on. Or if I get so excited that I run or skip or dance on the sidewalk.

In short, I am allowed to be me. Without fear.

Don't get me wrong: James will tell me the truth. Some of the painful things he's said to me (and, man, after two years, they're very few and far between) include: "Honey, I'd love to make you happy right now, but you're being completely irrational" and "No, sweetie, you're not a bitch. You're just bitchy sometimes." And he was right both times. The first one was harder to hear. I can't argue with the second one. Well, I really couldn't with the first, either; I wanted two things that were mutually exclusive.

BUT... He loves me. I know that he does. I don't fear losing him. I don't worry about alienating him. And I DO NOT take that for granted. The security that comes with the absolute surety that I am cared for and appreciated actually makes me MORE desirous to repay him with all of my heart and all of my life. 

I love my James. I cannot wait to see what the next two years bring. Then the next four. Then eight. Then 16. (I could go on all day; he's been playing a lot of 2048 lately, so I have the multiples down pretty good.) <3