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Monday, August 31, 2015

Abiding Love Lutheran Church, and how we ended up there

First of all, I have to tell you: I love my old church. I found it before we came to Austin, and I knew it was home just from the tone of the website. Especially this: "We are professionals, bohemians, college students, musicians, artists, moms and dads, and more.  We come from broken backgrounds and spotless records, from nuclear families and divorce, we have been through some life and each of us walks with a bit of a limp that life has given us..." That was very welcoming to me, and it was an immediate match. For me. Unfortunately, it ended up that there was no one Daphne's age (or with a couple-year-range either way) in the congregation. Programming for youth has never been important to me. Other young people, though? They are. So it was with a lot of prayer, and waiting, and eventually clarity that we realized we had to seek out something else.

I want to tell you how we ended up somewhere I'd never have picked on my own, most likely.

I have exactly two experiences with the Lutheran church: One was driving by one on our way to our church in Fort Smith, and my dad remarking that Martin Luther didn't want a church named after him, ironically. The other was when Daphne and I visited on a Sunday night with some neighbors when we'd first moved to Sherman. That was an almost instant "no." I'm sure they were awesome people, but it was just one of those "Yeah, we don't belong here" things.

When I was talking to a friend about having to choose a new church, I mentioned two within a mile of Vogelfutter. She said, "You should visit my church." She knew the youth, it's not a huge group, and she said the kids were great.

So, we visited.

Jumping forward, I want to tell you something that I was thinking about yesterday as I sat in the cry room with my son: Going places with him is hard. It's all hard. Taking him to my sister's? There's dog food and things plugged into outlets, and the toilets aren't locked closed, and the toilet brush is on the floor (instead of the cabinet), etc. He never stops! Taking him to a restaurant is difficult because he might sit in a high chair for twenty minutes and eat and amuse himself, or he might insist on being held, which really means climbing on the table, which he can't do, but if we put him in the floor, he'll walk all over the place, to other people's tables, under tables, behind the cashier's counter, etc. The grocery store isn't too bad because we're moving, but once we slow down to get in line to pay, he wants to get out, or to stand up. And never mind if he's strapped in to his high chair or his grocery cart or whatever, he can get up. He just can. I walk through lots of places with him standing in the grocery cart (like it says not to let kids do) with my holding him at the upper legs, just because it's easier than fighting with him and him throwing himself around and maybe hurting himself.

So, basically, going places with  Mal at all is difficult. But church is super so because he won't sit still really at all anymore. He'll usually make it through one or two songs, especially if we're standing, but then he wants to walk everywhere and go through old ladies' purses and slam down the door stop on the concrete floor, and roll the golf pencils underneath the pews, etc.

Yesterday, I was sitting in the cry room with Mal, playing around me, not being very aware (therefore "nice") to the three-year-old girl in there, also, looking through the windows at Daphne, who was drawing (as usual) and not really participating in church and maybe not even listening. I thought, "I have to *really* want to go to church. This is hard, and there's no obvious fruit, and this is truly an act of will on my part during this season of my life."

Youth classes start in two weeks, so I'm hoping that makes a difference for Daphne, anyway.

After church, when we toddled out of the cry room, a lady introduced herself to me, grinning at Mal, and said, "He was so much fun to watch during the children's sermon!" Really? Him, trying to crawl away while I held his shirt and he threatened to scream, so that I finally let him go, and he walked right up behind an early-elementary-aged kid and just grabbed on to him for balance, so that I had to pull him away, and sit with both arms around him for the rest of the maybe three-minute kids' sermon? Fun?

But it made me feel like the first thing I saw on the first day that we visited this church was genuine. Here it is: (I think you can click on the pictures to see them full-size.)

It literally brought tears to my eyes then, and it does now. To see it out in writing like that, and to let the other congregants know what is expected. It's really awesome. They do have a nursery, but I didn't get a "Yes! Let's!" vibe the first time I visited, so we might wait until we have a little MOPS under our belts.

A look at the church's website reveals a couple of things: 1) That it was probably designed around the turn of the century, and 2) that it's a very busy place, and that they serve a lot of community entities. I wanted a place where we would have ample opportunity to volunteer, and this looks like it will be the case.

As for the worship services: There is a lot more liturgy than I am accustomed to, in terms of congregational readings; scripture being "read' as song; and things that are repeated each week, like the Apostles Creed and a Confession and Forgiveness of Sins. There is church band is called "Mixed Blessings" that leads worship every 2nd and 4th Sunday. During the month of July, the church had a musical emphasis, doing "unplugged" the first week we visited. The set list included "Peace Train" and "Blowing in the Wind" (so it was apparently the 1960s unplugged!). The next week was polka music, and I'd have loved to be there, but we had one more church to visit. The following week was a classical emphasis, and then the final week was youth-led worship. Right now, we're in a sermon series on the Psalms, and they had a guest harp player, then last week, they had a sort of minstrel group walking through the sanctuary during one of the songs (which was a Psalm). So there's a good mix of new and different things (including varying communion; sometimes by intinction, and sometimes with separate elements), a lot of scripture reading, and a lot of standing, sitting, and moving around. When Mal's a little bit older, it will be perfect for him.

During the worship, the band and singers aren't on stage. They're to the side of the auditorium, and the focus is the altar, the elements, and the cross.

One thing I love is that there is a children's sermon every week. The little kids are invited down to sit in the front of the auditorium (while the congregation sings "This Little Light of Mine") and the pastor gives them a 2-5 minute message relative to the week's topic.

They also have canvas "worship totes," with a small clipboard, a box of colored pencils and crayons, and an age-appropriate (preschool or "reader") booklet for drawing, coloring, and doing puzzles.

Again, they're really trying to get the kids into the service and involved and occupied. I appreciate it.

We had the youth orientation a couple of weeks ago, and the youth classes start on September 13. Starting then, they have one activity a month, including tubing, retreats, and a steam train visit to "Bethlehem" in December. I'd love to do some of the stuff, but there aren't parent chaperones as the idea is to get other adults who are not the parents involved in the lives of the youth.

There is a women's group that meets once a month at Central Market, and I plan to get there soon. I've had to opt out twice because of family life, but I'm looking forward to meeting some more people. Everyone I've met and talked to so far, even just in passing, has been gracious and sincere, and even though I'd never have picked a Lutheran church out of the air for our family, I feel like it's going to be a great fit.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

On Mal's Other Hand...

So, yes, I'm tired. My amazing, wonderful son makes me tired. He also makes me laugh. He's such a sweetie when he's not jumping straight from joy into anger and whatnot. He really does seem to have two speeds: giggling and gnashing teeth.

This morning, we had gone out on the patio to enjoy the sunrise. It was cooler out there than in the house, and the sky was amazing. After we'd been out a few, Mal walked back into the apartment, went to the laundry room, grabbed the Swiffer sweeper (it didn't have a cloth on it), and took it outside to "sweep" the corn and birdseed.

Later, I was winding up the vacuum cleaner cord and noticed that the vacuum was dusty. I got a Lysol wipe to wipe it down, and Mal took it from me to continue the job.

Also, I had gotten out an Allen wrench to tighten the screws on my bar stool, and after I'd put the wrench back into the tool bag, Mal reached in there and got the right thing (there are also screwdrivers and a small hammer) and was poking at the foot rest on the stool.

So, see? He's very helpful.

To keep him from fussing so much, I've tried to teach him to ask for "Help, please, mama," or "Nursies, please, mama." Lately, he's forgotten this skill when it comes to things like wanting to move his gigantic diaper bag, or my backpack/purse, or James' backpack. He just grabs, pulls, and starts scream crying when he can't do it. However, he does try very hard with certain things. And he says it, for some reason, "Bup bup" or "bum bump." I guess that's what "help" feels like in his mouth.

Once, I'd saved some of his favorite treats (those dehydrated veggie puffs? I am addicted to them myself! They're just fruit and veggies and juice and they melt in your mouth, but they also make them with yogurt or coconut water, and they're just amazing. Yes, I eat baby food. A whole bag of those suckers is only 100 calories, but it's also close to $3, so I haven't ever actually sat down and just gone to town) for church, only to realize that there were maybe a half dozen left, and then some fragments.

I pulled out two and gave them to him. He ate them, and then looked at me again, so I handed him two more. Then I poured out the rest into my hand, so he could see the next two and the crumby mixture that was left. He ate the two and wasn't interested in the crumbs. He looked at me and said politely, "Bup bup." I whispered, "Sweetie, this is all that there are. They're all gone." I opened the bag to show him the empty cavern. He looked at the bag and then at me expectantly and said, "Bup bup." I said, "I'm sorry. All done." And then he started to cry, so I took him out long enough for me to open a Clif Z Bar, which he adores, and he gladly (and messily) ate. He tried to hard to ask the right way, and that got him nowhere, right?

Then another time, we were in his room and he was climbing all over me, like he does about every hour, wanting to nurse. Now, if we go out, he can go three hours or so without nursing, if he's distracted. I know, physically, he could go longer. But he's still in the "nurse first, snack on food after" stage, and he very much likes to nurse as his own personal sedative, so I'm following his lead. Except sometimes, at home, I try to put him off by changing the center of attention to something exciting, or offering him food in case he's actually hungry. He was getting upset with my refusal to let him latch on, and he started crying. But this wasn't his fussy norm. This was seriously sad and disappointed, and as he started, he sobbed, "Bup buhhhhhp." So, of course, it was too adorable to say "no" and he got what he wanted.

Another thing is that he gets sad *every* morning when James leaves. If I let him, he'd stand at the door and wail. Instead, we run into his room and he can see his dad walk down the stairs and turn up the hill to get to the car. James waves at us from the ground floor, and it's somehow more cheerful to see him disappear like that than to have a door slammed in between us.

Mal will sometimes walk around the house looking for "Dah-dah" until I remind him that Daddy's at work but will be home soon (like in 6 short hours!), and whenever Mal hears the keys in the door, he stops whatever we're doing and runnnnns to the entryway. Sometimes he greets his dad by running to him, but sometimes he's so overwhelmed by happiness that it makes him shy and he runs back to me, first, then to his dad. He wants James to pick him up right away, and he says "Dah-dah!" over and over while studying James' face.

I love this little stinker! Truly, I do!
Final story: As I've mentioned, Mal has a tough time transitioning into sleep, thus my having to nurse him to sleep all of the time, including when he wakes up during naps (he usually "sleeps" for two hours, with two wake-ups during that time, so I nurse him thrice during naps). When I nurse him, he usually kicks his legs. If we're in bed, he'll kick at the blinds, so I have to prop a pillow up against the blinds to keep the noise of that from keeping him awake. And, also, like any baby, he will sometimes rub my arm or my other... side (I make him stop; I mean, please, at least one of them gets a rest while the other is in use, right?), and sometimes, he pinches my arm! Well, the other day, he was super keyed up, I guess, because he was kicking both legs, and patting me with both hands. With one hand, he was patting the very feeding device he was using, and with the other, he was patting my arm. It was too cute, and he did finally wind down and fall asleep.

So, I suppose the moral of the story is that it's a good tired.

Friday, August 28, 2015

This Child

Someday, I will be interviewed by 20/20 or some other news program because my son will have figured out how to travel faster than the speed of light (suck it, Einstein and/or Newtonian physics! {I majored in theater.}) or will have come up with some way to distribute food everywhere on earth very easily. And I'll laugh when they ask me what he was like as a kid. I'll shake my head a little bit and wax nostalgic, then finally chalk it all up to a preview of his tenacity as an adult.

Story One:
We were at Burger King yesterday, after a morning tea at the birthing center, toward the end of which he started deciding he wanted to explore in ways I was too tired to manage (I think he ate an entire candle wick, but that's not the worse thing he's ever eaten; those of you paying attention know what I mean). I expected him to fall asleep in the car, and when he didn't I elected to take him to an indoor playground (it's August in Austin; I'm not a good enough mom to take him to an outdoor park at noon). For the first time, he climbed all the way up the smallest slide, and was having fun running away from me, as though he wasn't supposed to be. So I chased him, and in between playing, he ate a bit.

A family came in: Mom, a 3- or 4-year-old girl, a 4-month-old baby, and grandma and grandpa. They were getting all set up when Mal went to play with the 3-year-old. It was cute! He went up the stairs and into the cube at the top of the slide, also for the first time. Then after a few, he started getting fussy. I think she was kind of crowding him, and he felt trapped. So I helped him out.

He noticed the baby in one of the rolling high chairs and started to go push it. Now, the baby is only 4 months old, and she was kind of slumped over. I didn't want him jarring her, so I ran over, grabbed him away in time, and walked him across the room saying, "Look! Here's another high chair just for you!"

He pushed that high chair until it caught on a table, then he ran, giggling maniacally, over toward the baby in the chair. I caught him in time and took him back to our table to eat some more. He took one bite of a French fry and wriggled out of my arms.

He ran... right back over to the baby, laughing the whole way. I "redirected" him again, this time to the play area where he'd been having so much fun before anyone got there. He climbed up and looked at me like, "Am I supposed to be doing this?" Then... You guessed it! He ran back toward the baby.

I picked him up and said, "Sorry. Since you can't leave her alone, we're leaving." He started to buck and be angry, but thank goodness he didn't keep that up, because I really wanted a refill before we left!

Story Two:
I'm in the bathroom, and I mindlessly put the toilet paper roll back where it belongs. We'd moved it because Mal likes to unspool the toilet paper and play with it. He'll put some into the litter box, and he'll eat some, and he'll just leave some in the floor. Oh, and today I realized that apparently he also drops some into the bathtub (which I realized during a shower when it was too late to handle it without mess).

As I was getting ready to leave, Mal wandered in and his face lit up at the toilet paper roll, back in place. I said, "I see what you're thinking! Let's go play in your room." And I picked him up, walked him down our hall, though our bedroom, though the dining/play area, living room, other hall, and into his room. I asked, "What are we going to play with?" as I sat down. He then RAN back into my room, disappeared around the corner for a few moments, and came back toward me, grinning like the cat who ate the canary, if the cat were a boy and the canary were toilet paper, ALL of which he'd quickly stuffed into his face. He'd used up the last of the roll.


Also yesterday (or the day before?) I had to sit in front of an outlet so Daphne and I could listen to an audiobook without him unplugging the speakers. I finally moved them onto our dining space, but had to move them back when it was dinner time. We have a lamp in our living room that we can't use because he unplugs it every single time he sees it's plugged in. Every time. At the birthing center yesterday, he unplugged the noise machine from the birthing room, and the fan from the waiting area.

"Just redirect him." Oh my gosh, people. All I do is redirect. I spend so much time playing and trying to distract him. I let him play with everything and get everything out that I can. He pulls everything out of the kitchen cabinets and drawers, and I let him; I just clean it when he's napping or in bed or doing something else. He pulls out the broom, mop, and dust mop. He takes all of the clean dishes out and drops them helpfully on the floor (maybe don't eat with us for a few years). He screams when I don't let him do this with the dirty dishes; I have to load the dishwasher when he's asleep or playing with his dad. He pulls all of the toys out in his room. He even pulls books and office supplies out, and gets to play with all of it. (Ask my mom; some stuff makes her nervous.) But, of course, there's some stuff he just can't use or can't play with. We put as much away, out of his reach, as we can. But we can't top-load bookshelves because that's freaking dangerous. There has to be something equally heavy on those bottom two shelves he can reach. And he finally seems to be getting better about biting and tearing pages of books, but it's been a long couple of months!

Anyway, I decided I'm going to write a book called, "I'm Laughing With You" and it's just going to contain excerpts from parenting books written by people who apparently have much easier kids.

Let's start with this, by Mayim Bialik, whom I ADORE. It's from the book "Beyond the Sling," which I LOVE. But this part. Oh my gosh, her reality is so different than mine:

"We never baby-proofed our home except for power-outlet covers, and 'Not for Miles' saved us so much time and energy as he crawled toward wires and lamps but never hurt himself or broke one item in our home. When something was dangerous, a stern tone (which we saved for only such occasions) and strong body language did the trick in averting his exploration of dangerous things."

HA HA HA HAA ha ha haa! Good for Mayim and her boys, seriously. Good for them.

Have I mentioned that he's started biting?

Oh, yes. He bites when he's mad. He bit my thumb the other day for trying to clip his nails. He bites my shoulder when he wants to nurse and I'm trying to put him off for a few more minutes. He bites our legs often when he's frustrated. He tries to bite my hand or arm when I'm holding the faucet closed for the bathtub, and he tries to bite whatever he can reach when I'm strapping him into his carseat. If I can, I will always give him something inanimate to bite (not books, though!). We say, "Don't bite!" very seriously, and he grins and tries again.

All of that to say, I'm tired.

Don't worry, though; he's not just a devil child. He has some very endearing qualities upon which I will elaborate in the next post. Whenever that happens.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Day in the Life, Hour by Hour

This morning, I thought it'd be fun to take a picture every hour on the hour during my day. Which worked at 7 and 8. But then I lost track of time, so at 9:18, it changed it to taking a picture during each hour of the day. And then I took the 1 o'clock picture at exactly 2 o'clock and decided that we weren't going to be hugely legalistic about this. I took a picture roughly every hour out of my day. I think it was a pretty typical day. Let's get going, shall we?

7:00 AM on the patio. James was out the door fast, so I didn't even have time to make hum breakfast (but I did make him coffee; that's important!).

8:00 AM outside Mal's window. The rabbits have more than doubled in size since we moved in!

During the 9 o'clock hour, we played at Windmill Run Park while it was still mild (but too humid for me to say "cool" because I was sweaty), and we might have witnessed a drug deal while we played in the van for a few minutes as I was procrastinating putting Mal into the carseat against his will.

10 o'clock hour, and we're on our way home from H-E-B. I was going to take a picture inside the store, but apparently my darling son had shoved my camera up under my seat during the aforementioned play session.

11 is an early nap for the guy on the left, but he's been feeling puny for several days. The guy on the right sleeps most of the time, so no bigs.

Noontime. Post-vacuuming. Carol hates it when I vacuum. Or when the landscapers come. This is her safe place.

Late in the 1 PM timeframe: Play time! Thomas looks a bit surprised to see Raggedy Ann.

2 o'clock hour brings a visit to the clubhouse on the walk home from the mail box. Even though I went to the store for two things, I forgot one of them: caffeine! I just got one 20-ouncer for my morning tomorrow, because I'm getting out at about 10 and will pick up some more after my activity.

3 M&Ms at 3 PM. I put them up on his slide platform to occupy him while I did a couple of things in the kitchen. He grabbed one, did this baby crack move, enjoyed it, and then repeated with each subsequent candy. This is the final piece.

4 PM and a stack of M&M "less unhealthy" brownies I made. The second thing I'd gone to the store to get, I also forgot: Brownie mix. But I was certain I could make brownies out of Bisquick. When no recipe showed up on the internet, I winged it. I used a can of pumpkin puree, 6 tablespoons of cocoa, and the rest of the Bisquick (enough to make a thicky cookie-like dough). Then I added one egg, which made it thick brownie batter consistency. I tasted it, and it tasted like biscuits, so I added 6 tablespoons of sugar. Not enough. I added 6 more, for 12 total tablespoons, and that was perfect, given that I also planned to add a cup or so of M&Ms. I spread the whole thing in a 9 x 12 pan, sprinkled turbinado sugar and M&Ms on top, and baked at 350 for 30 minutes. Very good. Low fat. We all liked them.

It's 5 o'clock. Do you know where your children are? I do. Daphne and I are listening to "Armada" by Ernest Cline, and Mal is crawling around fussing, mostly.

6 o'clock, when I answer my question: Can you make steamed dumplings in a rice cooker? Yes, you can. I couldn't find a recipe for what I wanted to do, either, so I made one up. I melted 4 tablespoons of pork fat (from having cooked a roast) in a pan, and grated one cucumber into it. I liberally sprinkled onion and garlic powders. After that got mushy, I added one pound of ground turkey. I cooked it until it released its juices and got pretty watery, then added 2 tablespoons of mint, torn into bits, some soy sauce, and some Worchestershire sauce. Then I cooked it until all of the liquid evaporated and I had a nice dry meat mixture. Then I took some left-over Pillsbury pizza dough, tore it into bits to make balls/flattened into disks, put a heaping tablespoon of meat in the center, pinched the ends, rolled it into a ball again, and cooked over water in the rice cooker for 20-30 minutes. So good.

7 o'clock, when hope springs eternal.

8 PM: Daddy's home!

9 PM, Mal does a final sweep to make sure everything's clean before heading (unwillingly) to bed.

Night, friends!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

You Say It's Your Birthday...

Just so you'll know, you're all out of the running to be the first to wish me a happy birthday this year. That honor goes to my Las Vegas friend, Adrienne, who called me today because she knew we were in the neighborhood and couldn't remember the exact date (it's Sunday, the 30th; not the 31st, like some of you were thinking), but I was still super impressed because I haven't lived in Las Vegas in over a decade, and because I sure as heck don't remember when her birthday is. (But I love her very much and hope she knows it.)

Now, I will say... some people who also know that my birthday is coming up (and if what I'm about to say applies to you, know you're in good company... like probably half a dozen people) have asked me, "What do you have planned for your birthday?" or variations thereof.

Short answer: nothing.

I mean, it's Sunday, so we'll go to church. Daphne and I were planning to go see some pigeons, but the lady who has them never answered me as to whether that would work for them. We'll likely go out to eat, like we do every weekend. That's probably about it. A normal weekend.

Can I tell you something that says a lot more about me than it does about any one of these well-meaning people who are certain that someone as fabulous as I am must have ah-mayz-ing plans for celebrating?

It's difficult to answer that question truthfully without feeling like I'm apologizing for my family. First of all, I have a baby. Now I'm pretty sure in some cosmic way, he is glad that I was born, thus assuring his survival. But it's still way too early for that. Second, I have a teenager. Third, I married someone who a) doesn't plan stuff and b) thinks "special" occasions are stupid.

Again, we go out to eat pretty much every weekend, at least a couple of times. If I want anything, really, I get it. If I ask James about it, he looks at me like I have three heads and says, "Of course; get it." I don't need anything. I don't want anything. I'm good.

There's sometimes this insinuation that if someone doesn't do something really cool for me, then they're probably thoughtless.

And, of course, in the day of social media, there's a lot of pressure to have colorful photographic documentation of the day up so everyone can see how very cool I am, and how many friends I have, and how my family can party me up.

It's not going to happen.

By the way, you know how I mentioned that yesterday was #notbacktoschool "take over the media" day or whatever? Yeah. I didn't take or post one picture, except for the one of the walk to the mail box here on this blog. Other people made it a point go to river rafting or do bubble experiments or other very neat things that, frankly, I don't have the energy or ability to do right now. We had a nice day. That's good enough.

And it'll be good enough for my birthday.

But you can feel free to send me cards, candy, and cash. Or any combination thereof.

Thanks! :)

Monday, August 24, 2015

Another Day in Paradise

Today was exhausting but good, a pretty pleasing scenario for a mom of a needy baby and a teenager on a very hot day in Texas when everyone else is going back to school!

First, Mal is teething or growing or something, because most of the day, he just wandered around crying, even if I'd hold him and nurse him (and nurse him and nurse him). He was also producing an abnormally large amount of nasal mucus, if you know what I'm saying.

Anyway, I rushed James out of the house this morning so he'd (hopefully) miss First Day traffic, then Mal and I hung out in his room.

Around ten, we walked to the office to pick up a package, then made our way the rest of the way down the hill to the mailbox because the package I expected to be in the office wasn't, but it was in our postal box. We explored a new off-road trail and can get most of the way to the mailbox now without having to dodge traffic. We did end up with some nature in our hair and on our clothes.

Mal got several toys in the mail, very cool things from Zulily. He enjoyed playing for a while, but then resumed fussing. Meanwhile, I'm trying desperately to finish up "Armada" by local author Ernest Cline. Loving it. I don't think the unfavorable comparisons to his "Ready Player One" are warranted. It's a great story.

Daphne got up around noon, and Mal fell asleep at about 1. We decided that when he woke up, we'd go to the store. Daphne's been wanting to eat "more healthy" lately, so was supposed to make me a list of her desired fruits (said like Mike Meyers in "So I Married an Axe Murderer"), but hadn't gotten around to it yet.

So, when Mal awoke (in a much improved mood), we headed over to the dreaded Wal-Mart, because I also needed some other stuff, and cheap, and whatever.

D picked out her stuff, we were able to buy a bunch of peanut butter for the Capital Area Food Bank drive that our church is doing, and we also got a bunch of non-perishable microwavable dinners for the Ronald McDonald House drive that our apartment complex is having.

Then, miracle of miracles, Daphne picked out three shirts she liked (thanks, Nana and Pappy!). One I think she got just because I noticed it and said, "That's disturbing." Because that's how she operates.

On the way home, we stopped by Chick-fil-A to get D a spicy chicken sandwich, for free because of the Cowlendar, and me a free ice cream cone, because it's my birth month!

When we got back, Mal ate a bunch of tiny champagne grapes and was happy, but then he was promptly unhappy again, so we took a second walk to the mail box, because something special for his birthday cake had been delivered, and it's stinking perishable, so we needed to get it in to the climate control.

Our second walk to the mailbox.
By the time we got back, James was home, and we had dinner with the baby while Daphne watched a new Gravity Falls episode streaming live. She just took her very late supper and while I'm going to read for about an hour until I fall asleep, she'll probably still be up another five hours or so.

So: Crying baby, not good. Teenager-accompanied trip out of the house -- to SHOP, no less?! Great!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

To School!

This is a fun time of year for me on social media.

I get to see people's younger kids all dressed to the nines, grinning like mad, so excited to start a new year of school, with their new backpacks and new shoes and ready for new adventures.

I get to see my friends' trucking their kids off to college for the first time. Or third time. It doesn't seem to matter... it's both exciting and heart-breaking for the parents. This year seems to have the greatest concentration of "off-to-college" pictures that I've seen so far. Maybe this has to do with my peer group's average age, when we started getting married and having families, many of whom are now of nest-leaving age.

I get to see my teacher friends' classrooms, monuments to ingenuity and the very sincere desire to instill in kids an enthusiasm for learning. These pre-school pictures remind me of the days when my mom was teaching and my sister and I would "help" her set up her room. We'd try to throw in our own creative touches, like pulling pictures away from the bulletin board to the end of the push-pin to create a 3D effect. Or providing pictures on the chalkboard that took us hours to draw and color, knowing they'd be erased ten minutes after class started. Of course, we also engaged in less academically-appropriate tasks, like racing down the deserted corridors on roller chairs while the teachers were doing in-service.

I love all of this, even though I don't do any of it. Even with homeschooling, we don't have an "academic year," and now that Daphne is older and we're unschooling, we don't really "do" school at all. But, man, I love the cheap office supplies this time of year! I love the colorful pens and locker decorations and smelly markers and those zipper pockets that go into folders. I love all of the boxed lunches ideas that are coming across my Facebook feed. When we received the paper (that's a newspaper, or a daily periodical that used to be printed and delivered to your very house back in the olden days) in Sherman, I'd even read the school lunches to see who had the best stuff!

There are a couple of not-back-to-school parties here in Austin soon. One is tomorrow, and it's huge, and we probably won't go because I'm not quite ready for Mal to try to tackle Barton Springs (it's so slippery and he can't tell me if he's too cold), and it starts before Daphne typically wakes up (wait, doesn't it start at noon? Yes. Move along.). There's another one in a couple of weeks that's an unschooling event, and we'll probably go to that. Having met several unschoolers at the convention last spring, I think those are definitely "my" people.

But here's the deal: I know a lot of people are going to be posting "not back to school" pictures tomorrow. I think that's cool. As long as we're all celebrating together. I just saw a post in one of the groups to which I belong, and it was some kind of blog about going back to school. The lady wrote, "Our kids aren't missing a thing." Well, probably not.

However, my decision not to send my daughter to school isn't a commentary on what you guys are doing with your kids. I'm telling you all: I trust you. I believe you're doing the very best for your family, and I support you! I don't feel like this is a competition and one of us has to "win." I feel like whenever we do right by our offspring, we all win. Okay? Your kids aren't missing a thing, either.

We're all doing what we should be doing (and if we're not, we should change, and support each other through the changes), and I just want you to know that if I post a picture of us at TCBY this week, eating free birthday (for me!) yogurt with the hashtag "not back to school," it's not to show off how much more awesome my existence is than yours. It's just because that's our reality as much as your back to school preparations are yours. And I think we're all doing an awesome job!

A lot of times, I'll post stuff about unschooling or gentle parenting, and I hope those never come off as my thinking that I have the parenting market cornered, because I don't. I'm always trying to figure things out, to fine-tune, to do better. Isn't that what most of us parents do?

So, whether you're just coming home from having taken your precious first-born several states away, or are just tucking your little ones in for a good sleep before the first day of AISD, or you're sitting next to the baby you just nursed to sleep... Keep posting those amazing pictures of these exciting times! I love living vicariously though you guys!

Mal's first visit to the zoo... The first animal he saw! :) #lifeisschool

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Fat and Valuable

Today, I was reading an article about Melissa McCarthy's new clothing line for Home Shopping Network. Well, first of all, the pieces are way too expensive. I was pretty excited about the whole thing until I saw that a t-shirt is $60 and a kimono is $160. I'm sorry, to whom is she selling?!

Anyhoo, there was this whole thing about how she hates that the clothes, which are made in sizes 4-24 are advertised as including "plus size." She thinks it's an insulting term, and you can agree with that or disagree, whatever.

What got me, though, were some of the comments on the stories.

Usually, I don't read comments because they make me sad about us as a humanity. For some reason, though, I scrolled down a bit. Maybe it was because I wanted to leave a comment about the stinking unaffordability of the outfits?

Regardless, there were comment after comment that can basically be summed up by one person's question:

"Why don't fat people realize they're fat and get to a gym?"

Oh, I'm so glad you asked, internet person. I've heard variations of this a lot over time, and I, a fat person who realizes she is fat, would love to answer your question.

I don't get to a gym because there are so many other things in life that are a bigger priority to me than spending a good 1/24th of my God-given hours inside a building with work-out equipment.

I did do Zumba when Daphne was in gymnastics, and I love dancing. But I'll tell you what; I did it because I thought it was fun and it was a way to relieve stress. I did not do it because I felt I owed the world a more trim version of myself. I'm not a self-conscious teenager. I don't buy into that whole thing anymore.

Here's what people who ask craptastic questions like those above don't seem to understand: Fat or skinny are labels that do not have values assigned to them. Fat is not bad. Skinny is not bad. Fat is not good. Skinny is not good. They are labels, and they might be true, and they might be used as insults or compliments.

People who are fat do not need to be fixed. People who are fat are not automatically unhealthy. Most of us don't sit around feeling ugly and wishing things could be "better." Most of us have romantic partners and vibrant, full lives, and we're not cowering in a dark shadow being jealous of how awesome other, smaller people look.

I would never suggest to a skinny person that he or she needed to eat a sandwich. I don't believe any of us has the right to voice an opinion about someone else's body (unless that person is a dear friend of yours, and you know something is wrong, and you're always going to be friends with them whether they listen to you or not) at all.

The other day, a friend had mentioned that someone had referred to her (tall, lithe) as a "beanpole" and that she didn't like it any more as an adult as she did as a kid. Well, one of HER friends mentioned that someone called her daughter "skinny" and when her daughter asked what "skinny" meant, she said, "It's what some people call trim and healthy people when they're not." Then other people tried to ease the sting by saying this was "better than (being called) Fat Ass." UGH, folks, NO! First, you don't try to teach your daughter about healthy body image (hashtag "no eating disorder," she'd written) by insulting someone's body type when they've just made an unsolicited and rude comment about body type. Second, FAT ASS and BEANPOLE aren't value-specific and neither is "better" or "worse" than the other!

Anyway, when people who tend to be thinner say that they eat whatever they want, and they just tend to be thinner, no one questions that or calls them "gross" or suggests things they might try in order to be "better."

So why, when people say that they're prone to carrying more weight, is that met with skepticism and derision and they're then treated like disgusting slobs who can't control themselves and just need to put down the mayo and get onto the treadmill?

Why do people even care about it?

But back to the original question: Why don't fat people just realize that they're fat and get to the gym?

1) The gym is not the only place (or even the ideal place) to get exercise. I ride my bike. I carry my kid. I walk and hike with friends.

2) Most fat people know they're fat. Some care, some don't. Some are motivated to change; some don't feel any need to change; some want to change and don't know how and are already miserable, so don't be a jerk and make it worse; some are on a road to dropping weight, and good for them. None is more virtuous than the other. They're just different.

3) My body does what I want it to do. There is nothing that doesn't work. I don't have to take breaks walking up the stairs, and my knees don't bother me, and my blood pressure and cholesterol are both great, thanks for your concern. I don't need to go to the gym.

4) I have a daughter, and a son, and a husband, and an extended family, and books to read, and meals to cook, and, yes, dang it, desserts to bake... and I can't imagine why I'd want to try to squeeze in time at a depressing (to me) gym into my day, taking time away from things I actually love.

5) Why should any of us fat people feel like we need to alter our body type for anyone else?

I'm on a great website called Fit Fatties where you can discuss fitness separate from dieting, weight loss, etc. It's super incredible to have that freedom. Also, on the site, you can meet, for instance, women who are 5'5", weigh 250 pounds, and who run marathons. So don't make assumptions and don't try to fix something that might not be broken. In short, mind your own business. Don't worry your pretty little head. Go do something productive. Heck, go to the gym if you think that's the answer. But don't assume I need or want to. I don't owe you anything.

Shower Time Isn't Always Mommy Time

Tonight after dinner, James was playing with Mal, so I decided it'd be the perfect time to get a shower. Mal knew where I was going, though, and followed me in there very joyfully. I was telling him, "You've already cleaned up today. Mommy's going to take a shower by herself."

But he didn't listen. He just kept getting happier and happier. I physically handed him to James, and he started crying. I said, "Mal, I'm sorry. Mommy needs a shower by herself."

Then, I swear to you, Mal yelled, "Mom! Bath!"

So guess what? After James and I stopped laughing, Mal got a bath.

I'm a sucker for a kid using his words. Especially the ones I didn't know he knew!

The Littlest Unschooler

Last night, I was sitting in Mal's room watching him play when it occurred to me some of the amazing things he's learned this year. Besides physical milestones like standing up and starting to form words (even if they're largely his personal vocalizations for things), he's learned how to unplug things, unscrew lids, use his teeth as a tool to pry stuff off (I know, dentists, you don't need to message me), how to identify an M&Ms bag, what cooking and cleaning "looks like" enough to imitate both, that people will laugh if he does certain things (so that he does them over and over and over again), to identify animals as living things in pictures, where to look when I say "There's a hummingbird!" or "There's a squirrel on the patio!" or "Look at all of the birds at the feeder!" He remembers where stuff is, and he knows how to get to things he wants (especially the things we don't want him to have and that we try to hide from him). He knows that if he wants Daphne, he has to yell because her fan is on and she can't hear over it. And, well, you get the point. He's picking up a lot of stuff.

And that was the point: he's picking it up.

He has learned a lot in the past nearly-11 months, and except for a few signs, words, and instruction to make all of our lives easier, we haven't "taught" him anything. I don't sit him down and force him to look at a book, repeating "cat cat cat" and pointing to a picture until I think he "gets" it. I don't force him to look at books at all. In fact, I spend a lot of time pulling books out of his mouth, but that's not the point. The point is that the books he looks at he chooses to look at, and he turns the pages himself (board books; the other ones he tears the pages out himself, so it's a no-go), and he points at pictures himself. Then I'll give him the name, and we'll sometimes go back and forth making the animal sound.

Speaking of which, do giraffes make any vocalizations?

I was thinking about how much and how quickly babies learn, and extending that to unschooling. I think as kids get older, we feel like there's a need for us to enforce something called "academic rigor," which boils down to forcing them to do things so competitively it feels like work and they might start hating it (unless you have a kid who really likes that kind of thing or the subject matter enough that there's no screwing it up for them).


My child is learning at lightning speed. It's not always fun. There are things he's learned that he has not enjoyed, like that banging his head against things might be funny, but if you don't do it just right, it can also be extremely painful. That's not a lesson I would force on him, and not just because that'd be tantamount to abuse. It's because it's best learned for yourself. I firmly believe that most things are.

Today, we had Mal's (early) one year pictures taken and the photographer asked me about holding Mal's hand to walk with him for one shot. I tried, but he wouldn't go for it, and I realized: We've never done that. We have never held one or both of his hands to try to get him to or help him to walk. He walks some, but it's his choice... and, well, frankly, he walks sideways, like a crab on two legs. But whatever. He'll figure it out.

We haven't tried to "teach" him this skill. We didn't try to "teach" him to crawl, or encourage him to crawl by putting things he wanted out of his reach. He just crawled when he was ready.

This attitudinal realignment is so far off from what I believed when Daphne was a baby. I feared that if I wasn't singing the alphabet or doing hand shapes or going over colors all of the time, intellectually stimulating her at every opportunity when she was so young, that I'd lose time and miss out on some window. Well, and obviously she turned out brilliant and artistic and amazing. But I don't think it has anything to do with my trying desperately to help her figure out where her nose was when she was wide awake after a 4 AM feeding at six weeks old.

Anyway, I've been thinking about unschooling a lot lately. Daphne's gearing up for a project she's launching as part of her "early preparation for adulthood." (Please don't ask her about it! She hates that. I only get updates as she's ready to tell me. Seriously, ask her about it and she might drop it altogether.) She's testing some waters to see if she can make a living doing something she loves... while she lives at home and doesn't have to pay rent. It's a good time to start, right?

We plan to send Mal to the Waldorf School when he's older, and it's one reason we moved here. They play a lot. It's part of the core "curriculum." But I guess we'll see once we test those waters how flexible they are in letting him choose what he's doing. Of course, by then, it might be *so* expensive to live in Austin, we will have moved somewhere that the excellent Waldorf education is not a possibility, in which case it will be a no-brainer: we'll continue on with the same.

So far, so good.

I love watching my kids learn their stuff.

This is how you read, right?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Eating in Oak Hill, Austin

Last Update: October 24, 2015
Update Details: Added a review of Milano Cafe

I just looked up "Oak Hill" on a map. This is it:

As you can see, our apartment complex is near the west edge, and we're about a mile west of any restaurants.

When we moved, I asked on our community's website for some local restaurant recommendations. Many gave me tips about placed to eat in Bee Cave. Most of those were in the Hill Country Galleria area.

Ehh, that's not really our speed. Hill Country Galleria is a fancy schmancy outdoor "mall" and it's not the kind of thing we seek out. We like local, and when I asked for nearby recommendations, I knew we'd have to drive, but I was still thinking "In the general neighborhood.

So, since we were unable to find much help beyond searching Google Maps and then cross-referencing Yelp reviews, I decided to make it our mission to eat at every Oak Hill eatery and report back to you!

There are quite a few national chains around here, and I won't comment on them unless there is something spectacularly good or bad about them. Otherwise, assume that Whataburger is Whataburger and Domino's is Domino's (although they were very nice and brought my pizzas out to me the other day, since I had the baby in the back seat and it would have been a pain in the rear to get him out just to pick up three pizzas... and how would I have carried all of those back at the same time, anyway?!).

I'm going to list all of the restaurants I've been able to find, and then whether or not we've eaten there yet. James and I will review the places we've been as time permits, but just know that so far, we've not had any "Yuck! Never again!" experiences. Which is pretty exciting!

Southwest Parkway - 

Milano Cafe - 4601 Southwest Parkway. Tucked in between a liquor store and a Subway, this Sicilian restaurant is welcoming and surprisingly spacious, with interesting (if minimalistic) design quirks. We, of course, brought our baby and, while the restaurant is very nice, we felt welcomed and comfortable. The owner and his son spoke with us about kids, and the boy really loved my pasta.

I had the Tortellini Piementosa: shrimp, sun-dried cherries, sun-dried currants, capers, cranberries and fresh seasonal berries in a light creamy mint and pesto sauce. Actually, the "light" part kind of makes me laugh because it wasn't heavy, but I'm pretty sure it was basically butter with mint and pesto. It was delicious.

Neither my husband or I got appetizers, but the entrees came with a small salad. We were able to eat both of our meals in their entirety (sharing a bit with the kiddo) and didn't feel overstuffed or sluggish afterwards. The ingredients were fresh, the presentation was delightful, and the whole experience was great. Can't wait to go back.

Price for both of us, no drinks, was around $50 with the tip.

Highway 71/290 - 

Donut Tacos Palace - 5446 W. US Highway 290 Service Road.
The menu indicates that the "donut taco" is a new item. Although the sign doesn't look *too* new, I can't help but wonder whether they created it because people made a joke about the name and asked why they didn't have any donut tacos. Even if it were just separate doughnuts and tacos, this place would be perfect for my family. I love some doughnuts, but my husband and daughter like their protein, so here is the best of both worlds.

They have lots of doughnuts. Lots and lots. Variations on the same themes, a lot, but also a huge variety of actually-different-tasting doughnuts. A good selection of cake and yeast. Plus, they'll custom-make hand-shaped doughnuts (but I doubt they'd do the ones my husband thought would be funny to serve at our boy's birthday party). They had Longhorn and #1 shapes available, and there are pictures of the "ILY" hand shape.

Lots of savory options, too. Typical doughnut house kolache with sausage, cheese, jalapeno; cheese and strawberry cheese kolache; and croissant sandwiches and sausage rolls. Their online menu shows sweet croissant options, but these might have to be specially-ordered or might just be at a different location because they didn't have any here.

This line? It took them about three minutes to handle all of the people, all the way to the door. They know what they're doing.

Maple bacon yeast doughnut.

Bacon, egg, and cheese donut taco. This was the most expensive thing we got; it's $4. My husband said it was really good, but probably worth closer to $2.50. (He doesn't remember the prices at Gourdough's Public House. You put a doughnut somewhere people don't expect it, and it increases in value by at least 50%!)

Strawberry cheese kolache. The bread was yeasty and light. Very tasty!

James got the maple nut without realizing it was a cake doughnut. Although he likes cake doughnuts, he said he wished he'd tried a yeast (I guess I forgot to share a bite with him?) until he actually got into it and said that it was like coffee cake and he loved it!

I didn't see these until later, when my son went to smear his face all over the glass. Don't be a sucker like us and get plain doughnut holes! They have FILLED doughnut holes!

Very festive decor for our August 29 visit.

Final take: Everything was very good. Our total bill was just under $11 for: donut taco, maple nut cake, maple bacon yeast, half dozen doughnut holes, sausage croissant, strawberry cheese kolache. At $4, the taco was the most expensive thing by a couple of bucks. The regular breakfast tacos are closer to $2-$2.50.

I can see us returning here an awful lot.

Taquiera Chapala - 6116 W. US Highway 290 Service Road. TBV. (But we've eaten at the other one on South Congress and it's solid, affordable "neighborhood" Mexican food.)

Sesame Hill - 6156 W. US Highway 290 Service Road. TBV, maybe. They deliver. We've ordered from them and it was a good value and what you'd expect from Chinese take-out. More details to come.

Austin Pizza Garden - 6266 Highway 290. New York-style pizza in a historical building. More details to come.

Oak Hill Centre, at the corner of 290 and William Cannon, 6705 Highway 290.
Via 313 - Detroit-style pizza (cheese on bottom, sauce on top). More details to come.
Chen Z Noodle House - TBV.

Donut Hole - 6863 W. Highway 290. Doughnuts, kolache, coffee, and murals. More details to come.

Center of the Hills, on the north side of the "y," 7010 Texas 71.
Thai Taste - Thai food. Yelp users cannot agree on this place. It's great. It's gross. Who knows? One thing that came up was that this place is pretty utilitarian. Whatever. Actually, the interior reminded me a lot of Heche en Mexico (see below) in terms of concrete flooring, muted colors on the walls, and minimal "flair." I'm not sure why that matters, but if you're expecting zen rock gardens and fountains or things of that nature, maybe go somewhere else? But if you want really good food (at least in our experience), you should check this place out.

We went at lunch. I recommend lunch! Their special is right at eight bucks per person. After I ordered my beef pad thai, the waitress asked me if I wanted soup or salad. I said, "No, thanks," then she asked, "Do you want an extra eggroll then?" I guess my husband saw my confusion and said, "It comes with the meal." So I followed his lead and ordered the coconut chicken soup.

So, to be clear, the $8 lunch comes with either soup or salad and an eggroll. Another Yelp thing is that the eggrolls are pretty much the same ones you can buy at Costco, which is true. But I don't have a deep-fryer, so I can't cook them up exactly the same. Anyway, the other food more than made up for a "fast food" eggroll!

Coconut chicken soup. Mildly coconutty. Light and refreshing, with mushrooms and green onions.

My beef pad thai.

James' pad cashew with tofu and brown rice.
The portions aren't outrageous, but we both brought a bit home. They have some desserts that look fun, but I'd have to be hungrier to try them. And then, which would I pick? Thai pancakes? Sticky rice with mango? Fried banana?

Whatever the shopping center is called, on the south side of the "y,' 7101 Texas 71.
Jim's Restaurant - Okay, it's a chain, but only in San Antonio and here. Diner food. Great family place. Breakfast all day. More details to come.
Tucci's SouthSide Subs - TBV.
Verona Ristorante Italiano - TBV. Soon, hopefully. Honey?

Donn's Texas BBQ - 7001 Oak Meadow Drive, just behind Planet Fitness and Goodwill in the above-referenced shopping center. Barbecue. Order at the counter, eat it at family-style picnic tables. Good stuff. More details to come.

Delaware Sub Shop - 7212 Texas 71. Usually has a coupon in Community Impact newspaper. TBV.

Jack Allen's Kitchen - 7720 Texas 71. Upscale American southwest food, locally sourced. Amazing happy hour from 4-7 during the week with half price appetizers, but their appetizers are not just fried stuff. Spinach gorgonzola ravioli, anyone? Indoor and outdoor seating, beautiful view with fans and even misters. More details to come.

Sundance BBQ - Thomas Springs and Circle, a food truck midway between 290 and 71. My son and I were on our way to the zoo the other day when we passed this trailer that said "Brisket Tacos" on the front.

I made a mental note to come back by on the way home. I was glad that I did! I went simple and just got a brisket taco... he has red onions and pickles, but I don't like pickles, so just went the onion route. And barbecue sauce.

Then, it was torture. My son had fallen asleep in the van, so I had to bring the tacos home to eat. Which means I had to smell them in the car. At the intersection of Thomas Springs and 71, I was about to faint from the delicious, enticing, smokey aroma, so I unwrapped one of the tacos... and the light turned green!

Finally, I got home and my child woke up, so I had to make sure he was back to sleep before I could eat. He fell asleep on my skirt, so THEN I had to spend about ten minutes slowly extricating myself. THEN I finally got to try the still-warm (wrapped in foil) taco.

Oh my. The barbecue sauce was perfect: not at all sweet, with a tiny kick, and not too much of it. The meat was almost chipped, very buttery soft, and delivered on all of the smokey flavor that the smell had promised. I'd bought one of these for me and one for my daughter, who was sleeping when I finished mine. I almost ate hers, but decided that would be cruel and unusual punishment.

I liked these so much that the next morning, I took my husband for breakfast. That's when I found out that they serve breakfast all day. In addition to the menu above, they have: bacon, egg and cheese - $3; add sausage - $4; add brisket (The Beast) - $5.

My husband said that The Beast was "pretty spectacular." I got another brisket taco and it was just as delicious the second time. Swing by this truck! He's there from 8 AM until 4 PM every day but Sunday.

William Cannon west of Mopac -

North side -

Yaghi's New York Pizzeria - 4220 W. Wm. Cannon. TBV.

P. Terry's Burger Stand - 4228 W. Wm. Cannon. This isn't McDonald's so don't expect it to be very fast! Excellent burgers, chicken sandwiches, and veggie burgers. You can also get fries, a shake, and an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, but that's all they make here (unless you come for breakfast, when they add an egg burger, "breakfast potatoes," and banana bread)! They make it fresh when you order, so even in the drive-through, you're going to have to wait for a while. Nothing is ever frozen, and they cut their own potatoes every day. Everything is delicious, and the fries are enough for two people. Or one really enthusiastic (and hungry) fry fan. A combo meal will set you back about $7, and the sandwiches alone are $4, or in the $2.50 range for a single patty with or without cheese.

Wholy Bagel - 4404 W. Wm. Cannon. Bagels made from scratch, breakfast and lunch offerings, desserts and pastries. TBV.

D'Lites of Austin - 4404 W. Wm. Cannon. I know I said "no national chains," but this is pretty special. It's an ice cream shop and bakery and grocer specializing in "diet" items: low carb, gluten free, low sugar, etc. Every day they have a special (free sprinkles, buy two/get one free take-homes, etc.) and their website lists which ice cream flavors will be available on any given day. TBV.

Cypress Grill - 4404 W. Wm. Cannon. Louisiana cafe. Also typically has a coupon in the Community Impact paper. Live music on Thursdays and New Orleans brunch on weekends. TBV.

Yanagi Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar - (warning: their website has music!) 4404 W. Wm. Cannon. I've only had the sushi and the avocado bomb, so we'll have to go and try their food food, too. Sushi is really good; several fairly original offerings. More details to come.

South side - 

Mandola's Italian Market - 4301 W. Wm. Cannon. Italian food and grocery. TBV.

Torchy's Tacos - 4301 W. Wm. Cannon. A veritable Austin institution, known for "Damn Good" Mexican street food. We have eaten at the Guadalupe location and the trailer on South First, but this one is TBV. Breakfast burritos are great. Apparently they're in Colorado now, too, so it's sort of national, but it started here! More details to come.

Kerbey Lane Cafe - 4301 W. Wm. Cannon. Another Austin institution. This is a sort of upscale diner with seasonal features and local artists' work for sale displayed on their walls. Great family place. The service staff is friendly and accommodating. I usually order from the seasonal menu because I hate to feel I might have missed out on something awesome. More details to come.

Flores Mexican Restaurant - 4625 W. Wm. Cannon. Pretty big Tex-Mex restaurant, one of four in the area. Hey, parents! There is a (n outdoor) playground here! TBV.

Hecho En Mexico - 6001 W. Wm. Cannon (southeast corner of Escarpment and Wm. Cannon). Small cantina serving contemporary interior cooking. This seems like the real deal, and a nice break from the chain-y Tex-Mex offerings all over the place around here. Lunch is typically under $10 and dinner is in the $10-15 neighborhood. Service feels really personal. More details to come.

Okay, have I missed any? I realize that there is a "cafe" (where everything is nuked) on the 9th floor of ACC's Pinnacle campus, then of course there are the McDonald's, Jersey Mike's, etc. but we don't need to go into all of that, right? If I've overlooked any Oak Hill restaurants, let me know!

James and I will update this page periodically, noting at the top when and what updates were made. If you have an opinion (especially if it differs from ours), let us know!

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Thing About Parenting a Teenager...

There's something that I have come up against several times since I had a child nearly fourteen years (!!) ago, and at first, it comforted me. Now, I mentally flip off whomever is saying it or has written it. It has various iterations, but goes a little something like this:

"There is no reason that kids need to rebel when they're teenagers."

Now, granted, my reaction might be a little immature, but it's coming from a tender place and so this statement rubs me the wrong way.

A caveat: If the intention of saying this means, "Please don't expect the worst of your kids," then I'm totally down with it.

But mostly, I hear it used with a parenting philosophy, practically "guaranteeing" that if you just do what these people say, then you and your child will have a charming, laid-back relationship with few, if any, bumps.

The people who say and believe this, and whose kids just got along with them like gangbusters straight through until they moved out... Well, those folks are LUCKY. Just like the people who swear by a certain sleep technique because "all three of my babies slept through the night when they were still in the womb, so it works!" are LUCKY.

And I don't resent that (much), but I also don't think it's cause to believe that you have the parenting thing down pat as much as it is cause for you to thank the good Lord above that he gave you the kind of kid you have. And then, maybe, try to be empathetic or at least tolerant with some liberal benefit-of-the-doubt extension to those whose kids buck against the system, and would buck against ANY system, regardless of how lenient, strict, compassionate, distant, appropriate, etc. it is.

Anyone who has raised more than one child through to adulthood knows that kids are just different. What worked with one might not work with the other, and even when you tailor the approaches, some kids are just going to have a little messier time traversing the road to independence than others. We all know brothers and/or sisters who turned out COMPLETELY different, and have had the most divergent lives, despite being raised at roughly the same time by the same parents.

If you're a parent whose kid is questioning you, or Jesus, or his or her sexuality, or whether Braum's is really better than Dairy Queen; or who is experimenting with (or an expert at) drugs, promiscuity, smoking; or who disappears for hours and upon returning won't communicate with you; or who has attempted suicide; or who might sit at the table for dinner but will not talk; or who might talk, but loudly and with choice swears thrown in for nuance; or who just can't seem to get it together; or who seems not to like you very much, or respect you at all... If you're doing the best that you can, you're doing the best that you can. And that's all that you can do.

I'm learning that the measure of successful parenting cannot be attached to an outcome.

I mean, sure, ideally, my daughter would both respect me and think of me as a friend. She would choose to hang out with me. A trip to the grocery store with mom? Fun! She would grow up under my loving guidance, adroitly circumnavigating the missteps I took because she's heeded my advice. She would know her worth and love God and be an ambassador to people. She would be secure and hard-working and pleasant and have real, good friends. I think we all want that kind of thing for our kids.

But we can't judge whether or not we did our jobs well by marking off a checklist of things our kid does or is. There are too many other factors, the biggest of which... well, is the kid his- or herself!

I have not parented perfectly. God knows I've made some huge mistakes, and I regret those terribly. But I can say I've always loved my teenager, and have always made long-term decisions with her best interest in mind. (I have had plenty of short-term gaffes... times when anger surfaced in a loud way, or when I was operating out of my own personal pain that had nothing to do with her, etc.)

So, I don't know about you, but I need to remind myself often that any discomfort I feel between my teenager and me isn't solely due to my inadequate parenting. It's normal.

I also need to remind myself, maybe even more often, that my daughter isn't actually in any kind of rebellion against me. I think I might be in rebellion against her. Against the changes that take place as she ages and pushes away from me. Against the more introspective and quiet nature she's adopting as she matures, because I miss the bubbly, carefree elementary-aged crazy who always always wanted to be with me no matter what. Against maybe what I thought her teen years would look like. And it's not fair to her.

Although sometimes I feel like we never talk, but the truth is that my daughter talks to me. A lot. When she wants to, though. If I try to strike up a conversation, it's awkward and painful. If she has something on her mind, she can talk to me for hours on end. Literally.

True, she doesn't love any excuse to get out of the house with me anymore, but I remember being the same way when I was her age. My mom says I'd go shopping, say for back-to-school clothes, and want the first thing I tried on that fit, then make her miserable the rest of the time because I wanted to leave and she wanted to look around.

But the truth is that I have a very bright, very opinionated, very self-assured young woman who knows what she wants and who lets us know, too. She is funny, and she is interesting, and even when I don't agree with her, I'm fascinated by and respect her views. I love to hear her singing when she doesn't know anyone can hear her. I love her laugh when a video amuses her, even when it's 2:30 AM and the authoritarian mom in me thinks (but doesn't say), "She should be asleep!"

(And before you get onto me about that, I would ask you: WHY "should" she be asleep? Yup. No reason. Except that kids aren't "supposed" to stay awake all night. Well, mine does and that's okay with me. Even though I have never been able to pull off that kind of thing.)

Anyway, I've just been thinking about my teenager and feeling very emotional as I realize that the time is short. I love this kid, and sometimes feel very protective of her, but so glad that we're in Austin where her brand of "self" is accepted in a way I don't feel it might be in smaller or narrower places.

I wanted to put all of this in writing, too, in case anyone else is experiencing growing pains by proxy, so you'll know you're not alone.

Also, would you pray for us that my daughter would find a place in our new church quickly? She just needs one "bosom friend," as Anne Shirley would say. We have missed Kylie and Emma so much since we moved (three years ago! but Emma moved, too, so staying wouldn't have saved that friendship); I long for her to have just one sympatico buddy.

Have a great weekend, friends!

Daphne, enjoying a book and a drink on the patio.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Living and Learning

Mal had such a hard day today, but this was adorable: He'd fallen asleep on our walk back from the mailbox, so I laid him on the couch and he slept for maybe 15 minutes.

The last thing that had happened before we left the apartment for the mail was that our downstairs neighbor came home from work. Her little dog was VERY excited, and barking a lot, then she took him out for a relief walk, and he barked all around the back of our apartment. Mal heard the dog and mimicked his bark. So I repeated it. Then Mal said, "Dah!" So I said, "Dog." We barked and said "dog" back and forth maybe a dozen times, then left for the post.

When Mal woke up from his nap, he sat up and was doing something with his hand that looked like snapping. Then he barked. He knows the sign for dog! I was doing it when we were saying "dog' and barking, and even though he didn't attempt it or repeat it then, he remembered it! :D

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Brain of Sleep Deprivation

Mal's been waking very frequently lately, and when he wakes up, he doesn't just nurse back to sleep. He sits up. He starts to crawl away. Sometimes, he just looks around the room before head-butting my neck or wherever he hits as he decides it's time to lie back down.

Usually, by the time we wake up wake up in the morning, I'm longing for two hours' more sleep, uninterrupted by a baby. But I get up, and we make it through until night time somehow.

Still, I know this must be doing something to my brain. By the time Daphne was Mal's age, we were one month past my weaning her of her last nighttime feeding (2 AM) because I couldn't handle it anymore, and here we are, still waking 6 or more times per night. The difference, of course, is that we co-sleep with Mal so I don't have to get out of bed. And he's always, with two nights' exceptions, slept "through" the night without my having to get up in order to resettle him. That's been incredible.

But still.

Nine hours' uninterrupted sleep.

What I fool I was not to enjoy and appreciate it more. (And I did appreciate and enjoy it... very much. Especially after the back thing. I wasn't back to taking it for granted, but I would take it less for granted now!)

Anyway, with that in mind, you can just ponder my mental state as the next few things have passed through my brain recently:

1) Hummingbird eggs. They must be tiny. I told James I was picturing the lychee boba I had last week, and he said, "They're probably not that big." Then I pictured Nerds. And I decided that Nerds ARE hummingbird eggs. Hummingbirds just eat nectar and/or sugar water, right? So it makes sense that their eggs would be pure sugar instead of calcium or whatever. I hope you Nerds lovers aren't vegan. I wonder how many nests they have to harvest to make one of the non-"fun"-sized boxes of Nerds.

Okay, I just looked it up. They're about the size of peas or jellybeans - I KNEW IT - and there are typically two eggs laid on different days. I'm going to post a video here; it's out of focus when the second bird hatches, and you can kind of skip around until about 7.5 minutes, then you can watch a momma hummingbird feed her babies! SO PRECIOUS.

2) I know a lot of people have theological issues they are all poised to ask God about in the afterlife, but today as James and I propped ourselves up against the bar in the kitchen, eating tortilla chips with bacon horseradish dip because no one had the heart to make dinner, I could only think of one think of one thing as I watched Mal happily pulling every. single. thing. out of the kitchen cabinets: There are two of us and only one of him. How are we so tired when he's full of energy? (He only had a 45 minute nap today.)

(Yes, I realize I made an error in that up there, but I'm illustrating something here. Where has my mind gone?!)

3) For whatever reason, I'm in a very "the days are long" season. BUT there is light at the end of the tunnel, as MOPS will start in about a month (pray that Mal will make it through the couple of hours without me!) and then the Over 40s Moms group that I asked about just after Mal was born is finally planning a meeting!

Last night was interesting, though. Mal woke up as much as usual, but after about midnight, he didn't feed again until probably 5 this morning. So, basically, he went half the night without feeding. When he woke up, he'd move around, climb over me, sometimes I'd put him on my opposite side, but even when I offered it to him, he wasn't interested in nursing; he just fell back to sleep.

4) 4 TEETH BROKE THROUGH MAL'S GUMS DURING THE PAST WEEK. This brings him up to 10 teeth. (Though you still can't see the four new ones.)

5) I have liked my new camera except for when the flash is needed. It's super slow, and the flash is "blotchy" instead of evenly lighting the photo area. My old camera did that on close-ups (like macros) and I hated it. Yesterday, I realized that every picture I've taken with a flash... I had my hand over the sensor AND the flash, and that's why they've looked like crap. Heh. It's a tiny camera. I just need to get my hand out of the way.

6) When do you consider your baby "walking"? Last week in the cry room at church, a man was telling me that his three-year-old took her first steps at 10 months, but then didn't walk until she was a year old. That got me to thinking about the phrase "started walking." Mal takes steps. He has the ability to walk. But I told James I won't count him as "walking" until it's his favorite source of mobility. James said it's not *his* favorite way to get around, so for clarity's sake, I mean once he chooses walking instead of crawling the majority of the time.

Anyway, who cares? Daphne didn't walk until after her first birthday party; that much I know.

Daphne, on her first birthday. Not walking. Barely eating cake. She wasn't interested.
Sad how she looks nothing like her little brother, right?
(And for those of you who aren't their mom, they have the exact same hands!)
At 13, bless her, she's still walking just fine. So I'm not too fussed about dates and stuff, I guess is what I'm saying.

Whatever number I'm on) I am supposed to be making a grocery list for tomorrow morning (it's HOT out there, and early AM is the only time to get out! Wish our library opened before 10 because we need to go there first) and you're distracting me!