Friday, December 17, 2010

Yummy Goodness

I was taken aback today by how much joy and gratitude a couple of homemade baked gifts brought me today. First, I arrived at school to find that my teacher friend made a loaf of yummy goodness just for me and another teacher just because she knew how we were hoping for it. She didn't have time to make it for everyone this year like she usually does, but she made a small batch just for us because she knew she would enjoy how happy we were to get it. And she was right.

After I hyperventilated and gushed a million thank you's, I got to hear my friend down the hall shriek repeatedly with joy as hers was delivered. You would think we were teenagers opening an ipad on Christmas morning.

Then my thoughtful students brought me several nice presents throughout the day. I kept wondering why the homemade goodies touched me so much more. Is it because I linked them with the labor of love that the special bread from the morning seemed to be?

And I arrived home to the highly anticipated annual box from Aunt Pat. We all try to be the one to get the mail on the day the buck-eye balls arrive each year so we can gobble them up before anyone else sees how many we really got. I was the lucky one this year, and I had a moment of weakness where I showed the box to James, who promptly wrestled them from me before I could come to my senses. We then called her so we could all give her the mouth-full-thank-yous.

So does this mean I'm officially old now? Or does it mean I've finally realized how personal the homemade stuff really is? How it seems to have more of the giver in it? Or am I just PMSing?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Tree Farm

I'm not thrilled with how any of us look in this picture, but it's good of the trees and the farm and the beautiful day we went. And it explains why my hair looks so funny in the santa picture - hat hair.

This year we went earlier than usual on the day after Thanksgiving. I usually like to wait until after Kayla's birthday to start all the Christmas craziness. But I also wanted to start earlier this year in the hopes of enjoying Christmas for a change. I'm always so rushed and pressured and, therefore, resentful. Sad but true.

I'm so glad we did! It has made such a huge difference! I enjoyed decorating the tree because I was off from work and didn't have to rush through it. Since we had the tree, I had a place to put gifts so I could go ahead and start wrapping. That allowed me to see what I had bought and what I still needed, so I continued shopping. And I could shop online since it's not last minute, so I don't have to battle traffic or people or junk I don't want or Christmas music or any of that other stress-inducing stuff! Such a simple thing like getting the tree has allowed me to actually enjoy the Christmas season so far this year! I've even tuned my car radio to Christmas music on purpose a few times! I still can't believe that about myself.

Since G'ma Wood is here from Cleveland, she and Fred and Irene came with us. There are a few classic rocking chairs on the porch of the log cabin store, so they provided the perfect spot for G'ma to watch all the action comfortably and enjoy the beautiful day.
The kids enjoyed this year's added attraction - the rock climbing wall.
Pretty soon there won't be any more room for trees. They keep adding more entertainment each year. The place is almost unrecognizable from 7 years ago when we started going. Then it was just a hay ride and trees and a gift shop with hot apple cider and sausage on a stick. Then they added bounce houses, a roller coaster, a petting zoo, and even bungees. But once you finally get out to the tree farm part, it's still the same. And the great family that runs it seems to always stay the same. I like seeing their kids grow each year with ours. This has been the perfect start for what could actually be an enjoyable holiday season.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Date Nights

Our family date nights are spread out more these days, but we're still keeping them going. Kayla and I like to go to the mall. We eat at Sbarro's or California Pizza kitchen.

We do some shopping at Justice and Dillards and the accessories stores. Then we spend a good hour sitting in the massage chairs at Brookstone and watching the parade of people go by eyeing us with envy.

We also like to go to the bean bag store and chill on the huge bean bags.
Sometimes I can convince her to browse through the bookstore. One time we stopped at the flat iron kiosk and got Kayla's hair curled. It looked really pretty! He wanted to straighten mine, but I wouldn't let him. He seemed overly peeved about it for some reason!
Cal and I usually go bowling. We eat pizza and play video games and he plays laser tag (I'm too claustrophobic to play). It's always nice to hang with them with no agenda other than enjoying each other.


I think the post date here is December 12, but I'm writing about when Lexie was born on August 3. We got Shellie my favorite raspberry orange muffin from Starbucks and drove to Frisco. Shellie really like her doctor, and was willing to continually make the drive so she could have Lexie here. Everything went well, and here she is with the kids.

She is beautiful and sweet and yummy. My favorite thing about her is how she sticks her leg straight up in the air when you unwrap her. I think the reason she does it is because when they were bathing her, they scrubbed a little hard in between her toes and scraped some skin off. It's like she's trying to keep her foot safe from everyone. I'm thinking I'm finally getting a fellow yogini in the family. :) When we saw her 3 months later she was still doing it. Yay! I love it!

Shellie had her first experience with claustrophobia. Apparently she woke up ripping everything off her. She just had to be free. The nurses were telling her it was too soon and she had to leave it all in, but they could tell they better not interfere if they wanted to keep all their appendages. I totally empathized with her - I've been there way too many times.

She was great in the morning when we got there. I admire her calm, joyful, humorous energy. Being around her reminds me to not only slow down and enjoy the moment - but also to laugh with it too.

Aferward the kids and I ate lunch at Chili's. Another great summer day!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Dog Days in Austin

We've always wanted to take the dogs with us to Austin. It's a dog-friendly city, and we've always enjoyed playing with people's dogs everywhere we go when we're there. We just felt bad trying to keep them cooped up in a hotel room. So we found a great house to rent this time. It had a back yard and tile floors - perfect for the dog experiment. We still weren't sure if our unsocialized dogs could handle it. Onno barks and goes into attack mode when she sees anyone or anything, and Lena cowers and pees on herself. But we knew they would love running and swimming and exploring, so we brought them knowing that the worst case scenario would be that they couldn't handle it and would just stay in the back yard all week.

They were great in the car and actually seemed to enjoy the ride. We just stopped once half way to let them walk around a bit - which was a helpful for Kayla and me too since we've been getting carsick lately.

The first place we took them was a new trail the homeowner told us about right down the street from the house. You hike down about a quarter mile to an open stream with lots of huge river rocks to climb and sit on. There was only one other person there at the time, so it was perfect to experiment with what the dogs could handle. We knew Lena would be fine off the leash, but we weren't brave enough to let Onno off yet. We were unfamiliar with this trail, so if she ran off we wouldn't even know where to look for her. She didn't bark at all, which made us optimistic.

Tuesday morning I took Lena to Town Lake for a run at the dog park. She was in heaven just like I've always been when I'm there. I loved sharing it with her! Then we jogged on the trails where she had to be on a leash. It's pretty crowded there with joggers, bikers, and other dogs, so she cowered a lot at first and almost caused some accidents. I yelled a lot of "Sorry!" 's to people for the first 5 minutes. But she quickly caught on that if she stayed to my right at the edge of the trail, everyone would pass on our left and she would be both protected by me and out of everyone's way. Then we were back in Nirvana! Everyone always jokes about how dumb Lena is, but she's actually very smart.

We went back home to eat and get the rest of the family that likes to sleep in. Then we ventured to Barton Springs. This was the moment of truth for Onno. No leash. Big dogs. Lots of people.

She was great! Absolutely no barking. She stayed right by us. If she started to get more than a step or two away, we called her and she actually came back to us! She sniffed the other dogs curiously and never once attacked. She was so much better than we had dared to hope for. I still can't believe it!

We were hoping the dogs would take a running leap into the stream and swim their joyful hearts out like all the dogs we've watched here in the past. They did love it there, but it was in spite of the water - not because of it. They were so scared. I guess it makes since because they've never seen more water than what's in their water bowl at home. We tried carrying them in and letting them swim to shore. They did it, but they were scared and had had no desire to do it again. Lena's legs would start swimming in the air the second we picked her up to take her out in the water.

We left them in the house that evening while we went ziplining. I'm sure they slept the whole time.

Ziplining was awesome. Cal and I graduated to the challenge course this time. Once you get to the ropes course, they have 3 paths for you to choose: hard, harder and hardest. Predictably, I chose hard and Cal chose hardest. The guides encouraged me to try parts of the harder courses, but I was enjoying just watching Cal try to navigate the hardest course. He wore himself out, but he did it! It took a lot of courage and strength. I'm very proud of him. I'll take a few trips to work up to it. I think I'll try the harder course next year and the hardest the following year.

Kayla and James did the regular course again - as experts this time. Kayla's confidence and fearlessness helped the family of first-timers with them to relax and enjoy it. James tried to lighten things up with his "That's what she said" humor, but it was lost on them.

Afterward we took the kids to Salt Lick for some awesome barbeque. They didn't have baked potato - saving grace for our little vegetarian - so Kayla didn't like it so much. But the 3 carnivores pigged out and loved it. Kayla ate enough bread and potato salad to tide her over and we ordered pizza when we got home.

Wednesday Lena and I went back to Town Lake. We were experts today and had the routine down. Then it rained all morning, so we all played Phase 10 in the living room. Cal is the new the reigning champion. I'll have to give him the trophy when we get back home.

We went back to Barton Springs with the dogs and fed the birds. They really really wanted to eat them, and Lena wanted to eat the bees even more. She drove herself crazy trying to catch them.
Then we took them to Freddie's for dinner with us. Again - not barking at anyone! Amazing! And very enjoyable!

Thursday we went to New Braunfels to toob the Guadalupe. It was the perfect day for it. The whole week was unseasonably cool - 80's. And the rain had the river at a perfect 250 cps. We did the short and simple 2 hour trip since it was the kids' first time. That was a good decision. Kayla was not a fan. She enjoyed the 5 minutes where we got to watch a deer eat grass on the edge of the river, but this was her mantra during all 4 rapids:

"I hate this!"

"Why are you doing this to me?????!"

We won't discuss what happened when she discovered a bug in her toob with her. Good times. Cal loved it and wanted to keep going and do the longer 4 hour, but we decided not to torture Kayla.

Then since Kayla asked recently how we got engaged, so we took them up to Mount Bonnell. Afterard we went to The Oasis for dinner. I didn't know they let guests ring the big bell for sunset until they came to our table and asked if Kayla would like to do the honors tonight. She was reluctant, so Cal went with her. What a great brother :)

Friday we packed and went for one more outing with the dogs before heading home. When we got to the bottom of the Campbell trail, we realized our cool weather luck had ended in a big way. So we headed right back to the car and to Amy's ice cream to cool off.

Then we went back to Barton Springs since the water is always cold there. We swam this time, too.

We took the dogs to lunch at Shultz's beer garden. Very yummy and relaxing under a big shade tree, and they brought out a big bowl of water for each dog. We're going to have to take the dogs every time now. They made the trip, and I can't imagine enjoying it without them again.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fun Day

We spent all day playing with friends today at Amazing Jakes. It's getting too hot to do anything outside, even swimming, so I was glad our friends found this great indoor fun place. We met for the yummy lunch buffet, played games and rode rides until dinner, then ate dinner before heading home. All inside and all for one reasonable price. Excellent!

Kayla scaled the rock climbing wall effortlessly for the first time. Even with a jammed finger. She's not yet tall enough to drive the go-carts, but luckily she has a great big brother who drove her around the track recklessly with her screaming in panicked excitement the whole way.

Cal had a "girlfriend" within 10 minutes of our arrival as usual, so everyone got a kick out of making fun of his flirtiness all day.
As for me, I had good food, good moms to socialize with, and a great time watching the kids have fun. Another great summer day!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Summer View

This is my view of Summer 2010. Perfection. My family, sun, water, and great books.

So many people don't know how to respond when they ask me what I'm doing with all my free time this summer and I answer, "As much nothing with my family as possible!"

I think they expect a list of big projects. "Remodeling my kitchen!"
"Building my own compost pile and complete garden!"
"Learning to speak fluent Mandarin!"

That all sounds great, but how could it compete with spending an entire day lounging around with Cal in his room while we procrastinate cleaning it? Or strolling all over town with Kayla looking for someone to teach her how to knit my cousin's baby a blanket by August 3, and the perfect frame for the pictures she wants to give her best friend on July 13 (Best Friend's Day)? Or spending hours playing with puppies at Operation Kindness because there's nothing we have to watch the clock to rush home to get ready for, and being there when our friends decide to adopt the extra special one we've fallen completely in love with? Or spending an entire day with all four of us on the couch watching movie after movie after movie?

Unscheduled time is the best thing about summer for me. I spend enough of the school year telling the kids, "No, we just don't have time for that this week, now hurry up - we gotta go." And telling James, "That's a great idea! Just find an empty spot on the calendar and we'll do it. How does 2042 work for you?"

It's like one of my favorite quotes says:

When the mind is not crowded

By imaginary things,

It is the best season of your life.

Summer is definitely the best season!