Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas!





Posted by PicasaThough I was not a perfect performer in Haphazard Happenstances Christmas Blogging Challenge, the challenge did get me back into the habit of updating my blog, which makes me happy. I already have several posts ruminating in my mind for the coming week. But first, here is a bit of my Christmas Joy -- the first ever St. Julian's Live Nativity. I wasn't sure about having it this year, as I thought we should wait until we were in our own space. . . which last Christmas I though would for sure be by now. (Easter, people, Easter is the plan now!) But we have so many kids, and I (selfishly) want my girls to participate in this kind of thing. So we went for it! Oriental Trading gowns provided the base for the angels, shepherds, and Mary and Joseph. Dish towels and fabric scraps served as shepherd / Joseph head pieces. Mary's mom make her beautiful head piece. I found the animal costumes on ebay since I hoped even our babies could participate at least for a photo. The ties for the headpieces were a great deal -- a whole ream (or whatever the word for it is) in the clearance bin at Hobby Lobby marked 1.99. I took it to the clerk to see if that meant per yard. I told her that I felt silly even asking as I'm sure it did. . . but since the whole thing was shrink-wrapped together, I thought I'd check. She took it and asked and came back to say, yep! The whole thing for 1.99! Score! That make the ties for ten shepherds, though we only needed five this year. We can also use rope next year. The angel wings were also a project I stressed over. I made a pattern out of some poster board we had at home and tried them on the girls. They were big and floppy and didn't seem like they'd hold up well. I talked to another mom at church and she said that she thought Michaels or someplace had thicker poster board -- not the foam -- but something that sturdy. So, I checked. No dice. But as I perused the aisle, I found paperboard cutouts of different shapes -- flowers, hearts, and BUTTERFLY WINGS! Perfect. And guess what -- six for $2.99. And, being Michaels, they were buy one get one free. I stapled dollar store garland around them for angelic effect, and we used more garland bobby-pinned to heads for the halos.

The kids were adorable! I am glad we did it and look forward to even bigger next year! For our little starter church who meets in the evenings at another church's facility, I'd say a Christmas Eve pageant of nineteen kiddos is pretty spectacular.

(and did I mention that I am soooo excited that we will be in our own space around Easter?)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Six Flags

We splurged and got family season passes for 2012 to Six Flags. Buying now, we get access the rest of 2011 plus a free parking pass. The girls love roller coasters, and there is quite a bit for them both to ride. We went with my sis and nieces this week and will go with John next week. We'll make a few visits this summer, too!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I'll hunt you down. . . it's a family trait

When I hunted down (really not that hard to do with the Internet's power) the address to a house in Round Rock with cool Christmas lights that had "gone viral" on the web this weekend, I was proud of myself for putting to use my headhunting skilz. The more I thought about it, though, I realized that the skills that made me a good headhunter were the same traits that  made my dad an awesome repo man. I hope he's happy to know he taught me something that was quite financially lucrative for me. :-)

You see, my dad was a credit representative for GMAC. That's fancy talk for repo man. He was good at his job. Really good. He was creative and persistent and unintimidated. I love to hear some of his stories (which he does not share often, I think out of respect for people's privacy) of how he found people hiding from their creditors. One of my favorite stories is of how he tracked down a woman who had been renting a trailer from him who skipped out on a few month's rent. When he knocked on her door (at her new secret place), I think she about peed her pants to see him standing there asking for his money. "How'd you find me?" she asked. My observant daddy replied, "Your porch swing." Amazing, isn't he?

Well, I never did anything so insightfully impressive, but I didn't mind following multiple leads to get tidbits of information from varying sources to find the right extension for the right hiring manager for a job req. Or using resumes and voice mail systems to find the right candidate in the right company at the right time for a client. Creativity and persistence.

Now, my skilz might not bring in commission checks that allow us pay cash for a brand new vehicle anymore, but they did give us a few minutes of holiday fun! And I'll share a little with you.



Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Do you want perfection, or do you want peace?

As I was about to kick myself for missing another day of December blogging, I read these words on a blog I have recently started reading. DO YOU WANT PERFECTION, OR DO YOU WANT PEACE? We can overschedule and try to create all these wonderful, Pinterest-inspired experiences for the holidays, but if it takes away the peace (and sometimes the enjoyment), then it isn't worth it.

May the Peace of God which passes all understanding be with you the rest of this Advent and into the Christmas season.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Toy declutter




I did a major toy purge and rotation Friday. Really, the playroom was out of control with things just tossed in. Really, knowing I was about to reorg and purge, I took to just tossing things in there the past week. I got rid of several items, including a few large ones. I moved "building" type toys that have lots of small pieces (Lincoln Logs, Legos, puzzles) into the closet on a shelf. I figure that way, they are less likely to get pulled out when lots of kids are here, which is when they end up strewn all over. Not pictured here is the Apple //c that John set up for Caroline to learn a little programming. She's in there now "coding." <3

Since Caroline is home only in the afternoons on weekdays  (and usually has ballet or piano or plays outside then), the playroom is mostly for Elizabeth. She loves playing with babies. She loves imaginary play, so she has a dress-up corner, a reading corner (that ends up being where she puts all her babies to bed), and a shelf with other toys. That American Girl doll on the top of the shelf is Caroline's doll, Molly. Elizabeth plays with her more than Caroline does, though. But Elizabeth is getting her own American Girl Bitty Twin doll for Christmas.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Advent Meditation and Rejoicing!

First, since I'm linking to my church's blog here, I want to share that we are getting closer and closer to something I've been praying for -- our own space! Lovely space! Space close to my home! We expect to have our first service there on Easter. Alleluia!

On of the seminarians at church spearheaded putting together daily devotionals for Advent, written by members at our church. Mine was today's.
http://stjuliansaustin.blogspot.com/2011/12/december-16th-readings-psalm-95-and.html

As for our family's Advent traditions, I have scaled back from what we've done in the past (with nightly readings and songs and activities.) Instead, I am reading various children's books of the Christmas story with the girls (mostly Elizabeth) throughout the week. Each night, we light our Advent candles at dinner and sing a Christmas carol related to that week's candle (Hope--O Come, O Come Emmanuel; Peace--Silent Night; Joy-Joy to the World!; Love--Away in a Manger.) This is a unique Advent in that week four is a full week since Christmas falls on Sunday. We made our Advent prayer chain again, and are praying nightly for a person we've written on the link. The girls have really enjoyed nights that we've prayed for someone specific to them (teachers, classmates, etc.)

I did bring out the baby Jesus for the nativity set, at Elizabeth's request, but both John and Caroline insisted we put it back away until Christmas. We did. Elizabeth still has her Little People nativity set with baby Jesus in it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Parties, Performances, and Pee -- Oh my!

I think this is the busiest holiday season of my life! Two kids in various programs (really, mostly ONE of them -- what will life be life in three years when they are both over-involved in extracurriculars?

The letter P is a good representation for the month of December 2011 in the Bindel household.

Parties -- birthday parties, school parties, class parties, work parties, church parties (notice those are ALL plural. True!)

Performances -- choir performance(s) -- we skipped one; ballet performances; preschool performances; church pageant (can that count as a performance?)

and Pee -- because my days are filled with "Do you need to go pee pee?" and "I NEED TO GO PEE PEE!" or my least favorite "I already went pee pee." I overheard Elizabeth singing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer the other day. ". . . as they shouted out to pee!"

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Happy Anniversary to the ones that made me :-)

Today would be my parent's 43rd wedding anniversary. They only got to enjoy 22 of those years, but in that time, they showed me what a good marriage is. And as my sister celebrates her 15th anniversary in a week and I my 17th in less than a month, I think this is one thing that mommy and daddy can consider themselves successes at.

Some things I learned:

1. You are a united front -- in a successful marriage, it is no longer him and her, it is "us."

2. Separate interests are fine but should not be the majority -- She can have her thing. He can have his. Every now and then. Most of your down time should be together, at home, as a family.

3. It is OK to marry young as long as you GROW UP TOGETHER. My mom was a senior in high school and barely 18 when she married my dad. I was a senior in college and 21 when I married John. Did they stay the same? Did we? No way! But we've grown up together. We've changed together. We've grown closer as we've grown up.

4. As gross as it was when I was 16, it is wonderful that my dad could not pass my mom in the kitchen without grabbing her butt.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

You're either a planner or you make fun of planners

Or at least that's how I feel sometimes. I am a planner. It's survival because I do not do well under stress and pressure. I feel, though, that I have found kindred spirits in my planner nerdiness with my meal swap group. We are about to celebrate two years of swapping dinner.

We plan our weekly menus using a google document where we all record what we'll be bringing the next week. Some of us plan out a month in advance (me). Some plan further. Some just go a couple of weeks out. We swapped meals yesterday for the last time in 2011 and will be off for the holidays. I went ahead Sunday night and created the new 2012 calendar through the end of the first quarter. My meal swap friends did not mock me for this, making fun of me for planning ahead as I am so accustomed. They thanked me. Planners of the world unite!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Milestones


My big girl lost her first tooth tonight. I am not normally sentimental about milestones, but this one seems like such a big deal to me. Her little face will be forever changed. That baby smile is gone! I think, though, the reason I feel this more is that we (and by we, I mean Caroline) have been anticipating this for more than four years now. When her cousin Megan lost her first tooth, Caroline became fascinated with the whole concept. She decided then (around Thanksgiving) that she wanted to be a loose tooth the next Halloween. And she stuck with the idea to be a loose tooth Halloween when she was three. Her first day of preschool when she was four, she came home to tell me someone lost a tooth at school that day. I didn't believe her that a four year old lost a tooth, but sure enough, it happened! And guess what happened the first week of kindergarten. Yup, another classmate lost a tooth. (Funny side note: this friend has a heart condition and has some PE modifications. Caroline told me one day that the coaches walked next to this girl when they ran the track because she has a problem where her teeth fall out easily. A little confused.) Caroline's three same-age cousins (who are actually five to six months younger than she is) have all lost teeth. She's been eagerly waiting, wiggling, insisting her tooth is loose, for a year now. And this week, I finally felt it wiggle, too! All weekend, her tooth has been barely hanging on, and today during Sunday School (where I am her teacher), she pulled it! She is so excited. She told me she could hardly sleep.  She'll awake to two dollar coins.

As I was putting the girls to bed, checking to make sure Caroline had put her tooth out for the tooth fairy (she put it next to her bed in her glasses case as John told her it might get lost under her pillow), Elizabeth asked me, totally seriously, "Mommy, does the tooth fairy bring cake?"

Wishful thinking.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

One of my favorite seasonal traditions

Our little family went to see The Nutcracker this afternoon. It's a tradition we started when Caroline was four and Elizabeth almost one -- seeing a local ballet studios production performed at a high school. It's a beautiful, yet affordable and toddler-attention-level friendly performance with some professional dancers and lots of dancers en pointe along with littler dancers, too.

The Nutcracker has been a love of Caroline's since dancers from the Ballet Austin production visited her preschool when she was three and I was pregnant with Elizabeth. She became enamored and would dance at home with her nutcracker. I found a youtube video of the performance, and she watched it over and over again. She determined her unborn sibling would be a boy and that she would dance Clara's part and he Fritz's. Well, she ended up with a little sister that January and we didn't talk much about the Nutcracker again until we went to the next Christmas's production where we saw the Fritz role redefined as "little sister." This year, the bickering scenes seemed especially realistic!

The cherry on the top, though, was that Caroline also got to perform tonight in excerpts from the Nutcracker with her own school's dance troupe at the Zilker Holiday Festival. Elizabeth was disappointed that there was no "little sister" in this production, but I loved seeing my dancer up on stage!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Oh my aching dogs!

I am tired! I try not to be a complainer, especially of the "I"m so busy" sort. I realize I live a life of leisure. :-) But this holiday season has me running crazy!

I have multiple lists going and multiple bags/boxes of materials for the various events I am planning.

There's a bag of supplies for Caroline's class party. I'm the room mom, so I'm the party planner. We're having a snow theme. I got clear plastic ornaments for the kids to make handprint snowmen on. They'll embellish their fingerprints with hats, scarves, buttons, etc. They'll also have an instant snow play station and a snow (cotton) ball throwing/fight station before enjoying their snowman cupcakes and treats. I have everything from my list for this except cotton balls and candy for the take-home bags.

Then there's a box of costumes for the church live nativity the kids are doing. I went easy and ordered the costumes from Oriental Trading, and I sought volunteer help from church members to embellish and alter them a bit. I have made three of the angel wings so far and estimate I need to make about nine more. I also need to come up with something for the shepherd headpieces. I'm thinking dish towels, but I keep forgetting to look for cheapos when I'm out shopping. It is on my list, but for some reason, I keep overlooking it. The angel wings are actually an easy project, thanks to ready made paper butterfly wings I found at Michaels. Six in a pack, complete with elastics to be worn on the back, for $2.99 a pack. And, being at Michael's, they were buy one get one free!  I'm just stapling gold tinsel garland around them to make them more angelic. Along with the costuming piles are the "quiet" activity bags for the kids during the Christmas Eve service. They are about halfway complete. And, of course, my normal Sunday School lesson stuff.

The Christmas gift pile, as of tonight, has been redistributed. The girls' gifts are wrapped (except a couple of items I am awaiting shipment on). Our Bindel name-drawing gifts are halfway done -- still waiting on one to ship, and one needs on-the-spot assemblage. The other two are wrapped and under the tree. I am so thankful both sides of our family have simplified Christmas gifting.

And then I just need to make sure my piles and boxes and bags are moved out next weekend so nobody trips when I host our church's Christmas caroling party. I ran all the way to Costco today (even though I was just there Tuesday to pick up my Christmas cards....grrrr....sometimes my lists fail me!) to order the sandwich trays. This one is easy. No prep work for me. I provide the sanchwiches and space, and our friends bring other goodies. Then we head out to serenade the neighbors. It's great fun.

I am sad that in all this busy-ness, I will only make about 10 minutes of Elizabeth's Christmas party at MDO. John is going to have to take my place and bring her home because her party is from 1-1:30, and Caroline's class party starts at 1:45. I'll need to be set up and ready to go for that group of kids by then, so I'll need to start around 1:15. I'll be there, though, for Elizabeth's Christmas performance at MDO on Tuesday. Saturday, I'll watch Caroline perform twice -- once with her school choir at Breakfast with Santa and again at the Zilker Holiday Tree festival when she dances as a Russian Peppermint in excerpts from the Nutcracker. And in between those performances (and after I volunteer my hour shift at said Breakfast for Santa) the whole family will go see The Nutcracker together.

Fun. Fun. Fun. So much fun, I can only handle it once a year!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

5K!




Our little family participated in our first 5K last weekend. Here in Austin, you can find a 5K (or marathon or half) to run pretty much every weekend! We did the Lights of Love 5K to benefit the Ronald McDonald House in Austin as part of Caleb's Army. Caleb and his family go to our church, and the Smiths have been able to stay at the RMDH in Cincinnati where Caleb goes for his special surgeries. Caleb was born with a condition called Imperferate Anus (IA). He had his first surgery in Austin at just a day old, but in October, he got an anus! He has many more surgeries ahead of him, and RMDH will be a second home to his mom and dad and sisters during those surgeries and recoveries. You can read more about Caleb and his journey on his Caring Bridge site. (Do go read it. His mama writes beautifully and honestly.)

As for us, John ran the 5K in 22 minutes. Not bad, my dear! The girls rode in the double stroller while I walked. We stopped for hot chocolate. We stopped for water. We looked at neighborhood lights. Caroline got out and walked a bit. We petted doggies and talked to other kids. We finished in 55 minutes.


Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Diet Coke-Free!

Hello blog,
Good to see you again. My *old* friend, Erica (who happened to turn 39 yesterday! Happy Birthday!) at Haphazard Happenstances, has issued her annual blogging challenge again -- to blog every (remaining) day between now and Christmas. Since my blog has been collecting dust lately, I thought I'd give it a go. After all, I do have a few thoughts I've been meaning to record here for my future reference.

So, without further ado. . . Christmas Blogging Challenge Day One
I have made a change that will save my family hundreds of dollars a year. A change that should positively impact my health. A change that some say may help me lose weight. I have stopped drinking Diet Coke.

Now, that alone is a big deal for anyone, but I will share my deep dark secret. I drank about 64 oz a day of Diet Coke. Seriously. It was a bad addiction. When we traveled overnight, I'd bring my own Diet Coke for the morning. On the way out the door, anywhere, anytime, I'd grab a Diet Coke for the road. It was my "morning coffee", my mid-morning break, my lunch beverage, and my afternoon pick-me-up. I preferred my Diet Coke in the 16 oz bottles. Easier for on the go and much more effective at retaining the fizzy burn on the down gulps. I did not like drinking from 2-liters at all. Once opened, the fizz just isn't the same. If a can was the only option, I'd drink it from a wine glass.

I've cut back before -- during pregnancy and for a day or two at other times -- but even then, I allowed myself one a day.This time, for some reason, I just went cold turkey. I ran out at home, and rather than make a special trip to buy more, I just didn't. For the first three weeks, I drank an orange juice in the morning, water all day, and occasionally wine in the evenings. At Thanksgiving, I opened one bottle of Diet Coke left at my dad's from my last visit. And it wasn't that good. I let John finish it. Now, I don't plan to be a tee-totaler or anything. In fact, this weekend, after the Ronald McDonald House Lights of Love 5K, we were heading home late with sleepy girls and empty stomachs, so we went through a McDonalds Drive-Thru. I ordered a Dr. Pepper. It was delish! I will allow myself the occasional indulgence of a Dr Pepper or Root Beer or lemonade with fast food or at the movies. I will try to avoid aspartame. That is what seems to be the real evil -- more so than caffeine.

I still find myself wanting a Diet Coke, though. It is a comforting ritual for me. Relaxing and re-energizing at the same time. Some foods (mostly junky ones!) just call for a Diet Coke accompaniment. But, it's been more than a month now. And I have done it. Really, this is probably the longest I have gone in my walking years (yes, that long. I got Coke in my bottle. Pictures to prove it!) without Coke. I am proud of myself.

(Now, I just need to build myself up to the challenge of eliminating sugar! No promises.)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pinterest love



 As Facebook replaced my message-board time suck, Pinterest seems to be replacing my blog reading habit. And it is so much more efficient! If you have not discovered Pinterest, check it out! I did not understand its appeal at first. Actually, the friends who raved about it are visual people -- all photographer friends -- so when they described the idea of a virtual pinboard, it did not cry out to me. But, like the joiner I am, I signed up. And slowly, I got it. This virtual pinboard is not just a place to get visual ideas (you view "pins" as images) but a place to keep track of all kinds of ideas. You "pin" something that interests you, and it saves your pin which is linked to a more in depth blog or site expounding on the idea.

I have found so many fun ideas, and I've even tried out several! This weekend, I celebrated a friend's 40th birthday with a girls' trip to the Texas Hill Country wineries. We gathered at my house that morning, and I had prepared strawberries and cream muffins that I had found via Pinterest. I gave my friend some chalkboard wine glasses, too. Another idea garnered from Pinterest.

The girls and I have done several crafts, activities, and science experiments that I found on Pinterest. I've completed a few home decor / holiday decor projects, too, that were inspired by Pinterest.

My favorite types of pins are organizational ideas, holiday decorating ideas, home decorating ideas, and activities for the kids. Lots of funnies to be found there, too, and a laugh is always welcome in my world!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I'm afraid I'm a failure at SIBLINGS WITHOUT RIVALRY


Posted by PicasaHonesty time. I know it is wrong to compare my kids. But how on earth do you not do it? They are so different. One is so much more challenging. No exaggeration. I love their personalities -- both of them. I know they each have their weaknesses. But when you pick up one from MDO to get another "incident report" and then find a note of praise in the other's backpack, well, it is just hard not to say, "Why can't you be more like your sister?"

But back to those differences. Caroline shines in order. Rules are her friend. Elizabeth stirs things up. She fights for what she (thinks she) deserves. That girl will move mountains!

I don't have to worry about either of my girls when I'm not around. (But I just kind of wish I didn't have to worry about other people when one of them is around.)

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Jenkins/Hazelton Family Reunion 2011






Posted by PicasaThere was rain!
There was food, oh was there food!
And there was karaoke. And I learned that it is probably not a good idea to drink wine from a box in a big Dixie cup as there really is no way to gauge how much one has consumed...until it is gone. But I did share!
(and I can't wait to do it again next year, and I hope to see a few more cousins. . . please!!)

Monday, August 29, 2011

20 years

I haven't talked to my mommy in twenty years. I can not believe it! Well, I guess I do talk to her often, but we don't get to have conversations. The last Sunday in August, twenty years ago, I kissed her goodbye and drove to College Station to settle into my dorm. That night, she slipped into a coma. I went home to be with my family in what we knew were her last days, but not knowing how long she'd hang on, I returned to A&M the following Sunday, the night before school started. She died early the next morning, September 2, 1991. Twenty years this Friday.

Mommy was very excited for me to go to A&M. She made sure I knew it was what she wanted me to do, not matter what happened with her. At that time, at forty years old, she was pretty advanced with metastatic breast cancer in her lungs and brain. I was very much a mama's girl, so my life changed in so many ways that day, twenty years ago. I lost my mommy -- my rock, my biggest fan. I started a new journey as a college student, away from home (in the big, to me, city of College Station. You could get pizza delivered there. To your DOOR!) And really, I'd had the first bad thing of my life happen to me. I'd been a pretty lucky little girl.

But I still consider myself a lucky little girl. I woke up this weekend in the dumps. I could not figure out why I was so sad. I have a great life. I get to be home with my kids, by choice. I have a good education. I had a great career and know I can again. My husband is amazing, and I have two wonderful, healthy kids who I had by choice when I wanted to after completing all my having-kid prerequisites. I have a beautiful home in a nice neighborhood with a good school. My kids are fun and well-adjusted. Everything is good. Why did I want to run away and cry? Then I realized that it is the last week of August. Then I realized that this is twenty years. I've lived a different life for twenty years.

This summer has been really special. I've seen my mom's life in my own for the first time ever, or at least what I remember most about her life with me -- mothering two little girls. Elizabeth and Caroline are at the ages now that they play well together. And that they fight hard together. Just like two other little girls I once knew. When the girls and I hold hands across a parking lot or go through the grocery store together, I remember my own time with my mama. I miss her, but she made me the woman I am today. The woman who knows how important it is to be home with my girls while they are little -- because this time will pass quickly. The woman who adores her husband. The woman who strives to keep an organized home. The woman who loves God and strives to serve Him. The woman who tends to get over-involved with volunteer opportunities. I hope I can be half the woman she was in twice the time she was given. Love you, mommy!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Favorite Children's Museum so far . . .


Posted by Picasa
I had heard for a few years that Waco's museum was a must-see, but it took me until now to actually visit. And I was NOT DISAPPOINTED! Really, I was calculating in my head if we would be able to do four or five trips a year to justify a membership I enjoyed it so much. The girls and I made it a half-way stop on our way to Keller for our cousin weekend. An hour and a half from Austin, an hour-and-a-half from our DFW destination -- just right. I planned to spend two hours, which we did, but we rushed through several rooms the girls could have played much longer in. There was a tea room for practicing manners and having a tea party, a people of the world room for dressing up and playing instruments from other cultures, a bubble room, a sound room (with that floor piano!), a simple machines room, a big model train, a toddler sized community complete with a road, cars, signs, stores and house. And more...what am I missing. Oh, a black widow and tarantula and other aquarium-life. And a pioneer days room with a wagon and butter churn, dress up clothes and lots of period toys and activities. And a Native American room with a tipi and drums and animals and such. And more! Really. Plus a typical natural sciences museum with exhibits (which we pretty much just walked through on the way to the bathroom.)

We will be back!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Room Share (Second Attempt)




Posted by PicasaI spent all day today rearranging bedrooms to put the girls together for sleeping and give them a playroom. This was my plan even before Elizabeth was born, but when we tried it, she just didn't sleep well with her sister near. We're trying again, and I hope it works well. We've got a month to figure it out before school starts. And if we have to revert, at least I got a lot of decluttering out the work. 

Not much fits here besides their beds -- Elizabeth is on a full-sized futon. Caroline is on a twin-sized captain's bed. Between them are some crafting component shelves stacked on each other to serve as a nightstand with lots of space for their books. On the opposite wall are some bookshelves (IKEA) with a shelf of Caroline's stuff (her birthday books -- I make one for each girl each year instead of scrapbooks, her sports trophies, some pictures) and Elizabeth's stuff (same, minus the sports trophies.)

I must point out the lovely pillows on the girls' beds. Caroline's was made by (Great) Grandma Bindel -- a ministry she started when John and his siblings were adopted into their new homes. She made each of them a Jesus Loves John (or David, or Michael, or Elizabeth) pillow to have in their new home. Then, all the cousins wanted one, so she made more. Eventually, it became Grandma's thing -- Jesus pillows for new babies, family friends, etc. Caroline's was one of the last she made. I actually think that my niece, Sophia's, was the actual last that she made, about six months after Caroline's. That meant little Elizabeth would not have a Jesus pillow. Of course, Grandma's tradition was too loved to let that happen. Within days of Elizabeth's birth, (Great) Aunt Patty had the pink blanket made that says "Jesus loves Mary Elizabeth." My sister also started a project where she embroidered and sewed most of the polka-dotted pillow, sending it to Elizabeth's Godmother, Aunt Carlye in Wichita Falls to take to Grandma to stuff. I was so happy to have both. Then John's sister, Elizabeth, came to visit, bringing one of her childhood pillows that Grandma had made. And that is why Elizabeth's bed is a constant reminder that Jesus loves her -- and is a constant reminder that lots of other people love her, too.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Summer Day Camps

This is new parenting territory for me, and I find my thoughts overwhelming on the subject. That makes is blog-worthy, then. Right? Since Caroline is now school-age, the idea of summer camps is in our face. I can't decide if all these camps -- with such amazingly fun themes such as "Mad Science," or "Annie" acting camp (which she did last week and has thus prompted these thoughts), ice skating, or Camp Twin Lakes at the Y where kids get to do the zip line and Tango Tower, or gymnastics camp, or ballet camp or whatever -- are just that, amazing opportunities or if they are just expensive babysitting.

On one hand, these seem like a great opportunity to keep a bored kid busy during the summer, trying out a fun activity. We don't have time during the week to do *everything* Caroline would like to do -- gymnastics, swimming, ballet, piano, soccer, softball, basketball, ice skating, and acting...so summer camp programs give us the perfect avenue to experience these activities without a full commitment. Like with this "Annie" camp. Caroline has wanted to be in a musical, but when I looked into auditions and rehearsals for children's theater, it didn't fit with our schedule with weekly late-night rehearsals and such. That's when I discovered this camp and thought it would be perfect!

She loved it. But it was pricey ($250 for the week, actually one of the more expensive programs, I realize) from 9:30 to 3:30. Again, she had a great time, and I have some adorable videos and memories of seeing her on stage at Friday's performance, but it was hard not to see if as handing my kid off to someone else all day. Sure, they rehearsed their lines and practiced the songs. She enjoyed being with other kids. But they also watched a movie during lunch. Every. day. A whole. movie! I figure that's about $60 I spent for my kid to watch a movie while she ate, which she could have just as easily done at home for free! Most of the kids seemed to be familiar enough with the director and the procedures and each other that I think they are there every week.

At this point, I don't need these camps for child care. I realize that for dual-income families, these camps are a must for summer childcare when school is out. And we very well may need them in five years if I return to work in a non-teaching field. But for now, I can't justify the expense for more than one of these "experiences" per summer. And oy! What will I do when Elizabeth is old enough to want to participate in one of these, too? (Which, actually, she already does but, alas, is just not old enough!) :-)

Or maybe, as my neighbor and I have toyed with in those "what-if" type discussions, we just start running our own camps.

Regardless, this camp thing is something I will put more thought into before next summer, deciding if I allow Caroline one camp again or if we'll be ohlala extravagant and try two or three. And I guess once Elizabeth is old enough to go and *I* feel it is worth her time, then it will be time for me to get a j.o.b. to pay for all these awesome extras.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Never say never

Add it to the list.

"I'm never getting married!"
"I will not be a teacher!"
"I won't move to the suburbs."
"I'll never have kids!"
"I am not getting a mini-van."

Really, pretty much, if I say I won't do it, you can probably count on me doing it five to ten years after the pronouncement.

Today, after much discussion (really, whining on my part), John and I traded it our 2007 Honda CRV for a 2005 Honda Odyssey. An older car, you wonder? Why yes, we normally wait about ten years to get a new vehicle, choosing to pay cash. I've only had the CRV for five years, but I convinced John that we could make an even trade and get an older Odyssey. The girls and I love to have friends tag along with us places, and that was just not possible (or very uncomfortable) with the CRV.

So, we took our beloved CRV to Covert today and left with an Odyssey and $226. I'm happy. Caroline is thrilled. Elizabeth cried all the way home from church (before she fell asleep) that "this is not our car!" I think she'll grow to like it.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

My Momcation

I have been planning this since Elizabeth was one, I think. Early on, it came in the form of fantasizing about being hospitalized, alone in a hospital room where I could only read or watch TV. I figured I'd get my tubes tied and have a mini-vacation. Then I learned that a tubal is an out-patient procedure, so I just got an IUD instead.

But still, I dreamed of getting away. Not for a girls' weekend, as many of my friends do. I wanted time ALL. BY. MYSELF. Call it the fantasy of an introvert-who-mothers-a-couple-of-extroverts. I need some time alone to recharge, but my baby also needed me. Still, I knew and looked forward to this get-a-way, planning it for once Elizabeth was weaned. So, two weeks ago, she nursed her last time. And I told John I was leaving him for 24 hours. :-)

John worked from home Friday, so as soon as he was finished, around 5:00, the girls told me "Bye, mom!" They were eager to go to Chuck E Cheese for dinner and play with daddy. I headed to Embassy Suites (booked thanks to my Hilton Honors points.) A call ahead confirmed their free cocktail hour from 5:30 to 7:30. I arrived right at 5:30, checked in and dropped my bag in my room, and then headed for the bar. I enjoyed a couple of free Cosmos, a couple of free glasses of wine, a pizza for dinner while I read a book. And then I took a piece of cheesecake and another free glass of wine up to my room where I watched a little cable TV, took a bath, and read some more before falling asleep around 10:30. I still woke up a few times during the night, but the room was dark and quiet, so I fell back to sleep easily. I love the things living in my house, but they are noisy -- girls who talk in their sleep, cats who puke in the night, and a husband who brings bright LCDs to bed. A night without that was sweet! I got out of bed at 8, showered and dressed and went to the free breakfast before heading out for some shopping. I bought a new dress, two new shirts, and a (NON-NURSING!) bra. Then I went to get my hair cut and highlight and then to see Bad Teacher and get a pedicure. A wonderful 24 hours. Time to appreciate my lovely family and home. Time to recharge my batteries by treating myself and remembering the things I took for granted back in my pre-child days.

I picture this "alone" time as an annual treat. And I'd like to also include an annual weekend alone with my husband to that. I loved the baby days with my girls, but a little independence is much appreciated!

Friday, July 01, 2011

On Weaning

Since I have tried often these past few weeks to remember details of Caroline's weaning, I decided I should record now what I remember of Elizabeth's (and of Caroline's) since I will obviously forget most of it very quickly.

Caroline's weaning, as I remember it now, more than three and a half years later, was easy. She nightweaned sometime shortly after her second birthday with the help of a late-night banana snack. And I assume we stopped nursing in public at some point, though I don't remember that. After I was pregnant again (with the doomed pregnancy, not Elizabeth), my milk supply decreased and nursing became uncomfortable. By that time, Caroline was only nursing before her nap. One day, about a month or so before she was 2 1/2, I decided to take the "don't offer, don't refuse" approach. She didn't ask to nurse. She did not take a nap. That is a tough position for a pregnant mom to be in: Do I sacrifice naps in order to wean? Or do I continue nursing uncomfortably and face tandem nursing?

My minimum nursing goal had always (well, since college, when the idea was what *other* people should do, as I was not planning to mother my own!) been two years old, with my true goal being 2.5. I was fortunate to have Dr. Kathy Dettwyler as a professor for a women's studies course where we learned about the benefits of breastfeeding and breastfeeding in other cultures. Her cross-mammalian and cross-cultural research puts 2.5 (human) years at the minimum optimum age for weaning. In practice for me, teething is finished by 2.5 and kids are verbal enough to communicate their needs. While I think breastfeeding beyond 2.5 is wonderful if both mom and toddler are willing, I was not willing, in either case, to continue. Now, while I was not willing to continue past 2.5, I was not willing to stop (nor were my children) much before then as toddlers need human milk, too! Major brain development continues in the second and third year of life, and the immune system is still quite vulnerable. Human milk and the process of breastfeeding (the close contact, responding to the child's needs) promotes coordination and brain development. Many of the challenges of the twos are soothed by nursing as well, and it is a tough decision to take that tool out of one's parenting toolbox! And while I myself do not rely on "natural" child spacing, preferring the medical interventions of birth control, those who do have to admire God's amazing tool of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding moms (following ecological breastfeeding, which means no bottles or pacifiers and no ignoring of nighttime needs, i.e., "sleep training") find that their bodies naturally space their children 2.5 to 3.5 years apart, giving each baby just the right amount of nursing time!

So, with Caroline, I did not quite reach my optimum goal of 2.5, but we were close! After deciding to go with the "don't offer, don't refuse" approach, I realized I was offering to nurse her for that nap each day, due to my exhaustion. She just did not ask again! A few weeks after, she did ask once. I let her try to latch on; she sort of looked, and then went off to play.

Elizabeth will be 2.5 next week. I have felt quite done with nursing her for a few weeks now. Last week, I just decided, close enough! I am done. This time, this was totally mom-led weaning. She did not nurse in public any more, but she nursed much more often than her sister did at this age. I really did not know how it would go. She asked. She begged. But she could be distracted -- by a snack, a banana at bedtime, a book. Even now, a week in, she asks to nurse in the early morning, about 6:30, which means we've been getting up at 6:30! But, she is sleeping better. She is fine all day. And she can talk to me about it.

I am so thankful that I had the knowledge, even before becoming a mom, about the benefits of breastfeeding and extended nursing. I am thankful I had a supportive (himself a former nursing toddler!) husband. And I am thankful for the like-minded friends I have found who have reinforced for me that this not-so-mainstream parenting choice is the best choice for us.

And now, having spend 24 months gestating and 58 months lactating in the past seven years, I am very happy to be nourishing nobody but myself with my body!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ironically, my name is spelled wrong

but I am overwhelmed with giddiness reading my name mentioned on the acknowledgements page of a novel, My Occasional Torment, by Bee Robb, that I copyedited. I knew there was the possibility he'd mention me by name, but I did not know for sure until my lovely friend, Staci, checked the book out from the library and emailed me that my name was in it. :-)

And what sweet words: "Also, a grateful smile of appreciation to Amanda Fowle Bindle, a talented editor who possesses not only the mechanics but also the music of writing." (swoon!)

Now, can I put this quote on my resume as I was recently canned from this dream freelance copyediting gig and would love to find another exactly like it?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Green clean = brown laundry and cloudy glasses

Well, I confess that when I tried "green cleaners" around the house when Caroline was tiny, I quickly abandoned them. Vinegar wasn't going to get my toilets and showers as clean as good ol' Comet. I quietly hid the truth. And for some reason, even after that, I recently decided to try making my own laundry detergent and dishwasher detergent. Call it a green attempt. Call it trying to be frugal. Really, I was kind of bored and figured why not? After two weeks or so, I'll tell you exactly why not. It didn't work! My clothes still had stains. My dishes were cloudy. I know it works great for some. Maybe our water is hard. Maybe I didn't tweak my mixture to get it perfect. I'm going to stick with the R&D proven commercial stuff and save myself some time, spend a little dough, and wear clean clothes and drink from clean glasses. THANKYOUVERYMUCH.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

2011 Road Trip Vacation

The Bindels and the Satoros (my sister, her husband and two girls) rented a 15-passenger van and drove to California with lots of stops on the way there and back. The girls agreed that the their favorite part of the vacation was being with their cousins (aw!) I can't wait to do it again!

(click the picture below for the full album with captions)

Big Road Trip 2011

Monday, May 23, 2011

A little elbow grease . . .










Posted by Picasa 
and porcelain cleaner go a long way! I'm a bit embarrassed to show what my daily-use plates looked like (see top plate in image). These were well-loved Pfaltzgraff dishes given to us at our wedding -- in 1995! I was almost at the point of replacing them and was browsing the Pfaltzgraff Web site since I really liked the durability and flexibility of these dishes. Liked the size. Liked the neutral, solid color. Liked the price. But I have a set of twelve. That's a lot to start over, even if it is affordable. It's a lot of waste to get rid of. I read about the Pfaltzgraff porcelain cleaner -- that works on porcelain sinks, too -- a real sore spot in our otherwise-loved kitchen.

The problem is not that the dishes or sink is scratched,as I had thought. It is that the silverware leaves a stain on the porcelain when it scrapes against it. It just needs a specialized cleaner (bleach doesn't work; I've tried!). At the outlet mall today, I popped in to the Le Cruset store, even though I own nary a piece of the lovely enamel-covered cast iron cookware. Sure enough, they had a porcelain cleaner. The clerk wasn't sure if it would work on my sink, but for $12, I wasn't willing not to try it (or pay $8 shipping elsewhere) to try it. You can see the results above. I am quite pleased! No, my dishes do not look new. Neither does my sink. But they don't look trash-worthy anymore. I think I can easily get another five year's out of these plates. :-)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A SAHM Steven Covey Full Cup Twist

We're all (probably) aware of the Steven Covey Big Rocks Cup story.

After spending too much time on the phone and email today over some silly drama, I have revised the story for a mom's priorities.

Fill your glass first with your "big rocks" -- your husband and your kids and your faith and your family! That is what is most important!

Is it full yet? Nah, you've got lots of time, I mean, room, left! Now you can add in some pebbles -- housework, errands, frugal living, green living, healthy living, volunteer work, your church, your kids' school, freelance or from-home jobs.

Is it full yet? Maybe. But, I bet you can squeeze in some nice, refreshing water -- time with friends, time alone, time with books, time with wine, (bonus time with your husband, even though that is a big rock, too, he likes all the time he can get!), time organizing, time planning, time shopping, time blogging. . . or facebooking. . . or whatever your Internet vice.

So now your cup is truly full and you don't have room for the dirt of drama, the mud of gossip, the filth of egocentricity. Just skip the dirt!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter Eggs





I have to post these pictures because one project, I may never do again, and the other, I for sure want to do again.

Picture One: Rice Krispie Treat Eggs -- I sprayed plastic eggs with Pam and spooned the treats into those to form eggs. Super cute and yummy, but it was messy and took quite a bit of time. Probably not a project I'll do again. The inspiration came from ads I saw several places (from Kellogg's) that had you hollow a hole inside the egg to place M&Ms. I didn't even attempt that and it was still time consuming!

Picture Two: Marbled Eggs -- these were easy for the girls to do and are really pretty! You dye your eggs however you do. (We do ours the old-fashioned unnatural way with Paas.) Then you put a bit of olive oil on a plate, add a bit of a different colored dye (we also experimented with drops of food coloring onto the egg with nice results) and roll the egg around on the plate. The olive oil gives the eggs a pretty shine, too. And notice eggs seven and eight (if you count left to right and by row) were brown eggs. I think they dyed up nicely, too.

(The bottom row is not marbled. Caroline wanted to leave some solid.)

Monday, April 18, 2011

It's Official!

Today, I became Amanda Joyce Bindel.

Legally.

Yeah, John and I have been married 16 years. We have two kids. Until today, I've been Amanda Joyce Fowle. Now, when Caroline was one or so, I changed my email address to amandabindel at gmail dot com, after she started getting birthday party invitations from playgroup friends that were addressed to Caroline Fowle. That, I think, I just confused people even more. I've had several people comment that they never could keep straight which was my name and which was my married name, as I started using them interchangeably. And I couldn't keep up with which name I'd given on forms for the kids. Was I Amanda Fowle at music class or Amanda Bindel. I couldn't remember. My name tag for Caroline's school, which prints for security purposes from my drivers license information, showed Amanda Fowle. I am no longer freelancing, so I have no current ties in the professional/publishing world to Fowle. So I decided to just do it. Change it!

Of course, the first question on many minds is why did I not change it when I got married. My answer to that was always, "Why would I?" It was more work to change a name than leave it after marriage. I was who I was. My husband had actually had his name legally changed already when he was adopted when he was eleven. I had been Amanda Fowle my whole life! Little Miss Ambitious that I was had been published as Amanda Fowle. Once it is in black and white like that, you can't change your name! And I had to set a feminist example. I mean, in another generation, no one will even consider women taking on a man's name. John was estranged from his family at the time, so I had no connection to the bigger Bindel picture, either. My dad had only daughters, so I argued that I needed to keep the name alive. I even went so far as to joke with John (though he says he never agreed to such) that we'd give any daughters we had his last name and any boys would get mine. That was in the day that I only joked about having kids. Because it was not gonna happen. No way.

But now, I live with three other Bindels. We have developed a wonderful relationship with the Bindel clan, and I love the name and connection of the large family. Ironically, as we joked that there weren't many Fowles to carry on the name (which my dad thought was just fine and even joked that he'd change his name to Bindel himself), my girls' generation so far has only one male Bindel. Out of John and Irene's eleven children and twenty-eight grandchildren and, at this point, something like forty-two great-grandchildren (really, it changes daily during some baby booms!) only one of those has the Bindel name and is a boy. (There are ten great-grandkids so far with the Bindel name.)

Another possible question: Do I wish I'd have done it sooner? No. It's kind of like waiting to have my kids until I was older. I would not be who I am as a mother had I had kids earlier. I would not be who I am as a woman had I changed my name at "I do." I needed a little more time. I'm glad that on my girls' hospital records, when they look at their baby books, they will see Fowle and can ask about my name (and come to their own decisions about their own name.) I am glad that I was able to have the conversation with Caroline about her options as a woman as we drove today to the Social Security Office.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Trail running

What's better than running in the East Texas woods (sans dogs, of course!)?

Running on Brushy Creek Trail, or as it is properly called, the Williamson County Regional Trail. I ventured out today while Elizabeth was at friend's house for babysitting swap. I've hiked the trail before with the kids and biked it with the kids, but running on it was a new experience. And since I was running and alone, I went beyond where I go with the kids. I am so fortunate to have this awesome trail (almost) in my backyard. Right now, it is a 6.5 mile trail, passing by four different parks and ending at the YMCA. I did not run the whole trail today, nor do I imagine I'll be running 13 miles soon as I do not see a half-marathon in my future. I might have to bike it, though.

Running in the woods (but not in mud and without having to worry about dogs chasing me) = WIN!

Now, since I am "running" (I put that in quotes because I am S.L.O.W.) now, I have developed a hierarchy of preferences.

Bottom choice, least favorite = running on the treadmill. We have a Y membership, so it is nice to put the girls in the Child Watch while I exercise. I think I'll use that time for weight lifting (which I have not started yet) or a yoga class or Body Pump class (which I have also never done.)

Top choice = running alone on Brushy Creek Trail. I may have to save that one for the weeks I am "off" for babysitting swap or weekends when John can watch the girls.

Here's the list, though, ranked favorite to least.
1. Running alone on the trail
2. Running alone in my neighborhood
3. Running with the stroller (I have not ran with the stroller on the trail, only in the neighborhood, so I'll keep that together)
4. Running on the treadmill

I think the reason I do not like the treadmill is that there are too many distractions -- TVs, people, magazines, etc. What I am enjoying most about running is being alone and not thinking about anything (except maybe how far I've gone or how much longer I need to run). That's part of that psychological benefit of exercise, I guess.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Angels watching over me

I goofed up. I really, really goofed up and I can't get it out of my mind. Funny thing is that this goof has no repercussions whatsoever. Nothing happened. But I am struck by what *could* have happened. I am struck that I made an adolescent mistake, one of those stupid, didn't-think-about-the-dangers things that teenagers are notorious for. But I am the 37 year old mother of two. I should know better.

I blame running. And maybe lack of sleep since we were up late the night before driving.

John and I left Austin after church Sunday night and drove to Hemphill, to my dad's new house, for spring break. The girls slept in the car, but of course, that meant Elizabeth (my non-sleeper) was up and wired when we arrived. So we were up late with her. We did get to sleep in Monday, and I was excited to leave both kids behind and take a run by myself. I'm working my way through the Couch to 5K program and am at the 20 minute run part (since I took off a couple of weeks after my bike wreck. Well, gosh, maybe I have made stupid decisions recently, like talking on my cell phone while riding my bike. But that didn't bother me mentally nearly as much as this does!) I set off on my run with my iTouch Cool Running program directing me. It tells me when I've reached the half-way mark so I can turn around. I ran to the end of my dad's road and turned around, finished off his road and headed onto the highway. There was no shoulder and it had just rained, so I turned around and passed daddy's road to head to the next little gravel road. I turned down it and was feeling great. That is what I'm enjoying most about running--how good it feels NOT to think about anything but the moment of running. And I guess that is where I got in danger. I ran down this little road as it got even littler, into the woods, thought briefly of the probable-meth house I was running past (a travel trailer in the woods surrounded by old tractors, tires, cars, junk), turned around and headed back. I was anticipating running the same loop the next day I enjoyed myself so much. After an afternoon fishing trip, a few of us headed home early, with me driving. I passed by daddy's house and reset my odometer so I could drive my route and track my miles. I took my passengers down that same gravel road as it got smaller and BOOM, five rottweilers were on my tires in no time. I put the Honda in reverse and backed down the road until I could turn around and lost the dogs at some point. But they were vicious. And my heart is pounding now thinking about it. What if those dogs had come after me while I was running? What was I thinking?! I wasn't! Nobody knew *where* I was running. I just took off. There is no way I would have outrun those dogs. I had to write it all down in hopes of getting it out of my head. I have two little girls to take care of. I can not be eaten by dogs.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Feb Faves: Lent

What a crazy thing to be a "favorite", right? I love Lent as a season of commitment, a stage for reflection, a time of change. I feel like I can manage to stick to something for 40 days, you know, so I open myself up to new challenges. And since Easter is my favorite holiday, I like taking advantage of Lent as a period of preparation.

We still have a few days before Lent begins, I know, but I'll share our plans here early in case it brings inspiration to anyone.

1. Our family tradition for five years now -- our blessing tree -- will continue.
2. We will have a short version of evening prayer together as a family.
3. A new tradition I am excited about was inspired by my sister-in-law's sister-in-law. (So is she my sister-out-law? LOL!)  I saved the Christmas cards we received last year and we will pray for a family or two each night at dinner.
4. We (John, Caroline, and I) will walk (or run, or bike in Caroline's case) 68 miles during Lent to recall Jesus's walk from Jerusalem to Galilee. It is also a time to remember our bodies are temples.

(and this wraps up my February Faves. I am back in the habit of blog-journaling, so check back soon!)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Feb Faves: My Thirty One Tote


Here's an item I use several times a week that makes my life so much easier! So much easier, in fact, that 1) I bought a second one and 2) I'm hosting a party so my friends can buy one, too!

My friend and food swap buddy, Staci, sells My Thirty One, and I bought the tote when another friend hosted a party. I didn't actually attend the party, just ordered the tote with the plan to use it weekly to transport my food swap meals. It works perfectly for that. And I discovered that it also works great to transport my Sunday School supplies each week. And it is also great for events, like class parties, that I need to carry lots of things to. For Caroline's Valentine's party at school, I just sat the tote in my bedroom and added the party items as I bought them. On party day, I just grabbed the bag and went! I use it, too, as my Costco "bag" instead of boxes. It is easier to carry inside and I don't have to bother recycling any boxes.

You can browse all the My Thirty One pretties (they have several other products and bags. I have my eye on the About Town blanket for summer picnics and park time.

My party is March 12 if you'd like to come or just place an order. The whole catolog is here:

http://catalog.thirtyonegifts.com/page1.html

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Feb Faves: Stellar Transition Trainers by No Babies Allowed

Both girls seemed to grasp the potty concept at the same age -- 25 months. This time, though, I am taking the lazy mom approach to avoid having to abandon my grocery cart when I'm next in line to run a little girl to the bathroom and I'm putting Elizabeth in training panties for a couple of months. I love these I got from No Babies Allowed, made from the Stellar Transitions pattern. They are cute (these are not mine). They are waterproof, but still pull down easily like regular panties. And they snap off in case of poop accidents, which we do still have very often.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Feb Faves: my calm personality

To call myself calm now is a pretty big statement. As a child, I was the crier, the panicker, the ball of stress. I remember crying hysterically and hyperventilating in first grade when I accidentally wrote my name (IN PENCIL) in a workbook that we were not allowed to write in.

Well, somehow along the way, I calmed down. Thank goodness. Let me give you a glimpse of three minutes in my life. As I am unloading groceries, Elizabeth strips herself down to use the potty. As I turn, with too many items in my hand, I drop a zipper bag of popcorn that scatters everywhere -- in the cat food, on the floor, in the pantry, in the recycle bin. I grab the Dyson and start vacuuming as Elizabeth comes up wiping herself with about a third of a square of toilet paper. I glance at the potty. Sure enough, she's pooped. So, I turn off the vacuum, wipe her properly, wash her hands, and finish getting up the popcorn. No stress. Just business.

Yesterday, I locked Elizabeth in the car during a rainstorm. I did not even cry. I just called John to bring the keys and stood in the rain singing to her through the window.

I wonder if it's like how some people's hair changes to curly after pregnancy/childbirth. Maybe being a mother has given me stronger nerves. :-)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Feb Faves: volunteering in the classroom

(oops, I missed two days! I'm not keeping up with this NaNoBloMo so well, but I am getting back in the swing of blog-journaling, which was the whole point. I think I can finish off these last five days of the month.)

I'm Caroline's kindergarten room mom. While I did retire from LLL this summer to (for one reason) have more time to volunteer at C's school, I did not intend to be room mom. The mom who signed up to do it pulled her daughter out the first week of school, so the teacher was left without a volunteer. Several moms said they would do it if nobody else could, but they all worked full or part time. Once again, I thought, well, the gift I have now is time, so I'll do it. So, I am in Caroline's classroom briefly every Thursday to put together take-home folders, and I rotate weeks with a friend (one watches our toddlers while the other volunteers in the classroom during reading group time.) I look forward to my weeks in the classroom. I really enjoy it and realize that maybe I will go back into teaching. For a while, I did not. Then I thought I would. Then I thought no because, while I would have the same breaks as the kids, I would not be able to pop over for class parties or lunch as I would be busy in my own classroom. My current train of thought is that I would just dedicate a personal day for each girl for one class party and one time to have lunch with them and give the teaching thing a go again in a few years. (Once Texas recovers from its current educational finance fiasco and Elizabeth in is first grade.) I did let my certification expire, so I'll need to take some classes to re-certify and figure I'll do that slowly when she's in pre-K and K. I really do fantasize about returning to work, but being here with the girls is my priority. And even once they are both in school, I reserve the right to decide they need me more than I need a job.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Feb Faves: someone else's words

Happiness is a choice. It's all about your perspective.

Instead of my own words, today I share someone else's words and pictures.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Feb Faves: (a tie!)

Two of my favorite things related to today:
Having my sister live within day-trip driving distance

and

Salt Lick BBQ

Those two together made for a great Saturday evening.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Feb Faves: Five Year Olds

As the book says, Your Five Year Old: Sunny and Serene. And, of course, my five year old goes beyond sunny and serene to be a peace maker. At the park yesterday, she was playing off and on with two other little girls, also kindergartners. A little boy and his mom were playing on the teeter totter when her baby woke up and she went to get him out of his stroller. The two girls ran and jumped on the teeter totter and the boy burst into tears. Caroline ran to him and showed him several options of ways he could play on the teeter totter with the other girls, even offering for him to sit in her lap in the middle. I just love her. Do I get to take full credit for how cool she is?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Feb Faves: libraries

I think I've gushed before about the library. But, really, it is just such a fabulous place and makes my life easier. I actually have dual-library citizenship, thanks to the Tex-Share card. With it, as long as I stay in good standing with my "home" library, the Austin Public Library, I can renew, for free, this card to have access to other library cards. I have a Cedar Park Public Library card, thanks to Tex-Share.

I prefer Cedar Park's children's programming and story times, so Elizabeth and I go there weekly for a story time. We go with Caroline occasionally, about once a month. From there, I check out movies for the girls as they have a great selection and children's books.

Since it is hard to browse the stacks with a two-year-old, I take advantage of holds at the Austin Public Library for my reading. I just put four books on hold -- two for me and two titles I want for Elizabeth that (to save me browsing for them at CPL while she pulls off other books that she "wants." I browse the catalog from home via the interwebs, use my library card number to place the hold, get an email when they are available, and pick them up at the drive-thru window at the library. How cool is that!?

Now, go hug a librarian!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Feb Fave: my community

I'm there now! I like it here. I really do. I know I've bemoaned the lack of community here, my desire to move to what I thought was a more close-knit community. I think I just needed to narrow my circle a bit to find what was in my own backyard.

Caroline starting at the neighborhood school certainly helped with that. After I dropped her off at ballet today, saying "Hi" to a mom from the class before I've known from music class and LLL connections since Caroline was two, chatting with another friend and former LLL co-Leader, catching up with a mom whose daughter Caroline has played with since they were infants, seeing six other little girls from Caroline's school, all, as always, thrilled to see Caroline, I realized as I drove to the Y where I ran into more kids from Caroline's school, that this is what I wanted. That feeling of running into Burton's/TJ&A's/Market Basket (depending on the year) in Mauriceville and knowing most of the people shopping. I wanted Home. And I love my Home.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Feb Faves: (oops, I missed a day!) and Netflix watch instantly

Oops, I was supposed to blog every day in February, and I missed the half-way day! Let's just assume I would have gushed about Valentine's Day (which I would not have) or my lovely family (which I would have).

My fave today is Netflix -- both the mail kind and the watch instantly. We have a fancy hook-up so we can watch internet shows (hulu, netflix, etc.) on our TV.

Some of my (well, the kids' )favorite watch-instantly shows (the availability changes frequently, so these may not be up long) are
The Nutcracker
Peter Pan
Ponyo

When we want a certain movie or show, I first check Netflix watch instantly, then Hulu.com, then the library. If I can't get it those places, I'll add it to my Netflix queue and will even occasionally fork over the $1.99 to rent it on amazon on demand.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Feb Faves: New Cosmetics (and gifts with purchases!)

I love visiting the cosmetics counter for new skin-care luxuries. I just feel so pampered when I get new face cream or eye cream. Even better when there's a gift with purchase. I plan my purchases now with the help of My Gift with Purchase so I am sure to get some good stuff for free. I'm a Lancome girl, save for two make-up items that I've been a faithful MAC customer for the last 15 years or so. I stopped by the MAC counter at Macy's yesterday, though, to discover they discountinued their Studio Fix foundation stick that I use as concealer. I love it and am pretty bummed. But, I suppose I should feel reassured that the saleslady told me I should be using liquid concealer now "because you're showing more lines than you really have." What does that even mean? How is that possible. And I know because I've been without eye cream for a month waiting for the Lancome Gift with Purchase at Macy's!  It's all good, though, and I didn't feel insulted. But yeah, having a beauty staple for 15 years really isn't best for my look anyway. Those years snuck by without me even realizing what a stuck-in-my-routine fuddy duddy I was. Apparently, I shouldn't be using powder anymore, either. Cause I'm old!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Feb. Faves: C25K

C25K

That's Couch to Five K
as in getting your booty from the couch to running 5K

I'm doing it and just completed week five of the nine week program and must say
IT IS INCREDIBLE!
I sincerely do not think I have ever, in my entire life, ran for 20 minutes straight, but today, I did. I actually ran longer, probably 25 minutes straight because my iPod Touch turned off when I put it in my pocket and I had to resume the run.

I feel like this is a huge accomplishment, but I see on facebook what a trend running is and feel like a slow wimp, with friends training for marathons (and longer!) and running 11, 20, 50 miles for their long weekend runs! Running is the new yoga, eh?

But really, since my butt was on the couch five weeks ago (eating chocolate chip cookies), I am just going to be happy with running my (VERY SLOW) 25 minutes today. Elizabeth could have been my pace car, riding along on her scooter, but speed is not the goal at this point. Running is. Next weekend,  I plan to invest in some new running shoes.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Feb Faves: Easy*Bake!



One of my favorite toys as a kid was my Easy*Bake oven. I remember trips to Gemco with whatever saved money I had to buy the little mixes. I got Caroline one for Christmas. Gemco doesn't exist anymore (that I know of), and I'm much more frugal than I was back when all my income was disposable. So, rather than pay $13.35 for two cake mixes (I realize frosting is included, but STILL!), I made my own -- a dozen mixes for a buck! I found a recipe online and measured out three tablespoons of cake mix into snack-sized Ziplock bags. Caroline just needs to add one tablespoon of milk when she's ready to bake. We tried one out after dinner tonight, and it was much tastier than the mix that came with the oven, too.
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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Feb Faves: Two Year Olds


Elizabeth helps me unload the dishwasher by putting away the flatware. Today, she did it with no help. Honestly, she did better than some adults would have. :-)

I love TWO! Really, I do. For both girls, it has been a really fun age with exploding verbal skills and humor and engagement. I am fascinated by the sense of order that comes with two. A place for everything and everything in its place. It is more than a personality quirk specific to the Bindel girls, too. This is the age of Montessori's sensitive period for order.

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Feb. Faves: My girls' personalities

The similarities and the differences amaze me. At times, I am struck by how different they are. And a moment later, I see Elizabeth do something that instantly brings back a memory of Caroline doing the exact thing.

And at times, I deprive Elizabeth things unintentionally just because her sister didn't like it and I just got in the habit of doing things one way.

Like making peanut butter sandwiches (sans jelly) because Caroline doesn't like sweet things. Having a brown bag lunch with a friend and her toddler earlier this week, I realized that Elizabeth would LOVE jelly. So today, I made her a pbj sandwich. Sweet girl, bless her. She took one bite and said "YUM!"  Then she did her best to lick all the jelly off that she could before taking a few more bites. Love her!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Today I really do need to remember my favorite things . . .

I'm surprised at how sad I feel, to be honest. I learned today that the division of the company I've been freelancing for the past four years is being acquired.  That could have been a good thing -- that is actually how I came to work for this client in the first place -- the original project I was on was acquired by this bigger company and I went along. Well, that doesn't seem to be an option this time.

This gig has been a true favorite thing of mine. A very little bit of extra income. A cool job description to add to the glamorous life of a stay-at-home-mom. Work I enjoyed. And could do while my little one napped. From home. Really, just perfect.

So, if you happen to know of any publishing houses looking for a copy editor to complete a 250-300 page manuscript every two weeks, let me know. I'm really good with deadlines. I query kindly and edit with a light hand.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Feb. Faves: Amazon Prime

Another of my favorite things: Amazon Prime.

No more adding an item I don't need to get to the $25 free shipping. No last-minute trips to a toy store, kids in tow, for birthday party gifts. No more trips to the PO to ship gifts to out-of-town family. I order it on Amazon and have it shipped for free -- in two days!

I did the math. It pays for itself in 16 uses, which granted is a lot of Amazon ordering for most people. But I am an online shopper. My kids recognized the letters UPS about the same time they recognize HEB (and we all know that now that you can't spell Texas without HEB.) That UPS guy visits my porch a few times a week.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Feb Faves: keepin' it fresh



Side note: As it is a NEW discovery, I can't count it as a "favorite" just yet, but I have found Mod Podge and it very well may become a favorite thing. I'm not crafty as I am not detail-oriented enough to do crafts well. This is pretty easy, though. Mod Podge may well figure in frequently in my methods to keep things fresh. In the picture here, I used Mod Podge and card stock to redo a toddler table I bought at a resale shop five years ago. The table was used as-bought for several years. Then I painted the top with chalk-board paint to make it a drawing table. It didn't get much use (mostly because I have to hide the chalk from the toddler who eats it), so I decided to cutesy it up a bit in Elizabeth's room. I'll probably put her tea set on it for the first rotation.

(and now for our scheduled programming -- my favorites)

I inherited from my grandmother the need to change things up around my house. The stories of Nanny knocking down walls, moving plumping even, to change the house are numerous. In her little house now, where she's lived the past twenty years or so, her kitchen has been in at least three different places. The KITCHEN! And more than once in each of these locales. That is not an easy room to move, you know! My own mother did not take her inherited obsession so far, but we did frequently move our furniture around. It was always a fun day when we'd rearrange the living room!

So, I move the girls' rooms around frequently, moving from bedroom to playroom to seperate bedrooms, changing up the arrangements, converting closets, etc. I live with someone who is a bit more resistent to change (or maybe he's just normal), so I don't get to do near as much as I dream (converting the formal open dining room into an enclosed all-purpose room entered from the garage (I'm still nagging and dreaming, so I just might get that room in ten years), but I still manage to get John's help on weekends to move the big things and drill holes in the walls, and fill in old holes.

It keeps life interesting.
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Saturday, February 05, 2011

Feb Faves: Looking back

One of the main reasons I wanted to blog daily this month and get back into keeping this up is that I get so much joy from reading my old posts. They are a snapshot of life during those days. I visit the girls' photo blogs most often, just looking back and remembering. And already I have that mother's memory of just remembering the good things. I love to look at Caroline's photo blog at the age that Elizabeth is at. I've come to realize that they are more alike than I realize when I so often describe their personalities as opposite. They are different, but when I read how I recorded the funny things Caroline said at this age on her blog, that we are at that same stage with Elizabeth. I see that Caroline was obsessed with wearing boots everywhere at about the same age. I remember that Caroline's sense of order emerged at about this same age, just as Elizabeth's is.

But reading my own blog, my journal, reminds me about my life and what was going on. Even the frequency of my posts is telling. Lots of posts are times when I wasn't over-committed in other areas and had some quiet time while my little one napped.

I am so glad I have these blogs to serve as my journal.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Feb. Faves: SNOW DAYS!!



Though this year it's actual snow, Austin's February "snow days" are actually ice days, most years. But I'll count them, either way, as one of my favorite things because these trapped-at-home days force a little peace on us. You make do at home with what you have on hand (a good reason to buy flour and sugar and chocolate chips in bulk as I do!) You get creative in entertaining your kids. The daily must-dos and must-gos cease for a bit. Lovelieness!
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