nursery rhymes, or excuse me, what?

I talked a big game pre-birthing a child, as in “I’ll only eat organic, gluten free fare when I’m pregnant” and “I would never feed my baby HFCS or junk food” and “no TV ever” and “I’ll be sure my baby’s library is carefully curated”…..

And after 16+ months, I’m taking a moment to stop and realize how freaking weird so many nursery rhymes and children’s stories are that I’m reading to my child! Think about it!

jack and the beanstalk

I’m reading the story of Jack and the Beanstalk to A, and it’s all, “kid gets swindled by seedy (ha) character into selling a cow for 5 seeds at market. Mom throws a hissy fit and throws the beans out the window, prompting them to grow overnight into a beanstalk that hits the clouds. Kid climbs this miraculously fast-growing beanstalk (where was his mother?) and a creepy giant almost killed him while he stole the giant’s prized possessions. Then he kills the giant when he gets to the bottom first and chops down said beanstalk. So little ones, gather ’round and hear the moral of the story: take what isn’t yours and you’ll be fiiiiiine.

And where’s Jack and the Beanstalk 2? Where this dumb-dumb kid gets swindled out of the talking harp and before long he and his mother are again destitute?

I am having some trouble finding a concise (read: one paragraph) explanation of this and other nursery rhymes/stories we tell our children, but people are too wordy and share too many potential meanings. Nursery rhyme exegesis is a thing, y’all. A thing for people who clearly don’t have toddlers and thus have gobs of time on their hands to pontificate. GIVE ME NAMES, people. I need a short lesson on what the metaphors are.

As in, Humpty Dumpty is about King Richard II, yes? And Ring Around the Rosies is about the Bubonic Plague, yes? Maybe not. And why do we all sing the “ashes, ashes” verse of that strange song?! The other verses are way more chill, says Snopes.

Over to Jack and Jill. We sing about two little kids having to go uphill to get some water (let that sink in for a second. Makes no sense unless they’re scaling up the side of a MOUNTAIN to get to a spring), Jack’s HEAD BREAKS OPEN, and Jill follows suit. FOR WHAT PURPOSE? First off, water is usually gathered down low, not up a hill, amiright? The best interpretation I found is this: King Charles I wanted taxes increased on liquor and Parliament refused. Then he tried to get the volume of a Jack (1/2 pint) to be reduced, but to keep the tax the same. Ok fine. And there’s that crown emblem on the half pint glasses. Broke crown, got it, I guess. And as a result of the Jack volume “falling down,” the volume of a “gill” (1/4) pint or “Jill” decreased, too. So gather ’round again, children, and hear about some hard liquor volume woes. (Source: Wikipedia that references this book I am adding to my Library List!)

And Pop Goes the Weasel? What is that? It has absolutely nothing to do with the weasel animal! So strange.

And don’t get me started on people’s attempts to write “good” children’s books that are immensely lam. I think I’m going to start making up new stories that go with the pictures in A’s books… will this slow my daughter’s development?! Maybe. Keep me from losing it? Yes. Yes it will.

thanks for sharing your garden!

Earlier this week (yes, while scouting out everyone’s curbside trash), I noticed a woman tending her garden. I called out to her that her garden was lovely, and we struck up a conversation. I told her that we’re contemplating planting a garden at our house (don’t worry, Tim is the project manager for watering, constructing the beds, watering, figuring out what plants stand a chance of surviving the center-of-the-sun-temperatures-we-experienced-this-summer-why-do-we-live-here, watering, weeding, watering, etc.), and she had all kinds of helpful guidance on what to plant and where, and where to go for advice.

She mentioned how hardy (hearty? Which is it?! It could be both!!) the Pride of Barbados plants are, and I told her about the sweet old man in our neighborhood who gave me some seeds.

funky leaves

What are these fun little guys? These weren’t in her yard, but I’d love a patch of them in ours – the leaves close up when you touch them. I devoted a decent amount of my childhood to making these leaves close up. Glad to have contributed to this world in a meaningful way.

I thanked her for sharing her beautiful plants with passers-by, having them in the front yard instead of the back. She said the trees in her backyard only allowed for shade perennials, and that there were plenty of options at Lowe’s for plants to grow in shadier areas, too. She talked about creating space for trial and error in life to find the right match of plants (uh, trial and error? Helpful on lots of levels for this recovering perfectionist).

Talk of gardening was woven into our conversation that covered all the things: healthy food, faith, family, money, life, death (her ex-husband passed away last month and she’s getting her home ready for his celebration of life in 2 weeks – his ashes will be lovingly sprinkled underneath the oak trees in her front yard). She said something like, “We should visit again some time!” and my heart almost burst with excitement – YES OF COURSE!

What a blessing this little connection was, coming on the heels of a sad tailspin of feeling-sorry-for-myself-I-am-lonely-and-am-so-tired-of-being-the-only-one-ever-in-the-history-of-the-world-to-initiate-spending-time-with-my-friends-woe-to-me-business-is-bad-no-one-wants-to-hang-out-with-me-I-am-a-loser diatribe.

Before we knew it, we’d been talking for more than twenty minutes – A let us know that it was entirely past her naptime and she was DONE with the stroller, so we parted ways. I promised to give her a call the week following her ex-husband’s service. How nice to meet such a sweet spirit just around the corner.

residential bulk collection

This week is residential bulk collection week in our neighborhood. We were told to put the appropriate-to-dispose-of items on our curb by 6:00am Monday, and that the items would be picked up by the end of the week. I’m pretty sure that Austin Resource Recovery is waiting a couple of days to let everyone pilfer through everyone else’s junk before they haul stuff off, though. Geniuses.

It’s like a free Round Top Antiques Festival… okay not really. It’s like city-sanctioned dumpster diving, minus the putrid garbage smell.

All our curbside junk has been hauled off by treasure hunters, and we’ve been making the rounds on our morning walks to scout out what’s still available. We see lots of trucks and trailers hauling what looks like really good stuff!

It makes me want to go back to a bartering system. Trade you 2 dozen eggs for a moccasin pouch! (Alas, if only my life had more use for the skills I learned at Pioneer Day Camp. Cue minor freak out because I can’t find the beloved camp I went to in Houston back in the 90’s. How will A learn to make thread out of cotton? And make bullets at a campfire? And make lye soap and candles and track game and sew moccasin pouches, for the love?!?!) Ahem.

trash pickup1This, though, hasn’t been picked up by the treasure hunters yet. Purrrfect scratching post for Kitty Meow Meow’s play room, yes?

 

trash pickup2 Random odds and ends that resourceful people who don’t shop at Target for their every need (not me) could use to create something cool.

I need to find out when other* neighborhoods (you know who you are) are having their bulk collection weeks, and drive through in Tim’s truck to pick up the rejects. Who’s with me?!?!

oh houston.

I’ve been trying to come up with a useful post, but I’ve got nothing. Seeing and reading about the catastrophic flooding in the greater Houston area is heartbreaking. Rebuilding efforts will be monstrous, but it somehow isn’t overwhelming: if any group of people can do it, it’s my H-town crowd.

Praying for those without power, those without homes, those who were able to escape and don’t yet know if their home was flooded, for exhausted law enforcement and first responders, for the selfless souls who are helping with rescue efforts.

Here’s a good link to ways we can help.

Let’s all be gentle with each other today, ok? Life and health and wealth are fragile, fleeting things.

pray for houston

because reading 17 books at one time is normal.

Books are pretty rad, and libraries (and Amazon Prime) are immensely helpful in making my literary dreams come true. Growing up, I was quite the bookworm, preferring to read indoors (bless) rather than go on a family bike ride. And that was before the global warming days, back when it was PLEASANT OUTSIDE (typing this in mid-August from the comfort of my house while sipping iced coffee).

Back in the day, I’d ride my bicycle (minimum effort – we lived decently close) to the Gonzales Public Library* and would spend hours there reading, catching up on star stickers for whatever the summer reading program entailed, venturing into the reference section, and doing my best to avoid the grouchy librarian. (*woah – the library is now housed in the old bank building and looks niiiiice! Movin’ on up! I may have to go visit to witness their expanded collection firsthand.)

Side note: I never felt bad about incurring late fees, even as a child, despite the librarian’s best efforts to make me feel insignificant. Hello?!?! I’m helping support literacy! Not sure where I got this attitude, but it’s stuck with me into adulthood. Yeah, I’ve paid a lot of late fees. It sounds a lot better if you say I’m a very generous supporter of the literary arts….

The Shiner Public Library was somewhat of a step up from G-town’s, with friendlier staff (they actually smiled warmly at guests), a newer building, and my discovery of the Encyclopedia Britannica. This was in the pre-world wide web days, so flipping through those sets were kind of like how we google things nowadays. Let that sink in for a minute, oldtimers. Also, a lady who worked/volunteered there would cheerfully answer the phone, “Shiner Libary,” which I always found quite funny.

Fast forward a few years, past the discovery that you can check out 100 books if you wanted to at some of the larger libraries (instead of the 3 book limit I’d grown up with), past the advent of Amazon and their low prices and mega fast Prime deliveries, past speed reading books in grad school, crawling past the limited capacity of pregnancy brain then mommy brain then session, and now I don’t have a job and am finally able to focus enough to read at length again. And it is awesome, let me tell you.

Tim and I recently finished Ben Sasse’s The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis–and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance (READ IT. IT IS VERY MUCH WORTH YOUR TIME). I loved his idea of developing a canon (list of top books you’d recommend to others), but now I think I’ve gone off the deep end in preparation for this list.

I’m reading 17 books right now. And no, I’m not some genius, I’m just immensely scatterbrained. I’ve never been in the process of reading so many books at once.

my current booklistThis is my current booklist. I’m reading all these right now.

From top left:

  1. Simplicity Parenting – recommended by a friend. Guessing the author wouldn’t recommend reading 17 books at one time.
  2. Half Broke Horses – written by author of The Glass Castle – it’s her maternal grandmother’s story about growing up in rural Texas. Fascinating thus far.
  3. For the Love – I’m developing a borderline obsession with Jen Hatmaker. I’m on the waiting list for her new book Of Mess and Moxie and am reading this in the meantime.
  4. Nothing to Prove – re-reading it, because it has become newly relevant in my new adventure, having resigned from the political world for awhile.
  5. Long Days of Small Things – recommended by another friend. Really wish I’d had this book when A was first born. So good.
  6. Bible – slowly reading and re-reading through this fascinating, encouraging, admonishing, transforming book that’s kind of a big deal.
  7. Diplomacy – This book is on my nightstand and is a wonderful cure for insomnia – I’m still less than an inch into this one.
  8. Present Over Perfect – reading this one again, too, and I’m becoming more confident that Shauna Niequist and I would be BFFs if ever given the chance.
  9. The Magic of Motherhood – full of short stories and essays that warm my heart and remind me to soak up these precious moments. Kind of like a Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul of sorts.
  10. Daring Greatly – Brene Brown and I, too, would be great friends. I’ve begun reading this book 3-4 times since meeting her at the book signing I stumbled upon at Book People 5 years ago, but it finally seems relevant at this stage of life. Funny how that works.
  11. Idols of the Heart – borrowed this from a friend and it is immensely convicting. So many idols.
  12. Designing Your Life – awesome book that makes me want to take a multi-day retreat and plan the heck out of life. Might be a good thing, might be dangerous. but intentionality is a very important thing!
  13. Cuba! – this is part cookbook, part storybook that has me wanting to go to Cuba RIGHT NOW.
  14. The Toddler Care Book – with lots of pictures so I don’t lose interest as I search for the things I am concerned about googling.
  15. Parenting – a gift at A’s dedication from our pastors. Tim and I are reading through this together. What an enormous responsibility and incredible opportunity parenting is!
  16. King Leopold’s Ghost – so help me, I’ll finish this book someday. Dark look at the slave trade in the Congo.
  17. The Search for Significance – totally pretending these are therapy sessions when I read this. One of the book’s main premises is that the world’s (and coincedentally my) definition of self-worth = performance + other’s opinions. Ouch. Very hard to break these patterns.

So that’s my list. An embarrassing amount of ineffective multi-tasking going on over here. At this rate, I might be finished with 1/3 of them by the end of the year. BUT I LOVE IT! So many books and topics and choices!!!

Ahem. Now allow me to brag about how incredible the Austin Public Library website is. It’s PHENOMENAL. You get your account, you log in, and you can type any book title or author and voila! You get a list of eBooks, downloadable audiobooks, audio CDs, and actual books. You can create your own “shelves” – I have a “for later” shelf of all the books I want to check out.

I can place holds on books, and if they aren’t located at a branch convenient to you, THEY WILL DELIVER IT TO YOUR BRANCH, email you when the books are ready, you walk over to the “on hold” section, find your name, and go over to the self-serve kiosk, scan your card and your books, and GO BACK HOME TO READ THEM. It is truly magical. I took a screenshot of my initial “for later” list because I was so excited.

austin public library bookshelf.PNG

What about you? What are the books you always share with everyone who asks for a recommendation? What are the books you’ve been eager to read but haven’t found the time? I love making these lists and would love to add any books you recommend!

 

 

put your phone down, people.

LET IT BE KNOWN that I am by no means a model citizen at what I’m about to get all preachy about, but after what I witnessed today, I’m making a massive change in how and where and when I use my smartphone.

I decided that A and I would have lunch at the Cafe Bistro inside Nordstrom today. It was a lovely treat; food was SO good, and A was immensely well-behaved, cheesing it up to the kind waiter and the neighboring tables and not throwing food. We were in the middle of an intense game of tic-tac-toe (kidding: she was taking the crayons out of the box and putting them back in ad nauseum) when I looked up to see FIVE tables around us with inhabitants on their smartphones.

Five.

It was gross.

Four of these tables consisted of moms with their kids. One lady was by herself so I’ll give her a pass. Acknowledging the irony that I was joining their ranks when I whipped out my phone to snap a photo of the perpetrators, I tried to sneakily capture as many tables as possible. Should have used the panorama function. Will work on stealth mode for doumentation in the future.

people on their phones at cafe bistroA and I shared some fries. Don’t judge.

Maybe I’m blowing this out of proportion. I clearly have no clue what’s happening in their lives. They could have all been corresponding with a dear family member or checking in on a sick friend….(one was perusing photos, so no excuses for her – girl yes I saw your screen)…. but I know what’s happening when I’m usually on my phone.

I mindlessly turn to my phone to fill the time, to numb my emotions, to distract me from annoyances, to feel important and check likes/follows/comments, to escape from the monotony… Sure, there is a great deal of good that these fascinating pieces of technology can foster, like facilitating meaningful, authentic connections with others, but I get sick to my stomach when I think of the hours I waste scrolling through other people’s lives when my life is passing by right on the other side of the screen.

Back to the restaurant. Holy cow, moms. Can you please pay attention to your children for the brief 30-45 minutes it takes to eat lunch? Summer is nearly over and your kids will be back in school. They, as you well know, grow up entirely too fast.

And we aren’t promised tomorrow, you know?

I’m thinking of people who have lost loved ones, who would give their right arm to have a child of their own, who missed their chance to apologize, who ache when they look back at how half-awake they lived their lives…

WHAT ARE WE DOING??!?!

Andy Crouch has a book called the Tech-Wise Family (here’s an article about it and here’s where you can get the book – I’m reading through some detailed book notes – shoot me a note and I can forward the notes to you!) that is gently convicting and contains practical ways to appropriately incorporate technology in our families.

So yeah. Lunch today was an odd and eerie look into other people’s lives and I couldn’t quite stomach it. This is a strange time! We are becoming programmed to be so incredibly dependent on our smartphones and many of us are missing the lives that are right in front of us. After today’s observation, I’m massively curbing my smartphone use, especially in front of A.

Does anyone have any other tips or tricks for being available but not glued to their phone? I need some help in this department. And some mental discipline, big time.

rufus the low maintenance dog

NOTE: I’d already begun this post when we ran to Lowe’s to get some paint samples. After witnessing a non-service fifi dog POOP ON THE GROUND IN THE PAINT AISLE and its owner shoot me this knowing sort of “kids will be kids” look, I thought, yeah, this is a good day for a dog post. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?!

If I were to fill in the blank in this sentence, “You know I love you if I ________” it would hands down be “pet your dog and feign interest in its wellbeing.” It’s no secret that dogs, especially fifi dogs, aren’t my jam.

Oh sure, I like the idea of having a dog. Guard dog, protector of the house/yard, one that can be sweet to A and she can grow up with, that sort of thing. But truth be told, I’m not really a dog person (or an animal person. I wanted to be a veterinarian when I was little, but that’s a different story I’ll delve into some other time). Oh, and I’m allergic to pet dander. And I’m an adult. And I am my own person. GOSH! Ahem.

A likes dogs. Whenever we see one out and about, she starts flapping her arms and saying, “a-DUH! a-DUH!” and T translates that to meaning that we need to get her a dog. T likes the idea of a dog, too, more so than I do, though the irreconcilable difference between us is that he sees no problem with it being an indoor dog. THIS HILL I SHALL DIE ON.

(I could go on but I’m just going to transition to the main point of this post).

Enter a stunning display of compromise by yours truly.

In a trip to Target yesterday to get one thing (a $.95 ball for A and take a guess at how much I ended up spending on other “necessities” Target convinced me I needed), we came home with this little Cabbage Patch puppy. Adopt-a-pet or something. We call him Rufus.

Rufus the low maintenance dog

He can softly bark, make sniffing noises, and in a weird Scooby-Doo voice can say, “rhy ruv ruu.” No pet dander, no bodily functions to worry about. We can even take him into Lowe’s and…well, I’ve staved off the “we should really get A a dog” discussion for a while. And she’s learning how to “feed” and “groom” him with the little bowl and brush it came with! Teaching her responsibility. All in a day’s work and another MOM WIN.

 

grown-up dates

Is it not incomprehensibly odd that one can go from being a rather carefree, spontaneous dreamer and planner and goer-onner of dates, dates that didn’t seem to require a whole lot of preparation, time, or money….. to getting tired just thinking of going down the babysitter list, much less planning and executing a one-on-one hangout with one’s favorite person?

Asking for a friend. Who is very tired.

But seriously. Am I viewing the past with too many warm fuzzies? Perhaps. Or is this just how it is, life with more wrinkles? With a kid? With a husband? Can I find a way to blame Trump for this? I shall try.

Between being physically and mentally spent at the end of the day, oftentimes the last thing I want to do is get gussied up, wear uncomfortable shoes (that is, anything besides no shoes or flip flops), put the baby to bed, brief the babysitter, spend entirely too much money on mediocre food, worry the baby has woken up and the babysitter can’t get her back to sleep, oh and try to be engaging and perky and maintain lively conversation when what sounds most enticing is a bottle of red wine and a tub of cookie dough allll to myself, comfy PJs, and falling asleep watching a movie?!

Sure, we go out. But I have to drink a substantial amount of coffee in the afternoon if there is any hope that I don’t crash before 8pm. And going out for a drink seems kinda pointless when we can drink at home for much, much cheaper (cue yet another rant at these prices these days while looking at the menu). I am sometimes brave enough to google these things to get some inspiration so it’s not just another dinner date, but am usually so apathetic and exhausted after reading through these chipper young’uns’ posts and their endless energy that I need to take a nap.

I SHALL NOT let this be the rest of adulthood, SO HELP ME. Therefore, be it resolved, instead of feeling like I’m starting from scratch/exhaustion every time it’s time to plan a date, double date, party, what have you, I’m going to make a LIST. And I’m going to share it with you, because SURELY I’m not the only one?? And I need your help. Austin-centric ideas are very much appreciated, but if you have any fun date ideas whatsoever, would you please shoot me a note or write in the comments?

Here are some ideas I’d like to try soon:

  • Nighttime kayaking on Town Lake
  • Movie matinee (daytime, so I don’t fall asleep, duh)
  • Come up with our own bucket list
  • Paint at one of those painting places
  • Segway tour and not fall off
  • Drive-in movie
  • Help out with social times at a nursing home
  • Obnoxious duck tour and get really into using the duck call
  • Progressive food trailer dinner
  • Third Thursdays (are free!) at the Blanton Museum
  • Takeout/picnic in a nearby park
  • Brewery tour
  • Winery trip
  • Improv comedy show
  • Friday night high school football game (letter jacket optional)
  • Two-stepping at Broken Spoke
  • Swing dance lessons at the Texas Federation of Womens Clubs Mansion (ahem, where we got married!)
  • Pay attention to stars, comets, meteors and go stargazing somewhere hilly
  • Austin Symphony
  • Take a community class through ACC

What about you?? Anything to add to my meager list above??

why we should start a garden in august

These are my backyard plants.

plants1

Punk petunias, if you couldn’t tell. They are scrappy little guys, both having seemed to resurrect Lazarus style once this summer, so I’m still holding on to hope. I’m pretty sure the rosebush I planted this spring is (also) dead, but it’s hard to get a good view of it from the deck, so maybe I’m wrong. I’ll spare you the carnage of the suffering snapdragon plant in the front yard, but come on over for a visit and you can see it in all its glory.

Point is, watering plants is apparently more than I can handle. So what do I do? Set out to transform our yard into an oasis of green grass and colorful petals and creeping vines, and I can actually envision all this, thanks to Pinterest. Granted, the photos of these yards don’t tell the whole story… for starters, they are likely MAINTAINED BY PROFESSIONALS (or people who pay attention to their plants like it’s their job and have nothing else to do). And these yards are probably not in Texas in August.

yeard3My focus is on vegetables and herbs because I’m passionate about being practical like that. (picture links to the pinned website)

yard4This! I can so do this!! (picture links to the pinned website)

I have many more pins of inspiration, but that board is private…. I don’t want to ruin the before and after photos for you.

Ok first things first. I need a landscape architect to tell me what areas of the yard can grow what type of plants. Then I need the already-mature plants to appear tomorrow or so (I’ve been thinking about this for awhile, so I’m ready for those plants to BE HERE!) Then, I’ll need them to water themselves while not adding to our water bill, weed themselves, prune themselves, fend off any ants or snakes or rodents or birds, and produce grocery store quality produce in the first week or so so I don’t lose interest.

Pinterest is so empowering!! I can do this!!

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