What I'm Reading (and Quick Remodel Update)

18 January 2017

**chock full of affiliate links in case the almighty Google asks and threatens my $6/mo**
Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

Story about several young people in London as they figure out their way through the first years of WWII. Think star-crossed lovers and coming of age. It had an Amor Towles feel. It honestly fell a little flat for me. My expectations were probably too high because I was hoping for another All the Light We Cannot See and this novel didn't quite hit that level of heart-wrenching. It's the only Chris Cleave I've read, and I'd be interested to hear other people's experiences with him.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

I loved this book and highly recommend it. I first encountered Kalanithi when I read his piece in the New York Times a couple of years ago, and like most of the internet, I was struck by his story: a neurologist finishing residency diagnosed with an aggressive and rare lung cancer. When Breath Becomes Air is his memoir about dying, so it's heavy, but his writing is so good and so poignant.

168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam

This is a book about how people spend their time/should spend their time. I liked it. She's got great statistics on how people spend their time today vs fifty years ago. After reading it, I decided to do some time tracking. This is pretty tricky for me because I'm someone who needs a lot of external motivation to maintain this type of practice. But in this instance, a disbelieving eyebrow raise from Jacob has been all the motivation I've needed to follow through, and I'm going on my second week of observing my time in 15 minute intervals.

I've LOVED time-tracking.  I haven't analyzed my charts yet, but the time tracking itself has helped me spend my time so much more consciously.

Designing your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

Ah. More self help! This book is about applying design concepts to "What should I do with my life" questions. It's very interactive and has you doing lots of exercises, some of which got me thinking creatively about some of the parts of my life that I want to change. It's one of the reasons I've been blogging more! It had been hard for me to justify spending time blogging, but this book helped me look at my emotional experiences without judgment. And turns out I LIKE blogging, and maybe I don't need another justification to do it.

Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

A story about three generations of Indian women that spans decades and continents. I really liked this book: I liked the writing and the jumping around in time and the steady description of Indian food. But it also made me a little miserable...it seemed like every relationship was fueled by deception or resentment. I finished it one night late and crawled into bed with Jacob. I hugged him and was all "Ah love! Let us be true to one another!" and he was like "I was asleep."

Also: this is what my bedroom looks like today. 
We demo-ed (How do Chip and Joanna spell that, I wonder?) the old exterior wall the day before yesterday and now the room is twice as big and half as habitable. Never fear, the drywallers come tomorrow if we pass our final framing inspection today. #knockonwallstuds

Also the "we" here always means Jacob doing/managing everything and me in the background asking "Is that supposed to be that way??"

Some Things that have been Working for Me

12 January 2017

So...seems like I've been seeing a lot of people blogging about items/practices/hacks that are making a difference in their lives. I always read these types of posts. (I just typed "poasts.") Mostly because I'm a sucker for a good hack. Or at least reading about a good hack - I don't know how often I put new things into practice. But, know, that if you've got a title like: "5 Things That are Saving My Life Right Now", this lady will be clicking in a flash.

Despite how much I like to read posts like these, I don't tend to blog about them, but today that changes.

Here we go!

Rosewater and glycerin
I'm gonna lead with my strong suit here, because the rest of these aren't very original and it has an affiliate link. So you're welcome. (And thank you.)

I first bought rosewater and glycerin (this one) when I was trying to DIY some kind of face wash. I never made the face wash, but I use this as a quick moisturizer all the time. I spritz it on my face a lot, especially in the winter. Before make-up, after make-up, mixed with some emu oil if I'm extra dry. I spray it all over the kids after baths. And it literally smells like roses.

The sound machine app on my phone
Baby is really good at sleeping through noise because he has lived in a construction project his whole life, but when they're literally reroofing over his little sleeping head, a sound machine app saves the day. We don't have any actual sound machines because I'm allergic to stuff. (I know it's annoying when people are all "I'm a helpless minimalist," but trust me, my aversion to buying new things annoys me more than you, and my husband more than both of us.)

Here's the real reason this is on the list: This method necessarily decommissions my phone during nap time. I've found that pressing my phone into lullaby service has been really good for me and any hopes I have to do something meaningful during naps. I use the Relax Melodies app by Ipnos. (A trio of river, rain, and wind, if you must know.)

One on one outings with the kiddos
In the past, if Jacob was home and I needed to run an errand, I ran and didn't look back. That blessed freedom from car seat buckles!! Carefree meandering through the grocery store! Picking up hold books at the library without ending up with some twaddle involving ninja pigs!! Bringing a kid along, when I could be all by myself would have sounded crazy. I don't think it even occurred to me for years.

So if you're still there, I get you. Cheers!

But recently in that situation, I've taken to bringing one of the big kids with me. It's delightful. At three and five they're both still pretty much excited to come no matter what we're doing. We chat. They pick the music in the car. I don't have to deal with the anxiety of having multiple children in public. I feel less like a ruthless cattle herder and more...like a mom holding a kid's hand.
Tea time and other things I like
At the end of naps the kids and I have tea. Usually some kind of chai with honey and milk. They put a blanket down in their room, and I bring the tea in on a tray with some little cookies. Always the tray. Mutiny without the tray. It's a really sweet time.

This one started as part of a new year's resolution to do things with the kids that I like doing. Instead of waiting for the kids to ask me to do something I don't want to do, I ask them to do something with me that I do want to do. Little House on the Prairie before I get stuck under the weight of Mr. Scarry's pickle car. Uno before Chutes and Ladders. Etc.

And in the kitchen...
Boiled potatoes
I try to keep boiled potatoes in our fridge most of the time. I chop them up for a quick starch for the kids - who eat them with ketchup. Or I'll grate them and throw them in a pan with some brussels sprouts for me to eat with a soft boiled egg. Eh? Eh?
Roasted cauliflower
We eat a lot of vegetables here because we're enslaved to our weekly farm share till the summer (THIS ONE if you're in the Houston area.) And the kids are pretty good sports about the mountains of okra and chard. But one veggie that never fails us is cauliflower. I've mashed it, riced it, tried it as a pizza crust replacement, and all the trends, but we always end up back here:

Chopped up and tossed in some lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, and salt and roasted on 400 until the edges begin to caramelize.

I make it as an appetizer 2-3 nights a week and throw it at the hangry children when dinner's not quite ready, and they eat it like popcorn.

So there you go. Maybe one of these will save your life! Or probably not, but I'm touched that you're still here and that counts for something.

As I was writing this post, I kept thinking about all the things (like this?) that "would probably be saving my life, if I had them" so I'll be debuting those sometime before my birthday next month.


Back for a Hot Minute

09 January 2017

Hello hello!

How about another doomed effort to wake the blog back up, eh? 

December was tough because I had bronchitis that deteriorated into a walking pneumonia and one particularly unforgiving coughing fit broke one of my ribs(?). So...we were lacking a little holly jolly in the festive department for most of the month. 

But before all that happened I managed to get some family photos taken by a super talented and sweet friend. The photoshoot was laughably difficult. Roman was unhappy unless we were letting him dig with a measuring spoon. Lucy June got wise to her power pretty quickly and stayed in tantrumville for most of the shoot. I was just praying for one - just please one - passable photo. Then when we got them back I was delighted.  
If you look closely you can read the hidden stories. (Mother who's been smiling too long has death grip on three year old while tickling her.) 

Or not so hidden stories...
Nothing like a magical photographer to make lemonade from your lemons. Or maybe a nice ginger lemon cocktail.


We are still deep into our house renovation. We redid the interior of the house last year and have recently begun adding some extra square footage and a master bathroom. We're basically turning a tiny 2/1 into a not quite so small 3/2. We'll probably finish everything up by late spring...which is precisely when we will move again. Because that is how we do. 
Adding on has been lots more fun than the original remodel work because it's all been outside. When your husband has to routinely decommission your kitchen or your only bathroom to work on the sewer line it starts getting old fast.

Of course we did have to hack into a couple walls. So my brother-in-law's room currently looks like this: 
He's a trooper. And he sleeps in the living room.

Back when Jacob and I lived in Los Angeles we would talk about renovating houses and got into the game a little over two years ago after moving to Houston. It's strange to say it, but I think that means that we're "living a dream." And not surprisingly that dream comes with layers of frustration and exhaustion, financial stress and decision fatigue, holey walls ands construction dust. I even find myself longing for some apartment living again. #grassisgreener #etcetc  
I'm getting my legs under me as a mother of three...now that the baby is 16 months old. I know this because I've started some kitchen fermentation again. We're starting light with carrot sticks and some kefir water. I should have my first batch of soda done by the end of this week. I have a friend coming over tomorrow who's a sourdough queen, so it should be a nice brunch/inquisition. I still don't get dressed everyday, but there's nothing like some controlled spoilage on the counter to make me feel like a functioning human.

Bye for now!

7QT: Lucy Likes Cheese

21 October 2016

Our little girl turns three tomorrow, so here are some of her gems from the last year.

>> 1 <<

Lucy: Look at my mouf.
Me: What's wrong with it?
Lucy: There's nothing in it.

>> 2 <<

Lucy: I don't want chocolate chips in my muffin. I want them in my hand.

>> 3 <<

Lucy: I don't like bears. They will eat me. They will put me in their mouf.
And if they put me in their mouf, I can't put anyfing in my mouf.

(She also routinely bites her fingers because they get in the way of her overzealous teeth. Is this normal?)

>> 4 <<

While the boys are playing a raucous game of indoor soccer:
Lucy (yelling): Who's ready to pway pwincesses??
yells louder.
Who's ready to pway pwincesses???

>> 5 <<

While cramped together in the pack-n-play, in a game of Jake's devising:

Jake: Officer LJ, begin the launch sequence!
Lucy June: I'm Pwincess Leia!
Jake: Officer LJ, begin the launch sequence!!!
Lucy June: OKAY!!

>> 6 <<

Lucy June: Hey little daddy!
Jacob: Call me big papa.

>> 7 <<

She's also started calling her big brother "Jakey" - no one else does this.

>> 7.5 <<
Lucy June (pretending to sleep): Honk shhhh honk shhhh

We love you LuzJune! Happy Birthday!

Go see Kelly for more takes!

7QT - Messes Minimalism Macrame

14 October 2016

Happy Friday!

I'm four days into a Whole 30 and...it's fine. Pretty boring really. I've been making our regular food but substituting out the best parts.

Last night we ate spaghetti squash carbonara and Jacob liked it as much as the regular one which boasts both ricotta and parmesan.  The night before that we ate gumbo.

We eat gumbo every week in the okra season. Every year I forget just how long the okra season is, and sometime in August after a couple months of gumbo I start saying: "This might be our last gumbo of the season!" And then I say that every week or so until... well at least until October!


I've been knitting again. I started up again in August even though it was still super humid and hot and was until last week. For whatever reason this time the bug has taken less of a "scarf" tone and has got me ducking into Hobby Lobby to buy double pointed needles and cable stitch holders. And I'm probably doomed for failure or at least VERY SLOW progress, but whaddya do when you got the itch?

I do love having a relatively contained craft project that I can pick up for a few minutes here and there when the kids are playing well together.

I just finished some fingerless gloves that took a very long time to complete and ended up...kinda bulky. Or maybe they just felt bulky for Houston in October where we've barely graduated out of swimsuits? Maybe I'll send them to Christy at Fountains of Snow.

I also just finished a hat for a friend. Turns out it fits Roman. So...baby steps!


I've also been dabbling in macrame. A friend asked if I could make her a wall hanging and my inner bohemian just lit right up. Unlike knitting, making wall hangings with ropes doesn't really lend itself to grabby baby hands, so I'm not sure how sustainable it is as a mom craft.


I've been trying to teach Jake some knots. His self-taught knots are killing me especially when they involve tying to untangle the cords he's used to tie all of our stools and chairs together in a big clump in the middle of the dining room.

So slip knot! slip knot!


Are you cleaner or is your spouse/roommate?

Jacob has always been the orderly one in the relationship, and it's been an uphill climb for me over seven years of marriage to learn to stop throwing dirty clothes on the floor. We'd been married a year or so when I realized the messes in our house were *always* mine. I maybe would have noticed sooner if he'd ever complained about my messes, but he didn't. To my credit, if someone cleans the bathroom it's me. Jacob almost never cleans, and he hates picking up other people's messes, but otherwise he's super nice about his neatfreakishness.

The other day as Jacob washed dinner dishes and I did the final sweep after the kids had gone to bed, I mused about how we do a much better job keeping our house looking alright than we used to - even before we had kids. It's mostly the need to tame the madness of three kids + avoid Houston roaches.

I was feeling pretty darn good about it actually, so I asked Jacob how clean he would say our house was. He said: "Rarely clean and nominally orderly." Then I gave him crap because what the heck is "nominally orderly" - so he amended it to "Rarely clean and rarely orderly."

I just started laughing. I would describe our house - the same house - as "tolerably clean and generally orderly." I wasn't even offended. I'm still not offended. I am mostly just relieved that my standards are as low as they are.


I've been reading (...listening to, because knitting) Kim John Payne's Simplicity Parenting recently and it's inspired me to get rid of more toys.

We've run a pretty tight ship from the beginning when it comes to toys around here - mostly thanks to my mother and her willingness to adopt all the plastic, noisy, electronic or otherwise offensive toys that come our way - so I'm pretty much the choir when it comes to Payne's preaching. But every time I do a round of toy culling, the effect is 100% positive.

We're down to Legos, Duplos, matchbox cars, a few baby toys, dress up clothes, a toy kitchen with toy cooking utensils, and a basket of scarves with string and clothespins. Playdough is tucked away in a closet as are a few puzzles and toys with too many pieces for unsupervised play.

Now that I list that all out it's actually sounding a little overstimulating, so I might have to go purge.


The biggest byproduct of toy minimalism is that when within five minutes of finishing breakfast all of our stools, cushions, blankets, and wooden spoons have been pressed into the service of the Resistance and its noble effort against the First Order, there aren't as many toys on the floor as there used to be.

Happy Weekend! And go see Kelly and the other quick takers!

Whole 30 Here We Go!

11 October 2016

Kids sharing some non-Whole-30-friendly fare:
I'm starting a Whole 30 today.

So many people I know online and at home are doing one, that I thought I should take advantage of the train and jump right on...one day late. My little brother's doing it. And I think I talked my little sister into it with a frantic text at 10 o'clock last night. So: moral support!

Last time when I did something like this I only committed to ten days and then took about ten days to mentally prepare for it. This time I'm trying the jump right in tactic. We'll see how it takes.

So there. Now I've told you, which I hope will kick my external motivation into gear.

Coffee is the biggest hurdle for me when it comes to the Whole 30. I love coffee. And I love it my way, which involves milk or half and half or cream...or all three?

I get terrible headaches without coffee - which probably means I should get off caffeine altogether and drink chicken broth in the mornings or something - but I love me a cup of jo.

So depending on whether this morning's bulletproof coffee experiment takes, my Whole 30 may include a big fat half and half in my coffee exception.

And legumes. I'll also eat legumes. For all the paleolovers of the last decade trying to hate on legumes, I'm still pretty pro.

I'm also banking on fall being a relatively easy time to do a Whole 30 because of hard squashes and soup weather.

That's my blurb! I'd love any tips if you've got 'em!

Ro Baby Update

22 August 2016

Romie is almost one. We took him to the pediatrician yesterday for a 9mo (12mo?) visit and while we were there I dug up pics on the blog from Jake's first birthday and Lucy June's first birthday. All the blog scrolling showed me just how much I'd forgotten about what J and L were like as babies. When I wrote stuff down, I was sure I would NEVER forget it...but I have...the blog confirms it.

So I thought I needed to do a post dedicated to the RoBird before I forget his entire babyhood.

I'm pretty sure he's a leftie, even though Jacob thinks I'm wrong.

He's still big. 97% across the board. Because he's been in 18-24mo clothes since he was six months old, clothes have never really fit him right. The soft-knits of babyhood have always worn more like sausage casings and pants always skew capri.
He took his first step at 10.5 months old. We were at the library for storytime and I was following him around as he crawled among the board books when he stood up and took a few steps. There they were: his VERY FIRST STEPS! And we were in a storytime full of toddlers, so nobody noticed or cared. Except for me! And I cared a lot! Such is parenthood.
This makes him our earliest walker. He's the most "physical" of any of the babies we've had yet. When he walks, he'll just start barreling forward until he falls down. He climbs up on and falls off of everything. I've even seen him trying to climb out of his crib. His favorite thing is to crawl all over people who are lying on the ground and smash his face on them, especially Jake. He has recently started pointing at stuff - which he does with his whole body, his arm shoots out straight and he cocks his head down so that his shoulder smushes against his cheek.

He doesn't have any words yet - a fact that I was 0% concerned about until the pediatrician recommended we start reading to him. At the time it sounded like such a lunacy, but the pendulum has swung and I'm already feeling guilty that he hasn't gotten any rounds in with Goodnight Moon... or any book for that matter. 

He's probably the best natured of any of our babies so far. He notices people. He's generally pretty chill. He loves being in the thick of it with his two older sibs and is quickly branding himself as the dumb jock sort.

Finally, I had the pediatrician take a look at his mouth issue and we got an official diagnosis: snaggletooth.
We'll probably take him to a pediatric dentist at some point once the tooth grows in a little bit, but for now...we'll just keep on loving him. Snaggletooth and all.

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