Tuesday, December 31, 2013

This is The Life?


Yesterday I watched Christmas in Conneticut for the first time in years. What a great film. So romantic. If you're not familiar with the story, it's about Elizabeth Lane—a WWII-era superstar columnist who writes about her life as an expert cook and homemaker on her Conneticut farm and is read and idolized by salivating women around the country. 

The last time I watched this movie must have been back before I'd even met Peter. Watching it this time, it felt so modern and relatable. Replace the word "columnist" with the "blogger" and it suddenly feels quite fresh. But watching it this time, it was strangely significant. It was like seeing a half-forgotten dream brought to life (in black and white) on TV. I realized that somewhere inside me, I'd always expected to grow up to be Elizabeth—marry young; marry rich; live in a large, old fashioned house out in the country; cook well; clean well; have a house full of kids and still maintain my figure…just be fabulous!

Instead, I find myself watching this dream on television as I scurry around my cluttered suburban tract house wearing sweats—because I still haven't lost all the baby weight even after my baby is now a toddler—lunging toward my daughter to catch her vomit in my hands. This is not the way Elizabeth Lane would spend her mornings. This is not the crafting-teaching, clean food-cooking, photo-blogging, Proverbs 31 wife-being life that I hubristically expected I would lead.

I pause the movie and pull out the Oxyclean. And thank God that in his mercy, Lydia hadn't eaten breakfast before she threw up to be on my beige sofa.

After a trying morning and a sneaky nap, I started the movie over again.

Have you ever seen Christmas in Conneticut? If you're not familiar with the story, it's about Elizabeth Lane—a single, Manhattan writer who can't cook and lives in a tiny apartment but rises to fame writing for a WWII-era homemaking magazine by fictionalizing her life as a an expert cook and homemaker on her Conneticut farm. You see, I reminded myself, even Elizabeth Lane doesn't live the Elizabeth Lane lifestyle. 

Now, I'm not trying to imply that your favorite blogger is lying about her delicious meals or that the Pinterest-perfect photos of her children are staged. I'm sure she's exactly as good at what she does as she seems to be. But I'm going to pretend that she's absolutely lying through her teeth and that what you can't hear as she's typing away about her lovely sewing project is her kids fighting—that just out of frame in that photo of her lovely dining room is a week's worthy of laundry. 

And I'm going to look at my life through a filtered lens and realize that with some good editing, my story is pretty awesome too.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

My Reading Habits

I have a confession. This may come as a shock to some of you, especially those who knew me when I was younger, but I am not a reader.

When I was a teenager I read voraciously! As cliche as it may be, I literally read anything I could get my hands on. When I ran out of books for kids, I read my mom's parenting books. In high school, I brought old issues of National Geographic to read between classes. As you can imagine, I didn't have a lot—at times any—friends. Then when I went to college, all my time was spent reading books I had to, not what I wanted to, so that put a damper on my love of the written word. 

But the real nail in coffin of my reading habits was having kids. Since my daughter was born, I have finished 0 books. I've started several but finished none. It's embarrassing. And it's time to change that. 

I've signed up for Goodreads and have started tracking what I read. I'm trying to change my habits to sit down and crack a book instead of turning on the TV or playing a quick video game on my phone. I mean, I don't want to make excuses, but it's hard to carve out time to do that. With television, I can have the entertainment playing while I do my chores. With phone games, I can sit down and play for a couple minutes and then put them away. When I read, I feel like I need to actually have everything else done before I can take time start. 

I'm trying now to allow myself to sneak in a few pages here or there. And hopefully, once my habits change and my attention span grows, I'll once again experience the compelling desire to keep reading a book no matter the time available to do so.

So now as Lydia turns three, I'm about half way through the book I bought when she was 4-months-old. I'm almost finished with the parenting book I started a year ago on vacation. I'm re-starting a book I loved in college. We'll see how this goes.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

App Recommendation—RanDoo

I know I'm a self-confessed slacker, but I really am trying to get it all done. The problem is two-fold. First, there's literally not enough time to do it all; second, I don't have the time management skills to make the most of the time I do have. Even on my most productive days, I go to bed frustrated.

So I try to prioritize, but what happens is I always end up doing the same tasks over and over again and never get around to others. I do laundry every day (cloth diapering, yo!), but I clean my own bathroom once every mumble-mumble months. Cause you know why? Nobody ever sees it but me so it doesn't matter. Let's not even talk about how often I get around to projects that I actually enjoy or feel fulfilled by. Like this blog.

So I while I was looking in the iTunes App store that was not a solution to this problem, I came across what seems to be the solution to this problem. I found an app called RanDoo. It's a shaker app for chores! I add the chores to my list, shake, and then my chores are randomly reordered. 

I'm actually getting around to chores that I haven't done in months. I added some fun things that I always say I want to get around to and when they come up, I let myself do them. Like this blog! Why do you think I'm finally getting around to updating? Really, I guess I could do this with any list app or even a piece of paper and a pen, but this takes all the decision-making pressure off of my day so I can just hop on the next task instead of belaboring that choice. Also, I feel like I'm given permission to do more fun projects when they come up because I didn't choose it, the app did!

In conclusion, I definitely recommend this app if you struggle with decision paralysis like I do. 

Valentine's Day

Last week was Valentine's Day. I've always loved this holiday! What a wonderful opportunity to tell the people in your life that you love them. Plus, I have an excuse to bathe my house in red and pink and lace and glitter.

This year, there was not much time, energy, or money to spare in my celebrating, so I took a cue from the latest episode of the Simple Mom podcast and tried to focus on the essentials. For me the essentials were 1) Creating a simple, meaningful gift for my husband, 2) Cleaning the master bedroom, and 3) spending some quality craft time with my toddler to train her in the art of giving.

1. Simple, meaningful gift—A Pinterest win! I bought one red balloon for each Valentine's Day we'd had and tied a short love note to the ribbon. Of course, Lydia gave away the surprise when Peter called on his way home. That's going to happen when you have a toddler around. 

2. Cleaning the bedroom—Lately, I'd let our love nest turn into a pig pen. So all other chores got scrapped. Dishes were ignored; floors were unswept. By golly, I was going to clear the floor and dust every surface come hell or high water…except I didn't. Turns out it was really, really hard, you guys! 

Truly, I tried. I got the clothes up. I dumped some junk from the bedside table into my dresser drawer, but there wasn't time to clean everything. And yet…he loved it! In fact, he just mentioned it again last night—two weeks later!

3. Quality craft time—This went great also! Lydia had fun and Daddy loved the thought. I helped (obv) but she was so proud! Peter hung the valentine in his home office and every time she passed it for a week, she stopped to look at it.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lydia's First Basketball Game

In the last few months, I've started following Spurs basketball again. I was sort of forced to stop when I decided to give up cable several years ago. Then partly as a way of giving Peter some alone time and partly as a way to spend more time with my parents, I started going to their house with the girls to watch games.

Lydia has developed a fondness for the games. I think for her the thrill is mostly about staying up late with Grandmom and Granddad.

So I was really excited when my dad invited the two of us to go with him to a Toros game last Friday.

If you're not familiar with the Toros then you're probably far too cool to be reading this blog. They're the Austin D-league basketball team. I think one of my favorite things about the Austin suburb scene is the minor leagues. In addition to the Toros, we've got the Express baseball team and the Stars hockey.

Plenty of fun.

While we were there, Lydia got to share Mommy's soda. That was probably a bigger deal than watching the game as she never gets to drink caffeine. There was a specific moment when I could tell the caffeine kicked in—she went from quietly observing to yelling her support.

Also, we got to sit right behind the pretty dancers. That's better than court-side to a little girl.

As fun as the night was, even more fun has been hearing her talk about it for a week. She's been telling everyone who will listen that "I saw the Spurs and we won!"

Good for her.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Weight Loss Challenge: Shopping Healthy

Photo by Mette Finderup
I went on my first shopping trip buying yuppy food. You know—whole foods, clean foods, natural foods…whatever you want to call it. I went to the local Sprouts instead of Whole Foods so I still have a little money left for retirement. I am interested in taking my receipt to HEB and comparing the prices.

I bought a lot of raw fruits and veggies along with some low-ingredient, processed foods like cheese, juice, and tortilla chips.

There are some things I just couldn't bring myself to buy either because I choked on the price or the calorie count. For example, I went to a normal grocery store for my bread because I eat sandwiches almost every day and the extra 20 or 30 calories a slice adds up quickly. I also bought sliced deli meat elsewhere because it cost more than I wanted to pay.

And it took sooooo long! I ran into HEB to buy the few remaining items on my list (seriously, like a dozen) and it took an HOUR! Reading labels and trying to make the cleanest, healthiest option is exhausting. In the end, I almost always went with the item I would have bought if I hadn't read the label, but at least I felt like my judgment isn't too far off. . . or maybe it's so off that I can't tell and in a few years I'll be embarrassed when I think of what I used to buy.

As for the basics, I think I ate pretty well. I had an avocado, tomato, and mozzarella salad for lunch and turkey nachos for dinner. For exercise, I went jogging.

Weight: 169 lbs
Lbs Lost: 5
Lbs Left: 20

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Lesson for My Daughters, #2: Being a good sport

Photo by Daniel Tiriba
"When you win, don't swagger. When you lose, don't sulk."—Pastor Rick Warren

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Lesson for My Daughters #1: Forgiveness and Justification

"On the cross, He was treated as if He'd done everything we had done so that when we believe, we are treated as if we've done everything He's done."—Tim Keller

"but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God." (Romans 5:8, 9 ESV)

Friday, February 1, 2013

2013 Weight Loss Challenge

Today, exactly 3 months after Pru's birth, my office is starting a weight loss challenge. About 30 employees, including myself, will be competing to lower our body weight, BMI, and body fat the most in 12 weeks. This is great for me; I really needed the motivation to get past this weight loss plateau. I've lost about half the weight that I gained, but I still have 30 or 40 pounds to lose.

My problem is that I still haven't decided what approach I should take with my diet.

I've been preparing to get my family to a healthier, whole foods-based diet and was actually planning on starting that soon—like, at our next shopping trip. I didn't have an exact start date in mind, but I've been researching and planning major changes…then I got the email about the weight loss challenge. Now I'm torn between adopting a whole foods, but often high calorie, approach or using processed, low-calorie alternatives to lose weight and hopefully win the contest.

I know that the whole foods diet would be more filling and give me more energy, but whole foods also means whole calories and that natural sugar and natural fat is going to cut into my calorie budget significantly.

If I fill my pantry with low-calorie but processed foods, I have a better shot at reaching my weight-loss goals. Maybe it will be fine as a kickstart for getting back in shape. While whole foods might be more nutritious, some of my most nutritionally literate friends and family members are overweight because at end of the day, weight loss is a matter of calories in being less than calories out. Maybe a "clean" foods diet is not what I need for this particular health goal. But then again, it is what I want for my family in the long term.

Argh! Frustration!

I will try to update on my progress as I go.

Weight: 174 lbs
Lbs Lost: 0
Lbs Left: 25

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Making Cookies

I've never been much of a baker. I didn't see creating sweets from scratch as fun or relaxing but as stressful, with the time consumed worth more than the cost to purchase goodies from a bakery. But ever since I discovered that my two-year-old daughter can help, I've changed my opinion.

These days I'm scouring Pinterest looking for a good cookie recipe (not too many ingredients, not too many steps). It's still so much freakin' work, but it's just too fun to see her chubby hands stirring the batter and watch her lick her lips as she waits for the cookies to cool on the counter. She's a terrible helper—she flings batter around the kitchen, she spills sugar, she licks her fingers and puts them in bowl (seriously, I'd never let you eat cookies she made). But she's wonderful company.

My parenting style is pretty disciplined, but not very structured. I don't organize arts and crafts, play dates, or lesson plans. I usually just bring my girl along for day-to-day life and try to make it interesting as I go. You like sorting things? Great! Find all the white socks and put them in this laundry basket. Want to count? Count these cans as you put them on the shelf. And of course, there's always the super-educational game Let's Pretend We're Napping. It's an extremely traditional method of education, but not one that will get a kid to Harvard.

Let's face it, I have no idea what I'm doing. I wasn't an education major. . . heck, I've yet to actually finish a parenting book. So yeah, I do a lot of winging it. But I think what I do have going for me is an appreciation for my daughters' presence. I like being with them. I've never been the parent watching the clock, waiting 'till bed time. I prefer to go shopping with Lydia in the cart. Days at home are more fun when there's a giggly girl getting in my way.

I should put more forethought into our activities. I want them to be well-educated. I want to guide them as they learn. But in the meantime, I think that they learn a lot just being with mommy and having fun. And I know I'm learning a lot by letting them.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Peace and Worry

Lately I've been listening to a Tim Keller sermon titled "Peace" on repeat. Like, I've literally listened to the same sermon four times already and it's still on my phone. On top of that, my pastor, Bobby Pruitt, is now teaching a series on worry.

It is a rare occasion that God so very accurately hits me with a series of messages that seem specifically written for me and my current situation. I told my husband, Peter, that it's as though our pastor sat down and said, "Peter and Sarah are having a rough time, how can I help them out" instead of planning out his sermons a year in advance as I'm sure he does.

You see, Peter lost his job a week before Christmas. Only a couple of months after receiving a perfect performance review—only a month after the birth of our second child—he lost the job he'd loved and excelled at as long as I've known him. My security has been shaken. I feel as if our lives are irreparably broken. As strong as my confidence in Peter's talents is, my fear of the current job market is stronger.

Nevertheless, I know that my faith shouldn't be in either the job market or Peter's resume. My confidence should be in my God. I know this in the back of my mind; I just need to remember it more often. And so I've been listening to the same words over and over again from Bobby Pruitt and Tim Keller, hoping that the truth playing in my earbuds will be louder than my doubts.

I dont know whether this period of uncertainty will be long or short, hard or easy. I certainly dont know how it will all turn out except that I know it will ultimately be okay, because even in the worst case scenario, I know God will be with us. If we never have money again, God will provide for our real needs and our little girls will have the opportunity to grow up free from the distractions and temptations of wealth. On the other hand, if God blesses Peter with his dream job and we find riches beyond our wildest imaginations, I know that they will have come from Him and be for His service.

God has already blessed us generously and unexpectedly. For example, I found $800 in a bank account that I'd forgotten was still open or when my breast pump broke, Lansinoh replaced it for free. These material provisions are huge, but when I wake up in the early hours of the morning and the world seems dark and scary, I need to remember that God's given me the privilege of His presence and that's the only gift that will ever give me peace.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


I'm looking down at my new daughter, who is sleeping at my breast. She looks so happy. Actually, she looks a little drunk. But she is clearly enjoying herself…more than I am probably.

I love nursing, but I remember now why I was so happy to give it up last time. Before Pru was born, all I remembered was how sad I was in the days right after I stopped nursing her sister—the feelings of defeat and guilt. Now I recall how annoying it is to turn your body into a buffet. Remember the fire hose flow of milk all over your clothes and furniture? Remember feeling smacked in the chest every time your milk lets down? Remember how frustrating it is to have a fidgety baby fighting with your breasts until they're sore?

Oh yeah.

But much in the same way that I enjoy watching Lydia enjoy herself at Chuck E. Cheese even though the restaurant makes me want to toss myself off a cliff, I enjoy watching Pru bliss out in a milk coma. You're welcome, kid.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Making Memories With My Girl

Yesterday afternoon, I kicked my two-year-old daughter out of the house. It had been sleeting the day before but yesterday it turned sunny and warm. I didn't know how long it would be nice for so after her snack, Peter picked her up and put her outside to play.

Lydia played outside for quite a while, coming back to the door occasionally to check in with me. One of those times I asked her if she was ready to come inside and she answered—in a soft voice that was very un-Lydia—that she wanted me to come out and play soccer with her.

There was so much I'd been hoping to get done once Pruitt, my newborn, had gone to sleep, but how could I say no to that offer? How many times in her life will she want to play with me? Not enough.

Lydia and I kicked and threw the ball until it was time to start dinner. Then she pleaded with me to keep playing. I watched her as she asked me to keep playing and wanted to record every detail of the moment—the way the sunlight illuminated her face, her tiny lips, the jumbled up way she begged me to keep playing. But even as I listened to her words, I knew that by the time I sat down to record them, they'd be gone from my memory.

How do you hold on to these moments? How can you truly capture them?

I don't know if you can. Lydia is going through a camera-shy phase so I can't stalk her like the paparazzo I have been. I guess all I can do is enjoy these moments and let go of them when they're gone. And pray that new moments will come to fill my heart tomorrow.