Monday, September 12, 2011


No, I'm not having a baby. 
(Last weekend, I got to borrow my brother's baby, Charlotte, for a while. Yum.)

But, this blog is moving. I won't be deleting anything here, but from now on I'll be posting at Here in the Lovely Woods. Finally, a new name! And my own .com. Whoa, Nellie. 

I hope you'll join me there. See you on the other side! 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Perhaps He Needs Some Woolen Socks?

"Mom," said Caroline as we drove along -- truly, there's no place like the car for great discussions -- "I think the earth must really be shaped like a teardrop. Because Mt. Everest is so, so tall. It's, like, a spiky point, and the earth is a ball."

"Hmmm," said I. "You are quite right that Mt. Everest is very tall. But it's not quite tall enough to change the shape of the earth."


"Ouchies for Jesus!" she burst out compassionately. "Those mountains are so big and sharp, they must hurt His feet when He rests them there. Ouchies! And so COLD!"

Motherhood means getting a front row seat to stuff like this on a near-daily basis. I still pinch myself sometimes, 'cause I'm pretty sure I got a golden ticket.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

For the Days that Aren't So Spectacular

Today I'm thinking about a certain yawning chasm.

It's the chasm between my ideals and my real, actual life.

I know that sounds depressing. But it's just that there are days when, by two o'clock, I start thinking I'm about to break out in hives, and it's because of what's there [the steady drip, drip, drip of reminders I give my children to DO this or NOT DO that, when they really SHOULD remember on their own, and they really SHOULD have the daily routine down to a beautifully timed Rube-Goldberg machine] and also what's not there [some magical feeling that we are accomplishing great things, that my life sparkles with interest and achievement]. 

Let's call it the "should" gap. It creeps in and grabs the reins until I lose all perspective. I used to think, in those moments, that what I really needed was a very stimulating or very relaxing vacation. Now I know that's not the answer, because once I climbed down from that mountain or out of that hammock ... I'd still be the same person.

And the problem isn't circumstantial, really. It's all inside. In the perfectionistic self that can't embrace the flawed beauty of what IS instead of what SHOULD BE. In the proud self that tells God, "You gave this particular problem to the wrong person. I'm just not up for the job."

Lying down to rest this afternoon, I read this post from someone who has those moments as well.

Then a friend kindly sent me a Facebook photo of one of the messiest rooms of her house, a room that is in the process of being remodeled.

And I remembered ... we are all toddling through this remodeling journey together. We are all that messy room. The clutter of perfectionism, of disappointment, of unreasonable expectations, of misplaced hopes ... it all has to go. Sometimes, the room looks worse before it gets better, right?

But the best way I know to de-clutter is to give thanks. To thank Him for the beautiful and praise Him for the ugly-beautiful, even if it's in a whisper.

P.S. Guess why I'm writing this post? Because I wasn't up for it. I couldn't do it perfectly or eloquently. The right words weren't jumping out of my head onto the screen. But sometimes, you just have to take perfectionism in a smackdown. And, as Ann says, do the thing in front of you.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hanging in There

Hey friends!

Hope you all had a pleasant weekend. If you were able to go outside, because it wasn't either a) hurricaning in your general direction, or b) 110 degrees, may I congratulate you?

(Oh, wait. Sorry, just checked Facebook. Make that 112 degrees.)

Dear friends in the Pacific Northwest ... got a house to sell us? 

I'm really only half kidding. 

Anyhow anyway anyhoo, there's really not a whole lot to report here except that I have been working all afternoon on creating a new blog, FINALLY, and my tailbone is really, really sore. The good news: The new blog will be not much different in any perceptible way from the old blog, in terms of content. The bad news: The new blog will be not much different in any perceptible --

You get my drift. I'll let you know the minute it's presentable, and we can meet up over there. (Oh, and if you have feedback for me? Stuff you'd like to see on the new blog (or not see)? Let me know.)

In the meantime, enjoy a couple slices of my crazy, ordinary life:

Building a resort for fairies in the back yard ...

Wet trampolining. Not the safest, but definitely the sanest at these temps. 

How homeschoolers do P.E.  on a Friday afternoon.  

I forgot to show you this earlier, from our trip to Colorado in July. I wouldn't mind being there right now, in fact. Shall we charter a bus? 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Everything But the Trapper Keeper

Well, knock my socks off and straight into the wash, as Paula Deen would say. 

My children appear to be channeling normal school kids. 

(Don't get too excited, though; notice the shirt still hangs loose.)

Either that, or they're fresh off their first day of Classical Conversations

"She's a big personality in a small package," commented one of the room moms from Caroline's class during lunch. Yep. 

It's amazing how the momentum of a group that loves learning and loves *people* can lift you up and make the obstacles seem like bread, rather than giants. Hooray for new beginnings! 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A River Ran Through It

(Well, not a river, exactly, but a good, hearty, rushing creek.
Our favorite creek. 
The one where we've spent hours wading, swimming, building dams, enjoying the natural water slide.
Now there's not a drop of water to be found.
Our ghost creek.
Hello, historic Texas drought.)



"Don't let this world around you squeeze you into buildings or books. Buildings are good. Books are good. There are times to be in both. But God created the heavens and the earth to be experienced, not just read about or lectured upon."

"You will grow in your understanding of God and His ways by going outside, observing, asking questions ... and then carefully searching for the answers. He will fill you with wonder and praise."

(a terrific book being read at night by the father and son in this house)
(thanks to Michelle at Delightful Learning for the recommendation!)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bits and Pieces

Whew. Busy week. Planning, hosting, shopping, driving ... it all makes for a thin margin of time to write.

But, still plugging along with Project Life, I have been taking pictures! Here are a few bits and pieces of life this week:

1. The girls spent a couple hours one afternoon making an amusement park out of cardboard boxes for their dolls. Caroline's doll is all strapped in with a duct tape seatbelt and crash helmet here (which she definitely needed). Just one more reason to nominate the inventor of duct tape for a Nobel prize.

2. As you know, we love listening to audiobooks in the car. Our latest "read" is The Magician's Elephantwhich I frankly enjoyed much more as an audiobook (the narrator is faaaaabulous, dahling) than as a read-aloud. And I say that as a Kate DiCamillo fan. I just didn't love the book the way I have others of hers ... but the audiobook won me over.

3. We attended a wedding reception for our friends Joseph and Joanna (yup, Joe and Jo!) on Sunday afternoon. Caroline is always eager to be photographed with the bride. Maybe she's hoping the romantic aura will rub off on her? That girl seriously scares me sometimes with her eight boyfriends (all older and sweetly disinterested in her none-too-subtle designs on them). 

4. I've been purchasing books/curriculum and digging reusables out of boxes like a crazy woman. And, this week we attended orientation for our Classical Conversations group. I came away both exhilarated ... and overwhelmed. The mass of STUFF to organize, file, laminate, put in page protectors, review with the children, and remember each week is not for the faint of heart, my friends. And, my inner introvert wanted to curl up among the couch cushions and suck her thumb, as is typical when we're in large groups and the Inner Extrovert has to drive for a while. That said, I'm so impressed by the other mamas involved in this group. They're kind, reassuring, and apparently quite productive.

5. I'd promised Ashley, my 11-year-old niece, that I'd show her how to make a duct tape wallet way back in June. Well, with five days left before school starts for her, we got it done! Then she and her sister and cousins (my girls) had a duct tape crafting extravaganza. See point #1 concerning  the Nobel Prize.

Happy Weekending, everyone! 

P.S. Fellow Texans, this is the weekend to shop for school supplies tax-free. Even if you homeschool like us, you still need a few pencils and markers on hand, n'est-ce pas? 

Monday, August 15, 2011

What Words Can Do

Last night, the Professor put on his wizard cape and did some magical hocus pocus on my computer that not only updated the software, but synched all my various Mail programs (iPad Mail, Apple Mail, Gmail). While this was wonderful and heroic, it also meant that I had to go through and re-delete every message I'd ever deleted. Like, a hundred thousand of them.

Good times.

I chugged my way through 2007, 2008, 2009. Then I got to 2010. Then I got to April 2010. Then I realized that very soon, I'd hit May 2010. I started paying attention.

You see, in May 2010, something unpleasant happened that I've never talked about in this space -- only offline, to kind and supportive friends. I'll speak in generalities. Essentially, I received an abrupt and very disgruntled email from someone I'd considered a friend, chiding me in no uncertain terms for something clumsy I'd done. Or, rather, said. Like, over a month previously. Would I have done better to keep my mouth shut? Absolutely. Did I intend any malice by it? Certainly not. As I said, clumsy.

At the time, mortified, I immediately fired off an abject apology. I never received a reply.

I learned a lot from that experience ... but the lessons learned are not the point here. The point is that the wound from that email stung me all summer. I felt embarrassed and regretful, yes, but also misunderstood and hurt. It took months of prayer and occasional pouring out of my heart to various friends who happened to be near when I needed an ear. Their words to me so often felt like God's words made audible.

So, yes, I found the email. I looked at its title and realized that I no longer remember the wording of her rebuke. I didn't need to re-read it -- no need to poke old scars to see if they'd bleed. I realized that I could think of this woman without any heartache, but with compassion, knowing that most people do not turn and bite the hand of friendship unless they are in pain themselves.

I also noticed something as my mouse hovered over that section of the Inbox. The same week I received that email, another message had arrived from a different person -- someone local whom I'd only known online. She wanted a quote for an article she was writing. One thing led to another, and over a year later, we're great friends -- and so are our children.

Somehow, I'd never put the two together, never remembered how immediately the blossom succeeded the thorn. As one friendship ended, another -- dare I say better one? -- was just beginning. Why did I dwell so much on the hurt and the loss?

Perhaps I needed the lessons learned from the loss of the one friendship to make me more fit for others. I believe the Lord was gently reminding me of the power of words -- those carelessly spoken to hurt, those  gently spoken to bless and heal.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Apps that Make Us Smarter

I usually write about book in this space much more than iDevice/smartphone apps, because books are easily available at the library or bookstores, while talking about apps naturally excludes a certain number of people. But once in a while, when we've discovered another example of how technology can bolster, not compete with, our education, I just have to rave.

 1. Presidents vs. Aliens Another winner from the brilliant Dan Russell-Pinson, who must be a kid himself, because he's proven time and again that he understands exactly how kids think. We loved Stack the States. Then Rocket Math.  Then Stack the Countries, which is one of the few games that I myself play. Presidents vs. Aliens is his latest offering, and I'll be a bo diddly if my kids, particularly the eldest, isn't learning, cheerfully and voluntarily, which president was in office when the Vietnam War ended or who succeeded Benjamin Harrison. Genius, I tell you.
2. BrainPop. This app is brought to you by the folks at, which is loaded with fun content and offers a free trial, but then comes by subscription only -- and at over $100 per year, it's not exactly cheap. But the BrainPop app, which features a Movie-of-the-Day and an accompanying daily quiz, is FREE. This past week we've been watching the 5-minute video together every morning and taking the quiz. In the process, we've learned about Neil Armstrong, Jane Goodall, bullying, Pop Art, sharks, thunderstorms, angles,and Yo Yo Ma. We've also learned, from the quizzes, how a fact differs from an opinion and what the word "infer" means. Good stuff.

Just two more reasons to justify having an iPad for educational purposes. Now, if we could just convince the IRS to let us deduct the expense ...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

At the Dog Park

"I like your dog!" I hear the words and smile at the familiar echo. This is my five year old's favorite opener, her pickup line of choice -- at the playground, along the street, and, lately, at the off-leash dog park near our house. 

True to form, her affable intro is followed by, "What's his name? Can I pet him?" -- or perhaps, "Can I pet him? What's his name?" That is, if her sister hasn't beaten her to the punch.

Meanwhile, yards away, weaving his way into the cluster of dog owners standing about in the evening heat, my son is making his own friends. Between the three kids, they have a growing mental Rolodex of all the dog park "regulars."

"Is that your son?" A woman puffs up to me with a grin. When I nod and smile, she bursts into giggles."When I told him my dog's name, he said, 'Oh, Duke! That's a CLASSIC dog name.' What a friendly kid. So socially adept!" I consider telling her he's homeschooled. I bite my tongue.

As  usual, mine are the only children at the park, mingling with new and familiar dogs and owners. We stand about, making small talk, watching Pongo and his playmates race up and down the hill, ignoring their owners' pleas not to jump into the drainage ditch for a swim, and blowing off the steam they've built up all day between air-conditioned walls.

I consider how many times I've driven or jogged past the park entrance unawares ... until we became dog owners. Now, that entrance means freedom for our pup and a minor sense of community for us -- especially for the kids.

Do you ever find yourself building a habit -- consciously or otherwise -- with your family, and then wonder: Does this mark the beginning of a tradition that will last for years? Or is it just a blip in our family tapestry, until circumstances and routines shift and suddenly it's been days, weeks, months since our last visit? Will this become part of my kids' childhoods, or simply a mile marker for Summer 2011?

And now for an even more weighty question. If you had to put up with a blonde pixie dressing you up like this, wouldn't you need to blow off a little steam in the drainage ditch at the end of the day?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Four Chairs

Ever feel like you're in a creative slump? Maybe it's the weather, maybe the mood, maybe the undercooked fish you ate for dinner two weeks ago, but whatever it is, you just feel ... blah?

Those are times when the only way out is forward. What works for me is thinking of ONE thing I can do -- just one! --  and starting there.

The Gentle Art of Domesticity: Stitching, Baking, Nature, Art & the Comforts of HomeLast week I had my nose in the most terrific book: The Gentle Art of Domesticity: Stitching, Baking, Nature, Art & the Comforts of Home. This, my friends, is a book to rush home to -- and it's NOT about to clean your oven or make your window blinds sparkle. The writing! The photos! The homages to Cary Grant! Here's a sample for you:

"We no longer need to knit socks, exhaust ourselves on "baking day," stitch quilts to keep ourselves warm or sew aprons to wear in the kitchen, and we are no longer judged on the quality of our hemming, party or heel-turning. The gentle arts have moved into a new realm in contemporary life, a realm we can choose to enter should we wish, and one in which the act of doing is as important as the result. Ignore all calls for perfection and focus instead on what can achieve, and the pleasures of the gentle arts will be yours for the taking."

In other words, we modern-day homemakers have an advantage: we can limit ourselves to the drudgery of chores, which are never permanently done, or we can choose to expand our skills and make our environment one of beauty ... because we want to. And I believe many of us do want to, secretly or otherwise, because we're made in the image of the ultimate Creator.

So, last week it was spray-painted chairs. [I also scoured the fridge. Guess which was more fun?]

Today, we're making pencil cases.

And the man in the big brown truck just dropped off this book.

I think there's hope for us.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Schoolish Stuff: Plans for the New Year

For weeks now, I've been meaning to post some sort of look back at our school year, such as it is.

A word on our "school year." One of my children used to engage me in frequent discussions over whether we would follow the public school calendar for breaks, including a very long summer break. The conversation usually went like this:

Child: Are we gonna take a spring break next week? And can we take the whole summer off [from his OH SO GRUELING ACADEMIC LOAD, mind you?!]
Me: Oh, you would like to follow the public school schedule? Well, sure! Be dressed, fed, and ready to pick up your pencil at 7:45 tomorrow morning. We will study until 2:45 p.m. You may take two short breaks. And of course, going fishing with friends this Friday is out of the question.
Child: Mo-om!

Tomorrow: Same conversation.
Then, my smart friend Jenny, listening to me vent over the phone about the repetitive nature of this charming repartée, proposed a plan. Since Texas, in all its loosey-goosey glory, simply requires that we do 180 days of something that could pass as academic learning, why not let my child choose the 180 days? We got out a calendar. We marked off every day that could have been reasonably construed as a school day.  This was in March. Simple math showed the student in question, who has a healthy respect for the law, that our school year would probably extend well into July.

That little discussion that had become our near-daily bread? Never came up again. And we finished the last drop of academia at 8:30 p.m. the night before we left for Colorado, to great hoopla.

I am going to send Jenny a present.

So, digression aside, I thought I'd make a short list of what worked well for us last year. Then, hopping on the bandwagon that's rippling across the homeschooling blogosphere (e.g. the Heart of the Matter blog hop), I'll share a few thoughts/plans for the coming year.

Our Major Successes: 

This Week in History - Nearly every  morning at the breakfast table, we came across some fodder for discussion using this terrific resource. We're taking a hiatus from it right now, but doing the full year gave us plenty of springboards for learning.

Writing with Ease - Okay, not something my kids would turn cartwheels about, but I found that we all responded well to having something very consistent, bite-sized, and daily to complete. We really enjoyed  most of the reading selections, and sometimes sought out the books from which they derived for further reading. This was what the older two finished on that fateful pre-Colorado evening. And I think we'll continue next year, Eliza with Level Two and Ian with Level Four. Note #1: We only use the workbooks, not the textbook. Note #2: Ian (age 11) always preferred to do his copywork in cursive. I hear this from other mothers of boys too.

Geography Club: Yes, some months we were pulling food and presentations together at the helter-skelter last minute, but the momentum of the group was the push we needed to explore beyond our own boundaries. The kids also got some practice with public speaking and with thinking about how to prepare something that would interest an audience. We'll continue that this year.

Reading Aloud: At the beginning of the year, I tried to keep our read-alouds tied to our Middle Ages history theme, but by springtime -- as is often the case -- we relaxed into just choosing whatever I thought would interest my listeners. Favorites included The MoffatsHatchetIsland of the Blue DolphinsThe Fledgling, and The Saturdays.

Poetry Memorization: Ian memorized Jabberwocky, The Swing, and Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening. Why do such an old-fashioned thing as require/inspire a child to memorize poetry? For encouragement, see this terrific post from my friend Stefani.

Looking Ahead

I plan to continue with all that's working for us in the coming year. Here's what will change or be added:

Classical Conversations. Last year, for the first time, we did not participate in any weekly co-ops (don't freak out; my kids had plenty of social life). For the most part, we enjoyed having more freedom in our weekly schedule, using our Fridays to finish up loose ends, play games, do a monthly class at the Nature Center, or get together with friends. This year, some good friends of ours have talked us into joining their Classical Conversations group. I won't go into the multiple reasons why I felt it was the right time to try this out, even though it's so different from anything we've done so far. And I'm a bit nervous about how my child with learning differences will fare. However, I think this child is ready for more of an academic challenge, and will respond better to it coming from a party other than me. :-) And the girls are totally excited about their new lunchboxes, and I get to buy new pencils and whatnot like a Real American Mom, so it's all good.

Math - Oh gosh, y'all. Our approach to math has been ... relaxed. As in, no formal math for the younger two, which actually is a conscious choice. Eliza (8) seems to have a natural facility for math, and this year we'll probably start something slightly more structured with her, and see if she maintains the joy. Ian takes his math lessons from Dad, which means they happen at bedtime, which means ... maybe we need a little more consistency. He's been doing Singapore Math, but I think I'll start both him and Eliza off with Khan Academy (free!) during the day, where they can see the videos and set up accounts for doing practice problems. We may transition to Teaching Textbooks, since Ian gravitates toward visual information, especially on the computer, and I've read psalms of praise on behalf of this program.

Spelling - For Ian, the natural approach to learning spelling worked just fine. Simply by reading lots of books and doing periodic spelling bees for fun, he spells well. For Eliza, it's just not coming together. (Here's where I insert: Bless Her Heart.) I think she needs a more systematic approach and for that, we're going to go with the well-reviewed All About Spelling.

Bible - Last year, as in previous years, we worked our way through Egermeier's Bible Story Book. No complaints there. We just need a little something new, know what I mean? This year, perhaps next week, we'll start each morning with a devotional from Our 24 Family Ways, along with practicing their church and AWANA memory verses. Yes. We. Will.

Science - We had fun with REAL Science Odyssey from Pandia Press last year, although we sort of lost momentum midway through the year. I haven't decided, but I think this year we'll return to Apologia Science and do Exploring Creation With Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the 5th Day, just reading aloud together once or twice a week and doing a hands-on activity as time and energy permit. Will supplement with Nature Center classes and library books and magazine subscriptions and just finding answers to questions about why the sky is blue and so forth.

I haven't really decided what we're going to do for History, Art, Music, etc., but I think a fair amount of that will be covered in Classical Conversations, and I want to hold off and see how much we need to do, or have the capacity to do, as a supplement at home. Rather than having all the plans laid and jumping into every single subject on some magical day three weeks from now, we'll probably ramp up gradually to what feels like a good rhythm for us.

And you may be thinking, "Hey, I thought you had THREE kids!" And I do. But Caroline is five. And remarkably self-directed. My plan for her is to include her in the older kids' activity as much as possible, to make sure we have special read-aloud time on the couch every day, to help her progress in her own reading skills, and to set aside time every week to do a craft with her, since that is what causes her soul to flourish. We may also do Five in a Row, in a more consistent manner than we have thus far -- poor, neglected third child.

In all this, of course, I'm reading, reflecting, and planning, but also, first of all, praying. Praying along the lines of, "Lord, I have no idea what I'm doing!!" and "Lord, direct our paths this year," and "Lord, show me what each child needs and how you and I can meet that need together."

Did you make it this far? I know it's a long post, even for Her Royal Verbosity. If you survived, may you get a lollipop. If you leave me some encouragement in the comments, you may get two.

But no promises.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Summer Coffee Deliciousness

I finally got around to learning how to make iced coffee this week. The good news: The learning curve is short and gentle. The bad news:

Um ... There is no bad news.

Here's how to do it.

Assemble two Mason jars. (Any containers will do, but I have a thing for Mason jars.)

Using Mason jar #1, follow these instructions from Small Notebook the night before you actually want to drink the stuff. So easy, y'all. Deep breath. You can do this.

Then, kick it up a notch by making a simple mint syrup, as follows:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar (use organic if you can. You'll feel better about it.;-))
  • Combine in a pot, bring to a boil, and then simmer. DO NOT walk away and try to do other things  while bringing your sugar solution to a boil or you will end up with a smoky kitchen. Sugar solution boils wicked fast. I learned the hard way. 
  • Add a smidge of peppermint extract. If you think I used an actual measuring spoon, we must be strangers. A smidge, people. That's all I can tell you. Oh, and if you're really cool, you could probably use fresh mint from your garden. We don't have them garden things here in the Land of the Infinite Drought. 
OK! Fast forward to the next day. You've steeped your coffee, you've strained it through a cheesecloth into Mason Jar #2, and you're rarin' to go. (Edited to add: I don't add the extra cup of water that Rachel at SmallNotebook suggests, because the ice and milk dilute the coffee enough to my personal taste.) Now, rinse out Mason Jar #1. Fill it about one generous third full with the coffee. Add the ice. Add some milk of your choice. Add mint syrup to taste. Again, start with a smidge. You can always add more, but you can't really take it away, know what I mean? 

Screw the lid on the jar and shake it all up. 

Ta da! Stick a straw in it and enjoy! 

(Note: In a perfect world, I'd have some stellar food photography shot, unmarred by the jaundiced cast of yellow formica. 

This is not a perfect world. 

And we'll just have to be okay with that.)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tuesday Travels: Pike's Peak!

Inspired by this post a few months ago, we decided to herd our brood up the slopes of Pike's Peak during our recent Colorado trip.

By "herd," we mean "seat them in a clean cog railway car, with food."

Behold the results.

Before embarking. Hot. Not sure why the boy has his jacket hanging from his head. 

Scenery glimpsed from open window as I read to my fascinated children about Pike's Peak history.

Fun fact: A small family actually lives about halfway up the mountain. They maintain the reservoirs and whatnot. They also drive seventeen miles to the nearest grocery store. They have no neighbor problems.

Breaking through the timberline for awe-inspiring vistas, and glimpses of whistling marmots. 

See the train in front of us? We traveled the same path. Fun fact: Every year Pike's Peak holds a marathon. As in, a 26.2 mile footrace, up to the top and back. Last year's champion ran it in 3:51. To put that in perspective, I ran a gently-rolling HALF marathon last winter in 2:35. 

Disembarking at the summit. Fortunately, we were prepared for the relatively-balmy 47-degree weather with warm jackets. The family from Dallas who sat across from us was not so fortunate. They, and other tank-top-clad travelers, had to huddle in the summit house eating donuts to stay warm. We took our donuts (homemade; scrumptious) to go and spent our allotted 35 minutes admiring the view. 

Did you know that Katherine Lee Bates composed the hymn "America the Beautiful" after descending from Pike's Peak (by mule and foot, I believe)? Standing there and gazing over purple mountains' majesties, watching the fruited plains stretch across state lines, you do almost feel you've glimpsed the shining sea, and it takes your breath away. 

If you go: The cog railway ain't cheap. Tickets are $34.50/adult and $18.50/child. To me, it was worth the extra expense because our travel philosophy places a premium on shared experiences. We don't stay in high-end hotels along the road, and we pack a lot of our own food. We don't buy the T-shirts, the souvenir postcard books, the tchotchkes. But we *will* splurge on a few worthy adventures, take lots of pictures, and reminisce about it. Because the years are short.

And we will also take a jacket. Just sayin'.

P.S. I've been thinking for a while of creating a separate blog for family travel-related posts. Not sure if they really fit in with the rest of this blog's random, miscellaneous content. Care to weigh in?

Monday, August 1, 2011

If I'm Thankful, Will It End Sooner?

Yes, I know. I've already managed to communicate on this blog something of my distaste for the Texas summer. Specifically, THIS Texas summer. This recordbreaking, triple-digits-every-day-since-May, unrelenting, drought-stricken, grass-crisping, summer.

But I've decided: enough with the whining. And although it's been a little while since I've done a 1000 Gifts gratitude post, it's time to buck up and give thanks. So, here we go, drawing a deep breath and offering up thanks for summertime in Texas ...

#245. Air conditioning. Dear pioneer foremothers: I bless you. I tip my hat to you. I kiss the ground on which your layers of skirts once trailed. I have no earthly idea how you survived. Amen.

246. Sunshine. It's been said -- possibly by me, and others in the know -- that the Texas summer is like the New England winter. Long. Unpleasant. Marked by much time spent indoors. And, true, in New England one can always put on more clothing, while in Texas ...  However. The true gremlin of the New England winter is not really the cold but the darkness. The four o'clock sunsets. The barren gray landscapes. The wan light, glimpsed from office windows. The mass Vitamin D deficiency. At least here, while huddling inside or walking one's dog early o'morning, there's foliage and color to drink in, plus the few rays of sunshine that penetrate the spots you missed with the sunscreen.

247. Water. We live in a city that's transversed by a river, divided into three lakes. We also enjoy natural springs, some of which run refreshingly cold. Water levels are low, thanks to the drought, but the larger bodies still offer cool respite.

248. Friends. When whining about the weather, it's always pleasanter in company. Sort of a call-and-response thing, dontcha know.

249. A break in the routine. Sometimes you just need an excuse to chuck the schedule and laze around with a book or neglected project. Or take your daughters to a classic movie in a vintage theater.

In the air conditioning, of course.

250. Thoughts of November. Like contractions during childbirth, no heatwave lasts forever.

(Sorry, cheating, but I'm afraid that's the best I can do. Please chime in if you've found something to be grateful for!)