No ninjas at this house


My girls are definitely used to these warm weather Halloweens. (Although last year being in Colorado was a treat.) A lovely 74 degrees this evening as we traipsed through the neighborhood. The glamorous movie star and the renaissance princess were accompanied by our friend the little mermaid.

I am flying to Phoenix tomorrow for a week at the office and I'm sure Dave will have all kinds of fun with two girls on sustained sugar highs. Our neighborhood was very generous this year. Sylvie voluntarily quit when her bag got too heavy and Tessa went around the block one more time with Dave to pick up a few more houses.

(Still no candy for me!)

There is a unidentified (to me) plant in our front yard that has just bloomed this week with fluffy white flowers. The monarchs love it and the girls were entranced by a handful of them flitting around while we got ready to start our trick-or-treating. Doesn't seem very spooky or appropriately Halloween-ish, but it made for some pretty pictures.

Sneak Peak

Our church had a "Trunk-or-Treat" last Saturday so our girls are already primed for the Halloween experience.

I Voted!


I'm in Phoenix next week so I availed myself of the early voting here in Texas. Yay me!

Good peer pressure


I've decided not to eat ANY Halloween candy this year. This is a big deal for me because I have an enormous sweet tooth. But I never stop at just one, so I'm trying out the abstinence thing. I have my suspicions that sugar is causing more health woes that I'm ready to admit, so here's my first baby step in a healthier direction. I'm posting this in the hopes that publicly acknowledging my goal will help me stick to it. I've already thwarted Sylvie's best attempts at being fantastically generous to share her Trunk-or-Treat candy. She is a sweetie that way.

I love the chocolate stuff. Some favs: Twix, Milky Way Dark, Three Musketeers. Or whatever is left over in the bowl. I'll eat a Kit Kat or a Crunch bar if I have to, but only in my most desperate moments.

Mmmm, pumpkin guts


Time to carve pumpkins. We had our friends over for dinner then sat down to get messy with the orange goop. But roasting the seeds always makes the stringy mess worth it. I wasn't going to get into the slop myself, but Tessa pooped out and I ended up carving her little pumpkin. Did a pretty good job if I do say so myself although Dave is recognized as the master carver in our house.

Chili, cornbread, spiced cider, roasted pumpkin seeds. Yum. So very autumn.

Full disclosure

In the interest of full disclosure, I had some pretty "unique" personal style myself. Yes, those are cows on my vest. I made it myself and I was extremely proud. If any of you looked your best in eighth grade, well, more power to you.

At least Sylvie has the whole "I'm only four" thing to explain her taste.

After Dark


After Dark After Dark by Haruki Murakami

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Murakami's books are so fiercely bizarre. This one I completely devoured. It started out so simply, but I was caught up in it almost immediately. I still have no idea what a good portion of it means, but I just love the atmosphere, the style, the humor of his books.

View all my reviews.

Style? Who says I don't have style?

Took the girls shopping yesterday and let Sylvie get some new pants that aren't midway up her calf. She was getting ready for school this week and I saw her put on some jeans that I realized she has been wearing for over two years now. The girls is just barely four for goodness sake. My girls with their skinny bums tend to wear their pants until they're well beyond the point of capris. Anyway, I digress, the point of my post is to illustrate my girls' personal styles.

Sylvie is all about the pattern. She tends to prefer bold colors, but that is certainly a secondary attribute. She requires pattern. This is one of the outfits she chose and certainly I had to talk her out of a much more seriously bizarre combination. She is in the "soft pant" stage and prefers knits to jeans. For her matching has more to do with pattern: stripes and stripes or, her favorite, polka-dot with polka-dot.

Tessa's school shopping in August involved all combinations pink. This picture somewhat belies her absolute obsession with pink this year, but it does have some other characteristic traits of Tessa's personal style. The tank and the jeans have rhinestones. She has two of these tanks, one in pink and one in white and she will be found wearing one or the other every single weekend (I won't let her wear them to school). She loves flare jeans. If she found pink flare jeans with rhinestones on them I might not be able to be seen with her in public ever again.

But regardless of what their wearing, both of my girls are crazy and silly through and through.

Second graders are loud


Particularly my second grader. I spent a lot of time complaining about the volume in my car last year as I schlepped first graders to and from school. But I stand corrected, second graders are really loud. I chaperoned Tessa's field trip today to the Beverly S. Sheffield Education Center at Zilker Park. It was a really great time. The kids got to hunt for bugs on the hillside and at the creek. Then got some more hands on experience with bugs in the classrooms at the education center. My girl has got some mad science skillz. She is generally observant, inquisitive, fascinated, and definitely enthusiastic.

Sylvie got to come with us too. I wasn't sure how the dynamic with the older kids would be. I was worried they would brush Sylvie off or even hurt her feelings. But Tessa's friends were really welcoming to her and she thought "her" field trip was awesome too. She even touched the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach when it got passed around the room. There's a good instance of peer pressure.

The End of an Era

I never thought I was going to be one of those moms that dressed her girls to match. The idea of it was a little to sticky sweet for me. That was until my friend Kari sent me two lovely dresses for my girls when Sylvie was born. And I was instantly hooked. And Costco has fed this maternal obsession with their economically priced and beautifully styled girl's holiday dresses. More often than not, Easter and Christmas has found us buying new dresses at Costco (occasionally elsewhere) for my beauties - always matching.

Until this year.

Tessa is done with it and Sylvie is in complete agreement. No more matching! Dave and I are trying our best not to be completely heartbroken; the girls are completely unsentimental about it. I should be happy they are individuals with their own style and taste. But they are just so cute matching together! Makes me feel like a put together mom when we stroll into church with my lovely girls dressed alike. Selfish I know. So I put aside my feelings and let them pick out two completely uncoordinating dresses for Christmas this year.

Half of a Yellow Sun


Half of a Yellow Sun Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book was incredibly engrossing, educational, heartbreaking, etc. The characters were fantastic and the story is so unreal to my 21st century American viewpoint. Taken out of the African setting, so many of the struggles were completely relatable across the human experience. Fantastic book.

View all my reviews.

I love autumn!

I've been kind of missing the fall colors the last few weeks. Don't get me wrong - the October weather here has been divine and I shouldn't be complaining, but I've really been jonesing for some autumn foliage. As lovely as our trees are, there's not a lot of color nearby. I love to spend October going up to Oak Creek Canyon in Sedona, where I took this picture a few years ago.

I must be teaching primary for a reason


In preparing for my primary lesson this week, I came across this quote my Marvin J. Ashton:

"How can you tell if someone is converted to Jesus Christ? The best and most clear indicator that we are progressing spiritually unto Christ is the way we treat other people."

His words hit me in a very powerful way. Such a simple equation, but one that I don't think I've ever articulated myself. To think that my actions and attitudes towards others are a marker of my progress on the path - certainly made me take pause.

Good parents take their kids to Sea World


We went to Sea World in San Antonio yesterday. I was a little surprised (maybe dismayed is a better word) that the park is way more interested in promoting emotional branding than actual marine conservation or science. But hey, the girls had a good time so I'll stop quibbling. The weather was perfection and we all really enjoyed ourselves. More pics over here.

Feeding the dolphins was one of my favorite moments. One of them let me pet him for a moment and it was really cool. Tessa was squeamish at first about touching the fish, but she ended up really enjoying it.

Sylvie and Tessa got their first taste of a roller coaster. Tessa loved it (which surprised me) and Sylvie not so much. Tessa was convinced that she would ride all of them until she got a good look at the "real" ones. Maybe in a few years.

We went with our good friend Ben and his daughter Grace. It was great being there with them.

Of course it's all about Shamu when you're at Sea World. Tessa was disappointed that we only got her a key chain sized Shamu - she wanted the huge one of course. She is now on a quest to save up $100 so that she can buy a laundry list of Shamu items when we come back next year (we got the season pass). I guess their not so subtle marketing worked. Sylvie got a Shamu pen and notepad and it's her new prized possession. She spent all of dinner and a good portion of the ride home writing out the alphabet with it.

Another lengthy political rant


I got an email earlier this week with this picture followed by a bunch of low ball rhetoric claiming that Senator Obama doesn't love his country enough to put his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance. All sorts of racist garbage thrown in about his middle name being Hussein and if I had read it more carefully I'm guessing there would be a reference to him being a terrorist. Puh-lease!

I crafted a response to that email but decided not to send it. I figured that the people who were already forwarding around this crap were so far down the mental worm hole that my well crafted retort wouldn't stand a chance of reaching them. Plus I wanted to spare all the unwitting people that don't know me that might also be copied on that email from more annoying emails.

So I'll unleash my response on you, the friendly few who come to read my blog. At least you who know me will understand that such garbage truly enrages me.

"I've been stewing over this email ever since I got it and I've decided that I need to reply. I think all of you that have been forwarding this around should be ashamed of yourselves for falling for such a cheap trick. This photo has zero substance related to the issues at hand. Anyone who has listened to two words of Senator Obama's speeches knows that he loves his country deeply. Even John McCain has come to his defense to state as much. These inflammatory emails are manufactured with the express intent of duping "folks" into voting based on emotions of fear and distrust. I have no problem with anyone who chooses to vote this way or that, but please make sure your vote is based on actual issues on not some silly email. Make either candidate stand up and win your vote based on their ideas and leadership. Don't give it away cheaply.

- Amber

P.S. If you don't know me well enough to know that an email like this would really tick me off, then please don't send me email."

Ode to an ugly chair


I have a love/hate relationship with our big fat red leather chair. It was just about the first piece of real furniture that Dave and I bought that didn't involve a thrift store. I wanted two attractive, appropriately scaled chairs for our apartment in Phoenix. Dave figured, why not spend the dough on one big huge comfy chair. And he won that one. I of course railed against such bad taste, but I secretly love this ugly chair. This is the chair that I nursed my babies in. That I slept with them during those wonderful weeks and months when they were newborns (I love napping). This is the chair that I read good books in and consequently fall asleep far too often.

But it is seriously ugly. And now that I'm getting ready to paint my living room blue (no luck finding the right shade yet), it will have to find a new corner of the house. And probably at some point be chased out of that corner too. It's just so big and ugly. What to do?

The Good Earth


The Good Earth (Enriched Classics) The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
So much loved this book. I've read and loved a handful of her other books so it's a little strange that I hadn't read this one before. I loved the language very much. And the story just seemed to comprise the entire human experience - so beautiful.

View all my reviews.

Happy Birthday Ben!


I'm a day late but I wanted to say happy birthday again to my fantastic brother. He's eight years younger than I am, and I'll be eternally grateful to him for rescuing me from only childness. He was far cuter than me during the 80s, but I might eventually forgive him for that. He just started graduate school, getting his PhD in some kind of crazy Physics/Math program (what is it called Ben?), and I'm hugely proud of him. Just the tiniest bit jealous too.

Check out the name on the star. (My maiden name.)

Love you Ben. Sorry for locking you in the coat closet.

The girls get out to Barton Creek

With Dave about ready to gear up for a marathon, the girls and I have lots of time to ourselves on Saturday mornings. So we got up and decided to get O-U-T out this morning. Back to Barton Creek trail, fast becoming one of my favorite places in the city. Both girls were in amazingly good moods and we had a fantastic time. It was overcast and almost drizzly out, delightful weather when you're in the mood for anything other than hot.

Self portraits never turn out very well (especially before I've showered) but I was there too!