More gardens


Noticing a theme yet? Weather is yummy therefore Amber heads to the places with lovely green things. Today we went to the Zilker Botanical Gardens. My girls love the stone pathways all throughout the Japanese gardens. And thankfully no on ended up taking a swim with the Koi. Lots more pictures on our SmugMug site here. Warning: my girls were in a photo mood. Every rock required a pose. Honestly, I pruned them as much as I could.

Happy Halloween!

My girls were uber traditional this year dressing up as a princess and a witch. Man are they cute.

We had a chili cook-off / carnival / trunk-or-treat last night at the church followed by a family party at Tessa's friends house. And tonight we'll have dinner with friends and out to the neighborhood for more candy gathering. Can you say too much? But it's all worth it if they'll share their Twix bars.

Sylvie likes to get her rock star moves on lately every time I try to take a picture. Probably better as a movie, but the collage gives you get the general feel for it. Although it doesn't allow for her totally awesome sound effects.

Needing sunshine in my life


It was quite simply too nice of an afternoon to be indoors. (And now that we're home and I'm yelling at the girls to clean their room this supposition can certainly be confirmed.) High 60s and marvelously sunny and clear after yesterday's storm blew out. So my girls and I headed over the the Wildflower Center to enjoy the afternoon.

We saw lots of butterflies which is always a big hit with the kiddos. I had fun showing the girls how to make a red mess on your hands from crushing cochineal. And we found the oddest fruit - the osage orange. Honestly, when I first saw it on the side of the path I thought someone had dropped their green plastic something. Just the strangest color and texture. Kind of like a green plastic brain.

Good afternoon. Something much needed by me.



Practices started this week to get ready for our church's annual Christmas concert. I love singing in the choir and Christmas music is just a bonus. This year we aren't doing any pieces from Handel's Messiah and I'm a little bit disappointed. I appreciate the challenge it presents year after year no matter how many times I've sung it. (I am a rather average alto and miles away from anything professional or trained.) The text always speaks so beautifully to me of the beauty and majesty of the season. The power of the music and the simplicity and repetition of the words allows me to really meditate on the miracle our Savior has presented to us.

Some of my favorite verses from Isaiah 52, where much of the text is taken from:
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.



Pumpkin carving time. I'm not a huge fan of Halloween, but I do love roasted pumpkin seeds (and watching the girls sift through the gunk to pluck them all out), chili and cornbread, spiced cider. And maybe a little thing called chocolate fun sized candies.



NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I loved, loved, loved this book. The basic concept is taking some stock parenting maxims and debunking them with better scientific understanding of children. Each chapter was interesting on it's own, but as a whole I just really appreciate the fresh eye and novel thinking the book brings. We should always challenge our assumptions.

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Dracula (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) (B&N Classics Hardcover) Dracula by Bram Stoker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I enjoyed this book a lot more than I anticipated. The writing is highly enjoyable and the plot kept me moving. The characters were really what took me through though. I found them delightful and occasionally precious. All of their best intentions and determinations to stay "cheerful" really cracked me up.

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A Stupid Parable

So I just finished a 1,000 (1,026 to be exact) piece puzzle that has been a thorn in my side for a few months now. I very much enjoy jigsaw puzzles, but this one was just ridiculously hard. I don't normally start puzzles this big but I was feeling crazy one day and it just happened. Beginning confidently, I quickly put together the borders which of course gives a false sense of accomplishment. After that manageable chunk was finished things became quite impossible and it sat on my coffee table for many weeks with not much progress. But I just couldn't put it away. I'd walk by every day and curse the fact that I had started it. I couldn't manage to get more than 1 or 2 pieces done in a day.

I was just about to quit when general conference came and with it a large stretch of time to dedicate to my puzzle. So I just sat and worked. The puzzle is a larger picture made up of thousands of tiny photos in mosaic and there's really nothing much to go on other than color groups. I just had to wade through and try each piece in each available spot. But I found that as I stared at it and worked at it, subtleties appeared that made it even more manageable and actual progress started to be made. It seemed even - dare I say it - possible! I noticed my progress and started congratulating myself and even starting to draw all sorts of parallels to life. I was after all listening to general conference which tends to make one feel all kinds of profound. Grand notions started to form in my head about how there are some things in life that we know need to be done, but just seem impossible from the outset. That there is no clear path from point A to point B, we just have to take it step by step and trust the outcome is a good one.

So conference weekend got me through the worst of it and over the last few weeks I've polished off the rest of the puzzle. A few days ago I put in the very last piece. But instead of feeling a great sense of accomplishment, I felt kinda dumb. What did I really have to show for my efforts? A stupid puzzle that I'll destroy tomorrow and box up on the shelf for the rest of forever. I'm embarrassed to even admit here on my silly blog with a readership hovering near a dozen that I even enjoy jigsaw puzzles. So there goes my deep life metaphor. I guess next time I'll make sure my efforts and exasperation go into something a little more worthwhile.

P.S. I still like jigsaw puzzles :-)

Observing animals


Sylvie had her first field trip today and I was glad to tag along. We went to Crowe's Nest Farm and had a great time. I enjoyed seeing the animals and gardens on the farm, but mostly I just love to observe Sylvie and the kids in her class. Now there are some mysteries to be discovered.

I ate green beans from my farmer's market for lunch

And more than a few chocolate chip cookies for my morning snack :-)

My friend Tiffany Lewis writes a wonderful column for MormonTimes. This week she wrote about how the Word of Wisdom, which is such a hallmark of the LDS faith, should really have us more in tune with conscientious eating. This is something that I constantly strive for but feel like I'm far from the mark. So thank you Tiffany for one more reminder - each time I get a little closer to where I want to be.



My girls have a day off of school today and I did not take the day off of work. I'm trying to remember how I did this all summer. Girls at home = not much focus going on in my brain. Sylvie is laying on the carpet outside my office door throwing a fit because she does not want to spend 10 minutes cleaning up the playroom before she can carry on her merry way with her toys. Screaming. Crying. Yelling. Her too.

Anyone want to adopt two mostly adorable girls for next summer? Here it is October and I'm already worried about the demise of my lovely schedule.

Tax Dollars


I went to Sylvie's school today to volunteer with her class in the computer lab. Their computers are nicer than anything I'll ever have so I'm officially jealous.



Instead of a nap I could get a headache!  That's a great way to spend a free afternoon.  Damn you Jones Cream Soda.

Daily Routines

I was thinking the other day that it might be nice to be able to look back at this little record of mine and remember what daily life looked like from time to time. So here's my general routine, remembering that "regular" life isn't necessarily the way things go.

I wake up around 6:30. Let's be honest, the snooze button gets a lot of use by yours truly. But the girls get up at 6:40 so it's not much of a snooze. This is the most luxurious start time that I can remember in my entire adult life so even though I still grumble about it, I'm glad it's where it's at. The girls get up, we eat cold cereal (I don't cook breakfast except sometimes for dinner), get dressed and ready for school. We're out the door at about 7:25-7:30. Mornings are actually going rather smoothly lately and I am grateful for that. I drive the girls to school - about 3 minutes away - and I shoo them out the door to walk the last block since the drop off line is ridiculous.

After that I either go running (2 weekdays and Saturdays) or go home to work in my yard or clean the house until my yoga class (3 weekdays and Saturdays). Then (after cleaning off my sweat) I'm up to my yellow office to work. It's nice to have quiet and dedicated time to work. This is kind of the point in my life that I kept holding up as the light at the end of the tunnel all those years I worked at home with littles running around. I don't have a lot of spare hours in the block of time when the girls are gone, so small changes to the schedule can have a spill over effect with my work hours. I'm trying to go the temple once a month with the RS ladies, I like to volunteer at the school some, and other appointments etc. usually have me picking up an hour or two of work in the afternoons or evenings.

I pick up the girls after that and our afternoons are pretty easy going. Tessa has piano lessons one day a week but other than that and the occasional errand we're home in the afternoons. Which is good because Sylvie is pretty cranky after school and needs that down time. Tessa does homework and practices piano, they both have a chore to complete and their room to clean, then they usually each get a turn at the computer or play a video game together. I usually finish up a little work, do bills or other junk that's no fun, read a book, maybe practice piano, read my scriptures, help with homework or other logistical mommy stuff, tidy up the house a bit, or stare at my pantry and try to figure out if I can make the miracle of dinner happen once again. All of that unaccounted parent stuff that's so hard to keep track of. Friday afternoons I have some friends over to watch TV and the kids play upstairs. Yay for Fridays!

We usually eat around 6:00 when Dave gets home. I "cook" every night other than leftover night and Sundays when Dave cooks. I want to have healthful and yummy meals prepared with love, but the sad fact that I've finally come to terms with is that I just don't like to cook. I do it, and I don't think it's terrible, but there's not a lot of love going on there. Evenings are mixed as to busyness. I have a primary presidency meeting once a week, book clubs twice a month, and the occasional social event or outlet as well. I'd like to think I've cut back on my TV watching the past year, but that is still my go to activity in the evenings when I have down time. Bedtime is usually close to 10:00 sometimes a little earlier or later depending on how much reading I want to get done. I always read in bed. A habit I've had my whole life and I only skip it when I'm super exhausted.

I took the day off of work today to help with Tessa's field trip. It ended up being a lot shorter than I had thought so the "free time" that I find on my hands today is a lovely little luxury. Nap perhaps?

Field Trip

I took the day off from work today to be a driver for Tessa's field trip. We went to the Natural Gardener which might just be my new favorite place on earth. I've been meaning to go since we moved here, having heard only wonderful things about it. I can't believe I waited so long - it really is just a super cool place. It's an organic nursery, but tons more too. We toured the butterfly garden, the vegetable gardens, the herb gardens, and got to see the animals too. I even figured out what a few more of the plants in my yard are. Fun day.

The Kite Runner


The Kite Runner The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have been wanting to read this for ages and finally got around to it. And it took me forever since my audio book time is pretty much nil since I gave up a commute. But it was worth the wait. The movie was fantastic, but the book is even more satisfying with the characters more fully drawn and then end much more believable and realistic. Not exactly a happy story, but so beautifully written.

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I haven't felt much like blogging lately. Or more precisely, all the stuff in my head as of late is perhaps not blog appropriate. This is a problem I run up against from time to time in the blog-as-journal universe. I want to leave a record of my life, I want to stay connected to those I care about, but there are just some things that are too personal or difficult to really put out there in this format. (And knowing me that means it's hard to put out there in any format.) But I also don't want to lose authenticity and paint a ridiculously rosy picture when things in actuality reside far from rosy.

So I'm not looking for sympathy or inquiries. I just want the record to show that sometimes life is hard. Something the blogosphere doesn't really lend itself to dealing with.

The Logic of Life


The Logic of Life The Logic of Life by Tim Harford

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book was really interesting, but I kinda of lost steam by the end when he got to the more macro level topics. I find behavioral economics totally fascinating and it really makes you think again about how humans make such fantastic (or not) choices.

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I always find talks that speak to me personally while listening to General Conference, but this morning's session was such an answer to my prayers. The spirit soothed my heart and truly testified of the love God has for each one of us. Words can't adequately describe what it has meant to me today.