Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Family Pedals

I am in the midst of consolidating my writing into a new site: Family Pedals. As I am on vacation, the move is about halfway done, but it is up with a new post that is part of the Small Family Home Blogger Network. I'd love for you to check it out and follow me over there!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Life lately

Summer has begun in earnest for our family. We got back from the beach on Tuesday, and the kids and I head out on a road trip to Oregon with my mom on Monday. Phew! This year it just worked out that all of our travel is crammed together across a few weeks instead of spread out.

Speaking of road trips with kids, I welcome any and all tips, specifically any audio stories, books, or podcasts an almost five year old would enjoy. We already love Sparkle Stories and on our last trip we discovered But Why? and Brains On! Please share your favorites--it's going to be a loooong trip to the West Coast and we'll have plenty of listening hours to fill.

I decided our trips would be the perfect place to start another reread of the Harry Potter series. I wanted to read it this summer in preparation for a very special all-things-Harry-Potter episode of Friendlier that will come out in early August. The first two books are not my favorite in the series, but in rereading them I found them funnier and wittier than I remembered. I am currently a few chapters into Book Four and enjoying the ride.

Preschool has ended for HP (forever!) and we are now in summer mode. Once we get back from Oregon we have a couple of camps lined up for both kids, swim lessons for HP, and generally trying to soak up these laid-back weeks before HP goes off to kindergarten.

This may seem crazy, but we are considering canceling our home internet. Our one year promotional period is ending and the price will more than double starting in June. I know it would be inconvenient at times, but there would also be benefits--like eliminating the temptation to look up “just one thing” and then falling into the rabbit hole of the online world. I may expand more on my thoughts and what we decide in a future post.

We have a new roof! As in, I just wrote the final check and the roofers drove off a few minutes ago. When we bought the house we knew the roof wasn’t going to last much longer and used that to negotiate a lower price. This spring we finally did the necessary research and got quotes. We decided to get a standing seam metal roof, which should last for decades to come. It feels good to cross “get new roof” off the never-ending list of house projects.

I hope this finds you all ready to enjoy the holiday weekend and kick-off summer!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Making time to read

Reading books is a favorite pastime of mine. Over the years I have read with varying degrees of frequency, but it has been part of my life since the days of of Sweet Valley Kids.

I distinctly remember a time my freshman year of college when I took a break from studying and read The Secret Life of Bees. I hungrily devoured the pages in my dorm room and thought, I've missed this. Reading got me through lonely times abroad, kept me sane through graduate school, and gives me an anchor in these days of parenting young children.

I read because I love it, but there are side benefits as well. I firmly believe that if I want my kids to grow up to be readers, then they need to see me and Neil reading for fun--which basically translates into an excuse for me to read during the day under the guise of good parenting. #winning

I fit in reading whenever I can, but usually in the mornings if I manage to get up before the kids, during rest time if I am not writing or working on a podcast (rest time = what happens when your kids stop napping but everyone still needs down time), and post-bedtime. If I've had a hard day, then I often sneak off to read a few pages after dinner while Neil is with the kids.

Here are my tips to fitting in more reading into the busy lives we lead:

(1) Figure out what you can cut out. For me it has been television and social media. I still use Instagram and watch shows with Neil some evenings, but quitting Facebook last year eliminated a major time-suck.

(2) Always have multiple books to read. I like to read more than one at once so that whether I am in the mood for fiction or non-fiction I have something ready to read. I have also taken on the responsibility of getting books at the library I know Neil will enjoy too as I have discovered that if one of us doesn't have something to read, we are more likely to watch a show after the kids are bed, but if we both have something, we happily read instead.

(3) Don't be a book snob. Some books I read are more high-brow, while others are decidedly not. I read young adult fiction, fantasy, and even romance if the mood strikes. I also read Pultizer-winners and my fair share of cerebral non-fiction. But not all the time. Because sometimes, I just want to get lost in a story and turn my brain off.

(4) Have a reading goal. I was surprised to find how much I enjoy setting a reading goal for the year on Goodreads and then regularly checking in to see how I'm doing. It is not that I wouldn't read otherwise, but it makes me take note when I am in a reading slump and get back to it.

(5) Join a book club. I am a part of two book clubs and I love how they challenge me to read something I wouldn't pick up otherwise. They also make me to think about the books differently. I love how often my opinion on a book changes after discussing it at book club.

(6) Have a podcast that requires you to talk about books every two weeks. Oh wait, does this not apply to everyone? Knowing that I need to have a book to discuss on Friendlier has helped me prioritize reading when I otherwise might scroll through social media.

I would love to hear what you're reading and how you find the time to fit it in.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Embracing winter update

Thanks to Kady for this amazing piece!
We intentionally moved away from the Texas heat to somewhere with four seasons. I am happy to be away from the oppressive heat, but I still need to mentally prepare myself to face the coldest months. This fall I was inspired to try and live seasonally and embrace winter. To achieve that ends, I have been focusing on cultivating cozy and channeling the hygge of the Danes.

If you would have asked me two weeks ago, how I was coping with winter, I would have told you that I was doing extremely well. We managed to avoid the sicknesses in January that plagued us last year (though we have not been so fortunate this month). The temperatures were frequently in the single digits and teens--or lower with the windchill--but we were still biking and getting out of the house. The dark often felt harder to face than the cold, but even that it is easier to accept after the winter solstice. The days may be short, but we are moving toward the light.

Then this past week happened with its sunny skies and temperatures in the sixties. We were able to open the windows in the house, bask in the sunlight, hang laundry up outside, and spend as many of our waking minutes outdoors as possible.

Before this unseasonable weather, I had thought I was fine winter, but I think I had actually just forgotten what I was missing. Now that I have gotten a taste of the warmer weather, I don't want to go back to bundling up in layers every time we step out of the house.

I may be eager for spring's arrival, but I can still recognize the good in winter: the kids' excitement at experiencing snow, the holidays, books read by the fire, soups for dinner most every night, plenty of reasons for homebodies like ourselves to hunker down, and the fact that I am no longer in a place where the never-ending summer sucks the joy from my life.

Intellectually I can recognize the upside of winter. But emotionally I am ready for the warmth, new life outside, and entire days lived in the park. The beauty of four seasons is that none of them last too long; just when you are tired of the current season, the next one arrives.

Monday, February 13, 2017

On being settled. Or not.

I thought I wanted to be settled, to live with both feet firmly planted and no move on the horizon. When we were looking to leave Austin our goal was to find a place to put down roots. If not our forever place, then at least a place that had the possibility of being a forever place.

Fast forward to last week when I was looking into jobs in New Zealand, Canada, Montana (hello, mountains!), and Denmark. I was texting my mom--who enjoys discussing travel and new locations as much as I do--when she made this comment:
See, you really don't totally love being settled. There's always something else out there.
Huh. I had always envisioned myself as someone who would find a spot and stay. I thought once I found a place I loved, I would never want to leave. In some ways, that's true: the longer I am here the more connections I make and the more I "love where I live" to borrow a phrase from Melody Warnick's book. But the excitement I feel when contemplating traveling to and living in new locations has not faded the way I imagined it would.

The most compelling reason to stay is for our kids. Neither Neil or I moved cities until we left for college (or in his case, grad school) and would like to offer that experience to HP and E. At the same time, if we moved they might learn more quickly what I have found to be true as an adult: you can be happy anywhere and that there are good people everywhere.

Despite all of my Googling and daydreaming of foreign locations, we are unlikely to leave Bloomington anytime soon. We like the community, our church, our neighbors, and Neil likes his job. If we leave, it would not be to get away, but to explore and embrace a new adventure.

So far I have lived in five states and two foreign countries. Moving is hard. It is hard to say goodbye to friends, to find where you fit in your new community, and to make new friends. But all these moves have taught me something else: it doesn't take that long to feel settled.

The thought of moving again doesn't fill me with dread; it excites me. Maybe I don't need to be so settled after all.