Tuesday, August 20, 2013

No Pinterest needed

HP's first birthday came and went nearly two months ago.  I never wrote a recap.  That is in part due to the inconsistent nature of my blogging, but mostly because it did not feel worthy of a post.

The internet is filled with images of beautiful, creative first birthday parties.  They showcase professionally designed invites, themed decorations, smash cakes--some even have matching labels for the elaborate spread on the food table!

When I stumble across such parties my reaction is never to think I should do that!  My inner dialogue is more along the lines of That's beautiful!  But thank God I am not doing that!  I do not feel like a failure as a mother or human being for not creating something equally extravagant; I feel relieved that I am not spending limited my time and money bringing those pins to life.

This is not a post to criticize elaborate birthday parties or the people who create them.  Planning and executing those events brings many people joy and happiness, and I think that is fantastic.  I am just not that person, and do not pretend to be.

With HP's birthday two months in the past, I can state with some certainty that no one will be pinning pictures of the weekend.  Its simplicity was both perfect for our family and unsurprising given my past avoidance of planning such events.  Case in point: our wedding.

There were no decorations when we got married.  Zero.  None in the ceremony, none at the reception.  There was not a single flower to be found (who needs a bouquet?) and I wore a blue off-the-rack dress I found on sale rather than a traditional white one.  At the time, people told me I would look back and regret those choices.  They were wrong.  When I look back on our wedding day, I think about (1) how happy I am to be married to my husband, (2) how supported we felt by our friends and family, and (3) all of the hours of stress and hundreds of dollars we saved by not investing in the day's aesthetics.

I applied that same "eliminate unnecessary details and stress" approach to HP's birthday.  The day before his birthday we had a small gathering of friends at the park.  On the actual day, Henry took off work and we had a family day of fun--pancakes for breakfast, children's museum in the morning, swimming in the neighborhood pool in the afternoon, and more cupcakes after dinner.

Part of my attitude is a result of my personality (see wedding description), but part of it stems from my upbringing.  As a child, we never--I repeat, never--had a birthday party where dozens (or even half a dozen) kids came to our home.  We had a family celebration and were allowed to invite one friend.  That was it.  I never felt deprived or jealous of the larger birthday parties I attended for my friends and classmates.  Birthdays were about spending time with family and the traditions we created.  It was the little things--like sitting at the head of the table and picking the dinner menu.  It sounds simple when I write it out, but it felt special as a child. 

And that is what I want to create for HP.  Not a big bash with a perfectly executed theme, but yearly rituals and time spent together as a family celebrating him.

No Pinterest-worthy events here.  And that is just fine by me.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Finding the joy

I have been working to snap myself out of the funk I have been in since the beginning of August.  Things that have helped:

(1) Getting out of the house every day, even when the intense heat makes it feel easier to hunker down indoors.  Most days we have just gone to the local park or splash pad, but even that small break from the house helps to break up the day and re-energizes us.

(2) Making regular social plans outside of the house.  I am such a homebody and am usually content to hang out with Henry and read in the evenings.  That's fine to a point, but then the lack of social connection sneaks up on me and crushes me with a wave of loneliness.

(3) Reading fiction.  It restores me and connects me to humanity in a way nothing else does.  I love social media and television as much as the next person, but those pastimes often sink me deeper into the swampland of depression.  Reading pulls me out.

(4) Working toward making our home a unit of production rather than consumption (a la Radical Homemakers)Over the last week I have harvested okra, red ripper beans, black eyed peas, cantaloupe, and squash from the garden, made 12 half pints of peach jam, and baked three loaves of bread from scratch.

Since I HP was born, I made excuses as to why I was not actively working toward creating a productive homestead--I was tired, taking care of HP took all of my energy, just putting food on the table and keeping our son alive felt productive enough, HP's naps were inconsistent and/or required a lot of parental assistance to go down, etc.  But something clicked and made me see that now is the moment I have been waiting for.  We have land and own our house, I do not work outside of the home, we only have one child, and that child now plays independently for large stretches of the day and naps without assistance.  I do have time to can and garden and knit--I just need to step away from the computer and make it happen.

Last Tuesday for dinner we had okra and cantaloupe from the garden, fresh baked bread with peach preserves, and eggs from a friend's chickens (whose coop I helped build two years ago).  The next morning I made french toast with the leftover bread and eggs and topped it with the peach preserves.  The simple act on dining on food so close to home made me feel like I am living the dream I described two years ago, cheesy as that may sound.

Things may not be perfect (when are they ever?), but the tide is receding and I am feeling like myself again.

What a relief.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Life lately

We are on day five of HP's digestive troubles (less politely known as diarrhea).  Intensitinal issues + bottom molars coming in = very little sleep for our whole family.  As a result, I have only managed a jumble of my random thoughts instead of a coherent post on this Monday morning.

After weeks of discussion, we finally picked out kitchen tile.  We did not go with any of the top contenders from my last post.  Instead we choose something completely different: white squares, with black diamonds.  It's classic, it matches the grey counters, it's mostly white (what I wanted) but still has some interest to it (what Henry wanted), is neutral enough that it likely won't offend future buyers, and it was one of the cheapest tiles we found.  A win all around.  Now, on to the install.

I talked to my mom last week about feeling frustrated (isolated/depressed) about our current location.  She kindly pointed out that this has happened every summer I have lived in Austin.  Am I that predictable?  It appears so.  Here's the post I wrote last year, and one the year before.  That gives me further confirmation that Austin is not our forever home, but it also reminds me that it is a season and I will feel better in the fall.

As much as I have complained about Austin recently, there is much I would miss if we were to leave.  Last night I had the perfect Austin evening with a college friend I see far too little for my liking.  We rode our bikes to Barton Springs, swam in the pool while bats flew overhead, watched the summer musical on the hillside, jumped in the pool once more during intermission, and then biked back home.  Only tacos and sno-cones were missing.  It was lovely, and just what I needed to restore my faith in my life here.

I have been spending all of my free time for the last week reading the A Song of Fire and Ice books (better known by the title of the first book, Game of Thrones).  Prior to this series, I was reading a lot of non-fiction.  Sometimes I forget how much I love fiction, then I'll pick it up again and think "Ahhhhh, this is what has been missing from my life."  I am only partway through the second book so I have many days/weeks of my life to invest in the series.

Here's to a week filled with good books, good friends, and many naps!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Kitchen Remodel Part II

Having a one-year old is not conducive to a quick and efficient kitchen remodel.  Shocking, I'm sure.

Nearly two months after starting this project, I am happy to report that we are (finally) almost finished.  The cabinets are painted, the hardware is installed, the cabinet doors are back on, the counters are sealed and waxed, and a new faucet is in place.  All that's left is choosing and installing the tile.

Oh, the tile.

Before we started this process I thought that Henry and I had similar interior decorating tastes.  Well, if I am being honest I would say that I thought that Henry did not care one way or the other--not because he's a man who can't be bothered, but because in the past he has shown little interest in investing money to make something more beautiful.  If it was practical and functional, that was enough.  I thought it would be the same this time.

That assumption was false.

Now we are trying to choose a tile we can both agree on that is within our budget.  I am glad we waited to decide until the cabinets and counters were finished because it makes it a lot easier to visualize which tile will look best.  Easier, but not easy.  Before we get to the top contenders, here's pictures of the kitchen in its current state:

I love this blue penny tile, but Henry is not so sure about the penny tile or the blue.  It will also be more annoying to install than square or subway tiles.

 Photo from Overstock

We've been leaning toward this square tile, but I am not sure how the green will look with the green paint in the house.  It could be the perfect way to bring everything together, or it could clash terribly.  It's hard to tell from a photo on a screen.  I slightly prefer larger tiles (penny tile aside, of course), but I am coming around to these small squares.

Photo from Overstock
I also think something like the one below could look good, though we'd want to install it horizontally, not vertically.

Photo from Overstock
My absolute favorite tile is this lantern tile, but if this isn't our forever house, I am not sure it's worth spending the extra money.  It's more than twice as expensive as the penny tile.

Photo from Overstock
I originally wanted white subway tile like in the photo below, but Henry hates it.  Most ideas he just does not prefer, but this one was vetoed immediately.  After having the counters installed, I can agree that he was right.  We need a some sort of color in the backsplash, otherwise it will feel very monochromatic and boring.  But isn't it beautiful?  So crisp and clean.  Looking at this picture makes me want it all over again...

Photo from Better Homes and Gardens
I do still love the subway look and we could do something like this:

Photo from Better Homes and Gardens
If we go with subway, the issue becomes picking a color.  We don't want to choose green for a solid color since our walls are a light green and it would be hard to not clash but also not be too match-y.  Henry is hesitant to add another color to the kitchen since we already have a lot going on (brown concrete floors, grey counters, white cabinets, light green walls).  I think blue would look good and be inoffensive to future buyers.  Maybe this more narrow rectangular tile?

Image from Overstock
Any and all comments, thoughts, and opinions are welcome.  We are hoping to make a final decision this weekend.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


I was going to write a post about our trip to Missouri and how wonderful it was and how much I love and miss my family, but I can't. The last time I came back from a trip I was pleasantly surprised with how happy I was to be back at home in Austin. This time, that didn't happen.

I need to not live here. In this house. I need to live in a walkable neighborhood. I knew we were giving that up when we bought this house, but I did not know how desperately alone and isolated it would make me feel.

The heat is oppressive. It takes us at least twenty minutes to bike to visit friends, usually more than thirty. With the heat index well over one hundred every day now, HP gets overheated in half that time. The Texas summer sun is brutal, and this summer has been mild. It makes me feel trapped.

I told Neil we need to move. Soon. Out of this house. Either to a new city or a new neighborhood. I know it means we would have to rent, and rent will be much more expensive than our mortgage. I know it means we would only break even on our house in the best-case scenario.

I don't care. My happiness is more important.

I feel selfish saying that. It makes me feel like I am making an irresponsible decision, both financially and otherwise. But I am unhappy. And I am not sure how to get around that fact.

I miss my family. I miss living in a smaller town. I miss having four normal seasons instead of the "hot" (eight months) and "not-hot" (four months) seasons that rule the calendar here.

When people used to talk to me about the weather affecting their moods I used to smugly think it's just weather! and assured myself that it wouldn't happen to me. But it has, and now I want to slap my superior-minded former self in the face. There are lots of things in my life I can control, but the weather is not one of them.

Last night I got on my bike, rode partway to the library, turned around to come back home, then proceeded to sit in the dining room with tears streaming down my face while I told Neil a truth that was as hard to admit to myself as it was to say out loud.

I feel depressed.

It makes me feel weak. It makes me feel like I am failing.

I know this feeling will pass. I know I will feel differently in the fall and winter months when it is bearable to venture outside of the house after eight in the morning. But right now? In this moment? It sucks.