Trail of Lights ZiP Fast Pass Giveaway

Trail of Lights ZiP Fast Pass Giveaway

Nothing kills my Christmas spirit faster than long lines and crowds.* Because I have some issues with masses of humanity, I have to admit that it’s been years since my last trip to the Trail of Lights. The thought of losing sight of my little kids, as they darted off in the direction of sparkly things, filled me with dread. Due to my (mostly unfounded) skittishness, I missed out on an Austin tradition for years. I grew up in Austin – I know, it’s weird, since none of the other 742 million people who live here are from here – and we always visited the trail when I was a child. I have happy memories of twirling under the Zilker Tree, riding the Zephyr in the dark, and driving through the Trail of Lights. This year I was invited to attend a Trail of Lights preview with the Austin Bloggers group, and I jumped at the chance. The year 2015 is my year to get over silly aversions to things like crowds.** The year 2015 is my year to introduce a new generation of Austinites to one of our treasured traditions. Some things have changed in the three-plus decades since my last visit. For example, now you walk through the trail instead of driving. Hooray for fewer emissions! The trail looks a bit different, and the corporate sponsors are new, but in many ways I was heralded directly back to my childhood. It was a perfect night, clear and chilly, just as I always remember it being (back before our freakish climate change was so apparent in our temps). The...
School is Starting, Take a Deep Breath

School is Starting, Take a Deep Breath

‘Tis the season. No, not that season. It will be that season soon enough, so you should probably start making your list and checking it twice. Take a deep breath. You have, like, 128 days until Christmas. Your kids will likely be in school for around 80 of those days, factoring in for weekends, other holidays, and the inevitable sick days. Your job and miscellaneous volunteer responsibilities will eat up 90 or so days. Most of those days – school days and work days – overlap, of course. The math is getting complicated, but the point is, you have roughly one month to get ready for the holidays. Not one consecutive month, but still. Stop panicking about Christmas. What you should be panicking about is school. Take another deep breath. There is, in fact, nothing about which to panic. This is all you need to do between now and the first day of school, in no particular order: Fill out the registration paperwork (Bonus time if your district now has an online option, as mine does. Heaven, I tell you. I gained hours of non-form-filling-out life.) Fill out the Tell Me About Your Child forms. Realize you don’t know the answers to all of the questions on the Tell Me About Your Child forms. How is this possible? What is his favorite subject? Minecraft? Buy backpacks. Return backpacks, because they were the wrong colors. Buy more backpacks. Buy new lunch containers. Decide what to put in the lunch containers. No, children, fruit strips are not, in fact, fruit. Yes, they have fruit in them, but no, they don’t count. I’m...
Better Than Nothing!

Better Than Nothing!

We’re on week two of a stomach bug at my house. Three-quarters of us have been hit, one person every three or four days. My fourth grader, who we’ll call Patient Zero, had a mild case. No big deal, I thought. Four days later, I nearly died, followed in three days by the first grader getting slammed. Only Mark has escaped the bug. I lie awake every night waiting for him to fall victim, even though he claims a super immunity. I won’t relax until he makes it a full two weeks from Sunday without barfing. I know this is a waste of my energy, to worry about Mark catching the bug. I know I should close my eyes and get some sleep. I know. So here we are, three weeks of summer left, and the past 10 days lost to a never-ending loop of sickness, cleaning, washing, disinfecting. I started thinking about the best way to use these last few weeks, and decided now would be a good time to update you on how well we managed summer expectations this year. (I assume you’ve all spent a good deal of your summers wondering about mine. No? Okay. I’m still forging ahead with this update.) You may recall that I had expectations going into the summer, and concerns that all would devolve into chaos. You can revisit that post here if you need a refresher – I’m not wasting space by pasting it in this post, so go ahead and commit the unrealistic schedule to memory before you pop back over. Got it memorized? Now, let’s see how reality looked. Most mornings...
I Did Not Meet Lily Tomlin

I Did Not Meet Lily Tomlin

In the summer of 2005 I was pregnant, but didn’t know it yet. I was in Minneapolis-St. Paul for a family wedding, and all I could think about was taking a nap. And then another nap. I assumed I was dying, though in the back of my mind I knew I could be growing a person. The Twin Cities were in the middle of a heat wave. Mark and I left hot, humid Houston, where the air conditioner was our best friend, for are-you-kidding-me-it’s-hotter Minnesota, where the air conditioners could not handle the heat. I take heat waves with me everywhere I go, by the way. I’ve melted snow in Denver, and suffered a sunburn in Seattle. If you’re looking to escape the Texas heat, you probably should not plan a trip with me. In between showering off the sweat and napping, I was on a mission. I heard that the cast of the upcoming A Prairie Home Companion movie was staying in our hotel. I was obsessed. I’m a huge Garrison Keillor fan, not to mention that the movie cast was worth a bit of stalking. If you aren’t familiar with the movie, go take a look at the cast. I mean. It’s a good one. I’d met Tommy Lee Jones before, and he did not buy me a drink or regale me with stories of his life and career, so I didn’t really care if I saw him again. But the rest of them? I wanted a look. And yes, I wanted them to buy me a drink (maybe a ginger ale, just in case it was a baby...
Move. Act. Love.

Move. Act. Love.

Lately, I feel raw, like my emotions are all sitting on top of my skin. A suit made of human emotions, if you will. (It puts the lotion in the basket, but with feelings rather than skin?) Joking aside, since I’m not feeling especially jokey at the moment, when this rawness comes over me I succumb to inertia. When this happens, I can’t decide if I want to watch the news or boycott it forever, read the Internets or shut off my wifi for eternity, scroll Facebook and Twitter or run the other way. We are bombarded with hate, and thanks to our constant connectivity it’s hard to avoid the vitriol. My natural inclination is to see the good in everyone. I automatically assume everyone I encounter is a decent human, and consequently, sometimes I’m shocked and dismayed to discover otherwise. I’m a bizarre-o combination of Pollyanna and a realist. I’m the first one to say, “That project is too big, we’ll never finish it.” I’m also the first one to say, “I bet that guy driving like a jerk is just having a terrible day. Maybe he’s on his way to an emergency at the hospital.” When I feel the rawness, however, I go beyond realist, straight to Eeyore territory. With the sting of tears constantly threatening behind my eyes, I feel defeated. Our world is full of hurt. It’s full of people who are angry, racist, and homophobic. It’s full of people committing acts of terror in the name of their beliefs. What are we supposed to do about this? What can we do? Anything? I feel...
Managing Summertime Expectations (Let’s Get Real)

Managing Summertime Expectations (Let’s Get Real)

Let’s talk summer. It’s my very favorite season… until about June 27 when my enthusiasm for being Super Summer Mom flags, my to-do list remains undone, and the thermometer hovers in the high nineties by mid-morning snack time. Summer quickly becomes my second-favorite season behind any season during which I have five minutes of quiet, thinking time to myself while not sweating. This is what I want summer to look like (a rough outline, since our educational activities will vary by day, of course): 8:00 – A healthy, no sugar breakfast, and pleasant conversation about our day. Breakfast is followed by a short educational enrichment task, just to keep our skills sharp and prepare for the upcoming year 9:00-Noon – Swim team, park time with optional nature observation, and a healthy, veggie-and-fruit-packed lunch (We spend hours at swim team due to practice schedules. It’s sort of crazy and I sort of love it.) 12:30 – Clean up from swim team, regroup, plan our afternoon activities 1:30 – Chores done happily and without incessant questioning or whining 2:00 – Fun time! Options include, but are not limited to, museums, community service, movies, swimming 5:00 – Quiet reading time, followed by electronics time 6:00 – Dinner, homemade and full of fresh, healthy ingredients, obviously 7:00 – Family fun time! Options include an evening walk or trip to the pool, or maybe a play date with friends. 9:00 – Bedtime, accomplished in an orderly manner with no reminders to brush teeth Not on the above list: My writing and exercise time from 5-8 a.m., a total snap for me since I am, by nature,...