Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Dearest Matt (on Our 8th Anniversary)

Matt and I have an anniversary tradition that involves one of us writing a letter and the other one planning an adventure. And then the next year we alternate. Neither of us is really gift people, and we already feel overwhelmed by the idea of buying each other two gifts a year (Christmas and birthdays) for the rest of our lives.

This year is my turn to write a letter.


My Love,

Another year is upon us. [insert content smile] It makes me happy to say that.

There is no other person with whom I would rather call my Life Partner. What a journey we are on! It hasn't been easy for us in recent years (and yet I am knocking on so much wood because it could be so much harder). I'm sorry that my job has been so consuming and that you have had to expand to fill the void my busy-ness creates in our lives. I am so grateful for your support as I undertake my life's work.

I hope our lives become more and more sustainable over time. We've made progress from the year before! And we continue to fill our days, weeks, months, and years with amazing memories as a family. We had so much fun heading to the Pacific Northwest during Fall Break. And then we went to Flagstaff for Spring Break. And of course there was the amazing San Juan Islands. And how could I forget our amazing get-away to Puerto Rico for a wedding? Divine.

Remember the Luminescent Bay? And Henry eating day-old fish out of a bag? And Tate's trip to the emergency room (and then again)? And the orcas? What a year. Oh, we also published a book! And you started your photography hobby!

I can't forget our Family Goals this past year. We went on road trips to Oklahoma and Dallas. We went to Lockhart (so.much.fried.food) and to the Bastrop 4th of July Pet Parade for the second year in a row (alpacas!). Oh, we also got a pig (Danger! Literally and figuratively).

Our life is so full of smiles and hugs (and naked boys--always, always naked). I am so grateful to share this adventure and this journey with you. You are a constant source of strength to me. You are my shoulder. You are there when I can't face the world. You tolerate my singer-songwriter aspirations (on repeat). You are such an amazing father to our boys. I couldn't imagine any of this with out you.

I look forward to another amazing year!

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Three Years-Old: Happy Birthday, Tate!

Tate's birthday is around the corner (July 1). We're having a simple birthday party at home. I'll serve basic snacks and then use the cake recipe from The Art of Simple Food to make a birthday cake with a big 3 in blueberries. I honestly don't think we'll do anything else in terms of games or favors. I think we'll just play in the backyard! 

Another part of our birthday rituals is to write Tate a letter about his year. We print it and put it into his scrapbook. Here's his letter for this year:

Dearest Tate,

What a year! I can't believe you are now three. This fall you will be entering Children's House. You are so ready! You love to work. You are always busy tying cords up, putting books and toys in a bag to carry around, stacking things up, etc.

You also love wrestling. You ask us to wrestle you quite frequently, and you can very quickly shift your weight and pin us all down.

You also love to sing songs. You make up a lot of your own lyrics. This year you've started talking so much. One day you said to me, "Mama, your pants are lovely." If we ask you, "Do you know how much I love you?" You say, "360 trucks, firetrucks, police cars, and airplanes."

Henry continues to be your very favorite. Danger the Pig is a close second. You also love, love, love your teachers at school and your friends. You also like reciting lists of people who love you.

You are an incredibly empathetic person. You readily notice how others are feeling and respond with concern and care.

You are really strong riding your balance bike, and right now you are learning how to swim. You love jumping into us over and over again. 

You don't really wear bathing suits when you swim in the backyard, and you hate wearing underwear. You say, "It's too hot." 

I guess that's what happens when you are "Born a Horn" and live in Central Texas! 

Tate, you bring so much to our family, and we are so lucky to get to live this life with you. Thank you for bringing so much light into the world! 

With love,

Your family

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

How to Create a Letter Writing Station

If you've been following my blog the past couple of months, you know I am completely swamped with work stuff and just trying to keep my head above water. (As a side note, I enjoyed reading this article, which included this quote: "We're expected to do our jobs as if we don't have children — and then raise our children as if we don't have jobs.")

But right before the big tsunami of work stuff hit, I had a period where I was actually able to attain some balance. During that [very brief] period, I cleaned out the drawers in my bedside table and created a letter writing station, so that I could easily get back into the habit of sending hand-written correspondence. 

Oh, how I used to be such a cool and interesting person before I had children! I used to write letters! And send quirky postcards! 

It will be quite a while before I can regain the glory of my old days, but I at least wanted to make it easier on myself to send an occasional hand-written correspondence. 

Our bedside tables are old filing cabinets (found on Craigslist) that Matt spray painted. They have two drawers and then a really deep drawer for hanging files. We went with this option so that we could easily hide away clutter. 

Once one of the drawers was cleaned out, I filled it with cards, postcards, and stationary. I also have a clipboard so I can write while sitting on my bed. I have a pen, my address stamper, and postage stamps. Everything I need is in one location! It's incredibly easy to complete the whole post-card writing process is less than five minutes. 

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Vacation Recap: San Juan Islands with Kids

Every year, we go on a vacation with our in-laws (Matt's mom, dad, and two brothers). This year we decided to go to the San Juan Islands off of Seattle. 

What a trip! 

We left Austin early on a Saturday morning, arrived in Seattle later that morning, met up with friends for lunch at a great restaurant, and then drove to catch the ferry at Anacortes. From there we took the ferry into Friday Harbor. 

It's a stunning part of the country. It seriously soothes my soul in ways that not all landscapes do (I'm not a huge fan of the desert or even the shrubby landscape that we have around Central Texas). 

Calm water + blue skies + refreshing air + tall green tress + mountains = Pure Happiness

We were there before the summer rush, so it was a very sleepy and calm town. So quaint! 

We talked with some locals on the ferry ride over and learned about Popeye the seal. She lives in the harbor by the seafood store. You can buy fish to feed her. What an amazing experience! 

We also rented kayaks to take around Roche Harbor. 

We hiked at American Park. 

We visited an alpaca farm. 

We took a day trip to Victoria, Canada. 

We went whale watching and spotted orcas! Seriously! 

My mother-and-law got massages at Afterglow Spa, and I highly, highly recommend Adam, the massage therapist. It was seriously the best massage of my entire life! 

On our way back, we spent the night in Seattle. We found a house on AirBnB that was close to the airport. 

A good time was had by all. Now we need a vacation from our vacation! 

P.S. If you want more live-action updates, feel free to follow me on Instagram @saracotner!

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Game of War

While we were on vacation outside of Seattle on San Juan Island, Henry and I started to play a game of War together. It has been a personal dream of mine to have children with whom to play board and card games. I love games! 

So far we've played Candy Land and some cooperative games like Hoot Owl Hoot. But it felt like a real turning point when we got to play a real game together. Hooray! My children are getting into elementary age, which is so much fun!

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Recap of Our Summer Adventures Thus Far

We've been sticking to our original plan: Adventure in the morning and play date in the afternoon. It's been so fun!

Here's a glimpse into what we've been doing.

 We went to the Rock-N'-River Aquatic Center in Round Rock. It was fun!

Then we went to the Dinosaur Park near Bastrop. Random but also fun! Then we found a restaurant inside a small-town library. Seriously. It was such an adventure! 

 We hung out at Bull Creek.
And we picked up a picnic lunch from Whole Foods and went to Deep Eddy pool. 

It was a fun week!  

I'll have two more days like this with my boys before I have to go back to work. Once I'm back at work, I'll try to get home by 4pm so we'll have the late afternoon to swim together. And then we'll still have our weekends together. Honestly, this is the perfect blend of work time and kid time for me. Each of us is different, and we have to find what works for us.

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Monday, June 13, 2016

Canning Pizza Sauce

I'm finally going to do it! I'm finally going to can something. 

I talked about it last year or the year before. But then life got in the way--per usual! 

I ordered this canning kit from Amazon and these jars. They are only one cup serving sizes because we don't need that much pizza sauce at once. I think the cup size will be the perfect amount. We eat easy homemade pizza once a week or once every other week. I simply smother pizza sauce on naan bread and add toppings like broccoli and mushrooms. #quickdinnersforworkingmoms

I found a recipe that does not require me to peel the tomatoes. I just couldn't bring myself to have to do that much work. #lazygirlcanning

Aside from the fact that this recipe will take a long time to cook (about 90 minutes), I don't think it's going to be too much work. Hopefully it's easy enough that I can do one batch at a time, as we harvest tomatoes out of the garden. I need to be sure to find an easy place to store the canning stuff (it all nests inside the big pot). There won't be a convenient spot in the kitchen--it would have to be stored up high and behind a lot of things. Maybe I'll store it in the bathroom closet for easier access!  

I'm finally getting closer to fulfilling the vision in Barbara Kingsolver's memoir about turning her home into a mini-farm--Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. By the way, Barbara apparently sent her children to Montessori school and had this to say about how it helped shift her parenting paradigm:
There’s something I have said so often to my children that now they chant it back to me: “You can do hard things.” I sent my kids to a Montessori preschool, and thank heavens I did, because most of what I learned about parenting came from those wonderful Montessori teachers.  They straightened me out about self-esteem.  There’s this myth that self-esteem comes from making everything easy for your children and making sure they never fail.  If they never encounter hardship or conflict, the logic goes, they’ll never feel bad about themselves. Well, that’s ridiculous.  That’s not even a human life.
Kids learn self-esteem from mastering difficult tasks.  It’s as simple as that. The Montessori teachers told me to put my two-year-old on a stool and give her the bread, give her the peanut butter, give her the knife — a blunt knife — and let her make that sandwich and get peanut butter all over the place, because when she’s done, she’ll feel like a million bucks.  I thought that was brilliant.  Raising children became mostly a matter of enabling them and standing back and watching.  When a task was difficult, that’s when I would tell them, “You can do hard things.”  Both of them have told me they still say to themselves, “I can do hard things.”  It helps them feel good about who they are, not just after they’ve finished, but while they’re engaged in the process.

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