Monday, March 24, 2014

Pictures!

Since I am so, so behind on keeping up with goings-on around here (I'm having to decide between blogging and sleep), I'm going to post a bunch of pictures from the past couple of months to record some of the highlights.

First off: It was a COLD winter for Austin.  Actually for most of the midwest and east, I think.  However, despite many below freezing days and nights, we really didn't get any snow.  We got a light dusting one night, but it really crusted over and was sort of just a thick crunchy frost that covered everything.  Still, the boys enjoyed getting out in it.







A few weeks later we got an ice storm.  Not as dramatic as the one 7 years ago when we first moved here, but enough to delay-start school and cancel seminary.  I went out to take a few pictures.  Nothing new for anyone in more northerly parts of the country, but definitely a novelty for Austin!



This is my favorite picture of the bunch-- here it is, spring time in Austin, and we get an ice storm!  What the heck?  Still, the ice-encrusted twig against the green grass background is really beautiful.



Brigham is my baker.  He loves to bake!  He makes pancakes or french toast nearly every morning.  One Sunday morning a couple of weeks back he made a blueberry smoothie, blueberry pancakes, blueberry muffins, AND a blueberry coffee cake.  Everything was eaten up by dinner time.



And speaking of baking, here is Mosey's cake entry for the Blue and Gold banquet this year.  It's a volcano apple cake, with raspberry jello "lava" inside, and topped with orange strawberry cream cheese frosting.

And here is Mosey taking part in the flag ceremony.  I love my little cub scout!


Another big thing this winter was the purchase of our cabin!  We own 50% of a cabin along the Colorado River, directly across the river from Colorado Bend state park.  We've gone a couple of times now, and we can tell it's going to be a favorite hang-out for our family.

The cabin came with a couple of kayaks, and we spent most of the day on the river.  Central Texas in March is pretty much paradise.  It was a gorgeous day.

Joseph spent most of the time fishing, but had no luck.  The drought is still pretty bad here, and the water in lake Buchanan, just a few miles downstream, is very low, making it difficult for the bass and catfish to run upstream for spawning the way they normally do this time of year.



Sandy LOVES the cabin.  I mean, she is in the ultimate doggy-heaven when she is there.  She did not want to come home.

We bought the cabin from the original builder, a native Texan who inserted his Texas patriotism into the decor.  Here we see a lone-star motif on the bathroom light fixture:


A Texas cowboy-boot toilet paper holder:

A Texas long horn pull on the kitchen trash bin:

Which is also liberally decorated with Texas lonestars:

 Since we are only 50% owners, we have to clean it every time we leave, which is probably a very good thing.  Brigham was a super-good helper.


Homeschool is going.  We have good days and bad days, days when I think I'm doing a good job, days when I think I should register my kids for public school tomorrow.  :-)
Here are Joseph and Mosey doing "schoolwork."  :-)





My little nephew sent us "Flat Stanley" for a tour of Austin.  Google the Flat Stanley project-- it is fun!  He hung out at home with us and we took him around to see the sights and take a few pictures.







When we sent him back, we gave him some new Texas clothes as well as some souvenirs from Austin.  I hope Luke's 1st grade class enjoyed it!


Austin has an In-n-Out!  I took the boys there a few weeks ago.  They thought it was definitely worth all the hype.




Joseph and Brigham also went to a Merit Badge "University" a few weeks ago down at UT.  They took classes on Geology, Nuclear Physics, Energy, and Veterinary medicine.  The classes only covered some of the requirements, so we took a couple of days and did a crash-course in the rest of them.  It was many, many hours of work.

Brigham working on his Isotopes poster:

Brigham and Joseph with the homemade cloud chamber they constructed:

And a closeup of them just because I have so few pictures of them together recently:

We went to the capitol building to try and get some "native" Texas rocks that they used to sell at the gift shop, but which they no longer carry.  Oh well.  It was a beautiful day at the Capitol anyway.



The most exciting thing recently was that Joseph broke his arm!  Poor kid.  He fell off his skateboard and broke both bones right above his left wrist.  He finally got a cast (after 10 days! and two $45 orthopedist visits...), but he still won't be able to play his Debussy (Claire de Lune) for the recital...  I'm not sure if he's most relieved or most disappointed about that.  :-)

Well, those are all the pictures I have from the past few weeks, so I will end there.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Happy Birthday to my dad!

My dad is 65 years old today.  Happy Birthday!
The boys and Ben and I played a special rendition of the Happy Birthday song and emailed it to my dad.  Nothing fancy, but not bad for 10 minutes of practice.  :-)

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Finally! Sunshine!

This has been the weirdest winter in Austin since we've moved here.  I'm used to some pretty big fluctuations in temperature during the winter (I like it, actually, you never get bored!), but this has been ridiculous.  The schools have had 3 "snow" days (during which it has not actually snowed, but has gotten down to significantly below freezing), two of them this last week!  Made for a nice, easy week of teaching seminary, but I am 100% OVER the cold.  And yes, I realize I am 100% WIMP when it comes to cold weather.  I won't apologize for that.  There's a reason we moved to Texas!
But, this morning the sun has come out!  It is supposed to break 60!  Tomorrow will be in the 70's!  Hallelujah!  (Of course next week another cold front is supposed to come through, with highs in the 30's on Wednesday.)
Poor Christian, coming here expecting to leave the cold dreary winter well behind him in Provo.  Austin, you are not showing your best!
Speaking of Austin not showing it's best, here's a sad story.  Well, not too sad, but still.  The Friday after Christian got here, I went out to the garage to leave to get my hair cut, only to find that one of my back tires was utterly flat.  Luckily Ben was working from home, so Christian was able to drive me out to my appointment (I can't drive Ben's car because it doesn't have hand controls).  We were driving underneath I-35 out in Pflugerville, trying to turn left.  There is a double left-turn lane there and we were in the right-hand one, but Christian, this being literally the first time he has ever driven in Texas, didn't know this, and for a second thought he needed to move over to make the left turn.  So he moved ever-so-slightly to the left, perhaps our tires barely went over the line, before he realized he didn't need to move over, so he eased back across the line into our lane.  Apparently the big black Texas pickup truck behind us took great offense at this action, and started laying on his horn.  I have no idea why-- maybe he thought we were changing lanes and started accelerating to take our place, and then had to brake when we moved back over?  Possibly, but if so, he was driving recklessly because we had BARELY crossed the lane line.  Anyway he honked for a solid 10 seconds (which is a very, very long time when you really think about it), after which he moved into the left lane, slowed down, and sat RIGHT NEXT TO US as we drove down the road.  Christian and I were both looking straight ahead, refusing to acknowledge this jerk.  But we actually did need to move into the left lane to make a turn at the next light, so Christian slowed down enough to make the pickup truck move ahead of us, and then changed lanes.  I was about to warn Christian, but before I had the chance, sure enough, the guy slammed on his brakes, causing Christian to have to slam on his to avoid crashing.  What a piece of work!  But again, we refused to respond, and finally were able to get out from behind him as we moved into the left turn lane to make our turn.  As the guy went through the light ahead of us, he put his hand out the window and flipped us off until we couldn't see him anymore.
What the heck??!!
I kept apologizing to Christian the whole time, telling him this was NOT normal Texas driving!  I've found drivers here to be very polite compared to most other places I've lived here.  Texans in general are the most friendly people I've ever lived around (including Utah!).  This was so far out of the ordinary; I was truly appalled.  What are the chances that the VERY FIRST TIME Christian ever drives in Texas, he'll run across this piece of work?
But as we talked about it, I began to feel really sorry for this person.  This guy must have a really miserable life if something like an honest, simple, harmless driving error, something all of us have done many times, and which resulted in no harm whatsoever, could make him utterly lose it.  What kind of rage must he have in his heart all the time if this situation resulted in such an extreme overreaction?  Man, oh, man.  Welcome to Texas!

Monday, February 03, 2014

02/03/2014

I can't believe it's already February.  Slow down, time!
I keep meaning to update my blog, but then too many things happen and then I feel like I need to update on all of it, and I don't have the time right then, so I put it off and I never do have more time, etc., etc., forever.  :-)
But here's a couple of updates:
Mosey turned TEN!!  Yikes.  How can I have 3 preteens?!  He had a fun birthday, and then a fun birthday party the next day.  I invited people via email the day before, that's how I do things around here.  :-)  They shot our blowdart gun, shot some arrows with our bow and arrow and makeshift
So Christian has been with us for about 2 weeks.  It is fun having him around!  He will be here for at least the semester, taking a break from school, Provo winters, and hopefully helping me out at home and perhaps doing some work for Ben.  It's great.  So far, he's been doing my dishes and vacuuming floors and helping the boys with their schoolwork.  I think it's really fun for them to have an uncle around-- he's more like an older brother, really.
I'm hoping while he's here I'll be able to figure out how to get things done a little quicker around here so I can do things like post on my blog more often!  :-)
Joseph decided definitely to do homeschool after a week at public school.  It took too many hours out of his day, and he  missed his mom too much.  Just kidding on that last part.  :-)
We ARE buying the cabin I mentioned in my last family letter!  We got a couple of other people to go in on it with us and we will close at the end of February.  After mulling it over for several days and going back and forth about it, Ben and I are both really excited.  I hope it will be the location for lots of great family memories.
Weather around here has been CRAZY.  I guess most of the USA has had a crazy winter.  It's been the coldest I can remember around here.  But in typical Austin fashion, it gets cold, then warm, then cold again.  You never have time to get bored.  :-)  A week ago Sunday it was 76 degrees.  Then on Tuesday a huge cold front blew in and we had ICE.  The highs barely broke freezing that day.  The boys were so bummed out that it didn't snow.  Well, it sort of snowed, but then it iced and it mostly was just a crust of icy snow that lasted a few hours.  And then by Friday it was in the 70's again for the weekend, until Sunday when ANOTHER cold front blew in and the high was 39.  I wonder of anywhere else in the country has had quite the temperature extremes that we have had?
That's it for tonight.  One of these days I'm going to post about CHRISTMAS.  6 weeks too late.  Oh well, that's the way things go right now.  :-)

01/19/2014 family letter

Hi Family,
Wow, two weeks in a row I'm managing a family letter!  It's only because tomorrow is a day off and I don't have seminary.  :-)
Here's what happened this week:
1.  Joseph went to Canyon Vista this week.  He woke up EARLY Monday morning (first time in forever I haven't had to get him up on a school day) and was ready to go even before I got up.  He had a pretty good week, but is pretty sure he doesn't want to go back.  I am trying hard to convince him to go for 4 more days and finish out 2 weeks at the school, but he's pretty adamant that he doesn't want to go back.  His main complaint was that it takes too long.  He doesn't get home until 4:00, and then still has practicing and homework to do, while his brothers are all done.  This is just a fact about going to school, and one that can't be changed, unfortunately.  He didn't give me huge amounts of feedback on what happened each day, but I gather that math was way too easy.  They put him in the accelerated 7th grade math, which is pre-algebra.  He couldn't get into the gifted and talented 7th grade algebra, because he would have had to have tested into it on the STAAR exam last year.  The last couple of days of math, his teacher had him taking the 8th grade STAAR exam from last year to see if they could put him in the 8th grade algebra class.  I think it was great for Joseph to see that yes, indeed, he IS smart at math.  :-)  He liked his science class and liked his history teacher, and didn't really like his English class.  He liked P.E., but didn't really enjoy his band classes.  The piano keyboard he was playing for jazz band was really horrible, so that might have contributed to it.  In the regular band I think it was a little hard for him to jump in the middle of music he didn't know, playing in an ensemble for the very first time.
So, we'll see what he decides to do Tuesday morning.  I have mixed feelings now, as I did when he enrolled.  Part of me is glad that he thinks maybe homeschooling isn't so bad.  :-)  But part of me is really disappointed as well, since I honestly was hoping he would love it and would be excited about school.  But it's very possible this will mark a turning point for him and for me, and we'll figure out a way to make school work better for everyone.
2.  As a result of Joseph going to Canyon Vista, school here at home with only two boys was considerably simpler.  :-)  I have not the slightest idea how moms with multiple children in multiple grades manage homeschooling without going completely crazy.
3.  We had a seminary inservice yesterday morning from 9-12.  It was great, and served to make me feel even more insecure about my teaching.  :-)  I am so excited to have Christian coming this week.  I want him to sub for a few classes so I can see how he does it!  And I have plans for him to be called as an assistant seminary teacher while he's here.  I did get a few ideas-- I'm going to have one day a week in which I split the lesson up among groups of students, and have them teach the lesson entirely.  I'm going to try to incorporate more of the videos (haven't really used many of them at all), and try at least once a week to really mix things up with a totally different kind of class-- acting things out, drawing comic strips, whatever.  I was able to share the scripture mastery mnemonics that I've done (I have 5 left to do).  They are really way too much work for only my class.  :-)
4.  Tomorrow morning we are driving out to Lampasas to look at a little cabin (very little-- less than 1,000 sq ft) on 5 acres of land right on the Colorado River (the Texas Colorado) and across the river from the Colorado Bend State park.  It looks great online, and could be such a great place to drive out to every few weekends and for scout campouts and family reunions.  There are a couple of other people from Ben's work that are also interested, and if we do a 2 or 3 ways purchase, it's very affordable.  I'm excited!  It's just a couple of miles away from Gorman Falls and Spicewood Springs.  Since we will be losing our forest next door sometime in the next year or so, something like this would go a long way in assuaging the pain.  :-)  But we really don't know what it is like-- maybe it won't be at all what we are envisioning.  I'll report back!
5.  I just finished reading/listening to a book called "Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage." It is about "the astonishing saga of polar explorer Ernest Shackleton's survival for over a year on the ice-bound Antarctic seas."  (Thank you Amazon book summary.)  It is a great book that I recommend to everyone!  But I admit it depressed me about the state of modern literary ability (especially my own).  Much of the book was quotations from the diaries of several of the expedition members.  These were no scholars but explorers and sailors.  And yet, first of all, several of them kept regular personal diaries in the first place, and second of all, the prose they used in these hastily-scrawled entries written amidst the most extreme physical conditions imaginable is of such a higher quality than absolutely anything you would find written by average people today.  What has happened to us?
6.  Christian is coming on Tuesday!!  I'm so excited.
OK, that's it for tonight.  I hope everyone has a wonderful week.

Love,
Gabrielle

Monday, January 13, 2014

01/12/14 letter

Hi family,
There have been a number of semi-notable things that have happened in the past few weeks.  I never seem to have the energy to write about on my blog, so here they are in no particular order:

Stop the Condos:  After a few months of many meetings and thousands of emails and much more time than we anticipated, things seem to be resolving in a fairly acceptable manner.  To recap, the 6 acre parcel of land next to our house was purchased by a developer who then applied to rezone it for condos.  This was not acceptable to us nor to the rest of our neighborhood.  We got hundreds of signatures to protest the rezoning, and after several weeks and lots of agonizing, the developer has requested an indefinite postponement for the rezoning, and is now planning on building 15 homes on the property.  Much better than the 70 condos that the rezoning would have allowed, that is for sure!  But still so sad to lose that wonderful wild property next to us.  It will likely be at least a year before any building begins, however, so we will enjoy it while we can.  We may have the opportunity to buy some land right next to our house.  We will see.  It's been very interesting to see how this whole process works.  We have learned a lot, been mightily disgusted with Austin City Council, and have had the opportunity to get to know many of our neighbors which has been a very good thing.  We are glad that this big project seems to be drawing to a close.

Sola:  Our wonderful kitty Sola disappeared a couple of weeks before Christmas.  This has been such a sad thing.  Of our two cats, Sola was the more affectionate and sociable-- really a special pet.  I guess that is the big downside of living next to undeveloped land-- there are coyotes and hawks and other wildlife that pose a threat to neighborhood pets.  I admit to shedding many tears over this, along with all the kids.  We were at our ward's Christmas dinner when Mosey asked, "Why does the Friend always have stories about people who say a prayer and then get what they prayed for?  That doesn't happen all the time."  Oh, my heart just ached for him.  I tried to answer as best I could, but he ended up crying, then Brigham started crying, then I started crying, and so our whole family decided it was best to get up and go home rather than make a spectacle of ourselves at the Christmas party.  I ask myself yet again why we allow our hearts to be so vulnerable with these furry creatures that even under the best of circumstances will die long before we do.  But we do.  Mosey has really suffered.  Sola was his special pet.

Rain:  The day after Sola disappeared, I knew the chances of her coming back were very slim.  I applied to be a foster family for Pets Alive, a no-kill animal shelter here in Austin.  I knew that Mosey would need some place to direct his love, and the very next day we went down to the shelter to pick up Rain, a 5 month old kitten who had recently become very ill.  We needed to syringe-feed her 3 times a day and give her medicine twice a day.  She is doing much better now and is eating on her own.  She'll be on medicine a few more weeks and then will be eligible for adoption.  She is a sweet cat, laying on my lap as I type.  She's mostly attached to me, and since she has been sick, is not the fun frisky kitten that Sola and Luna were at her age.  I think when she is adopted out we will foster some more kittens (not sick ones-- too time consuming!), and maybe if we come across one who is particularly special we will adopt another one to keep Luna company.  Luna has done well in accepting this new cat, after a couple of days.  But she doesn't play fight and frolic with her like she did with Sola.  :-(

Joseph:  Joseph has had a hard time with homeschooling this year.  Lots of reasons for this, but the upshot is that Joseph is going to try out public school for a little while.  Ben took him to the middle school on Friday, hoping for a tour.  But they don't offer tours to non-students, so we ended up enrolling Joseph right then.  It happened pretty fast, but we've been talking about it for several weeks, and I was pretty sure we would end up going this route at least for a while.  I was impressed with the school-- I took Joseph back on Friday afternoon to try out for the band.  The band director is really wonderful.  He really, really wants Joseph to play the piano for the jazz band, as well as playing flute in the regular band (Canyon Vista actually has 3 bands plus a jazz band!).  I have many mixed emotions about this, but the truth is that I have always said we will keep homeschooling as long as it is working, and it just isn't working that well for Joseph right now.  And there is a reason we live in the neighborhood we do, paying much, much more for our home than if we lived half a mile away.  And that is because of the school boundaries.  Canyon Vista is one of the top-ranked middle schools in Texas.  It was important to us to live in these boundaries for this exact scenario, and I'm really glad we have such a good alternative.  I think that this could be a really great thing for Joseph.  We've told him he can try it out for a week.  If he knows for sure it isn't for him, fine, we will withdraw him again.  Otherwise he needs to commit to go for the rest of the school year.  I think he is excited.

Mosey:  Mosey turned 10 on Friday!  He had done some schoolwork over vacation so he could have the day off of school.  He got to pick his birthday cereal-- Captain Crunch Berries, and he opened one of his presents right there at breakfast-- a pair of walkeroo stilts.  These are fun!  It took him a while to get the hang of it, and he's still figuring them out, but they've been lots of fun.  Joseph and Brigham have enjoyed playing with them too.  In the evening he wanted pizza and a Harry Potter movie, and he got a couple of other presents-- a hexbug spider and a game called Spot It.  We decided at the last minute to have a party, so I sent out some emails on Friday morning and on Saturday we had a party here at our house.  The boys did archery, blow-dart shooting, and airsoft shooting, culminating with a battle that Ben and Joseph and Brigham joined.  A couple of the boys had never played before, and I think they had a great time.  More friends to invite to our Friday afternoon airsoft wars!

OK, that's all I've got on my list for tonight.  I hope everyone has a wonderful week.

Love,
Gabrielle

Happy 10th Birthday Mosey! (3 days late)