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Screen Time Out.

We like TV. I won’t pretend that we don’t. You know my affinity for some of the trash on TLC, it’s my guilty pleasure when I want to zone out and relax in bed after the billion things in my day.

We’re also a working family on a tight schedule. By the time we get home it’s close to 5:30 (if we didn’t make a quick trip to the grocery store) and the kids want dinner and all so I’ve got to get some form of food on their plates.  Feed the dogs, Ava usually has some dishes to unload, I throw some dishes in the dishwasher, stuff stuff stuff.

Luckily Ava has a fantastic after school program that includes an hour of time for them to do homework and have learning time.  Most of the time that means that when she gets home, so there’s no homework time required. Mostly, but not always. We always review the assignments and papers sent home for the day.

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This leaves us a small window before bedtime. Allie goes to bed at 7:30, Ava’s bedtime is 8:00. Kids need sleep!

TV is one of those topics that many people are pretty opinionated about.  Many people ban it during the week, or like us they allow it but maybe on a modified schedule.

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I don’t think tv is a bad thing.  I always watch the shows with Ava’s watching so I know what the topics are.  Recently on Austin and Ally the topic was bullying.  On Dog with a Blog (I know–it really is a dog with a blog) the topic was about the main character who wanted a social media account because all her friends had one but her parents wouldn’t let her.  I really appreciated those topics and was glad that we could talk about them.

I don’t mind that the girls get to unwind a little watching tv while they have dinner together.  Often we don’t get to eat with them because it’s too early for us but we always sit and chat with them about their days.  Each gets to watch one show.  Sometimes they don’t even get that if we get home late from dance class, errands or because there’s homework to get done.

Regardless, come 7:00 we have SCREEN OUT. There is no tv, there are no iPads, iPods, iPhones. NOTHING. No computers. No technology.  There’s coloring, reading, playing. Anything but screens in faces.

At first Ava balked. She hated it. The cries of how unfair it was! But now it’s a regular thing and I announce screen out and off she heads to start shower and get ready for 7:30 mandatory read time.  Yup, we have mandatory 30 minutes of reading time before bed. School requires 10, we require 30.

But screen time out is a good thing. So we don’t just do it at night.  When are other times we have screen time out?

  • On weekends–we have mandatory breaks throughout the day (when we aren’t doing other things or going out and about). There’s nothing wrong with tv, but I also don’t want them watching it for 6 hours straight.
  • When Ava goes on restriction. Let’s be real. Sending a kid to his/her room isn’t really a punishment. Unless the bedroom is a hole with nothing in it, that’s not really the hard life. Ava sits playing with her Barbies or Legos. What really hurts is taking TV or iPad away.   We have her get chores done, then she can get her creative juices flowing, whether that’s reading, drawing, coloring, she has to find an alternative.

It may sound loose, it may not.  But this works for us.  To each his own, right?

What do you have going on?

School So Far

So far…

Allie has moved up to a new 3 year old class with new friends and new teachers. It didn’t faze her one bit, but I was the one that was sad that she was leaving her little 4 pack of buddies. I’m rational and told myself that they’d to meet up together on the playground, but still. We definitely miss the comfortable place with the old teachers and the old classroom, but you can’t be in the same place forever or you’ll grow moss, right? I should’ve known she’d be fine.  She loves going to school and looks forward to seeing her teachers.

Allie’s already learning a few letters which is absolutely awesome and exciting to me!! She’s tracing letters with her fingers whenever she sees them and she’s sounding them out. Right now we’re on letter “C” so there’s a long way to go to get to “Z”, but I can definitely see that she’s going places.

I love that they’ve got computers in her class. They even have Spanish class (even if it’s just 30 minutes a week). The fun thing is she sometimes watches me drive up and is waiting for me at the door with her day’s work in hand.

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~~~TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, read STANDARDIZED TESTING) is up on us. This is the first year Ava is taking these tests. At back to school night we learned that all of the cool stuff they’re working on is gearing for TEKS. At least it won’t be boring. I get it, I do. There has to be a way to test kids to ensure they’re all learning, regardless of school. But it’s rough.

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Ava had some word problems (TEKS style) the other day and I will absolutely admit that we were stumped.  As adults, we read things literally. At school, she got taught something different. Regardless, it was a lesson that everyone had a hard time with we weren’t the only ones.

I imagine that somewhere in the back of their little heads, they feel the pressure. Before school started, we were talking about what she was excited about and expectations, and one of her fears (besides math) was testing. How she even knew about it is beyond me. But she did.

~~~She’s currently moving on up in ballet but she took last semester off so we’re still “figuring stuff out” as far as whether she’ll be able to stay in that class. She’s a little behind but there’s nowhere for her to go since she’s aged out of the last class. It’s a little frustrating to say the least, but I guess there’s always private classes for her to catch up. We’ll see how this plays out. Guess I’ll just be the squeaky wheel everywhere I go. Helicopter anyone?

~~~Now for the fun stuff.  Ava made choir at school. HOORAY!! She was so pumped. It’s been her “dream” to be in choir since she started school. She’s so excited for her first concert in November.   We’re also planning a museum/historic monument trip. Living in Austin we have a ton of options.  I think we might finally visit the Texas Memorial Museum and check out some dinosaurs.

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As for me, I’ll be visiting the Harry Ransom Center at University of Texas where they have a “Making of Gone with the Wind” exhibit. I can’t wait to wander and take it all in. My mom adored Scarlett and would have loved going to this exhibit. The exhibit will even feature Scarlett’s famous “green” dress (apparently it’s more of an olive color) on display.

I love the movie–even if it is a far departure from the book (this exhibit talks about the reasons for that). I read my mom’s worn copy of the book cover to cover and will probably read it again, and I’ve started the so-called sequel, “Scarlett.”

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 Anyway, how’s school going for y’all? Tell me we aren’t alone.

Meadow Saturnglow

I picked Ava up after school and she proudly showed me her new smile and tooth-filled baggie.  She finally wiggled out her loose tooth and that meant one thing…dun dun dunnnnnnn–the tooth fairy (TF) would be making an unplanned visit to our home that evening.

Luckily I had cash in my purse, no additional work required. Other than remembering to actually hide the fiver under her pillow. Score! 

But no. The pressure was on after Ava told me that her bff left a note asking for her tooth fairy’s name and got one back with something cool and not only that, she got PIXIE DUST.

A name AND pixie dust?

Now the $5 in my purse seemed exceedingly inadequate. Jess was going to be making a late night trip to HEB (the grocery store) once the girls were in bed. So my story begins.

First things first–the pixie dust. HEB is awesome. School supplies for glitter? Check.  Then off to floral where they had this awesome tiny jar with bent metal on it that looks just like…pixie wings! The whole store probably heard my excitement when I found it. DONE. For good measure, picked up a crisp $5 to replace my crumpled one.

On to her name. I am not creative enough to come up with a cool name for a tooth fairy.  Off to the almighty Google.  First site up on the search results lead me HERE, and Meadow Saturnglow was born.  I took a few flowery details from the site and winged it by incorporating some of the things Ava and I had wondered about that afternoon–does each family gets their own tooth fairy; where does she live; is she a queen? It took me at least 30 minutes to sit there and try to print out that fancy cursive-ish, but I knew she’d love it.

Pixie Dust and Notes from the Tooth Fairy Pixie Dust and Notes from the Tooth Fairy

When I snuck up to leave the goodies for her, I found a tiny wrapped gift for the tooth fairy. I couldn’t bring myself to unwrap it, so I just taped her tooth to it and stuck it in a hiding spot. This part is as wonderful as Christmas morning. It makes your heart grow 10 sizes and you realize why you jump through all the hoops for your babies.

Ava woke up that morning and was beyond happy. She studied her note and reread and reread it. She was so pleased with herself because she KNEW she was right about the tooth fairy being a queen and living in the clouds.

And there you have it, folks. That is the story of how Meadow, our family tooth fairy came to be. She will belong to my girls forever and living in the cloud as the queen with her rose petal skirt and pale pink wings.

It’ll be a sad sad day when I can’t get to do these missions for these girls anymore. I hope they keep their little hearts believing for a long, long time.

Ms. Jess

Ava started going to religious education (to me that’s a fancy way of saying “catechism”) two years ago. I used to sit in her class with her weekly so the next year, I figured, why not make myself useful? I signed up as a helper.

That went well and a few times I was a pinch hitter and filled in when the lead teacher was out of town or couldn’t make it to class. She put together the curriculum and basically we worked directly out of the teacher’s edition.

Then she left and I decided, sure why not? I can teach. By myself. As a lead. I know. Me and my ideas.

And that’s how Ms. Jess the Kinder catechism teacher was born.

The first week was a hot mess. At least I thought so. This week though, I gotta say it was pretty awesome. I spent a ton of time on Pinterest trying to figure out what I wanted to do that would be fun for the kids and eat some time. A spent bit of time on Saturday cutting and pasting and getting ready for class. This is what I came up with.

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I was pretty proud of myself because my kids thought it was awesome. Hearing them say it was cool was even better.

It got me thinking though that my wee bit of teaching for an hour on Sunday is nothing compared to what teachers do for our kids all week. The time they put in. The money. People think teaching is the best gig because teachers “work 9 months a year and get to go home at 3:30.” Yeah no.

I remember my mom spending tons of time prepping. I remember her setting up her class (and I remember having to break it down when she moved classes and had to quit teaching). I remember when she was student teaching my dad, brother and I went to her pre-k classroom and decked it out in a Hawaiian theme. Why I remember that, I have no clue. I just know that we were there at night and using stuff she had bought to work on the project.

Teachers don’t make big bucks either. But the amount of money they put in is a lot. Ava’s teacher bought a bunch of extra supplies for kids that may not have everything covered. They buy prizes, incentives, decorations, workbooks. You name it, they make sure they have it.  The majority of Ava and Allie’s library came from my mom’s classroom.

Anyway, the point of this is: thank your kid’s teacher. Often. Every now and again ask if there’s anything they need for the classroom and offer to send it in.

Send in a “hey you’re awesome gift” every once in a while–nothing fancy, maybe just a coffee thermos and some Starbucks Via instant packets.  Maybe just a bunch of flowers from the grocery store or a pastry for breakfast.  It doesn’t have to be expensive, even a note from you or your kid just saying how much you appreciate the work they do.

Volunteer at school if you can.  Any time you can donate helps to offset time they could be using for something else, even office staff.

Just know, teaching is far from a 9-3 job.

Football!

I went to a small high school for students wanting to pursue a career in the medical field. I am clearly not a doctor. Not sure what happened there, but it was a great school so it worked out, and I learned a few things along the way. And I know how to take blood pressure.

Since we were so small, we shared our campus with another high school and piggy-backed extracurriculars. I was a flag girl in band, did a brief stint on the tennis team (yikes), and I played on the golf team.

Some parents went to football games, but I can honestly say I don’t remember a ton being there. But in high school, you’re focus is far from parents in the stands, duh. My parents went to my games to watch me on the field,  but I don’t think a lot parents did that. Thanks mom and dad. There were no band boosters making fancy buttons with ribbons saying “My kid is in the Band” or shirts saying “Cheer Mom.”  It wasn’t like that.

Last weekend we went to a small “hometown” high school football game.

Parents were everywhere. There were all types of sassy “My kid is a Dancer and I’m just as Hot” shirts (I made that up, but you get the gist). 

There was the band, the cheer squad and the ginormous dance team. A 50 member dance troop. I’d never seen such a thing until college. These girls were made up like dolls and pulled out the makeup just before halftime to make sure they stayed that way. Allie tried to copy their cheers from the stands.

Everyone was so proud of their team, their kids. They had a fight song with words! My cousins went to that high school and sang along with hooked pinkies. I had never seen a fight song till we visited my sister in law at Texas A&M (THAT was cool).

It was so much fun. The girls had a blast and so did we.

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Of course, college football is in full effect. I’m sporting my SMU Mustangs t-shirt today. I love working at an office where I can dress like this. I have to buck the system and wear something that isn’t burnt orange around here. Last week it was my blue and green in prep of the Notre Dame v. Michigan game (last game of the historic series).

Don’t ask me who SMU plays this weekend, because I have no clue without looking it up, plus they’ll probably lose anyway.  Truth.  I do know that June Jones (their former head football coach) has resigned so maybe now their interim head football coach can give them a better shot at scoring at least a few points and not being outscored 88 points in 2 games.  To be fair, one game was against Baylor who is a top ranked team.  Poor ponies.

Another confession? I never went to a SMU football game during my 3 years of law school.  Um…or the 4 years that I lived in Dallas after that.

I can tell you that Notre Dame plays Purdue tomorrow and that they SHUT OUT Michigan last weekend. Sorry Andrea. Good job Michigan for giving it the good old college try.

If the atmosphere was awesome at this little high school football game, I can’t even wait to see what the stadium is gonna be like at Notre Dame when we head up there. All I know is we’ll be looking to Touchdown Jesus and praying to Our Lady of Victory that weekend!

 

*Disclaimer: I do not actually know much about football. Without instant replay, I’d be in trouble. I have to pay really close attention and know just a few things: horse collar, false start, delay of game. Yeah still learning. I know just enough to make it sound like I know something. But I’m learning! Might as well be able to do something besides go to a game just to eat nachos and eat candy.

Fall Bug

As of August 25 or something, Starbucks sent out an announcement that made pumpkin (and fall) lovers everywhere squeal with delight.

Despite their attempt at being cute by saying “Ehrmergourd” in their email (just no), and the attempt at making you feel like you were in a top secret club by giving the top secret “code” to get the barista to share the goods (they’d probably laugh), fall officially arrived in the Starbucks loving suburban world.

It’s here. The PSL. Pumpkin. Spice. Latte.

But then there was that one blogger who tried to poo all over it by saying *GASP* there’s no pumpkin in this latte! Um, ok, you’re surprised? And food coloring, bad chemicals, the usual. Words words words.

Regardless, I had my first PSL of the season on Saturday (8/30) and I have no shame in saying it. It was damn good, too. Picture it: sipping a latte, pjs, cinnamon rolls, and College Gameday. Yessssssss. That’s the picture of fall.

IMG_0136I’m pretty sure I’m having J climb up into the attic this weekend to bring down my fall box(es). Last year I wasn’t in the zone and I didn’t get a single thing put up. Nope, not this year. It’s on. Maybe I’ll even decorate the office. Might as well pretty up the place I’m holed up for 8 hours a day.

Crank the OneRepublic, pour the PSL and add in the perfect decor and it’s like my office will be a cozy little nook of productivity or something. *heh*

Maybe I’ll even craft up one of these babies, because I’ve come back to the world of Pinterest. Exhausting days at work require mindless zone out time in the evening. One can’t watch Gypsy Sisters every night, you know.

Minus the initial, of course, because I’m weird about that stuff.

The ballet semester is starting up again. Both of the girls are ready to get back to class.

There is college football to be watched. High school football games to attend.

Most importantly and most exciting for us, we’ve got a Notre Dame football game ahead of us. IN SOUTH BEND. Ahhhhhh!!!! Cam McDaniel (Texas boy) and Coach Brian Kelly. Eeeeek!

So yeah, I’ve got the fall bug. If you see a girl in jeans and a scarf, it’s me. Because my office is 60 degrees. Yeah, that’s it.

First Monday

The first day of school brings grand ideas of fresh baked banana muffins for breakfast (we did have those) as we get ready to walk out the door early to avoid the back to school crowds so that we can settle in to the new desk and visit with friends in the hallways.

But there’s the sleepyhead toddler getting used to first day of the new school year’s wake up call.

And then. And then. And then.

You get to school where all the rest of the neighborhood is walking in their kids so you have to park nearly a quarter mile from school (or close to it) in makeup and work clothes with a 30 lb weight on your side. It’s steamy in Texas. There was sweat.  Thank goodness for air conditioning.

Drop off is a success. First day of school picture is taken.

Then on the way back, a kid escaping from school- or something- runs you down (the whole back of your leg) with his bike. Literally. He doesn’t stain your pants at least. Phew.

But then traffic is great-especially for the first day of school. And a Monday.

And you come in to find something that leaves you with a smile. The elusive Jess coke that you’ve been chasing all over with a happy note to start the day. It’s the little things that bring the happy.

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Week in Review

The week is done and tomorrow starts third grade for Ava. Allie’s new year doesn’t start till next week.

Last week was a short one. I had a day of work then we went on a mini vacay after lots of procrastinating and lots of indecisiveness about where we would end up. Literally a few days before we left, and two reservations in two cities later, we finally figured it out.

Houston.

More on that later I’m tired and as expected, it was only mildly relaxing in the evenings but the kids had a blast, so that’s what matters.

1) Gypsy Sisters is back. It’s an embarrassingly trashy show (super bad) on TLC. Love that show. Sometimes you just need to indulge. Even if it’s in 5 minute spurts when no one is around.

2) So is Dallas! I know this sounds like I’m a couch potato, but really these are the only two shows that are worth my time on the DVR. But seriously, DALLAS. John Ross. Christopher. Sue Ellen!

3) Manziel got fined for his incredibly immature and unsportsmanlike move against the Redskins. In case you didn’t catch it before they censored it, he flipped them off. Winner. Then he got sacked by Michael Sam (Chargers) who then did Manziel’s signature “money fingers”. Ha! Two wrongs don’t make a right, but that dude is just a tool.

4) OneRepublic. We saw them last night at Circuit of the Americas. (Date night!)

IMG_0130Holy. Krrrrrrrraaaaap. Oh. My. Gooooosssshhh. Seriously. If that’s not enough to express my amazement of how awesome they were in concert? I think I have … Downgraded John Mayer. Gasp!!! At least for concert. He’s still a song writing and guitar playing genius.

Seriously. Two songs in and I had already dubbed it best concert ever. The cello, piano, the violin. Mind blowing. It was all so gorgeous. Ryan Tedder (lead) has a voice like nothing else. The entire band just all sang so well in harmony and they all sound amazing. They need a live album like yesterday.

“Counting Stars” was as awesome as you could imagine. Even better? When the song was winding down, Ryan ran RIGHT next to us as he headed up the stairs to the upper level. Whoooooa there was even more screaming than there already was. I gave the teen girl next to me a run for her money.

Allie and I have jammed to this song in the car no less than 15 times. Not even kidding. And we’ve only been in the car twice. She has been requesting “Baby” since I played it this morning. It’s a “happy” song. She’s my music buddy.

If they come to your city, GO.

Christina Perri opened and she was fantastic! It blew me away what a strong voice came out of a tiny person. And yes, she has a lot of upbeat songs and we heard more than “Jar of Hearts.”

Me + live music = super happy. Totally good way to kick off the week.

Needless to say, this day before the new year has been the epitome of lazy relaxation. Just what we needed.

34.

Another year has come and gone. I’m now 34.  Yup, my birthday was last Tuesday. I generally like to go under the radar for birthdays.

I got my driver’s license renewed and already got it back in the mail. The picture is fine enough but it looks like a selfie because they couldn’t get the lighting to DPS specifications and kept making me move closer. Dear officer, I promise it’s not a fake.

I’m one year closer to the 40th birthday bash I decided I’m throwing myself at Disney World. No kids allowed.  Or something, at least that’s what’s in my head for now. Maybe I’ll grow up and pick someplace grown ups go. Or not. In true Jess fashion I’ll park hop and hit downtown Disney. Yay!

But seriously.

For me, birthdays have never been about parties. Well, except for the awesome quinceañera I had when I turned 15. That’s a huge deal when you’re in high school. My parents were awesome enough to throw me one.

As I’ve gotten older I think birthdays have become less and less about making a big to do.

Birthdays are a chance to stop and think about all the blessings in life. To look around you at the people and places in your life and be grateful.

They’re a chance for you to look to your parents and say THANKS.

They’re a chance for my girls to get to celebrate me, and I love the homemade and hand picked cards.

Looking around, things are pretty awesome in my world and I’m really thankful.

Bangarang.

What a shock. Robin Williams is gone. He died.

Scratch that. He didn’t die. He killed himself. There’s a difference. A sad one. {it’s an uncomfortable thing to read that, isn’t it? Killing oneself vs dying?}

I think it’s safe to say that at some point in our lives we’ve all been Robin Williams fans. “Aladdin” did it for me. Ava just got into “Hook” and thought it was pretty cool. “Bangarang!” is all I can think as the thoughts swirl about this loss.

Robin Williams had a talent that was truly a gift. He also had demons that only he knew.

This is the part that is just so sad. This is an illness. This is the part where real life steps in to break down the glittery glamour of Hollywood and reminds everyone that this is real life.

What happened? I have no idea.

All I can think is he must have been in the kind of deep dark hole that tells you that there is no ladder out, no search party coming in, and no point in bothering to cry for help.

Depression is the lie that keeps the brightest light from seeing the light beaming around him, even when everyone tries to prove to him that it’s true.

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No one saw this coming. Not the public, anyway, but maybe not those near him either. Why? Because someone with depression works damn hard to hide behind a facade to keep the world from knowing the truth. To fend off the stigma.

Smile through the dark clouds.

Go through the motions.

Conceal don’t feel. (She’s right.)

I hid for a long time. Scared of what people would say. Embarrassed of what they would think.

Depression.

I. Was. Depressed.

Thankfully I never wanted to hurt myself. I never had the demons Robin Williams and many other people struggle with. I’m thankful I had have support from people who love me and the resources around me to kick my way out to the other side.

Robin Williams had love and a plethora of resources. But he still lost the battle he fought most of his life. He had reasons to keep fighting. But he didn’t.

Why? Who knows.

What about the ones who are fighting but don’t have anything? That’s a discussion about a flawed system for another day.

I won’t get too high on the horse but I will leave you with this reminder:

Everyone fights their own battles. They’re not displayed like battle scars for all to see. Some are still fighting.

Be gentle.

Be kind.

Bangarang.