The opportunity to "expand my portfolio," if you will, came about as my realtor left her former company and started her own. She needs content for her new blog and asked if I would be interested in photographing some spaces for her. One thing led to another, and today I tackled my first "interiors" photography gig. It was a challenging one, in short, that required some staging on my part, but I think I worked it out. When I got home and showed the kids my proofs this afternoon, Scout wanted to know why this girl had "all the same stuff in her house that we have." I'm new here...limited resources.
We made it! One week of summer break down. Only 10 to go! Ten sounds like a lot; I'm not sure why I exclamation-marked that sentence. Especially when I think about all that we did last week. In one week. Here's a short list just off the top of my head:
- 5 trips to the gym
- 1 trip to the pool
- 2 trips to the splash pad
- 1 kindergarten end-of-the-school-year/we-love-our-class-so-much-we-can't-say-goodbye party
- 2 sleepovers
- 1 mother-son date night to the Austin symphony (dessert included)
- 2 trips to the airport
- 1 visit from the rodent guy to seal up the holes in crawl space that he missed the first nine times he came to our house
- 1 make-your-own pizza night
- 2 school work days (for me)
- 1 high school graduation
- 1 major house cleaning with 3 children actively participating (one gets the mop, one gets the duster and one gets the toilet brush)
- and a partridge in a pear tree
We also had our fair share of downtime, and I will humbly accept my award for greatest idea ever with our summer schedule that hangs proudly on the refrigerator. Don't think I'm kidding myself that things will always go this smoothly (in fact, not included in the tally above are the mini-tantrums suffered throughout the week because there are too many of those to count), but the schedule honestly keeps off the pressure of coming up with something to do everyday. Thus, I will allow myself to bask in my self-made glory until things come crashing down upon me and I find myself in tears rocking back in forth in some corner of the house during week 11...or perhaps week five.
Thursday was the last day of school--and by the looks of Catcher's handmade sign, he could use a little summer "scoolh" to work on his spelling--which made yesterday the first day of summer break. By 10:00am I had changed all the beds and washed the sheets, the kids had eaten breakfast and a morning snack, we had played (but not finished) a game of Monopoly, the girls had played two rounds of dress up and three rounds of Go Fish and Catcher had started and finished the [chapter] book his second grade teachers gave him as an end-of-year gift.
By 2:00pm, after an hour trip out and back to the school where I teach along with a rambunctious lunch at Whole Foods, I had come up with what might be my greatest idea to date. We'll wait and see how the summer shakes out to confirm and/or deny this bold statement, but let me share a bit of my genius with you...
After the 12 zillion activities we got ourselves into and out of the morning of our first day of summer break, I realized that 1) I can't live like this and 2) I really can't live like this. I was thinking of all the "enrichment" we need to keep up with over the summer--reading, math, piano, etc.--and how we could work this into our regular day. Our "regular" day also has to included outdoor recreation and plenty of swimming because these kids need to learn how to swim this summer. Before I knew it, I was mapping out a schedule in my head, so I called in my bossy-rule-maker-organizer guy and asked him if he could help me make a summer schedule. [Hint: kids love to do stuff like this; it gives them ownership, and they think they're the ones who came up with the idea in the first place, which makes them much more likely to actually follow the schedule.]
Now...I'm not totally crazy and regimented (says the woman who came up with the idea of a planned summer schedule), so what we came up with has large blocks of time and plenty of wiggle room for improvising on the spot. It's also a M-F calendar like school because that's something the little ones can understand. Just to give you an idea of what our day looks like, in the morning there is breakfast followed by quiet reflection--i.e. Mom's coffee time--and then morning recreation. There's a weekly rotation of cooking, art, board games and errands. There are math, reading and music blocks every day and afternoon outdoor recess. We even made time for "entertainment" every day, which sounds fun and exciting but could simply mean turning on the TV.
More than anything, I think this plan will serve as a weapon when the kids come to me with a resounding chorus of "I'm bored!" I can simply point to the schedule and say, "Oh. It's 1:00 and you're bored? According to our schedule you should be practicing piano right now." There's no flaw in this, right? It's totally going to be smooth sailing this summer. And hopefully by the end of it all Catcher will be able to spell school.
The last day of school 2015-2016 (or "dress like your sibling day). It isn't really dress like your sibling day, but it is rainbow day. And it turns out that these siblings have matching tie dyed shirts, which they acquired during their respective stints in kindergarten. I'm hoping Catcher's will fit him all the way through the fifth grade.
I gambled big, and I won. There were so many things that could have gone wrong in planning Alex's surprise 40th birthday party--starting with the guest of honor not being there himself--but everything went off without a hitch! Alex was genuinely surprised and never stumbled upon the liquor I had hidden in my closet or the tortilla chips in the back of our kitchen cabinet. Whenever the old guy ends up wearing gold Mardi Gras beads and a pink hat at the end of the night, you know you did a decent job. My only regret is not getting more photos of the action, but that just means I was too busy enjoying myself. Sometimes you need to put the camera down and have fun.
This is a list to remind my future self (in case she ever thinks of throwing a surprise party again) of the potentially disastrous hiccups that could have happened along the way:
1. Alex would not be here for his own party. Three weeks before the big event, I made the executive decision to move ahead with his party and have it the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. This was a weekend he was scheduled to work, and I had to gamble that he would be home by Saturday night. He did not get confirmation of his travel schedule until the Monday before the party. That's five days before the party. And if that wasn't stressful enough, I found out on Friday night at 11:00pm that if Oklahoma had lost its softball game, which it won by one run, there would have been a third game on Saturday at 5:00pm (in Oklahoma) that Alex would have had to work. If that's too confusing, the point is that he/we got lucky.
2. Alex would not have friends at his party. His birthday always falls on Memorial Day weekend. People travel that weekend, so the odds that our friends would be out of town were stacked against us. It turns out, however, that our friends must be just as boring as we are because most of them were here and made it to the party.
3. Alex would not have any food to eat at his party. Last minute RSVP's jacked up my numbers after I had ordered all the tacos. My mother-in-law came to the rescue, however, with a tamale run that saved the day. There was plenty to eat...and drink!
4. Alex would not have a decent margarita at his party. The bartender that I hired for the event told me she had never made a margarita before "except the frozen kind." Girl. This is Texas. If you're a bartender who doesn't know how to make a margarita, you're in the wrong business. I had it under control though. Because even though I don't make the margaritas in my house, I know how to make the margaritas in my house.
5. Alex would have to stay huddled in our tiny house with 35 of his closest friends at his party. It rained the day before the party. And the day before that. And the day before that. There were flash floods and tornado watches. But Saturday was hot and sunny--a little humid for my taste, but I couldn't complain because we were able to spread ourselves out in the back yard and order drinks from the bartender who didn't know balnco from reposado.
I wish I had taken more "before" pictures of what our house looked like when we bought it, because it was so much uglier than I remember in my mind. Take our hall bathroom, for example. What you can't see in this picture is how the top of the pedestal sink was precariously balanced on its pedestal (or perhaps you can see it...look at the gap). The toilet leaked and a warning scribbled in pencil on a piece of paper wrapped around it--look closely--told us not to flush. And the tile? Blech!
Alex got his demo on so quickly in this mess of a room that by the time I arrived with my camera it was stripped down to its stinky bones (uneven floor and all). I watch a lot of Fixer Upper on HGTV, so I was psyched to see the shiplap Alex had uncovered. I wanted to salvage it as an accent wall, but, alas, it was not meant to be. It only covered about 2/3 of the wall and didn't make its way all the way over to the shower tile. We were on a tight deadline--remember how we had to walk outdoors to use the restroom for a week or so?--so I let my dreams of shiplap flutter away.
This is a photo I snapped on my phone the day the tile was laid. Happy. Happy. Joy. Joy. In the end, I took the black and white theme as far as I could starting with the black hexagon floor tile and white subway tile with black grout. You can't see it from the pictures here, but the white shower curtain has a thick black border at the bottom. The top 2/3 of the bathroom is painted white while the bottom 1/3 is black with an accent rugby stripe that wraps around the entire room. It wasn't until Alex uncovered our weird Elvis photograph while unpacking the casita, however, that the room really came together. I love it so much I would almost shower in there myself.
I'm glad that I've been given the gift of having houses "speak" to me because, looking back, our tiny hallway had nothing going for it when we bought this place. Except that arch. It was the arch that spoke to me, and I knew I could glam it up with our antique chandelier and an accent wall.
I knew from the start the wall needed wallpaper. I also knew that after Alex and I "experimented" in hanging wallpaper ourselves when I was six months pregnant at our house in Charlotte, this time I would call in the experts. Factoring in the labor costs associated with my "vision," I had to do some thrifting to find the solution that would bring it to life. The result was a remnant roll of fancy Osborne & Little wallpaper that I found on eBay for about one-third of the retail price. You can find everything on eBay; I swear by it.
So once again, I give you a space that went from totally drab to totally fab. Actually...strike that for a moment. If our bar cart were completely stocked the hallway would be totally fab. Right now it's just so-so fab.
It's May in Texas, so that means the splash pads are open. This morning the Wheat children celebrated the beginning of another hot summer season at a birthday party for one of Scout's kinder buddies at the Pease Park splash pad. This was a party I was actually happy to attend (I've become very discriminating after dragging three kids to birthday parties for the last four years) because it was at 10:00am, and the party planners served coffee and breakfast tacos. The kids stayed busy ducking in and out of water shoots, blowing bubbles and drying off on the adjoining playground. The parents stayed busy drinking coffee and gossiping on the sideline (or was that just me?).