What’s Saving My Life Right Now

By | Posted February 9, 2021

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I can’t believe it’s already February.  Or that it’s 2021.  Despite how different this past year has been, time has flown.  We’re halfway through school, we’re still wearing masks and mostly staying home.  As hard as it’s been the last year, it hasn’t been bad.  Mainly because life goes on- the boys go to school and Mari and I school at home just like we’ve always done.  The thing I miss the most is traveling. It’s frustrating at times thinking of all the trips we’ve cancelled, but we’re all healthy (and so are our parents) and sports came back, I don’t mean that selfishly, it’s just that Lance’s job depends on sports so I’m more than grateful for sports.

There are a few things that are keeping me sane though it all, because despite being grateful and saying it’s almost normal…it’s not and sometimes I get a bit manic.

 Reading- I am back at it and so happy.  I’m reading at stoplights, in the bathtub, while Mari swims, before bed and any other time I can catch.  I’ve got a reading plan for the year.  It’s not overly ambitious, but it’s good.  At least one nonfiction a month and two novels.  Two months of the year, Mason is handing me a stack of books he wants me to read and that takes the place of my novels.  I also have a stack that’s been on my nightstand for four years.  It’s a short stack, only four books, but I’ve got to finish them if only because I purchased them.  I’m also trying my hardest not to purchase books for myself.  Having a library due date is helping keep me on track.

Time outside- Living in Houston, there isn’t much to do hiking wise, but with a little research I’ve found some good spots.  I’m trying to do 52 hikes in the year and so far I’m on number 11.  Pretty soon, I’ll start repeating spots in the Houston area, but I’m loving my time outside.

Running- I love running.  It makes me so happy.  It gives me time for myself, time outside, and the health benefits are there too.  Last spring I was running too much and injured myself, but I’m back on track.  I can easily run 13 miles so hopefully when it’s time to train for the fall marathons, I’ll be good to go.  The glimmer of fall marathons is like a light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve got a Berlin spot and hopefully, I’ll get Boston too.

No Desserts- I haven’t had a dessert in three full months.  But who is counting?  I’m trying to stay away from sugar mostly.  I’m not a fanatic, I know sugar shows up everywhere, but I also love dessert and have no self control. So I finally just decided to give up desserts.  I’ll start making some paleo type desserts because there is only so long I can last, but no more refined sugar and white flour!  I did this to lose weight, I haven’t lost one pound from this because of course I haven’t!  But I’m still happy and hoping I can make it a year.

No Alcohol- This is just a random thing I do where I set a goal and don’t drink for 30 days.  So far I’ve done three months of no drinking.  I’ll probably do it again for Lent which gives me two weeks to drink before I have to stop!  I’m not really sure why I’m doing this but I do like how it makes me feel.

Texting Certain Friends- I’m not naming names but certain people just keep me going.

Weekend Away- I never, ever, ever take weekends away.  Ok fine, in almost 19 years of marriage, I’ve been away twice.  One time was to see Lin Manuel Miranda in Puerto Rico.  It’s just not something I do even though it’s totally my personality to take a weekend trip.  My friend invited me to a weekend in the Hill Country and what a lovely trip we had.  We had good food, silence, state parks where I could hike to my heart’s content.  I’ve been dying to visit Lost Maples, and I finally did!  It was just what I needed.

Date nights at Riel- with my husband.  It’s my absolute favorite spot in the city. I love the food, the bartender is fabulous and the chef is the best.

Snuggling- with Marathon and our new dog Penelope.  I love Marathon so much.  He’s the best little dog (after Casey).  Penelope showed up in our yard four weeks ago.  Nobody has claimed her despite posting about her.  She loves women and is super protective of Mari and me.  Having another dog in the house means Lance and I don’t have to share Marathon with the kids at night.

I like forcing myself to think of what’s keeping me sane. I promise, I could easily type a list of things driving me batty, but who wants to read about that!

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A bit about me at 50

By | Posted September 1, 2020

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Today is my 50th birthday.  I wrote a long post about myself already on IG, but being me, I had more to say.

This isn’t how I wanted to celebrate my birthday.  At all.

Lance and I do trips not presents, so I don’t even have that to look forward to today.

I managed to run though and that was incredible.  Okay, incredible is a bit much, but it was really good.  I then spent about 90 minutes sitting in the back of my car listening to my top 40 birthday mix.  It was kind of nice.  Honestly, I didn’t even want to go home.

This is such a Nikki thing, writing 50 things about myself.  In no particular order, here are 50 things about me or that I think or like or have learned or whatever.

  • My name is Nicole Villegas Zierlein, but I was born Denise Nicole Villegas, began going by Nikki by the time I was 5 until I met Lance.  Now I mostly go by Nicole, but love when new people call me Nikki.
  • I love talking.  I mean, love it.  I would choose talking in person or over the phone over texting any day of the week.  I’ve always been like this.  Ask any ex -boyfriend how long I would keep them on the phone.
  • I’m a hugger.  The worst part of this pandemic is not being able to hug everyone. I grew up hugging people way before it became a thing and I miss it so much.
  • I became a runner 7 years ago. It’s wild how much I love running.  I’ve always been a group exercise class person, but running is what I want to do.  I love being alone and in my own head.  I daydream, listen to music though lately it’s been all podcasts for me.  I relish that time and when I’m injured, I get manic.
  • Yoga- if I’m surprised by how much I love running, my love for Yoga was even more of a surprise. How could something so calm without music or me sweating count as a workout? Honestly, I am not very good at it, which I’m not supposed to say, but I don’t care. I am not flexible, I can’t do half the poses, but I love it. And so does Mari. Nothing was more fun than when she was able to join me in class. I especially love the end of class when I just allow my mind to go blank.
  • I remember the first five months of yoga. I spent most of shavasana making grocery lists or running through what I needed to get done that week. And then, I was finally able to let go and just relax and not think of anything. That was the benefit of yoga I needed in my life. And honestly, if I could teach Mari one thing, it would be to let her mind just stop.
  • Travel is where it’s at for me.  Any kind of trip makes me happy, renews me. Every time we spend money on something big, my only thought is that that money could go to trips.  It doesn’t matter what kind of trip it is-solo, with other couples or with my family. Lance and I are lucky because my mom watches the kids whenever we ask, (except for that one time she broke her tibia!) I love our trips. I love running in NYC and Chicago, going to mass in Chicago, time with friends, good food.  I love sharing experiences with my kids. I would travel nonstop if that were an option.
  • My favorite thing I’ve ever done was traveling by myself across Europe. I’ve done it twice and my only regret was not doing it a third time. I love looking back at pictures and thinking of all the people I met and experiences I had.
  • I will always be obsessed about my weight.  I wish this wasn’t true, but it is what it is. I can’t imagine a time where I don’t want to lose five pounds.  Thankfully, I keep this to myself, so my kids don’t deal with my shit and get messed up because of their mom.
  • I’m Catholic. I pray and depend on the prayers of others. I love being Catholic, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have issues with the church at times. Or rather the people who make up the church.  I go to confession because I need it.  I love the Saints. It’s not always easy being Catholic, but I can’t imagine not being Catholic either.
  • I love studying other religions. One of my greatest gifts is my friend Sana who is Muslim.  We share about our faith like two kids sharing secrets. She’s the Muslim me, and I’m the Catholic her. When we learned about Islam this year, Sana gave us more information than any book we could read. Mari loves her faith.
  • I used to visit my grandparents on my own once I left for college.  There is no excuse for not seeing or calling grandparents.
  • It’s so important to spend time outside.  I’m not saying we need to go camping. I don’t think I could ever do that.  I’m just talking about being outside in the fresh air. People always comment about how much our kids play. And they do. Sure, they would play video games as long as we allowed it, but they also love to read and just be outside. They bike, play basketball, make up games etc. And me, I just want to be outside walking the block, hiking in beautiful locations, (how I wish Houston had somewhere cool to hike!) and of course, run. I’m typing outside now.  Even in this heat and humidity, I’m outside because I think the fresh air is so important.
  • The best thing I’ve ever done for my kids- reading to them and taking a real interest in their books. I’ve been reading to my kids since before they could sit up. I have a home library that is pretty big and thorough. Recently, lots of people talked about making sure your kids were reading multicultural books.  I had so many of the middle grade novels that were suggested.  I’ve taken the time to find the good books.  I still read aloud to my kids.  Mason reads a book and hands it to me to read. He gets frustrated because I don’t read as fast as him. I also don’t let my kids read way beyond their age.  I have readers, but I don’t let them read Harry Potter before 4th grade.  It’s just me, most people don’t do that, but the books get tense.  I’m actually getting ready to start my final round with Harry Potter and we will be reading the entire series aloud.  I think.
  • Speaking of reading, the absolute best middle grade series is The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place.  I would have to hide the books from Mason and Alec so they didn’t read ahead. That didn’t always work, but they always came to listen anyway.  Mason would say the best series is The Penderwicks, but I haven’t finished that yet, so maybe I’m wrong.
  • I have read so many middle grade books, that I wasn’t reading that much for myself. Like maybe two or three a year that were just for me. I’m finally back at it with 9 books over the last few months. I’m slow but loving it.
  • It’s worth paying a ton of money for certain things.  Hamilton, National Championship Games, World Series, etc.  I’m not saying miss a house payment for them, I’m just saying those were worth every single penny.
  • Sugar beats alcohol every single time.  I did a whole30 for Lent once so I didn’t drink or have sugar for 46 days.  It was miserable.  But what I missed the most?  Sugar.  I thought about sugar every single day.  Before I turned 50, I didn’t drink for 31 days and mostly cut out sugar, though not entirely.  It was so easy to stop the alcohol compared to sugar.  I am addicted, and I’m fine.  Except I gain weight which takes me back to my weight obsession.
  • I love puzzles.  I used to like doing it with the kids, but they would get bored.  During the pandemic it’s been me and my mom and it’s been a blast.
  • My deserted island food is either eggs or potatoes because you can cook them so many ways.
  • I can say you won’t see me with my hand on my hip in pictures.  Just never going to happen. I don’t know how that got started, but I refuse to contribute.
  • Sometimes no matter how much we want it, it doesn’t work out.
  • You should try to see things from another point of view. It might make you rethink things.
  • It is never too late to say you’re sorry. It won’t change what happened, but at least you did.
  • Listen. How many arguments could I have prevented if only I listened.
  • Learn to bite your tongue. I think the older I get, the better I am. I don’t always need to say what I’m thinking.
  • Politics. I generally only speak politics with people who have similar leanings.  Nobody really agrees with everything I think. I’m a pro-life democrat. There aren’t many of us. But what I’ve finally realized is that I don’t have to keep my mouth shut.  I don’t have to be shitty, but I don’t have to let others railroad me with their opinions.
  • I voted for Hillary.  Not as a lesser of two evils, but as someone who I thought would have done a good job.
  • My hero is Bryan Stevenson. My kids and I toured the Equal Justice Initiative law offices.  I always tell this story because I was just so proud of them.
  • I don’t get rattled in emergencies whether its a broken arm, blood, lost keys, I’m cool as a cucumber.  Now I do get rattled when my kids leave their stuff out.
  • I’m sort of Pollyanna about things.  I generally assume things will work out, except when it comes to something that prevents me from running. Then I worry nonstop. It’s really not my personality to just assume things will work out, but I guess I’ve learned that freaking out just doesn’t help.
  • Nothing competes with my family. I love them so much it hurts when they hurt. Do they drive me batty sometimes, of course, but I love them with everything in me.
  • Losing babies to miscarriage fucking sucks. I’ve lost five babies and by number five, I was done. I didn’t want to get pregnant again, I was mad at God. The third miscarriage was awful because it was during the National Championship game and we were at the Rose Bowl.  I had to tell Lance we were losing our baby, again, during the third quarter. I still think of them. They were girls. And I’ve given them to Mason. They are his special Saints waiting for him.
  • I think having family traditions is so important.  We have so many that are special to us- we always read the same book first during Advent. We eat out on Christmas Eve. We go to mass on Christmas Day before opening gifts. And those are just Christmas traditions.  I think it gives us a sense of family, and I hope my kids have traditions with their own families one day.
  • Facebook sucks.  Probably all social media sucks, but FB the most. When I started this blog years ago, I said I couldn’t get onboard with FB.  I did finally join, but I rarely post. Now IG, I generally love,  but at the same time, I wish I had never joined.
  • Road trips are the best. I have so much fun with my kids on the road. Generally, it’s me and my mom taking them somewhere, but I’ve taken them to Nashville and Atlanta alone. We have so much fun- we sing, we listen to books on tape, play games.  It’s my favorite thing ever.  My best road trip story is getting a flat tire three times on the way to DC over three days.  We had to replace the tire EACH TIME! It was crazy.
  • I love food. And became obsessed with the French Laundry during Law School. And finally a few years ago, we went.  It did not disappoint.  Its not my favorite Michelin star, but it was everything I dreamed of. Grace in Chicago (or rather formerly) takes the top spot as my favorite.  So far.
  • I need silence. It doesn’t happen much, but I crave it.  It’s probably why I like to run. I would love to travel alone again one day.  Not for long, but I truly loved it.
  • Kids grow way too fast. I know people hate when older moms say it, but fuck, it’s true.  I remember being the mom who always had kids with her. Now it’s just Mari and me and that’s only because I homeschool her. I was just telling the kids that Alec has two years left.  How did it happen?
  • I love the baby stage to age four. Which sucks because I don’t have any kids that age anymore!
  • Teaching my kids to read was the best thing ever. I lost my patience once.  It was so traumatic to me that I still remember it.  It doesn’t mean that I never lost my patience with my kids again, just not over reading.
  • I think it’s really important to stand up for what you believe in. I hope we are teaching the kids to do the same.
  • I don’t think you can be pro-life and for the death penalty.  Period.
  • I can’t handle mess. It truly stresses me out.  I don’t mind mess at someone else’s house, just my own. I need things to be organized and in their place. I wish it didn’t stress me out, but everyone who lives with me knows it. So really, they should just pick up their shit.
  • I hate outdoor concerts.  That said, I am dying to see a show at Red Rocks…(please let this happen next summer.) As much as I was spouting off about being outside and how wonderful fresh air is, I can’t think of much that I would like less than seeing a concert or all day show outside.
  • If you knew me just 20 years ago, you would have never seen me homeschooling. But once I read about it, thanks to blogs, I became obsessed.  I read all I could on it and was dying to homeschool.  Then Alec got into TH Rogers. And Lance decided he should go. It’s a GT school that is so not a big deal. They do nothing innovative, and it drives me crazy.  I have liked four maybe five teachers the entire time we’ve been there. In fact, I pretty much hate it.  I have made some good friends though, and for that I’m grateful. It’s also been the longest standing argument between me and Lance. Finally, when it was time for Mari to go to school, Lance let me homeschool.  There are ups and downs, but overall, I love it.  We learn together and read pretty much all day. I don’t know how long we’ll keep doing it, but I hope we never stop. As for Rogers, I’ve got two more years left and we are done.
  • I’ve never had a housekeeper.  Even after my c-sections.  I have always kept my own house clean.
  • My favorite chore is dusting.  Least favorite is mopping and cleaning the bathtub.
  • My first car was a 280ZX  It was blue and silver.  Man, I loved that car so much.
  • My favorite job ever was as a teaching assistant at Rosedale. I had been subbing in Austin and was called to sub for a special ed school.  I only worked there one year but it changed my life.
  • I’ve never had a cavity.
  • I love listening to music especially old music.
  • Leave the past where it belongs.
  • I still write in journals and have all my old journals.  I rarely read them, but when I do, it can be super depressing. And hopefully, when I die, my kids just throw them away.
  • I love my parents. My mom does everything for us. I can’t imagine how we would survive without her. And my dad supports me always. He is my cheerleader and the most generous person I know. And I have the best brother in the world. He’s a great brother and the best son.  I pray my sons are like him when they are older. I remember years ago we used to talk daily when we both commuted to work. I miss those days.
  • I really wish I was a better mother.
  • Letting go of something I desperately wanted to take a chance with Lance was really hard.  It was also the smartest and best thing I’ve ever done. I wouldn’t have this life had I not taken that chance.
  • Finding things to be grateful every day changes my attitude.
  • Main thing I’ve learned…never plan a trip for your kid’s birthday. It will come back to bite you in the ass.  Somehow we planned a trip leaving on Mason’s birthday.  He told us he was fine.  We had a party, he got great presents, was allowed to skip school.  And then our flight was cancelled, the one with the lay down seats, we missed dinner at Crenn.  We got charged $600/couple for missing that dinner, our car was broken into and all my shit was stolen, including my planner which is my life, we had to miss another planned Michelin Star dinner, AND Texas lost their game.  NEVER EVER leave on your kid’s birthday.
  • My guilty tv pleasure is 90210. Guilty movies are Grease 2 and The Cutting Edge. I love Star Wars.  My favorite movie scene is from Boogie Nights at the end of the movie in the drug dealer’s house. And my all time favorite song is Somebody’s Baby with Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around and Divorce Song coming in close after.
  • When I die, all my friends are going to get together and see who knew what. Only two know where the bodies are buried and they know who they are.

I may have gone over 50. I guess this turned out to be facts about me. I wasn’t trying to be narcissistic though it looks that way. I was trying to think of my life-what I like, have learned and experienced.

This took me forever to write. I need to add that I did indeed get a present for my birthday. A travel bag for the trips we’ll take someday. AND my favorite song from Rhett Miller sung especially for me.

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Top Ten of The Last Five Months

By | Posted August 31, 2020

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Has is really been five months?

And two and a half weeks?

The other day, we went to the orthodontist, and as we ran up the stairs to the office, Mason moaned that that was the only place he’d been during the pandemic.  Not entirely true, we did take two vacations.  But as far as Houston goes, the orthodontist and the eye doctor are it for him.  Alec has had the added bonus of seeing an orthopedic for his broken arm.  And while I LOVE our orthopedic, I never want to see him again unless we run into him outside of his office.

Cute side story- Alec broke his arm on July 8, the day before he turned 16.  We spent the morning of his birthday waiting to be seen by our orthopedic.  His break wasn’t that big of deal.  He wore a brace for six weeks.  We came home happy because that meant he could still swim, one of the few things we’ve allowed our kids to do.

Mari lost her shit.

A four time veteran of broken arms, she didn’t understand why he didn’t have a cast and why he wore the brace longer than she needed for her first break.  She was so upset, I ended up sending her to her room to calm down.  That didn’t work, and she finally wrote her questions for the doctor.  She would have asked him herself, but she couldn’t go to the appointment because of COVID.  I love the curiosity, but man, she was pissed.  She even wondered about the doctor’s abilities.  This girl drives me crazy, but she’s pretty amazing.

The last five months have been crazy.  For everyone.  It’s stressful.  It’s definitely not been the happiest time in my life.  Yet, there have been some amazing things.  Even during the hard, and there’s been hard.  I had an uncle with COVID who spent five weeks and two days on a vent.  Most recently, the doctor told my cousin that her father was the oldest patient he’d had with the most underlying symptoms to live.  He waited until the vent had been out four days to tell her that.

The best thing during this time has been the Villegas family.  My dad is the oldest of ten.  We’ve been through a lot together as a family.  The aunts and uncles fuss and disagree on a fairly regular basis, but man, they come through like no other.  I’m really close to my cousin so we’ve kept in contact nonstop, and she’s called when she has needed extra support.

The neatest thing has been the family rosary via Zoom.  Honestly, I hate Zoom (and any form of FaceTime).  But this was different.  It was a way for us to be together.  Honestly, most people didn’t participate.  But I did.  And of course, Mari did.  Tonight, she pretty much led the entire rosary.  And it was beautiful.  And my uncle is doing so much better.  I’m so grateful.

Sometimes I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t started a garden or that we aren’t playing tons of board games together. Embarrassed isn’t the right word, honestly, it’s disappointing to me.  I love board games and generally my kids do too.  That’s something we did before the pandemic.  We aren’t spending a lot of time making a shit ton of memories.

Except we are- my mom was scheduled to go on our Spring Break trip with me and the kids.  She came on Thursday, March 12, and hasn’t left.  We’ve had the best time with her.  Her and I spend nights doing puzzles and making drinks.  The kids spend their mornings watching Bonanza with her.  It’s not always perfect, but my kids have the best relationship with her.  They will always have these memories of this time spent with their Mimi.  And me.  I have a gift I didn’t realize I wanted.  I will forever be grateful for the last five and a half months.  Nothing tops our time doing puzzles and talking.

I am the biggest baby ever.  Sometimes it’s hard for me to keep perspective and not pout about all the cancelled plans.  Spring Break, NYC Draft Trip, NYC with my mom, Mexico City, Family Road Trip that I planned perfectly so that I ended up in Chicago on my birthday because there is no place I’d rather be.

I pout and complain to Lance, but I can see the big picture.  I’m okay staying home and away from people.  We did manage to take a trip to Colorado.  We figured our activities would only be outside and felt safe going.

Colorado was spectacular.  We haven’t been in a while and the weather was perfect. I could have hiked all day, every day.  Unfortunately, nobody else felt the same way. But it was such good trip.  Lance hasn’t done a road trip with us in years so that was really fun. Palo Duro on the way to Colorado was so much fun until Lance got heat stroke and I couldn’t drive us out of the park.  Total shit show, but it was a great hike.  Colorado is just so easy going.  I think Lance would move there in a heartbeat.

A few weeks later, I took the kids to the beach at South Padre Island, and we had a blast.  Especially Marianna.  That girl is amazing. Her and I took morning walks on the beach, stayed the latest and went alone the day we drove home.  She’s such a fish, and we loved just being together.

Now if only Lance and I could get a trip in for ourselves…This is such a long time for us to go without spending time alone. And without seeing Paul and Brian.

My favorite thing now is to listen to podcasts.  I have a schedule for each week and just added another today.  I am even running while listening.  It’s crazy. I would have never done that before now, but something changed.  I find myself paying more attention, researching more and mostly having better conversations.

It doesn’t mean I’ve given up on music.  I did make a top 40 all time favorites for my birthday. I love my list, obviously, but I never run to it.

I’m reading again.  Nonstop.  I have a TBR stack and more on hold at the library.  I can’t read fast enough. I’m so happy to be back in that place.  I tend to reread the same paragraph over and over which slows me down, but I am loving it.  I have so many books I want to read and I would honestly rather do that than watch any show.

I turned 50 in July.  I had planned my celebration for Chicago, but that couldn’t happen so I was stuck at home.  The only thing that worked- the letters some of my friends sent me.  It’s pretty cool to see yourself in your friends’ eyes.  Each one was so different and not at all what I expected.

The only place we’ve really gone to eat is Riel.  We’ve picked up food from elsewhere, but Riel is where we dine.  It makes me feel sort of normal during this time.

The top two things that have kept me sane and going are pretty much a tie.  Texting with certain friends and time outside.

Nothing makes me smile more than a text from certain people.  It can be something stupid, something serious, a complaint about the state of the country, a meme, a podcast recommendation, a song, plans for next summer.  It doesn’t matter.  Certain friendships have made this time bearable. Even enjoyable.

And last, time outside. When this started, I was running five days a week, and I injured myself.  I started walking instead.  It’s gotten hotter and hotter, and I don’t care.  I spend as much time outside as I can.  I need to run, I need to walk, and I need to be outside.  I even read outside.  I sit with the dog and read.  It’s crazy hot and quite frankly miserable.  But I love it.  Most of the time. And thank goodness I’m running again. I’m not sure what I would do if I didn’t have that escape.  I never get up early anymore, so I’m running in the heat of the day, but it’s an escape I can’t live without.

I saw something about finding ten positive things in your life during the pandemic.  At first, I figured I wouldn’t have five, but in the end, I had to cut my list down. I can get really down when I see people are doing tons of creative things with their kids, but I constantly remind myself that that’s not us.  We play basketball together, my kids bake nonstop without any help from adults and its really good stuff, we read, and ask the same sports questions nonstop.  I get to see my favorite chef and bartender fairly regularly while wearing a mask. We’ve spent time with a few couples.  The pool is open, Mari has swim again.  It hasn’t been bad, and I’m glad for the reminder that it’s mostly been good.  And I say that even though I’m over it, that I want to be able to go anywhere I want or for my kids to go back to school or for sports to come back full-time.  Things really have been okay. I just need to remember that.

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16 Pictures to describe 2016

By | Posted January 3, 2017

Posted in pictures, Year in Review | No Comments »


My sweet boy and I ringing in the new year.  Lance out of town and everyone else asleep.


After completing a Whole30 for Lent, so really a Whole 46, I was so happy to indulge.


No explanation needed.  What a night.


Few things make me happier than hanging in Chicago, staying up late drinking and just being with Paul.


My friend makes the best iced cookies ever.  Last year at Christmas, she made a plate for us and when I mentioned that we had four before leaving her street, she offered the leftovers.  We turned around and got them.  It was a ton.  Since then, we’ve ordered about three more times including these amazing First Communion cookies!


I can’t say how proud I am of this girl.  She works no matter how tired she is and is literally a beast.


It was the year of Mercy for most of 2016.  I think we needed it.  We took advantage of all those Holy Doors as we travelled the country.


This book is amazing.  It should be required reading for every single person in this country.  Most especially our president elect.


Officially homeschooling.  8 years of prayers answered.  It’s only Mari for now, but I’m happy.


Lance and I both love plays and musicals.  So do our kids.  We end up budgeting a lot for sports and shows.  This particular photo makes the cut because Lance purchased tickets for 9/14, Mason’s birthday, the day we left town.  (He was so proud of this because he did it as a surprise for all of us.)  Instead of letting my mom take the kids, we ate the money on the tickets and purchased six more the following week.  Lance had purchased great seats for the 14th and did the same the following week.


His cursive is really nice, right?


Who didn’t see this coming?


Or this? From this girl?


I can’t leave my mom out of my top pictures.  She is so generous with her time.  She watches the kids every time Lance and I leave town.  I have loved having her on our road trips.  This was taken on her birthday at the Holy Door in Galveston.


Christmas Eve dinner~all of us together which is so rare now that Drake has moved out.


And this guy?  Taken on my birthday after being on the road for a week without him. He makes this life so worthwhile.

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Year in Review 2016- Kick Ass Cities, Michelin Stars, Running and Kids

By | Posted January 3, 2017

Posted in pictures, Year in Review | No Comments »

Thinking about the new year always makes me excited.  There’s a new planner to fill which I’m anxious to use.  I had to purchase a new brand because my other one was stolen in San Fransisco.  I’ve yet to let go of that incident despite telling the story at least 20 different times.  I took a lot of time researching a new planner, and I’m not sure I even like this new brand.  Regardless, filling it in with birthdays and Saint days and trips and other special events always gives me hope for the new year.  Even my kids know how much I depend on my planner.  Mason asked me today if I had ordered a new planner.

Before I start writing in that new planner, I wanted to try and reflect on the past year.  Everyone has been saying how 2016 needs to end, and well I’m just as anxious as the next person for the new year to start except that whole new president part.  2016 hasn’t been my favorite year, but it’s hardly been the worst year ever.  That said, the recent deaths of childhood actors and singers makes me sad.  Life is short.  Too short.  It’s too short to stay mad at people, too short to focus on the negative and too short not to find the good in people and for today, in the outgoing year.  So for my memories, here’s a long recap of the year, things me and mostly the kids did all year.

January- I started 2016 working on a puzzle and my first kid moving out.  As in he literally left the house 12/31.  Staring at that empty room was hard.  Harder because Lance was out of town.  It was me and the younger four all trying to stay up.  The night ended with me and Mason taking pictures and Alec passed out on the couch.  That puzzle?  Never finished it, (was that a sign for the year?) finally had to put it away and am actually taking it out again if I ever finish this post.



A hip injury really screwed with me last year.  It started in November of 2015.  I was able to run the Houston half, but by May was sidelined for six weeks.  This is my favorite picture.  Lance thinks my parents look like they are in jail.  No matter what, they are always there to support me.  Even getting up and driving to see me off on what really isn’t that big of a run to me.  But to them?  It’s a big deal.


February- The kids all play basketball at the YMCA.  I’ve tried different leagues but they are all about the same.  Mason is turning out to be a pretty good player.  This buzzer beater was awesome.  The fact that another parent filmed it has let me relive this shot over and over.


Hit link to see Mason’s shot!

I also ran the Austin half with one of my cousins.  I decided after that half that I won’t be running the Austin full.  Ever.


March- The only thing I really remember from this time was Lent.  Sure it started in February, but March was where I grew.  Or rather tried to grow!  I did a Whole30 for my sacrifice which was really 46 days.  46 days of NO SUGAR.  Forget the rest of whole30.  There is only one thing that matters in my life outside my family.  And it’s sugar.  Every. Single. Day. I thought of sugar and when I could have some.  Specifically cookies and cake.  Easter Sunday, you could say I indulged.

Alec made me so proud this Lent.  He gave up Big Snoopy.  I don’t even know how he did it.  Giving up alcohol and even sugar, reading labels nonstop, that was nothing compared to his sacrifice.  He also served Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.  I have never been so proud of him.


img_0886April- Lance works really hard at his regular job as well as for the NFL writing up players entering the draft.  Its a lot for him.  And me, because he’s gone all the time.  As an end of season and thank you, we take an NFL trip.  When he asked where I wanted to go and started giving suggestions that weren’t NYC, I stopped him. There was only one thing I wanted to do and that was see Hamilton.  And we did!  Everyone always asks us how we managed to get tickets to the hottest show in the country.  We paid.  We paid a lot.  IT WAS WORTH EVERY SINGLE PENNY.  LMM created an amazing show and I can’t wait to take the kids one day.  But last April was for us.  And I’m so glad we spent the money and went.  I still get giddy thinking about the show and the cast,the original cast.  We also managed to snag dinner at our first Michelin star restaurant of the year.


May- Three weeks later, we left for Chicago and the Draft.  Lance worked and I tagged along so I could eat and see Paul and Brian.  My favorite meal of 2016 was at Grace.  We’re into tastings and Lance had seen the documentary about this chef and made arrangements to go months in advance.  Poor guy got diverticulitis and couldn’t really eat.  I was fine.  And I ate.  And it was incredible.  A few days later, the chef won the James Beard for his region.  I spent the rest of the weekend with Paul and Brian with Lance joining when he could.  We had donuts, more Michelin stars, saw a play and just enjoyed each other’s company.  It was a near perfect trip.


We also had a birthday in the family.  Drake turned 21.  Yes, I have a 21 year old now.  And you know what?  He’s living on his own and doing pretty well.  He doesn’t always do what I want, but he’s living his life.  He’s paying his bills and making memories.  And now he’s 21 and can drink.  Sure, he would have before then, but he didn’t and I’m glad.

Lance and I left town again for the wedding of a law school friend.  It was so much fun seeing him and another friend from law school.  It was a short weekend but I’m so glad we went.

Also, my mother?  Seriously, she is amazing.  Three trips in 7 weeks.  Only one of those for a Friday morning to Sunday morning.  The others were Wednesday to Sunday.  And that doesn’t count what she did in the Fall.

June – Snax received his First Holy Communion in June.  It was so special.  This kid is hilarious.  He’s just Snax.  He’s loud.  Really loud.  I wondered what he thought of this sacrament because he’s just so out there at times.  He took it very seriously.  I was so proud of him when he went up there and received Jesus for the first time.  And to this day, he takes it seriously.


Mari started swim team in June.  She got two first place ribbons at her first meet.  I knew she was pretty fast, but didn’t know how good she would turn out to be.  By the end of the season she was invited to finals which meant she was one of the top 12 swimmers in the league.


July- Two more birthdays, Alec and Snax, 12 and 8.  The sweetest thing was Alec insisting on having lunch with his uncle who shares a birthday with him.  I think my brother liked it too.  All Snax wanted for his birthday was a donut cake.  Not one to refuse a request like that, he got a donut cake.



We took our summer vacation in July.  My mom and I drove the kids West to San Diego and Lance and the rest of my family met us there.  We had the best road trip.  We stopped in Roswell, the Petrified Forest, Phoenix, Sedona, The Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Los Angeles and finally arrived in San Diego on my birthday.  My favorite stops were the Petrified Forest and the Grand Canyon.  I’m the only one who liked the Hoover Dam.  The kids loved the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix.  I’m dying to go back to Sedona and do a Pink Jeep Tour.  The week spent in SD was pretty awesome.  It’s a great city and we just chilled.  My favorite touristy thing was Seaworld.  I should probably feel bad, but I don’t.  It was awesome, and I’m so glad we went.  The zoo was great, but it was a long day there.  And Legoland?  I wish we had just gone to Disney instead.  I think our favorite thing was the beach.  The water was freezing, but we all loved it.  I still remember the joy in Mason’s face while running around and riding the waves.   On the way home we went to San Juan Capistrano and Cadillac Ranch.  Sure the kids fought and fussed at times on the road, but overall, they are really good on road trips.  And I’m learning to let go when things don’t go my way or we miss something.


August- We enjoyed the heck out of August since school started at the end of the month.  I hated sending the kids back to school, but I’m so thankful to be homeschooling Marianna.  She is such a great little student and really, how hard is K?  It’s been a great year so far and unless something changes this second semester, we’re in for next year.

September- Mason turned 10 this month and we left town on his birthday.  One of the worst things I’ve done as a parent.  And boy did karma get me.  As we were leaving for the airport, we got a call that our flight had been cancelled.  They put us on a flight leaving much later and caused us to miss our dinner at Crenn.  We got charged 600 per couple for missing that meal.  Yes, 600.  The next day, our car was broken into while we ate lunch and they took one bag.  Mine.  I lost brand new running shoes, workout clothes, my straightener, and three other pairs of shoes.  And my planner.  I can’t explain my anger over that incident.  We drove to Sonoma with a open window and cancelled our plans for the night.


We did manage to have dinner at The French Laundry.  Total bucket list place.  It was pretty amazing and the service was just incredible.  Then the next day we went to watch the Texas game.  They lost.  Total shit show of a weekend except for one meal.

October- I ran the Chicago marathon.  I love being in Chicago.  I wish we could move there.  I cherish the time we spend with Paul and Brian.  I was sick.  That part sucked, but we still had a blast and I saw another good friend who happened to be in town that week as well.  I  was happy with my running time and felt really good running except for the last 5 miles.  Those stunk.  But my favorite was afterward.  I love seeing Paul after I do something good.  I can’t explain it, but it means the world to me.  Having my three favorite men cheering me on and giving hugs along the route made it all the better.  Lance said one of his favorite things from this year was running around Chicago with Paul and Brian trying to find me on the route.

November- Ah November.  You sucked.  What can I say?  Almost 3 million people voted for HRC and we are still stuck with a POS for our incoming president.  The only positive?  I can point to him and tell my sons how not to behave, how not to treat women, how not to treat other people.  I am still upset with this election.  It truly makes me sick.  It kills me that someone like him actually received votes from people I know.  From Catholics.  I cried.  I never cry, but him winning made me that sick.  I actually cried three times about it.  Did I mention I don’t cry?

Thanksgiving kind of stunk- Mari got pneumonia, Mason got bronchitis and Alec had flu like symptoms.  Lance ended up getting sick and couldn’t make it to Austin to celebrate with my family.  We turned around and came home to spend the day with store bought food that was awful.

December- This year Advent was four full weeks.  We sang almost daily and read nonstop.  I love this time so much.  Mari turned six and handed out sleeping bags and her birthday money to the homeless.  That girl?  She is something special.  Then we got a stomach virus.  That. Wouldn’t. Stop.  Everyone caught it including Drake who doesn’t even live at home anymore!  With the exception of Drake not being able to come over on Christmas because he was puking, the day was great.  Alec served at mass, we came home and opened presents and then my family came over to celebrate with us.


A few days after Christmas, we had dinner with old friends.  Lance has known these guys since fifth grade.  It was fun catching up and a reminder that we need to see them more often.

I was supposed to take the kids to Atlanta to see my friend and her family, but it just didn’t work out.  Her grandfather got sick and then her husband could’t move the morning we were scheduled to leave.  I can’t imagine him having to deal with my kids while being stuck in bed.

So tonight I’m here again.  But at least, my better half is with me this year.  And so are my kids.  We all just toasted to 2017.  Let’s hope it’s a good one.

Tomorrow I write my goals for the year.  I did that last year and actually did all but two.  It was such a great list (long) and it kills me that I never took a picture of it.  It was in the planner that was stolen.  The top five items all complete except one- take kids to Disney, see Hamilton, run Chicago marathon, spend time with family, pray the rosary more.  We’ve yet to take the kids to Disney, one year it will happen.  But you know what?  It really was a fabulous year.  We went to some amazing cities, had some great meals at Michelin star restaurants and had fun being together.  I love our time on the road, but mostly I love reading to the kids and playing games and when one of them says “can you snuggle me?”  That’s the life I love.  Off the top of my head, my goals for 2017 are to read more, travel, eat and spend time together.  Tomorrow we start a 31 day reading challenge, I’ve got dinner planned for Lance’s birthday and we have our SF redo set for February and Atlanta rescheduled for the Spring.  But whether we eat at the top rated restaurant for the year or take a big family trip this year, it will be okay.  We will be together and that’s what makes my year.


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Summer’s End

By | Posted August 22, 2016

Posted in Family Life, Summer | No Comments »


I’m sitting here at the roller rink watching my kids fly by with smiles on their faces.  It’s our last skate day of the summer.  I’m smiling thinking of today only.  Not tomorrow or next week when they go back to school.  Just today.  And when I think of just this second, I am  happy.

It’s been a great summer.

A happy summer.

And while I hate for the kids to return to school, I don’t have that same feeling I always have in August.  Yet.  I’m sure it’s coming.  I’ve already had the yearly argument on why I’m not homeschooling the kids.  But hey, at least it’s pretty much a once or twice a year thing as opposed to one that affects my marriage nonstop.


I still use a planner.  I record everything we do in it.  Meals, my workouts, daily activities, feast days. etc.  At the beginning of the summer I wrote a list of things we wanted to do together.  I do the same thing at the beginning of each year.  We did everything we wanted to do this summer with one huge omission.  But I’m okay with that, we will take care of that before this year ends.

My first goal was to spend time together as a family.  We did.  We laughed, we fought, we read, we swam, we played lots of games and had field trips during the week.  All together.  One of the good and bad things about the boys’ school is that it’s not a neighborhood school.  We don’t live close to any classmates so we don’t socialize outside of school with anyone besides a couple of families.  Like I said, good and bad.  I wish my kids had other playmates at times, but I love that they rely on each other.


One day the kids made swords out of boxes from Costco.  It was awesome.  Snax started it, but soon the art boxes were out and everyone had a shield and sword, even Mari.  I love that creativity.  I can’t believe how much fun they had with those swords.


We swam so much my kids all ended up with swimmer’s ear.  Mari was our swimming beast, but the boys all improved and tried their hardest to beat her.  They still can’t.  The Olympics have been great for our family, probably most families.  Watching history being made with the swimmers, runners and gymnasts is just incredible.  We’ve all loved watching the competitions.  Last night Alec stayed up watching beach volleyball.  He said he really likes it.  No word on whether its just the girls he wanted to watch.  The kids even had their own family olympics in which they all completed an IM at the pool.  It was nice to see the kid who came in last keep going.  He had no chance to win, or even make third place, but he swam until he was done.  And Mari, the best was her doing butterfly the entire length of the pool despite the fact that she really can’t do butterfly arms for more than five strokes.  But she kept trying, never putting her feet on the ground and her arms would come out of the water just a bit.  Alec even made a medal for her and had an entire presentation where we interviewed her.


Mari was definitely the one to shine during June because of swim team.  I was so proud watching the boys cheer her on at each meet.  They were so excited for her to win.  Her swim coach even came to a meet to watch her.  You could say we were a bit obnoxious about Mari’s swimming.

We had lots of lazy days.  I was put on rest due to my hip in late May.  I was so bummed about it wanting to workout and start running.  But in the end, it was awesome.  We didn’t have anywhere to rush and that really set the tone for the summer.  Normally, I’m all about my workouts and the kids have to get up and play at the YAC.  Staying home in June meant lots of late mornings in our pjs playing legos or whatever else the kids came up with to play. Some days, they just watched television or played on the computer.  And while I don’t allow that during the year or even much in the summer, I’m grateful we had those days.  Even though the shows they watch are mind numbing, they need the rest.  They need to do nothing.


We took a trip to SA and NB to start off the summer spending time with cousins in SA and going to the Riverwalk with my friend’s daughter and husband.  I took the kids to Ripley’s Believe or Not and we had to leave early because Snax couldn’t handle it.  We didn’t get to do all I wanted, but that was ok.  We can go back.  We met Lance in NB and just enjoyed my in-law’s house.  We had the best lunch and DQ on the way home.  Maybe that was what set the tone for the summer.  Just being laid back.

We went back to NB to spend time with my in-laws and cousins.  I’m pretty close with most of my cousins and as we get older, our relationship gets better.  The kids see their cousins from Indy about twice a year, but one visit is usually very short.  This visit was nice and the kids had a blast.  I love how easily the kids just pick up with each other.


Our family vacation was just awesome.  And again, we didn’t do everything I wanted and hopefully, one day I will actually record those memories.  But it was great.  Andrea came along with us and I worried so much that she wouldn’t like it.  She’s an only child and I figured the kids would be just too much for her.  I mean, they always get along, but a car ride across the country is much different.  I worried for nothing.  She had a blast with us and told my mom she can’t wait for next summer!  I think the best part of the trip was that I didn’t freak out when we didn’t do all I thought we would.  Maybe I’m finally mellowing out with my expectations.  I’ll never be someone who wants to just do nothing, but I’m okay that we didn’t finish my extensive list.  There is always another trip around the corner.


We were gone for two weeks and as we drove home, I realized there were only three full weeks of summer break left to enjoy.  I didn’t get sad.  I enjoyed it.  I’m grateful I have finally realized to live in the moment with my kids and enjoy what we do.  Our days are far from perfect.  My kids fight and are super loud.  But then I can take them to daily mass and they don’t complain or fuss.  There are hurt feelings and tears, but there is laughter and requests to sleep in a siblings’ bed.  It’s a great life and a great family.


I am sad for summer break to end and for the kids the return to school.  I’ll always think I should be homeschooling these kids.  But for today, I’m ok.  I’m content that we created memories without rushing around in an attempt to fake memories.  They just happened.  I’m grateful I can realize the joy that was our summer.


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By | Posted April 22, 2016

Posted in Random | 17 Comments »

Hi, my name is Nicole, I also go by Nikki, Mom, and Nik.  And I have a serious addiction to children’s books. Serious.  Easter was just four weeks ago, and the kids all received new books in their baskets.  I only got two books a piece because I was trying to be good.  Right now my Amazon cart stands at 96 bucks for 8 books.  That amount is after I moved some to the ‘saved for later’ section.  It all started with Hamilton, yes, the musical.  The kids and I are so into it, we listen daily, our favorites change constantly and we want to know more about Alexander Hamilton.  So in my quest for more knowledge, I decided to search for some children’s books on Hamilton.  I found two fabulous ones, one about the duel!  Another just about Hamilton, the man.  Add to cart.  It got worse when I started texting a friend and she randomly mentioned a cool book about the white house.  (I cannot wait to get that one!)  And then I found one about Thomas Jefferson’s library.  I literally can’t stop myself.  From then on, well, I just kept clicking and clicking.

Today the kids got into the car and immediately requested Hamilton.  I told them no, today we were listening to Prince.  We were stuck listening to the radio because I only have a few Prince songs on my phone.  It was random because I was just telling the kids about Prince yesterday.  I liked Prince, he wasn’t my favorite.  I’m not devastated by his death like some people, but I definitely enjoyed his music.  So much so that I went to a concert of his on New Year’s Eve once.  At least, I think I did.  I can’t recall who I went with or what year, but I’m convinced that I went down to the detail of him leaving the stage at midnight and that totally annoying me.  It’s driving me crazy not to remember, mainly because I want to know who I went with and two, because I always remember random things.  Does this mean I’m losing that ability???

Next week is teacher appreciation week at our school.  I was talking with a friend on how we think it should be done.  I can only say that our way makes so much more sense.  But alas, nobody wants to change anything so daily food it is.

Next week I leave for Chicago to visit Paul and Brian while Lance works on the draft.  Apparently, we are hitting some three star Michelin restaurant our first night, then I’m a tourist the rest of the time.  I’m really excited.  There is a VanGogh exhibit at the Art Institute and I’ll hit the Robie House and the Botanical Gardens, as well as see a play and eat whatever I desire.  I cannot wait.  It’s just me and Paul on Thursday and Friday, just like old times.  I can’t say how excited I am for this.  I am so grateful for my mom who is taking care of the kids again.  I’m trying to plan something fun for her and I during the summer. I have a few ideas, I just need the time.

Today Alec got into the car and asked about OJ Simpson.  It was so random.  He had no clue about him.  I just realized that I never even asked why he brought him up.  He didn’t realize what a great football player he was, and how everyone adored him.  I loved giving him the details of what happened, remembering being at law school, watching Rockets in the playoffs and how the game was sent to the corner of the screen so we could watch the white bronco.  We had a great talk about our sports heroes and how they can disappoint us.  Lately, Alec asks some good questions.  I love how curious he is and often its something from my past that he wants to talk about which makes me happy.

Yesterday Snax had his First Communion interview.  The guy interviewing him was a seminarian.  Snax was super hyper the entire time, couldn’t sit still and shut up.  He would answer questions, then randomly start talking math.  The guy was great.  I think he really liked Snax and ended the interview by asking Snax to pray for his vocation.  Actually, both of their vocations- that he be a holy priest and that Snax do whatever God called him to do.  My favorite part of the interview was when Snax told him that the gospel from Sunday about the shepherd and the sheep was a metaphor because clearly we aren’t sheep.  But that when Jesus said you must eat my body and drink my blood…that was NOT a metaphor.  He meant it.  Talk about getting the True Presence.  I loved it and the seminarian liked it too.  I guess that kid is ready for his first communion despite acting like a little stinker most of the time.

I’m registered for the Chicago marathon in October and am so thrilled that I know three other people running also.  It’s going to be a fabulous weekend!

Alec is doing a kids’ trialthon Sunday.  I’m really nervous for him.  We haven’t even bought him a helmet for the bike ride, and I’m not sure of the rules.  He swims really slow, but he wants to do this.  So Sunday morning we’ll be out there cheering him on in what I hope will be the first of many races for him.

NYC?  It was amazing.  How can it not be?  But really, that trip was just great.  Maybe it gets it’s own post.  Hamilton?  So glad we spent the money and went.  Now if only I could take my kids.

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Five For Friday

By | Posted April 1, 2016

Posted in Five For Friday | No Comments »

Lance and I leave for NYC next week!  I am so psyched to see Hamilton.  The kids and I have been listening to the music nonstop for 8 days.  We have our definite favorites, and all of the kids can rap/sing the majority of the songs.  It is just so good, I can’t wait to see it live.  When we were planning the NFL trip, Lance asked if I wanted some place different or new, and I pretty much said it had to be NYC because I was seeing Hamilton.  This spring.  We’ve got some other fun stuff planned, a kickass hotel and time to just walk the city.  Seriously, why can’t my husband work there?  Why can’t we just live there?  I love it.

The kids love the music from this show so much that they are asking when we are taking them to see it.  Hmmmm, when prices go down.  Way down.  Maybe when I run the NYC marathon.

Lent is over.  Over!  Whole 46 done.  No cheating at all.  No grains, dairy, legumes, soy, lots of label checking.  Oh and no sugar or alcohol.  The hardest part was probably checking labels.  I don’t care much for grains or dairy and I can live without legumes.  I like vegetables, meat and fish.  I don’t like chicken.  After the first ten days, it was fairly bearable, then got bad again at day 30 because I realized how much time I had left.  By the end it was more of the spectacle of getting a drink and a sweet.  Now, I’m fine without the alcohol.  The sugar?  Not so much.  I could eat sweets every day of my life, and I have never lost that craving.  I literally thought of sugar every day during Lent.  That said, I’m not eating sweets until our trip.

I’ve tried to really think about my relationship with food once I got over myself early on in Lent.  I love to eat.  I love to workout which basically maintains my weight.  I’m always going to want to lose “10 pounds”.  I’m just that annoying girl.  But reality is that since the year after Snax was born, I have gained way more weight that I realized.  So even if I was too skinny after Snax, I have some weight to lose.  I ended up losing two pounds.  Two pounds.  I mean, what the heck?  How does one give up all that without cheating and not lose weight. I’d like to say it’s because my body is where it wants to be, but really, its just that I eat a lot, healthy or not.  One day, I ate 2000 calories of raw (compliant) cashews.  Who does that?!  I’m thinking its gluttony like that that keeps me from losing weight.  So Lent is over, and I’m off whole 30, but I’m trying not to lose it over food.  Though Easter did see me lose it.

Speaking of Easter, We had an amazing Triduum.  Alec served at all three masses of the Triduum as well as Easter Sunday mass.  I’m so proud of him.  Friday we went to confession waiting for an hour, outdoor stations at the Grotto and then the Liturgy of Good Friday service.  It was really a special day except I felt like I needed to go back to the confessional within an hour of leaving it.  Sometimes, my kids can make me feel like I have no control.  And I hate not being in control.  So back to confession I’ll go this weekend.  Alec even served at the Easter Vigil mass, the long, long mass.  (As if the other two weren’t long.)  It was really cool and our priest was proud of him, giving him hints about having a vocation.  Fine by me.

Lance and I have been talking all year about Mari and school.  I toured a couple of private schools because I honestly didn’t think she would qualify as GT and just wasn’t happy with the direction of the classes at the boys’ school.  I never felt comfortable at the private schools so we discussed other options.  Pretty much by November, Lance was on board with homeschooling Marianna.  But since he’s said that for each kid, I tested her.  Turns out, she did qualify as GT, (seriously, I have four kids who have qualified as GT–what does that say about GT qualifications in HISD???)  So she qualified and got a spot at the boys’ school, and we are declining.

Honestly, it was a total pride thing.  As much as I mock the GT standards here, and they are low, I would have been a bit flustered had she not passed the test.  I mean, I’m the one who taught her to read.  And while our teaching right now, is very minimal, (we are still in preK and just having fun), I’m the one who has taught her whatever she knows.  So my pride was saved.

I’ve had several parents ask what will we do when we don’t want to homeschool anymore.  The short answer, send her to school.  We will lose our spot at Rogers, but oh well.  The reality is that the school has never been to me what it is to others.  I’ve known that since the first month Alec started K.  I never did anything about it.  Now I can.  Assuming my husband doesn’t change his mind.  (Please don’t change your mind, Lance!)  But even then, I think I want a better situation for my kid.  When teachers tells you they wouldn’t send their kids there, even for elementary, that says something.  Right?  Having to drive to two different schools?  Not an issue, I’ve already done that.  I know people who drive to four different schools.  So that’s where I am on Mari and school.  Fingers crossed that my husband stays on board with me.  Oh and best question I received was, “will you homeschool all the way through?”  I’m just trying to make it to day one of Kindergarten!

So middle school has kicked my ass this last nine weeks.  I’d like to say all year, but really it was just recently.  The work has been nonstop all year long including weeks with several tests and big projects due.  In the first half of the year, Alec did fine, I would have preferred more A’s especially the 89, but he was doing well.  Then he lost his mind in January.  I started getting grade alerts…I needed to pay more attention.  I did, and he worked hard and got all his grades back up.  His lowest grade was a low B, but I was fine considering what had been going on earlier in the 9 weeks.  Two days before the grades were due, he called me from school saying his art teacher wanted to talk to me.  Art teacher?!  Turns out that 100 I had seen on grade speed was wrong.  He was failing.  Badly.  First, off, who fails art?  Second, my kids love art- to make it and look at it.  We go to the MFAH a lot and study different painters, I have 7 different picture books on painters plus kids’ coffee table art books that I catch him studying all the time!  We know art in this house, damnit!

She actually told me she would give him a 75.  I refused that grade, telling her to give him what he earned, but that maybe next time she could update her grade book so I would have accurate grades before they were due.  I wasn’t rude, promise.  I was furious at him, annoyed that the grades weren’t updated, but just so mad.  I had made sure he was studying and checking work and then this?!  He came home and I made him finish everything he hadn’t done.  He turned it in and managed to pull off a 97.  I’m not thrilled with the lesson he learned, but I wasn’t thrilled with him failing art either.  He has art again this 9 weeks, and I can promise I am now asking daily what he needs to finish in art!

Best new ever?  School is almost over.  38 more days!  I can’t even tell you how excited I am!

Do I have summer vacation planned?  No, but I do know we’re going to relax quite a bit around here.  Probably study a bit of Shakespeare.

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Lessons in Detachment

By | Posted March 14, 2016

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Marianna turned five in December.  Five.  Seriously, how did that happen?  First, I can’t believe I haven’t been pregnant since then.  I love babies.  Love, love, love them.  But even though I love them and would gladly accept more, Lance said he loved the babies we had.  And that unless God wanted us to have another, we wouldn’t be actively trying for more.  Now that didn’t mean we wouldn’t be a couple.  But considering that we don’t have problems getting pregnant, just staying pregnant, I kind of thought maybe, just maybe we’d have another baby.  Here’s where I say NFP works.  It really does.  It’s not always fun, and we certainly aren’t the poster couple for it, but it works.  And I’m happy that when we got married we decided to follow the church.

But back to my five year old.  And the fact that I don’t have any more babies.  That five year slept in a crib until last night.  I know, weird, right?  Even weirder, the sides were bolted in, so it’s not like I turned the crib into a daybed.  Now, this happened partly because I only had three rooms for the kids, Drake had one to himself, Snax had another and then the other three were stuffed in one room.  I had bunk beds and the crib.  Another bed wouldn’t have fit, and I didn’t want to buy her a toddler bed.  And she still fit in the crib.  And she didn’t mind the crib.


But Drake moved out December 31st, and I finally moved the boys and their beds to their new room a few weeks ago.  It was time.  We picked up a mattress on Saturday at Texas Mattress Makers.  (We also had a small field trip while there because it is so cool to watch people make mattresses.  And yes, I’m dead serious.) My little girl found a bed fit for a princess that is due to arrive in a few weeks.  We set up the mattress and frame and moved in the singer sewing machine to use as a dressing table, showing Mari how room will come together.

Then I told Lance he had to take apart the crib.  I had each kid come say goodbye to it.  All except Mason because he slept in the yellow crib.  Why?  Because Alec was still sleeping in this one- because apparently, I never move my kids out of their cribs at normal times.  Lance argued that we should donate it, but I reminded him that places don’t take cribs anymore, so he put it outside for the trash.


I was a little sad as I drove off this morning seeing it stacked up outside, it pulled at my heart.  My babies had slept in that wonderful crib.  Don’t people save those things??

Nope, I’m not a hoarder.  Say goodbye and move on.

I was happy I was able to get rid of the crib and even have plans to donate the yellow chair I have in their room, (having been convinced that recovering chairs is a waste.)

Simplicity and detachment.  Score for me.


Then I went to swim and was sharing my story with a mom who said she can’t get rid of hers and is having it made into a bench.

For a second I wanted to scream.  Really, she needed to share the bench story with a picture to someone who just got rid of their crib??

But I’m fine.  Detachment.  Simplicity.  I got what I needed from that crib, and I’m happy and grateful and have the pictures to prove it!  I don’t need a bench.

And I don’t need a crib sitting in my garage until I find someone to build a bench for me.

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By | Posted February 20, 2016

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Two Fridays into Lent and here I am sitting alone on the couch with unfinished Stations.  What the heck is going on?  How can our favorite family devotion be falling to the side?  Last week time just slipped away and the kids fell asleep and there went our family prayer time.  Then we didn’t pray on the way to Austin or the way back home.  I felt guilty all week long.  I knew we should have done it, I was ruining Lent by not starting off on the right foot.  BUT this week, it was going to be different.

It was different, just not in the way I thought it would be.  It ended with me sending the kids that were still awake to bed after losing my patience.

I’m still mad at them.  But the guilt has set in..the Stations I told them I’d just finish alone, those Stations are still not done.

We are less than two weeks into Lent, and I’m feeling like an utter failure.  I’ve complained daily about my sacrifice, that whole don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing?  Well, they know what they are doing, or rather not putting in my mouth and you can bet everyone else does too.  That’s not really my style.  Usually, I keep my Lenten sacrifice to myself, but this year, it was big and to avoid any confusion, I figured I would just tell people so I wouldn’t have to refuse alcohol, sweets, dairy, grains, legumes, soy and anything else resembling good food or drink.  I didn’t want to have to search food labels at someone’s house, kind of rude, I think.  So I let it be known that I was attempting a Whole30, but really more because of course Lent is 40 days, but even more because under the Whole30, you can’t cheat, so Sundays do indeed count.

Honestly, if I see you and talk to you, you know.  The people at Starbucks know, the swim coach knows, all my friends know, my parents know…why?  Because I can’t shut up about how much I hate it.  Which of course, I’m not supposed to do.

(By the way, over ten days in?  NO MORE ENERGY.  Or any other benefits.)

But back to my family.  What is it that is making this Lent so hard to embrace?  The things we enjoy the most aren’t happening.  We’ve read only four of our books.  Four!  Are they bored with them?  Too old?  While we definitely read our share of chapter books, picture books still hold a special place for all of the kids.  My children have made amazing sacrifices.  Goose gave up his beloved Snoopy for Lent.  This is literally the only thing that makes me shut up at times.  He misses his Snoopy so much, even at 11 years old.  But he wanted a good sacrifice because “Jesus died for me.”  Does Jesus really care if he gives up Snoopy?  No, not really.  But he’s learning discipline and doing something he doesn’t want to do as a sacrifice.  Marianna gave up television which isn’t hard during the week, but she’s committed at age 5 to make it through Saturday mornings without her usual television.  My most obstinate kid finally decided what he would give up two days after Lent started, finally realizing it was okay to give up something a little late.

I’m not sure what’s happening.  I finally sat and prayed about my own sacrifice.  I know Lent isn’t just giving up chocolate or wine or whatever, it’s more.  Jesus doesn’t really care if I have chocolate.  But I am called to make a sacrifice.  And pray and give alms.  All three.  I am praying more and attending more masses, and we give.  My kids give, that Snax is so sweet, always rolling down the window to share the money he has with others.  I’m not sure what the disconnect is with feeling like it’s Lent in my house.

I always pride my family with living the liturgical year well.  We’re not in Catholic school, but we celebrate Saint Feast Days and any important day in the church.  We’re always learning.  We take Advent seriously as well as the 12 days of Christmas.  Lent is no exception.  But this year has been hard.  Really hard.  I could blame it on Lance’s long hours, Goose’s ridiculous amount of work, my inability to make our calendar.  I don’t know what it is, and right now, it doesn’t really matter.  I’m just glad we have 40 days to think about this walk we’re called to take.  Its not an easy one.  I can say that Lent hasn’t been what I hoped it would be so far for my family.  But I’m letting go of the guilt and moving forward.  I’ll pray those Stations tonight.  Tomorrow is a new day.  To apologize for throwing a fit tonight.  To hit confession.  To try again.  The journey doesn’t end, not even with Lent.  I’m glad for the chance to start again.  To make this Lent one that changes our hearts.

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