Little kid beds!

February 9th, 2015

Sam and Cate were probably about 18 months old the first times they climbed out of their mini-cribs. but Cindy taught us a great tactic:

  • Explain that beds are only for sleeping,
  • assert that we do not climb on the furniture, and
  • conclude that if a girl climbs in/out of a crib, their Friend will go to sleep with Mom and Dad.

I think each girl tested that rule just once before concluding that it was ok to wake up and wait in a crib until someone came to get them. Very effective!

* * *
Last summer, the time I hefted a growing girl the wrong way, pinched a nerve in my back, and ended up at the ER to get relief, we seriously considered doing away with cribs. But we just weren’t comfortable with the prospect of free-range two-year-olds getting into mischief in the middle of the night. I worked hard to lift more carefully less often, and we continued on with girls in mini-cribs.

* * *
In early January 2015, we took our “annual” trip to Las Vegas — to visit Cindy, Paul, Emma, and Sonnet — for the first time in four years. More on our delightful visit in another post!

We spent six nights in a Westin Element extended-stay style hotel, which I liked a lot. Rather than requesting cribs for the girls, we let them make their first attempts at sleeping unfettered, on the sofa in our room. Conveniently, the sofa cushions were exactly the same size as our mini-crib mattresses at home, and the girl bedding I brought fit perfectly.

The first night, Sam rolled out of bed *three* times. That’s when I realized that she usually leans her back against the crib railings. The next night, I turned Sam around and leaned her back against the sofa, and she was fine. Instead, Cate woke up on a pillow on the floor, and was furious that Daddy Bill let her sleep there after she fell out of bed. By night three, they got the hang of it.

Sofa sleeping at the Westin Element, Las Vegas

Great nappers!

* * *
Sunday afternoon (Feb 8), two 3-year-olds walked into the hall after naps, having climbed silently out by themselves. When asked if they were ready to sleep without railings, both girls exclaimed, “yes!” So Bill just disassembled the cribs.

For now, they’ll sleep on their same mini-crib mattresses, still on the floor, in the same orientation, with the same bedding, for minimal disruption. We don’t really have room for toddler beds, which need standard crib mattresses — never mind twin beds — without significant rearranging.

In short, we now have free-range sleepers. Wish us luck!

Last farewell to mini-cribs…

Big, confident climbers

Saturday morning dyads

January 24th, 2015

Our girls got some one-on-one dyad time today. Cate and Sam both slept well, and we woke to sun and a beautiful forecast. However, they woke with different ideas about how to spend the morning, so we split up.

Bill took Cate to the Houston Zoo, for some time with the big cats and a couple rides on the carousel. They had hotdogs and goldfish for lunch, and then came home.

At the same time, I drove Sam with her helmet and running-bici to Buffalo Bayou. She’s stronger and faster than ever, and I had to jog to keep up with her! Sadly, she lost control on the first downhill, drifted into a retaining wall, then tumbled ass-over-teakettle onto the path and scraped her lip. But after a good long hug and a short discussion of the importance of aiming for the middle of the path and how to use two feet as brakes, she was up and running her bike down the hill.

Every time I tried to suggest that we turn back, Sam insisted that we press on, until we looped both ped bridges — from Rosemont to Jackson Hill — and back. She only stopped to sit and rest on a bench when we came to the amazing new dog park. Once she caught her breath, Sam declared for going in to check it out and play with some pups. We even made friends with a young woman named Jamie and her little dog, Hank.

Eventually, I convinced Sam to head on up the final hill — jogging now, while I carried her bike — to the shiny letter people next to Montrose. Then across the Rosemont bridge and back to my van. A surprising 1.8 miles later, she was so tuckered out that when my car door didn’t open immediately, she plopped down on the grass to wait.

During the ride home, she devoured *two* cereal bars back to back, and once home, devoured the rest of her eggs from breakfast. Bill and Cate returned momentarily, and then both girls went down for good, long (3-hour) naps. Good Saturday!

Samanthaism #: Dusts

January 18th, 2015

On becoming sneezy tonight, Sam offered this explanation:

“Rana put 15 of her dusts in my sneezers!”

Las Vegas: Hello, Mount Charleston!

January 11th, 2015

We’ve made loose talk about traveling with the girls. But over three years, we only managed day trips to Galveston (Papa Chuck & Baba Jean), day trips to Conroe (Gram Nancy), and one lovely weekend in San Antonio (Ben & Rebecca). Many of our favorite people are too far away to drive to (at least with toddlers) and we’ve been daunted by the prospect of air travel (with toddlers).

January marked the annual return of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to Las Vegas. Bill still has a stake in SpectraCal, which makes CES a work-like trip. We both had the ability to take time away from work (Bill had vacation, and all time off from my new job is discretionary), so we screwed our courage to the sticking place and bought plane tickets to Las Vegas. Whee!

When we arrived on New Year’s Day, Cindy, Paul, and their girls met us at our hotel for a simple dinner and catching up in the room. As we were checking in, the hotel manager told us about the buffet breakfast, glanced at our friends, and assured us we could bring our “whole family.” So Friday morning, we all grazed through the breakfast fare and then set forth to Mount Charleston!

We followed the 4Runner west and UP into the mountains

The high desert terrain is unlike anything we see in Houston

As the road ascended higher into the mountains, we felt the pressure change in our ears. We encouraged the girls to drink some milk and try to yawn to equalize their ears.



As soon as we got above the snow line, the little mountain road was lined with parked cars, and most every snowy open area was covered with sledders. So Cindy led us into the McWilliams campgrounds. A waiver, an entry fee, and a cord of firewood later, we were in and found a site.

The very first slopes we saw were covered with sledders

Cate bundled in thermals, tee/leggings, fleece, coat, hat, mittens, and boots!

Cate and Sam promptly slid down the hill to the bathroom on their bottoms

Emma is six-and-a-half!

Sonnet, Cate, and Sam found “an Iceberg” and built it up further




Cate tried to climb the Iceberg

Iceberg: 1, Cate 0.

Sonnet is three-and-three-quarters


Camp McWilliams

Cate was the first to get cold enough to warm her body by the fire

Cindy, our hostess with the mostest, presented hot cocoa!

Paul and Sonnet blew together to cool her hot cocoa

Cindy getting some Bruno cuddles


Cate lay down on the snow, the better to eat it

Bill took Sam and Sonnet for a hike up the snowy hill


Sam fell asleep within minutes, as soon as we drove away from the campsite

Cate feigned sleep, but was overtired/wired through lunch

Even Emma was wiped out by lunchtime

Mount Charleston

Desert sun

I shot more than a hundred photos, during our Mount Charleston outing. I meant to post only 8-10, but this is a full third of them. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

A little Christmas 2014…

December 10th, 2014

At two, Cate and Sam really enjoyed the modest return of Christmas in 2013, and I did, too. So this year, we started a little earlier. And Gram Nancy invited us to come help decorate her house, too.

On Sunday morning (Dec 7), we had breakfast at home, cajoled girls into getting dressed, eventually made it out of the house and drove to Conroe. Gram picked up lunch from the Club, and after lunch, girls took good long naps on the floor of the dormitory.

Eventually, both girls acceded to my demand they sleep

Sam woke first, and was delighted to help decorate Gram’s tree. Cate slept longer and woke up chipper and ready to help, too.

Ready to hang

Gram showed Cate how to hang balls on her tree…

… and then helped Sam hang balls, too.

Nancy acquired this animatronic Santa when Bill was just 2 or 3.

Nancy’s mother Alice crocheted these snowpeople

Only Bill was tall enough to mount the bow on top



Holiday Bob

* * *
For Christmas eve, morning, and day after, my camera was not in its drawer and I couldn’t remember where I’d stashed it (next to its battery charger). So while we did make the rounds from home to Conroe to Galveston, and we did enjoy time with our extended families, and the girls did get to play with both sets of cousins, I didn’t capture any of it digitally. With a little luck, some subset of us may remember some of it anyway.

Beethoven’s 1st and 4th symphonies

November 30th, 2014

When I woke Sunday morning, a text message from my mom was waiting in my phone:

Sounds like peeps in Sugar Land are sick. Are you or Bill available for HSO tomorrow 2pm?

Although I haven’t listened to much classical music since high school in the 1980s, and I’ve played even less, I do enjoy attending the symphony, and going with my mom is a treat. Jean told me they would perform Beethoven’s 1st and 4th symphonies, and I remembered that Gran’mom especially enjoyed Beethoven. Bill agreed to cover naptime so I could go.

Jean and Bob en route to Jones Hall

As Bill came outside to snap this photo of me and my mom, a lone monarch butterfly appeared out of nowhere. It swooped toward us, then just as abruptly, flitted away. I immediately thought of Gran’mom, and I turned to see if Mom had seen it too. Her eyes met mine and she smiled, and I knew she was thinking of Gran’mom, too.

* * *
Houston’s symphony has a new music director — Andres Orozco-Estrada — who is not only more animated and visibly enthusiastic than Hans Graf, but also reassuringly beats his baton in rhythm with the piece. He’s fun!

Andres Orozco-Estrada

Beethoven’s 1st symphony in C major is a cheerful piece and it sounds Beethoven-y. I enjoyed it, and intend to seek out a recording of it so I can listen again. Beethoven’s 4th is striking in how light and modest it seems compared to his 3rd, 5th, and 9th symphonies. The program quoted his contemporary, Schumann, who described it as a “slender Grecian maiden between two Nordic giants,” and I can kind of see that.

The middle piece of today’s concert was a Schumann cello concerto in a minor key. I liked it well enough, although my appreciation of the tone and tenor of cellos goes most of the way toward enjoyment before the specifics of a given piece.

HSO cellist Brinton Averil Smith

* * *
When I was a teenager, my mom brought us to see Houston Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker. Later, in honor of my 20th birthday, she brought me to see Swan Lake. (She also gave me a bouquet of 20 pink roses in a vase that I just used to start some paperwhite narcissus bulbs that we bought together at Buchanan’s this afternoon.)

I played the flute from 4th grade through high school, and as a senior, I earned first chair and solos in symphonic band. So I got to hear our “symphony” perform every spring.

But I’m pretty sure it was Gran’mom who brought me to my first real symphony performances. In 1998, I was single and working for Plaut as an SAP implementation consultant. I was working in rural Georgia and most weekends I came home to my parents’ house in Galveston. (I needed a tax home in Texas and it seemed silly to pay a lot of rent for an apartment I’d only use 10-12 days a month. So I paid a little rent to my parents and enjoyed their company, too!)

My client paid for me to fly home to Texas every Thursday, but several times I flew to Florida instead, to play with Gran’mom. That fall, she bought a pair of season tickets to the Orlando Symphony and I scheduled a couple of visits so that I could attend the matinees with her. I recently unearthed the letter in which she wrote me excitedly to say she had our tickets. Gran’mom thought of me as her “little playmate.”

I just remember how sophisticated she made me feel. I didn’t think either the suits or the khaki pants and sweaters I wore to work were appropriate attire for concerts, so she took me shopping along Winter Park Ave. She introduced me to Ann Taylor, where I found the pale green silk pant suit that I later wore to the rehearsal dinner before our wedding. I also found my slinky black ankle-length opera dress.

She prepared delicious meals with fresh, local ingredients, introduced me to meat seared in herbes de Provence, and taught me to appreciate chardonnay. She read the newspaper and Newsweek, watched the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour, and wrote letters to the editor and to her Congressman. She listened to classical music and made me feel special.

* * *
As I sat in Jones Hall this afternoon, immersed in the 4th Symphony, I was struck by how incredibly lucky I was to have Gran’mom dote on me. I really miss her. And she would have enjoyed the Beethoven today.

New content

November 27th, 2014

It’s been about three months since I managed to post any complete thoughts here. Between the girls starting preschool and me starting a new job, there just isn’t much time.

That said, I’ve just gone back and filled in some details from August, including Tibbs’ death, my very-sweet 43rd birthday, and the girls’ first day at Becker. Thanks for reading!

Pecan season!

November 23rd, 2014

In his book, Year Round Vegetables, Fruits and Flowers for Metro Houston, Dr. Bob Randall observed that, unless you set a pecan tree well apart from aerial access and defend it mightily, small furry critters are likely to capture the lion’s share of its fruit. He had me convinced, and yet… not so!

With this lovely run of cool nights in the 40s and warm sunny days in the 60s, pecans are just raining out of our trees. In the last 4 or 5 days we’ve collected more than 7 pounds of nuts from the ground beneath our three trees. And collecting ground-level nuts is a fantastic task for a pair of motivated 3-year-olds!


Sunday afternoon, Cate and Sam collected about 3 pounds of pecans from the deck, the back yard, and — as Sam put it — “going on an adventure” behind the garage. They then went out front to run, toss around a box of tissues, flop off of the inflatable whale, and wrestle in the grass.

Sam and Cate

Frolicking on Fairview

Saturday in the life…

November 22nd, 2014

Friday evening, we had girls in bed around 8 pm and didn’t hear a peep until Sam woke us at 6:50 am. Bill and I stayed up too late to appreciate our early bird, but long quiet sleep is still a most-welcome development!

Saturday morning, Cate declared for hotdogs (organic, nitrite/ate-free, beef) for breakfast, and Daddy Bill was home and happy to oblige, along with some fresh mangled eggs. And coffee for us parents.

After breakfast, we tackled a small project, and converted our hall bathtub into a hall closet. We’re super short on space and that tub is a lost cause* so… we borrowed a page out of Papa Chuck’s playbook. Bill cut some 1″-plywood to fit and now there’s a deck over the tub, ready for storing boxes as we begin to pre-pack books, etc. for moving in 2015.

While Bill was in the garage sawing lumber, the girls and I puttered out back. Cate worked a broom and Sam worked a rake, rearranging leaves on the deck.

*During the drought several years ago, the original cast-iron sewer pipe under that original bath cracked open, and the repair would have required paying a fortune to let the plumber destroy the deck that our friends built us for our wedding.

Big, beautiful Saturday

November 1st, 2014

Nine months ago today, I wrote about an epic Saturday we enjoyed with our girls. Today was another like it, with many of the same wonderful elements.

After our first-ever trick-or-treat outing together last night, girls were up until 10 pm and Bill and I were up later still. Girls slept well overnight but when they woke me at 7 am, I was still tired. Bill joined us in the kitchen a little later to warm some tortillas and scramble eggs for tacos.

We woke to the first morning of “winter” in Houston — clear, sunny, and in the low 50s — just cool enough for the heat to run. After breakfast, rather than going out, Cate declared for watching videos together on the couch under the kitty blanket. So we rewatched Disney’s most-recent feature, Frozen, for the second time (it’s growing on me), and for the first time in forever, we fired up the projector and introduced Cate and Sam to The Big Screen.

Do you want to build a snowman?

After some pumpkin play, some chalk on a big box, and a token lunch, Cate started to fuss and admitted she was too tired to eat anymore. So we pottied, donned jammies, read The Littlest Pumpkin and put girls in cribs. They went down for good two-hour naps almost immediately, and Bill even got a nap before we were done.

When the girls woke, they asked to take their blue bicis for a bike-walk around the neighborhood. We walked east along Fairview and then they fairly zoomed up Van Buren to West Drew. We ran into Andres and his wife and three boys, said hi to Mr. Hillary’s snow geese decoys, and continued down to the awning store parking lot where the girls practiced racing around in big circles. We then rode the sidewalk up Montrose far enough to say hi to the Funnel Tunnel before heading home again.

Saturday evening, we enjoyed a special opportunity at Hickory Hollow. The first time we heard Tuna Sin perform there, I had no idea that Auntie Emily and Mr. Buck are old friends. Since then, they conspired to recruit Sam, Cate, and me up on stage to sing a song or two. The first time, we regaled the audience with our “A, B, C…”s. A few weeks ago, we coordinated in advance to learn and practice, “Deep in the heart of Texas.” Cate and Sam don’t yet have the rhythm of the right, but they memorized every verse and sang ’em right through.

At bedtime, we brushed girl teeth, went potty, and slipped into new winter Hannas I found on eBay.

Do you want to wear the snowflakes?
It’s time to go to bed…
We cannot stay up any more –
we’ll end up on the floor –
and bump our heads…

Then girls climbed into the chair to read Ten Timid Ghosts (which is my new favorite, for its unspoken visual humor) and Happy Halloween, Biscuit. (I sat on the floor because for months now, girls are too tall for me to see over when they sit on my lap!)

After stories, we pottied a final time, put on nighttime diapers, and cuddled briefly as Bill and I sang, “Goodnight Sweetheart, well, it’s time to go… to bed, to bed.” Then into cribs and lights out. I love you, good night!