family

Seemed like a good idea at the time

Need I say more?

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My friends and I are all riffing on the same theme today... Go visit their blogs and see what kind of brilliance and hilarity they found in hindsight.

Two Cannoli

Genie in a Blog

Smacksy

Good Day Regular People

My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog

The Mama Bird Diaries

Midlife Mixtape

When Did I Get Like This?

Arnebya

Up Popped A Fox

The Flying Chalupa

Suburban Scrawl

Goodness

Like a lot of families, we try to incorporate volunteering into our lives--to support our community and to teach our kids by example. As a family we have done countless school fundraisers and charity races. We’ve collected blankets for animals and coats for kids. We've hosted bake sales for needy families and planted trees for needy parks. Every one of those projects was worthwhile and engaging, but this year we decided to switch things up. Instead of one-time projects we wanted to offer a steady stream of goodwill. We wanted an ongoing commitment that our family could do together and feel a real sense of investment.

It sounded simple enough because of course a city the size of Austin has plenty of needs. Then we factored in our kids’ age range and our busy family life and it wasn’t so easy after all.

So we started researching and began with this wish list:

1. Something meaningful to us.

2. Something that works with our family schedule.

3. Something that lets us work with friends.

Y’all, I’m happy to say we found a match!

It’s only been a couple months, but it already feels so great. Once a month we meet some friends (another family of 5) at Mobile Loaves & Fishes. We make sandwiches for the homeless and load up one of the trucks that goes out for delivery 365 days a year. When our schedules allow, we hope to make some of the delivery runs, too. A few incredible stats: Mobile Loaves & Fishes has 16 trucks and more than 18,000 volunteers in 5 cities and 4 states. They have served nearly 3.9 million meals to the homeless. That’s too many sandwiches to count!

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The organization has also created a 27-acre master-planned community that will provide affordable, sustainable housing and a supportive environment for the chronically homeless. We have worked out at the Community First Village and, like the truck ministry, it is full of family-friendly volunteer opportunities. In fact, one of MLF’s greatest strengths as an organization is how systematic and accessible they are. It’s so easy to volunteer that it takes away any obstacles or excuses.

Working with friends has been a huge perk. Our kids love seeing their friends in this type of setting. Sure, they joke around some, but they also take their jobs very seriously and try to out-awesome each other with their volunteer skills. As a bonus, with two families we have more flexibility if a kid gets sick or someone has a conflict.

And is the project meaningful for our family? Yes. Unfortunately, homelessness is a part of our daily landscape. We live in the middle of the city, a few blocks from an intersection that has at least one guy standing on the corner at all times of the day.

We use this intersection several times a day and for the past couple of years, a man named Eddie has been there almost every day. Eddie is there when we drive to ballet, to soccer, to art class. He’s there when we go to the grocery store, when we go for a run, when we go eat at a restaurant. Our kids see him when he’s cheerfully waving to all the drivers, when he’s yelling at a bystander’s dog, and when he’s stumbling up and down the curb with a bottle in his hand.

Countless times the kids have asked why nobody is helping Eddie. I’m usually at a loss for words. “Maybe people are trying...maybe he has a hard time accepting help...maybe he’s fighting some demons we don’t know about.”

Since we started helping Mobile Loaves & Fishes, the kids have a new question: “Do you think Eddie will get this sandwich tonight?” Maybe. I hope so. And if not this Eddie, then it will certainly help another Eddie we haven’t met.

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The holiday season is a great time of year to support your community, but it’s also a great time to commit to supporting it year-round. I hope you find something valuable that works for you and your family!

Other Austin organizations we love and support:

The Trail Foundation Austin Parks Foundation Little Helping Hands Austin Pets Alive

A week of evenings

I had so much fun capturing bits and pieces of our mornings with my #aweekofmornings series that I've decided to tackle the flip side. The dark side, in my opinion. It's only Tuesday, and I'm already daunted by the task. With three kids ages 6, 10 and 12, our evenings are often a complicated test of logistics and endurance. Long gone are the days of scheduled toddlers and early bedtimes. (Longer gone are also the days of walking around with a wailing newborn in the witching hour, so let's keep some perspective.) For me, the glory days were a brief and perfect time when our family's evening routine consistently looked like this: Kid dinner promptly at 5:00, baths at 6:00, bedtime at 6:30, and adult-only dinner afterward, with no nuggets and ketchup in sight.

Now our routine changes daily depending on work responsibilities, kid schedules and carpool duties. When I have my act together and our schedules allow, I prep dinner in the morning and have it ready for all of us to enjoy together. Sounds lovely, but for us it's only a realistic goal maybe twice a week. Many other nights I'm throwing sandwiches in a bag, raiding the kids' lunch boxes for whatever they didn't eat earlier, and hustling everyone into the car for soccer/ballet/biking/etc.

Despite the full calendar, we carve out mini-routines where we can. Bedtime always involves books. It always involves rituals, no matter how small or strange. One kid wants hugs and kisses and movie-star air kisses in a very particular order. Another kid prefers a quick tuck-in, a special repeated phrase, and lights immediately out. The other wants the sheets and pillows just so and then a glass of water with ice and multiple check-ins just in case. If there's anything we've learned as parents, it's to not fight these evening rituals too much, no matter how exhausted we are, no matter that some feel like stalling techniques, and no matter that a kid was just screaming at us 10 minutes ago because they had the Worst Day Ever. Nobody likes to go to bed grumpy, and the rituals seem to settle us all down.

That said, there's no predicting how an evening will go. Someone can forget homework at the last minute, or fall apart because favorite jammies are dirty, or just be sick and tired of dealing all day. Other nights there is singing in the shower and relaxed chapters of Harry Potter. Your guess is as good as mine...Tune in to my Instagram feed this week, and we'll find out together.

2015.04.07.evenings-1 Monday 8:30pm. Busy boy avoiding bed. Patient dog waiting for attention.

2015.04.07.evenings-2 Monday 8:30pm. Already well past his bedtime and he's asking for 5 more minutes.

 

2015.04.07.evenings-3 Monday 8:45pm. Late dinner for our dedicated ballerina.

 

My #aweekofevenings project runs from April 6-12, and all the images can be found on Instagram @ewmcguire.

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In other news...

I was thrilled to have the story of our new mother/son running routine featured on Huffington Post last week.

I have a new professional Facebook page and would love to get your Like on it. 

Thanks again for all your enthusiasm and support.

xoxo, Liz

A week of mornings

Mornings: Everybody’s got them. I happen to be a fan of them, and this week I’m documenting mine on Instagram. I’ve always been a morning person. As a kid I was the one at sleepovers who woke up early and had to lay there quietly, listening to unfamiliar sounds until my host would finally, finally wake up and show me where her mom kept the Froot Loops.

In college I consistently took 8:00am classes and would come home for lunch (and a nap) right as my roommates were waking.

A decade later as a new mom, I thought my early bird tendencies would totally pay off...but as all veteran parents know, every sleep habit goes to hell when a baby comes along. It wasn’t until I made peace with the fact that I would be exhausted for several years that I stopped counting my hours of shut-eye and got back into my regular early-morning routine, despite how my babies were sleeping.

Now here I am with growing kids and a busy family schedule. Waking up early has become a key factor to my personal happiness because absolutely nobody in my family needs me at 5:00am. That means it’s all about my own needs until the split second I walk back through the door...and then all bets are off.

The mornings aren't over this week, so there are still more photos to come, but here's a small taste of the whole series. Enjoy!

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The #aweekofmornings thread was started by Xanthe Berkeley and has some incredibly lovely photos from all over. Plug in that hashtag and serve with your favorite breakfast!

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Throwback Thursday: Namesake

So many things I love about this photo, which I shot a little over 6 years ago....

My wee one was only a few weeks old, and we had gone on tour to show him off to loved ones who couldn't travel to see him. Here he is meeting his great-Grandpa, who shares his middle name. When I hear the phrase circle of life I think of small moments like this...beginnings and endings all blurred together, propelled by the love and energy of everyday life. Forget the big, bold stuff. Richness lies in these tiny atoms of beauty and grace.

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Moving Home

This is our final, crunch week for the home remodeling project that has been consuming our lives for the past year...Hooray! We move in this weekend, just a few days before Thanksgiving...Hooray? Of course I'm so ready to be back in our house, but the holiday timing is not ideal. Or is it?? A few great reasons to move the week of Thanksgiving...

1. You are totally off the hook for all cooking responsibilities. (Sorry family, the pie pans are packed. Hello, Whole Foods!)

2. You have no time to shop or get sucked into Black Friday drama.

3. No need to haul the Christmas tree out of the attic..it's already sitting in the driveway!

4. You already have the gifts that every kid on your list wants anyway...giant, empty cardboard boxes!

Wow, I'm feeling better already.

I have been lax in posting photo updates here, but hopefully you've seen some of the updates on my Instagram feed. Here are a few of those progress photos. There are lots of tweaks and touch-ups happening right now, so I'll post true After shots once we are in and a bit settled. Stay tuned!

 

BEFORE:

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NOW: 2014.10.26.house-30

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BEFORE: 2014.02.HouseBefore-23

NOW: 2014.11.18.house-3

BEFORE: 2014.02.HouseBefore-10

NOW: 2014.10.05.house-1

BEFORE: 2014.02.HouseBefore-16

NOW: 2014.11.18.house-15

 

Happy Thanksgiving to you! I hope you have a moving-free holiday. Or if you do move, may you enjoy your store-bought pie, canned whipped cream, and cardboard box gifts.

Cheers, Liz

 

 

Turkey with a side of fiasco

Here comes another blog hop! This time my chicas and I were inspired by our friend Alexandra from Good Day, Regular People, who recently wrote about the subject of fiascoes. We’ve all got a fiasco story to tell. Here’s mine...

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When I was growing up our family insisted on serving the exact same meal for every major feasting holiday. In fact, the tradition was nearly as important as having enough chairs around the table. Nobody ever expected to sit on the floor and nobody ever expected anything but our menu of beige delights with a sprinkling of green and orange.

The fact that it had been decades since anyone touched the sweet-and-sour green beans did not deter our dedicated tradition police. The beans were a given. As were the mashed potatoes, the spiced peaches, the brown-and-serve rolls, the turkey, and the stuffing that, by God, better come out of a box or the men in the house would come undone.

So we liked our traditions. Some might say we clung to them with an enthusiastic death grip. In retrospect it makes perfect sense to me that we held on so tightly to these rituals because during the same time, most of our basic family dynamics were in constant upheaval.

My mom had been sick most of my life. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when I was 10 and confined to a wheelchair a year later. Over the course of her 30-year-long disease, she would lose her ability to walk, to use her arms, to feed herself, to leave her bed, and for the last 10 years of her life, to breathe without the support of a ventilator. This summary sounds very tidy and compact when written in one sentence, but those 30 years were messy, uncertain ones and included a long series of unraveling dreams for our family. Many holidays were spent in a hospital, or leaving a hospital, or worrying that we would be in a hospital. Many holidays at home, despite our bravest faces and sunniest outlooks, were heartbreaking and tense simply because when a loved one hurts, everyone else hurts as well.

The traditions seemed to help, though. Or at least they gave us something to banter about during meals.

It was with this familiar baggage that one year, I proposed a new menu item. I was fresh out of college and perhaps feeling worldy because I had recently left Texas and headed west, in search of a not-too-lame job and weekends in the mountains. I ran it by my mom and opted for a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy with everyone else.

Let’s mix things up, Mom! OK! How about another vegetable? OK! Let’s go crazy and make it green! OK! Even crazier, let’s not soak it in butter beforehand! Wait, what?

We decided on steamed broccoli served with a side of cheese sauce. I was no master chef, mind you. I was 22 and genuinely believed that the good china would make even Velveeta look classy.

The broccoli, I predicted, would be bright and glorious, and the cheese (cheese product) pure ooey-gooey goodness. Serving a new dish seemed like an optimistic and bold endeavor in the face of our family’s long-standing security blanket. Like perhaps things were almost normal and it was no big deal to try something new because it’s not like the weight of “making every holiday count” was important or anything. Just another family gathering, not a metaphor for all our hopes and dreams, right?

Thanksgiving afternoon, the dining table was set with my parents’ all-white wedding china and linens. My mother sat in her wheelchair at the table with her parents, who visited us once or twice a year on big holidays. My father, two brothers and I ferried food from the kitchen to table like seasoned caterers.

As all the usual suspects found their spots on the table, I went to retrieve our newest dish. I cradled the broccoli bowl and my younger brother, a towering but gentle giant who moves deliberately through the world, ushered in the cheese in its gleaming white gravy boat.

Before a single person could mutter “Broccoli??” I heard china crash to the floor and saw a spray of orange liquid make a spectacularly acrobatic hurl toward the far reaches of the room. The white walls, the white carpet, the white tablecloths...all splattered like the first draft of a Jackson Pollock. My brother stood speechless, his shoes surrounded by a pool of cheese sauce, still holding between his fingers the curved handle of the china gravy boat.

My mother shrieked. My father exploded. My brother stammered something like, “It just...it just broke.” My grandmother helpfully pointed out that “Wow, look how it reached all the way over yonder.”

What followed was a chaotic and noisy mix of blaming, shouting, stomping and heavy sighing. We spent much of the holiday cleaning up the mess, taking turns sponging carpet cleaner into the hundreds of orange spots all over the room. After every scrubbing, we wondered aloud how a gallon of cheese could have fit in a 3-cup container. Months later we would still find flecks of hardened cheese clinging to some distant surface. It would take years before we could laugh about The Cheese Incident and even then it was less of a laugh and more of an uncomfortable, knowing chuckle.

This week, nearly 20 years after that day, is our second Thanksgiving without my mom. The traditions have shifted over time. The food is still very much the same traditional fare. There is sometimes fine china, sometimes a new vegetable, but there is never ever broccoli.

There is, however, always gratitude. I realize how far we’ve come from the family we were then. We’ve added in-laws and kids and gained enough joy to balance out the losses. We know we aren’t immune to future stress or sadness, but the old specter of uncertainty has passed.

This year, I will count my many blessings and be thankful that the cheese can spill and it won’t be a metaphor for anything. It will just be a mess. And we will clean it up without fanfare and move on.

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Read more fiasco stories from my talented friends...

Ann’s Rants The Flying Chalupa Midlife Mixtape Smacksy

And if you can't get enough of us, check out our past blog hops about The Worst Meal I Ever Served & 10 Reasons You Should Be Glad I Didn't Blog in my 20s.

Mealtime

IMG_5086 (1)So, my pals and I are doing another blog hop. Yay! You might remember the last one, where I bravely shared a photo of myself from 1992 wearing, as someone pointed out, "Mom jeans before I was even a Mom." This time we're discussing The worst meal I ever cooked and served to loved ones. I feel sure my funny friends will come up with compelling and hilarious stories, but I gotta be honest with you...this is a tough topic for me. Certainly not because I do or don't cook terrible meals. But because it's Thursday and hello I have hardly any remaining brain capacity to think about mealtime topics. I'm simply maxed out for the week. My weekly allotted Think About Food time was spent on panicked meal planning, high-speed grocery shopping, pre-dinner interrogations, dinnertime whining, and morning cajoling. There's precious little energy remaining to wonder how the meal ranked on my family's Yum Scale.

I am quite confident everyone has stirred around eaten what was on their plates and that what they avoided ate was as healthy as possible. But beyond that, I couldn't possibly tell you how it falls on their radar.

Call me callous or lazy, but this is where things stand right now in our house. We are all about simplicity nowadays. In fact, I adopted a Family Mealtime Mantra just to keep us all on the same page. Thanks to inspiration from Michael Pollan's famous quote I've come up with these words to live by:

"Cook food. Not too much. Mostly edible."

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Read more about worst meals from my talented writer friends...

Ann’s Rants Midlife Mixtape The Flying Chalupa Earth Mother just means I’m dusty

Democracy in action

photo So tomorrow we are bringing home the newest member of Team McGuire. We are SO EXCITED! We have been waiting for this guy for months, this adorable yet nameless creature.

When you have five opinionated voters, selecting a name can get a little complicated. Our process was nothing if not thorough and included the following steps:

Preliminary brainstorming * Think of favorite literary references. "You'll never guess why, but how about Albus, Lupin or Harry?" * Research the meanings of names. "Mom, what's the Greek word for awesome?" * Consider a family name. "Let's name him after ME! At least his middle name because I'm the middle child!" * Honor our musical tastes. "How about Charlie Hodge? We can train him to bring me my scarves and my water."

Straw voting During a 6-hour road trip, narrow it down to three top names then realize that the youngest voter is swayed during each vote by the sibling he likes most at that very second. (Elder statesman kicks herself for not taking advantage of this.)

Lobbying This phase may or may not include a certain voter suggesting that, "Seriously sweetie, it's really going to come down to our votes because the guys don't care nearly as much as us, right? What can I do to get you on my side?"

Real world testing Insist that the youngest and most puppy-like voter crawl on the floor barking while the others call him by potential names. "See how easy it is to say, Sit ___! with this name?" "Sure, but he wagged his tail more with the other one."

Final decision The final vote is cast when we see his furry face again. I'd give you a hint, but who knows how many last-minute amendments and re-votes will appear before then. Wish us luck!

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If you liked this, you may like this one about naming some unconventional pets, or these two about our other dogs, who live in our hearts and are certainly watching over us right now. One is grinning and wagging her entire butt and the other is hogging all the balls thrown his way.

Elbow room

Visual proof that the road trip temporarily known as Hell on Wheels was well worth the effort once we arrived. All we had to do was give each kid his/her very own mountain. (Click collage to enlarge.)

Happy End of Summer, y'all!!