Friday, February 22, 2013


For those who were readers back during my journey of faith, you'll know that I was in the process of researching (literally, I spent some time in the library folks!) a new spiritual home when I found out I was pregnant with Ava. For those who are newer readers since then (and that was a whiiiiile ago, so that is likely 99% of you!), here's a brief summary of my journey:

I was raised Mormon. I've talked about this in the past, and let me make this disclaimer now, before we get any further: To each their own. Live and let live. These are things I believe in. I've no plans to sit here and trash the LDS religion, only to say that for me, since I was old enough to ask questions, I have known that the Mormon faith was not a good fit. Politically, ideologically, and then some, it was not the church for me. I've known plenty of amazing, kind, and Christ-like Mormons, though, so if you feel compelled to badmouth them in the comments, please refrain. Thanks.

Now that I've said that, let's get started, shall we? Despite my misgivings about being raised Mormon, it is terribly difficult to walk away from a faith and ideas that have been told to you as a child, and so rather than actively searching for a better fit, I just stopped going. I've never stopped believing - I have a firm foundation and faith in God. But I had no spiritual home, no place I could go to feel the love and be renewed in Christ. So, off I went. I hit the library for books on many a religion. Some I crossed off my list immediately, others I researched in depth. In the end, I narrowed it down to three that fit with my thoughts about life, love, and - importantly to me - equality and human rights, and then visited those churches over the course of several Sundays each.

In the midst of this journey, I found out I was "unexpectedly expecting". My world was turned on its side. I felt a range of emotions previously unimaginable to me, and was in the most difficult, darkest time of my life. I had a big decision to make, and it would - no matter what I chose - come to be the most important decision of my life, as well as the hardest.

On Mother's Day, 2009, I walked into a local Episcopal church. I was struggling with the content of the day as I thought long and hard about whether or not I would actively be a mother when the next Mother's Day came around, when an usher walked up to me with flowers and asked, "Are you a mother?" It was their custom to give a rose to the mothers in the church on Mother's Day, but yet this gesture felt as if it was for me alone. Not knowing what to say, I excused myself, and sobbed in the bathroom until I could piece myself back together and go back in.

Flash forward nearly four years, and I found myself back in church a few weeks back, sitting across from the bench where he asked that fateful question so many Sundays ago. I'm not saying that I would have come to a different decision ultimately without having found my way to the church that day, but I can say that when I left the service that Sunday, without my rose, I felt resolved and peaceful in a way that I had not felt since those two pink lines appeared.

I would get a rose the next year. In fact, before I got that rose, both myself and my daughter would be baptized into the Episcopalian faith, just feet from where that exchange took place.

Now, when I walk into services - something I've resolved to do more of now that a new Rector has come in and replaced one that left our congregation feeling as though something was "missing" - I know that I am home. I know that I'm in the right place. I know when I walk in and see a female Rector talking about the gospel, when I sit next to an openly gay couple and their foster children, when the woman ahead of me wears traditional African garb to services - none of which would be accepted or allowed in the faith I was raised in. I am proud to send these messages to Ava. I am proud that she will be raised in a spiritual home that cultivates the idea that she is worthy of holding any office in the church, even if she marries (we can all hope that marriage equality will be unanimous when that time comes, right?) a woman.

If I've gone off on too far a tangent, I apologize. I rarely speak of faith or Christ in great detail. But I do speak about love, and equality, and hope in great detail, and aren't they the same when it comes down to it?

"Wherever you are in your journey of faith, you are welcome at this table."

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ava Loves Ms. Ashlee!

I know I've said it before, but I'm saying it again: We LOVE The Little Gym of Round Rock! 

Aside from Ava getting to do things like this:

and this:

...she also loves her "coach", Ms. Ashlee, and for good reason. What other program is going to send you things like this in the mail?

In case it wasn't cool enough to get mail as a small child, this really takes the cake. Ava was super excited when this came!!

If you're in the Austin/Round Rock/Cedar Park area or nearby vicinity, seriously consider checking out The Little Gym of Round Rock or The Little Gym of Lakeline for your kids gymnastics, dance and movement needs! We're so happy we did!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Babs the Bunny Makes An Appearance...

Babs thinks Spencer is her mommy. And vice versa. Adorable!

Ava decided to read Babs some books. It's moments like this I feel guilty she's an only child - ha!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday Phone Dump: It's (Basically) Spring!

Barring a few cold days interspersed here and there, we've had the most gorgeous weather here lately! Spring has more or less sprung in Central Texas, and as such, we've been hanging around outside as much as possible. In the matter of one short afternoon, Ava learned how to ride her bike (albeit with training wheels!) Still, she's rather fantastic at it!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Things to Do (Near) Austin: Rabb All Abilities Park in Round Rock

Though Rabb Play for All Abilities Park is not technically in Austin, Round Rock is a major suburb just north of the city limits, a straight journey up IH-35, and well worth the drive to check out this amazing and unique park!

Though Central Texas has their fair share of parks (Austin alone has nearly 200!), the Play for All Abilities Park in Round Rock differs in that, as the name suggests, the park is ideal for the differently abled. With six different "pods" - sections of the park focusing on activities and interests like sand play, music and water play (during the summer) - each section provides opportunities for children in all different developmental stages to engage and learn. Though the space is a park, it is also designed for use by physical and occupational therapists. How wonderful is it that there is a park where a child in a wheelchair can use a swing with ease, an Autistic child can have his sensory needs met and respected, and another child can engage his or her imagination in the little "village" reconstructed in one of the pods.

Here are a few shots of our experience at the park:

And, for those of you looking for more activities in the Round Rock area, look no further than this great new site, 'Round the Rock! While you're there, why not stop by and enter her amazing giveaway of local prizes totally nearly $3000!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Things to Do in Austin: The Lion King at Bass Concert Hall!

I love me some live theatre. Seriously, I LOVE it. It's not uncommon for me to be driving around with the original Broadway recordings of one show or another in my car - in fact, Ava is likely the only three-year-old alive who notices the difference in the Broadway cast and movie cast recordings of Rent, but I digress. Anyhow, wanting to indoctrinate A to my love of Broadway early on in life, I took her to see The Lion King this past weekend!

Now before you go nominating me for mother of the year (the overwhelming opinion amongst my friends is that they would sooner die than spend three hours at a live theatre performance with a toddler!), know that my motivation was entirely selfish. I've never seen the show before, and it is my all-time favorite Disney movie, so I have been dying to go. I nearly went while I was staying in a hotel in Times Square awaiting my new apartment when I moved to NYC, but something held me back. Now, I know it was so that Ava and I could experience it together :)

(I can neither confirm nor deny that five seconds after this picture was taken, that sign was on the floor...oops.)

(Such a little ham! Argh!)

Anyhow, the show was AMAZING. If you haven't seen it and you get the chance, you'll be hard-pressed to find a more kid-friendly Broadway show (at least a touring one...). Never once did I feel awkward to have brought a small child, especially seeing as how it was like Chuck E. Cheese in Bass Concert Hall for the day, with kids EVERYWHERE. I felt bad for the poor couple in my aisle that didn't get the memo that this was going to be largely a parent-child patronized production! 

If you're familiar with the movie (and you very well should be if you're also a child of the mid-80's!), you'll know that there are some suspenseful and sad parts (ahem, Mufasa's death...), but they were handled in a way that diverted attention from the intensity and brought a little comic relief when possible. Otherwise, Ava was familiar with the movie and so it wasn't surprising to her. She did request to sit in my lap when the scenery got darker and you could tell a "scary" part was coming, but other than that, she did just fine! In fact, aside from the fact that she refused to take a cute picture with me without making a weird face or looking away, she was a saint. Two hours and forty minutes in a dark theatre and she was awesome. I nominate her for a Tony for Best Behaved Toddler in a Musical!

They also had this really great wall up on the top floor near the patio that you could leave your mark on, and leave her mark she did! She's so excited that she knows how to write letters and her name that she likes to do it anytime the opportunity arises!

Here's a couple more shots of my little Broadway-babe:

Being a parent? It's pretty damn awesome.

If you're in Austin and have yet to have the opportunity to see The Lion King, you have a handful of days left before it's gone again for who knows how long! You can get tickets at UT Performing Arts Center.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Things to Do in Austin: Goodnight Moon at Zach Scott Theatre!

There are few things I love as much as theatre, with the exception of a great book. Wanting to pass both of those loves along to Ava, you can imagine my excitement when I first heard back in December that Zach Scott theatre would be staging a production of Goodnight Moon this spring!

Though it's not technically "spring", the play/musical opened up this past Saturday, with public shows each Saturday at both 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. through March. We had been fortunate enough to win tickets from R We There Yet Mom?, and so we attended the opening production on Saturday at 11 a.m.

Here we are, getting ready for our mommy/daughter date!

I wasn't sure what exactly to expect going into the theatre. Would they just be acting out the book while reading aloud? Would there be singing? Dancing? Since it was based upon a short board book, how would they fill the extra time? I didn't know exactly what I was walking into, but Ava and I were both really excited for it!

As it turned out, my expectations were so completely surpassed - the show was AMAZING! The actors (Frank Nappi, Jill Blackwood, Amy Downing and Jerome Scholar) did such an amazing job of bringing the characters to life, while managing to tie in other children's riddles, stories, fairy tales and morals. Not only that, but I enjoyed it as much as Ava: What mother can't relate to chaos that ensues when your child fights the bedtime ritual?

As far as the theatre goes, I was just as impressed with the Kleberg Stage (the smaller-capacity stage in the building to the right of the main theatre building) as I was the main stage - there is truly not a bad seat in the house the way that the stages are set up! The costumes, the set, the props - everything was top notch!

Check out the spectacular stage:

And a shot of my little one before the show. She saw another little boy asking his mom to take a picture, and she was camera-ready in seconds!

Here she is again, this time with Little Bunny (Frank Nappi) and Mommy Bunny (Jill Blackwood), who were kind enough to pose with Ava as we were on our way out! Thank you - you made this little theatre-lover-in-the-making's day!

Goodnight Moon runs through March 23rd, with shows open to the public Saturdays. Other showings are reserved for schools and other groups. Tickets are $14 for children and $16 for adults, and totally worth every penny, if you ask me :)

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