Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Though the rain bypassed College Station, the rainbow made a brief appearance.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


I find tradition warm and comforting, like how curling up in front of the fireplace with a glass of wine and a good book is warm and comforting, likely because my aversion to change gently redirects me toward familiar activities and behaviors.

Throughout the last 7.5 years (how long Tom and I have been married), and even more so throughout the last five years (how long Tom and I have been parents), I’ve worked hard to build a tradition-rich life for my family. By incorporating traditions from Tom’s childhood, traditions from my childhood, and brand new traditions created with my children in mind, we’ve established ways of celebrating holidays, special occasions, and milestones both big and small that feel beautiful and authentic to all four of us, and to our extended families as well.

Moving has always been difficult for me (again with my aversion to change). I have found, however, that learning about the traditions in/of my new city, school, workplace, etc. – and then slowly incorporating my favorites into my life/our lives – helps me adjust and feel more at home. I cheer for the local professional sports teams, sing the university fight songs, stock up on university and local apparel, and learn how the locals speak.

Texas A&M University is widely considered one of the most tradition-rich schools in the country. From the first moment of freshman year orientation (Fish Camp), TAMU students are taught to respect and honor “the Spirit of Aggieland” and are supported on their quest to develop their character; strengthen their leadership skills; support their communities through public service; and promote unity within their class, the University, and beyond. TAMU has gone so far as to establish and support the Traditions Council, “dedicated to promoting and preserving the traditions of TAMU through education and awareness”.

Just like I’ve always done, I’m learning as much as I can about the traditions in/of our new city. And since College Station is primarily TAMU, learning the traditions in/of our new city means learning the traditions of TAMU. I’ve just barely scratched the surface thus far, but from what I can tell, the traditions here come in all shapes and sizes – pride- and awe-inspiring, powerful and spiritual, bizarre and kooky.

Throughout the 2011-2012 school year (which began yesterday) I’d like to share with you some of these traditions. This “series” will be therapeutic for me, and I hope it will be interesting for you!

To kick things off and to give you a glimpse of what’s to come, here are a few photos of a bayonet twirling presentation we saw at the TAMU New Faculty Family Fun Night. Tom and I were eager to see a bit of TAMU Corps of Cadet tradition in action (more about the Cadets in a future post), but Will just about peed his pants with excitement because – wait for it – the Cadet CARRIED A GUN THAT WAS ALSO A SWORD. An audible gasp escaped Will's lips when the Cadet began his presentation, and Will's jaw hit the table when the gun sword flew through the air.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Holy Utilities Bill, Batman

This afternoon we received our utilities bill, for the July 14th through August 16th billing period, in the mail. Go ahead, take a guess. Nope, higher. Nope, higher still.


Granted, that number includes both electric and water, but holy crap, Batman. From this point forward we'll let our lawn go completely (it was already on its way out, thanks to the drought, but we were delaying the inevitable by watering three times a week), and institute a diapers/underwear-only dress code inside the house (we were already at 77 or 78 degrees during the day, so now we'll aim for 78 or 79 and wear fewer clothes).

When will the insanity end?!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Friendly Reminder

You might recall that I enjoy talking about the weather. You might also recall that I'm not a big fan of heat and humidity. When you combine these two characteristics the result is me complaining about the summer weather here in Texas. A lot.

We recently took a short vacation to Oregon and Washington (you can read about our adventures here, here, here, and here - it took me four blog posts to cover the trip) with about 35 of our friends and family members. I was frequently asked about Texas, our move, Tom's new job, the kids' school - you know, typical questions you ask someone you haven't seen in a while who's recently relocated across the country - and I answered every single question with, "it's hot." (Or at least some version of "it's hot" - depending on whether or not I'd had an adult beverage and who I was talking to I may or may not have added an expletive to that answer.)

I expect that my mom and sister, the two people I call most often, are getting pretty tired of listening to me gripe about the weather.

Example #1
Mom: Good morning! How are you today?
Erin: Hot.
Mom: (Ignoring my complaining.) Any plans for the day?
Erin: Getting hotter.
Mom: (No longer able to ignore my complaining.) Erin, you need to work on your attitude.
Erin: You're right, sorry. My plans for the day are to do seven loads of laundry.
Mom: Seven loads?! Why so many?
Erin: Everyone in my family has sweated through four outfits a day for the last three days. 48 outfits in three days equals seven loads of laundry.
Mom: (Rolls eyes.)

Example #2
Erin: How's the weather up there today?
Sara: We had a huge thunderstorm this morning, but now it's beautiful outside - the high for today is 80 degrees.
Erin: It's 107 here.
Sara: That's awful. What are you doing?
Erin: Hallie and I are at the park, but we're sitting in the car with the air conditioning running.
Sara: Ha. What are you guys really up to today?
Erin: No, really. We're at the park, sitting in the car with the air conditioning running.
Sara: Sounds like a fun day.
Erin: It is. It really is.

So yesterday, perhaps in a good-natured attempt to quell my complaining, my BIL sent me this video. It was filmed last December, while we were in Illinois visiting their family for Christmas. I had no idea he'd filmed me trying to warm up on that cold, snowy day, and when I watched the video for the first time yesterday I laughed out loud at how ridiculous I look.

(Sorry the video is so small - technical difficulties. You can also see it here.)

And while I think Jeff's intention, besides getting me to shut up about the weather, was to remind me how bitterly cold and vicious winters in the Midwest can be, all this video did was make me homesick for the winter weather I won't get to experience.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Eggtastic, Just Eggtastic

Monday was the first day of school for students in the College Station Independent School District. This means that Sunday was the last night of summer vacation for students in the College Station Independent School District. I point out these facts only because I hope they provide an explanation as to why Tom's car was egged on Sunday night.

I'm not sure this is the case though, as only Tom's car was egged. No other cars on our street were hit, and the eggers were careful only to hit Tom's car and not our house or garage door. I could understand such an apparently targeted attack if we lived say, in Madison, Wisconsin - the "land of the perpetually offended" (more on that in another post) - and drove a gas-guzzling SUV. But Tom's car is a completely inoffensive, unobtrusive Saturn Ion with good fuel economy and low emissions.

I could also perhaps understand the attack (at least us as the target, not so much the focus on the car) if we'd been bad neighbors, but we haven't been - we take care of our house and lawn, water responsibly, are quiet in the early morning and late evening hours, and drive slowly on neighborhood streets.

As my son would say, it's a mystery.

The kicker is that, because it's so damn hot here, when we discovered the egging at 7:35am (7:35am!!) it was already so hot outside that the eggs had dried on the car and FRIED on the driveway. That's right, folks, the eggs fried on our driveway.

I attempted to wash the mess away with the hose, but because of the kind of cement our driveway is made out of (the kind with lots of little stones in it), the eggs dried in between all of the stones. It looks and smells disgusting out there.

Thanks for the welcome, Texas.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


One of the saddest things about leaving Ann Arbor was that we were also leaving behind many of Tom and my, and our children’s, “firsts”.

Tom and I bought our first house in Ann Arbor. We painted every single wall, many of the ceilings, and about half of the trim throughout the house. We insulated the basement; replaced the windows, sliding glass door, water heater, kitchen faucet, disposal, dryer motor, and sump pump; and put in new flooring in one of the bathrooms. We tore down the rotten shed, landscaped the yard, stained the deck, and put in a small patio. In our first house we learned how to work together, what each of our strengths are, and how to compromise on where to focus our time and spend our money.

Both of our babies were born at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor. We brought Will and Hallie home to that first house, where they first smiled, laughed, crawled, walked, and talked. Will was potty trained in the bathroom, learned to ride his scooter on the front sidewalk, learned to swim at the neighborhood pool, and started school at our wonderful church preschool just down the street from our house. As parents we learned to find patience where we thought we had none, to accept less-than-perfection as good enough (in a positive and healthy way), and to appreciate the journey instead of focusing on the destination.

It was harder than we ever imagined it would be to say goodbye to the city that surrounded and supported us as we became a couple, a family of three, and finally our complete family of four.

We really didn’t experience any “firsts” during our first six months here, unless you count my first time being unemployed in eight years and Tom’s first time having a real job in almost seven years. Ok, I take that back. There have been a few firsts – first lizard encounter/capture, first rodeo, first cowboy boots (well, cowboy-boots-substitute purse) – but nothing that I would qualify as a typical, “growing-up” milestone, like learning to ride a bike.

Until a few weeks ago, that is, when Hallie transitioned from her crib to a big girl bed (click here to read about Hallie’s crib-to-big-girl-bed adventure and my accompanying afternoon from hell), and two weeks ago when she got her very first haircut.

Somehow these two “firsts” have put Texas on the map for me. Regardless of how long we live here and where life takes us next, College Station will always be where Hallie started sleeping in a big girl bed and where her hair was first cut. Come fall, College Station will be where Hallie starts preschool and, God willing, where she’s potty trained. Eventually College Station will be where both kids attend kindergarten, learn to ride bikes, and lose their first teeth.

Firsts become memories, and memories are the foundation on which we will build our life in this new place.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Texas Women

While searching through the TV guide I came across a listing for a relatively new show called “Texas Women”. As a woman living in Texas, I figured this show might be a good one for me to check out, and I set the DVR to record a couple of episodes. A few days later, while the kids were napping, I plopped myself down on the couch with a Coke Zero and hit “play” on the remote. I watched four minutes of programming, and then deleted the episode from the DVR queue. “Texas Women” was that awful.

According to Jayson Dinsmore, CMT’s Executive Vice President of Development, “Texas Women” is a “docu-soap reality show about ambitious, young, working women in Texas”. He goes on to describe the women as “kick ass”, and proudly claims that they “can fight like cats on a Saturday night, then wake up Sunday, apologize, and go to church together”. Give me a break.

So that I could share with you a more informed criticism, later in the week I struggled through two full hours of “Texas Women”. To the show’s credit, the four minutes of programming I initially watched were probably the four most disgusting minutes in the entire episode (four drunk women having a cat fight and then shamelessly picking up and possibly taking home men in a bar). That’s not to say the rest of the show was quality television though. As one Texas Woman bedazzled her rodeo barrels and another tried to figure out the meaning of the word “ambiance” so she could shop for Tiki Torch party decorations, I kept thinking about how the minutes I spent watching this garbage were minutes I would never get back.

From what I’ve seen, many Texans, both men and women, wear cowboy boots and hats. Women have bigger hair, wear bigger and more elaborate jewelry, and decorate their jeans and flip flops with more rhinestones than women in the Midwest. In these regards, “Texas Women” is fairly accurate. But I’ve yet to meet any women in Texas who are as extravagant, flamboyant, and obnoxious as the “Texas Women”. Thank goodness.

Note: Out of curiosity I read through quite a few of the online comments about “Texas Women”. The comments, especially those made by Texans, were overwhelmingly negative. Many REAL Texas women were incredibly offended that their state and gender were being portrayed so outrageously.

In my search for information about and viewer comments on Texas Women, I learned that there are (at least) five additional reality television programs currently on the air, in production, or in the planning stages that take place in Texas. Really?! Do people Texas have lifestyles worth documenting? I certainly don’t, but maybe that’s because I’m not actually from Texas.

If you’re interested, I’ve included below the names and brief descriptions of the other five Texas reality shows (if you only have time to read about one of the shows, skip to the end of the list for Survivor: Texas Style). Watch them if you’d like, but don’t plan on learning anything about 99% of the people who live in Texas. Better yet, pass on the reality television altogether and watch an old episode of Dallas.

Big, Rich Texas (commonly referred to “The Real Housewives of Dallas” on the interwebs)

“Follow this group of chic mothers and daughters for a sneak peak inside the exclusive world of Dallas’ elite – and entertaining – social scene.”

Texas Red

This Scott Jeffress (Jersey Shore producer) reality show is still in the casting stages, but will supposedly going to take place in affluent Texas suburbs.

Lost in Austin

“Giddy up Texas, time to show the rest of the country what getting REAL is all about!...When they say ‘Don’t Mess with Texas,’ they’re talking about you. Wherever you go, you make a name for yourself. You’ve always had the personality, the looks, the charm, and the style to stand out…Do you rule the bar scene, rope in the hottest of the hot, drink anyone under the table?...Is everything really bigger in Texas? Prove it. Time to go big, because going home isn’t an option.”

Donna Decorates Dallas

“When Dallas homeowners feels the need to pimp out their lavish houses, they count on Donna Moss to bring the bling. Along with her two daughters and fabulous find from the family-run boutique, Donna brings high-end design to the land of high drama that is the Big D.”

Most Eligible in Dallas

“They’re young, they’re hot, they’re single – they’re Dallas’ Most Eligible. From beauty queens to pro-football players, this group of Texas socialites proves that everything’s bigger in Texas – including the drama.”

Survivor: Texas Style

“Eight contestants start in Dallas, then drive to Waco, Austin, San Antonio, Houston, and Brownsville. They will then proceed to Del Rio, El Paso, Odessa, Midland, Lubbock, and Amarillo. From there they will travel to Abilene, Fort Worth, and finally back to Dallas.

Each contestant will drive a pink Volvo with bumper stickers that read: 'I’m a Democrat', 'Amnesty for Illegals', 'I Love the Dixie Chicks', 'Boycott Beef', 'I Voted for Obama', 'George Strait Sucks', 'Hillary in 2012', and 'I’m Here to Confiscate Your Guns'.

The first contestant to make it back to Dallas alive wins. God Bless Texas!”

Now that’s a show I’d watch.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Last Time, I Promise

I seriously love the OPI Texas Collection nail polishes, and apparently, so do folks in the Northwest. Last week, while walking through the Skamania Lodge Spa outside of Stevenson, Washington, I noticed that the only OPI nail polishes the spa had on display for purchase were those from the Texas Collection. Made me feel right at home.

And here are two more Texas Collection colors: Austin-tatious Turquoise and Don't Mess With OPI. Those are my son's feet on the right - he told me that boys can wear toenail polish as long as it's blue or green, because those are boy colors.

I've just about made it through all of the Texas Collection colors, so next I'm moving on to OPI's Summer 2011 Collection. First up will be "I Lily Love You" in honor of my niece, whose name is - you guessed it - Lily.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Remember Dallas? As in the mini-series turned long-running and extremely popular television series back in the late 70’s, 80’s, and early 90’s?

My parents watched Dallas every Friday night. They didn’t consider it appropriate for me and my sister (I was born in 1978 and my sister was born in 1981, so we were pretty young during the height of the show’s popularity), so we weren’t allowed to watch with them. But as kids will do, we found a way to absorb at least a little bit of that juicy drama…

Our family room was an add-on to our house, so a step down and glass French doors separated the family room from the kitchen. The television sat in the far corner of the family room, directly across from the kitchen, and splitting the space between the television and the kitchen was the couch. Someone sitting on the couch had a good view of the television but couldn’t see what went on in the kitchen behind them.

After my sister, Sara, and I were tucked into bed, my parents would head to the family room to spend an hour with JR, Bobby, and Sue Ellen. After the French doors were closed and the television turned on, Sara and I would sneak out of our bedroom and station ourselves, sitting cross-legged in the dark, on the floor of the kitchen side of the French doors. Because of the step we could just barely see over our parents’ heads to the television. Score.

If ever my parents made a move to get up off the couch, say to pop popcorn or get a soda from the refrigerator, Sara and I would dash from our viewing area to the safety of the dining room until they’d returned to the couch. When the credits rolled we retired to our beds to discuss what we believed had transpired on that evening’s episode. We were usually pretty confused – not only were we watching without sound, but we were like nine and seven, and our experience with “adult drama” didn’t extend much farther than Mr. Hooper’s passing on Sesame Street.

What I took away from watching (and not listening to) the show Dallas was that the city of Dallas, Texas – along with the people who lived there and the lifestyle of these people – was bigger than life. Extravagant mansions and properties, exorbitant wealth and privilege, passionate love and bitter divorce. Bigger was better. (Oh, and everyone wore cowboy hats and cowboy boots.)

I have no doubt that Dallas-the-television-show shaped how I viewed Texas-the-state when I was a child. And how I viewed Texas as an adult, for that matter. Until I moved here, my reference points with regard to understanding the state of Texas included the television show Dallas, the movies Friday Night Lights and The Rookie, and a few choir tours in San Antonio. Thankfully I’m constantly increasing the number of reference points, which will eventually help me paint a clearer and more accurate picture of the state I now call home.

I found out a couple of years ago that Sara and my secret viewings of Dallas weren’t actually secret after all – our parents knew we were there, and chose to let us stay, probably because that was easier than getting up and putting us back to bed.

Tom and I talked today about how we would definitely do the same thing, especially if we were raising kids back in the 80’s, when pausing television shows wasn’t an option. Who am I kidding – we’d probably do the same thing now, even with the DVR.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I Forgot to Mention...

While on our Lincoln Lodge vacation I learned that although the Madison Brat Fest is officially the World’s Largest Brat Fest, the World’s Best Brats are made at Trig’s Smokehouse in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. Trig’s Smokehouse brats are sold at Trig’s Grocery Store in Minocqua, Wisconsin, which is where we shop while visiting the Lodge. Lucky me, getting to enjoy the World’s Best Brats and the World’s Largest Brat Fest all in the span of six weeks!

In case you were wondering, the World’s Best Brat is determined during the annual World’s Best Brat Competition, held each October in Watertown, Wisconsin. If Tom’s gig as a professor doesn’t work out, he’s seriously considering a change of profession to that of Brat Taster/Judge.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Brat Fest 2011

The World’s Largest Brat Fest began Memorial Day weekend in 1983, outside a small grocery store in Madison, Wisconsin (my hometown). The owner of the family-owned and operated store wanted to thank his loyal customers for their business, so he set up a grill in the parking lot and began selling brats for $0.50 each. And the tradition began.

Fast forward 28 years… What started out as a man, his grill, and a few brats on a sunny, May afternoon is now a four-day philanthropic and entertainment extravaganza. Hundreds of celebrity and nonprofit organization volunteers prepare and serve thousands of brats, hotdogs, burgers, corn, ice cream cones, and beers. Local bands showcase their talents on four different stages throughout the afternoons and evenings. Patrons are treated to Budweiser Clydesdale showcases, tours of the Weinermobile, rock climbing, and fireworks after dark. The Brat Fest organization sponsors a “Take Your Brat to Work Day”, and even packages and mails brats to members of the United Stated Armed Forces serving our country overseas.

2,843,631 brats consumed, 209,376 brats – a world record – consumed in 2010 alone, and $957,439 raised for local charities. (These statistics do not include brats consume and funds raised in 2011.) Not bad.

I’ve been attending Brat Fest for at least 15 years, back before I even liked brats and when the event was still held in a grocery store parking lot. Throughout the years I’ve introduced my husband and children to Brat Fest, and they’ve come to love it as much as I do – my four-year-old would prefer a brat to a hotdog and eats his brats with mustard and onions. Brat Fest has become one of Madison’s signature and, in my opinion, not-to-be-missed events.

This year I visited Brat Fest with my parents and my kids (my husband was at a conference and then working back in Texas), and we met up with my aunt and uncle for dinner after we rode the carnival rides.

Both kids were terrified of the Weinermobile.

Will is FINALLY tall enough for the second tier of carnival rides.

It's called the "merry"-go-round for a reason.

Will and Grandpa Paul.

Will and Grandpa, plotting their bumper car attack on Grandma Brenda.

Will and Grandpa, going in for the hit.

Poor Grandma.

The first time down the slide Will rode with me.

And the second time down the slide Will raced against Grandpa.

Both kids really only wanted to ride rides with Grandpa.

But because Grandpa doesn't like heights, Will had to ride our "family ride" (the Ferris Wheel) with me. He looks happy about it, doesn't he?

It's not a carnival without funnel cakes.

Hallie's first taste of cotton candy.

One of the crazy bands playing at Brat Fest.

One of the MANY brat grilling stations.

I'm guessing this Texas cowboy also traveled 1,000+ for a tasty Wisconsin brat.

It’s hard to believe that all that began with just a little brat.

As far as I know, College Station doesn’t have a Brat Fest, which is just as well because my guess is that brats from Texas wouldn’t be as tasty as brats from from Wisconsin. For a city of its size, however, College Station has quite a bit going on: summer camps, swimming lessons and family swim nights, triple A baseball games, music festivals, food and drink festivals, etc.

Between Tom’s new job, moving twice, and summer travel, we haven’t had a lot of time since we moved here to check these things out (with the exception of swimming lessons, one TAMU baseball game, and one rodeo). We plan to make time this fall and winter though, and I hope we’ll be able to experience College Station’s signature and not-to-be-missed events (crossing my fingers that at least one of them has something to do with BBQ).

College Station readers, any suggestions for us?

Madison readers, see you next summer!

Note: I love brats, but I also love hotdogs. You can only imagine then, my excitement when I started researching the events and festivals in our area and came across “Weiner Fest 2011” right here in College Station. I quickly opened a new window on my computer and headed to their website…where I discovered that Weiner Fest is actually a festival for Weiner dogs. I don’t think Weiner Fest is now, or will ever be, one of College Station’s signature and not-to-be-missed events, though I suppose I’ll never know because I won’t be going.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Boots, Schmoots. I Have Something Better. Well, Maybe Not Better, But Equally Cool.

Tom has cowboy boots. Will and Hallie have cowboy boots.

I thought I’d be the first in my family to own cowboy boots, and the only one to actually wear cowboy boots, but almost eight months into living in Texas I’m the only one who still doesn’t have a pair.

It’s not that I haven’t tried to buy boots. I mean, I’ve been to the boot store like 12 times.

Our first trip to the boot store (me, Tom, Will, Hallie, and Tom’s parents) was about the kids and their boots. Will moved quickly from one boot to the next, trying on at least 20 different styles and colors before he made his choice (which I expertly orchestrated ☺). Hallie, on the other hand, tried on one red boot, married it, and spent the rest of her time in the store riding a rocking horse. Unfortunately for me, once they had their own boots, neither child was interested in behaving long enough for me to even walk through the women’s boots section.

Our second, third, and fourth trips to the boot store (me, Will, and Hallie) all ended quickly, thanks to, in no particular order, a bathroom emergency, a tantrum, and a disgusting piece of already-been-chewed bubble gum stuck to the bottom of a shoe. It should be noted that I was not the one with the bathroom emergency, the one who had the tantrum, or the one who stepped in bubble gum.

Our fifth trip to the boot store (me, my mom, and Hallie) was overwhelming. For the first time I was actually able to walk through the women’s boot section of the store, and I found myself intimidated by the number of styles, colors, prices, sizes, and combinations they could make in a pair of boots. I was so intimidated that instead of shopping for boots, we shopped for dresses.

Our sixth trip to the boot store (me, Tom, Will, and Hallie) was to buy boot socks for Tom. We were in and out in less than five minutes because Will attacked Hallie with a toy Beebe gun, and then completely lost his mind when we wouldn’t buy the gun for him.

MY seventh and most recent trip to the boot store (All. By. Myself. Wheee!!) was once again overwhelming. Even with the singular purpose of buying boots for myself and without two kids in tow, I couldn’t choose between camel, dark brown, or red boots; between leather, snake, or ostrich material; between teal, pink, or orange stitching; between pointed, rounded, or square toe. Eventually I just plain gave up on boots – for the time being – and left the store, defeated.

When I was in Minocqua earlier this summer we visited a few antique stores. Hiding in the back of one of the shops was this purse, which my mother-in-law immediately exclaimed that I needed, because it looked like a Texas purse.

She was right – I did need this purse. It’s soft, worn leather exterior and hand-stitched design are a perfect substitute (albeit temporary) for the boots I couldn’t bring myself to buy.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Green Texas: How About One Less Plastic Bag?

A few weeks ago, in a post entitled “Green Texas”, I wrote about how disappointed I was to discover that recycling isn’t, at least from what I can tell, a priority for the city government and many of the people living in College Station. I asked for and received a couple of reader suggestions with regard to increasing/improving recycling in the comments section of that post, for which I’m very grateful. I haven’t yet had time to get the ball rolling, but come fall I plan to write letters to both the editor of the local newspaper and city government officials, as well as to investigate the recycling programs at the establishments where I spend considerable amounts of time (the kids’ school, our gym, etc.). I’ll keep you posted on my progress...

On a related note, I’m also a little disappointed that more people in College Station don’t use reusable shopping bags. I'll admit, they put more of a strain on the wallet than plastic bags provided by the grocery store. And I’ll also admit they’re a bit of a pain at times - reusable bags are something else to remember to bring out to the car from the house, and something else to carry into the store when already carrying a purse and a toddler and dragging a preschooler along by the hand.

But you know what? The cost and the "pain" ARE WORTH IT.

Plastic bags end up as litter that fouls the landscape, and every year (plastic bags) kill thousands of marine mammals that mistake the floating bags for food. Plastic bags that are buried in landfills may take up to 1,000 years to break down, and in the process they separate into smaller and smaller toxic particles that contaminate soil and water. Furthermore, the production of plastic bags consumes millions of gallons of oil that could be used for fuel and heating.

We've lived in Texas for seven months, and in that time I’ve seen only four shoppers – FOUR! – carry their purchases out of stores in reusable shopping bags. (And one of these shoppers sells bags for a living, so I’m not even sure she counts!)

It’s not that stores aren’t trying to push shoppers in the right direction – at HEB there are signs in the parking lot reminding shoppers to bring their reusable bags into the store, and there are reusable bags available for purchase at the entrance to nearly every checkout lane at both HEB and Kroger. (One of my favorite sets of reusable bags came from the checkout at HEB, and was purchased because I’d forgotten the bags I’d intended to use in my car and couldn’t bear taking my groceries home in plastic bags.) And it's not that people here (or at least I can't believe that people here) don't care about how awful plastic bags are for the environment.

I think it's that while the “Green Movement” - the community "push" to make choices that are earth-friendly - has taken over in many parts of the country, and in certain types of shopping establishments (I pity the fool who doesn’t bring reusable bags into Whole Foods in Ann Arbor, MI), it hasn’t made it here just yet.

It will make its way here, and when it does, I know I will start to see reusable bags besides my own in the checkout line at the grocery store. As people learn more about how such a small act can make such a big difference for our planet, they’ll jump on the bandwagon. Or maybe they’ll jump on the bandwagon because reusable bags can be just so darn pretty. Either reason is good enough for me.

In case you're interested and need a little push toward reusable bags, here are a few of my favorites:

I keep this one in my purse to pull out when I hadn’t planned on purchasing anything and therefore didn’t bring my sets of bags into the store.

I keep a set of these under the passenger seat in my car.

And I keep a set of these in my trunk, so that when I’ve taken the first set inside the house and forgotten to bring them back to the car I’m not without bags.

These are a little more expensive, but hold their shape better than the envirosax bags.

One of these sets (here, here, and here) will be my next bag purchase.

And here are a few tips on how to remember to bring your bags into the store with you!