Friday, December 15, 2017

High Five for Friday (12.15.17)

1a. Of course, a high five for all things Nutcracker. We had a wonderful weekend surrounding two beautiful performances. We're exhausted, but we can't wait to do it all again next year.

1b. These photos...I wait all year to line them up and see how much these two kiddos have changed. They've been friends for years, and I hope they always remain close.
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017

2. My mom flew into College Station for a long weekend and to see (both shows of) The Nutcracker. When we weren't shuttling Hallie back and forth from the theater, doing buns and applying make-up, and working the Nutcracker Market, we went for walks, went out for brunch, and browsed a few local boutiques.

3. My boy placed third in his intermediate school's geography bee! The first and second place winners were sixth graders, so as a fifth grader he was pretty thrilled with his performance.

4. After a series of strange dashboard readings about the air in my car's tires, I popped into Discount Tire to have them assess the situation. They inspected my tires, found a hole (made by a screw that had since fallen out) in one of them, patched the hole, refilled the tire, topped off all of the other tires, and recalibrated the tire sensors that had gone a little out of whack. It took approximately one hour and cost me...zero dollars. What an incredible business model - take care of the little things for free, because then, when customers need the big things, they'll remember the generosity and come back. And I will!

I have no affiliation with Discount Tire - I'm just a happy customer!

5. Happiness Highlights:
These bagels came to me - via a generous friend
and her mom - all the way from New Jersey. Amazing! 
Congrats to these boys on a great season! They had a winning
record and went undefeated in their final tournament of the fall!
Hallie and I are watching Titanic together. She asks
A LOT of questions while we watch, but sharing one
of my all-time favorite movies with her has been a blast.
"This is the life", according to Hallie.
Loving my new Christmas sweater!
Driving through the Live Nativity at a friend's church. Will and Hallie's
favorite part - besides the camel - was the real baby playing baby Jesus.
Because of the snow we picked the (one and only) lemon from
Lucy the Lemon Tree. We haven't yet decided how to use it though... 
Will came home from a Christmas party with the game Speak Out.
It's fun and funny, but also extraordinarily painful, at least for me! 
Saying "hi" to Santa and Mrs. Claus. I wish
these two kids of mine would stop growing up...

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:
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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Winter Came Early to Texas

At least every other day for weeks, Hallie asked me, "Mama, do you think it'll snow tonight?"

And at least every other day for weeks, I answered, "No, sweetie, I don't. It doesn't snow in Texas."

I would remind her that even if it did snow, the sleet-like flakes wouldn't stick because the ground in Texas doesn't freeze, and I would remind her that fluffy white flakes awaited us up north. And then she would remind me that while she couldn't wait to make snow angels and build snow forts and have snowball fights once we arrived in Wisconsin, she would in the meantime hope and pray for snow here at home.

"Some of my friends have never even seen snow, Mama! I want them to know what it looks and feels and tastes like!"

"It COULD happen, Mama - I know it could!"

"I'm dreaming of a w...h...i...t...e Texas!" (Can you hear her singing that line?)

And then last Thursday, her hopes became a reality and her prayers were answered.

On campus for Nutcracker technical rehearsal, my mom, a few friends, and I were sitting inside a window-less cafe drinking coffee when another friend joined us and mentioned that light flurries had begun to form outside. I thought she had to be mistaken because while we knew the temperature outside had dropped, it wasn't even close to cold enough - scientifically speaking - for snow to fall.

A short time later we finished our beverages and headed back to the theater to pick up our dancers...and when we walked out of the building into the dusky evening, we saw them: big, soft snowflakes swirling beneath the street lights. Not the hard, sleet-like snowflakes we've experienced twice during our seven years in Texas, but the kind of snowflakes that swoop down from the sky in Wisconsin. Without warning and completely unexpectedly, tears sprung to my eyes. Almost nothing feels as magical as the first snow of the year, expect perhaps the first snow in many years and for some, the first snow ever.
Snow selfie!
As we hurried into the theater to grab the girls - for fear the snow would cease and they would miss this monumental occurrence - college students streamed past us, calling and texting their friends and excitedly sharing the news. Thankfully, not only did the snow not stop while we gathered our girls, it actually became more intense: more flakes, bigger flakes, and flakes we could actually see on the grass. My mom, Hallie, and I, delighting in this sure-to-be-over-in-minutes taste of winter - laughed and sang Christmas carols all the way home.

After dinner we decided we couldn't stay inside any longer. We threw on winter coats and boots and ran out into the yard. Neighbors began coming out to join us, and there on our corner - in the streets and across the lawns - we lost ourselves in a winter wonderland.
The first snowball.
Tux had a little fun chasing snowflakes.
Even Mr. "I need a coat when the temperature drops
below 65" had a blast outside...and he eventually took
out of the kids in an epic snowball fight. 
Looks like Wisconsin, doesn't it?
The aftermath: five measurable inches fully enjoyed.
So many friends of Will and Hallie's had never seen (or felt or tasted, as Hallie pointed out) snow like this. Some adult friends of mine had never seen snow like this. Nearly everyone I know took advantage of Mother Nature's gift that night, going outside - after dark, after bedtime, and on a school night - to experience the overwhelming joy and breathtaking beauty of a simple snowfall.

Many of my best childhood memories revolve around snowy, wintry weather. Sledding, ice skating, ice boating, building snowmen, having snowball fights, making snow ice cream. (I even enjoy shoveling.) Bundling up in snow pants and scarves...and then removing layer after layer as our bodies warmed. Playing outside for hours, even after our mittens dripped wet from melted snow and our socks slouched down into the toes of our boots. F...i...n...a...l...l...y coming inside to thaw our fingers and toes by the fire and warm our insides with hot chocolate. I have done my best to help Will and Hallie create these kinds of memories during our holiday visits to Nebraska, Illinois, and Wisconsin, but I never could have imagined how happy it would make me to see them creating these memories in - or outside of - their own home. And I couldn't help but think how incredible it was that all of these Texas kiddos were finally getting to create these kinds of memories as well.

I will always remember last Thursday night as one of the very best we have experienced as Texans. My fingers were cold, but my heart was warm.

P.S. Somehow school started on time on Friday morning. This is Will's "I'm shocked some of the snow remains, but I'm even more shocked I have to walk to school in it" face. Toughen up, kid - I walked a mile to school in 12 inches of snow more times than I could count. (No really, I did. Ask my mom. 😀)

Monday, December 11, 2017

Crushed It

After such a whirlwind of a weekend, I decided I couldn't write about anything but the event that made the last few days weeks months beautifully chaotic.

Hallie started asking to take dance lessons at three years old, and despite having many reservations, I signed her up for her first class - a combo that included ballet, tap, and jazz - when she turned four. Now here we are, nearly five years later and a full-blown dance family for whom nearly every Saturday between the end August and the beginning of December involves preparations for the production every ballerina dreams about...The Nutcracker.

I didn't grow up going to see The Nutcracker during the holiday season. I assume productions of the show took place in my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin - the moderately-sized city has a thriving arts community - and even if The Nutcracker had not been performed on a stage in Madison, we could have easily driven to a slightly larger city like Milwaukee or Chicago to watch the Sugar Plum Fairy in all her glory.

But we didn't. We had many lovely holiday traditions, but attending The Nutcracker was not among them.

We now live in a relatively small community. College Station and Bryan together have less than 180,000 residents (excluding TAMU students), which means that unlike my hometown, the Brazos Valley can't exactly brag about a thriving arts community. It can, however, brag about Ballet Brazos and it's annual production of The Nutcracker.

Ballet Brazos began in 2012 with the mission to "instruct, educate, and enrich young people and their audiences through the art of dance and provide quality classical ballet performances for the community". These performances "showcase local talent, cultivate an appreciation for the arts, and inspire the next generation of dancers". Collaborative efforts since Ballet Brazos' inception have contributed to the nonprofit organization's significant growth both in size and prestige.

In this year's sixth annual production of The Nutcracker, Ballet Brazos welcomed professional dancers from the New York City Ballet*, guest artists from across Texas, and pre-professional ballerinas ranging in age from six to 18 from across the Brazos Valley. The professional dancers and guest artists turned in stunning performances as I expected they would, and the pre-professional dancers demonstrated their natural talent as well just how hard they have worked throughout the last four months in preparation for taking the stage. Combine the exceptional dancing with beautiful sets, stunning costumes, and a world-class stage and you have a spectacular show, one of which Ballet Brazos, the dancers, and the community can be proud.

I don't rave about Ballet Brazos' The Nutcracker because Hallie just danced for the third time, or because I have a vested interest in the success of the show. I rave about Ballet Brazos' The Nutcracker as someone who, as of five years ago, couldn't stand to watch ballet (true story) but who has come around because the production is just that good. I feel incredibly lucky to live in a community that can support a ballet-focused nonprofit organization as well as two sold-out shows in a 2,500-seat auditorium.

I apologize for not getting this post up last week, when you could have still purchased tickets to this year's production. I promise to share information about tickets with plenty of lead time next year so that you too can kick off the holiday season with this beautiful and beloved Christmas tradition.
"My heart is on that stage."
Battle mice, ready to fight! 
With the Rat King (Dominick Oliver).
With the Sugar Plum Fairy and Her Cavalier (professional
dancers Indiana Woodward and Andrew Veyette).
With Clara and Her Prince (Isabel Medrano and Seth York).
At 10:45pm Saturday night, happy with her new nutcracker
but fresh off a round of tears shed over the amount of time before
she will have the opportunity to dance in The Nutcracker again.
* The professional dancers who joined the production from the NYCB last year actually asked to come back. That should tell you something about the caliber and reputation of the show!

Friday, December 8, 2017

High Five for Friday (12.8.17)

1. Four of my friends have little boys between the ages of two and four years old. Last Friday these friends decided to take their not-yet-old-enough-for-regular-school kiddos to a local trampoline park for "toddler time", and as they knew my plans to have lunch with Tom had fallen through, they invited me to tag along. Some might consider it odd to visit a trampoline park without a child in tow, but I ended up having the best time drinking coffee, chatting with my friends, watching the little boys play, and then, because we were basically the only patrons utilizing the facility, trying out the trapeze.

2. Thanks to a lot of planning and a helping hand from an understanding and generous dance teacher, we managed to make it to both Hallie's Christmas dance performance and Will's first orchestra concert on Friday night. "Oh What a Night", as the evening could have been titled, involved multiple families trading members and using multiple cars to drive back and forth across town multiple times, but we made it happen!



3. On Saturday this little Battle Mouse had her last regular rehearsal and a photo shoot in preparation for the upcoming Ballet Brazos production of The Nutcracker. (They had a technical rehearsal yesterday afternoon/evening/night and their dress rehearsal runs throughout the day today.) We can't wait to see her on stage tomorrow!

A few tickets are still available to both shows. If you live in the Brazos Valley and would like to attend at either 2pm or 7pm, visit the TAMU MSC Box Office website to purchase seats.

4. I wrapped up a crazy Saturday by dropping Hallie off at a dance company Christmas party and grabbing drinks with my fellow dance moms. A lovely way to spend a weekend evening!

5. Happiness Highlights:
No caption needed for this smiling, dancing girl.
Taking a break from our
shopping for a quick photo op.
I've been trying to learn to "curl" my tongue since the 6th grade,
when I first learned I couldn't do it. I'm getting close. #goals 😂
There are no words to describe how much these little girls love this
wonderful woman. She is such a gift to both them and their mamas.
It's finally turning yellow!!! (I am irrationally excited
about this one lemon on our Lucy the Lemon Tree.)
Chris the Elf arrived, bringing Chris-tmas pajamas with him.
This picture is sweet, but it becomes funny once
you notice my husband creeping in the background.

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:
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