Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Wrapping Resolutions

For the second year in a row, I started my New Year's Resolutions in September and with the intent to tackle one resolution each month, rather than following the more traditional route of starting January 1st and attempting one or two resolutions over the course of the year. I gave "themed" resolutions a try during the first month, but quickly learned that I need more flexibility than the category system could provide and went back to choosing resolutions as they come to me and according to what I need to work on as each new month rolls around.

As the school year came to a close, so too did my "resolutions year" - I don't usually make summer resolutions, at least not in the same way I make school year resolutions. I do, however, have a few things I hope to take on this June and August. (We're on the road in July so I take that month out of the mix.)

First up, I plan to tackle one small area of the house that needs a deep clean or substantial organization each week. I clean and organize regularly, but let's be honest, sometimes I let the health and beauty products pile up on the bathroom counter, the dust and toys collect around the bathtub, or the clutter build up in the closets for far too long. During week #1, I addressed the playroom closet. I took everything out, wiped down the shelves, vacuumed and mopped the floor, set aside lots of toys and costumes to donate/sell, and put everything back as neatly as possible. During week #2, I addressed my vanity, the cabinets, and the bathtub in the master bathroom using basically the same process: everything out, everything cleaned, only what we need put back. During week #3, I addressed the cabinets in my half bathroom and laundry room, following the same series of steps. I haven't selected which area to deal with this week, but I know that next week's project(s) will involve the kids' rooms, since they'll both be gone for at least a few of the days. πŸ˜‰
Playroom closet before #1
Playroom closet before #2
Playroom closet after 😍
The pile of stuff to donate/sell/relocate to another room (excluding the
dust buster) I pulled from my bathroom cabinets. This doesn't include
trash, expired meds, and all of rags I used to wipe everything down. 😩 

Second, I'm trying as hard as I can to take care of back-to-school tasks - purchasing binders and absolutely necessary school supplies, sports physicals and paperwork, allergy paperwork, asthma paperwork, epi-pen and inhaler prescription refills, new shoes, etc. - before we travel up north. This year the kids go back to school almost a full week earlier than they have in Augusts past, which means the amount of time I have to accomplish all of this - if I wait until we return from Wisconsin - will be less than what I'm used to having. I hope that working a little harder in June will make August a little less challenging.

And now, a recap of the year!

May Resolution: well... I compare May to riding a bull: I grabbed on, said a little prayer, and didn't let go until the ride - er, the month - had come to an end. My only resolutions were to enjoy the end of elementary school (for Hallie) and put on a respectable intermediate school dance (for Will), and I think I accomplished both with only a few tears shed along the way.

April Resolution: declutter my digital life. I wanted to clean out and organize both my phone (contacts, photos, videos, notes, and apps) and my computer (downloads, documents, folders, and photos), in hopes that less digital clutter would translate to less mental clutter. How did it go? I made substantial progress, but I still have work to do, especially when it comes to the photos on my computer.

March Resolution: well... Full disclosure: the first few months of this year have been tough. Not in a catastrophic way (no deaths, major illnesses, or financial crises, thank goodness), but in a mentally challenging, emotionally draining, "one paper cut isn't that bad but when you get one paper cut every day you start to feel like you have a huge, gaping wound" sort of way. I managed to get so caught up in all of my paper cuts that I actually forgot to make a March resolution. The month came and went and I didn't think about resolutions even a single time, so I guess that means March's resolution was to simply make it through the month. Which I did, so high five for that.

February Resolution: take a vacation. How did it go? While my parents held down the fort, Tom and I took a short trip to celebrate our 15th anniversary. We had planned to spend about 48 hours and two nights away, but when we realized that TAMU doesn't recognize Presidents Day and Tom had to teach at 11am that morning, we returned home earlier than anticipated. We had a great time though, and hope that another similar trip makes its way onto the calendar later in the year.

January Resolution(s): first, write for at least one hour a day. This seemed like a silly resolution, since I consider myself a writer and all, but I needed to give myself permission to focus more on my work and less on other responsibilities. Second, complete Emily Ley's 2019 Simplicity Challenge, which is a series of one-a-day steps that can be accomplished in 15 minutes or less and together add up to achieving a more simplified life. How did they go?

I did reasonably well with my first resolution, though I would have done even better if January hadn't also contained the nearly-all-consuming Variety Show. I missed a few Saturdays and one Sunday and had to devote a couple of days' writing time to volunteer writing responsibilities (which didn't technically fall under the umbrella of work), but all in all my fingers stayed busy. I didn't do quite as well with my second resolution, at least initially. I have every intention of finishing all 31 challenges, but I intentionally postponed a few that for me will take more than the expected 15 minutes. You can find all of the daily challenges on the Simplified Instagram page (they're brightly colored and easy to spot among the other posts).

December's Resolution: read to my kids every night. I resolved to read to my kids every night last December as well; doing so seems to happen less and less as they get older and I wanted to "make" myself get back into the habit of snuggling up next to them and either reading to them or letting them read to me. I loved the precious moments we spent together - and losing ourselves in all of our Christmas books - so I brought this resolution back for a second round. How did it go? Reasonably well. I would estimate that Hallie and I read together two out of every three nights, and Will chose to join us for about half of those read-aloud sessions. As was my goal last year, I wanted to carry our reading momentum into January this year, and while we had trouble doing so in the evenings, Hallie and I found a new time and place to read together: in the afternoons (on the days she doesn't have dance) and in front of the fireplace. Perfection.

November's Resolution: write in my gratitude journal daily. Doing so has been my November resolution for the last few years, and because I love intentionally documenting one thing for which I am thankful every day between November 1st and Thanksgiving Day, I kept the tradition alive. How did it go? Quite well! I missed a couple of days as usual, but upon realizing I had done so, and because I remembered the days I accidentally skipped with relative clarity, I was able to go back and update my gratitude journal.

October Resolution: use what I have, specifically beauty and skincare products, makeup, cleaning and household products, and food in my pantry and freezer. I had so many freebies, sample-sized "gifts with purchase", and full-sized products purchased at the recommendation of others, and because I wanted to start streamlining what I buy and use in each of these categories, I decided the time had come to "use it or lose it". How did it go? Incredibly well! I used up multiple lotions, shampoos, conditioners, body washes, makeup and perfume samples, and chapsticks. I tossed lots of items that had reached the end of their lives or surpassed their expiration dates. And I donated a bag of unopened samples and set aside a box of assorted products for my next garage sale.

September Resolutions: sleep seven hours every night; play with my kids, husband, and friends; and manage my social media stress. How did it go? I did well at tallying seven hours of sleep a night - I think I only missed the mark three times, and none of these nights were because of simply staying up too late. Second, I did horribly at (officially) playing with my kids, husband, and friends because...I completely forgot about this resolution, which perfectly demonstrates why I can only have one resolution each month. I did play with the kids, go on a date with Tom, and go out for dinner and drinks with friends, but not once did any of these activities remind me that I had pledged to do more. And third, I did moderately well at managing social media stress. I unfollowed quite a few people and sources and sites that regularly made me feel worse rather than better, and I added a few to lift my spirits.

Did you resolve to change anything about yourself or your life this year? Last month? This coming month? How are those resolutions going?

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Daddy's Day

In honor or my wonderful husband and the father of my children, here are some of my favorite moments - caught on video - of him with our babies. As you can see and hear, he has always been a fun parent - one who makes every effort to meet the kids where they are and learn to love what they love...even when it's a little inappropriate (see the second video below).










Happy Father's Day to my right-hand man, to these two awesome dads and grandpas, to my bro-in-laws, and to all the men out there who are "dadding" in one way or another.



Happy Father's Day to all those celebrating, and hugs to those for whom today hurts.

Friday, June 14, 2019

High Five for Friday (6.14.19)

One
Audition/tryout season for the Ferris family is OVER! Throughout the last six weeks, the kids have gone through auditions/tryouts for dance, soccer, orchestra, and musical theatre camp. I imagine the stress and anxiety they felt surpassed the stress and anxiety I felt...actually, no. Because Will and Hallie started early, they aren't afraid to put themselves out there. They experience the occasional and expected jitters, but aren't - like me - paralyzed with fear over what may or may not transpire. (Last year I wrote a post about the challenges - and benefits - associated with tryouts and auditions. It remains one of my favorite posts out of the 1,500+ up on Chasing Roots.) I feel so much calmer now that we have many of our placements for this coming year and the kids can just relax and enjoy dancing, playing soccer, and their musical pursuits.
Cavalry Signing Day
Wizard of Oz Auditions (Both are dressed as their audition
"characters" - Avery sang Anna Kendrick's The Cup Song
and Hallie sang Naughty from Matilda the Musical.)

Two
We had great luck with last and this week's camps, lessons, and intensives. The kids loved their coaches and teachers, learned a tremendous amount, and had a lot of fun at sports performance training, basketball camp, swimming lessons, and a dance intensive. And after all that activity, I'm looking forward to next week, when our pace will slow slightly. (Whenever possible, I try to find a balance between busy weeks and slower weeks throughout the summer months.)
Will and two of his buddies at basketball camp. 
My favorite pic from Hallie's dance intensive - this was their
musical theatre dance to Peter Pan's "I Won't Grow Up".
Hallie, Avery, and the amazing Miss Darby.

Three
Sixth grade...check!

Four
Will and I can't get enough of the World Cup. We have the television on and turned to Fox Sports from 10am until 5pm every day, and our DVR is working almost as hard as these incredible athletes trying to keep up with recording every game so Will can watch all of the goals. (I need to teach him about highlight shows...) I have always loved watching soccer (comes with playing the sport for 15 years, I suppose), but watching it with Will - who shares my passion - is even better and one of my favorite ways for the two of us to spend time together.
Will and his doppelgΓ€nger. πŸ˜‚
The US scored 13 goals in their opening
match against Thailand - a World Cup record!

Three days before the World Cup started, I Googled "how to watch the World Cup" so I could figure out which networks would show the games. Do you know what came up? NOT ONE article about how to watch the (Women's) World Cup kicking off just three days later. NOT ONE article about the US (Women's) National Team that is the most successful in international soccer EVER, with three World Cup titles and four Olympic Gold Medals. Nope, the articles Google showed me were all about last year's Men's World Cup, for which the US Men's National Team didn't even qualify. I was beyond frustrated.

Because doing makes me proud and helps me feel better about the future of our country, I have mentioned this before and will mention it again... When Will watches the "Women's" World Cup or the US "Women's" National Team, he doesn't feel the need to add the extra word. He's not watching women athletes. He's just watching athletes, and they deserve that title. 

Five
On Sunday night we said goodbye "see you soon" to some of our best friends as they embark on a new adventure in Oklahoma.
I couldn't ask for a better tribe.
Our guys like each other too.
As do all of our kiddos.

We met Nuria, Javier, and Paloma through mutual friends a year or two after moving to Texas. Paloma and Will are the same age and in the same grade and Paloma dances at the same studio as Hallie (and they were in Mini Company together Hallie's first year), so both kids consider her a friend. Tom and Javier both worked for TAMU as engineering professors, so they share quite a few interests and personality traits. And while I have no idea why Nuria decided she and I should be friends (my baked goods may have factored in), I fell in love with her unabashed sense of humor, unbridled honesty, and unending generosity. We hate that they're leaving and will miss them terribly, BUT we are tremendously grateful for the many years of friendship we've shared and know we will keep in touch across the miles that will soon separate us.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Monthly Medley: May 2019

Writing 
Nothing new or exciting to report here. May is always light for me writing-wise, since the month is so crazy on nearly every other front.

Reading
Nothing new or exciting to report here either - May's craziness cuts into my reading time as well as my writing time. I promise to share at least one - if not two or three - book recommendations at the end of June, however!

Watching
On perhaps our one free evening in May, the kids and I watched Christopher Robin. Many of you know of my love for Winnie the Pooh, and this live-action adaptation of his story provided the touch of nostalgia I had hoped for in a remake. As is often the case in A. A. Milne's writing, at times the movie looks and feels melancholy, but it resolves in a way that highlights the beauty of friendship, the power of imagination, and the magic of childhood.

Listening To
Other than Matilda: The Musical? I adore this show, but I've had about all I can take of Mrs. Trunchbull's Phys Ed. The time has come for a new "car musical" - any suggestions?

On the podcast front, this month I caught up on my "regular" programs - Young House Love has a Podcast and Criminal - since I'd fallen behind on both while binge-listening to Cold. I plan to try Unexplained - a bi-weekly program about "strange and mysterious real life events that continue to evade explanation" - this month!

Wearing
I have always had trouble finding shorts that fit and in which I feel only somewhat self-concious about my body. I have wide hips, substantial upper thighs, and a narrow waist, so shorts (as well as pants) either 1) fit my hips and thighs and gap at the waist or 2) fit at the waist but are so tight in the hips and thighs that I can't move. I finally found a winner, though, thanks to Kate at the small things blog: Universal Thread's women's high-rise button fly midi jean shorts in medium wash from Target. They come up high enough at the waist to keep everything tucked in but not so high that they feel like mom jeans. The are long enough to completely cover my butt (what is with shorts that don't cover butt cheeks these days?!) and upper thighs, but not so long that I might as well be wearing pants. The wash is the perfect shade - not too dark or too light - and this, along with the slight distressing, makes the shorts feel up-to-date and fashionable. I also bought Universal Thread's women's high-rise double cuff mini jean shorts in black, and I'm thinking about grabbing these in olive as well.

I had a second shorts victory from Athleta: the printed mesh racer run short 4.5". I bought the white botanics pair because they were on clearance and I had a coupon and a reward to use, but I will likely purchase both the coastal teal and black olive camo pairs as well because I love them so much. All this shorts love 😍 from a person who strongly dislikes shorts 😩 but understands the necessity when living in Texas. πŸ˜‚

Trying/Using
My mom bought me this set of Sonia Kashuk make up brushes from Target (another recommendation from Kate at the small things blog) and they are fabulous. The handles and bristles are pretty to look at, and the bristles are soft enough to feel comfortable on my face but firm enough to get the job of applying make up done well.

I have also had great success with Dove's new 0% Aluminum deodorant. The detox phase was tough (I quit my other deodorant/anti-perspirant cold turkey to allow my body to rid itself of the aluminum that had undoubtedly built up in my pores), but after almost a month of using this deodorant exclusively I'm really happy with the results.

I realize this deodorant isn't completely natural, but the last three natural deodorants I've tried have been complete busts. I'm just happy to have found something aluminum-free that I - and eventually Hallie - can use!

Eating/Drinking
  • I made - by combining a few different recipes and making things up as I went along - s'mores cupcakes for an event this month and they went over incredibly well. I don't like marshmallows so I didn't eat one, but everyone who did assured me they were amazing. First, I used this recipe - minus the sugar and salt - for the cupcake crusts. I made a little extra because I needed 28 cupcakes. Next, I made a basic chocolate cake recipe and divided it evenly on top of the 28 cupcake crusts. My and most cake recipes would normally make 24 cupcakes, but because the cupcakes had a crust, each tin needed a little less batter than usual. For the frosting, I made this marshmallow buttercream. I used about 3 ounces more marshmallow fluff and a 1/2 cup more powdered sugar than the recipe called for, and I did add the optional vanilla. Last but not least, Hallie topped the cupcakes with a sprinkling of graham cracker crumbs and a little chunk of Hershey's chocolate. Gorgeous, if I do say so myself!

Feeling Good About

What's new and interesting in your life this month?

Friday, June 7, 2019

High Five for Friday (6.7.19)

One
We've settled nicely into our summer rhythm. Or perhaps better put, we've settled nicely into the absence of our school year rhythm. I like that each Monday morning arrives with its own unique schedule, built around that week's camps, lessons, activities, and work; both kids and I find comfort in the day-to-day similarities but enthusiasm and excitement in knowing that the following week will look and feel completely different.

Two
The bad news: my library (which has been under construction for more than seven months) will not reopen today as originally planned. The new (and still tentative) reopen date has been bumped back nearly three months, until the end of August.

The good news: now that summer has arrived, we have time to drive 20+ minutes to the neighboring library. We've made the trek twice since school let out, and on our second visit the kids and I signed up for their summer reading program. (If you live near a Barnes & Noble, they also have a summer reading program worth joining.) I love having an assortment of good books sitting on my nightstand almost as much as I love having time to read.
Adorably happy to be picking out books at the library.

Three
I've started a new summer photo series: Will and Hallie eating summer treats. Sounds kind of boring to anyone besides maybe Will and Hallie's grandmas, but the pics I took of them with their Must Be Heaven ice cream cones and Freezing Cow rolled ice cream sundaes last week made me laugh enough to decide to continue this accidental series. Clearly they inherited my photogenic-ness.

Four
Last week we tried out two new entertaining family games: Escape Room and Ticket to Ride. Escape Room was a little stressful for Hallie - she didn't like the timer and the "tense" background music - but I thought the game itself was a lot of fun. Escaping was tougher than I expected, which means we're going to struggle as we move through the other three rooms - this room was supposed to be the easiest...

Where Escape Room was wild and crazy and loud, Ticket to Ride was calm, rational, tactical, and strategic. We all enjoyed it just as much though, and I anticipate another round of traveling the country by rail to take place soon!

Five
Happiness Highlights
Came across them gem from years ago... She's patiently waiting on
her mom, aunt, and grandma, the three of whom are having an animated
conversation about who knows what in an outlet mall dressing room. 
First swim of the summer! Will brought friends too, but I didn't feel
like I could ask three tweenage boys to stop swimming and smile for
the camera the same way I could ask these two cuties to do so. 
And first sleepover of the summer! (Also
the first sleepover at her bestie Avery's new
house...they'd lived there all of 24 hours
before Hallie crashed the party.)
First (right) and last (left) day of school pics for my Lily and Carter!
Our second trip to the pool started with a torrential downpour and
severe thunderstorm, which we waited out in our cars in the parking
lot. Luckily the storm passed fairly quickly, and after all that rain
we had the pool mostly to ourselves for two hours!
Squinty fun in the sun with friends and snow cones!
Thanks to Grandma Brenda, Will is now ready for
the World Cup (which kicks off today) in his official
US National Soccer Team jersey!
Waiting - only somewhat patiently - for Aladdin to start.

Happy Friday, friends!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Making Memories

Throughout the last seven or eight summers we have tried multiple variations of summer bucket lists, activity calendars, school fun guides, screen time guides, chore charts, and job jars. One summer we even implemented - and failed colossally at - a Pinterest-inspired and three-pronged "jars of gold" system.

Eventually I opted out of summer bucket lists because they made me feel stressed and anxious. I tossed activity calendars because they didn't always coordinate well with our other plans for the day. I trashed school fun guides because the kids' frustration outweighed their academic progress. And I did away with chore charts and job jars because I couldn't consistently sync the jobs on the chart or in the jar with the jobs that actually needed tackling around the house.

With each passing year our "systems" became less and less complicated and restrictive, which makes sense given my kids' ages. But I still wanted a way to document our summer so that when the first day of school rolled around we could look back on the previous three months and appreciate the fun we'd had. So last summer I borrowed an idea from Emily Ley (the founder of the Emily Ley Simplified Planner and the Simplified brand): a summer memory list.

"Do the fun thing. Write the fun thing down. Pressure off."

I could not love this plan more.

We hung June, July, and August summer memory lists on our refrigerator and stashed a collection of pretty markers (because pretty markers make everything more fun) nearby, and whenever we enjoyed a summer activity, we wrote it down on our list. At the end of August, we looked back at our summer memory lists and fondly reminisced, rather than looking back at our summer bucket list and worrying about all the opportunities on which we missed out.

Want to try this refreshingly simple approach to summer with me? Let's start making memories!

Friday, May 31, 2019

High Five for Friday (5.31.19)

Since last Friday's post was all about my girl "graduating" from elementary school, this week's High Five for Friday post covers a couple of weeks' worth of high fives.

One

The last week of school brought a host of fun and rewarding events for Will and Hallie, and therefore me as well. Will had Catstravaganza (a school-wide fun day), his end-of-the-year Awards Ceremony, and his last soccer tournament of the athletic year. Hallie had Field Day, a Student Council lock-in, the 4th grade auction, an end-of-the-year popsicle party, a field trip to the swimming pool, and her final Mini Company performances. The last two weeks of May are always a whirlwind, but in a good way!
The only picture I have from Catstravaganza:
PTO moms and teachers feeding hundreds of
students in-between their fun day activities!
Will did well academically, but this award made me the proudest.
Waiting out the soccer tournament lightening delay in Dallas
over lunch with cousins Katy, Nate, Dave, and sweet baby Ben!
The "get sprayed with a hose" station at Field Day is a favorite.
Field Day Limbo
Field Day Tug-O-War
A bittersweet note: one of Hallie's best friends (Tessa) is
moving away. They met on the first day of third grade, and
have packed an enormous amount of friendship into the last
two years. I'm so grateful they found each other when they did.
On the top: at their 4th grade Student Council Lock-In.
On the bottom: at their kindergarten end-of-the-year program.
Popsicles on the monkey bars.
Kara and Hallie
Last formal Mini Company performance.
Last (clearly) informal Mini Company performance.

Two
Deserving of its own high five, Hallie's 4th grade Walk the Halls. Here are Rock Prairie Elementary's "seniors" walking their school's halls and bidding farewell to their fellow students - who are cheering them on and wishing them good luck in the future - for the last time.

Three
Also deserving of its own high five, Will's - and my - first school dance. Thinking that the sixth grade dance would be a lot of fun, last May I committed to the position of Spring Fling Coordinator for this school year. Turns out Will wasn't all that enthused about attending a dance, but he did so because I wanted him to and ended up having a blast with his friends.

Two weeks before the Spring Fling, Will and I had this conversation.

Erin: Will, are you excited for the Spring Fling?
Will: What's the Spring Fling?
Erin: The Spring Fling is the sixth grade dance, buddy.
Will: Wait. We have a sixth grade dance?

Insert eye roll.

Four
We celebrated the start of summer, as we traditionally do, with summer fun baskets, cookie cake, and a swim party with friends.
Leaving (with tired eyes, bless their exhausted
hearts) for their last days of 6th and 4th grade.
The littles with their last day of school/summer fun buckets.
The bigs with their last day of school/summer fun buckets.

Five
Last but not least, recital 2019 is in the books!


Happy Friday, friends!

I almost forgot...a few of you were probably waiting for this picture. 😍