Monday, March 19, 2018

Adulting 201

A little over a year ago I wrote a post called Adulting 101, prompted by my discovery of an actual "Adulting School" in Maine.

The Adulting School in Maine holds live and online classes to teach millennials the basic skills - think budgeting, paying bills, meal planning, sewing, and simple "making" and "fixing" - needed to survive and thrive as adults. The founders of The Adulting School reference changes in school curriculum, family dynamics, and the pace of society as contributors factors to the need for this special kind of education, and to be honest, I get it. Sadly, I regularly hear from Tom (a college professor) about, read stories about, and witness for myself circumstances in which young adults don't actually know how to behave and/or take care of themselves like adults. I certainly didn't have it all together when I moved away from home for college - or even when I started my first job after graduation - but thanks to my mom's hard work, I knew how to do my own laundry, cook a meal, and put together an Ikea shelf.

I decided I couldn't let Will and Hallie end up in need of such a school, so I created a list of what I hoped to teach them in 2017 and then set to work.

I realized as I wrote this post that I should have printed my Adulting list and hung it on my refrigerator. Throughout the year we worked through about half of the tasks, but without a regular visual reminder, quite a few slipped my mind. Here's our official report card:

From the list of new-to-them skills, both kids can cut an apple, scramble an egg, dust the furniture, clean the bathroom, fold basic laundry* (socks, underwear, dishtowels, and cleaning rags), set the table, write thank you notes, hammer nails, screw in screws, and shake hands firmly. Will can also create a simple budget and calculate a tip, and Hallie has become much better at making small talk. Not from the list, Will can vacuum the car, Hallie has become a fairly capable baker, and both kids can rake leaves, pull weeds, use the leaf blower, change lightbulbs, mop floors, and chop ("safe", for lack of a better word) fruits and vegetables.

I completely forgot to teach them how to cook pasta, make tacos, wash dishes, set a holiday table, sew on a button, mend a small hole, change a flat tire, make a financial donation, and open a bank account. Tom showed both kids how to jumpstart a car, so they understand the process but obviously couldn't yet tackle that one alone. And although we work on table manners EVERY SINGLE NIGHT, Will still chews with his mouth open and Hallie drapes not just her elbows but half of her body on the table. I can't figure out why table manners are such a challenge...

In 2018, I hope to tackle what's left on the 2017 list, plus a few additional jobs:
  • Create a grocery list from a recipe
  • Shop from a list at the grocery store
  • Cook pasta
  • Make tacos
  • Wash dishes
  • Set a holiday table
  • Sew on a button
  • Mend a small hole
  • Sort laundry*
  • Order pizza online
  • Order pizza over the phone
  • Leave a phone message
  • Take a phone message
  • Treat minor cuts, scrapes, bruises, and burns
  • Change a flat tire
  • Make a financial donation
  • Open a bank account

Here's to 2018 and (hopefully) raising kids who are slightly less likely to require an education at The Adulting School!

* I know lots of kids my children's ages already sort, wash, dry, fold, and put away their own laundry. Mine don't, for two reasons. First, for me it's more efficient and economical to wash everyone's whites together, everyone's darks together, everyone's towels together, etc. in full-sized loads than it is for Will to wash just his darks or Hallie to wash just her dance clothes in small loads. Second, I am particularly particular about laundry. I've had too many items ruined because they weren't sorted properly or took an accidental turn in the dryer, and this always makes me feel like I've thrown money away. I also want my/our clothes to look nice (relatively speaking, of course. Can an 11-year-old boy's athletic shorts look nice?) and I've yet to successfully teach the other three members of my family to fold to my standards. I will relinquish control in a lot of areas, but this isn't one of them...yet.   

Friday, March 16, 2018

High Five for Friday (3.16.18)

It's possible I've jinxed the Wednesday through Friday portion of my weeks...just like the week prior, last week went downhill after I hit "publish" on my High Five for Friday post. Nothing terrible, thank goodness, but the next round of illness, a series of frustrating (volunteer and paid) work communications, and an embarrassing situation in which I royally dropped the ball had me longing for a do-over, a new week, and spring break.

So, just like the week prior, one of this week's high fives comes from the those "dark days" (maybe that's what I'll start calling Wednesday evening through Friday afternoon). The rest come from the first few days of spring break - hallelujah!

1. Because of illness, Will stayed home with me on both Thursday and Friday of last week. He had a fever all day Thursday but felt fine otherwise, so we went for a three-mile walk in the morning and in the afternoon we had a picnic lunch and watched The Hunger Games (he just finished the book so I promised him we could watch the movie when Hallie wasn't home). On Friday his fever was gone but he had a headache and a rough cough that required a few breathing treatments (because of his asthma, nearly every illness Will acquires ends up in his chest) so I had to keep him home again. I didn't get nearly as much done around the house or on my current writing projects as I would have had I spent those two days home alone, but the amazing conversations Will and I had about books, movies, politics, decision making, and morality more than made up for that "loss". I love listening to him work through what's happening in our world (especially when he correctly uses big words in his analyses), and I appreciate that he still listens to what I think and considers my life experiences when forming opinions and making decisions about how to navigate the challenges in front of him.
Tux was thrilled to have Will at home. 
SOOOO possessive of his boy.

2. Spring Break, baby! I felt such a wave of relief when 4:00pm on Friday afternoon finally rolled around. We didn't go out of town but we needed a break from...well, alarm clocks, mostly. Hallie and I wake up with our alarm clocks - or we wake up just a couple of minutes before our alarm clocks go off - every week day and we both can't stand them. (Will wakes up when he hears Hallie moving around, and Tom wakes up when he hears all of us in the kitchen getting ready for school. Oh, the casual, relaxed life those boys lead...) More than anything, she and I couldn't wait to turn off our alarms and wake up when our bodies were ready to do so.

3. Y'all. I can't stand time changes. Personally, I would like to split the difference between Standard Time and Daylight Saving Time and then NEVER CHANGE THE TIME AGAIN. EVER. But...since this post is about high fives, I send one up for the fact that after five days, we have fully more than halfway adjusted to the shift.

4. On Monday night all four Ferri filled out their 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament brackets. (You can catch a thorough recap of our now 14-year history of tournament bracket competitions here.) Will pulled off a convincing victory last year, so this year I'm (not so) secretly rooting for Hallie and her completely random selections to somehow come out on top. Whatever the case, we love this family tradition!

5. Happiness Highlights
Just because...
Hallie and I took pics next to every flowering bush and tree we came
across on our most recent weekend walk. Spring is just around the corner!
I woke up early to bake banana bread one morning right
before spring break. Hallie also woke up early, and she joined me
in the kitchen and offered to help by unloading the dishwasher.
I rewarded her by letting her lick the bowl. For breakfast. 
This girl misses her friend/neighbor when they travel,
but she LOVES walking their dog while they're gone.
A beauty blogger I follow highly recommends Sonia
Kashuk make-up brushes (sold at Target). I won't buy
from the professional/precision line because of price,
but I can't wait to try her basic brush line! 
Easter eggs are up!
Spring break sleepover fun!

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Tuesdays With Tux (on Wednesday): So Long, Farewell

After a wintry February, spring seems to have sprung here in Texas. No doubt Mother Nature has a few cold and rainy days left on the docket for us, but until those days arrive, we'll enjoy these (slightly) warmer temperatures and (mostly) sunny skies.

Tux, however, doesn't seem too thrilled that winter is on its way out. His favorite place to relax - besides right next to Will - is in front of the fire. This winter he spent the majority of his inside time snuggled up next to the fireplace screen, dozing in and out of consciousness and dreaming (I can only assume) about the next animal he'll bring me.
"Please, Tom, light it faster!" (Can you see Tux
frantically nuzzling Tom's leg while he tries to
light the fire? He panics until it's actually lit.)
Using my hand as a pillow (as in showing
me how much he loved me that day).  
Christmas kitty.
Full-on nap mode.
Tux did not like it when Hallie set up her nutcrackers
in his spot. Thankfully he found a temporary solution.
The situation got worse before it got better, but
Tux tried to be flexible. I was actually surprised
he didn't attempt to move the nutcrackers...
The transition from winter to spring means I turn the fireplace on less and Tux currently despises me. He sits in front of the dark fireplace, hoping he can change my mind with his longing eyes and protesting meows.

Tux may be complaining about the arrival of spring, but he's the only one.

Happy birthday, mom!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Connections Can Change the World

College Station is a small town. We've lived here for just under seven years, and already I rarely meet anyone to whom we weren't already connected by one - or two, at most - degrees of separation. I consider this level of community intimacy a good thing, primarily because 1) as my kids get older and spend more time away from me, I know there's always someone watching them who can report back to me if necessary, and 2) it offers opportunities for connection and collaboration we might not otherwise have.

Back at the beginning of February, Hallie and her dance company performed at their studio's Night of Worship. They danced twice, first to a song called Mountain Top, and then to a song - now one of my favorites - called King of My Heart.

In our community lives an 11-year-old little girl named Jada, who after reading The Little Match Girl, went in search of a way to help girls whose real lives play out with heartbreaking similarity to that of the story's main character. With the support and under the guidance of her mom, Jada decided to combine her talents as a singer, pianist, and worship leader to create The Matchstick Project.

Jada recorded an album of worship songs, including King of My Heart, which is now available for purchase. All of the money raised funnels from The Matchstick Project through Compassion International to support, educate, and empower young girls who live in poverty and/or dangerous situations around the world. Read and watch more about Jada's story and The Matchstick Project here.

And now to connect all of these girls...

Jada recorded King of My Heart. Hallie's dance company performs to King of My Heart. Jada's mom has a relationship with the dance studio and its owners. So at Night of Worship, Hallie's dance company performed their dance to a live version of the song, sung and played on the piano by Jada.

Dancing with a live musician is hard. Singing while others dance is hard. Consider the ages of these girls - the dancers range from seven to nine and Jada is 11 - and the fact that they pulled this off with only one rehearsal and one run-through is amazing.

My apologies for the quality of the video. The sound is off and too quiet, and 
Will had trouble maneuvering around the head of the woman in front of him.

So today I'm grateful the small town in which we live. Grateful for the connections made possible by a smaller population. Grateful for the opportunities these connections provide. Grateful for kids who - because of these opportunities - believe they can and will change the world, one song at a time.

Friday, March 9, 2018

High Five for Friday (3.9.18)

I've mentioned previously that in order to get these High Five for Friday posts up at 5am on Friday mornings, I have to finish writing them no later than about midday on Wednesday. Anything that happens from that point on gets bumped to the following week's post.

I've also mentioned previously that I try my best to share an accurate picture of our lives in here Texas; I don't post about everything, but I do post about both the good and the bad.

Last week went swimmingly until Wednesday midday. Then at about the time I hit publish on the High Five for Friday post, the week took an unfortunate turn: malfunctioning dryer, leaking sink, leaking water heater (WHY, in Texas, do they put water heaters in attics?!), Tourette's flare-up, school stress, emotional meltdown, and quite a few tough conversations and decisions. Those 48 hours between when I finished writing the High Five for Friday post and when the post actually went live were a struggle, so when I hopped on to Facebook on Friday afternoon and saw the post's likes and comments and shares, I felt guilty. Guilty that my week looked better on "paper" than it had played out in real life...guilty that I hadn't painted an honest picture.

Yes, the point of High Five for Friday posts is to focus on the good. But sometimes I have to acknowledge the bad as a reminder that the highs have value only because we also experience the lows.

In that vein, I came up with two high fives that happened during that messy stretch of 48 hours:

1. We had our water heater replaced in ONE DAY. Tom talked to the company around 10am. They called me around 11am, and arrived at my house at 12:30pm. They drained the old unit, purchased the new unit, removed the old unit, and installed the new 3:30pm, less than six hours after Tom first spoke to them on the phone. If you need a recommendation, email me at and I'll share the company name and phone number.

2. I played Wii for the first time in years(?) and I didn't hate it. And I beat Tom at bowling.

Now, moving on to this week:

3. On Saturday I took Will and a friend to see the Houston Dynamo - our local-est MLS (professional soccer) team - battle it out against Atlanta United. We'd been meaning to take in a game for years, but it took "Cavalry Day" at the ballpark for us to finally solidify plans to attend.

We all enjoyed watching the Dynamo play (they won convincingly), and I crossed a mini bullet point off my Texas Bucket List!

4. On Tuesday night Tom's Uncle Tom and Aunt Pam arrived from Wisconsin for a brief overnight visit. Tom's parents and my parents make the trek to visit us fairly regularly (considering the distance they must travel to get here), but we don't usually have the privilege of welcoming extended family members into our home because they all live at least a few states away. We had a fun evening catching up with Tom and Pam, and are grateful they worked us into their cross-country travels!

5. Happiness Highlights:
Mini Company Member of the Month! (For
February...I forgot to post this pic last week.)
Getting my "hairs did". 
Not too shabby!
Weekend sleepover on the floor of our bedroom.
When they were little I just wanted them to stay in
their own beds/rooms. Now that they're big(ger), I
love it when they sleep close by... 
Birthday party fun at the park!
I had lunch with Will on Monday. Spending time with my boy makes
me happy, but so does seeing how healthy our district's school lunches
can be...if the kids make good choices. Yes, Will had popcorn chicken
nuggets, but he also had three fruits and vegetables and water to drink.
And that roll? He doesn't like them...he picked that up for me. 😍

And a bonus high five...spring break starts today! Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Wise Words Wednesday: But Still You Did Not See

The author of this poem has been a friend of Will's for years. She is kind, thoughtful, intelligent, and wise beyond her 11 years, and she would like to dedicate her words below to all the lives lost by violence.

But Still You Did Not See
~ Shirin G.

The worst had happened
I was in pain
But still you did not see
I was hurting, lost in my own
But still you did not see
Blinded by your
Hatred at its worst
But still you did not see
How many lost
Lost in history
But still you did not see
How many more have to go
For you to open your eyes
But still you did not see
I was broken
A shattered glass inside
But still you did not see
Hearts were broken
So were bones
But still you did not see
A hole in your heart
Yet to be filled
But still you did not see
They said “Do Something!
It’s not right”
But still you did not see
Lives changed forever
But still you did not see
For all of those who still have hope
They are hoping You will

Monday, March 5, 2018

March Forward

If you recall, this year I began tackling my New Year's Resolutions in September. I also decided to choose one resolution each month, rather than choosing one or two resolutions to attempt - and at which to most likely fail - over the course of the year. With only 30 days devoted to each resolution, my goals have been and will continue to be small, measureable, and empowering. Smaller goals are more attainable, which increases the chance of success. Measureable goals are more manageable, which once again increases the chance of success. And empowering goals are more inspirational, which…you guessed it…increases the chance of success.

I went with a slightly different kind of resolution for March, one that takes me out of my comfort zone but the time for which feels right. Here are the details on that resolution, as well as an update on resolutions past:

March's Resolution: participate in some form of activism every day. I've reached the end of my rope with regard to a number of political and social issues, and I feel that the time has come for me act. I want and need to do something.

A couple of weeks ago I read a shared-by-a-friend, shared-by-a-cousin (or something like that) Facebook post in which the author made an interesting point about activism. She talked about how many of us become so overwhelmed when we think about making a difference - because we assume that to have an impact we have to "go big or go home" - that we end up doing nothing. I fall squarely in this camp.

She went on to add that her new motto is to start small, believing that eventually the small things add up to make a significant impact. This mentality is exactly what drove my resolutions shift this year, so I decided March would be the perfect time to take my own first steps - to March Forward, if you will - toward becoming a more engaged citizen and in support of the causes in which I believe.

I don't have all of the details ironed out, yet I know that little - perhaps even none - of what I do will find its way to social media. I'll share an update in my April resolutions post, but I don't have plans to personally try to persuade those who believe differently than I do to change their minds; instead I want to make donations, contact my representatives, write letters, ask questions, and listen more.

February's Resolution: clean out all of my kitchen cabinets and drawers. After cleaning out and paring down the contents of my closets in January, my kitchen cabinets and drawers suddenly felt agitatingly disorganized and unnecessarily full. I expect that my friends and I will hold a joint garage sale in May, so it made sense to tackle clutter in January and February. The result? A moderate success! I cleaned out and reorganized all my cabinets, but didn't get to the pantry...sounds like a good project for spring break, doesn't it?

January's Resolution: clean out all of our closets. My goal was to take care of the kids' closets with them before they went back to school, and then tackle the rest of the closets throughout the last three weeks of the month. The result? A moderate success, but there remains work to be done! I started off strong at the beginning of January, but getting sick meant I made absolutely no progress throughout the last two weeks of the month. I thoroughly cleaned out both kids' closets, the linen/guest bathroom closet, the front hall closet, the playroom closet, and my half of the master closet. Months later, Tom's closet still remains...getting him to sort through and/or organize anything is a challenge, partially because he has little free time and partially because he doesn't see the value in this kind of project.

December's Resolution: read to my kids every night. My goal was to sit on the side of their beds - or better yet, snuggle up next to them - and either read to them or let them read to me. The result? A moderate success on paper, an overwhelming success in reality! I read to Hallie almost every night, and to Will about every other night. We missed a few evenings because of late-night activities like Snowmageddon 2017, Nutcracker performances, Christmas parties, a birthday sleepover, and travel, and a couple of times Will opted to read his own book rather than join Hallie and me. December worked perfectly for this resolution as our evenings held fewer commitments, and I truly hope I can carry this resolution into January - when our regular evening activities begin again - and protect this precious time together. Months later we don't read together every evening, but we definitely sit down with a book more often now than before our December resolution. I find that it helps to choose a book that everyone - me included - can't wait to get back to (we're reading Wonder right now) and to leave the book in a visible place so we're regularly reminded that reading time is calling.

November's Resolution: write in my gratitude journal daily. My goal was to document at least one thing for which I was thankful every day between November 1st and November 23rd (Thanksgiving Day). The result? A moderate success! I missed a couple of days but realized fairly quickly I had done so; I remembered the days I had accidentally skipped with enough clarity to go back and update my gratitude journal. Months later I don't keep a regular gratitude journal (I only commit to keeping one - at least officially - in November), but I try to use my High Five for Friday posts the same way I would use a gratitude journal.

October's Resolution: drink more water. My goal was to down at least two full water bottles every day. The result? A complete disaster! I probably met my goal only one day a week. I do a great job of drinking water during the summer, but for some reason my school year schedule doesn't have the same triggers as my summer schedule to remind me to drink water. Months later I still struggle with this resolution. I have tried everything I can think of to remember to stay better hydrated (and to make water more appealing), but I only succeed about a third of the time.

September's Resolution: turn off the light by 11:30pm on school nights and by 12:00am (midnight) on weekends. My goal was to get at least seven hours of sleep a night, and to settle into a peaceful schedule of falling asleep and waking up that would continue through the school year. The result? A complete success! Not one cheat day. Months later I still adhere to these bedtimes, and while I wish I could bump them 15-30 minutes earlier (I've tried and thus far it doesn't work), I'm happy that I get a solid seven hours of sleep most nights. Well, I get a solid seven hours of sleep on nights Tux doesn't have to go outside to use the restroom or need extra love at 4am.

What have you resolved to change about yourself and/or your life this year? How are those resolutions going?