Friday, November 22, 2019

High Five for Friday (11.22.19)

Today is my 41st birthday. My 41st year - so basically 2019 - didn't exactly live up to my expectations, but I have high hopes for my 42nd year and 2020. As I end one chapter and begin another, I am tremendously grateful to be (mostly) healthy and (mostly) happy, to have a roof over my head and food on my table, and for my family members and friends.

I love me some Board & Brush, both because it involves creating something beautiful with my own two (less than crafty and relatively impatient) hands and because it allows me to spend time with friends.

I also love holiday shopping events that bolster small businesses and support nonprofit organizations on a local level. This year I found lots of goodies for family members, friends, and teachers at one of my favorite events, the annual Jingle Bell Market...which is why I can only post pics of what I purchased for myself. 😉
 I needed a new keychain, and the beaded designs
from Four the Love of Wood really spoke to me. 
Nutcracker OBSESSED!

My girl, y'all. She's working so hard both physically and mentally to get back to 100% after a knee injury sidelined her from dance. Two physical therapy appointments each week, physical therapy and Yamuna exercises on her own once - sometimes twice - a day, ice and ibuprofen twice a day, sitting out at recess, and trying to memorize and practice her five Christmas dances while not actually dancing, or worse, watching from the sidelines. I'm so proud of her.
Rockin' her new pink camo knesiology tape.

Happiness Highlights
Sweet boy really wants to be a part of family game night, but he can
never fully relax with all the yelling and laughing going on around him.
Polichinelle hair! 😍
Tom and Hallie put up our outside Christmas lights last weekend!
A perfect Saturday morning...
When you get all of the 5th grade math problems
right...using your old school methods rather than
the new-fangled methods used by kids these days. 

Happy weekend, friends!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

In Heaven There is No Beer

In Heaven there is no beer,
That's why we drink it here.
And when we're gone from here,
Our friends will be drinking all the beer.

We sang this song, loud and proud, while tailgating before Iowa Hawkeye football games, and it seems fans still feel this committed to their beer 20 years later. On September 14th, Iowa State's Carson King, having run out of beer, held up a sign on ESPN's College GameDay that read, "Busch Light Supply Needs Replenished". He included his Venmo handle on the sign, and within minutes the money started rolling into his account.

When it became clear that everyone felt this committed to their beer (and King had received enough money to purchase a few beers and then some), King announced he would donate the excess funds raised - everything minus $15 for his case of Busch Light - to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital. And then the money REALLY started rolling in.

Donations from individuals were matched by major corporations - Venmo and Anheuser-Busch included - and as of earlier this month, King had raised nearly $3 million with matching donations For The Kids. A month after King's moment in the ESPN College GameDay spotlight, he returned to Kinnick Stadium to take part in the newest Hawkeye tradition: The Wave.

Last fall I wrote about The Wave, which also benefits - emotionally, rather than financially - the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital. And a few years ago, I wrote about For The Kids, which holds a special place in my heart, and its connection to the same hospital.

I share this story today because sometimes I want - no, I need, and I thought you might also need - to read a feel-good story...even if it's about beer. Cheers to turning a unique situation into an opportunity to make a difference in one little corner of the world!

I couldn't find a single tailgating photo of Tom and me, so you get these photos of our little Hawkeyes - 6ish years ago - instead.

Friday, November 15, 2019

High Five for Friday (11.15.19)

We survived Dance Rev. I had planned to write a lengthy post about how the past three conventions we've attended have been both amazing and challenging, and how this year's event followed suit. But while last year tipped the scales toward amazing, this year swung back in the opposite direction, throwing a wrench in my writing plans.

So today, in place of my original and now scrapped high five, I'm throwing up a high five for crossing last weekend off of my fall to-do list. I'm also sharing a handful of pics of the good moments, because I'm not completely empty inside. 😉
We made two requests of the hotel because of Hallie's
knee injury (a room on a lower level and with a refrigerator
 to keep ice cold) and not only did they deliver on both fronts,
they left a sweet note for the girls and treats for all of us.
Thank goodness for Mandi's mom (who we all call Nonny), who kept the
girls entertained so we could relax for an hour before the chaos began. 
Hallie couldn't take classes (that's right - we spent three days at a dance
convention and Hallie couldn't participate in a single one of the classes),
but she stayed busy with a diamond art product from my friend Jenn. 
Sweet smiles.
Ready to perform! Our studio's companies did an amazing job.
Hallie had to sit out of two dance parties and nine classes, but we let her
perform in the showcase. She hadn't danced at all in more than two weeks,
and the joy she felt when allowed to once again do so was written all over
her face. This isn't a good picture (I'm hoping the professionals also
captured this moment), but if you zoom in you can see what I mean.

Because we needed a little more dance in our lives, this week was Dance Mom Appreciation Week. I participated when I could, and didn't pull any muscles! (After a horrible hamstring pull during Dance Mom Appreciation Week a few years ago, I consider any class I make it through without injury a colossal success.)

First thing Monday morning I headed up to Will's middle school for what turned out to be a well orchestrated and truly moving Veterans Day assembly. Many veterans attended, and students in orchestra, band, choir, and theatre performed and presented.
You can always find Will by his hair.

Last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Will tried out for his middle school's basketball team. He has attended a couple of summer basketball camps and messes around with his friends on the basketball court at the park, but he hasn't played on an actual team since right after his fifth birthday...and that season did NOT go well. Here's a little blurb from a blog post I wrote back in March of 2012:

As a reminder, Will didn't touch the ball AT ALL during the first three games. (Because he cried and ran away from the ball.) And aside from Will's very first soccer game, his third basketball game was the worst athletic hour of his (and maybe my) life. There was ice dancing. On the basketball court. 
Look how small he was compared to his teammates!
(He's still this small compared to his teammates...)
Someone told Will that he should defend with his arms raised, so for
the remainder of the season he ran around with his arms above his head.
"There's no crying in basketball!"
Oh yes there is...

I expected Will's athleticism, competitiveness, and general affection for sports of all kinds to carry him through the first round of cuts, but I didn't expect him to actually make one of the teams...and then he did.

I'm so proud of him, because I don't think he was offered a spot based (at least solely) on his basketball skills. I think he was offered a spot because he has a positive attitude, demonstrates leadership on and off the court, and works tremendously hard. It has taken him YEARS to harness his potential in these areas, and while he still has room to grow, his progress is beautiful.

You know what? Today I'm calling it at four high fives.

Cheers to the weekend, friends!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Resolutions Return

For the third 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 kicking off on January 1st and attempting one or two resolutions over the course of the year. I choose resolutions as they come to me and according to what I feel I need to work on as each new month rolls around, and in the name of accountability, I touch base here at the beginning of every month to report back on how the previous month went and share what I plan to work on that month. Here we go!

I've made this my November resolution for quite a few years, and because I love intentionally documenting one thing for which I am thankful every day between November 1st and Thanksgiving Day, I plan to keep this tradition alive.

This year, when compared to at least the past few years, has weighed heavily on my heart. Injuries, illnesses, and health concerns - not life-threatening, but signifiant enough to cause worry and anxiety - have plagued those in my immediate family as well as those in our extended families and our friends. It seems like almost every day I hear about a new diagnosis received by or trauma dealt to someone we know, and every time I turn on the news I feel overwhelmed by the pain, suffering, cruelty, injustice, and ignorance found across the world, throughout our country, and even in my own community.

So this November in particular feels like the perfect time to focus on the good. The little good, like getting to sleep in on Saturday morning or finding a pair of cute AND comfortable shoes. The big good, like peace between nations or complete healing after injury or illness. And all the good in between. Want to join me?


And for those of you who would like to updates on past months' resolutions, here you go!

October Resolution:

How did it go?
I know a couple of Debbie Downers, and whenever I spend time with them, I'm reminded that my energy impacts those around me - especially my children - and that I need to regularly commit to decreasing my negative and increasing my positive energy. These encounters and conversations fueled implementation (and now maintenance) of this resolution, and I worked really hard to keep my complaints about the weather and the bugs to myself last month. I can't say I won't stop complaining about the weather all together - I am a Wisconsinite living in Texas, after all - but I hope to carry my slightly improved energy with me throughout the remainder of this year and into next.

September Resolution:

How did it go? 
This resolution remains a challenge, but I am making slow and steady progress when it comes to separating myself from my phone and my social media accounts. On one day in October I had to be on - or at least near - my phone and/or computer from 6:30am until 11pm. During Brazos Valley Gives, we were posting photos, videos, commentary, stories, donation requests, and updates on our nonprofit's social media pages; posting personal photos and testimonies on our personal social media pages; following along with the event's overall progress; and checking in on our nonprofit's progress...ALL.DAY.LONG. When 11pm finally rolled around, I couldn't wait to put my phone away - my eyes were tired and my brain was fried. And since that day, I have done much better at leaving my phone alone for longer stretches of time and checking in on social media fewer times a day. I still struggle with having my phone out while watching Liv and Maddie with Hallie though...that show, while quite pleasant, just doesn't require 100% of my attention. 😂

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

Friday, November 8, 2019

High Five for Friday (11.8.19)

A couple of weeks of high fives are covered here today - thanks for understanding my swap out (Halloween fun in place of a High Five for Friday post) last week! 

This morning Hallie and I leave for Dallas for our 4th Dance Revolution Convention.
Dance Rev 2018
Yep, they're in the ballroom of a hotel at
11pm at night in their matching pajamas.

In the past I have used the adjective "whirlwind" to describe the Dance Rev weekend, and I anticipate that when we arrive home on Sunday night I will choose that same adjective to describe this year's event. But if I'm willing to dig a little deeper, beyond just an adjective, I can come up with a comparison to help you better understand Dance Rev: Dance Rev is like giving birth. There are bright lights and loud noises and SO MANY PEOPLE coming and going. There is organized chaos, followed by hours and hours of waiting, and then organized chaos once again. Emotions are amplified and everything is intensified. There are highs and lows and highs and lows. There is laughter and there are smiles. There is yelling and there are tears. There is joy, and there is pain (though not as much much physical pain as childbirth). When all is said and done, and when we pull back into College Station in two and a half days, I'll say to myself, "I can't believe I survived Dance Rev. I don't know if I can do it again." And yet, here we are, doing it again, and feeling somewhat excited about what's to come.

Here's to Dance Rev 2019!

At the end of October, two friends/committee members and I coordinated Ballet Brazos' participation in Brazos Valley Gives, a community-wide day of giving created around strengthening nonprofits, empowering donors, and building community. I hadn't flexed my fundraising muscles in many years, since my time with the American Red Cross in Iowa and Michigan, and it felt good to use that part of my brain again. I also enjoyed learning about how the nonprofit world has changed since I walked away and better getting to know the organizations that make up the Brazos Valley's nonprofit network. We look forward to participating again in 2020!
What we looked and felt like at 6am.
What we looked and felt like at 11pm.

Between a pajama day fundraiser prize, a sock hop day prize, a soccer "spooktacular", Halloween, and Red Ribbon week, the last couple of weeks have involved A LOT of dressing up. While I'm ready to go back to the kids just "getting dressed" in the morning, I think these events are lots of fun.
50s Day on the 50th Day of School
Pajama Day
Twin Day (But isn't every day Twin Day?)
Crazy Hair Day
Soccer Spooktacular
Will planned to wear Hallie's butterfly wings, but minutes prior the
event was rained out. He would have rocked that butterfly costume.
Costume Day
They were bummed to have to wear pants and shirts
under their costumes, but it was 36 degrees outside.

I don't usually go out and buy new outfits, costumes, and/or accessories specifically for these special dress-up days. We have accumulated lots of each over the years though, so we do what we can with what we already have. (Halloween is the exception, and I should give another shout-out to Grandma Brenda, who made Hallie's poodle skirt and all three of the girls' baker costumes!)

Speaking of Halloween... Tom missed out, having to spend the holiday in Seattle for a conference (what kind of insensitive conference organizers plan a conference the week of Halloween?!), but the rest of us had great fun with friends at our annual Halloween gathering.

Happiness Highlights
New cleats for the birthday boy! He's reached a level of play
at which he wants/needs higher quality cleats than we can buy
in College Station, so new boots means a trip to Houston. 
Hello, old friend...
Happy birthday, Natalie!
Round #2 at the pumpkin patch!
Painting our teal pumpkin in honor of her brother.
So many late nights up watching the World Series. 

Happy Friday, friends!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Monthly Medley: October 2019

I'm working on an article about the Science Mill in Johnson City - have any of my Texas friends visited this museum? I don't think I'll have time to visit before the article is due, so I'd love to chat with you about what you liked best in terms of their exhibits and educational exploration opportunities!

After reading three books in September (?!), I slowed down a little in October. I did, however, finish one book: The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve. I don't know exactly how this book ended up on my nightstand - I didn't check it out from the public library so it must have come from either my mom or our little free library. The book revolves around two loosely connected plots, taking place a century apart but in the same location. Both plot lines followed interesting female protagonists, were built upon intriguing premises, played out a little more slowly than I would have liked, and ended...

(small spoiler alert)

...somewhat unexpectedly, suddenly, and tragically. This novel moved a little more slowly than I would have liked, but it was definitely still worth my time.

I started a couple more novels this month, both very different from The Weight of Water and each other - it's fun to sample different genres, styles, and authors!

I enjoy sampling new shows, but there's something comforting about turning on an old, familiar sitcom and letting it play in the background while cooking dinner, or folding laundry, or preparing for bed. After finishing Friends on Netflix (for the ?th time), I needed another "comfort sitcom" to fill the void...and The Office came to the rescue. I missed Jim and Pam a lot, and maybe Dwight and Michael a little bit too.

Listening To
Speaking of The Office... Have you heard about the new podcast, Office Ladies?! Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey (Pam and Angela) host the show, and each week they break down an episode and provide listeners with behind-the-scenes stories about what it was like to film that episode. Hearing their voices through my phone - and feeling like I have an all-access pass - has been really fun!

As we tiptoe nearer and nearer to fall(ish) weather, I can finally wear jeans again! (Well, I wore jeans in September because I had grown tired of my shorts, but the temperatures outside didn't exactly make jeans a comfortable choice.)

In the footwear department, for those of you who like the Birkenstock style but not the Birkenstock price, I have had great luck with these Madden Girl Bryceee Footbed sandals. I bought a pair in denim blue a couple of years ago and they are still in decent shape, so this month I picked them up in cognac as well. They're so comfortable, partly because they have an arch support (mandatory for me given my foot problems), and they hold up incredibly well!

Have you ever baked brownies? Have you ever waited patiently for your brownies to cool before cutting them, but they fell apart anyway? HAVE I GOT A SOLUTION FOR YOU. I can't take credit for this solution - I heard it on Naptime Kitchen's Instagram stories - but I have to share it: when you cut your brownies, use a plastic knife. So simple, yet so effective.

As someone who bakes frequently, it's safe to say this hack has changed my life.

We tried a few new recipes this month, but only one earned a share here on the blog. This Pork Chop Marinade - I used it on boneless pork chops rather than the bone-in pork chops the recipe calls for - was truly delicious, almost surprisingly so.

Feeling Good About
This month I'm going lighthearted when it comes to this category.

Happy October, friends!