Tuesday, July 14, 2020

I'll See Your Pandemic and Raise You a Dust Storm

When we flipped our calendars from December to January, we had no idea what 2020 would bring. From a deadly pandemic, a massive recession, a number of high profile deaths, and widespread political and social unrest and protests to murder hornets, meth alligators, and a host of natural disasters like earthquakes, volcano eruptions, wildfires, and tornadoes...2020 has held one unpleasant surprise after another.

And then came the Saharan dust storms.

Every day my phone informs me that the air quality is unsafe for certain populations. The sky looks hazy, the air feels thick, and everyone's eyes itch. But the sunsets? WOW. At least one pleasant - spectacular, even - surprise has come out of 2020.

Here's to the rest of 2020. I can only hope that the second half of the treacherous year has more of these beautiful surprises in store for us.

Friday, July 10, 2020

High Five for Friday (7.10.20)

When schools closed their doors back in March, our district began providing lunches at a few different locations around town. These meals were available at no cost to anyone with children in the district, regardless of whether or not the family qualified for free/reduced breakfast or lunch. At first we didn't take advantage of this offer because I (incorrectly) thought we would be taking food away from families in need. Later, and once I learned that wouldn't be the case (the district wanted to service as many families as possible, regardless of need, and had plenty of food to distribute), we'd already settled into a rhythm for our lunches and opted not to make a daily drive to one of the distribution sites. Lunch distribution continued into the summer, and when I heard a couple of weeks ago that numbers had dropped and the district hoped they would pick back up, I decided to take the kids and give it a try for the first time.

This was last Monday's haul, minus the ice cream sandwiches, which we'd already put in the freezer - breakfasts and lunches for both kids for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

I mean, what?! I was truly impressed.

And this was Thursday's haul, minus the milks, which I'd already put in the refrigerator - breakfast and lunch for both kids for Thursday and Friday.

The kids and I were irrationally excited, and we had so much fun going through all of the new and different food options. Between the two of them (and with a little help from their daddy), all of the perishables disappeared quickly. We set the nonperishables aside to snack on over the weekend, and anything they didn't like we bagged up to take to the Little Free Food Pantry we like to stock. We're looking forward to participating in the program through the end of July!

We've been stocking up on different kinds of masks, both because we wear them frequently now and because we're preparing to wear them longterm, especially if/when the kids go back to school. But we also decided to give face shields a try, as they're a reasonable - and even preferable - alternative to masks in some situations. (I truly hope our school district builds them into their soon-to-be-released safety protocols for the fall semester.) Hallie had an opportunity to wear hers right away, and she actually found it reasonably comfortable, even while dancing (ballet only - other genres would be tougher). She didn't, however, find it reasonably beautiful, so she dressed it up with washi tape and now it's perfectly personalized for her.

On Friday morning, Hallie and I made the short trek with friends to Basecamp Farms, a local flower farm, where we picked up our purchased bouquet and took pictures in front of their sunflower wall. I had been meaning to visit this farm for months, but it took a pandemic and resulting free time for me to actually get out there. We hope to visit again soon for one of their U Pick events!

Happy belated 4th of July! After a slow morning at home, we had a fun afternoon grilling, swimming, playing yard games, roasting marshmallows, and making s'mores with the friends with whom we've been quarantining since mid-May, when we finally left the house for the first time.

Happiness Highlights

Will outgrew his cleats (what's new), so I took them - even though
they're a little big 😫 - for myself. My first pair in almost 20 years!

My friend Crystal would usually have brought a large charcuterie board
to our backyard get-together, but in this day and age of social distancing,
she made each of the four of us our own instead. They were AMAZING!  

These two - best buddies forever.

My BIL may or may not have logged into our
Netflix account and surprised us with a little note.

Happy weekend, friends!

Thursday, July 9, 2020

70 and Skiing

My dad has always wanted to be able to water ski into his 70s. Well, today he turns 70, and last Saturday he proved he can still water ski - slalom, even - with the best of them.

He's still got it.

Happy birthday, Dad! We love you!

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Monthly Medley: June 2020

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes - Suzanne Collins' prequel to The Hunger Games, for which I waited eagerly for months - did not disappoint. The story begins 64 years prior to our introduction to Katniss, as preparations are being made for the 10th Hunger Games. The protagonist is Coriolanus Snow, who as a high school student in the Capitol is suddenly thrust into the figurative and literal spotlight as he attempts to navigate his new role as mentor for the girl tribute from District 12. This particular Hunger Games becomes a turning point in the trajectory of this horrific tradition, but also in the life of one-day President Snow. If you enjoyed the original series, I highly recommend giving Songbirds and Snakes a read!

I'd love it if Collins wrote about Haymitch's Hunger Games next...

The second half of the final season of Alexa and Katie came out on Netflix midway through the month, so Hallie and I binged it last weekend. Y'all, the series finale about did me in. I haven't cried that hard since Herb Brooks' pep talk before his USA men's hockey team took the ice against Russia during the 1980 Olympic Games. (The version seen in Miracle, of course. I have no idea what the real Brooks said before the real USA men's hockey team took the ice that spectacularly dramatic day.)

Hallie and I originally picked Alexa and Katie as a filler, to tide us over after Liv and Maddie, but it ended up becoming one of my favorite series. This style of television show may not be everyone's cup of tea, but if you're looking for something to watch with your tweenage daughter that won't make you crazy - and just might remind you of your own tweenage years spent watching Full House and Family Matters on TGIF - give Alexa and Katie a try.

In between Mentalist episodes, Will and I lost ourselves in Inferno (he recently read all of Dan Brown's books), and as a family we watched Catch Me If You Can - I was surprised at how well both went over!

Hallie and I also watched the end of the final season of Fuller House (the creators came up with a lovely ending. It was no Alexa and Katie, but we still enjoyed it) and added a few movies to our lengthy movie list:

Red = watched in April
Green = watched in May
Blue = watched in June
Black = yet to watch
  • The Wedding Singer
  • Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit
  • 13 Going on 30
  • A League of Their Own
  • Miss Congeniality
  • Legally Blonde
  • Pitch Perfect
  • 50 First Dates
  • Now and Then
  • The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
  • Miss Congeniality 2
  • Ferris Bueller's Day Off
  • 17 Again
  • The Prince and Me
  • Pitch Perfect 2
  • Pitch Perfect 3
  • Bring It On
  • Titanic
  • The Princess Bride
  • Big Daddy
  • Mean Girls
  • A Cinderella Story
  • Sweet Home Alabama
  • 27 Dresses
  • Clueless
  • Click
  • Life As We Know It
  • Uptown Girls
  • The Wedding Date
  • Fever Pitch
  • The Wedding Planner
  • Save the Last Dance
  • Ever After
  • The Prince and Me 2
  • Bewitched
  • Ice Princess
  • While You Were Sleeping
  • Life Size
  • Mamma Mia
  • Never Been Kissed
  • Father of the Bride
  • Father of the Bride 2
  • Runaway Bride
  • My Best Friend's Wedding
  • The Holiday
  • Bend it Like Beckham
  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding
  • The Cutting Edge
  • That Thing You Do

Listening To
While catching up on a couple of podcasts on which I'd fallen behind, I listened to and was fascinated by "Wolf 10" from Criminal. Equally intriguing was its companion episode, "The Wolves", on Phoebe Judge's second podcast, This is Love. I then started working my way through the third season of This is Love, which is all about how animals show love, the love between animals, and the love between animals and humans. Not to be missed is "Roselle and Michael", about their shared experience escaping the North Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11th.

Because I'm officially an old lady:

1. I sleep with this orthopedic pillow, which makes my hips hurt less than they did before.

2. I clean my grout, using this tool, which does an amazing job.

Unrelated to being an old lady, I learned this month that our library offers curbside pick-up! The kids and I were desperate for new books to read (we're not comfortable going into establishments like the library yet), and curbside pick-up turned out to be a safe and easy way for us to restock our library book supply.

My quarantine kryptonite? T-shirts with important, interesting, fun, or clever sayings or pictures on them. Since I basically alternate between wearing jean shorts and a t-shirt and one of my three Walmart rompers, all of these shirts are getting plenty of wear!

From Emily Ley's Apparel Pop Up Shop -
proceeds benefit the NAACP Foundation.

From The B Side Vinyl - local to us
here in BCS - and a gift from a friend. 

Also from The B Side Vinyl and also a gift.

A friend and I bought these for some of our dance
mom friends after our first driveway get-together at
the beginning of quarantine. They came from Dresswel,
which we weren't familiar with, but the shirts are
good quality and the price was great!

I bought this one for myself from Little Mama
Shirt Shop
, which is quickly becoming one of
my favorite small businesses to support. 

This one came from Adybelle. While the material
isn't my favorite, the company had good customer
service. (After a shipping delay, my shirt and the
two I ordered for friends ended up being free). 

We tried close to 10 new recipes this month, but only a few were tasty enough to make it to the Monthly Medley.
  • I actually didn't have high hopes for this Mexican and Zucchini Beef Skillet, but I had all of the ingredients on hand so I decided to give it a try. It turned out to be the most popular recipe of the month, with even Hallie calling it delicious.
  • Neither Will or Hallie would eat these Oatmeal Energy Balls (both detest peanut butter), but two friends and I devoured a batch in short order.
  • I've tried A LOT of different chicken spaghetti recipes over the years, but this one ranked fairly high on my list. I followed the recipe fairly closely, however I added a 1/2 c. of chopped red pepper as well as the option green chiles.

Feeling Good About

Be well, friends.

Friday, July 3, 2020

The Opportunity to Do What is Right

Every year I struggle to craft my 4th of July post. I have trouble putting words together in a way that accurately and adequately expresses both my love for this country and my fear for its direction. I want to commemorate the adoption of our country's Declaration of Independence and celebrate our history, government, traditions, and above all else, national and individual freedoms. I also want - need - to show respect and support for those to whom freedom has not yet been granted.

Eventually I realized that the best words to achieve these goals aren't actually mine. The best words to achieve these goals belong to Peter Marshall.

May we think of freedom not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.  

These words, they ring true for me. When I talk to my kids about freedom, this is the message I will share.

Happy 4th of July!

If you're planning on playing with fireworks tonight, please read the fireworks safety link below. I wrote this post for the Red Cross a few years ago, but the information still rings true. Be safe! Fireworks 411, So You Don't Need 911.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

COVID Comedown

In an attempt to "clean house", I recently pulled all of the yet-to-be-saved photos and videos - those taken/recorded between the middle of March and now - off of my phone. And because many of them are fun, funny, or sweet (maybe only to me? Maybe because we've all begun going quarantine crazy?), I decided to share them here - maybe you too could use a little fun, funny, or sweet in your life right now.

Hallie teaching herself how to put her own hair in a bun was one of her/our greatest quarantine accomplishments. Her buns may not be performance ready, but she saved me from doing 35-40 of them throughout March, April, and May and made her feel incredibly good about herself. 

I forgot to include - in the Adulting 301 post - the pics of Will and Hallie learning CPR. I used to teach CPR and a variety of other classes for the American Red Cross, so it was fun for me to pull out and use that skillset again after so many years. (No children were harmed while learning CPR. They used each other to find the correct location for compressions and to practice some of the skills, and then used a pillow to practice giving compressions.)

We're still quite happy with our backyard pool. I wish it were a permanent, in-ground pool, but on days when we aren't swimming with friends, we're thrilled to have an option other than the hose and a sprinkler for cooling off.

I shared a bit about Hallie's Red Carpet Experiences (our dance studio's replacement for this year's recital), but I didn't download her actual dances until now. (Please forgive the poor filming - it's hard to watch and film simultaneously.) Hallie would want me to note that much of each dance was learned while in quarantine, none of these dances were meant to be solos, and all of these dances had a place in a larger story. With that, here we go: Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Contemporary.

On a related note, I took a few pictures of Hallie during the in-class recitals for the classes she assisted. She LOVED the opportunity to help and guide these little dancers for the first time this year!

This two got along remarkably well during quarantine. That changed once summer break officially started, but I'm so grateful they gave me almost 10 weeks of brotherly/sisterly love!

Today's post is named in honor of one of my favorite follows on Instagram: Laurel Bristow, otherwise known as kinggutterbaby. As an educated, knowledgable, honest, straightforward, and no-nonsense infectious disease researcher (she's been as "boots on the ground" as anyone during this pandemic), she has kept me informed throughout the last three months and has helped me better understand what to look for when sorting through and determining the validity of journal articles, study results, etc. She provides scientific information most nights of the week, but on Saturdays, she hosts "COVID Comedown", during which she answers random, non-COVID-related questions from her followers. Thanks for the title idea, Laurel!