Thursday, January 31, 2013

Rock Star

Part one of my Swimsuit Snow Angel Strategic Plan was publicity. The more people I told about my commitment to make a snow angel in my swimsuit, the harder it would be for me to back out. Part two of my Swimsuit Snow Angel Strategic Plan was numbers. The more people I recruited to participate with me, the harder it would be for me to back out.

It's a good thing I created and followed through on my plan, because if I hadn't, I absolutely would have found a reason to bail. It was 20 degrees outside, for crying out loud.

Initially I was unable to recruit Tom, Will, Hallie, my mom, my sister, my bro-in-law, or my niece. My dad, on the other hand, was completely willing to jump on board the crazy train with me. We picked a date and time (yes, we "scheduled" our swimsuit snow angels - I needed to know exactly when this insanity was going to go down so that I could physically and mentally prepare myself), and I counted down the minutes with little enthusiasm.

About a half hour before we were scheduled to freeze ourselves half to death, my dad made a phone call that fortunately for him but unfortunately for me lasted over an hour. My plan had been to head out to the snow immediately after working out, and I just couldn't wait (I knew that if I let myself cool off after exercising I'd never make it outside) for him to get off the phone. That's when Will stepped up to the plate and accompanied me, brave boy that he is.

I gave my dad a hard time about choosing that morning to make such a lengthy phone call, to the point that he felt the need to follow through on his end of the deal. On Sunday night he sent me these pictures.
He's kind of a rockstar, my dad.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Seasonal Crash Course

In honor of the near record-setting temperatures we've experienced this week (I'm not bragging, I promise), allow me to present to you a crash course in Texas weather.

When we first moved to College Station I was under the impression that Texas had only two seasons: summer and not-summer.  (Does anyone remember the early 90's television show Dinosaurs?  Remember how the baby dinosaur called his parents "Mama" and "Not-the-Mama"?  I loved that show, especially when the baby dinosaur hit his not-the-mama over the head with a frying pan.)  It seems I wrong, however, and if the chart to the right is to be believed, there really ARE four seasons in our great state.  Let me introduce you to them.

Season #1, known as "Winter" throughout the rest of the country, is called "January" in Texas. January (January) is warm.  Warm enough to play at the park in a tank top and have a water fight with your brother/sister in the backyard.  Warm enough to break a sweat on the walk to pick your son up from elementary school and then curse about it under your breath so your children don't hear you and repeat what you've said the following day at school.

Season #2, known as "Spring" elsewhere in the United States, is called "Summer" in Texas.  Summer (February through April) is hot.  Hot enough to go swimming, but since the swimming pools aren't yet open, your children cry every afternoon.  Hot enough to turn on the air conditioning, but since you aren't yet willing to fork over $500/month to the electric company and won't turn on the air conditioning, your children cry every afternoon.  Summer means a lot of crying.

Season #3, known as "Summer" beyond the borders of Texas, is appropriately named "Summerer" in this sauna of a state.  Summerer lasts for 112 MONTHS (May through November) and claims the sanity of countless Texas residents every year.  I can actually feel my brain cells melting whenever I spend more than 12 seconds outside during Summerer.

Surviving Summerer can be done in one of two ways.  Method #1: stay inside.  It doesn't really matter where you spend your time - home, the movie theater, the mall, the library (well, maybe not the library), Target, a bar - just as long as the joint is air conditioned.  Method #2: stay wet.  Lounge in the swimming pool, play in the sprinkler, stand under the hose (Tom's been known to tie the hose around his shoulders so that he stays wet while he works in the yard), or just keep showering over and over again.  

And finally season #4, which lasts for at least a quarter of the year and is known as "Winter" up North, lasts only a day and is festively called "Christmas" in Texas.  I've yet to spend Christmas in Texas, but I'm told that though weather is still warm, if you crank up your air conditioner and put on a sweater (and close the blinds so that you can't see the green grass and blue skies outside your windows), it's possible to pretend that it's chilly outside.  I don't buy it.

So there you have it, all of my seasonal wisdom condensed into one blog post.  You're welcome.

On a related note, Northerners, if you're looking to escape the long, cold winter, feel free to visit us for Summer (which officially starts in less than a week) in Texas - we're already wearing shorts, working on our tans, and having water fights in the backyard.  All I ask in return is that when Summerer arrives, you open your doors for me.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Organizational Challenge

I'm a relatively organized person to begin with, but that doesn't mean certain areas of my house, yard, car, etc. don't occasionally take on messy, cluttered lives of their own. I'm not a big fan of cleaning and organizing and purging in January, because the month is overwhelming enough on its own, what with recovering from the holidays, tackling the resolutions, and heading back to school. February, however, is the perfect month for organizational projects: very little travel, no big school events, no family birthdays, and only one holiday. Not to mention that it's usually fairly unpleasant outside, which makes staying inside to organize the linen closet and decluttering the kitchen cabinets a little more enjoyable.  (Yes, I just referred to organizing the linen closet as an enjoyable task.  I'm kind that of dork.)

I found a 21-day Organizational Challenge - courtesy of Holiday Sparkle - that I'm excited to (try to) tackle throughout the month of February. Though I'm sure the idea is to start the challenge on day one, complete one task each day, and wrap things up 21 days later, I'm going to grant myself a seven-day grace period and aim to finish the 21 tasks between February 1st and February 28th.

Here are the 21 tasks:
  1. Medicine cabinet
  2. Coat closet
  3. Under beds
  4. Laundry room
  5. Handbag/purse
  6. Under sinks
  7. Refrigerator/freezer
  8. Kitchen cabinets
  9. Make-up/toiletries
  10. Bedroom closets
  11. Garage
  12. Craft supplies
  13. Linen closet
  14. Backyard
  15. Bedroom dressers
  16. Jewelry box
  17. Living room
  18. Attic/basement
  19. Car
  20. Playroom/den
  21. Enjoy how lovely your house looks!
I plan to make adjustments here and there (for example, I have very few craft supplies and will therefore need to find something else to organize that day - perhaps my computer desktop) and to take at least one day off every week, but I WILL make it through this list before the end of February.  Care to join me?  I'll include periodic reminders at the end of some of my blog posts so that you can stick with me, and I'll post before and after photos whenever I remember to take them.

Here's to an organized February!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Hair by Hallie, Part 2

This second installment of "Hair by Hallie" (in the time since the first post ran I've decided that a more appropriate title for this series might have been "Hairstyles Hallie Demands from her Mother") may also be the last; sadly, both Hallie and I seem to have run out of new hairstyles to try on her fuzzy little head.  Ideas?  Links?  Please share!

Note: If Hallie and I come up with any additional new hairstyles and then take photos of these hairstyles for the blog, I promise to move her to a better lit and tidier location.  I have to assume you're really tired of seeing Hallie's leftover breakfast and my not-yet-tidied-after-breakfast kitchen as the backdrop for her adorable little head.
Single flip
Double flip, rear view
This style looks kind of silly from the back, but as you can
see in the picture below, it looked semi-cute from the sides.
Double flip, side view
Bwaid crown, top view
Hallie's hair wasn't quite long or thick enough for this style.  There were far too
many bobby pins involved, and by the end of  the day she looked very disheveled.
Braid crown, side view
Double Fwench bwaid half-up, rear view
This was one of Hallie's favorite styles, and while I agree with her
that it looks cute, it was tougher than most to pull together.
Double Fwench bwaid half-up, side view
Double Fwench bwaid ponytail, rear view
I really liked this style, but it was also pretty challenging
and I clearly need to practice it a bit more.
Double Fwench bwaid ponytail, side view
Fishtail bwaid
One-sided Fwench braid
For a one-sided French braid you only pull hair into the braid on one side.
This works quite well on Hallie, as the hair on the sides of her head above her
ears is very thin but the hair on top of her head is thicker.
Heart bwaid (or angel crown, as Hallie called it a few minutes ago)
Hallie told me that she wanted a heart in her
hair and this is the best I could come up with.
I'll leave you with an adorable photo of my blondie with
her hair straightened.  She looks 12, doesn't she?
Scratch that.  I'm going to leave you with a couple of photos of my niece at Christmastime in Wisconsin.  This is how her daddy (my bro-in-law) styles her hair.  Poor child.

Happy hairstyling!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Weekly Wrap-Up (1.25.13)

Bad Lip Reading
This video showcases conversations - dubbed over with alternate words - between NFL players, coaches, and referees. The website calls the video "the best thing ever", and while I wouldn't go that far, I will admit that it's hilarious and that I laughed out loud more than once. Enjoy!

I've Met My Academic Match
Erin: What did you play during recess today?
Will: We didn't have recess today.
Erin: Why not?
Will: It was too cold outside, so we stayed inside and watched The Magic School Bus in Space.
Erin: You didn't go outside?! It was only in the 40s! And the sun was out!
Will: I don't know what to tell you, Mom. Mrs. Pratt said it was too cold.
Erin: (quietly, but apparently not quietly enough, under her breath) Well, tell Mrs. Pratt that when you lived in Michigan you went outside for recess when it was 20 degrees and snowing.
Will: Well, Mom, maybe...maybe Mrs. Pratt is smarter than you.

Dance Like No One is Watching
The folks watching this woman dance her heart out - near a baggage claim carousel at LAX - clearly think she's an odd duck (I can't believe that no one looks at her for a full 45 seconds, and even then, they just glance awkwardly in her direction), but I think she's kind of awesome. She reminds me of Hallie: uninhibited, carefree, and alive. I wish I was a little more like her.

Seriously, what has potty training come to?! This product really exists by the way, and for low price of $40 it can be yours. (iPads are sold separately, but the iPotty does come with a clear, pee-proof cover for your iPad and a splash guard for boys.)

Red Cross: Flu-Free
This week on the Red Cross blog I'm sharing a few tips to help kids help themselves stay healthy during this nasty cold and flu season.

MomsEveryday: Don't Give Up
In case you missed it the first time around, MomsEveryday ran Don't Give Up on their website this week. I just reread the post and was pleased I took the time to do so; I needed a little reminder that accomplishing my New Year's Resolutions - and my goals in general - is not an all-or-nothing endeavor, and that it's alright to bend and sway and fall down and get back up in my pursuit.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Sad State of Affairs

I felt a little giddy with excitement this morning.  Until I realized WHY I felt giddy, and then I just felt pathetic.  Because while it makes sense to feel giddy about new love, babies soon to be born, an upcoming vacation, or even the prospect of a night out on the town, the things and events making me feel giddy today are kind of ridiculous.  Here they are, in no particular order:

Our new, over-the-range microwave. Our old, over-the-range microwave was original to our house and approximately 20 years old. Not only did it do a poor job of heating food, it looked kind of disgusting, it didn't have a turntable inside, and its handle had fallen off twice (we'd glued it back on with gorilla glue to buy ourselves a few more weeks). So I'm excited to have a microwave that works and is pretty (appliances can be pretty, right?), and I'm equally excited that we paid someone who wasn't Tom to install it.

March 2nd is less than six weeks (or to be a bit more precise, 37 days) away.  On March 2nd the "Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1" Extended Edition DVD AND the "Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2" DVD will be released in stores.  I'll be picking up a copy of each DVD bright and early that morning, and then I plan to watch both movies that evening with my friend Stacey - shoot me an email if you'd like to join our Twilight-watching party!

New books.  I'm devouring books like it's going out of style; we're only 24 days into the new year and already I've cruised through five 450+ page books.  And there's a stack of books I can't wait to read sitting on/burning a hole in the top of my nightstand.  Next up?  Unbroken, BossypantsFreakonomics, Insurgent, and The Pilot's Wife (I'm really trying to mix up my genres this year - you know, branch out beyond The Hunger Games and Twilight).

New episodes of my television shows. Which I'm not watching, because I'm too engrossed in my books.  But I like knowing they're accumulating in my DVR, waiting for me.

These shoes.  They aren't mine yet (when the girl wearing these shoes walked past me I pulled out my phone and took a picture of her feet - if she noticed, she didn't seem at all bothered by my photography), but they will be.

Not having to go to the dentist.  No offense to my dentist friends, but I HATE the dentist.  I'd rather go to the doctor and get 10 shots than have my teeth cleaned, let alone have anything else done to/on my teeth.  I've been to the dentist 147 times in the last six weeks, but *I think* I'm done for now and I won't have to go again until August.  Thank goodness.

I really need to get a life.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Going on a Bear Hunt

The first weekend we were in Wisconsin, my mom ordered donuts from my favorite bakery for breakfast. She ordered three dozen donuts. There were nine of us. Nine. I had to eat A LOT of donuts, people, but I didn't complain - I'm always willing to take one for the team.

We established the night before that whoever woke up first had to pick up the donuts. This meant that my bro-in-law, Jeff, had to pick up the donuts. (My mom may as well given Jeff the job straight away, as he regularly rises hours before the rest of us. I can't quite figure out why anyone would get up at 5am on vacation.) As he was leaving the bakery, Jeff decided he really wanted a bear claw, which, though it's hard to believe, there weren't any of in our assorted three dozen donuts. Jeff was shocked when the cashier handed him a his bear a grocery bag.
The bakery's donut version of a bear claw was the size of an actual bear claw. Or a dinner plate. Or a Frisbee. Or the moon. Take your pick.

We made Jeff sit at the kitchen counter until he'd finished his breakfast treat, and then he rolled into the living room, where he remained, unable to move, for the next six hours. (Just kidding - we all shared the bear claw. And then went to the gym.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tom vs. Toilet

Last week I posted a link to pictures of epic Pinterest fails, and this week I'm adding my own personal Pinterest fail to that list.

Our house sat vacant for a full year before we moved in, and during that year of neglect the standing water in our toilets did a number on the interior of the porcelain bowls. I experimented with a variety of store-bought and homemade cleaning products, but was never able to remove the unsightly stains and rings.

I'd seen many times on my Pinterest homepage the supposed solution to toilet bowl rings. It was SO simple, everyone claimed! Just drop a Magic Eraser into the bowl and let it sit overnight! In the morning, your toilet will be sparkling!

I decided to give the Magic Eraser method a try two nights before Thanksgiving. I explained to everyone in the house my plan, and informed them that under no circumstances could they use and/or flush the toilet in the bathroom where I would be testing the Magic of the Eraser. Once I dropped the little white square into the bowl, I closed and placed a box of tissues on top of the lid, not so much to keep the kids out, but to remind them that there was a reason the lid was closed and redirect them to a different bathroom.

The kids went to bed, Tom and I went to bed, and I slept soundly, dreaming about how happy I'd be in the morning when I awoke as the proud owner of the cleanest toilet in College Station.

Around 6:30am I heard - as part of my dream - Will's bedroom door open. Something about that noise, followed by the sound of his bare feet padding down the hallway and across the bathroom, caused me to stir. I knew there was something wrong with these noises, but I couldn't quite wrap my head around the problem because I was still half asleep.

Will has a strange/bad habit of flushing the toilet as soon as he starts peeing (I'm sure he'll love that I shared that tidbit of information, but since it's crucial to the story he's just going to have to get over it). He does it so frequently that when I hear someone start to pee, I automatically expect to hear the toilet flush 1.7 seconds later. It's kind of like Pavlov's Dogs. (On a semi-related note, Hallie is Will's exact opposite and has never once flushed a toilet in all her three-and-a-half years.)

I was still sleep-wondering why the sound of Will walking to the bathroom worried me when I heard him start to pee.  In an instant I was wide awake and without consciously making the decision to do so, I leapt out of bed and started running to the bathroom. Unfortunately it took me slightly longer than 1.7 seconds to get there, and by the time I skidded to a stop just outside the bathroom door the toilet had been flushed. The Magic Eraser had been flushed. The toilet had started overflowing. What a lovely way to begin the day.

I won't go into great detail about what happened next, but I will say that over the course of the next 24 hours, Tom and I tried just about everything we could think of - and everything the internet suggested - to get the Magic Eraser out of the toilet. Nothing worked, and one "solution" - the snake with a little claw/suction thingy on the end - made the situation worse, in that it severely scratched the porcelain inside the toilet.  To say we were both mad would be a tremendous understatement.  In my frustration I may or may not have told Will he was never allowed to pee again.  And then I may or may not have given him a giant candy cane to slow his tears and ease the vice grip they had on my conscience.)

We lived with the clogged toilet for three days because of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend (Tom couldn't buy the supplies and tools he needed because stores were closed), which was a spectacular holiday treat for the company we had staying at our house that week.

Our last hope (before calling the plumber, which I wanted to do on the first day and Tom wouldn't even consider) was to remove the toilet, which Tom did.  He is very strong and powerful and proud of himself.
I am Tom, hear me roar.
The mess the person who installed the toilet made of the bathroom floor.
The cursed Magic Eraser, next to my camera lens cover for size perspective.
Putting the toilet back was much harder than removing it, thanks to whoever improperly installed it in the first place, and required three additional trips to Lowe's for parts and three adults.

Three days without a working toilet, quite a bit of money spent on tools and parts, countless hours spent on researching how to and then taking care of the problem, and a scuffed toilet were not in any way worth it, especially considering the Magic Eraser method didn't work.  The ring is still there.

Monday, January 21, 2013

MLK Jr. Day

Last year, in preparation for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I spent a fair amount of time considering how to best explain to Will and Hallie what Dr. King meant to and did for our country. I pulled together what I felt were the most important historical moments of Dr. King's life, along with the overarching message I hope my kids eventually take away from Dr. King's legacy, and prepared to enlighten them. Our conversation didn't go quite as I'd planned.

"Last night I dreamed about superheroes," stated Will.

"If he was a king, why didn't he wear a crown?" asked Hallie.

Luckily, I wrote down what I want Will and Hallie to know, and I'll try again this year. I'll also spend a little less time on my "speech", and a little more time on fun, age-appropriate MLK Jr. Day activities. Here are the links to the games and crafts I'm planning to do with my kids, in case you'd like to give some of them a try as well.

Paper Peace Doves
Coloring Page
Word Search #1
Word Search #2

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

Friday, January 18, 2013

Weekly Wrap-Up (1.18.13)

Trust Fall Fail
I almost didn't watch this video because I figured I knew exactly what "trust fall fail" meant and would look like. Thank goodness I went ahead and clicked play.

Guess Who's #1?
Late in the day on Tuesday, CBS Sports released their 2013 preseason NCAA football rankings.  Want to take a guess as to which team is ranked #1?  I'll gig give you a's NOT the Iowa Hawkeyes.

J. Law on SNL
I am beyond excited about Jennifer Lawrence hosting Saturday Night Live tomorrow night.  I've been a fan of hers for a while now (I loved Hunger Games, of course, but was impressed with her performances in Winter's Bone and on The Bill Engvall Show long before HG made it to the big screen) and after seeing her in Silver Linings Playbook last weekend, I honestly think she's going to ROCK on SNL.  Check out these promos!

2012 Sports Illustrated SportKids of the Year
An inspiring story about two young brothers, the love they share, and the extraordinary gifts they've given to one another.  Grab a tissue before you start this one.

In case you missed it the first time around, MomsEveryday ran "Things I Don't Miss" (about the characteristics of Wisconsin in the winter that I could do without) this week - you can find it here!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Lily Football

I'll stop talking and writing about Johnny Football soon, I promise. Until next fall, that is, and then all bets are off.  He rocks.

So much so, it seems, that his popularity has spread far beyond Aggieland.

My sister, Sara, and her family live just outside of Peoria, Illinois, more than 1,000 miles from College Station.  They have no affiliation to TAMU.   This didn't matter to the custodian at the school where Sara teaches second grade though...apparently the custodian follows college football, knows the awesomeness that is Johnny Football, and felt that Lily needed to start doing a better job of showing her support for the greatest college quarterback in the land.  
Johnny "Football"
2 (Johnny's jersey number)
Gig-Em (traditional TAMU expression)
Touchdown?  Or maybe "2"?  I'm not sure...
The custodian bought the t-shirt, but then personalized the shirt by cutting out maroon fabric letters and a brown fabric football and sewing them onto the t-shirt.  She clearly spent a lot of time on the project, and as you can tell, Lily's a big fan (of the shirt and of Johnny).

She may have absolutely no real affiliation to TAMU, but I think the odds of Lily becoming an Aggie are getting better by the day.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

In Stark Contrast

Last Sunday morning we decided to go for a the donut shop. (Walking to the donuts makes eating the donuts less unhealthy, right? Not that it mattered to me last weekend anyway - I worked out for like 49 hours on Saturday, so on Saturday night and Sunday I gave myself quite a bit of freedom when it came to what I ate.)

It was partly cloudy and 40 degrees outside - not to mention the 20+ MPH wind gusts - when we left our house. Everyone walked/jogged for the first quarter mile or so, at which point Will decided he was a little too bundled up and took off a few of his layers. This is what my kids were wearing when we arrived at the donut shop.
Will's wearing an undershirt and warm-up pants.
Hallie's wearing an undershirt, a long-sleeved shirt, tights, a skirt,
fur-lined boots, and her winter coat, hat, and mittens.
I'd say it's pretty obvious which one of my children is from Michigan and which one is "from" Texas.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Winter Sports

In preparation for the snowy weather and icy temperatures I knew we'd encounter up North, I mailed complete sets of coats, snow pants, boots, hats, and mittens for all four of us to my parents house two weeks before we were scheduled to arrive. I should win an award for that level of preparation and organization, right? Wrong.

I assumed the kids had each grown only a couple of inches since we moved from Michigan and that their winter wear last worn two years ago would be fine for our trip to Wisconsin. You can imagine my surprise, then, when they pulled on their coats and snow pants and multiple inches of arm and leg were showing at the wrists of the coats and out the ends of the pants.

We compensated with extra-long shirt sleeves, large mittens, tights, and knee socks and, while I was embarrassed by my oversight, the kids couldn't have cared less. (It also helped that my two-year-old niece's coat and snow pants were too big for her, so my sister and I traded Lily's too-large snow wear and Hallie's too-small snow wear and then everything fit everyone perfectly.)  Luckily, my mistake and the kids' clothing challenges didn't negatively impact the fun we had outdoors.

Sledding was without a doubt the most popular activity. My dad built a sledding hill - using a bale of hay and the 17+ inches of snow he shoveled off of the driveway - from the top of the deck and across the backyard, and this hill was the perfect size for Hallie to start on. (We took Will sledding quite a few times in Ann Arborat the Lodge, and at my parents' house, but Hallie had never gone.)
Where's the flood?  Seriously, their snow pants
barely covered their knees.
Attempting to walk across the backyard.
Giving the sled run a try.
I'd like to think she's laughing here, but doing so
goes against everything I know about Hallie.
The next day, Tom, my dad, and I took the Will and Hallie to an actual sledding hill in an attempt to scare the crap out of them and nearly kill ourselves.  (Unintentionally going over a jump when you're in your 30s - even if you're riding a supportive, inflatable tube sled instead of a wooden toboggan - could be compared to surviving a moderately severe car accident.  Painfully shocking and shockingly painful.)  The hill was steep and littered with camouflaged jumps, so Hallie always rode with one of us.  We let Will sled on his own, though, and he absolutely loved it.
Approximately three minutes after Hallie'd gotten out of the car, I predicted
that she'd last no more than 10 minutes.  More than an hour later, when we went
home only because our sleds needed to be reinflated, she was still going strong.
Our sledding pro.
We warned Will about the jumps, and tried to map out jump-free lines down the hill for him.  On his fourth or fifth time down the hill, Will's sled veered off course and, as we watched helplessly, launched him off a jump and multiple feet into the air.  When he hit the ground I cringed, but also breathed a sigh of relief because I didn't immediately hear crying nor did it appear that he'd broken any bones.  Turns out Will thought the jumps were the best invention since the Wii, and from that point on, his every route down the hill included "air".

The boys built a good-sized snow fort, though unfortunately weren't able to put it to good use in a snowball fight because the temperatures outside never warmed up enough for us to actually make snowballs.  The freezing cold temperatures meant that snowmen were out of the question as well.  Boo.

Disc golf was also most definitely out, much to Tom's dismay.

Our last winter "must try/do" activity was ice skating.  I'm embarrassed to admit that I - a born-and-raised Wisconsinite - took Will ice skating for the first time just a few weeks ago and that Hallie had never been ice skating.  I hang my head in shame.

When it comes to nearly everything physical, Will is a slow learner.  He is timid and unsure of himself, and he lets those feelings weigh so heavily on shoulders that his first attempt at anything new is usually a disaster.  Ice skating was no exception.  Despite having a cone to hold on to, he literally could not even stand on the ice.  After 15 or so minutes of struggling just to keep his feet under his body, Will gave up, tears in his eyes.  My heart breaks for him in situations like this (soccer, swimming, basketball, the list goes on), but on that day, I was secretly kind of glad to abandon ice skating because my body ached from keeping 45 pounds of kid from falling on the ice (while wearing ice skates myself).

Will may be a bit slower than others when it comes to these new and intimidating physical activities, but eventually he figures them out.  The problem/challenge is that the process takes a LONG time.  I knew from experience that Will's second time on an ice skating rink would in no way differ from his first.  Worse, I had a feeling that ice skating wouldn't pose such a challenge to Hallie, and that her success at something he struggled with would be a disaster.

I was right, to a certain extent.  Will struggled, and Hallie - equipped with a little crate to push around  (Will tried two different crates, a child-sized walker, and a hockey stick) - ice skated like it was her job.
The agony.
The ecstasy.
I was also wrong, however.  Though he tried to leave the rink for the emotional and physical safety of the warming house multiple times, Will reluctantly stuck with ice skating for close to an hour, and by the end of our adventure had made enough progress that I felt it worth filming.  As he always does, my boy will get there, when he's ready.

Hallie's skating faster than it looks like she is in this video.  I'm skating backwards as quickly as I can go (without risking a fall) while I film, and she's keeping up with me easily.

You have love how Hallie just breezes by Will in this video.  Luckily he's concentrating too hard to notice.

There may have been a few things about winter in the Midwest that I didn't miss, but these winter activities - sledding, building snow forts and snowmen, snowball fights, ice skating, and making swimsuit snow angels - are high on my list of what makes the Midwest an incredible place to live.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Christmas Light Critics, Year 2

Last year my sis-in-law, Jenna, her friend, Kelsey, and I spent an evening driving around Lincoln, Nebraska admiring (and though it sounds a little mean, critiquing) neighborhood Christmas light displays. For the most part we were less-than-impressed with the countless haphazard, gaudy, and loud displays that overshadowed the few well planned and executed displays, so much so that we created our own list of "Guidelines for a Perfectly Decorated House".

Our family of four didn't spend Christmas in Nebraska this year, so Jenna, Kelsey and I weren't able to follow through on our plan to search out beautifully decorated homes and reward the owners with small treats, ribbons, or notes (next year!). Tom, Will, Hallie, and I spent an evening admiring the lights in College Station, however; we even wore our pajamas and ate cookies on our drive, all Polar Express-like.

It seemed, at least in the neighborhoods we meandered through, that nearly every College Station homeowner read our guidelines prior to hanging their Christmas lights. Beautifully and elaborately decorated homes were the norm, not the exception.

I'm pretty sure that after our 2011 Christmas light excursion I promised myself I'd learn how to take better pictures of Christmas lights before the end of 2012. I did not follow through on this promise, so please accept my apologies for the poor quality of these photos.
Hallie could have spent the entire evening watching these
mechanical elves stuff stockings and assemble and wrap toys.
This display isn't particularly impressive, but for some reason I've
become kind of attached to the "Merry Christmas, Y'all" saying.
This house was incredible.  There were a few different kinds of lights, which the
guidelines suggest against, but the lights were so organized and well hung that it didn't matter.
The fully-decorated and lit Christmas trees in the three upstairs windows were spectacular.
We couldn't get as close to this one house to its placement on the street and
neighborhood traffic, but it too was impressive.  They used only white,
red, and green lights and in person the lawn looked wonderful.
These people created a false room at the front of their house (there's a
fake wall, with a decorated fireplace and mantel on it, set up about six
feet behind the window) and made it look like Santa and his family were
enjoying the holidays inside.  Ridiculously creative and so fun for the kids.
I especially loved this two-story Christmas tree.
So in summary, congratulations, College Station, on a job well done.  And Lincoln, Nebraska, y'all had better step up your game by December 2013, because the Christmas Light Critics will be back to check your work.