Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Currently: July 2013

To Cups.
Cups, Cups, and more Cups.
Only Cups.
Cups in the morning, Cups at night.
Fast Cups, slow Cups, Cups just right.
Cups in the car, Cups at the bar.
Cups just like the movie stars.

This is starting to resemble Will's version of The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss, so...I'll stop now.

Too much. Now that July has come to an end it's time to get back on the work-out-and-eat-better-so-my-pants-will-fit-again wagon.


Just rockin' my everyday attire.
And making all three kids do squats
with me by the side of the road.
More of the same. Gym clothes until late afternoon, when I change into my swimsuit for a quick run through the sprinkler with the kids or finally shower and put on a t-shirt and jeans (or worse, my pajamas).

And I must confess a fashion faux pas... Last week my mom and I made plans to work out and then shower at the gym before spending the day running errands, going out to lunch, and taking in a movie with the kids. After I finished getting dressed - in an orange tank top, a teal, patterned maxi skirt, and a camel-colored belt - I discovered that I'd forgotten to pack shoes that matched my outfit in my gym bag. Oh, the horror. My options were the bright yellow tennis shoes in which I'd just exercised, or my mom's brown and pink CROCS that she'd just worn in the shower. It physically pained me to do so, but I went with the Crocs. And even though I only wore them out of the gym and through Target, where I bought a pair of clearance flip flops to change into, I felt pretty bad about myself.

But they were pretty comfortable...

No. I didn't just write that.

Exhausted. I need a vacation from my vacation. And overwhelmed. I'm so behind on the writing I wanted to accomplish this summer, and I don't anticipate finding the time to catch up in August. My focus in September and October will not only be on catching up, but also on getting ahead of the game and finding a writing rhythm that allows me to make progress on my plan for 2014.

I complained both on Facebook and here on the blog (my apologies), so you may already know that the temperatures I experienced in Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisconsin rose above my preferred temperature range, even for July. The last two days of our summer vacation, however, were glorious - a perfect cornucopia of sun, clouds, rain, and thunderstorms (I love it when the weather changes) - and for the first time quite a while, I had nothing weather-related to complain about. Just in time for us to head back to Texas.

More sleep. At home, I go to bed around 10pm, fall asleep between 11pm and 11:30pm, and wake up at 6:45am. On vacation, despite my efforts to go to both bed and sleep earlier, I found myself awake later and later every night. Add to that the fact that the kids like to join me in bed when the sun starts coming up, and the (horrendous) fact that the sun starts coming up before 5am in Wisconsin, and the fact that once a child is in bed with me I can no longer sleep, and the result is a grumpy, overtired, and bruised (ever been kicked in the ribs by a sleep-flailing six-year-old?) Erin.

I still need a pair of ear plugs.

Remember last month's equation?

Will + Hallie + vacation = ear-splitting noise from sun-up to sun-down

Here's this month's equation:

Hallie + Lily + any and all situations > Will + Hallie + vacation

The noise generated by Will and Hallie sounds like kittens and rainbows compared to the noise generated by Hallie and Lily. We're talking brain-jarring, insanity-inducing squeals and screams that make you wish you were literally anywhere else on earth than in the same room as the two of them. It's possible my ear drums may never recover...

About how to best help a friend in trouble. One of the reasons I write - as opposed to, I don't know, giving spontaneous speeches - is because it allows me to thoroughly think through what I want to say and how I want to say it before the words reach the real world. My first drafts should never see the light of the internet, just like the first pieces of advice that come out of mouth, unless I've had a few minutes to compile them, should never be followed. I hope and pray that the "right" words find me when the time comes.

A wonderfully full and satisfying vacation, but also the process of arriving and settling in back at home. I love visiting spending time with immediate family, extended family, and friends, but there's something so peaceful about coming home to the life we've created for ourselves, deep in the heart of Texas. 

Even if coming home means five loads of laundry, a tidy but less-than-clean house, an empty refrigerator and pantry, and a mile-long to-do list.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Cups 2.0

Because the house wasn't quite loud enough - what with Grandma and Grandpa and me and my sister and both of our husbands and all of our children and an oddly noisy cat - we threw into the mix a few hours (spread out over the course of a week or so) spent practicing various versions of Pitch Perfect's "Cups".

Clearly a few more hours of practice will be necessary if we're going to take this show on the road.

As I'm sure you noticed, we're not very good. Despite practicing for days, neither Sara nor I could master singing and performing the cup routine at the same time. Despite practicing for days, Will could never quite keep the beat on his own. And despite practicing for days, Hallie and Lily bailed the moment we actually wanted to see their choreographed dance.

I wish I'd videoed of all of our practice sessions; throughout the week our renditions included piano (Tom), guitar (Grandpa), bongo drums (Will), choreography (Hallie and Lily), and cups of all shapes and sizes. I'm grateful I caught this one, however - a little impromptu jam by these two cuties, who, if you'll allow me to brag for a moment, are pretty darn good at this duet. At least for a six-year-old and a four-year-old.

Brings me back to their rendition of last summer's #1 hit, "Call Me, Maybe".

Monday, July 29, 2013

A Harsh Wake-Up Comment (Updated)

Updated: July 29, 2013 at 2:30pm

Periodically my blog posts receive comments, both from people I know in real life and from readers I've yet to have had the pleasure of meeting. Most of the comments are positive in nature and intent, and for that I'm grateful.

On rare occasions, however, I've received comments that while I wouldn't call negative, weren't exactly positive either. I chalk these comments up to readers not really knowing who am I or where I'm coming from as a writer - perhaps they only skimmed or read just one paragraph of a post - and don't let the comments or the commenters bother me.

Throughout the last two-and-a-half years I have made a conscious effort to avoid writing about polarizing political, religious, and social topics, not because I don't have an opinion, but because 1) I like to keep the peace and don't want to anger or alienate family members, friends, and readers, and 2) "taking a stand" is not one of my strong suits. (Controversy and conflict fluster me, so when "forced" to defend - or even explain - where I stand on controversial issues, my tongue ties. And sometimes I cry.) I support a number of issues, causes, and organizations, but I do so in ways that don't involve confrontation or debate and won't ever involve turning this blog into a soapbox.

It occurred to me, however, that while I don't generally write about politics, religious, and social issues, I do write about one particularly polarizing topic...parenting. And I should have realized that at some point, I would receive my first comment that directly criticized my parenting and indirectly criticized me.

If I'm being honest, I knew all along to expect such comments. Dealing with ignorant and unkind people is a part of real life, and now doing so is a part of virtual life as well. But after two-and-a-half years of online interactions with funny, sensitive, kind, and supportive readers, I'd started to believe that the Debbie Downers of the interwebs found my blog too bland to even read, let alone comment on.

Don't get me wrong - I encourage comments. (Please always feel free to share your thoughts, opinions, suggestions, and/or stories after reading!) And I want to talk. I love conversations that begin with real, insightful questions, involve productive and courteous discussion, and eventually prove mutually beneficial for those involved, even if the result is that those involved agree to disagree.


Now, a week later after the fact, I'm grateful for all this nasty comment business. It provided me with an opportunity to rethink what and how I write about my kids, and to come to the conclusion that at least for the time being, the parameters I've set for myself and this blog with regard to my kids are working. It also provided me with an opportunity to practice addressing the dreaded "C" words...controversy and conflict.

I think this "experience" was something of a milestone for me - a professional hump over which I had to climb - as an online writer. And I feel ready to address the next one, and the one after that, and the one after that. Because as long as I continue to write, even if it's just about Will getting toys stuck in the backyard trees or Hallie peeing on the patio or the wild animals I catch in my house, there will always be people who don't like what I write and/or don't like me. And I'm working on being alright with that.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Weekly Wrap-Up (7.26.13)

Yet Another Anatomically Correct Tomato
Earlier this summer we inadvertently grew in our garden a unique tomato with a cute little nose. Or to hear Will tell it, a unique tomato with a cute little penis. Ah, little boys...

A couple of weeks after we picked the nose/penis tomato, we discovered its anatomically correct buddy: a unique tomato with a cute little butt.

My kids (and my husband) can barely contain their glee over what's come out of the garden this year.

Into the Woods
I love musicals. High school musicals (actual high school musicals, as well as the High School Musical movies), college musicals, community theater musicals, and above all, Broadway musicals. I saw my first Broadway musical - Meet Me in St. Louis - when I was in second grade, and since that day I've harbored an only somewhat secret dream of singing on a Broadway stage. Some of my favorite shows include Rent, Wicked, The Lion King, and Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, but the show I long to one day watch on a Broadway stage is Into the Woods.

Into the Woods debuted - first in San Diego and then on Broadway - in the late 1980's, but I first learned of the show in 1999 when my sister played Little Red Riding Hood in our high school's rendition. Since then I've seen two high school and two college productions, but they haven't lived up to my expectations; I'm desperate for a Broadway-calibur production, which will only happen if the show actually returns to Broadway.

Or if Hollywood makes it into a movie.

You guys. Hollywood is making it into a movie.

I stumbled upon this information when I was reading about Anna Kendrick (of Cups fame) on IMDB. Turns out she's on board to play Cinderella - a part for which I believe she's perfect (as if Hollywood really cares what I think about their casting decisions) - in the Into the Woods film adaptation, scheduled for release on December 25th, 2014.

The countdown is on.

Forgive the age of the video - it was taken 25 years ago, when the cast of Into 
the Woods performed a medley of songs from the show at the 1988 Tony Awards.

Don't Stop
"Don't stop until you sweat."
"Don't stop until you're tired."
"Don't stop until you pass out."
"Don't stop until you puke."
"Don't stop until you see results."
"Don't stop until you can touch your toes."
"Don't stop until you learn something about yourself."
"Don't stop until you reach the finish line."
"Don't stop until you work off the 'just because' cake you ate last night."

When it comes to motivational physical fitness and exercise quotes, I thought I'd seen 'em all. And then this one cruised across my radar, so quickly I almost didn't notice.

What an incredible way to approach not just exercise and physical fitness, but life. From marriage, parenting, and friendships to school and work, I will embrace this mantra and help my children to do the same.

You can always count on Bill Cosby to tell it like it is. (Though I wish he'd done it wearing one of his signature sweaters.)

The fact that I'm posting this picture and quote while we're visiting my parents in no way implies that my mother is only nice to my kids because she's trying to get into heaven. I'm pretty sure she actually likes them.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Throwback Thursday (Like Mother, Like Son)

I love them both, so much. But he's the one in whom I see myself.
Will simply couldn't fathom that, back when I was his age, lemonade only
cost $0.05. And that on the day this picture was taken, I only made...$0.05. 
My sister and I also sold sand dollars on the beach in Florida. I think
we did a little better with this business venture, but at most we made...$1.
Will made $12 in 90 minutes, and earlier this week he
donated 50% of his proceeds to the American Red Cross.
My dad and me, playing in the street stream. It was freezing.
Me, Sara, Will, Hallie, and Lily, on our way out to the street stream.
It was freezing. So much so that Hallie actually asked if it was snowing.
Loving the lakefront at Girl Scout camp.
Loving the lakefront at the Lodge.
I'm sure there are so many more of these "comparison" shots - I just haven't come across all of them yet. Perhaps that project will move to the top of my to-do list for next summer...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Lemonade for Sale

It began with a plan - a well thought-out and written plan, in fact, because that's how Tom rolls.
Let me know if you're interested in a copy of
lemonade stand "the plan" - Tom's happy to share!
After a couple of trips to Lowe's (no one ever makes just one trip to Lowe's, right?) to purchase materials and supplies, the sawing and hammering began. I honestly thought that work on the lemonade stand would commence that Sunday but then stall indefinitely. Instead, Tom and the kids - well, mostly just Tom - powered through and finished the entire building phase of the project by the end of the day.

The kids settled on yellow as the primary color for top, sides, and posts of the stand, and both liked my suggestion of chalkboard paint for the front of the stand. (It kind of looks like a Hawkeye lemonade stand, doesn't it? Despite my love for the Hawkeyes, I pushed the kids toward maroon instead of yellow, assuming that College Station-ites would prefer to purchase lemonade from an Aggie lemonade stand, but they wouldn't budge.) So a few days later, the kids and I visited Lowe's again, this time to pick out our paint and stock up on painting supplies. After one extremely hot morning painting the on the back patio, we called the stand finished. Then we tried out the chalkboards in preparation for Father's Day. 

One afternoon, shortly before we were scheduled to leave on our summer travels, I heard the kids discussing how difficult it was going to be for Tom and I to fit the lemonade stand into the back of our car. Learning that the stand wouldn't make the journey with us to Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisconsin broke their little hearts, so I promised to help them set up another - albeit less elaborate - lemonade stand during our garage sale.
At first Will had "helpers". 
But the girls quickly moved on and left Will to man the stand by himself.
Will made a $12 profit that warm, July afternoon, and as his advertisement promised, he donated 50% of his proceeds to the American Red Cross.

Planning for, building, and painting the stand; making and selling the lemonade; and then following through on his commitment to donate a portion of the money he made were learning opportunities and memorable experiences for Will. I don't think he - or Tom - will forget "that summer we made a lemonade stand" anytime soon.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Bat in the Belfry

Will, Hallie, and I arrived at the Lodge midway through a warm (by Northern Wisconsin standards), sunny afternoon, and just as quickly as the kids scampered down to the shoreline to fish with Grandpa, I flopped down onto the couch to relax with Grandma. The weekend preceding our trip to the Lodge revolved around a wedding and a family reunion, and included nearly 15 hours in the car, two different overnight locations, and packing/unpacking our car and suitcases six times. To say I was tired would be an understatement; exhausted and borderline crazy might better describe my state of mind when I arrived in the Northwoods.

So when I first saw the bird sail through the room behind my MIL I couldn't be certain if I'd actually seen a bird or if the lack of sleep and accumulation of travel-related stress and anxiety and frustration had finally caught up with me. But a moment later the bird returned, swooping gracefully from one ceiling beam to another.

"Oh!", I exclaimed, interrupting my MIL's story. "I think a bird just flew through the house!"

"Um, yes", my MIL replied. "We'd really hoped to take care of this before you (my in-laws know all about my weird animal fears) arrived...we looked for him, but when we couldn't find him we honestly thought he'd gotten out."

"You thought who'd gotten out?" I asked nervously.

"I hate to have to tell you this, but there's a bat out there."

I tried to remain calm, but I think my MIL could sense the rise in my blood pressure and moved quickly to shut all of the doors and windows between the main living room (where we'd been chatting) and the four-season room (where the bat had apparently taken up residence). As soon as the Gramps and the kids returned from fishing, Grandma sent them on a mission to rid the house of it's newest tenant.

The bat removal pleased me on many levels:
  1. Will helped, and now he's one step closer to becoming my Official Lizard Catcher. (I can't believe he hasn't already volunteered for the position - I mean, it comes with a badge and everything.)
  2. Will wore a lifejacket while helping, as if a piece of equipment designed to prevent drowning would also prevent or protect the wearer from a bat attack.
  3. My FIL used my lizard-catching technique - trapping the animal under a tupperware or bucket, sliding a piece of thin cardboard/cardstock/a magazine cover under the tupperware or bucket, and then transporting the animal outside in this makeshift cage. My FIL released the bat a bit more gently than I release my lizards (I literally throw the bucket and the paper - with the lizard trapped in between - out the door), but that was really the only difference.
  4. I learned that bats can't take flight from the ground. Somehow that made this little guy considerably less scary to me.
Less scary, but still gross.
Gramps traps the bat while a lifejacket-wearing Will looks on.
Fly away home, gross little buddy!
Three years ago, a bat in the house would have sent me running for the lake (but not into the lake, because that's where the fish live). But after spending as many years in Texas, regularly catching and releasing the lizards who visit me in my no-lizard-zone house, I was able to somewhat calmly watch the bat catch-and-release go down - I even took pictures! Maybe there's a plus to those lizards after all.

On second thought, no.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Observations of All Kinds

Just a little pee on the sidewalk...
On children:
  • My children have smaller and/or weaker bladders in Madison than they do in Texas. I can't say for certain what brought on this "condition", but I've come up with two possibilities. First, increased distractions. Both kids are less likely to "remember" to visit the bathroom when otherwise occupied baking cookies with Grandma, swirling sparklers with Grandpa, or splashing in the water table with cousin Lily. Second, poor influence. Cousin Lily isn't yet fully potty trained - though she's improved tremendously since her last visit to College Station - and occasionally pees in the backyard, on her way to the bathroom, or you know, in the front seat of the car on my purse and my Zumba CD. And if Lily can mark her territory, why can't they? Because, I remind them, you're almost seven and almost four-and-a-half. Humph, they reply.
  • I absolutely love the ages my children are right now. Yes, we struggle. Will and I argue about what time he should go to bed and how many minutes of "screen" time he's allowed and the distance ahead of me he can safely ride on his bike. Hallie and I battle ("battle" is a step up from "argue" on the confrontation scale) over getting dressed and eating breakfast and brushing teeth and brushing hair and picking up toys and, and, and... But after spending the last two weeks with Will, Hallie, and a two-year-old and a five-month-old (both of whom I love very much, by the way), I realized how incredibly happy I am to no longer be the parent of a toddler and an infant. I also realized just how lucky I am to be the parent of my preschooler and first-grader - they may not be perfect, but they're perfectly fabulous.

On weather:
  • I love the rain. All kinds of rain, really, but especially the warm, summer rain that draws you outside with an umbrella and piece of balsa wood to float in the swirling streams of water running down the street.
  • Because of the humidity, 85 degrees in Wisconsin feels like 95 degrees in Texas. 
  • On the flip side, and I assume because of the humidity, 50 degrees in Texas feels like 40 degrees in Wisconsin.
  • I complain about the weather. A lot. I'm working on it.

On transportation:
  • I love Madison's commitment to and support of both recreational and commuter bicyclists. Laws to protect bikers; thoughtfully planned, well-designed, and well-kept bike paths and trails; established bike routes and lanes; bike racks on city buses; a city-wide community bike-sharing program; and free public-use bikes on campus make my home-town a biker's paradise. As it is, we ride our bikes quite a bit in College Station. But we'd ride much more frequently - for everything from exercise to grocery shopping to actually commuting to and from work and school - if College Station would do its part.
  • I hate (and I don't use that word lightly) Madison's commitment to and support of excessive pedestrian rights. I plan to pen more about my thoughts on these rights - and the accompanying laws drivers must follow with regard to pedestrians - in the near future, but for the time-being I'll simply share my opinion that we should expect pedestrians to take some responsibility for their own safety. I will never teach my children that they have the right to walk out in front of cars and that cars should stop to let them cross. Argh.
  • Wisconsin understands and establishes reasonable freeway speed limits, but their in-town speed limits are so slow that more often than not, Will could keep up with traffic on his bike. 
  • Texas understands and establishes reasonable in-town speed limits, but their freeway speed limits seem more appropriate for Lightening McQueen. 75 MPH on a two-lane highway? No thank you.
  • I complain about speed limits and traffic. A lot. I'm working on it.

On other topics:
  • In my book, "No Socks with Crocs" ranks as one of the top five fashion rules to which all people - but especially adults - should adhere. Not many Madisonians agree with me. 

Well, that's what's swirling around in my head today. Most of it is neither here nor there, but most of my Mondays are neither here nor there as well. Happy Monday, and have a great week!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Freaky Friday

Our first summer in Texas (2011) was one of hottest folks could remember. Temperature records were broken. Electric bill records were broken. Though the season technically lasted only three months, I pulled out my shorts and tank tops in early April, and continued wearing summer clothing through the first week in December. That first summer was not my most favorite season.

When our second summer in Texas rolled around, I attempted to escape the oppressive heat and humidity by spending the entire month of July in Wisconsin. Mother Nature had other plans, however, and handed Wisconsin one of its hottest summers - if not the hottest summer - on record.

Last year had to have been a fluke, right? Wrong. At least today, midway through the afternoon.

It does look like it's supposed to cool down a little this weekend though...on the day we're headed to the water park. Awe. Some.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Throwback Thursday (First Family)

Today we throwback to photos of my "first" family: parents, grandparents, sister, cousins, pets, etc. I'm still rockin' the big glasses and bad hair (or at least an excessive amount of bangs) in many of these photos, but overall this collection of photography is a bit more flattering than the collection you had the opportunity to view last Thursday. Good for me, bad for those of you who need a laugh.
Grandpa Russ (my dad's dad), my dad, Sara, and me.
My cousin, Cody, and me. I'm pretty sure I thought he'd hung the moon.
Me and Great-Grandpa Pop Pop (my Grandpa Russ's dad),
while on vacation in Florida. Grandpa Russ and Pop Pop's
story is a fascinating one - I wrote about it here.
Me and my "baby", Pearl. He was so tolerant.
Until he wasn't, and then he scratched me.
I only just noticed the look my mom is giving me in this picture.
It's my new favorite picture, because now, in addition to seeing
my mom looking at me, I see myself, looking at my kids.
Sara and me, rocking our little swimsuit pot bellies.
Grandma Geri (my mom's mom) and me.
My dad and I having a backyard water fight.
Yes, I'm wearing goggles. And yes, he still wears that shirt, 25 years later.
When he wasn't scratching me, Pearl liked to listen to me play the piano.
My camping cousins (I'm on the right, about
halfway up in a white tank top), circa 1988ish.
My camping cousins (I'm in the middle in the bottom row), circa 2000ish.
My dad, my mom, me, Sara, and Pearl (Sara's cat, Jingle Bells, wouldn't
sit still for the picture) posing for our 1989ish Christmas card photo.
Which is funny, because my dad, Sara, and I are all wearing our pajamas.
As I finish putting this post together I'm remembering the wonderful times I had with all of the family members who joined me in these photos, especially those who are no longer with us. RIP, Pop Pop, Grandpa Russ, Matt, and Pearl.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Happy Birthday, Taco Tom!

Today is my main man's birthday. He's turning a number between 30 and 40 (I don't like to share other people's ages, but if you really want to know how old Tom is, ask Will), and we can't wait to celebrate his life of that many years - as well the 14.5, 6.5, and 4 years I, Will, and Hallie have respectively known and loved him - this evening.
Getting to know Will, just a couple of hours after he was born. 
Reading to the kiddos.
He keeps me young.
He keeps us all young.
Home from church, time for baseball.
The pirate and his parrot chicken.
Lions and tigers and no bears.
Tailgate Tom (on the left) with his tailgating chalice.
Who lets their four-year-old cut their hair?!
Only one of our kids liked to jam.
In his element.
The "boys".
Learning to shave.
Showing his (on the right) true colors.
Snuggling with the babes.
We love him like crazy, and it's not very hard to see why.

Happy birthday, Taco Tom.

Someday, when I finally find the archived photo that brings the story to life, I'll explain the Taco Tom nickname.