Monday, March 31, 2014

100 Days of Happy

In general, I am a happy person. And as long as my days are bookended by hugs and kisses and include exercise, writing, reading, an afternoon Spark pick-me-up, and an evening piece of chocolate or glass of wine, I'll stay that way.

That doesn't mean, however, that happiness follows me around like Cheer Bear's brightly-colored cartoon rainbow. (Though Cheer Bear is the only Care Bear I ever owned.) I have struggled with the loss of friends and battled through both clincal and postpartum depression. My moods swing up and down and back and forth, depending on the health and happiness of those I love, my daily interactions with friends and acquaintances and strangers, the amount of sleep I get, my hormones, and the weather. And I'm as grumpy as the next mama on Monday mornings when my alarm clock reminds me to rise and shine and make sure my husband and kids make it out the door - fed and wearing matching socks - on time.

I don't believe that happiness is a choice, at least not entirely. During my 18-month-long battle with postpartum depression I wanted nothing more than to be happy - or at the very least, not unhappy - but my "choice" to be happy was never strong enough to lift the soul-crushing weight of my illness from my shoulders.

I do believe that happiness is a personal responsibility. It is my responsibility to surround myself with people who lift me up, instead of drag me down. It is my responsibility to focus on the positive, instead of the negative. It is my responsibility to be kind, say thank you, forgive others, and above all, LOVE, because these acts bring and sustain happiness.

It is also my responsibility to pass my happiness on to my children and teach them how to live happily, which is why I chose to begin the #100HappyDays challenge today.

The #100HappyDays challenge encourages participants to recognize happiness in their lives - if even just for a moment - for 100 days in a row, and to document this happiness by taking a picture of whatever or whoever brings out the feeling. The idea behind this online campaign is that slowing down long enough to "appreciate the moment, the environment, and yourself in it…is the base for building the bridge toward long-term happiness".

I invite you to join me in the #100HappyDays challenge. You can start today, tomorrow, or next week. You can complete the challenge privately, or if you'd like to share your happiness publicly, you can register on the #100HappyDays website and post your pictures on Facebook, Instagram, and/or Twitter. I also invite you to share your favorite happiness photos with me (email them to me at so that I can include them when I provide challenge updates on Chasing Roots.

I look forward to starting the #100HappyDays challenge today, but more than starting the challenge, I look forward to finishing the challenge and looking back on 100 days of happiness. On that 100th day, I plan to sit down at my computer, pull up my pictures, and walk Will and Hallie through everything that made me happy - each of them, their daddy, and our life together - since the challenge began.

Friday, March 28, 2014

High Five for Friday (3.28.14)

1. Did you read Divergent?! Did you see the movie?! I read the books last year and saw the movie as soon as it opened last Friday night. This was only my second experience buying tickets ahead of time, waiting in line, and joining all of the super fans to see a film on its first night in the theaters (Catching Fire was my first) and I loved both the experience and the movie. I can't wait to read the series again (after I make it through the seven books on my nightstand and the two books on hold for me at the library, of course), and hope to see the movie at least a second time before it leaves the big screen. We need hoards people to support the first movie so that the studio commits to making the second and third books - Insurgent and Allegiant - into movies as well, and I plan to do my part. Who's with me?

2. On a related note, on Tuesday I came across this commentary on Divergent (the movie). I won't share the title of the article or the specifics of her points because they relate to the storyline (and I don't want to spoil the book or the movie for anyone), but if you already know the story, I highly recommend clicking over. I already loved the movie for enhancing a story I adored - for making the pictures and sounds and feelings in my head a little clearer - and now I love the movie for sending messages about respect and strength and empowerment that need to be heard.

3. This week Will prepared and gave his very first school presentation. First grade seemed a little young for presentations to me, but I suppose starting early better prepares kids for the many individual and group projects, presentations, and speeches ahead of them on their academic paths.

Will chose to present on the armadillo (each child had to choose a Texas symbol), and throughout the days leading up to his presentation he researched facts about and searched for pictures of armadillos online. Once he'd chosen his facts and pictures, we made a poster board for him to use during his presentation. (He actually made the poster board himself, but I helped him figure out how to evenly space his bullet points and words. Anyone who knows me could look at Will's poster board and know that overall I had very little input - his asymmetrical picture placement nearly drove me crazy.)

Then Will practiced his presentation, many times, with Hallie and me acting like his classmates. Hallie paid close enough attention that she memorized nearly everything Will planned to say; on Sunday I heard her telling one of her stuffed animals, "Armadillo is a Spanish word. It means 'little armored one'".

Will gave his presentation on Monday and on Monday afternoon I received an email from his teacher, letting me know that he'd done an excellent job presenting on and answering his classmates' questions about the armadillo. I was just happy to hear he'd made it through the presentation without picking his nose.

Here are a couple of videos from Will's first practice session. (Thankfully he improved as we continued to practice throughout the weekend.) As you can see in the first video, NOT picking your nose while giving a presentation is NOT common knowledge.

4. The Big Event day of service takes place this weekend! Tom and I barreled through three hours of preparatory yard work (trimming bushes and trees, hauling branches to the curb, bagging leaves, killing weeds, and buying mulch) last weekend, and today I'll make iced tea and lemonade; put together fruit and veggie trays, assemble a cheese and cracker tray, make Rice Krispy Treats, and bake brownies so that by tomorrow morning we'll be completely ready to welcome "our" college students. I'm looking forward to another great year! (You can read more about our family's positive experiences with the TAMU-sponsored day of service here and here.)

5. High Five #5 is three-fold. First, a huge congratulations to a friend of mine who gave birth to her third baby this week. Welcome, baby Cullen! Second, baseball officially kicks off this weekend with the Little League Opening Ceremonies. Little boys in baseball uniforms melt my heart! And third, Hallie's ears have been pierced for six weeks now. Later today she and I will head to Claire's to pick out a new pair of earrings!

Happy Friday, friends!

Linking up with High Five for Friday!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Results Are In...

…and I still hate projects!

No, seriously. During my mom's visit to College Station she and I tackled two projects over the course of two-and-a-half days. And twice - once during each project - I actually sat on the floor and cried into my hands over my disdain for projects.

I still love the finished products though, so I'm grateful my mom hung in there with me. If I had been in her shoes I would have given up on me.

First up, installing knobs and handles on the kitchen and laundry room cabinets and drawers.

This project should have taken maybe four hours, but because of a number of challenges (mislabeled and therefore mismatched knobs, incorrectly installed and therefore uneven drawers), we spent those four hours driving back and forth from Lowe's…(fittingly) FOUR TIMES. We eventually finished the kitchen around 9:30pm that night, and knocked out the laundry room the following morning.

I really want to paint my kitchen cabinets hire someone to paint my kitchen cabinets, but since I can't add that project to my to-do list right now, this slight upgrade will tide me over until I can.

These pictures reiterate for me that I really need to replace my 15-year-old toaster.

Second in line, painting the front door.

Thank you so much to those of you who weighed in on what color I should use! Here's how the results looked:

Red - 41%
Blue - 18%
Orange - 17%
Green - 18%
Yellow - 6%

I ruled out blue fairly quickly, because even though I love navy and indigo and teal, nearly every shade clashed with the colors in my living room.

I ruled out orange next, because as a lovely reader pointed out, the city in which I live can't stand all things associated with Texas University, including the school's burnt orange color. I honestly worried that if we ever tried to sell our house with an orange door, prospective buyers would immediately feel disconnected to or even antagonized by the house when they pulled up out front.

That left red, green, and yellow. Red received the highest number of votes by a wide margin, and at first I stood firmly with the voters. But when we looked from the street at the (faux, created by hanging up a blanket) red door, the red read almost as darkly and blandly as the wooden door up against the dark red brick. At that point I had to take red off the table.

Having narrowed it down to green and yellow, we headed to Lowe's and picked up 20+ different color samples. After returning home, we s…l…o…w…l…y eliminated shades until I finally picked Curry Sauce, which is funny because I HATE curry.

The preparatory steps, which included a lizard shield made out of two layers of painters plastic and hundreds of feet of painters tape. I'm proud to report that the lizard shield worked - not a single lizard made it into my house (my greatest fear associated with this particular project) while the front door stood open for 12+ hours.

There was also a rough hour near the end when, while trying to reassemble the doorknob and deadbolt lock, we thought we were going to have to sleep with the front door open and the space blocked by large and heavy pieces of furniture. (This may have been one of the times I melted down.) In the end my mom and I combined forces - her perseverance and patience and my lock-smithing skills (who knew?) - and triumphed over the perplexing protection system to finish the job.

Changing out the brass fixtures and kick plate remain on my to-do list, but I LOVE the color…which I renamed Golden Pineapple.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Texas Bucket List: Houston Aquarium

Unfortunately, working for a university does not guarantee an employee a week off during the students' spring break. In fact, more often than not Tom works as hard during spring break as he works throughout the rest of the semester. Teaching and student support take up a great deal of his time, so when the students hit the road, Tom's schedule "opens up" (relatively speaking) and allows him to focus on the grading, grant proposals, journal article reviews, paper writing, paper reading, and research sitting on the back burners.

As a result, our spring break didn't include skiing the slopes, swimming in the ocean, drinking pina coladas on the beach, or even sleeping in each morning. It did, however, include a birthday party, play dates with friends, a morning at speed and agility camp, baseball practices, Tae Kwon Do lessons, shopping at the outlet mall, oral surgery, countless trips to Chick-fil-A, and two Texas Bucket List day trips, one to the Blue Bell Creamery and one to the aquarium in downtown Houston.

Tom worked incredibly hard throughout the entire first weekend of spring break so that he could take ONE day off for our day trip to the aquarium. We had a wonderful time, and as is always the case, our time together seemed too short and return to "regularly scheduled programming" came too soon.

It's ironic how often, relatively speaking, we visit both stand-alone and zoo aquariums, given my extreme disgust for and intense fear of all sea creatures. Thank goodness this disaster took place a few days after our visit to the Houston Aquarium and lunch in their restaurant…had I known something like this could happen I would never have set foot inside.

Here's a glimpse into our Texas Bucket List trip to the Downtown Aquarium in Houston!

First up, an early lunch surrounded by all sorts of creepy underwater animals. Thankfully, all tanks remained intact while we ate.

After lunch we walked - me quickly, Hallie aimlessly, and Tom and Will leisurely - through the actual aquarium. Though it seemed odd that the final enclosure in the aquarium held a white Bengal Tiger, the tiger topped both my and Hallie's lists of favorite animals.

After the aquarium we bought wristbands that allowed us unlimited access to the small, attached amusement park. Hallie loved The Hopper (which rose up slowly and then dropped down slightly more quickly) and the Merry-Go-Round, while Tom, Will, and I thoroughly enjoyed the more mature version of The Hopper that Will called The Dropper. We always ride the Ferris Wheel, but while the kids sat back, relaxed, and enjoyed the view, Tom and I fought back panic attacks. When we did we develop such severe fears of heights?! Being a grown-up stinks. 

On the way home we stopped at the brand new GIGANTIC Buc-ee's in Waller, TX and bought ice cream treats to tide us over until we could stop at Chick-fil-A for dinner 45 minutes later. I also thought about buying bananas, sushi, gummy bears, a Buc-ee's shirt with a Ferris Wheel on it, a bow (and arrows), an antique clock, a cell phone car charger, grill utensils made out of antlers, and purse shaped like a mermaid. Seriously, that place has everything.

Spring break ended too quickly, but somehow at the same time, the kids couldn't return to school fast enough. Funny how that works...

Friday, March 21, 2014

High Five for Friday (3.21.14)

1. Did you celebrate National Pi(e) Day? This ridiculous but fun holiday takes place on March 14th (March 14th = 3/14 = 3.14 = Pi), the same date on which my banana-cream-pie-loving mom celebrates her birthday. And since my mom spent her birthday visiting us in College Station, we celebrated by making from scratch an absolutely scrumptious banana cream pie. Yum! (And pretty too, right?)

2. In past years I have attempted to cram all of our St. Patrick's Day treats, crafts, and activities into just one day. That whirlwind of green and gold and rainbows and shamrocks and pinching and eating and drinking made for a lively day, but I always felt overwhelmed and as though the "show" I put on trumped actually experiencing the holiday. This year, with the hope of slowing the holiday's pace, I spread our craft projects, shamrock-adorned attire, and green food and drink out throughout the weekend and Monday. What a difference this change made!


3. My mom knows her way around a head of hair (she cut my and my sister's hair until we entered middle school and started asking for complicated, layered styles, and I don't think my dad has set foot in a barber shop since he married her), so I feel completely confident letting her begging her to trim my hair and Hallie's hair whenever she visits.

On this visit she cut Hallie's hair in the bathroom while Hallie sat on the edge of the counter with her feet in the sink. And so that Hallie didn't end up with hair inside her clothes (I don't own a drape), we took off her dress and wrapped her in a hand towel. Said a confused little girl as the hair cutting process began, "at the other hair cutting place I keep my clothes ON". Yes, yes you do. And you always will.

4. I savored Erin's "I So Deserve This" Latte yesterday morning while catching up with a wonderful friend and then catching up on all of the writing I put off while working on house projects and hanging out with my mom earlier in the week. High fives all around.

5. And last but not least…  Will drew this. I accidentally laughed out loud when I saw it but was quickly reprimanded for doing so because, "Mama, squirrels are NOT funny animals." Oh, it's a squirrel. Thank goodness.

Happy first-weekend-of-spring, friends!

Linking up with High Five for Friday!