Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Currently: June/July

Other than on our long drives across the country, not much of note played on the car radio or CD player throughout June and July. On the open road we listened to a few mix CDs (we don't have satellite radio nor the ability/equipment to hook up an iPod in our car) with the kids, and then Tom and I listened to two interesting books - one science fiction and one political thriller - on CD while the kids enjoyed their DVDs and handheld games.

We're not proud of it, but more than once Tom and I let Will and Hallie start a new movie or continue playing their video games - or even just made them keep their headphones on while they colored or read books - so that we could finish a particularly gripping chapter of our (definitely NOT rated G) books on CD...

The kiddos ate lots too, but
their metabolisms are much
faster than mine.
Far too much _(fill in any food here)_. You name it, I ate too much of it while on vacation. I plan to hit the gym hard and jump back into eating (mostly) healthily now that we've returned home.

Far too much wine and beer. Not enough water and Spark. Like I said above, now that we've returned home it's back to the gym and our healthier routines.

Last summer, the weather in Wisconsin seemed almost Texas-like and I made no secret of the fact that the record-setting heat, especially during my vacation to escape the heat, rubbed me the wrong way. Thankfully, the weather in Wisconsin this June and July was much more to my liking; highs in the mid-60s to mid-80's meant we spent more time outside than in summers past.

During the warmer hours, we wore shorts and summer shirts, but on occasion I wore…wait for it... JEANS. And SWEATSHIRTS. My mom gave me a hard time because the temperatures outside weren't exactly cold, but I wore them anyway, just because I could.

June and July were really lovely months. Once the school year wrapped up we settled into a loose routine that started with workouts at the gym (for me, but also for the kids, as our fantastic gym offered kids yoga and Zumba classes for the first time this summer) and then involved swimming, dance, and Tae Kwon Do lessons; baseball and dance camps; trips to the library; play dates; and low-key afternoons at home. Our routine went out the window when we headed north, but none of us minded much because our days were filled with a perfect blend of at-home relaxation and out-and-about activities. As per usual at this point in the year, I feel grateful for the summer vacation we've had thus far…and grateful that school begins again in less than four weeks.
Tailgating before a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game.
Next weekend I head to Nashville for my sis-in-law's bachelorette party. I have nothing to wear to a bachelorette party because…well, because I'm 35 years old and haven't been a bachelorette in more than 10 years and haven't attended a bachelorette party in nearly eight years. I love my workout, everyday casual, and dressy casual clothes, as well as my more formal attire for work events, holiday parties, and weddings; too bad not one of piece of all this clothing - except maybe my skinny jeans - qualifies as bachelorette party attire. I want someone with a creative fashion sense to come over and work their magic in my closet…any takers?

Unfortunately I need the exact same things now as I did at the end of May. First, I really need to get the ball rolling on a couple of projects in our bathroom. As I wrote about in my last "Currently" post, I HATE making decisions about home decorating and remodeling. Shower surrounds, shower doors, shower/bath/sink fixtures, counter tops, and flooring make my head spin.

Second, I need a better plan of attack when it comes to grocery shopping with my kids in tow. I also mentioned at the end of May that taking Will and Hallie with me to the grocery store - even for just a couple of items - requires the same mental stamina and patience as reasoning with a toddler and the same physical strength and determination as bathing a cat. The three of us stopped to pick up a few things on Monday morning and by the time we left I'd sprouted 17 new gray hairs and my blood pressure had gone up 10 points.

Fall is on my mind. Not so much the cooler temperatures and changing leaves and coming holidays, though I look forward to all three, but the changes I expect the season to bring to our house. Will starts second grade, and Hallie (the baby! My baby!) starts kindergarten. My alone time will increase - not dramatically, but enough that I shouldn't ever have to grocery shop with kids in tow again…until next summer, of course. When I'm not grocery shopping or browsing the aisles at Target, my time will be divided between the PTO at Will and Hallie's elementary school (I'm stepping into the secretary role this year), my existing - and hopefully one or two new - writing projects,  and perhaps the local chapter of the American Red Cross. The last couple of years, at least at a glance, have looked and felt relatively similar to one another. This year will look and feel different…I'm both excited and nervous.

I may spend a bit more time on this topic in a separate post, but I truly enjoyed watching Will and Carter begin to develop their relationship during our visit to Wisconsin. Hallie and Lily have loved on, played with, and argued with each other since before Lily turned a year old. I worried that Will and Carter wouldn't - couldn't - have a "brotherly" relationship because of the six year age different between them, but now I think that with a little prompting and support from Sara and me, they can grow up loving, playing with, and arguing with each other. We wouldn't want the girls to have all the fun!

Yes, they're wearing matching outfits. Couldn't let the girls have all the fun!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

We left Wisconsin at 5:30am on Saturday. We drove until 7:30pm on Saturday night, when we rolled into the parking lot of a Hampton Inn, dragged our suitcases up to our room, and tumbled exhaustedly down onto the beds. We probably should have called it a night right then and there, but instead we rallied for 20 minutes of exercise in the fitness room, 20 minutes of swimming in the indoor pool, showers, take-out for dinner, and an hour of mind-numbingly poor Saturday night television before finally crawling under the covers.
Right before I went to sleep I got up to check on the kids. I
felt for but couldn't find Hallie (and I started to panic a little)
so Tom turned on a light and located her, hidden and wrapped
up like a mummy, at the foot of the bed. Can you see her?
Looks comfy, doesn't it?
We hit the road again early Sunday morning, and pulled into our driveway ahead of schedule at 2:42pm. I took advantage of our earlier-than-expected arrival by immediately pulling out of the trunk the suitcase in which I knew my tennis shoes were packed, throwing them on along with (semi-dirty) workout clothes, and jumping back in the car bound for my 3pm Zumba class. An hour later I felt almost sane again…though not quite sane enough to tackle the disaster zone that was my house without melting down a couple of times.

Our road trip south differed dramatically from our road trip north. Instead of traveling slowly and with a relaxed attitude, we stopped for only 15 minutes at a time and to let the kids run off steam and stretch our legs. We skipped the interesting restaurants, scenic overlooks, and roadside fruit stands. We ate the majority of our meals in the car while cruising down the interstate. The kids watched at least twice as many movies as they did on our way to Wisconsin.

More than once - usually when Hallie starting screaming about how her headphones had "accidentally" become unplugged (because she kicked them out) or she'd dropped her stuffed owl for the 947th time - I tried closing my eyes, clicking my heels together, and repeating "there's no place like home, there's no place like home". Needless to say, wishful thinking didn't work; thankfully, chugging along like the slow (and slow I mean, no more than five MPH above the speed limit) and steady tortoise did.

We had a wonderful visit in Wisconsin, and all things considered, an enjoyable drive back to Texas as well. But the cliche is true: there's no place like home.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Flashback Friday (7.25.14)

We've come to the end of our month-long Wisconsin vacation (we hit the road early tomorrow morning, and hope to make it home by Sunday night), so this is the last of my three Flashback Friday posts, at least for this summer...
Me and my dad, circa 1982.
Easily the creepiest picture I ever took with Santa.
And what's going on with my pants?!
Two weeks ago I found my junior year soccer picture;
this week I found my freshman year soccer picture...
…and my sophomore year picture. (shudder)
Apparently Sara and I still dressed alike into our late teens/early 20's...
…make that into our mid-to-late-20's.
I love this picture, taken on Christmas in 2005.
Happy boy.
Happy girl.
Sweet boy.
(Photo courtesy of my friend Carrie at Lifeseyes Photography.)
Sweet girl.
(Photo courtesy of my friend Carrie at Lifeseyes Photography.)
Once of my favorite pictures of Will.
And one of my favorite pictures of Hallie. mom and I never tackled her photo sorting/organizing project. Like I mentioned last week, I actually made the situation worse because on the way to creating these Flashback Friday posts, I removed the photos from their albums and took them upstairs to the scanner in the office. There are albums of photos on the family room shelves, boxes of photos on the dining room table, and stacks of photos in the office. I may owe my mom a week of hard photo-related work over Christmas vacation.

Have a fantastic weekend, friends!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


My brain tends toward discombobulation (even more so than normal) when I travel, which explains why this post - which I should have shared back in April and has nothing to do with our ongoing summer road trip - is making an appearance today. 

As soon as I learned of her existence, I began looking forward to one day meeting Texas A&M Univerity's cherished and honored mascot, Reveille.

Reveille, otherwise known as the "First Lady of Aggieland", holds the title of highest-ranking member of the TAMU Corps of Cadets, is always escorted by her Mascot Corporal, has her own cell phone, and even though she isn't officially enrolled at TAMU, carries her own Student Identification Card. (She also happens to be a Border Collie, but that's neither here nor there.)

She sounds like a celebrity, right?

She is, at least here in Aggieland.

I looked for her every single time I stopped by Tom's on-campus office, donated blood at a TAMU-sponsored blood drive, tailgated before a TAMU football game, and ran errands anywhere near campus, but our paths never crossed. (I once followed for three blocks - and then attempted to take pictures of - a student's Border Collie, only to discover that this student's Border Collie was not the Border Collie I wanted to meet.)

And then…

We noticed a crowd gathered on the lawn as we walked out of church on Easter Sunday. I thought nothing of the excitement radiating from the group at first - after all, Easter is an exciting holiday - but as we continued toward our car I realized that almost everyone's eyes were directed downward toward the grass. At that moment the crowd parted and there she was.


When I saw her I felt like I imagine I would feel if I bumped into Katniss Everdeen herself. My palms started sweating. I laughed nervously. Instead of walking over to introduce myself (to a dog?), I fumbled around in my purse to find my cell phone and then fumbled around with my cell phone until I was finally able to open the camera app and take her picture.

I spent less than two minutes in Miss Rev's presence, but in that short amount of time she awed me with her perfect behavior and regal beauty…and by flashing that dazzling smile for my picture. A true celebrity if ever I met one.

(Oh, and best Easter ever.)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Lodge Life

For the last seven summers, the kids and I (and Tom, when he's been able to get away from work) have spent a week at the Ferris family's beautifully rustic summer home on Booth Lake in Northern Wisconsin. When the Lincoln Lodge was officially established in 2006, my in-laws intended it to be a place where their immediate and extended family could gather to reconnect with each other and with nature; now, eight years later, I can say with confidence that this little slice of heaven has lived up to and surpassed every expectation we had for it to become that place.

I've written in detail about my love for the Lodge (and about blogging in a Northern Wisconsin bar) in the past, so today's post will be short on words and long on photos documenting our week-long family vacation in picturesque Northern Wisconsin.

I left this...
…for this. Finally, a Wisconsin summer
that delivered on the weather front.
Photos can in no way capture the beauty of this idyllic
lakescape, but that doesn't stop me from taking pictures.
The view from the Lodge down to the
lake is always stunning as the sun
begins its descent each afternoon.
With each passing summer my boy
becomes a better (and braver) fisherman.
Will caught at least half of the fish we ate on fish fry night!
Will lost a bet and had to jump in the lake with his
clothes on. At the moment he hit the water on that
overcast, windy day, the air and water temperatures
were both about 67 degrees. Brrr.
Hallie wanted to jump in with her clothes on as
well, but at the last minute she decided she'd
rather be dunked while wearing her lifejacket. 
Hallie played with her third cousin, Alice, almost every day. (Tom
and Alice's mom, Molly, are second cousins. Tom's mom and Molly's
mom are first cousins, and both have summer homes in Wisconsin.) 
While the boys fished and the little girls played together, the
big girls talked and drank coffee and took turns cuddling
Alice's baby sister, Evelyn.
We watched the United States vs. Belgium World Cup
soccer game at a cozy bar in downtown Minocqua. 
The game may not have ended with a United States victory, but holy
 was it thrilling to watch surrounded by the "home country" crowd.
We love roasting marshmallows for s'mores. Too
bad the kids and I don't love eating marshmallows…
We wore sweatshirts at our campfires.
I love Wisconsin summer evenings.
Though our stay didn't encompass a Sunday, we still
visited "our" church. I've attended mass in more Catholic
churches than I can count (4+ years as a member of a
traveling contemporary Christian choir based out of the
Newman Center at the University of Iowa), and while many
have impressed me, none have taken my breath away like
this modern but rustic architectural masterpiece. The
church doesn't photograph well on an iPhone, but perhaps
you can still see and appreciate its beauty in these pictures. 
The wood, stone, and iron elements used both
inside and outside the church are stunning.
Can you imagine how glorious it would be
to experience mass nestled in among the pines?
We've spent the 4th of July at the Lodge in the past, but for the first time this year - now that the kids have 100% outgrown naps and can stay up past 8pm without completely melting down - we went all out and participated in as much of what Minocqua had to offer as possible.

The morning started off lazily, just as we prefer mornings to start off at the Lodge, because none of the official activities kicked off until midway through the afternoon. (Unless, of course, we had wanted to put our chairs out to hold our place for the parade. Then our morning would have started at 6am.) After coffee, exercise, baby cuddling, lunch, and showers we rallied and headed into town for one of the most entertaining and well executed small town parades I'd ever attended. Here are a few of the highlights:
Will stayed up late every night and woke up early every morning…
and then he fell asleep on the sidewalk waiting for the parade to start. 
He may have also fallen asleep during the
National Anthem. At least he still had his
hand on his heart. 
These three incredible planes flew over the parade route just as
the final notes of the National Anthem drifted off into the wind. 
This realtor rode his bike, to the
back of which he had attached... 
…an outhouse. In the outhouse sat a toilet, and
on the toilet sat a newspaper-reading man. Will
and Hallie could barely contain themselves.
If you look closely, you'll notice that this
woman is holding an animal as she rides on
her parade float. If you look even more closely,
you'll notice that the animal is a skunk. 
This team of realtors performed a dance with their briefcases.
They rocked their dance, and their matching outfits.
This fella drove his classic car in the parade, and I took
his picture because he reminded me of Home Sweet Texas.
These two - members of a local martial arts gym - fought (dueled?
I'm not sure what to call their interaction) on the back of their float. 
Meanwhile, these two sparred their way down the parade route
and a fifth martial artist photo-bombed my sparring picture.
I spy, with my little eye, an occupied infant carseat perched
precariously on the passenger seat of a moving tractor.
The lumberjacks. I love the lumberjacks.
Want to see an entertaining show? Skip the movies and
check out Scheer's Lumberjack Show in Woodruff instead.
That's a fiery hot air balloon
just rolling down the parade route. 
The local waterski team demonstrated that they're
nearly as good on rollerblades as they are on water skis.
This guy is (supposedly) dressed like a
piece of fudge. Will and I thought he looked
like something considerably less delicious.
When the hour-long parade (which also included trucks from four
different fire departments, multiple marching bands and dance
teams, and numerous floats created by community organizations
and attractions) came to an end, patriotic confetti filled the sky.
After the parade we settled at a picnic table in the park and enjoyed a few treats - purchased from the local high school's "We're Going to Disney World" bake sale - while listening to the first half of the Lakeside Community Concert Band's 4th of July performance in the park. Eventually we moved on and grabbed a bite to eat before walking down to the lake where the water ski show had just gotten underway.
The guy on the right wiped out .7 seconds after I fired off this shot.
I found this stunt particularly impressive: strength + balance +
flexibility + poise, all while being towed behind a boat at 25 MPH.
These four were skiing on oars instead of skis.
Next we made a quick stop at the house to change into jeans and sweatshirts, cover ourselves with mosquito repellent, and light a few sparklers.
Will practiced his Tae Kwon Do forms
while holding a sparkler in each hand.
Not to be outdone, Hallie performed her
recital ballet with a sparkler in her hand.
Finally, we drove out to the Lac du Flambeau Indian Reservation for a truly impressive fireworks show. On the reservation, the fireworks are paid for by the local casino (think unlimited, or at least very generous, funding) and put on not by professional firefighters but by "guys who like to blow stuff up" (think high risk, high reward). When these two factors combine they produce one of two results: catastrophe or victory. Thankfully, victory was the name of the game this 4th of July.

Hallie almost didn't make it - the big light show didn't start until 10pm and she filled the 9pm-10pm hour with plenty of whining and crying - but as soon that first purple explosion lit up the sky she was hooked. 

After a crazy spring semester and a busy first month of summer, the four of us needed to get away - to travel 1,300+ miles across the country - in order to reconnect with one another. I'm so grateful we made the journey.