Friday, November 28, 2014

High Five for Friday (11.28.14)

1. This "high five" belonged in last week's Friday post, but I had too much to celebrate last week and had to bump it to this week. 

Will, Hallie, and I thoroughly enjoyed the Ballet Brazos performance of The Nutcracker. We enjoyed watching the kids' friends dance, and loved the Rat King/Russian Dancer, who instead of ballet, danced a blend of ballet and a Memphis style of street dancing called "Jookin". (I suspect ballet purists might have objected to this break from tradition, but Will and I thought this stylistic change made the show more appealing to a wider audience. Will was actually falling asleep during the dance prior, but as soon as the Rat King began to perform, he jumped up and perched, completely entranced, on the edge of his seat until the fight scene came to an end.) Will and Hallie brought flowers for their friends Kaylee, Paloma, Kara, and Vivian, and afterwards, Will decided that he liked giving flowers to girls and that he might want to do it again, "just at random times" in the future. Oy vey.

2. Last weekend (on my birthday) we set up our Christmas tree and put out our Christmas decorations. Though I'd prefer to transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas after Thanksgiving, when Thanksgiving falls late in the month of November we unpack Christmas before we eat turkey. I love the way the house feels when it's been Christmas-ified, and I need at least four - preferably five - weeks of that feeling before the actual holiday arrives.
Tae kwon do and ballet in front of the tree.
3. Tom's parents, as well as Tom's sister and her new husband, came to visit us for Thanksgiving. Yes, we saw everyone just over a month ago at Jenna and Ferrell's wedding, but that doesn't make spending the holidays together any less special. I hope you and yours had a lovely Thanksgiving celebration.

4. For weeks, Will spent his spare time working on the "high part" of Heart and Soul piano duet. He finally mastered it at the beginning of November, and since then has been playing it on the regular with both Tom and me.

After learning the high part, Will wanted to learn the low - and considerably more difficult, as it requires both hands, strong(er) fingers, and a five note reach - part of the same song. He kept at it though, and just a few days ago he decided he was ready to play with a partner.

High five for Will!

5. Happiness Highlights
Hallie and Tux, zonked out in the beanbag chair.
Tux, keeping an eye on Will while he sleeps.
Every year I give Tom, Will, and Hallie new Christmas ornaments
as we begin decorating our tree. This year I painted the ornaments
myself - a tree for Tom, a mitten for Will, and a stocking for Hallie.
He thinks I can't see him behind that Ferris Wheel.
This is how they insist on being carried to bed on nights
when Tom's home. Looks super comfortable, doesn't it?
Almost as comfortable as this, which is how Hallie situated
herself when she grew bored at the Aggie soccer game last week.
Hallie's singing a lullaby - Away in the Manger - to Tux.
Hallie and Olaf
Will and Olaf
Happy Friday, and happy belated Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

In Thanksgiving

November 1st: I'm thankful that my brand new nephew - born yesterday (Happy Halloween, baby Forest!) - arrived safely and that both he and his mama, my sweet SIL Chandi, are healthy.

November 2nd: I'm thankful for the (more) fall-like weather we experienced this past weekend, especially on Halloween night when the conditions outside - around 70 degrees, light breeze, no mosquitoes - were absolutely perfect for trick-or-treating.

November 3rd: I'm thankful for friends who willingly and graciously pick up the slack when I accidentally drop the ball.

November 4th: I'm thankful that Will ended up with a soccer coach who, while lacking in administrative and organizational skills, truly understood the game and how to coach a player like Will.

November 5th: I'm thankful for the rain, not just because our grass needed a drink and I love dreary weather, but also because wet soccer fields meant practice was cancelled. As a result, we enjoyed an unexpected and much-needed night at home.

November 6th: I'm thankful for the opportunity to catch up with a close friend who I see far too infrequently these days.

November 7th: I'm thankful for a night out - Mexican food at Ninfa's and Gone Girl in the theater - with the hubby, and for a truly amazing babysitter who keeps my kids safe and happy (and laughs about their "quirks") when I can't be with them.

November 8th: I'm thankful for an quick, easy, and very affordable family photo session before and during which no one cried, threw a tantrum, pooped in their underwear, fell in a marsh, bit someone else, or spilled on their one and only photo-ready outfit. Yes, all those things have happened during past photo shoots.

November 9th: I'm thankful I managed to get Hallie's hair untangled from her new mermaid toy's hidden propeller. The box warned "keep away from hair" for a reason.

November 10th: I'm thankful for our first full weekday afternoon at home since soccer season started more than two months ago, and that Tom was able to make it home to join the kids and me for dinner.

November 11th: I'm thankful for a good friend who gave me a fabulous coupon for free Zumba pants!

November 12th: I'm thankful that not every day feels as wasted or leaves me as frustrated as this one did.

November 13th: I'm thankful that both kids' teachers - as well as Will's switch teacher - made time in their busy schedules for me to come into their classrooms, talk to their students about the mission of the American Red Cross, and then coordinate Holiday Mail for Heroes card-making parties. I hope the service members who receive these cards will be able to look past the misspelled words and upside-down Christmas trees to feel the love that Will, Hallie, and their classmates put into them.

November 14th: I'm thankful that neither Will or Hallie asked me why male ballerinas wear nearly sheer, skin-tight white tights when they dance. (Because I don't know the answer.) I'm also thankful that neither Will or Hallie asked me about the body parts that those nearly sheer, skin-tight white tights do a fantastic job of highlighting.

November 15th: I'm thankful for the opportunity to spend a couple of hours with just Hallie while Will joined friends for a laser tag birthday party. I'm also thankful that I learned about the awesomeness that is laser tag.

November 16th: I'm thankful for a Packers win, even though we never get to actually watch Packers games.

November 17th: I'm thankful for our fireplace, and the ease with which it lights and can be extinguished. My family had a wood-burning fireplace for a few years when I was little, and while it created a warmer atmosphere and provided actual warmth, firewood logistics as well as lighting, maintaining, and extinguishing the flames took up hours of my dad's time every evening. Now, lighting a fire in the fireplace on a cool night is so quick and easy that even Hallie could do it. (Though we OF COURSE don't let her.)

November 18th: I'm thankful for Sonic's half-price drinks on weekdays between 2pm and 4pm. Without the draw of small Sonic cherry limeades (Will) and lemonades (Hallie), we might never make it out of the house and to dance on time on Tuesday afternoons.

November 19th: I'm thankful for the opportunity to attend a City-Wide PTO meeting with many of our school district's leaders, and for the delicious catered lunch that was provided. What a treat!

November 20th: I'm thankful for a night out - to see Mockingjay, Part 1 in the theater on opening night, no less - with my girlfriends!

November 21st: I'm thankful for a night out (again to see Mockingjay, Part 1) with Tom. We made it on two dates this month, which I dare say hasn't happened since before Will was born!

November 22nd: I'm thankful for each of my 36 years on this earth, and for the people who have made those years worth living.

November 23rd: I'm thankful for the opportunity to spend a rare Sunday afternoon together, just the four of us (and approximately 2,200 soccer fans), watching the Aggie women's soccer team win their NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 game and advance to the Elite Eight. (And thanks to the Aggie Soccer organization for always inviting kids like Will and Hallie to participate in the pre-game ceremonies - Hallie loved her first experience "walking out" with the team.)

November 24th: I'm thankful for this short school (two days) and work (three days) week. Knowing the Thanksgiving holiday weekend was just around the corner made getting out of bed this morning much more enjoyable less devastating.

November 25th: I'm thankful for the beautiful weather - highs in the 60's and lows in the 40's - we've had and expect to continue having this week. These conditions draw us outside and into the fresh air during the day, and bring us close together, usually reading books in front of the fireplace, in the evenings.

November 26th: I'm thankful to have so many valuable professional resources - doctor, nurse, accountant, teacher, principal, and realtor - in my family members, as I've needed to tap into their individual knowledge bases and field experiences quite a bit throughout the last few months.

November 27th: I'm thankful for my loving, supportive family - Tom, Will, and Hallie, as well as our parents, grandparents, siblings, niece, nephews, aunts, uncles, and cousins - and friends. I'm thankful for my health, and for the health of those I love. I'm thankful we have a place to live, food to eat, and clothes to wear. I'm thankful we have what we need, and for the opportunity to give back to those who, for whatever reason, could use a helping hand up.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

Like most of you, I find myself with a lot on my plate this week. Yesterday I put out the majority of our Christmas decorations, cleaned the house, prepped the guest room, baked a double batch of pumpkin bread for Tom's work Thanksgiving potluck luncheon tomorrow, and took the kids to watch the Aggie women's soccer team play in the NCAA tournament. Today and tomorrow, in addition to our regular Monday and Tuesday activities, I will join Tom at the potluck luncheon, bake a double batch of gingersnap cookies for the November teacher appreciation event at the kids' school, bake a double batch of banana bread for Will and Hallie's teachers, check out a kindergarten pow wow, take Tux to the vet, and run my last-minute Thanksgiving errands. Come Wednesday, I'll be cutting and chopping and prepping and mixing and baking, though I admit to looking forward to all that because I know my Hal Gal will join me in the kitchen.

So, with that said, I'm keeping it short a simple and posting just a few fun links today. Enjoy!

Worth Checking Out… 

The 100 Most Important Cat Pictures of All Time
I laughed, I cried, and then I hugged my cat. In true cat fashion, he returned the hug with a bite.
This isn't one of the 100 Most Important
Cat Pictures…it's just a picture of my cat.
Hey Parents: Quit Raising Specials and Start Raising Omnivores
Such an important article, and a must-read if your kids play sports.

The Ohio State University Marching Band Pays Tribute to Television
I strongly dislike all things Ohio State, but I can't deny that their marching band performs some of the most creative and difficult routines in the country.

Rehearsing for Death: A Pre-K Teacher on the Trouble with Lockdown Drills
This is terrifying. As the author writes, it's time to stop rehearsing our deaths and start screaming.

14 Words That Have Completely Different Meanings to Friends Fans
This article, my friends, is Perfection.

25 of the Most Dangerous and Unusual Journeys to School in the World
My kids don't believe me when I tell them so, but they're pretty lucky to walk just three blocks to and from school.

I'll Think of You
I posted a video of this foursome singing (and "cupping") the Cups Song last year, and now they're back with another beautiful performance.

Chasing Roots Around the Interwebs… 

A couple of American Red Cross blog posts I wrote recently...
Thunder and Frightening

…and a few posts picked up by MomsEveryday, in case you missed them the first time around.
Add Butterflies to the List
Work Hard, Be Kind, and Please, Sweet Boy, Look Out for Your Sister
Yes, That Sound You Hear is Me Screaming

Consider Liking…  
I recently started coordinating a portion of the social media efforts for my local chapter of the American Red Cross. For the time being, I'm tracking down and sorting through local, national, and international Red Cross/Crescent articles and pictures, writing short blurbs to engage readers/viewers, and posting what I find most relevant and interesting on social media. Down the road (as in, when I can find the time), I plan to create a new blog that will focus on Red Cross activities in the Brazos Valley.

If you live in the Bryan-College Station area, are interested in learning more about the Red Cross, and/or want improve your health, safety, and disaster/emergency preparedness, please consider "liking" our local chapter's Facebook page. Help me start expanding our reach!

Happy Thanksgiving week, friends!

Friday, November 21, 2014

High Five for Friday (11.21.14)

1. Mockingjay!!! I saw the movie (for the first time) last night with friends. I will see the movie (for the second time) tonight with Tom. I plan to see the movie (for the third time) over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend with my sis-in-law and whoever else wants to join us. I just can't get enough!

2. I watched my first game of a laser tag last weekend - Will played a round at a friend's birthday party and the staff let Hallie and I hang out in the arena during their epic battle - and now I can't wait to give the game a try myself. (And not just because the whole deal felt very Hunger Games-ish.) Laser tag couples date night? Laser tag family competition? Who's in?

In case you can't tell, that last picture is of Hallie shooting an imaginary bow and arrow Katniss-style.

3. This year we plan celebrate Thanksgiving at home in College Station, and Tom's parents, along with Tom's sister and her new hubby, will join us. I'm pleased to report that as of today I have my Thanksgiving menu solidified and 90% of my Thanksgiving groceries purchased. It feels great to be a little ahead of the game!

4. Tomorrow is my 30-something-th birthday. To celebrate, I'd like to: sleep in, drink coffee, work out, play soccer, write, read, watch football, drink beer, unpack the Christmas decorations, set up the Christmas tree, not cook, watch a movie, eat cake, and eat cake again. If I work really hard, I think I can make it all happen…I'll let you know how it turns out.

5. Happiness Highlights
When we let Tux outside for the first time
he climbed the house. The kids had never
witnessed anything funnier in their lives.
Tux wouldn't join Hallie for a tea party (he wouldn't sit in a
chair) so she set him up with his own "tea" under the table.
Hallie and I CRUSHED her first set of perler beads. 
We had family pictures taken this fall. (Hallie
was a baby the last time we all took pictures
together, so it was about time.) Here are a few I
like, but that I'm not using in our Christmas card.
Hallie especially seems to have inherited
my squinty-even-in-the-shade eyes...
I wish my eyes opened more...
I like this one except for my right hand, which looks
like it got confused about what it was supposed to do.
When Hallie's natural smile appears, I catch
a glimpse of not only her outer beauty, but
also the beauty she carries inside her.
The time has come for me to accept that "cute"
no longer adequately describes my first baby. And
while this makes me sad, seeing what a handsome
boy he's become lifts my heart right back up again. 
And last but not least…
Her face says it all.
Happy Friday, friends!

Linking up with High Five for Friday!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

It's November. Again. And Again. And Again.

November 2011

November 2012

November 2013

November 2014

Slow down, Father Time.

I honestly can't watch the 2011 version of this video without tearing up. I miss that sweet, spicy, pleasantly precocious two-year-old… 

Luckily for me, she still oscillates back and forth between sweet and spicy.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Year Later…Finally Home

Exactly one year ago today a line of severe storms, accompanied by several tornadoes, terrorized the Midwest. One of these storms passed through the town of Washington, Illinois, where my sister, Sara, and her family - husband Jeff, daughter Lily, and son Carter - live and work. Their lives were spared, but they lost their home, their cars, and nearly everything they owned.

The following day I used Chasing Roots to update family members and friends on what had taken place, but also to ask for help. And help you did. From the monetary and in-kind donations to the phone calls, texts, emails, and Facebook messages to the sincerest offers to help in any way… I was - and continue to be - so tremendously humbled by the outpouring of support we received on Sara and Jeff's behalf.

You can read a quick summary and find links to all of the tornado-related posts here.

There is one particular family I want to thank publicly. A family whose members knew Sara and Jeff prior to November 17th, 2013, though not well. A family for whom the possibility of uncomfortable encounters and additional expenses and a dramatic change in lifestyle mattered less than the fact that another family in their community needed help. A family who on November 18th, 2013 - just one day after the tornado stole nearly everything from so many Washington residents - opened their home and welcomed Sara, Jeff, Lily, and Carter into their lives.

Sara, Jeff, and their children lived with Shelley, John, and their children for a full year, until last week when they moved into their new house on their old lot. How can you adequately thank someone for such a generous gift? I suppose the best - and perhaps the only - way is to simply say the words.

So thank you, Shelly, John, Jaclyn, Anna, and Joe. For opening your home and your hearts, for making my family feel like your family, for taking care of them in a way that I could not. I am eternally grateful.

And thank you, for listening and responding and helping pick up the pieces. Because of your help, Sara and Jeff can label this year a good one, despite the challenges endured.

I thought you might like to see Sara and Jeff's new house, built Washington Strong.

Instead of captions, from top to bottom and left to right: front view, living room, kitchen, master bedroom, Carter's bedroom (if you look closely you can see his little hand waving goodnight, Lily and Carter's playroom, dining room, bathroom, Lily's bedroom, close-up of the fireplace.

Home again, home again, jiggity jig.