Friday, May 29, 2015

High Five for Friday (5.29.15)

I'm still down a finger, so I really am going to keep it shorter and sweeter this week. You wouldn't believe how much editing is required when your middle finger has to cover for your index finger on the keyboard!

1. This girl lost her second tooth.

2. She also rocked her kindergarten program.

This year our elementary school switched from a graduation ceremony to an end-of-the-year music program, and I was thrilled with the change. I shared my thoughts on kindergarten graduations two years ago, around the time Will donned a cap and clomped across the stage to the beat of Pomp and Circumstance. My position on these milestone ceremonies hasn't changed since then; if anything, I feel ever better about my stance after watching Hallie's fun, upbeat, joy-filled program and comparing it to Will's rather solemn graduation at which few of the children had any idea what was going on.

3. It didn't rain on Rockin' Fun and Field Day!

As you've probably seen or heard on the news, Texas is a wet mess right now. Mother Nature gave our kiddos just enough of a break to get outside for tug of war and the 50-yard dash.

4. Memorial Day started with donuts, included a great workout, lunch at the movie theater where we saw Tomrrowland (fantastic film for kids and adults alike - I definitely recommend it), and an afternoon of playing in the backyard, and then ended with cooking dinner on the grill and eating on the covered patio while the rain fell around us. (Nevermind the tornado warning…)

And yes, we paused at 3pm.

5. And then today…today is the last day of school. Bring on summer!

Happy Friday, friends!

Linking up with High Five for Friday!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Not Wanted, Dead or Alive

Well, I finally did it. I held a lizard in the palm of my hand.

I'm getting ahead of myself though - let's back up and start at the beginning.

On Friday afternoon I pulled a load of laundry out of the dryer and carried it into the living room. I plopped down on the couch, turned on The Ellen Show, and began folding. Midway through the basket, I noticed a grayish-brown long, slender, and somewhat misshapen object resting on a pair of Will's shorts. Assuming it was a stick or an action figure accessory - which made sense, given its proximity to Will's shorts pocket - I picked it up. In my hand it felt more fragile than a stick and crustier than a miniature sword, so I turned on the lamp next to me to get a closer look.

Imagine my shock - terror, really - when I realized that in my palm I held a thoroughly dried and positively dead lizard.

I screamed, and hurled the lizard across the room. He didn't stay across the room though - he bounced off the ottoman and came right back at me, landing just a few feet away from my laundry folding station. I couldn't bear to pick him up a second time, so I bribed Hallie to cover him with a paper towel. He remained under his paper towel blanket until Tom came home.

There are so many questions here. If the lizard went through the dryer, did he climb into the dryer on his own or did he go through the washing machine first? And if he went through the washing machine first, did he climb in on his own or did he get carried there in a pile of clothes? And if he was carried there in a pile of clothes - dead or ALIVE - did I carry him there?! 

It was, and continues to be, just a little too much for me to handle on a Friday afternoon.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tuesdays With Tux (5.26.15)

Will, Hallie, and Tom have recently become infatuated with the Pokemon Trading Card Game. I haven't yet learned to play (I find I can get loads of writing done once they begin and eventually become engrossed in an epic Pokemon battle) and therefore know very little about the game, but I feel fairly certain it's meant to be played between two to four people, and not between one person and a cat.

Tom poked his head in on Will one night last week and found what looked an awful lot like Will vs. Tux in a game of Pokemon…I certainly hope Will won!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Pause to Remember

On Saturday afternoon, I sat down with Will and Hallie to talk about Memorial Day.

"Do you remember why we celebrate Memorial Day?", I asked.

Hallie: "What's Memorial Day?"

Apparently last year's lesson went in one ear and out the other.

Will: "To celebrate our army? Hearts for Heroes?"

Closer, yet still a little off. And what is Hearts for Heroes?

Because so many Americans (close to 80%, according to the National World War II Museum and including my children) don't know the true meaning of Memorial Day, in December of 2000 Congress established the National Moment of Remembrance. Americans are asked to pause for one minute at 3pm to remember those who lost their lives and honor their sacrifice on behalf of our country.

As we contemplate the comforts and blessings of our lives and the well-being of our nation, I ask you to pause just for a moment to remember those who gave their lives to protect the values that give meaning to our lives.    ~ President William J. Clinton

Memorial Day often ends up looking kind of like a "regular" Monday in our house. The kids don't have school, but because Tom almost always still works, we don't travel or get together with friends. I spend a little time, usually over dinner, talking with the kids about what makes that particular day special, but it seems clear, given their answers to my basic Memorial Day question last Saturday, that past years' conversations haven't made much of an impact. Perhaps a moment of action - or a momentary break in the action, depending on what we're up to - will help Will and Hallie remember the meaning of the holiday and all of us honor those who courageously and selflessly made sacrifices in the name of the American Dream.

Won't you join us?

Friday, May 22, 2015

High Five for Friday (5.22.15)

I nearly sliced off the end of my (right hand index, OF COURSE) finger this week, so because typing takes about twice as long as it did pre-cut and hurts, you'll find fewer words than usual in today's post. I promise to return to making short stories long as soon as possible!

1. After a stressful dress rehearsal and an epic meltdown just hours before Hallie's first recital last year, this year's recital was a relative walk in the park. I now know how to whip up a beautiful and secure bun, the trick to applying mascara to blinky six-year-old eyelashes, and exactly how long it takes to transition my girl from beauty base zero to recital ready.

When my sweet girl took the stage, she flashed her perma-grin (Hallie's stage smile is worth a million bucks) and danced her heart out.

"I like to dance, but I LOVE the stage". And the stage loves her back.

2. After a many-year hiatus, the 4th Grade Variety Show returned to my kids' elementary school this week. Two friends of mine and I volunteered to organize this event, not because we have 4th graders (none of us do, actually), but because we believed the experience would have value for all students - from performers to backstage helpers to audience members - during their elementary school years. We spent MANY hours watching auditions; helping kids practice their singing, dancing, gymnastics, comedy, mime, recorder, and violin acts; searching for, downloading, and cutting music; mapping out the order of acts, microphone adjustments, set changes, and curtain calls; and just plain wrangling more than 40 4th graders. But in the end, every minute and every ounce of hard work was worth it.

I won't have a 4th grader next year either, but you can bet I'll return to do it all again.

3. My master bathroom is almost finished! The professionals still need to take care of a few grout touch-ups, a small hole they accidentally made in my wall, and installing the shower glass. We I still need to give everything a good cleaning; touch up paint the cabinets, walls, and trim; wash and rehang the blinds and curtains; rehang the artwork; and finally put our toiletries, towels, etc. back where they belong. Here's a little sneak peak - I promise to post more pictures once everything is complete!

4. Make these cupcakes today. Right now. I made them last week (and forgot to high five about them), a batch for our final PTO meeting and a second batch for our final dance rehearsal. I bake A LOT, so over the years I've tried quite a few different cupcake recipes…these are my favorite.

5. I hadn't planned on posting Happiness Highlights anymore, but here I am, about to do it again. It was a busy week, but a happy one too.
I found - after temporarily misplacing - the apology note Lily wrote
after refusing to hug Hallie goodbye the last morning of their visit. Yes,
the words zigzag a little, and the "s" has been replaced by a "z", but Lily
is still a full 15 months away from starting kindergarten. Smart girl!
Tom's kind of into memes right now. 
He's also into assembling beautiful and delicious appetizers for me.
These boys. Mine on the left, a friend's on the right.
It makes sense that Will loves spending time with Grayson - he's
one of the sweetest, kindest, most respectful 4th graders I've ever
met. Will couldn't have picked a better "big kid" role model.
"You get what you get and you don't pitch a fit."
I'm glad to see Hallie was listening after all.
Will modeled his black bear habitat after the Lincoln Lodge,
where we regularly see our "pet" black bear, Black Smokey.
 Two sweet friends at their little sisters' dance recital. Afterwards he
gave her flowers because he couldn't attend her recital the following day.
Happy Friday, friends!

Linking up with High Five for Friday!

This post turned out to be just as long as every other HFFF post - I guess short and sweet just isn't my style. Signing off to go ice my finger...

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

An Office Romance

I do the majority of my writing during the school day, alone in my quiet house or surrounded by others toiling away on their own projects in coffee shops. I accomplish very little once the kids arrive home from school; we spend many of our afternoons hustling from one activity to the next, and when we do stay home, my productivity, at least as far as writing is concerned, is poor at best thanks to the cooking and cleaning and laundry and homework and mediation services I provide.

Once school lets out for the summer, my overall productivity level, again with regard to writing, drops dramatically. Between swimming lessons and dance camps and picnics and soccer games and playdates and later bedtimes, the amount of time available for writing is minimal. I fit in between 45 and 60 minutes a day…maybe 75 minutes on a rare, the-kids-are-exhausted-and-fell-asleep-on-the-floor-of-their-rooms kind of day. And when quantity strikes out, quality had better step up to the plate.

When I figuratively flipped from April to May on my virtual calendar, I started thinking about how I can make what little writing time I have during the summer months more productive. I want to use the hour or so I plan to spend locked in my office efficiently, but I would also like for those 60 minutes to feel like a peaceful, relaxing, enjoyable respite. After all, the "good stuff" just doesn't flow when I feel stressed. (Have you ever tried to write about tornado preparedness while someone-who-shall-remain-nameless pounds on the office door begging for a staple gun, strawberry frosting, and the cat's hairbrush? I have, and let me tell you, it's not easy.)

My strategy is twofold. First, I plan to approach writing the same way I approach exercise. At the beginning of each week I figure out when, where, and how daily exercise will fit into my schedule and add it to the calendar. My preference is to take a class at the gym or use the gym's cardio and/or weight equipment, but there are times when my schedule only allows for a short walk or run outside or an exercise DVD in my living room. But whatever the case, and no matter how busy my weekday, I find that time for me, for my physical and mental wellbeing. I need to guard my writing time the same way I guard my exercise time, so I plan spend a few minutes each Sunday afternoon adding blocks for writing to my calendar for the week.

Second, I need to make my writing space - our home office - more inspirational, motivational, and comfortable. (If given a choice, I prefer to work on the living room couch. But with kiddos in the house that just doesn't work.) Here's what I've accomplished so far:

I cleaned off and dusted the desk and shelves and then put back only what I needed in a more organized fashion.

I added a few fun accessories - a soy wax candle, a vintage pencil/pen holder (it may have once been a planter or a candle holder), a single flower (that I took from one of the bouquets given to Hallie after her dance recital - don't tell), and my "hey y'all" pillow - to make the room feel more cozy and comfortable.

And then to make the office feel like home, I added a little photo my kiddos peeking out at me from behind my paperwork, my Texas "LOVE" painting, the two beautiful paintings of our homes that my parents gave Tom and me for Christmas. 

What better place to write about the ups and downs of life than a space that tells my story? I love it.

My office to-do list still includes a little touch-up painting (I can't focus if when I look around the room I see unfinished projects), possibly purchasing a new desk chair, and creating a "do not disturb - Mama's working" sign for the door.

Ha. As if a sign like that will actually keep my kiddos from barging in, unannounced and uninvited, on my office relationship.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tuesdays With Tux (5.19.15)

For Tux, sleeping with Will at night has gradually turned into protecting Will at night.

I have always peeked in on the kids before heading to bed myself, and since Tux's arrival I have found him and Will cuddled up and snoozing soundly during these nightly checks. Recently, however, I started finding Tux wide away and seemingly keeping watch - for what, we have no idea - over a soundly sleeping Will. For whatever reason, Tux seems suspicious of my need to kiss Will's cheek before turning in, and he lets me know it by watching my every move with his big yellow eyes and even batting me away from Will if he's in a particularly feisty mood.  

These pictures were all taken on different nights throughout the last three weeks. In every single one Tux is shooting me his "this is MY boy. I'm watching you…" look.

Then last week I walked into Will's room - while Will was at school - to gather laundry. I found this little watchdog valiantly defending his boy's room and bed, so I opted to leave and come back later for the sheets rather than move him and create an enemy for life.

It's nice to know these two have each others backs. On the other hand, it sure would be nice to be able to go into Will's room and kiss him goodnight without fear of attack...