Wednesday, August 31, 2016

August Agglomeration

As per usual, I still have no official name for this series. Perhaps I should add that to my list of New Year's Resolutions... 

Other than posting here on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and keeping up with my Red Cross social media responsibilities, I took the summer off from writing assignments. Last Tuesday, less than 24 hours after the kids went back to school, I went back to work myself by committing to two exciting magazine articles. I can't link to hard copy articles the way I can link to blog articles, but I'll make sure to post pictures and share where the articles can be found when they come out though!

(Hangs head in shame...) I still haven't finished reading Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock. I continue to read a few pages each night, but when I finally climb into bed around 11pm I just don't have much fuel left in my tank. I have a "books I want to read" list a mile long (including Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Mrs. Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, The Perfect Neighbors and others) though, so I have to get moving!

Did anyone else watch all 19,000 hours of Olympic coverage? No? Just me?

Will and I had the television tuned to an Olympic event every single minute we were at home for 17 days straight. We soaked up hours of our favorites - soccer, gymnastics, swimming, archery, beach volleyball, and the track and field relays - but also enjoyed watching and learning about table tennis, race walking, fencing, and the shot put. We both experienced a bit of a let down when the closing ceremonies marked the end of the games.

Prior to and after the Olympics we took in a few movies. Tom and I watched White House Down, I went to see Bad Moms with friends, and the Tom and I let Will watch...wait for it (he had to)...the original Ghostbusters. He LOVED it, as we expected would be the case.

And now to review these movies for you... Superfans (which I am not) of Channing Tatum and/or Jamie Foxx will enjoy White House Down, while everyone else will either love it or hate it based on how they feel about predictable shoot-'em-up action films. Bad Moms, on the other hand, spoke to me on every level of my being. I laughed, I cried (at least three times and for three completely different reasons), and I felt "heard" as a sometimes often struggling parent. The movie deserves its "R" rating, but it also deserves a tremendous amount of credit for representing nearly every kind of mom and nearly every emotion we as moms feel on a daily basis. Carry on, bad're doing good work.

Listening To
Quiet. Sweet, sweet quiet, interrupted only occasionally by Tux asking to go outside with a little meow. Every fall I am reminded how much I need - if even just every once in a while - a few moments of silence.

In order to make it through his afternoon activities, Will needs to consume a fair amount of protein (among other things) after he gets home from school. When we have plenty of time before soccer practice or disc golf he'll make himself a turkey sandwich or a bowl of oatmeal with almond milk, but on our more rushed days, he doesn't have time for elaborate, sit-down snacks. I started buying Kid Clif Protein bars and so far both kids give them a thumbs up...anyone else like these? Any other suggestions for on-the-go, high-protein snacks for athletic kids?

In August I went to my first Wildtree, LuLaRoe, and Usborne Book parties. I made purchases at each party, and while it's a little early to hand out official grades, I have enjoyed everything I've tried thus far. Wildtree's waffles went over well with all four Ferri, LuLaRoe leggings feel like pajama pants, and Usborne's books filled a few of my Christmas present slots! (Yes, I'm already shopping for Christmas presents. I shop early and often with the goal of wrapping up the process by December 1st.) I'll share more as I find products I like!

I want to buy four of these Perch wall storage systems/units to create an art wall for Hallie in our soon-to-be-redecorated family room, but they're kind of pricey. Has anyone used them before? Yay or nay?

After at least a year - maybe two - of wanting to buy a romper/jumpsuit, I finally pulled the trigger over the summer. I can't wait to wear it out, though perhaps not with one particular friend, who feels fairly certain that no one except toddlers in diapers should wear rompers...

First and foremost, we have been eating Hallie's cakes and cupcakes. My girl has always enjoyed helping me bake, but recently she asked to take on more responsibility in the kitchen. Specifically she wanted to make a marble cake and both chocolate and yellow cupcakes, so a couple of weeks ago I handed her two boxed cake mixes and let her go. I stood nearby, of course, and I handled moving pans in and out of the oven (though she turned the oven on, set the temperature, set the timer, and turned the oven off) and frosting the sides of the cake, but she did everything else herself.
Both kinds of cupcakes and her marble cake were delicious!
On the cooking and baking front, two of my dinner recipes - Skillet Beans & Rice w/ Kielbasa and Crockpot Taco Soup - turned out to be winners. Give them a try this month!

Surprisingly, I don't have any new dessert recipes to share this month. I promise to do better in September!

Happy August, friends!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Few Words Wednesday...Except Not At All

I started writing this post intending to put it up on a Wednesday a few weeks back. Then, as often happens, I wrote a little, then a little more, and finally a lot more. (Such is why I do "Few Words Wednesday" posts, rather than "Wordless Wednesday" posts.)

My parents gave me a stuffed Winnie the Pooh Bear after the three of us survived a major car accident when I was just a month old. I slept with him tucked under my left arm nearly every single night until I graduated from college, and since then I have kept him close by, either in my nightstand or my closet. Winnie the Pooh - the stuffed animal, as well as the fictional character - has always been and will always be a part of me.

As an elementary schooler I told my mom I wanted a Winnie the Pooh tattoo. (I have no idea why or how I came to want a chubby yellow bear permanently etched on my body at such a young age...) She laughed, and explained to me that when I turned 18 I could tattoo myself however I saw fit.

So I did.

As an 18-year-old college freshman I scoped out the tattoo parlors in Iowa City, found an artist who could "draw" the perfect Winnie the Pooh, and paid $125 of hard-earned summer babysitting money for my first (and still only) tattoo.

People used to ask me, "won't you hate it (your tattoo and/or Winnie the Pooh) in 20 years when you're old and it's faded and stretched?

Well, now that point in time has arrived. It's been nearly two decades, and I'm old and my tattoo is faded and stretched after years of basking in the sun in a bikini and then carrying two babies. And much to many people's surprise, I don't hate either my tattoo or Winnie the Pooh, not even a little bit. It's possible I love them both even more than I did 20 years ago.

Silly to some, perhaps, but Winnie the Pooh - both the bear and the stories in which his spirit starred - reminded me of the simple goodness in the world: the unwavering strength of friendship, the widespread impact of kindness, and the uplifting power of gratitude (not to mention a little gentle humor) can all brighten even the darkest days. And I wouldn't trade that daily reminder for anything.

I couldn't choose which Winnie the Pooh/A.A. Milne quote to use for that "Few Words Wednesday" post, so I gathered together (just a few of) my favorites and wrote them a post all their own. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

High Five for Friday (8.26.16)

1. On Friday we celebrated heading back to school with a pool party and lunchtime picnic with friends. We always celebrate the end of the school year, and it felt right to this summer also celebrate moving on to the next academic adventure.

2. On Saturday and in honor of a good friend's birthday, I stomped grapes for the first time at the Messina Hof Winery's Harvest Festival. Walking around in a basin full of food-turned-drink felt a little funny on the feet, but I had wanted to grape stomp for years and enjoyed the experience.

After stomping, we settled at the wine bar to share a bottle or two of wine and a few appetizers. Shortly after we sat down we were greeted by none other than Paul Bonarrigo, the founder of Messina Hof Winery!

3. We survived the kids' first week back to school - 4th and 2nd grades for Will and Hallie, respectively - with only a few bumps and bruises. The early mornings proved most difficult, but the kids and me getting up at 6:45am/6:30am for school is NOTHING compared to all of us getting up at...wait for it...5am for Will's soccer tournament tomorrow morning. Happy new school year!

4. These two bicker - and even fight - a lot, but deep down they really do love each other.

5. Happiness Highlights:
I DO love carbs! And Rebecca, whose birthday we were celebrating!
This little guy's having a rough week, what with all the changes going
down. Luckily he found comfort nestled in with Hallie's high tops.
The playroom is almost completely empty and ready for it's makeover!
I expect the process to take at least a month given our busy schedules,
but I hope to have "after" pics to share by the end of September!
On a related note, I think I FINALLY tracked down
the color of the walls in the playroom. (The previous
owners didn't leave the name or a can of the paint
behind.) It's taken me FIVE years! 

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Happy New(ish) Year!

Last fall I decided, once and for all, to give up on traditional New Year's Resolutions. I don't dislike resolutions in and of themselves, but making resolutions on the first day of a new calendar year - when nothing really changes other than the date I write on my checks - has never felt right to me. We return home after celebrating Christmas with our families and pick up exactly where we left off: same grades in school, same work schedules for Tom and me, same evening activities for all four of us.

But at the end of summer, life changes dramatically. The kids begin new grades, work with new teachers, and make new friends. Tom goes back to teaching after spending the summer working outside of the classroom. I restructure my days to fit in as much work - of both the paid and volunteer varieties - as possible between the hours of 9:30am and 3:00pm. Our evenings become a juggling act, with Tom and I acting as the circus performers and trying desperately not to drop the soccer, dance, music, disc golf, homework, and dinner "balls" we hoist into the air night after night. 

So now I start my new year in late August/early September, when change comes naturally and causes me considerably less stress. And here then, my friends, are my New Year's Resolutions. (Which admittedly look a lot like last years resolutions, partly because I like what I came up with last year and partly because there's always room for improvement.)
  • Step away from work and my computer (unless I need it for a dinner recipe) between the hours of 3:00pm and 8:00pm.
  • Read one book each month.
  • Finish our 45 Places to Eat in College Station Before You Die challenge.
  • Put together (and then follow through on) a month-long photography challenge.
  • Start and finish my "turn our playroom into a family room" project. 
  • Go on one lunch date with Tom each month.
  • Go on one dinner date with Tom each month.

To help me survive the busy semester ahead of us, I decided use - for the first time in years - a paper calendar. I purchased a BEAUTIFUL weekly planner from Emily Ley, and while I absolutely adore its teal leather cover, colorful details, and exquisite paper on which no pen or pencil ever smears, I worry I might struggle with the transition from a computer-based planner to a paper one. I'll keep you posted...

"It's not about living the 'perfect' life. It's about simplifying real life to make time for what matters most."     ~ Emily Ley

That's my last resolution: to simplify real life and make time for what matters most.

Monday, August 22, 2016

2nd and the Beginning of the End

I liked parenting toddlers better than babies, preschoolers better than toddlers, and elementary schoolers better than preschoolers. In a nutshell, raising children has - at least for me - gotten better with each new stage. That said, I have no interest in moving on after elementary school and/or letting Will and Hallie age out of "little kid-hood". I vote to stay right here, where they think of the world as simple and delightful, they hold my hand and kiss my cheek in public, and the majority of their stress and worry and anxiety can be alleviated with a popsicle and an episode of Full House.
Playing in the rain on the last day of summer.
On this, the first day of classes for our incredible school district and in communities across the country, good luck to all of the kiddos starting or heading back to school. To all of the teachers who will guide our children's academic, social, and emotional learning, thank you for giving so much of yourselves to your job. And to all of the parents whose hearts are bursting with love and fear and pride, I feel you. This morning Hallie starts second grade and Will starts fourth grade, otherwise known as the beginning of the end of elementary school. I'm not quite ready for what this milestone year - or those that follow, for that matter - will bring...but I am looking forward to the cup of coffee I'll enjoy in a quiet, bicker-free house this morning.
I use this mug proudly.

Friday, August 19, 2016

High Five for Friday (8.19.16)

1. This boy has had the same haircut for the last six or so years, but this summer he decided he wanted something a little hipper and older. He now looks even hipper - and almost troublingly older - than he looked before...just in time for his last year (GASP!) of elementary school.

2. Last week Tom graduated his first two PhD students as an Assistant Professor and submitted his tenure package to TAMU. Fingers crossed, folks!

3. Speaking of graduation, a friend of mine who moved away a little over a year ago came back to town for her husband to receive his PhD. Our visit lasted only an hour and a half, but at least we had an opportunity to catch up over lunch!

4. Meet the Teacher/Back to School Nights are done! The kids know which teachers they have for fourth and second grade, bags of school supplies have been delivered to classrooms, and my fellow PTO Board members and I have done our best to recruit parents to join us on our quest to make our kiddos' elementary school the best it can be. Here we go!

5. Happiness Highlights:
She may be miserable in this picture (it was 104 degrees
outside and we were sitting through the first half of Will's
soccer practice), but I adore her style. I bet Elsa would have
 been a happier princess it she too had worn high top sneakers.
I couldn't help but laugh out loud when I found Tux - alone and
seemingly defeated - in Hallie's doll stroller. I think he'll enjoy the
peace and quiet that comes with the kids heading back to school.
We bought a new couch for our playroom!
(You know, to replace the pooped and peed on beanbag chair.) 
We also found a coffee table, but we haven't purchased it yet. We're
waiting on the couch to arrive so we can determine - using the only
"measuring" tool we had with us - how they'll work together in the room. 
These two friends are back to passing the time - with homework,
reading, Pokemon, and iPad games - while their little sisters dance.
Speaking of dance, Mini Company started this week! These kiddos were
thrilled to get their new gear, and I must admit...I was a little excited myself.
Last but not least, my Lily
started kindergarten this week! 

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here: