Friday, March 31, 2017

High Five for Friday (3.31.17)

These last few days didn't gift me much "High Five for Friday" material with which to work. Early mornings and late nights. Allergies, viruses, coughs, and sore throats. Tough hurdles, tough losses, and tough lessons. Unexpected expenses, unexpected work, and unexpected conflicts. Frustration. Short tempers.

But because these Friday posts are about finding good no matter what, I'm going to stay the course and give it my best shot.

1. These Sonic drink-inspired cherry limeade cupcakes turned out even cuter than I expected and while I made them for a friend for her birthday, the leftovers helped me and a few other friends survive a challenging Friday night. (I'll share the recipe next week in my Monthly Medley post.)

2. These sweet girls survived ("survive" works as the theme of our week) a long weekend of late night and early morning rehearsals as well as a performance. This might be my favorite picture of them yet.

3. This girl survived (I'm just going to stick with it now) our (at least) six-mile bike trek to and from Spoons. And she only cried for the last two miles of the ride!

4. This boy survived the 4th grade STAAR Writing test. On a normal day this feat wouldn't have been much to write home about (he LOVES tests), but this time around he felt terribly sick. He started off the day with meds in his system, I took him second doses of meds midway through the test, and when I arrived to pick him up as soon as he'd finished, he buried his face in my shoulder and started crying. He desperately wanted to "show up" - both physically and academically - for his teachers and his school, and he did so.

Will hasn't missed a day of school for illness in years, so OF COURSE he would get sick on STAAR test day...

5. And finally, if I survive the day, Tom and I get to spend our evening celebrating a good friend's birthday at a couple's painting party!

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Texas Bucket List: Austin City Limits

My Texas Bucket List began taking shape shortly after we arrived in College Station. At first the list consisted of only a few touristy day trips and experiences (think Six Flags, Sea World, etc.) I'd thought of or heard about prior to our move. But as we made new friends, especially new friends who grew up in Texas, we learned from them about the lesser-known - at least to Midwesterners - but not-to-miss sights and sounds of the Lone Star State.

Each time I cross something off my Texas Bucket List I document it here, both because Chasing Roots serves as my Texas journal and because looking back on these posts and "watching" our love affair, if you will, with our now-home state unfold is a beautiful thing. 

You can see my full - but ever-growing - Texas Bucket List here. Feel free to let me know what I'm missing!

We've taken two- and three-day vacations to both Houston and San Antonio, and while I know visitors can't possibly see and do everything these cities have to offer in such a short period of time, we did our best to fit in as much as our young children would allow us to given their ages and temperaments at the time of each trip. I imagine we will eventually circle back around to these cities to catch more of their tourist destinations and local hotspots, but our Texas Bucket List requires us to hit the rest of Texas' big cities first.

Over spring break, we headed to Austin for a whirlwind tour of just a few of the city's highlights. After stopping in Caldwell for breakfast - kolaches for Tom, Will, and me and a sugar cookie (not a battle we fight while on vacation) for Hallie - we spent a few hours brushing up on our Texas history at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. We enjoyed the many exhibits, artifacts, and galleries and loved the museum's multi-sensory film, Shipwrecked, which tells the true story of the sinking of La Belle, "the ship that changed history".
We took quite a few pics of Will - by himself - with
landmarks, as each one is worth classroom cash at school.  
Hallie's sugar cookie breakfast.
The salvaged hull of La Belle. A small technology company in town for
SXSW had partnered with the museum to demo its augmented reality
project using Microsoft HoloLens, which allowed us to view a high
definition hologram of what the ship would have looked like. 
Will, Hallie, and the massive
Texas star outside the museum.
After the museum we toured the inside of and walked the grounds around the Texas State Capitol. While the exterior architecture and grounds didn't disappoint, the chaos of the workday made it difficult to appreciate the interior architecture and the business taking place; the common areas were crowded, hot, and stuffy and everyone with whom we interacted had woken up on the wrong side of the bed. We didn't stay long.
Outside the Texas State Capitol.
After the Capitol we headed to Mueller Lake Park and Community Night at Austin's children's museum, The Thinkery. The kids enjoyed snow cones, playing on the playground at the park, and visiting all of the museum's exhibits.
My maiden name is Mueller, so we took quite a few pictures with
the Mueller Lake, Mueller Park, and Mueller Town Center signs.
We all found this touch-sensitive light board somewhat hypnotic. 
The kids - Hallie in particular - loved identifying
different kinds of skin cells using microscopes.
We finished out the day with mexican food and an NCAA basketball tournament watching party in our hotel room.

The following day we spent the morning at Zilker Park. We visited the newly restored Park Ranger Station (we happened upon this building and the park ranger on duty eagerly showed us around for close 30 minutes), rode the train, played on the playground, toured the Splash exhibit, and checked out the Barton Springs Pool. We didn't swim because the spring-fed pool was closed for cleaning, but even if it had been open, I don't know that we would have considered the weather warm enough to jump into the 68-degree water. We also hiked to the beautiful Campbell's Hole, where we waded in the stream and Hallie fell in up to her waist and elbows. She responded as one might expect...
The park ranger station, which up until a couple of months ago had
been "walled off" behind a six-foot fence and in dire need of restoration.  
The Barton Hills swimming pool - someday I'll cross
going off that diving board off my Texas Bucket List!
Enjoying the park's "Splash" exhibit.
"Keep Austin Weird", right? This musician
serenaded us as we rode by on the train.
Will wading in the water at Campbell's Hole.
Tom and Hallie wading, right before...
...Hallie fell in up to her waist and elbows.
Tom and the kids hiked up to a small cave along
the trail. I was nursing (and continue to nurse) a
severely pulled hamstring, so I couldn't join them.
We had lunch at a cool food truck park, and then headed downtown to check out South by Southwest. We weren't quite sure what to expect having never attended this conglomeration of festivals and conferences, and we found ourselves surprised at how "rough" a crowd we encountered on a Thursday afternoon. Despite the PG-13 people and language Tom and I saw and heard (nearly all of which went right over Will and Hallie's heads), both Tom and I appreciated the diversity showcased in this kind of environment as well as the opportunity to show our kids that the real world looks quite a bit different than what they regularly encounter in College Station.
Food truck heaven! 
Don't mess with...Will?
6th Street in downtown Austin.
Checking out the Pandora tent at SXSW. 
One of our favorite street musicians.
Our absolute favorite part of SXSW came in the form of a street musician named Charles Rangel. He played tap guitar, and when we passed by him the first time we stayed for 10 minutes and made a donation so we could pick up one of his CDs. Two hours later we circled back around and stayed for another 30 minutes. Other people came and went, but Will and Hallie literally couldn't look away.
He was incredible - check out the video below!
Maybe my favorite pic from the trip...

We wrapped up our 6th Street adventure with frozen yogurt and smoothies from Berry, Hut's famous onion rings (which didn't impress us as we'd hoped), and a late night pizza party back at our hotel.
The kids didn't quite get Berry's sign.
The onion rings from Hut's were mediocre...I wish we'd
been hungry enough at the time to try their hamburgers! 
On our way home we stopped at the Dinosaur Park in Cedar Creek, just a few miles outside of Austin. The kids truly enjoyed the outdoor museum, and I'm so glad we visited now, rather than in even just a couple of years when I imagine Will might have out grown this kind of destination.

Hallie in particular enjoyed acting scared whenever an opportunity presented itself.

And finally, because I know those of you who follow Chasing Roots regularly are wondering...did Hallie take any of her signature "I hate family vacation" photos? Well, 30 minutes into the trip we captured this one:
There were approximately 19 things wrong when I
took this photo: the grass was wet, the sun was bright,
I was taking a picture of Will alone, and we wouldn't
stop at McDonald's for breakfast, to name a few. 
But in a surprising twist, Mr. "I am becoming a tween and therefore am less interested in cooperating and participating" gave us this one:
I kind of love it.
Perhaps the tables have turned...

Monday, March 27, 2017

Dear Tux: Thanks, But No Thanks

Dear Tux,

Thank you so much for the gift you gave me yesterday. I know you put a lot of thought into what you would bring me, as well as where you would leave it in my bedroom. I also know you worked hard to procure said gift, and for that, I am grateful.

You really don't have to bring me gifts though. I already love you, so there's no need to impress me. And since my mom feeds me, there's no need for you to do the same.

I feel like I should add - just so you know for the future - that in the human world, eight-inch skinks are not considered as generous a gift as they are in the cat world. Skinks actually scare me, especially when I find them on the floor at the foot of my bed. The rest of my family was pretty scared too, but you probably figured that out from the screams...especially those coming from my dad, who was understandably a little freaked out when the skink escaped his hands and started crawling up his arm.

In summary, thanks, but no thanks. If you promise not to bring me anymore gifts, I promise to always let you sleep snuggled up with me or nestled in my Beyblade Stadium.



In short, this guy:

Brought this guy:

This guy:

It was a rough morning for all of us, especially Tux, who upon realizing that his gift had been thrown out into the yard, sat by the front door and refused to make eye contact with me while I tried to take his picture.

Speaking of eye contact, I wasn't able to look directly at the computer screen while typing this post, as the sight of that salamander made me sick to my stomach. I hope everything ended up looking alright!

Friday, March 24, 2017

High Five for Friday (3.24.17)

1. On the Friday before spring break, the kids' elementary school hosted a "Celebrate Texas" enrichment day complete with cowboys, cowgirls (the Catalina Cowgirls, to be exact), and horses. Talk about a great way to ease into a vacation from school!

2. Speaking of, we had a wonderful spring break. Two birthday parties, three playdates, a mom and kids coffee date, a visit from an old friend, a two-day vacation, LOTS of yard work, Beauty and the Beast, and a bit of unscheduled downtime. I wish we'd had another week to keep the rest, relaxation, and fun going!
Rockin' and rollin' at a Stutters-led dancing birthday party.
Visiting the Bullock Texas State History Museum.
Riding the train in Austin's Zilker Park.
Our new Meyer lemon tree. 😍
3. Hallie and I put out/up our Easter decorations, so the house and yard feel festive and ready for spring!

4. When looking through old pictures, I came across one that highlighted how similar Will's second grade teeth looked to Hallie's second grade teeth...which are currently coming in in an "interesting" - and somewhat orthodontically challenged - arrangement. Will's teeth gradually looked less concerning over time, so this comparison gives me hope that Hallie's will also look less concerning throughout the next year or two.

5. Happiness Highlights:
This lovely young woman began volunteering for me (in my
position as Director of Volunteer Resources) as a middle schooler.
12+ years later, she has risen through the ranks of the American Red
Cross and last week received the Everyday Heroes Volunteer
Leadership Award. I couldn't be prouder of you, Aparna!
My mom found this picture of me dressed
in a bunny costume...just in time for Easter!
This little buddy didn't pee on ANYTHING
while we were gone on our short vacation! 
This fashionista and I rode our bikes all the way to the
library and the donut shop on Sunday. She was delightful
company, reminding me how much I enjoy spending time
with her...especially when I have her all to myself. 
This is what our "first day back to school after spring break" looked
like. As I hugged Will goodbye at the crossing guard, I glanced down
and discovered he was wearing two different shoes. We all had a good
laugh, and he went about his day...I wish I could be that easy-going! 
After nearly a month, I was reunited with my seatbelt cover/neck
shield. I accidentally left it in my old car when we traded it in, and on
Saturday I finally picked it up from the dealer. My neck is so happy!

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here: