Friday, September 29, 2017

High Five for Friday (9.29.17)

1. We made it through - with flying, glow-in-the-dark colors - our fifth annual Boosterthon Fun Run fundraiser at the kids (now just Hallie's) elementary school. Holding such a large-scale fundraiser and implementing the accompanying character building program this early in the school year comes with a host of challenges, but we believe the benefits, not the least of which is the sense of community that grows out of working toward a common goal, outweigh those challenges. Here's to another rockin' run for our 'ranglers!
Four tired, sweaty, and PROUD third graders after
their run wrapped and the lights came back on. 
Our PTO Board, our fundraising chairs, and Boosterthon's Flyin' Bryan
and Aggie Andrew midway through the day. (Yes, they all have nicknames.)
We both collapsed in an exhausted but happy
heap on the living room floor when we got home.
Oh, and when you leave your phone with Boosterthon's Brandon the Brave, he leaves you a plethora of selfies and entertaining photos.

2. A week late, the kids and I finished watching America's Got Talent. I love that show for the talent, yes, but also because Will and Hallie enjoy it as much as I do and at this stage in the parenting game I truly appreciate any common ground between the three of us.

3. This week, if it could be consolidated into one day for ease of list-making, would be my 10th favorite day of the year.

4. I had my doubts about Will taking up the cello this year, but his career as a music maker has gotten off to a good start. I haven't heard any complaints about practicing and *I think* I can hear improvement!

5. I've felt a little sentimental this week (see: Wednesday's post), so these pics of Will and Hallie brought out all kinds of emotions when they popped up on my Facebook feed. These two will always be my Happiness Highlights.


Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:
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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Few Words Wednesday: This Too is Fleeting

As always, my Few Words Wednesday posts end up nearly as long as every other post I write. I had intended to post only the picture below, but best laid plans... :)

As the parents of a fifth grader and a third grader, Tom and I have reached what I would call "the thick" of parenting. We survived the hazy, sleep-deprived years of infancy, the physically exhausting years of toddlerhood, and the interrogative ("Mama, why is the sky blue? Mama, why can't the cat talk? Mama, why can't I hide in the dryer?") years of preschool. We lived to tell about sleep training, potty training, and learning to read, and we successfully sent two kids off to elementary school, supporting them as they tried a variety of different sports and activities and eventually encouraging them to develop their own individual passions.

And now, in "the thick" of parenting, all of these stages seem to have merged. Tom and I have basically become sleep-deprived, physically exhausted, human Google search engines who juggle school, extracurricular activities, sports, and passion projects, for our kids and for ourselves. We hit the ground running at 3pm (and I start preparing 90 minutes earlier), and don't stop until 8pm when we come together around the kitchen table for dinner and to relax, talk about our days, and try to stump each other with Trivial Pursuit questions.

We have jam-packed schedules and crazy busy lives...and I wouldn't change a thing.

I know many of you find yourselves in a similar place, so let's plan to "air high five" - as we pass one other in the Sonic drive-thru after school - as a sign of solidarity in our commitment to embrace and enjoy "the thick" of parenting. Because like every stage that came before, it won't last forever.

I don't believe in "glorifying busy", so please don't interpret this post as me doing so. I love this crazy life, but I also love having unscheduled downtime at home; we do our best to keep at least one weekday afternoon and one weekend day completely free. We also regularly reevaluate the kids' club memberships, organization involvement, athletic activities, etc. to make sure they are happy and not overwhelmed. This post is simply about appreciating each stage of parenting. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Aggieland is Home.

First, thank you so much for the congratulatory remarks sent to Tom and our family with regard to last Monday's post! Both he and I appreciate your kind words now and your unending support throughout the last six...12...18 years.

Second, I realized during a brief conversation with a friend that in Monday's post I neglected to address a couple of important related details. As a result, today's post comes as something of a follow-up - an opportunity to address two "frequently asked questions".

1. What does tenure mean for Tom's career?

Many people incorrectly understand academic tenure as job security for life. Many also assume that tenure means the work load suddenly decreases and/or that recipients no longer (have to) give 100% on the job.

More accurately, tenure is an indefinite appointment but one that can be terminated for cause or under extraordinary circumstances. The status was created to protect academic freedom and those who choose to research potentially controversial topics: "the common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition". Tenure does not offer job security for life. It does, however, offer a higher level of job security than private sector positions; this advantage was designed to give academic jobs a fighting chance when pitted against private sector jobs with significant financial advantages.

Tom's workload hasn't decreased in the slightest now that his title has changed from Assistant to Associate Professor. In fact, he missed the TAMU tenure reception because he had too much work to accomplish - multiple deadlines to meet - that afternoon.

While I know there exists an occasional professor who commits less of themselves to the job after receiving tenure, from what I have seen firsthand, this rarely occurs. As I wrote last Monday, the men and women who choose academia do so because of a personal commitment to expanding knowledge, advancing science, and developing the next generation of community leaders. That desire to make a difference doesn't just burn out on the day tenure is awarded.

2. What does tenure mean for your family?

When we moved to the Lone Star State at the end of 2010/beginning of 2011, we knew we would stay for at least three years. (Tenure-track professors are reviewed after three years and are at that point either given approval to continue working toward tenure or asked to find another job.) During those first three years we talked about leaving - we even put the beginnings of planning to leave into motion - multiple times. The workload and the pressure of not knowing if he would pass his review put a tremendous amount of stress and pressure on Tom, and I felt the heavy burden of (what seemed to me) my inability to keep our family on track mentally, emotionally, and physically.

When Tom passed his review, we committed to an additional three years. We decided that if he wasn't awarded tenure we could move wherever he found a new job, and if he was awarded tenure, we could consider using that leverage to secure for him a job at a college or university closer to our native Midwest and our families.

Sometimes I think about the many characteristics of Texas I dislike. (Just call me Debby Downer for a minute or two.) As I type this post on the first day of fall, the temperatures outside have climbed into the 90s and we have nearly 100% humidity. I can't stand hot weather and I have a love/hate (but mostly hate) relationship with humidity. On my back porch rests half of a lizard thanks to Tux's most recent "playdate". I despise lizards...as well as all of the critters who live around here, for that matter. This week I spent countless hours trying to figure out how to get my family of four to Northern Wisconsin for Christmas, a process that proved both logistically difficult and financially challenging. I wish we didn't live so far from our families. I could go on, but I won't...because that's not the point of this post. The point of this post, if you haven't yet figured out where I'm going, is that somehow we have created such a magnificent life for ourselves here that I - we - can overlook everything we'd rather do without in favor of embracing everything we have.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that when the time came - when the opportunities to leave arose - we would choose to stay.

A couple of weekends ago Tom and I had the surreal experience of meeting ourselves seven years ago. This young couple with two young children just relocated to Texas from across the country to pursue tenure at TAMU. They said they'd never move to Texas, yet here they are. They say they won't stay, and we get it, because we said the exact same thing more times than I could count. Texas looks, sounds, feels - IS - different from anywhere else either Tom or I have ever lived, in good ways and in ways that don't fit me quite as well...they feel the same way. I couldn't picture a life for us here...they feel the same way. But at some point, we opened our minds just enough to let Aggieland sneak in and leave its mark on our hearts...I hope they someday feel the same way.

So yes, Aggieland is home.
This pic was taken just minutes after we found out Tom would
eventually be awarded tenure. We happened to be dressed in our
Aggie best as we were on our way to watch a TAMU soccer game.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Flashback Friday: Photo Booth Treasure Trove

Disclaimer: this is the first time I've ever transferred videos from Photo Booth to the blog. I may or may not have done this correctly, but the problem is that I can't "check my work" until the post goes live. So if the videos below aren't working quite right, know that I'm working on it right now and I'll have them fixed soon!

I had forgotten all about these videos until last week, when I used my computer to take a picture of my phone. I opened Photo Booth and up they popped, eight or so attempts by the two of us to make it through five-year-old Hallie's favorite song. What a wonderful surprise to see her darling face and hear her sweet voice come alive on my screen.

And if you check out the videos yourself, I'm sure you'll be able to see and here which of us was the weakest link when it comes to building a snowman.
video

video

video

video

video

Happy Flashback Friday, friends!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

WWW: Wednesday Web Wrap-Up

I regularly bookmark entertaining, interesting, eye-opening, and/or feel-good stories and videos, and less regularly I sort through my cache and share my favorites here. I hope the links below help you over hump day!

"Burying the dead is often a difficult and unnecessarily problematic process. How can we do better?" Something interesting to ponder...

Who would have thought an advertisement for Windex could bring out emotion like this?!
Nothing like a good cry on a Wednesday, right? Moms, grab a tissue before you click on this link.

"I just hurt with her."
Quiet compassion speaks volumes when we can't find the words.

Again with the compassion.
Another lesson, this one from a police officer.

I'm on a roll now...
We need more stories like these.

If you build it, they will come. 
A 94-year-old widow built a swimming pool in his backyard, and now spends his afternoons surrounded by a growing community of neighbors and adopted grandchildren.

I hesitated sharing these next two links because I would hate for anyone to misinterpret me doing so as me saying or thinking that husbands and dads don't work hard enough for their families. Because they do. But there is one aspect of family care - the mental load ("the mental load means always having to remember...it's permanent, exhausting, and invisible") - that almost always falls to/on the woman. There are, however, ways the person carrying the brunt of the mental load can improve her/his situation, one of which is getting the topic out in the open...so that's what I'm doing here!
"How moms bear the brunt of the mental load."
"There is a reason moms are always tired."

SNL's "Alexa Silver" sketch makes me think I should opt for this version rather than Amazon's traditional Alexa...

"Think good things, speak kind words, and do good things."
The youngest certified yoga instructor in America.

Just because I find it interesting, Mister Rogers' Cardigans of Many Colors.

I LOVE this mashup: "Can't Help Falling Over the Rainbow". I'm trying to convince Tom to learn it with me...

Baby cows like winter too.

And last but not least, something to think about:

Happy hump day, friends!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Taco - No, Tenured - Tom

For four and a half years Tom - then known as Taco Tom - worked on his Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering at the University of Iowa. For six months he worked as an industrial engineer for John Deere to gain experience in the field. For six and a half years he worked on his Masters and Doctorate Degrees in Cognitive Ergonomics at the University of Michigan. For six and a half years he worked as an Assistant Professor in the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department at Texas A&M University. 

And now, after 18 YEARS, the early mornings, late nights, weekend hours, uncertainty, stress, and at times excruciatingly hard work have finally paid off. As of September 1st, Tom is a tenured Associate Professor. 

During the two months prior to his PhD defense, Tom worked 18+ hour days finishing his dissertation. Every evening, after I finished work and picked up Will and Hallie from preschool/day care, the three of us would drive to Panera, buy Tom dinner, and deliver it to him at his office. As we pulled into the parking lot of the Engineering Building one evening, 18-month-old Hallie asked, "Daddy live here now?"

Yes, she spoke in complete sentences at 18 months old. And once she started talking she never stopped.

I mention this story because many people consider academia a "cush" career. I know I did, before I stood by Tom's side throughout this process. I thought my college professors showed up on campus to teach their classes, handed grading off to their teaching assistants, and then headed home to pick up their kids from school and make dinner for their families.

Ha.

Tom went back to work two days after both Will and Hallie were born. Hallie so saw little of her daddy during his PhD years that she thought he lived at work. Tom missed Will's first six birthdays because of a regularly-occurring and mandatory conference. Many, many times Tom has come home after I have fallen asleep, left for the day before I woke up, or slept through the rest of us heading out the door in the morning because he had been up all night. He missed out on more than he should have because he - we - chose this career path.

Academia is not for the weak, as the path to success is long and treacherous for both the individual who choses it and their family waiting in the wings. Academia is, however, for the passionate. For the hard working. For the long-term planner and big picture dreamer who longs to advance science and bring the next generation along for the ride.

Taco Tom will live on in our memories, but I think we'll start calling him Tenured Tom now. He's earned it.
Taco (or Tailgate) Tom
Tenured Tom

Friday, September 15, 2017

High Five for Friday: 9.15.17

1. After more than four years of using the same dry cleaner, I realized that they offer FREE pick-up and delivery. What a joy to simply put Tom's work shirts and pants out on the front porch on Monday morning and find them clean, pressed, and hanging on the front door on Thursday afternoon!

2. More than a decade ago while putzing around in my mother-in-law's sewing room, she and I came across a variety of scrap fabrics and ribbons as well as a number of old men's neckties. Rather than toss all of these materials, she turned them into a purse for me. I carried it on occasion until I had kids and needed a much larger bag; at that point I packed it away and completely forgot about its existence.

Last weekend while sorting through boxes in the garage I found the purse tucked inside a Halloween costume. I showed it to Hallie, who immediately fell in love and now has a new purse. I think she pulls it off much better than I ever did.

3. Last Friday night the kids and Tom camped in a tent in the back yard. I spent the first part of the evening outside with them - we grilled hotdogs and roasted marshmallows for s'mores - but when the mosquitoes took control of the backyard, they hunkered down in the tent and I went inside for a quiet, peaceful evening watching The West Wing and eating pineapple upside down cake all by myself. Glorious!

Now that I think about it, I believe we actually roasted marshmallows for s'mores first and then grilled hotdogs...who says you can't have dessert first on the weekend?

4. On Sunday afternoon a few friends and I tried a free musical theatre class - for adults - at a local dance studio. We enjoyed it so much that we signed up to to actually take the class throughout the fall semester...this should be interesting!

5. Last but not least... As of this week, both of my children can walk to and from school by themselves! I still walk Hallie to school every day (we have some of our best talks during those 10-minute stretches) and I'll occasionally walk home with her if I've been working up at school. I drive Will to school a couple of days a week because his school is conveniently located on the way to my gym, and I pick him up on our busiest afternoons to give him more time for homework and cello practice. BUT, they now can and will walk home with their friends regularly.

We didn't decide to let them start walking with friends because I don't want to walk to pick them up...I actually really like walking to meet them after school. But the time has come for both - especially Hallie - to gain a bit more independence and confidence, and thus far they've done an incredible job!

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:
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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Texas Bucket List: The Hottest Coolest Time in Texas

Until last month, this video summed up the extent to which Will and Hallie had experienced Schlitterbahn, Texas' iconic family of waterparks.

But now, after nearly seven summers of watching television commercials for and dreaming about visiting "the hottest, coolest time in Texas", our family finally made the trek to New Braunfels - home of the flagship park and original resort - to punch our Texas membership cards.


The many suggestions we received from seasoned Schlitterbahn-ers ahead of time made a huge difference in our preparedness - and therefore our moods - when we entered the park, so thank you to those of you who helped make our day even better! (Yes, the majority of this information can be found online, but little details like "the best parking lots are full by 9:45am so arrive at 9:30am" when the website simply says "the park opens at 10am and parking is available" are game changers.) 

The original section of Schlitterbahn looked and felt nothing like any waterpark I have ever visited. Noah's Ark and Mount Olympus, the two waterparks my family regularly visits in Wisconsin Dells, cover vast expanses of hot, rough concrete. Schlitterbahn, however, rises up out of the rolling hills leading down to the Comal River. Almost every walkway is covered by indoor/outdoor carpeting and shaded by towering trees around which the rides weave. The wave pools, tubing rivers, surfing rides, and coasters utilize surprisingly chilly spring-fed river water that "flows through the park and back into nature each day", and at one point the park's tubing rides actually carry riders down the banks of and into the the river. (I found this feature somewhat nerve-wracking as I fear the animals who may or may not live in Texas' rivers, but the experience itself was simultaneously both exciting and peaceful.) Schlitterbahn feels organic and natural in a way I never expected a water park to feel.


The newer sections of Schlitterbahn look and feel a little more like the waterparks with which I'm familiar, but the rides still utilize water from the Comal River and the tubing rivers traverse the natural terrain.

Because we planned to stay for just one day (many people stay for two days and spend the night in between in the onsite resort or condos), we did our best to cram as much as possible into those eight hours. Twice we paused to reapply sunscreen and quickly devour our snacks, but we otherwise went from ride to ride to ride. With regard to the kids' ages/sizes, we timed this trip PERFECTLY; both had passed the last height requirement so no one had to sit out any rides, and Hallie, who has become a confident swimmer over the last two years, seems to have overcome her fear of (she may have even developed an affection for) thrill rides.

At the end of the day we exited the park a little bumped and bruised (both Tom and I hit our tailbones on the bottom of the tubing rivers more than once and we all suffered minor chafing from the roughly surfaced tubes) and a little sunburned (but only Tom - all three people for whom sun protection was my responsibility came out completely unscathed), but also completely satisfied in knowing we made the most of our adventure.

The best part about crossing Schlitterbahn off my Texas bucket list? Watching as this "dream" of Will and Hallie's came true and lived up to their every expectation. Well done, Schlitterbahn. We'll be back.
I took this one picture, when we got home, to remember the experience.
(I value my phone too much to carry it around at a water park. I couldn't believe
how many people took their phones - not in waterproof cases - on water rides!)

Monday, September 11, 2017

Peace on Earth

"The real differences around the world today are not between Jews and Arabs; Protestants and Catholics; Muslims, Croats, and Serbs. The real differences are between those who embrace peace and those who would destroy it; between those who look to the future and those who cling to the past; between those who open their arms and those who are determined to clench their fists."

~William J. Clinton, 1997

I honestly believe that the truest way for us - as individuals and as a country - to remember and honor those who lost their lives on September 11th is to embrace peace, look to the future, and open our arms.

Friday, September 8, 2017

High Five for Friday: 9.8.17

1. College football season has arrived! The Aggies suffered an embarrassing loss on Sunday night, but on Saturday afternoon our Hawkeyes added one to the win column. I don't follow football - college or professional - as closely as I once did thanks to Saturday soccer games and dance rehearsals, but I love knowing the games are happening and (sometimes) on television should I have the time to watch them.

2. Speaking of dance rehearsals...this little dancer was cast as a battle mouse in Ballet Brazos' 6th annual production of The Nutcracker! Her emotions about the role - as well as a variety of other life events - have ebbed and flowed quite a few times throughout the last week, but I think she has finally landed on both happy about the part and proud of herself, and for that, I am grateful.

3. This little (big?) soccer player joined ball crew at last weekend's Aggie soccer game (they won, 2-0) and earned himself the title of hardest working ball boy around. He may not have taken the field as a player, but watching him hustle and do his absolute best to serve the Aggie players made me proud none-the-less!

4. On Monday I wrote a post about how I send my kids off to school with the words "work hard and be kind" fresh in their minds. Later in the week Hallie's teacher wrote this note in her planner:

My work here is done.

Just kidding. We still have a long way to go, but we're on the right track.

5. Happiness Highlights:
Hallie learned how to do the baby freeze in hip hop, so now
they practice the baby freeze together before they go to bed.
I bought this little step stool for $.50 (?!) at a garage sale. It's
adorable, and I can't wait to figure out where it will live in our house
and then sand and stain the legs and recover the top with new fabric.
Will finished his first intermediate school project!
(I had to walk away when he started gluing those
pictures though...me and my OCD couldn't handle
how little he cared about their positioning.)  
My oven door broke (with a pan of cookies inside),
but I fixed it "all by my big girl self"...using my flowered
screwdriver gifted to me by my mom and Hallie's tools.
These two...I can't even.

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:
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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Monthly Medley: August 2017

Writing
I'm finally back into the swing of things! Well, sort of. I wrapped up a resolutions post for Mama Bear Dares and a restaurant overview post for Texas Living Magazine, and now I'm trying to figure out how I can turn what I know about emergency and disaster preparedness into a helpful online resource for moms. I'll keep you posted!

Reading
This month I finished reading Good as Gone: A Novel of Suspense by Amy Gentry. "After eight long years, an abducted daughter suddenly reappears harboring deep secrets. Her mother wrestles with the ultimate question: do I really know my daughter?" I don't usually select books about kidnapping - no need for my mind to wander to those dark places - but this book came highly recommended by another mother and I could tell just from reading the jacket that this story wouldn't trouble me quite as much as some others. I have heard Good as Gone compared to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, and while I enjoyed losing myself in its mystery, Good as Gone didn't keep me up reading late into the night the way both of the other two novels did. I give it a "B-" grade.

Watching
I generally consider August the least interesting month of the year in terms of both television and movie viewing. Because television networks and movie production companies are focused on their upcoming fall and holiday releases, they show primarily reruns and less-anticipated movies as summer fizzles out. That said, I found great pleasure in watching the Twilight Marathon while Hurricane Harvey kept us indoors, the Harry Potter Marathon over Labor Day weekend, and the delightfully charming The Holiday, all of which I hadn't watched in years.

We continue watch America's Got Talent, and earlier this month I/we voted for our favorites for the first time. When I say "first time",  I don't just mean we voted for an AGT performer for the first time...I mean I voted for a performer of any kind on any show for the first time. I have never before enjoyed reality television, so this has been quite a shift for me!

Last but not least, I have fallen in love with The West Wing. It took a few episodes for me to "attach" to the characters, but now I adore them all and eagerly look forward to spending time with them every night after the kids finally fall asleep.

Listening To
I usually listen to podcasts while I 1) get ready in the morning and 2) go for walks. But because in August I 1) rarely get ready for anything other than going to the gym and 2) don't go outside, I have been falling behind, rather than catching up on, my podcasts. I have a new podcast I plan to start this month though: LeVar Burton Reads. Yes, that LeVar Burton will choose pieces of short fiction and read them to me. And to you, if you'd like. I can't wait!

Other than that, in August I have only listened to Will play "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" on the piano. I love Christmas as much as - if not more than - the next person, but OH MY GOODNESS I appreciated the quiet when he walked out the door on the first day of school.

Trying/Using
Have you tried this toilet bowl scrubber? I won't go into too much detail, but I will go so far as to call it life changing. Get one. Or three.

I upgraded my phone this month and decided that along with the new phone I should also purchase a new case. After years of using a functional but unattractive and uninteresting Otter Box case, I wanted a pretty case that would also protect my phone from the inevitable occasional drop.  I "designed" (as in I chose a few of the specifics of) my case on Casetify, choosing the Classic Grip Case with a flowered back that reminded me a little of bluebonnets.

The case feels much less cumbersome than my Otter Box, and thus far it - thankfully - seems nearly as sturdy...I already dropped my phone once with no problem! (I am not a dropper, EXCEPT when it comes to my phone, which I drop regularly.)

I have no affiliation with Casetify but have thus far enjoyed their product!

Wearing
Our August weather, at least for about a week to 10 days surrounding the hurricane, felt nothing like "August in Texas". Summer returned shortly thereafter, but we had a slight glimpse into the fall ahead during which we actually opened our windows and I wore jeans - JEANS! IN AUGUST! IN TEXAS! - two days in a row.

Eating/Drinking
After months (years?) of trying to experience the atmosphere and food at Rx Pizza, we finally made it there! Two great friends of ours chose it for their birthday dinner, and it delivered on every level. It may not have made it on the list of "45 Places to Eat in College Station Before You Die", but it should have. The brick-oven pizza was as delicious as any I've tried here in the Brazos Valley, and the sides...OH, the sides...are reason enough to dine at Rx Pizza. If you go, try the fresh and fragrant Fried Mozzarella (so much more than typical mozzarella sticks) and the hearty, flavorful Texas Tots.
The girls' end of the table.
The boys' end of the table. Our group
took up more than half of the restaurant.

I haven't tried many new recipes - 50 States of Cookies or otherwise - this month because I try to avoid turning my oven on in August. I made an exception, however, for these cake cups:


Hallie made them once by herself and once with a friend, completely without my help other than putting the pan into and taking the pan out of the oven. They were adorable, and surprisingly tasty!

What's new, good, and/or interesting in your life this month? Please share!

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Message Remains the Same

The first week of school has me feeling sentimental about firsts and lasts, and the political climate in our country has me focusing more than ever on the verbal and behavioral messages I send to my children. This post - which, like last Wednesday's post, is an edited and updated version of something I wrote a few years ago - wraps all of that up in a couple hundred words.

Every morning since Will's first day of kindergarten I have sent him, and then Hallie, out the door with a hug, a kiss, a declaration of love, and a simple request.

"Work hard and be kind."

Throughout the last two weeks, children across the country began a new school year complete with new teachers, friends, expectations, responsibilities, and experiences. I wish for every one of them a year overflowing with academic learning, emotional growth, and opportunities for physical activity, creative expression, laughter, and fun.

I also wish - and hope and pray - that as Will and Hallie (and all of our nation's children) navigate the educational and social paths ahead of them, they remember my simple request. I hope they remember that while grades are important, report card percentages matter less than the hard work that went into them and the learning that occurred along the way. I hope they remember that a victory in the classroom or on the playing field means nothing if others were pushed down in order for them to rise up. And I hope they remember that acceptance, kindness, and love go further than indifference, intolerance, and cruelty.

When they feel discouraged, frustrated, sad, or even angry - which they will undoubtedly feel at some point throughout the school year - I hope they hear my voice in their heads, reminding them that hard work and kindness matter most of all.
Kind of sums up "work
hard" and "be kind", doesn't it?
Besides "I love you", what words of wisdom or support do you share with your spouse, children, family members, and/or roommates as they head out the door and into the world?

Friday, September 1, 2017

High Five for Friday: 9.1.17

Since I threw in a Flashback Friday post in place of a High Five for Friday post last week, today's HF4F posts covers a couple of weeks of high fives. 

1. First and foremost, a Hurricane Harvey update. Though we (our family) experienced backyard and patio flooding and we (our community) experienced a few set-backs in the form of localized flooding, school cancellations, delayed trash pick-up, and indefinitely suspended mail service, we are safe and dry. Those in and around Houston were - are - not so lucky, and for millions of people, the long road to recovery has only just begun.

The devastation is heartbreaking, but the stories of bravery and good will and generosity borne of this tragedy give us all something hopeful and inspiring to which we can cling. One of Mr. Rogers' most famous quotes grew out of his mother's words of wisdom. When he would see scary things on the news, she would say to him, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." Never have I seen more helpers: first responders, second responders, and community partners, but also "average Joes" who simply decide to take a day off work, tow their boats to Houston, launch themselves into the dangerous flood waters, and save some lives.
Speaking of helpers, these two helped us mop up water,
wring out towels, put out new towels, etc. in their elementary
school multiple times over the weekend. Rockin' 'Ranglers!
On a lighter note, I've also seen the "I have a six-pack of beer and I'm going to share it with the meteorologist who's been broadcasting live from inside a hurricane for two days straight" kind of helpers. That's Texas hospitality, folks.


As I mentioned on Monday, I encourage those who would like to help to make a financial or blood donation to the American Red Cross by visiting www.redcross.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS. If the Red Cross is not your preferred disaster relief organization, here are a few options recommended by the NY Times.

2. Second, a massive THANK YOU for your overwhelming support and tremendously kind words in response to my "Dear Abby, From a Changed Mom" post. I feel exponentially better about the entire encounter now, in part because writing about the experience and then sharing it widely allowed me to lessen the heavy weight resting on my shoulders, and in part because you made me feel like my parenting decisions had not been completely crazy and/or damaging to my children. I appreciate you and am both grateful for and humbled by your readership, kinship, and friendship.
This is how Hallie greeted Will at the end of the first day of
school. They may fight - A LOT - but they really do love each
other. I wish I could show that awful woman this picture.
3. Third, a quick overview of the fun we had during the last week of summer vacation. Lots of playdates, a birthday swim party, eclipse watching, three meet-the-teacher nights at elementary school, and "walk the halls" at intermediate school. I also had good meetings with Will's new school's nurse about his allergies and with Hallie's new teachers about her Tourette's. Then we spent our weekend, thanks to Hurricane Harvey, doing considerably less than we had originally planned. Will's soccer game, the soccer club's fundraiser, Hallie's Nutcracker audition, and a birthday dinner were all cancelled or postponed; though we wish it would never have arrived here in Texas at all, Hurricane Harvey offered me an opportunity to catch up at home before we headed back to school.
We couldn't see much of the eclipse because of cloud cover (and
the fact that we live no where near the zone of totality), but the
kids enjoyed making and using their cereal box viewing devices!
These 'Ranglers are ready for another year at The Rock!
Little Bit working on her Growth Mindset.
Ready to rock third grade!
4. Fourth, overall the kids had a good first week of school. Starting a day later than anticipated threw us for a loop initially, but turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Monday afternoons revolve around three dance classes and a soccer practice, but we have absolutely nothing scheduled for Tuesday afternoons; Monday's cancellation meant all those other activities were canceled too, and we could ease into the week with an activity-free Tuesday afternoon. Both kids came home at the end of their first days with huge smiles on their faces and only positive things to say about their schools, classes, teachers, and friends...and then we had time to pop into Spoons for a quick treat.
The "bigs"...off to a new school!
5. And finally, Happiness Highlights:
We took care of sweet Calvin for an entire day while the rest of his
family went to Schlitterbahn. He is literally the most easy-going toddler
on the planet - he didn't cry a single time in 13 hours (for comparison's sake,
Hallie cried five times that day) - but OH MY GOODNESS toddlers are
challenging when you're not used to their energy levels. Luckily we love
Calvin to pieces and loved having him as "our little brother" for the day.
Will has a short attention span as a babysitter...
...while Hallie, on the other hand, took amazing care of Calvin. Watching her
love on, care for, and supervise Calvin made me tremendously proud.
He's SOOOO tolerant of Will and Hallie but he seemed
legitimately relieved when they finally headed off to school.
My niece, Lily. 😍
And my nephew, Carter. Again with the heart eyes...
My grocery store just started offering free fresh fruit for kiddos - I love this!

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:
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