Monday, April 30, 2018

Monthly Medley: April 2018

This month I finished and submitted two holiday-themed articles for Texas Living, and even though Christmas is still eight months away, all that writing about twinkling lights and evergreen trees and photos with Santa has me itching to sing along to my favorite Christmas music...

Next up I'm tackling a few pieces about museums in our region, as well as a Mama Bear self care post about easy but effective essential oil recipes.

I started - and quickly finished, because I couldn't put it down - The Couple Next Door. I can't say much about the plot, characters, or ending without giving away important details, so I'll leave it at this: if you like mysteries, suspense, and twists and turns that keep you on your toes until the very last page, this book is for you.

Our library is under construction in the most frustrating way - the inside, outside, parking lot, and drive-thru book return are all affected and the entire building closes unexpectedly - so we haven't checked out any new books in about six weeks. Hallie and I tried to go last week, both to return our last round of books and check out new books, but the building was once again closed unexpectedly...we're getting desperate!

In April we caught a couple of episodes of the Netflix docuseries 72 Cutest Animals and Nature's Weirdest Events. Neither were particularly riveting so I don't think we'll be back for future episodes, but we awwed at a few cute baby animals and ewwed at a few disgusting animals. Hallie lost interest midway through watching tiny crabs overrun a village and ended up getting carried to bed when the episode finished.

Beyond that, I haven't had the opportunity to watch anything new - large or small screen - this month. I'm looking forward to the slower days and more relaxed evenings of summer for a plethora of reasons, one of which is once again having the time to snuggle up on the couch and watch movies with my family.

Listening To
Concert/recital season has arrived, so when the kids are home I find myself listening to either cello concert pieces or dance recital music. When the kids aren't home, I listen to silence on good days and the construction occurring at one of our neighbor's houses (which has been going on for nearly six months) on bad days. I don't understand how construction crews can build an entire house in a couple of months but they can't finish renovations on the home across from us in half a year...

On a related note, Will taught himself the songs from The Greatest Showman on the cello. I love listening to him figure out the music on his own and then play along while we watch the movie (for the fifth or sixth time).

I've mentioned previously how much I enjoy the Mama Bear Dares podcast, and today I wanted to share with you a few episodes I found particularly insightful, informative, and interesting. When you have the time (each episode lasts more than an hour), check out #159: Parenting Teens, #150: Mama Bears & Money Management, #147: Screen Time, and #140: Love & Chores.

My kids like to sleep with sleep masks on, because they also like to fall asleep with the lights on. I find this ridiculous (and I of course turn off the lights as soon as they've dozed off), but thanks to Grandma they're sleeping well in their adorable and surprisingly high quality sleep masks.
Asleep sitting up and with the lights on.
Here's a link to Hallie's. (I can't find the link to Will's right now - I'll share later.)

Also thanks to Grandma, I have a brand new set of the most fun coasters EVER.

When stacked together those little green circles create an adorable cactus, but they also come apart to be used as coasters. When the meal is finished, the coasters can be reassembled as a different cactus. Need your own set? Here's the link!

So I'm not wearing these pants, but Hallie is and she's loving them. Cat & Jack at Target sells them in black, navy, and army green and they're comfortable, cute, washable, and dry-able. Hallie has reached a difficult age to dress... She still adores frilly dresses and ruffly leggings, but she also likes wearing athletic clothes that make participating in PE, playing at recess, and cruising the track during runners club easier. She's also only about a year away from leaving elementary school and moving up to intermediate school, at which point I imagine her clothing choices will change slightly. And because she doesn't grow quickly, I don't want to buy lots of frilly dresses and ruffly leggings now that she won't outgrow before she doesn't want to wear them anymore. Long story short, these pants are a perfect solution to this clothing dilemma.
This is how she chose to pose when I
told her a needed a picture of her pants.
And now, if you'll excuse me, I'll be crying in the corner about how my baby is just a year away from finishing elementary school and (probably) bidding farewell to frilly dresses and ruffly leggings.

For years I have worn Mizuno athletic shoes exclusively. They cost too much, however, so I only buy them when they come up on Zulily. Unfortunately, Mizuno hasn't appeared on Zulily in months and my current pair has holes in them, so I had to cave and buy a pair of non-Mizunos. I picked out these Adidas running shoes - I wore Adidas all the time as a high school soccer player, so the brand isn't completely foreign to me - at DSW and while I'm still wearing them around my house with the tags on, I think they're going to be a good fit. And they're cute!

As Hallie's birthday month, April's cooking and baking centered around Hallie's favorites foods and birthday treats. And since Hallie doesn't particularly enjoy trying new things in the kitchen, we ate quite a few of her staples: chili; spaghetti; bun-less hamburgers, hot dogs, and brats; bacon; potatoes; asparagus; broccoli; cauliflower; red apples; popcorn; powdered sugar donuts; raisin toast; chocolate cupcakes; and strawberry cake.

  • Hallie and I tried a couple new recipes this month, including The Pioneer Woman's Monkey Muffins which were, of course, as delicious as one might expect. They're best within the first hour or so after baking though, so plan to make them right before you want to eat them.
  • Last week I mentioned in a post that I'm working on a recipe for soft Italian loaf bread. I have my fingers crossed that by next month I'll be able to share said recipe!

Feeling Good About

What's new in your world this month?

Friday, April 27, 2018

High Five for Friday (4.27.18)

Our roof, as well as a few window screens and gutters, suffered hail damage following a recent storm. We had a number of roofing companies offer us a free inspection, but we eventually chose Mill Creek Roofing for our inspection and roof replacement and could not have been happier with our choice. They managed to tackle our substantial roof in one long day, and while that day was messy and chaotic, they did an incredible job on the roof and when they finally left for the night our yard and driveway showed almost no signs they had ever set foot on our property. High five for great service from a fantastic local business!
I have no affiliation with Mill Creek Roofing
other than being a happy paying customer.

On a related note, our new gutters look amazing and the exterior sides of our windows - which Tom and I scrubbed and sprayed while our screens were off getting repaired - are as sparkly clean as they have ever been.
Getting old = getting excited about
roofs and gutters and screens. 😂

Tom's parents drove down from Nebraska to visit us last weekend. Their time in College Station was brief, but we managed to fit in one of Will's soccer practices, school lunch with Hallie, a soccer game, Mini Company auditions, a farewell wave to Barbara, movie night, BBQ takeout, and church on Sunday morning. (And after Will ate something bad for breakfast and projectile vomited in the hallway at school on Friday morning, he got to come home and spend a bonus day hanging out with Grandma and Grandpa.) High five for visits with family two weeks in a row!

My dancing girl auditioned and was once again selected for her studio's Mini Company. I admit there are times when dance classes and company membership give me pause (not dance as a form of exercise or artistic expression for Hallie, but the politics, cost, and stress that accompany the activity and that fall on me), but we keep coming back because she loves to dance and I love to watch her.

Happiness Highlights:
The Tiger Twins in this week's matching outfit.
Their shirts read, "Let's be friends forever." 😍 
Remember when Will had no idea how to wash a pan? Last week
I found this Mothers Day card he gave me a few years came
with a dish scrubber, which I have now gifted back to him. 😂 
Important messages about life, love, and chapstick
are communicated via the felt board in Hallie's room.
Tom's parents surprised me with a block my favorite was an incredibly delicious surprise. 
Saturday night fun!
I'm working on nailing down a soft Italian bread loaf recipe, and while
this version still needs a couple of tweaks, it was must have been pretty
darn good because it completely disappeared in about three hours.

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Pearls for Barbara

On Saturday afternoon the scheduling stars aligned. We quickly loaded into the car - Tom, Will, Hallie, Tom's parents, and me - and drove a mile down the road to where the main thoroughfare of our neighborhood meets the highway. We parked in the parking lot of a closed bank, walked through the overgrown grasses on the side of the feeder until we had a decent vantage point, and then waited in the drizzling rain for Barbara.

Hundreds lined that section of the highway, as well as the 100-mile stretch between Houston and College Station. Thousands more - including 700 members of the TAMU Corps of Cadets - lined the streets leading into town and closer to campus. Along the way, signs thanked her for her service, flags flew proudly in the wind, and grateful men, women, and children stood.

"Not to be maudlin, but do you know where your resting place will be?"

"You bet! And I'd be glad to show it to you."

"Where is it?"

"It's at College Station. It's the prettiest place you ever saw."

On Saturday, former First Lady Barbara Bush was laid to rest on the grounds of the Bush Library and Museum on the campus of Texas A&M University.

She was a strong woman, one who loved her country, her family, and the opportunity she was given to serve the public as an advocate for universal literacy. As residents of College Station - and citizens of these United States of America - we were proud to show our respect as she took her final ride through the great state of Texas.

This is a powerful video taken from inside one of the police cars that led the motorcade through College Station.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Texas Bucket List: Harris County War Memorial

Sometimes I add tasks to my to-do list after I've completed them just so I can cross them off. And sometimes I add experiences to my Texas bucket list after I've had them, again, just so I can cross them off. I like to feel accomplished, friends.

Because of heavy rains, Will's soccer league relocated one of his games to a park we had never visited before. My GPS told me to expect a 90-minute drive so I added 30 minutes to that time frame when planning our trip, but surprisingly light traffic put us at our destination about 45 minutes before Will had to suit up.

Turns out the field on which Will would play shared park space with the Harris County War Memorial, an ongoing tribute to the Harris County residents who died serving their country during WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the first Persian Gulf War, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom. Though we all felt moved by the memorial and those it honored, the experience impacted Hallie in particular; just as she asked me to read aloud to her the names of everyone who perished at the Alamo so she "would know at least one thing about them", she took her time wandering through the granite walls and columns, reading names and acknowledging the human beings those names represent.

When we finished touring the memorial area, Hallie and I dropped Will at his field to warm up and began exploring the rest of the park. Though it doesn't exactly make sense, the park was also home to a number of animals - goats, pigs, and at least one emu - and an aviary that housed hawks, falcons, owls, parrots, macaws, and a turkey who seemed particularly and oddly entranced by Hallie.

Both Hallie and I talk to animals and have a specific voice we use when doing so, and we were thrilled to discover that when we spoke to the macaw, he replied.

I never would have planned a trip to the Harris County War Memorial, however now that I've been there, I would encourage others - if in the neighborhood - to pop in. A short history lesson, an opportunity to posthumously acknowledge hundreds who served our country, a friendly goat, and a chatty macaw make for a sweet stop.

Friday, April 20, 2018

High Five for Friday (4.20.18)

Y'all, this parenting thing is not for the faint of heart. I have incredible children, but that doesn't make dealing with my failings as a mother - and the challenges that come with trying to help Will and Hallie make their way in the world - any easier. These High Five for Friday posts really do make a difference for me in that they motivate me to find the good in every week. Thanks for stopping by and giving me a reason to keep it up.

On Friday night Tom made it back from a trip for work just in time to take his girl to the annual Daddy Daughter Dance. They had to make a pit stop at Tom's department's spring banquet so he could receive an award, but then they spent the rest of the evening dancing, taking pictures, crafting, and eating ice cream and candy.

While the daddies and daughters played, the moms and sons got together. It's funny to me how, in our group of friends, the girls are almost all fairly close together in age but the boys span a full decade. Luckily the boys still get along and can find ways to play together despite the many years that separate them.
4yo, 2yo, 11yo, 7yo

We survived dance picture weekend! (If you have ever danced or are the parent of a dancer, you know what a huge high five this is...)

We had a great visit with my parents last week, and this week we get to spend time with Tom's parents. They arrived yesterday evening and are ready to rock and roll through this crazy weekend with us!

Happiness Highlights:
The "tiger twins" wore their hip hop dance
costumes to school on Animal Enrichment Day.
I love this pic of them - they look so natural and
happy. (She's on her way to the dance, which is
why she looks nice and he looks...not as nice.)
Dancing to The Greatest Showman.

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Real Life

I had to pause to insert a "glimpse into real life" this week...

A couple of weeks ago I shared a post called Adulting 201. It focused on my attempts to train Will and Hallie in the ways of the world so that when they move out of my house in a decade or two, they won't need an Adulting School to teach them how to survive on their own. Positive responses - comments and even compliments - came rolling in, and I felt downright giddy about my parenting skills.

But as is always the case when it comes to parenting - and life in general, for that matter - that state of euphoria lasted only a few hours.

Will decided he would make himself breakfast, and while he did well cooking his eggs, when he finished eating he left the kitchen and abandoned the dirty pan on the stove. I called him back and asked him to take care of his mess, as cooking, after all, is more than just getting the meal to the table. Will looked at the pan, looked at me, and then said - yes, he actually said this - "what am I supposed to do with it?"

I hid my exasperation as I reminded Will that he needed to wash the pan and showed him (for the umpteenth time) where we keep all of the materials needed to accomplish this task. I left the kitchen and returned a few minutes later to find the lightly-scrubbed-but-still-dirty pan sitting in the dish drainer. I called Will back to the sink for a second time, pointing out that the pan needed a little additional elbow grease. He then lost his temper, animatedly exclaiming that the pan wasn't cleanable and angrily accusing me of being completely unreasonable in my request for him to continue working on it. We went back and forth two or three times, at which I also lost my temper and sent Will to his room so we could both cool off.

Clearly there is still work to be done.

In other real life news, below is a picture of me talking Hallie down off a ledge during her own birthday party. "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to" doesn't even begin to describe that day; birthday party or not, my girl was not having her best day and she wasn't afraid to let her grumpy flag fly.

As any regular follower of my blogs knows, I love capturing the downs along with the ups. Real life is melting down at your own birthday party. Real life is confidently frying eggs but falling apart when asked to wash the pan. Real life is happy and sad, uplifting and aggravating, messy and dramatic. Real life is two steps forward, one step back.

A friend saw this picture and apologized, "I'm so sorry you had to deal with this during Hallie's party!" I saw this picture and exclaimed, "Thank you so much for capturing this moment!"

Welcome to real life. It sucks. You're gonna love it.

10 points to the first person to identify where this slightly edited quote comes from... 😉

Monday, April 16, 2018

April Showers Bring...Resolutions Success?

If you recall, this year I began tackling my New Year's Resolutions in September. I also decided to choose one resolution each month, rather than choosing one or two resolutions to attempt - and at which to most likely fail - over the course of the year. With only 30 days devoted to each resolution, my goals have been and will continue to be small, measureable, and empowering. Smaller goals are more attainable, which increases the chance of success. Measureable goals are more manageable, which once again increases the chance of success. And empowering goals are more inspirational, which…you guessed it…increases the chance of success.

April's Resolution: don't use my phone - specifically email, Facebook, or Instagram - to wake up in the morning. Like many people, my phone does double duty as my alarm clock. Also like many people, after my alarm goes off, I pick up my phone and pop onto social media to find out what went down since 11pm the night before. The funny thing about this routine is that I couldn't care less about social media's overnight report; I only check my phone because doing so keeps me from dozing back off. So this month I resolve to just GET UP when my alarm goes off, and to check my phone only for text messages that have to do with getting the kids to school in the morning. I'm looking forward to making this change!

March's Resolution: participate in some form of activism every day. I had reached the end of my rope with regard to a number of political and social issues, and felt the time had come for me act. In the past I had become so overwhelmed when I thought about making a difference that I ended up doing nothing, so I decided to start small, believing that the small things would eventually add up to make a significant impact. This mentality is exactly what drove my resolutions shift this year, so March seemed the perfect time to take my own first steps toward becoming a more engaged citizen and in support of the causes in which I believe. The result? A moderate success. I signed petitions, emailed letters to my representatives, and made a financial donation. I also listened to two podcasts, the hosts of which supported opposing sides of one particular issue, in an attempt to better understand why the two sides remain unable to compromise. I wish I could have done more, but in the end I learned a lot, including the fact that the schedule I had in mind - participating in some form of activism every day - didn't work. I couldn't stop in the middle of whatever I was doing around the house, for/with the kids, for school, or for work to "activate". Instead, I designated a chunk of time every week to accomplish a few days' worth of tasks at once. I hope to stay engaged going forward, and possibly even build momentum during the summer months with the kids' help.

February's Resolution: clean out all of my kitchen cabinets and drawers. After cleaning out and paring down the contents of my closets in January, my kitchen cabinets and drawers suddenly felt agitatingly disorganized and unnecessarily full. I expect that my friends and I will hold a joint garage sale in May, so it made sense to tackle clutter in January and February. The result? A moderate success! I cleaned out and reorganized all my cabinets. Months later, I haven't gotten to the drawers and the pantry...but sounds like a good project for spring break summer break, doesn't it? 

January's Resolution: clean out all of our closets. My goal was to take care of the kids' closets with them before they went back to school, and then tackle the rest of the closets throughout the last three weeks of the month. The result? A moderate success, but there remains work to be done! I started off strong at the beginning of January, but getting sick meant I made absolutely no progress throughout the last two weeks of the month. I thoroughly cleaned out both kids' closets, the linen/guest bathroom closet, the front hall closet, the playroom closet, and my half of the master closet. Months later, I finally tackled Tom's closet. We had to replace our water heater, which is in the attic up above Tom's side of the closet, so we had to move all of his clothes and shoes. Though he didn't enjoy it, I made him go through everything before I would put it back where it belonged.

December's Resolution: read to my kids every night. My goal was to sit on the side of their beds - or better yet, snuggle up next to them - and either read to them or let them read to me. The result? A moderate success on paper, an overwhelming success in reality! I read to Hallie almost every night, and to Will about every other night. We missed a few evenings because of late-night activities like Snowmageddon 2017, Nutcracker performances, Christmas parties, a birthday sleepover, and travel, and a couple of times Will opted to read his own book rather than join Hallie and me. December worked perfectly for this resolution as our evenings held fewer commitments, and I truly hope I can carry this resolution into January - when our regular evening activities begin again - and protect this precious time together. Months later we don't read together every evening, but we definitely sit down with a book more often now than before our December resolution. I find that it helps to choose a book that everyone - me included - can't wait to get back to and to leave the book in a visible place so we're regularly reminded that reading time is calling.

November's Resolution: write in my gratitude journal daily. My goal was to document at least one thing for which I was thankful every day between November 1st and November 23rd (Thanksgiving Day). The result? A moderate success! I missed a couple of days but realized fairly quickly I had done so; I remembered the days I had accidentally skipped with enough clarity to go back and update my gratitude journal. Months later I don't keep a regular gratitude journal (I only commit to keeping one - at least officially - in November), but I try to use my High Five for Friday posts the same way I would use a gratitude journal.

October's Resolution: drink more water. My goal was to down at least two full water bottles every day. The result? A complete disaster! I probably met my goal only one day a week. I do a great job of drinking water during the summer, but for some reason my school year schedule doesn't have the same triggers as my summer schedule to remind me to drink water. Months later I still struggle with this resolution. I have tried everything I can think of to remember to stay better hydrated (and to make water more appealing), but I only succeed about a third of the time.

September's Resolution: turn off the light by 11:30pm on school nights and by 12:00am (midnight) on weekends. My goal was to get at least seven hours of sleep a night, and to settle into a peaceful schedule of falling asleep and waking up that would continue through the school year. The result? A complete success! Not one cheat day. Months later I still adhere to these bedtimes, and while I wish I could bump them 15-30 minutes earlier (I've tried and thus far it doesn't work), I'm happy to get a solid seven hours of sleep most nights. Well, I get a solid seven hours of sleep on nights Tux doesn't have to go outside to use the restroom or need extra love at 4am.

What have you resolved to change about yourself and/or your life this year? How are those resolutions going?

Friday, April 13, 2018

High Five for Friday (4.13.18)

Every year the third graders at the kids' elementary school take a field trip to Camp Allen to learn about nature, conservation, entomology, and reptilian animals. Because I can't stand insects and reptiles, when Will was in third grade I opted to sit this particular field trip out - the only time I have ever done so since my kids starting going on field trips. But now I'm feeling the speed at which Hallie is growing up, so I decided to tough it out as to not miss this experience with her.

The day ended up being one of the best we've had. The meteorologist predicted thunderstorms, but it didn't even rain. Hallie loved all of the lessons and the girl who won't catch a teeny, tiny lizard in our house held a huge snake and giant bearded dragon. And perhaps most notably, I TOUCHED A SNAKE. Just for a second (though long enough to snap a picture) and only on its back and when its head wasn't in view, but I did it. I have my friend Jenn to thank - she texted me and said she'd take me to lunch the following day if I touched the snake, and apparently that was all the motivation I needed. A wine bribe might have even gotten me to hold it...

Tom actually thought the pictures were photoshopped.

On the way home Hallie and I made a couple of stops, including one for ice cream. Some days I wish more than anything that I could slow down Father Time...

On Friday night Will and I attended the A&M Consolidated High School (his future high school) men's soccer playoff game. We sat on those bleachers, just the two of us, for hours, eating popcorn, talking about soccer, and cheering for our team. At one point Will spotted a couple of his Cavalry teammates elsewhere in the stadium, and while I told him he was welcome to sit with his friends, he said he'd rather sit with me, because watching soccer was something the two of us liked doing together. OH, my heart.
Yes, I have a REALLY pronounced hitchhiker's thumb.
The night was made even more memorable by a Consol victory, which came after a red card forced the team to play the last 10 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime down a man and then an incredible shootout. When the game finally wrapped after 10pm, we "rushed" (moved through the crowd at a responsible pace) the field with many of the other fans. We listened to the coach - who had just tallied his 100th win as Consol coach - praise his team's strength and courage and grit, and then Will found his favorite player, Jeremy. Will worried Jeremy wouldn't remember him since they hadn't seen each other in over a year, but of course Jeremy did remember him and that was the cherry on the top of our ice cream sundae of a night.

Again, Father Time, please give me more days with my 11- and nine-year olds...

The weekend felt packed with a dance evaluation, dance performance, soccer game, and sleepover, as well as preparations for company and Hallie's birthday. The downright frigid temps and periodic rain throughout all of Saturday and most of Sunday threw us for a loop, but by Sunday afternoon we had taken care of all of our responsibilities and the sun came out just in time to fire up the grill and hang out on the patio.

Tux's weekend highlight? Those chilly temperatures meant we turned the fireplace back on twice. He was in heaven.

My parents came into town on Monday afternoon and spent the week with us. They helped us celebrate Hallie's birthday, but we also went to quite a few dance classes and soccer practices, tackled a couple of house/yard projects, took a day trip to the outlet mall, worked out at the gym, went for a couple of walks, played badminton with our new net and racquets, and had lots of laughs. Tom and I are incredibly lucky our parents always make an effort to stay connected to us and our kids.

Hallie Claire officially turned nine!

Celebrating with Mini Company.

Tom discovered that the shop vac can blow up
balloons. No more huffing and puffing for us!
Sea of birthday balloons.
Will bought Hallie a new fidget spinner. She adored it,
and he was pretty pleased with his Amazon shopping
skills. Also, check out her adorable "birthday girl"
unicorn shirt. 😍 (Thanks AJ and Uncle L!)
This might be my favorite birthday cake I've ever
made for one of the kids. Thankfully Hallie loved it too!

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here: