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:

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Few Words Wednesday: Nine Faces of Nine Years Old

Thank you for your kind words, emails, text messages, Facebook messages, and Facebook posts in support of Hallie on her birthday! They mean the world to me, and Hallie sends her thanks as well.

I try to take a few informal pictures of the kids around their birthdays, and while Will usually allows me to snap only one or two, Hallie gladly prances around until I put my camera away. (And sometimes long after I put my camera away.) My goal is to capture, especially of Hallie, a collection of photos highlighting each and every one of her uniquely dramatic faces.

I try not to "instruct" her too much - we just relax in the grass, run around at soccer practice, or dance to music in the garden across the street, and I snap away. Every once in a while she asks me to do her hair for these "photo shoots", but usually we just find time on a quiet Sunday afternoon and slip away for a few minutes, which means she looks in the photos...just like she looks in real life. Beautiful.

You're going to rock nine-years-old, kiddo.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

It's a Better Place Since You Came Along

Today my sweet baby girl turns nine years old. My baby turns nine years old. She has just one year left in the single digits. Just one year left of elementary school.

I cried when I found out at my 20-week ultrasound that Hallie was a girl. Not tears of joy - though we of course praised the Lord she appeared healthy - but tears of disappointment. My life with two boys felt comfortable and safe, and I assumed walking into that appointment that I would simply add one more boy to the household and remain the Queen of Everything. 😉 Despite the fact that I am (spoiler alert) a girl myself and grew up with only a sister, I could not wrap my head around giving birth to a daughter or how our family would change with the addition of another female. Looking back on that day now, I know my feelings rose up from my deeply rooted aversion to change: a boy felt familiar while a girl felt foreign, and I thought I needed the familiar and couldn't handle the foreign.

I knew on the day of that ultrasound that Hallie Claire would change my life, but I didn't yet know how.

Nine years later, she brings me extraordinary joy. Every single day she makes me smile in response to an animated story or laugh at a funny joke. She surprises me with her generous offers to help around the house and tender care of her brother. She shows me that her intelligence can be seen not just in her test scores and report card grades, but in her creativity and ingenuity. She unknowingly and unintentionally calls on me to live up to my own daily request of her: work hard and be kind.

Nine years later she also brings me tremendous angst. Every single day she compels me to search the depths of my soul for unending patience. She expects me to answer difficult questions and solve life's most complicated problems. She challenges me to communicate more clearly and show more compassion. She reminds me that she is not her brother in any way, shape, or form and that anything I learned about parenting from caring for him won't work with her.  She shows me that I still don't quite understand her...that in many ways she is still foreign to me.

But foreign isn't bad.

Foreign asks us to look at life differently, to appreciate what was always there but hidden from view or misunderstood.

Six years ago I began the tradition (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017) of sharing a song - one that reminds me of her and encompasses what I hope for her as she grows older - with Hallie on her birthday. I usually know Hallie's songs by the end of the first time I hear them, primarily because they bring tears to my eyes. I heard Better Place for the first time when all of the massive televisions in the electronics department at Target began playing the music video, and by the time Rachel had finished the first refrain I was weeping uncontrollably in the DVD aisle. When I know, I know.

Better Place by Rachel Platten

I'll tell the world, I'll sing a song
It's a better place since you came along
Since you came along
Your touch is sunlight through the trees
Your kisses are the ocean breeze
Everything's alright when you're with me

And I hold my favorite thing
I hold the love that you bring
But it feels like I've opened my eyes again
And the colors are golden and bright again
There's a song in my heart, I feel like I belong
It's a better place since you came along
It's a better place since you came along

I see the whole world in your eyes
It's like I've known you all my life
We just feel so right
So I pour my heart into your hands
It's like you really understand
You love the way I am

And I hold my favorite thing
I hold the happiness you bring
But it feels like I've opened my eyes again
And the colors are golden and bright again
And the sun paints the skies and the wind sings our song
It's a better place since you came along
It's a better place since you came along

Now I'm alright
Now I'm alright
Everything's alright

'Cause it feels like I've opened my eyes again
And the colors are golden and bright again
There's a song in my heart, I feel like I belong
It's a better place since you came along
It's a better place since you came along

Watch this video. It's beautiful.

Sadly, I spent much of the first two-and-a-half years of motherhood in a postpartum depression fog. I emerged around the time Will turned 18 months old, but could not fully return to a state of happiness because by that time I had begun worrying about a recurrence after the birth of a second child.

And then Hallie arrived.

Foreign asks us to look at life differently, to appreciate what was always there but hidden from view or misunderstood. Hallie asked me to look at life differently, to appreciate what was always there but hidden from view or misunderstood. And when I responded to her request, she showed me vibrant color and simple beauty. She woke the song in my heart from its slumber. She touched me and I felt sunlight, she kissed me and I felt the ocean breeze. Back then and still today, everything is alright when she's with me. She made my world a better place, and I believe the rest of the world will someday feel her gifts as well.

Happy 9th birthday, baby girl. Mama loves every single thing about you.

A huge and heartfelt thank you to Shannon Morton of Shannon Morton Photography here in College Station for these stunning pictures of my dancing girl. 

Monday, April 9, 2018

On the Eve of Nine Years

Today, pictures of my eight-years-and-364-days-old Hallie Girl. 
Tomorrow, my words and the song I chose to describe her at nine-years-old.