Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Rags to Riches

This is kind of a silly post, but the story behind it brought back such sweet memories of my childhood that I decided to share it here...

We often want what we don't have, and as a child I was no exception: I desperately wanted curly hair. My hair has always had a few uneven waves and it holds its shape reasonably well when combined with a little product and a heat source, but I didn't receive the gift of natural curls. On occasion my mom would french braid my hair after I showered and before bed, and then I would sleep on the braid, take the braid out in the morning, and go to school with crimp-y waves...but no curls. Knowing my desire for those Shirley Temple ringlets, my mom figured out a way to actually curl my hair overnight: rags. She rolled sections of my damp hair up in strips of soft rags, and then I slept on them so I would wake in the morning with (what I considered) beautiful curls.

Hallie has followed in my footsteps, hair-wise. Her hair is wavy and holds curl with the right products and heat, but she doesn't have the natural curls she desires. A couple of weeks ago, as I sat on the floor in front of the couch while Hallie played with my hair, I suddenly flashed back 30 or so years to sitting in front of the couch while my mom wrapped my hair in rags. The next day I cut a large scrap of soft fabric into strips, and that night I told Hallie I had a surprise for her. I wrapped her damp hair without full explaining the what or why, and when she woke up in the morning I took out the rags and showed her what they'd done to her hair.
Ready for bed.
Fresh out of the rags.
After I separated and lightly sprayed the curls.
She fell in love.

The day prior had been a tough one for Hallie. But when she saw her curls she began to smile...and that smile grew until she was beaming from ear to ear. She stood a bit taller and lifted her chin a bit higher, and for the remainder of the day she flounced - full of confidence - with a spring in her step.

It's silly, really, that we let little things like our hair influence our mood and how we feel about ourselves. But I understand how those curls lifted her spirits...because they used to make me feel like a million bucks too.

My mom is on a mission to find a pic of my rag curls circa 1987. If she finds one I promise to share!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Cruising Down the Monarch Highway

Thanks to the hard work of a passionate PTO member and parent, the butterfly garden at Hallie's elementary school has been designated as a registered Monarch Waystation.

Created specifically to help support and sustain the monarch population, waystations are strategically positioned along the butterflies' migratory route between Mexico and Canada. The Brazos Valley falls along this "monarch highway", making College Station the perfect place for a waystation that offers monarchs access to milkweed plants to produce offspring and nectar flowers for sustenance.

When Will started kindergarten, the butterfly garden at his elementary school was a beautiful and inviting outdoor space. But when the woman who lovingly tended the garden fell ill a few years ago, the flowers died, the weeds took over, and the leaves piled up.

So this year, Jessica - a monarch enthusiast and the PTO member and parent I mentioned above - decided to start a garden club at school. Hallie joined immediately, and throughout the year has benefitted, along with the other club members, from Jessica's knowledge about the monarch lifecycle, monarch migration, conservation, species preservation, and gardening. Under Jessica's supervision the kids have worked hard pulling weeds, raking leaves, planting flowers (including the necessary milkweed and nectar plants), and caring for the garden. And with Jessica as a guide, they learned how to foster caterpillars in order to release the monarch butterflies back into the garden where they were born...which they eagerly did two weeks ago during the official waystation dedication ceremony.

The academic learning taking place at the kids' elementary school has impressed me since the day Will first walked through the doors six year ago. But the arts and extracurricular learning taking place after hours - running, chess, student council, gardening (and those are just the four Hallie participates in) - is nearly as impressive. Thanks to the generous adults who coordinate these programs, Hallie improved her physical endurance and strength, her problem-solving skills and creativity, and her leadership skills. Oh, thanks to Jessica, she proudly had a hand in helping save a species.
A few seconds of one of the monarch releases during the dedication.

I wrote briefly about Hallie's first caterpillar baby and monarch release here.
I wrote about a somewhat frightening experience my mom and I had with a butterfly here.
And to wrap things up, here's my favorite of the butterfly pictures I've taken:

Friday, May 18, 2018

High Five for Friday (5.18.18)

This time of year is a rollercoaster ride. Audition and tryout anxiety. Concert, recital, performance, and tournament excitement. STAAR testing stress. Field trip and field day fun. Summer anticipation. Pride in this year's accomplishments, nostalgic for the year gone by, nervous for the year ahead. Hang in there, friends - we may be upside down in the middle of this ride's last loop-de-loop, but soon our car will slow and pull back into the station and then we can catch our breath...and get ready to ride again.

On Thursday night my boy played the cello in his spring orchestra concert. I couldn't believe how good decent his fifth grade orchestra sounded when they performed together for the first time last December, and I was pleasantly surprised with their improvement after a few more months of practice. It takes an incredible teacher and a talented musician to turn 100 kids - most of whom had never even held a stringed instrument as of last August - into an orchestra in less than nine months. Will's teacher did this, and also taught him to love the cello, so much so that he decided to stay with the cello in sixth grade rather than switch to the drums or another band instrument. Bring on our second year of orchestra!
Will and Kaylee, ready to go!
Mason, Andreas, and Will - school/orchestra and soccer buddies.

Saturday, unsurprisingly, revolved around dance. We spent the day on campus, at the auditorium where Hallie's recital will eventually be held, for her dress rehearsal(s). Prior to Saturday I was dreading the day; after all, dress rehearsals are usually long and stressful and once I even left a dress rehearsal in tears. But this year our dance studio team nailed it: they scheduled finale practice at the beginning so kids could leave after their final dance, and they moved efficiently - weighing the need for blocking and practicing on stage against the desire to respect families' time - and as a result they stayed on time ALL DAY. The rehearsals went smoothly and neither Hallie or I felt stressed about hair or make-up or costumes or her dances. And now she can't wait to do it all again in two weeks for the real thing!
We had to get up early, which no one in our family except
Will likes. To make sure Hallie woke up on the right side of
the bed, I served her breakfast there for the first time. It helped. 
The first finale rehearsal. 
Because of Tom's graduation-related responsibilities, Will had to spend the day with Hallie and me at the theater. But don't worry - he stayed far away from the backstage dressing rooms. (If that doesn't make sense to you, click on the link above.)

For me, Mother's Day is the one day of the year I can ask the kids to help me with extra projects and chores...and expect them not to complain. (I ask the kids to help me all the time, but on days other than Mother's Day I expect a complaint or two.) We tackled our regular Sunday jobs, and then they helped me vacuum out and wash my car. I'd take that kind of "gift" over a wrapped present any day.

Update: I think my "washed" car looks worse than my unwashed car. But it's the thought that counts, right?

"Oh, you love your mom? Name three of her albums." You MUST read this post about how a question on Twitter turned into a hysterical joke about moms. Get tissues before you start reading - I laughed to the point of tears.

Happiness Highlights:
Hallie's birthday present from cousin Lily (and family) was
a rose gold sequined pillow...that becomes a personalized
unicorn pillow. As I'm sure you can imagine, she LOVED it.
There's not much to do while sitting in the allergist testing
booths, so Hallie and I have taken to coloring. This owl took
me three 90-minute appointments and I think he's adorable!
The regular soccer season has wrapped, which means the summer
futsal season has begun! I like the fast pace of this indoor game, and
I LOVE the fact that it's played the air conditioning.
Showing off one of my Mother's Day gifts on their way to crush
the STAAR test. That little light board is going to get a lot of use!
On his way to soccer tryouts.
Tulips from my mom. 😍 (Don't forget to add a penny or two to
your tulips' water, friends - it keeps them standing for weeks!) 
About a year ago, Hallie made Tom a set of perler
bead creations. He keeps them in his car, and every few
months he leaves me one on my car. Makes my day.
Every May a trio of bushes near our house blooms
with beautiful flowers. Hallie and I both look forward
to when we can smell and take pictures with them.
Just for fun (and to make me cry), here's the pic we
took in May - on the way to Hallie's end-of-the-year
kindergarten program - three years ago. 

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Emotions We Feel But Can't Explain

Prior to writing this post I had never heard of these emotions, either the words used to describe or the feelings associated with them. And yet, I have experienced each and every one.

Sonder: the realization that each passerby has a life as vivid and complex as your own.

Opia: the ambiguous intensity of looking someone in the eye, which can feel simultaneously invasive and vulnerable.

Monachopsis: the subtle but persistent feeling of being out of place.

Liberosis: the desire to care less about things.

Ellipsism: a sadness that you'll never be able to know how history will turn out.

Kuebiko: a state of exhaustion inspired by acts of senseless violence.

Rubatosis: the unsettling awareness of your own heartbeat.

Kenopsia: the eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that is usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet.

Chrysalism: the amniotic tranquility of being indoors during a thunderstorm.

Nothing like pondering a host of complex emotions to make hump day a little more interesting...

Monday, May 14, 2018

A Costly Comma

In my experience, only a handful of people pay attention to comma placement. Also in my experience, those who do pay attention to comma placement (like me - go ahead and call me a dork) have VERY specific opinions about where commas do and do not belong.

The Oxford comma is the comma used after the second-to-last item in a list of three of more items. For example, in the sentence, "I went to the grocery store and bought milk, bread, and juice", the comma after "bread" is an Oxford comma. The Oxford comma is generally considered stylistic, meaning some guides require it and others do not. I believe the Oxford comma should be mandatory, and when I read any piece of writing that omits this (in my opinion) absolutely necessary punctuation, I can't help but both cringe and make the edit in my head. No list of mine will ever not include an Oxford comma.

Why do I care so much about Oxford commas, you ask? I honestly don't have a good answer for you other than that they help lists make sense and without them confusion often follows. Here's a good example:

Without the Oxford comma: I love my parents, Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty.

With the Oxford comma: I love my parents, Lady Gaga, and Humpty Dumpty.

No one's parents are Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty (although that would be fun, wouldn't it?), but it's easy to see how that misinterpretation could occur.

My mom understands my passion for Oxford commas, so she knew I would appreciate this article about how failing to use an Oxford comma came with a this case, to the tune of FIVE MILLION DOLLARS. That's right, failing to use an Oxford comma when describing when workers are exempt from overtime pay ended up costing a Maine dairy company a pretty penny.

So on this Monday morning, learn from their mistake and use your commas...and be grateful that not doing so in the past didn't cost you a few million dollars or Grandpa's life. 😉

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Unique Connection

When creating posts associated with annual holidays I start by searching back through the blog. I like to reference what I wrote in the past, to remind myself of themes or traditions I might like to carry on or to make sure I come up with something new and different. 

This year's Mother's Day search took me back to a post from three years ago, written about an experience I had three years before that. It caught my off guard in the best way, and I decided that rather than write something completely new, I wanted to share a slightly edited version of that post this Mother's Day.

I don't usually tell Tom, Will, or Hallie when I make plans to dramatically change my hair. I send everyone out the door in the morning, head to the salon, and then look forward to surprising them when we reconnect after school and work. It's fun to catch my crew off guard and witness how they really feel about my new color and/or cut.

A few years ago I dyed my blond hair dark brown while three-year-old Hallie spent the morning at preschool. When I arrived to pick her up, she saw my face from across the room, smiled, and yelled, "my mama's here!" But then her eyes drifted beyond my face…and her smile quickly faded.

As Hallie made her way, slowly and timidly, across the classroom to where I stood in the doorway, I knelt down so that when she finally reached me we were face-to-face. She cautiously ran her hands through my hair and then gently rested them on my cheeks, where they remained as she looked deep into my eyes and her brain processed the confusing mash-up of a woman in front of her. After what felt like an eternity, Hallie's smile returned. She breathed an audible sigh of relief and exclaimed, "It IS my mommy! She just has different hair!"

When I saw this video I flashed back to that memorable day when, at first glance, my sweet girl couldn't find her mama with just her eyes. She had to look deeper, using both her hands and her heart, to know with certainty and I - and that the connection we share - was still there.

Many years have passed since I held my mother's face between my hands, which makes me wonder if I could identify her in the same manner these children identified their mothers. I do, however, know that I could identify my mother by the way her upper arm feels against my upper arm. It sounds odd, I know. But picture us sitting together, side-by-side on the couch, as I talk and she listens or she talks and I listen. We occasionally shift positions, crossing and uncrossing our legs and resting our heads on each others' shoulders, but our upper arms never separate. I know what it feels like to have someone right by my side, always. Lucky me.

Happy Mother's Day to all those celebrating (and hugs to those for whom today hurts), especially my mom, grandma, mother-in-law, sister Sara, and sis-in-law Chandi. I love you all, and cherish our unique and special connections.

Friday, May 11, 2018

High Five for Friday (5.11.18)

Both kids dealt were under the weather last week/end, but despite feeling uncomfortable - and even awful at some points - they "powered through" school projects and tests, dance classes and performances, soccer practices, and an art show. They couldn't miss certain activities and events and didn't want to miss others, and they impressed me with their toughness as well as their commitment to dance company members, teammates, and that for which they had worked hard throughout the last year.
Team Leader for Rock(in') Lemonade (they added pop rocks to the
lemonade), part of a larger financial and business literacy project
and fundraiser through the enrichment program at his school.

My girl loves to create, and we loved seeing one of her creations in the district-wide art show on Saturday. Tom and I agreed that while we didn't appreciate art class or art shows much as children and teenagers, we truly enjoy them now. The middle and high school students - and even some elementary school students - who display their work are naturally talented but also incredibly passionate and hard working. I always leave feeling inspired.

Hallie and her bestie Avery have been waiting for their moment - a short but beautiful duet in one of their Mini Company dances - for months. They finally had the opportunity to share their passion and hard work with an audience this weekend, when they performed Rainbow (from the movie Leap) at Relay for Life.
I was helping usher girls on and off the stage, so I left Will
in charge of my phone. He's good at a lot of things, but filming
his sister dancing is not one of them. He took two videos of this
dance - the first starts late and misses the beginning of the duet,
 while the second ends early and misses the end of the duet.
I'm on the hunt for a good video from someone else!

On Sunday afternoon a couple of friends and I - along with our three daughters - joined our local Parade of Homes tour. I have always wanted to attend the Parade of Homes but have never been able to do so because of prior commitments, so this was a fun way to wrap up a weekend. Watching the little girls marvel over the houses' unique...and not so unique ("You guys, look! This house has STAIRS!")...features was particularly entertaining.

Happiness Highlights:
Nine of the 11 Mini Company moms. We spend A LOT of
 time together, so it's a good thing we like each other! 😉
Just three proud Mini Company dads, hanging out with their
pink and purple unicorn, paisley, and flower dance bags.
She could stay in the hot tub (which we don't keep all that
hot) all day. Somehow wrinkly fingers don't bother kids... 
For some reason it makes me really happy when the quizzes
that come across my Facebook feed provide accurate answers.
I love finding a surprise photo (or 12) waiting for me on my
phone, and it happened three times last week. Here's #1...
Here's #2...
And here's #3.
Not exactly sure what she created, but I love how happy
she looks and that her GT teacher captured the moment.

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

This Is My Brave

I could write 1,000 posts about mental health and never fully cover its complexities. So today I'll write just one post about mental health, in hopes it reaches just one person who might benefit from reading my story and gaining access to the resources shared below.

I have mentioned previously, though usually in passing and not in great detail, that I suffered from postpartum depression after Will's birth. I believe it stemmed at least in part from how he came into this world, but perhaps I would have developed the condition even if Will's birth-day had gone more smoothly.

I started feeling contractions on a Monday morning, and by Monday evening/night the contractions were regular and strong enough that I couldn't sleep. We went to the hospital late Monday night/early Tuesday morning - around 2am - and then my labor stalled. We walked the halls of the hospital for HOURS, pausing periodically so I could throw up in the public bathrooms we passed. By Tuesday afternoon the contractions had grown extremely strong and painful again, so we tried an epidural in hopes I could get a couple of hours of sleep. The epidural worked for about 10 minutes and then failed. They tried a second epidural, which also worked for 10 minutes and failed. Turns out epidurals don't work on me. After 12 or so additional hours of excruciating pain and two hours of pushing (at 9-9.5 centimeters because I never progressed beyond that point), the doc decided Will's great big Ferris head had no intention of coming out vaginally and sent me to the OR for a c-section. By the time Will was born at 6:20am on Wednesday, I had been awake - literally no sleep - for more than 48 hours. I had labored - and been on the spectrum of uncomfortable to unbearable pain - for more than 33 hours. It was the only time in my entire life that I ever truly felt level 10 pain, and in those last few hours I wanted to die, so much so that I silently begged God to take me. I could not see the beauty in the experience, or even in my sweet boy once he was born, and I went home with that feeling still weighing heavily on my heart.

I suffered in near silence for weeks, and then months, with no professional intervention. When Will was between nine months and a year old I turned a corner and found myself finally better able to function, but it wasn't until he reached 18 months old that I felt truly "healed".

I should have been on medication. I should have been in therapy. But... In the beginning I didn't realize that what I was experiencing wasn't normal and the systems in place to evaluate my mental health post-birth weren't good enough to catch my symptoms. As time went on, I recognized that not every new mother felt what I felt, but was embarrassed I didn't love caring for my baby the same way they did and therefore did nothing. I became incredibly good at masking my grief and going about my daily life with a smile on my face and bruises everywhere else.

Eventually I emerged from the darkness. If I hadn't, Hallie wouldn't be here; for the longest time, I had no intention of having a second child for fear I would relapse back into a depressive state. So when I found out I was pregnant with Hallie, I waged a preemptive strike. I started keeping a gratitude journal. I worked with my doctor to come up with a plan that would hopefully result in a less traumatic birth. (We landed on a scheduled c-section, which I know in my heart was absolutely, positively, the best possible choice we could have made.) I started seeing a therapist to establish both a relationship with the therapist and a baseline reading of my mental health, and I scheduled multiple therapist appointments for the weeks after her birth so that if I felt paralyzed by depression, I wouldn't have to summon the strength to make an appointment. (I knew that if the appointments were on the calendar I would go.) I don't know if it was my preparation, the grace of God, or a combination of both, but I didn't experience any postpartum depression - or even the slightest bit of baby blues - after Hallie was born.

Despite healing, the damage caused by postpartum depression lingers. For years, whenever I saw a new mother I felt something resembling pity. Whenever I saw a newborn baby I felt something resembling hostility. I feared for the mother's mental health, blamed the baby for her pain, and had flashbacks to my darkest days. Even now, 11 years later, while I can finally look at a newborn with pure joy in my heart, I still feel unsettled when I think about the brave woman caring for that baby, who may or may not suffering in silence.

Storytelling Saves Lives

The mission of This Is My Brave is to "end the stigma surround mental health issues by sharing personal stories of living successful, full lives despite mental illness through poetry, essay, and original music". The organization coordinates performances in front of live audiences and publishes stories to its blog and YouTube channel.

I have no plans to submit my story to the This is My Brave campaign, but in honor of Mental Health Week last week and because my mental health has taken a hit this semester, I decided to share it here. If just one person who is going through something finds this post and feels less alone - and/or gains access to resources they might not have otherwise found - than putting it out there serves a purpose.

The Skimm - a daily news email I receive - did an AMAZING job of covering mental health week. Follow my links below to their webpages, where they summarize what needs to be summarized, explain what needs to be explained, and share links to incredibly valuable resources.
  • "Millenials - and young women in particular - are reporting higher rates of mental health issues." Follow this link for a definition of mental health, as well as information about what causes people (specifically millennials right now) to struggle with their mental health.
  • "Nearly one in six adults in the United States experiences mental illness annually. That's a lot of people. You don't hear a lot of people talking about it." Follow this link for brief descriptions of and links to more information about some of the most common conditions and the connection mental health has with other conditions.
  • "Mental health struggles can be tough. So is the stigma that comes with them." Follow this link for information about the stigma attached to mental health, why/how it developed, and what we can do to fight it.
  • "Mental health issues are incredibly common. So it's clear we need help." Follow this link to learn about how we can take care of our own mental health, when to seek professional help, our rights with regard to treatment, and how to help a family member or friend.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit for crisis hotline numbers and online chat services. 

Monday, May 7, 2018

Goodbye Grump

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.

My favorite grump.
May's Resolution: cut down on the grump. Lately I have let far too many circumstances bring me down. I take full responsibility for the state in which I now find myself as I choose how to respond to these circumstances, so now I must also take responsibility for digging myself out of this hole. I need to recognize when to literally and figuratively walk away, and when removing myself from a situation isn't an option, I need to think more carefully about how I respond and what my response will mean for my own mental health. I also need to work on "letting go" of what doesn't affect me or my immediate family, and I need to learn a few coping mechanisms to help me think more positively. Any good books, websites, or articles to recommend? Teach me your ways, oh positive ones!

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 would pick up my phone and pop onto social media to find out what had gone down since 11pm the night before. As I mentioned last month, I couldn't have cared less about social media's overnight report; I would only check my phone because doing so kept me from dozing back off. So I resolved to just GET UP when my alarm went off, and to check my phone only for text messages that have to do with getting the kids to school in the morning. The result? An overwhelming success! I chose the "right" month in which to complete this resolution, because at this point in the year the sun rises earlier and earlier each day. The first couple of mornings were tough, but once I got into the rhythm of waking with the sun, I didn't need to use my phone to help me wake up. I feel noticeably more alert and happier when I emerge from my bedroom each morning,  and I don't miss knowing what happened on Facebook overnight. If you find yourself in the habit of regularly checking social media your phone first thing every morning, I highly recommend giving this resolution a try!

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. A month later, I'm doing my best to stay connected and engaged, but this resolution has proved the most challenging of all eight I've tackled. The petitions I signed added me to multiple email lists and now I feel bombarded by the organizations' communications. The responses I received - if I received anything at all - from my representatives were of course generic and empty. I still struggle to understand the other side on a number of controversial issues. I feel a bit disheartened, but I'm trying not to give up. Sitting next to me I have this month's issue of O: The Oprah Magazine (free with my Coke Rewards!), and the cover references an article I hope will give me guidance going forward. "What can we agree on? How to listen with kindness, argue without anger, and maybe even find common ground." Thanks, Oprah, for always coming through for me.

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/let him put his belongings back.

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 keep trying 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, May 4, 2018

High Five for Friday: May the Fourth Be With You

I realize I sound like a broken record, but Y'ALL, this semester might do me in. I feel like life is firing ping pong balls at me, one right after another, and while none of the hits hurt independent of the others, when the balls keep coming with no reprieve they start to cause pain. (To be clear, I am beyond grateful that life is throwing mostly ping pong balls and not soccer balls, baseballs, or, I don't know, bowling balls.) These High Five for Friday posts really do make a difference for me in that they motivate force me to find the good in every week. Thanks for stopping by and giving me a reason to keep it up.

Happy May the 4th! Do you have any Star Wars-themed plans for today? I don't, but if the four Ferri can find the time, a Star Wars movie marathon may be on the docket this weekend. That's in between Cinco de Mayo celebrations, of course. 😉

1. Last Friday night we/PTO hosted our first - hopefully annual - Rockin' 'Rangler Picnic for the families at Hallie's elementary school. We offered preorders of meals from a local chicken restaurant, and encouraged families to join us for a picnic dinner, bounce houses, face painting, balloon animals, soccer, basketball, and good, old-fashioned Friday night fun at the park. Hundreds of children and their family members showed up, and for a few hours we all disconnected from technology and connected with one another. After the picnic a friend shared, "it's nights like tonight when it's crystal clear I'm where I'm supposed to be"...I agree completely.

2. On Saturday, all four Ferri - for the first time this semester - attended Will's soccer game together. While Will warmed up, Tom, Hallie, and I went on "an adventure" and found bushes full of (nearly) ripe berries, a pond, hundreds of turtles, and a few short hiking trails. Once we returned to the field, Hallie paid little-to-no attention to the game but remained cheerful while Tom and I enjoyed not having to text each other game updates since we were - again, for the first time this semester - watching side-by-side. Following the game we detoured to The Woodlands for lunch and a stop at Trader Joe's; we would have stayed longer and showed the kids more of what the area has to offer, but The Woodlands was hosting the Ironman Texas North American Championship and was therefore hosting an extra million or so visitors. I have no desire to ever compete in an Ironman event - or any kind of triathlon, for that matter - but we had a good time watching those incredible athletes on their quest for Ironman status.
"Hallie's" turtles.
As we were walking back to our car, Will thought aloud, "I should probably start competing in triathlons..."

3. On Sunday we appreciated and enjoyed a quiet(er) day (mostly) at home. I went for a walk, Tom played a round of disc golf, and the kids and I ran a couple of quick errands, but then we worked on school projects, prepped for the week, watched episodes of Full House, and made strawberry shortcake. And Hallie may or may not have had strawberry shortcake for dinner...

4. Hallie "grew" a bubbafly! (Ok, ok...butterfly. But as an itty bitty little girl she called them bubbaflies and the name stuck, at least for Tom and me. Hang on to those last few mispronunciations, mamas, because your heart will break when they finally disappear.)

My animal-loving girl found a caterpillar during Garden Club, and our school's resident Monarch expert set it up in a habitat for her. Hallie watched him/her carefully throughout the last two weeks, and then on Monday morning I discovered that the caterpillar had emerged from its chrysalis. After school that day Hallie proudly set it free in "the wild" of our neighborhood.

5. Happiness Highlights:
Teacher Appreciation Week: Flowers for our Teachers
Teacher Appreciation Week: Treat Tuesday 
It makes me happy to see how much food - and
money, usually change from kids' piggy banks - Hallie's
school collects during the district's annual food drive.
Sometimes it almost seems as though they like each other...
On Sunday evenings I have a glass of riesling, a handful of pita
chips, and a scoop of my favorite cheese while Tom and the kids
play Mario Kart. I enjoy my treat almost as much as I enjoy listening
to them laugh while they race each other around the track.  
While enjoying my Sunday night treat, this memory came across
my Facebook feed. I couldn't help but laugh out loud as I realized
my Sundays haven't changed much throughout the last seven years.

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

A Spring Ritual

I have written before about how each spring, once the rains cease and the warm sun breaks through the clouds, I venture outside with my camera in hopes of capturing on (digital) film the delicate beauty of the season's first blooms. For me, photographing flowers is both soothing and invigorating, calming and inspiring. The moment when my camera lenses allows me to see how a seemingly simple element in nature is, upon closer inspection, actually brilliantly complex...MAGIC.

I also photograph flowers because of Hallie, who takes the generic suggestion to "stop and smell the roses" quite seriously. When she was younger, I followed her as she wandered through grassy fields picking weeds and assembling bouquets and sampling scents. I brought my camera and captured each of her discoveries as a way to "force" myself to live in the moment and appreciate how she saw the world. Now she walks alongside me, matching me step for step but still clutching my hand in hers. We search for flowers together, and then she helps me choose which ones to photograph, how to set up the shots, and which images to keep. Flowers are our special spring ritual.

Our favorite this year:

Happy spring, friends!