Monday, August 13, 2018

The Countdown is ON

In a perfect world, I would have written and shared this post two months ago because - let's be honest - it takes all summer to prepare to go back to school in the fall. Next year I promise to plan ahead, create a more comprehensive and organized list, and pull together a post earlier in the summer, but in the meantime, here are a few of the simple tasks I will tackle before Sunday night in an attempt to help our family transition back to our school year schedule with ease...or as easily as possible.

Because I assume everyone has already taken care of school supplies, backpacks, lunch boxes, medical forms, and prescriptions, I'll skip over those.

Dinner Prep
Double every dinner and freeze the extra servings. During the two weeks before school starts I work my way through my favorite freezable recipes - spaghetti, chili, sloppy joes, tacos, chicken fajitas, beef enchiladas, and pancakes - so I can have multiple dinners ready and waiting in the freezer for busy nights. On the weekend before school starts I also cook a couple of batches of both sausage and bacon to go with breakfasts. (Last year I made egg muffins, bacon and egg burritos, and sausage and egg sandwiches, but none went over well with Will and Hallie so I plan to skip those this year.)

Clothing Prep
Clear out what doesn’t fit or won't be worn. I spend an hour with each kiddo in his/her closet trying on clothes and shoes and pulling out what doesn't fit. I also talk through outfit combinations so they each know what does and doesn't match and can more quickly get dressed in the morning.

Organization Prep
Put into place and talk through any organizational systems the kids will use. We always review how the kids will deal with paperwork from school, unpack and repack their backpacks, unpack their lunch boxes, pack their soccer and dance bags, etc. This year I made Will a soccer practice and game checklist (laminated and attached to his soccer bag) that will *hopefully* keep him from regularly forgetting at least one of his required items - I'll let you know in a month or two how well this works!

Hair Prep
Take everyone for a back-to-school haircut. For trims I take both kids to Great Clips - they don't require appointments so we can pop in at our convenience and we're usually finished in less than 30 minutes.

Calendar Prep
Update your master calendar for the entire YEAR. I spend an hour or so going through the school calendars, sports calendars, and extracurricular calendars to make sure every scheduled day off, late start, early release, practice, game, class, recital, and meeting is on my master calendar. Yes, more events will be added and dates/times will change throughout the year, but at least I know I'm starting out the year relatively organized.

Transportation Prep
Practice getting to and from school. We walk and/or bike the routes the kids take to school to make sure they remember where to safely cross streets, what to look out for, where they'll meet friends, and where I'll pick them up on rainy days.

Breakfast Prep
Plan a fun and EASY breakfast for the first day of school. I get up early enough to get myself ready before the kids rise and shine, and then I work on breakfast while they're getting dressed and making their beds. I warm up (pre-made and frozen) pancakes, scramble eggs, cook sausages, toast bagels, or pull out cereal, but I don't go overboard...first day included. Our tradition - which the kids love and is both inexpensive and easy - is miniature powdered sugar donuts with scrambled eggs. (We also have these donuts on birthdays, so the kids consider them a special treat.)

Photo Prep
Make whatever sign your child will hold in their first day of school picture (if you have such a tradition). I print my signs and glue them to construction paper - for stability and a pop of color in the photos - a few days beforehand so I don't find myself running around frantically the night before or the morning of the first day of school.

Last but not least, enjoy the last few days of summer and get ready to enjoy a few hours of quiet on the first day of school!

In case you're wondering about a few omissions above, here are three things I don't do:

Freak Out, especially about all the summer school work we were going to accomplish but didn't. Will and Hallie both read every day, some days for hours, and Hallie completed a small book of math review problems in June and reviewed her multiplication fast facts a few times this month...but that's it. And we're all going to survive.

Wake Up Early starting a week or two in advance. No one in my family likes waking up early, and doing so the week before school starts doesn't make doing so on the first day of school any easier, at least in our house. For us, the transition to our new schedule is kind of like ripping off a bandaid - it hurts a little more up front, but we'd rather suffer for a brief period of time than be uncomfortable for a longer period of time.

Pick Out Clothes for following day or even the week. I planned outfits a week in advance when the kids were little, but I don't anymore - Will and Hallie are old enough to pick out their clothes and get dressed on their own now, so the evening time we used to spend on clothing is now dedicated to extracurriculars, homework, and dinner. I absolutely understand that this is a necessity for some, but I'm grateful to have outgrown the need for outfit planning! (Exceptions include the first day of school for Hallie, picture day for both kids, and concert days for Will.) 

Friday, August 10, 2018

High Five for Friday (8.10.18)

After a month of rarely using an alarm clock followed by a week of early wake-up calls to get Hallie to her  "Creative in Nature" camp, I felt a seemingly brand new appreciation for sleeping in (until, you know, 7:45am) last weekend. Oh, lazy Saturday mornings, I love you so.

I get to sleep in this weekend as well, and then that's it...until Thanksgiving, at least. 😂

Speaking of Saturday mornings... Last Saturday morning friends and I celebrated another friend's birthday at a new breakfast/brunch restaurant in town. The restaurant received mixed reviews, but the company earned an A+.

After attending a fantastic "Creative in Nature" camp last week, Hallie knocked out both Little Belles dance camp and the Ballet Austin dance intensive this week. I feel incredibly lucky to live in a community that offers - through its city parks and recreation departments, school districts, nonprofit organizations, and private businesses - such high quality summer programming for kids.

Lest you think I forgot about Will... He wasn't able to attend a camp this week because he had two big appointments that would have interfered with camp attendance. (More on these milestones next week!) He did, however, still get to attend workouts at "his" gym and his soccer practices started back up this week as well. 

I use little cards and notes from Will and Hallie as bookmarks, and in June, I accidentally returned a book to the library with one of these cards - a beautiful Mother's Day gift that Hallie made for me last year - tucked inside. I didn't realize I had done so, however, so you can imagine my surprise, delight, and thankful heart when I went to the checkout counter at the library last week and the librarian returned it to me. Nothing on the card links it to me except Hallie's name, so I assume they searched for the name "Hallie" in their system, connected her to me by last name, and then attached an electronic note to my library card so that whoever checked me out would ask if the Mother's Day card belonged to me. I am so grateful to the library for going the extra mile to reunite me with this special gift, and so relieved that Hallie and the library - who haven't always gotten along - seem to have made amends.

Hallie's desk chair FINALLY arrived, only three months after we first placed the order! The chair is adorable and surprisingly comfortable, and future engineer Hallie loved putting it together with a little help from her daddy.

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Waltzing Through Wisconsin

While there are still plenty of new experiences for us to have in Wisconsin (we try to have at least one each year, so this summer we went on a tour of Lambeau Field and rode the rollercoasters at Bay Beach), we like to spend at least part of our time in Madison visiting our favorite places and participating in our favorite activities.

In this, likely my last Wisconsin post for the year, I'm recalling and documenting the small but uniquely Madison experiences - those we might accidentally forget about when we focus on the more exciting experiences - we had this summer.

Saying hello to as many Bucky Badgers (there are currently 85 throughout Madison - we have quite a few more to visit before we're done) as possible:
On campus by the Memorial Union Terrace.
At Brittingham Park.
At the Henry Vilas Zoo.
At Metcalf's grocery store.

Posing in front of the Capitol:
The railroad tracks by my elementary school.
The end of State Street.
The bridge over West Wash.

Painting the Vilas Park Shoe Slide:
Painting Saturn.
Making her handprint "signature".
Back the following day to show off her "hand"-iwork.
The finished Saturn!

Walking through the St. Mary's meditation maze:
Finding her inner zen.

Playing miniature golf (specifically the giraffe hole):
Madison has the best miniature golf course ever: slides and
rock walls, tunnels and rivers, zip lines and, of course, giraffes. 

Enjoying popcorn, lemonade, and Wisconsin's own Spotted Cow beer on the UW Memorial Union Terrace:
Listening to a great blue grass band.
It was 74 DEGREES outside on the evening I took this picture.

Farewell, Wisconsin! See you next summer!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Fails to Fives

I mentioned in last Friday's High Five post how it could easily and perhaps more appropriately have been replaced by a Five Fails posts.

Here's how all the things failed us last week...along with the upsides that kept me hanging on to the end of my rapidly fraying rope!

1. We replaced our old - and suddenly leaking into our closet - water heater in March...and the new model continues to malfunction. (For two months we've had to relight the pilot every few days, and while at first the problem seemed like a fluke, it has now become much more than a fluke.) It went out on Sunday and again on Friday.

The upside? Will is getting really good at lighting the pilot, our ridiculously hot weather makes cold showers less miserable, and we're one step closer to getting it fixed. (I realize it should be easy to get the water heater fixed given the fact that the appliance is nearly new, but there are some strange details in play here that make the process a little more complicated.)

2. Thanks to a few suddenly dead patches of lawn, Tom discovered our sprinkler system wasn't working correctly.

The upside? After quite a few hours spent working on the system (which involved sitting in the lawn among the fire ants and under the blazing sun), Tom used his engineering problem solving skills to repair/replace and reconfigure all three broken sprinkler heads on his own.

3. Will's phone - and its charger - started the downward spiral toward certain death.

The upside? A system update seems to have given the phone a renewed lease on life, which gives us hope we can wait two months to replace it for his birthday. We like that Will's phone is ridiculously old and inexpensive because we don't worry much about him losing it and it has very few capabilities other than texting and calling, which is what we want for him. I was worried we wouldn't be able to find those features (or lack there of) in a replacement, but when I popped into Sprint last week I found a phone that while new, is relatively inexpensive and fairly lockable in terms of what Will can access.

4. Our freezer stopped doing its job, and I spent a couple hundred dollars to have the appliance repair company try to fix it...which they could not.

The upside? The freezer didn't completely die (it basically turned into a refrigerator) and we have a back-up freezer, so we didn't have to panic about what to do with all of the frozen food while I shopped for and found my new refrigerator...which I LOVE. Also, both Tom and I hated our old refrigerator - its design was poor, it had a faulty ice maker/water dispenser (that we tried unsuccessfully to have fixed), and a couple of years ago it leaked into the back wall of kitchen to the point that we had to have the kitchen wall redrywalled and the wood floor in the office (the next room over) replaced. It's been a money-suck since the beginning, so we waved goodbye to that appliance with smiles on our faces.
So pretty!

5. The orthodontist decided the time has come to put Will in braces. We thought we had more time since Will still has a couple of baby teeth left to lose, but when the orthodontist looked in Will's mouth at his annual check-up (Will had some orthodontia done a few years ago but for the last three years we've just been in a holding pattern) he decided we needed to move forward immediately to prevent a specific problem from getting worse.

The upside? Will's braces are going on on Thursday so he'll have more than a week to adjust to them before school starts. Also, our dental insurance, while not the best around in terms of provider flexibility and dental work, actually offers a small amount of coverage for braces which will make this expense a little less painful.

6. Hallie's desk chair - the one that matches her desk and dresser and that we've waited on for MONTHS - arrived...defective.

The upside? A second new chair is on its way! We're crossing our fingers it arrives before Hallie returns to school and the homework begins...

7. And last but certainly not least, Tom's car finally took its last breath.

The upside? We replaced it with a Ford Escape that, at least thus far, works well for him in terms of both people and music/disc golf gear transport. I have yet to ride in Tom's new car, but the kids say it's quiet, comfortable, and has great acceleration!
Since you saw a picture of Tom and his car, here are pictures Hallie
and I took while the boys took a test drive. This one's my favorite.
But I like this one too...minus the pink-shirted car
dealership employee photobombing us from his desk. 
And just because, here's the outtake. Hallie told me to look at
the camera and make a weird face. I did, and she lip bit my arm.

To be clear, I completely understand that these kinds of things happen. We plan for them as best we can. We deal with them when they arise. And we try not to let them get us down. But when they all happen back to back (to back to back), I can't help but feel a little ganged up on. Thankfully, Tom and I usually worry about completely different aspects of life. And when we do worry about the same aspects of life, we worry in completely different ways. He took all of this in stride, and not only kept me from losing my mind but helped me recognize the opportunities these problems presented. I'm thankful for a husband who can turn fails into fives!

Friday, August 3, 2018

High Five for Friday (8.3.18)

I've had the kind of week that reminds me just how important these posts are for my mental health. I could have written a "Five Fails for Friday" post for today in seconds, but because I made a commitment to find and document at least a few beautiful, joyful, happy, or at least not terrible moments every week, this remains a "High Five for Friday" post. Thank you for keeping me accountable, friends!

We arrived back in Texas last Friday afternoon and spent the rest of the day unpacking, cleaning, and settling in at home. It was wonderful to see and catch up with Tom and Tux, and then with our friends.

After two MONTHS of waiting, Hallie's new dresser and desk finally arrived from Pottery Barn Kids. (We replaced her smaller versions of these pieces with Pottery Barn Kids' larger versions in the same furniture line.) Since this is a high five post I'll spare you the saga about actually getting the these three pieces delivered - and the ongoing drama associated with the faulty desk chair they sent us - and instead focus on how much Hallie loves her updated room.
Still waiting on the chair, but starting to come together!
We put together her gallery wall, but haven't
quite finished the rest of our decorating.

Oh, and the two delivery men were delightful, especially compared to the 20+ Pottery Barn employees with whom my mom and I have communicated throughout the last two months.

Had I written the aforementioned Five Fails for Friday post, Tom's car would have taken the top slot. After multiple years as my/our family car and then quite a few more as Tom's music and disc golf mobile, our 2007 Ford Freestyle finally bit the dust. The high five here? Tom ended up with a new car that he loves and that will hopefully serve him well for years to come!

School supplies? Check!
Not ready...

The countdown to the first day of school officially began last Monday. Yes, I could do with a little a lot less sibling bickering. Yes, I would prefer to say "put your dishes in the dishwasher" fewer times each day. And yes, I need more quiet hours at home to work. But this year - at least as of today - I'm not ready for Will and Hallie to go back to school. This summer went by far too quickly and I'm already missing them, even though they're in the next room as I write this post. We're making the most of our last three weeks though: this week Hallie took a Creative in Nature class, Will started an athletic training program in preparation for the beginning of the soccer season (and then - shockingly - Hallie joined him and loved the class), and we fit in a futsal game, a visit to the library, a few playdates, a dance class, an orthodontist appointment, and multiple trips to the pool. Enjoy the rest of your summer, friends!
Sneaking pictures of them working out
through the windows of my parked car. 
Hopefully these training sessions will help
prepare them for them for their upcoming
soccer tryouts and dance auditions!

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Monthly Medley: July 2018

I don't usually take on July assignments as I find it difficult to stay on top of them while traveling, and this July was no exception. Even keeping basic blog posts coming can be tough when we don't maintain a regular schedule and spend a least a day or two a week in the car. I appreciate the break, but now that August has arrived I have to get to work!

At the beginning of the month I finished a fascinating book called The Address, by Fiona Davis. The Address follows two women - an English housekeeper new to the United States and an American interior designer fresh out of rehab - who lived a century apart but whose stories intertwine within the walls of New York City's posh Dakota apartment house. While not the kind of book I usually gravitate toward, this one kept me fully engaged from start to finish. I loved how the author created endearing but realistically flawed protagonists as well as satisfyingly agitating antagonists, and how she developed both sides of the story in a way that made sense and allowed me to transition smoothly from one to the other. Check it out!

Later in the month I read I Am Number Four, by Pittacus Lore. My mom actually checked the book out at her library for Will, but I borrowed it late one night after he'd fallen asleep and then couldn't put it down.

We may be walking past you right now.
We are watching as you read this.
We may be in your city, your town.
We are living anonymously.
We are waiting for the day when
We will find each other.
We will make our last stand together - if 
We win,
We are saved, and 
You are saved as well.
If we lose, all is lost.

Will liked I Am Number Four too, so consider it a great read for boys and girls ages 11 and up!

We didn't make it to the movie theater nor did I watch much television this month, but I did start a Canadian sitcom available on Netflix - Schitt's Creek - for which I expect I'll fall head over heels. I adore Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara together (have you seen them in Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show? If not, watch these movies NOW) and as an acting duo they are as sublimely paired as they've ever been in this comedy series.

Before the kids head back to school we'd like to see Hotel Transylvania 3 (we loved the first and second installments in this film series), Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom, and Won't You Be My Neighbor? I also can't wait for Christopher Robin (I bawled my way through the preview), Alpha, and An Interview with God coming later in August.

Listening To
Though I almost deleted the podcast from my library after episode one, I decided to stick with Lake Clarity for a second episode...and have now finished two full seasons. The podcast is an original storytelling about five teenagers who, while on a celebratory weekend in the wilderness, discover the terrifyingly dark secrets kept by Camp Clarity. The first season revolves around the teens' experience, and without giving too much away, the reason I almost didn't keep listening is because they swear like I imagine five teens alone in the woods would: FAR too much. Swearing doesn't bother me in certain circumstances, but the characters take it to such extremes that at times I had trouble focusing on anything but their choice words. That said, the story intrigued me enough to continue listening anyway, and because season two revolves around backstory, tangent stories, and outsiders' perspectives, the swearing decreases to next to nothing after the first few episodes.

Navy blue and white stripes are my kryptonite. I enjoy black and white stripes and black/navy and white polka dots as well, but I seem unable to say no to any article of clothing that comes in a deep navy and crisp white stripe.
Dresses, skirts, and shirts.
Workout pants and swimsuits.

I added two new pieces to my "collection" this month. First, the Drench Dress from Title Nine (one of my favorite stores to visit in Madison). It's comfortable and flattering, and comes in other colors in case you like the dress but don't love navy and white stripes as much as I do.

Second, the Santorini Swimsuit from Boden. Like the dress, this suit is comfortable and flattering, and I picked it up while it was on sale (it's not on sale right now, but hopefully it will be again soon) so I felt even better about my purchase.

I have no affiliation with either Title Nine or Boden - I'm just a happy customer!

Tom bought me Apple AirPods (wireless earbuds/earphones) for Mother's Day. At first I didn't really want them - it felt like too extravagant a gift and I liked the pair I had - but when Tom's earphones broke, I offered him the pair I had been using (he really likes that style) and agreed to open the AirPods if he would set them up for me. As it turns out, setting them up is as easy as taking them out of the package and putting them in your ears - they connected to my phone the second I did so. As one would expect of Apple products, these earphones are easy to use, extremely functional, and "smarter" than any I've owned in the past. These earphones cost more than I think they or any version should, but if you wear earphones frequently I highly recommend this set.

My mom taught the kids and me a new dice game called Quixx, and once we learned the rules and a little strategy, we played a round almost every evening. It's currently on sale on Amazon - give it a try!

Despite my best efforts to maintain a well-rounded and colorful diet, each July I find myself gravitating toward foods from four particular "groups": ice cream, cheese, brats, and beer. When in Rome...

At the very end of the month I discovered this sparkling water, which for some reason I like considerably better than La Croix. Grapefruit tasted delicious but I'm looking forward to trying a few of the other flavors in August as well!

Feeling Good About

What's new in your world this month?