Tuesday, July 30, 2019

June in a Blink of an Eye

The last two weeks of June passed by in the blink of an eye. (Actually, all nine weeks of summer vacation have gone by incredibly quickly.) We had lots of fun with friends, tried a few new activities, enjoyed some of our favorite pastimes, and crossed a handful of to-dos off our list (think summer school, orthodontist appointments, doctor appointments, sports paperwork, medical paperwork, etc.), all while preparing and packing for our month-long trip to Wisconsin.

Highlights from those two weeks didn't fit well into the blog posts I wrote throughout the second half of June, so I decided to give them their own post this month. I wanted to capture the memories for memory's sake, but I also hope wanted to share - especially with those of you with kiddos around the ages of mine - some fun ideas for later this or next summer!

We continued our Saturday morning surprise excursions through the end of June. On Saturday #3, I took the kids to the Aggieland Humane Society. We talked to the office staff (not the friendliest folks around - I suspect they prefer interacting with animals over people) about volunteer opportunities, walked the grounds, and visited the different animal buildings. The kittens were without a doubt the kids' favorite part of our outing, and I think all three of us could have taken up permanent residence in the cat house. It was a feat of will not to come home with multiple new pets.

The avalanche of gratitude from both kids and the tears of joy Hallie cried when we pulled out of the parking lot reminded me that spending money doesn't necessarily translate to bigger or better memories.


On Saturday #4 we road tripped with friends to The Woodlands for a day of fun at the Rob Fleming Aquatic Center. (Well, the moms and kids spent the day at the aquatic center. The dads went disc golfing.) We visited this pool a few years ago, but as neither kiddo remembered that trip, I decided it still worked for a Saturday adventure. Though the drive takes almost 90 minutes, the trek is worth it - at least once a season - to enjoy this venue. They have a water slide, lazy river, water play structure and splash pad as well as a basic swimming pool. The lounge chairs are comfortable and plentiful, they sell Chik-fil-a at the concessions stand, the entire facility is incredibly clean and well cared for, and the lifeguards are some of the most well-trained I've observed in my years of watching lifeguards.

We were having too much fun to take photos of the kids, the moms, or the dads, so I snapped these two pics (which are sadly missing many in our group) on our way back to the car.

Following our hours in the sun, we popped into The Woodlands' Trader Joe's to stock up on some of our favorite goodies. (We can't go to The Woodlands without stopping to see Joe.) Please, Trader Joe's, come to BCS!


Will spent the last full week of June at camp. I have mentioned Education in Action's Lonestar Leadership Academy before, but I have to mention it again - I can't say enough good things about the faculty, staff, and opportunities associated with this organization. Will returned home from these three years/weeks having benefited as kids typically do from summer camp: with new friendships, better able to care for and regulate himself in the absence of his parents, and finally capable of writing and mailing a letter. But he also walked away with dozens of fascinating educational experiences, increased confidence, community service goals, and vastly improved leadership, ranging from concrete skills like a firm handshake and how to introduce two strangers to one another to more abstract concepts like influencing and guiding others using positive social influence rather than power. To be clear, Will remains a 12yo tweenager with A LOT to learn, but I know this camp has given him a strong foundation on which he can build as he enters middle school.
Battleship Texas in the Port of Houston
(Will is the only kid wearing sunglasses.)
Battleship Texas lower deck
Battleship Texas crow's nest
Battleship Texas upper deck
Battleship Texas lower deck
Moody Gardens aquarium
Moody Gardens rain forest
Port of Houston Sam Houston boat tour
Houston Museum of Natural Science Butterfly Garden
Houston Museum of Natural Science Texas Wildlife exhibit
According to Will, "the exhibit where you get to touch stuff".
Saturn 5 rocket on NASA tram tour
Apollo 8 crew
NASA Mars exhibit
Living in Space demonstration volunteer
Living in Space demonstration volunteer
Taking his bow
Volunteering "thank you" gift
George Observatory Mission Control simulation
George Observatory star tunnel
George Observatory post-overnight stay
Receiving his Trailblazer Award (granted to students who participate
in all three years of the Lonestar Leadership Academy program)


Last but not least, Hallie also spent the final full week of June at camp...Drama Kids musical theatre camp. Three weeks prior, she auditioned - she sang Naughty, from Matilda the Musical - and was awarded the role of Dorothy in the camp's production of Wizard of Oz. For the next 21 days we learned and practiced lines (SO.MANY.LINES) so that when the first day of camp rolled around, she was ready to go. I had no idea how the camp director would in five days pull together a 50-minute musical starring 20 elementary- and intermediate-aged children (many of which had no musical theatre experience) in five days, but somehow she made it happen. Hallie and her bestie Avery, who played the lion, said this camp was the best they'd ever attended and can't wait to audition and participate again next year. I think they were bitten by "the bug"...

(Sorry there's no video of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" - I couldn't get it to load.)

Happy summer, friends!

Friday, July 26, 2019

High Five for Madison

If all goes according to plan, we will pull into our driveway in College Station tonight, after two-and-a-half days spent making our way across Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. We are all thrilled to be (heading) home - out of our car, finished with our suitcases, back in our beds, and loving on our sweet Tux - and also extremely thankful for the hospitality shown to us by our families and friends while we traveled around the Midwest. See you next summer, Wisconsin!

I have to give a shout out to the friends who catsit for Tux. While an easy pet in many ways, Tux gives us - and those who look out for him - a run for our money when we travel. Tux does NOT like to be left alone for longer than a day, and he communicates how he feels by pooping on the bathroom rug and peeing on a towel on the bathroom vanity. (He has no idea these items are sacrificial lambs, intentionally set out for him and on which we intend for him to take out his loneliness, frustration, and anger. We dispose of these items as soon as we return.) Tux needs a great deal of emotional support, to the point that even though the kiddos who regularly care for and love on him were doing a great job, I had to call in the "big guns" in the form of Will's friend, Kaylee, who has since the beginning been Tux's favorite human being after Will. There's nothing like texting your friends to ask if they could find time in their day to help your cat through his mental health episode. There's also nothing like having friends who actually will find time in their day to help your cat through his mental health episode. (Thank you, Rebecca, Grace, Phin, Mandi, and Kaylee - it takes a village to raise a...cat.)
Kaylee took this pic while visiting Tux. 😻

I'm not making fun or light of mental health issues - most people I know (myself included) have struggled or are currently struggling with mental health...and Tux struggles as well.     

Rather than attend Aggie Soccer Camp in College Station, Will opted to attend a four-day camp put on by the University of Wisconsin Men's Soccer Program. Per his club team coach's recommendation, Will was looking for a university with a strong men's program as well as coaches who approach the game with different styles of play and coaching methods (compared to those used by the coaches he works with for 10+ months of the year). It worked out that UW's elite camp overlapped with our trip to Wisconsin, and the next thing I knew, I was dropping off Will in a dorm lounge on a college campus where he knew absolutely no one. I was scared. He was scared. There's a reason why Tom always handles camp drop-offs - mama doesn't do well walking away from her nervous and anxious kiddos, even when she knows they'll eventually be alright.

Will didn't learn as much as I would have liked him to learn...about soccer. He fell into the 10yo - 12yo age group, and as one of the oldest players in that age group, he didn't improve as much as some of the younger players. Will did, however, learn a great deal about how to handle himself in a new environment - one that offered more freedom than he has ever had before. The boys had to show up for meetings, practices, and the training bus on time and with all of their gear. They had to take care of their own belongings. They had to fill up their own water bottles. They had to apply their own sunscreen. They had to make their way to the dining hall during the allotted mealtime windows, and make food and drink choices that would fuel their bodies. They had to use their phones responsibly. My sweet boy also had to make new friends, which was the scariest part for me as a mom because I knew that so many of the kids at this camp would be returning campers and/or attending with members of their club teams. I pictured him sitting alone at lunch, reading his book and willing the time until his next training session to pass by quickly. Thankfully, Will liked his teammates and even walked away on the final day of camp with a few friends. All in all, a successful camp experience - and I think he'll go back next summer.
Day 1 = 26,000 steps.  Day 2 = 31,000 steps.
Day 3 = 32,000 steps. Day 4 = 24,000 steps.
Over the course of four days, Will took
113,000 steps. That's a lot, even for him. 
On the final day of camp, the boys scrimmaged at the UW McClain
Center. Families were invited, so my parents and I came to watch and
Hallie came to read a book and complain about having to watch.
We took exactly zero pictures of Will, so these pictures
of Hallie on the 50-yard-line "W" will have to do.
Exhausted from all that watching.

We try to fit in at least a few new activities and experiences during our annual summer stays in Madison. This year soccer camp took one of the top slots, along with Devil's Lake State Park, the Madison Water Ski show, and the Wollersheim Winery. (These three were all on my Wisconsin Bucket List, so I'll write more about and post pictures of them in an upcoming post.) We also took in an outdoor concert at Olbrich Gardens, watched Madison's new professional soccer team - Forward Madison FC - win their match over Leones Negros, and saw the Children's Theater of Madison's production of Beauty and the Beast. We "switched" the kids - my mom and I took Will out for coffee and shopping for beyblades while my dad and Hallie rode the bus downtown for a lemonade - for one afternoon, and then on another afternoon, me, my mom, Hallie, Lily, and Carter spent two super fun hours at Urgent Care getting Hallie's impetigo taken care of. (A bonus high five for our pediatrician/my friend, Kelly, without whom we wouldn't have gotten this mess of an illness under control so quickly.)
Riding the ferry to Devil's Lake State Park.
All four kiddos crushed our hike, which went
basically straight up a rocky mountainside.
One of the Madison Water Ski Team's most impressive stunts.
One of Wollersheim Winery's loveliest vineyards.
Enjoying his picnic dinner and a concert at Olbrich Gardens.
Watching Forward Madison FC - "the Flock" - play at Breese Stevens.
Back in the day I played three state soccer tournaments on this field.
So sweaty.
So excited.
So over soccer.
He brought his own yellow and red cards to the game.
Dreaming big.

When we weren't trying new things, we were keeping our traditions alive. Combinations of the four Ferri as well as my parents, sister, brother-in-law, niece, and nephew played disc golf, stick-and-ball golf, and miniature golf; visited the beach, the pool, multiple parks, and the zoo; went water skiing and tubing on Lake Mendota; ate and drank and caught up with family and friends on the Union Terrace; and painted the shoe slide.
Building sand castles at the beach.
All dried off and ready for the walk home.
I'm with these monkeys. 
Hanging out in Kanga's pouch.
Riding the merry-go-round at the zoo.
After first getting up two summers ago and
staying up for a decent amount of time last
summer, Will seems to have legitimately
gotten the hang of water skiing - at least
the basics of the sport - this summer.
Hanging out on the Terrace at the Union.
The Union is one of our camping family's favorite gathering places.
Hallie, working on her fifth or sixth shoe slide repainting!
It's so fun for her to be able to
participate in this project every summer!
Leaving her mark once again.

Lastly, a few happiness highlights that don't necessarily fall into the categories above. It was a good month.
After last summer's koolaid hair-dying debacle, this
summer I went with hair chalk. A much better choice.
It was a big hit...
...every day...
...with everyone. 
This is how Will babysits. He helped Lily decide which
set of bars to climb (the pair with the smallest angle
between them) and then stood below, cheering and
preparing to break her fall should she tumble down. 
Lily has excellent photo bombing skills.
Kite flying at the park.
My parents.
A sun halo (don't worry, we didn't look directly at
it - we just held our phone cameras up above our heads
until we finally snapped a picture of the right spot).
Because OF COURSE. 😂
I so desperately want him to stay little...
Meanwhile, on the homefront...
Tom decided to become a tie-dye-er. Go big or go home...
Always a good sign.
Learning to roller-skate!
I let Will and Hallie borrow my phone for a few
minutes before the waterski show and it came back to
me with 77 pictures of this mama duck and her babies.

High five, Madison - you've been good to us. See you next year.