Friday, August 30, 2019

High Five for Friday (8.30.19)

Well, we didn't win anything at our orthodontist's annual Splash Bash pool party (they give away thousands of dollars worth of incredible prizes and gift cards), but we had a great time swimming after dark. Last summer the pool offered weekly evening family swims, and we took advantage of quite a few. This summer, however, the pool did away with this particular special event, so last Friday night was the first time we swam under the lights, an absolute favorite summer activity for both kids.

The following night was the last time we swam under the lights for the summer, but we had great fun celebrating our friends Kaylee and Lexi at their combined 12th birthday party.

On Monday night I attended the beginning-of-the-school-year Open House at Will's middle school, and I didn't get lost a single time! More importantly, I met all of Will's teachers and feel even better about the "big kid" school I send him off to every morning.

Tom and I upgraded our phones this week, and while I only transitioned from the iPhone 6 to the iPhone 7 (I prefer to stay at least a few years behind the times 😂), I am truly excited about my new and improved camera. Stay tuned for better - though just slightly better, as the photographer's skills haven't improved - pictures!

Happiness Highlights
Celebrating their Nutcracker roles. 
Borrowing my blue-light glasses and using my computer to work on
his history assignment. He looks so much like me at 12 years old...if
I'd had cuter glasses and a much shorter haircut. 
Sweet friends kicking off their first week of the dance year.
Just a little something Hallie drew on a paper lunch bag...
Tux proved how just how patient he can be when the little
girls dressed him up in his Battle Mouse hat and made him
pretend to nurse all of the stuffed baby kittens.
Those of you who know about Tom's bed candy - and the infamous
cake and strawberry ice cream incident - can appreciate how happy
I was when he didn't spill his bed strawberry shortcake. 😂
This kid carries three backpacks, a binder, breakfast, and
a water bottle to school - at 6:35am - every day. (He also
changes his clothes four times - well, three changes between four
outfits - during the school day.) I would complain. He doesn't. 😍

Happy weekend, friends!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

New Year, New Me

In years past I have written about how I dislike making resolutions on the first day of a new calendar year. Other than how I (fail miserably at trying to correctly) write the date on an occasional check, little changes on January 1st. We return home after celebrating the holidays with family and pick up exactly where we left off the previous year: same grades in school for the kids, same work schedules for Tom and me, same evening activities for all four of us.

In September, however, life changes dramatically. The kids begin new grades with new teachers (not to mention new schools this year), join new extracurricular activities, and make new friends. Tom goes back to teaching after spending the summer working outside the classroom. I restructure my days to prioritize work - of the paid, volunteer, and household varieties - while the kids are at school and homework, extracurricular activities, soccer practices, dance lessons, and dinner during the evening hours.

To me, it makes more sense to start the New Year in September, when change comes naturally and causes me considerably less stress. It then follows that I should also implement my New Year’s Resolutions in September.

I gave this plan a try four years ago, and while I did better at keeping my resolutions than I did when I kicked them off in January, I still struggled as the months wore on. As many of you have likely experienced, the more time passes since making the resolutions, the harder it becomes to remember what they were and follow through on them.

So two years ago, I kicked off my resolutions in September and made one additional change that helped me stay on track and ultimately achieve a higher level of success: I replaced the word "year" with the word "month". That's right - I didn't set yearly resolutions, I set monthly resolutions.

With only 30 days devoted to each resolution, my goals were 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.

I admit to bombing a handful of my monthly resolutions, but I also crushed a few and managed reasonably through the rest. All in all, I did well enough and liked this approach enough to structure my resolutions in this way for the third year in a row.

And so, with our further ado, let's get this year off to a great start!

Toward the end of the summer I recognized that I was spending too much time on my phone. My bad habit developed in part because my kids are getting older and spending more time on their own; when they're not with me (and especially when they're home alone or Will is at the park with his friends) I want and need to keep my phone nearby in case they text or call. However, when my phone is nearby, I pick it up, check my email, and scroll through social media far more often. I have also gotten into the (equally bad) habit of perusing my phone while watching television. I allow myself to have my computer open and the television on at the same time because I like background noise while I work, but there is not need for me to watch my phone and the television simultaneously. If the program or movie isn't interesting enough for me to watch it without phone "enhancement", it's not interesting enough for me to watch at all.

To be clear, I am not abandoning social media all together. I need it for work and my volunteer positions, and I like that it helps me stay on top of academic and extracurricular events, activities, rehearsals, practices, games, and performances. I also really enjoy seeing pictures of my friends' kiddos and watching cute kitten and puppy videos... I am, however, planning to pop on fewer times a day - probably once in the morning after the kids leave, once around lunch time when I'm taking a break from work, and then once again in the evening before I climb into bed and start reading. In between those brief visits I will (try to) only pick up my phone to respond to texts and answer calls.

Wish me luck!

What's on your resolutions list this month/year? Whatever lies ahead of you, good luck!

Friday, August 23, 2019

High Five for Friday (8.23.19)

I cringe when I think about the possibility of readers believing our lives don't include the bad and the ugly along with the good, so in the name of transparency, I am kicking off today's post with a confession: this week could have gone better. A LOT better. But weeks like this one are exactly the reason I started writing High Five for Friday posts in the first place; for me there is no better way to wade through the mess than to focus on the small moments of beauty and peace. So here are my high fives for the week; we fought hard for them, which makes them all the more valuable.

The first full week of seventh and fifth grade wraps today! Both kids like (Will) or love (Hallie) their classes and teachers, but Hallie accumulated quite a few emotional bumps and bruises while adjusting to her new grade, her new school, and the absence of one of her best friends, who moved away over the summer. I can only hope she will emerge from this acclimation period a stronger little girl.

We have a couple of evening swim parties on our calendar, but beyond those two gatherings the weekend ahead of us looks relatively low-key...and for that I'm grateful.

Nutcracker auditions took place last Saturday, and after a L...O...N...G week of waiting, on Thursday we found out that Hallie will be dancing in the Nutcracker as a Polichinelle. (Polichinelles were previously bakers in our production.) She is beyond thrilled - and relieved, to be honest - to have been cast in the production, to have been given the part she so desperately wanted, and to have the opportunity to finally dance with her besties once again. The last three years of Nutcracker casting haven't gone as well as Hallie would have liked, so this news was a wonderfully welcome surprise.
Besties in their baker costumes. (These aren't official Nutcracker attire,
but a set of beautiful replica costumes that my mom made for them.)
Kara and Hallie performing the Baker Dance in their 4th grade Variety
Show. (Avery goes to a different school, so she didn't perform with them.)

On Saturday night we celebrated a wonderful friend's birthday by paying tribute to her favorite decade. Side ponytails, scrunchies, and t-shirts supporting Jesse and the Rippers were my jam back in the 1980s, so I pulled all three out - along with my hot pink patent leather high heels - for Rebecca's party. Long live the 1980s, and happy birthday, Rebecca!

Will has been looking forward to school sports for years, and earlier this week he finally joined his first school athletic team. He plans to run cross country this fall (hello, 6:45am runs) and is considering basketball in the winter or track in the spring as his second sport. (At Will's middle school, participating in Athletics - which replaces PE - requires kids to try out for at least two sports and play at least one sport.) I'm a little worried about balancing middle school cross country with club soccer, but I'm looking forward to learning more about the sport and cheering Will on at his cross country meets!

Happiness Highlights
Tux ALWAYS sits in my desk chair, even though he isn't
allowed to do so. I was thrilled to come home and find him
on the actual desk...was it possible he finally understood
how much I want him to "GET OUT OF MY CHAIR!"?!
Possible, but not probable. Either that or he just doesn't
care at all about my rules. We couldn't help but laugh.
All my babies. Tux misses his kiddos but is enjoying the
peace and quiet now that they've gone back to school.
The kids insisted on a first day of school photo for Tux.
After an insanely hot and exhausting weekend - FOUR games in 100+
degree weather - Will's soccer team officially started their season with
a 2nd place finish in the Houston Youth Cup.

Happy weekend, friends!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Picky Is as Picky Does

A few weeks ago I came across this graphic:

I decided to give everyone in our family the picky eater "test". I had a pretty good idea how this would go down, but I knew seeing the results in black and white would be fun.

A lower number of points translates to adventurous eating, while a higher number of points translates to picky eating. Here's how the four Ferri scored!

Tom = 1

Erin = 7
liver, tofu, beets, raw fish, oysters, shrimp, and snails

Will = 3
milk, yogurt, peanut butter
(Will wanted it noted that his allergies affect his score. He drinks almond milk and eats almond yogurt, but took points for milk and yogurt because we assumed the list referred to the cow's milk versions. He eats 12 peanuts a day and HATES them - if he weren't required to consume them to maintain his peanut desensitization, he would avoid all peanut products forever.)

And last but not least...

Hallie = 28
cucumber, white chocolate, liver, mushrooms, pickles, egg plant, watermelon, grapefruit, milk, yogurt, beets, olives, mustard, mayonnaise, ranch, vinegar, soy sauce, blue cheese, raw fish, cooked fish, oysters, snails, crab, shrimp, coffee, peanut butter, nutella, tofu

Yep, that's about what we expected.

Hallie's bestie Avery was over when I read her the list, and Avery wanted me to document her score as well. Looks like Hallie isn't the only picky 10-year-old out there...

Avery = 22
tomatoes, zucchini, cauliflower, coconut, white chocolate, liver, mushrooms, egg plant, raisins, beets, ketchup, mustard, vinegar, blue cheese, raw fish, cooked fish, oysters, snail, crab, shrimp, pork, tofu

Friday, August 16, 2019

High Five for Friday (8.16.19)

At the end of last week I wrapped up my final Rock Prairie Elementary PTO Board responsibility. After seven years as a Rock Prairie parent and PTO member and five years as a PTO Board member, the door to this phase of my life has officially closed. I can't help but feel sad about reaching this point, but I'm also excited about what I plan to take on next in a volunteer capacity: I am stepping into a new committee chair position at Hallie's (what was Will's) intermediate school, I am looking forward to finding the right opportunities at Will's middle school, and I have agreed to become "right-hand lady" to my friend, Mandi, who serves on the Ballet Brazos Board. Lots of adventures ahead!

As of Will's allergist appointment a few days ago, we have officially been in "maintenance" mode for Will's peanut allergy for a full year. We don't have the results of Will's blood test back yet, but the results of his skin test were promising. This test's flare (the raised, red, itchy area surrounding the prick) was measured at approximately half the size of his last test's flare, indicating that the allergy itself has decreased significantly. This is the result of having done the "work" (and I don't use the word "work" accidentally - this process is physically challenging for Will and emotionally and mentally challenging for both of us) throughout the last year, and our allergist was proud of us. We left with a smile on his face, and a renewed commitment to continuing the process for another year.

A couple of weeks ago our microwave died. Tom attempted to repair it, but the problem turned out to be more complicated than we had originally thought and we decided to replace the appliance rather than spend more time and money on possible fixes. When we bought a new refrigerator last summer, I took pictures of the matching microwave and range, just in case. These photos came in handy, because when we visited Best Buy I already knew exactly which microwave (and range, which we also decided to replace) I wanted. Tom made the purchase while I was running errands with the kids, and when signing on the bottom line he opted not to spend an extra $150 on set up. It took an entire Saturday afternoon, but he did and both appliances look fantastic!

When she saw the new microwave and range, Hallie declared, "they look amazing! But not with our cabinets. We need different cabinets." Everyone's a critic...

I have been planning to paint our cabinets for the last five or so years, but hiring it done - which I'd like to do, so the work is completed as professionally as possible - costs a great deal. If what Hallie says is true, I should start saving a little more aggressively. 

After a couple of false starts and quite a few (figurative and literal) bumps and bruises, we managed to get both kids off to school - with correct schedules, necessary supplies, completed medical paperwork, and mandatory meds - yesterday morning. The turnaround between the first day of school yesterday and the blog post today was too short for me to include pictures, but I'll share a few next week.

Happiness Highlights
Rockin' their new Ballet Brazos jackets.
Nutcracker season, here we come! 😬
Every little boy loves to photo bomb his big sister and her friends! 
Will and I had a good laugh watching Tux destroy Will's Student
Council packet. Will didn't really want to participate in Student
Council anyway, so he took this as a sign it wasn't meant to be. 
My sister and BIL at a wedding in
Mexico - don't they clean up nicely?
My sister and my "other sister". 😍
105 degrees = yet another trip to the ice cream shop! (We always go on
the first day the temperature hits 90, 100, and 105. I suppose we'd also go
on the first day the temperature hits 110, but I'm hoping that never happens.)
Last park playdate of summer vacation.
Last sleepover of summer vacation.
Last swim of summer vacation.
Schedule pick-up - ready or not, here we come! (I LOVE that
they walked into the gym to pick up their schedules holding hands. 

Happy weekend, friends!

Monday, August 12, 2019

I'm Not Ready

The kids go back to school on Thursday, and for the first time since Will started preschool nearly 11 years ago, I'm not ready.

I'm looking forward to using my brand new planner, once again following a regular schedule, and finally knowing the day of the week again. I need time during the day to write and to stay get back on top of the errands, grocery shopping, meal planning and preparation, laundry, house cleaning, and general home upkeep. And I'm excited for both kids' new schools, Will's first year of school sports, and the beginning of new soccer and dance seasons. But I don't feel ready to close the door on another summer and open the door to a new school year.

In years past, come the beginning of August I was DONE with summer vacation. I could no longer take the bickering and complaining, coordinate daily outings and educational activities, or make 174 meals a day. But this summer - with an almost-13-year-old and a 10-year-old - looked and felt different. They bickered and complained, but less. I coordinated outings and educational activities, but they helped plan and prepare, and needed less support and supervision once the outings and activities were underway. They both know their way around the kitchen, so they made all of their breakfasts, some of their lunches, and a few of their dinners.

The bottom line is that they needed me a little less - or perhaps better put, they needed me in different ways (the mental and emotional loads that accompany the tweenage years are heavy). Because of this, I had a little more left in my tank at the end of each day and have a little more left in my tank now, at the end of the summer.

The bonus bottom line - the bottom line beneath the bottom line I mentioned above - is that after this summer comes to an end on Wednesday night, I have only five more summers with Will before he graduates from high school. Five is a shockingly small number when counting down.

Growing up and growing old are privileges denied to many, and I am overwhelmingly grateful for Will's nearly 13 and Hallie's 10 years on this earth as well as the gift of loving them for every single second of those years. But there are so few summers left...and I hate that this one is nearly over.


This brings me to what I'm about to share: an edited and abbreviated version of a post that has appeared here multiple times before, always around this time of year.


During Will and Hallie's baby and toddler years, I found the commonly uttered phrase "enjoy every moment" both frustrating and disheartening.

You've been there, right?

It's 10am. You've been awake for five hours, and in that time you've fed your children three times, been thrown up on three times, cleaned smashed banana out of the cat's fur, changed four diapers, wiped pee up off the playroom floor, rescued a Power Ranger action figure from the toilet, unclogged the toilet, and mopped up the flooded bathroom. You haven't eaten, showered, gotten dressed, or even brushed your teeth.

How many of those moments did you enjoy?

Telling parents - especially new parents, whose days feel like weeks and whose nights require superhuman strength to endure - to "enjoy every moment" often comes across, no matter how well-intentioned, as cruel. These new moms and dads love their babies tremendously, but they simply aren't enjoying every moment.

And telling new parents that kids grow up so fast and time goes by so quickly? Well, those lines sound like great big lies, because in their world, the kids aren't growing up so fast and time isn't going by so quickly. If they're anything like me when I had an infant at home, new parents are wondering how it's possible their (according to the calendar) five-month-old won't head off to kindergarten in the fall because it feels like they've been caring for that baby for five years.

On Thursday Will starts seventh grade. SEVENTH GRADE. And Hallie - my BABY - starts fifth grade. FIFTH GRADE.

Holy smokes...they DO grow up so fast. Time DOES go by so quickly.

This is all quite difficult to wrap my head around, considering it seems like just yesterday I quietly stewed - and then later cried in my car - when a woman at the farmers market tousled six-month-old Will's curls and exclaimed, "what a big boy! Enjoy every moment with him!"

Where am I going with this? To be honest, I didn't know the first time I shared this post and I still don't know now, years later.

What I do know is that telling parents - of children of any age - to enjoy every moment often makes them feel worse rather than better. I know that telling new parents that kids grow up so fast or time goes by so quickly often comes off as a cliche or even a lie. And I know that while the minutes feel like hours, the hours like days, and the days like weeks when those babies are teeny tiny, at some point the clock speeds up and you can NEVER slow it back down.

Don't worry about enjoying every moment. But try to enjoy most of them, because kids DO grow up so fast and time DOES go by so quickly, whether you're ready or not.

First Days of Kindergarten

Friday, August 9, 2019

High Five for Friday (8.9.19)

It took close to 10 days - two full weekends with a week in between - but we are finally settled back in at home. We reconnected with our friends first, and then I unpacked all of our bags, cleaned the house from top to bottom, returned all pieces of furniture to their correct locations, cleaned and restocked the refrigerator and pantry, caught up on the laundry, cleaned and vacuumed up Tux's messes and hair, bagged up all of the clothing and shoes the kids outgrew over the summer (?!), and struggled through (but survived) my first few workouts back at the gym. Oh, and my mom mailed back to us all of the things we forgot at my parents' house (thanks, Mom!). The only post-vacation project left on that to-do list is vacuuming out my car, which will have to wait until the temperature outside is not 100 degrees.

The kids start school next Thursday (?!) so I've now moved on to wrapping up that to-do list!

Last week Hallie attended her first truly intense ballet intensive, held at her dance studio and taught by the incredible Ashley Laracey. Ms. Ashley could be considered a celebrity in the eyes of ballerinas everywhere - she is a soloist with the New York City Ballet - but she holds a special place in the hearts of local dancers, as she has multiple times danced the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in Ballet Brazos' production of The Nutcracker.

Hallie arrived on Monday morning a bundle of tic-ing nerves, but as the week went on she settled in and ended up having a marvelous time, which is more than I could have asked for. Hallie LOVED Ms. Ashley, and it brought such peace to my heart to watch Hallie dance ballet with a smile on her face for the first time in quite a while.

The video above is of the Bluebird Variation from Sleeping Beauty. The girls worked on the dance throughout week - in between their technique and strength and conditioning classes - and then performed it in pairs on the final day of the intensive.

(3a) My sweet friend Nuria, who moved away a couple of months ago, returned to town for a week so her daughter (Will and Hallie's friend, Paloma) could attend the same ballet intensive as Hallie. It was wonderful to spend time and catch up with her - we fit in pedicures on Monday, lunch and swimming on Wednesday, dinner on Thursday, and swimming again on Sunday - during their visit "home".

(3b) Speaking of dinner on Thursday, happy birthday to my fellow Wisconsinite-turned-Texan, Casey! We celebrated, appropriately, at Mo's Irish Pub, which has Wisconsin roots and serves Wisconsin cheese curds.
Casey's party was actually twice this big, but we forgot to take a picture
until the last six of us were walking out. Sorry to the friends we missed!
The birthday girl and her birthday apple pie!

I mentioned a few weeks ago that one of Hallie's best friends - Tessa - moved away at the beginning of June. The girls have missed each other tremendously throughout the summer, so on Monday, Tessa's mom and I met halfway between our homes and I passed Hallie off for the day. I didn't tell Hallie why we were driving all the way to Cypress that morning, so she was shocked when we pulled into the outlet mall parking lot and Tessa's car pulled up next to ours.

The girls had a great day together, and Will and I enjoyed a few hours of mother-son time while they played and caught up. (I decided to spend the day in Cypress, rather than drive back to College Station, so Will and I shopped a few outlet mall stores, went out for lunch, watched Spiderman in the theater, and then browsed Academy.) I truly hope we can continue carving out little windows of time for the girls to get together and maintain their friendship throughout the year.
Tessa and Hallie 😍
Tessa's little sister, Morgan (Tessa has three sisters), adores
Hallie and wanted her own picture with just the two of them.
What a great day!

Happiness Highlights

Learning how to make flower crowns.
Living his best summer life: chillin'
by the pool with a cherry snow cone.
First 100 degree day = Spoons. Though Will forgot to wear a shirt (?!)
so I had to leave him in the car and make his frozen yogurt for him... 
Will bought and installed (with a little help) this
handlebar attachment. Apparently this will make
biking home from his gym more enjoyable?
I think he's still a little small, but hopefully he'll grow into them!
This girl NEVER wants to play disc golf, but she actually gave it
a try last week. Maybe she felt buoyed by her new tie-dyed socks.
Learning how to do french twists thanks to Ms. Ashley!
Soccer practice started Monday night and this kid was
so excited to get back on the pitch after a few weeks away.
Schedule pick-up #1, done! Now all that's left is for
 them to actually start 7th grade...and for that, I'm not ready.

Happy Friday, friends!