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!

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Wisconsin Bucket List...Times Three

On our most recent trip to Wisconsin I crossed three experiences off of my Wisconsin Bucket List. Sometimes I struggle to figure out how it's taken me so long to visit - or return to - these places...but when I remind myself how challenging it is to go anywhere when my parents, my sister and her family, and my family of four are all together, it's not so hard to figure out anymore. 😂

Devil's Lake State Park
I visited Devil's Lake State Park as a child but have wanted to return for years, as I have no memory of that first excursion. The park is located about 35 miles northwest of Madison, just south of a small town called Baraboo. It holds the title of biggest state park in Wisconsin, and is known for is quartzite bluffs and beautiful lake, which is nestled in the Baraboo Hills and was created thousands of years ago when glacial deposits permanently blocked the open ends of a gap between the bluffs.

We started our day with a "hike". I use quotations because the way up felt a heck of a lot more like rock climbing than hiking. Shockingly, the youngest member of our group - six-year-old Carter (whose whiny declaration, "I'm not a fan of walking", has become one of the most famous and repeated in our family) - led the way, never slowing unless we yelled for him to do so. The rest of us followed steadily, wanting to take breaks but knowing we couldn't because Carter would leave us behind. The climb was challenging as well as fun, and the views as we neared the top made every bead of sweat that ran into my eyes and ears worth it. The actual hike down included lots of singing, laughing, and talking within our group, as well as with those heading up the side of the mountain on which we traveled down. Multiple people stopped us to ask 1) about Hallie and Lily's matching hiking attire (otherwise known as patriotic swimsuits) and/or 2) how much farther until they would reach the top.
Um, yeah. Sure we can climb up that.
Gramps and his four kiddos.
An obstructed but gorgeous
view of the lake on our way up.
About two-thirds of the way to the top!
If you look really closely, you can see
our little leader at the front of the pack!
Will was the only kid we trusted enough to let approach the
edge and take a picture with this incredible rock formation.
SO hot and sweaty. We had a great time though!

After finishing our exercise, we had hamburgers and french fries for lunch in the Chateau and shopped the park gift shop before heading out to the lake. The kids played for hours in the sand and in the water, which was crystal clear, warm(ish), and offered a zero entry "built" by Mother Nature more perfectly than those in most swimming pools.
My parents at lunch in the Chateau, which
sits on pillars out over the shore of the lake.
My attempts to capture a picture of Will and Hallie
for our annual photo book were thwarted multiple
times by this master photobomber.
This is how they each chose to pose for
their group picture. It's not at all awkward...
Sometimes he seems old and big. Sometimes he seems
young and small. I wish I could have bottled up the little
boy who played in the sand at the beach that day.

Visiting Devil's Lake State Park comes with a fun perk: riding the Merrimac Ferry. Faster routes to the park are available, but as the kids had never taken a ferry before, we opted for a scenic ferry ride across the Wisconsin River instead. Another perk: the ice cream shops conveniently located on land at both ends of the ferry's route.

I don't know that our family will visit Devil's Lake every year, but as Tom and Jeff missed the hike - er, rock climbing - we might have to plan a return trip. The park would be STUNNING in the fall, if we only had the time to travel to Wisconsin between late September and early November.

Mad-City Water Ski Team Summer Show
I watched the Mad-City Water Ski Team's summer show as a young child, but as is the case with Devil's Lake State Park, I don't remember the experience. For years I have tried to make it to Madison's Law Park on a Sunday evening to see the group perform, but for some reason it took until this summer for the stars to align.

For those unfamiliar, water ski shows - at least those that teams enter into competitions - involve more than just waterski tricks and stunts. They generally follow a storyline (the Mad-City team did Wizard of Oz this year, which was perfect for my Dorothy) and include 13 acts which are judged on skiing, boat driving, land performances, and announcing. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the Mad-City team performs this show once a week in Madison but also takes the show on the road to both regional and national competitions. Mad-City Water Ski has won the National Championship 10 times since 1975, and has brought home first place from the Wisconsin State Show Ski Tournament - the largest of its kind in the world - in 2012, 2015, and 2017.  

Members of the team range in age from six to 60, and all participate as volunteers. The team trains year-round, spending the winter months perfecting their lifts and turns in local gyms. The skill and athleticism on display when the skiers step out onto the water - human pyramids, swivelers, jumpers, and ballet - are nothing short of impressive, and the land acts, while not quite Broadway quality, keep the show moving and fill the gaps while skiers and drivers are setting up for the next stunt.
Will, waiting for the show to start.
That shark boat - and its three massive motors - is pulling 32 skiers.
doubles lifts
If you look carefully, you can see the jumper - who
happens to be just nine-years-old - flying over the ramp.
An impressive three-tiered pyramid.
A second three-tiered pyramid.
The ski-team's ballet line.
Some of the Wizard of Oz cast members. They performed their
parts on land, and then joined different ski stunts in between acts.

I enjoyed the show as much if not more than I thought I would, and the kids - even Will, who was EXHAUSTED having come straight from four days of soccer camp and fell asleep in the grass before the show started - loved it. The water ski show might move from the Wisconsin Bucket List to a Wisconsin tradition!

Wollersheim Winery
After my sister and I reached the age of 21, we started enjoying an occasional glass of wine with our parents when we came back to Wisconsin to visit them. We stumbled upon one of Wisconsin's finest and favorites - Prairie Fumé- and found that despite our differing preferences, we all enjoyed this wine. As it turns out, this was the winemakers' goal 30 years ago: to create something new and different...something "vibrant, young, and bright" that could be enjoyed by nearly everyone as opposed to just experienced wine drinkers. I Philippe Coquard and Bob Wollersheim achieved their goal!

Prairie Fumé is made and bottled at the Wollersheim Winery in Prairie due Sac (hence the "Prairie" Fumé). I had long wanted to visit the winery to sample their other wines and beverages and to see the vineyards, and on this trip my mom and I managed to slip away - leaving three or four kids with my dad (thanks, Dad!) - to do just that.

We tasted six different varieties, and ended up buying bottles of most of them...along with quite a few more bottles for ourselves and friends. When we finished shopping, we went outside and admired the vineyards. We would have stayed longer - and perhaps enjoyed a glass outside on the hillside patio or in the wine garden - but the temperature outside that day reached almost 100 degrees. (For about a week in the middle of our trip, Wisconsin set daily heat records.)
Inside the historic hillside cave, which
was built in the 1840s and restored in 2012.

Just like Devil's Lake State Park, Wollersheim Winery would be spectacular in the fall.

I highly recommend all three of these Wisconsin Bucket List activities should you ever travel to Madison or the surrounding area - or if you live near Madison but have never given them a try. Especially in the fall! 😉