Friday, September 27, 2019

High Five for Friday (9.27.19)

At the end of last week, Tropical Depression Imelda caused a great deal of trouble for many along the coasts of Texas and Louisiana. But she also brought to College Station both rain and a slight decrease in temperature, which together did EVERYTHING to boost my mood. We returned to our regularly scheduled programing - hot and sunny - by Saturday, but that tiny taste of a season other than summerer will buoy me for a couple more weeks.

This week - the last full week in September - is one of my favorite every's season premiere week! All summer I look forward to both the return of my favorite shows and the introduction of new shows to the primetime television line-up. Now if only I could find the time to watch more than six minutes of a show at one time...

On Saturday morning, Tom, Hallie, and I all made the trek to Will's third cross country meet. Neither of them had attended a meet thus far, so it was really fun for me to show them the ropes and teach them what I've learned about cross country thus far. They both ended up having a great time - Hallie in particular, which was a pleasant surprise since she came against her will - and I know it meant a great deal to Will to have all three of us cheering for him along the course.

This was Hallie's one and only opportunity to watch Will run - every other meet was/will be held at the same time as a mandatory dance class or rehearsal. She didn't want to come initially, but once she saw the action firsthand, her attitude shifted dramatically and she wished aloud that she could come to all of Will's future meets.
Waiting for the boys to run past "checkpoint" #2.
Sprinting into the chute at the finish line.
Way to go, Knights!
Hallie did such a great job supporting her brother
that day. (She and I made it back to her dance studio in
College Station just in time for her to change, put her
hair up, and head into her Nutcracker rehearsal.)

Did you know that Friends debuted 25 years ago last Sunday? In celebration, our local movie theater scheduled three showings of four episodes each. My friends, Jenn and Rebecca, and I attended the first showing on Monday night, and it did not disappoint. We have tickets to the second showing tomorrow night as well, but sadly we can't make the third showing next Wednesday because all of our children have all of the activities that night. I have loved Friends since the beginning, and it remains my favorite show 25 years later. It sounds silly, but I can't imagine not having these six characters - along with their celebrations, heartbreak, humor, and catchphrases - in my life.

Happiness Highlights
Will won a gigantic chocolate bar at school It was (and still
is, even after he's eaten a few squares) bigger than his head.
Hallie's hair, after she slept in rags and
spent all day at school. I have hair envy.
Cutie patootie passing the time at soccer.
How is it possible to look so much older in just one year?! 😭
(In case you can't pinpoint the difference, it's his "man neck".)
This made me laugh out loud, probably because
I can picture Hallie saying this during an interview.
Dance is rough on 5yo little brothers. It helps to
dress up in Ms. Erin's sunglasses and watch and
play with her keys and phone. (Cullen and I joked
that we're going to go as each other for Halloween.)
It took almost an entire afternoon (long story), but on Sunday
afternoon we finally crossed "flu shots" off of our to-do list! 

Happy Friday, friends!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Borrowed Words Wednesday: Thank You

I came across this post a couple of months ago, but it has been at the forefront of my mind more than ever these last few days.

To the person who uses metal straws to save fish but consumes animals, thank you.

To the vegan who isn't aware of our homelessness problem, thank you.

To the climate change activists who aren't attentive to fast fashion, thank you.

To the girl who gives her old clothes to the disadvantaged but isn't educated on sex trafficking, thank you.

To the guy who picks up rubbish on his way home from a surf but isn't well-informed about male suicide rates, thank you.

To the people who stand up for horse racing concerns but are uninformed about the cruelty of the dairy industry, thank you.

To the positive instragram influencer who has't cultivated a plastic-free lifestyle, thank you.

To the grandparents who knit for sick children but aren't up-to-date on current race and homophobic issues, thank you.

To the students who stand up to bullying but are unaware of the constant domestic violence epidemic, thank you.

To the peace activists, feminists, stray dog adopters, teachers, volunteers, foster carers, recyclers, givers, doers, and believers, thank you.

We are all on a different path and we all see through different eyes. Current world issues that you are passionate about aren't always what other people are trying to change...and that's okay. It's not everyone's job to save every part of the world, but it is everyone's responsibility to thank every person who is doing their part to save the world. Don't critique, just appreciate. Don't judge, just educate. We're all trying our best. Thank you.

~ Samantha Ronson by way of Amy Schumer

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

God's Donut

Two nights before my sister and brother-in-law, Jeff, tied the knot, we celebrated their upcoming nuptials with a wedding bar crawl. My family, Jeff's family, the wedding party, and much of our camping family joined in the festivities, and an "epic" night ensued. Here's the funny thing... Only I, and maybe a couple of others, can vouch for the epic-ness of the night, because only I actually remember the night - I was pregnant with Will, so I drank water and lemonade and Shirley Temples and with my clear head kept the crowd in line.

At the end of the night and after I had returned everyone for whom I was responsible to their sleeping quarters, I decided to reward myself. Madison has an AMAZING donut shop called Greenbush Bakery, and while it operates as a typical bakery does - opening early in the morning and selling baked goods through midday - it also caters to students, staying open until 2am so night owls can pop in and grab a donut on their way home from the bars. I needed a treat, so I stopped at Greenbush and picked myself up a cake donut with chocolate frosting and sprinkles and a cinnamon roll. (Anyone else hungry for donuts?) I also bought a wide variety of other donuts so that the crew at my parents' house would have something delicious to enjoy the following morning. 

When I climbed back into the car, Tom, who was dozing in the partially reclined passenger seat, turned to me and asked what I had purchased. Knowing his favorite flavors, I gestured with one hand that I had bought blueberry donuts and then gestured with the other hand that I had bought coconut donuts. He smiled, closed his eyes, and through his daze replied, "put your hands together, Erin. Now that's God's donut."

Despite my state of exhaustion, I burst out laughing. To this day our family still jokes about God's blueberry AND coconut donut, and how it's a shame no bakeries actually sell this specific treat.

For Tom's birthday this year, we decided to surprise him with a very special birthday cake. We started with a dozen blueberry donuts from Greenbush. I made a coconut glaze and toasted a mixture of sweetened and unsweetened coconut, and then we dipped each donut in the glaze and topped it with the toasted coconut. After the glaze had set, we stacked the donuts into a cake-shaped structure, added candles, and voila!

God certainly knew what he was doing when he invented donuts, this kind in particular. 

Friday, September 20, 2019

High Five for Friday (9.20.19)

It takes a village, y'all...  I could not have survived - or at least gotten everyone where they needed to be, when they needed to be there - this last week without my people. Tom traveled to Canada to spend time with his brother, sister-in-law, nephew, and new niece, so I needed a few extra hands to supervise, feed, and/or shuttle Will and/or Hallie while I supervised, fed and/or shuttled the other one in a different direction. Thank you, friends!

While sitting in a PTO meeting last week, a friend looked at my planner, shook her heard, and asked, "How do you do it all?" With a laugh, I replied, "I don't!" and pointed out to her the spots on that day's page where I'd written "Hallie w/ Mandi" and "Hallie to Jenn's". None of us can do it alone, friends. 

The silver lining to Tom's travels - whether for pleasure, like this most recent trip, or for work, which he will do quite a bit throughout the remainder of this semester - is the opportunity they afford me to connect in different ways with Will and Hallie. I enjoyed a weekday evening with each kiddo on their own, and the three of us spent Saturday night eating takeout and watching America's Got Talent, Sunday morning lounging in bed watching cartoons, and Sunday evening making spaghetti together.

This post wouldn't be complete without a high five for the time Tom spent with his brother and family in Canada. I don't know how helpful he was post-baby, but I think they all had a good time together!
When I look at this picture I feel jealous of their weather...
I dream of cool, rainy days and comfortably wearing a sweatshirt.

On Tuesday night, Will and I took each other out on a date. We had dinner at Olive Garden (his choice), and then headed to the theatre for Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy. Seventh grade has come with early morning school sports practices; after school and evening sporting events; an increase in homework, studying, and practicing; and an increase in time spent with friends. We see Will even less this year than we saw him last year, therefore both Tom and I are working hard to carve out pockets of time to connect with, talk to, eat with, play with, and even just sit in silence with him. This date night was the perfect opportunity for Will and I to touch base, and then make a memory just the two of us.
We're actually closer in height than we look in
this picture - my 2+ inch heels gave me a boost.

Happiness Highlights
XC meet #2!
(Does it look dry and dusty and sweltering?
Because it was. These kids are so hardcore.)
His goal for this meet was to place in the top 15 (out
of 75) and he worked SO hard to accomplish that goal.
On Saturday we celebrated sweet "baby"
Calvin's 4th birthday. Where does the time go?
Despite the age differences between them and
Calvin, both Will and Hallie consider him their
buddy and wanted to be there for his party.  
On school mornings, Will leaves before Hallie gets up
and Tom doesn't get up until right before Hallie leaves.
This means she and I have the house to ourselves, and
because we're pretty productive on our own, we have time
almost every morning to play Uno. We have fun no matter
who wins, and we both get a kick out of our Uno stalker...
He looks sweet and cuddly, but he's actually really
riled up - something about Uno makes him crazy!
Ready to rock our first year as a polichinelle in the Nutcracker!

Happy Friday, friends!

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Love That Texas Drawl

I’ve written previously about adjusting to both the vernacular and the accent here in Texas, and while we haven’t exactly mastered either, we have improved dramatically over the last eight years. (My voice, however, still gives me away...I assume because of my Midwestern twang. Last month I was talking to an office receptionist when an acquaintance I know from the kids’ school - who happens to work nearby - popped her head out to see if she had correctly identified me by ear. “I knew I recognized that accent!”)

Thank goodness, because according to a new survey by Big 7 Travel, Texas comes in at number one on the list of "Top 50 Sexiest Accent in the USA". Apparently their (our?) “Southern accent with a twist” – with its friendly greeting (“Howdy!”) and strong emphasis on the ‘r’ sound – swayed a significant number of the survey’s 1.5 million participants.

Boston and New York accents ranked second and third, respectively, and at the opposite end of the spectrum, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Long Island came in at 48th, 49th, and 50th. A Wisconsin accent didn’t make the list at all (probably because it falls somewhere between Minnesotan and Midwestern and didn’t warrant its own voting category), so I guess our best course of action is to continue trying to sound as much as possible like our fellow Texans…

Friday, September 13, 2019

High Five for Friday (9.13.19)

Remember last Friday, when I talked about me watching and Will playing soccer on the SURFACE OF THE SUN? (I have to capitalize all of the letters in that phrase - it's the law.) This Friday, I'm talking about me watching and Will running cross country on the SURFACE OF THE SUN.

Last Friday afternoon Will ran in his first cross country meet. At the moment his race started, there was hardly a cloud in the sky (although there was both smoke and ash in the sky, thanks to a nearby fire - talk about great conditions for running) and the temperature outside had climbed to a cool 100 degrees. Ouch. I have an occasional complaint about dance, but the fact that 95% of the time Hallie dances indoors isn't one of them.

But this is a High Five for Friday post, so let's focus on the high five, shall we?

Having never attended a cross country meet before, I had little idea what to expect aside from the oppressive heat. I discovered that while there were a few slow stretches (waiting for races to start, waiting for stragglers to finish, waiting for runners to circle back around to visible sections of the course), they were broken up by an exciting beginning, middle, and end.

The field of seventh grade boys, Will included, came to RUN. And despite the less-than-ideal conditions, most of the 70 or so runners gave impressive performances for their first meet of the season. Will finished in the top fourth, and while I know he was aiming for a slightly higher place overall, he was pleased with his second place finish on his team. Watching him take off from the starting line and working hard midway through the race made me SO proud, and I admit to tearing up a little when I saw him round the final corner and then sprint across the finish line.

I suspect cross country will always come in second place to soccer in Will's world of sports, but after this first meet, I am truly looking forward to watching him grow as a runner throughout the next two years.
Holding strong just after the halfway mark.
This is the best shot of what a
soccer player's leg tan looks like. 😂
Here he comes!
Leaning across the finish line.
Celebrating with friends/teammates.
A great first meet!

After using my new washer and dryer (a 40th birthday present from my parents) for about nine months, I made the decision - with help from my mom - to sell the set and replace them. It's a long story, but they needed to go. A local appliance repair company bought and picked them up from me last week, and then on Sunday (after a few delivery-related problems) my new set arrived. Tom installed them* and they're running beautifully...and I have returned to (kind of) enjoying laundry.

In the last month Tom correctly and impressively installed an under-mount microwave, an oven, a washer, and a dryer. He deserves a medal.

Nutcracker rehearsals have begun! I forgot to take pictures before rehearsal started, after rehearsal ended, and while we were out for ice cream to celebrate the first week of Nutcracker rehearsals, but I did take pictures during the afternoon playdate that allowed them to spend basically the entire day together. (Nutcracker rehearsal ⇨ ice cream shop ⇨ playdate ⇨ Welcome Back to Dance pajama party. Not too shabby for a Saturday!)
Yes, they're wearing matching pajamas and eating stalks of celery.

Sweet baby River is 10 days old today, a milestone which of course warrants additional pictures.

Happiness Highlights
A thank you gift from a friend, in honor of our
mutual favorite Friends' 25th anniversary.  
Found this little drawing on the back side of a school project.
Just because...
Who says Halloween and
Nutcrackers seasons can't overlap?
It's hard to put your laundry away when
there's a cat sleeping in your underwear drawer. 
Apparently age 12 is when boys will start
smiling - on command - for the camera.
I tried to capture one from far away - this is the best I could do.
Mamas are good at smiling for the camera though!

Happy Friday, friends!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


I have trouble letting this day pass without acknowledging it here. New content, however, seems unnecessary as what I felt last year - and two years ago, and 10 years ago - about this day has not changed.  

Flower at September 11 Memorial"The real differences around the world today are not between Jews and Arabs; Protestants and Catholics; Muslims, Croats, and Serbs. The real differences are between those who embrace peace and those who would destroy it; between those who look to the future and those who cling to the past; between those who open their arms and those who are determined to clench their fists."

~William J. Clinton, 1997

I honestly believe that the truest way for us - as individuals and as a country - to remember and honor those who lost their lives on September 11th is to embrace peace, look to the future, and open our arms.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Who Wore It Better?

In honor of Will's first middle school cross country season, I proudly present: "Who Wore It Better?", the Father/Son Edition.

I'd say there's an obvious winner in this contest.

My boys are not wearing the same outfit. The picture of Tom was taken almost 10 years ago at one of our garage sales - I believe my brother-in-law was selling that ensemble, which he had worn long ago on the high school basketball court. 

Friday, September 6, 2019

High Five for Friday (9.6.19)

She may have moved hundreds of miles away, but she came back to celebrate her birthday! Happy, happy day (a little early) to you, Nuria!

Will's second soccer tournament of the season ended with a second second-place finish. Coming in second is tough - unlike first or third place, second place means ending the tournament with a loss. Thankfully, our boys held their heads high and felt good about the progress they made throughout the weekend.
My boys, enjoying sports at Buffalo Wild Wings, in between games.
Silver medalists: Cavalry 06 Black!

I love watching Will play...but after two full weekends of watching and playing on the SURFACE OF THE SUN, I'm ready to do both in weather that feels a little more fall-ish. Did you hear me, Mother Nature? I'm DONE with summer. 🔥

Thank goodness for three-day weekends, AMIRIGHT?! After having to get up early on both Saturday and Sunday morning for Nutcracker fittings and Will's soccer tournament, it felt incredibly refreshing to not set an alarm for Monday morning. We had a relatively relaxing day - I went to the gym, the kids played with friends, and I caught up on work, laundry, and cleaning/tidying up around the house - which was exactly what everyone needed.

Last week I had the opportunity to meet Will's teachers and walk the halls at his new middle school, and with this week came Hallie's turn. I actually already know Hallie's school quite well (it's the same school Will attended for fifth and sixth grade) and I met with her teachers prior to the start of the school year, but it was still informative and comforting to walk her schedule. I hope this year goes well for her academically, but also socially and emotionally, and being present in the school for events like this one helps me feel more at ease about the year ahead.

Last but certainly not least, on Tuesday our (extended) family grew by one! Tom's brother, his wife, and their son, Forest, welcomed a precious little girl - River Nicholson - into this world. Welcome, sweet River! We can't wait to meet you!
Beautiful, smart, brave, strong, and kind
River, with her equally gifted mama.
And Forest, her awesome big brother. 😍 

Happy Friday, friends!