Tuesday, June 30, 2020

COVID Comedown

In an attempt to "clean house", I recently pulled all of the yet-to-be-saved photos and videos - those taken/recorded between the middle of March and now - off of my phone. And because many of them are fun, funny, or sweet (maybe only to me? Maybe because we've all begun going quarantine crazy?), I decided to share them here - maybe you too could use a little fun, funny, or sweet in your life right now.

Hallie teaching herself how to put her own hair in a bun was one of her/our greatest quarantine accomplishments. Her buns may not be performance ready, but she saved me from doing 35-40 of them throughout March, April, and May and made her feel incredibly good about herself. 

I forgot to include - in the Adulting 301 post - the pics of Will and Hallie learning CPR. I used to teach CPR and a variety of other classes for the American Red Cross, so it was fun for me to pull out and use that skillset again after so many years. (No children were harmed while learning CPR. They used each other to find the correct location for compressions and to practice some of the skills, and then used a pillow to practice giving compressions.)

We're still quite happy with our backyard pool. I wish it were a permanent, in-ground pool, but on days when we aren't swimming with friends, we're thrilled to have an option other than the hose and a sprinkler for cooling off.

I shared a bit about Hallie's Red Carpet Experiences (our dance studio's replacement for this year's recital), but I didn't download her actual dances until now. (Please forgive the poor filming - it's hard to watch and film simultaneously.) Hallie would want me to note that much of each dance was learned while in quarantine, none of these dances were meant to be solos, and all of these dances had a place in a larger story. With that, here we go: Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Contemporary.

On a related note, I took a few pictures of Hallie during the in-class recitals for the classes she assisted. She LOVED the opportunity to help and guide these little dancers for the first time this year!

This two got along remarkably well during quarantine. That changed once summer break officially started, but I'm so grateful they gave me almost 10 weeks of brotherly/sisterly love!

Today's post is named in honor of one of my favorite follows on Instagram: Laurel Bristow, otherwise known as kinggutterbaby. As an educated, knowledgable, honest, straightforward, and no-nonsense infectious disease researcher (she's been as "boots on the ground" as anyone during this pandemic), she has kept me informed throughout the last three months and has helped me better understand what to look for when sorting through and determining the validity of journal articles, study results, etc. She provides scientific information most nights of the week, but on Saturdays, she hosts "COVID Comedown", during which she answers random, non-COVID-related questions from her followers. Thanks for the title idea, Laurel!

Friday, June 26, 2020

High Five for Friday (6.26.20)

Shall we start here? 2020 is almost over, right?

Hallie's friend Tessa, who moved away last year, was in town for an afternoon late last week. I picked her up and we surprised Hallie with Dairy Queen and a socially distanced playdate at the park. They talk on the phone once a week, but getting together in person was a wonderful treat.

The snow cone truck came down our street and the surprise made our week. I was so excited that even though I'm not usually a big fan of snow cones, I had to get one for myself.

Another weekend, another weekend project! Last weekend I scrubbed, cleaned, dried, painted, and sealed the grout in my shower. Thankfully I was just repainting it the same color it had already been painted (the original grout when the bathroom was remodeled didn't cure to the intended color, so they had to paint it the correct color), so while the project too five or so hours, it was simpler than it could have been. I may tackle the floor in the kids' bathroom this weekend!



How did you celebrate Juneteenth? Will and I attended the Brazos Valley African American Museum's Juneteenth Curbside Celebration, where we skipped the museum (I'm not ready for museums yet) but spent a little time talking - through our masks - with volunteers and learning as much as we could about this important day. We brought home bookmarks and printouts outlining the history behind Juneteenth, and read through them with Hallie later in the day.

After learning that red foods - specifically strawberry soda, strawberry pie, red rice, watermelon, and red velvet cake - are popular on Juneteenth, I also made red velvet cupcakes to share with friends.

Psyched about his strawberry soda treat.

How did you celebrate?

Happiness Highlights
Father's Day photo collage for Tom.

Father's Day photo collage for my dad.

Trying out his new electric fryer. A gift for him...and a gift for me
as well, because now he doesn't have to fry things in my kitchen.

This creation - as well as printed and framed versions for the lab
and office - was Tom's other Father's Day gift. We all LOVED it.
(Wait for our Christmas card to see the photo they worked from.)

Tom picked up a small curbside order at Kroger
on Sunday afternoon (things he wanted to fry),
and they gave him this Father's Day goody bag!

There's a special on Disney+ about Reville!

One of our favorite juice bars - Juice It Up - just reopened after closing
more than a year ago, so Hallie and I rode our bikes there last weekend.

We were VERY prepared.

Hallie's hoping to come out of quarantine having perfected
her french braid. I'm always happy to let her practice on me. 

This kid has bionic eyes (no really, he does - ask his eye doctor) so
while he doesn't need glasses, he wanted a pair to block the blue
light while he's working on the computer. Handsome, isn't he?

Happy weekend, friends!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Tuesdays with Tux: Quarantine Edition, Episode 3

At some point during quarantine we came across a video of a cat and a dog making their way - effortlessly and gracefully - through a maze of tall, slender, precariously balanced pens, pencils, and markers.

Because the kids and I had on our hands 1) a cat, 2) plenty of writing utensils, and 3) nothing but time, we decided to see if Tux could maneuver through a similarly designed pen, pencil, and marker gauntlet.

Surprisingly (to us) Tux made it through our hallway challenge three times, only knocking down one marker...but we can blame that on the fact that on the third attempt he was fed up with us and was trying to escape both Will at the starting and Hallie at the finish line.

Life is pretty exciting these days...

Friday, June 19, 2020

High Five for Friday (6.19.20)

I'm still not venturing out to bars or restaurants, but I'm 100% in for outdoor and (mostly) socially distanced evening gatherings to celebrate friends' birthdays. Happy day to you, Ari!

I'm also 100% in for "field trips" to nearby sunflower fields. We missed the flowers' peak, but we enjoyed admiring their beauty and had fun taking pictures of these besties (I just now realized that we should have had the girls take a picture of their mom besties too). Next year we'll aim to visit a couple of weeks earlier!

It was VERY bright outside. This
was widest they could open their eyes.

These little tastes of activity and excursion are pleasant reminders of what our lives looked like - and what we loved about our lives - up until three months ago and what we hope they will once again look like down the road.

Speaking of activity and excursion...

Will went back to soccer practice a couple of weeks ago, and doing so completely changed his outlook on this extended summer break. I'm so grateful his club and coaches have been able to orchestrate practices in a way that lets the boys play while keeping them as safe as possible.

And now this week Hallie finally got her chance, attending her first musical theater camp at our local theater company. (A different organization and camp than that in which she played Dorothy last summer.) I was impressed at how well the leadership team did at establishing and following guidelines, and as a result, I felt alright about sending Hallie. She has had a great time, and I look forward to sharing a little more about her experience next week, after camp has wrapped!

I'm sure many of you can relate to how difficult it is to balance kids' physical and mental health right now. A part of me wants to keep them locked up inside the house for the next two years, but as I watched them struggle more and more throughout quarantine, I knew the time would come when we would have to - as a family - discuss taking and then actually move forward with taking some calculated risks. It's scary. Hang in there, friends.

I finally finished my Little Free Library makeover! The last few years of Texas' oppressive and near-constant heat, humidity, and sun (along with an occasional hurricane) did a number on our Little Free Library's exterior, so on a whim I decided to give it a facelift. I took it apart (took the door off and removed all of the hinges), sanded the wood, gave the library a fresh coat of paint with the colors we used on the shed last year, and restained the post. She looks nice, doesn't she?

Today is Juneteenth. I am embarrassed to admit that until this year, I knew nothing about what celebrating this holiday - which I've also heard called Jubilee Day and Freedom Day - meant.

Juneteenth commemorates this day - June 19th - in 1865 when Union General Gordon Granger read aloud the federal orders that all previously enslaved people in Texas were free. Though these individuals had been formally freed by the Emancipation Proclamation more than two years earlier and the Civil War had ended in April of that year, Texas was "the most remote of the slave states, with a low presence of Union troops, so enforcement of the proclamation had been slow and inconsistent". Festivities began the following year here in Texas, and grew gradually throughout the last 150 years. Today, Juneteenth is recognized as a state holiday or day of observance in 47 of the 50 states. (Hawaii, North Dakota, and South Dakota do not recognize Juneteenth.) Popular Juneteenth activities include readings, lectures, exhibitions, and historical reenactments, as well as prayer services, street fairs, cookouts, reunions, rodeos, and parties. The day is about celebrating African American* freedom and achievement, but also about celebrating heritage, instilling pride, and honoring influences.

* I used "African American", rather than "Black", here because that is the terminology used on the official Juneteenth website.  

Covid-19 has made every holiday since March look different than it has in the past, and Juneteenth is no different. But now that I actually know what this holiday means, I plan to celebrate. Will and I will attend the Brazos Valley African American Museum's Juneteenth Curbside Celebration this morning (Hallie will be at theater camp and unfortunately can't join us) so he and I can be a part of and learn more about this special day, and over dinner we'll talk about what we've learned with the rest of the family.

Want to learn more about Juneteenth? Check out www.juneteenth.com and the What is Juneteenth? episode on the podcast First Name Basis with Jasmine Bradshaw.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Adulting 301

When quarantine began, I started kicking off each week of at-home learning with a checklist. Well, three checklists, actually: one for me, one for Will, and one for Hallie. The kids' checklists included the schoolwork they were required to complete and submit to their teachers, extra schoolwork I assigned (Khan Math and Typing Club lessons, for example), their PE responsibilities (at least 20 minutes of exercise in the mornings and sports-specific training - guided by their teachers and coaches - in the afternoons), and finally, a few extracurricular activities.

Extracurricular activities varied dramatically and included everything from Will's online referee class and Hallie's online crafting class to baking birthday treats and delivering food to the food pantry. The list also included lessons in adulting.

More than two years ago I wrote my first post about adulting: Adulting 101. I had come across an article about an actual Adulting School at which experts teach budgeting, paying bills, meal planning, sewing, "making", and "fixing"...all the skills needed to survive and thrive as adults. The founders of the school reference changes in middle and high school curriculum, family dynamics, and the pace of society as contributors to the need for this special kind of education, and to be honest, I get it. Sadly, I regularly hear from Tom (a college professor) about, read stories about, and witness for myself circumstances in which young adults don't actually know how to behave and/or take care of themselves like adults. I certainly didn't have it all together when I moved away from home for college - or even when I started my first job after graduation - but thanks to my mom's hard work, I knew how to do my own laundry, sew on a button, cook a meal, and wield most basic tools.

In hopes Will and Hallie wouldn't end up having to attend classes at The Adulting School, I started working with them on some basic adulting skills, and by the end of first year they could cut soft fruits and vegetables with a knife and an apple with an apple corer, scramble an egg, set the table, load and unload the dishwasher (they both do this MUCH better than Tom), vacuum their rooms, dust the furniture, wipe down the bathroom, hammer nails, screw in screws, fold simple laundry, write thank you notes, and shake hands. That year they both also learned how to pull weeds, rake leaves, and change lightbulbs; Will learned to calculate a tip; and Hallie started her journey to becoming a baker.

During our second year of adulting we didn't make as much progress. It was a Catch 22: the older the kids get, the busier they come, which leaves us with less time available for learning the ways of the world (at least those outside of what they learn at school and through their extracurriculars). We continued to work on the skills they'd learned the previous year - using a knife, washing and drying dishes, setting the table, and using good table manners - and added talking on the phone, leaving voicemail messages, and basic banking.

And then came quarantine.

Suddenly we had SO much more time for adulting lessons. And we took advantage of that time by learning a few new skills, including how to:
  • Sort, wash, dry, and fold laundry.
  • Change the sheets.
  • Order food online.
  • Wrap a present.
  • Make coffee.
  • Write a "social letter" (rather than a thank you note).
  • Plan a meal, create a grocery list, and follow a recipe.
  • Perform CPR and the Heimlich Manuever on adults, children, and babies.
  • Perform basic first aid and use an automated external defibrillator.

It shouldn't have taken me this long, but I finally realized this summer that just because I've taught the kids something in the past doesn't mean they've "got it". Throughout the rest of the summer we'll be reviewing what we've already learned, and hopefully picking up a few additional skills, like how to:
  • Iron.
  • Sew on buttons and mend small tears in clothing.
  • Perform basic water safety maneuvers.   
  • Fill up the car with gas.

None of these skills fall into the category of rocket science, and my system of teaching Will and Hallie how to become functional adults is mediocre at best. But we're making progress, slowly but surely, and I can only hope that when we emerge from quarantine my kids will be slightly more prepared to take on the world.

Friday, June 12, 2020

High Five for Friday (6.12.20)

One of our favorite coffee shops and wine bars, Tipsy Bean, closed its doors for good this week. (Yes, they served coffee and wine, along with cheese and pastries. I couldn't have dreamed up a more perfect combination of treats.) While this development is certainly not worthy of a high five, one last hurrah - a Tipsy Bean charcuterie board - in celebration of the many good times we've had there over the last three years was a lovely way to say goodbye.

I haven't set foot in - or even ordered from - a Starbucks since March 11th. I miss my vanilla sweet cream cold brew something fierce. I also miss keeping tabs on the reusable cups Starbucks rolls out from time to time, especially recently, when I heard rumors about a new confetti cup.

Last week I arrived a few minutes early to pick up my groceries. I parked facing the Kroger Starbucks entrance, and kept an eye on the door to determine how busy it might be inside. When five minutes passed and no one exited with coffee in hand, I decided to risk it. I put on my mask and ventured just inside the door; when I saw that Starbucks didn't have even a single customer, I made my way to the counter...and there it was: the confetti cup. I asked the barista for three, and while she gathered the cups, tops, and straws, I added to my purchase a six pack of summer cups that I couldn't leave behind. I paid and exited as quickly as possible, experiencing an adrenaline rush - form both finding the cups and entering a store for the first time in three full months - not unlike those I feel when Will makes a penalty kick. The best part was gifting two of the confetti cups and four of the summer cups to friends, who were equally excited about this fabulous find.

It's the little things these days...

Thanks to the Corona Virus, the annual Daddy Daughter Dance Tom and Hallie always attend was cancelled. Her desire to get "gussied up" (#grandmahallie) in the dress she had planned to wear did not, however, get cancelled, so Tom, Will, and I (loosely) planned a surprise date night for Tom and Hallie. I convinced her to get dressed up, and then Tom rang the doorbell, flowers in hand (thanks, Jenn, for picking them up for me!), and took her out on the town. They picked up dinner at CFA, had a picnic at the TAMU Gardens, and then brought Dairy Queen blizzards home, where they watched The Simpsons Movie together.

On Saturday morning we celebrated Hallie's long-time dance teacher and company director - who is expecting her first babe in less than a month - with an outdoor baby shower. Shifts of moms and daughters (to keep the number of guests at any given time low and the environment safer for mom-to-be Christi) came rolling through for individually wrapped snacks, socially distanced games, presents, and to wrap up the morning, freeze dancing.

Happiness Highlights

After a little hiatus from drive-by celebrations, we were so excited that the end of last week brought three: one to say goodbye to a friend/family from dance (not exactly a celebration, but still a fun opportunity to get out, see some friends from afar, and wish other friends well on their upcoming adventure), one to wish a happy birthday to a dance friend of Hallie's, and one to wish a happy birthday to "our" Kaylee.

Cold brew from Dos Road Dogs Coffee is the best.

He still doesn't love his cat stroller,
but she hasn't given up and he's trying.

Hallie's Daddy Daughter Night flowers came
from a local flower farm called Basecamp Farms.
Their flowers and arrangements are gorgeous.

One of Will's friends made them shirts in honor of their
"Park Tribe" that came to be throughout the last year.

I may have teared up a little when Will brought his home.

Tom, living his best weekend life.

Hallie's favorite flower in our backyard. 

Happy weekend, friends!