Friday, September 17, 2021

High Five for Friday (9.17.21)



Will had a blast at Cavalry (his soccer club) Night at Ellis Field, which is the home of the Aggie Women's Soccer team/program. I unfortunately couldn't attend the Aggie game with him, so he and I made a rough plan for pick up and then I dropped him off - with a ticket and $20 - at the gate. I knew he'd quickly find his friends/teammates and he had his phone with him, but I was still nervous, as this was the the first time I'd ever left him "alone" at an non-school/community event, birthday party, or playdate. We I got a bit nervous when the time came for me to pick him up and his phone went straight to voicemail (his garbage battery died - a new phone with a functional battery to give his mom more peace of mind is on its way), but then he showed up exactly where he was supposed to meet me and all was once again right with the world. He's growing up...and making me exceptionally proud in more ways than one.

Will and his teammates are behind the goal in red.
Look at me, adding an arrow to a picture. 😁


Nutcracker rehearsals are well underway! Hallie is a party girl, and because party girls receive and then dance with dolls (during the show), this week they brought to rehearsal their own stuffed animals to practice dancing with. Hallie chose Winnie the Pooh, and got him fully dressed in an American Girl Doll leotard and ballet shoes and then put a bow in his hair. I love when she shows me glimpses of the little girl she once was...



My sister found this on her phone. It made my day.

Lily is 10, almost 11. She has absolutely no personality at all. 😉 


While we're on Lily... These are my two favorite pictures of her from her fall dance photo shoot. She is strong and confident and gorgeous, and an amazing dancer as well.


I forgot to mention this last week, but it still applies this week... It's football season! I'm not in any way excited or happy about large, mostly unmasked, and largely unvaccinated crowds gathering in close proximity to scream and yell (and therefore spit on each other), but I am excited and happy to see both college and NFL football teams take the field again. (My Hawkeyes are off to a great start. My Packers...not so much. Get it together, A-a-ron.)


I participated in the Texas CARES study and was pleased to learn that while I have no natural antibodies (not surprising, given that 1) I haven't been diagnosed with COVID and 2) studies have shown that natural antibodies wane rapidly), my vaccine-related antibodies are in excellent shape. 

* Worth sharing for anyone who is on the fence about getting a vaccine because they feel confident their natural immunity from a prior infection will protect them from future infections... A friend of mine had COVID late last November/early December. She and I were vaccinated on the exact same day(s) and had our blood drawn for the Texas CARES antibody study on the exact same day, and despite the fact that she had COVID and I have not, she and I had the same amount of natural antibodies: None. Zero. Zilch. Get vaccinated, friends.


Happy weekend, friends!

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

The Day the Music Died

A long, long time ago
I can still remember how that music
Used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they'd be happy for a while

I was raised in a home full of music. We listened to the radio as well as records, cassettes, and CDs, but we also listened to live music, played on guitars and banjos and ukuleles and harmonicas - and probably some instruments I'm forgetting - by my dad and his best friend. When we were little girls they graciously let my little sister and me sing with them; as we grew older and became vocal musicians ourselves, they started asking us to sing with them, which we still do when we're all back in Madison at the same time. My mom fostered our love for Broadway music, taking us to our first show - Meet Me in St. Louis - in NYC when we were in second grade and kindergarten, and then many...many...many more shows after that.  

I wish I had photos from back then, and more/better pictures of us playing throughout the years, but somehow I don't. This post includes - I think - almost all I can put my hands on.

Tom was raised similarly, and when he joined the Mueller clan we added him to our family band as both a vocalist and a piano player. (Tom is an accomplished pianist, he and I met in a choir, and he plays the guitar, bass, and drums as well.) Throughout the years, different combinations of our family band - my dad, my sister, me, and Tom, along with my dad's best friend and my sister's lifelong best friend - have provided music for many weddings, parties, funerals, and even a high school graduation ceremony.

Tom playing the piano at our wedding reception.

Sara and me singing at our cousin's wedding.
Not pictured: Tom on piano and my dad on guitar.

That's Will, you guys. 😭

Though I years ago transitioned to listening to podcasts while I work out and get ready in the morning, music remains a huge part of my life and my family's life. Tom plays music every week with friends and about once a week with our neighbor (on occasion the kids join this jam session), Will just started his fifth year playing the cello in his school's orchestra, and Hallie...well, if Hallie isn't listening, dancing, or singing along to music I'd be worried something in her life had gone horribly array.

A few months ago I noticed I wasn't listening or singing along to music quite as often as I once had. I was sitting and walking and driving and working in relative quiet, because (I assumed initially that) I needed less noise after being at home with all my people for a year and a half. But as I thought about it more, I realized that it wasn't the need for less was avoiding the emotions music brought up and out in me.

As an ever-emotional person, music has always "enhanced" what I've felt - the good, the bad, and the ugly. Even on my best days, my kids can barely handle listening to music with me because there are MANY songs that bring me to tears. But now, it's not just "many" songs that bring me to's all of the songs. My emotions these days are a delicately balanced game of Jenga, and music of any kind pulls out the one block responsible for stabilizing the tower. 

But February made me shiver
With every paper I'd deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn't take one more step
I can't remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
Something touched me deep inside
The day the music died

And because I couldn't handle falling apart every time music came on, I just turned the music off. 

And in the streets the children screamed
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken
And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died

The music will return, I tell myself. The music has to return, I tell myself. It may have died, but I have to believe this is one instance when the dead can be resurrected. 

I'm working on a plan to resurrect my personal relationship with music. But before I embark on that plan, I'm going to give myself a little longer to sit...even the silence. 


Here's the first draft of my plan: create an instrumental playlist to have on in the background at home, learn the words to a new musical's songs with Hallie (we're thinking Waitress?), splurge on a few new music downloads, finally transfer some of my favorite music from my computer to my phone, and perhaps even purchase satellite radio for my car. Anything to add?


To be clear, it's just my personal relationship with music that needs work. If my home is full of people, my home is also full of music. As I type this, Tom and Hallie are jamming with the vocoder and on the keyboards in the playroom while Hallie's Alexa plays her "strong dancer playlist" in her bedroom. I'm sure all of this music is helping Will write his English 9 Advanced essay.

Friday, September 10, 2021

High Five for Friday (9.10.21)

"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

In the days, weeks, and months following 9/11, we came together as a country, united against a common enemy and in support of each other as Americans. I want so desperately to live in this world a world where we come together as a country, united against a common enemy and in support of each other as Americans, in a world where people embrace peace and look to the future and open their arms. But right now the world I see and hear and feel - on a global scale but also in my own backyard - seems hell bent on destruction. I truly don't understand.
In memory of the 2,977 lives lost 20 years ago on September 11th. In memory of the 13 United States service member lives lost two weeks ago in the Kabul airport attack. And in memory of the more than 4.55 million lives lost worldwide* (and more than 651,000 lives lost in the United States*) to COVID-19.

* Statistics as of Wednesday, September 8, 2021.



Lately Hallie has come out of one particular dance class upset. Despite the fact that she has every right to feel disappointed, frustrated, sad, and even angry, it's hard for me to listen to her laundry list of complaints and issues week after week after week. So she and I made a deal: for every negative she tells me about this class (because I really do want her to tell me what's going on, even when it's not good), she'll also tell me one positive. And my part of the deal? I keep writing these High Five for Friday posts, even when the days and weeks are hard and I struggle to find five good things to tell you about.

So my first high five this week is that I successfully negotiated a deal of sorts with a 12-year-old.


In case you missed it last week, ARETHA WAS ADOPTED! I cried happy tears when I heard she'd been reserved, because as much as I miss her, she deserves a forever home. I also cried happy tears when, a few days after she went to her forever home, her new mama sent SKR the following message: "I just thought I'd let you know that Aretha (now Pepper) is THRIVING! She's soooo precious. She's been doing zoomies, playing so much, making biscuits, purring like a motor boat, and super cuddly." She is thus far our greatest kitten accomplishment, and I'm so proud of her and us. 

In Aretha's place, we now have sweet baby Dumpling, who like Aretha arrived in need of a little extra TLC. Since I gave Aretha's new mama our first kitten carrying sweatshirt, I bought a second kitten carrying sweatshirt so we could start helping Dumpling adjust. Dumpling is less fearful than Aretha was when she first arrived, but she/we still have some work to prepare her for adoption. I can already tell, however, that Dumpling is naturally gentle and tender, and when there aren't bigger cats and kittens around making her nervous, she loves to snuggle.  

Last but not least, CURLY WAS ADOPTED TOO! He went to his forever home last Sunday and while we're missing him - we think we had him longer than any other kitten thus far - I'm sure he's already settled in and loving his new family. 


I have finally finished all of my PTO business for Will and Hallie's intermediate school (which they no longer attend). My position on the Board - which I held for four years - officially ended July 31st, but as of this week I've passed on all of my folders and documents and talked through my job responsibilities with my successors. It's hard to say goodbye, but I'm excited about shifting gears to high school PTO!


Oh, how we needed a long weekend! We caught up on sleep, Hallie had a Nutcracker rehearsal, Will had a soccer practice, I took both kids shopping - Hallie for school shirts and Will for his first suit - and we baked for some friends who are under the weather. I'm so glad our school district started giving us Labor Day off - for the first few years we lived here Labor Day was just business as usual (and it still is business as usual for Tom and all those at TAMU).


I got my flu shot - one more vaccination down! (I went about a month earlier than I usually do because we've already started seeing cases of the flu in our area.)

Happy weekend, friends!

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Monthly Medley: August 2021



I read about 50 pages of a great book during the first week in August, and then I set the book down and never picked it up again. Such is August... I hope to return with at least one book recommendation next month!


When we watch television or movies at home, we often split into two groups (though the make-up of these two groups varies) because it's incredibly difficult to find something we all four enjoy. Tom and the kids love cartoons, I don't. Hallie and I love Friends and romantic comedies, the boys don't. Tom and Will like superhero movies and disc golf tournaments, Hallie and I don't. Will and I like caper/heist/crime dramas, Tom and Hallie don't. You get it. When we were in Madison, while looking for something all four of us AND my parents would like - a nearly impossible task, wouldn't you agree? - we stumbled upon The Mysterious Benedict Society. Oh my goodness, we all LOVED this show (season one included eight episodes and was based on book one of the series) and are crossing our fingers that a second season will soon be in the works. The writing is fantastic, the cast is perfection...this is without a doubt one of the best shows - smart, clever, engaging, entertaining, funny, fun, and yes, mysterious - I've watched in years. And it's perfect for kids, tweens, teens, boys, girls, moms, dads, grandmas, and grandpas.  

Hallie and I also enjoyed both Kindergarten Cop and The Wedding Planner from our Corona RomComs list and we started watching the sitcom Reba while we wait for The Bill Engvall Show and Growing Pains to stream somewhere for free...

Listening To

Nothing. Better put, I'm listening to silence. After a lifetime of listening to music and at least a few years of riding along on the podcast bandwagon, I noticed a few weeks ago that I'm more and more frequently sitting and walking and driving and working in relative quiet. At first I thought it was because I needed less noise - after all, the last 18 months have been incredibly loud, what with all the people and all the kittens in the house all the time. But after delving into this development, I realized that the quiet is about something else entirely. And while I hate to leave you hanging, I'm going to do just that because I have an entire post on the subject coming soon. 'Til then... 


I've been enjoying Galey Alix (@galeyalix), who works in finance Monday through Friday but on the weekends works as a designer and videographer. She comes across as honest and real, her designs are beautiful, and her reveal videos are *chef's kiss*.


If you've been reading these posts for a while, you know that throughout the last 18 months I've worn mostly 1) athletic clothes (including my all-time favorite shorts) and 2) t-shirts with funny, clever, sarcastic, or snarky (depending on the day) sayings on them. I was getting excited about starting to wear "real" clothes again - and I actually did wear real clothes a few times throughout the summer - but now that it feels like we're back in pandemic mode, I just want to go back to that which is comfy.

One of those real outfits I wore this summer included a new Loft tank, a new pair of Loft jeans, and a new pair of heeled sandals from Walmart. I hate selfies with a passion, but a selfie (with my head cut off) was the best way to show you the three pieces of this outfit - all of which I love - so here we are. 

Orange Sweater Tank



(This is actually a link to the red version of my sandals, which now I might need because they only cost $11.99. I can't find the cognac version online, but I know they still have them in the stores.) 


I became a fan of Native after first "quitting" antiperspirants with aluminum a few years ago and then sampling a little travel-sized Native deodorant a couple of years after that. The kids and I all use their aluminum-free and paraben-free deodorants, and I've been happy with how well they work and their scents. So when Native came out with sunscreen - especially sunscreen that smelled like a pina colada - I had to give it a try. And the verdict? Both the face and body lotions are great. They do the job of protecting my skin, go on smoothly, absorb quickly (as in they don't make skin look ghostly white), and feel lightweight. And again, the ones I chose to try smell like a pina colada, which is delightful!

Note: the paragraph above sounds a little like an ad, but I promise it isn't. I have no affiliation with Native and I bought these products myself. I just like to share "the wealth" when I find something I like!


  • The Four Ferri like eating fish, but to varying degrees, based primarily on how it's prepared and (for some of us) how "fishy" it tastes. Hallie likes her fish as non-fishy as possible, and while I like a fish flavor, I like that flavor to blend in with other flavors. Does all that make sense? 😂 This Tilapia with Mustard-Pecan Crust went over well with all four of us; fast, easy, and delicious makes it a win in my book!
  • I made and shared a dish similar to this Ground Turkey Skillet with Zucchini, Corn, Black Beans, and Tomato last year, but I think we all liked this one even better. I followed the recipe except for omitting the cilantro (3/4 of the Ferri don't like it) and it was a hit!
  • We actually made this Pecan Coconut Chess Pie for Tom's birthday while we were in Madison, but since I forgot to share it in July I set myself a reminder to share it this month. I didn't think I was going to like this recipe at all (cornmeal? In a pie?), but it turned out to be amazing!

Feeling Good About...Olympic Edition!

Here are just a few of my favorite stories, ranging from those that made me laugh to those that all but restored my faith in humanity, from the 202ONE Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Hope you and yours had a great August!

Friday, September 3, 2021

High Five for Friday (9.3.21)


Midway through last week, Starbucks released it's pumpkin flavoring from the vault (or wherever they store this magnificent treat) and those of us who have been waiting anxiously since the pumpkin flavoring went into the vault last December could finally have our first taste of fall.

Yes, fall the season is still weeks away. Yes, fall the weather is still months away. But if I turn the air conditioning up, put on a pair of cozy pajamas, and savor my pumpkin cream cold brew, I can almost convince myself that fall - my favorite season - has already arrived. 


After having GI bugs in both February and July, and experiencing some symptoms in between those two bouts, I saw a gastroenterologist who ordered both blood work and a CT scan. I finally had the CT scan done (thanks to COVID it took almost a month for me to get in), and it came back normal. The phrase "grossly unremarkable" was used in the notes multiple times...perhaps the first time I've ever been happy to have been called gross!


Last Thursday I attended my first high school PTO meeting. After many (probably seven) years of feeling completely comfortable at PTO meetings, even when I was transitioning from one school to the next, it was strange to feel so awkward and out of place. Despite that, I'm excited to learn more about the school, get involved where they need me, and help make it a great year for Will and his fellow students! 

Yesterday I attended my first - of the year - PTO meeting at Hallie's middle school. It was refreshing after the week prior's meeting to see familiar faces and feel like I knew what the heck was going on...


Kitten Update

These two are such wonderful kitties - in very different but wonderful ways - and they'll make amazing additions, either separately or together (it took a few weeks, but they're finally friends), to lucky families or one even luckier family!

And an adorable Aretha series:

UPDATE: ARETHA HAS BEEN ADOPTED!!! Now we just need a home for sweet Curly Q... 


Happiness Highlights

Fall cups have arrived!

This girl has been giving me a run for my money lately. But
then she leaves me a note like this and all is forgotten/forgiven.

Magnolias are one of my favorite flowers.

We grew a cantaloupe! Accidentally of
course, but we grew it none-the-less!

Last but not least, today our sweet niece/cousin
River turns two! Happy birthday, baby girl!

Happy weekend, friends!

Monday, August 30, 2021

Mental Health Monday

In the name of "keeping it real" (which is always my goal)...

I don't feel 100% mentally healthy right now. Interestingly, my "decline" began not with the arrival of COVID-19, but at the beginning of 2019 when I found myself newly 40, dealing with an ongoing and uncomfortable injury, and frustrated with a couple of previously close relationships. I took steps to get myself back on track and planned enthusiastically for 2020, when I would "start anew".

HA. HA. HA. 

As it did everyone, 2020 hit me hard. The global pandemic, however, wasn't the primary source of my stress, anxiety, frustration, and anger, at least at first; a few months into 2020 my mental state took a hit because of 1) a series of physical health ailments and issues that have in various ways continued to plague me for the last 16 months, and 2) politics, the election, and what felt to me like the unraveling of our country's moral fabric. Fast forward to 2021, when 1) and 2) not only remain unresolved but have taken turns for the worse, and add in a third crisis: the "return" of the global pandemic accompanied by the degradation of our respect for science and collective common sense. 

Some days it feels like I've reached my breaking point.

So today, I want to share a few of my favorite ways to cope when it all feels too much.

I am not a medical professional. If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or another mental health challenge, please talk to your doctor.

  • Go for a walk. Even if it's just slowly meandering once around the block in dirty clothes and flip flops, move your body. I usually find that even if I don't want to exercise, once I start, the endorphins kick in, I can crank out a few miles, and I feel at least somewhat better.
  • Sit outside. Take deep, controlled, thoughtful breaths and focus on how the fresh air (and the sun, if you're a sunshine person) feels on your skin. I don't like sun and heat together, so in the warmer months I sit on the back porch under the fan.
  • Take a shower. Sit on the floor of the shower and cry first if you have to (the floor of the shower and the floor of my closet are my favorite "let the tears out" places), but then wash everything top to bottom and finish with a cold burst. Dry off and put on clean clothes.  
  • Drink a glass of water and eat a healthy snack. I often choose a can of sparkling water because it feels "special", and my go-to snacks are apples or graham crackers with peanut butter, carrots or pretzels with hummus, grapes with string cheese, or popcorn.
  • Do something productive for a short yet set period of time. Set an alarm for 15 minutes - less if necessary - and spend those minutes folding a load of laundry, picking up toys, unloading the dishwasher, vacuuming the living room, or answering emails.  
  • Snuggle a kitten. I can't explain to you how significantly our kittens help us when we're feeling down. Pet a kitten. Walk a dog. Cuddle a...any animal that will let you cuddle it. And if you don't have an animal to love on, let me know and you can come over and spend time with one of ours. 

To be clear, this post isn't a cry for help. I know I'm not 100% mentally healthy right now (just like I'm not 100% physically healthy right now and probably never will be again - it's so fun getting older 😩), but I'm also working hard to find ways to cope with the things in my life that are frustrating, maddening, and stress- and anxiety-inducing. 

I just wanted to share all this so if you're going through something similar, which I know A LOT of people are, you'll know I'm right there with you. We can do this.


This article may not make parents feel "better", but it will probably make parents feel less alone.  

"My kids spent a year at home, following the rules, then got vaccinated, and are now choosing to mask at schools. They’re pulling their weight.  They made real sacrifices that they don’t expect to be acknowledged for making. And of all the lessons they’ve learned as students of life this year, the hardest one to accept is that leadership can fail us…and some people truly do not care about how their behavior impacts others…especially those who need more protection."

A quote from my wise friend, Julia, after reading this article. I feel exactly same way.


Scheduling note: this post is taking the place of tomorrow's post. See you on Friday!

Friday, August 27, 2021

High Five for Friday (8.27.21)



After "meh" first days and a few small bumps and bruises, both kids are settling into their new school years. 

I, on the other hand, am not. Yet. But my day is coming. 

We are trying SO hard to embrace and appreciate the good - returning to school buildings and regular academic schedules with teachers the kids can speak to face-to-face, exciting new academic opportunities and extracurriculars (Hallie is THRILLED about science labs and Will has enthusiastically joined the debate team), and rekindling relationships with friends they hadn't seen in 18 months - which is of course the point behind these posts. And while we absolutely are embracing and do appreciate all of this good, I would be remiss if I didn't also mention the cloud hanging over all of our heads...the shadow that casts darkness across all of this light: we live in Texas, where protecting children from this pandemic is not a priority for many of our lawmakers and school leaders. Better put, protecting children from this pandemic has become a shameful, embarrassing, dangerous, and deadly political game. I have fought hard, and I will continue fighting, alongside a number of remarkable (mostly) women, against this madness and for the health and safety of my and all kids. We're tired and frustrated, heartbroken and furious, but we're still fighting. When all of our kids are protected...that's when I'll be able to settle into this school year. 


We still have sweet Curly and precious Aretha, who in the absence of "their" kids, have taken a liking - and developed quite the attachment - to me. Curly is basically an adorable toddler and Buddy the Elf combined and compressed into a kitten: 

Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Do you want to play? What if I bring you a toy? Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Can I have a snack? I'm b...o...r...e...d... I'm h...u...n...g...r...y... Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. I love you so much! Do you love me? Let's hug and snuggle all day! 

He gets SO excited when Hallie and Kara walk through the door after school.

Aretha is making tremendous progress. She comes with us more willingly when we pick her up from her safe space (the little bed we made for her behind the toilet), lets us carry her nestled up against our bodies instead of only in her sweatshirt, and has started to explore small spaces for short periods of time. She seems to enjoy the living room when we're sitting quietly watching television, and she likes both Will and Hallie's rooms as well. I actually shed a tear the first time she climbed off of my lap and onto the desk - she stayed huddled behind my computer for a while (peaking over the top of the screen from time to time to make sure I was still sitting in my chair) but eventually she laid down and even relaxed a little.  She's getting there, and she's going to make an amazing fur baby!


Will's high school kicked off the school year with an outdoor event called "Welcome to the Jungle", at which the football players were introduced and the band, cheerleaders, and dance team performed. I wasn't all that interested in the football players (though I am somewhat excited about high school football games), but I was interested in watching the other groups take the field so I asked Will if he wanted to go. Not surprisingly, he didn't - it was outside in Texas in August and he had soccer practice an hour later - but when Hallie heard me talking about it she decided she wanted to go. So Hallie and I went to our first high school event together, and while we were a little late and missed most of the fun, it was exciting for both of us...and made me glad that she's not heading there quite yet.  


Hallie and I spent most of Saturday at - and then worrying about - Nutcracker auditions. Thankfully the turnaround time between audition and casting was much less this year than it's been in years past, and by Monday afternoon we knew that she would be dancing as a party girl in this year's production!


Happiness Highlights

Still providing - and crushing - virtual live music
for faculty meetings 18 months after it all began! 

Don't my parents look cute all dolled up?

Out for alligator in between soccer games. (They like
to go big when they dine out without Hallie and me.)

Happy weekend, friends!