Friday, April 30, 2021

High Five for Friday (4.30.21)

This might sound kind of silly, but...

This is a photo of three friends about to go into their very first meeting. 

They had some concerns, questions, and ideas about changes being made to a group of which they are all members, and rather than just worry and wonder aloud to each other, they decided to take matters into their own hands. Their grownups helped them schedule their meeting (since none do a lot of regular emailing), but then they took it from there - they made a detailed list of what they wanted to talk about, wrote an outline, wrote a presentation, and practiced their presentation until they felt prepared.

The meeting itself went well, and while we don't know exactly what will come from it, we do know that their mamas were really proud of them that day.

The season of "lasts" has arrived. (Winter, spring, lasts, summer, firsts, fall, winter...) I expect this one to be especially tough - though not as tough as the seasons of "lasts" we'll experience four and six years from now - as Will is wrapping up middle school and Hallie is finishing intermediate school. 

We already cruised through Will's last track meet last week, and now we've wrapped up Hallie's last company performance as well. In a year when NOTHING was guaranteed and so many school districts, sports clubs, and extracurricular organizations struggled to open at all, I'm so grateful we were able to experience firsts and lasts and everything in between.

A couple of months ago I shared a video of her performing this solo while wearing her looks better without the boot. 😉

Two weekends back, Will and I were joking around about how he NEVER scores in soccer games. This isn't surprising given the position he plays (nor does it correlate in any way to his skill as a player or the value he adds to his team), but we had a good chuckle over how long it had been since he had put the ball in the back of the net during a game.

Last weekend, Tom took Will to his Saturday game and, per usual, shared me with his "Dadcast": a voice-to-text play-by-play of the entire game. (I'm not exaggerating when I say the entire game. Saturday's 80 minutes of play were told in 141 texts start to finish.) Sometimes Tom misses things, or voice-to-text autocorrects in ways that make no sense, but it's really fun to follow along this way and I LOVE that Tom does this for me when I can't be at Will's games in person. Interestingly, on Saturday Tom missed the first goal completely (it happened just seconds after kick off) and while he saw the second goal go in, he wasn't sure who scored it. When they arrived home, Will told me he'd scored that second goal...and I didn't believe him. Like for a long time. I really thought he was just messing with me, and because Tom hadn't seen who scored the goal, he couldn't say one way or the other if Will was telling the truth. Eventually I messaged another mom and she had her son text me back what had happened...which was that Will scored. 

So all this to say, Will scored a goal, for the first time in years. Now if only it had happened when I'd been there... 

Still loving our time with Hallie's Hairstyle Babies...

Bob's first foray into the world of modeling.

On Sunday, Hallie and I were both baptized. There's a long story behind how Hallie and I ended up here, on this day, doing this together, but it's a story for another blog post. It was a special day, and one that brought about a number of deep, meaningful, complicated, and important conversations between all four of us and in smaller groups as well. 

Happy Friday, friends!

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Texas Bucket List: We're Going to the (Houston) Zoo, Zoo, Zoo

My Texas Bucket List began taking shape shortly after we arrived in College Station. At first the list consisted of only a few touristy day trips and experiences (think Six Flags, SeaWorld, etc.) I'd thought of or heard about prior to our move. But as we made new friends, especially new friends who grew up in Texas, we learned from them about the lesser-known - at least to Midwesterners - but not-to-miss sights and sounds of the Lone Star State.

Each time I cross something off my Texas Bucket List I document it here, both because Chasing Roots serves as my Texas journal and because looking back on these posts and "watching" our love affair, if you will, with our now-home state unfold is a beautiful thing.

You can see my full - but ever-growing - Texas Bucket List here. Feel free to let me know what I'm still missing!

I added "Visit a Texas Zoo" to my Texas Bucket List early on. Shortly thereafter, we visited the Waco Zoo, and then a few years after that we visited the San Antonio Zoo and Aquarium. But because zoos have always held a special place in our hearts, I knew our list wouldn't truly be complete until we'd experienced Houston, Dallas, and Fort Worth as well.

I grew up just a couple of blocks from the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisconsin, and many of my earliest memories involve the zoo and its residents. We take the kids almost every time we visit my parents, which is possible because there is no admittance fee. That's right - when Henry Vilas sold his land to the city so a zoo could be constructed, he did so with the stipulation that the city could NEVER charge people to visit. He believed strongly that everyone, regardless of wealth and privilege, should have access to these beautiful animals.

We wanted to take a spring break trip, but because the state's mask mandate was lifted a few days prior to our break, we only felt comfortable visiting establishments that were both outdoors and requiring masks. The Houston Zoo fit the bill, so we carved an (almost) full day out of Tom's schedule (he had to work in the car on the way there and back and "attended" one short meeting while we walked through the World of Primates exhibit) and headed to Houston.

Overall, I felt like the zoo had a good handle on COVID-19-related safety: tickets had to be purchased ahead of time, entry was scheduled for a specific window, masks were required, hand sanitizer was everywhere, social distancing was encouraged, and limited numbers of guests were allowed in buildings. We felt just about as safe as we could have, given that we were in a public place with a lot of other people. There were of course a few people who chose not to follow the rules (WHY?!?!), but we steered clear of these folks whenever possible.

The animals themselves lived up to our expectations, and I think all but a couple of exhibits were open. Big cats and primates were - always are - my favorites, while everyone else LOVED the reptiles and under-the-sea creatures. 

We also visited the Prehistoric Beasts exhibit, which showcased "animatronic predators and their modern-day descendants". Hallie in particular enjoyed the theatrics of this area... (This exhibit is open through the beginning of September for anyone who is interested in checking it out.)

For those who might be wondering, if we had family members or friends visiting and wanted to take them to a zoo, we'd opt for Waco. The Waco Zoo is less expensive and has much easier parking, and the Waco Zoo has - overall - a better feel to me. It reminds me of the Henry Vilas Zoo, so it reminds me of home.  

Only two more bucket list zoos to go!

Friday, April 23, 2021

High Five for Friday (4.23.21)

Track season came to an end Tuesday night. It wasn't the ending we expected, as this was attempt #2 at a district meet after attempt #1 was cancelled due to lightening and thunderstorms last Thursday evening. It also wasn't the season Will had hoped for: his times weren't as fast as he wanted them to be, his team didn't do as well as he would have liked, he wasn't able to break one particular record he worked toward for weeks, he injured his quad, and his team had to miss one of their four meets because a COVID-19 exposure quarantined half the team (not Will, thankfully). But it was still a season, and for that, I'm grateful.
4 x 400m relay

4 x 400m relay team

He was proud of this finish: 3rd out of 24. Also of note here -
Coach Mo, bringing Will in to the finish line. Coach Mo was also
Will's basketball coach this year, and he never failed to impress me with
his approach to teaching, motivating, and just interacting with these kids. 

Dance performance assessments were supposed to be completed in February, but Hallie spent all of February in a boot and therefore wasn't able to complete hers on the same timeline as the rest of the dancers at her studio. As of Tuesday, however, all of her assessments - ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, and hip hop - are DONE. Regardless of what these assessments say (we don't have them in hand yet), I'm so thankful this stressful time of year has nearly come to an end. 

On a related note... Despite choosing a studio without a competition team (Hallie's dance company doesn't compete), dance has - over the last couple of years - become more competitive and then by extension, more emotionally and mentally challenging. Some of this competition is inevitable as kids get older, begin specializing in certain sports and activities, and are then up for the same parts, roles, and spots. But some of this competition is the result of outside forces, and that's the kind we wish we could and are trying our best to avoid. Thankfully, despite what is thrown at them, Hallie and her sweet dance friends continue to support and love one another. The tender moments when they mend each others' broken hearts with gentle words and acts of kindness...these have been beautiful to witness.

These three are still delightful.

Last Friday our ballet academy hosted a socially distant and masked movie night, and while the girls watched their movie, a few dance mama friends and I - all fully vaccinated - indulged in drinks and appetizers (and a couple of desserts) to celebrate...getting to go out, I guess? 
No picture of the mamas, so you
get a picture of movie night instead.

I've always considered myself an introverted extravert or an extraverted introvert, but I feel considerably more introverted now than I did before the pandemic. My desire to go out in large groups has decreased significantly, and I no longer want to spend time in crowded places, especially around lots of people I don't know. I do, however, still like intimate gatherings, in safe spaces, with friends I trust. Friday night was exactly that, and a welcome treat.

Happy weekend, friends!