Tuesday, June 29, 2021

The Other Woodsen

the other woodson

Even though so many people think my sister and I
are twins,
I am the other Woodson, following behind her each year
into the same classroom she had the year before. Each
teacher smiles when they call my name. Woodson, they
say. You must be Odella's sister. Then they nod
slowly, over and over again, call me Odella. Say,
I'm sorry! You look so much like her and she is SO brilliant!
then wait for my brilliance to light up
the classroom. Wait for my arm to fly
into the air with every answer. Wait for my pencil
to move quickly through the too-easy math problems
on the mimeographed sheet. Wait for me to stand
before class, easily reading words even high school
students stumble over. And they keep waiting.
And waiting
and waiting
and waiting

until one day, they walk into the classroom,
almost call me Odel-then stop

remember that I am the other Woodson

and begin searching for brilliance

at another desk.

~ Jacqueline Woodson

Earlier this spring, Hallie had to analyze this poem as part of an English assignment. When I first read it, I couldn't stop the tears - though I tried to hide them from Hallie - that sprang to my eyes from spilling over onto my cheeks. 

Because this poem could have been written about Hallie - or by Hallie - if her life had taken a different turn. She is exceptionally bright, and does extremely well academically. But she is following closely - just two years - behind an Odella, who past teachers and administrators loved because his brilliance lit up the classroom, his arm flew into the air with every answer, his pencil moved quickly through too-easy math problems, and he read words that older students stumbled over.

First day of second grade and kindergarten.

I have adored most of Will's teachers, and at first I wanted Hallie to have those same teachers because I already knew how to interact with them and how they taught. But after a couple of bumps in first grade - she had the same kindergarten and first grade teachers as Will - she started being placed with different teachers. Teachers who had never taught or even met Will. And what a gift that fresh start was for my girl. To begin each year with a clean slate, rather than a slate on which Will had already written and then erased.

I share all this - this poem but also the academic and learning comparison between my two kids - because it deeply impacted me, and because I suspect it might also impact and provide some valuable food for thought for others as well. This poem invited me to reflect on the academic tracks each of my children have taken thus far, and to really think about what has gone well and what hasn't. It refueled my commitment to, whenever possible, allow Hallie to chart her own course and avoid comparing her to Will. And it reminded me to appreciate the principals, counselors, and teachers who each year devote countless hours over the summer months to placing each student with/in/on the best teachers, classrooms, teams, and tracks for them as individuals. 

We certainly haven't done everything right when it comes to our kids' education. But we've done enough right that when Hallie read this poem, she didn't see herself - or her relationship with her brother - in it. She is Hallie Ferris, NOT the other Ferris. 

Friday, June 25, 2021

High Five for Friday (6.25.21)


After finishing summer school late last week, the weight of the world (well, the weight of summer school, which felt like the weight of the world to Hallie...and maybe to me, too) was lifted from my girl's shoulders. I can tell she's finally enjoying summer vacation, which she certainly deserves to do after such a long year.

This boy is also enjoying summer vacation. He has a pretty regular - and pretty typical teenage - routine: wake up, work out (high school boot camp), shower, nap with kittens, hang with friends, play soccer, shower again, play video games. Oh, and he eats a lot in there too. 


After qualifying earlier in the year, late last week my nephew, Carter, competed at the United States Tumbling Association (UTSA) National Championship in Rochester, MN. He earned sixth place on Trampoline, third place on Double Mini, and...wait for it...FIRST place on Floor. He's literally the 7-8yo UTSA National Champion! Congratulations, President Carter!


Happy (belated) Father's Day! We had a fun day showering Tom with a little extra love (and letting him do whatever he wanted, which - per usual - included playing disc golf and puttering around shirtless in the backyard) and called our dads/grandpas to wish them a happy day as well.


Happiness Highlights

Look at sweet Teaka (once Bob, of Hallie's Hairstyle
Babes) being adored by all four of her doggy sisters!
There was a time when we weren't sure these five girls
would ever get along, so this feels like a colossal victory. 

Trying out another of Tom's crazy Amazon purchases. Life was
easier and cheaper before he discovered that Amazon existed...

Last year's pool, which served us well for six months
during the pandemic, sprung a leak over the winter (or
in transit to/from the attic). Tom worked incredibly hard
to diagnose the problem and find the leak, but in the end
we couldn't save her. I'm sad to see her go, but secretly
happy about her not taking over the patio this summer.

Do you know how much work it is to get hair that
short into a bun?! Calling this a MAJOR victory.

A week late on the pic, but a pic none-the-less!

Going away party for a friend - sad to see her go, but
happy to have had one more night of fun together!


Lastly this week, a little PSA about Juneteenth.

In case you missed it, last Saturday was Juneteenth. Until last year, I knew nothing about what celebrating this holiday - also called Jubilee Day and Freedom Day - meant.

Juneteenth commemorates the 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 until just last week, Juneteenth became a Federal Holiday.  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.  

We "celebrated" Juneteenth (though on a very small scale thanks to COVID-19) for the first time last year - Will and I attended the Brazos Valley African American Museum's Juneteenth Curbside Celebration  morning, Hallie and I baked red velvet cake in the afternoon, and over dinner we talked about what we'd learned as a family. This year our previously-scheduled Saturday activities kept us from attending local celebrations, but I still spent time talking with both kids about what the day means for African Americans and why it should be honored by all Americans.

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.


Happy weekend, friends!

Tuesday, June 22, 2021


I started playing soccer when I was six years old. I played city league until the seventh grade, when I tried out for and made our area's competitive club team for my age group. It was around this time, when I was becoming more invested in the sport, that I started paying attention to and eventually closely following the college players in my area and the professional players we would oh-so-rarely see on television. 

At one point, members of my club team and I had the opportunity to see the United States Women's National Team play. If memory serves me correctly, the game took place on the outskirts of Milwaukee, on a plain old grass field at a plain old park, and we watched without tickets and without assigned seats from plain old metal bleachers. The viewing environment was so unremarkable that I barely remember it...I do, however, remember how incredible it felt to watch those amazing athletes take the field.

Fast forward "a few" years...

Will started playing soccer when he was three years old. He played city league soccer until the third grade, when he tried out for and made our area's competitive club team for his age group. It was around this time, when he was becoming more invested in the sport, that he started paying attention to following closely the college players in our area and the professional players we would more frequently and regularly see on television. 

Over the years, soccer has become one of the ties that binds Will and me together. We share a love for the game as players, but also as fans. We share a mutual respect and admiration for the USWNT in particular; they exemplify hard work and perseverance, support their teammates on and off the field, and play the game with both their heads and their hearts. They also stand - both publicly and proudly - for equality and inclusion, and are unapologetically authentic. From what I can tell, Will has only ever thought of these women as athletes and competitors...to him, and to many others, they are not nor have they ever been "female athletes" or "female competitors". They are representatives of their country on the world's stage, and role models to every young soccer player who eagerly and excitedly watches them take the field. 

For years I have wanted to take Will to a USWNT game, and a couple of weeks ago I was finally able to make it happen. 

The game was held in Houston, at BBVA Stadium. We arrived early (earlier than Will would have liked), but I didn't want to miss a minute of the team's warm up or the opening ceremonies. As the players emerged from the locker room and entered the field for the first time, I was suddenly struck by how significantly this USWNT experience differed from my first USWNT experience 30 years ago. This time these athletes would play not on the outskirts of a moderately-sized city, but in a major metropolitan area. This time these athletes would play not on a plain old grass field at a plain old park, but on grass genetically engineered specifically for professional soccer on a field in a world-class stadium. This time these athletes would play not with a handful of spectators watching from metal bleachers, but with thousands of fans screaming their names and wearing their jerseys from purchased seats. I couldn't help but tear up (for the first time - I cried two more times before the night was over) thinking about how unbelievably far these women have come. 

The team warmed up to a great playlist, one that included quite a few female empowerment songs. At one point, This One's For the Girls by Martina McBride started playing. I hadn't heard this girl power anthem in probably 15 years, but when it came blaring through the speakers I immediately remembered every word.

This is for all you girls about thirteen,
High school can be so rough can be so mean,
Hold on to on to your innocence,
Stand your ground when everybody's givin' in.

When the song was first released in 2003, I could remember what it felt like to be 13, but I connected more intimately with the next verse:

This is for all you girls about twenty five,
In little apartments just tryin' to get by,
Livin' on on dreams and spaghetti-o's,
Wonderin' where your life is gonna go.

This time when I heard the song, I could remember what it felt like to be 25, but I realized - almost painfully - that I am now connected more intimately with the third verse:

This is for all you girls about forty two,
Tossin' pennies into the fountain of youth,
Every laugh line on your face,
Made you who you are today.

This - as I thought about how I'm throwing pennies into the fountain of youth, not in search of a younger body or better looks, but longing for more time with the man-child sitting next to me - is when I cried for the second time. (Will didn't understand these tears AT ALL.)

Just before the game began, the teams lined up for their National Anthems. As I listened to the first few bars, I took in my surroundings. I saw an incredibly diverse group of fans gathered to cheer for their country's national team as they prepared for the upcoming Olympic Games. I saw thousands of little girls looking up to their soccer idols and dreaming about what their own soccer futures could look like. I saw "Black Lives Matter" on the front of the team's travel jerseys and rainbow numbers on the backs of their game jerseys. I felt proud - more so than I'd felt in a long time - of my country, and of these players and those who came before them to build the foundation and grow the program. In case you hadn't figured it out yet, this is when I cried for the third time. (Will didn't really understand these tears either.)

After ALL that, the game finally started.  

Will and I commentated all 90 minutes, as we both regularly do. To someone listening in, we probably sound like a combination of enthusiastic assistant coach and bantering sports broadcaster, me a little more on the enthusiastic assistant coach side and him more on the bantering sports broadcaster side. We also assessed the referees' decisions (as a new ref and an old ref respectively, he and I have a lot to say about referees, their calls, how they're treated, and the rules in general), and cheered loudly when "our" girls scored. At the end of the night, the USWNT walked away with the win but I too felt victorious. It was the game - the night - I wanted and needed it to be. One I'll always remember.

Note: it was 95+ degrees and 762% humidity outside that night. I'd like to think that the dramatic difference between the picture Will and I took six years ago and the picture we took a couple of weeks ago is due to the fact that I had sweated off any make up I'd had on that morning and my hair had taken on a humidified life of its own, but... At least my shirt still fit. 😂

Friday, June 18, 2021

High Five for Friday (6.18.21)



She did it. She finished two summer school classes - one of which was short and painful and the other of which was long and tedious - in 15 days. Hallelujah!

Working at the McOffice for the
first time in almost 18 months...


Summer dance, soccer, and athletic training are in full swing! Last week Hallie attended one of her favorite annual dance events - a multiple-genre intensive, taught by one of her favorite instructors (who is from BCS but now lives and works in Dallas and comes back specifically for this intensive) - at our studio and started mixed genre classes at another studio. And this week she added both her own ballet classes and assisting with a teeny, tiny Twirling Tots class at our studio. Will is back on the soccer field for evening practices, and in the mornings he's working out with his fellow high school athletes...at the high school...because he's in high school now. (HOLD ME.) The kids are busy, and I'm even busier driving them around, but we're all so grateful to be able to participate in these activities again.


Also on the busy front...Hallie volunteered at VBS this week! This was her first true volunteer opportunity, and while she was nervous, it's been a valuable and enjoyable experience!

I can't seem to remember to take a photo of Hallie at VBS, so this pic of her (wearing her VBS shirt at least) demonstrating how she can get Rupee to fall asleep in her hands will have to do.


I couldn't help myself...

But then I kept going. Be careful, the Voila app is a slippery slope leading toward an afternoon completely void of productivity. 

Happiness Highlights

I tried for what felt like ages to get a picture
of all five of them, each in their own basket and all
of them looking at me. This was the closest I came.

They sure are cute though!

He's hiding from us.

This week I finished an article about semi-
homemade holiday treats. It felt weird to use 
holiday sprinkles in June, and even stranger
to attempt to take my own photos.

Some of them turned out alright!

Yep, that's a trombone. 😂

Coordinating lemon suits!

Kind of weird, right?
I laughed out loud when I read this, so it needed to be shared.

Happy weekend, friends!