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!

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Asthmatics Unite

This post is a little outside the realm of what I usually write, but as the topic has come up in conversation multiple times lately, I thought there might be some parents out there who would benefit from and appreciate reading about how Will went from an asthmatic preschooler to a soccer midfielder and distance runner. 

Will's pediatrician suspected he had asthma starting around the time he turned two. He had moderate eczema as a baby - and it lingered in isolated areas until he started kindergarten - and had by the toddler years already been diagnosed with multiple food allergies. His pediatrician explained that allergies, eczema, and asthma are a commonly diagnosed trifecta, meaning that if a child is diagnosed with one, they're more likely to be diagnosed with a second...and if they're diagnosed with two, they will almost certainly be diagnosed with the third. Diagnosing asthma requires the child to be old enough to explain what's going on in their body, however, so most kids aren't labeled as asthmatics until they're around four years old. And sure enough, when Will was four, he received his official asthma diagnosis.  

When Will was diagnosed, we heard - and I read extensively - about two completely opposite opinions on how to care for asthmatics: 1) Protect their lungs by keeping them from overexerting themselves, OR 2) improve their lungs by encouraging them to be as physically active as possible. I chose the latter option, as it seemed like the best route for raising a strong, healthy child, but also because I can still remember feeling annoyed when, as an elementary schooler myself, the kids with asthma got to sit out of PE and running activities - which I couldn't stand - whenever they wanted to do so. (That makes me sound terrible, I know. Just being honest about my thought process.) 

I read that the optimal activities for kids with asthma were swimming and sports that involved running, as both swimming and running require learning to control breathing, so that's where we started. At the time, Will HATED swimming. The water was too cold, the water was too warm. His swim trunks were too tight, his swim trunks were too loose. His goggles leaked, his goggles didn't stay on his head. The sky was blue, the sky was cloudy. You get the picture. We kept working on swimming simply because he needed to learn how to swim, but I stopped focusing on swimming as Will's asthmatic remedy and switched gears to running. Will started playing soccer, which went about as well as swimming, at least at first; it took Grandpa Paul coming to a practice to get Will over the hump (thanks, Grandpa - we owe you one). We also started encouraging Will to run whenever we were outside. Running the last 100 feet to the playground or the last block before our house, then racing us to these destinations, and eventually racing us for longer distances - thank goodness he's naturally competitive - were a great progression to get him excited about moving. 

Swimming was super fun until we
actually went into the pool itself.

Crying on the sideline at his first soccer practice.

An awkward first soccer picture.

Through all this, Will would occasionally use his inhaler. For him, cold weather and illness were the biggest contributing factors, but allergens in the air and things like freshly cut grass could also create problems. 

By the time Will started kindergarten, he was a decent runner for his age. He LOVED running in PE, and worked incredibly hard on those days. It wasn't until mid-February - when the kids ran on a particularly chilly day - that Will had to ask his PE teacher if he could make a quick trip down to the nurse's office for a puff of his inhaler. The PE teacher told me a few days later that she was shocked Will had asthma (apparently that information hadn't been communicated to her by another adult, and Will never told her) because he ran so well and hadn't, prior to that day, ever needed to use his inhaler. I related to her my research and opinions on strengthening vs. protecting, and I honestly thought she was going to cry, she was so happy. She explained that she'd felt that way for years, but that for most kids, by the time they made it to her as kindergarteners, had already been taught that they shouldn't work their lungs to that extent and therefore asked - and expected to be allowed - to sit out of intense physical activities. 

To be clear: I know there are kids with asthma much more severe than Will's. I know there kids for whom the risks, treatment plans, maintenance plans, medications, etc. differ. I am not a doctor (though I'd like to play one on TV)...I'm simply a mom who worked really hard to help her kiddo work through some tough stuff and is hoping that work might help another mom who's going through something similar a decade later.

Fast forward 10ish years, and Will can sprint - at least what I would consider sprinting - for miles and play a full competitive soccer game in the midfield, a running-heavy position. He doesn't worry about whether or not his lungs will hold up, because he knows from experience that they will. Yes, he still on occasion uses his inhaler, but there are usually extenuating circumstances (illness, allergies, and/or extreme cold) and the "recovery" window is short. I've made A LOT of parenting mistakes and missteps, but I feel strongly that in this instance we made the right call. 

Sharing this one to point that asthmatics
actually CAN wear (and play sports in) masks...

As I wrote at the beginning of this post, I share all this because I know there are mamas (and daddies) out there who are struggling with asthma diagnoses, struggling to help kiddos live their lives with asthma, and/or just struggling in general. Maybe our experience will encourage a new way of thinking, help guide a conversation with a doctor, or at the very least, offer a bit of hope. 

Want to talk more about asthma? Feel free to email me at!

Again, I'm not a doctor. Talk to someone who actually is about how to best treat a child with asthma.

Friday, August 20, 2021

High Five for Friday (8.20.21)


New seasons of both soccer and dance are underway, and because nothing else feels normal right now, I'm grateful for these two activities that bring a bit of consistency and stability to my and the kids' lives. 

Starting back felt normal enough that I forgot to take pictures. Oops.


On a related note, returning to in-person school doesn't feel normal - or safe - yet. But these kiddos bravely walked into their new grades and new schools with (semi-forced) smiles on their faces behind their masks, and I'm so proud of them. 

Schedule pick-up for these two cuties.

Excited (and scared).

Extremely unhappy about the sign. 

7th grade, here they come!

We've had two amazing crossing guards over the
course of the kids' schooling. Ms. Rosa, who crossed
the kids to elementary, and Ms. Lily (pictured), who
crossed/s the kids to intermediate and middle. Seeing her
on the first day of school was a highlight for all of us.  

Time is a thief.


I worked really hard on something these last two weeks. It was (is) something I strongly believed (believe) in, and something that had (has) both real world and life-and-death consequences. Thus far my efforts and the efforts of others I've worked alongside haven't produced the results we hoped for, but I'm still proud of where and how I directed my energies leading up to the start of the new school year. My goal was to be able to look my kids in the face and tell them that I did absolutely everything I could to keep them safe...and I accomplished that goal. 


Kitten Update:

After a rough experience at his first "forever" home, Moe came back to us. He stayed a few days before being adopted again, this time by his real forever family. 

Curly is still with us, still waiting for his forever family, and still as sweet as can be. I can't explain how much love this boy has to give, and how badly I want - need - him to find his people; if you or someone you know would like to meet him, please let me know.

Curly and I are attached at the hip. I've never
had a kitten like me as much as Curly does.

Aretha is making slow but steady progress, thanks primarily to Hallie's efforts. We are starting to see glimpses of her personality, and while I expect she will always be somewhat timid and shy, I think we're going to discover that she is kind and gentle, with a ever so slightly mischievous streak. (Aretha is also officially up for adoption, so if you'd like to meet her, please reach out and let me know!)

In her sweatshirt, but no one is wearing the sweatshirt...

In her sweatshirt and snuggling with Hallie.

Not in her sweatshirt, but in "her" 
corner of the bathroom with Hallie.

Next to her sweatshirt on the bed.

Next to her sweatshirt and snuggling with me.

She won't let us carry her in our arms, but she'll now
let us carry her in whatever we're wearing (this is just
my t-shirt pulled up like a basket).


Last week while I worked throughout the afternoon and into the evening at schedule pick-up at Hallie's middle school, Will and Hallie MADE DINNER. BY THEMSELVES. WITHOUT ASKING ME QUESTIONS. And IT WAS READY WHEN I GOT HOME. I nearly cried when I walked through the door and saw pasta salad (Will), rolls (Hallie), and washed fruit (Hallie) ready on the counter.   

Happy weekend, friends!

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

I'm Not Ready

Today Will starts ninth grade. NINTH GRADE. You know that means he's in high school, right? And Hallie - my BABY - starts seventh grade. Holy smokes...they DO grow up so fast. Time DOES go by so quickly.


When Will and Hallie started school virtually (though Will's model was more of a hybrid since he attended cross country, basketball, and track practices as well as his athletics and orchestra periods on campus) last fall, I thought for certain they'd be back in their classrooms after the first or second six-week grading period. Instead, both kids ended the year exactly as they'd begun it: working in their bedrooms with their Chromebooks on their pajama-clad laps.

Last year wasn't easy, and this year won't be easy either. I'm nervous about Will and Hallie's transitions back to in-person school, to new school levels, and to new school buildings. I'm scared about sending them into crowded, indoor spaces with unvaccinated and/or unmasked kids and adults. And I'm sad about closing the door on yet another summer, knowing I only have three more with Will before he graduates from high school. Three is a heartbreakingly small number when counting down.

But they're ready to go back academically and socially - they want to be inside their school buildings, learn from their teachers in person, and eat lunch with their friends. And they're ready to go back with regard to COVID-19 precautions - both are vaccinated and will wear masks because our county...and state...and region of the country...have high levels of transmission. 

I'm not ready. But they are.


This brings me to what I'm about to share: an edited and abbreviated version of a post that has appeared here multiple times before, always around this time of year.


During Will and Hallie's baby and toddler years, I found the commonly uttered phrase "enjoy every moment" both frustrating and disheartening.

You've been there, right?

It's 10am. You've been awake for five hours, and in that time you've fed your children three times, been thrown up on three times, cleaned smashed banana out of the cat's fur, changed four diapers, wiped pee up off the playroom floor, rescued a Power Ranger action figure from the toilet, unclogged the toilet, and mopped up the flooded bathroom. You haven't eaten, showered, gotten dressed, or even brushed your teeth.

How many of those moments did you enjoy?

Telling parents - especially new parents, whose days feel like weeks and whose nights require superhuman strength to endure - to "enjoy every moment" often comes across, no matter how well-intentioned, as cruel. These new moms and dads love their babies tremendously, but they simply aren't enjoying every moment.

And telling new parents that kids grow up so fast and time goes by so quickly? Well, those lines sound like great big lies, because in their reality, the kids aren't growing up so fast and time isn't going by so quickly. If they're anything like me when I had an infant at home, new parents are wondering how it's possible their (according to the calendar) five-month-old won't head off to kindergarten in the fall because it feels like they've been caring for that baby for five years

Today Will starts ninth grade. NINTH GRADE. You know that means he's in high school, right? And Hallie - my BABY - starts seventh grade. Holy smokes...they DO grow up so fast. Time DOES go by so quickly.

This is all quite difficult to wrap my head around, considering it seems like just yesterday I quietly stewed - and then later cried in my car - when a woman at the farmers market tousled six-month-old Will's curls and exclaimed, "what a big boy! Enjoy every moment with him!"

Where am I going with this? To be honest, I didn't know the first time I shared this post and I still don't know now, years later.

What I do know is that telling parents - of children of any age - to enjoy every moment often makes them feel worse rather than better. I know that telling new parents that kids grow up so fast or time goes by so quickly often comes off as a cliche or even a lie. And I know that while the minutes feel like hours, the hours like days, and the days like weeks when those babies are teeny tiny, at some point the clock speeds up and you can NEVER slow it back down.

Don't worry about enjoying every moment. But try to enjoy most of them, because kids DO grow up so fast and time DOES go by so quickly, whether you're ready or not.

Friday, August 13, 2021

High Five for Friday (8.13.21)


Maybe during years that are already chock full of bad luck, Friday the 13th actually brings good luck? Crossing my fingers...


Hallie's dance studio always hosts a ballet intensive at the end of July/beginning of August. Attending an intensive at this point in the summer is a great way to get those ballet muscles working again and to prepare for Nutcracker auditions, and in years past Hallie looked forward to this week was led by one of our favorite dancers and teachers, Ashely Laracey, of the New York City Ballet. Sadly, because of the NYCB's change in schedule this year, Ashley wasn't available to come to College Station for the intensive. The high five in all this is that the instructors who replaced Ashley did a wonderful job and Hallie truly enjoyed herself. Nutcracker auditions are just over a week away... 😬


On a related note, Hallie's leotard collection needed an overhaul - she outgrew a couple, felt uncomfortable in a couple, and couldn't wear one because of a shoulder blade tic she's currently battling - so we visited our favorite local dance boutique (called Attitude, for anyone in need of dance shoes, attire, or gifts) to see if we could find one or two new ones for the fall season. Usually Hallie tries on 20 and finds one or two that work...this time she tried on 15 and found SEVEN that fit, looked lovely on her, and made her feel amazing. I walked in planning to buy one black and one colored leo. After the try-on session, I decided to splurge and buy two black and two colored leos. When we finally left the store, Hallie had six beautiful leos (along with new tap shoes, jazz shoes, and turners, because her feet are growing like crazy) in her bag. 

12 is a horribly difficult age when it comes to body confidence, and I just couldn't walk away from these leos that made her eyes light up when she looked at herself in the mirror. Note: I have permission from Hallie to share these "fashion show" pictures...feels worth mentioning in situations like these.


On Thursday, Will attended "Roar Camp" (something of an orientation) at his new high school and then we picked up and walked his schedule. Picking up and walking a schedule is more like two hours of waiting in line, going through nine different stations to take care of photo IDs, school shirts, textbooks, medications, and paperwork. It was a long afternoon. I'm not sure how it's possible to be looking forward to and excited about a stage of life I'm also feeling so sad and anxious about...  

Thankfully he has a few classes and lunch with friends, and he has a general idea about where all of his classes are located. Whether or not he can make it from one to the next in the allotted amount of time is yet to be determined. 😂 


Remember when, last week, I told you Curly was shy? 

First, Curly Q, as we've come to affectionately call him, is no longer shy. Curly has SO much love to give, and he simply adores being around - and by "around", I mean touching at all times - all four of us. He desperately needs a friend, so if you already have a cat and are looking for a companion cat, or if you have a kiddo who wants a cat who will actually play (including dress up) with them, Curly is your perfect pet. If we had been able to foster Larry and/or Curly from a slightly earlier age to give Tux more time with them, I think either could have easily become part of our family permanently.

Yes, we have a cat pouch sweatshirt.

He likes to hold hands.



Definitely touching.

Always touching.

Must be touching.

Touching at all times.

I love touching.

I love you. 😍

You don't mind if I sit here, right behind
you, while you try to do sit-ups, do you?

Second, we have a new babe, named Aretha (Franklin). I had texted a picture to the women who run our rescue of Hallie "wearing" Curly in her cat pouch sweatshirt - Curly is our first kitten to truly enjoy the cat pouch sweatshirt, so it felt like a milestone - and when they saw the picture, they knew exactly which kitten to give us next. Aretha came from a feral cat colony and is afraid of absolutely everyone and everything. But when we finally managed to "catch" her (she went straight from the cage up into the couch and we had A TIME trying to get her out) and placed her into the pouch, her demeanor completely changed. In the pouch, she is calm and comfortable, even when whoever is wearing her is walking around the house, cleaning their room, unloading the dishwasher, or playing video games. Our work with Aretha isn't finished, but we're making S...L...O...W progress and that feels amazing!

Perhaps my favorite picture... Aretha prefers her
head be down and away from the opening, so her
feet frequently end up out the head hole. She
doesn't care, and just lets them hang there.

Look at that sweet little eye peeking out over Hallie's arm...


Grandma and Grandpa bought Hallie a new bike while we were in Wisconsin, and after having it shipped to us in College Station and assembled at our local bike shop, late last week it was finally ready to ride!

What? Don't you go straight from your dancing ballet to riding your bike?

Happy weekend, friends!