Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Up All Night

I was going to give myself a pass for today's blog post, but then I decided to instead write a blog post about why I was going to give myself a pass for today's blog post.


Last week/end we took the next step in our journey as kitten fosters...we welcomed bottle babies into our home. We hadn't previously cared for kittens so young - just two weeks old - for a few reasons. First, I was nervous about their fragility. Second, I was intimidated by the feeding process, which involves feeding them by hand and with a bottle every three to four hours around the clock. And third, I already "did my time" feeding babies at night and now I like to sleep. (Incidentally, I don't sleep much because I'm a night owl whose children participate in activities - school, dance, soccer, and refereeing - that start early in the morning, and I don't sleep well because I'm an incessant worrier. I do however, like to be and stay in my bed.) But when another foster mama needed to go out of town for the weekend, I said we would give it a try.

Pugsley and Lurch arrived - in their incubator - at 9am on Thursday morning. I had watched a Kitten Lady video about bottle feeding the night before, and then sweet Abby with Six Kittens Rescue showed me what to do...and then we were on our own until Sunday afternoon.

The kittens are the tiny black ball in the center. On the left
and right are their warm and cuddly security stuffed animals.

Because I knew I had to feed the kittens every four hours, I had ahead of time rearranged all four days so I could be home frequently; I moved appointments around, figured out how I could stop at home in between dance rehearsals, and lined up Tom to handle soccer in Houston and a few other drop offs and pick ups that conflicted with my feeding schedule. I stayed up later and got up earlier than usual. And, I stumbled out of bed every night at 3am to warm their bottle, help them go potty, and fill their tiny little bellies.

Bottle feeding newborn kittens isn't as easy as it sounds. (Does it sound easy?) Abby made it look like a piece of cake when she showed me, but it took me a few feedings to feel comfortable and even then I didn't always feel confident. Kittens eat differently from one another, and, as I discovered, sometimes eat differently than they did at the previous meal. The entire process reminded me of trying to myself learn and teach my human babies how to both breast and bottle feed. There was a lot of trial and error, but in the end they were fed...and as is the case with human babies, fed is best.

Those four days and three nights were exhausting and crazy...exhausting because of lack of sleep but crazy because all three of our other foster kittens decided that while we had the bottle babies would be a great time to develop some messy GI issues. But it was worth it. The kids and I learned so much, and we all adored caring for those tiniest of babes. Hallie in particular worked incredibly hard, and I was reminded that without her, we simply couldn't do this. (Tom and Will are great at snuggling, cuddling, sleeping with, and loving our kittens. But Hallie and I do most of the literal and figurative work.)

I don't think we'll become regular bottle baby fosters (like I said, I don't sleep enough as it is and I slept much less than usual between Thursday and Sunday), but now that I know we can handle it, I'm ready and willing to step up/in and help the "team" when someone else needs a hand. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some sleep to catch up on.

Just kidding...I don't nap. I haven't taken a nap unless I was sick since I was three years old. 😂 

Friday, September 24, 2021

High Five for Friday (9.24.21)



Tom has been gone for more than two weeks, but he comes home tonight! He spent about 10 days in Miami, judging the ANA Avatar X-Prize competition, and then wrapped up with his travels with a few days at "Man Camp" in Wisconsin with some of the menfolk in his extended family. It's been a long - and occasionally rough - 15 days, but we all made it.


Reason #1 why these last two weeks were rough (for those of us at home): Hallie got sick. I knew *something* would happen in Tom's absence, so I can't say I was surprised when a COVID-esque illness struck Hallie down. I had to quarantine her in the master suite (more space, so she could attend some of her dance classes on Zoom, plus a television, a bathroom of her own, and a separate door to outside) for a few days, fully sanitize the other rooms in the house so Will and I could continue to live and work in the rest of our spaces, fully sanitize the master suite once Hallie moved out so I could move back in, and help her stay on top of school and dance...all while feeling out of control and out of my mind with worry, frustration, sadness, and anger.

Thankfully - HALLELUJAH - Hallie didn't have COVID and only ended up missing two days of school and two of her dance classes. Additionally, Hallie's teachers - despite not being given any resources by our school district to do so - were incredibly accommodating and even proactive when it came to helping Hallie stay caught up via virtual learning options. Most of our teachers deserve sainthood after what they taught through last year...and what they're having to put up/deal/cope with this year (which is undoubtedly MUCH worse).


Each late summer/early fall, Hallie's dance company photoshoot falls on an extraordinarily hot weekend evening. The girls sweat while taking pictures, the moms sweat while waiting for them (with lipstick and powder in hand, of course), and by the end of the photoshoot we're all hot and tired and ready for the night to be over. 

In the end, we walk away with beautiful pictures of our dancing girls to show for all that sweat. But until I have those photos in hand, I'll share this one picture instead...it will most certainly be my favorite one of the night and is a top five favorite of all time for these two. 

Growing up is hard; what a gift to have a person with whom to share the amazing and the challenging parts of that journey.


My eight-year-old nephew recently tried out for and made his area's competitive soccer team. Last weekend they traveled to their first tournament, and they won - a great accomplishment. 

But perhaps the most exciting part of the weekend (or at least entertaining part of the weekend), was when my dad - who was a soccer referee MANY moons ago - had to step in and oversee the beginning of one of Carter's games when the scheduled referee didn't arrive on time. He didn't have his attire or a whistle with him (because who travels with their referee gear, and also because he gave all of his gear to Will when Will became a referee last year), but he can whistle really well with his fingers in his mouth so he managed without an actual whistle. My parents are pretty cool. Most of the time. 😉

Imagine telling 17-year-old Erin that one day she'll be writing a blog post about how cool her parents turned out to be. 😂


Dumpling left us this week, but in her place...

Harry, Ron, and Hermione!

Yes, they're all asleep in our shoe storage basket.
Harry is draped over the back bar, Ron is the ginger
on the bottom, and Hermione is the black one.

 Happy weekend, friends!

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Things I'm Not Ready For

Throughout the last week I have been reminiscing about the two little babes we moved to Texas - Will had just turned four, and Hallie was almost two - and having a difficult time wrapping my head around both how long they've been Texans and how much growing they've done in that seemingly short period of time. 

This picture became their Valentine's 
Day postcard our first year in Texas.

The reason for the reminiscing? Throughout the last week I've also had multiple opportunities to feel *not quite ready* for - even a little blindsided by - the activities and experiences my kids are taking on. I know there's much more of this coming, but to have all of this unfold in a week was kind of a lot for my already-unstable mama heart to take.

~ Will signed up to take the PSAT.

~ Will bought (or we bought for him, for his upcoming 15th birthday) a real suit.

~ Will - and myself, as his instructor - registered for driver's ed.

~ Will started working again (his job is somewhat seasonal). Other than me driving him to/from (though not for long), he manages every aspect of work himself.

~ Will competes in his first debate tournament this weekend.

~ Hallie lost her last tooth.

~ Hallie has plans to fly across the country on her own for the first time.

I have to remind myself that there are positive aspects - and safety nets built in - to everything on this list. But each is big or scary or significant in its own way, and each is a reminder that 1) they're getting so big, old, mature, blah blah blah, and 2) I'm not ready for any of it.

Also, any tips on staying sane while teaching a kiddo to drive? Not asking for a friend...

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 noise...it 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 tears...it'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 wallow...in 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 again...in 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!