Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Monthly Medley: November 2021



Last month I quickly cranked out (not because I waited until the last minute, but because the assignment required a short turn-around) an article about Texas' newest state park: Palo Pinto Mountains State Park. Palo Pinto will be located about halfway between Fort Worth and Abilene and is scheduled to open in 2023, just in time for the Texas State Parks Centennial Celebration. I'm looking forward to seeing this one in print midway through 2022!


I finally read a whole book! After a slow start (my slow start, not the book's slow start), I finally finished Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris. I made a lot of guesses about the ending as I cruised through the second half of the book, but I didn't get the twist quite right...which I really like. I definitely recommend Bring Me Back, along with Paris' other novels as well - I've liked everything of hers I've read thus far!

Listening To

Podcasts were a bit of a letdown in November, after devouring Gangster Capitalism in October. So instead of dwelling on the lack of content to keep me engaged, I made the switch to Christmas music. I used to (try to) wait until after Thanksgiving, but waiting feels silly this year. First up? Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas is You, of course. πŸ˜‰


I'm not sure where new apps should fall in my Monthly Medleys (Following? Trying/Using? I suppose either works), but I'm sharing a fun app I recently discovered here today. It's called Weather Kitty, and it does exactly what you'd expect given the name: it provides weather updates layered over kitten backgrounds appropriate for the weather conditions. Here's a sampling of the adorableness:

The basics are free, but there are different themes for different holidays you can purchase should you so desire. These babies are so cute!


Sadly, I have nothing to share here. I've made a few purchases this month ahead of the holidays, but almost everything is still in boxes and hasn't been tried, used, played with, etc. enough (or at all) for me to write a review. More to come in my December and January Monthly Medleys!


Every year I buy my kids matching/coordinating Christmas pajamas (well, Chris the Elf brings matching/coordinating Christmas pajamas on December 1st), and on the years we visit my sister and her family, the matching/coordinating extends to include my niece and nephew as well. Finding pajamas that work for all four kids - two boys and two girls, all two years apart - has on occasion been challenging, but we've always managed to get it done. This year, however, proved more difficult for me, because while Hallie still wears child sizes, Will has fully graduated to adult sizes. Enter Hanna Anderson, which now sells at least half of their pajama styles in both child and adult sizes - hallelujah! I was able to buy a child size and style appropriate for Hallie as well as an adult size and style appropriate for Will, and they're going to look so adorable on Christmas morning. Just what every 15yo boy wants...to look adorable and match his sister. 


Will (I added a green sweatshirt)

I have no affiliation with Hanna Anderson - I just like their pajamas.


I don't usually try a lot of new recipes in November and December - instead, I circle back around to all of our favorite traditional meals and holiday-themed baked goods. So this month I thought I would share a few of those favorites. Many have been shared here before, but I promise that all are delicious enough to warrant a second share!

And because I should probably share a few recipes that aren't desserts...

Feeling Good About

November certainly did fly by...I expect December will do the same, so buckle up and enjoy the ride, friends!

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Grateful for This Life

In place of a High Five for Friday post tomorrow, I'm posting my annual November Gratitude Journal today. Happy Thanksgiving, friends.


stand here.

and breath in

all the things

that make you grateful

for this life.

~ Ahmad Sanusi Husain

November 1 - To kick off my gratitude journal, today I'm grateful for the reminder of why I document that for which I'm grateful throughout the month of November and why I compile this post to share each Thanksgiving. 

Today wasn't a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, but it certainly wasn't a great day. And if I hadn't already committed to keeping my gratitude journal for the next few weeks, I would have written this day off and never looked back. Instead, I paused to acknowledge how grateful I am for a forever home for Hermione, the opportunity to meet some of Will's teachers, the drive-thru at Panera, curbside pick-up at Michael's, and a cooler evening for soccer practice. 

November 2 - I'm grateful for my right to vote, for others who exercise their right to vote, and for strong candidates to support...even when they don't win.

November 3 - I'm grateful for the (rarest of) nights when both kids find themselves at home - finished with activities, finished with homework - and choose to spend that tremendously valuable free time...together.

November 4 - I'm grateful for the recent weather shift (a full day of dreary rain, which is my absolute favorite πŸ˜‰, followed by brisk temperatures and blue skies) - it finally feels like fall here in our neck of the woods!

November 5 - I'm grateful - beyond grateful, really - for 30 minutes in the car, driving home from soccer and then sitting in the car in the garage, listening to Will talk about topics that are exciting and interesting to him. The amount of time I get to spend with Will these days is far less than what I would like, so any time is valuable but quality time is treasured. 

November 6 - I'm grateful for friends with whom you can spend the entire day - even when that day includes getting up incredibly early, staying up incredibly late, driving more than six hours in the car, and dealing with your own and your kids' frustration, anxiety, and tears - and still have fun.  

November 7 - I'm grateful Tom made it home safely after weeks of traveling, for his help with kid shuttling and activities, and for the end of Daylight Saving Time and an extra hour of sleep.

November 8 - I'm grateful for cancelled plans. 

November 9 - I'm grateful my kids are willing to try new things, even when said things feel hard and overwhelming.

November 10 - I'm grateful my kids are willing to walk away from activities/experiences/groups when said activities/experiences/groups don't feel right. 

November 11 - I'm grateful for kids who stand up for other kids, and for moms who've taught their kids that there's a difference between laughing at someone and laughing with someone.

November 12 - I'm grateful for my mother-in-law, who since day one has never made me feel anything other than welcome, included, loved, and part of her family.

November 13 - I'm grateful for the most amazing friends, who gave me the perfect night early evening πŸ˜‰πŸ˜‚ out - complete with fabulous drinks (did you know that Brazilian margaritas aren't made with tequila?! I was able to enjoy my first margarita in 20 years!), delicious appetizers, and flaming cheesecake - to celebrate my birthday.  

November 14 - I'm grateful for Chinese food (and delivery) on Sunday night after a crazy busy weekend.

November 15 - I'm grateful for the opportunity to finally meet all of Hallie's teachers face-to-face (mask-to-face might be a better description, since we're still masking in crowded indoor spaces) and to watch/listen to her sing as part of her middle school's open house. 

November 16 - I'm grateful for science and technology, epidemiologists and immunologists, doctors and pharmacists...basically everyone who has had a hand in making vaccines possible and available. 

November 17 - I'm grateful for my hump day Starbucks (and the friends with whom I share it every Wednesday night). 

November 18 - I'm grateful for good dental care...and for not needing it.

November 19 - I'm grateful for all of our teachers, and for the efforts made by PTOs and parents district-wide to let our teachers know just how much we appreciate them. 

November 20 - I'm grateful for my dance mom friends, who are not at all like the dance moms on television and who make the tough times easier and the good times even better.

November 21 - I'm grateful for an uneventful road trip, and that we made it safely from Texas to Nebraska. 

November 22 - I'm grateful for 43 years on this earth.

"Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many."

November 23 - I'm grateful for all of the birthday phone calls, texts, emails, and Facebook messages I received yesterday. Social media has its downfalls, but allowing - even encouraging - users to make sure family members, friends, and acquaintances feel loved on their birthdays (and supported through times of crisis) is not one of them.

November 24 - I'm grateful that even when we don't see our families for weeks...months...years...we can pick up right where we left off the last time we were together.

November 25 - I'm grateful for the opportunity to take what I've learned this month out into the world with me.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.     ~ JFK

Happy Thanksgiving, friends. 

No HFFF post tomorrow. See you next Tuesday!

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Overheard on Third. At Target.

During my last trip to Target, I overheard not one, not two, but six incredibly funny conversations/statements. At the time I shared them with my mom and sister, but I decided I should share them here too - everyone needs a laugh on a Tuesday morning, right?


Mom to 4yo child: "For the last time, we do NOT need a piΓ±ata!"


Mom to 6yo child: "Why is there banana in your hair?!"


Tween on the phone, Facetiming with an unknown family member or friend: "Is this ugly? Mom says it's ugly."


Grandma, shopping with 3yo granddaughter, to the Starbucks barista: "I'm going to need an extra shot of caffeine in there." 


Mom to 3yo twins: "We are NOT eating lunch again today!" (It was 10:45am.)


8yo, to mom: "Maybe you'd feel better about this if you had a Starbucks."

Mom to 8yo: "I do not need a Starbucks!"


Last but certainly not least, my friend Jenn heard this conversation at Target and it definitely deserves to be shared in this post.

4yo: "What the heck!"

Dad to 4yo: "(insert child's name), we don't use that word!"

4yo: "Oh, okay. What the f*%$!"


Happy Tuesday, friends! 

Friday, November 19, 2021

High Five for Friday (11.19.21)



Last Friday night Hallie attended her - and I chaperoned my - first middle school dance and carnival. Both kids have attended and I've chaperoned intermediate school dances, but because of COVID, which cut short his 7th grade year and vastly altered his 8th grade year, Will never attended a middle school dance. The evening was an experience...but Hallie had fun! 


Last Saturday, Hallie - along with many of the theatre kids at her middle school - participated in a district-wide theatre showcase called All Together Now. Hallie became involved late in the game (she won't be in theatre until next semester, so her choir teacher recommended her to the new theatre teacher, who let her join the group), but she learned the song quickly and did a wonderful job in both shows!


After a CRAZY day (soccer game in Austin, Nutcracker rehearsal, Nutcracker run-through, two theatre performances, ballet headshots, and ballet Christmas rehearsal), a few friends and I went out on Saturday for drinks and appetizers to celebrate my birthday. We had to go early because we're old and tired, but we had a fantastic time. 


Ron was the last of the Harry Potter kittens to leave us, and while we were sad to say goodbye to our sweet boy, we were so excited for him to go home to his forever family...because they're friends of ours! (My goal is to place kittens I've fostered in the homes of everyone I know. You only get a pass if you're SEVERELY allergic.) 

I think Ron's placement was meant to be. First, his new mom asked me about our fosters just hours after 1) she had mentioned to her family that they might need a little orange kitten and 2) Ron came back to us after his first family surrendered him. Second, their family already has a cat named Ginny...named after Ginny Weasley from Harry Potter. Done and done. 


Let's call this high five, "Will Dresses Up". 

First we have Will's first debate competition. I learned from a friend that a lot of kids don't compete at all their first semester or even year, because there's just so much learning that has to happen before and work that goes into these competitions. She also mentioned that some of these competitors start debate when they're young - like intermediate school - and "study" it throughout the school years and during the summers. All of this makes me even more proud of Will for putting himself out there just three months after learning that debate was even a thing people could do. 

SO proud.

Second we have Will's orchestra photos, for which you should try not to look too hard at Will's collar and bowtie. Shouldn't some adult have noticed and said, "hey kid - button your shirt and tighten your tie" before this professional and official orchestra photo was taken? πŸ˜‚ Whatever the case, I love these pics - they're a perfect snapshot of who Will is right now...unkempt hair and fashion faux pas included.

Happy Friday, friends!

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Surprise! "It's November" Returns!

Last year was the 10th installment of this November tradition. I assumed it would also be the final installment of this tradition, but last month Hallie informed me that she would happily perform this song another time. So without further adieu, here is "It's November", courtesy of my Hallie Claire and for the 11th time.

November 2011

November 2012

November 2013

November 2014

November 2015

November 2016

November 2017

November 2018

November 2019

November 2020

November 2021

Slow down, Father Time. 

I still can't watch the 2011 version of this video without tearing up. I miss that sweet, spicy, pleasantly precocious two-year-old… 

Friday, November 12, 2021

High Five for Friday (11.12.21)


Last week I went on my first field trip in...years? I honestly can't remember going on a field trip since I chaperoned Hallie's GT class' trip to the Renaissance Festival when she was in the third grade.

We drove to Kemah on the far side of Houston for Kemah Choir Days, and while Hallie and I didn't stay beyond the choir performances (she didn't want to do the Boardwalk with her choir classmates and also wanted to get back home in time for her late afternoon dance classes, so we decided we would return to the Boardwalk as a family sometime soon), we had a good time and were grateful for the opportunity to see a new place and have a new experience!


We survived our annual trek to the Dance Revolution dance convention. Because of COVID, and because neither Hallie or I felt comfortable spending hours in incredibly crowded ballrooms with hundreds of unmasked and possibly/likely unvaccinated people, we opted to attend only the performance portion of the weekend (and the required rehearsals prior to the performance). It was a LONG day - get up at 6am, drive to Dallas, try to avoid crowds, rehearse, try to avoid crowds, do hair and make up in the corner of a ballroom, perform, try to avoid crowds, drive home from Dallas, and finally crash into bed at 2am - but I loved watching my girl and her company on stage. 


I love falling back AND when Daylight Saving Time ends. Bring on the bright and early sunrises and the dark, cool evenings!


On Tuesday Will participated in his first debate tournament. I won't go into details about how debate works, mostly because I'm not knowledgable enough to do so, but I can tell you that debate isn't just two people at podiums arguing different sides of an issue (which is what I'd previously thought). His event is called Congress, and it involves HOURS and HOURS of researching and preparing arguments - in speech form - ahead of time and then at the tournament, emulating members of Congress by debating legislation. I honestly don't get it, but Will does, and so far he seems to really enjoy it. (I tried to summarize Wikipedia's explanation of how this all works but my brain just shut off about three paragraphs in. Here's the link in case you're interested.)

Despite the ridiculously early hour, he looked great 
in his new digs plus his new (to him) shoes from his
 fashionable Uncle L. (His tie was in his bag, ready to
be added to the outfit before the competition started.)


Happiness Highlights

Once a year our yard is overflowing with of Monarch
butterflies - more than you could count. She loves that day.

A friend saw this set of cupcake papers and toppers, thought of me,
and bought it for me. So of course I will make Nutcracker cupcakes
and share them with her and the rest of our dance mom friends.

Crazy Hair Day

He's such a snuggle bug. (When he's not snuggling
he behaves EXACTLY like a toddler. He keeps me
ridiculously busy and on my toes for a kitten.)

The counter and floor were completely clean before
Hallie walked through the door. Sharing this pic to remind
myself that clean is good...and lived in is good too.

Happy weekend, friends!