Tuesday, March 28, 2023

In the Middle of Land

There's a reason it's called Midland...it really is just smack dab in the middle of a whole lotta land. 

Midland wasn't on my Texas Bucket List, but at the beginning of spring break we made the trek to this west Texas town anyway.

We visited Midland to attend the Regional Dance America RDA/Southwest Festival with Hallie's ballet company, Encore. This was Encore's first festival, and our (my and Hallie's, as well as most dancers and moms from our studio) first dance convention/conference other than Dance Revolution, which we attended when Hallie was a member of Mini AbunDance and Apprentice AbunDance. The two experiences were completely different in almost every possible way, and aside from the distance we had to travel and the quality of our hotel, RDA came out on top over and over again. The event was extremely well organized, the teachers and classes were exceptional, and the performances were beautifully adjudicated. We can't wait to attend again next year!*

A few pics from classes, with teachers, and with their fellow Encore members. Hallie and Avery were in the same group, so in addition to staying together, they danced together all day every day. The two teachers pictured below were two of my favorites: Nathalie Marrable for musical theatre and Lindsey Donnell for pointe. (I liked almost every teacher I watched, listened to, etc. but wasn't able to take pictures of the girls with all of them.)

And a few pictures from when "we" took breaks from dancing...breaks that were mainly to eat and watch dancing. The final show and gala were Hallie's first semi-formal events, and gave me a glimpse into what high school dances will be like in just a few short months.

After many years of rooming with our friends Avery and Jenn
at dance events, we have it down. That includes the late-night
delirium, which ALWAYS sets in at least once.

Finishing off the end of Kara's birthday
cake. Don't judge - we had no plates. 

An afternoon field trip to the nitrogen ice cream shop.

But Midland...

The people in Midland - from the staff at our hotel, to those affiliated with RDA and the facilities RDA occupied, to restaurant/bar/coffee shop employees - were pleasant and helpful. And the facilities we utilized for RDA, which included a nearly-new convention center and its grounds as well as a theater between Midland and Odessa, were lovely and well-suited for our needs. Our hotel, on the other hand, was not lovely or well-suited for our needs. I can't even begin to list all of the things that went wrong with our room and/or the rooms of the other dancers/moms in our group, but just off the top of my head: multiple rooms flooded; multiple toilets and sinks clogged; the elevators only worked about half of the time; there weren't enough towels, toiletries, and hair dryers to supply all of the guests in all of the rooms; and we had both a broken refrigerator and a broken headboard. Simply put, there wasn't a single hotel area or department - front desk, housekeeping, maintenance, restaurant, bar, coffee shop - that was prepared in terms of staffing or supplies to host this festival's dancers. I'm not going to share the name of the hotel, but I certainly wouldn't stay there again.

When I said Midland is in the middle of nowhere, I truly mean it's in the middle of nowhere. We found a few diamonds in the rough - the grounds around the convention center, like I mentioned above, as well as a pizza place with amazing drinks, a delicious Mexican restaurant, the public library, the Bush family home, and lots of pretty murals - but otherwise, Midland appeared flat, brown, and dusty as far as the eye could see. (And because there isn't anything to break the wind, trash blows and collects in unfortunate and very visible places.) Both Hallie and I remarked, as we drove though College Station on our way home, how lush and green everything looked, and how even though College Station's trees and grass aren't our favorites (we're partial to the taller trees and softer grass found in the midwest), at least we have trees and grass - and lots of both - here. 

We may never return to Midland, but we'll always remember our visit...with disfavor for the terrain and our hotel but a fondness for the people and our first festival experience.

*Next year's festival is national, rather than regional, and will be held at a gorgeous hotel and convention center...on the beach...in Daytona. 

Friday, March 24, 2023

High Five for Spring Break (3.24.23)

Hallie went to school on the Wednesday before spring break, and then we hit the road that afternoon bound for Midland. We returned home on Sunday, ready to enjoy the rest of our break.

Will and Tom - along with my parents - kicked off spring break with a fantastic 8-1 Lads win on Senior Night. My parents left Saturday morning for Arkansas, and the boys spent the weekend playing disc golf, grilling (Tom), and sleeping (Will).

The kids also took care of two families of animals over break: Teaka and Waffle at one house, and Coco, Apollo, Scout, and Princess Leia at another. They were very busy, but they adore animals and don't mind spending some of their break loving on our friends' pets.

Teaka and Waffle waiting for us.

The stupid time change messed with our sleep schedules and meant we were never up as early as we wanted to be during spring break, but we still managed to fit quite a bit of fun!



On Monday, Will, Hallie, and I spent most of our afternoon hiking at Lick Creek Park just outside of College Station. We traversed almost five miles on that beautiful day, and I LOVED being out in nature, talking and laughing with my kids. 


On Tuesday, Will disc golfed with friends while Hallie and I went to Martha's Bloomers in Navasota for tea, shopped the farmers' and artisan market at Lake Walk in Bryan, and took spur of the moment photos in the Indian paintbrushes and bluebonnets on our way home. Hallie wrapped up her evening with a sleepover at a friend's house.


On Wednesday, the kids and I made the drive to Jollisant Farms to pick strawberries. I'd been wanting to take them strawberry picking since they were itty bitty, and this spring break - Will at 16 years old and Hallie at almost 14 years old - we finally made it happen.

Later that afternoon we went to Big Shots Golf - for tee box games, miniature golf, and all the yard games available - with friends. 


On Thursday, Will went disc golfing, Hallie and I went for a bike ride, and then both kids played baseball in the rain for hours while Tom grilled and we all watched our brackets get busted. Hallie and I also spent a few hours turning our strawberries into all sorts of delicious goodies - we made syrup/sauce, jam, and strawberry shortcake for dessert that evening. 


On Friday, the kids and I bought unlimited passes at Grand Station Entertainment and spent the afternoon bowling and playing miniature golf, laser tag, and arcade games before Will headed to soccer practice - time to get ready for the playoffs! - and Hallie headed to a sleepover. 

Tom was in Nebraska from Friday through Monday, so when Will's Friday night plans fell through, he and I finished Psych - which we've been watching forever - and played washers until long past my bedtime. It was the perfect end to the week.


Spring break is never quite long enough, don't you agree? When my kids were little, school breaks felt SO long and I more often than not felt ready to send them back when breaks came to an end. Now that my kids are older, all I want is for them to be around more - I want more time with them. (And I want more time to sleep, to read, to work, to catch up around the house, for bigger house projects, to travel. So basically just more time.)

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Madness, I Tell You

It had been a few years since I'd shared how our family's NCAA Tournament bracket challenge started, so I thought it would be fun to share the story again and then share our brackets for this year. It's a little less fun now that my bracket is COMPLETELY busted - thanks, Purdue - but I'm going ahead with the blog post as planned. 


Ferris Family March Madness began 19 years ago with a simple, friendly competition between newlyweds. 17 years ago our cat, Duke, joined the game when we developed a complicated treat- and toy-based selection system to help him fill out his bracket. 13 years ago we entered three-year-old Will's bracket in our online pool for University of Michigan graduate students...and he didn't finish in last place. (Here's a cute video of Will making his selections that year. He had a preference for teams with "W" names as well as Duke University because of his kitty best friend.) 10 years ago Hallie participated for the first time, adding a little chaos to the competition because no one wanted to lose to a pipsqueak who made her selections based on mascots and school colors.

Always the last one to finish her bracket...

For a few years we entered Tux in the competition, and while Will had plans to help PliĆ© and Popeye craft brackets this year, he didn't have the time (or energy) required to help them both make 63 decisions using complicated treat and toy incentives. 

Using toys...

...and then treats to help Tux make his decisions.

So in 2023 it's just Dad vs. Mom vs. Will vs. Hallie. Our annual battle of the brackets will end in cheers for one and tears (not really) for the others, and then after all is said and done we'll talk about how much we love this family tradition and can't wait to do it all again next year.

Are you participating in March Madness? If so, did this past weekend bust your bracket or are you still going strong?