Friday, September 29, 2023

High Five for Friday (9.29.23)


Hallie had her first high school choir concert last Thursday night, and they - the many different choirs, all of whom performed together - sounded amazing. Just like with orchestra, it's crazy to see/hear the development, progress, and improvement that takes place from year to year.


Choir also performed the following evening - supporting the MANY middle school choir members on hand for Middle School Night - at the football game. Hallie and I didn't stick around for much of the game this time, but I wish I'd had: a friend of Will's (and son of a friend of mine) made a 46-yard field goal, and then after a five-yard penalty erased his field goal and bumped him back, he made a 51-yard field goal. And this, my friends, is why soccer players make great kickers. 😁 (Here's a link to the kick.)


We finally have new lights in our guest/the kids' bathroom! There used to be a box light in this bathroom, and one day MANY months ago, Tom and I decided we'd had enough of it and he took the box down. Since then, the bathroom has been lit by exposed shop bulbs, which did the job but looked horrible. Last weekend we finally had the shop lights removed, the single fixture wiring split to power two fixtures, and the drywall repaired. There's still MUCH work to do (next up is for me to sand down the wall where the box once hung and paint the bathroom walls), but this was a step in the right direction!


On Saturday Hallie had the opportunity to take a ballet masterclass with the incredible Lauren Anderson. While Ms. Anderson has earned a lengthy list of accolades and tallied countless accomplishments dancer, many know her as the first African American promoted to principal dancer at Houston Ballet. She was everything we'd hoped she would be and more: a brilliant ballerina and gifted educator, but also energetic and fun and funny. Perhaps most importantly, she made every dancer feel valued and worthy. Every single dancer came out of her class radiating confidence with a smile on their face and a spring in their step.


And so it begins...Hallie's first mum! 

For my readers who aren't from Texas, I know you have no idea what to make of that giant flower necklace. I promise to explain this Texas tradition in an upcoming post! 


Happy weekend, friends!

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Wally('s) World

In preparation for writing this post, I combed through more than a decade of previous posts and was shocked - truly dumbfounded - to discover that I had never written a post specifically dedicated to Buc-ee's. I'm honestly a little embarrassed that I never gave this chain of convenience stores/gas stations, founded by Texan Arch "Beaver" Aplin III, its due. 

I've mentioned Buc-ee's a few times, but these are the only two blurbs I could find going back 2,000+ posts:

(March, 2014) On the way home we stopped at the brand new GIGANTIC Buc-ee's in Waller, TX and bought ice cream treats to tide us over until we could stop at Chick-fil-A for dinner 45 minutes later. I also thought about buying bananas, sushi, gummy bears, a Buc-ee's shirt with a Ferris Wheel on it, a bow (and arrows), an antique clock, a cell phone car charger, grill utensils made out of antlers, and a purse shaped like a mermaid. Seriously, that place has everything.

(February, 2015) When we first moved to Texas we drove past a billboard advertising the delicious beaver nuggets sold at Buc-ee's convenience stores and travel centers. For obvious reasons, we made no plans to visit Buc-ee's.

As it turns out, beaver nuggets are not actually nuggets made from beavers, but caramel and butter-glazed corn puffs. (You can see where things got confusing though, right?) Turns out most Texans adore these tasty treats, so much so that many seem to regularly adjust their travel plans/routes to include stops at Buc-ee's.

From what I gathered when we first visited a year ago, Buc-ee's carries just about everything one could possibly think of or need...including a little taste of home in the form of Wisconsin's Finest Cheese. So now I travel like a true Texan (though in a smaller vehicle than most): along a route specifically chosen for its proximity to a Buc-ee's. Except I'm not stopping for Beaver Nuggets…I'm stopping for Wisconsin's Finest.


Back to present day...

The funny thing is that this isn't actually a Buc-ee's tribute post either...this is a Wally's tribute post.

I didn't even know Wally's existed until this summer. We were driving across Illinois, from Chicago toward St. Louis, in a caravan with my sister and her family in one car and my parents in another car. In preparation for everyone needing a bathroom break, my sister - in the lead car - texted to inform us that we'd stop at the nearing Wally's. I honestly thought she was referring to a Wal-Mart, so I was surprised when we followed her as she exited where I couldn't spot a one. 

Turns out she meant Wally's, "Home of the Great American Roadtrip."

I couldn't believe the similarities to Buc-ee's: spotless, family-friendly restrooms (with rows of stalls that go on for days); in-store Wi-Fi; a carving station; a gourmet coffee and beverage bar; a beef jerky bar; a popcorn station; spacious and well-lit parking lots; a seemingly endless number of fueling stations; retail items to satisfy just about every shopper who might ever walk through the door; and last but not least, a furry mascot...who also happens to be a beaver.  

It sounds silly, but stopping at Wally's was such a fun experience for me, I think because it felt familiar to one of our regular roadtrip stops in Texas but on a Midwestern scale. (Everything is bigger in Texas, included Buc-ee's. Wally's is, size-wise, like Buc-ee's "little brother," though the two are unrelated in terms of ownership/management.) I took pictures, browsed all of the food and drink options, shopped the retail area, and brought home a Troop Beverly Hills shirt I didn't need.


So if you're ever in Pontiac, Illinois or Fenton, Missouri, check out Wally's. And if you're ever...well, Texas, check out Buc-ee's. You'll be able to find bananas, sushi, gummy bears, store-specific merchandise, a bow (and arrows), an antique clock, a cell phone car charger, grill utensils made out of antlers, and a purse shaped like a mermaid at both, but if you want beaver nuggets, Buc-ee's is the way to go.

Friday, September 22, 2023

High Five for Friday (9.22.23)



Will scored a goal in his game on Saturday. Some kids score all the time, but Will scores so rarely (#defender) that it feels worthy of a high five when it happens. (His last goal was for his high school team in early February. Before that, he hadn't scored in close to two years, and prior to that it had probably been three years. Annnnd that sums up all of his goals since he started playing at a truly competitive level.) I missed it because I was Nutcrackering, but another mom filmed it and shared the video with Tom, who then shared the video with me. It's poor quality, but I'm still posting it here to help me remember that it happened. (If you watch, turn down your volume - the mom who was filming screams loudly when the ball goes in. 😉)


Flu shots ✔

And CVS got finally got cute bandaids, which made Hallie and me happier than it should have. 


I love that she still lets me (and likes it when I) do her hair. On Sunday we trialed - complete with photos and a tutorial video shot by cameraman Will - a new Nutcracker style for the Ballet Brazos Costume Guide!

This hairstyle was so secure (which is kind of the point with stage hair) that Hallie slept in it and wore it to school the next day. I felt very accomplished.


Tom tidied up his lab (farewell, Mushroom Kingdom), which means Hallie has her very own workspace in there. She's a putterer and a tinkerer like Tom, and I love that she enjoys being out there with him.


Happiness Highlights

That's what I brought to Nutcracker rehearsal last
Saturday. It probably seems like a weird Happiness
Highlight, but I love all of the moving parts and jobs
associated with this production and time of year.  

Hallie was cast in the ensemble of her school musical! She only
tried out in a dance capacity (she truly doesn't have time for a singing
or speaking role) and isn't 100% sure she'll participate (time is also an issue
even for this kind of role), but I'm proud of her for putting herself out there.

"just because" flowers

I mean, come ON. 😍


Happy weekend, friends!

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

If You Build It, They Will Come

A couple of months ago, Australia and New Zealand hosted the 2023 Women's World Cup. This installment of the tournament was arguably the best since it began in 1991.

Attendance records were broken, live broadcasts and media coverage increased significantly, and the level of play reached new heights. The total prize pool climbed to $110 million, which is $80 million more than what was available just four years ago at the 2019 World Cup. Businesses allowed their employees time off to watch games, and one US city passed an ordinance allowing bars to remain open overnight during the World Cup so fans would have somewhere - and fellow fans with whom - to watch middle-of-the-night games. 

Much of the success of this World Cup can be attributed to the players and coaches. As I mentioned, the ever-improving level of play - individually, offensively, defensively, in the goal, and tactically - translated to an increase in interest among soccer fans. The power shift, as empires fell and underdogs made history, made for exciting storylines that lured in fans who, though perhaps not yet soccer fanatics, love athletic competition. And the incredible sportsmanship... Watching these women show compassion for their heartbroken opponents just moments after fiercely competing with them - something that happened time and time again - could make a fan out of just about anyone.

But at least a portion of the success of this World Cup should be credited to Australia and New Zealand. I read (I can't remember where, so my apologies for not being able to give credit) that Australia was "the host the Women's World Cup deserved": the country(ies) took pride in hosting, weaving the World Cup into the fabric of day to day life, and their efforts translated to packed stadiums and incredible viewership on television. 

Australia saw firsthand that when they built literal and figurative frameworks to support women's sport, women's sport not only succeeded, it surpassed all expectations. If you build it, they will come. 


This - here below - is what I'd intended for today's blog post to be about. I thought I'd write a quick introduction about the Women's World Cup, but as you just read, my "quick introduction" turned into a five-paragraph soliloquy. 

The University of Nebraska has, at least as long as I can remember, had a strong women's volleyball team (two years ago they made it to the National Championship game, and last year they made it multiple rounds into the NCAA tournament) along with a strong fanbase. A couple of weeks ago and after months of planning, that fanbase was put to the test. Would it...could it...fill a football stadium?

The University of Nebraska women's volleyball team hosted a match in Memorial Stadium, where the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team plays. My in-laws, who are Husker fans and still live in Lincoln, are long-time volleyball supporters and have had season tickets on and off throughout the years. They, along with my SIL, attended the game, and were part of the 92,003 fans who filled the stadium and broke the world record for the largest attendance at a women's sporting event.

All but the last photo are credited to The GIST. You can follow this women-led, inclusive sports media company here.

Granted, the University of Nebraska didn't build Memorial Stadium for women's volleyball, but on that day the University did grant these incredible athletes access to a literal and figurative stage that was dramatically larger than anything they had ever had access to before...and the people came. Said Kenzie Fowler Quinn on Instagram, "today is a good day for a reminder that if you simply give women the stage, they will deliver."


I truly believe (and have been feeling particularly passionate about lately) that women's sport is having a moment thanks to the Women's World Cup, the Nebraska women's volleyball team, and the countless other female athletes and teams out there crushing it. I hope the days when people would question whether women's sport has value - beyond what it offers the athlete themselves - are behind us. 

Friday, September 15, 2023

High Five for Friday (9.15.22)


On Monday morning we woke up to this:

It only lasted for about an hour and we haven't seen anything as pleasant since, but it's a start and means we're headed in the right direction! (And by the "right direction," I mean toward fall.)


On Wednesday afternoon, it rained at my house. As soon as I heard the rain begin, I grabbed my computer and my water, ran to the porch to set up my outdoor workspace, and enjoyed what remained of the three-minute shower. 

(And on Thursday morning, it RAINED. I went for my morning walk outside and got soaking was fantastic.)


This boy has discovered that if he's supervised, he likes to tip toe around the backyard. He's the sweetest.


Will had a great first orchestra concert - their annual ice cream social, which includes ice cream and a few songs performed for our district's intermediate and middle school orchestra members and their families. (Since this concert is a little more casual and includes ice cream, it takes place in the cafeteria.)


This is kind of a pathetic and depressing high five, but it's representative of how my week has gone...

On Monday night I attended my kids' high school open house. Sitting through their teachers' presentations on what they're teaching, how they're teaching it, how they test, how they grade, how they assign homework, etc. made me so unbelievably glad that I'm no longer in high school. I honestly don't know how they're doing it (and doing it reasonably well), and I'm so proud of them. High five a high schooler today - they need it.


Happy weekend, friends!

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

How Will You Know When You Are Officially Old?

How will you know when you are officially old?

I know I still have a ways to go in the eyes of some. I also know that I'm already there (#40andsad) in the eyes of others, including these 7th graders.

A teacher asked his students, "how will you know you are OFFICIALLY old?" His students' answers are unbelievably spot on:

This is the only one of these statements that
 doesn't apply to me (or Tom). I play plenty of
other old people games on my phone though.

Why are there so many acronyms?! Why does using
correct grammar and spelling, punctuation of any kind,
and/or complete sentences imply that I'm mad?! 

I'm looking at you, Tom.
(And also you, Will, interestingly enough.)


Check, check.

Check, check, check.

Why are oatmeal raisin cookies so
gross to kids but delicious to adults?!

Bending down, standing back up...

Or the crying (laughing and sobbing) emojis...

My apologies to my this regard
I've been officially old for at least 20 years.

It's Lowe's for me.

Candy corn? Caramels?

And there it is, my greatest weakness.

I don't follow the person who shared this series or the teacher who created the exercise, but social media felt these images were right for me and holy cow did that algorithm do its job.