Tuesday, April 30, 2024

High Five for Bonds

If you don't live in College Station, you might not find this post particularly interesting or relevant. Feel free to sign off and come back on Friday. πŸ˜‰

I don't write much about politics or elections, but this week I'm making an exception.

Tomorrow our community heads to the polls. The outcome of of this election - the ballot only includes two school-related bond propositions - will greatly impact our high schools, our younger high school students, and our future high school students, as well as the faculty and staff who work at our high schools and with high school students...which in turn will greatly impact our community as a whole. Tom and I care tremendously about making sure College Station remains an excellent place to work, play, and raise a family, so we are voting (I've actually already voted) in support of both of these propositions.

Below is a quick and simple run-down of why these two bond propositions are on the ballot. (More detailed information from the school district can be found here, and I'm happy to provide personal examples of how the poor conditions and/or complete lack of resources, space, equipment, facilities, etc. have impacted Will if you'd like that information.)

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These bonds will: 

  • Renovate the existing fieldhouse to provide adequate, functional space for trainers to administer treatment and coordinate rehabilitation...because CSISD cannot currently provide timely treatment to AMCHS student-athletes.
  • Expand the locker rooms to provide functional dressing space...because CSISD cannot currently provide adequate dressing space for all AMCHS student-athletes.
  • Resurface the tracks so the surfaces are functional and safe...because CSISD cannot currently fully utilize the tracks at both high schools due to unsafe conditions.
  • Install artificial turf at both high schools' baseball and softball stadiums so players will have safer and more consistent surfaces on which to practice and compete...because CSISD cannot currently use its baseball and softball fields during or after inclement weather.
  • Add new/renovate existing restrooms and renovate concession areas so they are more accessible to fans of all ages and abilities...because CSISD cannot currently provide adequate restrooms and concessions at the AMCHS stadiums.
  • Repair parking lots, address drainage issues, and upgrade lighting to make facilities safer and more functional...because CSISD cannot currently afford costly site improvements at district athletic facilities.
  • Dedicate appropriate space for Audio Visual Production Program students to learn and further hone their AV skills...because CSISD cannot currently provide adequate press box space for students in the AVP Program. 

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The list above is not all-inclusive, but rather a snapshot of what we're currently lacking and how these bonds will allow us to fix the problems. And yes, PROBLEMS is accurate. These bonds are addressing NEEDS, not wants. The end goal is simply to make our facilities functional and safe for every single student, coach, trainer, teacher, parent, fan, and community member who accesses them.

As I said, the list above is not all-inclusive. Below are a few additional thoughts and data points to consider when voting.

CSISD is growing. Rather than building a third comprehensive high school (though this was once the operating plan, doing so is no longer an affordable option), the district will "allow" our two existing comprehensive high schools to grow and eventually become 6A schools. This will happen in the not-too-distant future, and neither high school's facilities and stadiums are equipped to support the number of athletes, band members, choir members, dance team members, cheerleaders, AVP members, coaches, teachers, staff members, parents, fans, and community members they will need to support. We need to make these updates and upgrades now, so we are ready for the growth that is coming. 

As the parents of an athlete, we have traveled to and played in multiple different stadiums throughout our three years at AMCHS. I wish every voter could see how our facilities compare to the facilities we've visited: beautiful fields and tracks, safe and accessible seating, plenty of bathrooms and concession stands (I could go on, but this is already a really long post). *Spoiler alert*...the comparisons are embarrassing. Without these updates and upgrades, CSISD will not be able to host playoff games, which are an excellent way to bring additional, outside dollars into our district and community.

Our kids won't benefit from these bonds. As a rising senior and sophomore, Will will be long gone and Hallie will be on her way out the door by the time the updates and upgrades are made. But that doesn't mean we don't still want what's best for future students at both College Station high schools, and we're willing to pay for it.

Speaking of paying for it... "CSISD can fund all of the 2024 Bond projects while maintaining a stable tax rate. In addition, with the passage of the increase to the homestead exemption to $100,000 in 2023 along with a decrease in the total CSISD tax rate, most homeowners are seeing a decrease in their taxes paid." (sourceFor the 2024 bonds, there will be no additional tax increase.

Additionally, the 2024 bonds will save the district money. During the 22-23 school year, CSISD spent approximately $60,000 to use alternate facilities when district fields were deemed unplayable due to weather and/or natural turf conditions. Additionally, CSISD expects to see a maintenance cost-savings of $213,647 annually once the natural surfaces are replaced with artificial turf.

When Tom was nearing graduation and interviewing for assistant professor positions, we started looking at college towns to which we would like to relocate. We were lucky enough to have quite a few job options, which meant we could take into account factors besides "the job" when considering our future home. One of the most important factors we looked at was the public school system, and that is ultimately what brought us here to College Station. Strong public schools - and that includes academics, human resources, and facilities - make our community stronger by attracting the best candidates for jobs and allowing those who live and work here to be successful and feel supported.

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Please vote how you see fit, but I beg of you, don't vote "no" based on the false information that is circulating. Our community's kids deserve better.


Friday, April 26, 2024

High Five for Friday (4.26.24)



 


Keeping it short and sweet today, as Hallie and I are traveling for a dance festival. 


One

We had a great kick off to the Ballet Brazos 2024-2025 season! Mark your calendars and plan to join us on Friday, December 6th or Saturday, December 7th for The Nutcracker, a Brazos Valley Tradition since 2012!


Two

Hallie's ballet company guest performed at the Strutters Showcase (the Strutters are the dance team at one of our city's high schools) on Saturday evening. The girls did a great job adapting given that they were missing a few dancers (and that the stage crew accidentally closed and reopened the curtain halfway through the dance πŸ˜‚) and their finished product looked lovely.








Three

Will and his Cavalry team have returned to the soccer field post-high school soccer, and while I LOVE high school soccer and wouldn't trade one single day of any of Will's seasons, it's been nice to feel a little less stressed while watching him play. 😬 

So relaxed, I guess, that I forget to take pictures...


Four

This week my boy bought tickets to...PROM. Dances have never really been this thing, so until he shows up at prom tomorrow evening, the one and only he's ever attended was the end-of-the-year dance in SIXTH grade. I love that he's going - with a big group of friends and a date - and I hate that I'm going to miss it because Hallie and I will be in Florida. 


Five

Speaking of Florida, we made it! Hallie and I are here for the Regional Dance America National Festival, and we're in a fabulous hotel on a fabulous beach in Daytona. (In addition to RDA's festival, it's also Jeep Week, which has made for some interesting crowds and congestion.) Hallie has been dancing or at performances most of the times, but we're fitting in lounging on and playing at the beach and pool where we can!


Tuesday, April 23, 2024

"My Dear, I'm a Cat. Everything I See is Mine."

~ Title quote belongs to Rick Riordan.

My parents recently took a trip to Turkey, Greece, and Crete. And by "recent," I mean almost seven months ago. I completely forgot until last week that I had intended to share a bit about one specific part of their trip here on the blog. Which specific part, you ask? The cats.

Unlike in the United States, in much of Turkey, Greece, and Crete (and probably other countries with which I'm less familiar) cats are woven into the fabric of the community. They visit all the tourist hotspots but hang out with the locals as well, and you'll regularly find them basking in the sun on car rooftops, curling up next to your feet at a sidewalk cafΓ©, lounging on the patio furniture next to the pool, and even riding the bus. These cats belong to no one, but also to everyone, and members of the community collectively care for them by putting out food and water and either intervening or seeking medical attention for those who are sick or injured. 

Below are just a few of the pictures my mom took while they were traveling. As you can see, these friendly felines really do make themselves at home and the cities and communities in which they live truly do welcome them with open arms!













How many cats are we talking about here? A LOT. Istanbul, for example, has a reputation as one of the most cat-friendly cities in the world, and cats seem to have figured this out; there are more than 150,000 street cats (plus house cats not included in this number) living their best lives among the human population of roughly 15.5 million. 

I've heard these cats described as, "unimpressed, uninterested onlookers of the hustle and bustle of city life," which definitely tracks with what I know about cats. πŸ˜‚

Istanbul's cats are thought to have originated from and been domesticated in ancient Egypt, where they were considered sacred. They became "true darlings" during the Ottoman Empire, in part because of their past regality and in part because they, as one would expect, took care of the rats. The city's adoration for cats eventually led to the creation of the cat sitter profession - these individuals were tasked with making sure the city's cats were healthy and comfortable. 

There were undoubtedly a few famous cats back then, and there have been a few famous cats in our time as well. One of my favorites was Tombili (a common Turkish nickname for chubby pets), who was known for both her friendly nature and her affection for people watching while lounging in a particular position. When she passed away, a sculptor created a sculpture of her in her signature pose and that was placed on her favorite people-watching step.

This photo is all over the internet, but I can't find
who deserves credit for either half or the compilation,
otherwise I would provide that credit here.


If you've been around here for any length of time you already know that the four Ferri love cats. I grew up with cats, Tom and I adopted our first two cats shortly after we were married, and since then we've had Tux, PliΓ©, and Popeye as a family. My parents are also cat people (they adopted their current babies, Bill and Molly, from our rescue here in Texas), so it was particularly fun for them to get to experience the cats in this region of the world firsthand. And while I had never really considered a trip to Istanbul, now that I know who's waiting for me, I just might have to add it to my bucket list.

Friday, April 19, 2024

High Five for Friday (4.19.24)

 


One

Thank you to everyone who reached out to wish Hallie a happy birthday! (Her annual birthday post and video are here.) She spent the day on a choir "field trip" to their UIL Choir Concert & Sight Reading Competition, and then she headed to dance until after 9:30pm. Thankfully, she didn't have to be at school until 12:50pm the following day, so on her birthday we all stayed up late watching a movie, opening presents, and eating tacos, chips and salsa, and cheesecake. 




I'm getting better...

She's such a good helper.

He's not. πŸ˜‚

I forgot to take a pic of the cheesecake topped with its AMAZING
strawberry sauce - this addition truly took the cake to the next level.


Two

Oh Captain, My Captain

I can't wait to see him helping lead the Lads in 2025.


Three

This kid learned 1) that he's strong enough to punch a hole in the wall and 2) how to fix a hole in the wall. All things considered, this was a pretty funny situation, thanks in part to Tom's (very different than my) parenting style.


Four

Happiness Highlights

I love the randomness of safety vest
night at our high school's baseball games. 

Popeye, who only ventures outside for VERY short periods of time
and with supervision (he's scared of everything but also wants to see
what the patio is all about) caught his first lizard. He wanted nothing
more in the entire world that to bring it inside the house and show it
to everyone....we let him take it onto the porch and then it magically
disappeared while he ate treats. 

That baby from The Incredibles just gets cuter every day!

Congratulations, Hallie!

This is Tom.

As is this. The eclipse wasn't the most spectacular thing
I'd ever seen (we weren't in totality), but it was still cool -
it looked and felt outside a lot like what it does before a
tornado rolls through. 

Just a quick visit with Sherry - the friendliest
neighborhood cat around - on one of my morning walks.

Bella at Uncorked knows exactly what you need, when you need it.

Caught in the act.


Five

This isn't a high five or a happiness highlight, but I want to find a place for it this week and am therefore choosing to include it here.

Last Friday marked the two year anniversary of Hallie's friend Morgan's death. (If you weren't a follower of Chasing Roots back then, you can read the posts I wrote about Morgan here and here.) We still miss her, and our hearts still grieve her loss and break for her parents and sisters. 


On Friday morning, Hallie - despite not yet remembering what day it was - came out of her room dressed in head-to-toe blue. Blue was Morgan's favorite color and the color so many of us still associate with her, so I couldn't help but smile when I saw Hallie, thinking to myself that Morgan must have helped Hallie pick out her outfit. I opted for blue as well, doning my "when it's dark, look for stars" shirt, which I now reserve for days on which I need a reminder that even when it's dark, the "stars" - kindness and compassion and love - are still there. 

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Happy weekend, friends. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Grand is an Understatement

More than a month has passed since spring break, but life has been busy and as a result I'm just now circling back around to sharing our trip. It was certainly one we'll always remember!

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Though TAMU (Tom's employer) usually has the same spring break as the kids' school district, Tom doesn't actually get a spring break. He gets a break from teaching, yes. But the more stressful, time-consuming parts of his job don't stop. As a result, we've never been big spring break travelers. We either plan something of a staycation, with the kids and I taking day trips to/for nearby activities, experiences, and excursions, or we take a short trip to one of the big cities - San Antonio, Houston, Austin, Waco, or Dallas/Fort Worth - near us. We've also done a couple of treks north to visit our families, and the kids have each taken a 13-year-old birthday trip with their grandparents (Will to Washington D.C. and Hallie to New York City), but that's it for big trips over spring break.

* A few of our favorites (which I've posted about at the following links) include the Houston Aquarium, Blue Bell Creamery in Brenham, the River Walk and the Alamo in San Antonio, Zilker Park and The Thinkery (children's museum) in Austin, Dinosaur Park in Cedar Creek, the Houston and Waco Zoos, the beach in Galveston, and Family Farm in Plantersville

Last fall I started having a panic attack about how little time we have left with Will at home and decided we needed a solid spring break trip this - his junior - year. I had always wanted to visit the Grand Canyon, so when I was talking to our travel agent (the fabulous Courtney Henson with Travel Hut), I threw out that idea and she ran with it. 

On the first day of spring break (and just a few hours after the crazy night the Lads won the district championship), we flew from Houston to Phoenix, picked up our rental car, and headed north into the mountains. The drive was beautiful, as was the experience of traveling from palm trees and flat desert to spectacular mountain views in such a short period of time.



We stayed just south of Sedona, in the village of Oak Creek, at the Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock. I ended up being SO happy we weren't actually staying in Sedona, as we discovered the morning after our arrival that half of Texas' population had the same idea as we did for spring break and all 15 million of them were staying in the Sedona area. Our resort was lovely - we enjoyed the pool (well, mostly just Hallie enjoyed the pool) and hot tub, and we took advantage of s'mores by the fire pit and stargazing - as was the rest of Oak Creek. Everything was within walking distance, and we visited a number of delicious restaurants as well as an outdoor market, a few quaint shops, and our new favorite grocery store, Clarks.





On our first full day we drove up Oak Creek Canyon Drive to take in the views, visited Chapel of the Holy Cross, and hiked the Bell Rock Pathway and Courthouse Butte Loop Trail. I LOVED hiking with Will and Hallie (Tom was sick so he skipped the hiking) - just hanging out with them in general - and was reminded frequently throughout this trip of how lucky I am to have such cool humans for kids.














On our second full day we hit the road early in the morning and headed toward the Grand Canyon. Our first stop was Maverick Helicopters, just outside Grand Canyon National Park. We went on an INCREDIBLE helicopter ride over and into the Grand Canyon, and let me tell you, from a helicopter is exactly how you should see this geographic wonder for the first time. 

You approach the Grand Canyon over a completely wooded area, so your view goes from woods below you to NOTHING below you in an instant. It is the ultimate rollercoaster ride.








The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself.     ~ John Wesley Powell

After our helicopter ride, we drove into the park. There are no words or photos to adequately describe the majesty of this place or the awe one feels when standing just steps away from something so truly Grand. It is seductive and mesmerizing, breathtaking and humbling. It is frighteningly beautiful and beautifully frightening. It is a place explained by science, yet touched by the hand of God. If you ever have the chance to visit, to see it for yourself, in person...take it.














We hiked all afternoon, mostly along the South Rim (the North Rim is only open seasonally). I wish we could have done a little of Bright Angel Trail, but after more than seven miles, all of our knees and hips were starting to complain. (Dancer knees and hips, plus soccer player knees and hips, plus 40+-year-old knees and hips...) We were tired, but in a happy and fulfilled kind of way, and we left to drive back to Sedona feeling like we'd just exactly what we needed and wanted to do while in the park. 

Travel note: our kids were the PERFECT age to visit the Grand Canyon. So many people were there with young children, and I simply could not have done that. There are so many places where the barriers between the public path and certain death are...well, nonexistent...and Tom and I agreed that we couldn't have truly experienced the Grand Canyon if we had been even a tiny bit worried that our kids wouldn't use good judgement and make safe decisions. I also wouldn't have been able to enjoy myself if I'd had to answer the question,"when are we going back to the hotel?" or listen to, "I'm tired of walking" all day long...and let me tell you, while we were there I heard lots of young kids asking this question, expressing this sentiment, and hitting a wall.

On our third full day we visited Sedona Loop Trail Disc Golf Course. Disc golf in the mountains is fantastic - this coming from someone who's not much of a fan - and this course was the prettiest and most interesting of any I've ever walked. (I would have played, but Hallie and I weren't willing to give up a suitcase or carry on bag space to bring our own discs. Instead, we walked along, chatting with and spotting for the boys and taking dance pictures.) After we finished the course, we hiked some of the Sedona Loop Trail and walked around Posse Ground park before visiting Sedona's Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village.











We were gone for five days total, and while I probably could have hiked for one more day, I also felt like we did this trip just right: we had the opportunity to see and do all of the experiences on our bucket list, and were also ready to get back home to our babies when the five days had come to an end. 

Our 2024 spring break wasn't just fun, it was Grand.