Monday, October 15, 2018

2018 Teal Pumpkin Giveaway

I talked about the Teal Pumpkin Project around this time last year, so for those of you who read Chasing Roots regularly, this post may feel familiar. The topic is an important one, however, so please give the post a quick read and consider either participating yourself (if you welcome trick-or-treaters to your home) or sharing the post so others can jump on board the teal pumpkin band wagon! 

This year and for the first time in his 12 years, Will will trick-or-treat like a "normal" kid. He won't have to gently sift through buckets of candy looking for a piece he can safely eat, or say "no thank you" and walk away with nothing at all if the candy offered contains or might contain peanuts. I won't have to read the labels on or look up the ingredients in every piece of candy he brings home. He can sample anything and everything, without fear. (Well, maybe not anything and everything - he did just get braces, and they came with a whole new set of sticky food restrictions...)

This wasn't always the case for Will and our family. As my regular readers know, Will has a peanut allergy but thanks to a new treatment protocol, now can and does eat peanuts. Sadly, not all kids with peanut allergies are so lucky, which is why, after participating for the first time in 2014 when it officially hit front porches nationwide, we continue to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project.

For those who haven't yet heard of this Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) project, here's the background information and a quick summary. At least one in 13 children (perhaps as many as one in 11 children) have a food allergy, and many more suffer from Celiac Disease, eat a restricted or special diet, or receive their nutrients via tube feeding. For these children - those who can't consume any of the items received while trick-or-treating or who can't trick-or-treat at all - Halloween doesn't have the same sparkle. The Teal Pumpkin Project began as a local awareness activity in Eastern Tennessee and grew into a nationwide campaign to "raise awareness about food allergies and promote the inclusion of all trick-or-treaters" and aims to ensure every child can experience a safe, happy holiday.

Participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project is easy.
  1. Pick out a pumpkin, paint it teal, and place it on your front porch on Halloween.
  2. Provide non-food treats - pencils, erasers, stickers, bubbles, and plastic vampire teeth have been popular at our house - for trick-or-treaters. 
The goal here is not to exclude candy; FARE suggests simply putting candy in one bowl, and non-food treats in a separate bowl. And if you don't have time to buy and/or paint a teal pumpkin, you can buy one onlineorder a fun sign for your front yard, or print out and hang up one of FARE's signs!

Later this week and just like we've done for the last four years, Hallie and I will buy a pumpkin at the local pumpkin patch and she'll spend the better part of an hour carefully covering every last inch of orange with teal paint. No, painting a pumpkin teal won't cure Will or anyone else of their peanut allergy. But doing so is a step toward increasing awareness and making the world a safer place for people with life-threatening food allergies...and Hallie loves having a part in this effort on behalf of her brother.

Would you like to win a Teal Pumpkin Project paint kit? Enter by commenting here or by commenting on or liking this post on Facebook. Will will randomly choose a winner on Friday, October 19th at 5pm and we'll mail or deliver your paint kit on Saturday, October 20th!

Let's paint the town teal!

I have no affiliation with nor have I received any payment - financial or in-kind - from the Teal Pumpkin Project in exchange for this post. I just happen to be a big supporter of their work!

Friday, October 12, 2018

High Five for Friday (10.12.18)

Last week I replaced my High Five for Friday post with Will's birthday post on Thursday, so today's high fives go back a couple of weeks. Happy Friday, friends!

One
Will had a great - albeit busy, with early morning cello practice, school, lunch with Mom, runners' club, soccer practice, and dinner out - birthday. Thank you to everyone who wished him well last week!
We always do powdered sugar donuts
topped with a candle for birthday breakfasts.
Fast forward to the end of the day - birthday cake time!
He wanted a white cake with raspberry layers and chocolate frosting
for his actual birthday and Fortnite cupcakes for his party in a few days.
Soccer ball cookies for his teammates after practice!

I also want to give a shout out to my friend, Jamie, who recently started her own cookie baking and decorating business. She made Will's birthday cookies (no parties at school anymore, but I wanted Will to have something to take to his soccer teammates since they practiced on his birthday) and they were both adorable and delicious. If you live in the BCS area, get in touch with Jamie for all your cookie needs! (Click on the image below to visit her Facebook business page.)


Two
Six or so months after I came due for a cut and color, I FINALLY had time to get my hair done! My hair always needs attention in May, but I hold off because the summer sun and chlorinated water bleach and dry my hair out regardless. Then I hold off again once school starts because August and September are completely booked with PTO events and fundraisers. But when October rolls around, I'm finally back in my stylist's chair and it feels so good. (No pics though - I have a strong dislike for selfies.)

Three
She didn't win the Student Council presidential election (and didn't seem too troubled about losing to her friend "Action Jackson"), but I'm proud of my Hallie Claire for choosing to run for office, coming up with a clever poster, writing and practicing her speech, and presenting it to the members of Student Council. Putting yourself out there - especially where there exists a chance of public defeat - is never easy, and she handled the process gracefully and with a smile on her face.

Speaking of proud... Last week Will heard both an acquaintance and a friend use a derogatory term. He told the boys that the word was mean, insulting, and inappropriate, and that if they said it again, he wouldn't continue playing with them. The acquaintance used the word again, so Will stuck to his guns and walked away. I wouldn't have known about this if another friend of Will's hadn't seen and heard the situation unfold and then told her mom...who happens to be one of my best friends. Kids make A LOT of bad decisions, but every once in a while they make an incredibly good one.

Four
We have a new creative studio in town, and last Friday night I finally had the opportunity to try my hand at DIY wood sign art.

These projects cost a fair amount (more than DIY canvas painting art studio projects, for example) so I won't be able to visit the studio very often, but the process was interesting and fun and I can't wait to go back!

Five
Happiness Highlights
Painting her daddy's toenails a lovely
combination of royal blue and kelly green.
Hallie and her dance family.
Flu shots - check!
Never far...
...sometimes REALLY close. (He somehow
squeezed into the less than two inches of space
between my back and the back of the chair. 
My puppy nephew in his Halloween
costume. He looks psyched about it.
A friend captured this pic of Hallie at the
moment her Mini Company director showed
them their first costume for the year. 😍
It's beautiful!
On an overcast, slightly rainy Saturday I decided to
indulge in my first caramel apple spice of the season. 
Found my T1-82 for Will to use! 😂
Halloween decor is up!
"I love you so much, Will."
Me and my girl at her last Boosterthon.
Hallie and one of her besties, Tessa.
I'm so grateful for their friendship.
Four (of their five) years of Boostheron together!
The boys' bathroom doors at Will's school also got a makeover!
When did these handsome boys get so big?! 
When you survive two hours of dance photos with 16 seven, eight,
and nine year olds (in 91 degrees and 724% humidity and surrounded
by mosquitoes, ants, and a savage attack cat) you go out for ice cream
with friends. Thank goodness for ice cream.

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Errands With Erin

As a little girl, I thought - self-centeredly but understandably so - that when my mom, sister, and I ran "errands", we were actually running "Erins". One day my sister asked my mom, "why don't we ever get to run Saras?" From then on my mom made a point to periodically run Saras, rather than just Erins. (Apparently this is a common childhood misinterpretation of the word "errands" - my niece, Lily, also once asked her mom why they never got to run Lilys.)

One - or both - of these girls has dance after school every day except Friday, so on their free Fridays they want to have playdates. The challenge is that because Hallie has dance and Will has soccer on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, we have to fit appointments in on Tuesday afternoons and errands in on Friday afternoons. (Kid appointments and errands for which the kids need to be with me, of course - I accomplish as much as possible that doesn't involve the kids while they're at school.) The solution to this challenge turned out to be Kara coming with us on our errands, because errands with a friend and someone else's mom are so much more fun than errands without a friend and with your own mom, right? So far this semester Kara has joined me and Hallie and occasionally Will on treks to Target, Wal-Mart, Once Upon a Child, Hobby Lobby, and the library.

I told the girls the story about running Saras instead of Erins, while they didn't think it was quite as funny as I did/do, we did agree that our errands would be more fun if we renamed them. I suppose there are worse ways to spend a Friday afternoon than running Hallies and Karas with these two (well, three, with that big brother in the way back) cuties.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Try, Try Again


When something doesn't work, we fix it, right?

I decided my "themed" system for monthly resolutions doesn't work, at least not for me, so I'm going to fix it.

To refresh your memory, I had planned to follow this schedule:
  • September - mental health
  • October - career
  • November - gratitude
  • December - giving
  • January - finances
  • February - relationships
  • March - physical health
  • April - faith
  • May - organization

And for Mental Health September, I took on three different resolutions:
  • Get at least seven hours of sleep every night. Lights out by 11:30pm on weeknights and 12:30am on weekends. (Yes, I am a night owl.)
  • Play at least once a week with my kids, Tom, and/or my friends. "Play" means different things to different people, so I envision a few versions: chess, card games, soccer, Just Dance, Bey Blades, and American Girl restaurant with Will and Hallie, lunch dates and/or date nights with Tom, and some combination of wine, cheese, and chocolate with my friends.
  • Manage my stress by consciously stepping away from people, situations, websites, and television and online programming that make me feel worse rather than better. This one is harder to nail down, but my tentative plan is to start with a round of Facebook and Instagram purging and then set aside specific times each day to visit these social media sites. 

My first error was thinking I could take on more than one resolution - in this case THREE - over the course of one month. I succeeded with one resolution and did reasonably well with another, but I completely failed at the third; I can't accept those rates of success, so I this month I am reverting back to taking on just one resolution a month.

My second error was assigning each month a category. About halfway through September I decided what I wanted to work on in October, but when I pulled up my list of categories, I realized that this resolution fell no where near the "career" category. I want to be able to take on resolutions with flexibility and as they come to me, so this month I am abandoning my category system.

To be honest, I'm a little disappointed as I think the category idea has great potential for success...just not for me. I know that for me to succeed in my resolutions I need to step back and follow a simpler way of establishing and implementing them.

So...

As I mentioned above, I closed out September having reached varying levels of success. First, I did well at getting back into the school year groove and tallying seven hours of sleep a night. I think I only missed the mark three times, and none of these nights were because of simply staying up too late - one was due to a late night show in Houston, and the other two were cut short because of early wake-up calls. Second, I did horribly at (officially) playing with my kids, Tom, and my friends. I hate to admit it, but I completely forgot about this resolution, which perfectly demonstrates why I can only have one resolution each month. I did play with the kids, go on a date with Tom, and go out for dinner and drinks with friends, but not once did any of these activities remind me that I had pledged to do more. And third, I did moderately well at managing social media stress. I unfollowed quite a few people and sources and sites that regularly made me feel worse rather than better, and I added a few that - at least thus far - lift my spirits.

Moving on to October... This month I plan to use up what I have, specifically beauty and skin care products, make up, cleaning and household products, and food in my pantry and freezer. I have so many freebies, sample-sized "gifts with purchase", and full-sized products I've purchased according to recommendations, and because I want to start streamlining what I buy in each of these categories, the first step is use up what I have and like, and then clear out - sell, donate, or toss - what I have and don't like. I realize I could save a bit of time by gathering everything and either tossing it, donating it, or bagging it up for my next garage sale, but tossing it feels wasteful, I don't like donating products I've opened and/or sampled, and if I wait for an April or May garage sale some of the items will have expired. So, my goal is to use as much as I can throughout October, and then at the end of the month, clear out whatever is left.

Did you resolve to change anything about yourself or your life this year? Last month? This coming month? How are those resolutions going?

Thursday, October 4, 2018

12

12 years old. Sixth grade. It doesn't seem possible.

Personality-wise, I can describe Will similarly to how I have described him in his last two birthday posts. He enjoys and does well in school, and at this point in the fall has settled comfortably into his second year of intermediate school. He gravitates toward competitive sports, but focuses primarily on soccer and running. He dreams of following in the musical footsteps of either Pentatonix's Kevin Olusola on the cello or The Beatles' Ringo Starr on the drums. He plays a mean game of chess, saves his money and free time for Fortnite, and loves a good video game tournament with his dad on the weekend. I am - we all are - extraordinarily proud to call him ours.

This year was a significant one for Will on a couple of fronts. We spent the better part of six months supporting him through a - successful - peanut desensitization designed to train his immune system to no longer react to peanut exposure. He continues to eat 12 peanuts each day to maintain his desensitized state and does so without issue. Just one day after Will completed the peanut desensitization, he scored himself top and bottom braces, which he has adjusted to surprisingly well all things considered. The peanut eating combined with the braces has been challenging, so he's looking forward to the day when one or the other finally disappears. Will also suffered a fairly significant injury to his face this summer, courtesy of a cute little cousin with a rock solid head. Thankfully we learned a couple of weeks ago that no bones were broken during the contact and that while Will suffered some damage to the soft tissue and fat pads in his face, we don't need to intervene medically right now.
Peanuts
Braces
Face Injury
Soft Tissue Damage

A few weeks ago Will and I had a rough evening as mother and son. I learned something troubling, brought the problem to Will's attention, reprimanded Will for his behavior and choices, and dolled out what I felt were appropriate consequences.

When all was said and done, I felt sick to my stomach. I hate reprimanding or punishing my kids, but in this situation a simple "do better next time" seemed inadequate. My heart hurt for Will because I knew how awful he felt, but I also battled anger toward Will both because of the choices he had made and for "forcing" me to address this difficult topic and turning our evening sour. I felt like I had failed Will and he had failed me, and while we eventually talked about these feelings, the conversation didn't immediately make them disappear.

We woke up in the morning unable to start fresh. Will had tasks ahead of him - related to fixing the problem of the evening prior - that he needed to accomplish before the day's end, and I couldn't yet release the frustration and betrayal of the night before.

Most days Will rides his bike or walks to school. I have never ridden nor do I regularly walk with him anymore, but we always bid one another farewell - with a hug and an "I love you" in both spoken English and sign language - in the garage or driveway as he heads off. On that morning, as I loaded dirty laundry into the washing machine Will walked by the laundry room, uttered a muffled goodbye, and hurried out the door before I could respond.

It took a minute or two for the gravity of what had just happened to sink in, but when it did, I nearly broke. I clutched the sides of the washing machine and watched as a huge crocodile tear rolled off my cheek and dropped silently onto the lid.

For 10 minutes I busied myself around the house, loading the dishwasher and vacuuming the carpet and packing my bag for the gym. I couldn't blame Will for leaving in a huff, but that didn't lessen my hurt. I didn't want him to feel the pain I was feeling though, so I picked up my phone to text him, thinking an "I love you" message waiting on his phone when he got to school might help his day go better. Just as I was about to hit send, the back the door swung open.

He came back.

He biked halfway to school, turned around, and came back.

He walked through the door, rushed across the kitchen, and gave me a hug. We clung to one another for longer than usual, and then we said and signed the words "I love you" and he slipped out the door a second time.

Those of you with kiddos older than mine know this already, but to all the mama bears (and daddies) for whom the milestone of 12 years old hasn't yet been reached, let me tell you - parenting big kids is no joke. The mistakes are bigger. The issues are bigger. The meltdowns and disappointments and heartbreak are all bigger. But so are the good things. The accomplishments. The pride. The joy and the laughter and the love.

It seems natural for me as Will's mother to wish time would slow down. The interesting and unexpected characteristic of this age - at least for Will - is that he too wishes time would slow down. He realized, on his own or through prompting from someone other than me, that his time in our home - as a child under our roof - is more than half over. When he told me this "fact", his face contorted in what he thought looked like a smile, but his eyes weren't smiling. And though no tears fell in that moment, his eyes looked glossy with moisture. I could see the internal struggle between little boy and teenager, and I could feel his hurting heart.

But I assured him, as firmly and intensely and lovingly as I have ever assured anyone of anything, that he can always come back. Halfway to school, halfway through college, halfway through life - he can ALWAYS come back. And I will be waiting, ready to welcome him with open arms no matter where he's been or what he's been through.

Oh, my sweet boy. You have taught me more than any other person - except perhaps my own mom - in the world. You have made this life more than I ever thought it could be, and nothing brings me more joy than being your mom.

Happy 12th birthday, Will. I love you to the moon and back plus infinity time a million with a cherry on top.











I won't have a High Five for Friday post tomorrow - my boy has all of my high fives covered for the week.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Few Words Wednesday: It Will Have Been Worth It

I originally pulled this quote to share with Will as he attempts to become the best athlete he can be. But when I typed it out here and reread it from the perspective of a mom who is about to celebrate her oldest child's birthday, I realized that with just a slight spin this poem could also honor the journey we call parenting.

So today, I share these words both in honor of my sweet boy who turns 12 tomorrow and the 12 years Tom and I have parented children:

It will hurt.
It will take time.
It will require dedication.
It will require willpower.
You will need to make healthy decisions.
It requires sacrifice.
You will need to push your body to its max.
There will be temptation.
But I promise you this...
When you reach your goal,
It will have been
Worth It.

~ unknown

Monday, October 1, 2018

Monthly Medley: September 2018

Writing
At the end of the month I finished up an intense (for me to write, not so much for you to read) article about the three presidential libraries and museums in Texas. I've visited the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum here in College Station, but I have yet to make it to the other two - the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum in Austin and the George W. Bush Center in Dallas - covered in the article. However now that I know what these establishments have to offer, I might take the kids on a field trip or two to check them out in person!

I have two new writing gigs in the works! Most of you will never read anything I write for the first one because it's a small neighborhood publication in Nebraska, but the other one will involve editing for a fantastic up-and-coming website. I can't wait to share more information with you in the coming months!

Reading
Nope. I'm sad and a little embarrassed to report that I didn't finish any new books in September. (I read, I just didn't finish.)

In preparation for my library's SEVEN MONTH closure, I downloaded the Kindle app. Shortly after doing so, however, I realized I don't like reading books on my phone - it hurts my eyes, and I found that because I usually skim that which I read on my phone, I did the same with books and therefore didn't fully comprehend what I was reading. I may need to visit the little libraries in my area - we have one in our yard and there are two others within walking distance of my house - a little more frequently in the coming months.

Watching
I watched the original Queer Eye for the Straight Guy 15 years ago, but I didn't care enough about the show to pay much attention when Netflix released a reboot at the beginning of 2018. But I kept seeing articles about how well the new version played with viewers - I heard it described as interesting, fun, funny, endearing, and even powerful - so I gave it a try this month. And OHHHH, how I love it. I have cried while watching every single episode (and I'm already midway through season two) because of the impact these five personalities are having on the lives - not just the hair, the clothes, and/or the home - of the men they encounter. I'm so glad to hear the show was renewed for a third season!

I look forward to the end of September/beginning of October because all some of my favorite television shows return and all of the new television series launch. In preparation for this time of year, Tom took our old cable box to Suddenlink and traded it out for a new cable box that has a much higher capacity to record. I love him.

I know it's a little early, but have you developed any favorites thus far? I'm so glad to have Modern Family and This Is Us back, and I can't wait to see where Manifest and A Million Little Things go.

Listening To
I just started listening to the podcast Gone, which begins when the main - and only, thus far - character wakes and finds she is completely alone in the world: "this is a story about what happens when the world goes dark, and everyone else is gone". The premise is a little spooky, so I only listen at the gym and while surrounding by other people rather than when I walk alone in the early mornings or at night.

Season three of Serial has begun! This season's premise has been altered slightly (compared to the premises of seasons past), but the first two episodes under this new format did not disappoint.

Wearing
High temperatures have dropped into the 80s, so I can finally wear jeans again! As long as I don't have to be outside for longer than five minutes, of course.

I only bought one new article of clothing this month: a "Stay Goal'd" shirt that can double as a workout tank for the gym and a top for the gold-themed dance party I have to attend at Hallie's dance convention the first weekend in November. It's cute, but I'm a little unsure about its oversized arm holes which, while trendy, might be a little too trendy for me...

I don't shop much in September and October in preparation for my annual fall shopping extravaganza with my mom and sister. Instead, I make lists of items for which I plan to look, for myself, for the kids, for Tom, and/or as gifts. As of right now, my list includes a few miscellaneous gifts for family members and friends, Christmas pajamas and stocking stuffers for the kids, a couple of shirt and tie combos for Tom, and sunglasses, athletic shoes, and some kind of non-boot fall shoe for me. I look forward to this trip every fall, and this year is no exception - I'm coming, Mom and Sara!

Trying/Using
I have known about AirDrop for a while, but I admit to thinking it existed solely to allow for phone-to-phone transfer of larger than usual videos. I recently discovered that it can also allow me to easily and almost instantaneously move anything from my phone to computer and my life is forever changed.

I usually share what I have tried/used and liked, however this month I want to also share a little something I tried/used and didn't like: Kool Aid as hair dye. Yes, Hallie has light blonde hair, but I thought that if I cut the suggested dyeing time in half, the Kool Aid should still wash out in 2-4 weeks per the instructions. Nope. First, over the course of the first week the dye crept up almost two inches above the dye line. Then at about four weeks post-dye, we attempted to remove the dye three times and while the color lightened, it never fully disappeared. Eventually we cut about four inches off, but we couldn't go any shorter because she needs to wear her hair in a bun multiple times a week. So here we are two months post-dye and Hallie still has pink tips. Lesson learned.
Pale pink tips...
And a pale pink bun.
At least it doesn't still look like this!
Actually Hallie loved the color and wanted to
keep it that bright forever - it was me who missed
her long blond locks and wanted to wash it out...
Eating/Drinking
  • This Vegan Black Bean Soup went over well with everyone, including Hallie! I left out the jalapeño because I forgot to buy one at the grocery store, and I skipped the cilantro because in our family no one likes it except Will.
  • Tom, Will, and I all enjoyed this Creamy Pasta with Asparagus and Bacon...except with green beans instead of asparagus because asparagus was shockingly expensive that week. I also skipped the chicken soup base, swapped almond milk for the heavy cream, and tripled the recipe, as it seems to be written for just one person or two people.
  • I opted to serve this Avocado Chicken Salad in a deconstructed state (all of the ingredients in the same bowl but splayed out in wedges with the dressing on the side) so Hallie could assemble her plate according to her tastes, but that didn't change how deliciously it all came together. I included the hardboiled eggs (not listed in the ingredients but shown in the pictures) and the only adaptation I made was to add two tablespoons of dijon mustard and two tablespoons of honey to the dressing. 
  • I have shared this recipe for Raisin Bran Cookies before, but I made them again a couple of weeks ago and they went over so well that I thought they deserved a second share. As always, I adapted the recipe slightly: I used only all-purpose flour (I really don't like the flavor of whole wheat flour in cookies), and I decreased the granulated sugar to 1/2 cup and the brown sugar to 1/4 cup.

Feeling Good About

What's new and interesting in your world this month?