Friday, September 22, 2017

Flashback Friday: Photo Booth Treasure Trove

Disclaimer: this is the first time I've ever transferred videos from Photo Booth to the blog. I may or may not have done this correctly, but the problem is that I can't "check my work" until the post goes live. So if the videos below aren't working quite right, know that I'm working on it right now and I'll have them fixed soon!

I had forgotten all about these videos until last week, when I used my computer to take a picture of my phone. I opened Photo Booth and up they popped, eight or so attempts by the two of us to make it through five-year-old Hallie's favorite song. What a wonderful surprise to see her darling face and hear her sweet voice come alive on my screen.

And if you check out the videos yourself, I'm sure you'll be able to see and here which of us was the weakest link when it comes to building a snowman.





Happy Flashback Friday, friends!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

WWW: Wednesday Web Wrap-Up

I regularly bookmark entertaining, interesting, eye-opening, and/or feel-good stories and videos, and less regularly I sort through my cache and share my favorites here. I hope the links below help you over hump day!

"Burying the dead is often a difficult and unnecessarily problematic process. How can we do better?" Something interesting to ponder...

Who would have thought an advertisement for Windex could bring out emotion like this?!
Nothing like a good cry on a Wednesday, right? Moms, grab a tissue before you click on this link.

"I just hurt with her."
Quiet compassion speaks volumes when we can't find the words.

Again with the compassion.
Another lesson, this one from a police officer.

I'm on a roll now...
We need more stories like these.

If you build it, they will come. 
A 94-year-old widow built a swimming pool in his backyard, and now spends his afternoons surrounded by a growing community of neighbors and adopted grandchildren.

I hesitated sharing these next two links because I would hate for anyone to misinterpret me doing so as me saying or thinking that husbands and dads don't work hard enough for their families. Because they do. But there is one aspect of family care - the mental load ("the mental load means always having to's permanent, exhausting, and invisible") - that almost always falls to/on the woman. There are, however, ways the person carrying the brunt of the mental load can improve her/his situation, one of which is getting the topic out in the that's what I'm doing here!
"How moms bear the brunt of the mental load."
"There is a reason moms are always tired."

SNL's "Alexa Silver" sketch makes me think I should opt for this version rather than Amazon's traditional Alexa...

"Think good things, speak kind words, and do good things."
The youngest certified yoga instructor in America.

Just because I find it interesting, Mister Rogers' Cardigans of Many Colors.

I LOVE this mashup: "Can't Help Falling Over the Rainbow". I'm trying to convince Tom to learn it with me...

Baby cows like winter too.

And last but not least, something to think about:

Happy hump day, friends!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Taco - No, Tenured - Tom

For four and a half years Tom - then known as Taco Tom - worked on his Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering at the University of Iowa. For six months he worked as an industrial engineer for John Deere to gain experience in the field. For six and a half years he worked on his Masters and Doctorate Degrees in Cognitive Ergonomics at the University of Michigan. For six and a half years he worked as an Assistant Professor in the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department at Texas A&M University. 

And now, after 18 YEARS, the early mornings, late nights, weekend hours, uncertainty, stress, and at times excruciatingly hard work have finally paid off. As of September 1st, Tom is a tenured Associate Professor. 

During the two months prior to his PhD defense, Tom worked 18+ hour days finishing his dissertation. Every evening, after I finished work and picked up Will and Hallie from preschool/day care, the three of us would drive to Panera, buy Tom dinner, and deliver it to him at his office. As we pulled into the parking lot of the Engineering Building one evening, 18-month-old Hallie asked, "Daddy live here now?"

Yes, she spoke in complete sentences at 18 months old. And once she started talking she never stopped.

I mention this story because many people consider academia a "cush" career. I know I did, before I stood by Tom's side throughout this process. I thought my college professors showed up on campus to teach their classes, handed grading off to their teaching assistants, and then headed home to pick up their kids from school and make dinner for their families.


Tom went back to work two days after both Will and Hallie were born. Hallie so saw little of her daddy during his PhD years that she thought he lived at work. Tom missed Will's first six birthdays because of a regularly-occurring and mandatory conference. Many, many times Tom has come home after I have fallen asleep, left for the day before I woke up, or slept through the rest of us heading out the door in the morning because he had been up all night. He missed out on more than he should have because he - we - chose this career path.

Academia is not for the weak, as the path to success is long and treacherous for both the individual who choses it and their family waiting in the wings. Academia is, however, for the passionate. For the hard working. For the long-term planner and big picture dreamer who longs to advance science and bring the next generation along for the ride.

Taco Tom will live on in our memories, but I think we'll start calling him Tenured Tom now. He's earned it.
Taco (or Tailgate) Tom
Tenured Tom

Friday, September 15, 2017

High Five for Friday: 9.15.17

1. After more than four years of using the same dry cleaner, I realized that they offer FREE pick-up and delivery. What a joy to simply put Tom's work shirts and pants out on the front porch on Monday morning and find them clean, pressed, and hanging on the front door on Thursday afternoon!

2. More than a decade ago while putzing around in my mother-in-law's sewing room, she and I came across a variety of scrap fabrics and ribbons as well as a number of old men's neckties. Rather than toss all of these materials, she turned them into a purse for me. I carried it on occasion until I had kids and needed a much larger bag; at that point I packed it away and completely forgot about its existence.

Last weekend while sorting through boxes in the garage I found the purse tucked inside a Halloween costume. I showed it to Hallie, who immediately fell in love and now has a new purse. I think she pulls it off much better than I ever did.

3. Last Friday night the kids and Tom camped in a tent in the back yard. I spent the first part of the evening outside with them - we grilled hotdogs and roasted marshmallows for s'mores - but when the mosquitoes took control of the backyard, they hunkered down in the tent and I went inside for a quiet, peaceful evening watching The West Wing and eating pineapple upside down cake all by myself. Glorious!

Now that I think about it, I believe we actually roasted marshmallows for s'mores first and then grilled hotdogs...who says you can't have dessert first on the weekend?

4. On Sunday afternoon a few friends and I tried a free musical theatre class - for adults - at a local dance studio. We enjoyed it so much that we signed up to to actually take the class throughout the fall semester...this should be interesting!

5. Last but not least... As of this week, both of my children can walk to and from school by themselves! I still walk Hallie to school every day (we have some of our best talks during those 10-minute stretches) and I'll occasionally walk home with her if I've been working up at school. I drive Will to school a couple of days a week because his school is conveniently located on the way to my gym, and I pick him up on our busiest afternoons to give him more time for homework and cello practice. BUT, they now can and will walk home with their friends regularly.

We didn't decide to let them start walking with friends because I don't want to walk to pick them up...I actually really like walking to meet them after school. But the time has come for both - especially Hallie - to gain a bit more independence and confidence, and thus far they've done an incredible job!

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Texas Bucket List: The Hottest Coolest Time in Texas

Until last month, this video summed up the extent to which Will and Hallie had experienced Schlitterbahn, Texas' iconic family of waterparks.

But now, after nearly seven summers of watching television commercials for and dreaming about visiting "the hottest, coolest time in Texas", our family finally made the trek to New Braunfels - home of the flagship park and original resort - to punch our Texas membership cards.

The many suggestions we received from seasoned Schlitterbahn-ers ahead of time made a huge difference in our preparedness - and therefore our moods - when we entered the park, so thank you to those of you who helped make our day even better! (Yes, the majority of this information can be found online, but little details like "the best parking lots are full by 9:45am so arrive at 9:30am" when the website simply says "the park opens at 10am and parking is available" are game changers.) 

The original section of Schlitterbahn looked and felt nothing like any waterpark I have ever visited. Noah's Ark and Mount Olympus, the two waterparks my family regularly visits in Wisconsin Dells, cover vast expanses of hot, rough concrete. Schlitterbahn, however, rises up out of the rolling hills leading down to the Comal River. Almost every walkway is covered by indoor/outdoor carpeting and shaded by towering trees around which the rides weave. The wave pools, tubing rivers, surfing rides, and coasters utilize surprisingly chilly spring-fed river water that "flows through the park and back into nature each day", and at one point the park's tubing rides actually carry riders down the banks of and into the the river. (I found this feature somewhat nerve-wracking as I fear the animals who may or may not live in Texas' rivers, but the experience itself was simultaneously both exciting and peaceful.) Schlitterbahn feels organic and natural in a way I never expected a water park to feel.

The newer sections of Schlitterbahn look and feel a little more like the waterparks with which I'm familiar, but the rides still utilize water from the Comal River and the tubing rivers traverse the natural terrain.

Because we planned to stay for just one day (many people stay for two days and spend the night in between in the onsite resort or condos), we did our best to cram as much as possible into those eight hours. Twice we paused to reapply sunscreen and quickly devour our snacks, but we otherwise went from ride to ride to ride. With regard to the kids' ages/sizes, we timed this trip PERFECTLY; both had passed the last height requirement so no one had to sit out any rides, and Hallie, who has become a confident swimmer over the last two years, seems to have overcome her fear of (she may have even developed an affection for) thrill rides.

At the end of the day we exited the park a little bumped and bruised (both Tom and I hit our tailbones on the bottom of the tubing rivers more than once and we all suffered minor chafing from the roughly surfaced tubes) and a little sunburned (but only Tom - all three people for whom sun protection was my responsibility came out completely unscathed), but also completely satisfied in knowing we made the most of our adventure.

The best part about crossing Schlitterbahn off my Texas bucket list? Watching as this "dream" of Will and Hallie's came true and lived up to their every expectation. Well done, Schlitterbahn. We'll be back.
I took this one picture, when we got home, to remember the experience.
(I value my phone too much to carry it around at a water park. I couldn't believe
how many people took their phones - not in waterproof cases - on water rides!)

Monday, September 11, 2017

Peace on Earth

"The real differences around the world today are not between Jews and Arabs; Protestants and Catholics; Muslims, Croats, and Serbs. The real differences are between those who embrace peace and those who would destroy it; between those who look to the future and those who cling to the past; between those who open their arms and those who are determined to clench their fists."

~William J. Clinton, 1997

I honestly believe that the truest way for us - as individuals and as a country - to remember and honor those who lost their lives on September 11th is to embrace peace, look to the future, and open our arms.

Friday, September 8, 2017

High Five for Friday: 9.8.17

1. College football season has arrived! The Aggies suffered an embarrassing loss on Sunday night, but on Saturday afternoon our Hawkeyes added one to the win column. I don't follow football - college or professional - as closely as I once did thanks to Saturday soccer games and dance rehearsals, but I love knowing the games are happening and (sometimes) on television should I have the time to watch them.

2. Speaking of dance rehearsals...this little dancer was cast as a battle mouse in Ballet Brazos' 6th annual production of The Nutcracker! Her emotions about the role - as well as a variety of other life events - have ebbed and flowed quite a few times throughout the last week, but I think she has finally landed on both happy about the part and proud of herself, and for that, I am grateful.

3. This little (big?) soccer player joined ball crew at last weekend's Aggie soccer game (they won, 2-0) and earned himself the title of hardest working ball boy around. He may not have taken the field as a player, but watching him hustle and do his absolute best to serve the Aggie players made me proud none-the-less!

4. On Monday I wrote a post about how I send my kids off to school with the words "work hard and be kind" fresh in their minds. Later in the week Hallie's teacher wrote this note in her planner:

My work here is done.

Just kidding. We still have a long way to go, but we're on the right track.

5. Happiness Highlights:
Hallie learned how to do the baby freeze in hip hop, so now
they practice the baby freeze together before they go to bed.
I bought this little step stool for $.50 (?!) at a garage sale. It's
adorable, and I can't wait to figure out where it will live in our house
and then sand and stain the legs and recover the top with new fabric.
Will finished his first intermediate school project!
(I had to walk away when he started gluing those
pictures and my OCD couldn't handle
how little he cared about their positioning.)  
My oven door broke (with a pan of cookies inside),
but I fixed it "all by my big girl self"...using my flowered
screwdriver gifted to me by my mom and Hallie's tools.
These two...I can't even.

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here: