Friday, March 30, 2012

A Year Later

Some days it's hard to believe we've already lived in Texas for more than 15 months...

Of course I knew exactly how long we'd been residents of Texas (I have a calendar and know how to use it), but it wasn't until a couple weeks ago - when we started experiencing months, seasons, and events for a second time - that it actually clicked.

One Saturday morning in early February we found ourselves at a local park/playground/disc golf course (our favorite Saturday morning activities include a little something for everyone: in this case, park trails and photographable fresh spring blooms for me, a playground for Will and Hallie, and a disc golf course for Tom). After snapping a few pictures of the kids goofing around on the playground, I looked out from behind my lens just in time to see Hallie shoot off the end of a slide. I was struck by the realization that she'd shot off the end of that same slide for the first time exactly one year before.

February 2011
February 2012
The slide experience, which in the grand scheme of things was hardly an experience at all, magnified for me how much Hallie had grown - how much we'd all grown - in 12 short months. Except for the circumference of Hallie's legs...her legs haven't grown at all.

I've made no secret of the fact that I haven't always dealt very well with change.  And while my coping skills have improved over the years, I still have moments, hours, and even days every now and again when change - like moving more than 1,000 miles away from all of my family members and friends - makes me feel like I've been punched in the gut.

But when I pause to reflect on where we've come from and what we've adapted to throughout the last year, the uncertainty on the road ahead seems considerably less scary and intimidating. Because I know we can handle it.

Sometimes, there are things in our lives that aren't meant to stay.
Sometimes, change may not be what we want.
Sometimes, change is exactly what we need.
And sometimes, saying goodbye is the hardest thing you think you'll ever have to do.

But sometimes, saying hello again is the thing that breaks you down
and makes you more vulnerable than you ever thought possible.
Sometimes, change is too much to bear.
But most of the time, change is the only thing saving your life.
~ the notebook doodles

A smart and special and patient woman gently led me to understand and appreciate that "the bend in the road is not the end of the road, unless you fail to make the turn".  It appears Hallie Claire is taking the bend in the slide road just fine, and I'm proud to be following her lead.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Red Cross Post: The Best of the Best

This week on the National American Red Cross blog I'm writing about the anatomy of a Red Cross disaster volunteer, and how grateful I am that these incredible people are working their tails off - day in and day out - to help our country prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies. As March is Red Cross Month draws to a close, I salute all those who have at one time, currently, or will someday donate financially to, donate blood to, or volunteer for the American Red Cross. You really are the best of the best.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

On the Map

I came across both of these maps when they recently made the rounds on Facebook.  I'm not sure how accurate this first one is, seeing as I was raised in Wisconsin, went to college in Iowa, and lived for the last six years in Michigan - all of which are "pop" states according to this map - and am firmly in the "soda" camp.  I've also not heard a single person here in Texas - clearly a "coke" state - use that term instead of "soda".  Now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure the only person I know who uses the word "pop" is my mom...

Blue = "pop", yellow = "soda", red = "coke"

This second map is completely accurate.  I'm super duper proud to be from that great big red blob in the middle of the Midwest - otherwise known as Wisconsin - and to have gone to college in the smaller red blob covering East Central Iowa.

Yellow = more grocery stores than bars, red = more bars than grocery stores

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

MomsEveryday Post: Shazam

In case you missed it the first time around, my post "Shazam" - about my mom's first encounter with an Iowa City Tyme time machine - went up on MomsEveryday earlier today. Check it out here!

Red Cross Blog Post: Too Close to Home

Last week strong storms and tornadoes devastated a significant portion of Michigan's Washtenaw County.  (Until 16 months ago we lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which is in Washtenaw County, and I worked for the Washtenaw County Chapter of the American Red Cross.)  Though we no longer live in Washtenaw County, it was once our home, and this disaster hit a little too close for me.  That's what I'm blogging about this week on the National American Red Cross blog - click here to read all about it.

Monday, March 26, 2012

From Soccer Mom to Soccer Coach

Considering Will's only five years old, his soccer playing "career" has been an eventful one.

Will played his first season in the fall of 2010, while still in Michigan, on a three-year-old team. He had - to put it gently - a difficult time adjusting. (Read all about that first season here and here.  It was not pretty...Will threw the most epic tantrum of his entire life throughout the entirety of his first practice/game.)

I think it was the right decision to start Will on a sports team when he was three though, because he was able to sort through a lot of his sports team-related issues and work his early-four-year-old meltdowns out of his system that year. When we arrived in Texas and Will switched schools, joined a new soccer team, and was frequently dropped off at new gym and church childcare centers, he adjusted remarkably well, all things considered.

My rockstar dad started coaching my soccer team when I was six years old, and continued as my coach until I was 13. I learned a great deal about coaching from him, enough so that when I was in high school and my little sister was in middle school I was able to step in and coach her team - of which my dad was the coach - whenever my dad couldn't make it to one of her games because of a work conflict or game of his own.

I always kind of envisioned myself as a youth soccer coach, but that was before I actually had kids and understood what coaching preschoolers actually entailed. You see, coaching preschooler soccer has nothing to do with coaching, very little to do with soccer, and nearly everything to do with keeping them interested, focused, and from melting down and running away from you into the parking lot.

I figured I'd wait until the kids were a little older to start coaching (like after they'd learned the basics of team sports and how to listen to a coach), and in the meantime I'd enjoy steaming hot cups of coffee while sitting on the sidelines in my lawn chair and let someone else keep my children interested, focused, and from melting down.

Best laid plans, right?

Last fall Will's soccer coach was a TAMU college student named *Marie. Marie had supposedly coached young children in the past, and while this appeared to be the case as far as the actual child-interaction piece of coaching was concerned, when it came to working with parents - a big part of coaching children - Marie was pretty clueless. She wasn't great at returning emails and phone calls, and for nearly three weeks in the middle of the season she basically dropped off the face of the earth and left us parents to fend for ourselves. During this three week stretch, myself and two other parents - a couple named Suzanne and Paul (Paul is actually the Strength & Conditioning Coach for the TAMU Women's Soccer Team) - stepped in to fill the gap. Paul took the lead, seeing as he's a collegiate soccer coach and all, but Suzanne and I filled in whenever he was traveling with the TAMU women.

Fast forward to the week before this spring season was scheduled to begin. We learned Marie would be coaching the team once again when she emailed us a few days before the first game. Her email indicated that while she didn't yet know the time of our game that Saturday, she'd be in touch as soon as the schedule was released. We waited, and waited, and waited...and never heard from Marie. At 8pm on Friday night, Suzanne finally tracked down our game time - by contacting another coach who looked up our game time for us - and emailed the rest of us parents.

On Saturday morning I arrived at the field dressed in my "drinking a hot cup of coffee while sitting on the sidelines in my lawn chair" clothes. When I approached Suzanne I could see from the look on her face that she had "news". As it turned out, Marie had quit at some point between her Wednesday night email and that Saturday morning...and hadn't told anyone. And the new head coaches, as of that morning? Paul, Suzanne, and Yours Truly. Paul was out of town that day, so Suzanne wrangled the kids on the sideline and I coached on the field. I had no whistle and no watch, so Tom kept time on his phone from the sideline while simultaneously entertaining Hallie with videos on my phone. Behind the scenes we adults were a bit haphazard, but on the field the kids were rockstars - they won the game, convincingly. (Even though we're not supposed to keep score. Which drives me crazy.)

In between keeping time on his phone, Tom took a few phone photos and videos.  They serve no other purpose than to remind me that I should never, ever wear those jeans again.

Pregame directional reminder ("remember, we're trying to
score in that goal - they're trying to score in this goal").
Midgame instruction (even though it looks a little like I'm yelling at them,
I promise I wasn't - this is an all-positive, all the time kind of environment).
Chasing after the action.
Halftime pep talk.

And here are a couple of fun videos - that's Will scoring in the first one!

So now I'm a youth soccer coach. And you know what? I like it. Especially right now, while most of the kids on Will's team are returning players who have worked together before and have a decent idea about what to do on the field (at least more so than the players on the two teams we've played so far). I also really like coaching with Paul and Suzanne - it's nice that we can back each other up and we each bring something different to the table in terms of our skills and abilities.

I can't say for certain how long I'll continue coaching, but I can tell you for certain that I'll be checking out of the game - and checking in on the sidelines as a spectator - the minute parents start yelling at coaches. I watched my dad, and then my high school and club team coaches, deal with a lot of awful parents and I know I couldn't handle that kind of face-to-face conflict and ridicule. (I played very competitive soccer in late middle and high school, and at that level, when both kids and parents have a lot riding on playing time, personal statistics, and tallies in the win column, some people get downright nasty. I've seen parents punch coaches and referees in the face, yell at kids {their own and others}, and get escorted out of stadiums by police officers. It's not pretty.) I often let my emotions get the best of me when faced with conflict, and no one - especially Will - want to see Coach Erin crying on the sideline. :)

So here's to a fun-filled season of U5 Bumble Dog soccer. I'm going to enjoy every minute my son lets me lead his team, and I'll worry about drinking a hot cup of coffee while sitting on the sidelines in my lawn chair in a few years.

*Marie is obviously not the coach's real name.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Why Iowa?!

I heard this question quite a few times after I made public my decision to attend the University of Iowa in Iowa City, IA.

"Why would you move to Iowa?! There's absolutely NOTHING in Iowa except corn!"

No, Iowa is home to a heck of a lot more than corn. (Though the corn in Iowa IS amazing.) Museums, wineries, breweries, racetracks, amusement parks, casinos, theaters, college athletics - I was never bored during my five years in Iowa City and two years in Cedar Rapids.

"Why wouldn't you attend the University of Wisconsin? UW is a better school and is closer to home and will be less expensive because you're in-state and has better ice cream."

Yes, UW might be a better school when it comes to certain departments and programs, but Iowa has a nationally-recognized Speech Pathology and Audiology Department and Speech Path was my anticipated major when I entered college. In case you're wondering, Speech Path was not my major when I finally graduated college.  Oh well.

Yes, UW is closer to home. It's so close to home, in fact, that at 18 years old I felt like I'd already been a student at UW for years. I'd been to football games, basketball games, and music and theater performances. I'd hung out at the Union and on the Terrace, and shopped on State Street. When I was in elementary school I'd even gone to class with my mom. At age 10 I took two complete lectures' worth of notes in Bio Chemistry. I was super cool.

Yes, UW would have been less expensive. I'm sorry and thank you, Mom and Dad.

Yes, UW has better ice cream. But UW has better ice cream than absolutely everywhere else I've lived. I'm sorry to break it to you, my Texas friends, but ice cream down here - even Blue Bell ice cream - is not that good. Come with me to the Dairy State, where I will introduce you to Babcock ice cream and where your life will be forever changed.

"Want to hear a joke? What the best thing to come out of Iowa? Interstate 80!"

Yes, it was funny the first time. No, it was NOT funny the 174,569th time.

I never planned on becoming a Hawkeye, in fact I always thought I'd become a Badger. Despite doing fairly well in school and always knowing as I was a child that I would eventually attend and graduate from college, when the time came to fill out applications and write essays I completely shut down. My poor mom...she signed me up for the SAT and ACT when I wouldn't do it myself. Every afternoon she handed me the college and university brochures that had arrived in the mail that day and begged asked me to look through them. She dragged me to at least four school visits/tours. She stood over me while I filled out my applications and then mailed them for me. I imagine those few months were very trying for her...

I applied to Iowa because it was a Big 10 school in a college town (which felt familiar to me, since UW is also a Big 10 school in a college town), and because it was close - but not too close - to home. And because the pictures in the brochure were pretty. And because my mom told me she was going to freak out if I didn't get my butt in gear and start taking the college application process seriously. After I applied but before I was accepted my mom and I visited the campus to attend an official campus tour and check out dorm living. I was anything but excited about the trip.

Our tour took place on a terribly cold day in January. There were at least six inches of snow on the ground, which troubled many parents and students on our tour. (Don't visit the Midwest in the winter if you can't handle snow, people.) My mom and I just took it in stride, however, layering our clothes and our winter wear in a way that allowed us to withstand at least a couple of hours outside. I think it's important - or at least interesting/funny - to note that I was wearing tapered mom jeans, a white turtleneck, a denim button-down shirt over the turtleneck, and a sweater that looked something like the photo below over the denim shirt. It was the 90's, people - I thought my layering was awesome.

Sorry, Bill.

Despite the bitter cold, it was a beautiful day and I found myself starting to relax and even enjoy the tour as it went on. Toward the end of the tour our guide, whose name was Amanda, led us to the Old Capitol (Iowa City used to be the capital of Iowa) in the center of campus. From the steps of Old Capitol I could see out across more than half of campus and down to the river that peacefully divides Iowa City into East and West. As we stood on those cold, cement steps I just knew...knew that the University of Iowa was the school I was supposed to attend. From that day on I didn't apply to or visit any more schools; I simply waited for my acceptance letter from and sent in my commitment to Iowa. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

The view from the Old Capitol steps, though this picture was taken in September 
and not in January, when the barren trees allow for a view of the river.

I found myself on those same steps many times throughout my five years in Iowa City.  Those cold, cement steps were always there for me - when I needed to think through complicated choices or have tough conversations with friends or just cry it out - and they never once led me astray.  So when people ask me, "why Iowa?!", I honestly answer, "the steps" and smile.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

MomsEveryday Post: Backwards Day published my blog post entitled "Backwards Day" (which ran here a couple of weeks ago) on their website today. If you missed it the first time around you can read it here!

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Birds

The Brazos Valley Loop of the Prairies and Pineywoods Wildlife Trail - a state-designated system of trails and wildlife sanctuaries in Texas - runs through College Station. During certain times of the year, never before imagined quantities of birds descend upon our quiet town, creeping the hell out of me, Tom, our kids, and probably anyone who has seen or heard of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds".

"The Birds", which I watched only once when I was in high school, is a 1963 horror movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The movie was based on the Daphne du Maurier book of the same name, and tells the story of a sudden and unexplained series of widespread and violent bird attacks.  The simple yet engaging plot somehow creates a tremendous level of tension and suspense, and like many Alfred Hitchcock movies, the ending is hauntingly unsettling.

(I had nightmares after watching this movie, which is why I only saw it once.  I also had nightmares after watching two episodes of the Alfred Hitchcock television series.  One episode was about Pandora's Box and had something to do with the box moving mysteriously from owner to owner and when a new owner opened the box the previous owner met an untimely death.  The other episode was about a paralyzed man - who we believed was paralyzed because at some point during the episode he was stabbed in the leg and didn't even flinch - who a woman tried to kill by pushing his wheelchair with him in it into the deep end of a swimming pool...and then he slowly rose from the bottom of the pool, clearly not at all paralyzed, and killed his attempted murderer by electrocuting her in the same pool.  I'm probably going to have nightmares tonight after just typing those brief and very poor episode descriptions.  So anyway, I stay away from Alfred Hitchcock this, that, and the other.)

Here are a couple of promotional photos from the movie:

Creepy, right?  What's even creepier are the photos below...

From The Birds

Of the College Station Birds

From The Birds

Of the College Station Birds

Coincidence?  I think not.  Should you ever not hear from me when you're expecting a call, email, blog post, etc., it will be reasonable to assume that the birds have gotten me.  

Friday, March 16, 2012

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Everyone needs a place - besides home - where they feel comfortable and appreciated and, to put it frankly, liked. Before we moved to Texas, that place for me was the Red Cross. I'd worked for the organization for eight years, the last six at the same chapter and with the same people, and I knew exactly and was comfortable with where I fit into the organization's complicated social puzzle.

I couldn't, nor would I have wanted to, immediately replace that home-away-from-home with a new Red Cross Chapter. Though I've started to affiliate myself with the Red Cross Chapter in my county, I don't think it will become "that" place for me anytime soon.

I've found a temporary replacement, however, and as ridiculous as it may sound, it's my gym.

I've always been an avid exerciser. I started playing soccer when I was five or six, and that sport - thanks to the many games, practices, and endurance and strength workouts - kept me physically fit through the end of high school. When I started college, I substituted regular aerobic workouts and strength training at the gym for all that soccer playing, and now, 15 years later, the gym has stuck. That's not to say my gym has always been my home-away-from-home though. My gym in Ann Arbor was dark and gloomy, and in the FIVE years I worked out there I only talked to one person...and she thought my name was Lisa.

I realize that technically I'm paying the front desk staff, group fitness instructors, and childcare center staff to know my name, be nice to me, and take good care of my kids.  But it feels like more than that to me.  I'd like to believe they've learned my name because I've learned their names, they're nice to me because I'm nice to them, and they take good care of my kids because I let them know - every day - how much I appreciate the peace and support they give me.

Beyond the staff members, I've enjoyed getting to know my fellow College Station exercisers.  At first everyone was a stranger, but eventually strangers turned into familiar faces and familiar faces turned into faces with names.  I see these faces at church, at the mall, and in the grocery store, and we always smile at and greet one another.

There's a unique bond that forms between gym acquaintances.  You may never become the best of friends (though there's no rule against that of course), but there's something about the shared experience of working incredibly hard toward a similar goal, especially when sweat is involved, that brings people together.  Oh, and there's something about running into someone when neither of you look your best - as in you just rolled out of bed and into your gym clothes and your hair looks like you haven't brushed it since Wednesday and you're not wearing any make-up - that also brings people together.  (Whenever I run into gym employees outside of the gym they comment on how nice I look.  I always reply that it's because I took a shower.)

It helps that my kids are big fans of the gym.  They love the childcare staff (two of whom are our AMAZING regular family babysitters), they love the toys and children's workout equipment in the childcare center, Will enjoys the weekly Zumbatonic (Zumba for kids) classes, and Will has a little man-crush on one of the group fitness instructors, Chris, after whom they named our Christmas Elf.

Not familiar with Zumbatonic? Here's a quick peek. It's adorable.

I guess this post is, in some ways, a thank you note to the gym.  I joined just a few days after we moved to College Station, knowing that while I needed a place to work out - thank you very much, Christmas cookies - I also needed a place I could call my own. A place where I could work on myself and step away from my kids and my responsibilities, a place where everyone would know me as "Erin" and not as just "Will and Hallie's mom" and/or "Dr. Ferris' wife". The gym delivered. And I have the sanity to prove it.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Red Cross Blog Post: (MIRCM) What Are You Waiting For?

If you recall, March is Red Cross Month. In honor of this special month - and in hopes of recruiting more generous volunteers and blood donors for the organization - I'm talking about how to get the ball rolling on those New Year's Resolutions over on (You know the resolutions I mean...they're made with the best of intentions in January, but when March rolls around you realized you haven't thought about them even once since January 1st.) Join me!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Photography Challenge Outtakes

I took quite a few pictures during the month of February that I didn't end up using as part of the 30-day Photography Challenge.  I don't really have stories or blog posts to go with these pictures, so I thought I'd post them all together here.  I especially love my little black and white bookworm.

Something Blue



Something Orange

Long Exposure


Black & White

Someone I Love

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What Are the Odds?!

I came across this article last night, just a few hours after yesterday's blog post (which was about how I'm missing all of my favorite Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan restaurants). My prayers have been answered!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Missing You

I've been planning to write about the fantastic food served at the Mexican, Tex-Mex, and BBQ restaurants here in College Station for over a year, but have yet to get my thoughts down on the virtual paper that is this blog. Now that I think about it, I actually have no idea if other people who live in College Station think the Mexican, Tex-Mex, and BBQ options in town are any good.  But for this Midwesterner, having even halfway decent food available in these categories is a vast improvement over having no options at all, which was the case in my previous city of residence.

Perhaps the reason I've stalled on writing about the food options here is that while I'm happy about my new choices, I'm missing my old choices.  I know it's silly to miss restaurants (and for the record I miss my family and friends more than I miss my restaurants), but I associate some of my favorite people and the experiences we shared with some of my favorite restaurants...

Here are my top five independent eateries:

Josie's Spaghetti House in Madison, WI
This family-owned and operated neighborhood Italian restaurant - complete with red and white checkered tablecloths, antique candles lighting the dining room, and soft Italian music in the background - served the best spaghetti in the entire world.  We would often dine-in after Wisconsin Badger sporting events and carry-out on evenings my mom was working and my dad didn't want to feed us pancakes and popcorn for the THIRD night in a row. When a kitchen fire in 2004 led to the restaurant's closure, the city grieved the loss of a community landmark.  I grieved the loss of my spaghetti and meat sauce, and the loss of a Mueller family tradition.

Andy's Restaurant in Madison, WI
Andy's was at one time an A&W, but when franchise expenses rose beyond what the owners were willing to pay, they bailed on the franchise and turned the space into their own hamburger joint.  I chose Andy's for every single birthday and special occasion dinner I had coming to me, and my dad would take my sister and I there for dinner when my mom was working and he didn't want to feed us pancakes and popcorn for a FOURTH night in a row.  Andy's has since closed - another loss for the Mad City and the Mueller family.

Taste of China in Iowa City, IA
After trying every single Chinese food restaurant in Ann Arbor and College Station, Tom and I have reached the conclusion that Taste of China is in a league of its own.  I ate at Taste of China at least once a week while I was in college, often with my wonderful friend and roommate for three years, Beth.  She always ordered Sesame Chicken and I always ordered Beef with Broccoli, and then the next day we'd trade leftovers.  I miss Taste of China, and I miss Beth.

Texas Governor Rick Perry on the
campaign trail at the Hamburg Inn.
Hamburg Inn in Iowa City, IA
This historic diner is a frequent stop for celebrities - including both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton - traveling through Iowa City.  (Yes, celebrities travel through Iowa City.)  Known for their hamburgers, the Hamburg also serves incredible omelets, pancakes, sandwiches, salads, and milkshakes...ohhhh, the milkshakes.  I'm getting an ice cream headache right now, just thinking about their milkshakes.  The Hamburg was my go-to on nights when I just wanted to cuddle up on the couch and watch previously-recorded episodes of Friends on my VCR.  (Side note: last week I accidentally used "VCR" instead of "DVD player" when talking to Will about renting movies.  He looked at me like I'd just informed him we were moving to Newt Gingritch's moon base.)

Jerusalem Garden in Ann Arbor, MI
I'm not a very adventurous eater; if I had my druthers I'd stick to Italian, Chinese (American Chinese - NOT Chinese Chinese, which I know for a fact often involves whole animals on platters and other "delicacies" that scare the crap out of me), sandwiches, and salads. And cheeseburgers. You can see why my gym membership is of the utmost importance to me.  Tom, on the other hand, is an adventurous eater, and if he had his way he'd be out wrestling alligators and bringing the meat home for me to cook up on the barbie.  Jerusalem Garden, a downtown Ann Arbor hole-in-the-wall offering healthy portions of Mediterranean fare, was quirky enough for Tom and normal enough for me.  Their hummus and pita bread melts in your mouth...

And my top three chains:

Panera Bread
When Tom was in the home stretch of dissertation writing and basically living in the basement of the Industrial and Operations Engineering Building at the University of Michigan, I would pack up the kids, drive to Panera, pick up dinner for Tom, and then drop it off for him at his office every evening. That's right - we went to Panera every weekday evening for weeks. Those moments, when we dropped off Tom's dinner and the kids hugged and kissed their dad goodnight (Will: does Daddy not live with us anymore? Does Daddy live at work?), were all that kept the four of us going in the final weeks. And like Pavlov's dogs came to associate a bell with dinnertime, the four of us came to associate Panera with family time. I enjoyed Panera before, but now it holds a particularly warm and comforting place in my heart. And stomach.

That's a cow dressed like
Rocky Rococo.
Rocky Rococo Pizza and Pasta
Rocky Rococo restaurants are located in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Washington (?).  I dream about their thick-crust square and rectangular pies, sweet pizza sauce, and chunky, generous toppings every few nights (well maybe not that often, but often enough to mention the fact that my dreams include pizza), and Rocky's pizza is always my first dinner - followed by Greenbush Donuts for dessert, since Rocky's and Greenbush are right next door to one another - when I arrive in Madison.  I absolutely can't wait to take Will there now that he can finally eat pizza with cheese on it.

Quinton's Bar & Deli
I first walked through the doors of a Quinton's when one opened in Iowa City during my college years. In the beginning I loved Quinton's for their half-price "Big Girl" margaritas offered during FAC (Friday After Class), but as I grew older and less able to consume such large drinks, my focus turned to their food. Specificially their Creamy Potato Bacon Soup in a Bread Bowl. Oh mon dieu. I've tried quite a few times to recreate this mouth-watering bowl of heaven, but have never even come close. Tom and I enjoyed lunch at Quinton's on our Eating Our Way Through Iowa City tour, and while we were a little concerned when we first walked through the door - the joint looked a little rundown and the waitstaff a little bored - the food was as delicious as it's ever been.

So after all that...College Station friends, tell me where I can find:
- A diner (think omelets, pancakes, club sandwiches, salads, burgers, fries, milkshakes, and pies all served under the same roof)
- A pizza joint with a top-notch, thick-crust option
- Chinese food served with quality fried rice
- DELIVERY (What has happened to delivery, people? Why won't anyone deliver to my house in College Station? I live in the MIDDLE OF TOWN. In both Madison and Ann Arbor there are small businesses that exist solely to deliver freshly baked chocolate chip cookies {still warm} and ice cream {still cold} right to your door.)

Are you as hungry as I am right now?

Note: This post was not sponsored. The opinions expressed in this post are my own, and I was not compensated to write positively about any of the above-mentioned restaurants.

Friday, March 9, 2012

African Children's Choir

We're always on the lookout for free/cheap, family fun here in our "new" city. Note: at some point I promise to stop calling College Station our new home and just start calling it our home. When I read in the newspaper that a children's choir from Africa would be performing a free concert at a church in Bryan, we cleared our Friday night (who am I kidding - our Friday night was already clear) and made plans to attend.

We arrived 20 minutes before the concert was scheduled to begin and found the parking lot PACKED. When we finally made it inside the church we of course found it to be PACKED as well - as it turns out, the African Children's Choir had visited this church twice previously and therefore had a strong following with the church community - and we nearly left because we knew we couldn't stand in the back with Wiggly Willie and Hell-Raisin' Hallie for an entire concert. Just as we were about to do so, a kind man ushered us to the front of the church and sat us in the very first row, which had been reserved for families with children. I was really excited, as I figured the our kids would do much better if they could actually SEE the kids in the children's choir. Shows how little I know about my own children.

Two minutes into the concert Hallie decided she was starving. STARVING. Like IF-YOU-DO-NOT-FEED-ME-THIS-INSTANT-I-WILL-WASTE-AWAY-INTO-NOTHINGNESS starving, and she let everyone around her know it with crocodile tears and a dramatic collapse across Tom's lap. The snacks in my purse held out for approximately seven minutes, after which Hallie took to ripping the concert program into 1,714 pieces. Operation Program Destruction took another six or so minutes, at which point Tom removed her from the church. She then had the best night of her life playing the church nursery, and cried when we made her leave to go home.

Will quietly watched the concert the entire time Hallie acted like a crazy person, but once Tom removed Hallie, it was as if a switch flipped in Will and he realized that his time to "shine" (read: behave poorly and embarrass his mother) had come. Will started begging for snacks, asking to play Angry Birds or watch videos on my phone, and trying to lay down underneath the pews - all while we were sitting in the very front row and the cute little children from Africa were singing and dancing and drumming. Luckily Will understands and responds to my there-are-daggers-coming-out-of-my-eyes look, and we made it through the entire 75-minute concert without getting escorted out.

On to the concert...  The African Children's Choir "travels the world, acting as the ambassador for Africa's most vulnerable children.  Their goal is to raise awareness and show that despite the desolate circumstances they come from, they have beauty, dignity, hope, and unlimited potential".

These children were precious and talented and inspirational. They proudly represented their country (this particular group of children were from Kenya), and their country would have been proud of them.

I hope, should the African Children's Choir return to the Bryan/College Station area, that I'll be able to see them in concert again.  I also hope that by then my children will have had a chance to brush up on their "concert etiquette".