Monday, April 30, 2012

Tradition: Military Walk

In the early 1880's, the Military Walk on the campus of Texas A&M University was a simple dirt road on which students (who were all male and members of the Corps of Cadets at the time) assembled and then marched together to meals. Throughout the years the Military Walk was updated to a narrow paved road and then to a series of sidewalks, all running through the center of campus and past a number of significant and historical buildings and landmarks.

The Military Walk tradition continued until World War II when student enrollment decreased dramatically, and the tradition was never reinstated following the war because the primary dining hall on campus was relocated.

In 2010 TAMU completed a massive restoration - made possible by Dan A. Hughes, a 1951 graduate of TAMU and a former member of the Corps of Cadets - of the Military Walk. Now kiosks along the side of the walk provide information about campus buildings both standing and long-since demolished, and new landscaping and a wider brick and limestone paver pathway create a peaceful and pleasant avenue on which to stroll.

At the dedication of the new Military Walk, Hughes shared his sentiments with those in attendance. "As you travel along this walk, may you follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before with honor and optimism - and with the intent to pave the way for integrity, dedication to excellence and commitment to selfless service."

My family walks through campus at least once a month, and one of our favorite routes starts at Starbucks (my addition to the route) and takes us past the Fish Pond, down the Military Walk, around the Earl Rudder statue, and on to Kyle Field.

I snapped this picture of the kids and Tom on a Sunday morning in early Spring. While my children are not yet old enough to understand all the Military Walk represents, on that day they certainly embodied the optimism Hughes spoke of in his speech.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Flashback Friday: Little Girls

Shortly before Will was born we transitioned to taking only digital pictures, storing all of our pictures on our computers, and uploading all of our pictures to a Picasa web album. When our need for photo albums went out the window (which was actually alright with me, because while I LOVE to look at pictures, I wasn't a fan of the space photo albums took up on my living room, family room, and office shelves), all of my printed photos went into boxes and my albums were sold for $0.25 each at my garage sale.

A couple of years later I sorted through my boxes of photos and lightened the load from close to 1,000 photos down to a couple hundred. Photos of ex-boyfriends, acquaintances, and places I couldn't remember visiting went into the trash, and I was left with a smaller number of pictures that meant a whole heck of a lot more to me.

I took the box down off the shelf in my closet a couple of weeks ago, and realized that most of the photos in the box I had only in paper form. Scanning them into my computer sounded pretty boring, but when I came up with a plan to share some of these older photos on the blog I found the motivation to learn how to work the scanning function on my printer and followed through on scanning some of the best photos.

And so for the next few weeks I'm going to post groups of photos - in a series I'm calling "Flashback Fridays" - here on the blog. Whether you've known me for my entire life, we've recently become friends here in Texas, or we've never met in person, you'll probably enjoy a good laugh over some of my hairstyles, clothing choices, orthodontia, etc. (I'm still looking for a single picture that captures me during the year that included an almost-mullet hairstyle, stone-washed and tapered mom jeans, huge glasses, and a headgear; if I find one I PROMISE to post it.)

So without further adieu, here is my first edition of Flashback Friday..."Little Girls".

Erin, 1 day old
And just for fun, here's Hallie at 1 day old.
See the resemblance?!
JC Penney Portrait Studio
Erin, at 1 year
Niagara Falls
Erin, at 3 1/2 years, is on the left
Sara, at 1 year, is on the right
No idea why I'm wearing a turtleneck and corduroy
overalls and Sara's wearing a summer dress.
JC Penney Portrait Studio
Sara, at 20 months, is on the left
Erin, at 4 years old, is on the right
And again, just for fun, here's a recent
picture of Sara's daughter, Lily.
I think they could be twins!
I'm hoping to highlight the elementary and middle school years next week, provided I can get my hands on a few pictures from my mom's photo albums.  (My box of photos doesn't seem to include any from those years - must have been that I chose to toss most of the photos that highlighted my very poor hair and clothing choices and cumbersome orthodontia.)


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Red Cross Post: I Feel the Temperature Rising

Well folks, it may only be April, but summer has arrived - at least according to my temperature standards - here in Texas.  Yesterday we saw 89 degrees, and today the high is 90.  (Last year the kids and I started the tradition of going to Dairy Queen on the first day the temperature hits 90 degrees - looks like we may be making a stop at DQ on our way home from Target this afternoon.)  When the mercury climbs to such heights we need to start thinking about protecting ourselves and our children from heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke (which can be life-threatening).  Pop on over to the Red Cross blog to read more about the signals of and treatments for these three conditions, and stay cool out there!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

When My Two Worlds Collide

Though my journey to Texas took me through New York, Iowa, and Michigan, my path began in Wisconsin and I appreciate this blend of my home state and the state I call home.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Back in the Saddle Again

We went to our first rodeo a year ago, and since that time have been counting down until the same rodeo (the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Southern Regional) returned to town.

This year we enjoyed ourselves even more than we did last year. Now a year older, the kids were able to stay up later, so while last year we only made it through about half of the events, this year we saw eight of nine. The kids were also considerably more interested in what was actually going on at the rodeo; Hallie was a big fan of the animals, and Will enjoyed the speed and competitiveness of the night.
Hallie neglected to nap on rodeo day, so she snuck
in a quick cat nap in the car on the way there.
Half of the excitement of events like the rodeo is
having hotdogs and lemonade for dinner.  Both
kids eat their hotdogs in really weird ways - I think
Hallie looks like she's playing a recorder.
The rodeo is a proudly patriotic place.
Saddle Bronc.  I still can't figure out how these riders stay on their
horses for eight seconds, and then after those eight seconds climb
off of their still-bucking horses onto another moving horse.  I also
can't figure out how these riders survive when they're
thrown from their horses.  
I provided a play-by-play of Tie Down in last year's rodeo post, but since my pictures from this year's rodeo are better I thought I'd share the details again.  I sound like a cheesy teenager when I say this, but Tie Down is really just so cool.
Tie Down.  This fast-paced event requires incredible teamwork
between horse and rider; you can actually see this horse
stopping on a dime as his rider's loop reaches the calf.
As the horse stops the rider dismounts and runs down the rope.
And when the rider reaches the calf he "throws" the calf and
ties any three of the calf's legs with a "piggin' string."
Saddle Bronc.  Will loved this event, especially
when the riders were bucked from their horses.
When the riders were bucked from their horses
I hoped their mothers weren't watching.  Shivers.  
This steer refused to get up after his round of Steer Wrestling
and therefore provided me with a perfect way to bring up
and discuss bad sportsmanship with Will.
A couple of minutes later the cowboys were
still pulling on this stubborn buddy's tail.
This was the first time we'd ever seen Goat Tying; it was a little like Tie Down, except for the fact that Goat Tying is a women's event and the rider doesn't have to first rope the goat before tying him/her up.  Does the way this goat is leashed remind anyone else of how the Jurassic Park dinosaur handlers fed goats to the raptors?  Creepy... 

Don't worry, little buddy.  This won't hurt a bit.
(I don't think being tied hurts, but they sure do seem
scared while horse and rider are barreling down on them.)
Goat tying involves pretty impressive dismounting from the
horse.  I'm not sure you could pay me enough to ride a horse
running that fast though, and I'm definitely sure you couldn't
pay me enough to dismount a horse WHILE it was
running that fast.
This was also the first time we'd ever seen Team Roping, and boy, were we impressed.  

Both riders take off after the steer, and the header (the first rider)
ropes the steer's horns, wraps the loose end of his rope around
the saddle horn, and then turns the steer away from his/her partner.
The heeler (the second rider) then ropes the steer's hind legs .  
Can you imagine how difficult it must be to
rope both hind legs of a running steer?!
The Zamboni of the South.
Barrel Racing.  Another new event for us, and one we really
enjoyed, but we weren't able to see the event through until the end as the kids were starting to melt down.  
Once again, the rodeo delivered.  My hope is that next year, when the kids are another year older, we'll be able to make it through the entire evening and actually see the final event - Bull Riding.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Look Back on the First Year

Today is the one year anniversary of A Midwestern Girl (in Cowboy Country). In honor of this special day, which I consider not just the anniversary of this blog but also the anniversary of my decision to start tiptoeing toward a longtime dream of mine, I thought it would be fun to take a walk down memory lane. (I "borrowed" this idea from a fellow Wisconsinite-turned-Texan blogger - thanks, Jacoba!)

Here are this year's most viewed Midwestern Girl posts:

10. Tradition: Let's Get Our Yell On!: 86 views

9. Dabbling in Photography: 95 views

8. An Up-and-Coming Country Superstar: 106 views

7. Texas in the Spring: 114 views

6. Houston, We Have a Purple: 115 views

5. Times Are Changing: 121 views

4. The Birds: 154 views

3. Tradition: Reveille: 208 views

2. The Piston Cup, or Not: 312 views

1. No Bully Tour: 1,186 views

I'm not at all surprised that the No Bully Tour was my most-viewed post, as it's about a concert tour that is likely Googled by tweens, teens, and young adults on a regular basis.  I am surprised, however, at the popularity of posts like Houston, We Have a Purple, which is about purple nail polish.  Unpredictable, these interwebs...

If you like what you read here, please consider "following" my blog (click on "Join This Site" on the righthand side of the page under "Followers") or sharing your favorite posts in one way or another. Thank you so very much for reading - you have no idea how much your support means to me!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

MomsEveryday Post: From Soccer Mom to Soccer Coach

MomsEveryday ran From Soccer Mom to Soccer Coach this week. The Bumble Dogs may not be known nationally for their soccer skills (though they are getting pretty good), but now they could be known nationally for having mom and dad coaches who really just wanted to enjoy a cup of coffee on the sidelines.

Since I first wrote this post I've talked to at least three other parents who, after similar experiences with official coaches, fell into coaching their children's teams by default. Despite not wanting to taking on such a significant responsibility initially, all of these parents stepped up to the plate to make sure their children had the opportunity to play on and reap the benefits that come from playing on a sports team. Maybe all of us "accidental coaches" should form a club! (Or a support group.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Friday Grocery Shopping

My kids used to misbehave at Target. It didn't matter how glorious the hours leading up to a Target shopping trip had been - when we crossed the threshold and walked through the bright red automatic doors it was as if a switch flipped in their brains and they turned into their monster-ish alter-egos. I often wondered if the Target heating/air conditioning system pumped some sort of tantrum-inducing scent - that only children could smell and/or were affected by - through the vents near the front door. What purpose would this serve, you ask? I'll tell you. When children throw tantrums in stores parents have a couple of options:

1. The first (and probably better) option is to attempt to diffuse the tantrum, and if that doesn't work, leave the store.  This route is appreciated by other shoppers, and does a great job of teaching children that such behavior will not be tolerated.  It also does a great job of teaching children that if they want to leave Target, they should throw a fit.  My kids learned this REALLY quickly.

2. The second (and probably more frequently used) option is to attempt to diffuse the tantrum, and if that doesn't work, continue shopping, hoping to ride out the tantrum.  This route is not so much appreciated by other shoppers, and makes for a pretty unpleasant shopping experience for the parent as well.  But most parents - after schlepping everyone along with the diaper bag, snacks, shopping list, coupons, and reusable totes to Target - aren't about to turn around and go home without picking up the needed essentials that motivated the trip to Target in the first place.

If other parents are anything like me, when they go the route of option two, they end up not so much shopping with their list as they do shopping with speed.  Lots of extra items that weren't on the list end up in the cart, either because there isn't time to check the list or because your brain is working so hard to tune out the screaming that it can't recall simple information about whether or not you have toilet paper in the cabinet at home.  This is exactly what Target wants.

Eventually my kids grew old enough to learn that if they listened to me and didn't fight with each other, I'd keep the snacks coming and we'd end our shopping trip in the toy department.

At that point, since there was really no reason to misbehave at Target any longer (clearly neither wanted to lose out on endless snacks and a trip to the toy department), they decided - collectively, at some sort of secret nap time or nighttime meeting - to misbehave at the grocery store instead.

Hallie and Lily at the grocery store.  As a combination they
were no better behaved - just different - than Will and Hallie.
They may have been louder, though.
Heaven help me, those two are awful at the grocery store.  Nothing I do - talking with them beforehand about my expectations, picking up free balloons and cookies for them as we enter the store, continuously shoving snacks into their little hands, letting them drive a car cart, providing a post-grocery store incentive to behave - makes a difference.  They start off the shopping trip with a light bicker, and then transition into arguing by row four.  By row eight they're outright fighting, and usually Hallie is hitting Will.  (Bless his heart, he hardly ever hits her back.)  And while it's tough to give timeouts in the grocery store, Hallie usually gets at least one for hitting while we're there.

Now you're probably thinking, "Erin, why don't you just grocery shop while your kids are in school?".  I try, people, but some weeks preschool just doesn't last long enough.  And on some days I sub at school, which means that I'm at school for the exact same hours they are.  

Last week we were all booked solid from morning until night, which meant I didn't make it to the grocery store.  We were out of a few essentials though, so I took a deep breath, said a little prayer, and headed to the store at 5pm on Friday evening.  Within minutes of entering the store I knew we were in trouble; the store was incredibly crowded, making it difficult for me to shop quickly, and the Cookie Club cookies had run out. Oh mon dieu.  As always, by row four they were arguing and by row eight they were fighting.  Hallie, for no apparent reason, stuck her finger deep into Will's ear, received a warning, did it again, and went to timeout in front of the canned green beans.

Long story short, when I was only halfway through the store I had all-the-way used up my patience. And the group of young adult males laughing at Hallie while she misbehaved and at me while I physically struggled to strap her - while she screamed and cried - into the car cart brought me to tears.

And then I saw it. The sample table, staffed by a Kroger employee dressed like a leprechaun (I'm not kidding - he was wearing a kelly green shirt, white slacks, white suspenders, and a green top hat), appeared in front of me like a mirage. Sitting on the table and waiting for me - or at least that's what the leprechaun told me - was a dixie cup of red wine and a large chunk of dark chocolate.

As Hallie screamed her displeasure with being buckled inside of the car cart and Will tugged repeatedly on my arm and begged for money to play the claw game, I sipped my red wine and savored my dark chocolate. And then, feeling rejuvenated, I held my head high, finished my shopping, and checked out.

One thing's for certain - if I have to take my kids to the grocery store with me, it sure as heck is going to be on Friday evenings.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Red Cross Post: National Volunteer Week 2012

This week (April 15 - 21) is National Volunteer Week.

National Volunteer Week celebrates and recognizes those individuals who take action and solve problems in their communities, but is also an opportune time for those who've never volunteered to join the service movement.

If you're interested in becoming a volunteer - for the Red Cross or any other nonprofit organization - email me ( and I'll help you find a place where you can make a difference.

Monday, April 16, 2012

"Butt Mama..."

It's been pretty warm here lately, with high temperatures similar to those experienced in the middle of August in the Midwest (just to give you Northerners a point of reference). Will asked me the other day if fall would arrive soon, as he was getting tired of summer, and he didn't take it well when I broke it to him that we were only a couple of weeks into SPRING.

That being said, Will and Hallie are usually pretty good at dealing with the heat. They keep their water or Gatorade bottles with them and drink frequently, they know how to turn on the hose to splash a little water on their faces, and they move their games to the shade of the tree or onto the covered patio if the sun becomes too hot. And when that isn't enough, they do this:

While cooking dinner one evening I looked up and saw Hallie's naked little butt pressed up against the back door. When I asked her what she was doing, she said, "I peed so I just being buck naked now".

After a lengthy search I found her wet underwear and shorts - along with her t-shirt, socks, and shoes - in a pile in the shed. And when I asked her if she wanted to put clean clothes on, she replied, "But Mama, it's SO hot outside! I just stay buck naked." Apparently it's already too hot to wear even underwear.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Red Cross Post: What the Titanic Taught Me

Today marks the 100 year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.

For the last 25 years the story surrounding the tragic sinking of a supposedly unsinkable ship has fascinated me. I find the Titanic captivating, perhaps because while the ship’s catastrophic end actually played out in real life – 100 years ago this Sunday, to be exact – the entire saga seems much more like fiction written for the big screen.

Yes, I love James Cameron's blockbuster movie, but I also love documentaries; Dateline, 20/20, and 60 Minutes specials; fiction novels; nonfiction books; journal articles; and the Magic Tree House chapter book for children about the Titanic.

And as it turns out, I also love writing about the Titanic, which I did for the Red Cross this week. Click here to read about what the Titanic taught me about being prepared!

Friday, April 13, 2012

There's No Crying in Baseball

Last March we took the kids to their first TAMU men's baseball game (Will had attended both major and minor league baseball games in Michigan and Wisconsin, but the TAMU game was Hallie's first baseball game of any kind). This spring we've been back to Olson Field at Blue Bell Park - now newly renovated and arguably nicest college baseball stadium in the country - enjoying another season of TAMU men's baseball.
I don't much care for Blue Bell's ice cream,
but I sure do like their ballpark.
The games have been particularly fun this year because we've both attended with friends and run into friends once we arrived at the ballpark. Will could barely contain his excitement when we went to a game with Logan and his family, and Hallie absolutely loves running into Andrea - one of her teachers - and Andrea's daughter, McKenna, who Hallie affectionately calls "BcKenna". And all four of us are huge fans of the new playground inside the ballpark (you read that correctly, there is a playground inside the ballpark) where children can play while their parents watch both them and the game.
Hallie and Will - and then Will, Hallie, Kendra, Logan,
and Addison - with Varsity,whose horns have been sawed off.

Spencer's Corner, the in-park playground.
Getting ready for baseball season.
Not quite tall enough...and crazy static.
As we entered the ballpark for our first game of the season, someone stopped us and asked Will if he might be interested in running onto the field with one of the players as he was introduced.  He was really excited to participate, and was incredibly well-behaved throughout the 40 or so minutes he had to wait for his moment in the spotlight.
Walking to the outfield with all of the
kids and the publicity folks.
Waiting for the introductions to begin.
(Will's about 1/3 of the way in from the right-hand side - you
can identify him by his white-blond hair and sunglasses.)
Singing the Aggie War Hymn...
...just like the team.
Taking off toward shortstop.  
Still running...
Meeting Aggie shortstop Mikey.
Running back to Daddy.
There are few placed I'd rather be on a Friday night than at a baseball game with my family, as the lights of the ballpark illuminate the expansive Texas sky.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

MomsEveryday Post: Take Me Out Tonight

Today MomsEveryday ran Take Me Out Tonight - hop on over there if you missed it here the first time around!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Don't Major in Spelling

Updated, 4.11.12, 3:15 p.m.
Just to be clear, I understand that there are reasonable explanations for why this word is spelled "incorrectly" by today's spelling standards. My intention was not to insult TAMU, but to point out an interesting sign on campus that made both me and my five-year-old chuckle.

If you're thinking about attending Texas A&M University, you might not want to major in doesn't appear to be one of their strongest programs.

I spent quite a while searching for - but never found - an explanation for this engraving.  Any ideas?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My Wish

Today my "baby" - my three-going-on-13 year old preschooler - turns three. Someone please slow the hands of time.

 My tribute is here.