Thursday, May 31, 2012

Red Cross Post: It's Here...Hurricane Season 2012

Monday, August 29th, 2005 - the day Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana and Mississippi - was without a doubt the most memorable day of my professional life. Someday I'll share more about how that day and the days that followed changed the course of my career, but for today I'll simply share that hurricane season, despite the fact that until last January I'd never lived in a region of the country where hurricanes were a risk, isn't a season I take lightly.

While experts predict this season will be a relatively mild one, it's important for individuals, families, organizations, and communities to be prepared should our country face another storm like Hurricane Katrina. You can read all about how to prepare for this coming hurricane season, which begins tomorrow on June 1st, in my most recent post on the National American Red Cross blog.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Is ANYONE Out There Listening?

Most days I feel like the small people who've taken over my house don't listen to a single word that comes out of my mouth. Oh, they hear me. But they sure as hell don't listen to me. Or maybe that's the other way around. Whatever.
Below are just a few of the requests I make of them every day.  The first part of each request is what I start with. The second part of each request is what I transition to when my requests fall on selectively-deaf ears.  (The all-caps don't necessarily mean I'm yelling, just that my volume has gone up and my tone has become much more forceful and exasperated.)

- Please put your dishes in the dishwasher when you've finished eating. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR DISHES ON THE COUNTER - YOUR LEFTOVER FOOD WILL ATTRACT FRUIT FLIES AND COCKROACHES AND BEARS.  (It's possible I occasionally exaggerate on what could happen to food left on the counter.)


- Please take off your shoes (and put them in the cute little shoe holder I bought specifically for you and your sister's cute little shoes) when you come into the house. DO NOT WALK THROUGH THE LIVING ROOM AND ACROSS THE MY NEW RUG WITH MUDDY CLEATS ON YOUR FEET.

- Please speak kindly to and play nicely with your brother/sister.  DO NOT TEASE YOUR BROTHER/SISTER.  DO NOT CHASE YOUR BROTHER/SISTER.  DO NOT HIT YOUR BROTHER/SISTER.  THAT'S IT, GO TO TIMEOUT.



When evening rolls around I write myself a note to schedule appointments with the children's pediatrician to have their hearing checked. Because they MUST be going deaf. There's no other explanation for why they NEVER listen to what I say.

And then, in those rare moments when they play quietly together and I listen to their conversations from the hallway outside their bedrooms, I hear this.

Hallie: "Please don't talk back to me, Will - you know better than that."

Will: "Hallie, you have two choices..."

Hallie: "Will, PLEASE don't talk like a baby.  You are NOT a baby."

Will: "Hallie, I'm going to count to three..."

Hallie: "Let's play house.  You be the daddy and I'll be the mommy and we'll go to Lowe's to buy more paint."

And my favorite...

Hallie: "No, silly. She's not getting married today. Today she's just GETTING READY to get married. She's making her fingernails and toenails pretty, and doing her hair so it's SO beautiful. Her wedding is TOMORROW, and she'll wear a beautiful princess dress and sparkly shoes and a tiara."

So it turns out they ARE listening (especially when I talk to Hallie's teacher, Holly, about her recent wedding). Their hearing is just fine, which is good, but that means the problem lies in their refusal to mind me, which is a completely different issue for a completely different post.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to Lowe's to pick up more paint.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

MomsEveryday Post: They're Coming to Get Me

MomsEveryday ran They're Coming to Get Me this morning - pop on over to read all about the vicious lizards who are, as I type, in meetings to discuss their next attack on Casa Ferris.

This posting was an appropriate one for today, because for the next few days I'll in Lincoln, Nebraska...where, for the first time in quite a few months, I don't have to worry about lizards sneaking inside the house if I leave the backdoor open for longer than .7 seconds or being attacked by fire ants whenever I set foot in the grass. It's a like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders.

Super Moon

Will wasn't all that impressed when the Super Moon rolled through town last year, so this year I didn't bother to even mention the lunar wonder to him.
Tom, however, joined me outside while I took Super Moon pictures, very few of which turned out like I'd hoped because I couldn't hold my camera still enough. I must have complained quite a bit about my tripod-less life that evening, because I opened a tripod a week later on Mother's Day.

So all in all, it wasn't a bad evening.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Decoration Day

Will and I began reading the Magic Tree House children's book series last summer during our library's summer reading program. We've cruised through one or two chapter books each month, breaking up the mystery and suspense of Jack and Annie's adventures back in time with Calvin and Hobbes, Star Wars, and superhero books. Just recently we devoured Magic Tree House #21, Civil War on Sunday, which was my favorite book in the series thus far because of its focus on Clara Barton.

After finishing this incredibly entertaining but also factually-based and age-appropriate story, Will and I decided to learn a little more about the Civil War by way of a few simple Google and Wikipedia searches. Will was particularly interested to learn that Memorial Day, which originated after the Civil War to honor the Union soldiers who had died serving our country, was formerly known as Decoration Day. Since I couldn't immediately explain the Decoration Day name or why our country transitioned from Decoration Day to Memorial Day, our research continued until he felt I'd answered his questions. Or until it was time for Wild Kratts. I can't be sure.

During our research I came across this quote, and it spoke to me.

I have never been able to think of the day as one of mourning; I have never quite been able to feel that half-masted flags were appropriate on Decoration Day. I have rather felt that the flag should be at the peak, because those whose dying we commemorate rejoiced in seeing it where their valor placed it. We honor them in a joyous, thankful, triumphant commemoration of what they did. ~Benjamin Harrison

I believe in solemnly honoring those who've given their lives in service to our country, and I will do so today. But I also believe in joyfully celebrating our freedom, made possible by their sacrifice.

Happy Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Red Cross Post: National Mental Health Month 2012

As someone who at one time suffered from a mental health condition (severe postpartum depression, lasting for close to 18 months after Will was born), I consider National Mental Health Month an important time of the year. With the goal of raising awareness about mental health conditions and promoting mental wellness, Mental Health Month shines a spotlight on the advocacy, education, and services provided by our country’s mental health agencies as well as on the importance of making mental health services available to all citizens.

The American Red Cross provides a great deal of support to individuals suffering from mental health conditions related to traumatic events and disasters like fires, hurricanes, and tornadoes. Click here to read more about the services provided American Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Workers and to find out more about becoming a member of this lifesaving team.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Flashback Friday: College

When I was in high school I heard from adults on numerous occasions that one of the advantages of going to college alone (attending a school where you didn't know anyone) was the opportunity to "reinvent" yourself. I always thought this was kind of an odd way to look at college; I mean, if you didn't like yourself as a high schooler and wanted to make a change, why wouldn't you just go ahead and do it instead of waiting for college?

As time went by I came to realize that "reinventing" yourself in college had less to do with changing who you actually WERE in high school and more to do with having an opportunity to start fresh in a new place, with new people, and with no head-gear-wearing history holding you back. Basically, just because I was a dork in middle school and a semi-dork in high school didn't mean I had to be a dork in college. These new people would know only what I told them about my past, and that thought was freeing.  Until of course I realized - a little too late - that I was and continue to be an over-sharer.

I envisioned college starting off differently than it actually did, with me crying like child when my parents left me in the parking lot outside my dorm. But after a few months, I settled in, and after a few more months, I found the larger group of people who became my now life-long friends.

My college experience - all five years of it :) - was a great one. I'd love to go back and live that life for even just one more day, but since I can't, I'll take a walk down memory lane here with you.
Drinks at Pat O'Brien's in New Orleans.  (Tom's on
the farright and I'm next to him.)
Leslie, Beth, and me at one of the many parties we hosted
at "Bloomington" (our falling down house with no air conditioning
and rotten heat and an outside wall that had literally fallen off the
house but with a fabulous porch and in the best location in town).
Arriving in Cocoa Beach, FL.  I think it's safe to say
we'd gone a little crazy after driving for so long.
(I'm the 3rd from the left in the front row.)
Leslie and me at camp (we were counselors)
in upstate New York.  We were on the green
team, in case you couldn't tell.
Remember how you wore your pajamas everywhere
in college?  (Or was that just me? )  Beth and I are rocking
our matching (and not terribly flattering) pajama
pants in a church in North Carolina.
Shopping in the Disneyland gift shop in CA.
(I'm Minnie Mouse and Tom is Goofy.)
Sara and me.  This may have been taken on the day
she graduated from college, and if that's the case I
guess I wasn't technically in college when the picture
was taken.  I like it though, so I'm leaving it in.
"Midnight Cowgirl", "Born to be a Cowgirl", and "Buck Wild"
in a line dancing bar in San Antonio, TX.
Maybe I was meant to live in Texas all along!
On our way to the top of a mountain in Montana on Tom's 21st birthday.
Leslie and me in downtown Park City, UT
(one of the most gorgeous towns I've ever set foot in).
Though I'm not in this picture, Tom is (2nd from the right) and
he's doing a great job of expressing just how excited we were
when we ate our very first Whataburger back in 2001.
Studio 54 on the Las Vegas strip.
(I'm in the middle.)
Leslie and me celebrating NYE in the
Galt House Hotel in Louisville, KY.
Carrie, Beth, Leslie, and me at an Iowa Hawkeye tailgate.
My and Melanie's reflections in the Vietnam
Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C.
This is one of my all-time favorite pictures.
Waiting for our tickets to the Late Show with David Letterman
in New York City.  I have absolutely no idea who was on the
program that night, so they must not have been very famous.
Sara and me outside Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans.

I was lucky to have had the opportunity to travel a great deal in college, and most of the photos I kept were from those trips.  I have wonderful memories of experiences that didn't involve travel, but kept far fewer pictures from those.  I love that my children will always have access to digital photography! 

Stay tuned next week, when we flashback to...Tom!  Get ready for some FABULOUS photos of Taco Tom as you've never seen him before.  (Family-friendly pictures only, of course. :))

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

April Showers Bring May Flowers

It didn't actually rain much at all in April, but we were lucky to receive more than eight inches of rain in both February and March. And while it didn't rain enough to officially change our drought status, the rain we did see was enough to support the growth of quite a few beautiful blooms around our neighborhood.

Flowers really are my favorite category to photograph, for reasons I've mentioned previously, and this spring has delivered a plethora of opportunities for me to practice capturing and then editing pictures of gorgeous blooms.

Hallie is any pretty flower or flower-like weed's biggest fan, and she does a great job of pointing out anything that even resembles a flower whenever we're walking to the park, soccer practice, or baseball games. She's become my photography sidekick, so I'll call these "our" most recent photographic captures:

We also captured photos of a couple of little creatures as well:

Back at the computer, I've started playing around with photo editing software. I'm still pretty green when it comes to the correct way to edit photos, but I'm having fun experimenting!

And lastly, my favorite photo, completely unedited.

Seeking out flowers of which to take photos has really forced me to - pardon the cliche - stop and smell the roses. Instead of watching the pavement for snakes (I've seen two, both dead in the road, in the last 24 hours), my eyes are scanning the world around me for anything that speaks louder than it's surroundings. It's a much better view.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

MomsEveryday Post: How We Roll

MomsEveryday ran "How We Roll" (retitled to "Clothes: Optional") on their site today. If you missed it the first time around, pop on over to read it on their fantastic website!

Oh, and while you're clicking, would you like this photo so we can win four tickets to Schlitterbahn? Thanks!

Monday, May 21, 2012

They're Coming to Get Me

I've made no secret of the fact that I'm not a big fan of the creepy, crawly, slithering creatures that share my zip code. I've discovered quite a few of these critters - one large lizard, four or five smaller lizards, and LOTS and LOTS of bugs - in our house at one time or another, and while I HATED every second I shared space with these animals, I am proud to report that I've taken care of all of them, except for the large lizard, on my own.

On a related note, I recently encountered my first live snake. I was edging the grass in front yard and accidentally edged that little buddy right in two. Tom was VERY impressed with how calm I stayed in the moments after committing the crime, when I informed him both of the incident and that I wouldn't be doing any more edging that morning.

I couldn't figure out how the lizards in particular were getting into my house, other than the most obvious way: through a left-open-by-a-small-person door. (I wish those kids of mine were old enough for me to enforce a "if you leave the door open and a lizard comes in the house you will be responsible for removing the lizard from the house" rule.) Until a couple of weeks ago, that is.

Outside our kitchen/dining nook window is a large bush. Growing up through the bush are a number of hearty vines that when left unattended, quickly take over the bush itself and grow directly up and onto/into the window screen. Before we bought our house it was vacant for months, during which time the vines grew like the weeds they are and eventually tore holes in the screen. The best I can tell, lizards were coming out of the bush, climbing up and through the screen, and then working their way through the little gaps on the sides of the windows that allow the windows slide up and down.

Once I realized how the lizards were getting in, I used enough cotton to mop up a small flood and plugged all of the gaps. Knock on wood, but the 17 or so pounds of cotton I used seem to be doing the trick - I haven't yet had to catch a lizard in my house this season. But since we haven't fixed the screen yet, the lizards are still squeezing through the holes in the screen and making themselves at home up against the glass window.

And there they sit, watching me with their beady little eyes, waiting for the cotton to decompose and allow them entry into my safe haven.
On his way back out.
Watching.  Waiting.
Have you ever been watched by a lizard? I can tell you from experience that it is NOT a good feeling.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Flashback Friday: High School

As I mentioned last week, I didn't peak in high school. (I now recognize this as a good thing, but back then I'd have given anything to have spent those four years at the top of the social totem pole.) At least at that point, however, I'd begun climbing out of the valley that was middle school. But while I had great friends, was a member of Concert Choir, was a peer mediator, and played varsity soccer (which is what put on me on the high school map), I was still very uncomfortable in my skin.

I think many of us were at least a bit awkward and self-conscious in high school, but some kids - usually the popular kids - did/do a better job of hiding these feelings than others.  I didn't know how to hide my awkwardness, so though I swapped out my glasses for contacts, grew out my bangs, and FINALLY had my braces removed, I never really felt like I fit in.

You wouldn't know it from these pictures though.  Apparently I tossed most - if not all - of the pictures of me "not fitting in" and saved only those pictures that made high school look like the time of my life.

Except maybe this first one, which needs a bit of an explanation...  During my sophomore year winter vacation my club soccer team played in an international tournament in Florida.  My entire family came to the tournament, and then when the games were finished and the rest of the team had headed home, the four of us spent a few days at Disney World.  My dad flew home by himself to get back to work, but because we weren't in a rush, my mom, sister, and I drove home together at a more leisurely pace.

Just before we hit the road I tore one of my contacts as I was putting it in.  As (bad) luck would have it, not only did I not have a spare pair of contacts, the glasses I had with me were three years old and therefore weren't nearly strong enough (prescription-wise) for me to wear - at least while driving - on their own.

Since Sara didn't yet have a driver's license, my mom and I were the only drivers for our 26-hour trek and she needed me to periodically take a turn at the wheel.  To do so safely, I had to wear both my glasses and her glasses at the same time (which together provided me with a close-to-correct prescription).  I looked so unbelievably awesome, especially when we stopped for food, gas, etc. along the route home.

Oh, and that's a Tootsie Roll Pop stick in my mouth, just in case you were wondering.
Flashback to my super cool middle school days.
Laura, me, Laura, and Katie in my living room senior (?) year.
I wish I could remember why Laura was carrying
around that box of Cocoa Puffs cereal.
Spring Break 1996 in Jamaica
(We were there for varsity soccer spring training.  We lost to this team
because we weren't used to playing while surrounded by fans smoking
marijuana and having to dribble around cows on the field.  No joke.)
I'm directly in front of the tree in the back row.
Spring Break 1997 in Clearwater, FL
(I still can't believe my parents let me go on this trip sans adults.)
I'm 3rd from the left - the one wearing sunglasses.
Senior Prom 1997
Senior Prom 1997
 I look happy.  I think I was happy.  I hope I was happy.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Red Cross Post: Civil War on Sunday

This week on the Red Cross blog I'm talking about discovering the American Red Cross in my everyday life, appreciating the tragic historical events that led to the foundation of the American Red Cross, and making meaningful connections between the two, for myself...and for my kids. And to think, it all started with a children's book about the Civil War.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My 12th Man

Back in January I wrote about the tradition of the 12th Man at Texas A&M University.

If you recall, after an injury-laden first half that left the TAMU football team close to forfeit, the 12th Man - E. King Gill - came down from the stands, dressed, and joined his team on the sidelines. Though Gill never went into the game, his spirit of readiness for service, desire to support, and enthusiasm helped kindle a flame of devotion among all TAMU students.

Ever since that game in 1922, the entire TAMU student body has been collectively considered the 12th Man, standing - at the ready to help their team - for the entirety of football games.

The tradition of the 12th Man is recognized on and off campus in a variety of ways, one of which is on TAMU fan jerseys, all of which bear the number 12 on the back.

This jersey suits my boy.  He is always standing - ready to serve, eager to support, and enthusiastic about his life and the people in it. He may be little, but he will do big things.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

MomsEveryday Post: Grocery Shopping with Kids

MomsEveryday ran Friday Grocery Shopping - retitled to Grocery Shopping with Kids - earlier today. If you missed it the post the first time around, you can read all about how my children terrorize me (and the rest of the shoppers at Target and Kroger) as soon as I set foot in a store that sells paper products, cleaning supplies, or food here. Just thinking about it is driving me batty...

Monday, May 14, 2012

Broken Bones

One year ago, when we'd only lived in Texas and Tom had only worked as a professor at TAMU for a few months, our family attended Tom's department's (ISEN) spring picnic. Well, let me rephrase that... Tom attended the spring picnic, joined in a faculty vs. student basketball game, and in an attempt to impress his new coworkers and students, saved a going-out-of-bounds ball, slammed into a cement park bench, and broke his collarbone. (If you recall, 2011 was the year of the broken collarbone in the Ferris household.) The kids, my mom, and I attended the spring picnic just long enough for my mom and me to take one look at Tom and then put him in my car, bound for Urgent Care.

The whole ordeal - both the broken bone and Tom's ability to continue to perform at his job in the days and weeks following the accident really put Tom on the map in the ISEN Department at TAMU, if not as an A+ basketball player, than as a hard-working, dedicated team-player.

A couple of weeks ago the ISEN spring picnic rolled around again, and as one might expect, Tom was dreading the annual faculty vs. student basketball game. He wasn't about to let that damn bench (still there, no worse the wear from its run-in with Tom a year prior) get the best of him though, so he suited up and took the court with his fellow faculty members.

With basketball skills not quite on par with their intellectual skills, the faculty team lost their first game quickly. As they were replaced on the court by another student team I could see a look of relief wash over Tom's face...he'd survived.

Luckily for Tom, Will had a baseball game that evening and he was able to duck out of the picnic before the faculty team was called back onto the basketball court, collarbone intact. At least for the time being...the 2013 ISEN picnic is only about 345 days away.