Friday, June 28, 2013

Weekly Wrap-Up (6.28.13)

One of the many cookie cakes
we've ordered and enjoyed.
Cookie Cakes that Celebrate
After our family and then Will's baseball team and their families devoured three delicious cookie cakes from Cookie Cakes that Celebrate, I knew I had to give my friend Anne's company a shout out here on the blog. If you live in/near BCS, you can make every day - whether it be a birthday, holiday, or just a Tuesday - extra special with a delicious, made-from-scratch cookie cake decorated specifically for your occasion. Check out the Cookie Cakes that Celebrate Facebook page here, and place your order today! (And my apologies to those of you who don't live close enough to BSC to enjoy one of Anne's cakes. Come visit me and I'll have one waiting for you!)

Going to Schlitterbahn
Here's the real commercial:

And here's Will and Hallie's version:

I love that singing the Schlitterbahn theme song and dumping buckets of water on their heads kept Will and Hallie extraordinarily entertained (and cool) for 30+ minutes, but their "game" made me feel kind of guilty for not yet taking them to experience the real Schlitterbahn firsthand. On the other hand, their homemade water park costs a heck of a lot less, and they seem pretty happy with it, right?

Call Me, Maybe
This is no ordinary "Call Me, Maybe" remix. I've watched these four (I assume) European young men in matching black tees use glass beer and plastic water bottles to "belt" out this catchy tune a number of times, and each time it makes me smile. It also makes me consider doing something more fun with my beer bottles once they're empty...

I'm kind of hoping the experts' predictions are
wrong and that we won't make it past four
named storms this year...
Hurricane Season 2013
Just a month into Hurricane Season 2013, two tropical storms - Andrea and Barry - have already impacted North, Central, and South America, and various weather experts have predicted 16 named storms, nine hurricanes, and five major hurricanes to develop before the season wraps at the end of November. Because I take safety seriously and love preparedness and live relatively close to an area of the country that will likely see at least one tropical storm or hurricane this year, here are a few hurricane-related tips.

First, what to do when a hurricane is headed your way:
  • Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio for information about weather conditions in your area.
  • Restock your disaster supply kit and review your family and community disaster action plans.
  • Prepare your home by bringing inside anything that could be picked up by strong winds; closing windows, doors, and hurricane shutters; turning the refrigerator/freezer to its coldest setting (to help food last longer if the power goes out); turning off propane tanks; and unplugging small appliances.
  • Evacuate if advised by authorities to do so.
Then, what to do after a hurricane has struck:
  • Continue listening to a NOAA Weather Radio for information about the storm as well as for information about when it is safe to leave your home (if you did not evacuate) or return to your home (if you evacuated).
  • Avoid flooded areas and buildings, keep away from loose or dangling power lines, drive only if necessary, and use the telephone only for emergency calls.
  • Inspect your home, both the structure and the contents, for and take pictures of damage.
And finally, whether you're creating your basic disaster supply kit from scratch or you're adding to your already-exisiting disaster supply kit in preparation for a "Frankenstorm" that's coming your way, check out this interesting and funny Babble article on gearing up for whatever Mother Nature may throw at us this year.

MomsEveryday: Kitchen Challenge: Vegetarian Dishes
In case you missed it the first time around, MomsEveryday ran my Kitchen Challenge: Vegetarian Dishes this week. Unfortunately, none of these recipes call for 17 pounds of tomatoes. Which means I can't make any of them, at least until we've eaten the 17 pounds of tomatoes sitting on my kitchen table.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

"Aww Arsity's Orns Off"

After a dinner of spaghetti and meatballs, I sent the kids to the bathroom with strict instructions to thoroughly wipe the tomato sauce off their faces and hands (and arms and chests and hair) and to not go anywhere else or touch anything at all until they were sauce-free. Meanwhile, I went to work loading the dishwasher and wiping down the counters.

When I didn't immediately hear fighting and/or crying coming from the bathroom (for some reason my kids almost always fight when they're in the bathroom at the same time), I kind of forgot they were in there and moved on from kitchen cleaning to laundry. Yes, my evenings are exciting.

A few minutes later the peaceful silence was shattered by the fingernails-on-a-chalk-board sound of a bathroom stool scraping across the bathroom floor tiles. I finished folding yet another beach towel and headed toward the bathroom, intending to scold the kids for once again making my eardrums bleed and potentially scuffing tile floor...but then I heard singing.

Though the toothbrushes hanging out of their mouths muffled their words, I could still recognize their choice of song - or war hymn, more accurately - and I quickly grabbed my camera so that I could capture their rendition. (Their singing was better before they knew I was filming, but there was no way to capture their "sway" without making myself visible.)

It's amazing to me how quickly they've bailed on our beloved Iowa Hawkeyes, ditched their native Michigan Wolverines, and fully embraced everything Aggieland.

I know it seems like my children never wear shirts. They don't, but only because none of their shirts fit. Don't worry though - they're going to take my friend Beth's suggestion and use the money they make selling lemonade this summer to buy shirts. 

You know I'm kidding, right? They have plenty of shirts that fit. It's just super, duper hot in Texas and Will would rather "rock it in his shorts" than deal with a sweaty tee-shirt. And Hallie would rather "rock it in her shorts" than let Will have that privilege all to himself. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Who Says You Can't Go Home

Tom and I've been married for 9.5 years, a couple for 11.5 years, and friends for 14 years. Tom introduced me to his family just two months after he and I met (on the very first day of his freshman year of college), so essentially I've known Tom's family for as long as I've known Tom.

Throughout those 14 years - and for many years prior - Tom's parents lived in a lovely home in Nebraska. I estimate that I visited them in that house at least 25 times, and during these visits we made wonderful memories, especially after Will and Hallie were born:
Taking a "dad nap" on the family room couch.
Gathering together for a wedding celebration.
Playing with Grandma.
Watching Animal Planet with Grandpa.
Bath time with Simon and Norah in the "swimming pool".
Developing a love for technology (and drooling).
Taking family photos in the only configuration agreeable to Will.
Just two buddies in their matching shirts
Learning to drive "the bus".
Sword fighting on the driveway.
Tasting rice cereal for the first time.
She clearly loved it.
Another "dad nap" on the family room couch.
Christmas Eve photos by the fireplace.
Christmas morning by the tree.
Last year my inlaws decided it was time for a change. They sold their house and moved to a temporary location while they built a new house in a new neighborhood. The home where Tom had lived since the 7th grade, where I'd met and come to know and love Tom's family, and where we brought our children so they could develop relationships with their grandparents, aunts, and uncles was no longer in the family.

While planning this trip to Nebraska I worried - admittedly somewhat selfishly - about how it would feel to visit my in-laws in their new house. I'm moderately sentimental and dislike change, especially change accompanied by an adjustment period (like moving), and as a result I just couldn't wrap my head around a family gathering anywhere except their home. I also worried about how the kids would adjust because, well, because I'm just a worrywart.

As is almost always the case, I needn't have worried. As we toured the new house, it felt more and more like home with each room we saw. The living room furniture was new, but sinking down into the familiar family room furniture brought back memories of watching episodes of Real Housewives of Orange County with my sis-in-law and playing the you-must-talk-in-an-accent version (which we invented) of Catch Phrase with Tom and his siblings. I spent 15 minutes searching for a cookie sheet in the new kitchen cabinets, but when I opened the refrigerator I somehow knew where my mother-in-law kept the Greek yogurt and the jar of pepper jelly. The sound of my children's bare feet echoed strangely as they raced across the new wood floors, but their laughter, accompanied by my father-in-law's banjo, filled the rooms with sweet, sweet music just like in visits past.

This move, though not mine, was a reminder that "home" is not a building. Home is not where your furniture sits or your belongings are stored or your artwork and framed photos hang on the walls. It's not necessarily just the familiar. It's not necessarily even where the memories were made.

It's where the people are. It's where the people make music and share laughter and give love. So as long as you hang on to the people, you can always go home.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

No Rest for the Weary

When our travels require an overnight stay, we prefer Country Inn & Suites over most other hotels. They are clean and well-maintained, have pools and fitness centers, offer delicious continental breakfasts, employ polite and helpful staff, and most importantly, all of their reasonably-priced rooms are two room suites with DOORS. It's necessary to separate Hallie from everyone else until she falls asleep, so the extra room allows us to do this without Tom, me, and Will having to spend anywhere between 15 minutes and two hours in the bathroom. (Which we've done.)

Unfortunately there were quite a few youth and young adult sports teams visiting the Oklahoma City area on the same night we needed a hotel room, and all three of the Country Inn & Suites hotels within a 60 mile radius of where we'd planned to stop for the night were completely booked. I had to reserve a room at a Holiday Inn Express, which only offered two-room suites with a small "room divider" between the two rooms. And we paid the price.

At 9pm - an hour after Will and Hallie's regular bedtime and after an hour and a half increasingly wild behavior - we turned off the lights and tucked the kiddos into their bed (bed #1). We let Will lay on the side of the bed closest to us so that he could see the television (the game was still on) and so that Hallie would be farthest from the "action".

At 9:30pm we moved Will to our bed (bed #2) because Hallie - as we could have predicted - made it impossible for either of them to fall asleep or even rest quietly.

At 10pm, Hallie went from restless to wild, and Tom moved from bed #2 to bed #1 in an attempt to calm her down. Tom somehow managed to fall asleep with Hallie climbing all over him, and when his sleeping body didn't react at all to her jumping and pestering and whining, she finally dozed off around 10:30pm.

At 11pm, with Tom snoring and Hallie talking in her sleep in bed #1, Will and I went to sleep in bed #2.

Between 11:30pm and 2am, Will kicked me in the back approximately 1,904 times and repeatedly woke me by loudly sucking on his fingers.

At 2:30pm, Tom woke up in bed #1, decided he didn't want to sleep next to Hallie anymore, and carried Will from bed #2 to bed #1. Of course this process woke all four of us up.

At 4am, Hallie woke me up with a clearly rehearsed song-and-dance about how monsters had taken up residence under bed #1. There was no way I was going to wake everyone up - again - for a monster search, so I let her climb into bed #2 between Tom and me.

Between 4am and 6am, Hallie pulled my hair, stuck her finger up my nose, pried my eyelids back to examine my eyeballs, whispered complimentary remarks about my pajamas in my ear, and eventually fell back asleep lying crossways in the middle of the bed, a position that allotted Tom and me approximately 12 inches of space each on the outsides of the mattress.

At 6:15am we gave up, got up, and made the kids come with us to work out in the fitness room.

After a long day on the road and another long day on the road ahead of us, we all needed a good night's sleep. We didn't get it.

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Day in the Life: Road Trip Edition

Upon hearing that our family planned to spend much of our summer in the car - our five-week Midwestern tour will take us from College Station, TX to Lincoln, NE; Omaha, NE; Minocqua, WI; Madison, WI; and Peoria, IL (and that's not including day trips) before we return home - most of my friends wondered aloud if Tom and I'd lost our marbles. I mean, they've spent time with Hallie, and most people who've spent time with Hallie can't imagine a more insanity-producing scenario than being trapped in an enclosed space for two full days with Spicy McSpicerson.

I mentioned last week that Will and Hallie kick butt at road-tripping. They've never lived closer than a seven-hour drive from any of their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, so to them, a ride in the car isn't even worth mentioning if won't last for at least two Disney movies, one Glee CD sing-a-long, three books, 30 minutes of coloring, one nap, one meal, and four snacks. When I've explained our tried-and-true combination of car activities, games, entertainment, etc. that keep the four of us from killing each other, my friends - their voices dripping with skepticism and their eyes dangerously close to rolling back into their heads - usually reply, "in theory your plan sounds like it would/could/should work, but does it? Does it really work?"

Yes, it does.

I'm not saying our kids don't occasionally spill their juice boxes, fight with each other, or melt-down from exhaustion and/or over-stimulation. (I'm also not saying that Tom and I don't occasionally spill, fight, or melt-down.)  But overall, the four of us really have a great time, and to prove it to you, here's a play-by-play of our first two days of driving from College Station, TX to Oklahoma City, OK and then from Oklahoma City, OK to Lincoln, NE.
Thorough planning and good packing make all the difference.
The back of our Ford Freestyle held - fitting together in puzzle-like perfection - two under-the-bed storage totes (to be delivered to my in-laws' house), two large storage totes (to be delivered to my parents' house), one extra large suitcase, two medium suitcases, a full-size keyboard and keyboard stand, an amplifier, two microphones and accompanying cords, a bag of grown-up books and magazines, my camera bag, Tom's briefcase, Tom and Will's disc golf bags, Tom's disc golf shoes, Will's golf clubs, Will and Hallie's bike helmets, three baseball gloves, a bat, a bucket of tee-balls, and all of our hanging clothes. Hard to believe, right? Inside the car we traveled with a bag of kids toys and games, Will and Hallie's backpacks, the DVD player, the snack bag, and my purse. Because I planned ahead and packed accordingly, when we arrived at the hotel that first night we only took in our computers, the snack bag, my purse, and the small red suitcase closest to the back of the car. SOOOO easy. (We hid the DVD players under the seats so not to encourage someone from breaking into the car.)
I like to start every road trip off with a new mix CD - we spent the first 75 minutes of our journey jamming to Maroon 5, Gym Class Heroes, Phillip Phillips, Mumford & Sons, the Lumineers, Marc Cohn, Counting Crows, and Fun.
Next we taught the kids how to play the license plate game. I brought along three of these fun printables - one on which Will could systematically check off which plates we saw, one for Hallie to scribble all over, and one on which I could systematically check off which plates we saw (one of my kids is EXACTLY like me) - so that everyone could participate. By the time we arrived in Lincoln we'd already found 35 license plates!
After close to an hour and a half of singing and at least a half hour straight of license plate searching, the kids watched their first DVD. This was our first road trip on which Will was capable of handling all of the details associated with the DVD player, and let me tell you, it was HEAVENLY. I have - on my best days - moderate motion sickness, and having to turn around to mess with the DVD player makes my nausea much worse; the kids' increased independence made this car trip much easier on both my stomach and head. This boy doesn't speak, move, or even blink as soon as the movie starts; his sister, on the other hand, sings along (even when the movies aren't musicals), talks to characters, and laughs out loud from the moment the screen comes alive until the final credits roll.
Whenever the kids have their headphones on, Tom and I listen to a book on CD. We're particularly big fans of political thrillers, heist dramas, and mysteries - genres that aren't exactly appropriate for children (which is why we only listen when the kids' ears are otherwise occupied) but that keep us entertained and awake as we cruise down some of the longest and least interesting stretches of highway running through the middle of the country.
After stopping for a late lunch, it was rest time. Ha.
After about 20 minutes of not resting, I made Will and Hallie a deal: the first kid to fall asleep would win a prize. In keeping with their drastically different personalities, my competitive rule-follower (Will) was asleep seven seconds later and my free-spirited boundary-pusher (Hallie) first complained and then sang songs to herself underneath her blanket for two hours. She never did sleep that afternoon.
We try to avoid major cities during rush hour, but on our first driving day we ended up in the thick of Oklahoma City evening rush hour traffic. By this point the kids were really excited about stopping at our hotel for the night, so to keep them on the quieter and calmer side (so that we could focus on the traffic and directions to our hotel), we finally let them pull out the tablet (Will) and the Leapster (Hallie).
After checking into our hotel we went for a walk in a nearby neighborhood to stretch our legs. The neighborhood itself was lovely - unique homes, majestic trees, thoughtfully planned and well-maintained landscaping - and we enjoyed this quaint little pond, but the people we passed on our walk were anything but lovely. Tom and I both missed the general friendliness of our native Midwest and our adopted home, Texas.
After our walk and quick showers, we ordered pizza delivery and set up camp to watch game seven of the NBA Finals. We cheered for the Spurs (because they're based in San Antonio, but also because I root against the Heat in the same way I root against the New York Yankees), and were sad to see them fall to Miami.
Only Will and I stayed awake until the end of the game.
We started day two off with number puzzles and animal games. Hallie usually loses interest after about 20 minutes and I checked out about 10 minutes after Hallie did, but Tom and Will kept quizzing each other and discussing mental math tricks for an additional half hour. They're dorks, but they're my dorks.
When snack time rolls around, the kids always eat a healthy snack first.
And then if they're still hungry they can pick a treat. Interestingly both Will and Hallie only ate about an eighth of their Texas-shaped lollipops.
Will put all of us through his PE class calisthenics routine (10 jumping jacks, toe touches, windmills, squat thrusts, mountain climbers, push-ups, and sit-ups) at a rest area. If the stares we received from fellow travelers were any indication, most families driving through Kansas don't also exercise when they stop to go to the bathroom.
Well, not all of us exercised. One of us refused to participate because "jumpking jacks are too hard".
50% of the time we stop for lunch at McDonald's restaurants with Play Places. I know that lots of people avoid McDonald's like the plague, but when we're traveling, there isn't a stop better suited to our needs - clean bathrooms, familiar menu, low prices, and a place for the kids to run off steam - than McDonald's. That being said, 50% of the time we skip McDonald's and eat at local diners or establishments. On this trip we ate a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant that the community had recently voted "Best Mexican Food".
Hallie stayed busy at the restaurant by coloring the Dots & Boxes game boards (she won't play the game the correct way) while Will and Tom played multiple rounds of Hangman. Have you ever played Hangman with a six-year-old? It's tough to figure out that Will's phrase is "Logan lives in Texas" when he spells it "Logen liives in Texhes". 
So there you have it, two days on the road with the four Ferri. Tomorrow I'll tell you about how - thanks to Hallie - we didn't sleep at all in our hotel room...

Friday, June 21, 2013

Weekly Wrap-Up (6.21.13)

What a Leader Looks Like
After allegations that members, including high-ranking officials, in his Armed Forces were "creating and exchanging explicit and profane emails" surfaced, Australian Chief of Army David Morrison publicly addressed the issue by filming and distributing this video. Though I support standing against sexual abuse and respect Morrison for doing so, my goal in posting this video is not to make a political statement. I'm posting this video because I found Morrison and his message - a commitment to upholding the values on which the Australian Army was built and protecting the rights of EVERY member - inspiring. What an incredible leader.

Angry Birds Family Tree
Have you ever wondered where the Angry Birds came from? One theory - which seems as plausible as any, at this point - is outlined below. But while this theory answers a lot of questions, it prompts quite a few new questions as well...

Sometimes the mental stress of his day job and the physical exertion that comes after mowing and edging the lawn, retrieving the patio umbrella from the roof, and building a lemonade stand for the kids combine to create the perfect storm of complete exhaustion. When this occurs, Tom has to sit down while he fills up his water glass from the refrigerator. Seems to me to would take more energy to carry the stool over to the refrigerator, sit down, stand up, and then carry the stool back to the counter...but that's just me.

The Worst Engagement Photos Around
This BuzzFeed compilation of hysterically horrible engagement photos will make you happy you're single (according to BuzzFeed) or happy you're already married and don't have to take engagement photos anytime soon. I especially love the the couples dressed like fairies...

Mr. Rogers
Though they love the Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood spinoff - Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood - my kids aren't familiar with Mr. Rogers himself. (Are reruns of his show even still on? I should look into that.) But if they were familiar with Mr. Rogers, you can bet I'd be throwing this comeback at them multiple times a day.

"You're not acting like the person Mr. Rogers knew you could be."

I may use it anyway, because it's SO, SO true.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

On the Road Again

Today we embark on our third annual summer vacation to "states north of Texas". First up, a week in Lincoln, Nebraska with Tom's parents and brother. My sister and her family will join us at Tom's parents' house toward the end of the week, and then the eight of us (my family of four and Sara's family of four) will move on to Omaha, Nebraska for a weekend reunion with our parents and our aunts, uncles, and cousins on my dad's side of the family. While in Omaha we'll attend - and Tom, Sara, my dad, and I will provide the music for - the wedding of my cousin, Amy.

After 10+ days in Nebraska, Tom will head back to Texas and the kids and I drive to Wisconsin with my parents. After a night to unpack and repack, the kids and I will keep on moving to Minocqua, Wisconsin, where we'll spend a few days with Tom's parents at the Lincoln Lodge. After Minocqua, it's back to Madison, Wisconsin, where the kids and I will stay until the end of July, with the exception of a few day trips and perhaps a short, weekend trip to Peoria, Illinois to see my sister and her family again.

He's been a happy camper
in the car since day one.
Thankfully, Will and Hallie are good road-trippers. Both took their first 7+ hour car trip before they were a month old, and they've never looked back, even during those road-trips-are-miserable-when-kids-are-potty-training years. Our tried and true mix of movies, music, books on CD (for the kids and the grown-ups), activity/coloring books, car games, and snacks makes the time pass quickly, and the prospect of staying overnight in a hoe-and-tell (Hallie's mispronunciation of the word "hotel"), which we'll do on our way to Nebraska, is all the motivation the kids need to cooperate.

Speaking of cooperation, I'm crossing my fingers that Mother Nature is a little more cooperative this year than she was last year...

One of my motivations for spending an entire summer month up north has been and continues to be the opportunity to escape the blistering heat and stifling humidity that accompany summer in Texas. But last year, instead of escaping the Texas summer, I took the Texas summer with me to Wisconsin...the temperature in Wisconsin was between five and 10 degrees HOTTER than it was in Texas on 28 of the 30 days we spent up north, not to mention the fact that Wisconsin set all sorts of heat-related records during our stay as well.

As we hit the ground running on this adventure, I'm hoping for and looking forward to a safe and smooth road trip, fun and new experiences for the kids, quality time spent with family and friends, a lovely wedding, beautiful weather, and a safe flight home at the end of July. I'm also hoping for a change in the Hal Gal's behavior, and if that doesn't happen, I'm looking forward to leaving her with her grandparents and getting the heck out of dodge.

Farewell, friends!

Lest you think I just told the Internet that our house will be abandoned for the next five weeks, I will also share with the Internet that a friend will be staying in our house the first week we're on the road, and then after that, Tom will return home.

It's no wonder she doesn't complain much in the car - it's
certainly a step up from riding in the back of Will's tricycle.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Story of Hallie (Told in the Words of Graphic T-Shirts)

Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Hallie. For many years, she was
If you'd asked her what she loved, she'd have said, 
"I love my mommy, I love my daddy, and
Her big brother would have called her the
And when others saw her coming, they'd say, "Oh

She loved all kinds of flowers - 
- and often told us, "I
She was a bit of a
and while some people called her
she knew that, above all, it was important to
But then one day she woke up and said,
In that moment, Hallie went from a little
to more than a little
We're talking completely crazy here, kind of like the clever 
She believed, and started telling everyone, "my 
When others saw her coming, they said,
And they would have been right.

Hallie's parents didn't expect her to be
They just wanted their 
little girl back, and for there to be
in their home once again.

Maybe their wish will come true on the 
morning Hallie wakes up and says, "today