Friday, August 30, 2013

Tomorrow's Tasty Tailgate

You're tailgating tomorrow, right?

I certainly hope so.

Even if you loathe college football (in which case we probably can't be friends) and head home before kick-off, there's no better way to spend Saturday mornings in September, October, and November than lounging in a lawn chair, beer in hand, surrounded by friends.

This Southern Living Magazine article, which highlights what they call a "TAMU Aggies Tailgating Menu" (howdy cocktails, spicy queso dip, layered spicy black bean dip, Twelfth Man wings, beef fajitas and pico de gallo, and oven-baked churros) - inspired me to share a few of my favorite tried-and-true tailgating recipes.

Irish Coffee
Start your morning off right with a hot cup of coffee and a shot of Bailey's. This beverage is of course best on cool mornings, but I'm sure an iced version would hit the spot when the temperatures on Saturdays mornings reach 85 degrees by 7am.
Breakfast Tacos
A few years ago I learned that scrambled eggs can be cooked on the grill (in a pan, of course - don't just throw those babies directly onto the grill), and since then I love to start my tailgates with bacon, egg, and cheese - with peppers and onions thrown in there with the eggs while they're cooking - breakfast tacos.
Blueberry Power Muffins
If cooking eggs on the grill is too complicated for you, make these muffins ahead of time and bring them along. They're delicious, and they'll give you the boost you'll need to win that mid-morning beer pong tournament.

Appetizers/Side Dishes
Corn & Walnut Dip
I've taken this dip to countless tailgates and never have I NOT been asked to share the recipe. It's amazing.
BBQ Potato Salad
This bbq-infused twist on traditional potato salad goes over well with even the pickiest eaters and pairs perfectly with grilled burgers, chicken, pork, and vegetables.
Hot Chili Dip
When the weather's warm, stick with the corn and walnut dip. But when the weather turns cool, opt for this savory chili dip instead. I wonder when the weather will turn cool...

Main Dishes
Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin
If grilled hamburgers, hotdogs, and/or chicken wings don't fit your tailgating style, give this tenderloin (the recipe explains how to cook the tenderloin on the grill - perfect for tailgating - but it can of course be cooked in the oven as well) a whirl.

Oatmeal Chocolate Fudge Cookie Bars
This one's for all the chocolate lovers out there. Make this dessert. Now. And then try not to devour the entire pan before the tailgate starts tomorrow morning.
A slightly lighter dessert for those of you who don't crave and gravitate toward chocolate in the same way I do. These bars could also be made with strawberries or blueberries; go with your favorite berry, or choose what's in season - either way, you won't regret making this delicious treat!

If you start shopping, dicing, cooking, and baking now, you'll still have time to whip up a couple of these recipes before tomorrow morning. And while you're at it, let me know where you tailgate - I'd love to stop by and join you for a blueberry power muffin or an oatmeal chocolate fudge cookie bar.

Happy college football season, friends!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Are You Ready for Some Football?

College football season officially kicks off today (though I think a few teams played their openers last night), and I for one can't wait to finally see my teams in action again.

The top slot on our favorites list has always belonged - and will always belong - to our alma mater, the University of Iowa. The Hawkeyes may never win a National Championship, and we spend substantial amounts of time cursing the coaches' play calling and the players' "poor choices off the field" (code for getting arrested for engaging in stupid and criminal behavior), but our loyalty remains strong and true. 

Because we live in Aggieland, the hubby works for TAMU, Kevin Sumlin is a class act (an important factor for me when it comes to which teams I root for or against), and Johnny Manziel is simply the most entertaining NCAA football player to watch, the Aggies come in at #2 on our list. And because of past affiliations, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Nebraska round out our top five favorites.

In honor of what I'm certain will be a fun, entertaining, and exciting fall of football, here are a few of my favorite football-related pics - the pretty, the funny, and the pretty funny - I've gathered since last January.

Night games mean packed stadiums, excited fans, and watching the sun sink lower and lower in the sky before it finally dips below the horizon created by the upper level of stands. Gorgeous.
Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, IA.
Kyle Field in College Station, TX
The Big House in Ann Arbor, MI.
Camp Randall in Madison, WI.
Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, NE.
Yes, night games are gorgeous. But we need some humor thrown in there as well.
Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini's Christmas card.
Johnny Manziel's Halloween costume. 
The work of a farmer in Wisconsin with too much time on hands.
The truth.
Also the truth.
The truest - and most painful - truth.
Sometimes he makes me want to pull my hair out.
10 Best Moments from College Game Day

Definitive Ranking of the SEC Mascots

15 Reasons We Should All be Rooting for Johnny Manziel to Remain Eligible

And finally, the craziest football play ever:

Let's get this season underway!

Check back tomorrow for my favorite tailgating recipes...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Send it Soaring

Many, many years ago, the Easter Bunny upped his game and delivered - along with the art supplies, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and toothbrushes that usually filled our baskets - beautiful, high-quality kites to my sister and me. Well, Sara's purple kite with a pink unicorn on it was beautiful. My blue kite with a white bunny on it was only kind of beautiful. Back then I honestly believed that only those items doused in pink, purple, or teal deserved the title of "beautiful".

That spring, Sara and I tried - with our dad's help - to fly those kites, and time after time after time we felt flat. Or more accurately, our kites fell flat. I have no idea if it just wasn't windy enough or if the kites were too heavy or if we had poor technique, but throughout that spring and the years that followed, I can only remember the kites taking to the air once.

So I don't know what the Easter Bunny was thinking when he brought Will and Hallie kites this year. Didn't he remember how frustrated kites had once made these children's mama?

We added "fly kites" to our Summer Bucket List, but I planned on the kites remaining in their packaging throughout the summer months. Though I always let the kids weigh in when it comes to the Summer Bucket List, ultimately I make the final decision...and I expected to create (and then actually did create) excuse after excuse - "it's not windy enough, it's too hot outside, we need Daddy to help us" - to avoid having to endure the kite-flying (or more accurately, the kite non-flying) experience again.

But last weekend, while I was writing at Starbucks, Tom graciously volunteered to break in the kites. An hour into my two-and-a-half hour window of writing time, the beep signaling the arrival of a text message startled me out of my work coma. When I glanced down at my phone and saw a beautifully triumphant picture of BOTH kites up in the air, I immediately closed my computer, drove home to grab my camera, and cruised up to the park where this supposed kite flying was taking place.

As it turns out, Texas - or at least the valley in which our city is nestled - is perfect for flying kites. Most importantly, it's crazy windy here. But the conditions for flying kites in our neighborhood improve beyond just "being windy" thanks to two additional facts: 1) the field at the park is in a basin, and the wind swirling around within the basin helps to initially lift the kites, and 2) the heat rising off the smoldering asphalt provides an invisible cushion upon which airborne kites can comfortably rest.

As long as either Tom or I held them up in the air, the kites took off as soon as the kids started running.
At the ready.
And she's off!
On her way up and out of the basin.
The kites remained high in the sky until the kids ran past each other and tangled their strings. Then they cried and yelled at each other while Tom struggled to make sense of the mess and I took pictures. I'm super helpful like that.

I feel badly that I avoided kite-flying for so long; the kids clearly loved the activity, and it would have been a shame if my less-than-stellar experience had kept them from their joyful and exhilarating experience. The kites will most certainly come out again and again this fall, and perhaps the Easter Bunny will make a tradition out of bringing new kites each spring. (The kites the Easter Bunny brought last Easter were VERY inexpensive and likely won't survive more than a year.)

Texas comes through for us again!
The wind carried the kites up, up, and away but wasn't strong enough to keep us cool.
To say this little girl was sweaty after flying her kite would be a gross understatement.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Texas Tips

I laughed out loud when I stumbled upon this "Tip Jar War" (a small white board with a question written on it, set up behind two jars in which tip money could be placed to show support for one of the two possible answers to the question) on the counter in a local antique shop. Not because the question was funny, but because the response to the question - ALL of the tip money in the "Yes Guns" jar and not even a penny in the "No Guns" jar - was just so Texas.

To be clear, in this case I meant "just so Texas" as a positive adjective. Yes, Texas wants to talk about its guns. And yes, Texas wants to keep its guns. And yes, Texas voted Texas as the winner of last week's Tip Jar War (see the small print on the white board). In my limited experience, when Texas feels a certain way about an issue, it goes all in...and I respect that.

I chose not to take a stand - at least by putting money in either jar - on the "Yes Guns/No Guns" debate that evening. I did, however, go all in on a slightly less controversial and unbelievably delicious banana shake...maybe Texas is rubbing off on me.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Cliche is True...Painfully So

On Friday afternoon I sipped a glass of wine and chatted with two friends of mine, both of whom recently gave birth to their first child. One of the topics on which we lingered - and agreed with one another completely - was how frustrating and disheartening the phrase, "enjoy every moment...they grow up so fast" can feel.

You've been there, right? It's 10am. You've been awake for five hours, and in that time you've fed your children three times, been thrown up on three times, cleaned smashed banana out of the cat's fur, changed four diapers, wiped pee up off the playroom floor, rescued a Power Ranger action figure from the toilet, unclogged the toilet, and mopped up the flooded bathroom. You haven't eaten, showered, gotten dressed, or even brushed your teeth. How many of these moments did you enjoy?

Telling parents - especially new parents, whose days feel like weeks and whose nights require superhuman strength to endure - to "enjoy every moment" often comes across, no matter how well-intentioned, as cruel. These new moms and dads love their babies tremendously, but they simply aren't enjoying every moment.

And telling parents that time goes by so quickly? Well, that line sounds like a great big lie, because for them, time isn't going by so quickly. If they're anything like me when I had an infant at home, they're wondering how it's possible that their (according to the calendar) five-month-old won't head off to kindergarten this fall because it feels like they've been caring for that baby for five years.

While my friends and I caught up on our summers, my two rugrats made a dinner out of chips, salsa, and lemonade with their daddy and then entertained themselves by reading, coloring, and playing hide-and-seek under an empty table in the corner of the room. Compared to the babies, Will and Hallie - at only six-and-a-half and four years old - might as well have been heading off to college this fall. They seemed so BIG, so independent.

Holy crap...they DO grow up so fast.

Today Will starts first grade. FIRST GRADE. He's almost seven years old. He reads chapter books and can do basic multiplication. He's training to become a black belt in karate (or so he says) and can hit a baseball pitched to him at 30 MPH. He makes his own breakfast and vacuums his own bedroom. This is all quite difficult to wrap my head around, considering that just yesterday I was angry at the woman at the farmers market who played with six-month-old Will's curls and exclaimed, "what a big boy! They grow up so fast". And the day before that I cried in the car on the way home after a woman at the mall told me, as I walked past her pushing two-week-old Will in the stroller, to enjoy every moment.

Will at six months old, and then the very next day at six years old.

Where am I going with this? To be honest, I don't really know.

So here's what I do know. I know that telling parents - of children of any age - to enjoy every moment often makes them feel worse rather than better. I know that telling new parents that time goes by so quickly comes off as a cliche or even a lie. And I know that while the minutes feel like hours, the hours like days, and the days like weeks when those babies are teeny tiny, at some point the clock speeds up.

I still don't enjoy every moment, but this morning, as I send Will off to first grade, I'm forced to acknowledge that they do grow up so fast. And I don't like it one bit.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Weekly Wrap-Up (8.23.13)

These Kids are Angry!
Do you watch How I Met Your Mother? The entire sitcom, which begins its 9th and final season this fall, revolves around future Ted - one of the show's five main characters and voiced by Bob Saget - explaining to his children how he met their mother back when when he was a younger man. Future Ted has been telling his children this l...o...n...g and somewhat inappropriate story for years now, and it seems his future kids are as annoyed as I am about having to wait so long to actually learn how he met their mother. If you're a fan of How I Met Your Mother, you'll likely enjoy this clip - created for Comic-Con 2013 - as well. (The language isn't entire clean, so send your littles out of the room for this one..)

SNL Actors Breaking Character
My favorite Saturday Night Live moments are the ones in which the actors are having so much fun or find their material so hysterical that they break character and start laughing. I especially love watching Bill Hader fall apart as Stefan tries to explain to Seth Meyers which New York City late night establishments deserve his patronage.

Check out this video compilation of SNL actors past and present - everyone from Gilda Radner and Chris Farley to Will Ferrell to Kristen Wiig (and yes, my favorite Will Hader) - as they just completely blow it, time and time again. It's awesome.

50 Funniest Moments from The Office
I'm on a roll with these television comedy show clips, so it makes sense to keep on keepin' on with Mashable's compilation of the 50 funniest moments from The Office. My absolute favorite is #26, but the photo should be accompanied by this video in order for you to understand the full story.

I miss The Office already, don't you?

"The Funnies" Continue
Just because...

MomsEveryday: All I Want for Christmas is a Pig
In case you missed it the first time around, MomsEveryday ran "All I Want for Christmas is a Pig" - the story of Hallie's recent obsession with all things piggy - last week. On a positive note, Hallie seems to be less interested in Santa Claus bringing her a pig than she was a month ago. On a negative note, she's considering a number of other animals that I'm certain would prove equally disastrous as pets. Hippos, anyone? A baby giraffe, please? A kitten is sounding better and better...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Throwback Thursday: The Day I Caught the Bug

Students at my high school took four full years of English. As freshman we enrolled in the mandatory "9th Grade English" class, but after that first year the administration allowed us to choose the English courses we found most interesting. Now, many (16? Wow, I'm getting old) years later, I only remember half of the courses in which I enrolled: a semester in "Bible", a semester in "Creative Writing", and a semester in "Advanced Writing".

About "Bible", I remember only that for one of our projects, my friend Emily and I baked and decorated a cake to represent the six days of creation. Clever, right? And delicious.

I have two memories from "Creative Writing". First, I remember hearing the verdict in the O.J. Simpson trial while sitting in my assigned seat next to the blackboard on the side of the room. An ahead-of-his-time student wore earphones connected to a handheld radio (pretty sure his were the first earbuds I ever saw) to class that day, and midway through the teacher's frustratingly bland lecture the student shouted out, "NOT GUILTY!" Second, I remember discovering, after only a few days in class, that I couldn't stand and would never pursue creative writing.

Available only to senior students who had previously taken a number of prerequisite courses and juniors who had taken the prerequisties and received approval from the instructor, "Advanced Writing" looked like the "who's who" of academically successful students. I felt slightly out of my league, but assumed I wouldn't have received permission to enroll if my grades in past English classes weren't up to snuff.

I can't recall the topic about which we wrote for our first assignment, but I do remember - vividly - my grade...D+. D+. D+, D+, D+. My eyes could read and my lips could speak that horrific letter, but my 17-year-old brain couldn't quite bring this shocking and humbling and embarrassing and maddening new reality into focus. Prior to that day I had never received a grade lower than a B. I honestly thought my parents might kick me out of the house. (My parents assure me they wouldn't have kicked me out for earning a D+, but I didn't know that back then because I'd never gotten a D+ before.) I considered kicking myself out of the house, because I clearly didn't deserve my parents' support with grades like that.

Turns out that on that first assignment, the highest grade in the class - made up of more than 25 A+, top 5% students - was a C-. Our instructor, Mr. Keyes, broke us that day so that he could spend the remainder of the semester building us back up and turning us into strong, proficient writers.

Mr. Keyes crosses my mind almost every day and I still follow many of his rules when crafting my blog posts and articles. "Unless your life depends on it, DO NOT USE THE 'TO BE' VERB" sticks with me more than any other rule, and though you may not notice it, I almost never use a "to be" verb when another way to craft a sentence exists.

Just like I can't recall that first assignment, I can't recall the assignment for which I wrote about the Wiggly Bridge park in my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. I do, however, remember that when I wrote about that park (more accurately, when I wrote about the destruction of the park, and how tearing it down affected the neighborhood and community children), the writer inside me came alive. The figurative dam that had blocked communication between my brain and my fingers for the first 17 years of my life didn't just begin to broke wide open. I knew exactly what I wanted to say, and suddenly and miraculously knew how I wanted to say it as well. I wrote not just with a purpose (finish the assignment and receive a grade - any grade - above a D+), but with abandon and joy; I wrote not for the destination, but for the journey.

So if you'd like a glimpse into the topic/assignment/finished product that first opened my heart and engaged my brain and fueled my fingers to begin walking this path, click here.

Oh, and what did Mr. Keyes think of "The Wiggly Bridge"? He gave me an A.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

They're Ba-ack...

In my experience, cities built around universities are colorful, welcoming, and dynamic. (I grew up in a college town, but since my own graduation from the University of Iowa I've called both college and non-college towns home.) These communities support, encourage, and actively work toward advancing the arts, a robust and diversified economy, strong public schools, providing and promoting opportunities for personal and professional growth, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. I love college towns, consider them perfect for raising families, and hope to never live anywhere else. (The odds are in my favor, considering the fact that Tom is a professor.)

Despite my affection for college towns, for many years post-graduation I stayed away from campus, Target, and Bed, Bath, & Beyond at this time of year because it made me nauseous to watch parents unload mini-vans in front of dorms and shop next to students whose carts overflowed with miniature refrigerators and microwaves and papasan chairs and lava lamps. Going away to college was difficult for me, and these locations - as silly as it sounds - triggered really uncomfortable flashbacks and made me feel like that homesick 18-year-old all over again.

But now that I'm no longer tethered to my freshman anxiety (thank goodness), I intentionally seek out reasons to drive through campus or shop at Target or BBB in August. College students - especially the young-uns - bring a vibrancy and excitement with them when they arrive on campus each fall. Campus and the surrounding community no longer emanate calm; when the 18- through 22-year-olds pull up in pick-up trucks and SUVs (all considerably nicer than the vehicles we drive, but that's another topic for another day), campus and community life are suddenly beautifully noisy and chaotic and the atmosphere brims with anticipation.

Don't get me wrong, I love me some peace and quiet when the college students head home for the summer. The roads are clearer, the parking spaces are plentiful, and the restaurants are less crowded. Target sells more throw pillows and fewer under-the-bed storage containers. The kids and I see my husband/their daddy more often, and he's noticeably less stressed. But I recognize that without the students, my college town(s) wouldn't exist. Without the students, the arts and the economy and the schools and the opportunities and the diversity would suffer. So welcome back, "kids". Here's to another great year in our home-sweet-college town.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Hickey Mustache #2

Two summers back, Will managed to get his upper lip stuck inside a bottle of red Gatorade and as a result, earned himself what I affectionately called a Gatorade bottle hickey mustache (though I of course never used the word "hickey" in front of Will - I didn't need him telling the cashier at the grocery store or our neighbors that he had a hickey on his face). After that ordeal - Will's mustache hung on for close to a week - I implemented a new beverage rule in the Ferris household: all colored beverages must be consumed from a cup or with a straw. This rule joined my first two beverage rules - all colored beverages must be consumed at the counter or outside and no blue beverages may be consumed (blue drinks weird me out, and I don't like how the blue dye stains the kids' lips and makes them look cyanotic) - to create my trifecta of beverage rules. I'm thinking of making one of these cute, Pinterest-ready signs for my kitchen:
Except mine would look more like this:

Pretty, right?


It can be difficult to uphold family rules away from home. For example, the kids convinced Grandma to buy them both red and blue Gatorade in bottles while we were on vacation in Wisconsin. I don't think I'd made Grandma aware of our beverage rules, but I'd be willing to bet that actually knowing the rules wouldn't have made much of a difference in this case; I'm sure Will and Hallie fed her some song and dance about how we should drink patriotic patriotic beverages in July, and because she's their grandma and thinks they're cute and clever, she agreed.

But that evening, the Hal Gal got her hands on a bottle of red Gatorade, and just like her brother before her, managed to semi-permanently suction her upper lip into the bottle for Gatorade bottle hickey mustache #2.

On a positive note, Hallie's hickey mustache only lasted for four days and we saw very few people we knew during that stretch of time.

From here on out, only clear Gatorade - consumed out of a cup and with a straw - will be allowed.

Monday, August 19, 2013

What Happens When You Let Four-Year-Olds Go to the Bathroom Alone

Last week Hallie and I took Will to his karate lesson, just as we always do on Monday and Wednesday evenings. As one might expect, the two 45-minute lessons are one of the highlights of Will's week, and one of the low lights of Hallie's.

Despite requiring the kids to take a quick pit stop before we leave home, Hallie always pees again during Will's lessons. I long ago figured out that her urgent need to visit the bathroom has less to do with actually relieving herself and more to do with curing her boredom, and I can't say I blame her; even I can only watch so many "number two front kicks" and "knife hand strikes" before my mind begins to wander.

On this particular day, Hallie asked - begged, really - to visit the bathroom by herself.

Side note: when Will first started asking to pee alone, I believed he wanted to do so because he craved independence. Now that Hallie has started asking to pee alone, I automatically assume she wants to do so to cause mischief. Yes, I realize how that sounds, but throughout their almost-seven and almost-four-and-a-half years, Will and Hallie have both provided me with countless examples that support the validity of my beliefs and assumptions.

I finally agreed to let her go alone, with the understanding that if she didn't return in three minutes I would follow her in. She agreed, plowed past the woman and child sitting next to her, and ran for the bathroom door.

Hallie paused when she reached the entrances to the men's and women's bathrooms, clearly unable to remember which of the two doors she should go through. As a look of confusion spread across her face, she glanced back at me - the bathrooms are right off the lobby and parent waiting area, so she could easily see me and I her - in what I thought looked like a silent plea for help, so I started to stand. In response to seeing me rise from my seat, Hallie threw her hand up to halt me in my tracks and yelled "NO!"

I returned to my seat, slightly embarrassed that I'd just followed my four-year-olds's command without a second thought, and watched her thoroughly assess the pictures and words on the signs outside each door and ultimately pick the correct one. Whew.

Three minutes came and went, so I grabbed my purse and headed into the bathroom. Though not upset or crying, Hallie was still in the stall so I asked if she needed anything. She claimed to be fine, but then amended her statement..."well, as a matter of fact, I'm stuck in here". (Yes, she says "as a matter of fact" a lot. And she usually uses the phrase correctly, believe it or not.)

"What do you mean, you're stuck in there?"

"Well, I locked the door when I came in, and now I can't get it unlocked because I can't reach the lock."

"How did you lock the door in the first place?"

"I jumped."

I asked her to stand in front of the lock, reach her hand as high into the air as she could, and then stand on her tiptoes so that I could see how far her fingers fell short of the lock. At least five inches separated the tips of her fingers and the lock, which meant that in order to lock the door, she had to jump five inches in the air (if you've ever seen a preschooler jump you know that actually getting five inches off the ground is no small feat) and while in the air, slide the lock over and into place. What are the odds?!

As I took deep breaths on the opposite side of the stall door, Hallie jumped up and down, trying to unlock the door. Then suddenly she stopped jumping and shouted, "I know what to do! I'll just climb under the door!"

Had the bathroom housed multiple stalls, I would have agreed to this plan. But the bathroom has only one stall, and I wasn't willing to let her escape her predicament - which had now become my predicament - and leave the problem for someone else. So instead, I decided to climb under the door.

I needed a few minutes to formulate a plan, primarily because the distance between the bottom of the door and the floor is a very small 12 inches and I am an average-sized grown-up and I was wearing an above-the-knee-length dress. I decided that my best bet was to crouch down, flattening myself onto my shins, and scoot sideways until I arrived on Hallie's side of the stall. (Lying down on my stomach/back was out, thanks to the short dress.) I took a deep breath, tossed my purse under the door, and hit the deck.

You guys, have you looked a ruler recently? 12 inches does not constitute a very large opening. As someone more mathematically-astute than me could have predicted, when I was halfway between in the stall and out of the stall and thanks to the rough, unsanded bottom of the stall door, I got stuck. OF COURSE I DID.
It was in this position (and in this dress) that I found myself stuck.
And at that exact moment, the door to the bathroom opened. OF COURSE IT DID.

Because of my position on the floor, I could really only see the person's shins, ankles, and shoe-covered feet. Which, thank goodness, walked two steps forward, stopped dead in their tracks, quickly pivoted, and walked right back out. Those shoes are forever burned into my memory, and I'm grateful I didn't see the face of the person wearing them.

At this point I had to "make myself smaller", so kind of like how truckers let the air out of their tires when they accidentally get their trucks stuck under low bridges, I exhaled as much air as I possibly could out of my lungs and spread my feet out to the side so that my legs formed a "W". (You know what I mean, right? The way all kids sit and the way all adults can't imagine sitting for fear they'd tear their ACLs or worse, never get up again?)
This position was incredibly painful to reenact. Will asked, "what
are we doing? Practicing our flexibilities?" before taking the picture.
After my reenactment, they taunted me from their seated W's.
And then I scooted, and scooted, and scooted, until my entire body was finally in the stall with Hallie. She shouted a triumphant, "you did it!", which I sure could be heard outside of the bathroom.

I unlocked the stall door, washed my hands, dusted myself off - both literally and figuratively - and led Hallie out of the bathroom and back to our seats. I didn't dare make eye contact with anyone in the building, and I sure as hell didn't look at anyone's shoes.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Weekly Wrap-Up (8.16.13)

I have back-to-school business on the brain this week, both because I spent the last two weeks writing school safety posts for the Red Cross and MomsEveryday and because back-to-school season has actually arrived.

As much as possible, I avoid the commotion and attempt to alleviate stress and anxiety (the only detail I worry about is getting all of Will's allergy and asthma medications and paperwork squared away before the first day of school) by starting early, taking care of just a little something each day, and avoiding that pesky sure-to-make-you-feel-like-a-crappy-mom-if-you-don't-establish-loads-of-creative-and-extravagant-back-to-school-traditions website, otherwise known as Pinterest. But on occasion, when I've unintentionally let my guard down, the stress and anxiety creep up behind me and...pounce.

When I read this article, my heart broke. I wept tears of sadness for this little girl and for her family, her mom and dad in particular, who had done absolutely everything right in an attempt to protect their daughter from the poison that ultimately took her life. And then I wept tears of fear for my little boy.

I try my damnedest not to draw unnecessary attention to Will's severe peanut allergy; the last thing I want is for his food allergy to define him. But today, could I draw attention to it for just one moment? Please help schools and teachers protect the nearly *six million kids (that's approximately one in every 13 children under the age of 18, which means that on average, two students in every classroom are affected), like Will, who suffer from life-threatening food allergies by following schools' food rules and restrictions, and teaching your children their role in keeping friends with food allergies safe. (More information is available through the Food Allergy Research & Education "Be a PAL and Protect A Life" program, but the basics include: 1) take food allergies seriously, 2) don't share food, 3) wash hands after eating, 4) talk to friends about their allergies, and 5) call for help immediately if friends start to get sick.)

Thanks for letting me work out that stress and anxiety here, friends.


One Simple Change
On a lighter and more positive note, here is a heart-warming and eye-opening story about one man - a real-life Mr. Holland - who fought the trends, took a leap of faith, and risked his entire career to save an elementary school and the students who now call it home.

Check out these 19 back-to-school-themed failures. Some will make you laugh out loud, others will make you cringe, and all will make you worry about the future of our nation's children...
This might be my favorite.
You know what I'm talking about, right?

MomsEveryday: Back to School Safety
Looking for back-to-school safety tips? From the personal information kids need to know, to travel to and from school, to backpack and classroom and playground tips, this post covers everything you'll need to know in order to prepare your kids for a safe school year. Let's make this year a great one!

MomsEveryday: A Harsh Wake-Up Comment
In case you missed it the first time around, MomsEveryday ran my post about the nastiness that inevitably arises when you put your life out there on the internet for the world to see. Though the subject and theme of the post caused me a great deal of anxiety initially, I rather enjoyed the writing and reading/rereading processes (during which I learn the most about myself) on this one. And while I didn't expect this to be the case, I'm quite fond of the finished product as well.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Throwback Thursday (School Days)

My summer of Throwback Thursdays is quickly coming to an end. Next week I'll wrap up the series with a slightly different throwback-themed post: I plan to link to the piece I wrote - as a high school senior - that began me on the path to becoming a writer. And since that post will be text heavy, today's post revolves around the photos. Back-to-school photos.

I wish I had yearly back-to-school pictures of myself and my little sister, if for no other reason than to laugh at what we wore on those oh-so-important first days of school (planning for, shopping for, and assembling those first-day-of-school outfits took weeks, am I right?), but unfortunately very few exist. I do, however, still have the dress - which my mom made and I adored - that I wore on my first day of kindergarten. Here's my gal Hal, modeling it.
Hallie apparently adores my kindergarten dress as well - she put it on this
morning for the picture, and she's still wearing it now, seven hours later.
A close-up of the fabric, the pleats, and the flower buttons.
Someday I'll convince my mom to let me take all of my official school pictures out (for scanning purposes) of the framed arrangement in which they're displayed in my parents' living room. When this finally goes down - crossing my fingers for summer 2014 - I'll bring back Throwback Thursday for one final missing teeth + braces + glasses + miles of bangs extravaganza.

All of the pictures below were taken the night before or on Will and Hallie's first days of school. I hope they someday appreciate the virtual scrapbook their daddy (who for the first four years of Will's life and the first two years of Hallie's life took 90% of the responsibility for photo taking, video filming, and blog writing) and I have compiled for them. 
In 2007, "back to school" meant "tailgate with 
my parents at University of Michigan football games".

In 2008, "back to school" meant "continue going to daycare".

In 2009, Will officially started preschool and Hallie 
continued "supervising" her fellow babies at daycare.

In 2010, Will attended his second year of preschool and Hallie, well, 
Hallie convinced her Daddy to let her wear her swimming suit tutu to daycare.
(Back then, Tom was responsible for getting the kids out the door in the morning.)

In 2011, Will started his final year and Hallie started her first year of preschool.

And lastly, in 2012, Will started kindergarten and 
Hallie embarked on her second year of preschool.

I can't wait to add to this series in just over a week - 1st grade and preschool (again), here we come!