Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Yearly Wrap-Up - By the Photos

The paragraphs and statistics are no doubt valuable, but as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Here are about 28,000 words worth of pictures...a glimpse back on 2013 through the lens of my camera.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Yearly Wrap-Up - By the Words and Numbers

At the end of each year I like to spend a little time reading through old posts and noting - thanks to the statistics feature associated with the blog - which topics were well-recieved (and which topics weren't, for that matter) by you, my readers. I have always written and will continue to write in my own voice, and I know how important it is that my blog remain a true representation of who I am, but I want my words to reach out in a way that you find interesting and engaging.

On that note, here are the year's 10 most popular (based on views) posts:

This list does not include posts written for other websites or blogs, or posts written about the Washington, Illinois tornado relief and recovery efforts.

And here are a few of my personal favorite posts:

Thank you for reading, for following (if you haven't already and would like to do so, just click on "Join this site" in the "Followers" box on the righthand side of the homepage), and for sharing Chasing Roots with your friends and family. I am extraordinarily grateful.

Friday, December 27, 2013

High Five for Friday (12.27.13)

1. We survived our 15-hour road trip through the horrific ice storm that battered two thirds of the country last weekend. While the storm certainly wasn't the worst we - as lifelong Midwesterners - had ever driven through, it made for two very long, stressful days in the car. Throughout Oklahoma and Southern Kansas, we saw between 20 and 30 accidents, consistently drove 25 MPH below the posted speed limit, and stopped frequently to cool off (we had to run the defroster on high - power and heat - to keep the windshield free of ice) and clean the quickly-accumulating ice off of the windshield wipers. It's always a relief to reach a road trip destination, but I felt comfort and gratefulness beyond relief when we finally pulled into the driveway.

2. The light weather system that passed through on Saturday night only dusted the ground, but a dusting of snow is better than no snow at all! The kids could barely contain their excitement when they awoke to winter, and so even though the temperature outside hadn't yet reached double digits, the three of us headed out to shovel the patio, play football, and build a snowman. Hallie named him Olaf.
The snow wasn't quite right for building snow people but Hallie couldn't have cared less.
3. Speaking of football, to call Will obsessed would be the understatement of the year. And since the snow isn't deep enough for Will and me to make our traditional swimsuit snow angels (I'll make swimsuit snow angels, but I won't make swimsuit dirt-leaf-snow angels - I have standards, people), we've decided to play a (very quick) game of swimsuit football. Pictures to come next week!

4. Christmas. Just Christmas. I love the season, the day, watching my children celebrate Jesus' birthday (according to Aunt Jenna, who's currently sharing a room with Hallie, Hallie awoke at approximately 4am on Christmas morning and began quietly singing "Happy Birthday Jesus"), and spending our time away from work and school with extended family. And as much as I try not to focus on the gifts, I adore watching Will and Hallie's faces light up when they finally see the treasures Santa left beneath the Christmas tree.

Ok, so it's just High Four for Friday. That'll have to do, because it's midnight and this girl is ready for sleep. Happy Friday and enjoy your weekend, friends!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

2013 Christmas Photo Shoot Outtakes

As always, they start the photo shoot a bit unfocused.

A few photos that came close to making the cut, but because someone looked at the wrong daddy (seriously, how hard is it to look at your daddy while your mama takes your picture?!) or couldn't keep their eyes open all the way.

I always take at least one picture of them from behind, holding hands. I thought this one looked alright at first, but when I opened it up on my computer I realized I was wrong - the light shining on the back of her head makes her hair look bumpy, and for some reason I think her outfit makes her look like an old lady.

I couldn't try again because they ran away from me. She took the lead initially, but eventually he caught up with and passed her.

And then we had this. So, so much of this.

I assumed - incorrectly - that these photo shoots would get easier as the kids grew up, but thus far they're only becoming more and more difficult. (Two years ago, no problems at all. Last year, she fell in a muddy marsh. This year, they fought like cats and dogs and she cried for 30 minutes straight.) At least they're cute...

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Love in Action

"Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it's Christmas."

~ Dale Evans

Make today about love. Show love, share love, embody love. Do all things with love.

Merry Christmas, y'all!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Ho Ho Ho, Y'all

I hope that you and your family have enjoyed a happy and healthy holiday season.

Until November 16th, 2013 had been a busy but peaceful year for the four of us: Tom worked hard, the kids played hard, and I coordinated it all like it was my job. But on that Sunday morning, a vicious tornado destroyed the home my little sister Sara shared with her husband, Jeff, and their two little ones. They escaped with their lives, thank goodness, but with little else. This crisis reminded everyone in our family that life is not about things, but people, and this holiday season we hold each other just a little tighter.

Will, who turned seven in early October, is an active, outgoing, independent first grader. To hear him tell it, he enjoys school when it comes to math, science, music, and computer lab but could do without art of any kind. Outside of school, my competitive and athletically inclined boy loves Tae-Kwon-Do, baseball, flag football, basketball, running, biking, video games, Beyblades, and Legos.

This fall we saw a new side of Will, a side that tests boundaries and questions authority. To put a more positive spin on things, he’s begun to stand up for himself, ask questions, advocate for more responsibility, and ask for a more heavily-weighted say in how, with whom, and where he spends his time. I see less and less “little” when I look at him, and while it breaks my heart to bid farewell to his younger (and perhaps better behaved) years, I love the boy Will is becoming.

Hallie, now four-and-a-half, is a confident, articulate preschooler with a passion for music and dance. When she’s not performing musical numbers or tap dance routines, Hallie spends her time coloring, painting, baking, accessorizing her stuffed animals, and challenging herself with self-assigned math homework. She’s given up on soccer for the time being, but she loves gymnastics and seems to have developed a knack for running. This summer she learned how to swim (defined simply as “make forward progress in the water”) and she’s very close to riding her bike without training wheels.

It seems that finally, after two long years, Hallie is…dare I write the words?...learning to control her wildly unpredictable emotions and fiery temper. Hallelujah! She’s a beautifully complicated blend of sweet and spicy, fueled by both passion and reason, and I love quietly watching as she takes on the world.

This December marks the end of Tom’s third year as a professor at Texas A&M University. His days are long and at times overwhelming, and more than ever he appreciates the opportunity to spend his free time (what little there is of it) at home with family and friends, at the gym, on the disc golf course with his league buddies, and on the baseball field as the coach for Will’s baseball team.

I continue to write for the National American Red Cross blog and MomsEveryday, and still enjoy keeping up my personal blog – which in April received a significant facelift to better serve as my writing portfolio – and our family blog. I look forward to one day branching out beyond the writing topics and style with which I’m comfortable, but I don’t anticipate finding the time to do so until Hallie starts kindergarten. On the other hand, I may decide to fill my newly-gained “free” time with a completely different kind of commitment…more regular substitute teaching, increased involvement at the local Red Cross, or even a new part-time job are on all on the table.

I have many goals for our family in 2014, but the most important one is to slow our lives down, if even just a little, so that we have more time to travel and stay home and talk and laugh and play with one another. Time passes so quickly these days, and my hope is that by embracing a slightly less chaotic lifestyle we can more fully appreciate our beautiful journey.

We wish you and yours a peaceful and joyful holiday season.

With love,

Tom, Erin, Will, and Hallie     

Click here to see Will and Hallie's Santa pictures from years past.             

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Christmas Scale

"The best news in the world is found by playing a simple scale on the piano. Joy to the World, the Lord is Come."

I hope this beautifully simple but powerful message lifts your spirits and guides you into this week of celebration and love on the right "note".

Friday, December 20, 2013

High Five for Friday (12.20.13 - A December to Remember)

1. Our tree tilts ever so slightly to the left, and the tree topper could fall at any moment, but both look beautiful none-the-less. The stockings are hung by the chimney with care, and the fireplace roars to life every evening. The lights framing our front entryway hang more elegantly than ever before (to be clear, our lights don't necessarily hang elegantly, they just hang more elegantly than in years past), and Will turns them on every evening as soon as the sun dips below the horizon. Yes, it's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

2. Our annual drive (in our pajamas) to count Christmas lights didn't go quite as well as we'd hoped - we tried in vain to find our "winning" house from last year and the little one fell asleep from boredom - but the cookies and milk we enjoyed on our drive were delicious!

3. We attended multiple Christmas parties, including one at Hallie's preschool and Christmas at the Creek, where we watched Will's friends Kaylee and Danielle dance and the kids went down the tallest inflatable slide I'd ever laid eyes on. Seriously, the slide was three stories tall. Hallie climbed the ladder and started down the slide with no problem, but as soon as she left the safety of the platform, she kind of bounced up in the air (she didn't weigh enough to stay firmly on the surface of the slide) and screamed - a terrified, not excited, scream - the entire way down.

4. Tom and I took the kids to see The Nutcracker for the first time. Ballet Brazos, a local nonprofit organization with which Hallie's dance studio is affiliated, put on its second annual performance of the traditional ballet last Saturday afternoon. Will and Hallie both knew a number of kids in the show, so we made it a point to purchase great seats and show our support. The ballet itself was lovely, but this was my favorite part of the afternoon:

I honestly can't look at this picture without tearing up…when did my boy get old enough to bring a girl flowers?!

And while I'm certainly not encouraging these two kiddos to grow up any faster than they already are, I love this little mouse and wouldn't be at all upset if in 10 or 11 years I was taking a similar picture of her and Will on their way to prom.

5. This adorable little firecracker - my niece, Lily - turned three this week. It seems like just yesterday she joined the family, yet at the same time I feel like I've always known and loved her. Happy birthday, Uncle Lily!