Thursday, October 31, 2013

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I Can't Take Them Anywhere

Sometimes it's just too much, you know?

Last week I took Will and Hallie to Chick-Fil-A for an early dinner before Will's karate lesson. Because of the early-bird-special time of day, the restaurant was nearly empty; a 20-something man dining alone and a couple in their mid-40's were the only other customers.

As I stepped up to the counter to place our order, I instructed Will and Hallie to gather napkins, utensils, and sauces and choose a table near the indoor play area (so that after we'd finished eating I could keep an eye on them while they ran off steam on the jungle gym). As they scampered off I went about the business of ordering.

When I turned around after having placed my order, I saw them. They'd followed my instructions with regard to gathering what we needed to accessorize our meal and choosing a table, but that's where the good ended and the oh-so-uncomfortable began. Out of the approximately 40 or tables in the nearly-empty restaurant, Will and Hallie had selected the booth right behind the couple (who up until that moment had been enjoying a quiet conversation over their chicken sandwiches). And in an attempt to prove to the couple that I'd never taught them any manners of any kind, Will and Hallie were doing this:

(Thank you to Tom for helping me reenact the scene by portraying the female member of the couple.)

Both Will and Hallie had draped themselves over the back of the woman's seat/bench, with their heads hanging down by her butt. And while I didn't recreate this detail in the photo above, on that day Hallie's teeny tiny butt was covered only by her teeny tiny princess underwear. It was as if she planned this humiliation ahead of time, so much so that she removed her little shorts on the way to the car. (I found them, right inside the back door, when we arrived home later that evening.)

I gasped and made some sort of yelping noise that, while loud enough to startle the Chick-fil-a employees, didn't prompt Will or Hallie to even look up. Then from across the restaurant and in a voice that I hope conveyed my shock and disapproval to the innocent bystanders within earshot, I demanded that Will and Hallie remove themselves from this poor woman's personal telephone booth of space. They obliged, but did so begrudgingly.

I made my way to the table and began to apologize profusely to both members of the couple. The woman smiled at me and replied, "don't worry about it at all. I didn't even notice they were there at first, and then it took me a few seconds to realize they weren't our kids!" She nodded her head toward the play area and I followed her line of sight toward three, toe-headed kids of similar ages to mine who were wildly chasing each other up and down the slide. "We've been there," she added.

Side note: I certainly appreciated her nonchalance about the whole Will's-face-just-inches-from-her-butt circumstance, but really, who doesn't notice two kids literally crashing your dinner like that?

I'm so grateful the people Will and Hallie chose to basically harass happened to be kind, understanding parents. That doesn't mean I've ever setting foot back inside Chick-Fil-A again though.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Time for Some FUN.

A few months ago Tom and I bought tickets to see FUN. perform at The Woodlands (an outdoor amphitheater located about 25 miles north of Houston). Though crazy excited when we purchased the tickets, my enthusiasm had waned significantly by the time the concert rolled around. Not because I cared any less about the band or their music, but because the concert fell on a Sunday. 

On a "normal" Sunday, I clean the house, write and send all of my school and baseball emails, finish my Monday through Wednesday blog posts, make lunches for the week, prep dinners for the week, and finish the laundry. I usually tackle this lengthy list of chores starting in the late morning after church and/or an outdoor outing with Tom and the kids, and I continue working into the early evening hours; on this particular Sunday, however, I had to finish everything by 2pm. I had to make sure that care for our kids had been squared away. (They played at a friend's house until 7pm, when this lovely and gracious friend dropped them off at our house and their care was taken over by an equally lovely and gracious babysitter.) I had to spruce myself up, which, as the three peeps with whom I live can attest to, I rarely do on Sunday afternoons/evenings. And last but not least, I had to manage the dread I felt knowing that a late Sunday night followed by a painfully early Monday morning would in no way make for a good start to the week.

I'd begun to consider skipping the concert all together.

I've mentioned previously that I deeply regret not taking advantage of all Michigan had to offer while we lived there. In just a few short hours we could have driven to and enjoyed Lake Michigan, Silver Lake Sand Dunes, Mackinaw Island, and the Upper Peninsula, but excuse after excuse - too busy, buying a house, moving, working on the house, pregnant, newborn baby, toddler, second newborn baby, potty training get the picture - kept us close to home in Ann Arbor.

I remembered this feeling - knowing I'd allowed incredible experiences to pass through my fingertips - the afternoon of the concert, and decided to stop worrying about the chores I wouldn't finish and how late I'd be up. It was time to see something new, to do something different, to expand our Texas horizons.

We made the right decision.

The 90-minute drive to The Woodlands cut through the flat, brush-covered landscapes we now consider familiar, but also past unexpected stretches of rolling hills, towering evergreen trees, and glistening lakes. We drove through typically-Texan small towns - typical in the sense that the high school football stadiums put almost all college football stadiums to shame - and were surprised to find ourselves considering day trips to further explore these "diamonds in the rough".

As relatively new Texans, we knew the The Woodlands only for its outdoor amphitheater and shopping mall, so you can imagine our surprise when we arrived and discovered that the area is actually one of American's first and now finest master-planned communities. We spent two hours prior to the concert walking around the Town Center and marveling at all the area had to offer - restaurants and bars, shopping, entertainment, outdoor art and water fountains, green spaces, a waterway and small lake, boat rentals, water cruisers (essentially waterway taxis), and trolleys - and repeating over and over how we simply hadn't left home early enough to experience even one block's worth of this bustling city center.

I've since learned that The Woodlands spreads far beyond the Town Center and is considered a completely sustainable community. Multiple residential neighborhoods that host parks, playgrounds, golf courses, schools, hospitals, and religious congregations blend seamlessly into the Town Center and its amenities, and, well, I want to live there. The Woodlands reminds me of my childhood home in Madison, Wisconsin, where I could walk from my house in a safe, residential neighborhood to school, the park, the zoo, the beach, the grocery store, shopping, restaurants, the University of Wisconsin (including all major sports venues), and the hospital (where my mom worked), all in under 15 minutes. Both Tom and I can't wait to visit The Woodlands again with our kids; we must have said, "Will and Hallie would love that!" at least 10 times during our short visit. 

And the concert? Incredible. The opening bands were nothing to write home about, but FUN. lived up to and far surpassed its name. I'm not an expert (though I'm not a novice either), but I found the three young men who make up the band - and their supporting cast of characters as well - to be some of the most talented and entertaining musicians in the business. 

Quite a few musicians survive on talent alone, and even more "make it big" because along with talent, their passion for music comes across to their audiences. FUN. takes it a step further. The talent is there. The passion is there. And more so than any other band I have ever seen in concert, they absolutely, positively LOVE what they do. They have FUN. and it's amazing to watch.    

This concert reminded me that life isn't always about getting all of our chores done and going to bed on time (though it's alright for life to be about those things some of the time - our kids were up too late on both Friday and Saturday nights and so the first part of this week is all about going to bed on time). I feel like we've done a decent job of getting to know our city throughout the last three years, but now we need to start making time in our busy schedules to get to know our area. (I'd say state, but let's be honest, I'm not taking a weekend, 10+ hour road trip to West Texas.) It's time to push both our literal and figurative boundaries.

Here are a couple of pics from our night with FUN. They're terrible, thanks to the florescent lighting prior and darkness during the concert, so my apologies for that. (The pictures are also only of the screen, because I didn't want to take the time to zoom my phone camera while all of the musical greatness was going on around me.)

As cheesy as it sounds, I hope that whatever you're up to this week, you have an opportunity to use your talent, fuel your passion, and do something you love. And if you feel up to it, push those boundaries a little!

Friday, October 25, 2013

High Five for Friday (10.25.13)

 photo H54Fbutton-1_zpsa7aaa665.pngI mentioned last Friday that I planned to try something new this week, and now here we are. Today (and for at least the next few weeks), instead of a weekly wrap-up, I'm going to link up with High Five for Friday. High Five for Friday (H54F) - hosted by Lauren Elizabeth, a blogger I read occasionally - is an opportunity to reflect on the past week and then document five favorite experiences, moments, accomplishments from those seven days.

So without further adieu, here we go!

1. My Gal Hal loves to create. (And destroy, but let's talk about that side of her in a separate post. Oh alright, I'll link you to proof herehere, and here. Oh, and here too.) She could spend all day lost in her own little world of coloring, drawing, painting, cutting, pasting, stickering, and glittering.

On Tuesday night Hallie's preschool hosted its annual Art Show. When we arrived in her classroom, Hallie took my hand and led me from one table to the next, showing off the many different projects she lovingly created. I could see how proud she was of herself, and I hope she could see how proud I was of her as well.

2. Will and I enjoy a monthly lunch date at his elementary school. I joined him for our October lunch early in the month on his birthday, so he didn't expect to see me when he walked into the lunchroom on Wednesday morning. The look on his face, the excitement in his voice...I wish I could bottle seven-year-old Will so that one day, perhaps when he reaches the teenage years and wants as little to do with his parents as possible, I can uncork the bottle and enjoy the memory of what a sweet little Mama's Boy he used to be.

3. Starbucks technically serves Caramel Apple Spices year-round, but I only allow myself to order this delicious drink when there's a "chill in the air" (and once a week). In Michigan I usually enjoyed my first Caramel Apple Spice at the beginning of September, but here in Texas, September temperatures - even those in the early morning - rarely sink below 75 degrees. Not exactly chilly.

The daytime temperatures still reach the upper 70s or low 80s, but the gradually descending nighttime temperatures have finally made it possible for me to drink warm beverages again. As I headed out the backdoor to walk Will to school that first cool morning, I knew that whatever plans I'd previously made for the day were null and void, at least until I had Caramel Apple Spice in hand.

It was so worth the wait.

4. This - a wonderful glimpse into the very special relationship shared by father and son - is just the best. When he cried, I cried. When he laughed, I laughed. I highly recommend you cry and laugh along with him.

5. And this is pretty cool too.

I hope your week deserved a high five!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Burning House

October is National Fire Prevention Month, and while researching the topic for an American Red Cross blog post I stumbled upon a website called "The Burning House". The site's creator asks readers to "balance practical against valuable and sentimental" by considering what they would take with them if their house were on fire, and then photograph their selections and submit to the site the photograph along with a description of the items.

I thought this sounded like an interesting exercise, especially if a cap - say 10 - were placed on the number of items allowed. How does one decide between clean underwear and a toothbrush? Photo albums and the camera that captured the images? The watch your mother gave you as a child and the earrings your husband gave you on your wedding day?

I meandered through every room in my house, weighing the - per the site's creator - practicality of some items against the value and sentiment of others. In the end, I narrowed my list down to these 10 items:

I selected these 10 items assuming that all members of my family were safe.
  1. Purse. Including my purse feels a little like cheating, as it contains a number of items I'd otherwise need or want to include (Will's epi-pen and inhaler as well as my wallet, medications, and sunglasses), but the purse itself is technically just one item so it requires just one slot on the list. 
  2. Laptop. I could live without and eventually replace my cell phone and tablet, but my laptop? Absolutely not. My laptop is an extension of me - it connects me to my friends and family, is essential to my career, and guards the stories and photos I want to remember in the years to come - and losing it in a fire would be devastating.
  3. "Important Documents" folder. My practical side insists on including the folder in which I store all of our birth certificates, social security cards, marriage license, etc.
  4. Emergency Preparedness Kit. My practical side also insists on including my Emergency Preparedness Kit (not pictured), which is stocked with food, water, a first aid kit, a weather radio, flashlights and batteries, an emergency blanket, a tarp, maps, duct tape, and activities for the kids. Including the kit feels similar to including my purse, but since I carefully packed the kit more than a year ago and it's contained in one carryable tote, it only takes up one slot on my list.
  5. Winnie the Pooh. My mom and dad gave me Pooh Bear after we were in a car accident when I was just a month old. I slept with him tucked under my left arm nearly every single night until I graduated from college, and after that I kept him close by in my nightstand. I love him.
  6. Roar. In times of sadness, struggle, and/or uncertainty, Will's beloved Roar gives him comfort.
  7. Blankie. Hallie never attached to a stuffed animal or lovey the way Will did, so I'd bring her blanket to help her feel safe and secure.
  8. Jewelry (in the little blue zipper purse). I'd bring the diamond earrings Tom gave me the night before our wedding, as well as two rings and a pair of earrings I had made out of a diamond and sapphire ring that once belonged to my Grandma Hallie.
  9. Wedding photo. I don't have a digital copy of my favorite photo from our wedding, so the framed print would be clutched in my hand on my way out the door. 
  10. Camera. I'd bring my camera, not because it's expensive or because I consider it a "must have", but as a symbol of starting over and the joyful experiences to come.
What would you bring?

The Red Crosser in me absolutely must mention that in the event of a fire, you should immediately get out and stay out. You should never delay evacuating or reenter a burning building to collect your belongings, no matter how valuable they are to you.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fast Forward Seven Days

Though the figurative climate (and the actual weather) throughout the last seven days vacillated frequently between sunshine and rain, the final tally at the end of the week following my "something's gotta give" rant was decidedly positive.

On Monday we "celebrated" Columbus Day, which meant no school for the kids. Yes, additional hours at home led to a significant number of sibling arguments, and our evening was no less chaotic than usual, but the absence of two drop-offs and two pick-ups made me feel as though I had all the time in the world. The kids and I enjoyed a leisurely brunch together, and while they watched an afternoon movie and then played outside in the backyard, I finished the laundry, wrote a blog post, and filed months of accumulated paperwork. And after Will's karate lesson and Hallie's gymnastics class, we all sat down to dinner together.

This is what Hallie looked like after playing outside.
That's chalk. It was surprisingly difficult to remove.

Due to poor weather and field conditions, the youth baseball league cancelled Will's only scheduled baseball game, and because his instructors had traveled to the National Tae-Kwon-Do Tournament, Will only had one karate lesson. As much as I love watching Will play baseball and practice karate, the unexpected free evenings at home felt like Christmas presents.

Will still managed to fit in a little pitching practice.

The temperatures finally dipped into the 50s/60s at night and the 70s during the day, and this small yet significant change, along with the splendidly refreshing rain showers that passed through our area, dramatically improved my mood. (I've often wondered if there exists a condition equal but opposite to Seasonal Affective Disorder. If it does, I suffer from it.) I love feeling a chill when I walk out the door in the morning, and even more than that, I love not arriving home after picking Will up from school drenched in sweat.

With sweaty palms and a shaky "voice" (over text - I couldn't bring myself to have the conversation in person), I told a friend "no" when she asked me to volunteer for an activity I didn't feel comfortable doing. In the moment I felt terribly guilty about turning her down, but afterwards I felt empowered. And I'm pretty sure this friend doesn't hate me because I chose to, just this once, protect my time.

I felt so relaxed thanks to the day off, the bonus free time, the change in the weather, and my new-found assertiveness that the "extras" on the calendar for the week - Will's parent/teacher conference, Will's seven-year-old doctor's appointment, a weeknight birthday party, baking for the elementary school's teacher appreciation luncheon, volunteering at the elementary school book fair, and preparing for weekend company - didn't phase me.

And this comment, left by a friend of mine on my Facebook page, boosted my spirits even more:

Thanks so much for sharing. I was actually thinking about this earlier today... What I've learned about being a SAHM is that some people will expect you to volunteer for everything. Some will probably even try to make you feel bad for "not working." But just as you mentioned, there is a reason you work part time instead of full time; it's the same reason I'm a SAHM. Our husbands work ridiculous hours! But if we say yes to every single thing that comes down the line, we will be spread too thin, and suddenly we won't have anything to give to the people who need us most, our families and friends. Picking and choosing isn't selfish, but rather it allows us to give more to the projects to which we've said yes, and it allows us to have enough left to be successful in our main jobs - holding together a family, a marriage, caring for a home, rearing our children, and making sure that we're actually caring for ourselves.

(Thanks, Emily!)

I was flying high when my in-laws arrived on Friday for a weekend visit. I adore my in-laws (and I'm not just saying that because they read the blog), and I cherish the time the four of us spend with them. Just like my parents, they make a tremendous effort to stay in touch with - both virtually and in-person - our kids, and I love that Will and Hallie really know their grandparents, even though both sets live so far away.

Friday night reading with Grandpa.

So much good. So much peace. So much different than the week before.

The problem with all this "good" is that it makes me think I should be able to add back in all that was missing this past week - a fifth day of school, two baseball games, a second karate lesson, extra volunteer responsibilities, and two additional posts here on Chasing Roots - and stay sane. But if I'm being honest with myself, I know that isn't possible.

So for the time being, I think I'll stay right where I find myself today. Busy, but not swamped. Involved, but not monopolized. Committed, but not overwhelmed. Good. Peaceful. Happy. I wish you the same as you take on your week.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Weekly Wrap-Up (10.18.13)

A Dangerous Swimming Hole
Apparently there's a lake in Tanzania that, because of its extraordinarily basic - the water maintains a pH level between 9 and 10.5 - chemical make-up, actually turns animals who swim in its water into stone. A local photographer's images of the petrified animals are as creepy as any haunted house I've suffered through and provide a perfect segway into the Halloween season...

Two Sentence Horror Stories
While we're on the topic of creepy, check out these two-sentence horror stories. (And if you enjoy the three on this first page, click on the AskReddit link for more of the same.) I don't generally like "pop-out" scares (bloodied zombies grabbing my hands in haunted houses, or worse, Will jumping up out of my hamper - where he's waited silently for 30+ minutes - when I nonchalantly open the top to toss my socks in), but I enjoy scary movies and stories, especially the kind that leave you emotionally churning or really thinking when they come to an end. These short stories fit the bill...some made me shudder, and a few even gave me goose bumps - not bad for two sentences!

Here's a taste:

After struggling desperately to move any part of his paralyzed body to alert the doctors that he was conscious before they made the first incision, he was relieved to see that one of the nurses noticed his pupils dilating from the bright light. She leaned in close and, in a whisper that tickled his ear, said "you think we don't know you're awake?"  ~ Clayboy731

When I finally grabbed her in the darkness, I swam back to the surface. It never occurred to me how fast the ice could freeze over.  ~ ADGE_S

Daily Odd Compliment
On a lighter and funnier note, check out this tumblr blog if you're in need of a daily message that kind of compliments you (or the recipient) and kind of doesn't. These are perfect to use on great friends and sisters...and now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure I've used at least a few of these things on my sister at one point or another. Thankfully she continues to stick with me, but maybe that's just because my mom told her she has to.
This one's for my sister. 
This one's for my SIL. 
Brides Throwing Cats
Cat fans will love this site because the cats are cute. Cat haters will love this site because the cats are being catapulted through the air by over-zealous brides. Either way, I think you'll enjoy "Brides Throwing Cats".

Next Week
I think I'm going to try something new next Friday - instead of a weekly wrap-up, I'm going to link up with High Five for Friday. High Five for Friday (H54F) - hosted by Lauren Elizabeth, a blogger I read occasionally - is an opportunity to reflect on your week and then document five of your favorite experiences, moments, accomplishments, etc. from it. Though I'll probably include some of my favorite links, pictures, and videos from the week like I do now, I'll also spend a little time focusing on the good that surrounds me in the every day. Come back and check it out next Friday!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Deal with the Shoes

As I mentioned on Monday, it was a simple shoe (non)incident that pushed me over the edge last week.

A change in Tom's work/travel schedule meant I had to rework my Thursday morning. (On a "regular" day, our Tuesday/Thursday mornings resemble a choreographed dance that when performed correctly, all but guarantees the four of us get what we need out of - and where we're supposed to be - during the first few hours of the day.) I don't like reworking my Tuesday/Thursday mornings, so I began the day feeling overwhelmed and with a less-than-stellar attitude.

Thursday was also picture day at Hallie's preschool, so I set my alarm to wake me a half hour earlier than usual (this may have contributed to my poor outlook on the day) so I'd have plenty of time to get her completely ready - fall-themed outfit, coordinating shoes, styled hair, and matching hair bow - before I left for the gym at 7:10am. The plan was for Tom to walk Will to school at 7:40am while I cranked out a quick workout and drop Hallie off at at the gym childcare at 8am on his way out of town. Then I'd pick Hallie up from the gym childcare at 8:50am in order to drop her off at school by 9am.

All went according to plan until I walked into the gym childcare and found Hallie wearing her adorable gray, orange, yellow, and white dress with coordinating orange leggings - the outfit in which I'd dressed her one hour earlier - and...purple and teal shoes. Those shoes were the only thing I saw when she came around from behind the toy shelf and smiled at me, and I believe I exclaimed, "WHAT. ARE. YOU. WEARING?!" Hallie knew exactly why I was upset, because as soon as I questioned her outfit, she looked down at her shoes and said, with a little too much confidence for this stressed mama to handle, "well, I didn't want to wear those silver shoes anymore. I changed while Daddy put his stuff in the car."

And that was the truth...when I called Tom he assured me that she'd been wearing the silver shoes when he'd walked out the door. That clever girl waited until he wasn't looking, changed her shoes, and then quickly jumped into the car before he noticed what she'd done.

On a normal day the completely mismatched shoes would have bothered me - sue me, I like coordinated outfits, even on kids - but not enough to dramatically alter the course of my day. But on that day, when I'd taken such care to prepare her for picture day and to rework my entire schedule to get her to school on time, I was devastated.

I knew I had to go home and get the silver shoes, but I also knew I didn't have time to do so if I wanted to drop Hallie off at school on time. My only other option was to leave purple-shoed Hallie at school, drive home to pick up the shoes, and then drive back to school before her class's 10:30am picture time slot. I settled on this course of action, until I glanced at the calendar on my phone and discovered that, unless I rearranged my entire morning for a second time, I couldn't bring Hallie her shoes.

So that - not having 30 minutes to bring my daughter a pair of shoes - was my breaking point. What kind of schedule is that?!

So while the actual event that set me off was ridiculous (and brought out the crazy in me), it served a purpose. I knew the time had come to step back, just a little. And I knew the time had come to stop buying Hallie new pairs of shoes.

Monday, October 14, 2013

It's Time.

What’s coming down the pipeline today is the result of months of overcommitment, but it was a simple shoe mishap (I’ll explain later) this past week that finally forced me to pull the trigger.

My experience with PTOs, school fundraising, and parent volunteers is limited – two years of preschool, followed by kindergarten and now first grade for Will (Hallie’s three years of preschool overlapped with Will’s last year of preschool and first two years in elementary school) – but it seems to me that during the four short years I’ve been involved, parent participation has decreased overall.

I don’t blame parents for saying “no” when the PTO calls or when information about yet another school fundraiser comes home in backpacks. Between work and school and sports and lessons and clubs and the daily responsibilities that come with just living, who has time for more?

I have this magnet on my refrigerator. Seeing
it everyday clearly isn't doing me any good.
Apparently I do. Except I don’t.

I want my children to see me in the halls of their schools. I want them to know that their education and  - and by extension, they themselves - matters to me, so much so that I'm willing to invest my time and energy in strengthening their schools' academic and extracurricular programs, supporting their teachers, and raising money to provide them and their classmates with upgraded technology, access to online educational programing, physical education equipment, and the opportunity to participate in field trips. And so I step up.

But I step up for another reason as well.

I step up because I feel like it’s my responsibility to do so. I don’t work full-time outside the home, so I should be the one to work in the classroom, coordinate class parties, and volunteer for school fundraisers. I should be the one to pick up the slack.

Shouldn’t I?

But here's the thing…I don’t necessarily work part-time because I’d rather do that than work full-time. One of the primary reasons I work part-time because my husband’s job requires him to work at least 70 hours a week. If he only worked 40 hours a week he could take on a larger role with the kids and at home (to his credit, he contributes a lot given the amount of “free” time available to him), but he doesn’t and so he can’t. 

My most important job is to keep our family and our home afloat. But because it isn’t a full-time, outside-the-home, paying position, I feel the need to cover every school-related volunteer gap…the number of which are ever-increasing because parents are overworked and stressed and finally saying “no”. I keep saying “yes” to others and falling short when it comes to buoying those closest to me.

I’m not looking for pity – I created the circumstance in which I find myself all on my own. And I’m not looking for free time to sit around at home eating bon bons and watching soap operas. (Though that does sound nice…)

But I do need a little time to tackle a few of the home projects that have been waiting more than a year for me. I’d very much like the time to weed the yard and trim the bushes, to sort through the kids’ winter clothes and figure out what I need to purchase for them before it gets cold outside, to sort and file the three months worth of paperwork sitting on my desk, to start my Christmas shopping, or to just sit for an hour and enjoy a cup of coffee with a friend.  

And I’d love a little time to actually pursue this writing thing. Yes, I write for the American Red Cross and for MomsEveryday, and I post here on Chasing Roots every weekday, but I want to take this very part-time job to the next level and I have absolutely no time to make it happen.

I feel discombobulated, like I did back in March, but now with stress added in. It’s not a good feeling, and so something has to give.

First, I need to say “yes” less and “no” more. This will be particularly difficult in the coming weeks and months, as the period of time between the beginning of October and Christmas is already brimming with school parties and fundraisers, but I worry about what I’m going to turn into if I don’t slow down. (Just last week I committed to three new school-related projects.) At the same time, I worry about what people will think of me when they ask me for help and I turn them down.

Second, I need to prioritize. We don’t have to do everything, be everywhere. Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas will still be wonderful seasons and holidays even if we don’t attend every party, parade, and festival.

And third, I need to cut back…here. I really don’t want to go this route, but unless I write less here, I’ll never write more somewhere else. So at least for the remainder of the calendar year, my plan is to post here on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I may periodically post on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or I may throw up links to our family blog (where I post on Tuesdays and Thursdays) or pieces I've written for MomsEveryday and the Red Cross, but I’m giving myself permission to skip those two days in order to work on other writing projects, fulfill my previously-made commitments to my kids’ schools, and enjoy the upcoming holiday season.

Whether this is your first or 500th visit to Chasing Roots, thank you for stopping by. Thank you for reading and laughing and crying and commenting and following (if you don't already follow Chasing Roots and would like to do so, just click on "Join this site" under Followers on the right-hand side of the page) and sharing. I look forward to checking in with you again on Wednesday, when I’m hopefully a little saner.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Weekly Wrap-Up (10.11.13)

When Will You Decide to Become a Disciple?
This is an incredible story of how one man used a very unorthodox method to teach his entire church a powerful lesson. I doubt a single person sitting in the pews the day this man walked to the altar and took his place behind the podium will ever forget that a vast difference exists between talking about and actually following in the steps of a higher power.

How to be a Grown-Up
Earlier this week Hallie told me that she wished she was a grown-up. When I asked her why, she replied, "so that I wouldn't have to play soccer anymore". To be clear, I did not force Hallie to play soccer. She played two seasons of littlest-kid soccer because she asked to do so, and when it came time to register for Hallie for her third season, she begged to take dance instead and I - hold the phone - didn't make her play soccer and let her take dance.
Clearly she HATED playing soccer.

So for those of you, like Hallie, who long to grow up, here are a few tips. (These tips come from a book titled, "How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps" by Kelly Williams Brown. I may have already reached adulthood, at least according to my age, but I think the book would be a worthwhile read.) They're sweet, funny, and oh so very, very accurate.

Powerful Pics
A beautiful compilation of powerful photographs taken throughout the last 100 years. These are the kind of photos that get me through difficult days - the ones that capture struggle and heartbreak remind me that it could be worse, and the ones that capture triumph remind me that it will get better. 

MomsEveryday: Pain
In case you missed it the first time around, or if you need a way to accurately describe the pain that comes with stepping on a Lego in the middle of the night, check out "Pain" (previously titled "On a Scale of 1 to 10, How Bad is Your Pain?" on MomsEveryday. In related news, my Legos are for sale.

Red Cross: Let's Play Ball!
Fall sports seasons are underway, which means sports injuries have begun taking their toll on our kids. Did you know that (according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control) every year, more than 3.5 million kids under the age of 14 receive medical treatment for sports injuries and high school athletes account for approximately 2 million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits, and 30,000 hospitalizations. Learn more about the Red Cross first aid class designed specifically for and available to coaches and officials (and even spectators!) here

Thursday, October 10, 2013

How You Say It: An Update on Crazy Peanut Lady

Remember the crazy peanut lady? (Let's call her Grumps.) If you read Chasing Roots regularly, you surely recall the woman to whom I refer; it's difficult to "un-see" the mental image of an angry mother driving up to her daughter's elementary school, taking a bite out of a peanut butter sandwich, and then throwing the sandwich at the front door of the school...all to protest the school's policy which, in an effort to protect children with severe peanut and tree nut allergies, prevented her daughter from bringing a peanut butter sandwich in her lunchbox.

Quite a few people commented on that post here on the blog, on Facebook, or to me in person, and a couple of the comments brought to light a related issue I hadn't before thought of and that deserves a little attention.

Grumps provided us with a perfect example of someone on one side of this conflict losing their cool. But during a meeting at her son's elementary school, a friend of mine witnessed someone on the other side of the argument do exactly the same thing.

The parent of a peanut-allergic child walked into this meeting, flew off the handle seemingly unprovoked, and demanded that the school, principal, teachers, and parents eliminate peanuts from their lives to protect her child. Now I understand this woman's fear, but by commanding others to make significant changes (the school did not have a peanut-free policy in place) without showing even an ounce of respect for them or their children, she hurt all of us - our individual efforts and our collective cause - who work tirelessly to make schools safer for kids with allergies.

Not surprisingly, this woman's demands were met with anger and frustration and an almost across-the-board refusal to comply...and I can't say I blame the parents for their reactions.

But then a second mother of a peanut-allergic child spoke. In a calm voice, she explained the challenges she and her family faced with regards to the child's allergies and then graciously asked for help from the other adults in keeping her child safe at school.

Not surprisingly, this woman's requests were met with overwhelming support and led to a discussion about how the school could navigate this trickier-by-the-day issue.

Food allergies in children shouldn't lead to fighting among parents. If anything, the dramatic increase in the number of diagnosed and the severity of food allergies in children - by definition an epidemic - should lead to parents banding together to fight against food allergies themselves.

Our collective goals should include keeping kids with food allergies safe, and they should also include raising money to fund treatment research (because for many food allergies there remains no treatment other than strict avoidance) and prevention research (we still don't know why the number of kids with food allergies has increased so rapidly during the last 20 years), raising awareness, improving education, and encouraging compassion toward and support for the cause.

We can get there. I know we can. But it'll take changes in behavior on both sides of this sticky fence.

Skip the demands and the yelling, and whatever you do, don't vandalize the school. Come to the table with an open mind and a gracious heart. Speak firmly but kindly. Say "please" and "thank you". Be flexible and understanding. Stand up for your children, but do so in a way that 20 years from now, when they ask you about that day, they'll be proud of you.

And for those of you following the crazy peanut lady saga...

Grumps attended the most recent school board meeting and pitched an (as described to me) epic fit. In front of many of the parents of the school's peanut-allergic kids, Grumps continued to argue that her daughter's picky eating habits should trump the safety of the kids with peanuts allergies. She actually said, repeatedly, "it's not that I don't care, it's just that it's not fair that my daughter can't eat whatever she wants". I'm going to climb up on that soapbox one more time and respond with a quick, "really?! 'It's not fair!' is the best argument you can come up with?! Life isn't fair, lady...even my four-year-old knows that." (Back down again.)

Though Grumps tried to appeal the school-wide policy, the school board stood their ground, stating that their "life and death" decision was final.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Few Words Wednesday: I Wrote You a Letter

Gimme a ticket for an aero-plane.
Ain't got time to take a fast train.
Lonely days are gone, I'm a goin' home.
My baby, I wrote you a letter.
I addressed my letter to my Grandpa and Grandma, and then I drew a
smiley-face stamp exactly where my mama told me the postage should go.
Then I took my letter out to the mailbox in my underwear.
(Don't judge - it's hot in Texas.)
I put my letter on top of the mailbox while I opened the mailbox door.
(It took two hands and I cried a little because I the door was so tight.)
And then I put my letter in the mailbox and went
back inside to wait for the mailman to come.
You can imagine how well it went over when our mailman came to the house and didn't take the letter out of the mailbox. I had to make up some ridiculous excuse about how there must not have been enough postage on the letter, wait for her to draw a second smiley-face stamp, put the letter back in the mailbox, and then sneak out at night and remove the letter from the mailbox.

I just hope she doesn't ask Grandma and Grandpa if they enjoyed the letter she sent...

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"I See Nothing as Promising as the View from a Ferris Wheel"

~ E.B. White

My last name used to be Mueller, which we pronounced Muller but everyone else on the planet mispronounced as Mew-ler or Miller. I looked forward to taking Tom's last name when we got married because as much as I loved my parents and extended Mueller family, I'd grown sick and tired of spelling and correcting people's pronunciation of my last name.

Turns out no one can spell Ferris either, even when I say, "Ferris, like the wheel".

Speaking of Ferris Wheels, yes, Tom (and therefore Will and Hallie as well) are distantly related to George Ferris, the inventor of the Ferris Wheel. George didn't have children of his own, but his siblings did and Tom is George's great, great, great, great, great nephew. Being related to the inventor of the Ferris Wheel is a great claim to fame, but I'll tell you what, the connection does us absolutely no good at amusement parks...we've never gotten on a Ferris Wheel for free.

My love for and fascination with Ferris Wheels began long before I met Tom and joined the Ferris family, and changing my last name 10 years ago gave me the only excuse I needed to start collecting and decorating my home with Ferris Wheel photos and prints and three-dimensional Ferris Wheels.

Most of the Ferris Wheel art throughout our house was shot, drawn, painted, or created by professionals, and as an embryonic photographer, I continue my quest to take a Ferris Wheel photo that could find a home (and not look out of place) in my collection. Last month's county fair provided me with a perfect opportunity to capture a few Ferris Wheel shots, and while none of these meet my criteria for framing, they're still a lovely connection to my Ferris family.

Interesting, Tom barely notices the 10 or so Ferris Wheels that grace our walls and sit on our shelves, and I know this to also be the case with one of Tom's Ferris cousins, who barely notices as his wife obsesses over and decorates with Ferris Wheels just as I do. They just don't appreciate their connection to George...