Friday, February 28, 2014

It's (his) Time to Shine

Between September and December, every trip to Target included a lengthy stop in front of the toy department's Disney princess display. It wasn't the costumes, the accessories, or even the dolls themselves that Hallie found so enticing…it was a plastic, purse-shaped, purple karaoke machine of sorts that played songs sung by the newest Disney princess, Sofia.

Months of practice in the Target aisles meant that when Santa delivered Time to Shine on Christmas morning, Hallie Claire already knew just what to do with her new toy.

Sofia music played on repeat every day of our Christmas vacation stay in Nebraska - many who'd never previously heard of Sofia now know all of the words to most of her songs - and now, two months later, Hallie still sing duets with Sofia every day…whenever she's not singing medleys of songs from Frozen or The Sound of Music, of course.

After watching the videos above, my sister, Sara, bought Lily Time to Shine as well. The girls sang quite a few beautiful duets during our visit, but it was another child who unexpectedly had the most fun with Time to Shine...

I love that little boy tremendously, even more so now that I know he'll someday sing musical theater duets with me.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Surprise, Surprise

While I could write a lengthy list of positives associated with living in Texas, I could also put together a list of negatives. Atop that list of negatives - perhaps second only to lizards - is the distance between our family of four and our extended families; my parents live in Wisconsin, my sister and her family live in Illinois, and Tom's family members reside in Nebraska, Tennessee, and Vancouver, Canada.

I attended college 150 miles from my parents' home, and by the end of my first semester I knew that distance to be the perfect separation between a new college student and her parents. I lived close enough that I could easily drive home for a weekend or even a single overnight, and if we both felt up for it, my mom and I could split the three hours driving time and meet halfway for lunch. I lived far enough that I didn't have to worry about my parents showing up on my doorstep unexpectedly and catching me…I don't know…NOT STUDYING.

My parents did actually show up on my doorstep unannounced once during my sophomore year. They knocked on my dorm room door, set an outrageously well-stocked Easter basket on the floor where I couldn't possibly miss it, and then hid down the hallway. Best surprise ever.

I miss my parents - and my sister, her family, and Tom's family - tremendously. We make a valiant effort to get together as often as possible, but plane tickets are expensive and car travel takes days. Not a week goes by that I don't wish we lived close enough for our loved ones to join us for Sunday dinner or to attend Will and Hallie's birthday parties. Close enough to babysit so that Tom and I could go out on a date with the expense of a babysitter, or to just show up on our doorstep unexpectedly.

Last spring my mom planned a trip to visit the kids and me while Tom traveled for work. She'd hoped to arrive in time to walk with Hallie and me to pick Will up from school, but because of traffic she ran a little late (an exact arrival time is tough to pin down when the drive takes two full days) and Hallie and I had to leave without her. The kids and I were halfway home when I saw my mom, a couple of blocks away, rounding the corner toward us. We smiled, waved, and picked up our pace.

Then behind my mom appeared an excited toddler being chased by another adult pushing a stroller. I cried out in shock and elation when I realized that my sister, two-year-old niece Lily, and four-month-old nephew Carter had made the two-day journey with my mom.

It was a wonderful surprise, and I knew that someday I would "return the favor".

Fast forward to last weekend...

Sara planned to hold Carter's first birthday party on the Saturday before President's Day, which incidentally was a day off of school for Will and Hallie and therefore gave us a three-day weekend. I worked with my mom to buy plane tickets, coordinate airport pick-ups/drop-offs, and book hotel rooms (we would have stayed with my sister, but if you recall, her house blew away), all without anyone except our spouses knowing. Well, Tom didn't really know what was going on either.

On Valentine's Day evening (nothing like traveling with a few hundred of your closest friends to really bring out the romance in a relationship), Tom and I loaded the kids in the car, told them we were going on an adventure, and headed to the airport.

Our first flight - College Station to Dallas - was delayed, which meant we had very little time to get from one flight to the next in Dallas. We literally ran through the airport like the family in Home Alone, which Will found so fabulously fun that he sang Run, Run, Rudolph as he led the way through the crowds. Our second flight was scheduled to leave at 8:20pm, and we made it to the gate just as boarding should have begun at 8:00pm. Except that right as we reached the counter, the screen changed from "on time" to "delayed".

THREE HOURS later we finally boarded our second plane, and two hours after that - at 1:15am - we landed in Illinois. My dad picked us up at the airport and we drove through the ice and snow to our hotel, where I finally rolled over and went to sleep at 2:58am. I don't DO 2:58am anymore, people.

Hallie fell asleep in my arms about an hour before we boarded the second flight. After 20 or so minutes of her sweating and drooling and snotting all over me, I passed her off to Tom, who eventually carried her onto the flight, buckled her up, tucked her in, unbuckled her, carried her off the flight, and took her to my dad's waiting car. She didn't wake up until she was buckled into her carseat, and needless to say, she was confused. As we pulled out of the airport parking lot, she suddenly yelled, "stop! We forgot to get on the second plane!" She had absolutely no idea that we'd left Dallas and flown all the way to Illinois.

The trip wiped us out, but we survived. (My sister's surprise trip to see us was kind of like an episode of Survivor as well...have you ever driven across the country with a potty-training toddler who suffers from severe motion sickness and a breast-feeding infant? The combination doesn't exactly lend itself to a top-down, wind-in-your-hair, radio-blasting kind of road trip.) We rose on Saturday morning at our regular weekday wake-up time (damn you, circadian rhythms), showered, ate breakfast, and drove to my sister's house.

My dad went in first, and then a minute or two later we snuck up to the door and Will gave it a good pounding. As I'd hoped, it was a wonderful surprise. They had no idea we were coming, a feat made possible only because I didn't tell Will and Hallie - who periodically talks to Lily on the phone - ahead of time about our trip.

We helped prepare for the party, celebrated with Carter, played games, watched the Olympics, gave Carter his first hair cut, took FULL advantage of our hotel's continental breakfasts, went swimming, went to see Frozen (again), played in the gym at Sara's elementary school, and just enjoyed each other's company. Our Monday morning 5am wake-up call came much too early.

Thankfully, our flights home left and arrived on time. We spent the remainder of the day catching up on sleep and dreaming about a way for us to somehow stay here in Texas but live closer to the moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins we love so much.

Happy birthday, President Carter!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Three Years of Protest

Just a month after we moved to Texas, our Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl. We took the victory as a sign from the football universe that we were supposed to live in Texas instead of in Wisconsin - it wasn't, after all, the first time one of our teams achieved greater success without us cheering them on from the stands.

The following year (two years ago) we expected the Packers to return to the Super Bowl, so when they lost their first playoff game to the New York Giants we were crushed. On Super Bowl Sunday, the kids and I wore our Packer shirts in protest.

Last year, more of the same. The Packers won their Wild Card playoff game, but lost the following week to the San Francisco 49ers. For the second time, the kids and I wore our Packers shirts in protest on Super Bowl Sunday. I don't know about you, but I think they look not only older, but also meaner, than they did the year before.

This year the Packers barely made the playoffs and lost their Wild Card playoff game to, once again, the San Francisco 49ers. (Side note: is it weird that when the 49ers cross my mind I still think of Joe Montana as their quarterback?) And once again, the kids and I supported our team on Super Bowl Sunday. They definitely look meaner this year.

I love this tradition, especially because it serves as a reminder of how much the kids grow (in size and apparently in meanness as well) from one year to the next. Both Will and Hallie have rocked the same Packers gear since we first moved to Texas - when they were four years and 20 months old respectively - and while their shirts started off a little large, they now look comically small. I think I'll continue putting these two shirts on them until doing so is physically impossible.

As much as I enjoy football season, I felt ready for it to end on Super Bowl Sunday. Farewell football, hello March Madness! (I won the Ferris Family March Madness Bracket Competition last year, and I'm aiming for a repeat victory this year.)

Friday, February 21, 2014

High Five for Friday (2.21.14)

1. Will can finally display his Tae Kwon Do trophies, medals, and belts!

I knew I wanted to "show off" Will's Tae Kwon Do hardware, but I couldn't find a three-in-one display (a shelf for trophies, hooks for medals, and slots for belts) anywhere. Thankfully, Grandpa came through for me and both designed and built this gorgeous piece.

It took Tom and me a month and a half, but we finally hung it up on the wall a couple of weeks ago. I LOVE it, and more importantly, so does Will.

2. My "make a wish" necklace broke off!

My sister gave me a "make a wish" necklace for Christmas. The key-shaped charm (though a couple friends of mine thought the key looked like something else - check out the pictures below and decide for yourself) hung from a string, rather than a cord or a chain, thus guaranteeing that the necklace would eventually wear thin, break, and fall off.

This, however, is the point: when you put the necklace on, you make a wish, and when the necklace falls off, your wish comes true.

I donned my necklace and made my wish shortly after I received it in the mail (mid-January), and it fell off a few days ago. Now I'm just waiting to see if my wish comes true...

3. It's finally warm enough for ice cream!

Well, frozen yogurt, but whatever. I took the kids to Spoons twice last weekend (cookies and cream frozen yogurt topped with strawberries and miniature chocolate chips = my go-to order, which I consider pseudo-healthy because it includes fruit), and on the way home I discovered that a through-road - one that will allow us to safely ride our bikes the three or so miles to Spoons - opened up since the last time we'd been there. I see many a weekend bike ride for frozen yogurt in our family's future…

4. Hallie and Tom graced the cover (of the Lifestyle section) of our local newspaper!

Tom took Hallie on a date to the children's museum's annual Daddy Daughter Dance, where they crafted corsages, dined on chicken nuggets and cupcakes, and danced the night away. Apparently their dancing really stood out, because the newspaper photographer on hand at the event captured multiple photos of the two of them cutting a rug.
The photo in the newspaper.
The original photo.


5. Brian Williams and Lester Holt, rapping.

Thank you, Jimmy Fallon, for kicking off your tenure as host of The Tonight Show with a bang. More specifically, thank you for this video montage of Brian Williams and Lestor Holt working their way through Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight".

Happy Friday, friends!

Linking up with High Five for Friday!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

An Ekena Thank You (Guest Post)

Just over three months ago my sister and her family lost nearly everything - their home, their cars, and almost all of their belongings - when a tornado ripped through their town of Washington, Illinois. I used Chasing Roots to share information about the disaster and Sara's family's well-being, as well as to launch a number of financial and in-kind relief and recovery efforts. The tremendous outpouring of support from across the globe overwhelmed me, and buoyed Sara and Jeff when they were otherwise sinking.

Today's post is a message from Sara to all of you who read about their struggle and then called, emailed, prayed, donated, and/or spread the word.

Throughout the last few months our family received hundreds of generous donations. We worked diligently to document each financial and in-kind contribution, and have done our best to thank everyone who contributed in one way or another.

Along the way, however, many donations arrived on our doorstep without cards or were given anonymously…which made sending thank you notes a bit challenging. So today, we'd like to extend our deepest and most sincere thanks to everyone - especially those of you who we have been unable to reach thus far - who stood by us during our darkest hour. Although our lives were turned upside-down, we survived because your love and support lifted us up. Thank you for your care, your concern, and your generosity. We are blessed.

On a different but related note, I thought you might like an update on our family.

On the home front, we have been working with our insurance company and are finally close to agreeing on a "number". We met with a structural engineer and our builder, and are ready to move forward on our new house using the same footprint but a slightly adjusted interior layout. If all goes according to plan, we will break ground in March and (fingers crossed) finish building in September.

The most tedious and stressful part of all this, at least right now, is itemizing every single lost possession. The process makes me ache, but we are making progress.

As far as the four of us are concerned, we have settled into our new home. We absolutely adore and love living with the family who opened their doors to us. Carter and Lily have adjusted quite well, all things considered; they love having "playmates" right upstairs and are making progress with their creative sleeping arrangements.

Thank you again for your support as we rebuild our home and our lives,

Sara, Jeff, Lily, and Carter Ekena
Found in the rubble.

Read Sara and Jeff's story by clicking on the links below.


Ekena Family Updates
The Third Day
The Most Thankful of Thursdays
As the Week Comes to a Close…
The Odds are in Johnny Football's Favor
Find the Silver Lining
What are the Odds?!
One Step Closer
One Last Thanksgiving Request
Washington Strong
Washington Strong(er)
Wake Up Wisconsin

Monday, February 17, 2014

Officially a (Library) Card-Carrying Member

Two years ago, my oldest signed up for and received his first library card. For a child who loves to read and who, since he knew of their existence, treated books reverently, a library card seemed like the logical next step in his relationship with all things literary. 

Two weeks ago, my youngest asked to sign up for and receive her first library card. For a child who has only in the last month developed an interest in reading (thank goodness!) and whose relationship with books was not-so-long-ago disrespectful and violent, a library card seemed risky…kind of like giving a no-limit credit card to 14-year-old. I consider library cards an important childhood milestone though, so letting Hallie apply for one was a risk I was willing to take. 

Before we set out on our adventure (I honestly consider every trip to the library with Hallie comparable to a chapter in a Choose Your Own Adventure book), Hallie practiced writing her name for at least 20 minutes. She knows how to print both "Hallie" and "Ferris" and has for quite a while, but she writes her letters like a typical four-year-old: BIG. Because library cards have only a very small and short line on which card-holders must write their names, Hallie's practice session had more to do with shrinking her letters than it did learning or practicing her letters.

Then we talked about what to expect. I reminded her that she would need to write her full name twice, and that when she did so she would be promising the library to never rip up any take good care of their books and always return them on time. I reminded her that if she lost any of the library's books, she would be responsible for paying the fine with real money because the library no longer accepts dresses as a form of payment. I reminded her that once she had a library card she would be considered a "member" of the library, and that library members must always talk in quiet voices (no yelling or singing loudly), walk (no running), and be patient at the check-out desk. Somewhat surprisingly, Hallie still wanted to "try for" her library card after all of these reminders.

After we selected our books, the kids and I walked up to the counter and asked if we could sign Hallie up for a library card. The librarian looked Hallie up and down (images of Hallie wreaking havoc on the library no doubt swirling around in her head), took a deep breath in through her nose, and asked Hallie if she could write her first and last name. "Yes! Yes, I can!" Hallie replied excitedly. The librarian had no other option than to let Hallie give it a go.

Just like when Will signed up for his library card, the process took a day and a half because 1) the librarian moved slower than molasses and 2) it takes Hallie approximately 36 hours to write her full name twice. I ate two meals, slept for a few hours, and knitted a scarf right there at the counter.

I may jinx myself - and Hallie - by writing this, but...against all odds, my girl rocked it that day. She listened politely to everything the librarian explained to her, neatly printed her name twice, waited patiently while the librarian processed all of the paperwork, and said thank you after receiving her card. Maybe, just maybe, she finally outgrew whatever condition she'd developed that made her act out at the library.

Will, on the other hand, decided that - at least on that day - someone needed to pick up where Hallie'd left off. He could NOT stop "accidentally" bumping into his sister while she was trying to write her name and consequently spent most of the that trip to library in time out. 

Officially a card-carrying member of the BCS Public Library System - quite a milestone for this little girl.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Dad has Green and Mom has Blue: A Valentine's Day Poem from Me to You

To warm up after getting out of the shower on cold, Wisconsin winter mornings, I used to wrap myself up in towels and sit on the floor in front of (but a safe distance away from) our bathroom space heater. Since the warming process took quite a few minutes, I passed the time - six-year-olds get bored, y'all - by going through my parents toiletry drawers in the bathroom vanity. I came across all kinds of interesting devices and products - from razors and shaving brushes to cuticle trimmers and eyelash curlers - that baffled me, but for some reason I found my parents' deodorants most intriguing. It's best not to ask why I felt drawn to parents' deodorants because I have no answer to that question.

They both used Ban deodorant, and while the base containers looked the same, my dad's deodorant had a green top and my mom's deodorant had a blue top. I checked on the status of their deodorants nearly every day, rolling them up and down to see how much product remained and smelling them to determine which scent I preferred. Again, I cannot explain this behavior.

One day my mom found this poem - written on a scrap of notebook paper and folded into a neat little square - on her pillow.

Dad has green,
Mom has blue.
I love you, 
And that is true.

My mom asked me if I'd written the poem, and when I answered in the affirmative, she complimented me on my writing and hung my poem on the refrigerator next to a note I'd written to let her know I'd cleaned my ears "for her" while she'd been at work one evening. (Lucky woman, my mom, to have kids who wash their ears even she's not home.) She never questioned the subject of the poem or asked about Dad's Green or Mom's Blue...I simply assumed she really "got me" as a writer.

Fast forward 25 years, to me standing in my parents' kitchen, chuckling at the poem and the note that still hang in a place of honor on their refrigerator. My mom asked what I found so funny, and I commented on how strange it was that I'd chosen deodorant as the topic for my first poem. She gave me a puzzled look, and I pointed to the poem. "I wrote this about your deodorants," I reminded her.

"What?", she questioned, clearly not at all in the know.

I ran upstairs to my parents' bathroom and rifled through their vanity drawers until I found their deodorants. Yes, the packaging has changed slightly over the years - all Ban deodorants are light green now - but the colors associated with the previous packaging are still used to distinguish scent. When I pulled out the two sticks I noted that the front of my dad's deodorant had a green stripe on it and the front of my mom's deodorant had a blue stripe on it.

I handed my mom the two deodorants and pointed out the blue and green stripes. "Dad has green and Mom has blue," I explained. She burst out laughing, and admitted to never having had any idea what the heck I'd been referring to in my poem so many years earlier.

The morals of the story are many. First, inspiration can be found anywhere you're willing to look. Second, I am terrible at poetry. Third, even terrible poetry stands the test of time.

Happy Valentine's Day, friends. I love you and that is true.

Valentine's Day is also my parents' anniversary and my sister-in-law's birthday. Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad, and happy birthday, Chandi!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Worth Watching (and Reading) Wednesday

Each week I come across two or three testimonials, stories, articles, compilations, memes, pictures, and/or videos that speak to me. Depending on the content, I may email the links to my family members and friends, share them on Facebook, or post them to Pinterest or Instagram. I try to spread the information, inspiration, and humor, but in a way that doesn't make my friends delete my emails before reading them or block me from their news feeds.

This past week, however, nearly everything I stumbled upon on Facebook, Youtube, and the internet had an impact on me. I laughed out loud, smiled through my tears, and reflected on how my words and actions might be perceived by those who don't know me well. I needed a boost, and the universe gave me one by placing certain words and pictures directly in front of me.

And so in case you find yourself in need of an emotional pick-me-up, a mental reset, an authentic laugh, or reassurance that the kindness and generosity are still all around us, check out a few of the links below. I promise you won't be disappointed.

We've all been there:
Dear New Girl at the Gym

Texas A&M demonstrates once again why it deserves it's reputation as a class act:
An Honorable Scholarship

When penguins slip and fall on the ice they make much cuter noises than I do: 
Adorable Penguin Wipeout

They are "stepping in, every single day, and altering the trajectory of our world":
Teach On, Warriors

Hope for all those who fear the peanut:
Fighting Back Against Peanut Allergies

I could watch performances like this one all day:
Drum Line Rock

Jimmy Fallon joins Danny, Jesse, and Joey for a creepy but perfectly executed Full House family reunion: 
Full House Reunion

Incredibly important words for all parent volunteers to read: 
When Elite Parents Volunteer

Though you've likely watched quite a few good commercials this week (thank you, Budweiser, for making me cry AGAIN), you may not have seen this fantastic one - titled "All is Right" - by Footlocker:
Footlocker Commerical

Monday, February 10, 2014

Enough Already

I think most of us have grown tired of winter. Many Southern states - most of which receive very little precipitation and even less snow throughout January, February, and March - have dealt with multiple ice and snow storms for which they find themselves dangerously unprepared. Many Northern states, even those that regularly operate with a "business as usual" mentality throughout the winter months, have reached their breaking points: schools have used all of their allotted (plus taken many more) snow/cold days, cities have exhausted their salt and sand supplies, and emergency responders have stretched their personnel, physical, and financial resources to their breaking point. Uncle, Mother Nature. UNCLE.

I find it almost comical that winter didn't bother me much when winter looked and felt like...winter. Until we moved to Texas, I understood and accepted that starting in late October and until late March, I wore a coat. I wore boots. I wore a hat, mittens, and a scarf. I bundled my babies before I took them outside. I started the car long before I actually had to pull out of the driveway. I shoveled snow before and after work. I paid an exorbitant heating bill every month.

But now, midway through my fourth (?!) Texas winter, I expect mild temperatures and clear skies. I expect the schools to remain open and my kids to go outside for recess. I expect light jackets and a fire in the fireplace on cool evenings to be enough. (And to be honest, I kind of feel like we deserve all that, given that our July, August, and September temperatures reach highs documented otherwise only on the sun.)

And so when Mother Nature throws Wisconsin-like winter weather and stormy skies my way, the anxiety sets in. When the schools close or delay, or when my kids - especially Will, who desperately needs to physically exhaust himself multiple times each day - aren't allowed to go outside for recess, I get grumpy.

For some reason the weather I loved as a Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan resident makes me not very nice here in Texas. I think I need therapy.

This is what the first half of January in Texas looked like:

I may have worn pants and a light jacket on the day pictured above, but the weather was plenty warm enough for the kiddos to thoroughly enjoy the day's rain shower, accompanying street streams, and a good, old fashioned noodle battle.

And this is what the second half of January/first half of February looked like:

Temperatures in the low 20's with wind chills in the teens. Snow accumulation and sheets of ice on the roadways. (Made worse, of course, by the fact that in Texas, no one owns a shovel and the cities have no plows or sand/salt trucks.) Terrible back-ups on the highways and deadly accidents. No recess, school delays, and school closings.

Oh, the anxiety. Oh, the grumpiness. Last Thursday morning a snow and ice storm that should have triggered a snow day but somehow didn't (even Tom and I, who know how to drive in bad weather and on snowy, icy roads, thought school should have at least been delayed for two hours) made my morning awful. I was sitting in my car in the HEB parking lot - long story short, Hallie and I stopped to buy her a Lunchable because her backpack and lunchbox were in Tom's car - and I confessed to Hallie (poor thing, having to moonlight as her mama's therapist) that I felt like I was going to lose it. Sweet little girl, she smiled and replied, "it'll be OK, Mama. Just drive slowly on the ice and stay away from idiots on the road."

It's possible I may have called a few inexperienced (with winter weather driving) drivers "idiots" throughout the past couple of weeks…

She then added, "and today is the best day EVER because I get to go to school AND have a Lunchable for lunch!"

I'm trying really hard not to let all this winter/weather nonsense get to me, and comments like those from my Hal Gal certainly help buoy me when I feel myself sinking. So do afternoons spent enjoying hot chocolate around the kitchen table and watching my boy brave the winter weather like a true Northerner.

But that doesn't mean we're not ready for spring. Enough already, Mother Nature. ENOUGH.

Friday, February 7, 2014

High Five for Friday (2.7.14)

1. She did it!

Last Friday Hallie Claire decided she was ready to get her ears pierced. As soon as she'd made her decision, she marched right up to the counter, placed her "order" ("I'd like to get my ears pierced, please"), and never looked back. Well, she looked back a little - through tears - after the first ear…but she pulled herself together and eventually walked about of Claire's with bee-ee-u-tee-ful "diamonds" in both ears. You can read the full story and see more pictures here.

2. I recently discovered one of the benefits - if you can call moving slower and therefore making oneself easier to trap a benefit - of "winter lizards" over "summer lizards"!

After trapping trespassing summer lizards under buckets, I immediately begin the lengthy and elaborate process of transferring them back to their native out-of-doors. These little critters are so fast and frantic that I worry they might, with a burst of adrenaline that produces super-lizard speed and strength, escape from my bucket trap and become loose in the house once again. (Erin's worst nightmare = lizard/snake/scorpion/frog in the house but exact whereabouts unknown.) But because winter lizards move with a lethargy seen previously only in school-aged children being dragged out of bed on Monday mornings, I feel safe leaving them trapped under my bucket until Tom gets home from work.

Well, I feel safe leaving them trapped under my bucket once it's secured with a game that weighs half as much as Hallie.

High five for not having to suck this pokey little lizard up into the vacuum cleaner!

3. I finally found an art-related activity that Will enjoys…glue gunning!

Will had to create a craft project - using 100 items found around the house - for his 100th day of school. As usual, Will teared up with frustration when he received this assignment because, more than anything in world, he hates art. I tried desperately to come up with an idea Will could at least tolerate, and had nearly given up hope when he finally agreed to my suggestion that he attach M&Ms to a gumball machine cut-out…using a glue gun.

Yes, he complained during the tracing and cutting and glue-sticking phases of the project, but when I handed him the glue gun he worked enthusiastically until the 100th M&M had been attached. From this point forward, any and all art-related work assigned to my first grader will involve glue first, all other supplies second.

After discovering Will's love for glue-gunning, I hid my glue gun and the glue sticks just in case he should feel the urge to work in the middle of the night or when I'm not home and end up gluing the refrigerator shut or himself to the toilet seat.

4. This pic made me laugh out loud - I love my hometown for the beer, the cheese, and the weather.

5. And last but not least, I'll leave you with my favorite photo montage of the week: 25 Types of People You See at the Gym, courtesy of eBaum's World. As a regular gym-goer, I have seen more than half of the activities and people captured in these photos in real life. I haven't seen Batman on the treadmill though, and I really want to see Batman on the treadmill...

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Let's Go Ride a Bike

Will first tried to ride his bike without training wheels the weekend after his fifth birthday. Though at one point Tom let go of the bike and Will stayed upright for a second or two, Will never actually rode that day. Instead, and staying true to his well-established track record of not accomplishing any goal or reaching any milestone until he is as emotionally and mentally ready as he is physically ready, Will ended the attempt in a heap on the grass with tears streaming down his face.

At his request, Tom and I put Will's bike away and made no reference to it for weeks.

A few months later, a friend of mine lent Will her daughter's balance bike. Will rode the balance bike around on our patio for six weeks, at which point - at about five-and-a-half-years old - he announced he felt ready to try his two-wheeler again. Tom and my dad took Will to the end of our street, which because of its gradual slope is a perfect place for beginning bike riders to start out, gave him a push, and let him fly. He rode like the wind - much faster than I felt comfortable with, given his lack of biking (and braking!) experience - and never looked back.

I'd heard previously about the benefits of balance bikes, but watching Will go from terrified, non-rider to confident, independent rider after less than six weeks of just playing around on one convinced me. We put Hallie's two-wheeler with training wheels in the attic and gave her a balance bike. And just like Will, in a few short weeks she could coast on the balance bike for the equivalent of a block and I knew she was ready.

Nerves nearly got the best of her at first, but after her daddy talked her down off the ledge she agreed to give it a try as long as promised not to let go.

As you can probably see in these pictures, from that very first moment she rode her bike on her own. She wouldn't admit it, nor did she believe Tom when he repeated the phrase, "you're doing it all by your big girl self!" over and over again, so he continued to hold onto her bike as she rode up and down the street in front of our house.

Eventually we rode up to the park, where she finally granted him permission him let go. (Riding on the grass made her feel a little more confident as she knew it would hurt less if she fell.)

The next day she rode without Tom's help but with Will's enthusiastic support on the cement for the first time.

This all went down about a month ago, and since then Hallie's progressed to riding around our entire, very large block without stopping. Needless to say, Tom, Will, and I are tremendously proud of her.

The problem lies in the fact that Hallie learned to ride without training wheels at a considerably younger mental age than Will. At five-and-a-half, Will could understand brakes and traffic and signaling. At four-and-a-half, Hallie understand nothing except staying upright. She doesn't quite grasp braking, assumes all traffic will stop for her, and won't let go of her handle bars. She rides like a blind bat out of hell and with an awareness of nothing except the pavement in front of her.

The only solution we've come up with so far is for either Tom or me to run - and I mean RUN - right next to her so that we can grab her handlebars as she approaches corners and intersections. Both Tom and I consider learning how to brake a top priority and are working with her every weekend because, let's be honest, while this temporary solution works, keeping up with an adrenaline-charged, four-year-old bike rider on foot is exhausting.

I smile when I think about both of our kiddos accomplishing this feat and how their reaching this milestone is now woven into the fabric of our Texas experience. But perhaps my favorite part of all this was watching how patiently and kindly Tom helped each child overcome their fears, develop a sense of confidence, and eventually take flight. He deserves every ounce of pride he so obviously feels.