Friday, May 30, 2014

High Five for Friday (5.30.14)

A quick programming note: I plan to contact the winners of my most recent give-away (free downloads of the song "Rescue Me") this weekend. My apologies for the delay in getting the download codes distributed!

1. Summer Vacation officially begins at 12:45pm. My friend, Mandi, and I have a little something special (a Pinterest idea, of course) planned for our kiddos this afternoon, and I can't wait to see their faces light up when they come around the corner and see the personalized tubs full of (inexpensive) summer-themed goodies waiting for them on our front porch. I promise to post pictures next week!

2. The city's public swimming pools FINALLY open tomorrow! If you need me or the kids, you'll find us enjoying the warm sun, the cool water, and the clam-shaped slide at our neighborhood pool on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Live in the BCS area? Suit up and join us!

3. Tom and I have a date tonight! Other than a 90-minute pseudo date to Sam's Club (because that's how we roll) in April, we haven't been on a date since DECEMBER. The spring semester always runs Tom ragged; he works late (and late for Tom is 2am, not 7pm) at least a few nights a week, spends every Sunday at the office, and when he is home, he spends much of his time reading journal articles, writing exams, or grading papers. (We may have misunderstood what we were getting ourselves into with this career path…)

Tom makes a valiant effort to attend the kids'  baseball games, Tae Kwon Do graduation ceremonies, and dance recitals, but there's very little time for the four of us to spend together - let alone time for Tom and I to go out just the two of us - beyond those "special events". Tonight, however, we're going out no matter what. Woo hoo!

4. Though many associate LeVar Burton with one or both of most well-known roles - Kunta Kinte from ROOTS or Geordi La Forge from Star Trek: The Next Generation - I remember him as the friendly host of Reading Rainbow.

Reading Rainbow went off the air in 2006, and now LeVar Burton is the face for a new a Kickstarter Campaign to bring Reading Rainbow back. Not to television, because as the campaign states, they're trying to reach a new generation of digital natives. But to the internet, where the digital library and video field trips will be accessible on any device and where specialized classroom versions will be available to teachers. The campaign's monetary and literary goals are ambitious, but not unrealistic, especially if all of us who grew up with Reading Rainbow jumped on the bandwagon.

If you're interested in learning more, click here.

And just because, here's a clip from the absolute best (or at least my and my sister's all-time favorite) episode of Reading Rainbow EVER.

Update: I just read (as I type this on Thursday morning), that it took only half a day for the Reading Rainbow-loving community to raise the full $1,000,000 needed to bring this fantastic program back to life. Clearly I'm not the only one who loved spending afternoons taking looks inside books with LeVar. 

5. Happiness Highlights:
My boy eats ice cream now. If you've followed Will's/our journey
with food allergies, you'll understand how monumental (and for
this Wisconsin girl, exciting) this development is for our family. 
My girls eat ice cream too. Lily refused any flavor other than oatmeal
cookie, but since oatmeal cookie contained nuts (she's also allergic to
peanuts), that flavor wasn't an option for her. In front of Lily I ordered her
a single scoop of oatmeal cookie, and then I whispered to the employee
to give her a single scoop of vanilla instead. Lily had no idea.
Me, my Lily, and my Mom at Hallie's preschool graduation ceremony.
I'm a terrible aunt for including this picture here, but watching
and listening to Lily SCREAM at Chuck E. Cheese - especially
after she begged to stand next to him on the stage - was hysterical. 
A little preview of what her teenage years will look like...
…and a reminder that those years aren't quite here yet. (Thank goodness!)
Happy Friday, friends!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Currently: April/May 2014

And the musical of the month is…Annie! Hallie first heard snip-its of the catchy musical numbers during a movie theater preview - the next remake hits theaters on Christmas - and because she immediately wanted to learn Maybe, Tomorrow, and It's a Hard Knock Life, I've been singing (what I remember of) these songs on repeat.

It WAS a hard knock
life for tween Erin...
As one would expect, I lived through my fair share of rough moments/days/weeks as a tween. During these patches, my mom, in a valiant effort to cheer me up, would often sing to me. But she didn't just sing any song…no, she always sang, "it's a hard knock life, for Erin". Back then I hated it. Now I find it entertaining, so much so that I tried it out on Hallie the other day. Luckily for me, she found it entertaining as well and hearing her name in the song immediately cheered her up. I wonder how long I have before the tides turn and she can no longer stand my tendency to (attempt to) solve problems with show tunes...

In April I consumed approximately 427 Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Easter Eggs. In May I ate 0 Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Easter Eggs and went through withdrawal.

I regularly drink the following beverages: water, black coffee, skim milk, fruit punch-flavored Spark, Blue Moon, an occasional Sprite Zero or Coke Zero, and an occasional Crystal Light lemonade or peach tea. I have been regularly consuming these beverages for quite a while now, and I need to introduce something new (and preferably healthy) into the mix. Any suggestions?

I feel like it shouldn't have taken me 15+ years to discover that Old Navy sells "tall" versions of their layering tank top and basic t-shirt. The mailman has been working overtime delivering packages of these inexpensive staples to me so that I no longer have to worry about what I might expose when I shop the lower shelves at the grocery store.

Thankfully, I feel considerably more settled than I did when I wrote the February/March installment in the "Currently" series. We finally know (as much as any of us ever know) what the next three years of our lives will look like, at least as far as Tom's career and our city of residence are concerned. We also know that the next three years will challenge us as individuals and as a family, but given a choice, I'd choose challenge over uncertainty any day of the week.

My children are so desperate
to swim that they'll do so on
a cold day in the pouring rain.
The weather throughout the month of May has been perfect…perfect for swimming, that is. Too bad the CITY OF COLLEGE STATION (yes, I'm calling out our city's powers-that-be) refused to open the city pools for public swimming until May 31st because "doing so - maintaining the facilities, paying the lifeguards, and heating the water - costs too much". Never mind the fact that the city actually is maintaining the facilities and paying the lifeguards for lap swimmers, school parties, and private birthday parties… And whoever heard of needing to heat pool water in Texas?!

On my list these days: a new swimsuit (don't we all want a new, flattering swimsuit?), a date night, and an afternoon - just one afternoon - throughout which Will and Hallie don't fight with one another. Too much to ask, I know...

I really need to get the ball rolling on a couple of projects in our bathroom, but I HATE making decisions about home decorating and remodeling. Does anyone want to choose a new shower surround, shower door, and shower/bath/sink fixtures for me? Does anyone want to decide if I should update the counter tops and flooring - and then if I should update, choose said counter tops and flooring - for me? Please help me.

Hideous, right? This shower is in BAD shape.

I also need to come up with a plan for the summer months that will allow me to 1) maintain my (slightly pared down) writing schedule and follow through on my existing writing commitments, and 2) go to the grocery store without my kids in tow. Seriously people, taking Will and Hallie with me to the grocery store - even for just a couple of items - requires the same mental stamina and patience as reasoning with a toddler and the same physical strength and determination as bathing a cat.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about how unfortunate for today's high school and college students that the styles of the 1980's seem to have returned. A couple of weeks ago I visited the TAMU for a blood drive, and while there I saw a student wearing…I can barely describe the outfit without suffering from horrible flashbacks…a flowered, waffle-knit henley under denim shorts overalls. Those of us who lived through the styles of the 80's and early 90's really should band together and stop these young people from making such terrible fashion mistakes.

Aside from the surprisingly oppressive and frustrating politics associated with both Little League Baseball and preschool dance recitals, I truly enjoyed parenting my children through their spring extracurricular activities. (Well, baseball rolls on, thanks to numerous rain storms that postponed multiple regular season and tournament games.)

Back when Will and Hallie first starting "doing stuff", I tried to get them to do the same stuff - particularly soccer, since my foot-eye coordination has always been far superior to my hand-eye coordination - in an effort to keep our after-school schedules as simple as possible. Turns out the kids wanted nothing to do with soccer and everything to do with sports and activities that 1) the other despised, and 2) fell outside my comfort zone. Along the way I've had to overcome my aversion to baseball, Tae Kwon Do, and little girls dancing (no really, at one point I strongly disliked three out of the four activities in which my children currently participate) because baseball, Tae Kwon Do, and little girls dancing make Will and Hallie happy. And let me tell you, nothing beats the look of jubilation on Will's face when his bat connects with a 40MPH pitch or he nails a jump front kick, and I can't help but beam when Hallie twirls and plies and taps with a perma-grin plastered across her face.

Yes, it's been a good spring.

Monday, May 26, 2014


Ahhhh, a three-day weekend. After the go-go-go of May, I needed a holiday. My children needed a holiday. We all needed a day on which we could allow ourselves - without feeling guilty and without negative consequence - to just rest.

I realize, of course, that today - Memorial Day - isn't about rest, or about having the day off from work or school; today is about recognizing the brave men and women who have fought to protect our freedom and preserve our way of life.

The rest, and the day off from work and school, are important to me though. The slow-down that accompanies a National Holiday rejuvenates and replenishes me, and the break from my everyday responsibilities provides me with the time, energy, and mental stamina needed to spend at least a portion of my day giving thanks for - and teaching my children about - all those who courageously and selflessly made sacrifices in the name of the American Dream.

I am grateful for it all.

"Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."

~Melody Beattie

Friday, May 23, 2014

High Five for Friday (5.23.14)

1. Hallie came home from school with a tummy bug* on Monday, and it broke my heart to see her both so physically uncomfortable and so sad about missing even a few hours of her last week of preschool. Thankfully, whatever ailed Hallie only lasted a few hours (though she wasn't allowed to return to school on Tuesday morning only 23 hours - and not the required 24 hours - had passed since she'd thrown up) and she quickly turned back into her usual enthusiastic, vibrant self.

*Does anyone else avoid labeling their kids as "sick"? Both Will and Hallie have a flair for the dramatic, and if I describe them as sick (even if they're not) they act sick. So instead of using the word sick, I focus on the actual ailment - tummy bug, ear infection, allergies, etc. - to keep the drama to a minimum.

2. While at home with Hallie and her tummy bug, I set her up to watch a movie so I could get a little work done. She couldn't decide what to watch, so I suggested the original Annie and she happily agreed. I expected her to lose interest, wander out of the living room, and only return to the television when she heard the songs begin, but she stuck it out and LOVED nearly every one of the 182 minutes. (She missed a few minutes here and there when I fast-forwarded through or distracted her from Ms. Hannigan's drinking and promiscuous behavior.)

When Will was young(er), Tom used to talk excitedly about one day introducingWill (and any additional children) to Star Wars. I, on the other hand, used to dream about one day introducing our children to Broadway musicals. And let me tell you, listening to Hallie belt out "Tomorrow" at the top of her lungs in the canned goods aisle at Target is just as fabulous as I dreamed it would be.

3. My mom and three-year-old niece, Lily arrived on Wednesday evening for a four-day visit. Will and Hallie knew that their grandma was coming but had no idea Lily was traveling with her (Lily didn't know either, at least until she and Grandma arrived at the airport in Peoria) and they have loved having Grandma and Lily in tow for all of their games, activities, and events.

 4. Speaking of events… Yesterday my little one - my five-year-old Hallie Claire - graduated from preschool. Kindergarten, here we come!

5. Happiness Highlights:
Practicing her dance routines in the mirror during the TAMU ISEN Graduation
Reception. (Interestingly, two different international students' families asked to
take pictures with Hallie because they found her - likely her hair - so intriguing.)
Who says you can't perform musical numbers
from Sofia the First on the walk to school?
Will treated Hallie so kindly during her six-hour tummy bug.
Sound asleep midway through the second chapter of
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Keeping a Tasty Tradition Alive

When we arrived in Texas the kids and I began the tradition of cooling off with a Dairy Queen treat on the first day the temperature reached 90 degrees.

This year, shortly after Dairy Queen commercials began running regularly (in early February, because who doesn't love an Arctic Rush, Chiller, or Blizzard in the dead of WINTER), Will and Hallie began checking the weather regularly. Mother Nature teased them mercilessly throughout the end of March and much of April - the mercury would rise to 88 or 89 degrees for a couple of days in a row, and then drop back down into the 60s for the remainder of the week - but she finally gave in.

After devouring their Star Pops, the kids were sticky, still hot, and riding a massive sugar high, so I sent them outside to wash my car. They did a terrible job - Will scrubbed the entire vehicle but managed to remove absolutely no dirt, while Hallie focused all of her energy on one two-inch square of tire - but I couldn't have cared less because they worked played together and didn't fight at all for nearly 45 minutes.

Now that's the kind of tradition I can get behind!

I just discovered, when I went back to my post about the first 90-degree day in 2013, that I actually made the kids wash my car on "Dairy Queen Day" last year as well. It seems the tradition has officially grown to include not just ice cream, but also dousing your sibling in ice water!

Monday, May 19, 2014

We Survived

First, please accept my sincerest thanks for your overwhelming support after last Monday's post - "Deep Breaths, Deep Breaths" - about my experience at Hallie's dance recital rehearsal.

On that day I knew, as soon as my heart stopped racing, that I would write about the encounter. I thought about that blog post throughout the entire rehearsal, and on the drive home my fingers tapped frantically on the steering wheel, trying out countless words and phrases and sentences to determine which would eventually find their way to the computer screen. The weight on my shoulders felt much lighter when I finished the post, but my heart skipped a beat or two when I hit "publish".

I had no idea how my choices, the dance studio representative's approach and request, and my response to her approach and request would be viewed. And a small part of me - the part of me that occasionally worries about what other people think - fretted, at least until the responses…the tremendously positive responses...started coming in.

So thank you, again, for letting me share my troubles and for lifting me back up. Because of you, I was able to enjoy Hallie's actual dance recital this past Saturday afternoon.

Speaking of…

Oh, my girl. She knows how to put me through the ringer, that one.

Midway through applying Hallie's make-up, I noticed tears in her eyes. Instinctually, I gasped and exclaimed, "OH NO! Please don't cry!" She, however, apparently heard, "Cry! You must cry!", and then tears - along with blue eye shadow, brown eyeliner, and black mascara - started rolling down her artificially rosy cheeks. Tom and I tried everything we could think of to make her laugh (or least slow the waterfall), but nothing worked. Hallie just needed a good cry and we reluctantly let her have it.

After I fixed up/finished her make-up, Hallie started putting on her tights. Again I saw tears in her eyes, but this time I encouraged her to "look up", one of our favorite tricks to avoid crying at weddings. Looking up worked until we pulled into the parking lot next to the auditorium.
As Hallie climbed out of the car, she stopped dead in her tracks and stared at me, a panicked look on her face. "Oh my gosh, I'm gonna cry. I'm gonna cry. I can't stop it!" she confessed. Sure enough, huge crocodile tears spilled out. "I don't know what to do. I can't stop. It's too late. I've ruined my make-up", she sputtered. It broke my heart.

The best I can come up with is that the excitement of the day rose to an unhealthy level in her, and when she found herself emotionally overloaded, her only coping mechanism was to cry it all out.

Hallie cried for a full 10 minutes after leaving the car, until we were finally in the dressing room and I'd fixed her make-up, given her a butterfly kiss, and lovingly bribed her with "magic Tic Tacs". She smiled after one. She smiled even bigger after two. When I left Hallie in the dressing room with her teachers, I put the Tic Tacs where she could find them and told her that if she felt like she was about to get upset, she could have another one.

Those Tic Tacs must have worked their magic, because she nailed both of her dance routines. Thank. Goodness.
I tried to stay "in the moment" during the recital; I didn't take any video and
only took this one photo. I did, however, take videos during the rehearsal,
so if you'd like to see them you can check out our YouTube Channel here.
And after the recital, when I went back to the dressing room to pick Hallie up, she told me she'd needed "a couple" of Tic Tacs. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered that she'd actually eaten more than 40 of them. Whatever works, I guess…

The 2013-2014 dance season has come to an end, and while I'm grateful for the experience we had this year, I'm also grateful for the summer vacation coming our way. Hallie on the other hand, is already counting down the days until the 2014-2015 dance season begins because, in her words, "I love the stage".

A couple of "shout outs"… First, to Hallie's dance teacher, who heard about what happened at the rehearsal and apologized to me (even though she had nothing to do with it) after the recital. Her support meant a great deal to me. Second, to the "room moms" who stayed in the dressing room with and entertained the kiddos before and during the recital. Their job was not an easy one and did a fabulous job.

Friday, May 16, 2014

High Five for Friday (5.16.14) + a Giveaway!

This week's High Five for Friday covers the last two weeks since I swapped out High Five for Friday with my Mother's Day post last Friday.

1. My sis-in-law's new single - "You Rescued Me" - is now available for download on CD Baby! According to the CD Baby website:

"You Rescued Me" is the epitome of a feel-good song. Whether you're singing this to a lover, best friend, or family member, this song rings true about someone for everyone. Fresh sound, catchy hook, honest lyrics, and killer live production!

You can preview and/or purchase the song here.

Not only that, she's giving away free downloads to 10 lucky Chasing Roots readers! To enter, click here to "like" her artist page on Facebook and then let me know that you've done so by liking this post on Facebook, commenting on this post on Facebook, commenting on this post directly, or sending me an email at I'll draw our winners at 9pm CST on Monday, 5/19.

2. Each Easter, "Mom" Easter Bunny fills the baskets belonging to Will, Hallie, and Tom with assorted treats and goodies. "Dad" Easter Bunny, on the other hand, has no idea the holiday is even approaching until the day before and never remembers to put anything in my basket. And because "Mom" Bunny worries that the kids will ask questions if my basket is empty, she usually tosses in a few chocolate eggs and jelly beans on her way to her next task.

But this year, "Dad" Bunny brought me a present. A very nice present. A High Five for Friday present.

(The ring didn't fit me at first - I have teeny, and apparently very wrinkly, fingers - but I had it sized and finally got it back last week, which is why it's just now making an appearance on a HFFF post.)

3. If these pictures of Hallie (what do you mean you don't wear your fluffy pink tutu to the ballpark?!) and her sweet friend Johnny sharing a snow cone don't melt your heart, I don't know what will. (Hallie would want me to acknowledge that I tried - unsuccessfully - to come up with a Frozen joke to insert here.)

I love watching these two play together while their older brothers tear it up on the baseball diamond.

4. Will made me a coupon booklet for Mother's Day, but he accidentally left the booklet on his desk as he packed up his backpack last Friday afternoon. He felt terrible about forgetting my gift, and assured me that the coupons would be in my hand as soon as he came home from school on Monday.

On Monday afternoon, Will unpacked his backpack and proudly handed me three small slips of paper stapled together. You can imagine my surprise when I (mis)read the first coupon.
To clarify, this coupon reads, "I will tuck you in bed".
After the initial shock (which I of course hid from Will) wore off, Tom, my sister, and I had a good laugh about Will's first-grade penmanship. And then I carefully stored the coupon so that I can show it to Will when he's much, much older...

5. Happiness Highlights
Deep in thought in her secret garden.
Rock Prairie Spirit Night at Fuddruckers.
Love my boy, love me a good cheeseburger.
Girl LOVES her donuts…just like her mama.
A sweet sibling moment. (There are so few…)
I've complained enough about dance this week - here are a few adorable pics of Hallie and her sweet friends to balance out all that negativity.

 Happy Friday, friends!

Linking up with High Five for Friday!