Friday, August 29, 2014

High Five for Friday (8.29.14)

1. On Monday morning Tom and I walked Will and Hallie all the way to their classrooms, as is customary on the first day of school.

On Tuesday morning I planned to walk Will and Hallie up to the front door of the building, but when we reached the crossing guard they both stopped, turned around to face me, and asked if they could go on alone. When I paused, fully prepared to allow them this freedom but taking a moment to compose myself, Will added, "I'll make sure she gets to her classroom, Mom. I promise." I nodded in the affirmative and they walked away, hand in hand.

2. The four Ferri were nominated (Will and me more than once) to complete the ice bucket challenge, and over the course of the last week we all took a turn under the freezing cold water.

Will and I completed the challenge at our gym, where 40+ of us gathered in support of one of our own. Here's a video a friend of mine took that day (I'm front left and wearing yellow, and Will's front right and wearing maroon):

Here's the news footage - yep, we made it on the news - of that same challenge:

And finally, here's a video of Tom's challenge:

Hallie flat-out refused to dump icy water on her own head or allow anyone else to dump icy water on her head - she's not much for cold, that one, what with her 1% body fat - but she agreed to handle Tom's ice water for him. As it turned out, she ended up dumping at least a third of the water meant for his head on her own legs, so she got a bit of a chill anyway.

Both Will and I have been challenged again, so there's a chance we'll be dumping more buckets of water and making another donation next week!


4. Last Sunday Tom didn't go to work for the first time since…well, since as long as I can remember. He always works on Sundays, even if just from our office at home. He worked the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the Sunday after Christmas, on both Mother's Day and Father's Day, and in the car on the Sundays we spent driving to and from Wisconsin. But this Sunday, we all four went to the movies (we saw and enjoyed Earth to Echo), played games, worked on a puzzle, made dinner, and watched cartoons. As Will would say, AWESOME POSSUM. (Thank you, The Lego Movie, for that phrase.)

5. In case you missed this letter - specifically meant for moms of kindergarteners, but applicable in many ways to parents of kids hitting any kind of milestone year/grade - click on over and give it a read. You deserve to hear this writer's message.

Oh wait, grab a few tissues first.

Happy Friday, friends!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

It's Good to Have Goals

After I take a week off (and by "taking a week off", I mean catching up on laundry, tackling massive shopping lists at the grocery store and Target, and finally ending my writing hiatus on our family blog), I plan to spend a few days organizing my fall schedule. Though I anticipate a great deal of week-to-week tweaking, my hope is that looking at life through the lens of a semester-long calendar and more coordinated commitments will allow me the additional time I need to expand the reach of Chasing Roots around the interwebs. Will it work? Right now I'd say the odds are about 50/50.

In the meantime, here are a few of my August contributions. Getting just these three posts out…well, it's remarkable I wrote anything at all in August, given the chaos surrounding me 24 hours a day.

Red Cross

Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Back to School for College Students
If you’re heading off to school this fall (or if you're sending your teenager off to school this fall), check out these tips to help you become and stay healthy, wealthy, and wise during your years as a college student!

Sometimes Simpler is Better
I found this particular graphic perfect for explaining blood donation to my kiddos. Much simpler than using 10 pints of water, red food coloring, matchbox cards, and a Red Cross testing facility built out of Legos


Secret School Supply List
Check out this post about the extra "school supplies" - we're not talking about markers and crayons here - I recommend picking up to help make the transition from summer vacation to a new school year a smoother one. The new school year is already underway where I live, but it's not too late to pass this list along to family members and friends for whom the summer hasn't yet come to an end!

In Case You Missed It

Bad Habits are Hard to Break
MomsEveryday picked up this piece about how my tendency to write about the weather - and perhaps complain about the heat - began long before we moved to Texas.

Girls Can't Grill
MomsEveryday also picked up this piece about how I handled Hallie's recent declaration that "girls can't grill!"

Monday, August 25, 2014

"Work Hard, Be Kind, and Please, Sweet Boy, Look Out for Your Sister"

This morning, when I drop my seven-year-old off for his first day of second grade, I will also drop my five-year-old off for her first day of kindergarten.

Doubts weighed heavily on my mind when Will started kindergarten two years ago, and those same doubts - or at least versions of those same doubts - weigh heavily on my mind today, now that Hallie has reached the same educational milestone.

What if another kid picks on or makes fun of her? What if she picks on or makes fun of another kid? 

What if she is disrespectful to her teacher or bites a classmate and gets sent to the principal's office? 

What if she has to eat lunch by herself or doesn't have anyone to play with on the playground?

What if she's picked last in gym? What if someone makes fun of her singing voice in music? What if she eats paste in art? 

What if?

Truth be told, I'm less worried about sending Hallie to kindergarten than I was about sending Will to kindergarten. For starters, I've done this before. I feel comfortable in our elementary school, and I'm more than confident in the administrators', teachers', and staff members' ability and desire to educate, protect, and love on my kids.

Next, Will and Hallie are - obviously - unique individuals. Hallie is stubborn, fierce, and passionate. She is proud, confident, and independent. She knows who she is and where she's going, and she's sure as hell not going to let me - or anyone else - get in the way of either.

I had concerns about Will being led astray (I know, I many kindergarteners are led astray by their classmates), teased, or excluded. I could be wrong, but because of what I know about Hallie's personality, these concerns aren't consuming me this time around. I have different concerns, but they have less to do how Hallie handles school and more to do with how school handles Hallie...

And last but not least, Hallie has Will in her corner. He may terrorize her - and she him - at home, but when out of my sight or care, more often than not he looks after, stands up for, and protects her like it's his job. Which it is, at least to a certain extent, as her big brother.

Last week I came across a few stories about Will and Hallie's relationship - from when they went to preschool/daycare together in Michigan - that reminded me of how much they care for one another. (Back then we hardly ever saw Tom, who was working 16+ hour days on his dissertation. Each evening I would share with him via email something interesting about our day, or something funny that the kids had done or said, just so he'd still feel connected to our family life. Then when Tom had a spare minute or two he would post these emails on our family blog so that our relatives could read about our "adventures" as well.)

Today Will and Hallie's classes were outside together, and while Will was playing on the play structure, Hallie got her finger stuck between two slats of the picnic table. She cried out (mostly in frustration - she wasn't really hurt), and when Will heard Hallie's cries he ran to her from across the play area. After hugging Hallie, he walked up to her teacher and asked/demanded to know, "Why is she crying?!" Miss Aubrey explained to Will that Hallie had pinched her finger, but Will didn't believe her; he replied, "I think she's cold. Button her coat." While Miss Aubrey buttoned Hallie's coat (Miss Aubrey told me that Will's "order" was just too cute not to follow) Will followed up his first instruction with, "But don't button the top one, because that might make her uncomfortable."

The word "sister" came up on a reading flash card, and "sister" is not a word Will immediately recognizes. He had trouble sounding it out, so I tried giving him a hint.
Erin: "Think about Hallie..."
Will: "Huh?"
Erin: "What is Hallie to you?"
Will: "Nice?"

Today the preschoolers and toddlers came in from playing outside at the same time, which, because of the sheer number of kids involved, was a little chaotic. In all the hustle and bustle, Hallie fell down. She wasn't pushed, but just stumbled because lots of older, bigger kids were moving quickly around her. Hallie started to cry, and Will, who had been at the front of the group heading inside, turned around and ran back to her. He picked her up off the ground, turned to all the kids around her (picture confused toddlers here), and yelled "Who pushed her?! Guerwens, was it you?! Nicole, was it you?!" Hallie's teacher stepped in at that point, and explained to Will that Hallie hadn't been pushed, she'd just fallen because of the traffic. Will pondered this for a few seconds, and then, in his sternest voice, said to Hallie's teacher and a slew of toddlers, "Well, be more careful next time." Will gave Hallie a hug and headed back to preschool.

Ok, so Will needed to work on how to respectfully talk to his teachers, but you get the picture.

When I hug them and kiss them and send them off to school this morning, I'll start with my usual reminder to "work hard and be kind". Then, when Hallie's not looking, I'll whisper in Will's ear, "and please, sweet boy, look out for your sister".

I know he will.

And I'm pretty sure she'll look out for him too…she considers herself the only one allowed to pick on him. 
"It seems my brother has fallen asleep."
"I shall hit him."

Friday, August 22, 2014

High Five for Friday (8.22.14)

1. School starts on Monday! I loved spending time with Will and Hallie this summer, but like most parents I know, I've reached the point at which I can no longer tolerate 24-7 togetherness. Along those same lines, even though Will and Hallie played with friends in their yoga and cardio jam classes at the gym, during their swimming, dance, and Tae-Kwon-Do lessons, and at least a couple a couple of afternoons a week thanks to playdates or trips to the pool, they're more than ready for a break from one another. I expect to cry, at least a little, as they pass through the front doors of their elementary school on Monday morning, but it'll be tough to determine if I'm crying tears of sorrow or tears of joy…or maybe a few of both.

2. Let the sun butter baking commence! Thus far we've made sun butter and banana chocolate chip muffins, puppy chow, and sun butter and cranberry granola bars. I couldn't believe how similar these treats tasted using sun butter in place of peanut butter, and I LOVED sharing them with Will.

Well, I shared some of the puppy chow with Will. I kept a lot of it for myself. I pretty much spent my weekend eating puppy chow and watching Divergent. Puppy chow? Yum. Theo James? Yum. It was a delicious weekend.

3. With the start of school just around the corner (Monday, remember?), I found this article - on what a student-designed high school would look like - particularly inspiring. I love Will and Hallie's elementary school and our school district as a whole, but I believe that our state and national education systems force teachers to focus on the acquisition of information instead of allowing them to teach children both how to learn and to love the learning process. Despite this new school's challenges, I would sign Will and Hallie up in a second.

I'm curious to know what you think about this kind of school, especially those of you who have taught or teach in a classroom now. Good idea? Bad idea?

4. Not everyone follows the Little League World Series, which I completely understand. But if you've ever thought about jumping on board the bandwagon, this would be the year to do so. The stories of strength, triumph, and sportsmanship in the face of defeat belong in a Cool Runnings/The Rookie/Mighty Ducks-esque movie.

Mo'ne Davis, only the 18th girl to have played in 68 years worth of Little League World Series tournaments, is also the first female pitcher to throw a shutout. She's also the first Little League player EVER to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated Magazine. Talk about an incredible role model for our little girls.

David Belisle, coach of the Cumberland American Little League team, shared a truly inspirational - and completely unplanned - speech with his players after they lost to Chicago-based Jackie Robinson West. (As a side note, Jackie Robinson West, from Little League's Urban Initiative, deserves it's own "rise to glory" story.) Get tissues, folks, especially if you tend to cry during sports-themed movies…

5. Happiness Highlights
I just finished this book and through I found it somewhat
odd, it provided some interesting insights on happiness.
Tom and the kids had a sleepover in the playroom last weekend. Tom
slept on the super uncomfortable futon, the kids slept in the ginormous
beanbag chair, and I enjoyed the peace and quiet of my own bed/room. 
Will wouldn't even stand next to the animals
at the Natural History Museum while I took a
picture, but Hallie couldn't get enough of them.
She was upset that I wouldn't let her
hold hands/paws with this bear...
…and that I wouldn't let her take
this wolf home with us. 
Will preferred "dead animals that look dead" over
"dead animals that look alive". To each his own...
Will and Hallie lounged like this - in complete
silence - for 20 minutes on Wednesday. It was
the most peaceful 20 minutes of my month.
The kids and I watched Cool Runnings this week. I've seen
this movie at least 10 times and I still cry like a baby when
these four carry their sled across the Olympic finish line.
Happy Friday, friends!

Linking up with High Five for Friday!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Welcome Home, Dear

Everyone looks - and has always looked - forward to the moment when Tom's car finally pulls into the driveway at the end of the day. How we greet Tom when he walks through the door has changed significantly throughout the years though, and not just because the kids have grown older…

Will: Daddy! I love you, Daddy! Let's hug 100 times!
Hallie: Dadadadadadadada! Hiyo Dada! Pease bee-a-bus!*
Erin: Welcome home! I'm so glad you made it safely, what with all that ice and snow on the roads. Come in, take your coat off, and cuddle with the kids; I'll bring you a mug of hot tea to enjoy while I finish making dinner.**

Will: Daddy! Let's wrestle! Let's watch ANW!
Hallie: Daddy! Watch me dance! Listen to me sing! I only went to timeout four times today!
Erin: Welcome home! Would you rather take care of the GINORMOUS cicada that crawled in between the screen and the glass and died or the frantic lizard that I trapped under a tupperware and Advocare Spark container?

Times sure have changed...

* "Hello Daddy, would you please sing Jingle Bells?"

** I may not have always been quite that calm when Tom arrived home from work.  

Monday, August 18, 2014

American Ninja Warrior

American Ninja Warrior - a televised athletic competition - has taken over our household. We record each new, two-hour episode every Monday night during the summer months, and then the kids and I - and Tom, when he's home - catch up on all the action on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. (ANW doesn't start until Will and Hallie's bedtime, which is why we don't watch it live.)

Will decided back in June that his summer should revolve around mentally and physically preparing for this someday challenge, and to that end he turned every playground he visited - as well as a significant portion of our house - into a training facility. He climbed rock walls and rope ladders, swung across monkey bars and rings, attempted (and eventually succeeded at performing) countless pull-ups, balanced on both stationary and moving objects, and created all sorts of obstacle courses. The beautiful weather in Wisconsin this summer helped tremendously, as we spent considerably more time visiting the city's parks than we have in summers past.
Faux-rock climbing.
He made it to the top...
…and then nearly broke a bone jumping down.
The rock is larger than it appears in pictures. When I saw 
him fly off the top I assumed he'd been pushed because I 
knew he wasn't stupid enough to jump that far. I was wrong. 
Rock wall climbing.
Monkey bars.
Balance and core strength.
He'd spin the tire swing and then alternate taking
his hands off and staying on using only his legs with
taking his legs off and staying on using only his arms.
Warped wall training.
After climbing up the "front", swinging over the top, and 
jumping to the ground, he switched gears and climbed 
up the "back" as if the structure were a warped wall.
Shelf climbing.
I had to quickly step in and put the kibosh on this activity.
Forming a mental connection with the playground.
Training on the upward slanting monkey bars.

Training on an obstacle course he created in the playroom. 
(Will wanted me to note that if he hadn't been training 
with Hallie the course would have been more difficult.)

Training in our door frames.
I had to approve certain doorways for this training exercise because 
at one point I found him trying to climb up and around the tops of door 
frames to touch our highest ceilings. I'm really hoping to avoid the ER.

Yes, I'd say my little Ninja Warrior is ready to go!

Friday, August 15, 2014

High Five for Friday (8.15.14)

1. Last week photos of both Will and Hallie were "featured" on the interwebs: Will in this Facebook advertisement for Texas State Optical, and Hallie in a The Successful Child NY blog post. They're cute, those two.

2. I would never laugh at another person's unhappiness, but I will admit to laughing out loud at this cone- and pajama-wearing cat. He looks like he's just completely given up hope…either that or he's plotting his revenge against the small child who ruined his life.

3. I have discovered the deliciousness of soy and sun butter. I realize these products have been available for years, but as a life-long lover of Jif peanut butter I've been completely unwilling to even taste them, let alone buy them and bring them into my home. But this summer my sister forced offered to let me try the sun butter and jelly sandwiches she'd made for Lily and Carter and - low and behold - they tasted incredible. Even Hallie, widely known for her incredibly picky eating habits, devoured them.

There are so many recipes - puppy chow, peanut butter banana muffins, and peanut butter chicken, just to name a few - I haven't made in nearly eight years because they call for peanut butter. I can't wait to swap in sun or soy butter and then introduce Will to all he's missed over the years.

4. When I arrived home from Nashville on Sunday afternoon, two happy kiddos greeted me at the door. These two happy kiddos hadn't bathed - not even once, though Tom claims he hosed them off in the backyard midway through the weekend - since I'd showered them on Thursday night. These two happy kiddos explained that they hadn't bathed because they'd been too distracted; when I asked for clarification, they admitted that they'd been too distracted playing the Wii, watching Lord of the Rings, eating Chick-fil-a, and staying up late. These two happy kiddos had dressed themselves that morning, Will in his usual sports-themed weekend attire and Hallie in her most expensive and saved-for-events-at-which-spills-will-not-occur outfit.

I suspect the majority of our household rules were bent over the course of my 48-hour absence, but the bottom line is that I came home to two happy kiddos. Good job, Daddy.

5. Happiness Highlights
I got to see both my sis-in-law and my bro-in-law while in Nashville.
Playing with some of the leftover bachelorette party favors. 
Forgot to post this one last week:
Hallie and her "Big Belle", Marcella.
Will bought this pony for Hallie with his own money because he
was proud of how well she'd done at Bengal Belles Dance Camp. 
Watching Despicable Me 2 on Sunday evening. This was
about all I had energy for after my exhausting weekend.
We officially finished the Summer 2014
edition of the license plate game this week!
Back-to-school haircuts were high on the to-do list this week. She
wanted even more taken off but this was as short as I'd let her go.
Happy Friday, friends!

Linking up with High Five for Friday!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I'm Never Flying Again. Until October, When I Have to Fly Again. Argh.

Well folks, my sis-in-law's bachelorette party extravaganza took place this past weekend, and while I survived - and had a great time during - the festivities themselves, the travel portion of my weekend nearly robbed me of my sanity. Thank you, AMERICAN AIRLINES.

My first flight was scheduled to leave College Station at 3:15pm on Friday afternoon. The plane departed a few minutes late, but this minor delay caused me absolutely no anxiety because I knew I had a three-hour layover ahead of me once I arrived in Dallas. While waiting to board, I stupidly thought to myself how nice it was to get my delayed flight (because statistically, at least one of my four flights that weekend would be delayed) out of the way early on.

My second flight was scheduled to leave Dallas at 7:00pm and arrive in Nashville at 8:50pm. Just before we should have begun the boarding process the gate employee announced a slight delay because our crew members and pilots had not yet arrived. 30 minutes later our crew had arrived, but our pilots - coming from a different airport than our crew - still hadn't arrived. 30 minutes later American Airlines gave away our plane and directed us down the terminal to a new gate. And then… Over the course of the next three hours, American changed our gate SEVEN additional times for a total of EIGHT GATE CHANGES. (I felt so incredibly lucky to be traveling alone and awful for the passengers traveling with small children or in wheelchairs that evening.)

I sat between two men on the plane. Let's call man #1 "Grumpy Pants", because he was grumpy, and man #2 "TJ", because that was his name. Grumpy Pants was clearly upset by the delays, and said so, under his breath and to no one in particular, multiple times while we waited to take off. I kept my distance - as much as is possible on an airplane - from him. TJ, on the other hand, was friendly and interesting, and we carried on a lovely conversation for the majority of the flight. Grumpy Pants did not seem to like the fact that TJ and I were talking (even though we spoke at respectful volumes and about completely appropriate topics) and said so, under his breath and seemingly directed at me. He actually said, "SHUT THE F*^# UP" in my ear. FOUR TIMES.

When I finally landed in Nashville at 12:15am, my brother-in-law picked me up at the airport and dropped me off at our hotel (thanks, Grant!) at 12:45am. I attempted to rally while waiting for my sis-in-law and friends to return from their night out (which I missed in its entirety), gave it up and went to bed at 1:45am, and then woke up at 2am when the ladies came "home". Do you know how long it's been since I saw 2am? Neither do I.

At this point I'll break up this extremely negative post with a few pics of the enjoyable part of my weekend trip.
Swimming at our hotel on Saturday morning.
Lunch with some of the boys at Chuy's on Saturday afternoon.
Outside Bar Louie in downtown
Nashville on Saturday night.
I honestly believed my trip home would go smoothly, given all the trouble I experienced en route to Nashville, and was pleased when we boarded on time for my 7:10am flight. (Yes, I had to get up at 5am to get to the airport on Sunday morning, after staying up until 3am on Friday night and 2:15am on Saturday night.) Things started to go south quickly though… At 7:15am the pilots announced that maintenance issues would delay us at least 30 minutes. Then 60 minutes. Then 90 minutes. The pilots made up exactly zero minutes in the air, and then we sat just feet from the jet bridge for 15 minutes before we were allowed to deplane.

Because of the delays, I missed my connecting flight in Dallas. The "problem-solving team" (I'm sure they have a more official title than that, but I didn't take the time to find out what it was) rebooked me, but the timing of my new flight meant I would arrive in College Station four hours later than planned, miss seeing Tom (who had to leave for Ohio at 3:15pm), and be unable to get to the kids before Tom's departure. Thankfully we had multiple wonderful friends offer to watch the kids, which took a little of the stress off our shoulders. I took additional stress off my shoulders by knocking out my 10,000 steps for the day in Terminal B.

Turns out the plane I flew into College Station was the same plane Tom would fly out on, so when I deplaned he was waiting to board in the same terminal. I stopped to talk to him for three or so minutes, but then learned the hard way that pausing in the terminal area is not allowed; when I tried to exit, just a couple of minutes after my fellow passengers, I set off some kind of security alarm that immediately filled the entire airport with a tremendously loud and incessantly blaring horn. Everyone stared and Tom laughed at me.

A very annoyed gate employee "released me" from locked area of the terminal but wouldn't let me leave because the security guard needed to file a report. The gate employee told me to go downstairs to the security desk, wait for the guard to return to his post, and then "explain myself" to him. I followed her instructions, but when the guard failed to return to his post after what I decided was a reasonable amount of time to wait, I headed to baggage claim to pick up my bag. Which OF COURSE wasn't there. I walked back upstairs to figure out what to do about my bag, but OF COURSE both employees weren't there. After waiting for 15 minutes, an employee brought to the counter the bags that had been left behind; my bag was sitting on his cart, because OF COURSE the employee who unloaded the bags from the plane "forgot" to put it on the baggage carousel during the initial luggage return.

I may never fly again. Until October, when I have to fly again. Argh.

To add insult to injury, Tom's flight from College Station to Dallas was diverted to tiny airport in Tyler, Texas. After hanging out in the airport for a while, and then sitting on the runway for a longer while, Tom eventually made it to Dallas. He of course missed his connection to Cincinnati though, and had to spend the night in Dallas and arrive late to his meetings and presentations in Ohio on Monday. 

Then, on the way home...

After his flight from Cincinnati to Dallas was delayed for no other reason than "we're running late", Tom landed in Dallas with just enough time to sprint to his College Station connection. But despite the fact that Tom arrived at gate while the plane was still sitting there, the AMERICAN AIRLINES staff wouldn't let him on.

He probably shouldn't fly again either. Until October.