Monday, May 30, 2016

In Remembrance of You

Today I remember and honor the brave men and women who made sacrifices - acknowledging that sacrifice come in all shapes and sizes - in the name of the American Dream. I remember and honor those who courageously and selflessly walked into the trenches, and those who never walked back out. And I remember and honor those who, even when it was dangerous to do so, preached peace and love and made our country a kinder place to live.

Thank you.

Happy Memorial Day, friends.

Friday, May 27, 2016

High Five for Friday (5.27.16)

1. Perhaps most importantly, today marks the start of summer vacation. I may not have had time to fully prepare for this afternoon's "Happy Summer" party or take my annual pictures of the kids in their "class of 2025" and "class of 2027" shirts, but we have a fun weekend and summer ahead of us and can't wait to get this party started!

2. As I mentioned, I didn't have time to prepare for summer vacation. Contributing factor #1: last weekend the four Ferri took a somewhat last-minute (by my "I'm already shopping for my 2018 calendar" planning standards) trip to California. We spent a day at Disneyland, a day at California Adventure, a day browsing Downtown Disney and relaxing by the swimming pool, and traveled for almost a full day on both ends. I plan to write about the trip in more detail in a couple of weeks - I learned A LOT and want to share in case you or someone you know is planning a Disneyland trip in the near future - but for now, this pic sums it up perfectly.

3. Contributing factor #2: a little production called the 4th Grade Variety Show. No, I don't have a 4th grader. Neither does my friend and co-coordinator, Rebecca. But we both love singing, dancing, and helping kids find and share their talents enough to take on the responsibility anyway. The auditions were rough. The rehearsals - including the dress rehearsals - were rough. But the performances went as smoothly as 4th Grade Variety Show performances can go. one threw up this year! (Yes, someone threw up on the way off the stage last year.)

4. Contributing factor #3: these ladies, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. I became involved with the PTO at Will and Hallie's elementary school when Will started kindergarten. The year Hallie started kindergarten, I upped my participation by joining the Board; I have held the position of Secretary for the last two years, and plan to continue in that role next year. Long story short, I would never have stuck with PTO after that first year - let alone taken on such a large responsibility within the organization - if it hadn't been for these incredible women. We work our tails off, but when we're tackling projects together, we have a blast and it all comes together in the end.

5. Happiness Highlights:
Speaking of the lovely ladies above, they saved me from electrocuting
myself when my computer charger came apart in the school library's socket. 
We put together a new "spirit shop" in the school's
front lobby! Makes you want a tumbler, doesn't it?
Will's GT class put on a production of "Goldilocks Reimagined". He played
Baby Bear in this, his theatrical debut, and I enjoyed watching him almost as
much as I enjoyed seeing our family's bear costumes worn a second time.   
He's smiling because the play was over...the first thing he said
to me after their bows was "I'm never doing that again". 
Yep, that's one suitcase, packed for five days, four nights, and three
people for Disneyland. I don't win a lot of awards, but if they were
given for packing, I'd have a gold medal and an Oscar.

Happy Friday, friends!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Butter Heaven

I have quite a few fun, interesting, thoughtful, emotional, and/or lengthy posts in the works. But because we returned home late Monday night from a whirlwind weekend trip to California, and because I had to transition into crazy "Variety Show dress rehearsal and performance" mode the minute we landed in College Station, this week's posts are light and fun and yes, simple. And in today's case, delicious!

Texas Roadhouse is a popular steak restaurant, both in College Station and across the country. But because the staff hands out peanuts by the basket - and allows patrons to throw the shells on the floor - my family can't eat in the restaurant or even pick up carry-out meals to eat at home.

Not being able to set foot in the restaurant makes it tough (but not impossible, thanks to the occasional school or sports team fundraiser) for us to get our hands on Texas Roadhouse's delectable dinner rolls and sweet cinnamon butter. To solve this problem, I spent time this spring trying to reproduce both the rolls and the cinnamon butter at home. I have yet to succeed with regard to the rolls, but I finally nailed the cinnamon butter recipe and wanted to share it with you one should miss out this deliciousness just because of a peanut allergy, or because they don't live in close proximity to a Texas Roadhouse!

I found at least five different recipes for the cinnamon butter on Pinterest, and while they all included the same four ingredients, they instructed me to use these ingredients in drastically different amounts. I started playing around with the quantities until I - and Tom - felt like I had achieved the right flavor, and as a bonus, the cinnamon butter's flavor improved the longer it sat in the refrigerator!

Erin's (Copycat Texas Roadhouse) Cinnamon Butter

1 cup softened butter
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Using a handheld or stand mixer, whip butter until uniformly light and fluffy, approximately 1-2 minutes.

2. Add powdered sugar, honey, and cinnamon to butter and mix until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.

3. Let butter sit for at least 30 minutes, either at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

4. Enjoy with Texas Roadhouse's rolls or any other kind of dinner roll or french bread.

I have no affiliation with Texas Roadhouse. I just really like their rolls and cinnamon butter.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Mixed Up Monday Meets Tux's Tuesday

The kids and I are traveling today after spending the weekend out of state, but because I try my best not to skip my regular Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays here on Chasing Roots, while still in California yesterday evening I pulled out my tablet to create today's post. Unfortunately my tablet wouldn't cooperate when I tried to create a new post; it would, however, allow me to update and change the "publish" date of my already-written "Tuesdays With Tux" post from tomorrow to today. So here we have tomorrow's Tux post, a day early!

Tux climbs into bed and sleeps with Will every night. He occasionally pops out of Will's room for a drink of water or a snack, but he always returns to his "home base" by midnight and remains there until he hears me turn on the coffee pot in the morning.

One night last week Will decided to sleep on the floor because...well, who knows why. When I went in to check on Will before I went to bed, I was surprised to find that instead of curling up on the bed, Tux had laid down on the floor, under the desk chair near Will's head.

The following night Will slept on the beanbag in the playroom (not sure what's so wrong with his bed...), and again, Tux left the bed behind in favor of watching over his boy.

I can't help but marvel at the special relationship between these two "brothers"...

I take and post A LOT of pictures of Will and Tux together. So many, in fact, that I decided not to share links to my favorites here today because there were 63 of them. Thank you for humoring me.

Friday, May 20, 2016

High Five for Friday (5.20.16)

1. After a few weeks of planning, a few days of pricing, and one unbelievably hot afternoon of organizing the heck out of the items we no longer need or want, our five-family garage sale accomplished exactly what we hoped it would accomplish: it cleared lots of boxes of clutter out of our garages and put a few extra dollars in our pockets. I LOVE purging!
This enthusiastic "greeting committee" drew in and
welcomed a steady stream of shoppers at our garage sale. 
2. I had my first eye exam - other than the required one week, one month, three months, six months, and one year follow-ups - since my Lasik laser eye surgery in December of 2013. Though my left eye is still slightly less than perfect (the left has always been my weaker eye, both in terms of prescription and astigmatism), my right eye remains 20/15 and together my eyes are almost 20/15. After 27 years of wearing glasses and contacts, my current glasses- and contact-free lifestyle pleases me to no end.

3. Last Saturday I rigged up an incredibly effective hands-free apparatus that allowed me to sit in my lawn chair, drink my coffee, watch Will's soccer game, and stretch/strengthen my foot and calf all at the same time. I should patent this:

4. I try not to buy very many processed foods, but I have a weakness - as does everyone else in my family - for Zatarain's black beans and rice. Unfortunately, my grocery store stopped carrying this product a little over a year ago; fortunately, I discovered last weekend that Amazon sells it in bulk...and now I have 12 boxes sitting on my kitchen counter. Anyone want to come over for dinner this week?

5. Happiness Highlights:

In case you were worried that my kids' elementary school principals weren't 
awesome enough, here's a clip to show you that you needn't have worried. 

She went to school with straight hair and came home from
school with this crazy mop of curls. Holy humidity, Batman!
Princess Day at dance!
This boy came in third in the third and fourth
grade CSISD Scholastic Chess Tournament!

Happy Friday, friends!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

No. Just No.

Last week a friend sent me this picture:

"I don't know what to say about this," she texted.

I didn't know what to say about it either...until I looked more closely and had to stifle a scream so as not to frighten the other patrons sitting near me in Starbucks.

Yep. That guy is standing in front of the redbox machine right outside the Walgreens front door, casually returning or checking out a movie. And wrapped around right hand and wrist is a frighteningly large "pet" (?) snake.

My friend's family - her husband and two of her three kids - had been standing right next to this man and his snake (unaware of the snake's presence) just moments before she took the picture. They handled news of the snake significantly better than any member of my family would have.

We expect pet dogs to be leashed when they're out in public and around other people. Shouldn't we expect the same - or at least something similar - of pet snakes?

I feel like Texas is trying to scare me off this week: first sandal-footed boots (or boot-legged sandals, depending on how you look at them), and now snakes at redbox. I already worry about encountering lizards and snakes in my backyard (or worse, in my house); I shouldn't also have to worry about encountering them in line to check out Norm of the North on DVD...

Monday, May 16, 2016

Not in a Million Years

For the last two years I have tried valiantly to convince my sister and brother-in-law to move their family to Texas. They would of course have to adjust to the heat and learn how to trap lizards under Tupperware containers, but those negatives hardly outweigh the massive positive: living close enough to us that we could all have dinner together. On a whim, and without having to drive or fly hundreds of miles. Our kids could play together on the weekends and after school, or better yet, our kids could attend the same schools.

But here's the deal, Texas. As long as we're wearing boots - or sandals - like these, Sara and Jeff won't touch Texas with a 10-foot pole.
And who can blame them?
Texas friends, are these for real? If so, what are they called? Sanoots? Bandals? Boodals? There's probably not a good name for this (lack of) style of footwear, just like there's probably not a good reason for them to ever see the light of day.

Friday, May 13, 2016

High Five for Friday (5.13.16)

1. On Mothers' Day my family made and brought me breakfast in bed for the first time in 10 years. It hit the spot in my stomach, just like their sweet gifts hit the spot in my heart.

2. STAAR testing is done! Teachers, students, and parents everywhere can now take a much-needed and well-deserved deep breath and relax. Oh wait, none of us can't relax yet - we still have two and a half CRAZY weeks before the end of the school year. We can do it, right? Right!

3. This meme describes me perfectly:

I wear my Fitbit 24/7 with the goal of reaching at least 10,000 steps daily. (I reach 10,000 steps on Saturdays and Sundays, but aim to go beyond that - to an average of 14,000 steps - on weekdays.) Cutting down on my walking, running, elliptical training, and step-based classes has meant a decrease in steps, but last week I discovered that I can still count at least some of the movement my legs make on the bike if I move my Fitbit to the cuff of my pants. High Five!

4. On a related note, in an effort to prepare Hallie for the family bike rides we'd like to take this year, we pulled out her tow-behind bike and hooked it up to Tom's bike. In the first picture, Hallie is crying hysterically as she and Tom pull out of the driveway. In the second picture, taken just an hour later, she's all smiles. I see a lot of (foot pain-free) biking in our future!

5. Happiness Highlights:
The last picture taken of my Clementine.
A sweet friend - who shares my love of coffee
and need for mascara on my blond eyelashes - sent
this to me. It made me smile, and miss her lots.
Hallie's Mother's Day poem. Note the third
line, middle word...girl knows her mama.
Each time I walk past this bush - at least three times a day,
as it's on my route to school - its flowers make me smile.
Just because.
This week's family game night: Clue! The new version of this
game - in particular, the game board - is so much more fun and
interesting than the old version. Hallie treats it like a doll house,
and pays very little attention to the game...which Will loves.

Happy Friday, friends!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

My Darling Clementine

As newlyweds, Tom and I lived in Cedar Rapids, IA, where I worked for the Grant Wood Area Chapter of the American Red Cross and Tom worked for John Deere. One morning a coworker of mine mentioned that she thought her cat might be pregnant. A few hours later, when she ran home to grab lunch, she found her cat holed up in the closet of her bedroom...surrounded by five kittens. Surprise, surprise!

Tom and I adopted two of the kittens: a white one, who Tom named Duke, and the smallest, feistiest dark brown tiger-striped one, who I named Clementine.

Fast forward six years, two apartments, one house, and two kids, all with Duke and Clemmy making the ride that much crazier... When we put our Ann Arbor house on the market in preparation for our move to Texas, Duke and Clemmy moved - temporarily, we thought - to Madison to live with my parents. We knew it would be easier to keep the house clean without them around, and while we of course had to disclose that cats had lived in our house at one time, we knew we'd have better luck selling if cats weren't winding themselves around prospective buyers' legs and trying to escape out the door behind visiting realtors.

In the fall of 2010, after the cats had lived with Grandma and Grandpa for a few months and we were about to move from Ann Arbor, Duke died after being hit by a car in my parents' neighborhood. We decided to leave Clemmy in Madison, rather than move her - without her brother - across the country to Texas; she never coped well with change, and because she preferred my parents to Tom and me anyway (she never really forgave us for having children), letting her remain where she appeared happy and comfortable seemed like the best option.

Four years ago, (we think) Clemmy developed an autoimmune disease. All of the hair on her stomach fell out, and while her hair eventually grew back, it was never as full or soft as it had been before. Two years ago and likely because of her compromised immune system, Clemmy developed a fungus in/on her paw. My parents and Clemmy's vet(s) spent the last two years trying to combat the fungus, but in recent months it grew worse, to the point that my parents could tell she was in pain. The plan was to amputate Clemmy's leg...until a spot of fungus showed up on a second leg.

At this point she's hurting, there are no more options to treat the fungus, and we can't amputate two of her legs, so unfortunately we have no other choice than to put her to sleep. This afternoon my darling Clementine will take her last breath in my mom's arms.

Duke and Clemmy were our first babies. The taught us to be responsible for someone/thing other than ourselves, and prepared us for the human babies we would later add to our family by regularly pooping, peeing, and vomiting on us and waking us up at all hours of the night. Duke and Clemmy may no longer live in our home, but they will always live in our hearts as a reminder of the decision Tom and I made to begin the transition from couple to family.

2004 - 2016

Monday, May 9, 2016

Five Heads are Better than None

Though we haven't had tremendous success as gardeners since moving to Texas (unexplainable exceptions include a massive pepper haul four years ago and a decent beefsteak tomato crop - including two different human-esque, anatomically correct tomatoes - three years ago), this spring we have somehow grown five small but delicious heads of broccoli.

Hallie, the child who won't touch most foods with a ten-foot pole, eats raw broccoli (and raw green onion, whenever one sprouts up) right off the plants in the backyard and chooses it over almost any other vegetable. I guess we must have done something right, both in the garden and at the table!

Despite our success with broccoli, we remain miles away from earning our green thumbs...we managed to kill our beautiful little lemon tree.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Happy Day to All the Moms

Last weekend Will's soccer club organized an "in league" mini World Cup tournament. In his first game, Will played arguably the best soccer of his life. Every move, pass, and shot had purpose and accomplished what he meant for it to accomplish. His awareness of himself, his teammates, and his opponents on the field allowed him to capitalize on every empty space and every false step the other team made. And perhaps most importantly, he played like a leader, keeping the lines of communication open, helping organize explosive attacks and effective defense, and cheering for his teammates successes. In case you can't tell, this mama was PROUD.

With about five minutes left in the second game, Will's team earned a penalty kick after a member of the other team batted the ball down in front of the goal with his hands. As Will stepped up to the ball I could hardly breath...I turned to Tom as he said, "I hope he doesn't kick it over the goal - that's what he did in practice this week". Sure enough, Will's penalty kick went just over the crossbar. Disappointed for Will but relieved the kick was over, I turned to Tom and we gave each other sad smiles.

After every significant moment on the soccer field, Will looks at me. We make eye contact and then share a smile, thumbs up, or shrug or I offer words of encouragement. I learned post-game that after Will missed his penalty kick he looked at me, saw me looking at Tom instead of him, and felt completely abandoned. In Will's moment of weakness - of failure, as he described it - I wasn't there to share my strength with him.

My heart broke into a thousand pieces.

I sat down in front of Will, right there in the middle of the field, and pulled his chin up so he could see my face and look into my eyes. "I will NEVER abandon you. Not here on the soccer field, and not ever in life. Everything I do for you or say to you comes from a place of love and support and is meant to build you up, not bring you down. Today I missed an opportunity to be there for you and that will never happen again."

I have never been, nor will I ever be, an olympic caliber athlete (you're all thinking, "yes, Erin - we KNOW"), but back in my day I played a decent game of soccer. And throughout those 14 years and hundreds of games, I can't remember ever looking to the stands and not seeing my mom actively supporting me.

I'm not saying she never missed a game. She had a job and two kids and a life outside of her roles as wife and mother. And I'm not saying I won't occasionally miss a game, as I too have a job and two kids and a life outside of my roles as wife and mother. (And only one of the parents in our family knows how to put the dancing child's hair in a bun, which means that parent has to handle all of the dance-related activities.) I am saying, however, that whenever I sit on the sidelines, Will (and Hallie) will never again doubt my support or fail to feel my strength.

Happy Mother's Day to all those celebrating (and hugs to those for whom today hurts), especially my mom, grandma, mother-in-law, sister Sara, and sis-in-law Chandi.

Friday, May 6, 2016

High Five for Friday (5.6.16)

1. Happy Nurses Day! I'd like to give a special shout out to the many nurses in my life, especially my aunts, Will and Hallie's elementary school nurse, and my mom, who throughout the last month has answered multiple hours worth of medical questions for me and my friends.

2. After a mostly critter-free winter, Texas' four- (and zero-legged) natives have begun popping out to say hello once again. The high five here, you ask? While I hate them all as much as I always have, with each passing year I find myself slightly less panicked by their presence in my life.

On a related note, I saw my first large, live snake last Sunday afternoon. While driving home from the swimming pool, a LONG (confirmed by a Texan friend) snake slithered across the road right in front of my car. I managed to miss hitting it by screaming, taking my foot off the gas pedal, and taking my hands off the steering wheel as it somehow fit perfectly between my wheels, but I don't know if that's a good thing...

3. Last weekend was a big one for Will. He had a piece of his artwork chosen for display at the school district's annual art show, and he placed second among all of the third grade boys at his elementary school in their annual Road Runners competition. Last year he ran 214 laps, and this year he increased his total to 233 laps - that's almost 78 miles logged over the course of 30 20-minute runs.

4. Hallie also had a fantastic weekend. A few weekends back, Hallie and a few of her friends attended a dance camp hosted by a local high school's dance team. Then this past Friday night, the little girls had the opportunity to perform the dance they'd learned at camp during the big girls' - the Strutters' - end of the year showcase. They did a lovely job on stage, and the show as a whole was tremendous. I truly can't believe the artistic, athletic, and academic talent in our high schools.

Sadly, we had to leave the Strutters' showcase at intermission because we all - at least Hallie and I - had to get up at 6am on Saturday morning to prepare for her dance recital. Like any mom whose child dances, I adore watching Hallie. She takes the stage with such confidence, even when she "feels nervous in her stomach", and as the music rises she becomes an even stronger, braver, and more vibrant version of herself.

We left Hallie's recital and headed straight to the art show, where Hallie also had a piece of artwork on display. Both kids proudly showed off their creations to Tom and me, as well as to their friends and principal, with whom we happened to cross paths that morning.

5. Happiness Highlights:
Reading together on Saturday night.
Wait, you mean you don't do your home with a cat on your shoulders?
My girl helped me bake bread earlier this week. I was thrilled to see
that she hasn't yet outgrown her fascination with the bread machine.
That same night Hallie and I dined together - just the
two of us while the boys were at soccer - by candlelight.
Hooray for Teacher Appreciation Week!
Happy Friday, friends!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here: