Wednesday, June 29, 2016

June Jamboree

Still working on a name/names for these posts...not there yet.

I didn't take on any extra writing assignments in June; keeping up with Chasing Roots and my social media responsibilities for the Red Cross while juggling our summer activities (and protecting at least a few hours a week of completely disconnected downtime) proved to be all I could handle.

A piece I wrote earlier this spring about one of the most iconic photos taken during WWII (for the National American Red Cross blog) ran this month though - check it out here!

At least 10 books sit, gathering dust, on my bedside table. Every few nights I pick up one of these books and read two or three pages, all of which when combined equal no more than 20 pages read since school let out for summer. Won't you kindly comment below or on Facebook with the titles of books -  the kind that draw a reader in quickly and remain engaging and/or entertaining until the last page - to help me get out of this rut? Thank you in advance!

At the recommendation of a friend who teaches elementary school (and in preparation for the movie coming out later this summer), the kids and I started reading The BFG earlier this month. So while I may not have made it through any adult books this summer, I will most certainly make it through at least one children's book.

Perhaps I couldn't get into any books during the month of June because I spent too much time at the movie theater... I took the kids to see "The Angry Birds Movie", went to "Me Before You" with friends, and watched "Now You See Me 2" with Tom. "Angry Birds" kept the kids and I laughing; as fans of the first "Now You See Me", Tom and I felt satisfied with this second installment; and "Me Before You" proved exactly what I wanted and needed as far as girls' night entertainment was concerned. (If you read and enjoyed the book, you'll enjoy the movie as the script stays true. If you read and didn't enjoy the book, skip the movie because, as I mentioned, the script stays true. If you didn't read the book, mentally prepare yourself for a - SPOILER ALERT - less than picture-perfect ending.)

Listening To
I love Tom for countless reasons, not the least of which is his willingness to learn on the piano just about any song the kids and I request.

Will's request: The Little Einsteins Theme Song

Hallie's request: Let It Go

I first heard Hallelujah Christmas a couple of years ago. Though I learned shortly thereafter that the Christmas version wasn't the original, I found the original just as captivating and asked Tom to learn it by way of a Saturday afternoon to-do list. This is one of my favorite versions, and I have been listening to it on repeat in preparation to perform it for...well, for no one. Except maybe Tux.

A few months ago I started experimenting with essential oils. I wanted to diffuse an air freshening oil in Will's room and try those with anti-inflammatory and pain relieving benefits on my foot. After experiencing moderate success, I realized I might be able to use oils to help reduce anxiety and create a calming environment for homework and sleep. (Will and Hallie are predisposed to anxiety, and at times I can already see them struggling to cope.) Last week the diffusers I ordered for their bedrooms came in the mail - 70% on Amazon and free shipping with Amazon Prime for the win! - and this week I set both of them up and began trying different combinations of oils.

Will and Hallie's rooms smell amazing, but I don't think we've "solved" the anxiety - especially when it comes to summer school work - quite yet... (If you look closely you can see the diffuser on the window sill.)

Four and a half weeks into summer and I've already given up on fashion. The heat and humidity, along with a schedule that requires me to spend a fair amount of time outside, prevent me from wearing anything that needs to be dry cleaned so I now live in my gym clothes, my swimsuit and cover-ups, and my new "sunshine, tan lines, and good wine" and Texas tank tops. I have talented shirt-making friends!

Here are a few delicious recipes we tried this month!

Crockpot Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole
(Edits: I skipped the bacon, used 1/2 c. chicken broth and 3/4 c. water instead of 1 1/4 c. water, and substituted a bit of leftover gravy I had in the refrigerator rather than a can of cream of mushroom soup.)

Cheddar Garlic Beer Bread
(Edits: I used 1 c. whole wheat flour and 2 c. all-purpose flour rather than 3 c. all purpose flour and only 2 T. of butter.)

Orange Buttermilk Cake w/ Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
(Edits: I made this as cupcakes instead of cake, added an extra T. of orange zest to the cupcakes, and left the orange extract and orange marmalade out of the frosting.)

I never found a counter-top water picture I liked, and the cups to which I had glued magnets (so they could hang on the refrigerator and be readily accessible to the kids) fell apart, so when a friend came across an on-sale infusion water pitcher and offered to get me one, I took her up on that offer. This week we begin experimenting with fruit-infused water!

What have you been up to this month?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Texas Bucket List: Tasting ALL the Wines, Part 2

My Texas Bucket List began taking shape shortly after we arrived in College Station. At first the list consisted of only a few touristy day trips and experiences (think Six Flags, Sea World, etc.) I'd thought of or heard about prior to our move. But as we made new friends, especially new friends who grew up in Texas, we learned from them about the lesser-known - at least to Midwesterners - but not-to-miss sights and sounds of the Lone Star State.

Each time I cross something off my Texas Bucket List I document it here, both because Chasing Roots serves as my Texas journal and because looking back on these posts and "watching" our love affair, if you will, with our now-home state unfold is a beautiful thing. 

You can see my full - but ever-growing - Texas Bucket List here. Feel free to let me know what I'm missing!

I technically crossed "attend a wine tasting at Messina Hof Winery" off my Texas Bucket List a few months ago, so this post, about my second Messina Hof wine tasting, is more of a public service announcement. I wouldn't want any of my local readers to miss out on such a beautiful and delicious experience!

On Wednesday nights the Messina Hof wine bar offers wine flights paired with...chocolate. (You probably just popped away from this post to add "Chocolate Night" to your calendar. I understand. And thanks for coming back!) Last week I attended the wine and chocolate tasting with three friends, all of whom prefer different types of wine. We agreed, however, that the three wines and two chocolates went together beautifully and such that we each enjoyed even the wines we wouldn't have usually chosen.

For those of you who like to live vicariously through the specifics, first we sipped Port while indulging in peanut butter-filled, chocolate-covered cookie sticks. After we cleansed our palates with Brut, we savored a light orange Muscat alongside orange-infused dark chocolate squares. Delectable barely describes what crossed my palate that evening.

I can't think of a better combination than wine and chocolate, except maybe wine and cheese...which is why, after we finished our chocolate tasting, we ordered a massive cheese tray and additional flights of wine...

I have no affiliation with Messina Hof Winery other than being a fan of wine, a fan of chocolate, and a fan of establishments that put them together in delicious, well-organized pairings for me.

Friday, June 24, 2016

High Five for Friday (6.24.16)

1. Thanks to everyone who sent in their daddy daughter photos in honor of Father's Day! Here are a few of my favorites:

Cora and Emma's daddies have it all figured out, and that's easier 
said than done, given the fact that both have naturally curly hair.

Lily's daddy (who happens to be my brother-in-law, which is why I can call him 
out here), on the other hand, should probably work on his technique a little bit.

2. After nearly nine months, I finally visited my doc about my plantar fasciitis. She referred me to a podiatrist, and at my appointment last week we ruled out broken bones and bone spurs and confirmed my self-diagnosis. Though the plantar fasciitis is frustrating, I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard that my problems end there. And I certainly won't complain about the podiatrist's recommendation that I have my foot professionally massaged regularly!

3. Earlier this week my Hal Gal spent 48 hours fighting off an unpleasant stomach bug. She is without a doubt my bravest, toughest, and most cooperative patient (and is back to 100% now), but even she needed to spend two evenings, two mornings, and one afternoon cuddling on the couch. I hate it when she feels yucky, but I love those extra snuggles.

4. On a related note, on Saturday morning - right before Hallie fell ill - we bought the entire Full House series on DVD. Target had the set on sale for $20 off the regular price, and I just couldn't pass up that deal...which turned out to be the best decision I made all weekend, because Hallie and I watched almost the entire first season while she was under the weather. I don't usually binge watch television shows, but when I do, I watch Full House.

5. Happiness Highlights:
This sweet little boy gets casted to correct his scoliosis in about a
week, so we threw him a Happy Cullen Day water party (once he gets
casted he won't be able to get wet) to show him how much we love him.
Part of our crew waiting patiently to surprise Cullen
(and desperate to use the water slide behind them).
Water balloon fight!
Not sure what's going on with her face, but check out her
adorable Tiny Dancer shirt, made for her by my friend Jenn!
This boy - with his relay team and their second place ribbons - learned
a lot about the sport (and himself) during his first-ever track meet. 
I'm so thankful for great friends who pick Hallie up, take her to swimming
lessons, feed her lunch, take her swimming (again), and then deliver her to
me at the gym so she won't have to sit through nearly five-hour track meets. 
After she made shirts for the little girls, Jenn made
these fabulous tanks for the tiny dancers' moms. 
Before she got sick, Hallie helped me make a
delicious peach blueberry pie for Tom for Father's Day.
These dads celebrated Father's Day early with a day-trip to San Marcos
to play disc golf, swim in the river, and eat a couple of delicious meals.

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Bucket List: ESCAPE

I heard about the escape room concept a year ago, just before the first establishment of its kind opened in our area. For those unfamiliar, in a escape room, participants are locked in the setting of a story - like a house in the 1990s, a laboratory, or a control room - and given 60 minutes to get out using only the clues and by solving the puzzles found within the scene.

Though I initially added "escaping" to my Texas Bucket List, when I learned that escape rooms have become popular all over the country I had to move this challenge to my plain old regular bucket list. And last Friday night I had the opportunity to cross it off with a confident flourish.

Tom and I - along with six friends - registered for the 90s-themed room. The woman who prepped us shared that the standing escape record of 49 minutes (meaning the participants escaped with 11 minutes left on the clock) for our room had been set by a group of 14-year-olds. Determined not to "lose" to teenagers who weren't even alive in the 90s, we entered fully prepared to beat the heck out of their time; 40 minutes later and with 20 minutes to spare, we cracked the code and emerged victorious. Take that, teenagers who have no idea how to use a rotary phone!

Because we'd done so well in the 90s room, the staff asked us if we would like to stay for an additional hour and beta test their newest room. After checking with our babysitters, we decided to stick around - we just couldn't pass up the opportunity to experience the virus outbreak/scientist's laboratory room before anyone else.

Oh, and we escaped that room too.

It's easy to get into a rut when it comes to dates and evenings out, especially in a city the size of ours. But our last two dates - an adult swim party and now escaping both a time machine threatening to send us back to the 90s and a potential deadly virus outbreak - have helped us mix things up a bit this summer.

Next up, flying on the trapeze! Maybe.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Lurking Lizards

After walking through a puddle on the way home, I off took my shoes - Crocs flats - and left them in the garage. Later that day, with plans to wear those same shoes while I took out the garbage and recycling, I stepped into the garage, hit the button to open the automatic door, and in one fluid motion, turned around and slipped my left foot into my left shoe.

I felt something nondescript - it wasn't hard or soft, hot or cold, wet or dry - brush up against my foot and glanced down to see...this little guy looking back up at me. I SCREAMED (I try to temper my lizard reactions so as not to scare the kids, but in this instance I lost all control), and the lizard jumped off my foot and into Tom's neighboring shoe.
I obviously couldn't take a picture of the lizard in my shoe or
on my foot, so I took one a few minutes later, after I'd calmed
down and the lizard had made himself at home in Tom's shoe.
I lept sky high and at least two feet backwards (banging my elbow on my car's driver's side mirror), and then had to fight back tears of both fear and pain when Will burst through the door from the house into the garage to check on me.

Positive self-talk, "you're being ridiculous" pep talks from Tom, and/or research (to prove to myself that they can't hurt me) don't seem to help; I may just be destined to live in fear of what hides in my backyard...and apparently my garage as well. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Dad Song

This is my (well, their, but I'm borrowing it) perfectly perfect Dad Song.

To all of the fathers who have in some way impacted my life and/or the lives of those I love - Dad, Tom, Michael, Jeff, Adam, grandpas, uncles (both biological and camping), thank you for your love, support, and guidance.

Happy Father's Day to all those celebrating, and hugs to those for whom today hurts.

Did you enter our Father's Day giveaway? You have until 3pm today to send in your picture of daddy doing daughter's hair!

Friday, June 17, 2016

High Five for Friday (6.17.16)

1. These cookies may have been a sleepover sweet treat for Hallie from an adorable friend and her generous mom, but she graciously allowed me to eat the unicorn. Day = made.

2. On Friday night both kids slept over at friends' houses. Tom and I went out for a drink at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants, to see "Now You See Me 2" in the theater, and then back home to an unsettlingly quiet house. As we finished off the leftovers in the refrigerator and talked about this, that, and the other, Tom and I realized we had never - at least since becoming parents - spent a night, just the two of us, in our house. How did accomplishing that take almost 10 years?!
Will's sleepover
Hallie's sleepover
Yes, we spend a lot of time in our swimsuits here in Texas. 

3. Part 1. "Into the Woods" is one of my favorite musicals, and this weekend I introduced Hallie to the stage version courtesy of a local theatre company. The show's second act is quite a bit slower, darker, and mature than the first act, but Hallie handled the content beautifully. She did, however, ask a few interesting questions...

3. Part 2. ("Into the Woods" spoiler alert) After the Baker's Wife was crushed and killed by the giant, Hallie turned to me and asked, in all seriousness, "oh man, do you think she's going to come back as a zombie?"

"WHAT?!" I whisper-exclaimed. "These are fairy tales, Hallie, so no, I do NOT think she's going to come back as a zombie."

We have never even said the word zombie to Hallie, so I have to assume zombies are something she learned about from her fellow first graders.

3. Part 3. On the way home from the show, Hallie told me she'd had a great day. Despite being a generally happy child, Hallie tells Tom and me quite frequently - usually when asked to tidy up her room, unload the dishwasher, or brush her teeth - that "today is the worst day of my life". (She doesn't know it yet, but our dramatically gifted Hallie's second home will one day be the stage.) She rarely, on the other hand, utters a positive version of that statement. When she does, I too have a great day.

3. Part 4. The Tony Awards: OH. MY. GOSH. AMAZING. I love musicals, Broadway, and enjoying both with my kiddos.

4. On Saturday night, Tom and I - along with fantastic friends - enjoyed our first (of hopefully many) adults-only pool party. I may not enjoy daytime summer weather in Texas, but if the nighttime summer weather means we can go swimming under the stars and not freeze to death, I'll suffer through the hot, humid days for a few months. We've gone on lots of fun couples dates, but this was one of the best, doing some of my favorite things with some of my favorite people.

Like I said, we spend a lot of time in our swimsuits here in Texas. 

5. Happiness Highlights:
Shipment #1 (of three) of Will's soccer gear for this coming fall. He can't
wait to join the "big leagues", which makes me ridiculously excited as well.
The best part? Will's number is 17...which was also my number.
Seven years separate these two boys, but they spend a lot of time together
because their moms and sisters are friends. I adore - as in insert the emoji
with the hearts where the eyes should be - watching them interact.
Tux: "If you don't mind, I'd like a ride to the kitchen for a snack."
Sometimes this still happens and it's the absolute best.
We missed this sweet girl's birthday party while in California, so we had a
special birthday playdate for her, complete with pizza, cupcakes, swimming, and
presents that Hallie carefully (as in s...l...o...w...l...y) shopped for at Disneyland. 
This little one is so loved by his "adopted" brothers and sisters. 

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Don't forget to enter the Chasing Roots Father's Day "Daddy Do Giveaway" by taking a picture of daddy doing daughter's hair and emailing it to Photos submitted by 1:00 p.m. CST on Sunday, June 19th will be entered to win one of 10 Pantene Daddy Do Kits!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Five Stars from the Four Ferri

A few weeks back I came across this article, highlighting Spoons University's "45 Places to Eat in College Station Before You Die". Tom and I have dined at about 15 of these restaurants already - some of our favorites include Grub Burger Bar, Mad Taco, Koppe Bridge, Cafe Eccell, Paolo's Italian Kitchen, and Dixie Chicken - but that leaves 30 for us to experience...and we've decided to make doing so a family affair.
I went through years of blog posts looking for a photo of the four of
us eating dinner together, but this picture - of Will and me chowing
down on ballpark food at Will's first Detroit Tigers baseball game,
before Hallie was even born - was best I could do. Sad...
Over the course of the next year, Tom, Will, Hallie, and I plan to eat a meal at all 45 of the restaurants on this list. Which meal we eat will depend on each restaurant's specialties, meaning we won't visit a steakhouse for breakfast or a donut shop for dinner. We (Tom, Will, and I) have committed to choosing menu items on which the restaurant earned its reputation, meaning we won't order a hamburger at a seafood restaurant or chicken fingers at an Italian restaurant. Hallie, on the other hand, will order a hotdog, chicken fingers, french fries, or chips and salsa at every single establishment, so her food category scores won't count for much.

Speaking of scores, we plan to individually rate each of the restaurants on food, service, and atmosphere. (Again, Hallie's food scores shouldn't and won't count for anything.) We have no experience as food or restaurant critics, but we'll do our best and hopefully give BCS readers a little insight into where they can get great food but also enjoy a meal with the family in tow.

I'll share regular updates - highlighting the restaurants recently visited - here on Chasing Roots, so come back next month to read about what we've been savoring! (And not savoring, for that matter - our first restaurant's food was, at least in my opinion, far from five stars...)

Don't forget to enter the Chasing Roots Father's Day "Daddy Do Giveaway" by taking a picture of daddy doing daughter's hair and emailing it to Photos submitted by 1:00 p.m. CST on Sunday, June 19th will be entered to win one of 10 Pantene Daddy Do Kits!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Daddy Does Hair (A Father's Day Giveaway!)

I returned to work 13 weeks after my second child – little miss Hallie – entered the world. With the goal of making mornings as smooth as possible, I started laying out the kids’ outfits, shoes, and in Hallie’s case, hair accessories, the night before. This step would have been unnecessary had I been the parent in charge of mornings, but because I often left the house before the rest of my family woke up, my husband Tom was solely responsible for getting the kids fed, dressed, and out the door on time.

As Hallie grew older and her hair grew longer, Tom – who had never before put significant time or energy into how he or anyone else looked – seemed to come into his own as her hairstylist. From barrettes and bows to ponytails and tiny pigtails, Hallie’s light brown wispy locks looked adorable every day, thanks to Tom.

One afternoon I arrived to pick Hallie up from daycare and found her styled to perfection. I couldn’t help but comment to her teachers about how, if his career as an engineering professor didn’t work out, Tom could start taking classes at cosmetology school.

“Oh Erin…” one of the teachers started, shaking her head side to side. “Tom’s never done Hallie’s hair. He brings us her hair accessories every morning and then we do her hair after naptime.” A sideways smile crept across the teacher’s face as she went on. “Sometimes Hallie’s not even wearing shoes and socks when Tom drops her off.”

Suddenly it all made sense, and in that moment my inexplicably skilled-at-hair husband went back to being the absent-minded professor I’d always known and loved.

Hallie is now seven, and since those early daycare days Tom has styled her hair only a handful of times. She’s become an avid dancer though, so I’ve asked Tom to learn how to put a bun in her hair. It may be the toughest thing he does this summer, but I think he’s up to the challenge.

Did you know that girls who spend quality time with their dads grow up to be stronger women? Pantene’s Strong is Beautiful campaign aims to help dads and daughters and strengthen their relationships, one “Dad-Do” at a time. 

In honor of Father’s Day and in partnership with Pantene at Wal-Mart, Chasing Roots is giving away 10 Dad Do Bags. These packs include “Dad-Do” instruction cards, a mirror, a brush, Pantene Detangler, hairbands, and a $5 Wal-Mart gift card, and would make lovely gifts for dads of daughters. Hallie plans to give one to Tom, and though he doesn’t know it yet, Tom plans to use his kit as he attempts to master Hallie’s dancer bun. 

To enter, take a picture of dad brushing, styling, braiding, or even putting a bun in daughter’s hair and email it to Winners will be randomly selected and notified by email on Father’s Day – June 19th – and kits will be mailed the following week. 

Happy Father’s Day!

For additional information, visit

Friday, June 10, 2016

High Five for Friday (6.10.16)

1. Will and Hallie took four summers of swimming lessons through the City of College Station. While both kids did fine in their classes, neither made tremendous progress until I enrolled them in semi-private swimming lessons the past two winters.

After a couple of issues last year, I decided to move Will and Hallie to Bryan - our neighboring sister city - for swimming lessons this summer. A week in, I couldn't be happier with the change: the lessons are more organized, the teachers are better trained at both instructing kids and communicating with parents, and the expectations are higher. Hallie may not love lessons quite as much now (that girl is TIRED at the end of her 45-minute class, and on the first day she told me she almost "drownd-ed"...she didn't), but both kids will end the summer as even better swimmers.

2. Though I always have a headache when I finish a painting (I'm a tense painter, and I think that tension travels up my back and neck and into my head), I LOVE these girls nights and my finished products!

3. On Monday night we visited a new(ish) STEM education facility in College Station called FUNgineering. When we walked into the open house, Will dove immediately into the many activities set out for the kids. Hallie, on the other hand, looked around and declared, "I already don't like this place. When can we go home?" She wandered around aimlessly for 10 minutes, finally sitting down - somewhat defeatedly - at a building station. But then I watched, out of the corner of my eye, as she started following the instructions on the screen. 20, 30, 40 minutes later she was still working, and she stuck with her "drumming monkey" until she finished it just as it was time to go home. BCS parents, if you haven't visited FUNgineering, head over there soon! They have LEGO Education, LEGO Mindstorms, Robotics construction and programming, physics-based computer gaming, computer game and animation programming, 3D modeling/printing, and electronics classes, camps, and parents' nights out, all of which Will - and Hallie - can't wait to try!
Hallie's "drumming monkey".
I have no affiliation with FUNgineering. I am, however, incredibly impressed with FUNgineering's facility, staff, and programs and plan to send both Will and Hallie there this summer.

4. As of today, we're two weeks into summer vacation. We've had loads of fun thus far - soccer tournament, track camp, swimming lessons, painting, cookouts, dance lessons, movies, and LOTS of swimming and playing with friends - but on Tuesday afternoon I could see that both kids were nearing their first breaking point. So instead of going to the movie theater or the swimming pool, on Wednesday afternoon we just stayed home. The kids played outside and worked on their summer/school activity books while I wrote and folded laundry, and then we showered and watched a movie, cozied up together on the living room floor. I love spending time with friends, but a low-key afternoon was exactly what all three of us needed!

5. Finally, in place of my regular Happiness Highlights, a few "feel good", funny, and/or interesting links I've come across recently. I hope they brighten your Friday!
  • A 93-year-old woman and kind-hearted men - volunteers with the Raising Men Lawn Care Service - who saved both the day and her lawn. (link)
  • The "code of the wolf in a pack" fascinates me. (link)
  • A lovely article about the "second worst dorm in America"...which also happens to be where I lived during my sophomore year of college. (link)
  • Sometimes you need your friends to make it over an obstacle. (link)
  • Does anyone else find this as satisfying to watch as I do? No? (link)
  • I love stories about and videos showing animals reuniting with their humans. (link)
  • Lots of videos of senior walks - when graduating seniors walk through the halls of their elementary school wearing their caps and gowns - have made the rounds recently. This video is of a different but equally cute kind of walk through an elementary school hallway. (link

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Soccer Soccer, Boy Joy

A few years into writing Chasing Roots, the lines between "life in Texas" and "life with kids" began to blur. I had a difficult time determining where certain posts should go - on my Texas blog or my family blog - so I decided to stop worrying about which blog, and focus on one blog. Once my family fit in here in Texas, it felt like my family's lives should fit into my Texas blog.

That being said, every few months I write a post about one of my kids or my family that has only a weak connection to Texas. When that happens, I feel like I need to add a disclaimer at the beginning of the post. So here it is: today's post is about Will. 

Will cried for every minute of his first soccer practice. He was three years old - almost four, actually - and while he had asked to play soccer, on that first day he had absolutely no interest in participating. That tantrum still remains one the three worst of Will's entire life.

He ended up enjoying the season, but shortly after the Blueberries' last game, we moved to Texas and took a few months off from sports. Will played soccer again that fall and in kindergarten, but in kindergarten he also added baseball and in first grade he dropped soccer in favor of baseball. Though soccer was and is "my sport", I didn't mind that Will seemed to prefer baseball - I enjoy watching him do just about anything, and as long as he was happy with his choice, I was happy too.

Out of the blue and in second grade, Will decided to leave baseball behind in favor of returning to the soccer field. He played two seasons of recreational ball, but I could see - especially midway through his second season - that Will was ready for more than that league could offer. He came home one evening and asked if there were other options for him; he wanted a coach who knew more about soccer than he did, teammates who wanted to be there and understood the game, and an opportunity to improve. I talked to parents throughout our city and eventually opted to register Will for the Aggieland Division of the Houston Texans Training Academy. Academy looked and sounded like a cross between recreational soccer and traveling/competitive soccer, and seemed like a good fit for a third grader who desperately wanted an upgrade but whose parents weren't quite ready to spend every weekend traveling to soccer tournaments.

We made the right call. Not only did Will dramatically improve as a soccer player, he grew as a teammate, an athlete, and a competitor. Will also came to truly love the game, so much so that at the end of his Academy year, he decided to tryout for the club's Aggieland select team.

Side note: those three nights of tryouts were some of the most tense and stressful of my adult life. I felt like I was going to vomit for 72 hours straight.

Will made the team, bless his soccer-loving heart, and now his parents have signed away the majority of their weekends from the middle of August through the end of May.

I am tremendously proud of Will, not because he's the best soccer player on his team, but because he's not. Sprint for sprint, he's not the fastest. Move for move, he doesn't have the best footwork. Shot for shot, he's not the strongest. Yes, he's a good soccer player. But he earned his spot on that team because he's an incredibly hard worker, a supportive teammate, and a leader on the field. And if soccer helped him develop those skills, this mama will gladly spend her weeknights driving to and from soccer practice and weekends traveling to soccer tournaments.

It's likely that if we lived elsewhere - if we'd moved somewhere other than College Station five-and-a-half years ago - our kids would still have had the opportunity to attend exemplary elementary schools, participate in quality sports programs and extracurricular activities, and make life-long friends. Likely, but not guaranteed. Today's post was one of those that reminded me how grateful I am that we made the choice we did almost six years ago, and for the life that choice has afforded us.