Wednesday, May 31, 2017

School's Out For Summer!

Though we finished school last Thursday, we spent our entire weekend going 100 MPH for three dance recitals and therefore considered yesterday the first official day of summer.

Here's what I'm looking forward to the most:
  • Waking up without an alarm clock.
  • Getting up at the same time as the sun...and not a minute earlier. (Side note: did you know that in July it gets light outside at 4:30am in Wisconsin?!)
  • Visiting our families in Wisconsin and Illinois.
  • New experiences for Will and Hallie. (Both are going outside of their comfort zones and trying multiple new kinds of lessons and camps this summer.)
  • Swimming, boating, movies, bowling, miniature golf, campfires, the 19th hole, farmers markets, ice cream trucks, live music, cold beer, and date nights.
  • Boredom.
  • Available tables at my coffee shops.
  • Shorter wait times at our favorite restaurants.
  • Available parking spots downtown.
  • Fewer cars on the road.

Things I'm not looking forward to this summer:
  • August.
  • Mosquitoes.
  • And, you know, the heat. Some things never change.

What are you looking forward to - and what could you do without - this summer?

Looking for a little guidance when it comes to surviving - and loving - summer with your kids? Check out my Mama Bear Summer Survival Guide on the Mama Bear Dares blog. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

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 - no, especially when - it was dangerous to do so, preached peace and love and tried to make our country a kinder place.
Four proud Americans on Memorial Day Eve.
Thank you.

Happy Memorial Day, friends!

Friday, May 26, 2017

High Five for Farewells (5.26.17)

Yesterday Will finished elementary school. I can hardly type that sentence without bursting into tears, as it feels like just yesterday I walked him through the front doors of his elementary school and delivered him to his kindergarten classroom for the first time.

For me, the baby and toddler years - for both of my children, but more so in Will's case - moved at a glacial pace. The preschool years passed by a bit more quickly, but the elementary school years? I blinked and found myself at the finish line.
1st Day of Kinder
1st Day of 1st Grade
1st Day of 2nd Grade
1st Day of 3rd Grade
1st Day of 4th Grade
Will begins intermediate school in less than three months, and I have no doubt those days and weeks and months will fly by more quickly than I'd like. I feel nothing but proud of the incredible young man Will is becoming, but what I wouldn't give to hold onto these big little boy years for just a while longer. 
End of Kinder
End of 1st Grade
End of 2nd Grade
End of 3rd Grade
End of 4th Grade
Sweet may feel like an ending, but it is also the beginning of your next beautiful and exciting adventure. You can handle whatever comes your way as long as you remember to work hard, to be kind, and that your mama loves you.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Few Words Wednesday: Survival of the Fittest

This is it: the last push.

Auditions and tryouts may have wrapped, but this week - the last week of school before summer vacation starts - annually ranks among the top five busiest of the year. So today, to help maintain my sanity, I'm keeping it short and sweet.

Hang in there, teachers, parents, and kiddos - the finish line is in sight!

Monday, May 22, 2017

I Thought of You

My feelings about the "wildlife" here in Texas have been well documented; see below for a few of my favorite posts on the topic. (By "favorite", I mean most terrifying, dramatic, and/or hilarious.)
I couldn't look at another real
picture, so we're going with
cartoon graphics today.

I recently realized that after sharing here on Chasing Roots my dislike for lizards, snakes, skinks, slugs, and the like, my name (perhaps along with an image of my horrified face and the sound of my screams) comes to mind for regular readers when they encounter these critters in their own lives. Throughout the last six months I've gotten emails, texts, and Facebook messages - at the rate of one every couple of weeks - from friends who find a lizard in their washing machine, a snake in their shoes, or a skink in their bathtub. Just last Friday, a friend sent me this.

Thankfully this large iguana did not take up residence in her toilet; she just happened to stumble upon the video...and it made her think of me.

I'm honored to be the one who comes to mind when you see Texas' mighty creatures slowly taking over the world. Please know that when I receive your messages I cry a little (because these animals legitimately scare me), laugh a little (because these animals made you think of me), and say a prayer of thanks that whatever you found in your house hasn't yet make its way into mine. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

High Five for Friday (5.19.17)

1. On Friday night I went out with my fellow Mini Company dance moms - and our girls' incredible director - to celebrate the (near) end of our first year together. Not one us had any idea what we were getting into when we signed our names on the dotted line last spring, but 12 months later I think we would all agree that Mini Company has blessed both our girls and us as their mothers.

2. Some friends and I held our second annual multi-family garage sale on Saturday morning. Aside from having to get up at 6am (and starting to wake up at 3am in preparation for my 6am alarm), we had a great time hanging out together while getting rid of LOTS of stuff (remember the 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge?) and making a little money. Our kiddos made a little money as well - they sold four or five dozen cupcakes and six pitchers worth of lemonade to our garage sale shoppers.
Despite the look on his face in this pic, Will had a GREAT time!
3. Though I hate to admit it, I don't like Mother's Day. (The reasons behind my feelings about this holiday - and a few others - don't belong in a High Five for Friday post, so I'll save them for another day...or never, as I don't want to come across as a Debbie Downer.) That said, Tom, the kiddos, and I enjoyed our day - I slept in until 7:15am and didn't get out of bed until 8am, Tom and Will made waffles, Will and I shopped for new shinguards, and we all played a couple of new family board games, bought a new drum mat, ate Torchy's Tacos take out, and watched a movie together. Happy belated Mother's Day!

4. I am SO grateful that audition/tryout season for Will and Hallie has come to an end, and that it ended well for both kiddos. These last two weeks have turned quite a few of my remaining blond hairs gray!
Official Cavalry FC Youth Signing Day.
Yes, it was absolutely as awesome as it looks.
I have a post brewing about youngsters going through auditions and tryouts. Do you have 1) a kiddo who has auditioned or tried out for a group or team and/or 2) a strong opinion about the process? If so, shoot me an email at

5. Happiness Highlights
Last week my mom sent Hallie these butterfly wings. They're handmade
in India from upcycled saris, which means each set of wings is unique.
I love watching her spread her wings.
After reading Will's Mother's Day essay, I found this
short story of his - written in first grade - particularly funny. 
Hallie and I spent much of Will's last soccer practice reading on
a blanket on the grass. I cherish these quiet moments with her...
Will's still trying... For a moment after Tux picked up a piece in
his teeth, Will thought they were making progress...then Tux
took the piece across the room and refused to bring it back.
Ready to turn in her flamingo habitat...
...and then visiting the real flamingos at the zoo!
Cute second graders enjoying their last field
trip of the year to the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco.
On the way home we made a stop for the best
cupcakes on earth...courtesy of Joanna Gaines. 
Loved hanging with my PTO ladies
at "Welcome to Kinder at the Rock".

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Rate Your Restaurants: Round 3 (11-15)

Between June 2016 and June 2017, (some combination of) the four Ferri plan to dine at each of Spoons University's "45 Places to Eat in College Station Before You Die". 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. 

We plan to individually rate each of the restaurants on food, service, and atmosphere. 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.

If you missed the Meet the Reviewers, Round 1, or Round 2 posts, check them out before reading the reviews below - they'll make a lot more sense with a bit of background information!

A quick update:

Turns out my initial timeline (June 2016 - June 2017) in no way meshed with our busy schedule. We continue to work our way through the 45 restaurants on the list (though now the list is down to 44, as I just read that Mess Waffles Etc. closed a couple of weeks ago), but our opportunities to dine out have been and continue to be fewer and farther between than I imagined they would be...looks like this is a two-year project!

And now, on to our third group of restaurants!

11. Paolo's
The newest Italian restaurant to College Station, Paolo’s is serving up true authentic Italian with New York influences. Their vast menu boasts fresh ingredients at affordable prices. Try their chicken picatta or seafood fra diavolo, which does not skimp out on the seafood.

Food: 8 (Erin 8, Tom 8)
Service: 8.5 (Erin 9, Tom 8)
Atmosphere: 8.5 (Erin 9, Tom 8)

Across the three times I have dined at Paolo's, the food, service, and atmosphere have impressed me. I enjoyed multiple different salads and entrees from the Paolo's family style menu, but when ordering on my own I can't say no to the Watchdog Rock Reisling, stuffed mushrooms, balsamic streak and arugula flatbread, and spaghetti bolognese.

12. Grub Burger Bar
Hands down some of the most unique burgers in College Station. The Jive Turkey and Lockhart Legend are some personal favorites, but you really can’t go wrong. Be sure to try one of their handcrafted milkshakes! You can even get them spiked, like their Tipsy Worms & Dirt. Childhood memories, meet alcohol.

Food (burgers): 8.25 (Erin 8, Tom 9, Will 9, Hallie 7)
Food (other): 6 (Erin 5, Tom 6, Will 7, Hallie 6)
Service: 7.75 (Erin 6, Tom 7, Will 9, Hallie 9)
Atmosphere: 7.25 (Erin 6, Tom 7, Will 8, Hallie 8)

Grub makes delicious and unique burgers, but the rest of the experience - at least for me - has been mediocre. I want to love their french fries, but I prefer fries with a little substance and Grub's are long and skinny. I also want to love their milkshakes, but Grub's ice cream and whipped cream have an artificial aftertaste. The staff with whom I have interacted haven't been rude, but neither have they been particularly friendly or helpful. I also dislike that the employees tell customers where to sit; in a casual, relaxed restaurant where customers order from a counter, fill their own fountain drinks, and seat themselves, customers should be be allowed to in fact seat themselves. We've been put far from the televisions (Will's biggest issue) and at tables where the sun shines directly into our eyes and it's complicated to request a move and then have the order delivered to the new table number.

13. Napa Flats
Best described as Californian cuisine meets Italian flair, Napa Flats is dishing out some serious good eats from their wood-fired grill. Their pizzas are expertly crafted, and if you have a sweet tooth, go for their seasonal cobblers or the gelato they make in-house!

Food: 7.5 (Erin 8, Tom 7)
Service: 5.5 (Erin 5, Tom 6)
Atmosphere: 6.5 (Erin 6, Tom 7)

I went with a group of friends for a birthday party (we made reservations ahead of time so they knew we were coming), and while I appreciated Napa Flats' willingness to plan ahead for our relatively large group of 12, the service we received once we sat down was poor. We arrived early - before 5pm - so we could beat the rush and make a 7pm painting reservation. Our waitress was inattentive and short with us, and she just barely got us out the door at 6:50pm. That being said, my food - the Mediterranean appetizer plate and poblano mac'n'cheese - was amazing.

14. 40 Tempura
You’d think for a small town our sushi choices would be sub-par. But 40 Tempura has some of the freshest fish in the city, and they make some amazingly creative and tasty rolls.

Food: 7 (Erin 6, Tom 8, Will 8, Hallie 6)
Service: 7.25 (Erin 8, Tom 7, Will 8, Hallie 6)
Atmosphere: 6.5 (Erin 6, Tom 5, Will 9, Hallie 6)

I went to 40 Tempura ONLY because it made Spoons' list. Tom and Will both wanted sushi, so even though Hallie and I wanted anything but, we agreed (well, I agreed - Hallie did no such thing) to give it a try. The service was excellent: the waitstaff was attentive, polite, and helpful, especially when I explained that Hallie and I could not stomach any raw meats. The atmosphere was too quiet, dark, and solemn for my taste - I like casual and bustling, where a lively conversation, a laugh, a cheers, or worse, a meltdown by a child, doesn't draw attention to the table - but Hallie and I enjoyed the miso soup and chicken fried rice and Tom and Will were pleased with their sushi selections.

15. Blue Baker
Blue Baker is known for their out of this world homemade fresh artisan breads. Then they make sandwiches out of that bread and the angels begin to sing. Best part is you can get free food depending on how much blue you wear (or paint on your body). A poor college kid’s dream!

Food: 7.25 (Erin 7, Tom 6, Will 9, Hallie 7)
Service: 6.75 (Erin 7, Tom 5, Will 8, Hallie 7)
Atmosphere: 7 (Erin 6, Tom 6, Will 7, Hallie 9)

I agree that Blue Baker's croissants make the angels sing, but beyond that I think this sandwich shop is a bit overrated. Blue Baker's sandwiches, sides, soups, and pastries hit the spot, but for me they don't surpass Panera or our other local delis. Blue Baker did climb a notch for me recently though, when they built a new restaurant closer to our house and put a tiny but fun playground out back. Even though their food doesn't take top billing, I would pick Blue Baker over Panera if I had my kids with me or were meeting a friend with kids.

There you have it - 15 restaurants down, 30 left to go!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Just Keep Showing Up

There are many heroes in my eyes, but the best one is my mom.

One reason is she encourages me in everything I do and is very enthusiastic. She always goes to my soccer games and has great words of advice. Whenever I mess up or do something wrong, it's like it never happens with my mom, stepping in and helping me just like a hero. She is always there when I need her and just pushes me in the right direction. If I'm having a bad day, she'd walk in, help me, and walk out just the same.

Next, she's funny and is always happy. When we have dinner every night, she'll throw in a hilarious joke that leaves all of my family in tears. She always makes me feel all happy inside and really joyful because her attitude is contagious.

Finally, my hero is very gracious and helps other people and my school, Rock Prairie. She always helps with our school fundraisers and is helping my school grow. Last week, my mom made cookies for the police and local fire department.

Now can you see why my mom's a hero in my eyes? I hope you can because she stands out like a spotlight to me.

~ Will Ferris

Moms. If you're anything like me, you feel like you only "get it right" as a parent about 50% of the time. I strive to be the mother my kids deserve, but most days I come up at least a little short.

But Moms. Did you read what Will wrote? If you delve deeply enough, (I think) two primary and overarching points begin to take shape. First, we don't have to be perfect to be good. Will has heard me raise my voice and seen me lose my temper and watched as I crumbled under the pressure of parenthood, but he nevertheless thinks (or at least thought on the day he penned this essay) that I have done a decent job mothering him.

Second, what makes us good is the fact that we show up. Will cares that I show up for soccer and his other extracurricular activities; that I'm there for him when he needs support and guidance. Will cares that I show up for dinner and create opportunities for our family to be together; that I'm there for him when he needs to refuel and to lighten his load. And Will cares that I show up for the other important people in his life, from those who he cares about at school to those he relies on in our community.

Will is telling me - and I think all the moms out there, as he knows I'm sharing this essay - that we just need to keep showing up.

Happy Mother's Day to my mom, who ALWAYS showed up for me and my sister and who now continues to show up for our kids. To my mother-in-law, who ALWAYS showed up for all four of her children and who now continues to show up for her three grandchildren. To my sister, my sister-in-law, my friends, and all the moms who are out there showing up in whatever way works best for their children and families even when it's hard.

You Rock.

Content Note: I have in the past made cookies for the police and fire departments, however the last time I did so was more than a year ago. Maybe time works differently in a 10-year-old little boy's brain?

Scheduling Note: For those of you who read Chasing Roots regularly, this week this Sunday post will take the place of my usual Monday post. See you on Wednesday!

Friday, May 12, 2017

High Five for Friday (5.12.17)

1a. Tom traveled for four days last week and four days this week, but he managed to schedule his trips such that he could make it home for all of last weekend and this weekend as well. We miss him when he's gone, and I don't know that we could get through our busy Friday-Sunday stretches - especially at this time of year - without him on our team!

1b. The flip side of this high five is another - albeit smaller - high five... When Tom is gone, my floors stay infinitely cleaner than when he's home, which means that these last two weeks I've spent considerably less time vacuuming and mopping.

2a. Speaking of Tom and his weekend activities... On their way home from soccer on Saturday, Tom and Will stopped at a roadside farm stand and bought two GIGANTIC watermelons. Tom then proceeded to skip town, leaving me and Will (Hallie doesn't like watermelon) to eat Hallie's body weight in fruit. Thankfully these watermelons taste like heaven in a rind!
In case the pic doesn't offer the correct perspective, that watermelon is
the size of one and a half basketballs and those tupperwares each hold
EIGHT CUPS. This pic was taken after we'd eaten watermelon all day
Saturday and Sunday and I'd had watermelon for lunch on Monday.
2b. While Tom and Will bought watermelons to feed a small army, Hallie and I spent nine or so hours (9am - 6:15pm with a two-hour break in the middle) rehearsing for her upcoming dance recital. The day was L...O...N...G, but we both feel good about how prepared the girls are for their dances!
Thank you, Shannon Morton Photography,
for capturing my girl in all her ballet glory. 
3. Sprinkler systems are still such a strange concept for both Tom and me; when we lived in Michigan, I watered our lawn - as needed and only during the hottest, driest summer months - with an actual sprinkler that I hooked up to the hose and moved around the yard every 15 minutes. The elaborate and expensive systems required to keep grass, flowers, bushes, and trees alive here in Texas baffle me, but because we desperately want our fruit trees and blueberry bushes to survive and would like our backyard soccer field to have actual grass growing on it, we finally bit the bullet and had our entire system overhauled. (Tom has handled small repairs on his own for the last few years.) The work was completed last week so now I'm counting on never-ending fruit and a world cup-grade field on which to shoot penalty kicks.

4. Aside from the fact that another child punched Will in the stomach on the way to the bus, Will crushed his chess tournament...he took first place!

5. Today my little sister celebrates her thirty-something-th birthday. I hate living so far away from her and her family, but at least she's coming to visit me in two weeks and then we get to spend a good portion of July together. Happy birthday, "SAM I Am". I hope your special day includes sleeping in, lots of coffee, lots of wine, and a white cake with white frosting! 😉

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Few Words Wednesday: Cats Can't Play Chess

Today Will competes in the annual CSISD (our school district) elementary school chess tournament. The tournament ranks high on the list of activities he has looked forward to during his fourth grade year, so in honor of the event - and the fact that Monday and Tuesday's STAAR tests have concluded - here is a "Few Words Wednesday" post in which I show the story of Will trying unsuccessfully to get Tux to play a game of chess. 

All set up and ready to go. Will sat like that - poised and ready
and waiting for Tux to take his turn - for close to two minutes.
"Come on, lil' buddy. You can do it - just move one piece!"
Eventually Tux rested his head on the chess board
and, in true feline fashion, took a 12-second catnap. 
When Tux woke up he moved a the board and onto the
table, where he snuggled up with it and refused to even look at Will.
I think Will has unrealistic expectations when it comes to Tux's intelligence...

Monday, May 8, 2017

Kitchen Challenge: United States of Cookies

Years have passed since I last took on a cooking or baking challenge outside of trying at least a couple of new recipes every month. A lack of time has contributed, but perhaps more relevant to this hiatus is the fact that I simply haven't come across a kitchen challenge that interested me. Until now.

Last month I stumbled upon this intriguing compilation of recipes. Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods asked 50 different culinary and/or foodie bloggers to come up with a cookie recipe in honor of their state, and then combined those 50 cookie recipes to create the United States of Cookies. Because I love to bake and am a little bit crazy, I have decided to bake each and every one of the cookie recipes on this list. I will of course share...the results here on Chasing Roots and the cookies with friends and neighbors and fire stations and anyone else who needs cookies.

Bring it on, cookie challenge!

Here are links to my past kitchen challenges in case you need a little recipe inspiration this week!

Friday, May 5, 2017

High Five for Cinco de Mayo (5.5.17)

Happy Cinco de Mayo! I hope you have plans to enjoy tacos and tequila in honor of the Mexican Army's victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla. (Yes, I had to look that up.)

1. Last Friday the temperatures climbed into the 90s for the first time this year, which means we headed out for something cold and sweet as soon as the kids got home from school. Will and Hallie never remember this tradition, which makes it especially fun for me - I love to surprise them with little treats, especially ones that don't cost a penny because Spoons celebrates good report cards with free cups of frozen yogurt and toppings.

2. Last Friday evening Tom and Hallie attended their fifth annual Daddy Daughter Dance with lots of their daddy and daughter friends. Meanwhile, Will and I went on our annual Mother Son Date to a destination that forces me to step outside my comfort zone. (In years past we've visited the racetrack, gone to superhero action movies, played laser tag, and played video games both at home and at the arcade.) This year Will chose an excursion to Jumping World, where we bounced, flipped, dunked, dodged, and worked on our Ninja Warrior skills. I didn't end up in the ER, which I consider a huge win given that the last time I joined my kids for an intense physical activity - parent participation week at dance - I severely pulled both my hamstring and IT band. (An unexpected outcome, given my daily work-out regime...)
These two... Just. Stop. Growing. Please.
3. On Saturday we survived a trip to the gym, two playdates, an out-of-town soccer game, Mini Company Auditions, the Strutters Dance Showcase, and a sleepover. I have no doubt your April and May calendars look just as jam-packed as ours; if we pass each other on the sidewalk or at the gym or in the hallway at school, let's high five as a way of saying, "we've got this!", ok?

4. Speaking of dancing, Hallie made it into Mini Company next year! She smiled and laughed and cheered and her mama breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Their reaction when they received the news.
Hallie also danced in the Strutters Showcase on Saturday night, an activity that over the last three years has become one of her spring favorites.

And on yet another related note, I found this photo - of the same three girls as in the pic above but taken more than half their lives ago - while cleaning out a file cabinet on Sunday afternoon. Seriously kiddos, this growing up business has got to stop...

5. Happiness Highlights:
Will and Hallie found the homemade Native American
costumes they wore in their 4yo preschool Thanksgiving
programs. I then had to find photos of how they looked
wearing these outfits the first time around...
4yo Will
4yo Hallie
We will soon have a cello player in the house!
If I fits, I sits.
Tux made himself at home in this bowl less than a minute after I
set it on the rug to clean its spot on the shelf. He's quick, that one.
Somehow sweet Calvin climbed into the cart all
by himself while the grown-ups weren't looking.

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here: