Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 by the Numbers

At the end of each year I like to spend a little time reading through old posts and noting - thanks to the statistics feature associated with the blog - which topics were well-received (and which topics weren't, for that matter) by you, my readers. I have always written and will continue to write in my own voice, and I know how important it is for my blog remain a true representation of who I am, but I want my words to reach out in a way you find interesting and engaging.

Along those lines, here are this year's most popular posts:

Wisconsin Bucket List: Ice Boating
Will and Tom experience, for the first time, what it feels like to reach 40 miles an hour on a sailboat on ice skates.

Why, Erin?!
I say "GOOD RIDDANCE" when the jolly green giant (our first hot tub) dies. So of course I buy a second one.

Connections Can Change the World
I recognize the beauty of a small town with big connections and an even bigger heart.

Adulting 201
I outline how I plan to keep Will and Hallie from having to attend Adulting School later in life...

Real Life
...and then admit to the downhill slide that followed all that adulting success.

Pearls for Barbara
We bid farewell to a beautiful, gracious, generous woman. 

This is My Brave
I share my story in an attempt to do my part, however small, to combat the stigma surrounding mental illness.

I Survived...But My Dress Did Not
I lose my dress - and perhaps some of my dignity - at Hallie's dance recital. 

May the Nuts Be With You
Will battles against - and is eventually victorious over - his peanut allergy.

Try Me
I witness - in my children - the benefits that come with trying out and auditioning for various sports teams and dance companies and productions.

And here are a few of my personal favorites:

When the Going Gets Tough, Moms Get Going
Enough said.

14 Years of Big and Little Things
Tom and I celebrate 14 years of marriage.

Gone Camping
I try to overcome my disdain for bugs and critters and pit toilets and sleeping on the ground for my parents, my kids, and my extended camping family.

Share the Love
A friend shares how to make it through the deep, dark month of February.

Colder than Colder than Cold
We survive a week in Antarctica. Kind of.

It's Almost Always "And"
Embrace "and".

The Wave
A new "authentic, caring, and powerful" tradition that "perfectly embodies the Hawkeye family spirit".

Cruising Down the Monarch Highway
Helping save a species. 

It's a Better Place Since You Came Along
My girl's ninth birthday.

My boy's 12th birthday.

Thank you, my real life and internet friends, for your support throughout 2018. For reading my posts, following Chasing Roots here on the site, "liking" Chasing Roots on Facebook, and sharing Chasing Roots with your friends and family. I am extraordinarily grateful.

I look forward to spending 2019 with you!

Friday, December 28, 2018

The Christmas Season Recapped

I worked on this post throughout the month of December, primarily on days when I didn't feel all that Christmasy, interestingly enough. When overwhelmed, frustrated, or agitated, I opened my computer and found my way to this post...where I had every intention of sharing - and therefore needed to focus on - the festive, the celebratory, the good. Writing here never failed to lift my spirits and remind me what this season is all about.

~ Though not necessarily related to the holidays, I feel it important to acknowledge that included in December's "good" were Will's soccer team's first place finish in the South Hampton Cup and second place finish in the Cavalry Stampede 3V3 tournament, my new washer and dryer, and my new power washer.

~ We remembered to move Chris...almost every evening. Thinking he was trapped (he was hanging from a magnetic chip clip stuck to the freezer), Hallie panicked the one time we forgot to move him. Together she and Tom devised a plan to safely free Chris from captivity, and that night he was able to return to the North Pole and report to Santa.
"Trapped" on the refrigerator, but
ready for his impending fall to the floor.
Safely resting on the dish towel.
Safely moving from the kitchen to the office.
Safely out of the way in the office, waiting for
the end of the day to return to the North Pole. 
~ We enjoyed a wide variety of musical, theatrical, dance, and cultural events, including the Houston Ballet's Jubilee of Dance, CSISD's holiday orchestra concert, Ballet Brazos' production of The Nutcracker, Suzanne's School of Dance Christmas at the Lake, SFLP Preschool's Christmas Musical Program, Madison Ballet's production of The Nutcracker, and multiple theater and Netflix holiday movies.
Mini Company at Christmas at the Lake.
Tom and me at Christmas at the Lake
Attempting to stay warm while watching our girls dance...
...these helped!
Madison Ballet's The Nutcracker.
~ We held our second annual Christmas Lights and Cookies among Central Park's light displays; went caroling with Hallie's Student Council; made gifts and ornaments at Board and Brush; celebrated - and exchanged gifts - with friends at school, friend, and dance parties; and toured the College Station homes most elaborately lit with lights, hot chocolate and cookies in hand.
Our kid crew at the lights.
The little-ish girls.
The little boys.
The big girls.
The big boys.
The moms.
The caroling crowd (at our house).
Making ornaments.
School celebrations.
Dance celebrations.
Headed out to enjoy the lights!
~ In Madison we celebrated Lily's birthday and Christmas, wearing matching outfits most of the time. We also enjoyed the lights, rode the merry-go-round, and visited with Santa at the Henry Vilas Zoo's annual Zoo Lights festival.
Happy birthday, Lily!
Neighborhood "kids" and their kids.
Yeti jammies.
The one and only genuine original family band.
Dance party!
Matching girlies.
Matching boys.
Zoo Lights!
All smiles.
Riding the merry-go-round.
Ready for the Nutcracker battle scene.
Santa! We know him! (While my bro-in-law waited for the kids to
talk to Santa, he stood outside the room and repeatedly knocked on the
glass while pointing to Santa and mouthing "I know him!!!" whenever
anyone - strangers included - looked his way. It was hysterical.)
Christmas morning!
~ Last but not least, I baked:
  • Six dozen miniature M&M cookies
  • Four dozen dark chocolate chip red velvet cookies
  • Four dozen glazed cream cheese sugar cookies
  • Two dozen orange Fanta cupcakes (with orange Fanta creamsicle frosting)
  • Four dozen cowboy cookies
  • 12 dozen gingersnap cookies
  • Two pans of brownies
  • One pumpkin pie
  • One cherry pie
  • One red velvet cake

Despite the challenges I've had with Chasing Roots these last few months, I am tremendously grateful to have the time and ability to process my feelings through my fingers, for the readers who visit this space, and for the growth that occurs and the relationships that are built and strengthened here. Thanks for being a part of it all this December!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas from the Four Ferri

Merry Christmas, Chasing Roots!

In 2018...

Will (12yo, 6th grade) had a big year. He completed a lengthy peanut desensitization that trained his immune system to tolerate peanut exposure, and while he still hates peanuts, we are tremendously grateful for the freedom and peace that came with his success. He also scored himself top and bottom braces, which are slowly but surely turning his million dollar smile into a two million dollar smile. He loves soccer, running, cello, and chess, and he has recently become a fan guessed it...Fortnight.

After years as our baby, Hallie (9yo, 4th grade) has begun to find her footing as a big kid, and even better, a leader. With senior status both at school and in her dance company, she has finally had the opportunity to support and share some of what she has learned with the little ones coming up behind her. She loves all genres of dance, making music, creating art, and flexing her culinary muscles; ultimately she gravitates toward all that allows her to make the world more complex and magnificent...just like her.

Tom (37yo, 32nd grade) continues his work in Human Factors as an Associate Professor at TAMU. Outside of the office, Tom plays disc golf, nerd games, and as many musical instruments as possible, and he has come a mad scientist of sorts: light suit 1.0 became light suit 2.0, which became light hats and light boots and light drums. Next up is an audiovisual electronic art project!

Erin (age and grade no longer relevant) wishes she had more hours in the day, but tries to make the most of the time she does have. She struggles on occasion, but when her head hits the pillow at night she wonders how she got so lucky to have the job, the village, and the family she always wanted.

Wishing you and yours a peaceful and joyful holiday season.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Winter, by Hallie Claire Ferris

In honor of winter's arrival, I present to you a poem about 
the season written by Hallie and shared with her permission.

Written By Hallie Ferris
Not At All Edited By Erin Ferris 😫

I love winter
I think it shines
There is lots of snow
It is just divine as pine on a vine
In winter it is very cold
It makes me want to hold
An ornament that isn't bland tightly in my hand

Winter is wonderful
It has hot coco, sweet cider, sledding, and snow
I also love my jolly ho ho ho christmas bow

Sometimes I wish for something sweet
Something sweet that is quite a treat
A candy cane one or two 
In my stocking on christmas new

I love winter
I think it shines
There is lots of snow
It is just devine as pine on a vine

Hearty Christmas eve is as bright as the sun
There is lots of cheering
It's filled with fun
Games to play and cinnamon buns
On are pajamas with the birthday of Jesus
He is number 1!

It's Christmas day
What a treat
We run down the stairs
On our cold cold feet
We open our stockings
And reveal a surprise
This year santa was really wise

We do are hair
We say a prayer
Now it's time for Christmas dinner
Yummy yum yum yum
We sing a simple Christmas hum
We eat down the turkey
And the cranberry juice
We go for a ride
On a Christmas moose

We see Christmas lights
And pretty flights
And we wish we were on that plane
Flying in the snowy rain

It is getting late
No time to wait
So on are way we go home

My mom is like a teddy bear as she tucks me into bed
My dreams are bright with a beautiful light
Of the new year up ahed

The starts winked at me as I drifted of to sleep
And in my mind
The new year is their
And the way to get their
Is by taking a giant leap

We wake up in the morning to a wonderful new year
And think about the day 
That spring will soon be here

We have a party
And a pizza
And piñata too
This is so much fun
When I am dancing here with you

Your eyes are like diamonds
Your nails are very sharp
We need some music for the party
So do you play the harp?

Winter is wonderful
I think it shines
There is lots of snow
It is just divine as pine on a vine

Winter wishes wonderful wishes
A past a shooting star
Loving weeps
Tasty treats
Upon winters wonderfulness

The snow is melting
The sky is num
Spring is coming
I have had so much fun
Thank you reading it brings me great cheer
Read my other poems because I wish you were here

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Best Way to Spread Christmas Cheer

During my first holiday season of blogging I shared two of my favorite Christmas videos. When my second holiday season of blogging rolled around, I shared the two videos from the first year and added a couple of new favorites in the same post so I could easily find them when I needed a holiday pick-me-up. The third holiday season I narrowed down the videos from years past and added a few more. Same thing during the fourth, fifth, and sixth, and seventh holiday seasons. And now in the eighth holiday season, the tradition continues.

So here they are: my favorites from this year and years past, all in one place, so anyone who needs an emotional or spiritual lift - myself included - can find them when the need arises. All will warm your heart and remind you that love actually IS all around us…sometimes we just have to look for it. On YouTube.

Happy holidays, friends!

In case you're wondering, my criteria is simple…if the song gives me chills, it makes the cut. I'd love to see and listen to your favorite Christmas videos - I'm always growing my playlist - so please send them my way!

Little Drummer Boy: For King and Country
I love how this performance is high energy and high 
impact but also committed to the message of the song.

The Christmas Can-Can: Straight No Chaser
This group sings beautiful acapella music, and on occasion 
they throw a good bit of humor into their performances.

All I Want For Christmas is You: 
Mariah Carey, James Corden, and more...
Who doesn't love listening to this song at Christmas time?!

Baby It's Cold Outside: Idina Menzel and Michael Buble
This twist on a holiday favorite is adorable - let your kiddos watch too! 

Hallelujah: Pentatonix
Perhaps the best song - and one of the best versions of it - ever.
The low notes in particular, especially during the fourth verse, 
make me feel like I'm having an out-of-body experience.

Deck the Halls
My favorite flashmob of all time.

The Christmas Scale
"It's hard to believe that the greatest message the 
world will ever hear is contained in one simple scale."

Silent Night: Us the Duo
I hadn't heard of this group until last year when we saw them open 
for Pentatonix. They're fun and quirky and incredibly talented! 

Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring
Another flash mob, this one by the talented Air Force Band.

Angels We Have Heard on High: The Piano Guys
I still get chills every single time I watch/listen to this video.

Joy to the World: Mormon Tabernacle Choir
I have always loved both this choir and this song; 
when they combine they sound like Christmas should!

That's Christmas to Me: Pentatonix
Their original Christmas song warms my heart.

"The best way to spread (and I'll add the words "and feel" in here as well) Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear."

Thanks, Buddy.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Wish Me Anything You Want

Portions of the content below appeared on Chasing Roots last December, and the December before, and the December before that. I believe that this post - with a few updates - and its overarching message deserve a share every time the season for "wishing" arrives. 

I grew up in an ethnically and religiously diverse community. Because of the plethora of religions supported, holidays celebrated, and traditions followed (and not supported, celebrated, and followed, for that matter - the Freedom From Religion Foundation began and is still based there), and because my hometown has earned a reputation as "the land of the perpetually offended", very little related to religious holidays could be found in public buildings and schools throughout my childhood years. We never sang Christmas carols or wore Santa hats in school, and in 1987, the Christmas tree that had stood proudly in the State Capitol rotunda every December since 1918 was renamed a Holiday tree in an attempt to make the building feel more inclusive and avoid irritating those who didn't celebrate Christmas.

To be clear, I understand why the tree was renamed. A Christmas tree in the State Capitol building is hardly a separation of church and state. It's not the point of my post though, so I'm moving on.

In 2011, Governor Walker re-renamed the tree, this time back to a Christmas tree. "It's a diverse state", Walker explained. "I think it's a reflection of the many wonderful traditions in the State of Wisconsin." Now, during the month of December, the Capitol rotunda also hosts a Menorah, Festivus trees, and a nativity scene mocking Christmas, so it seems more people are "represented" in their State Capitol building.

Again to clarify, I understand why the tree was re-renamed. Just changing the name of an object long associated with a religious holiday doesn't necessarily lessen the association between the two. It's not the point of my post either though, so I'm moving on again.

Growing up, I learned to wish people "Happy Holidays" during the month of December. I used this phrase, and this phrase exclusively, until a few years ago, not because it's lovely and inclusive (and it IS lovely and inclusive - there's absolutely nothing wrong with wishing someone happy holidays), but because I honestly worried about offending someone.

I now live in a completely different kind of community from the one in which I grew up, so out of curiosity, a few years ago I ran little (uncontrolled) experiment. While shopping and running errands during the two weeks leading up to Christmas, I recorded what people "wished" me. I didn't track what they said when I spoke first (because people often respond by repeating whatever phrase they hear), only what they said when they spoke first. I expected to find that in my current community, I would hear "Merry Christmas" more than 90% of the time. On the flip side, I expected to find that once I arrived in my hometown, I would hear "Happy Holidays" - or a wide variety of holiday wishes - more than 75% of the time.

Imagine my surprise when here in Texas I heard "Merry Christmas" six times and "Happy Holidays" six times. I was even more surprised when in Wisconsin I heard "Merry Christmas" seven times and "Happy Holidays" five times.

Tom would have me review my methods, analyze my data using formulas and equations, and submit my results to you in the form of a journal article, formal paper, and presentation, but there's a reason he's a professor and I'm not. I don't care to do any of that; I don't really even want to think about my incorrect predictions.

I do, however, want to focus on how wonderful it felt to be wished anything at all. I celebrate Christmas, but would never take offense if someone wished me Happy Hanukkah or Happy Kwanza or even just Happy Winter. I would never complain about someone wishing me happiness, in any way, shape, or form.

I love that my current community now embraces "Happy Holidays" along with "Merry Christmas". And I love that my hometown community seems to be moving toward the same place of acceptance.

The beauty is in the wishing, folks. So with a kind heart, wish people a happy whatever-you-want - Christmas, Hanukkah, Full Moon, Tuesday, winter - and with a graceful heart, accept whatever they feel moved to wish you.

Friday, December 14, 2018

High Five for...The Nutcracker

After months of preparation and a crazy week leading up to the two shows, we survived our fourth production of Ballet Brazos' The Nutcracker. (The arrival of the late GHWB and his family in College Station, while monumental and extraordinary, threw more than one wrench into the tech and dress rehearsal schedules. Oh, and so did the 24-hour torrential downpour we had to slog through multiple times during the rescheduled tech and dress rehearsals.)

Ballet Brazos began in 2012 with the mission to "instruct, educate, and enrich young people and their audiences through the art of dance and provide quality classical ballet performances for the community". These performances "showcase local talent, cultivate an appreciation for the arts, and inspire the next generation of dancers". Collaborative efforts since Ballet Brazos' inception have contributed to the nonprofit organization's significant growth both in size and prestige.

In this year's seventh annual production of The Nutcracker, Ballet Brazos welcomed professional dancers from the New York City Ballet, guest artists from across the country, and pre-professional ballerinas ranging in age from six to 18 from across the Brazos Valley. The professional dancers and guest artists turned in stunning performances as I expected they would, and the pre-professional dancers demonstrated their natural talent as well just how hard they have worked throughout the last four months in preparation for taking the stage. Combine the exceptional dancing with beautiful sets, stunning costumes, and a world-class stage and you have a spectacular show, one of which Ballet Brazos, the dancers, and the community can be proud.

I don't rave about Ballet Brazos' The Nutcracker because Hallie just danced for the fourth time, or because Tom crushed it in his first role as "master of sleigh lights", or because I have a vested interest in the success of the show. I rave about Ballet Brazos' The Nutcracker as someone who, as of five years ago, couldn't stand to watch ballet (true story) but who has come around because the production is just that good. I feel incredibly lucky to live in a community that can support a ballet-focused nonprofit organization as well as two nearly sold-out shows in a 2,500-seat auditorium.

We don't have any professional pictures of the shows yet, but here's a glimpse into the fun we had...and why we'll do it all again next year.
Their annual pre-show buddy pic.
Hallie Claire - ready for tech rehearsal!
Nutcracker Moms - ready for dress rehearsal!
She can now do her own mascara and I just have
to "touch her up" - what a world of difference this
development makes in our getting ready process!
So. Much. Red. Lipstick.
We love a good cinnamon roll! Er, bun.
Here we go! (I didn't know we were making funny faces.)
Hallie, Kara, and Kaylee on show day.
Hallie and some of her fellow angels.
Hallie and Caris
Avery and Hallie
Tom and Mandi, after they finished lighting the sleigh.
So proud of his creation! (And he deserves
should be - it looked amazing on stage!)
See you in 2019, Uncle Drosselmeyer!

For those of you who've followed Chasing Roots for a while and are therefore probably wondering, yes, the tradition of Will bringing flowers to his sweet girl continued.