Wednesday, January 31, 2018

February Fun (or February Resolutions...Same Thing, Right?)

If you recall, this year I began tackling my New Year's Resolutions in September. I also decided to choose one resolution each month, rather than choosing one or two resolutions to attempt - and at which to most likely fail - over the course of the year. With only 30 days devoted to each resolution, my goals have been and will continue to be small, measureable, and empowering. Smaller goals are more attainable, which increases the chance of success. Measureable goals are more manageable, which once again increases the chance of success. And empowering goals are more inspirational, which…you guessed it…increases the chance of success.

Here are the details on February's resolution, as well as an update on months past:

February's Resolution: clean out all of my kitchen cabinets and drawers. After cleaning out and paring down the contents of (some of - see the update below) my closets in January, my kitchen cabinets and drawers suddenly feel agitatingly disorganized and unnecessarily full. I expect that my friends and I will hold a joint garage sale come April, so while I don't want all of my resolutions to revolve around cleaning out different areas of my house, it makes sense to tackle clutter in January, February, and March.

January's Resolution: clean out all of our closets. My goal was to take care of the kids' closets with them before they go back to school, and then tackle the rest of the closets throughout the last three weeks of the month. The result? A moderate success, but there remains work to be done! I started off strong at the beginning of January, but getting sick meant I made absolutely no progress throughout the last two weeks of the month. I thoroughly cleaned out both kids' closets, the linen/guest bathroom closet, the front hall closet, the playroom closet, and my half of the master closet. I still need to go through the guest room closet and Tom's side of our closet, and then organize my donation and sale piles.

If your schedule allows, I strongly recommend dedicating at least one of your months' resolutions to decluttering and organizing. It feels so good to know that the clothes and toys and linens and decor that are taking up space in our closets and our lives are those we actually use!
This was what I pulled from the kids' closets and my closet. (I
forgot to take an updated picture after I added the linen/guest
bathroom closet, front hall closet, and the playroom closet.)
December's Resolution: read to my kids every night. My goal was to sit on the side of their beds - or better yet, snuggle up next to them - and either read to them or let them read to me. The result? A moderate success on paper, an overwhelming success in reality! I read to Hallie almost every night, and to Will about every other night. We missed a few evenings because of late-night activities like Snowmageddon 2017, Nutcracker performances, Christmas parties, a birthday sleepover, and travel, and a couple of times Will opted to read his own book rather than join Hallie and me. December worked perfectly for this resolution as our evenings held fewer commitments, and I truly hope I can carry this resolution into January - when our regular evening activities begin again - and protect this precious time together.

November's Resolution: write in my gratitude journal daily. My goal was to document at least one thing for which I was thankful every day between November 1st and November 23rd (Thanksgiving Day). The result? A moderate success! I missed a couple of days but realized fairly quickly I had done so; I remembered the days I had accidentally skipped with enough clarity to go back and update my gratitude journal.

October's Resolution: drink more water. My goal was to down at least two full water bottles every day. The result? A complete disaster! I probably met my goal only one day a week. I do a great job of drinking water during the summer, but for some reason my school year schedule doesn't have the same triggers as my summer schedule to remind me to drink water. I left water bottles on the counter and somehow walked right by them. I set reminders on my phone but if I wasn't standing right next to the sink when they went off, I would forget all about my water by the time I made it to the kitchen.

September's Resolution: turn off the light by 11:30pm on school nights and by 12:00am (midnight) on weekends. My goal was to get at least seven hours of sleep a night, and to settle into a peaceful schedule of falling asleep and waking up that would continue through the school year. The result? A complete success! Not one cheat day. On October 1st I stayed up a few minutes after 11:30pm just because I could, but after that day I went back to my 11:30pm and 12:00am bedtimes and now most morning I wake feeling well rested and refreshed.

What have you resolved to change about yourself and/or your life this year? How are those resolutions going?

Monday, January 29, 2018

Back On Track

Holy cow, folks - I feel like I lost two weeks of my life.

I started feeling a little under the weather on a Thursday morning, but given my history of relative health and fairly high pain tolerance, I assumed I had just come down with a cold. I "powered through" for five full days, until Monday night when I went to bed and didn't get up again until Sunday afternoon. (Well, I got up on Friday afternoon, but only for a trip to Urgent Care for IV fluids and anti-nausea meds.) I eventually eased back into life a few hours at a time, and thankfully by last Thursday I felt well enough to co-pilot our annual 4th Grade Variety Show at the kids' elementary school.

Please don't read my description of this illness as complaining. I rarely get sick beyond one cold a year, so a part of me feels like my figurative turn had come. (Other than ONE 12-hour stomach bug, I haven't had an illness that required me to spend the day in bed in more than 20 years, when I had shingles as a freshman in college.) If anything, I feel grateful to have made it to the other side of this mess in one piece, and for all of the support I and my family received along the way.

Tom went to work when he had to - he had multiple graduate students going through their qualifying exams in the middle of all this - but otherwise he stayed home to take care of Will and Hallie. I talked sobbed to my mom on the darkest morning and she was on a plane from Wisconsin to Texas three hours later. She stayed for a full week to help Tom nurse me and the kids back to health and then help me get through a crazy week (see: 4th Grade Variety Show mentioned above). My friends brought Gatorade and Sprite and soup and crackers and medicine. They brought magazines and books and toys for the kids. They came into my house (gutsy of them, given the plethora of germs that must have been floating around at the time) and checked on my kids when I couldn't get out of bed. They picked up and delivered homework, took kids to school when they were healthy, and picked me up from Urgent Care. It takes a village, folks. And I have a great one.

I have A LOT to catch up on after the last nearly three weeks, but I finally feel like I'm back on track. Thanks for sticking with me!
I took only one picture - of Will playing a few songs on the cello
for my mom - since all this began. The picture doesn't exactly sum
up our last two weeks, but it's kind of sweet.

Monday, January 22, 2018


For the first time in seven years, I have to take a few days off from the blog. I've taken breaks from writing new content in the past, but during those breaks I've set up flashback posts or linked to favorite stories or videos so you - my ever-faithful Chasing Roots readers - would still find something fun when you visited.

But not this week.

I am happy to report that after a horrible nearly two weeks - five days of feeling ill, one day of going from bad to worse, three days at rock bottom (hello, IV fluids and anti-nausea meds at urgent care), and now three days of S...L...O...W recovery - I have started to feel like a human being once again. But I have an insanely busy week ahead of me, and I know that surviving all the things I HAVE to do needs to take precedence over writing new blog posts. Thank you for understanding, and please come back and see me here next Monday. New content guaranteed!

Friday, January 19, 2018

This Week Bites

I had planned on a different post - a High Five for Friday post - today, but after the week we've had I threw it out the window.

Last week Tom was sick with a 24-hour bug. Then I came down with an illness that felt like a cold for the first few days, but then turned into something much nastier. Hallie followed in my footsteps a couple of days later, and then Will followed her down a couple of days after that. Everyone feels like complete garbage, and everyone is angry and sad because they've missed important school and extracurricular events: Will, the second day of the orchestra recruitment field trip, Hallie, the UIL Storytelling competition for which she practiced for MONTHS, and me, Variety Show rehearsals. For a family that rarely gets sick, getting hit with all of this crud THIS week has been particularly painful.

I'm particularly worried about Will, who has bad lungs to begin with and for whom recovery always takes longer. His mental health always suffers as well, because so much of what he does for fun and stress relief involves physical activity.

So in a nutshell, this week stunk. I am, however, tremendously grateful for good friends who've given rides, made dinner, dropped off medicine and Gatorade and books and games, and picked up the slack for me with regard to my responsibilities outside of the house while we're trying to recover. THANK YOU!

Here's hoping next week is a better week!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Wisconsin Bucket List: Ice Boating

I climbed into an iceboat for the first time more than 30 years ago. As a winter sport, it suited me perfectly - plenty of speed, but relative safety (thanks to protective gear and an incredibly skilled helmsman) - and throughout my years in Madison we ventured out onto Lake Mendota as often as the weather and ice would allow.

For those of you unfamiliar with ice boating (or more formally, ice yachting), a quick 411... Ice yachting is the sport of sailing and racing iceboats. An iceboat looks and operates like a sailboat, but with a trio of blades or runners positioned in a triangle like the three wheels of a tricycle and designed to traverse ice rather than cruise through water. Just like sailboats, iceboats depend on wind: more wind translates to faster sailing, both in water and on ice. The difference is that on the ice, boats experience less friction and less resistance and travel in a more pure direction (primarily just forward, rather than forward along with up and down and side to side) than they do in water. On a windy day, iceboats can travel up to 60 or 70 MPH.
She's a beauty, isn't she?
Because of those speeds, clothing to protect from the elements as well as safety gear - helmets, goggles, and ice picks - are mandatory. Ice picks, or the "picks of life" as I regularly call them, are worn around the neck and would allow someone to pull themselves back onto the ice should they end up in the water. I have never ended up in the water, but my dad and a friend of his have come close when the boat hit a dining room table-sized hole in the ice.

The iceboat - which belongs to my dad's best friend, Chuck - usually "goes in" in January, which means the four Ferri always miss out on the opportunity to ride during our holiday visits. This year, however, an early freeze meant the iceboat went in a few weeks earlier than usual and my boys finally got to cross ice boating off their Wisconsin Bucket List.
Tom and Chuck
Chuck and Will
Iceboats only work on hard ice, meaning the ice must be solid and smooth without any slush on top. The best ice forms when the temperature drops quickly and stays far below freezing for an extended period of time; this usually happens in January, but this year it happened in December.

The wind didn't exactly cooperate - steady wind makes for the best rides, and on that day it came only in gusts - but both Tom and Will had the opportunity to ride with Chuck behind the wheel. My dad estimated that Will's ride went the fastest at 30 or 35 MPH, which Will proclaimed "terrifying". (I would agree with Will's description; those speeds feel incredibly fast when you're hunkered down in the iceboat's tiny body with the bitter wind whipping you in the face.) Both he and Tom had a blast though, and I'm so grateful to my dad and Chuck for making sure my boys could have this unique and cool experience.

Monday, January 15, 2018

When Will We Wake Up?

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

I write about this National Holiday each January, and in preparation for doing so, I reread my previous years' MLK Jr. Day posts. I then take bits and pieces of what I have written in the past - the words and stories that still resonate - and create around them a new post, one that aligns with what I have read about, witnessed, and experienced over the course of the previous year. Of the words below, some are old, some are new, and all were written with the singular goal of making progress toward peace and equality.

Recognized as one of America's greatest leaders, Martin Luther King Jr. believed that all people - regardless of the color of their skin - should be awarded equal rights and access under our nation's laws. All human beings, simply because they live and breath, should have the right to work and earn an honest living for themselves and their families, the right to vote, the right to a quality education, and the right to use all public places.

I believe that all people - regardless of the color of their skin - should be awarded equal rights and access under our nation's laws.

I believe that all people should be evaluated by their individual words and actions, and that all people should use words and actions to form opinions of others.

And I believe that our differences - from the color of our skin to our religion to our sexuality - are actually what unify us as a people. It is our differences that make us essentially the same: we are all unique individuals, worthy and deserving of respect and kindness from our fellow human beings. Our differences should be celebrated instead of ignored, or worse, used to justify discrimination.

My personal beliefs and the words I use to describe them aren't perfect, or complete, but they adequately express what I desperately want our world to look and feel like and what I want my children to understand about Dr. King's contributions to mankind.

In 1963, while speaking to 250,000 Civil Rights supporters on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. made history.

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal. 

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

I wish I could end this post on a positive note, but I just can't. The events of last few years have highlighted for me just how great the distance we have yet to travel on our quest to reach Dr. King's goals of empowerment, equality, and peace. Why, almost 55 years later, are we still dreaming? When will we wake up?

Friday, January 12, 2018

High Five for Friday (1.12.18)

1. After being held prisoner for 10 days by Wisconsin's subzero temperatures, the kids have taken full advantage of Texas' less wintry winter weather. Temperatures in the 40s made it feel like springtime outside, and when the mercury climbed into the 60s, Hallie proclaimed it summer once again. Throughout last weekend and this week we have enjoyed running, walking, tree climbing, jump roping, bike riding, skateboarding, playing soccer, Nerf gun fights, and just wandering around downtown, looking for ice cream.
Trying out her new Christmas jump rope.
Hanging out in the tree for the first time in a while.
Visiting their secret garden.
Climbing out of the basin at the skate park.
Trying out a few of the ramps.
Working on his skillz.
Singing and...ball rolling?
Neighborhood Nerf gun battle.
Ok, so this wasn't taken outside, but it's too cute a pic to leave
out. These girls had the best time playing together at Altitude!

2. Also on a weather-related note, while the temperatures during the day are perfect for playing outside, the temperatures at night are perfect for turning on the fireplace. This might be my favorite time of year in Texas...

3. After two years of sock-matching failure, I finally threw away all of these unmatched socks in my laundry basket.

Oh, sweet freedom...

Until I did nine loads of post-vacation laundry and ended up with four new mismatched socks. How/why does this happen?!

4. Tom bought the kids (ahem, himself) a disco ball for the music room. We absolutely, positively don't need a disco ball, but I'm slightly more on board with this accessory than I have been with many of the other items he's brought home.

I just realized that Tom is with with musical instruments and accessories the way many people are with stray animals: he lays eyes on them, falls in love, and can't walk away. Is a disco ball better than a kitten? The verdict's still out...

5. I do quite a bit of volunteer work, but I have one favorite volunteer position: Variety Show Coordinator. My friend/neighbor/PTO President, Rebecca, and I brought the Variety Show back to our kids' elementary school a few years ago, and since then I have come to enjoy the gig so much that I honestly can't imagine walking away...even when I no longer have a child attending the elementary school. Auditions for Variety Show 2018 took place this week, and now we'll spend the next two weeks preparing for the show. I can't wait!

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

14 Years of Big and Little Things

Today Tom and I celebrate 14 years of marriage, 16 years as a couple, and 18.5 years of friendship. Thanks to volunteer commitments, work meetings, after school activities, and evening practices, we won't be able to fit in dinner out or even a lunch date, at least not on our actual anniversary. We both understand that right now, during this phase of life, we don't always have time or money for the "big things". No extravagant trips, no new cars, no fancy jewelry. We do have time and money for the "little things", though. He'll make the bed for me, I'll bake gingersnaps for him, and we'll spend a few hours working across the table from one another at our "McOffice". Staying together is about loving one another, yes, but also about choosing and committing to each other even when life looks and feels less exciting, fun, and romantic. We said "I do" on our wedding day, and I like to think that these little things are the way we continue to say "I do" each and every day.

He makes me laugh, listens graciously when I tell the same stories over and over again, and unloads the dishwasher without being asked. He tolerates my need to constantly organize and declutter, the frequency with which I change out our throw pillows, and my tendency to worry about...well, most things. He supports my professional endeavors and personal passions, works hard to provide for our family, and trusts me to steer our ship through the occasionally rough waters of our life together.

There is no one I'd rather do life - the big things and the little things - with.
Happy #14, babe.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Colder Than Colder Than Cold

Throughout my 13 years of elementary, middle, and high school in Madison, Wisconsin, we had a total of five "snow" days. Two of those cancellations occurred not because of fluffy white flake accumulation or dangerously icy roads, but because of frigid weather: daytime temperatures chillin' between -20 and -25 degrees and windchill temperatures dropping to between -40 and -50 degrees. I remember feeling so disappointed to be home yet unable to go outside and truly enjoy the day off from school. Thankfully my mom helped us bundle up in layers...and layers...and layers...until we could safely stay outside for 20 minutes at a time. Not the best scenario, but better than nothing.

I honestly don't think I had felt temperatures that cold since those two snow least until last week.

Temperatures in the 20s greeted us when we landed in Wisconsin, and from that point forward the mercury slipped lower and lower until it eventually bottomed out at -23. Not one to stay inside all day no matter the weather, I bundled in layers...and layers...and layers...and walked the 2.5-mile loop near my in-laws lake home every day. But Tom and the kids? Not so much. Will and Tom joined me for the walk once and the kids went sledding three times (for only 20 minutes at a time) but there were stretches during which they didn't go outside for more than 48 hours.


No trip to the snowy white north would be complete without making our traditional swimsuit snow angels. We waited for the warmest day (you know, -2 degrees), warmed up with a little yoga, and went for it. Participants this year included Tom, Will, Hallie, my sister-in-law Chandi, and my three-year-old nephew Forest, who insisted on joining us but had absolutely no idea what we were doing.

Cheers to another year of keeping the tradition alive, even when the degrees were against us.

If you're interested, here are a few past posts about our swimsuit snow angel tradition:
Walkin' in a Winter Wonderland
Snow Angels
Frozen Football
Oops, We Did it Again
Meanwhile, Up in Snowy Wisconsin

Friday, January 5, 2018

High Five for the Holidays (1.5.18)

These last two weeks have been quite the whirlwind!

1. First, we celebrated the holidays at the kids' schools, soccer practices, and dance classes.

2. Then we celebrated with our families in Wisconsin.
Sunset over the Booth Lake in the North Woods.
Ready to cut down our Christmas tree!
Hallie got to do the honors.
Holiday baking and chocolate pretzel dipping.
The altar at church on Christmas Eve.
Stockings ready to be opened!
Santa came!
Tom's newest "mad scientist" gadget.
Will trying to beat his aunts at Sorry!...he didn't.
Lily and Carter waiting on Will and waiting patiently at the
window and one waiting to attack. 
Nighttime ice skating at the park.
It was SOOOO cold. That night, and every night. And every day.

3. And finally, we celebrated back home in Texas just the four of us.
Our stockings were in our delayed luggage, so Santa
just displayed our stocking stuffers on the ottoman.
Laying claim to someone else's gift.

4. We traveled on New Year's Eve (first flight delayed an hour, second flight delayed an hour, second flight cancelled, rental car acquired, luggage abandoned in Dallas, drive home accomplished, rental car returned) but made it back to College Station just in time to join our friends to celebrate the end of 2017. We ducked out of the party a bit early, however, so we could ring in the start of 2018 at home together in our pajamas and snuggled up in bed.

5. Last but not least, we had a great second week of winter break at home. We slept in, exercised, read books, watched movies, played with friends, finished our Christmas thank you notes, and cleaned out the kids' closets. A great start to the New Year!

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Monthly Medley: December 2017

An article I wrote about the historic Stagecoach Inn in Salado, TX made its way into the December issue of Texas Living, and I wrote about how to take care of yourself - survival of the fittest, so to speak - throughout the holiday season for the Mama Bear Dares blog. The holiday season may have come and gone, but the suggestions are still relevant and may help you through a busy January; check them out if you have an opportunity!

A few months ago I started seeing Gather the Daughters appear on recommended reading lists. The premise sounded interesting, so I added my name to the book's waiting list at the library and when a copy finally became available at the beginning of December, I made my way through its nearly 400 pages before we left for Wisconsin.

*Slight Spoiler Ahead*

I don't know that I can recommend Gather the Daughters. Stylistically speaking, I found the writing slightly difficult to follow. The story is told from multiple (maybe six or seven?) different perspectives on a chapter-by-chapter basis, and I had trouble jumping from one character to another so frequently and with no apparent pattern. With regard to content and substance, Gather the Daughters took a far darker and more depressing turn than I bargained for. The intriguing premise morphed into a dispiriting plot and then dissolved into a haunting pseudo-resolution. When I finished the story I felt unsettled and disheartened and couldn't find either the closure or piece of mind I expect - and need - to feel when I close a book for the last time.

Here's a link to a description of the book so you can decide for yourself if you're willing to take the plunge!

I had high hopes for A Christmas Story: Live, but I thought the production fell short. The actors turned in acceptable - and in some cases, excellent - individual performances, but the musical as a whole never gathered quite enough steam. Additionally, on our broadcast the audio and visual components didn't sync which made watching difficult and frustrating. I'm looking forward to the next live musicals - Jesus Christ Superstar, Bye Bye Birdie, A Christmas Story, and Rent - and hoping they come in with slightly stronger showings!

Anyone seen Star Wars? I enjoyed Episodes IV, V, and VI as a child, but I didn't feel the same way about Episodes I, II, and III when I saw them during my college years. I can't say for certain why, however I suspect it had to do with the fact that I have never been a fan of a few of the actors chosen for The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith. Episodes VII and VIII, however, made me a Star Wars fan all over again. I loved going to see these last two films in the theater with Tom and the kids; it's particularly fun to sit next to Hallie, who asks loads (far too many for a quiet movie theater) of questions but also pays careful attention, catches most of the humor, and cheers for the heroine.

We didn't catch any documentaries in December - too many Christmas specials to sing along with - but we're looking forward to getting back to our Tuesday night documentary showings in January!

Listening To
Christmas Carols! What are your favorite Christmas albums? Mine include both Pentatonix's That's Christmas to Me and A Pentatonix Christmas, Mannheim Steamroller's Christmas in the Aire, Jim Brickman's The Gift and Christmas Romance, and James Taylor's James Taylor at Christmas. I also enjoy listening to the Christmas CDs belonging to the Christian choir of which Tom and I were members during our college years, and of course, Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas is You. Tom is beyond ready for us to shift away from listening to Christmas carols in the car...

Hallie loves to bake but fears the inside of the oven, so my mom bought this oven push puller. It's kind of adorable and works surprisingly well - I highly recommend it for your budding bakers and/or chefs!

Both Will and Hallie (as well as their cousins, Lily and Carter) received mermaid bracelets from the Mermaid Pillow Co. in their stockings. These bracelets - as well as the pillows the company made first and for which they became known - cost more than the versions you might find at Target or Wal-Mart, but the quality and craftsmanship are far superior and the company occasionally offers discounts if you purchase more than one at a time. (Some friends and I bought a bunch together, which decreased the price and made shipping free.)

I have no affiliation with nor did I receive any compensation for writing about either of the above-mentioned products. I'm just a happy customer!

Throughout the last two weeks of December I wore more layers than I've worn in the previous two years combined. I need to get outside for a walk every day - even when the temperature outside can't climb out of negative numbers - and to do so I would wear two pairs of smart wool socks, long underwear pants, leggings, a tank top, a long underwear shirt, and a sweatshirt...and then top it all off with snow pants, winter boots, and a winter coat, hat, mittens, and scarf. I looked a little like the snowsuit-clad younger brother who can't put his arms down in A Christmas Story...

I also may have worn this Christmas sweater - which made me look like a wrapped holiday gift - out in public twice.

Did we do anything else besides eat and drink this month?! Throughout the week leading up to Christmas vacation, I made one batch of chocolate chocolate chip cookies, two batches of funfetti sugar cookies, two batches of chocolate-covered pretzels, one batch of Christmas cookie sparkles, one batch of chocolate coconut snowballs, one batch of gingersnaps, one batch of brownie cookies, two batches of Christmas tree cupcakes, and one batch of Santa hat cupcakes. My oven is tired.

Besides baking up a storm, we found two dinner recipes worth noting and making again:
  • These Salsa Verde Honey Lime Chicken Tacos were unbelievably fast and easy to pull together and went over well with all four Ferris. I used frozen chicken instead of fresh, and I kept the sour cream on the side for Tom and me to add at the end since Will has trouble with dairy. 
  • Tom and I devoured an entire pan of these Cottage Cheese Chicken Enchiladas over the course of a weekend. They required a little extra time in the kitchen on the front end, but the end result was worth it!

What's new, good, and/or interesting in your life this month? Please share!