Friday, March 30, 2018

High Five for Friday (3.30.18)

1. On Thursday evening we picked up this little girl's new glasses. I should confess...I cried a little after we left Hallie's eye appointment two weeks ago. After needing corrective lenses for decades, I know all too well the struggles - physical, mental, and emotional - that can accompany wearing glasses and dealing with contact lenses as a child, tween, and teenager. Kids called me names and laughed at me because of my glasses (especially once they were paired with braces), and my glasses and contacts made participating in nearly every activity and sport more difficult. My glasses and contacts were also another expensive possession to take care and keep track of, and when something did happen to either of them, I felt AWFUL going to my parents.

I realize my feelings on Hallie's glasses might sound silly and irrational to some people - after all, she needs them and they will only make up one small piece of the puzzle that is Hallie's life. But Hallie has a couple of challenges in front of her already, and it hurt my mama heart to add glasses to her plate.

Well now, that's quite a high five, isn't it? 😂 I ran completely off track with this one, but I'm going to leave all those feelings up there because they're real and relevant...and because I hope to someday come back to this point and laugh about how I needn't have worried about Hallie and her glasses. 

The high fives here are that I think Hallie's glasses are adorable and she looks beautiful wearing them. Hallie also thinks her glasses are adorable and she looks beautiful wearing them. And perhaps most importantly, Hallie is in love with her glasses case. Is that enough high fives to make up for my rocky start?

2. On Friday night we celebrated this beautiful friend of mine. She is kind, generous, funny, and fun, and she has both the best laugh and the best hair of anyone I know. I'm grateful for her friendship and the opportunity to help her ring in another birthday!

3. On Saturday our family had (what felt like) 35 activities and events on our calendar...and we managed to make it to every single one. We started the day with a roof inspection, thanks to a recent hail storm. Then Will crushed his district-wide UIL Chess Puzzles competition, taking first place in his grade for the second year in a row. He also relearned the "you win some, you lose some" lesson when his soccer team fell 0-3 to an opponent they felt they should have beaten. At her dance studio's Senior Gala & Awards Ceremony, Hallie earned her five-year award, performed two dances, and ate seven brownies. We wrapped up the evening with one birthday party, one lock-in, two hours of work at my McOffice, two rounds of disc golf, and one frozen pizza on the living room couch at 9:45pm.

4. Now that the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament pool has been whittled down to the Final Four, the standings are as follows:

Tom: 36
Erin: 67
Will: 68
Hallie: 69

And since Hallie is the only member of the family with teams still in the tournament, she has officially been declared our winner. Congratulations, Hallie!

5. Happiness Highlights:
They like to be touching. It reminds me of the
Piglet quote, "I just wanted to be sure of you".
Morning kisses for his boy.
Officially sending the kids' names to the sun
on the Parker Solar Probe's memory card.
For the first time, Hallie baked and decorated a batch of cupcakes
completely by herself - oven work included. She may even have
done so without much adult supervision, seeing that I was at
soccer with Will so Tom was in charge on the home front...  
Summer has arrived (not really, of course, but temps climbed into the
upper 80s last weekend so it felt like summer) so I made my favorite
summer dessert for Tom and me on Sunday night. Ah.Maze.Ing.

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Insta Stories

After seeing and enjoying quite a few short and sweet Get to Know Me "stories" on Instagram (are they called Instastories? Or story templates?), I decided to create my own for the blog. If I know you in real life or you've followed Chasing Roots for any time at all, at least a few of my answers below (my fear of all creepy, crawly, slinky, slimy animals, for example) come as no surprise. But I had fun nailing down my responses, and creating the story templates themselves required to me brush up on a couple of computer skills I haven't used in close to a decade, so I consider this post a win-win.

Funny side note...I could not for the life of me figure out how to create one of these stories on Instagram. Powerpoint to the rescue!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Taking a Risk

Will started off life with an allergy to dairy, and over the course of his first two years of life he added wheat, egg, and peanuts to that list. Despite the fact that Will's allergist in Ann Arbor came highly recommended, she rubbed me the wrong way. Actually, "rubbed me the wrong way" is an understatement; I couldn't stand her or the other doctors in her office. They were - as a group - condescending, unprofessional, and at times downright disrespectful, and they never once made an effort to actually help our family navigate the extremely confusing, frustrating, and scary terrain that is allergies in children. If I hadn’t known we were moving to Texas I would have found a new allergist, but since I knew we were relocating, I decided to wait it out with our Ann Arbor allergist and start anew when we arrived in College Station.

Once we found a pediatrician in College Station, I met with her and asked for an allergist recommendation. She spoke very highly of one particular doctor and his office, so I called and spoke to the receptionist and one of the nurses. They were kind and understanding and flexible (foreign to me, when it came to allergists) and assured me their office could provide for Will the two primary things I was looking for in a new allergist: a complete retesting for all of Will’s already diagnosed allergies as well as testing for other common allergens, and a progressive treatment plan.

Will outgrew his wheat allergy as a toddler back in Michigan, but the new tests we had done once we moved to Texas showed he had likely outgrown his egg allergy as well. We challenged out of eggs and cut the list of food allergies down again.

One of the best characteristics of the team at our College Station allergy clinic is that they care about more than simply diagnosing allergies and then sending patients out the door with a prescription for an Epi-pen; they care about our quality of life, and how to improve it.

Studies have found that children with diagnosed dairy allergies who consume specially made (specific ingredients mixed in a particular way) and baked (significantly overcooked) muffins are more likely than their counterparts who simply avoid dairy products to outgrow their dairy allergies. When Will was about five years old we joined our allergist's trial, and for the six months that followed, I baked and Will consumed one of these muffins EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. (To this day, Will's not a fan of muffins...) Glory be, this protocol worked, and so while Will still doesn't enjoy dairy and could probably be categorized as lactose intolerant, he no longer has an allergy to dairy.

At that time, we thought it unlikely that Will would ever be rid of his peanut allergy – they’re not commonly outgrown, and there was/is no proven “cure”. But about a year ago, our allergist, who continues to stay well-informed on all allergy-related research, approached me having determined that Will would be a good candidate for a new way of treating severe food allergies. Will and I stalled for months, for two reasons. First, participation would be a significant time commitment and we didn't want to begin the process just as Will was starting a new grade at a new school. And second, Will was scared, and we couldn't blame him.

But over spring break, we took the first step.

The concept is simple, really. Instead of completely avoiding the allergen, the participant reprograms their immune system to no longer recognize the allergen as a threat by exposing themselves (in a controlled environment and under a doctor's supervision - do not try this at home) to minuscule but increasing amounts of the allergen. In a nutshell (no pun intended), after the allergist determines a starting dose (think microscopic and diluted with water), the participant consumes the dose twice daily for a week. After a week, the participant returns to the allergist to try a slightly higher dose. If they can tolerate the higher dose, they continue the process at the new dosing level; if they can't tolerate the higher dose, they continue for another week at the same dosing level. This continues week after week as the liquid doses increase and until the participant "graduates" to peanut powder doses. After peanut powder doses, actual peanut doses begin and continue until the participant eventually works up to - and then maintains indefinitely - 12 peanuts a day.

This process is frightening. We spent years protecting Will - and teaching Will how to protect himself - from this deadly (for him) food, and now we're asking him to trust us and introduce it back into his diet.

This process is time-consuming. We spent nearly five hours at the allergist on our dosing day, and now we will spend 90 minutes at the allergist every Wednesday afternoon for the foreseeable future. Even if all goes well, it will take months for Will to work up to 12 peanuts a day. And because of the rules about when he can take a dose and what he has to do/not do afterwards, he has to wake up earlier and on occasion stay up later than he did before.

This process is daunting. If/once we work up to 12 peanuts a day, Will will have to maintain that dose indefinitely. 12 peanuts a day, every day, for years. He can't forget. I can't forget. (The hope is that dosing at the 12 peanuts level will eventually decrease the peanut allergy itself rather than just build up a tolerance, but there isn't yet enough long-term data available for us to know what will happen down the road.)

And this process is physically challenging, for Will. Every dose makes his lips tingle, his throat scratch, and swallowing uncomfortable for a few minutes. There are severe physical symptoms through which we would of course not continue, but these symptoms are considered mild and are not life-threatening...therefore they are Will's to own and mentally conquer. He has to convince himself that he can handle this short-term but regular discomfort in this quest for a less scary and restrictive life down the road.  

So here we are, only two weeks in but feeling cautiously optimistic. We have no guarantee that this protocol will work, but for the first time since that day many years ago when we learned how dangerous peanuts are for Will, we have hope that someday he will be able to pack this adorable little t-shirt away.

A couple of interesting allergen-related posts from years past:

Friday, March 23, 2018

High Five for Friday (3.23.18)

The kids and I knocked out eye doctor appointments, Will and I spent a full day at the allergist, and both Tom and I had to work here and there, but we still managed to fit a little fun into our Spring Break.

1. Our eye doctor and allergist appointments went fairly well. At the eye doctor, Hallie picked out an adorable pair of glasses to address her astigmatism and Will learned he has, at least for the time being and unlike the rest of his family members, bionic eyes. At the allergist, Will underwent the initial stages in his peanut tolerance protocol. (More on this protocol in a future post...) While the process was/is scary, the science behind it is sound and the emerging short- and long-term results are incredibly encouraging for kids with severe food allergies. Will did remarkably well at his first appointment, and we're hoping he continues to make progress in the weeks and months to come!
Hallie's new glasses, though this is
the sample and not her actual pair.
The first step in a series of steps that took place throughout
our first long day in a series of long days at the allergist.

2. We spent as much time outside as we could during last week and weekend. We walked to the park; fed the ducks; played basketball, soccer, and kickball; rode bikes, scooters, and skateboards; and worked out at the middle school track. Tom and I also started the lengthy process of transitioning our lawn from winter dormancy to summer active growth. Raking leaves, pulling and spraying weeds, treating grubs and fungus, trimming bushes and trees, mowing the lawn...the list literally goes on and on and on. While I don't always love working in the yard, I rarely feel as accomplished as I do when at the end of a weekend day Tom and I can stand back and actually see the progress we made.
Taking a walk on campus was - oddly - a spring break
highlight for both kids. An actual quote from Hallie: "look
at that gorgeous fire hydrant! I just love this walk so much!"
Enjoying his hot tub time.
(Why does he look 16 in this picture?!)
Both kids spent a lot of time outside in the hot tub. It's a great
vantage point for watching parents work really hard in the yard.

3. The last few days of our spring break week and weekend passed far too quickly. The kids had a few playdates, Will had a "chess date" with his retired GT teacher from elementary school (is that not the sweetest thing ever?!), and we all enjoyed dinner at College Station's new food truck park, a sweet treat from College Station's newest candy store, a visit to the Houston Health Museum, and lunch at Pappasito's Cantina (a restaurant Texans had been recommending to us for years).
Not all of the food trucks were open, but the Thai
truck and Knockout Tako truck did not disappoint!
The kids enjoyed the Wayside Foodtruck
Park stage as much as they enjoyed the food.
The sweet treats offered at "Hey Sugar" were endless. Will chose
gummies, Hallie picked ice cream, I opted for a shake, and for Tom...
...we selected this massive bag of longer-
than-Will's-torso strawberry Twizzlers. 
Riding bikes alongside his new skeleton
friend at the Houston Health Museum.
"How Loud Can You Scream?" was a
favorite exhibit of both Will and Hallie's. 
Following the interactive exhibit's instructions to
arm pedal for one hour to negate eating a hamburger.
Trying out the virtual reality set-up.
And OH, the gift shop.
Yes, you read that tag correctly.
They had stuffed version of ALL the body parts.
And ALL the diseases and germs.
"What's 'The Clap', Mama?"

4. After the first round of games, our NCAA Basketball Tournament bracket standings are as follows:

Will: 42
Hallie: 41
Erin: 47
Tom: 34 (it's not looking good for Tom...)

5. Happiness Highlights
Hallie asked if she could "touch up" my tattoo (which
has faded, stretched, and unstretched quite a bit over
the last 20 years) using permanent markers... I gave her free reign and, all things considered,
she did a decent job and saved me lots of money!
Hanging with my sweet girl at Ellis Field.
Under my sunglasses, my eyes look just like hers.
I have admired this Noonday bag for months. (Years? I've lost track
of how long I've pined.) Last week an incredible friend bought it for
me as a thank you gift, which, I should note, I did not deserve. But I
love this purse, so I'll use it often, think of her, and try to behave like
the kind of person who deserves such a fabulous friend and gift. 
Trying out Pie in the Sky for the first time...
It was "a hit"!

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Cheese Saves the Day

"Apparently, all problems in Wisconsin can be solved with cheese."

Let's be honest - cheese can solve a lot of problems everywhere.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Adulting 201

A little over a year ago I wrote a post called Adulting 101, prompted by my discovery of an actual "Adulting School" in Maine.

The Adulting School in Maine holds live and online classes to teach millennials the basic skills - think budgeting, paying bills, meal planning, sewing, and simple "making" and "fixing" - needed to survive and thrive as adults. The founders of The Adulting School reference changes in school curriculum, family dynamics, and the pace of society as contributors factors to the need for this special kind of education, and to be honest, I get it. Sadly, I regularly hear from Tom (a college professor) about, read stories about, and witness for myself circumstances in which young adults don't actually know how to behave and/or take care of themselves like adults. I certainly didn't have it all together when I moved away from home for college - or even when I started my first job after graduation - but thanks to my mom's hard work, I knew how to do my own laundry, cook a meal, and put together an Ikea shelf.

I decided I couldn't let Will and Hallie end up in need of such a school, so I created a list of what I hoped to teach them in 2017 and then set to work.

I realized as I wrote this post that I should have printed my Adulting list and hung it on my refrigerator. Throughout the year we worked through about half of the tasks, but without a regular visual reminder, quite a few slipped my mind. Here's our official report card:

From the list of new-to-them skills, both kids can cut an apple, scramble an egg, dust the furniture, clean the bathroom, fold basic laundry* (socks, underwear, dishtowels, and cleaning rags), set the table, write thank you notes, hammer nails, screw in screws, and shake hands firmly. Will can also create a simple budget and calculate a tip, and Hallie has become much better at making small talk. Not from the list, Will can vacuum the car, Hallie has become a fairly capable baker, and both kids can rake leaves, pull weeds, use the leaf blower, change lightbulbs, mop floors, and chop ("safe", for lack of a better word) fruits and vegetables.

I completely forgot to teach them how to cook pasta, make tacos, wash dishes, set a holiday table, sew on a button, mend a small hole, change a flat tire, make a financial donation, and open a bank account. Tom showed both kids how to jumpstart a car, so they understand the process but obviously couldn't yet tackle that one alone. And although we work on table manners EVERY SINGLE NIGHT, Will still chews with his mouth open and Hallie drapes not just her elbows but half of her body on the table. I can't figure out why table manners are such a challenge...

In 2018, I hope to tackle what's left on the 2017 list, plus a few additional jobs:
  • Create a grocery list from a recipe
  • Shop from a list at the grocery store
  • Cook pasta
  • Make tacos
  • Wash dishes
  • Set a holiday table
  • Sew on a button
  • Mend a small hole
  • Sort laundry*
  • Order pizza online
  • Order pizza over the phone
  • Leave a phone message
  • Take a phone message
  • Treat minor cuts, scrapes, bruises, and burns
  • Change a flat tire
  • Make a financial donation
  • Open a bank account

Here's to 2018 and (hopefully) raising kids who are slightly less likely to require an education at The Adulting School!

* I know lots of kids my children's ages already sort, wash, dry, fold, and put away their own laundry. Mine don't, for two reasons. First, for me it's more efficient and economical to wash everyone's whites together, everyone's darks together, everyone's towels together, etc. in full-sized loads than it is for Will to wash just his darks or Hallie to wash just her dance clothes in small loads. Second, I am particularly particular about laundry. I've had too many items ruined because they weren't sorted properly or took an accidental turn in the dryer, and this always makes me feel like I've thrown money away. I also want my/our clothes to look nice (relatively speaking, of course. Can an 11-year-old boy's athletic shorts look nice?) and I've yet to successfully teach the other three members of my family to fold to my standards. I will relinquish control in a lot of areas, but this isn't one of them...yet.   

Friday, March 16, 2018

High Five for Friday (3.16.18)

It's possible I've jinxed the Wednesday through Friday portion of my weeks...just like the week prior, last week went downhill after I hit "publish" on my High Five for Friday post. Nothing terrible, thank goodness, but the next round of illness, a series of frustrating (volunteer and paid) work communications, and an embarrassing situation in which I royally dropped the ball had me longing for a do-over, a new week, and spring break.

So, just like the week prior, one of this week's high fives comes from the those "dark days" (maybe that's what I'll start calling Wednesday evening through Friday afternoon). The rest come from the first few days of spring break - hallelujah!

1. Because of illness, Will stayed home with me on both Thursday and Friday of last week. He had a fever all day Thursday but felt fine otherwise, so we went for a three-mile walk in the morning and in the afternoon we had a picnic lunch and watched The Hunger Games (he just finished the book so I promised him we could watch the movie when Hallie wasn't home). On Friday his fever was gone but he had a headache and a rough cough that required a few breathing treatments (because of his asthma, nearly every illness Will acquires ends up in his chest) so I had to keep him home again. I didn't get nearly as much done around the house or on my current writing projects as I would have had I spent those two days home alone, but the amazing conversations Will and I had about books, movies, politics, decision making, and morality more than made up for that "loss". I love listening to him work through what's happening in our world (especially when he correctly uses big words in his analyses), and I appreciate that he still listens to what I think and considers my life experiences when forming opinions and making decisions about how to navigate the challenges in front of him.
Tux was thrilled to have Will at home. 
SOOOO possessive of his boy.

2. Spring Break, baby! I felt such a wave of relief when 4:00pm on Friday afternoon finally rolled around. We didn't go out of town but we needed a break from...well, alarm clocks, mostly. Hallie and I wake up with our alarm clocks - or we wake up just a couple of minutes before our alarm clocks go off - every week day and we both can't stand them. (Will wakes up when he hears Hallie moving around, and Tom wakes up when he hears all of us in the kitchen getting ready for school. Oh, the casual, relaxed life those boys lead...) More than anything, she and I couldn't wait to turn off our alarms and wake up when our bodies were ready to do so.

3. Y'all. I can't stand time changes. Personally, I would like to split the difference between Standard Time and Daylight Saving Time and then NEVER CHANGE THE TIME AGAIN. EVER. But...since this post is about high fives, I send one up for the fact that after five days, we have fully more than halfway adjusted to the shift.

4. On Monday night all four Ferri filled out their 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament brackets. (You can catch a thorough recap of our now 14-year history of tournament bracket competitions here.) Will pulled off a convincing victory last year, so this year I'm (not so) secretly rooting for Hallie and her completely random selections to somehow come out on top. Whatever the case, we love this family tradition!

5. Happiness Highlights
Just because...
Hallie and I took pics next to every flowering bush and tree we came
across on our most recent weekend walk. Spring is just around the corner!
I woke up early to bake banana bread one morning right
before spring break. Hallie also woke up early, and she joined me
in the kitchen and offered to help by unloading the dishwasher.
I rewarded her by letting her lick the bowl. For breakfast. 
This girl misses her friend/neighbor when they travel,
but she LOVES walking their dog while they're gone.
A beauty blogger I follow highly recommends Sonia
Kashuk make-up brushes (sold at Target). I won't buy
from the professional/precision line because of price,
but I can't wait to try her basic brush line! 
Easter eggs are up!
Spring break sleepover fun!

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here: