Friday, June 29, 2018

High Five for Friday (6.29.18)

After illness kept him sidelined for nearly a week, Will woke up last Thursday morning fever-free and decided he could at least try to run in that morning's track meet. He hadn't even left the house, let alone gone for a run or done any kind of exercise, in four days, so his fifth place finish (out of about 12 runners) in the 1,500 meters made him feel pretty darn good about himself. Will didn't place nearly as well in his other events, but I couldn't have cared less; to see him find the strength and determination to compete at all left me filled with pride.
He was happier than he looks. 
High jump...unfortunately not his event.

Side story... Because of the breakdown of ages and age groups, in order to run the 4 x 100 meter relay with kids on his track camp team, Will had to "run up" in the U14 division. Picture him - my smaller than average 11-year-old - taking his spot on the track, preparing to run the anchor leg for his team. Surrounding him are four post-pubescent teenagers, all of whom have clearly sprinted competitively for years and surpass him by at least eight inches and 50 pounds. He sees me off to the side of the track, waiting to cheer for him, and shows me both a huge grin and a thumbs up. He's not scared or intimidated, or if he is, I can't see signs of either. He's just excited to run, to compete, to be a part of such a cool event.

Fast forward 20 seconds...

The 14-year-olds CRUSH Will. But he keeps his head held high after he crosses the finish line in last place, and shows me another big smile to match mine.

Hallie LOVED her second year of Vacation Bible School. The church's VBS team does an incredible job of coordinating a fun, engaging, educational, and inspirational week for their 450 attendees, and I couldn't possibly feel any better about the experience Hallie had there.
"Look like you're shipwrecked!" Hallie's face when
considering this predicament is my absolute favorite.

I finally remembered to take the kids' end-of-the-school-year photos in their graduation shirts!

With this photo shoot came the realization that 1) next year Will will have to wear bottoms of some kind with his shirt, and 2) I probably should have bought Hallie a bigger shirt when I started this tradition years ago.

We missed Will, but Hallie and I had a wonderful week. We went swimming with friends multiple times, read books (we finished Wonder and started The Hundred Dresses), watched movies (Wonder and The Parent Trap), visited the library, shopped at Hobby Lobby for craft project materials and then completed the craft projects, tended our potted herbs, explored a local outdoor market, and went out for tea and pastries. Hallie also had a sleepover and a playdate, and we took another friend of hers out for ice cream to celebrate her July birthday that Hallie will miss. A lovely blend of activity and downtime, with a few treats thrown in!
One of my three craft projects.
One of Hallie's craft projects.
Growth has begun!
The market was a little sparser at this time of year than it was
the last time we visited, but we still had fun and came home
with two delicious salsas and a loaf of Great Harvest Bread.
Tux rarely snuggles with us, so the fact that he joined us on the couch
on Wednesday morning seems to indicate his misses Will tremendously. 
Ice cream birthday fun!
Nothing better than summer night swimming
and ice cream treats  - in the pool - with friends!

Will comes home today! Hallie and I will hit the road this morning, and we'll arrive in Austin around lunchtime to see Will's end-of-camp program/ceremony and then pick him up. I can't wait to wrap my arms around my big kiddo!

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Cool Finds

This compilation of fun and interesting articles, videos, and pictures (along with a little extra sleep and a couple of slower days) helped lift me out of my summer slump. Enjoy!

This floating trash bin - called a seabin - filters garbage out of oceans, lakes, rivers, and marinas by creating a flow of water into the bin, trapping the trash, and pumping the debris-free water back out.
Watching this woman make rain boots by hand is strangely mesmerizing .

Everybody loves a comeback, especially one with ties to a 1990s childhood.

Watching the Try Guys try ballet takes me back to parent participation week at dance. They look much better wearing tights and a leotard than I do though...

These pictures - some of the best from the 2017 Siena International Photo Awards - offer a stunning glimpse into life throughout the world.

I loved listening to and watching the incredible life story of this 96-year-old Park Ranger.

I hope to one day see the tarmac dancer live in action.

This cow is Hallie's kindred spirit.

The simplest acts of kindness make the biggest difference. 

This ASL interpreter working a hip hop concert is one of the coolest things you'll see today.

Deep thoughts...the shower edition. (Don't worry, they're clean.)

Feeling better? Now on with summer vacation!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Summer Slump

My first summer slump arrived last week.

My disdain for summer weather, Tom's 12-day absence, multiple house-related problems and expenses, Will's week-long illness, Will's twice-daily bouts of tears and my accompanying twice-daily bouts of frustration and exasperation over peanut consumption, a somewhat catastrophic phone reset to 2011 factory settings, two rounds of swimmer's ear, falling behind on my writing assignments, sibling bickering, and sending my recently-sick boy off to camp for nearly a week have combined to leave me feeling less than enthused about summer vacation.

To be clear, I'm not complaining (except about the weather - I fully admit to complaining about the weather). Because while we've had a few bumps, the kids and I have also had great fun throughout the last three weeks: swimming lessons, track camp, dance intensive, ballet masterclass, vacation bible school, playdates and sleepovers with friends, trips to the movie theater and the library, and lots of cheering for our favorites in the World Cup. But now I'm in need of a little...I don't even know what I need. Maybe a little break from, "Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom?! Mom?! Mom?! MOM! MOM! MOM!" Maybe a little extra time in my day to catch up - and perhaps even get ahead - on work? Maybe a little less feeding, cleaning, laundering, and driving in favor of a little more reading and walking and watching the sun set?

This isn't my first-ever summer slump, and I'm sure it won't be my last summer slump. And last week a friend told me she'd had her first "I can't wait for the kids to go back to school" thought that afternoon...three weeks into summer I know I'm not alone in experiencing these complicated emotions. What are your favorite remedies for summer slumps?

Thank you, Hallie, for providing me with an assortment of photos from which I can pull the perfect summer slump visual. In the end, I chose this one as it seems to best sum up summer slumps as a whole.

Ok, these three are pretty solid too.
Mine is staged, hers is authentic.

Friday, June 22, 2018

High Five for Friday (6.22.18)

During Tom's absence, multiple house and yard challenges arose. These issues would usually fall under his jurisdiction, not because I can't take care of them myself, but because he likes the challenge of trying to fix (and is generally quite good at fixing) whatever has failed before we call in a professional. However, since he was out of the country - and completely unreachable - for such a long period of time, I had to take matters into my own hands.

One A
And by into my own hands, I mean my 11-year-old son's hands. I kid you not, Will relit the pilot light for our water heater. He had watched Tom light someone else's once before and then he watched a YouTube tutorial, climbed into the attic and investigated, came back down and watched another YouTube tutorial specific to our make and model of water heater, and then accomplished the task. I supervised (and took pictures) to make sure he stayed safe, but ultimately he handled every step of the process on his own. I was SO proud, and he was pretty darn proud of himself as well.

One B
Our oven also went out, and since neither Will nor I felt like we could safely work on this appliance, I did a little research, figured out what (I thought) the problem was, and called a local repair company. The company and the serviceman both turned out to be top-notch - fast, affordable, professional, and friendly - and so not only did I get my oven fixed, I now know exactly who in town to call for future appliance problems!

If you live in Bryan/College Station and need a recommendation, email me at!

Tom's home!

On Saturday, two friends and I had what seems to have become our annual garage sale. We did well, both in terms of the money we brought in and the stuff we sent out, and the kids loved selling cookies and lemonade!

After many, many years of rarely being able to order anything fun at ice cream shops, this boy finally got his chance to visit - and actually eat something from - College Station's best ice cream parlor. (Most ice cream shops only rinse their scoopers with hot water in between one ice cream flavor and the next, which isn't a safe practice when serving someone with a peanut allergy.) He may have selected lemon sorbet because he doesn't like dairy-based ice cream, but in the past he wouldn't have been able to even place that order. Taking both of my kids out for this treat was a treat for me!
Farmhouse Creamery makes the best ice
cream we've tried since moving to Texas. 

Happiness Highlights
Netflix on the television kept stopping and starting so we
watched Coco huddled around the iPad while cuddling in my bed.
Bahama Bucks! (Otherwise titled, "Summer Hair Don't Care".)
I LOVE library day, and so do the kids. (Please excuse
the mess. We sold Hallie's old dresser and desk but her
new dresser and desk haven't arrived everything
she owns is just sitting on the floor in her room.) 
He hates wearing his mouse and Santa hats, but
we can't help but dress him up every once in a while. 
Ready for VBS!
Loving the "Shipwrecked" theme this year!
Hallie and I finally got around to planting our seeds! Cilantro,
basil, chives, oregano, and green onion all made it into their pots.
She was so proud, and is tremendously
eager to see - and taste - the "fruits" of her labor!

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Texas Bucket List: SeaWorld San Antonio

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

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

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

When we learned that Will's soccer club would play a series of friendly matches against a soccer club in San Antonio the first Saturday in June, we decided to make a full weekend out of the trip, leaving a day early and spending Friday at SeaWorld San Antonio. Tom and I visited SeaWorld San Diego close to 20 years ago, but Will and Hallie had never been to any of the SeaWorld parks. We did our best to explain the SeaWorld experience to them ahead of time, but upon arriving we realized we hadn't done a very good job; apparently our memories aren't what they used to be and/or the San Diego park is structured differently than the San Antonio park.
With our friends Jon and Bri at SeaWorld San Diego circa ~ 2001.
Tom and I had no recollection of roller coasters at Sea World, but roller coasters there were, so we took advantage. Will and I rode the Steel Eel, which features a 15-story vertical drop and multiple weightlessness-producing camelbacks. I usually like roller coasters, but this one scared me more so than any I can remember (I said multiple prayers during the deliberately slow initial climb and the first two terrifying descents) and I had absolutely no desire to ride it a second time. While Tom and Will rode the Great White, Hallie played in the Sesame Street Bay of Play (geared toward children younger than her, but she enjoyed the obstacle courses), and then all four of us rode the Wave Breaker and Rio Loco, which resulted in a drenching not unlike jumping in a swimming pool. Since the temperature outside had reached 100 degrees, none of us complained.

In their habitats we observed alligators, sharks, stingrays, penguins, seals, sea lions, and dolphins, and we attended three different shows. Sea Lion High highlighted sea lions, an otter, and their trainers in a scripted skit about two sea lions attempting to earn their high school diplomas; Tom and I enjoyed the show, but kids truly loved the performance. Killer Whales Up Close showcased Sea World's five orcas in an interactive presentation that focused as much on education as entertainment. We sat in the splash zone, which lived up to its title - we left this show once again as wet as if we'd just taken a shower. And Ocean Discovery revealed the beauty and talents of beluga whales and Pacific white-sided dolphins.

I appreciated, as did the kids, how the shows never flaunted the animals and instead focused on education. Yes, the animals performed impressively, but their "tricks" were movements - styles of swimming, jumping, communicating - they would naturally perform in the wild. I truly enjoyed the seeing the animals in action, LOVED watching the kids take it all in), and appreciated the caring and respectful relationships the trainers so clearly have with "their" animals.
Sea lions
Sea Lion High 
Sea Lion High
Killer Whales Up Close
Killer Whales Up Close
Ocean Discovery 
Ocean Discovery
Ocean Discovery
We skipped Aquatica, both because we didn't want to try to fit two parks into one day and because we figured we should spend our summer water park day at the hottest, coolest time in Texas instead of at SeaWorld's water park.

Because our visit fell just prior to peak season, we missed the now ongoing Electric Ocean event. This nighttime experience includes a nightly "fireworks display and party zones with electronic dance music that will create an electrifying dance club atmosphere". Now that I read the description of Electric Ocean again, I don't feel too broken up about missing this summer celebration...I don't enjoy electronic dance music party zones as much as I used to. 😉

Overall, we loved Sea World. At times throughout the day I wished for cooler weather, but the extreme temperatures and scorching sun made the show splash zones and the water ride that much more fun. I also wished San Antonio had a dolphin and sting ray "petting zoo", like San Diego does/did. Everything else, however, lived up to my expectations: the rides (though a surprise), animals, and shows were a hit with all of us. I doubt SeaWorld will become an annual excursion for us, but I would love to take the kids - to San Antonio, or perhaps San Diego or Orlando - again in a few years.

* I used my Baggallini backpack at SeaWorld. It received TWO dousings with water and somehow kept my wallet, my phone, and all of Will's meds completely dry. Just something to consider if you're planning a trip somewhere wet and wild!