Friday, August 31, 2018

High Five for Friday (8.31.18)

My Gal Hal was cast as an angel in Ballet Brazos' 2018 production of The Nutcracker Ballet! (Nutcracker casting officially marks the end of our tryout/audition "season". Hallelujah.)

Thanks to our orthodontist, we enjoyed what will likely be our last night out at the swimming pool for the year. (You read that right: "last night out at the swimming pool". Summer in Texas lasts for at least two more months, but our city's public swimming pools close this weekend.) Slowly but surely I'm making back the cost of braces! 😂
I took zero pics of Will. These girlies (none of whom are patients
but instead tagged along with siblings/friends) sure are cute though!

Will plays - at best - two soccer games a season at home in College Station. So grateful for friends who braved a 107° heat index and scorching sun to come watch him play when these games rolled around.
The bigs.
The littles. Not so interested in soccer.
They kept "cool" by dunking their
heads in a cooler full of ice water. 
We survived! Nearly eight hours from start to
finish, including five spent baking in the sun. 

I have no picture to prove it, but on Saturday night Tom and I went out with friends and for the first time ever, NONE OF US HAD TO HIRE A BABYSITTER. That's right, all of our bigs are old enough to stay home alone. Can I get a Hallelujah?! Can I get an Amen?! (All of our littles were at a birthday party.)

Last but not least, look at this:

Five full years separate these two photos: the one on the left was taken shortly after Hallie started pre-k and the one on the right was taken on Tuesday. Adorable, right? And I'd say we got out money's worth out of that dress!

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Wave

College football season starts this week! In honor of this fun and exciting time of year, I wanted to share one of college football's newest - as well as most emotional - traditions...which happens to take place at my Alma Mater, the University of Iowa.

For nearly 100 years the University of Iowa Children's Hospital and Kinnick Stadium (formerly Iowa Stadium) have stood next to one another on the University of Iowa campus. In 2017 the hospital opened a new building, one that rises up 12 stories above ground and includes a top-floor lounge - the Press Box Cafe - that overlooks the field. Patients and their families gather here to watch home games through the giant floor-to-ceiling windows and away games on big-screen televisions.

At the beginning of the 2017 football season, a fan made a suggestion on Facebook. Word spread, an announcement was made, and at the end of the first quarter of the first game, the entire crowd of 70,000+ turned, faced the hospital, and waved to the patients and their families watching from their rooms and the top floor of the hospital.

And The Wave was born.

The tradition - a simple but meaningful gesture - has had a positive impact on the hospital's children and families dealing with life-altering and life-threatening medical conditions...and on the fans. And as a result, at the end of the 2017 college football season the University of Iowa received the Disney Sports' Spirit Award. "Authentic, caring, and powerful, it perfectly embodies the Hawkeye family spirit. And though it has never been about recognition, tonight, you received it anyway. Here’s to you Hawkeye Nation."

Watch this video. I promise you won't be disappointed.

You want to be a part of The Wave now, don't you? Since most of us - myself included - won't make it to Kinnick Stadium this season, let's take The Wave on the road. Who can you wave at today? Whose spirits can you lift with a small but authentic, caring, and powerful gesture?

Monday, August 27, 2018

Try Me

I participated in my first tryout - for the Madison 56ers Soccer Club's premiere team - as a seventh grader, and while I ended up making the team, the anxiety I felt during the hours leading up both the tryout and the team announcement made me physically ill. I survived each subsequent year's soccer tryouts for both my club and high school teams, but I never tried out or auditioned for anything else because the fear of rejection overwhelmed me. Not trying out for my high school's musicals is still today one of my greatest regrets.
Just because it's funny.

Will had his first tryout two years ago as a nine-year-old, and Hallie - my brave little one - auditioned for the first time as a six-year-old and has since auditioned four times for the Nutcracker ballet, three times for her dance company, and once for a school play. Each time I watch someone pin a number on Will's shorts or Hallie's leotard the nerves and anxiety come rushing back and I feel as awful as I did more than 25 years ago at my first tryout.
Six-year-old Hallie on her way out the
door prior to her first Nutcracker audition. 
10-year-old Will signing his contract on Cavalry Signing Day 2017.

We just wrapped up a three-month-long tryout/audition season, and at this point every year I find myself wondering if asking Will and Hallie (and by "asking", I mean "providing them with the opportunity") to try out and audition is a good thing. I have seen kids have panic attacks on the way into tryouts and burst into tears on the way out of auditions. I have seen parents LOSE THEIR MINDS over the placement of kids on teams and in productions. I have seen kids receive preferential treatment because of something their parents have or haven't done or relationships their parents have with those making the placement decisions. I have seen kids who succeed flaunt their accomplishments in front of those who were cut or didn't make the team/get the part they so desperately wanted, and I have seen kids quit altogether because they didn't feel "good enough". Kids competing against other kids can bring out the most unsavory aspects of youth athletics and activities.

Will's most recent tryouts ended positively for him, but Hallie's last three tryouts/auditions haven't gone exactly how she/I would have liked: one caused Hallie's confidence to waver significantly, one made me - in what has become an annual moment of frustration - to consider pulling Hallie from a particular event altogether, and one broke both of our hearts. Despite these outcomes, however, I truly believe the benefits outweigh the negatives.

Tryouts and auditions encourage kids to work harder in the off-season. They require kids to plan and prepare and follow through. They offer kids an opportunity to show - and be rewarded for - progress and growth. They offer kids AND parents the opportunity to demonstrate dignity and grace in both victory and defeat. And so while tryouts and auditions may be physically, mentally, and emotionally difficult, they challenge kids to become not just better soccer players and dancers, but also harder working, more empathetic human beings.

This article about the benefits of tryouts for youth sports hit home for me, and I believe the concepts it covers apply to other activities as well.

As I watch Will run confidently onto the soccer field and Hallie flounce assuredly into the dance studio, I see one additional benefit beyond those above: because they started early, Will and Hallie aren't afraid to put themselves out there. They won't end up like me, terrified to do so and regretful of a fear-based decision to avoid an activity I probably would have loved.

So send them out there, mamas. Give them a great big hug, remind them to work hard and have fun, and let them give it all they've got. They - and you - will be stronger for it.
As Hallie prepared for this year's Nutcracker audition, I asked her
how she felt. I assured her it was ok to feel nervous, and admitted that
I felt a little anxious for her. Instead of answering, she asked if we could
take one more picture together...and then in the picture she made this
face at the last minute. "No, I'm not nervous, Mom. I've got this."

Friday, August 24, 2018

High Five for Friday (8.24.18)

Well, we survived the first week of school. Or at least we will have survived the first week of school by the time 4pm this afternoon rolls around. We had more ups than downs, so this week belongs in the "win" column.

I hope those of you who started back to school last or this week - big kids included - had a great first few days, and I wish the best of luck to those of you whose classes begin Monday!

Though I first learned about College Station's "Dine-In Dude" - a local chef who once a week prepares and delivers a delicious meal right to customers' front doors - back in June, it wasn't until a few days ago that I tried one of his culinary creations. I ordered his hatch chicken pot pie, and it went over wonderfully with three of the four Ferri (unless the Dine-In Dude makes chili, Hallie won't likely give any of his meals a thumbs up), and the pot pie was also large enough that we could eat the second half as leftovers another night. I have no doubt I'll become a regular customer now that this busy semester has begun!

Adulting lessons are coming along...
She wanted to bake for her Mini Company friends,
so ON HER OWN (she asked questions but my hands
were not involved at all) she made these dessert pizzas:
And this kid is learning to edge the
lawn, somewhat against his will. 
On Saturday night friends and I celebrated the birthday of another wonderful friend. Happy, happy to you, Rebecca!

Happiness Highlights:
I have been working toward this moment my entire life.
Er, since we first added DVR to our cable package.
Turns out goggles keep me from tearing up while cutting
onions! (I never had a problem until I had my eyes fixed
and stopped wearing contacts. Now I'm a hot mess every
time I go anywhere near freshly cut onions.)
Look at those cuties! And Carter started kindergarten! 😍 
One last summer pool party...
...and a last-day-of-summer painting and
ice cream date with my girl and our friends.
Hallie put this bun in my hair. Looks like my
days of having to do my own hair are dwindling. 
On our way in to Nutcracker auditions.
Only one of us was nervous. (It wasn't her.)

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Few Words Wednesday: That's Just Living

Life is amazing. And then it's awful. And then it's amazing again.
And in between the amazing and the awful it's ordinary
and mundane and routine.
Breath in the amazing, hold on through the awful,
and relax and exhale during the ordinary.
That's just living - heart-breaking, soul-healing, 
amazing, awful, ordinary life.
And it's breathtakingly beautiful.

~ L. R. Knost

Monday, August 20, 2018

I Feel You

Today's post is an edited and updated version of a post I've shared every few years, first on Will's first and then on both Will and Hallie's first days school.

During Will and Hallie's baby and toddler years, I found the commonly uttered phrase "enjoy every moment" both frustrating and disheartening.

You've been there, right?

It's 10am. You've been awake for five hours, and in that time you've fed your children three times, been thrown up on three times, cleaned smashed banana out of the cat's fur, changed four diapers, wiped pee up off the playroom floor, rescued a Power Ranger action figure from the toilet, unclogged the toilet, and mopped up the flooded bathroom. You haven't eaten, showered, gotten dressed, or even brushed your teeth.

How many of those moments did you enjoy?

Telling parents - especially new parents, whose days feel like weeks and whose nights require superhuman strength to endure - to "enjoy every moment" often comes across, no matter how well-intentioned, as cruel. These new moms and dads love their babies tremendously, but they simply aren't enjoying every moment.

And telling new parents that kids grow up so fast and time goes by so quickly? Well, those lines sound like great big lies, because in their world, the kids aren't growing up so fast and time isn't going by so quickly. If they're anything like me when I had an infant at home, new parents are wondering how it's possible their (according to the calendar) five-month-old won't head off to kindergarten in the fall because it feels like they've been caring for that baby for five years.

Today Will starts sixth grade. SIXTH GRADE. And Hallie - my BABY - starts fourth grade. FOURTH GRADE. Her last year of elementary school.

Holy smokes...they DO grow up so fast. Time DOES go by so quickly.

This is all quite difficult to wrap my head around, considering it seems like just yesterday I quietly stewed - and then later cried in my car - when a woman at the farmers market tousled six-month-old Will's curls and exclaimed, "what a big boy! Enjoy every moment with him!"

Where am I going with this? To be honest, I didn't know the first time I shared this post and I still don't know now, years later.

What I do know is that telling parents - of children of any age - to enjoy every moment often makes them feel worse rather than better. I know that telling new parents that kids grow up so fast or time goes by so quickly often comes off as a cliche or even a lie. And I know that while the minutes feel like hours, the hours like days, and the days like weeks when those babies are teeny tiny, at some point the clock speeds up and you can NEVER slow it back down.

I still don't enjoy every moment, but this morning, as I sent Will off to sixth grade and Hallie off to fourth grade, I am yet again forced to acknowledge that they DO grow up so fast. That it DOES go by so quickly.

First Days of Kindergarten

So, to all of the kiddos starting or heading back to school, good luck. To all of the teachers guiding our children's academic, social, and emotional learning, thank you for giving so much of yourselves to your job. And to all of the parents whose hearts are bursting with love and fear and pride and grief all at the same time, I feel you.

Friday, August 17, 2018

High Five for Friday (8.17.18)

The end of last week rocked this kiddo's world! As I mentioned in Wednesday's post, Will passed his peanut challenge with flying colors, so to celebrate we went to Texas Roadhouse - where peanuts come with every meal and peanut shells cover the floor like carpet - for the very first time. I know the woman who owns our local restaurant, and when I told her we planned to visit she talked to her manager and had the staff show Will a little extra love.

Also, I could live on Texas Roadhouse rolls.

24 hours after Will passed his peanut challenge we filled his mouth with metal. He was surprisingly relaxed - even excited - about getting braces, and he thoroughly enjoyed learning about the process and choosing his multi-colored (red, white, and blue) rubber bands. His mouth hurt for about 36 hours, but after that window he has had few complaints. Can't wait to see the progress Will's braces make on his pearly whites!

There's a fine line between tired and exhausted...I think we found passed it:

They look like they might keel over or fall asleep at any moment, but just seconds after this picture was taken these little bunheads showed off much of what they learned - including choreography from Swan Lake - at their week-long ballet intensive.

If you've followed Chasing Roots for any length of time, you probably know that I dislike hot, sunny days on repeat and love it when Mother Nature sees fit to gift me with weather that actually changes. In particular, I like sudden snowstorms and swollen rain clouds that roll in slowly and then stay put until they've released every last drop.

Last weekend it stormed - on both Saturday and Sunday - for the first time in what felt like forever, and while I know it sounds silly, the change in weather lifted my spirits, brought a smile to my face, and left me feeling rejuvenated.

School may not start until next Monday, but Will's soccer club and Hallie's dance company officially kicked off practices/rehearsals this week. Our afternoons and evenings (at least some of them - I intentionally "protect" two afternoons and evenings a week) are about to become far busier and at times even chaotic, but we're all looking forward to the semester ahead of us.

Speaking of school, we survived "Back to School Night" week! I attended two and worked four back-to-school nights, so making it to the end of the week in one piece certainly deserves a high five.

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

May the Nuts Be With You

On July 4th, 2009 and while picnicking with friends, Will put a peanut in his mouth. Immediately he began to gag and claw at his tongue, almost as if choking, so Tom and I quickly reached into his mouth and swiped the peanut - which was resting at the back of his throat - out and onto the ground. Will continued to scratch his tongue and the outside of his neck, so we cut an adult Benadryl in half (we didn't have any children's Benadryl with us), managed to get him to swallow it, and nervously watched him as the medicine did its job.
This picture was taken shortly after the peanut incident. I
notice now that he was still scratching the front of his neck.

Shortly thereafter, Will was diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy, and since that day he has followed the only established standard of care for individuals with peanut allergies: strict avoidance while always carrying an epi-pen and Benadryl.

But times they are a-changin'...

Throughout the last five months and under the strict supervision of his allergist, Will has been participating in a peanut desensitization in an attempt to train his immune system to no longer react negatively when exposed to peanuts.

Will began by consuming nearly microscopic quantities of diluted peanut powder twice daily. These doses increased until he could consume minuscule quantities of pure peanut powder, which I measured out on a high precision scale. These doses also increased until Will "graduated" to eating one peanut every morning and one peanut every evening, and from one peanut we slowly moved to 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, and finally 12 peanuts twice daily.
Will's last official peanut dose last Tuesday night.

Each new dose was administered for the first and second time - one dose followed by a second dose 15 minutes later - in the allergist's office. We then administered that dose at home ourselves for at least one week before returning to the allergist's office to increase to the next amount. We treated Will's peanuts like medicine: overseen by an adult, taken on a regular schedule, and never missed. Will couldn't eat or exercise for 30 minutes after a dose so he had to adjust when he woke up in the morning and when he ate both breakfast and dinner. In the beginning, Will experienced a number of unpleasant symptoms - difficulty swallowing, tingly lips, and an itchy throat, mouth, and tongue - following each dose, but interestingly, the longer we continued with the process the less Will experienced these symptoms, even though his doses were getting higher and higher. By the time we reached six or seven peanuts the symptoms had all but subsided.

Last Wednesday morning, Will and I arrived at the allergist's office for his final appointment in this process: the peanut challenge. Over the course of about 15 minutes, Will ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (up to the crusts), a peanut butter chocolate chip granola bar, five peanut butter pretzels, and a Reese's peanut butter cup, and then we waited for 90 minutes while the nurses kept tabs on his vital signs and symptoms. When all was said and done, Will PASSED and walked out with permission to, for the first time in his nearly 12 years of life, eat whatever he wants.
The various peanut selections we brought with us to the challenge.
Will ate the sandwich up to the crusts, the granola bar, a handful of
pretzels, and one Reese's peanut butter cup. 
Will's first peanut butter sandwich. Yes, it's weird to take pictures of
people while they eat, but there were already six people watching him
so I figured, why not make this eating experience even stranger? 

The caveat is that in order to maintain his desensitization, Will HAS to continue eating peanuts/peanut butter/peanut products for the foreseeable future. The hope is that after remaining desensitized for between three and five years the actual allergy will begin to decrease, but for the time being, he falls into a strange category: allergic to peanuts but required to eat peanuts daily. I'm learning, as we prepare to go back to school, that this makes filling out medical forms kind of tricky.

This process took a long time (the average desensitization lasts between four and six months) and was physically challenging for Will, not inexpensive for Tom and me, and emotionally exhausting and mentally frustrating for all three of us. (Only Hallie emerged unscathed.) But every uncomfortable symptom, every payment, every nerve-wracking moment, every tear...they were all worth it because we no longer need worry about accidental exposure and potentially deadly reactions.

May the nuts be with you, my boy. You did it.

For those of you who have kiddos with food allergies, or who have food allergies yourselves...

Consider finding an allergist who can at least assess whether or not your child is a good candidate for this process. This process is new, but as more successful cases like Will's are documented, more allergists will begin to offer desensitization in their offices. (When I say "new", I mean NEW. Will's allergist is the only one in our area doing this kind of desensitization, and some communities, even those bigger than ours, are completely without this opportunity for kids with allergies. Will was only patient #19 at his allergist's office, was the first child ever at his summer camp, and will be the first child at his school to have participated in a peanut desensitization.)

Something else to consider... Besides being a good candidate for desensitization from a medical perspective, Will was - is - the "right kind of kid" for this process. He is a rational and cooperative people-pleaser, which meant he understood why we were putting him through this challenge and how it would improve his quality of life in the future. He wanted to succeed to make me, Tom, and his allergist happy and because he's competitive and always wants to "win", no matter the situation. For the sake of comparison, this process with Hallie would - at least until very recently - result in DISASTER. She cannot be reasoned with or bribed, and when she doesn't want to do something she is as stubborn as the day is long. During one appointment, Will and I listened as an approximately seven-year-old little girl with a stubborn streak like Hallie's held a bite of egg in her mouth - while also screaming and crying - for 57 minutes. At one point Will and I turned to each other and both said some version of, "I don't think she's going to make it". A child with that kind of personality would have trouble making it through the process. (That little girl did not successfully complete her egg desensitization.) 

If you have questions about our experience or want to know more, don't hesitate to email me at or