Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Monthly Medley: December 2019

Writing-wise, December has been about getting ahead on the blog so I'll have time in January to tackle a couple of big assignments. Here's hoping I made enough forward progress!

Most of my work throughout the last year has been for print, rather than for online sites I can link to here on the blog. Because of that, I plan to take the "Writing" update off of my monthly medley posts. It may make an appearance from time to time, but I don't like sharing "I've been working on lots of articles but you can't read any of them" month after month.  

I mentioned it last month, but I'll mention it again: The Christmas Train never lets me down.

In between Christmas movies, we watched Yesterday, a romantic comedy about a struggling musician who, after a freak accident, finds himself the only person who remembers the Beatles. While the movie slowed quite a bit midday through, it had a great beginning and end. Rotten Tomatoes' assessment summed up the film almost perfectly: "Yesterday may fall short of fab, but the end result is still a sweetly charming fantasy with an intriguing—albeit somewhat under-explored—premise". The highlight for all four of us were the many Beatles songs; MANY times the kids exclaimed, "THIS is a Beatles song too?!"

Listening To
Instagram (I think) recommended I listen to Crime Junkie, so I decided to give the podcast a try. I really like the short but thorough delves into crimes both well-known and not, and I appreciate that the podcast has been around for a couple of years and therefore has quite a few episodes available. My one complaint is that the host periodically plays up the "crime junkie" title, assuming that everyone listening is doing so because they need some kind of crime (and specifically murder) fix. Though I like true crime books, television shows, movies, and podcasts, I don't consider myself a member of that "club".

December is the season of Nutcracker and Christmas shirts! Back in November I shared pictures of a couple of new Nutcracker shirts, so this month I'm sharing a picture of a new - and already favorite - Christmas sweatshirt.

This Fa La La sweatshirt was originally an art print, painted by the amazing Lindsey Sherbondy of Lindsey Letters. I had considered purchasing the print, but when Lindsey Letters released the same design on a sweatshirt I knew immediately that I wanted to wear this fun and festive design rather than hang it in my house.

Lindsey Letters deserves a shout out in this category as well. I want to fill my house with her beautiful lettering and abstract art, both for everyday and the holidays. I haven't done so yet because I have difficulty justifying purchases for myself at this time of year, but here are a few I plan to eventually order. (I follow Lindsey on Instagram and Facebook so I know her customers are thrilled with the quality of her products and her customer service. Based on these reviews and my sweatshirt order, I feel confident recommending this small business.)

Next, another Lindsey...the professional violinist Lindsey Stirling. Will bought me her Christmas CD - Warmer in the Winter, the Deluxe Edition - for my birthday, and it's quickly become one of my favorite holiday music collections. A few of the songs include vocals, but the majority are instrumental only; I wouldn't have expected a compilation of songs built around a violin to be interesting and engaging, but the versions on this CD are some of the best I've heard. It's been on repeat in my car all month.

I love to bake, but the busyness of this holiday season kept me from making as many batches of cookies and decorating as many cupcakes as I've made in years past. I did, however, still make:
  • 2 pans of brownies
  • 6 dozen gingersnaps
  • 12 miniature banana breads
  • 6 dozen pecan pie tartlets
  • 1 pecan pie*
  • 1 pumpkin pie*
  • 1 cherry pie*
  • 1 skillet cookie cake
  • 3 dozen cranberry white chocolate chip oatmeal cookies*
  • 5 dozen Amish sugar cookies*

* Hallie helped. 😀

Feeling Good About

Hope you and yours had a great December, and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas from the Four Ferri

I love traditional Christmas card photos, but I could do without the stress that accompanies preparing for and taking them. Selecting a date when everyone is available. Choosing outfits that coordinate. Hoping the weather holds out. Timing the soft, evening light just right. Bribing children with candy to cooperate. So this year, I opted out of traditional Christmas card photos.

I asked Will to get dressed as he would for soccer practice, I asked Hallie to get dressed as if she were heading to a dance rehearsal, and I took them to the park. (Hair was the one exception to their authentic soccer and dance looks; I made Will brush his hair, and I let Hallie wear her hair down.) When we arrived at the park, I explained to Will and Hallie that the plan was for them to simply "do what they love" while the father of a friend of Hallie's - who is starting his own sports photography business - stood off to the side and snapped away.

Eventually we decided it would be fun to capture a picture of them "at their peaks" - Will at the peak of a header and Hallie at the peak of a leap - so we started working on timing both jumps together. It took quite a while and many attempts, but the kids had fun with the process and I love the finished product.

A big thank you to Charles with Quad C Photography for the photos and my friend, Kim, whose amazing editing skills spruced up the pics I wanted to use.

In many ways, 2019 wasn’t our year. Injuries, illnesses, and health concerns – not life-threatening, but significant enough to cause worry and anxiety – plagued our immediate family as well as those in our extended families and our friends. But 2019 was still a good year, and these pictures of the children I love more than anything in the world doing what they love more than anything in the world remind me of that.

Here's a summary of the good:
  • Will is crushing middle school, and has enjoyed the addition of Spanish and school sports to his schedule. He had a fantastic cross country season this fall, and after making the basketball team in November, is midway through his first basketball season. Will continues to love playing soccer, chess, and the cello and is driven, friendly, and funny.
  • Hallie is rocking intermediate school. She adores learning and works incredibly hard for her academic success. She remains as passionate as ever about expressing her creativity through music, art, and dance - she did a beautiful job as a Polichinelle in Ballet Brazos' production of The Nutcracker earlier this month - and is determined, kind, and strong.
  • Tom is also passionate about expressing his creativity...and now that he has a Mad Science Laboratory in our backyard, the sky is his limit. He still loves disc golf and music, and sometimes he goes to work. He is generous and frequently the family's voice of reason. 
  • Erin isn’t crushing or rocking anything, but she is managing to balance her roles of wife, mother, freelance writer, volunteer, chef, chauffeur, master planner, and schedule keeper. She loves taking care of her people. 

We wish you and yours a peaceful and joyful holiday season.

And with that, I'm taking the rest of the week off! See you next Tuesday, Chasing Roots!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Best Way to Spread Christmas Cheer

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

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

Happy holidays, friends!

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

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

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

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

(YouTube won't allow me to embed this video - here's the link.)

Deck the Halls
My favorite flashmob of all time.

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

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

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

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

(Once again, YouTube won't allow me to embed this video. Here's the link.)

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

Hail Holy Queen: Sister Act
Ok, so this isn't technically a Christmas song, but it came up
when I was searching for something else and I had to include
it. Chills? Check. Laughing out loud? Check.

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

Thanks, Buddy.

Friday, December 20, 2019

High Five for Friday (12.20.19)

On Tuesday afternoon and after nearly two months of twice weekly appointments and daily workouts at home, Hallie graduated from physical therapy. As strange as it sounds, physical therapy was a bright spot in our fall; though our reason for being there was physically and emotionally painful, the staff - our physical therapist and the two techs who regularly worked with Hallie - were amazing. They were kind and understanding, but they also pushed Hallie to work as hard as she could and along the way showed her just how strong she has become. I know that treating patients well is their job, but I also know that Hallie has a special place in their hearts...when we started physical therapy, Hallie's goal was to dance in the Nutcracker, and when it became clear she would accomplish this goal, ALL THREE bought tickets and came to see her in the show.
Wearing her "graduation shirt" and with the gift
her PT team brought her after the Nutcracker.

On Wednesday morning and after multiple appointments, Sports Medicine cleared Hallie as well!

And finally, as of yesterday afternoon, we are officially done with the fall semester! 

My mom and both of Tom's parents made the trek to College Station to see Hallie perform in The Nutcracker. We are all incredibly lucky to have family members willing to go to such lengths to support our kids as they follow their dreams.

I also need to throw up a high five for my mom, without whom I probably couldn't have made it through the days leading up to Nutcracker. While Tom traveled for work, my mom helped me shuttle kids to and from dance classes, soccer practices, an out-of-town basketball game, a soccer tournament, Nutcracker rehearsals, an art show, and an orchestra recruitment event. This time of year is crazy, in a good way!
One of the only pics I took during her visit. While on
a walk we rescued an escaped dog (a story for another
post), and as part of that process we had to keep said
dog from running into traffic using my sweatshirt as
a leash. It was an adventure.

Speaking of the Nutcracker...

It's funny how at this time of year we can't seem to escape it no matter where we go. Here are just a couple of examples:
They both insisted on kissing this fella
after this photo was taken.
Will's holiday orchestra concert concluded with a medley of Nutcracker songs
This one was my favorite musically... (Will is 2nd chair, visible only as white 
blob - his blond head - to the right of the director and 1st chair cello player.)

...but this one was my favorite entertainment-wise. Pay 
careful attention to the left side of the video as it starts.

Speaking of an art show and an orchestra recruitment event...

Hallie has always loved art, but for the first time this semester she actually loved her art class and teacher. She is looking forward to trying theater in the spring, but I know it will be difficult for her to leave behind this creative experience and her inspiring educator.

The first stop on Will's orchestra recruitment tour took him back to his elementary school. A beautifully complicated mix of feelings came with watching an older, bigger, stronger, smarter, maturer version of him walk the same halls he walked as a little boy.
Back at the Rock as a 7th grader.
Last day of 4th grade.
First day of kindergarten.

Happiness Highlights
(Or as it should perhaps be called this week, Dance-Related Highlights.)
Hallie's "job" (assisting with younger student
dance classes) has been a bright spot in our year.   
I have loved watching her learn how to teach and
nurture in the classroom, and as she led her students on
stage for their Christmas performance my heart about burst.
The lighting situation during Hallie's Christmas performances
wasn't conducive for photos, so this is the only one I took. That's
her, with her arm up in the air. She did a beautiful job, especially
considering she has been sidelined for most of the last six weeks.
I literally could not "dance mom" without these ladies. 
This picture was taken during a different performance, but I just
received it and now it's my new favorite. The joy she feels when
dancing is written all over her face. 
Last but not least, my sweet Lily turned nine this week. 

Will certainly deserves to be a part of my happiness highlights high five, but taking - and sharing - pictures of my sweet boy gets tougher as he gets older... 

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Let's Get Crackin'

We survived our fifth (and the eighth annual) production of Ballet Brazos' The Nutcracker!

Preparations for this year's Nutcracker looked a little different - for both Hallie and me - than in years past. For me, I stepped up my volunteer game as right-hand woman to our Publicity Chair (or Assistant to the Regional Manager, as I prefer to be called). I believe I put in more hours this year than in the past four years combined, and because of that I felt even more invested in this production. For Hallie, she danced through (what I now know was) often excruciating knee pain for the first two months of rehearsals, and since then has been working incredibly hard in physical therapy and on her own to be "performance ready" by opening night. Thankfully, she was ready, and she did a beautiful job on stage.

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

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

We don't have any professional pictures of the shows yet, but here's a glimpse into the fun we had...and why we'll do it all again next year.

College Station and Bryan Library Storytime Performances

Downtown Bryan First Friday Outreach and Publicity

Dress Rehearsal/Showtime
After a long dress rehearsal earlier in the day, I took a short break from my
publicity and backstage duties to watch one of the shows from the audience.
With my buddy (and sometimes boyfriend) Cullen.
Polichinelles on stage.
Polichinelles on stage.
My little poli.
Greeting guests, passing out candy canes, and taking pictures
(here with Ms. Christi) to welcome patrons to the theatre.
Backstage selfie, right before she went on stage for final bows.
It was so fun to see the hugs and celebrations that took place after the curtain
fell on the final show. (I happened to capture Hallie literally jumping for joy.)
The sweetest polichinelles and their Mother Ginger.
Besties forever.
Hallie and Kara's teachers came to see them dance!
With the Nutcracker Prince and their friend, Lexi, as Clara.
With Dew Drop Fairy, Snow Queen, and Lead Marzipan from Ballet
Brazos and Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier from the NYC Ballet. 

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