Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Take My Heart

When preparing to write a new post, I almost always do a quick search of Chasing Roots to pull up any previously written posts on the same subject. This process reminds me what I have and haven't covered in the past, helps me nail down a solid starting point, and gives me direction going forward.

When preparing to write this new post, I performed my usual quick search and was shocked to find that in more than nearly eight years and 1,500 posts, I have only mentioned the Newman Singers twice. Considering how involved and invested both Tom and I were in the group and the special place the group held - holds - in our hearts, this "statistic" surprised me. It also helped me nail down a solid starting point...the beginning.

My freshman year roommate attended church at the Newman Catholic Student Center on the University of Iowa campus, and after a few months, she joined the Newman Center's traveling contemporary choir: the Newman Singers. I didn't attend a mass or concert at which she sang for a few months, but when I finally did, I was sold. Though it seemed a bit strange that I, a non-Catholic, would join a Catholic choir, I auditioned for and became a member of the Newman Singers.

A little over a year later and on the first day of his freshman year, Tom auditioned for and made the Newman Singers as well. We met that night, at 9:30pm, at his first Newman Singers rehearsal.

For years Tom and I, along with between 40 and 70 of our closest friends, traveled throughout the Midwest and across the country, spreading the word of God through music. California and Nevada to the West, Montana and the Dakotas to the North, New York and North Carolina to the East, and Louisiana and Florida to the South. More than once we even ventured to Texas...I still remember my first drink on the San Antonio River Walk and first cheeseburger at Whataburger, experiences that happened on a Newman Singers trip and long before we ever moved to the Lone Star State.

We made lifelong friends. We worshiped in some of the most beautiful churches in the country. We met, celebrated mass with, performed concerts for, and stayed with hundreds of amazing church members and host families. And in between our liturgical and performance responsibilities, we experienced what our incredible country has to offer: we watched 4th of July fireworks over the Pacific Ocean in San Diego, put on a show at The Luxor in Las Vegas, explored the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, hiked through and watched Old Faithful erupt in Yellowstone National Park, celebrated Mardi Gras in New Orleans, met Mickey Mouse at Disney World, dipped our toes in the Atlantic Ocean in Virginia Beach, and paid our respects at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

It was as members of the Newman Singers that Tom and I became friends. Our experiences brought us closer together, and eventually we started dating...the rest - they say - is history. Without the Newman Singers, Tom and I would never have met, fallen in love, gotten married, and built our family. At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, we owe the life we lead today to that group.

While on their most recent winter break, the Newman Singers went on tour to, among other states, Texas. They gave a number of concerts in the San Antonio area, and then on their way back toward Iowa, they stopped in Anderson - just 20 minutes from our house - for a final Texas hurrah. The Anderson concert happened to fall on our 15th wedding anniversary, which felt like a sign that we were meant to celebrate our "family birthday" with the Newman Singers.
Tom and me with Joe Mattingly, the
founder and director of the Newman Singers.
With the next generation of Newman Singers?
Watching from the pews.
One of the Newman Singers crept into the audience for an audience
participation joke and happened to sit right behind us. We turned around,
explained to him that 18 years prior Tom and I had played the same parts,
and took a selfie - all while the show was going on.
Newman Singers tradition welcomes any ex-Singers in
the audience to the stage for the final song. Tom and I both
joined in, and Will did his best to take pictures of us - er,
the backs of the heads of the people in front of him.

18 or so years after we left the group, much of the concert remains the same: many of the same songs, most of the same jokes, slight variations on the same dances. And while masses and concerts had begun to feel monotonous by the time we moved on (hundreds of masses and hundreds of concerts over the course of four years), on our anniversary night every moment of that concert felt new and fun and full of joy once again. I was reminded of why I joined in the group in the first place, why I dedicated so much of my college years to the group's mission, and how grateful I am to have been a part of something so much bigger than myself.

I was also reminded - an added bonus and funny joke - that I am still "the star" of the Newman Singers poster...  

Friday, January 25, 2019

High Five for Friday (1.25.19)

Last Thursday Hallie competed in our school district's UIL competition, in the category of Oral Reading. After a devastating experience with UIL last year (she had never missed a day of school for illness but came down with the flu one day prior to her Storytelling event), I am so grateful she was able to compete this year.

Just as Hallie's UIL Oral Reading stint came to an end, Will picked up where she left off and started training for UIL Chess Puzzles. I love that our district - and specifically Will and Hallie's schools - offers such incredible opportunities for its students to try and succeed at something new.

On Friday afternoon I pulled this out of Will's backpack:
7th grade, here we come!

I'm not ready.

But as I recently turned 40 and as we prepare for both Will's move to 7th grade and middle school and Hallie's move to 5th grade and intermediate school, I am trying to celebrate all of us reaching these milestones. "Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many."

On Saturday afternoon, Hallie and I made the trek to The Woodlands for lunch (she chose Chili's, oddly enough) and to stock up on Trader Joe's goodies. We came home with all of our favorites, plus a few items to taste test. Even on a busy Saturday, shopping at Trader Joe's makes me happy. And spending the day with my girl makes me even happier.
Sometimes I just sit and watch her "be
happy"...when she's happy, of course.

Over the weekend Tom and I took on a relatively big project, for us at least. We cleared out our family room, vacuumed/mopped/dusted/wiped down everything top to bottom, and completely rearranged the entire space to - hopefully - better serve our family. No pics yet, as we have a few more things to organize and put away, but I promise to share a few once everything has and is settled in its place.

When we turned our playroom into more of a family/music room a couple of years ago, I had a vision for how the space would both look and function. Unfortunately, my vision and everyone else's vision didn't mesh, and over time I grew more and more frustrated with that conflict. Long story short, earlier this month Tom took the initiative to map out new arrangements for the room - with color-coded diagrams, none-the-less - and I finally gave up trying to fit three square pegs into one round hole...I finally turned the room over to the other three Ferri, and in some ways, I feel a little lighter.

Happiness Highlights
Hallie LOVES when we have time to put her hair in rags.
Cut a piece of soft fabric into strips ~ 1" wide and 6-8" long. Using 
comb, divide nearly-dry hair into sections. Wrap a section around 
strip of fabric, and snuggly tie the fabric so the hair doesn't unroll. 
Repeat. Go to bed. Carefully unroll and gently separate each section.
Hallie's been having a rough time falling asleep at
night. I'm so grateful for Will, who last Friday blew
up our air mattress, gave Hallie his bed, and slept
next to her on the floor so she wouldn't be alone.
Thank goodness I finally found Will's CECPD Membership Card - he
hadn't been able to work for the department for six or seven years. 
Will's run two full marathons as a
member of Runners Club this year!
These four took a daddy daughter dance class last weekend.
Neither daddy was all that excited to go (tho both still went
willingly), but both daddies ended up having a great time! 
It's tough not to have a good time - and learn a
lot - when Dominic is in charge of the class!
My dancers!

Happy Friday, friends!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Tube Town

I've cruised down quite a few snow-covered hills in my time.

In the beginning, my dad and I used a wooden sled with metal runners...until we crashed it into a telephone pole and it shattered into hundreds of pieces, that is. (I can't help but laugh to myself when I think about my mom's response when she looked out the window and saw my dad dragging his two-year-old daughter and destroyed sled back home after such a massive crash. I don't think she let him take me sledding for a couple of years...) For a while we enjoyed a giant wooden toboggan, big enough for four riders at a time, and eventually we transitioned to first metal and then plastic saucers. During my teenage years, inflatable snow tubes became popular and we all learned how gloriously they protected our backsides on the way down the hill. And so now as an adult who has tried a wide variety of sledding options, I can safely say that tubes are the most fun - and least uncomfortable - way to get from point A to point B, when point A is up high and point B is down low and the ground in between the two boasts a healthy layer of snow.

Flashback to Will's first - and perhaps most painful - tubing excursion. 

It wasn't until last month, however, that we tried designated tubing chutes for the first time. We bundled and loaded up the entire family - the four Ferri plus my sister and her family and our parents - and headed to Cascade Mountain in Portage, Wisconsin. They provide the tubes, the surface lift (picture a ski lift combined with an airport moving sidewalk), and the 900' long chutes in which riders fly from the top of the hill to the bottom. And when I say "fly", I mean FLY...the heavier the passenger - or passengers - the faster the trip down, and when Hallie and I linked our tubes together we went as fast as I ever need to go in a sled. (After the run with Hallie I only rode alone, too fearful of how much faster I would go if I rode with someone who weighed more than she does.)

The positives?
- The hill was incredibly fast, every time.
- The hill was unbelievably smooth, so there was little to no risk of hitting a bump and wiping out.
- The surface lift mades getting to the top of the mountain easier for younger/smaller kiddos, and therefore also easier for parents/grown-ups.
- Cascade has the ability to make its own snow, so if Mother Nature doesn't cooperate (she didn't while we were in Wisconsin this year), you can still tube.

The negatives?
- I kind of missed hiking to the top of the mountain - I like the exercise, both for exercise's sake and because it keeps me warmer.
- As the line to get onto the surface lift grew longer and longer, it took longer and longer to get to the top of the mountain for our next run. We had to move at their pre-determined pace rather than our own pace, which might have been faster.
- It had recently rained, so when we arrived - and because the temperature was just above freezing  - the tubes were soaking wet. As a result, by the end of our first run we were also fairly wet, which meant that as the temperature dropped we got uncomfortably cold more quickly than we would have if we hadn't been soaked through to our underwear. Brrr...

All in all, tubing in this kind of environment was a blast, and I highly recommend it should you find yourself near Cascade or any other mountain with designated tubing runs. We hope to try out another tubing venue - Nordic Mountain in Wild Rose, Wisconsin - in a couple of years!

Texas friends, you may have to head a bit north to experience true snow tubing...let me know if you want to go on a road trip!

Friday, January 18, 2019

High Five for Friday (1.18.19)

Tom and I had a wonderful anniversary. It sounds a bit odd, but we spent the evening singing - and dancing - with our kids, our college choir director, 15 University of Iowa students we'd never met, and a crowd of concert-goers in an Anderson, Texas church. And when we returned home from our adventure, we decided that we could not have come up with a more perfect way to celebrate our 15 years of marriage. More in an upcoming post, I promise...

Hallie received a subscription to Raddish Kids for Christmas, and after her first box arrived last week, she made dinner - Niçoise Salad, Croque Monsieur Sandwiches, and Chocolate-Dipped Cream Puffs - for the four Ferri. The process took FOREVER (three hours, to be exact), but Will, Tom, and I all thought the finished products were delicious. Hallie, on the other hand and in typical Hallie fashion, tried a few bites of everything but ended up eating only the beans and hardboiled eggs out of the salad and the ice cream that topped her cream puff. She felt extraordinarily proud though, and so did I.

A friend of ours plays volleyball on a traveling team, and is often the case for kids who play competitive sports in a city the size of College Station, most of her games take place in bigger cities like Houston, Austin, and Dallas. (This is the case for Will's soccer team as well - our regular season games are always played in Houston.) So when we found out her team would play in a local tournament last weekend, we knew we had to find our way into the stands. Hallie may not have watched a single point (she and her bestie explored the TAMU Rec Center for hours instead), but Will and I watched two full games and loved cheering for "our" team. I'm actually a little worried that Will is going to ask me if he can add volleyball to his list of athletic activities...
"Will. WILL. Stop watching volleyball." 😂 
SO sweet.
As long as it didn't have anything to do
with watching volleyball, they were up for it.

On Saturday night we helped my beautiful friend Mandi commemorate her next birthday at Board and Brush. I love my nutcracker (I'm either a month late or 11 months early for the Christmas season)...almost as much as I loved celebrating Mandi.

We - me, Hallie, and more than 25 of my 4th grade friends - survived Variety Show auditions. It takes guts and grit to get up in front of your fellow classmates and demonstrate a talent, and I always feel so nervous for these kiddos as they take on this challenge. Now to prepare for the actual show!

Happy Friday, friends!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Resolutions Galore

Cheers to the actual New Year, but also
to round five of monthly resolutions!
For the second year in a row, I started my New Year's Resolutions in September and with the intent to tackle one resolution each month, rather than following the more traditional route of starting January 1st and attempting one or two resolutions over the course of the year. I gave "themed" resolutions a try during the first month, but quickly learned that I need more flexibility than the category system could provide and went back to choosing resolutions as they come to me and according to what I feel I need to work on as each new month rolls around.

I didn't share updates on my November and December's resolutions (as individual posts) because I resolved to do the same things in 2018 as I had done in 2017, but I'll include those updates in this post. So here we go - an October update, November and December recaps, and my January plan!

January Resolution(s): first, write for at least one hour a day. This seems like kind of a silly resolution, since I consider myself a writer and all, but it surprises me how often I get to the end of the day and find that despite accomplishing quite a bit, none of those accomplishments include making significant progress on my assigned posts and articles. Second, complete Emily Ley's 2019 Simplicity Challenge. I'll share more about this process next month, once I've worked my way through it start to finish, but in a nutshell, it's a series of one-a-day steps that can be accomplished in 15 minutes or less and together add up to achieving a more simplified life. You can read about the Challenge on the Simplified Instagram page if you'd like to give it a try!

December's Resolution: read to my kids every night. I resolved to read to my kids every night last December as well; doing so happens less and less as they get older and I wanted to "make" myself get back into the habit of snuggling up next to them and either reading to them or letting them read to me. I loved the precious moments we spent together - and losing ourselves in all of our Christmas books - so I brought this resolution back for a second round. How did it go? Reasonably well. I would estimate that Hallie and I read together two out of every three nights, and Will chose to join us for about half of those read-aloud sessions. As was my goal last year, I am doing my best to continue these reading sessions in January, even though our nights have become both fuller and later.

November's Resolution: write in my gratitude journal daily. Doing so has been my November resolution for the last few years, and because I love intentionally documenting one thing for which I am thankful every day between November 1st and Thanksgiving Day, I kept the tradition alive. How did it go? Quite well! I missed a couple of days as usual, but upon realizing I had done so, and because I remembered the days I accidentally skipped with relative clarity, I was able to go back and update my gratitude journal.

October Resolution: use what I have, specifically beauty and skincare products, makeup, cleaning and household products, and food in my pantry and freezer. I had so many freebies, sample-sized "gifts with purchase", and full-sized products purchased at the recommendation of others, and because I wanted to start streamlining what I buy and use in each of these categories, I decided the time had come to "use it or lose it". How did it go? Incredibly well! I used up multiple lotions, shampoos, conditioners, body washes, makeup and perfume samples, and chapsticks. I tossed lots of items that had reached the end of their lives or surpassed their expiration dates. And I donated a bag of unopened samples, set aside a box of assorted products for my next garage sale, and still have a couple of brand new, unopened, full-size products available. (Anyone need Lemongrass Spa Anti-Aging BB Creme in medium or Pure Haven Essentials Tinted Moisturizer in beige?) I continue to use up the last of a few different bath and body products I have on hand, and expect to be fully cleaned out in a month or so!

September Resolutions: sleep seven hours every night; play with my kids, husband, and friends; and manage my social media stress. How did it go? I did well at tallying seven hours of sleep a night - I think I only missed the mark three times, and none of these nights were because of simply staying up too late. Second, I did horribly at (officially) playing with my kids, husband, and friends because...I completely forgot about this resolution, which perfectly demonstrates why I can only have one resolution each month. I did play with the kids, go on a date with Tom, and go out for dinner and drinks with friends, but not once did any of these activities remind me that I had pledged to do more. And third, I did moderately well at managing social media stress. I unfollowed quite a few people and sources and sites that regularly made me feel worse rather than better, and I added a few to lift my spirits.

Did you resolve to change anything about yourself or your life this year? Last month? This coming month? How are those resolutions going?

Friday, January 11, 2019

High Five for Friday (1.11.19)

As a little girl I couldn't sleep over at friends' houses. I would panic as soon as others began drifting off, I think because I was afraid to be the only one awake in the house. I tried as hard as I could, both to fall asleep and then to stay calm when sleep eluded me, but eventually I would give in to the tears, find the mom of the house, and ask her to call my mom to come pick me up. This happened quite a few times, until I reached the sixth grade and successfully stayed over at the home of an extremely good friend with whom I could be honest about my sleepover challenges.

Fast forward to Will and Hallie sleeping over at friends houses; both had their first sleepover around age seven and neither have ever had a significant problem. Until last weekend... While we (me and my friend/Hallie's friend's mom) are not entirely sure, we think Hallie fell asleep around midnight but then woke up a little later - after a long enough "nap" that she couldn't fall back asleep - and started to panic. My friend did her absolute best and went above and beyond to help Hallie through her crisis (at 2AM!!!), but Hallie cried so much that eventually she started to feel sick and there was just no saving the night. I picked her up at 3am, took her home (where she still couldn't fall asleep for another hour), and wrote that sleepover off as bad luck.

The high five in this lengthy story, you ask? Friends who do their absolute best and go above and beyond to help your kids through their crises, especially when those crises happen at 2am.

While Hallie slept over attempted to sleep over at her friend's house, Tom and I took Will to College Station's new Brazilian steakhouse. I didn't really want to bring Hallie (I knew she wouldn't eat anywhere near enough food to justify how much it costs to basically just walk through the door), so her playdate on an otherwise leisurely Thursday night created the perfect opportunity for us to take Will out on his own. Tom and Will both tried all 10 cuts of meats, and I think I tried eight, about six of which I enjoyed. I liked the massive salad bar more than anything else though, so if we ever return, I would consider purchasing only that...along with a glass of their delicious Riesling, of course.

Tom and I enjoyed our last weekend before we headed back to work/school (with the exception of the last two hours, but that's another story for another time), but Hallie's weekend took the cake: on Friday she and two friends went indoor skydiving in Houston, on Saturday she got her ears pierced (again), and on Sunday she jumped her heart out at our local indoor trampoline park. Minus one tweenager snafu (yet another story for yet another time), Will also had a great weekend: he had two friends over on Friday, met two friends at the park on Saturday, and went to another friend's house on Sunday. High five for a fantastic finale to our winter break!

We kicked off our second semester with a pretty full week, so as much as I love soccer, I couldn't help but appreciate that Will's spring season doesn't start until this coming Monday. The extra week of slightly less crazy evenings helped us get ease back in a little more smoothly!

Happiness Highlights
Tux and Will had a bit of an altercation (while snuggling, someone
scared Tux and he caught Will's face as he tried to escape - this pic
was taken after I used liquid skin to close the injury back up 😬), but...
...within a few minutes they forgave each other like best friends do.
The many gingerbread houses we built and decorated in Wisconsin
are now being enjoyed by the hungry squirrels scurrying around my
parents' yard. So fun to make, so fun to "dispose of" after the holidays!
Lunch and ice cream out with these two cuties!
Last but not least... While at the library, a little girl - probably about
four years old - walked up to Will and invited him to attend her puppet
show...and he did. It was such a small and simple act of kindness, but I was
ridiculously proud. (And the little girl's mom was extraordinarily grateful.)

Happy Friday, friends!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Monthly Medley: December 2018

I have articles in the December and January issues of Texas Living Magazine, have knocked out five short articles for the neighborhood magazines to which I recently started contributing, and started writing my first article for Roots and Lace. December was a good month!

I read - and enjoyed - The Lying Game by Ruth Ware. I have heard her novels described as psychological crime thrillers, and while this story started off a little slow for my taste, it definitely picked up speed throughout and ended with a satisfyingly massive bang.

The kids and I visited the community library in Bryan on a dreary day last week, so all three of us are once again stocked and ready to delve into our fictional worlds!

Fuller House, anyone? I just adore this show, both because it brings back such fond memories of my own childhood (eating pizza, drinking orange juice, and watching TGIF with my family on the hide-a-bed every Friday evening) and because Hallie loves watching it with me.

Beyond Fuller House, we watched mostly our holiday favorites in December: Home Alone, Home Alone 2, Elf, and...Clue. It wouldn't be Christmas without a viewing of our favorite murder mystery, and this year's showing was particularly fun because we let Will watch for the first time.

I just realized I haven't watched Love Actually yet this season...I'll add that to my to-do list for January.

Listening To
I find myself in something of a holding pattern with my podcasts right now - I'm caught up on almost all those I listen to regularly, and I haven't yet found a new winner. My list of podcasts to try includes Homecoming, Casefile True Crime, and A Murder on Orchard Street.

As a quick summary, and to remind you of the podcasts I like in case you are currently shopping for something new... I'm caught up on and waiting for new episodes of the stories Gone, The Phenomenon, and Lake Clarity. I'm caught up on and waiting for new episodes of This is Love, Criminal, and Young House Love Has a Podcast. I've listened to all three seasons of Serial, the first season of Cover Up (not sure of the status on a second season) and the one season story, Deadly Manners. I enjoy both For the Love with Jen Hatmaker and Mama Bear Dares, but I don't listen to every episode or follow either podcast chronologically.

Anyone else having a hard time transitioning back to regular clothes after Christmas break? I wore (almost exclusively) pajamas, leggings, sweatshirts, and athleisure attire for two weeks straight, and having to put on clothing with zippers and buttons made me a little sad.

I picked up these deeply discounted athletic shoes at Marshall's in Madison over the break. They are perhaps more fashion-oriented than fitness-oriented, but with the addition of my arch support inserts, I know I'll be able to wear them for at least a few miles at a time.

My sister bought me these Stella and Dot earrings for Christmas, and they're just so fun - what a great idea, creating one product that can be worn so many different ways!
Each part of each earring is reversible so they can be assembled
and worn with quite a few different layering and color combinations.

As I do almost every late December, over Christmas break I reignited my love for puzzles. With a little help from others here and there, I finished three 1,000-piece puzzles, one of which I plan to hang onto to assemble again next December.
This one was so hard!

As I mentioned in my Christmas Recap post, I did A LOT of baking in December...and many of those recipes ended up in the winners column. Here are a few that went over well with my people!
  • Laura Bush's Texas Governor's Mansion Cowboy Cookies I cut both kinds of sugar by a 1/2 c. and left out the pecans because I wasn't sure of the recipients' allergy profiles. These cookies baked a little flatter than I like, but the flavor was amazing.
  • Soft and Chewy M&M Cookies Once again I cut both kinds of sugar, this time by a 1/4 c. I don't usually like M&M cookies myself, but these tasted better than I thought they would and were a huge hit with the kids.
  • Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies I cut the sugar by a 1/2 c. but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. Another hit, with kids and adults alike.
  • Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies The only change I made to this recipe was using dark chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Will prefers dark chocolate, so I thought he would like the cookies better with this slight adaptation; I was right, and he ate more than his fair share.
  • Nothing Bundt Cakes Copycat Red Velvet Cake I also tried this red velvet cake recipe, using milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Don't make this change unless you have to (my mom only had milk chocolate chips and it was too late on Christmas Eve to go to the store), as the milk chocolate chips melted into the cake - rather than holding their shape - more than the semi-sweet chocolate chips would have. The chip switch didn't affect the flavor though, and the cake disappeared quickly on Christmas!
  • Orange Fanta Cupcakes Last but not least, I made these orange Fanta cupcakes for Hallie's Mini Company Director's birthday celebration. (Each time the recipe called for Crush I used Fanta instead.) I didn't eat one myself, but two people who did told me these were the best cupcakes they'd ever tasted. I made slightly different frosting - using half butter and half cream cheese instead of all butter - which I think really sealed the deal.

Feeling Good About

How as your December? Anything fun or new to share?