Friday, October 18, 2019

High Five for Friday (10.18.19)

Y'ALL, we had two days of fall last week and two days of fall this week, and every hour - every minute - made me feel reborn. In particular, I enjoyed letting the fresh air into the house, sleeping with the windows open, and wearing a sweatshirt and boots for the first time in months.

Speaking of fall, one member of the family wasn't quite as excited for its (temporary) arrival as the rest of us. Tux happened to be outside when the first cold front rolled through, bringing with it a noticeable change in pressure, significant wind gusts, and thunder, and he panicked. He wouldn't leave my side for the rest of the day, and at one point he even climbed onto my lap and pushed my phone out of my hand so he could rest his head there. Tux certainly slowed my productivity that day, but after a long summer hiatus, I enjoyed seeing - and feeling - his cuddly side once again.

On Saturday afternoon, Hallie and I, along with grown-up and little girl friends, went to see Matilda: The Musical at a local theatre company. Hallie DESPERATELY wanted to audition for this show, but the rehearsal and performance schedule conflicted mightily with her dance schedule. She shed many a tear trying to decide which direction to go, but she eventually opted to focus on dance during the school year and musical theatre during the summer months. I wasn't sure if she would want to see the show at all - when I said "shed many a tear", I meant MANY, to the point that I wondered if watching the show would be too emotional - but she did, and she loved getting to see a new cast in and a new take on one of her favorite musicals.

On Sunday afternoon, our tribe of dance company moms threw a surprise baby shower for our amazing dance studio owner and friend. She's expecting her third little bundle of joy but her first girl, so we wanted to officially welcome baby into our studio family and stock her nursery with ruffled sleepers, flowered blankets, unicorn bath towels, dancer tights, and close to 100 baby headbands. (No really, close to 100 headbands. We let the girls make baby headbands and they made SO MANY.) I was thrilled with how the shower went: we had a great turnout of girls and moms, the decor looked lovely, the food tasted yummy, and best of all, we truly shocked Bethany, which was tough to do given that we held the shower in her dance studio.

Thank goodness for long weekends, am I right? While I don't support celebrating Columbus Day, I do appreciate having the day - and the Tuesday following - off from school. I felt tempted on more than one occasion to add activities to both days, but in the end I kept it to just the gym in the morning, playing outside, dance and soccer in the evenings (neither sport followed the school calendar's cancellations this time), and one lunch with friends.

Happy weekend, friends!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

It's the Great (Teal) Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (GIVEAWAY!)

I talk about the Teal Pumpkin Project each year around this time, so for those of you who read Chasing Roots regularly, this post may feel familiar. The topic is an important one however, so please give the post a quick read and consider either participating yourself (if you welcome trick-or-treaters to your home) or sharing the post so others can jump on board the teal pumpkin band wagon! 

Last year and for the first time in 12 years, Will trick-or-treated like a "normal" kid. He didn't have to gently sift through bowls of candy looking for a piece he could safely eat, or say "no thank you" and walk away with nothing at all if the candy offered contained or might have contained peanuts. I didn't have to read the labels on or look up the ingredients in any piece of candy he brought home. He sampled anything and everything - except, of course, the kinds of candy prohibited by braces - without fear.

This wasn't always the case for Will and our family. As my regular readers know, Will has a peanut allergy, but after completing a peanut desensitization, he now eats 12 peanuts a day (and is allowed to eat as many peanuts as he wants) without issue. Sadly, not all kids with peanut allergies are so lucky, which is why, after participating for the first time in 2014 when it officially hit front porches nationwide, we continue to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project.

For those who haven't yet heard of this Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) project, here's the background information and a quick summary. At least one in 13 children (perhaps as many as one in 11 children) have a food allergy, and many more suffer from Celiac Disease, eat a restricted or special diet, or receive their nutrients via tube feeding. For these children - those who can't consume any of the items received while trick-or-treating or who can't trick-or-treat at all - Halloween doesn't have the same sparkle. The Teal Pumpkin Project began as a local awareness activity in Eastern Tennessee and grew into a nationwide campaign to "raise awareness about food allergies and promote the inclusion of all trick-or-treaters" and aims to ensure every child can experience a safe, happy holiday.

Participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project is easy.
  1. Pick out a pumpkin, paint it teal, and place it on your front porch on Halloween.
  2. Provide non-food treats - pencils, erasers, stickers, bubbles, and plastic vampire teeth have been popular at our house - for trick-or-treaters. 
The goal here is not to exclude candy; FARE suggests simply putting candy in one bowl, and non-food treats in a separate bowl. And if you don't have time to buy and/or paint a teal pumpkin, you can buy one onlineorder a fun sign for your front yard, or print out and hang up one of FARE's signs!

Later this week and just like we've done for the last five years, Hallie and I will buy a pumpkin at the local pumpkin patch and she'll spend the better part of an hour carefully covering every last inch of orange with teal paint. No, painting a pumpkin teal won't cure Will or anyone else of their peanut allergy. But doing so is a step toward increasing awareness and making the world a safer place for people with life-threatening food allergies...and Hallie loves having a part in this effort on behalf of her brother.
I could use an updated photo of Hallie and her teal pumpkin, but
why would I, when this one is so cute? She had NO teeth in the
front - top or bottom - for months, and it was adorable.
Finished and ready for Halloween!

Would you like to win a Teal Pumpkin Project paint kit? Enter by commenting here or by commenting on or liking this post on Facebook. Will will randomly choose a winner on Saturday, October 19th at 5pm and we'll mail or deliver your paint kit on Sunday, October 20th!

Let's paint the town teal!

I have no affiliation with nor have I received any payment - financial or in-kind - from the Teal Pumpkin Project in exchange for this post. I just happen to be a big supporter of their work!

Friday, October 11, 2019

High Five for Friday (10.11.19)

Thank you to everyone who wished Will a happy birthday last Friday! We had a great weekend celebrating the beginning of his teenage years.
The tradition of filling the birthday boy's room with balloons while
he sleeps continues. (Thanks to the many dance moms who helped me
blow up balloons while waiting for our girls' dance classes to finish.)
I don't know how much of the decor Will saw when
he stumbled out of his room for practice at 6:20am.
He certainly wasn't expecting everyone to be in the
kitchen waiting to sing. (Tom and Hallie haven't been awake
when I've taken Will to practice even a single time all season.)
Will and friends at the park, where they met on his birthday
for a few hours of playing all the sports and eating all the food. 
Hallie and Will under their new weighted blankets. (Since the kids are
2.5 years apart, each gets a half-birthday present on the other's birthday.
It's usually something smaller than a weighted blanket, but I wanted
Hallie to have one and I scored a good deal on these at Target.)
Three layers of chocolate cake and cherry cream cheese filling,
wrapped in loads of chocolate frosting goodness, per his request.
Happy birthday, Will!
The following afternoon we headed to The Woodlands Resort. (I COULD
NOT keep my eyes open for this pic. This is the best of the many attempts.) 
The kids loved the water slides and the lazy river.
Headed out for a second birthday dinner - you get
two when you turn 13 - at one of the resort's restaurants. 

In between Will's birthday celebrations, we crammed a dance class, a dance rehearsal, a cross country meet, a soccer game, shopping for cleats, and a friend's birthday party into the weekend. Those two and a half days were a little busier than I would have liked - none of us slept enough, and I had a lot of catching up to do when it came to the house, the laundry, and work - but I can't complain about the endless love and crazy laughter.

As a member of the Ballet Brazos publicity committee, I have spent the last two months working hard toward an important upcoming event. (Yes, we're working hard toward Nutcracker, but this high five is about something else. More information about Nutcracker to come, I promise!) Brazos Valley Gives is a community-wide day of giving built around strengthening nonprofits, empowering donors, and building community. We're proud to be a part of this inaugural and eventually annual fundraiser, and we would like to invite you to visit to learn more about both the event and the efforts of Ballet Brazos to instruct, educate, and enrich the lives of young people through the art of dance to share quality classical ballet performances with audiences of all ages.

This is Lucy. Her mama and I are friends, so I have adored little Lu for nearly 18 months - nine months of waiting for her to be born, and nine months of watching her grow into an precious little person.

Lucy loves her mama more than anyone else in the world, and since she was about two months old, Lucy has cried - immediately, loudly, and hysterically - if anyone else (with the exception of her daddy and siblings) tried to hold her or even came to close to her in her mama's arms. So despite the fact that I see her between three and five times a week, until very recently she would not let me near her. But I've been working REALLY hard trying to convince Lu that I am a super fun grown-up (I regularly tell her that I'll bring her cupcakes as soon as she's old enough to eat them), and for the first time last week she crawled across the couch and sat next to me on her own. It was a truly joyful moment.

Happiness Highlights
There was a time when I thought she'd never learn to read
(she followed a brother who taught himself at 4yo, so while she
learned on a perfectly normal timeline, for a while I thought I'd
done something wrong with her), so watching her lose herself in
books still brings me tremendous happiness.
She's also pretty good at reading - and following - recipes.
Halloween decor has arrived!
This might be my new favorite pic of these besties.
Well, this one's up there too. 😂
If you look closely, you can see Hallie talking to the
student volunteer working at the pumpkin patch. When we
drove by, we noticed he had no shade to protect him from the
sun on that 100-degree day. We circled back around, and she
gave him one of our umbrellas (which we keep in the car not
to protect us from rain, but to protect us from sun) so he
could survive his shift. I hope it helped!
Matching in blue for Stomp Out Bullying Day.
Not matching with anyone, but committed to the
cause and the associated attire - that's a lot of blue!

Happy Friday, friends!

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Monthly Medley: September 2019

Nothing new to report here - just chugging along on articles for my usual publications.

I don't quite understand how it happened, but I finished three - THREE - books in September!

First, The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas. I found the book in the library's young adult section, but it had an interesting (and seemingly adult) premise - five high school cheerleaders all meet their demise in different ways but within a short period of time - so I decided to give it a try. The plot kept me engaged and didn't require me to think much; the writing was even simpler than what I have come to expect in young adult novels, and I cruised through the story in record time.

Second, The Break Down by B. A. Paris. This mysterious novel, about a woman who begins to spiral downward after coming too close a murder, started off with a bang, and after dragging a little in the middle, rapidly picked up speed until its incredibly satisfying ending. I highly recommend it, as well as the third book I read, The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker.

The Dreamers is also a mystery, but not typically so; it focuses on "an ordinary town transformed by a mysterious illness that triggers perpetual sleep". The premise - an illness infecting a large population and making them behave differently - is not new, but the simplicity of the illness in that it caused only sleep and, we eventually learn, heightened dreams rather than violent behavior and/or quickly deteriorating health, kept me genuinely intrigued. There were definitely a few loose ends, but I could overlook them simply because I enjoyed the story and wanted desperately to find out how the book would end.

After finishing up the current seasons of Kids Baking Championship and America's Got Talent, Hallie and I needed a new show to tide us over until Netflix releases the fifth and final season of Fuller House. We took the recommendation of a friend of hers and started Liv & Maddie (also on Netflix, by way of Disney Channel), and I have to admit, I really enjoy it. Dove Cameron, who plays both title characters, does a fantastic job in her dual roles, and everything else about the show - the quirky but lovable parents, the annoying younger brothers, the unique and endearing friends, and the setting (small town Wisconsin) - reminds me in the best ways possible of the shows I used to watch on television when I was 10 years old. Hallie and I have nearly finished season one, and I'm glad there are quite a few seasons ahead of us.

When I'm not watching television with Hallie, I have been sampling an assortment of this fall's new shows. So far I have enjoyed the new shows All Rise, Emergence, and Bluff City Law but I don't think I'll add Perfect Harmony or Evil to my line-up. I remain a fan of Grey's Anatomy (I can't quit on Meredith), The Resident, New Amsterdam, Modern Family, Bull, FBI, God Friended MeThis Is Us, A Million Little Things, and Law & Order SVU (I can't quit on Olivia either), but I finally ditched How to Get Away With Murder - I just can't follow what's going on over there anymore. What are you enjoying this fall?

Listening To
I know I've talked about the podcast Breakdown in the last couple of monthly medley posts, but this month I listened to season five and am here to officially declare it the best season yet. If you need something interesting to get you through a long drive or a lonely hour on the elliptical at the gym, give this podcast a try!

Next up on my list: The Lazy Genius Collective. I'll keep you posted!

I stumbled upon a couple of solid finds at Target this month. First, these pajama pants. I have a similar pair from Banana Republic, but this pair costs a third as much and feels almost identical. Second, these shoes. I've had foot problems for years, so I have no choice but to be picky about the shoes I purchase. Unfortunately, this often means spending more on shoes than I'd like (no $1.99 flip flips from Old Navy for my old lady feet), so I was pleasantly surprised to find that these sandals fit well, provide decent support, and cost what Target shoes usually cost.

I felt compelled to give Mighty Patch pimple patches a try, even though I had doubts about their effectiveness. I'm so glad I gave them a shot, because they did exactly what they claimed they could/would do. I won't go into detail here because that's gross, but you can read more about them here!

Every night at least two of the four Ferri can be found icing an achy, sore, or injured body part. We had a few ice packs from Walgreens and Amazon, but there were plenty of body parts for which they didn't work because they weren't flexible enough, or moldable enough, or big enough. And then one night Tom came home from an evening out with an assortment of new ice packs - "Comfy Corn Bags", made by the wife of one of his friends. I was skeptical at first, but once I tried them out on our problem areas, I was sold. (I should mention that they can also go in the microwave for those times when heat will work better then cold.) I ended up giving away our four original corn bags to family members who liked using them, so over the summer I purchased four new corn bags in fabrics I love. I also gave one to a friend as a "thinking of you" gift, and have two more in my holiday/present closet, waiting for that time when a friend needs a little pick-me-up.

I highly recommend these corn bags - depending on the fabric you choose, they're either cute or lovely, and they're also well-made, affordable, and effective. Check out the Counting Joy Times Three Facebook page here!

Lots of good recipes to share this month!
  • I made this Honey Mustard Brussel Sprout Salad with Cranberries and Pecans almost exactly according to the recipe (I added an extra tablespoon of honey because I thought the dressing was just a little too bitter) and everyone loved it - Hallie ate three servings!
  • Tom, Will, and I devoured this One-Pot Ziti with Sausage. I made my own Italian seasoning and doubled the amount, used rigatoni rather than ziti simply because that's what I had in my pantry, and skipped the ricotta cheese on top because while Will now eats and even likes some cheese, it's rough on his stomach in such large quantities. 
  • I made this Spicy Chicken Pizza with Tom and Will in mind, but in the end, I ended up eating more of it than anyone else. My only complaint is that when I baked my pizza, the spinach I had topped it with crisped up to the point that it didn't taste (or look) good anymore. I would recommend adding the spinach about halfway through the baking time so it still adds to, rather than takes away from, the recipe.
  • This Easiest Salsa Verde Chicken was in fact the easiest, and it was delicious as well. I didn't change anything about the recipe, though I made one addition to the assembled tacos: I topped them with sliced avocado, which was absolutely, positively the right decision. 
  • Last but not least, I made Snickerdoodle Cupcakes with Cinnamon Swirl Frosting for an event of Hallie's. I decreased the amount of sugar to 1 cup, and used plain nonfat yogurt instead of sour cream. For the frosting, I substituted 1 block of cream cheese for 1/2 of the butter, and used milk instead of heavy cream or half-and-half. I also didn't top my cupcakes with snickerdoodle cookies - I figured the little girls who would be eating these cupcakes didn't need me to push them over the edge to a sugar high. 

Feeling Good About

What's new in your world this month?

Friday, October 4, 2019


13 years old. A teenager. It doesn't seem possible.

Will has always enjoyed school and done well academically, and this year is no exception. He takes a full load of challenging core classes, plays the cello in orchestra, and added Spanish as an elective. However where I used to check in with him daily about every aspect of school, this year I have taken a significant step back. I keep tabs on and touch base with him regarding his test schedule, but I completely removed myself from the equation when it comes to everything else. It feels new.

Will has always loved competitive sports, and this year is no exception. He continues to play club soccer, and added middle school sports - cross country now, followed by tennis, basketball, and track down the road - to his schedule. Just as with academics, I have stepped back when it comes to Will's athletic activities. I still attend nearly every game and meet (about 90% of them - Tom covers the other 10% for me while I'm handling dance), drive him to and from practices, and even watch practice from time to time. But he handles his own gear and water, is responsible for replacing - with his own money - anything he loses, is responsible for keeping up with everything he misses in his other classes while traveling for school sports, and keeps track of team meetings, rules, and requirements. It feels new.

Suddenly there are football and volleyball games at which to be dropped off. There are pep rallies and dances to attend. There is more time with friends and less time at home. It feels new.

Even more suddenly, some of his friends are dating. Will is not...yet...but I know that day is coming. It feels new.

There are hard decisions and hard consequences and hard conversations happening almost every evening. Boundaries are being nudged and pushed and broken. There is defiance. And there are SO. MANY. HORMONES. It feels new.

Will's birthday always sneaks up on me. First we're wrapping up summer and getting ready for the new school year, and then we're settling to new schools, learning new school sports and programs, and adjusting to new dance and soccer schedules. September always passes in a dizzying blur and before I know it, October arrives, giving me just 72 hours of warning.

But this one really snuck up on me. I mean, I knew it was coming - last week I accidentally told someone Will was already 13 years old. And I know that when we transition from 11:59pm on October 3rd to 12:01am on October 4th, nothing really changes...except that this year, it feels like EVERYTHING changes, because right now, everything feels new.

All but one thing: Will is such a good kid. He is a confident leader. He is - when it comes to academics and athletics - a responsible, determined, hard-working perfectionist. (He is NOT a perfectionist when it comes to household chores and personal hygiene.) He is independent and self-sufficient, and strives to make his teachers, coaches, and parents proud. He is kind, friendly, and funny, especially in his interactions with younger children. He loves big, and isn't afraid to show his emotions.  

Will is not perfect, of course. (I feel the need to acknowledge this because even though I doubt anyone would fault me for only focusing on the positive in his birthday post, I believe the true picture is important.) He is too hard on himself. He takes games and competitions and arguments too far, and has trouble determining when to "fight" and when to walk away. What starts out as leadership occasionally takes a sharp turn toward controlling and commanding. He has made mistakes - some small, some big - and I know that additional mistakes await us as all that feels new becomes our new normal.

I recently read an article about how parents should, when preparing to send children out into the real world after high school, "let them go before they're gone". I want to believe the author has it all wrong...that I can and should literally and figuratively hold on to my kids until Tom pries them from my death grip on the steps of their college dorm. But if I'm honest with myself, I recognize that she speaks the truth; she knows - probably from first-hand experience - that letting them go before they're gone is the best way to survive our children's eventual departure. And that's why they leave us a little bit at a time, long before the day they graduate from high school. They turn 13, and start spending more time with their friends. They turn 14, and start dating. They turn 15, and become more involved in school sports and activities. They turn 16, and start driving.

Each new development is a tiny step away from us...but also a tiny step toward becoming a happy, healthy, well-adjusted, independent, and successful adult. I've chosen - out of necessity - to think about all of this "new" as a gift from Will. He's helping me adjust, one Spanish test, one football game, one school dance at a time, so that final farewell doesn't break me completely. Thanks, Willie. You're the absolute best, in every way possible.

Happy 13th birthday, Will. I love you to the moon and back plus infinity times a million with a cherry on top.