Friday, June 5, 2020

High Five for Friday (6.5.20)

These High Five posts aren't getting any easier, that's for sure. In many ways, every day feels darker than the one before. 

I wanted to let you know that while I have not yet commented on the racial crisis in our country, I will. Or perhaps better put, I will share stories, advice, and guidance from other individuals...those who are more educated and more qualified than me. But for the time being, I am listening, learning, and reaching out to those who need to know that I am an ally and an advocate.


Only 17 months separate the photo of the boy on the left and the photo of the man-child on the right.

While I desperately wish I could slow down the pace at which this kiddo is growing up (occasionally I even wish to rewind his life all the way back to his preschool days), I am tremendously grateful for the "bonus" time I've had with him these last three months. Had we not ended up stuck at home, his weekdays would have included 6:30am track practices, school until 4pm, homework and cello practice until 6pm, and soccer practices until 9:30pm three nights a week and his "spare time" would have been spent at the park playing basketball, football, and soccer with friends. Instead, he was home, giving me a glimpse - whether he wanted to or not - into his organizational skills, his likes and dislikes, and both what he's willing to work hard for and what he's willing cut corners on. I think I knew Will fairly well and that we had a good relationship (as far as relationships between moms and 13-year-old sons go) before quarantine, but now I feel ever better about our connection.

Watching Cullen teach Kaylee and Will his Tae Kwon Do form brought a huge smile to my face. Cullen was so proud, and the big kids were great sports.

Summer hair, don't care!

Coordinating swimsuits for these besties - it's a little thing, but it brought a lot of happiness to the three of them and their moms. I hope they never stop wanting to match...

GO FOR LAUNCH in 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...lift off!

What a beautiful moment.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Monthly Medley: May 2020

After lighter workloads in March and April, I wrote a lot in May. I don't have any links to share this month because the articles aren't out yet (and most will be magazines you'd only see if you lived in a specific city), but it felt good to have multiple assignments come my way and be able to produce them efficiently.

Every few months I submit two or three pitches to one of the magazines for which I write. The time has come for me to do so again, but I find myself struggling to come up with topics that are appropriate for the times. (I often write about large and popular museums, festivals, events, and venues, the kind that draw crowds and make social distancing impossible, so these articles don't make as much sense right now.) Thus far, my only idea is an article about museums that offer online experiences and virtual tours anyone could "visit" and experience from the safety of their own homes. My question for you, kind readers: do you have any suggestions for me? I'd love to submit a few appropriate and sensitive topics for my editors to mull over and for me to eventually delve deeply into. (Email me at if anything comes to mind, and thanks in advance!)

Last month I mentioned that I was reading - but hadn't finished - Someone Knows by Lisa Scottoline. It took me three weeks to read the first 150 pages because I just couldn't get into the story; the perspective changed every few pages and I found it difficult to follow which of the many characters was telling the story at any given time. But on (or about) page 150, the "main event" took place and from that point on I read at breakneck speed, finishing the last 250 pages in three days.

I also cruised through Who Do You Love, which felt much more like a "summer read". This book was my last from the library (from the stack we picked up on the second day of spring break) to finish, and I made it to the last page just in time for its extended June 1st due date. I'm not ready to enter the library just yet, so for now I'm grateful I have a few borrowed and owned books waiting for me on my nightstand and for a recent Usborne books party that allowed me to stock up on books for both kids.

I got caught up in my list of old(ish) movies to watch with Hallie, and forgot to mention last month that she and I watched - and LOVED - the award-winning biographical drama Hidden Figures. I'd go so far as to call it the best movie I've seen in years. Adult, child...if you haven't yet seen Hidden Figures, add it to your list!

Hallie and I were also THIRLLED to discover that with Disney + comes the National Geographic channel. For the last month we've watched at least one documentary-esque program every Friday afternoon. Thus far our favorites were about the Titanic, Amelia Earhart, and elephants, but we've also enjoyed the veterinarian rescue programs and we're looking forward to learning more about the Grand Canyon next week!

After we finished the current season of "our" show, Manifest, Will and I needed a new show for the two of us to watch together during Hallie's evening dance classes. After trying and quickly nixing a couple of options (don't let your 13-year-old watch Jack Ryan 😳), we came across The Mentalist. We were hooked on this crime drama 20 minutes into the first episode, and we're already a few episodes into season 2.

Our whole family watched the animated "urban fantasy adventure" (I didn't know that was an official category of movie) Onward. The kids and I thoroughly enjoyed it, and Tom stayed awake for almost the entire hour and 42 minutes!

On my own, I started watching Amy Schumer Learns to Cook. I love her, no matter what she's doing.

Last but not least, and update on our movie list!
Red = watched in April
Green = watched in May
Black = yet to watch
  • The Wedding Singer
  • Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit
  • 13 Going on 30
  • A League of Their Own
  • Miss Congeniality
  • Legally Blonde
  • Pitch Perfect
  • 50 First Dates
  • Now and Then
  • The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
  • Miss Congeniality 2
  • Ferris Bueller's Day Off
  • 17 Again
  • The Prince and Me
  • Pitch Perfect 2
  • Pitch Perfect 3
  • Bring It On
  • Titanic
  • The Princess Bride
  • Big Daddy
  • Mean Girls
  • A Cinderella Story
  • Sweet Home Alabama
  • Uptown Girls
  • The Wedding Date
  • 27 Dresses
  • Fever Pitch
  • The Wedding Planner
  • Save the Last Dance
  • Mean Girls
  • Ever After
  • The Prince and Me 2
  • Bewitched
  • Ice Princess
  • While You Were Sleeping
  • Life Size
  • The Princess Bride
  • Mamma Mia
  • Clueless
  • Never Been Kissed
  • Father of the Bride
  • Father of the Bride 2
  • Runaway Bride
  • My Best Friend's Wedding
  • The Holiday
  • Bend it Like Beckham
  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding
  • The Cutting Edge
  • That Thing You Do

Listening To
I listen to music most often in my car, and now that I spend less time in said vehicle, I find I also spend less time listening to music.

The exception is listening to some of my favorite musicians perform live concerts - or even just singing in their kitchens - courtesy of social media. In particular, I have loved the Indigo Girls' live concerts to raise money for different charities (check them out on Facebook on Thursdays at 7pm CST), Jessica Vosk's (and others') performance of the Into the Woods opening, and both From Now On and Seasons of Love by The Welsh of the West End.

For Hallie's birthday I bought her a subscription to Annie's Creative Girls Club, through which she receives two craft kits - along with all materials and instructions - every month. The art projects are age-appropriate, in that she can do them with minimal adult supervision, and turn out nicely enough that they can actually be displayed proudly. I don't know how long we'll continue the subscription, but it's been a WONDERFUL treat during quarantine and we'll certainly keep it coming throughout the summer months.

My second shout out goes to another small business with Annie in its name: Annie's Snack Boxes. If you live in/around BCS, I highly recommend placing an order in honor of a special day. (You could order in honor of a regular day, but these boxes - while delicious and fun - aren't huge and aren't cheap.) She only takes a few orders a week and lines them up in advance, so plan ahead on this one!

The day after J. Crew - once one of my favorite stores - filed for bankruptcy, I popped over to its website and ended up buying a few things from the factory arm of its company as a sign of solidarity. Here were my favorites!

I haven't purchased yet, because they're too pricey and I have nowhere to wear them, but these three dresses from Boden (Sienna jersey maxi dress in rich emeraldGracie knit dress in multi stripe, Maddie dress in ivory/brand spot) are calling my name.

We tried lots of good - and a few not quite as good - recipes this month!
  • First and foremost, this Peanut Butter Layer Cake. I made only the cake from this recipe (not the frosting or the ganache), I divided the batter into two layers instead of three (I only have to round cake pans), and I cut both sugars down to a 1/2 c. It was AMAZING.
  • To top the above-mentioned cake, I made this Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting. Because I wanted to make sure I had enough to frost my cake, I increased the amounts of butter and peanut butter to 1/2 c. each but left everything else the same. It too was perfection.

  • I intended to make this Baked Salmon with Mustard-Dill Sauce, but when I didn't get dill in my grocery order, I decided to use the recipe as a starting point and make my own sauce. I used 1/2 c. sour cream and 1/2 c. plain nonfat yogurt instead of 1 c. sour cream, 3 T. dried minced onion instead of finely chopped onion, and in place of the dill, I used a T. each of rosemary, thyme, parsley, and basil. And y'all, it was SO delicious. 
  • This Ravioli w/ Tomatoes and Asparagus was also a huge hit. I followed the recipe exactly, though I had to used dried instead of fresh basil and parsley because I didn't get either in my grocery order. I will definitely be making this recipe again this summer!
  • This Cowboy Pasta Salad took quite a while to make - lots of ingredients in both the salad and the dressing - but it went over well with everyone. I used ground turkey because that's what I had on hand (and I skipped the beef bouillon), used canned corn instead of corn straight from the cob (again, that's what I had), and I served the cheese on the side because #cheesehaters live in my house.

Feeling Good About
This category was a tough one for me this month. I know there are good and beautiful things happening out there - that good and beautiful people are changing the world for the better in both big and small ways - but when I read about them they have less of an impact on me than they did a week, a month, a year ago. So instead of sharing individual story links, I'm just sharing links to a couple of websites I visit regularly and follow on social media. You may have already heard of both, but if you haven't, I hope Tanks Good News and Some Good News bring you a small bit of joy during these otherwise challenging times.

Be well, friends.

Friday, May 29, 2020

High Five for Friday (5.29.20)

As of 1:30pm yesterday afternoon, we are done with the 2019-2020 school year. Academic assignments were submitted, library books were returned, locked contents were retrieved, goodie bags were picked up, and teacher gifts were distributed. While we have no idea what the 2020-2021 school year will look like, I have hope it will include - at least to some extent and among other things - learning from teachers and spending time with friends inside actual school buildings.

We're really going to miss Hallie's teachers!

I plan to take end-of-the-year pics of the kids over the weekend, so in the meantime, enjoy these first and last day pics of my adorable niece and nephew, who finished their school year last week!

Last Saturday we attended Hallie's combined tap, jazz, and contemporary Red Carpet Experience. What a gift it was to be able to end our dance season on a high note. I will always remember the careful planning, hard work, and deep love that went into creating and carrying out this experience. Thank you, Suzanne's School of Dance!

While both Hallie and I are a little sad to see this year come to an end, we're ready to be done with virtual dance and excited about (hopefully) returning to the studio this summer and the 2020-2021 season ahead!

A social-distanced swimming playdate last Friday afternoon was one of the best things to happen to/for us not just last week, but in the last few weeks. For three hours life felt "normal" again, in the best possible ways.

First we had to catch a frog. This was before
I ran screaming from that end of the pool.

Regular swimming playdates are just about the only thing on our calendar for the next two weeks - and we're not complaining!

We spent a significant portion of each Memorial weekend day (including working through a thunderstorm) cleaning out, weeding, and mulching the beds in our front, side, and back yards. 75 bags of mulch and a thunderstorm later, everything looks great!

On Saturday we worked through summer temperatures, blazing sun, and oppressive humidity and it was AWFUL. On Sunday we worked through cooler temperatures, a lengthy thunderstorm, and continuous rain, which both Tom and I preferred.

Happiness Highlights
Hallie and I saw this sign while on a walk in our neighborhood.
We missed the celebration but only by a day, so the decorations
were still out and it looked like it would have been SO fun.

Getting excited about your new chainsaw
basically sums up what it means to be an adult.

He "talked to" that turtle for like 15 minutes.

First ever dance costume...

...and it still fits! Sort of. She was THRILLED
to wear it for her last week of classes.

We got a new printer, so OF COURSE one thing led to another
and I had to completely reorganize and clean the office. It's
ready for summer learning now though!

My mom sent me the cutest stamps!

And wrote this on the envelope - so sweet. I've
decided to start doing the same: #savethepostoffice

Dance moms and daughters socializing - distance-style -
while waiting for the next celebratory drive-by to start.

I found an Easter egg the bunny hid weeks ago!

Happy weekend, friends!

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Bummin' Hard (Plus a Giveaway)

A woman I follow online recently talked about how she had been kind of bummed out lately. After a few days of feeling this way, she decided to write down all of the things that seemed to be contributing to her mood and attitude. Her hope was this exercise would help her feel better by 1) getting it all out of her head and out into the world and 2) providing an opportunity to go through the bullet points and determine where to go from there.

I too have been kind of bummed out lately, so I've decided to give this exercise a try. And even though doing so won't result in the most uplifting blog post ever, I've also decided to share my list (or at least most of my list) here on Chasing Roots. Oh, and don't worry - I promise to end on a high note. 😃

Before I begin, I want to acknowledge that what my family has dealt with during the last few months is NOTHING compared to what other individuals and families - those who actually contracted Covid-19, those who lost a loved one to Covid-19, those working on the front lines or in essential roles, those whose home environment is unsafe, and/or those struggling to adequately homeschool, balance homeschooling and working from home, and/or stay sane with little ones at home 24-7 - have dealt with. My heart goes out and my prayers go up for you, every single day.

So, here we go.

1. Like many, if not most, of you, I've reached the point in quarantine at which my mental health is starting to suffer. I miss my friends, and my kids' friends. I miss working anywhere other than my office or living room and volunteering with my PTO teams at the kids' schools. I miss taking classes at the gym and shopping at Target. I miss our busy lives.

2. some of you, I'm not ready to "break" quarantine and go fully back out into the real world. Two of my family members have asthma, and one has a history of pneumonia and bronchitis, making them at higher risk for complications should they come down with Covid-19.

3. Like almost all of you, I am grieving the loss of everything we've missed these last two months. Soccer practices, games, and tournaments. Track practices and meets. UIL and Solo & Ensemble competitions. School fundraisers and dances. School, soccer, and dance award and induction ceremonies. The Daddy Daughter Dance. Dance recitals. End-of-the-year showcases, shows, field trips, and parties. I just feel sad.

4. I am not a very good teacher. (There's a reason I didn't go into that field, folks.) I wasn't cut out for crisis homeschooling, and despite my efforts, I don't feel like the homeschooling we accomplished adequately prepared my kids for their upcoming grades. We did alright, but I know we are going to have to continue learning - more so than in summers past - over the next three months.

5. Speaking of summer,  I strongly dislike summer. (Not summer vacation - just summer.) It's my least favorite season, mostly because I hate being hot (it makes me feel sluggish, grumpy, and at times even panicky and claustrophobic, like I can't escape it), but also because I can't stand sweating unless I'm working out or at a swimming pool or beach. Additionally, I don't like bugs, dealing with sunscreen, Daylight Saving Time, and the fact that my electric bill is so high between May and September.

6. On a related note, I'm preemptively grieving all of the summer fun we would have, could have, should have had this year. As is to be expected, nothing we had on our summer calendar is happening as planned. Athletic and fine arts camps, futsal league, dance lessons, swim lessons, etiquette classes (yep, I was planning to send my kids to etiquette classes this summer)...some of these activities won't happen at all, and with regard to those that do happen, I just don't know exactly how we'll feel and what we'll do. We also don't know if we'll get to see our families this summer. We definitely don't feel safe flying, and the road trip is long enough that a hotel stay - and MANY bathroom, food, and gas stops - is required and we don't feel safe going that route either.

7. I'm tired. Of worrying. Of feeling frustrated and angry. Of feeling discouraged and heartbroken. Of not being able to plan. (I'm a planner, y'all, and the fact that my 2020-2021 academic year planner is empty except for birthdays is driving me completely crazy.)

8. I continue to deal with a number of minor - but frustrating, annoying, and at times painful - physical ailments. I won't go into great detail here, other than to assure you that I'm not dying. Oh, and to confirm what I'd previously heard others proclaim: after turning 40, everything goes to hell in a hand basket.

Y'all. I actually do feel a little bit better having written all of that down. Step #1: ✔

Moving on to the second half of the exercise. Here's what I am doing - or should be doing - to improve my situation, along with what I need to let go of in order to improve my mental health.

1. We're doing our best to stay connected to family members and friends virtually, and to get out of the house on occasion. We all exercise and/or play outside daily, and we also pick up prescriptions at the drive-thru pharmacy, pick up groceries, drop off goodies on friends' doorsteps, celebrate friends with birthday parades, and drink coffee in my friend Jenn's driveway once a week. To "mix things up", I've decided to try working somewhere other than my office desk or living room couch - maybe the bedroom chair or the couch in Tom's "office" - and I found an AMAZING local cold brew (more on that in April's Monthly Medley) that tops Starbucks'. I regularly remind myself how lucky I am to have access to the technology and equipment necessary to exercise at home, occasional workout buddies in my kids, and the ability to shop online.

2. Though much of Texas has begun to open up, we aren't quite ready to join those venturing out to restaurants, stores, theaters, salons, and gyms. But we are starting to see and spend time with our friends as safely as possible, and I am starting to consider an adventure to the UPS store to drop off my sister's belated birthday present. (I bought Sara's present in March for her May 12th birthday, but still haven't felt comfortable enough to go inside UPS.)

3. I'm trying to let myself feel sad, but this is easier said then done because while I don't mind letting the kids see me get upset and cry, they certainly don't need to see it every day. And let's be honest - I'm feeling sad every day because every day at this time of the year should have held something fun or special that isn't happening. (Additionally, now that we're all together in the house 24/7, there are no safe places melt down. A friend of mine told me that last week she went for an hour-long drive just so she could cry alone - I might give that a try.)

4. We're done with crisis homeschooling! I plan to take a week or two off from worrying about whether or not we did a good enough job and let future Erin deal with summer school.

5. Enter our "swimming" pool. After that, I'm out of ideas.

6. Last week the kids and I brainstormed a lot of ideas for activities, experiences, and outings that we could safely enjoy this summer. My favorites include: painting our little library, venturing out to the drive-through safari, holding our own daddy daughter dance (don't tell Hallie, because we're working on this one as a surprise), learning to tie dye, dying our hair, at-home etiquette camp with me, disc golf camp with Tom, and a week of themed dress days. We're also considering letting the kids participate in some modified camps and lessons with teams, studios, and organizations we trust to follow all requirements and guidelines and will do their very best to protect those in attendance. Travel is still a gigantic question mark.

7. I'm trying to maintain some semblance of a schedule (I continue to get up at 6:55am every morning, for example) while still allowing for variation and spontaneity. I'm trying to find the good in each day - thank goodness for my High Five for Friday posts, which "force" me to truly think about the highs in addition to the lows. I'm trying not to read Facebook post comments. (These are the source of at least 50% of my negative feelings.) And more than anything else, I'm just praying for peace.

8. I'm searching for answers, seeking help when needed, trying to make healthy choices, giving thanks when I see improvement, and again, praying for peace.

I don't feel quite as good as I did after step #1, but at least I made it through. Step #2: ✔
All in all, however, I highly recommend this exercise. Share - in whatever way feels right for you - what weighs on your mind, your shoulders, your heart. (I'm happy to listen if you need an ear!) Get it out there in the world, and then circle back around to figure out what you can control, what you can't, and how to move forward. 

Time to end on a high note!

First, I'd love to give away a "pick me up" goodie bag to a Chasing Roots reader. Like this post or share a comment - here, on my Facebook page, or on the Chasing Roots' Facebook page - about something that has made you feel better on a bummer day to be entered into the drawing. I'll choose the winner on Friday night and touch base with the winner on Saturday!

Second, and in case you need a laugh after all that, last week I found this:

I hope you have a wonderful week!

Monday, May 25, 2020

In Remembrance of You

Today I remember and honor the brave men and women who made sacrifices - acknowledging that sacrifice comes in all shapes and sizes - in the name of the American Dream.

I remember and honor those who courageously and selflessly walked into the trenches, and those who never walked back out.

And I remember and honor those who, even when - no, especially when - it was dangerous to do so, preached peace and love and tried to make our country a kinder place.

Thank you.

Happy Memorial Day, friends!

Friday, May 22, 2020

High Five for Friday (5.22.20)

Though we still have one more week of school, as of today we are officially finished with at-home learning for the 19-20 school year! I honestly can't complain, because all things considered, our district and the administrators and teachers at the kids' schools did a great job of rolling out this new style of learning. But it'll be nice to take a couple of weeks off from worrying about the online learning platform, our internet, submitting assignments, and grades...and then we'll start summer learning, of course. 😂

I have always been a medical gawker. I grew up near a hospital, and the arrival of the med flight helicopter triggered in me the same response most children have when they hear the ice cream truck rolling down the street. I would run out the front door, down the block, and across the street to the helipad, where I could watch - eyes wide and hands clutching the chainlink fence surrounding the helipad - as the medical team transferred the patient from the helicopter to the ambulance waiting to take him or her across the street to the emergency room. I remember never being able to see anything, and feeling so disappointed each and every time.

Fast forward 35 years...I'm still a medical gawker. I love it when people send me pictures of their or their family members' injuries, and most of my friends know this about me.

The son of a friend recently injured his big toe. (We're talking an ambulance ride, surgery, and nearly 20 stitches here - this injury was SERIOUS.) My friend and I talked via text a few times as the emergency unfolded, and she mentioned that his toe was so badly damaged that she - a nurse and fellow medical gawker - could barely look at it. A few days later, when the dust had settled, she sent me the first round of pictures, and yes, if you weren't a medical gawker like me (and Hallie, interestingly), you definitely wouldn't want to see them. But if you were a medical gawker like me and Hallie, you would find such fascination in seeing them. (Especially because by this point we knew he was going to be alright.)

ALL this to say, since that first text my friend has reached out to me almost every night with a new set of foot photos. And I know it sounds silly, but I look forward to this evening "treat" (we all need a little something - however odd - to look forward to during quarantine) and it's been fascinating to see how the amazing human body works to heal itself, little by little...with a helping hand from modern medicine.

Sorry, no photos. I don't want to gross out any of you non-medical gawkers (my sister and Will come to mind), and they're not my photos to share anyway. 

I mentioned last week that our dance studio hosted virtual recitals for each of their classes, but they also set up and made available a little something extra: an opportunity to bring two family members to the actual studio for a special red carpet walk, photoshoot, and solo performance. On Sunday evening we attended Hallie's first Red Carpet Experience, and even though this "recital" differed dramatically from the recital we thought and hoped she would have this year, the experience and her performance still took my breath away. I didn't expect to feel so moved - excited, proud, and thankful - and I know Hallie didn't expect to enjoy herself as much as she did; when we walked out, she exclaimed, "that was AWESOME! I loved that so much!"

Thank you Ms. Bethany, Mr. Patrick, Ms. Christi, Ms. Andrea, Ms. Mariah, Ms. Taylor, Ms. MaryClare, Ms. Samantha, and the rest of the team, for going above and beyond during this challenging time. We are truly grateful to be a part of the Suzanne's School of Dance family.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the addition of avatars to Facebook. After seeing a good 30 or so pop up in my feed throughout the day on Saturday, I finally decided to make my own. I shared it to Facebook, interestingly, at almost the exact same time as my sister shared hers to Facebook. (We didn't talk or text at all that day, and worked on our avatars completely on our own.)

Here's mine:

And here's hers:

Related much? 😂

Happiness Highlights
I'm finding a lot of interesting
photos on my phone these days.

This one might be my favorite.

We starting letting them get out of the cars on our driveway dates.


I made this peanut butter layer cake - with chocolate peanut butter
frosting and Reese's peanut butter cup topping - for a friend's birthday.
I didn't taste it, but it received rave reviews and I can't wait to make one
for Tom and me! (My kids won't touch a peanut butter dessert.) 

A friend of Hallie's started baking and selling scones and they
were AMAZING. I ate more than my fair share of our half dozen.

On Sunday mornings we work on rebuilding our relationship.

Ready for the field...all decked out in the official
jerseys my dad wore as a referee 25-30 years ago.
Luckily the design hasn't changed much (at all?)
and Will is almost the same size as my dad!

Happy weekend, friends!