Wednesday, March 31, 2010

weekend at Cate & Claire's

Last weekend we went to visit our old friends Cate and Claire in Chicagoland. Their parents Carrie and Jason, as well as our friends Jon, Bri, Mike, Kristin, Beth, & Ed were all there too. Also Cate & Claire have a new dog named Cooper, who added much fun to the trip. It was just a short overnight visit, but we had a great time. We got there early enough on Saturday that we got to start by playing outside for awhile.

Will had been talking about blowing bubbles with Cate and Claire all week, and they got to do it while we grilled dinner. Cooper played too.

Jon and the other children played really well together.

Jason has Beatles: Rockband. It's awesome - kind of like Guitar Hero but with additional instruments and vocals. And Jason had pretty much every Beatles hit song so we played lots. Will tried each instrument (I think he preferred being Ringo), and also tried some vocals.

After a late and very fun night, we were all a little... slow... the next morning. Here Hallie is just waking up from a night's sleep in her cage.

Just kidding of course, but she was proud that she managed to get herself into Cooper's cage. Hallie stayed with Erin and Will and I and was that one kid at the sleepover that keeps waking everyone up to keep playing and won't let anyone sleep, how sweet. Fortunately, Carrie had some coffee going and prepared a delicious breakfast to get the morning started right.

After breakfast Will and Cate kicked back to read a little of the Sunday paper, like an old married couple.

Shortly afterward we had to say goodbye and hit the road for home. The kids agreed to all sit together for one more round of pictures, though getting them all to look at the camera and smile at the same time proved virtually impossible. This one is still very cute.

One very neat thing we did on this trip was to go to a nearby park so Carrie could take some pictures of our kids with her very nice camera (and do some photo editing to make them extra pretty). Here are just a few of my favorites, but you can see more at my picasa site. Thanks Carrie, these are really great!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Your FFTC'10 Champion: Dad

Even though there's still a weekend left, we can officially declare a winner for the Ferris Family Tournament Challenge 2010: this guy. Thanks to the good people of West Virginia, my bracket (which had West Virginia as the Final Four team to come out of the East region) amassed more points than Erin's (she picked Kentucky)... and Will's (he picked Texas). The remaining games are inconsequential to these standings.

Alas, Will got last place in the FFTC'10, as well as in the 17-person Facebook group I put together. But the important thing is that he had fun. He did slightly better than he did last year, when 3 of his 4 Final Four teams lost in the first weekend (this year he still had a competitive bracket after the first weekend). He still had a chance to win had the ball bounced a bit differently in a few games.

Next year, I think the tournament contest should be expanded to include a bracket for Hallie, as well as other W&HP readers - I might even be able to host the tournament through this site, we'll see. For now, I'm planning my glorious victory evening of disc golf, chicken wings, and video games.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Will likes his belt

Will really likes to dress up. He would probably do so every day, but to keep him from ruining all his nice clothes and shoes we tell him he can only wear his favorite accessories: ties, penny loafers, and his dress-up belt to church and weddings, as well as special events such as banquets for mom's or dad's work. It is a special treat on some holidays that he gets to continue wearing his dress clothes all day after church.

Anyway, a few months ago Will figured out that dad gets to wear a belt every day (lucky me), so decided he should be able to do the same. After a few days of him needing quite a bit of help getting his leather belt and pants on and off each time he had to go potty at school, and throwing mini-tantrums when he wasn't able to fasten the belt himself, his teachers kindly recommended that we not send him to school with that belt anymore. Since this broke his heart, Erin was able to find a solution in a velcro belt that Will can easily take on and off all by himself. He likes this belt so much that he wanted to try it on without any pants on to see what it was like. We're so proud.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Will and Hallie take a stroll together

Here's some more walkin' with Hallie. Will came up with this himself - I was working in the kitchen and heard Hallie squeal with delight, looked over to see them walking around together.

Monday, March 22, 2010

FFTC'10 Sweet Sixteen

It was an interesting first weekend of the 2010 NCAA tournament, and Will's picks don't actually look that bad. He still has 3 out of 4 of his Final Four teams remaining, which is as many as almost anyone can claim. He picked the Northern Iowa over Kansas (#1 overall seed) upset, as well as the St. Mary's over Villanova upset. After the first round, he did as well as I did, in fact he was doing better than most of the bracket group I put together on facebook. Of course, after the second round, he didn't do so well, but he's still within striking distance of winning it all.

Erin figured out why he picked Xavier to win it all. When he was making his picks, he kept choosing Xavier, and saying "like Xavier Fox!" - I figured this was either a new friend of his from school or a character on one of his cartoons. Turns out Xavier Fox, along with Yancy Yak and Zeke the Zebra, welcome you to come meet them at the zoo. If Xavier keeps winning, we may be meeting them there soon since Will would get to choose such an activity as the FFTC'10 (Ferris Family Tournament Challenge) champion.

Erin is currently in the lead between the 3 of us, she has 41 points, I have 37, and Will has 28. Still any of us can win, depending on how the next two rounds go.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tourney time 2010

Welcome to the second-most exciting event in sports (after the college football bowl season): the 2010 NCAA basketball tournament. As we did last year, last night Will filled out a bracket to compete in the Ferris Family Tournament Challenge (FFTC'10). This annual contest pits the analytical prowesses of Erin and I against Will's preference for teams that start with a "W", where the Ferris who gets the most points for accurately predicting which team will win each game/each round gets to choose an evening's worth of their favorite activities in which everyone must participate without complaint. Erin won last year's showdown by a single point, but mercifully did not cash it in to force me to watch High School Musical 3. Actually, I can't recall if she ever cashed it in, so she still might (though the "evening activities" award expires one year from the date it is awarded so don't remind her...).

Anyway, click on the image below to see Will's picks for this year's tourney.

This bracket looks somewhat as crazy as last year's, but at least this year he doesn't have a 14-seed as the National Champion. He didn't pick Wisconsin to go as far as I thought he would, but all the recent talk about Texas around our house seemed to influence a number of his picks.

For the record, Hallie wanted to play too - she kept climbing up to slap at the computer as we were entering Will's picks. Next year for her.

So the tournament starts in half an hour, it should be a fun challenge and I expect to resume my rightful place at the top of the family pecking order for sports knowledge after my picks lead me to victory (and an evening of disc golfing, chicken wings, and me destroying my wife and son in Wii Sports). I'll keep everyone updated on the FFTC'10 scores as the tournament unfolds.

Monday, March 15, 2010

2011: we will be Texans

Hello everyone. I have enjoyed the blessing and good fortune of being able to attend the University of Michigan for my graduate studies over the past 6 years. During my studenthood/training, I have had the benefit of working under and alongside some outstanding mentors and fellow students, and have developed many strong friendships (a major contingent of the W&H Page readers!). As fun as it is to be a college student, the goal is to ultimately finish the degree and be employable, so as I will finish my degree this summer(-ish), I am happy to announce I have accepted a job. In January, 2011, I will begin a tenure-track position as assistant professor in the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department at Texas A&M University. This position offers a unique opportunity which I am very excited to undertake: to help shape and grow the human factors/cognitive systems engineering areas of their program. Since accepting the offer, I have been humbled by how welcoming my future colleagues in the department have been, and I think it will be a good match for me professionally as well as personally.

Texas A&M is in College Station, Texas (duh). In my limited experience with the city (one 2-day interview visit plus internet searches), it seems to be a "college town" in every positive meaning of the phrase - much like Iowa City, where Erin and I attended the U of Iowa (and fell in looove). I think this is a polite phrase that means it's a self-sustaining and cultured community due to the University structure, but is somewhat in the "middle of nowhere". This actually fits my style moreso than a metropolitan area, but makes it a bit harder to travel to/from. However, for those of you who will come to visit us (yes, please do!), it is just an hour and a half from Houston, which is an easy drive for an interesting day trip and has a major airport. We'll also be just a few hours South of Dallas, where some of our family and friends live.

To Erin and I, Ann Arbor is as much a home to us as the distant locations where we grew up, and of course, it is the only home our children have known. So it will be very difficulty for us to have to leave. But we knew the time would come eventually when a job would take us elsewhere, and we are confident that this is the right move for our family.

So what are we in for? Well, we're trading our cold, snowy winters with their snowball fights and sledding...

For brutally hot summers (add about 20 degrees to the thermometer below) and swimming pools!

Also, Texas has more cows...

...and more wide, sun-shading hats.

Will we still be able to do all the fun stuff we love to do? You bet. I already checked, there are several disc golf courses in the area, including one right across from the airport, less than 10 minutes from campus.

I'm looking forward to being close to my uncle and his family, who live in Dallas. He's a big fisherman, and I'm hoping he can show us all the hotspots. Since we'll be in the South where the waters are warmer year-round, the fish will be bigger.

(they also value the manly art of thumbing their fish in the South)

We already checked and they do have a Chuck E. Cheese in College Station.

On my visit, I was treated to some really excellent food. The steak and seafood is amazing, given that it's Texas (steak) and close to the ocean (seafood). Also, (authentic) Mexican and Tex-Mex food are some of my favorites. But my #1 favorite is barbecue, and they don't mess around with their barbecue down there. I think it would probably be socially acceptable if I set up my little hibachi grill in my office on campus.

Finally, I'm happy that we're heading to another community that so highly values our family's (well, mine at least) favorite fall activities: tailgating, and college football. While the Aggies have fallen on some tough times of late, historically their football program is top caliber, and the traditions associated with gameday are some of the best anywhere. I figure it's ok if their team takes a few years to turn things around - we have so many football loyalties that it might be very confusing for our children if we got too into Aggie football, too soon anyway. Also I figure we'll have to get Grandpa and Grandma Ferris to visit when the Huskers come to town, and then we'll of course be wearing our Husker red.

So keep checking in with us on the blog - since I've completed the job search process and have time to wrap up my dissertation work, we'll be relatively relaxed (as in, won't be working all...the...time.), and we plan to enjoy our last year in Ann Arbor.
For now, we're enjoying the last days of our last snowy Michigan winter.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Hallie's bath pictures: 11 months

Sorry this post is a few days overdue - we have been recovering from a couple days of the flu at our house :(. Doing much better now, no need to cry!

Actually Hallie is so sad because we were messing with her - brushing her hair for her photo op. She's getting better with it, but she does not like getting her hair done. She sure looks cute with a little ponytail though...

Here's what's new with Hallie: she has TEETH! You can see them in the crying picture above. Two on the bottom, and about 3 or 4 coming through on the top. Unfortunately, this means she's occasionally uncomfortable, and often in the middle of the night. So we've had a lot of mid-night visits to console her recently. She's also eating more, and using those chompers. If she could get away with it, I think she'd eat only rice puffs and cheerios for every meal. In fact, while she'll eat other baby food, more and more she quickly tires of baby mush and communicates to us that it's time for puffs.

I call this the "Jordan tongue", and it's been Hallie's M.O. recently. You'll note her sportin' the Jordan in many recent pictures and videos. Like MJ, the tongue comes out when she's focusing really hard on something and/or enjoying herself. Most often, you'll see this when she's standing and/or pushing things (she's so close to walking), or when she's on a mission to eat the catfood. And yes, she is still continually trying to eat the catfood, sometimes succeeding...

Here are some really great smiles. She's been smiling like the one on the left a lot more often, I think it's her "camera smile". She gives that smile to Will a lot too, especially when they're eating together. Instead of focusing on his food, Will tends to spend most of mealtimes trying to make Hallie laugh, which is very sweet (despite the fact that we constantly have to remind him where his focus needs to be). Those two have a lot of fun together.

Hallie will definitely be walking before the next bath pictures post. She's very close, could do it any day now. She can get virtually anywhere she wants with her crawling now, and she's climbing up on things, pushing things, and dancing. Just today for the first time, she crawled all the way up one of our half-flights of stairs (I was sort of watching her, but was surprised when we discovered she was suddenly sitting at the top of the stairs... watch closer daddy).

Since we have teeth now, we have to brush them!

23324 visits to Will and Hallie's page as of this post.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Hallie strolls around the house

This first video was taken about a month ago - a little before Hallie was 10 months old. She discovered she could do this herself, and actually has since taken to pulling herself up on all kinds of things and pushing them around for walks. Sometimes it makes Will a bit agitated - especially when she steals his chair and tries to run off with it, possibly with plans to push it down the stairs.

When Grandma and Grandpa visited, she showed off her walking skills with this laundry basket as well.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

minigolf pros

In between wrestling matches, Will and Hallie and Grandma and Grandpa did lots of fun stuff while Erin and I were vacationing sans kids a few weekends ago. After a bit of detective work grandpa found a minigolf course in town and they took the kids for an afternoon. This was very fun for Will - he's had a recent obsession with golf which comes from playing the Wii version and also playing with a plastic golf set with his friends at school.

It was a "blacklight" course - everything was painted in fluorescent colors and glowed under the lights. There were lots of fun, bright things for Hallie to climb on/taste.

I think the four of them were the only customers on the entire course that afternoon, so they got to run around and yell and play through the first 17 holes multiple times (the 18th hole is the one which keeps your ball after you sink it). Will is actually pretty good with a golf club, here he's demonstrating the perfect form in his patented swing. Believe it or not, he actually got multiple holes-in-one.

Hallie got a few holes-in-one as well, but she was cheating.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

wrasslin with gramps

Erin and I went on a little mini-vacation a couple weekends ago, and Grandma Brenda and Grandpa Paul stayed with the monkeys. It was great for everyone. Grandpa and Will were best buddies during our trip and we've been dealing with the letdown of "just mom & dad" since Grandpa finally had to go home. I can tell you that Will is not impressed with Erin or I when we wrestle with him - as you can see, it is difficult to compete with this kind of technical wrestling skill.