Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Scientists and Single Ladies

I've lost all sense of time as summer dwindles into the next school year, but I believe I'm talking about last week. Two Sundays ago we drove away from Houston down two ducklings and took our remaining chick to sushi for a normally ill-advised Sunday night dinner that was delicious and made even better by Cora's newfound enthusiasm for edamame.

For 5 days we were a family of three and it is super weird to only have one kid in the house. Weird and quiet and easy and so incredibly low energy.

But mostly super weird.

Hated sleeping alone, but stealing her sister's top bunk really helped

To make it even weirder, James took his first business trip in forever and left me alone overnight in my own home for the first time since early 2012. (The last time this happened we had a dinosaur cockroach situation and I have not yet recovered.) Cora and I were single ladies for the night!

Barre teaching assistant

So we immediately called in reinforcements. Cora's bestie, who is a third-baby herself and whose mom is one of my best friends, was also an only child for the night because her two older sisters were at various camps and grandparent's houses, so we met for margaritas after my barre class. The girls got their own table.


Then we came back to my house for a swim and some chatting. Chatting that lasted until 10 p.m. when we realized it was a Tuesday night and we had work the next day and our Third Babies were running around in princess dresses 2 hours after their bedtimes. The girls decided they were going to have a slumber party the next night and spent a while packing. That bag contains every princess dress Cora has.


James got home the next day- 22 hours in California to attend a meet-and-greet for the world champs team along with other swim companies; he got invited because he sponsors one of the guys who made it, so he was in the room with Speedo and TYR and the big guys and it was awesome. It also required him to get up at 3:30 a.m. two days in a row to fly home in time to coach his lessons on Wednesday.


But then, on Wednesday night, Cora had her first ever sleepover! She was SO EXCITED! And then! James came home from coaching and we had THE WHOLE HOUSE TO OURSELVES! You guys, this had never happened since we had Landon just over 11 years ago. We were in our house ALONE. OVERNIGHT. I mean, my god. The mind boggles. What should we do first? Do we go out to eat because we can do that without paying a babysitter? Or is that wasting a whole hour we could be IN OUR HOUSE ALONE? I froze in indecision. Eventually it was decided that we should go eat out and then luxuriate in the alone-ness. And we did. And no babysitters were notified or paid. And then we came home. "What do we do first?" James asked. "You mean besides have sex in every room of our house?" I replied. I mean, duh. But then he reminded me he'd woken up at 3:30 for the last two days and I should probably temper my expectations.

We fell asleep with our bedroom door opened, feeling emboldened in our empty house. And then I walked over and closed it because it weirded me out. We can only be so liberated.


Before we left for the State Meet Landon was super concerned about his plants. I've never kept a plant alive for more than a week and the fact that leaving his plants for 10 days didn't seem like a problem to me is probably why. I told him we'd water them while he was gone. He was skeptical, but also pointed out we'd be in Houston for 3 days before even we could take over. I told him I'd ask two of our friends who live on the street whose daughters are his friends too. They were honored and approached it with all due seriousness. When I told Landon the next day I'd arranged for his plant's care, I thought he'd be relieved. Instead he had numerous follow-up questions. Who was it? Did they know which days they had? Did they know how much water to use? Did they know where to get the water?

After a while he nodded and said with a nod, "Okay. They'll do a good job." I've hired babysitters for my human children with less consideration.

Cora took over the duties upon our return. She also took it very seriously. Landon approved.


Speaking of Landon, he and Claire were living their best lives in Houston with my parents.


Like seriously.


Trips to Moody Gardens, ropes courses, 4-D movies, aquariums, trips to the health museum and cell lab, art projects, trips to the movie theater, tons of swimming, and LUNCHABLES ON THE BOAT.


And the making of fresh-squeezed lemonade.


I absolutely adore the cell lab pictures. Claire rocks the lab coat and the kids were FULL of stories that night on the phone. "I saw my cheek cells!!" "I did a stain!" It was so cool. And when your Gigi is a former microbiologist turned biology teacher turned master biologist, it's EVEN COOLER.


They also always research an art project. This time it was plastic bottle bubble painting. It was a hit.


Then they kicked it up a notch with a trip to a real ceramic studio.


Really we all want to go to Papa Gigi camp. Cora gets to go next year because she'll be starting Kindergarten and she is SO EXCITED. The other night at dinner we were talking about camps and how Cora will to do a bunch of them next year. "Um, I am just going to do Camp Papa Gigi for all of the weeks," she informed us.


I really can't blame her. I drove to Buffalo, Texas to meet my mom to pick up the kids on Friday. They were happy and tired and full of stories. They then fought with each other the whole drive back, so we went directly to the library to pick up something to entertain them.


Landon read that whole stack of books by Monday morning, so we went back again today for a larger one. I love how much he loves reading, but sometimes it is also a pain in the neck, particularly since he refuses to read on a kindle because he likes "to turn the paper."


We're now almost caught up to the present day. I have my second round interview tomorrow. I'm prepped and ready and excited and terribly nervous.

To distract from that, here's our meals for the week because they've all been hits:

Saturday: Trader Joe's Chile Lime Chicken burgers (in the freezer section, amazing grilled), pesto pasta salad, watermelon, chips.

Sunday: Oven Jambalaya. So good, every time.

Monday: Sunshine Lentil Bowls. Discovered last summer, this remains a family favorite.

Tuesday: Dorito Taco Salad. My kids' new absolute favorite meal, they ate a ton and fought over the leftovers (leftovers I whisked off to work before they woke up to eat today). Brown 1 lb. ground beef or turkey in a skillet, add whatever taco seasoning you prefer with whatever water is needed, and a can of black beans (or pinto or kidney beans, it's super flexible), simmer. Chop up lettuce, tomato, avocado, green onion, and black olives. Toss all the things together. Crush a bag of nacho cheese dorito chips (or the Trader Joe's organic knock-offs that I love) and stir them in. Eat it. Love it. SO GOOD. (I don't add any dressing bc it doesn't need it, but you could add salsa, sour cream, or whatever else you want.)

Wednesday: Greek pasta salad (this recipe, plus a pound of tortellini pasta with double the dressing; I'm obsessed with using tortellini in my pasta salads right now), TJ's gyro meat (in the deli area, griddle it for about a minute, it's fabulous), naan bread, tzatziki sauce, TJ's falafel mix. Basically a Greek smorgasbord and it was delicious.

Thursday: Creamy Chicken Enchilada Chili. Truly my favorite crock pot meal; I'm subbing a barre class at night, so this will be ready when we're all home.

Friday: James and I are going out on a fancy date night because we feel like it and the kids will eat mac and cheese and spaghettios (organic, to show we care from afar) with their babysitter. We all can't wait.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

State Road Trip and Swim Meet

Y'all. How has it been so long? Two weeks ago I had a super busy and challenging and fun and satisfying week at work, taught an extra two barre classes, and somewhere in the middle James took the kids to the swim team awards ceremony while I worked late. He gave Cora one of his gold medals from Regionals and she wore it to school for the next 3 days.


On another day (Wednesday?) I paid our nanny extra to meet friends for an after-work drink (mine was iced tea; I had to work again later) and it was $15 well spent.


kills me

My life is so pleasantly full right now. Friends, the kids, James, work, barre... I am finding all of my satisfaction in these things and at night, if I'm not working or chatting with a friend until 10 p.m. while our thirdbabies run around in princess-wear way past their bedtimes, I'm reading on the couch, tucked up against James, thinking of all the emails I should respond to and the blog posts I should write and wondering if my laptop is even charged. It's so different from when they were little and I so desperately needed the outlet at night.


But last weekend was a whirlwind of fun and happy moments and must be recorded! So let's go back to July 27th, at 4:05 a.m. when my alarm went off so we could get in the car and drive to College Station for the summer league state swim meet! I was not feeling that exclamation point at 4:10 when I gave in to the alarm dragged my body out of bed, but I did by the time we pulled up to the natatorium at 7:30!


Friday morning's session was Landon's and he would be competing in the 50 free, 25 fly, and 100 IM. He'd been to a state meet once three years before and scored three ribbons (the meet was held in the valley the last two years and that is way too far to drive for a summer league meet) but this year he was going for medal. He and Claire got their athlete tags, James scored his coach's badge, and the girls and I headed up to the stands where my mom joined us to cheer on our Landon.


And Landon did GREAT! All best times and two golds in the 50 free and 100 IM and a close silver in the 25 fly. It was so fun to watch him swim in such a great pool.


"Next year...," dreams the tiniest family swimmer

After his session we got a great lunch (Harvey Washbangers, thank you Yelp app for finding me the perfect place for "french fries and beer" as I requested) and then mom headed home while we headed to Uncle Eric's new house on Lake Conroe! Obviously, after getting up at 4 a.m. and being in a pool all day, they immediately jumped in the lake.


Eric drove us around on his snazzy golf cart which the kids enjoyed VERY MUCH.


We swam in the lake and his neighborhood pool, toured the marina and his frisbee golf course, and then generally enjoyed his awesome new community. He turned 30 the day before, so I made him one of our favorite childhood recipes (mom's spaghetti!) for dinner after having sent him a very detailed list of ingredients to purchase ahead of time (and then finding that those ingredients were the entirety of the contents in his fridge; the kids had never seen a fridge so empty and were truly fascinated by the sight). We took a few more golf cart rides and tucked our ducklings in bed for another early wake up call, this time a luxurious 5:45 a.m. after the day before.

And then boom, it was Saturday morning and we were back in College Station, soon joined by both my parents, and ready to watch James and Claire swim in their sessions!


Partway through James's morning session, I gave up on any attempt at active parenting and let our exhausted third baby zone out in front of Aristocats, muttering "everybody wants to be a CAT" under her breath repeatedly.


James killed it, winning all his events and breaking all the records. Literally all of them. Now that he's 36 he's in a new age group and had a whole new slate of records to smash. And he looked so pretty while doing it.


The number of times I was asked, "so do you know that guy?" is my second favorite thing about watching him swim. (The first is actually watching him in the water; he's a fish.)


Funny story - the Texas A&M Natatorium was built in the late 90's and hosted the U.S. Open in 1999. I was at that meet, and a few weeks into dating James in 2001 I saw a t-shirt in his closet with "U.S. Open 1999, College Station" stretched across the back. "Were you there?!!" I exclaimed. "Um, yes," he replied, mildly concerned by my screeching. You guys, we swam the same event- 100 Breast- so we had to be warming up and down at the same time, possibly in the same lanes, and certainly saw each other on the ready bench. So crazy. He was a senior in Washington, DC and I was a sophomore in Houston, Texas. I love it. I also had a really good swim in that pool.

Back to the present- we grabbed some lunch in the break and then headed BACK to the pool for our final round, now for Ms. Claire in her state meet debut in the 25 free and 25 breast!


I love how it looks like we brought a private coach.


And the little Bear did AWESOME! She was tired and a little nervous but she dropped a little bit of time and touched the wall third, earning her first big medal! I was so proud of all my medalists.


And my tiny cheerleader who was a total trooper, other than that sobbing meltdown in the lobby midway through James's session before my parents arrived and I remembered she had a kindle and knew how to use it.


Cora wore all of James's medals on the walk back to the car and then napped in them on the way to the lake - my parents' lake this time. Earning all that hardware really wore her out.


After getting to my parents' house, after 2 days of waking up before the sun, driving from Fort Worth to College Station to Conroe back to College Station then to Houston, the kids were obviously exhausted and wanted a nap. Except the opposite of that.


Really just James and I wanted the nap.


But then I found out I'd made it to the next round of my interviews for the job promotion I applied for, so I got a second wind while we celebrated that. I get my delight in making up occasions to celebrate all the things from my parents.


We all slept VERY well that night and woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed (just the kids; James and I were woken up two hours later by the kids, fully dressed in boating ensembles, telling us the boat was loaded up and everyone was waiting on us to go water skiing). So boating we went!


I tubed with Cora and it was a DELIGHT. She squealed in joy the whole time and just chanted over and over "faster faster FASTER!". We got thrown off pretty hard and she immediately asked to go again. So we did.


Then I went with Claire, who feels differently about high speeds and flying dismounts. Most of the pictures show her looking concerned, but James happened to capture this one where you can see the increased flexibility that yoga is giving my back.


My parents had to buy a new boat because Hurricane Harvey broke their old one and it came with this fun water ski tube. There are small wooden water skis encased by inflatable tubing to hold them together and cushion you to sit down or stand up. Landon tested it out first, managed to stand up, but asked to stop after a few seconds. Cora watched from the boat and thought, I can do that.


And then she did. And she KILLED IT. It was the very best. She laughed maniacally and would let go with one hand to give the thumb's up "go faster" sign. She leaned to the left and right to ski in and out of the wake and generally looked like she was back at Disney World.


Until she threw a tantrum when it was time to stop because the boat was running out of gas. Reality can really get her down.

Luckily Uncle Eric was here! And it was time to celebrate his 30th birthday! We had chicken fajitas followed by my mom's homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream cake. It's amazing and brought back many memories. For some reason in this picture, my little baby brother looks like he's trying to punch it.


After I ate an accidental second slice of cake, we packed up the car and headed home with one child! Landon and Claire would be staying at my parents' house until Friday for Camp Papa Gigi.


Cora took this largely in stride, though she is VERY anxious to be five and go into Kindergarten so she can go to Camp Papa Gigi too. It's a four hour drive home, but the impact of her missing siblings didn't hit until we pulled up in our driveway around 6:30 p.m. "WAIT!" she exclaimed, "Landon and Cwaire and sleeping at Papa and Gigi's house AGAIN??!! And I am at my house BY MYSELF??!!". It was a blow.

We decided to seize the moment of having only one kid, which basically feels like an effortless rounding error at this point, and go to our favorite date night sushi restaurant. Cora changed into a particularly appropriate princess dress and off we went downtown. She LOVED the fancy restaurant and really loved the giant aquarium that stretches across the bar near the ceiling. Suddenly, life as a temporary only child didn't seem so devastating.


We got home later than we should have, but eh, one kid. We could laundry tomorrow and we barely needed to buy any food. It was a weird and wonderful few days. James went out of town to California for 22 hours on his first ever overnight business trip in a million years, leaving a bewildered Cora and I behind as single ladies for a night. We called in friends for reinforcements on that one. The big kids had the most amazing few days at their camp. Cora had her first sleepover. I worked a lot and skipped yoga every day. But we'll get to all that in the next post...

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Almost None of All the Things

This was the BEST weekend. It was 118 degrees outside (for real; it's 9 p.m. right now and still well over 100 which is INSANE and terrible and why do I live here), BUT we didn't have a single thing on the calendar and it was the BEST.


It started on Friday. The kids were finishing their 5th day of golf camp with the temperatures 110 or higher. Claire got frighteningly dehydrated on the first day (headache, listless, uncontrollable shivering during dinner which freaked us all out; a dose of ibuprofen, a bunch of powerade, a warm bath, and cuddles with mom cured her), but some Gatorade powder purchased at 10:00 Monday night fixed them up for the rest of the week. As I explained, this is the rare situation where you need the Gatorade! It's not just a juice/treat, it's literally why it was invented! So on Tuesday they headed off with a half-gallon water jug each and drained it dry by the afternoon. Dehydration defeated.


Anyway, because it was still 110+ and it was their second week of golf camp for the summer anyway, James picked them up right after lunch and dropped them in my office for some air conditioned good times. Unfortunately they quickly realized that my work is not all pizza and playtime like Take Your Kids to Work Day had promised them, but they were happy to watch a movie on their kindles while I organized exhibits for my testimony next week. We stopped for ice cream on the way home. Work may not be as fun as they thought, but spending the money you make is! (Well, when it's on ice cream; not so much with the taxes and mortgage and law school loans.)


Once home, I collected Cora and bribed them all with a movie so I wouldn't have to watch them swim (seriously; it is too hot even for that) and then a new babysitter came over so James and I could have a date night! Hooray!


Date nights are my favorite. Even when we end up agreeing to sit outside to avoid an hour wait and get a free appetizer at HG SPLY. What's a little sweat for free $14 nachos? The frozen Moscow mules were also $5 and we enjoyed them very much. And luckily, my dress was machine washable.

On Saturday we all slept in and James went to swim practice. I made our weekly menu and grocery shopping list and then he took all 3 kids on a whole long list of errands (Academy! Target! Costco! Trader Joe's!) because he's a crazy person who genuinely prefers doing that with a car full of children. Cora got dressed for the occasion.


I luxuriated in the empty house, prepped our crock pot meal (this one), and then went to yoga. By 1:00 p.m. we had accomplished all we were going to accomplish for the day. James and the kids got home around 2, because he likes to wander the stores and waste time in a non-efficient manner (we don't really errand together), and Claire bought a mermaid fin with $20 in birthday money she only still had because she'd lost the twenty for 6 weeks and just relocated it that morning. Claire is not a saver.


We bribed them with more movies to keep them inside, and then James and I laid down and accidentally fell asleep and then I woke up at 6:45 p.m. 6:45!! You guys, I only nap when I have the flu or I'm pregnant (or I'm on the wrong anti-depressant, which I don't think I am anymore). I think the heat had sucked the life out of me and then the hot yoga sealed the deal. Other than being disoriented, I felt kind of amazing. Naps are great.


We ate dinner and followed it with the ice cream treats I'd picked up at Trader Joe's (the "Hold the Cones" are my favorite thing ever; so tiny and perfect) and then read books. Landon finished all 3 books he'd ordered with his birthday money that were delivered on Thursday and now he's bookless yet again.

Today we woke up early-ish (an accidental 3-hour nap will do that to you apparently) and went on a family walk before it hit 100. It was 9 a.m. and already 92, so we just made it. The kids got to swim because Claire was dying to try out her mermaid fin and we said they could stay in the water until it reached 102. James watched them while I did work (testimony prep ftw!) and then I joined them.


And by 11 we were all back in the house. Lunch was eaten, and midway through the meal Cora, wearing her pj's for reasons no one questioned, peered outside and said, "Is it not dark outside?". No, we responded, it's the middle of the day. "Then why am I in my PJ's?!!" she exclaimed incredulously. We did not know. Then she requested her Disney braids be inserted into her hair by daddy because he is the only one who knows how to do it properly. Any time I question the hassle and expense of our Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique visit (and I don't, actually), I look to the fact she still wears these braids at least a few times a week and it is amazing.


I worked a little more and we put Cora to bed for her nap. Then I put James and I to bed, again, because I thought we should test my new hypothesis that snuggly naps under the ac vents on boiling hot days that suck your soul are awesome. I set an alarm just in case because I was teaching a barre class at 1:30 and was shocked to be awoken by the buzzing at 12:55. Maybe the heat is actually killing me?


My barre class was AWESOME. My biggest class yet, with lots of newbies, high energy, great music and lots of sweat. (New favorite song: Miracle by CHVRCHES.) I got home to kids wanting to go outside so we bribed them with another movie because my phone said it was 113 and felt like 118 and just no. Not okay. I forced myself to start a photo book because I'm a full year behind and the kids have spent time EVERY single day for the last two weeks reading their photo books and exclaiming over the stories and pictures and memories and ugh, it's not just me who loves them you guys, but they are such a pain in the ass. Part of what takes me so long is I weave in little snippets from my facebook posts and blog stories along with the pictures and of course that's what both Landon and Claire exclaim every EVERY TIME because their words and stories are hilarious and give them such a snapshot into versions of themselves they don't remember and dammit, I really need to get started on 2016-2017.


But I started a re-read of the third Kate Daniels book instead. Book 10 comes out in August and I'm going to re-read the whole series by then. And THEN I'm going to photo book for realz.

In the theme of delaying work and things that are hard, we randomly decided to go out to an early dinner because it was too hot to cook and I felt a perfect combination of lazy and exhilarated after my barre class. Our Mexican food hit the spot and then we played Monopoly and then we finally let the kids swim again even though it was still too hot but they needed a physical outlet. And now they're in bed, all cozy and tired and they don't have any camps this week because we're leaving Friday for the state swim meet.


This week is going to be super busy at work (two days of testimony in two different cases) and then next weekend is crazy as we drive to College Station then Conroe then back to College Station then to Houston and then back to Fort Worth, but this weekend was GLORIOUS (my other favorite song right now: Glorious by Macklemore and Skylar Grey). So much lounging. So many movies. Two Kate Daniels books. TWO NAPS!

Sigh, it was a really, really nice two days. Now food:

Monday: Fettuccine with Prosciutto and Peas (the linked recipe plus a bunch of cut up prosciutto and frozen peas added at the end).

Tuesday: Chicken Tacos (3 frozen chicken breasts in a crock pot with a jar of salsa, shredded, in tacos with all the toppings), Mexican Rice, Refried Black Beans.

Wednesday: Chicken Chow Mein with extra Veggies (Trader Joe's frozen chow mein with a big bag of fresh shredded cabbage, shredded carrots, and whatever other veggies I scrounge up from the fridge).

Thursday: Black Bean Quinoa Enchilada Bake (probably with the leftover chicken from Tuesday).

Friday: Spaghetti at Uncle Eric's house (I'm sending him a detailed list of ingredients and will make it up when I get there).