Sunday, December 8, 2019

Four Days for 65 Seconds in Atlanta

We're back from the U.S. Open in Atlanta and it was SUCH a great trip!

We flew out Wednesday afternoon after the most insane two days of work I've ever had at the SEC. And due to a paint/carpet remodel project, those days were done from my kitchen table, frantically answering emails and forwarded phone calls and completely ignoring my bulldog. On Tuesday I sat down at 7:25 a.m. in my pjs thinking I'd knock out a few emails and then get dressed and continue and at 4:30 p.m. when my friend dropped off my children I was unable to pick up because I couldn't move from my increasingly uncomfortable kitchen chair, I was still in those pj's having not moved in 9 hours. I no longer have the gluteal endurance for a day like that. I raced off to teach my barre class and then went to the always wonderful TCU tree lighting, something I will blog about later, but the set up is that I started packing at 10 p.m. that Tuesday night while intermittently fielding work emails on my phone.

But then we were on the plane and all was well, mostly because I didn't pay for in-flight WiFi (side note: Landon calls WiFi "weefee" and it is a delight each time he says it). We sat towards the back because the kids insist that they all sit together and a mid-B boarding number on Southwest makes that a little challenging. But there we were! En route to the U.S. Open!

We landed, journeyed 1,000 miles to get our rental car (yet somehow stayed within the Atlanta Airport), and drove to my aunt and uncle's house where a delicious dinner and 3 comfortable guest rooms were waiting for us. James and the kids went to bed quickly while my aunt and I stayed up way too late chatting, a theme of the weekend I'm feeling but not at all regretting now.

On Thursday morning James got up to shave and then head to the pool for a time trial. I knew he was done because I heard the girls exclaiming from a story above, "Mom! Mom! You've got to see daddy! He looks SO YOUNG! Like when you got MARRIED! MOM!!!"

My middle-aged self and this young thing I picked up

It really freaked them out. I kissed James good luck (he would be staying in a hotel downtown that night) and set out with my aunt to give her a tour of all my favorite things in Costco. A new one had recently opened up near them and friends had given James and me a tour when we joined and I still remember it (thanks Ozs!). I showed her all the things while the kids played in the Christmas aisles and then we got lunch in the food court. So, already the perfect vacation. Then my uncle came home from work and took us on a beautiful hike in their neighborhood.

We traveled by golf cart, which is a thing you do in Peachtree City.

Landon was allowed to drive and use the pedals, which was a nice preview for the Driver's Ed he'll be taking in 2.5 years.

We hiked along the stream that leads to the beautiful little lake my aunt and uncle's house looks out on.

It was a gorgeous day and of course my children immediately took off their shoes and socks to wade into the frigid water.

Along the way, Landon fell hard enough jumping among boulders that I thought he'd broken his hip; Cora fell in the freezing water; and Claire had her feelings hurt by something I don't remember that involved Landon. But overall, a successful hike! Capped off by burgers and hot dogs on the Big Green Egg and extremely tasty margaritas.

The next morning was Friday: the main event. We were up early and in our matching t-shirts to head to the Georgia Tech pool. Home of the 1996 Olympic Games and also where my cousin Alyssa went to college, we arrived right on time to watch the A flight compete: Ryan Lochte, Katie Ledecky, Lily King... Olympic gold medalists and World Record holders, it was just amazing. We also quickly became famous in our bright blue shirts and we never had to show our tickets each time we left the competition area to check out the lobby and swim shop.

My cousin arrived with her 11-month-old baby Lorelei. Upon spying the baby Landon immediately leapt over a row of seats in order to hold her.

We took a lunch break at the student union and it was great to walk in non-chlorinated air and see some of campus.

Then we were back in our seats and James was set to swim in about 30 minutes! We waved to him in the insanity of the warm-up pool and watched him stretch behind the blocks. We were so excited we were almost getting nervous. Friends and family were texting like crazy. The event was live-streamed on the USA Swimming website and friends and family were frozen, sitting in parking lots and at their desks ready to watch. Claire's 3rd grade teacher and choir teacher pulled it up on the classroom screen so the kids could cheer on "Claire's dad." Landon could barely stand it, he knew James's goal time and was deeply emotionally engaged in him reaching it. As my uncle kept repeating, "this is just so exciting!"

And it was. I've watched a lot of races and I've competed in some really big meets (including the 1998 U.S. Open where a young James also competed in the same event, though we wouldn't meet until 3 years later) and none of them compares to how I felt watching my husband step up to the blocks for his 100 breaststroke, with our three kids in front of me, so excited and nervous and thrilled to see him below.

He waved at us as he got ready to step up and our whole section cheered. Everyone is Team Dad.

They took off. He's in Lane 6.

He looked great- so strong and fast and you guys, my hands were shaking and I was tearing up. My aunt, uncle, cousin, and kids were screaming. It was just amazing.

He was 3rd at the turn and 5th at the finish.

He had just made the qualifying time (which required him going 0.01 off his lifetime best his regular 25-yard pool; the U.S. Open was swum in a 50-meter pool and I can't even tell you how different that is) but of course his goal was to drop more. He didn't and I know he was disappointed. But he was the oldest person entered in the meet and I was (and am!) still genuinely astounded he'd gone the time he did and being there was an incredible coup I still can't quite believe he pulled off.

It was such a special thing to see, made even more special by having extra family there to scream with me.

Still buzzed from the excitement of the race, we watched a few more heats and waited for James to change. We headed back home, now with James back in tow, where I cooked a big dinner in my aunt's kitchen and my kids made sure Lorelei understood all the features of her toys they kept trying to smother her with. My cousin stayed the night with the baby my children had now adopted and again, the ladies stayed up WAY too late chatting and drinking Poinsettias and it was marvelous.

Saturday was our last day and we woke up with plenty of time to play with Lorelei and ensure that 3 big kids were always available to assist her every need.

We decided to hike up Stone Mountain, something I hadn't done since I was little and James and the kids had never seen. We'd head straight to the airport from there so we packed up and hunted down an old harmonica Cora had adopted and then promptly lost.

Stone Mountain was great! I wasn't quite prepared for the vertical climb and am sore in very strange places today, but it was gorgeous outside with perfect cool weather and we worked up a SWEAT climbing up the largest exposed piece of granite in the world (did you know only 30% of it is exposed and the whole granite piece extends at least 7 more miles underground? I do!).

My cousin joined us for the climb up while my aunt and uncle took Lorelei on the sky tram. We huffed and puffed but maintained steady conversation the entire way anyway. Alyssa was my first cousin on my mom's side and was born when I was 8. The 8 years matters a lot less now.

The kids basically sprinted the whole way up and then collapsed when they reached the summit.

Then they found the only water puddle on the giant granite mountaintop and promptly jumped on rocks in it.

Lorelei had beaten us to the top but was still happen to pose for a picture with the slow pokes.

It was a great day and a GREAT trip.

I'm so thankful we were able to be there and that we had my aunt and uncle to be such gracious hosts who made our stay so comfortable and easy (and affordable!). I'm SO thankful that our kids got to see James compete at such a high level and for friends and family who love us and were watching with us from all over the country. And though we got home at 11 p.m. last night to a giant stack of boxes, a long to do list, and an overflowing work inbox, I'm just so profoundly grateful we were able to be there. Those 65 seconds of James's 100 breaststroke, and the cheers and love coming from our crew, are something I will simply never forget.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Great Thanksgivings

We saw our annual Christmas play at Casa Manana last night and decorated the family Christmas trees tonight and are fully ensconced in the holiday spirit, but first I need to give Thanksgiving its due by jumping back in time about 3 days and 500 miles to our trip to San Antonio.

Casa play!

But first first, the day before Thanksgiving, Cora had a friend over and they made a huge pile of leaves and jumped in it for 20 minutes. Sometime in the middle of that, Maggie waded in and refused to exit. She really likes these leaves you guys.

Later, we lost Maggie for ten minutes and finally found her in the garage, sitting inside her doggie stroller/bulldog chariot, waiting for a ride.

We hadn't taken a long walk in a few days and apparently she saw the garage was open, let herself out the back door, and decided to manifest her own destiny.

Once she was back safely inside, she tried very hard to play horses with the girls. She didn't quite understand the game, but I'm sure she was a value-add.

On Thursday morning we packed a couple bags and headed south on I-35 to San Antonio to eat our 1:30 Thanksgiving Day dinner with all four of my grandparents! Here's my crew, in the Army Residence Community, flanked by the dessert buffet my children inhaled later.

Speaking of the sugar devils- I must say I am awfully thankful for these three. They're so genuinely easy to travel with and were so well-behaved during a long day of car rides, a nice dining room dinner, and visits to both great-grandparents' apartments. They're my pack and I love how easy it is to love hanging out with them, at least 86% of the time.

I'm also so thankful for this guy, who has uncomplainingly driven thousands and thousands of miles to visit various members of my family for nearly every single holiday since we got married. This year was New Year's in Colorado, Easter in Houston, 4th of July in Colorado, Thanksgiving in San Antonio, and next up, Christmas in Colorado- he's always willing to pack up the car and the children and do all the driving and he makes my heart so happy.

Also making my heart happy, sitting at a table with both of my sets of grandparents. My dad's parents, who I spent every Thanksgiving with my entire childhood.

And my mom's parents. My grandpa turned 90 last week and is doing just amazing!

We spent time in each of their apartments. Grandpa talking war and life stories with James and Grandma and I talking family stories.

We walked down to the pond to feed the fish, as is tradition.

Here's Landon, at age 3, doing the same thing with my Grandpa in 2010.

I love so much that my kids have gotten to grow up knowing my grandparents as their own. They're so important to me. The strength, heart, and to-the-bone optimism of this woman, my Grandma Mary, is a daily inspiration, along with the cheerful texts she sends out to our family each morning talking about her day and letting us all know she loves us. They're a regular highlight of my morning.

We stopped by my Grandma Jo and Grandpa Jim's apartment next. The kids tried desperately to love on their traumatized cat and we all looked at some old pictures from my childhood, including one from my room they'd never seen. The girls thought it was very awesome that I'd shared a room with my sister too.

My Grandma Jo has always been a wonderful and prolific picture taker. I've decided it's where I got my archivist/historian tendencies. At one point Cora was sitting on her chair looking at pictures on my Grandma Jo's phone. The following conversation ensued:

Cora: “Why does it said “live” on top?”
Gma Jo, joking: “Because you’re alive!”
Cora: “Oh! Can I take a picture?”
Gma Jo: “Sure!”

Cora takes a picture of my Grandma Jim

Gma Jo: “See There’s your picture.”
Cora, surprised: “oh, I thought it would say ‘old’ on it!”

We cracked UP. It was great to spend time with them both.

From their apartment we drove out to a local park to let our well-behaved but close to unraveling children run and yell and run some more. After all the running we all realized we were pretty hungry. There wasn't any food at ARC so even though I'd brought snacks, we set out in search of a meal. And while I'm glad for the restaurant industry workers that so many people got to enjoy their holidays, I was very sad that absolutely NOTHING was open. Finally we found a Jim's and settled in for some 6:30 p.m. pancakes. Landon pointed out that we were a lot like that scene in The Santa Claus where Tim Allen is with his son at the Denny's on Christmas Eve and it was so true. But our pancakes were great and we were very thankful they were available.

Forty minutes and a generous tip later and we were back at ARC, settling the kids in for their slumber party in my grandparents' apartment. The girls slept in the pullout couch bed in the 2nd bedroom and Landon on a roll-away in the living room. The kids put on their pj's, James and my grandpa talked politics (they are of one infuriated mind when it comes to our current president), and then we headed down to our separate guest room a few floors below. It was the only room available to reserve and had two twin beds (thus, why the kids were sleeping in my grandparents' apartment). Claire was thrilled for us, "now you'll finally have your own beds!!"

On Friday morning we had breakfast in the dining room (more pancakes for everyone!), stopped by my Grandma Jo and Grandpa Jim's apartment again to say hi and goodbye, and headed north to Austin to stop at a dear friend's house who I hadn't seen in way too long and had, since I last saw her, knocked down her old house and built a fabulous new one. It was so great to see her- we talked about 100 mph for the few hours we had- while our six combined kids ran amok upstairs and James went to swim in their community pool.

We continued home about 2:30 p.m, stopped to get a happy but exhausted Maggie from doggie camp on our way in to Fort Worth, and pulled into the driveway around 6. It was a great Thanksgiving. I'm so glad we were able to see my grandparents and my friend (and not get James off his training/taper schedule- Nationals is this week!).

Yesterday we lazed about the house, got groceries, worked out (I continue to drag myself to Orangetheory and lovehate every minute), mailed our Christmas cards, and went to our Christmas play. Maggie slept the entire time. Even though every picture posted at doggie camp showed all the dogs outside romping and our indoor cat/bulldog lazing on the owner's living room rug, apparently that level of lazing is exhausting.

Doggie Camp Cam

It's been two days and she has yet to fully wake up.

The Casa Manana holiday play was a brand new one this year - Jack Frost. We didn't love it as much as last year's, but it was still really good and definitely something different. The songs were based off the Greatest Showman soundtrack, which the kids loved. It was fun to figure out which song was which along the way.

The kids continue to really enjoy those shows and take their theatre-going very seriously. Getting the children's series season passes each year has been one of our better parenting decisions and I love hearing the kids discuss the stories, acting, and technical details after each show.

We capped off our evening on the town with dinner at a nearby restaurant to celebrate the kids' amazing 2nd 6-Week report cards, and to indulge my need for a traditiona holiday frozen margarita.

This week is a short one, since we head out to Atlanta mid-way through (and then we leave for our Colorado Christmas 3 weeks from tomorrow, which just seems crazy), but this is our menu for the next six days we have at home. I hope you all had a very Happy Thanksgiving and a restful and sparkly start to your Decembers!

Sunday: Greek Bison Burgers on whole wheat pita, Greek Salad, Frozen Fries

Monday: Pumpkin Chili (my new favorite chili recipe; this round I'm adding ground turkey)

Tuesday: Pasta tossed with pesto, fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, and grilled chicken.

[in Atlanta to cheer James on at the U.S. Open! #TeamDad #OldManAndThePool]

Monday: Crock Pot Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Tuesday: Ground beef tacos, brown rice, black beans

Wednesday: Salmon cakes, mashed potatoes, side salad

Thursday: Crock Pot Red Beans & Rice, corn bread, green beans.