Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Heaven, Fireside

I write this curled up in an over-sized chair in front of a fire. Feet up, jammies on, music playing softly in the background- a glass of red wine to my left and JP to my right, in a gorgeous condo in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. It's our Thanksgiving vacation and it's wonderful.

~ ~ ~

We left yesterday morning at 7:30 a.m. Leaving the dust and chaos and kitchenlessness of Fort Worth behind, we drove to Colorado Springs, making it in time for an early dinner at maybe the best and most charming Colorado brewpub we've found yet! The Bristol Brewing Company, housed in a schoolhouse from 1916 and offering a fab honey wheat beer, some of the best giant pretzels I've ever had, and a delightful chicken and goat cheese and who knows what else sandwich on homemade focaccia. You should go. They have other things too, like homemade wheat crackers. Cora recommends them.

The car ride went great. And at only 10.5 hours, it was a pretty easy day. We stopped twice, for gas and potty breaks, watched 1 movie, and did a lot of coloring (kids), reading (me), and making Cora giggle (all of us) before arriving in town for dinner at 5. We then went to our hotel- the first hotel room we've ever stayed at with the kids (it's not a vacation unless we have separate bedrooms, I believe this FIRMLY and thus hotel rooms are never an option, but JP REALLY wanted to hike the Manitou Incline again and the full 16 hour drive to Steamboat seemed a little much, so I bent a little, just this once, and ended up in a room with all of my children and the lights off 8:15 p.m.). The big kids were blown away by the luxury of our $75 room- our own bathroom! an ironing board in the closet! a tiny fridge! an "old timey phone!!"

Landon picked it up and couldn't figure out why it made noise when he hadn't pressed any buttons and I realized he's never heard a dial tone before. Crazy. We got a crib set up and as soon as Cora saw it she tried to climb in. I know I've said this, but she is seriously the best baby. She was so good in the car- when the kids were watching their movie (Home Alone 2; after the roaring success that was last year's car trip purchase of Home Alone 1), she would laugh every time they laughed, even though she can't see the screen and had no idea what was going on- like huge rolling belly laughs and it was so fabulous we all kept laughing harder.

It was the most joyful car ride I've ever been a part of. And then she was so good at the restaurant, eating her food and smiling at all the men nearby, and then so good at the hotel- splashing in the bathtub while the big kids went to the indoor pool with JP, and then practically begging to be put in her crib in the corner, falling asleep instantly, and not moving or making a sound until 12 hours later, despite the big kids coming in from the pool and all of us getting ready for bed 2 feet away. She's a freaking miracle.

We woke up early, which was fine since we went to bed at the same time as the 4-year-old, ate breakfast and headed to the Manitou Incline. Except I had to google it to get the address and found out it was closed! For many months. And reopening on December 1st, six days away! JP was crushed. I googled another hike and we headed to Cheyenne Canyon instead. It was really kind of a blessing; I don't know what I would have done with the kids one-quarter way up the stairs in the freezing cold and heavy snowfall while JP ran up 2,000 vertical feet. And I was getting worried about the rest of our drive up to Steamboat Springs in increasingly bad road conditions, so we did a short hike around Cheyenne and pressed on. But not before JP held all the children and jumped over something.

I love that picture, it captures almost all of JP's favorite things in the world, with the exception of me, swimming, and dessert buffets.

We only had another 200 miles to go, which should take about 3 hours on the highways, but the roads were a mess and it was 5 hours of white knuckle 15 mph hairpin turns instead. Fun! Luckily JP is an incredibly good and calm driver, who just makes his way along, never seeming stressed or tired or possessing of a split headache and/or in need of a glass of wine. Those things are all just me. The kids were SO good- quiet and happy as always, and I would just close my eyes and/or climb into the 2nd row to play with Cora and let him know each time we ticked off another 10 miles. I was so thankful for the four wheel drive car we bought this summer; there is absolutely no way my Highlander would have made it, and since I still have nightmares about the number of times we about blew off the road this past February, I have never ever begrudged the new car payment.

But we made it! In a car encrusted with a layer ice packed snow that JP had to hack at in order to open the back door to let the kids out.

Steamboat is a new ski town for us, so that's been really fun for JP and me. The condo belongs to one of my family's closest friends (they're actually Landon's god parents) and my parents, brother, sister and Billy are all joining us here tomorrow. We have 7 bedrooms to share between us, so it is going to be real vacation where everyone gets to sleep in their own beds. After we arrived and kissed the snowy ground we got to walk on, we piled back in the car (ugh) to get groceries and sleds and then walked around to the back of the condo to get a little energy out. And trudging through deep powder will do that.

As always, Cora was skeptical, but good natured.

She was not so sure about the sledding, so after about 15 minutes, we came back inside where I got to cook dinner! From scratch and without using a microwave at ALL! Seriously, so exciting. Usually on vacation we eat out for dinner because that's what makes it a vacation for me too, but not this time. All homemade meals all the time baby!

Can we go inside now?

The big kids stayed out back by the ski lifts with JP for nearly an hour in what looked like a blizzard to dig out a fast sledding race track. I could hear them laughing and screaming from the back porch and it made me smile. Cora and I were dancing to Taylor Swift in the kitchen, occasionally popping our heads outside to make sure everyone was still accounted for, and JP and the big kids were having a blast getting soaking wet and freezing cold in a snow drift.

There are so many vacations I want to take with the kids and so very many places I want to see, but there is really nothing like a Colorado vacation for our family. It just suits us and I can't wait to wake up and explore more tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

On Skittles and Wine

Usually I spend an inordinate amount of time making my pictures tell a story, but it's 10 p.m. and I'm eating skittles in a pile on my lap while drinking wine out of a large plastic cup as dust and insulation swirl in the air around me after a crazy couple days at work and a very tiny amount of sleep and a barre class that kicked my ARSE last night (and Wendy Davis's, who was right next to me, we bonded over our mutual loud exhales anytime we were able to spare enough air to do it), SO, bring it blogger, let's discuss the following:

I snuck this picture of Claire reading to her animals on Saturday. I found it adorable as I zoomed in and clicked from the side of the playroom,

and then I found it even MORE adorable when I moved behind her and saw all the animals lined up and the baby doll in the bumpo. The doll in the bumpo kind of killed me. She has a freakish elephantine memory and was reciting Corduroy word for word even though we hadn't read it in months.

We don't have a kitchen. I'm not sure I've mentioned that 100x yet, but it is kind of terrible. It will be wonderful 3 weeks from now, but at the moment, and for all the moments we are in our house with three small children and no kitchen, it is kind of totally completely terrible. Kitchens are important.

Because we don't have a kitchen and the baby tried to eat insulation (twice) and a nail (once), we left the house on Sunday morning in search of something free, time-consuming, and tiring. The zoo seemed an obvious choice since we're members, but when we pulled into the COMPLETELY EMPTY parking lot 30 minutes after open we realized that most people do not see 10:30 a.m. on a 30-degree rainy, sleety Sunday as a great time to take their 1-year-old baby to the zoo. Can't imagine why not.

Not gonna lie, it was really cold, and kind of wet and miserable, but there wasn't any insulation for Cora to eat and we didn't spend any money and the judgmental looks we got from the monkeys (and confused/pitying looks we got from the few zoo staff members required to be there) made it all kind of awesome.

And the reptiles in the MOLA were so active! It was like the after-hours rave I've always been sure they have every night when people go home except they didn't realize the zoo was technically open. A crocodile monitor we've never before seen out of his little house came out and played with Cora.

There wasn't any competition for the learning center.

And we got to test drive all the petting-snakes-in-training! Perfect rainy-day activity for your 4-year-old, petting a trainee snake who gets "fussy." How do you know if she's fussy?, asked JP. Oh, she'll bite me, said the trainer. Does it hurt? Yes.

Luckily, she found my kids very soothing. Cora wasn't protesting the existence of cake right at that moment.

After we'd spent all the time we could in all the indoor exhibits at our zoo, Cora finally decided to express her frustration at her life, parents, weather, cake, turning 1, lack of bottles, AND lack of properly diced toddler meals.

It was sudden and fierce, and a rare enough sighting that I snapped pictures rather than soothe. It's not like I've been hiding pictures of sad Cora, she's really just never sad.

We decided the way to fix the situation was to leave the wet, freezing zoo with our tired, hungry baby and go to a nearby restaurant that always has a wait. Not having a kitchen has muddled our minds.

Thankfully the wait was only 20 minutes and we were able to get biscuits and gravy on the table immediately upon seating. Cora passed on the biscuit (I'd express shock at this, but the baby doesn't like cake), but enthusiastically ate the sausage gravy from a spoon, something I found horrifying and hilarious.

Poor girl's world is all kinds of messed up right now, but she's rolling with it. We went to a Vietnamese Pho restaurant on Saturday night and she waved chop sticks around and ate a pork and lemongrass spring roll. We ate dinner at a friend's house on Sunday night (thank you friend!) and she diced up all these healthy, wholesome foods on a plate for Cora and when we sat down Cora gazed at her in adoration, like, yes, finally, THANK YOU! And proceeded to eat every single bite and then sleep for 13 hours.

I love this next picture- totally captures the three kids: big kids helping Cora; Cora sitting still and letting them because they're her rock stars. Claire holding her hand and stabilizing the leg, Landon doing the technical work, Cora watching intently with her "you're so awesome; this is so awesome; we're all doing this awesome thing together" look on her face.

When I put on her shoes her legs are all over the place because god mom, this is such a drag.

Claire has started building kitchens with her duplos. Gone are princess castles, she's in the contractor business now. This was her latest kitchen; very high end.

My skittle are gone, as is the wine, and I'm going to 6 a.m. barre tomorrow, AND I know I'm going to stay up late reading this fabulous new book my sister recommended (The Name of the Wind; 300 pages in and not even a hint of a sex scene and I STILL love it; this is a special book), so I must go, which is good, because I was about to turn it back to how much you need a kitchen to function as a household, in winter, with a baby. There's also a giant hole in our ceiling and no floor so we're heating much of the outside of our lot, which is nice for all the lizards that are surely snuggling up in the flower beds outside our kitchen walls.

Maybe a nice crocodile monitor will move in; Cora apparently already speaks its language.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Birthday Chaos

Yesterday was the CoraBunny's birthday! One year (+1 day) ago this happened,

and the seriously incandescent joy I felt in that moment carried itself through the vast majority of this year. She has brought 95% pure joy to our house and about 5% of glorious, giggling chaos and I've loved just about every minute of that too (there was that brief period when JP was coaching late and Cora was 5 weeks old and hadn't yet realized her mission in life was to love everything except cake, so she cried anytime she was put in some horrid plush baby entertaining device while I cooked dinner, but thankfully that phase didn't last long).

After a dinner of random items scavenged from the hastily packed boxes all over our house, we made a second attempt at birthday sweets with a simple, un-iced vanilla cupcake. Cora loved the singing of the birthday song and enthusiastically clapped for herself after each round. She also enjoyed her bite of the candle.

But she remained skeptical of the cake.

Because she loves and trusts us, she gave it a try and basically, cake is still terrible.


She's so glad this birthday business is over and delicious sugary treats are no longer forced upon her.

In other big news today, besides Cora being 1 and me crying when I put her to bed last night, our kitchen renovation has begun! We packed on Tuesday (thank God for the midweek federal holiday), progressing through the three stages of packing: optimistic (superficial progress in one small area that seems bigger, with carefully packed items in labeled boxes), overwhelmed (hours and many boxes later and realizing you're only halfway through the kitchen and you don't know where the cheese slicer is or those other two utensils you need to make lunches and omg we still need daily access to so many things that usually live in this room), and f-ck it (just throw it all in the remaining two boxes, no labels on anything in the last 3 hours, stash it in various corners of various rooms in the house, we'll figure it out tomorrow). I did carefully set the wine in an accessible place in the TV room only to realize the wine opener was at the bottom of one of the miscellaneous throw-it-all-in-there boxes.

My mantra of "it's going to be so worth it" began early yeesterday morning as we tried to make breakfast from boxes in Cora's room to eat at the kitchen table in the living room and then packed lunches in the hall bathroom. Kitchens are really important to the daily routine.

But big progress was made! See this big blue wall?

Gone! Or mostly gone. As gone as we can make it and still have a fridge and coat closet. It's going to be so great! We're re-working the whole footprint of the kitchen and it's going to make SO much more sense and have SO much more storage (hello 10 x 5 walk-in pantry to the left) and be so much more open. Instead of a wall there will be an 8-foot peninsula with raised counter and stools. I can come home from work, cook a big healthy meal, AND talk to my kids at the same time. I've come to really enjoy cooking and chopping a million vegetables at the end of the day, but I hated how closed off I was from the kiddos; now they can sit and chat at the soon-to-be created island bar and I can chop vegetables to my heart's content. And by "now," I mean in about 3 weeks.

I'm still picking paint colors for the cabinets. Our counters are white/grey granite and our upper cabinets will be white (probably Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace). The peninsula cabinets will be dark grey, still working on the exact color (I really don't like light greys, but I don't want to be too dark... Benjamin Moore Hearthstone is my favorite, but Pewter and Shaker Gray are in the mix), and I'm flirting with making all the lower cabinets the dark grey color. The floors are a chocolate brown long rectangular tiles with grey undertones and the back splash is Carrara Marble 1x4 subways. Walls will be the Kelly Moore Bird Bath Blue that's already in the living room. Still picking cabinet pulls and finalizing back splash, but we're on track for completion the week after Thanksgiving- it would be earlier except we and our contractor will all be gone for the whole week of Thanksgiving and no elves will remain behind to finish it up while we're gone. Something that will be very sad when we get home from Steamboat at midnight after a 16 hour drive to a dusty construction site.

But it will be worth it! (I chanted as I vacuumed up the living room after the team left today and then made dinner from random things in the fridge, even more random things from boxes, and the microwave currently plugged on top of a dresser. It will!) Last night we were all in coats and hats because it was 29 degrees out and we had three doors open to let some of the dust in the air out. Renovations are so fun!

In the meantime, we're scavenging food from boxes, keeping Cora out of the nail-filled construction zone (she's SO FAST!), and spending a lot of time in the TV room. Pictures of the final design choices, and the return of actual recipes for dinner, are 3ish weeks away!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Rainbow Birthday Girl

So, Cora turns one on Wednesday. That is also the day a wall is going to be torn down in our kitchen, so we had her party on Sunday afternoon. Once I made myself accept that she was going to turn one, I decided to drown my pain in rainbow colored party planning.

Actually, I really didn't do that much planning- I was DETERMINED to keep it simple and inexpensive (see, impending kitchen remodel), and I did and it was SO FUN. I wanted it to be close friends, a gaggle of kids, yummy colorful food, a real dinner, and adult beverages. When I think of Cora, I think of sunshine and rainbows and smiles, so a rainbow theme just fit. Then I found this little rainbow heart dress on etsy and it was like a beam of sunshine hit me over the head- DONE.

Everyone on facebook thought the pinwheel was a bow and one of my friends even noted that was maybe a step too far, but rest assured, her birthday bow was very tasteful and appropriate. Like ALL her bows.

This picture is mostly to show you my new booties, bringing this post full circle: Franco Sarto, purchased at Marshall's. I'm still not sure I know how to wear booties, but I love them kind of a lot. I decided on Friday that I needed a new shirt for the party, so I ran to Ross at lunch and found this one in the junior's section for $6.99. It had a truly horrifying shiny gold tri-level necklace attached to it, but I cut it off and gave it to Claire, thinking that was a win, but she has now worn it for 3 days straight and tells everyone she sees, "this necklace is my mommy's, but she lets me wear it," so a real win would have been throwing it away. The jeans are Old Navy's Rockstars because they're $20 and awesome (and Becca-approved). Oh and I needed a haircut desperately, so I made my appointment for 12:00 that day because I don't know how to do hair, and my hair stylist was so excited about my baby's birthday party (I'd never met her before, but I showed her a picture of the baby in question) that she made my hair fancy. There is a 0% chance it will ever look like that again.

On to the party! The rainbow theme is the most fun theme I've ever done, and so simple! Lots of different solid color things and next thing you know it's a rainbow! We had rainbow fruit kabobs, rainbow veggie tray, dips for each, skittles, m&m's, and in a break from the rainbow theme, cubes of cheese and ham and turkey roll-ups. There was also a crock pot of chili in the kitchen with fritos and cheese for toppings. It was really so easy, but I thought it looked nice and with only 13 guests (5 adults; 8 kids) we ate everything.

We also set up a cupcake decorating table and a bunch of little to-go boxes to decorate too. The cupcakes were funfetti and I used colored mini marshmallows, rainbow sprinkles, these giant star sprinkles I found on clearance at Michael's, and fruity cheerios. As it turns out, rainbow colors are all around you and for a generally low price, can be made part of your party menu.

I got the stickers for free when I ordered Cora's invitations and picked up some extra sheets of random stickers for the kids to decorate their to-go boxes with. It was all a big hit.

Cora carried around her invitation most of the afternoon and seemed very ready to party despite only taking an hour nap.

Waiting by the door for her guests to arrive.

We kept it simple, inviting 3 families (all co-workers of mine) we're close to and who all have kids exactly our kids' ages. One family was down with a stomach bug, which was a bummer, but it was actually still SO fun. We had eight kids between 1 - 7.5 and they all played so well together and we grown-ups just got to drink champagne and eat skittles and marvel at the fact that no one needed us.

I don't have any pictures of the big kids because all five of them were outside playing on the playground the whole time- 2 girls, 3 boys, 3 4-year-olds, 2 7-year-olds, and no one cried, no one complained, no one would even come inside until we announced it was time for cake. I tried to get a picture, but Cora only wants to walk these days and had no tolerance for it.

So out came the cake. Cora was deeply concerned the moment it appeared.

This is what I imagine was going on in her head:

What is this? What is happening?

Why are you all looking at me?

Ok fine... I'll touch it.

Ohmygod this is terrible.

You want me to eat it? WHY do you want me to eat it?!

Ohmygod it is SO TERRIBLE.

Little boy, NO! It is terrible! What is WRONG with you?!


Luckily, we moved on to presents, and the party got back on track, though I should note, that everyone else liked the cake.

I had lots of helpers with the presents. She got bath toys, some play food, an electronic singing ABC dog (Cora loves anything that makes extra noise), and a slide. These are all her favorite things, and the slide in particular was a huge hit.

Totally made up for that awful forced cake situation. (By the way, see that blue wall behind them? Our kitchen hides back there and will be forced out into the open when the wall comes down later this week.))

All in all it was a ton of fun. I tried to get one picture of the three siblings when we finally got the big kids back inside, but Cora just wanted to go down her slide.

I still can't believe she's going to be one on Wednesday. I mean I really can't. How can my last baby be on her way out of babyhood? How is it possible there was a time I thought we were done at two? It has been a truly amazing first year with her- I don't think I've ever felt so full of love I literally ached with it when I went to bed. To have two big kids who are so fun and provide such entertainment and communication and independent self-sufficiency, it really made us all able to really enjoy the heck out of having a baby.

Cora's our family mascot, and I think she's enjoyed it as much as we have. Everything she does gets applauded by multiple people and when she wakes up from a nap, two excited kids run in to greet her and tell her hello! and how as your sleep?! and oh sweet Cora, did you have a good nap?!. She walked herself into the TV room tonight from the playroom and both Landon and Claire acted like it was the greatest trick they've ever seen and Cora was just beaming at both of them because they are SO the coolest, and well, rainbows and sunshine. It's been a good year.

Happy (almost) Birthday CoraBunny! Now I need to go pack up a kitchen.