Monday, May 22, 2017

Climb Mountains. Fear Sharks.

Last week was a blur of end-of-school craziness. I can't complain because James handled 90% of it, but I felt busy just receiving all the text pictures. We left off at Battle of the Books on Wednesday, with Landon honey-badgering about wearing jeans, but looking darn cute and smiley in them when we saw him at the competition.

It was quite an affair. 36 teams in his grade representing elementary schools from all over town. The first round consisted of 20 questions. It was super tense. I couldn't believe how nervous I was! I'm never nervous when he races- I think then I just trust he'll go as fast as he can and if another kid is faster, then they're faster. I'm not nervous about that. But here, he was the captain and I didn't want him to miss a question he otherwise knew or make a mistake that disappointed him after so many months of practice and work.

They did great though. Overall, his team missed 2 (making them maybe 6th overall?), which based on their faces, I think surprised and disappointed them, but we were so proud. And he's got a few more years to try again.

Since I'd taken off the whole day, I got two luxurious hours at home with James who kept trying to do work while I did not and then I got to pick the kids up from school. In celebration of the non-working, I invited other friends who'd also taken off work for BOB team to come over with their children so they could swim and we could day drink. It was perfect. It became very important to me that I not be productive because I'm always productive with my time off and sometimes you need to revel a little.

Then I pulled myself back in line and ran a bunch of errands with the kids that I regretted not doing earlier and ended with a happy hour dinner at a new taco place that somehow resulted in a bill for $15 for two orders of queso, 8 flour tortillas, 3 tacos, lots of chips, and a prickly pear swirl margarita. That seems like magic, but who am I to question?

Officially we were eating out to celebrate Landon's last meal before braces, but unofficially we were eating out so I could drink a margarita and not make dinner on my big day off. Burning 8 hours of annual leave for a non-vacation requires a LOT of vacation-like add ons.

Thursday began with Landon's Field Day. James observed, sending me pictures along the way which made me feel like I was there and also warmed the cockles of my heart because he NEVER texts me and I always feel like maybe he should.

Landon won the hula hoop contest for the third year in a row, which is surprising for a hipless child of mine. I am useless with a hula hoop and we don't own any so he can practice.

He was then barely beat out of a repeat victory in the 50-yard dash by his good buddy. They're going to have quite a track team come middle school. And then, after Landon's class won the Field Day trophy and James go to go home for maybe 30 minutes of work, it was braces time! He was SO EXCITED he made me set the appointment while school was still in session and was totally thrilled with his rubber banded results.

On day 2 he decided braces were a little "less awesome," but overall I feel like it's gone very well. Especially once we filled the fridge with jello cups.

Friday was Claire's Field Day, which James also attended because he is the best and also works 1/2 mile from school. Claire also won the hula hoop contest, tying with a friend, but seriously- how do they know how to work hula hoops? I'm weirdly proud of this because they are a mystery to me.

Cora did not have Field Day, but has spent a lot of time "fancy dancing" with Claire in our living room.

It is the best thing.

She also will spend a very long time alone in the play room, singing and dancing by herself. Cora enjoys others- particularly her family- but she is by far my happiest child when left alone. Claire actively hates being the only person in a room and Landon never prefers it. But Cora? Cora is totally fine. For hours. Talking to herself, singing to herself, playing intricate and complicated games with imaginary friends- she narrates everything and I love it so much.

I would have thought thirdbaby would be the least adept at playing alone since she never really had to entertain herself, but while she still never has to, she does often prefers to.

Like on Sunday. Landon was at a birthday party, so I invited Claire's friend over (apparently now her "boyfriend" for whom she left love notes stashed all over the house) and his little sister who is one of Cora's besties. The arrival time was 1:00, but since Cora misses her nap all the time I figured she'd be fine. And she would have been, but I forgot that when she can sleep, Cora very much prefers to do that. When her friend came over Cora was super excited for 10 minutes, giving S a tour of all her princesses and gowns, then, having ensured that S would be adequately entertained, she made a pallet for herself on the playroom floor and tucked herself in bed. I desperately wish I had a picture.

Later, I overhead S declare, "okay, you chase me now!" and heard Cora reply with a regretful but very firm, "No. I not do that."

Ten minutes after that I found Cora in her real bed while S tried on all her princess dresses in her room. Both toddlers seemed totally happy with the situation, so I let it be.

Back on Saturday (we're out of order, but it's working for me) I finally purchased a strapless bra just so I could wear a new shirt to a benefit concert our friend's band was playing in. A band also made up of our Vice Principal on drums, so obviously we had to turn out in force to cheer them on. They were so good and the venue was awesome as was our weirdly cool and pleasant late-May weather.

In between bra purchasing and outdoor venue band listening, I played a lot of rounds of Memory with Claire and lost all of them. And I was trying. Like really hard. She doesn't have any teeth, but she's fierce on the Memory field. After destroying me once again she said consolingly, "it's okay mom, you're really good at War." War. A game of complete and utter luck. I need some sort of memory app I can do on my phone to get better.

Today I taught my 4th barre class in 8 days so all my muscles are exhausted and happy and I'm having serious doubts about my Orangetheory reservation in 8 hours. But when I got home from teaching, all the kids were home with Tara and everything was happy and Landon bounced up to me (sometimes he seems to travel by bouncing, like a puppy with his giant puppy feet) with a folder bursting with all his GT work from the year. I loved all of it, but this poem with self-portrait is my favorite.

I love literally every line. He loves swimming. He can climb mountains. He cares for his family. When asked when he feels happy, he said when he's reading. Because he's super athletic and social and contains endless energy, but he is happiest when he's reading and I love that so much. I love that he dreams of exploring different habitats. Not just different places or destinations, but habitats. It delights me.

I'm just generally feeling delighted. Tired, enervated, and concerned that I didn't cancel my OTF class while writing this post because I'm now outside the free cancel window and I don't know how I feel about the fact I'll be on a treadmill in 7 hours, but also delighted having read his poem for the dozenth time.

Climb mountains, love reading, and fear sharks everyone. Have a fantastic week.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Honey Badgers and Hump Day

I have 30 minutes before we need to leave to watch Landon compete in Battle of the Books at TCU! All the competitors have to read a set list of award-winning books and then they're asked questions, confer with each other in whispers, and then the captain holds up the card with the answering book's title. He's the captain of his team and his class won the school competition in December in an intense hour-long match that ended up being one of the most exciting, fun, and stressful hours of our last year. I had no idea what BOB was when James and I walked into the cafeteria that morning, but our stomachs, hearts, and brains were ALL IN when it got going. So fun and I just love when an academic competition gets the whole school watching in a tense silence, groaning and cheering along with the successes and missteps of their classmates.

They had to read 6 new books for the city competition and he knows them backwards and forwards so I'll know they'll do great, but I also know he was nervous because he was a cranky honey badger all morning and marched out of the house yelling "I want to lose! I want to lose!" But I texted his teacher and she said he was his normal self at school, so as usual, being away from his warm and loving home snapped him right out of his bad mood.

Mother's Day had some similar themes. As always the kids woke up early and decorated the table with a million homemade cards which are just the best.

James went and picked me up Starbucks because I can't eat in the morning but I can definitely drink Lightly Sweet Chai Lattes. He was going to make my brunch at lunch (eating before 10 a.m. makes me sick, always has) and all I wanted was a long family walk before then.

We have this beautiful 3-mile loop that takes us down some of my favorite neighborhood streets, down a GIANT hill, and then all along a park that turns into another park that turns back to a road near our house. We discovered it by accident soon after we moved in and have done it a thousand times since. We haven't been in a while because Cora is too big for the stroller but not quite strong enough to ride her new bike that far, but on Sunday she stepped it UP and she was amazing.

Seriously so proud of that girl. Claire rode along in the double stroller for at least a year after Cora was born (so until she was nearly 5), but Cora's out there rocking it on her training wheels at precisely 3.5.

Something had broken Landon's brain during the card opening, so he was furious and cranky and rode way ahead the whole time. People who passed us on the trail would tell me Happy Mother's Day and I was like yes, me and my two beautiful daughters are out for a nice stroll. Have you seen a loose angry 9-year-old? No reason. Just curious.

We got to the park and James thought Landon needed a hug.

Turns out, he did not.

We ate our tasty brunch and eventually the elevation of his blood sugar, the passage of time, and my decision to ignore him for at least an hour seemed to help and Landon slipped this card under my door and had a generally pleasant rest of the day. I think it's a hard time- he's young enough to still get thrown off by a transient moment of crankiness, but old enough to want Mother's Day to be a good day and to feel bad that it isn't, so then he's more entrenched in crankiness he doesn't actually want but can't get out of. We talked about it. I told him I was cranky too- some of it deserved (ahem), but some of it overblown because the day didn't go how I planned either. And so I also had to work through that and shake it off and move forward, just like him.

And so I went to a 4:30 yoga class and returned home to swimming splashing children and another glass of champagne.

We ate my favorite salmon dish for dinner, James made me a funfetti cake and all was well. As I noted on facebook, I don't know that it was the perfect Mother's Day, or if there's any such thing, but it certainly reminded me that I never knew the depths of my capacity for love, pride, or mother-fucking patience until I had children.

But man is it fun too.

Speaking of fun, this was Cora at dinner last night. She didn't want to get her princess dress dirty.

And Claire lost ANOTHER tooth, the first one I ever pulled (it was sideways in her mouth and freaking me out) leaving her with about 2 left. She has a lot of $2 bills, but no ability to chew.

And now we're off to watch this little (biggish?) man compete in his Battle Royale! His team uniform is cowboy themed since their mascot is a wrangler, so he's wearing jeans for the second time in two years and SUPER mad about it ("they're TOUCHING MY LEGS!"), but I'm hoping that since one his intended girlfriends is on the team (and wearing freaking jeans), he's cool with it now.

Once more unto the breach we go. Go wranglers!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Snippets and Vignettes

I'm super behind in my blogging, so I'm using my lazy Mother's Day time sitting at the bar counter drinking champagne and watching James make my French Toast-filled brunch (I never eat breakfast, but French Toast is my favorite and making everyone wait until noon to eat it is part of my present) to do some bloggy catch up on the past week. We'll talk about today tomorrow, or whenever I get time again to sit down and write (an activity that always takes 5x longer than I think it will or should, but it's a labor of love and typos).

The last week is already a blur, but I have a collection of snippets from facebook and short phrases I typed into blogger each night before Silicon Valley took all my attention (finally started watching that show and freaking LOVE it. So hilarious, with such great dialogue, I can't do a single thing while it's on except rewind parts where I was laughing too hard to catch the next line. It's swallowing all my evenings and I'm not sad about it, even if James "misses shows were people die") I must flesh out because I particularly want to remember the Landon quotes forever. And the veggie lasagna recipe. It's food for the beef-minimizing gods.

But it is Mother's Day and it feels appropriate to share this photo of my mom and 1-month-old me. I didn't have a picture of my mom and baby-me until I found this Polaroid at the bottom of one of the boxes my parents gave me when they moved. It now sits propped against the mirror on my dresser, waiting for me to get it restored and properly framed, surrounded by my favorite pictures of me holding my babies. I love her big smile and love that I'm looking only at her.

Diving right in to the week...

~ ~ ~

Tuesday morning, in the kitchen, while I'm rushing around trying to get out the door by 7:30.

Landon: Mom, Mom, MOM!

Me: Yes!

Landon: Look! I combed my hair the other direction.

Me: 😶. Well, it looks great.

Landon, with a happy sigh: Yeah, I just wanted to try something a little different this morning.

~ ~ ~

I had a dream early Wednesday morning that I was pregnant again and I was so excited. I was half-awake in bed for at least 20 minutes where I still believed it was true and I was so sad when I woke up completely and realized it was not. I'm coming to accept I'm probably never going to be okay with the fact that Cora is our last. I can move forward, it doesn't overwhelm me, but that feeling of closure or completion or "oh thank god I'm not actually pregnant because we have 3 kids and our youngest is potty trained and we have 3 bedrooms and college is expensive" is just never going to happen. Instead I'm working making peace with not being at peace.

~ ~ ~

I had a Planned Parenthood/Annie's List legislative update happy hour on Thursday night, so for the first time in as long as I can remember I wasn't home for a weeknight dinner (it's been years; no matter how crazy our schedules are, somehow Monday through Thursday dinners remain pretty sacred). Realizing that made me so glad I made myself go- the kids can totally miss me for a night and getting more involved in things that matter to me was one of my post-election goals of the year. I picked up Landon at a friend's house on the way home and since the girls were already asleep, I got to spend a little one-on-one time as I shuffled him through the bedtime routine.

I was laying on his bed, another thing I never do because by the time dinner is over and everyone is in/near bed, all I want is my couch and my James, listening to him jabber away and all of a sudden he exclaimed, "MOM!! I found something for you!!" Wondering if perhaps it was a diamond or extra few hours in the day given the level of excitement in his voice, I sat up with a "what?!!"

"It's a Ninjago encyclopedia! Now you can read it and finally understand what I'm talking about!"

I adore that he genuinely believes my lack of understanding of the Ninjago universe is based on a lack of source material rather than a deep and abiding lack of interest. I simply cannot give it brain space. I do not know Cole's hair style or element or the color of his dragon. I don't know what a master of spinjitzu is or how you become one. I could not possibly care less. But I tucked that encyclopedia under my arm and I will probably try to read it for him.

~ ~ ~

Friday morning began bright and early with Muffins with Moms at the big kids' school. Cora did not have a Mother's Day, but she did make me this potted plant that I am not actually allowed to hold. It lives in her room with her, but she did allow me to take a picture with it.

Like everything at our elementary school this year the parent involvement just keeps growing and growing and it is such a joy to see. Even if it means they run out of muffins right when we get to the front of the line. (They refilled with donuts hastily purchased by a dad who ran across the street.)

Love our school, love our PTA, and love that Claire used the R in mother to say I'm "rilly sweet."

~ ~ ~

Landon had 2 friends over after school on Friday while Claire played at another friend's house. Cora, delighted by the increase in her audience size, raced across the house the moment we got home, picked up her giant princess book, and ran over to show it off to the boys. My heart squeezed as they ooh'd and ah'd appropriately, and then they kept their appreciation going even as she opened the big book up and starting telling them the detailed stories on each page.

I was listening from the kitchen, knowing I needed to rescue them soon, but just loving listening to them endure her stories, "SEE! Cinda-weh-wa has TWO CATS!!" without laughing at her or trying to escape. This is very much to their credit- they're very sweet boys- but it's also to Landon's. They knew darn well he would tolerate no disrespect towards his baby sister, and he was sitting there totally attentive, giving her an audience for as long as she wanted one, and they followed his lead. I must admit, it's not a lead I likely would have given my friends, and while he has his moments that make me want to bang my head against a wall (like omg most of today), none of them involve his role as big brother.

~ ~ ~

And my very favorite snippet from the week. This gem occurred Friday night, while I was making dinner and Landon hanging out in the living room.

Landon, casually: Mom, so did I tell you I kind of like two girls?

Me: No! Who?

Landon: [discloses]

Me, dying a little but trying to be cool: Well that's fun.

Landon: So can you text their moms to tell them to tell the girls?

Me: Ummm, that's not really how it works.

-- later --

Landon: But how did you tell someone you liked them when you were little?

Me: Hmmm, I guess mostly you told your friends who told their friends who told them.

Landon, laughing hysterically: You should have just texted their moms.

I think I was still giggling in my dreams over this one. Love love tweenage Landon.

~ ~ ~

We did a mostly meatless week, sort of by accident, and these two recipes were delicious.

Turkey Vegetable Lasagna
- best lasagna I've ever made. I loved that even though it had lots of veggies it was still super solid (most of the veggie ones I make end up watery) and the turkey, something that so often feels like a pale beef substitute, was exactly what needed to be in there. I did use less mozzarella than called for because I ran out, but it was perfect. This is my new official Lasagna Recipe.

Quinoa Fiesta Enchilada Bake. I've made this before, but I love it and I'd forgotten about it and we should all remember together. Serve with chips and lots of chopped avocado. So good. (I never have the chipotle peppers in adobo so I just dump in some chili powder, still works out great.)

~ ~ ~

So that's about it!

Cora has made herself a fort "just like the kids!!" (she always refers to Landon and Claire as "the kids" and it is the best) and I'm going to go to yoga. Because if there's anything that says "I love my children but also my sanity" it's an hour on your yoga mat. Hope your days are going great! And/or that you are able to take some time to enjoy your personal yoga-equivalent. Cheers to all the moms and mother-figures out there!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Ballet Super Star Weekend

You guys, we have SO MUCH to cover. I always think our weekends feel so fun and lazy and easy and restful, and then when I go to type them out I spend like 4,000 words and too many pictures trying to capture it all. That's about to happen again, so consider yourself warned. And lucky that I left my phone in the car as part of my unplugged New Year's Resolution while we were at the zoo this morning so there aren't any pictures of that.

First up, Tara is pet-sitting a French bulldog puppy and asked if she could bring her over Friday. "Of course!" I yelled into my allcaps text message, "Cora LOVES dogs!" And oh does she.

Hermes is the cutest and Tara said she was as obsessed with Cora as she was with her. Which seemed obvious when I got home and immediately tried to love her and she was super skeptical.

Claire tried too and she was just "Where is the little one?"

Here she is!

And then, after Tara and Hermes left (after Cora gave Hermes a thousand kisses and some sticks from our yard to-go), I realized Landon was spending the night with a friend and James was coaching late and the weather was spectacular and it was Friday and we most definitely needed a girls' night out.

The girls grabbed their purses and we were off to try a new Mexican place that opened up near us with a big patio and $5 happy hour margaritas. It was great. I love spending time with the girls, and not just because they love cheese as much as I do (side-eye to Landon) and they fill up on tortillas and queso and are super cheap (side-eye to James), they're so fun and funny and so very much themselves. I love any time I get to spend a little extra time with them.

We got home at the same time as James and let the girls pick the movie. It was Trolls (obviously) and there was a lot of dancin, but we all missed Landon and kept wondering where he was and why he wasn't asking to switch the movie. Claire said she got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and saw his door open and went in to check on him. James swam at 7 a.m. and went in and did the same. We're used to all our ducklings being together. Luckily Cora had her second dance recital at 11 a.m. (relieve the first here) and we like to turn out for these things in full force, so we went to pick him up at 10. He may half-heartedly pretend otherwise, but Landon LOVES a family supporting occasion.

And a photo booth accessory.

Cora had been talking about her "ballet 'cital" for weeks, asking every one of us repeatedly, "Are you coming to watch my ballet?" When each of us always responded, "yes! of course!" she'd squeal and give us a hug. She loves with her whole body and soul and it is the best and she was SO EXCITED to do ballet up on stage and that was the best too.

This would be our 5th ballet recital as parents and we'd never had a child dance on stage to every song. But Cora seemed calm and confident and overflowing with the joy of dance.

They did the introductions and she stood up and said her name and did her poses and we were like, oh my gosh, is this really going to happen?

And then BAM. It did!

We had toe pointing.

Second position.


She rocked it. And she loved every. freaking. minute.

The big kids were beside themselves, "She's dancing mom!" James and I were cracking up and passing the video camera back and forth between the heads of the women in front of us who would not stay in their seats. This is the last song and my personal favorite, but if you need more camera, the other 3 little parts are all here.

It was amazing.

We brought her flowers and she loved them.

She got to sit on faux-Princess-Belle's lap and she loved that.

She got glasses as a dance recital party favor and she loved them too.

It was 11:30 p.m. when it was all over and it was probably the best day of Cora's life. Besides basically all the other days.

She got to pick the location of her victory lunch, PIZZA! (AND SQUASH AND CHEESE!, though I couldn't fulfill the squash part until we got home; butternut squash is literally her favorite food while she still hates fruit and candy and most delicious things, she is such a weirdo and I adore her), so we drove to Mellow Mushroom and feasted and then she went to bed and napped for 4 hours. Being a star is exhausting.

My favorite part is when I finally went to wake her up (at 5 p.m.) she emerged from her bedding wearing her new princess shoes. Shoes that were not on her feet when I tucked her in.

Once everyone was awake we drove over to our local polling place to vote in our municipal elections (mayor, city council, school board, and water district board). I will admit I have frequently ignored local elections- figuring that either all the choices were depressing or I didn't know enough to vote and/or it didn't matter anyway because I'm a democrat in Texas and see reason 1, but after the shitshow of last November I vowed I would never ignore any election ever again. A week ago I went online and downloaded my ballot. I read all the voter's guides I could find to learn more about the candidates and also WTF a water district board is. This guide was my favorite, mostly because of the title, but also because it was the best description of what the water district board is, something even the water district board's website could not tell me. So we voted! And we all got stickers. And the whole thing took 10 minutes and then all we went home and ate dinner.

After dinner we went on a family walk/bike ride to visit a friend's new puppy. It was the perfect end to Cora's awesome day. And then she went back to sleep at 8 p.m. for another 11 hours. She sleeps more than any toddler I know, but I think exuding all that joy all the time just wears you out. Or she's just the rare toddler who understands how awesome it is that for a few years of your life everyone in your world will structure their life around your sleep whims and desires and she's soaking up all she can.

Today James and the big kids went on their run and then we headed to the zoo. Much joy and happiness and running ensued. We pink puffy heart our zoo.

When we returned we brought champagne over to some new neighbors, ate leftover pizza, and then tucked Cora back in bed for another nap. Claire had a friend over, which turned into two friends, which turned into a mom date for me, while Landon worked on a robot alligator metalworks kit he bought in the zoo gift shop. He's running a small business selling hand-made bracelets and necklaces to his friends and it's surprisingly lucrative. I'm probably going to have to do an audit soon.

I erranded, Cora awoke, and other friends came over for more swimming. It was such a gorgeous day. Cora had a wardrobe change partway through when she remembered she had a Princess Belle swimsuit. I understood.

I made these black bean burgers for dinner and they were SO GOOD. I had never had a black bean burger but they were easy and hearty and everyone loved them. I served them with roasted sweet potatoes and strawberries. It was the perfect Sunday night dinner after being outside as much as possible all day.

And now I'm doing Orangetheory in 7 hours so I need to end this, but may you all embrace your weeks ahead with the joy of Cora on stage and the enthusiasm of my children jumping into our freezing cold pool. Or even just half the enthusiasm. I'm aiming for half.