Sunday, August 24, 2014

Palo Duro Canyon and Summer's Last Hurrah

Today was back to school prep day- I made 3 days worth of dinners, shiny new backpacks and lunchboxes were made ready for their big debuts, and Monday's uniform is the cleanest and brightest it's ever going to be. We are READY for this. Summer is great and all, especially with the pool, but I much prefer the school year's steady routine to the craziness of June - August (it's mostly JP's craziness, but it bleeds over). So yay first day of school, bring it on!

But before we close out on summer and move on to fall (if a 105 degree forecast can be called fall), let's go back in time to Wednesday morning when we piled our children and lots of carefully planned food, two hiking backpacks, some baby gear, a bunch of sunscreen and bug spray, and Landon's gigantic size 5 hiking boots (size 5!!)and drove for 6 (actually 6.5; we missed an exit by about 20 miles) to Palo Duro Canyon State Park. I booked a 2-room rim cabin back in April when I decided I had lied when I justified our February ski vacation by promising we wouldn't go on a vacation this summer and then polled co-workers for a trip ideas that would be inexpensive, no more than a half-day drive, not involving the beach of water (JP is waterlogged by late August), and with good hiking. Palo Duro it was, and because no one wants to go camping on a Wed-Fri in late August, we were able to book our cabin with less than the usual 10 months notice- huzzah!

And oh, our the cabin. This was our view when we opened the tall gate separating the cabin from the road.

The camera phone can't come close to capturing it, but it pretty much took our breath away. I can't believe I grew up camping all over Texas and never heard of this place. It's the second biggest canyon in the US and spectacularly beautiful.

The cabin was built into the rim of the canyon by the CCC in the 30's. It had a flat roof edged in stones the kids could climb up and they thought it was the most amazing thing in the whole world- screw the geological wonder before them, they get to play on the roof of a house! And their bedrooms had full-sized bunk beds, so this was basically the greatest vacation destination of their lives.

We quickly unloaded the car and headed out for our first hike. Dubbed "Rock Garden" and rated "difficult," it was basically a windy path through the canyon that ended in an explosion of boulders seemingly thrown down from the heavens. As you know, there's nothing the Lag Liv loves more than a pile of rocks to climb on. So climb we did.

Cora was all, you put me in a car seat for 6.5 hours so that you could put me in a hiking backpack for 2 more? Awesome.

We all bought hats for the trip, making this the first time I think I've ever worn a hat in my life, but Claire adored her little baseball cap and she wore her heart-shaped teal sunglasses on every hike.

This was the first trip she had to hike on her own instead of freeloading in the backpack, but she did SO great. She was pretty sure that hand-holding was essential to hiking, and given that she hiked a total of about 10 miles in 3 days without whining, I was happy to oblige.

Cora was happy to take the sacred seat in the hiking backpack. Giddy'up Daddy!

We got back to the cabin in time for cocktail hour and some scaling of the walls.

The kids got to stay up past dark so they could run around with glow stick necklaces and we could make s'mores. Except the s'mores plan had to be abandoned in the face of crazy high winds, so we enjoyed back-up chocolate chip cookies and tucked the kids in bed before heading back out to our patio to watch the stars, which were truly spectacular. I counted 9 shooting stars the first hour.

On Day 2 we woke up to a bald headed baby who was DELIGHTED to find us sleeping in her room and began our preparations to tackle Palo Duro's signature hike to Lighthouse rock. 2.72 miles each way (which was a lie, more like 3.2), the last bit quite vertical, with a 105-degree sun and no tree cover. This is how we vacation people.

We loaded up our two hiking backpacks: JP's with Cora, 2 big water bottles, my camera, and a diaper changing pad and supplies; and mine with a gallon of water strapped securely in the baby holding area, a bunch of snacks, and a first aid kit. I was the supply cart in the wagon train and our plan to put Claire in JP's pack and Cora in mine when Claire got too tired and our water jug was empty worked out perfectly.

Claire was such a trooper. She made it 5 whole miles on her own, which was great, because as it turned out, it nearly killed JP to have a 40-lb. Clairebear on his back for the last 1.5. As she noted frequently throughout our hike, "I'm a really good hiker, but sometimes I need a little help because I'm four."

After reading the 65 warning signs about dehydration and heat stroke, we were very good about hydrating. And it says something about the dehydration risk when all that water guzzling didn't result in a single request for a bathroom.

When we finally got to mile 2.72, the alleged "end" of the trail, we discovered it ended in a view of Lighthouse Rock, not with our feet actually on the formation itself. That wouldn't do, so we pressed onward and upward. Seriously upward.

But we made it!

Totally worth it. Even Cora was like, I guess this is nice, you crazy crazy people.

But then JP and Landon discovered a side trail that would get us up even higher to the very TOP of the formation. So of course, up we went.

JP even boosted Landon the last 5 feet so they could walk across the top of the world. Or at least the top of Palo Duro Lighthouse trail.

And then, kids refueled and re-watered, we headed back down.

The last 1.5 miles were a little rough. Cora had finally HAD it with this non-crawling, non-napping hiking nonsense and yelled in my ear the whole time I carried her on my back. Claire was delighted to be in JP's pack and Landon was still a cheerful trooper who did so much extra running and climbing I think his hike was 9 miles long, but JP and I (and Cora) were pretty goddamn happy to get to the car. Not that I regret it- the pictures don't come close to doing justice to how beautiful it was to stand on top of that rock and look out at the canyon below, I just wish you could park about a mile further along the trail...

(later, post-nap)

But we got home and kids played on roofs and babies napped in their pack 'n play. The kids and I walked to the Visitors' Center, where Claire made many dubious bobcat sightings from the tourist telescope and Landon diligently filled out his Junior Ranger Packet and earned his first badge. And then he filled out one for Claire so she could have one too. He's basically the best. We rounded out the day's adventures by driving in to Canyon, Texas for dinner and a much-needed margarita, only to find out that it's a dry town (nooooooooooo) and 3:30 is too early to eat. We explored the largest Texas history museum in the state (so we were told) and ate at a tasty diner with a lot of senior citizens before driving all the way in to Amarillo to get the kids their promised ice cream. We got back to "our new little house," as Claire called it, and played some more. I did yoga. Claire helped, and Cora once again thought everything was awesome.

Day 3 dawned cool and windy and beautiful. I may not miss the semi-functioning "air chiller" window unit that got the cabin down to a not-quite-comfortable 80 degrees, but I do miss waking up to that view. It never got old. We packed up a little and set out in search of a last great hike. We spied a cave a little ways off the road and pulled over to go explore it.

Cora was all, "LET'S DO THIS!"

The cave was quite a bit further away than it looked, of course, but we made it! In this picture, Claire is telling us, "Um, I'm pretty sure there's a bear in there and I do NOT want to see him." Love her.

JP took his traditional "jumping over something carrying kids" picture, now with three. I think this might be the end of Landon's inclusion in the series because he's getting really heavy.

As it turned out, there were lots of caves to explore and rocks to climb, so it was a pretty perfect end to a pretty perfect trip.

We got back to the cabin for the last time, let the kids play on their roof for the last time, and then took one final picture with all three on top of their world.

New desktop background!

I was doubting this trip in the days before we left- summer is so exhausting and suddenly just staying home sounded lovely, but I am so so glad we went. I love family vacations with our kids, and if possible, JP loves them even more than I do. I actually love all of our days, but there's something extra bright about vacation memories. This was a short one, and all told we spent $450 including lodging, food, and the gas to get there, but it was glorious. We head to Steamboat Springs in November for a hike-filled Thanksgiving, and then I have to figure out where we're going next. 2015 is our 10-year wedding anniversary, so I think we need to do something big. Maybe even involving airplanes and non-state-funded lodging. Maybe beachy, and definitely with an all-inclusive swim up bar and drop-in kids camp. Suggestions welcome, and if you are a hiking/camping enthusiastic (or "camping", I'm not sure it counts when you're in a cabin with electricity, mini-fridge, and surprisingly nice bathroom), definitely add Palo Duro Canyon to your list. Maybe not for August, but sometime- it's beautiful and I think we saw 5 people the whole time we were there. But that's probably because no one likes hiking enough to go to the Texas panhandle in August except us.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Shiny and New

I finally bought a new computer- a refurbished Sony Vaio flip, usually $900, but $550 for me because somebody else brought it home first. So I'm sloppy seconds, but I'm a slightly richer sloppy seconds and I don't think spending the extra dollars would make Windows 8.1 any less foreign or the distinction between "photos" and "pictures" ANY LESS CLEAR. I'm having adjustment issues. I love everything about the size, weight, and aesthetics of the new computer, but most evenings I've been booting up my clunky old one just because it's familiar. Like an ugly old slipper that makes you walk slower and sometimes just makes you blackout and stop moving at all, but is so comfy.

I went back and forth on getting an apple, and I would still love for someone to give one to me (oh the retina display, so beautiful), but they were just too expensive. I don't understand how everyone I know owns all the apple products, but I continue to wait for Santa to be real so he can bring me my first iPad. (Actually, if Santa was real I'd want all the boots and purses first- I'm not sure I'd really use an iPad since I'm generally typing if I'm on the computer and I hate onscreen keyboards with a fiery passion that results in my never answering people's emails and texts during the day on my phone. Also then my kids might want to use it and we're still enjoying our anti-electronics and TV caveman method of child rearing). But I was in the apple store to admire the macbook pro's and their retina displays in person and I saw the iPads and felt sure I needed one. Those stores are powerful. Thank goodness the federal employee discount has to be done online or I would have handed over my credit card right there.

My biggest move towards acceptance of this new computer was to hook up my external hard drive and transfer over all my pictures. I've had the laptop for six days and just took that step, so I guess it's mine now. Even if some of its keys are in the wrong place and I don't understand its reversed scrolling touch pad. (Between gazing longingly at my old laptop and getting mad at facebook's new messenger app, I'm basically a technological 85 this week.) But it is shiny and bright and I enjoyed doing my yoga download video in the upside-down-V-tablet mode (it's a thing) so I didn't hit the keyboard during a spirited chatarangas.

This picture looks 50% brighter on my new screen; also, what color are her eyes? We're undecided

But I have done things in the last few days that didn't involve warily staring at a shiny skinny new laptop- I went to two four-year-old birthday parties in the same day! And locked my keys in the car AGAIN! I made the largest batch of homemade poppy seed bread with orange glad that my KitchenAid has ever seen, and ordered the adorable rainbow heart return address labels for Cora's first birthday party. Yes, it's happening. I've accepted it, so now I get to buy all the rainbow-themed things my heart, wallet, and pocket of discount codes desire (the labels were free; thank you Shutterfly "end of summer gift"). Actually I haven't accepted that she's going to turn 1, not even a little, but I love party planning enough to let it numb my pain a little.

Claire's first party on Saturday was at the Texas Ballet Theatre with a real ballerina. Claire wanted exactly NOTHING to do with it. She sat next to me on the floor and refused to participate. I don't know what happened to turn her off of ballet, but it is real and it appears permanent. She was pro-cake though. Cora was pro-everything and crawled after the ballerina at high speed.

ready to dance

Party #2, after my "I'm just going to run a few quick errands between parties" plan turned into a "JP waking up Cora and piling everyone in the car to go rescue mommy because she locked her keys in the car AGAIN" special new plan, was a Frozen tea party. Claire LOVED it. It was hosted by one of my barre teachers, whose daughter is in Claire's class, and it was adorable. Real china mixed with Frozen paper products in her beautiful historic house (built in 1914 by the guy who the street is named after). There were tiny tea foods, pink lemonade "princess tea," a making of crowns and marshmallow Olafs, and a massive group sing-a-long to the Frozen soundtrack that was adorable to even the most jaded so-sick-of-Frozen parent.

Today dawned cool and grey, and while the boys went on their Sunday run (7 miles today!), the girls and I did the opposite and went grocery shopping. I've found we spend less if JP doesn't come along, sort of like me and Target. As soon as we had checked out, our cart piled high with all the foods for the week and our upcoming 3-day camping trip, it started POURING. Like buckets of water falling from the sky pouring. We got soaked. Cora was displeased. I was too. It then stopped raining as soon as we got home 6 minutes later and the boys could help us unload everything from the car. Of course.

two hands for safety

I wanted to make a meal for our neighbor's who just had a baby (chicken barley chili!), so I thought I'd add in a loaf of my mom's Poppyseed Bread with Orange Glaze because it's delicious and is a great morning snack with coffee or tea. And then I thought it would make a good back to school gift for the teachers in our lives. And then Landon requested some for him to eat on the first day of school and JP asked for some for the camping trip and next you know, I baked 6 loaves of Poppyseed Bread. The KitchenAid was skeptical.

It continued to rain off and on while JP ran some errands (hats for everyone for our August hiking trip to a canyon where it's 110 degrees without trees- can't wait!), I went to barre, and the kids made forts, built a truly spectacular lego castle, and helped me pack their clothes for the trip. Claire was surprised to hear that maxi dresses were not on the approved camping clothing list and we had several discussions about it. Cora took some naps and I ran across the street to hold my neighbor's new baby and he is so adorable and so TINY and I want him. It is cruel that I have become a baby person at a time when I am on my last baby.

And so it was a lovely low-key weekend where much was accomplished while somehow not feeling hectic or busy. Probably because swim team is over and having a whole Saturday, even one where JP was coaching and I had to take Claire to two birthday parties, seemed luxurious. Also, it started on Friday with an evening swim in our bathtub temperature pool and a Mexican martini AND a water-obsessed adorable baby, and those three things are always an excellent start to anything.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The A's, part 1: swimming and more

Simi: On a completely unrelated note- what strategies did JP use to get your kids to be so confident in the water? It's not like we can enroll our kids in his school (though we'd love to) since we live 2000 miles away, but I would love to hear how to foster water confidence and safety in my kids (ages 5, 2, and 2). Did they use floaties? How did he teach them to trust the water will keep them afloat?

First of all, he is not a fan of floaties (his first words in response were "no floaties"). He finds they ultimately decrease confidence, making kids think they can't support themselves in the water without them. Teaching water confidence is a lot of little steps: holding them and asking them to put their mouths in the water, then blowing bubbles, then putting mouth + nose in water, then putting whole face in water, and then very gradually letting go of them as they become comfortable with their whole head in the water looking down. But along the way there's also using their arms to "monkey arm" around the pool, kicking on the side, being pulled through the water on their tummies, learning to climb out of water by themselves, etc. For gaining comfort, contact with water is so important ("the biggest thing is exposure")- if you have access to a pool, get them in it as much as possible as young as possible. Sign up for lessons. Have them put their faces in the water in the bath, have them turn their face up to look at the shower as it rains down. If you're teaching them yourself (something he doesn't recommend, even after teaching ours that way), you have to push them. Claire cried during Every. Single. Lesson. he gave her for two years. But we always made sure to have non-lesson swim play time and she is a strong swimmer who LOVES the pool and asks to swim every day. But when JP got in the pool with her last weekend to work on her stroke a little, she immediately burst into tears. I don't know why, but I promise it didn't scar her for life and she never would have learned otherwise.

Life in Vet School: Oh, I second Simi's swim question! We've started H (who's 3) in a swim class at the Y, and they're teaching a little bit of floating, blowing bubbles, kicking, basic skills like that. But what I really wanted was self-saving type instruction that would help him protect his airway if he ever fell into a body of water. I know general familiarity in the water is probably helpful regardless of what's being taught, but I'd like to work with him myself on practical skills that he could use in an emergency, except I have no idea what to teach him or how to do it. I can't find any ISR type classes near me. Thank you!

ISR is a whole other kettle of fish. JP doesn't teach it and unless you have a small child in real and regular risk of falling in a pool (like if you have an unbarricaded pool in your backyard), he doesn't recommend it. It's an amazing technique and can be very effective, but he has also slowly and painfully counseled many emotionally scarred children who did ISR as toddlers and are now water-safe, but are absolutely TERRIFIED of it. Also, if you do go the ISR route, be sure to find someone who is actually certified in the method. It is expensive and takes a long time to get certified, but it is a dangerous technique and you have to have someone who knows what they are doing. A friend of mine nearly lost her little boy due to an "aggressive" swim instructor using the ISR method without proper training. Her little one swallowed so much water from all the dunking during the class that he ended up seizing on the pool deck afterward and went into a coma. He is okay now, but he could have had permanent brain damage. I know that wasn't really what you were asking about, but as long as we're talking about swim lessons, I had to get that PSA out!

Okay, on to your question- how to incorporate some practical skills. You're right that familiarity in the water is something, and it's a very big something, but there is more you could do when you're in the pool with him. One of the first things is to start talking about putting your hands up if you're underwater. Crazy enough, that is not an intuitive thing for small children! So, teach: "What do we do if we're underwater?" "Raise our hands and kick our feet!" Repeat. Start working on crawling out of the pool in the deep end: elbow, elbow, tummy, knee, knee. Work on cruising around the whole edge of the pool using just his hands. And then the biggest thing is teaching him to turn on his back and float- so anytime he's in the pool, he knows he can always float up and turn onto his back to get air and relax. That is always available to him. Then he can kick until he hits a wall, grab the edge, and climb out (elbow, elbow, tummy, knee, knee!). You can also do "humpty dumpties" where you drop him in the pool right by the edge so he can kick up and grab it and climb out (skipping the float). It's a multi-faceted process, so work on different things at different times and find stuff he enjoys and finds empowering (Claire has always loved monkey arms and seemed surprised and delighted she could get herself out of the pool). The back floating is the hardest thing to teach- there's so much nuance that JP has gathered through his lessons, but toddlers are usually pretty buoyant so H might take to it right away anyway :). JP always lets the kids pick a song they sing together while he lets them float, slowly letting go of them until they float on their own. Here's some pictures of Claire when she had just turned 2:

Anon: 1. I know you've said before that you will probably move at some point in the future. How much longer do you think you’ll stay in Ft. Worth? If you have plans to leave in a few years, how will that affect JP’s swim school?

That is an excellent question. Now that we're redoing our kitchen, I'm hoping to stay here for quite a bit longer! 5 years at least, more would be better. I would always be open to moving if it made sense for our family, but it's really JP who insists that we'll definitely be moving in a few years. I'm not sure how or why- it's not like either of us are going to be transferred by our jobs, but he seems certain. If we do move, his hope is to sell his business to someone else and then start a new business, swimming or otherwise, in the new place. Those kinds of plans are why I feel we are now highly unlikely to move.

2. Is there another type of law you’d like to practice?

When I first went to law school I wanted to do trusts and estates, and I still think I would enjoy the practicality of it and the close and usually positive client relationships. But I did really like being a litigator, and that is almost certainly what I'll go back to, if I go back at all.

3. Other than returning to a firm, are there any other law careers you are interested in (i.e. professor, in-house counsel, non-law career)?

All of the above! I spent most of my childhood teaching school to all the kids in my neighborhood. I created worksheets by hand, took attendance, gave quizzes and tests- I took it all very seriously! So I could definitely see trying to be an adjunct or doing some other teaching-type role somewhere down the line. In-house is also a possibility, one that currently seems more likely as a next step over going back to a firm whenever I leave the SEC. I like the one client/being a part of a team aspect and I think the lifestyle, while more intense than the government, would still likely be easier to adjust to than private practice. And lately I've let myself think of non-law careers too. I like being a lawyer and think my "main" job will always involve using my JD, but I would love to explore photography more and do a (very) small amateur business involving family portraits. I would also love to get certified in barre teaching and teach an early morning class at my yoga studio for us working folks (6 a.m., a class I would create just so I could go, showing EXACTLY how obsessed I am with those classes). So who knows, but it's interesting to me that I'm so much more open minded about my career path(s) at 31 than I ever was at 18 or 22 or 25.

4. What was the hardest transition for you and JP as parents. Going from married couple to 1 kid, 1 kid to 2 kids or 2 kids to 3 kids?

Oh my god the couple to 1 kid transition nearly KILLED us. Like on the rare occasion we talk about Landon's babyhood it is only to note how surprising it is that we survived. Adding Claire was easy and adding Cora has been so seamless and simple that I don't understand why JP won't let me have a fourth. Day-to-day I found having two kids to be way easier than one (they entertain each other! it's like the best of all the baby gear in one cute little 3-year-old package), and while I wouldn't say three is easier than two, it hasn't been any harder. The older kids keep getting easier, so it kind of evens out when you throw in a more physically demanding brand new one. But oh man, that first transition was so hard. Landon was hard (preemie! NICU! colic! allergies! 27 ear infections!), our lives were hard (law school! investment banking!), we were so isolated, we had no family help, and we then went through actual legal, medical, and emotional hell for a few months... but even without all that- the switch from young couple in the city to young couple + a baby, especially when no one else we knew had babies, was a rough one. By the time we had Claire and certainly Cora, we had embraced our roll as family with young child, so adding another one into our routine was no big deal- family dinners after work, early wake-ups on the weekends, not going anywhere without many accessories, never getting to travel alone with JP ever again... check! We can roll with pretty much anything these days.

5. As busy as you are, I’m curious what is the biggest source of stress in your life right now?

Hmm, I'd say I'm really not a worrier- stress has to be really forced on me to feel much of it. If I had to pick something, I do sometimes worry about making sure we're shaping the kids into the best people they can be. It's a big job, there's no owner's manual, and you can't see the future to know what effects your current actions are going to have.

6. What are some of your favorite traditions with the kids?

Ooh, so many! I'm a tradition lover- we had so many growing up in my own little family, things that I'm sure were no big deal at some point but our now completely sacred and beloved, and one of my favorite thing about being a parent of increasingly older children is the creation of our own. So far, the following are ones the kids already talk about:

- getting donuts with dad alone on your birthday before anyone else wakes up (this one is new, but it is a big hit and I LOVE the idea of a high school Claire getting up early to go eat donuts with her daddy on her birthday)
- picking any dinner you want for your birthday night
- the little candle on your place mat on your birthday morning: purchased for $2.99 each our dino and piglet candle holders are something the kids really look forwarding to having by their plate on their birthdays and it's nothing that requires me to prep anything the night before!
- decorating Christmas sugar cookies
- Christmas at the lake house. This is a funny tradition for me because I always loved my family Christmases in my own house without any extra family growing up- it was cozy and ours and completely stress and drama-free, but my kids now associate Christmas with Papa and Gigi's house and that's nice too. Though I do think at some point we'll start doing Christmas Eve in our own home and then drive to the lake on Christmas Day morning. It's getting harder for Santa to travel.
- Valentine's Day heart pizza for dinner. We have to shape them by hand now, but they're still happening.

I expect there to be lots more.

More answers to come! The next tranche involves a lot of junior associate, OCI, and marriage advice. Ole!

In other news, also on our crazy Monday, Cora started in a new classroom at school! She was too big, too fast, and too dominant in the baby class, so the director created a new mini-class for Cora and her posse of other bigger babies to bridge the gap between the fierce-crawling now and the toddling future.

Don't let her sweet visage fool you; the girl is crazy. She's sweet too, but she thrives in chaos, crawls like a demon, and wants to do, touch, chew, hit, eat, and be a part of ALL of the things ALL the time.

She played so hard in her new padded baby gymnasium that she slept for 14 straight hours Monday night. Luckily I had my work laptop at home so I just logged in and worked from the kitchen table until she woke up.

Now I'm sick with a bad cold and am going to try to drug myself enough to sleep through the burning throat, runny nose, and sinus pressure that makes me wish my head would just split open and be done with it. But hey, I finally got some Q&A posted and Top Chef's latest iteration is playing on my TV- happy Wednesday!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Lake Housing, Jury Duty, and a Thursday Monday

I am still going to bed way too late and getting way too little sleep. I can't even blame it on the baby in the house, or the other two kids- they're all in bed by 7:45 and we don't see them again until 7 a.m. or later the next morning; no, it's all JP's booming business and his neverending overflowing inbox of lesson requests combined with his inability to send an email without obsessing over it and my inability to go to sleep without him. On the upside, that overflowing inbox is what's paying for our new kitchen (more on that later; MUCH more, I'm sure. with pictures.), so I'm trying not to be yelly about it.

Since JP is so busy and swim team is over for Landon, this past Saturday morning I threw all three kids in the car with some swim suits and pj's and drove them to my parents' lake house for the weekend. No one loves a car ride like Claire loves a car ride- all her family in one small space? What could be better?!

Landon was immediately reunited with his rope swing and proved right away that he is SO MUCH stronger than he was last summer. Swimming has seriously toned him up and he could hang on to the rope really far out over the water. He's lost all that baby boy softness, which would be sad, except that he's 7 and I still have a squishy baby with glorious thighs of thunder to chew on.

I even got in the lake! When JP isn't around I have to step up and remind the kids that they do have two parents who know how to swim. I was wearing a one piece swimsuit and then I saw my mom in her bikini and was like dammit, I can't let my 57-year-old mother completely show me up, so I went back and changed. I love Claire's grin here- she is never happier than when she's physically connected to another person, and it's even better when that person is a Gigi.

And then I had to show Landon that I know my way around a rope swing. Ropes and swings and jumping from high elevations into large bodies of water dominated a lot of my childhood.

Claire kept watch, shouting out praise to her Landon every time he popped back up in the water after a jump.

On Sunday, she was jumping in all by herself. She takes a little longer to warm up than Landon, but she's a pretty fierce little four-year-old once she's assessed the situation and decided to embrace it.

There was some golf watching with Papa. And Cora's all what could you all POSSIBLY be looking at that isn't me?!

I love this picture. The big kids were running races back and forth across the lawn and Cora was watching so intently you see her little thought bubble that someday SHE was going to be a big kid and then she'd win ALL the races.

I'll spare you the other dozen pictures capturing a portion of Landon's 300 rope swing jumps, but it was a really fun weekend. We missed JP, but in September, he'll get to come with us and it will be even better.

And then the weekend ended with Cora not feeling so good (she was fussy Sunday night and both JP and I realized that she'd never really been fussy before because we were both so flabbergasted by a normal baby that expressed tiredness by crying anytime you set her down; it is MUCH harder to get things done when you can't set down your ThirdBaby) and me having jury duty this morning. My first ever jury duty! I was actually a little excited. And then I got picked for the jury! And THEN I was nominated as foreman and THEN (THEN!) I discovered there's been a Jimmy John's lurking in downtown Fort Worth that I never knew about and I could have been walking to all this time to get my #12-EZ mayo instead of driving my car 2 miles down the road and over a bridge to get it when the cravings got too strong to ignore. I have missed out on SO MANY SANDWICHES. And so much walking! And I love both sandwiches AND walking. There will be a lot more of both in my future.

But back to the jury duty. It was an interesting experience, and a good one. The case rested just after lunch and then we deliberated for another an hour and a half on negligence, liability, and damages. It's not often you get 12 adults in a room who disagree on things and rather than glossing over those disagreements and talking about how hot it is outside, you have to explain your thoughts and ask questions of each other and deliberate. It's a great exercise, really. When we first got in the jury room we were 6-6 on whether the defendant was negligence and 30 minutes later we were 11-1. We only needed 10 for the verdict so we moved on to damages. I found everyone to be very thoughtful and earnest, though it was still fascinating to see so many different slices of life that would normally never cross in one room. Good times, a wonderfully short case, and now I'm out of the jury pool for two years.

I ran home to change and grab an extra bottle for Cora and the brownies I made Sunday night, picked up the girls at school, and took us all to Landon's outdoor end of swim team party at JP's pool. Then, after the girls and I dropped off the brownies and made sure Landon was good to stay with JP, I realized I locked my damn keys in my car, so I had to drive JP's car all the way back to our house for the extra set while Cora cried and cried, drive back to the pool with the extra keys, arriving late enough to watch Landon get his award after all (high point!), pile the girls BACK in the car, now with a wet Landon who forgot his swim suit and swam in his real shorts instead, for our fourth trip between our house and the pool, started dinner, fed a starving super sad Cora her bottle and tucked her in bed, and sat down with the kids and their organic mac and cheese and side of fruit- a Thursday night meal if there every was one- at 8:45 p.m. and thought holy hell is it really only Monday?

JP got home at 9:30 after being at the pool for 13 hours and we ordered Thai for dinner because if the kids got to eat like it was the end of the week and the fridge is empty, then we did too, and now it's 11:15 and I'm about to take his laptop to type out the responses to the rest of his emails.

Tomorrow night I'm going back to houzz perusing and range shopping.