It has been such a fun past 36 hours. Yesterday I worked a 3/4 day so I could pick up the kids from their Camp-o-the-Week, Camp BRIT! It's run by the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, part of our amazing (and free!) Botanical Gardens located just down the road (we are SO lucky in all the wonderful cultural and academic offerings in our small big city, I will never get over it and never stop trying to take advantage of everything). Camp BRIT is the type of camp I usually avoid- its hours were only 9-3:30, Monday-Thursday, which isn't all that helpful for two full-time working parents, but I'd heard such good things, we decided to make it happen and I am SO GLAD we did.
The kids loved it. I picked them up on the first day to take them back to my office for another hour and they could barely breathe between telling me all they had done. They were now Botanists-in-Training! They had dissected a cactus and an aloe vera plant; toured the research laboratories; met a research fellow and learned about her research; played games outside involving predators and prey; hunted grasshoppers; made botanist boxes; collected plant samples to graph and chart. Claire had learned a song about photosynthesis and Landon described the layers of rock separating dinosaurs and humans and that was just Day 1. It was really, really awesome. I love science and I love scientists and I LOVE when they make my kids love the same.
On Thursday there was a performance of the tree song by Claire's group and we got to see a slideshow of pictures and videos of the kids. There were only 10 kids in two groups so you got tons of glimpses of your kid being a botanist and obviously I cried. Earnestness and academia will get me every time.
The kids had a great body of work and legit scientific journals with their observations and leaf drawings and charts and it was so great. A real effort was made to keep it substantive, with added labels with scientific names and plant facts the kids looked up, and they were so proud.
High on science, we stopped for 7-11 slurpees on the way home, and then frantically straightened up the house because our friends from Austin were coming over that evening! We met at Yucatan Taco Stand, our favorite margarita and nacho place- 2 moms, 6 kids, 2 margaritas, 2 plates of nachos, plus some food for the children. It was so fun.
Jenny is one of my best friends- she taught biology with my mom many years ago before deciding to go to law school. She was looking at Northwestern and University of Chicago, so my mom told me to have dinner with her when she came up to visit the city. I said sure, expecting someone much closer in age to my mother, only to find someone almost exactly the same age as me! We hit it off immediately and she ended up choosing Northwestern. From there, we both had babies in law school and both ended up at the same firm in Austin, starting one year apart. She's funny and frank, we're frighteningly similar in so many ways, and I miss her terribly now that we're in Fort Worth. Luckily, she has a minivan and isn't afraid to use it.
After dinner we came back to our place so the kids could play and swim and eat pre-birthday cookie cake. We have so many kids now.
After cookie cake sundaes, they headed to a nearby hotel, and we planned to meet at our fabulous zoo in the morning. Also in the morning (so, today; or rather, yesterday, since it's now after midnight as I write this) it was Landon's birthday! We had the birthday dino out and ready and he opened presents- a real Rainbow Loom (now that he's a rainbow-looming bracelet making fool), and a new kindle!! He's been so sweet helping Claire with her new (and much improved) kindle, without ever mentioning that his is super slow and has absolutely no memory. He was THRILLED with his new one and kept saying he "couldn't believe it." He's the cutest.
He also got an ant farm and a book on ants from Papa and Gigi and it is AWESOME. We'd opened it when it arrived the night before because we were concerned about the living ants staying alive and James and I spent an undisclosed amount of time chatting while staring at them last night. They're just so BUSY. They were the first thing we checked this morning, and we might have been even more excited than Landon when we exclaimed over all their new tunnels.
After the birthday singing and presents (and ant checking), we were off to the zoo! It is so fitting that Jenny was with us, because she was the person I called when my water broke 5 weeks early at a restaurant downtown and I ended up in Northwestern's Hospital with absolutely nothing except a wallet and rapidly dying cell phone. She lived across the street and ran over to sit with me in triage while James and her husband drove out to Wicker Park to collect my hastily scrawled list of items- camera, phone charger, chapstick. Nothing like my carefully packed back for Claire and Cora's births.
And now we have so many more kids! Hard to believe when we met we were carefree newlyweds embarking on a grand adventure in a big new city.
The zoo was super fun- the kids all get along great and were so good. The splash park opened late, which worked out great because we got to see some animals before everyone got wet.
Jenny is a fellow skin cancer survivor- hers more serious and found younger than mine, and she is the one who told me all the UV gear I now needed, so we were fellow water burka mamas. Obviously, I still have a ways to go to reach her (now totally cancer free!) level.
We stopped at a fave local restaurant that has amazing french fries on the way home the zoo and then said goodbye to J and crew. We loved playing with them- Cora and her youngest even look oddly alike with their light colored curls, and Landon LOVED having another toddlerbaby to dote on. We got home in time to tease Cora with a short nap and then we woke her up to go see the Secret Life of Pets! It was so cute and a great way to fill a super hot afternoon with an indoor Landon's birthday approved activity.
After the movie we tried a new pizza place (Blaze Pizza- so good!) for dinner that was super good (my pizza had mozzarella, feta, goat cheese, ricotta, tomato, kalamata olives, and spinach; omg), and thanks to a coupon that came in the mail the day before, super cheap! Feeding my family on less than $20 is a birthday miracle in and of itself.
We capped off a most excellent 9th birthday with cleaning, packing for the Regional swim meet tomorrow, and homemade carrot cake with excessive amounts of homemade cream cheese icing. It is a really good thing I'm teaching 6 barre classes in the next 12 days.
And so Landon is 9. I have a letter to him I need to finish, but I really can't believe it was 9 years ago that I called Jenny to say "my water broke! can you come hang out with me at the hospital? I have nothing and James has to go get my camera!" and she was already out the door. 9 years ago right now he was in the NICU, walking the line between being intubated, and we were two days away from holding him or hearing him cry. And now he's our tall, strong, fast, smart, athletic, awesome Lanman. An amazing big brother, a lover of animals, and an enthusiastic part of everything he does and sees. He has been such an adventure, I ache a bit at the time already gone, but I'm so excited about all that is ahead.
And right now, what's ahead is Regional swim meet warm-ups at 7 a.m. across town and an alarm clock that's going to go off in 5.5 hours. Happy 9th birthday Lanman! As he noted when he went to bed, we're just 364 short days away from the next!