Sunday, October 30, 2016

Halloween Day Preppers

So, my sangria mom party was great and a perfect way to end out an emotional week. (Really, it's the perfect way to end any week.) My blend of 6 leftover party wines mixed together in a pitcher and left in the fridge for 5 days + sliced lemons and oranges + orange juice + triple sec (because we don't have brandy, but we'll always have ingredients for margaritas) + fresca = deliciousness. The weather is still too warm, but it was beautiful to sit outside in my sleeveless maxi dress and chat with other women while our kids ran around.

[not pictured, but delicious]

Earlier on Friday, I'd taken Cora to school- something I almost never do because that's James's territory- and pulled up to find all these costumed children milling about the parking lot. Turns out, Friday was Halloween party day! And despite the sign on the door every day since Monday, James never mentioned it. So Cora and I turned around and went back home (admittedly, only 0.25 miles away) to change into Queen Elsa, grab a pumpkin bucket, and head back to school with apologies for not contributing anything to the festivities by the Wednesday deadline. And though Cora does not like changes to her routine, and last year REFUSED to wear a costume, she totally rocked the crazy morning and her Elsa dress (aka Claire's dress from 2014 and 2015; totally got our money's worth out of the original $12.99 price tag).

Isn't she a delight? The rest of the day continued apace, with big stories of the big kids I will relay later, and we ended with pizza eaten too late because I forgot to order it while I was busy on the back porch drinking sangria. It was a good day though. Yesterday was too. We started with voting, all together as a nasty family at our early polling location. We're with her all the way and I was surprised at how choked up I got with Claire on my hip, whispering my presidential ballot selection in her ear before I cast it. I couldn't finish, so she read it for me, and then we cast my vote for our hopeful first female president.

The kids were excited to get voting stickers, particularly since they were so disappointed when they found out they weren't actually voting. Cora asked sweetly, "we go to the boat now?" when we got in the car, so the whole experience was probably a let down for her. But my shirt and I had a great time (yes, I transferred my I voted sticker to my various shirts throughout the day; there is nothing I love more than voting, gets me teary every time).

The day continued with barre teaching, groceries and errands, having some kids' friends over, and then the cleaning out of the play room with the kids for reasons I can't remember and it always makes me SO crabby because it's so much work that I've already done a million times. Luckily our nanny was coming over at 6 so James and I could go out before I tried to put any of my children in the giveaway pile along with toys they don't need. Since we have a glut of date nights now that Tara is in our life, we didn't even plan this one- we just did some light shopping and wondering around, wasting time like we totally didn't have 3 kids at home and a babysitter on the clock. We ate out on the patio of a corner restaurant with live music. I had a steak salad with a side of french fries and it was perfect. I could almost forget the play room wasn't yet done and there was a big pile of stuff in the middle of it.

Today we headed out to our favorite Halloween tradition- the fabulous pumpkin village at the Dallas Arboretum! Such an incredible place, the gardens are beautiful and the pumpkin architecture is amazing. It's one of our favorite things all year.

James picks out pumpkins each year and takes their selection very seriously.

The kids ran around and played in the houses and Cora didn't even cry when surrounded by gourds! Cake and squash fears conquered, she's going to be simply unstoppable by age 3.

We visited our other favorite parts of the garden, including the frog fountains where the girls held hands and ran around in circles. They are always holding hands and it's my favorite.

After walking through all the gardens and water features, we were very ready for lunch, and I remembered that my Dallas coworkers had been torturing me with pictures of weekend lunches from Tacodeli for months and we should go there! Tacodeli was our FAVORITE taco place in Austin and they finally expanded, but to Dallas and not Fort Worth, and not even for a cowboy taco will I drive to Dallas unless pumpkin villages are also involved.

But oh my god they were every bit as good as when I'd devour them at my desk at work 2-3 days a week (there was a location right by our office; dangerously close... I had 3 numbers programmed into my phone on my desk- James, daycare, and Tacodeli).

We ordered 14 tacos, a side of beans, and a large queso and nary a crumb was left behind. Tacodeli, come to Fort Worth. Everything is better here. We don't have houses made of pumpkins, but neither does Dallas 11 months out of the year.

When we got home, Cora went to nap ("I go night night now, Mama."), James went pumpkin hunting (he couldn't find a sufficient number of his chosen varietal at the Arboretum), and the big kids and I got back to work in the play room. It was hilarious how different the two of them approached the task at hand. Landon spoke joyfully of each toy he picked up, recounting their many happy times together, and then concluded "but I don't really need it any more" and added it to the donation pile. I frequently found myself sticking up for his belongings, noting that he can keep anything he still plays with, we're just weeding out that which we don't.

Claire on the other hand, felt deep emotional attachments to every single thing in the play room. Broken erasers, key chains with Landon's name on it, pieces of toys we couldn't identify, notebooks with most of the pages torn or filled in... all treasures, all essential to her happiness, all followed cries of "Oh but I LOVE that!". I'd give her a discrete task and find her on the other side of the room, just sitting and staring out the window, decked out in all the necklaces we'd just untangled, four purses on her shoulder each stuffed with items from the trash pile, and a game with missing pieces in her lap. We finally had to send her outside to help James put out Halloween decorations because her heart couldn't handle our approach to organizing.

Inspired by our cleaning, Landon directed his energies to his own room and called me over an hour later, proud as a new papa at his labels and organization. The force is strong with that one.

Meanwhile I confiscated a Target bag from Claire filled with broken pencils and unidentifiable pieces of plastic. I also found Cora's princess backpack stuffed with 4 flashlights and 2 smooshed cereal bars. Doomsday prepper? I feel like I learned so much.

James dove into the pumpkin carving, something he take very seriously. There was research and an assembly line and a LOT of tools.

And Landon and Cora put on a show.

Claire was involved, but objected to her stage position and decided to put on her own show in her room, which did not allow audiences or video cameras. Landon slipped her an invitation to their show under the door, and she came back. Artists can be so temperamental.

Speaking of artists, I think our pumpkins turned out pretty great.

I was impressed by the detail work required for the Fike Swim logo. Maybe next year he should also do the SEC seal?

May you all have a fun and safe Halloween- looking forward to lots adorable kiddos dressed up in my facebook feed tomorrow!

Friday, October 28, 2016


Thank you all very much for your love and comments on the last post, I can't tell you how much they mean to get and to read. Even if I don't know you - sometimes especially if I don't know you, it means so much to have someone reach out and make a connection to your words. It's a balm when everything feels very raw.

Blogging is funny. Had I not felt like opening my computer last night, I never would have written yesterday's post. Today dawned brighter. I knocked myself out after pressing publish and got 8 hours of sleep. James and I were back on our usual even keel. The counseling with Landon is and always was a good thing that in a normal week wouldn't have thrown me. I meant what I said about experts. When you're not sure of what you're doing, seek someone who knows more. His tantrums, as we've termed them, aren't all that frequent, but they also aren't predictable and at least 90% of the time they seem to occur completely on purpose on an otherwise great day in completely innocuous circumstances. It's only after they start they occasionally get out of control, and we're just not sure how to handle that from a behavioral or disciplinary standpoint. So we'll talk to someone who might. And if nothing else, our willingness to ask for help will hopefully help empower Landon to do the same for himself in the future. The stuff with James's dad sucks but it has sucked for 35 years. Selling my childhood home is hard, but it was always going to happen someday and my parents are excited about the new place. I'm sure we will be too. But, it was a lot. Today dawned brighter.

If I was writing the post today I'd tell you about how I bought a Young Living Essential Oils membership last night. That I've always been intrigued and found oils helpful with my headaches, and I was in a sad and vulnerable place the night before and buying a wholesale membership that came with 10 starter oils seemed like an excellent solution because I'd bought 10 pairs of shoes in the last 8 weeks and I've cut myself off from I'd have mentioned the impending sale of my childhood home and how it rocked my foundation a bit. I'd maybe obliquely reference James's dad because it's a big thing but I also try to be considerate of the things he'd never want me to write about (just like he's considerate by never reading this blog and having to confirm his suspicions that I write about far more than he'd like (which, would be nothing)). Sometime I'd mention Landon, because I'm pro-counseling and in no way ashamed of it, but I'm also always aware of trying to walk the line between sharing my story and not telling the stories of others. Landon is old enough to have his own story. After that, I'd tell you about the photography class I took last week and how it has reinvigorated my passion and renewed my commitment to shooting in manual. And none of that would be fake, because today is better and all those things are on my mind and I'm not one to dwell on the bad and dwelling wouldn't be true to how I feel today. But it also wouldn't be the whole story. So blogging is funny. It's snapshots of where you are when the computer happens to be open. It's been 10 years and I'm still trying to walk the right line of what I share. Part of me is mortified I published what I did, the rest of me is just, yep, that was my yesterday. Here's today.

And today I got our family pictures back from our photographer and I love them. I'm shocked at how much I love them. The kids were crazy that afternoon. I had a panic attack about my hair before we left because I didn't think it looked like me (clearly I haven't changed my straight and boring hairstyle in a decade) but I didn't have time to change it. Cora declined to wear her gold shoes and chose an old black patent pair of Claire's out of a bin in the closet. The kids were crazy. Smiley, enthusiastic, and full of love, but running about like puppies with ADD suddenly unsure of their English commands. But my god I love this crew of ours. And I think that came through.

The outfits were the biggest challenge, as always. I never want to spend much money on them, but I want to generally blend together, and most of all I want everyone to look like themselves. Maybe just a little more refined and coordinated, but still- I want to see a picture and see us.

And here we are in 2016.

Claire in her favorite color and Jackie O style and the pearl bracelet she added herself as we were running out the door.

Cora in her super exciting and longer than usual tutu ("just like a princess," she whispered in awe when I showed it to her; $5 at Old Navy everyone) and GIANT coordinating bow.

Her 2 ponies and 4 hair clips are also present, though largely hidden by the glory of the tulle ball on her head. Her gorgeous hazel eyes are not.

Landon, not in his ever-present athletic shirt, but in shorts (no pants!), a button-down he found acceptable, and new men's sized shoes he picked out himself.

I'd asked our wonderful photographer to take each kid to a place of their choosing and just capture them as they are. And she did.

at the girls' insistence

She got Landon's sweet non-painful smile that comes out when he's actually happy and not when someone says cheese.

Sweet Bear in her fancy shoes and accessories, sitting up straight and smiling away.

And Cora. Nearly 3, larger than life and still the beating heart of our house.


Our five.

I love them all.

But this shot is my favorite. It was completely genuine- I wanted to kiss James and he let me even though someone was watching and the kids craned their necks around and found it HILARIOUS. It was their favorite moment of the day and they told everyone about it later "... we just took pictures and my parents KISSED and we LAUGHED SO HARD."

The hyperactive puppies were released and they raced down the sidewalk at full speed to our car. Our photographer happened to still have her camera in hand, so we got one more shot. Our party pack, sticking together like always, bursting forth to the next thing, heedless of the potential cross traffic we're yelling about behind them.

And that's our life. Beautiful, occasionally brutal, love and laughter and kiss-filled, sometimes tear-filled, rushing headlong, carefully planned, soaking it all up, and occasionally counting it down. I love these pictures as the glossy superficial snapshot of our best, most coordinated selves, but I really love them as the honest reflection of the love we share underneath it all.

The week isn't over, and some of the bad will linger well into the next and the next after that and that's okay. The good will too. Thanks for giving me a place to share both.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Too Much

So we had our wine party on Saturday night and it was SO much fun and I love everyone who came and it was a total highlight of my month. I want very much to tell you about it and I think you should all host your own (and invite me if you're local), and I'm even tempted to do so and pretend everything in my week is as perfect as that party, but.


This week has wrecked me. I drove home from work - early because I wasn't getting anything done anyway and the urge to crawl under my desk was too strong to ignore any longer - and wished for the first time in my life that I could go anywhere but home. I wanted to drive to an anonymous soulless hotel room, turn on the food network, take the hottest longest bath I could handle and curl up under the covers and ignore every single thing in my life besides covers and the sounds of someone else cooking food. Preferably British someones baking mysterious cakes with flavor combinations I don't understand. It's more soothing when it's British and the weird flavors don't make me hungry.

But I have children and responsibilities, so I didn't. I've never wanted to escape from my life before, but I think it says something about this week that my parents' sudden and random decision on Sunday to sell their Livingston lake house and my childhood home in Kingwood and buy another house is the least emotional thing weighing on me as I sit here not in my hotel room. I'm sad about it. I haven't lived in the Kingwood house for 15 years and have only visited a handful of times in the last decade, but every childhood memory I have is there. I learned how to ride my bike and had my first kiss on that driveway; got ready for all my first days of school, a million morning practices, prom, and my wedding in our little upstairs bathroom; ate thousands of family dinners in the kitchen; and walked in through the front door a thousand times more... I feel uprooted somehow, despite the fact that my roots have already proved to be quite portable. My childhood is more than a house; it's the memories in it and the foundation of confidence, love, and security I feel in my every day, and yet, all those memories are in that house.

I have feelings about it. Not everyone gets to return to their childhood home whenever they want and not everyone has purely happy memories when they get there. I do and I did and I won't get to go back anymore. I was taken aback by the intensity of my feelings about that. Like Miranda Lambert says, it's the house that built me. I know it was really the people and they're still here. But it's also the house and it won't be mine anymore.

~ ~ ~

Later on Sunday we found out James's dad is in the hospital, insensible and delirious, having violent outbursts, and suffering from late stage chronic hepatic encephalopathy as a complication from cirrhosis. He is unlikely to be lucid again.

James's parents are complicated and not a topic I'm going into, but as most readers know- they stopped talking to us in 2010 and we haven't seen them since May of that year, when I was pregnant with Claire and Landon was 2. He doesn't want to talk about it and for the most part, we don't.

We had to talk about it on Sunday. On Monday, he decided to call the hospital and his mom put his phone up to his dad's ear. "Hi dad," he said, for the first time in a long time.

"James. How's your swim meet?" his dad slurred.

"I'm sorry to hear you're sick."

"You need to go downstairs and let the dog out."

"...I wish things could have been different between us."


And then his mom hung up the phone.

(He does not want to talk about it.)

~ ~ ~

On Tuesday, Landon started at a new counselor. This isn't bad, I'm very pro-counseling and, as we explained to Landon, no one knows everything about everything, not even your wise parents, and we should always seek out people who know more to help us. Teachers, swim lesson instructors, lawyers, and doctors- experts! And just like how we see a doctor for our body, we can also talk to one about our mind and our feelings. I don't know if it's just being 9 and having bigger feelings than he is used to or can handle- they're certainly bigger than we're used to or can handle- but over the last year or so Landon has had outbursts or tantrums that spiral completely out of control. His control and ours. It's not that often and it's never at school or with friends, but no one in our house has any idea what we're supposed to do with them when they do pop up- including him. So we're getting help on that. Tantrum prevention and management. This is good.

It still feels shitty to basically sit down with a third party and vocalize how wrong your parenting has been and how lost you are with your own child, but along with the fact that we want to do better for him, it's important to me that he sees that when we don't know, we get help, and he should too. It's okay to not know, and it's even better to get help to do better.

But fuck it was not a great week for it. Particularly since, as James described when they got home, his stomach dropped the minute Landon went back to talk to the counselor alone and he spent 45 minutes waiting for the police to be called because we both still have serious PTSD when it comes to new health authority figures talking with our children. Never mind that there is absolutely no grounds for that, and at 9 years rather than 2 months of age, Landon would be able to say that, I understood exactly what he meant (I had my only anxiety attack of my life when Landon had to get a stomach x-ray a few years ago and I blacked out in the doctor's office) and the haunting specter of the Chicago nightmare being back in my brain was nothing we needed this week.

~ ~ ~

And later on Tuesday, James and I had one of those things that isn't a fight, it's just calm steady talk, but somehow two hours later you're both wrecked and sitting there staring at each other like what the fuck just happened? This didn't even seem like a big deal when we started talking how can I feel like the floor just fell out from under me?

(The floor is back, we have a strong foundation (which wasn't meant to be a pun, but does kind of go with the theme), but holy hell, maybe no more talking about anything that could potentially touch on anything serious or emotional until next week. Neither of us have much to give at the moment.)

~ ~ ~

And so that's the week. Or at least the first few days of it, apparently it's only Wednesday. And it's not even all bad. It's just too much.

I'd already invited over my mama friends over to help me drink all the leftover wine from Saturday by turning it into sangria on Friday while our kids run amok in our back yard. The week is going to get improve, or we're just going to wait it out and watch it die, but it will end and I will be holding sangria when it does. I'm looking forward to it.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Just a Nice Little Saturday

So we left the house at 5:45 this morning to attend our first triathlon. The big kids were competing. I signed up months ago, when we were in the throes of swim team and I thought it sounded like one of those fun things I hear about after they're done and think, huh, I should have signed us up for that. So this time I did the signing up before the thing was done! Then I had my alarm go off at 5:05 a.m. on a Saturday morning after 3 hours of sleep and thought, signing up for things is the worst.

We packed the car last night. Cora was heartbroken, like actively sobbing and just devastated when her trike didn't make it into the car. Then this morning, she was standing at the door at 5:40 with her swim suit and swim diaper in hand. "I do the trathlon toooooo," she cried. And she probably would have rocked it, she's just a year and a month too young. We soothed her pain with some Beauty on the Best on the car ride out (Belle is her new favorite) and she was her usual cheerful, easy-going, spectating self when we pulled up in the cold, dark shadows of the Keller Natatorium.

(After Claire's race; they had been separated for a whole hour and Cora was beside herself at the reunion)

Having never done a triathlon ourselves, we had absolutely no idea what we were doing, so we just copied everyone else and that worked out fine. Behold, our transition stations!

Some people brought chalk to decorate their spots which is a great idea if you are artistic and like to go the extra mile for your children.

We really only go extra inches. We only bought one water bottle to share among the five of us. Also no jackets.

stealing food from the finish line to feed the baby

Claire's group went first. She rocked her swim (that's her closest to the wall) and then took off with James to the transition area.

It was all a bit chaotic, but Cora and I made it to the bike path to see her come in at the end of her mile- she was smiling and confident, but as soon as she saw me yelled, "Mom, I'm too cold!"

Then it was the run, 1/3 mile for her group, but she got confused at the end and way off course so I yelled her name and pointed to the finish line and she burst into tears instead. Oops. We course-corrected, literally, and she crossed over while telling me, "Mom, it's my FIRST RACE! I just didn't know where to go! I shouldn't BE IN TROUBLE because I DIDN'T KNOW."

And since she'd already been up for 4 hours, and she has so much of me in her and I completely understand that any acknowledgement of imperfection is "being in trouble" I gave her sobbing self a hug and then handed her one of the pancakes they were making at the finish line.

We thought we'd have a while before Landon swam, but turns out we missed his swim and bike! By the time we realized what had happened, we ran back to the finish line - Claire, pancake, Cora, stroller, single water bottle, and all to see him racing to the finish!

He's a fast little runner. His group did a 75 yard swim, 3 mile ride, and 1 mile run, and somehow he did all that while I was giving Claire the pancake, but he had a great time and didn't seem at all bothered that we missed basically everything.

And then at 8:45 we were back in the car and headed home where Cora adopted Claire's medal as her own.

I ran to Target (always) and then taught barre and now I'm party prepping for a "cheap blind wine tasting" party we're having tonight. Ten couples, ten under-$10 wines wrapped in brown bags, score cards I made all by myself, apple cider sangria, and lots of delicious foods (this pumpkin cheesecake ball is on the menu!)- should be fun and I'm looking forward to finding out the winners and some new "house" wines for us to buy!

Earlier this week James turned 35 and we celebrated with his favorite dinner (flank steak, twice baked potatoes, sauteed carrots, bread) and this year's cake selection- funfetti with dark chocolate icing. I was skeptical, but he noted that yellow cake with chocolate frosting is amazing, so why wouldn't this? Airtight logic and I can't argue with the results.

The kids made him 1,000 cards, all of which Claire needed to walk him through in great detail.

As I watched him listen attentively and ask follow-up questions while Landon showed him his swim-related art and a tutu'd Cora bounced around asking for cake, I thought how much has changed from his first birthday we celebrated together (20th!) and how freaking awesome it all has been and is now. Thirties are fun.

Also, for those who have been concerned, Cora officially LOVES cake. Using her fork and her left hand, she shoveled it in as fast as she could and immediately requested more. Her party is in 4 weeks, so maybe this year her cake won't hurt her feelings again.

Now bring on the wine and pumpkin balls!