Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Unicorn Rises Again

Two weeks. I think it's the longest I've ever gone between posts in 11.5 years of blogging. I didn't mean to. It's been busy. I've had an unusual number of fun evening engagements, several of which have involved friends, wine, and/or margaritas. James's computer had to go to the hospital so mine was drafted to serve the swim school for six days. I went on a work trip. I've taken the testimony of 3 witnesses, read 7 books, and organized every closet and room of my house after a tequila-fueled dream told me to. I tried to start my 2016-2017 photo books for the kids but after spending one whole evening adding all my backgrounds and stickers and fonts and creating my two first pages entirely from scratch some computer glitch failed to connect Shutterfly to the internet so all of those hours of work never saved and my book reverted to the generic and empty shell its been for the last year and I temporarily lost the will to live.

So it's been a busy past two weeks. Last Friday found me on the couch with a glass of wine in my hand, Biore strip on my nose, and a heart full of blogging intentions, but then James rented Molly's Game and I had to do lots of wikipedia'ing to find out how accurate the movie was and I feel down a poker/Olympic skiing internet wormhole. Friday nights around here are crazy.

On the Thursday night before that, I met up with a group of my favorite women for Ladies Night at a restaurant with $5 frozen cucumber margaritas all night. Mom friends + cucumber margaritas restoreth my soul and then, even better, I got an after party on the front porch of another friend who couldn't make it over and we drank prosecco with a light breeze accompaniment until nearly midnight. I’m an extrovert and a night-owl, so I always love a good after party. And then, that night, my laughter and alcohol-soaked brain dreamed up a fantasy so hot, so enticing that I lay in bed an extra half-conscious few minutes the next morning just so I could keep it true.

I had dreamed that my WHOLE family had cheerfully and productively helped me clean out, organize, and label bins for everything in our house. A part of me knew it couldn't be real, but the other part was tired and happy and thoroughly woo'd by the lies my brain was feeding me. It was so sad to wake up and realize that couldn't have happened between midnight when I went to bed and 6 a.m. when I forced myself up, heart now pounding about how much I had to do at work. I shook off my fantasy by racing off to work to get on top of *something*.

I was at my desk by 7 a.m. and worked straight until 5 p.m.; no lunch, no yoga, no breaks to obsess over news articles. Just testimony prep. Not quite as good as home reorganization but man did it feel good to know I can still be that productive when needed. I was billing in double-time.

When I got home that evening, I decided cooking dinner was beyond me so we should all go out for pizza. I yelled to the kids to get dressed to head out and they assembled a few minutes later in outfits so perfectly them, I had to get a picture.

One of the great joys of parenting is how incredibly unique each child is. Same environment, same genetic mix, and yet they are so VERY MUCH themselves (and so very much not me) from their first moments. It delights me. My athletic-clothes-only Landon, my boho chic Clairebear, and my Princess Cora going full-Ariel with a Mrs. Potts purse stuffed with one of Landon's Spy Gear toys.

This morning I called them from my hotel room to say hello before they went to school and I went to take my first of two rounds of witness testimony and their distinct personalities shone again:

Landon: Hi mom! I got a 100 on my Benchmark and my teacher was really excited. Love you!

Claire: Hi mom, I love you so much, are you lonely in your room? I miss you!

Cora: Mom, I just really like sleeping. And also I like gnocchi.

I love them so much.

Other highlights of the last 14 days -- two Saturdays ago, James and I went out to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the swim school. Five years! Can you believe that? I kind of can't. Back then we were reeling from months of unemployment, our move, my pay cut, and our decision to have a Cora. He started the company when I was 5 months pregnant and it was more than a little terrifying.

But man, I'm so damn proud of this guy. Five years. He started with 24 students and now has 300 in this session and has taught thousands of swimmers since the beginning. He has taught kids to save their own lives in the pool, to love swimming, to get better at it, to work hard at it... He recently got an email from a new client and I happened to see if up on his computer- he never shows me these things and I know he gets them often- and it just made me smile. The parent wrote: I just wanted to thank you for your coaching style with our group of girls. We like the structure & we love your passion for what you do. You are very reputable around our community & we are honored to be part of your organization. Thank you so much!

So proud! I bought a new dress and earrings to celebrate him. And then we celebrated my dress and earrings with a fantastic meal and two bites too many of dessert.

In other celebrations- Claire was named Student of the Month for her class in April! She was very excited. She continues to adore school, her teacher, her work, her social interactions, and walking us through every second of all of those things every night when we get home, so being able to announce Student of the Month when I walked in the door was really all her favorite things happening at once.

My parents treated us all the ice cream to celebrate. She and Landon have each now gotten Student of the Month every year of their elementary school careers and my parents have sent money for ice cream every time. There is much motivation to keep this tradition going. Mostly from Cora.

And Landon, he's so enjoyable these days. Other than his need to constantly walk me through the more intense scenes of Unbroken (the Young Reader's edition, thank god; he's already read it 3x) until I finally told him to stop because the stories upset me and he's old enough to start learning how to cater conversation to your audience (like not the dinner table when your two younger sisters are listening with wide-eyed looks of fascinated horror), he is a cheerful, emotionally-balanced DELIGHT.

I got home from yoga this past Saturday morning to find him in the playroom, all the toys dumped out all around him, "I couldn't take it anymore!" he exclaimed when I walked in, "there's no order!" I completely understood. While he spent 5 hours cleaning out and reorganizing every inch of the playroom (final results pictured above), I did my closet, bedroom, pantry, kitchen, and the girls' closet. We were the only two people rejuvenated by this experience, but the girls played quietly elsewhere and James was blissfully unaware of all the cleaning he was missing while he got lifeguard/CPR re-certified. By the time he got home, I was just standing in my pantry, gazing at my newly labeled bins and feeling a little high.

I've learned that the answer to home organizing happiness is to do it when my disorganized spouse is missing. I don't actually need his help, but when he's home I feel like he SHOULD help but his brain is incapable of allowing that to happen. Like literally incapable. He tries, he just freezes, and I have no choice but to yell and no one wins. This time, we all won, especially when he came home from training and said, "do you feel like a margarita?" Because I DID.


Also exciting! Landon brought home his recorder this week and it brought back SO MANY memories. I loved my recorder. I loved that I could learn to read in a whole new way with a whole new alphabet. Landon is similarly entranced and after mastering Hot Cross Buns I taught him Mary Had a Little Lamb and we've all now heard both songs a few thousand times. Cora sings to each one.

I got out my flute so Landon and I could play together. My embouchure is crap now and I can't get many of my old notes out, but my fingers remember everything. It's really unbelievable. My mouth stumbles behind, but my fingers played every note of my first ever trio from 6th grade. The kids were very impressed with the flute, even if not the sounds I can now make from it, and the old band medals I pulled out from the same bin. Someday I'd like to relearn how to play, I did love it.

Seven days later our home remains filled with the delicate sounds of Hot Cross Buns over and over. We need to get him a song book of some kind... practice hours seem to not be a problem.

Other high points: a friend came over last Monday night after our kids went to bed to plan out all our summer camps for our kids (the first hour) and chat and finish a whole bottle of wine (the next 3 hours) until James came out and told us it was Tuesday and he was going to bed. Planning summer camps is usually such a burden emotionally and financially, and it was SO FUN to share it with someone else. I highly recommend this method to all. I barely even minded how many times I typed in my credit card information.

But then, even better, this little gab fast also SAVED me money when my friend off-hand referenced a "TCU employee discount" for a summer camp I was considering. "But I'm not a TCU employee," I countered, confused. "Um, yes you are," my friend reminded me, the person who had just entered a W-2 from TCU onto her tax return the day before. You guys, my four hours a month of barre teaching makes me an EMPLOYEE and employees get discounts!! My kids are getting to do some seriously awesome camps for way less money and the value of that far exceeds my $25/hour barre salary. I would never, ever have thought of it if she hadn't mentioned it to me. God bless friends and discounts. I owe her another bottle of wine.

Earning my discounts!

Speaking of the place where I buy my wine, have you had Trader Joe's Everything But the Bagel Seasoning? Do you like things that are delicious? Because if so you need to buy some immediately. Make some toast, or use a toasty cracker, add avocado, sprinkle with EBTB Seasoning. (Egg optional.) Savor. Make noises. Force your husband to eat some and then make more. One of the greatest things about working from home on Fridays is making this toast with this seasoning. It doesn't pack well in a lunchbox and I don't want to share with the kids, but at 11:30 on a Friday morning, with my laptop up, citrix connected, and James at swimming- it's the perfect coworker.

Wrapping up (it's so late; I'm so tired; work travel at the beginning of the week is the worst), we've had family pictures scheduled for both Saturdays of the past two weeks, and on both Saturdays of the past two weeks, after gorgeous weekdays with mild temperatures, the temps have plummeted 40 degrees, the winds have kicked up 30 mph, and we have found ourselves with canceled picture dates, watching family movies on the couch all snuggled under blankets. No one is sad about this.

Coco was first and it was FANTASTIC. Gorgeous, moving, and so perfectly done... we all loved it. This past weekend was The Greatest Showman, which the girls and I saw in the theater but Landon and James only know from listening to the soundtrack one MILLION times. It was a huge hit. Landon kept yelling out, "oh, THAT'S who's singing that song!" I think the whole world made more sense to him once the movie was over. We watched it twice more over the weekend to be sure.

And finally(ish), another exchange that made me chuckle this week that I don't want to forget. On Saturday (I think?), the big kids set up the gymnastics mat for a game of "fight." Obviously I assumed this would end terribly, so I popped my head up to tell them no when I heard:

Landon: okay Claire you can be Hog Rider or P.E.K.K.A who can knock down towers or a Valkyrie who has axes!

Claire: Um, how about I’ll be a unicorn named Ashley?

I was laughing too hard to intervene, and so decided to let it play out. Within a few minutes, Cora had entered the ring, everyone had lost a round to everyone else, and they were all playing gymnastics to Claire's gymnastics coach and realized that indeed, the unicorn named Ashley had won.

And at 11:58 p.m., that seems like the perfect place to stop. Unicorn Ashleys forever; I'm so glad to be back, I've missed you guys.


  1. oh my god, this will sound so weird but I was worried! haha
    so happy seeing your new post and that everythings okay.
    I don't comment often but I do read every single post of yours. I really miss true bloggers and real point of blogging and thankfully you preserved that. So maybe you could be The Unicorn Blogger? ;)

    lots of love,

    Ana from Croatia

    1. Thank you so much! And hahaha, I love the new name! I actually was thinking of y'all when I sat down last night after getting home from the airport at 9 p.m. after a VERY LONG day because I was worried you might be worried and I was DETERMINED to get a post out before I went to bed. So, and this might also sound weird, I feel a little better knowing someone might have been worried and it wasn't just me overinflating my place in the interwebs ;).

      But I've missed my usual blogging. James co-opting my computer for 5 days was a major roadblock there at the end. But I suppose the for profit family enterprise trumps my need for blogging and online window shopping. Barely.

      (You're from Croatia? Plitvice Lakes National Parks has been an obsessive part of my someday travel list since I saw pictures 12+ years ago! Have you been?)

    2. Yes, I am.SO cool you've have heard of them. Unfortunately, I haven't been to Plitvice (yet!) but many people I know were there multiple times. It's so so beautiful in every season and even winter looks magical. I hope I'll visit this summer.

  2. I was wondering where you were too!

  3. We missed you, too! :)

  4. I laughed out loud at your "hot" dream of organizing. I am totally inspired by your organizational energy, but am wondering if you are always doing this with all of the kids at home? Do they just happily amuse themselves for hours while you do this? I find I have to be alone in the house to do any big project...maybe it is still having a 2 year old. Love your posts!

    1. Lol, thanks!! Landon is a fellow organizer so he helps (though certainly not when he was 2!! This kicked in around age 9). The girls "help" by doing certain specific tasks while I'm cleaning and also just playing on their own. So I'll call their names every few minutes "Claire can you go put this [whatever] on my bed/bathroom counter/etc.?" Thanks" Keeps them involved and mostly out of the way? Also, now that I've learned things go much better emotionally when James isn't here and I don't feel like he should be helping, next time I'll probably just have him take the girls somewhere and Landon and I can get down to work!

    2. I was briefly very excited for the R-rated turn your blog was taking. Until I saw it was about organizing, which I do not relate to. At. All. ::SIGH:: Oh well! I do like looking at the after pictures, but have zero desire to put in the effort.

  5. That Everything But the Bagel seasoning from TJ's is amazing on avocado toast. Also great on salmon (bake covered, so it doesn't burn).

  6. Your life, closet, children, work schedule and job, and closet are all perfect.

  7. I was worried, too. (Shows how much we all love you!) Glad you are okay, and not only okay but even acting out your deepest fantasies. : )

    1. Lol, thanks Misha! It really was an accidental absence compounded by a last minute work trip I had to take without my laptop (because James needed it here) but it was killing me at the end! Though I'll admit, I'm a little glad to be missed :).

  8. I share the relief of others. I even looked up your blog in my feeder to make sure I didn't miss you! As our daughter (2) gets older and I feel wistful about her growing up, you help me see the joy and wonder of parenting older kids and all that I have to look forward to!

  9. Oh good, I was slightly (and oddly) worried when I checked each day for an update!

    My husband organizes when I'm not home (or rather he puts things in piles for me to "sort through" later. I want to be organized and I dream of being organized, but really, I'm a horder in a organizer's clothing.

    1. Aw thank you! I promise not to leave for so long again.

      You are James. He really likes being organized, he is just genuinely physically, emotionally, and mentally incapable of getting there by himself. He is good at maintaining whatever system I've started though. I've learned to appreciate that (and do all organizing while he's gone!).

  10. I played the flute too and miss it so much! I'm hoping one of my kids picks to do music (I may have to just make them lol). Congrats on 5 years of the swim school!

  11. So glad you're back! I LOVED Cora's quote about sleep and gnocchi, literally laughed out loud and scared the two guinea pigs housed behind my computer desk in the living room!

    1. Your story made ME laugh out loud! (And I was cracking up on that phone call. From start to finish it was 30 seconds long and it was so very much each kid playing his/her best self.)

  12. Okay! I knew we were online besties!!! I played the flute too.

    Second, put the seasoning on fish or chicken and then bake it. Delish!

    Glad to see you haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. Lol

    Anon - jlv

    1. Ooh I have yet to use it for anything besides avocado toast and garlic bread! I need to start just sprinkling it on everything. Thanks!

  13. Unicorn Ashleys Forever!!!

    (Annabel, currently horse obsessed has declared she "doesn't like unicorns because they are not real horses.")

    Glad things are going well, and as you know I love reading your blog to get a glimpse of what life might look like for me in about 5 years <3 <3

  14. I’m glad you’re back. I too was starting to get worried. I love your story about the flute. I played in middle school and high school and use any opportunity to show my kids “my skills”. You are completely right, my fingers remember but the sound that comes out need some work!

  15. It seems like you organize closets etc every other month! I do it every other year......

    1. Haha, well (1) I genuinely enjoy it and get a long-lasting emotional high from the results, which is why (2) I always blog about it when I do! It's a guaranteed highlight of the week. So it probably seems more often then it is. I think I go through every closet 2x a year (I just don't do them all at once; this past weekend was my closet and the pantry; a few months ago I did both kids' rooms but not mine). When you have 5 people, 3 of whom are constantly growing, in a 1940's house with no closets except the little ones in their rooms (and no attic/basement/hall closet/other storage) it helps a lot to stay on top of it!

      But mostly, it's just my favorite home-based activity :).

    2. Another side note: my husband won't eat "everything " seasoning, in addition to Mexican.....