Friday, January 11, 2019

Skiing Like a Flock of Shutdown Penguins

So here we are, Day 20 of the Trump Shitdown. It's 12:26 p.m. on a Friday. A Friday that should be a Pay Day but is not. I'm wearing pj pants and an old fleece-y UT swimming pullover, drinking tea, trying to resist the siren call of frozen leftover Christmas cookies, and watching The West Wing and pretending I live in a world where the American president has a brain, heart, moral compass, and ability to string words together in a logical way.

So basically, I'm this penguin. Except unlike this penguin, I have not yet eaten ALL of the Christmas cookies. But it's only 12:26 p.m.

I remain, unquestionably, one of the lucky ones. I'm not being forced to work without pay. (Though I am being forced to sit at home without pay.) I was able to transfer the exact regular amount of my paycheck to my checking account from savings last night. We can pay all our bills. When we can't, my parents have already offered a loan. I am, unquestionably, one of the lucky ones.

But I have a job that provides for my family and I'm not allowed to do it. The Republicans controlled both houses of Congress when the government shut down. There was a budget passed 100-0 in the Senate that Trump refused to sign when the government shut down. Trump has been president for two years and his party has controlled every arm of Congress for that entire time and they did nothing on this idiotic wall no one thinks is a good idea and yet here we are, throwing a temper tantrum at the last minute that is hurting people, hurting our national parks, hurting our economy, hurting all the people down the line who contract with the government, supply the government, and depend on government employees to frequent their shops, stores, and businesses.

I am absolutely going to eat all the Christmas cookies. But I will NOT, as I did on Wednesday, have two margaritas and wear a fuzzy wolf head in a local taco place that I closed down with a friend at midnight. I did eat too many peanut butter pretzels yesterday when I was hungover and not hungry. I make bad choices when I'm not at work. Like stepping on the scale this morning. FORK. Poor choice. I need to go back to work.

So let's go back to something fun. Like Cora's outfit she changed into for my first happy hour of the week. (The second was yesterday with different friends at the same place with Cora in a different outfit; I did not have any margaritas at all. I was, however, immediately recognized by the cashier from the night before when I did.)

But we'll go back even further to the 2nd day of this year, when we were still in Colorado and woke up in my parents' house before driving to Breckenridge to meet our friends. Cora spent the morning petting my parents' dogs and my dad paid her a dollar as a professional dog petter and she was SO EXCITED she has talked about her dollar daily ever since. Then, a few days ago when James and I were talking about which payments to postpone this month (nothing critical; just the extra we'd been paying each month on the car and house), and she piped up, "You can have my dollar!", which was the sweetest.

I got distracted. Back to Colorado! Though it feels like a lifetime ago, we only returned last Sunday and haven't even been home a full week. We had simply the BEST time. It's really on vacations when I so appreciate having big kids. Years- YEARS- of work and love and discipline and boundaries and being home and now we've got this fleet-footed pack of big kids we can load up and take anywhere and it is so freaking fun.

Having friends makes it even better. We had 10 adults and 11 kids in one big 6-bedroom house outside Breckenridge we were able to rent for a steal and we had a blast.

All the empties

All the adults had their own room and bathroom and we crammed 7 kids in a bunk room and 4 other kids in a living room and the skiing made everyone tired and it all worked.

ALL the snow boots

Every family had a night they were responsible for dinner and our fifth family handled breakfast on our play day (which made Landon's entire trip; my friend H's pancakes, of which Landon eats MANY any time he spends the night at their house, are carbs of legend in our family). James and I swiped our credit card exactly once on the trip, when we bought groceries on our way to the rental house on the 2nd, which made me feel calm and generally in denial about the fact the shutdown was going on while I was there. I made a quadruple recipe of Mexican Rice (recipe linked below) for our meal on night 1 and it was a hit with adults and kids alike.

Our first full day was a ski day. The weather was spectacular- our first January ski trip in a long time without a blizzard raining (blizzarding?) down upon us. I enjoy skiing so much more when snow isn't being thrown into my face with extreme prejudice.

After her successful two runs at Granby Mountain, home of the free lift ticket for children under the age of 6, Cora was happily ensconced back in daycare where she gets to bring her blankie and sleep mask and doesn't have to touch snow at any time. She had a great day AND a 2-hour nap that left her very chipper indeed.

The big kids are making leaps and bounds with their skiing. We skied all blues all day both days and I had SO much fun cruising with them.

We skied in a pack, off and on, with friends. After the first run I released James to the back bowls where he popped off his snowboard, hiked several hundred feet, and stood at precisely 13,000 feet on the top ridge of Peak 8 before boarding down far faster than I like to picture him boarding. I no longer do back bowls and I am extremely comfortable with that decision.

We packed lunches that James wore in a backpack on his back and met at noon with the other families to eat on top of one of the peaks. The sun was out, the wind was down, and turkey and cheese rolled up in a tortilla has never tasted so good.

On Day 2 we were on the mountain by 8 a.m. and were on one of the first chairs up the lift. A few friends who had been in ski school on day 1 were warming up on greens, so we made plans to meet up later and James and I took our crew down the first run of the day. After Landon already got way too far ahead of us, I dismissed the boys to stay together, almost certainly in the trees, while I was Mother Duck to Claire and our favorite teenager M.

Because the mountain was still so empty we were able to do more runs in the first two hours than I've maybe ever done, so we took a break in Vista Haus on Peak 8, munching on peanut butter pretzels I had in my hydration pack and admiring the Continental Divide.

We met up for lunch later, got a Mamas picture with some of my very favorite ladies, and reworked the groups- adding a few more ducklings (and mama/papa ducks) to our blue run flock.

I have truly never had as much fun skiing as I did that day. The kids were so sweet and fun and enthusiastic. And unlike when I'm skiing with James and trying to pretend I enjoy double black back bowls, I actually felt in control and relaxed the whole time. Blues are my happy place. And I even impressed a few children with my ski skills. It's real all about the peers you surround yourself with.

My skiing peers are 10.

Our 2nd and final ski day ended with bruised shins and happy hearts. And an apr├Ęs-ski pitcher of water at a bar near the base.

Our last full day in Colorado was a play day. We slept in, ate an incredible breakfast complete with the magical pancakes, and headed out to a free local sledding hill. We'd bought some tubes and disks, two of which James popped or broke almost immediately. Undaunted, we had dad races and mom races and lots and lots and lots of kid races. Walking up the hill was hard work and it was the perfect activity before a long drive home. My favorite memory is of two of the third-babies in our group, frequently just taking off together and then handling their own shit as they marched back up.

Third babies could rule the world if they wanted to. They just often don't because they can get their older siblings to do it for them.

We drove back on Sunday, locking up the house and saying goodbye to another successful friend trip. We had such a great 9 days in Colorado, especially getting to see my sister's and parents' new houses for the first time. It was a dose of reality to be back in Fort Worth that Monday morning without a job to do to. But the kids were still off school (until Wednesday! Christmas break is soooo long), so we did walks and errands and kept busy. The big kids escorted Cora to school Monday and Tuesday (because preschool was open thank god; Cora needed her Montessori back in her life) so she could feel like a rock star rolling up on her big girl bike.

On Wednesday we woke up to a spectacular hot pink sunset that Claire asked to borrow my phone to capture from the front yard, and for the first time in the then-18-day shutdown, all 3 of my kids were in school while I was not at work. If you must be shutdown, it was nice to have one day I could just watch Top Chef and marvel at how fast 3:00 rolls around.

And so here we are. Day 20. On the upside, my TCU barre classes pick back up next week, so that's 2 hours of activity and $56/week coming my way. Until then I'm going to yoga every day (membership already paid for through January!), acting as after school kid activity taxi (this is not my favorite), and wondering when I'll get to be a lawyer again. Also on Thursday I woke up with a mild hangover for the first time in at least 8 years and possibly longer. It was terrible; hangovers do not improve with age, so there will be no more of that.

On to food! I'm making all the things because we aren't eating out!

Ski Trip Meal: Mexican Rice with all the toppings, corn chips, cookies.

Monday: Big Salad Night (Vacation detox; a giant salad of all the vegetables Trader Joe's had in stock plus chopped up hard-boiled egg, sliced grilled chicken breast, feta cheese, and a homemade balsamic vinaigrette I make with balsamic vinegar + garlic + dijon mustard + tiny bit of honey + olive oil), cheese slices, crackers.

Tuesday: Vegan Lentil Winter Stew, corn bread. (This soup is so easy and so hearty and good; definitely a new favorite.)

Wednesday: This was supposed to be the stir fry below, but I ended up at the taco place with friends and the kids had cheap tacos, I had frozen tequila, and James had leftover stew after taking the kids home at the reasonable hour of 7:30.

Thursday: Spring Roll Stir Fry, frozen spring rolls from TJs on the side. I kind of make this up as I go, based loosely on the linked recipe and others I've made... from what I remember I saute ground turkey in sesame oil with onion and garlic, add soy sauce, simmer; dump in big bag of cauliflower rice, sliced baby bok choy, shredded cabbage, shredded carrots - fill the whole giant pan you're using, stir around until it all softens a bit, add in rice vinegar + sherry + soy sauce + oyster sauce.

Friday: Beef and Black Bean tacos, rice, beans. I'm doing this baked version and they look delicious.

Saturday: Pizza Rolls (two version: pesto + kalamata olives + pepperoni; and marinara + pepperoni + black olives), raw veggies.

Sunday: Chicken Pot Pie soup (always with extra veggies), biscuits.

Monday: Frozen crispy fish (the panko crusted cod from Costco I just realized were in my freezer), steamed veggies, parmesan orzo (I just boil some orzo and then toss it with a bit of butter and parmesan; it's far more delicious than it should be for so little effort).

Tuesday: Crock pot pulled pork. Recipe from my friend who made this in Colorado, with buns, kale farro salad with lemon miso dressing, root veggie fries (from TJ's; frozen).

2 - 2.5 lbs. boneless pork loin
1/2 onion sliced
1 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp salt
1/2 16 oz. bottle BBQ sauce (She recommends the Sweet Baby Rays brand, and that’s the one I use)
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 cup water

Add all ingredients to the slow cooker.
Cook on medium for 6 hours or low for 8-10 hours.
Shred and enjoy!

Wednesday: Frozen ravioli with tomato cream sauce, garlic bread. Probably some microwaved frozen veggies but also possibly not.

Thursday: Leftover pulled pork rolled and baked into enchiladas, black beans, Mexican rice, avocado.

Friday: Hoping to god the government is opened by then and James and I can have the date night I canceled in late December because of the shut down and would now REALLY like to have. If not, all the kids are eating spaghettios and James and I are having leftovers because I'm not cooking.


  1. I'm guessing I'm not the only one who reads here who has been thinking about you and your family and others who are suffering the consequences of this b.s. Sending so many good thoughts your way. Here's hoping you get that date night next week ❤️

    1. Thanks Anon! If nothing else, we'll do an in-home date night after the kids go to sleep like we did in the olden days pre-babysitting-budget :). I know how very fortunate we are in this circumstance and it's still stressful; it makes my stomach hurt when I think of those for whom this is financially devastating.

  2. I'm a DOJ attorney who's also furloughed, so I feel your pain. Solidarity! May this nonsense be over soon.

  3. Yes, solidarity on the shutdown! Unfortunately I am in the "not paid but has to work" camp. I feel your pain. Also I'm so glad you mentioned Top Chef because I had missed the start of the new season and now I can binge!

  4. Thinking of you and your family. Hope this ends soon