Monday, January 18, 2021

Sweet Moments and Snowy Days

Thank you all for your sweet comments about my Grandma Jo. She was a remarkable woman of many roles and facets over her one-day-shy of 89 years. We continue to mourn and celebrate her, while my dad and his sister work to transition my sweet Grandpa to a new apartment and I try to focus on drafting documents and answering work emails.
In a rather extraordinary turn of events, on the day we knew would be my grandmother's last, my brother and sister-in-law had their much anticipated first doctor appointment and found out they're expecting twins! TWINS! We've never had twins in our family or hers and it was such a shock and infusion of joy for us all.
They've lost one pregnancy, so double rainbow babies felt like a particular miracle, and their due date is my anniversary, so it all feels very auspicious and we are just overjoyed. Twins! I still can't quite believe it and am pretty sure they can't either, but man are we all happy.
In other highlights of January so far- because even in a sad time, there are always points of light, last Sunday it snowed in DFW for the first time in many years and it was very exciting. For no one so much as Maggie, who ran around in circles for MANY minutes before I finally managed to turn on the video on my phone.

She spent the rest of the day recovering by the fire in her favorite chunky cardigan.
The kids at first resisted the allure of the snow, too caught up in our card games and mildly jaded by the fact we go skiing in literal mountains of snow every year, but I pushed them outside and they got caught up in the magic.
Landon obviously followed my advice regarding the full outfit of ski clothes in his closet and wore completely weather-appropriate clothing.
We tried to slide down the hill across from our house, built a very leaf-filled snowman, and then fulfilled a dream of the kids- swimming while it's snowing.
They didn't last long, and I required a lot of tea while lifeguarding, but it was a highlight for sure.
The day continued with hot chocolate and card games and it was just really nice day.
A day that ended in me attempting stromboli from scratch and you guys it was AMAZING.
Highly recommend this recipe.
Speaking of food, another sweet story: the kids started having sleepovers in the girls’ room every night during the pandemic. Now that school is back, we’ve limited them to weekends, but every Friday and Saturday night, Landon and Moose sleep on Cora’s trundle and our whole crew shares the same 100 square feet of space.
This past Saturday I walked into the room to say goodnight when everyone went silent and Landon hastily shoved something under a pillow. Being a professional investigator, I had questions.

Claire, with a sigh: “Just tell her Landon. She’ll find out eventually.”

Me: [bracing myself]

Landon, slides a cookbook out from under his pillow: “We’re picking out recipes to make you guys dinner for Valentine’s Day.”

Claire: “Like a fancy date! Because you don’t get to have those anymore.”

Cora: “We’re going to MAKE THE FOOD!”

Claire: “And dress up and decorate!”

Landon, ever practical: “And clean up. And the girls will be the waiters, because I’m the only one who can use the stove.”

Me: [melts; gives kisses to all except the teenager who now has a firm hugs-only policy. Immediately go to tell James he’s dressing up for our next date night.]
I’m not sure what they’ve picked out for us, but I can’t wait! James and I are still surprised and often sad to find ourselves in the post-babies and toddlers phase oflife, but teens and tweens and big kids are pretty amazing too. And bulldogs.
On to food!

Menu: Jan. 17 - Jan. 23
Sun: Greek Chicken Pitas, frozen fries, roasted cauliflower (this was GREAT!).
Mon: Gigi's Spaghetti, side salad (that will probably turn into raw crudites on a plate because everyone seems to prefer it that way)
Tues: Ham and Potato Soup, with smoked turkey in lieu of ham, extra carrot, and frozen peas.
Wed: Tamales (from Central Market), Mexican rice, refried black beans, toppings.
Thurs: Ina's Lentil Sausage Soup, steamed green beans, bread.
Fri: Leftover Pasties (something to look forward to! plus I see them everytime I open my freezer and can't stand delaying their deliciousness anymore).
Sat: Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Chicken, served over whoel wheat penne.
Sun: BBQ Salmon with Mango Salsa, served with black beans over brown rice.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

JoAnne Lorraine

Joanne Lorraine, my Grandma Jo
January 14, 1932 - January 13, 2021

My Grandma Jo passed away this past Wednesday evening at 7:17 p.m. She suffered a stroke on New Year's Eve, and while it was a shock to everyone- and frankly still is, of my four grandparents, she was the youngest and mentally and physically quite healthy- after two weeks of ups and downs and set backs and discouragement, it was a relief in the very end. Everyone got to say goodbye- her two children and their spouses, all six grandchildren, and my Grandpa Jim, her husband of 68 years.
They went on their first date when she was 13 and he was 15. They attended the same high school in Joliet, Montana and married in 1953 when she was 20 years old and my grandpa was a young ensign in the Navy.
He retired a Navy Captain and flew fighter jets off aircraft carriers in Vietnam, and together they lived all around the world and, according to pictures, attended many fabulous parties.
But this is about my Grandma Jo and the woman she was and the grandma she was to me.
She was tall and beautiful and fun. She was always dressed up, loved wigs and hair dye, and had costume jewelry to die for.
The house I grew up visiting was in little Blue Water Bay, Florida in Pensacola, near Destin. It was an idyllic spot to visit as a kid- we drove their golf cart everywhere, including to the pool and miniature golf course just down the street. We ate lunch at the golf club, shopped at the BX, and splashed in the surf of the beach across the street. They had a screened in back deck that was the source of MANY a play, performance, and craft project and the classic 1970's sunken living room area (dubbed, "the pit") was the most amazing thing my siblings and I had ever seen.
Her home was chock FULL of stuff. From the closets, to the rafters of the garage, it was a homey eclectic mix that was the total opposite of my highly organized more minimalist parents. Treasures from their stations all of the world, books, crafting projects, magazines, pictures, candy dishes, and more- her home decor was a luxe maximalism that was a wonder as a child.  We decorated the table for dinner each night- from table linens to flatware to seating cards, and she and my grandpa had a king size water bed they'd let the grandkids sleep in when we were there.
I remember she always had craft projects ready when we visited. The cigar box I still keep my most precious childhood treasures was decorated there (the cigars no doubt smoked by my Grandpa). She had a keyboard and a tape deck with recorder that my siblings and I used to record HOURS of songs and interviews.
She was an athlete- a high school basketball record holder, 225 bowler, 6 handicap golfer, and made more hole-in-ones than everyone else in my golf-obsessed family combined.
She was an avid reader and books were stacked everywhere in their house. She introduced me to the Angelique novels I adored as a teen, the Anne Perry historical detective series, and so many others. She had them all and I devoured them whenever we visited.
She could sew absolutely anything. She made hundreds of items for us growing up - baby clothes, bedding, toys, nap mats, Christmas dresses, teddy bears with the most incredible wardrobe any teddy bear has ever owned, and so much more.
James and I spent spring break at their house in 2002 when he didn't make the national team and we suddenly had a spring break free. They were the most gracious of hosts and we had so much fun going to the beach during the day, eating homemade food at night, and heading back out to the beach clubs after that.
She loved to talk and I used to call her when I drove back and forth between Houston and Austin my last year of college, when James worked for an oil company in Houston and I was finishing my degree. She was a passionate Democrat, loathed Donald Trump and his enablers more than anyone else I know, and though she did not make it to the inauguration, I am so glad she lived to see him voted out of office.
My grandma saved everything and sent me packets of pictures and old cards and letters through the years.
I tried to save most of them and went through my file with the kids last night.
I am so thankful for all the memories I have with her - we drove to Florida every spring break and Thanksgiving week growing up, and I have vivid memories of waiting at the street sign for my grandparents' hatchback to turn onto our road when they would visit us. After Florida they lived in Houston for a while and Landon spent his first Thanksgiving at their house, just as I did every Thanksgiving of my childhood.
They eventually moved to San Antonio, to the same retirement community as my other set of grandparents, and we saw them often when we lived in Austin. When I got the job at the SEC, one of the biggest strikes against it was moving further away from the four of them.
Still, we made the trek a few times a year, so very grateful for four living grandparents and the fact that my children knew and loved them so well. I can't believe I only have three now. They've been such a constant- my Grandma Jo was the youngest at 88 and rationally I know they aren't immortal, but it was still such a shock that one of them could leave me. I wish I'd called more. I wish I'd written more emails. I hate that Covid stole our last year of visits with them. I am so grateful that despite Covid we were allowed to visit her one final time.

The first thing Cora told me this morning was, "today is Grandma Jo's birthday mommy! But she is not here for us to sing to her, and that is so sad." And it is sad. But I am so very grateful for the years we got and the memories we made.
Rest in peace, Grandma Jo. We love you and your pictures and treasures and letters live on with us, xoxo,

Saturday, January 9, 2021

9 Days In

So, 2021. I didn't have particularly high hopes for you, but I didn't expect a family health crisis or our narcisstic psychopath of a president to whip up a seditious mob to break windows, storm the Capitol Building, and desecrate the seat of our democracy on Day 6.
Like, what in the actual fuck was that? Besides a thing that's been steadily and obviously escalating for four years, fanned by the president and his right wing media and ignored by the only party who could do anything to stop it. Five people died (one more than died in Benghazi, by the way, so I'm sure Republicans will want months of hearings to get to the bottom of things- except no, they've already said we should all move on) because our president is STILL throwing a temper tantrum because more than half the country wanted a president who won't make fraud and treason and violating the constitutional a daily part of life. Weird, but those things seemed to matter to 7 million more of us. Oh and one of my senators was helping lead the fake objections to our free and fair election and then fundraising off the plans because he's a crass opportunist and the literal worst. [head explodes]

So there's that.

Adding to it, I was driving 85 mph heading east on I-35 as my phone started blowing up that the pro-Trump mob had broken into the Capitol Building and I deeply regretted canceling Sirius satellite radio as I frantically scanned through local channels to find the news, calling both my mom and James to get them to read me headlines from the computer and TV.
I was driving east at 85 mph because my grandmother suffered a stroke on New Year's Eve. My dad's mother, JoAnne Lorraine of Montana, 88 years old (89 this Thursday), married to my Grandpa Jim for 68 years just last week.
Her details are her own, but it's been days of diagnoses and prognoses, steps forward and steps back, uncertainty then clarity then uncertainty again. It's been a stark reminder of how incredibly lucky I am to have four living grandparents and at 89, 90, 90, and 91, that isn't anything I can take for granted.
My very pregnant sister (32 weeks!) was cleared by her OB to fly in to San Antonio, and since we had to keep our spouses at home to care for the children, we decided to be each other's partners for the visit. I got my negative Covid test Tuesday afternoon and drove over on Wednesday, picking up my sister from the airport and meeting my other set of grandparents before driving to the hospital to see my very tired and very frail Grandma Jo.
We got to take turns sitting with her, holding her hand, showing her pictures, FaceTiming with the great-grandkids.
I'm back now- my grandpa, parents, and aunt and uncle are taking turns being with her. It's very hard, but I'm very glad that whatever the next days or hopefully weeks and months bring, we were able to see her and hold her hand and let her know we were there.

a visit in 2019

I got back to a full work inbox and hour 35 of a headache that started brewing before I left. I got to test James's headache kit that he gave me for Christmas and I must say, these cooling patches were pretty amazing.
Just cold enough for some relief, but not so cold it's uncomfortable. I went through two, plus a cup of my Tension Tamer tea. I'm not sure if it was either of those things, or the "1 Extra Strength Tylenol + 2 Ibuprofen" combo my doctor recommended, or just being home with my people (or, most likely, a combination of all three), but my headache did fade in time for me to join the kids for a few more rounds of cards before bed.
It's good to be home. Work is busy, the kids are back in school, and I continue to be distracted by both the national news and my family news in San Antonio. So one day at a time, I guess. It's actually Day 79 for me and I've never been so thankful for my personal ban because I think without it I would be drinking a LOT of wine right now. But here's some food instead:

Sat: Stromboli! (this was amazing! Highly recommend.)
Sun: Hearty Chicken Bake (I double the veggies and use a rotisserie chicken).
Mon: Summer Soup (I use the crockpot and a bag of frozen mixed veggies), bread.
Tues: Beef Enchiladas, Rice.
Wed: Thai Drunken Noodles, TJ's frozen pot stickers.
Thurs: Mexican Rice, all the toppings.
Fri: Pizza (finally making that Detroit style pizza I've been promising myself for two weeks!)

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Happy New Year

Happy 2021!
I make no predictions about the year ahead, but I took off work from the Dec. 24th until tomorrow Jan. 4th and it has been the most wonderful, restorative 10 days.
I thought I might ruminate a bit on the good from the prior year, focus on what I want to do more of, what I'd like to change, etc., but no.
We celebrated in high indoor style on Thursday night (the girls picked out every element of my outfit), eating our favorite foods, playing our favorite games, and watching the fairly sad ball drop in Times Square at midnight EST.
We had a really great night and I've had a really great last 4 days, but I have not been introspective for even a moment. Instead, I've played 600,000 games of Skip-Bo and a new card game my parents taught us called Golf with the kids.
I have watched the entire Bridgerton series on Netflix during cozy mornings snuggled on the couch with my new tea from James while my family sleeps in. I have re-read four books and started a fifth. I have watched the new season of Dream Home Makeover with Claire in the afternoons, played even more Skip-Bo with Cora, assisted with Lego projects, and cooked up a storm.
I marshaled my troops to clean out and reorganize the playroom and kids' rooms and I now don't have to avoid eye contact with the playroom bookshelves.
I have not exercised beyond some short, chilly walks with Maggie and she resists them as much as I do.
We've continued our goal of one activity per day and last Wednesday's was ice skating at Panther Island just north of downtown.
Usually I'm too cheap to do anything that costs money within our own city, but, holiday break goals! I set them!
And it was so fun.
Despite all our skiing and sledding over the years, the kids had never been ice skating! And thanks to their regular roller-blading on our walks, they were GREAT at it!
It was super fun, even in the upper 30's and slightly rainy, and we picked out a takeout treat for the way home and topped it all off with hot chocolate and a movie in the new living room where we spend every single waking moment together and I could not love it more.
On Friday the activity was "family games and painting" and James finished painting one more wall of our bedroom (I decided we needed our side walls to also be dark teal, instead of just the back wall, after James had already painted the side walls white; he was obviously super excited about the change in plan but it looks GREAT). On Saturday we went on my favorite long walk through the neighborhood that ends at the park we found on our first day living here.
I love that the kids still enjoy our rambles, love that we now have 3 of them along for the ride as opposed to the 2 we had when we arrived in this neighborhood we were so lucky to fall into, and love that they play hard together every second until we force them to go home.
(They move a lot faster on wheels than we do on foot, so it's now tradition for the kids to race ahead every half mile or so, go on some off-path adventure, and then join back up with James and I as we pass.)
Today's activity was a day date for James and me. As fun as it's been being with the kids every second of the last week (and I mean that genuinely; it's been really great), we needed some grown-up time, and with Landon going to bed later and indoor dining not being something we're comfortable with right now, the opportunities for non-bedroom quality time and conversation are sparse indeed.
So we left the kids at home midday and went to the new Queen Nefertari exhibition at the Kimball Art Museum. It was so great! Very spread out and safely spaced, it was absolutely amazing to see the 3,000 year old artifacts in such incredible condition and to not have to worry about anyone in our party touching anything they shouldn't. Holding hands and walking through a quiet beautiful space was deeply restorative and I'm so glad James came up with the idea as we were getting ready this morning. Though my whole body kind of freaked out after 2+ hours standing in wedge heeled boots- I'm not sure if it was the verticality or the heels, but my whole spine was wtf'ing on the way home in a way that reminded me that the one-day transition back to normalcy will be its own challenge.

I changed out of my jeans and booties immediately upon returning home at 2:30 p.m. and put back on the Vuori long joggers I ordered not long after my favorite things post and you guys, they are the greatest pants I've ever owned. They are so light and SO soft and they hug my legs in a way that is so flattering (unlike my pj pants) but that isn't restrictive (unlike my leggings). I wore them for nearly 72-hours straight after I opened the package and realized I should probably wash them sometime. This is not something I usually have to remind myself. They're pricey, but I had a 20% off coupon code and they are by far my greatest personal treat purchase of 2020.

I hope to be reflective and introspective at some point soon- 2020 was been a big year in many important ways, but with work gearing back up tomorrow and the kids going back to school Wednesday, I can't make any promises. I can tell you it's Day 73 and I toasted to the New Year with Trader Joe's Sparkling Sugarplum Beverage and I'm more proud of that than anything else.
On a light-hearted note, we have spent a lot of time watching shows this year and need some recommendations for more. We just finished three seasons of Killing Eve, which was great, and need some more gripping, smart, fun, maybe not enormously depressing shows to watch next (James doesn't mind depressing and normally I don't either, but I like to at least alternate with something not completely dark and hopeless).

My absolute favorites of the year were:
The Great- SO good and fun and dramatic
The Queen's Gambit- loved every minute; rewatched the last episode again yesterday
Ted Lasso- THE BEST show I watched this year. It really did not have to be nearly as good as they made it to be, but it was so charming and had such depth in its characters- particularly its female characters- and went well beyond the SNL-like skit setup I assumed I'd be watching. Highly recommend.

We watched a million more I can't remember now and I look forward to your recommendations! I hope you all had a good end to 2020 and good start to 2021. I'm so thankful you're still here reading along and hope to see more of you in this space in the months ahead. Happy New Year!