Sunday, April 23, 2017

Champagne, Cookie Dough, and Faking Fancy

It was not quite a year ago when I last got to play princess, so after years of having no reason to dress up all, two times in twelve months just seems like an embarrassment of borrowed riches.

But I'll take em!

And then I'll mail them back.

As I mentioned, my old law firm is celebrating its 100th anniversary (founded in 1917!), so its usual biennial prom blowout - already one of the most incredible parties I've ever been to - was dialed up to 11.

Something the ridiculous and magnificent super-thick see-through gold embossed acrylic invitation made clear. Literally.

Alumni are always invited to prom, but in the past I haven't been allowed to go. Luckily, our ethics rules were recently reinterpreted such we can now attend former employer events when they are open to all alumni. And since I love a fancy party, and my life as a government attorney in Fort Worth married to a swim school owner does not give me many opportunities to be fancy, AND my parents live in Houston and volunteered to watch the kids for the night (the whole night!!!), we were IN!

And when almost all my favorite people from the firm said they were coming, it just got that much better. Only a few of those people still actually work at the firm (like 3 of them), but it was SO fun to see so many familiar and fabulous faces. I worked with really great people. I still work with really great people, but I think I was unusually lucky in my first professional job, particularly for BigLaw. V&E Austin was a pretty wonderful place to learn how to be a lawyer.

My rented dress came in the mail on Thursday and it fit! I continue to love Rent the Runway for my rare nights of fancy. A blog reader had told me she'd rented it a few weeks ago and while it didn't work for her, she thought it would be perfect for a person with "boobs and no hips" and that's basically me! Plus some red hair and disproportionately long legs. The dress was perfect. I loved the colors. Much more rich and saturated than they looked online and they were so fun with my hair. Speaking of hair! I got it blown out and curled (because I an incompetent at these things) and it was maybe my favorite blow-out ever! I felt like it still looked like me, hair-incompetence and all, with just a little extra flair.

I did my makeup as fast as possible in my mom's bathroom, feeling a lot like high school prom circa 2001, and googled a youtube video for my eyes. I added my clearance-sale sparkly shoes, a borrowed bag from my mom, my rented earrings, the bracelet I borrowed from a friend, and my own wedding watch/ring set and I was set!

James was supposed to be in a tux, but we didn't really feel like renting one, and the past 12 months notwithstanding, he usually never has a reason to wear one, so we took black tie literally and just got him a beautiful black tie to go with his beautiful black suit he had custom made for our wedding. I got his black boots shined and he was good to go.

And so off we went. We checked into our hotel room (!!!) and then walked over to the Four Seasons where a few hundred friends and colleagues and some shuttle buses awaited. After a few reunions with some of my faves, we took the buses over to the Hobby Center and were greeted by ladies in long gold gowns spiraling and spinning overhead. Oh yeah. This was going to be good.

Inside was flowers and name tags and another reunion with a high school friend I totally forget was working as a social media manager at the firm now.

Moving onward and upward we came to a beautiful bar area with lots of tiny foods being passed (James ate all of them; the duck empanadas, steak skewers with peanut sauce, and mango cucumber ceviche were his faves), signature cocktails, signature cocktails with logos floating in them (a repeating theme, as you'll see), beautiful flowers, lights, and people,

and also a woman in a jumpsuit climbing up silks suspended from the ceiling while playing an electric violin.

I mean, of course. Such an obvious addition. Like the indoor fireworks.

Delighted by the absurdity, I drank some really good champagne and found friends!

I'd almost forgotten how people I once knew at the firm- I was here for the food and fancy, and then James disappeared at some point between one friend and another.

I got a text from him minutes later that said simply, "Jackpot!". When I found him, I also found a mile-long sushi bar.

A sushi bar next to a dumpling bar next to a crepe bar next to a noodle bar. The fresh crepe with the peking duck was one of the best things I've ever had ever.

More friends! The three of us here, along with five other naive and optimistic baby lawyers, all started in Austin together in the Fall of 2008. All but one of us left. He just made partner. I feel like there's a lesson here.

We discovered more rooms - a dueling piano bar with incredible charcuterie spread and desserts. A cigar and scotch lounge (no.). Suddenly drums were sounding in the main lobby and fireworks were going off (wha?!) and we found ourselves in the main theater with a great band and tons more food. I had steak and really good vegetables. A tostada with fresh lump crab, avocado, and a magical sauce on top. Also other things. Definitely more crab.

There was a Selfie Cocktail Station and I decided I like all of those words! I need to know more! And next thing you know, I have a drink with my face on it.

I can't mix alcohols without my head exploding, so I couldn't actually drink the cocktail because I was in champagne-mode, but I enjoyed the novelty of staring at myself in my beverage.

Totally coming to a kids' birthday party near you.

We had some dancing, more food (James), more champagne (me), more reunioning! I love all of these people.

Around 11 p.m. they ran out of champagne (what?! I would have traded in my cocktail selfie for more of the bubbly stuff) and I suddenly realized my feet hurt. Like a lot. So we secured an Uber and ate fresh nutella crepes (James; nutella is the worst) and scoops of magical safe-to-eat raw vegan cookie dough (me; sooo much me) while we waited, before grabbing our boxes of salted chocolate covered almonds they were handing out as parting gifts. All in all, we ate well.

Omg this stuff was so good. I had two cups. Maybe three.

It was a SUPER great night. Like taking a single page out of an old book I used to read- and it's the BEST PAGE.

We got to our room 1 minute after midnight, on a day that started with us in another city getting our kids off to school by 8, and we were so proud. We can still be young and crazy! High-fives all around! It seemed appropriate given the Cinderella feel of the whole night and I had fears my dress would turn back into a pumpkin right about then, or at least demand to be dropped off at the nearest UPS box. Then it was off to sleep because the next day started early and was pretty fantastic too.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Post Before the Upcoming Post about Our Weekend

Thank you all SO much for your thoughtful and detailed replies on my Disney post. It was so helpful to have read them before talking with our Disney Planner yesterday. I got to say things like, "oh yes! my friends highly recommend that" and "yes, my research [blog comments] let me know we definitely want to do that." Also it verified what I already thought which is our Planner knows her stuff and understands our vacation style and goals because nearly everything she said lined up perfectly with what you all wrote. High fives all around. I'm going to continue letting everyone else do my Disney work for me, though I did lose a few hours of my life last night researching adorable do-it-yourself autograph books and looking at Disney shirts at Gap and Old Navy. I have never bought a Disney shirt in my nearly 10 years as a parent and now there's like 6 hanging out in my shopping cart. Shit's getting real and we're still 6.5 months out. We are for sure not done talking about planning and packing for this trip.

Chin stand!

[Totally irrelevant fun with the 10-second camera at the studio last week. Pretend I'm wearing mickey mouse leggings; I'm certain they exist.]

Moving on! It's 11:45 p.m. and we have a big day ahead of us tomorrow. But first! A few Easter-themed pictures I didn't post before Easter and then I posted WAY too many pictures about Easter and couldn't add these. It's Cora at her school egg hunt!

Except not really because we missed her class's designated hunt time AGAIN. Two years running I have read the times, thought Cora had one teacher only to find out when we arrive at school that NO. She's in the OTHER class. The one that JUST FINISHED. I can't even explain it. It's like my brain breaks when looking at an egg hunt time schedule and then my heart breaks when I miss it. I love toddler egg hunts and I have been denied two of them. This is why we needed a fourth baby.

Luckily, Cora's hunting instinct kicked in just fine on her own and she had a great time.

Picture taken by a parent who isn't us

Even more luckily, while she was delighted to see us when we crashed her classroom while that other non-Cora class was doing its egg hunt, she just gave us each a hug and then raced right back to her table to continue her work. Cora takes her schooling VERY seriously.

And speaking of breaking brains, I broke mine after brunch on Sunday. Around 12:00 I could feel the beginnings of a headache. I got water, took medicine, and laid down immediately, but it was not daunted. Quite the opposite, it was intensely painful for the next 27 or so hours. I could barely move. Each time I dared to try to even turn my head to the side, while still reclining, it felt like a bomb went off in my skull and the whole room would go black. It was... really bad. Scary bad. I had to miss a full day of work on Monday and it wasn't finally fully gone until Tuesday evening.

Because of this, we spent all of Sunday in the TV room, sitting in various chairs, watching various screens. We never do that outside of road trips and it was just the treat that everyone needed. Cora, of course, did it in high style.

The week did move on and I even taught barre and crammed in a whole bunch of other extra workouts I needed to use up before their expiration dates. The kids had swimming, Claire had soccer, Landon had practice for his literary team competition at school. Tonight, in the midst of all the scheduling madness I was reflecting on how good we've been about not eating out since Christmas. We've had the occasional date night, but we haven't eaten out with the kids more than once or twice since December. Feeling very proud of our hard work and resolve, I immediate texted James and said "we should go out tonight!"

And so we did. Back to Americado, where we went on our last date night, this time with children who could fully appreciate the grassy knoll that is part of the restaurant's grounds.

Claire had so much fun she forgot that touching grass makes her skin swell up, but she remembered quickly when she got home and looked in the mirror. Oops. Luckily we are never without Benadryl for our sensitive Bear.

But it was a lovely night and break from cooking all the things, with a side of frozen cucumber margarita and beautiful spring evening.

Back to our big day tomorrow - we're headed to Houston for my old firm's 100 year anniversary prom party! We're sending the kids to school for a few hours and then leaving here at 10 a.m. My rented dress and jewels arrived today (and the dress fits!!!), my sparkly shoes are packed, my hair appointment is confirmed, and the manicure I got yesterday barely looks chipped yet. We are so ready to fake some fancy.

Preview from a dimly lit closet!

We're staying in a hotel downtown that night and then on Saturday morning my parents are meeting us downtown with all the kids because right next to our hotel is the Houston March for Science! Houston has such a huge scientific community, I'm looking forward to a large and enthusiastic gathering. There is even a house band! Named Tulipfinger and consisting entirely of neuroscientists, I don't even care what they sound like- I'm just delighted to know they exist. As most of you know, my mom is a science teacher, with an undergraduate degree in microbiology and a masters in biology and we are super proud to walk with her and all our scientists, future scientists, and science/earth-enthusiasts on Saturday.

(The best part of the march so far is following the facebook page and the delightfully earnest and adorable science humor that it brings to my life. I pink puffy heart them and all their puns and nerdy jokes.)

James and I have been working on our posters tonight. We have... different approaches. I just jump in with a marker and color over my letters until they look somewhat even. James painstakingly free-hands perfect block letters that look like they were done with stencils and a ruler. I've done three signs. He has yet to move past the pencil outlines on one. He would make the better scientist.

Hope all of your weeks are going well- I'm off to get some beauty rest so I can live up to my gown tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Advice Needed: Secret Disney Trip Ahoy!

So! As I mentioned many posts ago, we are headed to Disney World in November! I never really planned to go- I love a good roller coaster, but people, crowds, lines, and logistics are decidedly not my thing when on vacation and spending a million dollars to combine all of those things sounded 100% terrible, but James went a lot as a kid and responded to my "we don't ever have to do Disney right?" comment a few years ago with an incredulous and absolutely genuine, "but it's magical!" I knew it would have to happen. James using the word "magical" non-sarcastically is as about as high of an endorsement as you can get. And now that it's here, I'm actually super excited.

It has a lot to do with this little princess-obsessed toddler right here. I have no doubt Landon and Claire will LOVE Disney. They'll be swept up in James's magic and love everything. But they're both indifferent to the Disney-ness of it. Claire has never been into princesses or any Disney characters and Landon is the same. I'm not really sure either of them know who Mickey Mouse is. A childhood without TV is not an advantage here. But Cora? Cora loves her princesses with all of her heart. They speak to her soul and just picturing her joy at seeing them in REAL LIFE makes me feel the magic before we're even there.

Day 1 of our trip is actually Cora's 4th birthday. We're going the week before Thanksgiving, when James isn't busy, end-of-year school stuff hasn't started yet, and Disney isn't yet crowded for the holidays. We should land in Orlando around noon, get to our hotel mid-afternoon (1-bedroom villa in the Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary; separate bedroom for James and me, 2 full bathrooms, full kitchen and eating area, plus a washer and dryer(!); my vacation sleeping rules remain satisfied and we can go home with clean clothes!), settle in, and head to the park for our 4:00 allowed entry with our Mickey's Christmas Party tickets. We're eating at Cinderella's Castle that night for Cora's birthday dinner and I CANNOT WAIT. In the words of Tara, "oh my god she's probably going to pass out."

And then we'll have the Christmas Party! Which sounds fun- Elsa, Anna, and Olaf do the show that turns the Christmas lights on the castle, there's snow falling on Main Street, lots of the rides are open, and there's a parade with characters you don't normally see. It required its own tickets anyway, so it's a perfect travel day activity and made our estimate cheaper for not needing full park tickets that first day. And I could get later flights so we don't need to get up at the crack of dawn before a week-long vacation. All in all, I'm feeling pretty good about Day 1.

But I'd love your recommendations for everything else! We're working with an awesome Disney planner (and swim school client of James's; love our little community!) but James hasn't been to Disney in 20 years and I haven't been ever, so I'd love your thoughts on some of the following decisions we're working through with her. And just anything else you want to share.

General info: our trip will be Sunday-Friday, so five nights and four full days, plus our first half-day at Magic Kingdom for the Sunday evening Christmas party and birthday dinner. Landon will be 10, Claire 7, and Cora 4 (ahhh! also, sob.). We're doing the meal plan. We're open to extras, but also aren't looking to add on if we don't need to (other than the stuff we already have planned for Sunday of course).

Things we are supposed to be thinking about before talking to Kaleigh (our planner) again:

~ Which parks do we want to visit and how many days do we want to spend there? I'm assuming we'll visit all four because I don't know when/if we'll do this again. We remain mostly mountain, beach, hiking, and city-exploring people. I've heard MK needs 2 days- would the half-day Sunday + 1 full day be enough? Can we combine two parks into one day? Or we could do 3 full days for 3 parks and one more 1/2 day at MK with a 1/2 day at the 4th.

~ Do we want to utilize the Extra Magic House? In the a.m. or the p.m.? I'd say yes, particularly the a.m. option, but will this make the day too long for the kids?

~ What table service meals do we want to do? Breakfast v. Lunch v. Dinner? When/Where? *I'm particularly looking for recommendations here as reservations open in May* What were your favorite meals? It sounds nice to sit down and have a table meal, but also a time-suck. Our kids are super well behaved and patient at restaurants, but I want to spend our time/money wisely. Which ones were worth it? What time of day worked for you?

~ Do we want to do any dinner shows?

~ Do we want to do any add-on things like the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique? or Firework dessert party at MK?

~ Have you been to Disney in mid-November?
What kind of weather did you experience? Could you swim? Can Cora wear her princess dresses? Please predict the future and tell me the temperature.

~ Park Packing. What did you bring that I might not think of but that you found super helpful? What did you not need? What kind of purse/bag did you carry? A fanny pack is not a thing that is happening, unless James agrees to wear it.

~ What was your/your kids' favorite thing? Anything I should tell Kaleigh is a must do for us? I'm sure we'll hit all the classics (whatever those are), but if there's something you loved that I should tell her to put in our plan, let me know!

Despite all these questions, I should note I'm not at all worried about any this. It's going to be awesome. We have a great room where everyone will sleep. Kaleigh knows her stuff and will give us a great general plan that won't make me think hard or research things I don't feel like researching. But this is an expensive and likely rare vacation for us, so I would definitely love to absorb your thoughts, advice, recommendations, and don't-waste-your-times into our plan!

Lastly, and also firstly, our kids don't know about this trip yet! Please don't tell them. Not because I have a grand unveiling surprise, but because I can't handle a 200+ day countdown. They made a 50-circle countdown paper chain for Easter. This would be like having-a-baby levels of anticipation. I'm thinking 1-2 months out will be perfect. I want them excited. I don't want a paper chain stretched across my house that we have to re-count every night because Landon can't remember if he removed a ring or not. For now, I'm excited enough for all of us.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Eastering and Brunching and SO! MUCH! MORE!

You'd never know from the volume of pictures you're about to be hit with (I apologize in advance) that my parents were here for only about 27 hours. We fit SO MUCH IN, I'm still not really sure how the kites and soccer and four-square and shopping and EATING and even some Jurassic Park were all done yesterday. Especially because the day actually felt pretty relaxed and everyone was in bed early at the end of it. I suspect a small tear in the space time continuum. I hope everyone enjoyed their extra hours as much as we did.

The day began early - SUPER early for Papa and Gigi, as they left their house in Houston at 5 a.m. to make it to Claire's 9:30 a.m. soccer game.

But they made it! And they brought bagels and we were all very excited. Especially Cora who pretended to be chilly just so she could get extra PapaGigi snuggles.

Our little soccer star was thrilled as well- she was terribly anxious they might miss it, and then she wanted so badly to score a goal for them I think she overthought her four close calls, but she still loved the game and was delighted they were there. Claire remains an aggressive and enthusiastic player and we will definitely be signing up for soccer again in the fall.-

After soccer we stopped at my new studio so my parents and James and the kids could see it. They loved it (it's such a cool space) and we practiced some yoga and barre and Landon immediately climbed up a rope in the gym area to touch the ceiling. He's like a monkey. A really long, strong monkey who can do unassisted back handsprings. Tumbling class is to him as soccer is to Claire. Perfectly suited to each of their personalities.

After everyone worked up a sweat, including James who never turns down a photo-opportunity with The Brick he just carries around with him at all times, we went home to eat the world's greatest chicken salad that Papa and Gigi had brought with them from Kingwood (Chelsea Deli, it's an institution and it is AMAZING; my parents ate there when they went house-hunting for my childhood home back in 1988 and it remains in the same place, serving the same food today. The best hostess gift in the world is a tub of that stuff) and I served my homemade double-layer carrot cake with cream cheese icing. It's almost as good as that chicken salad. My dad turned 61 on Thursday, so we added some candles and a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday to You.

Cora went down for her nap, and after a game of war with Claire (she's like me; we love a good card game), my mom and I felt like this was an excellent opportunity to sneak away and do some shopping. My dad attempted to lie down, but the kids put an end to that, and soon they were off in search of a kite. Fort Worth is surprisingly windy and it seemed just the thing to do.

My mom and I had our usual success at TJ Maxx. We grew up with our Easter Bunny always putting new swim suits in our Easter basket and I've carried on the tradition with our kids. Swim suits are fun in a way that normal clothes are not, even when you're little, and they need suits every year anyway (and in Texas, Eastertime is about when we start swimming). Making it an official Easter Item means I can spend a little more and add accessories like coordinating glasses, flip flops, and cover-ups. So my mom picked out some swimsuits for me to try on, including one that was so complicated it needed an instruction sheet, and bought me two. They're super cute and I would never have picked them up. My mom makes me push my fashion envelope. James is very appreciative.

Kids' Easter Swim Suits

My dad called to say that after driving all around Fort Worth they'd finally found kites and were now at our nearby park to fly them. Mom and I stopped there and saw Claire running with abandon, flying her first ever kite.

It was an awesome day for it. My dad got me one too. It had Nemo on it. I immediately got him stuck in a tree.

Cora woke up and we decided she and James should come fly their kites (Papa bought kites for all) while my parents went back to the house to prep their Easter egg hunt. They stuffed and hid all the eggs while Cora discovered that she LOVES flying kites.

We got home, somehow still only in the mid-afternoon of the same day, for the kids to start their hunt! My parents are excellent egg-hiders and it took a while for each kid to find their 12.

Once everyone found theirs, The Opening began! Candy and DOLLARS were found!

Cora's still not really sure what dollars are, but she LOVES them.

I made my favorite meal for dinner- salmon, roasted potato medley, and kale salad with farro and lemon miso dressing. And more cake, of course. Mom and Dad played four-square with the kids while I cooked.

Dinner was fab, if I do say so myself, and we tucked the girls in bed and let Landon stay up to watch some of Jurassic Park with us. He loved it and I'd forgotten how very good that first movie was. It had been a long time since I'd seen it.

[Side note: You guys, I posted this on facebook last week, but one of my favorite things about my increasingly giant and Bieber-like Landon is that he still LOVES a matching PJ set. It's hard to find them in his (giant) size these days, so when I found three sets and put them on his bed last Tuesday, he was DELIGHTED. I took a picture and he ripped off his sheets so I could capture the way his shorts complemented the shark on his shirt. Delighted. I was telling my mom this story and Landon burst into the living room just before bedtime with his PJ's he'd pulled from his hamper just so he could show my dad each set.

He makes my heart squeeze.]

We sent Landon to bed (in Claire's trundle) at 9 and found a wide-awake Cora and a fast-asleep Claire. My parents went to bed at the same time (they'd been up since 4 am) and I suddenly remembered it was Easter and went to assemble the baskets! Last year I had the flu on Easter and have basically no memories of the holiday at all (sob) because I spent it delirious and feverish in bed and on the couch while James did everything and kept the kids out of the house as much as possible.


I watched all the basket-searching (we hide the baskets. Do other bunnies hide the baskets? My dad always did but James never admits to having any memories of his childhood whatsoever).

I watched the basket openings.

I watched all the basket delighting. Did you know that Claire has ALWAYS WANTED a sunglass holder?! It's true.

My other favorite thing about Landon, besides his love of a coordinated pajama, is how delighted he is by gifts. All gifts. Even everyone else's gifts.

He took Cora on a tour of her own Easter Basket and worked so hard to get her to fall in love with her towel as much as the thought she should.

She was distracted by new maxi dresses and princess gloves.

Our Easter Bunny uses Easter as an excuse to add in a couple fun spring/summer outfits in addition to the swim suits. Each kid got their 6 bottoms/6 tops for everyday summer play clothes once we realized winter was ending in mid-February and everyone had grown too much to wear anything from last year, but who can resist a bonus boho-chic romper for their boho-chic little girl?

This bunny cannot.

Cora got a new nightgown and everyone got sunglasses. Pictures were taken.

After the revelry and eating of peeps, we changed for church (or changed again; my children get dressed IMMEDIATELY upon waking up, always, and are deeply uncomfortable with the suggestion they remain in their pajamas, so the girls already had on potential Easter dresses, only to drop them in favor of NEW Easter dresses in their baskets which is good because Claire has grown like 12 inches in the last few months and everything she owns is too short).

Fancy family!

Church was lovely. It's a beautiful old church and I love some brass and handbells on Easter Sunday.

We ate brunch at Blue Mesa because we ate there when my parents visited in December and they loved it so much they politely demanded to go again. It is the best and they even took call-ahead reservations so we got to sit right down when we arrived! I've never eaten out on Easter Sunday and this was a big success.

After our delicious meal, we said goodbye to PapaGigi and they headed back to Houston.

Cora went down for her nap, James took the big kids out on a long run, and I've been sitting on the couch ever since. Currently on episode 4 of Spring Baking Championship and thinking about eating the last leftover piece of carrot cake before anyone else gets home. I hope you all had a wonderful Easter weekend!