Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Medieval Times

Behold, Sir Landon and the ClaireDragon!

Best friends? Mortal enemies? Two kids totally pumped about Halloween?!

Slaying the dragon; also, possibly knighting the dragon. Unclear.


And Queen Mommy, in her work appropriate Halloween spirited attire!


We got an email last week saying that costumes would be allowed at work, but to "use discretion" and "seek approval if in need of guidance." I used it as an excuse to wear black denim skinny jeans to work on a Wednesday and then threw in my pirate boots (and fun black rhinestone jewelry) for good measure. Spirit! I have it.

Next up, Princess Tex, their loyal sidekick!


(Claire was originally going to be a princess, but she found Landon's old dragon costume in the bin and fell in love with it, and really, it suits her personality so much better. Also, free!)

We were joined by a good friend/fellow SEC attorney and her husband and 2-year-old daughter, which always makes trick-or-treating more fun. The girls rode in the wagon, with Tex taking point, and Sir Landon acting as scout WAY out front.


The kids loved going door-to-door, and though Landon generally raced ahead, he would very patiently wait before ringing the doorbell until the girls caught up. And then, after ensuring that everyone got their candy, he would remind them the toddler set to say thank you before running back down the path.


The whole thing was ridiculously cute.


When we got back to the house each kid got to eat 2-3 pieces of candy and then they all simultaneously exploded into the greatest sugar high I've ever seen. There were 100 rounds (at least) of "Ring-Around-the-Rosy," and the air was filled with giggles.


And LOTS of "all fall downs!!". And more giggles.


It was exactly as Halloween should be. Safe, fun, spirited, and over by 8 p.m. so mommy can take some medicine and upload pictures. Happy Halloween everyone!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Last 4 Days

A summary of the past weekend: Landon threw up 8 times in quick succession on mile 38 of 40 en route to my co-worker's Halloween party in Dallas. We had to strip him down naked in 40-degree weather and bathe him with baby wipes and then use 167 more baby wipes and a whole roll of paper towels (that I, thank God, left in the car after our Colorado road trip) to make the car inhabitable for the ride home. JP and I were both felled with a cold/cough/feverish thing later that night and spent all of Sunday on the couch, getting up only to put in a new Pixar dvd. Claire, vibrantly healthy, potty trained herself with minimal adult supervision or interaction except for the candy corns we tossed her way every time she did another successful pee or poo in the potty. We had one accident in the afternoon when JP and I fell into a stupor and failed to even occasionally ask her if she had to go, which was really our only contribution up to that point. Landon was better on Sunday, but subdued and without any appetite. Our heater broke Friday night and we woke up shivering in a room that was 58 degrees. Luckily, we have two units, and the main part of the house, including the kids' bedroom and guest room were comfortable, but sleeping in the guest room added a new layer of fun to the scratchy throat, stuffy head, tossing and turning nighttime shenanigans. Also, Landon threw up a little in his bed Saturday night and couldn't find us because we weren't in our room where we were supposed to be. Oh, and the neighbors behind us threw a huge Halloween party that blasted loud music we could hear in the guest room until 2:30 a.m. when JP finally called the police. Turns out, the parents were out of town and their newly minted college student invited all his new college friends over for a big outdoor bash. Within about 7 minutes of calling the police, everything went dark and silent and I took another dose of Nyquil and fell asleep.

I remain sick and head to the doctor in a half hour. JP went to the doctor yesterday and is now armed with a Z-pack, but still has all his symptoms. Landon is good. Claire is excellent and marched off to school this morning in her big girl panties, waving to my slumped sweatpants clad form in the car. I might have been wearing crocs. It was a low point, but I couldn't trust JP to get my drive-through Starbucks order right on the way back. I realize now how blessed we've been that in 5+ years of parenting JP and I have never both been sick at the same time. The children are basically raising themselves. And, really, they appear to be doing a fabulous job. Now I'm just waiting for Claire to take apart her crib, put together the extra twin bed, buy a mattress, and get on with the nighttime potty training- she's not yet 2 and a half, but I feel it's a reasonable adjustment of expectations. JP and I will clap from the couch. And throw her a few more candy corns.

In the mean time, I'll be on the couch flipping channels every few minutes because daytime TV is terrible and I've watched every movie we own (apparently we don't own many movies), reading every article about Hurricane Sandy on CNN and feeling a strange mix of shitty and blessed all at the same time.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fall, Finally

Sometimes romance is grand gestures- the candlelight and champagne, other times it's coming home from work to a careful pile of leaves in the front yard and JP saying "I remember you said you used to jump in leaves when you were little; I saved the pile because I thought you'd want to take pictures of the kids doing the same." You guys, I almost teared up a little. There were kisses. Followed by pictures of the day Fall finally came to Fort Worth.

At first, the kids weren't clear on the protocol.


So Daddy showed them the way.


Landon got in the spirit.


Claire just wanted to show off her new purple sparkle boots.


JP thought it would be fun to bury Landon in leaves.


Landon did not agree.


Claire was Concerned.


A Landon emerged (with his face paint from the Halloween Carnival at school earlier in the day).


JP joined in.


Followed by the Bear.


My loves.


Claire and I went inside to make the pizza for dinner. Homemade pizza is a Friday night tradition that is here to stay.


The boys finished up their raking while the pizza dough rose and Claire danced about the kitchen.


Dinner was delicious, as was the candy Landon got to enjoy as a treat for being such a good helper. My headache is improved, though still present (at 4 days, we're setting a new record), and we're all excited about a friend's Halloween party tomorrow. We're less excited about Landon's 8:30 a.m. soccer game on fields that are supposed to be 32 degrees tomorrow morning (well, Claire and I are less excited; JP and Landon are prepared with layers and enthusiasm); I'm thinking Claire and I will sit this one out. Preferably snuggled in my bed with cartoons and blankies and plans for a nice cup of Earl Grey tea. Yay Fall!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Not Operating Heavy Machinery

I've had a splitting headache for the past two days. SPLITTING. HEADACHE. (Shhhhh, no yelling.) As I was explaining to JP, I read a book where one of the main characters had a terrible headache and then suddenly he felt like his head split open and then he went blind and his headache went away. Last night around 3 a.m. when my headache was so bad it woke me up through the haze of a double dose of prescription sleeping pills (and the special prescription headache medicine), I wanted that to happen to me. In the light of day I'm glad I have my sight over a pain-free head, but Claire's exuberant morning bounce onto the bed nearly killed me. I left a message for my doctor and went into work. I don't have many sick hours left and I realized went I went home early yesterday that I don't feel any better being at home- lying down hurts about a million times more than sitting up, so I might as well be in my office.

Now I have Vicodin to take every 6 hours until the pain goes away and an appointment with a neurologist. Excellent, both of them.

My grandpa is doing better but not awesome. Out of the SICU, but still in the hospital; sitting in a chair and walking a little, but with assistance and still in pain. It's as good or better than the surgeon predicted, but it's still hard to think of him as he is now. We were supposed to go to San Antonio to spend Thanksgiving with them, but we now may wait until early December when he's feeling better. Which means we may be spending our first Thanksgiving on our own, in Fort Worth, just the four of us. Which means there's a good chance there will be all starch and veggie side dishes and desserts (and wine) and no turkey, which sounds pretty fantastic.

I'm headed to DC for work in 10 days and will be there over election night. I'm pretty super excited about this. I will also be wretchedly nervous, but this site makes me feel better (odds are currently 71 to 29, Obama). I LOVE LOOOOOOOVE politics and election season. I've never missed a debate and I get unreasonably annoyed when people complain about them. I mean, come on, we vote for President every four years, and three times during this once-every-four-year period the candidates get on the same stage and (sort of) debate each other. Yes there's rules and moderators and canned memorized statements, but still, it's leagues better than the commercials and op-eds. The actual candidates are actually talking back and forth! I've had them marked on my work and personal calendars since the schedule was announced and JP and I are riveted the whole time. We have to pause it every time we start debating among ourselves so that we don't miss anything we can debate or mock later (these days it's mostly mock; we seem to agree on pretty much everything except I'm somehow a straight ticket Democrat and he won't vote for a Democrat for President ever (or a Republican from the last 30 years, so at least we don't cancel each other out)). The point is, yay elections, yay America, yay being in DC for my favorite event every 4 years. Will be fun.

My headaches, and the fact that this one is so bad I can't read, type, or watch TV (until now anyway, on Vicodin #2), have made me spend a lot of time thinking and reconsidering certain lifestyle choices and how, if these are in fact just severe tension headaches, I can make them GO THE HELL AWAY. My thoughts include: regular massage (awesome, with a proven track record, but pricey), actually doing yoga and not just barre class (scary; I'm terrible at yoga; would also require significantly more self-discipline than I seem to have to make myself go (because, again, I'm terrible at yoga)); taking up another form of exercise and doing it regularly (see last entry); cutting out caffeine (I don't drink that much and none after noon, but still, maybe?); eating better (I don't eat badly, but I can definitely eat better, also less); try a lot harder to learn to meditate and then do it (a winning suggestion, though I'm better at yoga than meditating, which is a sad sad statement). Anything to enable me to nod again; all my conversations in the past two days have involved me staring straight ahead without expression, eye movement, or nodding in any way.

I finished Claire's photobook yesterday. I have carpal tunnel from moving 1200 photos and stickers and text boxes millimeters up and back to make the most perfectly perfect pages that I will read 16,000 times over the next few years and my children will probably throw in a box labeled "Stuff" when they go to college. But I love them. I need to start Landon's but feel I should wait until I'm not on hydrocodone. (Blogging though, seems to be a go.)

And with that, I'm off to bed with a hope and a prayer that I will wake up without whimpering. It's going to be a new day! A new day of productive work, eye movement, and head nods! Also, Friday!


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cheese, a Series

The kids had "Halloween shirt day" at school last week and I tried to get a good shot of them in their festive attire before we scattered for the day.

Tried, being the operative word.

Claire, Claire look up!

No, wait, down a little.

Now, to the right.

Left! Wait, Landon I'm losing you.

Claire, focus!

I've lost them.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Looking for Level

I mentioned ups and downs a week ago, but they were nothing compared to the ups and downs of the past few days.

JP continues to job search. He has resumes out at three Fort Worth companies (and several out of state companies), each of which he's had some sort of lead or contact with. There's hope, but not much progress. Sometimes I forget he's unemployed- since he's worked from home the past 7 months, it doesn't seem like much has changed. The kids just have a shorter day at school (they've switched to the part-time program, which is 9-2:30, 5 days a week) and he does all the pick-ups and drop-offs. Then there's also the evenings where he's depressed or frustrated and I can't help him, or the times I'm annoyed at something little but feel like I can't/shouldn't bother him with it, but then if I don't, I end up stewing on it and mess up the fact that our relationship is founded on the fact that we're both upfront about things like that and fix it early.

So you know, other than that, it's like nothing has changed.


Our realtor had the virtual tour done for our house in case we need to list it. We toured a (much) smaller (cheaper) home in a nearby neighborhood with a better elementary school. Our future is full of contingencies right now. Fully researched, carefully considered contingencies.


JP turned 31 on Thursday. The kids were overjoyed. JP was reflective and sad going in (lying in bed Wednesday night, "this is just not where I thought I'd be at 31."), but enjoyed the surprise Angry Birds breakfast when he got home from swim practice and dinner of pad thai and cookie cake (the homemade cake did not work out, but all the batter I ate in the process was still delicious).

I made up the table before the kids woke up and Landon was so excited he decided to hide to surprise JP when he got home from swimming. I tried to warn him that it would be a while, but Landon crouched behind the chair in the living room for 25 solid minutes, only to be overcome and jump out of his spot as soon as he saw JP's lights pulling up the driveway at 7:30 a.m., totally blowing the surprise factor. His face when he realized he was out of position when JP walked in the door was priceless and adorable. Claire sang "Happy Birt-day to Clairebear" on a continuous loop, occasionally replacing her name with "daddy," and always dancing and smiling with joy. It's hard not to love a birthday with kids around. So, up.


Then, down. On Friday my grandpa took a sharp turn for the worse in his recovery from spinal surgery. I hadn't written about his troubles yet, mostly because I just kept thinking they'd go away. The persistence of them, and how deeply they've started to affect him, finally hit me this week. He is, was until recently, the most active, loud, inquisitive, caring, positive, hard-working, stubborn, OPTIMISTIC person I know. I used to call him on a bad day in law school just to get the 4-minute "you're wonderful" pep talk he and my grandma invariably dished out (not that they knew I was calling for that purpose, but they never talk long, and they always make you feel a combination of warm and fuzzy and f-ing amazing every time by the time you hang up). I love him very much.

at Silver Lake in 2010

He's been in pain for months from long-time complications from ejecting him his shot-down fighter jet in Vietnam (a move that earned him a Purple Heart and compressed spinal nerves) and he recently had surgery to improve the situation. And it seemed the situation was improved, but then the pain came back, much more severe than before. It was constant and it was wearing on him in a way I don't think we, or certainly not I, fully understood. By Sunday, he couldn't get out of bed and was transferred by ambulance to the hospital. He had surgery again on Wednesday but was not doing well. He called me on accident Friday and our 90-second conversation had me crying in my office for a half hour. He wasn't lucid. He told me three times "I'm just not doing well, I'm just not doing well." I didn't know who that man was.


We drove to Austin Friday afternoon. We had been planning to go on Saturday, to stay with close friends and celebrate JP's birthday with a double-date night at our favorite restaurant (Moonshine, get the trout with cornbread stuffing), with Natalie (former part-time nanny) babysitting the four kids. All four of us couldn't wait. We moved the trip to Friday because of a scheduling conflict with Natalie and to allow us time to drive to San Antonio to see my grandparents if possible and needed. My mom was there, her two sisters and brother had all been there, and everyone was taking 2 days at a time to keep my grandma company as she tried to keep up with my grandpa and the doctors at the hospital.

We had an amazing time out with our friends on Friday. Moonshine had a 90 minute wait, but we got some drinks, tucked ourselves in the corner of the patio, and talked non-stop. JP and M talking about entrepreneurial plans; J and me talking about everything from babies to law firms, to raising children without eating disorders to euthanasia (it was that point of the convo that the husbands checked in and then immediately checked back out, and our parallel conversations resumed). Dinner (and the shared conversation) was amazing. The drinks were even better. We stopped at not one, but TWO bars on the way home and pulled back up at their house minutes before midnight. I barely recognized us. And the whole time I kept checking my phone and reading updates from my mom, "Gpa very fevered, labored breathing, not lucid at all." "Gma is scared, having trouble keeping tears away." And then I'd feel bad I was laughing so hard with the boys and J between the texts.


On Saturday morning we went on our favorite Austin hike, with J and M's little girl showing great prowess as a "hikist" and their 9-month-old slumped in a happy little ball in Claire's hiking backpack. I talked to my mom while jumping on rocks across a small stream. My grandpa was doing better, he was in the surgical ICU, visitors were tightly regulated and my uncle was flying back in. They were glad we offered to come, but thought we should wait until Thanksgiving as planned.


We went back to our friends' house and spent a couple hours lightly supervising the four kids playing with each other (except for their 9-month-old, who I stole for my exclusive entertainment at all opportunities), watching football, and eating Mexican food. We headed home at 2:30, 22 hours after arriving, feeling like it was a fantastic trip, even given how surreal it was to have such a sharp, bright amount of fun amidst a backdrop of so much worry and tears. It was, I think, exactly what we needed.

Today we found a new park and river in Fort Worth to jump around on and explore. We climbed a rock mountain, scurried up ropes, and flew high on swings. We grocery shopped. We picked up acorns in the front yard. I made my mom's spaghetti sauce. My Grandpa continues to improve in lucidity, if not pain management. JP is next to me. I feel very peaceful, despite the stress that I know lurks within (and despite the hour of zombie fighting Walking Dead gore I just watched).

As my grandma always says, life is good. Even while it sometimes is not.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


The past week has had some ups and downs (and downer downs), rendering each day's potential post either unbloggable, depressing, mundane, or a combination of all three. My job is good, though generally unbloggable, JP's job search continues and all potential posts on that front are also unbloggable but for entirely different reasons, and the kids are doing great, but with no new changes or pictures, though just for some color, here is one of my favorite pics from Colorado that I failed to include in the last post):

So, food! That's always an upper for me. As I mentioned before, now that we are reserving restaurants solely for vacations and very special occasions (like being in Colorado, the land of microbreweries), and now that I have an extra hour to kill each evening, I am researching and testing lots of new recipes.

This week's menu:

Sunday: Greek pita pizzas with tzatziki sauce

Zomg I made this one up as I went along and it was so good. We went a little crazy in Costco and Trader Joe's on Saturday and ended up with a big bag of fresh naan (soft thick delicious Indian bread), huge carton of Roma tomatoes, pint of kalamata olives, and pint of feta cheese (and bag of 8 avocados, but we'll get to those later). For this meal I put all the pieces of naan bread on a big sheet pan, coated each with a little bit of olive oil, and topped them with feta, sliced kalamatas, and a little shredded mozzarella and stuck them in the oven for 350 for about 10 minutes. While that was baking, I tossed together diced cucumber, diced tomato, a few more kalamatas, feta, and a dressing of olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano, kosher salt, and fresh cracked pepper and let them all mesh and marry each other. Once I pulled the bread out, I topped each with the fresh, cold salad and served it with TJ tzatziki sauce on the side. They were SO GOOD. Each kid ate an entire one, I ate 2, and JP ate 3. Oh, there was also rice pilaf on the side, but really, it was all about the Greek naan pizza goodness.

Monday: Chicken lasagna rolls, garlic bread

A family favorite and excellent make-ahead recipe.

8 lasagna noodles
1 rotisserie chicken, shredded
2 eggs
2 c. mozzarella cheese (I usually use 1-1.5)
1 15 oz. container ricotta cheese
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 c. parsley, divided
1 jar prepared spaghetti sauce (I usually do a quick homemade tomato cream sauce, per Pioneer Woman's recipe)

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Cook and drain pasta.
3. In large bowl combine eggs, cheeses, 1/2 parsley, chicken, salt, basil, and pepper.
4. Spread 1/8. cheese mix on each lasagna noodle. Roll up jelly-roll fashion. Cut each roll in half (so you have two "shorter" jelly rolls).
5. Arrange in single layer in 9x13 baking dish. Spoon sauce over top; cover with foil.
6. Bake 45 min. ENJOY.

Tuesday: Southwestern quinoa salad, homemade guacamole, chips

Another recipe made up on the fly for the sole purpose of healthy eating and using up cartons of vegetables (avocados and tomatoes, which are actually fruits; actually, they're ovaries, thank you to my biology teacher mom for making me think that every time I eat a fruit). I've been wanting to try quinoa and was wooed by an advertisement for a "tasty and healthy" bag of organic red quinoa at Trader Joe's on Saturday. The back of the bag had a recipe for a black bean, tomato, and corn salad that sounded good, so I took that idea as inspiration and ran with it.

I put the quinoa on the stove to cook (takes about 20 mins) and got to dicing- 4 tomatoes (the kids are obsessed with tomatoes and will eat them like apples for snacks), 3 avocados, a can of black beans, some grilled chicken strips (pre-cooked, from TJ's), diced onion I'd soaked in lime juice (takes the bite out of them, particularly if you're like me and don't like onions but have some to use up), and a handful of cilantro. I threw that in a big bowl with a bag of frozen corn that I charred in a saute pan on the stove and a quick dressing of lime juice, olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar, and more diced cilantro. I tossed all that together and put it in the fridge with the cooked quinoa (separately, the quinoa was still really hot) to cool, and then served them together about 20 minutes later. Again, kids and JP loved it, and we ate it with homemade guac (even more avocados, finely diced tomatoes, crushed garlic, salt, lemon, and a bit of the diced onion soaked in lime juice because I really needed to use up that onion) and TJ blue corn chips (because JP insists they are far tastier than yellow corn chips).

Wednesday: Raviolis with tomato cream sauce, salad

Refrigerated chicken and mozzarella raviolis from Costco and the leftover half of the double batch of tomato cream sauce I made on Monday. We'll eat it with a salad and the last tomato.

Thursday (JP's birthday): takeout thai, homemade yellow cake with chocolate fudge frosting

Can you believe this Tuesday is Oct. 18th? I was planning out our meals for the week on Sunday and put some random frozen meal for Thursday and JP said, "oh, for my birthday? okay." And even though of course I knew his birthday with on the 18th, and I've had his card and presents ready for weeks, I did not know until that moment that the 18th was in the middle of this week! How did we get so far into October already? Anyway, his choice of meals is thai takeout and yellow cake with chocolate frosting. I'm making the latter from scratch because birthdays involve homemade meals in my family and I can't help that Thai Select makes better pad thai than I do.

Friday: homemade pizza

A family tradition. Thick crust, sliced up meatballs (from frozen), pepperonis, and black olives. And another one that's just cheese because JP is boring and doesn't like processed meats.

And that's it! Now I'm getting back to my Shutterfly photo albums (almost done!!) and proofing JP's various resumes and cover letters.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Family Summit

We pulled into our driveway at 9:38 p.m. last time (the exact time I predicted when we were driving through Amarillo many hours earlier; it's a gift wrought from a childhood of road trips) and I realized in that moment how much this house has become home- and oh, did it feel good to be here. We tucked our little troopers in bed, unpacked the car and suitcases (I can't go to sleep without unpacking, it's one of my more charming quirks), and crawled into bed ourselves. I woke up with my "maybe I have a bit of a cold" having morphed into a "oh crap this is going to be a real thing" thing that is keeping me on the couch hacking up my lungs and watching an all day marathon of House instead of working. On the upside, you get to see more of my vacation pictures.

Hit it!

After a Saturday of freezing temperatures, short hikes, and home cooking (and NAPS! naps for everyone!), we decided to take a drive to Idaho Springs on Sunday to visit JP's favorite restaurant in the whole world- the Tommyknocker brewery on exit 240 off I-70 between Denver and the ski slopes. We stop there every time we go on a Colorado vacation, this is just the first time we weren't here to ski.

Like everywhere in Colorado, the drive along Highway 6 between Golden and Idaho Springs is absurdly beautiful. We pulled over on the side of the road several times to do some little hikes.

hopping between rocks on a river is pretty much my favorite outdoor activity

jumping in for a swim

Hmmm, where to next?

Since we weren't on a rush to get to the slopes, we got to walk around the town of Idaho Springs a bit after our meal. I love that just strolling the sidewalks in a mountain town offers you the kind of beautiful views we drove 13 hours to see. I wonder if you stop noticing if you live there every day?


Because I have nostalgia issues with family vacations, particularly camping/Colorado family vacations, I felt compelled to buy the kids rock candy ("just like mommy used to eat!"). It was pretty much a highlight of their trip.

Each kid also got to pick out one souvenir. Landon is now the proud owner of a small glass vial of gold flakes (appropriately "Golden") and Claire has a purple mini pillow pet fairy ladybug thing, which has no connection to Colorado except that we bought it there. She found it in a store, immediately popped open the pillow feature, and tested it out in full napping position on the floor. Once purchased, she showed both her bug and her candy off to everyone we passed on the street.


Once we finally got back to Golden (after stopping again several times on the drive home, we love us some rock hopping) my sister suggested a local hike up Lookout Mountain. It was a very fitting last hike of the trip. Beautiful views, great rocks, lots of pictures.

Denver in the distance

Daddy and his little sidekick

on the edge

Me and my sister and little baby boy

Val and Billy and their children dogs

So beautiful. Also, handsome.

Whoah there!

It was such a great trip. I unabashedly love family vacations. Love. Them. Even spending two of the five days in the car was part of the fun (just perhaps not the very most fun part) because they were two days we spent together. JP likes to drive, I like to sit cross legged in the passenger seat and dole out snacks and read aloud from the Economist (driver's choice). The kids were so good and Claire was just thrilled to have us all in the same room all day. I loved seeing my sister and Colorado might be the only place I love as much as Chicago.

On one of our drives, I think to Idaho Springs, while the kids were in their car seats singing the ABCs for the sixteen thousandth time, and I was forcing JP to hold my hand as we swerved through mountain passes looking for a particularly good set of rocks to pull over and attempt to climb, I looked at him and said with a huge grin, "you know, this is exactly what I saw when I pictured my future with kids."


Landon correcting Claire's "Q-R-X" version of the ABCs, Claire loudly singing "Q-R-X" over and over again just to annoy him, JP happy because there's little he likes more than driving along mountains, and me smiling because yes, this is exactly how I hoped it would be.