Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I'm Here! Briefly. Kind of.

Just a placeholder to say, hey!, it's been almost a week since my last post, which is unusually long for me, but I'm here! Kind of. Totally on my way to bed, actually, but here. Things have been busy. Good, but busy with the kids and work and the swim school (omg the swim school emails, I am severely underpaid for my role with that company) and JP and backyard swimming and cooking and barre class and a minor work crisis and more swimming and then Cora discovering we have a dog.

Whaaaaaat, what IS this?

But I want to write. I miss writing. I know it's only been 6 days, but I spent one insomniatic night reading old posts and ended up in 2012 and re-read the posts and comments when JP lost his job and you guys were so wonderful and the virtual support network of this blog was so VITALLY important to me at that time, you really have no idea. Things were so very hard. In fact, one of my second biggest thoughts upon reading it (after, thank god for my kind, comment-writing, support-giving readers) was "wow, I was so restrained!" It was really hard, but we're past it, and I'm so thankful for those who were there then and are still here for the rather boring good stuff I write about now.

So more writing will come. I need to catch up on some sleep, something I'm already failing at seeing as how it's 11:20 p.m., but I do have some answers to the Q&A's, which are always fun and thought-provoking for me to write, some new pictures (spoiler alert: swimming, the kids, and Cora are involved) to post, and some thoughts on daycare and kids and why it's been awesome for us.

In the meantime, here's some proof of life photos from dinner last night:

Cora loves the baby in the phone.

Claire dubbed this a "girls' picture" and she needed to be part of it, obvs.

Then Cora was all, hey, you guys, that phone looks delicious, I'll get it for us, 'kay? I'M ON IT!


My catlike reflexes saved the phone, and Cora rededicated her evening's work to pulling up on my chair and begging for treats.

God, I really don't think it is possible to enjoy a baby more. That she is nearly 9 months old causes me daily heartache and I have never been one to want to linger on the baby times. 

Off to bed, more to come! One day, soon (ish)!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Family Portraits

I mentioned that we did our family portraits a few weeks ago. It was super hot, super sticky, and about 110% humidity; I didn't have time to do my hair; and I didn't plan for JP and I to even be in the pictures until about 15 minutes before we were supposed to leave, so while I loved the kids outfits and they were in a GREAT mood that morning and we super cooperative, I was too sweaty and frizzy to have super high expectations for the final product. When I opened the gallery from the photographer last week, I was really just hoping to have an individual portrait of each kid and maybe ONE good picture of the three kids together.

And we got them. With a few extra besides.

(My little brother captioned the one above as "Cheese." "Cheeeeese." "I pooped!" and now that's all I can see when I look at it. But I still love it just the same. Or maybe even more.)

I haven't gotten individual portraits of the kids since 2012, so I was really happy to get a few individual shots of my babies at 7 and 4.



And of course a few of our baby Cora. When I scheduled the session back in February I thought June would give us a Cora who could sit up and smile, but who wouldn't be mobile yet. Then she started crawling in April, so yeah, that didn't work out, but we still got some good shots! The bow she's wearing is the one I bought the week we found out we were having another girl (and that she's wearing in her newborn portraits) and I just love that.

I love this one- totally captures Cora's "of course I can do all the big kid things" attitude. So she's sure she can go over the ladder, she juuuust might need a sec to figure out how. Also, thigh rolls and wrist rolls and elbow rolls. Two thumbs up.

And we even got a good one of the family! As I said above, I only decided to add JP and I at the last minute, so I hate my hair here (I did not set my alarm to early "get myself pretty" o'clock, just the latest possible "get the kids dressed and out the door" time), but everyone else looks good.

We got several good ones of JP and Cora, but this is my favorite - long live the chins!

And one of me and my smiley smiley girl. Cora took her modeling very seriously, so these are the only big smiles we got on film. She does love to fly (and dance and twirl and do pretty much anything involvement movement, music, and/or her family people).

Another family shot. I'd given in to the humidity and pulled my hair back, and yet still, my now absent hair remains my least favorite part of this picture.

Claire asked to do a picture with sunglasses, and I, THRILLED by the idea that someone else in my house was excited about family pictures, readily agreed to add some sunglass shots at the end. As you can see, Claire was super excited about this. Cora was more "wtf" about it and Landon was just excited to be allowed to pick-up the baby. (Sweet aside: tonight he asked me for a small picture of Cora that he could put in a little frame to keep by his treasure box in his room "and then take with me when I move to my own house one day." It was a double emotional whammy. That kid...)

Cora was pretty over it, but Claire was in full model mode. Girl loooves her accessories.

I love all the pictures, but this is the one I put in the frame on my bedside table. You can't see their faces very well, but it just captures them so perfectly.

I have about 50 more on the CD and I really just couldn't be happier with what our photographer did with an hour on a super humid morning at our favorite local park. I've loved every year with the kids, and I expect to love every one in the future, but this first year as a family of five has been particularly magical- the big kids just love Cora so much and she adores them right back and I'm so glad I have some portraits that come close to capturing that.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Swim Meets and Scrubby Saturdays

I'm doing it again. I don't know what is happening to my weeks- they're a blur of insomnia, work, driving too far to summer camp, barre class, yoga, helping JP with swim school stuff, and reading my new series (The Hollows by Kim Harrison; I doubted during book 1 but I am currently in book 4 and completely addicted) with my head resting in his lap while he responds to his 100 daily emails on his computer into the wee hours of the next day's morning. But the weekends- on the weekends I do things and I photograph them!

On this particular weekend my mom came into town to watch Landon's championship swim meet on Saturday. On Friday we went to lunch and shopped, as we do (for the record I went to DSW and bought nothing, such is my restraint as I look toward Fall boots season), and then we picked up the kids early so they could swim and play in the unusually chilly July temperatures. This picture is blurry because my camera was dying, but it so perfectly captures Cora's life: between two siblings; smiling.

Saturday morning brought the regional championship swim meet- 15 teams, several hundred swimmers, at a nice natatorium about 40 minutes away. We drove out in two fleets- Landon and JP leaving super early for warm-up and the four ladies following behind 45 minutes later. Claire insisted on wearing her "beautifuldress" (one word) from my sister's rehearsal dinner, which went perfectly with my jean shorts, purple workout top (team color!), and running shoes. Cora bridged the gap in her cute bubble and my mom, as always, was the most put together of us all.

Cora was highly entertained by my mom's multitude rings and bracelets- WAY more interesting than her own mom's solo wedding rings + wedding watch combo.

She was her typically amazing third baby self, smiling her way through a very late breakfast, missed morning nap, and inability to crawl, and she took her swim meet watching very seriously before falling asleep without my realizing it, and then staying asleep through our loud cheering for Landon's last event.

And Landon, who was the point of this whole endeavor, did GREAT!

Lane 3, purple cap, tiny swimmer

We're still waiting on final results (6 & Under's aren't so good at hitting the digital touch pads, so they have to input all the back-up timers' data and they weren't posted yet when we left), but it looked like he got 3rd in free and 2nd or 3rd in back, which was fantastic, especially for his first swim season!

Tiny and unusually fierce and focused

Next year both kids can be on the team and even though some aspects of swim team are a pain in the neck (like all the meets being an hour away), I have really, really enjoyed being a swim team parent. When you combine a sport I actually know the rules of, with my own impossibly happy memories of swim team summers, with the inherent fairness that comes with separate lanes and an impartial clock to judge the races, AND the joy of seeing your child enjoy his first athletic success and suddenly the early morning drives to other area codes don't seem so bad.

My mom especially loved being in the stands. Swim team was such a huge part of our childhood- all 3 of us were on the team and my mom was the ultra-spirited team manager (and at one point, reluctant head coach), and we walked to our little neighborhood pool each morning and stayed until we were water logged sun burnt. We hosted pep rallies, made giant signs to hang along meet routes, and had mixed tapes of Queen "pump up" music going in the car, and even now, all three Rice kids still hold at least one team or pool record from the early 90's. Being in the stands brought back all kinds of happy memories and made me seriously think about joining summer league next summer (adults can compete at the meets, but would it make me sad to be slower than my 11-12 age group record? Maybe, but I think it would be fun if JP and I both did it. Maybe?).

First meet shirt!

We celebrated the day with post-meet-pizza while JP raced off to coach his Saturday lessons. My mom headed home, my dad having just landed in Houston from his business trip to Taipei and both of them anxious to reunite and head to the lake. JP came home and we decided to seize the unseasonably cool temperatures (it was 78 degrees at 2 p.m. in the middle of July, 108 would be much more normal) and clean every inch of the exterior of our house. Ugh, we're such grown-ups.

Spot the scrubbing JP!

I adore our window-covered glass house every day, except the ones I decide we need to clean them. That goes for the 50 sky lights as well.

The kids were awesome helpers. Seriously, they scrubbed all the window sills, the floorboards around the patio, and the tile lining the pool. JP did the skylight work, trimming, hedging, and more. And I cleaned the inside and outside of every single window in the house, removing the wood blinds and scrubbing every inch. All the front windows are original to our 1940's house and it had clearly been a while since someone had taken them to task. Oy. Cora supervised.

We celebrated our sparkling home with dinner out on a patio, belatedly realizing that a few years ago that's what we would have thought to do with a cool July day in the first place.

Today has felt like a bonus day- lots of swimming, a little more scrubbing (Claire really likes her sponge; Sharkie is getting a bath as I type by the pool (or I was, Cora woke up and interrupted me), and a week's worth of meal planning and to-do list writing. After 2 birthdays, 2 birthday parties, a destination wedding, a season of summer league, and a busy testimony schedule, I feel like we finally have summer mostly under control, just in time to take a few breaths before getting ready for school!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


As of yesterday morning at 6:04 a.m. the Lanman is 7. Seven! I've probably written this exact phrase every year since he turned 3ish, but 7 is like a legit big kid age.

He has giant puppy feet and will be heading to college sometime in the next few months.


I'm not one to lament the passing of years. I feel like I squeeze every drop I can from each day, and while yes the kids are growing up quicker than the slow passage of time before JP comes home would seem to imply, I've enjoyed the heck out of all the years after 2007 and Cora's rather exceptional babyhood not withstanding, I seem to enjoy the kids even more the bigger they get. Which is all to say, I'm not sad he's 7, but I am rather surprised that he was blowing 7 candles out of his double dark chocolate brownie cake instead of say 5 or 6.

birthday donut with a birthday dino

Landon's day began, per our new tradition, with an early morning special donut trip with JP. Landon, being Landon, asked many times if Claire would come. "But this is a special trip with dad!" I tried to explain. "But Claire loves donuts!" Landon patiently explained back. I told him he could pick out any donut he wanted for his sister, and after double-checking that he could pick out a really BIG donut for Claire, he set out in the car with JP. For the record, Claire didn't give a backwards glance to her Yandon when she skipped out the door for her birthday morning donut.

B-Day continued with summer camp, JP picking Landon up super early (I think he was there for 4 hours, which has basically been the theme of this summer) so Landon could go to swim practice and participate in the team swim-a-thon which involved swimming a record number of laps and then running- basically the opposite of anything I'd want to do on my birthday, and then coming to Landon's favorite dinner (meatball strogranoff) and his carefully and agonizingly selected birthday dessert of brownie sundaes.

Presents were opened.

A monogrammed swim bag from us ("Mom! This bag has my letters on it!") with extra jammer swim suit for swim team and the game of Battleship, and a giant lego set from my parents:

Plus cards and phone calls and checks for college savings accounts. Landon actually tapped out about halfway through eating his double dark chocolate chip ganache-iced brownie with chocolate sprinkles (topped with ice cream, whipped cream, and a cherry), deciding his tummy couldn't take anymore, but Claire powered right through her whole bowl. The girl is a force.

All in all I think it was a good day for our Landon. Every time I watch him with his little sisters I think that he is really the glue that holds our three happy kids together. I think it's his mellow, all-inclusive, non-possessive, non-aggressive, will-probably-live-in-a-hippie-commune someday self that sets the tone for Claire as a big sister to Cora. Landon delights in his sisters being part of whatever he is doing. He wants to help, wants to hold Cora, wants Claire to be involved in whatever he's doing. If he loves a toy he wants you to touch it, play with it, take it home and keep it! He is excited about EVERYTHING but gimme-ish about nothing. He's honestly just really fun to have around.

Smart and artistic, popular and inclusive, athletic, active, and yet a bit of an old soul. He's nothing JP and I ever imagined as a combination of our DNA and we find him as surprising as we do generally awesome.

So Happy Birthday Lanman! We really are enjoying each year more than the last.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Another Weekend Recap!

So I asked for writing prompts in the last post (keep em coming!  I'll work on them this week) so that I wouldn't just recap weekends, but that's exactly what I'm about to do anyway.  Because this weekend- this weekend that looked so empty on my calendar, was wonderful.  Busy and full and fun and simple.  I truly love days spent with just our little family.  It's why I'm so bad about play dates- I share my kids and husband all week; on the weekends, I just want to marinate in the five of us.  And for the most part, that's exactly what we did.

Ooh, though first I found new jeans and wore them to work on Friday! I'd just been lamenting my lack of jeans when I remembered my mom had mailed me some from her favorite consignment store when I was pregnant with Cora. Since I was in no condition to be wearing designer denim, I'd thrown them in the back of my closet and forgot about them for the last year or so only to rediscover them Friday morning, spend 7 minutes wiggling in to them (no exaggeration), and love them! And by the 3rd time I went to the bathroom on Friday (I was loving my new jasmine green tea), I was down to taking only 3 minutes to pull them up.

Something to wear on casual Friday!

On Friday night there was swimming.  After days of avoiding our backyard because of the terrible and aggressive swarms of angry mosquitoes (I once looked over and poor sweet Cora had 3 on her face! at one time! it's really hard to resist the instinct to slap a mosquito when you see one, even, or maybe even especially, on your baby's face), I finally called a local company that specializing in mosquito yard treatments and asked them to bring all their chemicals and I would bring my check book.  We have been mosquito free for 5 days now and it was worth every penny.

enjoying our pool for the first night in over a week!

diving practice!

just chillin

Cora is such a water baby. I love the tableau of this picture: Claire on the shallow steps, Landon doing something in the middle, JP's back looking muscular, and Cora- our 8 month old- just hanging out alone in the deep end.

Third baby!

Cora even had her first "lesson" with some floating. She found it hilarious.

The official weekend began with us waking up super early on Saturday morning and throwing everyone in the car with a few snacks and a towel to drive 50 miles to Landon's swim meet.  This was the first time we all got to go together (JP rearranged his lessons so he would teach them all on Sunday) and it was so fun.  I mean, we left late, arrived 5 seconds before Landon's first event, and forgot any sort of chair, blanket, sun shade, and/or baby carrying device, but other than that, I really feel like we have the hang of being swim team parents.

cheering section

Though, when you travel with the celebrity that is "Coach JP(!!!!)", you really don't need to bring anything- seats, shade, baby-holding arms are thrust upon you. Cracks me up.

Landon swam great, winning and dropping time in both events.  He remains undefeated this season, which he doesn't seem to realize is kind of a big deal, though I did find a crumpled blue ribbon in his bed that he'd been sleeping with all last week.  I carefully smoothed it out, labeled it, and put it in his memory box.  It's fun watching him really enjoy and really "get" a sport- he liked soccer and basketball, but he genuinely wanted everyone to have a chance with the ball, including members of the opposite team, so swimming, with its nice segmented lanes and no need to steal the ball from someone else, works very well for him.

Claire and Cora were great supporters, Cora by not complaining when she had to skip a nap and we fed her breakfast about 3 hours late (not exaggerating, she is the easiest, happiest baby EVER) and Claire by loudly and enthusiastically yelling "GO YANDON!" every few seconds, including all the seconds her Yandon was not actually swimming (which, is the vast majority of the swim meet seconds).

On Saturday night JP and I went on a date.  Our beloved babysitter is headed to college soon (Hook 'Em!) and we felt it was important to book her one last time.  Also a new restaurant opened up that we've been wanting to try and "halfway through summer swim lesson season" seemed like a valid reason to celebrate.  I wore a new dress I bought at Ross a few weeks ago and Claire walked in our bathroom, eyes wide, and breathed, "Mommy, you look so BEAUTIFUL!"  When I added lipstick, she exclaimed, "You don't even look like a mommy anymore!".  Potentially a backhanded compliment, but she said it so sweetly and reverently, I knew she meant it with her whole little heart and it made me smile all night.

Cora was unimpressed

Our dinner at AF+B was amazing.  I loved everything about it - the decor, the menu, the service, the specialty drinks.  I loved that the food was not only better than anything I can make, it was food I'd never even think to make.  The chorizo scotch eggs (soft cooked eggs wrapped in chorizo and fried- what?!), the beef short rib over grits and crispy hominy, the goat cheese dark chocolate swirl brownie... so, so good.  A perfect date night restaurant and JP and I both enjoyed every bite.

Today began with JP and Landon's traditional Sunday run.  Today it was 5 miles (Landon bikes alongside JP) and I love that it's something they do together and they always try to beat their last pace and time and mileage.  I took the girls on a 3 mile power-walk and then we all jumped in the pool.  JP had to go coach lessons and the kids and I swam, ate lunch, went to Trader Joe's, and swam some more.  Landon got a gift card to Target for his birthday (coming up in 2 days!), so we let him spend it on Saturday on the way home from the meet.  He agonized over his choices, finally settling on a lego set and an inflatable shark.  The shark has become an important member of our family.

Claire gave detailed instructions that she NOT be flipped over.

Sharkie didn't listen.

Cora in particular appeared to have the Best Day Ever today.  Everything was hilarious and she kept laughing so hard she'd fall over.  This picture tries, but still doesn't quite come close to capturing how funny she was this afternoon.

She fell over seconds after this one and laughed her whole way down (and back up).

There was more swimming when JP got home, I had the jambox streaming my "tween" station from Pandora, and then I made these enchiladas for dinner (SO good; make them, and make them with the homemade black refried beans she links to in the ingredients).  Claire got a bit hunk of goat cheese in one of her bites and her eyes got huge as soon as she started chewing.  I was worried the taste would be too much for her, but as soon as she could talk she exclaimed, "What was that THAT?!  It was like butter or something DELICIOUS!".  She and Landon had a full plate of seconds; there were no leftovers.

Other than my failure to go to bed as early as planned tonight, I'd say it was pretty much the perfect weekend!