Sunday, November 30, 2014

Snow Fun Family Turkey!

We got back from Steamboat last night at 10:30 p.m. after 15 hours of driving and I can't even complain about it. The kids were so good, even though we left our DVD holder with all our movies back at the condo (we had The Santa Clause, which my parents had just given the kids, so we watched that twice), and Cora was so good, even though she was sick and running a fever every time the ibuprofen wore off, and JP drove the WHOLE way and I barely ever even had to crawl in the back and do anything to pretend to be busy. So I read a book and voluntarily listened to college football games on XM radio and squeezed JP's hand every few seconds to let him know I cared and that he needed to stay awake.

It was such a fun trip. Our vacations are always fun- we love going places with the kids, but Colorado is particularly magical. I really don't know why we don't live there.

There's just something about vacations that makes memories brighter. We always enjoy the kids, and our weekends at home always seem fun even at their most mundane, but vacations are just more.

More fun.

More vivid.

More of all the best things. They really do contain my brightest memories of each year.

We spent Wednesday hiking in a winter wonderland of deep powder and partially hidden frozen ponds.

I asked Claire if this made her just like Elsa and she said maybe, but we need a castle. And we should be wearing beautiful dresses.

Cora was rolling her eyes during this conversation.

We stopped in downtown Steamboat Springs to walk around and Cora was really excited to be inside the stores.

As it turns out Cora thinks snow is about as awesome as cake. And by awesome I mean completely terrible.

Luckily there was a cozy condo with a cozy crib and she took a 4 hour nap each day and slept for 12 hours each night. Tolerating vacations is exhausting. While she rebuilt her strength, I prepped dinner (SO happy to be in a functioning kitchen again) and JP took the kids out back to play in the snow.

And by play in the snow, I mean spend 5 hours constructing an awesome sledding course with ramp system and the greatest snow fort every created.

Claire sled for 4 hours without pause.

Landon too.

And JP built this entire snow castle with his bare hands (plus a pocket knife to cut out the door, window, stairs, and slide).

I ventured out every so often to sled a few times and compliment the architect and by 5 p.m. it was nearly dark, Cora was still asleep, and I was drinking wine on the balcony watching the construction and sledding continue below. It was wonderful.

My parents and brother arrived about 7 and my sister and Billy arrived a few minutes after and everyone was eating my dinner and drinking wine and sledding in the dark.

On Thursday we set out on another hike, a much longer one with even better views.

Claire got a few assists, but hiked the majority of it herself.

Thanksgiving dinner was catered and delicious and then there was lots more sledding and some outdoor swimming (heated pool!) and then Cards Against Humanity playing after the kids were in bed.

On Friday we went on a snowmobile tour (Cora went to Steamboat kiddie camp) higher up in the mountains.

Landon rode with my dad and Claire bounced between me and my mom. We stopped at a point where you could see 170 miles into Wyoming. Beyond beautiful. We capped the day off with a trip to the Old Town Hot Springs. JP and I raced down the giant water slides about 20 times (Landon too) and everyone boiled themselves in the outdoor pools. My sister made dinner, the ladies dominated at Cranium, and then JP set a World Record in the Paper Bag Pick-Up Game (sadly, not pictured). Then we woke up at 6 a.m. and packed up the car and drove 950 miles home.

Snow + fun + family. What could be better?!

(Other than avoiding the drive and just living there in the first place.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Heaven, Fireside

I write this curled up in an over-sized chair in front of a fire. Feet up, jammies on, music playing softly in the background- a glass of red wine to my left and JP to my right, in a gorgeous condo in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. It's our Thanksgiving vacation and it's wonderful.

~ ~ ~

We left yesterday morning at 7:30 a.m. Leaving the dust and chaos and kitchenlessness of Fort Worth behind, we drove to Colorado Springs, making it in time for an early dinner at maybe the best and most charming Colorado brewpub we've found yet! The Bristol Brewing Company, housed in a schoolhouse from 1916 and offering a fab honey wheat beer, some of the best giant pretzels I've ever had, and a delightful chicken and goat cheese and who knows what else sandwich on homemade focaccia. You should go. They have other things too, like homemade wheat crackers. Cora recommends them.

The car ride went great. And at only 10.5 hours, it was a pretty easy day. We stopped twice, for gas and potty breaks, watched 1 movie, and did a lot of coloring (kids), reading (me), and making Cora giggle (all of us) before arriving in town for dinner at 5. We then went to our hotel- the first hotel room we've ever stayed at with the kids (it's not a vacation unless we have separate bedrooms, I believe this FIRMLY and thus hotel rooms are never an option, but JP REALLY wanted to hike the Manitou Incline again and the full 16 hour drive to Steamboat seemed a little much, so I bent a little, just this once, and ended up in a room with all of my children and the lights off 8:15 p.m.). The big kids were blown away by the luxury of our $75 room- our own bathroom! an ironing board in the closet! a tiny fridge! an "old timey phone!!"

Landon picked it up and couldn't figure out why it made noise when he hadn't pressed any buttons and I realized he's never heard a dial tone before. Crazy. We got a crib set up and as soon as Cora saw it she tried to climb in. I know I've said this, but she is seriously the best baby. She was so good in the car- when the kids were watching their movie (Home Alone 2; after the roaring success that was last year's car trip purchase of Home Alone 1), she would laugh every time they laughed, even though she can't see the screen and had no idea what was going on- like huge rolling belly laughs and it was so fabulous we all kept laughing harder.

It was the most joyful car ride I've ever been a part of. And then she was so good at the restaurant, eating her food and smiling at all the men nearby, and then so good at the hotel- splashing in the bathtub while the big kids went to the indoor pool with JP, and then practically begging to be put in her crib in the corner, falling asleep instantly, and not moving or making a sound until 12 hours later, despite the big kids coming in from the pool and all of us getting ready for bed 2 feet away. She's a freaking miracle.

We woke up early, which was fine since we went to bed at the same time as the 4-year-old, ate breakfast and headed to the Manitou Incline. Except I had to google it to get the address and found out it was closed! For many months. And reopening on December 1st, six days away! JP was crushed. I googled another hike and we headed to Cheyenne Canyon instead. It was really kind of a blessing; I don't know what I would have done with the kids one-quarter way up the stairs in the freezing cold and heavy snowfall while JP ran up 2,000 vertical feet. And I was getting worried about the rest of our drive up to Steamboat Springs in increasingly bad road conditions, so we did a short hike around Cheyenne and pressed on. But not before JP held all the children and jumped over something.

I love that picture, it captures almost all of JP's favorite things in the world, with the exception of me, swimming, and dessert buffets.

We only had another 200 miles to go, which should take about 3 hours on the highways, but the roads were a mess and it was 5 hours of white knuckle 15 mph hairpin turns instead. Fun! Luckily JP is an incredibly good and calm driver, who just makes his way along, never seeming stressed or tired or possessing of a split headache and/or in need of a glass of wine. Those things are all just me. The kids were SO good- quiet and happy as always, and I would just close my eyes and/or climb into the 2nd row to play with Cora and let him know each time we ticked off another 10 miles. I was so thankful for the four wheel drive car we bought this summer; there is absolutely no way my Highlander would have made it, and since I still have nightmares about the number of times we about blew off the road this past February, I have never ever begrudged the new car payment.

But we made it! In a car encrusted with a layer ice packed snow that JP had to hack at in order to open the back door to let the kids out.

Steamboat is a new ski town for us, so that's been really fun for JP and me. The condo belongs to one of my family's closest friends (they're actually Landon's god parents) and my parents, brother, sister and Billy are all joining us here tomorrow. We have 7 bedrooms to share between us, so it is going to be real vacation where everyone gets to sleep in their own beds. After we arrived and kissed the snowy ground we got to walk on, we piled back in the car (ugh) to get groceries and sleds and then walked around to the back of the condo to get a little energy out. And trudging through deep powder will do that.

As always, Cora was skeptical, but good natured.

She was not so sure about the sledding, so after about 15 minutes, we came back inside where I got to cook dinner! From scratch and without using a microwave at ALL! Seriously, so exciting. Usually on vacation we eat out for dinner because that's what makes it a vacation for me too, but not this time. All homemade meals all the time baby!

Can we go inside now?

The big kids stayed out back by the ski lifts with JP for nearly an hour in what looked like a blizzard to dig out a fast sledding race track. I could hear them laughing and screaming from the back porch and it made me smile. Cora and I were dancing to Taylor Swift in the kitchen, occasionally popping our heads outside to make sure everyone was still accounted for, and JP and the big kids were having a blast getting soaking wet and freezing cold in a snow drift.

There are so many vacations I want to take with the kids and so very many places I want to see, but there is really nothing like a Colorado vacation for our family. It just suits us and I can't wait to wake up and explore more tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

On Skittles and Wine

Usually I spend an inordinate amount of time making my pictures tell a story, but it's 10 p.m. and I'm eating skittles in a pile on my lap while drinking wine out of a large plastic cup as dust and insulation swirl in the air around me after a crazy couple days at work and a very tiny amount of sleep and a barre class that kicked my ARSE last night (and Wendy Davis's, who was right next to me, we bonded over our mutual loud exhales anytime we were able to spare enough air to do it), SO, bring it blogger, let's discuss the following:

I snuck this picture of Claire reading to her animals on Saturday. I found it adorable as I zoomed in and clicked from the side of the playroom,

and then I found it even MORE adorable when I moved behind her and saw all the animals lined up and the baby doll in the bumpo. The doll in the bumpo kind of killed me. She has a freakish elephantine memory and was reciting Corduroy word for word even though we hadn't read it in months.

We don't have a kitchen. I'm not sure I've mentioned that 100x yet, but it is kind of terrible. It will be wonderful 3 weeks from now, but at the moment, and for all the moments we are in our house with three small children and no kitchen, it is kind of totally completely terrible. Kitchens are important.

Because we don't have a kitchen and the baby tried to eat insulation (twice) and a nail (once), we left the house on Sunday morning in search of something free, time-consuming, and tiring. The zoo seemed an obvious choice since we're members, but when we pulled into the COMPLETELY EMPTY parking lot 30 minutes after open we realized that most people do not see 10:30 a.m. on a 30-degree rainy, sleety Sunday as a great time to take their 1-year-old baby to the zoo. Can't imagine why not.

Not gonna lie, it was really cold, and kind of wet and miserable, but there wasn't any insulation for Cora to eat and we didn't spend any money and the judgmental looks we got from the monkeys (and confused/pitying looks we got from the few zoo staff members required to be there) made it all kind of awesome.

And the reptiles in the MOLA were so active! It was like the after-hours rave I've always been sure they have every night when people go home except they didn't realize the zoo was technically open. A crocodile monitor we've never before seen out of his little house came out and played with Cora.

There wasn't any competition for the learning center.

And we got to test drive all the petting-snakes-in-training! Perfect rainy-day activity for your 4-year-old, petting a trainee snake who gets "fussy." How do you know if she's fussy?, asked JP. Oh, she'll bite me, said the trainer. Does it hurt? Yes.

Luckily, she found my kids very soothing. Cora wasn't protesting the existence of cake right at that moment.

After we'd spent all the time we could in all the indoor exhibits at our zoo, Cora finally decided to express her frustration at her life, parents, weather, cake, turning 1, lack of bottles, AND lack of properly diced toddler meals.

It was sudden and fierce, and a rare enough sighting that I snapped pictures rather than soothe. It's not like I've been hiding pictures of sad Cora, she's really just never sad.

We decided the way to fix the situation was to leave the wet, freezing zoo with our tired, hungry baby and go to a nearby restaurant that always has a wait. Not having a kitchen has muddled our minds.

Thankfully the wait was only 20 minutes and we were able to get biscuits and gravy on the table immediately upon seating. Cora passed on the biscuit (I'd express shock at this, but the baby doesn't like cake), but enthusiastically ate the sausage gravy from a spoon, something I found horrifying and hilarious.

Poor girl's world is all kinds of messed up right now, but she's rolling with it. We went to a Vietnamese Pho restaurant on Saturday night and she waved chop sticks around and ate a pork and lemongrass spring roll. We ate dinner at a friend's house on Sunday night (thank you friend!) and she diced up all these healthy, wholesome foods on a plate for Cora and when we sat down Cora gazed at her in adoration, like, yes, finally, THANK YOU! And proceeded to eat every single bite and then sleep for 13 hours.

I love this next picture- totally captures the three kids: big kids helping Cora; Cora sitting still and letting them because they're her rock stars. Claire holding her hand and stabilizing the leg, Landon doing the technical work, Cora watching intently with her "you're so awesome; this is so awesome; we're all doing this awesome thing together" look on her face.

When I put on her shoes her legs are all over the place because god mom, this is such a drag.

Claire has started building kitchens with her duplos. Gone are princess castles, she's in the contractor business now. This was her latest kitchen; very high end.

My skittle are gone, as is the wine, and I'm going to 6 a.m. barre tomorrow, AND I know I'm going to stay up late reading this fabulous new book my sister recommended (The Name of the Wind; 300 pages in and not even a hint of a sex scene and I STILL love it; this is a special book), so I must go, which is good, because I was about to turn it back to how much you need a kitchen to function as a household, in winter, with a baby. There's also a giant hole in our ceiling and no floor so we're heating much of the outside of our lot, which is nice for all the lizards that are surely snuggling up in the flower beds outside our kitchen walls.

Maybe a nice crocodile monitor will move in; Cora apparently already speaks its language.