Monday, September 28, 2015

The Gourds of All Evil

This title really isn't fair to the Arboretum, which is the very furthest thing from evil, and is truly one of only two reasons I'll drive to Dallas (the other being my best work friend who happens to live there despite his terrible commute each day), but it aptly sums up Cora's view of the Pumpkin Village.

We arrived, surprisingly coordinated in our Texas-style fall clothing, with its sundresses, shorts, and t-shirts because it's still freaking 93 degrees outside.

We got about 5 feet inside the pumpkin area and Cora is already looking at me like yeah, that picture you were hoping to get of the three of your children amongst a patch of pumpkins is definitely not going to happen.

She quickly became overwhelmed by the unholy proliferation of squash.

When contact became imminent, she shifted to Defcon 1.


Cruelty comes in many forms.

Here's a nice map of Texas as a palette cleanser.

The big kids mocked the baby with their flippant attitudes and casual touching of gourds.

Claire even asked for a picture as she calmly stood in the middle of the pumpkin maze, unafraid of ever being able to exit.

Cora withdrew to a nice bridge (over a pumpkin river she wasn't going to acknowledge) and plodded back and forth across its pumpkin-free planks.

The rest of the village mocked her from a distance.

Finally, we attempted to make Cora sit near a pile of squash once more, and once more there were tears and lamentations to the heavens. So we walked in the sun, where darkness cannot follow.

Moving on to other exhibits, the big kids bought their $2 souvenirs of evil with them.

As we wandered, Cora realized the kids were holding something she didn't have.

"MINE!" she proclaimed, evil forgotten.

And so she claimed the mini pumpkins for the light.

One hundred yards away, a bench beckoned. Cora pardoned all the pumpkins and refused to let anyone recontaminate them with their touch.

Completely ridiculous.

Knows it.

Loves it.

Hugged her siblings' pumpkins the whole drive home.

I love the Arboretum in fall.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Playtime and Pumpkin Bread

Our mornings and evenings are finally getting a little cooler. Highs are still in the 90's which is annoying, but before 10 and after 6 is really quite lovely. This morning James and Landon resumed their weekend runs. James runs and Landon bikes and they track their pace and mileage and I love it. Today was just 5 miles on 8. They're building back up.

The girls and I went on a leisurely walk before magically meeting back up with the boys right next to our street. The kids then played outside for the next 2 hours and it was the best.

I love when Cora decides to hang with the big kids. They always want her to join, but sometimes she's too busy lining her books up in a row or stuffing her lunchbox full of duplos.

All the big kid play wore her out and she fell asleep holding her blankie on the floor by her crib a full 2 hours before her usual nap. She slept for 4 hours, crying for cheese, and ready to party. With the weird burden of nothing on our schedule and all the daytime hours to fill, we headed to our favorite park.

I finally got my new lens in the mail, replacing the one I dropped and cracked in Jamaica (RIP Nikon 18-105mm), so I brought the camera along.

Tomorrow we head to the best pumpkin patch in the whole world. I baked pumpkin bread in anticipation. This is my mom's recipe and it is perfect.


1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. oil
2 eggs
1 c. pumpkin
1 3/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. salt
1/3 c. water
1/2 c. raisins or pecans (optional; I dislike both and never add them)

1. Add oil to sugar, then add eggs, pumpkin, spices sifted with flour, water, and raisins.
2. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

It's dense but lightly airy, flavorful, and comes out perfectly every time. I double it and make two loaves every Sunday all of fall. It's healthy because of the pumpkin and goes great with black tea. Fall is my favorite.

And speaking of, it's time to break back out the crockpot and my dutch oven to cook all the soups and stews and braised meats. All my recipes from last year feel stale, mostly because I haven't yet revisited them in my internet browser to re-fall in love with their finished product photos, but still, I could use some new stuff. Send me links to your favorite cozy meals! (My fave from last year is here.) I'll make them all and pretend it's not still in the 90's.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Should have posted this yesterday when I was ahead

Thursday was the best day, though now it's so long ago it hardly seems worth mentioning, except I am, because it was great. It started when all my favorite people in my office ended up randomly being able to go to lunch after claiming they couldn't and I was 30 seconds into my drive over with my one friend left standing. We tried a new place and I had the greatest sandwich of all time- the BBB which involves beer braised brussel sprouts, bacon (good thick crispy bacon), and herbed boursin cheese all griddled between two slices of sourdough and OMG you guys it was the stuff of legend. And dreams. Delicious, delicious dreams. There were also french fries and maybe a draft beer because they had Rahr Octoberfest and I was taking the afternoon off and felt like I should celebrate the coming of fall even though it was 97 degrees outside.

I was also celebrating my new shirt, which I ordered from Loft because I'd fallen in love with this necklace and had waited patiently for it to go on sale and then when it did, everything was on sale (40% off!) and I had to spend a certain amount to get free shipping because it is against my personal creed to pay for shipping, so I threw this blouse in the cart, certain I'd take it back because I'm never a blouse person, but then I fell in love with it and now I'm going to wear it as much as possible until Spring. Then I ran a million errands and got four separate compliments on the shirt and THREE on my hair color, so obviously the shirt is magical and everyone should buy one because it makes your hair look amazing. Even when you haven't washed it in 3 days and you just keep re-flat ironing it each morning when you wake up late and don't have time for soap.

THEN I accomplished all of my errands, including some complicated ones I won't bore you with, AND I only bought the one thing I needed at Costco, which is basically like running through a suburban shopping gauntlet and emerging victorious and with compliments on your hair. THEN I baked a chocolate chip bundt cake while making dinner (because I now have a double oven hidden inside a regular oven and it is amazing) and then I taught barre to one of my biggest classes ever and one woman told me my class was her favorite she'd ever taken and I came home kind of high. Oh, and before all that we met with our kitchen contractor to discuss some outdoor projects (redoing the back deck! replacing the rotted overhang over the master patio!) and I organized my closet- my scarves now have a home and all my long necklaces have been rescued from my jewelry drawer and are now hanging on the wall where they won't get tangled up with anything! I'm very pleased. Afternoons off are the best.

There were a few lowlights too. I lost my phone in Target and didn't realize it until I tried to bluetooth call my mom on my way home and my car insisted it couldn't find my phone and I was all "it's RIGHT HERE" while digging through my purse on the feeder to the highway and then realized oh crap, it's lost in the biggest store in the world and I walked down every single aisle and touched all the things. But luckily after much retracing of steps I found it thanks to a very nice woman who'd come across it while going through a stack of toddler skinny pants (totally forgot I'd stopped there) and stood guard while waiting for a store employee to come by to hand it off to. Thank you kind woman, you salvaged my excellent day. And then while making my cake I turned the kitchen aid to 10 instead of 0 after I lifted up the beater and chocolate batter went EVERYWHERE. But I found these at Target and they changed my life and I was so busy eating them I didn't even mind cleaning all the chocolate off every surface of my kitchen and my new blouse (which, as it turns out, does great in the wash).

buy these. hide them. refuse to share.

I took off Friday afternoon as well (all the managers were gone at training; it was a good time to catch up on my personal life) and picked the kids up from school which was super fun because I got to hear Claire's teacher tell me how adorable she is and Landon's non-stop monologue about the book he checked out in the library on Maine because "now I'm going to check out books on places we should maybe go so I can tell you about them." He read to me the whole walk home. Luckily, Maine was already on my list.

I made ganache to pour over my cake and as it turns out, it's super easy to make! And crazy delicious. I'm now putting ganache on everything. Once I stopped licking the bowl, I packed up and fed the kids, and then when James got home from lessons we piled everyone + Tex (+ the cake!) in the car and headed off to the lake for our last trip of the summer.


We arrived late, tucked the kids in bed, and followed them pretty soon after. Saturday dawned bright and sunny and we were off- swimming, boating, fishing, exploring, rope swinging, jetskiing, and more.

There was also tubing and Claire let us go way faster than every before and then Landon asked to go alone and he let us go crazy fast, zipping across the wake, ending in first ever crash.

He handled it well.

His second crash was a bit too spectacular and there were a few tears, but when we tried to fish him out of the water he insisted on tubing again, so off we went again at a breakneck pace. I love it.

Claire took over as Captain and did a bang up job getting us to shore.

Mostly (entirely) because Papa secretly steered underneath the wheel.

In the meantime Cora tackled the super steep staircase that leads to the new lake house's second story and awesome big kid reading nook, which is obviously the place where Cora needs to be.

Big kid Cora, lover of books, conqueror of stairs. She never stopped making me nervous while she trekked up and down, but I eventually became inured to my fear of her falling to the point where I just occasionally yelled out "careful!" while sitting in my kitchen stool.

My brother bought a new fishing boat, so he took the kids out after dinner, but I don't have pictures of that because no one takes pictures in my life except me. Gorgeous sun set in the background, shiny boat, excited kids with fishing poles- super glad I don't have any images of that.

Cora did not swim, but yelled "YAY!" at everyone else while they did

Sunday was also great- more fishing and swimming and exploring.

Then a lot of napping on the drive home.

Tex might not wake up until Wednesday

We unpacked and planned dinners and then I made this soup. It was delicious but took over an hour of work and I'm not sure it fully paid off. It was good enough to make again, but next time I'm using a rotisserie chicken. Cooking and shredding your own is overrated.

And now, we begin another week. The kids were all in bed 20 minutes early without a sound, so tomorrow morning may be difficult. I'm already sad I can't take another afternoon off. I've decided working for 4 hours a day is really the way to go.

~ ~ ~

Exciting update since my pictures took too long to upload last night and I had to go to bed: Landon woke us up at 3:12 a.m. to tell us he had just thrown up "lots of times." This is maybe only the fourth time since we became parents that a kid has thrown up, so we can't really complain, but oy, it was a long time before we got everything cleaned up, Landon re-settled on the couch with a bucket, and the two of us back in bed. Then James woke up and started throwing up. The boys were clearly down for the count, so I whisked the girls and their superior immune systems off to school, called in sick to work, picked up a Starbucks, and have hunkered down with my washer and drying running nonstop.

I think Monday was just jealous that I enjoyed my Thursday - Sunday so much and decided to ruin everything. But I got to introduce Landon to the Harry Potter movies and catch up on my emails, so suck it Monday stomach bug, all is not lost.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Two Days and Two Glasses of Wine are Involved in This Post

We are watching the Netflix series "Narcos" right now and it's super good. The downside is it's largely subtitled so I can't get as much done on my laptop as I normally do when we're binge watching a Netflix series.

~ ~ ~

Annnnd that's all I typed last night.

Now I'm on my second glass of wine while watching the GOP debate (we DVR'd it because I can't yell at the TV and drink while my kids are awake; this is my sports), so no guarantees about this one either.

Let's take it to the pictures.

I'm back at the barre! I still don't have a regular class and with the end of summer, I think my 3x a week subbing days are over, but I still get a class every week and have two this time. This is me on Monday.

I'm very in love with my clearance crazy pants and this top was in sale at Lululemon for $28. It's possible I bought them in three different colors.

My barre instructor pay pretty much equals whatever I spent at Lulu while using my instructor discount as an excuse to buy more. It's a viscous cycle.

But if anything, I'm even more in love with teaching lately. Making people's legs shake feels like my calling in life and I'm practically high when I get home. I'm so happy to have found this sweaty and creative outlet for myself.

~ ~ ~

We went to a school picnic on Friday!

And we also maybe left our Third Baby at daycare past closing time. I was home at 4:30, cheerfully cleaning and organizing and catching up with the big kids, comfortable with the knowledge that I was getting way more done because Cora was still dominating the toddler room at school and James was grabbing her on his way home from the pool. The picnic was starting soon and we were all in our school shirts and James pulled up, exited his car without a baby, and I said, "where's Cora?!" And his face dropped and he ran back in the car yelling, "Call the school! I'm coming!"

Marching off to school; has no idea she might not be picked up

Oops. Sorry Cora!

The big kids and I walked to the school and James and Cora met us later. Cora was super unimpressed with the whole scene. I tried to please her by showing her a nice empty bounce house and she was so horrified by the questionable astrophysics applying to the bouncy situation that she demanded to be taken home immediately. James acquiesced and I stayed behind with the kids for another hour or so, not that they cared since they were way too cool to hang out with me. Neither James nor I were ever the center of our social circles, so it is with great bemusement that we watch our kids be the center of theirs. I was stopped by no less than 4 sets of parents telling me, "Oh, you're Landon's mom!! It's non-stop Landon-this and Landon-that at home." And Claire ran wild with her Kindergarten posse, dropping one boyfriend for another in the space of an hour, declining to eat hot dogs with me ("sigh... but my friends are over there mom."), and just generally rocking her school shirt at the top of the playground fort.

At one point I was talking to a mom and commenting that I hadn't seen Landon in a while. She gave me a strange look and said, isn't that him over there? Oh. He was literally 15 feet in front of me. He suddenly looks so old I can't even recognize my own child. What happened to the last 8 years? I also ran in to his 1st grade teacher who casually referred to the time Landon got a standing ovation from a 4th grade class. Um, what?? Apparently he wrote a story last year that his teacher was so impressed by she showed it to the principal who invited Landon to read it to the 4th grade (I think it was on something they were studying), so he went upstairs to a 4th grade class and read his whole story to them at the front of the room and they all stood up and clapped and he NEVER MENTIONED IT. We eat dinner together every night. We ask questions, we're involved, we talk to him, I swear. He just doesn't find these things notable. I wish I had the story.

College Day!

~ ~ ~

Moving on. (Holy crap we're GOP-debating vaccines now. If polio become a thing again I want all of these candidates to get it. Except they won't. Because they're vaccinated. Though I did like Carly Fiorina's short but eloquent response to Donald Trump's "look at that face" comment. Well done. Overall I look forward to the next week of late night comedy. Moving on!)

Landon has reached the phase of boyhood where he is indefatigable. He can swim for 8 hours, run a few miles, bike many more, and still have plenty of energy to run a half-marathon after dinner. He's never squirms when he should be still, but give him a track at sunup and I think he could run until sundown. To help burn some of this off, James has started throwing the frisbee to him after dinner. Like you do with a puppy.

I love it.

The girls help. Cora runs, squealing and pumping her arms and little legs furiously between her Daddy and La-na. She claps every time someone catches the frisbee. Claire is the infielder, picking up frisbees that fall to the ground and throwing it back to James. I sit on the walkway and love every freaking second. Cora gives me drive-by hugs, Claire plops down next to me to tell she loves me and also she's hot and/or maybe a bug thought about biting her foot and can I look at it.

I love it.

~ ~ ~

Cora has stopped eating dinner and any fruits, vegetables, and basically anything that isn't cheese or a slice of deli turkey. We've never had a picky eater- the big kids eat everything I make, no matter how many ingredients and vegetables and strong flavors, so this is new. We've stopped offering any option beyond dinner, and this week, I've cut out her after-school snack. She gets an afternoon snack in school, so she doesn't need it, it just makes her not yell at me while I cook dinner. And so tonight as predicted, she did a lot of yelling and then marched around the house with an empty plate she took from the cabinet.

Poor poor third baby.

Then dinner was served (beef tamales, refried black beans, scrambled eggs, tortillas, with cheese, diced tomato, and black olives) and for the first time in weeks she ate every bite. Sorry Cora, looks like 5:30 - 6:00 is going to be rough for us both.

Cora's new favorite toy is any toy the big kids have touched or are currently touching. Yesterday she appropriated Landon's Boogie Board writing tablet and marched around the house taking diligent notes with a pool dart she stole out of James's swim school basket.

She is a treasure.

(At a bounce house birthday party Saturday; after 44:30 minutes of sobbing at the failure of gravity, she decided bounce houses were not the devil's work and loved it for the 30 seconds of remaining play time)

22 months in and she remains the family's mascot and favored being. I'm sure there won't be any negative repercussions from the fact the two big kids give her anything she wants whenever she wants it.

Okay 11:42 p.m. The debate is over, my wine glass is empty (again), and it's time for bed.

But we need to talk more about Urban Fantasy books later. Remind me. Good night all!