Thursday, December 31, 2015

Big Wheelin

Yesterday Claire decided she was going to take off her training wheels and ride her big girl bike on two wheels. We tried this once before several months ago and after a few tries and an equal number of crashes, she requested the training wheels back on and vowed to try again "after I'm 5." Well, she's 5.5 and she was ready.

Then she was hesitant- "maybe I can just sit on the seat and lift my feet in the air a few times?" and "maybe you can hold it the whole time?" and "ARE YOU HOLDING IT?!!" and "Cora's in my way!!" (which to be fair, she usually was).

But we discussed the importance of pedaling, hard and fast, and then steering (CLAIRE TURN!!!), and then using our brakes ("but mom, my boots stop me if I jam them into the street"), and then after just a few practice rounds, and a few falls, she put her game face on (me too) and she. was. OFF!

Claire Rides a Bike! from Lag Liv on Vimeo.

As you can tell by my yelling, I was SO proud of her!! She does NOT like to fall or fail and I was so proud she kept getting back on and pedaling again.

And so she rode back and forth across our street for nearly an hour. At full dark we finally had to force her back in.

But she was out again today, now able to start totally on her own, by pushing off the street. SO. PROUD.

And now she can get a new bike for her birthday! She got that one when she turned 3 and now Cora can inherit it for her 3rd birthday a few months later. The hand-me-down cycle continues. Luckily Cora seemed super jealous of Claire's streamers and will likely be thrilled to take on the full bike late next year.

Speaking of Cora, she is quite the pro scooter. I seriously never thought the scooter would be so instant and successful a hit, but a hit it is! She zoomed around for the whole hour we were outside and was very reluctant to bring it up at nightfall. Only the fact that her big kids were doing the same, and she was allowed to park the scooter in the garage all by herself, softened the blow. If a big kid does it, Cora's on board.

Landon practiced his Ripstik. That thing is VERY wobbly and looks really hard, but he had the hang of it.

When he could get it away from his dad anyway.

And I ran around feeling like hell with my bad cold and intense sinus pain and took pictures and a bit of video and LOVED every snap of our family taking up our whole street with our wheelie gang. Kids at play make me happy, and when they're all mine motoring and scootering and biking together, it makes me deliriously so. And that's not just the cold medicine.

James is prepping the kids' NYE dinner (pigs in a blanket, ants on a log, fruit, and cake slices from Central Market) while I try to get close to my usual level of excitement about ours. I love our New Year's traditions and it seems wrong to have a cold when you have delicious meats, cheeses, desserts (4 desserts!), a fantastic bottle of champagne, a new outfit, and a super sexy husband waiting for you after the kids go to bed. I did break down and go to the doctor today when I thought my sinuses would explode, so maybe that steroid shot will kick in right about 8:01 p.m. There's always hope, and if not, there's always next year! I hope you all have a wonderful end to 2015 and fabulous beginning to 2016!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Christmas Week, now with extra tea!

Hello from the other side of the Christmastravaganza! We got back from the lake on Saturday afternoon in time to unpack the car, dump everything in the laundry, put away all the new toys, and wave goodbye to our children and the nanny on our way out the door for a date. The kids were so excited to see Tara and tell her about all the things that had happened since they last saw her and James and I were so excited not to see or hear or police any of the things while we ate all the sushi instead. Arranging for a babysitter on the night you get back from a trip is my new favorite life hack.

But back to the lake. It was a great time, as always. At some point we're going to have Christmas in our own house, but it's so fun to see how many traditions we've started at the lake house- the kids don't even remember a Christmas not spent there and now that my parents are in the new much bigger lake house, everyone even sleeps well!

The Wednesday night crew

We arrived on the 23rd around 1, after 10 hours of packing the car (maybe less, my memory is fuzzy), just in time to greet some family on my dad's side- grandparents, Aunty L, cousin Z, plus some family friends and my sister's in-laws. It was a fun little house party with lots of snacks and playing of games and then that night, we watched a bunch of old videos of our trips to Florida to see my dad's parents and our Rice cousins when we were little. We had 14 people sleeping in the lake house that night, but everyone got a bed and the kids were THRILLED to have James and I in their bunks for a night (I woke up to Claire's upside down head grinning at me from the top bunk; totally not creepy at all).

opening presents from G&G Rice

On Christmas Eve, we ate some of my cinnamon rolls, said goodbye to the Rices, and then readied for the rest of the festivities. The men went to golf with the big kids as assistants and my sister and I worked on her baby registry (due in May with a girl!) while Cora napped and my mom alternated between prepping food for the Christmas Eve Feast and chatting about baby stuff.

We got dressed for dinner and I got my favorite shots of the whole weekend- Cora in her fancy dress (passed down from Claire) loving on her Gigi.

I even got a picture with me too!

We ate our traditional feast of flank steak, potato casserole, asparagus casserole (the world's most delicious thing that James doesn't like and I only get once a year), salad, and bread. We ambled off to try a new church this year. We're still trying to find the right one near the lake house.

And then it was time for presents and Christmas jammies!

Cora's first present was a Fisher Price farm and she LOVED it. Clearly, I was also super excited.

She loved it so much we had a hard time getting her to open anything else.

Landon got crocs and was just as thrilled (he's been asking for them forever because he hates putting on his running shoes when we ask him to take out the trash or do other chores; I mean, if we're going to make him do all the chores I hate, I suppose I could give him the right footwear for the job). He also got a modeling clay kit, rock tumbler, and a snap circuits set, all of which have been awesome to play with over the rest of the break.

Claire opened up a bag of fancy sweater dresses, a pink fur vest, and sparkly heeled shoes from Gigi (who else). Obviously, she was pleased. (Other items included a Frozen robe and pj set, holiday barbie, and set of American Girl doll pets with accessories.)

Everyone gave very thoughtful things and it was a fun evening, as it always is. Then Cora opened up her cleaning kit and got right to work tidying up.

Christmas morning dawned and Santa had found his way to the lake! Cora got a scooter, something Santa thought she'd play with when she got a little older (her birthday isn't until November, so Santa aged up a few of her gifts, thinking she could play with them in the summer), but holy crap, she ran right up to that thing, climbed aboard in puppy slippers and basically never got off.



Landon got a Ripstik, this crazy skateboard Santa didn't realize was quite so hard to ride. But after James and Uncle Eric zipped around on it, Tia bribed Landon into practicing and he mastered it by sunset! James gave him lessons and Cora judged his form.

Claire got a beautiful jewelry box ("WITH MY NAME ON IT!!") and some "jewelry like a mom has" (i.e., a small, non-costume, silver necklace and some pretty little earrings).

It was a fun lazy morning, with lots of playing, scootering, eating of cinnamon rolls and tamales (not together), and the watching of Aladdin, which all the kids LOVED and the adults did too.

The weather was weird- 80 degrees and muggy, but the kids got to fish and we spent a lot of time outside. The sunset was gorgeous and the boys even set off a small fireworks show from the boat while the kids and I watched from the dock.

We left midday on the 26th to come home and have spent the last few days hanging out, enjoying our presents (James got me this tea maker and I am OBSESSED. It is the greatest gift I've ever been giving, besides maybe my watch, wedding jewelry, and children, and I still get giddy every time it automatically lowers my loose leaf tea into the properly temp'd water to brew for the proper amount of time before lifting again and not overbrewing my tea and then just waiting, nice and hot, for me to pour it into my mug just like a coffee drinker! It is the greatest appliance in my life and if the house were on fire I'd try to get it out with me (and the kids, and James, of course; all of us, plus Tex and the tea maker). I've stalked it online for 3 years and I finally got it and it is everything I hoped it would be and more. Fresh hot tea! Brewed automatically! For just the right amount of time!! I've maybe already had like 10 cups today.

Hello gorgeous.

So far on break we've gone to the zoo when no one else in their right minds would go to the zoo (34 degrees out; literally the only people there; the animals seemed super excited to see us), gone to the park, made a quick stop at Lululemon where I picked up 3 gorgeous strappy support tanks for $30 each to match my crazy patterned leggings that I was just wearing with black tops when the pants deserved so much better.

New non-black tops! Which should I wear for teaching our first barre class of 2016 on Sat?

The kids have jumped nonstop on their mini trampoline from Uncle Eric, while Cora scooters and alternates between playing with her farm and cleaning supplies. There has also been nerf gun fighting, clay animal making, snap circuiting, and rock rumbling - the kids really really loved everything they received this year.

I'm now prepping for our family New Year's Eve party and stalking a sparkly pair of workout leggings online that I don't need. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday, full of scootering toddlers and happy big kids. And tea. Lots of tea.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

MORE SUGAR; also, Santa

After much googling and reading the recipes you suggested (all of which looked amazing) I ended up back at the Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls. The choice was entirely dictated by the fact that I needed about 7-8 trays of them and the thought of tripling and quadrupling other recipes just seemed to risky for something I only had one day to do. And so, PW's Cinnamon Rolls it was.

It really is an easy recipe for dough novices, and even though I covered 50% of my kitchen surfaces in melted butter, it really wasn't too burdensome of a process.

I was burdened by the fact that James was gone all day. The kids were super good, but at 4:30 as I was waiting for the rolls to finish their second rise and then bake and then be iced by one of two different icings I hadn't yet made (bc some people are confused and think they don't love cream cheese icing) and I realized I still needed to take them to the park as promised numerous times AND make dinner because my sister and brother-in-law were stopping by on their way down from Denver and everything was covered in butter it would have been REALLY NICE if I could just say, "hey James, can you take them to the park?" and then have everything be done and clean and perfect when they returned.

But we persevered and made it to the park about 15 minutes before full dark. "Open from dawn till dusk," Landon read as we pulled up. "Is this dusk?" I had a moment trying to decide if it was better to smudge the definition of dusk, or to admit we were breaking a rule but it was okay-ish, and then I realized he'd already moved on to climbing up a tree and chasing Claire in circles like he was some kind of an 8-year-old who'd been stuck inside all day.

And so the weekend progressed with a lovely but brief stopover by my sister and BIL, more barre teaching on Sunday (I found some new moves that found new muscles in my legs that had never been discovered before; it still hurts to cross them, which makes me terribly happy) and then we headed to Dallas for the 12 Days of Christmas exhibit at the Arboretum!

I didn't get many pictures because it was dark and the whole point was to just enjoy the 12 animatronic gazebos, but I found the Swans-A-Swimming to be particularly beautiful.

I went to work yesterday and today which was sad since everyone else in my family was home and in jammies, but some coworkers and I took a few hours leave to go see The Force Awakens at lunch on Monday and that perked the day right up. I've never seen the other Star Wars, but it was still super fun and enjoyable and now I have a lot of questions and want to see the earlier movies. I think Landon would enjoy them too, so we've added them to our Christmas holiday to do list. At least episodes IV-VI. I also got to eat french fries and skittles for lunch which is always a victory.

Today for lunch the kids came and met me downtown and we journeyed a few blocks to Sundance Square to see Santa. Normally we see him at the Arboretum when it's freezing out and no one else wants to visit, so the whole waiting in line for Santa thing was a first for us. And being us, we didn't bring a stroller, snacks, or water, so I nearly broke my shoulder holding Cora during our 90 minute wait, but the kids were great and ran around the square for much of the interminable shuffle forward. I even got a super cute picture of them on top of a little holiday display.

That was when Cora still thought this was a super fun family outing.

FINALLY it was our turn on Santa's sleigh and Cora's day took a turn for the terrible.

What the fck you guys?!!

Poor Cora was rescued and the extremely charming Santa spent a few minutes chatting with the kids about what they wanted and how school was going.

He was wonderful. I'm not even mad about how slow the line moved.

It occurred to me while we walked back to the car that around the time Cora finally accepts Santa will likely be around the time that Landon lets him go. That made me a little sad, and then it made me extra happy I spent 2 hours standing in a slow moving line on a gorgeous December day with happy kids who never complained and instead giggled and played tag. And I got to hold a snuggly toddler who thought we'd temporarily lost our damn minds by handing her over to a stranger and was then even more snuggly on the walk back.

So I'm glad for the experience and the memory, even if the kids aren't getting a single thing they asked for because their Santa shops in November and you can't just pull something out of thin air (ahem, Mr. "I'd like a peregrine falcon stuffed animal") on Dec. 22nd and expect Santa's little elves to make it happen. They aren't getting paid for overtime and Amazon can't ship to the lake house. The red tailed hawk you originally asked for will simply have to do.

Speaking of the lake house, we'll be there tomorrow! With about 40 other friends and family! We're only somewhat packed, but I had my mom take all our gifts back with her when she visited over Thanksgiving, so there isn't too much to throw in the suitcases. So crazy to think when we drive out tomorrow that Christmas will be over when we come back a few days later. But I got to do all the baking (sugar cookies! Santa hat mix! Cinnamon rolls!), all the fun stuff (Frosty the Snowman play! Arboretum lights! Santa in Sundance Square!), and all the prep stuff (decorating the house! Christmas cards! teacher gifts! shopping/wrapping!) that I wanted to do without anything feeling stressed or overdone, so I'm already completely happy with Holidays version 2015. Everything from tomorrow out is just extra fun, happy, relaxing family good times and I can't wait for every minute!

Saturday, December 19, 2015


Everyone in the Lag Liv family had a performance or two this week! It started with Landon and the spelling bee. His school recently started participating in the Scripps National Spelling Bee contest. Eligibility starts in 2nd grade and Landon came home a few weeks ago letting us know he'd made it, handing over a packet of words for us to study and an invitation to come to the big bee and reception on Dec. 16.

We are terrible about doing much of anything outside of school and are blessed with kid who pretty much lets us forget homework exists, but we did try with the spelling words- having him spell 15 or so, 3-4 nights a week. We made it through about a third of the packet and considered it a job well done until we showed up at the Bee with 500 seats filled in the auditorium and little Landon sitting on the stage, one of only 4 second graders, and I wished we'd done more, just to make sure he could make it through a round or two. But, he did so great!!

34 kids in the school made it into the Bee and he was the last 2nd grader standing, and ultimately the 9th-to-last person standing! I thought I would burst. He's a sweet, fun, active, affectionate, awesome kid, but I've never been more proud of him than when he walked up to the microphone and calmly spelled out each of his words through seven rounds. That was a huge room full of a lot of people and when he got out he high-fived his best friend who had gone out a few rounds prior, sat in his seat, and whispered to us "can we start practicing now for next year?".

And the whole thing was just so earnest and adorable. All the classes for grades 2-5 were there and those kids were silent. You could hear a pin drop. And by the end, they were literally on the edges of their seats for their classmates. When the little bell would ding to let them know of a spelling error, they'd all gasp and groan, and I just think it's awesome when academics gets to be the star for an hour or two. Last year the classes didn't attend the Bee- it was just the parents and supporters, and I really think it's going to make a big difference going into next year. The winner was a 5th grade girl, with a 3rd grade girl as runner up, and together they'll head to the regional competition in February. Every one of the kids did awesome- no one seemed nervous, though I'm sure they were, and I kept tearing up during the whole thing. Elementary schools are my favorite places on earth, I can't help it.

On Friday James got up at 4:30 a.m. to go compete in a Pro-Am meet north of Dallas. He said he's been going some of his best splits of his life in practice and really wanted a chance to race. He was outraged at the price of his racing suit ($150; he hasn't paid for one himself since before he made his first Nationals in high school), but excited to wear his Fike Swim Products cap (hot off the presses!) and compete. Unfortunately he had to use his college times, so he was seeded super high which made him nervous, but he did great! I wish we could have seen him. He finaled in his 100 fly and 200 free, but scratched to come home and teach lessons and attend Cora's holiday program.

Today he's doing the 200 IM and 50 free and is planning to stay for finals if he makes it. We'd go watch (a true testament of my love; driving to Dallas is the worst, except for driving north of Dallas which is even worser), but my sister and her husband are stopping through on their way to Houston for Christmas and I need to be here to greet them with Jambalaya and excited children. But go James! For a 34-year-old dad of 3 with two businesses, including one that is launching a European distribution center/website on Monday, a project that kept him up till midnight every night this week working out shipping kinks to all the various EU countries, that's pretty spectacular. He also got to see a lot of familiar faces around the deck which is fun. He doesn't go home or have high school reunions, but he has swimming, and I think that is its own reunion every time he steps on the deck. He told me he recognized the announcer's voice and went over and sure enough, it was the guy who announced all the big national meets- he remembered James and they got to chat and it made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Those are his people. I'm glad he's spending some time with them today.

(but I do wish I was there)

Also on Friday, I signed up to the a PJ Reading Day reader for both kids' classes! It was super cute and fun. I chose Christmas Delicious, a Lag Liv family favorite, and successfully read the book while holding it sideways (my personal performance of the week). The second graders were maybe my favorite. They're old enough to sit still and really listen to the intricacies of the story about two mice and their Christmas feast, but young enough to still be so genuinely thrilled at the idea of a parent in their room reading them a story. Several remembered me from career day and at the end a little girl tapped my shoulder and said "I really love your hair." I love them all. The Kindergartners were also awesome, but you can tell they're still getting used to this whole being in school thing. There was a lot of rolling on the floor, which is fine - it's the last day before Christmas, they'd had parents in and out all day, and were about to have a Christmas party, but the strides those kiddos make between K and 2 was a pretty impressive thing. Go teachers.

Claire of course was THRILLED to have me in her classroom. She grabbed a chair and put it next to me "so I can give you a hug the WHOLE TIME" and grinned until her tiny cheeks hurt. I think we could tell Claire that being a Kindergartner is her Christmas present and she'd be pretty cool with it.

And finally, CORA had a performance Friday night too! Her daycare program's Christmas Pageant kicked off with the toddlers ringing a bell and singing ("singing") Jingle Bells in English and Spanish and reciting a little poem. I ended up having her stay at school until the performance because there was no way in hell she was going to let me pick her up and then deposit her back in her classroom 30 minutes later. She loves school, but once she has me, she pretty much cries anytime we are more than 4 inches apart. So I got to the pageant early and hid in the far corner, with James and the kids sitting in a middle row, also hiding.

(Side story: we spent a week convincing Cora to wear her jacket and now she will ONLY wear her jacket - eating, napping, playing, whatever- that jacket must be ON. She sobs immediately at any suggestions otherwise, which is why she's wearing her pink elephant jacket on top of her thematic and adorable Santa sweatshirt.)

But she came out with her toddler friends, jangled her little jingle bell, and when she finally spotted us, rather than sobbing and throwing herself off the stage as I 100% expected, she got a huge grin and jangled all the more. I was shocked. It was the toddler equivalent of winning the spelling bee.

I'm off to teach barre, but I hope you all are having a lovely holiday season and enjoying a few performances of your own!