Monday, February 29, 2016

Daycare Kids

Today was Cora's last day at the daycare she's attended since she was 3 months old. While we were happy there, there's a Montessori school basically across the street from our house that will be so much more convenient now that the two big kids are attending elementary school down the street, particularly since James works from home and does all the drop-offs. From 8 a.m. - 1 p.m., four members of my family will be in 3 different buildings within 0.5 miles of each other and our after-school nanny can walk over to get Cora any afternoon I need it. We have 3.5 more years until Cora is in Kindergarten and overall I think this switch is going to be more than worth it in everyday ease and convenience.

But it was sad to leave. We got hugs all around and Ms. Yolanda, aka "Nani" according to Cora, cried when Cora hugged her goodbye. Cora has adored Nani since she was an infant and one day a few months ago when I was picking Cora up and she was giving Yolanda a fierce hug and blowing lots of goodbye kisses, I said laughingly, "Cora loves you so much Nani!" And Ms. Yolanda replied, heartfelt and seriously, "I love her too." And she does.

I've had a blog draft on my "daycare kids" for more than a year- for whatever reason, I just never quite finished it, but today seemed like a good day. I will say at the front that just because daycare has been great for us, that doesn't mean that I think it's better than other things. I don't. I had a stay at home mom and it was amazing. My childhood is basically one big mess of happy memories and chocolate chip cookies. And I have friends who've had full time nannies and swear it's the best decision they ever made. There are lots of options and combinations of childcare to make your family work. And I applaud anything that makes your family work. But daycare is an option I feel like either gets knocked a lot ("stuck in daycare" is an annoying as hell phrase that gets used too often) or is described as some last resort, so here's a daycare-positive post for anyone needing a boost or weighing childcare options for the future.

"Daycare kids" is a phrase that made me flinch back before I had Landon and I cared about what people thought of our family choices, mostly because I didn't yet have any evidence to support my conviction that I would indeed want to work after having him and that choice (that was not really a choice) wouldn't ruin the lives of anyone. But now, having daycare kids, being a working mom- these are badges I wear with pride. My kids are awesome, like seriously awesome and happy and fun and polite and James and I enjoy being with them SO much. I'm sure they'd be awesome if James or I stayed home with them too (well, I hope so anyway), but there's no way anyone could convince me that anyone could possibly be any better. Or happier, or more joyful or polite or secure. So now, when I get the unfortunate, "I just wouldn't want my kids to be stuck in daycare all day" or "I just wouldn't want someone else raising my children" or "I just want to make sure my kids are being raised with my values," I just cheerfully reply, "Oh, we love daycare!" Because we do, and any implication that my kids are "stuck" enduring live music, dance class, stretch-n-grow, art, centers, science experiments, circle time, singing, outside time, and school work learned in far more creative ways than I could come up with, with teachers who love and care for them, is just silly. And the values of "we don't hurt our friends" and "take turns" and "be respectful" are hardly controversial. And, of course, absolutely no raising of children is happening in the morning, evening, holidays, and weekends- it's all done in those 40 hours a week. Though I suppose if daycare is in fact "raising my kids," that's fine because they're doing a bang up job.

I remember being in Chicago and still somewhat sensitive about the whole childcare situation (every mom in my life had always been a stay-at-home mom so this all felt very new and subversive) and I was talking to the wife of one of my professors. They had two kids and she was asking me what we were doing for childcare and I told we'd found a small daycare we liked. And before I could launch into my justifications and all the itemized reasons we were clearly allowed to like it, she got a big smile and said, "Oh, we love daycare! It's been wonderful for us." And that little phrase, and the smile and confidence of the statement, it meant so much to me. And now, 8 years later, I have that same confidence as a mother of a happy, confident, well-adjusted 8-year-old, 5-year-old, and 2-year-old.

Some of the positives we've found: our kids are pretty confident in new situations (certainly more so than I ever was), they're open to and get along well with other kids, they share, they're independent, they're respectful and polite and full of "pleases" and "thank-you's." From their teachers we've learned things they could or should be doing developmentally. We've learned ways to phrase things we might not have thought of, like "you need to rest your body," which for whatever reason, a 3-year-old Landon found far less insulting than the suggestion that he needed nap, and we learned the idea of creating a "safe space" to calm down after a tantrum. We were also constantly discovering new things they could do and expectations we could have - oh they clear their lunch trash? put on their own shoes? At the time I was busy still being impressed that Landon could walk. But more than any of that, I think daycare has been wonderful for us because it has brought additional people into our kids' lives who love them. We don't have a large family and none of them are local. James's family isn't part of our lives, my parents still work full time, my brother and sister are busy and far away- for the most part, we're on our own. And that's fine, but I think it's nothing but good that my kids have had other adults in their lives who they love and trust and who love them in return. We still send a Christmas card and receive a lovely reply from Maya (Landon's caregiver from 3 months to 11 months) and our old daycare in Austin, and Claire loved going with me to pick up Cora because she could see and hug her beloved Ms. Susan from daycare before Kindergarten.

And even though one day it will be lovely to have all three kids in (free!) public school, a part of me will miss it. I loved picking up the kids at the end of the day and hearing someone else tell me how special they are. I love that Cora's teachers find her as funny as we do and I love standing in the classroom, holding my toddler who is alternating between fiercely hugging my neck and blowing kisses at her teachers, while they regale me with stories of her intrepid Cora-ness. I show them pictures of the kids from the weekends or special events. We laugh over the intricacies of a child we know better than anyone else. Far from an impersonal forced relationship, daycare has in fact been deeply personal. Not with every staff member, but with so many. In our Austin daycare baby Claire was beloved by the sweet older woman who sat at the front desk. Often, when I arrived for pickup, I'd find Claire sitting in Ms. Mary's lap, smiling at passersby. On the day we moved to Fort Worth and I went to pick up the kids for last time, I found Claire sitting in Ms. Mary's lap, with tears running silently down Ms. Mary's face. Ms. Mary loved her. Claire may not remember her, but I think she knew she was loved. And that's something I simply never expected when we started on this working parent path.

One last thing, we have attended 5 different daycares in the last 8 years- switching due to moves, schedule changes, and child personality changes (our first daycare in Fort Worth was awesome for Landon, but not right for Claire, so we switched after 2 months). If I wish I'd known one thing it's that the daycare you pick for your baby is not necessarily where you'll be when they're five. Pick what's right for you and your situation and needs at the time. So for your infant, pick somewhere warm and happy, where you see the babies being held, and the holders of the babies smiling. Odds are the toddler room will follow suit, and if not, it's easier to find a spot for a toddler in another center than it is to find a spot for an infant. And who knows, you may find yourself moving to Fort Worth partway through your daughter's toddler years anyway. Kids generally adjust much quicker and easier than you think; and generally much quicker and easier than you.

So Cora moves on to a new school tomorrow. Our sixth; her second. I'm a little nervous. I may love daycare as an overall family choice- and I do- but I so want her to quickly feel comfortable and as happy as she was at our previous school. We have friends whose kids have attended with rave reviews, so I think it will be great, and I hope that very soon I'll be chatting with her teachers at the end of the day and laughing over some Cora story while she blows kisses to her new friends.

Thursday, February 25, 2016


I am 33 today. I'm a little bit uncomfortably full (the last cookie frosting sandwich was probably a mistake), but I mostly feel fabulous. And fuzzy. (Due to both a strong margarita and wearing a nearly impossible amount of fleece.) Top Chef is on. James is by my side. While reminiscing about my day, I'm feeling very glad I forced myself to go to barre last night at the last possible second- literally throwing on my clothes and running out the door in 30 seconds while James was getting the kids out of the shower. I had to text him my whereabouts as I left no trace behind.

The celebration actually began the night before when James surprised me with a new pillow. A humble gift, but I'd been complaining about my inadequate stack of terrible pillows forever and he very thoughtfully took himself to the mall department store to address the problem. Then he put the new pillow in my pillowcase last night so I could "wake up with it on my birthday." So thoughtful. Also delightful to have a pillow that supports your neck! I woke up feeling refreshed and way younger than 33.

The kids were SO excited, of course, and I was presented with many a card while I was trying to take my shower. I finally made it out to the living room to find more homemade cards and a wrapped box from James - another present he said I needed right then. A Yeti Tumbler to keep my tea hot! Again, so thoughtful. My new teamaker is the greatest thing ever, but actually brewing tea at the right temperature often means brewing it 30-40 degrees cooler than I used to, and my tea has often cooled by the time I get to work. NO LONGER! And just to prove it, I burned my tongue while taking a sip in my parking garage downtown.

At work I was surprised by a bottle of my very favorite champagne for a very thoughtful friend. The yeti + champagne seemed like a sign that I should drink crisp champagne all day, but sadly, the SEC does not have a champagne ice bucket in the kitchen. Since it also doesn't have water, utensils, or napkins, this wasn't all that surprising. Instead, I used the time I would be chilling champagne to pick out a vinyl monogram decal on etsy for my yeti. I think if you go yeti, you have to go FULL YETI. I've never monogrammed anything in my life (I also hate smocked kids clothes; I'm completely faking it as a southern woman), but personalized decals feel like part of the FULL YETI experience.

Lunch rolled around with some of my favorite people heading to one of my favorite places (The Bearded Lady; if you have not been, go immediately. When it's open. Tomorrow.) for the infamous Grilled Cheese of the Week. Today's offering was "Coq Au Vin- Red Wine Braised Pulled Chicken, Roasted Mushrooms, Carrots, & Onions Drizzled with a Red Wine Demiglaze w/ Gruyere & Mozzarella Cheese." It was every bit as amazing as it sounded. Possibly even more so because I stuffed a few of my fries inside for extra deliciousness.

Around 1:30, just when I could inhale and exhale fully again- two dozen piping hot Tiff's Treats cookies were delivered to the office! Mostly because I ordered them. Treat Yo Self!

At 5:30 (I did have to do some real work today, and all high on sugar, I feel like I was super efficient, but we'll see tomorrow when I re-read all the emails I sent out), I met James and the kids at my other favorite restaurant- Yucatan Taco Stand- for the best margarita in Fort Worth and the best nachos in All The Land. I made a fairly poor showing on the nachos, but sucked up every last drop of rita. Priorities.

At home I discovered more cards from the kiddos, including a beautiful clay flower hand made by Landon, and a double doozie cookie tower from James. And a Lululemon bag. It says something about me that I admired the cookie tower for several moments before even noticing the bag.

Cookies were consumed, birthday songs were sung, cards were opened, beautiful Lulu jackets were uncovered... so much love surrounded me and I felt very lucky to be 33 indeed.

Monday, February 22, 2016

27 Hours: A Whirlwind Tour of Home

We left for Kingwood yesterday morning at 7 a.m. Our first trip to my real homestead in several years- the lake house is bigger and an hour closer (and involves a lake), so we do all our family gatherings there, but this weekend required the Original. The Real Thing. We were entering the livable forest; home to my family since 1988, and I think because I never lived at home again after going to college, and my parents got the lake house when I was in law school and we started meeting there, I was just not prepared for the level of nostalgia I was swimming in for the whole trip. Happy, happy, dreamlike, constant nostalgia. Every street, every corner, every room. I have something that happened there, some connection, some friend, some something, and it's nearly all so happy and so deeply felt but now so distant and I simply had no defense for all the feelings. Luckily we were jam packed with activities or I might have just been wandering around the greenbelts crying and giggling over memories of tree forts and friends and bicycle rides for hours.

But busy we were. We arrived just in time to help my sister pick out an outfit for her baby shower, putting makeup on over each other in the little bathroom we shared between the three of us for 20 years. And for me to not be nostalgic over the current state of my childhood bedroom.

Looks just the same. I did love that my dad kept my high school swimming sign hanging up in the garage. NOSTALGIA!

Val's shower, hosted by a trio of beloved family friends we've known since Eric was a baby (Eric is 27), was beautiful. Her nursery theme is arrows and tribal, with browns and creams and coral and aqua. The ladies did a spectacular job capturing that and it was so fun to celebrate my sister and my future niece.

Claire got to come and she was super excited to be part of her first grown-up gathering.

While we partied, Cora napped, James worked, and my dad took Landon a romp through the greenbelts to our old stomping grounds- my elementary school, my neighborhood pool and playgrounds... Landon thinks Kingwood is maybe even cooler than the lake. After the shower my mom and dropped my sister off at her in-law's house and then headed out to pick up the sugary treats for my birthday party on Sunday. We accidentally stopped in a Ross and a TJ Maxx, finding a bunch of dresses and sparkly zebra painting (as you do), before racing home so I could scoop up James and the kids and meet a pair of old youth group friends, now married with two kids, at my old elementary school park. We went to dinner after, meeting up with another old church friend (also married to another church friend; someone in the youth group had to branch out!) and her two kids. We hadn't seen each other in years and here we were with more children than adults at a restaurant just down the road from our middle schools and high schools and it was so great. Surreal, but great.

[Also, sadly unpictured]

After dinner we made a quick stop at home to change clothes (again!) and head to the movies. My parents took the kids out for celebratory ice cream (Claire is Wrangler of the Month at school!) and James and I were dying of laughter during Deadpool. The movie was fabulous. I would totally pay to see it again and I do not say that lightly. If you like raunchy, wry, 4th-wall breaking, super dark actiony sexy comedies, go see it immediately.

We got home around 10 and I did the traditional knocking on my parents door to let them know I was home safe and again, my heart was squeezing as I tapped on their door, opening it to find them lying in bed with their books waiting to chat about my evening. I filled them in on my movie, confessed to stealing a cupcake intended for tomorrow's festivities, and went upstairs to kiss my own three babies goodnight and crawl into bed with James. My bed being an air mattress set up in the game room because my bedroom is a gym. So much surreality!

On Sunday my brother met us at the house early so that we could present my parents with a surprise present for their dual 60th birthdays this year. They had no idea we had one more reason to celebrate and were so surprised and touched with our gift- a 3-D wood map of their lake, with depth measurements and a million other details, plus a little house marking their favorite spot in the world. My sister found it at this awesome shop- they were a fabulous company to work with- and I'm so glad we were able to present it to them all together.

Next up, we headed to church to have the CoraBunny baptized. It took some convincing to get her in her dress since it didn't have an animal on it, but she LOVED her shoes and her bow and eventually acquiesced to the dress.

Proving that some things do change, we were even ready early and got a picture before driving over!

As we were walking back in the house I saw Cora climbing on the porch and snapped one more. I'm making it her new unofficial 2 year old portrait. It's just so very her. Even if there isn't a unicorn or a zebra on her dress.

My Aunty Kirsten and Uncle Phil were there as godparents- they live nearby in the Woodlands and we grew up very close to them. Our pastor- the one who confirmed me, married me, and baptized Landon- was able to perform the sacrament and I'm so glad it all came together as it did.

Cora handled the water + forehead situation far better than expected. As long as she was in daddy's arms, she trusted it was all going to be okay, even if she did pat her head on the way back to our pew, asking, "wawee? (water) wawee head??". I mean yeah, it's a little strange.

Strange and special and done! Cora was also done. She declined the group pictures at the end, though I feel like the rest of us are really selling it.

Cora's just not buying.

Luckily we went home and she found out baptisms can involve presents!

Presents and her first Cora-approved cake! And her Houston-humidity-approved curls!

We ate catered Mexican food while we all crowded around the table, laughing because my mom no longer has any of her serving dishes, long tablecloths, or really anything group-oriented at the KW house anymore. The food was delicious, particularly for my TexMex-starved sister, and then it was time for cake. Because on top of it all, we were celebrating my birthday. 33 here I come! Preferably with a lot of sugar.

And- for the first time- probably just so I can use the word "surreal" again- Cora even ate it! And LOVED it! Her grin perfectly captures the general mood of the weekend.

And then by 1 p.m. my sister was off to the airport to fly home to Denver and by 2 we were piled in the car on our way back to Fort Worth. 27 hours in Kingwood, and what a crazy, happy, nostalgic, busy, instant and yet almost hazy 27 hours they were. We so rarely visit, and I know my parents will sell that house once they retire, but it really hit home what a punch in the gut (and heart) that's going to be. But how lovely to have had somewhere we can feel so strongly about for so long; and how much lovelier to have those memories and the foundation we built there follow us wherever we go.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

This post is a mess and I'm publishing it anyway

The draft of my New Year's Resolutions post keeps staring at me, but despite doing great on a few of my 2016 goals I am doing TERRIBLE on the most important one and I'm determined to have something positive to say before I post it. I mean, we're already 7 weeks late, what's a few more?

On the bright side, I'm working out a TON and my body has adjusted and I no longer pass out when I hit my bed and I feel strong and flexible and just really really good. I substitute-taught barre on Friday, taught my class on Saturday, taught my workshop on Saturday two hours later (SO FUN!), ran and went to yoga on Monday, taught class Tuesday night, taught class tonight, and am teaching Friday morning. It feels fantastic. I have some fresh faces in class, I have some regulars I'm getting to know well, and I'm getting close to the one-year anniversary of the day my barre teacher/mentor asked if I'd would ever be interested in teaching and my heart jumped into my chest and with a glorious, life-affirming mix of joy and utter terror, I yell/texted YES!!!!! in reply. Truly one of the best, most fun, most rewarding (most Lululemon addiction enabling) things I've ever done. I can't imagine not being able to have this bright, beautiful thing in my life and it has very much affected my vision of my future legal career path.

In other bright and beautiful news, our back patio is done! And it looks great!

Also, redoing your back deck is a quick and utterly painless remodel after having done three bathrooms and a kitchen. The crew arrived early Saturday morning and finished Monday. Besides the obvious deck work, they did a lot of small but important maintenance things. So the deck is refinished and is now a pleasant blue grey as opposed to a strange dark orange (I like orange, but it did not go with our house or yard at all). We have a bench! My addition to the plan and finally somewhere to put people's towels and bags that isn't the table with all the food. Several exterior doors (we have 9) have been reframed and reblocked so the rain won't make them rot anymore (our deck isn't covered- and I don't want it to be because I adore all the natural light we get and the trees give us more than enough shade- but it is a little rough on the extensive door and window frames). The giant white structure has been removed from the small patio and a step has been added all the way around. (Concrete staining- another pleasant blue/grey color is coming next week.) And, most important- and most expensively- WE HAVE LIGHT! Our backyard has never had an exterior light. Apparently in nearly 70 years, no owner of this house has wanted to be outside after dark, but we do and now we can! The kids acted like we'd invented electricity when we switched them on and they could ride their bikes around the pool and play on the playground after the sun went down. I'm so, so excited about this.

We also had a bunch of electrical stuff done on the inside - all the rest of our recessed lights have been switched out to LEDs (we did most with the kitchen remodel), which means for the first time ever all the lights in our TV room, bedroom, and bathroom hang at the same level, turn on at the same time, AND burn at the same intensity. Our TV room has 4 lights, but only 3 dimmed, so every time we watched a movie, we'd dim the 3 and then James would stand on his tiptoes and unscrew the bulb of #4. This will no longer be necessary and we were practically giddy when we dimmed them Monday night for the premiere of Better Call Saul.

As I mentioned last time, our beautiful sideboard is here and I love it so much and have filled it with nearly every breakable thing I own. It was damaged slightly in shipment- the little magnets on the inside that keep the doors closed were broken off, a big crack across an interior piece of wood, and a few chips on the outside. I contacted Wayfair with pictures and they immediately wrote back with an offer to send us four replacement magnets and a $150 discount. I wrote back, accepting the offer and thanking them for their quick response. The next morning I woke up to an email letting me know that the magnets weren't available from the manufacturer, so they were shipping me a WHOLE NEW SIDEBOARD. First of all, amazing. Second of all, too amazing. It's a 300 lb, 6 foot long, gigantic piece of furniture- we're already going to spend the next month trying to get all the wrapping materials cycled through our trash and recycle bins, so I called and said wait, if you're willing to do that- and THANK YOU for being willing to do that- can we just take a bigger discount and save you the trouble of buying and shipping a whole new item to us? (And us the hassle of dealing with two of the gigantic items?). And that's how I ended up with nearly 50% off my beautiful birthday present and a lifelong commitment to shopping at Wayfair. Which given that the TV room is where I'm turning my decorating attentions to next, it shouldn't be a problem to indulge that commitment early and often.

And finally, in other wonderful but completely unrelated things, have you had spasagna? It's spaghetti lasagna and there are lots of recipes, but I have made my own (adapted from here, with way less cheese, which is a rare change for me to make but it was delicious) and think you all should eat it.


1 lb (16 ounces) spaghetti noodles, uncooked
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (I used 1.5; originally recipe called for 4)
8 ounces ricotta cheese
1 cup half-and-half (I do 1/3 skim milk, 2/3 heavy cream b/c I never have half and half but always have the other two)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Meat Sauce:
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup chopped white onion
chopped garlic
1 (24 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray/grease a 9x13 baking dish.
2. Cook spaghetti al dente according to package directions.
3. In a large mixing bowl, stir together ricotta, half-and-half, mozzarella, oregano, basil, pepper, garlic, salt, and Parmesan cheese.
4. Add drained spaghetti to cheese mixture, mixing gently until spaghetti is evenly coated with mixture.
5. Gently place spaghetti mixture into prepared dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees in pre-heated oven for 30 minutes.
6. Remove from oven, remove foil and place dish on cooling rack for 10 minutes.
7. While pasta is cooking, prepare the meat sauce by browning ground beef with onion and garlic. Add spaghetti sauce and let simmer for about ten minutes.
8. Cut baked pasta into into squares and top with meat sauce.

So simple. So delicious. Pretend we ate it with a side salad. Big hit with the whole family. As is the kids' new obsession with America Ninja Warrior, a show Claire has never even seen and Landon has seen maybe once. They make obstacle courses everywhere and I Love how the big kids are trying to be all tough and Cora is just beaming with "I'M HERE! I'M A BIG KID! I'M DOING THE BIG KID THINGS!".

Okay, I'm off to bed because it's late and I'm suing someone tomorrow, but I hope you are all doing well and I promise updates on the children and my New Year's Resolutions soon. Oh and I just realized I didn't post about Valentine's Day! It happened and it was lovely. It started with our children knocking on our door in the middle of a morning round of Parcheesi which is really just hilariously perfect. The kids had very sweetly decorated the table for us and wanted us to see. And we did, later. Our midday involved a family trip to Home Depot for renovation-related purchases and a children's play at Casa Manana (Schoolhouse Rock- so cute!), and ended with James and I on the couch sharing Chinese food, sweet cards, a bottle of champagne, Downton Abbey and The Walking Dead. And non-interrupted Parcheesi. Pretty perfect.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Performances and Shiny New Things

I have my Beginner Barre Workshop today. I'm quite excited- I have my talking points, workout plan, outfit, and chocolate cake all ready to go! I'm also teaching my regular 11:45-1 class, in addition to the 2:30-4:30 workshop (and I taught yesterday morning, and Tuesday night), so I am also quite excited about the margaritas and queso I'll be inhaling after the Day O' Barre is over.

Leggings and cake; what else does a workshop need?

After years of baking, I finally used the workshop and its totally unnecessary post-workout treats to justify the purchase of my first cake stand. I just love it and now feel inspired to bake and display all the cakes on the internet. Valentine's is going to be FULL of dark chocolate and champagne this year!

Earlier this week Claire had her first elementary school performance- a Kindergarten class show to open the February PTA Meeting.

Obviously, she was super excited about this. She is our musical child. She hears a song once on the radio and somehow knows every word. She is always singing and it wasn't until she went through Kindergarten, with the same teacher as Landon, that we learned they sing every day in class. Landon never once mentioned this and seemed surprised by all the songs Claire sang for us. For him all songs, including Justin Bieber's "Sorry" that comes on the radio three times in our five minutes of driving, are brand new, but he can recite facts about animals for hours. Whereas last week Claire and I were talking about some concept she was learning in school, and she said, "Mom, it really helps if you could just sing it to me. Then I can remember everything."

Claire's teacher told us that Claire knew all 7 of their performance songs almost immediately and that everyone in the class would turn to look at her if they forgot a line; we could see that throughout the performance and it was adorable. Cora was also super excited about the performance. She insisted on jumping in one of the pictures with her big sister beforehand, and in the middle of song #3 she finally realized her beloved "Yaya" was on the stage and she jumped up and exclaimed, "Yaya! YA! YA!!". Up until that point, she had just been enjoying the music sung by this collection of anonymous small children.

Landon, who rarely jumps in my pictures anymore, requested one in front of his class's reader leader board. They're in first place for number of books read and he's a big part of it. He loves school so much, and is so low key about it. We have still never practiced his spelling words or done anything with his homework, but whenever I feel guilty about our total uninvolvement with his academics, I remind myself that he has super high grades and we have plenty of years ahead of us to argue about getting homework done. We'll be there when he needs it and in the meantime we discuss wildlife facts and fight over our rule that one in five books he reads be fiction.

All the kids had their Valentine's parties yesterday which was super exciting for all (and L&C's Friday night gymnastics class was particularly well timed). Cora wore Claire's old Valentine's outfit and it was adorable. I took her outside to get a picture and she immediately jumped in front of the school sign where I take all the big kids pictures. We got one there as she waved goodbye to L&C on their way to school and then headed over to the bushes.

When I picked her up she was covered in mac and cheese, had eaten her first cupcake, and had scraped both of her knees falling down while running, so basically it was a perfect toddler kind of a day.

As I type this a crew is on my back patio power washing and sanding it before re-staining the wood and doing a bunch of other projects like replacing the rotting step to the pool both and reframing our door where part of the wood has rotted. After checking off renos of the bathrooms and the kitchen, we're now turning to the exterior for a few projects (including, eventually, the roof, but I'm delaying that until water starts pouring into my house when it rains). Luckily this project is minimally invasive (the crew arrived at 6 a.m. and I didn't even get up until 7:30) and not subject to things like "did the old owners re-wire something wrong?" or "is this wall load bearing?". As part of the renovation, we're FINALLY getting outdoor lighting installed. In our nearly 4 years in this house we have never been able to turn on an outside light. When the sun goes down, the backyard is pitch black until morning, so this is going to be very exciting. We're also borrowing the electrician to install a gorgeous new dining room light I bought on Joss & Main and install recessed lights in our closet because those giant track lights are ugly and terrible and James hits his head on them when he walks through.

new dining table lights!

Relatedly, I bought this GORGEOUS sideboard as a birthday present over a month ago and it finally arrived yesterday. I absolutely adore it.

We had one from my parents that was lovely and great in Austin, but too small for the space and too "country" in style for our mid-century modern bungalow/Fort Worth house. So after waiting several years, stalking all furniture sites on the internet, blowing out our and redoing our kitchen, I finally settled on the perfect thing. It's huge - 72" long and 24" deep and weighing 300 lbs. and it's a statement piece to define the whole dividing wall between the living room and sun room and perfectly "glams" up the space between the dining and living room. Plus, it stores ALL our china, crystal, serving pieces, vases, and more. And I think it's the perfect thing to look at from across our (now open!!) kitchen. And since it was Wayfair, it was tax-free, had free shipping, and I spent $5 on ebay to get a 10% off coupon code to save even more money.

(Can you tell I obsessed and agonized over the purchase for months?)

pretty silvery finish

But I do love it. And with the new light fixture over the dining room table, I think the space is really going to look finished. I can't wait to show it to you!

Monday, February 8, 2016

My Horse, Night Night

We have maybe FINALLY stopped being sick. We've been like dominos around here for 2 weeks. Landon had a stomach bug, then Claire's allergies kicked up and she had a bad cough, then Cora had a cough that turned into a nose runny feverish mess, then my sinuses decided to be filled with IMPOSSIBLE amounts of disgustingness, and then, just as we thought we were wrapping up, James was taken last night. Fever, night sweats, nose nastiness... he fell harder than the rest of us combined.

Landon missed a day of school, Claire missed a day of school, Cora missed three days of school, and I missed a whole bunch of work. But today is a new day, and someday, I will not go through boxes of kleenex at a pace not even Costco can refill.

It's frustrating to be home and feel like you should be getting lots of things done, but you can't because feel crappy and your tiny laptop is too heavy to lift. On the upside, I did get to spend some quality one-on-one time with Cora, our sick kiddo with the highest fever but the fewest actual symptoms. This is Cora on a 102.5 fever. Taken from my bed because though I was feverless, I felt like hell and couldn't get up.

I had suggested we wear jammies all day, but she was horrified and dressed herself more appropriately. Not leaving the house is no excuse for a lack of style.

She's a delight and I loved getting some time to just watch her be Cora. Not Landon and Claire's besotted little sister, but just Cora, alone in her house, doing her Cora things. Much of which involves purses, accessories, babies, and preparing meals in her pretend kitchen and then not serving them to me.

In other breaking Cora news, after two years of shunning stuffed animals, she has recently adopted a unicorn, lovingly named "My Horse."

My Horse MUST be in her bed at night and nap.

He must be corralled. (I asked if he was in timeout and she looked at me offended, and replied "My Horse night night [duh]," so I think she thinks he can only fall asleep this way.)

But first he's carefully and lovingly covered.

Two is so fun. She is so fun. It's late, but I had to let you know that we're all alive, that I'm coming out from a fog of crappiness and cold medicine, and we have a lot of important things to talk about. Like Cora stealing one of James's swim caps and wearing it about the house proclaiming, "daddy's hat! daddy's hat!" and laughing so hard she couldn't keep saying it.

Actually, I'm not sure how we'll top that, but we'll try.