Monday, May 30, 2016

Cinderella and a Fairy Tale Weekend

We're back from our trip to New York City and it was WONDERFUL- super fun, super fancy, with lots of time with friends and still plenty of hours of just the two of us aimlessly rambling around the city and eating something delicious every two hours. While we missed the kids like crazy and can't wait to take them to New York, for our first grownup getaway, it truly could not have been more perfect.

with the groom

Things started out a little stressful. As I noted in the last post, the dress I'd rented from Rent the Runway didn't fit, so I packed a suitcase for NY that didn't include anything to wear to the wedding Sunday night. Then, as we were pulling out of our driveway at 6 a.m. (precisely on time; amazing how much easier it is to do that when you're not pushing three kids out the door with you) James realized he had a flat tire (roofing nail!). Luckily our nanny could give her extra car seats to my parents (we'd planned to leave my car for them) and we switched our stuff to my car and took off for DFW.

The flight was great and right on time, and James didn't even grip the armrest like he was personally responsible for keeping the plane aloft. He's really improving. We hopped in a cab at La Guardia and gave directions for our hotel only to have me panic partway there and give instructions to go straight to the Rent the Runway store instead. Not having a dress was really stressing me out, particularly when the person I talked to at RTR said they were out of most of their stock for the holiday weekend. It was 95 degrees in NYC and the RTR store didn't seem to have functioning air conditioning. Everything took forever and they didn't have anything in my size when we arrived (stress!), but after stalking the returns I found 4 in my size and simply decided I would love one of them. I settled on a cobalt blue gown that was long, simple, and gave me an hourglass figure I do not actually possess- plus I could wear shoes I already owned and happened to bring with me plus the accessories I'd already rented, so we were done! Except the computer system is terrible so it actually took another 45 minutes to exit, but luckily there was a tiny pizza place next door that James was able to eat at for extra shopping stamina.

Now, confident that I would not be attending a very formal affair in the maxi dress I wore on the plane, I joyfully stepped out onto the NYC streets, new designer sunglasses on, $10 Ross maxi dress ready (SO many compliments on that; at least 10 from total strangers; Ross Forever!), and gold sandals totally inadequate for the walking we were about to do, but we were HERE and we were ready to seize the rest of our day! We marched up 5th Avenue from 17th to 38th, pulling our suitcases behind us and feeling really weird about not having to keep any small children out of the street. I love cities SO much I was grinning like an idiot the entire walk, even as I sweated through all my clothes (95 degrees!) and my arm went numb from pulling my suitcase. So much energy! It's like being plugged into an electric socket and I glowed pretty much the whole time we were there.

Once at the hotel we changed into new, non-sweaty clothes and wandered back down 5th, stopping for an ice cream cone dipped in rainbow sprinkles (me, obviously), more pizza (James), and ultimately finding ourselves in Eataly near the Flatiron building at 23rd. It had been 15 blocks and 25 minutes since our last meal, so we got a table and I had the best homemade burrata and sliced prosciutto of my entire life- including when I was in Italy- and glass of champagne (a theme of the weekend). James had pasta and a million slices of bread and both of us were very happy. He took a Nutella crepe to go and we ate in Madison Square Park. Or he did, I just watched because Nutella is gross. We wandered back up 6th to return to our midtown hotel (The Refinery- fabulous), collapsed in our bed and watched HGTV and napped. You can probably guess who did what.

The casual Rehearsal Dinner was at 7 at Park Avenue Tavern where our friend Dave and his fiance Rita had their first date, so we walked over there and got to see some swimming friends we hadn't seen since our own wedding. It was so fun to chat and catch up, enjoying free drinks and snacks and the giddy knowledge that we could stay out as late as we wanted. After the dinner we went back to our hotel with our former UT swimming crew and I got to be a VIP for the first time ever by using my room key to cut the line to the apparently VERY popular rooftop bar at our hotel. Obviously, everyone was very impressed with my connections. The rooftop was fab and there was more champagne and lots more chatter and laughter.

I love these people.

We went to bed late and woke up as late as I am capable. The wedding wasn't until 6:30 so I used some of your suggestions and we grabbed a cab down to Chelsea Market for some brunching. It was AWESOME- at least 2 city blocks of restaurants and all different cuisines. I had a lemon, sugar, and butter crepe (breakfast!) and the best rustic Italian sandwich ever (I was very into homemade mozzarella and melt in your mouth prosciutto on this trip). James ate everything- I stopped keeping track. Properly fueled we headed out and went up on the High Line to walk back up towards our hotel. The High Line is wonderful- what a fabulous idea and use of space. It's a garden filled walkway built on old railroad tracks above the city. We loved strolling along it, watching the cars underneath and admiring the flowers and buildings all around.

We exited at 33rd and decided to ramble around Central Park, so we grabbed another cab to jump us up another 30 blocks and entered the park about Central Park West and 62nd. We did Bow Bridge, Bethesda Fountain, Belvedere Castle... just tons of walking and some sitting and enjoying... it was perfect. We ate popsicles and decided we were fueled enough to walk back to our hotel. We meandered, me forcing James to take a picture now and then, James trying not to shudder at how many people were everywhere.

We found a noodle house that looked delicious so we headed in there for James to eat three more plates of food just in case the fancy wedding food didn't fill him up (an absurd concern, as you'll see below). We got back to the hotel in time to rest for a bit and then it was time for my Blow Dry on the Fly appointment through Blow Dry bar. I booked through their app and they send a stylist (Lucy! who was awesome) to your hotel for a blow out, curl, braid- whatever! It was amazing and so great after a day full of walking to just chill in the room while someone else made my hair look far better than I am capable. After that I just had to do my makeup (thank you youtube videos) and don my rented dress with rented jewels and fill my rented purse with ID, lipstick, and a credit card and I was ready!


At 30 minutes out James jumped in the shower and put on his tux. I had never seen him in a tux before and it was a moment for me.

We headed out of the hotel in our rented finery, ran into our friends in the lobby, and walked our block and a half to the wedding at Gotham Hall.

my dress had a train because whytf not

I had never been to a Jewish wedding before, so I was brimming with excitement, curiosity, joy for our friend, and joy at us being dressed up and OUT and ready to party. The wedding could have been a dud and I still would probably have loved every minute, but oh holy hell it was the most extraordinary event I've ever been to and truly, other than my own wedding, the most fun-filled too.

We started out in a cocktail hour- full bar, passed drinks, passed hors d'oeuvres. It was a good start. I liked the drinking pre-ceremony and James liked the variety of tiny foods that involved steak.

and Dave; we love Dave

Next, we were ushered into the hall for the ceremony. I found this fascinating and very beautiful. The family was so much a part of the ceremony- both sets of parents stood up by their children throughout and the visual of that was very powerful. It was a less about the couple- I didn't find the creation of their union to be as poignant or tear-inducing as I often do (in part because the rabbi had been flown in from Israel and the whole ceremony was in Hebrew so I wasn't sure when they were actually married or what the vows said), but I loved the feeling of history and generations. It felt less like a creation of a new family and more of a joining of two families together to form a new branch. I found it lovely and felt honored to be there.

After the ceremony we were back in the large cocktail room- now with a second story opened up- and two full bars and FIVE different cocktail buffets. A giant sushi table with chefs making sushi as fast as we could eat it, bottles of sake for the taking, and endless sushi and sashimi. A table of lamb sliders and toppings. A mashed potato bar. A fresh pasta stations with toppings and grilled vegetables. More passed hors d'oeuvres. James was in heaven with a stack of sushi on his plate and bottle of sake in his pocket.

I snuck a peak through the 2nd story cocktail lounge curtains into the reception hall below. Oh boy.

When the reception hall opened back up, the party really began. They had a huge band that was amazing and played all my barre songs. Two more bars. Tables of food in case you got hungry between courses. A four course dinner. Flowers so big I texted my friend across the table to chat because we couldn't see each other through the plumage.

The bride and groom were radiant. We already knew Dave was a great dancer and his bride was a perfect match. The dancing was nonstop the whole night. So often with sit down dinners the energy lulls and never recovers, but they kept the band playing hits and people just popped up from their table to dance between courses while the next was set out. After the meat course, more tables were set up with salamis and breads, and a carving station of something I never bothered to identify. We danced. We drank. I discovered a bartender who made excellent Mexican martinis and the house tequila was silver Patron.

We danced a lot.

And when we wore out our men, we ladies danced with each other instead.

The dessert course began and it was an ENTIRE ROOM of six separate dessert buffets. A chocolate table. A pastry table. A table of tiny cakes. A crepe station. A gelaterie.

I was REALLY excited about this room.

James too.

There was more dancing. I don't think the bride ever sat down. The families were giddy with joy. All four parents were bogeying down and the endless cousins were always on the floor. It was a party first and an elegant formal affair second and the combination of the two- and being in the city, without kids, and with friends we hadn't seen in years- made it feel magical. Like I was Cinderella. An apt analogy given that I bundled up everything I was wearing into a bag and dropped it at the front desk on our way out this morning to be returned to RTR.

After 6 hours the party was still going strong as everyone went upstairs to the after-party area with cigar bar, another full bar, and more food. At 1 a.m. we finally had to tap out, hugging and kissing our friends goodbye and giving our best to the bride, groom, and their families. We emerged from Gotham Hall to find the city still vibrant and bursting, with a steady rain to reflect the lights all the more. My shoes were broken, my feet swollen. We limped home, a giant smile on my face as I lifted it up to the rain and walked hand in hand with my love back to the hotel.

At 9 a.m. the next morning we were heading back to the airport and our life in Fort Worth. To our 3 kids we had missed terribly, and our newly broken AC unit and the stresses of James's changing job that we had not. But I'll remember forever dancing till I dropped, singing and laughing till I was hoarse, and walking home in the rain and city lights holding James's hand.

Living a fairy tale.

For a weekend anyway.

Friday, May 27, 2016

This Romper Has No Elephants

Yesterday I took the morning off from work so I could go to the kids' field day. I have never been to field day. Landon's Kindergarten year I had testimony I couldn't reschedule. His first grade year a semi truck hit me on the highway the day before and was sore and bruised and not into the idea of getting in a car. So this year I was GOING. And I went. And then it rained and field day was postponed for 5 hours, right when I needed to be back at work. Disappointed, but not about to let 3 leave hours go to waste, I went erranding to get ready for our New York trip (6 a.m. tomorrow!). It is much harder to prepare for a trip while also preparing for 3/5 of your family to remain behind in your house. It's like having guests and going on vacation at once. And we have a mix mash of childcare that is making things a little more complicated (my parents are coming late tomorrow and leaving early Monday, so we'll never see them; our nanny is filling in on Day 1 and 3). So there's a lot to do.

I gave myself 15 minutes in TJ Maxx to find a lightweight purse to carry around the city (done!) and maybe find something cute to wear during our city wandering on Sunday. I grabbed a few sundresses I didn't need and then once in the dressing room I spied an elephant covered romper from the juniors section hanging up on the go-back rack. I have never worn a romper. I've never even tried on a romper. A romper is far to hipster trendy for my staid self. But it had elephants and maybe the New York version of me IS hip and trendy? No one will know that I'm actually not. So I asked the fitting room attendant if I could try it and I fell in love. I'm not sure it's actually all that flattering on me, but it was cute and comfortable and light and airy and easy and New York me is HERE for elephant rompers. Plus it was $12 because it's from the juniors section at TJ Maxx.

So I bought it. And then I told my bestie coworker friend ALL about it and its elephant romperness and I was so into rompers by the time I went home I wondered if I maybe needed more. Later last night, post-barre subbing (we killed it; also, no one in my class had seen Centre Stage so I gave them all homework to watch it immediately, it's basically a barre pre-req), I started to have doubts about the romper. So I got it out of my closet to try on and there were no elephants. Not ONE! I was shocked. Disappointed. So genuinely completely confused. The romper I tried on that morning was covered in elephants and this romper doesn't have a single one.

I texted my friend immediately, not wanting any false claims of elephant rompers to be floating out there in the universe. I still don't know what sort of foul magic is afoot, but I've packed the paisley romper and will make a gameday decision on Sunday on whether or not New York Lag Liv wears paisley rompers. It's a whole new decision tree I need to work through.

In other sartorial news, my Rent the Runway dresses didn't fit. The one I picked out for the rehearsal dinner is too thick and scuba-y and the one for the wedding is too tight in the neck/upper chest. My upside down triangle proportions rear their ugly head again. I'm a 0 in the hips, 2/4 in the waist, and 6 at the top. All perfectly good numbers, just none of them the same and tricky to combine into a long gown. So I packed everything up to take to the RTR store in Manhattan to try on whatever they have in my size tomorrow afternoon. I've packed black shoes and silver shoes, 2 types of bras, my full eyeshadow palette, and will rent all the other accessories. It's weird to have a suitcase full of clothing I'm not going to wear. And that might include the paisley romper.

Other things are happening! The kids are in their final days of school (last day June 2nd!). Every day brings home new stacks of art, writings, and other treasures I need to find room for. More importantly, last weekend I got to play Life with Landon! It was a real mountaintop moment in my 9 years of motherhood so far. I LOVE board games. I love board games more than anyone loves board games and no one ever plays them with me and the kids are finally old enough to play REAL board games and it is so awesome. Plus, the conversations you have with your kids during Life are wonderful and hilarious (taxes, house insurance, car insurance, buying stock, naming spouses/babies, contemplating college v. straight on to a career). Landon's wife is Mary and his kids - and he was thrilled to pieces each time he landed on a baby spot- are named Carson and Sally. I would never have known that had we not played Life while Cora was napping and Claire was at a friend's house.

We celebrated Claire's 6th birthday at school on Wednesday. Her real birthday is 2 days after school gets out so we wanted to make sure she could bring a treat to her class. She chose donuts and was THRILLED to pass them out. Kindergarten has been such an amazing year for her- she's the youngest in her class but you'd never know it. She adores school and it makes my heart happy every time I see her beaming face ready and super excited to go to "Kiddergarten" each morning.

Thank you all for your sweet words about Tex. It was a tremendously sad day and we continue to look for him at random moments- I have yet to open our back door when I get home from work without expecting his furry body around the other side, excited to have us home and particularly excited to get his dinner. James still turns the flashlight on his phone every time he comes from the bathroom to our bed at night so he can avoid stepping on him. It's hard. But we are at peace knowing he's at peace and that he gave us some wonderful years. I was also able to donate all of his unused flea and heartworm meds (11 months worth; I was so optimistic when I placed that year-long order 2 months ago), brushes, and other accessories to a rescue organization in town which felt good and right. Cora has stopped asking  "Where my Texie go?!" a hundred times a day which is both sad and a relief.

James and I are off for the airport in 6.5 hours. It's weird to go somewhere together without the kids. I have feelings about it. I think because we both really, really like going places with the kids and I also maybe choked up a little saying goodnight to Cora. My last overnight trip was last May (James's last overnight trip was ~2010) and I've just gotten really used to always being here with them. But it will be wonderful to sit on a plane with only a kindle and a snoozing husband and to stroll through the city without worrying about anyone (CORA) running into traffic. And to dance at an uber fancy party with friends we haven't seen in years while I wear an amazing dress I don't have yet and James wears an amazing tux I haven't seen yet either (he has it, it's just wrapped up, he's several steps ahead of me in terms of wardrobe right now and it's weird). 

I'll keep you posted on the romper.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Sweet Dreams Sir Tex

We said goodbye to our sweet Tex yesterday. In his mellow, easy-going way, he waited to tell us he was sick until he was so far gone he made all our decisions for us, but it was still really, really hard.

Saturday seemed to start out fine for Tex. He slept in, ate his breakfast in an enthusiastic 90 seconds, and took his usual long nap followed by long nap. He went on an occasional walk around the house to check in on things and spent sometime outside sitting in his favorite bush (literally in the bush; he liked to be one with nature, or at least that one small piece of it). He ate his dinner with his usual vigor. And then, at about 7:30, when we let him back in the house after his evening constitutional, he started whining.

And he basically never stopped until noon the next day when we said goodbye.

He paced around the house, sitting in his bed only to get back out again. Tex feels very strongly about his sleep, so even without the whining we knew something was wrong. We worried he had a roofing nail in his foot, but a thorough inspection proved the feet were unlikely to be the problem. He'd settle for a moment and then get up again. At 10 we realized it was not something he was going to walk off, so we googled a 24 hour vet, and at 11 he and I headed out. Looking back I'm not sure why we waited, I think we just kept thinking he'd shake it off like he had other small discomforts over the last few years.

He was taken back for an examination and 30 minutes later, a very kind vet with very kind, very sad eyes sat down in front of me and took a deep breath. "Obviously, there's a lot going on here."

There were many many words... intercranial disc disease... advanced age... cancer... swollen lymph nodes... increased ocular pressure... at least two masses under the skin... possible fracture in the cervical spine... possible fracture in the shoulder... intense pain in neck... can possibly give him a few weeks or even months... could wake up paralyzed... could improve... there's no wrong decision... he's outlived his usual life expectancy... there's no wrong decision... you didn't miss anything you should have caught, sometimes they just wait until the very end to let us know that something is wrong.

I decided, through a myriad of texts and phone convos with James, to take the vet up on her option to give him the best pain shots and pills they could give him and bring him home. To let us see if we could make him comfortable. I deeply appreciated her gentle point that while they could do all sorts of tests- they're a state of the art emergency and oncology facility- unless we planned to treat the cancer and other issues, there was no real need to know where the cancer was. It was almost certainly there. He was very clearly in pain. Let's see if comfort is possible, then figure out if doing more is right.

So he got a shot and I got some pills and at 1 a.m. I pulled back up the driveway shocked to have a dog who was rapidly and painfully falling apart.

The night was terrible. He was completely freaked out from the pain medicine- panting, pacing, crying, yelping every time he turned the wrong way and moved his neck. Finally around 4 a.m. we moved his bed to the small laundry room attached to our bathroom, hoping the smaller space would force him to calm down and at least minimize his movement. We called the vet and got approval to give him another dose of oral pain meds. He didn't seem to know who we were and started any time we moved towards him or tried to touch him. Around 5 a.m. I could still hear him whining as I finally fell asleep.

The kids were up at 6:30 and so was Tex. I don't think he ever fell asleep. The outdoors seemed to calm him a bit, but he didn't touch his breakfast and didn't want us near him. We talked to the kids about what had happened overnight. Landon mentioned he could hear Tex whining at 9 and 10 p.m. while he was half asleep. We called the vet and they said to come back in. We talked to the kids again. We said we didn't know what would happen, but it was possible that we might decide that the best way to help Tex would be to put him to sleep. That for a dog he had lived a long time. That dog's lives are different from ours- they live for each day, and while yesterday had been a good day, today was not. That there were unlikely to be good days again and Tex wouldn't be able to understand why. That we were talking with doctors and we would all try to make the best decision for Tex because he was telling us he was hurting and it was our job to fix it.

I asked if they wanted to pet him or get a picture with him and they said yes. They seemed to understand what was happening- the fact that Tex hadn't eaten his breakfast was deeply unnerving for them. One of the kids has fed him his meals for the last 5 years and he inhales it with gusto each time. We were able to get a few gentle pictures, though Tex was skittish, particularly about his neck.

James took him to the vet, and unsure of what else to do on this thoroughly fucked up morning, I started a load of laundry and piled the kids in the car to go run errands. I was in Target when James called with an update. Basically affirming what we heard last night, except now we knew two common and effective pain meds were not helping in the least. Again, there was no wrong decision. The vet mentioned a cocktail of drugs they can use trial and error to create that can sometimes buy weeks or even months of relative comfort. But for what, we wondered? Tex was 13 or 14 years old. In our case, it felt like those extra days would be for us and not him. And the phrase trial and error made me think of more nights like the ones before and there was no way he could do that. We started realizing that his intermittent whining at night over the past couple months hadn't been bad dreams or the occasional wakings of old age. A million other small signs all came together to paint a very different picture than what we thought we'd been seeing. He hadn't slept since the afternoon the day before. There was no wrong decision, but it felt like there was a right one.

I asked if he wanted me to take the kids home and find a sitter so I could be with him. James said he felt like he was okay, that the doctor was supportive, that he just wanted it done. I checked out at Target, finding it bizarre that less than a mile away my dog was being put to sleep and no one in the checkout line knew it. I explained the situation to the kids when we got home. I made them lunch. I looked at pictures of Tex and tears just kept pouring down my face. He was such a calm and unobtrusive presence in our house, how could I already miss him so much?

James got home about 12:30, eyes bloodshot and face red. "It was so much harder than I thought" he choked out, "It was very peaceful. It was the first time he was quiet and relaxed since yesterday. But it was so hard. I didn't think it would be so hard." I hugged him as we both cried in the kitchen. The first time I've seen him cry in 13 years.

As we clutched each other, James's face buried in my neck, both of us dripping, Landon yelled the first of 6,000 questions about how exactly Tex died, "did his heart stop first or his brain? how did the doctor do that? did he get lots of shots or one big one? where is he? did you hold him after he was dead?". Claire announced her intention to adopt a kitten and name him Tex. And Cora stood on her chair, waving her string cheese in the air, yelling her grievances about my incorrect opening of the wrapper at her dad so he would know my shame.

After a moment, one of us started to chuckle in our tear and now snot-filled hug. It was so absurd. The string cheese stick was clutched in an indignant toddler's first, being haphazardly waved in the air, while Claire adopted a kitten in Tex's honor and Landon delved into the biology and chemistry of euthanasia. Life in all its brutal beautiful glorious chaos. And in 10 minutes I had to go teach a barre class because all the other teachers were out of town though I could not POSSIBLY think of anything I wanted to do less. James had to get out to his outdoor pool to fix a motor in the pump room. I hadn't eaten since yesterday. We needed groceries and the laundry needed to be switched. Glorious chaos indeed.

We miss him. We adopted him as a middle aged man in 2008 (from this amazing organization), a week before I took the bar exam, and over the last 8 years he has been a steadfast friend, consummate gentleman, James's coworker, and highly tolerant big sibling to 3 curious and affectionate babies. When we adopted him, he had been at his foster home the longest of any dog. This sweet, calm, noble, happy gentleman. I'm so glad he was ours. I'm grateful his suffering was short and he made our decision as easy as it could be.

Rest in Peace sweet boy. We miss you.