Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Weekend Recap Before the Halloween Pics Descend

Catching up on a few things that aren't Claire or shopping before we head out for some wet and rainy trick or treating. The kids are undaunted by the weather forecast and I'm counting on my ghost leggings and a yeti filled with hot toddy to get me through. But first, we revisit last Friday, when Cora's school held its first ever fall festival.

She was, of course, very excited. Sitting at a table with a whole bevy of princesses, I overheard her telling them, "When I go to Disenney Wurrld, I will be ALL the princesses." True that. One of my more difficult planning conundrums is knowing that Cora owns (or will own, after her birthday) 8 different princess dresses and only has 6 days to wear them. Princess problems right there.

The big kids were super excited for her- it delights them when she is delighted, so a good time was had by all. I tried to tell Landon he could sit at the big people table with me, "but I like this one," he said. I jumped at any excuse to be around adults >> children (still do, pretty much), but Landon is all in on the big brother gig and will forever be disappointed we did not have at least a dozen more kids.

She screamed when she saw her teacher (having been separated from her for a whole 4 minutes while I put her costume on in a different classroom) and Ms. Rosie told me that Cora is such a joy to teach and that every day when she first sees her, Cora tells her in a sweet, true, genuine voice, "Ms. Rosie, you look so beautiful today." "It's the best part of my morning," Ms. Rosie told us. And then two other teachers stopped us to tell us that Cora is always complimenting something about them. She's such an exuberant, busy little unicorn that sometimes I forget to comment on her sweetness. It's completely genuine and very much a dominant part of her very dominant personality.

Also a display of dominance- her walking up to her little male classmate in her gown and staring at him for a solid 2 minutes holding her skirts out until his mom nudged him and said "doesn't Cora look pretty in her dress?" "Um, yes?" "Thank you!" Cora said cheerfully before finally unlocking him from her gaze.

On Saturday we didn't have a soccer game (woot!), so we headed to a local brewery with friends to partake in their tour. It was a chilly day, so Cora dressed accordingly. The change in weather has really opened up a whole new world of outfit opportunities for her.

The "tour" is not really about a tour (though there is one), it's about the fact you can pay $10/adult, bring your kids for free, and get a pint glass with 3 refills of beer. Plus there's a live band and food trucks. It was a great time. It was also their Halloween party, so we got to see some hilarious and only occasionally inappropriate costumes on a gorgeous chilly day.

Ugly Pug is one of their popular beers and the Ugly Pug himself jumped into a few of our pictures!

At one point we noticed our friend and James were both "holding" a pair of their daughter's ear muffs. Really pulled the looks together.

A friend bought our kids a funnel cake and they attacked it like a pack of starving hyenas. Landon and Cora took turns licking the plate at the end. I understood completely.

I had two pints of beer (1.8 really) and that was PLENTY. I can't imagine three, but it was super fun and James even drank my last 0.2. He drinks like twice a year so that was momentous for everyone.

After that I tried to mainline diet coke to get my head back on straight and wrote a post about the Bear. Thirty minutes later I destroyed my kitchen trying to make a new pasta salad recipe to bring to a friend's potluck pumpkin carving party that was really delicious but also more involved than the beautifully lit recipe blog pictures led me to believe.

The party was great. I love an impromptu gathering of friends where all the food offerings come together and there's a beautiful night and spiced cider. Pumpkins optional. But James takes his pumpkin carving VERY seriously and I was glad he could honor that impulse while I drank cider in a social environment.

Then we got the kids in bed and binged THREE whole episodes of Stranger Things 2 which was the perfect cap to a really fun and festive day.

On Sunday we drove to Dallas to take Sir Winston to his new foster mom. She's the head of the Rescue Group and a really wonderful person with a huge heart, three bulldogs, and two other fosters. Winston is now part of a pack of 6. We held on to him a few extra days than we obviously intended, but we really wanted him to go to a good next stop and felt it was worth waiting for (she was out of town and then had guests until Saturday). We were just super vigilant about him and Cora which was exhausting and reminded us every hour of why we were making the right choice (not that we doubted) even though he was a perfect gentleman the whole time. It was a sad morning. Cora had a LOT of questions and was the most devastated of the three. We gave him hugs, filled Renae in on every detail of his life and preferences, pet all her bulldogs, and then said our goodbyes. It sucked and I cried. I adored that dog.

And then we drove home and made ourselves busy putting the finishing touches on the garage.

I love the space now. Here's just a little flashback of the horrors of old:

And now - light bright and super organized. All the things on the wall and shelves!

Who knew you could love a detached garage so much? I love all of it and just want to spend time gazing at the hooks and racks and shelving. James is about to fill it up with his Bricks and Swags, but it will still be beautiful.

Just like my dress that came in the mail for our Disney Christmas Party? I LOVE it. It even made me smile on Sunday afternoon when I was feeling sad.

11 more days until we leave. I'm as excited as the kids. I need to go get the kids' costumes on, so I leave you with food (which is really always the best thing to be left with.) Happy Halloween!

Friday: Cheesy Vegetarian Chili Mac- a new family favorite we first tried a few weeks ago, made even better by colder weather to eat it with.
Saturday: Mediterranean Bean and Pasta Salad- we ended up at a friend's for a pumpkin carving potluck, so I made this up based on the linked recipe, but added a pound of whole wheat rotini, doubled the dressing, and added kalamata olives and crumbled feta (and left out the chickpeas because I hate them and I was the one making it). It was great! And paired well with all the other random things people brought, I just love when that happens.
Sunday: Pesto Chicken Salad Sandwiches- everyone loves these; I make them on individual ciabatta rolls and used a rotisserie chicken and Costco's pesto (because it is the best ever, including homemade, for serious), with fruit and chips on the side. Sunday was a draining day; this was a delicious, light, and comforting meal.
Monday: Black Bean Spinach Enchiladas- the homemade enchilada sauce is insanely good, Claire ate a whole extra enchilada just to get more of it.
Tuesday: Halloween! Chili pot luck at a friend's.
Wednesday: Creamy Ham and Potato Soup- except I'm using thick slice smoked deli turkey because I don't like ham, biscuits on the side.
Thursday: Baked breaded chicken breasts (from Costco), cauliflower mashed potatoes (from the frozen section of TJ's, heat per directions, then add a half circle of Herb Boursin cheese and a bunch of fried onions, stir together, and start eating out of the bowl), steamed broccoli, rolls.
Friday: Pasta or something else quick and easy before our school's fall festival begins!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Checking In: Claire

So I did one of these on Landon a few months ago (apparently MANY months ago) and I meant to do one for each of the girls, but I generally write posts late at night while James and I are watching whatever show we're binging (currently Stranger Things 2, having just finished Ripperstreet and GLOW) and while I can do an update with the TV on, it's really hard to properly WRITE in that environment. To sit and really think, who is my child right now? How can I capture her? Who is she, past my own expectations and and our day to day routine?

But now it's a Saturday afternoon. Landon has a friend over outside, Claire is at another friend's, Cora is having some downtime watching Beauty and the Beast, and I am trying to shake off the fact I had two pints of beer with friends at a brewery tour this afternoon. College me must have had a very different metabolism because all I can think about is curling up in bed. I drink beer like 5 times a year and I drink before 5 p.m. about that often as well. Today was like some kind of epic holiday challenge and I'm failing, so what better time to ruminate on my girls while drinking a diet coke? I'm counting on the chemicals, caffeine, and artificial sweetener to overpower the hops and alcohol. That's science. Let's do this.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Claire, 7 years, 4.5 months

Claire is my hardest to capture. Landon is so uniquely himself, and a boy, and looks EXACTLY like James, and I think of him as being so different than me (though he isn't, really) that it's easier for me to stand outside of him and look in. Claire on the other hand looks SO MUCH like me- my siblings and I all had blonde hair and blue eyes, but in my little family, it's just Claire carrying on that Swedish look. Superficially, she has so many aspects of my oldest child Type A personality that it's constantly shocking to realize she is NOT me, and in fact, is really just as far away from my core self as Landon. It is fun and fascinating and occasionally frustrating to be her mother, and I know that much of that frustration comes because I keep being surprised by her non-me-ness. I really try to parent without the burden of unnecessary expectations, so it is forever surprising to me how much I seem to inherently expect my oldest daughter to be like me in a way I don't with Landon. As always, I have something to work on.

Claire at 7 is still bright, colorful, and enthusiastic. She continues to adore school. She is going to be a teacher for Halloween and didn't consider anything else. She loves the routine of school, loves the desks and the order and the pencils and tasks. She loves when she remembers something in their daily schedule their teacher forgot and delights in the trappings of day to day elementary academia.

In this, she is precisely me.

She brought home a test early in the year with a 47 on the top. A 47!! "What is this?!" I asked her. "What?" she replied, "it's just a 4 and a 7." "But in that order! And out of 100!!" I exclaimed. "Oh, yeah," she shrugged, "I really wanted to go to the writing center next so I just wrote down answers."

In that, she is not.

I used to tiptoe so much around anything resembling criticism for her, remembering how sensitive I was to it and how I can literally repeat verbatim any criticism I ever received on anything. I take it well, it just then eats away at me inside for 20 years or so. But with Claire I've slowly learned that I need to be blunt. "A 47 is not acceptable. You need to take enough time to read all your questions and check all your answers, even if that means less time at writing center. Your grades are important, and you need to put in the effort to make them match your ability. Your are much, much smarter than this, Claire."

"Oh, okay mom!" she said brightly, and then proudly showed me her stack of 100's a week or two later. "I took my time mom," she told me matter-of-factly, "I did not rush to centers." And then she skipped off, probably to play school again.

On the one hand (the much, larger hand, with like 9 fingers on it), I love that she can roll with things. She shakes off criticism, complaints, and the occasional bit of frustrated yelling by her occasionally frustrated parents and just blinks at you, like wow, you seem upset? You should take deep breaths. This will serve her well in life and I'm glad of it. On the other, the hand with like 1 small finger, I'd like my words to have just a LITTLE MORE impact because zomg I'm trying not to crush your spirit child but I'm also not at all sure you're listening.

It is, as always, an education to parent a little human who is not yourself.

She is still so sweet and patient with Cora. They are so different, in big ways and little. Claire never cared a bit about princesses and Cora first discovered them when she found an old unopened princess barbie from one of Claire's long ago birthday parties. "What is this?" Cora breathed in awe, and it was like a piece of her heart was unlocked. Claire adores dressing up in stylish real clothes, with real necklaces, scarves, and great shoes (especially booties), but she has never worn a pretend dress or costume outside of Halloween night itself. Cora lives in dress up clothes. Claire needs to be around people. She will sit and read next to you, she will color at the table while you work, and she will tromp you at Memory by the hour, but she needs your nearness and interaction. Cora adores her family, but will also sit in the playroom by the hour putting together puzzles, organizing her princesses, or cooking dinner. She does not need you and she does not check in. If you ask to join her, she'll consider it and generally say no. Claire would have already requested your presence at her dining table.

She is a messy hoarding pack rat. Keeping her toys in the sets they came in is not only impossible for her, it is genuinely not the way she wants them to live. All toys, especially the beloved tiny ones, are spread out amongst various purses, bins, pockets, and drawers. It makes me CRAZY and I used to have big play room clean outs where I would reorganize all her belongings for her into nicely labeled bins. She would hug me and tell me it looked so beautiful and then immediately set about tucking things into tiny un-labeled places just where they wanted to be. I've given in. Stuff just has to be off the floor and it never bothers her in the least that when she wants to play school (the only game she really plays; dolls and other imaginative play never really being her thing), she can only ever find 33% of her set at a time.

"Don't you want to be able to find everything when you want it?" Landon and I will ask, genuinely curious/horrified. "It's okay, I'll just use these pieces," she'll reply contentedly.

Her sports remain soccer and swimming. James says she has a lot of natural talent for the latter but she's far more interested in chatting with her friends at the end of the lane than doing much with it for now. She continues to love soccer. She's focused on it about 85% of the time she's on the field, which seems pretty good for a 7-year-old. She's aggressive, just occasionally disinterested, but when she decides to care, is quite happy to take the ball from you and get in your face while doing it. Landon finds this very shocking as he gently kicks the ball back and forth to Cora on the sidelines. She wants to play again in the spring, so we may be in soccer for the long haul.

She's grown more inches than she's gained pounds in the last year, making her long and lanky and so very different from the chunky baby of what seems like only a few years ago. No more rounded cheeks or chunky thighs, her knees stick out the sides of her skinny (but strong!) legs and her arms are all wiry muscle and bone. She's as athletic as she wants to be- hanging with Landon and James on their long runs/bike rides, but also tapping out whenever she thinks a game of school sounds more fun. On our hikes, she's tough and rarely complains- unless she thinks her dad will scoop her up and carry her and then she is absolutely going to indulge in that.

By virtue of her own personality and the fact she is neither toddler nor tween (or having to parent either of the two), she is by FAR the most emotionally stable person in our house right now. She shrugs off most problems and embraces all that is good about her day. She'll eye a tantrumming Cora or a crying Landon like a science experiment that is happening before her, "why are they doing that mom?" she's asked before. An excellent question frequently without an answer. She is my food connoisseur, asking about the flavors and ingredients in our dinners and inhaling every bite with compliments to the chef. My BBQ Quinoa salad is by far her favorite meal (she requested it for her birthday), but she loves pretty much everything and wants to talk about it. She is a delight to bring anywhere- she has questions and comments and always notices something wonderful.

She delights in her friends. I have lamented that her circle isn't a bit bigger- Landon has a bigger group of nearby friends, but the girl component is a little smaller. She loves to tell me what her friends were wearing and what she loved about it, what they're doing and what they like. When she gets something new, she's always just as excited to tell me her friends' likely reactions "Oh mommy, so and so will love this." Like me, she needs people in her life and I hope a close group of friends will grow for her. She's ready to spread out from us a bit and I know it's right while also being a little sad. The weekends when it was enough for just the five of us to hang out for all 48 hours are long gone.

Not that you'd know it by looking over at my couch right now with all three kids snuggled under blankets watching some compromised show on Netflix.* Mornings are the best and Claire loves them. She is my only kid who will exit her room in her pj's- Landon always changes before we even know he's up and Cora is in a princess dress as soon as her eyes are open. But Claire will luxuriate in a little a.m. coziness and remains my only child who tries to climb in bed with me on a lazy weekend morning. She loves a snuggle. When I did my experiment of hugging my kids until they let go, Claire was the one who called my bluff. At some point, I had to move on or read a book or do SOMETHING and she was still happily embraced in our hug.

In the last 3 months she's found a love of reading that delights me to my toes. I'm trying to be cool and not overwhelm her with the boxed sets of Anne of Green Gables and Laura Ingalls Wilder books that I purchased in the very week I found out I was having a girl. I want her to love them so much. Those books, all the books! Reading is a bit solitary for my extroverted snuggler, but her brain has crossed the threshold into making it easy- a down time activity instead of one that takes work, and I got some series for her (Happily Ever After and Ivy and Bean) that captured her in a way that she looked forward to reading every night and telling me proudly how many dozens more pages she'd read. I love it and am so proud of her progress. She's 12 books down and looking for more- I just scored two boxed sets of the original American Girl series on our neighborhood buy/sell page and I can't wait to give them to her for Christmas.

She has a very defined sense of style and always has. "Clothes" have been one of her top requests for gifts since she was 4 and her style gravitates towards clean lines with a bit of boho chic flavor. She's as excited as I am when I bring her home a new find from the store- a recent $1.50 purchase from the clearance rack at Gap made her whole day. I had to buy her shorts for camps this past summer when I realized she didn't own any and she's never voluntarily worn a t-shirt in her life. The very strong and very innate style preferences of each of my children will always delight me (and give me an excuse to buy Cora new clothes even though she should have plenty of Claire's hand-me-downs; their styles and personalities are so different and who can resist indulging in a tutu or 10?). Claire loves shoes like I do and loves mixing and matching styles, feigning ignorance every time I try to remind her that her floor-length delicate maxi dress doesn't really go with the black leather chunky booties she's paired with it. "I like it." she declares, and that works for me, as I follow behind her with a smile.

And that's Claire right now. Stylish and creative. Focused on what matters but always up and looking for something else to do. Half-finished craft projects litter her un-labeled bins. Enthusiastic and optimistic about the finished project shown on the box, she'll throw herself into a cross stitch or jewelry making project, only to abandon it 30 minutes later, the project remaining forever unfinished as the pieces to complete it are inevitably lost to her chaos. This does not bother her in the least- her joy is in those 30 minutes and the optimism of the first 30 seconds. Same with any spending money she gets. It's gone instantly, to something she probably already has at home but has fallen violently in love with while away. Once we return, it's tossed in the pile of loveys, sometimes lavished with love, but generally ignored. "I wish I had more money," she'll occasionally sigh with regret, but then add with an accepting shrug, "but I always just spend it."

She is a ball of sunshine and a giant hug wrapped in a tall, lean, blue-eyed, tangled hair package. I look at her and can't believe she was the chubby smiley baby who made us such a happy family of four 7 years ago. My daughter, with the name I'd adored since high school, who taught us that babies can be fun and easy and sleep for HOURS. It's been so fun watching her grow into herself and I can't wait to see what's in her future (besides maxi dress, snuggles, and disorganized bins of tiny precious items).

*It's morning now; I went from post-brewery-diet-coke writing to frantically throwing together a super tasty pasta salad to bring to a friend's pumpkin carving potluck and then Stranger Things with James while eating a 10 p.m. bonus bowl of vegetarian chili mac on the couch while shopping for snow shoes. Stolen pockets of writing time are never very big and must be cobbled together across days. I should really feed the kids breakfast but they're quiet and happy and James is swimming and this is more time I am stealing.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Shopping (to make money for more shopping)

Thank you all for your support and comments on the last post. The situation sucks and is painful and I don't really want to talk about it anymore. In the words of James, "I loved that little shitbag." and I suppose that sums it up as well as anything. We really did. He's going to be fostered with the head of the rescue group for a while and I think it will be a very good landing place for him.

On Tuesday evening I took the kids to a skating rink for a PE program fundraiser at our school. It was pretty much the last thing on earth I felt like doing after a full day at work and a draining day of arranging for Winston's new foster situation, but the kids were so excited to go, so I got home, threw together a dinner we could heat up when we got back, and piled everyone in the car to drive out west to the roller rink.

And, though I would still totally have rather been home, it was really so fun. It was Cora's first time on skates and she totally rocked it. She fell a bunch, laughed maniacally the whole way down, and then popped back up and skated some more. She participated in the games in the center of the rink. Every time I tried to get us to take a break after "one more time around" she'd quickly negotiate with "no, TEN more times!". The big kids were great- they got roller skates and blades for their birthdays this summer and skate most nights before dinner. Lots of friends ended up coming. It was a good time.

(And now Cora is getting roller skates for Christmas. And even better, I bought them off our neighborhood buy/sell facebook page for $10 the morning after our skate night! I love a bit of buy/sell serendipity.)

I'm going to move on to something utterly frivolous because frankly I need it. We leave for Disney in 16 days. Cora's birthday is in 16 days (with her party in 9 and our little family celebration in 15), the weather is finally sort of slowly turning, Christmas is on the horizon and as a consequence, I'm doing a LOT of online shopping. A lot. We need many things for all the things coming up and our doorstep is littered with boxes and bags. This is what happens when your only free time is between 9 p.m. and midnight and no physical stores are open.

First up, I really must give another plug for Ebates. If you are an online shopper, you really just have to sign up. As of today (2+ years after joining) I have received $1,446 in rebate checks. 1,446 dollars! Do you know how much MORE shopping you can do with that? Which in turns earns you MORE money for your family? You have to spend money to make money, that's just science. I'm still mad I didn't sign up when I first heard of it, a few years before I opened my account. I thought it was a credit card, but it's just an online account with your name, address, and email and you search for the store you want to shop at (Sephora! Gap! Target! Shutterfly! Almost anywhere!), click to open a webpage, shop as normal, and then Ebates gives you a %1-10 rebate for your total purchase in your account. Every quarter they mail you a check. I love it. If you use the referral link you automatically start with $10 in your account. (This isn't sponsored, though that is a referral link, I just really like that I've gotten $1400 extra dollars to spend at more stores with rebates; I find it almost painful to shop in a physical store now because I don't get my ebate. I basically feel entitled to be paid to shop at this point.)

Anyway, moving on to some of my favorite things I've bought lately. (With regular old non-affiliated links to facilitate fulfilling your own ugly sweater shirt needs.)

First up, this shirt from Nordstrom.

I love the color, love that it's the first "knotted" type tee that doesn't show skin above my waistband, and love the scarf and layering possibilities. It's already a fall staple with shorts, leggings, or jeans- whatever the Texas weather requires on that particular day/hour.

My other new favorite shirt? This baby.

It has a tiger on it! Multiple tigers! And when you wear it to work with black pants and a black cardigan or blazer you can't really tell there are jungle cats hiding among all the professionalism until you have a long conversation with someone and suddenly they're like, wait, is that a tiger on your shirt? And you can say yes, I prefer predators on my clothing at all times. Also, it's just a really beautiful shirt (though wait to get it until it's half off again like I did).

These shoes. I've been looking for cute comfortable shoes FOREVER, but the effort really got stepped up with our Disney trip on the horizon. I have some Vans and they're cute but they're super heavy and I didn't think I'd want to wear them for a million miles of walking over 6 days. But I have huge feet- I'm a size 11 in flats, so most flat lace-up shoes look absurd on me. Like clown shoes. My feet are also super narrow, so I end up with all this puffy extra material sticking out the sides when I lace them up tight enough to not shift around on my feet. This eliminates almost all shoes. I know because I've tried on every single pair of every single brand everywhere. But then I found these!

They're not exactly Cinderella's glass slipper, but the thinner fabric on the sides means they mesh to my narrow feet when I lace them and I don't look like I have giant boats on my feet. They're super light and comfy and I love them. I even wore them once instead of a cuter pair even when I wasn't going to be walking a lot! That's a true sign of shoe favor.

Also related to Disney shopping, this purse! I wanted a little cross-body that was light, wouldn't press on my shoulder, and with a skinny strap that wouldn't create a great cross-body boob-divide to haunt my every picture from the magical day. I found this little guy on Amazon, agonized over which color to get, and now have a perfect little Rose Pink purse sitting in my "to pack" pile. I love it and it looks way nicer than the $13 I paid for it.

Next up - THIS SHIRT. I've been looking for a cute/funny Christmas tee for most of us to wear on the first night of our trip to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom (and then wear throughout the holiday season because I already have guilt for buying a Disney tshirt (or two) I'm totally excited about wearing in the park but would absolutely never wear outside of it). And today, my Amazon searching brought me to the BEST find for the obsessive swimmer in your life:

This, our Christmas light-up necklaces, and a pair of Mickey ears? Party Perfection.

Cora will be wearing her birthday surprise Aurora dress she's getting at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique that afternoon, Claire is wearing a snazzy red dress that just looked like her to me, Landon has an ugly sweater tee that involves a dinosaur, and I am still struggling to find my perfect fit. I currently have these two items headed my way:

James said this amazing dress was "pretty!" I tried to explain it's actually supposed to be ugly, but he emphatically followed up with, "I like it." Possibly just because it's really short?

And this one just brings me joy. They both do. And at $8 and $12 each with free returns, I feel like it's a no-lose situation. I'm leaning towards the short-sleeve dress because I could add a coat if it gets cold later, but when we're entering the park at 4:00 to ride rides and wait for the party, I feel like long sleeves might be hot.

Recently I have also purchased disposable ponchos in adult and child sizes, light up Christmas necklaces, and push-click sharpies for character autographs. I felt like you didn't pictures of those. And my family's Christmas presents, but I can't ruin surprises (they're so great!). And Cora's birthday presents, a plasma car among them, just to keep my deliveries eclectic and in many varying sizes, but we'll cover those on the big day. Obviously, a box or two was from the Disney Store.

I also have a semi-drafted post on skincare because that's one of my new favorite topics from the last year, with reviews on the products I first tried over a year ago and what I'm using now (which is still much of what I started with back then, that C E Ferulic is liquid gold). I'm back to the dermatologist tomorrow to get my stitches out, so maybe I can finish it after that. I'm not sure I've ever left the dermatologist without buying something to slather on my skim to make me feel better, but there's always a first time for everything. Especially since the dermatologist does not offer an Ebate.

What are your favorite things you've bought lately? Do you know which ugly sweater I should wear to the Christmas party we're going to before Thanksgiving? Or have other suggestions? Fire away!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Fun Until It Wasn't

This is going to be one of those weird bifurcated posts where I talk like our weekend was normal and fun because it was exactly that until about 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoon and then we'll talk about that.

So on Saturday the kids were still buzzing from the Disney news. So much excitement and so many questions about how many days until we go (19 days from today!). We all really just can't wait. James went on a 7 mile run/bike ride with the big kids and then I forced myself to Orangetheory because I still had one more class credit to use up. We went to Claire's soccer game. She scored a goal (!!)- my first one to ever see and her sweet 2nd grade teacher came to watch. Claire was so excited- her jaw dropped open when she spotted Ms. M across the field and ran over to give her hugs the next time she was rotated out. I love our teachers.

We did some errands and then cuddled on the couch to watch the Princess and the Frog because Cora's favorite princess is Tiana but I realized she'd never seen the movie (and I hadn't either!). We're all upping our Disney education. I jumped in the shower to primp for my date night with my friend Kim to see Rent!!

Can you tell something was burned off my nose?

It was stopping through Bass Hall in Fort Worth for its 20th Anniversary Tour and my friend and her husband have season tickets. Except they also have season tickets to the Dallas theater which had Rent just last year, so they offered the tix to James and me, but when James lacked sufficient enthusiasm ("That's great! I'm excited for you to get to see it!"), I dumped him and re-invited Kim and we went and squealed and reveled in every freaking second together.

I started crying in her office when she offered me the tickets and I cried at least three times during the show.

I saw Rent back during one of its earlier tours, probably 2005ish? I've listened to the soundtrack a million times since, but I forgot how much of the little asides and plot points aren't covered in the main songs and it was SO WONDERFUL to just revel in its magic from her amazing 9th row center seats. Seriously a great night.

On Sunday James went to swim and I canceled my workout and took the kids and Winston out for donuts (for them; also maybe me) and Starbucks (me) and drove to our favorite park we hadn't seen in a while. James joined us and there was playing and climbing and general merriment.

Winston loves slides and went down all of them. I got some epic dismount shots.

A bunch of little kids were there and went up to pat him and squish his face and he was a perfect little bulldog.

We drove north to the duck pond to feed some ducks, bother some geese, and see if Winston wanted to chase a duck. (He did not.) Cora told me at least five times, "This is SO FUN Mom!"

It was a lovely morning.

We got back to the house and dove into the usual to do lists. Sunday's round-up included helping James (watching James) mount all the beautiful garage organizational items I purchased on Wayfair while our garage was being redone. All our lawn tools, sports items, and kids' helmets are off the floor and it looks spectacular. Just as I was debating with James the best way to put our garden shears on the new rack I heard screaming. Claire occasionally screams to express what fun she's having, so just as I was about to tell her to knock it off, I realized the screams were sustained and I could hear Cora yelling underneath them. I dropped the shears and ran out of the garage, around the pool, and to the playground where Landon was trying to yank a snarling Winston off of Cora who was sobbing and stuck on the swing while Claire stood nearby and screamed without pause.

Winston stopped the second I leaped in front of him, yelled LEAVE IT, and pushed him away. James was there a second later and picked Winston up and carried him inside to his crate. Cora was bleeding through her leggings but I couldn't tell how bad. I stripped her on the picnic table and found about 10 places he'd broken the skin- very shallowly- but broken nonetheless all the way up her legs. She was still sobbing. Claire and Landon were hovering nearby. They said Cora had been swinging and Winston had run towards her; they thought he was running to say hi to his canine friend who lives behind us, but he lunged right at Cora and didn't stop.

A bath, some Polysporin, and 15 bandaids later and Cora was fine. Calm and watching Frozen, but not wearing leggings under her new dress because her legs were too red and tender and fucking cut up from our dog.

I was horrified and shaking. James called our canine behaviorist, who we'd been working with for 2 months because of some early aggression Winston had shown towards Cora that we thought we had moved past. We'd established our dominance. Each kid ran through his whole training routine every day, including Cora, to establish their own. It had been at least a month since he'd done anything remotely aggressive towards her. He was incredibly patient with her, she adored him, he loved her, we loved him. We thought we were past this.

Our behaviorist said frankly that she was surprised. That most dogs with aggression issues don't respond well to basic training because they don't like being commanded. Winston had done great. She'd seen his improvement and our dedication to his teaching. He responded immediately to her corrections without any negative behaviors. She said his 99% perfect sweet bulldoggish behavior and excellent response to training would make it really difficult to pinpoint what his trigger is that's setting him off with Cora, but she did feel like he would be fine without any small children as all the other normal canine triggers didn't elicit any response with him. We took that information and called the rescue club. They knew we'd had some issues in the beginning and that we'd been working with him. They were so sorry this had happened and understood immediately that he had to go. He's going back to his foster mom tomorrow. He has, of course, been perfect since Sunday afternoon and Cora, being the brave joyful little spirit she is, is back to adoring him and telling him she loves him at every opportunity.

from last week, just discovered on my big camera

We are so sad. We are not torn- of course this is the right call and I am horrified this happened to Cora and SO THANKFUL it was not worse (she is completely fine today, fully dressed and bouncing around the house with her usual verve), but we are so sad- sad at the situation, that this is where our story with him went, that he can't stay with us. We loved him. I love him. He's been a joyful, stinky, squishy-faced part of our life.

We told the kids after we talked to the rescue club. We knew our decision right away, but we wanted to be able to tell him where Winston would go next. They were sad, but no one voiced any objections. It was a scary situation. They don't seem to be scared of him, or other dogs, or even to remember the details now a whole 24 hours later, but they understood it couldn't happen again. We explained that our job is to keep them safe, that we would never allow anyone or anything around them we didn't trust and we can't trust Winston. That we know now he can react this way- we have warning- and it would be deeply irresponsible to continue allowing them and their friends around him without strict supervision and we aren't willing to live like that or keep him crated all the time. That we could in fact get in trouble if something were to happen again and we should, because we've been warned and it's our job to keep people in our house safe.

It helps very much to know that we did everything we could. We saw some early signs (though obviously, nothing like Sunday), did behavior training, did his homework every day, reinforced the training, and loved him and gave him structure and affection. He's going back to the rescue club and he will find a home that is right for him- one with only adults or with older children. After four months, countless accessories, chewy.com purchases, training classes, a Halloween costume, and a large crate set up in our TV room, we will not have a Winston.

So I'm sad and I very much wish it had worked out differently.