Sunday, January 14, 2018

Apparently It's Mid-January

Thanks to some backward and forward looking posts, I haven't actually written about much of 2018 yet, so brace yourselves. We have pictures and a video and a lot of food to discuss. Though we have to go backwards first because I realized I never posted this video of James swimming in snow in Colorado.

Because yes, apparently, if you're an insane person, you can SWIM through snow. There's just a patio beneath him there. I thought he'd dive in, get stuck, and splash around a little, but nope- he swam his way through to the wall. He did discover that your lungs don't work when you dive mostly naked into a snow drift and then try to flutter kick your way through it, but otherwise, considered the attempt a great success.

Moving on. James was home with the kids for the first week of the year and wished he had an office while I worked in my office and wished I was home (I mean, like 50% of the time... my office is very quiet and orderly and I like that). One of the great things about the swim school is that his schedule precisely matches the kids so we don't have to scramble for childcare over school breaks.

Rock climbing at the TCU gym

Bear rocking her new roller blades

It went fine - he's always full or errands and activities, but by Thursday evening he greeted me with wide eyes full of soundless screaming, so I took a half day on Friday for us all.

game night!

Also, one night I took the kids out for a margarita (and queso and guacamole) at our favorite happy hour place to celebrate me being a grown-up and going to work all day while James took a break from child interaction and went swimming. It was 22 degrees outside, but the frozen margarita just felt right. Our bill was $7.50 and then we got home at the same time as James to make our tamales for dinner. We should do this two-parter more often.

On Saturday morning we left for San Antonio to celebrate my grandparents' 65th wedding anniversary (dad's parents; formerly of Florida and a Captain in the Navy). We weren't exactly excited for another road trip, but this one is much shorter (8 hours round trip) and we got to stop in Austin on the way to see one of my elementary school best friends and her new baby AND my other grandparents (mom's parents; Swedish; Air Force Colonel; heart attack in August) were guests at the anniversary party AND my parents were coming, so we got a lot of bang for our buck. Plus, 65 is a pretty amazing thing.

They look great, don't they?

We stopped in north Austin at our favorite taco place to see my friend Meg. Somehow I hadn't seen her since her wedding, at which I was 6 months pregnant with Cora, and now she had a 14-month old baby and my baby is a giant 4-year-old. We became friends in 2nd grade. That's Claire's grade now. By 4th (Landon's current grade), we were besties. Those years seem like yesterday- running around on the green belt behind my house, having countless sleepovers at hers, and I can't believe I have children that old now. It was so lovely to steal an hour together and see my kids loving on hers. I enjoy that we coordinated our outfits. She doesn't post pictures of her baby, but you should know that baby C had a shirt with white and navy blue stripes, so our coordination was on point.

The party was at my grandparents' retirement community, in the sky lounge on the top floor, which the kids found to be VERY fancy. Landon got to try his first chicken wing and promptly ate 12 and asked for some to go "to put in my lunch tomorrow." Cora ate all the decorative cucumbers (her current favorite food) and Claire enjoyed all the attention from the senior citizens in her beautiful new dress along with at least 4 plain rolls meant to be used for baked ham sandwiches.

We got a picture of the whole crew - Papa and Gigi and all four great-grandparents.

It was a great party - everyone was so happy to be there and my dad gave a very sweet toast to his parents. My cousin Jordan who I hadn't seen in many years was there with his fiance, so it was great to meet her and see him. My grandparents (all four of them) were so tickled we were there and of course the kids love being the center of everyone's attention.

After the party, we took the kids to the River Walk which still had up all its Christmas lights.

It was beautiful. We ate another dinner and roamed around before coming back to the retirement community where my grandparents' had booked us a room. We had a queen bed and three roll-aways and it worked great.

We met my mom's parents for brunch the next morning. Their dining room has a GREAT Sunday brunch buffet and Landon ate 2 giant omelettes, a waffle, a ton of fruit, sausage, bacon, a bowl of ice cream, and a brownie. It was intense. James ate about 6 eggs benedict along with all the other things. We're a good bargain at a buffet.

We drove back in time to do our grocery shopping and prepare for our first week back in the routine. Cora went back to school Monday (she was THRILLED to return; she'd been asking daily for a countdown of when she can "go back to my school and do my hard work," James's lessons started Monday afternoon, and the big kids went back Tuesday. Tara has graduated (sob) so I'm in the middle of an after-school nanny search, but TCU (the university we live right next to) doesn't start back until this Tuesday, so no one was in town. Luckily we have generous friends who picked up our kids each day.

James had a swim meet on Friday morning. For reasons I honestly struggle to understand, he's been training like a maniac and his end of season meets are as big a deal to him now as they were in college. When we were in Disney he got up at 4:50 a.m. each day to take an Uber to a local YMCA to do a practice before coming back to the hotel and starting our very full days at the parks. He swam the 100 fly on Friday and called, ecstatic, saying he face-planted into his third wall but still went the best time he's had in years. He felt great. He canceled his lessons (gasp!) and went back for finals that night, going a lifetime best at the age of 36, winning the final, qualifying for the pro-am series, and earning this very plastic medal.

I was super proud of him. Meanwhile I was on my own with the kids, something that never happens, so I prepared.

Costco pizza for them, Mexican martini for me; Captain Underpants movie for them, laptop with work to do facing away from the TV for me. It was smooth sailing.

James swam on Saturday morning too - going a near-best time in the 100 breast. I was so happy for him. He has a (long) history of psyching himself out at meets, so this was quite a triumph. He made it back with one second to spare for me to run off to yoga. I'd spent the morning organizing the girls' closets and yoga seemed a more positive outlet than finding more things in my house the other humans I live with insist on ruining. Post-yoga we headed to Landon's first basketball game!

Cheering Section

He was so upset when we signed him up (the first activity we've ever forced), but it's all his best friends on the team with one of our good friends coaching and we decided he needed to know the rules of such a social and universal sport.

He loves it.

We closed out the day with more organizing and then a flaunting of the planned menu for a dinner out at Gloria's. I wanted a margarita and we all just needed something fun. Partway through dinner I looked at Claire and her little lip was trembling and her eyes were so big and sad. I held out my arms and the crawled in my lap, just barely fitting, and sobbed, "I didn't know Doug really died."

Doug is from The Everest movie, a movie Claire has not seen, but Landon must have described in some detail after his viewing. Somehow it came up again at dinner and Claire was deeply distressed to learn the movie was true and that people really died. I can't remember if I blogged about it, but I also found The Everest story to be traumatic. I didn't know people died on the 1996 expedition when we watched it. I knew about the Dallas doctor and the author of the Into Thin Air book, but I knew they'd survived, so I just assumed everyone else did. I was watching the movie with James one night when Doug walks off that ledge to his death and I yelled - yelled - "WHAT THE FUCK?!!" at James and made him pause the movie and explain to me what he knew of the story. Within minutes I had the wikipedia page up and was sobbing when Rob Marshall didn't make it. I don't know why this story hit me so hard, I think because I somehow thought it had a happy ending so I let myself get attached and then it did NOT and I stayed up that entire night reading every story on the internet about the 1996 climbers and download Krakauer's book and read it to the end just to find some closure. My eyes were bloodshot and my heart was sore. Which is to say, I understood my sweet middle-child's moment at Gloria's.

We stopped for cake on the way home and today there was supposed to be a family walk, but our day broke with Landon losing his shit over the phrase "have you had breakfast" (had HAD NOT) and so Claire and I ended up at Trader Joe's an hour later so I could get a Chai Tea Latte on the way and James could manage Landon because apparently my whole general existence is a trigger for him. I then went to Orangetheory where I ran out my feelings. James had some chores for Landon that he was now cheerfully doing when I got home, Claire had a friend over, and Cora yelled at me with extreme prejudice and then had to take a nap. At some point later Claire came to me sobbing because Landon something something something a prize for her school set.

in happier times

So I texted our former nanny's younger sister and asked if she was free. She was. My night ended like this.

Actually, like this.

Tomorrow Landon has promised to eat a granola bar within 15 minutes of waking and I feel very sure it's going to be a brighter day. And if it's not, I'm sending the big kids to swim lessons with James in the afternoon and Cora and I are watching princess movies all by ourselves until they get back. I win either way.

In closing (sorry, this is long), a bit on food.

First, reviews from this week's menu:

- Pea Soup: SO GOOD. Pea Soup is one of my favorite meals but I've never found a recipe as good as I remember my mom's tasting (including the recipe my mom uses), but after combining two recipes and adding a crock pot, this got a thumb's up from all five LL family members, even those initially skeptical of green soup:

1 large onion, diced (2 cups)
4 carrots, diced (2 cups)
3-4 red potatoes, peeled and diced (or 1 russet potato)
1 ham bone (and/or ~ 1 cup cooked, cubed ham)
1 bag (1 lb.) split peas (I soaked them for ~ 3 hours, but that's probably not necessary)
4 c. (1 carton) chicken stock
2 c. water
2 tsp. onion powder
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. garlic powder (or minced fresh garlic)
1 tsp. salt (taste to see if you need more post-potatoes at end)
1/2-1 tsp. ground black pepper

1. Add everything except the potatoes to a crock pot. Cook on high 5-6 hours, stirring occasionally, switch to low if soup boils or if you need more time before eating.

2. Add potatoes ~ 1 hour before serving with temp on high.

- Bison Meatballs and Marinara Sauce: LOVED this. Loved the kale and almond flour in the meatballs (and the bison; I loved cooking with a meat so lean there was no fat to drain after browning, which is my most hated step of cooking because I can never figure out how to drain it without losing some of the meat into the sink and/or doing it by spoon full which takes FOREVER and annoys me.) Really really loved the shredded carrots in the marinara sauce - that will be our new basic recipe anytime I want a simple red sauce.

- Greek Bison Burgers: also very good, next time I'm adding even more feta. Enjoyed the novelty of the pita bun and served with Ina's Greek salad (when you've made it 100+ times and have it all memorized, can you just call it your Greek salad? Does adverse possession work for recipes?) and roasted potatoes. All the thumb's up.

I made many yummy things since then but I can't remember any of them. (One of them was this Red Beans & Rice recipe which we all love.)

This week, which involves a new after school nanny (meeting her tomorrow; fingers crossed!), a PTA Board meeting, basketball practice, two nights of swimming, including Cora's first swim lesson in a month, and my return to Thursday night barre teaching at TCU since the winter break, we are eating:

Monday: Chicken Prosciutto Roll-Ups, Parmesan Orzo with Peas (I just make this up: orzo pasta + chicken broth + grated parm + frozen peas), Roasted Carrots
Tuesday: Potato Leek Soup (already made; will hang out in the crock pot because I have a PTA Board Meeting and the big kids have swimming), Crackers and Cheeses and the other half of the prosciutto from Monday
Wednesday: Sloppy Joe's (Claire's request; leave out the sugar, it makes it way too sweet), roasted potatoes, carrots and cucumbers.
Thursday: Crockpot meal I'm making up from a sample at Trader Joe's: TJ's frozen Chimichurri Rice + a jar of TJ Verde Salsa + a can of Black Beans. Serving with the avocado, tomato, cheese ("ON THE SIDE" screams Landon from somewhere), tortillas, and chips. I can't vouch for this one yet, but it seems like it should all go together.
Friday: Pasta with Tomato Cream sauce, the ultimate "it's the end of the week and our fridge is bare and I don't want to think at all" meal. It's also delicious and another recipe I have adversely possessed.

Also I remembered how much I loved these Protein Quinoa Salad jars and made one today for lunch and two more for later this week. I do yoga during lunch 3x a week which I love because it's good for my health and my wallet (I have the unlimited yoga membership at CorePower, so the class is "free," and then I don't eat out for lunch), except lately I haven't felt like packing lunch so I've had to stop and buy something anyway and that annoys me every time. But this week, I'm set!


  1. I wanted to comment and tell you how much I admire how you’re handling tween-dom and all it entails. It REALLY sucks to be the object of projection and you seem to be doing an awesome job of not personalizing it.

    1. I appreciate this very much. It is very very hard.

    2. My mom, who is a pediatric nurse and just generally very wise, reminds me sometimes that kids save their worst for their safest space. So when my daughter went through a truly terrible phase of biting ONLY me as hard as she could multiple times a day (well my husband too but like 1/20th as frequently) I would tell my self , wow isn’t it amazing she knows I will still love her even when she is this horrible? I do a lot of parenting related reframing like this �� We made it through and are in a relatively good period right now but I am terrified of the tween years ahead. Best of luck with everything!

  2. Yes, with the food! Why do they not eat when their body should tell them they are hungry??

  3. Can I ask how you fit in lunchtime yoga? I work very close to a CorePower Yoga and would love to go over lunch, but I can't figure out how to keep it from eating two hours in the middle of my day. Do you just work longer on those days? Not shower after (I can't imagine that...)? No hair and makeup? Also, you recently posted a lovely picture of yourself with wavy/curly hair. What product do you use when you let it go wavy? I think my hair may be similar to yours but I haven't found a product I like to amp up the curls in a polished way. I've recently been using Herbivore Sea Mist, and I like it, but it's more of a messy look.

    1. Sure! So I get to work 30-40 minutes early that day (or stay late, depending on the day). For the 12:00 class I can leave my office at 11:45 (my goal is to run in the door at 11:55 and then change really fast) and I get back at 1:15-1:20.

      I don't want to scare anyone I work with who might be reading, but I don't shower after. I wear long workout leggings and a support tank and I've found that once I peel those off, really all the sweat goes with it and because most of the sweat comes from the temperature in the room and not a racing heart rate (unlike Orangetheory which I do HAVE to shower after bc I keep sweating for like 10 minutes after the class is over), I cool down very quickly and don't keep sweating once I'm out of it. A quick rub down with a towel and I can stick my clothes back on, re-up the deodorant, remove some of the smudged eyeliner out from under my eyes and out I go. I always wear my hair up those days, in some kind of messy bun (with curling gel and/or mousse), so I just kind of shake my hair out and redo the messy bun. I'm not sure I look my very best, and maybe it says something about the low bar I'm setting at work half the time, but I don't think I look much different when I'm back at my desk. I should note that my skin seems to be okay with my sweating in makeup and then just leaving it there (I haven't broken out or anything, which I know can be a problem for some; my one friend who sometimes goes with me always removes her makeup with a wipe when she gets there and then redoes it at her desk later), my hair is very dry and never ever greasy so the no washing thing works fine, and it takes a LOT to get me to sweat, so even in their hot yoga classes, it's a very superficial sweat. I mean, I'm dripping towards the end of class, but it really just comes off once I'm out of the room.

      And thank you for the comment on my hair! Like so many, I've always hated that it's curly and wished for straight but lately I've been embracing the curl- mostly bc it takes 3 minutes to style that way :). And I just use Herbal Essences curling mousse (it's like $3) on towel-dried straight-from-the-shower hair and then let it air dry. I've tried SO MANY products and nothing has ever beaten that drugstore tube so I haven't even tried anything else for the 3 years. I like their curling gel too when I wear my hair up - it gives it some texture and keeps it from getting frizzy without getting crunchy and still looking natural.

  4. So helpful on both counts, thank you! I think I need to find a way not to shower. I must be sweatier than you but (I think) I don’t smell so could get away with a towel dry and maybe five minutes of sitting in the locker room until sweat isn’t running down my face. It always feels so inefficient to shower twice on one day and this silly problem has kept me away from a lunchtime practice.

    I will check out that hair mousse. Like you I have fought my waves for years but my hair has suddenly gotten really dry, so I’m trying to avoid heat. Which means embracing the curl!

    I don’t comment much and I feel bad jumping in with these superficial questions. Thank you for sharing so much and your thoughtful commentary on everything, superficial and important. You’re a wonderful writer. I don’t know where you get the energy, but thank you for the inspiration!

  5. When I go to a sweaty class and can't shower after (not at lunch - I work in a rural high school and get 1/2 hour to eat), I keep a package of baby wipes in my gym bag and do a quick wipe down with them. My hair gets thrown up into a version of its usual mess but I've also had good luck with KMS hair play dry shampoo. I've never gone back to work after a sweaty class but I'm a sweaty beast and I often go out shopping/to lunch and don't think I stink/look terrible :)

  6. So one quick comment on draining meat. Grease shouldn't ever go down the drain as it clogs up the pipes so my mom taught me to always drain it into an old coffee can. Then after the grease is cool you can keep the can, with the lid on obviously in the back of the fridge and keep using it. There is no smell as the grease turns solid and it is always easier for me to drain into.
    Thanks for all the great food ideas!

  7. Dump the meat in a strainer, let it drain, and pour it back into your pan/pot!