Monday, January 29, 2018

The Flu, The Rodeo, and The Foods

It's been a surprisingly good week. As I sit here at 11:20 p.m. forcing myself to put down my book (a re-read of Red Rising; currently 50% through book 2 and it's even better the second time) to blog about it because it WAS a really good week and had many of the highlights I'd grown used to and took for granted - peacefully playing children, home-based productivity, fun outings, a flirty date night, fabulous barre teaching... it was just really good.

Which is surprising since it started with my Strep and continued with Landon coming down with the flu on Thursday. Our new nanny picked him up from school and texted me 45 minutes later saying, "He says he's fine, but we've been home for 45 minutes and Landon hasn't really spoken or eaten anything. Seemed unusual." No talking and no eating for 45 minutes? After-school? That's ALARMING. I had her take his temp (low fever) and tell him he would not be swimming (he had already changed into his suit). We went to the pediatrician first thing Friday and his Flu B was immediately positive. He had the flu shot which has clearly helped- his fever has never gone above 100, just hovers at 99.9 and he hasn't had any violent symptoms- no throwing up or aching or harsh coughing. Instead he's just a silent little shell of himself, pale as a vampire but less sparkly. Listless, can't read more than a chapter at a time, watches an unusual amount of Netflix. On Friday I did his wash and folded his clothes and suggested a light exercise of transferring his folded clothes from my bed to his drawers two rooms over. He did and was 2 shades paler, so that slow walk between rooms was clearly too much. I tucked him back in his blanket on the couch with a Powerade slush and the remote drooping in his hand. It was the saddest.

But before that happened, I taught barre for the second time this semester at TCU and I had TWENTY-SIX people in my class! Twenty-six! Do you know the kind of energy you get from leading a class with that many people? When everyone is moving as one and your music is pumping and you're yelling at them to hold for just one more second? It is so powerful. It's like sticking your finger in an electric socket, except you know, not that. It's such a high and I felt like I was flying on my way home (while blasting the Greatest Showman soundtrack, naturally). Then I came home to a coddle a sick and listless 10-year-old, but even as I surrounded him with soft blankets and gave him a cup with a straw to stay hydrated, I was absolutely buzzing inside. A working life with kids/spouse is pretty crazy and pulls you in many directions, physically and emotionally, all the time. You take your ups when you get them, like a battery charge to your soul, and you wring them dry. I was still smiling on the inside when I tucked myself in bed a few minutes after midnight many hours later.

Then on Friday, just after James and Landon got back from the pediatrician with our flu diagnosis and Tamiflu script, I was a guest on my very first podcast. A podcast! I am not a technologically savvy individual and only just figured out what they are (I'm now obsessed with Pod Save America, but the only downside to my commute-less life is I can never find time to listen to it! There's too much cursing to have it on the speakers while I'm cooking dinner and I can't play it at work because I can't read and listen at the same time), so I wasn't at all sure I could figure out how to do it (like I didn't know there was a microphone built into this laptop I've had for 6 years because I've never spoken to it before because I also don't understand how Skype works), but my host Sarah (of the SHU box, which I love) made it easy. I'll post more about it- and link to it, obviously- when it comes out February 13th, but I will tell you now that while I wasn't nervous at all before we taped it, I was a mess after. Like ohmygod what even just fell out of my mouth. Words. So many words. Words with a purpose or a point? I don't know. There are no words to see and edit and change. We just chatted for 30 minutes and we were done. I think I laughed a lot. Did I answer the questions? I feel like no? But I don't know, because there aren't any words on the screen to check and see. Did I sound like myself? Did I ramble? I'm not sure I talked about what I was supposed to talk about. DID I EVEN ANSWER THE QUESTIONS?

So what I'm saying is, come Feb. 13, grade on a curve. Maybe she'll let me come back.

On Friday night, we had a date night. For many reasons, James and I are re-committing to taking many more of those this year. Not that we ever weren't on board with that idea, it's just that Tara got a 2nd job last year and worked that one after her nanny job (because she's incredible and works harder than anyone I know) so she was never available to babysit and we just kind of never asked anyone else. But now, we have two new nannies and we're booking them for alternating Fridays from 6-8 into the foreseeable future. The goal is three a month and the plan is just for 2 hours of adult time with James away from the house and kids. We get lots of alone time when they're in bed and that's great, but as our kids get bigger and busier and just... more, sometimes stepping away while they're awake is good too. And since these dates will (hopefully!) be more of a regular thing, I want to do things beyond a nice dinner, which I love but is definitely more of a treat. Things like going to a yoga class together, grabbing a drink at an outdoor beef garden, walking around downtown, walking the trails, even just going shopping together. We need this. Very much.

So in that spirit I thought we'd ease in with a cheap dinner on Friday at our favorite taco place just down the street that has a great happy hour. The margaritas are $3 and the chips + queso + guacamole appetizer is $3.50. Perfect!

Except someone thinks that 9 is a reasonable amount of tacos to order and the budget totally got blown. So we went to get cake after because why not. Next time we're going for a walk.

But it was really really nice. And we got home right in time to tuck everyone in, give kisses and Tamiflu to those who needed them, and still have all our hours hanging out at home after bedtime. I'm re-reading the Red Rising series after LOVING Iron Gold (book #4, go read it, but read the trilogy first) and am enjoying it even more the second time around. I'm realizing so much more about the characters, having now seen many of them in the future in Iron Gold, and just generally now understanding where the story is going and being able to luxuriate in the details a little more. Pierce Brown is a good builder of worlds and teller of stories. I'm excited about book 5. (Book post coming soon, I need more.)

Saturday was busy- even without the basketball game we would have been going to if our player (who scored his first basket last game!) had been able to stay vertical for more than 2 minutes and not be contagious. I picked him up another smoothie to keep some calories in him since after 1 day without his constant influx of foods covered in peanut butter you could already count all his ribs. While monitoring our patient and other children, James and I fit in some yoga, swimming, and errands- the buying of food, reorganizing our living room, selling some Disney t-shirts on our neighborhood buy/sell page, and attending a 6-year-old birthday party. Then the girls and I got home from the birthday party at 6:30 to find a reborn Landon. From drinking smoothies because "chewing makes me tired" to being removed from the dinner table for 5 minutes to calm down after too many chicken butt jokes in just 12 hours! It was an impressive turnaround.

Pale, but loud and exploding with words

By Sunday morning he was back to deviling his sisters, laughing maniacally at nothing, and yelling "DUH DAVID" every few seconds. None of us still know who David is, but we're glad to have his friend Landon back. Mostly. I mean, the house was a lot quieter, but Landon was not meant to be a listless vampire. He needs sun and air and copious amounts of peanut butter.

We capped off his triumphant return to life by heading to the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo! A yearly tradition begun in February 2013 when Landon was 5, Claire 2, and Cora the fabulous but not-yet-known future result of our nightly "should we or shouldn't we have another baby" discussions.

Look at those squishy babies! Looking back at those pictures made me realize how many rides stay the same each year.

I love it.

We started our experience this year roaming the animal barns and exhibits. We watched some cow judging, impressed by the beautifully blow dried coats on each brown cow and wondering what the judges were scoring. We proceeded through some horses and bunnies until we found the midway.

Claire had gone to the rodeo on a field trip earlier in the week and had been talking about "her" baby goat ever since, so the petting zoo was our first paid-for stop.

It was a delight. Her baby goat found her immediately and she spent our full 10 minutes with him.

Landon got sneezed on by an alpaca and spent the rest of the time feeding fluffy-headed chickens and larger goats. Cora petted all the baby goats and then fed a gigantic alpaca her entire cone of feed. Everyone was happy. We proceeded to the midway rides, approaching all the kids' favorites in the most inefficient manner possible to ensure my cowboy boot's yearly outing got as many steps in as possible.

Cora was thrilled to be reunited with her beloved rides from "Dizenney Wrrrld" and Landon was thrilled to try his first fried Oreo.

Seriously, no one loves rides like Cora loves rides. She squeals in delight and laughs the whole time. Like a little sparkplug of joy.

Landon did the bumper cars and I realized this will be a real thing in 5.5 years. Oy.

Cora was tall enough for the fun house that broke her heart last year. There's a spinning tunnel at the end which Claire rocked with speed and enthusiasm.

Cora attempted the same and then flipped sideways and had to be rescued. She smiled the whole time.

The big kids did the swings, which they LOVED,

while Cora struggled with the reality of height restrictions.

It was a spectacular day.

After a few more rides I finished out my rodeo experience with ribbon fries. They are my heart and soul of the experience.

Landon had heard from a friend that there was a vendor who could make a 3-D image of you and then turn you into a lego figure. And because he'd been great all day and I knew he'd tucked all his pet sitting money into his little wallet and carried it around in his pocket, we walked the opposite direction of the exit and roamed a million miles around the Exhibition Hall to find the right vendor. He got his head imaged and when we went to order the lego head, the vendor was so touched by Landon's careful counting of $42 worth of crumbled one and five dollar bills, he said he'd send him two. What could be better than two Lego Landon's? He is TREMENDOUSLY excited about this.

And so we walked back to the car to head home, where the kids built a fun house out of our backyard play set, I ran more errands, and James worked. Dinner (below) was delicious and our sleepy little pretend cowboys were in bed at 7:55. We have not heard from them since.

~ ~ ~

Food! Always a good end. This is last week's menu, with notes, and the menu for the week ahead. This blog archive is 50% of my meal planning method now, so I've learned the more notes the better!

Sunday: Sunshine Lentil Bowls with Trader Joe's Green Goddess dressing, which was amazing and tasted even better because I didn't have to use a blender to make it. This remains one of our very favorite meals and everyone eats every bite; served with crackers and cheese (and goat cheese on the bowl! Essential.)

Monday: BBQ Quinoa Salad - Claire's favorite FAVORITE meal. Shredded BBQ chicken (chicken breasts in crockpot + BBQ sauce + 1/4 cup or so of Italian dressing) on low all day then shredded and put on top of quinoa with various toppings: black beans, corn, diced tomato, avocado, cheese, cilantro, another swirl of BBQ sauce (and Ranch if you're into that sort of thing).

Tuesday: Beef Stroganoff, served on egg noodles, with green beans on the side. This was SO good. I've been looking for a delicious but not too creamy stronanoff and this was perfection. Loved the greek yogurt instead of sour cream and I pureed the mushroom saute with an immersion blender before adding the steak back in - I hate the texture of mushrooms but don't mind the flavor in certain situations. This was perfect and everyone loved it.

Wednesday: BBQ Chicken Quinoa Enchiladas (leftover shredded chicken and quinoa, because James dumped the leftovers of both pots together in the same glass storage container, rolled into tortillas with cheese, topped with a little sour cream and more cheese and baked at 375 for 20 minutes). Love these. Served with black refried beans and avocado and tomato.

Thursday: Crockpot Chicken Pot Pie Soup. This was delicious! Loved the homemade cream of chicken soup recipe. Highly recommend.

Friday: Date Night; pumpkin pasta with butternut squash sauce for the kids.

Sunday: My Favorite Salmon, roasted carrots, mashed potatoes, salad. Forever favorite in this house, I just use the crust on the salmon (double the recipe and rub all over a Costco sized salmon fillet, sliced into 5 pieces; broil on high for 10 minutes) and skip the salsa and everyone eats it.

Monday: My Favorite Meatloaf (1 lb. ground beef + 1 cup panko + 1 cup diced onion + these seasonings, put into a loaf pan, topped with a 50/50 mix of ketchup and mustard), bake at 350 for 1 hour, mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli. Landon's favorite meal and the result of much experimenting on my part with seasoning recipes.

Tuesday: School Fundraising Night at our favorite taco place! If you're in Fort Worth - head to R Taco on Bluebonnet Circle and eat all the things!

Wednesday: I will probably be out of town for work, so pasta and sauce that James can whip up quickly when he gets home from practice.

Thursday: Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Chili. A fave and no chopping required.

Friday: Cheesy Vegetarian Chili Mac. Another fave! Hearty and homey and delicious. You'd never guess it doesn't have any meat (except for that fact that it, of course, doesn't).


  1. I feel kind of ridiculous, but I'm super excited to hear you on the podcast! I've enjoyed reading you and the hosts' blogs for several years and have thought more than once that you would be a good guest.
    I work in public accounting (my kids are younger than yours) and enjoy reading your posts to see how you career and home have changed as you've shifted to government work, as I often consider moving to a private or industry job.

    1. See I think that's what I was SUPPOSED to talk about, but I'm not at all sure that I did... I really need a transcript. And the ability to line edit everything. I think I kind of blacked out after, but I'm VERY concerned I did not answer any of the questions with actual answers.

    2. If that's the case, you'll just have to do another episode!

      I'm thrilled you did a podcast with Sarah. I'm sure it'll be great even if you just free associated. �� You've got a lot of interesting perspectives and I've enjoyed all your posts on many varied topics.

      I also wish you'd run for president someday, but I understand you may want some time to work up to that. ��

    3. Oh my word. Best comment ever. Sign me up for volunteering for your campaign! And I have a slew of teenage girls at my house every afternoon I can recruit from, too. Most of them will be voting age by the time you run. : )

  2. I echo Allison! I found you via Sarah's blog and was hoping they'd interview you at some point. Excited to hear it!

    1. I really hoped I talked about something relevant and interesting. It's a lot easier to write!

  3. Yet another person thrilled to hear that you'll be on the podcast. Yaaaaaaaaay! Can't wait to hear!

  4. Love your date night idea (and LOL at beef gardens, which I know was a typo, but please don't fix it). I haven't been able to find a steady babysitter and it's been TWO YEARS. Once in a while I go into a flurry of effort but nothing works out (most of the time they don't even respond!) and then it seems like too much work.

    1. Hahaha omg, okay I'll leave it. The no babysitters thing is annoying. Is there somewhere you can post? Teachers at the kids school? Former daycares? Having a group of potentially available sitters has become a major life goal of mine for the next 4 or so years until Landon can just do it. I didn't miss it so much when we weren't going, but now that we are again I can see how VERY much I missed them beneath the surface!

  5. I picked up Red Rising after you mentioned it last week and am loving the series. Thanks for the excellent recommendation!

    1. Yay!! I'm so happy to hear this! I'm 30% into book 3 on a re-read of the trilogy and it is SO much better the second time through. Maybe I just read it too fast the first time because I was so eager for the next plot point, but I have even more respect for the dialogue, the build of the story, and the characters. I just love it.

  6. It is so nice to get away and just BE with your spouse. I love doing things - going hiking, kayaking, cooking classes, beer tastings... and sometimes a quick hotel room piano session.

  7. VERY happy to hear you were a guest on BOBW. Can't wait to hear the episode! My kids are younger than yours but I am in awe of your ability to juggle everything and get so many great ideas from your blog.

  8. You should try listening to the "more perfect" podcasts. Super fascinating, each episode focusing on a Supreme Court decision. Unless that's too much law in a day for you ;)