Monday, February 26, 2018

Birthday Weekend: A Play in Three Parts

I'm back! To Texas, life, blogger, and now the age of 35.

It was a long, weird, and wonderful birthday weekend. Let's inhale a few cookie frosting fumes and start with Friday.

PART I: Friday

I woke up after another night of antibiotics + ibuprofen + sudafed + mucinex + sleeping pill feeling mildly better. My throat was less full of fire and more a medium-rare. I decided yoga sounded good and had an excellent class where I did a side crow to hurdler's pose transition that left me feeling very powerful indeed. I stopped at Starbucks for my curative Citrus Defender with extra honey and headed home to shower and blow dry my hair like a proper adult while I waited for my mom to arrive for some birthday shopping.

She arrived! We hugged and exclaimed over surprise place mats she'd found for me after I mentioned I'd been trying to replace our torn up ones for three years but no one sells cork place mats anywhere and I can't go back to regular ones because I love that I can put piping hot bowls of anything directly onto the mat. My excitement over the new ones she found cannot be overstated.

Mats properly celebrated, we were off on our mission. We hit Ann Taylor first because their clearance section is a tradition. And though they've disappointed me for the last several months when I stopped in on my own, once the Gigi was present I found three things that were all adorable and necessary including this very striking dress that someone had ordered in a Small-Tall and returned. A Small-Tall! Such a rare and elusive online-only item! And 40% off the clearance price! It was fate and that dress is my new favorite thing in my closet.

Lunch was next- we need to keep our energy up and Cork & Pig offered a delightful menu that seemed to have nothing to do with its name. We split an Ahi Tuna Salad and SoCal Pizza (both were fantastic) with a glass of champagne and traditional Chardonnay for my mom. Whenever I get sad that the girls are getting bigger I remember how much I enjoy a grown-up lunch with my mom and it brings me so much comfort and happiness.

I was too full for dessert, but our waitress returned undaunted with a birthday candle stuck on an upside down ramekin. It was the cutest.

Marshall's was next. And last, as it turned out, because I spent my birthday money at least three times over. Usually I find 3 things while my mom finds 20, but this time, the stars aligned and we met outside the dressing room with my mom's two items and my 27. It was very successful- poolside maxi dresses, a swim suit, three cute patterned spring tops, palazzo pants, shoes, a loungey sweatshirt, and a tiny bright bikini I will wear for one minute and then cover with a rash guard. We drifted over to the Homegoods section and I accidentally found the perfect rug for our dining rug. The old one was originally $40 and super stained after six years and two toddlers. This one was perfect and abstract and $130 for a 9x11 and it also matched the perfect place mats my mom had surprised me with! Next thing I knew it was rolled up in my car. After that we called it a day and headed off to pick up the kids. I love it!

My dad flew in from NYC in the evening and I made us all dinner (with a lot of help from Trader Joe's) and then my parents ran out and surprised me with a Sprinkle Surprise Cake!

It was a really nice night, capped off with some Olympics and an attempt at an early bed time.

PART II: Saturday

Bedtime that ended INCREDIBLY ABRUPTLY at 3:30 a.m. when our alarms went off.

3:30 is a BRUTAL time for an alarm to yell at you. I think I fell asleep a little after midnight, so my brain couldn't understand why I was making it turn back on again.

We shuffled out the door and were on our way to the airport by 4:10. You guys, that is so early. We valeted the car, knowing we'd be back in it in 17 hours. The security line was longer than it should be at 5 a.m., but the Starbucks line was short and the plane was on time. James fell asleep immediately upon boarding and I watched The Cutting Edge, thrilled to find it a free download on Amazon Prime after a commenter reminded me that my Step Up: On Ice! movie already existed. I hadn't seen that movie since I was 9 and it is a delight. Toe pick!

We got to Baltimore, picked up our rental car, and drove out to Potomac.

It was a weird day. It went as good as it could go.

Our flight home took off at 7:15 pm. James slept and I comforted myself for my inability to fall asleep on planes with three episodes of The Great British Baking Show. We landed back in Dallas at 10 and were home at 11. Bed came around midnight after a very long hot bath and we fell asleep back where we'd woken up one million hours earlier.

PART III: Sunday

I woke up at 7:30 on my birthday, earlier than hoped but resigned to the wakefulness that found me anyway. I emerged from our room to find a table decorated by the kids and my parents and the leftover surprise sprinkle cake. It was like a pink puffy heart at the start of my day and it was perfect.

I was 35 and I was wearing one of my new birthday shopping shirts. 35 seemed pretty great.

We did cards and presents while we waited for brunch to open. I got some very sweet cards from my parents, grandparents, and an aunt and uncle. Landon made me an adorable card that listed my favorite things (cookies and vacations up at the top) and had hand-crafted my very own clay hedgehog to bring to work.

Claire made me a card that acknowledged our mutual love for donuts and colored one of her favorite special rocks with my favorite colors.

James's gift was up next and he knocked it out of the park. For five years I've said I needed to buy a new set of ski clothes. But for five years I've failed to find something I loved and told myself my old stuff was fine. Because it was, but it was also old and puffy and heavy. James had bought me it in 2003 when we were dating and headed out on a ski trip together. So now in 2018 he bought me another set and I LOVE it. I love my pinky purple jacket and I LOVE my (tall!) pants that mold to your body heat and feel amazing. I love them so much I had a nightmare last night that someone stole them and we couldn't get them back. And my first thought when I woke up was relief because I knew I'd put them in the back of Claire's closet where we store our ski stuff and surely no one would look there.

So, I love my new ski clothes. And the guy who went to three stores to pick them out for me.

We went to Blue Mesa for brunch. It took an extra 30 minutes because we had to avoid crossing the Cowtown Marathon which runs through our neighborhood and downtown, but it was worth the effort. Bottomless mimosas and all the Mexican brunch food you can eat.

After brunch my parents headed back to Houston (they don't look nearly old enough to have a 35-year-old, right?) and we ran a few necessary errands for things like food and double doozie cookies.

When we got home, my 3 hours of sleep from the night before finally hit and I told James I just wanted to lay on the couch and watch comforting TV. The Great British Baking Show was fired up, Cora took a nap, the big kids played outside, and James went to swim. It was completely wonderful. I wore pj's and zoned in and out, occasionally glancing at my phone to smile at birthday messages (thank you all!) and feel loved while being soothed by the British accents and weird flavor combinations in British pies. I also got a flower delivery from my sweet friend Jenny in Austin that made my whole heart happy. I'm not sure I've ever received flowers from someone who wasn't James (or myself!) and I smile every time I see them.

Several hours passed. Cora woke up, the kids rode their bikes to a friend's house to play basketball and then sometime later they came back. James came home from the pool. It was time for dinner and cooking sounded unreasonable, so we headed back out, to Gloria's this time for more Mexican food and my requisite birthday margarita. Some queso filled in the few spaces in my stomach that was still full from brunch, and my free birthday dessert was very nearly unwelcome... though it was also delicious.

My traditional cookie tower was awaiting our return and for the first time since the tradition began I just couldn't eat them. Maybe sugar overdose awareness is a sign of maturity? The birthday pig still made an appearance, and I cut one cookie into four pieces to share with the kids because traditions are important, but we saved the rest and tucked the kids in bed. My pj pants were put back on for the third time that day and I informed James our nighttime TV viewing would be more GBBS. He sighed and settled in and I decided it had been the best birthday ever.

I had family and sugar, delicious foods and new ski clothes. I climbed in bed at 10:30, warm with the knowledge that 35 was going to be great indeed.

(Then I overslept by an hour this morning and remembered that greatness comes slowly and I've only been 35 for one day so I'm still learning.)

Monday, February 19, 2018

Pour Yourself a Drink, We've Got Some Catching Up to Do

So I was on a podcast! And then I accidentally disappeared for a week. But thanks so much for your sweet comments on the last post! I really did have so much fun talking to Sarah and once I got over the horror of having to listen to my own voice (a voice with an accent I swear I'd never noticed before), I felt pretty good about it. I could have talked for at least 3 more hours and still not gotten close to actually answering any of the logistics and balancing questions we were discussing, but for a 30-minute snippet, I feel like the words I did manage to say captured me and our life pretty well.

Date night margaritas also capture me well

So the next day was Valentine's Day! I really do love it- it's such a cute little holiday with low expenses (at least in this house), dollar store decorations, excited kids, thematic foods, and the promise of mid-week champagne. I enjoy a random, formalized reason to give each other cards with love notes and I really love a reason to split a bottle of champagne (and by "split" I mean 70/30, me.). And adding a little something to the lingerie/parcheesi drawer is always welcome.

Heart pizza James made before he left to coach

The kids woke up to their dollar store decor, sweet cards picked out by James, and candy picked out by me.

Just when I finally stopped buying thematic clothing for the kids because they have to wear uniforms to school, Valentine's Day falls on a once-a-month dress-out day and we were caught flat-footed. Landon, who is with me (and in this case, ahead of me) in all things themed, told me had had specially saved his one red shirt to wear on Wednesday because he is still sometimes just The Cutest. As it turns out, neither girl owns anything red at all, so they went for a sparkly unicorn theme.

(Flashback to 2014! Themed attire and chubbier cheeks for all! This picture squeezes my heart strings; every year with the kids is great, but Cora's first year was truly one of the happiest of my life.)

I was VERY on theme in a red silk blouse and black cropped pants. I wish I'd worn Claire's bouncing heart headband. Next year I'm determined to get my hands on some heart leggings. I like stretching the work dress code in honor of holidays.

The kids were so excited to pass out their cheap Valentine's at their parties, and I couldn't wait to hear about all the fun when I got home. And oh my gosh you guys, this year brought us our best collection of Valentine's stories EVER.

First, when I got home from work, Claire ran up to me and in one breath exclaimed:

"MOM. So. I got this giant pink stuffed poodle and I LOVE it and it’s SO SOFT and fuzzy and Antonio gave it to me and I’m the ONLY one who got one and I think that maybe this means he likes me or something and anyway I just LOVE this poodle and Antonio is okay too I guess.

She then told me Landon had "big news" but he had to tell me when he got home from basketball practice because she wasn't allowed to say. So I waited, while Cora got sent to timeout because she stole and consumed an entire bowl of m&m's under the table. She likes to create her own drama.

At 6:40 Landon was home from practice and he immediately spilled the news:

"MOM! I found out SO MANY girls have crushes on me. I heard them talking about it at lunch. I mean, basically they all do. ...

It's kind of a lot for me to handle.

Later, I overheard the big kids talking:

Landon: So one of the boys in my class got one of the girls a special present and she got him special chocolates. It’s because they like each other.

Claire: So they play together at recess?

Landon: No! He plays tag with us and she plays with the girls.

Claire: So they sit together at lunch?

Landon: No. [duh implied]

Claire, with a sigh, Well it’s a good thing there’s a Valentine’s Day, otherwise how would they even know they’re boyfriend and girlfriend?

The week pressed on, I taught barre, we started watching Ozark, I did yoga after skipping for three straight days. Oh! I completed 26 online modules for my CPR/First Aid certification course. You guys, I learned so much. I had to get certified to teach barre at TCU, and they paid for the course, but it was something I'd been wanting to do for years anyway and I'm SO GLAD I have it now. Even if it made me cry at least five times during the CPR sergments. I just kept thinking of my grandpa and those EMTs who saved his life. It felt so personal and raw. I was relieved to get the first aid portion. Having never known someone who had a tourniquet placed on massive leg wound, I could handle those videos as stone cold as the training course creators probably envisioned. And I learned some genuinely useful tips to treat early hypothermia.

I passed the written exams and dummy test portions of the course today. I feel very empowered. James is CPR certified for his swim school, but what if he has a heart attack? Who is going to do CPR on him? Also, after reading all the stats on the effectiveness of CPR (not very) I've realized what we really need is an AED machine. I looked them up on Amazon and you can have your very own for a cool $999. Maybe in his stocking next year? Basically every family member of his over the age of 50 has had a heart attack, so this feels like something we need to carry around with us.

On Friday we CPR certified members of our house went out on a date. Belated Valentine's, Early Birthday, Happy Friday- take your pick of justifications, we embraced them all. I had a beet-infused-tequila margarita with rosemary salt and vegan queso that was magically delicious (and I do mean magical because how the hell can that be true) and an entree bowl with sweet potato, tomato, lettuce, avocado, over-easy egg, and quinoa balls and you guys, it was so good. But the banana chocolate chip pizookie with almond ice cream and bruleed bananas was the best. James won't smile for pictures with food, but that dessert deserved it.

On Saturday James swam, Cora had a birthday party, I went to yoga, we all went to Landon's basketball game, and then we had our Casa Manana children's play. Cora took the opportunity to take a little TO at the basketball game. It's hard to be #3.

The play was excellent. It was called Neverland and was a very creative take on Peter Pan. I always like when I don't already know the whole plot of a children's play, so I loved it. And I love that the kids enjoy the plays so much. They really notice the acting now- "Mom! That whole play was done with only THREE people?! That's amazing!"

This was actually a musical, as they all are, and they're just captivated for the whole 90 minutes. Our yearly season tickets to Casa, and the fact such a fabulous theater is just up the road, are two of my favorite things about living in Fort Worth.

Our Sunday was the opposite of Saturday. After having 12 hours without all of us ever being in the house together at the same time, we had a day where that is all we did. It was lovely.

I did take the girls shopping at the mall at one point because Landon was having a moment, many moments all at once, and really nothing nips that in the bud faster than me leaving the space. So off we went, the return I needed to do at Children's Place in tow.

While I did my return the girls found these fabulous hats in the $1.99 clearance bin, so obviously they were purchased for next season. And also, right now. Cora was wearing a sleeveless maxi dress that had been perfectly appropriate the day before, her heavy coat she calls her "raincoat" because it was raining outside, and this very warm and wonderful ski hat on a dreary 50-degree day. That's Texas Spring in one outfit, right there.

We spent an excellent hour at the mall. I got them lunch at the Food Court and realized they'd never done that before. Having a mom who does 99% of her shopping online really takes away a lot of delicious/terrible food eating opportunities. We stopped in Gymboree on a whim and scored on their sale section. 8 items purchased, including 5 dresses (like the one below Cora felt so strongly should be hers she changed in the car in the parking lot before heading home) for a total of $42!

We got home to a refreshed Landon and dove back into our project du jour: reorganizing his room and putting together his new bed.

I love it. He LOVES it. And then I love it all over again.

I'd been looking for a new sleeping solution for his room for a while. I loved his queen size bed frame. I'd originally purchased it (a splurge from Crate & Barrel with our renovation money) for our beautiful new guest room in 2012, precisely one year before I got pregnant with Cora and realized we'd never have a guest room again. But I made it work. It lived in the nursery, it became Landon's bed when we switched up the rooms. But it really was too big for a kid's bedroom space. Landon needed more storage and room for Legos and K'nex and building intricate traps for spy games. So this full-size captain's bed with trundle finally found it's way to me through the internet and it was *perfect.*

He has so much room now! Many many more square feet of floor space! Look at that awesome rug I got at Ross 2 years ago for $15. You can SEE it now!

He also needed a way to have friends spend the night, and he has that now too! (Just pretend that bottom drawer has a twin mattress in it instead of the Legos its currently holding. Though it is REALLY working for me as a Lego drawer... do we really need sleepovers?)

But most importantly to Landon, it has bookshelves for ALL his books (that he spent nearly an hour organizing; there's a system and its adorable; all the books I've given him are in the "fake" category) and this AMAZING SPY CABINET. Or a storage cabinet. Whatever you want to call it.

I also spent ages finding him new animal sheets for his new sized bed. Finding big kid animal sheets than don't look like they should be in a nursery is harder than you'd think. He enthusiastically approves of the alligators, hedgehogs, and foxes that I found him and had a very tough time picking out which would get the honor of First Sheets.

He just loves it.

He told me first thing this morning, "I had SUCH a great sleep last night mom. I think it's because of my new bed."

We are all reminded so frequently that he's a tween with bigger feelings and deeper thoughts and a broader world view that is as exciting as it can be challenging, but it was so fun to have an afternoon where we're also reminded he's still very much a kid. A kid who spent over an hour crammed inside a storage space in the back of his bed TOTALLY TICKLED that it was there and determined to make use of it.

On another note, today was a federal holiday but not a school one, so I got to live my best life for the 8 hours between 8-3. I went to a yoga class I never get to attend (9:30 a.m. Monday morning! craziness!), did my CPR certification test without having to take off work, made lunch at home (so indulgent! no packing required!), got a pedicure, ran errands alone, picked up the kids from school, ran two more errands when they ended up going to friends' houses (an indulgence for them, since usually I'm not there chatting with moms while that happens), and made dinner. Somewhere in the middle of there I watched a full hour of the West Wing just sitting on my couch doing absolutely nothing for as long as I could stand it and it was DELIGHTFUL. All of it. James coached late and Claire had soccer practice and now I'm watching the Olympics and trying to type without missing any ice dancing. It was a lovely day.

And now we end with food (as I watch Virtue and Moir wrap up my ice dancing obsession. We need a "Step Up: On Ice!" movie in our lives; why don't we have that?):

Monday: Veggie BBQ Quinoa Salad. Usually served with leftover bbq chicken, I'm just doubling up on the black beans this time. (I've posted this many times, but it's a great wing-it kind of a meal: make a bunch of quinoa, top with black beans, corn, diced tomato, diced avocado, cheddar cheese, cilantro, and drizzle with BBQ + ranch or Italian dressing. Delish and Claire's favorite meal of all time.)

Tuesday: Greek night! Pitas (and Trader Joe's Naan bread because it's amazing and more carb-y than pitas), TJ's gyro slices (also amazing and so fast, just a couple minutes heated up in a skillet and the kids LOVE them), Ina's Greek salad that I basically just call my Greek salad now, TJ's tzatziki sauce that isn't my favorite but is also way easier than making my own, and roasted potato wedges because I have potatoes leftover from the pea soup I made on Saturday.

Wednesday: I'm subbing a barre class from 5:30-6:30, so we're doing a pasta bake I can throw in the oven when I get home and eat after I take a shower: cooked whole wheat rotini tossed with a jar of Trader Joe's marinara sauce + pepperonis leftover from our homemade Valentine's Day pizza + sliced olives, put in a 9x13 pan topped with mozzarella. Bake at 350 for 20 mins until everything is warmed through. Cucumber slices, carrot sticks, and bell pepper on the side, probably eaten by hungry children while the pasta is baking.

Thursday: Landon has a 7:00 basketball game after I teach barre and James teaches the girls swimming, so we'll almost certainly be grabbing tacos together on the way home.

Friday: Tomato soup (total cheat version, like all of this week: two boxes of Trader Joe's boxed creamy tomato soup + 1/2 herb & garlic boursin cheese mixed in until warmed through); served with TJ's tomato soup crackers and sliced sharp cheddar on the side and probably pesto grilled cheese sandwiches because those are amazing and I love any excuse to make them.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Best of Both Worlds

So remember when I told you I'd been interviewed by Sarah (@ the SHU box) for her Best of Both Worlds podcast a few weeks ago? Today was publishing day. I woke up, realized the significance of the date, and immediately felt like I was going to throw up. A feeling that was relieved only by the email I found already waiting in my inbox from someone telling me how much they'd enjoyed the interview. Thank you M, your efforts to find my email address on my blog, type up such a nice message, and sent it out all by 7 a.m. meant I could find the courage to defeat the nausea and listen to my own recorded voice rambling in response to Sarah's questions.

(Here's the co-host Laura Vanderkam's blog post re: the podcast; she was traveling out of the country and wasn't on air with me, so got to be a listener this time instead.)

Verbal responses are hard y'all. I work with written words, lots and lots of typed out words I can read and edit and finesse until they match what's in my head. But I was relieved to hear I sound coherent. I sound generally like myself. Would I like to edit, you know, every single thing I said? Absolutely. But it's okay. My rambling run-on fears are unrealized. I very genuinely enjoyed getting to talk with Sarah and I think that comes through. I first met Sarah when she asked me about having a third baby, a question that resulted in my favorite and most heartfelt blog post I've ever written. It was an honor to be asked to be on the podcast and I hope you enjoy it!

But because this is a balancing of many worlds and humans, that was only a small part of the day. A day that began at 11:15 p.m. the night before when book #5 in Kresley Cole's Arcana Chronicles (which I ADORE far beyond what is reasonable or really even earned) downloaded onto my Kindle. Oh I'll just read the first few chapters, I told myself, knowing I was a lying liar who lied. At 2 a.m. James rolled over in bed, saw the light from my phone screen and sighed, "Really? Really." and then rolled back. "I'll stop soon," I lied again, knowing already my words were false, but he worries about me and my sleep and I like to make him feel better even though underneath he knows I'm lying too. At 3:08 a.m. I was done. I loved it. I have criticisms, many of them, but it doesn't matter. I love that series. I'm so sad I have to wait another year or so to get a new book again.

And then four hours later I was up and bracing myself for the impact of listening to my own recorded voice. Work was good. I was supposed to go to yoga at lunch but it was so cold and dreary outside and I was so tired, I thought I'd skip in lieu of obtaining emotional support french fries. Of course the one week I actually publish my little workout/dinner plan post-it system I flagrantly violate it immediately.

James called around 11 and asked if I wanted a Freebirds burrito. I used to have a Freebirds by my office but it closed and I miss it and I mentioned it to James the other day. So when he drove by today he thought he should bring me some. And with the burrito came a big bouquet of cheerful flowers.

I'm so glad I skipped yoga.

I left work at 4:45 to come home and pick up the kids to feed them an on-the-go dinner, another extreme rarity, but a promise met with much excitement among by the party pack when it was mentioned last night. We had our school's science night at our local museum of science and history from 6-8 p.m. (bedtime!), so a quick dinner on the way felt right. They chose Subway of all things, so sandwiches it was.

Science night was a huge hit. Free admission, many kids, lots of noise, LOTS of fun, and even a few attempts at academic enrichment.

We came across many friends and I even had fun as I logged two extra hours in my heeled boots and work clothes.

Cora LOVED the bed of nails and beamed her way through her every turn. As soon as she popped off, she'd run to get back in line to go again, glaring at any kid twice her size who dared to try to cut in front of her. It was amazing to watch from a distance.

The kids had a GREAT time and we stayed longer than I'd planned. James stopped at the store on the way home from lessons to get his heart-shaped pizza ingredients and a few extra things for the kids' Valentine's breakfast table, and we all got home about 8:15.

The kids got ready for bed, I readied a well-deserved margarita (or Mexican martini, if we want to be accurate), and James boiled some pasta because he's practical and didn't pick up takeout somewhere like I totally would have after all that coaching if my family had eaten earlier without me.

And now it's nearly 11 and I must go to bed on time to atone for my ridiculous behavior last night, especially since I know we'll be up early with the kids' Valentine's Day-fueled excitement. They love a dollar store decorated table and I must admit, I love it too.