Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Our Family, in Rainbow Colors

So about 3 hours after publishing my last post our photographer sent me our proofs! And I LOVE THEM. I love the downtown location, I love the lighting, I love the colors. I love that the blue water wall made me look outside my usual blues for clothing colors. I love that we're all wearing clothes from our closets and looking generally like ourselves, just a little spiffed up and a lot excited about eating ice cream afterward.

We hadn't done a photo session in about 20 months and while I feel like Claire looks about the same, Landon and Cora both look a half-step older. They each moved up a phase in between, from toddler to kid and from kid to tween. I'm so glad to have captured them all again so beautifully.

Because while I don't find parenting older kids to be as peaceful or intuitive as parenting young ones, I do just adore the people they're turning into.

And I love how close they are with each other. It's the end of the school year so both big kids are bringing home all their works from the year. I was reading Landon's writing journal last night and was struck by how often he writes about his sisters. He paints them as fun and funny; he describes their quirks and the games they play together. He would truly have loved to be the oldest in a family of ten, but I'm glad he at least had two babies to call his own.

He's nearly 11 and he is so very much himself. He is super smart and super organized and we've never seen a piece of homework from him since he started school. He's sweet and thoughtful and loves planning ahead to make things for others. He never lets a holiday go by without making gifts for the whole family and anyone else we might be seeing at the time, hiding them away in his backpack to surprise all the recipients at the right time in the celebration. He's independent and fairly sure he's ready for college, but he also runs back to give me a hug whenever he's leaving a place where I am. He is going to be a national geographic explorer and/or national park ranger when he grows up.

He loves to run and play tag. He still wants to climb on everything. He is very close to James and their Sunday night chats span an incredibly wide range of topics. He loves his friends, arts and crafts, swimming, READING, playing games, talking without pausing for air, wearing bright colors, discussing the great tragedies of world history in great detail, and organizing his room. He has serious crushes. I found out yesterday that at our pool party he pulled one of our friend's daughters aside to tell her about his crush on her best friend and ask her advice on what he should do about it. This is quintessentially Landon. There was never a girls are icky stage and it's going to be entertaining to watch from the side.

Clairebear turns 8 on Monday. She wasn't even two when we moved here and I find her big kid status shocking at times. She continues to ADORE school and the pleasing of authority figures. She loves her friends and always wants them over at our house. Cora alternates between still being her baby, but increasingly being an equal partner in crime. She loves tiny things, gives elevated "treasure" status to the most random of objects, and prefer that nothing remain as part of a completed set. She is going to be a teacher when she grows up.

She has never been into dress-up but has always been very into her real clothes. She still asks for "new dresses" for all gift giving occasions and snuck on makeup the afternoon of our family pictures. (Makeup I rubbed off as soon as I noticed it when we got out of the car.) She has many fears but can be surprisingly brave and strong. Her favorite colors are pink and teal, her favorite book is whatever one she can read out loud to me, and her favorite food (and upcoming eagerly anticipated birthday dinner) is BBQ Quinoa Salad. She remains our snuggler and will ALWAYS be on a couch I am sitting on, preferably with six loveys and a fuzzy blanket.

Cora is precisely 4.5. She will "never" be "sebben" and our insistence that she'll have to be five and then six and THEN seven causes her much distress. She remains an intriguing mix of incredibly easy going and incredibly opinionated. She is rigid about certain activities. School is for "hard work" and she will not do any Montessori work that isn't the writings and worksheets her teacher prints off for her- no imaginative play for Cora, this is business. At recess, she tears up the playground, giggling and laughing and having the best time with her besties. Then it's back to the classroom where you had best not maintain eye contact and if you touch her work she will never, ever forgive you.

At home we do NOT do work. We play babies and kitchen and princesses. We brush our dolls hair and change their clothes and tell them "shh it's okay, mama's here now." She adores her friends and is going to marry her best friend Jojo. She is surprisingly strong and very athletic. She remains an exuberantly affectionate member of the pack and she always screams my name when I come up to the back door after work. We have double-paned windows, so I can't hear her, but I see her mouth open and yell "MAMA!!!" and her whole face light up in joy and I know that I am home indeed.

She loves flowers, the color pink, babies, all dogs and cats, her blankie, her brother and sister, my lap, maxi dresses, and wearing her sunglasses upside down always. She is incredibly skilled at getting out of doing what you asked her, but incredibly apologetic when you catch her at it. Landon and Claire remain her people, and while she knows she wields enormous power over them, she also truly loves them with her whole fierce little heart.

They are each so different. From each other, from us... they're increasingly themselves and you see those little flashes of adult Landon or adult Claire (and god help us, adult Cora; do NOT touch her work) and I'm reminded of what we'll have to look forward to when they're grown. But then they're back to needing hugs or band-aids or someone to brush their hair (not Landon) and I like where we are now.

And that's our crew in 2018. Our party pack. We travel well and often, react favorably in water, and all agree that queso is the best cheese (even the one of us who thinks he doesn't like cheese at all). We were all born in different cities but we like our current one very much.

2018 has had some challenges. Personal ones of varying types that took us by surprise along the way, but these are my people. I am myself with them in a way I'm not around anyone else. Being a parent, being a spouse, is a constant self improvement project and I've done a lot of improving this year.


Anyway, I love these pictures.

I liked the ice cream afterwards too.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Pool Party Season Has Begun

We just wrapped up a Memorial Day pool party. Six families, many children, tasty snacks, and a large jug of watermelon cucumber adult beverage I concocted in my kitchen just before the party began that I must say was delicious.


It's the magical Trader Joe's Watermelon Cucumber cooler + lots of rum + a can of limeade + two cans of diet sprite. It's the drink of summer.

I have to go to bed soon because I'm tired of being tired, so this will be quick. When we last left off I was doing a lot of cooking, yoga, and running around with my children because we didn't have a nanny but I did have a job and they had activities and a school schedule that does not equal that of a full time job. The good news is, we have a new nanny! Our last nanny recommended her and we met her today during our Memorial Day party. She starts tomorrow and fingers crossed that my email of All The Things actually covers all the things because goodness knows my 5 minute rundown of How Our Lives Work After School while holding my watermelon cucumber adult beverage and playing my favorite 90's songs is probably not going to be helpful to her tomorrow.

Also a "yay" - my mom visited! Briefly, but it was super fun and productive. She drove in Thursday evening just in time to join our soup dinner and then take the kids our for ice cream to celebrate their school successes and the start of summer.

After we got the kids in bed (using the trundle part of the girls' bunk bed for the first time for Landon; I loved seeing all my kids in a little connected trio of beds) we hit the discount stores, as tradition demanded. Ross closes at 10 p.m. just to accommodate us (actually there were a ton of other people there at 9:45 p.m., something I found very surprising but probably shouldn't have; I mean, I was there too) and I got a few super cute summer dresses and a pair of shoes. I swear something happens when I walk in one of those stores with my mom. I had just been there a week ago and found nothing, but walk in with the Gigi and clothes just leap into my hands.

On Friday morning I subbed a barre class and my mom came along as a student. She did great and I gave her an A+. There was more shopping and lunch (pizza; also traditional) and then we stopped by the kids' school for the first of two early summer birthday celebrations! Landon was up first as his teacher requested we come at the beginning of recess. It was ONE THOUSAND degrees outside and I suddenly understood why Landon's clothes are so sweaty at the end of the day. He requested cookies and I found him the most adorable napkins with woodland wildlife wearing party hats. He was pleased.

We squeezed in two more stores and then came back for Claire's birthday surprise. She had requested donuts and I found her pink party llama birthday napkins that felt appropriate. She was also very pleased and we loved that my mom got to be there for both.

Gigi drove back to Houston and we continued with our afternoon of having friends over to swim, then Landon going to a birthday party, while Claire and I took Cora to another birthday party. James picked Claire up after his swim lessons ended to go to dinner since she was the only one without a birthday party and it's rare that the two of them spend time alone. So rare that when James originally suggested they get dinner together, Claire wrinkled her nose and declared it weird. James was actually really sad about this, but luckily Claire had a change of heart and decided maybe eating dinner as a party of 2 would be okay.

I made Cora leave her party early because my throat hurt, but a Starbucks Citrus Defender tea and a bit of The Greatest Showman seemed to make it better, and Cora didn't appear to mind leaving a little early to watch a movie with me. All in all, it was a very full, but very fun day. And I slept for 10 hours and woke up at 9 a.m. Saturday morning with a throat that didn't hurt anymore. Winning all around.

Our Saturday didn't have a SINGLE THING on the calendar, so we spent the day tidying up, hanging up some things in the girls' room, working out, erranding, and spending too much time around our kids who were generally good but also made us text our high school babysitter to ask if she was free at 6 p.m. so we could go out to dinner alone. She was and we did and it was wonderful. Sometimes you just want to sit at a table with someone who enjoys silence and isn't going to tattle on anyone.

Yesterday I taught my barre class and I feel like we did some more home projects, but mostly the day just seemed to go by quickly until we went to a BBQ of one of James's swim clients at 6. It was a great party - tons of food, a fabulous double-decker tree house that the kids adored, and about a million water balloons. The kids had the best time. I believe the water war was girls v. boys, except Cora was on the boys team and she took the whole thing VERY SERIOUSLY. It was so great. She patrolled her edge of the tree house with diligence and focus, if not great aim. She felt like a valued member of the team and I would have hugged every single boy there when we left if it wouldn't have mortified them.

Today we focused on the backyard to prep for our pool party in the afternoon. New chairs, cleaned out pool toys, new inflatables... we were ready. I apparently took one single picture because I was busy with my beverage, music, and friends, and I'm not even sure what the picture was supposed to be of, but the pool/yard looked great and the party was very fun. I love pool party season.

Oh! Exciting news for me- I finally ordered a new laptop. I bought my old one in 2013 and it was broken in six different ways, but I kept using it because it worked (most of the time) and I could think of so many other fun things to spend money on, but then James's laptop had to go to the shop and he used mine and he was horrified by all my "oh well that doesn't work, you have to press this + this + this to make that happen" and "oh yeah, if you close the screen the keyboard turns off and won't work again until you restart" etc. etc. So I ordered a new one! And I feel like I have to plug Ebates again because in the last two weeks I've gotten two $100+ Ebates (10% for our bunk bed and my laptop; 10%! of free money, just waiting to be mailed to you) and if you aren't using it, you're seriously missing out. I've made over $2,000 since I signed up a few years ago- sometimes it's just pennies (my Target purchase last night earned me a whopping $0.60), but I just always make sure I click it and it adds up.

On to food. There won't be a ton of cooking this week because it's short, but these are two of my favorite recipes so they seemed worth sharing. And I'm obsessed with this lunch recipe too.

Lunches: Marinated Lentil Salad. I've had this nearly every day for the past two weeks. I make it just as written, subbing chopped up spinach or arugula for the parsley, and add fresh chopped avocado and hard boiled egg each time I serve it. It is my new favorite thing.

Tuesday: Pasta of some kind (James will wing this one; I'll be at a friend's birthday party drinking all the wine while James makes something tasty for the kids), garlic bread

Wednesday: Jambalaya, Red Lobster Cheddar Biscuits (from a box, because they're freaking amazing)

Thursday: Black Bean Spinach Enchiladas, Spanish Rice

Friday: Last Day of School Party! We're catering it because the last week of school is craziness and we just want all our friends to show up at our pool with their children and some beer, no other preparation needed.

And finally, because I'm too excited to wait, we got a couple proofs back from our photographer from last week's family photo session and I LOVE THEM. I love them so much. I love how the colors came together, I love the lighting outside, I love that you can't tell it's super humid and everyone except the curls on Cora's head was melting. We look happy and cohesive and like ourselves. Everyone's outfit was from their closet, except Landon's and he was SO EXCITED about having a "fancy" Under Armor shirt that he didn't even mind missing a birthday party for the photos, and it all just came together so well.

I mean, that's so them. My party pack, now in rainbow colors.

And this sky and the lighting? Our photographer is a magical unicorn.

And this picture. I love it so very much. We didn't have engagement photos done because I was in Europe and James was having major jaw surgery in the few short months between our sort-of-engagement and actual wedding, but I feel like this is what I would have wanted them to look like.

I love that man. I also love my shoes.

I really really can't wait to see the rest. And with that a happy last week of school/first week of summer to you all! It's supposed to be 109 here by next Saturday, so while I think summer actually starts later in June, I'm going to go ahead and claim it already. May we stock enough Watermelon Cucumber cooler to make it through.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Bunk Beds and Book Battles

Well, we're three days into this week (how? how is it only three?) and I haven't had a PTA meeting, closed down a bar, or gone back to work after 8 p.m., so I'm getting way more sleep and way more family time than the week before. That said, our schedule is still INSANITY because May is when schools cram every single fun thing parents should attend and/or prepare their kids for in between state-mandated testing and the last day of school. So like 67 events in 15 days. In the meantime I have a job (two of them, actually), James has a job (also two), I have jobs for James, and I'm not getting anywhere NEAR enough "sit by the pool and drink margaritas with friends" time. June cannot come soon enough.

But since June isn't here, let's zoom back to last Saturday. I was very tired from a week that required me to have lots of fun with friends and then also work very late. I had set my TV to record the royal wedding because while I was 100% going to watch it (I'm a huge royals watcher; have we discussed this? Go Fug Yourself's Royal Round-Up on Fridays make my week and I read The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor every morning before I even open CNN), I was 100% NOT going to watch it at 5 a.m. Except I woke up at 5:55 a.m. because THAT'S WHAT I DO NOW and heard the girls giggling for reasons I cannot imagine and we all ended up on the couch at 6:05 watching the wedding.

Cora was delighted. "Mommy! That's a REAL princess and she's SO BEAUTIFUL and she's wearing a CROWN!" And then she apparently stole my phone while I was making tea in the kitchen and took a lot of commemorative pictures of the new Duchess of Sussex and also her own forehead.

Once Harry and Meghan were properly married and riding about in their horse-drawn carriage, we went to wake up Landon so he could eat and be ready for his academic UIL competition. He made the Number Sense team (3 kids in each grade get to go) and he was SO excited. His competition wasn't until 9:30, so he could have gone with us at 9, but he opted to ride over with his teacher at 7:15 and he took his notebook along "so he could study on the way."

As excited I am about summer, I will miss his updates from after-school number sense club on Tuesdays. James and I both LOVE math and number tricks and we loved the problems Landon would quiz us with on Tuesday nights. (Fun fact I used to do really long multiplication problems in my head while swimming laps and always calculated my percentage completion of each set to the lap as I swam it. In high school, as today, I was the coolest.).

Our whole pack arrived before his competition, but we quickly found out parents aren't allowed to watch (we knew nothing about this mysterious "academic UIL" as neither James nor I ever competed). We waved Landon off to the classroom where he'd take his test and I ran James and the girls home so they could get started on the exciting bunk bed project I'd provided them. Four giant boxes full of one million pieces to assemble a twin over full over trundle bunk bed with stairs and built-in dresser. James couldn't wait.

I was back before Landon got out of his test and then we sat around with lots of kids waiting on results. He played tag with his friends outside for 3 hours and I chatted with moms and teachers and ate too much of the kids' pizza. In the end, he did not place, but it was a great experience and I love how much math he learned along the way. (In the school assembly the day before they were asked what they liked most about competing in academic UIL and Landon answered, "learning math I'm not supposed to know yet." Love it.)

We got home to total chaos. A crib and twin bed in the living room, James making steady progress on the new beds (and having thought to vacuum and scrub the baseboards after pulling away the old beds, insert heart-eyed emoji), and the girls hyperactively running between each. As always, switching our furniture makes you realize all sorts of things you can get rid of, including stuff I'd totally forgotten we'd been storing under Cora's crib. It was a MESS.

At 5:00 James had completed everything except the trundle. I told him to call it a night and pick where he wanted dinner, except oh, by the way, I just bought Landon a new bookcase so we need to stop at this random house along the way. Reassured that he would not have to assemble anything (it was a used bookcase I bought off our neighborhood page while I was listing and selling everything that used to be in the girls' room), we drove to dinner at Gloria's with a bookcase wedged sideways in the backseat snuggled up next to Claire's car seat.

Sunday was more cleaning, groceries, assembly, cleaning, selling, and the baking of Super Hero Muffins. It had been a few months and the kids kept requesting them. They really are delicious and keep the kids full until lunch if they have one for breakfast. I always double the recipe because they freeze well and are a pain in the neck to make so I want as many of them as possible done at once.

At 1:30 I taught my first new barre class at my favorite studio in town. The studio where I took my first barre class, got trained to be a teacher, and have loved since 2012. I'll be teaching every Sunday at 1:30 and if you live in Fort Worth you should come see me! I wore new pants from a new leggings store I discovered called Fit Fit: headquartered in Austin, founded by a woman, full of awesome patterns, and liberal with instructor discounts - I LOVE them! These have giant peacocks on them and the color combo brings me great joy.

After teaching I finished our grocery shopping, stopped at home to check in on everyone, and headed to Drybar to get a blowout because we had family pictures later and I've learned to take care of myself first and then dress everyone else later. Otherwise I go to pictures with wet hair like I did in 2014. I'd made a crock pot dinner earlier in the day (I've learned to plan ahead on occasions we might otherwise be tempted to just grab something out), so we ate that and headed downtown.

(the full extent of my hair skills; this took me WAY TOO long)

We haven't done family portraits since 2016 and I am SO EXCITED to get these back. We've rescheduled this shoot twice and when I woke up to pouring rain Sunday morning I thought maybe we were cursed, but the skies cleared in the afternoon and the lower temperatures the rains brought were appreciated (though the humidity was not by anyone/anything except Cora's curls). The kids were their usual distracted puppy-like selves throughout our hour-long session, but our photographer always makes magic happen with them. As we've done in the past, I told each kid they could have some portraits of just them in a location and pose of their choosing. I sat back and chatted with James while they roamed our location with Ashley, so I have no idea what these will look like and it's so fun to get them back. At one point I did catch a glance of Landon on top of a tall concrete pillar and I thought yes, of course, that's Landon at nearly-11.

(Claire, at nearly-8, snuck some blush on her cheeks I had to wipe off before the pictures and had to be cut off from her personal portrait session because she had so many ideas. Cora, at solidly-4, had riotous curls and fluctuating enthusiasm for the whole project.)

We stopped at a McDonald's drive-through on the way back for frozen yogurt cones as a treat. Possibly Cora's first time at a McDonald's, I forgot how good a McD's cone can be, especially when you can get 4 for $2.99. This will be our treat of summer.

Cora's new mattress was delivered on Monday and that evening she finally got to sleep in her VERY OWN big girl bed. Landon and Claire were both in twin beds by 2.5, but Cora's crib converted to a toddler bed and that fit way better in the configuration of the room, so in the toddler bed she still was. Now she has a full bed all to herself and it is QUITE the upgrade.

There's still some work to do - art to hang, shelves to put up, lighting to add, furniture to rearrange, but I love the new addition.

I went to yoga Monday night at 8:15 and when I got home at 9:30 I went to kiss the girls I assumed were sleeping a second goodnight. I found Claire passed out as expected, but Cora was just rolling back and forth across her bed with a huge grin on her face. "IT'S SO BIG MAMA! I LOVE IT!" I think she'd been silently rolling back and forth for the whole 90 minutes since we kissed her goodnight the first time.

Landon also jazzed up his room a bit, relocating his snake and tidying up his bookshelves. He remains delighted with his bed and I feel like they're all settled for the next 5 years at least. Now we can move on to projects I have planned for the playroom, master bedroom, and hall bath. There's always something.

On Tuesday I picked the kids up from school to give our generous and wonderful friends a break from me asking them to do it for me. Landon, who keeps reminding me that he'll be in 5th grade next year, information I find surprising every time he imparts it, has decided to run for Vice-President on Student Council. He's in StuCo this year, but only 5th graders get to run for office. He made his posters all by himself Monday night and selected his very favorite picture to put on the poster. Obviously, it has an animal in it.

Meerkats for VP!

Our future politician declined to dress for swim practice that afternoon, so he was not able to participate in the swim meet or the dinner I took the girls out for afterward. Instead he got to bond with Coach Dad while cleaning up the pool area after practice was over still wearing his school uniform and I actually think they both enjoyed their time together.

As did the girls and I.

This is summer right here, just preferably with all my crew at the table.

Today (Wednesday for those keeping track, though it's nearly midnight so it might be Thursday when I publish this), was Claire's Field Day and Landon's Championship Round of Battle of the Books! We were so excited about BOB this year and my mom had even planned to drive over from Houston (which we were very excited about!) but then I found out last week that parents weren't invited this year. I was devastated, but got the number of one of the faculty sponsors was able to bug him to get updates while I sat at my desk. And, the 4th grade team got 2nd overall!!! Over 50 schools participated and Landon was Team Captain which meant he selected the final answers to all questions to show the judges, making decisions between his own thoughts and potentially conflicting teammates' advice and he did so great. I squealed at my desk when I got the final text. They went through 3 rounds and first v. second was decided in sudden death. I very much wish we could have been there, but I'm thrilled for him and his team.

James attended Claire's field day and she won the hula hoop contest for at least the second year in a row. Like me, she has no hips, so her hip swirling action is very impressive. She also got 2nd in the 100 yard dash which is James's very favorite thing. Go Bear!

Tomorrow is Landon's Field Day, a busy day of meetings for me, the kids' swim practice I will need to get them to, and then my mom is coming! On Friday I'm subbing a barre class, taking birthday treats to both the kids' classes (since they have summer birthdays, we try to squeeze them in near the end of school), and then two kids' birthday parties Friday night. Landon gets dropped off at his, I'll go with Cora, and then I think James and Claire will go out because they rarely get to do that on their own. And then it will be Saturday and we don't have a SINGLE THING on the calendar which is a miracle and there will be much swimming and James having to re-hang all the art he already hung on the girls' wall 3 years ago before a Memorial Day pool party, wood floors being installed in our master bedroom, a REALLY crazy and over-scheduled final week of school, and our now traditional Last Day of School Party on Friday night.

But that's all next week. Let's talk about food. This menu is pulled from the last 2.5 weeks, but there was some good stuff and I thought you needed to know about it:

Monday: Italian Chicken Stew (inspired by this recipe, I always double the broth, use two large frozen chicken breasts to simmer for 45 mins until they can be shredded by my KitchenAid, add some cooked noodles, and then add 1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan at the end), served with crusty bread. Amazing.

Tuesday: Pasta with tomato cream sauce, steamed broccoli (I subbed barre and missed dinner and this is James's favorite pasta sauce to make)

Wednesday: Pesto Chicken Salad Sandwiches (with Costco's pesto because it is amazing and there is no reason to make your own when it is in your fridge), chips, fruit, carrot sticks. Kid/family favorite.

Thursday: Black Bean and Avocado Enchiladas (except without the sauce, because it's a Thursday and we have like 15 minutes to make dinner after barre and swimming, so I just baked them with a bit of cheese on top.

Friday: Dorito Taco Salad (SOOO good, except I simmered the cooked ground beef with the beans in the seasoning, eliminated the Catalina dressing, and added some chopped cilantro, diced avocado; it didn't need any dressing at all)

Sunday: Greek chicken pasta salad (based off this recipe, plus pasta and grilled chicken and extra dressing)

Monday: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli and cauliflower. (The kids new favorite meal; I love the spice mix in that recipe- it's super flavorful, and I always cheat with Costco refrigerated mashed potatoes because they're wonderful. I also top the meatloaf with a mix of 2/3 ketchup, 1/3 yellow mustard. I hate yellow mustard VERY much 99% of the time, but it is tangy and delicious mixed into that glaze.)

Tuesday: Crock pot bbq shredded chicken sandwiches (frozen chicken breasts, half a bottle of bbq, splash of Italian dressing - cook on low 8-10 hours then shred; serve on wheat buns with cheese and pickles), chips, fruit. (I had a PTA Board meeting so I was not present for any of this, but it's another James/kids favorite that I don't care about so I plan it for nights I'm away.)

Wednesday: Creamy Spinach Tomato Tortellini; salad; garlic bread.

Thursday: BBQ Chicken Quinoa Salad with the leftover chicken from Tuesday; Claire's favorite meal in the whole world (quinoa, chicken, black beans, corn, tomato, avocado, cheese, chips, whatever).

Friday: Pizza (from frozen) and a giant salad. And wine.

Sunday: Easy Crockpot Creamy Chicken Enchilada Chili. We have this all the time because it's easy and and everyone loves it (I use half the amount of cream cheese called for).

Monday: A double batch of One Pan Roasted Sausage and Veggies, with an orzo pasta side I made up (cooked orzo + butter + splash of milk + parm).

Tuesday: Surprise taco outing; James and Landon had pasta at home.

Wednesday: Creamy Ham and Potato Soup, crusty bread, sliced cheese. The kids inhale this soup.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Meanwhile Back in the Fort

Is 11:00 too late for a glass of wine? is a question I asked myself when I got home from work last night at 10:58 p.m. having worked all day, gone to sub a barre class at 7 p.m., and then gone back to work for another few hours to finish a memo that's been refusing to write itself for days. On the upside, the memo is done! And when I read it today it was as solid as I thought it was when I finished it last night! On the downside, it's been a CRAZY week and that made Thursday the second day I didn't see my children at any point all day and Claire has objections to that. (And yes, I decided 11:00 was too late for a glass of wine and went for herbal tea instead.)

A government office at 10 p.m. is a lonely and creepy place.

Do you know how many zombies could be hiding in those corners? SO MANY ZOMBIES. My office was cozy, but still somehow sadder once the sun went down. Or maybe it was because the day's Starbucks cups were piled in the trashcan alongside the Pad Thai takeout box I'd eaten out of for lunch.

On an exciting office note, I got a new frame for Mother's Day! And unlike the piece of art Cora made me, I got to bring this one to my office! It's all my babies wearing their regalia from the job I was doing when I had them.

I love it. My Chicago law school baby, my Austin V&E baby, and my Fort Worth SEC baby. Apparently all I needed to do to get that much wanted 4th baby was move cities and take a different job!

It's hard to believe I've been a working mom for nearly 11 years. Cora's about to embark on her last year of preschool, so next fall we will be done paying for full-time childcare, 11 years, 3 kids, and one million dollars later. I won't miss writing the check each month, but we have been truly blessed to have so many extra people in our life to love on our kids. They don't have much extended family, and our childcare has truly become a part of that circle.

Speaking of school- Cora got her school pictures! I totally forgot about them, so she's wearing a much beloved dress that used to be Claire's much beloved dress that is faded and torn and her hair is exuberant and glorious. It's all very Cora.

After at least a year of not being allowed to touch her hair, Cora randomly requested a pony tail last week. "A pony please," she asked politely. "In the middle, in the BACK." No childish top of the head pigtails for her anymore (sob), just a "real pony please." Unfortunately, her hair makes that a liiiiitle challenging. Much pulling and twisting later, a tiny hipster man-bun emerged.

She was THRILLED. James said she bounced into her daycare class and demanded each individual friend admire her ponytail and she was still talking about it when I picked her up.

"Someday when I am sebben, my hair will be BIG mommy. I will have big hair with big ponies."

Given it's growth rate so far, I'm not sure seven is quite far out enough, she's already 4.5.

The other night at dinner- a dinner I was home for, so it must have been Wednesday- I asked Claire what she wanted for her birthday in two weeks. Cora, who was listening intently and has been trying to join in the conversations at dinner rather than just randomly adding a few enthusiastic words on a new topic before turning back to her food, nodded along and inquired, "do you think on my birthday I will be six?" "No honey, you'll be five." "But MAYBE I will be six?" "No, definitely 5." "Awwwwwww."

Poor girl, just wants to be bigger in all ways but we are VERY happy to keep her growing up as slowly as possible, just like her hair.

(Also at that dinner we were talking about getting tickets to see The Incredibles 2 when it comes out (yay!!!) and Cora, again trying to be part of the conversation, asked very politely, "Landon and Cwaire, did you like the Wonder Woman Movie?" "Um, yes, sure." "Do you think we should maybe watch that again?" "Okay, sure." [insert satisfied nod by Cora before turning back to her food]. Family dinnertime convos are my favorite.)

Not really related, but it does involve food - I've decided to become a person who makes jam.

I am a jam maker. I googled many recipes, bought a wide mouth funnel, and selected a recipe for my inaugural run for my mom's Mother's Day brunch in Kingwood and it was AMAZING. So amazing. I don't really even like jam and I have no idea why I decided I needed to become a jam person, but omg the smells and the taste of that Strawberry, Lemon, Basil jam were so amazing I'm making jam as gifts for everyone forever.

I have produced actual human children with less pride than those little jam bottles. They're already empty so I need to get jammin' again.

This post is so scattered, we'll just go back to last week real quick when I moved heaven and earth to get the kids to swim so I could teach my TCU barre class (did I mention all my nannies graduated? Because all my nannies graduated and it's ruining my life), including getting to work at 7:00 a.m. so I could leave early to make it happen, and then I got to my studio, found it empty, and realized they forgot to put me on the fitness schedule so no one knew to come. I flirted with the idea of working out alone, but decided to take some iPhone pictures of yoga moves and go shopping instead. I almost even worked up a tiny sweat.

During the shopping, not the yoga. I did find Cora sparkly unicorn sheets for their new big girl room I'm working on. Yes, we're finally letting a giant 4.5 year old Cora out of her toddler bed and getting them bunk beds. The bunk bed I found is a twin over full with trundle, staircase, and built-in-dresser. The 65 boxes of pieces arrived yesterday and James is SO EXCITED to put them together this weekend.

Poor James, it's not exactly the reward he deserves for doing the lion's share of the parenting work this week. On Tuesday I was out gallivanting in college bars until 1 a.m. (more on that later), on Wednesday night he cleaned up Cora's puke all over her bed, wall, and person at 2 a.m. because I was finally so worn out from not being able to sleep for the last 2 weeks that I was unresponsive (and he didn't really even try because he was happy I was sleeping and he is a SIGNIFICANTLY nicer and more generous person than I), and on Thursday he brought the kids home from swim, fed them, watered them, and tucked them in bed while I was working all day/night. But tonight I was here, totally on top of things while sipping beverages poolside with a friend while our kids swam.

Speaking of Tuesday, it was mostly a total shit show until the beer pitchers started rolling in. I got to work at 7:00 a.m. because that's a thing I do now that I don't sleep. I wake up at 6:05 after going to sleep at midnight, try to go back to sleep, can't, get up and leave. Work was fine and I was supposed to leave at 4:00 because I'd put in my time and I had to pick up the kids to get them to swimming so James could take them home while I went to my final PTA Board meeting of the year, but I ended up having to take a call and then ran out at 4:15. Landon and Claire had gone home with a friend (no nannies!) and Cora was at school and I needed them all to be at the pool by 4:50 but still just barely had time for it to all work out perfectly. I'd worn my favorite pair of shoes- strappy heels that wound up my feet and tied in the back and had a 3.5" heel. This will be important later.

I'd parked at the bottom of the garage in the morning since I was one of the first people there. Then I'd gone to a farewell lunch for a beloved colleague who's leaving us for the private sector and then I'd parked SOMEWHERE ELSE after that. I'd had 3 passengers in my car and we must have been having a very engaging conversation because I got to the parking garage elevator and had NO IDEA where I'd parked. I thought maybe between 3 and 4, on the up ramp? I called a friend who had been in the car with me, "I don't know... I think maybe you're between 3 and 4 on the up ramp?" she guessed. So I walked over there. My garage is full of giant trucks because GM Financing is in my building and they all get company cars, so you can't just look down a row, you have to walk it. So I did. Then the one above and below it. Then I went the other direction, up and down. Then I started on 2 and walked up to 6. Then I walked down from 6. Increasingly sweaty, increasingly frantic at how late I was, increasingly about to cry. I was texting my friend updates, "so sorry, trying to find my car, tell the kids to be ready to leave when I pull up!" while she did everything she could to make my life better, "how about I take them to your house now so they can change and be ready to go?"

Finally, at 4:45, after 30 minutes of walking parking garage ramps on a 92 degree afternoon a coworker- the same one who I'd asked where I parked- exited the elevator, saw me about to collapse into a puddle of tears and offered to drive me around until we found my car. My swollen feet were so thankful I almost cried again anyway. So we drove up to 6 and down from 6. Finally we admitted that maybe we parked far higher than we ever imagined and went up to the roof. And then, on our way down, between 8 and 7 we found my fucking car.

Sometime around 4:40 my incredibly kind friend had offered to just take the kids to swimming. It's a solid 15 minutes away, but I was so hot and sweaty and late, I sent her the address with a grateful heart and promises of future bottles of wine. I am so blessed in my village.

Once in my car I realized it was now nearly 5:00 and I still had to figure out what to do with Cora. I couldn't make it to the pool and I was too kerfluffled to even try, so I just picked her up, packed her kindle, and took her to the Board meeting. Normally that's no problem, but it was our last one and at a restaurant so I was hoping to be kid-free. I sat her in a chair, literally in a corner, and she happily watched The Greatest Showman until James picked her up 30 minutes later with the other kids. The restaurant was BYOB and I was well into the bottle I'd packed in my purse and feeling much better about my swollen feet and life generally.

The restaurant kicked us out at 10 because they were closing and quite reasonably wanted to go home. As we were walking out my friend Sarah who went to TCU for college declared, "You know what I want to do? I want to go to THE PUB." The University Pub, an establishment I'd walked by a million times on my way to our favorite pizza or burger place, but never actually entered. The definition of a hole in the wall, the only place she said remained on that strip from her college days.

I'm game, I said.

Other friends agreed. And we were off! A whole half-mile later we reassembled and discovered the pitchers of beer were only$8! We got really excited and bought them all. My favorite part of this picture is Sarah taking a picture while I take a picture. We were all just so proud and delighted to be out so late on a school night.

At some point I had what is possibly my favorite text exchange with James ever.

I had the most fun. I love my crew.

Landon saw this picture the next day and said, "Huh. You look fun mom."

I got home around 1 a.m., walked into my kitchen, saw the sparkling clean and clear counter tops and was so overwhelmed with love for my husband I took a picture. It might have also been the pint of beer, but seriously, clear counter tops are my love language. They aren't James's, but he speaks mine to me, even when I abandon him to go drinking with my mom friends.

And then, at 1:03 a.m., I finally took off my shoes. It felt almost as good as looking at my kitchen.

Then I couldn't sleep because I'm old now and more than 2 drinks means I can't sleep at night when it used to mean I slept GREAT, so I got up at 5:55 a.m. and headed to work, sitting down at my desk just before 7. I got a text from James at 7:15 asking if I ever came home last night, which made me laugh, particularly since I had a whole conversation with him at 1 a.m. and he tucked me in like a little spoon for at least an hour after I got in bed. I skipped yoga at lunch because my bones hurt on the inside, now making it 8 days since my last workout. That evening was really nice, despite my increasing exhaustion. I made a yummy dinner and hung out with the kids. We did puzzles, we read, there was swimming, and very little yelling. It was lovely.

Later I got live footage of Cora putting away her puzzles.

Really getting after it.

Last night was all the work but I did teach the barre class, huffing and puffing under the music I turned up nice and loud to cover my struggles, and I stayed up too late chatting with James once I finally got home from my second round at the office. I caught some yoga today and hopefully I can get back on track; I miss yoga when it's not around. Sleep too. And chatting with James. Here's to more of all of that in the week ahead!