Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Disco Mermaids and Shopping Shenanigans

Jumping right in to a post I meant to write on Sunday and need to publish before the kids in costumes pictures need to descend later tonight! While I keep an eye the weather app currently predicting storms while trick-or-treating, let's take it back to last Friday when, after keeping Cora home from school a full 2.5 days and after she was fever-free for 1.5 days, we decided to let her attend her preschool's Fall Festival that she had been looking forward to since she attended the first one last year. Claire, at least 24 hours behind Cora in her recovery, had to stay home, which devastated all 62 lbs. of her. Landon got to tag along, because he was healthy and LOVES a preschool social event, and happily sat himself at the 4-year-old table and ate some pizza and snacks, while Cora ran about with her friends and looked forward to the trick-or-treating.

She politely declined anyone offering lollipops, starbursts, or other fruity candies (my favorite!), and enthusiastically accepted any chocolate. She even deigned to say "trick-or-treat" this year, so that was less awkward than her staring at persons offering candy and just saying "please."

My mom drove up that evening, arriving around 8:00. She said hello to the sick girls and healthy boy, all ensconced in the girls' room with Landon's trundle pulled as far away from Cora's bed as possible. She and I went out to dinner at a delicious local Italian place and had one of the best salads I've ever had (farro and roasted beets forever), plus a delicious crostini creation and white pizza. And wine. It was glorious. We then headed to Ross because it doesn't close until 11:30 p.m., which is crazy but also makes perfect sense because those are exactly the hours we needed.

On Saturday morning Cora woke us up at 1 a.m. crying because she "hurt inside." Her fever was back and her cough was worse and clearly her 60 minutes at school after 2 days of fever-free rest was TOO MUCH and backwards several steps now were we. We were all supposed to go to Landon's climbing competition, and then to the Arboretum, and then to our beloved family friend's daughter's first birthday party - all in Dallas - but new plans had to be hastily made. The girls were to stay home, my mom and I were to leave later and arrive for the last hour of Landon's competition, and our nanny was going to cover us for about 4 hours of Dallas overlap. As I've said many times, than goodness for our nanny network that frequently makes our life possible.

This was Landon's second competition and we arrived with an hour to go and him feeling pretty confident. He'd conquered many a complicated route and only had two to go.

He never quite reached the top of his two white whales, but he did score some points for making it to certain markers and we found out yesterday he placed 6th overall out of 25! At his last competition he was 11th, so he's definitely improving and he was so excited and proud.

We grabbed lunch at our favorite Austin taco place that has expanded to Dallas but frustratingly refused all my birthday wishes for it to come to Fort Worth, and then the boys headed home to relieve the sitter and check on our girls. Landon was devastated to miss the 1-year-old birthday party (he loves babies and any good social event), and was even willing to shop with my mom and I while we waited for the party to start, but we sent him on his way. We had serious TJ Maxx shopping to do and you have to be over 18 and in possession of your own credit card to do it!

I've said this before, but shopping with my mother is a delight. First, she has a magic ability to find things that weren't on the rack when you looked through it moments earlier. Second, she keeps a running commentary like it's a sporting event (because IT IS) and it cracks me up. A few excerpts: "Oh my gosh, look at this poncho!" [runs over, admires navy and mustard yellow plaid poncho] "No, no, I don't need anymore ponchos, I have one just like it." ... "Do I have this sweater? I might." [tosses it in cart, picks up a dress] "Isn't this cute?!" [sees Ivanka Tump label] "No! No. I just CANNOT." [shoves dress back onto rack with extreme prejudice; heads to shoes] "Oh Rebecca! You have to see these boots! They're CRAZY!" [puts boots in cart].

You guys, it is a whirlwind of clothes and laughter and it is my favorite spectator sport.

We made it to the birthday party with a trunk full of TJ Maxx treasures and crazy boots (but no ponchos). Mom got to see our old neighbors for the first time since my wedding and she and Janet (my Italian mother) spoke at high speed for the next 90 minutes. It was so great. My childhood best friend was also there, having flown in from Florida, and the youngest of their kids, who was only 6ish when they moved away was there with his wife and baby and how could he possibly be so old and grown-up? It was a time warp.

We left the party after admiring the birthday girl attacking her cupcake with joy and focus so James and I could get ready for our own grown-up costume party at a neighbor's house that night! All I knew about James's costume was that he spent 2 hours at a local magic/costume shop picking it out and he texted me "don't worry, I got the shoes too."

Disco Stu was in the house!

I forgot how seriously he can take Halloween. (The shoes!)

I was so excited about our costume party. When our friend's said they were having it, I decided to keep it simple and use leggings I already owned (yay for crazy leggings that turn out to be SO practical) to be a mermaid. I turned to Amazon for the torso and faux shell bra and Ulta for the teal makeup, hair chalk, and face glitter. But when it came time for the glitter I realized I don't really know how to do that. I had the glitter glue, and I applied it, but then I was holding this little container of glitter and wondering how it was supposed to get on my face? I sort of tossed it in the direction of my glitter. That was very effective at glittering my counter, but less so for bedazzling the face. I finally just patted it on, smearing the glue, and realizing I should have had a few practice sessions. The girls still thought I looked magnificent.

With James's hair and platforms, he was about 7' tall.

Selfies were hard.

It was so fun. Apple Cider Sangria was present and my essential themed "Mermaid Vibes" cup was in use.

I love when the grownups get to play.

I liked my blue hair and fake abs so very much and I was surprised at how crazy hot I found the 70's.

I mean, seriously. [fans self]

We had a great time and enjoyed VERY much having our free sitter in Gigi just a few houses down!

On Sunday, we went to Half Price Books so all of the kids could pick out a bunch of books to fill Papa and Gigi's new bookcase up at the lake house. Such a fun and thoughtful idea, the kids can't wait to visit and read them! We got lunch, Gigi headed home, and I taught my class. The weather was beautiful, we had big salads for dinner, I wore one of my new dresses from TJ Maxx to work on Monday, and the girls were finally back in school!

Yesterday Landon texted me from home that he was a Millionaire! Apparently he'd read a million words in AR so far this year and there's a prize for that! And a balloon! And CANDY! Obviously, this was the answer to the excuse to go get tacos and margaritas for dinner that I'd been searching for all day. I sent out a text to some friends and next thing I knew, we had a gathering of 20+ taking over out local taco joint on a gorgeous margarita-filled night. I love a good impromptu gathering.

The kids are SO excited about tonight (their costume pics will be in the next post; the grown-ups got a turn first this year). I'm less excited since there's a 100% chance of rain, but my ghost pants, rain coat, rain boots, and hot toddy in a Yeti cup are ready to go! Happy Halloween to you all!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Pumpkin Spice Suitcases

So last Sunday found me at my very favorite piece of Dallas at my very favorite time of year- Pumpkin Village time at the Arboretum! We had planned to leave early and arrive when it opened as we've done ever year since we first visited in 2013 when I was a million weeks pregnant with Cora and looked like I'd smuggled a pumpkin under my shirt, but Sundays have become the day we all sleep in and it was a habit simply too delicious to break.

So we left when it opened and arrived an hour later and it almost didn't even give me anxiety to do so.

Every time I drive to Dallas I feel very strongly it should be closer, but I do love the Arboretum! Even when it's inches deep in mud after all our rain and none of your shoes will ever be the same.

There's just something a little magical about a village covered entirely in seasonal gourds.

This year's theme was Finding Neverland and it's my new favorite: the ship, the Darlings' House, Tinkerbell's little home, the Lost Boys Tree House... it was great.

The hay maze- always a favorite- was deep under the mud, so the kids ran around on top of the bales instead.

As always, James seized the opportunity to jump over something with a child in his arms.

Pumpkin Village thoroughly explored (and getting crowded), we headed off to the other less pumpkin-y areas of the Arboretum.

Specifically, the Children's Garden, which remains utterly magical to my children despite their ever-increasing ages and our many visits.

New this year- there's a hedge maze that is fabulous! Claire, as always, was prepared with a map.

Despite great effort, Landon was disappointed to find he is not, in fact, King Arthur.

Undaunted, he turned and cried out, "Look dad! A pond ecosystem! That's awesome!" And he meant every word.

When not a victim of his own hormones, doing anything with Landon is basically the best because EVERYTHING is the best.

His enthusiasm is set at a level 10. Maybe an 11 for pond ecosystems.

And a 12 for the traditional and absolutely mandatory "climbing on things" part of all Lag Liv family adventures.

We headed home abruptly when I realized the time and remembered that Dallas is further from Fort Worth than I always think it should be, and my barre class was set to begin in 80 minutes. Luckily I'm a planner and my emoji ghost yoga pants and a black tank were in my purse just in case. A barre teacher is always prepared.

Speaking of barre, this was the girls in my class tonight. They're both sick- after both were up crying from 3-5 a.m. with 103 degree fevers, hacking coughs, headaches, and sore throats, we went to the pediatrician for a diagnosis of "justavirus" to comfort us in case they get up at 3 a.m. again tomorrow. [Editor's note on Friday: this morning it was 4 a.m., so that's better?] They clearly feel terrible and were home all day (Cora was also home yesterday, and showed marked improvement in the second half of today; Claire succumbed yesterday evening and is still very much in the "hit by a truck" phase), but James had to coach and I had to teach my class, so they opted to accompany me and I set them up in a far corner on yoga mats (mats I thoroughly sterilized later) with their kindles and headphones. They were great. I think Claire fell asleep for a while. Both are sleeping soundly now, interrupted only by the occasional bout of unconscious couging.

In happier, healthier times, I voted on Monday!

Our polling place had run out of stickers due to record turnout (yay!), so Claire took a picture of me by the sign instead. I love voting and I really love when I actually have someone I'm really excited to vote for. This doesn't happen too often for me in a state like Texas.

And finally, our fleet of new rainbow carry-on suitcases arrived today! Carefully selected by each child (can you guess whose is whose?), we are now officially a carry-on family! When we flew to Chicago in May and I realized we didn't need to check anything (huzzah!), I also realized we did not own enough carry-on size bags. There was no point before when we were hauling babies all over the place. But now we have kids who pull their own suitcases and carry their own accessories- 11.5 years into this parenting gig and we're FREE!

I'm slightly obsessed with travel gear and accessories. I'm a light packer and don't need much, but I will say that I could not live without my packing cubes. I splurged on this set because they're adorable and the perfect sizes for me, but I also have a cheap grey set I picked up at TJ Maxx that I now use for the kids. When I went to DC last week I was able to pack 5 different outfits (I had no idea what the dress code was going to be), casual lounge clothes, underthings, jewelry, coat, 3 pairs of shoes (heels, flats, boots), my toiletries, and my absolutely necessary white noise machine I've used nightly since 2006, all in my little carry-on.

When I unpacked (as I always do; I do not like living out of my suitcase), I just put each cube in a drawer and then I know where everything is since the cubes already have things separated out. When I pack back up, it's just as easy.

I need to order another set for the kids before our trip. I also have a family passport wallet that I adore (ordered off Etsy it nicely holds all five of our passports with an extra sleeve for plane tickets or other papers), a travel charger square that lets me power charge 6 things at once (i.e., all my family's electronic devices in one outlet for easy packing up when you leave a hotel room/airport plug), and a little makeup bag I keep perma-packed with small versions of our family's most commonly used first aid items. I also always pack a PBJ with granola bar, apple slices, and pretzels for everyone to keep in their own separate carry-ons, so no matter where we end up on the plane you have your own food supply and I'm not dropping $100 for a crappy airplane lunch we rush to eat. Plus an empty water bottle to fill once we're through security. I really don't like paying for things in airports. (And ziplocs. You can always use ziplocs when you're traveling and everyone gets a few to carry in their bag.)

We're headed to Costa Rica in 3 weeks, with a layover in Mexico City with enough hours to get out and see the city center, and we are VERY excited. I started planning this trip a year ago and it's almost finally here! One of the truly greatest things about the kids getting older, and us refusing to be daunted by traveling with them when they were younger, is we can take on bigger and bigger adventures and it's so fun and they're such great travelers when we do. I know people with very different opinions on the subject, but truly, traveling with our kids is one of James and my absolute favorite things about having them. And the kids take a lot of pride in it- I noticed in all their school journal writings last year both Claire and Landon frequently mentioned trips we've taken or want to go on and wrote often about the fact we like to "travel to places." I love that (and it's true!).

Let me know if you have any other favorite travel hacks or travel items! I love a good Amazon search. I should add I also have two portable charging sticks that are wonderful and a 5-port car charger that reaches to the back row and is excellent when you get in the rental car after draining your devices on the plane. All that and my pen and mini spiral notebook full of destination research and we're good to go!

(As usual, there are no affiliate links to all the random things I've purchased because I don't really know how to do that, but I will plug Ebates if you don't use it already! For example, eBags almost always has a 10% Ebate on your purchase if you're looking for luggage or my beloved packing cubes!)

Monday, October 22, 2018

Washington, DC and a Bag of ChIPs

I'm watching Season One of iZombie on Netflix right now. Have you seen this? I'm enjoying it immensely. It's funny, dark, wry, and most importantly- blessedly superficial. As we get closer to the midterms, that one spot of hope that seemed so far away two years ago, I'm having PTSD about election night and I can only re-watch The West Wing so many times to escape. (I mean, our president praises physical assault on journalists and crowds cheer him on; we're living in a Constitutional Hellscape and the Founding Fathers would be so proud.) So. Zombies! I'm hanging out with them at night now.

When we left off we'd just celebrated James's birthday early before I jumped into a busy work week, parenting week (TCU fall break = no nannies), and medical week. On Tuesday, I picked up the kids from school and took them to get their flu shots. I stopped at Albertson's on the way and got my own, and the kids took a lot of inspiration from my general survival and possession of a princess band-aid.

They all took theirs with equal bravery and nary a flinch, so we celebrated our new flu resistance powers with the season's first hot chocolate once we got back home.

A few hours later it was time to take the kids to swimming. Landon packed two books for the 4 mile ride which seemed appropriate.

Both girls fell fast asleep on the long 12-minute journey, so they ended up skipping swimming and coming home to hang out with mom.

On Wednesday, I was set to fly to DC at 2:00 to attend an amazing and inspiring conference that I was really looking forward to. I'd saved my packing for the morning, so of course Claire woke me up at 6:45 sobbing with sharp stomach pains and then suddenly throwing up white foam on the floor and THEN having a panic attack and screaming she couldn't breathe because she'd never thrown up before and it scared the shit out of her.

So I spent the morning in Urgent Care with the Bear, writing out a packing list and pretending those items were floating over to my suitcase, shocked to find out that she had Strep because apparently you can have that without a fever or sore throat and instead just intense stomach pain. WHO KNEW? Based on her history (we'd been to the pediatrician for stomach pain a few weeks ago), the ER doctor thought she'd likely had it for a month. Poor Claire.

James finished up his own doctor's appointment I had told him not to reschedule, relieved me at Urgent Care while we waited on an abdominal x-ray, and I got back home at the precise time I was supposed to leave for the airport. I threw some stuff in a suitcase and made it to my gate 5 whole minutes before boarding. Time to spare! I got to DC at 6, took a cab to the hotel, tossed my stuff in my room, and marched outside determined to walk until it was dark. It had been raining in Fort Worth for 150 days and I LOVE walking in cities and I just needed this.

I walked to the Washington Monument, then over to the Jefferson Memorial, then along the river, then back to my hotel.

It was glorious. A gorgeous night, people walking all around me, a gentle breeze, and SUN! Rays of sun! My soul withers without it.

That night found me in the Mandarin Oriental bar, catching up with two partners I used to work with at my firm prior to joining the SEC. In addition to those lovely blasts from the past, I got to meet up with a few LawMas in real life! The Law Mamas are a facebook group I'm part of; we've taken the llama as our spirit animal and it was a delight to meet so many in person over the course of the conference.

Inspiration and mentor!

The conference was the ChIPs Global Summit, a summit of all women at the very top of their fields in tech, law, and policy, and it was FABULOUS. I sat in the basement of the Mandarin from 7:30 a.m. through 10:00 p.m. and time seemed to fly by. There were panels on regulatory policy, blockchain and cryptography, women entrepreneurs, managing crisis, referring business to friends and other women, negotiating for yourself, investing in women (particularly at the angel/seed investment stage), and so much more. It was amazing and a well timed bit of inspiration for me.

Sally Yates was one of the panelists and I completely fangirled with her 15 feet in front of me, snapping pictures like I was in a N'Sync concert in 1999. I didn't get a selfie with her because not all dreams come true, but she was inspiring nonetheless.

Also at the conference were several pop-up shops by women-owned businesses. They had absolutely beautiful things- most were outside my price range, but the lipstick counter was squarely in my wheelhouse. I was emboldened to try a lipstick shade with actual color in it. It made me feel nervous and powerful all at once. I kind of love it.

It was a wonderful 36 hours. The only downside is 24 of those hours covered James's whole birthday (though I was in the city of his birth!) and Claire having a lead speaking role in their class musical production Thursday night. But friends took video of Claire, James was able to be there to watch and always gracefully picks up our full family schedule when I'm away, and the family survived and thrived without me.

The conference ended Friday about 12 and my flight didn't leave until 3:55, so I checked out of my room, dropped my luggage with the bellhop, and soaked up some more of the beautiful weather. I walked over to the National Mall, aiming for the Capitol building, but first got distracted by the fabulous Farmer's Market the Dept. of Agriculture apparently puts on every Friday.

I got an empanada to eat while I resumed my trek.

Empanada gone, I stopped to marvel at the Smithsonian Castle and remember what it was like to live somewhere it didn't rain. I checked my phone to confirm it was currently raining in Fort Worth and marveled some more.

I decided I had time for a few museums, so I wandered into the Museum of Natural History. I love that all the Smithsonians are free. I said "Hello again" to the Hope Diamond, admired some ancient mummies, and took pictures of a few animal skeletons for Landon.

It was time to turn back, and hoping the line for the incredible looking Farmer's Market pizza had gone down, I made my way back that direction and sure enough! The line no longer wound down the block. Fifteen people in line later and I had my pizza and it was AMAZING. Possibly the best pizza I've ever had. I took a picture with it so I could remember it forever and then sat at the group picnic tables listening to live music and chatting with some tourists from New Jersey who impressed equally by the fact I was a lawyer and that I ate my whole pizza.

I flew home, landing in the rain and the dark in Dallas. I drove home in the rain and the dark to James and two very excited girls and a boy who joined us later from a Student Council lock-in. I missed my sun, but it was lovely to be home. Saturday was errands and volleyball and going to yoga for the first time in seven days (ouch). I pulled up in the driveway after yoga to find the three kids racing in circles around the front yard holding swords and nerf guns.

"What are you playing?" I asked. "War!" yelled Claire.

"Oh?", not seeing any other friends around, "who are you fighting?"

"Well, we're all on the same side." Landon explained, then paused and shrugged and added, "We're winning."

They played outside for 4 hours more. It may have been a war, but there wasn't a single cry or tattle or fight. James and I went out on a fancy dinner date to belatedly celebrate his birthday, our beloved Tara "came home" (Cora's words) to babysit, and it was a thoroughly peaceful day (and it didn't rain!!). Sunday was a trip to the Arboretum for my favorite fall tradition- their fabulous pumpkin village, but other than these two pictures I happened to take on my phone, the rest are on my big camera and will have to wait.

I took this mostly to record my lip stick, a sample from the lipstick counter at the pop-up shop. Also more color than I usually wear in all the weeks put together. Color is kind of fun, even if it's still a little scary. Happy fall y'all!