Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Kids, Friends, Furloughs, and Evenly Distributed Butter

I am loving your book suggestions- you've reminded me of books I'd read in the past but forgotten (MacLean, Harkness, and others), and those I should have mentioned in the original post (Gabaldon forever; my first historical romance I read at an inappropriately early age), so thank you for that! Now we move to a more traditional recap on this, the 32nd day of this government shutdown, and the day our $0.00 paychecks are certified from the last pay period to be paid (or "paid") out this Friday. Though I feel a need to first remind the world that this shitdown began under a Republican controlled House and a Republican controlled Senate after they passed a budget the Republican president refused to sign because after 2 years of total party control in Congress he suddenly decided he wanted his wall. Back pay was approved last week, and that's great and definitely helps me sleep at night (as long as you don't think too hard about the fact your - and my! - tax dollars are being used to literally pay 800,000 federal workers to not do their jobs), but it doesn't help the contractors, doesn't help the vendors who service the government, doesn't help the people who depend on government business and programs, and doesn't help those workers - again, like me - who aren't getting paid on time through NO fault of their own when their own bills are still due. It's estimated the shutdown is costing the US economy $1 billion/week, all for a temper tantrum from a president who doesn't want to do the work of legislating (and wants very much to distract from the multitude of criminal investigations about him and nearly every member of his campaign staff). Even after 2 years I sometimes still can't believe this is our American political reality.

But moving on, because I had my therapy appointment last week and I made a spreadsheet to prove to myself that as long as we continue spending as little as possible, we can pay our mortgage for two more months without having to ask my parents for money and life is going on while I sit on the couch feeling lost.

Cora's recreation of Congress

Like the big kids having their Battle of the Books competition last week!

It was Claire's first year to compete and she was so excited.

(BOB is a local reading competition starting in 3rd grade where each grade gets 5-6 award-winning, usually thought-provoking books from all genres to read over two months and teams are created per class to compete against each other to correctly identify the book in a series of questions. The winning team for each grade level goes on to represent the school in the city-wide competition at TCU in the spring. It is the BEST and one of my favorite days all year.)

Unfortunately, despite a great team effort, Claire's team did not make it to the second round when the competition narrowed from five teams to two. She was devastated. Landon's team had won every year and I don't think it had even occurred to her that hers wouldn't. But she got strong daddy hugs and seemed in good spirits as she watched the next two grade levels compete.

After watching our good friend's son's team win in 4th grade, it was time for the 5th grade competition. Landon was entering his third year as captain and his team had won every year prior, so he was SUPER excited and maybe even a little nervous. He'd read every book 3 times and assigned each of his teammates one book to become the expert on. When I asked him which book was his, he just looked at me and said flatly, "All of them."

And so the competition began! It was tense and exciting. Nearly all of Landon's best friends were together on another team and they were neck and neck as they went through the first round of 20 questions. Twice it was clear Landon wanted to pick an answer, but his team felt strongly about another, so he went with their choice. Both times they lost that point. In the end, his best buddies team won by a point. It was brutal. He was so clearly crushed, but he took it so well, clapped for his friends, and made his way back to his seat.

As all the competitors walked to the library for the refreshments afterward, I saw him bend down to tie his (already tied) shoe. His eyes were red. He took a moment. He stood back up and ate his cookies and smiled with his friends. I have literally never been more proud. He was a good captain, he listened to his team, acknowledged his disappointment, felt his feelings, and was able to be happy for his friends through his disappointment.

Seriously, we were SO proud. I took the kids out for the treat of their choice after school and they unanimously decided on smoothie king. $10 well spent.

The week pressed on. I'm teaching all the barre classes possible and ferrying the kids to their various activities. Claire got moved up a level in gymnastics, which massively disrupted our almost doable activities schedule, but she's very excited and has worked hard for the promotion. Cora colored this beautiful birthday cake in school. "Oh, is it for someone's birthday?" I asked. "No, mom. I just like birthday cakes." How far we've come.

As I was planning this week's meal schedule (see below), I got this very sweet Venmo message from my parents:

It was so thoughtful and much appreciated and we went out to dinner immediately.

I even blow dried my hair for the first time since we were in Colorado. Putting on makeup and real clothes has become part of my self care, but the hair was a whole new level.

We followed our delicious hamburger meal with a fire and all five of us cuddled on the couch watching The Mighty Ducks 2.

The kids loved the movie, though Claire declared hockey "too aggressive" and she is my most athletically aggressive child. We're all swimmers at heart: stay in your own lane and don't touch me, I'll race you from here.

On Sunday night I joined a friend for a movie date night to see On the Basis of Sex. First of all, I cannot recommend this movie more highly for everyone and I can't WAIT to watch it again with James and the kids. It's inspiring and wonderful, even through the flashbacks I had to law school with a baby, and the relationship between Ruth and her husband Marty made me come home and immediately make out with my husband. I adore that the movie showed you his unwavering support of her and how her smarts and success in no way threatened his own considerable smarts and success. I am so thankful my own son sees this example of a strong, supportive, secure husband and partner every day of his life. I get teary just thinking about it.

Second of all, I had the best date ever. Look what she brought me. (Yes that's wine in a juice box; popcorn makes you thirsty.)

Third of all, this theater had heated seats. Game changer.

Fourth of all, speaking of game changers, look at this trick I learned from the teenager at the concessions counter! BRILLIANCE! You can use your straw as a butter delivery system to send butter towards the bottom of your bucket of your popcorn and this has changed my life forever.

And since we're on the topic of butter, let's finish out with our food for the week:

Lunches: Roasted Cauliflower and Quinoa Salad. Still LOVING this recipe; I made another batch to eat this week.

Sunday: Oven Jambalaya, cheddar garlic biscuits.
Monday: Roasted Vegetable Baked Ziti, garlic bread.
Tuesday: Dorito Taco Salad (We use the Trader Joe's nacho cheese chips, add a can of red kidney beans, sliced black olives, diced avocado, and skip the dressing. The kids love it and don't seem to notice there's an entire head of lettuce in there.)
Wednesday: Out! School fundraiser night at my favorite margarita place (the tacos are good too). It's for the children.
Thursday: Crockpot Red Beans & Rice, steamed veggies (the extra ones I cut up from the roasted vegetable baked ziti).
Friday: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, roasted carrots.

Meatloaf Recipe (LL Family Sized; half for families with normal appetites)

2 lbs. ground beef or turkey (or 1 of each!)
2 cups panko bread crumbs
4 eggs
(1 cup diced onion; optional)
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tsp dried mustard
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp thyme
1 1/2 tsp basil
1 tsp pepper
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder

(plus ~1/4 cup Yellow Mustard and another 1/4 cup Ketchup for glaze)

1. Mix all ingredients together.
2. Divide into 2 bread loaf pans.
3. Squirt yellow mustard and ketchup over the top of each loaf; spread together with back of spoon to cover.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until cooked through.


  1. Thinking about you every time I consider all of the people in the US without income right now due to the Trump Shutdown. It's ridiculous that all of this is happening for the sake of an overgrown criminal toddler's vanity wall. It's not affecting us yet up here in Canada, but it will if it goes on much longer and causes the economy to dip. Also, we can't plan any travel into the States right now as we don't want to cause extra stress on the TSA or border guards. It's a shit show.

    1. Thanks Procrastamom! Shit show is about right (and I hate the number of people who are still having to work without pay; it's awful).

  2. I JUST learned the straw/butter trick yesterday, when I took my daughter and her bestie to the movies (as an aside, A Dog's Way Home was so cute!). Apparently, her friend's teenage brother does the same thing. I was beside myself with giddiness at the brilliance of it.

    1. YES! I'm not exaggerating a bit when I say it has changed my life.

  3. Has this shut down changed the way you will budget in the future?

    1. Hey there! To answer your question honestly- no. It's actually made me feel good about our budgeting. My last "paid" pay period ended December 21, which is literally the WORST time of year for us because it comes at the end of our vacations and Christmas gift buying season and the swim school doesn't make any money in December (it's shut down that month), but thanks to carefully managed savings we can still go a solid 3 months of paying all our normal expenses (and more if I was comfortable with a savings account balance of 0, which I would have to be if I didn't know I could reach out to my family). And had this happened in spring or summer we'd be able to go 4-5 months thanks to additional swim school input.

      It also comforts me to know that had I actually lost my job and/or I didn't know if there would be back pay we could/would make larger changes that would enable us to go longer (like not paying the $1200 into the kids' college accounts every month, canceling our house keeper, moving Cora to part time preschool instead of full time, and maybe even not paying our credit cards off in full each month as we currently do).

      So while it's still *deeply* uncomfortable to me to not be paid, and the whole situation is maddening as hell, it's more psychological/anxiety-driven than actual discomfort. Financially, we're in a better place than most and I'm very thankful for it. (I should note that an article I just read said that you should have 6 months of expenses in a savings account, but even now, I'm comfortable with our 4 while we use the rest to continue paying off loans (we had 3 months of payments left for James's MBA! though of course we've stopped paying extra for now) and enjoying our increased ability to travel with the kids.)

    2. I should add that it HAS made me reconsider the previously assumed security of working for the federal government which makes for a slight shift in my balance of pros/cons of this job...

  4. Just picked up on your comment that you only have 3 months of payments left on J's MBA loans--how exciting! Hopefully the shutdown will be a blip on the radar in hindsight, but what a frustrating and embarrassing mess it all is in the present. Kudos to you for doing your best to cope during a time of uncertainty.