Friday, August 30, 2019

Week 2! Rain, Rocks, and Don Quixote

Apparently we're back to weekly updates. I attempted to write one multiple nights this week, but TCU is back in session which means I'm teaching barre 2 more times/week, James is back in session which means he's not home until 7 each night, I had a PTA work night for my membership data entry, and Ilona Andrews released a new book, the first of a spin-off trilogy in the Hidden Legacy series, on Tuesday that I vowed I would not start until the weekend- an astonishing feat of self-control which lasted for exactly 24 hours when I read until 1 a.m. Wednesday night/Thursday morning. So I'm tired, but I got off 2 hours early today and I have sangria marinating in the fridge and friends coming over to drink it, so I'm feeling perkier.

Let's go back to last week. On Friday we hosted a pool party for our group of close friends which somehow turned into 55 people because we all have too many children but that's fine because we have the pool and a big backyard and everyone was bringing something to the potluck food table and I had a very large quantity of frose spinning in the margarita machine, but then it RAINED.

It thundered and lightninged and so many people were inside my house wearing swimsuits.

Maggie LOVED it.

And we were able to kick the kids out for parts of it where we didn't think they'd be struck by lightning.

But it was perhaps not my most successful party.

It was still great to get together and I think everyone had fun, but there was a lot more indoor mopping than we usually have in our post-party cleanup!

On Saturday, it rained more, so we headed to the climbing gym. Normally this is a thing James does with the kids, but I decided I should join this time. I mean, I'm pretty strong, I can have a long reach, and how hard can it be? Landon climbs up those walls like a little monkey- surely I could do some easy routes for an hour or two.

Um, it's SO HARD. I am strong, really quite very strong! and yet, holy crap, holding yourself against a wall that doesn't seem to want you there while keeping your legs on tiny bumps and your hands on grips that are never quite where you need them and then looking around for the next one while debating with yourself if you reallly want to move your hand off the perfect good grip you're clinging on to with all your might is VERY HARD. It's a bouldering gym, so no ropes, and the fear of falling was a also a bigger factor than I anticipated. I did several white routes and two yellows (the two easiest categories) and decided I'd had a very good time but was now quite done and I will happily wave to my family as they head out for their Saturday climbs while I go get a pedicure or watch a dance movie.

I did get a whole new level of appreciation for Landon's climbing, he's incredibly good and fast and sure. Claire is also amazing! She was my coach and so patient and encouraging. It was also Cora's first time ever climbing and she scampered up routes far quicker than I did and took her "how to fall" lessons very seriously. James is also great, particularly given he has over 200 lbs. to hold up on those little grips. I am by far the worst, but my middle baby cheered like I'd one the Olympics anytime I made it to the top of a route and I must admit, I was just as proud of myself each time.

Other mountain-top moments of my Saturday: finding this collection of OXO storage containers for $20 off the already excellent Costco price!

Is there anything more soothing than cleaning out your pantry, pouring things into bins and then labeling them?

There is not.

On Sunday I had my Yoga Teacher Training class over for a pool party in which my children were the only ones in the pool while we chatted and caught up on each other's lives. After spending 9-12 hours a week together all summer, 9 days apart felt like forever!

The week kicked off and it feels like we've been back in the school routine for ages. The girls love their classes and Cora LOVES Kindergarten, she doesn't even seem put-off by the fact they were doing far harder work at her Montessori school. She's just here for it- the routine, the teacher, the little tables with tiny chairs. She had a project to create an "About Me" mini poster and she did it all by herself and took it all seriously.

Maggie was first assistant.

Cora also got to bring home the class dog over the weekend and it was VERY BIG DEAL. Hearts (whose name might also be Patches? unclear) joined us in all our adventures and Maggie tried to play with him twice.

I think Maggie wants a fur sibling very badly. She's submissive and needs her pack so she doesn't have to pretend to be brave when scary things like trash cans and squirrels approach.

Landon's reader teacher made a challenge to the accelerated class to read Don Quixote for AR. It's worth 92 points, is 981 pages long and contains nearly a million words, and in her many years of teaching only two 6th graders have done it. Obviously Landon immediately raised his hand. He's on page 150 and claiming to enjoy it.

In equally important news, my Brazilian blowout continues to make me ever so happy. See this hair? I had taught barre the night before, slept on it sweaty- which normally means SUPER curly and messy, and then just did a little blow dry and brushing in the morning. What is this magic?

It is especially handy now that I'm back teaching at TCU 2 nights a week, which I love. I had nice big classes this first week back and they're so fun. I also had lunch with the owner of my beloved studio where I teach my Sunday barre class and we are working on some super exciting yoga class news for me! I already miss my yoga instruction and practice teaching so much, I can't wait to sink into it as a true instructor.

And finally, we've arrived at food. Here is my lunch today (I love working from home because I get to make tasty, hot food right when I want to eat it). I'm very into bowls right now: brown rice, quinoa, black beans, tomato, avocado, and an over easy egg. So filling and so delicious, I make extra of the quinoa and just keep it in my fridge for lunches over the weekend.

Monday: Oven Baked Greek Chicken Thighs, Lemon Orzo, sliced tomato and cucumber, feta, Kalamata olives, and this Greek dressing. And naan! This was a delicious recipe, but for a slice of reality, I thought I'd show my kitchen counter when I was done with the marinade:

But I like the two steps because while the chicken was marinating, I cleaned all this up, changed out of my work clothes, and got the rest of dinner ready. So it works for a weeknight dinner, but only if you have time to spread out the steps over 90 minutes like I generally do. (I get home about 5:30 and we eat at 7.)

Tuesday: Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas (total pain in the neck of a recipe I will now reserve for weekends, but freaking delicious and the crisping of the shredded pork at the end was KEY), served in a bowl with brown rice, black beans, avocado, sliced tomato, and an over easy egg with Cilantro Vinaigrette on the top.

Wednesday: Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce and sauteed zucchini, squash, carrot, and spinach.

Thursday: Leftover Carnitas in soft tacos, standard taco toppings, with black beans, brown rice, and corn on the side.

Friday: Black Bean Burgers, Honey Mustard Broccoli Salad (SO GOOD), Tortellini Pesto Pasta Salad, Chips (and Sangria!).

Saturday: Crockpot Chicken and Wild Rice Soup (Yes it's still 100 million degrees outside, but I realized I'd really been missing soup and on the last day of August, we're going to pretend it's fall.)

Sunday: Out for our 14th wedding anniversary! The kids will eat something here, probably Trader Joe's finest organic spaghettios, that I'll pretend they ate with a vegetable side. We will all be happy with our choices.

Friday, August 23, 2019

It's the First Week of School!

My favorite week has come and almost gone! It's the first week of school!

Uniforms were laid out with care, bows were painstakingly selected, brand new backpacks that had been hanging in cubbies for a month were finally used. Traditional pictures were taken, first day handshakes attempted (we need a better 3-person handshake method) and poppyseed bread was consumed.

(Flashback to when our 6th grader was a brand new baby Kindergartner and the handshake tradition I stole from my childhood friend Meg began!)

This year we had two kids starting at new schools: Cora in Kinder and Landon in Middle School! Claire is in 4th and Maggie remains home schooled.

It's so crazy to me that I was pregnant with our current Kindergartner when we took our original Kindergartner to his first day of school. Cora's in that picture, we just hadn't met her yet. And now that Kindergartner is a MIDDLE SCHOOLER. This picture is 6 years old. Six years from now Landon will be a senior in high school and Cora starting middle school. All the cliches about time flying by are true.

Cora the Kindergartner was calm and confident as we walked to her classroom. She got a daddy hug because he needed it and then marched into class and didn't look back. She's been ready for this moment for years.

Claire, always one for additional parent-time, requested a walk to her classroom and so up the stairs we went to drop of our big girl 4th grader who loves the first day of school as much as I do.

Landon's new school starts crazy late (first bell at 9:15!), but he got up for our traditional pictures and to walk the girls to his old stomping ground.

A million years later (like 60 minutes) it was time to meet Landon's crew at our friend's house who lives near the middle school. They were all excited and adorable. James joked about piggy-backing Landon to school, but Landon called his bluff by declaring it a GREAT idea.

But we sent our little ducklings off on foot all by themselves like the big kids they are. We yelled "make good choices!" and took pictures of their backs as they turned the corner and went out of sight.

Maggie found the excitement of the first day prep exhausting and slept through all her lessons.

I was excited all day at work, looking forward to hearing how their days went. The girls had gymnastics at 4, so James took them (he always closes the swim school the first week of school and it's the BEST because he gets the download each day direct from the kids and we figure out our routine before the after-school nannies begin, plus he loves getting to see them at a time of day he's usually in the pool). Landon got dropped off at home by a friend's mom about 5 (normally he'll ride his bike to/from, but we wanted to drive over on the first day) and I skipped yoga on my way home from work in lieu of hearing about his day.

And OY did he have much to tell me! I pulled up in the driveway and closed the gate behind me. I looked in the rearview mirror to ensure the gate was closing and see Landon SPRINTING out of the house, his mouth already moving. He bounded over to my side of the car and as soon as I opened the door, the stream-of-conscious hit me mid-report:

“ art was great [art is 2nd period, so apparently I'd already missed the discussion of 1st] and we had to direct someone else to draw a picture with a blindfold and I was the director and I picked a unicorn because it was the hardest and this boy from [other school] was my partner and we won a lollipop! He drew a nice unicorn. In social studies we had to organize by birthdays and as soon as she said it I jumped up with two other kids and we got everyone organized REALLY FAST. In math we get extra points on our birthday but since I already had mine I can use my points whenever so I’m going to use them when I just don’t get a topic you know? And reading is going to be GREAT. My teacher has a 1,000 stories and said we won’t learn anything if she tells them all. The AR Word Count Record is 9 million words and it hasn’t been broken in NINE YEARS and I’m going to break it. We have to read one million to graduate the class but we can read ANYTHING! She likes ducks and I forgot to give her the post it’s you bought but I will tomorrow. I think I want a binder? It’s a lot to keep track of in all the classes. No one i know is in my lunch table but Caden sat behind me at a DIFFERENT table but we can still talk because he’s behind me, you know? So I can hear him. Recess is good but I wish all my friends were in it. I have homework but it’s for you and not for me. I gave Caden a pizza roll because he was hungry; no one saw. OH! Computers was easy but probably because we didn’t do anything yet. It’s my first class. Oh, Mom! what are we having for dinner?”

So he had a good day! The girls got home and also reported good days, though in significantly less detail than their brother. Cora learned about raising her hand and thought the rule to be the greatest addition to her life. We are all now expected to raise our hands at dinner. Claire reported that Cora apparently hadn't enjoyed the game played in P.E.:

Claire: "Ms. Luna said that Cora did not like being It at tag in PE."
Cora, indignant: "I was just not playing that game Claire! I didn't understand the rules. I was just playing with Scarlett and I was not ever It!"
Claire, gently: "It's PE Cora. You play the game as a big group."
Cora: "No, Claire, I just decided I was not playing. I did not know the rules!"
Me: "Weren't they explained to you before the game started?"
Cora: with a sigh, "Probably. I just decided I was not going to be It, so I played my OWN game with Scarlett instead."
Claire, to me: "I see why she was a problem."

After Cora received clarification that PE was not just an indoor version of recess, she apparently got on board, but it is extremely Cora to observe a group at play and decide to opt out. She LOVES being in the classroom and doing the work (she noted it's a lot of coloring and not a lot of "hard work" so far; she's hoping it picks up soon) and has made several friends, though she doesn't know any of their names. As she pointed out to me, "I don't need to know their names to play with them Mom."

The week progressed, everyone cheerful and uniformed and absolutely loving school. Landon pooled all his birthday money together and bought an electric scooter. It was delivered Monday night and he was up at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday morning to practice using it so we'd approve his riding it to school.

We did. It's equally strange and amazing to wave goodbye to him from the front porch at 8:30 and then have him scooter back home around 5. It's like sending him off to work each day.

Maggie went with me to drop off the girls on Tuesday, and despite wearing her finest PTA spirit shirt, she couldn't figure out why we were all awake and driving somewhere at 7:30 a.m.

I don't understand the school carpool line and the thought of breaking the rules I don't know is paralyzing, so I always park at our friend's house and walk over.

Maggie, used to picking up the kids, but never involved in drop-off, was horrified when we left the children behind and felt very strongly that we should go retrieve them before leaving.

Also on Tuesday I took the whole day off work to spend the day with James in celebration of being done with my yoga training and him having me back at night. We went out for a fabulous brunch and just enjoyed hanging out in an empty house.

Then I used a groupon for a Brazilian Blowout. I'd always wanted to get one- my hair, when left to dry on its own, is an awful, unworkable mix of frizz, half curl, and floating fine hairs. Blow-drying takes too long and then I still have to straighten it, so I pretty much just wear my hair in a wet ball on top of my head like the professional attorney I am.

But now, it's straight! And not frizzy! It dries in 5 minutes with a blow dryer and I don't have to straighten it at all! I went to hot yoga yesterday morning before work, did a quick partial blow dry so it was no longer dripping down my back, and let it AIR DRY at work and it looked good! Insanity.

Not that you can see it here, but it's straightish!

The family-chosen meals were much enjoyed. Last night was James's at HG and it was delicious. Particularly the dessert he apparently needed two spoons to eat.

As noted in his first-day rapid-fire-report, Landon has decided he's going to break the 9-million word AR reading record that is 7 years old. We'll see about that, but what's important is it finally enabled me to convince him to read Harry Potter. I googled the word count for the series (1.08 million!) and bam, FINALLY, he cracked open The Sorcerer's Stone.

And Claire is finally reading Little House in the Big Woods! I've owned these series to read to children since before my children existed and they are finally being read! I had no chill about any of it. (#HarryPotterFangirlForLIFE)

The only person possibly not loving this week is Maggie who has expressed her displeasure at the tiny humans being gone by pooping in the girls' room three times.

Obviously, she feels terrible. Particularly when James had just rented a Rug Doctor and steamed the rug and then she did it again.

Her guilt is eating her alive and interrupting her sleep, but we've told her that we know she's trying her best.

And so we've made it through the first week! And we're celebrating with my chosen dinner- a big pool party with friends! An accidental tradition started last year, the frosé is about to get spinning in the margarita machine and then I'm making 5 lbs. of pasta salad and picking up a giant Costco cake. Let the splashing, chatting, and frosé-ing begin! (In 5 hours!)

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Graduations, Transitions, and Traditions!

You guys, this has been a HUGE week! Each highlight deserves its own post, but given that some of them didn't even get their own day, that's obviously not happening.

First up, I took my written yoga test on Tuesday night! We were allowed one 3x5 note card to bring into the test and the combined acts of studying and cramming tiny words onto a tiny note card were deeply enjoyable to me. A cheater note card! The last time I made one of those was for some of the formulas in my high school AP physics class. I made it over the weekend and then took it everywhere with me all week like a tiny little Sanskrit covered security blanket.

So on Tuesday I went to work, went to yoga, went to the restaurant next door to yoga to study, took my test- writing diligently until my hand turned into The Claw and I had to shake it out and give it mini massages and then writing some more, and then met some friends for drinks and french fries at a little neighborhood restaurant afterward. Tuesday was an excellent, if incredibly long, day.

On Wednesday we woke up to the sound of rain on our skylights! Rain!! It took a second to figure out what the sound was.

As we all know, Maggie does not like rain. She does not like its drops hitting her head and she does not like its wetness touching her delicate toes. Luckily, we have a solution.

Maggie in a rain jacket is brave and adventurous and full of zoomies!

She is prepared to protect and defect the house from the scary water drops.

Then she is going to take a VERY long nap to recover. Good job, Maggie.

Also on Wednesday, I had my practical exam for yoga teacher training! We were paired up with another trainee and then, under the watchful eyes of our instructors, taught a full hour-long sequence to our partner, in breath-posture-cue formula, correct cues, and assists and adjusts. Then you switched and were the student for your trainee-partner's teaching. It was more intense than I expected. I knew the sequence and had practiced with my friends multiple times, but knowing it was the end and you were being watched and graded had sweat rolling down my back the whole time I taught. But I did it! And I was done! And I got a little thumb's up from my instructor as I was heading out.

Heading out with my graded exam with a big 100 on the top! Obviously, it's hanging on the fridge now. And then I came home to a bottle of champagne (James) and the timely arrival of a new shirt that I'd ordered when I saw my instructor wearing it in class last week. I drank my champagne in the bathtub and felt giddy at the fact my training was essentially done. Wednesday was also a great day.

Thursday donned early as I got ready for work with bleary eyes and lots of helpers underfoot. I worked my lawyer work and then raced home to pick up Landon at 5:25 for Meet the Teacher Night at his new middle school 6th grade campus!

It was total chaos and SO hot, but he got a corrected schedule (now with computer science instead of theater; he is MUCH relieved, and middle-school-me completely understands) and was able to walk to each of his classrooms. He had little to no interest in meeting the teachers (I'll meet them all on Monday mom and then we can remember each other better), but spent MANY minutes perusing the bookshelves of his Accelerated English teacher and the library. Then he tried to check out books at the library and I was like Landon, school has not actually started, and he was very disappointed. He's going to do great.

We got home from that sweaty adventure at 6:30 and then I forcefully shimmied my way into leggings (leggings over sweat is a killer workout that no one seems to be monetizing) to drive to my very last yoga teacher training class while our nanny, who had stayed behind with the girls during MTTN, stayed on.

Meeting in the studio for YTT one last time was a little emotional. I've grown so close to my classmates- never mind that I'm a million years older than all of them, it's been so fun learning and growing with every one of them.

We posed for pictures and practiced our parts for the "Friends and Family Night" round robin sequence we'd be teaching. Then my Friends and Family arrived!

I was so excited to have them there!! My section was the "Sun B - Slow Flow" which is towards the beginning. I didn't forget anything even though the giant room crammed with people was WAY DIFFERENT from our little RR studio or the practice runs I've done with friends, but it was so much fun. I practiced my adjusts and assists, which are quickly becoming my very favorite part of teaching.

James made kissy faces at me whenever I walked by him, attempted to hit our friend Kim in the face with his extremely wide-reach tree pose, and then super inappropriate noises under his breath during his supine twist adjustment I gave towards the end. My lead teacher was cracking up sitting next to him in the back corner.

We ended Savasana by giving little massages to each of our guests and then lining up with all our fellow trainees in the front to thank everyone for coming. I get choked up anytime I try to say it out loud, but I am so beyond thankful for this man. He not only made this training happen for me back when he surprised me with the payment at Christmas, but he has been on on his own with the kids and house, dinners and bedtimes and bulldogs, basically from 7 a.m. Tuesday morning until I woke up on Friday morning, for the last 8 weeks. And he has never complained, never made me feel bad or selfish, just mumbled a "how class went?" when I tip toed into our bedroom at 11 p.m. and let me crawl into bed for sleepy spoons and cuddles.

And now I'm graduated! My 200-hour RYT certificate and I are getting registered on Yoga Alliance, forming an LLC, printing liability waivers, opening a bank account, and securing insurance. Then we're hoping to offer some intro to yoga workshops and other community-type classes while I figure out how/where/when I want to work yoga into my regular teaching schedule. I'm hoping to continue practicing on friends and just continue deepening my own practice. My studio offers a 5-week long extensions program for its 200-RYT graduates, and as much as I would LOVE a deeper dive into some more advanced teacher topics like sequencing, more adjusts and assists, modifications, etc. I need to return to my family. This yoga journey will be a life-long and I know more trainings are waiting for me.

Speaking of family- Friday night was Meet the Teacher night for our sweet elementary school and we've got a brand new Kindergartner in the house!

Cora was BEAMING with joy for every single minute we spent at the school. She marched confidently down the halls, told her new teacher she loved school and hard work, and then worked VERY INTENTLY on the gently suggested "Welcome to Kindergarten" coloring sheet.

We are so excited for her and know she is absolutely going to rock it.

Claire is starting 4th grade and has Landon's old trio of teachers all of whom adored him and are excited to have Claire. She ran around with her friends the whole night, so I don't have a single picture of her, but that seems exactly right. Landon was also in attendance and ran around with his crew and I only caught occasional glimpses of his sweaty face as they came in from outside for a drink at the water fountain. It's hard to believe that six years ago we were starting at this school without knowing a single person. I was 6 months pregnant with Cora and had no idea what was going on or how Landon was going to handle Kindergarten. And now we're pros at the Elementary school game, our children having adored every minute they've spent here, and we are thankful every day we get to support this amazing, diverse Title I school that just earned itself an A rating from the state. A remarkable feat no matter what, but particularly with a 75% economically disadvantaged and "at-risk" student population; we are so proud to be part of this public school community.

We went out with a big group of friends and fellow PTA volunteers for dinner after Meet the Teacher Night and our Kindergartner was quite disappointed to learn that she would not be in school again in the morning. "You mean I have to wait TWO MORE DAYS?!!" she exclaimed with great dismay on our way out, way past her bedtime.

Also, past her bedtime, James opened a package he'd received from a swimsuit manufacturer he might partner with. Without warning, and with a gulp of water in my mouth, he struck a pose in the kitchen wearing this:

I died. It's important that you see the back.

I've obviously seen James in a Speedo a million times, but there's something about the faux-denim that absolutely looks like real denim, in EXTREME cut-off fashion, with about 1" of width along the hips.... it's just really something. Obviously I had to text all our friends and was then shaking with laughter reading the responses and gifs while laying next to him in bed later. He kept shhhh'ing me, like it was my fault he wore a tiny faux denim cutoff Speedo earlier in the evening.

On Saturday morning I woke up bright and early to volunteer at Landon's Middle School Field Day Mixer. I am not really a fan of large groups of children that aren't mine, but it was really fun, even if CRAZY SUPER HOT. Landon met many new 6th graders and I snuck a pic during the very serious Tug O War competition.

I was home at 12, drenched in sweat, and no longer at all interested in attending hot yoga. We cleaned up the house, prepared backpacks and cubbies, and made sure everything was ready for the first day. Landon spent the night at a friend's, I got an afternoon beverage with a friend after we both bonded over our messy children, and we watched Ferdinand with the girls after a super tasty dinner (below). Today I'm making poppyseed bread for the teachers and teaching barre, the kids are performing various tasks I wrote down for them yesterday while cleaning up their rooms, and James is feeling powerful while running a rented Rug Doctor over all our rugs. Really, the perfect back-to-school weekend, tiny patriotic Speedo included.

What's for Dinner: Back to School Edition

Saturday: Salmon Patties (these were amazing!!! I skipped the sauce because I was serving them with-), fried rice (TJ's frozen) with extra carrot and cabbage. We will make the salmon patties again for sure.

Sunday, our big back to school dinner and all 3 kids picked: Gigi's Chili, served with Mac & Cheese "ON THE SIDE," and raw veggies. (James and I like to serve the chili over the mac & cheese; the kids like them in separate bowls; it's okay that they're wrong).

Monday, Cora's choice: Caprese Gnocchi (gnocchi tossed with pesto, small mozzarella balls, and cherry tomatoes), maybe grilled chicken if we're feeling fancy. Maybe just with a trip out for frozen yogurt to celebrate the first day.

Tuesday, Claire's choice: BBQ Quinoa Salad, because, as both her siblings said, OF COURSE (quinoa, bbq shredded chicken, black beans, corn, diced tomato, diced avocado, cheddar cheese, swirl of bbq, optional swirl of ranch).

Wednesday, Landon's choice: Crockpot Meatballs (recipe in this post) in Hawaiian buns with optional thin slice of provolone cheese, orange bell pepper slices, oven tater tots.

Thursday, Dad's choice: Happy Hour at HG Sply, one of our favorite restaurants we never get to hit for happy hour because James is always coaching. Half-price apps and specialty drinks here we come!

Friday, Mom's choice: Pool party with 50-ish friends, all the snacks, and Frosé spinning in the margarita machine.

Gigi's Chili
(A little different, but so, so delicious)

2 lbs. ground beef, cooked with garlic and diced onion
2 cans Tomato Soup
1 lg can red enchilada sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cans Ranch Style Beans
1-2 Tbl chili powder

1. Brown the beef with garlic and onions, drain fat as needed
2. Add the rest of the ingredients to a large pot, bring to boil, then simmer for as long as you have until you eat.

And of course, there will be the traditional loaves of Gigi's Poppyseed Bread with Orange Glaze for the teachers on the first day. I hope everyone has a fabulous week!