Saturday, February 29, 2020

37 Bottles of Hand Sanitizer on the Wall...

It's February 29th! My very favorite month gets an extra day and I'm celebrating by sending Claire off very early to go run the Cowtown 5K with friends and wearing jammies and going through pictures and shopping lists. I've done my Crest Whitestrips, scheduled my car care appointment for Monday, and entered my new skin treatment plan into my calendar after an hour-long consult with Orange Twist yesterday. It's a good Saturday morning.

Not me

But going back to why February is my favorite month, besides it's short! everyone is ready for a party and candy again! it has my birthday AND Valentine's Day! we'll look at photos from the actual day I turned 37.

As predicted, it began with Maggie in a party hat. Unfortunately, she couldn't turn away from me and her deafness meant she was hard to redirect. A for effort for everyone!

I wore a new shirt and earrings my mom treated me to during our birthday shopping trip and I just love them. Even if it was technically too cold outside to be wearing a thin and breezy shirt.

As part of our family traditions, James and I decorate the kitchen table for the kids' birthdays. It's simple, involving table cloths and decor we already own and keep stored in a little dresser in the living room, and we do it before we go to bed at night so the kids wake up to it in the morning, but everyone GREATLY looks forward to walking out to the living room on their birthday morning.

This year, the girls woke up early and did the same for me. They put out a table cloth, hung hand-made signs, and pulled out some party decor. It was the very cutest and I love that they're all getting old enough to turn traditions back around on us. Everyone headed off to school and work where I was in trainings and on calls for most of the day. I got to have a delicious lunch with coworkers, including one whose birthday is exactly one day before mine, so we celebrate together and give everyone the excuse to spend more on lunch than normal. I taught barre on my way home, because it seemed like a good day to keep the calorie burn high, but then the lights went out in the gym the last 10 minutes of class, so I took that as a sign from the gods that I actually shouldn't try to burn calories on my birthday. Noted.

I evacuated the room, using cell phone flash lights to put away our equipment and headed home. To a table with gifts from James and a plan to make tacos and take delicate sips of my birthday Ranch Water (silver tequila, lime, Topo Chico). Luckily, I had just the glass for it thanks to a gift from a friend a few years ago. It sits patiently in the cabinet all year just for this moment.

We opened presents before dinner. James and the kids picked me out a beautiful beach cover up for our trip (which I actually returned because I had just bought one that was similar, but it was beautiful!) and a Kendra Scott necklace in my favorite color- sparkly burnt orange, which I love. The kids, who of course all went with him for the shopping because he hates to run errands alone, told me he agonized over the necklace selection, which is also completely on brand.

Love him.

And so it was a lovely Tuesday. The rest of the week was work, dental appointments (me), lots of swimming (not me), and a night out with my mamas on Thursday. This weekend James is at a swim meet in College Station, making this maybe the first whole weekend I've ever been on my own with the kids? We're commemorating it by eating foods James doesn't like, like nachos (with Velveeta processed cheese for "REAL fake" queso cheese, as Landon calls it) for dinner, and trying not to stay up too late. It's hard when our enforcer of bedtimes is missing.

Also this week, Cora interviewed my mom to ask about "growing up before cell phones and other personal electronics." It was adorable and she drew a picture of her Gigi playing tag. (Gigi is the blonde girl in the purple dress; importantly, everyone has a belly button.)

Gigi grew up all over the world on various Air Force bases, so even though TV did exist (Landon), they usually didn't have one, so outside play and reading were the dominant activities. Other than the lack of Kindles for road trips, Cora found this very familiar and delightful and liked that her Gigi played tag and hide-and-go-seek just like her!

At school pick up on Friday, I got to see a little bit more of Cora's art. Kindergarten art is just the best and Cora takes it all VERY SERIOUSLY.

"When I am 100 years old I will have a cat and dog and I will be happy."

A worthy goal for us all.

In other news, our President, who gutted CDC and other public health funding, is declaring an actual virus to be a hoax and silencing health experts from speaking to the public, requiring all statements to run through the Vice President's office, a man who doesn't believe in science, so that's all fine. I'm not so much concerned about the virus itself as we're blessed with relative youth and strong immune systems, but I'm unnerved by the fact that for the first time, I simply don't trust anything the White House says. Trump's press office has just been a spin room of lies since day 1 and things like truth and facts seem to have no value there. And, to the frustration of worldwide epidemiologists and health experts, the US hasn't been testing many people, so while our Coronavirus infection numbers or low, they're almost certainly falsely so and the virus gets to spread undetected, which is bad for people more at risk than we are.

Luckily, I have very informed medical and policy friends who have provided good sources of information (WHO, @HelenBranswell and @KaKape on twitter) and measured advice (wash your hands; stop touching your face; seriously wash your hands; ensure you have two weeks worth of essential items in your home; leave the face masks for medical staff). So we've done/are doing that, and since we're leaving the country in a week, with a long layover in another airport, everyone in the family gets their own Lysol pack to wipe down every damn thing they might touch!

And since I'm normally anti-hand sanitizer (bacteria are mostly good! washing with regular soap and water is better!), the kids are SO excited to get their very own tiny bottles with full authorization to use them as much as possible while traveling.

Maggie can't wash her hands, so she is just going to try to keep her tongue to herself.

Also, Super Tuesday is this Tuesday and Texas is part of the Superness, so we'll be voting! I'm #TeamWarren all the way and found this voter guide very affirming.

Though to be clear, I will ultimately vote for any sentient creature who is not a bloviating proudly uninformed racist who profits off the presidency and sets the Constitution on fire on a regular basis. So you know, we can only go up. Maggie looks forward to it.

And now, food!

Saturday: Nachos! Taco beef, black beans, queso, chips, tomatoes, black olives, cilantro, lettuce, sour cream, avocado. Literally everything I could think of.

Sunday: Lasagna Soup with beef ravioli instead of broken up lasagna noodles.

Monday: Greek night! Gyro meat (from Trader Joe's), over a bowl of cooked farro with diced up veggies (tomato, bell pepper, cucumber), Kalamata olives, feta, and tzatziki sauce. Naan bread on the side.

Tuesday: Science Night at the elementary school, so steamed tamales (these are from Central Market, but Costco's are very good), black beans, rice, leftover nachos toppings.

Wednesday: Crockpot Chicken and Wild Rice Soup. Love this recipe.

Thursday: Mexican Rice (recipe in this post), with toppings. Apparently I had a craving for Mexican food while meal planning this week?

Friday: Pesto Chicken Sandwiches (with Costco pesto because it's amazing), chips, fruit.

Saturday: Leftovers to clean out the fridge before we leave for Spring Break!

Monday, February 24, 2020

Another Kind of New Year's Eve

This is my last night being 36, and as I watch a soothing and uplifting episode Narcos Mexico Season 2 Episode 6 (lolno) with James, I feel quite at peace the the closing of another year and the start of a new one. 36 was great. It had its low moments, but there was a lot of growth, a lot of learning, and a lot of high moments along the way. I have never worked so hard at being a better version of myself, and while it's still work and I still sometimes find myself plodding down well-trod negative paths, I recognize the patterns so much faster and respond so much quicker. I'm a better wife (though I still have some work there), a better mom, and a better me. And I'm taking my hard-won tools with me to 37.

Landon made me a present for my birthday, but he was so excited he gave it to me for Valentine's Day instead.

It's a 3-D print of my precious Maggles and I love it so much. He worked very hard on the design, right down to her bent ears, and he was just beaming when he brought it out to me. It lives on my desk now and makes me smile every time I see it.

Claire also made me a present and gave it to me early. We get really excited about our gifts in this family.

It also hangs on my wall at work and brings me all the smiles. Each and every number cracks me up and makes me feel so seen and loved when I read them: 4 reference food and I really do love card games, a love Claire and I share over continuous rounds of Speed. Sometimes I worry we're too strict or busy and our kids think we just spend all day making them do chores. I know that isn't really true- my kids live a ridiculously blessed life and I have no actual qualms over their chores, our rules, and our high expectations of them, but I definitely have days where I look back and think, sure I'm glad the garbage was taken out, but did I put out anything positive today? did they feel loved? did we connect in a real way? was it all just tasks to be done?

But the kids are alright. They see us. They feel the love underneath the rules and structure and expectations of what we know they're capable of. They see the work we do, physical and emotional, and it means something. As Claire notes and lovingly illustrates, I cook, I play cards, I cheer her up, I say yes to candy most of the time... I can be cranky, but my middle child thinks I'm a ray of sunshine and I feel a little bit of her sparkle every time I re-read that line.

Last Thursday I spoke at Texas A&M Law School about practicing corporate law. It was great fun, as it is every year my professor friend invites me - it's like a grown-up career day with people who actually understand your job. I always encourage the students, largely 2Ls, to ask personal questions too - I can't hire them, they aren't trying to hire me - they can ask anything and if I'm going to answer it, I'll answer honestly. I usually get a mix of substantive securities law questions, questions about practicing at a firm and/or transitioning to government practice, and a few on balancing work and life and family.

I hope some of it's helpful to hear. If nothing else, I always tell them it's best to get answers from a lot of different people about their law practice, what they like, what they wish they'd known or would have done differently, what advice they have for a new attorney starting their practice... you'll identify with some and won't with others, but it'll all be in your head, waiting to be helpful one day, even as an example of something you don't want. I'm so thankful for the attorneys who took the time to talk with me along the way. The first lawyer I ever talked to was after I started law school- I'd never known or met one growing up and I'm not sure that's the best way to embark on a life changing grad school decision path. It worked out, but I talked to anyone who would sit down with me once I got to law school and I still think about some of the advice I was given by partners and associates who were generous enough to grab coffee with a 1L in downtown Chicago.

Over the weekend, we spent a lazy Saturday morning cuddling Maggie and conducting vacation research. We're headed to Curaçao for Spring Break and while we rented the house and bought the tickets months ago, I decided it was time to get to work on my list of things to do, places to eat, etc. A few hours of research later and my little notebook has many bullet points of ideas and I'm even more excited than I was before. Let me know if you have any suggestions of your own!

Also while googling, I took a few pictures of Maggie from my spot on the couch and they bring me great joy.

First Claire dropped by.

Then Cora. (This is maybe my favorite picture ever of Cora. Such love, such abandon, such a classic Cora outfit...)

And then just of Maggie. She's taken to sitting this way lately and while I think it's just because her feet get tangled, I like to think it's because she feels she's a fancy lady of leisure now, living in a grand house full of fluffy beds, and she wants to comport herself in a certain manner, even when at rest.

I adore her.

Grace and elegance personified.

I went to Orangetheory, errands were run, and then I ran into James and the girls at the mall. This was notable given that neither of us told the other we'd be at the mall and I go to the mall maybe 6x a year and James significantly less than that. They were shopping for my birthday present and I was making a return from an online order. And though we'd just seen each other a few hours earlier, the delight we each felt at the surprise reunion cannot be overstated.

(Note: I'd been on a search for white shorts before our trip and for life generally because my old ones don't fit and we're not dwelling on that. These are from American Eagle and they're great! Also the shirt is a hand-me-down from my sister and the yellow low block heels are from my birthday shopping trip with my mom and cost $12 from the clearance Dillards and I love them. They're like a smiley face on my feet.)

Landon spent the night at a friend's house that night, so we decided to go out to eat at a restaurant with lots of cheese (Landon hates cheese; it's not something I can explain but we try to eat ALL the cheese when he's away). Also Landon does the dishes every night now and when he's away we find ourselves very sad to be washing dishes again; how did we do them for so many years? We're going to be so sad when all our little helpers we worked so hard to train go to college (and also, we'll just miss them. but also, the dish washing and dishwasher emptying and trash taking outing...). We ended up at a newish fancy Mexican place and by the end of the meal I was wearing a sombrero while blushing madly to the birthday song in Spanish with a free piece of cinco leches cake and a free margarita.

It was an excellent night.

Sunday involved some chores and a lot of front yard and street scootering in front of the house. I taught my barre class which was full of regulars and absolutely high-energy and amazing. I can't believe I've been teaching there for 5 years next month. What an interesting turn my life took when I started taking barre at cute little Urban Yoga back in 2013. James made me dinner, with a recipe he researched, shopped for, cooked up and cleaned, since he wouldn't be able to do that on my real birthday tomorrow (he coaches until 6:30 on Tuesdays).

It was a steak salad and it was delicious.

Tomorrow when I wake up I'll be 37. I'm pretty excited about it. I feel like 37 is going to be an AMAZING year. There will be fun travels, increasingly grown-up and independent children, my 15th wedding anniversary and ever increasing love, depth, forgiveness, and humor in my marriage, growth in my professional career, barre and yoga and everything I love about working in the Fort Worth fitness community, time with friends who bring me so much joy, regular teeth flossing (this list is a little bit aspirational), my brother's wedding, regular use of eye cream (see previous parenthetical)... and it will start out with a rescue bulldog in a party hat because that's how all birthdays should begin.

Happy last week of February to you all!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Valentines, Wine Parties, and Presents

Hello blogosphere! These days when I log in, I really do feel like I'm getting to say hi to a set of old friends. Happy belated Valentine's! I hope yours was filled with whatever you wanted, be that chocolate, champagne, a round of Parcheesi, and/or an early night with a good book.


I've always enjoyed Valentine's Day. I've been married forever, so the "having a Valentine" part is baked in, and we've always kept it small enough to be sustainable, but sweet enough that I do genuinely look forward to it. We do cards, sappy ones we take time to pick out separately, and dinner- some years it's a fancy one that James makes, it used to be a heart-shaped pizza (we miss you Mangia in Austin), and lately it's been heart-shaped pasta with a pink tomato cream sauce or a heart-shaped pizza James shaped himself. It's fun and a little silly and any weekday with an excuse to drink a bottle of champagne and employ themed lingerie is worth celebrating.

This year our kids dominated both the daytime and nighttime schedule- a theme that I think will remain for the next 12 years, but we fit in takeout Thai, a Sparkling Rose, and even a well-timed round of Parcheesi in between the pick-ups and drop-offs.

The kids woke up to the traditional Valentine's table. The Target tablecloth and plates, circa 2015, cards specially picked out by James and some little treat picked out by me (this year a bigger treat than normal thanks to a "buy 2 get 1 free" special at Walgreens; also the fluffy rainbow llama spoke to my heart). And candy I want to eat later sprinkled across the table. And a bulldog, who understood this was where the stuffed animal were supposed to be.

I love the care with which James picks out the cards and writes his notes to the kids. They're very individual and completely perfect.

The bracelet in Cora's card plays a rousing snippet of "Happy" and it is her favorite thing ever. James has regrets.

That night, Cora had a dance at her old preschool that she was DELIGHTED to attend as a wordly Kindergartner. Landon had his final Cotillion, wearing his first tie since his 1-year photos. He's so cute. And Claire crashed our Valentine's takeout dinner.

After the Cotillion, where Landon danced five dances he claims not to remember the names of, there was an after party full of pizza and dodgeball that ended at 10:30. And so, at 10:45 on Valentine's Day, James and I were awake only because we were waiting for our child to arrive home. The beginning of a new era for sure.

On Saturday, I went to Orangetheory where I burned 615 calories and nearly killed myself running inclines on the treadmill and Landon competed in Spelling Academic UIL, where he placed 3rd! And then I spent the rest of the afternoon cooking, baking, cleaning, and decorating for our grown-up Valentine's wine party!

Score cards, pencils, 24 wine glasses, kitschy Valentine's decor, and new outfits!

My dress had a petticoat and I LOVED it. Maybe A-line dresses with volume are what I was always meant to wear? I had a waist! A fake one, but I loved it!

Food abounded (I made Caprese Skewers, Cheddar Bacon Ranch Dip, French Dip Sliders, Valentine's Party Chex Mix, and Sopapilla Cheesecake (recipe below, it's AMAZING) and friends brought more,

Friends were present,

Maggie was petted,

Wine was tasted and tested and scored,

My friend Kim and I visited the same hair stylist before the party.

(It was her.)

(By the way I'm wearing the red lipstick I bought in 2010 and described in this post and pictured in this one and I can't believe it was 10 years ago that I bought it. Do lipsticks expire? I wear it approximately 1.5x a year and it could last longer than I do. Also, I've been blogging forever. Look at that Big Law attorney with two children, no hobbies, and a house in Austin? Who even is she?)

Scores were tabulated in excel, because accuracy and taking things out to the fifth decimal place are important.

As are reading people's comments are the wine they're tasting. Particularly when the wine they judge most harshly is the one they brought themselves. (The wines are placed in numbered bags by me and no one knows which is which.)

And my wine won! Good old MoonX, my "house" red blend, purchased from Trader Joe's for $6.99. Being the hostess, I felt that I should not take my own prize, so we moved to 2nd place, a delicious Garnache brought by our friends Haley and Julian. The prizes were donned immediately for a picture. I love a theme.

The final medal stand contenders:

1st: MoonX Silver, Cabernet blend ($6.99, Trader Joe’s)
2nd: El Vivero de Usaldon, Oregon Garnacha ($13)
3rd: Mother’s Choice, Cabernet Sauvignon ($11)
4th: Bucket List, Cabernet Sauvignon ($5, Albertson’s)

It was very fun. I love a themed party. And wine.

The next day, which is now Sunday, my parents arrived as a stop on their trek up to Colorado for the Spring and to celebrate my birthday a week early. As it would happen, Sunday was also their 40th anniversary! So we went out to celebrate at our favorite Fort Worth fancy restaurant.

Look at these two crazy kids: February 16, 1980.

and February 16, 2020.

It was a great night an I'm so glad we got to celebrate their love and commitment and the gift those two things have been to me, both growing up and now as an adult.

On Monday, a holiday for me and the kids but not for James (now that my parents are retired, they're quick to point out that everyday is a holiday for them!), we went on a long walk with all three of our dogs to work off our indulgent meal the night before. Except for Maggie who rode in her stroller and worked off nothing.

I wondered if she'd be embarrassed, riding in her chariot while my parents dogs who are 2.5x her age managed on foot, but no. She seemed quite pleased with her accommodations. It's as if she knew that's EXACTLY where she should be. Then she napped with her new friends all day to recover.

My dad took the kids on adventures all over Fort Worth while my mom and I did our traditional shopping. I had some birthday money to spend and we had a blast (and, per my phone, walked 15,000 steps, which feels exactly right). Somehow she talked me into this loose pants and cropped top shirt and I have to admit I kind of love them. Will I ever wear the out of the house? Unknown.

We picked out the most beautiful dress for me to wear on James and my 15th anniversary beach trip this summer, a Trina Turk number I love more than anything I've ever put in my closet, and purchased at the Clearance Dillards for 15% of the nearly $400 asking price. I also picked up a swim suit cover up I love, yellow sandals that make me smile, and a red skirt I wore today to speak at a local law school. It was a great day and each time I see or wear the things we picked out together, it makes me smile all the more.

For dinner that night we had my grandma's Mexican casserole, a cake they ordered as a surprise, and a fancy candle they brought from Houston. It's so fun getting to celebrate your birthday with your parents and your kids.

They left before dawn on Tuesday morning to continue their drive and our week kicked off with a bang. I worked all day Tuesday, taught my Tuesday night barre class at 5:30, subbed a TCU yoga class at 6:30, and then came home to eat dinner, tuck my kids in bed, and work until midnight reviewing exhibits and prepping for the testimony I had on Wednesday. Then I dragged myself back out of bed just after midnight because I remembered I had drafted and scheduled the PTA newsletter it's my job to send out every Wednesday morning. I'm very glad it's now Thursday.

I need to go to bed, so I leave you with this cheesecake recipe as my Valentine to you. It's from my friend Sarah (actually, from Sarah's grandparents, as the recipe is adorably signed) and it is DELICIOUS. It won our SEC dessert contest last year and only one piece remained after my wine party on a counter with MANY desserts. I can't recommend it more highly.

Sopapilla Cheesecake

2 - 8 oz. pkgs cream cheese
2 - 8 oz. pkgs Crescent dinner rolls
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar + 1 Tbl cinnamon, combined
Zest from half lemon

1. Sprinkle little bit of cinnamon sugar in bottom of 9x13 pan.
2. Unroll and flatten crescent roll dough on bottom of pan.
3. Mix sugar, room temperature cream cheese, extract, and zest; spread over dough.
4. Unroll second can of crescent roll dough and flatten on top of cream cheese mix.
5. Pour melted butter over top of dough and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
6. Bake at 350 for 30-40 mins.

Happy almost-Friday to you and those you love!