Saturday, January 23, 2021

Victories, Big and Small

I realized after posting that I forgot my favorite picture from the snow last week. Maggie the intrepid snow dog caught a snowflake on her tongue and it was perfect.
She also realized her paws were getting wet and she maybe did not like the snow and went back inside. And so for the last week of chilly rainy yucky weather, she has looked at me like this in the foyer every time I've tried to take her outside for a potty break. I usually end up carrying her.
Mostly she spends her time in the girls' old Pottery Barn Kids chairs. We do love hand-me-downs.
We've had some exciting news this week, so let's round up the family members.
First, Moose and Maggie.
Every morning for several hours, Moose hunts squirrels from behind this window in our bedroom, and every morning, Maggie comes to join him. I’m certain Maggie has no idea why they’re sitting in front of the glass, nor has she ever noticed a squirrel, but she understands this vigil is expected as part of Moose’s pack and she’s here for him 100%.
All the rain has made Maggie a bit rambuctious and she's been playing with and chasing Moose SO MUCH and then suddenly she will just freeze and deflate and switch to charging mode. It cracks me up and seems to really confuse Moose, who will bat at her face for a bit before giving up until the charge is complete.
In human news, James went a new lifetime best time in his 100 breaststroke earlier this year (and then dropped his time a little more after that) and his times were certified as U.S. Masters National Records!
He is the fastest (and 2nd fastest!) 35-39 year old man in the 100 breaststroke ever in the US (and the 50 breast, based on his split halfway through) and you guys, how lucky am I to have locked this guy down when he was 19?
Hotter (and faster!) every year I swear.

I, on the other hand, dropped teaching at TCU this semester because work was making it stressful and impossible and took a break teaching barre on the weekends to recharge and spend time with the kids because work has been so busy that my 60 minute barre break on Sunday was now more draining than fun, so I went like 5 weeks doing absolutely no workouts at all until I had enough of feeling slovenly and terrible and downloaded the Down Dog, Barre Dog, and HIIT Dog apps and I love them.

Particularly HIIT dog- so cutomstizable, great exercises, great music, and only $15/year to use all three.

I've worked out every work day for the last two weeks and if you could see what my call schedule has been like you'd see the committment combined with miracle dust that has required.

I wake up at 6:45 and put on leggings and a sports bra before I can think about it, throw a fluffy pullover on top to check in on James and the kids getting ready for school. I do the girls' hair while they pause their breakfasts and then hug them goodbye, kick the pets out of my room, and close the door. I log in to my work computer by 7 to check email and see if I missed anything that needs a response before I begin, then I roll out my yoga mat under the skylights and do 35-40 mins of HIIT followed by 15-20 mins of barre or yoga, depending on when my first call starts. Maybe I shower, maybe I don't (video calls don't care #WFHLife), and since I'm already logged in I can work out until the exact minute of my dial-in. This plan doesn't require me to get up earlier than I normally do and makes feel like I've done something on even my busiest days.

It's always annoying when I make excuses not to exercise for weeks and then when I finally do I'm like, dammit that does feel great, now I have to keep doing this, but it does.

Also, it's Day 93 and that feels fucking great too.

Also great- I got a new tinted moisturizer that gives me the littlest bit of coverage for video calls, but doesn't make me feel like I've got full makeup on for yet another day that I won't leave the house. The combo makes me feel really good and required me to finally learn how to use a beauty blender, and you guys, those makeup articles from like 12 years ago are right, the sponge is really the way to go.
Next up is Landon! After much stress and waffling, he decided to try out for the 7th grade basketball team and it was SO nerve-wracking to watch him put himself out there, risk failure in an activity that is defintely not his strongest, and know that no matter how blase he tried to sound, he was super nervous because he thought he maybe had a shot and making the team mattered to him an awful lot. (Then he banged his head playing in the front yard the night before and spent the morning before Day 1 tryouts icing his head with frozen mixed vegetables and eating bagels.) Watching your fledgling attempt to jump out of the nest in a new way is such a brutiful part of parenting.
And after two days of try-outs, he found out he made it! We are SO PROUD of him- for trying, for making it, for having this experience that scared him. And I'm just thankful he can having something a little normal for this second year of middle school. The players and coaches wear masks the whole time and games will be live-streamed without spectators and we can't wait to sit at home and watch. He got to pick dessert for the night and went with cookie cake and ice cream. Always a winning combination.
Claire doesn't have any big news, but I do have this story that is one of those regular, every day kind of laughter-filled interactions I always wish I could rush to the computer to try to capture because it's the every day that I will miss so much when they're grown.
[Open Scene] Kitchen, 7:25 a.m. Wednesday morning. The girls are eating breakfast at the table, James is standing in the kitchen with one arm around me and the other holding his pre-workout banana. I'm wondering whether I have time to brew a cup of tea before running the girls to school and Landon is packing his lunch so it'll be ready when he gets back from swim practice. When I'm in charge of the mornings, which is only once a week when James does a morning practice with Landon, I like to turn on music, so Warrior by Avril Lavigne is playing on the ceiling speakers. My anti-pop music husband is shaking his head.

James: Claire can't handle that playing in the morning.

Me: What?! We love music! It's motivating!

James, looks meaningfully in Claire's direction.

Claire, singing passionately into the tiny multivitamin I reminded her to eat 4 minutes ago.

Me: You might have a point.

Cora, cracking up into her milk.

Landon, deadpans while walking by to get his shoes: Way to get after it Claire.

Cora, laughs harder. Can't swallow.

Claire, emerges from her solo back to the reality of the kitchen table: Why am I holding my vitamin?

Cora, gives up. Spits out the milk back into the cup.

[End scene]

They crack me up.
Cora has begun communicating subtle messags to use through her school work. This is one example of 100, all with the same theme.
We've been playing card games every night after dinner, which we all love and which encourages a lot more evening bonding in that time we have together before bed.
And that's about it for the last week or so. Some high highlights and everything else much the same. One other new highlight for me is starting out every morning, post-workout and pre-first-call with a cup of this amazing tea in my new favorite mug. I think I finally understand how coffee drinkers feel about their first cup because this tea is all I can think about for the last 15 minutes of my workout. A Christmas present from James turned pricey daily habit for me, I only treat myself to one bag a day, but it is SO strong and robust and amazing that it makes my whole morning brighter. I'm currently enjoying a box of the English Breakfast, but when it runs out I'm doing the Black Currant next. They come to about $1/day, so it's not Starbucks level bad (#RIPChaiLattes on the drive in the work), but really does feel like a treat each a.m.
And now ending as always on food:

Sat: Creamy Spinach Artichoke Chicken with Pasta, serving over whole wheat penne.
Sat: BBQ Salmon with Mango Salsa, served with black beans over brown rice
Mon: Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie, using Costco's mashed potatoes and an extra bag of mixed frozen vegetables
Tues: Beef Tacos, Mexican Rice, Refried Black Beans, Toppings
Wed: Leftover Spaghetti, frozen from the week before, side salad
Thurs: Creamy Chicken Enchilada Chili, corn chips, toppings
Fri: Homemade Pizza, possibly last week's Stromboli

Monday, January 18, 2021

Sweet Moments and Snowy Days

Thank you all for your sweet comments about my Grandma Jo. She was a remarkable woman of many roles and facets over her one-day-shy of 89 years. We continue to mourn and celebrate her, while my dad and his sister work to transition my sweet Grandpa to a new apartment and I try to focus on drafting documents and answering work emails.
In a rather extraordinary turn of events, on the day we knew would be my grandmother's last, my brother and sister-in-law had their much anticipated first doctor appointment and found out they're expecting twins! TWINS! We've never had twins in our family or hers and it was such a shock and infusion of joy for us all.
They've lost one pregnancy, so double rainbow babies felt like a particular miracle, and their due date is my anniversary, so it all feels very auspicious and we are just overjoyed. Twins! I still can't quite believe it and am pretty sure they can't either, but man are we all happy.
In other highlights of January so far- because even in a sad time, there are always points of light, last Sunday it snowed in DFW for the first time in many years and it was very exciting. For no one so much as Maggie, who ran around in circles for MANY minutes before I finally managed to turn on the video on my phone.

She spent the rest of the day recovering by the fire in her favorite chunky cardigan.
The kids at first resisted the allure of the snow, too caught up in our card games and mildly jaded by the fact we go skiing in literal mountains of snow every year, but I pushed them outside and they got caught up in the magic.
Landon obviously followed my advice regarding the full outfit of ski clothes in his closet and wore completely weather-appropriate clothing.
We tried to slide down the hill across from our house, built a very leaf-filled snowman, and then fulfilled a dream of the kids- swimming while it's snowing.
They didn't last long, and I required a lot of tea while lifeguarding, but it was a highlight for sure.
The day continued with hot chocolate and card games and it was just really nice day.
A day that ended in me attempting stromboli from scratch and you guys it was AMAZING.
Highly recommend this recipe.
Speaking of food, another sweet story: the kids started having sleepovers in the girls’ room every night during the pandemic. Now that school is back, we’ve limited them to weekends, but every Friday and Saturday night, Landon and Moose sleep on Cora’s trundle and our whole crew shares the same 100 square feet of space.
This past Saturday I walked into the room to say goodnight when everyone went silent and Landon hastily shoved something under a pillow. Being a professional investigator, I had questions.

Claire, with a sigh: “Just tell her Landon. She’ll find out eventually.”

Me: [bracing myself]

Landon, slides a cookbook out from under his pillow: “We’re picking out recipes to make you guys dinner for Valentine’s Day.”

Claire: “Like a fancy date! Because you don’t get to have those anymore.”

Cora: “We’re going to MAKE THE FOOD!”

Claire: “And dress up and decorate!”

Landon, ever practical: “And clean up. And the girls will be the waiters, because I’m the only one who can use the stove.”

Me: [melts; gives kisses to all except the teenager who now has a firm hugs-only policy. Immediately go to tell James he’s dressing up for our next date night.]
I’m not sure what they’ve picked out for us, but I can’t wait! James and I are still surprised and often sad to find ourselves in the post-babies and toddlers phase oflife, but teens and tweens and big kids are pretty amazing too. And bulldogs.
On to food!

Menu: Jan. 17 - Jan. 23
Sun: Greek Chicken Pitas, frozen fries, roasted cauliflower (this was GREAT!).
Mon: Gigi's Spaghetti, side salad (that will probably turn into raw crudites on a plate because everyone seems to prefer it that way)
Tues: Ham and Potato Soup, with smoked turkey in lieu of ham, extra carrot, and frozen peas.
Wed: Tamales (from Central Market), Mexican rice, refried black beans, toppings.
Thurs: Ina's Lentil Sausage Soup, steamed green beans, bread.
Fri: Leftover Pasties (something to look forward to! plus I see them everytime I open my freezer and can't stand delaying their deliciousness anymore).
Sat: Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Chicken, served over whoel wheat penne.
Sun: BBQ Salmon with Mango Salsa, served with black beans over brown rice.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

JoAnne Lorraine

Joanne Lorraine, my Grandma Jo
January 14, 1932 - January 13, 2021

My Grandma Jo passed away this past Wednesday evening at 7:17 p.m. She suffered a stroke on New Year's Eve, and while it was a shock to everyone- and frankly still is, of my four grandparents, she was the youngest and mentally and physically quite healthy- after two weeks of ups and downs and set backs and discouragement, it was a relief in the very end. Everyone got to say goodbye- her two children and their spouses, all six grandchildren, and my Grandpa Jim, her husband of 68 years.
They went on their first date when she was 13 and he was 15. They attended the same high school in Joliet, Montana and married in 1953 when she was 20 years old and my grandpa was a young ensign in the Navy.
He retired a Navy Captain and flew fighter jets off aircraft carriers in Vietnam, and together they lived all around the world and, according to pictures, attended many fabulous parties.
But this is about my Grandma Jo and the woman she was and the grandma she was to me.
She was tall and beautiful and fun. She was always dressed up, loved wigs and hair dye, and had costume jewelry to die for.
The house I grew up visiting was in little Blue Water Bay, Florida in Pensacola, near Destin. It was an idyllic spot to visit as a kid- we drove their golf cart everywhere, including to the pool and miniature golf course just down the street. We ate lunch at the golf club, shopped at the BX, and splashed in the surf of the beach across the street. They had a screened in back deck that was the source of MANY a play, performance, and craft project and the classic 1970's sunken living room area (dubbed, "the pit") was the most amazing thing my siblings and I had ever seen.
Her home was chock FULL of stuff. From the closets, to the rafters of the garage, it was a homey eclectic mix that was the total opposite of my highly organized more minimalist parents. Treasures from their stations all of the world, books, crafting projects, magazines, pictures, candy dishes, and more- her home decor was a luxe maximalism that was a wonder as a child.  We decorated the table for dinner each night- from table linens to flatware to seating cards, and she and my grandpa had a king size water bed they'd let the grandkids sleep in when we were there.
I remember she always had craft projects ready when we visited. The cigar box I still keep my most precious childhood treasures was decorated there (the cigars no doubt smoked by my Grandpa). She had a keyboard and a tape deck with recorder that my siblings and I used to record HOURS of songs and interviews.
She was an athlete- a high school basketball record holder, 225 bowler, 6 handicap golfer, and made more hole-in-ones than everyone else in my golf-obsessed family combined.
She was an avid reader and books were stacked everywhere in their house. She introduced me to the Angelique novels I adored as a teen, the Anne Perry historical detective series, and so many others. She had them all and I devoured them whenever we visited.
She could sew absolutely anything. She made hundreds of items for us growing up - baby clothes, bedding, toys, nap mats, Christmas dresses, teddy bears with the most incredible wardrobe any teddy bear has ever owned, and so much more.
James and I spent spring break at their house in 2002 when he didn't make the national team and we suddenly had a spring break free. They were the most gracious of hosts and we had so much fun going to the beach during the day, eating homemade food at night, and heading back out to the beach clubs after that.
She loved to talk and I used to call her when I drove back and forth between Houston and Austin my last year of college, when James worked for an oil company in Houston and I was finishing my degree. She was a passionate Democrat, loathed Donald Trump and his enablers more than anyone else I know, and though she did not make it to the inauguration, I am so glad she lived to see him voted out of office.
My grandma saved everything and sent me packets of pictures and old cards and letters through the years.
I tried to save most of them and went through my file with the kids last night.
I am so thankful for all the memories I have with her - we drove to Florida every spring break and Thanksgiving week growing up, and I have vivid memories of waiting at the street sign for my grandparents' hatchback to turn onto our road when they would visit us. After Florida they lived in Houston for a while and Landon spent his first Thanksgiving at their house, just as I did every Thanksgiving of my childhood.
They eventually moved to San Antonio, to the same retirement community as my other set of grandparents, and we saw them often when we lived in Austin. When I got the job at the SEC, one of the biggest strikes against it was moving further away from the four of them.
Still, we made the trek a few times a year, so very grateful for four living grandparents and the fact that my children knew and loved them so well. I can't believe I only have three now. They've been such a constant- my Grandma Jo was the youngest at 88 and rationally I know they aren't immortal, but it was still such a shock that one of them could leave me. I wish I'd called more. I wish I'd written more emails. I hate that Covid stole our last year of visits with them. I am so grateful that despite Covid we were allowed to visit her one final time.

The first thing Cora told me this morning was, "today is Grandma Jo's birthday mommy! But she is not here for us to sing to her, and that is so sad." And it is sad. But I am so very grateful for the years we got and the memories we made.
Rest in peace, Grandma Jo. We love you and your pictures and treasures and letters live on with us, xoxo,