Sunday, February 28, 2021

And that was February!

So! It's been a while. Again.

Work has been so busy, life got a little crazy, and too many big things happened that I kept feeling like I didn't have time to write them out and now here we are with too long of a list for one post. But we're going to try anyway. If there's one thing time does add, it's perspective, so here we go- the highlights and lowlights of the second half of February.
Highlight: Our family's sweet Valentine traditions. A decorated table, homemade cards, candy, and a stuffed armadillo for Cora who routinely asks for one at every occasion.
Lowlight: Landon got Covid. He never had any symptoms, but a basketball teammate did, so we had him tested- it was negative the first time and then positive a few days later. The whole team was quarantined immediately and then once Landon was positive, the rest of us were quarantined too- the girls came home, the swim school closed down, and actually nothing about my life changed much at all.
For two weeks, Landon wore a mask in the house and ate at a different table. Everyone schooled from home, James swam alone in our pool with stretch cords tied to a tree, and I continued on with my million video depositions. Everytime you heard Landon's giant feet hit our pier-and-beam flooring you'd hear James yell "PUT ON YOUR MASK" and it was all very relaxing and peaceful.
The first day of virtual school was a little rough- we'd forgotten passwords and were terribly out of practice, but by day 2 everyone hummed along pretty well and James managed it all while I lived in our bedroom. He and I both tested twice- at one week and two week's post Landon's positive test and were both negative each time, proving that both masks and yelling are very effective.
The biggest loss was the girls' missing their school Valentines parties (Claire's last one!) and having to cancel my parents' visit. They were supposed to come celebrate my birthday and see us before they had to quarantine to go to Colorado and see my sister and her new baby. They did drive by our house on their way to Colorado to drop off some items from my Grandma Jo and my birthday gift from them (the beautiful amythest jewelry; below); we waved from behind our glass storm door.
Highlight: Snow! Several days of snow actually sitting and staying on the ground made for lots of snow man building and sledding and let us finish out our quarantine with some excitement and school being closed down for everyone anyway.
Lowlight: SO MUCH SNOW! It overwhelmed our state and all its systems. People were without power for days and water mains and pipes burst absolutely everywhere. It was really pretty terrible for a lot of people and there was a lot of worry for various members of my family, including my grandparents, who were without electricity or water for days. We kept our house very cold to avoid adding strain to the grid, turned of all lights and devices, and basically quarantined for another week, this time with more card games and fuzzy blankets.

Highlight: We never lost power or water.
Lowlight: Except apparently we did lose power for 2 seconds in the middle of the night on February 14th and the surge blew out the control board of our refrigerator. We were able to get a repairman out 4 days later, but he wanted way too much money to fix the problem, so we went with a small local repair team, but the mail is a mess so our part was delayed and when it finally arrived on the 25th and the repairman came out to install it he discovered that TWO different control board things are fried and they have to order the second one. It will be here this Thursday. We've been without a fridge and freezer and ice for 14 days now and shopping for dinner ingredients each day like we live in a small European village with a market down the road has gotten VERY OLD.
Highlight: Pretty sure we'll get the fridge working on Thursday (Day 18) and we have the little beverage fridge we installed in the kitchen remodel to store 24 hours worth of dairy, meat, and produce at a time and if this is our worst side effect from the winter storm, we're obviously pretty lucky.
Lowlight: Despite never leaving the house for 3 weeks I fell off the exercise wagon and feel that the oxen have pulled the wagon far past me. Cheez-its don't have to be refrigerated and I've had MANY of them. Why is it so hard to exercise inside my own house that I never leave?
Highlight: Maggie had her greatest few weeks ever- full family quarantine + snowpocalypse = constant togetherness and fires in the fireplace. We were continually pulling her OUT of the fire and I feel like Moose was pretty judgey about lack of survival skills.
Lowlight: Moose would like us to get out the F out of his house sometimes, FTLOG. How can one hunt squirrels through the window if no one will BE QUIET and let him wind up an epic pounce? He basically walks around looking offended anytime he's awake.
Highlight: The big kids made $400 shoveling every sidewalk and driveway in an 8-street radius during the freeze. They worked all day every day and it was great for them to be out of the house together burning off their ENDLESS energy. One neighbor mentioned that a friend was supposed to get his second Covid shot but his driveway was covered in ice. James drove the kids to the address and they used a shovel to break up the ice and a big metal dust pan to haul it all away and the Covid-shot-getting homeowner gave out chocolate bars and everyone was VERY happy. They're thinking hard about what to spend their earnings on and are leaning towards a giant trampoline.
Lowlight: I think I'm out of these? We did have a pipe break the day before the Great Freeze that cost $500 to fix and we still have a small army of rats living in our attic, but that's old news.

Highlight: My sister had her baby! I'm an aunt for a third time to a third niece. Sweet little Sage Wylder was born just before 11 p.m. on February 23rd, weighing 7 lbs. 9 oz. and we are so excited to welcome Tia and crew to the beautiful, wonderful, love-and-laughter filled life as a family of five! (Even if selfies are a little challenging...)
Highlight: Age 13 is damn delightful.
Landon is a non-stop chatter box who suffered GREATLY while mask wearing and living in his room during his quarantine. Every night when I work he comes and drapes himself across my bed and talks, usually without pausing to breathe, for hours at a time. He is funny and witty and kind and the most fun little pre-adult. The other day he was sitting at my work desk, pretending to be me, and you guys, I was dying. "Okay, let me look into that... I'll consult my calendar and get back to you... [furious typing on the keyboard] Okay, so I can do 4:00 on Tuesday." ... "Now I'm going to review documents and type VERY FAST."
He just learned that "The Goat" means "Greatest of All Time" so now he declares himself the goat 57 times a day. But for my birthday, I got to be the goat and it was quite the honor, though he did let me know that my title was rescinded at bedtime.
Highlight: I turned 38! It wasn't my usual friend-filled day, but my family made it so sweet and special with cards and decorations and flowers. We ordered pizza, ate ALL the Crumbl cookies, and opened presents after dinner.
James got me Air Pod Pros which I'd mentioned months ago might actually work for me due to their changeable tips (I have the tiniest ears; the doctor always has to use the pediatric scope at my annual check-ups) and I could use on work calls and he remembered! Now I can listen to podcasts with curse words while I cook dinner and not get Maggie's leash tangled in the headphone cord on our walks. The big kids pooled together some of their cash to get me a beautiful case and James bought me my very own fuzzy Free Fly fleece like the one I got him for Christmas that I can't stop touching whenever he wears.
Friends dropped by cards and gifts (tea!) and I felt very loved and sugar-filled indeed.
And finally, as always- food! I'm clearly on a salad kick- between Valentine's, quarantine, and my Birthday I feel like every piece of lettuce I eat cancels out one gram of previously consumed sugar. The science checks out.
Sat: Fuji Apple Chicken Salad
Sun: Homemade Pizza, Sunshine Citrus Avocado Salad
Mon: Clean Eating Summer Soup
Tues: Ground Beef Tacos, black refried beans, rice, toppings
Wed: Roasted Tomato Pasta Puttanesca grilled chicken
Thurs: Brussels Sprouts, Cranberry, and Quinoa Salad
**We are supposed to finally have a working fridge!**
Fri: Baked Chicken Meatballs, Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce, Salad

Sat: Honey Mustard Chopped Chicken Salad
Sun: BBQ Salmon with Mango Salsa, brown rice, black beans
Mon: Garlic Herb Spaghetti with Chicken Meatballs
Tues: Mexican Quinoa, Taco Ground Beef, Chips
Wed: Sunshine Lentil Bowl
Thurs: Chicken Tortellini Soup
Fri: Cheeseburger Sliders, Oven Baked Fries, Fruit
Sat: Summer Chipotle Chicken Cobb Salad
Sun: Homemade Pasties

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Frozen Foods

It's been really cold here.
Our homes and infrastructure and deregulated power grid are not made for this, so it's late and I'm sitting in the living room with the fire roaring, our heat turned down to 60, everything but the TV unplugged and off, and everyone snuggled under blankets watching Star Wars.
We've played Scrabble by firelight, held a blow dryer on our kitchen pipes for 3 hours to thaw our sewage line (and the pool equipment, and Landon's bathroom pipes, and... my blow dryer has been used on my hair about four times since Covid began but has been the real MVP of the great freeze), and pulled Maggie out of the fireplace so many times it is clear she has absolutely no survival instinct at all.
I have a full post pending - we've had a family quarantine, Valentine's Day fun, snowpocalypse adventures, and more, but it's late, we're conserving energy and I still need to convince Maggie to go poop in the snow before bed.
DFW is suffering along with the rest of Texas in these epic cold temps, but we have been so fortunate to retain power through it all. Our annual trips to Colorado meant we had snow gear and sleds and we've been making the best of these chilly stir crazy times, while getting frequent updates from friends and family elsewhere in the state without power and/or water.
Desperately hoping everyone gets access to power and water soon. In the meantime, here's the menu I meant to post last week and keep looking up in my drafts folder to refer to this week:

Fri: Meaty Spaghetti (my easy meal when everyone is hungry and I'm scraping the back of the fridge; cook ground beef in diced onion and garlic, drain, add a big jar of marinara sauce, extra oregano, basil, and garlic salt, splash of heavy cream, and cooked/drained whole wheat spaghetti- mix all together and serve with parmesan); Field Greens Salad with Apples and Beets (and crumbled goat cheese, candied pecans, and homemade balsamic vinaigrette).

Sat: Fuji Apple Chicken Salad, I used store bought apple chips and pre-grilled chicken, made my own candied pecans, and added cooked farro and it was SO good. (Thanks to Shu for this recipe link!).

Sun: Valentine's Day Pot Roast, mashed potatoes, cooked carrots. (The kids were going to make us dinner, and still will one day soon, but with the freezing weather I decided having something cooking in the crockpot would be ideal and it was cozy and wonderful as always.)

Mon: Chicken Rice Casserole with extra rice, broth, and a bag of frozen mixed veggies. (This was solid, but nothing amazing.)

Tues: Bean and Cheese Burritos (with canned refried black beans instead of homemade pinto; all rolled up and lined in a baking dish, topped with a bit of sour cream and cheddar and baked for 20 mins at 350), avocado on top, frozen mixed vegetables on the side. (These were great!!)

Wed: Smoked Sausage, White Bean and Spinach Soup, served with homemade crusty bread.

Thurs: Baked Feta Pasta, with pasta and tomato cream sauce for the kids.

Fri: Homemade Pizza (still loving this Detroit Style, so might do that; or go simple with this recipe for the crust and everyone making their own).

Sat: Sunshine Citrus Avocado Salad, with grilled salmon (assuming we can get to Costco by then).

Sun: Oven Jambalaya, green beans, cheddar biscuits.

Mon: Italian Chicken Soup, extra beans and veggies, bread.

Tues: Beef Tacos, rice, beans, toppings. (I have a late witness interview, so James and the kids will be pulling this together after lessons end.)

Wed: Greek Chicken Wraps, roasted potatoes, naan, extra Greek veggies. (Same; I'll assemble the salad during lunch and someone will bring me a plate to my desk at dinner time).

Thurs: Birthday Dinner!, desperately hoping for mild weather and nachos on a patio, but takeout will work too. What's important is that I will not be cooking.

Fri: Pizza?, probably. I'll have conducted four witness interviews that week, including one on my birthday, so we may actuallybe crazy and order pizza from a restaurant- who knows!

Stay warm everyone,

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Apparently It's February and February is My Favorite Month

Hey there! So it's been a minute. And in the minute since I last wrote to you, I worked 6,000 hours, reviewed a billion documents, conducted 27 witness interviews, ate way too many meals at my desk, and forgot what it felt like to breathe fresh air. But damn, was it a good week to be a lawyer. (And I still fit in 45 minutes of exercise every morning on my HIIT Dog app and it was stress release and sanity and oftetimes the only time I moved all day.)
It was also a great week to be James's wife and my kids' mom because you guys, I worked a lot and I contributed nothing but my paycheck to my family, but from morning Starbucks deliveries from James to meals delivered to my desk at night by the kids, to this note and flower plucked from a volunteer bush in our backyard and placed on my desk during a break by Claire, I have never felt more loved.
Weeks like the last give me such cause to remember how very lucky I am in my partner (and then to get annoyed that I feel a need to use the word lucky, but it seems so rare, I suppose it's a bit of luck too). To have someone who sees me drowning and seamlessly and silently steps up and simply deals. Handles all the kid stuff, house stuff, pest control stuff (there are rats in our attic! fucking RATS y'all! a bunch of them! the first guy who came out quoted $8,000 to get them gone wtf but I was too busy to get worked up about it and James called more, but hit me up with your solutions; I'm about to send Moose up there), food stuff, school stuff, and the coming by to give me hugs on break stuff. And I just worked. And drank my Starbucks, put on increasing amounts of undereye concealer, and thanked the universe that I have a partner -- and my kids get to see a partner -- who hugs me tight when I finally come to bed and doesn't make me feel guilty when ALL the stuff shifts to his side for a short while.
I could hear James and the kids playing cards at the kitchen table at night and while it made me sad to miss, it also made me so glad to know all was well. And since I couldn't hang out at night, James picked out a bunch of really important movies he felt Landon needed to see for them watch together when the girls were in bed. And the high-pitched giggles I heard echoing through the house as Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, and Dumb and Dumber played in the living room gave me life while I was still on calls or prepping for the next interview.
My paralegal gave me life too.
Absolutely steadfast support.
In my busy week leading up to the busy WEEK, I got lots of visitors to my bedroom office.

Cuddly middle children who can never resist a fuzzy pullover.
Teenagers who literally never stop talking except when they're singing to the cat.
And husbands, who come take naps that lure you to take cuddle breaks of your own.
Prior to all that, back to a weekend when I spent time with my family, I had a few hours with Cora while the big kids were swimming with James. I told her we could do anything she wanted and she enthusiastically requested, "SkipBo and reading!" I assumed she meant one and then the other, but nope, she read at least a few pages (of her big sister's library book) between every round.
Her teacher sent me this picture of a project they did for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in January. Apparently she asked permission to add the podium and the ever-present power ponytail gave me a smile.
"My dream is for all the people in the United States to work together and stop the Covid. I also want animals to be treated kindly and fairly. I also want homeless people to have food, water, and shelter."

Also, January 26th was Maggie's 2nd Adoptiversary!
We've also decided that day is her birthday and she's now 6 (ish).
It was a big day full of pets and walks and lots of snoring next to me at my desk.
I love that little ball of love and wrinkles so very, very much. I feel like we continue to see her blossom into the bulldog she was always meant to be and it is a joy and an honor to provide her with beds and fluffy blankets.
And ending this post on the highest part of my week- I ended work on Friday at a reasonable time, grabbed my warm jacket and my husband who doesn't have any swim lessons on Fridays, waved at our somewhat bemused children who were told they could put on a movie, and took him out for a very early dinner date on a chilly, completely empty patio downtown. We chatted and flirted, ate all the tortilla chips, and I just soaked up this handsome man I'm so lucky to call mine.
I was going on no sleep and had hair I'd dried two days ago, but that hour with him and our chips and my steak quesadilla was sunshine to my soul. You know, free babysitting and impromptu dates might be the best part of having a teenager in the house. (Particularly since the nonstop comedy show receives only mediocre reviews, but I do enjoy how much he enjoys the show he thinks he's putting on.)

And now food! Last week's menu (carefully planned to be fast meals James could make at the end of lessons when everyone is starving) and this week's:

Mon: Pesto Caprese Gnocchi (cooked gnocchi, tossed with pesto, fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, and grilled chicken).
Tues: Pasties (frozen, from the last batch; they were every bit as magical as I remembered).
Wed: Beef Tacos, rice, beans, toppings.
Thurs: TJ's Gyros, Naan, Tzatziki, Cucumber, Tomato, Oven Fries
Fri: Surprise Date Night; Mac and Cheese for the minors.
Sat: Homemade Stromboli, veggies. (This time I spread a can of chopped olives between the meat and cheese layers and it was perfect.)
Sun: Greek Pasta Salad (based on the Ina recipe, linked; I add lots of extra veggie, double the dressing, and toss it all with a pound of boiled and chilled whole wheat penne), grilled chicken, naan, tzatziki sauce.
- - -
Mon: Foil Pack French Dip Sandwiches, tater tots, raw veggies.
Tues: Beef tacos, brown rice, black beans, toppings.
Wed: Crock Pot Red Beans and Rice, brown rice, steamed green beans, corn bread.
Thurs: Creamy Tortellini Soup, crusty bread.
Fri: Fuji Apple Salad
Sat: Mississippi Pot Roast, cooked carrots, mashed potatoes, rolls.
Sun: Surprise Valentine's Dinner, cooked by the kids - I can't wait! We're doing a breakfast for them in the morning. It's a silly holiday, but I do love celebrating my little crew of Valentines.