Sunday, August 28, 2022

Good Things, Great Things, New Things

At the end of Back to School Week 2 I can confidently say that the Lag Liv family is on a big upswing!

First of all, we bought a house on Friday! It is so beautiful, with the windows and doors of my briefly owned Fort Worth door and window dreams, has a bedroom for everyone and a study for me, a giant open kitchen/dining/living room that is perfect for the way we live (which is generally all within a few feet of each other while every other home we looked at had a very separate dining room with tiny casual dining in the very separate kitchen), a kitchen sink that looks out on the backyard similar to my beloved Fort Worth sink that looked out on the front, closets everywhere including one that can just be for James's swim products, and a gameroom upstairs where our increasingly large children can hang out separately should they ever finally want to. It has space for exactly what we need and no more. It was built in 2020 so everything works, all the baseboards and light switches match, and it doesn't need a single bit of renovation or changes before we can move in.
After looking at homes for weeks I cannot tell you what a unicorn this is. It's on an amazing street in the middle of our new neighborhood, less than a block from the lake, park, and trails. We can walk Cora to school. Kids are everywhere. We have already designed the pool we will build immediately upon moving in. I AM SO EXCITED.

We move in late October because we had to include a (free) lease back to the sellers as part of the offer. But we got the house pre-listing, avoided what would have definitely been a bidding war, and I can force myself to be patient for this 51 day delay even if I am so so done with renting. I desperately miss a home base. I miss feeling like I am investing in something- financially sure, but mostly emotionally and physically. I miss putting my own personality and mark on our living space and walking into this anonymous house makes me sad everytime I come home ("home"). It wouldn't be home without the people I love within these walls, but turns out, for me home is a lot about the walls too. I cannot wait to have my own again and to make them ours. Plus I really REALLY miss our dishes and cookware. Six months in an Airbnb is too long. So until we can retire to the mountains in 20-ish years, I really hope to never move again.

But enough about our future den, let's get back to the rest of the pack!
Landon is doing so well. He finally has all 8 correct classes (only took 8 school days, but let's not dwell on that even though we DEFINITELY COULD). He is no longer sitting alone at lunch. He has started morning swim practice and has a ride with a senior swimmer. He is the only freshman in mostly sophomore and junior classes, which makes him something of a novelty, but his older classmates seem to be embracing him and he sits with a pack of juniors at lunch. He went home with swim friends Friday and when I texted him to see when we should pick him up he said one of his friends would just drop him off later. New parenting milestone unlocked: my child is old enough to have friends drive him home.
He's also signed up for Driver's Ed himself and gets his learner's permit in September. I am feeling every feeling about this, but now that he swims 11 times a week, I'm mostly feeling excited. He is such a joy right now - funny and smart and I feel my heart stop every time I remember he has less than 4 years left in our house. How can we possibly be a pack without him day-to-day? Last night he was showing us how he dances around the house in the morning when no one else is up yet (he gets up at 5:30 am) and we were just dying.
But back to the now: Claire is also doing great!
She has joined the Cross-Country team, made Varsity choir, and is loving all her classes. She went to the high school football game on Thursday night and had the best time. She also had an appointment with an orthodontist last week and I got this text after. Love her enthusiasm for all things.
Yesterday she went running with some of her new XC besties and then roamed the mall for a few hours. I got a very excited text halfway through her shopping time letting me know she had found her "go to fall outfit" and also could I pay for it.
Cora, my stubborn little Dallas curmudgeon, has now admitted to having "many" friends, "officially liking" her new school, and having "great days" there. These are all direct quotes and they are SUCH A RELIEF.
She also had her first soccer game yesterday and she did GREAT and scored the most amazing goal with a kick that went up and over the goalie's head to snag the top corner of the net, and while I think it was mostly an accident, it looked incredible and she was thrilled. She had a pool party post-soccer game and I got to chat with lots of moms and it was such a lovely NORMAL Saturday and I could not be happier.
Also yesterday, we went to dinner dinner at the home of a woman I swam with in high school and last saw in 1998. She is now a vet and lives in our new neighborhood with her husband (also a vet) and two boys. My big kids had a blast running around with her medium kids and if Landon ever stopped swimming he could make a fortune running a camp playing tag and all sorts of creative outdoor games with elementary schoolers. Our kids just love to play and I love watching it.
I also ran into a guy I used to swim with in high school at a boba tea place last week! And a long ago blog reader at the park/Cora's school! Apparently all roads lead to Dallas.

In other excellent news, I got these new fall sneakers and I love them with my whole heart.
We've been watching Anne with an E on Netflix with the kids and it is a delight. I bought the box set of Anne of Green Gables books the very day I found out I was pregnant with a girl/Claire. The show does a wonderful job bringing them to life.
A book came out this week in one of my very favorite series from one of my very favorite authors (Ilona Andrews!) and not only has it been such a treat to read in bed at night, but I have also been VERY RESPONSIBLE in reading until only 10:30 or 11 and then putting the book (actually the kindle app on my phone) down and going to sleep like a responsible adult person who doesn't hate her life in the morning AND gets to look forward to continuing to read her book for a few more nights. Not finishing a book in one night is so nice, who knew?
And finally, in other responsible adult news, I have worked out every day for the last two weeks. And as happens any time I work out again after taking a long break, I'm equally annoyed and delighted by how absolutely amazing it feels. Like every excuse I give myself when I don't have time is actually crap, but that's okay because sometimes you really don't have time and it still feels great whenever you can find it again. It started with me doing my old barre videos I recorded during the start of Covid when I was teaching virtual classes.
I could do them at home in the corner of my rental house and I quickly hated my teacher* who was so perky and happy and never out of breath despite counting her way through long series of side planks while I collapsed to the mat multiple times in the same series. Maggie told me I did great and then rested extra hard for me.
(*Me. The teacher is me, circa-May 2020).

Then I started finding local group classes I could fit in at random times, going from pilates to SolidCore to my new favorite- Sculpthouse. Half on the self-powered treadmills, half on the megaformer pilates machine, it is the PERFECT blend of the cardio I need and the smooth, supported strength work I love and while I don't know how well I can keep it going when my travel starts up again, I feel settled and strong enough to at least try.

James took the kids to a big water park to celebrate the end of Week 2, Claire has a pool party tonight, and I'm soaking up a little silence and checking off family admin items on my computer while watching Season 3 of Never have I ever. Off to week 3 we go!

Thursday, August 18, 2022

First Days, Hard Days, Better Days

I've delayed writing our first day of school post because I was hoping everything would be smoothed out before I lovingly reflected upon our start of our first school year in Dallas, with three kids in three new schools, but instead, this is an actual shot of me sitting at my desk after sending Landon to school for the fourth day with an entirely wrong schedule (all 8 classes! completely and totally wrong!) and feeling little hope for ever getting it fixed.


I have emailed and called every person I've been told to since we realized we were moving last Spring. I have sent his 8th grade transcript to everyone. I have followed all the rules and procedures and my latest response from the administration contradicted everything I'd just carefully explained (again). Landon turned in a schedule change form on Monday (per the rules!) but he hasn't heard anything AND his schedule change form wasn't complete, for the millionth time, WE ARE NEW AND DON'T KNOW THE CLASS OPTIONS OR HOW HIS MIDDLE SCHOOL CLASSES TRANSFERRED OMG WILL SOMEONE PLEASE JUST TALK TO ME. We tried to prevent this problem- James and Landon spent over 4 hours waiting in line at the school before classes began and were turned away when they finally made it to the front of the line because the system didn't show him as registered (he was). It is just very frustrating. And so he spends his day going to all the wrong classes, not meeting anyone, and sitting alone at lunch, and I don't feel immense guilt at making him move for high school at all.
(Sorry Landon. Who is also the last kid dropped off but no longer fits in the 3rd row.)
But for posterity, here is the first day of school 2022 (9th grade/HIGH SCHOOL, 7th grade, and 3rd grade) which we all approached with a lot of nerves topped with a thin layer of cautious optimism.
The traditional good luck handshake circle, with extra handshakes for the new schools.
Claire was up every 20 minutes the night before (burning question at 2:45 am: is it possible for me to forget to breathe while I'm sleeping?), but she managed a smile and walked into school with her usual dogged determination to have a good day.
Cora, who is still deeply upset that we do not live in Fort Worth, approached the day with an attitude similar to that which she approached our early family ski vacations:
It took her three years to accept her truth that skiing is fun, so I had some reservations on how long it would take her to accept Dallas into her heart. I did convince her to smile for a picture, but only if I was in it. At least she doesn't seem to be holding Dallas against me.
We were 10 minutes late dropping her off (3 kids in 3 new schools is no joke) but she bravely marched into school carrying her box of supplies all by herself. Her experienced and enthusiastic teacher had called to introduce herself the week before, her Meet the Teacher night went great, and a sweet local mom reached out the weekend before school started so Cora could meet one of the girls in her class, so I was truly hopeful that the joys of elementary school would overwhelm her reluctance to like anything associated with Dallas.

But no. She frowned her way into the car at pickup and immediately told us that she "doesn't like her school and doesn't have any friends and doesn't know why we can't drive her to Fort Worth every day." I gave her hugs and said I know it's hard but I also know she is friendly and bright and wonderful and things will get easier soon, though our conversation Tuesday morning did not give me a lot of hope:

Me, gently, because if anyone can go a whole year hating an otherwise wonderful place, it's Cora:
Okay Cora, tonight at dinner I'd like you to tell me 3 things about your school that you liked today, okay? Or the names of 3 kids you talked to who could be friends. I know it's hard, but it's important to give new things a chance.

Cora, scowling:
I don't like anything and I don't have any friends.

Me, soooo gently:
Do you think that's maybe because you won't talk to anyone?


Me, with an appropriately encouraging smile:
You know Cora, you didn't know anyone when you started at your old school
and you loved it and made friends there.

Cora, still glaring:
Mom, I was younger then.

I got a text from Claire at lunch telling me she'd gone to the wrong 3rd period class and hadn't realized it until class began. She then stood up to go tell the teacher and her backpack opened up and everything fell out and her metal water bottle banged on the floor and she had to gather it all up while everyone watched and omg y'all, it was literally the stuff of her nightmares the night before. I have never cried dropping a baby or kid off at school or daycare, and I am very much fine with them having them deal with all their normal kid struggles, but it was all I could do not to go pick her up from school and say we'd try again tomorrow. To her credit, she didn't ask anything of the sort, and was all smiles at pickup. We went to get our nails done to celebrate surviving it all.
Truly I am so tremendously proud of them. Landon for uncomplainingly going to school each day, alone, to classes that don't apply to him; Claire for working hard on some really big anxiety issues that overwhelmed her this summer and facing a scary thing with courage and a smile; and even my grumpy little Cora bunny who is slowly admitting she's enjoying her new school and is willingly talking to classmates and quietly opening up to the idea this might be a good place one day. It is really hard to spend a summer in a city where you don't know anyone (and in a rental house without any of your usual stuff), to feel left behind by your previous friends, and to watch kids all around you seem to all know each other while you don't know anyone. James and I are both so proud of our little pack. And of ourselves for not going back to recollect them all on the first day so we could just all stay together for a few more weeks.
Maggie the emotional support bulldog is also very proud of everyone.
And tired. So very tired.
On the feline front, Milo groomed and presented himself at the front door on the first day for his backpack and schedule, but was sadly left behind by the rest of his pack.
Moose stayed as far away from the front door as possible and kept a close eye on his food robot because things were weird and he wanted no part of it.
The one true shining positive, besides our kids, has been the outreach from parents and others in our new neighborhood. Claire met up with a fellow 7th grade girl a few nights before school started and was added to a girls text chain that sent her a dozen "welcome!" and "we're so glad you're here!" texts that warmed her heart right down to her toes. A group of 9th grade boy moms have been such a source of support and ideas for how to get Landon a corrected schedule. Moms of kids in Cora's class have reached out for meet-ups and to check in on how her first days are going. Claire's school counselor emailed me just to let me know what an amazing kid she is and how much the teachers are enjoying having her in their classes. We took Maggie to a new vet who was my high school swim teammate I haven't seen since 1998 and it was a joy. We are very glad to be here. It is going to be great- it already is so great in so many ways, but it's been a long tough somehow also very lonely week, and when one mama friend from Fort Worth reached out to see how I was doing I full on started crying in my office (which my parents visited last weekend, picture below).
In the other million things going on this week, we've had doctor's appointments and check-ups and physicals and athletics registration. Cora starts soccer on Monday, we close on our house next Friday (though don't move in until mid-October which makes me sad but was needed to win the house), and we've met with a designer and a pool builder to start various new house plans. We've figured out three new school dropoff and pickup routines and are bracing ourselves for the start of more activities over the next few weeks. We are planning homemade pizza and a family movie tomorrow night and James and I have a date night set for Sunday and we will have EARNED IT. And the kids will have earned the crappy food they love to eat when we have a date.
Hopefully when I write again Landon will have a schedule with classes he is supposed to be in, and we'll all have a routine that doesn't involve me checking my iPhone note with all three school times written in it a million times a day. It's been quite a past few months, I'd say we're all really looking forward to fall.
(I love that the shark is the only one smiling in this picture James sent me from the day he took the kids to the Dallas Aquarium. It's the little things.)

(UPDATE: The principal called me! With a counselor in the room to update his schedule in real time! Landon has a schedule! HUZZAH!)

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Skincare! An Updated Approach

I had a whole post on skincare a few months ago that I never published and now I've had to change my routine because some of the products (like this SkinMedica TNS Advanced+ Serum, which I LOVED- it was Botox in a bottle) were too strong for me and my skin got mad and started basically flaking off while we were in Iceland which was not great. I've been doing some research in stolen moments between flights and the rare TV show I get to watch with James at night, and I've settled into a skin cycling routine I really like.
I'm basically the last person on earth not on Instagram (I know my limits and do not need any additional reasons to confer with the internet), but I briefly downloaded it to go through all of Dr. Whitney Bowe's posts (stories? I do not know this world) and the approach of spacing out your strong and targeted skincare products to focus on one goal/task per night spoke to me. And so I've been building a routine for my fair, sensitive, papulopustular rosacea (a skin condition common in women who are red-haired, fair-skinned, and in their late-thirties, characterized by red, swollen bumps that typically appear on the cheeks, chin, and forehead and are frequently misidentified as acne and can take a long time to go away. They can be exacerbated by stress, changes in weather, exercise, alcohol, and caffeine, so that's AWESOME for me)-prone skin.

Dr. Bowe has lots of great product recs on her page, but I've largely been using product I already had and am working in new ones (like the Sunday Riley exfoliant) as I run out or don't feel like I've found the right one. This is what I'm doing right now:

Morning Routine: this doesn't change day to day.
1. Cleanse. I've learned to spend less on cleansers because they're on your face so briefly before you wash them off. Just use whatever you like that gets makeup off and leaves your skin clean but not tight. I like both of these: CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser or Vanicream Unscented Gentle Facial Cleanser. Pat dry.

2. Vitamin C. Essential. Repairs your skin and protects it from the sun and pollution in the air. This one is the gold standard and I've used it for years. It also stays stable the longest (a lot of cheaper Vitamin C serums break down quickly and aren't effective after a couple months. This one lasts me 9): Skinceuticals C E Ferulic Antioxidant Serum.

3. Redness Corrector (optional). Totally optional, but it's great for correcting redness and feels very soothing. I use it after facial treatments or anytime I'm more flushed, like post-sun exposure or when I'm traveling. My skin does not enjoy airplane air or hotel towels/linens even when they're much nicer than my own: Skinceuticals Phyto Corrective Gel.

4. Moisturizer/Sunscreen. I usually go straight to my Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer with SPF, but lately my skin has been so dry I've been using this Skinceuticals Hydrating B5 Gel first and then doing the tinted moisturizer. I like the hydrating gel a lot- it's light, isn't sticky, absorbs well, and feels amazing on my skin. It also has hyaluronic acid, which is very hydrating, though I've learned you have to SEAL it with another moisturizer (like my tinted moisturizer I use as makeup) on top otherwise it's actually dehydrating, something I was doing very wrong for a while.

5. Extra SPF. For sunscreen touchups during the day I've been liking Supergoop (I got this set and stuck one in each of my purses or bags so I always have some on hand; I like them all, but maybe the "unseen" one is my favorite) and I use SkinMedica Essential Defense Mineral Shield Broad Spectrum SPF 32 on days I'm not going to wear makeup or use the tinted moisturizer.

So most mornings it's: Cleanse (usually in the shower), Vitamin C serum, Phyto gel (sometimes), Tinted Moisturizer, done.

Evening Cycling Routine.
It's a 4 day plan that you just repeat forever. I have a little calendar in my bathroom with each day filled in for the month because I am incapable of remembering what I did the night before.
1. Cleanse. I usually use whatever cleanser is by the sink, in the shower, or near the tub where I happen to be washing my face, but I do love Cerave Renewing SA Cleanser for nighttime cleansing, particularly if I've put on a lot of sunscreen during the day or wore more makeup than usual. It's a little stronger.

I'll also often use micellar water first as a double cleanse to get my makeup off before washing. My dermatologist recommended it because I have rosacea and reducing bacteria on the skin helps keep it at bay. Isdin Micellar Water (my dermatologist recommended this one and I had a credit with her office to get it for free) or Bioderma Micellar Water (cheaper and the one every makeup artist recommends; also available in a travel size).

Exfoliation night
2. Exfoliant. Dr. Bowe recommends a chemical exfoliant with AHAs over a physical exfoliant, particularly for sensitive, dry skin (like mine!). I've been using Sunday Riley's Good Genes and I really like it. You can leave it on, or if your skin is really sensitive, you can rinse it off after 15 minutes. My skin has been agreeable to letting me leave it on so far. This is also a GREAT physical exfoliant if you prefer that: Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant. I used it for a while before I discovered chemical exfoliants and they just work better for me.
3. Moisturize. I use the Skinceuticals Hydrating B5 Gel first and then layer on a moisturizer. I'm still in search of a favorite, but these two are inexpensive and I've been trying to decide which one I like more for the last month: Eucerin Redness Relief Soothing Sensitive Skin Night Creme or Differin Restorative Night Moisturizer. I cannot emphasize enough how dry and angry my skin was by the end of June with all my travel; it's come a long way.

Retinol night:
2. Retinol cream. One of the only active ingredients that can actually repair skin and force collagen production and regeneration. Use the strongest concentration your skin can handle without flaking. It is better to use a lighter concentration more regularly than a stronger one more rarely. I currently use 0.5 but started at 0.25. Lots of people can handle 1.0, my skin just gets mad at it. Your dermatologist can also write you prescriptions for stronger ones, but I've never been able to go that strong. I used SkinMedica 0.25 for years and now use Skinceuticals 0.5. You can layer moisturizer first if your skin is sensitive. I've found with the cycling I no longer have to do that.
3. Moisturize. Same as above.

Recovery night x 2
2. Just moisturize!
And that's it. This routine works for me because even when I'm traveling I can still follow it - I used to use all the products everyday, so it's not any more to pack for a few different nights. Here's where I am on my cycle:

Last night (Friday):
Cleanse, Exfoliate, Moisturize

Tonight (Saturday night):
Cleanse, Retinol, Moisturize

Sunday & Monday nights:
Cleanse, Moisturize

Tuesday night:
Cleanse, Exfoliate, Moisturize

Wednesdsay night:
Cleanse, Retinol, Moisturize

Thursday & Friday nights:
Cleanse, Moisturize

Repeat forever. I may work in the TNS serum I linked above in the mornings once I feel like my skin is on really solid ground again. It was powerful- my skin was literally glowing and I've never had so many people comment on it- but it was too much for me to combine with travels, cold weather, dry skin, and my haphazard approach to moisturizing. For now, I'm sticking with exactly the above plan- I'll keep you posted on my progress!

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Big Woods to the Big Apple

I'm currently on a plane flying back from a quick client-related trip to NYC- my first flight to almost take off on time outy of my last many.
I was only in NY for about 14 hours and I spent 6.5 of those sleeping, and the temperature felt much the same as it does in Dallas (stifling), but every time I walk a few blocks in that city I feel so happy and whole and home. Our office is on Bryant Park and there was a midday concert going on that we could hear in the conference room on the 32nd floor and it made me smile.
I was able to catch an early flight back, so if things go well I'll be surprising my family with a 6:00 pm arrival instead of a 9:00 arrival and I can't wait.

And speaking of family, let's go back to the stunning shores of Silver Lake where I spent last Thursday-Sunday with the kids while James had a swim meet out of town. As I've written about before, it's a special place for my family. The lake was on the land my grandfather's family farmed. When they sold the farm they kept some of the lake lots which various aunts, uncles, and cousins of my mom now own. My grandpa had one lot and we grew up driving there (from Houston! 3 days, pulling our trailer and camping along the way) and camping on the lot.
It's the most beautiful lake. Small, clear, and private, with a soft sandy bottom.
It was actually more beautiful than I remembered. One of the few places that even the rosy glow of memory can't improve upon.
In 1999 my grandparents built a cabin on the lot. It looks exactly the same.
My parents, aunt and uncle, sister, brother and their full families were all there.
It was glorious.
And though my grandpa mourns every summer that he can no longer make the trip, he absolutely delighted in the pictures and videos and stories we told of the fun we were having in his favorite place.
We went to the cheese factory for the world's best soft-serve ice cream, cooked hot dogs over an open fire, took frequent boat rides on the "Queen Mary" (named after my grandmother, obviously), held babies, played cards (Oh Shit is our new favorite game), drank prosecco, woke to 50-degree weather and had the option of wearing long sleeves at almost any time of day.
I conducted a few client calls from the porch and soaked up the family time and not even the 8 hours of travel delays the kids and I dealt with on the way home could dull the sparkles around each day of our quick trip.
We were supposed to get home about 2, but instead we staggered in the door close to 9, with nothing but a bunch of Auntie Anne's cinnamon sugar pretzel nuggets in our bellies and James had the table set with a delicious homemade dinner ready (chilaquiles!) and big bowls of fresh fruit all cut up for us to devour. While we did he casually mentioned that he'd heard there might be a shortage of Halloween candy this year, so he asked the stocker when he was at Tom Thumb and she told him the pallets they had delivered that day were the only ones they were getting, so he bought some because we'll be in our new house just before Halloween and he didn't want to disappoint the new neighbors and kids and you guys, I have never been more attracted to him. I was way too tired to do anything about it, but he is such a keeper.

I am now back from NYC and in the office conducting the University of Chicago Law School OCI interviews tomorrow (OCI is all virtual this year, which is super weird, but I'm not sad to not be on anothr plane). James and I have a date tomorrow night and then the weekend is all about back to school prep. In one week I'll have a high schooler, 7th grader, and 3rd grader and everyone is very nervous and excited and also a lot of nervous. Moving is hard.
Grateful for our idyllic weekend in the big woods and looking forward to all our adventures ahead.