Sunday, March 31, 2024

Recapping last week before the 5 cities in 5 days week ahead

The week ahead of me is kind of a lot, so rather than getting all the work done I need to to make it go as smoothly as possible, I am of course taking a blog break. Because that's what you do when you know you're going to need some pick-me-up comments scattered throughout your days.
We went to Houston for Easter to see my parents and brother and his family. It was super fun to see everyone, especially the kids with their twin 2-year-old cousins, and I'm so glad we were able to make the trip. We got back about 2 pm and I promptly unpacked, fell asleep, woke up, and then packed for my trip tomorrow. My week ahead looks like this:

Sunday: Houston → Dallas 
Monday: Dallas → DC

Tuesday: DC → NYC (via a 10 pm last flight out)
Wednesday: NYC → Dallas (also a last flight out)
Thursday: Dallas (Landon's swim banquet is that night)
Friday: Dallas → Savannah (for the weekend for a coworker's wedding)

So, my suitcase will get a greater than usual workout, while my body probably gets less. I'm actually having a pretty major surgery on the Wednesday after we get back from Savannah, and while I wouldn't say I'm excited about it, I am not sad that I will be grounded for 4 weeks afterward. But more on that later, for now we'll move to fun random things and pictures before I get back to drafting actual legal work.

Last week Cora took a star turn in her class play about The Oregon Trail. Each 4th grade class was given the general subject matter and wrote their own play, to be performed for the parents. They were so cute and so earnest and good and I thought it was such a great project. Cora was a mother of three and practiced her lines and cues SO MANY TIMES she was able to whisper directions to anyone else throughout the play's run.
She now has to be some sort of pioneer woman for Halloween since I bought that costume, but at least she already knows her backstory.
We made Claire's school decision and after some bumps, are really truly excited for her next chapter in high school (!!) this fall. It's been a rough fucking year, but we're looking forward to brighter days ahead on many fronts.
Speaking of the girls, they are currently on the same swim team (Claire is officially going to swim in high school next year! I'm so glad for her, I think it will be a wonderful experience) and even faced off on the breaststroke legs of the medley relays at a meet last weekend! Claire won, but not by much!
Claire has been practicing her volleyball with Landon and Cora each night now that the sun sets later and I love hearing them in the backyard.
Even if at some point someone either hits a ball in someone's face or is deemed to be insufficiently kind/supportive/good to continue playing.

On Saturday I decided to partially redecorate our house by moving around furniture we already had to new places. I created a sitting area in our entryway and love it so much I actually ended up buying a new bench for that spot and moving the bench from upstairs back to the landing because everyone missed it there. Turns out everyone really likes having a bench nearby. And now you can better see the beautiful elephant end table of my grandparents' that I love so much.
I also took out a dear client and friend for dinner to celebrate a promotion and wore this faux leather and knit dress that I got from Ann Taylor for $20 at the end of last year and shoes I got from Dirty Dillards with my mom years before. Love a red lip dressy moment, great conversation, and fabulous food.
I spent a couple days last week in Houston to make two big presentations. I felt the hot pink blazer really rose to the occasion.
Also last week, I filled out my March Madness bracket.
As you can see, I worked really hard on it. And it paid off- I was in the Top 20 for a while in my 500+ person firm competition! Now I'm 80-something, but still! It's made all the basketball watching extra fun. Even if I have to keep asking Landon who he I picked to win any particular game.
I also wore some good outfits, largely pulled from Bonnie's album.
Good clothes make me happy. Other things that make me happy- the Bridgerton Official Playlist on Spotify. The instrumental take on pop songs is the perfect background for doing work I have to focus on, especially writing or reading SEC documents. Unlike urban fantasy novels, I can't say I find 10-Ks inherently fascinating, so I need music without words. This is perfect.

Also, I am SO excited about Bridgerton Season 3. I loved Seasons 1 and 2, and while Colin-on-TV does not at all match how I pictured Colin-in-the-books such that he was kind of my least favorite adult Bridgerton, I am still here for another season of beautiful scenery, music, and romance. I also LOVED Queen Charlotte to a degree I did not anticipate. And the previews for Season 3 look very promising.

In other audio visual observations, The Taylor Swift Eras Tour movie is so great. I love that it is just a well-done production that I enjoyed watching from my couch AND that I didn't see one thing in the movie that I wasn't able to see and feel in person, even from our seats far away, and that is really amazing. Amazing job, all around, and that concert remains one of my very top moments of 2023 and possibly forever.

We watched The Boys in the Boat as a family movie last weekend and everyone loved it. Landon has read the book at least a dozen times and was still on the edge of his seat for the end. The girls were super into it and it didn't give Cora ANY nightmares (unlike Zootopia and other thrillers), so it was the rare full family win. Highly recommend it if you haven't seen it.

Speaking of TV, a small thing that has made my life happier recently: watching TV while I do workouts in my room. As I've written before, I work out almost every day in my room using the Down Dog HIIT app. I love all the ways I can change up my workouts each day and I alternate between using increasingly heavier handweights and resistance bands. Last winter, after nearly 19 years of marriage, we finally got a TV in our bedroom just so I can cast my workout onto a bigger screen. (This TV has actually not yet been used for anything except my workouts, but I still feel like it was worth it.) When the new Love is Blind season dropped it a couple weeks ago, it occurred to me that I could go back to putting the workout on my phone while I play a silly show on the TV and I could get self-indulgent-feeling TV time in WHILE I do something good for me. And I now workout every day no problem and I look forward to it. When I travel I bring my resistance bands in my suitcase and switch to that option on the app, sign into Netflix on my hotel room TV, and keep going.

After months of feeling better but not really looking any different, which is fine, but also not quite as inspiring, I finally noticed some leaner lines and definitely stronger muscles. Then when we were at the beach two weeks ago I saw that I had abs again! Right there! While increased health and strength are the honest goals of my exercise, I will not lie about the thrill of just feeling damn good in a bikini again.
On that note, what other shows should I watch while I work out? They need to be pretty light, able for me to look away for certain intervals, not something James cares about seeing, and most of all FUN. Recently I've re-done the last season of Top Chef, Loot (LOVED that show; Season 2 is out soon!), a couple seasons of Parks & Rec, Girls5eva (hilarious and HIGHLY recommend), Schitt's Creek, and am currently binging Brooklyn 99. I missed almost all TV from about 2001-2010 and love old shows as much as new ones. I also watch shows on my phone while I do my hair in the mornings. Help me entertain me!
I hope you all have a great week ahead! May you are brave and bold and ready, like Milo on a carride out into the unknown. (Or just cozy and content, like Milo at almost all other times.) Happy Easter and end of March, which always feels like the longest month of the year. On to April we go.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Books! Please.

I have another post I'll get to publish later, but yesterday I woke up in Houston, worked a few hours out of our Houston office, flew to Dallas, worked more hours at my desk here, drove home, took Claire to an admitted students night for a new school she might go to only for that to be something of an anxiety-filled disaster, drove back home, unpacked my suitcase, and sat back down to work until 11 pm only to crawl into bed at 11:30 pm, open up my little Kindle app on its dark screen setting so James doesn't wake up and tell me to go to sleep and I had... nothing to read. 


In the last 6 months I have re-read almost all of my favorite books, read a few new series that were fine-to-good, and now I either have to dig deeper into my archives (interesting note, now that my anxiety is properly recognized and controlled, I don't re-read books nearly as much, though I do still enjoy diving back into true favorites) or spend hours I don't have trying to find new authors and series. Please help.  I read 2-3 books a week, use the Dallas public library to borrow and download them to my Kindle app, and I really only like to read things that are completely beyond our current reality. 

An unranked and unorganized list of things I've read lately:
  • From Blood and Ash, by Jennifer Armentrout. Enjoyed the first few books, grew less interested by book 4. Haven't even checked if there's a 5. 
  • Fourth Wing, by Rebecca Yarros. Delightful, loved it, look forward to the rest of the series. 
  • House of Flame and Shadow (Crescent City Book 3), by Sarah J. Maas. Loved Crescent City 1 and 2; enjoyed having this one to read, but ultimately didn't think it was nearly as good. Some parts were too long, others far too quick, and Bryce felt like a different character at times. Still love the world and other characters and will immediately read anything published by the author. 
    • A Court of Thorns and Roses series: Didn't love the first two books, but enjoyed them enough to keep reading. Interestingly the most recent one, A Court of Silver Flames (about Nesta) was my favorite. Hoping for more in this world.
    • Throne of Glass series: Really loved this. All of it. My favorite of her series. Would like more please even though I know this arc is done.
  • Divine Rivals, by Rebecca Ross. Fun. Not perfect, but enjoyed it. Haven't downloaded book 2, which probably says something, but I'm sure I'll read it. 
  • The Serpent and the Wings of Night, by Carissa Broadbent. Enjoyed this and #2 (The Ashes and The Star Cursed King). I think there will be more books in this world (?) and I will read them. Like From Blood and Ash and Divine Rivals, these are good, but they are definitely not Tier 1 Ilona Andrews or Sarah J Maas series.  
  • From the Grave, by Kresley Cole. SHE FINALLY FINISHED THE ARCANA CHRONICLES. For as highly anticipated as this book was for me, I knew before I started it couldn't possibly end in a way that was truly satisfying. And it didn't. I really enjoyed this series and all the characters we met along the way and I felt like the world was too narrow by the end. Still enjoyed it, and would still recommend it, but feels like it had potential that didn't fully get realized.
  • Immortals After Dark series, by Kresley Cole. Cole is finally releasing a new book in this series (March 26!) so I went back and read some favorites. It's still great and I was surprised how much I liked her last two Sweet Ruin and Wicked Abyss. 
  • Blood Heir, by Ilona Andrews. I really loved this book. Also Iron and Magic. And Magic Claims and Magic Tides. And not just because I love Kate Daniels, she's actually become a more settled less interesting character (which is good, she deserve it), but because Ilona Andrews are doing a great job giving other characters a chance to shine in this great world they've made. Eagerly anticipating all new books from them forever. 
    • Hidden Legacy series: Loved this series so much. Hoping there's more here too. I re-read these often.
    • Innkeeper series: Also love this one. Same and same. 
  • Psy/Changling Series, by Nalini Sing. I enjoy this series and continue to enjoy it as she puts out new books. 
    • Archangel Guild series. I don't like this one as much, but usually catch up on it when new books are made available for free through my library downloads.
    • Rock Kiss and Hard Play series. These are light, but fun non-fantasy more modern day romance series. Not my usual thing, but I liked them. 
  • Mercy Thompson series, by Patricia Briggs. I've enjoyed this, though I feel like it's gone a little long? I'll still read anything new once I can borrow it though. 
Please share your recommendations! 

Monday, March 18, 2024

Shopping and Style File: Early Spring

While I'm settling back in at my desk very much not at the beach, let's take a quick jump way back to when my mom and I did my traditional shopping trip in February and then Bonnie came over to do my Spring styling a week later. I've written about this many times before, but particularly now that my life is so busy and when I do have free time all I want to do is sit at home, I really don't shop at all unless it's the random online purchase Bonnie has recommended or when my mom comes to visit. My annual birthday trip is one of my very favorites and it's the only time we set aside several hours, fuel up and hydrate, and venture out to the clearance Dillards in Irving.

(For the uninitiated, Dillards has a few clearance centers in Texas, and presumably other states, and all items are at least 70% off the ticket price and some are way more. It's a challenge and a delight and I can only tackle it once a year with my mom by my side.)

This year we went after Landon's Regional swim prelims and I joked as we drove out at 1 pm that we needed to be sure we left by 5 pm so we didn't get stuck in horrible traffic on the way back.
Reader, we left at 5:15 and absolutely got stuck in horrible traffic on the way back.

But we had a great time and I managed to check off every dress I had on my "buy" list for the Spring. Like something to wear to my coworker's black-tie April wedding in Savannah, Georgia. I really wanted dark + floral + regular bra + feels pretty. And that I already had shoes and earrings to match. And bam, $45:
The fabric looks really beautiful in person and I love it.

Next up I have a partners' retreat in South Carolina the first week of May so I needed a dress to wear to the first night dinner. "Resort chic" + not something I'd wear to work but still something I want to wear around the people I work with + regular bra. And this! Perfect!
It looks so so fun in person. The sleeves and long part of the skirt are sheer and the skirt blows behind me as I walk and it's super flattering. Also $30, by Guess.

I wanted something for our Mexico trip that I'd also just wear around on weekends. This is so comfy, is a nicer fabric than you'd think, drapes beautifully, and hot pink is my favorite. And it was $12.
My mom was surprisingly restrained in her purchases, though not for lack of trying. For whatever reason the shopping gods were just smiling upon me that day. Maybe because they knew it was almost my birthday and I really needed a dress for that wedding. My mom still provided plenty of entertainment. There was so much more, but this is what I remembered enough to write down after:

Mom: “Did we walk in a different door than usual?” [No.] “Well, I’m completely overwhelmed.”

Mom, in dresses: “I’m not buying ANYTHING with spaghetti straps. . . . Except this. . . And oooh look at this!

Mom, in shoes: “I was being so strong but the rows just keep on going.”
Mom, still in shoes: “Some of these I can’t even pretend I could tell your dad I need.”
Me: “Well that’s growth! You acknowledged that and passed them by!”
Mom: “No, I’m talking about all the ones I’m holding.”

And then, because it was my birthday trip, I wanted to find one new dress that was just fun. Something I would never look for online, that I could wear out on a Spring date night at a fancy Dallas restaurant where everyone is in designer everything and some creative skin showing is the norm. Something to reward myself for all those "it's just a Tuesday" moments of denial and health and practicality.

And I found this.
Not something I'd normally even try on and yet.
I die.
I love it so much. I am confident I will find somewhere to wear it and until then I will smile every time I see it in my closet.

It was a good time. Landon also did great at Regionals, so I feel like my mom was just bringing luck to everyone that day. The next weekend, Bonnie was here to style me for early Spring!

Milo helped, lining himself up with the shoe options she pulled from my closet. Normally Maggie is first assistant, but she was so sleepy that Milo volunteered as tribute.
Bonnie does about a 3:1 work:casual mix, making outfits for the next couple months of late Winter/early Spring.
More casual:
And some actual outfits I wore the week before Spring Break. Some directly from this album, others because I'm better at putting separates together after two years of following her lead.
I have a ton of work travel coming up- in one interesting week in April I will be sleeping in 4 different cities over 4 days. Tomorrow I go to Houston to see a client, but while I'm there I'm giving an Introduction to SEC Investigations presentation to all the litigation associates (I was supposed to do it in Dallas, but when you're headquartered in Houston it's pretty easy to just pop over there). Because I'm the only female partner in the group, and I happened to be paired with a female associate, we went all in on a Barbie theme that is FABULOUS. I'm wearing the hot pink blazer outfit Bonnie made above and I cannot wait. You can't believe how many screenshots from the movie lend themselves to an SEC overview.

Happy Monday everyone!

Saturday, March 16, 2024

"My job is actually just beach."

We spent the last six days on the beach in Mexico.
We LOVE a beach.
We also love a mountain, city, lake, and a pile of rocks, but this Spring Break, it was beach, and it was beautiful and relaxing and fun and just so, so easy.
On Thursday, James and Landon drove to their Sectionals swim meet, promising to meet us at the airport on time on Saturday straight from their meet. The kids have long packed their own suitcases, but this was the first time I'd be meeting 2/5 of the family at the airport before heading out for a 6 day international vacation. At least I knew they'd have their swim suits and goggles.
We took a direct 2.5 hour flight to Cancun, breezing through customs in about 2 minutes, and meeting our driver for our private transfer to the resort in Playa del Carmen. (Highly recommend Gabriel and his company! All the drivers were so professional and kind, using their limited English and our limited Spanish to communicate favorite sites and recommendations and patiently participating in both our attempts at the others' languages.)
(Travel ensemble for those who care about these things like I do: these Paige pants I bought with Bonnie 2 years ago and almost didn't because they were pricey for such a boring staple and yet still wear constantly and always remind me of why I have a Bonnie, new breezy Loft blouse, my beloved perfect jean jacket I can layer on anything, including a bikini top, and the Target version of this trendy sandal style I think is both so ugly it's almost cute and also super comfortable.)

We were last in Playa in 2016 when we came here with a toddler Cora and two baby-faced bigger kids. That was also the last time we stayed at a big resort, and while we normally much prefer more private and personal vacations, after some very logistics-heavy trips (like Italy last summer) and with some big adventure trips coming up (like our WY/MT/ID National Parks trip this summer and Egypt(!) this Christmas), a relatively inexpensive, all-inclusive, plan nothing, show up and do nothing getaway sounded just right.
With Landon about to wrap up his sophomore year, and our family so busy and scattered what feels like much of the time (and the fact that we all just really like to travel), I'm not willing to let a school break go by without a plan to go somewhere and do something. I've always loved traveling with the kids, but as they get older, that pure, uninterrupted family time becomes even more precious.
I found a link through tripadvisor to a person who rents out vacation club stays at resorts, so we could get something like our master 1 bedroom suite at Sandos Playacar and the "royal elite" benefits without the membership or buy-in.
The room was bare bones and didn't have a view, but the layout was perfect (2 full bathrooms, 1 room with a king bed and twin sized couch bed, and a living room with two twin sized couch beds) and the internet was strong enough for all your lawyerly telework needs. The resort was large and lush, the food was meh (the kids loved it), the pools were many, and the beach was absolutely spectacular.
It was big enough and long enough that we didn't have to get up early to reserve chairs or anything, we just meandered over and back whenever we felt like it. And we felt like it a lot. There were activities and a kids' club, teens club, parties and shows and we did none of that. We are not joiners on vacation. We just want each other.
And access to water.
We tried a couple restaurants before realizing they weren't any better than the always-available buffet that was much quicker and had more options.
Plus we often saw monkeys in the trees outside the windows.
Landon of the 16-year-old bottomless pit stomach was particularly taken with the buffet. Actual quote: "Mom, I realized that if I hold the hamburger with my left hand, I can alternate scooping up corn and jello with my right."

"Mom, I've had 23 donuts so far. Wait, no, 27."

"Low key I could live here."

"Look, I'm a humpback whale!"
On Day 3, we took a taxi over to the Sandos Caracol sister resort. It was beautiful and the water park was bigger. It also had cenotes on site and a river, but unfortunately we happened to show up on the one day a week the cenote is closed for cleaning and restoration. We still jumped in the river.
We did see a lot of animals and were glad we explored a new space.
But once we got back "home," we were back on our beach, splashing and laughing, and I was sitting in the shade soaking up the sounds of the waves and my children, playing together without any distraction and it was everything I love about taking them places so much.
From driving to a state park in Arkansas when Landon was 5, Claire was 2, and Cora wasn't even imagined yet, to our bigger trips as our travelers and our budget grew, I am so thankful for every adventure.
On our drive from the airport to the resort on Day 1 we asked our driver for his favorite things in the area. He mentioned the Casa de Tortugas cenotes, so I emailed Gabriel to see if he did tours as well as airport transfers and he set up a day for us to go see the Mayan ruins in Tulum and stop at the cenotes. It was so great!
For an extra $20 at the entrance to the ruins we got an English-speaking guide which gave us such a greater appreciation for the ruins and history of the area. I'm sure the kids were having flashbacks to Italy ("Oh my god dad can touch old things and tell us to think about them again." - Landon groaned as we entered the ruins), but they asked a lot of questions and you can't touch any of the ruins anyway.

We were getting hungry so we asked our driver if he had a favorite local lunch place and he took us La Chiapaneca in Tulum and it was SO GOOD. We started out with a round of tacos and empanadas and I added a sope and next thing we knew we were ordering twelve more sopes. The pork ones in particular were incredible. It's four days later at 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning and I'm still thinking about them.
Full and happy we continued on to the kids most highly anticipated part of the day - cenotes!
Fresh water, spring-fed pools, there are four at Casa Tortuga and we got to swim through two caverns, jump off cliffs and ledges, and enjoy gorgeous fresh water.
Landon, Claire, and James did lots of jumping and the boys even did a few flips.
I jumped off one just to remind them I could. My jump style is "pencil" and it is the only one I have.
Cora took a little while to warm up to the idea but made a big leap towards the end and then followed it up with several more.
It was a perfect last day, capped off with some time back at our beach.
Cora remains our beach baby. Every afternoon, she was out at least an hour longer than her siblings, happily playing in sand and waves. Completely alone, completely at peace. This girl and the ocean are one for me.
One one night after dinner, we went back out to the beach and the kids found a ball and next thing I knew they were playing soccer as the sun set, and again, it's just one of those memories that makes me smile when I think of it. Their voices, playing, laughing, and getting sandy and sweaty in their clothes... I know I keep saying it, but the sand falling in the hourglass is never far from my mind. Landon is getting college letters. Their worlds are broadening and while I have zero doubts that all our next chapters will be wonderful, this chapter where they are only ours is so precious.
Our travel home began at 4:30 a.m. Thursday morning. I used up my American Airlines miles on the flight there, which got us a direct to Cancun, but had to move to my Southwest miles for the flight home, so we had a stop in Houston on the way back. It worked out great though, customs was really fast (it was Houston Hobby and we were the only international flight landing at the time), we grabbed lunch, and then hopped on the short flight to Dallas.
We walked in the front door at 3 p.m., and by 4:30 p.m. we had clothes unpacked, groceries bought, wash washing, and cuddled cats purring. We were all in bed by 9 p.m. and 12 hours later, I'd been working at my computer for a couple hours (the post-vacation email inbox reentry is REAL) and all the human children were still sleeping. James went up to check on them and said no one even flinched when lights were turned on, so he confirmed their breathing and left them in the care of the cats. They beach HARD.

And that was our trip. Fun, easy, and full of mojitos, pan dulce, sopes, and swimming.
Now we have a weekend at home to get ready for the last few months of school (how), the fast approach of summer (so hot I'm already mad at it), and a lot of work. Thankful for the getaway, and laughing because Landon just yelled down from upstairs that he still has sand in his hair. Happy mid-March to all! I'm using my time watching the Taylor Swift concert on Disney+ this morning to draft a few more non-vacation posts, so there are more coming!