Sunday, January 14, 2018

Apparently It's Mid-January

Thanks to some backward and forward looking posts, I haven't actually written about much of 2018 yet, so brace yourselves. We have pictures and a video and a lot of food to discuss. Though we have to go backwards first because I realized I never posted this video of James swimming in snow in Colorado.

Because yes, apparently, if you're an insane person, you can SWIM through snow. There's just a patio beneath him there. I thought he'd dive in, get stuck, and splash around a little, but nope- he swam his way through to the wall. He did discover that your lungs don't work when you dive mostly naked into a snow drift and then try to flutter kick your way through it, but otherwise, considered the attempt a great success.

Moving on. James was home with the kids for the first week of the year and wished he had an office while I worked in my office and wished I was home (I mean, like 50% of the time... my office is very quiet and orderly and I like that). One of the great things about the swim school is that his schedule precisely matches the kids so we don't have to scramble for childcare over school breaks.

Rock climbing at the TCU gym

Bear rocking her new roller blades

It went fine - he's always full or errands and activities, but by Thursday evening he greeted me with wide eyes full of soundless screaming, so I took a half day on Friday for us all.

game night!

Also, one night I took the kids out for a margarita (and queso and guacamole) at our favorite happy hour place to celebrate me being a grown-up and going to work all day while James took a break from child interaction and went swimming. It was 22 degrees outside, but the frozen margarita just felt right. Our bill was $7.50 and then we got home at the same time as James to make our tamales for dinner. We should do this two-parter more often.

On Saturday morning we left for San Antonio to celebrate my grandparents' 65th wedding anniversary (dad's parents; formerly of Florida and a Captain in the Navy). We weren't exactly excited for another road trip, but this one is much shorter (8 hours round trip) and we got to stop in Austin on the way to see one of my elementary school best friends and her new baby AND my other grandparents (mom's parents; Swedish; Air Force Colonel; heart attack in August) were guests at the anniversary party AND my parents were coming, so we got a lot of bang for our buck. Plus, 65 is a pretty amazing thing.

They look great, don't they?

We stopped in north Austin at our favorite taco place to see my friend Meg. Somehow I hadn't seen her since her wedding, at which I was 6 months pregnant with Cora, and now she had a 14-month old baby and my baby is a giant 4-year-old. We became friends in 2nd grade. That's Claire's grade now. By 4th (Landon's current grade), we were besties. Those years seem like yesterday- running around on the green belt behind my house, having countless sleepovers at hers, and I can't believe I have children that old now. It was so lovely to steal an hour together and see my kids loving on hers. I enjoy that we coordinated our outfits. She doesn't post pictures of her baby, but you should know that baby C had a shirt with white and navy blue stripes, so our coordination was on point.

The party was at my grandparents' retirement community, in the sky lounge on the top floor, which the kids found to be VERY fancy. Landon got to try his first chicken wing and promptly ate 12 and asked for some to go "to put in my lunch tomorrow." Cora ate all the decorative cucumbers (her current favorite food) and Claire enjoyed all the attention from the senior citizens in her beautiful new dress along with at least 4 plain rolls meant to be used for baked ham sandwiches.

We got a picture of the whole crew - Papa and Gigi and all four great-grandparents.

It was a great party - everyone was so happy to be there and my dad gave a very sweet toast to his parents. My cousin Jordan who I hadn't seen in many years was there with his fiance, so it was great to meet her and see him. My grandparents (all four of them) were so tickled we were there and of course the kids love being the center of everyone's attention.

After the party, we took the kids to the River Walk which still had up all its Christmas lights.

It was beautiful. We ate another dinner and roamed around before coming back to the retirement community where my grandparents' had booked us a room. We had a queen bed and three roll-aways and it worked great.

We met my mom's parents for brunch the next morning. Their dining room has a GREAT Sunday brunch buffet and Landon ate 2 giant omelettes, a waffle, a ton of fruit, sausage, bacon, a bowl of ice cream, and a brownie. It was intense. James ate about 6 eggs benedict along with all the other things. We're a good bargain at a buffet.

We drove back in time to do our grocery shopping and prepare for our first week back in the routine. Cora went back to school Monday (she was THRILLED to return; she'd been asking daily for a countdown of when she can "go back to my school and do my hard work," James's lessons started Monday afternoon, and the big kids went back Tuesday. Tara has graduated (sob) so I'm in the middle of an after-school nanny search, but TCU (the university we live right next to) doesn't start back until this Tuesday, so no one was in town. Luckily we have generous friends who picked up our kids each day.

James had a swim meet on Friday morning. For reasons I honestly struggle to understand, he's been training like a maniac and his end of season meets are as big a deal to him now as they were in college. When we were in Disney he got up at 4:50 a.m. each day to take an Uber to a local YMCA to do a practice before coming back to the hotel and starting our very full days at the parks. He swam the 100 fly on Friday and called, ecstatic, saying he face-planted into his third wall but still went the best time he's had in years. He felt great. He canceled his lessons (gasp!) and went back for finals that night, going a lifetime best at the age of 36, winning the final, qualifying for the pro-am series, and earning this very plastic medal.

I was super proud of him. Meanwhile I was on my own with the kids, something that never happens, so I prepared.

Costco pizza for them, Mexican martini for me; Captain Underpants movie for them, laptop with work to do facing away from the TV for me. It was smooth sailing.

James swam on Saturday morning too - going a near-best time in the 100 breast. I was so happy for him. He has a (long) history of psyching himself out at meets, so this was quite a triumph. He made it back with one second to spare for me to run off to yoga. I'd spent the morning organizing the girls' closets and yoga seemed a more positive outlet than finding more things in my house the other humans I live with insist on ruining. Post-yoga we headed to Landon's first basketball game!

Cheering Section

He was so upset when we signed him up (the first activity we've ever forced), but it's all his best friends on the team with one of our good friends coaching and we decided he needed to know the rules of such a social and universal sport.

He loves it.

We closed out the day with more organizing and then a flaunting of the planned menu for a dinner out at Gloria's. I wanted a margarita and we all just needed something fun. Partway through dinner I looked at Claire and her little lip was trembling and her eyes were so big and sad. I held out my arms and the crawled in my lap, just barely fitting, and sobbed, "I didn't know Doug really died."

Doug is from The Everest movie, a movie Claire has not seen, but Landon must have described in some detail after his viewing. Somehow it came up again at dinner and Claire was deeply distressed to learn the movie was true and that people really died. I can't remember if I blogged about it, but I also found The Everest story to be traumatic. I didn't know people died on the 1996 expedition when we watched it. I knew about the Dallas doctor and the author of the Into Thin Air book, but I knew they'd survived, so I just assumed everyone else did. I was watching the movie with James one night when Doug walks off that ledge to his death and I yelled - yelled - "WHAT THE FUCK?!!" at James and made him pause the movie and explain to me what he knew of the story. Within minutes I had the wikipedia page up and was sobbing when Rob Marshall didn't make it. I don't know why this story hit me so hard, I think because I somehow thought it had a happy ending so I let myself get attached and then it did NOT and I stayed up that entire night reading every story on the internet about the 1996 climbers and download Krakauer's book and read it to the end just to find some closure. My eyes were bloodshot and my heart was sore. Which is to say, I understood my sweet middle-child's moment at Gloria's.

We stopped for cake on the way home and today there was supposed to be a family walk, but our day broke with Landon losing his shit over the phrase "have you had breakfast" (had HAD NOT) and so Claire and I ended up at Trader Joe's an hour later so I could get a Chai Tea Latte on the way and James could manage Landon because apparently my whole general existence is a trigger for him. I then went to Orangetheory where I ran out my feelings. James had some chores for Landon that he was now cheerfully doing when I got home, Claire had a friend over, and Cora yelled at me with extreme prejudice and then had to take a nap. At some point later Claire came to me sobbing because Landon something something something a prize for her school set.

in happier times

So I texted our former nanny's younger sister and asked if she was free. She was. My night ended like this.

Actually, like this.

Tomorrow Landon has promised to eat a granola bar within 15 minutes of waking and I feel very sure it's going to be a brighter day. And if it's not, I'm sending the big kids to swim lessons with James in the afternoon and Cora and I are watching princess movies all by ourselves until they get back. I win either way.

In closing (sorry, this is long), a bit on food.

First, reviews from this week's menu:

- Pea Soup: SO GOOD. Pea Soup is one of my favorite meals but I've never found a recipe as good as I remember my mom's tasting (including the recipe my mom uses), but after combining two recipes and adding a crock pot, this got a thumb's up from all five LL family members, even those initially skeptical of green soup:

1 large onion, diced (2 cups)
4 carrots, diced (2 cups)
3-4 red potatoes, peeled and diced (or 1 russet potato)
1 ham bone (and/or ~ 1 cup cooked, cubed ham)
1 bag (1 lb.) split peas (I soaked them for ~ 3 hours, but that's probably not necessary)
4 c. (1 carton) chicken stock
2 c. water
2 tsp. onion powder
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. garlic powder (or minced fresh garlic)
1 tsp. salt (taste to see if you need more post-potatoes at end)
1/2-1 tsp. ground black pepper

1. Add everything except the potatoes to a crock pot. Cook on high 5-6 hours, stirring occasionally, switch to low if soup boils or if you need more time before eating.

2. Add potatoes ~ 1 hour before serving with temp on high.

- Bison Meatballs and Marinara Sauce: LOVED this. Loved the kale and almond flour in the meatballs (and the bison; I loved cooking with a meat so lean there was no fat to drain after browning, which is my most hated step of cooking because I can never figure out how to drain it without losing some of the meat into the sink and/or doing it by spoon full which takes FOREVER and annoys me.) Really really loved the shredded carrots in the marinara sauce - that will be our new basic recipe anytime I want a simple red sauce.

- Greek Bison Burgers: also very good, next time I'm adding even more feta. Enjoyed the novelty of the pita bun and served with Ina's Greek salad (when you've made it 100+ times and have it all memorized, can you just call it your Greek salad? Does adverse possession work for recipes?) and roasted potatoes. All the thumb's up.

I made many yummy things since then but I can't remember any of them. (One of them was this Red Beans & Rice recipe which we all love.)

This week, which involves a new after school nanny (meeting her tomorrow; fingers crossed!), a PTA Board meeting, basketball practice, two nights of swimming, including Cora's first swim lesson in a month, and my return to Thursday night barre teaching at TCU since the winter break, we are eating:

Monday: Chicken Prosciutto Roll-Ups, Parmesan Orzo with Peas (I just make this up: orzo pasta + chicken broth + grated parm + frozen peas), Roasted Carrots
Tuesday: Potato Leek Soup (already made; will hang out in the crock pot because I have a PTA Board Meeting and the big kids have swimming), Crackers and Cheeses and the other half of the prosciutto from Monday
Wednesday: Sloppy Joe's (Claire's request; leave out the sugar, it makes it way too sweet), roasted potatoes, carrots and cucumbers.
Thursday: Crockpot meal I'm making up from a sample at Trader Joe's: TJ's frozen Chimichurri Rice + a jar of TJ Verde Salsa + a can of Black Beans. Serving with the avocado, tomato, cheese ("ON THE SIDE" screams Landon from somewhere), tortillas, and chips. I can't vouch for this one yet, but it seems like it should all go together.
Friday: Pasta with Tomato Cream sauce, the ultimate "it's the end of the week and our fridge is bare and I don't want to think at all" meal. It's also delicious and another recipe I have adversely possessed.

Also I remembered how much I loved these Protein Quinoa Salad jars and made one today for lunch and two more for later this week. I do yoga during lunch 3x a week which I love because it's good for my health and my wallet (I have the unlimited yoga membership at CorePower, so the class is "free," and then I don't eat out for lunch), except lately I haven't felt like packing lunch so I've had to stop and buy something anyway and that annoys me every time. But this week, I'm set!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


So I originally wrote this post on January 4, 2016. I stalled out on #4 and then never finished it. I had planned to revisit at some point, but I was sucking too much on goal #3, so I never did. And now here we are on December 31, 2016 so I'll just revisit, update, and redo all at the same time!


Except LOLNO. This is why I have 100+ unpublished drafts on blogger. It's NOW January 10th, 2018 (I've had to change that date three times because I've been in a blogging funk and just can't get my act together) and we're going to do this thing (eventually). I'm curious to see what I was hoping to do 2 years ago, I want to memorialize my unwritten goals of 2017, and actually write something for the year ahead. So here goes.

Original 2016 Goals 1-4:

1. Get back into yoga. I used to go at least once a week and do 2-4 short sessions at home in the mornings and it was so good for me. I've apparently lost all will to exercise at home, but I would really like to get myself into a studio once a week. Twice would be better. I went back to Bikram hot yoga this morning and WHOAH, talk about humbling. There's nothing quite like taking a year long break from something to remind you that ability fades way quicker than memories of that ability. But it still felt good and I'm determined to get back into my Sunday morning habit.

2017 Update: I totally aced this one, though not how I planned. I discovered CorePower yoga and fell hard for the athletic, dynamic, constantly changing, music-filled, heated (but not TOO heated) C2 classes. The showers and locker room and location close to my office made it even easier. I generally go 3x a week and the results have been incredible. I can do crow and headstands and handstands and nearly all inversions. I freaking love it and have found it very centering and empowering. That it's toned my arms and strengthened my core even more has been a side benefit, along with increased flexibility and a perfect counterbalance to my other new love - Orangetheory. I will continue this into 2017 for sure. My goal now is less about going to yoga and more about buying fewer of their amazing leggings when I'm in there.

2018 Updated Update: Still obsessed with yoga. I went 4 of the first 5 days of the year. I was thinking in my last class that yoga is the most rewarding non-humanoid thing in my life right now. It's what barre was for me 4 years ago. I still love barre, and I love teaching it, but yoga is where I grow. It's grounding and energizing and mastering-new-things exciting. I didn't go as much the second half of last year when I got on class pass and was enjoying doing all sorts of different workouts all over town, but I'm pausing Class Pass and signing back up for the unlimited package at CorePower and hoping to go 3-4x/week again.

2. Go to barre. Even when I'm not teaching. I've gotten TERRIBLE about going to barre when I'm not the teacher. In part because it isn't as fun once you've been the one yelling and counting at the front of the room, but it's also not as hard and that makes it easy for me to justify not taking the 80 minutes to go do it. But one of my fave teachers is at my studio on Wednesday nights at 8 pm and there's no reason I can't go every week. I used to go to barre 3 nights a week; once isn't going to kill me.

2017 Update: I did not get better about going to barre, but to be fair, our studio schedule changed and the evening class doesn't work as well for me now, though I do love keeping it in reserve if I skip my lunch yoga. I did, on the other hand, join Orangetheory fitness in February and I LOVE IT. I go 2x a week, every week, and class is always different, fun, and challenging as hell. It's also made me a better, faster, and happier runner which is a miracle even without also making me row (boo) and do all sorts of crazy weights exercises. I'm still loving it and will continue my membership through 2017 for sure.

I still love barre; it's an incredible workout and it gave me a deep sense of pride and power in my body in the weeks and months after having Cora. It was my first grown-up fitness love- it brought me to the yoga and OTF I do now (and the Lululemon I wear) and I still LOVE teaching and bringing barre to others, but for now, I'm enjoying my blend of fitness classes and plan to continue the same 1x barre, 2x OTF, and 3x yoga into the new year.

2018 Updated Update. Ha, I basically just typed this above (late 2016-me and early 2018-me are the same here), but yes, I still love teaching barre, but those classes aren't where I grow right now so I'd say this isn't a resolution anymore. I have enjoyed popping in to some classes around town thanks to Class Pass, but Orangetheory + lots of yoga + teaching barre is a very happy place for me right now.

3. Keep my phone in my purse from 5-8 p.m. I am terrible about this. It starts with looking up a recipe, then maybe jumping over to whatever book I'm reading while I wait for something to simmer or boil, then I'm perusing facebook, and then going back to my book. Part of the problem is that the kids are older and don't need me (not hands-on need me), so they're playing in the play room or reading or coloring at the table and it's so terribly easy to just dive into a book instead of actively engaging them. And then they go to bed at 8 and I turn to my book and think, dammit, I just wasted an hour with them- and hour I have now to myself if I just could have waited. And so. I need to just keep my phone put away in my purse. Or in my room charging. I'm trying to think of it flipped- if they had cell phones (ughhhh, I dread the day) and they were constantly checking them when we were doing something I'd totally make them go put it in another room, so now I have to make myself do the same.

2017 Update: I've gotten better, but still get a fail on this one. It goes on the top of the list for 2017. I've put a charger on my desk that sits in the play room that opens to the living room and kitchen, so I can still hear it ring (and the magical text when James says he's left the pool) but I won't just pick it up because I'm walking by. The kids are growing up way too fast, and I'm staring at a screen for part of it. Plus, someday we will have to get them phones or ipads or whatever and I'd like to model good habits now. We never allow our phones at the table or in restaurants (I mean, the kids have never brought any electronic device to a restaurant ever, but James and I have made it a point this year to never bring our phones out at the table either; meals are for engaging and eating and playing tic-tac-toe on paper kids' menus) and I want to get much more deliberate about how we use them at home. And since it's so much easier to see excess phone use in your partner than yourself, we've both agreed not to bite each other's heads off when we remind the other of this goal.

2018 Updated Update. I actually got MUCH better at this in 2017, though it remains on the list. I stick my laptop on the counter to get my recipes and try very hard not to read my book before the kids are in bed. I've realized it's more of a reading addiction than a phone addiction. I just always want to jump back into my kindle app. I tried deleting that on my phone and lasted about 2 hours. But we've not had any trouble staying firm on "phones on the counter/in purses during dinner" plan. James even hands me his phone to toss in my purse at restaurants so it's not buzzing in his pocket. No phones. I could still read less before 8 p.m. Maybe that should be my new resolution.

4. Get over baby #4. We can't have another baby and I didn't realize I wanted another so badly until the time I found out we couldn't. This was nearly 3 years ago and I still struggle with it. That said, it's reality and so we're done and I need to get over it.

2017 Update. Yeah, no. No progress here.

2018 Updated Update. Actually this grew less sharp this year. I still wish we had a 4th, but it doesn't hurt to know that other people are pregnant or to see other large families. While I think I would always be thrilled if I were to find out I was pregnant (an impossibility), I'm not constantly sad that I'm not. Cora is 4. I like our 10 - 7 - 4 aged crew. We're a fun, functioning mobile family unit. This is good. Do I wish I had a 2 year old running around? Absolutely. But I don't actively feel the loss of it. It's more "that would have been great, I will always think that, but this is great too." I don't think I'll move forward any more from that, so I'm taking this one off the list.


And apparently that's all I had back in 2016! So now I can write about what my un-written goals were for 2017 and what I want to do in 2018:

5. Explore local volunteer opportunities. Last year, post-depressing election of a mentally deficient, morally bankrupt, racist, misogynist twitter tantrum-throwing man-child, James and I made the goal of revamping our charitable giving. We put a lot of time and budgeting and thought into it, greatly increasing our total and ultimately settling on five charities that did work we believed it, at both a national and local level where it seemed needed most. I continue to feel good about those decisions and we've kept the monthly auto-deduct on all of them. But, in addition to my time on our school's PTA Board, I would like to find a local charity here to give actual, hands-on volunteer hours to. I'm still figuring out what I want this to be and how I want to do it, but in the first quarter of this year I am going to start actively researching and finding my place.

6. Make a Yoga Certification Timeline. I want to be certified to be a yoga teacher. It doesn't make any sense. It's super expensive (several thousand dollars), and I wouldn't be able to teach more than 1 class a week, if even that, because I wouldn't be able to get my workout in while teaching like I do to justify my time teaching barre. But I want it. I want it very much. I want to study and learn and immerse myself in it. It would be version of going back to school (another pipe dream I can't justify; I just really like school you guys, I've never been as good at anything as I was at that). Maybe put away money each month for the next 2 years and make it happen then? Cora would be in school, James might have a totally different schedule, maybe I could fit in the instruction somehow? I just... I want it. I've wanted it for 2 years. I want to figure out how to make it possible.

7. Be Deliberate in my Personal Purchases. I am not going to pretend I won't buy new things for myself this year. I like pretty things and I've always been careful about budgets and clutter, but I would like to be very deliberate about what I purchase. I started this last year and felt pretty good about the results. I unsubscribed from most store emails, I stop in a Marshalls or TJ Maxx only a few times a year (basically when my mom visits), I do yoga instead of shopping at lunch... I would like to continue. Buy things to replace what is worn out or to fulfill a new need. (This does not apply to keeping Cora in tutus and exuberant t-shirts. I have only a few years of that left.)

8. Drink more water. Ughhhh, this is such a cliche, but I've really worked hard on (and have generally conquered! so much cooking, so much tea, so little eating out, so few prepared foods) my nutrition-related resolutions over the last decade, but my one remaining fail is water. I don't love it and I'm really never thirsty. I hate (haaaaaate) La Croix and any other sparkling water (yes all of them, even the one you like, I don't know why and I'm sorry but they all taste like pennies in my mouth and they're terrible), I don't like the fake flavor things you can squirt into water, and I can easily go days without drinking a glass. I do drink a ton of tea, but I work out every day. I'm probably dehydrated most of the time, I just never think of it. My last sip today was from the water fountain at yoga at 1:00. Maybe I'm a desert-animal? Anyway, while I will continue to ignore all the health articles telling me to eat breakfast, I do feel like maybe I should listen to the ones telling me to drink water. A glass a day once I'm home from work. I can do this.

9. Extend More Grace and Patience to those I love. I could fill reams of paper on my goals in this area (or whatever the proper digital publishing analogy would be; I'm sure my children have no idea what a "ream" is), but it's really the only goal that matters and the one I've been spending the most time thinking about. I've improved enormously in modeling grace and patience in my interactions with Landon when he's in high-tween mode and I have seen the results. I have... not improved enormously in modeling those things in certain other relationships and have seen the results of that. I can and do give a lot of time, energy, planning, emotion, care, and work. I am also exacting, obsessive, demanding, and unforgiving. I'm working on that second category.


Last year I did also successfully begin and maintain a skin care regime I love and that has definitely seen results. We have decreased our eating out to generally 2-3x/month and my cooking repertoire has continued to expand to ingredients I didn't know existed way back when I started this in 2016. I'm pleased with these things, and not just because they were the rare resolution I could fully check off, but because they are now such a part of my life I no longer consider them a task or accomplishment. They're just, what I do to my face and how I plan and cook dinner.

Outside the personal I have some home projects I want to get done, another triple set of photo books to finish, a revamp of my barre set lists to do and new barre playlists to create, and a total photo drawer mess that slaps me in the face any time I open it. But those are projects, and I'm good at projects. I'd like to blow dry my hair and look like a professional more often, but not enough to actually do it so there's no point in pretending or writing a resolution I'll fail. Same goes for getting more sleep. I do want to get massages more often and feel like that's as attainable as long as the balance in our health FSA account supports it. In the short term I want to write a post on books because I've read a ton lately and really need some new ones, I need to finish my post on Disney details, and write something to capture Cora in her increasing big-girl-of-the-world age of 4. We also took another road trip last weekend and I haven't done anything with that. I just generally want to write more because when I get in a funk and writing feels impossible it also always feels so good if I do it anyway.

I hope very much that your 2018's are off to a good start, or at least a resolved one, and I raise the glass of water James just brought me in your general directions.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Colorado Christmas, part Day (plus Skiing!)

[Continuing on from part 1 a few days ago.]

Christmas Day dawned with 18" of fresh snow from the night before.

It was gorgeous and freezing and the kids slept in until the comfortable hour of 7:30 a.m. Landon couldn't imagine what Santa would bring him because he got everything he ever wanted the night before (hand-controlled drone, k'nex roller coaster, 3D art pen, Under Armor shirt, arts/crafts project paraphernalia - truly, what else could there be?), and was quite tickled to find a surprise magic kit waiting for him. (Along with nine non-fiction chapter books about war, space, and/or mountain climbing, the topics of his heart; he finished four on our drive home.)

Clairebear VERY MUCH knew what she was hoping Santa would bring her - the Let's Play School kit from Lakeshore Learning. She wanted it SO MUCH and SO BADLY and was SO EXCITED to find it waiting for her.

She's taught a class to Cora, me, and her new "Humongous Pua" (a gift from Uncle Eric and always called by his full name).

I love it because I spent approximately one million hours of my childhood doing the exact same thing with the EXACT same school set. There's nothing like telling other people what to do, with structure, worksheets, and a grade book that is all yours.

She had also been dying for a "planner with all the months" which of course she got because how can I resist a planner-buying opportunity?? (I cannot.) And I forced upon her two sets of vintage American Girl doll books (Felicity & Samantha!) from back when they actually wrote about American Girls' lives, families, hardships, and dreams in different times/circumstances than our own instead of fluffy superficial stories that are basically the same for all of them. (I'm a little bitter about modern-day AG wimping out on the books; I remember them so fondly and felt like I learned so much reading about each historical girl!)

Cora received many a princess item the night before, so Santa brought her a bouncy foam pogo stick, roller skates (emoji praise hands to our neighborhood buy/sell group where I got them for $5! Also where I found the AG books!), and play-doh. I hate play-doh, but Cora loves it and Santa indulges.

The boys went out to clear the driveway while the ladies worked on breakfast and mimosas and the kids played.

It was a very Colorado Christmas day.

James started work on an igloo/snow structure with Landon and Claire while Cora found them all ridiculous and stayed warm and cozy inside. I stood in the doorway to take an occasional picture while still wearing my cozy clothes. I was with Cora on that one, though I do enjoy a look at James in his mountain man wear. He looks as good in the snow as he does in a speedo. Dreamy sigh.

At some point we had to drive into town to pick up our ski/snowboard rentals for the next day's skiing (my parent's Christmas gift to all five of us! also, HIGHLY recommend Blue Valley Ski Rentals- by far the best prices and great gear/service) and when we got back, the kids decided to ski down the driveway!

And the whole snow-covered street. Soon we were running our very own private ski resort.

Cheap lift tickets, nice long run down the street, but the lift lines are a little slow.

It was so fun! There was also sledding (that Cora flatly refused, forcing me to go down alone)

and exploring James's awesome igloo.

We were supposed to have a photographer come out to do family pictures, but since it was well below freezing and still snowing, she canceled her drive over from Denver and we rigged up my camera on a ladder in the yard. I thought they turned out great!

Papa & Gigi and the babies!

Rice kids!


My crew.

Seriously, given the temperature and the fact I hadn't brushed my hair or put on makeup, I was quite pleased.

Flying Gigi!

More fun was had. Cora deigned to sit in the igloo and Sky reluctantly sat with her.

These girls preferred the indoors, where Cora could attempt to direct Sky's actions to mimic whatever she was doing and Sky mostly did whatever she wanted. Everyone was happy and Cora LOVED having a temporary younger sibling. Just before we left she asked me, totally exasperated, "But Mommy, WHEN am I getting my baby sister??" I think Claire told her one will just show up eventually. Thanks for stepping in there Sky.

Mommy I will push her, 'kay?"

Later (time had last all meaning) we had an amazing dinner thanks to Whole Foods catering. We put the kids in bed and managed to make ourselves stay awake long enough to learn a new card game involving 7 decks of cards, teams, and math, but it was super fun. I've never met a card game I didn't love.

In the morning, we were up bright and early to go SKI. Except for Cora, who was happily ensconced in the mountain base childcare where, per her report, she played and painted, was "very polite" and "all the kids fought over who could sit next to her at lunch."

For the first time ever, Landon and Claire were going to ski with us. On our past three ski trips we've used ski school to give ourselves a semi-grown-up vacation, knowing someone else was teaching the kids while we enjoyed the fact we already knew how. Skiing (boarding for James) was our day-date, our grown-up getaway-- gliding down the slopes together, sharing the ski lift, getting lunch on the mountain or back in whatever condo we were renting, before picking up the kids around 4 and spending the last few hours of the day all together. It was a perfect family/romantic vacation blend.

But this year our day of skiing was a pure surprise and bonus. We hadn't planned to join my family on the slopes until my parents offered it as our Christmas gift (this trip was a Hurricane Harvey-forced add on since my parents weren't back in their house yet and there was nowhere else for us all to be together; and after this year, we all needed to be together!), so we saw any skiing we got to do as a bonus and certainly weren't going to pay the extra $400/day for ski school for two kids.

And it was SO FUN! Oh we did way fewer runs, and very different runs at that (my first time on a green in many many years), but I smiled so hard my cheeks hurt watching Claire slowly and carefully make her way down the hill.

Though on our very first run, which we belatedly realized was Claire's first run EVER, having never left the bunny hill she confidently conquered on our last two trips, Claire started out slow and steady and then built up a bit too much speed and had a spectacular crash before I could get to her, losing both her skis, and wrenching her knee under her with a scream that made my heart stop from a few yards up the hill. I raced down to her, helped her get up, and then towed her to the lift while she cried and whimpered. Back at the top of the mountain, she cried anytime she put weight on her leg, so we popped her skis and went to ski patrol. They didn't think anything was broken, but we hung out in the lodge with ice on her knee and hot chocolate in her hands for a while. After an hour or so we reunited with James, Landon, and my parents who were brimming with Landon's victorious turn down a blue run.

I switched with James and went out for a quick run with Landon - it was so fun to watch him confidently make his way down the blue slope. We made it back up to the mountain house for lunch and a reinvigorated Claire who felt "much better" and wanted to try to ski again. It was a slow go, but I was SO proud of her overcoming her (very well founded!) fears and making her slow turns down the slope. After a successful green we reunited with my parents for another go and this time she decided to fork off onto a blue run we'd enjoyed with Landon. Some of the parts were steep - Keystone has tough blues - but she scrunched up her little face and made her way down smooth and steady and her joy-filled looks up to us after a particularly tough turn were my favorite thing ever.

Our group formed and fractured throughout the afternoon. Landon got to hang with the big kids (my sister, brother, and brother-in-law) for a long blue run and then my parents stayed with Claire so James and I could race off and do a run together just the two of us. I finished out my day with Landon on a blue, picked up a very happy Cora from daycare, and drank a hot toddy while waiting for James and Claire to finish their last run together, a long blue that Claire handled beautifully at the end of a long day!

It was so great to get to ski together, and so special for the kids to get to ski with their Papa and Gigi and aunt and uncles. They're totally hooked now, though I'm not sure when we'll get back up there in snow!

That night was packing and leftovers and more card games. We left by 7:30 a.m., which was early than expected and had a very smooth ride home, arriving right at 9:30 (losing that hour on the drive back hurts, as does having to stop for lunch and dinner since we weren't able to pack all our meals like we do on the drive up). But we made it, unloaded the car, and then dropped into bed. And that catches us back up to this post I wrote earlier today.

We love love our Colorado trips. It's such a beautiful state, in all seasons, and getting to enjoy a white Christmas for the first time with all three kids was awesome. Add in having my whole family together after a tough year in a beautiful home borrowed from a good friend and it was perfect. 2017 kicked us around quite a bit - the passing of my aunt in January, my grandpa's sudden and massive heart attack in August, and Harvey flooding my parent's beautiful new home right after that, but the strength of our family has shone through at every turn and we're thankful for what we have, while still very ready to embrace a shiny and new 2018.