Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Meaningful

Well, I was supposed to use the three week interval between my last day and the kids' last day to get an entire summer's worth of writing in, but AS IT TURNS OUT, I am not a little burned out after an extremely difficult semester.  Once I surrendered to the burnout last week and took an intentional day to chill the eff out, I started feeling a million times better.  Tuesday of last week I spent the day staring at my computer in complete overwhelm and felt miserable and defeated by the time I picked up the screamers from school.  Wednesday, when the kids got out at 1:00, I determined would be a recovery day.  I went to a hot yoga class and then had lunch with a friend and then finally ran an errand I've not had time for, buying a frame for a sampler I recently completed. 

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Yoga+sangria+indulging my old-lady hobby = much better day.

Thursday I was compelled to go to a weather balloon launch, which made it hard to make grand declarations about being off for the summer.

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Because academics are thrilled to work for the love of knowledge, they don't need pedestrian things like MONEY to pay for CHILDCARE or anything like that.

Someone I work work with remarked to me near the end of the semester, just when I was teetering on the brink of panic facing down a summer with both no childcare and also bizarrely high professional expectations, "You're going to get so much writing done, now that you don't have to worry about summer research!" I responded flatly "Summer research is when I get ALL of my work done. Now that I don't have any summer money, I cannot pay for childcare. No childcare means that writing time is squeezed into the hour(s?) between dinner and collapsing into bed." The fact that I have to explain that I CANNOT WORK WITHOUT A SALARY to people is infuriating. But explain it I will, because if no one points out the incredible absurdity of continuing to function as if academics are bunch of monks we will never progress.

I can't even think about it without sending my limbic system into crisis mode.

I think this is what they call burnout.

This semester was incredibly hard for a lot of reasons and I feel like I barely made it through. I am completely dumbfounded by my fairly good teaching evaluations, because most of the semester was focused on convincing the administration I'm good enough to keep around, not by doing a good job in my classes, but by scrambling to submit a manuscript and prepare for a three-day job interview that began the day after Wes snapped his arm in half. Add in a kid spiraling into depression, lashing out at his siblings and having massive tantrums every night, the general state of things in this country, and the normal demands of caring for a house and five other people, and I wanted to run for the hills.

So now, writing all of this out, I guess I don't feel at all guilty about taking a few hours to recenter myself for the next EIGHT WEEKS of ALL MOM ALL THE TIME.

Yesterday I had back to back kid commitments from 8:00 AM until 9:00 PM. THIRTEEN HOURS, GUYS. When I walked into the kitchen after kissing the last kid goodnight, it was 9:20, I hadn't eaten in eleven hours, Ryan was making hot dogs and cutting up fruit, he had already opened a Belgian White for me. I immediately started crying. Approximately thirty minutes later I was drool-sleeping on the couch, having only made it through half an episode of Father Brown.

And now I am going to put on my big girl panties and tell the people I'm supposed to meet with at one o'clock today that I have not accomplished anything meaningful in the past seven days and that I will not be driving down.

And then I am going to re-evaluate the concept of "accomplishing something meaningful."


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Monday, May 14, 2018

Mother's Day Weekend in Pictures

Saturday: Graduation.  It is always such a happy day for all the families.  Fun to be a part of.  Also: fancy outfit that I wish I could wear more than twice a year.

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Sunday: Yummy fried eggs and toast in bed, a passel of wonderful, earnestly scrawled cards.  Church, followed by a yummy brunch at the hippie grocery store (one of my favorite places) during which I ordered whatever I wanted and payed no heed to calories or financial responsibility.  Sat in the sun drinking a sangria while the kids ran around on the playground and the pond.  Went on a shopping spree afterward for a picnic dinner that somehow managed to cost twice as much as the London broil dinner we had originally planned (I blame the fancy cheese and snob beer.  And the cookie cake).  Bought a Topo Chico just because it sounded good.  Gave the kids sips in exchange for hugs.  Perfect day, actually.

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Went home for a bit of quiet time and goofing around with the watermelon we brought home from the store.  Me, after Wes did this: OK, now try to take a preschooler to the grocery store. #empathy

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Went to the pool for swimming and dinner, endured the screams of every teenager for three counties that was out for mandatory family time in honor of the holiday.  Chastised myself for being irritated by their loudness and horseplay, considering I would also be irritated if they were lounging on the deck staring at their phones.  Noted my kids engaged in a fair amount of noisy horseplay.  Had a beer.  Calmed the heck down.  Talked Wes down from a freakout after Mary accidentally kicked his bad arm.

Went home and released fifteen-hundred ladybug army into the garden in hopes of getting rid of the aphids that keep eating the leaves of the bean plants.  It is really fun to watch fifteen-hundred ladybugs attack a garden.  A whole bunch of them got in Mary's hair (pictured).

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And then I started the morning with a great, and very sweaty row.

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Things are good around here.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

M.S. in Procrastination

I have worked so hard to procrastinate on working on this problem I found with a research project I'm working on, you guys. First I went to the kids' school to sell tickets for the 5th Grade Picnic. Then Mary was being so adorable that I didn't want the party to end and I took her to breakfast. And I couldn't just stop at one taco each, so I ordered us a giant buttermilk pancake to share.

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And then I dropped her off and headed to Goodwill to see if I could find any cute summer dresses (me) and school uniform dresses (Mary). (I found one cute summer dress and one awesome summer date night dress, which I will totally wear on a date someday, even though most of our dates now involve some kind of athletics because before we can actually relax into a conversation over dinner we have to bike or climb or run or kick out all the stress involved in getting to the point where we can leave the house).

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The moment I've been waiting for since her 20 week ultrasound.

And then I came home and jumped right into watering the lawn, which involves finding the sprinkler, trying to attach it to the hose I asked the kids not to disconnect from the sprinkler, putting it in just the right spot, fiddling with the water pressure until the water is hitting as much of the giant dead patch as possible, setting the timer in the kitchen, spending a few moments having a mental conversation about whether I should grab a couple of cookies on the way up the stairs (final decision was no, given the giant pancake and the way my arms look in my new Goodwill dress--pretty strong from rowing, but definitely room for improvement).

I also spent about forty five minutes making my to-do list, returning an email to a friend, and talking to my mom on the phone.

And then the timer went off so I went downstairs to turn off the sprinkler. And then I remembered to switch the laundry over.

And now it is 11:08 and I am about to cram all of the things on my to-do list into the next three hours before it's time to run to the store and also get the kids.

And the only reason I feel guilty about any of this is because I just sent one of my mentors my list of research goals for the summer, organized by project and date. I think that is how accountability is supposed to work.

But at least the grass is watered!*

*We've had a huge dead patch in our front yard for months and I've just been waiting for the HOA to get pissy about it. Ryan had the trees trimmed so it would get more light and I barked at the kids every time they walked on it. I've been working at home for a week and so have watered it twice and GRASS IS STARTING TO GROW. Rocket science, you guys.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

This all feels positively EASY now that classes are over

May Schedule-pocolypse continues unabated. On Monday, it took Ryan, me, our sitter, and a neighbor to get all the kids to and from their respective places. It was a TRIUMPH of to-the-minute schedule planning and now I think I am ready to run a presidential campaign or a military invasion. It went like this:

3:30 - Sitter gets kids from school, takes them home to change into swimsuits, eat snack
4:15 - She drops Charley and Wes off at piano, takes James to pool for swim team practice
5:00 - I pick Wes up from piano, drop him off with sitter at pool for his swim team practice, observe James contentedly playing with a friend on the playground, barefoot and in his Speedo

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He was stuck.

5:30 - Pick Charley up from piano, deliver him to pool for swim team practice
6:00 - Ryan arrives, I leave for my guitar class (40 mins away)
6:45 - Charley's practice is done, he changes into his scout uniform, Ryan drops him off at Scouts, returns home to put younger kids to bed
7:00 - My guitar class begins
8:00 - My guitar class ends, post class happy hour begins
8:30 - Neighbor brings Charley home

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Monday Afternoon Invasion Staging Zone

Saturday and Sunday were similar, without that pesky school to get in the way or give any of us even a second of breathing room.  Yesterday Charley hassled me to take him to Academy for hiking boots until I finally retorted "If you want to add something to the schedule, you need to submit a written request two weeks in advance!"

Ironically this exasperating conversation occurred while we were on the way to the orthodontist to pick up the massage gift card the kids won for me for Mothers' Day (and pick up Mary, get gas, pick up Wes from tutoring) by writing nice notes about me.

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Last night Wes and James had a scout meeting that began at 7:00, and since Ryan is the Cubmaster they usually tag along for setup around 5:30.  We decided that I would drop them off closer to the start time instead because it was CLEAR that everyone needed a little bit of time to relax and blow off steam.  While I cooked a normal dinner that wasn't a sandwich, and the kids streamed in and out, helping with dinner here and there, they met up with a neighbor friend and all made kites out of string and plastic grocery sacks.  When I went outside to call them in for dinner there were eight kids running around in the culdesac, trailing plastic bags behind them on strings.


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Scout meeting shenanigans.

Also yesterday, between not enough sleep and too much caffeine, and some stressful situations around getting medication refills for a kid, I was all amped up and not getting anything done, so I went for a long row.

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This really did the trick and ended up being an extra good workout when I failed to account for the higher than normal current, rowed pretty far away downstream, and then had to come back. It was a good kind of difficult, and wasn't really a problem until I tried to stand up on the dock. I came home refreshed and stinky and sat down to develop a schedule for summer research (the kind I will be squeezing in around kid activities) for my mentor at school. Never set goals for yourself while still on a workout high.

Wes got his drone stuck in our neighbor's tree, thirty feet off the ground a couple of weeks ago. Charley and Ryan both tried climbing the tree to get it back, but it was just too high. My neighbor's son and I threw balls at it for an hour or so one night and all that did was get a soccer ball and a football stuck up there too. Ryan and I had resigned ourselves to it just being one of those hard childhood lessons, but then I was sitting outside with a friend and Ryan pulled up in his car, produced three ten-foot long sections of PVC pipe, went to the garage and fashioned a fork-shaped device out of another section of PVC, then walked over and plucked the drone out of the tree. Just in time too because there was a MASSIVE rainstorm the following day.

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Ryan's parents came this weekend and we went to a baseball game to continue celebrating Ryan's birthday.

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And today we have school until 1:00, tutoring 1:30-3:30, swim 4:30-6, choir 6:15-7! They're coming to take me away ho ho hee hoo hoo hee hee!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Tomorrow we only have two commitments after school

My schedule of the last week could be best described as an ONSLAUGHT. While this is not officially an advertisement for Google Calendar and all of its wonderful features like the way you can SHARE IT WITH YOUR SPOUSE and INSTANTLY SYNC IT UP ON BOTH OF YOUR PHONES is officially the reason I am still standing here able to function and have not dropped any of the numerous balls (unless you count laundry and personal hygiene among the balls) (yet) (can anyone else not say "balls" without looking behind them to see if an eleven year old is giggling? Just me?).

Saturday we had commitments at 8:00, 10:00, 2:15, 3:00, 4:00, and 7:00. I went to a rowing clinic at 8, then met Ryan and the kids at a birthday party on the way home. Ryan arrived with four fresh-looking kids who had enjoyed a breakfast of scrambled eggs before heading to the store to buy presents for all the birthday parties. He is THE MAN. Then, we went home for lunch and mandatory relaxation before parting ways so I could handle the 2:15 Pump it Up event with James and Mary while Ryan manned the 3:00 and 4:00 piano studies spring pool parties. We met up once again at 5:00 to pick Charley up and go out to dinner before James's guitar recital, which started at 7:00. Got all that?

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Mandatory relaxation included farm chores, like using a water gun to water the garden.

The internet found us an affordable brewpub near the recital hall with outdoor seating, patio games, live music, and a kids' menu. We all ate for THIRTY FIVE DOLLARS and NOTHING HAD TO BE TAKEN OUT OF A PAPER BAG.

Also provided, photo ops.

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James: "I'm worried about everything, Mom. Like, everything." He did an amazing job playing "La Folia" and "Sonatina on a Confection" (Hot Cross Buns).

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Sunday after church we bribed all the kids with a trip to the candy store and managed to knock like three niggling items off my to-do list. We even had time to linger on the back patio of the candy store (!!) for half an hour and now that I know I can spend ten bucks on penny candy (them) and chocolate haystacks (me) and hang out playing games for two hours all my summer angst is GONE. Mary was looking so sweet sitting on this bench so I asked to take her picture and she did this.

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And then Charley and I went out on a boat with his youth group. I tried to deliberately hang back and let him find his own way, which he did, making a couple of friends and hanging out with them, dancing along to all the funny youth group songs that he inexplicably knew the hand motions to, and being among the first off the water slide into the sixty-seven degree water. But that didn't stop him from coming to find me for a hug once or twice. Talk amongst yourselves.

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And that brings us to today. This morning I had rowing at 5:45, an ARD meeting at school at 8:15, an orthopedist visit for Wes at 10:00, and therapy for Wes at 12:00. I just finished teaching my class, which began at 2:00, and tonight we have piano for Charley and Wes starting at 4:30, guitar for James starting at 4:45, my Girl Guitar class, which starts at 7:00 on the other side of town, and a Boy Scout meeting that starts at 7:00 near our house. This is being accomplished via a careful plan involving crockpots and carpools and some lofty expectations for everyone's behavior.

But the good news is that WES IS DONE WITH CASTS!

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Apparently those lines indicate a strong place where the bones have healed and not perforations, which is what they look like to me. #bubblewrapmybaby

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Before our appointment we encountered another family with a broken arm in the Starbucks next to the medical office building and Wes struck up a conversation about casts. This kid still had the split cast all the way up his arm. Wes told him all about what to expect. I talked to the mom about sealed casts and giant foam blocks and growth plates (I suppose this is the big kid version of talking about sleep and feeding schedules and pacifiers).

Later we exchanged tired smiles as we passed them in the waiting room, Wes in his new splint, them waiting to have their cast sealed. The mom sighed when she looked at Wes's sleek new splint and said "You guys have already done your time!"

It doesn't take much to bring back the pit of the stomach feeling I had when I looked at Wes's first xrays. It's amazing how fast the cast became a non-issue. And now we are both going to miss it. Wes asked the nurse, the PA, and the orthopedist all if he could have another cast, since he will be doing swim team starting next week and doesn't want to mix it up in the pool with a bunch of other kids and no cast (A REFRESHINGLY SENSIBLE POSITION FROM THE SEAN WHITE OF THE MONKEY BARS). The doctor insisted he would be fine with no cast and suggested he buy a brace at CVS to wear in the water (in addition to the other brace from the office that he has to wear for six more weeks).

In closing, I leave you with this picture, in which I discovered that James takes off his right shoe every time he goes upstairs. Very curious.

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Mommy Meltdown: An Examination

I awakened from a (finally) restful night of sleep (no really!)  Sunday morning to the happy hubbub of children building a fort together (as you will remember, they lost screens until Monday after the Incident in the car on Wednesday.  Interestingly, they have been playing together creatively WAY more than normal and I am considering taking the TV away for ever, not really).  We had forty five minutes to get ready and get in the car for church; since Charley was acolyting, we would need to leave fifteen minutes early so he would have time to suit up.

Ryan got in the shower and I headed downstairs to nudge everyone into the kitchen for some breakfast and all the various medications (two kids with daily meds plus one more with an inhaler, it's like that scene in Orange is the New Black were everyone lines up at the med cage).  I was feeling rested and the children were happy and calm.

I hugged each of them hello and inquired after their dreams.  We discussed the fun events of the weekend and what we were looking forward to the rest of the day.

I tell you all of this to set the tranquil domestic scene which existed at the beginning.  And also my cheerful, content mood.  This will provide needed contrast to what came later.

I think it's important to evaluate things this way--did I start out bitchy or did the bitchy develop as a reasonable reaction to recalcitrant and inconsiderate children?

Things began to unravel when I imposed the completely unreasonable expectation that everyone eat breakfast and put on clothing.  They milled around me in anxious circles as I made coffee and slapped together a few PB&Js.  I had to remind each of them approximately six million times to sit at the table and eat instead of orbiting the kitchen island talking to me and gesturing with their sandwich.

If there is anything that makes me tense, it is restless children in the kitchen and having to remind people of things.  Especially first thing in the morning.  The worst.

Blood pressure beginning to rise, I noted that it was 8:20, which meant we had 25 minutes remaining.  I herded everyone up the stairs to change into clothes.  They were SUPER SILLY and slow on the stairs and I was officially OVER IT.

On the way upstairs I nudged the giant lug of a preteen out of bed and told him he had twenty minutes to dress himself and eat something because we were going to church early so he could acolyte (which to him is a treat).

Upstairs I sat on the couch with my coffee and provided air traffic control in the form of reminding kids about every single article of clothing they needed to put on.

"Good, OK, shirt next!"

"OK, one shoe is on, where is the other one?" .... "Well FIND IT!"

"Undies.  Always.  You always wear undies.  Even with long pants."

"Shirt.  Shirt.  Shirt."

"That shirt is dirty."

"Pants.  Find some pants, please.  Any pants.  PAAAANNNNTS"

At 8:30, Ryan wandered out of the bedroom, freshly showered and dressed.  At last it was my turn to get ready to go.  I had fifteen minutes, so I skipped a shower and hair brushing and focused on choosing a dress and shoes and brushing my teeth.

About halfway through this process I got SUPER IRRITATED that I wasn't going to get a shower and perhaps irrationally this turned into white hot rage.

I don't even like showering every day.  I had showered during the late afternoon on Saturday.

It was the principle of the thing.

Dressed, but feeling grungy, I walked out of the bedroom.  We had ten minutes before we had to leave and the kids were still milling around half-dressed.

In retrospect I should have just called it then and there, put on a movie, and taken Charley to church alone.

Instead I got really huffy and took my irritation out on Ryan and the kids and stomped down the stairs.  Stomping down the stairs in a pair of nude patent leather ballet flats is not terribly impressive as a show of annoyance.

At 8:40, with five minutes to go before we had to leave, I walked into the kitchen to find Charley SITTING AT THE TABLE IN A PAIR OF BOXERS CASUALLY DRINKING A CUP OF TEA.

KA. BOOM.

It's amazing how fast kids can move when you use that scary shrieky voice.

We were all in the car and dressed in five minutes' time.

I wonder if I should just start with the shrieky voice next time.


They redeemed themselves with cute sprinkler play that afternoon.

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And yes, later in the day I got my shower and took extra time to shave my legs and blow my hair out.  Wanted to look my best for the Pump it Up party I was attending that afternoon.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Holy testosterone, Batman

Yesterday was like a magical fairy tale of a day the likes of which we have not seen in at least several months.  Today was like that too, except the opposite.

Yesterday Ryan texted to tell me that after he picked the kids up from school, he planned to take them to the pool.  Would I like him to pack a picnic and a couple of beers so we could make a night of it?  The answer to that question is always yes, so I eagerly jettisoned the work I was doing and jumped in the car.  I did not get in because it was like swimming around in a recently melted popsicle, but the kids had a blast.  We spent a pleasant ninety minutes there and then wrapped our shivering little bundles into towels and walked home.

Everyone got ready for bed cheerfully and we read books together.  Wes and James wrestled good-naturedly on the floor for a few minutes.

It was a weird unicorn of a night where you have to tear yourself away at actual bedtime because you are having so much fun.

Tonight the kids rushed at me to tattle the shit out of each other before I could even put my bag down.  They all had so many grievances it was impossible to tell who was at fault or if this giant three way fight just erupted spontaneously in the EIGHT MINUTE ride home from school.

There was hitting and scratching and punching and one kid told me another kid "shook him vigorously."

I finally sharply told them to knock it off long enough for our nanny to tell me about it.

She used polite terms, but I could see the truth in her eyes.

After she was safely out of earshot I let them HAVE it.

Them beating each other in the car has been a problem for YEARS.  We have tried EVERYTHING and I am DONE.  We have no good options--waiting for them to mature, making them walk three miles along the highway to school, taking video and becoming overnight superstars on Youtube.

I power ate my dinner (hot dogs and mac and cheese, which she made, plus a bag of chocolate eggs and kind of a lot of potato chips) then went outside where Ryan had just arrived home.

We decided to keep them home from choir, which they love, because they have shown us they are not capable of riding in the car.

It KILLED me to do it, because they have their final performance in a month and they love choir, but OMG.

As part of their punishment, I had them each compose an email to their director.  Charley's said "I lost car privileges because I was being an ass----" before I made him change it.

And then we put them to bed at 6:30.*  You don't have to sleep, but you have to lie down and be quiet.

*James went to bed earlier for OUTRAGEOUS rudeness to Ryan while he was practicing his guitar on not the first but the first AND THE SECOND chances we gave him.  Then he slammed his door so many times I was literally considering how hard it would be to take it off the hinges.

Tomorrow is another day.