Monday, February 1, 2016

The Weekend of a Thousand Activities

The weekend of parties/booze/cupcakes is over, sadly/not sadly for my general overall health. We had SUCH A GOOD TIME. We actually ended up starting the weekend Friday afternoon after school when I joined several friends at an outdoor restaurant with a playground to celebrate one friend's graduation from seminary with beer and hamburgers. We've been having really stupidly warm weather and it was lots of fun.

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We had a few kids between us.

Saturday morning we started the party circuit with breakfast tacos and a house FILLED WITH LEGOS with another friend. This one was pretty easy for us since the kids disappeared into Legoland the moment we arrived and (except, notably, for the raucous upstairs trampolining that made the kitchen light fixture sway and flash) we really didn't have to intervene very much. There was great food and mimosas and cake. What more could you ask for?

When that was over, we didn't want to drive all the way home since we had another party in the same neighborhood that afternoon, so we drove to a sort of nearby park that I've wanted to check out to go hiking. Apparently everyone else in the city thought a perfect, seventy-five degree Saturday afternoon was a good day to go for a hike by a creek, so it was a little crowded, but not in an annoying way. Mary slept on Ryan's shoulder for the first quarter-mile or so, but rallied when the boys started stripping off their shoes to play in the water.

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I actually took that picture while we waited for Ryan and Charley to get back from the car. You see, Charley was attempting to do some nine year old boy thing and accidentally fell into a deep part of the creek, UP TO HIS SHOULDERS. I was looking another direction and heard the huge SPLASH, then turned around to see him hoisting himself out by a tree root. OOPS. He was upset by it at first, but then started telling the story to everyone he saw on the trail. Fun childhood memories!

(Also, when researching the park that morning I noticed that there was water in some of the pictures, so I packed a bag of towels in the trunk, *just in case*, because something like this happens EVERY TIME we visit a creek.)

After some more fooling around and exploring we headed to Birthday Party Number TWO, which, fortunately for us was super-laid back and at a park with a playground. There was a guy playing a guitar and reading stories that transfixed Mary for the entire two hours. Wes spent the whole time on the playground. James kicked around a soccer ball. It was very nice and relaxed, which was good, because when we got back in the car to go home it was WORLD WAR THREE. By the time we got to the grocery store to get a pizza for the kids and the babysitter we were ready to surrender someone at the fire station (kidding, but seriously).

We got home at 6:15, threw the pizza in the oven, changed everyone into jammies, quickly changed our clothes, and were about to push "play" on the Harry Potter DVD when the babysitter arrived at 6:30. Then we peeled rubber out of the driveway to go to our THIRD PARTY of the day, which was a grownup party for grownups at a fancy Mexican restaurant. After a day of really fun but completely exhausting kid wrangling this was JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED. Also I was glad to have a high schooler babysitting the kids because then I could say "Shoot, I'd love to go to the club with you after this, but our sitter has a curfew, next time!" because I was SUPER BEYOND EXHAUSTED. We drove home, checked on everyone, and then PASSED OUT COLD.

Sunday morning we were back at it again bright and early because the kids were doing the prelude at church. Charley played the piano and Wes sang (A SOLO, WHO'S CHILD IS THIS?). They did a beautiful job! I was so proud!!

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And then after that it was grocery shopping-homework-piano-workout-dinner prep-room straighten time. And then I barely made it through Downton Abbey with my eyes open (until that one scene ,you know which one I'm talking about, and then it was NO PROBLEM). BIG. WEEKEND.

Friday, January 29, 2016

A Prelude to the Weekend of Cake

Somehow, it is Friday. AGAIN. Which is so weird because I thought it was JUST Friday. Fortunately I don't have plans to assemble an Ikea bunk bed tonight, but instead have plans to meet up with friends for an afternoon of playground frivolity and hamburgers (and yes, OK, beer too). And tomorrow we have THREE BIRTHDAY PARTIES to attend. And not just the kind of birthday parties where you kinda sorta recognize the birthday boy as the blond kid who sometimes sits next to your kid at circle time. REAL LIVE FRIEND PARTIES. One is at 9:30 and another is at 3:30, both in the same neighborhood pretty far away from our house, so we'll either be staying awkwardly long at the first party or having lunch out and spending a weird amount of time at Target before the next party.

And then we have another, grownup, 40th birthday party at a restaurant at 7:00 FOR WHICH WE HAVE A BABYSITTER.

All that to say I'll be having cake and alcohol with all three of my meals tomorrow. Getting closer and closer to those New Year's Resolutions!

This has been a busy week in the arena of "make twenty five freshman REALLY EARN their lab science credit." Tuesday and Thursday mornings they made catapults and wrote reflections about the design process, what worked, what didn't, what they would do again. And Thursday afternoon I hit them with a statics problem that they had to solve in Excel. My favorite kind of assignment is one that starts out with abject horror and ends with "Huh, OK. That was pretty useful" and I think I got pretty close to that with that one, but it was THURSDAY AFTERNOON and all. There's gonna be some grumbling.

Monday night Charley and Wes had a rehearsal for Children's Sabbath at our church immediately after their piano lesson, so we went out for dinner and then had frozen yogurt. I was aiming for close control of how much crap everyone put in their bowls because it was a school night and I didn't want anyone to hurl (this has happened before), so I was watching pretty closely. But then James HAD to go to the bathroom RIGHT NOW and wouldn't go by himself in spite of it being about ten feet away from where I was standing, so I had to take him over there. And when I got back, it was TOPPING EXPLOSION.

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Wes is having trouble finishing assignments both at home and at school right now so when we were doing homework last night and he had to write two sentences about a book he read, I let him do five jumping jacks for every word he wrote, and YOU GUYS he finished NOT ONLY THAT ASSIGNMENT, BUT A SECOND DAY'S WORK AS WELL! I wonder if his teacher would let him do that.

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I will leave you with this picture of Mary wielding a six-foot long stick from last night that I like to call "I have three brothers and I WILL MESS YOU UP."

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Monday, January 25, 2016

If this van's a'rockin'

This morning was pretty average for a Monday, except that I found uniforms for Charley and Wes without having to perform a three-day archaeological dig in the corner of their bedroom. Everyone was relatively cheerful and cooperative. We ate breakfast together. We started getting ready for the kids and Ryan to leave.

As I was walking to the cubbies to get the big kids' school sweatshirts, I checked the thermometer to decide if we really needed to send them, since if the temperature is above about sixty degrees they inevitably leave their sweatshirts on the playground after shucking them off during a rigorous game of Nine Year Old Boy Stuff. I was shocked to notice that the temperature outside was SIXTY DEGREES, especially considering it is January and also STILL DARK.

"WOW." I exclaimed. Everyone wanted to know what I was so excited about.

"It's SIXTY DEGREES OUTSIDE." I told them.

All the kids wanted to *feel* how warm it was. This is because my first response to all weather news is always to go outside and EXPERIENCE it. This does not include extremely low temperatures but did lead to me being in wildly close proximity to a lightning strike one time. MEMORIES.

Before I could stop them all four kids had dashed out the back door into the darkness.

I was not concerned, but it was a little strange because we still haven't fixed our fence that fell down during Wes's birthday party, which means they weren't trapped in the back yard like they normally are. Still, I shrugged and continued talking to Ryan while we loaded all the lunchboxes in the backpacks and finished clearing the table and loading the dishwasher.

Eventually it occurred to me that the children had not returned from the backyard. And that I hadn't heard anything from them in some time.

I peeked out the back door. No kids.

So we walked out the front door and around the corner, where we could hear wild laughter and shrieking. Ryan's van was shaking gently in the driveway.

I cautiously opened the van door. All the kids were inside. Two had buckled themselves into their seats. The other two were enjoying the wide open spaces left where Ryan took the seats out to bring the bunk bed home Friday night. James and Wes had dragged a SCOOTER into the van and were riding it up and down the length of the car. Everyone thought this was FREAKING HILARIOUS.

James poked his head out, eyes flashing, and shrieked "THANKS FOR MAKING THE CAR LIKE THIS FOR US! THERE ARE *NO SEATS*!!"

It was sad to shut the party down and take everyone to school.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Switcheroo

As I mentioned in closing last time, the upstairs of my house (Charley and Wes's room in particular) is a total disaster, even on the best of days when I finally let go of my need to force the kids to do things for themselves and dove in with a glad bag and gas mask, it didn't ever really get that clean. I think it was because there were two hoarders boys crammed into the tiniest bedroom we have. It didn't even start out as a bedroom, but once we found out James was on the way Ryan converted the upstairs family room slash crap dumping ground into a fourth bedroom and a linen closet that opens onto the hallway. This is a great arrangement and it's not THAT small, just too small for Charley and Wes and their Collections (of trash, mostly).

So Friday Ryan brought home another Ikea bunk bed to put in the other room (fully assembling ANOTHER Ikea bunk bed rather than taking apart and moving the original one seemed like the best use of time and resources, considering future needs (SLEEPOVERS NOT MORE CHILDREN) and current furniture arrangements). He didn't want the project to consume all of Saturday (because he had some yard work he was really looking forward to) so he proposed we crack open a six pack and assemble that puppy at NIGHT. Which is what we did and I thought it would make a better blog post, but honestly I've put together one of those beds before and it was kind of a nonevent. Except that we spent our Friday night assembling a bunk bed.

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The pile of nondescript looking boards is a bit intimidating at first, I must admit.

The next day we dove into the Moving All The Crap stage of the project. And lest you think I'm exaggerating the state of Charley and Wes's room or being overly self-deprecating in a coy "sorry about the mess" kind of way, I present you with Exhibit A.

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It was *slightly* messier than normal when I took the picture because Ryan had already taken the drawers out of their dresser and moved some piles of clothes, but YOU GUYS LOOK AT THAT SHITHOLE. It is making ME twitchy right now.

Four hours, four garbage bags, and a trunkload of donations for the Children's Home later, we had successfully moved Charley and Wes into James's (larger) room and James into Charley and Wes's room. And gotten rid of TONS OF JUNK. We KEPT Charley's bottle cap collection, which is measured in cubic feet at this point, after a couple of years of having college student nannies and Wes's rock collection (approximately two hundred pounds of mostly hunks of limestone he found on the playground). We kept their books and their "wall of art" and their baseball pictures. We left behind A LOAD OF SHREDDED PAPER THAT COULD HAVE PAPERED THE FLOOR LIKE A GIANT HAMSTER CAGE. We gathered Legos from all over the entire damn house and put them in one huge bin in the corner of their new room.

My favorite part is that we used an old dresser to store their uniforms and they filled up ALL FOUR DRAWERS. In their old room both pants and shirts were crammed into a single cube in their Ikea bookshelf cube thing, which was what started this whole thing Friday morning. It was IMPOSSIBLE to find uniform pieces quickly. Now we know that Charley has ten pairs of uniform pants and three uniform shirts! THIS IS A PROBLEM!

Not a problem? The MILES OF SPACE AND STORAGE they now have for all of their items.

Here is Charley and Wes's room:

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And here is James's new big kid room (Charley and Wes's old room):

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IT HAS A FLOOR! A FLOOR!!

Everyone is LOVING it so far. Charley spends time sitting at his desk reading and working on homework. James gets to sleep on the TOP BUNK.

And now begins the next six months of retraining Charley and Wes to THROW AWAY TRASH AND PUT CLOTHES AWAY OMG.

After all that work we went to Sonic, obviously. And also, I feel like I've been hit by a truck. So much bending and lifting! #thisisthirtyfive

Friday, January 22, 2016

Hashtag adulting hashtag sneezing

Today I am having lunch with an administrator at a nearby college to talk about potential collaboration in atmospheric science work between my school and their school, so that means I couldn't wear my skinny jeans-tshirt-boyfriend sweater-slipper moc uniform to work today and instead had to look like a real live grown up. BEHOLD:

Yesterday:

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Today:

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Clearly I need to work on having a less vacant smile in future mirror selfies. Also, did I mention that after thirty-five years I finally got over my mental block re: blowdrying my hair (which I've had since I gave it a try when I was about sixteen, was unhappy with the results, and decided a more bohemian look was right for me for the rest of my life amen), bought a blowdryer and round brush at the grocery store and a product called "phemolient" from the place where I get my hair cut and FIGURED IT OUT.

2016: The Year of Doing Hard Things. Next up: Applying mascara to my lower lashes and learning to not eat cake twice a day.

Today seemed like a good a time as any to blow off some steam and have a good old fashioned mom-tantrum over the state of the upstairs, which can only be described as "flophouse". Trying to look like a grownup while being unable to find a pair of clean kid's socks while sneezing my way through a severe case of seasonal allergies PRE-COFFEE was juuuust about all I could handle this morning (or not handle as the case may be). So now I've got big plans this weekend to move Charley and Wes out of the tiny bedroom and into James's much larger room where they can have two proper dressers and space for All of The Legos and maybe even separate storage for school uniforms that doesn't make me want to collapse in despair. I am positive Ikea can help me with this.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

My year is finally starting!

Holy cow, you guys. Here's how my semester began: I was out of town for four days at a conference in New Orleans (which I didn't write about here because when I wasn't being all professional and stuff I was doing New Orleans things, which means, I guess, drinking lots of free wine at the Embassy Suites happy hour and eating AMAZING food. AMAZING FOOD.), and then I came back at eight o'clock the night before my first class (actually the second class meeting of the semester, with the first being while I was away), so I hacked my way through *that*, then attended to a million little details and meetings on Friday, had a three-day weekend with the kids, and then was back at school Tuesday with a ten o'clock class and no plan. That was rough. The good news is that (in addition to some other, more flexible, things) I have ALL DAY TODAY to plan tomorrow's class. That sounds positively luxurious.

So while I am doing that, enjoy these pictures!

I was at the conference to give a talk in the educational symposium on the new way I structured my lab class last semester. It was very well-received (even though: teaching about teaching, very meta!)! The educational symposium was really very good this time around. So glad I went. I also got some good ideas for another project I am working on, that I call "The Neverending Slog of Doom," so that should help. And also, I only took a few pictures at the conference. Mostly on the last day when I was getting really punchy and restless, as these things go.

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I got a free Lego minifigure in the exhibit hall and just like a preschooler, used it to amuse myself during the last session I attended, which was about energy infrastructure and climate change.

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Fortunately after that I had lunch plans with my friend Teresa, who I roomed with for the week. We had some good times. For lunch, we tried to find a sushi place, but the one that was close by was closed, so we ended up at this ridiculous place called Root that had things on the menu like "Buttermilk gel foam" and a bunch of words I've never heard of, except "charcuterie" which we both found hilarious and made a point to insert into the conversation as many times as possible.

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We didn't go for the whole charcuterie and instead opted for an individual selection of cheese, at the waiters's recommendation, some kind of aged white cheddar that was encrusted with barley hulls and soaked in whiskey. It was NOT BAD. And it came surrounded by a bunch of mysterious pickled fruits that were also delicious and some persimmon chutney for dipping. PERSIMMON CHUTNEY.

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We followed that up with some amazing sandwiches, some more wine, and dessert, which included chocolate mousse, cake, gelato, pound cake with sweet curry sauce, and other things that would have horrified the children. One of my favorite meals ever. They basically rolled me into a cab like Violet Beauregarde on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory so I could get to the airport.

In other news, Ryan finally found the source of all the mysterious candy wrappers we've been finding in the big kids' room! A pillowcase full of Halloween candy! He brought it downstairs and we ate everything that was worth eating then tossed the rest. There have been eighty percent fewer unexplained upstairs procrastinations since it was removed! All in a day's work.

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Now that James can ride a two-wheeler it is pretty much impossible to keep the kids inside in the afternoons. Yesterday we didn't get home until quarter to five and I NEEDED to make dinner to accommodate a 6:45 Cub Scout meeting, so while the boys rode around outside I had to make Mary ride inside. She was NOT HAPPY. But HEY! Concrete floors that make this kind of possible are kind of awesome!

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And finally, yesterday morning I reminded the kids that we don't watch TV before school and that if they had extra time they could read or draw and I walked into the living room a few minutes later to find THIS cozy scene:

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Which I took a picture of so that I could look at it when they are all trying to kill each other, which they did over dinner later that same day.

Friday, January 8, 2016

My face is itchy and I have a ton of work to do, but here are some pictures!

Wes's hermit crab, Destroy, has been missing for a week. *Someone* (not me or the other adult in the house, but the next tallest person after that) left the tank open overnight "just to see what would happen." What happened is that Destroy climbed up the wall and escaped to who knows where. We've been leaving food and his little coconut shell house out at night in hopes of luring him out into the open, but so far no luck. Poor Wes. Poor Destroy.

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I am still hoping he miraculously appears somewhere in a week or two like he did the time he showed up in the bathroom when we thought he was dead.

My cousin and her friend came to visit us for a few days and we had SO MUCH FUN. My sister and I picked them up at the airport and spent the afternoon eating giant hamburgers and shopping at a trendy thrift store where I spent $25 on: a shirt, a sweater, a Janie and Jack dress for Mary, an enormous framed print of the duck pond in Boston (FOR SIX DOLLARS!!!!), two small framed collages of birds, and a ceramic duck head that I am making Ryan hang up in the kitchen (which officially makes my kitchen bird themed, I think, since I had two birds in there before and will now have FIVE). Even Ryan was impressed and he usually doesn't understand shopping-related fun. We had a fun dinner with them at my parents' house on Sunday and then planned to spend all day Tuesday with them too. It was supposed to be freezing outside (which is a real problem, since we normally do outside things and it is hard for me to come up with fun inside ideas) so we started the day with the best cinnamon rolls in town and then headed to a vintage bowling alley (which was FILLED with retired men, adorable, but quite the contrast to our loud party of teenagers and kids who kept bowling in the wrong lane and getting the ball stuck in weird places).

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This is the only picture I got. Stunning.

After that, Charley was nearing DEFCON 4 (Bowling stresses him out like nothing else), and it was warm outside (surprise!), so we took everyone kayaking. The girls each took a big kid out and my mom and I sat on the dock in the sunshine for an hour. WIN WIN WIN.

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When they got back, Bridgette told us she was freezing because her pants were soaking wet and Charley said sheepishly "I have a lot of trouble controlling my paddles." Oops.

Charley insisted that we celebrate Three Kings Day (Epiphany) by making a King Cake. He further insisted that HE make the cake since HE got the baby last year when I hastily slapped a King Cake together two hours before Ash Wednesday. But since he was at school and it takes four hours to make a King Cake I had to start the dough before he got home. Then he came home and rolled it out, filled it with brown sugar, butter, and pecans, and braided it.

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The recipe was for two cakes and I made one huge one because that's how we roll. I had the last piece for breakfast this morning. Yum.

I am back to work too finally. I haven't gone up to school yet, because I don't teach until next week, but I've started working at the cozy desk we put by the window for the kids and it is lovely and sunny. And yesterday I left the windows open all day (because I made these amazing Chinese meatballs that were so so good but also made the house smell like a Chinese restaurant that was on fire), which made it extra special until one o'clock in the morning when I woke up trying to scratch my face off for all the pollen that had blown into my eyes all day long (I sipped some kids' Benadryl directly from the bottle and was able to sleep for four more hours before finally waking up and counting the hours until I could take a Claratin. Doing better now).

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That is not beer, it is tea. Also, popcorn, where have you been all my life?

Also yesterday, the weather was wonderfully warm so the kids played outside in our drainage infrastructure all afternoon.

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