Thursday, January 19, 2017


Despite my best intentions I am having a lot of trouble getting rolling this afternoon. Possibly it's because I keep taking breaks to complain about how hungry I am and send pictures of myself flipping the bird at the camera to my friend Cindy on Facebook Messenger because I am a classy classy lady.

But seriously, I think I overshot a little on the caffeine this morning and this afternoon. But I mean, if it weren't for caffeine would we be an entire chapter ahead in one of my classes already? I DON'T THINK SO. Also, OOPS. This morning I unearthed my notes from the last time I taught this class and noticed that the material I taught this week was dated at the end of the month last time. No wonder the tone of the classroom is of confused hostility.

We bought a new bed nine months ago because I wanted to upgrade to a king and also because we thought a better mattress might help with my back. Unfortunately, the one we chose did the opposite for both of our backs and was way too soft and was getting softer with time. So we decided to take advantage of the twelve-month comfort guarantee the mattress store offered and get a new one. This was exciting because it meant we got to take the kids back to the mattress store for the second time in a year. The first time was so special and fun we were really excited to go back. Just for extra good times I let them destroy a Wendy's right before.


The mattress salesman told us we should lie on the possible new mattress for like ten minutes to make sure it was still comfy, which we did while the kids had total free range of the rest of the store.


We made quite a scene when it was time to leave, though, because no one could find their shoes and allllll the remotes for allllll the beds were mixed up. Ryan took charge of figuring that mess out while I handled the looks of scornful disapproval.

That night was Kids' Night Out at our church, which is why the mattress shopping outing was tolerable. We barely made it in the door without having a giant fight but right after that they were happily playing basketball and eating pizza and Ryan and I were headed into town for dinner and a concert. Everyone wins.

I only took one picture and it was of our brussels sprouts appetizer (not provided here because of laziness) because it was AMAZEBALLS.

We also spent some time in a kitchy gift shop nearby where I finally found the Hillary Clinton saint candle I've been searching for. I lit it on Monday for strength when my friend Rosa and I were in charge of supervising eight children all day long. I will probably light it again on Friday for--reasons.


The kids took good advantage of the provided clipboards, paper, and crayons at church on Sunday.


And James was delighted to discover a free pair of sunglasses inside the purse he bought himself at a yard sale for a quarter.


We've had an activity every night this week and have one tonight and tomorrow too. Last night while the boys were all at choir Mary and I watched a series of Les Mis flash mob videos on YouTube. She sat next to me and sucked her fingers with her other arm wrapped around my waist and asked me to find more videos of GIRLS singing, which I did. She loves the video of Kristen Chenowith and Sarah Horn singing "For Good" at the Hollywood Bowl just as much as I do and really, it was the perfect night. Also last night I started working on a Gryffindor scarf knitting project while drinking wine and watching a Frontline about Obama's presidency while Ryan was at choir instead of dealing with the laundry situation or preparing for class like I was supposed to be doing. All work and no play, as they say.

Friday, January 13, 2017

With quiet gratitude for my crazy, cozy life

I arranged my schedule this semester to have a "research day" on Fridays, so I could carve out a little bit of time to move forward on a couple of outside projects instead of living from day to day grading and planning class like my hair is on fire (last semester--I am still recovering from that). Today is my first research day. So far I have rowed (in the rain), made myself a lovely breakfast of scrambled eggs with gouda and coffee, started a load of laundry, and sat down to write on the old long-neglected blog. So far I'd say the leaning in is going well.

Perhaps the biggest news around here is that the kids and I are back at school! I had three wonderful days after their school started and before their school started that I used doing frivolous things like getting a haircut, taking Charley to the orthopedist, and going to physical therapy. Between that and the fact that my last class day was the same as the kids' last class day in December, and the fact that I had to rely on Netflix to get finals graded and grades computed and turned in, this week has been a bit of a scramble, BUT! RESEARCH DAY!

By the way, this mural covered both walls of the lobby of the medical office tower where Charley's orthopedist is (we saw him in a satellite office before, so I was not prepared when we walked in). Floor to ceiling, for a good thirty feet on both sides, naked men wrestling. The conversation went like this: Charley: "What are they doing?!" Me: "I think they're trying to show how strong they are." Charley "I think they're trying to make a baby. With a lot of, uh, helpers."


There you have it, fellow Texans! Unsure of how to initiate a conversation about sex amid our state's backward health education curriculum? DM me and I'll give you the address!

After a fighty end to the break, this happened after a mere four hours apart out in the world.


We were walking back to the car after a pleasant afternoon spent snacking at a local bakery's "dollar day" and long, leisurely trip to the library. Because? Those four hours gave us all just the right amount of time to remember why we love each other. We even ran into some school friends, which lent the whole thing a cozy, community feel. Also the library had a copy of "The Bitch is Back" available so everyone was happy.

And then we went home and rollerbladed and played outside with neighborhood friends and the whole thing was so quiet and fun and happy that I decided not to rock the boat and we skipped children's choir. A decision I was happy I had made shortly after dinner when the poo hit the fan and everyone was clearly exhausted and in need of a trip to bed quickfast.

And that's really all I remember about last week except that this weekend, as I was walking into Sunday School I heard horrible news that friends of ours had lost their college-aged daughter in a car accident. These friends have been part of our lives since around the time Mary was born, which included the hardest year of our lives, when Charley started having his trouble and Mary was an infant and Ryan kept having to travel for work. They brought spaghetti to my house and held Mary so I could read bedtime stories to the boys. They showed up with a new flapper for my toilet, without being asked, when I complained on this blog about my broken toilet. They came over when I had my gallbladder out and put Mary to bed for me. Our kids run to them for giant bear hugs when we see each other on Sundays. They ask about our lives, they encourage us when we need it (and when you are trying to get four children to sit through church, encouragement is needed often), they celebrated with us when Charley started doing better. We've had countless lunches together, filled with stories and laughter and, to be honest, lots of good-natured head shaking about my kids' weird behavior They've taken the kids for a whole fun day so Ryan and I could get a break. They, all of them, the mom, the dad, the grandparents, embody what a community and friendship should look like. And they are a wonderful, close family that has already overcome quite a bit. Sunday was an absolutely awful day. Ryan and I are gutted for them. Yesterday was the memorial, which was PACKED with hurting people. People shared stories and memories and we laughed and cried together and sang beautiful music and hugged and ate cookies and drank punch. It was hard, you guys. So hard. And every time I think of how sad I am, I think of how sad they must be, and it just kills me. My poor friends.

After the memorial I came home, made dinner. I watched a pack of neighborhood kids jump on my neighbor's trampoline. And then everyone took showers, and the little kids went to bed and Charley and Wes and I stayed up a bit later, reading and working on a puzzle. Charley had trouble sleeping when he went to bed so instead of absently encouraging him to use his strategies while I read or cleaned the kitchen, I lay in bed next to him and played the alphabet game with Maine words. And then I just lay there, listening to him breathe, hurting for my friends and wishing we could all just grab our kids and hang onto them forever.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Christmas wrap up, in seventy five pictures or less

I think this picture summarizes nicely how we are all feeling on this last day of Christmas Break.


At least that's how I'm feeling NOW. I was all riled up a few minutes ago because James and Wes added "listen to a story read aloud" to their list of things they cannot do without fighting. Other items include riding in the car, eating a meal, and urinating. But after I sent them off to bed I inhaled a couple of chocolate chip cookies and now I feel better. Self-medicating FTW!

Thanks to the Industrial Revolution we've been squeezing in lots of outdoor activities these last couple of weeks. Yesterday we ate our burritos outside and then went for a hike. We went a mile and it took an hour, but it was beautiful and fun. And because I'd hiked the more reasonable trail in this system last week with the boys, I insisted we do the more challenging trail, which has a warning sign at the trailhead. As it turns out it was kind of a lot for Mary.


I love this picture of them. I need to get over my disdain for our Christmas card, except that every time I take a picture like this I'm like THIS ONE! WHY DIDN'T WE USE THIS ONE?!*


*Fun fact: I spent two hours making a new Christmas card only to realize it would cost more than a hundred dollars to reprint, scrapped the whole thing, and bought a Kindle Fire instead. #fiscalresponsibility

Miss N came over again and we noticed that she, Charley, and I all have the same size feet.


Miss N had come to take James on a fun birthday outing of his choosing, so we all went downtown to go ice skating on the roof of the Whole Foods.


Hashtag Texas.



Charley wasn't allowed to skate because of the thumb so he and I walked a block away to go to my favorite bookstore, where he talked Rick Riordan with one of the workers for more than thirty minutes and bought two new books. He also got to buy a peppermint tea. Pretty much anything he wanted since he was so sad about not skating. We found ways to have fun.


After that we met up at the Capitol for Tuba Christmas, which was so much cooler than even *I* was expecting.

A hundred and eighty-nine tubas and euphoniums playing Christmas carols. WHAT'S NOT TO LOVE?!

The morning of Christmas Eve I sewed the "Helen" from my grandmother's stocking onto Mary's (Mary Helen's) stocking. It makes me so happy!


Wes was both a shepherd and a piano player at church. Charley was originally supposed to play the prelude, but again, the thumb, so Wes got to play it instead and HO BOY WAS THERE SOME JEALOUSY HAPPENING. Wes did a beautiful job.


During the service they all followed the star to Bethlehem (I was so relieved in this moment because before that Charley and Wes each had multiple different roles in the service that required them to sit in different places and get up at different times and read things and play things and sing things and it was... a lot to remember).


We went home to new jammies! (I've never done this before. Only did it this year because the big kids needed more jammies and I found a great deal and now I am doing this EVERY YEAR WITHOUT EXCEPTION).


A note about Christmas Eve. Last year the kids for some reason all conked out dead asleep by about 8:30, which meant that Santa came early and everyone was in bed by a decent hour, even considering movie watching and holiday cheer consumption. This year, we were worried Santa would have to skip us because KIDS WERE STILL POPPING OUT OF BED AT TWO AM. I fell asleep on the floor in the hallway until Ryan took over at 1:30. It was UGLY. I thought at least they would sleep a bit later in the morning, but NOT TO WORRY because Charley set an alarm for 7:00 so he wouldn't miss anything important. LIKE SLEEP. HEADDESK.

It was still wonderful, even on a newborn level of sleep.


The screams of excitement as I wobbled down the stairs when they realized that Santa had left everyone rollerblades.

Charley got to break the rules, because on Christmas all fractures are magically healed!


How many Christmas morning playing outside in our jammies pictures do we have now? A lot. They are my favorites.

Santa brought me high-quality journalism and in depth analysis. And coffee. Obviously.


Mary was a very serious mommy.


And then we went over to my aunt and uncle's house for benign neglect, alcohol, delicious delicious food, and hot tubbing.


I can no longer tell James and Charley apart in pictures just by glancing.


The english muffin bag I secured to Charley's arm with a rubber band did nothing to keep the water out since I forgot to tell him it was to prevent splashing and not submersion. I blame the wine. So that's how I spent Christmas night carefully blow drying a thumb splint. #oops #smellsbetternow

The day after Christmas was incredibly productive, when I, free from the mental burden of providing a magical childhood holiday experience for every moment of the day, was free to do six loads of laundry, dig my kitchen out from the mountain of sticky and sprinkles, send two letters of recommendation, and start gathering materials for my spring class. It was like a DRUG my friends.

And then we got in the car the next morning to drive to Dallas. The kids were less than excellent in the car, as expected, but we did get to stop for lunch at Crickets, a second location of a college bar we frequented in grad school. I was delighted to discover they added kids' menus and stopped letting everyone smoke so much!

Charley got SCHOOLED.


So did James.


Also: three words: Brisket grilled cheese. You are WELCOME.

And then we arrived at Ryan's parents and all was well. Ryan's parents make everything really special and homey and then keep the kids overnight and send us to the hotel where we drink Shiners and binge watch HGTV in bed. #traditions They took us to the Arboretum the next morning so we could go to the wonderful children's garden and play. We all had a good time and even met up with Ryan's high school friend and his family, who have a tiny baby that James wanted to take home with us. We had another great meal for dinner and everyone fell asleep relatively fast. The next day we got up early and went to see a cattle drive down a city street, then watched Charley in a mock gun fight.


A friend recommended a great taco restaurant so we headed there next and met up with our old nanny, the OTHER Miss N! We were all so excited to see each other that we blocked the whole line at the taco restaurant for several awkward and huggy moments.


And rolled around in piles of leaves in the street for a couple of hours. A good day.



Three of the kids slept for nearly three hours on the way home, woke up to eat some pizza, and STILL went to bed at a normal time, which means it was a really fun visit. Now we are just hanging out trying not to kill each other before school starts ON WEDNESDAY. Mary and Ryan go back tomorrow, though, so the rest of us are going to go to a movie and maybe, I don't know, take a three hour nap or something. And then I have three half days to slap two syllabi and a writing assignment together along with a dentist appointment, physical therapy, and a visit to Charley's orthopedist who will know NOTHING of Charley's misadventures over the last two weeks and hopefully will tell us that it is normal that it still hurts him to bend his thumb (which is why I tell him to STOP TRYING TO BEND IT OMG. TRALALLALALA!). Also I really really need a haircut. Also I accidentally put the kids to bed an hour early tonight which explains why I am sitting at the top of the stairs writing this in the dark.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Best of times, worst of times

With apologies to Dickens, I think this quote applies REMARKABLY WELL not just to the 18th century world of peasants and aristocrats, but also to the week before Christmas, when no one has school, one parent is at work, and the other parent really should be working but can't, and the kids are living on Christmas cookies and fudge.

Which is to say that yesterday was a bit of a disaster that came to a head at church last night, where we went for rehearsal, when the children's pastor asked Charley if he'd like a speaking part in the Christmas pageant and he burst into tears and hid in the men's room for thirty minutes (And boy was my friend's husband surprised when I opened the door and yelled "CHARLEY ARE YOU IN THERE?").

Let's start with the good stuff though, shall we???

Tuesday James turned six!!


He was THRILLED to get a journal with a lock and has been carefully writing observations in it since then in his adorable kindergarten handwriting ("Charley has a injured arm"). He also got a maze game and some Mad Matter (that stuff is so cool) and a Harry Potter wand, that were at once a huge hit and hugely popular with the other kids, which led to some friction (understatement). After some playing and fighting we had doctor's appointment for Charley (I spent most of the time sitting in the car with a screaming James while Charley was in with the doctor; he was screaming because he discovered that ink cannot be erased) and then we met Miss N for lunch. She spent the rest of the afternoon and evening with us THANK GOD.

Some friends came over for cookie decorating and birthday celebrating (and beer drinking for the adults, naturally). We had pizza and cupcakes and shooed everyone outside where they did outside kid things until it got dark and then they came in to watch Home Alone. It was happy and loud and kind of insane and so many wonderful people I love were there. See? Best of times.


(Though before everyone arrived Wes wrote some mean things in James's new journal and was banished to the upstairs until he wrote five complete sentences in the form of an apology letter to James. I went up to check on him after he'd been screaming for ten minutes and when I asked him what on earth he was screaming about he moaned "Correct capitalization is REALLY HARD!!!")

Only three sentences, but I allowed it because he had already tried writing "I am soryy" five times at the top of the paper, so it was more like eight sentences.


Our whole family was together again!

Wednesday morning I woke up still smiling from the happy funtimes we'd had the night before, which I think set my expectations of magical holiday family harmony a bit too high. I made the mistake of suggesting to the children that we go on a hike together, and that they should get dressed and find their shoes while I made a picnic. I made the picnic alright, but James was still lying on the couch yelling his crazy Archie Bunker old man nonsense in his pajamas, Charley was dressed, and Wes was completely dressed with sweatshirt and shoes on playing a computer game. After a few attempts at getting James to comply I left the picnic in its bag on the counter, went upstairs, had a little tantrum of my own, took a shower, and then laid on my bedroom floor reading the newspaper on my phone for a while. I was going to give up on our plan, but the thought of eight unstructured hours was motivating. Two hours after we'd planned to leave, we were finally in the car.

People without kids cannot imagine the amount of work it took to get TO THE TRAILHEAD.



Wes: "This is really neat, Mom! I'm so glad you forced us to come here!"

Everyone wanted to do all three trails, but after we got back to the car to go to the third trail we decided to go to Sonic instead.

Then we went to a liquor store to buy a couple of Christmas presents and the kids were adorably fascinated with the bottle chiller. That was the last moment of the day that was fun. We went home to get Mary and then bickered all afternoon while I made a really terrible dinner and drove them, screaming, to church for their rehearsal. I had planned to manage it on my own but had to call Ryan in for backup, which meant that he got conscripted to be a shepherd. They don't ask me because I exude an air of hostility and also because I think they thought I had enough to do what with Mary and James wrestling with each other over the Hymnals.

Today I gave up early and turned on a movie then retired to the kitchen with my computer to write this post and write a letter of recommendation for a student and maybe start working on the writing work that is due on the 9th or the two syllabuses that I will need before the second week of January. Or our Christmas cards. Just something to keep my hands busy.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Shepherds, broken bones, and boobs

Nothing like waking up late to no peanut butter or bread to motivate you to finally figure out the new online lunch ordering system you've been dragging your feet on! Here are your passwords kids! Don't forget them or you won't get to eat lunch! HAVE A NICE DAY!!

So where were we? Oh yes. Friday's Live Nativity.

We have been in the Live Nativity since Wes played Baby Jesus as a tiny baby and it is something we all look forward to. A new tradition is meeting my friend Rosa at our favorite hamburger place for happy hour before the show.

This year we had to watch the kids play from inside because it was so cold. Cold in December! What a bummer!

In the first show, Mary and James were angels and Charley and Wes were wisemen.


Wes likes to be every character he can before the night is over, so he was in five shows. So were James and Mary come to think of it. One show I thought Mary was going to sit out until she yelled angrily at an adult "I'M NOT TAKING A BREAK! I A ANGEL!!"


Wes and his buddy A were, as usual, kind of insane.


Charley sat a few shows out to enjoy the petting zoo. I went to check on him and found him blissed out with four chickens asleep in his lap.

Will no longer eat chicken.

He decided to do one more show, as a shepherd, which, if he lived in Biblical times, I think would be a great job for him. Caring for animals. Lots of alone time.


Yeah, like that!


It was such a fun night and also the first time Ryan and I weren't actually IN any of the shows. We just watched the hilarity with my parents, Ryan's parents, my sister and niece, and our friends. The best.

Saturday morning Ryan's parents took us on the Santa train, a restored steam train that takes you on a ride through the countryside with an elf that serves hot chocolate, cookies from Mrs. Claus, sing-a-longs, stories, coloring sheets. It is SUCH FUN.

Monday night we went to the hand orthopedist because Charley's thumb was still swollen (though it had improved from bratwurst to the less alarming breakfast sausage size) and painful and he couldn't bend it and my two medical friends together convinced me that I was probably not overreacting and it would be worth seeing the hand guy because unbroken thumbs typically don't look like breakfast sausages five days after an injury. Even the ped we saw last week suggested we go back in. But having taken a perfectly healthy child to a podiatrist for sympathy limping a couple of years ago, I was a little hesitant to go this time. Still, if you'd seen the table fall on him, you'd be like JUST TAKE THE KID TO THE SPECIALIST OMG. We had to wait in the adult waiting room, which does not have a TV or children's magazines, so after Charley won the skirmish for the single Ranger Rick, James settled in with a copy of US Weekly. I was finally starting to relax when he came up to me to show me a picture of a bunch of actresses posed in fancy gowns for some award show and said "MOM, LOOK! This is inapprokriate [sic]! BOOBS!" and everyone started cackling loudly. I told them they could each say "boobs" one time and then we were never going to say it again. #qualityparenting Later at dinner, James told Ryan "I saw something inapprokriate today!" and Mary deadpanned, without even pausing her meal, "BOOBS."

We spent another tortuous half hour in the tiny exam room waiting for the doctor (here Charley came across an ad in another magazine, this one for female incontinence products, with the slogan "Sometimes laughter isn't the only thing you can't keep inside," that sent him into convulsions of laughter), who gently examined Charley's thumb with the Look of Consternation then sent him off for new xrays. When Charley came back he asked all of us if we had ever thought about diabetic retinopathy, which he had seen an informative poster about next to the xray room. More waiting and more waiting and Charley asking everyone who passed the door if they'd considered diabetic retinopathy and more waiting and more awful behavior later, the doctor came back in to read the xrays and pronounced, "Yup. It's broken. Four weeks in the splint!" He offered Charley a cast, but said it was up to me, and since we'd been in that room fighting with each other for ninety minutes by then, I thought they all might need casts if we had to spend another second together. I said no thanks and we went to Schlotzky's to pick up dinner. The beer I had when I got home was one of the top five of my life.

This week I am sort of "off" because grades are in for one university and the final for the other is on Thursday morning. Yesterday I went for a long row on an absolutely perfect sixty degree and sunny morning, then worked on a paper at an outdoor coffeeshop by the lake for a couple of hours before visiting a thrift store in a fancy neighborhood that did NOT disappoint. I got Mary an adorable Hanna Andersson outfit and a brand new pair of Keen's for TWELVE DOLLARS. Then I had an unavoidable meeting and spent more than ninety minutes in the car stuck in traffic on the way home. BUT! Today I have no concrete obligations other than to Work On Some Things, which leaves time for this post, a touch of Christmas shopping, and some thrilling laundry folding. But we are SO CLOSE TO THE FINISH LINE (which is an ILLUSION because then I'll have to dream up things to do for four hyper, excited kids, one of whom can't do anything athletic or fun for the next three weeks).

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Faculty Gone Wild

Ryan and I spent last night dancing to a cover band and eating from an endless dessert buffet in the same hotel ballroom I once attended prom in. It was like the funnest wedding reception you've ever been to except we knew ZERO people and did not have to buy anyone a toaster. We weren't even going to go except that Ryan's parents were going to be in town and offered to babysit and we screeched out of the driveway so fast we forgot to get a picture together and Ryan forgot to take his ibuprofen (I keep saying to him "I need to eat! So I can take my back pills!" and it will NEVER GET OLD). We went back for the ibuprofen and got a couple of pics.

I love love loved this dress. I bought it in a hasty shopping spree at Nordstrom Rack between office hours and kid pickup. Literally, ran to the clearance rack, grabbed the dress, figured I'd never get it over my hips, stripped off my jeans and sweater, tried it on, loved it, ran to the shoe department to grab some booties I've had my eye on, grabbed a pair of tights, and was back to my car in fifteen minutes.

Apparently I left out a lot of details when I told Ryan I wanted to go to the faculty party. He was probably picturing that scene from Animal House when the stuffy fraternity brother says "That'll be Nigel with the brie". "There are drink tickets?!" There's a band?!" "This was all FREE?!" When we walked in and saw the food and the band and the bar and the fun fun people everywhere Ryan asked if I could swing a course assignment at this place next fall, ninety extra minutes in the car a day be damned!

It was not boring. Those PhDs know how to have a good time.


Here's the dessert buffet. There was also a pasta bar and a turkey carving station. I ate the hell out of some pasta (not pictured) and then dove into the dessert bar. Also for hors d'oeuvres there was this smoked jalepeno dip that I started discretely eating with my figures when I ran out of cucumber spears. Unsurprisingly I was up for part of the night with some cuh-razy indigestion.



The band got everyone out on the floor with a long set comprised completely of eighties monster ballads followed by four Justin Timberlake songs in a row. After their first set the campus chaplain came out to do a touching invocation. Then he stood to the side happily surveying all the fun and clutching a long string of raffle tickets. It was the first time I've ever wanted to be Catholic.

We danced like two people who have dealt with a LOT of SHIT in the last two months and who are out with no children and a pocketful of drink tickets.

Which is to say it's a good thing it was dark and I didn't notice my Dean in attendance. And also to say that getting up the stairs last night was not straightforward (because of the dancing, not the drink tickets, ahem).

We tore ourselves away reluctantly around ten and returned home to find that the kids had had a great time with Ryan's parents except that, naturally, one had puked on the living room floor (this was in addition to the one who puked at their piano studio Christmas party earlier that afternoon, prompting Charley to leave me the best voicemail of all time "Hi Mom. Wes blew chunks. Can you come pick us up?").


Obviously we didn't make it to church this morning and instead spent the time doing four loads of laundry, inventing dinner out of things I found in the fridge that were about to spoil, putting bread in the bread machine, giving James and Mary home haircuts in my kitchen, and making the kids French Toast out of an enormous gifted Panettone. So basically I was a lighthouse keeper's wife.

And this afternoon was the day of the big skating party, which went off without a hitch, even though there was a game at the end with a moderate amount of competitiveness. Even though he still has to wear his splint for another three days. And even though I pictured another evening lost to urgent care every time he fell.



He is totally hooked. Here is a preview of tomorrow's post. This also happened this weekend. It was a fun weekend.