Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Sadly, I took almost no pictures

With about twelve hours to spare before our church campout it finally occurred to me (after a friend mentioned the possibility) that the reason James's "cold" never went away and the reason it weirdly included puffy, swollen, black eyes that watered constantly (or as he said "My eyes won't stop crying and I'm not even sad!") was that *maybe* he has allergies. After all, I could see CLOUDS of pollen blowing around when I drove to work. So I gave him from zyrtec and TA DA! his eyes returned to normal within a few hours.

Wish I'd thought to try that before I kept him home on Thursday. And by home I mean back to school to plant strawberries with a different kindergarten class than he is in (he thought this was hilarious), a seventy-five minute statics lecture, a meeting with a research student, and a committee meeting, which fortunately took place in the cafeteria so I could bribe him with an ice cream cone.

I guess having at least one family member down with some nasty plague for three straight weeks tends to make you miss the allergy forest for the infections disease trees.

The good news is that we were all healthy (ish) to go to the all church retreat this weekend! It is a beloved tradition now and there was no possible way we were missing it even if we had to cart along a humidifier and shoebox full of medication (we avoided this, barely).

It was supposed to rain heavily Friday morning and one of my research group members was out of town, so even though I had three commitments before lunch that day, all of them were canceled, leaving me with a weirdly free morning. This is good because Ryan had originally, before my house because a typhus ward, planned to take the afternoon off to pack us up. He obviously couldn't do that after missing work in various capacities approximately six thousand times in the preceding three weeks, and now I had the free time to get it done.

He picked the kids up at school and we were on the road by four o'clock, which is a new record.

They had the brownies ready for us when we arrived around eight o'clock. James was so excited to be there that ON THE WAY TO THE CABIN, two minutes after we'd arrived, he rode his scooter down a giant hill, wiped out at the bottom, and ripped the skin off both his knees. He ate his brownie through sniffles and then went to bed. I returned to the lodge for cards with the ladies.

Saturday was a fun blur. Mary, James, and Charley and I took a yoga class (that was designed for children but kicked my ass) while Ryan and Wes went on a hike. Charley went fishing and had a giant tantrum that scared some other kids, so that was not awesome, and after lunch I made him come back to the cabin to lie down, which he did long enough for Mary to fall into a three-hour coma and miss the whole swimming window (fortunately Ryan was happy to nap with her).

I was in line for lunch when James and Wes came stomping in looking ready to kill each other. Wes loudly explained that James had *pushed him out the treehouse window. James screamed "IT WAS AN ACCIDENT!" Wes responded "THEN WHY DID YOU COME AT ME RUNNING LIKE THIS?!" and ran at James with both hands in front of him, slamming him up against the wall. I was all nice and camp-relaxed so I found this hilarious. Later Wes got retribution by flinging James off his scooter, giving him another legful of scratches and bruises. They were both still limping the next morning.

James and I went out in a single kayak (he sat on the back), which was super cool (the water is so clear you can see all the way to the bottom, which is very deep), but unbeknownst to me, the plug was out in the back and the boat was slowly filling with water. By the time we got back to the dock James was riding just below the surface and we almost tipped over on every stroke. The lifeguard cracked up when he saw us and I tipped over right in front of the beach trying to get out. I was glad it happened, though, because after that I felt like I could get in the freezing water and jumped right in off the rocks after my neighbor peer pressured me into it.

After swimming (and a public family fight that happened because Charley was out on a kayak for most of the time and missed his chance to go on the slide) was coloring and origami for the whole family and then dinner and smores, and an attempt to recreate the first night's girl time that didn't really get off the ground because everyone was so exhausted. We all slept hard and woke up when they rang the dinner bell Sunday morning.

We had breakfast and church. Wes took Communion on rollerblades. We sang "For the Beauty of the Earth" even the verse about family love that we sang at our wedding and have hanging on our dining room wall. I loved being out there in that beautiful place with my great friends. I wish it was a week long and I can't wait to go back next year.

Bye bye camp!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

I'm writing this to you from behind a closed, locked window, while wearing a face mask and spraying purell on everything that moves because since March 6, at least one family member--and sometimes two--have had the flu. Wes, as you know, was the first, or as I like to call him, Patient Zero. Next Ryan and I got some kind of upper respiratory pestilence that for me went away, save for a nasty cough, and for Ryan seems to have morphed into full-blown flu, which is great because when we thought we both had the same thing wrong we shared a bowl of soup. Mary came down with a fever the night we got back from our trip and James came home from school yesterday with a hacking cough and a 101.1 fever.

So STAY THE EFF AWAY FROM US, is what I'm saying.

So far Charley and I have been spared, but that's from clean living, good hygiene, and the virgin I sacrificed while we were at the beach.

Last week was SPRING BREAK!!

Since Wes was sort of feeling better we kept our plans to go to the skating rink on Monday. Wes had a freaking blast and even joined the Boys Under 10 fun race. (My sister and I joined in the "Girls over 16" race when it became clear that there was no "Middle Aged Mom" race and my sister overheard some girls say with disgust, "Oh look, the MOMS are coming over here"). I only took one picture, but you guys, it was 1992 ALL OVER AGAIN in that place. However, they did not play any Paula Abdul, which was disappointing.


Tuesday seemed like a calm day when I woke up and everyone was either sick or angry, so we went to the kids club at the movie theater and saw the first Harry Potter for a dollar a ticket. Then we went to my friend Rosa's house to have lunch and play in the back yard and then Wes took a three hour nap, ate some dinner, and then went back to bed. Maybe rollerblading was too much? Oops!

Thursday we went to the beach!

Someone was not a fan of the balcony.




While Ryan slept off the flu (we will never know because dudes don't go to the doctor) I took the kids to the Marine Science Institute we visited last year. We got to go on a ferry ride!



And then we went back to the beach.


And had dinner at the Whataburger By The Bay.



We spent our last morning on the beach with some friends we made down there and would still be there if everyone didn't get hangry around 1:00.




Then we headed back up the stupid highway that is stupid and makes everything take three times too long. It did not disappoint this time! We left around 1:30 and got home at SEVEN THIRTY, after stopping for lunch, potty, and coffee. TOO LONG.

A good trip.

I don't have much time to get nostalgic for road trips because we are going on another one ON FRIDAY, which is way too much, considering James and Mary (and me and Charley?) might be sick, but I know it'll be fun good attitude blah blah blah.

Monday, March 13, 2017

I really need to stop obsessing about real estate


Right after I pushed "publish" on that last post the school called and asked me to come get Wes, who was coughing so much it was distracting the other students. While I was going to get him I called Ryan to let him know and after he regaled me of the story of the giant screaming fight Wes and James had in the morning that was so out of control Ryan missed the turn for their school, we decided to go look at the bigger house this weekend. And then I took Wes to garden club in the afternoon, where he sat miserably on the bench the whole time looking pitiful, which made my nurse friend wonder if he might have a secondary infection. I took him back to the doctor that evening and SURPRISE! HE HAD THE FLU THE WHOLE TIME!

So basically everything I said in that last post is no longer true. Except I don't think we're moving. We've moved from dismissing the beautiful house to actually walking around in it like some kind of exposure therapy for my house coveting disorder.

Multiple times this weekend we had the following conversation:

Me, hopefully: So, have you been thinking about the house at all?
Ryan, casually, man-like: No, why?
Me: [soul dying sucking sounds]

Perhaps to prolong the inevitable by several months, I impulse bought Charley a full-sized bed on Craigslist, asked Ryan to go out into the rainy darkness to drive an hour round trip to pick it up, and then demanded we clean out the playroom for him right then.

Somewhere along the drive home some of the hardware jiggled its way out of the bed frame and Ryan had to go out AGAIN to Ikea to get replacements only to get home and realize that he was still missing two of those impossible little metal things with the line on top and the hole in the side. Defeated, Charley slept on the mattresses on the floor for the night and I went back to Ikea (ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON) to get the missing parts. When I arrived, I got number seventy. They were seeing customer number FIFTY.

Anyway. Eventually we got it all set up and the desk moved in there and I LOVE IT. We're all really jealous of Charley's room.

For now we are asking him to keep the floor clear and make his bed every morning since this is the first thing you see from the front door, but we're really path of least resistance kind of people so I'm sure that won't last.

Meanwhile in the dining room, we have a giant piano:


This arrangement is...working? Helping me overcome my liberal guilt and admitting we need a bigger damn house?

Honestly the thing most likely to tip the balance is the way we now have to listen to the TV on a very quiet Bluetooth speaker so Charley doesn't hear all the swearing and sex humor on Orange is the New Black as he is falling asleep on the other side of the wall. We might get a therapist's office-grade white noise machine to put outside his door because *that* is not going to work long term. Neither is watching TV in my bed, which Ryan prefers, because that is my winding down place at the end of the day and I like to do that ALONE BY MYSELF.

Ryan had a long talk with a realtor about what would need to be done to this house (starting with removing PERFECTLY GOOD appliances and replacing them with ones that are a different color, which makes declaring a 2200 square foot house "too small" seem even more decadent and absurd) and just thinking about all that work gives me stress hives. BLUETOOTH SPEAKER TV FUNTIME IT IS!

Even James and Mary find this conversation exhausting.


Anyway, today it is SPRING BREAK!!! We have been to therapy and later we are going to a sketch 1970s roller rink with my friend Rosa and my sister and a whole bunch of kids. Followed by happy hour, obviously.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Spine shots and real estate and happy friday!

When I picked the kids up from school on Monday afternoon Wes got into the car and immediately started honk-coughing. I turned around to look at him at a red light and was taken aback by his rosy cheeks and sunken eye sockets. "Oh, Wes, are you sick?!" I asked him. He said no, so I dropped him off at piano as usual only to have them come home an hour later telling me that "Mrs. V checked my temperature because I looked really sick. She couldn't tell if I had a fever so she checked Charley's head too for comparison." I had an actual thermometer. 102.6. Oops. Takes a village!

He came to school with me on Tuesday after a morning at the doctor's office being tested for flu (negative). He watched a movie at my desk looking especially pitiful while I taught and then we went home for some miserable lying on the couch. Ryan picked up the other kids and took Charley to therapy, picked up Mary, and then brought everyone home where we all ate dinner very quietly so as not to disturb the ball of misery who had finally fallen asleep on the couch.

He was home all week, but his fever finally broke yesterday at 7:58 AM and I emailed his teacher to explain that he was climbing the WALLS and barring another fever episode in the evening, would be attending school on Friday, since he would technically be 24-hours fever free at the beginning of the day today. I have never seen a child leap so gleefully from bed and get dressed in the morning. As much as he loves TV, he loves his friends more, and he is willing to sit through a day of school just to spend forty minutes with them on the playground.

Yesterday was fun because after class I had to go get SHOTS IN MY SPINE.

You are by now all aware of my ridiculous back problems, beginning with the superknot and progressing nicely down the path of arthritis and bulging disks and nerve involvement, to the point where my right hand was basically useless for writing (on paper and the board) and my right leg and foot would intermittently go weak or numb or start cramping up. Did I mention that all of this excitement was happening at two levels in my spine? Good times. The GP put me on an arthritis medication that was helping, and then sent me to a pain specialist who said I can't take the arthritis med long term and switched me to an anti-SEIZURE medication that works for nerve issues.

It works great in that I can write and trust myself walking up stairs again, and as a side benefit makes me feel a little bit buzzed for about an hour after I take it. #winwin

Since taking 2-6 beer buzz anti-seizure meds for the rest of my life is not an appealing plan for a 36 year old patient, he also recommended epidural steroid injections, which sounded like a party, so I signed right up.

They told me about half the patients choose to have sedation for the procedure, and half did not, and that if I chose sedation I would need to allow two hours for the appointment, fast all morning, and have someone to drive me home. I fasted all morning just in case I wanted sedation, but I still didn't really have a way home and really wanted a Schlotzky's for lunch and decided I'd just wing it.

I regretted that decision almost immediately when, after I had changed into my sexy robe, hairnet, and booties, they led me into a sterile room and arranged me facedown on the table, hooked a bunch of things up to my back, tucked a drape into the top of my undies, and swabbed my whole back with iodine, then left me there for several minutes while the doctor and nurses discussed what to listen to on the radio (Mumford and Sons). I took lots of deep breaths to keep myself from completely losing it. The actual procedure took about two minutes and was as painful as you would expect multiple spine shots to be (actually, I realized later, that what I was feeling was the numbing medication) and when they hit the right spot burning fire ran all the way down the outside of my right leg from hip to pinky toe. And that was awful, but kind of awesome because then I knew they'd gotten exactly the right nerve.

I was pleasantly surprised when they said "OK, you're ready to go!" I mean, if I'd known the whole thing would be over in two stressful minutes I never would have considered sedation. I mean. I had DINNER PLANS.

My lower back has been a little sore since the procedure, but a warm shower helped and my foot hasn't gone numb a single time since then, so I am optimistic. This effect will last anywhere from two weeks to seven years, from what I've heard. Let's hope for seven years.

In other news, we had a long conversation the other night about how badly we need a larger house, which feels elitist and wrong, but there it is. We really need a second living area and another bedroom so Charley can have his own quiet space away from the hubbub of younger siblings, which is enough to drive anyone up the wall, even someone who doesn't spend the entire day deep breathing through normal classroom hubbub. Ryan found a house that had a bedroom on the first floor, separated from the main part of the house by a hallway and the dining room. We could swing it and it is about half the distance between here and the kids' school, with a more direct path that doesn't involve the stupid highway that I hate. We were so close to going to look at it, you guys. Ryan was all ready to talk to the bank. But then we thought about our wonderful street and great neighbors that we love (and the general pain in the ass of moving and selling a house) and we just couldn't pull the trigger. It is so sad to let that one go. But we also really really love this house and don't really WANT to leave. I'm still trying to figure out a solution to these competing feelings. Adding a huge addition on the back would solve the space problem, but probably would cost more than moving and might just make our floorplan weird. Sigh.

And finally, the kids were extra emo this morning while we were getting ready to leave for school. Wes came out of the bathroom, leveled his crazy-eyed gaze at James and said sweetly "I spy with my little eye..." then angrily "TWO PEOPLE WHO NEVER STOP TALKING." then stomped out of the kitchen. And then Mary put down her toast and said wistfully "I looked at my pillow today and saw someone crying and that someone was me."

Sunday, February 26, 2017

To borrow a line from OITNB: Marry someone who knows when to order Chinese

This weekend was so insane that after church we came home and had what we call FOB, which is an old camp term that stands for Feet On Bed. I nobly tried to make it through the front section of the New York Times before joining Ryan, James, and Mary upstairs for a two hour coma of a nap while the other kids did whatever they wanted downstairs as long as it wasn't loud enough to wake me up.

(Charley told me that instead of FOB he was going to have FOC, pronounced dangerously close to f***, and when Ryan and I looked at him in alarm he calmly said "Feet on Couch", then smirked and skipped out of the room)

Afterward we spent some time cleaning up the back yard and bought Chinese takeout for dinner. So aside from the THREE church services we had to go to this morning, it was a pretty chill day.

Thursday night my mom group came over and I provided wine and entertainment in the form of assembling an Ikea bookshelf that we are using to store the kids' rollerblades and shoes.


Unanticipated side benefit: I can now reach my wineglass from the couch without so much as leaning over, like I had to do when I was using the coffee table.

Friday the fourth graders went on a field trip and the night before Charley was so excited he couldn't sleep so he stayed up with the ladies and helped with the bookshelf. As a result we came home straight after school and he vegetated on the couch while Mary and I did puzzles on the porch and Wes and the kid from around the corner rode bikes up and down the steep sides of the retention pond across the street. Mary took frequent twirl breaks.


Saturday Ryan's parents came over and we had lunch at a restaurant, which we left abruptly when James returned from the bathroom and announced calmly "I feel like I'm going to barf." Then we spent the afternoon making fondant and making approximately seven hundred snake cupcake toppers that I really should have taken pictures of but did not.


And then we went to the Cub Scout Blue and Gold, where is the end of year banquet where the kids earn their rank. Ryan is the Cubmaster and was in charge of the whole thing. It was SO cool. The kids had a great time and were so proud and cute in their uniforms. Unfortunately I forgot my phone, so I am waiting for someone I know to send me some pictures of the kids. Charley and Wes won the dessert contest in their categories and Mary ate four cupcakes.

I got a little verclept when Charley's den had to go up on the stage at the end to retire the colors because that's when I realized that HE was one of the biggest kids of the pack now. His den is the leaders and it is his last year in Cub Scouts. Give me a moment, I can't talk about it anymore.

We got home around ten and went to bed then had to get up early and get to church by 8:15 where the kids were playing piano for Children's Sabbath. Wes played the prelude and Charley played the offertory and led the Call to Worship. BIG KIDS DOING BIG KID THINGS STAAHHHHP.



They were amazing. Really amazing when you consider they'd been up until 10:00 cleaning up a fajita dinner in a church fellowship hall across town.

All of the kids sang with the children's choir at the following two services, so we had to stay for those too. Charley was kind of a wreck after the first service and a half and I really really really wanted just go home because DAMN. Breakfast tacos and donuts made us all feel better and we managed to get through the third and final service. I love the children's choir so freaking much.

And then we went home for a lunch of leftover hot dogs and had a group nap for two hours. A glorious end to a completely insane weekend if you ask me.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

She really is a delightful child

After a crazed week of frantic work and frantic runs to pick up the kids and frantic everything and one horrible day of allergies where I had to push on my sinuses with the heel of my hand to keep the violent sneezing at bay long enough to conduct a meeting with my research student (update: I took three kinds of allergy and cold medicine and two glasses of wine and went to bed then woke up feeling amazing #donttrythisathome), I just finished my last class for the week and feel like Fred Flinstone when the whistle blows on the opening credits.


Ryan continues to meal plan and shop, which is excellent. He planned for these veggie burgers from Pioneer Woman Monday night and they were SO GOOD (we had them as sliders). And so easy. Apparently he also bought some hamburger to make regular sliders for the carnivores in the family, but I didn't know that and made a double batch of these because we always have a couple of extra cans of black beans kicking around. An easy and surprising crowd pleaser! Way cheaper than premade veggie patties too!


Tonight we are having a chick pea curry with a side of chicken kabobs that I plan to broil because I'm a grown-ass woman who is afraid of the grill.

On Wednesdays the big kids go to choir with Ryan and Mary and I stay home to watch flashmob and Jimmy Fallon lip synch videos on YouTube. Mary is particularly fond of a group of bikini clad women dancing and singing on a street corner in Germany. She also likes the Jimmy Fallon-Emma Stone video that went viral a while back, which she calls "the one with the boy and the girl but not the one with the hat." She has excellent, if age-inappropriate, taste in YouTube fare.

I tried to sneak some ice cream while she was occupied with her magnatiles. Unsuccessful.


(Our stovetop really is that appalling)

And as I made my go-cup of coffee this morning I was struck by this poignant scene in the sink. They may wear pants that a freshman sorority girl could squeeze into, but they're still my wittle babies with their colorful plastic dishes.

Except for Charley's French press, obviously

In other non-hippie news, Mary is sleeping better than ever now that she doesn't have the temptation of three siblings and an entire upstairs of books to destroy. This has translated into a 6000% (estimated) improvement in her mood and attitude. Not once this week has she screamed "I DON'T WIKE THIS" and thrown her plate at me during dinner, something that used to happen with embarrassing regularity. As a result of this and the fact that I can actually sit down at 9:00 without making forty-five trips up and down the stairs to put her back in her room and make all the other kids stop yelling and get back in their beds, I feel like I might just survive this phase of my life without my basal ganglia melting and running out of my ears. Take that, hippies.

Monday, February 13, 2017

I've lost my hippie cred

Sunday afternoon we went to Chipotle for lunch and then I took the kids to a playground in our old neighborhood while Ryan went to the grocery store. When we got to the playground I was delighted to see a throng of organic-cotton wearing children and heavily tattooed, hippie parents of the type I usually see only when we venture down to the fancy playground grocery store.

Wow. I thought, This neighborhood is way cooler than I remember! Maybe we should think about moving back over here.

I took the kids to the bathroom like fourteen times then settled in for some idle phone checking while they folicked in the unseasonably warm eighty degree day. Then I overheard a woman talking to her friend about vegetarian recipes--apparently the neighborhood hadn't gotten cooler, I'd just stumbled onto the monthly gathering of the neighborhood vegan potluck group--so I struck up a conversation (Charley has recently given up meat, which is fine, but means I am always looking for recipes).

Somehow the conversation came around to child rearing, as it always does in these situations, and she intimated that she has trouble getting her three year old to eat what the rest of the family is having for dinner (a three year old vegan). She asked me "You have four kids, what's that like? Do you have to make a lot of different choices?"

"Oh no," I said. "I make one thing and they either eat it or don't."

She nodded along with what seemed like admiration. High on the sense of approval, I continued talking. Talk talk talk. Somehow we got on the subject of bedtime. I told her, "Ha! Yeah! Three year olds are INSANE! I just had to buy a doorknob guard to keep mine from wandering out of her room at night, putting on her Elsa dress, and painting with watercolors in her brother's closet and spilling a giant tumbler of paint water all over the floor!" (note: THIS REALLY HAPPENED)

Record scratch. Crickets chirping.

"A what?" she asked kindly?

"An Elsa dress?" I asked, stupidly.

"No, the other thing. For the doorknob?"

"OH, yeah. The doorknob guard. You know, one of those plastic things you put on the doorknob so the kid can't open it. It just kind of goes pbbbth pbbbhth" (miming a plastic thing spinning around and around a doorknob like some kind of child-hating monster.

"Huh" she said noncommittally and then exclaimed "Oh! That reminds me that I need to look on Craigslist for another Elsa dress. My son wears his all the time and it's getting kind of worn out."

"Oh yeah," I said, "I know what you mean."

But the moment was over. She busied herself with Craigslist and asking her son if he'd like the red wig with the braid this time or the blonde wig. Charley sat down between me and the lady on the bench and I engaged in what I now realize to be a war of hippie buzzwords, to regain my lost credibility.


*this is a secret cloth diaper code for those of you who use disposable diapers (like me, ahem).

"Hey, Charley--I mean WOLF! Should we go home soon and plant the rest of the GARDEN?!" I asked, slightly louder than necessary. "I bought some more COMPOST at the LOCAL nursery yesterday."

I smiled at him like an insane person, which I guess I am because I lock my kids up at night like Petunia Dursley.

When he agreed, I continued. "Should we plant SQUASH? KALE? MAYBE SOME YUUUUMMMMY RAINBOW CHARD?!"

"And don't let me forget to water our compost bin, and remember to put more greens in, OK?"

I should have added "Oh dang, we are out of KOMBUCHA again."

But instead it was time to go, so I used my best earth-mother voice to tell each child individually and at his level that it was time to go get in the car. This worked as well as it usually does which is to say not at all so in the end I just threatened to leave the last straggler there and to hell with hippie street cred.

Charley did me a real solid, though.