Monday, October 17, 2016

Part 2: Connecticut, Mark Twain's house, and my damn jacket

Didn't mean to leave you hanging re: the last two days of my momcation to the Northeast. The boys went camping and Mary and I had a very busy social calendar visiting all the people I know who have girls and like to finish sentences without having to help someone get down from something high. Also on Friday I enjoyed a morning of procrasitcleaning the hell out of the upstairs while one of my universities had a day off. As it often does, procrasticleaning resulted in several nights of doing actual work after bedtime (which fortunately was only Mary's bedtime and she is easy) and some tough choices about whether spending two hours folding laundry or two hours grading would be better. These are decisions no one should have to make.

ANYHOO. Monday morning I got up early and joined Miss N on her walk to the train for work. It's not very far and it was a sunny 45 degrees outside. We said a hasty goodbye at the subway stop when I got stuck behind the turnstyle like a total newb and she had to run to catch her train. She had left me with some instructions to get to Grand Central, so I patiently waited for the M train for a few minutes, then got on the WRONG DANG TRAIN, got off at the next stop, and waited for the REAL M train to come, which it did, so I got to preserve my dignity.

I rode the train to Manhattan, then took another subway to Grand Central all the while wearing my practiced Countenance of Disinterest that everyone there does so well. Got off the train and had one last experience of Pretty Things Are Around Every NYC Corner.


Bought my ticket to Connecticut and then bought the best chocolate croissant OF MY LIFE at a COFFEESHOP IN A TRAIN STATION (mind blown) and casually walked down the ramp to my platform and onto the train. IT WAS SO EASY.

Two hours later I was in Connecticut, where my sister and niece picked me up at the train station. We went to visit my grandma and have lunch. We had a great visit, met some of her friends, and refilled the bird feeders before saying goodbye. It was so nice.


We talked about doing some more activities on the way back to my aunt's house, but settled for porch beers and coloring books until my aunt came home. Then we had a nice family dinner and crashed early. Tuesday morning we left early to take my sister to the airport. Everyone else had to go to work and my flight wasn't until 5:30, so I rented a car and spent the day tooling around Hartford.

My first stop (after Dunkin Donuts) was Mark Twain's House, which is incidentally the first thing that comes up when you search "things to do in Hartford". The museum and tour were EXCELLENT. Though it was serendipity that I ended up there, I would have planned on it earlier if I'd known how cool it was. The neighborhood was historic and interesting, the house and grounds were beautiful, and I GOT TO BE IN THE ROOM WHERE HUCKLEBERRY FINN WAS WRITTEN.


His office was on the third floor, in the billiards room where he hung out with his male dinner guests (ladies hung out downstairs in the drawing room, which had a big mirror on the wall so the little girls could practice ballet) after his four-times-a- week dinner parties. The butler's bedroom, where all the liquor was locked away, was down the hall, next to a guest room. The reason his office was on the third floor was because his original office was turned into the school room, after he found the chatter from the adjacent nursery distracting to his work. We also saw the library, where every night he made up wonderful stories for his three girls before they went to bed. It sounds like he was a devoted family man and that the time they spent in that house was happy. So interesting!

After that I spent some time working in a coffeeshop, then had lunch with my aunt, then got a pedicure, then headed back to the airport to go home. It was such a great trip!

The only hitch was that as we were pulling away from the gate at Baltimore, I realized that I had left my gray corduroy jacket behind in the gate area. I am SO BUMMED about this and have spent many stolen moments searching for a replacement on Ebay. I bought it five years ago and wore it to the AGU Meeting in San Francisco. I wore it on my whole New York Trip. I've worn it on many, many fun fall outings in between. I really loved it and am sad to have lost it (though a moment of carelessness brought about by becoming involved in a vigorous political discussion on Facebook, then realizing it was time to board the plane, then running off to the gate, leaving my phone charger and jacket behind. Hopefully it didn't cause some kind of incident.) I found one like it on Ebay, but it is brown instead of gray and, you know, just not the same. It should arrive on Thursday and we will see. In the mean time, if anyone out there has a gray, corduroy Eddie Bauer military jacket (the epaulets are highly important) like the one pictured in ALL OF MY NEW YORK PICTURES in a ladies' size large wants to make a deal, SEND ME AN EMAIL. Because my efforts to make myself have a little damn perspective have been unsuccessful so far.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Those Little Town Blues were COMPLETELY MELTED AWAY

A few months ago Ryan mentioned in an offhand way that we had an extra free plane ticket just kicking around that we should do something with and I immediately volunteered to go back to New York to visit Miss N and Miss M and eat some amazing food and enjoy fall weather that does not require sunscreen and a bathing suit. So we made the arrangements, including a bonus extra trip to Connecticut to visit two of my aunts and my grandmother and it was set.

I was SO EXCITED all last week. It was Fall Break and the kids were off but I was not and I was trying to juggle all their arrangements with my normal workload--I was kind of losing it a little, but kept reminding myself that at the end of the week I'd be heading to NEW YORK CITY and then it seemed more manageable.

They asked what I wanted to do and I told them three things: 1) Eat lots of good food, 2) Go to Central Park, and 3) Go to the Met to see the American exhibit. We did all of those things AND MORE.

Our first stop was these beautiful gardens in Central Park (that's not true, our first stop was brunch, which was super yummy and cozy). It was spectacular. I would have taken more pictures, but it wouldn't have done it justice. I could have spent the whole day just sitting in the middle of all those amazing plants, but we needed to get to the Met and also it started raining. I loved it.





Then we took a pretty walk through pretty rain (I'm pretty sure my wild excitement over every single thing I saw on our walk became grating, but YOU GUYS IT WAS SO AWESOME) to the Met.

Why does everyone walk so fast in NY? Why don't they all walk along looking straight up, with their mouths hanging open? It's so pretty!

Eventually we arrived at the Met, which was also beautiful and intimidating in scale.


I felt weird taking pictures inside the exhibits, but my favorites were the Sampler Room in the American Exhibit, the massive mural of Versailles, all the ivory and wood carvings in the Medieval exhibit. We were there for hours and didn't even see a quarter of the museum. More amazing work around every turn. Hidden nooks and crannies. Inviting staircases. Beautifully decorated rooms from historic houses.

I did take this picture so I could make a Hamilton joke on Facebook (Here comes the General!).


We rested for a while on a bench in front of a large sculpture of about twenty-five stylized naked men and I was both glad and a little disappointed that the kids weren't there to completely humiliate me.

After the Met we walked to the train to go find dinner at a place Nicki and Megan love, that specializes in fondue and different kinds of dips to put on pitas.

I only thought to get a picture after we had nearly destroyed every last morsel of food on the plate (olive tapanade, walnut and pepper something, hummus, spinach and feta something, beet something). And forget about the cheese fondue. And the filet mignon skewer. OMG I am drooling.


Wonderful friends! (who pick great restaurants)


After a bit of a walk we were ready to eat some more food, so we headed to a bakery in Columbus Circle for almond croissants that we took home and ate in front of Saturday Night Live (which comes on at 11:30 there, I almost turned back into a pumpkin).

Among reasons I would like to go back and never leave is that this was the THIRD place we tried for almond croissants and each one was more amazing than the last. It's good we waited until we got here to buy something:


The next day I got up early and took an Uber and then two subways to Morningside Heights (ALONE. I was quite proud of myself for figuring this out) so I could go to the choral Eucharist service at St. John the Divine cathedral.

I love this little glimpse of the cathedral you get when you turn down 112th street.


Beautiful and massive.


Inside I sneaked one picture before the service began.


Afterward I made friends with a woman named Mary, who invited me to lunch in the cathedral house. I had plans with Nicki and Megan, but I did join her for a cup of coffee before working my way through the rain back to the subway. Nicki and Megan met me at the Times Square subway station and we rode the train to Brooklyn to a brewery for lunch.

I got the "Bavarian Breakfast" which consisted of two bratwurst, two pretzels, and beer cheese for dipping.


(As you can tell, the "eat good food" part of my itinerary was FIVE STARS.)

Later we walked to an ice cream place. The walk was freezing and very windy, but enjoyable.


Before we took the water taxi back to Queens, we visited the roof of a hotel to look at the view of the Manhattan skyline.


And then my hosts asked me if I would like to "Order in Thai food, open a bottle of wine, and watch the debate together," which, YES YES YES (they may have regretted this plan after I started shouting obscenities at the TV in a wine-fueled rebuttal to Drumpf's "locker room talk" assertion). That sounded amazing. It was all perfect. The perfect visit. I wouldn't have changed a thing, except possibly to make it longer. I still love New York, having stayed in Manhattan with four kids in the summer and having stayed in Queens with friends in the fall. I keep waiting to find it overwhelming and smelly and scary and it just hasn't happened yet. It is a wonderful city. I cannot wait to go back.

I left Monday morning, walking with Nicki to the train then finding my way to Grand Central to take the MetroNorth train to Connecticut, where I met my sister and went to my aunt's house and had lunch with my Grandma. More on that later because this is getting long and office hours are over so I have to get the kids!


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Yesterday was fun and overwhelming and today is a birthday!

Mid semester has arrived in all its mid semester glory, which is to say I am hopelessly behind in every area of my life, which must be why I thought it would be a good idea to sign up for a (PAID) freelance science ed writing assignment. I'm really excited about the project, which is why it seems OK that I now work until I can no longer physically keep my eyes open every night. Good news/bad news the deadline is October 4th, so it won't be going on for much longer!

Yesterday morning I had a dentist appointment at 9:30 and took full advantage of not having to be in my office until just before lunch. Ryan left while it was still dark so he could leave mid-morning to take Charley to therapy, which was at the same time as my dentist appointment (I would have happily rescheduled the dentist appointment so I could take Charley to therapy, but I'd already rescheduled it four times, twice for kids, once for class, and once for rowing), so I got the kids up, fed, and dressed, and did the two dropoffs. Then I worked out, ran to the store for dinner items, arranged the dinner items so that our nanny could find them (SHE LIKES TO COOK YOU GUYS. Knowing that if I put ingredients in the fridge before work I will come home to DINNER ALREADY MADE is highly motivating. I have really missed having someone at my house since Miss N moved away and this is awesome). I switched a load of laundry to the dryer, started a second load, and took a shower and got ready for work (I wore essentially the same outfit as the assistant principal at the kids' school, who I'd seen working the crosswalk at dropoff because I'm psychotic like that). Then I went to the dentist and then I went to my favorite sandwich shop to pick up lunch on my way in because, yup, still hate going to the dentist and a massive NY Italian and two cookies seems like a good reward for not losing it. Graded like a crazy person, met with a student, graded some more, taught, graded, met with IT, met with my chair. Graded. Picked up Mary. CAME HOME TO HAPPY KIDS, A HOME COOKED MEAL, AND A BEAUTIFULLY SET TABLE. Ate with the kids. Rode bikes outside until Ryan came home. Found a stray dog and returned it to its home (was kind of hoping we wouldn't figure out where she lived, she was super cute). Made a birthday cake for Wes. Put kids to bed. Then came downstairs to watch Call the Midwife and scale Mount Laund-more.


Then attempted to work on my project before falling dead asleep on the couch. Gonna give it another shot this morning. Here! I'll catch you up on some pictures!

Coordinating element in this experiment in pattern-mixing is hearts.


I love this dress-shoes combination. I feel like I should be on my way to bridge with the ladies.


We had a dog, for like ten minutes.


Wes got a new bike for his birthday!


Hilarity ensued while at the store.


Mary got her stitches out (right eyebrow). It was...a horrible experience for everyone, since the skin had pretty much grown around the stitches. HORK. Wes and Charley couldn't handle the screaming and excused themselves to the waiting room (Wes, on the verge of tears: "I just can't listen to her cry!" My heart.). James was a ROCK. He held her hand the entire time and calmly told her "You're doing a great job, Mary. What a good girl! It's almost over!" He was AMAZING. I had to pin her to the table with my body to keep her still. The doctor was trying to be gentle and distract her and it was SO HARD. She tried like five different tools and at one point I looked up, grimacing with the effort of restraining a forty-pound octopus, and said firmly "Just. Goforit." No more jumping out of the car. But James. He was amazing.


We had dinner at Rosa's on Friday. The kids take Rosa's very seriously.


And in the most exciting news of all! Wes turned EIGHT today! (or as he will tell you, he's not officially eight until 9 AM) He is such a wonderful boy and we are so proud of him. He is our thoughtful little tenderheart, who loves his friends. He gives amazing hugs and makes crazy combinations of food and calls himself "Combo Man" (last night I found him eating skittles and tootsie rolls together). He is so excited to have some friends come over Friday for bike time and a movie and pizza and cupcakes. He is such a great kid. Happy birthday to Wes!


Friday, September 23, 2016

Double rows, tacos, wipeouts, bikes, and malfunctioning electronics

I am writing to you on my new laptop, which I have because Ryan got tired of hearing me sigh loudly (at best) and mutter obscenities (at worst) at my old laptop, which is older than James and no-longer has a functioning "k" key. LOOK AT THOSE BEAUTIFUL K'S I JUST TYPED ALL WILLY NILLY! Also, the case on this one does not come apart when I pick it up and I'm pretty sure the DVD drive will never pop open randomly in my backpack BECAUSE IT DOESN'T HAVE A DVD DRIVE. My life just got a lot less annoying, you guys.

Except that I just noticed that my phone still hasn't uploaded the pictures to Flickr that I've been trying to upload for an entire week. That's annoying.

What else is going on? OH, well Wednesday I took a sub spot for a boat that went out at 7:00, figuring the 5:45 boat I often sub for didn't need me that day since I hadn't heard from them. Later, the earlier boat emailed to ask if I'd be interested in subbing and I politely explained that I already had a spot but to keep me in mind. They found a sub for THAT spot and then needed ANOTHER sub and so emailed me again so I figured, WHY NOT DO TWO ROWS IN ONE MORNING?

The first row was great, because that is the boat that is training for a regatta at the end of October and they work really hard and I love it. When we got back to the boathouse the next boat was waiting but I had to pay my parking meter, so I RAN to go do that and RAN back and got right into the next boat, which was made up of some extremely strong, extremely fast senior citizens. We rowed to the OPPOSITE end of the lake, meaning that I rowed the entire lake on Wednesday morning, in both directions, for a combined distance of a conservative TWELVE KILOMETERS.

I was happy when we got back to the dock earlier than anticipated (but not before we did the bridge to bridge sprint everyone is so fond of) because that was kind of a lot. After that I had breakfast taco plans with a friend and after that she wanted to try out the trail that was across the street from the taco place, which we did even though I was wearing a skirt. It was not hard to fall asleep Wednesday night, is what I'm saying. I barely made it through NOVA and that ends at 9.

Today I teach and then lead the kids' garden group at their school and then pick Mary up and then hopefully we will have time to go pick out a new bike for Wes's birthday. (His eighth birthday is next week but the Scout bike rally is tomorrow and he's still riding the bike we gave him for his third birthday. So I'd say we got our money's worth out of that one, especially considering it will probably be Mary's next bike.) After that we move straight into the school movie night and then, at last, bedtime. Tomorrow is bike rally and a friend's party and probably some homework and piano and maybe if we're lucky some porch beers in there somewhere (although the forecast calls for heavy rain on Sunday, the day most likely for this to be possible, so maybe not). Also my friend offered to remove Mary's stitches so we will work that in too.

I am LONGING for a boring night of TV watching, but all of the rest of this is pretty awesome.

I'd show you a picture of my bell pepper and all my little baby lettuce sprouts, and the way Mary folded an English Muffin in half and called it a taco, and the hilariously misspelled game of Scrabble Charley and Wes played last night, and the picture of Mary trying to drag all the boys' backpacks to the car the other morning because they forgot and she remembers those kinds of details, and the way Charley and Wes devised a way to pull the plasma car behind a bike, which was hilariously fun until they tried to go down a steep driveway, shot out into the middle of the culdesac, then wiped out, causing Wes to slide many feet across the asphalt and scratch his leg all to hell. By the time I got all the other kids inside (It was dinnertime anyway) Ryan had him up on the counter eating a popsicle while he gently cleaned him up. All the other kids brought Wes their lovies one by one. I love them so much. And again, I'd show you pictures of all that, but FLICKR ARGH HULK SMASH.

Have a good weekend!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Maybe she can be a pirate for Halloween

Wednesday night is now choir night for Ryan and the boys, so this Wednesday I dropped the kids off at church (they can now just run to their rooms straight from the car, which is life changing), picked up Ryan (whose choir meets later), and drove us to a restaurant for dinner. Ryan and Mary and I had a little mid-week Chinese food date and it was lovely as lovely as dinner with a tired three year old can be. And then we returned to church, picked up the boys, said goodbye to Ryan, and I drove us home. When we got home around 7:30 my biggest concern was whether I could get everyone in bed before NOVA came on at 8:00. I told everyone to go straight inside and up the stairs to brush their teeth then opened Mary's door to let her out. Of course she wanted to do everything herself, so I was feeling impatient but resolved to let her do it because I'm trying to focus on not being such a screechy shrew lately.

When she was getting out of the car, she tried to jump, and before I could stop her, fell out of the open door, still holding on to the hand hold, swung around like a crazed chimpanzee, and smashed her face on the edge of the driver's side door.

Like most instances when the kids have minor accidents, I found this momentarily annoying and worried it would derail our bedtime plans. Until she turned around to face me with her ENTIRE FACE COVERED WITH BLOOD.

I THREW everything I'd been holding (my phone, my purse, a glass of water, Mary's school bag) and scooped her into my arms, told the other kids "I need you all to come with me RIGHT NOW. It's an EMERGENCY." and ran across the street to the house of my friend, who is a nurse.

Since it was after bedtime, her husband was surprised to see Charley streak across their front lawn to their door. He opened the door curiously and looked up just in time to see me approaching with a bloodied and sniffling Mary.

"OH." he said. Then ran to get my friend.

We set her up on the kitchen island while the other kids watched Mickey Mouse Club (which they presumably turned on to distract James, who was running around the kitchen asking loudly if Mary was going to die). She carefully cleaned all the blood off Mary's face with some gauze pads and inspected the giant cut on her right eyebrow.

Mary was unimpressed. "I have a boo boo" she said casually "I wanna watch TV."

Did you know that I briefly considered going to nursing school instead of studying engineering? I always wonder what that would have been like. Watching my friend handle my bloody child with calm fascination as I stood uselessly aside and made stupid jokes to cover up the horror that was slowly creeping around my brain confirmed that I made the right choice. I am good at other things.

My friend told us she needed stitches and offered to come sit with the other kids so I could go to urgent care. My hands were still shaking when I called Ryan and asked him to meet us there (no choir for you! Our child has a hole in her face!). Mary chattered happily as blood slowly oozed from her face. "I have a boo boo! We go to da doctor!" When I told Ryan over the phone that I wanted to go to the place by a restaurant called "Donuts Tacos" Mary made up a song called "I like donuts I like tacos!"

She was DELIGHTED to see Ryan waiting for us at the urgent care. "PAPA IS AT THE DOCTOR TOO! HI PAPA!" she screeched at playground volume as we walked in the door. She loved everything. The pictures on the walls! Nemo on the TV! She exclaimed "I HAVE A BIIIIIIG BOO BOO!" when the nurse approached her in the waiting room. I left her with Ryan and headed home to stay with the other kids. Ryan said she was just as chirpy and excited as they walked back to the room, loved getting on the scale, climbed right up onto the table, happily let the doctor examine the boo boo, gleefully put on a gown over her tshirt and shorts, then started sobbing pitifully when they made her lie down, covered her face with a drape, and gave her a shot in the forehead.

Three stitches. I was so happy when they got home. Mary was thrilled to show me her new Anna Elsa stickers and Halloween themed rubber duck. She is quick to forgive, that one.

Ryan had to give her a bath yesterday morning to get all the blood out of her hair before school. Parenting is magical.

Also, they didn't put a bandaid on it at Urgent Care so I thought that's what we were supposed to do and sent her to school like that but when I picked her up it had gotten slightly puffy and the stitches were pulling on her skin like some kind of Halloween decoration so I asked our nanny to text her mom (who is a PA at the same urgent care place) and ask if we could put a bandaid on it because NO. Just no. And turns out she CAN have a bandaid. This is wonderful news. *shudder*

The next day (yesterday) was one long epic fail that I will get into another time, but I'm sure being whisked off to bed with the image of their sister covered in blood still fresh in their minds did not lead to a restful night's sleep. At least I hope that explains all the correspondance with the principal about one kid and the fact that I had to pick up another kid in the middle of the morning and take him home for a BATH (as my friend Sarah says, there's a first time for everything!). Thankfully I already had a girls' night planned at my house because DANG.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The literal struggle is literally real

I rowed on Thursday and Friday mornings last week, which was a hellish form of wonderful that left me starving and sore going into both my classes at the end of the week. On Thursday I rowed with an intermediate boat that took us on a two-hour tour of the lake complete with speed drills and a sprint between two bridges that took place at the end of the workout when I already thought I was going to die. The coxwain sang "I've Got Rhythm" by Gershwin while we all pulled for our lives.

But I loved it. And also I was glad when the next day's crew were a more laid back group (but it was still hella hard). Some of them had even, as I had, covered their hands with tape to protect the enormous blisters. I did not cover my legs with tape, but apparently that would have been a good idea because when I got into the shower I felt a sting and looked down to find a two-inch stripe of skin rubbed off on the outside of each calf. I feel like a real athlete!

On Friday morning the Juniors were at the boathouse starting their season, which meant there were about fifty teenagers hanging around in front of the bay doors, stretching and milling around in little groups. The leader of the boat I was on told us that she wanted to get back to the boathouse before the Juniors were done because the Juniors were "none too snappy" with the four showers in the locker room that we all relied on to get ready for work.

(I think the problem I had with my workouts on my own, before rowing, is that I could sometimes put my work clothes on right afterward, with no shower. This is not the case with rowing, where I first take a cold shower to stop the flood of sweat coming out of my body (I have, honestly, never seen my kNEES sweat before but SWEAT THEY DO) before then cranking up the heat to wash my hair and face.

We got back to the boathouse just as the Juniors were finishing up and when I arrived in the locker room I found all showers occupied. I got out my towel and shampoo and took off as much clothing as I dared (which was my shoes and socks) and waited for a shower to open up. I got behind the curtain, peeled off my shorts and sports bra with a surprising amount of effort, and took a hasty shower then wrapped up in my towel and jumped out so the next person could get in only to find that ALL OF MY ADULT CREWMATES HAD ABANDONED ME, leaving me in a roomful of teenage girls in undies and sports bras.

I stood there wrapped in my towel, dripping onto the floor, wondering what I was supposed to do. Two of the girls were spending their getting ready time staring at their own reflections and lamenting how "hideous" they looked.

"OMG I look so gross!" said the tall slender one, with the perfect natural highlights and amazing cheekbones.

"I know, I am so sweaty and disgusting!" said the adorable petite one, with the perky ponytail of thick brown hair.

Things continued in this manner as I cast my gaze around the room trying to determine how to get into my underwear without scandalizing a roomful of fifteen year olds.

Ultimately I settled on pulling my undies on under my towel and then putting my bra on over the towel before shimmying my towel down and off. The all I had to do was put on my dress. Which, when you are still slightly damp from shower/sweat and trying to simultaneously act cool, hurry, and not let anyone see your worn out middle-aged lady underthings, is no small feat.

The first attempt went moderately well except for the fact that I put my dress on backwards. And then in the flurry of activity it took to get it off, I managed to turn the whole thing inside out.

Fortunately the two supermodels standing eighteen inches away from me seemed oblivious to my struggle, and my Hanes Her Way cotton underwear.

Once I got my freaking dress turned back the right way out, I pulled it over my head where a combination of sweat and moisture from the humid locker room air caused it to come alive and lock itself around my elbows and face like a python. My arms, spaghetti-like after two massive rows in two days, wanted to concede defeat and let us die right there in that locker room, but after a short struggle, I managed to free myself and shimmy the dress down around my hips.

I was as sweaty and out of breath as I had been before my shower but still managed to blow my hair dry and drag my body up a hill to the car. Next week I will be bringing a skirt and top.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Road trippin

We're gonna have to make this short, friends, because I rowed with an "intermediate" boat this morning and I think I might die if I go to bed after nine PM tonight. It was all I could do to stumble through a seventy-five minute lecture on basic statistics applied to climate data this afternoon. I mean. I mean, I find the normal distribution fascinating, but I've done this long enough to know when I've totally left my class in the dust.

We went on a little road trip to Houston this weekend to visit some friends and go to a family reunion pool party at Ryan's uncle's house. We decided to make a weekend of it so we could see some of our Houston friends and also so the kids could go crazy at the Embassy Suites breakfast buffet.



This was good because we got to the hotel at nearly eleven PM after a fun dinner with our friends Heather and Charlie, who are grad school friends, and their kids, and the kids needed to power through the day on pure sugar and adrenaline rather than sleep.

Our first stop Saturday was my friend Helen's house, which is surrounded on three sides by a wonderful garden. Helen and I met in high school, in band, in the nineties. Now she is an oceanographer who likes to sew and paint and garden. I always love our visits. She gave the kids guava juice in wine goblets then put them to work hanging out the wash and weeding the garden.


While the kids worked she showed us around and gave us samples of all her veggies. It was a DREAM GARDEN.

Then we sat on her porch and drank coffee. I wish we were neighbors. I guess we'll have to settle for neighboring cities for now.


The kids had a rest on a quilt in the sun.


Our next stop was to have lunch with our friend Peter, who Ryan and I met in undergrad when we sang in his choir together. He shares our appreciation for good food so we met up at a good barbecue place I went to on my last visit to Houston when we launched weather balloons. The kids managed to amuse themselves while we caught up.


And then the late night caught up with Wes and James.

I have never once in my life left any BBQ behind on any plate ever.

The ride to the party was nice and quiet.


The kids disappeared shortly after we arrived and showed up later in the pool, where they stayed until it was time to leave around eight o'clock. I was enjoying talking to some of Ryan's cousins when the host came over to ask me "Where did Charley find that crawfish?" This was a surprise to me (though perhaps it should not have been) since I had just seen him in the pool not two seconds before. Sure enough I found him inside the house, walking around showing people a crawfish in a red solo cup.

(Turns out Ryan's uncle wanted to make sure Charley wasn't messing around in "the pond" because he had seen some venomous snakes there. NBD)

"Where did Charley find the crawfish?" became one of our taglines of the trip. The other one was Wes's declaration that "I don't brush my teeth in hotels."

The kids swam until it got dark while we hung out with Ryan's aunt and uncles and parents and cousins. It was so nice to see everyone and then it was hard to leave, but we had to because the kids were running on FUMES.

They took over both beds that night at the second hotel.


And then Mary got up at 5:30. Ryan took her to the lobby. The rest of us joined them around 8:00, where Ryan and I spent a leisurely two hours reading the paper while the kids wrecked the place. They had a Texas waffle maker. Another tagline, James: "MOOOOMMMM!!! THIS THING MADE MY PANCAkE LOOk LIkE THE COUNTRY OF *TEXAS*"

The drive home was a little fighty, but we stopped for pizza downtown and pulled into the driveway right about bedtime on Sunday. Monday was supposed to be a lazy day but I decided it would be more fun to plow through some laundry, give everyone hair cuts, and make them help me clean out the car.