Thursday, July 2, 2015

We will never speak of this again

Wednesday we decided to rally bright and early and head for the Y. If we played our cards right, we'd have time for a quick trip to Target to replace all the underpants lost to the black hole of summer camp, then I could do my olympic power walking, and we would be walking into the outdoor pool area right around the time swim lessons were over (for all the families that got their s*** together this year, sorry kids, registration is during finals week, have a floatie) and the pool was open for everyone to use.

Ryan loaded everyone into the car while I scrambled around the first floor gathering all of our swimsuits and packing a bag of snacks (if this pool trip didn't last until noon aka naptime our day would have been SCREWED). I was also straightening the breakfast dishes and finding my shoes and all my workout things at the same time so I was a bit distracted, but this is normal. As long as four pounds of grapes and an armload of Capri Suns made it into the car we'd be set.

Finally we were in the car and backing out of the driveway. We made it through Target without incident. The kids were happy and helpful and excited. We crossed the parking lot in cute little pairs of kids holding hands, buckled in, then headed to the Y.

When I was pulling the stroller out of the trunk at the Y my swimsuit bottoms fell out of the bag and onto the parking lot which reminded me of a thought I'd had an hour previously at my house. The thought was "pack your swimsuit top."

No no no no no NO NONONONONONO. I said out loud, the panic starting to rise in my throat. It startled the kids. Charley asked me what was going on.

I answered while throwing handfuls of swimsuits and goggles and juiceboxes out of the pool bag all over the road.

I forgot my swimsuit top. I FORGOT MY SWIMSUIT TOP. NONONONONONONO.

Now. I know you know that one does not just *disappoint* a carload of children who were expecting to go to the pool and who also outnumber you by FOUR TIMES and who are standing in a very public parking lot.

In other words. There was no way we were returning home for a swimsuit top. Which meant I would be swimming in my tankini bottoms...AND MY BRA.

Fortunately, I was wearing a very substantial (practically certified by a professional engineer, as per my physical therapist's recommendations that I am very grateful for now) hot pink, non-cotton, sports bra that could easily have passed as a swimsuit top. But that is completely beside the fact that A) I have not worn a bikini since my honeymoon which took place amid strangers a thousand miles from home in a very, VERY different time in my life and B) I HAVE FOUR BRIGHT PINK SURGICAL INCISIONS ON MY ABDOMEN.

After my workout, which included an extra intensity level and an extra five minutes because of the upcoming public mortification, we crammed into the family changing room. While the kids changed I put on my swimsuit bottoms and sneaked a quick glance in the mirror. Not terrible. Not great. I figured I was about the 50th percentile. I'll take that, considering the alternative was going home where the bored kids would eat me for lunch.

I did an extra careful and thorough sunscreen job on the kids, prolonging the inevitable, and then, finally, with a quick glance around to make sure the kids' assistant principal wasn't there (I'd run into her there before and she is lovely, but I did not want to be hanging out with her IN MY BRA) I slowly removed my shirt.

Wes sensed my trepidation and said I looked great. He is my favorite.

Once we all got in the pool my fears of people seeing me half naked were quickly usurped by fears of getting caught by a lifeguard. I mean, I know I was adequately covered but can you imagine a lifeguard telling you you have to get out of the Y pool because "you're not wearing a swimsuit"? CAN YOU IMAGINE?

So I kept to the side of the pool far away from the lifeguards and tried to have as much fun as possible. Which wasn't hard because Mary just learned to use a Puddle Jumper vest and she looks so cute just dangling her long legs in the water.

Really it was no big deal until it was adult swim and I had to fold myself into a deck chair while I rummaged through our bag for the snacks. That is not a flattering angle for anyone. James wanted to know why adult tummies look different than kid tummies.

We had fun swimming for the rest of the morning, except for the part when Wes got pissed because I wouldn't let him go alone to the indoor pool slide (and instead told him he had to use either of the TWO outdoor pool slides like some kind of peasant) and ripped off his swim bracelet and pouted on our deck chair for the entire hour between adult swims (I thought he was pouting but he was actually eating his way through the rest of our snack bag, MATCH POINT WES). Even then *I* was having fun with the other three kids while Wes proved a point. We left around noon and had lunch and naps and a very nice afternoon at home. With my shirt on. Fully clothed. Not naked.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Kitchen kitchen kitchen KIIITTTCHHHEEENN

I may have mentioned that we are doing a bit of work in the kitchen, yes? Well I have good news, you're not going to have to keep hearing about it because WE HAVE COUNTERS. Counters were the final step in the "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie: Home Improvement Edition" and they came on MONDAY. HAH. LEH. U. JAH.

Here's how the story goes, if you are not familiar with it.

If you want to put six people around your table, you have to eat in the dining room.
If you want to eat in the dining room, you have to rip up the carpet.
If you want to rip up the carpet, you will need stained concrete in your entire downstairs.
If you want stained concrete in the entire downstairs you will have to completely move out of the downstairs for an entire week while they install them.
After they install the floors you will still need somewhere to sit in the kitchen, so you will build a peninsula and breakfast bar from stock cabinetry at Lowes.
Finding a stain to match your new oak cabinets to your aging builder-grade maple cabinets will make you want to kill someone. Like the someone who buys a new can of stain every day until he finds exaaaactly the right one. This behavior is infuriating but ultimately you will be so happy with the result that you will stop threatening to move out.
Once you build the peninsula you will need a counter, so you will drag your feet and ultimately order one, wait a week for them to come measure, then wait four weeks for it to be manufactured, then wait another week for it to be installed.
In the meantime you will use a sheet of plywood as a counter, which is extremely practical except for the splinters and the fact that it's basically impossible to clean.

Monday was the long anticipated delivery day of The Counters and signified the practical end of Kitchenpocolypse 2015. Incidentally, the reason we undertook this project was simply to create enough space in our kitchen that we could FUNCTION as a family of six. The alternative was moving to a bigger house with a kitchen that didn't fill me with rage every minute of the day.

Before our little renovation, we had what I refer to as the camper counter, approximately four square feet of useable space between the stove and sink. There was no place to line up the plates to divvy up the food and no space to prep multiple things at once. I was constantly knocking over my wine glass while attempting to shred cheese and roll enchiladas and whatnot. I've been dealing with this for a long time and, well, enough is enough, the kids aren't getting any smaller. We augmented the camper counter with a counter height table from Ikea that we bought at an estate sale. This worked OK, except it was WICKED SUPER CROWDED between the Ikea table, the two stools that went under it, the kitchen table, the bench, and the four chairs. That is a lot of furniture in one kitchen. AND we couldn't extend the table with the leaf because there was no room so the kids were constantly all up in eachother's space while they were eating, which you can imagine led to some friction.

ALSO ALSO ALSO the downstairs bathroom is in the corner of the kitchen RIGHT NEXT TO THE TABLE, which is why you don't let high school interns design floor plans. The moment we decided to redo the kitchen happened during dinner one night when one kid got up from the table, TOOK A MASSIVE DUMP IN THE BATHROOM WITHOUT EVEN CLOSING THE DOOR OR INTERRUPTING THE CONVERSATION HE AND I WERE HAVING, then returned to the table. That's the moment Ryan and I looked at each other and said "I think we can scare up some extra cash so THAT never happens again."

Another interesting fact about the bathroom situation is that when I hosted girls' night, everyone always left way before normal and I think it's because THEY HAD TO PEE AND DIDN'T WANT TO DO IT RIGHT NEXT TO THE TABLE. I hosted two weeks ago at the new improved kitchen table in the dining room and the last friend left at 11:00. BOOM.

So Monday morning, after staying up until one o'clock in the morning prepping everything, this is what we were working with. The kids ate breakfast at the coffee table.

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The workers came right on time and went to work, while I kept a hoard of curious onlookers out of the way. They were done in a couple of hours and TA DA!!! MILES AND MILES OF COUNTERS.

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I was excited.

We still ate lunch out because watching someone else work on my house was exhausting and also we still didn't have a sink.

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By dinnertime, the peninsula had already seen tons of use. Charley and his buddies came in for water and sat down there (although later there were so many kids in my kitchen I waved a box of popsicles at them and they all scattered into the back yard). Friends came over and sat there to talk while I made dinner. It's like it needed to be there all along!

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They were taking a break from hauling EIGHT BAGS of yard waste several hundred yards from my neighbor's house to use in the compost bin.

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After bedtime Ryan reinstalled our old sink and this new tall faucet he surprised me with. I helped him by making many, MANY caulk jokes. SOOO many caulk jokes.

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But OH YOU GUYS. It's been less than forty eight hours and I am completely in love with my kitchen. When you bring groceries home there is a place to put them down! I made cookies tonight and had a spot for the cooling racks! I made the cookies at the same time I made dinner and NOTHING FELL OVER OR CAUGHT ON FIRE! It takes ten seconds to sweep all of the kids' breakfast dishes into the sink! There is enough room for everyone in the family to walk around in the kitchen and get to the bathroom and the fridge and the back door and the garage door and the pantry without clobbering someone else. This needed to happen. As they say, "If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." And if Momma is constantly stubbing her toe on wayward chairs, tripping over children, and eating dinner to the sounds of a child farting four feet away from the table, MOMMA AIN'T HAPPY. Yay for home improvement. And for Ryan for trusting my vision and experience as primary kitchen user and doing much of the work including finding the right stain, installing the sink and faucet, building the frame for the peninsula, and hanging the beadboard.

KITCHEN!

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

I'm a rock star

I spent last week at science camp a professional development centered around using ocean sediment cores to learn more about the history of the Earth's climate. I have been SO EXCITED about this ever since I found out I got in earlier this year. Climate proxies are one of the weakest parts of my earth science and climate classes but the students always have SO MANY QUESTIONS. Plus, the week promised lots of hands on experience, including a field trip. Also, there almost certainly promised to be box lunches, which is basically why I chose a career in academic science.

The first thing we did was take a walk through the forty-degree refrigerator where all the cores are stored and also where I wish I had been working during my pregnancies. I couldn't resist making someone take my picture with millions of years of earth's history because it was really awesome. And cold.

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Some of these cores had sediment in them that goes back MILLIONS of years. MILLIONS. We saw a model of a core that showed what was happening on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico when the dinosaurs went extinct (This is called the K-T Boundary). We worked through data that suggested there was a pattern of droughts associated with the abandonment of Mayan cities on the Yucatan Peninsula. We looked at everything in between, alternating between looking at the sections of cores, looking at slides with a microscope to identify tiny organisms or grains of sand or pieces of volcanic ash, and putting all that together to figure out what might have been going on. We pored over time histories of oxygen isotope ratios to identify trends. Data, you guys. DATA. I have so missed data.

See those big rock chunks embedded in stripes of sand and gravel? Glaciers. Glaciers did that. In Antarctica.

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(While I was gone the big kids stayed with my parents, not because Ryan can't handle all the kids himself (he can!) but because their camp was closer to their house. James and Mary enjoyed five days of normal family size time with Ryan, which I think they found unsettling. Apparently when Charley and Wes came home for a mid-week visit there was much hugging and celebration)

Wednesday we went on a field trip to an outcrop, which is a place where layers of rock are exposed to view. You see a lot of them along highways and riverbeds and next to malls if they have to dig out the parking lot. This outcrop was situated below a large dam, which really added to the sense of excitement since we had just had a conversation about how earthen dams were prone to rupture and had just noted that the lake behind the dam was well over its banks. I cast a nervous eye over my shoulder at the dam every few minutes and generally maintained a state of mental readiness should I need to scramble up the outcrop to the safety of a parking lot if the dam started to give way (it didn't).

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Group at top of outcrop. Death dam visible in background.

I don't know if I mentioned this but Texas is really pretty and green right now. Far cry from summer 2011 when Ryan worked in this particular town a handful of times and when we drove out there through mile after mile of tinder-dry countryside there were signs in every town asking people to pray for rain. Climate variability FTW!

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Layers.

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Ultimately, by looking at the outcrop, we could tell that this part of the state had been alternately adjacent to the ocean and underwater. There was also some volcanic ash. I learned so much. Also, in addition to clouds, I will now be craning my neck to see rock outcrops while careening down the highway at seventy miles per hour. Seems safe.

The black chunks at the bottom of this core were heated by MAGMA.

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It's hard to believe how much we learned in one week--exhausting, but incredibly gratifying. It will be fun to teach proxies in my earth science class this fall.

It was really exciting, too, to go home and get swarmed by all the kids and Ryan. After the normal fussing at the kids to get dressed and get in the car so we could all go to the Y, Charley sighed from the back seat and said to me "It's good to have you back!" James and Wes climb into bed with me before we get up for the day. And Mary still follows me around asking me to pick her up (which I can't do until the 18th). Good to get away for a bit and great to come home, the perfect trip.

Now Ryan is demoing the kitchen counter in preparation for the new counter which is coming tomorrow morning and after that all that is left of Kitchenpocolypse 2015 is putting the sink back in and installing the new faucet. SO CLOSE YOU CAN TASTE IT. Also we are never doing a home improvement project ever again.

Friday, June 19, 2015

I get by with a little help....do do do

I hate to brag, you guys, because I'm sure your friends are perfectly lovely, but I have to say that my friends are the best friends in the world. I knew that before #gallbladder2015, but something about major life events, like delivering babies and gallbladders has a way of highlighting how wonderful your support system really is.

For instance, my friend Cindy and I talk three or four times a day, every day, via FB Messenger. Usually this is banal stuff like "School dropoff was especially hellish today. #daydrinking." But when I was in labor with Mary she literally talked me through what I later learned was EIGHT CENTIMETERS OF DILATION that wasn't even that unpleasant, thanks in part to the continuous stream of snark coming from my computer. I told her she should start a web service called "My Snarky Friend" that you could use to get yourself through tough times--early labor, tornado warnings, bail hearings. So on the morning of my surgery, very early in the morning, I sent her a message.

Me: Totally forgot to make a birthplan for the gallbladder.

She didn't miss a beat:

C: Nurses should use soft voices and discretely avert their eyes.

Me: I would like the room to be snuffed with sage prior to delivery and the gallbladder to be ground into a kale smoothie.

C: That I will drink with the other women in my family under the light of a full moon.

I was the only one shaking with silent hysterical laughter in the preop area. Ryan looked scared. It continued like this until I got called back for labwork only to look down at the orders they handed me to see they were for "Cassandra Gonzales". I sure hope they got my name right for the actual surgery. Or that Cassandra also needed her gallbladder out.

Yesterday I texted:

Me: "Why is there no Tumblr for post-surgery stomach pictures like there is for post-partum women? Don't I deserve to feel empowered?"

She responded simply "#bethechange"

The other thing that has been going on is that between friends and my parents, I have not cooked a meal in over a WEEK. Beautiful food has been streaming into my house all week long. And last night, six friends and two kids came with the food and the ladies sat around my kitchen table while the kids ran around outside and there were tacos and margaritas and wine and cupcakes and cookies. When one friend admitted she had never had cookie butter we busted out the alphabet cookies and passed around the jar.

Lots of raucous laughter and oversharing too.

When it got late, my friend K put Mary to bed. She came downstairs and said apologetically "I rubbed her back and sang some songs but she is still awake" which was probably the most soothing bedtime Mary has ever had EVER. The daughter of another friend helped James change into jammies and read him books (both James and E thought this idea was so exhilarating I am thinking of asking her to move in. Seriously, James sprang out of his chair and was up the stairs before I knew what was happening and yelled down over his shoulder "I WANT TO READ BROWN BEAR BROWN BEAR!!").

I have no idea how many popsicles the kids consumed outside. It was a lot. Three of the boys stripped off their shirts and had a sword fight on top of the picnic table. A toad was proudly shown around the table. Around nine-thirty Wes started crying spontaneously because he was so freaking tired and my friend V carried him upstairs to his bed and gently tucked him in (he was asleep within minutes).

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Another friend stayed until the kitchen was sparkling despite my repeated protests. She even scrubbed the burners on my stove while I put Charley to bed and put James back in bed. This was not hard because it was almost ten o'clock and everyone was exhausted. Charley even said "I don't think I can read tonight."

I woke up still smiling this morning but was pretty certain is was going to be horrible after everyone's late night so I lowered my expectations to "Everyone gets to school/camp sometime before lunch with their bathing suit areas covered. But they were surprisingly cooperative (perhaps everyone needed to blow off some steam last night as much as I did?) and was dressed with shoes on by the time my friend arrived to help me with Mary (Yes. One of the friends who was here last night has been coming to my house at seven every morning to help me get Mary ready so I don't blow out an incision hauling her three-year-old size frame out of her crib. You guys!). We got in the car right on time and everyone was at their places before eight thirty. I headed straight to Torchy's.

And all of this doesn't even get into all the OTHER helpers I've had--people coming over to put Mary to bed who also play with the kids out front and admire the garden with Charley! My parents who have helped me do preschool pickup! The friend who had a box of cookies delivered to my front door Monday morning! I am a lucky lucky lady.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Gallbladder surgery: because what is summer without guacamole?

So, I don't know if I mentioned it before but I had my gallbladder surgically removed last Thursday. I found out I had the stone a few weeks ago and since I wasn't having any symptoms was going to do the surgery in August when the kids went back to school, but then I went to happy hour with a friend and woke up with the mother of all hangovers the next day despite having had only one beer and part of one drink and learned that it wasn't actually a hangover, it was a gallbladder attack from my dinner, which included chili fries, guacamole, and nachos because I am secretly a twenty-year-old boy.

After spending the entire day and most of the night alternately wondering if and wishing I would die, I went to the doctor in the morning and scheduled the surgery for the first spot available. The surgery was truly the highlight of my summer--the hairnet, the non-skid socks, the big bottle of Norco they sent me home with. Narcotics aren't as psychologically satisfying as enjoying a glass of sangria on the porch with friends, but there's no denying they have enhanced the experience of watching Harry Potter movies in my bed for the last five days. Today I am feeling adventurous and might venture out to Panera to read some of the books I have to read this summer for work.

Obviously, Olympic Race Walking is on hold, which is disappointing because I was getting pretty good at it. Instead I am supposed to walk around the block twice a day. This is going reasonably well except for the small matter of the tropical storm that brought us intermittent rainshowers all day yesterday. Somehow, despite not exercising, I've lost two pounds since the surgery (maybe that's how much a gallbladder weighs?) which I can attribute to sleeping all the time and eating cookies out of a box I keep on my nightstand. This is LIVING you guys.

Charley and Wes are at camp this week and next and are having a great time. The first day Charley got in the car at the end of the day and said "Well. The only place we have to go to the bathroom is a port-a-potty, which was fine until someone puked in it and then I locked the door from the outside because NO ONE needs to go in there." Yesterday he told me they did "nothing" because of the "stupid weather" but it came out in further conversation that he had actually gone canoeing and practiced archery. NOTHING INDEED. Wes has gone swimming and played hot potato and that's all I've gotten out of him. Also, there are free lollypops in the camp store? So that's good.

James and Mary's school is in session until the end of next week. Yesterday James brought me a flower and told me his friend gave it to him to give to me because "The doctor cut your tummy." Apparently my "gallbwadder" is the talk of the Tigerlilly room ever since James regaled the class with the story during rest time on Monday.

Other than that dramz we've been summering it up big time around here. Lots of popsicles. Lots of outside play (when there's not a tropical storm and then it's lots of popcorn and movies). We had watergun fun in the front yard with the neighbors the other day.

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Ryan is out of town for work starting today and I have wonderful friends and my parents stopping by at various times bringing dinner and helping me take care of Mary (I'm not allowed to pick her up until mid-July, no matter how much she follows me around pleading "Mama" with her arms outstretched. Saddest thing ever. We spend a lot of time sitting on the floor cuddling together.). And for today I have three books to read and a new Megan Trainor album. Gonna be a good one.

Monday, June 8, 2015

In which we can actually leave the house after 4:00

So Thursday afternoon the kids and Miss N and I had a birthday party to attend at a neighborhood pool (Thursday afternoon is my new favorite birthday party time, by the way). Ryan told me "Stay as long as you want, I'm going to get some work done and could use the extra time" so we hung out until about seven o'clock before languidly walking back to the car and heading home. I texted Ryan that we were on our way and asked "What are you up to?" and he responded "Just hanging out here" which wasn't actually the entire story because when we got home THIS WAS IN THE DRIVEWAY.

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We had looked at it last week and decided to buy it, but (I thought) were in the midst of a loooooong drawn out series of negotiations with the seller about inspections and tires and whatnot. Ryan seeeeecretly bought it over his lunch hour and somehow managed to keep it a secret allll the way until we came home that night. He is CRAFTY.

The kids were over the moon about the automatic doors, because now the safety patrol won't just stare at the open door, dumbfounded, at school pickup, and I won't have to drive to the end of the parking lot with the door open, put the car in park, close the door myself, and then drive away. KEEPING UP WITH THE JONES FTW!

Ryan is going to drive the other van by the way. We are a two van family aka twice as cool. Also, now that they keep giving me a full-time teaching load this is going to make things SO MUCH EASIER.

The first thing we did in it the next day was go get donuts for National Donut Day. I gave the kids five bucks and sent them into the donut place and Wes came out with this monstrosity. I admire his commitment to culinary creativity. It truly is something to behold. This morning he had a bagel with cream cheese and peanut butter. Yummo!

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This happened later.

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Saturday we had soccer for Wes. Mary has taken to carrying around a baby of some kind at all times. Also she was wearing the black Batman crocs all the kids including Charley have worn. She is positively EDIBLE you guys. I dare you to let her walk past you without scooping her up and kissing her tummy. It's impossible. #science Not into hair accessories, but stinking cute.

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Saturday night Miss N was playing in a city orchestra concert at an outdoor amphitheater. It was Pops music and outside and I decided early in the day that we just HAD TO GO even though it started at eight o'clock and was downtown and I was fairly certain the kids would turn into horribly behaved pumpkins the moment we left the driveway. We let everyone nap in the afternoon, packed up a picnic (with adult beverages in shatterproof containers), and headed down there three hours early because I cannot STAND being stressed about time and parking. We drove right up to the edge of the venue and found a great parking spot, laid out our blanket, and ate while the kids ran around the woods and climbed on the rocks, perfectly content until the concert started. WHO ARE WE??

We sat with our friend Miss M, which made Mary deliriously happy.

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And the kids were totally enthralled with the concert, which was excellent. Charley was CONDUCTING by the end of the concert. James kept asking me when "the show was going to start" and I finally had to explain to him that the instruments were the "show".

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Afterward we drove home with minimal fighting and put everyone directly in bed covered in bug spray and sunscreen where they fell asleep immediately. SO WEIRD AND HAPPY AND EASY YOU GUYS.

The bottom didn't really fall out until we tried to invite the neighbor kids over for banana splits after dinner on Sunday and my kids were so exhausted and goofy they could barely function and I had to shut it down early. And then James sneaked out after bedtime and used half a new bottle of baby shampoo to make "soup" in the sink, so that wasn't awesome. We are having friends over this afternoon which will be really fun but also made me look around at the house today and it is going to need some work. Or maybe a flamethrower. I'm going to handle it by going to the Y for a couple of hours and pretending it's not a problem.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

I took the summer off and I'm exhausted

Good grief it's been too long, my friends! Summer is kicking my butt and with mostly non-napping children I don't have the leisurely keyboard time I once did. So to catch everyone up, let's take a stroll through the SD card on my phone, shall we?

Let's start with Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start of summer, or in the case of Central Texas this year, the continuation of a wacky rainy, cold May filled with tornado warnings, frequent torrential downpours, and deadly flash flooding. Who wants a hot dog? The weekend was actually pretty delightful, with a brief break from our usual weekend commitments of soccer and birthday parties. Saturday we all went to the Y for some working out and childcare, then we had a nice brunch at a new favorite place. The kids were delightful and the sangria was cold. Winning! After that we went on our first of three visits that day to Home Depot for house project supplies. After we got home the little kids went to bed and Ryan started adding pendant lights and one more recessed light to our kitchen. There was a lot of this.

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But ultimately, after two more trips to Home Depot for junction boxes and OOPS one more junction box, the finished product was so beautiful I sometimes just stand in the kitchen to admire it.

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The kitchen is COMING TOGETHER. Even though I am using a large piece of plywood as a counter on one side, I can see how awesome it is going to be and I AM SO EXCITED. The counter guy came to measure today. Progress.

Sunday we went to the annual family reunion (Ryan's side) pool party a couple of hours away. We had a lovely time, but there are no pictures because: four kids in the pool. One thing I wish I'd taken a picture of was the slushy machine. Imagine fourteen kids lounging around a pool drinking slushies out of margarita glasses. Hilarious. Also Mary busied herself finding every single unattended slushy along the side of the pool and finishing it off. She had a lot of slushies. So did whoever hurled all over the upstairs bathroom the next morning. Turns out kids can get hangovers from sugar and Red No. 40. There was also a margarita machine, which was helpfully placed in a different part of the porch than the slushy machine, which prevented Wes from reprising last year's performance of "I didn't know the red juice was actually rum punch." It was great to see everyone and we had tons of fun.

Monday we were invited to a friend's house for a cookout. We were delighted that the 70% chance of rain managed to hold off long enough to grill some kabobs, but soon after dinner the sky got unimaginably dark and it started to POUR. Scary, can't see the other side of the street rain that lasted for hours. We brought all the kids inside and put on a movie while the grownups sat at the kitchen table playing cards. Everything was all soft and happy until the first tornado warning came in. I stared at the radar between turns, watching the storm get closer, closer, closer. It didn't look awesome on radar, but still a second tornado warning came across all of our phones. We all headed upstairs to peek out the window but all we could see was rain. Finally, when the third tornado warning was issued just seconds after the storm approaching us developed a weak hook echo (which indicates strong rotation) we all jumped up and ran to the living room to get the kids. "WHO WANTS TO GO IN THE FORT?!" we asked with feigned cheer. All the kids cheerfully got up and trooped into the stairs closet.

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LOTS of friends were posting similar pictures of their Memorial Day party all sitting together in bathrooms and closets. Some with their swimsuits still on and drinks still in hand. It was surreal. Mary didn't even wake up.

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When the storm was past us we went back to playing cards for a couple of hours and then Ryan and I took the kiddies on a flood tour of our neighborhood. We drove down the main road that goes next to the river to watch what is normally a quiet little creek that kids wade in that had turned into a raging river that came within inches of overtopping the bridge that crosses over it. We drove parallel to it for a little bit before coming to a point where the water was rushing along directly beside the pavement and then we got the heck out of there.

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The firemen at the firehouse (they must have called everyone in because the parking lot was completely full) were standing at the ready next to the trucks, bay doors open and lights already on, and there was a barrier in the middle of the road (different road than the one in the picture) warning people not to drive through if it was flooded (it was not when we went through, but there was a thin layer of water running across the street). Shortly after we got back home they closed the road we'd just driven down. Before bed we all watched on the news as a team of rescuers drove a boat across what is normally a busy city street to rescue a man clinging to a telephone pole in the middle of the city. Scary stuff but it reminded me of my hurricane field research days. Minus all the junk food and sleeping in trucks (also it was much scarier Saturday night when another river in the area rose from seven to more than forty feet in a matter of hours and destroyed dozens of homes and killed several people. Awful.)

Tuesday some neighborhood friends came over for some ill-advised playing in the retention pond across the street. I sat nearby ready to charge into the nasty street-runoff water in case anyone fell in. It was about twelve inches deep in this picture, but during the height of the storm on Monday it had come out of its banks and reached the foundation of the house to the left. The greenbelt you can see behind the pond was almost continuous water all the way across. Truly unimaginable amounts of rain.

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The rest of the week was spent putting in the garden Charley has been planning for over a month (he falls asleep reading "Square Foot Gardening" every night).

Bought some compost (to add to our compost, which Charley has been lovingly watering and turning. He even cuts open the k-cups and empties the coffee grounds into it, so YAY those things are incrementally less horrible for the environment!).

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Then we bought some plants. I really was set on growing tomatoes, but since we are so late to the garden party (har) the nursery didn't have any tomato plants left. I remembered seeing some at the grocery store, so we went there next. They told us they didn't have any more tomato plants either, so we looked around a little bit and managed to find this giant bush of a tomato plant in the back. It even had three full-sized tomatoes already growing on it! This felt a little like cheating, but this is Texas and soon the weather will be kind of an asshole, so if we want tomatoes, we need all the head start we can get.

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The kids call it Mega'mato. Now that they have anthropomorphized it I am terrified it will die. I have never transplanted such a huge plant before and I'm giving it a 50-50 shot. Still, to avoid disappointing the kids I water it and sing to it twice a day. So far so good.

We planted a bunch of seeds in this garden. Six squares of beans, four squares of sunflowers, two squares of carrots, and three squares of eggplant (I'm going to be making a TON of ratatoullie if this thing pans out). James and Mary also helpfully threw several handfuls of mixed seeds into the dirt, so we'll see how that goes!

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Other interesting tidbits from this week: We saw a possible tornado on our way to dinner Saturday night. There was no warning on it and no damage, but my meteorology friends had mixed opinions about it so I'm not ruling out a tornado.

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And Mary's teacher gave her a topknot after school the other day and I died from the cute.

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Next we'll talk about my birthday, which was relaxed and lovely. Ryan and I told the kids I was turning twenty-one and it was a really funny joke until this morning Charley said "You had BEER BEFORE YOU TURNED TWENTY-ONE" then looked at me scornfully awaiting my response. I was confused until I remembered we had told him I'd turned twenty-one the day before and then I reassured him that I was actually thirty-five and WELL above the legal drinking age. Sorry, kiddo, you're going to have to bust me for something else.

Also, I took the summer off because ENOUGH ALREADY and I thought the kids needed a real break from structure and routine and MAN I am exhausted at the end of every day. The good kind of exhausted. Also: drinking a lot of Sonic drinks. SUMMER IS THE BEST.