Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Romance after twelve years*

"Hey Sweetie, just a heads up, we don't have any dinner--PUT IT DOWN! I SAID PUT IT DOWN RIGHT NOW!--I couldn't face the grocery store today. I'd rather go out to get us something while you--I'M ON THE PHONE!!!!!--put the kids to bed."

"Would you like me to pick something up?"

I really want some spring rolls. But I would rather Ryan get home quickly to help me with the inmates.

"What? Oh, no thanks. I'd really like you to come home as soon as you can. It's been kind of a long--BOTH OF YOU! TIME OUT! NOW!--day."

"OK, I'm leaving in a few minutes."


"Uh, bye?"

"Yeah, see you soon!"

***Thirty minutes later***

Ryan appears in the kitchen doorway and beacons Charlie with an index finger. They exchange a whispered conversation. Charlie returns to the table with a small brown paper bag.

"It's SPRING ROLLS, Mama!!"

Ryan is smiling.

"How did you know?"

"I've been wanting to bring you spring rolls for two weeks but you wouldn't let me!"

***This morning.***

After Wes wakes up at 5:30, Ryan gets up with him, gets Charlie back to sleep, takes Wes downstairs for breakfast and The Today Show. Totally unaware, I come downstairs at 7:15. Ryan goes to take a shower, I straighten the kitchen and wrangle the overtired toddler. Ryan comes downstairs, goes to the car and comes back with a box of my favorite kind of donuts.

"Is it snack day at work?"

"No, you're always saying how you want a treat but can't get one because then you have to share with the kids and you want to set a good example and all that. I saw these and thought of you."

"Wow, thanks!"

"No problem! Thanks for making us another kid!"

*Yes it HAS really been twelve years since we met. Dude.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

In my old life...

About five years and two weeks ago I was in Dr. Advisor's office struggling not to cry. I'd been working on a field project with him for almost three years--we drove instrumented towers to the coast to collect data from hurricanes--and I had just returned from a five month internship in Baton Rouge, twelve hours away from my new husband who stayed behind to continue his classes and research. After being gone for such a long time and working two hurricanes already that season, I just couldn't face another long trip away from home. A long, extremely stressful trip during which I was responsible for the safety of a ten-person team of grad students as well as several hundred-thousand dollars worth of equipment, a detailed experimental plan, and the interests of the several agencies who funded our work. It was a lot to handle, the trips were often unpredictable in duration and departure time, and I needed some stability. Badly. I knew that when, upon returning from my last trip, my loving greeting to Ryan was "I want a beer, a hamburger, and a shower. In that order." In other words, I was completely wrung out.

So there I was in Dr. Advisor's office. "I'm not happy doing this anymore and I think Pete [not his real name] would do a good job." And then I started sobbing and couldn't stop. He seemed surprised and said "Well, you've done a good job for me and I'm happy with your work. If you'd like to stop, that's OK with me. I just want to ask you one thing. Think about it really carefully before you answer. Will you be disappointed if the next storm is 'The Big One'?"

I thought for a few minutes, but I was so beyond exhausted I knew it didn't matter.

Two weeks later I watched the landfall of Hurricane Katrina in horror on cable news at my friend Godmother's house. We sat on her couch for hours in silence except for the occasional "Oh my God. Those poor people."

As we all know, the horror had only begun. The city had been spared a direct hit and the storm had been weakening at landfall. It wasn't until the sun came back out that it was clear something had gone very, very wrong in New Orleans. And also that the weakening storm had brought with it a catastrophic storm surge unlike anything seen by the region since Hurricane Camille in 1969. It leveled huge areas of the Mississippi coast, a place I had grown to love during my time there for my research.

About a week after that Godmother and I were invited to help on a different field project, investigating damage to structures along the Mississippi coast. It was a good opportunity, so ten days after Katrina made landfall, Godmother and I found ourselves here:

Inspecting damage to the Highway 90 bridge, somewhere in Mississippi. I'm on the right, Godmother is on the left.

It was absolutely one of the hardest things I've ever done.

Well, except for times like these (I'm pretty sure that was tea):


And the time we went (on my second trip to Mississippi, yes I went TWICE! After declaring myself DONE with field work.) to a Chili's that was completely taken over by FEMA personnel who all began chanting "WE LOVE FEMA!" raucously in, not surprisingly, the bar area where we were sitting.

For each light moment like those, though, there were dozens like this. That's the memorial for the people who died in Camille. It was badly damaged, as was the church that once stood behind it (you can see the steel support beams behind the memorial on the left). There was a sign indicating that mass would continue to be held every morning, but you should bring your own chair.


It was heartbreaking. It was even more heartbreaking to have to be a scientist and say "The way these studs ripped off the nails like this mean that this was surge damage" and not wonder about the people who once lived inside. I hope that some of what we learned will be applied in the rebuilding so that the next time the area gets hit by a hurricane the damage isn't as severe.

Several months after those two trips Ryan and I learned that Charlie was on his way and that pretty much cemented the end of my days of traveling across the country on one or two days' notice for research. I happily turned in my steel-toed boots for sneakers and flip flops and relegated all wind to the computer model I was working on for my dissertation. And as glad as I am to have had those experiences, I have not looked back.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


We were driving home from eating lunch with Ryan today when we passed a firetruck parked by the side of the road with its lights on near Ryan's office. The kids both pointed it out and Ryan speculated that there might be a grass fire nearby. After I dropped him off and was making my way home, an ambulance and a police car had joined the firetruck. All with their lights on and no emergency in sight.

I made a note that it was out of the ordinary then quickly forgot about it as I continued down the road towards home, choosing a long straight highway that usually is just right for lulling the kids to sleep. I hoped for at least an hour of simultaneous napping so that I could have some time to get a few odd jobs done around the house.

And then a mile later I passed another firetruck parked on the side of the road with its lights on. And shortly after that, a car parked off to one side with a family standing outside looking down the road. At a red light I saw an ambulance blocking a side street, the paramedics standing outside looking into the distance.

I was beginning to worry. We always listen to CDs in the car, so I wonder in the back of my mind if I'm missing some big news event, a severe weather warning, a terrorist attack. Post nine-eleven, post motherhood thinking at its most rational.

But just after I stopped at a red light, a group of motorcycle policemen crested a hill in the distance, driving solemnly in formation with their lights on. I suddenly remembered the policeman who was killed in a motorcycle accident last week. I knew exactly what was going on. This was his funeral procession. The light kept cycling through red-yellow-green but no one moved.

The motorcycles kept coming. Hundreds of them from police departments all around the region as well as cities as much as four hours away. All snaking down the sixty-five mile per hour highway at twenty miles per hour.

I watched in awe. Then a voice from the back seat.

"Why are all those policemen coming?"

"It's a parade, Sweetie. They're here to honor another policeman who died."


"Why did he die?"

Until this moment I don't think he realized that people could die. Like roly polies and ladybugs sometimes die when he leaves them in his bug catcher too long.

"Well, he was in a bad car accident and he died."

I've told him dozens of times that I need him to stay calm in the car so I can concentrate and not have a car accident. I tell him we go the speed limit so we won't have a car accident. I am now regretting every one of those conversations. Profoundly.

"Why did he die in a car accident?"

"Because he was hurt very badly and his body couldn't work anymore."

My voice cracked. I didn't tell him that the policeman had two sons. Brothers just like them who were probably looking forward to their dad coming home that awful night last week so they could do the same things we do every single night. Dinner, playtime, bedtime stories. I couldn't tell him that the man who died was a dad. That something as ordinary as a car accident could kill a man strong enough to throw them up in the air when he arrived home after work. That somewhere in this parade was a woman who was living my nightmare.

We'd been watching for ten minutes and the motorcycles were still coming. I glanced at Charlie in the rearview mirror. He was somber and slouching in his carseat as he watched them come over the hill, two by two, as far as we could see.

I turned to face him. "You know, most car accidents aren't very bad, right? And I'm very careful and do everything I can so that you are safe in the car. You know that, right?" He continued to stare at the procession. I wanted to drive far far away and buy him an ice cream cone and let him spill it all over me and laugh. I just wanted him to laugh, crack a joke, yell "penis" at the top of his lungs like he used to do. Anything but the stunned silence.

The hearse drove by. The limos carrying the family. Then the police cars. Dozens and dozens of them. Then ambulances, firetrucks, and more police cars driving in slow motion. Wes thought it was great and waved at the passing officers. Several of them waved back.

Charlie finally spoke. "Are all those policemen going to get the bad guys?" he asked quietly.

"Oh, Buddy, no. These policemen are a part of a ceremony called a funeral which is to honor a policeman who died in a car accident. They have come from all over the state to show their support for the policeman and his family. They have a special church service, sort of like Big Church, and then they all drive in a long parade to the..." I let that one drop.

"Why do they have their lights on? Why do they drive so slow?"

"Because they're sad and it's respectful."

"But why are they sad?"

"Because their friend died. He had a bad car accident." I cringed when I used that word again. I looked at him. "It's very sad, isn't it?" He nodded quietly.

Finally another a group of traffic cops on motorcycles appeared, marking the end of the procession. I finally exhaled, put the car in drive, turned Raffi back on, and headed for home--thirty minutes after I'd stopped at the light.

I was so grateful for the change of pace when Charlie had a letter from his new teacher waiting for him in our mailbox--he carried it around proudly the rest of the day, showing it to everyone who would look. I was most grateful of all when, several hours later, he ran to show it to Ryan, just arrived home from work, safe and sound.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Oh Rossby

We don't call him (lovingly and with affection, of course) "Idiot Dog" for nothing.

Yes he swallowed it. I'm not sure what that means, but he better have enjoyed the heck out of that bread dough.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Five Days and Six Hours Left

Forget everything I said.

I am ready. They are ready. Ryan is ready to not come home to a bitchy shrew who growls like Gollum when he asks how my day was.

We went up to school today to get some breakfast and coffee and soak up the first-day energy, even though I don't have to be there until Thursday. It was a treat. It was supposed to be a treat. It was kind of a disaster with the not listening and not following directions and the screwing around with the automated paper towel dispenser in the ladies' room until I had to physically drag them both out by their arms. Because EVERYONE IS SUDDENLY DEAF.

Last week Amy posited via Facebook "Am I uptight because no one listens to me or does no one listen to me because I'm so uptight?" Indeed.

So after all that excitement we came home where I put Wes to bed, put Charlie in front of the Claymation Christmas DVD he's been asking for, and sat down in front of my laptop to stare, tearfully and shaking with frustration, at the full-time, tenure track job posting that's been up for over a year that I'm only tangentially qualified for and thought "I could make this work. We could get a nanny."

And then Charlie called sweetly from the living room "Mama, it's the part with the bells! Come watch with me." It's my favorite part. When I sat next to him on the couch he said "I want my mom here for this!"

I know I would miss these quiet times with the boys if I worked full time. But I am not meant to do this by myself ten hours a day, every day, when it is too hot and bee-infested to go in the back yard and the only way to cool off is to shlep two surly kids and half a Walmart worth of plastic crap to the pool, where if I am lucky, there will be other kids to play with and if I am not lucky, I will spend two hours repeatedly getting Wes out of the pool filter and breaking up fights over the "good shovel." I don't think anyone is.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Night of the Bounce House

When I heard there would be a slip and slide and free hot dogs on my campus last night I knew we couldn't miss it. Charlie was practically levitating by the time Ryan got into the car after work. "Are you going to go on the SLIP AND SLIDE with me, Papa?! PLEASE?!" The first thing we saw when we came around the corner from the parking lot by the science building was a thirty foot tall inflatable football player. And the kids went crazy.

Charlie watched the big kids on the slip and slide for a few minutes then ripped his shirt off and gave it a try. I tried to put Wes on, but he screamed and tried to bite me.


Wes was more excited to see the huge basket of bananas waiting for him at the beginning of the buffet line. We loaded up with bananas, hot dogs, cookies, and rice crispy bars and ran into our babysitter, officially making yesterday The Best Day of Charlie's Life. She ate dinner with us and told us all about orientation and living in the dorm (and how she had to call her mom with questions about laundry and Advil dosage, awww!) while Charlie interrupted excitedly "Miss Sunshine! There's a SLIP AND SLIDE and you have to take your shirt off and you run and get all wet and YOU HAVE TO TRY IT. And there's a HUGE football player and you go inside and climb up the wall and it's hot but it's OK because Papa lifted me up and then there's a REALLY STEEP SLIDE at the end and it's so much fun and YOU HAVE TO TRY IT."

After two bites of hot dog and several cookies each Wes started wandering closer and closer to the bounce house we were sitting near, so we finally let them at it. Ryan got in with them "for the children's safety." I mentioned later that I'd never seen anyone jump so high in a bounce house and he told me "They wanted to see if I could hit my head on the ceiling!!!!" Eventually Miss Sunshine had to go off to watch a movie with her friends and eat pizza at three o'clock in the morning or whatever it is those crazy kids do these days, but the kids stayed in the bounce house for nearly an hour. Charlie hopped over to me once and yelled "MAMA! I LOVE your SCHOOL!!"


On the way out Charlie had a try at the "Dunk an RA" booth.


And then we dragged our posse of unwilling, sweaty, and fruit punch mustached kids home.


Where they slept until after eight in the morning. Ryan and I slept as long as we possibly could then wandered downstairs like "I guess someone should make coffee? I'm not really sure what to do all by ourselves like this." Wes is still sleeping and it's almost 8:30. They usually wake up at 6:30. I think we may need to get a bounce house.

UPDATE: This is Wes's wakeup face:


And we found Ryan's socks stuck in the roof rack on my car. We're pretty sure we drove home (20 mins on the highway) like that. Par-tay!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Happy Kids. Woah.

After a few days of not so great behavior (well chronicled on Facebook), the inmates seem to have turned things around. I felt like they (and I) had earned a field trip (mostly me), so after the gym we went to Starbucks (Do you know how much money you can save by having kids whose behavior is so awful you can't imagine taking them out in public? A lot. Nevertheless, I'm glad today was different.).

Not much of a post, I just didn't want to completely misrepresent our daily life as all time-outs, yelling, and onion-stank hands.

Hot chocolate. It's ninety-seven degrees outside. At 9:30 in the morning. I'm not the only one ready for fall.

This is what he does when he sees the camera. He is saying "cheese." Or, more accurately, "tcheeeeeeeeese."

And then I made them sit on this planter in front of my car so I could put our cups inside before we went in the grocery store to buy fourteen gallons of milk. They just looked extra lovable to me so I had to take a picture. Of course Charlie insisted on "hiding" behind the lid of his hot chocolate, but you get the idea. Also, I did not intend on dressing them in a marine life theme this morning. It's just what I pulled out of the dryer first.

Now, if they can just hold it together for another six and a half hours, we'll be good.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hold the Onions

I made this last night. It was very tasty and we all had seconds (Charlie had thirds). But that's not the point. The point is that the recipe called for one chopped onion. Almost everything I make starts with "chop onion, saute in olive oil." Thanks to Pioneer Woman I can do it fast and hardly ever nick my fingertips anymore. My eyes don't even tear up very much. Although one time Charlie insisted on standing at my hip while I chopped an onion and after about thirty seconds he ran away howling "MY EYES! MY EYES!!"

So I wasn't expecting anything different last night when I chopped the onion for dinner. Until several hours later when Ryan and I were sitting on the couch watching TV. I reached up to scratch up my nose and noticed that my hand STUNK like onions. Not a good smell like I'd just chopped it up either. It was like I'd spent the whole day chopping onions, then worked out, then smeared nicotine all over my fingers. Gross. So gross.

Washing helped briefly, but the smell was back within minutes.

I woke up a number of times in the night not because one of the kids was freaking out (which also happened last night... Charlie had a DREAM that Wes was crying and woke him up, because that doesn't actually happen enough in real life), but because my hands had disobediently made their way back up to the airspace around my face and the horrible onion smell woke me up! Try as I might, I was unable to train myself to sleep with my hands firmly at my sides as though I might be called upon to perform with Riverdance while I was sleeping.

Do you know how frustrating it is to be awoken multiple times at night not by restless children, not by a restless fetus kicking me in the bladder, but by ONION SMELL ON MY HANDS?

Finally I got up and washed my hands with my Neutrogena Acne facial cleanser. It's first active ingredient is acid, I thought it would help. It didn't. And it made my hands feel really tight and scratchy in addition to the stinking.

I really wish I was one of those people who is into scented lotion.

Several rounds with antibacterial soap this morning haven't helped either. They are, however, getting really itchy from the repeated washing.

It was ALL I could smell at the gym today, which is saying something, if you know what I mean. Disgusting.

What do I do? Wear mittens until it goes away?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Endless Summer

Maybe it's because I just wrote my phone number fourteen times on two identical sets of multicolored preschool forms, or because the whole time I was doing that I was listening to Wes thumping around in his room not sleeping despite not having napped today and spending two hours at the pool, and sensing a slow panic rising in my heart about the kind of day I'm going to have tomorrow if Wes stays up as late as he has so far, or maybe it's because it's been over a hundred degrees every day this week. But I am really looking forward to the fall.

When we came back from our trip and the reality of a month of unstructured, babysitter-free time settled over me that Monday morning as Ryan left for work, I thought August would never end. And then it got so hot that I had to cut a trip to a local swimming hole short because I was starting to feel weak and light-headed after thirty minutes in the bathtub-warm river (we headed straight to Sonic after an agonizing walk back to the car, two lemon slushes, one large ice water, please. Much better). And now I am biding my time until the TV weatherman says "We've got a nasty arctic front on its way" and all the Texans flock to the grocery store to hoard milk and beer.

I LOVE fall. Even though I won't be able to wear the wool plaid skirt I got at an end of season sale last year, I am so excited about cardigans and jeans and baking (I am forcing myself to wait until September 1 to make pumpkin bread. Ryan can't wait for me to make spaghetti, which I consider a winter food) and cool mornings and new students. And I was pretty excited about preschool starting.

But then? Don't tell anyone about this, but, I started having fun with my kids.

Charlie has come out of whatever developmental funk he was in and he has become very good company. He is mostly cooperative and cheerful and extremely curious about babies, where they are and where they come from, how they communicate, and things they can and cannot do. He frequently tells amused strangers "Phent is my baby. He was in my tummy a long time ago." When it all gets to be too much he climbs into his "sad box" and asks me to close the tabs. It is a large cardboard moving box we found at our neighbor's and Charlie's filled it with blankets and special objects. He tells me he's still hungry after every meal and usually has a piece of fruit or some toast on top of whatever else we had. Today he surprised us by showing us how he can swim under water. In short, he's almost a FOUR YEAR OLD, which is solidly in "kid" territory and I'm scratching my head and wondering what the H happened to "the baby years" that seemed so endless this time last year.

Wes is really freaking cute and has started talking a lot more. Every car ride is peppered with him shrieking "Wook at DAT!" as he points out the window at every. single. thing. that captures his attention (water towers, dogs, construction equipment, other kids). On Sundays when I tell him he gets to go to school he RUNS all the way to the classroom, so proud of himself. He'll try anything Charlie does (except swimming underwater, thank goodness). He still has his fiery temper and bites when he feels cornered or frustrated, and for the love of God do NOT put him in his car seat. He can climb up there all by himself just like Charlie thankyouverymuch. But he's cute, and funny, and very patient as Charlie learns that we wait until Wes puts a toy down before he can pick it up.

We have two more weeks of Super! Family! Togetherness! and then preschool starts (one week after my school starts, super convenient). And then it will be Thanksgiving AND DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN AROUND HERE JUST BEFORE CHRISTMAS? My head is spinning, is what I'm saying. Things are about to start happening fast. And the boys are going to be gone Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 9-1, EVERY WEEK. And I might miss them a little. And I am surprised by that. Because, honestly, the only reason I didn't sign them up for five days is the extra $500/month I would have had to shell out purely so I wouldn't have to turn Sid the Science Kid up really loud before I started the vaccuum cleaner (or, who are we kidding, so I wouldn't have to share my decaf pumpkin spice latte).

I'm really looking forward to regaining a professional life, and doing our favorite fall things (Pumpkin patches! Cocoa! Touching playground equipment without requiring skin grafts!), the weather cooling off, putting the extra blankets on the beds, college football, footie jammies, and baking. Did I mention the baking? If I even think about turning the oven on these days my air conditioner heaves a sigh and rolls over dead. I just want to really enjoy these last relaxed weeks as a family of four.

If Wes doesn't nap tomorrow I'll be recanting this entire post, so be ready. Also, I could really go for a pumpkin spice latte right now. Oops.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Steaming, Hot, Fresh, Chocolate Chip Bread

Charlie started asking me to make "Steaming, Hot, Fresh, Chocolate Chip Bread" a few days ago. Luckily I found a recipe for just the thing in my bread machine owner's manual. We went to the store together and bought all the ingredients, brought them home, put Wes down for a nap, got everything lined up on the counter and then BAM! A missing ingredient! An obscure one that I don't keep on hand (powdered milk?! What, is this the Cold War?!). So we made cookies. It wasn't hard to pacify him. But then he started drawing me pictures of the Steaming, Hot, Fresh, Chocolate Chip Bread. This morning Wes woke up at 4:30 (After partying until nearly midnight last night)(Parenting moment of the century: Waking Ryan up and saying "Would you please hold him for a few minutes because if I have to do this for one more second I'm going to end up in jail)(I'm going to feel like a real jerk when I find out he has an ear infection) and since I had the opportunity to go to the store for bananas and milk as soon as it opened (i.e. before they've made the coffee and breakfast tacos. FAIL), I got the powdered milk and we proceeded with the Steaming, Hot, Fresh, Chocolate Chip Bread after breakfast. And there was much happiness in the Academomia household.

The timer says it takes three-and-a-half hours. I wasn't able to translate that into Charlie.

Yes, that is Wes standing on our potty stool, hanging onto the oven for balance. As long as we're being totally honest here, he also snuck a sip of my coffee while I was in the bathroom. Charlie did that once and he never asked again. Wes just came up and asked for another sip. I said no. He was not pleased. I totally get it, Buddy. Maybe next time don't GET UP AT 4:30!!!

My parents will let me do anything if I leave them alone after waking up at 4:30!

And here's a picture of Rossby cuddled up with both kids' loveys. He may be a grumpy old man, but I think he misses the kids when they're sleeping.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Back to Mediocrity: Recipes from the Internet

Until I stumble across more comic gold at the public library, I'm afraid we're back to posting recipes from the internet.

I impulse-bought a Cooking Light magazine the other day at the hippy grocery store strictly because of the picture on the cover. And the words "No Cook Meals." Heck yeah! Here's the picture. I'll let you go take a look and start the drooling.

I almost didn't make it tonight because I hurt my back at the grocery store while I was not so lovingly hefting Charlie (my nine-foot tall three-year-old) out of the shopping cart "baby" seat after he threw a handful of tortilla chips at me. Postscript: He did not pick them up and I was rendered unable to follow through on my threat to make him take a nap because I couldn't physically lift him after hurting myself. My first reaction was to call Ryan when we got home and beg him to come home soon and bring dinner when he did, but then I thought "What would the Greatest Generation do?" and I figured I'd suck it up and make dinner myself while the kids destroyed the bathroom playing with the sink. I'm so glad I did because it was delicious and easy.

So. Here are the ingredients (my comments in italics as usual):
  • 1 ripe peeled avocado it should give if you squeeze it with the peel on
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped tomato, divided
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh onion, divided
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided in my experience, half of a lime yielded 1T of juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided I used Kosher
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced I used the jarred stuff, it was fine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro YUMMMMY
  • 1 tablespoon minced seeded jalapeño pepper I omitted this for the kiddies
  • 2 cups shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika I used plain old paprika that I already had
  • 8 (6-inch) corn tostada shells
And here's what you do:

1. Place avocado in a small bowl; mash with a fork. Stir in 2 tablespoons tomato, 1 tablespoon onion, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and garlic.

Hear me now and believe me later: MAKE EXTRA. You will probably run out before you even get dinner on the table because you will be sneaking guacamole with the little broken pieces of tostada that are in the top of the bag. Sadly, this behavior was not accounted for in the calorie count provided in the magazine.

2. Combine remaining 1 cup tomato, 2 tablespoons onion, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, cilantro, and jalapeño; toss well.

It's a tricky one, this recipe. Very complex.


3. Combine chicken, remaining 1 tablespoon juice, and paprika; toss well to combine. Spread about 1 tablespoon guacamole over each tostada shell; top each with 1/4 cup chicken mixture and about 2 tablespoons salsa [the tomato mixture from Step 2, which I would call pico de gallo].

Instead of buying a rotisserie chicken, which usually gets mostly wasted here, I was going to buy some boneless, skinless chicken breasts, season them with salt, pepper, and paprika and then cook them in the oven (30 mins at 350 or until the meat thermometer says 160F), but instead I scraped all the breading off the leftover chicken tenders from last night's dinner and used those. Don't worry, if you come over for dinner I won't serve you used chicken.

The Verdict:

OMG Wes ate dinner. He ATE DINNER. A dinner that was not scrambled eggs. Knock me over with a feather.

Charlie, who appears to be entering adolescence today, did not eat his at all and whined for me to get the "white things" [onions] off of his "chip." This from the kid that ate all the onions off my hamburger a month ago on our trip. On a normal, non-tortilla-chip-throwing day, I think he would have loved it.

Ryan and I had to stop ourselves from whipping up a second batch after the kids went to bed.

Normal people might like to serve this with a green salad and some Dos Equis, but Ryan and I ate at the computer desk instead so we could watch the owl webcam.

It was fantastic. AND it's easy and a good way to use up extra chicken. AND you get to buy a lot of produce which always makes me feel really smug. I'll be making it again soon!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Copyright 1985

Since we visited the Air and Space Museum earlier this summer, space has been on Charlie's mind. When we reached the limits of my ability to explain things, we trooped over to the library to look for a few books on the subject. After a brief search through the children's section, we managed to find only one book.

Despite my misgivings about it's scientific value, Charlie would not let it go, so we checked it out (along with some others we found in the "juniors" section, including a particularly interesting one about black holes, because nothing says "sweet dreams" like distortions in the fabric of space and time) and then I hid it in the laundry room as soon as we got home and he wasn't paying attention.

Lucky for you, I was able to renew it! TWICE! Can you believe no one had placed it on hold? I mean, what ARE kids reading these days, anyway?

I came across it the other day and gave it a second look. This is the first page. When I read it I thought that maybe I was being a little bit of a snob in mocking the book so harshly. I mean, nothing on this page is particularly offensive. A tranquil fall landscape, some Pilgrims sitting by a fire. A factual anecdote to illustrate the meaning of the word "colony."

But the next chapter is where they drop the bomb. Why Build Colonies in Space asks the chapter title? Because our planet is headed for IMMINENT RUIN. We will soon have so many people that there won't be enough room for everyone. Naturally, the most practical solution is to encourage some people to LIVE IN SPACE. The book does not detail what kind of incentives would be offered to those willing to leave. Lower taxes, maybe? It also does not mention that even if a space colony big enough to house the entire population of Rhode Island (1,053,209) could be constructed, it would only remove 0.01% of the population from the earth. How many people live in the International Space Station? Like eight?

The second part of the chapter is more contemporary and discusses our limited natural energy resources. I can get behind that, but instead of arguing for the development of renewable energy the book suggests we MINE THINGS ON OTHER PLANETS. It then correctly points out that there is endless solar energy available in space. Because constructing a solar power plant and housing it's hundreds of employees IN SPACE is clearly a better first step than attempting the same on our planet.

The moon: a good source of aluminum and titanium, conveniently out of reach of the pesky EPA and MMS, and only really visible to most people on earth about half the days of every month. WIN!

The next few chapters discuss the construction of the space colony and what life might be like were you lucky enough to live in one (and by lucky I mean, no more arguments about whose family you will be spending Christmas with. I mean, SORRY! I LIVE IN SPACE NOW!). Apparently life would be quite ordinary. There would be houses, churches, places to work, schools, and parks. How Utopian! I would like to have seen a chapter called "What Your Atmosphere Does for You," but I don't think Texas sized asteroids and dangerous UV radiation have much place in a children's book.

And now that you are all ready to sign up for the adventure of a lifetime, you might be wondering when the first group of residents will be lifting off. Well have I got some good news for you! According to this page, it will be happening THIS YEAR.

And then it closes with something I like to call "The Most Ironically Named Chapter of All Time."

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Am I the only one whose kids look like they fell out of a tree just before going to sleep?



Glad to be Back

The day after we got back from our trip our internet started acting really stupid. Everything took forever and it kept dropping the connection and it took me nearly four hours to upload all of our pictures to Flickr and write a blog post. The next day it was even worse and I was starting to get really crabby and not-so-mature about the whole situation. The next day it stopped working altogether and I asked Ryan to call Time Warner to get it fixed.

Thank goodness he called; since he was able to make it through all the voice menus without swearing, hanging up, or throwing the phone, he was rewarded with a service appointment for later that day. Though they did work out that they could hook my laptop up directly to the "thing" that it would connect, very slowly (another good reason Ryan called is that I describe our internet configuration as "the big thing" and "the small thing," which I think is really "the modem" and "the router." I should probably learn this, but why bother with a PhD'ed electrical engineer in the family?).

Only problem was that my laptop is in the habit of turning itself off for no reason at all. Right in the middle of blog posts and Facebook conversations, in particular. More gnashing of teeth.

Then the service guy, a very nice man named Lee, came out at 5:15 on Tuesday. I was glad to see him, but it was a problem because I didn't have everything I needed to make dinner and the kids were acting like total idiots at the time. I got them settled by installing them on the loveseat with cookies so they could watch Lee work. But dinner was toast, literally, the kids had toast and eggs for dinner and I made an elegant late dinner for Ryan and me after I had some time to vent with Labmama and run to the store while Ryan wrestled our little miracle gifts from God into their beds.

Lee spent about forty minutes wandering around my house checking things with various sensors and equipment then stood up and said "That should do it. Honestly I don't know how it worked as long as it did." And then he left. And then I tried the big, normal, not-turning-off-by-itself computer. And, it didn't work. And I had to leave the room for a few minutes to regain my composure.

Ryan determined that the problem must have been the router ("the small thing"), so last night he headed off to the electronics store (man Target) to play around with things we can't afford pick up a new one. I was jabbering away on the phone and Facebooking using the last remaining normal-ish computer in the house (Ryan's work computer, hooked up to the wire for internet, like the nineties) when Ryan beeped in twice. I figured that he must have found a great deal on a new laptop and was calling for the go-ahead, so I called him back.

"Hey, my transmission linkage broke and my car is stuck at the Chick-Fil-A. But I got the router and now I'm going to buy some tools next door then try to fix the car. I'll be a little late."

"Uh, well it's 8:30, if we're going to need help getting you home we should ask now before it gets too late."

"Oh, right" he said. After calling a few people who weren't home my uncle said he would go get him (THANKS AGAIN, Scott). The car remains at Chick-Fil-A. The kids and I will be eating dinner there tonight while Ryan sweats it out in the parking lot with a hammer and a few ratchets. Being a man is so glamorous. Though I did get quite excited about buying Charlie a new pack of socks in the BOYS' department and not the BABY department. So I guess we're in the same boat.

After all of that, Ryan came home and FIXED THE INTERNET. It is glorious. He is my hero and I will be mulching the garden by myself this weekend as a gift of appreciation to him. The end.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Charlie: I found a spider in our house that looked like a crab.

Me: Oh really? What made it look like a crab?

Charlie: It was ALL RED!! But it was a nice spider, it didn't bite me when I touched it.

Me: You touched it? When did this happen?

Charlie: I was with Papa. The spider looked like a crab because it was all red and had little PINCHERS!

Me: What did Papa say about it?

Charlie: Well, he was napping, I think.

*I don't think this actually happened, but it sure cracked me up.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Some of my Favorites

Well, we made it back to Texas just in time for the first one-hundred degree day of the year. After arriving at our house and putting the kids to bed at eleven last night (snarky post about Houston IAH airport, whose only redeeming quality is that I never leave there without a good blog post, to come), someone woke someone else up at three something and Wes never went back to bed. Welcome back!! Tonight, though, Wes climbed right into bed and went to sleep with no fanfare at all and Charlie was the one who couldn't calm down. If they haven't nailed this into a routine by December I'm just going to hand them the house key and walk away, screaming probably, and maybe rocking a little.

I thought I would be relieved to get home to my own bed and gas stove but truthfully, when Wes and I rolled into our favorite breakfast taco place just after it opened this morning I thought about how my dad was walking to the store to get the paper right at that very moment and I got very sad. The closeness with far flung family and the traditions I can share with my kids, not to mention the beautiful setting and all the fun things to do make it so hard to leave.

Even though Wes never really got out of his vacation funk, he managed to rally and have a really great time. Both kids totally loved the seaweed. I was totally grossed out by it as a kid.


And so did Charlie. He developed a lot of confidence and independence during our stay. When we were walking between the two houses (the one my grandparents live in every summer and the one two doors down that my family rented), he was allowed to run the whole distance (100 yards) all by himself once he proved to me that he knew to stay off the beach and go straight to the porch of whichever house we were headed to.


He also had free reign of the porch and spent a lot of time curled up in a chair with a blanket and his friends.


Last year we had to stop at a department store on the way to Boston and our flight home because none of Charlie's pants or shorts was even close to being clean enough to wear home. And my standards are quite low. Thankfully, this year we had a washer and dryer, because my kids can find mud like it's their job. Right after I took this picture Wes began rubbing handfuls of muddy gravel in his hair. The amount of sand I swept out of our cabin every day was remarkable. And don't get me started on the shower.


Wes was happiest when he could play with his cousin, Sibley. The two of them ran screaming from one end of the porch to the other every evening until we kicked them off and made them go to the grass because "SOMEONE'S GONNA GET HURT!" They also prolonged bedtime by trying to outscream each other late into the night. Ahh, memories. Wes gave Sibley a huge hug when she left and then didn't let go as she walked to the car. He was a little lost without her the next day.


Like last year I've come home inspired by my grandmothers to work hard for my family, cook at home, and get the heck over myself. I will act on that plan as soon as we all get some sleep, though I did make a nice dinner tonight (A nice dinner that was interrupted numerous times by some squirrelly behavior that certainly would not have been tolerated two generations ago, but a nice dinner nonetheless) instead of ordering a pizza.

I'm already ready for next summer.