Saturday, January 29, 2011

Baby pictures? Oh right.

Amy asked for more baby pictures. And other than Christmas, we hardly have any pictures of anyone since James was born. This is partly because I spend every spare moment learning about earthquakes and floodplains and valence electrons and partly because we haven't left the house as a group to do anything besides buy more diapers in almost six weeks. We all know what it looks like when you take three kids to Target and that is not pretty. So I made sure and took some during today's outing to my sister's house for scooter fun and dinner.

Wes and Sibley. Did I mention it was seventy-five degrees AGAIN today? Brr, brr, BRR. Soup weather in Texas. Don't hate me, Wisconsin.

An action shot of Wes and James playing outside.

Edible. That is all.

He had just yelled "I'm coming in for a landing!!" You get the sense that the two big kids never stop moving, yes? You would be correct. I call them my little electrons.

I call this one "Totem Pole".

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Oh my head

I noticed something troubling with James recently. Whenever I have my special treat for emergencies only (emergencies being plumbing disasters caused by children, bodily harm caused by children, TV malfunctions, times I have to talk to computers on the phone, and weekdays) afternoon cup of coffee, James turns into a little stressball. Instead of his normally easygoing demeanor, he becomes wide-eyed and tense and has trouble settling down to nurse.

He has even more trouble settling down to sleep, which we all know is the real problem since I am relying on him continuing to sleep twenty-two hours a day to get things done around here. Like sit on the couch with my mouth open while the big kids watch Martha Speaks.

I reasoned that he was having a growth spurt that would pass in a few days. Let's not get hasty with the elimination diets. But it didn't get better. So I tried sticking to my morning single cup of coffee (that I never get to finish when it's still hot and usually leave lying around somewhere low for the kids to spill). And, not surprisingly, James seemed to feel calmer.

So I went to Costco and bought a big canister of formula and some more coffee. Just kidding. We are too cheap to do that.

Yesterday was the first day of the detox. I had half a cup of coffee in the morning and NOTHING ELSE ALL DAY LONG. James's mood was remarkably improved. I, on the other hand, got so agitated by one of the kids' noise-making toys that I told him he could either go play with it in the closet or put it on top of the refrigerator for the remainder of the month. In a not-exactly loving tone. Right in front of my dad, who had come over to visit.

Today is day two, and I would like you to know that the effects of caffeine withdrawal are cumulative. Which I think is why it feels like the backs of my eyes are having a fight with my brain. Unless I am having an aneurysm.

I'm hoping to feel like myself by Day 3. Otherwise I'll take James with me to Starbucks and buy him his very own grande drip with skim so he can learn to love coffee too.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Still here!

I promise I'm still here.

I'm just caught up in the endless cycle of feeding James and feeding the family and the laundry (OH the laundry) and sweeping the kitchen floor (because Rossby is staying with my parents for a little while and not eating the endless crumbs the kids leave behind and I would just leave them there but it drives me crazy when my bare feet are covered in crumbs) and my class is more work than I ever thought it would be (did you know that if you assign homework, you then have to GRADE it?).

Do you ever feel like your life is a montage in a movie and they mark the passage of time by showing you unloading the dishwasher? It's like dishwasher-kid school-my school-grocery store-get the kids-feed the baby-break up a fight-start the dinner-feed the baby-PING!--unload the dishwasher-repeat! all set to the tune of "Nine to Five" by Dolly Parton.

But it's all good and we are enjoying each other so much.

This guy is one month old.


In true third-child fashion, the milestone was marked by me belatedly noticing the date and thinking "Huh, it's been a month and my nipples are just now starting to feel a little bit better."

The boys are doing great and love to sing him loud, terrifying lullabies, rock him violently in the carrier, and softly nuzzle his cheeks with their lovies as they coo "Aren't you cute!" softly in his ear.

Now back to writing Thursday's lecture about glaciers!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Overheard in the Minivan, 8:45 this morning

Charlie: "Why do socks taste bad?"

Me: "Um, because they're meant for feet and not for mouths?"

Charlie: "Grandma said we're going to eat SOCKS and UNDERPANTS for dessert!!"

Wes: "SOCKS, UNNA-PANS, Mama!" (has no idea what unna-pans are)

Charlie: "SOCKS! And UNDERPANTS!!" (riotous laughter all around, Charlie is almost hyperventilating)

Me: "I don't remember Grandma saying that."

Charlie: "I'm gonna eat UNDERPANTS!" (funniest thing, EVER)

Wes: "UNNA-PANS, Mama! UNNA-PANS!!" (still, funniest thing EVAH)

Me: "Oh, you guys are so goofy! Underpants are for bottoms. We don't EAT them!"

Charlie: "No, I want to eat HAIR. HAIR is YUMMY to me, Mama!"


Charlie: "I LIKE TO EAT HAIR!"

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I liked it!

On my first day of real work I got up before everyone else, had my cereal, started the coffee, made the kids' lunches, checked my email, and packed up the breast pump. Then got back into bed to feed James until it was almost time to go while Ryan dressed Wes and gave him breakfast. Charlie woke up an hour later than normal, miserable with a cold. The babysitter arrived and settled in for some PBS Kids with James and Charlie, cozy with pillows and quilts and loveys. Wes and I got into the van with my coffee and bagel, Ryan left for work, I took Wes to school. I went to my school, assembled the breast pump, made a curtain out of Post-it Notes for my office window, pumped James's mid-morning snack bottle, went over my lecture, sneaked across the hall to the bathroom to wash the pump, taught my class (forty mins!), returned some emails, ran to the grocery store, picked up Charlie and James at home (Charlie loves the babysitter, yay!), picked up Wes (I made pudding at school, Mama!), chatted with friends, let the boys run around a little, went home, curled up with Charlie on the couch during the little boys' nap, made cupcakes, fed James, colored with the kids, let my mom cook dinner for me, then fell asleep in bed with James in my arms while Ryan put the big kids to bed.

It was a great day.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Family not-so-Secrets

Nothing serves to knock you down a few notches on the old "I Have My Crap Together" scale like hitting the garage door with your car.

Except maybe the kids chorusing "OH NO!! WHAT HAPPENED TO THE GARAGE DOOR?" in unison all the way to the grocery store AND BACK, negating any chance you might have had of covering it up.

And then (again the kids) laughing hysterically at the garage door as it refuses to close all the way, stopping with a jerk three feet off the ground every single time.

While I flex my fingers on the steering wheel and wonder how fast I can get a repairman in and out of here.

"OH NO! WHAT HAPPENED? OH NO! WHAT HAPPENED?" A dead-on imitation of my don't swear don't swear don't swear don't swear voice. Riotous laughter. Anybody want a donut? You can have THREE if you don't tell Papa about the door! More laughing. "Mama hit the door!" When did they freaking learn to talk so well?

Later, during the chaos of bathtime. He can't kill me while I'm nursing his child, right? "So...I hit the garage door with the minivan today. It was just the mirror. It seems to be fine. Took me like five tries to close the door after we went to the store, though. There's a bottle of Armor All on the floor of the garage and I didn't want to hit it, so parked too close to the wall. And, uh, hit the door instead of the Armor All. I'm sorry."

James is my human shield. Ryan is a better person than me. "No, problem, now I get to go to Home Depot! Who's ready for jammies?"

The kids giggle. "OH NO! WHAT HAPPENED?" Ryan snickers.

The next morning the door works PERFECTLY FINE despite the huge bent place in the rail. Freaking karma.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Not the post I thought I would write about going back to work

Leave all this? I wouldn't dream of it.

This week is the first week back at my school and I taught Tuesday and Thursday, right on schedule, with no maternity leave. Everyone in my department was wonderful with their offers to help early on when James was so new, but for some reason I thought it wouldn't be necessary. "Nope," I joked, "The first six months is really awful no matter what. I might as well be earning some money and job experience at the same time."

What I was not expecting was that I would enjoy James's newborn period so much. Or that I want so badly to sit at home snuggled up with him and only him during the big boys' preschool hours. And also, I hadn't really thought through the whole sleep thing. In other words, when you have to go to bed by nine to make sure you get enough rest, when the heck do you prep for class? That's how I found myself asleep on the couch last night, pen in hand, notebook and laptop still open, with the following sentence written in my lesson plan for today: "The atomic number indicates the number of protons an&bpppft$#l beans and sour cream." Apparently, I was dreaming about Mexican food.

I started dreading going back about the second day of James's life, when it was still three weeks away. The dread got worse and worse, mostly at three o'clock in the morning when I was nursing him in bed, both of us wrapped in cozy blankets. On Tuesday when my carefully constructed fourteen slides yielded only TWENTY MINUTES of lecture material, I was ready to throw in the towel. Last night, when I had to stay up and get ready for today instead of dozing my way through Law and Order SVU and looking forward to another day of baby snuggling and (extremely) light housework? Let's just say I ate a lot of Hershey's Kisses.

But today was a confidence builder... After we dropped the big kids off at school James and I drove the thirty minutes to school feeling so warm (in the car. it is NOT WARM outside) and happy with great music on the radio. I managed to talk for THIRTY-FIVE minutes. And afterward when another faculty member stopped by to see James I managed to carry on a semi-professional (albeit with James chomping away on my pinky finger--it's a progressive school, but not whip your boob out while conversing with your department chair progressive) conversation about the future of the department--and was surprised by finding myself wanting to be a part of it. I love my school and I love teaching, but this week has been so hard for me, mentally. Every day at home was so wonderful and the nights of work (and breastfeeding!) were so hard. The memories of just how miserable I was with no job just a year ago were distant and fuzzy.

It was good to get a reminder of why I am working right now. It is not for the money--we pay for the babysitter, preschool, and part of our summer vacation with my paycheck--it is for the experience and to keep some professional momentum while our kids are young. I love being able to spend so much time with the boys. And when it is not a big scary hard transition, I love working. My school is a perfect fit, the students are friendly and hard-working, I have a ton of flexibility in my workload every semester--it's a perfect situation.

Next week James will be spending more time with the babysitter because he'll be staying home with her instead of coming to school with me. I know that will be another hard transition. But I've been reminded of my goals (full-time job is in the ten-ish year plan somewhere, I want to get everyone to kindergarten at least, for my own sanity and disinterest in spending forty-thousand dollars a year on child care) and what it's going to take to get to those goals--sticking with it now even when it means I have to leave those sweet, sticky faces behind for a few hours a week (in good hands, and really, a few HOURS five exits away up the highway, it's not like I'm on a research expedition in Antarctica).

I keep reminding myself of the ridiculous grunt-work I did at the beginning of my undergrad research assistant job and how quickly I was given more responsibility. That job eventually turned into my PhD program! I'm not doing grunt-work now, but it serves as a reminder of how you never know where something will lead so you always have to do the best job you can and keep looking for opportunities to learn. But, for now, that process is exhausting, honestly, and I think I'm anticipating summer vacation even more than my students are.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

With a Capital "K"

I don't know if your bank does this, but every six months or so we get new credit cards in the mail to replace the perfectly good, unexpired ones we already have. Even though they are perfectly good and unexpired, if you don't activate the new one you will soon find yourself standing in line at the grocery store with two three screaming kids, fresh out of cash and a mysteriously declined credit card.

Nothing makes you look like a pillar of the community quite like the cashier having to interrupt you shrieking at your kids to tell you you're going to have to find another way to pay for the three sizes of diapers and giant bottle of Colace. And even though they pretend to believe you when you say "Oh, I must have forgotten to activate my new card," they are TOTALLY JUDGING YOU.

We pay for day-to-day things with cash, so I don't run into this problem a LOT. However, we have been a little distracted recently and haven't been to the bank since the beginning of December for more cash (yes we still go to the people bank, we're retro).

So today at 4:45 when I finally looked up from preparing for my new class and the breastfeeding marathon I've been living for the last three weeks, it was clear that there was no way I'd have time to go out to the store (with all three kids since Ryan had someone coming to look at my old car), come home, and cook dinner before everyone started freaking the freak out. We decided to head for the Freddie's drive-through, so I threw on a long coat over the super klassy extra-large long-sleeved Old Navy t-shirt and freaking maternity capri leggings I was wearing and herded everyone into the minivan.

We had already ordered our delicious, cooked-to-order burgers when I remembered that my card had been declined Friday when we were at the grocery store--Because of the totally unnecessary new card, NOT because we are delinquent dirtbags. So, applying the power of magical thinking, I handed my card over to the cashier and whispered a little prayer. It didn't work. "Your card was declined," she said, then smiled awkwardly. "OHH, that's because of the..." I trailed off because really, who cares. But why oh why couldn't I have AT LEAST been wearing some real pants for this transaction?

I upended my purse on the passenger seat and managed to come up with thirteen dollars in bills and seven dollars in dirty, dirty change among the rubble. Once I picked the pieces of hair and the larger crumbs out of the change I handed it all over with the confident smile of someone who pays off their credit card bill every month. The cashier handed me our greasy bag of goodness and we agreed to disagree about the state of my financial affairs. And my fashion sense.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

And now I know what the men's room looks like

We have nothing in the fridge but half a rotisserie chicken, some eggnog, and a pound cake, so I called Ryan and told him to fend for himself while I loaded up the family and went to our church's Wednesday night supper. Nine bucks for Charlie, Wes, and me to eat a wholesome meal WITH dessert and all the lemonade and iced tea we can drink. I don't know why we don't go every week.

We made our way into the fellowship hall from the minivan, James in his carrier on one arm, the other hand holding Charlie's hand, Charlie holding Wes's hand. I plunked down our cash and we headed to the serving line. I had really hoped this would make a better blog post, actually. The boys were delightful in line, answering me quickly and clearly when I asked them if they'd rather have a hamburger or hot dog. They followed me like little puppies to a table. They sat patiently in their chairs when I went to go get our drinks. It was very unexpected, and welcome!

Wes chose to start with dessert, but managed to eat half his hot dog and most of his fries. Charlie practically licked his plate clean then held it up to show me and asked politely if he could eat his dessert. They were polite and charming and very, very cute. I was enjoying it immensely, sure, but also waiting for the bottom to fall out as it sometimes does in the late evening when I have the gall to leave the house. It never did.

When the boys were done eating they ran off to play with the other kids while I passed James around to my friends. A few minutes later Charlie came to ask me to take him to the potty. I encouraged him to go by himself and told him I'd watch him all the way to the door and asked him to come tell me when he was done. I watched him walk across the fellowship hall, about the size of a regulation basketball court, and go into the men's room then kept one eye on the door, waiting for him to come out.

Several minutes later I heard indistinct yelling coming from inside the men's room all the way across the large fellowship hall, past all the families having dinner. It sounded like he was calling me. Afraid that Charlie was about to come waddling out of the men's room with his pants around his ankles I handed James off to a friend, made a mental note of Wes's location (fooling around with the water fountain, as always), then started running. The yelling continued. People were stopping with their forks in mid-air, craning their heads around to find the source of the noise. The man selling tickets, who was sitting near the door to the bathroom was cracking up.

The sound got louder and louder, I started running faster, starting to get a little bit worried about what I would find in the bathroom. Overflowing toilet maybe? Or my favorite, the floating toilet paper roll? When I reached the door I turned the handle and burst in, without thinking of who might be in there other than Charlie.

Charlie was standing in the middle of the room, jazz hands outstretched.

"Hi Mama! Did you hear my 'big finish'?" He grinned, then handed me a wet paper towel and skipped past me out the door to resume playing.

He'd been singing. Probably something from the Broadway Kids CD we'd listened to in the car.

I assembled the children and we walked hand in hand back to the car. The big boys laughed hysterically at James's pitiful cries of hunger and we all sang along with the Broadway Kids.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


First kid gets a video taken of his whole first bath, which takes place in a special plastic baby bathtub with tiny little printed washcloths. Second kid gets stuck in the bathtub with the older one, pictures are taken but the whole thing has slightly less fanfare than with the first kid.

James had to wait, naked in Ryan's arms, for me to wash all the Cheerios down the drain and run the disposal.