Monday, March 28, 2011

Coffee Shop Carnage

Years before satellites enabled scientists to see tropical cyclones approaching the coast, people knew the signals that preceded tropical cyclone landfall, the long ocean swells crashing on the beach, the high, wispy cirrus clouds, formed from ice crystals being shot out of the top of the giant storms. I am a trained scientist. So there is no reason for me to miss the signs that Hurricane Wes was brewing. But miss them I did.

The ever so slight hit of wildness in his laugh. His brazen defiance of my requests to stop running in the library. The time I told him to come "RIGHT HERE (pointing at a spot on the floor by my feet) RIGHT NOW" when he slithered all the way there on his belly shrieking "I a 'nake!" The way he pointed at something on the screen of the kiddie computer so forcefully he almost knocked it right off the desk. His insistence on walking in the six inch space between the bike rack and the wall instead of holding my hand.

A thousand little signals. And I ignored them all and took the kids to the coffee shop after the library. I gave them my standard string of warnings as we walked the twenty-five yards of sidewalk between the library and our favorite little place. They dutifully parroted them back to me. "OK, Mama, no fighting. If we fight, we will leave right away." What good boys.

What I should have told them is "Don't respond to my request to clean up the toys by taking off your shoe and throwing it." Or perhaps, more specifically, "Don't have a screaming floor tantrum which requires me to squat down to the floor (Carefully, so as to not wake up the sleeping baby strapped to my chest in the Snuggli) to pick you up then hook the hem of my skirt with your sneakers as I fling you up to my shoulder (NEXT TO THE NOW SCREAMING BABY IN THE SNUGGLI), pulling the whole thing up to my waist and showing off my undies to the other customers." Or maybe just, "get in the car, I think you're going to act like a psycho in forty-five minutes when it's time to go." Yes, that last one would have been best.

(I should note that Charlie was a hugely helpful little angel the whole time, really. He's been working so hard.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Today we learned about mixtures and solutions!

Isn't it sweet when brothers start to play together?


Some day they'll look back and reminisce about those simple times when all they needed to have fun was a baby pool, a hose, and twenty-five dollars worth of organic potting soil.

And yes, Charlie IS swimming fully clothed.


Check it! Wes is swimming in hot chocolate!


And then they had a mud fight and tears were shed. Muddy fun-time over.


The aftermath (does not do justice to the amount of mud on my kitchen floor)...


All this while I chatted with A on the phone. About how bad I wished we had a full bathroom on the ground floor. With a door to the back yard.

Don't worry, James, you'll be in the middle of all that next summer.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rorschach test

While left to his own devices as I was feeding the baby for the forty-seventh time the other morning, Charlie worked through his anxiety about having a new baby in the house by engaging in a little bit of self-directed art therapy in the kitchen.

Though when I asked Charlie to tell me more about his picture he turned it over and said that it's a tunnel for trains.

Which is good because I didn't think my tummy looked that bad. Sheesh!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Going OUT out

A few months ago when my friend Amy told me she'd be visiting South in March and asked if we were free for dinner I agreed immediately. I mean, her blog is hilarious and the first time we met we shared a cab to dinner and when the driver tried to drive us to the middle of nowhere, she let him have it. It was exhilarating. I couldn't wait to get together again and to meet her husband, Josh. She also provides a good listening ear when breastfeeding goes horribly wrong, but that's a story for another day.

So we set a date and time and then I immediately commenced freaking out. Where does one take out of town guests who are from an actual city and who have traveled all over the world? I mean, my recent eating out experience is currently limited to drive-thrus and Chinese take-out, but those didn't seem festive enough. I settled on one of my favorites that was near-ish their hotel and made the reservation.

On the appointed night I threw on my "going out" dress, a maternity LBD I got for ten bucks at a consignment store, while James screamed from his bouncer, Rossby barked like an idiot, and Charlie and Wes fought over the chair closest to the TV. My sister walked into the middle of that and quickly took charge of making dinner for all the kids so I could run around and make bottles and nurse the baby and fret about my nine-second "hairstyle". I've never been so happy to back that giant car out of the garage and leave the house.

Dinner was great. There was guacamole and salsa and beer and lots of stories about the combined six kids represented at the table. And also about how to kill rats in your alley (Amy) and how to rid your house of scorpions (Ryan). So, you know, it was educational.

After a luxuriously long time spent relaxing at the table, free from little hands pulling on my shirt sleeves and little mouths licking the salt shakers, the Snarky's invited us to go to a little party at a hotel with them. I immediately gave my regrets and blamed the babysitter, which is what you do when you don't want to tell your cool friends how bad you're jonesing for some flannel pants and a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. Then I looked at Ryan, whose eyes were wide with excitement.

"Can you text your sister and see what time she wants us back?" he blurted out, breathlessly.

I did. She said to go out and have fun and she'd crash on our couch. Once I got over the change in plans (oldest child alert!), I was a little giddy at the prospect of behaving like an adult for more than two consecutive hours. The four of us loaded into our big gold minivan and after a series of wrong turns, wound up finding a free parking spot a block from the W Hotel, where we were going. It was meant to be, in other words.

I had no clue where we were going or what we were doing, but I followed Josh through the crowded lobby where he waved a VIP badge at a bouncer, who moved a little velvet rope so we could go through, up a flight of stairs, down a long hallway, and out onto a terrace no bigger than a tennis court with a stage at one end, a bar at the other, and a whole bunch of people. The Snarky's met up with their friend, who pressed a huge stack of free drink tickets into Amy's hand. She disappeared and returned with beer for everyone just as the next band was starting to set up.

It was these guys and they were awesome:

The Snarky's are awesome. The night was memorable and unexpected and FUN (so much fun). It was great. We're still talking about it and how we need to have fun more often, preferably in a crowded setting with a loud, thumpy electronic band playing live. Yes, that would be perfect. I'd go right now if I could.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Sounds of Daylight Stupid Time

Go put on your jammies.


I don't know, maybe he needs an extra bottle. Charlie, go put on your jammies.


No bed, Mama! No bed, Mama! No bed, Mama! NOOOOOOOO WAAAAAAH!

Can you please make him an extra bottle while I--PUT ON YOUR JAMMIES RIGHT NOW.



Holy hell.

Charlie! JAMMIES.

Where are my pullups?




(Ryan singing and bouncing) Blackbird singing in the dead of night... Bottle's in the warmer getting warm... All my life..."



Wes if you don't get in your bed and stop screaming this second there will be NO Curious George for you tomorrow!

GEEEOOOOORGEEEE! No Mama, no Mama, no Mama (sobbed into my shoulder). Charlie, go put on your jammies!


" were always waiting for your bottle to arrive..."



Here's a pullup, now put your jammies on before I have an aneurysm.

In the great green room there was a telephone...


And a red balloon, and a picture of the cow jumping over the--sit down and listen, please---moon. And there were three little bears, sitting--Charlie go back to your room and put on your jammies right now, please.


Blaaaaaackbird, fly! (bounce bounce bounce) Blaaaaaackbird, fly!


Goodnight noises everywhere! OK, nighty night! Love you! Big day tomorrow! Get some sleep!


OK Charlie, come over here and let me help you with your jammies.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


We spent the whole weekend outside, with the exception of a couple of hours on Saturday morning when Ryan took the boys to a new restaurant near our house named simply "Donuts Tacos" and I struggled through a few papers about undergraduate engineering education. Then James and I went bra shopping (success!) and Ryan and the others went to Home Depot.

Ryan found a great deal on a compost bin, so he brought it home and we spent the rest of the weekend trying to find enough browns and greens to fill it up.

In the mean time it made a great fort.


Charlie and Wes are becoming good friends. This is possible mostly because Wes has finally acquiesced to his role as the Grasshopper in the relationship. Charlie didn't know I was watching the other day and greeted Wes with a big bear hug after his nap. Don't get me wrong, they do spend a lot of time trying to kill each other. Just now sometimes it sort of seems like they might be playing.


We've had to keep a close eye on our produce. Charlie steals anything that's not nailed down and carries it out to the compost bin. These were among the approved items, an aging mango and a rotten apple. He also tries to get the coffee grounds out of the coffeemaker before its done brewing and eats extra bananas just so he can throw the peel into the "con-post bin".

The real compost

James spent a lot of time outside too. Wes read him "Mike Mulligan".


Yes, they're both wearing jammies. Apparently when we skip church we can't even be bothered to put pants on the children. Truthfully, the only reason I got dressed was to run to Starbucks and the grocery store. Funny story about that, I wore what I call my "inappropriately short skirt". I call it that because it is inappropriately short. Thank goodness I didn't need anything on a bottom shelf. But the lady offering free beer samples at the store CARDED me, even though I had James with me. Then she might have noticed something in my eyes because she gave me this huge sample of Guinness that I couldn't finish because I don't know how long you spend at the grocery store, but I don't think it's long enough to metabolize half of a Guinness (that you had to slam right there in front of the display because you can't push the cart with one hand) and then legally drive your minivan home with your infant inside. I'll be interested to see what it does for milk production, because I really liked it and would love an excuse to buy more.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mission NOT accomplished

Confession time: I only have one bra that I like. I have a total of like, three. Five if you count sports bras that fit when I was twenty-one. But this one bra is black and not the kind of black you wear when you first get married. It's the kind of black bra you wear after you've been married seven years and drive a big gold minivan. It's the kind of bra that should be paired with a matching slip that falls below the knee.

It's not exactly sexy, but it's a hard worker. Just like me.

So the other day at the school playground, presumably under the live load exerted on it by me chasing one of the children near the three-hour mark since I'd last fed the baby, the underwire of the left side came springing out of the fabric and stabbed me.

Because I am classy, I reached into my shirt to shove the wire back into place. I also noticed that I had two nursing pads balled up in one cup and none in the other. A good look, truly.

When I attempted surgery on it this morning and was unable to fix it, I knew it was time to call the time of death and buy something else. So after we dropped off the big boys James and I headed to Target, home of the fourteen-dollar bra.

We walked straight past all the cute little colorful demi cups. Those are for another time, like nineteen-ninety-eight. I was looking for some structural integrity and enough coverage that it could act as an emergency shirt in case of vomit/blowout. We were headed for the back, to black, beige, and white land. Full Coverage and Minimizing for the Lactating Woman of Eastern European Descent! (If that's not a brand name, it totally should be)

I wasn't going to be one of those people who wears the wrong size bra. I've seen Oprah. So I grabbed about five different sizes in one style and headed for the dressing room where I learned that I do not have the upper body strength required to hook the band of the size I thought I was. Swearing softly, I put it back on the hanger and grabbed the biggest of the stack. I found it slightly easier to clasp, but still felt like a praying mantis once I finally got the straps up on my shoulders.

James was very confused by all of this bra changing, by the way. Ultimately he became enraged and demanded I stop teasing him then pooped out the leg of his diaper while I was feeding him. Touche, little man. Touche.

I settled on one that kind of hurt and clearly didn't fit right but that was the biggest size I was willing to carry to the front of the store and buy in person.

Then I skulked back out there and forced myself to find some bigger ones (for my bigger ones), telling myself all the while that I needed to find something that fit so I could wear it for more than five minutes without bruising, stabbing, or rib fractures, I don't have to love it stop acting like a child!

I found some horrifyingly large candidates that looked like they would possibly also work as an umbrella for Wes work and headed back to the dressing room a third time. And two of them fit quite comfortably but were not so flattering after the t-shirt test.

I'm still wearing the stabby one pending a trip to the big guns (ha ha HA) bra store at the mall where a stern older woman will unceremoniously measure you, feel you up, then lead you to the three-hook, full coverage bra-shirts in the back.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Seven years is a whole new set of skin!

When I lived in upstate New York as a kid we went skiing once and while we were in the lodge my family overheard a woman exclaim "I'm comin' he-ah [here] SEVEN YE-AHS [years] I nev-ah seen it so icy!" and it's been a family catchphrase ever since. Yesterday was Ryan's and my seventh anniversary and all day we said to each other "SEVEN YE-AHS!"

It seems like more than seven years since we were newlyweds, waking up at nine every day, patting ourselves in the back if we managed to get to school before ten o'clock, living in an orange stucco house we affectionately dubbed "The Alamo", learning to "cook", doing yard work and going to Sonic every day in the summer.

Today I'm sitting at the kitchen table, holding a sleeping James in one arm while the big boys watch Curious George, trying to squeeze my lecture into the calmer cracks of the day. I'm in my PJs, Ryan's off at his corporate nine to five, there's a big gold minivan in my garage, and instead of Texas Country and Van Morrison, Mozart and Kanye, the not-so-soft whir and thump of our aging washing machine provides the soundtrack for the day.

In seven years your skin completely replaces itself and it takes seven years for a bankruptcy to be removed from a credit report. In other words, it takes seven years for all traces of a past, different life to disappear. Individual Ryan and individual Becca have completely disappeared and been replaced with something more complicated--a family of FIVE PEOPLE--big enough to frustrate the efforts of the suburban chain restaurant industry with their dining rooms full of four-person tables.

Happy Anniversary, Ryan. There's no one else I'd rather share this car with:

[no infants were neglected during the filming of this video.]

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Lock up your lotion

Charlie has really been taking advantage of our new supervision policy, I like to call it "don't go so far away from me that I can't hear you screaming if you get hurt," and he's been spending a lot of time up in his room "working". One week his medium of choice was tinfoil. Let me tell you, Charlie's got a future as a crazy, paranoid recluse. I was picking tinfoil out of his carpet for days.

This week has been a bit of a problem. This week he has been dabbling in cosmetics. While my parents were here for dinner he came bouncing down the stairs, his hands completely soaked in what we later determined to be my Origins ginger body lotion. Later, by methods unknown to me, Charlie and Wes both ended up with enough Origins ginger body lotion in their hair that they both resembled Zack Morris from Saved by the Bell. And they smelled like a Chinese restaurant. Score!

Apparently, even though it's all natural and stuff, it cannot be washed out with anything short of a pressure washer and industrial grade carpet cleaning fluid. The good news is we've gotten Wes's cowlick under control for the first time ever! The bad news is they're going to attract ants.

The lotion was sort of amusing slash annoying (and expensive!), but this morning I was stuffing Wes into a pair of jeans when Charlie burst out into the hallway and exclaimed "WOOK AT MY FACE!" I ignored him at first and continued to dress Wes.


So I did.

Also pictured, crusty lotion hair x 2.

That there is my favorite "Pat on the Black" nail polish. Also known as "lotion with a teeny tiny paintbrush."

Ryan got it off with a baby wipe after Charlie complained that it was itching.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Having it all

Here's the thing about the so called "balance" all women are supposedly seeking to find in their personal, professional, and family lives: It is precarious and if one little thing goes wrong--a sick child, canceled dinner plans, a poorly timed nap for the two-year old--it all comes crashing down and the result is stress, frustration, and really awful nutritional choices for the whole family.

This morning was bad. Very bad. James has been sick for a week (RSV!) so I have gotten nothing, NOTHING done around the house. He was miserable, poor thing, and really, honestly needed to be held about twenty hours out of each day. That, combined with my recent trip, has made the laundry situation completely unmanageable. I did three loads yesterday and still had to face down the huge pile of shame on my closet floor this morning. Today I am wearing a pair of pants that is so wrinkly it kind of looks like they're meant to be that way. I was having a nervous breakdown in my closet when I noticed it was time for Ryan to leave for work so I grabbed them out of the hamper, threw them on, then stomped down the stairs with an armful of dirty clothes, yelling about how fat I am. I was angrily stuffing the clothes into the washing machine when Ryan appeared in the laundry room door to tell me that our babysitter had arrived and was sitting in the living room looking very uncomfortable. I apologized but she was effusive in her offers to help in some way.

Before you suggest that I ask Ryan to help more, let me assure you, he is doing everything he possibly can, AND MORE. Yesterday when he came home from work I handed him a baby and a tube of raw ground beef and let him make dinner for himself and the boys while I took a shower and ran out the door for a church meeting. And then I made him promise, PROMISE PINKY SWEAR, that he would not clean up the house and kitchen while I was gone, because he also has to work at home every night just to stay afloat, and was already handling bedtime for three kids solo. But the house was immaculate when I came home. GUILT.

And then there's my class. The grading pile is starting to resemble my laundry pile. And I just collected a short writing assignment that I have NO IDEA how I'm going to grade because how do you do that, non-quantitative people? Grade writing? DUMB. SO DUMB. I came home from my meeting last night at nine thirty then jumped right into pumping and then finishing my lecture for today, which didn't work because I couldn't keep my eyes open. After the fifth time I had to delete a paragraph of gibberish from my notes I gave up and went to bed. Around eleven. I fed James at 12:30 and 5:30. I'm starting to understand why I was such a psycho this morning.

The thing is, when you are only failing in one area, you can nobly declare it to be at the expense of the other thing. Like, "That lecture went poorly, but it's because I am also running a household and doing a darn good job of it." But what if you are failing in every area? What if it's "That lecture went poorly, I have no clean underpants, and my kids ate spaghetti for dinner four times last week." I have mentally searched for inefficiencies in my schedule countless times and I can honestly tell you that without pulling all-nighters, which has crossed my mind several times but I realize doing so would only make the problem worse in the long term, that I am doing the best I can. And Ryan is doing the best he can. And we have a babysitter and lots of family help when we need it. And and and. It's not enough.

I'm afraid that the only solution is to white-knuckle through the rest of the semester (which is mercifully only a couple of months away) then regroup in the summer, when I will no doubt complain about having nothing to do.