Tuesday, August 30, 2011

One of these things is not like the other

It's no secret that "fall" around here is usually kind of a disappointment for someone accustomed to screaming cold fronts that bring forty mile-per-hour winds and a thirty-degree drop in temperatures during the time it takes to attend a calculus class in shorts and flip flops, but we do what we can. I made some cinnamon bread the other day so it SMELLED like fall! I hung out our autumn wreath so it LOOKS like fall! I was so into it this morning when it was eighty-one instead of eighty-nine that I almost considered buying one of those giant scarecrows they have at Hobby Lobby to stand guard in the front garden (the kids wanted the one whose face actually WAS a crow, oh the irony!).

Next I would like to make a big pot of chili and fill the house with the sounds of Red Raider football (and corresponding yelling at the TV by yours truly, ahem).

Hopefully the atmosphere takes the hint. Our forecast high on Thursday is ninety-three. Better go find the scarves and hats!

Monday, August 29, 2011


When I came down from putting the baby to bed, my kids had turned my living room into a hash den. I say go with it!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Story problem time!!

If Becca and her three young children have lunch plans with friend, Katie, and her two small children at 11:30 at a restaurant that is twenty-five minutes from her house, and it is currently 10:15, how many minutes late will she arrive? Show your work.


-Lunch is at 11:30 -- T2 = 11:30
-Current time is 10:15 -- T1 = 10:15
-Driving time to restaurant is 25 minutes -- D = 25 mins


-Arrival time -- Ta = ?
-How many minutes late -- TL= Ta-T2


-Older children will need to go potty (5-20 mins)
-Baby will need to nurse (10 mins)
-Purse will be MIA (5 mins)
-Everyone will need shoes (10 mins)
-Time to buckle kids into car varies as Tbuckle(minutes) = 1 / BS, where BS is a blood sugar coefficient that ranges from 0.1 to 1, BS chosen to be 0.1 based on time since breakfast


Ta = T1 + Tbuckle + D + Tother

Tother = Tpurse + Tnurse + Tshoes + 2*Tpotty + Ttantrum

...where Ttantrum is a random number between 1 and 20 minutes.

Tother = 5 mins + 10 mins + 10 mins + 2*10 mins + 7 mins
Tother = 52 mins

Ta = 10:15 + 10 mins + 25 mins + 52 mins
Ta = 11:42

TL = Ta - T2
TL = 11:42 - 11:30

TL = 12 mins

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I love the beginning of the fall semester. Even though it is still one hundred degrees outside, we powered through with our traditional scooter ride around campus and trip to the cafe for hot chocolate on Tuesday. We would have gone on Monday, which was the actual first day, but I was, frankly, afraid to take them out in public. It was not a good day.

But Tuesday we had a plan!

The big men on campus:


We had a gleeful scooter ride from the car to the library to check out Toy Story and then it was time to scooter over to the student center for some hot chocolate. The woman who makes the hot chocolate remembered them from the spring semester and commented on how big everyone was getting. Have I mentioned that I love my school?


Today was my first day of class. I teach two labs this semester. It is going to be SO MUCH easier than the spring. For one thing, it only meets for ten weeks. Second, I only lecture for ten minutes. The rest is helping with their experiments. It is SO MUCH FUN.

Also fun, our babysitter came today with rolls of construction paper and when I came home they had made race cars out of diaper boxes and watched Toy Story and cleaned up the playroom.

Not fun? I pushed ahead with my planned first-day-of-school outfit of jeans, and a short-sleeved cardigan from JCrew despite the fact that we just had our SEVENTIETH DAY of temperatures above a hundred degrees. It was fine while I was inside, but the walk to my car was quite unpleasant. Now that I've registered my protest against this ridiculous summer, I'll be going back to skirts and tees until it's AT LEAST in the nineties.

Monday, August 22, 2011

House Rules

We have three simple rules in our house. Literally, three rules. Just like SuperNanny Jo Frost recommends. They are:

1. Be considerate of others.
2. Be respectful of our house and belongings.
3. Focus on what you are doing.

The kids are most familiar with Rule 3. Dilly dallying while getting into your carseat? Rule 3! Taking a coloring break when you're supposed to be putting on your pajamas? Rule 3! Throwing rocks into the sewer instead of following me back to the house? Hit 'em with a Rule 3.

I think I should carry around a yellow flag in my pocket and learn to hurl it right into the center of the action. Maybe we could have instant replay so we could finally see who started the yogurt fight. Because they have their loyalties, and they're not to me or Ryan.

(I should point out that I have gotten up twice for more milk and checked Facebook three times during the course of writing this. Rule 3 for Mama!)

Anyway, I don't know if it's helping or not, but it has added to the teenager-style eye rolls and exasperated sighs coming out of my almost five-year-old. Depending on the time of day and my blood sugar/caffeine level that is either really hilarious or makes me want to drive straight to Nebraska for some Baby Moses Law action.

All this to say, there are two more weeks until preschool starts. The one-hundred degree temperatures don't appear to be letting up anytime soon, the water in the pool is warmer than the kids like their bath, and we are all really, really cranky. Especially me. Especially since Hurricane Irene canceled my plans to return to my old town for a day to work on a paper with Dr. Advisor. It's enough to make me want to eat by flashlight at a Wafflehouse in rural South Carolina (ahh, fieldwork, have fun guys!).

I give my college kids an assessment on Wed and Fri and all I have to do is sit there in that quiet, freezing room for an hour and I can't believe how much I'm looking forward to it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

James's World

You guys, I live with a Roomba. He never stops moving and is constantly sucking up things you don't want him to. He has identified the boys' best crumb-scattering ground, the shelf where the crayons are, and the source of all the small pieces of plastic by some heretofore unknown sixth sense. And because he is the third kid, and the first two kids need immediate access to the bathroom at all times, he has unrestricted access to the whole first floor (and God help me when he figures out the stairs).

I think the cute little baby-potato stage is over (I mean, the cute part's not over, what's not cute about finding an infant with a forest green Crayola hanging out of his mouth like a Lucky Strike when you come back from spending thirty seconds in the bathroom?). Next you're going to tell me they don't take three naps forever either.

The boys know to keep toys with small pieces in the playroom. I'm thinking some kind of retinal scan access system is in order.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Attention Target Shoppers

I dressed the children alike today for my amusement. I thought it looked like they were going to go to Catholic school, but some (six) of my friends pointed out on Facebook that they looked like they all worked at Target.


About two seconds after this picture was taken, Charlie jumped up, screaming, because he had been sitting right in an ant hill. It was the last straw for Charlie, who had had a very stressful morning. He woke up at six and was forced to use the potty and get back in bed. Then his banana was rendered totally inedible by a "soft place" and Wes insisted on referring to the letter "G" magnet as the letter "T" and Charlie reacted so violently that he had to go to time out. It was a rough morning. And then he got attacked by ants.

Ryan still wanted a picture of them so we tried again after church. I call this series "Low blood sugar: What the hell are you looking at?" James was uncooperative because he wanted to eat the mulch behind him. Charlie tried to make him turn around by pulling on his ear. Wes refused to sit on his bottom.




This morning I was so homesick for our old town that I insisted we have lunch at our favorite taco place. They had it in our old town--it's where we went on our first date--and just built one here. The cool slash creepy thing is that the one here is identical in every way to the one in our old town (Except the friendly manager who always greeted me by name. Because I spent WAY too much time there.). Even the flatware has the same pattern. It's like walking into our past, but with lots and lots of extra children.

Extra children, who, it turns out, love refried beans.


Really, really love refried beans.


Like, if I lingered too long over my iced tea and didn't get the fork moving in time, he would grab a handful off the plate and smear them all over the place.


It was a delicious hour of feeling like we were back in our school town where the temperature would soon be dropping to a reasonable sixty degrees at night and eighty-ish during the day. Where the whole town would be going football-crazy in a week or two. It's always a surprise when we walk out of that place and are still in South. I felt like I should go home and argue with Ryan about who gets to spend the afternoon working on their dissertation.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Teachable Moment

We were detoured on the way to the Community Center this morning by a man in a vest waving an orange flag. The kids picked up on the change in route immediately and Charlie complained all the way around back to the main road, all the way to the exit to the neighborhood and all the way down the highway back to the road where the Community Center is.

"This is SO STUPID. Why do they have to work on the STUPID road?"

"Charlie, I don't want to hear you talk that way."

"But it's STUPID. I want to go to the Community Center."

"We're going to the Community Center right now. We just have to go another way."

"Those workers are STUPID."

"Charlie, they're working hard to make our neighborhood nice for us. We don't call people 'stupid'. If you can't stop complaining, then I don't want you to speak at all."

Then quietly, "It's just so stupid to work on the stupid road."

And then, we approached the intersection at the entrance of our neighborhood, where we'd have to turn right to get on the highway to go the long way around to get around the (stupid) road work and go to the Community Center, where I would enjoy forty-five glorious minutes on the elliptical watching the news--and maybe if the kids got distracted enough, a few minutes drinking coffee and reading the paper in the lobby--as we approached that intersection, they had two of the lanes closed and a long line of cars was backed up. I waited, but when the light turned green only three cars made it through before we were all stuck again. I was trapped in the car with a whining Charlie and potty-training Wes and the nap clock was ticking on James.

My internal dialog turned negative "This is so STUPID. Why do they have to do stupid work on the stupid road. Stupid stupid stupid. I want to go to the Community Center!"


Sunday, August 7, 2011


The other day I was poking around online for a project at work, looking at the curriculum for a certain degree at other small liberal arts schools like mine, when I happened upon a very interesting job posting at a highly-regarded college in Massachusetts that was a perfect fit for my interests and skills (except for the highly-regarded part). I stared at the posting for several minutes, afraid it would disappear if I looked away.

The timing could not have been better. Every summer we spend a significant chunk of our vacation to New England discussing our favorite pipe dream: "How can we live closer to *here* and spend more time *here* in the summer? Maybe if we can both get jobs at a liberal arts college in New England, we could make it work! Yes! That would be perfect."

And then, we come home from our trip, step out into the smoldering 100 degree air in our town, and grumble for the next four weeks about how bad we want to move to New England where it doesn't suck so much.

But at which liberal arts college could we, both with engineering degrees, work? It's a total fluke that I have my job now!

That's where this perfect job posting comes in. I stared at it for a long, LONG time. And then I was so distracted I had to go to lunch early (if I was going to be obsessing I might as well obsess over tacos so that I could maximize my time in the, hopefully more focused, afternoon).

I waited until Ryan had been home for ten seconds before unloading my whole plan on him. He hadn't even put his laptop bag down. Or closed the garage door.

And then after the kids went to bed we had to have a big grownup discussion about it. The pros (of applying for a job that I would most likely not be considered for) were as follows:

*The possibility of living in a quaint New England town and working at an excellent college full time in a tenure track position.
*An exciting new professional challenge (a big, BIG challenge)
*On-site childcare
*Being closer to the place where we like to vacation (but not having to ever ride the subway with the electron brothers EVER AGAIN).
*Summer weather that doesn't make me homicidal.

The con list was longer:

*We love our church, we love our preschool, we love our friends, we love living near our families, we love our house, we love our pediatrician.
*I have a wonderful job, great co-workers, lots of support, tons of flexibility, and the ability to do as much or as little research as I want. I can use this time to learn the skills that will be important if I ever want a tenure track job one day (lesson one: don't try to turn an NSF grant around in one week)
*Tenure track is, like, WAY HARDER that what I do now. All kidding aside, now is not the time for me to be taking on a stressful, high-pressure job. I already have three of those.
*Cilantro costs $0.29 a bunch here and is not widely available in the northeast.
*Any house we could afford would likely be on the order of a thousand square feet. I tried to imagine what that would be like with the boys in the winter and I think the best analogy is that it would be like living inside a bag of microwave popcorn.
*Winter isn't really my thing

So we decided not to apply, which was a little disappointing, but I really think I'm exactly where I need to be right now. It's not the right time for us to both work full-time. I enjoy the slow pace of our week, I love the flexibility we have (for fun things and for dealing with things like doctor's appointments, dead car batteries, sick kids, dogs running out of the garage when you're trying to get everyone in the car), I love the kids' preschool and spontaneous get-togethers where we let the kids destroy the house as we chat over coffee. And I am truly enjoying spending so much time with them and the time they spend playing with one another (even though they do make me crazy sometimes, as has been evidenced here).

But I also love my work days--the separate identity, the quiet, the concentration, the challenge, the professional conversations, my co-workers, the students, the science, and the leafy campus. And the quiet, did I mention that? My Chair described my job as an incubator, and it really is. This summer I've gotten to write and submit an NSF proposal, prepare a paper for publication, and submit an abstract for a conference in the fall. I have gotten experience teaching and developing curriculum over the last three semesters. I'm slowly finding my way back onto a career path and largely at my own pace. It is a great opportunity.

Someday the time will be right and the opportunity will present itself and we will know it's the right move to make.

In the mean time I will continue to enjoy watching Curious George and making things in the bread machine. And breaking up fights on the playground while talking to Matlab salesmen.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

We have arrived

As a kid I always wanted a kitchen table with a bench, just like the Hogan Family had in their kitchen. Flash forward twenty-five years and now the kids (and we) have systematically destroyed almost all the chairs that originally came with the butcher block kitchen table Ryan and I bought at a yard sale down the street when we were first married.

We're down to two actual chairs and one chair that has become a stool after I roughly set it aside one day in a fit of post-partum, "I've been trapped in the disgusting house for four straight weeks", mopping frenzy and the back flew into a million pieces. And since we blew right past the suburban ideal of two kids, we need to have five seats anyway. It was time to trade up.

So after seven and a half years, we bought the first piece of new furniture we've ever bought together as a couple. We are JUST LIKE the Hogan Family now!

Oddly, the bench has not altered the usual state of disorder that pervades my kitchen. I think only James graduating from high school will fix that. Which is to say, I better just get over it.

(We're going to refinish the rest of the table to match the bench. One day. Or maybe we'll just get a lot of nice tablecloths.)

(I'm keeping the stool chair forever)