Monday, July 30, 2012

The First Ever Academomia Family Olympiad

In honor of the 2012 Summer Olympics, our family is trying to do something active every night during the games. This is an idea I came up with on the fly after eating a double patty melt and most of the kids' fries at Freddy's Saturday night. Maybe I should be more active and stop acting like a member of the East German men's weightlifting team, minus the eight hour workouts, I thought.

So instead of getting the kids haircuts as planned, we headed to the middle school to run around on the "real track" just like in the parade of nations. The kids were beside themselves.


The first thing Charlie and Wes did was run a quarter of a mile. Without stopping. I am not exaggerating. I have never done that even once in my life. This is the kind of energy people are talking about when they approach me in the grocery store with looks of awe, "Three boys?! Woooowwww."

James was more interested in the field sports, like soccer. He also enjoyed the freedom of roaming a huge fenced area with no one following him around. He lasted almost half an hour before making a break for the only open gate in the whole place.


I am not proud of the next two pictures, because apparently I stole the ball from a toddler then ran down the field and scored on a five year old.


Later Ryan and I ran a friendly little one hundred yard race, he in jeans and me barefoot, so let's just say no one is headed to London anytime soon. I might just head into the kitchen for another slice of tres leches cake though. Mmm cake.

While I was in the land of 10,000 lakes Ryan and Charlie created an Olympic mascot for our family. It spent a few days sitting in the stroller in the living room where it could enjoy the events with us, but then we had friends over and ate him.


We skipped Sunday because it's the day of rest and also because for Ryan and me, staying awake and not being completely mowed down by the children between 7 AM and 7 PM was a marathon in itself. Vacation re-entry is BAD.

But tonight we were back in the game with two events. The first was Olympic Slip and Sliding, which was a huge hit.


Next, because we had my niece over, we made some ribbon sticks and had rhythmic gymnastics time in the backyard. Charlie initially thought the ribbon stick idea was too girly, until he noticed that the line between gymnastics and sword fighting was narrow and blurry. I did not get any pictures of that event because I was trying to chop zucchini while holding a thirty pound child who is still pissed that I went on a trip by myself. It sounded like they were having a great time though.

I'm not sure what we'll do tomorrow night, but it's really hot so that eliminates a number of things that would be otherwise fun, like bike riding. Maybe I'll make the kids do another yoga video!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Minnesota, take me home

I spent this week in Minnesota at a workshop on teaching sustainability in the geosciences in an interdisciplinary context (for my friends at research universities, that should read: hippie hippie hippie NERD).

The first thing I noticed, after spending the preceding two weeks in a part of the country that I love but that is not known for overt displays of hospitality, was how incredibly friendly everyone was. I was greeted by multiple happy faces and "How ya doin's". My decision to relocate to the area permanently was sealed when I was dropped off in the quaint downtown of the small town hosting the workshop. Every morning I walked down a pretty main street lined with bookstores and coffee shops and yoga studios, then turned onto a residential street lined with tall oak trees and wonderful houses. It definitely made up for the active train tracks running four feet from my hotel window. Even that was kind of adorable in its own way. Its own loud, three o'clock in the morning kind of way.

The workshop was held in an old high school that was beautifully restored for the university's use. You may not know about my obsession interest in old school buildings. I tried to picture myself teaching high school students in the fifties in one of the beautiful old classrooms--wearing a full skirt belted at the natural waist, pantyhose, and pearls--but then I remembered I would probably have been asked to resign upon becoming pregnant with Charlie. But still, the building was wonderful

One of the workshop's evening activities was a hike through the university's 600 acre nature preserve. We were treated to a beautiful sunset and lots of fireflies. I was really impressed with how dark and dense the forest was. There was also prairie land and some manicured gardens. I could have spent hours there(Except: mosquitoes the size of bats, the scientists were prepared, however--someone had a pair of kneesocks in her bag and another passed around a can of Off that just happened to be in her laptop case.)

IN addition to the mosquitoes, people keep telling me something about Minnesota being cold and snowy in the winter, suggesting that I would possibly miss the year-round porch drinking afforded by Texas's climate. I chose to ignore them because it was SO GREEN AND PRETTY! FIREFLIES!

The workshop had participants from tons of different disciplines like philosophy, history, economics, engineering, and the sciences. I had never considered the sustainability issue from so many different angles and it was fascinating. We all stayed in the same hotel and ate all our meals together and spent every evening hanging out together at the campus bar, so the conversation continued, formally and informally, for the duration of my visit. My favorite part was on the last day when I worked with a geologist and historian to develop a new course on the history of coal and its effect on climate. The three of us had lots to teach each other and lots to learn and we covered all the boards in the classroom with diagrams and ideas before distilling all of it into a brief course description and six learning objectives in a frantic twenty-minute scramble at the end when we realized we were almost out of time.


Then we exchanged cards and agreed to keep in touch. I really hope we do.

After that I had dinner with three women with small children and we had a really great conversation about how we balance things and where we were in school when our babies were born. And then we moved to the bar where I misunderstood the menu and ordered a local Minnesota beer large enough to bathe James in. I could not finish it, which was a shame. In the name of conservation and sustainability, I should really have tried to save it for tonight.

It sounds like Ryan had things under control at home too. Wednesday after James's well-check they spent three hours at the science and nature center then went out for lunch, a more ambitious day than I would have ever considered. Yesterday when we talked he reported that they had played pirates and done a yoga video. Charlie's reaction to yoga: "Papa, this hurts. I think it's only for ladies."

And now I'm on a four hour layover in Denver on the way home. Tonight we have big plans to eat pizza and watch the opening ceremonies. It's supposed to be over 100 this weekend, so I assume we will also spend a lot of time at the pool. After three weeks of travel, it will be nice to have some calm time together at home.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Vacation by the numbers

Cookouts over a campfire on the beach: 2.


S'mores consumed by the children: 20


(S'mores consumed by the adults, sometimes cooked via gas stove burner in the kitchen: 34,530)


Lobstah dinners: 1


Time spent sitting on the porch (hours): 500


Days James left the house fully clothed, including shoes: 0


Ice cream consumed (gallons): 5, at least


Big boy kindergartener backpacks purchased: 1


Fights had in public: 80,000


Boat rides: 3


I am already ready to go back!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Man Eating Waves, ARGH!

After James's screamy boat experience, we thought a car trip was in order, so we loaded up and headed to Pemaquid Point Lighthouse. The kids like rocks and I like fantasies about making clam chowder in a thick wool sweater while a storm rages outside my snug lighthouse keeper's cottage. It's a win win.


Look at these cuties in the bell house. They totally need to be wearing Fair Isle sweaters as they work on their school work at the worn kitchen table in my quaint kitchen (this will never happen THANKS FOR NOTHING GPS! YOU'LL NEVER HAVE THE CHARM OF A FOG HORN!).


One of the first things I noticed as we pulled into the parking lot was a large sign proclaiming the extreme danger from rogue waves, which have the potential to "sweep our guests into the ocean." And then later, a stern "LIVES HAVE BEEN LOST." The kids could not wait to lay their eyes on the giant man-eating waves. We made our way down the rocks.


I made a point to educate the children about these wonderful glacial striations, but they were distracted by the promise of huge waves capable of sweeping people into the sea. The rocks were fascinating.


And then, finally, we were there, the mouth of the beast! The waves were impressive, but I think if we could come back during a hurricane that would really knock our socks off. Or our bodies. Into the ocean.


We took some family pictures on top of some giant rocks that I told the kids not to climb. Lucky for all of us, the kids stopped listening to me days ago.



And then we took turns climbing the tower of the lighthouse. We took turns because there was a height requirement and Wes wasn't tall enough. We had to speak in code and hand motions to get Charlie and Ryan away from the group so they could go up. Fortunately Wes never figured it out and we all were treated to a gorgeous view of the water.



Charlie was a really good sport and still hasn't told Wes, which is why we were able to take this harmonious picture.


The next stop was lunch and then we went to a PIRATE FORT that was actually the site of some battles between fur traders, Indians, and those wiley Massachusetts Bay colonists, all of whom the boys call PIRATES!



Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Until they are really really not. James is not a boater. Doesn't like the life jacket, doesn't like the motor noise, doesn't like the wind. Hate hate hate. He was momentarily happy while we were feeding him turkey sandwiches and fruit, you know, just long enough for us to take a leisurely cruise away from the house, ensuring that we would be listening to at least thirty minutes of terrified screaming on the way home. You know, when the food ran out. And there wasn't any Benadryl.

You cannot be serious.

The brothers had a nice little picnic on the way out of the harbor.


Oh, this is nice, we thought. So relaxing and enjoyable.


And a large boat passed by and made a wake that rocked our boat and James. Was. Done. The rest of us continued to have a lovely time. Ryan and I passed a screaming James back and forth, trying every conceivable position to help him relax.

Look at the osprey! We told the boys. We saw it catch a rodent of some kind then carry it up to its nest to feed its chicks. It was awesome. James howled miserably. The osprey flew away. Charlie said "Maybe the hawk thought it was going to get attacked by a giant seagull."

We walked James up and down the length of the boat.

Do not be fooled. This child is not asleep.

Turning myself into a human swaddling blanket and singing directly into his ear also didn't work.

This kind of helped, sitting on the floor in the back of the boat. As long as there was lemonade.


Finally, we made it home, where he slept for three hours.

He thought yesterday was much more fun. He would like to go do that again. In the car.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Be kind rewind

James managed to infect not just me, but also our babysitter, with the pestilence of doom, so I have spent much of today lying in my bed reading books and willing the room to stop spinning around. I didn't feel great yesterday either but decided it was because I was bored and so that's why I went out and had a beer and a giant slice of cake with a friend last night. Special bonus of GI virus of doom? That piece of cake totally did not count. WIN.

Anyway. We are going on a lengthy trip starting tomorrow morning and this means that God is using the hantavirus as a way to help me get over my control-freak tendencies. Which is to say that Ryan is packing for the family. And he is doing a really great job. I should really get out of the way more often. Ryan = awesome, but I think most of you already knew that. Seriously.

While I was lying in bed reading Little Women (TV not working and the book I'm reading about corporate farm practices is not nice to my tummy at the moment) he came in and asked if I knew where our VCR was. Curious, I went downstairs to see what was going on. I found the kids jumping around waving a VHS copy of 101 Dalmations that they found somewhere in the closet they're not supposed to play in.

Ryan returned to the living room bearing what must be the last VCR on the planet that has been stashed in our closet since we moved in. He triumphantly began connecting it to our TV, perplexed because of all the strange inputs and outputs it had.

"You see this, kids? It's a VCR. I'll bet none of your friends has one of these babies."

The kids gathered around with rapt attention. Just like I did when my parents brought home their very first VCR. When I was five.

"A BCRDBD?" asked Wes.

"That's right, buddy!" replied Ryan, grunting a little as he shifted our TV around to plug in a cable.

He stepped back to admire his work. "Hand me the tape" he said. Charlie just looked at him. "The movie, Charlie, let me have the movie." And then with great flourish he shoved it into the BCRDBD.

"What's that noise?!" Charlie inquired.

"It's rewinding!" Ryan said with enthusiasm.

"What's THAT?" Charlie wanted to know.

"It's how the movie gets back to the beginning. Before Papa and I were married, if you didn't rewind you had to pay the video store two dollars!" I told him importantly.

Several minutes later the whirring sound stopped and it was time to watch the movie. The kids dissolved into fits of giggles as Ryan fast-forwarded the previews. "LOOK AT HOW FAST THEY'RE WALKING!" shrieked Wes. "WHY ARE THEY MOVING SO FAST?!" added Charlie.

The kids have never seen fast-forward before. Something is lost with the Menu button, I tell you. When are you supposed to microwave your popcorn? Let the lava lamp warm up? Invite a friend over to watch with you using your actual voice?

Finally, Ryan pushed "play". We waited with bated breath. Would this marvelous new technology actually work? We could hear all sorts of commotion coming from inside the machine. Something was happening.

And then, the movie started playing! Aaaannnd then the screen turned black. Huh.

Charlie broke the silence. "Rub it on your shirt!"

Ryan attempted to clean the heads by inserting a sock-covered knitting needle into the machine. The kids were beside themselves. "PAPA PUT A SOCK IN THE BCRDVED!" they howled.

Though it was clever, Ryan's solution did not fix the problem.

Ultimately we determined that there was something wrong with the tape. The kids unearthed a second one, "Babe", and all was well. I think we'll make them watch the wedding video next.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Many, many, red white and blue pictures.

Fourth of July is my favorite holiday. I like it even more than Christmas, though it's close. I like hot dogs and fireworks and picnics and parades and most of all, warm weather. Sorry, Christmas, you'd be number one if I could wear a tank top on Christmas morning. And like Christmas, my day started in a sea of little pieces of paper and tape. The kids decorated their bikes/strollers for the annual neighborhood parade. They were quite enthusiastic.


The parade was a hit. A whiny, chaotic hit, but a hit nonetheless. It was so much fun to see the neighborhood out with their decorated bikes.

Me: Is this skirt too short? Ryan (without looking): Absolutely not.

When the firetruck turned on its siren, it was time to go and they were off, FAST!


The walk took forever because Charlie served as the neighborhood parade candy patrol and had to stop his bike every eight inches to pick up another freaking Laffy Taffy (gag), but everyone was in good spirits when we got to the park, which marked the end of the parade route and also the place where the firemen spray the kids with the hose every year.


Charlie charged right in. Wes was still feeling punky because he fell off his bike and a fireman had to help him up because the rest of us were so excited about the water we kept walking without noticing him until we were a good fifty yards away. Poor middle child.



Later he rallied and agreed to go get sprayed only if I would join him. The water felt amazing since it was ten AM and already in the mid nineties. He refused to put down the Smarties.


After that we went to the fire station for the Boy Scout pancake breakfast. Ryan looked at this picture and exclaimed "Wow. That is a lot of kids."


James was super tired but managed to eat a pancake the size of his torso and a bunch of sausage. And all of my orange juice.


We have been going to this pancake breakfast since Charlie was James's size and every year we take a picture on the fire truck. Here's smooshy little Charlie when he was twenty months old and the king of the castle. We knew Wes was on his way, but he did not.


Wes joined the party the next year and we risked his life in the hands of a two-year-old so we could get this picture.

Firetruck Brothers

Next year: still-baby Wes and almost a big boy Charlie.

Annual Firetruck Picture

2011 we missed because we were on an airplane to Maine, so this one is funny because SURPRISE! A TODDLER!


That one was my favorite. James is just so happy to be included, even though he couldn't really breathe.

Happy Fourth of July!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Helpful tips for you

After Ryan built the wall upstairs that created Charlie's bedroom we had this cozy little nook at the top of the stairs.  We had big plans for a bookshelf and a built in bench with big pillows and charming family pictures on the wall.  But then James was born and I taught a new class and that all went kablooey and the charming landing turned into The Place Where Shoes and Dirty Clothes go. 

Which is not what I want to look at every time I leave my bedroom in the morning.  I mean, mornings are stressful enough without tripping over forty five rubber clogs am I right?  So we've been trying to keep it neater, but what it really needed was a curtain. 

Every time I passed this window I thought about what kind of curtain I'd like to have.  Red?  Blue?  Gray?  Contemporary?  Traditional?  Valance?  Panels?  Sheers?  But I could not decide, mostly because I did not feel like spending any money on the project.  But still, how uninspiring is this?


Hi, we just moved in. Four years ago. You know how it is.

And then! On the way home from something the other day we stopped at a yard sale and they had curtain panels!! I snapped up two pretty ones and held my breath as I waited my turn to pay. They were so perfect and wonderful and I only had five dollars in my purse. I didn't want to have to put them back. I was thrilled when she told me they were FIFTY CENTS EACH!

With great enthusiasm I brought them home and went straight to work cajoling Ryan into hanging them up. We had an extra curtain rod but no brackets. Ryan suggested he go to the store but I pressed on! This project is supposed to cost ONE DOLLAR ONLY! So he screwed two drywall screws into the window frame to rest the rod on and VOLIA!


So much better. They are about six inches too long so I will need to hem them. Yeah, I'll get right on that. As a special bonus, they cover up the hole left behind when Wes used his Incredible Hulk muscles to rip the baby gate out of the wall.

And now for helpful tip number two! Do you have boys? Does your bathroom smell like the mens room at Texas Stadium on dollar pitcher night? Have you witnessed your darling children experience...lapses in concentration, shall we say...while they are using the potty that explain the smell?

I taped this picture to the potty one day because I thought the kids would laugh.


And they did laugh, but the BEST PART? It seems to keep them facing front and center. The smell has not returned! It is a miracle! I think I will have to change it up every once in a while to hold their interest. This must be why they hang newspapers behind the urinals at bars, no?