Monday, April 30, 2012

Unfortunately I did forget the PB&J and juice boxes

Today is the first day of finals week at my school and my final isn't until Friday, so after I dropped the chitlins off at preschool I was free to do whatever I wanted for the next four hours, as long as I could do it with James in tow and looking like I had just rolled out of bed and gotten into the car (which is pretty much how it went down this morning, when I did not notice Charlie and I were both wearing our superhero 5K shirts until we got to preschool. Actually, that's not completely true. I was wearing *Ryan's* superhero 5K shirt because mine fits too much like a shirt and not enough like pajamas. Adorable).

So, since I needed a few staples, I headed to one of my favorite places in town, the Fancy Grocery Store. I can only go there with the big boys if I have an extra $30 to blow and several hours to spend on the playground, so we only go about once every month or two, but if I had it my way I would live next door and spend each morning standing in the middle of the giant produce department weeping with joy smelling things to my heart's content before carefully selecting the perfect cut of meat/bottle of wine/imported cheese combination for that evening's dinner. Incidentally, that is our retirement plan. It's written down in our file at the financial planner's. We may get there we may not. And also, if my freeway fantasies involve living next to the good grocery store then perhaps I need to expand my horizons.

There was a close parking spot in the Customer With Child parking area and getting James out was so easy I felt kind of guilty taking it. I spent a gloriously long time in the produce section, running my eyes over the huge bunches of spinach and kale. Smelling all the apples and oranges. With no idea what to make for dinner tonight I just picked out whatever looked the best. Two watermelon quarters, a big bunch of spinach. I took an extra lap just to make sure I'd really seen everything, then found myself in the fish market where, because I could hear the thoughts in my own head, I said to myself "Hey, Charlie's been asking for fish tacos. I should do that for dinner tonight. They wrapped up my tilapia and put it on ice for me and then I spent ten glorious minutes picking out the perfect sauces to go with it (I ended up with some Hatch Green Chile salsa and some sour cream to mix it with).

Next stop was the cookie and muffin buffet, which James is very familiar with. He started up the Oliver Twist "more" routine as soon as we rounded the corner and since he was the only one there, I treated him to a banana granola muffin so he would have something to munch on while I picked out my cookies (Kitchen sink and pretzel logic, SWOON). The tortillas I picked up next for our tacos were still piping hot and I had to resist the urge to hold them to my cheek and sing "I Must Have Done Something Good" from the Sound of Music. Good food is a beautiful thing.

I scooped up some of the bulk pico de gallo and chimichurri salsa (and passed up a good three others that I also wanted to try) on the way to the register and resisted the urge to stock up on the family-size casseroles in the deli as I passed by. I did not, however, resist the urge to pick up two dark chocolate with sea salt bars next to the register. And the most delicious cup of iced tea I've ever had. And a mozzarella, basil, and tomato sandwich. You know, to go with the cookies and the tea.

It was glorious. And very, very decadent. And somehow, even with all that lingering and browsing only took an hour and only cost $40. And James still took a nap when I got home, so I should probably go take a shower and change my shirt now. Nah, it's summer break.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Babies like cake batter

The video I will now be playing whenever I need a pick me up:

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Shoo fly

You guys do NOT want to know what I found in my living room. But I am going to tell you anyway.

It's fruit fly season here. They are disgusting, but inevitable. You can keep their numbers down by promptly taking overripe fruit outside and cleaning up the kids plates quickly. I know this is what it takes to not have hundreds of little black bugs flying around all the time, but it doesn't always happen. Still, I do my best.

They were even at the grocery store the other day, which was somehow even more disgusting than having them at my house, but at the same time I felt a little better that the professionals were struggling too.

Anyway, back to my living room.

I've been seeing fruit flies in there, many miles away in fruit fly distance from the kitchen, where they like to feast on my kids' leftovers. But sure enough, there were always five or six of them hovering around these chairs we have. Super gross, but I sniffed around and couldn't find anything. I made a mental note to get a bug zapper one of these days, but sort of figured there was nothing I could do about it.

I'm not sure when I started noticing them, maybe two or three weeks ago? Who really knows.

But today when the kids pulled one of the cushions off one of those chairs to build a fort I saw it.

A black smear down the back of the chair, behind where the cushion was.

And half a banana jammed down into the spot where the back meets the seat. At least it was a banana several weeks ago before it underwent liquification.

And all around it was the freaking Rome of fruit fly civilizations.

I gagged so hard.

And exclaimed in a loud voice "WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?!"

The kids were fascinated with it. Until I (very bravely) used a plastic bag as a glove to get it out of there and throw it in the trash. Unfortunately, those little freaks are FAST and I only got one or two in the bag.

If you need me, I'll be at Home Depot buying a bug light so big it requires a five day waiting period.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

It's a baby par-tay!

I'm not quite sure it happened, but one minute I was talking to my friend over a Sunday School half door about drinking margaritas in a back yard wading pool and the next we were invited over to her house for a cookout. After family naptime I stopped by the store for guacamole and wine and swim diapers and we headed over to their house.

James's little buddy had just woken up so he kept him company while he ate his lunch.

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Charlie and Wes jumped in the pool first thing, but got out briefly for popsicles. Later I asked Wes if his popsicle tasted like a rainbow and when he said "Yes!" Charlie snarked back "That's not possible, Wes. Rainbows are made from WATER and LIGHT." Poor Wes. There will be no childlike wonder in THIS house. Only facts. Cold, hard facts from the kid who puts his stuffed animals out on the back porch for a few hours a day so "they can talk to each other where he can't hear them" (I love this, by the way, so I hope he never stops).

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The water was cold. The ducky towel was a hot commodity.

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We squeezed as many kids as we could around the little picnic table for hot dogs and strawberries and banana bread.

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They take eating very seriously.

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The babies felt like going for a swim. (The mothers felt like, um, sitting under the umbrella drinking wine. There are no pictures of that)

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And then we made them all pose for a picture before someone freaked out. That's four one year olds, two three year olds, two five year olds, a seven year old, and a thirteen year old. The four one year olds cracked me up. Total bedlam!

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I thought the kids would be worn out but it's 9:30 and Wes is still awake. He's howling in his room as I write this. Should make for a rough day tomorrow. And now I have to prep THE LAST LECTURE OF THE SEMESTER. I saved a bunch of papers to hand back so I could cut off ten minutes of lecture time. And then we talk about the effects of anthropogenic climate change. I hope to get them all riled up. I am going to miss this bunch SO much!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Touchy-Feely

Today started out with me ripping the handle off of my favorite Vera Bradley bag (I found it at Goodwill and it is the PERFECT size) in the Community Center gym.

We were playing basketball when Wes shouted "I'M POOPING!!!" as he ran out of the room toward the bathroom. I grabbed my bag, which was stuck on one of the bleachers, unbeknownst to me, and turned to go after him and RRRRRIIIIP, I was left holding the handle of my bag. I am pretty sure I can fix it. I really hope so.

After Wes handled his bathroom needs we tried to play for a little bit longer but the kids kept stealing each others' basketballs and then screaming and hitting each other. When I yelled (without thinking, obviously) "STOP TOUCHING EACH OTHERS' BALLS!!" I knew it was time for us to leave.

From there we had to go to the store for a couple of things and the bickering and pinching continued. For his part, James screamed like velociraptor every thirty seconds or so. It was magical and special times in the big gold minivan.

James took a nap after we got home, but Charlie and Wes fought for every second of that two hours that the TV wasn't on. Not just fighting, but hitting, pushing, smacking, screaming, toy stealing, you name it. Then they "made their own sandwiches" out of three slices of bread, turkey, cheese, and about a quarter cup of mayonnaise EACH and the refused to eat them because they didn't like it. Wes defiantly poked holes in his with his fingers until I exiled him to the back yard and threw his lunch in the trash. I was about to LOSE IT. And then James woke up and sobbed through his lunch.

But then it was time for me to go to a meeting so I trooped everyone out to the car where Wes had a Stage 4 meltdown over having to wear his red Crocs instead of his black Crocs.

And James was still screaming.

And then I was screaming and crying and struggling to pull it together and wondering if the kids wouldn't be better off if I had a full-time job after all. But, OH RIGHT, all those discouraging emails about no money for new faculty, no money for additional classes for adjuncts! THIS SCREAMING, SNOTTY, PEANUT BUTTER-COVERED LIFE IS MINE FOREVER! And at that moment, with everyone screaming in the van and at least four very intimidating deadlines looming over my head THIS MONTH, there were very few redeeming qualities about my choice to work part time. None. Not one lazy summer afternoon at the pool splashing with the kids seemed worth it.

And then after a very positive work meeting I helped a woman carry some things to her office, her beautiful sunny office whose walls were covered in children's finger paintings and macaroni sculptures and we had SUCH an encouraging conversation about how she started as an adjunct and then landed a visiting position and now has tenure. She asked in low tones if I'd ever be interested in being tenure track someday and I answered in equally low tones, "Oh YES. That would be wonderful." And she is not in charge of those types of decisions, so it was more of a mentor-type question, but she told me all about how highly my colleagues think of me in my department and that I should keep doing what I am doing and work hard on teaching and maybe someday something will work out. I was floating as I left her office and headed for mine.

The nanny dropped the kids off and they were so adorable and fun all the way back to the car and I started to imagine *this* as my life, a fulfilling, professional day, picking up happy children, riding home together talking about our days. It seemed like that could work too--It already seemed to be working better than that morning of full-time parenting had gone.

But when we got home the bottom fell out again and we were back to fighting and picking and bickering. I slapped some PB&J's down for dinner and flipped on the evening news. James was still screaming almost constantly so I gave him a Motrin chaser then sat down to watch TV until Ryan got home to take Charlie and Wes to teeball.

I got James into his jammies as soon as Ryan left and thought about plunking him in bed to fend for himself, but he was so miserable I thought I would sit down in his chair for a cuddle first. He sucked his thumb and stroked his blanket and leaned into my chest and sighed. I started through the songs I usually sing to him at bedtime. First "Lean on Me", then "You are my Sunshine", then I sang him "The Hymn of Promise". I was crying when I got to "In the cold and snow of winter, there's a spring that waits to be."

It may be trite and I know that I am so lucky to have my beautiful children and a great part time job with supportive coworkers. But it's not always going to be so HARD. The kids aren't always going to have scratching fights in the back of the van as I try to drive safely enough as to not arouse the suspicions of the police or swerve off the road. They won't always scream so loud and so often that my brain is melting and flowing out of my ears (all day, you guys, OMG). It's not always going to take such Herculean effort just to run into the store for wipes and milk. I'm not always going to have to fit lecture planning in between kid bedtime and falling asleep on the couch. I'm not always going to find it difficult to summon up the mental energy to make freaking quesadillas for dinner because the baby keeps going up the stairs/eating dog food/splashing in the potty and the big kids are outside either rolling the tricycle down the slide or beating the crap out of each other or knocking down fence boards and escaping to the front yard (!!).



James fell asleep in my arms. And I stayed there with him for a long time. And it was good.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Field Trip

I spent my weekend on a campout with five girls from my Earth Science class.

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We were really roughing it.

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I took this picture of our tent. Four sleeping bags and a Pack and Play, what could be better? The kids slept great, but Ryan and I were awake all night. There was VERY strong wind all night and the tent kept flopping over and hitting me on the face. I asked Ryan a couple of times "Are we safe in here?" I felt a little silly in the morning when the sun was up and the wind was calm again, but the girls told me they were scared too. I kept having half awake dreams about the nocturnal low level jet and how I would have to tell my class about it the next day.

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We had tons of fun. And walked up many, many very steep hills.

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The kids loved being with all those girls. By the end, Charlie would listen only to them and tuned us out completely.

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We paused at the observation deck to take this picture and talk about those sedimentary rocks across the way. They were created by the accumulation of dead marine organisms millions of years ago when Texas was underwater. Then something lifted the whole area (a huge earthquake is what I've heard) up and created the Texas Hill Country. That event caused the formerly horizontal sedimentary rock beds to fracture and tilt to the configuration we see today. The river then eroded down through the rock so we can see the pretty layers.

In Charlie, this process is described as "THOSE ROCKS ARE MADE OUT OF DEAD CLAMS!!"

Right after we all hiked down the hill/stairs/cliff to the river bottom, the sky became really ominous (yes, even more ominous than in this picture, which is hard to believe). People were passing us on the stairs telling us to get out because a storm was coming. The students, who were all standing on that big white rock in the middle of the river, came running back onto the sand yelling "Cold wind! Cold wind!" It was a cold front! First the wind changed from warm, humid, and southeasterly to cold and northerly. The temperature dropped from 75 to 55 in a matter of minutes. Then the rain began. It was spectacular.

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And then we walked up another huge hill. This time in spitting rain, so it was more like running. The really heavy rain started the second we got everyone to the car.

We scrapped our picnic plans and headed to Sonic, then back to school. The students, both college and preschool, all fell asleep in the car. I can't wait to go back when we have more time!

And, oh yes, there were Smores.

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Friday, April 13, 2012

Jaws

Charlie smuggled his real shark jaw to school in his backpack today. Just before it was time to leave he ran upstairs with his backpack and then came down and jumped in the car. When I picked up his backpack at school I said "Wow, this is heavy! What's in here?" And he told me "My seashell collection for show and tell." We hung his backpack up on the hook just like always and I went to school.

When I got back to pick him up his teacher said "GREAT Show and Tell!!!! It's so funny because I was planning to read 'Never Take a Shark to the Dentist' and it was the perfect tie in!!" She was so enthusiastic!

That's when I found the shark mouth in Charlie's backpack and laughed until I cried.

Back in the car I asked "So, Charlie, how did Show and Tell go?"

"GREAT!! Some of the kids ran away when I took it out of my bag!!"

"Oh really?"

"And Jack got a hole in his thumb where he touched one of the teeth even though I told everyone not to touch the teeth!"

"Poor Jack!"

"It's OK, it wasn't a very big hole."

I won't be answering my phone for the next few days.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Three weeks to go!

Hey friends, I'm still alive! It's a busy time of the semester for me and the kids (and everybody, I am sure). I haven't even watched Modern Family in three weeks! But I'm only two assignments behind in my grading, my most recent exam is graded and ready to go, I've created two labs that went really, really well (both were thrown together in the two hour space between my class and the lab, typing really really fast while eating my dining hall lunch) from scratch, and I went to a faculty meeting yesterday and actually spoke out loud and didn't feel like a poser graduate student FOR THE FIRST TIME. The moderator even wrote down an idea I had!

There's lots left to do though: write a final, write a climatology lab, write four climatology lectures, create a review for the final, finish my conference paper, go to Charlie's preschool graduation (OMG), take my students on a camping trip, do thirty-five loads of laundry a week, get ready for vacation bible school, etc. But the kids are watching a movie (or napping), there are cupcakes in the oven and a playground trip planned for the afternoon and I am so glad to have these calm days in between.

And we are having fun, so much fun. The night before Easter will long be one of my favorite memories. We got the kids to sleep in the hotel around ten, then Ryan and I both conked out long before we felt "safe" making the Easter Bunny happen. At 1 AM I woke up to a rustling sound and found Ryan sitting in the (dry) hotel bathtub filling Easter eggs with candy. After I helped him finish them up we loaded them into a pillowcase (grocery store bag was too noisy) and we stealthily "hid" eggs all over the dark hotel room while the kids slept. SO MUCH FUN.

As an afterthought I stuck one egg on the back of the potty and the next morning when Charlie woke up and went to go potty he came RUNNING back out yelling "MOM! The EASTER BUNNY CAME! THE EASTER BUNNY CAME! THERE'S AN EGG ON THE POTTY!!!!" Both big boys found their baskets quickly and went about finding every single egg in the room in about five minutes. Then they dove into the candy for a few minutes until we were able to convince them to go eat some real breakfast in the hotel.

I love the busyness and the chaos and the professional challenges. Pretty much everything but the laundry. And there are only three weeks left in the semester WOO HOOOOO!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Bitter - Sweet

We had a truly awful afternoon.

The rest of the day was pretty good, but this afternoon at the pool Wes defiantly ran away from me because he wanted to go in the big pool instead of the baby pool. I walked as quickly as I could on the wet concrete with James on my hip, calling him back. "Wes! NO! STOP. GET BACK HERE. WES. NO!! STOP STOP STOP STOP!!" But he kept going. Soon he was headed down the steps into the water. I was close behind but still on the pool deck when he stepped off the last step and into the four foot deep section. Time stood still as I made my way down the steps and out to the deep part where he was standing on the bottom, his head six inches below the surface. The life guard had jumped out of his chair and was right behind me. It was probably ten seconds, but it seemed like an hour. I scooped him out of the water with one arm and hauled him and James back up the steps and over to our chair where I released all that fear and frustration by yelling at a saturated, shaking three year old child who was screaming on a pool chair.

Eventually I calmed down and gave him a towel and a hug. But I was still pissed.

And then he refused to walk to the car and I had to carry two children, three towels, one pair of crocs, and a fully-loaded pool bag. Plus my towel, which refused to stay wrapped around my waist. It was a classy look.

On the way home Charlie would. not. stop. picking. on. Wes. It's like he had to make sure Wes was really OK by repeatedly whipping him with his own lovey, trying to steal his banana, and roaring at him.

We were almost to my house when Wes shrieked in pain. From the movement I saw in the rearview mirror I knew Charlie had done something. So I whipped the car over to the side of the road and turned around to look at Charlie.

"You keep your hands to yourself" I said.

"It was my feet that did it" he replied.

I turned back around and evaluated my options. It was time to call Ryan. I called Ryan and I started sobbing uncontrollably in the parked car on the side of the road two blocks from my house. The pool accident was terrifying. I was still shaking. There was an hour and a half left until Ryan would be home. I did not know what I was going to do.

He told me he'd be home half an hour early and he would bring me some dinner. Charlie disappeared upstairs when we got home. I plunked Wes down at the table and chatted on the phone with my dad as I warmed up leftover pizza and handed out fruit and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. When I called Charlie down for dinner he ran past the top of the stairs and into my bedroom as he called "I'll be right there!" Then he came down and ate dinner and we all watched Toy Story and it was peaceful again. Ryan came home not long after that and put them all to bed.

When I moved the throw pillows off my bed tonight as I got ready to go to sleep, I found this card that Charlie had made me and stuck under my pillow right before dinner.

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To Mom

IMG_2099 I love my Mom Charlie "My Mom" in a heart

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Big Love

The first thing I did when the fabulous Amy of SnarkyMommy came to my house on Tuesday was to insist that we cram all of the carseats into my van. I didn't want to waste a minute of our time together and this way we could ply the kids with They Might Be Giants and bags of Pirate's Booty and enjoy virtually unlimited adult conversation all day long. It was a genius plan, once the two of us dainty little flowers managed to heft the extra seat into the minivan and then rearrange and reinstall a grand total of SIX of the biggest products Britax has ever constructed. WELCOME TO MY HOME MAY I OFFER YOU A HOT GARAGE IN WHICH TO INSTALL YOUR CARSEATS?

But the kids loved it and I loved having the company all day.

Six kids, ages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, in a van. Serious, delicious, chaos.

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Though later we got smart and took turns running outside-the-van errands so that we would not have to do the full-on clown car routine every time we stopped.

When we got to our destination, downtown for the kiddie train, I remembered with a flash of "oh crap" that in all the chaos I had forgotten to put Wes's shoes into the car. No matter, he is almost always barefoot at home, so he didn't complain about walking across the parking lot or the gravel trails and my city is known for it's free thinkers. If a man wearing a bikini and a full-length fur coat on a street corner can be beloved by the population then my three year old can get away with a little barefoot action on the kiddie train. And the playground. And lunch, which even I will admit is pushing it but thankfully at the restaurant the cashier took the offhand remark I made about being sisterwives with Amy seriously and then she just thought I was part of a fringe religious group and not merely a neglectful mother. Amy was too polite to say anything, but I sense that they do things differently in the Big City where she lives.

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We had a big time on the train. Wes sat with the ladies.

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At lunch when I ordered three kids' meals the cashier said "Aren't there six of them?" and I replied "Oh, yeah, we're sister wives" and gestured at Amy who was ordering for her family. The cashier looked at me very seriously and said "Oh." I tried to backpedal but it was loud in there and I don't think she heard me.

Lunch went as well as it can go with six under six crammed into a booth and then we stuffed everyone back into the car and made a vow to each other that the next time these children saw the light of day would be in my backyard because there was no way in hell they were getting out of that car one more time until we got home. We drove to a spot where Google promised we would find a hipster ice cream sandwich food truck only to learn, after getting the kids all! fired! up! about ice cream ice cream ice cream! that they were closed for some random reason that was posted on their Twitter feed about three minutes prior to our visit. After we all shook off the disappointment we headed to another food truck and ordered cupcakes for everyone (which were eaten in the car) and the afternoon was saved!

On the way home most of the kids fell asleep so we ran Amy by Chick-fil-A to satisfy a lemonade craving and then headed to the grocery store for dinner supplies and wine.

I left Amy in the car with three sleeping and three awake kids and RAN into the store. Like literally ran through the aisles throwing food into the cart--all the ingredients for a kid-friendly chicken fajita dinner, a couple of gallons of milk, and the first bottle of seven dollar wine that caught my eye went in. I was back to the car in fifteen minutes flat. Everyone was awake and SO CHATTY so we headed for home as fast as the party wagon could take us.

At home I shooed everyone into the back yard for sprinkler and baby pool fun while Amy and I sat on a bench in the shade. Absolutely perfect afternoon. The day flew by and then it was time to eat dinner. Eight people around the table! Extra hands to help with the meal! I get it now, it's not harder to have twenty kids like the Duggars, it's EASIER and MORE FUN. I just have to get Ryan on board with that plan. And get some older kids who can actually help around the house instead of spending James's bedtime cracking eggs into the sink (Wes, tonight) or making "potions" out of toothpaste (Charlie, also tonight).

Family Dinner

We went our separate ways after dinner, but after the kids were in bed we both sneaked back out again and met two of my friends at a restaurant for drinks. We sat on an outdoor patio and talked late into the night. It was an absolutely fantastic day and Amy is welcome to come back anytime. In fact, just move in next door.