Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I baked so much I broke my kitchen

Ryan and I took the fam to Ikea on Saturday morning because we needed new flatware. Eight sets is not enough when you need five of everything for every meal. We are so often out of clean forks and spoons that Wes has taken to eating his cereal with a grapefruit spoon that he calls "Bumpy". So our plan was to snap up a few boxes of that $12.99 for four sets of stainless they have and also a new tray capable of holding enough flatware for the average suburban elementary school.

After dropping off the big fellas at Smaaland, we set off with a dangerously empty cart, a credit card, and one hour of free time in the Land of Temptation.

Ryan was in an unusually generous mood that day and we ended up with a new spice rack, some batteries, and a mixing bowl you could bathe a golden retriever in. I managed to tear myself away from the adorable miniature eggnog mugs with matching reindeer tray, but I cannot stop thinking about them and will have to make a second trip.

After an hour we picked up the kids (everyone involved was sad when it was time to leave Smaaland), gorged ourselves on Groog and ginger cookie samples, then headed home with our loot.

Ryan did this while I put all the new silverware in the drawer (a drawer I now open several times a day just to admire).

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Mixing bowl not pictured. We keep it hanging from the garage ceiling with straps used to hold a boat.

And oh, it is glorious! Gone are the days of knocking the $10 bottle of vanilla onto the floor while reaching for the cumin! No more spilling baking soda into the toaster! I don't have to keep the Kosher salt up high with the mugs! I could not wait to bake something.

So I made pumpkin cookies. But we were out of butter, so I only made half a batch. And saved half the flour mixture for the next batch. But then I dropped and spilled the can of pumpkin all over the floor in front of the fridge and had to buy a new can. So then I had an extra half can of pumpkin leftover from the second batch of cookies that I made with the extra flour mixture from the first batch of pumpkin cookies (still with me?). So I made some pumpkin bread.

And then last night I had to make frosting for the Oreo truffle eyeballs I made the kids for Halloween.

And then my sweet little wedding present handheld electric mixer bit the dust. Right in the middle of a batch of butter cream. Ryan the engineer tried to fix it, but I had to finish up the batch with a single beater and then retire my mixer.

I suggested a Kitchen Aid as a replacement. Ryan pointed out that a new handheld would cost $25, a reasonable position to be sure. I pointed out that ALL my FRIENDS have KITCHEN AID and the DOUGH HOOK! DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT YOU CAN DO WITH A DOUGH HOOK?

In the end I decided to think about it some more and this morning decided to go with another handheld simply because I want to be able to use it with the new H.M.S. Mixing Bowl. But while I was perusing the offerings on Amazon, something else caught my eye. Something bigger than the huge mixing bowl.



Yessssss. I wonder how many batches of morning glory muffins I could fit in that puppy? I'll tell you how many. However many batches it takes to fill FOUR POINT ONE CUBIC FEET. It will look so nice on our porch next to the turkey frier I'm planning to buy so I can make oatmeal in bulk. And it's red, like the Kitchen Aid!

Oddly, it is not on Amazon Prime, so I will have to ask Ryan to pick it up on the way home. I think he'll be thrilled.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

This is kind of mind blowing...

This morning I realized that my fixation with reading/watching coverage of the Hurricane Sandy aftermath had taken a turn for the clinical and we needed to go somewhere and do something where there were no TVs or internet connections in a fast hurry. So, I took the little kids to vote early with me and just like last time I took a picture by a sign. Since James was free ranging, I did not venture out close to the road to take a picture by the Obama sign like I did four years ago with a carseat-bound Wes and Charlie, who was insanely predictable, even at two.

Election Day

This year we have all grown up Wes and James, Charlie's mini-me (who was not in the picture in November of 2008, especially given that we were living with newborn-Wes who was, shall we say, not the type of newborn who made you want to have another newborn, but now! He is so wonderful, now!).

Voting Day

They charmed all the election workers and helpfully pushed buttons for me and not-helpfully escaped as I was double checking my ballot requiring me to dash away from my terminal shrieking "WES! DON'T TOUCH THE COMPUTER! I'LL BE RIGHT THERE!" as I ran to keep James from violating federal election law. Good times. They were happy to have stickers.

And then we headed to Starbucks for our traditional post-voting hot chocolate (and I bought a NY Times there because it had pictures of waves breaking over highways, somebody help me). At the next election I'll have no kids with me to take pictures of!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Goin' to Miami

I'm in Miami for a conference this week. It's been awesome. This is the first conference I've been to in a while where I've wanted to go to every single session. I mean, these guys were the keynote this morning:



That's a wind tunnel. With two full-sized buildings inside. Amazing. Also, go for the "stronger" construction, it was only an extra $3,000.

And after that were the technical sessions. Including my talk. I had to sit up front on the stage the whole freaking time. I was very conscious of how many times I had to scratch my nose. I was nervous when it was my turn to talk, but it wasn't too bad and I felt like I did a good job and used my time well even if I don't remember a freaking thing from the whole talk. I did not say "um" too many times or "Big Bird", "Ships that Go Underwater", or anything else that will get me my own dedicated Tumblr.

Little did I know that bullet point number two from my historical work slide was SITTING IN THE AUDIENCE. His hand shot up as soon as I asked for questions. I answered his question and then it was time for the next speaker and Bullet Point Number Two left for another session. And then I had to sit back down and not scratch my nose for another forty minutes. But first I slammed two glasses of water just like Paul Ryan in the vice presidential debate.

Mah pants suit fit better when I bought it to interview for jobs in 2000, but some control top hose and extremely well sewn buttons did the trick.


Could this picture BE anymore awkward? Good lord.

You know who else is here? Hurricane freaking Sandy.



It is just offshore, but close enough that every once in a while we get a really awesome squall that I get to go watch from the huge windows in the hotel. All the engineers are highly excited about this and tonight at the cocktail party I overheard the following conversation:

Person 1: "Did you see the eddies shedding off the corner of the building earlier? Freaking awesome."

Person 2: "YEAH, I DID! Did you see that standing wave set up in the canal? I wanted to get out there and get some video somehow."

You guys, I have found the mothership.

Speaking of the party, there was a party tonight in the hotel and they said if I played five games I could put a card in a drawing for an iPad. I played pool with someone, I did some virtual bowling, and then I had to make a jump shot and a three pointer in the full-size gym that is in the hotel (I KNOW). I was still wearing my suit and my pilgrim shoes (and my name badge if we're being totally honest) and (shockingly) I did not make it (our backboard at home is about eight feet, not ten). In fact, I cannot even HIT the BACKBOARD from the free throw line (when throwing the ball like a normal person).

So I tried like ten embarrassing more times before deciding I'd given it all I had (and needed a refill on my drink) and turned in my card. I did not win the iPad, but there was a table loaded with about twelve kinds of mini-desserts and a quesadilla making station so I think we all kind of won, really.

Tomorrow, if the windfield of the hurricane doesn't expand too much, I will be heading home, where I am told I am missed even though Ryan plays basketball with them and makes them eggs in the morning.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

All of these pictures feature food.

I was so excited about my plans Friday night that I was almost completely useless all day on Friday. I was texting back and forth with friends about what to make our kids for dinner before we ran out of the house to go to our fancy grownup party, texted with our friend PJ, who was driving in from another city for the party, fidgeting and clock-watching. Somehow I managed to get some grading done and teach a class, but after I'd circled the last score on the last assignment I ran out of the building like it was on fire.

First stop was the grocery store for kid dinner and supplies to make the bruschetta appetizer I was taking to the party. While I was there I ran into PJ, who had stopped there to kill time before going to my house. We shopped leisurely then headed home and waded into the chaos at my place. Soon the house was full of people chopping, slicing, talking, and laughing. Kids were running every which way, food was flying, instructions were being hastily given to our poor nanny, who was no doubt wondering what she'd gotten herself into.

Then, in a moment, we were all piled into the minivan on our way to the party. I started this Facebook group about a year ago where we post what we're making for dinner. It has become a great community of people who love food, sharing recipe ideas. This was our second meetup. Both have been kids-free and both have featured AMAZING food. This time it was autumn beef roast over noodles, butternut squash souffle, spinach salad, homemade olive oil/rosemary bread, pumpkin dip with gingersnaps, two kinds of bruschetta, candied jalepeno and cream cheese dip, spice cake and sticky pecan chocolate bars for dessert. And a lovely Cabernet, let's not forget.

And of course, the great company.

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We never stopped laughing. It was loud and cozy and wonderful. It is such a treat to be together with so many of our wonderful friends, new and old--we have known our friend PJ since before we started dating. He did the music at our wedding! It is always a special time when he comes to visit and he so graciously puts up with the mass chaos at our house.

We got home at 10:30 to a clean house and sleeping children and recklessly stayed up until midnight, which proved to be a bad decision since James woke up at 1 AM and never really went back to sleep, not including the blissful hour of snuggles I got before he started thrashing around again. Ryan dragged the Pack and Play downstairs around 2:00 and I think maybe got another couple of hours of sleep. The next morning we spotted the veeerrrrry tip of a new canine poking through. Poor little friend (slash US).

Since PJ is an appreciator of good food, we took him to a local bakery that has the most amazing cinnamon rolls.

This is what our childless friend described as "wild behavior" on Facebook.

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Don't they look grown up? I cannot stop looking at this picture. For some reason it gave me visions of the two of them as twenty-somethings, still best friends and meeting up for breakfast. Of course if Charlie had his head on the table like that I would have to assume he was hungover in my daydream. Oh, who are we kidding, he would have just pulled an all-nighter in the lab. Wes, on the other hand...

It was time to say goodbye to PJ after breakfast and then we stopped by an estate sale. As usual, we took turns walking through the sale while the other one waited in the car with the kids, who were total ANIMALS after breakfast on Saturday after their late night of fun on Friday (and our late night of fun on Friday, hmmm, who was really more grumpy? Sort of a chicken/egg problem). It was at a fifties bungalow in an adorable neighborhood near downtown. It was exactly the type of house I dream of living in one day. The big family kitchen still had its mint green formica countertops and painted wooden cabinets. An enormous microwave was perched precariously on a too-small shelf over the range. The living room was cozy with a fireplace and a large bay window.

I picked up a pile of dishcloths so I could look at two tablecloths that caught my eye then decided to buy the whole stack. One was a Christmas tablecloth, red, green, and silver plaid. I liked to picture the family in their big dining room, enjoying many years of Christmas together in the house. The other was a formal blue one, large enough for our dining room table with all the leaves in. I imagined it as the special occasion, or maybe Sunday Dinner, tablecloth and was so happy to have it. The dishtowels were just dishtowels (though nicer and cleaner than ours), but I love thinking about the woman who last used them, a kitchen-full of family cleaning up after big family dinners, lovingly making snacks for children and grandchildren. Even with most of the contents gone, you could tell the house had been a loving home for a family. The prettiest of the dishtowels are hanging in my kitchen now and they make me smile.

When Ryan took his turn at the sale he brought back a tall table for us to use in our kitchen. We have zero counter space and we've wanted an island ever since we moved in, but there's really not enough room for a real island or even any of the portable Ikea offerings we've considered. Not to mention the awkward way I had to talk to people over my shoulder Friday night as I chopped tomatoes facing the wall. This was the perfect solution. It is tall and just the right size. The kids love to pull chairs over to it and help cook or eat their snacks and talk to me (somehow this is different than them being at the table and me working at the counter, eye contact, I'm guessing). I'd noticed it too and I was so excited when Ryan came out and carried it to the car.

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We put it to good use tonight. I got to leave these cookies out of reach of James (and Rossby) while they cooled.

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And set up all this nonsense over on the counter when I was making the chili.

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It is REVOLUTIONARY. Not once while I was cooking did I suggest to Ryan that we put an addition on the kitchen/move to a bigger house. I honestly don't know how we did it before. It was like cooking on a boat. Oh yeah, that's what I did before. Knocked things over onto the stove then complained about cooking on a boat. No more! We have a table-island now.

And finally, this is the best of the forty-or-so pictures Ryan took of the kids at the church pumpkin patch today.

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I think it shows their personalities well. Especially because James seems to be plotting something.

Friday, October 19, 2012

MOTY

There was a mixup at school dropoff this morning and instead of coming out of the bathroom and walking to his class with Ryan like Ryan had expected, Charlie came out of the bathroom and went straight to his classroom. Ryan explained this when he got home, but for some reason I just had to know that Charlie had made it to his classroom (even though he makes it to his classroom on his own just fine every other day of the year) (but those times Ryan actually sees him walk down the hall towards the kindergarten wing and does not just leave him at the boys' room) (that building is huge and I am irrational).

I mulled it over all the way to work and couldn't stop thinking about it. I mean, what if he wasn't in class and we didn't know about it until 2:40 at pickup time? I also did not get a good night of sleep last night because I was up late discussing the last debate with a like-minded friend and was still too wound up to sleep at midnight. I knew I needed to know before I could get anything done today (like this trainwreck of a blog post)(I finished my grading first).

But I couldn't just send an email to his teacher explaining the above and double checking that he'd made it to class, that wasn't nearly sneaky enough and might have revealed my (admittedly irrational) insecurities about Charlie's ability to walk two-hundred yards inside his locked elementary school and find his classroom. Cleverly I sent the following (TRUE!) email to her.

Dear Mrs. W,

Charlie had a rough night of sleep last night because he mistakenly drank some of our nanny's iced coffee shortly before going to bed. I hope he's doing alright today, but wanted to let you know in case he seemed "off". I hope you have a great weekend!

Best,

Becca Academomia


Yes. That was much better.

And yes, he did make it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hodge Podge

Not much new here, but I couldn't leave you for an entire week after devoting an entire post to complaining about money. The van came home Thursday, by the way. It came home for five minutes before Ryan noticed they hadn't filled the transmission fluid up and had to take it back for more. But then it was really really back and we all breathed a huge sigh of relief for the boys' corneas and my blood pressure.

The only casualty to the whole mess (besides 2.5 G's) was James's blanket, Waffle. He got lost in the shuffle and I've checked lost and founds everywhere from church to the rental car place with no luck. Fortunately, they still sell them on Amazon! It comes tomorrow. Not sure how I will recreate the soft, faded, comfy, urine-scented thing that made Waffle so unique, but I have some ideas.

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The last known time they were together, Sunday in the rental car. Thank goodness he has two loveys.

We went on a quick trip to see Ryan's parents and go to the State Fair Saturday. They planned a great fair trip with a picnic and jumping dog trick show and we had a fabulous time. It was the weekend of the UT-OU football game, which meant lots of cuh-razy people milling around the stadium (which is inside the fairgrounds), but they were all happy and (largely) calm, so it really only added to the fun. (We were not there at the end of the game. Probably the Longhorns were not so happy and calm at the end of the game)

Charlie wanted to see Big Tex so bad. He took about five hours of video of him talking to the crowd. "Howdy folks! Welcome to the State Fair of Texas!"

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We spent a lot of time climbing on this huge tractor too.

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That night, Ryan's parents had a spaghetti dinner birthday party for Charlie and Wes, complete with cousins and Ryan's sister and brother in law. The kids' table was wild and crazy and James even held his own in the conversation. And then there were presents and cake! Charlie has not put his telescope down since we got home and asks to go look at stars about fourteen times a day, even when the sun is up. This morning it took some doing to get him to come in and eat breakfast. He was right back at it after school (which, again, it was LIGHT OUT) (And also the sun. Stern warnings about aiming the telescope at the sun) (So now Charlie tells people he can't look at the sun with his telescope because telescopes are used to look at things far away and the sun is actually really close. My baby thinks in astronomical distance.).

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The semester is halfway over for me. We do lab six (out of nine!) this week and then there are only three left plus the final. It's so hard to believe and I'm glad that I didn't set any semester goals this time except for possibly SURVIVE KINDERGARTEN. I am presenting a paper at a conference in Miami next week and am so nervous and excited that I am coping by ignoring it completely, much like my grading pile. Hopefully I will remember to go to the airport. I'm also starting a new project that I'm excited about. It's super intimidating because it's in a new field, but I have a lots of good people to ask questions and it feels so good to be learning and doing again. Makes me sort of remember how I used to work until two AM every night. Sort of.

Between the new project and the old project the one-hundred-twenty assignments a week that need to be graded (but, sadly, do not get graded until the following week, without fail) have become their own lifeform. My office looks like I remember my professors' offices looking, which is to say, a fire hazard. But three more labs? Will not be a problem. I will think about next semester's labs some other time (but soon, though, one of them's a prep, GAH).

So, in conclusion, it's mid-semester hunker down time and we are all very, very sleepy (I'm falling asleep typing this!). I'll leave you a picture of James after he fell asleep eating a sandwich.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Things I'd Like To Spend $2500 On

1. Two-ish house payments

2. Forty-five trips to Great Clips for Ryan and the kids

3. Twenty-five trips to Mama's Fancy Haircut Place for a fancy haircut (and pedicure, glass of wine, three hours spent reading magazines VACATION)

4. Five months of groceries

5. 700 of those fancy free range chocolate bars with the salt crystals

6. Extending our summer vacation by two weeks and using the extra to eat myself silly on lobster

7. Replacing Ryan's paintless and AC-less, but yet somehow still running, Dodge Neon

8. Living room furniture that has not been urinated on.

9. NEW CARPET FOR EVERYONE (SEE NUMBER SEVEN!)

10. Hiring The Potty Whisperer to come deal with whatever is going on with Wes

11. 1/4 OF A YEAR OF COLLEGE FOR ONE OF THE KIDS.

12. 500 trips to the batting cage for Ryan which is what it's going to take for him to calm down after the mechanic called him yesterday.

Things I do not like to spend $2500 on? Freeing my broke-ass extra-speshul princess minivan from the freaking shop where it experienced Ebola-like bleeding from every possible orifice problems after they fixed the first, $700 leak. Hy-per-ventilating.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Car trouble

Saturday was the much anticipated day of the neighborhood-wide garage sale. We dressed the kids and hustled everyone out the door and into the van, shoved a dollar in each kid's pocket, and drove sloooowly up the street in search of treasures.

We cruised by a couple of sales on our street, deciding to pass when we saw stacks of pink baby clothes or other items we will never have any use for, then headed for the part of the neighborhood where the houses and cars are bigger and fancier. There we hit the jackpot! I huge bat bag filled with kid-sized bats, baseballs, softballs, gloves, and a helmet for $10, score!! Ryan paid for that sucker then spirited it back to the car like a thief in the night before anyone else could fight him for it.

I found a tshirt I liked and Charlie bought a Christmas cookie tin and we headed back to the car to go to the next sale. We had just pulled away from the curb when Ryan said "Do you smell that? It smells like burning oil."

I waved him off. There were tons of less-than-new cars cruising around the neighborhood. I was sure it was one of them. We pulled up in front of a driveway packed with toys, including a Spiderman bike helmet. I was so excited for Wes, who was very disappointed he hadn't found anything at the last sale, and was about to get out when Ryan said "Hang on a sec," very solemnly, and got down on his knees next to the car.

Just as I was starting to get annoyed by the delay, Ryan popped up off the ground and into the passenger seat. Eyes wide he said "DRIVE HOME. DRIVE HOME RIGHT NOW. If the oil light or any other light comes on, SHUT IT DOWN."

I complied before asking, "So, what's wrong with the car?"

The kids were wailing in the back about wanting to go to the yardsale. Why did we not get out? I saw a cool car at that one? Are we coming back?

I had no answers for them and was a little scared to ask Ryan, whose entire body was a coiled spring, his eyes laser focused on the panel of indicator lights. My dad is an awesome mechanic, he can fix anything in a car, he is also one of the kindest, gentlest people you will ever know, but if there is one thing I learned growing up, it is that you do not interrupt Papa when something serious is wrong with the car. This seemed like a good course of action at the time.

"It's leaking oil." he finally responded, not taking his eyes off the dashboard.

"PSSSHT!" I thought. "Cars leak oil! It's what they do! It's why my dad kept a piece of old carpet under our cars when I was a kid! How bad could it possibly be?" But you don't express those thoughts. I kept quiet and drove very gingerly the mile back to our house.

When we got home I saw how bad it could possibly be. Ryan slid a piece of cardboard car-diaper under the van to catch the DRIPS because YES, OIL WAS ACTUALLY DRIPPING OUT OF THE CAR. I racked my brain but could not remember hitting anything the day before, or driving over anything unusual. He assured me it wasn't my fault. Probably.

When he pulled the dipstick out of the engine, wiped it off, then pulled it out again to check the level, it took both of us staring at it to realize that the reason we couldn't read the oil level is because THERE WAS NO OIL IN THE CAR. Not one drop. Except the drips that were still coming from underneath the car.

I herded the children inside and let Ryan have a moment to use whatever language he felt most appropriate.

A few minutes later I went out and asked gently if maybe I needed to see about renting a car for a few days, since it seems mine (only one of ours that can hold all the kids) seemed to be, uh, broken? Like, really broken? And the rental place closes in two hours, soooo... OK, I'll just give them a call.

Ten minutes later I was in the car on the way to pick up "A big car, an SUV, a van, whatever you have that'll hold three kids would be great!" and Ryan was spending the first of five hours that day with his head up the business end of a Toyota Sienna.

I came back to drop off his Sonic lunch and tell his legs I was taking the kids to a birthday party.

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We came back from the birthday party to find Ryan watching YouTube videos about replacing the "rear main seal." It looked complicated. Ryan's hand reached for his phone, then put it back, then reached for his phone, then put it back.

I put on a video for the kids and puttered around the kitchen. Ryan came back in from the garage with oil all over his hair and went upstairs to take a shower. The kids' video ended and I sent them out back to play. James woke up from his nap. Ryan came back in from the garage and started calling shops. He called my dad who said "It does sound like the 'rear main seal'. I wouldn't *touch* that!"

Then this happened. Wes missed it because he fell asleep on the bathroom floor sometime during the time I was pacing around in the kitchen

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It made James very, very nervous.

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I made the kids some dinner. Ryan left in the rental car to go get the verdict and also some Chipotle for us for dinner which was very nice of him because after he found out the car would be $1200 to fix he said he wanted a nice bowl of Ramen noodles for dinner. And maybe some water, but not too much.

We ate tacos and watched Law and Order and made jokes about how happy the neighbors probably were when they saw the shiny new Toyota Camry sitting in the driveway and the Neon nowhere to be found. Ha ha, boy would they be surprised when the Neon came back from the rental car place in all its paintless glory! We found out the repair would *only* be $700, which was a relief, though Ryan argued that if he could've found the lesser problem he could probably have fixed it himself for much cheaper but that he hadn't found the problem because he didn't have a good flashlight because the kids took all the batteries out of all the flashlights in the house. THERE GOES YOUR COLLEGE FUNDS, I HOPE YOU ARE HAPPY.

Thank goodness the van will be ready tomorrow, but in the mean time I am driving around in a mosh pit. You have no idea how quickly they go from this:

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To this:

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These kids should not be strapped in within scratching distance. This experience has done wonders for my guilt about having such a large car when technically everyone would fit in a sedan.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Career Day

Charlie's teacher turned around and spotted me as I slowly approached the door of the classroom bearing my academic regalia and a sheaf of papers I printed out of kindergarten appropriate pictures of "research", "teaching", "hurricane", and "reading, writing, science, and math".

"Are you ready?" his teacher whispered. She was wearing a full-length ballgown for career day and telling the kids she wanted to be a moviestar when she grew up.

"I guess so!" I stammered. She turned off the lights and twenty little pairs of eyes turned to face me. This was terrifying. Give me a room of sullen twenty year olds anytime, but these eager little five year olds? SCARY. I spotted Charlie in the corner, working at his desk. He beamed when he saw me.

The teacher led me to the corner of the carpet, where there was an adult-sized chair (the only one in the room). I awkwardly sat down, still holding my purse and graduation robe, being mindful of my knee-length skirt and the twenty little kids sitting at my feet.

"Hello kids!" I began "I am here to tell you about what it's like to be a college professor!" Blank stares. "Does anyone know what that is?"

Charlie raised his hand. "A teacher for big kids?"

"That's right!" I said, my voice still shaky. "I teach big kids about science. A college professor also does research!" I held up the handy clip art I'd printed out of a flustered looking cartoon woman in glasses and a ponytail sitting hunched at a computer. Perfect.

"Research is like a big science experiment. I do research on hurricanes!" I held up the printed satellite image of a hurricane. "A hurricane is a big storm with lots of wind. So much wind it could blow the roof off of a house! Erm. Not your house though!" Shit. I frantically looked around and found a piece of chalk then drew a halfhearted picture of Texas. It looked like a half-eaten pancake.

"This is Texas," I continued optimistically. "Here is the Gulf of Mexico down here," I indicated the area below the pancake then wrote the acronym "GOM" which is highly meaningful shorthand to young children. "Hurricanes can come in here and affect the coast, here" (largest bitemark on pancake) "but we are waaaaaay up here in the capitol." I drew a star, highly conscious of the fact that some of these kids probably had relatives on the coast.

They looked concerned. I quickly changed the subject. "When I was a kid, the subjects I liked most in school are the same subjects I use in my job!" Bringing it back in! Stay peppy! Maybe they didn't notice the scary roof thing!

"I liked to read, write, do science, and do math! I still love these things, which makes my job fun! When you are in school, these may all be different subjects to you, but when you grow up and go to college, if you want to be scientists, you will use all of these subjects every day!"

I am killing this.

"If you want to be a college professor," (vaguely consious of the fact that I'm not a real professor) "you have to go to lots of school. First you finish elementary school, then you go to middle school, then you go to high school. Who knows what comes next?"

Someone offers "Cowwege?"

"Right! After high school you go to college. And then after that, if you want to be a professor, you have to KEEP going to school. It's called graduate school. Graduate school is fun because you get to focus on a subject that is really interesting to you, like hurr--er--weather!"

"And when you graduate from graduate school, you get to wear this neat hat!" I put on my mortar board and shook my head a little to get the tassel moving.

"Ooooh!" They like the tassel.

I am buoyed by their enthusiasm. "And then! You go up to the front with the teacher you had all through graduate school and he or she puts this long hood over your head and says 'Now you can be a scientist!!'" I stand up and unfurl the hood with great flourish and bang the crap out of my head, still wearing the mortar board, on the wall-mounted TV directly above the chair. The kids all gasp.

The teacher looks alarmed. "ARE YOU OK?" she asks.

I wave my hand, "No problem!", then continue with the hooding ceremony. When I get it on I model it for the kids.

"I have a picture at my graduation and I'm holding baby Charlie!"

I sit back down. "Does anyone have any questions?"

Someone raises his hand. "How do you measure wind?"

"That's a great question!" I erase the pancake with the side of my hand then draw an anemometer that looks like a cross between a cucumber, a rocket, and a flower. "This is an anemometer. This part here spins around and tells a computer how fast the wind is blowing."

"It looks like a flower" offers one little girl.

Charlie is next. "How do hurricanes move? How did you get interested in science?"

"Wind high above the ground steers hurricanes around in the ocean. WAY, WAY, WAY out in the ocean." I hold up the satellite image again "You see how far away the hurricane is from land?" he nods hesitantly. "I have always loved learning about weather and the way the world works. Why does it snow? Why does it rain? Why is it windy? Even as a little kid I loved science."

The teacher finally rescues me by telling the kids its time to go back to their seats. I unfold myself from the chair, being very careful not to hit the TV again. She says, kindly, "It's funny, I can't imagine teaching college kids, that seems so scary!" I respond "These guys are terrifying! I don't know how you do what you do!"

Then I went and sat on the floor by Charlie's desk. He's holding the marker, but not coloring. "Hey, Buddy, how are you doing?" I ask, "What did you think?"

"It makes my tummy hurt when you talk about dangerous things."

"Oh. OK. Sorry. You know that our house is not going to be hurt by a hurricane, right?"

"I just wish you wouldn't talk about dangerous things."

Oops! I joined Charlie for lunch in the (CUH-RAZY) cafeteria then left to go to my job talking and reading about dangerous things.

Wiped Out

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Contentment

Our neighbors moved to another city this weekend, which is really really sad because our boys just started to play with their boys at the beginning of the summer. They always had so much fun riding bikes up and down our sidewalk and playing "catch" in our yard and even though they are about five years older than our kids, they seemed to really enjoy Charlie and Wes's company. One night the older boys were playing catch with their dad in the street and Charlie and Wes stood in the open upstairs window in our bedroom yelling to them "TOUCHDOWN! NICE CATCH! WOOOOO HOOOO!" It did not bother them that both were dressed for bed in a tshirt and undies.

Sunday was the big day and Saturday Charlie and their oldest spent the day riding bikes back and forth delivering notes.

Charlie: "Sory you haf to moov. I will mis you."

Other boys: "Thanks for the note. You are a cool kid and a great friend. I wish we could stay. I will miss you too."

It went on and on like this. The adorableness was doubled by the fact that Charlie is not yet allowed to cross the street so he had to ride his bike all the way to the end of our street, where there is a culdesac, then go around the culdesac and up the other side of the street to their house. I pretty much spent all day Saturday sitting on the porch watching this go on. Heartbreaking. And really stinking cute.

Sunday I went to the store for our weekly shopping and when I got back their car was gone, their dad was putting the last few boxes in the moving van, and Ryan and the boys were out in the yard waving furiously up the street. The closure to all this business was kind of a relief after sloooowly ripping off the bandaid all day on Saturday. Still, I was so sad to see them go.

Conveniently providing a distraction for the kids was this:

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They did not want to move it so they brought it over to our house. You guys. This is very exciting.

Here's how we spent ALLLLL of the next afternoon.

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"Making shoots" as Charlie calls it. To keep the three (flat!) balls from rolling into the street, I had to construct a fence out of a soccer goal we found in another neighbor's trash several years ago and some pieces of wood I found in the garage.

I think the pantsless baby really adds a certain something, don't you?

After dinner we went right back out there to enjoy our Rice Crispy Treats.

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Still no pants on James. Shoes though!

Later that night Ryan and I went out to clean up the "court" and played a very loud, smack-talking game of one on one. I told the kids we do laundry after they went to bed. They probably know I was lying now.

While playing basketball with the kids in our driveway I realized that we have broken through the small-child barrier somehow, even though two of them are what I would describe as "small". Wes does everything Charlie does and James is pretty content to just hang out and amuse himself amid the chaos, so the days of schlepping everyone to storytime/playgroup/the playground just to get out of the house and talk to other people are GONE. Being home used to make me completely insane. But now? We are having so much fun! They still fight sometimes and get themselves into trouble for doing stupid, stupid things (peeing off the top of the swingset, STILL A PROBLEM!), but having two self-sufficient, verbal KIDS and one toddler around is a whole new world compared to having two (or three) babies around, which is what was happening here for much of the period between 2006 and now.

THIS is why I wanted kids, you guys. So that we could all be home in the afternoons, enjoying each others company and doing things we enjoy, apart or together. I make dinner and listen to music, they play on the swingset or do god knows what else in the backyard (pee off the swingset). I sit on the porch and read, looking up every page-turn or so, they ride bikes and scooters in front of the house (even James is learning to scooter! He also still takes frequent naps!). Sometimes we play together! Sometimes we don't! Everyone knows to stay out of the street! It's BRILLIANT.

Also BRILLIANT? Our forecast high for Sunday is SIXTY ONE. Poof, head exploded from awesome. Fall is the best.