Friday, November 30, 2012

I love it when my to-do list looks like this...

1. Finish proposal project description, budget
2. Grade Friday labs
3. Email LSU people
4. Buy Advent wreath, candles
5. Make cookies for church
6. Student meeting, 11 am
7. Hanging of the Greens (Sunday)
8. Dessert with the Grinch (Friday)
9. Last class (Friday)!!
10. Read revisions for simulated data paper, make plan
11. Laundry x 4
12. Bathrooms
13. Turn grades in
14. Charlie permission slip
15. Christmas presents?
16. Submit proposal
17. Prep spring course
18. Buy eggnog
19. Put up Christmas Tree
20. Literature review - integral scales paper

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The second Thanksgiving, where the Indians ate candy canes in accordance with English tradition

Yes, we had two Thanksgivings. The second one wasn't so much a Thanksgiving as a large, formal, family meal with my sister's family and my parents. You know I love to make a large formal meal.

The first reason it wasn't exactly a Thanksgiving meal is that they were out of Thanksgiving decor at the grocery store. I bought a fall-themed bread basket on clearance (that was all that remained) and two poinsettias and declared it a Thanksgiving-Christmas fusion meal.

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Such a cute little photobomber.

Second reason it wasn't a second Thanksgiving meal is that I made a roast beef instead of turkey. I am no good at cooking turkey. But meat that is *supposed* to be undercooked in the middle? No problem.

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I was highly excited about the roast.

I also made green bean casserole (from scratch, not that hard and so worth it), cinnamon-orange cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and some horseradish sauce to go with the roast (which is made from horseradish and whipping cream, oh yes I did).

Then people came over and we ate.

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(There were also candy canes in the kids' napkin rings. I don't know how many they ate, but regrettably, there are none left)

And then we had pie. You've already seen that picture, but it bears repeating.

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(Ryan made the pecan, I made the pumpkin. I made the crust but composted the pumpkin I roasted when it was too hard to scrape into the food processor and used the canned stuff.)

(Not pictured because they got eaten too fast: chocolate truffles, which now have a place at all future holiday tables of mine)

Batman popped in for a visit after dinner.

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And James took off his pants and wore my niece's pink sparkly shoes all over the house.

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Par-tay animal!

I love it when my house is full of people and good food (and kids dressed like Batman and princesses and toddlers with sticky candy cane faces) and it was a great kickoff to the Christmas season (which doesn't actually begin here until the start of Advent next weekend).

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The first Thanksgiving. Not the one with Pilgrims, but the first of two that we celebrated this year

Goodness gracious you guys, our Thanksgiving was SO fun. Where do I begin?

With the Santa Train we ride every Thanksgiving after a delicious dinner at Ryan's parents' house?

(Ryan's family and my family are from different parts of the country. So, for those of you who may be from The North? Let me tell you: stuffing should contain cornbread and green beans should contain bacon and macaroni and cheese is a vegetable worthy of a spot at the table. YUM. And also, any drink with CO2 in it is Coke. Even Sprite.)

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The spontaneous cousin football game in the back yard under an amazing double rainbow?

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That pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? Contains a toddler with no pants on.

The Friday morning we visited friends who made us delicious pumpkin pancakes with real maple syrup and let our kids run wild all over their beautiful home/backyard/driveway?

The crazy-fun night-o-movies for the kids and their Nana and Pawpa while Ryan and I went to a friend's house and had some cuh-razy fun of our own?

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(Unsurprisingly, our crazy fun involved a nice red and staying up way too late. It was only six hours after we got home that Wes came into our room wearing a box on his head and chanting "I am an alien" in his robot voice before climbing onto my bed and falling on top of me. That kid is freaking hilarious. And it was just as well that we were awake because it was time for another amazing breakfast, this time at a hole in the wall Ryan's parents knew about. YUMM-O.)

Or do I start with the Thanksgiving II meal I made for my parents and sister's family? I will tell you more about that later so I can go tackle the grade-pocolypse that's calling to me from my bag in the foyer. But I will leave you with this:

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You're welcome.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Putting the Break back in Thanksgiving "Break"

Yesterday I was kind of a stressball and the whole family suffered.

Today, I am going stress-free. Breakfast is still all over the kitchen...

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...the kids have the run of the house...

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...we have decided not to get dressed until we have to...

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...and I have cranked up the George Winston Thanksgiving album and installed myself on the couch with a craft project, a cup of coffee, and a warm, sleeping puppy.

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Much better.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Rocketman

My sister and her family gave Charlie a rocket for his birthday and yesterday was the big launching day. Had a bit of a screamy trip to Hobby Lobby first to buy the launch pad and ended up with an extra rocket for Wes. Also had to stop for donuts which gave us MAYBE a five minute reprieve from the non-stop bickering in the car, but once we arrived at the park, a.k.a. Cape Canaveral, everyone was happy again. Except James who pretty much wasn't allowed to touch anything even though we failed to bring along anything for him to do.

Charlie with his rocket:

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And a brief demonstration of what the launch would look like:

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James, fooling around with the launch pad when he lost interest in the inflated Hobby Lobby bag I tried to tell him was a ball.

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Flight checked the atmospheric conditions on his Leap Pad.

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When everything was ready, the crew retreated to the safety of the reinforced bunker nearby. They chanted FIVE-FOUR-THREE-TWO-ONE!! And Ryan pushed the button and it was MAGICAL.

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There was smoke! And a satisfying whooshing noise. And it went SO high! And then it flipped over and the parachute popped out. Kids were jumping and cheering. The team ran off to recover the fuselage.

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Then returned ready to do it again. We did four launches in all. I'm not sure who was more excited, but it may have been me. We will be doing this again very soon.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Baby Steps

I arrived at the Y today just in time to drop the kids off in their respective rooms and make it to a step class I've been wanting to try.

The last time I took a step class was in college and it was fun. I was in much better shape then and the girls' soccer team was there for cross training and did not take it seriously, everyone was tripping over their benches and giggling. I left repeatedly during the class to get water out in the hall. It was fun! Yay Step!

The first thing that happened when I got in there is that I accidentally stood next to some lady's bench for too long and she yelled at me. I skittered off to find my own bench and got set up far in the back corner. I was relieved that there were no mirrors in the room.

Finally, after several minutes of awkward standing around, the instructor came in. The instructor who could have beat the snot out of Jillian Michaels. With one finger.

"Is anyone here new to step?" she asked on the microphone, thumpy bass music pumping through the speakers. I knew enough not to raise my hand but the woman in front of me fell for her game.

The instructor laughed and said "Have fun! And if you get lost, just go back to step basic until you figure it out! Does anyone have any questions."

I wanted to raise my hand and say "You probably hear this all the time, but what happened to the rest of your ass? I mean, we're probably about the same height, but I'm guessing my ass is easily three times the size of yours. Will this class fix that?"

I refrained. The music got louder and suddenly it was time to "warm up."

Given that my most vigorous exercise in the last five years has been pedaling the elliptical just fast enough to make the headphones work, the warm up was all I needed to feel like I had had a really great workout. Then that was over and we started doing pushups on the bench. Three of them, on beat with the music, then snapping back up to standing, dancing from side to side for eight beats, then jogging for twelve, then jumping on and off the bench quickly in a jaunty little dance move I like to call "Satan's Quickstep".

Four or five of that series and then the universe smiled down on me and the song was over.

"Who's feeling GOOD? Who is ready to WORK?!" the instructor screamed through the microphone.

Everyone cheered.

"SHIT" I said. Out loud. By mistake.

I looked around and wondered if anyone was CPR certified, but there was no time to waste because the music had started up again. I was totally lost, so I went back to step basic, as instructed. I was feeling pretty good about it until the the instructor pointed at me with her whole arm. She leveled her gaze at me and said something I could not understand over the microphone.

In my head it sounded like "Get your ass moving you chubby piece of trash!! There are no donuts here so stop looking around!!" but I could be mistaken.

I hung on through the rest of the next two songs but then the instructor said "OK, lower your benches one level because it's about to get HARD now!!" and I looked down at my bench, which was resting directly on the floor with no risers to take out, and decided that I suddenly needed to get home to finish that thing. And the other thing. And the other thing with the eating of peppermint bark and watching TV.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Catch up

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So I am a little behind on the documentation, you guys. I've been telling you all about lost and found lovies, poop diaper incidents, and blue toothpaste marks on bathroom counters and I haven't even mentioned Halloween OR Charlie's sixth birthday!

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He asked for a cake with an island on it, like the one he and Wes and Ryan rowed to in Maine. Also, 2+4=6, you guys. And we were lucky to find those in the junk drawer that now lives in the garage because the track broke and the whole thing fell down into the kid dishes cabinet. We are hanging on by a freaking thread. But look at that happy kid? Man he is cool.

So six kind of freaked me out. Mostly because I still remember wrapping him up in five layers of blankets and carrying him across the street to church in the old town when he was ten days old like it was yesterday and yet somehow a THIRD of his life at home has passed. A THIRD! Thirty-three percent!

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We (Wes) are still adjusting to having him out of the house from 7:30-3:00 every day. Saturday morning they were playing a made-up game in the back yard and Charlie wanted Wes to run away from him, but Wes wouldn't and said to Charlie as he followed him "But I LOVE YOU!"

In the mean time, these two are developing a sweet little friendship (a grudging necessity at first on Wes's part, but getting there now that James is turning into what we call "a real boy".).

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Post-voting coffee klatch.

Charlie is doing so much better in school. His teacher says he is doing great (except for the day after Halloween, which, COME ON) and gives him extra homework (read and respond type assignments with lots of free writing and drawing (no more coloring!!)), which he LOVES. She is great, too, even sending us all her address and encouraging the kids to come Trick or Treating at her house.

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Candy inspection back at the Bat Cave.

As for me, I have one week of class before Thanksgiving and one after and then I am DONE until January (except for the teetering pile of grading on my desk that needs my attention). I taught one more class this semester than I ever have before and though there were times when it felt like way too much, there were were more times when it felt really perfect. This is the semester I realized how much I love teaching and would miss the students if I was only a researcher. I love that side too, though, so I'm trying to find ways to fit it in as much as I can.

Though it will probably lead to more scenes like this.


Keeping it real. I will get to it later.

This has proven to be a really awesome toy. But can also be really frustrating. Check out that tongue! That's how you know they're really thinking.

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Wes has started napping again, by the way. Rossby likes the company.

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The last time the coffee table was ever that clean.

And now I need to clear a path to my bed, set up a humidifier in Charlie's room, clean up the kitchen, and stay up way too late reading (I am reading Jodi Picoult again after picking up Sister's Keeper on my trip and another one at a used bookstore here. It's been a long time since I've read fiction and it has not been good for my sleep schedule.).

Friday, November 9, 2012

A window into the crazy

A smooth morning does not start out at 6:00 with a kid waking you up out of your Robitussin haze to ask if you'd finished his "Canadian costume" for International Children's Day (no) then going downstairs to find two half-naked children fighting over their dentist office balloons (WHY BALLOONS? WHYYYYYYY?) and an empty coffee canister.

Nor does it start with an angry toddler wide awake at 6:20 when he used to sleep until 7:45, allowing us to get the bulk of the morning scramble out of the way and PBS Kids fired up long before we had to get him ready for school. Thanks for nothing DST, you jerk.

And when you're standing there in your pajamas shaking the coffee canister while simultaneously drawing a Canadian flag on a piece of construction paper, willing more coffee and a furry hat with ear flaps to magically appear in the kitchen, the last thing you want is for your toddler to walk up behind you and hand you the poop-covered diaper that he had just rubbed all over his shirt.

And there are no bananas because everyone has been sick and work is crazy and Wes scratched James's cornea so we had two doctor's visits and a day off preschool and we stayed up until 2 AM on election night and there simply is not enough mental or physical energy left to go to the store or plan a meal, but that's OK, we'll have peanut butter toast instead! Only, there are only five pieces of bread in the whole house and we still have to make school lunches. Somebody is getting a half!

Fooey (is not what I really said) as I scrambled some eggs and asked Wes repeatedly to stop lying on the floor screaming about milk, which we are also out of because Charlie filled up an entire Nalgene bottle with the last of the skim and left it out all night. Homework is scattered around the living room, lunchboxes are in the car, Wes is refusing to put on his shoes. Charlie is running around trying to catch a flying insect instead of brushing his teeth.

It is 7:15. Charlie has to leave at 7:10. Dressed like a Canadian.

There is still no coffee.

We stuff him into some jeans and a thermal shirt. A green down vest completes the look. I want to do a hat, but sending a kid to school in a down vest and winter hat seems cruel when the forecast high is over eighty degrees. What the hell, November?! Next year he can be a Jamaican.

He continues to whine that his shoes are not Canadian enough. James screams from his high chair, waving his plate at me. Wes is angry about something. I play the Canadian national anthem on YouTube and for ninety glorious seconds the house is quiet as the kids sit in rapt attention to the image of the Canadian flag blowing in the wind.

We get Charlie out the door then install Wes in front of the TV while I take James upstairs to destroy the bathroom while I shower and get ready for work. I'm washing my hair when he starts turning the lights on and off. It's like a rave in my shower, which is convenient because I could really go for some hallucinogenic drugs right now (now that the Robitussin has worn off). I get out and step over James, now lying on the floor screaming because I turned the light back on after almost killing myself getting out of the shower in the dark.

Dress quickly, hang up towels, make bed, carry screaming, hitty toddler back downstairs so he and Wes can bicker and hit each other until it's time to leave for school. Get tired of the screaming, lock James in his car seat for the remainder of Curious George. Sit in the front seat ignoring his impotent rage, read political blogs.

Really really really wish there was some coffee in the house.

Curious George is over. Snap Wes into his seat. Pull out of the garage.

These are mornings when I'm glad I have a job to go to.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I like Waffles!

I mentioned that Waffle, James's lovey, went missing several weeks ago during The Week of Car Drama. We gave up on ever finding it again after checking lost and founds at church, preschool, the rental car place, and several nearby Sonic locations. We checked the house, we checked the cars, we checked his room. It was gone. We were all so sad. James moved on to another lovey we call Sunspot that was given to him by the wonderful women of the Ester circle at our church.

Saturday afternoon we went to a wedding. The reception was at a ranch way out in the country (AKA five miles from the interstate but we did not know that until later as you will see). Ryan and I drove down a winding country road, admiring the quaint farmhouses and tranquil pastoral scenery and enjoying each other's (kid free!) company.

And then a house started coming straight for us. Half of a double wide was headed straight for us on the opposite side of the quaint little country road. Ryan swerved the minivan onto the grassy shoulder to avoid colliding with someone's living room and all was well.

But then I looked at the map again. "Uh, Ryan?" I said calmly. "If this map is to scale, then I think we've missed our turn. You see, the drive from the church to the exit was this far..." I held out my fingers as if holding a tennis ball..."and the drive from the exit to the turn is only this far..." collapse fingers to width of a marble.

"Huh." says Ryan as he continues hurtling us deeper into the countryside, which is starting to look less quaint now that I have no idea where we are.

"Can you Google it on your phone?" I ask Ryan, handing him the card with the name of the event center. He fiddles with his phone. He can't get a signal. He uses Jim Bob Wireless and I swear he bought his phone off the back of a truck.

"Ugh, that thing is worthless," I observe. "Let me ask some friends." So I start calling friends with storm chasing experience because they give the best directions when it comes to remote country roads. No one is answering. We continue to drive further into a Lyle Lovett song.

Finally, I text Miss N. "Hey, how are the kids? Could you Google the reception place for me? I think we're lost. Heh heh."

She texts back, "I can't find it on Google near here, is it in [town two hours away]?"

I begin to sweat. And swear loudly. I hate getting lost. Hate it. Nothing makes me more tense. I open and close my phone over and over with my sweaty hands. Ryan leaves me in the car at a gas station so he can go ask for directions from the middle of nowhere to the middle of nowhere. I text Miss N back. "No, I don't think that's it. Thanks anyway."

Ryan turns the car around and heads back the way we came. Through the quaint little town, through the fields, past the place where we almost got side swiped by a wrap-around porch. I'm still flustered and angry about being lost. It is not a pretty side of me. I just want to go home, even though I know we'll have fun at the reception. Grouchy, grouchy, grouchy. Such a joy to be with.

Then my phone chirps. It's a text! From civilization!

From Miss N: "Oh, by the way, Charlie found Waffle behind the bookshelf in the playroom!"

"OH MY GOSH!" I shriek so sharply that Ryan almost swerves off the road.

He looks at me, incredulous, "WHAT?" he asks.

"CHARLIE FOUND WAFFLE!!"

And we both started laughing. I could sing I am so happy. Let's drive around in circles, some more, Ryan, can't get me down now!!

And then we see the prominent sign directing us to the wedding reception that somehow we'd missed the first time and went on to have a lovely evening of dinner and dancing in the country.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Win some lose some

I sat on the stairs in my pajamas this morning, talking to Ryan through clenched teeth. It had been a nice enough morning, the kids woke up and played nicely after eating the cake balls I brought them back from the wedding we attended last night. A friend called and we chatted for about thirty minutes. I enjoyed two cups of coffee. But things took a turn when I finished my shower and found only one wet towel in the entire upstairs. I was about to dry off with a pillowcase when I found the towel I use to stretch my feet every morning on the advice of my friend the podiatrist.

"It's mama rampage day." I said to him as he stood in the kitchen emptying the dishwasher. "Kids are no longer allowed in our bathroom. It's disgusting and I'm taking it back. We're going to spend the afternoon cleaning."

"OK," he said slowly, pausing with a stack of plates in his hand. He knows better than to argue when I flip from Roseanne Barr to Martha Stewart in the home cleanliness expectations department, usually on cycle day seven or so.

I went back upstairs to finishing getting ready and then halfway through getting my church clothes on I could no longer suppress the urge to Comet bleach spray the bajeezus out of the master bathroom. It was as if the filth was going to jump off the surfaces and latch onto me.

And also, the kids had brushed their teeth in there with our nanny, Miss N, the night before and it looked like a blue toothpaste-speckled crime scene--not from last night, but because that is what it looks like all the time. Mortifying.

Wearing my leggings and shoes, but no dress yet, I sprayed counter within an inch of its life then scrubbed all those freaking blue toothpaste spots with a sponge until I felt I could brush my teeth without contracting hepatitis. Wes came in and asked me why I was cleaning then retreated back down the stairs when my head started spinning around and fire came out of my ears.

I zeroed in on the toilet next, which would have given some holding cells a run for their money in the pure filth department. After I hosed it down with bleach I reached for the toilet brush but found only the plunger. I finally found it in the other bathroom where I now remember finding Wes using it to wash his back several nights ago during bathtime. Such a resourceful child.

After the toilet I sprayed the floor around the toilet and the baseboards and took out all the trash. And then put my dress on. And an extra layer of deodorant.

And then we went to church and out for lunch and then back home where I did six loads of laundry and pulled a large box of recycling and a whole bag of trash from the master bedroom. I changed the sheets and put away some boxes and vacuumed everything twice. And then put all the Snoopy toothbrushes in the other bathroom because NO! EVERYBODY OUT! THIS IS THE ADULT SPACE!

After we put the last kid to bed, I went in to my cozy, clean, orderly adult space and collapsed on the clean, neatly made bed. It was glorious. But then.

Cough.

Cough cough.

Cough cough COUGHCOUGHCOUGH wheeeeeeze cough cough gag.

This went on for thirty minutes despite sips of water, sleeping sitting up in my arms, and a dose of cough syrup.

And that is how I spent the first night of having my spotless adult bathroom lying on its floor, wrapped in a quilt, singing Old MacDonald had a farm with coughing child in my arms, breathing in the humid air from the shower. Oh I am so thankful I cleaned that floor.