Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Things Emeril does not have to deal with while cooking


The audio: "I poop? I poop? Diapo? Diapo?" Repeat.

Monday, January 28, 2013

In which I overreact

Charlie was so excited to ride his bike to school today for the first time in ages, since it has been cold and we have been running late on all the nice days. He was cheerful and helpful and hugged everyone goodbye twice and ran out to get his bike then sped off around the corner. He's been having trouble sitting still and focusing in school again and I knew the bike ride would be just the thing to get some of the nervous energy out before he had to sit in his chair all morning.

I knew Ryan would be coming back shortly, so I puttered around the house straightening things here and there, putting away the breakfast dishes, getting the other kids dressed, figuring I'd take a shower when Ryan was back and James could stay downstairs with him.

When he wasn't back by 7:50 I knew something was wrong. At 8:05 I was standing in the driveway in my pajamas, holding James in one hand and the phone in the other. It is possible that I was a little extra sensitive following a dream last night about losing all the kids in the Austin Convention Center during a professional conference we both had to attend.

Finally he came around the corner around 8:10. He had Charlie's backpack and helmet. My heart sank.

"Charlie fell off his bike," he told me "but he's OK. He's at school."

"WHAAAT?! What happened?! Is he OK?! Should I go pick him up right now?! Does he need me?! Why do you have his backpack?!" I responded, in a way that was perfectly in proportion to the circumstances.

Ryan told me again that he was fine. A neighbor had helped him. I pressed for more details. Woman Details. Not Man Details. Like, was he bleeding and did he cry and please just give me one reason to go up there and bring him home.

"Well, he sort of flew over the handlebars and got tangled up in the bike. His shoe fell off somehow. He had a big scratch on his elbow and he was kind of limping when I dropped him off. A nice neighbor with two girls from his school took us inside and cleaned him up and gave him a bandaid. Then she drove us all to the school in her van. I forgot all about his backpack in all the commotion."

"Should I go get him?" I asked again. Ryan assured me that he was fine and there was no reason to go up to the school and withdraw him for the day over a scraped elbow. (And possible compound-fractured ankle, I did not add) (And not to mention the way things like this seem to set him off-kilter for the rest of the day, which could undo all the careful talking we did about focusing and listening and working hard in school)

I took my shower and got everyone in the car. Ryan left for work, late, late, LATE, and I picked up Charlie's bike from the nice neighbor's house.

Then on the way to school the school nurse called. I was delighted to hear from her because I figured this was my chance to do something tangible! I could come and pick him up! Yes! Please let me take care of my baby! (Again, totally in proportion to the circumstances)

But she just wanted to let me know she'd changed his bandage because the bandaid was giving him a rash and she wanted to know if he had a latex allergy. I said "He's never reacted to bandaids before but it's been a long time because he never lets us put them on him because he says they hurt and itch. Oh. OK."

Then I asked about his ankle. Maybe it would be good if I picked him up and we watched movies together all morning? No. The ankle is fine. OK, well, thanks for calling! Give him a hug for me.

And now I am off to join him for lunch in the cafeteria and there is no greater act of love, because MAN I hate that place. After that I'm going to make some brownies for that nice neighbor.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Up in the Air

We were supposed to go to an exhibit on butterflies today with my sister and my mom that I know the kids would have loved but we got a slow, S-L-O-W start today so we ended up doing our own thing. We decided on a winter tree festival that we'd heard about and after running around like crazy people throwing kids into clothes and taking fast courtesy showers and going back four times for the diaper bag, the loveys, the shoes, we finally backed out of the driveway and realized it was after 11:00 and no one had eaten anything yet.

So our first stop was Whataburger.

I was tempted to use the drive through but let me tell you a little secret I've discovered. If you would rather talk to your spouse than remind a four year old to eat his sandwich before his fries eighty million times? Give the kids their own table.

Am I the last one to figure this out? Because, awesome. And when did Charlie's feet start touching the ground in a booth like that? My word.


To my amazement, they behaved themselves so well that an elderly man who had been sitting nearby complimented them. And everyone finished his whole sandwich before starting his fries. With no nagging. Twilight. Zone.

I had a lovely time talking to Ryan. It was like a date. A cheap date! The best kind.

Next stop was the tree festival. Ryan asked Charlie to get out and help him parallel park the minivan and I thought Charlie would explode with pride. He took it very seriously. This kid demonstrates a bumper to bumper gap like it's his job.


We walked down a long path to the kids' activities, which were advertised as "fort building, tree climbing, and marshmallow roasting". And we did not encounter any snakes, WIN!


The kids had a great time running along the path and I think that would have been enough fun for them but then we came upon a huge pack of kids using various kinds of materials to construct forts under a huge live oak in the middle of a field.

Charlie and Wes quickly joined a group of older boys who was using long bamboo poles to build a ten-foot tall teepee.


The fog, the remote location, the dozens and dozens of ragamuffin kids running around, it was kind of magical. Charlie talked a group of big kids into dragging a giant stump into the middle of teepee for a chair. Wes helped string pine cones along the interior for decoration.

They worked happily for about an hour and then the brothers of two of the big kids stole some bamboo out of the teepee to start their own teepee and things turned violent. At first it was just pretend sword fighting with sticks. Then some kids started trying to make bows and arrows. Then I stopped making jokes about Lord of the Flies, because it started to seem more real and less funny and I strongly redirected Charlie and Wes away from the teepee project. The other kids eventually settled down, but Charlie and Wes were more than happy to play with this log. Next Christmas I will be giving them logs, bamboo, and a ball of twine, because I don't think I've ever seen them so engaged in anything.


Next up was tree climbing. Those hippies don't mess around with tree climbing. When I read "tree climbing" on the brochure, I did not think my thirty-eight pound child would be hauling himself thirty feet in the air on a piece of rope.



Freaking awesome.

Look at Charlie's happy face. He pulled himself all the way to the top and touched the tree branch above. Then he yelled "HEY WES!" Wes yelled "HEY CHARLIE!" Charlie yelled back down "I'M NINETY-EIGHT FEET IN THE AIR!!"


They started to lower him back down but he scrambled back up to the branch again. The belayers couldn't get him down. They were cracking up. Finally he came all the way down and yelled "I'VE NEVER BEEN SO HAPPY!"


When he got down he yelled at a group of friendly strangers "I'm gonna write a story called 'hang time' in my writing journal!'" I think he'd still be in that tree if he could. We coaxed him away (the line was LONG) by taking them to the campfire to roast marshmallows.


Yes, this was the best day of their lives.


And then we played frisbee for a while and then made our way back to the car where James nearly fell asleep during a diaper change (which was done al fresco because we are so klassy).


Everyone almost fell asleep so we had to stop at a grocery store and make everyone a peanut butter sandwich on the way home so we didn't have a disastrous 4:00 simulnap on our hands. Charlie's been chattering about his tree climb since we got home, but I didn't hear a PEEP after bedtime. Mission accomplished.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The cat was away

By the day they are ordinary citizens. They go to school. They play outside. They buy their clothes from the East Coast WASP-Casual collection at Old Navy.


But when someone is in trouble, they spring to action at a moment's notice!







KAPOW!! IMG_0377

(This is how bedtime goes when I am at a late church meeting feeling sorta guilty for sticking Ryan with solo bedtime two nights in a row. Looks like they found a way to muddle through. They may need me to schedule more meetings in the future. )

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sort of like Wally and The Beav

Wes and Charlie have been begging to share a room since the summer when they shared a cozy little attic room on vacation. We were dubious about their claims to not make it an all night party, mostly because every night on vacation was an all night party, but also because the last time we tried to put them in the same room it was so horrible we decided to spend nearly a thousand dollars on a major home renovation to give Charlie his own room. But, I reasoned, the last time we tried it Wes was younger than James is now. Let's just say if James could have his own house to sleep in, that would probably be ideal. Two year olds should not share rooms. At least in my experience.

With some hesitation, we decided to go for it.

We have three kid bedrooms (post-construction). Two are larger and about the same size and the other one, Charlie's, is what a realtor would describe as "a cozy little nook perfect for an office!" And that is the one they wanted to use. In fact, I overheard them discussing how both beds wouldn't fit in there and deciding whose bed the were going to share. Cute, but, um, no.

So Ryan and I stood in the doorway of the room for twenty minutes mentally rearranging the furniture until we came up with something that just might work. We took all the bulky stuff out of the room and moved Charlie's desk to the other side by his bed and then VOILA, huge space for Wes's bed.

They walked in and surveyed the new arrangement and said excitedly "So if I get scared of thunder or a bad dream, I can just reach across like this and hold Charlie's hand!"

And because I didn't take a nice picture during the day when the beds were made and sunlight was spilling through the windows like a normal person, you get to see it in action. I call it "The Junior Stateroom".

(Note to self: Find Wes's missing bedknob before someone gets impaled)

(Wow, those fingerprints on the window are highly noticeable in the flash)

The other side of the room has Charlie's desk and baby cradle and the toy shelf and a nice patch of floor for playing. We switched Charlie's big dresser for James's two built-in closet dressers to make more room here.


They've been sharing for a week with only two crazy nights that required repeated intervention from us (and threats, there were some meaningless threats about screen time). The best part is that they actually spend time in there now instead of moping around downstairs complaining about how James gets into everything they try to do. The other best part is that we now have an entire room and closet back upstairs that we have so far been using to store random crap we can't put anywhere else. It's the American dream!

But I think Wes said it best when asked how he liked sharing a room with Charlie. He said "In my old room, there were no friends. I didn't like that." He went from sleeping with the door open and hallway light on and having scary dreams about bears, to lights off, no problem, and no bad dreams. And I gently warned Charlie that since they were sharing he had to do his part to keep the room neat and I haven't once had a problem with his hamster-like habit of spreading whole pads of PostIts all over the room (Look, it SNOWED!). So everyone is happier and the house feels huge.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Karma, man

You guys probably don't know about my multiple-year-long search for a non-ugly vinyl tablecloth.

Well, it's true. I've been looking, no DREAMING, of a pretty vinyl tablecloth that I can throw over our scratched up table. Dreaming of the ease with which I would wipe it clean after meals, not having to worry about all the little nooks and crannies on our wooden table. But every one I have found has featured either a garish primary color pattern or a plaid patriotic theme, which, while fun on Fourth of July, seems out of place most of the rest of the year.

So imagine my delight when the kids and I ran into Ross the other day to pick up some warm blankets for Charlie and James's beds (the temperatures have stubbornly refused to get out of the forties for the last four weeks and I am having to admit that it might actually be winter and time to add blankets to the kids' sheet/quilt combos, but we only had one twin size blanket that Wes got for some reason) while on the way to the pediatrician and while browsing through the housewares department found THIS balled up in a bag and shoved to the back of a clearance shelf.


AND, it's so long that it will fit on the table even when I add the leaf. SWOON.

I bought it and found some blankets and we continued on to the pediatrician WHERE I WOULD PAY DEARLY FOR MY GOOD FORTUNE.

First, one of the elevators was broken which meant my awesome parking space was not so awesome and I had to herd everyone down the long, LONG hall to the other elevator and then back up the long, LONG hall on the second floor to get back to the pediatrician's, which ten feet from the broken elevator (that was ten feet from my car).

Then, the pediatrician (Dr. Pediatrician changed practices and while I am OK with his replacement I don't LOVE her like I did the old one, in a slightly stalkerish fangirl kind of way) took "a tone" when discussing James's 75th %ile height/90th %ile weight stats (You've switched him to skim milk, right? Well OK just make sure you're not giving him junk food! I looked at my shoes as I recalled our donut stop on the way in). Combined with his 90th %ile head I think we'll start calling him "Tug". As in "boat". I did not relay that thought to the doctor.

The next conversation was also not fun. He knows fifty words right? Um, I'd say probably about half that. I mean, he's fluent at yelling at the dog and screaming "NO" when I ask him to put a shirt on, but he still calls water, milk, maple syrup, Tylenol, honey, juice, and shampoo "milk". But his receptive language is spot on!

And then while making our way back down the long, LONG hallways to the car James had a full-on screaming, kicking floor tantrum right in front of a group of (openly!) judgy senior citizens (I would not let him use the water fountain. In a medical office building. During flu season. I'm so mean). Note, next time anticipate broken elevator and bring stroller! I avoided their disapproving tsk tsking and scooped him up.

We ran out of there and went home quick before something else happened.

But at least we had a cute tablecloth!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Big! Boy! Bed!

You may remember when I told you how Wes taught James to climb out of his crib. Now, when I say "taught", I do mean taught. This is not something James learned by watching Wes do it a handful of times. They spent some time on it. There was coaching, practicing, technique.

Wes could offer a class on sneaky at the community center. This would be on the poster:

Wes Ice Cream

Now that James can get out of his crib, it no longer serves its purpose of safe place to stash the baby so I can talk on the phone sleep, but is instead a four foot tall accident waiting to happen.

So this weekend we bit the bullet and started him in his big bed. Some people make a big fuss about this and let their kid pick out special sheets so that they feel a part of the process. We took a more casual approach with James, disassembling and removing the crib while he was in another part of the house, washing the sheets that were already on the bed during its term as our "guest bed" (for only one guest at a time), then springing it on him when he was already so tired he could barely see straight, like "Hmm, I can't stop picking fights with my brothers, maybe I should lie down and take a--WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?!"

I took one for the team and took a nap with him so he would feel more secure. Twice. I got two naps yesterday. Parenting wins.

By the time it was time for bed he was starting to get the idea, although by that time he had found his crib leaned up against a wall in another bedroom and pointed at it for several minutes of bedtime asking plaintively "Mine? Mine? Mine?" We laid him in bed and pulled up the covers and took lots of pictures of him lying there looking at us quizzically.

James Bed

And then we walked out and closed the door just like we always do. Except this time we stayed upstairs and listened to him yelling and attempting to turn the door handle over and over. Ryan and I each put him back in bed a couple of times and the next time I checked on him he was fast asleep, cozy tucked under the covers.

The same cannot be said for Charlie and Wes, who are now sharing Charlie's room (by their request). Last night was such a raucous party that they both fell asleep and started SNORING during church this morning. Super-classy.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Putting the little scientists to work

I've been doing quite a bit of reading about learning styles, inquiry-based learning, and educational motivation for a proposal I wrote and it occurred to me this morning while I was scrubbing pee off the floor around the toilet for the fifteenth time this month that perhaps the reason the children have not responded to my requests to please pay attention to what they are doing when going potty is that I have been lecturing to a roomful of visual learners. Or doers.

I mean, with the exception of one embarrassing incident with Wes on a cold night in December when I became so exasperated I took his hands and showed him exactly what I meant when I said "you have to aim it into the potty!" I had never actually varied from my ineffective approach of fussing at them every time they pissed all over the floor.

Perhaps, being boys after all, they need to be presented with a problem that their natural curiosity will then drive them to seek a solution for, thereby motivating them to seek new knowledge, form new relationships, and develop a facility for scientific problem solving.

So, when they get home from school. I plan to meet them in the bathroom, a laboratory (lavatory) of sorts, an informal setting that will facilitate creativity and teamwork. After some brief introduction, I will present them with the problem statement, which is provided below, graphically for my little visual learners:

After they have had time to study the problem statement, we will gather around a whiteboard and brainstorm possible solutions. I will remind them that there are no bad ideas! Be creative! I expect responses like this:

--Go potty outside only
--Stop going potty
--You clean it up, Mom

As the brainstorming session proceeds, the ideas will naturally coalesce around more practical solutions, which they can then apply and test. My hope is that the the practical solutions they come up with are something along the lines of:

--I will face the potty when urinating
--I will ensure that urine is getting into the potty
--I will not talk to my brothers while I am going potty
--I will not attempt to drive a matchbox car on the wall while I am going potty
--I will pay attention to the task at hand (ahem) for the thirty seconds it takes to empty my bladder thus ensuring I do not whiz all over the floor
--If some pee accidentally gets on the floor, I will wipe it up with toilet paper and dispose of it properly.

The next step will be to write our testable hypothesis:

"Ho: If I pay attention, face the toilet, and do not attempt to do unrelated tasks at the same time, I can get 85% of the urine into the toilet."

Alternative hypothesis is that we will ignore all warning labels on the Comet Bleach Spray and teach the kids to clean up their own damn bathroom. Experiments will be conducted this weekend and I will summarize my results in a report sometime in 2014.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Eating in fancy restaurants = professional motivation

I've spent much of the past few days hanging out with a bunch of scientists who laugh heartily at jokes like "I don't like to use the term 'connect the dots', I prefer 'cubic spline'." And you know how happy that makes me.

The conference began on Sunday with "WeatherFest", a huge science fair for the K-12 set. We all looked forward to it for weeks and it did not disappoint. The kids got to climb around on a swift-water rescue boat and a large, truck-mounted research radar. They played with computer simulations of tornadoes and activities designed to explain the basics of remote sensing to a six year old and have rain-gauge races with each other and learn about Coriolis and angular momentum (a really cool experiment involving a kid-sized turntable and some hand weights). Cool, cool stuff. James wandered around looking cute and saying "day-doo" (thank you) when people handed him swag. That kid is good at gathering swag. Charlie told a half-dozen people things like "My mom used to be a storm chaser!" and "My mom used to have to STAY for hurricanes!" which was nice because it can be so awkward to work those things into the conversation when you are a (somewhat) polite adult (Not that that has ever stopped you before says everyone I've ever attended a party/playdate/oil change with).

Then Monday night I went to some presentations about Hurricane Sandy. Tuesday was the big day, when I sat in rush hour traffic for an hour like a real adult then listened to talks all day (interspersed with some very enjoyable and productive meetings with old friends; colleagues, I think I'm supposed to call them). I topped it of with a delicious dinner at a fabulous, absolutely kid-unfriendly (the quiet, the impeccable menu, the roasted garlic with goat cheese appetizer, holy hell), restaurant with great old and new friends. And I still made it home in time to kiss everyone goodnight (Nighty night, sweetheart! I missed you today! says the hot blast of garlic breath)!

Today I went back for a panel discussion on communicating climate change and the women in atmospheric sciences luncheon. I was dropping the kids off at preschool on the way when I noticed the impenetrable wall of cars sitting parked on the highway into the city. Thankfully a friend suggested I try to make the train (when the radio indicated an entire lane of that highway was closed due to ponding after last night's rain) and after driving like a crazy person, swinging the van awkwardly into the only available (too small) parking space, and running through the rain clutching my stupid worthless dress shoes and my laptop bag, swearing at the ticket machine, I made it onto the waiting train with about a minute to spare, barefoot and out of breath with the legs of my pants soaked through from the knee down. But sitting on the warm, dry train reading books instead of inching down the interstate in my car was DELIGHTFUL.

But for all the fun (and delicious food), these things tend to make me sort of wistful for the kind of researcher I once was. I feel like I am on the fringe of the community now and I know there is a lot of hard work in store if I ever want to be truly a part of it again. I am wrapping up (hopefully! soon!) a paper from my dissertation that would be submitted to a journal (if all goes according to plan) and I'm just starting out on a project with someone at my old school. It is very important that both of those things go well if I am to have any "career" to speak of, but I am EXHAUSTED just thinking about it. I am exhausted in general just trying not to get crushed to death by the kids' laundry pile. When they go to bed I *should* throw in a load of laundry, push up my sleeves, and work through one of the many issues I'm having with my research, but instead I spend a couple guilt-laden hours watching TV and putzing around online then go to bed promising to do better tomorrow. Fun!

So tonight I tried to do better. Because quitting my job is not an option I am willing to consider after Christmas Break (going to my quiet office and reading about nice, predictable physical phenomena was like going to the freaking SPA) (and judging by the level of cranky (from me) I would assume that the kids would agree with me here), that means I have to keep moving forward. I looked for some references related to my rain project and spent an hour trying to figure out how I'm going to download the almost twenty years of data I'm going to need. I didn't touch the edits for my paper because I'm going to need coffee to get through that sucker (Dr. Advisor, once heavy-handed with the red pen and now the master of track changes). We'll call that a pretty good start.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Nah nah nah nah, nah nah nah nah, hey hey hey, goodbye!

School started again today after two weeks of Total! Family! Togetherness!

I dragged myself from my cozy bed and tiptoed into Charlie's room in the darkness, sat on the edge of his bed, attempted to stifle the glee in my voice, and said softly, "Charlie, it's time to get up for school!"

Without even opening his eyes he responded with a loving "WHAT?" It took several minutes to coax him out of bed. Minutes we had only because Ryan and I made lunches and laid out clothes last night, AND EVEN FOUND SHOES AND SOCKS FOR EVERYONE, anticipating that this could be a challenging morning.

But it was...not that challenging after all. According to Wes "I can't wait to get to school where they will teach me things!" You know, things other than "Stop hitting him, stop punching him, you're hurting him, STOOOOP DOOOOOING THAAAAAT!"

We shared a breakfast of coffee (me) and hot chocolate with whipped cream (them), cereal, bananas, and toast.


There were unlimited shots of whipped cream, much to James's satisfaction.


When it was time to leave the twins hugged goodbye.


Shortly after that it was time to leave for preschool. James got his last screams in on the car ride there, Wes tried to kick him from all the way back in the third row. I clung to the steering wheel and repeated "Five more minutes" like a mantra. James was, shall we say, reluctant to walk into the building, but his teacher graciously pulled his screaming form from my arms and engaged him with toys. I felt about seventy pounds lighter as I walked back to the car, BECAUSE I WAS.

I stopped at Panera to celebrate and respond to two weeks worth of work emails and now I am in my house eating a frozen Target pizza and filling in my new planner ALL BY MYSELF. Glorious. This is my first day of school face.


Though I will cop to a teeny twinge of wistfulness when I walked into the kitchen to find all the lovey's sitting on the island looking at me. Come to think of it that's a little bit creepy.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Phew! That's better!

Well!  It seems that all I had to do to straighten the kids out was to write that last temper tantrum of a blog post because the last several days have been positively delightful!  I am not complaining, though I wish I hadn't scheduled Thursday and Friday to be work days in the middle of all the CRAZY of earlier this week.

New Year's Day we had a spontaneous holiday brunch complete with homemade cinnamon rolls and sparkling apple juice.

Wes made scrambled eggs.


My parents came over, which made it a party.  And then my friend from high school, H, came over and brought ingredients for fancy breakfast cocktails for kids and adults.  Yummy! 


She stayed most of the morning and we had a lovely time talking about work (she's an oceanographer!  So cool!) and Les Mis and the crazy kids.  We all bundled up and went outside and let the kids walk Rossby all around the culdesac.  Everyone had fun.  Including Ross.  Yay for old friends.  And friends whose stories of travel and adventure are almost as good as being there.

Yesterday my sister and I loaded up the kiddies and took them out into the country to go on a 1/4 mile hike to a waterfall. 1/4 mile is really the perfect length hike for our crew, especially because it included lots of climbing up stairs and rocks. The view at the end was well worth it (a huge limestone grotto with a pool and waterfall and lots of nooks and crannies for kids to explore). We did not swim in the forty-seven degree water like the park ranger suggested, however. We made it back to the car with a minimal amount of fighting and most of the kids fell asleep shortly after we left. I call that a win.

hamilton pool hike

(Did I mention that it was 45 degrees? I'm really pushing the Texan boundaries of appropriate outdoor activity weather)

And last but not least, James learned a new trick with his chair. Remind me how hilarious I thought this was when we have to replace the chair in a few months.