Monday, December 30, 2013

And this is why we eat pancakes so often

Overheard at HEB:

I want to push the cart.

No I want to push the cart.  No I want to push the cart.


I want to walk.

No, you have to ride in the cart.

But I want to walk.  I waaaaaannnnnnttttt to wallllllllllllk WAAAAAAAH

You'll get in the cart or you're taking a nap the second we get home.

Charlie, could you go pick out a yellow bell pepper please?

WATCH OUT!!!!!!!  OK, guys, when you push the cart you have got to watch out for other people.  I am so sorry, sir, can you bend your ankle OK?  Happy New Year!

Stop here, we need some sausage.  Stop here.  STOP HERE.  Wes, come back here and hold the cart.  WES.  BACK HERE.

Meat is murder.

Charlie, I have told you repeatedly that you may not criticize other people's decision to eat meat.

I cold!  I cold!  I cold!

Waaah!  Waaah!  Waah!

James, give Mary her blanket back.

But I cold, Mama!


WATCH OUT!!!  (straightens American cheese display obliterated by shopping cart)

I'm pushing the cart now.  No, me.  Me.  I'm pushing the cart.  No.  No.  No.  No.  No.


Wes, come back over here with us.  Wes, come back.  WES!  COME PUT YOUR HAND ON THE CART RIGHT NOW.

No, we don't need a Hormel footballl-themed soup thermos.  No.  Please put it back.  BECAUSE.

No, we don't need butter, OK fine, throw it in.

Sit down in the cart, sit down in the cart, sit down in the cart.

Wes, put that back so help me God.

Wes come back over by the cart.

Oops, we forgot diced tomatoes we have to go back.

Oops, we forgot yogurt we have to go back.

Oops, we forgot cereal we have to go back.

Oops, we forgot eggs we have to go back.


Can we get some "child wine"?

I'm buying some Italian soda for a New Year's toast.

No, I want "CHILD wine!!"

I don't know where the "child wine" is.  We'll have to go find it.


Oh, no, that says "Chilled Wine".  Just go grab two of whatever label you like best.

Be careful that's fragile!

Stop smooshing the bread.  Stop smooshing the bread.  Stop smooshing the bread JAMES FTLOG!!!

Stand up.  Stand up.  Stand up.  Stand up.  I know you're tired but you can't sleep here.  Get up.

I'm really sorry (to the ten people waiting patiently for me to scrape Wes off the floor of the pasta aisle so they can get by).  Happy New Year!

EGGS!!  Let's get some of these funny little eggs!!

Those are black eyed peas.

I know you're hungry, we're going to eat lunch in a few minutes at home.


We're going to eat at home.  WE'REEATINGATHOMESTOPHITTINGME.

Oh, shoot, I forgot a red bell pepper.  Let's not worry about it because I WOULD RATHER MAKE A SECOND TRIP THAN SPEND ANOTHER SINGLE MILLISECOND IN THIS GODFORSAKEN STORE.


Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas!!!11! So many pictures!!!

We started out our Christmas celebration the way we have for many years, with a traditional Polish Christmas Eve meal and my aunt and uncle's house. This year it was on Christmas Eve Eve. The kids liked the cookie butter appetizer the best and had hours of fun trying to blow out the pretend candles in the centerpiece. (That's me with no head in the background. I'm giving tunics a try. Mostly because I need a reason to wear leggings more often)

The meal was fun and delicious and festive as always. I really look forward to the pierogi course ever year. Mary didn't make it to dessert. Which was too bad, because rum cake.

Charlie still loves borcht, Wes refused to try it, and James ate a huge spoonful then reached for my wineglass, exclaiming "THIS SPICY, MAMA!" Other highlights, the adults were all standing around in the dining room between courses near the end of the meal, relaxing and talking and paying ZERO attention to the children, when the doorbell rang. When the host opened the front door, in spilled all the kids, including a pantsless, barefoot James who had somehow managed to pick his way through the xeroscaped front yard without becoming entangled with a cactus. That's when they were not allowed in the back yard anymore.

On the real Christmas Eve, the next day, I put on my holiday finery and ventured out to the grocery store.

I swear to you, I saw lots of grouchy people, but people were so nice and happy around me. It was the jinglebell vest, I know it is. Which is why I wore it all day.

When I returned home with the makings of our feast, I put the kids to work Pinteresting up our Santa snack.

Jinglebell vest!!

And THEN, we dragged everyone to church! Some of us were happier to be there than others. Like Charlie. Charlie was pretty much on the edge of an explosion the entire time we were there (later, when Charlie began licking his stuffed shells while Wes was saying the family Christmas Eve grace, we realized that he was just really, really hungry). But Wes and James had a great time being Kings!


And an angel! A squishy, squishy angel!

Lighting candles and singing Silent Night is my favorite tradition.

Once we got home and fed Charlie at our fancy family Christmas dinner, everyone had a really nice time. Charlie and Wes even led us in a family sing-a-long after dessert. They excitedly put the cookies out for Santa and changed into jammies and got into bed with NO FUSS. Ryan and I went downstairs and watched the Netflix fireplace video for an hour before we dared check on the kids, lest they think we were Santa and never fall asleep again, and when we finally creeped up the stairs we found Charlie and Wes cuddled up together.

Some Christmas morning pictures (and might I add that Christmas morning happened at a surprisingly normal time, even though Charlie scared the pants off of me when I was in their room looking for my Kindle at one o'clock in the morning and he told me a knock knock joke in a perfectly clear, not at all sleepy, voice).

James got a baby stroller and we couldn't find his baby because it was in the car, so he convinced us to use Mary instead.

Stocking stuffers!

I have three freaking brothers.

Charlie and Wes shot their Nerf dart guns all. morning. long. And all afternoon. And the whole next day. Until everyone lost their gun for shooting them at each other in the bushes in our front yard.

The final stop on the family tour o'Christmas was another aunt and uncle's house, where we feasted on beef tenderloin and twice baked potatoes. Mmmmm. And wine. Another great celebration and another party we left with crying kids in various states of undress. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Pin this, no really

I've so enjoyed seeing all of your homes decorated so beautifully for the holidays, so I thought I would give you a little tour of my home, which was thoughtfully decorated for the season by four small children.

Let's begin in the main part of the house. When planning your holiday look, it's important to stand at the front door and imagine the first thing a visitor will notice. Here, we were going for a more casual look that says to guests, "Come on in! Take off your shoes! Relax! Throw some trash on the floor!" (There is also a Christmas tree in the corner, behind the carseat) (Also: laundry)

Keeping the wings of the table down instead of decorating with a beautiful runner and seasonal pottery says "I don't want you to concuss yourself on the table as you chase the dog through the living room."

Next we move into the kitchen where we have left the autumn decorations up to lend a sense of cohesion to the end of the year celebrations. And of course, a yogurt-covered toddler adds whimsy to any room!

Make your guests feel welcome by arranging a thoughtful coffee station in the kitchen. Scatter some used Kcups around so they know you want them to relax. Overripe fruit and an empty half and half container complete the look. For homes with infants, a breast pump in the dish drainer says "I have given up, did you bring me a lasagna?" A bag of candied almonds are tasteful holiday treats, but know that you will be waging a constant battle with the children who are only hungry because they see food and they are bored.

And finally, I like to keep our holiday cards in a basket next to the sink, next to our Thanksgiving-themed preschool craft project and our Spiderman action figure. That way I can admire them and be filled with holiday cheer while I am washing dishes and yelling at the children "COULD YOU PLEASE FIND SOMETHING TO DO MY GOD WHEN IS SCHOOL STARTING AGAIN?"

Monday, December 16, 2013

I'd say it scared the poo out of me, but...

They're renovating the building I work in, so they've asked all of us to go upstairs to the fourth floor and gather any equipment we might need from the store rooms before it all gets cleared out for the new construction.  Today I went up there in search of graduated cylinders and 500 mL beakers for my Earth Science Lab class and got lost (metaphorically, though getting physically lost up there would not be impossible and it might be another sixty years before someone actually went up there to look for you) poking around in all of the weird smelling, dusty Cold War-era glassware and chemistry equipment.

I scored an awesome globe, complete with art deco globe stand and 1950s political boundaries.  I found an adding machine that should provide my kids with hours of fight-o-tainment during Christmas break.  I found about fourteen hundred graduated cylinders of all shapes, sizes, and colors.  And at last, I found a box labeled "500 mL beakers" with two dozen brand new beakers perfect for my lab.

It took multiple trips to get everything back downstairs and while I had someone else from my department with me for the first trip upstairs, I was alone for the subsequent trips.

Alone.  On the fourth floor.  The deserted, dark, windowless fourth floor.  Just me and all the creepy-looking nineteen sixties science equipment.  And the dust.  Just like on the Frankenstein movie.  It was a lot spooky.

But I really wanted that globe, so I took my chances and went up there on the (also nineteen sixties vintage) elevator that has been known to get stuck and trap people for hours at a time.

While I was up there I needed to use the bathroom, so I found it and went in there.  It was an ordinary bathroom and looked like it had been recently cleaned.  Nothing too scary in there.  I stood up, adjusted my skirt, and examined my teeth in the mirror in the greenish glow of the institutional light fixture.

And then I pushed the flushing lever and instead of flushing the toilet shuddered and made a loud hissing noise like the hugest, scariest porcelain cockroach you have ever seen.

And then water came shooting out of it.


The contents of the actual toilet bowl were undisturbed.

But I was very, very disturbed.  I may have shrieked.  And jumped about four feet in the air.

For some reason, I felt like I had to complete the flushing process.  Even though no one would know it was me and the chances of this toilet killing me were very, very high.

I stood as far away as I possibly could in the stall and sort of, reached out with my toe and tapped the handle very gingerly.  HISSSSSSSPRAY!!!!!!!  Now I was just angry so I forcefully tapped the lever with my toe over and over until the stupid thing started to flush and then I RAN out of there and didn't stop running until I was downstairs with my globe.

I washed my hands in my nice, safe, not-haunted first floor bathroom.  Not enough glassware in the world to get me back up those stairs.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Garage sale razor scooter: $5. Three doctor's visits and a toddler sized orthopedic shoe: priceless

Two weeks ago James fell off of Charlie's razor scooter and hurt his foot so bad that he has been limping ever since.  The day after it happened, we took him to after-hours clinic to get it checked out.  Mary pooped through her clothes while James was getting xrays and James refused to walk AT ALL the entire two hours we were at the clinic, so that was a special time for all three of us.  He got to wear an Ace bandage home, which the big kids found SO FREAKING COOL that they all signed it with a Sharpie and told their friends that their brother got to wear a CAST.  Even though he was limping and his foot was bruised and swollen and tender in the office, the xray didn't reveal any broken bones, so we took the bandage off the next day when everything looked normal again.

The other day I finally surfaced from the head-down non-stop slog of domesticity long enough to notice was still limping and refusing to run.  Sure he limped worse when we said something about it (ATTENTION!!), but even on days I make a point not to say anything about it, there he was, hopping along, clearly trying not to put weight on his left foot.  Hrmm.

My friend's husband is a podiatrist and he suggested we take him to a podiatrist for the follow up instead of the ped, so we took him in yesterday (me, Wes, Mary, and James).

The podiatrist was a very nice man who told us he had two kids of his own, 3 and 5.  Awesome!  He opened a potty training anecdote that was simultaneously incredibly gruesome and kinda awesome (confidential to James: you can poop on the couch all you want as long as I don't have to give you an enema, EVER).  And then he got to business on James's foot, pushing on the bruised part, making him bend it all around.  James did not react.  The doctor pushed harder.  James did not react.  So the doctor gently rolled James's pant legs up and had him limp up and down the hall.  Yup, he's definitely limping.  And his foot was definitely discolored on top.  Weird.

He still didn't see a fracture when he rechecked the xrays, but the limping and the bruising meant he should wear a boot over his shoe for the next two weeks.  They didn't have any teensy weensy little ortho boots at the doctor's office because most parents do not allow their two year olds to get into situations in which they might sprain their ankles/feet (we're so freaking crunchy and free range!  I never knew!).
On our way home they called to tell us they had tracked down a tiny boot for James to wear at a "pharmacy" nearby, so we drove there to pick it up.  The "pharmacy" turned out to be a prosthetic and orthotic clinic, complete with a really fascinating (to Wes) promotional video about prosthetic limbs for injured soldiers playing in the waiting room on a TV the size of a ping pong table.  While Wes watched the video with rapt attention, James ran around the room in tight circles.  RAN.  With no sign of a limp.

They finally called us back just before I had to explain to Wes what an IED is and while the nurse examined James's foot, Wes suddenly became a super-helpful fount of information about what exactly happened to James on his scooter (that none of the adults actually witnessed because we are so freaking awesome at this).

"James fell off of Char-wee's scooter in the culdesac!  He went down our neighbor's driveway REALLY FAST and there was a curb at the bottom and he fell off.  And he wasn't wearing any SHOES!" [or pants, if I am remembering correctly].

Well MYSTERY SOLVED!  We were wondering how in the world James got going fast enough to actually hurt himself!  As it turns out all it takes is our neighbor's forty-five degree inclined driveway and a couple of big brothers (to model, I don't think they pushed him because one of them definitely would have tattled).

They also did not have the tiny boot, as it turned out, so I did a little digging and ordered one from Amazon.  It should be here tomorrow so he can wear it if the miraculous healing he experienced in the ortho waiting room wears off.

Wes talked about prosthetic legs all the way home and would like to have one for Christmas.  And James will be sticking to his three-wheeled Radio Flyer scooter for the time being.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

For future reference

Next year's syllabus will include a list of inappropriate email salutations for professor-student correspondence.

#1 "Hey is it cool if..."

No.  I don't know what you are going to ask me, but it is not "cool".

#2 "I have cramps/am vomiting/have a hangover."

No.  "I am unwell and will miss class today" will do JUST FINE.

#3 "Can't find it."

I assume you are referring to the file I directed you to on the Google Drive in class today.  But if you insist on speaking to me the same way my seven year old does when I ask him about his coat, you won't be surprised when I respond "Keep looking."

#4 "Nope.  Still can't find it."

Are you freaking kidding me?

#5 "Hey!"

Is for horses!

#6 "Dude."


#7 "Miss Academomia."

I have a doctorate in engineering and this is not Mad Men.

Because believe me, you don't want me to be annoyed before I even get to the substance of your email, yes?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Baby nap typeathon

Hot damn, Mary fell asleep in her crib from wide awake about five minutes after I grew frustrated with trying to make her go to sleep and put her in bed like "OK FINE, do it yourself then!"  So she did.  Best baby ever.

And that is why I now have five minutes to eat pie right out of the pie plate and waste time online (laundry is still in "Phase 1" which is when you run everything through the washer and dryer and then pile it up in the dining room.  "Phase 2", folding, and "Phase 3", putting away, will happen sometime before the New Year, hopefully).

First, an update on Charlie.  His visit with the therapist was more productive than I ever could have imagined.  We talked to her in various combinations (whole family, just parents, Charlie only) for over an hour.  Her office is a cozy little cottage with a comfy couch and a basket of snacks in the waiting room.  Charlie told me "Her little house comforts me."  I asked him what he thought as we were getting into the car to go home and he said "GREAT!"  She gave him some strategies to work on frustration that we can do as a family and she is going to be working with the school directly to make it a more positive experience for him.  The best part is that he has been SO HAPPY since the appointment.  Bouncy and happy and upbeat and nice to the other kids and easygoing.  Not one screaming outburst or slamming door.  And this morning he used his new frustration language at breakfast to say "I WISH I could stay home from school" instead of his old language "I HATE SCHOOL, I AM SO STUPID!"  This is a huge improvement, believe it or not. 

I cannot stop looking at this picture of him smiling at dinner last night.


How long did we go with no easy smiles from Charlie? I can't even think about it.

There is still much work to be done, starting with improving things at school and finding ways to challenge him, but I am so, SO grateful that he is already starting to feel better. I am anxious to hear what's going on at school and will still be putting him on several wait lists for other schools, but HE SMILED AND LAUGHED YESTERDAY. I am so happy.

In other weekend news, Charlie and Wes and Ryan spent the night on an aircraft carrier Saturday!

20131208_094353 (2)

And the whole family went to see Santa on Saturday morning! The kids get so nervous and giddy it absolutely KILLS me.


And Friday morning we had a two-hour delay for school because of a Winter Weather Advisory and Charlie and Wes spent the morning building this sled out of diaper boxes and tape. Poor little Texas babies had to make snowballs out of frost Ryan scraped off the car windshield.


And happy, easy baby spontaneous naptime is over, so I'm done here!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The poop and the fan

I was just about to write a whiny status update on FB about all the things I need to do during my office hour today (12-1, class is at 1), but I thought it kind of deserved its own post because I haven't done nearly enough professional kvetching in the last several months. So, during my office hour, I need to:

Give a makeup exam for three students
Grade three sets of labs
Sort four sets of labs, a set of exams, and the research projects by name so it doesn't take the entire class period to return papers
Plan class
Eat lunch

This is greatly complicated by the fact that Mary woke up at 11:30 last night, pretty much for the day.  This was worse for Ryan who ended up spending the night sleeping in a twin bed with her.  She had to have a bottle because I had pumped at 10:30 and then they both fell asleep and stayed like that until 6:30.  But once I was woken up at 11:30 I couldn't go back to sleep until around 2:00 because I was so freaked out about today.

Today, in addition to the list above, I need to figure out when to go to HEB because we are due for freezing precipitation tonight and over the next three days.  Before I can go to HEB I need to plan four solid meatless meals that Wes will actually eat and will actually make everyone full that don't involve pizza and grilled cheese (because we've already done those this week).  This is an impossible task.

In addition to that planning, I also had to find a way to go to the elementary school and fill out the referral for the gifted and talented program that we are hoping (HOPING) will be the thing that finally challenges Charlie at school which we are hoping will make him less miserable at school.  He has spent the entire semester sinking deeper and deeper into what we now believe to be a clinical situation because of freaking school and the way he spends the whole day getting in trouble for not focusing and staying on task on work that he could have done two years ago.

He hates school and I don't blame him.  He is reading on a third grade plus level (I suspect it's higher, but this is as high as his teacher was willing to test him) and only in the last couple of weeks has started bringing home books that actually interest and engage him that are appropriate in difficulty.  He says things to us like "One hundred minus two is equal to ninety plus eight" and yet brings home math work adding single digits that is marked wrong because he didn't correctly articulate the "strategy" he used to find the solution.  At my parents' house the other day just for fun he used Scrabble letters to write "Abraham Lincoln was the sixteenth president of the United States" but the "word study" work he is bringing home is stuff like fill in the blanks using words from a box to write sentences like "Sam has a brown dog."  And he's getting in trouble ALL THE TIME for not focusing.  And it is killing him.  This is not OK.

He comes home absolutely defeated and then picks on his brothers all afternoon, talks about how "dumb" he is, and has terrible nightmares that keep him awake hours after bedtime.  The night we decorated the Christmas tree, no one had the egg nog and pumpkin bread snack I laid out on the counter because halfway through the magical holiday funtime Charlie made a mistake on a drawing and stomped up the stairs screaming, SCREAMING, about how he wished he'd never been born.  I can't even bring myself to post any of the happy pictures on here or on Facebook because they just make me so sad and panicky that we're never going to get him back.

He's going to see a therapist this afternoon to address some of the scarier things he's been dealing with and then Ryan and I are going on the public school warpath to improve his situation.  He's going on the wait list for the academically accelerated magnet school near us.  We're registering him for a Montessori elementary just in case.  We're referring him for talented and gifted.  I'm considering homeschooling next semester.  But first we are going to do everything we can to make the neighborhood school work.  And all of that starts today.

And James is potty training.  And Mary is four months old.  And Wes's best friend in the whole world has turned into an abusive grouch most of the time.  And I'm still working.  And there are pockets of folded laundry all the freak over the house that I have not had a single moment to put away.

And I still have to come up with some magic dinner that will make everyone happy that is not pizza for tonight.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Magical togetherness and lots of brother fighting! A Good Old Fashioned Thanksgiving

Charlie has been expressing disappointment that he's never home anymore and doesn't get to do all the fun holiday activities he remembers from "when he was young." I tried to tell him that what goes on when he is at school is a lot of laundry and "please go find something to do while I do all this laundry," but he is convinced that while he is slogging away at school I host a magical Santa's workshop of crafts and baking that I somehow manage to conceal once he arrives home. SO. This year meant Thanksgiving break HOLIDAY-MAGIC-PALOOZA.

Beginning with!


I'm not sure who had more fun doing this project, me or Charlie. Wes and James were into it for a little while, but that Pilgrim matriarch didn't make that apron herself. Charlie made Captain Miles Standich, two Native Americans, and a stable of livestock. My kitchen was aflurry with felt, glue, and cut up diaper boxes. Two thumbs up.

After that we headed to Starbucks for the traditional holiday cake balls, then picked up a pizza and returned home to watch Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. And then Ryan came home and I retired to the Corner Bakery to do the traditional holiday research paper grading. After several hours I am roughly a third of the way through them.

Thanksgiving morning we did cinnamon rolls and the Macy's parade then played outside together as a family like a Bean's catalog. And then we forced everyone into nice clothes and drove to my parents' for the feast. The kids end of the table:

Wes: You never let me eat jelly with a fork at home. Thanksgiving rulz!

The entire huge, pretty table:


Even Mary had a reserved spot:


My dad made a bean bag game that was a huge hit with Charlie, who tallied up 264 points, 10 and 2 at a time.


We took this (surprisingly nice ) family picture. It was my sister's (awesome) idea to take pictures right after we arrived to avoid the problems we usually have getting the children to cooperate after several hours of undersupervised, juice box-fueled revelry.


Like this. This is exactly what I was talking about.


I don't remember the rest of the break except for a lot of "I have no idea what we're eating for dinner," "Please stop fighting with each other," "Why won't you sleep," and James biting through his lip and possibly breaking his foot within twenty-four hours of each other with a couple of bright spots thrown in, namely the lighting of the Christmas lights in the old town square and the Hanging of the Greens at our church.