Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Life Skills: I has them.

Fun facts for you: If you have, say, a child's therapist appointment that is at a weird time because of the holidays, and you are responsible for taking your child to that appointment, and the therapist's office is a fifteen minute drive from your house, then you might consider setting up your Google calendar to remind you about this appointment MORE THAN TEN MINUTES IN ADVANCE.

Because then you, unlike me, will not be forced to shriek "OMG WE HAVE TO GET IN THE CAR RIGHT NOW! GO LIKE FIREFIGHTERS! GO GO GO GO!" as you hurl Crocs at them and scoop up the baby while you throw your phone in your bag and slip your own shoes on while running outside and debating whether there's time to lock the front door or not. You will not have to commit numerous moving violations while you "OK Google" the therapist's office number so you can call and apologize profusely for being what you hope will be ten minutes late and praying that the quarter-mile you have to drive on the horrible interstate will not take thirty minutes. Or an hour. Or overnight.

And you will not find yourself sending your child RUNNING from the car into a therapist appointment, BAREFOOT, ALONE, AND TEN MINUTES LATE, then appearing yourself, five minutes later, to hastily stash the other kids in the waiting room and then awkwardly plunk down on the couch, still wearing your coat and purse and holding a baby who, while adorable (and also not wearing shoes), is sporting what is possibly the most disgusting, fragrant, poop diaper ever known to mankind. Also you might be out of breath. And completely flummoxed when the doctor asks how the last two weeks have been. For your child. Because you BOTH KNOW HOW IT'S GOING FOR YOU!


Ryan met us there and afterward we went out for hamburgers then drove around looking at Christmas lights. BECAUSE WE ARE A CLOSE, LOVING FAMILY WHO NORMALLY REMEMBERS IMPORTANT APPOINTMENTS AND MAKES THE CHILDREN WEAR SHOES IN THE WINTER (USUALLY WHEN WE ARE NOT IN A HURRY) #crocsaretotallyshoes.

The restaurant we always go to only has four-person booths, which means kids' table plus DATE NIGHT. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

I mean, unless you count Wes's soda fountain cocktail of orange soda, root beer, and Sprite all swirled together in the same cup. That is SO wrong.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Dull Moments Are for Suckers Anyway

Never a dull moment around here, you guys. Never. A dull. Moment.

Wes complained yesterday morning about being itchy and not wanting to get ready for school. Since he never wants to get ready for school I stuffed him into his uniform anyway, cajoled him into eating a cinnamon raisin bagel, and sent him out the door with a chipper "HAVE A NICE DAY!" before settling into my second cup of coffee and hour twenty-nine of operation "it's too early in your career to be withdrawing papers from national conferences."

When I picked him up he and Charley ambled into the car and before I drove off Wes's teacher approached my passenger side window and told me "Wes is COVERED in red spots. I took him to the nurse and she said it looks like dry skin, but I thought you would like to know."

Wes piped up from the back seat "Yeah, Mom, I'm SO ITCHY. It was distracting me from my WORK!"

Wes had a scratching conniption all the way to the little kids' school. He clawed at his pants and ripped off his shoes and growled loudly in frustration. I did that thing I do where I laugh nervously when something cuh-razy is going on because WOW. When we arrived at the preschool, I parked the car and asked him to come up so I could take a look at his spots. I thought we'd go home, have a little Benadryl, have a little lotion, eat some cookies, read some books, go to bed, NBD.

Then he got up to the front where I could finally get a good look at him. I took one look at his face then exclaimed with horror "OH MY GOD" then frantically lifted his shirt and pantlegs and made him turn around. His chest and back were covered in one huge hive. His legs and feet were completely red and covered with bumps. He had two bright red welts on his forehead and one between his lip and nose. HE continued to whimper and claw at his skin.

Does not do justice to intensity and coverage of angry red welts.

I left him thrashing in his seat, scratching furiously, while I called the doctor and made him an appointment for that very afternoon and called Miss N to ask her to pick up the little kids. Then we drove to a Walgreens where Wes went inside BAREFOOT because his feet were so itchy he couldn't wear shoes. We scratch scratch scratched our way through the store, to pick out an after school snack and to get some children's Benadryl. Add "Leading barefoot, rashy kid through Walgreens to buy Benadryl" to the list of parenting experiences you never knew you would have

Also, psychosomatic symptoms are REAL. I'm itchy just thinking about yesterday. Scratch scratch. Scratchscratchscratchscratchyyyyyscratch.

Back in the car I ripped open the Benadryl and gave him the maximum dose for his weight then took pictures of his face, his back, and tummy so I could show the doctor and also text my friend C with whom I share my children's disgusting medical issues (She responded simply, "WOAH").

The Benadryl helped with the wild thrashy scratching and he was able to put his shoes on by the time we got to the doctor's office, where he was diagnosed with a shoulder shrug and given instructions to take Zyrtec through the weekend and Benadryl as needed for breakthrough itching. The doctor was very calm and matter of fact and obviously forgot to tell me to check his mouth and tongue for swelling every thirty minutes until morning, so I did that anyway, even after the itching calmed down. And THEN, because I am so rational and normal, I made Ryan keep checking him while I was at my party and even took some respectable clothes to put on in case I needed to meet him in the emergency room and didn't want to wear my pajamas (that I wore to the party) because just before I left the benadryl wore off and his face erupted in angry red spots again and this imaginary emergency room trip seemed like a near certainty, at least until the second glass of wine.

But before that I regaled all my friends with The Story About My Kids Rash, as soon as I hit the door, before even taking off my coat, because I have social skillz.

Epilogue: he was fine. FIIIINNE. Ryan texted me several times to inform me: "Breathing is clear, no wheezing" because he loves me and knows not to even HINT that I might be overreacting just a teensy bit when it comes to the kids and possible anaphylaxis. I had a lovely time with friends. And thanks to the school nurse's diagnosis of "dry skin" he was able to attend school today which is great because it is pajama day and party day and he would be a sad, sad puppy if he had to miss that.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Seven Quick Takes: Procrastination Edition

1. I need a bottle of wine to take to a Christmas party tonight. I think the only thing to do is drive thirty minutes out of my way to Whole Foods so I can eat Indian food off the hot bar after I pick out my bottle. I don't mean literally eat it off the bar, I mean put it in a box to be weighed, then take it home to eat with a fork like grownup. Maybe. Maybe that's what I mean.

2. Last night I only did one of the things I had to do (there were four-ish) and I still went to bed at 11:30. This means that today after school/work I have to make four dozen sugar cookies (dough is chilling in the fridge). Thank goodness tonight is leftover night. Also thank goodness tonight "Mom has her thing" which means I go to my friend's house and we drink wine and eat pie. Everyone's wearing their jammies tonight and also there will be presents. I think that will be sufficient to distract me from the gnawing guilt about not working on WORKY WORKY WORK ALL THE TIME WITH THE WORK.

3. In a way this is kind of a Throwback Thursday post because I haven't felt this much angst about a work project since finishing my dissertation in 2009. When Wes was an INFANT.

4. I am growing more and more concerned that this project will not be done (done enough) in time for the conference. My talk is near the end of the week, which is good, but I am currently wondering how many times I can say "This is very preliminary" and how many slides can be dedicated to "Future Work." Because IF EVERYTHING GOES ACCORDING TO PLAN I will have exactly two interesting graphs to discuss, which is plenty in a ten minute talk once I get through all the method stuff, but THINGS ARE NOT GOING ACCORDING TO PLAN. I finally sent a hail Mary email to someone at the NCDC a couple of days ago asking for advice on handling this one particular thing and to paraphrase his response "Wow. That's, uh, gonna take a really long time to do." And I am assuming because this person works for the NCDC as an actual real live employed person, that he does not have also have to bake four dozen cookies, attend four class parties, and work alongside FOUR CHILDREN every day next week. So his "really long time" feels like my "don't even bother."

5. Also not done? Christmas preparations of any kind. We keep talking about summoning Santa's Amazon Sleigh, every night this week, but it still hasn't happened because, as I mentioned earlier, we are both working our asses off and barely keeping our heads above water. I think the tonight might be the deadline without risking a "24 Hour Walgreens Christmas."

6. I should really take a shower. Going to work in my actual office forces me to try a little harder in the personal hygiene department but ever since I got an email from facilities suggesting I "bring a coat or blanket" if I plan to use my office during Christmas Break I've been working at home at my dining room table. The other problem with this arrangement, besides the stinkitude, is the unfettered access to refined carbohydrates of all kinds. Also we ran out of kCups.

7. I want to get Linux, but I just don't. I will now turn in my nerd card and go bake some sugar cookies.

Monday, December 15, 2014

James, the Wandering Shepherd

Next time I think it would be fun to have a writing intensive exam late on Thursday afternoon when grades are due Monday at COB after a fun-filled magical holiday weekend, which was high on the family/grownup fun and red wine and low on the working, someone tell me that it is a completely moronic idea and that I might want to find a job at a university that uses Scantrons.

Also, you know that thing where you actually have to finish your grades, not by 5:00, but by 2:30 so you can go pick up all the kids, attend a preschool Christmas party, take someone to piano, and host a small family dinner party for someone's birthday and you sit down to enter the exam grades at one o'clock and instead of numbers appearing on the screen the little cursor box just hops all over the freaking webpage and you shout to your empty house "WHO THE EFF TURNED OFF MY NUMLOCK?!" I probably drank too much coffee this morning, but honestly, when you're grading forty-three essays about deforestation (after staying up until after midnight grading forty-three times four short answer questions) is there really such a thing as too much coffee?

Grading on Friday would have been intelligent, but I was busy dealing with a small kerfluffle at work which required me to get out of the building and eat a meatball sub and a ginormous iced tea before my head exploded all over the new drywall in the hallway.

Speaking of Friday, Friday was the annual Nativity play and you can bet our family was there with period costumes on!

Because I like to tempt fate and also because by the time I remembered to sign up there were no more shepherd spots, I signed Charley, Wes, and James up to be the Three Kings. This is a fun job because you get to wear a crown and carry a present for the newborn king. Sadly, there were no swords; these were learned men, not Roman soldiers, Charley. The role is to walk in from stage right, pointing at Yonder Star with amazement, then kneel in front of the manger, drop off the gifts, then walk back to a nearby hay bale to wait out the rest of the story.

I sat in the audience with my mom and hoped for the best, which means I was hoping they would not come to blows in the middle of all that holy stillness. The three of them came parading in right on cue, pointing at the star. Here they are honoring the baby with gold and frankincense. Wait a minute, where's myrrh? Oh, there he is, back by the lamb enclosure.

This is when people began to giggle because James was wandering around by himself, staring directly into the audience with big, confused eyeballs. Eventually he turned around and Charley and Wes started gesticulating wildly and mouthing "GIFT. BABY JESUS. TAKE. THE GIFT. TOBABYJESUS."

Finally, slooooowly, James wandered over to Baby Jesus and carefully laid the gift on the hay. Then he went to sit on the hay bale with the other kings.

We did one more show so Mary could participate because she luuurrves staying up late and wearing costumes.

And just when I was starting to think about getting in the car and heading for home Wes chirped "I'm going to be an angel next!!" and disappeared into the costume room before we knew what was happening.

Other than that we laid low this weekend, since four of us are on antibiotics for strep (Charley, me, Ryan) and strep-accessories (Wes). By the time we gathered for dinner Sunday night the only thing everyone was capable of was a thousand yard stare. Peppermint ice cream and my neighbor's pizzelles helped, but still bedtime was done with by six thirty and then I spent six hours grading exams. Womp womp. But the important thing is that I AM ON CHRISTMAS "BREAK".

Friday, December 12, 2014

Happy Festive Holiday Fun

It has come to my attention that the "holiday surprise" James's class is planning for all the parents is an adorable three to six year old rendition of Jingle Bells.

I know this because every time James gets in the car after school he complains about how Jingle Bells is too long and too hard to learn. So last night while I was impatiently standing by the oven wondering aloud by the freaking fracking Stouffers lasagna was taking so freaking long to freaking cook as the hungry children circled around me like vultures, I decided that we should ALL PRACTICE SINGING JINGLE BELLS with James!!

He was unenthusiastic about my plan and told me this by sighing deeply, covering his face with his hands, and groaning "It's too HAAAARD and LOOOOONG."

Jingle Bells, friends. The Ave Maria of three-year-old-dom.

"OK, I'll start!" I chirped, with the enthusiasm of someone whose husband's impending arrival would be greeted with the first glass of wine of the evening.

"Dashing through the --"


"On a one horse open --"


"O'r the fields we --"


I was undaunted. After the next line, "Laughing all the way!" I attempted to pick him up and tickle him into compliance. Dang it, how hard is it to shout happily "Ha ha ha!"? Seriously.

Apparently, though, this is the last straw because he started scream crying and didn't stop until Ryan came home.

I think we'll work on Frosty the Snowman next!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Stuff. SO MUCH STUFF. Also: Strep--the sequel.

Surprisingly, a week's cooling off period did nothing to assuage Mary's unmitigated terror at being handed off to a bearded stranger and forced to pose for pictures.

My favorite parts of this one are the way James is reaching out to comfort her, but she is trying to smack his hand away while simultaneously bracing her foot against Wes in a futile attempt to escape Charley's grasp. Santa attempted to give her a candy cane at the end but was SOUNDLY rebuffed. She did take the same candy cane from me approximately thirty seconds later, however. Girl likes candy canes.

After the Santa and breakfast parts of Breakfast with Santa, we had a couple of hours to kill while Ryan and the other church dads assembled the barn for the live nativity set so we hung out in the fellowship hall and did every holiday craft known to Pinterest. My car still smells like tempera paint.

James spent a solid forty-five minutes stringing Cheerios on a pipe cleaner. THANK YOU MONTESSORI EDUCATION.

Charley disappeared to the playground, but Wes stayed behind, hoping to do ALL THE PROJECTS. Every few minutes he ran up and put a few more of his creations in the stroller. I spent a lot of time drinking coffee and talking to people. EVERYONE WINS.

On the way home we stopped at an estate sale in our neighborhood. I went in first, took a quick spin, saw a few things I liked but passed them up because we didn't really need anything, then went back out so Ryan could take a look. Against my better judgement, he took Charley and Wes in with him. I was worried about the giant room filled with Beanie Babies, but OH, did I have no idea what I really should have been worried about. They came bouncing out of the house and gleefully exclaimed that they had gotten a REALLY GREAT DEAL! Since they weren't carrying anything I assumed they were kidding around. Then Wes's eyes got huge and he shrieked "CHARLEY BOUGHT A FISH TANK *THIS BIG*" and he held out his arms to show me. I looked to Ryan, pleading with him with my eyes. He was equally thrilled with their purchase. They went back to the house where someone was OPENING THE GARAGE DOOR so that they could get the thing outside.

It was exactly as huge as I had feared.

After that I dropped them off at home to set it up and went back and spent forty dollars on vintage pyrex because OK I SEE HOW IT IS, I CAN IMPULSE BUY THINGS TOO.

Charley quickly outfitted it with a water dish, log, bedding, and a handful of frogs, then begged us until we took him to buy crickets and something called "Cricket Quencher" that crickets "eat while they are waiting to be eaten." I now have a small ecosystem living in the corner of my kitchen. The more you know.

Sunday morning we did the Advent reading at church. While I love the *idea* of doing the Advent reading at church, together, as a family, with the togetherness, the actual implementation details terrify me. First of all, there are stairs involved, and fire, and a microphone, and hundreds of people watching. Ryan and I did some fast talking to convince Charley that reading with the microphone was actually a much cooler job than holding the candle lighter, so that Wes, who is a less confident reader, could hold the candle lighter and thus not cause a giant scene in front of God and all of our friends. I am happy to report that no one farted, puked, picked his nose, or fell into the pointsettias, the reading went smoothly, and nothing caught on fire. It as actually quite nice. Lots of people complimented Charley on his reading. Several people commented that they "saw our name on the bulletin and JUST HAD to stay for the beginning of the next service to see how that was going to go."

Monday morning Charley woke up with a sore throat, but he didn't have a fever so I loaded him up with ibuprofin and dropped him off at school with a "Try to make it to lunchtime!" Later I called the nurse at our doctor's office to ask if I'd need to reschedule that evening's flu shot appointment because of Charley's sore throat and Wes's weird rash. She said I didn't need to move the appointment but that a sore throat and a weird rash in the same family initiates Strep Protocol Level V and that they would both need to be seen, like, right now. So I took them both out of school and schlepped them in to the office to learn that Charley indeed had strep and Wes had some kind of unusual rash that also requires antibiotics.

It was practically a foregone conclusion that I would awaken Tuesday morning with a raging sore throat. Spoiler alert: I also had strep. And now it's already Thursday! Time flies when you're visiting after hours care three times in twenty-four hours, having three people in the house taking antibiotics with different dosing schedules and handling instructions, and still somehow having to manage to finish a research project, write a paper, send out the Christmas cards, write a final exam, make TWENTY BAG LUNCHES, and wash more clothes than you ever knew existed. I am about to cry uncle and there is still one more day this week and five more days next week before Christmas "Break".

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Photo Interlude


Yesterday was my last day of class, which leaves me a bit at loose ends today, except not really because I have ten frillion things I need to be doing right now. But just knowing I don't have to spend four hours in the computer lab tomorrow morning is so lovely I have to spend a few minutes soaking it in.

When that's over it's all climate-rain project all the #$@$#ing time time. (When I'm not writing my Christmas letter, which may not happen because all I have so far is "2014 really started for us in September when we finally got Charley's SSRI dosage right. A warm and happy holiday to you all!!")


And this picture of the Thanksgiving table at my mom and dad's house. Note that my cousin appears twice.

And, OH! A picture of the kids drinking "kid wine" (OMG), sparkling grape juice, out of crystal glasses the other day.

That was nice. Now to figure out this generalized pareto distribution nonsense.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

No cavities!

You guys! I was schlepping the three bigger kids into the dentist office this morning when a woman approached me and said "This is so weird, I feel like I'm meeting a celebrity because--I READ YOUR BLOG!" I immediately forgot all about getting the kids back to the teeth-brushing station as I had planned (I lied lied lied and said that the kids ate breakfast in the car so as to cover up the fact that I actually FORGOT TO MAKE THEM BRUSH THEIR TEETH THE MORNING OF THEIR DENTIST APPOINTMENT) so that I could talk to my new friend who knew everything about me but then the hygienist came out and told me the kids could come back and the kids wouldn't get up from the couch and walk with me and I got all flustered and by the time I had physically forced the kids to stand up and follow directions she had walked back to the procedure room. I didn't even get her name!

The kids quickly settled into the dentist office, which is not hard considering there are iPads mounted on every available wall, movies playing on TVs dangling over the chairs, and more stickers than you can shake a stick at. When I say they settled in I mean that I immediately lost track of them. I walked back and forth between the sibling waiting room in the back and the two to three exam rooms they had the kids in at various moments always finding AT LEAST two children on any given pass. I left James at an iPad station only to find him twenty minutes later having xrays done. One minute Charley was lying on an exam table, spit bib in place, the next he kept evading me until I finally found him in a trancelike-state at an iPad station I didn't even know existed (but only after I knocked loudly on the bathroom door and bellowed "CHARLEY ARE YOU IN THERE?" only to hear a slightly irritated woman's voice respond "No he's not!").

The kids' teeth are fine, by the way. No cavities. Amazing really. Though the hygienist politely reminded me to help Wes get his back teeth because she found lots of "black chunks back there--maybe something he had for breakfast?" At the time I couldn't imagine what he might have eaten that had "black chunks" or even what kind of food might create "black chunks" in your mouth, but when I got home I found my stash of Trader Joe's chocolate covered shortbread star cookies EMPTY. Mystery solved.


James didn't love the cleaning but he was a trooper. When they asked him to "kiss the straw" suction thing to get the spit out he did a full on MMMMMMMMMMWAH kiss that was as adorable as it was ineffective.

Anyway, all the while I was hoping to bump into my mystery reader again. Finally I scribbled "Let's meet for coffee sometime!" with my email address on a piece of paper and asked someone to deliver it to her in the procedure room. We saw each other one more time on the way out. She was so nice!

Finally, FINALLY, laden with new toothbrushes, floss, toothpaste, balloons, stickers, tattoos, sugar free lollipops, and prize box treasures, we were allowed to leave. I was parked right next to the door and it took us fifteen minutes to get into the car. Five hundred feet from the parking lot James and Charley got into some kind of altercation over a sample of kiddie toothpaste which caused James to scream hysterically allllll the waaaaayyyy to school while I repeated inane things like "You need to calm your body down, James! James, this is inappropriate car behavior. You need to be quiet and respectful of the driver!" then, inevitably "JAMES STOP SCREAMING THIS SECOND OR I WILL BURY THE KINDLE IN THE YARD!!!"

James didn't stop screaming so I turned the radio up. At the next red light I checked the rear view mirror to find James red-faced and screaming, Charley snickering, and Wes brushing his teeth.

Six more months until we get to go back!!!!

Friday, November 28, 2014

You guys, this week, I don't even know what happened.

I have been kind of a blog loser ever since I got my new phone and pretty much never have to open my computer once I leave my office.  Which is good because this is what my desk looks like pretty much full time these days and no one wants to see that after dealing with the three to six o'clock period alone, cooking dinner, cleaning up, and put four kids to bed. This paper I'm presenting in January is no joke and Ryan's been so helpful with one chunk of the analysis that I don't feel like I can withdraw the paper in good conscience even though I had no idea how hard this was going to be and did not expect the abstract to be accepted. Live/Learn.

The good news is that I have not touched the analysis since Monday afternoon because the kids are on Thanksgiving Break and I AM THE BACKUP CHILDCARE. On the one hand, RELAXING. On the other, every time Ryan asks me a question about it I give him kind of a bitchy answer then go upstairs to compose myself for several minutes. HAPPY HOLIDAYS.

The other reason I haven't been getting much done is that some moron assigned my class of forty students a weekly two-page writing assignment.

But LOOK! On Tuesday we went to the ZOO! I had been planning this for a couple of weeks and was, weirdly, SUPER EXCITED about it. We used to do these totally impractical kinds of outings all the time and I really missed them since the big kids started real school and I started real(ish) job. One of Charley's friends and our own Miss N came with us and we had a really, REALLY good time.

Here are the primates with the primates.

Heeeeeere kitty kitty kitty.

Here's Mary with one of the two dozen or so "doggies" we encountered that day. "Doggie" equals "mammal" in case you didn't know. And all animals pant like a dog too.

The kids were SO FUN. They RAN from exhibit to exhibit (and we were practically the only ones there so this was not terrifying) and were funny and cute and REALLY INCREDIBLY OVER THE TOP EXCITED. Until we got to the orangutan exhibit and Charley and Wes started beating each other. How appropos!

I took this just before the smackdown began. The orangutan saw the boys and came over to the glass, after WRAPPING A BLANKET AROUND HIS SHOULDERS, and put his hand up to say hi. I had difficulty conveying the majesty of the gesture to the boys, but IT WAS AMAZING.

After the orangutans we had a picnic lunch, played on the playground for a while, hit Sonic for drinks, and then headed for home. Wes told every single person he encountered for the next two days "We went to the zoo. It took a really long time to get there but it was so much fun!" In the car we listed as a group the animals we'd seen and it went on for several happy minutes. So much fun and so much more satisfying than the last time we went to the zoo when the only thing the kids remembered from our three hours on the surface of the sun was that the monkey peed on it's own hand. It totally did, but still.

Today we went downtown to see a parade, but since I have limited practical skills I didn't realize that today was Friday, not Saturday, and there was no parade. We quickly recovered when Ryan found a free "picture with Santa" event close by. Mary was STOKED. What toddler doesn't love strangers, facial hair, and costumes?! Her little arm tightened around my bicep like a blood pressure cuff as we approached the Big Guy but I pressed on. We have three pictures of babies screaming on Santa's lap and now we have four. Personally I think this is my favorite.

She was fine by the time we got to lunch and then took a slightly longer than normal nap. Santa: similar to vaccinations for the Under 2 crowd.

Here's a happier picture as a palate cleanser. We tried to take her to big church with us on Sunday. It lasted approximately twenty minutes before she started loudly requesting "DOWN! DOWN! DOWN!" and trying to escape our pew. We love our nursery workers!

Tomorrow I'll have to gather together our Thanksgiving pictures and post those. I think Mary might have been crying in one or two of those too. Being a toddler is legit hard, you guys.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Another Wednesday Another Wes Tantrum

So Wednesdays, huh?

The kids' school gets out early on Wednesdays so I had to peel out of there right after my class to go pick them up.  After school we go to the weekly school garden workday where we tend the plants, water, pull weeds, and do other tasks as needed.  Other tasks as needed includes playing parking lot soccer/football (Wes, secondary school boys) and catch small animals (Charley).  Charley is also the compost man.  He can mix a brown-green ratio with the best of them and HEAVEN HELP the guy who doesn't remember to turn the drum before adding new compost.  Today one of Wes's friends from his class was there too and they had a blast watering the potted plants and each other in the front of the school.

Garden days are awesome.

After the garden we go straight to Charley's therapy appointment, which lets out around 3:45 normally, and then we go pick up James and Mary and speed home to make and eat dinner before Wes has to leave for choir around 5:40.  Except today I had not actually planned anything for dinner because honestly who can think about dinner three whole days ahead so that meant we had two options.  1) Go back to that HEB where Charley had to drag Wes around the store by the sleeve of his shirt because he refused to walk when I wouldn't let him watch the entire Ninja Turtles movie standing in the store at dinnertime.  2) Get takeout somewhere after picking up James and Mary.

I chose option 2).

The best option based on our route home is a crowd pleaser barbeque restaurant that is also a gas station because this is Texas and we love our petroleum.  It really is a great place and the only reason I mention the gas station part is that part of the dining experience is being almost killed by some asshole in an F350 on the way in from your car.

Today was no exception.  I stood on a grassy traffic median clutching Mary loudly enjoining the other three to STAY CLOSE PAY ATTENTION DO NOT LEAVE MY SIDE WATCH WHERE YOU ARE GOING as an armada of killing machines stood at the ready filling up with gas and buying snacks.  When it looked safe, we all took one step off the curb.  We hadn't made much progress when a mom in an SUV crept around the corner going a perfectly reasonable three miles per hour and Charley bodily threw us all back onto the median to wait for her to pass.  Ultimately we made it inside without incident.  It was a miracle.

Mary was getting heavy so I put her on the floor, standing up holding the wall for balance, while I ordered.  Sometime while I was looking away to sign the credit card receipt, she crawled away from me and under the metal bars that mark the switchbacks for the lines.  Thankfully a refrigerator case of beer blocked her from going any further and I was able to snag her by hitching my hips up on top of the metal bar and doing a crazy uneven bars move banned by the International Olympic Committee and snagging the back of her shirt.  This went over about as well you might expect.

Obstacle number two was to carry Mary (35 pounds) and the bag of food (10 pounds, threatening to rip and spill our dinner all over the floor at any moment) across the restaurant to use the self-serve sauce dispenser.  Once again I put Mary on the floor, standing up on the wall, while I dispensed some sauce into a cup.  Sauce I only was getting because Charley NEEEEEEDED sauce with his brisket.  The other kids milled around in the general vicinity eating pickles directly off the condiment bar with their hands.

It was about this time that Wes asked me if he could get an orange soda.  Something about this never having happened before made him think that this might be possible just this once if only he had a big enough tantrum.

When I turned back around, SURPRISE, Mary was headed for the beer case again.  She had just sped off under the turnstiles and was making tracks.  I had to abandon the food on top of a trashcan lid and run after her.  Like literally run.

Running after a toddler in a restaurant while my three other kids were double-fisting free pickles off a condiment bar is just what I pictured when I decided I wanted a big family.

So then I had Mary under one arm and the giant bag of food under the other.  Praying that I could make it across the deathtrap parking lot unscathed with the food intact, we began to make our way to the door.

About halfway there it became clear that Wes's disillusionment regarding the Fanta was going to make it impossible to make any forward progress at all.  I kept walking, hoping that this would be the one and only time this approach has ever worked.  I hid around the corner, hoping he wouldn't see me and think I had left the restaurant and he better get a move on.

James helpfully ran back and forth between me and Wes shrieking "MAMA WES IS LYING ON THE FWOOOOOOR!  WES IS NOT COMING!"

Mary began to squirm and slide down my body.  She really wanted that beer case.

Since you can't yell as loud in a restaurant as you would need to to really light a fire under Wes, I had to get creative.

So James took the bag of food.  Which was half as tall as he is and at least a third of his weight.  Charley took Mary, who is also VERY BIG and heavy and unwieldy, especially for an eight year old.

And I scooped Wes off the floor.

I stalked out of the restaurant, Wes slung over my shoulder, with a super-classy parade behind me.

A three year old embracing an enormous bag of smoked meat like a teddy bear.  An eight year old bear-hugging an enormous toddler around the middle, dress hitched up to her armpits, be-tighted legs dangling free.

"STICK TOGETHER" I called out behind me.  Thankfully the parking lot had emptied and there were no F350s.  I encouraged Charley like I was a sherpa guiding him up the last few hundred yards of Mount Everest.  "You're doing great, buddy!  Don't let her go!  You're almost there!"

He shrieked gleefully "I'm not gonna drop her but it's sure gonna be great to put her down!!"

We made it to the car.  Wes was still having a tantrum, possibly because I was whispering sweet nothings in his ear like "LOOK AT THIS.  Are you PROUD OF YOUR BEHAVIOR?

Then I mistakenly took the bag of food from James and put it in the car without asking his permission first.  So then I had two kids tantrumming in the middle of the parking lot and a baby who was, SURPRISE, CRAWLING AWAY FROM ME ACROSS THE GRASS.  I buckled her up with a quickness, stuffed a protesting James into his seat and buckled him into his five point harness (which he will be using until puberty, I heart immobile children).

I slid Wes as far as I could toward his seat, closed the van door, and got in my seat where I called Ryan to have a tantrum of my own.

Nine hours later, he had finally shape shifted himself into his booster seat and found the humility to buckle his seatbelt.  We made it home without further incident, but not inside the house.  I love a good front lawn tantrum as much as the next guy, but I was pretty happy when he finally had some protein in him.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Family Date

The big event of our weekend, besides successfully managing two simultaneous birthday parties in different locations on Saturday morning, and then the Cub Scout Rain Gutter Regatta Saturday afternoon, was taking the whole fam-damily out for dinner at the Mexican restaurant where we had our first date sixteen years ago this week (same restaurant, different location, even though once you step inside you are instantly transported back to our college town, which is awesome).

Some differences between sixteen years ago and this week are 1) We had enough money to buy ACTUAL DINNER instead of just chips and queso and sopapillas, 2) We had four children with us, 3) There was ZERO lingering over conversation.

There was also more spilling, more laughing, more watching the tortilla making machine, and more surreptitious dipping of crunchy beef tacos in honey (Wes).

Ryan: "Sixteen years ago did you think we'd be here, with four children, discussing options for the flooring in our living room?"

We are so romantical.

To commemorate the occasion, and because everyone was being extra loveable Saturday night, I thought I'd attempt a group picture. You know how that goes.

Charley looks, and eats, like a full-grown man, so this one's kind of Sunrise-Sunset. I was not expecting this to happen so soon.

After dinner, we realized we were close to a shoe store and thought it would be entertaining to take everyone inside to look for sneakers for Ryan and moccasins for me. When we all got out of the car, I realized that I was wearing my old moccasins, which needed to be replaced because the sole was literally FLAPPING AROUND when I walked, Ryan was wearing his sneakers, though which you can SEE HIS SOCKS, James was wearing Wes's shoes, Wes was wearing Crocs (it was 40 degrees), and Mary was missing a Robeez.

We looked pretty shoe-desperate.

I quickly found my new moccasins, tried them on, debated, and then settled on the ones with the fur inside that I think might be slippers but don't care. James provided me with a sunset update approximately every five minutes, pressing his face to the plate glass window then announcing loudly "MOM IT'S WEALLY WEALLY DARK NOW!!" Daylight Savings time ending has been a confusing confusing time for James. Ryan, Charley, and Wes tried on every pair of men's sneakers in the store. Ultimately, Ryan put on one shoe from each of two different pairs and asked Wes to decide (because Wes is the one with the best fashion sense in the family). Wes carefully inspected each shoe then asked Ryan to show him the bottoms before he made his decision. Ryan emphasized to me multiple times that he needs COOL SNEAKERS because he's going to be WEARING THEM WHEN HE'S FORTY (in MORE THAN THREE YEARS). Ryan went with Wes's recommendation. This kills me.

We rounded out the evening with a stop at Home Depot. We needed to look at a lazy-susan cabinet I have my eye on for our fantasy kitchen reno that will happen one day if I can arrange for Ryan to go on a lengthy out of state business trip and use a Swiss bank account he doesn't know about. So never, probably, is what I'm saying. Right now we are hung up on how much space there needs to be between the edge of the breakfast bar and the back door and the conversation makes me so exhausted I would rather just keep tripping over all the extraneous furniture we keep in our kitchen to keep it barely functional.

But HEY! It was cold and rainy and Home Depot is always a good time, so we went.

First thing we did was take three COMPLETELY SEPARATE bathroom visits from the cabinet side of the store to the lumber side of the store where the potties are. This happens every time we go and it never fails to surprise me.

On the way back Mary spotted this bathtub and started babbling and gesturing animatedly. "Do you want to take a bath?" I asked. She looked at me, wide eyed, and nodded vigorously. OMG. This was the best we could do.

Ryan measured some cabinets and we tried to find the back splashes, but then everyone climbed atop this rug display and got into a giant street brawl and it was TIME TO GO (this also happens every time we go there).

Today we only attempted church and making cookies with my sister and niece because my kids are not used to leaving the house for fun. And now it is Sunday night and I am not ready for class tomorrow, SHOCKER, even though I have managed a yoga video and consumed three to four cookies.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Was not Wes's Favorite Day Ever

Guess what you guys, SOMEONE joined the rest of the twenty-first century and got a smartphone. This means I can take pictures of things that are happening and upload them to the social media IN REAL TIME. THIS IS AMAZING. It also means that you are going to be subjected to more inane photos THAN EVER BEFORE. To wit:

The building I work in is under construction. This will one day lead to great things, like more lab space, more classrooms, meeting rooms, study rooms, toilets that do not cause a cardiac event upon flushing! Yay! Right now, though, they are doing the demo portion of the project--removing the BACK HALF OF THE BUILDING THAT HOUSES MY OFFICE. Which means that my office has been subject to loud vibrations, shaking, and sudden loud percussive jolts. One of them was so loud and prolonged I grabbed my laptop and purse and RAN out of there. They let me use a desk in a quieter part of the building after that. Anyway, on Monday when I got to school I noticed that the last of the old slab had been removed and the horrible jackhammering machine was GONE.

Look at the digger on the left. The gray wall immediately behind the roof of that digger? IS ABOUT TWELVE FEET (TWELVE LITERAL FEET) from my desk chair. So that was incredibly loud and unsettling.

Moving right along we have Charley and Wes watching separate TVs at the grocery store this afternoon.

This preceded the Great Wes Tantrum of 2014, which lasted from just after that picture was taken, during what should have been a quick stop for dinner ingredients between Charley's therapy and little kid pick up, around 3:30, until pretty much 7:15 when he went to bed. It all started when I told him it was time to walk over to the frozen food case to find some mac and cheese, which meant he would have to tear himself away from Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles. He immediately sank onto the floor in a heap of despair and refused to budge. I was carrying the rest of the groceries and did not have a hand free to pick him up, so after trying a couple of things to jolly him out of it I tried the oldest trick in the book, casually walking away as if I was going to leave him there.

Moments later I turned around to see this:

Which is disgusting and kind of wrong but also incredibly helpful. Ultimately he refused to walk even a little bit for the entire rest of the shopping trip. He laid on the floor of the checkout aisle as I casually stepped over him like nothing was wrong and then I had Charley carry the bags while I hefted Wes into a cart. SERIOUSLY dude.

He pulled the same trick at James and Mary's school, turning our normal ten minute pickup into a thirty minute ordeal filled with lots of lying down in the vestibule and stompy histrionics when he was asked to comply with basic instructions. Super fun.

What was ACTUALLY super fun? Is that when I got there James's class was walking back to their room from the garden where they had just harvested a bunch of basil that they will use tomorrow to make pesto. James got to carry the cut basil. He smelled so yummy.

After I had all the kids in the car (this took two trips: the Charley, James, Mary trip and the separate Wes trip) I passed around the chicken strips I had bought for dinner and let everyone eat them with their hands. Then we stopped at Sonic for drinks because I thought Charley really deserved a treat for being such a huge helper with Mr. Passive Resistance.

When we got home, I was expecting more of the same nonsense, but Charley, who is working on a unit at school called "Where we are in place and time," wanted to have an old fashioned dinner in England, so we ate our Stouffer's mac and cheese and grocery store chicken strips by candlelight with hot tea to drink. The kids were super calm and into the game and dinner turned out to be really, really nice. Then we watched Charley Brown Thanksgiving and then Ryan came home, THANK GOD. I haven't heard a PEEP from Wes tonight.

Monday, November 10, 2014

I'm starting to think maybe *I* was the problem on Saturday

I feel like this weekend was some kind of karmic payback for our awesome Halloween weekend. You know, the one where we awakened Saturday morning to find an entire living room suite on our front lawn? This weekend was not like that. There were some surprises alright, but not the kind that makes for a good slightly shameful morning-after post on Facebook.

Saturday we had a lengthy to-do list that included things like "Charley's class social, harvest pecans from tree on playground, replace busted-ass cell phone with one that has a functioning screen so I don't have a stroke the next time someone sends me a text message I can't read, HAVE DINNER WITH REAL LIVE GROWN UPS."

I think my first mistake was mentally jumping forward in time to 4:30, when the DINNER WITH REAL LIVE GROWN UPS part of the day was to begin.

Even though I was supposed to go to a yoga class, last weekend lulled me into a false sense of security and I decided to join Ryan and the kids at the park for the pecan harvest instead. I also took the camera along because I am on a never-ending quest for the perfect spontaneous family picture. We managed to collect about five pounds of pecans before finally unleashing them to the playground. Hey look, our family takes up the entire swing set!

And then, this seemed like a good idea.

Wes is wearing that hat backwards, incidentally, because he wants to "look like a DJ." Interesting.

If only Mary had been looking, this could have been The One.

After the park (it took us nearly as long to load up in the car as we spent playing, even though I routinely explain to the kids that if my last memory of an outing is a GIANT FIGHT IN THE PARKING LOT, it makes me NOT WANT TO DO THAT ACTIVITY AGAIN) I was supposed to go to the store to buy dinner for the kids and the stuff I needed to make apple crisp to take to our dinner. Spoiler alert, I did not go to the store. I went over to a neighbor's house and talked to her for forty minutes and returned home so late that Ryan and I had to scramble to pack six turkey sandwiches and a bag of pretzels as our "picnic" for Charley's class social.

Even though we left five minutes before the meetup began, and had to pick up Charley and Wes at a friend's house around the corner, we still thought it would be good to squeeze in the Best Buy trip before the playground because it is "on the way" (if you take the LONG way around).

Which would have worked great except one of the kids wet his pants after he became SO PREOCCUPIED with a videogame display that he FORGOT HOW HIS BLADDER WORKS. And it wasn't the kid you're probably thinking of.

So THEN our 10 minute Best Buy trip to pick up my phone turned into a twenty-minute Best Buy trip followed by a ten minute search through the car for ANYTHING remotely appropriate for the kid in question to change into followed by five minutes of waiting for him to change into the dry undies we found in the pool bag (how long has THAT been in there?!) followed by a twenty minute trip to the Target in the same shopping center to buy a pair of pants (uniform long pants that we needed anyway) and a tshirt (it was a BAD accident) followed by another ten minutes of waiting for the kid to put the new clothes on in the car.

So we were an hour late to the playground thing. Which was supposed to last for two hours. And was kind of hot and crowded and stressful. We finally bagged it and headed to Sonic for Happy Hour drinks (not the good kind of happy hour drinks) and went home to bicker the afternoon away.

The next two hours were kind of a blur because Ryan had to spend that entire time calling people to get my new phone set up and the kids were fighty and restless. James refused to nap. Wes and Charley refused to play outside without Ryan. I STILL hadn't made it to the store for dinner or apple crisp ingredients, and the house was a disaster.

Someone was smiling on me because I found a bag of frozen tortellini, a jar of sauce, and a bag of frozen green beans in my house. DINNER IS READY. And THEN I realized I had all the stuff for pumpkin bars. Score, NO GOING TO THE STORE!

Which was good because all I wanted to do by this point was to take a long, LONG nap.

But I still had to actually MAKE the pumpkin bars. And James wanted to "help" so I couldn't just crank up Johnny Cash and open a bottle of wine like I would normally do to power through a less-than-optimal Saturday afternoon.

Around four o'clock, when our departure to DINNER WITH REAL LIVE GROWN UPS was so close I could taste it, I got sick of the kids loudly fighting over the video game (while I made their beds and cooked two batches of pumpkin bars, one for THEIR dessert) and demanded that we all go clean the playroom together.

The playroom was disgusting but this was still a foolish move.

Because now I had basically locked myself in a ten by ten room with the Fighty McBickerson brothers and demanded they do ACTUAL UNPLEASANT WORK. I was slightly jealous of Ryan's ongoing dealings with what I assume was Satan's overseas call center.

Playroom cleanup was going surprisingly well until James deliberately and with zero remorse HIT WES IN THE EYE WITH A DRUMSTICK. My panicked screaming was enough to draw Ryan's attention away from "Jennifer in Mumbai" and he took a screaming James upstairs ("I will make you a sandwich and you can eat it in your bed because you are up for FOR THE NIGHT") while I comforted an even screamier Wes in my lap. He said he couldn't see out of the hit eye. I suggested he sleep on it and see how he felt in the morning because MOM HAS DINNER PLANS (his eye is fine).

I was sweating and wearing yoga pants and a stained tshirt.

Miss N arrived to watch the kids so we could leave.

I double checked Wes's eye, threw on a skirt and sweater, and got the HECK OUT OF THERE.

(James was fast asleep when we left. At four-thiry. He didn't wake up until six the next morning. So that explains everything)

Thirty minutes later I was drinking wine with my feet in a creek behind our friends' house. They made us steak and bacon-wrapped asparagus and roasted potatoes. We sat around a fire pit and TALKED TO EACH OTHER. It was AMAZING. And badly, BADLY needed. To prepare for Sunday. DUN DUN DUN.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Real Talk: Do these pants make me look like Big Bird?

A friend of mine swears by these pants called "Rock star jeans" sold by a popular but affordable retailer that rhymes with Fold Baby. I've been wanting a pair of gray skinny jeans for some time now and this particular store only carried gray in the Rock Star style, so despite my misgivings that I normally buy the more conservative "Sweet Heart" style, which is code for "These barely qualify as not Mom Jeans. Barely." I bought a pair online last week when I was annoyed about something completely unrelated to clothing that I now cannot even remember.

They arrived on Friday afternoon, along with two dresses for Mary and a bunch of long cardigans for me to wrap up in during the frigid Texas winters and the two uniform sweatshirts I originally went online to purchase for Charley and Wes and I excitedly stripped down and tried them on in my kitchen in the middle of the afternoon. They seemed quite tight, but in a really comfy way. I really liked the way they moved with me and didn't shift around. I was less certain about the way I could faintly make out the edges of a scar I have on my knee from where I got stitches when I was ten through the material. I wondered if I would start a fire if I attempted to put them on without first shaving and moisturizing my legs.

The next day I put them on again and called Ryan into the kitchen. "Will you come tell me if these pants are age inappropriate?" I asked. He appeared in the kitchen doorway seconds later. "No." he assured me, "Absolutely not."

So with that ringing endorsement, I wore them to work today, along with a sleeveless button up top I got for two dollars at LOFT and a hip-length black boyfriend cardigan and my brown moccasins. And I felt awesome. Class went really well, I felt great sliding around the classroom in my tiny pants as I answered four chapters worth of review questions in advance of their exam on Wednesday. Afterward, we had fun talking about the upcoming low pressure system that's going to bring us five inches of rain. It was a great class! These were my confidence pants.

And then I walked to the dining hall to pick up my lunch and caught a glimpse of my reflection in one of the glass doors, which was the first time I'd seen the whole view since we don't have a full-length mirror at our house. And things seemed slightly...out of proportion? Little legs big body?

Honestly this is the first thing that came to mind:

(This did not stop me from loading up with a ham and cheese on french bread, a pound of sweet potato fries, and two cookies.)

Ryan came by later that afternoon and I forced him to take a picture of me so that I could do a side by side comparison with that Big Bird picture, which I did from the safety of my flannel pajama bottoms and oversized tshirt.

And the verdict is: If a pair of pants can make me feel cool while teaching climate, or even SITTING IN A GOLD MINIVAN IN THE SCHOOL PICKUP LINE (!!), then I need at least two more pairs. Maybe they will help me finally tackle that Python issue that's been giving me so much trouble. After all, they are my confidence pants. And also, there are NOT THAT MANY MORE OPPORTUNITIES to feel cool you guys. The window is CLOSING. $27.50 is a freaking BARGAIN.

Six Wild and CUH-RAZY GUYS!

This was the best Halloween EVER you guys. The BEST. Thursday afternoon I remembered with horror the school-pickup to Trick or Treating time over-excited kid situation of last year and decided we should have the neighbors over for dinner instead so I would have a reason to drink wine the kids would have something fun to do. The key to this being fun was for me to chill the heck out and not overthink it. So Friday I hit the store for a trunkload of hot dogs, chips, juice boxes, and Halloween cupcakes, picked the kids up at school, then asked the kids to set up a coffee table the neighbors were throwing away on the lawn, assembled the food and waited.

And it didn't take long before kids started showing up.

I went inside to get something and when I came back Charley and Wes had added a sectional sofa from the neighbor's trash pile to the yard. It added *just* the right touch of frat party flair.

The view from the porch where the other moms and I were hanging out (Mary was with us eating a hot dog in her high chair).

I dropped the cupcakes off and backed away slowly.

When Ryan came home I was sitting on the porch drinking a glass of wine with all the moms and one dad and I kind of felt like I'd been caught doing something wrong. Kids were running EVERYWHERE, half of them in costumes, our yard was strewn with cast off furniture, empty juice boxes, cupcake wrappers, and paper plates covered with half-eaten food. He looked like a deer in the headlights. Finally, since someone has to be the grownup, he quietly gathered some of the larger pieces of trash and took them inside. When he came out, Mary had her costume on.

We lined everyone up for a group shot and just before we took it James came running across the street in his monster costume yelling "ROAR ROAR! ROAR ROAR! ROAR ROAR!" Harry Potter looks scared.


We trick or treated with some other neighborhood kiddos. This is the last time we saw them as a group. As soon as this picture was taken they took off running like a herd of cattle. The older boys (Charley and his friend) broke actual land-speed records as they tore through our culdesac, capes slightly askew, jamming candy into their buckets then mowing down anything in their path on the way to the next house.

James held back, WAY back. Savoring every minute of the experience, talking to the neighbors, attempting to eat everything he was given while still standing on their porch. From my point of view, he and Ryan looked like a green speck in the distance. Finally we corralled all the big kids an waited for them to catch up. It lasted for about half a house and then it was off to the races again. We reconvened at my friend L's house, where they were projecting the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown on her garage door. Usually we stop there and watch the movie for a while before turning left off her street and heading home, but as we were walking away Charley and Wes and some of the other older boys took off to the right and we were on the hook for another twenty-five or so houses. They got SO MUCH candy, you guys. It is awesome (and not awesome, all at the same time).

Team Straggler. Limited conceptual understanding of houses/minute:candy quantity relationship.

They paused mid-stampede to consider whether it would be better to cross the street or continue hurtling down the same side of the street. Happily, they chose to cross the street and head back down the other side, which meant they were actually heading back toward our house.

After ToT we headed out to a friend's house for the after-party because we hadn't had enough wine and candy yet. I hastily grilled two more hotdogs for Ryan while simultaneously hollowing out a pie pumpkin and making a cream cheese cinnamon dip to take with us and overseeing the MASS CHAOS created by four kids already up WAY WAY WAY past bedtime and who ate hotdogs and nine pounds of red dye #40 for dinner. James, who doesn't get out much, paused in the driveway to look up at the sky and shrieked "OOOOH, look at the STARS, SPOOOOOOKY!" which implies that he thinks stars are only there on Halloween as spooky decorations and also that he's never been awake after dark before. PARENTING WIN.

Another parenting win was the next morning when we all woke up still glowing with good cheer after the incredibly fun and remarkably incident-free night of revelry to find this scene in our yard, looking much tackier in the glaring sun. Upholstered furniture all over the place, both van doors open with costume pieces, unfamiliar blankets, and candy wrappers spilling out all over the driveway, wine glasses and beer bottles on the porch, and a carpet of juice boxes and cupcake wrappers all over the lawn. Wow.

Ryan quietly put all the furniture back in our neighbor's trash pile while I picked up the trash and empties. Mary went down for what turned into a four hour nap, shortly after she woke up around 9, the other kids played all morning with the kids across the street and THEN IT WAS TIME FOR CHARLEY'S 8TH BIRTHDAY PARTY AT THE BOWLING ALLEY.

Because what better way to keep the party rolling than to take a pack of 3-8 year old kids BOWLING, yes?

James with a bowling ball is kind of terrifying. Amazingly, no one went home with a broken foot. There were a couple of close calls. And it wasn't just James who kept bowling in the wrong lane and dropping the ball (literally) in the seating area FAR from the lanes, One of Charley's friends managed to skip his ball sideways out of our lane and down the concrete pad between two lanes, where it hit a post, causing a large metal panel to come loose and clatter loudly to the floor. Or the time one of the other kids didn't roll the ball hard enough and it stopped short of the pins so her dad bowled a second ball to knock it down to the end, but then THAT ball got stuck too and two balls were stuck halfway down the lane? I highly recommend putting taking kids bowling on your bucket list. Also we bumped our party host's tip from twenty to twenty-five percent. It probably should have been higher.

Mary was over it the second we walked in the door. Evidently the four hour nap wasn't enough. We tried holding her but ultimately it became clear that eight kids bowling is an all-hands-on-deck activity and she was relegated to her stroller. This did not stop her from throwing back an adult-sized piece of cake, however.

Because I have met my children before, I knew we would be up for ABSOLUTELY NOTHING after bowling. We picked up Little Ceasars on the way home then popped in a movie and laid around eating pizza and leftover cake and resting, finally. Sunday, Charley's actual birthday, was also low key with breakfast cake, church, a Cub Scout meeting, and a fancy candle-lit spaghetti dinner for the birthday boy in the dining room. Mr. Grown Up asked for cheesecake as his birthday cake so we had that and also passed around a thing of hot fudge as a topping because NO, you are EIGHT, not THIRTY. Guess I have some issues to work out before the next birthday! He fell asleep last night clutching his gifted Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. It was a GREAT weekend.

Monday, October 27, 2014

We call him Frank the Tank

It's that time of year again!

Time to dress the family in coordinating fall plaids and spend thirty minutes making a spectacle of ourselves in the church pumpkin patch!

I think this is the year we are going to take Wes's goofy faces and RUN WITH IT. Get DOWN with your bad self, Wes. This one's going in the high school yearbook.


Charley, can you fix Mary's dress? Her dress. Fix her dress. Pull it down. Down. Like--nevermind I'll get it.

Oh hell.

Just a couple more...

Wes is a gargoyle, Mary is the headless horseman.

V for victory? There is nothing here we should be celebrating, friends.

Acid trip.

Mary is feeling uncertain.

I have no words.

Annnd, I'll be choosing one of these two for his senior slideshow...

This one?

Or this one:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

All about that bass

So for the last two days I've been doing these ab exercises designed especially for post-pregnancy ladies whose tummies are now in such a state that they can accidentally hit the emergency stop button on the treadmill hands free (if they were actually on the treadmill in the first place; which is why this has only happened to me once).

Based upon my cursory Googling, I am supposed to be working the ab muscles deep deeeeep inside, as opposed to the ones on the outside that you work while you do crunches.  This explains why crunches haven't been working (or wouldn't be working even if I had been doing crunches instead of eating pumpkin bars which I have not).

The first one has you lie on your back, bend your knees into a "V", and fall asleep do mini pelvic tilts while holding "your belly button against your spine." I'm no anatomy expert, but I am almost certain that there are a number of important organs between my belly button and spine (except for my liver, which I left in Napa). Nevertheless, I attempted to pull my belly button back to my spine using my abdominal muscles and did ten mini pelvic tilts, as instructed by YouTube.

Fortunately Ryan was at men's choir because it really looked like I had been drinking and could not get off the floor.

And you guys. It looks like you are barely moving. But those "inner ab muscles"? Are VERY BADLY OUT OF SHAPE because I have been keenly aware of those very muscles ever since.

And if I get fatigued from "mini pelvic tilts" then I am beginning to understand why my stomach continues to look like a melted round of brie fourteen months after delivery.

The next exercise was slightly more vigorous. You still lie on your back but this time I had to "march my legs" one at a time, also while holding my belly button to my spine. I call this one Cockroach: Stranded Upsidedown.

For a slightly more vigorous version of this move, for those of us who want to feel the burn, and not the kind of burn you feel when you are getting a pan of pumpkin bars out of the oven and a three year old runs at full speed into your butt, you are supposed to put your arms over your head (recall that you are still lying on the ground) while you move your legs and holding your belly button against your spine. So now you no longer look like a cockroach, you look like a kidnapping victim in a horror movie.

I feel comfortable committing to this plan, which is basically to spend five minutes a day lying on the ground sucking it in like an undergrad "studying" on the quad. And I will let you know how it goes. I am not hoping for Maria Kang level abs. I am hoping for something more nebulous like normal Gap jeans will button without cutting me weird and making me look like a trucker. Simple.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

You don't take a nappa, you GO to Napa

Even the porta-potty sewage truck blocking my car yesterday after my class was over when I needed to get to the kids' school wasn't enough to bring me down, because I spent the weekend drinking wine with two dear friends in freaking NAPA.

Now.  I would have been perfectly happy drinking Yellow Tail in Oklahoma with these two ladies.  But fortunately I left the trip planning up to them.  Besides spending two days drinking the best wine I will EVER, EVER have the opportunity to try, we had a blast just being together.

Not to mention that after the shitstorm that was the first two months of the school year a weekend drinking wine a thousand miles from home was JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED.

The first place we went, after having a decadent pizza and chocolate croissant lunch in San Francisco, was the Duckhorn Winery, which thanks to the magic of autocorrect, was dubbed "Dickhorn" for the duration of the trip.  It's like we all are have eight year old boys or something.

It was there that I discovered that white wine needn't taste like KoolAid. Their SauvBlanc (make sure you say this quickly, like you are way too important to add the extra syllables required to create "Sauvignon", because you are, own it) was positively delightful.

Two wineries, an entire loaf of bread, and some brie later, we managed to cram even more amazing wine and food into our bodies at this place, which is supposed to be haunted. On the way there we got to drive past some earthquake damage, and you KNOW my nerd heart went pitter pat.

The next morning our driver (oh yes we had a driver. This allowed for completely uninhibited debauchery as no one had to be responsible for getting us from A to B after being served FIVE GLASSES OF SPARKLING WINE) took us to Downton Abbey for our breakfast wine. This really set the tone for the rest of the day. Also I was ready for bed at 5:30 (but couldn't go to bed because we had another fabulous dinner reservation).

The next couple of hours were kind of a hazy blur of vineyards, delicious food, and loud talking, laughing, and swearing.

And then we went to this cozy little winery nestled in a grove of oak trees where we lounged on Adirondack chairs and sipped a selection of reds in the company of two goats named Elvis and the Colonel.

Dinner that night was another fancy affair with another bottle of sauvblanc. We couldn't decide between the truffle fries, the shaved brussel sprout and meyer lemon salad, and the polenta and parmesean for our appetizer so we ordered all three. And when we ordered our entrees the server told us about the molten chocolate cake so we went for that too. At nine o'clock we Ubered back to the hotel where all three of us CRASHED for about ten hours before it was time to start eating and drinking wine again, which we did in the form of a brunch at Brix, heretofore known as the place with the vision to put a piece of bacon on top of an eclair filled with maple cream. Do this.

They also had eggs benedict on the buffet next to a large plate of bacon. I sampled the corned beef croquettes, the cheese platter, and some truffle potato salad too, just to be polite, and then finished with a tiny portion of green salad purely out of a sense of duty to my digestive tract. My only regret is that there were physically too many things on the dessert buffet for me to try all of them (on top of all that eggs benedict and bacon), though I did give it the old college try (I sampled the homemade oreos, homemade oatmeal cream pie, death by chocolate cookies, tirimisu, almond truffles but sadly had to leave behind three kinds of cupcakes and two other cookie varieties)

On the way back to the airport, after allowing ourselves thirty minutes' or so lounging in the sunshine to digest our amazing brunch, we detoured to San Francisco to see the Golden Gate Bridge. It was an absolutely perfect day for it too, with clear skies and enough visibility to see the city in the distance but with several wispy fog banks rolling in from off the ocean to add to the ambiance. Sarah parked illegally so we would have time to run up this hill for the best view possible, which was STUNNING.

But before that we drove to the top of this death cliff and got out for a little selfie action.

That guy in the orange shirt kept casually JUMPING OVER THE SAFETY FENCE to get better pictures. I couldn't even watch.

The flight home was uneventful and I arrived at my house exhausted but happy and refreshed at one o'clock in the morning. I went to bed at two after talking to Ryan for a while and was awakened at six by James's contrite bedside announcement that he had had a poop accident. WELCOME HOME!

I was really, truly, THRILLED to see everyone and somehow managed to stay awake enough to teach my eleven o'clock class and volunteer in Charley's classroom. Instead of handing me laminating to cut out or a stack of grading, though, his teacher sat me down with Charley's portfolio and showed me ALL THE WONDERFUL WORK HE'S BEEN DOING in the last few weeks. (!!!!!) It was incredibly unexpected and wonderful and was a great way to start the week. Now I am about to start working on the procrasti-project of doom after spending the morning putting dinner in the crockpot, putting away eighteen loads of laundry, making all the beds, decluttering the kitchen, hanging hooks in the laundry room for the tote bags and aprons, and meeting with a student about his capstone research. In other words, it's a full day and it's GREAT.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

I don't like doing hard things.

Where were we?  Well, I survived the War of the Worlds on my back porch Monday morning then spent two days attempting to get this godforsaken project off the ground with the gentle hubbub of a second grader with a GI virus playing Angry Birds and watching Netflix in the background.

Yesterday Charley and I dropped the little ones off at school then returned home where I made pumpkin bars and a pan of the Pioneer Woman's BBQ Comfort Meatballs then cleaned the entire kitchen before going to school, where I lectured for an hour on ocean-atmosphere interactions with Charley sitting in a desk in the front row.  He was AMAZING, by the way.  Sat quietly and watched me the whole time.  He had paper and crayons and some books in his backpack, but before class when I went over and attempted to get some things out for him he shut me down with an annoyed "MOM.  I've GOT IT" and then put everything away.

After class (he told me he didn't learn or understand anything, which is probably not only because he is seven but also because I haven't really ever taught this material before and even *I* was confused.  You know how they say the best way to learn something is to teach it to others?  Yeah.  They probably didn't mean that that should happen in a lecture hall of forty students in REAL TIME) we headed for the dining hall for lunch (I had a chicken gyro, Charley broke his BRAT diet cleanse with a piece of pizza, some fries, and an ice cream cone).  Then we had to pick Wes up from school (early release Wednesday), drop him off at home, get Charley to a therapy appointment, pick up the little kids, make dinner, put Mary and James to bed, put Charley to bed, go pick Wes up from my sister's house (my mom took him to choir last night and my sister picked him up because Ryan had to work late.  When Ryan came home I went to get Wes, who was having a LOVELY time with his cousin and her two cousins that were visiting from out of town, which was just as well because it gave me a chance to finally sit down (and have a glass of wine, let's be serious) and have a normal human conversation).

Needless to say by the time I got home at nine I was barely coherent (because of the Tired, not the Wine).  But I still managed to watch an episode of Parenthood with Ryan before I lost consciousness because: priorities.

Charley seemed genuinely surprised that he had to return to school today.  He took his temperature twice, hoping for a fever. 

Now I am home STRUGGLING through the early stages of a really complicated project that I've been dickering around with for two years.  The reason I actually need to do the work now is that the abstract I submitted based on this project was accepted at a conference so I HAVE to.  The conference is in January.  Needless to say, all sensible eating goals have been suspended until AFTER that point.

I really, really need this project to work.  But it is really, really hard.  And I've learned that I don't really like doing hard things.  I've been known to feel ACTUAL DESPAIR when faced with a particularly stubborn jar of spaghetti sauce, you guys.  So learning a new programming language so that I can process a type of data I've never used before and know little about so that I can do a study in a field only tangentially related (by tangentially related I mean they both use lots and lots of math) to my experience is in a different hemisphere than my comfort zone.

It goes without saying that we are now out of pumpkin bars.

Back to the freaking Python.

Monday, October 13, 2014


Well!  Cozy work-a-thon day didn't go quite as expected.  Because someone chose yesterday to develop a lower GI malady and fever.  Because of course.

Ryan worked at the kitchen table most of Sunday night, on a big deadline for work.  I was also working most of Sunday night.  But instead of working on my actual work, I was having long, long, LOOOONG conversations with Charley.  All night long.

We talked about school and frogs and rocks and space and canoeing and biking and a weird story about a kid at his old school who showed him her undies (?) so he showed her his undies (??) one day in the cafeteria (?????).

At 3:30 Ryan and Charley and I were all gathered around the frog tank marveling at what interesting creatures they were.  All SEVEN OF THEM.  Because APPARENTLY, frogs are nocturnal and APPARENTLY, Charley hadn't let anyone out all weekend (unbeknownst to me) and APPARENTLY, they've been burrowing down into the dirt where I couldn't see them until last night when the zombie frog-pocalypse happened and they all came out of their holes at the same time.


Zero crickets.  There were around twenty at one point yesterday.

It was a surreal family moment, standing around in our jammies in the predawn hours, exhausted but unable to tear ourselves away from the SEVEN FROGS chilling on our kitchen island.

I really love the frogs by the way.  After I asked him to release them all into the wild for some fresh air and snacking, he was being particularly nice so I told him he could go out and recapture one of them.

He brought back the one he calls Cindy.  At nearly fourteen pounds, Cindy is the largest frog I have ever seen.  She enjoys burrowing and eating crickets and being held inches away from the screaming faces of neighborhood girls.

Cindy now has a friend in the tank.  Whether the friend was a stowaway that never made it back outside or a new one that came back tonight I do not know.  What I'm saying is that I might have had EIGHT FROGS living in my kitchen this weekend.

So anyway, after Charley's late night (or non-night you might call it) he slept really late this morning.  After Ryan left to take everyone else to school on the way to work, I took my cup of coffee outside to the (covered) back porch to enjoy the rain and cooler weather.

I had been out there for about two minutes when I heard a strange wooshing noise, followed by the dining room windows making an ELECTRONIC BUZZING SOUND.  I had just turned my head to see what was causing the noise when KA-BOOOM!!!!!

Lightning struck something very, very close to my house.

THERE WAS NO TIME TO COUNT TO ANYTHING ONE-THOUSAND.  Mostly because I was trying not to wet myself.

I QUICKLY picked my way across the wet patio to get the hell back inside.  Where I should have been all along.  Then I slammed and locked the back door.  Nothing gets past a builder-grade deadbolt.  Not even ten-thousand volts of electricity.

You guys.  It was terrifying.

So I Googled "sound before lightning strike" and got MANY articles describing EXACTLY what I experienced.  Chills.  I have chills.  And I will be spending the next thunderstorm in a Faraday Cage in my bed.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fall break is over, SAD. How montessori kids mess around. Inappropriate use of screens.

Fall break continues!

My friend M posted a funny article on FB the other day about how your life changes when you go from two to three kids. On it were things like how you can't hold everyone's hands in a parking lot so every journey from the car to the supermarket involves lots of barking orders like "HOLD HER HAND! HOLD HER HAND! OMG GO GET HER!!!!!" Thankfully our grocery store has sidewalks that go way out into the parking lot which means in theory that I have a safe place for everyone to wait while I get the two smaller ones out of the car. In practice what this means is that no one has any sense of danger and by the time I get the two little ones out of the car, the two big ones have scurried all the way up the sidewalk and are now hanging upside down from the benches near the front of the store. So this friend suggested I make a similar list of things that change when you go from three to four kids, which is what I was going to do, but then I took this one picture the other night that I thought summed everything up perfectly.

First kid doesn't watch a MOMENT of TV until they are two (or, in my case, until you become pregnant with the second one and need something for them to do while you vomit your breakfast of greenbeans and toast into the kitchen sink because you are too exhausted to hop over the babygate quickly). The second one catches a few minutes here and there because the older one is watching. The third one is never home because you are driving the other two around all the damn time. And by the time you have four, CURIOUS GEORGE COMES TO DINNER!

(Mary was totally watching and even started screaming when it paused for buffering. She's not in this photo because she goes to bed around 5:15, about three minutes after her frontal lobe shuts down from exhaustion and she cannot be placated by standing, sitting, playing, rocking, eating, or drinking milk. This happens every single night and she still sleeps until 6:45 in the morning)

(We don't normally plunk my laptop on the kitchen table in lieu of actual human interaction during dinner. On this particular night ALL FOUR OF THEM were having full-on meltdowns as I was getting their food plated up. Imagine FOUR CHILDREN screaming at top volume all at once. This is the kind of situation that leads to moral relativism: TV during dinner is better than becoming an alcoholic is better than physical violence.)

Also, did you know that we have a community of frogs living in our water meter? Every day, Charley goes and catches them then puts them in this tank we bought him for observation. He was keeping them in a diaper box in the garage, but they kept escaping and I didn't want one to starve to death after getting lost in the garage. He makes them tunnels out of paper cups that they hide in. His record is SIX frogs at once and one of them was the size of a softball. Recently, we doubled down on frog-mania and started buying live crickets for them to eat. So now I have frogs and live crickets living in my kitchen (and god knows what else, but that's not Charley's fault).

I had him release everyone into the wild before he went to spend the night at his grandparents' house (he will catch them again) and I kind of miss their funny little noises (which I'm almost positive mean they're doing it).

Last night James came into my room where I was fast asleep at 7:30 PM (sick) and said "Do you want to see what I did to my room?" I asked him "Is it bad?" he nodded, barely stifling a giggle. Afraid there might be bodily fluids involved, I dragged myself in there to find this. Hashtag: MontessoriHyjinks.

My parents took Charley and Wes to the aquarium while I was teaching on Wednesday and they had a BLAST, except for this dinosaur exhibit, which apparently was terrifying:

And I'll leave you with this kayak selfie from the other day. SUCH a fun day. So sad school is starting again on Monday (except not THAT sad because that is when MY fall break starts which would be more fun if I hadn't just lost a week of work to kid fall break and I'm going to spend the whole thing attempting to learn "R" for this freaking project I have to do for a conference in January. If this were a movie there would be a musical montage that showed me overcoming my frustration, finishing the analysis, doing an awesome job at the conference, and ultimately accepting a tenure track position at a Tier One institution. In reality, I will be consuming WAY TOO MUCH caffeine and refined carbohydrates and using the "F" word a lot. Win some lose some.)