Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Academomia's Guide to Home Maintenance: Fixing your effing toilet

Like many of you, I was once very gung ho about fixing things around the house myself, like when Ryan and I were dating and I wanted to act like some kind of superhero who could tile floors and mow the grass. I guess I can still technically do those things, but I haven't HAD to in more than ten years so I'm out of practice slash energy/motivation. But, some things demand immediate attention, like when the only toilet on the first floor of your house stops flushing and your husband is out of town for the rest of the week.

Since a non-flushing toilet is a Class 1 household emergency, the first thing to do when your effing toilet breaks is to excuse yourself from the dinner table (where you are hosting guests who brought a lovely spaghetti dinner) to go investigate what is wrong. According to the kids the flushing thingy is loose and the toilet won't flush.

Step one is to take the top of the tank off the toilet. Holding a Cub Scout flashlight in your mouth, investigate the inner workings of the effing toilet.

After feeling around in the toilet tank, to the horrified squeals of disgust coming from the children at the kitchen table not four feet away (because: idiot architect), you will discover the plastic connection between the flap and the flushing handle has broken. Probably because it is AN EFFING PIECE OF PLASTIC. It is supposed to be a chain, if you live in a fancy house with quality plumbing fixtures. Or just a normal house.

The next step is up to you. If you are me, you can spend the remainder of the evening and part of the morning pointlessly trying to teach the children how to flush the effing toilet by reaching into the (clean) tank water, pulling up on the plastic stub, and then letting it go. Attempts to make this into a fun game will be met with suspicion, scorn, and mockery. Resign yourself to hourly effing toilet flushing for the next four days until the husband returns from South Carolina.

Next, grow weary of reaching into cold toilet tank water every time the effing toilet is to be flushed and begin to look for a solution. First, turn off the water going to the toilet. It will make a scary noise. Be ready for this. Once the water is off, hold the flap open for a moment to let the tank drain completely. Unless you like working in cold water and then GO NUTS.

Once the tank is empty, cut a piece of effing yarn from the kids' craft box. Wrap it several times around the plastic stub and secure with a knot. Wrap the free end around the end of the flushing lever and tie another knot. BOOM. Effing toilet is fixed. With string. You are an effing genius.

Turn the water back on (scary noise alert) and let the effing toilet fill back up. Put the top back on the tank. Open a beer and turn on the Rangers game. Unless it's nine o'clock in the morning and then you can just eat the last of the kids' granola bars and ignore the laundry some more.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Single parenting is a bitch

Today got off to a roaring start at 5:00 AM when James woke up, became enraged when I told him it was still nighty night time, and began slamming his bedroom door over and over again.  On the bright side, I didn't have to use the automated external defibrillator to get Charley out of bed like I normally do.

After breakfast, which is really just fifteen minutes in which the complaining is slightly muffled by the food everyone is shoving in their mouths, we had a relatively nice time sitting on the driveway in our jammies while Charley shot baskets and waited for his ride to school.  The freaking bottom fell out after my shower when I told Wes it was time to turn off the TV (after watching for NINETY MINUTES) he and James both FREAKED the FREAK out.  Wes was roaring at James to make him cry.  James was clawing Wes.  Wes tried to kick me when I tried to intervene.  James threw all the pillows in the living room at me then threw everything from the stairs onto the kitchen floor.  Wes chased James around the first floor, trying to scratch and grab him.  There was SO MUCH SCREAMING.

Finally I just sat on a destroyed club chair with no cushions in the living room and cried while James continued to scream insults at me from the middle of the stairs.

I thought about Super Nanny Jo Frost and how she would say I needed to be firm and consistent and take control of the situation.  And then I thought how I was up until midnight prepping for class and then got up at 2 for Wes to go potty and 5 when James was slamming the door and was so effing tired I didn't know if I could get up from the chair.

Did I mention that James (Hatfield) and Wes (McCoy) have been beating each other senseless for the better part of two weeks over such important and deeply held beliefs as: you're touching my side of the bench, I wanted the red plate, and you're licking your popsicle wrong?  Yesterday they got so violent in the car I pulled over and got out because I just could not listen to it FORANOTHERGDSECOND.  OH BUT I COULD STILL HEAR THE SCREAMING FROM *OUTSIDE* THE CAR OVER THE TRAFFIC NOISE!!!!!

I left a disgusting house full of dirty dishes even though someone is coming over right after I get home from work because I DON'T HAVE THE ENERGY TO FIX IT.

But I have never been so happy to leave for work in my LIFE.

And then I start thinking such productive thoughts as "What if everyone is in a car accident today?  This awful morning will haunt me forever."  SO HELPFUL.

Class went well though because I was out of lecture material and decided to talk about wind damage to houses instead.  I LOVE TALKING ABOUT WIND DAMAGE.

Now I am in my office too fried to be productive debating whether it would feel better to just let entropy take over or to attempt to reign it back in, which will certainly require more than five broken hours of sleep.

I have this great idea about pom pom balls in a jar for nice behavior that get TAKEN AWAY when they are horrible to each other.  But I already have beer so drinking on the porch seems cheaper and easier.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


It's day four of my solo-parenting sentence and I must say doing the whole morning scramble ALONE is a HUGE DRAG.  If by drag you mean what I have to do to my sixty pound seven year old to get him out of his bed, which is five feet off the ground.  Between Archie Bunker lying prone on the kitchen table moaning about how much school sucks and James riding his bike in circles around the already too small kitchen floor it's all I can do to push the flashing blue button on the Keurig.  Thank goodness for that thing, right?  Mornings are special special special.

I am at work now (after emptying all the upstairs trash cans, unloading the dishwasher, starting a load of laundry, making the beds, making/cleaning up breakfast, changing kids' pants, changing kids' clothes, changing MY clothes, straightening the pantry/laundry room so my friends who are coming over tonight don't call the EPA, and putting away all manner of random crap that is all the freak over my house).

I have never really thought about how much I love work.  Work work work.  So quiet!  So predictable!  So CLEAN!  Sure, I got to drink sangria in my driveway yesterday afternoon with my neighbors, which is awesome, but then I was also responsible for THE CRABBY BROTHERS and all of their FIGHTY FIGHTY GOODNESS.

The only problem with this utopian wonderland my closet-turned-office has become is that I am OUT OF CAFFEINE.  No via, no ground coffee.  I scrounged an Earl Gray teabag out of the back of my desk drawer and was headed upstairs to get some hot water when I noticed that there is MOLD GROWING IN MY COFFEE CUP.  So that's a nonstarter.

The other nonstarter is that I have this entire afternoon blocked off to work on this project that I am excited about working on with someone I am VERY excited and honored to be working with but that has taken me more than TWO YEARS to get started.  SO MORTIFYING YOU GUYS.  SO MORTIFYING.  The last time we spoke in person I was about twelve weeks along with Mary and FOR SOME REASON (related to me being a moron) I didn't think this was important information to relay to her.  The fact that I still haven't mentioned the fact that I have a fourth child to this person is something of a massive embarrassment that I'm not sure how to fix.  If you were wondering, I did send an email several months ago to apologize for my extremely slow progress on our project and while that would have been an awesome time to let the cat out of the bag, I didn't, for some reason I will never understand but that is probably related to Sheryl Sandberg.

Also, this person followed me on Twitter and my handle is my blog name* so I think that means this person is at least aware of this blog so this might be a moot point.

*I haven't Tweeted in like eighteen months either

So anyway, I have this entire afternoon blocked off for the purpose of getting my ass in gear re: project of neverending procrastination and THE FREAKING NATIONAL CLIMATIC DATA CENTER WEBSITE IS NOT WORKING.  GAAAAAAH.  Not sure what to make of this except working at a plant nursery is sounding pretty pretty awesome right now.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Brain dump mishmash!

Wow, you guys, I can't believe I haven't posted anything in more than a week.  It's because after that blissfully easy two-kid weekend the freaking wheels flew off and it was ALL CHAOS ALL THE TIME.  Ryan's been working late every night (after coming home to help with dinner and bedtime, he's not a monster) and the kids were in general really squirrely and fighty all last week which together with Ryan's work pressure and the fact that one or more kids had trouble sleeping EVERY SINGLE NIGHT... KABOOM!!

AND THEN things got really exciting Friday morning when I finally heard back from an editor about a paper I'd submitted ELEVEN MONTHS AGO and when I clicked through to the review it was a KIND OF HORRIBLE revise and resubmit.  So that lent a festive air to the holiday weekend.

Photographic hilarity from Easter coming soon!  Ryan took his camera with him ON HIS TWO WEEK TRIP OUT OF STATE.

Oh, did I not mention that Ryan's company was sending him to South Carolina for two weeks?  Probably because the very thought of it made me have heart palpitations.  And not the good kind of heart palpitations.

He left Monday morning.  Sunday after church I was looking meaningfully into the eyes of any sympathetic-looking friend and said "I'm signing people up to come help me with bedtime.  You can do Mary!  I'll do the boys."  If they laughed, I laughed too.  If they hesitated even for a nanosecond, I took their hand and said "HOW'S THE 24th?  GREAT!  THANK YOU SO MUCH!"

My friend J came over last night to help and instead of the cuddly baby I'd promised she got hysterical screaming all the way through jammie and diaper change and the first part of bottle time.  But you can't scare my friend and she soldiered on and managed to get Mary to sleep.  Meanwhile, I herded Charley, Wes, and James through piano, showers, teeth, jammies, stories, and bed, which is NO SMALL FEAT.

 Monday morning while we were waiting for Charley's ride to school (another favor I asked of a friend, really working the village this week) Charley and I shot baskets in the driveway and he talked to me about school.  The weather was just right and Charley was so happy and relaxed.  It was so nice.  Then he left for school and I went inside to find no sign of James.  When I asked Wes about it he said "He's upstairs eating cupcakes" without even taking his eyes off of the TV.  Sure enough when I rounded the corner at the top of the stairs there was an entire cupcake's worth of frosting lying on the carpet followed by two cupcake bottoms, completely licked clean.  When I opened the bathroom door, James was standing there with a fistful of green frosting.  He explained "I washing my hands, Mom."  When I turned around Wes was eating frosting off the carpet.

Today at work I investigated the possibility of taking Reviewer #2's helpful advice to "Redo your simulation as it is invalid".  Did I mention that timeline I was given to "Redo my simulation," the simulation I based a good third of my dissertation on, that took me several years to develop, was TWO WEEKS?  I managed to read the two papers the reviewer suggested, and those were helpful, but the simulation thing was not happening.  We'll see where that goes.  Into the trash is what I'm thinking.  I am surprisingly not that upset about it.  I've got some other stuff going on that might one day be publishable, but for now?  I've got two preps (four counting labs AND I DO) and a summer research project in the offing that I'm excited about.  And four kids to CARE FOR ALL BY MYSELF UNTIL NEXT SATURDAY.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Two-kid weekend

Slow weekend around here for me, James, and Mary because Ryan and the big kids went on a Cub Scout campout Friday afternoon while the little ones were napping.  I finally got bored with the quiet house and woke them up around 6 so we could go pick up some pizza at my favorite place for dinner.

We got the pizza and then got back in the car and then James asked if we could go to the playground I said "SURE!" much to his utter surprise.

We don't do fun and creative things anymore now that we are living in a permanent state of survival mode.  But OF COURSE I CAN TAKE TWO KIDS TO THE PLAYGROUND.  Some things just don't seem as hard as they once did.  So we had a pizza picnic on the playground and it was lovely.  I didn't bring Mary anything for dinner but she managed to inhale an entire piece of James's froufrou coal-fired oven gourmet cheese girl pizza, one pea-sized bite at a time.

My sole responsibility all weekend. Their needs are delightfully simple.

I was putting the (TWO) kids to bed when my friend C texted to say "I'm on my way over, what kind of wine do you want?"  Which was AWESOME.  She even brought POPSICLES.  I do NOT like being alone in the house at night and we had SO MUCH FUN.  Even more amazing is the fact that she is a self-proclaimed introvert and lives thirty-five minutes away. 

Saturday morning we were due to go to the church to plant flowers in preparation for Easter Sunday. James was highly excited about it and I planned to spend the whole morning there and then have a picnic before naptime. The first thing that happened when we got there was that James had a massive potty accident in the cry room bathroom because he couldn't find the light switch. The rest of the ninety minutes he spent wandering around complaining about being cold and bored and wanting a second donut. Somehow I managed to plant a flat of pansies and weed a large flowerbed before Mary started flipping out and I decided I was going to beautify the church by taking my children home for a nap. James complained the whole way home because "I wanna plant fow-wers at chuch!" Headdesk.

Saturday night we had dinner with a friend at a cool restaurant with a slide and by Sunday morning I was starting to feel sad every time I came across a Harry Potter book or an enormous Croc or a superhero costume. Luckily the other half of the family made it home around nine thirty seeming taller than ever.

James helped Mary with a snack while I made dinner. Does not do justice to the amount of Cheerios on the floor.

No one came when I called the big kids in for dinner so I went into the living room to find this:

Charley's car was careening driverless around the track while Wes's was smashed up against a guardrail. Drowsy driving kills. Charley woke up and ate dinner but Wes slept through until eight fifteen this morning, fifteen hours later. Camping is fun and exhausting. Possibly because they had an Easter egg hunt IN THE DARK.

And did...this...whatever it is looks like fun.

This morning we woke up to thunder and then the temperature dropped from 71 to 55 in a matter of thirty minutes. By the time we went to preschool dropoff it was pouring torentially with intermittent hail, thirty-mile per hour winds, and frequent lightning. I had to throw my shoes back into the car and drop the kids off barefoot because there was a six inch deep puddle covering most of the ground between my car and the school. It was chaos, but now I am home and Mary is sleeping and I've made a cup of coffee and thrown in a load of laundry and plan to outline a lab book for my spring course that I am super geek-excited about. A lovely morning is in store, in other words.

Update: It is now FORTY SIX DEGREES. What in the world.

Monday, April 7, 2014

So very sleepy

Got up way early this morning because Mary woke up at 5:00 and decided NOW IS THE TIME TO ROLL ONTO MY BELLY AND ATTEMPT TO GET UP ON ALL FOURS.  And then when she couldn't get back onto her back she screamed hysterically until I arrived to feed her back to sleep.  And then I couldn't go back to sleep.  Ninety minutes later I had just conked out when my alarm went off.  I hit snooze, but five minutes after that James was standing next to my bed asking "I can come out of my room?  It morning now?  I can get up?"  He finally wandered off but was back ten minutes later asking Ryan "I can eat this huge cracker?  I can eat this?  Papa I can eat this?" as he waved a graham cracker at Ryan's sleeping face.

Then Ryan got in the shower and I went downstairs to be verbally abused while I made breakfast and lunches.  It was a good morning.

(Charley was cooperative.  Wes and James could've used an espresso or two.  Or should've gone back to bed.  Or just to stop yelling and throwing things.  James whipped Wes with his pajama top so many times I ripped it out of his hand and threw it in the trash can.  And then I took five minutes to make a cup of coffee because that may have been a slight overreaction.)


I think this was on Saturday.  LOOK HOW NO ONE IS FIGHTING.  Ahhh.  (Things did not stay this placid on Saturday OMG)

Not suitable for children under 3 (who are only children).

We impulsively got in the car and went to Orange Leaf Sunday afternoon then realized it was 5 pm.  Oops.  ICE CREAM FOR DINNER, EVERYONE!  Charley was pretending to be a bird.  CAW CAW!

More Orange Leaf.  Mary did not have ice cream, sadly.  Though she did eat another half cup of refried beans this weekend.  She seems to enjoy them more than applesauce.  Texas baby.

Aww, look how nicely they're sitting!  And look how grown up James looks!  (Shortly after this was taken all three of them were fighting over my lap.) Every Sunday the head pastor approaches Ryan as he processes out during the last song and says "PHEW! Made it one more time!" Indeed.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Aaaaand mike drop

Charley had kind of a rough afternoon yesterday.  He couldn't even bring himself to eat dinner at the table with the family because he knew he'd say something rude and get himself in trouble so he sat at the island with his face in a Boys' Life magazine.

After dinner I sent him off to practice piano thinking the food would have improved his mood but when he made a single mistake on one of his pieces and then started throwing music all over the dining room I suggested loudly that he go upstairs and cool off.  On the way to the stairs he knocked over two dining room chairs and the vacuum cleaner.

He came down about thirty minutes later to try again but after multiple rude and angry outbursts directed at various other family members I told him he was done and needed to find a book and get in bed for the night.  It was ten till six.  NIGHTY NIGHT!

At eight, he was calm but still awake so I went in to check on him.  He said something about being nervous about the new school.  I rested my chin on the rail of the upper bunk and told him softly while rubbing his back "You know what's great about the new school?  You'll get to go there until you're in twelfth grade!  You won't have to change schools again until you are in college!"

He said "Can I go to college there?"

I said "No, it goes to twelfth grade, which is the end of high school.  You can go anywhere you want to college."

"College is optional" he replied.

"Yes, it is.  You can do whatever you want after high school.  You'll be an adult!"

"I'm going to go to ALL the schools" he said sleepily.

"Yeah?" I said, smoothing his sweaty hair with my hand.  "You want to go to grad school like Papa and me?"

"Mmm hmmm.  Are you an adult when you go to grad school?"

"Yes," I said "Papa and I were in grad school when you were born!"

"Wow" he said.

We stood there in silence for a moment.  It was a peaceful, happy time.  I wondered what he'd like to study in grad school.  I thought about how proud I am of him for working so hard on his behavior chart this semester (an entire MONTH of smiley faces!).  Yes, he's going to be just fine.  Will he be an academic?  A doctor?  A teacher?  An engineer?

I thought he was falling asleep, but then he spoke.

"One time I held poop in my body for TWO DAYS."