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.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Fall "Break"

So, the bigger kids are on Fall "Break" this week, but this is the first time that a school "break" has actually seemed like a school *break*.  Mostly because we have been dealing with some major adjustment challenges with the new school for Charley and not living in fear of a phone call from an administrator this week has been POSITIVELY LOVELY (Things are getting better.  Slowly.  Two-steps-forward-one-step-back-style.).

So at the new school we lose a week at the end of the summer (when the weather sucks and everyone is sick of each other) and instead get a week off after the first six-weeks, when A) The weather is marginally less-sucky and B) the kids are exhausted and sick of school and C) NO ONE ELSE IN THE CITY IS OFF OF SCHOOL.

This means that we have a veritable FREE FOR ALL of fun activities.

Yesterday my mom took them to explore a cavern while I was teaching.  Then they stopped for barbeque on the way home.  They had a blast.

Today we were supposed to go to a trampoline park, but it didn't open until 2:00 and I have to go get the little kids around 3:30, so we went kayaking on the lake instead.  If I'm being honest, and I am, I was MUCH MORE EXCITED about this Plan B than I was about spending the morning cooped up in a converted grocery store getting hassled about buying junk food from the snack bar.

Here's a parenting fact I'd never considered before: One day my kids will be big enough to paddle me around the lake on a kayak. THIS DAY HAS COME.

Making a hat out of smelly lake duck weed must be a boy thing.

So is bringing every floating log you encounter into your boat along with two frisbees, a tennis balls, and handful after handful of aquatic vegetation. You should smell the car.

Now we are home and I am remembering why I was in such better shape when I was staying with the kids full-time. Paddling more than two-hundred pounds of people around the lake for an hour is no joke. Tomorrow and Friday I am teaching but we're going hiking on Thursday. Monday, when we all have to get up and get ready and in the car by seven fifteen is going to SUCK. Let's not think about that.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


When Ryan brought Wes and James home from children's choir rehearsal I hurried them both upstairs to brush their teeth, where they inflicted such violence on each other that it ended with both of them lying prone on the floor, screaming.

Brothers: people who can fight while brushing their teeth.

Anyway, this is not the first time I've dealt with a bedtime tantrum, so I scooped up James, stepped over Wes, and walked to James's room to help him with PJs.  Moments later, Wes appeared in the doorway.  He leaned his small frame against the open door and said contritely: 

"I'm sorry for fighting with you James"


"And I'm sorry for getting angry and hitting the end of your toothbrush so it poked you in the throat."


"And you're sorry for pointing your toothbrush at me and distracting me while I was trying to do my gums."

"OK.  And I'm sorry for fighting with you in the car."

"Yeah, well you talked and yelled at me too much and that's what made me freak out."

"OK.  I'm sorry for hitting you."

"Yeah, I'm sorry for punching you and trying to pinch you."

"I'm sorry for yelling 'I hate you'."

"Yeah, I'm sorry for screaming at you."



*did not stop them from having another screaming fight about choice of bedtime story five minutes later