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!!!!