Monday, November 30, 2015

WALL TO WALL FAMILY FUNTIMES

SO!

After Monday's hellish day of terrible behavior that evaporated the moment Ryan pulled into the neighborhood that evening, I decided that we were, under no circumstances, going to repeat that situation ever, EVER again. So Tuesday morning I declared that we were going to GO ON A HIKE. Not just any hike, we decided to tackle the Hill of Life. A huge, long hill trail that ends at a beautiful waterfall. I reasoned that if they were physically exhausted, it would make it harder for them to hit each other.

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On the descent. The good thing about this trail is that you start at the TOP and go DOWN, which means that if you ever want to see your car again, you have no choice but to go back up.

Wes had a bit of a meltdown near the bottom because they couldn't decide who was going to be "the line leader", but we ignored him and eventually he rallied and we all enjoyed throwing sticks and rocks into this stream for a while.

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Going back up the hill was no problem--Charley and Wes SANG part of the way up. In fact, what I wasn't expecting was that the real endurance event would be finding a parking place at the downtown restaurant the kids chose for lunch while all of us were starving. I nearly despaired of having a basket of yummy waffle fries with horseradish sauce and took us all to Whataburger, but finally found a semi-legal parking spot a block away. The kids were awesome, by the way, but I was on the verge of a major freakout. We all felt better after some lunch. Then we went home and had a movie nap until the little kids were done napping and we could pick them up.

After our success on Tuesday we decided to go to an interactive art exhibit on Wednesday morning and lucked out by getting there early enough to be pretty close to the front of the line. We even found an amazing parking spot that was FREE right across the street (KARMA FROM TUESDAY). We had to wait about an hour for it to open, but the kids had a huge field to run in and lots of other kids to play with, so it was really quite nice.

And, friends, it was SO WORTH THE WAIT.

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After that we had lunch and went to a park where we discovered, sadly, that our favorite canoe rental place was washed away in a flood last month. But we rallied and spent an hour throwing rocks into the water (it never gets old!) and then visited a watershed exhibit they have nearby, played on the playground, and went for a walk. Then we got in the massive holiday traffic to go back north to pick up the little kids and head home for the break. We played outside with neighbors for two hours in preparation for the four days of cold wet weather we had in the forecast. Then we went home for pizza and Charley Brown Thanksgiving.

Thursday was the family Thanksgiving at my parents' house, which was so, so fun as always. The kids played "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Pin the Pilgrim Hat on the Turkey" and also "How Many Izze's Can I Drink Before Someone Notices the Empties Piling Up in the Recycle Bin" and our other favorite game "Eat All the Pepperoni Off the Appetizer Platter". The meal was delicious and we went home with a bag of leftovers that we are still enjoying over here. Since we left at five and the weather was still warm, we decided to go for a walk before driving all the way home so someone didn't take a deadly thirty minute car nap that would completely destroy bedtime. We found a park near my parents' house that turned out not to be good for walking but it was GREAT for, you guessed it, THROWING ROCKS IN THE WATER. We did this for an hour even though an aggressive drizzle started to fall and it started getting dark. We love playing in nature in our Thanksgiving finery!!

We got home around 6:30, put Mary-No-Nap to bed, and all had two pieces of pie for dinner. Glorious.

Friday we planned to stay home all day and avoid the insanity, but found ourselves getting restless around 10:00. It was pouring, so we headed to the Y for Open Gym and played basketball and keep-away, and soccer for a long time until everyone was pink-faced and sweaty. Then, since we still had some time before the cold front, we went to an outdoor restaurant with a fun playground to have lunch. I checked the weather on the way there and the front had passed through the station north of us (about ten miles away), so for some reason I assumed we had a little bit of time before it got cold in our town. Ryan went in and ordered and I sat on a bench and enjoyed the balmy, seventy five degree day while the kids played. Then Ryan came out and sat by me and I turned around *just* as the flag at the bank next door hauled around from South to North. Uh oh. No sooner had I said to Ryan "Uh oh, the wind shift just arrived" than the wind picked up and the temperature dropped twenty degrees almost instantly. It was so fast my glasses fogged up. We (Ryan and I, because the kids cannot detect temperature) ran inside the covered (heated!) eating area, but the kids stayed outside to play until the food got there. Seriously you guys it was freaking freezing. BUT SO COOL TO EXPERIENCE THE FRONTAL PASSAGE!

Friday afternoon while the little kids napped, Ryan and Charley and Wes braved Best Buy to get the TV we've been planning for for the last two years after our last TV blew up (literally). He chose a smart TV since we don't have cable and watch most of our TV on Netflix. They brought it home and installed it while the kids ate dinner. Then he turned on a football game to check it out and OH MY WORD. Friends, it was like WE WERE THERE. We have not been able to read the score on a football game FOR NEARLY EIGHT YEARS. We couldn't even SEE most of the play action on our old TV (which was a 20 inch cube my sister used in college). THE PLAYERS WERE LIFE SIZED. We quickly put the kids to bed so we could drink beer and watch Christmas Vacation on it. Amazing. What a great time to be alive.

Saturday we went back downtown for a parade (it was FREEZING) and then home for lunch and then some friends came over to watch a movie on the new TV and then Sunday was spent at church for Hanging of the Greens and the usual cookie social. And things are good. It was a good break. And it was not easy to wake up to the alarm and put on uniforms again, HOO BOY, but NOT MUCH LONGER UNTIL CHRISTMAS BREAK!!!

Monday, November 23, 2015

In which the kids and the thermostat behave in exactly the same way

The big, funny, ha ha freaking HA joke around here is that nothing electronic works for me, it only works for Ryan.  This is undeniably frustrating, as I attempt to sneak the thermostat up a few degrees in the middle of a frosty Texas January only to have the whole thing ROUTINELY collapse in on itself and die.

My favorite is when I snuggle back underneath the covers and fall asleep to the sound of the furnace filling my house with enough heat to prevent the pipes from freezing and the butter from turning to concrete on my kitchen counter only to wake up unable to feel my nose and discover that the FREAKING THING RESET AND TURNED ITSELF DOWN TO 60 WHILE I WAS ASLEEP.

Even more frustrating than that is when I turn the heater on for the first time of the season (like, for example, last night), go give Mary a bath, return to check on the (notoriously unreliable, at least for me) thermostat, discover that not only has it turned itself down, IT HAS COMPLETELY SHUT ITSELF OFF.

This is when Ryan arrives on his white horse to find me standing in the hallway, holding a be-toweled toddler and screaming G-rated obscenities at the freaking thermostat, calmly pushes the "up" button several times, then says calmly "You have to push 'hold' too."

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I DID PUSH FREAKING HOLD YOU DON'T THINK I KNOW HOW TO PUSH FREAKING HOLD?  I PUSH HOLD EVERY SINGLE TIME AND IT DOES THIS TO ME *EVERY FREAKING TIME*.

But you know what?  It works for him.  ON THE FIRST TRY.  EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Which is why we do not have a normal dial thermostat from the seventies, one that is not possessed by a Satanic spirit WHO HATES ME.

(Also last night, when we went back downstairs after bedtime and the time came to adjust the downstairs thermostat he politely asked if I would like him to take care of it.  As.  If.)

The remote for the garage door opener is the same way.  I can push it seventy-five times with no result, but then hand it to Ryan in frustration, and BING!  Angels sing and the DOOR OPENS.

This is highly convenient because when I come home with four kids who all need to go to the bathroom and a trunk full of groceries RYAN IS NOT THERE TO OPEN THE GARAGE DOOR FOR ME.  And so then someone (or sometwo) end up whizzing in the side yard while I futz with my housekey.

We are delightful neighbors.

As annoying as this bewildering phenomenon is when it comes to appliances and remote controls, it is four frillion times annoying when it happens TO THE KIDS.

Today, it took us nearly an hour to get home from preschool pickup because I had told Charley I was going to pull over for sixty seconds for every nasty comment he made to a sibling.  I made four laps through one 7-11 parking lot.  I am lucky no one called the police.

And this was after they had a physical fight in front of a thrift store over a pair of pants I had bought James that fit NEITHER OF THEM.  And the smacking that happened when Charley wanted to use the Buddy Buck machine first and Wes beat him to it.  AND the MUTUAL BEATDOWN that I allowed to happen in front of the grocery store because I was starting to wonder if maybe I WAS THE CRAZY ONE.

I am sure there were some judgmental looks but I couldn't see them because I was disinterestedly scrolling through my phone and wondering if I'd get a 2nd or 3rd degree misdemeanor for breaking into the beer I'd just bought while still on the premises.  YOU DON'T KNOW MY LIFE, HAPPY HOLIDAY SHOPPERS.

So after all of this I came home feeling completely defeated.  It was five o'clock and I needed to make dinner.  Everyone was grouchy (INCLUDING ME).  But shortly after I got all the groceries put away and not fifteen minutes before Ryan got home it was ALL KUMBAYA AND BROTHERLY LOVE ALL OF THE SUDDEN.

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What in the everloving HELL, you guys?!

Fifteen minutes ago I had to let a kid walk home (one block) after he KICKED A BROTHER IN THE HEAD WHILE I WAS DRIVING, but now? Crafting, kindness, seasonal piano music, dinner on the stove. Just in time for Papa to come home!! "Oh look at my darling family, it is practically the set of a Little Women production, I am so happy to be back among the warmth of my--holy shit what happened to you?!" he must think as he walks through the living room of tranquility and into the kitchen to find me, hair askew, crazy-eyed, on the verge of tears, wearing the same clothes I woke up in, chopping up ground beef with perhaps a BIT more vigor than strictly necessary.

JUST LIKE THE THERMOSTAT.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Two stories which turn out to be related

1: There has been this disgusting pint glass full of brown water and slime on my dining room window sill for a couple of weeks. We live with a budding field biologist, so this is not unusual and when I passed by it I thought fond things about Charley and thought I should take a picture of the glass as a belated and snarky thank-you-note to whoever gave us that set of glasses as a wedding present. I did not want to throw it away until Charley was ready because there's always a chance that I would be killing some beloved living thing or interrupting an important experiment. But the other day, I was relieved to find Ryan washing out the glass in the sink because, please, no one, no matter how crunchy, wants a fermenting vat of mud and leaves four feet from where they eat.

2: EVERY SINGLE NIGHT FOR TWO WEEKS when I sit on my couch doing after bedtime things like eating cookies, watching TV, and when I'm feeling really crazy, cross stitch, I have been getting MULTIPLE MOSQUITO BITES. I have also been loudly complaining to Ryan about how it's NOVEMBER AND I AM STILL GETTING MOSQUITO BITES. There has also been a significant amount of fretting about vector borne disease and climate change and how the whole family is going to die from West Nile because of these freaking fracking mosquitoes that REFUSE TO DIE because it continues to be eighty degrees out IN NOVEMBER. It's always helpful when your neuroses can be supported by peer reviewed literature.

This morning I walked into the kitchen to find Charley frozen in place like an Irish Setter eyeing a bunny. As I approached, he suddenly reached out and grabbed at the air.

"GOT IT!!" he exclaimed happily.

"What?" I wondered aloud as I looked around, concerned that hallucination might be side effect from the new dose of medication he recently started taking.

"THE MOSQUITO!!" he told me with excitement. "I've been *RAISING LARVA IN THE DINING ROOM*!"

Deep breaths.

"Are you talking about... the glass full of mud and leaves?" I asked carefully.

"YES!!!"

He was so proud. I was caught between pride and horror.

"Oh, shoot, sweetheart, Papa didn't realize that was important and he cleaned it out. I'm so sorry."

(Not sorry, not sorry at all)

"Oh, OK. No problem!" he said, then skipped out the door for school.

I also confirmed that there was just ONE mosquito ranch in the house because that is not the good kind of surprise.

I...just...WOW. We've been operating a mosquito farm for two weeks. Meanwhile the city has been SPRAYING THE AIR TO PROTECT TRICK OR TREATERS FROM WEST NILE. Things it doesn't occur to you to teach your kids: Do not cultivate disease vector pests inside the house. Please and thank you. And let's hope the people over at Vector Control don't read blogs.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Killing it at this parenting thing

This morning started bright and early at about 2:00 AM when Mary began screaming in confusion after (I'm assuming) waking up next to her baby gate and not in her bed and I stumbled over there in my Mucinex haze (now that my body is processing all fluids through my sinus cavities, this is how I sleep at night) and nearly killed myself by tripping over Wes, who was sleeping on the floor in the hallway because he and Charley couldn't get themselves under control and go to sleep by the time I wanted to go to bed, so I slapped a quilt down on the floor in the hallway and separated them instead of putting someone in my bed like I normally do because I was DONE and wanted my bed for myself. I was so confused by all the screaming and the mysterious kid passed out on the hallway floor that I swatted at the wall and turned on the light, which obviously made everything better.

Shortly after that Ryan arrived on the scene to find me standing in my underwear, blinded and confused, surrounded by one screaming kid and one kid who was awakened by the screaming and the almost getting stepped on and the blinding light of the sun. Somehow he found the coherent thoughts required to help Wes back to his bed.

I followed his lead and took Mary back to her bed, along with her cohort of stuffed animals. I pulled the covers up and kissed her little warm forehead and she thanked me for my efforts by saying in a chillingly clear, slightly annoyed voice, "I need my baby too." *shudder* I obediently retrieved her naked baby doll from the floor by the gate and brought it to her then stumbled back to my bed for another few hours.

The next time I woke up it was because two kids were downstairs arguing about how to make hot chocolate, having just finished up a pre-dawn Halloween candy bender. It was still dark but the clock told me that it was time to get up anyway.

But the good news is that the house looked AMAZING thanks to our after-dinner family chore time. I finally got sick of being the family maid and made chore charts for everyone yesterday which included "bike checker" (Wes, who goes outside and makes sure all the wheeled things are back in the garage before dinner), "toy cleanup" (James and Mary haul all the kid crap back into the playroom from the rest of the first floor), "clear table and load dishwasher" (Charley and Wes, and might I say that watching this happen was a beautiful beautiful moment), "make room neat" (everyone because I am tired of doing "all" the laundry only to find a hidden cache of dirty uniform shirts stuffed under someone's desk chair and also stepping on sharp things when I go in there in the middle of the night to make sure everyone is still breathing).

Also on there: shoes in basket, backpack/coat on hook, and brush teeth because SERIOUSLY. And Charley's other job is to empty the recycle bin but yesterday I was out front getting James home from the neighbor's for dinner and when I came inside the back door was open and I heard a huge crash followed by a kid yelling at the trash can like a crazy old man. Apparently Charley had a little trouble while trying to dump the recycling into the big bin and dumped a week's worth of beer bottles and macaroni and cheese boxes all over the back yard. Oh, and Wes saw "shoes in basket" and immediately complied so he could be the first to check off a chore then proceeded to play outside all afternoon in a brand new pair socks, which made huge holes in the soles that, in his words, "prove that I am a man." LEARNING IS AN EXCITING JOURNEY!

Mondays are easy because the big kids don't have homework and I let their piano lesson count as "practice" and we don't have any evening activities. Tonight we will have homework and piano practice and also there is a Cub Scout meeting so I expect a lot less chipper cooperation and a lot more "HURRY HURRY HURRY COME ON WHERE ARE YOUR SHOES PLEASE JUST GET IN THE CAR!!"

Also, right now they are willing to work for stickers. This will not last.

Anyway. Onward. Somehow it is only Tuesday and we still have a week after this one until Thanksgiving Break comes. Poop.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Halloween/Birthday Weekend EXTRAVAGANZA

Well HELLO. As normally happens for even the smallest cause for celebration around here (Hey, friends, it's TUESDAY AT THREE PM, LET'S MEET ON THE DRIVEWAY FOR SOME WINE AND MUTUAL COMPLAINING!), Halloween turned into a five day funfest. It started simply enough when my neighbors and I decided that we should have a little get together for our friends after trick or treating. Nothing major, just a two-lawn, movies projected on the garage door, chili dog bar, karaoke sort of thing with a little teeny tiny keg of beer (from our neighbor who is a brewer, like, professionally).

Then we started having planning meetings, and then we started getting together to decorate and calling ourselves the Halloween Committee. I highly recommend forming your own Halloween Committee.

Wednesday night Ryan came home to this spontaneous pumpkin carving party:

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Mary went straight to work scraping all the seeds out of her pumpkin into a bowl, then dumping them all back into the pumpkin and starting again. Hashtag Montessori baby.

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And also this massive Barbie party that started spontaneously on my neighbor's front porch.

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Thursday night was more of the same, minus the pumpkins, add in the fourteen kids hanging out in the retention pond across the street. Friday night was pouring and Charley and Wes had a Halloween party at their piano teacher's house, so they dressed up and headed over there through a massive downpour.

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You know what makes driving a peaceful and safe experience? Hurricane rain and a four year old who is screaming because he mistakenly thought all of us were going to the party. To add insult to injury, we were not coming home to a third day of raucous neighborhood kid fun because it was pouring and instead we were going to watch Frozen on the couch and then go to bed early.

When I went back to pick up Charley and Wes I waited outside for ten minutes before having to go inside and LOOK FOR THEM IN THE HAUNTED MAZE. Which is good because I've always wanted to check out the haunted maze.

Saturday was Faculty and Staff Appreciation Day at my school's football game!

These kids, they love a Pirate theme.

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ARRRGH

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Warm ups.

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And then I got to go out on the field and shake all the players' hands with all the faculty. It was a really fun day. Especially because I could hear four little kids screaming "HI MAMA!!!!!" from the stands.

Mary got REALLY INTO THE GAME.

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"GO PI-YATS!"

We started to leave during halftime, but then the dancing girls came out onto the field and the boys were rendered mute and immobile.

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"I don't understand but I cannot look away."

After several more angsty hours, it was FINALLY time to put on costumes and assemble with the others in my neighbor's driveway. Attitudes were not awesome!! I realized later that everyone was super crabby because it was nearly six o'clock and no one had eaten anything since the hot dog they had at the football game. I only figured this out after Charley snarled something rude at an adult WHILE WE WERE TRICK OR TREATING and then came unglued every time the pack of older boys ran to the next house and he couldn't keep up. Ryan, fortunately, wondered aloud if he might be hungry, and after the next nasty remark from Charley I ran into my friend's house (we were a block away from ours) and made him a peanut butter sandwich. I gave it to him on the run and the next thing I saw was a streak of black as he ran to catch up with his friends, in a MUCH HAPPIER MOOD. Hangry is NO JOKE. The terrible mood put a damper on the pre-trick or treat pictures though.

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Hungry Dementor, Harry Potter, Spiderman, and Hermoine. Just in time for the Christmas card!!

We went around a few blocks as a huge mob, with the big boys leading the way at a dead run then came back to the houses for the party, which did not disappoint. Sadly, there are not very many pictures, but there was Charlie Brown Halloween, bobbing for apples (Charley bobbed for ten apples and had to change his shirt four times), food food and more food, cupcakes, sangria, beer, ring toss, bean bag game, and tons of fun people (also: candy, or CANDY I should say, given the detritus I found on my lawn the next morning). Ryan finally put Mary to bed after ten o'clock. The rest of us finally went in around eleven. Let's just say this is the first time I've REALLY TRULY APPRECIATED DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME.

We laid low on Sunday then rallied on Monday for Charley's NINTH BIRTHDAY. NINE!!!

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The breakfast cupcakes were leftover from Halloween.

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He takes wish-making very seriously.

Birthday dinner was frito pie, followed by presents. He was SO SWEET AND EXCITED about the Dangerous Book for Boys, his new fishing reel, and the big stack of blank composition books and mechanical pencils we gave him (When he woke up that morning he told me he was disappointed to wake up because he'd been having a dream that he was surrounded by tons of blank writing journals and it made him so happy, so how could we not do that for him?)--he's already filled several pages of two of them with a detailed story about a night and a swami and a snake and a lot of drawings of Wimpy Kid characters.

After dinner we had our usual pack of kids over for cupcakes.

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And then BOOM it was midweek with all the dropoffs, classes, labs, doctor's appointments, choir, dinners, breakfasts, lunches, laundry and other nonsense that entails. Nova was awesome last night and followed by a series I've been watching on the human brain. My cross stitch project is moving along nicely and we have rain in the forecast. After a nonstop weekend of crazy fun everyone is content to play games and read and color (*for now). I'd say things are pretty, pretty, pretty good.