Sunday, December 20, 2015

My family, doing the things my family does.

We had a really fun weekend with Ryan's parents, who came down to take us all on the Santa train, an old steam train that takes you out in the country and back while providing hot chocolate, cookies, story time, and Santa.  It was SO FUN.  James keeps telling people we had to take a really long train ride to see Santa and when we got back to the same station we'd left and walked through a different door he was convinced we were in a new town.  I love him so much.

After the train ride and lunch we had a bunch of James's buddies over for bike fun and cupcakes for his fifth birthday.  Everyone brought their bikes and we completely took over our little street for a couple of hours of mass chaos.  James was thrilled to see his buddies and the big kids were thrilled that they all brought their older brothers.  (Note: this party was slapped together at the absolute last minute because James was super sad that he wasn't "having a party" on Friday morning over breakfast.  The last-minute cupcake and outside-play party is RAPIDLY becoming my favorite kind of party because it is both EASY and FUN and did I mention EASY?  The kids love it.  Win win win.  Win.  Win.)

That party seamlessly transitioned into James's birthday dinner, which we had a day early and also combined with our final fancy Advent Sunday Dinner dinner (also a day early). My parents came over and Ryan's parents were there and we had a FEAST of BBQ chicken, hot dogs, cilantro lime rice, challah, baked sweet potatoes, and salad plus wine and Italian soda all spread out on an overflowing table crowded with people, just the way I like it.



This morning James turned FIVE and we had our traditional cupcake breakfast. I asked him to hold up five fingers and this is what I got. The other kids gave him a fishing pole and then spent so much time showing him how it works that we had to skip Sunday School and go straight to big church an hour later. I honestly can't believe he is five and starting kindergarten next year. HE STILL HAS A BABY HEAD! Even Charley has noticed this--he said to me the other day about James "He looks so cute with his little round head sticking out of his sweater!" CAN HE GO TO KINDERGARTEN WITH A LITTLE ROUND HEAD? But seriously. He is adorable. The other day I had him and Mary at the store and he was being so loveable I said to him "Did you take cute pills this morning? Because I think you're even cuter than normal" and he got really shy and serious and wanted to know what cute pills are, where you get them, why you take them. I finally convinced him that I was kidding about the cute pills, but he just laughed nervously and wrapped his limbs around my leg.

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And now for a series of special, special moments I want to remember forever:

Today we had brunch with Ryan's parents at a nice restaurant.  Ryan and I were talking about making Yorkshire pudding.  I said to him "I'll have to ask the butcher for a roast beef that has a lot of fat on it" because the usual offerings at our grocery store don't yield enough juices for Yorkshire pudding.  Charley piped up loudly, "If you go to the butcher, can you get me a sheep bone?"  Without missing a beat, I responded "Oh that's right, you wanted to use it to make a weapon."  Ryan and his parents looked concerned but unsurprised.

Tonight we went to a party at my aunt and uncle's house.  It was a Christmas sing-a-long, complete with a fancy buffet meal, eggnog punch, and lots of good old fashioned benign neglect of the children, who were doing who knows what upstairs.  The singing part lasted about an hour, during which Ryan and Mary and I sat back and enjoyed ourselves with nary a care in the world.  When I got up to refill my drink I noticed James talking to someone in an adjacent room.  Later that man came over just bursting to tell me that James had said "I told Santa I want a knife to kill bad animals for Christmas."

After the singing ended, Ryan and I were getting ready to go when suddenly, Mary disappeared.  We were frantically running around the first floor looking for her, on the front porch, on the back porch, in the kitchen, out in the back yard, upstairs.  Finally I was coming back inside when someone yelled "She's in the bathroom!" and I walked into the master bedroom to find Mary walking out of the bathroom with her tights around her ankles and skirt in hand, proudly announcing "I GO POTTY.  PEE PEE.  I GO POTTY-PEE PEE. Terrifying. Also, yay?

Shortly after Charley asked me for a sheep bone to make a weapon with, Wes proudly ordered "pancakes and fries" from the waitress.  When the food came he poured syrup all over everything.  I asked him how ketchup and syrup mixed together tasted on fries he beamed at me proudly and encouraged "try it!!"  It wasn't bad!

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Tonight at the sing-a-long two of the kids there played Christmas carols for everyone to sing. Charley played "Angels We Have Heard on High". I'll let you watch the video (like I have approximately six-thousand times). It is amazing to me to watch them do Hard Things with grace and confidence. Playing the piano for a packed room of unfamiliar adults? Not something I could do. Charley? No problem. I love his little smile at the end. And the way he stuck with it when he had a bit of trouble in the second verse (not to keep making comparisons to myself, but there would have been tears and awkward running from the room).

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Totally makes up for him accidentally knocking a Santa figurine off the second floor landing onto the first floor where it landed in and broke someone's coffee cup. Win some/lose some. But seriously, it was a really, really fun weekend.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The blog equivalent of stepping out into the sun, squinting at the brightness

Wow guys, it's been so long since I posted that Mary turned into a Tween!

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No but seriously, soon I will be able to tell you all about the time last weekend when I got my hand snagged by a fishing lure in my garage and had to be cut out and driven to the emergency room by my neighbor. I'm almost ready to laugh about it. Almost.

But how can you get hooked (by a fishing lure) and stuck to an upholstered chair in the garage and have to be freed by your neighbor and then go on to write about more ordinary things without mentioning it? It's like a big, fishhook shaped elephant in the room.

The other thing that happened was finals week, but who really wants to hear me complain about my hard, hard job that I can do from my couch while eating Christmas candy?

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(But HOLY S*** you guys it was the PERFECT STORM of grading because I (stupidly?) gave them an extra week to work on their climate lab reports, a fifteen to twenty page document that they ended up turning in THE SAME DAY AS THE FINAL which meant I had twenty lab reports, sixty finals, and sixty final essays to grade OVER THE WEEKEND. The weekend we had plans EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. I got the lab reports done on Friday, BARELY, which meant I did the multiple choice Saturday night, short answer and most of the essays Sunday night until I lapsed into unconsciousness, more essays Monday morning, the last two straggler finals also Monday mid-morning, then the totaling and entering and calculating and spreadsheeting and entering into the online system in a frantic two hour period immediately before I had to pick the kids up today. So that was awesome. Probably could have saved some time by not documenting the experience via live Facebook updating.)

Friday night was the annual Live Nativity at our church. We were all signed up to be shepherds.

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But then Wes and James wanted to try out ALL THE PARTS and were in three more shows. I heart them.

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Saturday afternoon I spent baking three kinds of cookies/Christmas desserty things for the party we were going to that night and the kids played outside (because it was IN THE MID-SEVENTIES, which is doing NOTHING for my baseline climate change anxiety level).

Saturday night we had my work holiday dinner and then a friend holiday party and Charley and Wes had their piano studio party ALL AT THE SAME TIME. Thankfully my parents were free to help make that bit of schedule magic happen. Sunday morning we lit the Advent candles at church as a family and no one picked his nose or fell into the handbells. Charley read the passage, Wes lit the candles. It was peaceful and lovely and MAYBE WE'RE GETTING THE HANG OF THIS GOING OUT IN PUBLIC THING (although James and Mary had to be taken to the nursery afterward because they were too wild even for the casual service we were attending, so no).

Sunday afternoon was cozy and filled with cooking. I've been making fancy Advent dinners on Sundays this month and this week we had London broil, baked sweet potatoes, and asparagus and for dessert I made this gingerbread trifle with cranberry custard and whipped cream thing I saw on the Food Network while I was running on the elliptical (COUNTERPRODUCTIVE).

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(Pre whipped cream)

Looks a little weird, but HOLY COW YOU GUYS it was amazeballs. It was like bread pudding except gingerbread and without all the stupid raisins. Want more right now, but no--eight egg yolks and an entire stick of butter. Yum. O.

Apropos of nothing, here's a picture of the wall behind our TV. We finally got our grown up TV and hung it on the wall and there was a big empty space around it, so I set out to fill the empty with something that would come close to my budget of zero dollars. Fortunately for me, the $130 shelf I'd been eyeing at Ikea was painted the wrong color and instead I found a different, smaller shelf at Lowes for THIRTEEN DOLLARS! Then I went to the Goodwill and picked up all the knickknacks that caught my eye and an embroidered table runner that I decided to hang vertically on the wall in a moment of inspiration.

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And finally, the tree in our front yard turned really pretty on Friday.

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You are all up to date. I am going to go sleep like a dead person now because WOW.

Friday, December 4, 2015

This is not in the grateful holiday spirit, not at all

A few days ago the Pandora app on my phone stopped working. Instead of filling my workout with delightful delightful inappropriate rap and hip hop music, it produced a series of empty spaces, skips, beeps, and partial songs that made me feel like my head was going to launch off of my body like a roman candle. No amount of gentle whacking or shaking (gentle because Ryan just bought me this phone after Mary and I destroyed my old one) would fix it. Neither did threatening it with profanity under my breath.

I gave up on my workout in disgust after fifteen minutes. In addition to my spine not going into lockdown, Pandora is the only reason I have continued my Olympic racewalking regimen. I didn't know how much I looked forward to disappearing into my headphones for thirty minutes each day until it was rudely taken away from me. To add insult to injury, when I got off the elliptical, in a giant huff, and reached for my coat, something weird happened and I banged my hip so hard on the neighboring elliptical that I saw stars and now have a deep bruise that kills every time my purse bumps it. Happy holidays.

Naturally after all of this frustration the only thing to do was go directly to Sonic for a breakfast taco and a huge cup of tea.

Yesterday, I tried again. This time I went for a walk in my neighborhood. Pandora worked fine all morning while I folded laundry but as soon as I struck out on foot it started behaving stupidly again. This time I determined not to let it make me angry, but staying calm and rational in the face of malfunctioning electronics has never been my strong suit. This time it took a cake pop from Starbucks before I could face the rest of my day. OK two cake pops from Starbucks.

Last night Ryan messed around with it and tried to fix it and it seemed to be fixed this morning, UNTIL I GOT TO THE Y and then it started DOING THE SAME STUPID THING. I reinstalled it multiple times and did everything the Android user forum suggested to fix THIS EXACT PROBLEM that apparently was also happening IN 2011!!! No luck. So, I finally just uninstalled it and resigned to do my workout listening to the audio from one of the fourteen TVs playing Fox News at the Y. At least it would help keep my heartrate up.

And I planned to come home and write an angry blog post about how Pandora is annoying and useless (but also that I really miss my Van Morrison Station and Central Market Holiday Radio and whyyyyyyyy????) and that I was now going to gain thirty pounds because of my inability to work out and propensity for stress eating.

But then I remembered that my friend Peter had recommended Spotify a while back. I'd never tried it because PANDORA WAS WORKING JUST FINE and I had three years of thumbs up invested in my Van Morrison station that I was not about to leave behind.

So I downloaded the Spotify app, typed "workout" into the search function, and found A DELIGHTFUL ARRAY OF OPTIONS.

And I spent a gleeful thirty minutes on the elliptical. OK twenty-five minutes. And I did not injure myself this time. PROGRESS.

I am now home thinking really hard about straightening up before the kids get out of school while I listen to "Choral Christmas". It's not exactly the same, but it also probably won't give me type II diabetes like continuing to try and make Pandora happen will. So I call it a win. Sort of anticlimactic if you ask me.