Thursday, December 22, 2016

Best of times, worst of times

With apologies to Dickens, I think this quote applies REMARKABLY WELL not just to the 18th century world of peasants and aristocrats, but also to the week before Christmas, when no one has school, one parent is at work, and the other parent really should be working but can't, and the kids are living on Christmas cookies and fudge.

Which is to say that yesterday was a bit of a disaster that came to a head at church last night, where we went for rehearsal, when the children's pastor asked Charley if he'd like a speaking part in the Christmas pageant and he burst into tears and hid in the men's room for thirty minutes (And boy was my friend's husband surprised when I opened the door and yelled "CHARLEY ARE YOU IN THERE?").

Let's start with the good stuff though, shall we???

Tuesday James turned six!!

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He was THRILLED to get a journal with a lock and has been carefully writing observations in it since then in his adorable kindergarten handwriting ("Charley has a injured arm"). He also got a maze game and some Mad Matter (that stuff is so cool) and a Harry Potter wand, that were at once a huge hit and hugely popular with the other kids, which led to some friction (understatement). After some playing and fighting we had doctor's appointment for Charley (I spent most of the time sitting in the car with a screaming James while Charley was in with the doctor; he was screaming because he discovered that ink cannot be erased) and then we met Miss N for lunch. She spent the rest of the afternoon and evening with us THANK GOD.

Some friends came over for cookie decorating and birthday celebrating (and beer drinking for the adults, naturally). We had pizza and cupcakes and shooed everyone outside where they did outside kid things until it got dark and then they came in to watch Home Alone. It was happy and loud and kind of insane and so many wonderful people I love were there. See? Best of times.

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(Though before everyone arrived Wes wrote some mean things in James's new journal and was banished to the upstairs until he wrote five complete sentences in the form of an apology letter to James. I went up to check on him after he'd been screaming for ten minutes and when I asked him what on earth he was screaming about he moaned "Correct capitalization is REALLY HARD!!!")

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Only three sentences, but I allowed it because he had already tried writing "I am soryy" five times at the top of the paper, so it was more like eight sentences.

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Our whole family was together again!

Wednesday morning I woke up still smiling from the happy funtimes we'd had the night before, which I think set my expectations of magical holiday family harmony a bit too high. I made the mistake of suggesting to the children that we go on a hike together, and that they should get dressed and find their shoes while I made a picnic. I made the picnic alright, but James was still lying on the couch yelling his crazy Archie Bunker old man nonsense in his pajamas, Charley was dressed, and Wes was completely dressed with sweatshirt and shoes on playing a computer game. After a few attempts at getting James to comply I left the picnic in its bag on the counter, went upstairs, had a little tantrum of my own, took a shower, and then laid on my bedroom floor reading the newspaper on my phone for a while. I was going to give up on our plan, but the thought of eight unstructured hours was motivating. Two hours after we'd planned to leave, we were finally in the car.

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People without kids cannot imagine the amount of work it took to get TO THE TRAILHEAD.

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Wes: "This is really neat, Mom! I'm so glad you forced us to come here!"

Everyone wanted to do all three trails, but after we got back to the car to go to the third trail we decided to go to Sonic instead.

Then we went to a liquor store to buy a couple of Christmas presents and the kids were adorably fascinated with the bottle chiller. That was the last moment of the day that was fun. We went home to get Mary and then bickered all afternoon while I made a really terrible dinner and drove them, screaming, to church for their rehearsal. I had planned to manage it on my own but had to call Ryan in for backup, which meant that he got conscripted to be a shepherd. They don't ask me because I exude an air of hostility and also because I think they thought I had enough to do what with Mary and James wrestling with each other over the Hymnals.

Today I gave up early and turned on a movie then retired to the kitchen with my computer to write this post and write a letter of recommendation for a student and maybe start working on the writing work that is due on the 9th or the two syllabuses that I will need before the second week of January. Or our Christmas cards. Just something to keep my hands busy.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Shepherds, broken bones, and boobs

Nothing like waking up late to no peanut butter or bread to motivate you to finally figure out the new online lunch ordering system you've been dragging your feet on! Here are your passwords kids! Don't forget them or you won't get to eat lunch! HAVE A NICE DAY!!

So where were we? Oh yes. Friday's Live Nativity.

We have been in the Live Nativity since Wes played Baby Jesus as a tiny baby and it is something we all look forward to. A new tradition is meeting my friend Rosa at our favorite hamburger place for happy hour before the show.

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This year we had to watch the kids play from inside because it was so cold. Cold in December! What a bummer!

In the first show, Mary and James were angels and Charley and Wes were wisemen.

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Wes likes to be every character he can before the night is over, so he was in five shows. So were James and Mary come to think of it. One show I thought Mary was going to sit out until she yelled angrily at an adult "I'M NOT TAKING A BREAK! I A ANGEL!!"

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Wes and his buddy A were, as usual, kind of insane.

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Charley sat a few shows out to enjoy the petting zoo. I went to check on him and found him blissed out with four chickens asleep in his lap.

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Will no longer eat chicken.

He decided to do one more show, as a shepherd, which, if he lived in Biblical times, I think would be a great job for him. Caring for animals. Lots of alone time.

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Yeah, like that!

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It was such a fun night and also the first time Ryan and I weren't actually IN any of the shows. We just watched the hilarity with my parents, Ryan's parents, my sister and niece, and our friends. The best.

Saturday morning Ryan's parents took us on the Santa train, a restored steam train that takes you on a ride through the countryside with an elf that serves hot chocolate, cookies from Mrs. Claus, sing-a-longs, stories, coloring sheets. It is SUCH FUN.

Monday night we went to the hand orthopedist because Charley's thumb was still swollen (though it had improved from bratwurst to the less alarming breakfast sausage size) and painful and he couldn't bend it and my two medical friends together convinced me that I was probably not overreacting and it would be worth seeing the hand guy because unbroken thumbs typically don't look like breakfast sausages five days after an injury. Even the ped we saw last week suggested we go back in. But having taken a perfectly healthy child to a podiatrist for sympathy limping a couple of years ago, I was a little hesitant to go this time. Still, if you'd seen the table fall on him, you'd be like JUST TAKE THE KID TO THE SPECIALIST OMG. We had to wait in the adult waiting room, which does not have a TV or children's magazines, so after Charley won the skirmish for the single Ranger Rick, James settled in with a copy of US Weekly. I was finally starting to relax when he came up to me to show me a picture of a bunch of actresses posed in fancy gowns for some award show and said "MOM, LOOK! This is inapprokriate [sic]! BOOBS!" and everyone started cackling loudly. I told them they could each say "boobs" one time and then we were never going to say it again. #qualityparenting Later at dinner, James told Ryan "I saw something inapprokriate today!" and Mary deadpanned, without even pausing her meal, "BOOBS."

We spent another tortuous half hour in the tiny exam room waiting for the doctor (here Charley came across an ad in another magazine, this one for female incontinence products, with the slogan "Sometimes laughter isn't the only thing you can't keep inside," that sent him into convulsions of laughter), who gently examined Charley's thumb with the Look of Consternation then sent him off for new xrays. When Charley came back he asked all of us if we had ever thought about diabetic retinopathy, which he had seen an informative poster about next to the xray room. More waiting and more waiting and Charley asking everyone who passed the door if they'd considered diabetic retinopathy and more waiting and more awful behavior later, the doctor came back in to read the xrays and pronounced, "Yup. It's broken. Four weeks in the splint!" He offered Charley a cast, but said it was up to me, and since we'd been in that room fighting with each other for ninety minutes by then, I thought they all might need casts if we had to spend another second together. I said no thanks and we went to Schlotzky's to pick up dinner. The beer I had when I got home was one of the top five of my life.

This week I am sort of "off" because grades are in for one university and the final for the other is on Thursday morning. Yesterday I went for a long row on an absolutely perfect sixty degree and sunny morning, then worked on a paper at an outdoor coffeeshop by the lake for a couple of hours before visiting a thrift store in a fancy neighborhood that did NOT disappoint. I got Mary an adorable Hanna Andersson outfit and a brand new pair of Keen's for TWELVE DOLLARS. Then I had an unavoidable meeting and spent more than ninety minutes in the car stuck in traffic on the way home. BUT! Today I have no concrete obligations other than to Work On Some Things, which leaves time for this post, a touch of Christmas shopping, and some thrilling laundry folding. But we are SO CLOSE TO THE FINISH LINE (which is an ILLUSION because then I'll have to dream up things to do for four hyper, excited kids, one of whom can't do anything athletic or fun for the next three weeks).

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Faculty Gone Wild

Ryan and I spent last night dancing to a cover band and eating from an endless dessert buffet in the same hotel ballroom I once attended prom in. It was like the funnest wedding reception you've ever been to except we knew ZERO people and did not have to buy anyone a toaster. We weren't even going to go except that Ryan's parents were going to be in town and offered to babysit and we screeched out of the driveway so fast we forgot to get a picture together and Ryan forgot to take his ibuprofen (I keep saying to him "I need to eat! So I can take my back pills!" and it will NEVER GET OLD). We went back for the ibuprofen and got a couple of pics.

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I love love loved this dress. I bought it in a hasty shopping spree at Nordstrom Rack between office hours and kid pickup. Literally, ran to the clearance rack, grabbed the dress, figured I'd never get it over my hips, stripped off my jeans and sweater, tried it on, loved it, ran to the shoe department to grab some booties I've had my eye on, grabbed a pair of tights, and was back to my car in fifteen minutes.

Apparently I left out a lot of details when I told Ryan I wanted to go to the faculty party. He was probably picturing that scene from Animal House when the stuffy fraternity brother says "That'll be Nigel with the brie". "There are drink tickets?!" There's a band?!" "This was all FREE?!" When we walked in and saw the food and the band and the bar and the fun fun people everywhere Ryan asked if I could swing a course assignment at this place next fall, ninety extra minutes in the car a day be damned!

It was not boring. Those PhDs know how to have a good time.

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Here's the dessert buffet. There was also a pasta bar and a turkey carving station. I ate the hell out of some pasta (not pictured) and then dove into the dessert bar. Also for hors d'oeuvres there was this smoked jalepeno dip that I started discretely eating with my figures when I ran out of cucumber spears. Unsurprisingly I was up for part of the night with some cuh-razy indigestion.

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The band got everyone out on the floor with a long set comprised completely of eighties monster ballads followed by four Justin Timberlake songs in a row. After their first set the campus chaplain came out to do a touching invocation. Then he stood to the side happily surveying all the fun and clutching a long string of raffle tickets. It was the first time I've ever wanted to be Catholic.

We danced like two people who have dealt with a LOT of SHIT in the last two months and who are out with no children and a pocketful of drink tickets.

Which is to say it's a good thing it was dark and I didn't notice my Dean in attendance. And also to say that getting up the stairs last night was not straightforward (because of the dancing, not the drink tickets, ahem).

We tore ourselves away reluctantly around ten and returned home to find that the kids had had a great time with Ryan's parents except that, naturally, one had puked on the living room floor (this was in addition to the one who puked at their piano studio Christmas party earlier that afternoon, prompting Charley to leave me the best voicemail of all time "Hi Mom. Wes blew chunks. Can you come pick us up?").

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Obviously we didn't make it to church this morning and instead spent the time doing four loads of laundry, inventing dinner out of things I found in the fridge that were about to spoil, putting bread in the bread machine, giving James and Mary home haircuts in my kitchen, and making the kids French Toast out of an enormous gifted Panettone. So basically I was a lighthouse keeper's wife.

And this afternoon was the day of the big skating party, which went off without a hitch, even though there was a game at the end with a moderate amount of competitiveness. Even though he still has to wear his splint for another three days. And even though I pictured another evening lost to urgent care every time he fell.

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He is totally hooked. Here is a preview of tomorrow's post. This also happened this weekend. It was a fun weekend.

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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Skating holiday funtime!

Well GOOD MORNING EVERYONE.

Remember when I was bitching about it being seventy five degrees in November? Yeah. The high today is 42, which happened at six this morning (we are now on the way down) and I WILL NEVER BE WARM AGAIN. Certainly not after tomorrow's pre-dawn, 26 degree row, that I have extremely mixed feelings about.

Charley was invited to a birthday party on Sunday at a freaking roller rink. He really likes the kid who is having the party, so I RSVPed yes, despite my intense misgivings about the combination of a chaotic social setting plus a difficult activity he has never done before plus some med issues we have not completely nailed down yet and the high (HIGH) potential for a freakout and general unhappiness (NOT ENOUGH SEROTONIN IN THE WORLD). When I told him about the party he was so excited that it was for his friend A, who he described as "the nicest kid in all of 4th grade". And then when I told him it was a roller skating party he said, simply, "Oh." Because he GETS how stressful this situation was likely to be for him.

I was desperate for a way to make it work. So my dad and I decided to take him and the other boys skating on Wednesday afternoon so he could give it a try.

I was meeting them straight from work and arrived first. I was too excited to wait for them so I took a few laps on my own before they arrived. It was SO FUN you guys.

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Then the kids arrived and put on their skates and much baby Bambi on ice hilarity ensued. It took two adults and about twenty minutes of time just to get everyone from the bench to the door to the rink. Once we got there, they spent most of their time slipping and falling and hanging onto the wall. One of the workers got each of them a PVC walker to hang onto for their first few laps, but once they got the hang of it they started having a lot more fun.

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As usual, Wes picked it up quickly, befriended another kid his age and began horsing around. I was hoisting James off the floor for the fourteenth time when Wes blew past me running on his skates like a Clydesdale, yelling "MOM CHECK THIS OUT!!" He and the other boy had a blast chasing each other, playing tag, and falling in the most dramatic fashion possible. They also rolled right into the men's room despite the warning of one of the workers: "I've had a lot of kids go face first into the urinal when they try to skate in there!"

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Charley befriended one of the ladies who works there and she showed him how to get going fast and stop and turn. He spoke to her in Spanish, which she thought was fantastic and I found a bit concerning since I DON'T speak Spanish and have no idea what anyone was saying. He was smiley and jokey and happy and every time he fell he flashed me a huge smile and a thumbs up. The worker approached me to tell me what a cool kid he is and I beamed. Because, YES. He told me "I FEEL SO HAPPY! I'M NOT EVEN A LITTLE STRESSED OUT! I LOVE SKATING!"

Whenever I could I sneaked in a few laps of my own. Breezing past the kids and gently taunting them.

I had just texted Ryan to let him know what a weirdly good time we were all having when Charley careened into a row of picnic tables that were propped against the wall near the arcade and knocked one over onto himself.

I was near the door to the rink and got there as fast as I could. The bottom of the table had fallen on his thumb and clearly it hurt him terribly. The workers brought him ice and a pack of Starbursts and we all told him funny stories until he felt better. He don't want to go back on his skates. The other kids skated for about thirty more minutes while Charley looked at the video games and hung out with my dad and then we decided to leave so we could get dinner and make it to choir on time. Only when we went outside in the sunshine Charley's thumb looked Not Good.

He was musing aloud about how fun it is to have a broken bone at school as we pulled out of the parking lot. Wes said if he could break anything it would be his leg. All of them asked if we could buy skates on the way home.

Later we went to the doctor, who visibly flinched when she looked at Charley's poor battered thumb. "And you said a TABLE fell on it?" she asked, looking me over the top of her glasses. She said based on the crazy swelling and general purpleness of the thumb he got to get an x-ray.

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That was the souvenir he got to take to school. He also got a cool splint.

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He was HIGHLY EXCITED about wearing the splint to school this morning. I begged him over breakfast, "Please don't be annoying with that thing!"

The radiology report this morning was "unremarkable" and I am still waiting to talk it over with the doctor. One of my medical friends texted last night with great concern after seeing the x-ray on Facebook. It was not a restful night as my super-rational sleepy brain worked out every single possibility including death by broken bone a la Phineas in A Separate Peace. Charley's biggest concern, besides how awesome it is to wear a giant splint to school, is teaching Wes the treble part of Angels We Have Heard on High so he can still play piano at church on Christmas Eve. Wes gave him a handful of quarters this morning so he could play the games at the birthday party Sunday instead of skating.

Everyone still wants to go back to the skating rink. Today if possible. Um, no.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Screaming kids, screaming smoke detectors

So, let's see, I had the death cough for nearly three weeks, canceled a doctor's appointment at the two week mark so I could go to a friend's wine tasting instead, hacked my way through another week, made another doctor's appointment Sunday morning after waking up re-enacting Nicole Kidman's death from consumption at the end of Moulin Rouge, which I almost canceled so the kids could have snowcones after lunch on Sunday, then decided to keep after all due to Ryan's urging, and was diagnosed with BRONCHITIS at that doctor's appointment. So that was weirdly satisfying. I pranced out to the van, got in, held my papers in front of Ryan like "SEE? SICK!!"

Earlier in this ordeal I went with some friends to a Korean Karaoke place. I thought I would sound like Phoebe singing sexy Smelly Cat, but instead I sounded more like a crazy, lifelong smoking aunt who had too many cocktails on Thanksgiving.

Teaching was also neat, especially my seventy-five minute climate lecture class, which I bravely powered through even though I sounded disgusting and probably a little scary.

I started my Zpack on Sunday afternoon and woke up Monday morning feeling like I might survive until the end of the week for the first time in DAYS. Refreshing!

Monday afternoons I pick the kids up at school and we go to a playground for half an hour or so on the way to piano dropoff. This week I was pushing Mary on the swing when a scuffle broke out on the playscape. There was screaming and Wes was doubled over shrieking "HE KICKED ME IN THE N***S!" Then he straightened and wheeled around so sharply that James screamed with excitement and ran down the slide just in time to avoid getting shoved from behind by Wes. Wes slid down the slide and ran to James and pushed him to the ground. This all transpired in a period of about ten seconds and all I could do was stand there completely dumbfounded.

I finally gathered myself enough to make them each sit on a bench until it was time to leave, but that didn't stop them from screaming insults at each other. After the fourth or fifth "IDOIOT!!" and "NUTS!!" I decided it was time to cut our losses. We turned to walk back to the car and that's when I saw a roomful of GIRL SCOUTS at the adjacent community building, *STARING* at us out the window, gape mouthed. As we passed by the door, which was propped open to let in the nice weather, a mom hurriedly ran to close it and said "Oh, no no no! Please don't worry!" graciously when I made Wes apologize for his appalling language. I was SUPER EXCITED to drop off the two big kids at piano. I went home and turned on the TV then retired to the kitchen with my book because DAMN.

One of my classes has its last meeting before the final tomorrow afternoon. I have mixed feelings about this because I really love teaching climate, but DANG is it a lot of work, with forty-two students, a weekly writing assignment, two weekly labs, and a weekly reading quiz on top of lectures. I plan to use my extra time next week to slap together a paper with my research student from this summer. And also grade 42 final exams and essays. Sob.

Finally, this morning at four our smoke detector started going off. I shoved Ryan out of bed to go deal with it because I am nothing if not alert and safety conscious. I had no idea what he was doing to fix it, but later, Charley retold the story to my mom "The smoke alarm kept going off and Papa would come and wave his hands at it until it went off then go back to bed". It would beep multiple times in a row, then stop for juuuuust long enough to drop back to sleep then start up again. So restful. After the fourth time or so, we heard Mary call out from her room in a bored voice "I don't like that noise!"

I finally gave up trying to sleep at six and was in Mary's room helping her get dressed when it started going off like crazy. I heard Charley mutter from his room across the hall "AWW COME ON!!!!!" Wes told us "I heard the smoke alarm and I didn't know if I should go outside, so I went under my bed" (!!) (makes mental note to look under Wes's bed in the event of a real emergency.

Ryan finally figured out that it was malfunctioning because it had MOTH COCOONS ALL OVER IT.

Yes. Those freaking stupid moths that keep taking over my pantry and nesting in the kids' cereal are now capable of WAKING ME UP AT FOUR O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING. I hate those stupid bugs. Bright side? Kids all fell asleep QUICKFAST tonight.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

And to all a good night

Well! That was an interesting week! It started Friday with another sick kid needing to come home school, a pretty worrisome weekend and early week, lots of outside time, cats, turkeys, pogo sticks, and family. And aside from the death cough that is entering week three that kept me out of rowing all last week, I'd say on balance we've done pretty well. (Of course I just returned home from seeing a movie with my friend Rosa at a movie theater that serves beer, so I'm feeling more relaxed that I was earlier today THAT IS FOR SURE).

We went to a vegan restaurant that was filled with cats (I don't know if a more Austin sentence was ever composed) because I thought patting some kitties might be relaxing and soothing for all of us (it was, especially the one who curled up between me and Charley and purred for twenty-five minutes. This may have put the first chink in the New Mammal Ban we have instituted at our home).

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James loves a good whimsical cat bed.

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And after that we went out for Japanese food and chess, as you do (also: BREAKTHROUGH ALERT - Wes taught Charley how to play chess, gently corrected his mistakes, and WON THE MATCH and NO ONE WAS CRYING AT THE END. Fascinating).

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We ate dinner at a friend's house Tuesday night. For his first act, Charley got stuck in a tree in their front yard.

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Wednesday morning we rallied early and joined cousins for a hike next to a river (that I told the kids was not going to turn into swimming, except that it did, because it does every time).

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This happened approximately thirty feet from the car.

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It was a beautiful day and we went for a long walk. James was a rugged outdoorsman with his orange soda and PB&J.

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And then we drove to another part of the park where there were waterfalls. Irresistible waterfalls. Didn't take many pictures there because two kids had no pants on.

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I had to leave the kids in the car when it was time to pick up Mary on the way home because no one was wearing any pants.

Thursday morning dawned snuggly for the parade and it quickly became apparent that poor James had a fever. He only managed two bites of scrambled eggs then fell asleep. Charley and Wes and I walked to Starbucks for some seasonally appropriate but not weather appropriate hot chocolate. Nice walk, nice company, terrifyingly warm weather for November, even for here.

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We all went to my sister's for Thanksgiving dinner and set James up in a bedroom. He quickly fell asleep, slept for three hours, had a plate of turkey and mashed potatoes, then rode my niece's bike around in the street for an hour. It was a Thanksgiving miracle!

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Wes made a turkey and when I complimented the turkey's green head he told me "That's not his head, that's his banjo!"

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(He also surprised us after the pie course by showing up in the dining room and hula hooping for everyone. Between teaching Charley chess and hula hooping and finishing his second huge chapter book, Wes is really coming into his own this week. It has been exhilarating to watch!)

Dinner was fun and tasty and there were five kinds of pie. The company was great and so was the wine. My sister and I had a friendly pogo stick competition between dinner and dessert (I still got it. Even in a dress and flats) while the kids rode scooters and bikes. And then we loaded up two boxes of leftover pie and squeezed back into the car so we could bicker our way home, where I made it through a third of the movie I chose before falling fast asleep on the couch.

Friday morning called for more outside time, so we went for a hike next to a taco restaurant, which if you ask me, is really the only way to improve on our city's great hiking trails, put it next to a taco restaurant.

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This also ended up with wet pants, but since it was only fifty-five degrees outside, no one got all the way in.

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And then after that we ate tacos (Duh) and went home for movies and bikes and early bedtimes (Thanks, tilt of the earth!) for both the kids and me. It's been a nice break and I think we're ready to go back to our routine on Monday. I'm certainly not ready to go back to the Grading Situation I have waiting for me, or the eight remaining lectures in my two classes, which isn't really that big of a number when you think about it. EIGHT LECTURES LEFT UNTIL THE BREAK. I row on Monday and Friday, finals start the following week and before you know it it will be Christmas (actually, tomorrow night is the Hanging of the Greens, which is how we Protestants kick of the season of Advent, with lessons and carols and a cookie social, this is all happening TOO SOON). Anyway. Early bedtime time for me, while I still can.

Monday, November 14, 2016

This post is a giant mess, just like our country

So, how are you guys?

I should have written earlier. I had a draft from Monday all written. It was light and sarcastic and sort of funny. I was talking about how Ryan had encouraged me to go in super early to finish all the odds and ends I needed to so I could go to my research meeting and then teach, only to get a call thirty minutes after school started that one of the kids was sick and needed to come home. I was twenty miles away through insane morning traffic and Ryan was across the street, so that meant he had to go get him. And then since another kid has been having some similar digestive issues for a while I called and made them both doctor's appointments for the afternoon. Later I picked Wes up at school and when I asked him how is day was he said "My head hurt so bad I couldn't finish my work." Which was a problem because the previous day, while in a heated footrace with James, he had run head first into a metal post and had a massive goose egg on his forehead that extended in an angry red line all the way down to his jaw, which was also swollen. So now HE had to go the doctor too! Three sick visits in one day is our new record! Is what I was going to say on Monday night.

(Everyone is now healthy. Apparently math just gives Wes a terrible headache.)

Tuesday I wore my pants suit and helped first graders plant tiny lettuce seeds in the school garden before going to work. In class we watched a video called "Years of Living Dangerously" in which the civil war in Syria is discussed from a climate perspective. I felt hopeful, smug in my pantsuit, watching those forty kids see the horrors of war and hearing about what we are doing to our environment. How can anyone see these images and not want to do everything they can? I thought.

I invited friends over to watch the returns. I cleaned up the house. I put the kids to bed. We opened beers and put on blazers over our pajamas. It's about that time that we became aware that this might not be the celebratory evening we had expected.

Ryan made a grocery run and brought back all of our orders. Chocolate ice cream, fancy candy, cheese.

I folded a load of laundry to keep my hands occupied. It was a bad evening, but better among friends.

I didn't sleep well (at all?) that night and was relieved that I didn't have to row in the morning so I could tell the kids in person.

People have been openly mocking the "what do I tell the children" attitude in the past week, so I'd like to provide a little more context here. We tell our kids to work hard, to be prepared, to be kind and generous and loving. We tell them to stick up for the little guy. We tell them to be open minded. Our country (well, like 25ish % of our country) voted AGAINST those virtues Tuesday in favor of bigotry, homophobia, cheating, and lies. This is what it is hard to explain to the kids. And I have not been specific with them. We told them (when they asked), that we voted for Hillary because she has worked hard and loves America and wants to help people. We told them we didn't care for Trump because sometimes he said mean things about other people. I cannot control what they hear at school, but from what I've heard them retelling it has been a bipartisan mixed bag of crazy playground versions of the things all the kids are likely hearing their parents talking about downstairs when they should be asleep.

I posted the Prayer of St. Francis to Facebook, along with a Youtube of the Harlem Boys' Choir singing "Let there be Peace on Earth" because that is how I WANTED to feel. It was a goal. I went to our church's chapel service on Wednesday night while the kids were in choir and was so reassured when two women I admire gave me long tight hugs and whispered "What a tough day" into my hair.

And after sort of muddling through the week I watched the opening of SNL, which was perfect and heartbreaking, and provided a kind of stopping point. It felt like a good time to try to pick myself up and move forward. There are the details of life to attend to and kids to reassure.

I did six loads of laundry on Saturday and cooked the first real meal we'd eaten in a week.

So this is where I am now. Functioning and not filled with dread and panic when I think about my kid with the pre-existing condition. But I am an upper-middle class straight white woman and that gives me a kind of undeserved insulation from the real horror of this election (I would get into the climate implications and my profound disappointment with some in the evangelical community who are gleefully celebrating this outcome (no one I know and in fact the mood at my own church on Sunday was of somber resignation, which I found incredibly reassuring), but I have to function professionally in like thirty minutes and cannot afford to get into that particular shitshow at the moment (afford is really the right word because I work two part time jobs that are renewed every five months (or not!) even though I have a freaking PhD because no one is hiring real professors in colleges and universities right now and we're not going to talk about that as a country because we have to use our energy to deport people and make sure billionaires can still have gold toilets or whatever the hell).

(Also a note on healthcare: WHY do people not realize that you can do everything "right" (whatever the hell that means) and STILL end up in grave financial trouble through no fault of your own? One bad week with a layoff and a serious car accident and you are EFFED. This is a problem. And if it's true for college educated people with a savings account and a solid resume, it's an even bigger problem for people scratching together enough to live every week at an hourly job.)

So there it is. It is not eloquent or touching or angry or even a call to arms. There is much more to say, but we can't stay here. I will be seeking opportunities to work for good in the midterm elections.

I have also decided to stop keeping my thoughts to myself in the name of not stepping on toes. So watch for that.

Friday, November 4, 2016

I am caught up on all the things (for this five minutes)

I have noticed that I am either all caught up and motivated on laundry AND grading or NEITHER. It's like I either feel like drudgework or I don't. I'm sure others can relate to this. I had to find a pair of rowing socks last night before I went to bed (because I had to get up at 4:45 to row and don't like hunting for lost socks in the dark) and realized that there were AT LEAST two loads of laundry in our closet (and when I say two loads, I am talking about cramming our XL washer to the very top with darks, lights, reds, errant sneakers) and ANOTHER two loads (same deal) in the kids' linen closet and another load in the dryer and another load folded outside of everyone's doors.

Nothing makes you check your privilege like TOO MANY CLOTHES TO WASH. It's embarrassing.

Also sheets will have to happen another time, as they usually do, which is why I sleep atop an eight inch coffee stain.

But Ryan had a Scout leaders' meeting last night and I finally found the energy to tackle the massive load of kid laundry that's been waiting for me in the dryer for a week. Earlier yesterday I graded all the multiple choice questions from an exam I gave THAT DAY. WHO AM I?

I would have gotten more done except that while I was in class Charley attempted to jump from the ladder to the fifth monkey bar in some kind of display of ten year old boy-ness, lost his grip, fell flat on his back in the mulch, and knocked the wind out of himself. The nurse called me, then Ryan, and then Ryan picked him up and brought him to my office when I got out of class. He claims not to have hit his head, but thinks he fell on his stomach even though it's his back that is covered with scratches. The nurse thinks he's OK and he seems like he's OK, but that's still kind of scary so she sent him home where I was happy to keep an eye on him.

Having finished all the books he had with him, the next best option was to stand in front of my desk and fidget with things while I was trying to write a quiz. We did not stay long.

But all this to say that last night I folded a huge load of kid laundry and started another load and this morning I spent the four hours between rowing and class getting caught up on my grading. I finished 2/5 short answer questions on forty-three climate exams and put five problem sets in the outbox just in time for an onslaught of quizzes from the physics kids to be turned in. Also I just got an email that I screwed something up on the equation sheet. In the words of my friend Godmother, balls.

The other news around here, other than that thrilling account of my laundry and grading situation, is that after more than five years, I got a new pair of glasses. I did this because I couldn't really see right and it was annoying but also because Ryan got us some fancy vision insurance through work and I get a free pair. The lady offered me five or six different choices, which I rejected, then invited me to walk around and figure it out. After trying on almost every frame in both the men's and women's sections, I finally settled on this style, which seemed comfortable and less huge than all the other options I had looked at. Decision fatigue does not always lead to the best decisions. I am reserving judgement until I stop misjudging the height of curbs and steps and almost falling.

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My first thought when I picked them up yesterday was, "I don't remember these being so...Unabomber."

Also, I look exactly like my dad in the early nineties.

And now I need to go slap together a lesson and activity for the garden group this afternoon. Later tonight, I will make boozy cupcakes with my friend Rosa! I am sure there will be a story there.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Zombies, princesses, and birthdays

Fall is such a fun time in our house, both because of the fun parade of holidays and the slightly-less-asshole-ish weather we sometimes enjoy (NOT THIS YEAR, says my sweaty scalp while Trick or Treating in the DARK), but also because three of the four kid birthdays happen in the fall! Mary's birthday, August 6th, is squarely in summer territory, but it is a month of summer I'd rather not participate in, so we'll call it almost-fall, that would mean that all four birthdays are in the fall.

And yesterday was Charley's TENTH BIRTHDAY. I can't really wrap my head around it either, but the signs are all there. His head that comes up to my shoulder, his affection for Hamilton music, his passion for writing, and his love for reading the thickest books he can find. He is smart and capable. He can make scrambled eggs and chili and pumpkin bars with minimal supervision (not even help!). He loves the younger kids and BEAMS when Mary wants to hold his hand in a parking lot. I could go on. He's pretty awesome.

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We started the day with cake and singing, then he opened his presents. A set of microscope slides of various kinds of animal and plant tissue were a hit. Several books, a long mystery novel recommended by NPR (fitting for his chosen career path of academic) and some nonfiction--Rats and The Election (those are separate titles, that may not have been clear). But the big hit was his French press and two bags of loose tea leaves.

It's like buying gifts for a younger, male version of myself, honestly.

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Yesterday he had three cups of mint tea and today he tried the Rooibos. While reading and wearing his "Square root of 100 years old" shirt. My goodness, I love this kid.

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He also did his own zombie makeup and did twice the job I would have managed. I went up to check on his progress because I had a tiny Princess Anna and Harry Potter running circles around me, eager to get out and do some trick or treating, and found him meticulously applying "horror flesh" to his neck. "Will you bite me right here so there are real teeth marks?" he asked when I appeared in the doorway. I used the back of a makeup brush to make the teethmarks, which he then filled in with fake blood. After smearing some more fake blood on his forehead he was finally happy with his work and joined the rest of us outside for a picture. Then he and Wes ran up the street for their Halloween party while Ryan and I took the littles on a long slow walk to the houses on our street.

James was the most earnest Harry Potter that's ever Harry Pottered and Mary *was* Princess Anna. Wes, I'm pretty sure, could not see, but loved running up and shaking his pitch fork at people. He did a good job at staying with the group, possibly because he relied on them for crossing streets and avoiding storm drains.

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We joined the party for big kid trick or treating and mass confusion. This is the only picture I got of that. I think this is Wes and his buddy Chase.

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Which kid was with which family was pretty fluid throughout the evening, but serendipitously we all converged at a house around the corner around 8:30 and walked the rest of the way home together, our kids tired and our traditional travel coffee mugs full of beer depleted. I was bummed that Halloween was on a school night this year, after our giant blowout last year, but honestly, all that fun and I still got to go to bed at 9:30? Pretty perfect in my book!