Friday, May 27, 2016

So pretty much I'm working, thinking about work, and eating popsicles

Goodness, you guys. Apparently this summer I am not going to have time for either working out or keeping up with this blog. Which is why you haven't heard from me in two weeks and my butt is slowly turning back into the consistency of refrigerated cookie dough.

Classes are out for me and summer research has begun. My students and I kicked off the summer by traveling to Houston to learn to launch weather balloons. It was super fun and I learned a lot, but when I got back I found that Charley was NOT HAPPY about me being gone and was doing some acting out at school. This also manifested itself in kind of a squirrely weekend. There were some good moments--my friend's graduation party was really nice and fun, and the kids' piano recital was fantastic (even though I thought it was on Saturday, so we left the graduation party, changed the kids' clothes in the car, then spent enough time waiting in front of the piano teacher's house to get into a loud fight about being too loud, before going inside and realizing that we were supposed to actually be there on SUNDAY. Anyway, the actual recital was just the best. I love watching them be so proud of their hard work, and they really do work hard). But we had friends over for dinner Sunday evening and our kids were COMPLETELY OUT OF CONTROL. I was counting the SECONDS until they finished eating and could be banished to the back yard.

The kids' table. A harbinger of insanity to come.

Monday morning I took James to his kindergarten preview day, which was HYSTERICAL.


He was, like on eleven, which is normal, but when he ran into his best friend from preschool he went to a twenty-five. And when the principal came into the cafeteria to call all the "froggies" back he shrieked "BYE MOM!!!!" then ran crashing through the line of apprehensive kids, one of whom was sobbing in terror and hanging onto his mother's leg.

By the way. James was completely fine, but for some reason, probably related to travel and Charley and a bunch of other things, I was kind of a mess. And then the seniors paraded through the school in their graduation regalia and there was no kind of about it.

Also a mess? Mary. She moaned "I WANT MY BROTHER!" like a mantra for the entire PTO presentation until I finally removed her to the lobby, where she ran in tight circles yelling "FUNNY BUTT! FUNNY BUTT! FUNNY BUTT!"

She's a handful.

James came back and leaped into my arms. He hasn't stopped talking about kindergarten yet.

We celebrated with shirts-optional popsicles after dinner.

(Mary thinks everything is shirts-optional, including restaurants and church)

The kids had their Last! Day! Of! School! on Wednesday, which means I now officially have a 4th grader and a 2nd grader (phew!). I went to their class parties, partly because they wanted me to and mostly because their teachers are amazing and I wanted to thank them in person. I was glad I was there because they had an unexpected fire drill and had to evacuate the building until a HOOK AND LADDER firetruck pulled into the parking lot to give the all clear (it was all clear). Charley is really anxious about fire drills and Wes needed someone to hold the giant bowl of ice cream he'd just made for himself, so it was good for both that I was there.

The first day of summer break I woke the big kids up early so they could come to physical therapy with me. Then they spent an exciting day hanging out on campus with a new babysitter I arranged for sight unseen on Facebook (who was wonderful). The first thing they did was make mods on the catapults my students built this semester.


They also went for long scooter rides, watched a couple of movies on the big screen in a classroom, and had lunch in the dining hall. Best day ever. Today James joined us because he had a doctor's appointment in the morning and it just seemed easier to take him with us (verdict: kinda). It was raining so they began with a Dr. Who marathon then retired to the student lounge for board games and sub sandwiches that I brought in. Charley FINISHED THE LAST HARRY POTTER BOOK, they went for a long walk/scooter ride, they made some projects out of materials I scavenged from my office, played with my student's dog, interrupted multiple conversations, and then finally it was time to go. We spent the afternoon at our favorite hamburger/beer/playground place because THAT'S WHAT YOU DO AFTER ATTEMPTING TO BE A PROFESSIONAL WITH KIDS IN TOW FOR TWO DAYS. #leanin #toalcoholism

We have very light plans this weekend, which is really a misnomer because my actual plan is to REGAIN CONTROL OF THE HOUSE which has kind of suffered between my trip, a brief stomach bug that had me going to bed at the same time as the kids for two nights, and my summer research project, which renders me completely useless the moment I get home. Also the kids have a birthday party for a friend.

I'll leave you with this picture of Mary doing Mary things while I was attempting to work on piano with one of the big kids.


Wes took a selfie.


And OH, here's the view just outside my office door today. It was so sweet!


Monday, May 16, 2016

Root, root root for the home team!

I mean. How could a weekend that starts out with having ice cream with your buddies then running into a public fountain with your uniform pants on NOT be amazing (Fountain out of frame. We made them get on the stage for a picture with modest participation.).


Saturday was low key and rainy. Charley and I walked to Starbucks for some fresh air and a snack. Mary fell asleep on an end table while watching Power Rangers with Wes, who benefited from our laissez fair attitude to the tune of three hours of supervision-minimal Netflixing.


That evening we dropped the kids off at Kids Night Out at church and headed downtown to order everything on the menu at a fun hipster hot dog restaurant. Hairstyle courtesy of torrential downpour en route from parking spot to restaurant. That pretzel was unreal, but dipping it in sriracha aioli and queso was like a religious experience.


We still had plenty of room for bratwursts topped with pickled cabbage, grilled onions, and some kind of amazing orange sauce, though. And a basket of fries.


And enough cake to feed two families at our second stop.


Sunday morning Ryan had to leave early for choir. I dressed the twins like twins.


And traded smack-talk and pictures with friends who were participating in our First Annual Sunday School Softball Smackdown and Family Picnic event with me. I think all the name calling and yelling across the hallways really livened up the church experience this morning for everybody. I only hope any visitors who heard me call across the courtyard "FAITH, FAMILY, AND FELLOWSHIP YOU ARE GOING DOWN!!" or heard my friend Kelly yell back "WE ARE GOING TO KILL YOU, HOME IMPROVEMENT!!" took it in the spirit of fun that was intended.


Picnic and softball game were some serious ridiculous fun. Imagine a bunch of middle aged adults and kids, with a couple of ringers thrown in (apparently there is a super secret church softball team that I was not aware of), playing for glory on a tball sized field. In addition to the goofy factor, it was really, the best. All the adults cheering on the kids when they hit "singles" (one guy even scooped up Wes's grounder right as Wes ran past him, but feigned a hamstring injury so he "couldn't tag him. Lots of kids tagged out at third though, because WE PLAY TO WIN.) Lots of cheering. Lots of fun. Super-serious seven year old boys. Weekend warriors. Toddlers wandering onto the field shrieking "Mama! Mama! Mama!" James playing outfield. Charley and Wes tackling each other. Wes throwing his shoes in anger. We immediately decided it should be a bi-annual event instead of just an annual event. I'd go back right now if I could.



To make the day even better, Miss N (our old nanny) and Miss M came back to visit and we got to hang out with them all afternoon! I have missed them so much. It was just like old times. After the softball game we all went to Ryan's choir concert (We sat in the back, obviously. The kids were in NO MOOD) and then out for tacos together, which was a fitting and celebratory end to a really fun weekend. And now I am back at work getting ready to travel for two days, which I do not like to do, but am trying to focus on the positive, that ANOTHER WEEKEND will be here soon.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Takes a Village!

Charley has an iPod Shuffle (the little tiny kind with no screen) that he uses in the classroom to listen to classical music during independent work time to help him concentrate instead of getting progressively more anxious and distracted by hearing every little noise and conversation that is going on around him. His teacher and I decided to give it a try a couple of months ago after Ryan and I went to a talk called "The Teenaged Brain", given by a psychologist at our church, that led to some discussion about kids and music and how some kids who have trouble with anxiety or focus issues do better when the listen to headphones because of some brain function reason that was really cool but is escaping me at the moment.

His teacher is a wonderful, wonderful person who is in Charley's corner in every way (which is why when he tells me she yells a lot I say "And? She wants what's best for you so just DO WHAT SHE SAYS.") so when I suggested the iPod she was eager to give it a try. I bought one that night, loaded it with classical piano music (he requested Pachabel's Cannon specifically, but there is a big variety), and sent it in the next day. In his teacher's words "I have NEVER seen him concentrate like that before." And then the day I accidentally took his backpack to work and he didn't have he and the teacher both reported a big difference in his behavior and mood.


His teacher, who is wise and experienced, quickly added the iPod to his 504 so it would be ready to go when state testing time rolled around.

(Aside: why do we make it so complicated for kids to do the thing that works best for them? I mean. Do you use headphones at your desk? DO YOU HAVE TO FILL OUT A FORM AND REPORT THEM TO THE STATE?! I like to chew gum sometimes, do I report that to the legislature? This is silly.)

So Sunday night we went to charge Charley's iPod so that it would be ready for the first day of state testing on Monday ONLY TO FIND OUT that we cannot find his charger ANYWHERE. And it's not a normal iPod charger, it's a tiny thing with a USB on one end and a headphone jack on the other. And it is ONLY SOLD at the Apple Store, Best Buy, and online. Which is SO CONVENIENT when your primary hours for getting sh** done is from 9-10 PM the night before something is needed.

So Ryan went to Walmart (gasp!) to see if he could find something that would work. They had a funny little Bluetooth speaker that looked like an alien that had the necessary cord in the box! Hurray! As an extra bonus, its nipples flash when it plays music.


He plugged the iPod in using the new cord and all seemed to be well.

Until I got home from having dinner with the church ladies and discount shopping with my friend Jen at NINE FIFTEEN and learned that the new charger WAS NOT ACTUALLY WORKING and that the iPod was ALMOST OUT OF POWER.


Panic set in. Ryan started ransacking the house looking for the original charger, plugging the thing into alllll the different USB ports we have in the house, and pacing around the living room fretfully.

I unloaded the dishwasher and racked my brain for a solution and then it came to me.

So at nearly ten o'clock at night I posted appeals for iPod Shuffle chargers on our neighborhood Facebook group and our school Facebook group and also texted every friend I know whose husband works at Apple. By ten fifteen Ryan was on his way to Target and I was using all of the project management and logistic skills I learned leading the hurricane field project in grad school to manage the deluge of texts, FB messages, photos, and calls that ultimately led to leads on no fewer than TWO CHARGERS within ten minutes of our house. One was a friend from school and one was a total stranger in our neighborhood who told me he was going to bed but would put the charger in a baggie on his porch for us to pick up.

Several other friends texted me pictures of every charger they could find in case one of them was the right one.

So when Ryan called to tell me he had struck out at Target (even though the electronics employee I talked to on the phone assured me they carried the Shuffle even though THEY DID NOT) I texted him an address and he stopped to pick up the charger from Wes's friend Tommy's house at almost eleven o'clock. He plugged it in overnight and DAY TWO OF STATE TESTING WAS SAVED!

You guys. This proves two things. People are THE BEST. And shared hatred of state testing days is like a blackout or a tornado in the way it pulls communities together to work for the common good.

The takeaway is this: Multiple people sprang into action at ten o'clock on a Monday night to help make my kid's day easier--it means the world to me. A beautiful example of real community. I love where we live (and it's nice to use the community FB group for something other than complaining about people driving too fast and running stop signs, even though those things are super irritating).

Sunday, May 8, 2016

A little girly brunch fun and a lot of mud

Well! Other than the fact that I ended the day by closing James's bedroom door as he screamed viciously in my face "YOU DIDN'T CHANGE MY SHEETS YET!!" it was a pretty good weekend!

Today was a sweet, simple Mother's Day. My favorite yet! Charley made scrambled eggs for the family, Ryan contributed donuts and beautiful flowers and a card that all the kids signed. We ate breakfast together around the big table (usually we eat in the kitchen, with the kids at the counter and us standing up at the ready like footmen) then had a fighty ride to church. An hour apart for Sunday School was just what the doctor ordered and by the time we got to big church we met up with Ryan's mom and dad and had a nice time.

And then it was time to begin the awkward dance called Choosing Where To Eat After Church. This was considerably easier in our college town, where we lived for nine years, because the only question was "Are your parents in town?" (Olive Garden), "Are you feeling fancy?" (Chili's) or "Are you feeling poor?" (Sonic). Now there is a HUGE RANGE OF CHOICES. But today is the one day a year I decided to not apologize for having preferences and suggested a nice-ish brunch place that we never go to because there is always a wait and I am crowd averse when we go places with the kids. As it turns out, the wait was not really a big deal and lunch was amazing and totally worth it.

I mean. They managed to find a way to sneak a few extra calories into Eggs Benedict by replacing the English muffins with CRAB CAKES. OH YES THEY DID. As I said to the waitress, with a startling amount of enthusiasm, "Bring on the Hollandaise! There will be NO KALE on Mother's Day." I also had a frozen Bellini. It did not suck.

So nice to spend Mother's Day with Ryan's parents!

This place had TABLECLOTHS. It was the real deal.

Ryan and I were there too! Like the ski lodge motif? In the middle of Texas?

They had a guy making balloon animals. Light sabers for everyone! Wes COULD NOT BELIEVE how cool we were being. I blame the presence of the grandparents. And the Bellini.


I mean, what could possibly go wrong in a cross-table balloon light saber battle?



We spent the rest of the day lying around and cooking and letting the kids ignore their chores which will almost certainly come back to haunt them tomorrow when I step on a sticky bathroom floor and have a conniption.

Yesterday morning we decided based on peer pressure that it would be fun to participate in the Muddy Miler Family Fun Run. I didn't know much about it except that it was only one mile long, featured lots of mud obstacles, and was free, which was more than enough motivation to get everyone in the car by 7:45 on a Saturday morning.

We took a before picture on the way to the start. You cannot see any of the obstacles at this point.


After waiting in line for about a half-hour, we ended up at the starting line. They blew the horn and all admonitions to stay together as a family went right out the window. Wes took off like a shot, leading the entire pack of adults and kids all the way to the first obstacle, which was probably about half a mile. Charley and I were about halfway back and Ryan, James, and Mary were limping along at two-year-old speed in the back. Charley and I caught up with Wes at the top of the first obstacle, which was a giant slip and slide down a hill into a thigh-deep mud hole. Wes had already gone down and was climbing back up the hill to go again. Charley flung himself down as soon as we got there. It took me a few seconds to overcome my body's strong "WTF" reaction but I finally slid down into the mud. You guys. It was the GROSSEST FEELING. But not nearly as gross as attempting to RUN with shoes, BRA, AND UNDERPANTS full of mud.

It was absolutely as fun as it was disgusting.

The next obstacle was chest high wooden hurdles in the middle of another mud pit. I flung myself over them and boosted Wes over them one after the other. It was absolutely the most athletic thing I've ever done. Ryan later told me that Mary tripped and fell into just the EDGE of that mud, stood up, looked at her muddy hands in HORROR, then looked at him, then refused to participate any further, begrudgingly following along behind and walking around the sides of all the obstacles. Charley was an entire obstacle ahead of us having the TIME of his LIFE.

The next obstacle was waist-deep mud troughs full of ice that you could not see until you were in it. It was special. Then was the thing where you have to army crawl across an area the size of a tennis court on your belly in thick mud. It was surprisingly slippery and hard, especially because I was holding a pair of kids' shoes in each hand. Wes did it three times while we waited for Ryan and the little kids to catch up. The last few obstacles were the muddy tire run, climb up the muddy rock wall, ford the small muddy river, and scale mud mountain then slide down the other side (this one was called the Final Assault).

I lost the kids multiple times because I could not see their faces nor the faces of any other similar sized boy-child in the whole place. When Charley smiled you could tell it was him because of his lone, pearly white, front tooth.

It was easy to find Mary because she was still clean and usually standing off to the side, regarding us with a bored scowl.

The after picture:

Mary denies that she has a family at all. Refuses to show face in picture alongside total idiots.


I would do it again right now.

The punchline to all of this is that we were attending my mother-in-law's choir concert immediately after the mud race. I thought we would have time to go home and shower first, but it took longer than expected, so we ended up changing everyone in the car after washing off as best we could in the sprinkler stations (me, James, and Mary) and the lake (Ryan, Charley, Wes). We did a pretty good job, but Mary looked like a street urchin and Ryan used the time we spent in the hamburger line at the concert to scratch chunks of mud off the backs of my arms. But at least I'd remembered to pack a dress!

I found mud in Wes's ear while we were at church this morning and Mary fell asleep for the night at five PM. A good weekend.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Brain Break

(Do your kids do Brain Breaks at school? They close their eyes and listen to a chime until they can't hear it anymore, then they focus on their breathing, then they listen to the chime again before opening their eyes. I saw it in action the other day when I talked to second graders about the water cycle and it was MAGIC how much it calmed them down (or "helped their amygdalas or PFCs or something regain control, which is how Wes explained it to me). I downloaded a yoga chime app on my phone and have tried to make them do it in the car with middling success.)

What I am doing right now is trying really, REALLY hard to do the things I am supposed to do (work: get ready for next week's arrival of summer research students by reading fourteen frillion journal articles, answer email about grade (student: why did I get an A when I should have gotten an A+? me: makes gun shape with hand, aims at own temple), or at LEAST straighten up the house).

Nothing remarkable about this week except that classes are over!! And grades are in!! And now I have a crapton of work to do to get ready for summer student research, but even that is seeming more possible by the day after a great couple of meetings yesterday. And OH, how did I forget to tell you about how NO MATTER WHAT I DO, A KID IS MAD AT ME ALMOST ALL THE TIME. This is especially fun at pickup time when one kid wants to stay at afterschool until six and one kid would rather not go at all. And then I go get the little kids who are annoyed that I picked them up too late/picked them up before snack/interrupted playground time/why can't I just stay home all day? Kids are unknowable enigmas, what a special treat the three to four o'clock hour is!

What I am actually doing right now is trying really hard not to get distracted by every passing thought that flies through my head.  Like: I really need to build that crafty Pinteresty bulletin board out of leftover scrap wood from the kitchen that totally looks amazing in my head.  I should do that right now.  Or: I wonder if friend X and Y would like to go to Trader Joe's with me to buy All of the Carbs.  So it's Friday, in other words.

Yesterday I had an early meeting at the campus I usually go to on Mondays, which is pretty far away through a normally bad-traffic area, so I went Full Adult and got up at 5:30, showered and put on professional clothing, then left my house at 6:00.  I was right in the middle of patting myself on the back after arriving and finding an awesome parking space at 6:40 when Ryan texted to ask "Are the kids backpacks in your car?"  To which I responded "Shiiiiiiiiitt."  Because:


GUESS WHAT THOUGH!  One day of walking sheepishly into school carrying a grocery store bag full of lunch seems to have cured them of ignoring my instructions to TAKE YOUR BACKPACK INSIDE AND HANG IT UP.  Life lessons. They will forget again on Monday.

Last night Ryan and I went to a mixer of parents, faculty, and administrators for the big kids' school.  It was very fun and nice and they even had good beer and sangria, which was a pleasant surprise.  I introduced myself to some of the wonderful people who make the school such a great place (not the people associated with discipline issues, they are also wonderful but we already know each other very well).  We talked for a long time to Charley's teacher and the teacher who does his math tutoring on Tuesday afternoons who both talked at length about what a crazy-insane-funny-cool kid he is (even as we all cringed through a couple of the more stressful (to me) anecdotes about his old-man-level sarcasm that isn't always appropriate in a classroom setting OMG). Hahahaha, but seriously. Thanks for all you do (makes large, knowing eyes face).

Today the kids took flowers to their teachers. Wes chose red roses and got enough for his current teacher as well as his kindergarten teacher, which is about the Wes-y-est Wes thing that's ever been done.


James chose a more traditional springtime bouquet.


And now I am going to get back to it so I don't hate myself on Monday morning! TGIF!