Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Come on ride the train

One thing my little suburbanite kids think is fascinating is public transportation. Of course, our trip to New York City last summer with its hours spent on the subway has dampened their enthusiasm somewhat, but Going On the Train is still a reliable way to kill two air conditioned hours for relatively little money.

Our plan was to get on by our house, ride a few stops to meet some friends, then ride the rest of the way into downtown, where we would eat hot dogs for lunch at our favorite hot dog place, fart around for a few minutes, then get back on the train home.

The friend we were meeting had an errand to run about a mile and a half from the train station, so we decided to throw in a few bus rides too, just to spice things up and/or add some variety to our Pokemon rosters.

Between the two of us there were seven children. SEVEN CHILDREN.


Lunch was predictably loud and fun and though they put us in our own little side room so as not to bother the business lunchers, that didn't stop us from sitting RIGHT NEXT TO a pair of men who were having a very official sounding conversation as the kids jostled for ketchup bottles and repeatedly slammed the vintage porch glider into the hipster metal coffee table. BANG BANG BANG.


You should have heard the commotion when all six boys went to the men's room.

After lunch we walked a block to the bus stop where I became so flustered with the ticket reader that the driver just sighed, pushed a series of buttons, and let me on. The kids were already on the bus getting yelled at by a wild eyed old man with a huge beard, torn jeans, and a white tank top. In this town that means he was either homeless or a tech-billionaire. Either way he was screaming at the kids to get to the back of the bus and hold onto the handles FTLOG. I just smiled at the kids like "Wow guys you almost NEVER get yelled at by a stranger when we're in our van!"

But they did hang on tight to the handles.


We had some time to kill while we figured out the second half of our route, so the kids read the student newspaper and milled around talking about how hot it was.


Ultimately, after a phone call to the bus people and several minutes comparing routes on the bus app, we gave up on figuring out where to get the next bus and decided to walk the mile to the school where my friend had to turn in her work.

We had to stop halfway there for second lunch.


But it was a pretty walk through an old neighborhood. When I mused aloud "Wow, look at all these pretty houses. What do you think it would be like to live here?" James responded "I'm so hot I might die."

When we finally arrived at the community college we terrorized the student lounge for half an hour (free air conditioning and water bottle refills!) then went back outside to figure out how we were going to get back to the train station. Twenty more minutes waiting (fighting) in the sun and we were back on the bus heading for our train.


Unfortunately, due to construction, the bus didn't stop at the train station and instead continued about two tenths of a mile past it and dropped us off at an intersection I've heard mentioned on the evening news. My friend looked at me, "I think we overshot the gentrification" she said. Indeed.

Pro: There was a Sonic there. It was daytime.
Con: There was a hypodermic needle on the sidewalk and a BULLET IN THE SONIC PICNIC AREA.

I know I live in Texas, but I am not accustomed to encountering AMMO while ordering a cherry limeade. My liberal guilt was at odds with my desire to GTF out of there as quickly as possible.

I was happy to get back on the train, not least because it was air conditioned and I knew that on the other side was my VAN where I could strap all the children down and not have to worry about anyone wandering off for the whole ten minute drive home.

While I was distracted folding up the stroller the kids all sat down next to this woman who apparently hates children, judging by the way she shot me dirty looks every time one of the kids so much as spoke or shifted their position. I wasn't feeling particularly sympathetic to her attitude because the kids weren't doing anything wrong (which was honestly kind of a surprise). I ignored her attempts to shame me into...I don't know... moving four kids to another part of the crowded, moving train to suit her preference that she gets four seats all to herself...and chatted softly with the kids about all the fun things we had done that day.


Fortunately she had gotten off before Mary crawled under the table and peed on the floor.

The kids are already asking to go on the train again.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Every day we're summering

Summer, actual summer, with the endless unstructured time and the hundred degree temperatures and the wasps, has been a bit intense. The first two days were freaking magical, with swimming! And projects! And the candy store!

And we'll get back to that after I tell you about yesterday, when I had to leave the grocery store with the horrified stares of a hundred old ladies boring into the back of my head after Charley and Wes had an EPIC, Maury Povich-style fight in front of the dairy refrigerator.

It all started when Wes got pissed because Mary wouldn't share her last two jellybeans with him. Important information is that one of those jellybeans I had just rescued from underneath the tire of a Jeep that was parked beside us because I couldn't deal with the bitching anymore. Also relevant is the fact that Wes had a LITERAL QUARTER POUND JAWBREAKER that he'd bought at the candy store. AT THE CANDY STORE WHERE FUN-MOM TOOK HIM.

So because Wes was disappointed that he couldn't eat a single parking lot jelly bean, he decided he could no longer walk. I called his bluff and eventually he caught back up to us, but crawled into the dog food shelf of the cart while I was distracted. I let him stay down there until he started deliberately sticking his foot out and making the cart jerk to a halt, flinging Mary against the side of the cart every time. So I made him get out and walk. He parked himself in poultry and refused to walk for several minutes before catching up to us at a run and diving Mission Impossible-style back under the cart. I dragged him out. He dove back in. I tried to move the cart. He jammed his foot down. I pulled him out. Charley grabbed him by the shoulders and tried to pull him away. This (surprise!) led to a riotous shoving fight and when I tried to push the cart away from them, Charley pushed Wes in front of the cart and I accidentally ran over his foot.

Mary banged her head hard on the side of the cart and started screaming. Wes started hopping around screaming about his foot. Time stood still. People were LITERALLY STARING at the spectacle with mouths agape.

I blurted out "JESUS CHRIST" as I scooped Mary and my purse and my shopping list out of my cart, just to up the klassy quotient a few more notches. Then I turned on my heel and left the entire cart filled with a week's groceries just sitting there in the middle of the floor.

Our exit was not quite as dramatic as I'd hoped because we had to wait for Wes to hop pitifully to the front of the store.

There was some classy parking lot yelling after that and then we went home for a disappointing lunch and some awkward silence.

Later that afternoon was deee-lightful because James and Mary took a nap and Charley and Wes are old enough to know when they've gone waaaaay too far. They even worked together to hang a birdhouse in a tree.

This morning we tried again and everyone was much more cooperative. Until we got to checkout. Oy.



So. Let's see. What else have we been up to? Possibly our most successful day was when we went to a cute little garden cooking class in the town where I teach. I dropped off the boys and Mary and I went to have cupcakes with a friend. The class turned out to be really fun and of course cupcakes are delicious. After that we had a hamburger lunch and then spent three hours swimming in a river. I mean. It was pretty much perfect.




When we got home, James and Mary fell asleep, Wes turned on a movie, I started working on my quilt, and Charley whipped up a batch of kolasczki.


We kept trying to have fun the rest of the week too, with mixed results.

3D IMAX movie about the International Space Station? Good.


Candy store? Good. Kind of fighty, but fine.


Hanging around downtown eating candy and watching people play Pokemon? Nice.


Chinese food with friends? Food was good. Having sushi with Charley was fun. But Mary KICKED A BOWL OF SOUP OFF THE TABLE.


Trader Joes was weirdly fun.


And the cookie White House kit was hysterical.


Reading library books and topless splash pad on the square time was lovely.


Somehow this happened in our back yard.


I finished my quilt (after some sweary drama with a broken needle). I am super excited about this. Ryan hung it up over our stairs and it makes me really happy to see it when I walk downstairs.


Saturday morning Ryan sensed astutely that I was teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown (this was just hours after the soup-kicking incident) and suggested I get out alone for a few hours. I went to a yoga class, had lunch at a nice taco place, got a giant brownie, went to a hipster knitting store where they helped me start a new project, then went to our fancy grocery store to hang out on the deck and knit and ran into my friend Cindy. We hung out for an hour while her kids were on the playground. It was the PERFECT DAY. Then I went home and Ryan had planned a picnic by the river, which was also very nice.


Sunday afternoon we had a family nap and then went downtown to see the free summer musical, Shrek. It was THE BEST. It was the latest we have ever kept the kids out and I totally paid for it on Monday, but it was SO MUCH FUN. First, the play exceeded my wildest expectations. It was fantastic and hilarious. Second, the kids, even Mary, were TRANSFIXED. Mary loved Princess Fiona and the dragon, who was played by a woman with beautiful magenta wings. Charley was on his feet DANCING along with the last song. Charley. Was. Dancing. Wes got Shrek's autograph. I loved every minute of it. I gushed the whole way home. Ryan had fun too but I'm not sure he was as infatuated as I was considering he had to be at work nine hours after we got in the car to come home. I wonder if we can go again.


Also after the musical I had a scary dream that ISIS blew up a hotel room I was staying in because they didn't like me teaching climate. Couldn't really sleep after that. I should stop reading NPR before bed. Between the kids' late night and my sleepless one I guess the Showdown in the Milk Aisle was inevitable but it was still worth it.

Today was lovely and calm and featured a two hour midday break with Y childcare and lunch with a friend. I took them to the pool after naps and felt all the warm fuzzies watching them play.


Three weeks left and then I will probably miss them like crazy.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

If "We Didn't Start the Fire" was a travelogue

So... we were in Maine last week. And it was complete magical fun, just like it was last year, and we returned home looking like extras from a church basement production of Oliver Twist, also like last year. It took twenty-five donut holes for the kids to stop sniffling on the way to the airport and I still get kind of vercempt when I think about how much I miss it already.

We've really nailed the packing thing, though. Everyone but Mary got a backpack and we carried EVERYTHING on the plane.

There is a method to this madness.

Our first stop was to LL Bean to buy James his backpack for kindergarten. HE WAS SO EXCITED.


And you guys, I really should have written a few posts in the middle of the trip because I am left with about two-hundred pictures and a sort of hazy contented feeling when I look at them that is difficult to transform into a witty narrative. The kids were so happy and my parents made everything so easy and fun for us... it really was a relaxing break. I will attempt to cover most of it now.

We spent a whole lot of time doing this:




Charley really upped his fishery game this year, catching five mackerel on the first day and innumerable crabs and two lobsters. He kept them all in the lobster car so he could observe them then let them go before bed every night. Every morning he would race through breakfast then bolt out the front door, calling behind him "I'm going to go check my traps!" That kid is a one-man Robert McClosky book.


Also, Mary is a dead ringer for Little Jane in "One Morning in Maine."


One day I got overwhelmed trying to keep track of everyone in the ocean and forced them all to spend thirty minutes of quiet time working at the table. Results were mixed.


I emailed with my research students and edited their abstracts from the porch.


We did some sailing.





Ryan and the boys swam and Mary got so excited she jumped right into the freezing water and LOVED it.


We walked to the store to get donuts. Some of us wore jammies.


We went to the Pemaquid Point Light for the annual climbing of the death rocks.



Wes loves the death rocks.


More death rocks. Not pictured: nearby death waves that have actually killed people (as indicated by the colorful and explicit warning signs that greet you in the parking lot). It's all very perilous and exciting.


James was finally tall enough to climb up the lighthouse tower! He was THRILLED.


Charley and Wes added some rock sculptures to the collection on the beach before we left.


We stopped to buy lunch and hats (the three boys needed them for camp and Mary likes to be part of the gang) for everyone in a town on the way back.


James made friends with a boy next door. They swam together and showed each other their rooms before settling in for some Traffic Jam.


The kids were in the town kids' costume parade. I think we did a pretty good job slapping together costumes with thirty minutes notice!



The kids went to camp again. They COULD NOT WAIT for camp to start. They have been talking about it since last year's session ended. We were so excited we had to walk down there after church and check out the sailboats.


Part of the fun is waiting out front for our friends to walk by so we can walk with them.


When we returned to camp to pick everyone up, the big story of the day was that Wes and his friend L had CAPSIZED A ROWBOAT and had to be plucked out of the water by the sailing director in a motorboat. The camp director used the word "learning experience". Wes helpfully used the emergency whistle they'd tied to his lifejacket for just such an occasion. He was most excited that he got to have hot chocolate after changing his clothes. Have I told you how much I love this camp?

I thought it was hilarious when I picked them up that Charley had not used his towel at all (despite that day being the day of the swimming test), James had hung his up neatly, and Wes's was nowhere to be found. This makes perfect sense.


I was feeling all relaxed and vacation-y, so I made their lunches cute.


And while they were gone Ryan and Mary and I LIVED it UP. We went to breakfast a couple of times, went on a brewery tour, took naps, went to the farmers' market, and took a sailing cruise around the islands with my mom that was so incredibly fun as to not be in any way diminished by the surly captain and the cranky preschooler (these things may have been related).





We took a hike through the woods that we'd never done before. We will be doing this again. The trail winds through some woods and occasionally juts out onto a rock outcrop with a sweeping view of the ocean. Also the most athletic thing I've done in weeks, at six tenths of a mile.


Another benefit of camp that I never want to forget? The way they came home and INHALED their dinner (like, three to four adult-sized plates of food each), played outside for thirty minutes, and then CRASHED AS IF UNCONSCIOUS for twelve hours. It was like nothing I've ever seen.

This is how I woke up every morning. You don't even want to know what time this is.


We had a boat ride dinner picnic.


And some other boat rides.


The PIRATES CAME and left treasure on the roof! Favorite moment, when the kids all came running up the dock, not having found the clue they were looking for, only to round the corner and see it hanging on the handrail of the dock and yelling "YARRRRRRRR!!!!"


Towards the end of the week the weather got cold and the kids had to bundle up for the walk to camp. They were extra huggable in their fleeces.


I talked to the campers about how meteorology affects sailing conditions. The kids had a LOOOOTTT of questions. The fourteen year old lobsterman who'd talked before me wanted to know if it was hard to get funding to study climate science in a GOP-controlled congress. That was unexpected!


There were beach s'mores.


And some kind of creature was trapped in this bucket.


On the last day of camp, which was the last full day of our visit, we just could not say goodbye to our friends once we got to our house. We had stopped in a meadow on the walk home so the kids could run around. Then the kids chased Ryan's car on foot in a screaming pack, waving six-foot long cattails over their heads. They looked like the Lost Boys running after Captain Hook. We just couldn't say goodbye then so they came over for a boat ride and dinner and a bottle of wine. It was still cool outside so we made beef stew and popovers. The kids were loud and happy and funny and I was so happy to be in that moment, a cozy dinner, tons of people around the table (all if us, my parents, out friends), lots of happy laughter and stories (and LOUD little boys). It was a wonderful sendoff and we cannot wait to go back.


Like literally, the kids are already asking when it's time to go back.