Thursday, August 25, 2016

Kind of a mess, a microcosm of my schedule at the moment

Well this week has been a fascinating science experiment into just how long you can go without washing your hair before it starts to turn into dreadlocks. For now, the answer seems to be three days, but given that yesterday I attempted to smooth some flyaways with my phemolient while standing behind my car in the university parking lot, a decision I regretted immediately when instead of sticking down a few errant hairs it turned the crown of my head into a sticky oil slick, I think I could probably go longer under the right conditions.

(I fully intended to shower yesterday, after my six AM rowing workout but before my nine AM meeting. I had a towel and shampoo and everything. And then I got some bad information about when the campus fitness center opens for the year and ended up having to change into my skinny jeans and top in the back of my car, perched painfully on James's booster seat and praying no one I knew walked past my windshield while I was locked in a sweaty life and death struggle with my sports bra.)

I could have taken a shower last night after bedtime, but that would have been 9:30 at night and I don't like sleeping with wet hair slash I am lazy.

So I tacked on one more day and took a shower at the Y after I worked out. Clean hair feels amazing.

The semester has started for one of my classes! There are forty-two kids packed into a classroom designed for about thirty, but we had fun on the first day! Today is the second day. It's a class I've taught before and I plan out the whole chapter at once, which means Tuesdays require lots of time but Thursdays are easier. I also have a research meeting with my summer student and have to plan activities for the elementary school garden club meeting tomorrow afternoon.

All this to say that I went from a whole lot of lounging around the swimming hole and eating cupcakes in July to two classes, a twice-weekly, two-hour rowing workout, a research project, and leading the garden group in August. Yesterday I drank approximately 10,000 mg of caffeine and no water.

Also, this week Ryan has been going to parents' nights at the kids' school, which is good because already at two weeks into the semester I feel like I can't look two of the teachers in the eye, but bad because that means three nights of being completely on my own between pickup and bedtime. Thank goodness I had already planned to serve pizza for dinner last night because James screamed at me nonsensically the whole drive home from school and I just wasn't feeling especially like a protein and two sides after all of that. While the big boys were in ordering the pizza I pulled screaming James into my lap, pushed his head against my heart and told him I loved him (this was the third thing I tried after screaming back and turning up the radio, so don't think I have this gentle parenting thing figured out, you probably already knew that though). He immediately stopped screaming and started sobbing into my shirt. Sounds like kindergarten is a little overwhelming. Or he's a drunk college woman.

Today is the last parents' night but our new sitter is doing pickup and I will have time to stop at the store and buy something reasonably respectable for dinner. And then tomorrow is Friday and NEXT WEEK my other class begins and things will really get interesting. It is a new class in a new discipline and, GULP, it's going to be OK. Right? Other things that start next week include piano and choir and the end of any semblance of cleanliness or order my house ever had. See you on the other side!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Car Odyssey 2016

One of the things that is tricky at our school is the car line. Since the first day the school FB community has been lit up with people complaining about the car line, people making suggestions about how to make the car line better and chipper posts about how hard everyone is working to make the car line as good as it can be CAR LINE CAR LINE CAR LINE. And it's been getting better and smoother as all those kindergartners, who until last week were spending their afternoons watching Daniel Tiger and sucking their thumbs with their loveys, get used to the paramilitary operation known as "GET IN THE CAR AND PUT ON YOUR SEATBELT GO GO GO!"

Which is why it was so mortifying when yesterday, just as the line started to move, I tried to turn on my car and move forward and... click click click...



Once I realized what was happening, I responded quickly, jumping out of my car and running around in circles, making incoherent gestures with my arms.

Then I tried to do the thing where you put it in neutral and push against the door. It wouldn't budge and started rolling backwards towards another car. So I put it back in park and approached the lady in the car behind mine, to ask if she would mind pushing on my bumper with her car, so that I could roll it forward into a parking place. And then when I got back into my car to put it in neutral, a crowd of four or five ladies materialized behind my car and pushed it just far enough that I could get it into the parking spot. Sideways. Sticking out a little.

The fifth grade teacher who manages the car line approached while I was on the phone leaving a message for Ryan (he must just love seeing my name pop up on his screen. MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY CAR IS DEAD IN PICKUP LINE AND I AM BEING PUBLICLY HUMILIATED) and tried to move it forward a little more but I spazzed out and couldn't remember how to get it in neutral and he seemed to notice that I was on the edge and let it go.

He suggested I abandon the car and and get Charley on foot (Charley was the only kid I was picking up, since he had a doctor's appointment and Wednesday is the day the kids are supposed to go to the afterschool program, you see how I had a nice little plan?), but while I was on my way there, I ran into my friend M, who was behind me in line. I hastily explained to her that my car was a no good POS doorstop bad word bad word bad word and she told me to "Get in! I've got room!"

I was so relieved! She even told me she'd drive us to Charley's appointment, which gave me time to figure out how to get the other kids and get to Ryan to borrow his car for the afternoon. We had a nice time waiting to get the kids, listening to Hamilton and chatting.

Except I did have to get out and run across the parking lot twice. Once to go get my car number out of my car so they would give me my kid and once to try and close the windows, which I was worried about because I figured the battery was dead and also a freaking tropical storm was looming nearby on radar.

And then we got to the front of the car line (CARLINE!). The fifth grade teacher saw us in the car together and cracked up. "That's gonna be a LOT OF KIDS" he said.

He was not that laughy and jokey when he realized that Charley was nowhere to be found. I blurted out through the open window "But I SENT THE EMAIL! They said they GOT IT." My friend's kids were jumping up and down yelling "Charley was here! He went back inside!"

So, because I am the best friend ever, my friend M had to pull over to the side with her kids and then wait while I walked inside to retrieve Charley, who had been sent to the afterschool program by a teacher who saw him and assumed he had just lost his way.

Finally, we were all in my friend's car. She took us to Charley's appointment, dropped off the other little girl she picks up for carpool, and came back to get us where she had to wait for us with her own kids for thirty minutes because our appointment was behind. Then she drove us all the way back past the school and up to Ryan, who was waiting with his car. Then I used Ryan's car to go get the other kids and we went to a pizza place to kill some time before we had to pick up Ryan.

After dinner it had stopped raining so we went back to the school to hang out on the playground until it was time to pick Ryan up. I stopped by my stupid dead car and tried to start it and YOU WILL NEVER GUESS.

Freaking car started.

So I had all the kids switch cars (left Ryan's car awkwardly parked sideways in the middle of the driveway because I wasn't willing to turn off my car only to find out it wouldn't start again and I only have one set of keys)--Mary was shrieking gleefully "Mama's car is NOT BROKEN!!"--and drove it to the shop around the corner, handed them the keys and my phone number, and walked the four kids across three terrifying parking lots back to the school playground, where we stayed until they called and said they'd replaced the battery and it was ready to go.

Normally when Ryan takes the car to the shop he spends a few minutes making it presentable first. I dropped off my van filled to the ceiling with workout clothes, bras, fast food cups, kids' backpacks, and an entire pizza in a box on the passenger seat. Also I was wearing this shirt I have that is constantly unbuttoning itself. I'm not going to say that's why he comped me the "anticorrosion package", but I mean.

We walked back across all the death parking lots completely covered in mud and sand from the playground, used their bathroom times five, then left to go pick Ryan up. Ryan was standing cheerfully on the sidewalk waiting for us like when Dorothy wakes up after the tornado and Auntie Em has no idea about all the wild adventures she's been on. The kids bickered all the way back to school to get the other car so Charley and I drove Ryan's car home, blasting the radio and yell-singing along with all of our Hamilton friends.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Rowing class. And RAIN!

So I'm taking a rowing class. It meets at six o'clock in the morning Mondays and Wednesdays and even though I have to leave the house when it is dark and everyone else is asleep I am completely in love.

Yesterday I did a makeup class for the one I missed on the first day of school and due to a miscommunication I ended up in a more advanced class than mine, which meant that instead of rowing on the ergs or in the barge (which is essentially a paddleboat with oars), I went out in an "eight", which is one of those long skinny boats for eight rowers that you may have seen on the Olympics.

The first thing you do is haul boat out of the boathouse, carry it to the dock, and then put it in the water. This is complicated by the fact that there are oarlocks and outriggers and all manner of things sticking out of the sides of the boat and the fact that the boat weighs two hundred and forty pounds and is approximately a hundred feet long. They also like to remind you that it cost fifty-thousand dollars and is extremely fragile.

There were several moments during this operation that I was worried that I was going to be the one to drop the boat. This did not happen. I learned later that part of the problem was that I (5'10") was standing next to a woman who was a good six inches shorter than me, meaning I was holding almost all of mine and her weight combined. When we put the boat away I found two dudes about my height and it was much, MUCH better.

When we got the boat all into the water I noticed that the horizon was filled with dark, heavy storm clouds. By the time we got the oars in and then all the people in (all of this is done in unison, directed by commands from the coach, who yells at you with a bullhorn the entire time, which is reassuring, in an unexpected way), the sky directly above us was filled with purple mammatus clouds and we could see rain in the distance.

What I did not know at the time is that we were about to be under that orange and yellow area near the "A" in Austin seen on the radar image below. Not ideal boating weather, you guys.


Through the bullhorn our coach assured us that as long as there was no lightning that we were perfectly safe.

I wasn't prepared for the amount of wobble the boat was doing as we made our way across the lake to get started. Probably also the forty mile per hour wind that kicked up as we left the dock was making it worse. But when everything settled down and the stern pair (I was in the bow seat, where they put the newbs, from what I understand) started to row, we started sliding through the water SO FAST.

We kept rowing faster and faster through what turned out to be a torrential downpour. Cheering together when it rained harder. Sliding under bridges. Putting my glasses back on fourteen times a minute. Taking turns rowing and setting (stabilizing) the boat for the other rowers. Totally ignoring the water sliding down my back and pooling in my seat and the area around my feet.

Under the bridges water fell on us from forty feet above in huge showers of highway runoff like one of those tipping bucket features at a kiddie pool. The rain fell harder until we couldn't hear the coach yelling at us. Whoever managed to hear what he'd said yelled it out for everyone else. After about thirty minutes we turned around and rowed back to the rowing center, where it started to THUNDER. The director of the rowing center was waiting for us when we got there, apparently concerned about the boat full of beginners that was cruising around in a thunderstorm. When we picked up the boat to take it back inside and held it upside down over our heads we were treated to one last shower of dirty bilge water. I was glad I had waited to put my shoes back on.

It sounds really hard and uncomfortable, but you guys I am HOOKED. My favorite part is the way all you have to do is listen to the coach and do *just your oar*. Do you know how often I get to focus on *just one thing*? Never. Never is the answer. All I had to do was just focus on what my oar was doing and making sure I was in time with the person in front of me. And even with my boat full of beginners and the way my side of the boat would occasionally dip down and make it so my oar would get stuck under the water, it was FAST and FUN. I loved it. Every second. Except when I lost my concentration for a second and smashed my fingers between my oar and the gunnel. That's one thing I learned: never stop concentrating.

I was really wet when we got back.


Like really, super, wring out your underpants and socks kind of wet. I had to blast the heat in the car on the way home. And although I felt awesome when I got in the car, by the time I got home I was stiff and tired as can be. I dragged myself inside, made dinner with Ryan, ate, got the kids to bed, and conked out at 9:30. Which is good because I had to leave my house at 5:10 to go BACK to the rowing center for my regular class.

It was raining again but since it was raining AND dark, we stayed in and worked on the ergs. I erged for two hours. That was also fun. I think what I've been missing from my workout routine is someone yelling at me and telling me what to do. Is this why people like to play sports? Next class is on Wednesday and the forecast calls for more rain, but we've been promised a trip out on an "eight" again unless there is lightning and I cannot WAIT. <

Friday, August 12, 2016

Just a quick load of laundry

I have discovered the secret to feeling pretty: Spend six weeks with your precious darlings, taking hasty showers only at night when they are asleep and certainly not every day, wear the same workout capris and tshirts for days at a time, spend your days coated in thick sunscreen, sweat through your clothes every single day--and THEN, get ready for WORK! Take a decadent MORNING shower! Put on a DRESS and BLOW DRY YOUR HAIR.

Instantly went from washed up meth hag to thirty something professional. Could not stop looking in the mirror. That was yesterday. Today I am back in workout clothes because I had a breakfast meeting of the garden committee for the kids' school and now I am working at home.

And as you know, working from home is just code for procasticleaning. And today I procrasticleaned the shit (literal?) out of the kids' mudroom/backpack/sweatshirt/school supply cubby thing in our kitchen.

It was one of those "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" situations.

I need to start a load of laundry to wash Mary's lovey and James's school pants that were covered in mud after they had a cute but kind of annoying fit of gardening in the ten minutes before we had to leave for school.

To get to the laundry room I had to walk past the tote bag full of airplane activities that was waiting to be unpacked from our summer travel (five weeks ago, naturally).

When I got UNO and SkipBo out of the bag and put them with the other card games, I thought it would be nice to have a bin to store the card games in and thought "Oh, there will be an extra bin if I consolidate some of the art supplies in the cubbies!"

When I went to consolidate the art supplies I found one of the bins to be full (FULL) of FESTERING BLUE WATER. OMG HORK. The smell was....not good. And I have no idea where the water came from.

Then I had to finish consolidating the art supplies (which did not end up leading to an extra bin because I had to throw away the aforementioned bin of soupy pond water, I'm sure I'll be getting in trouble for this later), which meant I had to move around some of the activity books, which meant I had to finally confront the eight inch stack of who knows what that came home on the last day of school IN MAY.

Then I had to sort all the crayons and colored pencils and markers into separate bins and put all those back in the cubby where I found ANOTHER cache of school materials from last year.

When I moved THOSE, I found dirt, rocks, and mud all over the bottom shelf of the backpack area, so I had to wipe that down.

Which meant I had to sweep.

And then when I threw the rag from the wiping down of the shelf into the washer I remembered vaguely that I needed to start a load of laundry for some reason.

So I gathered all the laundry from upstairs and started a load of laundry.

And then walked across the kitchen to see Mary's lovey and James's shorts soaking in sudsy water in the sink.


(They are in the laundry now)

And then I suddenly remembered my lonely laptop and textbooks and tea all sitting waiting for me on the kitchen table while I "started a quick load of laundry".

In other news, the kids seem to be doing well at school. By that I mean holding it together all day and having a really good time and then dissolving into emotional puddles the second the van door clicks closed. Wes sobbed the whole way home yesterday about a million different little-ish things that I couldn't quite make out. James screamed about how he wanted to "tear his whole face off" because I wouldn't let him go see the neighbor girl (who it out of town) for quite a long time while I was making dinner before sneaking off to his room and falling asleep in his bed at 4:45. Charley rode his bike to a friend's house to find him not home then came home and stormed around the house complaining until dinner was ready.

They all felt much better after dinner (except James who slept through until morning except for waking briefly around seven confused that it was not morningtime, eating a light dinner of yogurt and apple bread, and falling back to sleep quickly) and I thought about some family Olympics watching, but no. Early bedtimes for everyone!

TGIF though. T.G.I.F.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

School is going to seem awfuly sedate after all this nonsense

It seems like just yesterday that I was having a huge screamy tantrum about how I can't take the kids anywhere without one of them having a huge screamy tantrum and now already it is the last day of summer. We have really blown it out (in a good way) these last two weeks and today I had planned an epic finish, with a bike ride, some swimming in a natural swimming hole, yummy lunch, and whatever else struck our fancy, but then I came downstairs after planning it all on my phone to find Charley wrapped in a quilt on the couch with a cold that I can no longer write off as allergies. When Charley doesn't get excited about swimming holes, you know he is really miserable.

So I'm feeling a bit melancholy about the end of summer and I can't distract myself with an exhausting, ridiculous 100 degree bike ride around the lake. Bummer.

But that's OK because we had a really really ridiculous amount of fun last week, AKA Big Kid Week, since Mary started school on Tuesday. We love hanging out with Mary, but there are some things we wanted to do that you just can't do alone with three kids and a two year old, you know?

So when I picked up the big kids from their sleepover with their grandparents we headed straight downtown to Voodoo Donuts. I was looking forward to watching them go nuts when they saw all those crazy donuts and they did not disappoint. But first we had to walk twelve blocks round trip to go to the bank because the donut place only takes cash (surprise!) and I don't have an ATM card at the moment.

Best moment of that unexpected errand: when my phone mysteriously couldn't search things and I had to ask passersby for directions to the bank. Wes thought this was AMAZING. As he explained it to Ryan later "Mom's phone wouldn't work so we had to ask OTHER PEOPLE for help!" No ATM card and no phone. It was like a field trip to 1985.

On the way back James had to use the bathroom so we went into a hotel that is rumored to be haunted and added "ghost hunting" to our itinerary.

The donuts were ridiculous.

Mine was the Captain Crunch. Insane.

Next stop was to cross another item off the summer bucket list: kayaking.

James and Charley got into this boat, pushed off, and managed to paddle a good five hundred yards away from the dock in the time it too me to lower my ample frame into my kayak. I barely caught up with them before they took off again.


There they go!


Wes wanted to paddle alone, so I had lots of time to myself.


I love this city so much I can't stand it.


Wednesday we went to our garden class/cupcake time/swimming time that has become our standing Wednesday plans and now that I am typing this I am really really sad we are not going to be doing it this week. This time we had a couple of extra friends join us and we spent three hours swimming (also: we finally, on our fourth visit, thought to buy fountain drinks at a nearby hamburger place, and send one adult off with all the cups to get refills every so often. This also gives you access to the good bathrooms.). The kids had a blast, as always, and because it was our last time I looked the other way when Charley and another boy began wandering down the river bed past our usual boundaries. And that is how I ended my summer standing under a highway overpass, yelling at kids in my bathing suit.

Group picture!


When we were just about to leave, another family of friends came and we spent another HOUR swimming. It was a LOT OF SWIMMING. We picked up Mary on the way home and then got dinner at a sub place because DANG, that was a lot of time outside in the hundred degrees.

Thursday we met up with some friends to go rock climbing at a place downtown (near the bullet Sonic!). This was another home run--a giant industrial building packed with climbing walls of all types. We all got shoes and climbed for hours. It was INSIDE, which was a welcome change from the rest of our week.

Here's how you know you're not in the suburbs anymore: free range poultry. His name was Reginald.



Ten out of ten. We are going back as soon as possible.

Also, I thought I was going to have to carry all three of them into the school for Charley's Meet the Teacher night.

(It occurred to me many times that week how happy and content the kids are when they are allowed to exert themselves this way all day every day. It's not a wonder we start having issues when they have to go to school, which even though their school does their best to keep them moving and engaged, it is not the same as hauling yourself up a fifteen foot wall over and over again for four hours)

Friday my friend called and told me she wanted to have fun but didn't want to put on a swimsuit or spend any money, so we went to the hippy grocery store and hung out on the deck and playground until after lunch (I only had James and Wes, which was weird, because Charley and Ryan were at Six Flags (Charley earned a free ticket reading last year) and Mary was at school. Two kids on the playground is kind of amazing) and then we went to a pool party for Back to School and Saturday was MARY'S BIRTHDAY!


She didn't have much interest in the gift bag of sundresses after she found her bike. She wasn't interested in MOST things after she found her bike. Like eating, sleeping, or going to the bathroom.


Later, we slapped together a last minute dinner/birthday party with (by request) "little hot dogs, little hamburgers, and fruit."


Poor Mary and James--even if they weren't third and fourth their birthdays are at Back to School time and Christmas and they are destined to have last minute parties.

And now we are less than twenty-four hours from the start of school, it's finally here! Everyone is very excited and all I can think about is allllll those lunches to make. Although after last night, when I was forced to combine making stirfry for dinner with breaking up a massive fight for Netflix dominance, and negotiating the submission of a conference abstract with two coauthors, it will be nice to have some quiet work time).

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Oh summer. How I love and hate you.

Still summer. Still stupid hot. Kids were kind of a disaster last week, which is why I didn't post, because while I like to throw a few swear words in here and there for variety, an entire post composed of the eff word in all caps might have been tedious and/or frightening.

It seemed like, last week, that every time I did something fun with the kids, it ended with one or more of them screaming at me or each other. We left the pool? James was screaming at me. We left the Y childwatch? Wes was screaming at me. We left the movie theater? James again. That was the last straw and when we got home I tried to make everyone nap. When that didn't work I loaded everyone into the car and used two of my Y childcare dropoff hours.

James and Wes had a screaming slapping fight in the middle of the lobby WHILE I WAS FILLING OUT THE PAPERWORK. An elderly man with a *walker* had to wait while I pulled them out of the hallway.

Related: I really need to learn another language or at least remember where I am before I loudly threaten to lock a child in a closet again.

I spent my two hours knitting in a coffeeshop with a friend. It was glorious. Then I picked the kids up and went home where their reign of terror continued and half the kids were asleep before 6:30 PM.

Saturday was more of the same, only this time Ryan was there to witness the total breakdown in ALL of our behavior and also so were all the people at Home Depot who watched me sling a kid over my shoulder and stalk out to the car.

He suggested we go to lunch probably because he knew I was going to snap.

Sunday afternoon we decided to attempt fun again and took them to an event at a kids' art studio called "Harry Potter's Birthday", which was super fun.


Our kids were the only ones who dressed up, but they didn't notice because there was a huge punchbowl filled with Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans. Wes was afraid to go to the bathroom alone because Moaning Myrtle had written all over the mirror in blood.

Buoyed by that success we went to Trader Joe's to pick up a snack dinner (to save money by not eating out, which is ironic because we spent $53 at TJ's, mostly on cheese and a klassy pinot grigio in a can) and went to a park downtown to splash and eat before a free concert in the park that started at 7:30.

No pictures of Mary because as soon as we got to the splash pad she stripped down to her underpants and ran right in before we could stop her.


After our picnic the kids had to climb up the big huge hill.


And then we went to the concert on the other side of the park.

Ryan showed the kids how to swing dance and they danced the ENTIRE CONCERT.


Charley called Wes "my dance partner" and once while Wes was in the bathroom Charley and James danced a slow dance.

Every song. All night. They are my favorites.


In other news, today was Mary's FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL! And she was EXCITED.


She is in James's old classroom this year and will be there for two years. We are all excited to have "James's teacher" again. Mary has been talking about it all summer. She had a great day (her teacher says she is hesitant and a little quiet, HA HA HA JUST WAIT).



He asks me fourteen times a day how many days are left before kindergarten. SO EXCITING.

And now I have to go, you guys, because I am TIRED. Because we checked off a few more summer bucket list items today and they involved a lot of OUTSIDE.

A preview of that:


And we have more outdoor water fun tomorrow! Yay?