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).


James loves a good whimsical cat bed.


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).


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


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).


This happened approximately thirty feet from the car.


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


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.


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.


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!


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!"


(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.


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



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.


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.




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.


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.


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.


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.


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!