Sunday, February 28, 2016

The weekends just KEEP COMING

Jen Hatmaker posted a real-life picture of her laundry room on FB the other day so I figured I would post a picture of my Thursday evening, in the interest in full-disclosure.

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It's not all bike rides around the lake around here, you guys.

Except today that's exactly what we did. We had such a good time on our slightly responsible bike outing to our city's club district last weekend that I wanted to take the kids on a big bike ride as soon as we could (A bike ride that did not involve A) Drunk twenty-two year olds or B) Pitch black darkness).

While we were out I also wanted to buy them super fancy ice cream sundaes to celebrate our upcoming wedding anniversary. Fortunately, there is a hotel with just the right fancy restaurant (we discovered this place years ago after I suffered, pregnant, through an entire car show with Ryan and a kid or two, and had a hissy fit on the way back to the car that ended with us sitting on a lovely patio drinking iced tea and eating guacamole in the sunshine. Hissy fits FTW). It is on the bike path and they have outdoor seating. And fortunately we live in a city where I can wear scrubby biking clothes to a fancy restaurant and only get a *little* bit of side eye from the hostess.

The bike ride was wonderful. Mary rode in the seat on the back of Ryan's bike and screamed "GO FASTER" every time he slowed to avoid hitting a pedestrian.

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We stopped for a picnic:

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The kids asked if they could go play on the grass while we waited for our ice cream and we let them go, after giving them the whole "we are at a restaurant you represent this family please don't have a giant screaming fight ftlog" rundown. After several minutes I happened to look over and witness THIS cozy scen e.

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Ryan and I actually got to have a nice conversation for several minutes before someone flipped someone else out of the hammock and someone else started bleeding. But it was a really beautiful several minutes.

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This place totally delivered on the fancy ice cream.

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Mary ate her ice cream and strawberies then daintily placed her dripping brownie triangles directly onto the table so that they would not interfere with her need to drink every last drop of ice cream out of the bowl.

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My word.

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We played in the hammocks for a while (once a pecking order was established).

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Ryan had a flat tire when it was time to leave so he took my bike and Charley and Wes and they rode all the way back to the car, loaded up the bikes, and came to rescue us (from sitting on a dock in the sunshine watching ducks swim by). Then we went home for EVEN MORE BIKING with the neighborhood kids before we forced everyone to take a shower because EW.

Also this weekend was the Blue and Gold Dinner. More on that and my CUBMASTER HUSBAND later.

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

How to buy a head of lettuce, in thirty minutes or less

Yesterday was completely crazed because I had to distribute a paper I am working on to my interdisciplinary teaching group today and it was not nearly ready, so after spending two hours at a dentist appointment for Charley, getting a massage to see if it could help with my seriously wonked up (now with 100% more tingly fingertips!) back and shoulder (verdict: kinda), I settled in at a coffee shop to work on my paper before it was time to go back to school to pick everyone up.  Finally, I had reached the saturation point (HA HA, storm surge joke because that's what I'm writing about) with the work and headed to get them with a stop at the store to pick up stuff for hamburger sliders and fries.

Once Charley and Wes were in the car I excitedly explained to them that we were having SLIDERS for dinner like they've been asking me for for several weeks.  I was so excited to tell them!

Did you buy mayo?  They wanted to know.  What about tomatoes?

Yes!  I got mayo, tomatoes, and more ketchup!  And!  We're having KRINKLY FRIES!

What about lettuce?  They asked suspiciously.

No, I did not buy lettuce.  I said.  It was alllll the way over on the other side of the produce area and I'm the only one who ever eats it anyway.

But they were insistent that we have lettuce for our sliders.  Since I already had all four kids by this point, I was loathe to stop at the grocery store at what would end up being the peak of CRAZY HOUR.

Then Charley offered to run in and buy the lettuce himself, so I could stay with everyone else in the car.

This was an interesting idea.

They've been buying pizzas for me for years, at a little place where I can see inside from the car.  But the grocery store is big and huge and has fourteen entrances and exits!

Wes said he would go too, so I told them they could go for it, because no one abducts TWO kids at the same time!  It was a solid plan!

We arrived at the store and parked and I handed them a five dollar bill.  I looked deep into their eyes and told them my expectations.

You may buy either romaine or iceburg lettuce (Romaine is dark green and iceburg is light green and comes in a plastic wrapper--MOOOOOM, we can READ!).  Do not buy anything else.  You only have five dollars so you can't buy much else anyway.  Go straight from the lettuce area to the register and pay, then come STRAIGHT BACK HERE DO YOU UNDERSTAND.  NOW GO HAVE FUN!

They were SUPER DUPER EXCITED as they skipped down the sidewalk and away from me.

I sat in the driver's seat, nice and relaxed, for the first five or so minutes.  Then I got out and walked to the back of the car so I could peer over the roofs of the other parked cars and see if they were coming.  I also attempted to maintain a calm demeanor, so they wouldn't know that this was freaking me the freak out.

After ten minutes I climbed up the side of the car and hung off the roof rack like it was a parade float.  This enabled me to see all of the doors at once.  I scrutinized every customer coming out of the store.  No kids.

FINALLY, fifteen minutes later, they came bouncing out of the store.  They were SO EXCITED as they approached me, triumphantly clutching a bag of romaine lettuce, to tell me all about their big adventure.

They found the lettuce with no trouble.  And then then went straight to the checkout area, like I'd told them to.  Then they chose to use the self-checkout stand because they thought they would get in trouble for being alone if they had to talk to a cashier.  Nice to know my unfounded fear of authority is alive and well in the next generation!

Somehow, they got the lettuce entered in to the register without a bar code, which is super cool because I never attempt self-checkout when I am buying produce because I avoid things I don't understand (Except for bananas, I will never forget that PLU as long as I live after living through 2012, the year the kids ate forty pounds of bananas A WEEK.  It's 4011).

And then it came time to pay.  They pushed the "Pay now" button and waited.  Then they pushed the "cash" button.  The computer told them "Insert coins first, before inserting bills."

Oh shoot!  They said.  We only have a five dollar bill and no coins!

So Charley told Wes, "Crawl around on the floor and find some coins!"  So he did, for several minutes.

(Ryan thinks we should ask for the surveillance camera footage)

Finally he found a dime.

They put the dime in the machine.  Then they tried to put the five dollar bill in.  And it kept getting spit back out, so they finally had to get help from a regular cashier.

Katherine was her name.  She was very nice, according to Wes.  She had magic computer hands that worked magically, according to Charley.

I laughed so hard when I put that lettuce on my burger later that night.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

It was a pretty good weekend

This weekend was an embarrassment of fun.

It started on Thursday when I got home with a van 'o kids to find all the neighbor ladies gathered in lawn chairs in my neighbor's driveway. The kids scattered in all different directions on their bikes and scooters and what-have-you and I sat down and joined them with a crisp Austin Amber. I had thought the plan was to hang out until dinnertime-ish, then go our separate ways, for homework and piano practice and being a responsible grown up thirty-something suburb dweller, but then around 5:00 my neighbor started making sliders and tater tots for all the kids and we moved the party inside. Eventually, the husbands started coming home and cautiously peering through the garage door into the den of estrogen.

Ryan made it all the way inside where he said hello to everyone and then offered to go home and bake the flourless chocolate cake I needed for the girls' night I was hosting. After the kids ate we headed home to do a hasty downstairs cleanup and get everyone into bed. Then my friends came over and we ate lots of cheese and chocolate cake and a couple bottles of wine. We were so loud James didn't fall asleep until nearly 10:00. That was Thursday.

Friday afternoon I had to go to a professional development retreat AT A VINEYARD. In between all the curriculum talk we ate amazing food, drank wine, and went for long walks in the country. The best part was the enormous fluffy bed I had ALL TO MYSELF in the beautiful room I had ALL TO MYSELF and the chocolate on my pillow that was MINE ALL MINE and the way I woke up in the morning to ACTUAL SUNSHINE COMING THROUGH THE WINDOWS.

I got home Saturday afternoon ready to rejoin the family. We spent a relaxing afternoon hanging out on the porch and enjoying the weather, riding bikes, doing nothing in preparation for dropping the kids off at Kids Night Out at our church. Since we had FIVE HOURS and warm weather and sunshine Ryan and I decided to go for a little bike ride and get some dinner as our date. There is a wonderful bike trail downtown beside the lake and it is one of our favorite places to go. It was so exciting to be back on my bike. I have spent a good portion of the last ten years pregnant or caring for a tiny baby. NO MORE.

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Date nights with helmets are the best kind.

We rode about four miles and got to this neat bridge we've wanted to check out.

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There were many moments of proclaiming our love for our city and vowing never to move even if it means we both have to take jobs at the grocery store and/or Starbucks. I mean. Biking in February.

We crossed the river and found ourselves just a block away from a restaurant we went to a couple of years ago and always wanted to come back to.

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They had a thirty minute wait and a hundred and forty beers on tap and a sunny outdoor seating area. This was not a problem.

We ordered THREE BRATWURST because HOW DO YOU DECIDE? HOW?

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You'll notice it was sort of dark in this picture. This only became apparent to us when we left the restaurant and started unlocking our bikes.

But it didn't stop us from heading deeper into the city ON OUR BIKES to get donuts "on the way" back to the car. Let me tell you, I started to feel slightly irresponsible as we wove our way through the club-goers on our two-wheelers IN THE DARK. But it was worth it, man. Just glad we didn't wind up on the evening news.

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We bought extras for the kids because we are not heartless monsters.

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The next morning.

Finally we made our way back to the bike trail by the lake and HAULED ASS back to the car. It was convenient that no one was on the trail BECAUSE IT WAS DARK which allowed us to go really really fast. Hurtling through the darkness ON A BIKE is REALLY FUN AND SCARY (except for the time when I hit a storm grate I wasn't expecting and was nearly thrown off my bike). I was relieved every time we mentally ticked off another landmark bringing us closer to the car and the moment when we could go back to get the kids and pretend we went to a quiet dinner at a nice restaurant like a normal couple.

Obviously we made it without accidents or police intervention (that niggling fear of unseen authority is as strong as ever!) and drove back north to pick up the kiddos forty minutes early. They thought it was HILARIOUS that their PARENTS went on a BIKE RIDE. Funniest thing they'd ever heard.

They were tired the next morning, but I felt strangely energized.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Beginning of week blurgh

Class was a disaster today, friends. I mean. Sometimes it just happens. I don't want to talk about it. Except that I don't really know how to move on with the rest of my day and not crawl into a hole (update: I ate my lunch, a sensible beef and kale stir fry that I packed this morning obviously unaware of the carb loading I would need to do just a few hours later. The three Andes mints I brought as my "treat" and the apple slices I brought as my "snack" are openly mocking me right now). Sadly, there is no time for hole crawling.

BUT YESTERDAY WAS FUN! Yesterday the big kids were out of school. I had a meeting downtown and since I just started working with these people and want them to like me, I didn't want to Skype in or skip it altogether, so I bribed my sister with lunch and she came with us to watch the boys during the meeting.

Reasons that I am an awesome sister are that the meeting took three times as long as expected and Charley and Wes had a huge fight about who got to hold a bird (?) for longer.

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The bird in question.

We stopped nearby for lunch, thrift shopping, and ice cream after the meeting and all was forgotten. We unintentionally all ordered something made with pulled pork at the walk up restaurant. I stand by that decision. Even though the person taking our order called over her shoulder "Two pulled pork tacos and two pulled pork frito pies, can we do that?!" to someone in the back (they could and it was glorious).

Then we took the kids and their bikes to the walking trail for some physical exertion. The kids rode out ahead of us and then rode back and then rode out ahead of us and then rode back, and then spent several minutes riding full speed over this tree root over and over again. I'm pretty sure they rode eight miles to our two miles of walking.

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As a treat, I let them ride up and down this spiral pedestrian bridge a couple of times.

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Boy treats are different than my treats.

They proclaimed it the best day ever and the car was notably quieter on the way home than it had been that morning. We went off to piano after that and then to get the little kids and then to the grocery store and then back to piano to pick up and then home to slap some dinner together, finish homework, practice piano (Charley's new recital music is FREAKING HARD), clean up, get everyone in bed, fold laundry, and then go to a friend's house to work on a project for our church retreat (she and I are in charge of cabin assignments, it's a powerful, powerful job). I got home at ten thirty.

And now I have to shake off my class and get SO MUCH WORK DONE before pickup and also I have no idea what we're eating for dinner. Blurgh.

Updated to add: Kind of proud of my Valentine's Day dinner. Did not suck*:

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*did not suck and also included 1 1/4 cups of butter.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Sick Day

Home sick today you guys. I've had this weird sore throat thing kind of simmering in the background all week, but it's been manageable thanks in part to leftover ibuprofen horse pills from my gallbladder surgery and in part to denial, denial, denial, and yesterday, the bacon-pear panini from Kerbey Lane that I bought after my "workout" (15 mins on the elliptical, after which I thought I was going to perish) at nine o'clock in the morning. But then this morning I woke up and my throat was like "NOPE" and I remembered the day I taught through having no voice last semester and figured I have earned at least one sick day for something minor, like a forest fire in my throat.

Also I have TAs who are more than capable of handling my lab this afternoon. TAs!! I feel like a grownup.

Anyway, it's good that I am here because after I sent the necessary emails I laid my head down just for a minute and woke up two and a half hours later.

And then I managed a trip to the store for dinner stuff and boxed Valentines because enduring forced Valentine signing misery X4 seems like good karmic payback for staying home sick.

What else? Oh, last week on Wednesday Mary had a sick day so she could go get some shots and a well check. I was going to take her to school after, but then she didn't want to eat the giant cinnamon roll I got her after the appointment and I suspected she was feeling funky, so I took her home where we watched Frozen and then she took a three and a half hour nap (IT'S A THEME!).

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Later we got the other kids and then she played stay at home mom in the culdesac.

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And last Thursday, after a very fighty Wednesday dinner, we were headed home after school and they started up again and I abruptly whipped the car into Freddie's and bought everyone a hamburger. I was NOT up for another screamy afternoon, or for making spaghetti and meatballs (their favorite, my least favorite meal), and it just seemed like the thing to do. Once they saw me headed for the drive thru they perked right up and we had a really fun day after that. SOMETIMES YOU JUST NEED TRANSFATS END OF STORY.

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I've been super busy at work over-committing myself like I do. I volunteered this paper I am working on to be the first one our writing group evaluates, but that means it has to be done in two weeks, which is LAUGHABLE considering I've been procrastinating on it since September. In addition to that I'm learning everything I can about air pollution in preparation for this research collaboration that might hopefully, possibly work out that would be a really good thing for me, more on that if it ever does materialize. In the mean time, I have learned a TON. It's interesting stuff. And then, you know, there's my class and all that.

And last weekend was hectic, to say the least, with an all day women's conference on Saturday at my church followed by the chili cookoff (Ryan had the kids all day, then took Charley and Wes to a school dance, then went to the chili cookoff), then Sunday was church-Scouts-Superbowl Party and in another life I could have written a side-splitting thousand words about the EPIC THROWDOWN that happened when we tried to leave the Superbowl Party and Charley DIDN'T WANT TO GO HOME (and the NOTE he left us, OMG!! He used the word "sabatough"! It's my new favorite!).

So anyway! Busy but good, right? More posting, hopefully, right? And the Advil's kicking in so I am going to go deal with the Kitchen Situation.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Weekend of a Thousand Activities

The weekend of parties/booze/cupcakes is over, sadly/not sadly for my general overall health. We had SUCH A GOOD TIME. We actually ended up starting the weekend Friday afternoon after school when I joined several friends at an outdoor restaurant with a playground to celebrate one friend's graduation from seminary with beer and hamburgers. We've been having really stupidly warm weather and it was lots of fun.

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We had a few kids between us.

Saturday morning we started the party circuit with breakfast tacos and a house FILLED WITH LEGOS with another friend. This one was pretty easy for us since the kids disappeared into Legoland the moment we arrived and (except, notably, for the raucous upstairs trampolining that made the kitchen light fixture sway and flash) we really didn't have to intervene very much. There was great food and mimosas and cake. What more could you ask for?

When that was over, we didn't want to drive all the way home since we had another party in the same neighborhood that afternoon, so we drove to a sort of nearby park that I've wanted to check out to go hiking. Apparently everyone else in the city thought a perfect, seventy-five degree Saturday afternoon was a good day to go for a hike by a creek, so it was a little crowded, but not in an annoying way. Mary slept on Ryan's shoulder for the first quarter-mile or so, but rallied when the boys started stripping off their shoes to play in the water.

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I actually took that picture while we waited for Ryan and Charley to get back from the car. You see, Charley was attempting to do some nine year old boy thing and accidentally fell into a deep part of the creek, UP TO HIS SHOULDERS. I was looking another direction and heard the huge SPLASH, then turned around to see him hoisting himself out by a tree root. OOPS. He was upset by it at first, but then started telling the story to everyone he saw on the trail. Fun childhood memories!

(Also, when researching the park that morning I noticed that there was water in some of the pictures, so I packed a bag of towels in the trunk, *just in case*, because something like this happens EVERY TIME we visit a creek.)

After some more fooling around and exploring we headed to Birthday Party Number TWO, which, fortunately for us was super-laid back and at a park with a playground. There was a guy playing a guitar and reading stories that transfixed Mary for the entire two hours. Wes spent the whole time on the playground. James kicked around a soccer ball. It was very nice and relaxed, which was good, because when we got back in the car to go home it was WORLD WAR THREE. By the time we got to the grocery store to get a pizza for the kids and the babysitter we were ready to surrender someone at the fire station (kidding, but seriously).

We got home at 6:15, threw the pizza in the oven, changed everyone into jammies, quickly changed our clothes, and were about to push "play" on the Harry Potter DVD when the babysitter arrived at 6:30. Then we peeled rubber out of the driveway to go to our THIRD PARTY of the day, which was a grownup party for grownups at a fancy Mexican restaurant. After a day of really fun but completely exhausting kid wrangling this was JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED. Also I was glad to have a high schooler babysitting the kids because then I could say "Shoot, I'd love to go to the club with you after this, but our sitter has a curfew, next time!" because I was SUPER BEYOND EXHAUSTED. We drove home, checked on everyone, and then PASSED OUT COLD.

Sunday morning we were back at it again bright and early because the kids were doing the prelude at church. Charley played the piano and Wes sang (A SOLO, WHO'S CHILD IS THIS?). They did a beautiful job! I was so proud!!

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And then after that it was grocery shopping-homework-piano-workout-dinner prep-room straighten time. And then I barely made it through Downton Abbey with my eyes open (until that one scene ,you know which one I'm talking about, and then it was NO PROBLEM). BIG. WEEKEND.