Friday, October 13, 2017

And yet they can never remember what they've done with their shoes

There is what appears to be a new doctor's office under construction along a road we often take to get home.  We don't know what it is going to be, but it has the look of a medical practice or something along those lines.  Twice in the last week we have passed by it (usually when I am alone with the kids in the car because Ryan doesn't have quite the same appreciation for potty talk as I do, or at least he quashes it in an effort to support what he likely perceives to be my thoughts on the subject) the kids have announced as we passed the new building "There's the P*ENIS DOCTOR!"

The first time it happened I kind of snickered and let them have their fun.  Until we were a couple of miles down the road and still every other word out of their mouth was P*ENIS.

Drawing on knowledge gained from nearly eleven years of parenting, several parenting classes, and a variety of books on the subject, I said calmly and firmly "OK, everyone.  When I count to three you are all going to yell P*ENIS one last time and then I don't want to hear it again for the rest of the day."

I counted to three and you can imagine that all hell broke loose.  Mary was the loudest of them all.  But we were all happy and laughing when we got home.

Today we passed the same building.  I was, again, by myself with the kids.  Like clockwork, they started shrieking with laughter about the "p*enis doctor" as soon as we rounded the corner.

Trying not to giggle I asked the kids why on EARTH they thought that the new building was going to be a p*enis doctor.  "I don't even think that's a real thing!" I exclaimed (slash lied).

They dissolved into fits.  "YOU told us it is going to be a p*enis doctor!!"  It was more than they could bear.  James developed hiccups so violent I thought he might dry heave.

I expressed confusion and surprise.

And THEN, ALL OF THEM said in a mocking falsetto voice, TURNING MY OWN WORDS AGAINST ME "Oh, great, another doctor's office.  I swear, the only thing they will ever build on this road is banks, car washes, and p*enis doctors!  At least [adjacent neighborhood] gets a freaking McDonalds!"

James, completely missing the point, "And MOM, you don't even LIKE McDonalds!"

I think I remember that conversation now.  It was one of those, what we like to call, *front seat* conversations that NO MATTER WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON, they manage to hear and commit to memory with STARTLING ACCURACY.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Fall break!

It is Fall Break this week, and it's strange because I have spent the first decade or so of parenting dreading school breaks because the disruption in routine used to turn the kids into total monsters. But this is a new bizarro parenting world in which I *look forward* to school breaks because DID YOU KNOW CHARLEY'S ONLY GOING TO BE MY WITTLE BOY FOR ANOTHER SEVEN YEARS??

Monday we sister wived it up starting around lunchtime when two of my friends brought their kids over and we made peanut butter and jellies and baked cookies and took turns running various errands while the kids totally destroyed my front yard/the entire culdesac.

How wholesome is THIS?

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And then yesterday was the day we had decided to take them to the bouldering gym, one of our favorite holiday break family outings. After checking in and getting our shoes (why do kids drop straight to the floor to put their shoes on directly in front of the counter instead of taking them to a bench? Cracks me up every time).

They started out in the little kids' room.

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Then moved on to the medium kids' room.

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And then everyone got hungry, so we ate our picnic in about five minutes then got back to climbing. They started to run out of gas after an hour in the big kids' room.

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We weren't supposed to go to the adult side because you have to have only two kids for every one adult, but they were really dying to try some of the harder routes, so I had them take turns going on the two routes that were right next to the kid section while the other two kids waited with me. We were hedging the rules like this when one of Charley's teachers walked up! After a few pleasantries I explained what we were doing and he offered to take the kids into the adult room with me and then spent an HOUR showing the kids around and teaching them things.

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Such a nice guy. And a great climber. We love our school.

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I gave Wes my camera to hold while I climbed up on top of one of the boulder top outs and he took a whole series of pictures and videos that SERIOUSLY tested my commitment to having the mom in front of the camera. I mean. I was already feeling QUITE self-conscious climbing in front of the super cool teacher guy, no matter how much I reminded myself that I was already pretty cool for taking the kids to a hipster bouldering gym on the east side in the first place. I really wanted to do some more climbing before we left, especially since I was finally allowed to be in the big people climbing room, so I went for it.

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Naturally I couldn't find the foot holds on the way down and had to dangle there like a helpless whale for a while before I figured out. So glad that was captured on film.


I'm so glad I did, because a few minutes later the teacher took them to this really hard purple route and after giving Charley some advice and encouragement, Charley DID IT and got all the way to the top. It was amazing. I was inspired, so I tried the same route and DANG IT WAS HARD. I was halfway up when I remembered the sign I'd seen on the way in that said "Floor mats will not protect you from serious injury and death." I was about to climb back down, but Charley was at the top encouraging me and I had some weird need to prove myself, so I gave it another try and made it. At the top Charley said to me "I was going to give up and get really mad and wreck everyone's day, but instead I tried again and I MADE IT."

After we left the kids talked me into going to this hipster Japanese-themed café nearby that we like (which was not very hard because it's one of my favorite places).

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And this is the scene I returned to after running inside to pick Mary up.

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Mission accomplished!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

You will never want to eat with us again

Saturday afternoon we were all sitting around a picnic table eating ice cream following an afternoon hike, when Wes reached over with his fingers and dug a mouthful of Mexican Vanilla with rainbow sprinkles out of my bowl.

I am used to such indignities, but Ryan was horrified. "NO!" he exclaimed. "Wes, you can't do that to other people's food!!"

It was pretty gross, considering we'd just spent an afternoon in the woods.

Tonight, over a dinner of Frito Pie, it came up again. Wes said with genuine confusion "Why was it OK when Mom took a French fry off my plate at lunch today?" I said sheepishly "I replaced it when my food came out a minute later, right?" Ryan responded "Mom PAID for your fries!" (#dadmove) but because I am a good X-ennial afraid of screwing my kid up for life I added "If you would rather not share your fries with me, that is OK. I will ask next time." But then because I want them to understand the difference between stealing a French fry from a family member's plate and DIGGING YOUR FINGERS IN YOUR NEIGHBOR'S ICE CREAM (for instance), I initiated a little guessing game.

"OK guys. I will say a food and you tell me whether it's OK to take it off the plate of your best friend or a family member or if you should leave it alone. Say 'Yes' if you can take it and 'No' when you can't."

All of the kids perked up because they think games like this are hilarious.

"French fries?" I began.

"Yes," James and Wes answered in unison.

"Half a sandwich?"

Wes said no, James wanted to know what kind of sandwich, and Charley wanted to know if it was alright to ask whether the other person was finished.

I gave them one I thought would be easy. "Broccoli."

Wes was an emphatic no and James cocked his head to one side like a Jack Russell Terrier then stared into the middle distance for several moments.

"Potato chips" got a yes from everyone and I thought we were getting somewhere, but then they also said yes to "Macaroni and cheese".

"Fork foods are ALWAYS a no, you guys!" I mumbled into my hands, which were pressed tightly against my face.

"Wes, what if you and Tommy [one of his best friends] each had a cupcake on your plate. He had chocolate and you had vanilla. And there were no more cupcakes available..."

He began making a cupcake-switching motion with his hands before I even finished speaking.

He laughed hysterically as I asked him how that would make his friend feel.

I thought we were done but James wanted to keep going. According to my children, you don't steal someone's carrot sticks, lettuce, or tomato soup, but chicken nuggets, garlic bread, and cantaloupe are all fair game. I tried to steer the conversation towards a sensible set of boundaries along the lines of "Occasionally, if it is a close friend or your family, it is OK to sneak one French fry or potato chip or similar item off someone's plate." but I think what they left the table with was "If you want it, grab it."

Maybe I'm the crazy one, though. In a house where they eat everything down to the Teflon on my institutional-size skillet and where they sit around staring at each other's plates like hyenas waiting for the lions to leave their zebra carcass unattended, stealing food is an evolutionarily favored skill.

They drank a gallon of milk in two hours today, you guys.

But we have some work to do before they start going on job interview dinners. Or dates.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Sleepy and it shows

I am typing this on my phone you guys because my computer is upstairs. And as my friend Andrea says, I am complete balls at typing on my phone so there is a high probability this will make no sense.

Also there is some kind of bug flying around the living room and occasionally landing on my arm. Or possibly I am hallucinating.  I did whack my head pretty soundly on a cabinet mounted above the toilet in the ladies' room at Trader Joe's earlier today.

Last night I went to Together Live with my progressive church ladies and it was everything I had hoped for and more. Gosh I love smart, funny women. Both the ones on stage and the ones in the seats around me. I am so lucky. I have been reliving parts of it in my mind today. It feels cheesy to say, but it really was inspiring to spend three hours listening to these stories about strong, successful women. So good.  I have been thinking in particular about one story where a woman talked about all the times she failed and kept going.  Hundreds and hundreds of times.  She finished with a slide show of photos taken on these crazy adventures she went on that she had been terrified to do alone.  I discovered a big mistake in one of my projects this morning and while that would usually send me into a fit of histrionics (usually via FB Messenger to some poor unsuspecting friend who's at the grocery store just trying to buy some bread without a lot of existential angst), I--just kept working on it!  Fascinating.

We threw caution to the wind and went out for food after it was over and I didn't go to sleep until one o'clock in the morning. And I had an 8:30 am meeting back downtown today (I left my house at 6:30 to avoid traffic). That was not enough rest.

The fact that I got about four hours of sleep led to some questionable decision making, like going on a Trader Joe's bender on my way back to my office in which I bought approximately seventy dollars of PERISHABLE food.  Since I hadn't planned on going home for another few hours, this was an obvious problem.  OK, I thought, I will just go get Mary, go home, and then I can work upstairs for a couple more hours before the nanny needs to leave.

But on the way, I got a text from Ryan that said the appointment he was taking Charley to was starting NINETY MINUTES late.  I offered to come take over, but the appointment was over long before I could have gotten there.  I went and picked Mary up and went home.  When I got home EVERY non-school adult responsible for the children's care was at my house.  Ryan, me, our wonderful tutor, our awesome nanny.  All in my kitchen.  It was like the monthly meeting of the children's committee.  It would have been a good opportunity to strategize, if I wasn't so deliriously tired.  To wit: I put the frozen peppers and potatoes mix from TJ's into my freezer, then a few minutes later opened the freezer to put something else in, and thought "Oh look!  I already had some frozen peppers and potatoes mix!"

So then I went upstairs to continue my work from the morning only to fall asleep with my head down on my desk so soundly that I could not feel one of my arms when I woke up in a puddle of drool fifteen minutes later.

And despite the fact that I'd bought enough convenience food to keep us in dinners for several nights, I still ended up taking the kids to P. Terry's for burgers on the way to children's choir because I couldn't relax enough even to microwave some bean and cheese taquitos.  Probably because Charley and his buddy from next door were using a rope to tow each other behind a bike on a skateboard and it was like a wreck I just couldn't look away from. 

They ate on the church playground because then it is a fun activity rather than a copout and also so they don't destroy my car.
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Two final things related to pictures that refuse to upload. One is that I moved a tea kettle that my mom unpacked and I haven't used since we moved in. There was a BULLET behind it in the cabinet. I can promise you that I have never in my life owned or eve TOUCHED a bullet, so it was odd to find one in my KITCHEN CABINET. I will have to call a less squeamish friend to come remove it. Probably someone who grew up in this state. For now I will continue to live with a bullet in my kitchen. And finally, I have decided that even though I live in Texas, it is OCTOBER and it is time to start wearing tights. YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST, MY FRIENDS. RCP 4.5 ISN'T GOING TO DETERMINE MY FASHION CHOICES.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

It was a weekend of fire

Wes turned NINE on Thursday.

I'll say it again because I don't believe it either. NINE.

Wes is a GREAT kid. He loves his friends and his brothers. He loves shepherding smaller kids around. He is enviably at ease in social situations. He adores watching TV and Legos and rollerblades. He is kind and sensitive and still cries sometimes when he thinks about our dog, who died two years ago. I heard through the grapevine that he caught a cockroach in his classroom while the rest of the class ran screaming in the other direction. I asked him about it and he calmly explained that there was a roach in the homework journal basket and that he had dumped it out onto the floor to get the roach. The roach crawled under a book, so he moved the book, it crawled under another book, so he moved that one. Then he picked it up and played with it for a minute before taking it outside. He adores graphic novels and stays up way too late reading. He is approximately seven feet tall but still crawls into my lap sometimes. He has a fiery temper and tonight hulked his mattress off his bed onto the floor because we scolded him for jumping off the windowsill in the family room and almost ripping the curtainrod off the wall. OMG.

He still wanted his digger cake, though. Tradition is tradition. I'll make him a digger cake when he's forty if he wants.

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Charley figured out you could make an eight inch long flame by sticking all nine candles right next to each other. Being an adolescent boy must be amazing.

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We brought a couple extra kids home with us on Friday after school and had a few more kids over later on for pizza and brownies. There were eleven kids in my house. They had such a good time trashing the upstairs together.

Today was Charley's first Sunday as acolyte. He has been looking forward to this forever, so I was pretty excited for him. He was terrified, but he was partnered with my friend's daughter, who he's been friends with since they were in the nursery together. They did SUCH a good job. He said the hardest part was holding the offering plate up in the air while we all sang the doxology. I was so nervous for them every time they had to walk up and down the stairs. But they did great! I've said it once and I'll say in again, watching kids do people things like this is SO COOL.

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Thanks to Miss N's mom, our friend M, for taking this awesome picture. It helps to have friends in high places. Like the stage.

Mary asked to go to the bathroom during church, so Wes walked her out there and when they came back, they came back with THE OTHER UH OH.

Recall that we lost the second of two Uh Oh's at church in June and Mary wanted to BURN IT DOWN. Ryan and I canvassed the whole upstairs on hands and knees with flashlights one night trying to find the FIRST Uh Oh that went missing several months before. I swore it was in the house somewhere, but we never came across it. Then our friend who works at church, did an exhaustive search of his own and found the NEW UH OH, Ryan went to get it, Mary started sleeping again, and we figured we had lost the first Uh Oh for good.

This is tedious and confusing.

My point is that today Wes found the First Uh Oh sitting on a shelf of toys in the cry room. There is no way it was there when our friend was searching for the other one. I think it took a little vacation at someone else's house. SO WEIRD. Mary came home and immediately took a three hour couch nap with the "good" Uh oh while the other one stayed in my purse.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Hail Holy Queen

I feel amazing today and while I think it's mostly because the whole family accidentally slept until almost seven this morning (they have to be at school at 7:30, yikes), meaning I got almost a extra hour of sleep, it's also because my highly anticipated Amazon purchase arrived yesterday evening. In addition to the new fridge door bins I was eagerly anticipating, I had also ordered the soundtrack to Sister Act, the 1992 blockbuster in which Whoopie Goldberg plays a Las Vegas lounge singer who gets placed into an inner city* convent as part of the witness protection program.

*This was pre-Friends 90s when cities were still crumbling and dangerous and filled with crack instead of young professionals who hang out in cozy coffee shops after their enviable jobs at fashion companies.

After some adjustment, Whoopie Goldberg's character is assigned the job of conducting the choir. My absolute favorite part of the movie is when, in her debut as director during mass, she leads the choir in the song "Hail Holy Queen." She starts them off singing it in the traditional way and then the choir, composed mostly of elderly nuns, breaks into a rousing Gospel-style version. The nuns in charge, led by Professor McGonnegal, do not approve but are ultimately over-ridden by the priest in charge of the parish.

It's not just the music that I love, though I *LOVE* the music. It's the part when some community members (dressed in leather jackets and non-traditional hairstyles, ooohhhh scary) hear the music and come in to the back of the church to see what is going on. The priest smiles at them from his pulpit and motions for them to come in. Later in the movie, the nuns, led by Whoopie Goldberg, go out into the community and start fixing things up. They plant a garden, they play with local kids, they paint over graffiti in their habits. At the end of the movie, the camera pans around from the choir to the congregation and we see that where only a handful of old people in suits and dresses were sitting before, the sanctuary is packed with people of all walks of life.

When I first saw the movie, I enjoyed the music and the funny story of a lounge singer who became a nun. I think I thought the rest of it was an interesting feel-good, but ultimately forgettable, part of the story (The movie came out when I was thirteen. We had just moved to Texas and I was in eighth grade. It's not a particularly reflective phase of life).

I see it differently now and I think that is why I was singing so loud I made myself hoarse as I drove into work this morning.

Now I see a church who dared to do things differently. Who let go of their stogy, comfortable, status quo and went out into the "dangerous" world. They met the people around them. They engaged. They met the needs of their neighbors. They HAD FUN. They presented the church as joyful and inclusive and welcomed everyone into their sanctuary.

I think what has been bringing me down for the last year since the election is that the church (the whole church, not my particular congregation) has been perceived as a bunch of fun-hating, difference-hating, cake-refusing, science-hating, insurance denying, sexually repressed, judging, insular body. I have been party to a couple of conversations in which people wonder why attendance at churches is so low. In one, I couldn't stand it anymore and blurted out "Because we [again, the whole church, not my particular congregation] look like a bunch of assholes to the rest of the country!"

This has been so, so hard. I love the church. It has always been a home for me (and my real home, both my home of origin and my current home, have been wonderful). I have felt nothing but support and warmth from the people I know there, and during the hard time we went through with Charley several years ago, it was a LIFELINE. People brought meals and fixed toilets and held babies and invited all the kids over to their house so Ryan and I could go out ad have some fun together.

I hate to see what is happening now. I have wondered if it's something I can continue to be a part of.

Whoopie Goldberg's joyful music and jump roping and baby holding, THAT is the church that I know. There are lots of good people doing just this. I am so proud to call many of them my friends. I want to keep singing. If we all keep singing and going out and loving our friends (and chilling the eff out, OMG), maybe we will also be known as joyful and inclusive one day. That is my hope.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Well well well

The kids haven't been to a well check in a very long time. Their birthdays are in the fall, so that's when we usually take care of well-checks but in the fall of 2014 we were already taking one of the kids to one, sometimes two, psychiatrist and psychologist appointments every week and also having anxiety attacks of our own every time the school's phone number popped up on our caller ID. It was a stressful time and I frankly wasn't very concerned about who was 80th percentile on the growth chart and who got the last Batman sticker out of the basket.

I still took them for flu shots (EXCEPT FOR LAST YEAR REMEMBER THAT?) and everyone has had all their vaccines on time and they are generally healthy except for the odd broken thumb, broken ankle, broken tooth, bout of unexplained wheezing, or strep infestation.

Also our insurance only allows one well check per child per three-hundred and sixty-five day period, and remembering the EXACT DAY on which they got well checks a year prior just seemed too hard. My friend R who is much more organized than me (MUCH) has figured out a way to manage this particular one of life's little mysteries. I, however, chose to disengage altogether.

I decided to get over the hump and just TAKE THEM ALREADY. This was the year.

I called the office and asked to make well check appointments for four children, preferably all at the same time.

There was a long pause. Then she sighed and asked me their names. When I gave them the kids' names she said "Are you guys still on [name of old street]?"

"Oh, no," I said cheerfully "let me give you our new address.

She put me back on hold. It took ten minutes to change our address.

She returned to the line sounding slightly overwhelmed by the size of my family. But she still had the energy to play a little cat and mouse game I like to call "Just TELL ME WHEN THERE ARE APPOINTMENTS ALREADY."

"So, when does it work for you guys to come in?"

Bearing in mind that I have given her a generous six week window in which to make these appointments happen.

"How about a Wednesday?" I began sensibly, since I don't teach on Wednesdays and the kids get out of school at 1:00.

"Hmm, no, I'm not seeing any Wednesday appointments."

"OK... how about a Friday afternoon?"

"No, I don't see any Fridays either."

"What about Monday mid-morning?"

She responded with irritation, "The doctor ONLY DOES WELL CHECKS ON MONDAY AND THURSDAY AFTERNOONS."

...

...

By this point I had been on the phone for twenty five minutes.

Ultimately I was able to negotiate an appointment for Charley on a Monday afternoon, which I promptly forgot about and accidentally skipped, and a group appointment for Wes, James, and Mary for a Monday a week out. That is today.

So I called last week to reschedule Charley's forgotten appointment. After another ten minutes on the phone I scheduled it for a Thursday and proudly emailed Ryan so that he could share in this stunning feat of responsible adulting. He responded "His book project is due that Friday and I think he'll want the morning free to work on it."

I waited a few passive aggressive minutes and then responded "Maybe you could call and reschedule that."

He rescheduled it for this coming Wednesday.

All of this was going to work well, except that I realized last night that I was going to have to pick Charley up from school early on Monday unnecessarily to take him to the doctor with the other kids because I wouldn't be able to swing back by and get him at the usual time. And that he would be missing even more school on Wednesday morning for his rescheduled appointment. AND that I was going to have to pick Mary up from school in the middle of naptime and then take her with me to James's guitar lesson (NOT PART OF THE PLAN).

THIS WAS ALMOST TOO MUCH FOR ME. But I persevered.

Ryan texted me this morning. "Rescheduled appointments again. Boys all going today. M taking C's spot on Wednesday. All scheduled for flu shots too."

THAT, my friends, IS A MAN.

So now today I *only* have to take three kids to the doctor, three kids who all go to the same school, and three kids who are generally predictable and well-behaved in public. Mary will go with Ryan Wednesday morning for her checkup (AND SHOTS) and it is all going to be fine. Except possibly for the sweet young female pediatrician who is in for a WORLD OF QUESTIONS from one of the kids who has MORE PUBERTY QUESTIONS THAN A 7th GRADE GYM COACH.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Best day ever (according to Wes)

As I mentioned in my last post, Wes flew off his bike on Saturday and snapped an adult tooth in half. I was laughing about how nonchalantly I slipped that into the post, right after a breezy retelling about our weekend, but since we are not totally neglectful I made him a dentist appointment for yesterday morning at 8:00 AM.

I assumed that it would be a quick in and out, they would xray his mouth, shrug their shoulders, and send us home with a diagnosis of "shit happens".

Instead they xrayed him, looked him over, and declared him in need of a procedure in which they would create a new tooth on top of the old half-tooth using some kind of space age material. He would have to have gas and a shot to numb his gums. They wanted to know if they could do it right then or if we would like to come back later. Since we were already there and missing school and I didn't have anything better going on until my class at one o'clock I decided to go for it.

I don't know if you know this about me, but I have some MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF ANXIETY about dental procedures. But I've watched Charley get a filling before so I was unprepared for the overwhelming fight or flight response I experienced for the ENTIRE HOUR we were in that office.

(In retrospect, the cup of coffee I had helped myself to in the waiting room was a mistake. But it smelled so good. And it tasted so good. But it was my second of the day and instead of making me feel calm and alert, it propelled my cortisol levels into Mission Control during Apollo 13 levels. I know this now)

They gave him the gas and after a few minutes he started taking these weird long slow deep breaths and gripping the arms of the chair like he was having a bad acid trip. Then they gave him the shot in his gums and his lip looked really weird and I was certain he was going into anaphylaxis. I stood over him rubbing his leg protectively and staring at his chest rising and falling, just waiting for something to go wrong.

I tried sound casual when I said to the doctor, who was sitting nearby in a relaxed fashion, "So his lip looks really swollen..." "Yeah," she said nonchalantly. It's because of the injury and the shot I just gave him." I rubbed his leg protectively, standing awkwardly over the chair and wondering if it would be too much of a spectacle if I dragged the new age carpeted bench over from the other side of the room so I could hover in comfort. Or if maybe it would be OK if I climbed up into the chair and spooned with him.

The procedure itself was EXTREMELY ROUTINE. But I was a FREAKING MESS. It was totally beyond my control. I had to take frequent breaks to stare into my phone. Then I would rub his leg some more. And also don't forget the highly distracting awkward small talk I attempted to make with the dentist.

I don't even remember what we talked about. I only remember that at some point it was clear I had passed polite and sociable and had become annoying.

I spent several minutes wondering if I was strong enough to scoop him up and run out to the car. I wish I was exaggerating.

After approximately fourteen hours of terror, the new tooth was ready and they let him sit up. He jumped off the chair and gave he a huge hug. For me? For him? I'm not sure.

Then he told me "It felt like the chair turned to goo and I was sinking into it" which explains the desperate white-knuckled grasping onto the arms of the chair. It *was* a bad acid trip.

We got a school note and then went straight to Whataburger for a milkshake for him (doctor's orders) and a number one with cheese for me. At ten o'clock in the morning. I ate it like a caged animal in the parking lot. And then I took Wes to school and then I stopped at a bakery for a blueberry scone and a chocolate chip cookie.

After school Wes was angry about EVERYTHING. After lots of door slamming and stomping and yelling about every. little. thing. he mused "I think the gas makes me feel stressed out."

"Oh buddy" I said "that whole morning was REALLY stressful. I'm not surprised you are feeling stressed."

We read books together and cuddled up and then he went to bed (with more stomping and door slamming). Later I went in because his light was still on as I was getting ready for bed. I rubbed his back for a few minutes and he said "Today was the BEST DAY EVER." Because he got to play video games in the waiting room at the dentist, watch Lego Batman, have a milkshake, and miss three hours of school.

Best day ever, man.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Yesterday, man. Yes. Ter. Day.

I think the really thrilling thing about teaching a new class in an unfamiliar subject that begins at 8:30 on Mondays is the seat of your pants feeling you have all weekend when you are refereeing sibling squabbles, scrubbing toilets, and (at last) chilling on the front lawn with your husband because THE KIDS HAVE OFFICIALLY TAKEN OVER THE HOUSE instead of preparing for class.

This is a good way to look at it because the alternative is to be COMPLETELY OVERWHELMED ALL THE TIME.

Fortunately, I attended a research talk at Bigelow Labs this summer while we were in Maine and it made an EXCELLENT introduction to food webs. Class was kind of awesome today. I was a little bouncy when I left.

Our row (5:45 AM) was also awesome this morning and then I felt so good that I blow dried my hair and took a selfie in the parking lot.

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This is as swingy as my hair gets when the dewpoint is 75F.

I am really loving this semester, actually, in a totally weird non-sarcastic way. I mean. Half the time I am teaching OUTSIDE. On Thursday a faculty member who saw me outside with my class on Tuesday encountered us outside again and said with a smile "Don't you ever teach in a classroom?!" It was a great moment. I should probably have asked him to put that comment into an email directed to my chair.

Things that are not going well? Yesterday. Holy dang, you guys.

Ryan was singing at church, which meant I had to get everyone up and going to arrive at 9:30. This seems simple because despite the way we have to drag their comatose forms from bed every single weekday, they spring out of bed fresh as daisies at 6:15 on weekend mornings because the first kid downstairs gets control of the remote. But they were SO SQUIRRELY! And James and Mary got into a fight over TOAST!

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James got ready extra fast because he knows he can use extra time to skateboard.

(Charley is older and wiser and knows to sleep late, which meant that I was shaking him awake at 8:40 like GET UP GET GET UP GET UP!)

Church was great because the kids were up and down the whole time. Wes got his third grade Bible, Charley went up to be recognized as a future acolyte, and Wes went up for the birthday prayer. The other kids made an annoying mess out of paper but were otherwise quiet.

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After a third grader celebratory lunch at church we headed separate ways--Ryan took Wes to a scout meeting and I took everyone else. We were supposed to be going to the store to get a week's worth of groceries, but instead had a big fight about shoes in the parking lot of the store and went home all huffy. I angry-cleaned all the bathroom counters and floors in the house and did two loads of laundry. Ryan got home much later than expected from the scout meeting and settled in to bicker with the kids about homework while I took Charley to the car wash with me. I've been meaning to take the car in ever since we got back from our huge road trip and it finally reached the level of disgusting where it seemed worth sitting at the car wash for however long it took to get it somewhat presentable again.

Friends. They took it back and forth between the washing station and the vacuuming station THREE TIMES. This would have been hilarious (because OMG GROSS) except that it took AN HOUR AND TWENTY MINUTES.

It looks beautiful now. There are no brown smears all over my cupholder and I don't hear a loud sloshing noise as pea gravel slides from one side of the car to the other every time I go around a corner. It's an amazing transformation. But still. AN HOUR AND TWENTY MINUTES.

This meant that I was completely undone by the time we got to the grocery store, scrapped my plan for a healthy dinner, bought a bunch of hot dogs and boxed mac and cheese instead, and got home. Walking into, in that state of mind, to the Epic Homework Battle for the Ages was not ideal.

By the time the last kid was tucked in and I had used all remaining emotional control to make sure everyone felt safe and loved and listened to as I tucked their covers in tight, I was DONE.

Then I walked downstairs and Charley asked me "Was I bad today? I heard you say something about what a terrible day it was." Oof. I gave him all the hugs. And then I didn't even see them this morning because I was rowing. #MOTY Early bedtime for me.

In other news, Mary and I went to brunch with my sister, mom, and niece on Saturday morning, which was delightful and girly and fun. Mary was SO PROUD to be out with the big girls that she sat up a little straighter and smiled adorably every time we made eye contact. CUTEST THING EVER.

We were on our way to my house to hang out some more with my sister when I got a text from Ryan saying that Wes had fallen off his bike at the scout bike rally and hurt his mouth. We met them at urgent care where Ryan got out of the van and handed me a piece of tape that was holding PIECES OF WES'S ADULT TOOTH. His lip was huge and swollen and bleeding and his tooth was...interesting... but the doctor said there was nothing else major broken or injured and referred him to our dentist. Wes perked up quickly with some cat videos and soft mac and cheese and ice cream for lunch but Ryan may never recover. That night Wes took off his shirt to go to bed and we all discovered that his chest was also covered in scratches. Poor kid! It must have been quite the spectacular fall (He was in a different group than Ryan and was riding with a couple of other dads and kids. One of the dads offered to give us Go Pro footage of the fall. We declined. They took good care of him and he was eating a popsicle when Ryan got there). If you see Wes he will probably show you his tooth. Or what's left of it. He is so proud. Yeesh.

Now I'm gonna grade grade grade grade (do you also hear "all I do is win win win win" when you read that?). And get ready for tomorrow's research meeting. I feel like such a real professor. Crazy, you guys.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Someone remind me to pick up the children at school

I AM EXHAUSTED YOU GUYS.

All good things, but it was a really freaking busy week. And I've taught outside three times, which is super fun, but also tiring in a two-mile-walk in a 100 degrees kind of way.

Monday my friend C came over and we worked on needlework together. It was as fun as I thought it would be, which is very.

Tuesday was an event I have been looking forward to since I was born called "Beer and Hymns" at a local brewery.

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It was good. Very very very good. Beautiful, meaningful music and lots of enthusiastic singing (too enthusiastic, in my case, because I was hoarse when I got home). As you know, sing a longs and hymns are two of my favorite things and I've always wondered why as a society have stopped the kind of hearty collective singing in bars that you see in pirate movies. So this was something I would have only dreamed of attending, until someone MADE MY DREAM A REALITY. Also it was the kind of relaxed, friendly, casual, happy thing that church should be but sometimes isn't because we make it too fussy (possibly because we take our children there?). A bunch of friends were there. My friend Pastor K worked the cash register for a while. Then she led the band for a song. She has many talents. Beer and Hymns was one of those things you do where you wake up happy the next morning (and then find yourself humming hymns all day). I lovely oasis in a hectic and noisy world.

Wednesday night the boys gave Mary a ride on the go kart they made out of an old lawnmower deck and she got engine grease all over the new mini-Boden dress I found for her at a consignment store. I don't mind the lawnmower deck riding or the grease, but I would have rathered it not be on her new dress. Facebook came to the rescue and gave me about ten different home remedies for when your baby girl gets ENGINE GREASE ON HER DRESS (which probably was more like, what to do when your husband gets engine grease on his shirt, because most four year old girls aren't RIDING AROUND ON LAWNMOWERS) and PLAIN OLD DAWN came to my rescue. (She was wearing the dress because she had just returned from children's choir, which she finally gets to attend "like the brothers". She takes this so seriously that she likes to dress up for the occasion.)

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Engine grease on dress. I must teach her about play clothes.

The other day after work I took a picture of my grocery order because it was all alcohol and hot dogs and macaroni and cheese and cookies. Yesterday morning I took a quick trip to the store between a doctor's appointment and work and bought some things for dinner and was struck by how nutritionally optimistic I was feeling relative to my after-work self. I mean, PARSNIPS FFS.

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I turned all of that into a delicious sheet pan supper that everyone actually seemed to not hate. WIN.

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I know you are supposed to mix everything together for a sheet pan supper, but I do it this way to facilitate picking by the various food snobs in my family (no veggies, no meat, no carbs, no touching).

Finally, it feels like the semester just started but it would appear from looking at my desk that it is in fact "mid-semester," when the volume of paper threatens to tip over and crush me to death. And this is with one class turning everything in digitally!

Finally finally, I have to remember to pick the kids up at school today because our sitter is out of town. I am actually looking forward to this, but since it is a change in routine I am slightly stressed that I am going to forget and get an angry call from the school. TGIF!!!!!!!!!

Monday, September 11, 2017

I need a snooze button

I keep wondering aloud why I'm so dang tired all the time, but then Ryan reminds me that I got up at 4:45 on Friday morning to row, worked all day, took the kids to the campus family beginning of the semester celebration, and then tried to sleep unsuccessfully between 9 pm and 1 am, when I finally demanded Ryan rub my back until I fell asleep (works for toddlers and me, apparently). And also that I have been surviving on a concoction of arthritis medication, Tylenol Cold, and beer that is probably pharmacologically inadvisable.

Today I managed to drop the Tylenol Cold, but I did get up and row (we have started distance-training, which is just like it sounds only harder, so I'm actually starving and the dining hall opens in 33 minutes, which is why I am blogging instead of programming), so I'm slightly more coherent but just as sleepy as usual.

I have a friend coming over tonight and we are going to do needlework together. And possibly drink wine. It's a stitch n'bitch. I am SUPER EXCITED about this. Since I am an extrovert the social part will help me power through the MASSIVE fatigue.

This weekend was nice and gloriously unscheduled. The kids have rediscovered skateboarding, which is fun and also has led to lots and lots of bruises and scratches. James took a header off the new babysitter's longboard and has a scab between his upper lip and nose that looks like a mustache.

I bought this mirror on Craigslist Saturday afternoon with the intention of chalk-painting it this cool yellow-green color I'm in love with because I think it would be just the touch of color my bedroom needs. But the thing is I have totally lost my nerve on the painting because it is SO PRETTY. My dad has instilled in me an aversion to painting pretty wood, even when it's say, an aging sideboard that would look SO PRETTY in a cranberry color in my living room. So now it's a touch more traditional than I was hoping for, but I still really love it. I haven't had a full-length mirror since we moved out of our grad school house!

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BEHOLD MY UNMADE BED!

I realized the other day that we treat the kids as a pack of children and do not always adjust our expectations to the fact that they are in four different stages of development. This often works, since they are largely pretty capable and independent. But we don't think Mary realizes how much littler she is than, say, Charley, so she sometimes bites off more than she can chew.

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She also has taken on some pretty challenging reading.

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"Hatred of Democracy". Timely.

Homework has gotten better since they started hanging out with a bonafide elementary school teacher in the afternoons but it is still a major PITA.

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Last night we got out a guitar and song book before bed and spent some time "helping James practice" and also singing some Bob Dylan. We have decided to work up a few "bedtime songs" and teach them to the kids. Is this a little too too? I think so but I love it so we're going with it.

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James told his Tiger Den yesterday that this summer he "traveled to Maine and went skinnydipping." Apparently that was a formative life experience for the kids. They had no idea that was even a thing. And now they do. I am so proud.

I will end with this sweet story. Last night at dinner Ryan was thinking out loud about someone we know who was getting married and he said "I guess they've been together for two years," and James thought for a minute and then said "Hmm. I've been with Charley for, like, six years?"

(I'm about to push publish on this, but wanted to document for the record all the warm fuzzy feelings I have about the kids right now. Sure homework is a pain and they watch total garbage on TV. And their feet smell like death poop. But they are funny and clever and loving and they are just the BEST. Weekends are so sweet. I love our cozy time at home together. I really miss them when we are all at school and work during the week and it is just SO WEIRD to be here after all the years of constant WORK they required to get to this point. I mean, there is still lots of work to be done, but all of them have morphed, sometime when I was not looking, into these funny, awesome people I really like hanging out with. I can sort of understand what those ladies in the grocery store are thinking when they look starry eyed at my grungy crew begging for candy and bickering in the checkout line. These are the days I will miss. They won't always be hanging all over me like a bunch of puppies when I read books! Some people want to freeze time at the baby stage, but I think I'd rather freeze this time here.)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Many Quick Takes

I had like twenty-seven different brilliant thoughts about what to write while I was in the shower this morning, but then I got in my car and drove to work and POOF! Gone! I will give it a shot.

1. As you know, a hurricane devastated most of the coastline of my state. I had to contribute by staring gape-mouthed at the forecast, the models, and the video coming out of Rockport and Houston and feeling utterly horrified and helpless. The sun finally came out in Houston late yesterday, but unfortunately they are just beginning a long road of rebuilding. Austin looked to be in for some heavy rain too, and it did rain a lot, but it was not scary in any way. We bought a few days of extra groceries and planned to stay in all weekend but took advantage of a lull in the rain to get outside for a bit and take some wind speed measurements with the Kestrel I borrowed from work.

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2. Sunday we had crazy rain and wind but we ventured out for church because everyone was starting to turn on each other and we thought it would be fun to fight out in public for a change.

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3. And then we went to lunch with some friends at a hamburger place where we usually eat on the patio. The three boys all still wanted to eat on the patio and play in the wet sandbox and I was like "You want to eat outside in the rain while I eat inside in the quiet?! YES YES YES." They thought it was the best thing ever.

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Some of the friends we were with arrived after we did and had already told their kids that they couldn't eat outside and arrived to see my kids cavorting around in the wind. Oops.

4. I got two new pairs of glasses. One of them is BLUE blue. Ryan's cousin had these awesome blue glasses on the last time I saw her and I went to the same website and thought I ordered the same pair. Hers were less day-glo, but OMG I LOVE THESE FREAKING GLASSES. It took some getting used to, but the sensible tortoise shell ones I bought at the same time have remained in their case in my purse the whole time because BLUE GLASSES MAKE EVERY OUTFIT LOOK COOLER. They also make my haircut look better, oddly. I CANNOT QUIT YOU BLUE GLASSES!

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5. They made me move offices this summer, which was annoying, but actually turned out to be a good thing because this office was NEVER USED AS A CLOSET. I brought in a dog hair-covered rug from my house (our dog died two years ago) and some things for the walls and I really love it.

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Best things about it are that it is not currently undergoing asbestos abatement and it has a proto window that opens onto the hallway that has another window that goes OUTSIDE.

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6. Bedtime never really stops being a total PITA, right?

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7. We have a new after school nanny that is working out SPECTACULARLY WELL. She is some kind of magician who can get the kids to do homework and practice their instruments and still have time to play before I get home. She has put on Charley's rollerblades and shown them some tricks. She took them to a skate park yesterday. It is SO AWESOME. Which is why it was extra mortifying yesterday when I fumbled my phone on my way home, called her, and left a MINUTE-LONG MESSAGE of me belting out Hamilton in the car.

8. Finally, my new role at the university requires that sometimes I put on steel-toed thigh boots and wade into a cattail pond to get water samples. I was all in on the boots and the trucking through the cattails. I was less enthusiastic about reaching into the snake-infested water with my bare hands to get the sample. But it was great to be back in the field again.

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

House tour!

Like one person asked me for pics of the new house so HERE THEY ARE! Thanks one person!

Here is the view right inside the front door. When I came to scope out the house before we looked at it with the realtor, I peeked through the window by the door and could see all the way to the back of the house and I liked it so much I forgot that I was in the middle of bringing a sick kid home from school.

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Here's the other side of the foyer. That's the table where we keep our rollerblades, random boxes, and junk mail.

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To the left of the front door is the dining room, which for us is the piano room and homework/project overflow room. This is one of the reasons I liked this house so much. Now the kids have a place to do table things without having to clear them off so that we can eat dinner! Alternatively, it is a place where someone can go do their homework when they can't stand to sit near another person who is, I don't know, breathing wrong and causing them an intolerable level of irritation! My favorite part of this room is the "Birds of North America" print that my friend Rosa gave me as a house warming present. I *treasure* it. IMG_5784

To the right of the front hall is Charley's room, which he is supposed to keep looking nominally nice, since it's downstairs. He is doing a pretty good job. Sometimes. My favorite part of his room is that he now has a full-sized bed but loves his cute little twin-sized patchwork quilt that he won't give it up. I helpfully put an old queen-sized quilt in there the other day and found it stuffed into the coat closet. Message received!

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Living room, featuring THE GREEN COUCH (which is slowly getting kid-ified since it is in the only room with a TV)!

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This is the kitchen. I love it, but I will always hold a special place in my heart for the one Ryan built with his own two hands. Still, this one has a cabinet JUST FOR THE CROCKPOT. Cabinet space heals all broken hearts.

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The other side of the kitchen and the little counter height windows that sold the house. And like fourteen wine bottles.

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The other real reason we bought this house is the UPSTAIRS FAMILY ROOM. It is all of our favorite rooms and we hang out up here after dinner most nights. The first time I had a bunch of moms over after we moved in we all noticed how quiet it was and that was because HALF THE KIDS WERE PLAYING UPSTAIRS. That is a beautiful beautiful thing.

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Mary's room! She was helping me take pictures.

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James's room (is not usually this clean!)!

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Wes's room!!

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The master bedroom, which needs some things on the walls.

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Annnd, my desk on the other side of the master bedroom, which is my other other favorite part of the house.

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So there you have it! My house on the only day this year it will be this clean!!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Dispatch from testosterone-land

OH MY GOSH YOU GUYS RE-ENTRY IS BAD BAD BAD.

Today I am taking my three boys plus one friend boy to a WATERPARK by myself.  It opens at noon, so in a few minutes I am going to gather them and run to Target for lunch boxes and other random school necessities (like beer) and then we are going to go to Torchy's for lunch so we can be standing at the gate when they open at noon.  School starts tomorrow, so we are pulling out all the stops today.

But still.  Four boys.  Target.  Lunch.  WATERPARK.  Lord, hear my prayer.

A couple of randoms before I go...

On the plane home, we sat in two rows.  Charley, Wes, and Mary were behind James and me.  Also in my row was a man who told me excitedly that his wife and two children were seated in another part of the plane, so it should be a quiet flight for him.

WHAT A FUNNY MAN.

Highlights included James fourteen bathroom trips, my repeated need to hiss instructions to the other kids by putting my mouth three inches from his ear and yelling between the seats.  Mary screaming with indignation every time her headphones came off.  Me hanging my entire body over my middle seat to help her adjust her seatbelt, put her headphones back on, and open her applejuice can.

But I'd say the best moment in the flight for him was after they turned the seatbelt sign on.  Mary started screaming, like SCREAMING, and I had to give him a brief lap dance as I propelled myself out of my seat, quickly threw all the debris off Wes's tray table, and sat next to Mary.

Did I mention that we got up at ONE O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING to drive to Boston to get on the flight?  And Mary went to bed at TEN?  And did not sleep in the car OR the plane?  It was ugly.

...

I wore sandals and went barefoot pretty much the entire time we were in Maine, so my heels are so disgusting that they act like the scratchy part of Velcro.  A random sock stuck to my foot the other day and it stayed there as I walked across an entire room.

...

This morning we went to the kids' school to find out who their teachers are and to get our pickup pass.  After several minutes of polite chatting with the office staff, Wes volunteered that he'd gotten to cross something off his bucket list.  The woman asked "Oh yeah?  What was on your bucket list?"  Wes smiled and said excitedly: "SKINNYDIPPING!"

...

The boys are all back inside.  I offered them a candy bar each in exchange for taking out the trash and washing out our disgusting trash can.  It was music to my ears hearing them working at the large trashcan below the window by my desk, screaming and yelling about the how gross it was.  Then they took turns spraying it with the hose.  #happymemories

So that means it is time to locate our bathing suits and get this party started.

Updated to add: after ignoring the background noise of four boys messing around with who knows what, Wes came running upstairs.  I was about to tell him to give me a few more minutes when he exclaimed "CHARLEY BROUGHT MAGGOTS INSIDE."  NOPE.


Friday, August 4, 2017

Our plan is to not give them enough time to feel sad (it will not work)

Today's our last day at home (the kids call Maine "home" and believe our normal life is just a barely tolerable "trip") and we have a few items left to check off our to-do list. It's also Mary's fourth birthday (observed) since on her actual birthday, Sunday, we will be back in Austin and Ryan will be driving our car home with his dad. Which is how we got into the situation where we will be eating cupcakes with each of our three meals today (breakfast cupcakes, as is our tradition; lunch cupcakes, that I baked for the camp cookout; dinner birthday cupcakes) in addition to "happy hour" at three o'clock, where we eat onion rings and drink beer and watch the kids sail at their camp, adjacent to the restaurant, and s'mores on the beach after dinner. Fortunately I've been preparing my liver and pancreas for this moment for the last three weeks.

We were going to spend the morning sailing, but the weather had other plans.

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The kids started camp last week and it has been the best year yet.

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I asked them if they would rather have done the half-day option (which wasn't actually available) and Charley responded "NO! You paint and draw all morning, have lunch with your friends, goof around for a half hour, and then spend the afternoon sailing! What could be better than that?!" It does feel weird to send your kids off to camp on vacation, but they love it SO MUCH and are becoming quite proficient little sailors. They have met the nicest kids from all over the country and world and the director makes everyone hot chocolate after they take their swim test. We are so happy.

Yesterday Ryan and I drove and chaperoned a field trip to a boat yard where we got to tour a nineteenth century schooner they are restoring, called the Ernestina.

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It did not take much convincing to get us to sign up and the cute kids all singing along with the radio was a huge bonus.

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Ryan and Mary and I went on a long kayak trip around an island and then to a resort that lets you use their pool if you buy lunch there.

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The paddle over was cake, but the wind picked up on the way back, so it was really rough and scary on the way back (and fun, fun fun fun).

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I arrived early to camp pickup the other day and found them in their element.

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The kids swam out to this ledge on Saturday and stayed there until the tide came in and buried their feet and they had to jump back in.

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We usually keep a pretty tight schedule to make sure everyone is getting enough rest, but the second half of this week we pulled out all the stops and started having crazy after-dinner funtime, with swimming and kayaking and games and sailing.

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We went to a benefit concert for the kids' camp that ended with us walking through a luminario-lined path through the woods in total darkness with a gentle rain falling. So that was magical. Mary glommed on to a counselor from the camp that she is particularly enamored with and danced with her all night. It helps that this counselor's name is also Mary. When the older Mary left to go get some lemonade I tried to get Mary to dance with me and she screamed "I DON'T WANT YOU! I WANT MARY!"

Mary's been enjoying her only-child status during the day.

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We leave for the airport in Boston at ONE O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING, piano starts up again on Monday and school starts on Wednesday, so when the party's over it is REALLY REALLY OVER. But just like every year our goal is to drop them into their chairs at school with a slight sunburn, covered in bumps and scrapes, sun-bleached hair, and possibly just the tiniest bit of seaweed tucked behind their ears.