Sunday, February 26, 2017

To borrow a line from OITNB: Marry someone who knows when to order Chinese

This weekend was so insane that after church we came home and had what we call FOB, which is an old camp term that stands for Feet On Bed. I nobly tried to make it through the front section of the New York Times before joining Ryan, James, and Mary upstairs for a two hour coma of a nap while the other kids did whatever they wanted downstairs as long as it wasn't loud enough to wake me up.

(Charley told me that instead of FOB he was going to have FOC, pronounced dangerously close to f***, and when Ryan and I looked at him in alarm he calmly said "Feet on Couch", then smirked and skipped out of the room)

Afterward we spent some time cleaning up the back yard and bought Chinese takeout for dinner. So aside from the THREE church services we had to go to this morning, it was a pretty chill day.

Thursday night my mom group came over and I provided wine and entertainment in the form of assembling an Ikea bookshelf that we are using to store the kids' rollerblades and shoes.


Unanticipated side benefit: I can now reach my wineglass from the couch without so much as leaning over, like I had to do when I was using the coffee table.

Friday the fourth graders went on a field trip and the night before Charley was so excited he couldn't sleep so he stayed up with the ladies and helped with the bookshelf. As a result we came home straight after school and he vegetated on the couch while Mary and I did puzzles on the porch and Wes and the kid from around the corner rode bikes up and down the steep sides of the retention pond across the street. Mary took frequent twirl breaks.


Saturday Ryan's parents came over and we had lunch at a restaurant, which we left abruptly when James returned from the bathroom and announced calmly "I feel like I'm going to barf." Then we spent the afternoon making fondant and making approximately seven hundred snake cupcake toppers that I really should have taken pictures of but did not.


And then we went to the Cub Scout Blue and Gold, where is the end of year banquet where the kids earn their rank. Ryan is the Cubmaster and was in charge of the whole thing. It was SO cool. The kids had a great time and were so proud and cute in their uniforms. Unfortunately I forgot my phone, so I am waiting for someone I know to send me some pictures of the kids. Charley and Wes won the dessert contest in their categories and Mary ate four cupcakes.

I got a little verclept when Charley's den had to go up on the stage at the end to retire the colors because that's when I realized that HE was one of the biggest kids of the pack now. His den is the leaders and it is his last year in Cub Scouts. Give me a moment, I can't talk about it anymore.

We got home around ten and went to bed then had to get up early and get to church by 8:15 where the kids were playing piano for Children's Sabbath. Wes played the prelude and Charley played the offertory and led the Call to Worship. BIG KIDS DOING BIG KID THINGS STAAHHHHP.



They were amazing. Really amazing when you consider they'd been up until 10:00 cleaning up a fajita dinner in a church fellowship hall across town.

All of the kids sang with the children's choir at the following two services, so we had to stay for those too. Charley was kind of a wreck after the first service and a half and I really really really wanted just go home because DAMN. Breakfast tacos and donuts made us all feel better and we managed to get through the third and final service. I love the children's choir so freaking much.

And then we went home for a lunch of leftover hot dogs and had a group nap for two hours. A glorious end to a completely insane weekend if you ask me.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

She really is a delightful child

After a crazed week of frantic work and frantic runs to pick up the kids and frantic everything and one horrible day of allergies where I had to push on my sinuses with the heel of my hand to keep the violent sneezing at bay long enough to conduct a meeting with my research student (update: I took three kinds of allergy and cold medicine and two glasses of wine and went to bed then woke up feeling amazing #donttrythisathome), I just finished my last class for the week and feel like Fred Flinstone when the whistle blows on the opening credits.


Ryan continues to meal plan and shop, which is excellent. He planned for these veggie burgers from Pioneer Woman Monday night and they were SO GOOD (we had them as sliders). And so easy. Apparently he also bought some hamburger to make regular sliders for the carnivores in the family, but I didn't know that and made a double batch of these because we always have a couple of extra cans of black beans kicking around. An easy and surprising crowd pleaser! Way cheaper than premade veggie patties too!


Tonight we are having a chick pea curry with a side of chicken kabobs that I plan to broil because I'm a grown-ass woman who is afraid of the grill.

On Wednesdays the big kids go to choir with Ryan and Mary and I stay home to watch flashmob and Jimmy Fallon lip synch videos on YouTube. Mary is particularly fond of a group of bikini clad women dancing and singing on a street corner in Germany. She also likes the Jimmy Fallon-Emma Stone video that went viral a while back, which she calls "the one with the boy and the girl but not the one with the hat." She has excellent, if age-inappropriate, taste in YouTube fare.

I tried to sneak some ice cream while she was occupied with her magnatiles. Unsuccessful.


(Our stovetop really is that appalling)

And as I made my go-cup of coffee this morning I was struck by this poignant scene in the sink. They may wear pants that a freshman sorority girl could squeeze into, but they're still my wittle babies with their colorful plastic dishes.

Except for Charley's French press, obviously

In other non-hippie news, Mary is sleeping better than ever now that she doesn't have the temptation of three siblings and an entire upstairs of books to destroy. This has translated into a 6000% (estimated) improvement in her mood and attitude. Not once this week has she screamed "I DON'T WIKE THIS" and thrown her plate at me during dinner, something that used to happen with embarrassing regularity. As a result of this and the fact that I can actually sit down at 9:00 without making forty-five trips up and down the stairs to put her back in her room and make all the other kids stop yelling and get back in their beds, I feel like I might just survive this phase of my life without my basal ganglia melting and running out of my ears. Take that, hippies.

Monday, February 13, 2017

I've lost my hippie cred

Sunday afternoon we went to Chipotle for lunch and then I took the kids to a playground in our old neighborhood while Ryan went to the grocery store. When we got to the playground I was delighted to see a throng of organic-cotton wearing children and heavily tattooed, hippie parents of the type I usually see only when we venture down to the fancy playground grocery store.

Wow. I thought, This neighborhood is way cooler than I remember! Maybe we should think about moving back over here.

I took the kids to the bathroom like fourteen times then settled in for some idle phone checking while they folicked in the unseasonably warm eighty degree day. Then I overheard a woman talking to her friend about vegetarian recipes--apparently the neighborhood hadn't gotten cooler, I'd just stumbled onto the monthly gathering of the neighborhood vegan potluck group--so I struck up a conversation (Charley has recently given up meat, which is fine, but means I am always looking for recipes).

Somehow the conversation came around to child rearing, as it always does in these situations, and she intimated that she has trouble getting her three year old to eat what the rest of the family is having for dinner (a three year old vegan). She asked me "You have four kids, what's that like? Do you have to make a lot of different choices?"

"Oh no," I said. "I make one thing and they either eat it or don't."

She nodded along with what seemed like admiration. High on the sense of approval, I continued talking. Talk talk talk. Somehow we got on the subject of bedtime. I told her, "Ha! Yeah! Three year olds are INSANE! I just had to buy a doorknob guard to keep mine from wandering out of her room at night, putting on her Elsa dress, and painting with watercolors in her brother's closet and spilling a giant tumbler of paint water all over the floor!" (note: THIS REALLY HAPPENED)

Record scratch. Crickets chirping.

"A what?" she asked kindly?

"An Elsa dress?" I asked, stupidly.

"No, the other thing. For the doorknob?"

"OH, yeah. The doorknob guard. You know, one of those plastic things you put on the doorknob so the kid can't open it. It just kind of goes pbbbth pbbbhth" (miming a plastic thing spinning around and around a doorknob like some kind of child-hating monster.

"Huh" she said noncommittally and then exclaimed "Oh! That reminds me that I need to look on Craigslist for another Elsa dress. My son wears his all the time and it's getting kind of worn out."

"Oh yeah," I said, "I know what you mean."

But the moment was over. She busied herself with Craigslist and asking her son if he'd like the red wig with the braid this time or the blonde wig. Charley sat down between me and the lady on the bench and I engaged in what I now realize to be a war of hippie buzzwords, to regain my lost credibility.


*this is a secret cloth diaper code for those of you who use disposable diapers (like me, ahem).

"Hey, Charley--I mean WOLF! Should we go home soon and plant the rest of the GARDEN?!" I asked, slightly louder than necessary. "I bought some more COMPOST at the LOCAL nursery yesterday."

I smiled at him like an insane person, which I guess I am because I lock my kids up at night like Petunia Dursley.

When he agreed, I continued. "Should we plant SQUASH? KALE? MAYBE SOME YUUUUMMMMY RAINBOW CHARD?!"

"And don't let me forget to water our compost bin, and remember to put more greens in, OK?"

I should have added "Oh dang, we are out of KOMBUCHA again."

But instead it was time to go, so I used my best earth-mother voice to tell each child individually and at his level that it was time to go get in the car. This worked as well as it usually does which is to say not at all so in the end I just threatened to leave the last straggler there and to hell with hippie street cred.

Charley did me a real solid, though.


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Meals should begin with singing

I realized that mainlining caffeine and spending twelve hours a day reading the New York Times in abject horror wasn't doing good things for my limbic system. You should always be kind to your limbic system.

Also, the kids have a way of pushing you right to the edge of the surrendering them at the fire station precipice before ratcheting back into their cute and lovable mode.

Case in point, from tonight's dinner:


I taught them this song a while back hoping we could sing it at meals on special occasions and if I don't initiate it one of them starts it off EVERY SINGLE MEAL. Even if we are eating out of a bag in the car. Swoon.

The secret is that the real reason you have kids is so that you can live in a summer camp ALL THE TIME.

On the work front several new opportunities to work towards goals that are measurable and valuable (does this sound sufficiently vague?) have arisen and I am spending lots and lots of time on that, which necessarily displaces some of the time I spend working my cortisol levels into the red zone by opening up the newspaper or turning on the radio. Tralalala!

(Also grading. Holy dang the grading.)

Anyway, I am rowing tomorrow and I need to finish working on one of my papers so I don't look a fool in my eleven o'clock meeting, so I need to get moving.

(Ryan is upstairs monitoring Mary, who spilled an enormous cup of dirty water in James's closet while watercoloring in her Elsa dress two hours after bedtime. #magicalspecial)

TGIF, amirite?

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Self Care

While I was at the conference last week, and even in the airport on the way home, I marveled at the way I could THINK clearly and intelligently and be productive and keep multiple pieces of information in my head at one time. Compared to the way I usually feel at home, where really my entire brain is a cloud of vague information swirling around the only two thoughts I can manage to keep up with at a given time: 1) What time do I have to pick up the kids? and 2) What are we eating for dinner?

So feeling like I remember feeling once upon a time, when I could get lost in ideas and research and computer programs was downright refreshing. It's nice to know that person still exists, under a layer of exhaustion and scattered-ness dictated by my current situation.

I am very happy. I love the kids and Ryan, it goes without saying. I have a nice house, great friends, enough money to buy tacos for lunch when I feel like it.

But dang it if it isn't frustrating to come off of a conference, ready to throw yourself at your work and with a list of seemingly attainable goals that you can't wait to get started on, only to find yourself only able to muster up enough energy to prep for class because of things like multiple kid wakeups, pee soaked sheets, and a laundry pile threatening to compact its lowest strata into sedimentary rock.

Wednesday night was especially bad. Charley, historically, has not handled me traveling well and it usually manifests as some really awful moods and behavior after I get BACK. This was no exception, so every afternoon this week has been a giant fight. Bedtime has been especially rough. Tuesday night all I wanted to do was watch one episode of the Crown and go to bed. But the kids would. not. go. to. bed. I was already exhausted on Wednesday night when Ryan left for choir around 8:15. My only goal for the evening was to fold the accumulated lithifying laundry (not the dirty stuff, which was still upstairs in similar proportions), wash an overflowing sinkload of dishes, and prepare for class, since I wouldn't have time for that in the morning with my MRI followup appointment.

Two of the kids were DEADSET against these goals and wouldn't stop fooling around, hurting each other, and destroying things upstairs until I finally laid on the floor in between the doors to their rooms. I was still lying there when Ryan got home and by that time I had worked myself into QUITE the state.

I didn't start my list of chores until 10:30, and only then because I was so wound up I couldn't have imagined sleeping. I rage-washed that sinkload of dishes in record time, in the process ripping off a rowing blister that then started bleeding without my notice. I'd folded an entire basket of laundry, getting blood on each item, before I noticed what was happening.

Thursday Ryan texted at work and cautiously asked if I'd like to go have lunch, anywhere I want. This is huge because although we work about seven miles from each other, there are lots of lights and annoying traffic. Usually if we meet for lunch we meet at Jimmy John's, because it eliminates most of this nonsense. I tested his devotion by suggesting Thundercloud, which is within walking distance of my school, but a bit further for him. He was obviously quite concerned because his next text was "Great! Tell me your order and I will call it in ahead of time."

After lunch I had a meeting with two people in my department that was NOT GOOD for a variety of reasons I can't discuss here. The meeting lasted until 3:20 when I finally said "I absolutely HAVE TO leave right now", ran out the door, drove like a maniac, and was still five minutes late to kid pickup. On the way there I had read a stressful email from one of the kids' teachers and was, between everything, sobbing by the time I arrived in the pickup lane.


We made it home five minutes before the tutor arrived and while I was making her a cup of tea I got out a second mug for myself and secretly filled it with wine. Then assembled dinner for the oven and went and sat on the porch with my coffee mug and alienated a neighbor with an f-bomb-laden account of my week.

The kids went to bed easily Thursday night, which is good because I was having the church ladies over for small group. It was good to vent with them. This is why we have small group.

Also Thursday I made a decision that I needed to get some freaking control over my circumstances if I was to keep from completely losing it. I had an opportunity to skip rowing on Friday morning, which meant a bit more precious sleep. I had a healthy breakfast. I had a meeting about the school garden that was nice and productive. And then I went up to school and worked out in the fitness center (twenty-five minutes of hard erg rowing that felt GOOD. Not working out is really not an option for me anymore) before going to a coffee shop I like to accomplish a concrete list of professional tasks, some related to Thursday's meeting of awfulness.

And then I went home to pack the little kids for their overnight at my parents and attempted a little more work, but kept falling asleep. Instead of fighting it, I set an alarm and curled up on the couch. Picked up the kids, worked in the garden, dropped off the little kids with my mom, and went home to make pizza and get the kids ready for the sitter. Ryan and I went to a lecture series last night called "Hot Science Cool Talks" that was at a historic theater downtown and was just as nerdy and awesome as it sounds. The audience was fun and full of smart people and the talk was so, so good. It was also really hopeful and the speaker took extra care to not turn it into a political bitch-session, which would have been really easy to do since the talk was about climate change. She encouraged us to find common ground with people and ask questions and listen. She and the other panelists said that (most) people are generally good and want what is best, but that we have to communicate better. It was lovely.

This morning Ryan took the big kids to a scout event and now I am A.L.O.N.E. in my house with no plans for the first time in what feels like years. I lazed in bed with the NY Times for a while and then ate two pieces of cake while I downloaded pictures for the school garden bulletin board. I'm working at the desk Ryan set up for me between the living room and the dining room and looking out the window. I signed up for an 8K row tomorrow, which will be challenging and exhausting and fun. And in a minute I am going to go pick up the little kids and we will make chili and bake cookies this afternoon. I am excited.

I think I've figured it out, at least for now. Exercise. Sleep. Healthy food (and sometimes cake). Time with friends. Intellectual stimulation. This is not new information to the rest of the world, I realize. But I think this will be a much better week, no matter what the kids and my colleagues throw at me.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Better Living Through Chemistry

I should be working right now, but DAMN, between the gauntlet of headlines on NPR and the despair one feels when they think of how many weeks are left in the semester are putting me into a real funk.

ALSO, I had to have ANOTHER MRI yesterday, this time for my lower back. The first one was for my upper back and the experience of being locked into a noisy coffin with my head LITERALLY STRAPPED DOWN and my face just inches from the ceiling was JUST a bit more than I can handle. That was a year ago and STILL TO THIS DAY every time I think about that cold gray metal ceiling I can feel the panic start creeping up the back of my throat. It is an ACTUAL PHYSICAL SENSATION OF TERROR.

This time, when the doctor said I would need an MRI to see why half of my foot was going numb on the reg, I said there was no way in damn hell I was getting back inside that thing without some pharmaceutical support.

"I'm going to prescribe you two xanax" she said calmly. "Take one on your way there and the second one right before the exam. Make sure you have someone to drive you home." "NOW WE'RE TALKING!" I thought, or perhaps said out loud.

I took one with my coffee at 5:45 AM before I left. By the time I rolled into the parking lot ten minutes later I was like "Hey, man! This is no big deal! I don't know what I was worried about!"

(this is how you know the meds are working)

I didn't take the second pill because I wanted to save it by that point I felt like I could manage the test without it and I wanted to be able to possibly get myself home.

Well. Judging by the way the technician WOKE ME UP after sliding me out of the tube, I'll say that was a successful MRI.

I dressed quickly then headed straight to my favorite diner next door, where I went facedown (figuratively, or as Wes would say "idiom") on a bacon and pear panini.

I think it says a lot that the thing I remember most about the experience was how delicious that sandwich was.

And today the email with the results came in advance of my followup appointment, which is tomorrow morning. There were lots of words like "bulging disk" and "narrowing" and "FUBAR" that were as oddly gratifying as they were sort of scary. I'm mostly hoping they won't tell me to give up rowing and will tell me to just keep taking the geriatric arthritis medication I'm on, because that not only keeps my foot from going numb, it also makes me sleep like a ROCK and gives me a strange fondness for hard candy and wearing slippers in public.