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.)