Friday, January 27, 2017

All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go

I just got back from four days in Seattle last night. I was at a conference and now I'm all fired up and motivated, so this morning I jumped in the shower right after the kids left to get ready for a meeting, put on a nice-ish outfit for a Friday, then went downstairs to finish prepping my draft of a publication we're working on only to find out the meeting was cancelled. So don't I feel silly sitting at my kitchen counter on a Friday morning all ready for work! (Fridays are not blowdrying days, it goes without saying)

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But the good news is that I can spent the two hours I would have spent in the car and walking to the car and parking the car (WHYYY don't we have better public transit?) to write this and hopefully make a little more progress on the draft so I don't have to go into the meeting next week with a bunch of (REF!!!!!) and (FIX THIS SENTENCE IT'S TERRIBLE) notes to self embedded in the text.

I only took like five pictures in Seattle and this is one of them.

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Here's another gem, which was intended to be part of a photo essay called "left elevator door makes me look skinny, right elevator door makes me look fat," but someone got in the elevator with me before I could take the other picture and I felt suddenly ridiculous. Luckily I started on the skinny side.

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Oh! I got to see Mount Ranier from the plane and it was seriously awesome. Also, shout out to Mount Ranier for doing me a solid and not erupting during my visit.

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On the last day I was in town I serendipitously learned that my aunt and uncle were also in town and we met up for dinner and a driving tour of the city. We had so much fun eating Lebanese food and seeing the giant troll!

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I stayed with my official conference roomie Teresa and we had ridiculous fun together as we always do on our science girls' weekend. It was nice to wake up in my own bed this morning but I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss waking up to Teresa brewing us both coffee to drink in our beds as we enjoyed the view of the freeway (foreground) and the Cascades (background) out our hotel window. Seattle is a great city and I wish I could have spent lots more time there, and not just because it was described to me by my friend N as "A town that loves coffee and beer." Also because it was gray and cloudy and cool the whole time I was there. I'm giving Ryan a few days to recover and then I will restart my campaign for MOAR TRAVEL because I seriously love it. I'm so lucky to have visited New York and Seattle this year, but what I would really like is to drop everything and spend the year taking the kids to ALL THE PLACES.

My student presented a poster based on our work from this summer and he did a great job, based on the sneaky observing I did from afar. I went to lots of education talks and a bunch of climate talks. Had dinner with a friend of my roommate's who is an accomplished author, then bought her book, which she autographed. Honestly, it was a bit jarring to be around so many smart, thoughtful people and then read the news about all the not so smart thoughtful people who have taken over Washington. I am motivated and have some new ideas and am excited to get started. I am also feeling rested, or I would feel rested if I hadn't gone to bed at 10 PM Pacific time and woken up at 6 AM Central Time.

In other news, Mary and I marched last weekend!

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I have a Thing about crowds and parking hassles and snipers standing on rooftops, so I was feeling pretty intimidated about the whole thing, but a friend of mine had arranged a group and agreed to drive us and that made me feel better. It was SUCH an incredible experience. Tens of thousands of people gathered together to advocate for the dignity and just treatment of all people. A huge crowd and slightly chaotic, but so joyful and empowering. There were so many people it took us more than an hour to get off the Capitol grounds and onto the route, and by that time the front part of the march had already circled back to the Capitol. The mile and a half route was PACKED with people shoulder to shoulder and many more were still crammed onto the lawn. An awe-inspiring sight. Mary got really scared right after we got out of the Capitol gates, so she and I and a friend made our way over to the side and stood in a less crowded spot while we waited for the others.

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It was the most hopeful I've felt since Election Night. I mean. We live in a state where you can honestly feel like you're just some liberal hippie living in a bubble, but when you are standing among more than FIFTY THOUSAND PEOPLE--and that's just the people who could make it to the march!--it's clear that no, hate does not have a mandate. There is still good in the world. I am not some highly educated elitist snob out of touch with reality. It was a good feeling.

And now I will attempt to keep my head down and do good work and keep using my fancy liberal education to politely advocate for good.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Randoms

Despite my best intentions I am having a lot of trouble getting rolling this afternoon. Possibly it's because I keep taking breaks to complain about how hungry I am and send pictures of myself flipping the bird at the camera to my friend Cindy on Facebook Messenger because I am a classy classy lady.

But seriously, I think I overshot a little on the caffeine this morning and this afternoon. But I mean, if it weren't for caffeine would we be an entire chapter ahead in one of my classes already? I DON'T THINK SO. Also, OOPS. This morning I unearthed my notes from the last time I taught this class and noticed that the material I taught this week was dated at the end of the month last time. No wonder the tone of the classroom is of confused hostility.

We bought a new bed nine months ago because I wanted to upgrade to a king and also because we thought a better mattress might help with my back. Unfortunately, the one we chose did the opposite for both of our backs and was way too soft and was getting softer with time. So we decided to take advantage of the twelve-month comfort guarantee the mattress store offered and get a new one. This was exciting because it meant we got to take the kids back to the mattress store for the second time in a year. The first time was so special and fun we were really excited to go back. Just for extra good times I let them destroy a Wendy's right before.

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The mattress salesman told us we should lie on the possible new mattress for like ten minutes to make sure it was still comfy, which we did while the kids had total free range of the rest of the store.

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We made quite a scene when it was time to leave, though, because no one could find their shoes and allllll the remotes for allllll the beds were mixed up. Ryan took charge of figuring that mess out while I handled the looks of scornful disapproval.

That night was Kids' Night Out at our church, which is why the mattress shopping outing was tolerable. We barely made it in the door without having a giant fight but right after that they were happily playing basketball and eating pizza and Ryan and I were headed into town for dinner and a concert. Everyone wins.

I only took one picture and it was of our brussels sprouts appetizer (not provided here because of laziness) because it was AMAZEBALLS.

We also spent some time in a kitchy gift shop nearby where I finally found the Hillary Clinton saint candle I've been searching for. I lit it on Monday for strength when my friend Rosa and I were in charge of supervising eight children all day long. I will probably light it again on Friday for--reasons.

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The kids took good advantage of the provided clipboards, paper, and crayons at church on Sunday.

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And James was delighted to discover a free pair of sunglasses inside the purse he bought himself at a yard sale for a quarter.

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We've had an activity every night this week and have one tonight and tomorrow too. Last night while the boys were all at choir Mary and I watched a series of Les Mis flash mob videos on YouTube. She sat next to me and sucked her fingers with her other arm wrapped around my waist and asked me to find more videos of GIRLS singing, which I did. She loves the video of Kristen Chenowith and Sarah Horn singing "For Good" at the Hollywood Bowl just as much as I do and really, it was the perfect night. Also last night I started working on a Gryffindor scarf knitting project while drinking wine and watching a Frontline about Obama's presidency while Ryan was at choir instead of dealing with the laundry situation or preparing for class like I was supposed to be doing. All work and no play, as they say.

Friday, January 13, 2017

With quiet gratitude for my crazy, cozy life

I arranged my schedule this semester to have a "research day" on Fridays, so I could carve out a little bit of time to move forward on a couple of outside projects instead of living from day to day grading and planning class like my hair is on fire (last semester--I am still recovering from that). Today is my first research day. So far I have rowed (in the rain), made myself a lovely breakfast of scrambled eggs with gouda and coffee, started a load of laundry, and sat down to write on the old long-neglected blog. So far I'd say the leaning in is going well.

Perhaps the biggest news around here is that the kids and I are back at school! I had three wonderful days after their school started and before their school started that I used doing frivolous things like getting a haircut, taking Charley to the orthopedist, and going to physical therapy. Between that and the fact that my last class day was the same as the kids' last class day in December, and the fact that I had to rely on Netflix to get finals graded and grades computed and turned in, this week has been a bit of a scramble, BUT! RESEARCH DAY!

By the way, this mural covered both walls of the lobby of the medical office tower where Charley's orthopedist is (we saw him in a satellite office before, so I was not prepared when we walked in). Floor to ceiling, for a good thirty feet on both sides, naked men wrestling. The conversation went like this: Charley: "What are they doing?!" Me: "I think they're trying to show how strong they are." Charley "I think they're trying to make a baby. With a lot of, uh, helpers."

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There you have it, fellow Texans! Unsure of how to initiate a conversation about sex amid our state's backward health education curriculum? DM me and I'll give you the address!

After a fighty end to the break, this happened after a mere four hours apart out in the world.

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We were walking back to the car after a pleasant afternoon spent snacking at a local bakery's "dollar day" and long, leisurely trip to the library. Because? Those four hours gave us all just the right amount of time to remember why we love each other. We even ran into some school friends, which lent the whole thing a cozy, community feel. Also the library had a copy of "The Bitch is Back" available so everyone was happy.

And then we went home and rollerbladed and played outside with neighborhood friends and the whole thing was so quiet and fun and happy that I decided not to rock the boat and we skipped children's choir. A decision I was happy I had made shortly after dinner when the poo hit the fan and everyone was clearly exhausted and in need of a trip to bed quickfast.

And that's really all I remember about last week except that this weekend, as I was walking into Sunday School I heard horrible news that friends of ours had lost their college-aged daughter in a car accident. These friends have been part of our lives since around the time Mary was born, which included the hardest year of our lives, when Charley started having his trouble and Mary was an infant and Ryan kept having to travel for work. They brought spaghetti to my house and held Mary so I could read bedtime stories to the boys. They showed up with a new flapper for my toilet, without being asked, when I complained on this blog about my broken toilet. They came over when I had my gallbladder out and put Mary to bed for me. Our kids run to them for giant bear hugs when we see each other on Sundays. They ask about our lives, they encourage us when we need it (and when you are trying to get four children to sit through church, encouragement is needed often), they celebrated with us when Charley started doing better. We've had countless lunches together, filled with stories and laughter and, to be honest, lots of good-natured head shaking about my kids' weird behavior They've taken the kids for a whole fun day so Ryan and I could get a break. They, all of them, the mom, the dad, the grandparents, embody what a community and friendship should look like. And they are a wonderful, close family that has already overcome quite a bit. Sunday was an absolutely awful day. Ryan and I are gutted for them. Yesterday was the memorial, which was PACKED with hurting people. People shared stories and memories and we laughed and cried together and sang beautiful music and hugged and ate cookies and drank punch. It was hard, you guys. So hard. And every time I think of how sad I am, I think of how sad they must be, and it just kills me. My poor friends.

After the memorial I came home, made dinner. I watched a pack of neighborhood kids jump on my neighbor's trampoline. And then everyone took showers, and the little kids went to bed and Charley and Wes and I stayed up a bit later, reading and working on a puzzle. Charley had trouble sleeping when he went to bed so instead of absently encouraging him to use his strategies while I read or cleaned the kitchen, I lay in bed next to him and played the alphabet game with Maine words. And then I just lay there, listening to him breathe, hurting for my friends and wishing we could all just grab our kids and hang onto them forever.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Christmas wrap up, in seventy five pictures or less

I think this picture summarizes nicely how we are all feeling on this last day of Christmas Break.

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At least that's how I'm feeling NOW. I was all riled up a few minutes ago because James and Wes added "listen to a story read aloud" to their list of things they cannot do without fighting. Other items include riding in the car, eating a meal, and urinating. But after I sent them off to bed I inhaled a couple of chocolate chip cookies and now I feel better. Self-medicating FTW!

Thanks to the Industrial Revolution we've been squeezing in lots of outdoor activities these last couple of weeks. Yesterday we ate our burritos outside and then went for a hike. We went a mile and it took an hour, but it was beautiful and fun. And because I'd hiked the more reasonable trail in this system last week with the boys, I insisted we do the more challenging trail, which has a warning sign at the trailhead. As it turns out it was kind of a lot for Mary.

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I love this picture of them. I need to get over my disdain for our Christmas card, except that every time I take a picture like this I'm like THIS ONE! WHY DIDN'T WE USE THIS ONE?!*

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*Fun fact: I spent two hours making a new Christmas card only to realize it would cost more than a hundred dollars to reprint, scrapped the whole thing, and bought a Kindle Fire instead. #fiscalresponsibility

Miss N came over again and we noticed that she, Charley, and I all have the same size feet.

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Miss N had come to take James on a fun birthday outing of his choosing, so we all went downtown to go ice skating on the roof of the Whole Foods.

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Hashtag Texas.

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Charley wasn't allowed to skate because of the thumb so he and I walked a block away to go to my favorite bookstore, where he talked Rick Riordan with one of the workers for more than thirty minutes and bought two new books. He also got to buy a peppermint tea. Pretty much anything he wanted since he was so sad about not skating. We found ways to have fun.

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After that we met up at the Capitol for Tuba Christmas, which was so much cooler than even *I* was expecting.

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A hundred and eighty-nine tubas and euphoniums playing Christmas carols. WHAT'S NOT TO LOVE?!

The morning of Christmas Eve I sewed the "Helen" from my grandmother's stocking onto Mary's (Mary Helen's) stocking. It makes me so happy!

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Wes was both a shepherd and a piano player at church. Charley was originally supposed to play the prelude, but again, the thumb, so Wes got to play it instead and HO BOY WAS THERE SOME JEALOUSY HAPPENING. Wes did a beautiful job.

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During the service they all followed the star to Bethlehem (I was so relieved in this moment because before that Charley and Wes each had multiple different roles in the service that required them to sit in different places and get up at different times and read things and play things and sing things and it was... a lot to remember).

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We went home to new jammies! (I've never done this before. Only did it this year because the big kids needed more jammies and I found a great deal and now I am doing this EVERY YEAR WITHOUT EXCEPTION).

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A note about Christmas Eve. Last year the kids for some reason all conked out dead asleep by about 8:30, which meant that Santa came early and everyone was in bed by a decent hour, even considering movie watching and holiday cheer consumption. This year, we were worried Santa would have to skip us because KIDS WERE STILL POPPING OUT OF BED AT TWO AM. I fell asleep on the floor in the hallway until Ryan took over at 1:30. It was UGLY. I thought at least they would sleep a bit later in the morning, but NOT TO WORRY because Charley set an alarm for 7:00 so he wouldn't miss anything important. LIKE SLEEP. HEADDESK.

It was still wonderful, even on a newborn level of sleep.

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The screams of excitement as I wobbled down the stairs when they realized that Santa had left everyone rollerblades.

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Charley got to break the rules, because on Christmas all fractures are magically healed!

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How many Christmas morning playing outside in our jammies pictures do we have now? A lot. They are my favorites.

Santa brought me high-quality journalism and in depth analysis. And coffee. Obviously.

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Mary was a very serious mommy.

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And then we went over to my aunt and uncle's house for benign neglect, alcohol, delicious delicious food, and hot tubbing.

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I can no longer tell James and Charley apart in pictures just by glancing.

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The english muffin bag I secured to Charley's arm with a rubber band did nothing to keep the water out since I forgot to tell him it was to prevent splashing and not submersion. I blame the wine. So that's how I spent Christmas night carefully blow drying a thumb splint. #oops #smellsbetternow

The day after Christmas was incredibly productive, when I, free from the mental burden of providing a magical childhood holiday experience for every moment of the day, was free to do six loads of laundry, dig my kitchen out from the mountain of sticky and sprinkles, send two letters of recommendation, and start gathering materials for my spring class. It was like a DRUG my friends.

And then we got in the car the next morning to drive to Dallas. The kids were less than excellent in the car, as expected, but we did get to stop for lunch at Crickets, a second location of a college bar we frequented in grad school. I was delighted to discover they added kids' menus and stopped letting everyone smoke so much!

Charley got SCHOOLED.

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So did James.

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Also: three words: Brisket grilled cheese. You are WELCOME.

And then we arrived at Ryan's parents and all was well. Ryan's parents make everything really special and homey and then keep the kids overnight and send us to the hotel where we drink Shiners and binge watch HGTV in bed. #traditions They took us to the Arboretum the next morning so we could go to the wonderful children's garden and play. We all had a good time and even met up with Ryan's high school friend and his family, who have a tiny baby that James wanted to take home with us. We had another great meal for dinner and everyone fell asleep relatively fast. The next day we got up early and went to see a cattle drive down a city street, then watched Charley in a mock gun fight.

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A friend recommended a great taco restaurant so we headed there next and met up with our old nanny, the OTHER Miss N! We were all so excited to see each other that we blocked the whole line at the taco restaurant for several awkward and huggy moments.

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And rolled around in piles of leaves in the street for a couple of hours. A good day.

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Three of the kids slept for nearly three hours on the way home, woke up to eat some pizza, and STILL went to bed at a normal time, which means it was a really fun visit. Now we are just hanging out trying not to kill each other before school starts ON WEDNESDAY. Mary and Ryan go back tomorrow, though, so the rest of us are going to go to a movie and maybe, I don't know, take a three hour nap or something. And then I have three half days to slap two syllabi and a writing assignment together along with a dentist appointment, physical therapy, and a visit to Charley's orthopedist who will know NOTHING of Charley's misadventures over the last two weeks and hopefully will tell us that it is normal that it still hurts him to bend his thumb (which is why I tell him to STOP TRYING TO BEND IT OMG. TRALALLALALA!). Also I really really need a haircut. Also I accidentally put the kids to bed an hour early tonight which explains why I am sitting at the top of the stairs writing this in the dark.