Monday, January 29, 2018

Stream of consiousness with your coffee

Not much to report here. It was kind of a mixed weekend. Sometimes the kids were fighty and annoying, sometimes they were wonderful. Dinner last night was a mix of irritability and other low-level annoyances that just made the whole thing feel like a chore. When James started hacking again I sent him off to the nebulizer and happily set to the task of cleaning up and sending everyone else to prepare for bed even though it was only 5:45. A wine-fueled practice session with Charley (he has to learn "Do Lord" in the next eight days to perform at the Children's Sabbath. It is going moderately well) while Ryan put everyone else to bed and we were still done by 7:15. Sometimes you just need to call it a day.

The other day our sitter texted to ask if she could put James's shoes in the washer. I have a weird phobia about washing shoes in the washing machine, so I asked politely if something disgusting had happened to them. She replied that they stunk so bad she had to drive with the windows open, but then considerately qualified that with "But I'm pregnant, so things smell extra strong to me right now." I asked her just to put them on the back porch for now and said I would figure it out when I got home. I was a bit surprised since if anyone's shoes smell bad enough to offend someone it's Wes's. I've never noticed James's shoes before. But then yesterday he took them off at church and YUP. James's shoes STINK. I made a mental note to find a time to get him some new ones, somewhere in the neighborhood of next weekend, but then he wore them while he played in a pond all afternoon and this morning they look like this.

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For the record those are white Converse All Stars. New shoe purchasing timeline has been accelerated.

In better-smelling news, I has an Ordinary Time itch and threw together a King Cake and some jamblaya on Saturday night. Then some friends came over to eat it with us and brought with them a craft beer pairing to go with it. A great night with only minimal kid drama (I am so glad I and the friends I hang out with are past the stage where we pretend we don't use the TV babysitter! I set up the TV at the first part of Moana and said to the kids "When you are done eating, go hit play!" They didn't even both us in the dining room. Beautiful.)

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My house smelled SO GOOD, you guys. And Ryan got the baby in the King Cake leftovers last night. I told him that he will need to make the next King Cake sometime before THIS Ash Wednesday, please and thank you.

We went over to a friend's house on Saturday morning for a Girl Scout cookie recipe open house, which was clever and fun and induced me to buy even more crack than I was planning on originally. Her house backs up to a little pond, and, like the golden retrievers they are, the kids could not WAIT to bust out of her fence and go check it out. Naturally this resulted in Charley reappearing twenty minutes later with a dead fish. See what I mean? Golden retrievers.

And finally, we have one kid who is just having a tough time with things right now. He just reread the part in Wonder when Jack Will says hurtful things about Auggie behind his back, and he cried and cried. He woke up twice on Friday crying about it and didn't go to sleep until he tucked all his stuffed animals in with him. He has been super irritable with the other kids and has been lashing out with his nails. We call him the Angry Cat. I think school has just gotten overwhelming for this sweet kid and we are trying to work with his teacher and the administrator and a couple of other helpers (therapists). Yesterday this kid wanted some Thin Mints and I was about to give him some, but then I said instead "Why don't we take these Thin Mints and get on our bikes and go have a picnic!" The kid was excited and so was I--he hasn't wanted to ride his bike or play outside in weeks! So we got on our bikes and rode a couple of miles away to a park. It was a beautiful day and the sight of his knobby knees pedaling his bike in front of me was so joyful. We ate our cookies on a picnic bench and then jumped off the swings a few times. We took a new route home and went to an open house just for fun. He picked out his bedroom and did some twirls in the middle of the floor. He fell asleep early last night and woke up feeling refreshed instead of exhausted for the first time in a while. So glad for this little break for him. I don't know why things have to be so hard for kids!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Spiders, pants, pants spiders, albuterol, and hair

Let's see how the last forty-eight hours have gone in my house, K?

I have cajoled by force a sobbing child out of bed to get ready for school. Fed him yogurt in the manner of Tina Fey trying to get Amy Pohler to take a prenatal vitamin in Baby Mama. Used every ounce of self control I have to not ALSO lose my mind. Fortunately the yogurt helped enough that he was able to put on his coat and shoes without further histrionics.

I have performed a detailed inspection of a child's pants for poisonous insects after the inside of James's thighs became red and inflamed and incredibly painful to the touch last night while we were eating dinner.  I dosed him up with Benadryl and had him lie on the couch quietly because I sort of remembered some advice from a Girl Scout wilderness first aid class about not running around because it pumps the venom through your body faster.  It also gave me access to the best spotlight in the house so I could take pictures of the rash and text it to friends like WTF is this???  After a bit of back and forth with my friend Rosa we decided Benadryl plus ice plus a shrug of the shoulders was the standard of care in this situation.  We still have no idea what the heck happened but with 10 mLs of Benadryl in his system he slept like a ROCK.

I have administered three albuterol breathing treatments to two different children, morning and night, due to COMPLETELY OUT OF CONTROL coughing during which their faces turn red and they become short of breath.  For those of you following along at home, this is entering WEEK FIVE for Charley and week two for James.  I emailed their pediatrician yesterday to describe the problem and ask if they should come in and she said, basically, DUH, so I took them in this morning.  Charley gets a suite of decongestants at night and James got a dose of steroids for wheezing and instructions to use the nebulizer every four hours.  The last time James took steroids he hulked out and sank his teeth into the post that holds up the roof of our front porch.  I should probably email his teacher.  Nah.


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I was a bit apprehensive taking them to the pediatrician during flu season. Many sharp "DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING" commands were delivered and I took my own pen out of my purse to sign the receipt rather than using theirs. Theirs which are labeled and that even the staff won't touch. Yeesh.

I took Charley to Goodwill after their doctor's appointment this morning so he could buy a pair of pants that actually have a button.  But only after spending a few minutes considering whether he could just wear the buttonless pants at school as long as he didn't tuck in his shirt before realizing that without the button the ZIPPER would also not work, so JUST NO.  It's not often you can save your child from humiliation for five dollars. I'll take it.

I dosed a child with Miralax after his abdomen became distended such that he looked as if he was carrying our first grandchild. After some discussion, it was revealed that the child was having issues in the bathroom. These issues were described in QUITE GRAPHIC TERMS. The next day I had a lengthy conversation about the result of that Miralax while standing in the lobby of Mary's school. The tummy had recovered substantially. It's a girl! Not really.

And finally, here's something new I'm learning about that might surprise you:  Girl hair.  Specifically, why does Mary wake up looking like she was doing field work on Mount Washington every morning?

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Twenty minutes and half a bottle of detangler later, we had made some important progress but both of us were sweating and no longer on speaking terms.

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Look! It's a human child who is loved and cared for by a responsible adult!

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I am hoping for a normal evening tonight without coughing, spiders, tantrums, knots, or any question marks regarding whether or not to go to urgent care.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Into the Woods

Am I the one who has been operating in a weird in-between state for the past TWENTY NINE DAYS in which no one has school and there is plenty of work to be done except NO TIME AT ALL and everyone is off their schedule and out of whack and man, that was really fun for the first TWENTY DAYS (TWEEENNNTTTYY!) but now, OMG someone just make me operate on a schedule again PLEASE. For all of our digestive system's sakes.

I got to that point this weekend (after my conference last week), and then we still had school off on Monday to contend with. Often Mary will have school when the boys are off and I use those days for things I consider to be Big Kid Activities, hiking or rock climbing or roller skating, but Mary was home with us too so I really wasn't sure what we would do with our day. I had just fired up the TV and settled into the upstairs couch with my laptop to try and squeeze in some work on one of my syllabi when my friend told me that Yes, we were absolutely going through with our plan to take the kids on a 3.5 mile hike today NO EXCUSES and I found myself gathering everyone into the car.

I am so glad I was forced into this situation because it was really lovely, even when we realized we were off the trail and accidentally turned our 3.5 mile hike into a 4 mile hike.

Seven children in the woods, what could go wrong?

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The kids were often miles ahead of the moms. We all got a workout, fresh air, AND alone time with our peers. Hiking is amazing.

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Kids? What kids?

There were numerous stream crossings. Surprisingly none of these ended in catastrophe.

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There was some fun and potentially dangerous rock scrambling. When we got to the top of one hill, Mary stopped me and pointed up. "Mama. Look at how close the sky is to us now" she said reverently.

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Mary was borderline amazing. I say borderline because she got pissed at mile 2.5 that she wasn't able to lead the pack of boys and refused to walk anymore. After some expert negotiating by my friend Cindy and some agreed-to turns and a stopwatch, we were finally able to proceed. But we still took turns carrying her a LOT.

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Expert negotiating in progress. I will store this away for the next time I attempt to convince children to do things using only volume and hysterical gesticulations.

On her turn she couldn't help it and took off at a run. All six boys ran along behind her.

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Many Dateline NBC jokes later, I was incredibly happy to see the car.

Amazingly we were all still smiling in the "after" picture.

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We decamped immediately for lunch at a restaurant with a playground and a nice beer list.

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And today the high was twenty five degrees and the thought that I was outside prancing around coatless and eating in the sunshine is ABSURD.

The kids and I had a snow day. Ryan stayed home to hold down the fort while I started digging out from work (the finals week, grading hell, Christmas prep to Christmas to New Years Gauntlet, followed by ANOTHER WEEK of kid vacation, followed by a week at a conference AND A SNOW DAY was a lot).

I took this picture of my coffee and candy wrappers that looks positively demure compared to the HUGE PILE of wrappers I just dumped into the bathroom trash can.

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Other benefits to working from home? Adorable interruptions.

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And now I must stop procrastinating and finish figuring out how to make grouped histograms in Matlab, which according to Stack Overflow is basically the white whale of scientific computing.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Shop Safety

Ryan was supposed to take the three boys to the Scout derby car workshop this morning, but he mentioned it to Mary and she asked if she could build a car too. OF COURSE SHE COULD, after all they have a sibling division and Wes was building cars at her age anyway. Ryan had an extra car (he's cubmaster), so he told Mary she was welcome to come along, but that she had to change into some work clothes (from the sparkly Christmas dress she had originally chosen). Mary, who despises all pants and only deigns to wear leggings when it is below 50 degrees, FLEW up the stairs and returned with a pair of jeans and a tshirt, then changed right there in the kitchen. Ryan still was going to take all the kids by himself but taking four kids to work with power tools all morning while I sat by the fire in my pajamas working on my syllabi and eating leftover cake seemed like a lot to ask. I was SO GLAD I went (even though the first thing I did was abandon everyone and go inside to have a cup of coffee with my friend M, whose husband was hosting the workshop).

Charley's group is the oldest kids in the pack, so that means they get to use the power tools alone, as long as an adult is watching. I didn't realize this when I was eleven, but eleven year olds are basically adults. It was all I could do to not nudge all the other adults and say "Look at how amazing he is on that drill press, JUST LOOK." That wouldn't be weird, would it?

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Mary and James: Plus one for safety googles. Minus one for bare feet.

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Charley helped Mary with the belt sander.

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Wes and James played a violent game on the trampoline and James came away with giant claw marks on either side of his ear.

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Mary was an experiment in static electricity.

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And then they started attacking each other for real so we adjourned to Whataburger to sit sullenly on a bench until our burgers were ready. (LOOK AT HOW OLD THEY LOOK STAAAAAHHHPPP)

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Conference conference

I am riding the train back up north after a conference this week and it occurred to me that since I am not sitting on the highway yelling at all the other drivers I have time to write to you!

 Conferences are a funny thing. Possibly it is not like this in all of the sciences but conferences in atmospheric science leave you overwhelmed with input in every possible way. Not just new knowledge and questions, but also coffee, food, and alcohol.

This morning I chased the cup of coffee and half bagel I ate at home with a piece of pumpkin bread covered in chocolate ganache, a fruit cup, and another cup of coffee, then went on to share a sun soaked outdoor lunch of chicken and mozzarella crepes with friends. Yesterday I had a muffalatta and a beer after my talk, then still managed to eat a large soft pretzel with extra mustard and an enormous chocolate chip cookie. Then I went home and made myself some scrambled eggs and a huge glass of wine.

I also made a four-page to-do list based on all the great scientific talks I went to and the (probably more influential) great conversations I had with people at my poster, my student's poster, at meals, and in the hallway. The last day of talks was definitely the most important one for me to hear. I have like five paper ideas now and somehow have to gather all of this information into some kind of useable form while also planning the entire semester for two classes.

Should be no problem since I have like five hours to work tomorrow before a three day weekend with the kids.

 Ryan has been managing things at home better than I ever have. They have been eating great meals and getting places on time and last night he found a stray dog and returned it to its family. I am loving having this conference in town this year because going home every night and starting the day with the (often incredibly crabby) kids has been really nice. It also eliminated one opportunity each day for overindulging so I feel refreshed instead of like I just endured a week-long science bachelor party.

 On that note, I did go to a networking reception for the Earth Science Women's Network and got to talk to someone who I really admire (in a slightly fangirl kind of way, she's kind of a big deal). I was so proud of my ability to appear to be a normal professional adult and did not accidentally discuss bodily functions or swear (man do I sound like fun at parties).

 I followed that with another university's alumni reception, because I am a fun gate crasher and my friend is the department chair. I always have a great time at that party because small Midwestern meteorology peeps are SUPER nice and fun and talented.

And the next night (after my poster which went greater than my wildest expectations and for whom the snack offerings were sliders and grilled cheese sandwiches, had both) I went to my own university's alumni dinner. I met a few new people there and it was gratifying to have three interesting research projects to talk about since word got out that I had a thousand kids and started working at a SLAC (small liberal arts college) and I think most people assumed I spend my days making soup and knitting and having long conversations about books (also true).

 My poster went really well and my talk was good and my student did amazing and there was a giant wall of pretzels so really it was the perfect week.


Now to retrain my body that we do not need a cup of coffee and a snack once an hour.

Also also the temperature has dropped 20 degrees since I left my house this morning and it is super windy and IT IS TIME TO GO PUT ON MY JAMMIES.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

New Year Incrementally Improved Me

I've spent a lot of time thinking about some goals I want to set for myself for this next year and I am hoping that writing them down to be immortalized on the internet will help me stick to it. It seems like a lot of goals, but since many of them involve things I should be doing anyway, hopefully it won't be too arduous. It's not like I want to learn Mandarin and climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Hopefully these are somewhere between that and "Taco a Day in 2018!!" Hmmm.

1. Spend less time on the $#$#Qing internet. Off to a good start aren't we?! I like Sarah's idea of no Facebook between 9 and 5 on weekdays. I might modify slightly to include a quick check in at lunchtime, but otherwise I could really be spending my time more wisely. This will help with numbers 2 through 7 and also have the bonus benefit of reducing my FOMO and the visceral terror I feel every time I read the news.

2. Hike the whole Barton Creek Greenbelt with the kids. It is a little over twelve miles. We will do it in chunks, obviously. One chunk a month seems reasonable and it is always nice to have a framework for finding weekend activities.

3. Submit one or two papers SOMEWHERE. Hopefully the first one will be in the next week or two! This is really a double/triple/quadruple goal because it will require doing some serious work on my imposter syndrome, which tells me daily that I suck at this and should sell coffee instead. There is another post brewing about how academic rank and advancement is designed to make you feel inferior and stupid. Someday. For now we will focus on positive goals!

4. Row twice a week. This means that even if we cancel for freezing/terrible weather I need to row on the machine. This giant rowing badonkadonk isn't going to maintain itself and apparently I now live in Duluth Minnesota because the temperature has not gotten above freezing since sometime last year.

5. Two other workouts per week. I hope to start swimming again but the schedule at the campus pool is tricky with my class schedule. The rest of the gym is open all day though and I really have no excuse since it is not THAT hard to make the five minute trek across campus.

6. Tweet one professional tweet per day. Not just retweets, but real things I find interesting with grown up sounding text that came from my brain. This might be the hardest one of them all.

7. Finish my yard sale sampler (cross stitch) project. Begin (complete?) the amazing cactus cross stitch chart my mom gave me for Christmas. I am SO excited about this.

Off to go make some progress on number 3!