Friday, February 23, 2018


Charley is spending the night with his Boy Scout troop tonight at a campout for new campers that is being held approximately thirty minutes away from my house.  He will be there for approximately eighteen hours, with a whole pack of eleven year old boys and experienced leaders.  A half hour from home.  For eighteen hours.

When I lived in Florida as a kid (location relevant because this is how I mark time in my childhood, since this occurred in Florida I know it happened before the summer I turned eight, which is when we moved to New York) my parents took me and my sister to Girl Scout camp some distance away from our house for a WEEK.

To reiterate: sometime before the summer I turned eight, in other words, WHEN I WAS SEVEN (James's age) and my sister was SIX, we went to OVERNIGHT CAMP for a WEEK.  And I LOVED it.  And I am pretty sure my mom and dad joyfully skipped back to the car together, alone, rather than HOLDING BACK TEARS OVER COFFEE the morning of dropoff like SOME PEOPLE (me) were doing this morning.

And they certainly weren't considering taking time off of work to go to a fabric store to find a piece of fabric that felt like our loveys and then sewing it on the inside of our backpacks so we could feel it at night.  That would be ridiculous.

If I am remembering childhood and camp correctly, this is how it went.  Parents back station wagon up to camp cabin and unload an astonishing number of items to sustain you for a seven-day period, give you an awkwardly long hug and then off they go.  For the next seven days the outside world ceases to exist, except for that magical moment when your counselor announces that you will be walking to the convenience store as a cabin to buy candy.  Primary concerns become "Will we get to have a 'quick dip' before bedtime tonight?"  "Will lunch be edible?" and "Will I be required to endure team sports today?" (in addition, of course, to the typical concerns which arise when a group of adolescent girls attempts to live in quasi-Lord of the Flies-style self-governance).

EIGHTEEN HOURS.  I am ridiculous.

(Although, judging by the way I stood in my open front door this morning yelling out to the children, who were standing in torrential rain BESIDE THE UNLOCKED CAR, to "Open the door and get in!  Get in the car, guys!  Just open the door and get in!" as they looked at me quizzically like I was speaking Klingon to them, I am not convinced that my concerns for their practical skills are completely irrational)

I will report back later this weekend after I remove all the unused changes of clothes from his backpack.

Monday, February 19, 2018


I have been getting way more exercise than normal you guys and when I get out of the car I make lots of involuntary grunting sounds and then have to hobble around for a few minutes before everything starts working again.  Our rowing coach last Friday decided that EVERY DAY IS LEG DAY because, duh, rowing is a leg sport and no one on our boat is doing it right.  It's gotten so much better, and Sunday I noticed new and welcome definition in my hamstrings, but dang, the grunting.  I thought a yoga class on Saturday (which was held at a brewery and was followed by beer) might help, but all those warrior poses seem to have worsened the problem.  So did the big trail walk I took last night with some friends (also followed by beers because you can buy a six pack at the Whole Foods downtown and then drink it on the roof deck and between that, the giant walk, and the little carton of food I got at the hot bar for dinner, GIRLS' NIGHT FOR ELEVEN DOLLARS). #thisis37

On Sunday afternoon I suggested Mary change out of her tights and corduroy dress to go play outside.  She balked when I produced a tshirt and a comfy pair of James's old sweatpants, because she is a DRESS GIRL through and through.  But then I pointed out that I was wearing workout clothes too and that we could match and she agreed.  And this may be a coincidence, but instead of primly riding her little pink bike in slow circles around the driveway like she often does outside, she was ALL IN with the street hockey game the boys were playing.  She was running around and passing the ball and LOVING IT.  Magic pants?  Dressing for comfort?  I always thought that leggings and a dress plus sneakers would be plenty comfy for running and playing, but maybe it is an attitude thing?  It was EYE OPENING.  More comfy play pants for the girl child.


I realized I hadn't taken a group shot of them at church in a while.  I used to line them up all cute in the garden, but now I take a hasty shot down the row while we are waiting for everything to start.  Note Charley's dirty jeans.  I just can't even anymore.  WE WERE THERE!  +10000!


And then Wes got pissed about something silly and made this mask to show everyone how angry he was.


And then turned it into a superhero costume.  LOTS of paying attention happening here.


Saturday afternoon we tried doing that thing where everyone is in a funk so you see if maybe a change of scenery and something new might help.  A friend open adopted this kayak to us since he can't keep it at his apartment and we finally decided to take it out.  It was fun and it kind of helped the mood, but really it was just cold and gray and still pretty complainy.  When Wes had his turn he immediately paddled as far away from us as possible.  Apt.


Charley wore the normal life jacket around the house the whole time we were getting the kayak ready to go and then when we got all the way to the park he said he'd left it in the garage.  Then looked at us with surprise at our exasperation.  So he got to wear Mary's tiny orange lifejacket.


Mary didn't want to go alone but she definitely wanted to paddle, so she took me on a ride.


We are entering this strange phase where a kid is slowly supplanting my place as the Helper of Doing Things.  Here he is ably helping Ryan strap the kayak down.  This is an interesting new phase.


And now I need to get ready for work because despite my eager checking and rechecking, the academic calendar refuses to make today a holiday.  Womp womp.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

VaLENTine's Day

Well! Isn't today an interesting day of contradictions! I made sure we had a King Cake last night, our last of the season, since today is Ash Wednesday. But then I woke up on this the first day of Lent and was greeted with a hug and a kiss and a box of fancy candy. I spent a whole ten minutes yesterday afternoon selecting the perfect thing for Ryan at the grocery store between school pickup, tutoring pickup, and going home to cook six dozen pierogi for the Scout international potluck.


And tonight half of us will be celebrating Sunday's performance with the children's choir and the other half will be contemplating our mortality on the other side of the building.

Charley is missing his children's choir Valentine's Day party tonight because he is straight up AMPED to serve as the backup acolyte at the Ash Wednesday service. The director told him that even though there were no more open acolyte spots, he could still help take all the pieces of paper people nailed to the cross and help burn them in the back. I share his fascination with ceremony and ritual. Or maybe it's just pyromania. Probably pyromania.

The children have taken the dual nature of the day in stride. We always put a small box of three Russell's Stover (didn't there used to be four??) chocolates at each kid's seat at the table on Valentine's Day and today while they sat around eating them (for breakfast) Wes suggested they go around the table and "atone for their sins." Mary immediately piped up: "James, I am so sorry I stabbed you in the eye with scissors." I had almost forgotten about that special family moment!

(For the amount of goofing around, fighting, getting drinks of water, and going to the bathroom they manage to cram into a single hour-long church service, they really do cue into the darker parts of the liturgical calendar.)

Wes gave each of us a tight hug this morning, which was extra sweet since he can't seem to get along with James for more than seven minutes without starting a screaming fight these days. This morning he helped him read the descriptions of all the chocolates, gave him a big hug, and you could tell he was working so hard at being patient and kind with him. It is a struggle, sharing the middle kid status with an boisterous and incredibly intelligent little brother that has LASERLIKE precision when it comes to driving Wes up the wall. Once, James couldn't stop saying "What are you gonna do with your life?!" like the dad at the beginning of the Twisted Sister video for "We're Not Gonna Take It" because we are awesome parents. It was making Wes INSANE. Wes was out in the garage with Ryan and James popped around the corner, looked right at Wes, and said loudly "WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO WITH YOUR LIFE" and Wes FLEW across the garage in a horizontal position and took James TO THE GROUND. Ryan said it was like something out of a movie.

UPDATED TO ADD: I had lunch with Ryan today and now I have the whole story about why Wes was working so hard at being nice this morning. HE GAVE UP FIGHTING WITH JAMES FOR LENT. Whether this is an entire Lent commitment or just an Ash Wednesday commitment was unclear.

As for me, I toyed with the idea of going vegetarian for the month, but never mentally committed. Clearly that is off to a roaring good start.

Fasting from...fiber?

Perhaps I should give up making commitments of any kind instead?

Monday, February 12, 2018

Potty Accident Not Shown

My friend Irina and I went on a long hike Saturday, first thing in the morning. It was a beautiful trail in the woods and, importantly, was straight uphill for the first two miles. The second two miles were back down the same long hill. The weather was cool and cloudy and it was just wonderful.

Come at me, big ass hill.

After the hike I was texting with a friend about my plans for the rest of the day and I was saying things like "The kids have a bunch of events later today and I would like to be considerate of Ryan's time" instead of "OMFG I need a freaking break" and it occurred to me that PERHAPS, vigorous exercise and uninterrupted (except by my own labored breathing, see above: big ass hill) time talking to a friend was JUST WHAT I NEEDED. The change in my mental state was remarkable. I came to this realization standing at the iced tea tank at a breakfast taco restaurant and it was like a lightbulb went on. I'm not crazy, I just have four kids and a job and spend most of my time either sitting down and being frustrated, standing up and cooking while arguing with people, or putting people to bed while arguing with people. I hate to characterize my life, which really does feel happy and the good kind of busy most of the time, this way, but DANG, you guys.

After the hike and a breakfast taco, and a gigantic cold front that came through shortly after we finished the hike, dropping the temperature twenty degrees, I arrived home refreshed and ready to jump into the project Ryan and the kids were engaged in, namely digging the house out from three weeks of constant business, entertaining, and sloth. This involved scraping dried urine off every surface imaginable in the downstairs bathroom, running a small village-worth of laundry, and reshelving every single book in the family room, but I also suited up and waded into Charley's room, which had taken on hoarder-level conditions. Imagine my relief when he told me the huge box of trash next to his desk was his recycle bin AND that I could empty it. You never know! We cleared the entire floor, cleaned out the closet, made the bed, and pulled all the too small things out of his dresser. Since the door to his room is right off the main part of the downstairs, this has improved my stress-level IMMENSELY.

We all took an Olympics break in the early afternoon. In a pile on the couch, as you do.


And then all the pickups and drop-offs began and I made Ryan go buy me some beer and a family size box of mac and cheese at the store, the kind with the powder, I made sure he understood. I was asleep by 9:30. Pretty much the perfect day.

Sunday morning we had to be at church for THREE SERVICES, due to it being Children's Sabbath. Charley and Wes played the offertory and the prelude, respectively, at 8:15 and then all four kids sang in the children's choir at the 9:30 service. After they sang, we spirited everyone out and went to get some donuts down the street. On the way there I showed Ryan a radar image on my phone, because his parents were getting a crazy sleet storm. Charley got super excited and thought I was talking about where we live and when I told him it wasn't he exclaimed "OH CRAP!" So then Ryan and I were cry-laughing and trying to tell him he's not allowed to use that word. We all squeezed into a booth intended for a family of four at the donut place and when James's donut dropped sugar all over the table a Hunger Games-style street-brawl erupted with all four kids slamming their hands and faces into the pile of sugar from all corners of the table. It was quite the spectacle. I just sat there getting jostled while I drank my coffee and practiced mindful breathing so I didn't literally pummel someone right there in the middle of the donut shop. It was the world's most annoying game of Hungry Hungry Hippo.

They appear to be so calm.

And then we went back to church for the 11:00 service and second children's choir performance, during which Mary had a potty accident and began screaming. I swooped in and grabbed her, but she managed to screech "I had a potty accident!!" before we made it all the way out. She screamed and peed (all over me) all the way to the bathroom, where I stripped her down and considered my options. She has never been an accident kid and I had no extra clothes. Numerous helpful old ladies had followed me into the bathroom to see if they could help with the screaming child, but obviously none of them was carrying a pair of size 5 leggings in her purse. So I put her back into her skirt commando and carried her wet tights, undies, and shoes back into the sanctuary to watch the big kids perform. We stood in the back, but when I noticed Mary hiding behind a trash can I wrapped her in one of the fleece courtesy blankets they keep in the church and snuggled her into my shoulder. Later, a friend's daughter ran up to us in the parking lot with a pair of pants and some undies for Mary to put on. It takes a village!

Since the kids were obviously in need of a few hours of down time after the crazy morning, it was good that we had two concurrent Scout meetings and dinner plans scheduled for Sunday afternoon. The giant meltdown Wes had upon arriving home was certainly not unexpected. Amazingly we coaxed him to eat a hot dog (lying down on the runner in the upstairs hallway) and then he perked up because we had a freak thunder-sleet storm.

I managed to coax him into the car by telling him his Scout meeting was near the location of the huge sinkhole that opened up not far from our house and that maybe we could go check it out on the way home.

Sinkhole tourism!
We had a nice dinner with our new babysitter and everyone was in bed asleep by 7:30. Olympics, cross stitch, and beer is a perfectly lovely way to wind down the day and I am really looking forward to this next two weeks.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

More cataloguing of the mundane

I didn't know this about myself, but apparently after Christmas I no longer have any use for the things that seemed so wonderful before, like jeans and sweaters and boots and daydrinking. It has been not warm all week long and I keep throwing on a dress and tights (because of the winter shaving situation only, not because I am dressing for warmth) and running outside without a coat on only to be surprised and disappointed every time that I am horribly uncomfortable. Yesterday I wore Birkenstocks all day and I was FREEZING. Not today. Today was one of those weird days where it gets colder all day instead of warmer so I wore jeans and a tshirt with a fleece and WOOL SOCKS AND BEAN BOOTS. Much better. Yes, I know it is February. We haven't had winter in three years, so you can imagine it has come as kind of a shock.

It would seem based on a quick check of the archives that I lost the ability to weave a single grocery store poop diaper into a thousand side splitting words of hilarious oversharing and that all you are left with are half-hearted recaps with a bunch of phone pictures. Or maybe it's just that no one really poops in their pants around here anymore. Almost never! And sometimes the hilarious things can't really be shared publicly. The only thing I will mention is that a couple of weeks ago someone in our family attended an all-weekend human development seminar and after that happens you have really crossed a line. The line between normal families and families in which you can converse at length with one of the children about IUDs.

And NO ONE wants to hear about that, right??


Mary let me choose her clothes this morning, which she never lets me do, probably because my choices are always WAY LESS PINK than hers. I have a thing for practical jeans and sweaters. Today I tried to honor her style by pairing her Superman tshirt and leggings with a flouncy gray tulle skirt she loves. Then I pulled her hair into what she calls a "rowing ponytail." We were both pleased.


She was feeling very mature and went to the kitchen to make a peanut butter and banana sandwich, that she gave to James. It was quite a nice morning (probably because we let Wes awaken slowly by watching a soothing video of a cat nursing ten kittens instead of playing marching band music at top volume outside his door. I should really get around to writing a parenting book someday).


I rowed in a race on Saturday morning called the Winter Warrior. The race itself is 8K, the whole length of the lake. You also row down to the start and then back to the boathouse at the end, which means you row the whole lake twice for a total of 16K. It was SO HARD. But it felt SO GOOD. Someone got an awesome picture of us as we went under one of the bridges. It was truly the perfect day for a race. I even got to see the kids, who were lined up (in a weird coincidence) on another one of the bridges for a Scout parade that was happening at the same time).


I like a sport you can do in cozy woolen socks.


Pre-race selfie: feeling strong and excited! Let's do this! Post-race selfie (not shown): Similar, but more blotchy and exhausted looking. Plus side, after we put our boat up someone from the men's eight handed me a Guinness and a breakfast taco. Athletics are the BEST.


In case any of you were wondering re: the status of my housekeeping abilities.


Friar Tuck was an acolyte for the fourth Sunday in a row this weekend. He loves it and is also in a friendly competition with his friend Sara to see who can get the most beads on their cross lanyard. Since you get two beads for being the First Acolyte on Communion Sundays, this was kind of a big deal. Plus he really digs the robe.


The younger kids and I had to wait on a playground for a while on Saturday while Ryan and Charley attended to some Scout business and James wanted me to take this picture of him being ferocious.


I was back on the lake Monday morning for our usual practice. It is hard to take gym pics when your gym is a lake before sunrise, but the skyline all lit up is so pretty I keep trying. I have about a million of these.


Mary and I made meatballs for dinner tonight and as usual she was chatting away happily as she stood on a chair at my side. I giggled when she started to tell me about her day (we sometimes share "Amens" which are good things and "Aw mans" which are bad things) and said "My 'aw man' for today is--WOAH" when she finally looked down and saw me mixing the meat mixture by kneading it with my hands. Then she joined in and declared it "cold and disgusting." The directions suggest using a potato masher, which, have you ever tried to wash a potato masher? I save mine strictly for maiming intruders.

This seems like an abrupt way to end this, but I was annoyed about something petty when I left work this afternoon and declared that I would not be taking my power cord with me as an act of defiance. And now my battery is getting low. I SURE SHOWED THEM. TOMORROW IS WEDNESDAY (abruptly and loudly starts sobbing).