Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Summer continues apace

I was going to write all about how remember when I was in grad school and blogged all the freaking time? That's because I was working with spectral analysis, which is something I find interesting and understandable in a general way, but when I try to apply it, via some kind of Matlab monstrosity, I quickly lapse into a state of despair and vow to take up a career in coffee instead. Guess what! I'M WORKING WITH FFTs AND POWER SPECTRA AGAIN SO HERE WE ARE.

But then I clicked open Blogger and the first post in my drafts opened with the sentence "My housekeeping ideology can best be described as a sinusoidal oscillation between apathy and rage." I MEAN.

(I remember that post. It was from a week ago and it seemed self indulgent to write a blog post about how clean I was able to get the floor of my shower fresh on the heels of an unfolding state-sponsored humanitarian crisis in my own state.)

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Sometimes we have to control the things we can control.

The onslaught of summer activities continues unabated, however, and I must keep you updated via a hastily typed photo essay on the way to pick Mary up from school.

I think the biggest piece of news is that Mary has officially mastered using tongs and stacking pink cubes into pyramids and has graduated from preschool.

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I did not get verclempt at the ceremony probably because I had just dashed over there from the swim meet, where I had checked us in at a blistering FOUR FORTY-FIVE IN THE MORNING. It was sweet and wonderful. Mary said she wanted to be a teacher when she grows up, just like Miss Carmen (her teacher) and "Miss Mama". I died.

I am going to miss these women and plan to ask them to move into my home for a brief transition period of one to two decades. One of them was James's Montessori teacher too and has been with our family for four years. They both mean the world to us. Pickup on Mary's last day Friday could get ugly.

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Speaking of ripping off the bandaid I found a few more school uniform pieces for Mary. She immediately put them on in the kitchen. When Charley walked into the room he stopped in his tracks and said "Wooooaaaaahhhhh." I know, buddy.

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Saturday night we trundled the children off to a bar on the south side to what they referred to as my "recital." My friend Kelly and I played Bob Marley's Three Little Birds AND SANG on stage as part of our Girl Guitar class. It was super fun and terrifying and my guitar sounded super weird and it kind of freaked me out. But everyone cheered and sang along. Also I had a beer first because obviously.

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The children have taken an interest in MadLibs.

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There has been rowing.

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And the sun is up during our practice now so I can take lots of obnoxious pictures suitable for Facebook gloating because dang, it is so pretty on the water in the morning.

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Because why the hell not?

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And finally, a rare moment in which the middle children were not actively trying to maim each other. I took this picture to send to Ryan the same way I take pictures of over things I find amusing or totally unbelievable because would you believe the kids are in actual therapy because of the epic fights these two have? Including one that ended on Monday night with James getting whipped with the garden hose and me locking myself in the bedroom so SOMEONE ELSE CAN DEAL WITH THIS FOR ONCE OMG? Special. But LOOK!!

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That's pretty much it for now. Swim team is over at the end of next week and I AM GOING TO MISS IT, which is...unexpected. Soon we will be in Maine and then there are two weeks and then school starts and SUMMER WILL BE OVER. There is much to do, including purchasing school supplies and A PE UNIFORM FOR CHARLEY because he now has to dress out for PE. One thing at a time, though. And that thing is turning my back on FFTs for a few more hours and taking Mary to buy supplies for the twenty kids we are having over tomorrow to decorate Christmas cookies and watch Elf. Because why the hell not.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The weekend ranged from poop to IM

Happy Father's Day to Ryan, the guy who spent the whole morning at the emergency room with James, who had a week of abdominal pain, and more recent bonus trouble eating, and, this morning, an inability to swallow water without pain, that turned out to be extreme constipation (official diagnosis). Nothing says father's day like helping a seven year old through his first enema experience!

Except awakening to your flustered wife making a festive breakfast taco feast while also talking to the triage nurse and crying a little and snapping orders at the kids.

We spent the afternoon waiting in line to spend ten minutes fishing for cat fish in a small above-ground swimming pool in the Bass Pro Shops. Our special family dinner was subs and our pool trip was binge watching a fascinating kids' cartoon on Netflix about a brother and sister who live in Normandy during World War II. And then we read books and played games until an early bedtime. It was a good day, but I'm hoping tomorrow is calmer.

(Tomorrow will not be calmer. We have three swim practices, sixth grade survival camp, a two-hour appointment with psychiatry, therapy, and two guitar lessons. But at least we don't have Scouts!)

BUT AT LEAST WE GOT OUT FOR A DATE ON FRIDAY. We went to a brewery to see two friends play their guitars. We ate dinner at home first and bought souvenir glasses for $14 each that included six half-pours. Three hours of beer and entertainment for less than thirty bucks.

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On the way home we opened the windows (because the car smelled like a dead fish because, as we later discovered, Charley had left a homemade fish trap in the trunk FILLED WITH HAM, SEXY DATE RIDE), cranked Nathaniel Rateliff, and drove around the neighborhood until the clock struck nine and we could officially go home without being too lame.

Couple of other things have been going on. We spent the day with my friend Rosa and Baby Sam on Wednesday. We paid James a dollar and a popsicle to take care of Sam for a while and I think he did a great job.

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Later we took a dozen or more kids to the pool with an armload of pizzas and a quarter-sheet pirate cake for my belated birthday celebration.

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We have had some wild swings in dinner quality this week.

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And, surprise! We went to a swim meet on Saturday! As a special bonus, James and Wes, who are safely in different age groups, GOT PUT ON A RELAY TEAM TOGETHER. One kid was more excited about this than the other.

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We both breathed a sigh of relief when this exchange went well. Somehow they won their heat. While this did not lead to improved sibling bonding *on the surface*, Wes was super wreck while James was in the ER this morning. If that's not love, what is?

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This is what I look like after all of their events, but Charley swam a 100 IM and HOLY SHIT you guys. That was INTENSE.

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Mary disappeared for an hour and we found her in a sand volleyball court with a bunch of the 6 and under girls.

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A nice enough weekend. And now onto freaking Monday.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Seven Quick Takes

1. James got a couple more time improvement ribbons. One for fifty free and one for backstroke, his favorite stroke and the one he beat me in at the Polar Bear Plunge on January 1st, which was the original reason we thought swim team might be a good thing for him.

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Wes dropped eleven seconds in his butterfly on Saturday. My kids are so much cooler than I will ever be. Charley attempted to teach me the butterfly the other day and when I got to the end of the pool what can only be described as a bow wave sloshed onto the pool deck like some kind of Sea World attraction. Super elegant.

2. We had a weird morning on Monday and I ended up having to drive the kids to swimming immediately after rowing, which meant I had thirty seconds to choose an outfit and otherwise prepare for a work meeting I had later that day. Which meant that not only did I take two kids to a work meeting, they were wearing Speedos and I looked like this.

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3. Between swimming and my meeting that day, we made a quick stop at the orthopedist, who took a new set of xrays on Wes's arm and declared that he's officially ready to ditch the brace except for when playing sports or riding his bike. He was bummed that he still has even those small restrictions, but today he got back out on his bike for the first time in fourteen weeks and it was GLORIOUS. And also, DUDE, you BROKE YOUR ARM IN HALF, it's kind of a big deal. Also pictured: Speedos.

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5. I bought a small table and chairs on the Craigslist when we moved in to this house with the intention of refinishing it one day. I thought it would look nice black with contrasting chairs, but the project fell to the bottom of the list. Last week Charley and I were home alone together all day while the other kids were at camp and on a whim I went to Home Depot for the supplies. They suggested spray paint. I did three coats followed by two coats of polyurethane so that the kids can play dominoes without destroying it and I am officially in love with a table. Before I moved it back into the room I switched the pretty, but awkwardly sized rug out with the one in Mary's room and now it is officially my favorite room in the house (except for the one where I sleep, because obviously). We only use this as a "dining room" on occasions when we have friends over and then it's where the adults eat while the kids destroy the kitchen. Most of the time it used for games, homework, letter writing, and music practice. And of course, turn three in the circuit the kids run around the downstairs. (I have to also point out the Birds of North America poster my friend Rosa gave me as a housewarming present that I still admire every time I pass it). And Mary loves her new rug.

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6. We had a DOOZY of an afternoon today. The kids had a group fight while in with the therapist (who they were seeing to talk about NOT FIGHTING SO MUCH) and everyone was straight up horrible to each other. When I inquired if we were a normal family she replied "A normal family with a magnifying glass, maybe!" She usually seems so unflappable, but today she was definitely flapped. When she walked us out to the waiting room to leave we found James OUTSIDE CLIMBING A TREE IN THE PARKING LOT. I left so frustrated and embarrassed that we canceled our pool plans and went straight home to stress-clean the whole downstairs. Also I asked Ryan to rent us a fifteen passenger van for the rest of the week because the therapist recommends giving Wes lots of space in the car because we can't keep all having massive scratching fights every time we have to run to the store for peanut butter. He laughed and then I responded that I was not joking. Not at all. I am DONE. Unfortunately, it is church youth group trip season here in the Bible Belt and everywhere he called was fresh out of giant vans. Still working on how to handle this problem without dropping a C-note every day on a giant van.

7. But the other side of that coin is that we gave him TONS OF SPACE, as recommended all afternoon. He spent a pleasant hour or two building an elaborate battle scene with alien army guys and blocks upstairs, rode his bike for a while, and appeared at the dinner table fresh as a daisy. He made us all blondies and then said he wanted to save them for tomorrow so everyone could have a popsicle on the back porch. Later James had a minor accident outside and Wes read to him while Ryan cleaned him up. It was so, so nice. I may forward this picture to the therapist.

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Sunday, June 10, 2018

Our Super Hero Disguise

I've long been skeptical of youth sports with their long Saturdays, evening practices, expensive entry fees, and my children's extreme aversion to competition of all kinds. A brief history of our experience in this area includes everything from dramatic tantrums to having to ask the refs to not use whistles to LOTS AND BUNCHES of picking flowers in the outfield, the midfield, and along the sidelines. But Charley is nearly twelve and has had such a good year, I thought it might be time to give it just one more shot. So I signed the three boys up for summer swim team and then proceeded to lose sleep over the decision for the next two months.

The first month of practices went surprisingly well, as did the first couple of meets. I couldn't believe how much I was enjoying sitting in a tentful of nine year old boys for entire Saturdays, arriving before dawn and staying until the heat index reached a hundred and five. The kids have been cheerful and eager participants in meets and practices and Charley once wore a whistle on a lanyard around all day "like my coach." MY COACH. From the kid who spends his free time drawing incredibly subtle and biting political cartoons.

I am incredibly proud of their hard work and good sportsmanship, not to mention flexibility and patience with themselves.

It has gone SO WELL in a way I was not expecting and I give a lot of credit to their coach, who they ADORE.

And all the assistant coaches, who are super heroes who gently tell kids "Hey buddy, why don't you go potty before you get up on the blocks next time so you don't have another accident (*ahem* for instance *ahem*).

My expectations were not that high, considering they learned about all of this like a month ago and I still keep accidentally calling practice "rehearsal", but COLOR ME SURPRISED when last week they got SIX time improvement ribbons. And then this week, Charley was named Swimmer of the Week! He got a special red swim cap to wear all week and a kicky sign for the front yard. YOUTH SPORTS 4LYFE!

And during our meet on Saturday, during which I continued my habit of internally eye-rolling at every goofy thing the parents yell on the sidelines to their kids, whose heads are underwater most of the time, Charley was midway through the pack for his twenty five free, which I thought was amazing. Until the last five yards when he pulled away AND WON THE FREAKING HEAT. I know that Ryan and I both realized what was happening at the same moment because both of us dropped our self-conscious "Come on buddy! Doing great!" and went straight for the indecipherable grunting, screaming, and loud swearing.

My nose instantly started running as I strained not to cry and my hands were shaking uncontrollably. Charley could barely speak when he got out of the pool, partly because he had just swam his fastest and also because I was squeezing him like a boa constrictor.

For the record, he played it totally cool like "OMG guys, let's act like this is a regular thing, OK??"

Ryan said he wanted to group text everyone on his contacts list and say "My kid is good at a SPORT."

But the thing is, for us, this is SO NOT A REGULAR THING. As absolutely smart and capable as my kids are (brilliant in my biased opinion), we as a family have always struggled with being successful at the regular kid stuff, like soccer and academics and leaving a Wendy's without a floor-kicking meltdown. As I always like to say, usually tongue-in-cheek, but it is a good personal motto all the same, "We are good at other things," like drawing political cartoons, family sing-a-longs, well-placed but kind of inappropriate sarcasm, the way Wes wears two entire outfits to church (one casual, one nice) so he can rip off his button down and khakis the moment the organ plays the last note of the benediction, Hamilton references, and dealing with big feelings in public while not giving a shit what everyone else thinks.

This has been a good place for us to be for many years and we have some great friends who love all of us in spite of our lack of pop culture awareness, random bouts of singing, occasional comically out of control tantrums, and that one time when Wes fell asleep on the kitchen floor in the middle of eating a hot dog.

I know from all our years of kid therapy that this word is a no-no, but IT FEELS REALLY GOOD TO DO SOMETHING NORMAL.

It's like in college, when my parents gave me a gorgeous and on-trend (at the time) black pea coat for Christmas. I wore it all winter, usually with my boot cut jeans, and RELISHED the feeling of looking like everyone else as I walked around campus. It was like my super hero disguise. On the outside I look like ALL OF YOU! But on the inside I'm a coffee-swilling, MATLAB loving, hymn-singing in the shower, SUPER NERD (I am still this person, only now my disguise is black skinny jeans, OH HOW I LOVE THEE BLACK SKINNY JEANS).

Charley is still the lovable, slightly offbeat goofball he's always been, which is wonderful. But as he said "Lots of kids talk about playing sports at school, it would be cool to have something to talk about. Maybe this is my sport?" I just love him.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Day eight

Woah, guys. I didn't mean to leave you hanging like that. Apparently having children home twenty-nine hour a day does not lend itself to the Life of the Mind. Or the Life of the Anything Other than Eating Potato Chips Standing Up At the Kitchen Island at Nine AM.

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I haven't written since before the last round of home haircuts (pre-haircut state shown below).

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School ended and we had a really excellent and really enormous fifth grade cookout. Some friends and I started planning on a whim hoping we'd get enough families to cover the cost of the pavillion rental and ended up with THREE HUNDRED RSVPs. I bought enough hot dog buns to fill two laundry baskets.

Two of my friends and I went on a big hike (and, breakfast tacos, obviously) to sneak in one last conversation before being constantly interrupted by requests for snacks and juice boxes.

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Since then we've been focusing most of our energy/time on swimming and eating.

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And falling asleep reading in weird places.

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And one optimistic morning in which I thought I'd introduce the kids to cursive.

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I thought it would be fun for us to work in a community garden over the summer, so I signed us up to work at one at a children's psychiatry clinic nonprofit. On the first day, Wes had such a loud tantrum that they sent a social worker out to check on us. We ditched our materials and jumped into the car in shame. On the way home, I changed my mind, got everyone a snack, and made them try again. The second time went better and we are all looking forward to going back.

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I bought some prescription sunglasses online and I love them so much. James said "You look like A POLICE!" #nailedit

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And yesterday Charley and I had to go to a work meeting together.

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While the other two boys were at camp...

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and Mary did some very important work.

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Tonight we wound down the day with sangria and pizza at a friend's pool and tomorrow it's back to swim team and camp and I might even attempt to sneak in a few minutes of working on an R&R that is due at the end of July if I'm feeling fancy. Somebody hold me to it.