Thursday, November 28, 2019


On Tuesday afternoon around five I ensured Ryan had a restful end to his work day by texting him this little nothing "I don't think we should take these kids to church tonight. Or anywhere. Ever again." And he responded immediately "Would you rather go alone or do you want me to be the designated driver?" Which, if you are in the need of husband tips, is officially my favorite text ever. It gave me just enough mental space to power through the last sixty minutes of imposed SAHM-ing, make dinner, and be willing to take all the kids to church for the Thanksgiving service.

Thanksgiving Break always starts with two days of school break/non-break overlap funtime and while I have the freedom to bring them to campus with me, it is NOT good settle into the zone and get lots accomplished time. My mom took the little two all day Monday, though, so I only had the big two and it was kind of awesome because really all I did was give them my university ID and twenty bucks and told them to check in once an hour. They checked out books, rode our community bikes, ate lunch in the dining hall, and relaxed in the hammocks, and then appeared right on schedule in the hallway outside a meeting I needed to attend. I knew they were there because when the meeting ran twenty minutes over they started loudly whistling the Jeopardy theme music through the door. #professional Anyway. Big kids are kind of awesome. The next day was similar, except they were also responsible for Mary (James was at a friend's house), so they stayed closer to my class. It was kind of a lot.  I sent Ryan the above text after stupidly attempting to half-ass a family Christmas picture.  A random sample:




After that I dropped Charley and James off at swim practice and then took the others home for magical cookie making time.


We went to the Thanksgiving church service after dinner, which was at a different church down the road from ours and while we were walking in Wes wanted to know if this was the church where they said "Sparkle Goddess Sparkle Goddess Sparkle Goddess!" Which was from the drag skit at the Interfaith Pride service we went to in August. It was a different church, so I told him that, but still we walked into church singing "Sparkle Goddess Sparkle Goddess Sparkle Goddess!" #thatfamily

I'm glad I did rally and take them because there were multiple moments of hilarity that night.  During the children's message when our pastor had the kids think of something they were thankful for for each letter of the alphabet Wes said "C for Charley."  And then at the end Charley and Wes vanished from the sanctuary in search of the coffee hour in the fellowship hall, forgetting that we had no idea where the fellowship hall actually was in that church.  We found them a short time later drinking lemonade and eating cookies like NBD.  On the way out Charley asked me if I had tried this particular kind of cookie and when I said I hadn't, ran back inside to get me one.  On his way back out he stopped suddenly and then pointed out a big crack in the sidewalk to an elderly woman coming up behind him with a cane.  She then TOOK HIS ARM and they walked together all the way to her car.  We continued the "What are you thankful for" game on the way home and Mary hit the freaking wall and started screaming at all of us when it didn't go her way.

Wednesday the kids wanted to go to the science and nature center, which is one of our favorite places, and is also free, so we packed up a picnic and planned to spend the whole day down there. Oh man, it was perfect. Dug in the sandbox, looked at the reptiles and spent a ton of time in the birds of prey exhibit, then went down one of the hiking trails and found some terrifying cliffs to climb.




Pictured: terrifying cliff


And then they found this absurd cow skull in the woods, which the kids now cherish with every fiber of their being.


We stopped for hot chocolate and the library on the way home.



Wednesday night Ryan and I made four pies and eight pans of cinnamon rolls, so that was intense.

Ryan and James got up early to run in a race and the rest of us watched TV and ate cinnamon rolls in our PJs.  This was easily the highlight of James's life.


And then we spent the rest of the day having a wonderful Thanksgiving at my parents' house with lots of family and yummy food.



We took the ABC game over.  Mary was delighted to fill in a worksheet.  She really does miss school over breaks.



Pretty table! <3 p="">

We stopped to look at some Christmas lights timed to music on the way home and when, after that, the entire family except for me began whistling a psychotic version of the Coldplay song the lights were playing (at the same moment a car almost backed into us and I could not move because not only was my engine off, a kid was hanging bodily out the back door) I not-so-calmly remembered that I should ask Ryan for a couple of hours of time alone tomorrow instead of sniping at everyone over every little thing for the remainder of the drive.  I had to apologize when I got downstairs after bedtime to find that Charley had thoughtfully put all the leftovers away in the fridge and gotten himself ready for bed.  They really are pretty great people.  Even if they are the NOISIEST people.

Now we have three days of family togetherness where there will be (hurray!) TWO adults.

Monday, October 28, 2019

That was fun*

*Enjoy this PSA called "When you finish a project, clean up your files and make yourselves some notes so you don't have to reinvent the wheel forty seven times when the reviews come back, DUMBASS."**
**I should be doing that right now shouldn't I?***

Sometime last Thursday I realized that since I would be away for yet another weekend that I would need to do a few things that night to prepare, like write an entire newsletter, finish the revisions on a paper I'd been anxiety-avoiding, and prep for two classes (Friday and Monday).  This was not a happy realization but one I really should have had a long time before that point given that my responsibilities really do not change that much from week to week.

(I'm just realizing that I forgot to tell you that I went on a work trip to Minnesota the weekend before last--it was excellent, as my October trip to Minnesota to learn about Matlab always is, but this time I had a few more responsibilities in my facilitator role and it was exhausting.  Got back at midnight Tuesday, taught eight and a half hours later, went to choir, muddled through some piddly work tasks, had kid fun, collapsed in a puddle.  I'd show you pictures of that trip but the only pictures I took were of the front of a church I thought was pretty, a house with books all over the porch, and of me saluting an Irish fiddle band with a pint of stout.)

Naturally only some of that got done (I planned class and wrote the newsletter and spent a lot of good time staring at my computer in anger) and the revisions were put off until sometime in the future.  Fortunately I had a couple of hours of downtime each night on the retreat I went on this weekend and also there was no TV in my room so I cuddled up with Matlab once again and powered through until I couldn't keep my eyes open.

(I should mention that this particular hell was of my own making, since the reviewer asked me to change the font size on the graph (among other things), not, like, redo the entire analysis, and it therefore would have been easy if I did not have to waste time reimagining what the me of six months ago was thinking when she created four versions of the same Matlab code, with very subtle differences, that called on four different versions of every function I wrote, and that used datasets with names like "HoustonCompositeDetrendedTHISONE12.txt")

Which is how I found myself today after class sitting down for what I thought would be a simple last pass through the revisions.  Other than a faculty meeting, I was glued to my desk all day, working in a heightened panic, slapping everything together, finding (AT LAST), the piece of code I was missing to make everything just right (it was in a different, but nearly identical, directory from the one I'd been working in), and finally went to submit it at 3:20 (had to leave to get the kids at 3:30), to find that instead of just replying to the editor's email I had to wade through the crazy paper management system (we've handled reviews by email before) which took some trial and error.  Clicked "Submit" at 3:31, ran to my car and peeled out of the parking lot and by some gift of the universe I had enough time to put gas in my car (45 miles left in the tank!) and go to the bathroom (for the first time since 7:00 that morning) before getting the kids, screeching across town to piano, taking the other kids to the grocery store, and then heading home to make dinner.

Bedtime is done now and Ryan is at a meeting so obviously there are cookies and wine and a book.

And strenuously avoiding the topic of the silly but labor intensive holiday coming up on Thursday.


Monday, October 14, 2019

Zombie Fall Break

OMG you guys do you remember when I said that Fall "Break" was almost OVER?? Well apparently there was a little mixup and I was wrong and today (Monday) is actually the Fall "Break" that you thought was good and dead after you stabbed a wooden stake through its heart but actually got up and is stalking around behind you. Because today is BONUS STAFF DEVELOPMENT FALL BREAK DAY SIX. Do not pass go, do not go to work, do not accomplish anything on your growing list of neglected professional obligations, do not collect two-hundred dollars.

There was a bit of confusion on the school Facebook page and a bunch of confused texting among my peer group (my peer group apparently is similarly good with details) but the bottom line was that there was no school today. After having a little tantrum about it while buying milk and eggs on the way home from spending eight hours at church, I bought some movie tickets and drank a glass of wine and decided to be a good sport about it.

Let's back up though because spending eight hours at church on a Sunday was some kind of record. A few weeks ago my friend called and asked if I'd be willing to do the children's sermon this weekend and because this is the Year of Yes, I said, well, yes, even though it is well known at church that I "am not a children person." I am frankly a little surprised that they trusted me up there with a microphone because I have been QUITE the squeaky wheel the last six or so months, but they did. They asked me to talk about generosity, so I read part of the Elephant and Piggie book called "Should I Share My Ice Cream" and we talked a little bit and it really went quite well. Part of the reason it went well is because I had to do it four times in a row, so by the last time it was sounding pretty polished. I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did and I even liked the added pressure of being a Generally Cheerful and Warm Person during the Passing of the Peace because I was easily identified by my over-the-ear microphone as a Participant in the Service (Mary was enthralled by the microphone and reached up to gently touch it with one finger on multiple occasions.)

Feeling too self conscious to take a decent selfie.


In the middle of the four services I had to go outside and lead the service we've been doing in the courtyard (the other people who do that service offered to cover for me during the children's sermon Sunday but I said "No thanks, I want to see what I'm made of.") so I talked a little bit about how "This Little Light of Mine" has a history as a protest anthem, sang "Lord of the Dance" with my friend Jimmy on guitar, and then ran back inside for more Elephant and Piggie.

Somewhere in there Ryan took all four kids to a Scout meeting and gave everyone lunch and haircuts, so he's the real hero of this story.

(An aside: I just heard something being poured into a bowl, the sound of the microwave, and then a scuffle, a kid stomp up the stairs and slam a door, and now a sickly sweet smell is wafting up the stairs. #FALLBREAKDOWN)

Anyway. Today I rowed and caught up on some reading before they noticed I had arrived home. Then we went to the movies and then to the pumpkin patch (back! at! church!) and now we are home to bicker it out and apparently perform science experiments in the microwave. I have big plans to make bread pudding for dessert which will require a klassy trip to the liquor store with four kids in tow,(SERENITY NOW).




Friday, October 11, 2019

Fall "Break"

As it turns out, a bonus week off of school for the kids is sorta complicated when Ryan and I don't also have that same stretch of time off. We cobbled together a sort of workable situation but that didn't stop my department chair from walking into my office this morning to deliver some important professional news to find four children sprawled on my office floor watching Hocus Pocus while I attempted to work at my desk.

Monday I taught my 8:30 class and then Ryan dropped the kids off at my office on his way to work. We headed home for lunch and then headed to a hiking trail by a river for the rest of the day. I took lots of pictures of the kids being all cute and happy and then after I made a smug post to Facebook about our wholesome family hiking outing the freaking bottom fell out and we bickered our way through the next couple of hours. Things came to a head in the form of a giant four way tantrum (me plus three kids, Charley was kind of above it all) that was triggered by one kid threatening another with his walking stick but was really the result of ninety minutes of straight BITCHING from two of the kids. Epilogue we endured a tense ride home and then everyone was sent to bed, again including me. By the time Ryan came home I was drinking in the front yard and went to bed shortly after that. #familymemories!

We had such a good time for like thirty minutes!






The good news is that once that was out of our systems the rest of the week was delightful. Ryan took them on a bike ride and park trip, plus swim practice and a doctor's appointment on Tuesday and reported great behavior. Wednesday after my class I spent a couple of quiet hours working in a bookstore cafe A-L-O-N-E and then we went on a family sailing trip that turned out to be a blast.





Thursday they came to school for one of my classes and then went home with my parents (also this day was slightly complicated by the fact that I locked my keys in the car and left so much later than I wanted to to head to class that we couldn't find anywhere to park and had to run across campus as a noisy group). They sat in the back of my engineering statics class and Mary took really amazing notes.


We played outside for half an hour before my next class and then my parents came to pick them up and it was a really nice time and it is important to notice how nice it was when we were outside because today we woke up and it was fifty and raining. I taught one last class before Ryan arrived and the kids hung out in my office watching movies before a pleasant dining hall lunch and a choir rehearsal (where Mary stood with me on the risers and sang along with every word, even the song we do that's in Hebrew).

(As I write this James and Mary are having a fight over the bathroom door so if I leave you abruptly it's because someone lost a finger.)



Saturday, September 21, 2019

This is mostly me talking about being too hot

Whelp!  Not really sure how to jump back in after my six week absence from writing here.  My only excuse is that I've had some other things that have been occupying my every last brain cell on top of the ones that are already occupied by normal things like how much toilet paper we have, when everyone's meds run out, and the usual personal hygiene triage (I clipped and painted my toenails last night and am feeling very fancy indeed!)

I've been spending most of my time reading.  Reading for work, reading for fun, and reading for the non-paying part time job I've carved out for myself at my church (which has been incredibly gratifying, just time consuming).

This pile looks positively quaint next to the way it looks now. I'd go take a picture right now but if I lose my focus now it might be another six weeks before it comes back.

AS DO THE CHILDREN AND THEIR SCHOOL NEEDS.  In spite of some improvements in general maturity and motivation and attitude, middle school homework continues to be an all hands on deck situation.  James needs lots of gentle encouragement to get through his reading log (except that now he has discovered Big Nate and is OFF TO THE RACES).  Wes is weirdly independent and doing great on homework, but sometimes needs a little bit of support because they have started reading about some hard topics recently.  And Mary is a stereotypical people-pleasing girl, so we are all set there.

(Last night she took her shower in my bathroom and I used the time to do a home pedicure and we sang "You are my Sunshine" the whole time and then I brushed her hair and we read a book snuggled up on the couch, before I tucked her in with some cute giggles about a funny song we'd heard earlier that day and lots of hugs and kisses.  This is basically how I imagined parenting to be for the first twenty six years of my life and have not found to be true until now.  THANK YOU, GIRL CHILD!)

The kids started school and then I started school and that's going...nominally well. Hey, who wants to look at some pictures?

We've already had our first episode of strep for the year.  James came with me to work and watched movies on a sleeping bag in my office during class.  It was so restful and easy to concentrate!


Before my classes started Ryan rented us a sailboat.  We had a blast, but we also had a heat index of 108 and I thought I was going to perish.  Working out a fall time to go now.


On the lake!  On a Friday morning!  It was super great.


On the other side of the temperature coin, the air conditioning went on the fritz in my new office and my office was below sixty degrees for a few days.  I cannot stand being too cold, so this was a problem.  A nose running, headache-y kind of problem.  When I was still being a good sport about it I took a few selfies of the ways I'd devised to keep warm, like this one where I was wearing my lab coat.  I didn't know what a great picture it would be and now I kind of regret making that goofy face.  Maybe I'll pretend that's how I always smile and put it on my professional Twitter anyway.


More temperature!  I finished my Global Temperature Anomaly crochet project AKA the scariest craft project of all time.  The part in the foreground is the temperature anomaly in 1916 and the part by my feet is 2016.  It was a far more visceral way to interact with the data than I normally do, which is in Matlab.  I am kind of addicted to crocheting now and need another project.  Maybe one that doesn't fill me with existential dread.


James and Mary continue to make an adorable couple.


The other day I took the children out for some exercise before school (yes like dogs) and when they were all near each other I asked to take a quick picture and they took the best picture I've ever taken of them.


I took this when they were all hanging out together at church after Charley got back from a weekend long Scout campout.  James got so excited to see Charley walking across the lobby that he chased him into the men's room and tackled him.  We missed him so much.  Wes asked us what it would be like when Charley goes to college and NOPE, we are NOT THINKING ABOUT THAT.


Wes was officially trained to carry the figurative Light of Christ/literal fire into the church on Sunday mornings.  Methodism: trusting ten year olds with fire for a couple hundred years.  Nobody use too much hairspray.  He tied an awesome knot with his belt, which he credits to his training at sailing camp.  That boat's not floating away!


How I found them when we came back inside from our Friday evening ritual of hiding in the front yard after Ryan dropped Charley off: attempting to occupy the same five square feet of the house.


I went to a fancy dress up screening of Downton Abbey with a bunch of friends and managed to get myself into the dress I used to wear to weddings in my pre-kid twenties.  It was SO MUCH FUN.  Everyone in the theater was dressed up, even the men.  The scarf was an important addition, especially after the tiny thread holding the two sides of the top gave out under the extreme pressure midway through the movie (ironically while I was eating a special themed menu item called "Mrs. Patmore's girdle buster). 


More of the three younger kids trying to occupy the same five square feet of space.


Looks like Charley took a picture of his *skull collection* with my phone.


We went out to eat and the kids acted like they've never been inside a building before.


Then we retired to the hot tub.


The other night my friend texted to ask about her kid's math homework, which was STUPID, and I procrastinated dinner by proposing an alternative solution for her to send to the teacher. (I don't know if she did).


We went to a doctor's appointment, to continue the theme of kids unnecessarily sitting within arm's reach at all times.


The other day I was cooking dinner and heard a weird noise and turned around to see THIS. Sadly, she belongs to Wes's friend and does not now live with us because I love her.


James and Charley had a swim meet today. They both did such a great job and it was really fun, except that they each had five events and I had to make sure they got to the blocks at the right times, in two different parts of the pool since Charley's longer events started on one side and James's shorter events started on the other, and there were a couple of hours there where one of them was swimming in every other event and it was CHAOS. It was also hotter than a swim meet in September has any business being. But so, so good! I tell you that to tell you how great it was that after the swim meet we dropped all the kids off at a birthday party and went on a date to this pub that was having an early Oktoberfest with my favorite local tuba-themed polka band, the Tubameisters. That first beer after a hot swim meet is a special, special thing. Also: pretzels and cheese.


So that's a reasonably good summary of the past six weeks. Kids started school, Ryan and I went sailing, I started school, school is hard, choir is fun, last week the kids ate pizza twice and spaghetti twice and vegetables zero times, we do seventh grade homework until ten o'clock at night sometimes, books are good, and it's too hot.