Tuesday, June 25, 2019

It was quiet; too quiet.

The night before I dropped Ryan and all of the kids off at the airport was like the cherry on top of the week of no sleeping sundae. It started last weekend when I ran out of my back medication and they wouldn't refill my prescription until four days later. I thought "Well, this is as good a time as any to see if I can go without it!" and simply--stopped taking it. Cold turkey. My weird arthritis issues didn't come back but apparently you are not supposed to stop taking that particular drug abruptly lest you STOP SLEEPING FOREVERMORE.

The first night I was up and down and restless. The second night there was a MASSIVE thunderstorm that knocked out the power and made our smoke detector go off repeatedly at two o'clock in the morning. The other nights were more of the same: fall asleep reading a book, awaken forty-five minutes later seized with a weird fight or flight sensation, try literally everything, then conk out finally around three o'clock in the morning. This should have made me feel groggy and terrible all day but it was more like my body and brain had simply decided that it would not need to rest again ever and I felt weirdly clear headed.

Then Thursday night I had finally fallen asleep only to be visited by a little person somewhere in the predawn hours. Exhausted, I pulled this person in bed with me and tried to go back to sleep. After the third time this person woke me up by scraping her toenails down my back, I told her it was time to go back to her room. Only she refused and threatened to start screaming if I picked her up. With great flouncing, I grabbed my pillow and went to lie down in her bed. I had just gotten settled in when I noticed that I could hear someone snoring softly from somewhere else in the house. I flounced back to my room, told the interloper that it was time to be brave and go back to her own bed and fortunately this time it worked.

So magical.

On Saturday I drove everyone to the airport and dropped them off at the curb and then got back into my car to try and figure out what to do with the six days of solitude I was facing down. Since I don't know how to cook for only one person the first place I went was Trader Joes to buy enough ready to eat microwave food as I could. I got there twenty minutes before it opened so I just sort of...sat... on a bench and waited. And it was FINE. This was the first signal that things were going to be very very different. By seven o'clock that night I had grocery shopped, cleaned the entire house (including the bathrooms which were UNBELIEVABLY bad, like OSHA violation bad), written a newsletter, waded into Mary's closet and returned triumphant with a cubic yard of things to donate and two full kitchen trash bags of garbage. I'd done all the relaxing I wanted to do and I didn't feel like opening my computer to work. And it was SEVEN o'clock. So I put on my swimsuit and drove to the pool to work out.

Friends, I have had a pass to the good lap-swim pool for six weeks and the closest I've gotten to working out is watching the kids' swim practice. It felt so good.

Then I went home and picked up my crochet project while I watched Four Weddings and a Funeral and drank wine.

Sunday I woke up and since no one was supervising me I was thirty minutes late to church. And when I got home from church my neighbors were all in my neighbor's pool so I went over there and hung around until it was time to get ready for a meeting at my house. Also on Sunday I basically had a beer and a donut for lunch. Sunday night I had an online meeting with my students that ended just in time for me to make it to the symphony's concert in the park downtown. While there I observed the children dancing on the light up dance floor in the middle of the park and had a strange moment of recognizing that children are actually pretty charming little creatures. Sunday was a lovely day.

Going to work Monday without a hard stop deadline was freaking magical and after that I dropped off all the donation stuff from Mary's closet (running errands AS THEY ARISE WHAT WITCHCRAFT IS THIS?) AND THEN WENT TO THE POOL TO WORKOUT AGAIN. I returned home, changed into comfortable clothes, made myself some stirfry (kit, from TJ's), and then read a BOOK FOR TWO HOURS.

Some things I have learned.

1) I am not a slob, I live with slobs
2) I am not suffering from dementia, I just have five other people who have claimed my brain for their own use
3) I am not undisciplined with regard to working out, I am TIRED.
4) My work day is much easier and more productive when I do not arrive from and return to UTTER CHAOS at home.
5) I require more interpersonal interaction than I get when living by myself.
6) I miss the little psychos something terrible, but I am not looking forward to returning to the role as the One Who Holds Back the Entropy. The house is SO CLEAN! I am not assaulted with a cloud of aerosolized urine every time I pass by a bathroom door!

I've been hearing such happy things from Ryan and my mom and can picture it all in my mind. I talked to the kids on the phone and heard all about the terrifying turbulence they flew through, the part when Mary started screaming so loud on the plane that everyone turned around in their seats, the way Charley swam all the way across the bay and back, and how the plane had VIDEO GAMES, MOM. VIDEO GAMES ON THE PLANE. I join them on Friday night and a really looking forward to it, though I am afraid the contrast between living alone and living in nine hundred square feet with seven other people, four of whom are kids all hopped up on vacation is going to be...startling.


Thursday, June 13, 2019

The pool: we live there now

I already knew this but you all are the best.  So much lovely online and in-person feedback from that last post!  Mwa!

And the trouble with writing a well-received, heartfelt post is that there is pressure to now try to make all of them at the same level and if you have been a longtime reader then you probably already know that consistent writing/content level is not one of my strengths.  #goodatotherthings

One thing I will tell you is that my children are benefiting tremendously from the fact that I feel guilty and wistful about having to work this summer, so they are having a really freaking magical time.  It helps that I found a LITERAL Mary Poppins on care dot come who on her first day provided a calendar with detailed entries about the fun things they would do every day.  She is one of my favorite humans and I'm trying to find the right moment to ask if she would like us to adopt her.

Because she endured rush hour traffic with a carful of overtired kids on Monday (on their way home from a museum, which they stayed at for two extra hours because they were having such fun) I bought them movie tickets for today.  I bought them for the theater that's also a brewery and told her helpfully that if you write "bring it after the lights are off" on the order card the waiters are very accommodating.  But I think she's only twenty.  Maybe she will order a milkshake instead.

I've got about a hundred pictures of the pool with various kids' heads sticking out of the water in various stages of various strokes.


And eating things at the pool is our new hobby slash lifestyle now.




Charley had a meet for his year-round team one evening last week and a giant storm came through right in the middle. I saw the gust front approaching and noted it on the radar and was just hoping it would hold off long enough for him to swim his second of two events.


Unfortunately about six events before his last one it started raining torrentially. Charley and I stood in a breezeway filled with people waiting to see what would happen and surprisingly they continued the meet like nothing was happening, probably because there was no lightning. It was POURING and they kept calling swimmers up to the blocks. As it got closer to Event 26 I made Charley go stand by the blocks because I couldn't hear the announcer over the rain. We both stood out on the deck until his event and then booked it back to the car, which was sitting in a six inch puddle of water.


Saturday after the meet we were all dozing on the couch and floor in front of Star Wars when I remembered that I had signed the kids up for Kids Night Out at church that evening. Everyone was completely exhausted and I had serious misgivings about dropping them off, especially because Charley is WAY TOO OLD to be hanging out in church childcare, but it's been a long time since I've gotten to have an uninterrupted conversation with Ryan, so we packed the kids into the car, loaded Charley down with the incredibly dark fiction he favors, and went for it. Ryan and I went to a brewery to relax and play board games while drinking craft beer and eating pierogies stuffed with bratwurst and also something called "brachos" that is nachos covered in bratwurst. Perfect evening, really.


And when we arrived to pick them up Charley was patiently explaining something to our friend's five year old and the other kids were watching movies. One kid perked up when he saw us and exclaimed "Come see the train track I built!" (!!!) Then the nursery worker handed me a bag of clothes and said "I don't know if you knew, but Mary came here in a wet bathing suit. We gave her something dry to wear." JUST LIKE OLD TIMES.

I will leave you with this: Yesterday at rowing I was part of a conversation in which a guy was talking about visiting Beyonce's family in Poland. He and Beyonce's dad did vodka shots after dinner and it was weird but they had a great time. Friends, it took me at least ten minutes to realize that he was talking about visiting his FIANCE'S family, not BEYONCE'S. Of course that made way more sense. Listening comprehension is hard.

Monday, June 3, 2019

On bragging

I am proud of my kids and try to highlight their accomplishments and often I hold back (People who follow me on social media are like "Yeah OK you hold back") because I've often felt a pang of jealousy around school award season. "Survived sixth grade" should be an award, but it is not, for some reason. That shit is hard.

(Other awards that might be relevant to my family: One Week Without a Concerned Email from School Staff!, Brought Lunchbox Home 3+ Times!, and Resolved Interpersonal Conflict Without Swearing!)

(I kid, I kid, mostly)

We've tried sports before. Soccer was a no-go because the whistle was too scary. Tee-ball was too confusing. Kinderdance was too adorable and not as rigorous enough to justify the time commitment (for us). We've been pretty commitment phobic in the past I was never sure we'd actually be able to leave the house on a given day. Who would be losing it. Who would be sick. What nightmare scenario involving a call from the school had unfolded earlier that day.

We had a particularly tough school year beginning the year Mary was born until the following fall when we finally settled on the magic combination of meds and therapy for one of the kids that allowed to live as normal a life as we were ever going to live. I was intentionally pretty quiet about that part of our lives on here both for privacy reasons for the kid involved and also because it was REALLY EFFING TERRIFYING.

Then we made it through that and kind of hummed along for a while, navigating lots of support at school and managing the business of the rest of the kids. That was fine, but organized activities and sports still seemed out of reach. There was too much we couldn't predict. Too many unknowns. Things could go dark in a heartbeat and none of us really ever felt like we could relax. That made signing up for an eight week baseball season, or soccer, or karate seem overwhelming.

Things started to improve and then we had a Situation with another one of the kids and his teacher that plunged us right back into that world, now with a bonus dose of PTSD from the last time. Once again we got therapy on board and meds figured out, thanks to our AMAZING psychiatrist, whom we refer to as the Med Ninja, who has done entire sessions with us on the phone, at night. That was last summer and since we hadn't seen that coming, we had already taken a deep breath and signed the kids up for swimming.

As you probably already know, swimming has been LIFE CHANGING for our family.

It's fun, of course. While they wait for their turn to practice they run around with a familiar crowd of kids on the playground, filling their caps with water and throwing them at each other, playing a scary game called "Groundies" which involves running around on the playscape with their eyes closed, and eating TOTAL GARBAGE at every opportunity. Meets are a crazy circus, with more friends, unlimited screen time, more junk food, and occasional races.

But during practice, you guys, they work SO hard.

The boys all have an hour-long practice and swim hard the whole time. On Adventure Day they make an obstacle course that combines swimming and things like doing lunges all the way around the pool, tricep dips on the benches, relays, and the diving board. Mary, who spent one of her first practices sobbing "I don't want to drown!" on the side of the pool, now swims a forty-five minute practice filled with laps and kicks and figuring out how to get your face to stay in the water without almost dying (on her adventure day one of the stations was "crazy dancing").

All the kids have surprised me this year with their focus and competitiveness, which somehow has not turned into anger and frustration like I had feared. When another boy in Charley's 100 IM won the heat so handily that he was out of the pool before the other kids made the final turn, Charley just smiled and said "That's Danny. He's on my year-round team too and he is AWESOME. Nice guy, too!"

(Also, the 100 IM is Charley's favorite event, which is confusing and mind boggling because that is kind of an intense event, you know?)

We first had an inkling last year that maybe this was the sport for us when Charley won a heat in the 25 free at a meet late in the season. We had spent the whole season having a blast, enjoying the kids' positive attitudes, but not really expecting them to stand out from the pack, since this was their first year, and because of all of the above, having generally assumed we'd be people who excelled at other, non-sporty, things. But when Charley started pulling away from the group with ten yards left to go I started screaming. And when he out-touched the next kid in line at the end of the heat I shouted (involuntarily) "HOLY SHIT!" and turned to face Ryan for a giant sweaty hug with snot and tears running down my face. Ryan said "I'm going to text my entire contacts list and say 'My kid is good at a sport!'"

(Charley's butterfly still almost makes me cry every time. Yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds)

Saturday we had a meet in the neighborhood I went to high school in. In fact the pool was about a block from my old house. My parents used to walk over and buy breakfast tacos from the meets even though my sister and I didn't swim.

And it went really really well. James won his backstroke heat, coming in tenth overall in his age group. Mary is getting better every day and even added in the arm piece of the backstroke a couple of times. She had time improvements in both her events. Wes has a ferocious freestyle that I ADORE watching. And Charley had a great 100 IM.

James swam up in the 9-10 boys 100 relay and SURPRISE! He was on Wes's relay team AND they were on the same side of the pool AND James was the anchor. This scenario was RIPE WITH POSSIBILITY for an embarassing and public brotherly conflict but fortunately they managed to hold it together and James swam for his (literal) life on that last leg and absolutely held his own. He even gained some ground on one of the other swimmer and a kid from the relay team (not Wes, naturally) told him what a great job he did.

So I'm going to brag about my kids, both because I'm so proud of them for their hard work, and because I am DEEPLY grateful to their coaches and all the parent volunteers for making this experience so positive for them.

Opening the family folder this morning was the best birthday present ever.

Rattan Meet
Left to right, Mary, James, Wes, and Charley

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Perfect summer: Friends, hymns, pools, popsicles

My birthday is on Saturday and what I wanted to do more than anything was to have a girls' night at Beer and Hymns. Fortunately there was a Beer and Hymns scheduled for Tuesday night, so we got all dressed up and headed to the *entertainment* district downtown to drink some beer and sing some classic Charles Wesley karaoke while curious tourists peered through the open windows and occasionally took pictures. One guy walked in, looked around curiously, said "Naw, I've already got Jesus!" and left. Most of the friends I invited are regular Beer and Hymn attendees like me, so this wasn't too strange of a request for most of them. A honky tonk band played through a couple centuries of hymnody while we sipped IPAs and sang and occasionally alienated people by insisting on doing the motions to things like "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms." I wish everything could be as simple and joyful as Beer and Hymns. It is my absolute favorite.

A couple of friends and me, who got there early despite my exquisitely terrible directions and a mishap related to the parking garage that resulted in us walking the entire circumference of a city block. After this pic I put my phone away so that I could be present. I always regret not taking more pictures. I will have to find a solution. Real camera maybe?

We met up with a couple of other friends for dinner afterward and my friend E suggested we go around the table and each say things they like about me, since we were celebrating my birthday. And you GUYS. Ten years ago this would have felt awkward and silly, but now, after this period when all of us have been beat up by kid stuff, diagnoses, school drama, church drama, cross country moves, job stress, relationship changes, and the general stressful business of raising a family in midlife, a period when I regularly and without awkwardness, tell my friends I love them, and they do the same, I was SO THRILLED.

One friend said she loved the way I am with my kids and what nice people they are turning out to be, and said how her kids feel so comfortable at my house. One friend said she loves how I'm always up for an adventure and when she's looking for something who's up for anything, she always thinks of me. One friend said she loves how thoughtful I am and remembered a time when she had a really tough day and I sent Ryan to drop off a bottle of wine and a card. One friend said she loves the parties at my house, with the house packed full of laughter and food and free-range children running in and out. One friend said she loves how I'm always up for holding a baby, even in the carline at school pickup. My friend K said she's proud of me for my advocacy work at church and knows how hard it is.

It was my absolute favorite part of the night and I'm so grateful to have these women (and a few others who couldn't be there) to share my life with.

(The rest of the conversation was about books we love, authors we admire, annoying church policies, moments of brilliance. I love these incredible, smart, gorgeous friends. It was the BEST.)


At dinner I realized that I'd left a card one of the friends had given me at the bar in a moment of chaos when we were leaving. I was so bummed and apologized profusely BUT we stopped at the bar after dinner to see if anyone had turned it in and the bartender got out a flashlight and checked IN A TRASHCAN, where it was thankfully sitting right on top. Hurray!


When I'm not living in the gauzy, happy, emotional climax of a women's novel, we divide our time between swim team practice, summer adventures with Miss Rachel, our amazing summer nanny, working, and eating popsicles.



Taking advantage of a day with childcare and no work to spend some time together (Charley walked outside, saw Ryan loading bikes into the car, and said to me "Mom. I know you and Papa aren't going to work." Then turned on a heel and walked back inside.).



Math has been--a struggle--shall we say, for the 6th grader this year. He understands the concepts and when we can get him to drop into the zone he can knock out problem after problem with accuracy. But at school his anxiety takes over and he makes tons of mistakes or just flat out refuses to participate. Finding the right carrot to drive him along has been a huge challenge this year and Ryan finally got him to raise his grade to passing by threatening to take away a scout campout. Fast forward to the end of the year when he gets into the car at pickup and calmly tells me that he scored A NINETY SIX on the last summative (like a unit test) of the year. I startled everyone in the car with my abrupt and happy screaming and the next day I produced this cake when we got out of the car for swimming.


The difference? He signed up for the middle school swim team next year and they told all the kids that to be eligible your grades all have to be passing. As Charley said "Mom, if I fail a class I can't be on the swim team. My grades *actually affect my future now!*" [emphasis mine]. God bless.

Someone's handwriting and spelling have really come along this year.


Bought myself a little end of the semester present. I have it on right now at work actually.


And last night the four of them played together happily in the pool for more than ninety minutes which was a small miracle.* (That man adjusting his goggles on the left, IS MY KID)


*There was a massive blowup on the way home. Only one kid was involved, but it was a doozy and he did not stop flipping the flip out until I gave him a melatonin and coaxed him through some mindful breathing while singing "All shall be well" on repeat like a mesmerizing dirge. He woke up this morning like nothing had happened.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

"We're never going to be one of those overscheduled families!"

I used to talk a lot of shit about other families whose weekends were completely taken over by kids' activities because I had lots of high and mighty ideas about how kids need free time and some moments of boredom so their brains can develop. Now every Thursday afternoon Ryan and I shout a "Saving Private Ryan"-like barrage of scheduling instructions at each other as we leave for work in the morning just so we can get everyone to all of their places with all the appropriate equipment/music/two dozen homemade cookies*)

*I feel like I had an important moment with the kids as we chose nice cookies from the grocery store bakery instead of buying chocolate chips to make cookies as planned, since they were all shivering in their wet swimsuits (and were barefoot in two cases) and I said "We are choosing nice cookies for the recital instead of making them at home because we do not have enough time to both make cookies and also get the rest we need to feel good this afternoon." We may be *overscheduled*, but we do not need to be *frantic*.

The extra fun thing about this weekend was that Ryan was out of town for another Scout campout, this one with Charley, which meant that I was completely on my own for the following activities: Swim practice Friday night, including pizza picnic funtime (protip: get yourself a swim friend who will wordlessly slide an ice cold Dox Equis in a discrete coozie into your hand when she arrives at swim practice because that was amazing and well-timed), swim meet Saturday morning (including being a tent mom and also it being Mary's first meet so she was NONE TOO PLEASED to go wait in her tent with the other girls and instead tried to surgically affix herself to my body for the first half hour), piano recital Saturday afternoon, concurrent birthday party for Mary's friend Saturday afternoon (which if it had been one of the boys I could have easily skipped but since it was the female one I've been hearing "Charlotte's birthday party is at the Y on Saturday, May 18" for the past three weeks, there would be no skipping).

Fortunately a complete stranger agreed to take Mary to the party with her daughter, a girl who Mary mentions at least a few times every afternoon, so before the recital I drove her over there, made brief eye contact with the mom, and hoped for the best. She turned out to be awesome and not a kidnapper, so even better.

Last week I helped lead a research workshop on launching ozonesondes. Have I ever told you I love a messy board almost as much as eating raw cookie dough in front of the TV? #favorite things



Teaching the workshop also meant I had to commute, which I don't normally do. Tuesday morning it took me nearly two hours to get there (would be 40 mins without traffic) and I thought I was going to cry. Fortunately for all of the other motorists, my family, and the workshop participants, I remembered to turn on my favorite angry girl music Spotify station and the rest of the days were much more relaxing (and the traffic was better too).

I've been going straight from work to school pickup to the pool and I'm going to have to remember to plan my outfits around this reality for the rest of this week so this doesn't happen again.


James and his best bud are in the same practice and the same tent this year. WATCH. OUT. At the meet they were in adjacent lanes for the twenty-five free and James kept popping his head up to see where C was.


I've never watched the six and under events before and I'm here to tell you that I have been missing out because it is HILARIOUS and ADORABLE. They start sitting on the edge and when the starting beep goes off they all just turn around and look at their coaches for further direction. Then some of them get tired halfway through the race and turn around to swim back to the start. Mary apparently has a wicked inner competitive streak because after spending a week in a group I'm calling the "special friends" or "the freaker outers" because she was SO NERVOUS, popped right in and charged across the pool doing her crazy front breathing freestyle move. She even won her heat. It was the most amazing thing I've ever seen, probably because in my mind she is still an infant, despite the evidence to suggest she is actually a big girl.

Swimmers take your marks.

(It occurs to me that our family viewing of "Miracle" last week was a good choice. AGAIN!)

I ran to the store for dinner stuff this afternoon and realized at the checkout that it had been a while since I'd eaten any produce and apparently my subconscious took the wheel.


And this afternoon we had piano recital number two. Charley looks out of it because I had just awakened him from his post-campout coma to say "GET DRESSED, YOU HAVE A RECITAL IN THIRTY MINUTES!) All the kids did a great job. I'm always amazed to hear the results of their hard work.


And finally, a story I'm sure I once would have woven into a thousand hilarious words. The other day I was making my favorite sheetpan meatball recipe when I sliced open the tip of my thumb chopping broccoli. I couldn't tell whether it made stitches, so I washed it out carefully, wrapped it tightly in a clean dishtowel, and held my hand over my heart while I continued to make two pounds worth of meatballs. I kept it tightly taped up for the rest of the week and happy news! I did not develop MRSA or bleed out AND I managed to avoid a $500 copay and also I might have a permanent notch taken out of my left thumb.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Good stuff and bad stuff

We have a BUNCH of ground to cover, my friends. It has been a MONTH. Between the end of the semester and all that entails (and that entails a lot when you have three classes) and my advocacy work at church, which is at once incredibly satisfying and extremely frustrating, a source of joy and pride and also something that sometimes makes me want to pull up stakes and become an Episcopalian. Or a nun. I could live in Nonatus house, I think. Though the British politeness would obviously be a significant personal challenge. And then there was the rain and a meeting with my research partner to get our summer work off the ground (surprise, let's plan a quick workshop!). Trying to get one more paper ready to submit. All of the THINGS with the KIDS and the MEETINGS. And then a week of what felt like nonstop endless rain that made me want to curl up with something cozy and a glass of something. I said rain twice but I think that's appropriate because that's how much it rained.

One rainy day I attempted to work at home. This worked marginally well until my parents brought the kids home.

Hashtag: productivity.

(I am having trouble remembering which time it rained for these anecdotes. Was it the time the hurricane hit when I was taking a kid to a medcheck? Or was it the time lightning struck so close to my house that the BOOM was instantaneous and the power went out? Or was it the giant storm that hit while I was trying to run into a meeting at church? Seriously a lot of rain)

On Saturday of last week the author who has had perhaps more influence on my life than any other suddenly died at the age of thirty seven, leaving behind a husband, two small children, and an enormous community of admirers. I learned of her death last Saturday morning. I'd just spent a pleasant two hours grading at a coffeeshop and then picked James and Mary up at their choir rehearsal. We were headed to get Charley from the Scout pancake breakfast and I was flipping through Twitter while at an exceptionally long red light and saw the news. It was like someone had punched me in the stomach.

Charley came bouncing out of the pancake breakfast with a warm smile and held up the extra cupcakes he had saved for us. There was only one chocolate one, which he insisted I take. While we drove to the grocery store I told them that someone I admired had died and that I was feeling really sad. They asked a lot of questions and when I told them that she was only thirty-seven Charley abruptly announced that it was time to change the subject. After the store I took the kids to Home Depot to buy plants for our front garden. I went inside to make lunch when we got home and when I came back out, Charley was showing the little kids how to dig a big hole, mix in some new potting soil, then carefully take the plant out of its pot, and put it in the ground.


I powered through the rest of the day, having a fun pool picnic with the kids (a WEIRD pool picnic because I hadn't planned to have a pool picnic so I just packed up our regular dinner, which was a quinoa salad, sliced bratwurst, and strawberries), and getting their tired bodies in bed early before numbly crocheting on the couch until one o'clock in the morning. Not sleeping sort of became the routine for the rest of the weekend and into early the next week which probably explains the barely-functioning stupor I was in until Wednesday or so. My friend Rosa can sense these things and so invited me to babysit her adorable toddler during her doctor's appointment before taking me out for tacos and cupcakes and a walk and the opportunity to talk about "my friend Rachel" as though she was a real life friend whose kitchen I'd hung out in before rather than a New York Times bestselling author and hero to women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community. I think RHE would have approved of me seeking out a friend and sharing a meal and a walk and of saying "How the **** did this happen?!" as many times as it took. During our walk and conversation I had the oddest sensation that my brain was slowly coming back online. I am grateful.

In less deeply awful news, summer swim team started practicing and it is still amazing how happy it makes us all.


Wes considerately placed his thermos on the counter and said to me "Please bring my dinner to swim. I am always hungry afterward." All four kids are swimming this year which means we will be at practice for approximately seventy five years ever day and meets will never end, which is fine because I am the 9-10 boys tent mom AGAIN (unsurprisingly the under six girls tent mom job filled quickly*) and bizarrely I am looking forward to it all.

*by someone with a cheerful email signature quote befitting the six and under girls' tent mom whereas my more, shall we say, assertive, personality is decidedly more well-suited for the 9-10 boys, not that I necessarily relish that kind of challenge.

The air temperature at Friday's practice was 64 degrees and the unheated pool was freezing. The coach got Wes out of the water when he started shivering violently.


This Saturday was graduation (AND MORE RAIN) and then Ryan and I took six kids to brunch.



Later we took six kids to the pool and met up with some other friends for dinner there and ended up spending four hours at the pool even though it was still like sixty four degrees outside. The kids all put fuzzy pajamas on once we got home and did not believe me when I told them that a mid sixties day in the summer was not that unusual when I was a kid in upstate New York (and I STILL had to jump in for swim lessons). This morning Ryan and the kids made me eggs benedict and a mimosa. I led our affirming song and prayer service at church and found myself singing "River of Jordan" by Peter, Paul, and Mary for the entire group. We went to brunch again after church (because obviously) and ran into two wonderful mom friends who sat by us and let our kids sit mixed in with their kids and we all drank sangria and laughed and complained about church politics and it was really really lovely. (I just came back here to add a few more "reallys" because it was the actual best--the weather, the sangria, the happy funny kids, the friends)

I made them touch each other because it is Mothers' Day.

The girls' side of the table.

Did not suck.

My friends!

Summer research starts tomorrow afternoon and then I am off to the races for eight weeks. Hopefully you will hear from me before then!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A tour of photos from my phone

WOW, so.  What's happening, friends?  I have thirty minutes before I have to leave and go to a string of student-parent-teacher conferences so I thought I'd dust off this old space and assure you that I have not been blown away by the Wizard of Oz-like weather we had last week.

(But only just, because I spent several hours sitting outside at Charley's swim meet in all that wind and my crochet project is never going to be the same.)

In old lady news, I've done something to my hand to where I cannot hold a coffee mug or open a jar of peanut butter or a door without wincing in pain.  I dealt with it for a week, hoping that applying liberal amounts of advil, wine, and icing with an old bag of frozen broccoli that it would magically get better on its own.  This did not help of course so I found myself going to the doctor (mostly because I also had to take James to the doctor because he had a very swollen thumb that he got caught in a folding Little Tykes slide.  He is OK) who recommended I continue the broccoli icing but switch to some veterinary-sized Advil three times a day in addition to taping my pinky finger to my ring finger and not using my right hand at all.  I am here to tell you that I can now open doors again.  Praise be!

I hung out with Charley all last weekend because the rest of the family had a Scout campout.  Charley had his swim meet and I had a choir concert so we had to stay behind.  Normally I would have loved to go on a campout with the family and I hope this isn't a disloyal thing to say but in the span of their forty-eight hours in the woods they experienced: a) torrential rain, b) lightning, c) thirty mile per hour winds with higher gusts, and d) overnight lows in the low forties.  It was a good campout to miss.

Here is my Crochet project. It's a heat map of the global temperature anomaly over the last one-hundred years and I am in love with it. Also, crochet is the opioid of the fibercraft world--I am completely preoccupied with this project and have fallen asleep mid-stitch multiple times in the last few weeks, completely shirking household responsibilities and sensible bedtimes in the name of just ONE MORE ROW.  This is an old picture because I am now twenty years in.


Saturday night I sang with my choir (the student choir they let faculty join) in the chapel.  We sang a collection of masses from around the world, which absolutely delighted my geeky little heart.  Charley tagged along to the dress rehearsal on Friday and was so moved as the orchestra and organ wound down the last notes of the Faure that he leapt out of his seat.  The concert on Saturday night was the highlight of the entire academic year (Even if I was suffering from the zombie upper-respiratory crud of 2019 and even though for the Faure I was seated between two amazing singers from the chorale choir and was way, WAY out of my element).

Just before a rehearsal in the chapel.  Am silently squeeing.

On the opposite side of the fun-coin, teaching dynamics this semester has led to all kinds of new self-knowledge regarding the deep unresolved loathing I felt for this material two decades ago when I earned a B in it by the SKIN of my TEETH.  All of that peppy can-do attitude I model for the students in class now?  IS A LIE.  For some reason, I thrived in my other classes, grad classes with mathematical symbols I'd never even seen before, teaching geology having NEVER TAKEN IT.  All fine.  This is triggering a bizarrely vivid kind of PTSD.  It's like PTSD and Imposter Syndrome had a baby and then sent it to summer camp at Mount Dreadmore.  But still, I'm hanging in there.


We had friends over for dinner and the Final Four the other night and apparently I was so moved by the majesty of my veggie tray that I took a picture of it.  The details are hazy because 99% of that party was screaming at the TV in disbelief.


In professional news I submitted a paper to a journal last week.  I am incredibly proud of this work and taking this leap made me equal parts thrilled and nauseous.  After I celebrated the moment on Twitter and via emails to colleagues the editor immediately responded that I would need to fix all of my special characters and resubmit the manuscript.  After two tries I finally figured that out and got it resubmitted and THEN I could celebrate (by driving a kid to swim lessons and then going home to cook baked potatoes).  In fact I still haven't had a proper celebration and there is a nice-ish bottle of red wine I should probably open when I get home to go with my crocheting and TV watching tonight.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Spring Break Part II

When we were not able to find a lifeguard for the family retreat this year I told the organizers that I'd be happy to take the lifeguarding class and get certified if it meant my kids could swim and thus not hassle me about not being able to swim at the retreat for two straight days like they did last year. This is how I found myself joining up with a class of twenty sixteen year olds at a nearby swim school the weekend before last. Something I learned about teenagers is that they view attempts to make small talk as an unforgivably aggressive act. It was like I'd sat down across from them at the table and greeted them with a hearty "Kiss my ass!" instead of "Hello, my name is Becca!" After that I played a little game with myself to see how many people I could make eye contact with. It was not easy. Also not easy was the class itself, or climbing out of the (seemingly bottomless) pool onto the pool deck. But I made it and I passed and I now I have a certificate and huge black bruises all up and down my legs and ankles.

Certified lifeguard here. Don't make me backboard you.

After the lifeguard class and two days of hiking and backpacking, it was finally time to go relax at the family retreat, AKA the highlight of the non-Maine year.

Since we were already in the area it only took an hour to get there, which made it feel like we got an entire extra day. As soon as we pulled up to the lodge, the kids disappeared and I didn't really see them again until Sunday afternoon.  Mary was so exhausted after the campout that she tucked herself into her sleeping bag around 7:30 and slept right through the night.  A few friends came over to our porch (including the PhD club, which has been gathering at the retreat for three years now) to hang out after dark, I paid Charley a dollar a kid to round up his siblings, and then they all passed out.  Pretty great night.

Mary woke up fresh as a daisy the next morning after more than twelve hours of sleep.  I love this picture so much and wish that it was in front of some flowers or something instead of the men's room and a trash can.


I had to wade into the freezing river to rescue Charley's stuck fishing hook.  This was BEFORE the waterfront was open, which means I had to break my own rules right out of the gate.

2019-03-23 11.28.36

There are some organized activities Saturday morning, but I ended up spending a great hour talking to a friend, some other time holding people's babies, and then having lunch.  It was good to have this relaxing morning because after lunch it was SHOWTIME.

This was just as fishing was wrapping up before word was out that the waterfront was open.  In other words, this picture is not representative of the ABSOLUTE CHAOS that ensued once fifty kids and their parents realized that it was time to swim.  It was the longest two hours EVAR.  I only had to yell at a couple of kids, one for diving and one who kept doing the dead man's float right in front of the lifeguard stand.  There were kids on kayaks and kids in canoes.  Kids in lifejackets.  Kids swimming back and forth across the river (the river of unknown depth).  Adults jumping in and trying to swim to the bottom.  And don't forget about the slide and the baby pool.  Thankfully there were two of us.

After I got a glass of water and a couple of Cadbury Eggs I joined Mary for some coloring time.


The kids and I hung out inside for the rest of the afternoon until it was time for a yummy dinner and then smores time.  Wes takes smores very seriously.  His marshmallows are perfectly roasted.


James likes his to catch on fire as quickly and completely as possible.


Mary's still working on cooking the whole marshmallow.


Our friend Rosa was ably handling passing out marshmallows and skewers to the teeming hoardes of children, so we manned her baby.


Note that Ryan is in the background of this nice picture of Rosa in #peakdadmode, holding a toddler and correcting someone's smore technique.  #livinghisbestlife #happyplace  Rosa's also in her happy place, keeping kids organized and preventing them from stabbing each other with hot skewers.


I looked over to see Charley eating cobbler by the fire looking so grown up it took my breath away.  Don't worry though, friends, later he jumped into the baby pool fully clothed to rescue a half dead fish, so he's still my baby boy!


After smores the kids disappeared into the night and it was time for my favorite part, the sing-a-long.  I talked my way into helping lead the singing and what I lacked in vocal ability I made up for in enthusiasm.  The guitar player wondered aloud if we should cut a couple of verses of the Lord of the Dance and I said a little too emphatically "This song is the entire Gospel story!  Which part do you think we should cut?!"


Our last song was "Let it Be."  PERFECTION.

After the sing-a-long some friends and I stayed up and talked church politics around the fire until I don't even know how late it was but it was LATE late.

And Sunday morning after breakfast and cleanup we have chapel.  It always cracks me up to see all the bikes and scooters gathered around the entrance to the chapel, the dining hall, the waterfront.  So many kids!


And then, sadly, it was time to leave for another year.  Re-entry into our normal lives has not been easy to say the least.  Alarm clocks are so rude.  I should always have access to many of my friends all day every day.  Meals should be eaten in community.  Children should be raised by the collective.  And I'd love a nightly sing-a-long.  Only another twelve short months to wait.