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.

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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.)

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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!

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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.

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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.).

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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.

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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.

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

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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)

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*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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I CANNOT EVEN.

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.

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

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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)

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

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The girls' side of the table.

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Did not suck.

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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!