Monday, February 11, 2019

Middling domestic skills, bathrobes in public, and missing teeth

The next time I think it would be easier to put off washing dishes until the next day someone remind me how disgusting tonight's toxic sludge of cheerios and milk, scrambled eggs, black beans, and taco meat was. You can't unsee that.

(Though it was very effective when I showed it to a kid and said "You see this? You see how disgusting it is? I need you to go brush your teeth without my help so I can deal with this and you don't have to.")

Kitchen is officially clean for the next forty-five or so minutes until someone else needs to eat something.

On Saturday we went to the library after everyone spent the whole morning mucking out their rooms. It was in the thirties and raining so to sweeten the deal for myself I threw on this article of clothing I have that I've never been able to tell whether it is a sweater or a bathrobe. I rocked that bathrobe at the library, is what I'm saying. And then we went out for lunch.

Here I am in the reading bathtub with two of the kids. At one point, Charley and James and I were all in there and Mary and Wes were sitting on the floor just outside. And then they all ran off to use the computers and it took me several moments to realize that I was an adult, sitting alone in the reading bathtub, in a sweater that might be a bathrobe.

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They opened a location of a brewery we like like three miles from my house so we checked it out on the way home. James and Charley got sweaty playing an aggressive game of foozball and then used the sweat to style their hair.

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And then Charley used a napkin to rip a loose tooth right out of James's head.

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Sunday was a weird, not so restful day that involved a lot of driving up and down the main road taking kids hither and yon in separate cars. Once Ryan and I literally high-fived each other in the street as we passed. Restful. And now it's sleepytime because I got up at 4:45 to row and OH! I forgot to tell you how I finished my cross stitch project!

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My mom gave me this kit last Christmas and my goal was to finish it by this Christmas, but life happened and I needed an extra month. I am so pleased with it! I'm at loose ends now that I'm not spending every last minute working on it, so I'll start another one soon. It's on my fireplace now though. Makes me so happy.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

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HI HI HI!

I've needed to go buy white embroidery floss for about a week now, so that I can finish my cactus cross stitch project, but for some reason, going to Michaels on the way home from work has been just more than I can face most evenings.  Two evenings a week I have my sitter's car, so I don't like to run errands in her car.  One evening I pick up the kids my damn self and the other I meet my parents around 4:30.  And, you know, it's ALL THE WAY over there and also I work in a town with a disproportionately large population of senior citizens and sometimes I just don't have the patience to wait while someone has a fourteen minute conversation about yarn.  (All the time).

So today, since my class met sort of off campus and I had my car, I just popped over there real quick before the rest of my day.  On the way I bought a venti iced black tea and two cake pops and NOW I have embroidery floss but am way too jittery and irritable to face the EPA's data portal like I need to.

So here are some pictures.

From the "I'll miss this when they are all grown up" files:

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My two swimfans listening to Michael Phelps's autobiography (James said "It would be fun to go to the Olympics someday. [sigh] Wait, you have to get on the bus WITHOUT YOUR MOM?!") Michael Phelps talks about his mom a LOT in his book and it is figuratively killing me to an embarrassing degree.

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Wes's "Go Big or Go Home" Alamo model. After spending the whole afternoon cheerfully constructing this battle scene he stood up and said "Oh shoot! This is supposed to fit on my desk!" Our family: a microcosm.

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I rowed in an 8K race on Saturday morning. The race is 8K and you end up rowing twice that distance because you have to go to the start and then back to the boathouse at the end. It was AWESOME, even though I've had to ice the palms of my hands every night since. I've also rowed one of our regular practices since then and one of my blisters looks a little bit extra after that. But I can see my triceps again so I'm going for an extra workout tomorrow. I've been in a funk and this race seems to have been some kind of turning point. ROWING4LYFE.

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That's all we have time for today, folks!

Monday, January 28, 2019

A deep breath, finally

I was just wondering to myself when the last time it was that I posted anything here and when I went to Blogger there were two drafts that I had started and forgotten about and I will post those little gems here now because I think they explain better than anything the two-ish week absence...

Draft #1:

"I just had a weekend that made me empathize with the female antagonist of John Irving's "A Widow for One Year," who abruptly leaves her life on Martha's Vinyard and (we find out later) moves to Canada to live a quiet, solitary life as a librarian and author."

Draft #2:

"As usual, shiz is happening.  Even if we had four neurologically typical kids who played sports and won citizenship awards at school I'm sure it would feel chaotic, but we don't, so our chaos sometimes feels just a little bit EXTRA, and this week was one of those times."

OKEY DOKEY

We had a bit of a rough patch.  An anxiety med adjustment, school flame out, sick day, kind of rough patch with a bonus lice infestation and flu on top of that.

In a happy turn of events, my aunt was scheduled to visit during that time as part of her cross-country road trip and she happily waded right into our family chaos eager to help with food prep, advice, washing dishes, telling stories, and being really, really good company, especially after bedtime when we all opened a beer and talked by the fire. We toed the line of awkwardness in our effusive proclamations of gratitude for her help and loving support during our visit and were all very sad to see her go after five days.

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And now for some good old fashioned phone camera dump blogging.

We've been rowing a smaller boat due to personnel issues, and so that means we take out this boat for four rowers that I love rowing (let's be honest, it's because my hips don't touch the gunnels when I come up to the catch), but they store it on the second to top rack, which means we have to climb up there and get it and then put it back at the end of the row. I now view this process as "no problem!" I've come a long way from hating hard things and exercise of all kinds. Rowing 4 lyfe.

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The view is pretty great too.

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The kids built derby cars. Just before we realized that James's bad cold was actually the flu.

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I hope the kids never feel like they're too big to share the P. Terry's sand pit. (Once when we were there eating on the patio, and all my kids were in the sand box, a dad told a preschooler "No, you can't play in there. That's only for cats." Um)

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James had a huge meltdown about having to read for twenty minutes for homework and I coaxed him into reading by spreading a quilt out in the back yard and reading with him. It was a true highlight of the day. **This has been your yearly gentle parenting moment**

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And now it's yet ANOTHER WEEK and another day when I don't think I'm going to make it to the couch for my nightly fireplace/needlework/beer time until about 9:30. But it will happen because feeling like an adult human with some measure of control over my life is important too.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Life continues apace

Good news for you is that we ran out of Father Browns (I did not even know that was a thing that could happen, but we have been very committed), so all that is left to do is blog and finish my cross stitch cacti tonight.  Yesterday I returned from Phoenix, where I was attending a conference.  I usually have a great time at these, but MAN was this one exhausting.  On Saturday morning I got an email asking if I'd mind converting one of my two posters into a talk, so that I could fill the spot of a scientist who couldn't attend because of the shutdown.  Ever the team player, and ever the over-optimistic idiot, I envisioned myself putting together an amazing presentation on the plane, like a Rocky-style musical montage of productivity.  I managed to write a really comprehensive outline in the airport, but there was a LOT of turbulence on the plane and I ended up having to finish my talk late into the night in my hotel room after stress-inhaling the first bar cheeseburger and fries I've had since I got my gallbladder out.  My talk was the following morning and like twenty percent of my reference section was sitting in the audience.  It went...fine.  That afternoon I had two posters and then I had another talk the next morning.  I also got to catch up with my conference friends, including my friend Teresa, who is always my conference roomie.  She brought homemade lemon cake for our breakfast this year, and always makes coffee in our room.  On Wednesday, a friend I met through blogging more than a decade ago, picked me up and took me to dinner on the way to the airport (Hi Kim!).  It was so fun.  But also, it was good to get home last night.

Today, we picked right back up where we left off, with a state-visit-level schedule of dropoffs, pickups, and appointments after school.  I picked up everyone but Charley at the earlier, elementary school, pickup time, leaving Charley at the middle school to finish a project for one of his teachers, took James (and the other kids) to a doctor's appointment (ironically, the kid with the appointment did not get the message to come outside for regular pickup and had to be retrieved by one of the teachers while I waited in the parking spot of shame), then went on a quick, fighty sprint through the grocery store, back to school to pick Charley up, and then all the way across town to drop Charley off at swim, before returning home to slap a late spaghetti dinner together (not exactly together, as there were two seatings, the early seating and an elegant eight o'clock seating for Charley and Ryan).

The second we walked in the door, James ran to the kitchen and grabbed the Chromebook before anyone else could get it.  Wes objected to this, because he always does, and ran over and LICKED JAMES'S EAR while he was trying to play a game.  MUCH SCREAMING ensued and when James started throwing couch cushions, they both lost the Chromebook.  BUT NOT THE TV BECAUSE I AM NOT INSANE.

It was a white knuckled dinner prep half hour, for sure.

Sending them back to school after the break just feels mean, somehow.

Charley's room is downstairs, right down the hall from the living room.  If we forget to close his door at night, he often interjects things into conversations Ryan and I have while we are sitting on the couch, scrolling through our phones and licking our wounds after another epic bedtime battle.  To wit, tonight I was telling Ryan that I brought home all kinds of contraband in my carry-on bag--a tiny screwdriver and some chapstick from the exhibit hall, a gallon-sized ziplock filled with key limes that my friend Kim gave me to take home--I told him "They probably said 'I don't get paid enough for this shit.  No literally.'"and Charley piped up "I think if it's sealed, Mom, you can bring almost any kind of food on a plane."  It reminded me so much of the house where we go in Maine where the walls are so thin that sometimes people doing the crossword puzzle at the dining room table call out clues to whomever is sitting on the toilet in the next room.  So as a joke, I called to Charley "Six letter word for cat!" and without missing a beat, he responded "FELINE!"

Tomorrow we continue to let everyone adjust and rest by sending Ryan and Charley on a three day backpacking trip out of town.  The rest of us plan to eat tacos and watch movies.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Oh James

I don't know if it's the age or it's just James, but he has reached peak Soup Can* level adorableness recently and has also become witty and sarcastic and a little mischievous and inappropriate, in SO MANY ways that I just figured he deserved his own post.

*My grandfather used to comment that Baby Charley was so cute his face should be featured on a can of soup.

1. Last night after tucking James in, I noticed something important had disappeared from the shelf by the stairs where I had put it, intending to take it downstairs after everyone was in bed. I went into his room where he was lying peacefully under the covers with his light on (this is how he sleeps ever since he watched the Gamemaster video at a friend's house, headdesk). "James?" I began. He smiled angelically. "Do you know where the box by the stairs went?" "Box?" he replied sweetly. "Yes, the box. The box full of cookies and candy and cash and your VTech watch and gum?" "Haven't seen it!" he replied, smirking. I walked closer to the bed and leaned over to kiss him goodnight one more time. The box was UNDER HIS PILLOW. "I needed my chapstick." he explained.

2. We were listening to the audiobook "Pippi Longstocking" in the car on Saturday. In the first chapter, the author describes how Pippi's mother died young and her father was swept overboard from a ship. She now lives in a big house all by herself with no mother and no father. The author goes into all the things she has to do for herself. James piped up incredulously from the back seat, "What about INSURANCE?!"

3. On the way home from rollerskating the other day it was pouring rain and I drove through a puddle that made the car veer slightly to one side. James, from the back, "WHAT THE CRAP WAS THAT?!" I replied calmly "It was a puddle, James, and you shouldn't talk that way." He responded quickly "HOW DID A FRIGGING PUDDLE MAKE THE CAR DO THAT?!" OMG.

4. James set up a tent in our upstairs family room. It took all day, which was perfect because the weather was miserable early last week. He later convinced Charley to sleep with him in the tent for the night. The next morning, James was SO EXCITED about how well he slept. Charley was less excited.

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The next day he took apart our entire sectional couch and reassembled the cushions into a conversation pit inside the tent. When Ryan and I finally couldn't take it anymore, after four days of the tent, we took out: All the couch cushions, every piece of bedding that was not nailed down upstairs, numerous plates, half a case of empty Topo Chico bottles, and like thirty five pizza crusts.

5. This is how he sat on the couch with his buddy Cash to watch Star Wars the other day.

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The rest of the couch was empty.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Seven Quick Takes, NYE Edition

1. The other day a girl from down the street stopped by to ask Mary to play outside. Mary was exhausted (from a big day of watching YouTube videos of roller coasters and eating cinnamon rolls) and wanted to play inside, so she politely asked if the kid would like to play with her doll house. The other girl said she would rather play outside. They stared at each other for a moment at an impasse before I said "OK, I guess we'll play another time, Emma! Have a nice afternoon!" and said goodbye. Mary went back into the living room, got an apple, wrapped up in a blanket, and laid on a chair. Rest, comfy blanket, healthy snack, politely decline social engagement? Self care goals. Be like Mary.

2. I knew I was finally over my cold when I awakened and noticed the disgusting squalor in my bedroom for the first time. It only took twenty minutes to hang up and put away all the clothes, make the bed, perform a disgusting snot-encrusted easter egg hunt for wadded up kleenex among the sheets and blankets, put away the humidifier, make the bed, and take all the coffee mugs downstairs, but it is a much more enjoyable space now.

3. Charley, who fancies himself a Latin American Catholic, for reasons I don't completely understand, has insisted in years past that we keep the Christmas tree up until Epiphany (He was disappointed we couldn't buy hay to leave out for the Three Kings' camels). This year I took back the control and explained that unfortunately, Epiphany is too close to the beginning of the semester, which means that if we leave the tree up until Epiphany, it will be staying up until Carnival. And since they are in a semi-subdued mid-break stupor, no one objected when I disassembled the holiday magic and boxed it away until next year. Vacuuming up all those needles was the most satisfying thing I've done all week. The living room has gained approximately a hundred square feet and Ryan didn't even notice until I pointed it out to him the following morning.

4. Last week I thought we could save some money by sticking close to home, using only our wits, our siblings, and thousands upon thousands of empty calories to entertain ourselves. For two days the only place we went was one quick orthodontist visit down the street. All this got me was a garage full of "treasure" that the kids dragged home from trash cans around the neighborhood. One evening a girl I've not seen before rode up on her bike and handed me James's shoes. I asked "Why isn't James wearing his shoes?" and she told me that he took them off "when he was trying on the boots." Sure enough, James appeared moments later bearing a pair of man-sized hip waders, among other things. I also learned that James has been ranging the neighborhood like a feral cat. He told me, "If Sophie and Caroline aren't home, then I go see if James or the other James are home, and if they're not, I go to Alex and Avery's." This is more people than I know in this neighborhood and I thought I was socially aggressive. We don't call him The Mayor for nothing.

4b. It has not all been crazy neighborhood trash antics. The behavior has been...interesting...at points. On Saturday Ryan exclaimed with exasperation "I can't believe you've been dealing with this ALL WEEK!" Indeed.

5. Last night we went to surprisingly raucous NYE party with our church friends. The hostess passed around champagne for the adults and sparkling cider for the kids for our eight o'clock countdown and toast. There were a good twenty kids there and it was REAL funny when they were all running around with solo novelty shot glasses full of sparkling cider. We also gave them sparklers. No one lost an eyebrow! After the countdown the kids were all aloud to blow their noisemakers and it got so loud that the babies started crying.

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6. When we got home from that party, we stopped by at a neighborhood party across the street. Only there was a bit of a mixup when half the family left while I was still dealing with a toe injury James had sustained at the first party. I thought Ryan was already there, so we all went across the street. Ryan wasn't there and when he still hadn't shown up after half an hour, I told the kids it was probably time to go anyway, since it was almost ten. I got sidetracked by something and then Ryan actually did show up (the party was in the back of the house and he couldn't see anyone through the windows, so he was doing a stakeout on our front porch, waiting to see signs of life), so we ended up staying for a bit longer. We were just about to leave when Charley showed up wearing his pajamas and his coat. Apparently he had gone home, gotten himself ready for bed, and almost fallen asleep before wondering if we were all actually coming home. If you're confused you feel the same way I did. I counted the children before I went to bed. Somehow we all made it to the same place.

7. A month ago I posted some humblebrag FB post about how in the next four weeks I had to make two research posters, administer forty exams, grade forty exams, grade twenty final papers, post sixty grades, design three syllabi, and make holiday magic happen for all the children all with a minimum of childcare thanks to the holiday break. I got all my grades in on time, early even, and indeed managed to make the holiday modestly magical (big thanks to Ryan), and today I sent the second poster off to the printer (at the eleventh hour). I plan to work on my syllabi on the plane and can squeeze in paper edits around the edges somehow. I can't believe it's all working out. Sunday I leave for a conference in Phoenix and I come back Wednesday and STILL have a few days before my classes start. In other words, I'M GOING TO MAKE IT. That was...intense. December always is. But at least that damn tree is put away.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Christmas and James's Christmo-birthday

I don't think anything can summarize the past week better than this picture of an empty cinnamon roll pan on the living room floor beside a half-finished game of Battleship, some homemade croc stilts, and a family of denuded mice standing in front of their house.

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Today was actually a huge improvement over Christmas Eve and Christmas, when I could barely function for all the sneezing and scratching and the sensation that my sinuses were attempting to escape through my forehead. In an exciting turn of events for Ryan, I basically slipped into a coma at eight o'clock on Christmas Eve. I muttered some hasty instructions as he tucked me into bed and when I awakened at two thirty feeling somehow much better, I went downstairs to find Santa's workshop in full swing in the garage and Ryan cheerfully making a breakfast strata in the kitchen. That, my friends, is a MAN.

It was then that I turned to face the living room and realized just how out of it I must have been because WOW. My contribution to Christmas 2018 was a VERY NECESSARY ten-minute tidy of the downstairs before realizing that I'd overestimated my recovery and got back in bed. Ryan deployed Christmas in its entirety sometime after that and then came to bed I don't even know when.

Man cold aside, it was Christmas! So I gathered my robe around myself and parked on the couch with my kleenex box to watch the magic unfold. The kids are the PERFECT ages and they were so, so cute and wonderful.

Santa brought James a box of sheets to use for fort-building (and a battery-powered lantern that he could use inside, so he would stop leaving his desk lamp turned on with a sheet draped over it in his room).

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Wes and Mary are loving Mary's doll house.

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My parents came over and stayed all day, which was great fun.

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We had a feast! (that my parents orchestrated because I was still only semi-coherent)

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They also brought owl pellets for the kids, which I'd never considered a holiday activity before but now will be sure to include in our festivities.

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I've completely forgotten to mention James's eighth birthday, which was as it always is, cozy and sweet and tucked in the midst of a variety of holiday obligations and activities. His wish list was simple: books, a cozy blanket, and his own case of Topo Chico, and we were happy to fulfill it all.

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(Before we could have his birthday dinner, tomato soup and breakfast tacos, we had to take Charley to a late swim practice that got moved across town because of a heater issue. #thirdbaby)

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It's pretty hard to imagine him as anything other than a cute little toddler, but he is a pretty great kiddo, even playing "Away in a Manger" for the prelude at church on Christmas Eve.

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We love our little guitar playing, skateboarding, topo chico-loving hipster baby.

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Who built a xylophone with his empties tonight after bedtime.

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And NOW, Ryan is back at work and we are just cooling our heels for the next ten or so days until I have to go to Phoenix for a conference. Today's theme was games and cinnamon rolls and I didn't put my shoes on or leave the house once, even to get something from the car.