Monday, May 31, 2010

It was a Grand Slam

My brunch companions:
  • Shouted "We're eating breakfast in a TRAIN!!" once inside the Denny's Classic Diner
  • Drank maple syrup straight from the little cup
  • Laughed uproariously when the kid at the next table had a meltdown
  • Ate maple syrup with a fork
  • Poured apple juice all over themselves while attempting to use the straw cup like a sippy cup
  • Exclaimed "Wes thinks his tummy is a pe*nis!!" loud enough for the bikers at the next table to have a nice laugh (I have no idea what that means)
  • Thoroughly licked all remaining maple syrup from the cup
  • Refused to relinquish the last remaining maple syrup cup on the table because "NO! IT'S TOO HOT AND SPICY FOR BABIES!"
  • Ate eggs with their hands
  • Ate pancakes with their hands
  • Tried to lick syrup off the plate
  • Ate sausage with their hands
  • Noticed a picture of Sammy Davis Junior hanging over our table and exclaimed "OBAMA!!"
They're disgusting, but so much fun.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Summer "Vacation," Day 1

After yesterday's disastrous afternoon (summary: Wes took a nap. A LONG nap. We had no food. We couldn't leave to go get any. We were very bored. The children revolted. Ryan came home. I left to get myself some Chinese food then returned to eat it while watching "Sideways" on Netflix BY MY DAMN SELF) I knew something needed to change or this was going to be a LONG summer.

So this morning, when we still didn't have any food (milk, most importantly, Wes was very annoyed by our ignoring his increasingly shrill requests for MIK! MIK!!!! MIIIIKKKKK!), I decided we would start our day at Panera. How can you not be happy while eating something called a "muffie?"

While we were there, I brainstormed some ways to add structure to our day. Structure usually provided by Ms. Sunshine, that magician who taught Charlie's preschool class, which ENDED YESTERDAY.

I decided we would make a list while we were still at breakfast. I added some things and Charlie added some things. Since I took this picture Charlie has added and completed "eat fruit outside." I have added and completed "find something to do with extra banana bread."

I'm feeling pretty good about it. Of course it's only 10:40, which leaves us with seven hours and twenty minutes to fill before dinner. And Charlie has interrupted his "work on Turtle Spaceship" job fourteen times to interrupt me while I was writing this. But we have tons of snack food and the pool will be open in the afternoon. I'm sure those three short months between now and September seventh are going to fly right by.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Overheard at the Academomia's

Ryan: "I've never met anyone who likes rice as much as you."

Becca: "What the heck does that mean? What's not to like?"

Ryan: "You bought a RICE COOKER."

Becca: "Lots of people have rice cookers. So what?"

Ryan: "Not people from our non-culture."

Becca: "That's not true, my friend Jeannie (not her real name) told me about rice cookers and she is from Texas."

Ryan: "And where does she live now?"

Becca: "China. OK you win."


Ryan and Becca are searching the fridge, determining what needs to be bought at an upcoming trip to the store. General household hubbub ensues in the background.

"OK, so I'll buy some milk and lunchmeat and..."

Charlie: "I want some apple pie!"

Ryan: "Looks like we're out of eggs too."

Charlie: "Mama! I want some apple pie!"

Becca: (absentmindedly) "We don't have any, Buddy, maybe you and Papa should make one while I'm at my church meeting?"

Ryan: (incredulous, gape mouthed glare)

Charlie: "Oh, I would LOVE to do that!"

Ryan: (incredulous, gape mouthed glare)

Becca: "Ooh, I'm late! Better go! Ryan, the peeler with the red handle works best on apples! Have fun!"


We are driving down our street on the way out for breakfast. We briefly discuss whether we should go for cinnamon rolls or breakfast tacos. My mind starts to wander and I say to Ryan "We should really tell the kids about Taco (which what we call the baby) soon."

Ryan: (leans around the seat so he can look at the kids)

Me: (A little sad that this isn't going to be a more special moment)

Ryan: "Would you boys rather have a breakfast taco or a cinnamon roll for breakfast?"


We're at a nice outdoor restaurant overlooking the lake, for appetizers one Saturday afternoon. A large plastic owl sits on the railing to deter other birds from pooping on the tables.

Charlie: "Why doesn't that 'howl' move?"

Becca: "I guess it's asleep. Owls are nocturnal, which means they sleep during the day and look for food at night."

Charlie: (riotous laughter) "That is SILLY!"

(time passes, Charlie remains fixated on the 'howl')

Charlie: "Can I touch the howl?"

Becca: "Sure, be really really gentle, OK?"

Charlie: (timidly approaches the 'howl', extends a single finger towards its back, changes mind then smacks it soundly on the tail to a resoundingly hollow sounding THUMP, he returns to the table looking sullen) "The howl didn't wake up."

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Right now in our back yard:

Charlie has been constructing his spaceship for a little over a week now. Right now it includes the Little Tykes slide, a bath towel, a toy toolbox filled with various treasures, including our nice plastic drinking glasses and, at one point, my phone, a tennis racket bag, two kid-sized chairs (which is where the pilot and co-pilot sit), and lots and lots of balls ("luggage"). In the picture he is also holding a car cell phone charger (it's how you power the spaceship), which I think makes him look like a long haul trucker yakking on a CB.

And the pumpkin plants have been thriving. One of them abandoned the pumpkin patch and is headed towards the house. I have to hold it up so Ryan can mow underneath it. We have three or four one-inch pumpkins starting out and it looks like more on the way. If you are looking for a fun plant to grow with kids, and you have a lot of room, pumpkin plants grow FAST and get HUGE. These leaves are more than ten inches across!

Friday, May 21, 2010

The worst possible time to develop a sudden distaste for coffee

A few weeks ago, heady with anticipation of a long summer of part-time childcare and no labs to prepare for or grade, I found a little grant on the internet and sent an eager little email to two of the professors I work with.

"I think this project suits my experience and interests well and with your permission, I'd like to apply for this grant" it said. They were excited, we had a meeting! And as these things do, the project began to grow. And grow. And GROW.

But of course, I had made a teeny little mistake and the grant I had found was not exactly a good fit and heh heh, headpat, sorry, find something else. Maybe at NSF.

Which? I am terribly grateful for. The grace I have been shown at this school for all of my myriad mistakes (velocity instead of voltage anyone?) has totally blown me away. Makes my last department look more like the Citadel than the ivory tower. I was happy there too. But I also chewed a lot of Tums.

So off I went to the NSF website in all it's labyrinthine government agency glory. I found another few good contenders and once again, prematurely, fired off an upbeat email to all involved. Only to find a few days later that "Earth Science" in NSF speak refers to earth processes UNDERGROUND. I should have been looking at the "GEOscience" page, or the "ATMOSPHERIC science" page. Um. Duh.

And also? That first page with the frustratingly short summary of the grant? Has a cute little teeny tiny link at the very top? Yeah, that will take you to the ACTUAL GRANT WEBSITE where you can read such details like "Earth science refers to things INSIDE THE EARTH, dumbass."

So now I think we are finally on the right track and have a clear-ish idea of what we want the project to look like and I've been encouraged to develop some personal research goals so I can write a little bling into the proposal for my getting out of the house with big people time fund (known in the academic community as a postdoc) and now the Tums chewing has begun.

I will be thirty in ten days and I have never had a real job. Independence is scary. The thought that I willingly put myself in this situation is scary. But being on campus? I love it. Working with the students? Love it. Thinking? Doing research? Love those too. So this is what I have to do. This is what everyone does in their first academic job. I am lucky to be able to do it without the tenure clock ticking away. So, no matter how intimidating it is, I have to force myself to walk through it and learn everything I can (First goal, figure out the NSF website, complete! Second goal, find a campus vending machine with Peanut M&Ms, complete!).

Now I have to go fire up the crock pot so she can have MAH DINNER READY WHEN I GET HOME.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

And then we made a giant scene at the Double Dave's, the end

Becca's Guide to Creating Special Memories:

First, whenever you are trying to get two small children to smile adorably in a picture, the best possible time to do that is immediately after the older one wakes from an unplanned three-hour nap. If you are also running late to meet your husband for dinner at the pizza place, all the better.

Second, when the older one refuses to sit in the grass he routinely spends hours rolling around in because it is scratchy, move everyone to a chair on the porch. When composing your picture, make sure you include your city-issued trash can and recycling bin so that one day you can look back and remember that this picture was taken on a Wednesday.


Fourth, Oh Hell. OK, everyone off the chair! Charlie, say you're sorry. Say you're sorry. SAYITRIGHTNOW.

Fifth, decide that if everyone is smiling and no one is fighting it really doesn't matter who has his hand in his diaper.

After all, flexibility will be important when we are outnumbered by our children. In late December. Merry Christmas.

Friday, May 14, 2010

It all makes sense now. Sort of.

Charlie has been extremely anxious about aging this week, which is weird because I'm the one who's turning an age that rhymes with purdy in two-ish weeks (I can't remember anymore).

We'd be driving down the road chit chatting about nothing in particular when all of the sudden Charlie would yell angrily. "I don't WANT to GROW UP! I want to stay a KID!!"

My three-year-old, he is pre-pubescent.

In lighter moments he would sing his own rendition of "I won't grow up" from Peter Pan. It goes "I won't grow up! Not a penny will I pinch! I will never grow a mustache on my chin!"

One time he told me he wanted to stay three until Wes turned three so they could go to school together.

He's also been strangely fixated on leg hair. "Why don't you have hair on your legs, Mama?" he asked me a half dozen times yesterday. "Because when you are an adult you get to choose whether you want to keep the hair on your legs or shave it off. I chose to shave it off." He usually responded with a slightly alarmed "But you need to have fur on your legs so you can feel things in the woods!" Presumably this was a reasoning jump from the time Ryan explained why cats have whiskers.

(I don't think I need to tell you how happy I am that he has put me in the "no leg hair" category, as that is simply not the case every single day. I mean, really.)

I finally connected the dots yesterday when we were driving to church and Charlie started up again. "I want to always be a KID! I don't want to grow up!"

"Charlie, you are three years old. You are going to be a kid for a very long time. You have nothing to worry about."


He was practically crying.

"Sweetheart, do you think your friend Julie (not her real name) is a kid?"

"Yes" he sniffled.

"Well she is five years old, two years older than you! You'll still be as little as Julie in two years!"

He hesitated then said sadly "But I have hair on my legs. Papa has hair on his legs and he is an ADULT!"

Poor, poor baby just noticed he has hair on his legs and has been thinking all week that now he is like Ryan and will have to leave the family and go to work all day.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Memory Lane

We went on a road trip to our old town this weekend.

It took us six and a half hours, which is only a little off our personal best time of five hours, fifty minutes (which occurred when I drove a Toyota Supra and, apparently, had very little fear of the Highway Patrol). These guys made it interesting, but they really did a good job, sleeping a lot and getting really excited about all the farm equipment (it's cotton planting season).


As usual, Charlie's favorite part was the hotel. At one o'clock in the morning when we finally, gratefully, slid our key into the door, Charlie skipped to one of the huge queen sized beds, climbed right in, and said good night. Wes's favorite part was the breakfast room with all the waffles you can eat.

After breakfast I sneaked off to my favorite coffee shop in the whole world to put the finishing touches on a paper I'm submitting to an on-campus research journal at my new school. Then a friend stopped by to say hi and we had a really nice long uninterrupted talk and I wondered why we ever left this town.

The boys stayed at the hotel to get to know their friend cousin Jay (not his real name), son of my friend A.


Charlie was so happy to have a few minutes to catch up on the finance news when all those little kids went down for a nap.


Ryan went to have lunch with his old advisor, so I took the boys out to my old office to pick up some books I forgot three years ago when we moved. I was told that it was just a few things and that they were not in the way, so I didn't rush to pick them up. Turns out it was three boxes of textbooks, binders, notebooks, and another bag of miscellaneous items from my desk, including CDs full of wedding pictures, some applesauce, and a bottle of Tums. When the embarrassment subsided it was actually quite motivating to see how hard I used to work. Binder after binder of meticulous notes, references, and data. It seems like a lifetime ago that I worked at that desk.

Then I took the boys out for a delightful Mexican lunch, including sopapillas, and went to the campus to meet Ryan for some very dignified and scholarly activities.


The next day we got to tour around the research center and check out all the work they are doing out there.


Apparently I have a little bit of old man in me because when one of the current grad students related to me the story of the night they had to work extra hard at deploying the new met towers that they didn't get to the hotel until eleven-fifteen at night I immediately retorted "On my first hurricane trip we drove from West Texas all the way to Key West without stopping, it took thirty-one hours. Then we slept in the trucks. In the morning we got up and deployed the towers in the outer rainbands. It took twelve hours." "Wow," was all he said. I may have scared him.

It was so good for me to go back there and see all of my professors and Dr. Advisor without the specter of my dissertation looming over my head. At the mixer Friday night I gushed to Dr. Advisor and some other professors about my current employment situation and the papers and proposal I have in mind to work on this summer. I was confident that I had found the right path for me and for the first time in years I wasn't totally consumed with dissertation angst. I met lots of new people and made some new contacts for a project I'm hoping to work on. I also bragged about the kids endlessly. The next day while in line for lunch Dr. Advisor said to me "You seem really happy. I'm so happy for you." He is a man of few words and it really meant a lot. It was a great weekend and very affirming of the choices I've made. I am so looking forward to working on some research projects and preparing for a new class over the summer. I'm also looking forward to sitting on the back porch eating orange juice popsicles with my kids. I am incredibly lucky.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Tonight I sat riveted on the couch watching a Nova about Mount St. Helens while Ryan and the boys played in the back yard. It was fascinating. They showed the "Blast Zone" where thousands of trees had been knocked flat by the pyroclastic flow, the lake where all the fish had been killed instantly by all the volcanic ash that had been dumped into it, the entire side of the mountain disintegrating and sliding into the valley. Then Ryan came in to take the kids to bed.

"Not now, Baby, I'm watching Nova!" is not what I said, but it is much funnier.

He said he'd take Wes up and encouraged me to continue to indulge my sick fascination. Charlie stayed behind so I wrapped him up in a quilt and pulled him into my lap for a little nerdy bonding time.

They showed some cute little woodland creatures that had managed to survive the eruption and some pretty purple flowers that had adapted to grow in volcanic ash. The gophers eat the purple flowers! They mix the ash with native soil! Then there are elk and salamanders!! There are phytoplancton in the lake making oxygen and now there are fish again! Charlie this is SO COOL! The ecosystem coming back to life! It's a miracle!

Charlie was very concerned about the trees.

"What happened to the trees, Mama?"

"The volcano knocked them down. Volcanoes are very powerful and there are none near here. Look! That man is a scientist! Would you like to be a scientist one day?"

"Why did the volcano knock the trees down?"

"Let's listen and find out!" I chirped. "There are only volcanoes very far away from here." I chose not to mention the fault we live on. It's inactive. I'll leave his college geography professor to clean up that mess.

We watched in silence for several more minutes of sweeping views of the smoldering caldera interspersed with animations of tectonic plates pushing together and generating magma in a bubble underneath a mountain. The bubble got bigger and bigger and bigger and KA-POW-YA! Smoke! Steam! Mountain collapsing! Cut back to the flattened old-growth forest!

Charlie covered his ears with his hands.

"Are you scared, sweetie?"

Tiny voice "Yes."

"You're not going to get hurt by a volcano, Buddy. This one is very far away. Why don't I take you upstairs for bed?"

He readily agreed.

At the top of the stairs he said to me "Mama that was NOT a nice video. I want to put on a NICE video. Volcanoes are NOT NICE."

Ryan said Charlie had a lot to say about volcanoes knocking down trees while he was getting his jammies on. Complete with vivid hand motions.

I've agreed to handle all volcano-related night wakings for the foreseeable future.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Placecards? Oh dear.

"You're encouraged to bring spouses and children" said the invitation to the Physics Department's end of the year party. I immediately signed us all up, excited to be included. The party was to be at the chair's house, dinner, I thought, without really looking closely at the invitation past the part where it said "very informal." I pictured a breezy cookout in the back yard where no one would notice that all Wes ate were hot dog buns and where Charlie could feast on as much watermelon as he could steal off of our plates.

Then I got another email. "Will you please email me your husband's and kids' names for the place cards?"

The next time I saw the chair I voiced my concerns. "My children are quite young, I'm concerned about their behavior at a sit-down dinner party. Please tell me if you'd like me to find a sitter for them. It would really be no trouble."

He assured me it would be no problem. I knew they were capable of being polite little angels on a completely random, short term basis, and that those moments almost never happened after 6 pm, certainly not on a weekend. The rest of the time they act like normal children. With the loud and the sticky and the knocking things over. The party was at 6:30 on Sunday. They are usually in bed then.

We arrived at the house at the appointed time and made our introductions. "You guys are the only children here!" exclaimed the hostess. We were those people, with the kids at the adult party! Mortification!

Ryan and I talked with the other guests about their summer plans while Wes stood backwards on an upholstered chair gleefully shrieking "Puppy!" and pointing at a cat on the porch outside. Charlie refused to be put down and instead draped his whole upper body over my shoulder as if I was a fireman rescuing him from a burning building. Later they would join forces in a game of "You touch it no you touch it no you touch it" with a litter box they found in the laundry room and had to be exiled to the porch for the remainder of cocktail hour.

All the pestering I'd done in the car about good manners kicked in when it was time to eat. Charlie sat in his chair and exclaimed "Oh! Doesn't this look NICE?!" Then "Oh Mama! Thank you for cutting my meat. That is VERY NICE of you!" Then, for good measure, "What a SPECIAL dinner this is!"

For his part, Wes, Mr. A-Waffle-a-Day-Keeps-the-Doctor-Away, ate three-quarters of a cup of curried zucchini and several slices of roast beef (it was delicious. Maybe Wes just won't eat MY food!). Somehow I managed to contain myself--I have a feeling the other assembled, childless, academics were not interested in the specifics of Wes's normal protein- and plant-free diet--but I was quite pleased.

Fortunately the hostess had stuck a number of lollipops in Charlie's placecard holder, so when they had finished eating and wanted to head back to the litter box we were able to keep them happy at the table. GENIUS! Even when Wes started LICKING HIS OWN CHEST to make sure he didn't miss a single drop of that sticky lollipop goodness, at least they were quiet and contained.

Five lollipops later it was time for dessert. Which was un-be-lieve-able. Charlie ate his so fast that I was offering up fervent prayers that he would at least make it to the car before throwing up. Wes was also very enthusiastic, picking up his whole piece of cake on his spoon then turning his head sideways to bite a chunk off the side. When they finished, mercifully, Ryan took them outside for a few minutes while I schmoozed with my colleagues a little more before it was time to go.

I got many compliments on their good behavior. Many "There is no WAY my kids would have been so good at a sit-down dinner." I stumbled over an explanation of the paper I'm working on, told some of the graduating seniors about what grad school was like, compared GRE experiences, and came up with a number of project ideas that will likely keep me with too many balls in the air well into the twenty-teens (haha, that would be great, wouldn't it?).

Finally it was time to say goodbye, which I did very graciously with a screaming Wes held tightly across my body. Right before I closed the door he remembered himself and said "Thank you! Bye bye!!" Then I gushed about how proud I was of them all the way home.