Sunday, December 30, 2012


So.  Now that the statute of limitations on complaint-blogging has ended for this current round of holidays I can tell you how I really feel about Christmas "Break".




Wes has started blowing snot out of his nose as a means of protest.  He did it on Friday when I took them to the lake to feed ducks and drink hot chocolate (HOW DARE I?!).  He did it on Monday when I took them ice skating and then out for lunch (AM PRACTICALLY MRS. HANNEKIN).  It's disgusting.  And given the fact that all of us are currently dealing with or just getting over Charlie's disgusting cold, there is a lot of snot to go around.  So his coat looks like he went to a Gallagher show.  You're welcome.

Charlie?  Is now officially used to seven hours of school a day.  And by school I mean "intellectual stimulation, kids his own age, and PE."  Here?  He gets twelve hours a day of James-zilla screaming, hitting, pinching, and toy-throwing (welcome back, Age 2.  Can't say I've missed you) and Wes the snot-thrower.  This has led to some perfectly understandable frustration and also perfectly inappropriate screaming at his brothers and fight-picking.

Those idyllic moments of them playing nicely together that I said I would miss when Charlie started kindergarten?  Are never coming back, I'm afraid.  Now we have fighting, fighting, and more fighting.

Did I mention that James turned two recently?  The screaming!  The drama!  The food-throwing!  The biting!

Also: Wes taught him to climb out of his crib.  We are all so grateful that he will never nap again.

Saturday I got so sick of listening to them bicker and scream at each other I banished everyone upstairs, cranked up the music, and spent two hours angry cleaning our disgusting kitchen floor.  It looks fantastic.  And I felt marginally better.  But that was possible because Ryan was home to get James down for a nap (which was once as simple as dropping him in the crib and closing the door but now requires constant surveillance because once he gets out he will not sleep).

Tomorrow?  Ryan is going to work.  And I will be alone.  With the fighty brothers.  There will probably be no dinner.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Weekend

My mom came and picked Charlie and Wes up this morning to take them to her house for the night and I immediately put James down for a nap and read a few pages of my book and took a long, hot shower, and put a load of laundry in and ate all the leftover mac and cheese from yesterday's lunch all by myself and wondered many times what the heck I used to complain about all the time when it was just me and Charlie. Dude, this is cake.

So, Christmas!

Ryan snapped a few pictures on Sunday before Church started when the kids were doing some not-exactly-OK frolicking in the poinsettias on the stage.


And then it was our family's turn to light the Advent candles. Ryan and I were getting ready that morning when Charlie picked up the Advent reading Ryan had planned to do and read the whole thing aloud. We looked at each other and Ryan asked Charlie if he would be interested in doing that in front of the whole church. He said he was, but seemed nervous, so we practiced it a few more times in the car on the way there. He got up there and read the whole thing into the microphone in front of all those people like it was no big deal. He did GREAT. When he finished the whole congregation exhaled simultaneously in a combination of "Aww" and "Phew!" Which were my exact emotions. I also had to sit down immediately because I was shaking so bad with nervousness for him.


Later we tried to get a staged shot of Charlie up on the stage with the microphone. We took several and then while Ryan and I were reviewing them on the camera and not paying attention to the kids at all, we heard a little voice singing "Go Tell it on the Mountain" broadcast on all the speakers in the sanctuary. When Wes saw us both look up at him he quickly put down the microphone and ran down the steps.


Christmas Eve I was sick all day and SuperRyan decorated gingerbread men with the kids and made a spectacular dinner of pierogis, applesauce, and broccoli.


I rallied for church in the afternoon. We gave James some earrings.


Charlie sang in the choir.


And the big boys got to hold their own candles for Silent Night. This is always my favorite part.


The next morning the kids came running into our room dragging their stockings behind them and we opened them on our bed.


Wes wore Santa's favorite jammies, according to him.


James didn't really get it but had a great time anyway.


The presents were blocked by cones!!


That did not stop them.


The rest of the day we played and layed around and watched "A Christmas Story" (which is much funnier as an adult, I noticed) and ate dozens of Christmas cookies gifted to us by our very talented neighbors. Such a great day.

I'll leave you with the words Charlie wrote on the Christmas card he gave me and Ryan from school:

"Ho Ho Haliaedays and Happy New Year and relly MOM you do make fabyaules and outstanding diners Great work."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Jingle All the Way

Yesterday the kids and I were playing out front in the evening before Ryan got home from work.  We had finished dinner up out there because it was eighty degrees and no one could stand being inside anymore, so the table on our porch featured dirty plates, a bag of naan, a thing of hummus, and some empty cups.  Near the table was a dirty BumGenius I'd flung out of the car in a mad dash to go get Charlie from school.  None of this is explicitly prohibited by the HOA, but the lengthy code they provided us with when we moved in does have a general tone of not being a total slob.

So we were running around in the grass having a great time when I noticed someone with a clipboard rounding the culdesac and knocking on all my neighbor's doors.  Quickly and with almost no explanation I ushered everyone back into the house.

Kids who were just outside having a lovely time running around the lawn half-dressed are not happy when they are brusquely shoved in the front door and told to stay away from the windows.  So when the doorbell rang, quite predictably, ten minutes later (at 6:10, WHYYYYYYY????), the man on the other side was greeted with a window full of curious faces.  And also an hours-old poop diaper that was still on the porch along with the remains of our dinner.

Because I did not want to go to jail for running what appeared to be a flophouse for ill-supervised children, I was forced to open the door.  I headed through the living room hissing at the kids to get away from the door and side-stepping Rossby, who was barking like someone was breaking in with a tire iron, then opened the door just wide enough to stick my face out.  My face, Rossby's face, and James's face.  We looked like a totem pole.

The man identified himself as being with an environmental conservation group and I told him that I am very interested in environmental conservation but that this simply was a terrible time to talk.  He pressed on.  Rossby continued to bark hysterically behind me.  James was shrieking.  Charlie was complaining about something.  I said again, slightly more forcefully and bewildered by this person's total lack of situational awareness, "I really don't have time to talk right now."  As soon as I said it Rossby snarled and Wes howled "ROSS BIT ME!"


I cut him off.  Do you have a card or something?  I'd love to read more about this when I have more time.  I now had a screaming Wes on my hip and was trying to keep Rossby and James in the house with my foot.

"Can I come back in an hour?" he offered.  My head exploded.  "Do. You. Have. A. Card?" I managed.  He handed me one and I shut the door before he had the chance to start up again.

Back inside I inspected Wes for injuries then turned on a video and took James into the kitchen with me.  Ryan came home a little while later and I ran upstairs to change for the Tacky Christmas Sweater Party I was going to that evening.  I was headed downstairs when my phone rang and someone said "I think your dog is at my house."

Sure enough, Rossby wasn't in the back yard where he'd been exiled after the biting incident.  I had no idea how he'd escaped, but I thanked the lady and got her address.  I grabbed the harness and leash and ran out the door--literally ran, because my friend was coming to pick me up in about five minutes--the jingle bells I'd painstakingly hot-glued all over my festive holiday vest jingling all the way.  Ching ching ching, went the vest as I ran around the corner with the leash.  I couldn't see the house numbers in the dark so at every driveway I had to stoop down and look at the number on the curb.

It was when I was doing this ching, ching, ching slow jog, stooping to read the curb, ching ching ching thing that I ran right into Mr. Electronics Recycling, the man who had come to my door before.

I was wearing a festive beaded holiday vest with jingle bells glued all over it.  And carrying an empty leash.  And running in jeans and moccasins.  And squatting down at the end of every driveway.  Like a crazy person.  Or like Rossby on a walk, appropriately.

"Good evening, ma'am."  He said nonchalantly, pointedly not looking up from his clipboard.

"Hello" I breathed as I ran by (jingle jingle jingle jingle jingle all the way), "I can't find my dog."

"Mmmmm hmmmmm" he said into the clipboard as I stooped to read another curb, which was (mercifully) the right house.

Thankfully I looked slightly less silly than this when I rang their doorbell and thanked them for finding Ross.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

We all need a little Christmas, right this very minute

We were out of town this weekend visiting Ryan's family and attending the wedding of his cousin. The wedding was absolutely lovely and the reception full of joy and laughter and kids running willy nilly and ordering Shirley Temples to their hearts' content from the bar. Ryan's parents made us so welcome, as always. They took care of the kids so we could sleep late, planned a special birthday dinner for James, took us out for a yummy brunch before we left this morning, and made us feel welcome in every possible way. It was a great weekend.

But in the quiet moments, my heart was heavy. I learned Thursday evening that one of my dearest friends is going through something awful. I walked around Friday morning, crushed with sadness for her, trying to pick out something to send as a gift. Something that might cheer her up for a moment, but having no idea what that might be. Finally I picked out a few things and drove home to box them up. And then I heard the news from Connecticut.

And the world ceased to make sense.

I ached for my friend all weekend. I ached for those parents in Connecticut who were missing their babies. It was not an easy weekend, though it was fun.

And then tonight, back at home, I put dinner on the table and gathered everyone around and got out the lighter to light the Advent Candles. The kids recited the words as I lit them. The first one was for "hope". The second one was for "peace". And the third one, tonight's candle, the pink one, was for "joy".

I snarled in my mind, "Hope? Peace? Joy? SERIOUSLY?"

The events of the last three days seem totally at odds with the message of the Christmas season.

We continued with the ritual, asking the kids to reflect on those words and what they mean to them. They gave the usual, cute, funny, thoughtful (in some cases) answers and then resumed shoveling forkloads of shells and cheese into their mouths and laughing and joking and trying to blow the candles just hard enough to make the flames dance but not go out. It was a nice meal. We sang Christmas carols by candlelight around the piano afterward.

But I remained in a funk all through bedtime until I came back downstairs and opened up Facebook. Right there at the top someone had posted the words to one of my favorite Christmas songs:

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."

--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

And then I remembered (again) that hope, peace, and joy in a dark, scary, chaotic world is exactly the point of Christmas. And for that I am grateful.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Just call me freaking Heloise

You guys.  I destroyed my crock pot.

Last night I used it to make pulled BBQ chicken for dinner.  And then I forgot to turn it off.  And went out for the evening.  And returned five-ish hours later to a Caramelization Situation.

Cooked on barbeque sauce does not smell good.  Or look good.  Especially with little pieces of shredded chicken all embedded in it like pebbles in asphalt.  I was sure I'd spend most of today chipping away at the cooked on gunk with a hammer and chisel.  Before giving up and asking Ryan to do it because "Oh, sorry, I didn't get to the crockpot, kids were NUTS, you know how it goes.  Would you mind cleaning that out for me?"

But I figured out how to clean it with hardly any effort at all.  You probably already know about this, but let's pretend I figured it out all on my own, OK?

I went to Goodwill and bought a new one.  Just kidding.

I filled the crockpot half full of boiling water then mixed in a quarter cup of Borax and stirred.

Then I stepped back and let the toxic cloud do it's thang.

Believe me when I say toxic cloud.  That thing steamed way longer than it should have.  Don't worry I didn't inhale.

You have to wait a while.  This is a good time to check out the local real estate listings for houses with an open indoor area the size of a basketball court with a wipeable concrete floor.  Something to accommodate the children, who keep getting taller and taller and ganglier and rough-housier.  (If you see any listings send them my way).

After twenty-five-ish angsty minutes of picturing yourself in a home that looks beautiful only because it is not currently occupied by three human tornadoes, return to the crockpot.

Dump the Borax-boiling water solution (which now looks like a tasty au jus sauce) into the sink.

Do some minimal scrubbing to get in the corners.  And done.

That's it.  And if you don't tell your spouse, he will probably think you worked really hard on it.  And thank you profusely.  And that's when you show him that listing with the basketball court.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

They're getting yooge

Everyone is so stinking grown up around here I don't know what to do with myself.

Friday afternoon I gave Charlie some money and wrote down our usual order for him to read and he went into the pizza place, ordered the pizza, paid, and then carried the enormous pizza out to the car.

I waited outside and nonchalantly took pictures through the windows. He chatted with the guy making the pizza, who was smiling and laughing, so I assume he was being polite and appropriate.


It was pretty awesome. Later he told me he was relating to the pizza guy the story of the last time we had been there, when I left the pizza on top of the minivan and it flew off just after we turned onto the main road and got run over by a pickup truck. I never get tired of hearing that story. Thankfully it will never happen again because every time we buy a pizza now Charlie asks me forty-seven times if I remembered to put the pizza *INSIDE* the car, as opposed to on the roof rack.

And then this weekend the kids helped Ryan with some light yardwork.


Yes they were still in their jammies.


No, they were not helpful. Cute, but kind of underfoot and fighty with the rakes.

Not one to be left out, James has begun helping himself to items in the refrigerator. This is the scene I stumbled onto (literally) just minutes after I told James "Don't eat those grapes, baby, they're super-old." and closed the fridge, naively believing that that would be enough of a deterrent. Not for James, though. That kid has survival skills.


There were way more grapes on the floor, but Rossby got there before I could get my camera ready.

He washed the grapes down with a...hey, give that back!!


And then today while out for lunch with friends he fell asleep while eating some french fries, slept an hour in my arms, still clutching the french fries, then woke up and finished the fries like nothing had happened.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Third Baby Gets Stuck

Ryan came home late last night and the kids were total animals during the hour I was home from work trying to throw dinner together so that they could EAT, which is what needed to happen, but was taking forever because I was constantly interrupted by screaming and toy throwing and whining and kids wrapping themselves around my legs while I was trying to brown hamburger on the stove (so safe!!).  So after dinner when the whining still hadn't really worn off I turned on Charlie Brown Christmas and, when everyone was settled, went back into the kitchen to straighten up.

That's where I was when I heard a huge THUMP and then curiously muffled screaming.  It sounded like James.

Alarmed, I ran into the living room.  I could still hear the muffled screaming, but James was nowhere to be found.

And that's when I spotted his little stockinged feet sticking up from behind the ottoman.

Somehow he had fallen and gotten stuck upside down, wedged between the ottoman and the wall, his head suspended several inches above the ground.  Like this:

Stifling giggles at the sight of his sweet little, very pissed off, feet kicking and fighting to be freed, I ran to try and extricate him.  He screamed louder as I tried in vain to grab any part of him to pull him out.  This seems easy enough when you think about it, but an upside down child has no good handholds, especially when you are off balance to begin with because of the awkward way I had to lean over the ottoman, and the way he weighs almost as much as Wes.

I tried getting him around his waist, but that didn't work.  I thought about grabbing him by the shirt, but I was worried it would choke him.  Finally, motivated by the pitiful, muffled screaming, I jammed my legs into the tiny spot between the chair and ottoman, grabbed him by the ankles, and pulled with all my might.  The screaming got louder and more hysterical as he came out and I sat him on the chair to check him for injuries.

When he realized he was free and saw my face, lips pressed together firmly in a super-human effort not to laugh, he started laughing.

And then I started laughing.  And he laughed harder and pointed at the ottoman and babbled excitedly.

And then I laughed harder.  And then he laughed harder and rubbed the back of his head and exclaimed "Bonk bonk!!"  And then he looked serious for a moment.  So I kissed him and fussed over the "bonk bonk".  And then he started laughing again.  And hopefully he'll be a little more careful about climbing on the furniture now.  Probably not.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The De-evolution of Christmas Cards

8:00 pm - Kids in bed, holiday music playing softly, pens at the ready, cards stacked neatly by envelopes, eggnog poured and waiting.

First card:

"Dear Stacey, Mark, Madison, Will, and Amelia*,
 It was so lovely to see you this summer during our trip to New England.  How is your mother?  I certainly hope you and the kids have a wonderful holiday season and a healthy and prosperous New Year!
Many fond regards,
 Ryan, Becca, Charlie, Wes, and James"

*names have been changed

Second card, 8:10 pm:

"Dear Dr. Swanson,
Has it really been five years since I finished school and moved here?  We think of you often and wish you and your family the best.  Tell Lisa hello from all of us.  Merry Christmas!
Best regards,
Ryan, Becca, Charlie, Wes, and James"

Tenth card, 8:45 pm:

"Dear Danny, Abby, Luke, William, Reid, and Molly (phew!)
Enjoy your first Christmas with that sweet baby!
Happy thoughts and best wishes!
Ryan, Becca, and family"

Twentieth card, 9:00 pm:

"Dear Mark, Judy, and family,
Happy Hanukkah!  Miss you!"
Ryan, Becca, and family"

Thirtieth card, 9:13 pm:

Merry Christmas!  All the best in 2013!
Best, The Academomia Family"

Fortieth card, 9:24 pm:

"Dear Aunt Kate Cate,
Merry Christmas!!
Love, Becca"

Forty-first card 9:30:

"Dear Tom,
Merry Christmas!!
--The Academomias

Fiftieth card 9:55:

":) Merry Xmas 2 U :)
LOL, Becca

Monday, December 3, 2012

Advent Season

I've been waiting until this weekend to launch myself into the Christmas spirit, only halfheartedly listening to Christmas music in the car and while cooking dinner. But for some reason, I always found myself flipping back to Van Morrison Radio or The Lorax Soundtrack, not quite ready to do Christmas yet. It was too early, and in our case, way too HOT. We had to run the air conditioner last night because I was lying on top of the covers, still too hot at three o'clock in the morning. In December. So you can see why I wasn't in the Christmas spirit.

But Friday we went to a Christmas street festival and made cupcakes with the Grinch and then Saturday morning we had breakfast with Santa. Saturday afternoon I turned in a proposal that's been occupying all my free thoughts this past week and then suddenly, it dawned on me that Advent started on Sunday and I was free to enjoy the Christmas season willy nilly. Hooray!

Since we always attend the Hanging of the Greens Sunday night at the beginning of Advent, we planned to do our family celebration on Saturday. I got out the Christmas tablecloth I bought a month ago and stashed in the laundry room then made up some wonderful pasta with tomato-cream sauce (via Pioneer Woman) and topped it with fresh basil and grated parmesan cheese while the kids decorated sugar cookies with Ryan. They assured me they didn't eat any before dinner, but I remain suspicious.


After dinner we ate cookies and drank eggnog and decorated the tree.

The tongue of concentration was out in full force.

James quickly got the hang of it.

We got out all the sweet ornaments my family made at James's baby shower two years ago.

I poured the eggnog

James sneaked the eggnog

Lots of school projects were hung on the tree


The kids were SO INTO IT this year. When Ryan got the tree ready to put up the kids dragged the time-out chairs out of the corner where we always put the tree. When we got the ornaments out they started digging through the box to find their favorite ones. They ate their cookies lying down under the tree looking up at the lights, because that is what they did last year. For an hour, my life was Little House in the Big Woods. Soft lighting, happy, happy family. Kids getting along and helping each other. Everyone reminiscing about Christmases Past (or Last Year, the only one the kids can really remember). It was unsarcastically magical and special. I was so glad we waited for the right moment.

And then it was time to go to bed and everyone had to be bodily dragged up the stairs, manipulated into brushing their teeth, and coerced into their jammies. We came downstairs and Ryan had to work and I had to stare slackjawed at my Kindle until 9:30 when I crashed into bed. Which is all pretty standard around here.

But the next night was Hanging of the Greens.


And I'm not going to lie to you, I was a little verclempt when the trees were decorated and they lowered the lights and then Pastor Tom said Christmas was about God bringing light to the darkness and the trees lit up, so beautiful, and Charlie and Wes both sprang to their feet and said "Ooooooooh!" and then started clapping. It is the most wonderful time of the year.


Friday, November 30, 2012

I love it when my to-do list looks like this...

1. Finish proposal project description, budget
2. Grade Friday labs
3. Email LSU people
4. Buy Advent wreath, candles
5. Make cookies for church
6. Student meeting, 11 am
7. Hanging of the Greens (Sunday)
8. Dessert with the Grinch (Friday)
9. Last class (Friday)!!
10. Read revisions for simulated data paper, make plan
11. Laundry x 4
12. Bathrooms
13. Turn grades in
14. Charlie permission slip
15. Christmas presents?
16. Submit proposal
17. Prep spring course
18. Buy eggnog
19. Put up Christmas Tree
20. Literature review - integral scales paper

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The second Thanksgiving, where the Indians ate candy canes in accordance with English tradition

Yes, we had two Thanksgivings. The second one wasn't so much a Thanksgiving as a large, formal, family meal with my sister's family and my parents. You know I love to make a large formal meal.

The first reason it wasn't exactly a Thanksgiving meal is that they were out of Thanksgiving decor at the grocery store. I bought a fall-themed bread basket on clearance (that was all that remained) and two poinsettias and declared it a Thanksgiving-Christmas fusion meal.

Such a cute little photobomber.

Second reason it wasn't a second Thanksgiving meal is that I made a roast beef instead of turkey. I am no good at cooking turkey. But meat that is *supposed* to be undercooked in the middle? No problem.

I was highly excited about the roast.

I also made green bean casserole (from scratch, not that hard and so worth it), cinnamon-orange cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and some horseradish sauce to go with the roast (which is made from horseradish and whipping cream, oh yes I did).

Then people came over and we ate.

(There were also candy canes in the kids' napkin rings. I don't know how many they ate, but regrettably, there are none left)

And then we had pie. You've already seen that picture, but it bears repeating.

(Ryan made the pecan, I made the pumpkin. I made the crust but composted the pumpkin I roasted when it was too hard to scrape into the food processor and used the canned stuff.)

(Not pictured because they got eaten too fast: chocolate truffles, which now have a place at all future holiday tables of mine)

Batman popped in for a visit after dinner.


And James took off his pants and wore my niece's pink sparkly shoes all over the house.

Par-tay animal!

I love it when my house is full of people and good food (and kids dressed like Batman and princesses and toddlers with sticky candy cane faces) and it was a great kickoff to the Christmas season (which doesn't actually begin here until the start of Advent next weekend).

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The first Thanksgiving. Not the one with Pilgrims, but the first of two that we celebrated this year

Goodness gracious you guys, our Thanksgiving was SO fun. Where do I begin?

With the Santa Train we ride every Thanksgiving after a delicious dinner at Ryan's parents' house?

(Ryan's family and my family are from different parts of the country. So, for those of you who may be from The North? Let me tell you: stuffing should contain cornbread and green beans should contain bacon and macaroni and cheese is a vegetable worthy of a spot at the table. YUM. And also, any drink with CO2 in it is Coke. Even Sprite.)


The spontaneous cousin football game in the back yard under an amazing double rainbow?

That pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? Contains a toddler with no pants on.

The Friday morning we visited friends who made us delicious pumpkin pancakes with real maple syrup and let our kids run wild all over their beautiful home/backyard/driveway?

The crazy-fun night-o-movies for the kids and their Nana and Pawpa while Ryan and I went to a friend's house and had some cuh-razy fun of our own?


(Unsurprisingly, our crazy fun involved a nice red and staying up way too late. It was only six hours after we got home that Wes came into our room wearing a box on his head and chanting "I am an alien" in his robot voice before climbing onto my bed and falling on top of me. That kid is freaking hilarious. And it was just as well that we were awake because it was time for another amazing breakfast, this time at a hole in the wall Ryan's parents knew about. YUMM-O.)

Or do I start with the Thanksgiving II meal I made for my parents and sister's family? I will tell you more about that later so I can go tackle the grade-pocolypse that's calling to me from my bag in the foyer. But I will leave you with this:


You're welcome.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Putting the Break back in Thanksgiving "Break"

Yesterday I was kind of a stressball and the whole family suffered.

Today, I am going stress-free. Breakfast is still all over the kitchen...


...the kids have the run of the house...


...we have decided not to get dressed until we have to...


...and I have cranked up the George Winston Thanksgiving album and installed myself on the couch with a craft project, a cup of coffee, and a warm, sleeping puppy.


Much better.