Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Cold Wednesday Morning too much Coffee

Good news, everybody!  After being eighty glorious degrees all weekend it is now THIRTY FIVE AND RAINING.

You can imagine my excitement about this most recent kink in the Jet Stream (because the Jet Stream is KINKY).

For almost an entire week, the living room was only used by RYAN AND ME for reading and TV watching and occasionally by the children as a passageway from Outside to The Bathroom or The Fridge.  Even then, they usually used the garage door, which goes directly into the kitchen.  I started to stop mentally adding a family room on the back of the house to accommodate the ever-growing legs and feet and toy volume (And, you know, VOLUME volume, amirite?).  Yay for outside play!  (Independent outside play, I might add, which I swear is the reason people in the fifties could fit families of seven into fifteen hundred square feet).

Now we are back to lying around like slugs watching TV because "It's too cold" (It is).  And the xBox.  And the forts.  And the puzzles and the games.  So I've been hiding in my bedroom at night which I can somehow keep sort of cleanish most of the time.  I'm typing this at my desk right now because everyone is at school and Mary is asleep and I thought I might get a little work done (work that is not laundry).

So far, I've eaten a muffin, had a second cup of coffee, and spent twenty minutes looking for my phone and work bag.  I found my phone after I upended my entire purse onto my bed and then called Ryan to complain about my missing work bag only to find it under a pile of throw pillows next to my unmade and covered in purse crap bed.

Also, everyone said it would happen but I cannot BELIEVE that we were having James evaluated for speech delay this time last year.  A sample of this morning's James-a-logue: "You you you you makin' a sandwich?  Why?  Why you you you makin' a sandwich?  I eat a bagel?  I eat a bagel?  I eat a bagel?  MAMA!!!!!!!!!!!  I eat a bagel?  Why you makin' a sandwich?  MOM!!  Why you drinkin' a coffee?  You drinkin' a coffee?  You wike a coffee?  I drink a coffee when I big?  When I big I drink a coffee?  MOM!!!!!!  WHEN I BIG I DRINK A COFFEE?!  I no no no no no color on da table?  I no color on da table?  Why?  I color on da table when I I I I I big?  No?  Why?"

(This begins when he wakes up and ends when I drop him off at preschool.  He does not seem to need to inhale)

First task for my work time today is organizing all the notes I scribbled down at the conference.  It's fun because I read things like "DataStreme, K12, real-time maps and analys..." and remember "Aww, that's when Mary started laughing uncontrollably and I had to run out of the room."  Memories!

Man, I really want a third cup of coffee but I feel like this post is a good indication that that would be a bad idea.  Back to it.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Wes: I don't always lose my freaking mind, but when I do, I do it in public

Wes kinda freaked out tonight while we were out for dinner with friends.  We were at a restaurant that features picnic tables surrounding a sandbox and playscape with a fence around the whole thing so parents can drink beer and relax and kids can play and no one can escape into the parking lot.  My kids always come out of there with their faces and limbs covered in dirt like little Dickensian chimney sweep boys.  It makes me feel good that they eat like that.

It was an absolutely beautiful day and I finally had managed to organize a get together with a friend and her family after six months of trying.  We sat with the babies while the kids played and talked.  It was relaxing and lovely.

Until we heard screaming and looked up to see Wes standing at the top of the playground, looking down menacingly at a TODDLER standing on a ladder whose FINGERS WES WAS STANDING ON (or possibly just NEAR as Wes denies actually standing ON the kids' hands.  Either way he was being a giant bully and not letting the kid get all the way up the ladder).

Ryan and I (and Mary) all ran over there apologizing profusely and gathered our grubby-faced street urchin off the playground to his exile at the table.  He started to eat his mac and cheese leftovers and Ryan ripped the spoon out of his hand before very seriously getting in his face and asking him just what in the damn hell his problem was.

It was serendipitous that we had joked about not disciplining our children not twenty minutes prior.

While Ryan talked to Wes James came over to me and told me he had to go potty again.  He had just been ten minutes before that so I told him the potty was closed  go play.  He ran off to the playground.

I spent the next five or ten minutes talking to my much more normal friend and her much more normal family when the chorus of whining coming from Wes became so loud that I could not help but be distracted.

I turned around and leveled my gaze "You may not pick on toddlers.  You SIT there and you be QUIET."

It was clearly time to get the heck out of there.  But then another wonderful friend happened into the restaurant.  Ryan turned to take Wes and Mary to the car (because Wes was freaking the freak out by this point.  NO RELAXING LINGERING OVER BEERS IN THE MID-FEBRUARY SUNSHINE FOR YOU ) and I chatted with both of my friends for a few moments.  James ran up to my friend's son and gave him a sweet hug hello.  We were musing about how adorable that was when James turned around and began removing his pants while yelling "I HAFFA GO POTTY!!!"

After hasty goodbyes we headed for the bathroom (which was no longer closed).

MEANWHILE, Ryan was attempting to get Mary and Wes to the car while Wes had turned into a coyote.  He attempted to escape from Ryan in the parking lot (to where, I am uncertain) but Ryan caught him by one arm.  Wes swung around, hanging from his arm and tried to BITE RYAN.

I'm not sure, but this may have been the time Ryan began to lose his cool.

By the time I got there Wes and Mary were both buckled in, Wes was sulking, and Ryan was gripping the steering wheel so hard I feared it would melt in his hands.

Once home I deposited a limp, unwilling Wes into the shower and hosed him off with the hand sprayer before forcibly dressing him in pajamas and tucking him into bed where he was asleep by 6:20.  Which explains everything.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Coyote Ugly

According to various news outlets our neighborhood has "a coyote problem".  In the last few months, several pets have mysteriously disappeared--one was eaten in its own back yard by a coyote who managed to jump the six-foot privacy fence both in and out of the yard.  I guess in that case, "mysteriously" is not the right adverb.

Now.  Our neighborhood Facebook group has a history of, shall we say, over-reaction.  A sample post: "Keep a lookout, everyone, I saw a white van parked in front of my neighbor's house yesterday."  This might generate a half-dozen replies along the lines of "What is the world coming to?" or "Call the Sheriff next time, here's the number" or "Let's bring this up at the next HOA meeting."  I am subscribed largely for the entertainment value.

So when this coyote thing broke, I read it with bemused interest and moved on to other things.  Even after the school sent home a letter regarding the "nuisance coyotes" and advising kids to walk in groups lest they be attacked.

Until Saturday night when I heard HOWLING coming from the greenbelt across the street at four o'clock in the morning.  You guys.  There were LOTS of them and they were close by.

So I am now on the crazy train with everyone else.  Have you read the Wikipedia article about coyotes?  I would advise against it.  Particularly the part about coyote attacks on humans which says "Attacks on humans are rare, but usually limited to children UNDER AGE TEN [emphasis mine] because they are physically smaller."  Well, COME ON OVER, COYOTES!!  WOULD YOU LIKE SMALL, MEDIUM, OR LARGE?!

So, OK, but they're nocturnal, right?  WRONG!  Hahaha!  According to the neighborhood group "three of them walked across the street in front of me in the early afternoon and were not frightened by my car."  HOLY CATS YOU GUYS.

So NOW, the kids are going to have to only play in our yard and the culdesac, instead of in their fort in the woods, which really cramps their style, but I suppose is better than being attacked and consumed by a band of NORTH AMERICAN JACKALS HOLY COW.  And we're going to have to be extra careful with Rossby who likes to dart out the front door and run into his certain doom across the street in Coyote-town because he has a peabrain.

There's talk that they can be "trapped and removed" to another location so if they need someone to pitch in like five bucks I am all ears.  Or maybe we can just paint a tunnel on the side of the mountain and lure one there with a small bird or something.

Monday, February 17, 2014


The weeks are moving faster than ever around here, you guys. I ran into Charley's (new spelling per request from the boy, take note!) kindergarten teacher at the pizza place on Friday and when she asked how Charley's been doing in school I said "This week has been pretty good so far. Wait, what day is it?" And I was asking SINCERELY. She told me it was Friday, which DUH, we were buying pizza, and I said "Then good! This week was good!" So, yeah.

Friday night while Ryan was putting James down the big boys and I cuddled up in the big bed to watch some Olympic skeleton (which the kids find fascinating as it is, arguably, the most dangerous of all the winter sports). Ryan came in later to take a picture of the cozy scene. This is what he got. So restful!

Saturday morning after piano Ryan and Charley and my dad did some troubleshooting on Ryan's car and I *think* they fixed it, since Ryan took it to work this morning and I have not received any phone calls.

And then Saturday afternoon some friends of ours from church came over to watch ALL OF THE CHILDREN. They offered a couple of weeks ago, saying that they missed the days when their kids were little, and we agreed and set a date before they could change their minds. Then I spent all Saturday de-funk-ifying the upstairs since the last time non-family adults have been up there was probably in 2008 when it was on the market. It took ALL FREAKING DAY to get the kids' bathroom and our bathroom in shape, the laundry put away, the beds made, and the floor (AND CEILING AND WALLS) vacuumed, and after that I was SORE AS IF I HAD WORKED OUT. There may be one solution to my two problems: messy house and not enough time to work out. The downstairs did not get done, but I did straighten and put away the pile of folded undies (MINE) that have been sitting in the dining room for a week.

Ryan and I headed downtown to a burger place with a really long wait that we have heard good things about. It took an hour to get to the front of the line and order and find our table, but the burgers (we got the same thing--burger with poblano peppers, pepperjack cheese, and chipotle mayo) were amazing. I also had the truffle fries (TRUFFLE. FRIES. YOUGUYS.) and an equally delicious beer. So, so worth the wait. And I got to converse, uninterrupted, with Ryan for THAT ENTIRE HOUR and no one had to go potty or started screaming for any reason. It was a lovely, lovely hour. And a really wonderful meal. I have no complaints.

BRING ON THE LINE. Ryan has been refining his selfie technique.

The cupcake place was on the way back to the car so that was our next stop, but we ate them in the car because it was an absolutely frigid sixty-five degrees outside and we are wimps. Also I bought the soundtrack to "Ray" at an estate sale, so we listened to that. Cupcakes and Ray Charles in the car is an excellent date in its own right, if you need an idea. We weren't quite ready to head for home, so afterward we made one last stop at a park that has a huge staircase up a hill that has a sweeping view of the river and city skyline at the top. I have never done this at night before, and there are no lights on the stairs. It was really, really spooky, in the best of ways.

(Stairs go up at least another hundred feet past where it gets dark)

The kids had a good time too and asked me if next time the friends could stay for an entire week, which is a ringing endorsement from Charlie, who is not a babysitter fan under normal conditions. It helps that they brought teenagers and macaroni and cheese and let him stay up until nine watching the Super G.

Sunday was nice too. Mary would like me to show off her fancy lady dress with the poufy poufy skirt.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Ryan was standing in the middle of the road next to his defunct, paperweight of a car yesterday morning when I peeked out the window after he kissed us all goodbye and headed for work.  As he explained later, he had tried to push start it three times down our sloping driveway, unsuccessfully, before it came to rest in the middle of the street, completely blocking our culdesac.

I ran downstairs and together, we managed to push it far enough back up the driveway that it wasn't blocking BOTH lanes of the road, just one.  And then I went inside to hastily dress the kids so we could drive Ryan to work in the van and also to give Ryan some time to swear at the car in private.

All the kids were dressed and singing "We're taking Papa to work!  We're taking Papa to work!" when he finally came back inside.  I said with strained cheer, "Hey!  Everyone's ready to go!  This is no problem!"  Except that it was 8:35 and Charlie was going to be picked up for school at 9:15 (ice delay) and there was no way in this universe I was going to be able to make it to Ryan's work and back in time, let alone the fact that I needed to leave for school by 9:00 at the very latest.

Thankfully he agreed to wait until 9:00 when the sitter arrived, meaning I could drop him off on my way to school.  SO SIMPLE!  And HALF the carbon footprint!  YAY TOGETHERNESS!

Because the car was still blocking the sidewalk and the entire right lane of the street, and also because we had some free time and thought it would make a great story, we decided it would be best to attempt to push the car further up the driveway and get it out of the way.  Ryan and I were both needed to push on the back bumper, which meant Charlie had to sit in the driver's seat and man the emergency brake.  It did not take much convincing to get him out the door.

Ryan buckled him into the seat and showed him the lever.  "You're going to pull this up like an astronaut when we tell you to.  Pull it as hard as you can."

Charlie asked "What's this button do?" as he pushed it, releasing the lever and causing the car to start rolling backwards."

"DON'T PUSH THAT BUTTON!" Ryan warned "All you have to do is pull the lever.  Just pull the lever.  Justthelever.  And no steering wheel.  DO NOT STEER.  Got it?"

He did.  So we slowly let the car roll back into the street with Charlie at the wheel.  After a one-two-three, Ryan and I threw a shoulder against the back of the car and pushed as hard as we could.  The car rolled easily across the street, but as soon as it hit the driveway it was like pushing the side of the house.  My moccasins and cable knit cardigan were not the right outfit for pushing a car up a hill in thirty-degree weather, sadly, but fortunately Ryan's wingtips held and we were able to get the back bumper just past the sidewalk.

"NOW CHARLIE NOW!" Ryan called out.  He pulled the emergency brake, but not far enough and the car started to roll back toward the street.  I ran around to the door to fix it, but before I got there he had pushed the freaking button again and the car started to roll backwards.  A neighbor was driving down the street to work, right in the path of the car, but Ryan managed to singlehandedly keep it from rolling out of the driveway and into certain doom like the suburban Jean Valjean.

So AGAIN we did the two-man professional-wear tractor pull and pushed the car up the driveway in front of God and all the neighbors who gently mock us for our fourteen year old car (that is PAID FOR, Ryan likes to point out).  Having learned from the last time, Charlie pulled the lever (AND JUST THE LEVER OMG) and managed to stop the car in the right spot.

Finally, everything was ready, the babysitter had arrived, and I was only going to be a couple of minutes late for my class, when I picked up my laptop bag and swung it over my shoulder.  Unbeknownst to me, James was running up behind me and the combination of his forward speed and the swinging of my bag caused me to clock him right in the face with the side of my laptop with a resounding SMACK sound that I will never forget.  Time stood still for a second and then he collapsed into a screaming puddle on the floor.  It was a great moment.

It took several terrible minutes for him to open his eyes.  It took ten more minutes and a cupcake to calm him down to the point where I didn't feel like a jerk for leaving.  And then a few more minutes to actually get out the door.

We left at 9:25.  My class was at 10:00.  I still had to drop Ryan off.

Even though I left Ryan at the end of his plant's driveway, in the cold rain, a good ten minute walk from his lab (at his insistence), and even though I took some liberties with the speed limit, I made it to my building at 9:59.  Needless to say, it was not the best class I have ever taught.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Mary the Future Scientist

On Thursday, the last day of the conference, after my poster was done and the babysitter left but hours before I had to be at the airport, I decided to go to one last session at the conference, something about NOAA's response to Hurricane Sandy that sounded interesting.

I waited in the back, with Mary on my knee, waiting for the talk to start, musing about how incredibly DONE I was with managing an infant at this meeting and so glad to be almost home when a woman in a Navy uniform approached me and asked "What is the baby's name?" "Mary" I replied. She said "Great, thanks." and walked off. Seeing someone so capable and professional somehow made me feel like a traitor to the profession, having all these kids and hauling one around a conference all week, but not really seeing a way out or wishing I could change anything about my choices. Just wishing I was smarter, more focused, more organized, more able to maintain my research at the pre-kid level, which would require some magical combination of a thirty-six hour day and a team of nannies, I realize.

That's when three-time Shuttle astronaut and first woman to walk in space Kathryn Sullivan took the stage.

I was too weighted down with baby to go all fangirl at that particular moment, but YES. I was a huge space nerd as a kid. We lived in South Florida and could see the smoke trail left behind by the Space Shuttle during launches. I devoured any space book I could get my hands on. Some favorite family vacation memories include Cape Canaveral and the Air and Space Museum. This was cool. This was very, very cool.

Mary started to squirm, but I really wanted to stay for the talk, so I threw a blanket over her head and hooked her on, hoping she'd fall asleep, but instead she wriggled and kicked and fought me. I was so tired. So tired, you guys. I couldn't decide if I'd rather be wearing a tailored suit and heels and answering intelligent questions and attending important meetings or ensconced in my house in flannel pants with my Kindle and a dozen chocolate chip cookies. As it was, I was trapped somewhere in the middle, in a denim pencil skirt, textured tights, a button-down and a sweater, with a baby in my lap. And also no lunch. It was two o'clock and I was starving.

I was brought back to the present when Dr. Sullivan said "I'd like to welcome all of you, educators, academics, forecasters, and my future successor as Director of NOAA, baby Mary in the back" and two-hundred heads swiveled around to get a look at what turned out to be Mary's stairmaster legs sticking out of the blanket and my very surprised face. Now THAT is some public breastfeeding.

But there were so many encouraging, warm smiles. I smiled back and relaxed. Dr. Sullivan's talk was excellent. I was so happy just to have been there. Afterward I took Mary and my camera up to the front to thank her for her nice opening remarks. She beamed when she saw us coming, "Oh HI!!" and gave Mary an astronaut coin, listing all of her missions and dates and her name. I asked if we could take a picture ("That's a GREAT idea!" she exclaimed) and she made a quick motion with her hand that made the woman in the Navy uniform from earlier come and take my camera.

As the camera snapped away, she told me again and again how glad she was to see me there, to see Mary was there. A small crowd gathered around us laughing and admiring Mary and saying things like "Hey! There she is! The future scientist!" She was so gracious and lovely. Mary was captivated--if she only knew!!

Then we took a picture together and I thanked Dr. Sullivan again, profusely, and we started to make our way home.

I skipped out of the convention center (metaphorically speaking, I had been trucking around downtown Atlanta in dress shoes for five days after all), filled with a calm sense of purpose to keep my head down and muddle through these chaotic years. Dr. Sullivan may never know how much her kindness meant to me, but I will remember. And if I am ever in a similar position (not the astronaut position, of course; sadly, I think that dream may have to be left behind), I hope I can encourage someone too.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Leaning In

We're home, you guys, thank goodness!  The last two days of the conference were much easier than the first two, but mostly because the Educational Symposium was over and that meant I had a more relaxed schedule with lots of breaks for Mary to lie on the floor and screech.  It was good timing, really, since she got progressively more exhausted as the conference went on (so did I. Our hotel was a long, freezing walk up a hill and four days of nonstop learning makes me glad I'll never be an undergrad again.).

Here she is in one of the meeting rooms after I learned that she would be quiet for whole minutes at a time if I dangled my name badge over her and let her bat at it like a cat.

Shortly after I took this picture, a department head from another university told me how happy he was to see Mary there, that he and his wife (also a scientist) had to choose which of them got to go to conferences years ago when they had a small child. He continued to be supportive and helpful every time I ran into him. Pretty much everyone was supportive and helpful AND she wasn't the only baby there!

My poster sessions were on Wednesday morning and Thursday afternoon and while I had arranged for a sitter to come, Mary had other plans. She screamed when I put her in the stroller and the sitter started to walk away. I assured her that she would settle down and sure enough I got a text that said she was feeling better, but shortly after that, when I was standing by my poster talking about my project, I could hear hysterical screaming from somewhere in the building. It was hard to concentrate, but I managed until the noise started getting louder and louder. I looked around nervously, wondering if it was *my* preshus wittle baby making that ungodly sound. I soon had my answer when the babysitter rolled Mary up to me in the stroller, all red faced and blotchy and howling like going for a stroller ride wrapped in a cozy blanket was some kind of torture. STILL TALKING to some oblivious person, I scooped her out of the stroller. She quieted instantly. I fielded a few more questions with her on my hip before she would allow the sitter to feed her a bottle. Sitting next to my feet. And then she finally consented to fall asleep in the stroller. Right next to me. I was answering questions the whole time. You guys. I nearly sweated through my clothes.

The next day she allowed the perfectly nice and capable babysitter to take her for a short walk while I stood with my poster and after that they were having such a good time that I got to attend a session ALL BY MYSELF (WEIRD AND AWESOME).

Thursday afternoon deserves its own post, but here's a picture from the way home entitled "First babies get new, never-before-seen toys and a car seat. Fourth babies get the seatbelt and a page out of the SkyMall catalog."*

*she did not ride this way during take off and landing

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Mary's guide to professionalism

1. Relax in your stroller and act like a normal human being during all coffee breaks and poster sessions. This will lull everyone into a false sense of security that you will continue to behave that way once inside the quiet meeting room.

2. When you hear the moderator begin to speak, this is your chance to start getting fidgety. Be briefly appeased by a change in position, from stroller to lap, from lap to shoulder. But don't get too comfy because...

3. Fart loud fart often.

4. After the end of the first speaker, when everyone claps, lose your effing mind because clapping is terrifying.

5. And also you pooped out the leg of your diaper.

6. As if by magic, become delightful once out in the hall. Attract a crowd of admirers.

7. Every time your mom even considers going back into the meeting room to retrieve the stroller and bag, screech like a velociraptor.

8. When your mom sighs and says "I guess we should just go back to the hotel", throw her a bone and fall asleep in the stroller for ninety minutes.

9. Juuuust make sure those ninety minutes end riiiiight at the beginning of the next session.

10. Laugh with excitement when your mom agrees to feed you for the fourth time in as many hours.

11. When settled in, moan with pleasure and kick your feet against the arm of the person sitting next to you. Bonus points if you can knock the pen out of his hand.

12. When finished, emerge from blanket tent red-faced and dazed-looking, engage admirers in row behind you, burp as loud as possible.

13. Around four-thirty, plan to absolutely hit the freaking wall. Those last four talks aren't that important (to babies). Squirm, fuss, scream, cry, do whatever you have to do until your mom starts running with the stroller out of the convention center.

14. Lie on hotel bed and screech at light fixture until dinnertime.

15. Sleep soundly from 7-12 and then demand loudly to be let out of the crib and put into the big bed.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Girls' trip!

Mary and I are having a girls' week at a conference out of town. I almost canceled it about ten times last week because I am always exhausted and worried about everything and flying alone a thousand miles away with a baby and attending a technical conference WITH A BABY is, at the moment, out of my comfort zone. Yes, I used to collect data from hurricanes. No, staying in a Westin in Georgia is not hard or dangerous. But I am so glad we are here, aside from the missing of the boys back home, because Mary was weirdly awesome on the flight and I caught the subway to my hotel with no problem at all. It's good to do these things every once in a while to show myself that I am capable of learning new things.

Also there is a CVS across the street from the hotel that has Cadbury Eggs, so.

Mary and I spent about half an hour relaxing on our respective beds and watching a concert on PBS after I ordered a hamburger the size of a dinner plate from room service. She ate her usual applesauce-rice cereal blend in her stroller shortly after, then took a bath in the bathroom sink with the fancy hotel shampoo and is now sleeping fitfully in her fancy crib.

The icemaker right outside my door makes a sound like someone is swishing diapers in a toilet about once an hour, so that's fun.

Ryan's been sending some pictures to prove to me that he is feeding the children. I expressed regret yesterday that I wouldn't be able to make a special Superbowl meal for the kids tonight, so he went ALL. OUT.

Hot dogs and Pioneer Woman mashed potatoes for the first course.

Followed by six-layer bean dip, cheese ball, chips, and Red Dye no. 40. They are in excellent hands. And two points for what appears to be a clean living room in the background. He is the best.

The caption on this one said: "James says 'I am SUGARMAN!'"