Friday, November 28, 2014

You guys, this week, I don't even know what happened.

I have been kind of a blog loser ever since I got my new phone and pretty much never have to open my computer once I leave my office.  Which is good because this is what my desk looks like pretty much full time these days and no one wants to see that after dealing with the three to six o'clock period alone, cooking dinner, cleaning up, and put four kids to bed. This paper I'm presenting in January is no joke and Ryan's been so helpful with one chunk of the analysis that I don't feel like I can withdraw the paper in good conscience even though I had no idea how hard this was going to be and did not expect the abstract to be accepted. Live/Learn.

The good news is that I have not touched the analysis since Monday afternoon because the kids are on Thanksgiving Break and I AM THE BACKUP CHILDCARE. On the one hand, RELAXING. On the other, every time Ryan asks me a question about it I give him kind of a bitchy answer then go upstairs to compose myself for several minutes. HAPPY HOLIDAYS.

The other reason I haven't been getting much done is that some moron assigned my class of forty students a weekly two-page writing assignment.

But LOOK! On Tuesday we went to the ZOO! I had been planning this for a couple of weeks and was, weirdly, SUPER EXCITED about it. We used to do these totally impractical kinds of outings all the time and I really missed them since the big kids started real school and I started real(ish) job. One of Charley's friends and our own Miss N came with us and we had a really, REALLY good time.

Here are the primates with the primates.

Heeeeeere kitty kitty kitty.

Here's Mary with one of the two dozen or so "doggies" we encountered that day. "Doggie" equals "mammal" in case you didn't know. And all animals pant like a dog too.

The kids were SO FUN. They RAN from exhibit to exhibit (and we were practically the only ones there so this was not terrifying) and were funny and cute and REALLY INCREDIBLY OVER THE TOP EXCITED. Until we got to the orangutan exhibit and Charley and Wes started beating each other. How appropos!

I took this just before the smackdown began. The orangutan saw the boys and came over to the glass, after WRAPPING A BLANKET AROUND HIS SHOULDERS, and put his hand up to say hi. I had difficulty conveying the majesty of the gesture to the boys, but IT WAS AMAZING.

After the orangutans we had a picnic lunch, played on the playground for a while, hit Sonic for drinks, and then headed for home. Wes told every single person he encountered for the next two days "We went to the zoo. It took a really long time to get there but it was so much fun!" In the car we listed as a group the animals we'd seen and it went on for several happy minutes. So much fun and so much more satisfying than the last time we went to the zoo when the only thing the kids remembered from our three hours on the surface of the sun was that the monkey peed on it's own hand. It totally did, but still.

Today we went downtown to see a parade, but since I have limited practical skills I didn't realize that today was Friday, not Saturday, and there was no parade. We quickly recovered when Ryan found a free "picture with Santa" event close by. Mary was STOKED. What toddler doesn't love strangers, facial hair, and costumes?! Her little arm tightened around my bicep like a blood pressure cuff as we approached the Big Guy but I pressed on. We have three pictures of babies screaming on Santa's lap and now we have four. Personally I think this is my favorite.

She was fine by the time we got to lunch and then took a slightly longer than normal nap. Santa: similar to vaccinations for the Under 2 crowd.

Here's a happier picture as a palate cleanser. We tried to take her to big church with us on Sunday. It lasted approximately twenty minutes before she started loudly requesting "DOWN! DOWN! DOWN!" and trying to escape our pew. We love our nursery workers!

Tomorrow I'll have to gather together our Thanksgiving pictures and post those. I think Mary might have been crying in one or two of those too. Being a toddler is legit hard, you guys.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Another Wednesday Another Wes Tantrum

So Wednesdays, huh?

The kids' school gets out early on Wednesdays so I had to peel out of there right after my class to go pick them up.  After school we go to the weekly school garden workday where we tend the plants, water, pull weeds, and do other tasks as needed.  Other tasks as needed includes playing parking lot soccer/football (Wes, secondary school boys) and catch small animals (Charley).  Charley is also the compost man.  He can mix a brown-green ratio with the best of them and HEAVEN HELP the guy who doesn't remember to turn the drum before adding new compost.  Today one of Wes's friends from his class was there too and they had a blast watering the potted plants and each other in the front of the school.

Garden days are awesome.

After the garden we go straight to Charley's therapy appointment, which lets out around 3:45 normally, and then we go pick up James and Mary and speed home to make and eat dinner before Wes has to leave for choir around 5:40.  Except today I had not actually planned anything for dinner because honestly who can think about dinner three whole days ahead so that meant we had two options.  1) Go back to that HEB where Charley had to drag Wes around the store by the sleeve of his shirt because he refused to walk when I wouldn't let him watch the entire Ninja Turtles movie standing in the store at dinnertime.  2) Get takeout somewhere after picking up James and Mary.

I chose option 2).

The best option based on our route home is a crowd pleaser barbeque restaurant that is also a gas station because this is Texas and we love our petroleum.  It really is a great place and the only reason I mention the gas station part is that part of the dining experience is being almost killed by some asshole in an F350 on the way in from your car.

Today was no exception.  I stood on a grassy traffic median clutching Mary loudly enjoining the other three to STAY CLOSE PAY ATTENTION DO NOT LEAVE MY SIDE WATCH WHERE YOU ARE GOING as an armada of killing machines stood at the ready filling up with gas and buying snacks.  When it looked safe, we all took one step off the curb.  We hadn't made much progress when a mom in an SUV crept around the corner going a perfectly reasonable three miles per hour and Charley bodily threw us all back onto the median to wait for her to pass.  Ultimately we made it inside without incident.  It was a miracle.

Mary was getting heavy so I put her on the floor, standing up holding the wall for balance, while I ordered.  Sometime while I was looking away to sign the credit card receipt, she crawled away from me and under the metal bars that mark the switchbacks for the lines.  Thankfully a refrigerator case of beer blocked her from going any further and I was able to snag her by hitching my hips up on top of the metal bar and doing a crazy uneven bars move banned by the International Olympic Committee and snagging the back of her shirt.  This went over about as well you might expect.

Obstacle number two was to carry Mary (35 pounds) and the bag of food (10 pounds, threatening to rip and spill our dinner all over the floor at any moment) across the restaurant to use the self-serve sauce dispenser.  Once again I put Mary on the floor, standing up on the wall, while I dispensed some sauce into a cup.  Sauce I only was getting because Charley NEEEEEEDED sauce with his brisket.  The other kids milled around in the general vicinity eating pickles directly off the condiment bar with their hands.

It was about this time that Wes asked me if he could get an orange soda.  Something about this never having happened before made him think that this might be possible just this once if only he had a big enough tantrum.

When I turned back around, SURPRISE, Mary was headed for the beer case again.  She had just sped off under the turnstiles and was making tracks.  I had to abandon the food on top of a trashcan lid and run after her.  Like literally run.

Running after a toddler in a restaurant while my three other kids were double-fisting free pickles off a condiment bar is just what I pictured when I decided I wanted a big family.

So then I had Mary under one arm and the giant bag of food under the other.  Praying that I could make it across the deathtrap parking lot unscathed with the food intact, we began to make our way to the door.

About halfway there it became clear that Wes's disillusionment regarding the Fanta was going to make it impossible to make any forward progress at all.  I kept walking, hoping that this would be the one and only time this approach has ever worked.  I hid around the corner, hoping he wouldn't see me and think I had left the restaurant and he better get a move on.

James helpfully ran back and forth between me and Wes shrieking "MAMA WES IS LYING ON THE FWOOOOOOR!  WES IS NOT COMING!"

Mary began to squirm and slide down my body.  She really wanted that beer case.

Since you can't yell as loud in a restaurant as you would need to to really light a fire under Wes, I had to get creative.

So James took the bag of food.  Which was half as tall as he is and at least a third of his weight.  Charley took Mary, who is also VERY BIG and heavy and unwieldy, especially for an eight year old.

And I scooped Wes off the floor.

I stalked out of the restaurant, Wes slung over my shoulder, with a super-classy parade behind me.

A three year old embracing an enormous bag of smoked meat like a teddy bear.  An eight year old bear-hugging an enormous toddler around the middle, dress hitched up to her armpits, be-tighted legs dangling free.

"STICK TOGETHER" I called out behind me.  Thankfully the parking lot had emptied and there were no F350s.  I encouraged Charley like I was a sherpa guiding him up the last few hundred yards of Mount Everest.  "You're doing great, buddy!  Don't let her go!  You're almost there!"

He shrieked gleefully "I'm not gonna drop her but it's sure gonna be great to put her down!!"

We made it to the car.  Wes was still having a tantrum, possibly because I was whispering sweet nothings in his ear like "LOOK AT THIS.  Are you PROUD OF YOUR BEHAVIOR?

Then I mistakenly took the bag of food from James and put it in the car without asking his permission first.  So then I had two kids tantrumming in the middle of the parking lot and a baby who was, SURPRISE, CRAWLING AWAY FROM ME ACROSS THE GRASS.  I buckled her up with a quickness, stuffed a protesting James into his seat and buckled him into his five point harness (which he will be using until puberty, I heart immobile children).

I slid Wes as far as I could toward his seat, closed the van door, and got in my seat where I called Ryan to have a tantrum of my own.

Nine hours later, he had finally shape shifted himself into his booster seat and found the humility to buckle his seatbelt.  We made it home without further incident, but not inside the house.  I love a good front lawn tantrum as much as the next guy, but I was pretty happy when he finally had some protein in him.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Family Date

The big event of our weekend, besides successfully managing two simultaneous birthday parties in different locations on Saturday morning, and then the Cub Scout Rain Gutter Regatta Saturday afternoon, was taking the whole fam-damily out for dinner at the Mexican restaurant where we had our first date sixteen years ago this week (same restaurant, different location, even though once you step inside you are instantly transported back to our college town, which is awesome).

Some differences between sixteen years ago and this week are 1) We had enough money to buy ACTUAL DINNER instead of just chips and queso and sopapillas, 2) We had four children with us, 3) There was ZERO lingering over conversation.

There was also more spilling, more laughing, more watching the tortilla making machine, and more surreptitious dipping of crunchy beef tacos in honey (Wes).

Ryan: "Sixteen years ago did you think we'd be here, with four children, discussing options for the flooring in our living room?"

We are so romantical.

To commemorate the occasion, and because everyone was being extra loveable Saturday night, I thought I'd attempt a group picture. You know how that goes.

Charley looks, and eats, like a full-grown man, so this one's kind of Sunrise-Sunset. I was not expecting this to happen so soon.

After dinner, we realized we were close to a shoe store and thought it would be entertaining to take everyone inside to look for sneakers for Ryan and moccasins for me. When we all got out of the car, I realized that I was wearing my old moccasins, which needed to be replaced because the sole was literally FLAPPING AROUND when I walked, Ryan was wearing his sneakers, though which you can SEE HIS SOCKS, James was wearing Wes's shoes, Wes was wearing Crocs (it was 40 degrees), and Mary was missing a Robeez.

We looked pretty shoe-desperate.

I quickly found my new moccasins, tried them on, debated, and then settled on the ones with the fur inside that I think might be slippers but don't care. James provided me with a sunset update approximately every five minutes, pressing his face to the plate glass window then announcing loudly "MOM IT'S WEALLY WEALLY DARK NOW!!" Daylight Savings time ending has been a confusing confusing time for James. Ryan, Charley, and Wes tried on every pair of men's sneakers in the store. Ultimately, Ryan put on one shoe from each of two different pairs and asked Wes to decide (because Wes is the one with the best fashion sense in the family). Wes carefully inspected each shoe then asked Ryan to show him the bottoms before he made his decision. Ryan emphasized to me multiple times that he needs COOL SNEAKERS because he's going to be WEARING THEM WHEN HE'S FORTY (in MORE THAN THREE YEARS). Ryan went with Wes's recommendation. This kills me.

We rounded out the evening with a stop at Home Depot. We needed to look at a lazy-susan cabinet I have my eye on for our fantasy kitchen reno that will happen one day if I can arrange for Ryan to go on a lengthy out of state business trip and use a Swiss bank account he doesn't know about. So never, probably, is what I'm saying. Right now we are hung up on how much space there needs to be between the edge of the breakfast bar and the back door and the conversation makes me so exhausted I would rather just keep tripping over all the extraneous furniture we keep in our kitchen to keep it barely functional.

But HEY! It was cold and rainy and Home Depot is always a good time, so we went.

First thing we did was take three COMPLETELY SEPARATE bathroom visits from the cabinet side of the store to the lumber side of the store where the potties are. This happens every time we go and it never fails to surprise me.

On the way back Mary spotted this bathtub and started babbling and gesturing animatedly. "Do you want to take a bath?" I asked. She looked at me, wide eyed, and nodded vigorously. OMG. This was the best we could do.

Ryan measured some cabinets and we tried to find the back splashes, but then everyone climbed atop this rug display and got into a giant street brawl and it was TIME TO GO (this also happens every time we go there).

Today we only attempted church and making cookies with my sister and niece because my kids are not used to leaving the house for fun. And now it is Sunday night and I am not ready for class tomorrow, SHOCKER, even though I have managed a yoga video and consumed three to four cookies.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Was not Wes's Favorite Day Ever

Guess what you guys, SOMEONE joined the rest of the twenty-first century and got a smartphone. This means I can take pictures of things that are happening and upload them to the social media IN REAL TIME. THIS IS AMAZING. It also means that you are going to be subjected to more inane photos THAN EVER BEFORE. To wit:

The building I work in is under construction. This will one day lead to great things, like more lab space, more classrooms, meeting rooms, study rooms, toilets that do not cause a cardiac event upon flushing! Yay! Right now, though, they are doing the demo portion of the project--removing the BACK HALF OF THE BUILDING THAT HOUSES MY OFFICE. Which means that my office has been subject to loud vibrations, shaking, and sudden loud percussive jolts. One of them was so loud and prolonged I grabbed my laptop and purse and RAN out of there. They let me use a desk in a quieter part of the building after that. Anyway, on Monday when I got to school I noticed that the last of the old slab had been removed and the horrible jackhammering machine was GONE.

Look at the digger on the left. The gray wall immediately behind the roof of that digger? IS ABOUT TWELVE FEET (TWELVE LITERAL FEET) from my desk chair. So that was incredibly loud and unsettling.

Moving right along we have Charley and Wes watching separate TVs at the grocery store this afternoon.

This preceded the Great Wes Tantrum of 2014, which lasted from just after that picture was taken, during what should have been a quick stop for dinner ingredients between Charley's therapy and little kid pick up, around 3:30, until pretty much 7:15 when he went to bed. It all started when I told him it was time to walk over to the frozen food case to find some mac and cheese, which meant he would have to tear himself away from Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles. He immediately sank onto the floor in a heap of despair and refused to budge. I was carrying the rest of the groceries and did not have a hand free to pick him up, so after trying a couple of things to jolly him out of it I tried the oldest trick in the book, casually walking away as if I was going to leave him there.

Moments later I turned around to see this:

Which is disgusting and kind of wrong but also incredibly helpful. Ultimately he refused to walk even a little bit for the entire rest of the shopping trip. He laid on the floor of the checkout aisle as I casually stepped over him like nothing was wrong and then I had Charley carry the bags while I hefted Wes into a cart. SERIOUSLY dude.

He pulled the same trick at James and Mary's school, turning our normal ten minute pickup into a thirty minute ordeal filled with lots of lying down in the vestibule and stompy histrionics when he was asked to comply with basic instructions. Super fun.

What was ACTUALLY super fun? Is that when I got there James's class was walking back to their room from the garden where they had just harvested a bunch of basil that they will use tomorrow to make pesto. James got to carry the cut basil. He smelled so yummy.

After I had all the kids in the car (this took two trips: the Charley, James, Mary trip and the separate Wes trip) I passed around the chicken strips I had bought for dinner and let everyone eat them with their hands. Then we stopped at Sonic for drinks because I thought Charley really deserved a treat for being such a huge helper with Mr. Passive Resistance.

When we got home, I was expecting more of the same nonsense, but Charley, who is working on a unit at school called "Where we are in place and time," wanted to have an old fashioned dinner in England, so we ate our Stouffer's mac and cheese and grocery store chicken strips by candlelight with hot tea to drink. The kids were super calm and into the game and dinner turned out to be really, really nice. Then we watched Charley Brown Thanksgiving and then Ryan came home, THANK GOD. I haven't heard a PEEP from Wes tonight.

Monday, November 10, 2014

I'm starting to think maybe *I* was the problem on Saturday

I feel like this weekend was some kind of karmic payback for our awesome Halloween weekend. You know, the one where we awakened Saturday morning to find an entire living room suite on our front lawn? This weekend was not like that. There were some surprises alright, but not the kind that makes for a good slightly shameful morning-after post on Facebook.

Saturday we had a lengthy to-do list that included things like "Charley's class social, harvest pecans from tree on playground, replace busted-ass cell phone with one that has a functioning screen so I don't have a stroke the next time someone sends me a text message I can't read, HAVE DINNER WITH REAL LIVE GROWN UPS."

I think my first mistake was mentally jumping forward in time to 4:30, when the DINNER WITH REAL LIVE GROWN UPS part of the day was to begin.

Even though I was supposed to go to a yoga class, last weekend lulled me into a false sense of security and I decided to join Ryan and the kids at the park for the pecan harvest instead. I also took the camera along because I am on a never-ending quest for the perfect spontaneous family picture. We managed to collect about five pounds of pecans before finally unleashing them to the playground. Hey look, our family takes up the entire swing set!

And then, this seemed like a good idea.

Wes is wearing that hat backwards, incidentally, because he wants to "look like a DJ." Interesting.

If only Mary had been looking, this could have been The One.

After the park (it took us nearly as long to load up in the car as we spent playing, even though I routinely explain to the kids that if my last memory of an outing is a GIANT FIGHT IN THE PARKING LOT, it makes me NOT WANT TO DO THAT ACTIVITY AGAIN) I was supposed to go to the store to buy dinner for the kids and the stuff I needed to make apple crisp to take to our dinner. Spoiler alert, I did not go to the store. I went over to a neighbor's house and talked to her for forty minutes and returned home so late that Ryan and I had to scramble to pack six turkey sandwiches and a bag of pretzels as our "picnic" for Charley's class social.

Even though we left five minutes before the meetup began, and had to pick up Charley and Wes at a friend's house around the corner, we still thought it would be good to squeeze in the Best Buy trip before the playground because it is "on the way" (if you take the LONG way around).

Which would have worked great except one of the kids wet his pants after he became SO PREOCCUPIED with a videogame display that he FORGOT HOW HIS BLADDER WORKS. And it wasn't the kid you're probably thinking of.

So THEN our 10 minute Best Buy trip to pick up my phone turned into a twenty-minute Best Buy trip followed by a ten minute search through the car for ANYTHING remotely appropriate for the kid in question to change into followed by five minutes of waiting for him to change into the dry undies we found in the pool bag (how long has THAT been in there?!) followed by a twenty minute trip to the Target in the same shopping center to buy a pair of pants (uniform long pants that we needed anyway) and a tshirt (it was a BAD accident) followed by another ten minutes of waiting for the kid to put the new clothes on in the car.

So we were an hour late to the playground thing. Which was supposed to last for two hours. And was kind of hot and crowded and stressful. We finally bagged it and headed to Sonic for Happy Hour drinks (not the good kind of happy hour drinks) and went home to bicker the afternoon away.

The next two hours were kind of a blur because Ryan had to spend that entire time calling people to get my new phone set up and the kids were fighty and restless. James refused to nap. Wes and Charley refused to play outside without Ryan. I STILL hadn't made it to the store for dinner or apple crisp ingredients, and the house was a disaster.

Someone was smiling on me because I found a bag of frozen tortellini, a jar of sauce, and a bag of frozen green beans in my house. DINNER IS READY. And THEN I realized I had all the stuff for pumpkin bars. Score, NO GOING TO THE STORE!

Which was good because all I wanted to do by this point was to take a long, LONG nap.

But I still had to actually MAKE the pumpkin bars. And James wanted to "help" so I couldn't just crank up Johnny Cash and open a bottle of wine like I would normally do to power through a less-than-optimal Saturday afternoon.

Around four o'clock, when our departure to DINNER WITH REAL LIVE GROWN UPS was so close I could taste it, I got sick of the kids loudly fighting over the video game (while I made their beds and cooked two batches of pumpkin bars, one for THEIR dessert) and demanded that we all go clean the playroom together.

The playroom was disgusting but this was still a foolish move.

Because now I had basically locked myself in a ten by ten room with the Fighty McBickerson brothers and demanded they do ACTUAL UNPLEASANT WORK. I was slightly jealous of Ryan's ongoing dealings with what I assume was Satan's overseas call center.

Playroom cleanup was going surprisingly well until James deliberately and with zero remorse HIT WES IN THE EYE WITH A DRUMSTICK. My panicked screaming was enough to draw Ryan's attention away from "Jennifer in Mumbai" and he took a screaming James upstairs ("I will make you a sandwich and you can eat it in your bed because you are up for FOR THE NIGHT") while I comforted an even screamier Wes in my lap. He said he couldn't see out of the hit eye. I suggested he sleep on it and see how he felt in the morning because MOM HAS DINNER PLANS (his eye is fine).

I was sweating and wearing yoga pants and a stained tshirt.

Miss N arrived to watch the kids so we could leave.

I double checked Wes's eye, threw on a skirt and sweater, and got the HECK OUT OF THERE.

(James was fast asleep when we left. At four-thiry. He didn't wake up until six the next morning. So that explains everything)

Thirty minutes later I was drinking wine with my feet in a creek behind our friends' house. They made us steak and bacon-wrapped asparagus and roasted potatoes. We sat around a fire pit and TALKED TO EACH OTHER. It was AMAZING. And badly, BADLY needed. To prepare for Sunday. DUN DUN DUN.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Real Talk: Do these pants make me look like Big Bird?

A friend of mine swears by these pants called "Rock star jeans" sold by a popular but affordable retailer that rhymes with Fold Baby. I've been wanting a pair of gray skinny jeans for some time now and this particular store only carried gray in the Rock Star style, so despite my misgivings that I normally buy the more conservative "Sweet Heart" style, which is code for "These barely qualify as not Mom Jeans. Barely." I bought a pair online last week when I was annoyed about something completely unrelated to clothing that I now cannot even remember.

They arrived on Friday afternoon, along with two dresses for Mary and a bunch of long cardigans for me to wrap up in during the frigid Texas winters and the two uniform sweatshirts I originally went online to purchase for Charley and Wes and I excitedly stripped down and tried them on in my kitchen in the middle of the afternoon. They seemed quite tight, but in a really comfy way. I really liked the way they moved with me and didn't shift around. I was less certain about the way I could faintly make out the edges of a scar I have on my knee from where I got stitches when I was ten through the material. I wondered if I would start a fire if I attempted to put them on without first shaving and moisturizing my legs.

The next day I put them on again and called Ryan into the kitchen. "Will you come tell me if these pants are age inappropriate?" I asked. He appeared in the kitchen doorway seconds later. "No." he assured me, "Absolutely not."

So with that ringing endorsement, I wore them to work today, along with a sleeveless button up top I got for two dollars at LOFT and a hip-length black boyfriend cardigan and my brown moccasins. And I felt awesome. Class went really well, I felt great sliding around the classroom in my tiny pants as I answered four chapters worth of review questions in advance of their exam on Wednesday. Afterward, we had fun talking about the upcoming low pressure system that's going to bring us five inches of rain. It was a great class! These were my confidence pants.

And then I walked to the dining hall to pick up my lunch and caught a glimpse of my reflection in one of the glass doors, which was the first time I'd seen the whole view since we don't have a full-length mirror at our house. And things seemed slightly...out of proportion? Little legs big body?

Honestly this is the first thing that came to mind:

(This did not stop me from loading up with a ham and cheese on french bread, a pound of sweet potato fries, and two cookies.)

Ryan came by later that afternoon and I forced him to take a picture of me so that I could do a side by side comparison with that Big Bird picture, which I did from the safety of my flannel pajama bottoms and oversized tshirt.

And the verdict is: If a pair of pants can make me feel cool while teaching climate, or even SITTING IN A GOLD MINIVAN IN THE SCHOOL PICKUP LINE (!!), then I need at least two more pairs. Maybe they will help me finally tackle that Python issue that's been giving me so much trouble. After all, they are my confidence pants. And also, there are NOT THAT MANY MORE OPPORTUNITIES to feel cool you guys. The window is CLOSING. $27.50 is a freaking BARGAIN.

Six Wild and CUH-RAZY GUYS!

This was the best Halloween EVER you guys. The BEST. Thursday afternoon I remembered with horror the school-pickup to Trick or Treating time over-excited kid situation of last year and decided we should have the neighbors over for dinner instead so I would have a reason to drink wine the kids would have something fun to do. The key to this being fun was for me to chill the heck out and not overthink it. So Friday I hit the store for a trunkload of hot dogs, chips, juice boxes, and Halloween cupcakes, picked the kids up at school, then asked the kids to set up a coffee table the neighbors were throwing away on the lawn, assembled the food and waited.

And it didn't take long before kids started showing up.

I went inside to get something and when I came back Charley and Wes had added a sectional sofa from the neighbor's trash pile to the yard. It added *just* the right touch of frat party flair.

The view from the porch where the other moms and I were hanging out (Mary was with us eating a hot dog in her high chair).

I dropped the cupcakes off and backed away slowly.

When Ryan came home I was sitting on the porch drinking a glass of wine with all the moms and one dad and I kind of felt like I'd been caught doing something wrong. Kids were running EVERYWHERE, half of them in costumes, our yard was strewn with cast off furniture, empty juice boxes, cupcake wrappers, and paper plates covered with half-eaten food. He looked like a deer in the headlights. Finally, since someone has to be the grownup, he quietly gathered some of the larger pieces of trash and took them inside. When he came out, Mary had her costume on.

We lined everyone up for a group shot and just before we took it James came running across the street in his monster costume yelling "ROAR ROAR! ROAR ROAR! ROAR ROAR!" Harry Potter looks scared.


We trick or treated with some other neighborhood kiddos. This is the last time we saw them as a group. As soon as this picture was taken they took off running like a herd of cattle. The older boys (Charley and his friend) broke actual land-speed records as they tore through our culdesac, capes slightly askew, jamming candy into their buckets then mowing down anything in their path on the way to the next house.

James held back, WAY back. Savoring every minute of the experience, talking to the neighbors, attempting to eat everything he was given while still standing on their porch. From my point of view, he and Ryan looked like a green speck in the distance. Finally we corralled all the big kids an waited for them to catch up. It lasted for about half a house and then it was off to the races again. We reconvened at my friend L's house, where they were projecting the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown on her garage door. Usually we stop there and watch the movie for a while before turning left off her street and heading home, but as we were walking away Charley and Wes and some of the other older boys took off to the right and we were on the hook for another twenty-five or so houses. They got SO MUCH candy, you guys. It is awesome (and not awesome, all at the same time).

Team Straggler. Limited conceptual understanding of houses/minute:candy quantity relationship.

They paused mid-stampede to consider whether it would be better to cross the street or continue hurtling down the same side of the street. Happily, they chose to cross the street and head back down the other side, which meant they were actually heading back toward our house.

After ToT we headed out to a friend's house for the after-party because we hadn't had enough wine and candy yet. I hastily grilled two more hotdogs for Ryan while simultaneously hollowing out a pie pumpkin and making a cream cheese cinnamon dip to take with us and overseeing the MASS CHAOS created by four kids already up WAY WAY WAY past bedtime and who ate hotdogs and nine pounds of red dye #40 for dinner. James, who doesn't get out much, paused in the driveway to look up at the sky and shrieked "OOOOH, look at the STARS, SPOOOOOOKY!" which implies that he thinks stars are only there on Halloween as spooky decorations and also that he's never been awake after dark before. PARENTING WIN.

Another parenting win was the next morning when we all woke up still glowing with good cheer after the incredibly fun and remarkably incident-free night of revelry to find this scene in our yard, looking much tackier in the glaring sun. Upholstered furniture all over the place, both van doors open with costume pieces, unfamiliar blankets, and candy wrappers spilling out all over the driveway, wine glasses and beer bottles on the porch, and a carpet of juice boxes and cupcake wrappers all over the lawn. Wow.

Ryan quietly put all the furniture back in our neighbor's trash pile while I picked up the trash and empties. Mary went down for what turned into a four hour nap, shortly after she woke up around 9, the other kids played all morning with the kids across the street and THEN IT WAS TIME FOR CHARLEY'S 8TH BIRTHDAY PARTY AT THE BOWLING ALLEY.

Because what better way to keep the party rolling than to take a pack of 3-8 year old kids BOWLING, yes?

James with a bowling ball is kind of terrifying. Amazingly, no one went home with a broken foot. There were a couple of close calls. And it wasn't just James who kept bowling in the wrong lane and dropping the ball (literally) in the seating area FAR from the lanes, One of Charley's friends managed to skip his ball sideways out of our lane and down the concrete pad between two lanes, where it hit a post, causing a large metal panel to come loose and clatter loudly to the floor. Or the time one of the other kids didn't roll the ball hard enough and it stopped short of the pins so her dad bowled a second ball to knock it down to the end, but then THAT ball got stuck too and two balls were stuck halfway down the lane? I highly recommend putting taking kids bowling on your bucket list. Also we bumped our party host's tip from twenty to twenty-five percent. It probably should have been higher.

Mary was over it the second we walked in the door. Evidently the four hour nap wasn't enough. We tried holding her but ultimately it became clear that eight kids bowling is an all-hands-on-deck activity and she was relegated to her stroller. This did not stop her from throwing back an adult-sized piece of cake, however.

Because I have met my children before, I knew we would be up for ABSOLUTELY NOTHING after bowling. We picked up Little Ceasars on the way home then popped in a movie and laid around eating pizza and leftover cake and resting, finally. Sunday, Charley's actual birthday, was also low key with breakfast cake, church, a Cub Scout meeting, and a fancy candle-lit spaghetti dinner for the birthday boy in the dining room. Mr. Grown Up asked for cheesecake as his birthday cake so we had that and also passed around a thing of hot fudge as a topping because NO, you are EIGHT, not THIRTY. Guess I have some issues to work out before the next birthday! He fell asleep last night clutching his gifted Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. It was a GREAT weekend.