Tuesday, September 29, 2015



Wes's birthday was yesterday. Poor sweet baby told Ryan "School! I'm really excited about school!" when Ryan asked him the night before "Are you excited about anything tomorrow, Wes?" He remembered when he woke up Monday morning, though, because BREAKFAST CAKE.


Before he blew out the candle he closed his eyes for a LONG time to make his wish. Like, wax dribbling onto the cake long. He wanted it to be perfect. I heart him.

He requested chocolate cupcakes with whipped cream inside and chocolate frosting so while they got ready for school I slapped together some cupcake batter and threw it into the oven. I wasn't going to let a MOUNTAIN of lab reports keep me from making homemade cupcakes for my seven year old! Although I did let it stop me from putting all the milk in the bowl and using paper muffin cups, both of which turned out to be kind of a problem later, if you consider a cupcake pan half full of stubbornly adhered chocolate cupcakes to be a problem (and I don't because I put the extra frosting on them and left them on the stove top where I can grab a handful every time I pass through the kitchen).

I put M&Ms on top for maximum pancreas overdrive.


Also yesterday I went to a coffee shop to address the lab report situation and chose the table with the five foot tall lion looming over it because WHY NOT.


I spent the time after lunch but before pickup cramming several ounces of white frosting into each of the cupcakes that would actually come out of the pan. Fortunately, we had just enough for all the neighborhood kids I invited over for cupcakes after dinner. After I picked the kids up, then dropped them off at piano, and then went home to watch Wild Kratts with Mary and James ("cuddled up" per request), then back to pick up the big kids at piano an hour later, we arrived home to find, happily, that my neighbor was getting new appliances and DID NOT WANT THE HUGE BOXES. Can you even imagine?


Afternoon plans, CHECK.


My favorite table cloth, all our new throw pillows, and a quilt I love out on the lawn? CHECK CHECK CHECK.

We all ate a VERY hasty spaghetti and meatball dinner then opened presents and ran back outside. Then our neighborhood friends all came over for box frolicking and cake.


(All of the big kids not pictured because they were busy riding scooters around in the culdesac while shooting each other with Nerf guns and then hiding in the sewer. You know, eight year old boy stuff.)

The little kids had crazy boxtime too.


If you think we look classy here, you should see our fence that FELL OVER when Charley tried to walk through the gate at the beginning of the party. Our backyard now features a rotted section of fence and a huge pile of cardboard awaiting recycling. And also several dozen faded plastic toys in various states of decomposition, but that hardly seems worth mentioning.

We were all back inside by eight o'clock so I could resume my grade-a-thon while Ryan took care of some Scout business and the kids refused to go to bed until after ten. MAGICAL.

Anyway, Wes is seven! He is so big! And so awesome, and sweet, and thoughtful, and funny, and smart. He is the big brother of the neighborhood. He knows more about Pokemon than you could ever imagine and has devised an elaborate game of human Ninjago-Minecraft taht he and his buddies play on the playground every day during recess. In other words, seven is AWESOME.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Dealing with the public

Couple of things that happened to me this weekend, both equally stupid.

On Friday I got my oil changed. I was so proud of myself for taking care of this perfectly ordinary adulthood chore that I thought I should stop for a cookie and an iced tea at a restaurant I like on the way to the kids' school for pickup. I found the restaurant and pulled my car into a space close to the door. I had just gotten out my phone to look at a missed text when the guy in the car next to me came out of a store and walked to his car.

Apparently I had parked about six inches closer to him than would have been ideal in Perfect Man's perfect world, because he began opening and closing his door angrily and screaming "REALLY?!  REALLY?!" into my passenger side window (WHICH WAS CLOSED).

This kept up for a minute or more during which I ignored him.  I have LOTS OF EXPERIENCE ignoring people who are behaving irrationally.  It's pretty much my job both at home and at work.  Also, you don't engage crazy people in a concealed-carry state.  Finally, I put my phone back into my purse, got out of my car (still ignoring), and walked into the restaurant.

When I got back out, Mr. Angrypants was GONE, which tells me that although my parking job was not ideal in his mind, HE WAS STILL ABLE TO GET INTO HIS CAR (the NORMAL WAY, because I watched from behind the tinted window of the restaurant).  AND, he was able to get his car out of the parking spot with no trouble.  I know this because my cookie and drink purchase took all of forty-five seconds.  This tells me that DUDE NEEDS TO GET SOME REAL PROBLEMS.  I do hope he was proud of himself for screaming at a woman he has never met over a minor inconvenience.

The other crazy thing that happened to me was on Saturday.  We were all at my favorite fancy grocery store with the playground, enjoying the nice afternoon and some sangria, when I excused myself to visit the ladies' room.  The one close to the playground was closed for cleaning, so I walked across the store to the other side where there is a second bathroom.  When I got in, both stalls were in use.  I know this because I *gently* tried the handle on the door of the one stall I thought might be open and it did not move.  So, like a normal person I stood back and waited for a stall to open up.

When one did, I went inside, LATCHED THE DOOR, and sat down on the potty.

IMMEDIATELY AFTER THAT, another woman came into the bathroom and YANKED THE DOOR TO MY STALL OPEN.

When she saw me sitting there, she made a horrified face and then attempted to close the door.  Because the door swings both in and out of the stall, when she tried to close it it swung all the way into the stall.  She lost her grip on it and it just kept going.

And I was still sitting on the toilet frozen with shock.

The door stopped when it hit the wall and stayed there, WIDE OPEN.

The lady who had started this whole mess then became flustered and FLED WITHOUT A WORD.

Leaving me sitting on the crapper with my pants down and the door STILL OPEN.

I finished quickly.  Verrrrrry quickly.  Put my pants back on (DOOR STILL OPEN), washed my hands, and left.

You guys.  I don't know what the right way to handle that situation would have been.  But it was not LEAVE THE DOOR WIDE OPEN AND LEAVE.

What.  In the heck.

There is small consolation in the fact that after delivering four babies privacy isn't really a thing in my life anymore and therefore, WHATEVER, and also she probably felt like an idiot for the rest of the day and forgot at least four items on her grocery list.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Pretty, pretty, pretty good

This is what I look like at work when I'm waiting for the copier to finish printing thirty five-page packets, double sided and stapled, which is apparently like asking the copier to swim across the English Channel.


Also, after an entire Friday evening spent luxuriating on the new couch in front of the PBS Kids afternoon lineup, some therapeutic pizza time with Grandma and Grandpa, and a good nights' sleep, the kids turned BACK INTO HUMANS on Saturday. We were up and out the door on the way to the Y for some Olympic race-ellipticalling and then to pickup breakfast tacos as soon as the sun was up on Saturday morning because I've learned that bored kids are fighty kids. And kids who are segregated into age-stratified rooms at the Y childcare CAN'T FIGHT WITH EACH OTHER.

I had a nice brunch (which turned out to be my third breakfast because I am a Hobbit?) with a friend who was visiting from out of town and after that spent the afternoon painting our new free TV console on the back porch and enjoying the seasonal weather. The kids "helped" paint. I thought it was adorable and cozy until I noticed James was slopping paint all over the porch. Ryan was displeased when he came home. Oopsy.

We were exhausted Saturday night but rallied when another out of town friend came over to visit and we had THE BEST TIME. Everyone should have a friend who can talk about unmanned submersibles and sustainable gardening while you drink wine, who also knows and loves your kids and has known you since you had braces and wore a letter jacket even in the summer, ahem.

On Sunday, Charley went up in front of the church to receive his 3rd Grade Bible. I've been counting down the years by this event every year for the past few years. In five years, I'll have a kid that big! In four years, Charley will be in third grade! In three years... When I filled out the form with his full name on it a couple of months ago I got a little verclempt. HOW IS HE BIG ENOUGH FOR THIS? I mean, his head reaches my CHIN, so I know he's BIG enough, but WOW. We are so proud of him.

Also we made him dress up fancy for the occasion. Wes wanted to join in. Sunglasses were a last-minute addition.


Next project, keep all 1500 of those beautiful onion skin pages away from EVERYONE ELSE IN THE FAMILY.

(Funny story, when they give the kids the Bibles they are wrapped in three kinds of wrapping paper which each mean different things and as the kids unwrap them they explain the different meanings to them. It's really sweet, but at the end the kids are left standing in a huge pile of wrapping paper and newspaper. Charley and a couple of other boys started playfully kicking at the wrapping paper while the pastor was still talking and I (sitting on the front row) could tell it was going to get rowdy so I clapped my hands LOUD, then shook my head NO when the three boys all looked right at me. They immediately stopped and looked back to the speaker. The Mom Look has only ever worked on Mary before this!)

On Monday Mary woke up with a terrible cold, so I kept her home with me. We went to an hour-long school garden committee meeting during which she ignored the giant indoor playscape five feet away and stayed curled up in my lap. Then I took her out for a cinnamon roll because it's kind of a family tradition to go to this one place for cinnamon rolls when you have a terrible cold and feel crummy, but after half-heartedly licking the sugar off the side for a few minutes she put it back on her plate and slid it over to me, saying "Don't want it."


Only the threat of contracting the plague kept me from eating both hers AND mine. And then we still needed some things from the store so we stopped on the way home. I felt like a real jerk when I handed her a package of frozen spinach to play with and she did this.


Poor baby girl had sinus pain!!

Later she would refuse to nap, refuse to watch TV, and have three potty accidents before getting carted to two school pickups, a playground, piano dropoff, piano pickup, and swim lessons. Not exactly the cozy girls' day I had hoped for when we decided to keep her home. She felt much better yesterday morning.

Tonight is swimming again and tomorrow Wes has soccer. Yesterday Charley had Scouts and Monday was swimming! But Friday! FRIDAY'S LOOKING REALLY GOOD. And this afternoon I have promised unfettered free goof-off time between school and swimming because, seriously, IT'S A BEAUTIFUL DAY GO PLAY OUTSIDE.

(Yesterday despite getting home late-ish because of my lab, the kids ran out the front door and dispersed to various friends' houses the moment we got home. This morning we couldn't find Wes's shoes anywhere so he had to cram his feet into his old too-small Vans. Later I got a text from my neighbor, "I just threw a pair of Sketchers over your fence." I love our neighborhood.)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Getting back to my roots: complain-o-blogging


It seems like no matter how much I try not to be that family shuttling kids from here to there all afternoon, inevitably we end up with a couple of days where we are faced with no choice but to eat dinner out of a bag between activities.  Yesterday was a doozy.  I had a meeting at the elementary school from 8:00 to 9:30, then had to squeeze in as much work between then and 12:45 before screeching back into the school parking lot to take Wes to a doctor's appointment, and then I had a weird squishy amount of time that was just enough to run home and grab everyone's swim stuff before going to a sub place to get everyone's dinner and make it back to the elementary school for Charley's parent-teacher conference.  By the time that was over it was 4:45 and I still had to get the little kids and get back to the Y, eat dinner, and get everyone changed by James's swim lesson at 6:00.

By the time we got the five of us into the ten by ten concrete cell they call the "family changing room" I was NOT in my happy place.  And then Charley and James had a loud fight over who got to eff around with the shower (that I had told NO ONE to eff around with).  And then James suddenly decided he was an infant incapable of putting on his own swimsuit or taking off his own clothes which he told me by SCREAM-WHINING it OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN.  And Mary had to go potty.  Which is how I found myself completely naked hoisting a toddler onto a toilet and untying a second kid's shoes while simultaneously reminding two other kids to STOP OPENING THE DOOR FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

I don't think anyone was surprised when I went all Mount Vesuvius moments later.

By the time Ryan got there to enjoy happy family swim lesson time I was sitting on a bench by the pool scowling, Charley and Wes were off playing in the pool before their lesson, James was in his lesson, and Mary was sitting quietly next to me quite possibly afraid to move or speak or ask for anything at all.

Things were not much better at bedtime, which is surprising considering how much swimming everyone did.  Possibly we overshot "tired" and landed straight in "manic hellbeast" territory because NO ONE WOULD GO TO SLEEP.  Kids were getting up and wandering around, hanging out in each other's rooms, making paper airplanes, giggling, shrieking, jumping off of the bunkbed.  Ryan went to choir.  I opened a bottle of wine.  By the time Ryan got home at 9:30 I was lying in bed half asleep with my glasses still on and all the lights on.  "They're still freaking awake" was my greeting, "Please deal with it."

The party continued this morning with James lying prostrate on the floor screaming about not being able to put his shorts on, Wes spending more than thirty minutes in the bathroom, finally emerging with minutes to go before we had to leave for school, and Charley and James having a giant wrestling fight over an empty box of cookies someone found in the living room that would have been hilarious if I hadn't just spent the last eighteen hours fighting with kids over stupid stuff.  They reminded me of these two skunks that had a fight over a plastic bowl at our campsite when I was a kid.  When I ripped the box out of their hands James followed me around screaming "YOU GOT CRUMBS ON THE NEW COUCH!!"

I was so happy that Ryan had a van in that moment because if he hadn't taken them to school and left me home to do some Olympic racewalking and put dinner in the crockpot I might have had to commit myself to some kind of institution.

But now I've had an hour to exercise, have a second cup of coffee, and make some chili to put in the crockpot.  And also there is a new Jimmy Fallon lipsynch battle.  And there are cookies.  It's going to be OK.  And if not I have dinner plans with a friend.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Putting the Labor in Labor Day Weekend*

*not that kind of labor

While everyone else was frolicking in pools and grilling hotdogs this last weekend of summer, Ryan and I were using a sudden and unexplained burst of motivation to knock approximately seven-thousand items off our years-long to-do list. It started Saturday morning when Ryan loaded a bunch of old ceramic tile we didn't use the first time we redid our floors when James was a baby and took it back to Home Depot. He took James and Mary with him too because getting two preschoolers and a flatbed of tile across a busy parking lot is the kind of challenge Ryan enjoys. Anyway, I was dubious but they gave him a hundred and forty bucks back. For three year old tile that we NEEDED TO GET OUT OF OUR FREAKING GARAGE anyway. MAGICAL. Also, he brought home tacos.

While he was gone I cleaned seven years of baby stuff out of Mary's closet and hauled approximately two cubic yards of stuff to my car to be taken to the Children's Home. I found a complete fall wardrobe for Mary in there, as well as enough sneakers to last her until kindergarten. I also found the baby gym (our third baby gym, since we keep getting rid of them and having to rebuy them when we decide we're not actually done with babies, this won't be happening again), the crib aquarium lightup thing, the swing, the rails for James's bed, some cloth diapers, and a broken baby gate. Just as in deep ocean sediment cores, the stuff near the top was newest and the stuff near the bottom was all Charley's old stuff. CLOSET STRATIGRAPHY! Now her closet contains: 1) clothes she can actually wear now and 2) clothes that will fit in the future and 3) a floor I can see.

(Meanwhile Charley and Wes were enjoying hours of unsupervised and unlimited access to their Kindle, which was found earlier this week during a similar cleanout of their room. It was an incredibly satisfying morning for everyone.)

Ryan was so excited by his tile victory that he spent the afternoon getting our old car appraised at CarMax. I spent that time making green chili mac and cheese and singing along with the 90s Hits Pandora station with my neighbor while all our (SEVEN) kids ran around doing who knows what. It was really a lovely afternoon. Ryan came home with the news that they wanted to give us a cool two-hundred bucks for the car, which seemed reasonable given its condition. We decided to wait until Monday to take it in, had dinner, then put the kids to bed early so we could watch Breaking Bad.

Sunday we went to church all morning then came home for lunch and then I don't really know what happened because I had to GET THE HECK OUT OF THERE because I was losing it. I went to a consignment store and got some sneakers for James (to replace the ones HE LOST at my school two weeks ago) and a winter coat for Mary and then spent some time working out and drinking iced tea and grocery shopping before returning home refreshed and ready to participate with the family. When I arrived, Ryan had the compressor out and was reinstalling all the baseboards in the downstairs bathroom (MAJOR TO-DO LIST VICTORY) while the kids milled around and did nothing in particular. I slapped together some chicken spaghetti (even letting James and Mary do the pasta breaking step, which made an enormous mess, but was fun) and then we ate a late dinner and put everyone down for a reprise of Breaking Bad and wine time from the previous night.

I kept hearing raucous laughing and smack talk filtering up the stairs while Ryan and I were putting the little kids down and when I went down to investigate I found an elaborate zombies versus aliens battle in full swing.


Monday morning we decided to take care of Ryan's car, but before he took it back to CarMax for our $200 he wanted to see if this other dealership, who had a "$500 more than CarMax" offer was truly as "no matter what condition" as it promised. We trooped the whole family into the place where the kids immediately decided we needed to take home this black Corvette (Corvette did not come home with us).


We made lots and lots of noise while Ryan talked to the dealer and then, after not that much time, he came out to tell us they were giving us SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS for the car. We signed all the paperwork and said goodbye to fifteen years of memories--The summer I spent in South Carolina! College graduation! Grad school! Charley and Wes coming home from the hospital! Our new house in the old town! Our new house here! Many, MANY road trips. It was a great car for a long time. And then it started overheating at red lights and leaking water all over Ryan's pants and shedding paint and refusing to relinquish items stored in the trunk. It was time to say goodbye, but Ryan was sad all the same.


Flush with cash, we decided it was time to finally do something about the uncomfortable living room couch we both hate. So naturally, after dragging all the kids to the car dealership, we thought it would be fun to drag them furniture shopping. Fortunately we only had to go to one place. Ryan and I split the family into teams to tackle the huge store. I (team big kid) found several good contenders and texted Ryan to let him know where they were. He found some good ones too. Ultimately we decided we liked this enormous brown sectional, reasoning that there are SIX PEOPLE in our family so we need more than FOUR places to sit. I mean, it's adorable when they all sit together on our current couch, but I have trouble envisioning that happening when Charley is sixteen and Mary is eight. Ryan and I were trying to have a conversation about whether the thing would even fit in our house while the kids had a knockdown dragout battle for who got to sit in the "middle", the place where the two sections met. Finally they got so loud we had to take them all outside so we could keep talking. Outside I almost convinced Ryan to buy this super modern steel gray thing from Crate and Barrel that had a mattress-sized cushion on one end. Looking back it would NOT have worked in our house but it sure was cool.

The loud squabbling for the three available chaise lounge chairs in front of the store reached a crescendo and clearly it was time to abandon the couch search and shove some food in their mouthholes before someone's head exploded (mine). We walked everyone across the street to a hamburger place and fed them then returned to the furniture store where it somehow took forty-five minutes to put two pieces of furniture on hold and take seven bathroom trips. Mary took advantage of the complicated maze of furniture and escaped from me multiple times. There was a loud showdown over a single child-sized rocking chair. Wes had to open EVERY SINGLE CABINET DOOR over and over and over. It was very very good to get in the car.

After he dropped us off Ryan went back to pick up the furniture and somehow managed to fit an entire sectional couch IN OUR VAN. CAN'T DO THAT WITH A CORVETTE CAN YOU, KIDS?! Then he took the old broken stupid couch to a thrift store (also in the van) and picked up a recliner chair that I fell in love with at the furniture store and threatened to buy with my own discretionary account and then not let anyone else sit on if we didn't buy it with the couch. Also it was in the upper nineties, which is awesome weather for lots of furniture moving. Ryan is amazing.

We got it all in the house and tweaked the arrangement and I AM VERY EXCITED ABOUT THIS.

(My recliner is barely visible in the foreground left).

I made everyone some waffles for dinner and then we put the little kids to bed and Ryan took Charley fishing, which was fortunate because on the way there he came across one of our neighbors putting a nice TV console and those four awesome, practically new, yellow throw pillows you see in the picture above OUT ON THE CURB. The room looked good before the pillows, but it looks SPECTACULAR with them. Also, we didn't want to get too full of ourselves with the "We're grownups! None of our furniture came from the curb!" TV console is in the garage awaiting a coat of chalk paint and some new knobs.

WE WERE SO COMFY DURING OUR NIGHTLY TV/POPCORN/WINE TIME. We will thank the Neon every time we sit in there.

Epilogue: It was an exhausting weekend and everyone had a tough time getting rolling this morning.