Thursday, December 22, 2016

Best of times, worst of times

With apologies to Dickens, I think this quote applies REMARKABLY WELL not just to the 18th century world of peasants and aristocrats, but also to the week before Christmas, when no one has school, one parent is at work, and the other parent really should be working but can't, and the kids are living on Christmas cookies and fudge.

Which is to say that yesterday was a bit of a disaster that came to a head at church last night, where we went for rehearsal, when the children's pastor asked Charley if he'd like a speaking part in the Christmas pageant and he burst into tears and hid in the men's room for thirty minutes (And boy was my friend's husband surprised when I opened the door and yelled "CHARLEY ARE YOU IN THERE?").

Let's start with the good stuff though, shall we???

Tuesday James turned six!!


He was THRILLED to get a journal with a lock and has been carefully writing observations in it since then in his adorable kindergarten handwriting ("Charley has a injured arm"). He also got a maze game and some Mad Matter (that stuff is so cool) and a Harry Potter wand, that were at once a huge hit and hugely popular with the other kids, which led to some friction (understatement). After some playing and fighting we had doctor's appointment for Charley (I spent most of the time sitting in the car with a screaming James while Charley was in with the doctor; he was screaming because he discovered that ink cannot be erased) and then we met Miss N for lunch. She spent the rest of the afternoon and evening with us THANK GOD.

Some friends came over for cookie decorating and birthday celebrating (and beer drinking for the adults, naturally). We had pizza and cupcakes and shooed everyone outside where they did outside kid things until it got dark and then they came in to watch Home Alone. It was happy and loud and kind of insane and so many wonderful people I love were there. See? Best of times.


(Though before everyone arrived Wes wrote some mean things in James's new journal and was banished to the upstairs until he wrote five complete sentences in the form of an apology letter to James. I went up to check on him after he'd been screaming for ten minutes and when I asked him what on earth he was screaming about he moaned "Correct capitalization is REALLY HARD!!!")

Only three sentences, but I allowed it because he had already tried writing "I am soryy" five times at the top of the paper, so it was more like eight sentences.


Our whole family was together again!

Wednesday morning I woke up still smiling from the happy funtimes we'd had the night before, which I think set my expectations of magical holiday family harmony a bit too high. I made the mistake of suggesting to the children that we go on a hike together, and that they should get dressed and find their shoes while I made a picnic. I made the picnic alright, but James was still lying on the couch yelling his crazy Archie Bunker old man nonsense in his pajamas, Charley was dressed, and Wes was completely dressed with sweatshirt and shoes on playing a computer game. After a few attempts at getting James to comply I left the picnic in its bag on the counter, went upstairs, had a little tantrum of my own, took a shower, and then laid on my bedroom floor reading the newspaper on my phone for a while. I was going to give up on our plan, but the thought of eight unstructured hours was motivating. Two hours after we'd planned to leave, we were finally in the car.

People without kids cannot imagine the amount of work it took to get TO THE TRAILHEAD.



Wes: "This is really neat, Mom! I'm so glad you forced us to come here!"

Everyone wanted to do all three trails, but after we got back to the car to go to the third trail we decided to go to Sonic instead.

Then we went to a liquor store to buy a couple of Christmas presents and the kids were adorably fascinated with the bottle chiller. That was the last moment of the day that was fun. We went home to get Mary and then bickered all afternoon while I made a really terrible dinner and drove them, screaming, to church for their rehearsal. I had planned to manage it on my own but had to call Ryan in for backup, which meant that he got conscripted to be a shepherd. They don't ask me because I exude an air of hostility and also because I think they thought I had enough to do what with Mary and James wrestling with each other over the Hymnals.

Today I gave up early and turned on a movie then retired to the kitchen with my computer to write this post and write a letter of recommendation for a student and maybe start working on the writing work that is due on the 9th or the two syllabuses that I will need before the second week of January. Or our Christmas cards. Just something to keep my hands busy.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Shepherds, broken bones, and boobs

Nothing like waking up late to no peanut butter or bread to motivate you to finally figure out the new online lunch ordering system you've been dragging your feet on! Here are your passwords kids! Don't forget them or you won't get to eat lunch! HAVE A NICE DAY!!

So where were we? Oh yes. Friday's Live Nativity.

We have been in the Live Nativity since Wes played Baby Jesus as a tiny baby and it is something we all look forward to. A new tradition is meeting my friend Rosa at our favorite hamburger place for happy hour before the show.

This year we had to watch the kids play from inside because it was so cold. Cold in December! What a bummer!

In the first show, Mary and James were angels and Charley and Wes were wisemen.


Wes likes to be every character he can before the night is over, so he was in five shows. So were James and Mary come to think of it. One show I thought Mary was going to sit out until she yelled angrily at an adult "I'M NOT TAKING A BREAK! I A ANGEL!!"


Wes and his buddy A were, as usual, kind of insane.


Charley sat a few shows out to enjoy the petting zoo. I went to check on him and found him blissed out with four chickens asleep in his lap.

Will no longer eat chicken.

He decided to do one more show, as a shepherd, which, if he lived in Biblical times, I think would be a great job for him. Caring for animals. Lots of alone time.


Yeah, like that!


It was such a fun night and also the first time Ryan and I weren't actually IN any of the shows. We just watched the hilarity with my parents, Ryan's parents, my sister and niece, and our friends. The best.

Saturday morning Ryan's parents took us on the Santa train, a restored steam train that takes you on a ride through the countryside with an elf that serves hot chocolate, cookies from Mrs. Claus, sing-a-longs, stories, coloring sheets. It is SUCH FUN.

Monday night we went to the hand orthopedist because Charley's thumb was still swollen (though it had improved from bratwurst to the less alarming breakfast sausage size) and painful and he couldn't bend it and my two medical friends together convinced me that I was probably not overreacting and it would be worth seeing the hand guy because unbroken thumbs typically don't look like breakfast sausages five days after an injury. Even the ped we saw last week suggested we go back in. But having taken a perfectly healthy child to a podiatrist for sympathy limping a couple of years ago, I was a little hesitant to go this time. Still, if you'd seen the table fall on him, you'd be like JUST TAKE THE KID TO THE SPECIALIST OMG. We had to wait in the adult waiting room, which does not have a TV or children's magazines, so after Charley won the skirmish for the single Ranger Rick, James settled in with a copy of US Weekly. I was finally starting to relax when he came up to me to show me a picture of a bunch of actresses posed in fancy gowns for some award show and said "MOM, LOOK! This is inapprokriate [sic]! BOOBS!" and everyone started cackling loudly. I told them they could each say "boobs" one time and then we were never going to say it again. #qualityparenting Later at dinner, James told Ryan "I saw something inapprokriate today!" and Mary deadpanned, without even pausing her meal, "BOOBS."

We spent another tortuous half hour in the tiny exam room waiting for the doctor (here Charley came across an ad in another magazine, this one for female incontinence products, with the slogan "Sometimes laughter isn't the only thing you can't keep inside," that sent him into convulsions of laughter), who gently examined Charley's thumb with the Look of Consternation then sent him off for new xrays. When Charley came back he asked all of us if we had ever thought about diabetic retinopathy, which he had seen an informative poster about next to the xray room. More waiting and more waiting and Charley asking everyone who passed the door if they'd considered diabetic retinopathy and more waiting and more awful behavior later, the doctor came back in to read the xrays and pronounced, "Yup. It's broken. Four weeks in the splint!" He offered Charley a cast, but said it was up to me, and since we'd been in that room fighting with each other for ninety minutes by then, I thought they all might need casts if we had to spend another second together. I said no thanks and we went to Schlotzky's to pick up dinner. The beer I had when I got home was one of the top five of my life.

This week I am sort of "off" because grades are in for one university and the final for the other is on Thursday morning. Yesterday I went for a long row on an absolutely perfect sixty degree and sunny morning, then worked on a paper at an outdoor coffeeshop by the lake for a couple of hours before visiting a thrift store in a fancy neighborhood that did NOT disappoint. I got Mary an adorable Hanna Andersson outfit and a brand new pair of Keen's for TWELVE DOLLARS. Then I had an unavoidable meeting and spent more than ninety minutes in the car stuck in traffic on the way home. BUT! Today I have no concrete obligations other than to Work On Some Things, which leaves time for this post, a touch of Christmas shopping, and some thrilling laundry folding. But we are SO CLOSE TO THE FINISH LINE (which is an ILLUSION because then I'll have to dream up things to do for four hyper, excited kids, one of whom can't do anything athletic or fun for the next three weeks).

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Faculty Gone Wild

Ryan and I spent last night dancing to a cover band and eating from an endless dessert buffet in the same hotel ballroom I once attended prom in. It was like the funnest wedding reception you've ever been to except we knew ZERO people and did not have to buy anyone a toaster. We weren't even going to go except that Ryan's parents were going to be in town and offered to babysit and we screeched out of the driveway so fast we forgot to get a picture together and Ryan forgot to take his ibuprofen (I keep saying to him "I need to eat! So I can take my back pills!" and it will NEVER GET OLD). We went back for the ibuprofen and got a couple of pics.

I love love loved this dress. I bought it in a hasty shopping spree at Nordstrom Rack between office hours and kid pickup. Literally, ran to the clearance rack, grabbed the dress, figured I'd never get it over my hips, stripped off my jeans and sweater, tried it on, loved it, ran to the shoe department to grab some booties I've had my eye on, grabbed a pair of tights, and was back to my car in fifteen minutes.

Apparently I left out a lot of details when I told Ryan I wanted to go to the faculty party. He was probably picturing that scene from Animal House when the stuffy fraternity brother says "That'll be Nigel with the brie". "There are drink tickets?!" There's a band?!" "This was all FREE?!" When we walked in and saw the food and the band and the bar and the fun fun people everywhere Ryan asked if I could swing a course assignment at this place next fall, ninety extra minutes in the car a day be damned!

It was not boring. Those PhDs know how to have a good time.


Here's the dessert buffet. There was also a pasta bar and a turkey carving station. I ate the hell out of some pasta (not pictured) and then dove into the dessert bar. Also for hors d'oeuvres there was this smoked jalepeno dip that I started discretely eating with my figures when I ran out of cucumber spears. Unsurprisingly I was up for part of the night with some cuh-razy indigestion.



The band got everyone out on the floor with a long set comprised completely of eighties monster ballads followed by four Justin Timberlake songs in a row. After their first set the campus chaplain came out to do a touching invocation. Then he stood to the side happily surveying all the fun and clutching a long string of raffle tickets. It was the first time I've ever wanted to be Catholic.

We danced like two people who have dealt with a LOT of SHIT in the last two months and who are out with no children and a pocketful of drink tickets.

Which is to say it's a good thing it was dark and I didn't notice my Dean in attendance. And also to say that getting up the stairs last night was not straightforward (because of the dancing, not the drink tickets, ahem).

We tore ourselves away reluctantly around ten and returned home to find that the kids had had a great time with Ryan's parents except that, naturally, one had puked on the living room floor (this was in addition to the one who puked at their piano studio Christmas party earlier that afternoon, prompting Charley to leave me the best voicemail of all time "Hi Mom. Wes blew chunks. Can you come pick us up?").


Obviously we didn't make it to church this morning and instead spent the time doing four loads of laundry, inventing dinner out of things I found in the fridge that were about to spoil, putting bread in the bread machine, giving James and Mary home haircuts in my kitchen, and making the kids French Toast out of an enormous gifted Panettone. So basically I was a lighthouse keeper's wife.

And this afternoon was the day of the big skating party, which went off without a hitch, even though there was a game at the end with a moderate amount of competitiveness. Even though he still has to wear his splint for another three days. And even though I pictured another evening lost to urgent care every time he fell.



He is totally hooked. Here is a preview of tomorrow's post. This also happened this weekend. It was a fun weekend.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Skating holiday funtime!


Remember when I was bitching about it being seventy five degrees in November? Yeah. The high today is 42, which happened at six this morning (we are now on the way down) and I WILL NEVER BE WARM AGAIN. Certainly not after tomorrow's pre-dawn, 26 degree row, that I have extremely mixed feelings about.

Charley was invited to a birthday party on Sunday at a freaking roller rink. He really likes the kid who is having the party, so I RSVPed yes, despite my intense misgivings about the combination of a chaotic social setting plus a difficult activity he has never done before plus some med issues we have not completely nailed down yet and the high (HIGH) potential for a freakout and general unhappiness (NOT ENOUGH SEROTONIN IN THE WORLD). When I told him about the party he was so excited that it was for his friend A, who he described as "the nicest kid in all of 4th grade". And then when I told him it was a roller skating party he said, simply, "Oh." Because he GETS how stressful this situation was likely to be for him.

I was desperate for a way to make it work. So my dad and I decided to take him and the other boys skating on Wednesday afternoon so he could give it a try.

I was meeting them straight from work and arrived first. I was too excited to wait for them so I took a few laps on my own before they arrived. It was SO FUN you guys.


Then the kids arrived and put on their skates and much baby Bambi on ice hilarity ensued. It took two adults and about twenty minutes of time just to get everyone from the bench to the door to the rink. Once we got there, they spent most of their time slipping and falling and hanging onto the wall. One of the workers got each of them a PVC walker to hang onto for their first few laps, but once they got the hang of it they started having a lot more fun.


As usual, Wes picked it up quickly, befriended another kid his age and began horsing around. I was hoisting James off the floor for the fourteenth time when Wes blew past me running on his skates like a Clydesdale, yelling "MOM CHECK THIS OUT!!" He and the other boy had a blast chasing each other, playing tag, and falling in the most dramatic fashion possible. They also rolled right into the men's room despite the warning of one of the workers: "I've had a lot of kids go face first into the urinal when they try to skate in there!"


Charley befriended one of the ladies who works there and she showed him how to get going fast and stop and turn. He spoke to her in Spanish, which she thought was fantastic and I found a bit concerning since I DON'T speak Spanish and have no idea what anyone was saying. He was smiley and jokey and happy and every time he fell he flashed me a huge smile and a thumbs up. The worker approached me to tell me what a cool kid he is and I beamed. Because, YES. He told me "I FEEL SO HAPPY! I'M NOT EVEN A LITTLE STRESSED OUT! I LOVE SKATING!"

Whenever I could I sneaked in a few laps of my own. Breezing past the kids and gently taunting them.

I had just texted Ryan to let him know what a weirdly good time we were all having when Charley careened into a row of picnic tables that were propped against the wall near the arcade and knocked one over onto himself.

I was near the door to the rink and got there as fast as I could. The bottom of the table had fallen on his thumb and clearly it hurt him terribly. The workers brought him ice and a pack of Starbursts and we all told him funny stories until he felt better. He don't want to go back on his skates. The other kids skated for about thirty more minutes while Charley looked at the video games and hung out with my dad and then we decided to leave so we could get dinner and make it to choir on time. Only when we went outside in the sunshine Charley's thumb looked Not Good.

He was musing aloud about how fun it is to have a broken bone at school as we pulled out of the parking lot. Wes said if he could break anything it would be his leg. All of them asked if we could buy skates on the way home.

Later we went to the doctor, who visibly flinched when she looked at Charley's poor battered thumb. "And you said a TABLE fell on it?" she asked, looking me over the top of her glasses. She said based on the crazy swelling and general purpleness of the thumb he got to get an x-ray.


That was the souvenir he got to take to school. He also got a cool splint.


He was HIGHLY EXCITED about wearing the splint to school this morning. I begged him over breakfast, "Please don't be annoying with that thing!"

The radiology report this morning was "unremarkable" and I am still waiting to talk it over with the doctor. One of my medical friends texted last night with great concern after seeing the x-ray on Facebook. It was not a restful night as my super-rational sleepy brain worked out every single possibility including death by broken bone a la Phineas in A Separate Peace. Charley's biggest concern, besides how awesome it is to wear a giant splint to school, is teaching Wes the treble part of Angels We Have Heard on High so he can still play piano at church on Christmas Eve. Wes gave him a handful of quarters this morning so he could play the games at the birthday party Sunday instead of skating.

Everyone still wants to go back to the skating rink. Today if possible. Um, no.