Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Our Annual Experiment in Communal Living

Stealing a couple of moments from the ABSOLUTELY INSANE mid-semester schedule I have set for myself for reasons I do not understand.  On the one hand I am super excited to be launching weather balloons from our campus, five of them over the next six weeks, on the other hand O.M.G.  Cat herding does not begin to describe it.  And one of the cats is the only person with a key to the closet where my five foot tall helium tank is stored.  Serenity now.

I am at a bit of an impasse with the online submission management tool I am attempting to use for a manuscript I have written (if by written you mean wrung my brain into a bloody pulp that then dripped onto a bunch of pages).  SO.  Let's look at some soothing camping pictures instead.

This was the view out the back door of our cabin. You guys.


I've mentioned this in past years, but the best part of this weekend every year is the free range children everywhere.


Charley fished for approximately sixteen hours and it was probably the happiest he has ever been. He caught NINE FISH.


This is pretty much what I saw every time I thought to look for James.


And this.


There was a hike up a giant cliff.


Ryan was threatened with bodily harm for allowing this to happen.


We weren't allowed to swim in the river because we couldn't find lifeguards in time, so the kids made do. Mary played here for two hours while I sat nearby in the shade with a bunch of wonderful friends.



And of course, we wound down the night with s'mores...




And the best hour of my life every year, THE SING A LONG. You guys. They LET ME JOIN THEM THIS YEAR! Because I knew a Joni Mitchell song!!


Saturday night I looked up from my card game to realize that it was eleven o'clock and Charley and Wes were still awake--somewhere. I found Charley playing Nukem with his YOUTH GROUP FRIENDS (HE IS ALMOST IN YOUTH INSTEAD OF CHILDREN AND I CANNOT DEAL*) and Wes was playing Gaga ball with another kid (soooooo against the cast rules).

*When we first started going on this retreat, Charley was TWO and I remember thinking the Youth kids were so huge and ungainly and loud. Now he is a Youth and Charley is also huge and ungainly and loud. This happened with startling speed. It's not so much that I still think of him as my bayyybeeee, it's how WELL he occupies his giant, strong body. He has TAKEN off this year, relishing opportunities for independence, deftly setting up tents and cooking fried eggs (always making a couple over-hard for Wes), and yesterday he ran a ten minute mile. It is BREATHTAKING. On the other hand? He still loves hugs.

I herded them back into the cabin and into bed where we promptly forgot to brush teeth and put on Wes's headgear because there ain't no party like a church camp party cause a church camp party don't stop.

Worship on Sunday morning is always a highlight for me, except that this time my children were expressing their disappointment at our imminent departure by beating each other and whining. about. everything. Mary got over herself for children's time. She loves a good children's time.


And then during Communion she dropped her bread in the cup and began SCREAMING, comically loud, because she thought I STOLE HER ELEMENTS.

I whisked her out of the pavilion, still screaming, and put her down to try and figure out what was going on. When she angrily threatened to throw the remaining juice-soaked-bread pinched between her little fingers I impulsively grabbed her arm and ate it right out of her hand. Unsurprisingly, this brought on a renewed intensity for screaming, and I had to remove her from the area. At the end of worship, the pastor gave Charley the extra elements so he could distribute them among the kids (they can't be thrown away). He came up to a sniffling Mary and offered her the bread, saying "The body of Christ, broken in love for you." Then he held up the cup, "Blood of Christ, offered in love for you." She dipped her bread and ate it.

It was such a beautiful moment.

And totally redeemed the man-trum he was having earlier about being required to go to chapel instead of fishing.

We stopped at a fun brewery and German restaurant on the way home for my annual tasting flight and bratwurst sandwich with dear friends and then headed for my parents' house for a nice dinner. We also bathed the children there, because dang.

We are all wondering why we don't live at camp permanently.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Things we did not do this week

Among things I never expected to do as a parent, encouraging my nine year old to lie by omission to his orthopedist regarding our spring break activities must rank among the top ten.

It started innocently enough. Wes had a checkup on Monday, during which he asked the ortho straight out if he could go hiking. I blame myself for never teaching Wes about plausible deniability. The doctor said no, because as he explained, if he fell, he could break the OTHER arm, and THEN WHERE WOULD WE BE. He looked at me apologetically and told me to keep him calm and inside for the next eleven weeks. First rule of getting people to do things is not asking them to do impossible things.

We went straight from his checkup at the doctor's office to the movies, for a sensible screening of A Wrinkle In Time. I had packed a picnic to eat beforehand, which we ate in a park. The other kids played while Wes laid on a hammock. I did not let him run! Or climb! Or slide! Because I am a Rule Follower.


By midweek all of that had gone out the window and we were climbing the sheer face of the biggest hunk of granite in Texas.


That little spec on the horizon, just to the right of the middle? Is a person.


I was careful to not post any of these to social media until we were safely back at the bottom, lest we tempt fate or concern my mother too much.



It was fun and everyone came home with their arms in more or less the same state of wholeness/brokenness with which they arrived, so WIN!

The night before the super secret hike, we camped in the park.



We cooked chicken fajitas and beans on the fire for dinner, followed by s'mores for dessert. In the morning we made scrambled eggs and bacon. We tried cooking bacon in a foil packet but it ignited and the grease made a HUGE flame. Fortunately, we only lost a few pieces of experimental bacon. Ryan and I thought this was hysterical because we had reached the punchy part of the outing.

We made a lot of fires because the overnight low was IN THE THIRTIES. My clothes smelled amazing. I accidentally put on the jeans I was wearing at the camp out yesterday and wondered for a moment if the house was burning down around me.

This is Charley and Wes's tent (I swear they had sleeping bags at bedtime). Wes woke up disoriented at two o'clock in the morning and punched Charley until he woke up. In Wes's defense, Charley is a snuggler.

Everyone else slept in here. It was quite cozy! Except for Ryan, who had forgotten his sleeping bag and slept curled into his parka, wrapped in two throw blankets I'd grabbed off the couch on the way out the door.


After all that sneaky hiking, shivering, and cooking, we headed for home. The kids barely made it out of the park.


Charley gave this note to a ranger on our way out and after we got home someone sent me a link--the ranger had posted it on the park's Facebook page with a comment about how it had made their day!


I struggled Thursday morning to come up with an activity that was appropriate for all ages, that was inexpensive, that did not involve water, and that could be done with one hand, and then it came to me.



And then we met friends in our little town for ice cream on the plaza, which morphed into ordering pizza and staying for a free concert by a Bluegrass band. Mary waited patiently in the free face paint line for nearly thirty minutes and YOU GUYS. She kept it on for two days.


I knew I was in for a treat when Charley was in the chair and I saw the artist look something up on her phone.

Wide mouth bass

And then finally, on Friday I took them to the zoo with some friends.


All that magical family togetherness special time took its toll and by late morning on Saturday I was SUPER HAPPY to jump in my car and go help my friend Heather unpack her new house ALONE. We worked for a pleasant five hours and then I went home and got ready because GOOD NEWS, our babysitter was free and we were GOING OUT! Ryan and I went to a bar downtown that has really good pretzels and beer cheese and nachos and SERENDIPITOUSLY stumbled onto a St. Patty's day celebration with themed beers and appetizers. Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, FIREMEN CAME OUT WITH BAGPIPES AND DRUMS. They were on a pub crawl, SO WE FOLLOWED THEM. It was THE FUNNEST. And also, by the time I got home I was ready to participate in family life again. It was just what I needed. Cheese, pretzels, and bagpipes. I had no idea. Spring break. It was a good one.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

It was going to be epic

Ryan and I were enjoying a hamburger lunch anniversary celebration yesterday early afternoon when I looked down to check my phone and saw three missed calls from the school in a span of twenty minutes followed by a text from the school nurse's personal phone. "Wes has broken his arm. Call me ASAP." At the same moment I was reading that, Ryan got a call from my dad, who is our emergency contact. He said "I'm in the car, do you need me to come?" Ten communications with three different people in twenty minutes scared the shit out of both of us and we were in the car in less than thirty seconds (sad news about all the truffle fries we had to leave behind). Fortunately we were able to get to the school within five minutes (someone cut us off on the way there. I honked while Ryan handled the obscene hand gestures) and they ushered us back as soon as we walked in, without even scanning our licenses to make sure we hadn't committed any felonies in the three days since our last visit to the school.

Wes was crouched on a chair, his entire body wrapped around a pile of blankets and a red octopus stuffed animal that was supporting his wrist and several ice packs. He was MOANING. It was a HORRIBLE moment. Not quite as horrible as when the nurse lifted up the ice packs to show me that Wes's forearm was SNAPPED in HALF, bent at a crazy unnatural angle, swollen and bruised. He couldn't walk, he couldn't stand up. He screamed as we transferred him into a wheelchair and rolled him out to the car. All of our amazing office staff and administrator ladies following behind worrying about him, giving us shoulder squeezes, telling him to feel better.

While Ryan buckled Wes in (not a small feat), the nurse calmly told me that if his fingers turned purple or became cold to the touch that we should pull over and call an ambulance.

Ryan drove eighty down the interstate on the way to the children's hospital while I attempted feebly to distract him with cat videos and Harry Potter videos and this incredibly raunchy YouTube show that his friends are allowed to watch but he is not (eventually we both got uncomfortable and he asked me to change it, HA!). Every time we went over a bump he started crying louder.

I called my mom and said "Please get the other kids. Please bring an overnight bag, just in case. I have to go." So that was probably fun for her.

When I rolled him into the emergency room and was checking him in they asked if they could get anything for him and I said that he needed some pain medication. She started to say "We can't do that out here..." as she pulled up the blanket and ice pack covering Wes's arm and then stopped abruptly, scooped up her walkie talkie and announced "WE HAVE A DEFORMITY!" Immediately, the Deformity Action Team arrived. One ordered intranasal narcotics for him, one splinted his arm, one hooked up his monitors, one found him something interesting on TV, one got him an ice pack. They put numbing meds over the veins in his good arm to prep him for an IV, they cooed and fussed over him and tucked his blankets in tight, complimented his Octopus, asked him about the cool trick he was trying to do on the monkey bars. Everyone talked directly to him and called him "Wes". I want to marry all of them.

(When I asked him what he did on the monkey bars right before this happened he said simply "It was going to be epic." Children's ER nurses and doctors have Strong Feelings about monkey bars.)

When the pain meds hadn't kicked in fifteen minutes later (and all the ice, Curious George, and singing lullabies also didn't help), they gave him an IV and then gave him morphine. He was a one-man opioid epidemic. The pain started to improve slightly so they rolled him over to xray in his bed and gently tucked the plates under him without moving him, then angling the camera every which way to get a good image.

I wasn't going to look but then curiosity got the best of me. Holy shit.


They took us to a new room that quickly filled with people. His sedation nurse, his orthopedic PA, his orthopedic doctor, two more regular nurses, the ER doctor. They all suited up in lead vests and they rolled a big portable xray machine in. They explained that they were going to sedate him and try to put the bone back together, then put the cast on him. While they were talking, the Morphine finally kicked all the way in and Wes fell asleep. Then they sedated him officially and sent us to the waiting room. Were out there thirty minutes and when they called us back to his room the orthopedic PA was sweaty and flushed. Apparently there was a struggle. Wes was resting with a new green cast on his arm. They let him have a PowerAide then cut a crack down the side of the cast to allow for swelling and taped everything in.

When they took more xrays, Wes, who was still super goofy from the meds, smiled and posed for every "picture". Even when his face was behind the xray plate.

He was ready to go much faster than we expected, they gave him this giant blue cone of shame to hold his arm in the upright position for the next three days, and sent us home.

So happy to be going home! So high!

We arrived home to three curious siblings and a homemade meal of mac and cheese and ham.


Wes ate seconds, despite having had a hamburger, fries, and a chocolate milkshake in the car on the way home from the ER. I also had a milkshake and so did Ryan.

Because my kid broke his arm in half.

We gave him a very careful bubble bath and then got everyone in bed before collapsing on the couch with ALLS the WINES.

I realized this morning that I had a milkshake and a handful of Cadbury mini eggs, plus two glasses of wine FOR DINNER. OOPS.

Wes came and got in bed with us this morning and I asked him if he remembered falling asleep in the emergency room. He said "I fell asleep and then I went through this portal of triangles and they kept slamming me against the concrete, but it didn't hurt. I ran a race. They hung a bunch of things on my arm, but it didn't hurt. And then I went through the portal of triangles again and then I woke up and had a cast." Which sounds, AMAZING. They DID say they were going to have to hang things off his hand and pull and push him to get the bones back in place.

Apparently the sedative did not give him amnesia like they said it might, but instead he turned the procedure into some kind of hallucinatory experience. Bitchin!

All the sibs signed his cast before school this morning.


And then my mom arrived with another milkshake and a trunkload of groceries so I could go get ready for class. I really, really reallyreallyreallyreally want to be home right now, but Things are Happening at work and I will get into THAT story someday, maybe, probably. And plus also, Wes ALSO WENT TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM ON SUNDAY because he fell out of a chair and split his lip!! Not my best week ever!!!!!!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

A post as disorganized as my head feels right now

I already knew today was going to be a complete mess because Wes had a doctor's appointment at 1:00, which was the exact same time my afternoon class starts, which means Ryan was going to have to take him. Also, I had like eight thousand dollars worth of equipment in my car that I needed to unload into my office and I was going to have zero spare moments in which to do it because my first class starts at ten, and that was going to be followed by a lunch meeting with a Congressional staffer. A GOP Congressional staffer, who wanted to talk with some of us about CLIMATE. And lunch would be followed immediately by my afternoon class. This only left the period between eight and ten to both unload my car and prep for class. This seemed harder when I was thinking about it at midnight last night.

And then! James was up all night complaining that his toes hurt and when he got up for the morning it was plainly obvious that no one was going anywhere without taking him to the doctor because they were PURPLE.

That meant that I had no choice but to cancel my morning class and take him because Ryan was already taking part of the afternoon off to take Wes to therapy. We practically high fived as we passed in the school lobby! These were the third and fourth kid appointments this week. OMG.

Does not adequately convey the alarming color

The pediatrician was so startled by his toes that she went to fetch the podiatrist. Then the two of them spent several minutes discussing various possibilities while James interjected helpful comments like "Oh no, I never wear socks" and "Maybe it's from all the sand I keep in my shoe?"

The two doctors considered calling in a dermatologist but decided against it because the one they had in mind "likes to biopsy everything."

Finally a plan was determined, as the podiatrist washed his hands for the third time. We would spend the rest of the day wearing SOCKS AND SNEAKERS WITH NO SAND and then text a picture of the toes to the pediatrician in the morning.

I can't imagine a job where you ask someone to text you pictures of inflamed toes.

We stopped at Target to buy him a pair of sneakers that does not smell like rotting flesh and some new socks. And then we went home to wash and Aquaphor his feet. They appear to be doing better this afternoon.

Because of the congressional staffer lunch I chose a navy shirt dress and red ballet flats instead of dressing like a roadie for the Nevermind tour like I normally do. I felt so fancy all day (You: this is a normal grownup outfit, you weirdo). I do love a full skirt. And a mirror that can be angled slightly upward for Amazon selfies.


Wes did some Wes things.


Mary got to wear a new dress today too, and chose to accessorize with her most elaborate hairbows.


I got to launch a weather balloon with some students yesterday.




And on Tuesday night my friend Kelly and I tailgated at the Jen Hatmaker event in town, which was PHENOMENAL (both the tailgating and Jen).


And and and! The kids all advanced in their Scout ranks at the Blue and Gold this weekend which means that Charley is NO LONGER A CUB SCOUT. They have a ceremony designed for maximum emotional gut punching in which the kid WALKS AWAY FROM YOU, over a bridge, and off the stage, but only after you take off their neckerchief. I cannot even THINK about this. Ryan and I avoided eye contact the entire time because we were both MOMENTS from full on ugly crying. Fifth grade is a ROUGH year, friends.


Ryan had a meeting tonight so I made an early waffle dinner and then we hung out in the living room together for an hour before bedtime. I took this from my position folding laundry by the fire, because it was such a cozy scene.