Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Christmas and James's Christmo-birthday

I don't think anything can summarize the past week better than this picture of an empty cinnamon roll pan on the living room floor beside a half-finished game of Battleship, some homemade croc stilts, and a family of denuded mice standing in front of their house.


Today was actually a huge improvement over Christmas Eve and Christmas, when I could barely function for all the sneezing and scratching and the sensation that my sinuses were attempting to escape through my forehead. In an exciting turn of events for Ryan, I basically slipped into a coma at eight o'clock on Christmas Eve. I muttered some hasty instructions as he tucked me into bed and when I awakened at two thirty feeling somehow much better, I went downstairs to find Santa's workshop in full swing in the garage and Ryan cheerfully making a breakfast strata in the kitchen. That, my friends, is a MAN.

It was then that I turned to face the living room and realized just how out of it I must have been because WOW. My contribution to Christmas 2018 was a VERY NECESSARY ten-minute tidy of the downstairs before realizing that I'd overestimated my recovery and got back in bed. Ryan deployed Christmas in its entirety sometime after that and then came to bed I don't even know when.

Man cold aside, it was Christmas! So I gathered my robe around myself and parked on the couch with my kleenex box to watch the magic unfold. The kids are the PERFECT ages and they were so, so cute and wonderful.

Santa brought James a box of sheets to use for fort-building (and a battery-powered lantern that he could use inside, so he would stop leaving his desk lamp turned on with a sheet draped over it in his room).


Wes and Mary are loving Mary's doll house.


My parents came over and stayed all day, which was great fun.


We had a feast! (that my parents orchestrated because I was still only semi-coherent)


They also brought owl pellets for the kids, which I'd never considered a holiday activity before but now will be sure to include in our festivities.


I've completely forgotten to mention James's eighth birthday, which was as it always is, cozy and sweet and tucked in the midst of a variety of holiday obligations and activities. His wish list was simple: books, a cozy blanket, and his own case of Topo Chico, and we were happy to fulfill it all.


(Before we could have his birthday dinner, tomato soup and breakfast tacos, we had to take Charley to a late swim practice that got moved across town because of a heater issue. #thirdbaby)


It's pretty hard to imagine him as anything other than a cute little toddler, but he is a pretty great kiddo, even playing "Away in a Manger" for the prelude at church on Christmas Eve.


We love our little guitar playing, skateboarding, topo chico-loving hipster baby.


Who built a xylophone with his empties tonight after bedtime.


And NOW, Ryan is back at work and we are just cooling our heels for the next ten or so days until I have to go to Phoenix for a conference. Today's theme was games and cinnamon rolls and I didn't put my shoes on or leave the house once, even to get something from the car.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

So we needed that.

On the spectrum that ranges from people who like holiday breaks because everything is shiny and festive and there are cookies everywhere on the left to people who like holiday breaks because every school day feels like the last thirty minutes of "Saving Private Ryan" on the right, sixth grade parents must be only slightly less close to the right hand side than sixth grade teachers and administrators.

I assume this is why it only took thirty seconds for my friend V to arrange for a sitter for our combined seven children when I texted her the other afternoon and asked if she would like to go to Beer n' Carols at a brewery near my house.

Like literally, thirty seconds after she said "I could try to find a sitter for all the kids," she texted back to say "My sitter is free! Your house or mine?"

Last night was the night. I arranged cookie decorating, coloring, and game stations in my house in hopes that if the babysitter (Whom I had never met) could divide the kids into smaller groups, it wouldn't be so overwhelming. And then Ryan arrived with the pizza, V and her family picked the swimmer kids up from practice and met me at our house, we handed off some hasty instructions and the Netflix password, and then screeched out of the driveway like the place was on fire (AFTER we made James and his buddy Cash, who we discovered eating pizza in the dark in the front yard, to go back inside and STAY inside, because, as I told him in a screechy tone, "Kelly is not here to chase you all over the neighborhood in the dark!").

(Me: Wes, have a great time! Love you!
Wes: Wait, where am I going?)

We met up with some other friends when we got there. J brought her daughter, who is Charley's age, who sat looking bored the whole time but did not destroy anything or get lost in the woods like my kids would have done. Raising a girl must be so different.

(Also I am just realizing that V and J and I all met in the church mom's group more than ten years ago when our oldest kids were just learning to WALK)

We raised a toast to sixth grade. There was some profanity.


Ryan was there too! And there were no kids!


There was beer, a cozy seating area, and a band of gingham-wearing hipsters playing banjos and mandolins and stand up basses.

I could tell that we all, um, needed this.

This was especially evident when the band finished up at the end of the night and no one moved.

The four of us arrived back at my house to find seven happy kids in their jammies watching TV. The sitter reported that every few minutes James and Cash exclaimed "This is the BEST NIGHT EVER! Let's HUG!" Charley put himself to bed with a book. They ate all the cookies and an entire batch of frosting. I don't really know what went on here, but the place was still standing, so we will probably hire her again. We plunked them all in bed and watched National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. It was perfect.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

It's a pierogie par-tay

When we last spoke, Ryan and I were up until one o'clock in the morning making pierogies, supervising a 6th grade project on Greece, and coaxing (forcing) unwilling children to engage in basic levels of personal hygiene. That DAY turned into a WEEK. Wednesday I had my choir concert, which was one of the highlights of the semester for me, except for the fact that on the way there, I had to pick the kids up at school, and was met in the school lobby by the assistant principal, who is awesome, but who gave me his cell phone number because things were THAT BAD. This was DISTRACTING.

Thursday night I was singing with the choir at our campus's candlelight Advent service, which was also SO COOL and something that is deserving of its own post because choir, has been great. I was in BAND. And not just band, but DRUMLINE, and choir is not something I ever considered for myself, but I needed SOMETHING FUN this semester and the director opened choir up to faculty and I just sort of signed up on a whim. A whim I am grateful for. But even though I was supposed to sing in two services, and even though I would have loved to sing in two services, I bowed out of the second one and went home where I put on my pajamas and turned on Father Brown with great intentionality because REST, it is a thing.

Friday we had four inches of rain and a cold front which dropped the temperature into the mid-thirties and Charley left after dark with a bunch of unfamiliar people for a Scout backpacking trip. You guys know I have NO CHILL about flash flooding. Too many awful stories around here and too much professional background in heavy precipitation. I was a MESS when he left. And then just sort of figured no news was good news all weekend. It was really wonderful to see his smiling face on Sunday at pickup.

But back to the original point of this post, which was the party we held on Saturday night called "Friend-gilia" based loosely on the Polish celebration of Christmas Eve that my aunt holds for us each year. My aunt was born in Poland and moved to the US as a teenager. She and her mother used to make us Pierogies and borcht and fish every Christmas Eve, starting when I was in high school. It was all so unfamiliar at first, but soon became a beloved part of our holiday. I took baby Charley to Wigilia, and then toddler Charley and baby Wes, carefully tying a dishtowel around fat little necks to keep their Christmas shirts free from borsct stains. James attended his first Wigilia at four days old and I ate my pierogies and sour cream one-handed over his head as he slept curled into my neck. The kids look forward to it each year. A couple of years ago Ryan learned to make pierogies and we hosted Wigilia for our family and my aunt and uncle. And this year, we wanted to host it for our friends. Which is why we had to make a hundred and fifty pierogies.

I took exactly ONE picture of the party, which is a bit of a bummer because I love going back through pictures, but I was having too much fun. The meal is meatless, and I was concerned about people being too hungry, so I made WAY TOO MUCH food: roasted veggies, roasted brussells sprouts, winter fruit salad with pomegranate seeds apples and pecans, chopped radishes and cucumbers and a yummy red dip, tilapia with parmesan and tomatoes, a double batch of potato leek soup, and a cheese plate. My friend Heather brought her amazing kugel, my friend Irina brought an incredible borcht. In the last minutes, I threw together a pot of Pioneer Woman mac and cheese for the kids. And then of course were the pierogies, which were the star of the show. I set Ryan up at his frying station on the island with an electric skillet, three sticks of butter, and a 3 quart Corningware full of diced onions. He fried pierogies for THREE HOURS, chatting and laughing with our friends. It paid off--my aunt, the pierogie expert, complimented his technique enthusiastically.

Dessert was a supermarket-sweep style raid of the Costco bakery area--cheese cake, a large cookie platter, a chocolate mousse cake, and tray of peppermint bark. This did not disappoint.

I should also note that the morning of the party we awakened reasonably certain that Ryan was suffering from the FLU, so I bundled the kids off to pick up all the groceries (at Curbside, thank god, though the woman who brought me my groceries seemed alarmed by the amount of alcohol and sour cream I required), then to Costco for dessert, as I SOSed my parents and asked them if they could come just a bit early and maybe help me put things together. They did ten times better than that, showing up at noon with an armload of pizza. My mom went to work in the kitchen, peeling and chopping a three foot tall pile of vegetables on my counter while I made soup and mac and cheese and we both fussed at and laughed with the kids.

Also the house was in shambles due to the chaos of the week, so I dealt with that. It was...alarming.

Ryan arrived back from urgent care with a diagnosis of a (non-contagious!!) sinus infection during this time and was ready to jump in, scrubbing the bathroom walls and hanging garland over the arch between our foyer and living room.

I was exhausted by the time friends started to come, but soon the adrenaline and wine took over and I settled into a comfortable flurry of activity (and twenty unsupervised children is a FLURRY). In the middle of the party a student from my school arrived to play the piano for the sing-a-long portion of the evening. My absolute favorite part of the party was so many loved ones crowded into our dining room, singing together with the candles and wine. The kids, who were all milling around upstairs, jumped in when we sang familiar songs like Jingle Bells. More friends arrived. A neighbor walked in to collect her daughter, James's friend, totally unaware of the chaos going on inside my house. I handed her a glass of wine and a song book and she had some dessert with us. James wandered into the dining room to sing clutching a pierogie in one fist and a Topo Chico in the other.

(I'm still finding Topo Chico bottles in my house. It's like a millenial Easter egg hunt. Indoors and out. Ryan found a bottle opener in our front yard a week after the party because we are classy AF)

Because everyone has middle-aged kids lots of people said their goodbyes by eight thirty and by nine there were just three families lingering in my kitchen. James came in and insisted we take a family-friend picture before it was time to go, and we were all happy to do it.


We scrambled everyone into bed and spent a pleasant hour boxing up leftovers, scrubbing serving dishes, and getting things back together. The next morning I laid in bed staring at the picture and reliving every moment and wishing I could somehow fit twice as many people into my house (can't exactly rely on the outside being hospitable in December, even here). I can't wait to do it ALL again. Because clearly I've forgotten what it's like to make a gross of pierogies. Brains are funny like that. Enjoy this charming picture of the kids at the Christmas lights last night.


Wednesday, December 5, 2018

It was a DAY

I've heard more people use this expression lately and I noted to myself that I kind of liked it and then, well, yesterday, it was a DAY.

It was a DAY that started at 3:00 AM with a kid SCREAMING on the toilet because it hurt to pee. What I thought was run of the mill skin irritation did not improve with my halfhearted, middle of the night Aquaphor application, and we were awakened by this hysterical screaming approximately every forty five minutes for the rest of the night. Finally we put this child in bed with us, both because of proximity to the bathroom and because of a door that closed so that the kid didn't continue to wake up all the other kids. OMG. It was a long night.

In the morning it was clear that this child could not possibly go to school in this state, so we kept them home, which meant that Ryan and I had to blearily get everyone else ready. I dropped them off at school and went to teach a statics class on finding moments of inertia by integration, which went surprisingly well given the circumstances.

I then picked up another kid at school for a med check and drove to the doctor's office where Ryan was going to meet me with the sick kid (who by this point had been diagnosed by the on call pediatrician with a UTI). Ryan texted to say that there was no way this kid could sit through a med check what with the extremely urgent peeing every thirty minutes. So we did the appointment and then met him and the UTI kid at home.

Ryan took the med check kid back to school while I sat on the couch with the UTI kid and alternately worked, ran the kid to the bathroom (the screaming!!), arranged towels on the couch, and washed a load of undies.

Sometime that afternoon we drove to the pool to hand off Charley's swim equipment to the sitter, who had picked everyone up at school (And thank goodness, because there was no way the UTI kid could have made it through the carline).

And then we all drove home where I attempted to work on a paper holed up in my bedroom and sometimes had to run downstairs to talk someone through a screamy bathroom session.

Sometime around 5:30 I emerged from the haze to realize that we did not have any food for dinner. This was problematic.

I begged the sitter for an extra thirty minutes than usual, ordered a pizza, drove to CVS to buy PullUps (because DAMN), picked up the pizza, and went home. Ryan got Charley at swimming and met us at home, then left for his guys' night at the bowling alley. After pizza I forced everyone to take a shower. This sounds normal, except one other kid, who refuses to wear socks, gets these gross blisters on his feet. The shower was not negotiable at this point for a lot of reasons, but he was freaked out about the water hurting his blisters and LOST HIS DAMN MIND when it was time to get in.

So this is how I found myself standing in my master bathroom holding a child under the shower and washing his hair as he screamed at the top of his lungs "YOU ARE KILLING ME! I'M GOING TO DIE! I'M DYING! YOU'RE KILLING ME! WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!" with plenty of extraneous blood curdling screams thrown in for good measure while a second child sat on the potty ALSO SCREAMING because it hurt to pee.

I was JUST WAITING for the SWAT team to show up.

Finally, the shower kid was satisfactorily clean (this took a grueling eight minutes) and I wrapped him in a towel, carried him to his room, dressed him in pajamas, and tucked him into bed. I instructed him to use some of his CBT calming techniques and take some deep breaths while I returned to the bathroom to make sure the other kid took a shower.

And THEN it was time for homework, where another kid who shall remain nameless but whom is having a bit of a TIME learning the ropes of time management required in middle school, announced casually that this large project was due on Thursday and that he hadn't exactly started working on it yet, AND that he chose not to work in a group so he was going to have to do the work of four students in the next two days.

And let's just say that this kids' research skills are in the developmental stage. I sketched out the headings he needed to research on eight pages of paper, handed him the Chromebook and told him to GET STEPPING. After much sighing and moaning and flouncing around and threatening and cajoling, I finally started having him read things out loud, summarizing them verbally, and then writing down the notes MY DAMN SELF just so we could build some forward momentum.

I was also supervising another kid's reading and handwriting specialist homework at the same time and submitting to an interview from a third kid about "my favorite idioms" so he could draw cartoons about them in his homework journal.

Also the UTI kid was there wearing a PullUp, which made my life about six million times easier.

I put the younger kids to bed as they got sleepy and at nine thirty I finally had to cut Mr. I Have To Understand The Entire History of Greece in Two Days off so he could get some sleep.

And then it was time to start making pierogies.

When Ryan got home at nine-forty-five and asked how many I had made, I calmly responded "One."

He opened a beer and rolled up his sleeves and by midnight we had banged out a hundred and five pierogies that are now carefully nestled in parchment paper in three of my baking pans in the fridge.

I went to bed at one AM still kind of wired. Only the knowledge that my choir concert was today kept me from taking a crack at our Christmas cards too.

Coffee time.