Thursday, July 17, 2014

Weekend Zoo Getaway

Last weekend my sister invited us to spend the weekend with her daughter's summer camp at a wildlife zoo/resort place about an hour away. It had cabins and a pool and free range wildlife wandering around the grounds and so basically it was perfect and we signed up with no hesitation, threw a bunch of food and beer in the car, and hit the road. First thing we did, after stopping at the store for a cookie cake and some more popsicles, three separate potty trips, gas, and Izze drinks for the kids, was hit the pool. At 7:00 PM. MADNESS. The kids did not know what to do with their new fun parents.

They were equally surprised when we hauled them out of the pool a couple hours later not to go to bed, but to make s'mores. James has good s'mores form.

I was slightly alarmed that the kids had to walk through a gate into the free range deer and donkey area to get to the playground, but this was just one more thing the kids thought was completely amazing. They named this deer Remy because it licked them like our nanny's dog of the same name.

Cousin s'mores! There were SO MANY S'MORES. When I got home and did laundry I found a pair of shorts with a s'more STUCK TO THE BUTT.

The next morning we were awakened by roosters crowing and then went out on the porch of our cabin to find them milling around on the lawn. Then they started "fighting."

The upstairs porch in our cabin was a huge hit slash terrifying since it was off the kids' bedroom. Later Charley would drop a plate from up there while having his lunch. I was downstairs in the kitchen and just managed to see it fly past the window. It's good that we are keeping our streak of breaking at least one thing at every vacation rental we've ever stayed in alive.

On Saturday we took a tram tour to see all the animals (the ones we couldn't see from our porch or the pool deck), like this Scottish Highlander cow that we got to feed.

Also, there were camels that stuck their heads right in the tram to eat out of your feed bucket.

Mary was dismayed by all of this. Later, a donkey brayed so loudly Mary started screaming and had to be put to bed.

Tram tour brothers.

And cousins.

We spent the rest of Saturday lounging around by the pool while the kids ran amok alternating between the playground, deer enclosure, and pool (the place wasn't very large and there was a fence and cattle guard keeping the kids from going too far or venturing into the kangaroo habitat). Wes and I were at the pool and a camel walked right up to the fence separating the wildlife area from the cabin area.

So naturally we woke Mary up so we could take a family picture.

Things took a turn for the whiney late Saturday afternoon so we took a little inside break where the only options for TV was drag boat racing, which they loved.

They moved to the table for a hot dog dinner but kept watching drag boat racing.

We are really good at trashing vacation rentals.

After dinner and relaxing it was time for MORE S'MORES. Followed by MORE SWIMMING. It is not hard to get kids to bed if you let them swim and eat crap until nearly eleven PM. I should really write a parenting blog.

They ate breakfast al fresco the next morning.

And spent a little more time with Remy.

And then, sadly, it was time to load up and head home.

But first we had to eat lunch at this Chili's with a view. Mary would like you to know she is "SO BIG".

And in case you are wondering it takes kids three full days to get over two nights of partying until 11:00. Three full days of REALLY AWFUL BEHAVIOR IN PUBLIC. So that was special. But it was so worth it. Today is better. Probably because they are at camp.

Monday, July 14, 2014

With sadness and gratitude for a life well-lived

It is hard to think about my grandmother, Helen Paulsen, without thinking of food.  From roast beef to lobster to pie to corn on the cob, she prepared dinner with love--for both people and food.  When I made my first roast beef, I took a picture of myself holding up the pan and posted it on Facebook.  I was so proud when I heard through the grapevine that she had been pleased to see it.  When Charley wolfed down three ears of corn on the cob the other night at dinner, I opened my mouth to say "Your great grandma would be proud!" but I didn't say anything, because that was the day after she passed away at the age of ninety-two and I had a lump in my throat.  This has been a difficult summer.

Having grown up in Boston, my grandma had a distinct New England accent. Once, as a young child, she said something about Mount Katahdin (in Maine). Thinking she had mispronounced it the same way she said car ("cah") and park ("pahk"), I "corrected" her, "No, Grandma, Mount Ka-TAR-din." She spent her girlhood summers in the same house in Maine we visit every summer. There are pictures of her swimming on the same beach we swim on, wearing a belt of cork to help her float. She and my mom once drove into the little town you pass through on the way to the house and she said "Every time I drive here I think 'What a lovely little town, this is a nice place to live.'" Always gracious and content.

During summer weeks spent at her house in Maine I learned needlepoint and card games, how to ride the trolley into town alone, to make my bed every morning, the names of all the different kinds of birds I could see from the porch (especially the Great Blue Heron), to appreciate Red Sox baseball.  On nights we had lobster ("lobstah" for my grandma), we all passed the shells down to my grandma who would spend an hour picking every last scrap of meat out of the bodies to make lobster salad for lunch the next day.  She was an expert.  When there was no meat left to pick she would carry the enameled steel bowl out to the rocks and shake the shells onto the seaweed, calling "Here, gully gully gully gully!"  A noisy flock of seagulls would swarm the carcasses as she walked back up to the house.  We loved watching them call their friends over to check out the loot then fight over the best pieces. 

Once, while she was visiting us in Texas, I asked her to show me how to roast a chicken, imagining a cozy afternoon cooking and sharing stories with my grandma.  Ever the practical New Englander, she replied "Why would you want to do that, you can buy them already cooked for seven dollars!"  I still tried to roast a chicken, and even boiled the carcass to make broth, but she's right.  You just can't beat a seven dollar chicken.

She always took great care of the house and everyone in the family, raising five children in four different countries.  She told me that in England the sun goes down so early you can put babies to bed at four o'clock in the afternoon!  For years I thought I should be doing a better job managing the house and all the kids and everything--after all, my grandma had done it in a time when husbands weren't expected to help with house or kids at ALL!  And Ryan was so helpful!--but then my mom told me that my grandma had told her, when they'd been discussing all I have to do, "She needs to get a girl to come and help!"  That certainly took the pressure off!

She grew up outside of Boston with her sister, Jean.  Their father was an MIT professor.  They slept with the windows open year round.  She loved to tell me that one chilly fall evening, she awakened to find SNOW blowing in through the window!  She did not tell me if they closed the window after that.

She attended Mount Holyoke College to study economics after high school and remained in touch with her classmates for decades.  Before getting married she lived in Boston in an apartment on Beacon Hill.  She walked through Boston Common on her way to work every day.  Ryan and I found the apartment at 30 Revere Street a few summers ago.  It is fascinating to be on that street, imagining my grandma living there as a young woman.

We gave Charley my grandma's maiden name, Hamilton, for a middle name.  Mary's middle name is Helen, after my grandma.  She was so excited when we told her Mary's name.  I hope that Mary will grow up with the same strength, grace, and character as her great-grandmother.  I am also deeply sad that they will never meet.  I was pregnant with Mary the last time I saw my grandma.  When our flight was canceled on the way home from New England last summer we ended up spending an extra day in the area.  We had a lovely brunch with her and my parents in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  We parked a block away and as we walked to the restaurant, Wes spotted his great grandma and RAN full speed the rest of the block then jumped into her arms for a huge bear hug.  We had a lovely couple of hours together.  I will be forever grateful for that canceled flight.

We go to Maine on Friday and things will just not be the same.  But I will try to make lobster (lobstah) and blueberry pie and maybe point out some birds to the kids and remember.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The War of 1812 2014

Mary would like to wish you a happy Fourth of July and to say that she is definitely not related to those two children beating each other in the park. No sir-ee-bob.

She also to know if we are freaking serious with that hat.

As always, we did the big neighborhood parade. Here are Mary and James hanging around waiting for it to start, while we talked about how nice the weather was for July 4 with our neighbors. I mean, a high of NINETY-FIVE is just UNHEARD of in July. This will not make sense to my friends from The North so you will just have to trust me. Normally by now it is hitting ninety-five around ten o'clock in the morning and by three o'clock it is too hot to swim. I feel like I'm on vacation.

Parade is moving! Barely! Note Wes with his hands-free popsicle, James with his helmet still on long after Ryan took his bike to the car when we realized we weren't going to get to the end of the 1/4 mile parade route before dark.

Afterward was the traditional spraying of the children with the firehose. Ryan and I missed it because we were standing by the judges table hoping Mary would win Judges' Favorite. She didn't but I think that's because the MC thought she was a *beauty queen* WTH. Charley and Wes, however, did make it to the firehose.

And then we had a massive public fight and threatened to take away the pancake breakfast which we then had to give back because WE TAKE THE PICTURE ON THE FIRETRUCK EVERY YEAR. TRADITION > DISCIPLINE, LESSON LEARNED.

Actually what worked is me pointing to a sobbing Wes, lying prostrate on the sidewalk by his bike a good six car lengths away from us and telling Charley through gritted teeth "YOU FIX THIS AND WE CAN HAVE PANCAKES. YOU HURT HIM AND NOW YOU FIGURE IT OUT." He stalked off and a few minutes later they walked up to the car, Charley pushing Wes's bike, Wes sniffling softly, and by the time we got to the firestation all was forgotten (by the children, I was still pissed). I can't even spin this fight in a funny way, which is surprising given the cartoonish way Charley rammed his bike into Wes's then jumped off as though propelled by some unseen hand and smacked him hard on the back, totally unprovoked, the culmination of an entire morning of shitty attitude and complaining. HAPPY FOURTH WHO WANTS A PATRIOTIC FRUIT SKEWER?! Or the way I somehow managed to lift seventy pounds of Charley off of Wes with one arm while yelling at him to stop RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY NEIGHBOR (who came over later to ask if I'd started drinking yet). I'm just so weary.


Let's start with just Charlie in 2008.


And adding in Baby Wes in 2009.

Firetruck Brothers

Slightly more grown up Charlie and Wes in 2010.

Annual Firetruck Picture

2011 we missed because we were on an airplane to Maine, so this one is funny because SURPRISE! A TODDLER!


And in 2013 we were all mad at each other due to low blood sugar, so there was no chummy arms around shoulders nonsense. Special memories!


In 2014, BOOM another baby! And a sullen teenager type!


We spent the rest of the day swimming in all the wading pools between my and my neighbor's yards, eating, and hanging out with my dad and some friends. And then, of course, fireworks. Everyone managed to keep all their digits. Another successful Fourth.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Professor Wes

Wes was en fuego last night at my research program's end of program dinner.  He managed to choke down two beef tacos before descending on the table of potluck desserts.  On his first trip he found a small piece of Texas sheet cake, some cookie cake, and a chocolate chip cookie.  And then later I saw him with a popsicle, and another cookie, and then another popsicle.  And I kind of lost track of his intake for a while.  And then he had some Fresca.  That must have been too much because then he threw up on the patio.  I told him to stay on this bench by some bushes just in case it happened again but instead he climbed behind the bench into the garden under a large bush and hid, giggling maniacally.

As we were leaving he started an ice war with Charley and James and the daughter of the director of my program with a pile of ice someone had dumped out of a cooler.

This was fun for a while before, somewhat predictably, they began throwing handfuls of ice at adults and yelling HAIL STORM!! 

I tried to shut that down but as I was yelling "COME GET IN THE CAR RIGHT NOW PLEASE" Wes hurled one massive ice ball at the back of my program's director and when I expressed horror at his judgement he shrieked gleefully "I WAS AIMING FOR HER BUTT!!!!"


I got him in the car VERY QUICKLY after that and tried to apologize but everyone was laughing so hard I thought it was best just to get the heck out of dodge.

Relative to those shenanigans, bathtime and bedtime were uneventful but when Ryan and I turned the corner to go upstairs to bed we were puzzled to find that the TV in our bedroom was on.

Wes was asleep on our bed in front of Rick Steve's Europe.  It was about Helsinki.

That was not part of the usual bedtime routine.

Ryan put him back in his own bed and I didn't think about it again until the next morning where Wes revealed that he had watched a VERY INTERESTING show about tornadoes.  He was FULL of information.

Here are some facts I learned about storm shelters FROM WES this morning over cinnamon toast:

--If there is a tornado don't go in the basement because the floor could bust in on you or it could flood

--The kind of plywood we use in our houses isn't good because it's just made of lots of pieces of wood glued together, we have to use the other kid with the lines that go down this way and some lines that go the other way (he showed me this part with his fingers).  It works really good when they shoot the hurricane cannon at it because the wood just BUSTS backwards!! (this part left quite an impression on him)

--They tested the other kind of wood (the bad kind) and the wood went RIGHT THROUGH IT!

--The best kind of window is made of two pieces of glass with plastic in between.  When they shot it with the cannon you could see where it hit but it DIDN'T GO THROUGH!!

--You should put your house up on stilts if there is a flood that way your house won't get flooded.

--We know that a tornado is a strong wind that can wreck things so you have to build a tornado place (shelter) to protect you.

Which is a pretty good summary of all the work done in tornado shelters and debris resistant construction done in the last thirty years.  His sneakiness is going to TAKE THAT KID PLACES.  Like graduate school at Texas Tech.  Somehow I think the debris impact cannon would suit his interests well.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

James explains it all

The other day James explained the birds and the bees to us over breakfast:

"We didn't have a baby, so we drove and drove and DROVE and drove [hospital is five mins from our house] and DROVE to the Baby Office."

What's the Baby Office?

"It's a BIG BIG building where you go if you don't have a baby."

What happened once you got to the baby office?

"We go inside and we go to the bedroom and I eat my breakfast [saltines from my nightstand] and then they bring in the baby!!"

How did they bring the baby in?

"Ummmm, in a shopping cart [the rolling bassinet does seem like a shopping cart]."

Then what happened?

"We say 'AWWWWWWWWW what a cute little baby!!"

What did we call the baby?


Aww, what a nice story, James!

"Can we do that again today?"


This is pretty much exactly what happened.

At the baby office. After they brought the baby out for our inspection.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Ain't no party like a strep throat party cause a strep throat party don't stop

Sunday night when I was painting my cabinet, I noticed that one side of my throat was a little bit painful when I swallowed.  I assumed that the power of magical thinking and also the power of I Don't Have Time to Get Sick would make it go away, but BOY WAS I WRONG.

Little throat tickle morphed into all night nausea plus sore throat party.  Neat!

I slept a little late the next morning and then forced myself to go into work for a few hours because I didn't want to miss the student seminars and the group picture.  And also, I'm an academic so I'm really just a floating head with no body right?  Even if my head was the part of my body that felt like it was wrapped tightly in barbed wire?

I managed to stay vertical long enough to point the students in a moderately productive direction for the rest of the afternoon then drove home in a fog and collapsed in my bed, where I stayed until about five when it became clear that the children would be needing dinner.  I wasn't going to let some little viral sore throat problem that I was probably overreacting to anyway get in the way of a little thing like making DINNER.

When Ryan came home I went back to bed and slept for several hours then woke up to watch Scandal with him then stayed up all night wondering why the Advil bottle was ALLLL the WAY DOWNSTAIRS, which might as well have been Pakistan considering my ability to get up and walk down there.  In a moment of desperation I unearthed some old cold medicine promising drowsiness don't operate heavy machinery in our bathroom and took that.  That helped some but I woke up around 7:00 feeling like I'd been hit by a truck.

Miss N took the kids to camp and Ryan went to work and I lay on my bed musing about JUST HOW BAD MY THROAT HURT.  I mean, I'd probably give it a nine out of ten.  My brain wasn't screaming for coffee either which was a sure sign that something was amiss.  Two times I dialed the doctor's office to make an appointment and two times I hung up, not wanting to spend $20 and sixty precious sitting up minutes only to hear that it was just a virus.  But finally I figured that I might possibly not be imagining the nine out of ten throat pain that had lasted for two days and maybe I should just get it checked out.

The nurse called my name and took me in the back to weigh me where I learned that a quick way to lose eight pounds is to not be able to swallow food for two days.  I'm going to make a FORTUNE selling strep bacteria on the home shopping network!  I should have waited it out another day and gone for TEN.

I had to wait kind of a longish time but I was really glad I had made the appointment when I found that I was most comfortable lying down on the four foot long table since that made things nominally less swirly and hurty in my head, though I still couldn't really swallow saliva.  I was sure the doctor would think I was a huge drama queen when she came in to find me in that position, but I didn't feel like I had a choice.

And then the doctor came in and said "Strep test is positive!  You get antibiotics!"

And then she looked at my throat and visibly recoiled.

It's always better to have a legit name for what is wrong with you than to just keep asking your husband to do extra things around the house because you don't "feel good."  A trip to the pharmacy (where you have to put your head down on the steering wheel while you wait because ACTUALLY VERY SICK NOT A DRAMA QUEEN) is even better.

I am back at home now doped up on antibiotics and an ibuprofen horse pill.  BRING ON THE CRAPPY TV!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Dancing all night (until 10 pm) and buying furniture at yard sales. Just like undergrad.

Big weekend around here. Saturday morning was the morning of the long-anticipated garage sale my university was having to discard a bunch of old science equipment and furniture ahead of a big renovation. I've had my eye on this giant microscope cabinet for two weeks but they wouldn't sell it to me early so I had to get up there right when the sale opened on Saturday to make sure no one took it. Luckily it was still there because I was becoming obsessed with paint colors and decorative knobs for the cabinet doors and staring longingly at the place in my house I will be putting it when I'm done fixing it up, imagining alllll the things I could put away in ALL TWENTY of those individual microscope lockers (DVDs, games, cards, kids' backpacks, winter accessories. It's going to be glorious.

With a little elbow grease.

Our new family catchphrase is "I trust your vision," which is what Ryan says to me now when I say things like "Let's put a fifty year old plywood microscope cabinet IN OUR LIVING ROOM!"

It's also what I said to him when he excitedly purchased a seven foot long double-sided whiteboard.

It's good he bought the whiteboard because I would have felt silly renting this pickup truck JUST for my cabinet (when it became clear that my plan to throw it on top of the van was both impractical and possibly dangerous to everyone else on the Interstate).

And also, my husband can tie cooler knots that your husband.

While Ryan was getting the truck and picking up our new treasure I forced the kids to go outside and eat popsicles. That relatively tranquil activity turned into this, slightly more likely to end in disaster, fun time (it did not end in disaster).

The pickup truck killed a good ninety-minutes of weekend summer malaise which was good because Ryan and I were saving our energy for our friends' double fortieth birthday blowout that evening (which was exactly as much fun as I imagined it would be when we arrived and saw the *DJ* setting up his stuff, OMG. Crazy kid dance party (seriously you haven't lived until you've watched a pack of sweaty kids doing Gangman Style and Cupid Shuffle) turned into crazy mom dance party. Also, somewhere there is a picture of Wes perched on top of a Little Tykes playhouse wearing a Davy Crockett fur-trimmed vest and brandishing a crossbow. Happy sigh, I have not had that much fun in a LONG time).

We got home at ten and told Miss N (who came to the party halfway through to pick up Mary and James. This is a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED IDEA) that we probably wouldn't see her at church in the morning because, WHOO BOY, BIG PARTY and also the kids were up super late, but GUESS WHOSE SMOKE ALARM WENT OFF AT 6:45 FOR NO REASON AND WOKE UP THE WHOLE FAMILY?! Yeah that was fun. Early bedtimes for everyone tonight!