Saturday, September 24, 2016

The natural course of things

My kids are getting old, you guys. (This, presumably, means I'm getting old. Let's talk about that in another post.) This year, nobody in the family had to buy crayons for school. Let that sink in.

My family is Beyond Crayons.

Here's what the kids are up to:

1) Skipper is totally and happily back in the school routine. She has a nice variety of friends and feels comfortable and happy with her social situation. Academics are a breeze. She had a friend sleep over for the very first time last weekend, and today is off on an all-day hike with another friend and her family. She's made a new friend at her kung fu after-care program and continues to really enjoy that. She has chosen to do piano lessons as her one additional activity and is showing signs that she may eventually stop being a complete asshole about practicing it. She is willing to wear at least four different pairs of pants, though she still refuses to wear any shoes but the one pair of sneakers (her fourth pair of the same make and model, though she has gone through several different colors). She continues to be alarmingly clear-eyed and articulate, and to be aggressively nasty and obnoxious whenever she feels any kind of emotional pain (it's way more comfortable to dump your pain by blaming somebody else than to unpack it inside yourself, apparently). In sum, everything is going pretty damn well. Homework starts this week, though, and that may introduce some new unpleasantness...

2) Duchess is hurtling into teenagerhood at high speed. Cook and I are taking a fairly hands-off approach to her middle school experience, giving her a lot of independence and letting her work out things like how to organize her stuff and her time effectively. She's the last of us to leave in the morning, so she washes the breakfast dishes, turns off the lights, locks the door behind her, and walks very slowly to school, picking up a large gaggle of friends on the way. She negotiates a day of switching classes, moving herself, her notebooks, her PE uniform, and her flute to class and between lockers as needed. Also, apparently lots of  social negotiations. After school she hangs out teenagerily with friends on the playground for a while, then walks very slowly home, dropping off a large gaggle of friends on the way. Two days a week, she gets ready for her evening kung fu class, feeds herself a snack, and leaves the house again to walk to class before the rest of us even get home. Yesterday after school she walked straight to ultimate frisbee practice and then straight to a Dungeons and Dragons* session at a friend's house. Cook picked her up at 8PM, twelve hours after he had last seen her. She's thriving. There are occasional flareups of tantrums/histrionics and she's pretty nastily sarcastic (fair enough, given her genetics) and sulky, as might be expected, but in general, she's just straight up happy. She likes her teachers and classes fine, she is building new friendships and reinforcing old ones, and generally she's delighted with everything. She's probably 5'6" now and looks like she's 15, so she's getting attention from older boys that is confusing and alarming and thrilling, and she often wants to discuss and analyze those experiences she had during the day that felt out of her depth. She still wants to talk about everything, actually. She literally follows me and Cook around the house, talking endlessly about her teachers, her friends, her worries, her excitements, her D&D character, the book she's reading, etc. This is lovely and also spectacularly tedious.

Also, Cook and I are okay.

The weather has turned and it's definitely not summer anymore. This is okay, too - time marches on!



* Yes. This is happening now. Duchess's extracurriculars are gymnastics class, kung fu classes, dorks-in-the-woods one weekend a month, ultimate frisbee  and Dungeons and Dragons.  Basically, nerd training. Oh, and she's doing band at school, so she practices flute at home a lot. Nerd training!

Friday, September 16, 2016

My life skills

Skipper and I are walking to meet Cook at a restaurant for dinner. I am texting Cook to specify when and where to meet.

Me: Hold on. I need to stop because I can't text and walk at the same time.
Skipper: Mom, you really need to work on your life skills.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Glimpse inside Skipper's brain

Skipper is eating a sandwich, sitting alone at the dining room table with her hand-me-down Furby "sleeping" in a box beside her. I'm washing dishes in the kitchen, ten feet away.

Skipper: Mom, why did the Titanic sink?
Me: It hit an iceberg.
Skipper: But how did that make it sink?
Me: I don't know. It broke in half?
Skipper: But all six of its tanks filled with water. How did breaking in half make that happen?
Me: Sounds like you know more about it than I do.
Skipper: I keep checking a book about it out of the library but I always stop reading it because it makes my mouth hurt because I know what's going to happen.
Me: Oh.

It's fall!

Last Monday was the first day of school.





























Seems like it's going pretty well. Skipper is sliding comfortably into second grade, and Duchess is boggled, stressed out, and delighted by sixth grade and middle school. She likes ALL her teachers, has a few friends in some classes, is making  new friends (including the only girl in sixth grade who is taller than she is), and is handling it all okay.

Weirdly, Duchess also appears to have turned into a stereotypical middle schooler overnight. She texts. She sulks. She brought home the roster of cool after-school activities offered by parks and rec at her school - super-conveniently located and timed, and very cheap - and when I asked her which ones interested her, she said "Eh, I don't want to do any of them..." and Cook and I both turned and stared at her. She had expressed great enthusiasm and excitement for after-school activities just a few months ago. "Why not?" I asked. "Nobody does this stuff, Mom," she said. When I pointed out that she likes people who have eccentric interests, and that in fact most people, even middle schoolers, respect people with eccentric interests and enthusiasms, she reluctantly conceded that was true. But I don't think she's signing up for any after school activities regardless.*


*She still does kung fu twice a week, and gymnastics and ultimate frisbee, plus dorks-in-the-woods, so she has plenty going on. But still. 


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Fine.

I'm listening to: Julien Baker
I'm reading: Shrill
I'm feeling: I don't know. Indeterminate. Fine, I guess.

Things are fine. It's hot.

The girls are getting ready for school. Skipper feels pretty comfortable, returning to the same school for the third year, confident in her academic chops and excited to see her friends again, though she's of course nervous about new teachers.
















Duchess is very excited and nervous about middle school. She has said several times this week "Mom... I'm nervous about middle school!" and she announced tonight that she does, actually, care about what she wears. She was very embarrassed to tell me this, and to tell me that she wants to use her recently-established clothing budget to buy new cheap clothes made by sweatshop laborers.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Last camping trip of 2016!

The girls and I ditched Cook and went on a car-camping trip. I learned some stuff: 
1) Driving still sucks.
2)  Camping is more fun when ALL your meals are prepared over the fire (preferably with no dishwashing necessary).

3) Audiobooks are awesome - preventive of carsickness in the car, promoting of peace at the campsite when the kids are bickering.
4) S'mores don't have to involve a graham cracker. In fact, it's best if they don't. (I made this when the kids were listening to audiobooks and I was left to my own devices. I didn't bring any books, and had to entertain myself with marshmallows.)
5) Sand castles can be made even when it's 60 and rainy.



6) A lot of the interactions between Skipper and Duchess play out sort of like this:
Skipper attempts to persuade Duchess to play with her. Duchess is adolescently skeptical but is eventually persuaded to participate.






































































































It was damp, sandy, and cold. We inhaled a lot of woodsmoke and ate a lot of sand. We and all our stuff came home wet and filthy. We missed Cook. I read something recently about the effect of curated vacation photos on social media - how we are all at least a little jealous of each other's perfect vacations and feel bad about how ours seem to have a lot more whining, frustrations and missteps than other people's. Don't be jealous of mine - it was far from perfect. There was a lot of yelling and tantruming and whining and selfishness and general jerky behavior, and the weather was also quite poorly behaved. But we had such a good time that it was even worth the driving, and that's saying a lot.










Monday, July 25, 2016

Ideal summer for an 11-year-old who likes to read?

I'm taking a few days off work staycationing between actual vacation trips. Skipper and I accompanied Duchess to the pool for swim team today, so I took the quasi-traditional walk-to-the-pool photo:
























At the pool:



















And, after the pool, the resting. I just read a thing in the New York Times about people struggling to get their children to read. This has never, ever been a problem in our house. We have the opposite problem. I say "Put the book down and...(eat your food/ talk to your friends/look where you're going/etc.)" about four times a day, on average.