Sunday, July 15, 2018

We went on vacation!

We did. We took the guinea pigs to a sitter and left town for a week and a half.

First we went to Boston and stayed at a hotel overnight before taking the bus to Maine. We hunted around for dinner in one of those miserable, frustrating, whine-filled searches for food that satisfies everybody, and ended up eating dumplings at 9 pm at a place that brags that it's the second best Chinese restaurant in the United States. The dumplings were good. The hotel beds were comfortable.

I was only in Maine briefly before heading back to Boston to hang out with a friend and enjoy traveling on my own. The rest of the family kept the camera and had some classic Maine summer adventures, including kayaking, nature walks, swimming, and sailing.

We reconvened in DC (dragging Papa Big Cook with us) and spent five days visiting museums. memorials, and federal government buildings. We stayed in Arlington, and took the Metro a LOT. We also walked a lot, and it was HOT. Finding food everybody could live with was a daily challenge (ramen and pizza are the only things Skipper really wants to eat anymore). It was also a really nice trip, even punctuated with whine-splosions.

Day One: Duchess nearly passed out in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms at the State Department, greatly alarming the security guards escorting us. However, that was a fun tour, and Duchess rallied for a full day of slogging to the Lincoln and Vietnam memorials and past the White House, lunch in a highly-secure food court at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center, and a visit to the Museum of American History. We saw many Objects, including Abraham Lincoln's top hat and the Swedish Chef. (I find that I really enjoy looking at historically significant Objects.) We met our first very tame squirrel.

Day Two: We visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum (just the exhibit designed for kids, because that's all we could manage), the Jefferson Memorial, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. We ate frozen lemonade.

Day Three: Air and Space Museum and Museum of the American Indian. (Duchess had a buffalo burger in the cafeteria.) We also had a lovely evening visit with some friends we haven't seen in a very long time.

Day Four: We went to Jeff Merkley's constituents' coffee in the morning, and then got a tour (from an intern) of the Capitol buildings. We ate at the cafeteria, where Papa Big Cook ate Senate Bean Soup, s, and then we waited in a long line to make a brief visit to the House of Representatives. Duchess was very excited and is now building a life plan around being a Congressional page and then an intern and then going into the Foreign Service and then maybe a Congressional staffperson... We made a stop at the National Archives,* and then a quick visit to the Museum of Natural History. We had dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant, because that was all Cook really wanted out of a trip to DC. Skipper was sure she was going to hate it, but she did not hate it at all.

Day Five: Newseum, which was surprisingly effective. They had an exhibit of Pulitzer Prize photos that was emotionally overwhelming for all of us; Skipper and Duchess and I all left in tears. They also had a nice view of Pennsylvania Avenue. We wrapped up the trip with visits to the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court.

We flew home yesterday, and here we are, mopping up (in very hot weather) and preparing to return to normal life tomorrow.

*I finally bullied Cook into agreeing to watch National Treasure with the kids, so we were totally ready to see the National Archives. Though as it turned out, my favorite thing on display there was a homesteading claim payment by Charles Ingalls. 

Sunday, June 24, 2018

More updates

It's hot. It's summery. I'm in the midst of a bunch of stressful work deadlines, but the kids have been wringing a lot of summer out of the week. Skipper has been on several adventures with friends - hiking on Wednesday, the local amusement park yesterday, an exploratory baseball playdate today.

She also finally consented to get a haircut* that included bangs! I am really enjoying looking at her face. (She's cuddling Momo in this photo. Momo hates being picked up, but once you finally catch her, she utters a small, hopeless squeak of despair and then surrenders completely to the pleasure of a warm quiet place to doze where Snufkin can't pester her. When I pick her up to put her back in the cage after she's been sitting on Skipper's lap for a while, her whole body is so relaxed that she feels like a warm beanie baby instead of an actual living mammal.)

Duchess started rowing last week - she rows from 8 to 10am every weekday. She loves it. I dropped her off the first day, and walked with her back into the boat-storage/rowing-machine area, and I felt like I had wandered into the Land of Giants. Duchess is considered small in the Land of Giants, and I felt pretty much pocket-sized.

And today Cook dropped her off at an intensive week of ultimate frisbee camp. There's a lot going on around here. And next weekend I will be done with this wave of scary work deadlines, and I will get to wring out some summer!

*Skipper's distrust of my judgement around haircuts is hard-earned.

Thursday, June 7, 2018


We're doing fine.

I continue to half-ass most everything. Cook continues to work too hard (knowing me for twenty years has somehow not taught him how to half-ass).

The girls have their last day of school tomorrow. They're spending the summer mostly home together unsupervised. I expect it'll involve a lot of reading, screen time and resentful bickering.

Skipper, who has been watching the Detroit Tigers games with Cook for years, and read "Summerland" with him this year, is suddenly interested in actually playing baseball, and has lately been out in the driveway alone for half an hour before bed, throwing a tennis ball at the garage door to practice throwing and fielding. She's terrible, and she doesn't want to play with other kids, because they'd see her being terrible. You tell me what to do with this.

Skipper is also very into the Horatio Hornblower books right now, an interest that I doubt is shared with many other 9-year-old girls who have ever existed. She knows what a water hoy is.

Duchess is pretty much thriving, an open-hearted, easy-tempered, ethical, sensible person (in 13-year-old-adjusted terms). She raptly follows all her many friends' social dramas but doesn't perpetrate them herself. She texts and instagrams all the time. She wants to be the flute section leader in band next year. She wants everybody to like her. She wants to wear a little makeup, but not very much. She wants to get all As and have pretty hair. She wants to join the Foreign Service or maybe be a criminal defense attorney (she cheerfully embraces the idea that she would find herself defending guilty people- she thinks she'd enjoy and be good at figuring out how to make an effective argument and use the system on her client's behalf). She wants to be on the cheerleading team in high school. You tell me what to do with this.

I am sometimes torn, when I consider my daughters, between feeling that they are profoundly mysterious to me and feeling that they are uncannily similar to me. I do know, though, that there's nothing much I should do with them, or can do. They are who they are  and they'll be themselves all along (and they both know how to half-ass, which is both irritating and a relief).

Anyway, summer. We're taking one big trip to Maine and DC, and we have some small fun weekend trips planned. I'm still employed, through at least October and maybe through December. Duchess will be rowing every weekday morning for two months, and playing ultimate frisbee (and texting). Skipper will have occasional rollerskating lessons (she loves this). I plan to do some hammock time. That's the whole plan...

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Momentum and inertia

Summer is rapidly approaching. The kids have reached the point in the school year where everything is pointing toward end-of-year performances/tests/celebrations/field trips. The weather is leaning hard toward shorts. The trees are leafing out. Cook is mowing the lawn right now.

I find myself even more than usually lazy. I literally lay in the hammock yesterday and did nothing but lie there and grow my ennui. It was pretty nice, but I do recognize that weeds need pulling and dishes need washing and dinner needs cooking, and it's probably not a great marital-maintenance plan to just let Cook do all of it. Last weekend I forced Skipper to accompany me to the library and grocery store, and she objected strenuously. I said she needed to leave the house and do something other than loaf, and she said "WHY!? What's the POINT? Why can't I just read books and do word searches?" and I didn't really have a great argument for that. So maybe she's just persuaded me to give in to the sloth.

It just seems like there's so much schlepping; a classic middle-class middle-aged person's complaint - orthodontist appointments, dentist appointments, eye doctor appointments, regular doctor appointments, vet appointments, roller skating lessons, grocery shopping, hardware store trips, bike repair appointments, car repair appointments. Plus, you know, work and housework and the normal slog of shepherding everybody through the day. It feels like A Lot, even while it also feels like a great stroke of luck to be able to have this particular bag of A Lot.

We're all doing the same old things. Skipper is walking herself home from school every day and latchkeying it. She likes that a lot. She instant-messages us when she gets home to tell us she's home, and then she just reads for hours. The third day she did it, I was at a meeting when she normally arrives home, and didn't look at my phone till a little later when I was alarmed to find no message. I got a text pretty much right away from Father Blond, saying that Skipper was at his house and that she was "Wet. Unhappy." Turned out Skipper had run home in the rain (she had no raincoat, due to poor planning) and couldn't find her key in her backpack, so she left her backpack on the back steps and walked to the Blonds' house. She knows she's not allowed to cross the major street between our house and theirs except at a controlled intersection, but she got disoriented and walked much further out of her way than she needed to to get to a light. She walked 16 blocks in the rain, terrified that she was going to get arrested (she actually saw a school friend of hers and hid behind a corner until the friend's family was out of sight because she was afraid that they would call the police if they knew she was unescorted), and arrived at the Blond house weeping and soaking wet. She was upset, scared, embarrassed and uncomfortable. After I retrieved her, I pointed out that she had in fact just demonstrated her coping skills by solving the problem in a fairly sensible way, and she made a bunch of good decisions. I felt a lot more confident about the whole thing after that episode. I'm not sure that she shares my confidence; as always, she was pretty focused on the stressful and humiliating elements of the experience. I did reassure her that the police are NOT going to arrest her for walking alone in the rain.

That's pretty much the news.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Skipper turned 9!

I asked Skipper (by instant message) for a list of birthday gift suggestions. She wrote me back this:

Craft stuff
Definitely stocks

She got balloons. And oranges. And books. And craft stuff. Not stocks yet - I'm trying to figure out how a 9-year-old can invest in stocks.

We ate ramen for dinner.

Skipper had another sleepover birthday party. We all agreed the next day that it was the last sleepover birthday party. Cook concocted another scavenger hunt that required digging.