Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

We had a lot of loot. There are no good photos of the orgy of opening, but this is our tiny tree under siege last night.

This year's note to Santa. Duchess included a take-away container, having been somewhat offended by Santa's leaving leftovers last year.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Photo dump (December)

First, the first day of the Advent calendars.

 Second, scenes from our very, very leisurely days this last week.

Duchess is into Nancy Drew right now. She bought herself a big "Diary of Nancy Drew" book that she's treating as sort of a reference while reading the books

Today we walked over to the home of Spruce and her family (whom both Duchess and Skipper adore) for lunch.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The most arduous thing I did today was work on a puzzle.

I'm having a vacation. Today I heaved up all 70 pounds of Duchess plus her book and sat on the couch for a while under a pile of girl, and then (after Skipper woke up from her nap) a pile of girls. I just sat there. I didn't multitask, or even task. It was lovely. I also ate cookies and satsumas until I felt faintly sick, and read trashy books. It was a great day. Tomorrow I may try going outside.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Half my life left to figure this out.

Every single year I have to confront the fact that I haven't yet gotten a grip on the holidays. I think some part of me still feels that the adults are taking care of all the details, so I don't have to bother.

I usually manage some stuff. I organized a very small donation drive for a domestic violence shelter in our community. We decorated. We made the traditional sugar cookies to eat while decorating.* This year, for the first time, we even got a tree! A live tree! It's two feet tall, and it lives in a 3-gallon pail filled with rocks and water, but it's a real tree! And we have a wreath that Duchess made and brought home from a craft party at the home of a friend whose florist grandmother was visiting. So our home looks WAY more Christmassy than every before. I'm also fairly prepared to cook some nice food over the holiday. And I have  presents ready for everybody who will be at my house on Christmas! All three of them!

The activity for which I am most prepared this holiday is the cookie exchange party we're attending tomorrow. This is a social event that might have been designed exactly for me - it's in the afternoon, it's brief, and it involves baking. I plan to bring three different kinds of cookies, all of which will be good.** If this was what the whole holiday entailed, I would be not exactly the Martha-Stewart-style queen of the season, but I would definitely be a reliable minister of some kind.

However, there's a whole lot of other stuff that I didn't get around to. This week, I discovered that it's prohibitively expensive to mail a present five business days before Christmas Day, so the package I sent will not be arriving until after Christmas, a week after almost half of the intended recipients of the gifts inside will have left the package's destination. That was a sad moment. But today was the day I really realized that yet again, I missed the holiday boat. Our mail today included three holiday cards from friends, and I realized that I had never even thought about holiday cards this year. At all. And I LOVE getting them, I really do. The classy ones with a brief message, the ones with all the adorable photos of your adorable kids, and the ones with long hand-written notes - I love them ALL. So maybe I'll send out Presidents' Day cards this year. Regardless, thank you all for your cards! I love them!

*Skipper, who is very interested in cooking and baking, was in charge of rolling the cookies in cinnamon sugar, so the cookies were completely brown. They tasted fine, though. Skipper is experienced enough with baking that when I assign her a bowl of ingredients to stir,  she asks gravely "Can this be over-mixed?"
** I've done a lot of baking, I've got some excellent equipment, and I have learned to use good ingredients. Cookie-making is one area of my life about which I remain fairly confident, even when Skipper is helping me out. 

Two notes about Duchess

She has expensive tastes. Today we all shared a sliver of expensive moldy goat cheese (which was on sale at our local fancy grocery store, and thus cost only a ton of money), and Duchess declared it to be her favorite food.

Also, a note to anybody who has recently received or will soon receive a thank-you note from Duchess: Cook and I were not permitted to review them. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The child is well.

To celebrate our first "Momma and Skipper and Duchess Day," we went to get Duchess a checkup. She is, as always, robustly, glowingly healthy, and rocking a 97th percentile height. (Her growth curves are a marvel to behold, a rising hymn to tall genes, a relatively healthy environment, and good nutrition.) As far as I can tell, the charts think she's going to be at least 5'10". The "8-11-year-old" version of the pre-checkup questionnaire offered the option to discuss a variety of topics with the doctor, and at Duchess's request, I circled "Puberty" on the form. The doctor gave Duchess a brief, age-appropriate speech about puberty, and asked if she had any questions. Duchess said she did not.

We took advantage of the opportunity to catch Skipper up on vaccinations, so she got two shots. She held still for them, earning herself hot cocoa with whipped cream afterward. (Duchess, who didn't get any shots, but explained that she got a very painful paper cut under her tongue from the disposable thermometer, also got cocoa.)  Then we went to Powell's to buy the book about puberty the doctor recommended to Duchess, a book that has already relieved Duchess of the alarming misapprehension that her breasts would arrive by growing to their full size abruptly overnight.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dirt vs Snow

Today was my last day of work, and I shuttled the kids to their various jury-rigged childcare setups. Skipper went to the home of her preschool teacher, who was holding a "camp" for a few kids from the class, and we dropped Duchess off at the home of a friend with whom she was attending Zoo Camp* on our way. It was raining when we left the house, and was snowing pretty hard by the time we got to the friend's house. While we were waiting for the bus, Skipper watched the snow with interest.

Skipper: Is the snow falling everywhere?
Me: Around here, yup.
Skipper: Is it falling on dead people?
Me: No. Dead people are underground, or have already fallen apart and turned into dirt.
Skipper: Can they feel the snow?
Me: Dead people don't feel anything.
Skipper: Will I turn into dirt?
Me (possibly more emphatically than necessary): Yes. But not for a really long time.

I'm going to try posting more often over my break, since waiting a long time between posts doesn't actually seem to yield any interesting content. So you can look forward to many more transcriptions!

*They saw the controversial new baby elephant. There was uncontroversial delight.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


So! The kids are on break, officially. And I am leaving my job after this Tuesday. THIS TUESDAY. So I will also be on break, indefinitely. I feel great about this, in many ways, enormously relieved. In other ways, I'm feeling terrified. My biggest immediate issue is that I really, really, really don't want to take the kids out of childcare, because if I then get a job, they won't be able to get back in to their programs. Skipper confessed the other day that she likes everything about her preschool, except for one kid who hits her. I don't want to take her out of there. Duchess loves kung fu more than anything else in her day (and she loves pretty much everything in her days), and I don't want to take her out of there, either. We'll go on as we are for a little while, and then retrench. Essentially, I need a job in order to keep my kids in childcare.

My biggest long-term issue is my deep fear that I will never find another job. I'm going to try to ignore that for a few weeks, long enough to eat a lot of cookies, watch the kids revel in Christmas, and enjoy the tremendous pleasure of listening to Cook and Duchess play holiday songs on the piano. Life is sweet.

The time to talk about it.

After the shootings in Connecticut yesterday, I went to Duchess's school today to shelve books. (The part-time library assistant cannot keep up with the shelving on her own, and it's a very satisfying volunteer task.) The doors, which are usually unlocked between 8:30 and 6, were locked today, and the principal was working in the lobby, guarding the doors. The parents and staff with whom I spoke while I was there were very subdued and some were really upset.

Thursday night was the holiday singalong at the school, a much - beloved annual tradition. It was pretty great, without being unusual in any way, just a typical school event,  probably replicated more or less in schools across the country. The kids were grouped by age, and the tiny kindergarteners sang with enormous enthusiasm. All the kids, even the ones I don't like, were all lovely, full of life and joy.

I think everybody who ever reads this blog knows and shares most of my politics, and you all know how I feel about this. But all of my opinions about the urgent need for gun control and mental health supports are sharpened by my personal experience of my community school. Even a mediocre public school, with all its small humiliations, cruelties, and disappointments, is a place that is brimming with energy and hope and the relentless force of life in an absolutely non-ironic way. (Especially on the last day before the winter break.) Every time I visit the school I feel a little heartbroken by the ways life is going to crush some of these sparky, radiant kids, but today was the first time I felt heartbroken by the idea that somebody would take that life away entirely. So I'm feeling pretty angry about that, and flailing around a little bit to figure out what I can do. But mostly I'm feeling heartbroken.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Waltzing Machiavelli

Skipper has learned the fine art of malingering. Yesterday, Duchess stayed home from school sick.* Skipper was very jealous, and said this morning that she wanted to stay home. I said no. (It's a scheduled day off work for me, but I have lots of volunteering commitments, plus a grubby house and the prospect of a busy weekend.) She seemed very jaunty on the way to preschool, but she abruptly announced just before we got there that her stomach hurt, so I notified her teacher that Duchess had been sick, and that I was available to pick up Skipper if they thought she seemed legitimately sick. I dropped her off at 9, and they called me at 11:45 to say that Skipper was complaining of stomach-ache, and seemed lethargic - not participating in play, staring off into space. I got on a bus and retrieved her shortly thereafter from the preschool's office, where she was happily looking at books. It quickly became apparent that she is completely healthy and chipper, and on further questioning, she forthrightly admitted that she had been planning from the moment I dropped her off that she would finagle a pick-up before naptime. She even skipped lunch to add verisimilitude to her fake illness, counting on eating at home. Now she's running around the house (having refused to nap), singing nonsense songs and making an elaborate pretend-food feast to feed to me.

Sometimes, because Duchess is so large and articulate, and Skipper is so small and incoherent (not just in the clarity of her speech, but also in the content of her speech, which often seems to be made up of improvisational riffs), we think of Skipper as relatively babyish, somehow forgetting that she is a fully-formed, power-hungry person propelled by tremendous will, hampered by very little ethical drag. Underestimate her, and you'll find your afternoon plans suddenly including the pretend consumption of a lot of pretend food.

*This episode had a stressful launch - she complained of an aching stomach all morning, but we got all the way to school before she decided she needed to stay home (she was very pale, and hardly talking at all, which is a pretty dire indication of illness for Duchess, but she really, really wanted to go to school and kung fu), and then as we were walking very slowly home, with pauses for her to crouch and retch in the bushes, I called my office to tell them that I was home with a sick kid, and my boss promptly called back to tell me that was unacceptable and I had to attend a meeting that afternoon. So Cook, who has an understanding and flexible boss, had to cancel an important meeting he was supposed to run that afternoon, and come home. Duchess barfed twice and lay in bed all morning dozing or staring off into space, not talking AND not reading, which made me think she was probably going to die before dusk. But she turned the corner before noon, and was chatting and reading by the time I got home.