Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The future

Lately, between hopelessly submitting job applications, volunteering too much, not cleaning enough, and watching bad TV, somehow I keep finding myself reading articles about the new economy, in which adults need to be continually reinventing themselves, connecting with new people, learning new skills, switching jobs, etc. It's all so... dynamic. I am feeling the opposite of dynamic. I don't WANT to be dynamic.  I don't want to have to be selling myself on twitter and tumblr and foursquare and a million things I've never heard of just to participate in society. I don't want to be continually networking. I just want a steady job that I don't hate, and that pays more than the cost of childcare.* And I want to be able to retire before I die. (Assuming that is, that I ever get a job again. I may already be retired. Mission accomplished!)

This vision of an entrepreneurial world in which everybody is nimbly working the angles and positioning themselves for the next big thing  - I don't know, it sounds to me like a 20-year-old's** vision of a great place. People get damaged and set back all the time, and people are sometimes stupid and often stodgy. There has to be space for the cautious, the late adopters, the damaged, the sensitive - the rest of us. (Or maybe not!)  I'm having a hard time imagining what the world is going to look like in ten years, or fifteen,***** and I'm often afraid that it's just going to run over me and/or people I love.

On the other hand, the lesson I know I should have learned by now is to take things one day at a time. It has to be enough to be alive now, to be safe and warm and (mostly) clean, to know that we are secure, to have friends and family who will back us up when we need them. The kids are very effective at bringing me back to the immediate moment, with their demands and their dramas. This morning, for example, there was a big drama about a blister. I'd like to keep things in a state where a blister can be a big drama.

*If I had guaranteed access to cheap, good childcare, I would feel a lot more entrepreneurial. (Or at least as entrepreneurial as I am capable of feeling, which honestly isn't very.) Republicans, are you listening? Give me universal single-payer healthcare and decent affordable childcare, and I promise you I'll start a business. 
**Not me when I was 20, though, because even though I was oblivious, I wasn't nimble or entrepreneurial even then.
*** This also ties in to my ongoing perplexity about what skills and tools the girls need to acquire now to prepare for their adulthoods. Computer engineering? Hand-to-hand combat? Beekeeping? Robotics? Construction? Negotiation? Aeronautics? Sharpshooting? Beats the hell out of me. I am, however, almost 100% sure that it's not going to be musical theater, which is what Duchess is interested in at the moment. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

More lists

Things I've found Duchess reading to Skipper lately:

Things Skipper has said to me lately:

  • "Mom, can we talk a little bit about dead animals?"**
  • "All dads are skinny."

*Duchess said "Mom, we don't understand any of this."
** This was mostly about what parts of what animals people eat. We were on the way to the grocery store, and took some time to check out the meat counter. "So these are all pieces of dead chicken?" she asked, frowning over the carcasses/

Friday, January 25, 2013

Household hints from a human

I've learned some very valuable housekeeping tips recently, and I'm going to share them with you!
1) Vinegar is very useful. We use it for much of our cleaning. If we washed our windows, we'd definitely use vinegar. Most recently, I learned from the internets that it could save us from the ongoing mild annoyance of sour-smelling towels, and it WORKED.
2) Baking soda saved my life. Or maybe just my stove. Or something. I accidentally set a pot of oil on fire last summer, and was able to put out the two-feet-tall flames with a heap of baking soda. (If Arm and Hammer would now like to sponsor all my blog posts, they are welcome. Did I mention we use baking soda for all the cleaning tasks for which we don't use vinegar?)

Skipper, at dinner last week: Daddy is a man, and I am a gril, and Duchess is a gril. And Mama is... Mama is a human!

Friday, January 18, 2013


Skipper: I like dogs.
Me: Oh.
Skipper: I don't like nightmares.
Me: Oh.
Skipper: Some nightmares are dreams, and some are dogs.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Fairies at the cradle

Duchess earned a big promotion yesterday in her after-school martial arts program,ending her beginner status and marking the start of her fighting training. She is very, very proud. She's also switching from the after-school program to twice-a-week evening classes, and she's excited to be able to go into the more advanced class level. 

Duchess is still pretty crushed about having to leave the after-school program, but she is handling it in her usual Duchess style. Duchess leaps quickly to operatic tragedy levels, but she is also impressively quick to identify and dive into positive alternatives. I offered her the narrative that she had been fortunate to be able to advance through the beginner phase very quickly, thanks to every-day classes in the after-school program, and now she had a chance to train in a more measured, intensive way for cheaper, thereby saving the family much-needed money while also working with more serious students and teachers. She took the narrative, turned it over in her mind for ten seconds, and ran with it. 

I've described Duchess here as lacking resilience and persistence. But she can also nimbly shift gears, try different approaches, and see other perspectives.She is willing to let go of something that isn't working, without losing momentum, and that is an uncommon gift.*

* And yes, this can obviously be a curse as well as a gift, but I'm not going to overthink it. For now. But if she joins a cult, I'm going to need your help busting her out.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The girls

The girls have been playing together a lot, and enjoying each other's company. Skipper calls Duchess "Bobo," as in "I want my Bobo!" They both think poop jokes are the pinnacle of humor. They both love long narrative-based games involving multiple characters, frequent clothing changes, and terrible catastrophes overcome by saintly children. Duchess reads to Skipper,* for hours every week. They also fight a lot. Skipper is the sort of kid who pushes back against directions just because she resents directions, and Duchess is the sort of kid who issues many, many directions. Skipper provokes scenes just for the hell of it, and Duchess enjoys scenes, so there are scenes. They have an excellent time.

I know they're going to grow up. I just have a hard time believing it, sometimes.

*They're reading the Ramona books, which Skipper loves. She boggles over how badly Ramona behaves. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

It's been a while.

Hi! I am still here. Nothing of any moment has happened. Nobody's in the hospital. Nobody's job status has changed. All is well-ish.

There are some changes pending. Due to my ongoing failure to secure a job, the kids' childcare has to be revised. Skipper is still enrolled in preschool full-time, but we'll probably roll her back to three days a week pretty soon. Duchess is leaving her beloved after-school kung fu, though we'll probably switch her to the much-cheaper-but-still-expensive evening classes program, so she can keep training to beat people up. She was very upset to be leaving the after-school program (particularly the beautiful-eyes boy who is her best kung fu friend), and wept tragically, but quickly consoled herself with the idea that she'd be able to keep training to beat people up, AND she could write over-the-top farewell notes to all her friends. Opportunities for histrionics (histriopportunities?) are always a comfort to Duchess in times of duress.

The other interesting* thing that happened lately was that Duchess's school did TAG-nominated testing last week. Remember TAG? After I got all angsty about it, Duchess scored  below the nomination threshold on the screening test (though she scored respectably well, as you might expect from a bright kid), and I let the whole thing go, being done with my personal drama about it. As usual, just because my personal drama was over didn't mean that it was all over. Last week Duchess came home asking about the test that some kids in her class had been pulled out to take, and what was TAG? "It stands for Talented and Gifted," I said, and she stared at me. "But I'm talented and gifted!" she said, "Why didn't I get to take the test?"

Later that week, I went into Duchess's classroom to drop off forms for this enormous volunteer effort I'm accidentally running (which is why I have no time for blogging), and Duchess's teacher happened to be in there alone, doing paperwork. She said she was glad I came by, because she wanted to talk to me about TAG. She had recognized Duchess's confusion and dismay.  She said that because a) Duchess has identified nomination as a marker of success, and b) Duchess is plenty smart (and she did, to my glee, indicate that several kids had been nominated pretty much because of their pushy parents), she would be happy to nominate her for next year's round of testing. I told her we'd ask Duchess. We did, and the conversation(s) revealed that Duchess is weirdly upset and discombobulated by the whole thing. Apparently, she's really clear on her rank academically. She knows exactly who is better than her at what. She knows that she's the strongest reader in the class, and the third-best mathematician. And apparently, all the other kids know the ranks, too, and some of them had been giving her some flak about not being TAG-nominated. Some of the (surprisingly large number of) kids who WERE nominated were kids she considers to be her academic inferiors. She felt embarrassed not to be nominated. (She also seems to be still reeling from the shock of having her academic reign over second grade threatened by the arrival in September of a new kid who is, as far as I can tell, more or less exactly the sort of kid for whom the TAG program was developed in the first place.) Seriously, this is not a scenario I had considered.

She hasn't decided for sure yet, but we've been gently nudging her (and I think she's going along) toward letting it go. I figure if  it turns out that the TAG kids (and of course she'll know exactly who they are) are getting some great academic services** that Duchess thinks she could use, we can ask for her to be nominated at that time. And I think it might be better for her not to take the test - taking it and being declared emphatically UN-talented might be more crushing than I'd expected, too.

The life lesson here for me is the one I learn over and over but never remember - that Duchess's life isn't about me. My drama is not her drama. Also, she's pretty great.

*To me.
**Given the state of the budget, I can't imagine what those would be. Extra paper, maybe?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Also, books.

I want to share with you that Skipper's favorite book remains "One Morning in Maine." I think that's an important thing about her, though I'm not sure what it means. Some of her other recent favorites:
Duchess's favorite books right now:

New Year's Eve

We watched "The Great Muppet Caper" for our last movie of 2012. This is what Skipper had to say about it.
Ten minutes in: "Why are these talking animals?"
Twenty minutes in: "That's a pig! And that's a frog."
Thirty minutes in (describing Miss Piggy in a swimsuit): "Oh! She's so beautiful!"
One hour in: "What are these Nuggets doing?"

We've had a marvelously slothful holiday, full of food, sparkling cider, movies, puzzles, books, piano, foam-sword fights, whoopee cushion pranks, wasting time on the tablet,* and elaborate games with baby dolls. Various friends of ours who also stayed home for the holidays have spent their vacation doing splendid outdoorsy-Oregonian stuff like cross-country skiing or hiking in the Gorge. Not for us! No. Skipper says she's never leaving the house again.

Tomorrow school and preschool and a normal work schedule for Cook start back up again. I have a brief contract job, volunteering at Duchess's school, and another networking-type volunteer gig, plus, of course, TRYING TO GET A JOB. I'm not sure what my new "normal" is going to feel like, but I'm guessing it won't involve so much whoopee cushion exposure.

Anyway, I was going to reflect thoughtfully on our family's 2012, but I'm too slothful. Here's a rudimentary reflection, in list form (Duchess provided her own achievements list):
1) Skipper learned the alphabet and began putting together some basic reading skills.
2) Skipper had her first ever playdate of her very own.
3) Duchess broke her first board in kung fu.
4) Duchess advanced to the much-anticipated "Park Shark" level in Parks & Rec swimming.
5) Skipper's baby dolls now have advanced to a complicated social hierarchy, not unlike middle school. Currently, Elfy is being mean to Clara (Her name in the game is Clara, but her REAL name is BabyBaby), and Gigi is being mean to both of them. Bullying is a real problem.
6) We upgraded to a better (used, crappy) digital piano, and Duchess achieved the great heights of playing Jingle Bells on it this Christmas.
7) We removed a whole bunch of rosebushes and hydrangeas.
8) Cook painted a little bit of the house.
9) I had my first panic attack.
10) I quit my job (and gained my FREEDOM!).
11) Skipper started at a new preschool, yet again.
12) We didn't move to a new home. Seriously, not once. That was great.
13) We established college funds for the girls (both accounts currently contain less than $300, but at least it's not zero...), and continued the brainwashing program to convince the girls to become engineers.**
14) Other stuff. I can't remember. It wasn't our best year ever, but it worked out fine. I have high hopes for 2013.

*Guys. There's a Sims app. AND IT'S FREE. My time-wasting options are now LIMITLESS.
** I got Duchess a programming book (not as boring as it sounds, I swear) for Christmas, and signed her up for a lego robotics class in February. I checked out "What is a Mechanical Engineer?" from the library and later had the pleasure of listening to Duchess read it to Skipper. Skipper declared her intention to become a "plug engineer."