Thursday, December 25, 2014


Christmas happened. It was a good one. Skipper still hasn't changed out of her pajamas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


We have had a hectic few days. There has been baking, parties, gymnastics, roller skating, visiting relatives, restaurants, ice cream, and much more. It's been wonderful and dizzying.

On Sunday, I took Duchess to get her ears pierced. This was her request for a 10th birthday present, but her swimming schedule required a delay. This seemed like a good time to get it done, so on Sunday evening she and I biked over to a local piercing/tattoo place, a place that regularly handles much more sensitive and complicated piercings than easy-peasy earlobes, and has rave reviews online. She got her ears pierced by a guy with a lot of tattoos who was really great with her. She was thrilled by the experience, and LOVES her new earrings and clearly feels 100% more sophisticated.

(Though she was mad at me when I took these photos, and thus looks kind of pissy.)

This morning, we went to a well-child checkup. Duchess asked me and Skipper to let her do the appointment herself, so we waited in the waiting room. When they called us in, Duchess's doctor told me that Duchess is "perfectly normal. Except that she's super-tall!"

This is Duchess's growth chart. Those numbers at the right end of the curved lines are percentiles. Notice how far Duchess is above the 95th percentile line? Notice that she's 5'2.5" tall? Notice that her trajectory is heading toward an adult height of over 5'10"? Even if she stops growing today, she'll be taller than a quarter of the adult female population.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


We've been to a lot of checkups lately, for teeth and eyes and bodies. Duchess still has one last baby tooth to lose before the braces period of her life can begin. Skipper has braces in her future, too, but given the rate of baby tooth loss, she'll probably be 30 before that rolls around. I have a new filling.

The big medical news from our flurry of checkups is that Skipper now has to patch her left eye every day for two hours, in the hopes that this will force her brain to start taking messages from her less competent right eye. She does not care for this at all, though her main concern is that people might see her. Her skin gets irritated by the adhesive, so she wears a cloth patch (Mark II - Cook is taking his role as patch prototyper very seriously) some of the time. I'll get a picture of that later.

Also, she wears this hat almost all the time now. The patch plus the hat make her look almost as eccentric as she actually is.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


Tonight Skipper lost her first tooth. It's been loose for so long that I was pretty sure she was never going to actually let go of it, but it's been holding on by a thread for days. She was, of course, pretty worried about losing it, and every morning for the last week I've said something like "I wonder if your tooth will fall out today!" and she's looked at me grimly and said something like "Oh, it won't fall out today." There's already a half-grown adult tooth behind it that got tired of waiting for Skipper to release the poor baby tooth. Tonight she bit into the remnants of the gingerbread house she made at school on Thursday, and her tooth socket started to bleed. She started wailing in terror, and I escorted her to the bathroom, cleaned the blood off her finger, and suggested that she pull the damn thing out. She was weeping and wild-eyed, and apparently undone enough by fright that she actually immediately did just that. Then she started worrying about the tooth fairy, and about how long it would take the tender spot to heal up. However, the pleasure of wearing her Christmas hat cheered her up, and she went to bed feeling optimistic.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Sunday, November 30, 2014

 Hello! We're alive. We had an extremely low-key Thanksgiving, observing our Important Family Traditions. Duchess was running a fever and feeling pretty listless, and the weather was crappy, reinforcing our vegetative tendencies. There was a lot of screen time. Today, though, Duchess was back on top of her health, and the weather turned cold and sunny, so in theory we SHOULD have gone on a family hike or something. However, all we managed was a hike to the grocery store.

And then I decided to take some photos, as we finally found the camera battery charger, and I was reminded that I had taken a photo of the girls with our street tree the day it was planted. (I had, of course, intended to take a yearly photo of the girls with the street tree. Perhaps it should be an-every-third-year tradition.)

And then I took some more photos. The usual things happened.

Oh! Looking at these reminds me of the most exciting development from these slow-paced four days at home, which is that Skipper has worn several pieces of clothing that she had previously refused (such as the underpants, pants, shirt, AND sweatshirt she is wearing in these photos). This has taken some bribery and quite a bit of patiently waiting out tantrums (a major advantage of slow-paced days), and I am very pleased. All of the clothes she has worn, except one pair of underpants, have been accepted into the rotation, which has now increased to a whopping FOUR pairs of pants, SEVEN shirts, EIGHT pairs of underpants, and THREE sweatshirts. I feel that we can now move on with our lives. (And I also resolved the bad-smelling clothes issue, which turned out to be, predictably, a manky washing machine issue, easily fixable with a round of very hot water and vinegar.)

Happy Thanksgiving! Also, Happy December!

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Duchess has been here ten years. Ten years. The alert, responsive, unsleeping baby is suddenly an eavesdropping, sarcastic, guffawing giantess who's been knocking around for an entire astonishing decade.
Things about Duchess:
1) Her favorite podcast is Ask Me Another. (Really, you can stop reading right now, because that's a full portrait. She understands very little of it, but she already knows that she's definitely going to grow up to be a person who enjoys things like Ask Me Another.)
2) Her favorite book is whatever she's reading right now.
3) Her favorite anything is almost always the anything she's doing right now.
4) Nothing that goes wrong is her fault. It's probably Skipper's fault.
5) When things go wrong, they are irreparably ruined and definitely worth insanely weeping and wailing and railing over, until she thinks of something else to do, usually within two minutes.
6) Oh, is that something new to try? Duchess wants to try it. Unless it's dangerous, because then forget it.
7) She wants to go to New York City more than anywhere else. Unless you're going somewhere else and you invite her, because then that's the place she wants to go.
8) She laughs at everything. (This makes Skipper crazy, because she hates, above anything else, being laughed at.)
9) She likes you. And me. And everybody else.
10) She wants to tell you, and me, and everybody, everything that flickers through her brain. In detail.
11) She has no notion that we might not be very interested.
12) She still believes that all the minutes come hopping along full of interesting and delightful possibilities. She has a wonderfully low threshold for taking pleasure.* She doesn't make things happen, but she enjoys or at least is fine with most of the things that happen.
13) She is so, so alive. People usually say that about people who make things happen, but Duchess eats up experience in a way that, while passive rather than active, is a very strong engagement with her life. She's always been intent on being here, caught up in the immediacy of what's going on around her, since the moment she was born. I don't know where life will take her (and it will take her, not the other way around), but she will be in it completely all the way.

*"Wait, we're getting the pizza DELIVERED? It's coming to our HOUSE? That's so cool! Wow! It's being delivered!"

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Almost ten

Duchess will be ten tomorrow. Today, for Stage 1 of the birthday celebration, we took her best friend from kung fu along to the archery range. The older two had a lovely time, but Skipper struggled mightily to coordinate arrow, hands, and bow, and got extremely frustrated. Here are bad photos, and a very long, boring video, all taken with my elderly phone.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The annual ordeal of the "snow day" in Portland

Today the girls are home because school is cancelled. There is no snow. Granted, there is freezing rain, and the "wintry mix" is going to go on all day. But... there is NO SNOW!!! The whole point of snow days is to have snowball fights. And we can't. Because there is no snow.

However, the weather is giving me a chance to deploy the "wear clothes-you-normally-reject for a short period just to get used to them" strategy with Skipper. (I don't even want to tell you about the way things unfolded yesterday morning, when I forced Skipper to wear pants because of the freezing, howling wind. Let's just say that it was pretty awful and leave it at that.) First, Skipper and I picked out an outfit for Duchess. Then Duchess picked out (from the basement duffle bag that now holds most of Skipper's clothes) an outfit for Skipper. They got dressed and complimented each other extravagantly. The 15-minute time limit has elapsed, and Skipper is STILL WEARING HER OUTFIT.

Skipper continues to very much prefer clothes with pictures of animals on them. These are mostly made for boys, because girls' clothes do not usually feature the kind of bold, bright, large graphics that Skipper likes. Even my favorite brand of children's clothing, (of which Duchess's outfit entirely consists) which emphasizes bold and colorful, keeps the girls' clothing designs relatively muted and delicate. Because... girls are muted and delicate?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The things you can control.

Skipper continues to refuse to wear anything but a very small roster of clothing items. Every night and every morning we have been having the same insane discussion* with her, and Cook and I are both extremely over it. Yesterday I took everything out of her dresser and closet that she hasn't worn in the last month (she has a ton of clothes handed down from the twin Blond girls), stuffed it all in a large duffle, and put it in the basement. Her wardrobe is now composed of the following clothes that she will consistently or occasionally wear: four t-shirts, three pairs of shorts, one pair of pants, seven pairs of days-of-the-week socks, three pairs of underpants, one hooded sweatshirt, two raincoats, one pair of sneakers, one pair of too-small crocs, one pair of rainboots she will wear only if the alternative is getting her sneakers muddy, two hankies, three kung fu uniforms, a leotard for gymnastics, and a swimsuit for swim lessons. Period.

While this is plenty of clothing for most purposes, it is problematic because a) it is difficult to launder her clothes quickly enough, given our schedules and lack of a dryer,** b) several of these most-loved clothing items are getting very ratty, having experienced several owners and now getting worn and washed at least twice a week, and c) the wardrobe is really not warm enough for the kind of weather we're getting into. Also d) it's a little embarrassing to send your kid to school every day wearing the same clothes, especially when they're ratty.***

I ran into an acquaintance recently, and in the course of our conversation I discovered that her kid has very similar issues, that also seem to be a blend of control and sensory issues. (Her kid also has very conflicting reasons for disliking different pieces of clothing, and abruptly decides she doesn't like a piece of clothing she has loved for months.)  It was a relief to hear that, but also alarming, as her kid is nine and has been like this for years, which suggests that this is not necessarily a short-term problem, as I had been hoping.

I can't figure out how to solve this. My acquaintance has her kid wear clothes she dislikes in the evening for an hour at a time, so she can get used to them without having to wear them all day, and we may try something like that. It isn't very helpful to take Skipper shopping, as she has no interest in it, and doesn't want to try anything on, but it's also very risky buying her anything without her trying it on, because odds are extremely high that she will dislike it. It also pisses me off to have to buy her anything at all, given that she has an enormous collection of clothing already.

Anyway. Presumably the situation will improve. I expect.

*"I don't have anything to wear! Waaaaahhhh!" 
"You have a dresser stuffed with nice clothes," 

** Skipper has several times gone to the basement to dress herself in half-dry clothes off the line. Sending your kid to school in DAMP ratty clothes that she's already worn to school twice that week provides bonus mortification. Also, clothes hung to dry in our basement this fall smell slightly unpleasant in a dank way, which suggests that we need a better dehumidifier and makes us all smell like maybe our family lives clandestinely in an elderly person's unfinished basement, which further increases my anxiety about what Skipper's teachers think of us.

***I must acknowledge here that I also very much prefer to wear baggy, comfortable, ratty clothes, and I also have a uniform that I wear when I have a choice - it is notably comprised of two hooded sweatshirts, one ratty cotton cardigan, one pair of jeans, and my four favorite t-shirts. The main difference between my choice wardrobe and Skipper's is that there are fewer pictures of animals in mine. However, unlike Skipper, I am willing to wear other things when I must.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

For you, low-quality photos

School pictures:

Halloween. Duchess is an 18th-century silversmith's apprentice, and Skipper is a penguin (felt mask made by Cook). Vast heaps of candy were collected. According to Duchess, only "the old people" guessed what she was (though they all thought she was Paul Revere, which was not her intent), and complimented her on her costume. Everybody else thought she was a pirate, which would have disappointed her had she not been laser-focused on accumulating vast heaps of candy.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


Today Cook and I attended parent-teacher conferences for both kids. Here is what we learned:

1) Our kids are much better behaved, more attentive, quieter, and more perseverant at school than they are at home. Skipper's Japanese teacher asked us "Is Skipper ever silly at home?" and all the teachers seemed to want our kids to talk more in class.

2) Skipper's teachers don't know how well she can read, or how many of the hiragana she knows. She's withholding that information pretty effectively. (This does not reflect on the teachers, as even Cook and I don't really know how well she can read. She really hates to be exposed in any way.)

3) Both of our kids are doing exceedingly well in school, and are appreciated by their teachers. I suggested several areas we think Duchess needs to work on, and her teachers provided specific examples to demonstrate her strength in those areas, leaving me feeling like some kind of terrible pushy parent who never thinks her child is good enough. Am I?

4) All of our kids' teachers (Skipper has a Japanese teacher and an English teacher and Duchess has a homeroom teacher and a math teacher) seem pretty competent, which is nice. They also seem to care about the kids, which is very nice.

So... it's all good.

Also, the kids went to nature day camp yesterday; they're going again tomorrow. Duchess's camp theme yesterday was a role-playing game - essentially, Dungeons and Dragons for ten-year-olds running around in the woods with foam swords, shooting each other with foam-tipped arrows while pretending to be a Cougar Kin Ranger (Ranged).*  They also practiced lighting fires and throwing knives, of course. I can't really think of a camp better-suited to Duchess, and she loved it, in spite of being, yet again, the only girl in the group.  She is very enthusiastic about going to the overnight summer camp version of the roleplaying theme, because a WEEK of running around the woods with foam weapons! If Duchess does not end up leading a chapter of the SCA in college, I will be extremely surprised. Skipper liked her camp (in which her group went on a quest to find a pumpkin and make it into a house for a homeless faerie)** okay, and even participated a little bit. Yay!

*As opposed to a Ranger (Melee). Got it? See, if you're Ranged, you get one arrow, and if you're Melee, you get a sword.
** This is the kind of camp where it's spelled faerie. We're talking deep nature nerds here.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Tips for the Fat Lazy Bike Commuter

Now that I've been bike commuting an 8-mile round trip almost every day for a few months now, I feel qualified to make some recommendations to others like me, who are neither fit nor fearless. Here is what I have learned.
1) Wear clothes that wick, especially for your underlayers. I'm usually a natural fibers sort of person, and I do not perform any activities that have led me to think that I might need "technical" underpants. I guarantee that nobody in Patagonia's design or marketing departments has me in mind as they do their work. However, I have learned that sitting around all day in sweaty clothing is crummy, and apparently "technical" means "hey, your clothes don't have to STAY sweaty!" So unless you're bringing a complete change of clothes, I highly recommend some nice synthetic wicking fibers.
2) Find a good place to change. I do not recommend my own changing spot, a humid, stuffy public restroom where homeless people also go to change. Ventilation would be nice.
3) Take it slow. Stop for pedestrians. Chat with other slow bicyclists and pedestrians. (You're going too slow to chat with anybody else.) Notice the scenery. Is that a bird singing? Isn't this nice?
4) Wear antiperspirant, even though it's a little disturbing, and definitely doesn't go with your philosophy about what people should put on their skin. I am already continually in danger of violating of cubicle-world etiquette because I have a very hard time not blurting out whatever I think to the person who happens to be nearest me, and I do not need to give my cubicle neighbors another reason to request a seating re-assignment.
5) Wear your boots. They're still the best.

Saturday, October 25, 2014


Hi! We're still hectic. We make dinner in our new slow cooker a lot. Anybody got a good vegetarian slow cooker recipe? 

Last weekend we went to pick pumpkins, plus the usual round of extracurriculars. (Duchess's Chinese teacher, who was irked last year when Duchess chose to participate in the Vietnamese fan dance rather than the Chinese pony dance, asked Duchess to perform a Chinese dance at a conference downtown in November. I'm not sure where she gets the idea that Duchess has the dance chops or the level of commitment to perfect a solo dance performance in a short period of time, but they're working together independently to make it happen, and Duchess is enthusiastic, so I guess it's all good, if a little weird. But it means more time on top of everything else.)

Anyway, here are some photos from our visit to the pumpkin place. If you have time to kill, you can see photos from previous visits in 20072008, 2010, and 2011. (I'm pretty sure we went in 2009 and 2012, but there is no evidence.)

It has been grey and rainy. Skipper has now conceded the need to occasionally wear a raincoat or a sweatshirt over her t-shirt and shorts uniform. You will notice that she's wearing the same beloved outfit in every photo in this post. She will wear two other outfits, but only if the primary outfit is unavailable.

Skipper seems to be powering along at school and her after-school program in a reasonably happy and successful trajectory. She wrote this all by herself. 

If you're having trouble deciphering, the four facts Skipper knows about bats are: 1) Fly, 2) Mammals, 3) Vampire bats suck birds' blood, and 4) Eat bugs. Please note the evocative drawing of the sad bird whose blood has been sucked. 

Here is a portrait of the author.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

People who try

Yesterday Skipper performed with her taiko class in public, in front of probably 80 people at the end of the harvest festival at her school.  She worried about it, but she didn't balk. She was obviously nervous during the performance, and seemed pretty lost, but I don't think that's outside the realm of normal for a five-year-old with exactly three taiko classes under her belt. She was very, very proud of herself.

Last week, as Skipper was talking about something she was going to do, she said "... because I'm a person who tries new things." I wanted to take a moment to shed a few happy tears, but I just said "Yes, you do try a lot of things." And she does, damnit. She tries new things on a daily basis, lately.
In other news, Duchess is wrestling with a lot of Big Things about adolescence and self-presentation and who she wants to be in the world. She's started dressing differently, consciously choosing clothes she identifies as more sophisticated, and spending time making her hair as straight and sleek as she can given her limited tools. She struggles with how to present and identify herself at school- is she going to try to hang out with the Cool Girls, or is she going to sit with the Nerd King* and make up silly songs? Only time will tell. In the meantime, she also tries new things.
*He's back! Turns out the Magic TAG school is much less flexible than this one about letting him skip school a ton to pursue his own projects. So he's back, though he's in a different class than Duchess, and she spends time with him at recess whenever she can. This exposes them both to ridicule, both because of the cross-gender friendship, which is not really socially permitted, and also because he is very short and Duchess is very tall, so they look silly together in a way that calls attention to the gender problem... Of course the Nerd King handles this with his usual aplomb, which gives Duchess some courage.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Who would want a pumpkin that's just orange?

Skipper went on a field trip. She brought home a pumpkin. (It's green and knobbly. I asked her if she had a lot of choices, and she said dismissively, "yeah, but the other ones were just orange.") She also, the same day, had her first day of kung fu aftercare, so it was a long hard day of doing hard new things. Skipper, as you know, hates to be revealed to be less than perfect, and joining a class that has been running for a month of weekdays is the sort of thing that makes her feel very exposed. The kung fu teacher said that every time Skipper seemed to be panicking and "brimming over" he asked her if she wanted to skip the thing they were doing, and she said "I will do it." Skipper's life is full of moments when she has to push forward into the thing she doesn't want to do, often because the alternative feels even worse to her. She's usually pretty tired by the end of a day of pushing painfully forward, alone, while around her other kids seem to be bobbing easily along. She's doing really well, honestly. She seems to be settling in to kindergarten, she likes her teachers and classmates, she likes school, she likes kung fu... It's just not easy. I think there will be many more moments of ease as she gets more and more comfortable in her routines, but it's never going to be just easy.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Executive function, extracurriculars, and more.

We* continue to massively overdo the extracurriculars. This fall, Duchess has gymnastics, swimming, ultimate frisbee, ballet, kung fu, electronics, and Mandarin. (Soccer and piano have fallen by the wayside, as was necessary to make room for all these other things.) Skipper has gymnastics, swimming, and taiko (and will be doing kung fu as part of her afterschool care). These are somewhat staggered in the calendar, the girls take some things at the same time, and some things take place after school, on site, which makes it a little less ridiculous, but we still have a few weeks this fall when Duchess will attend nine extracurricular activities in one week. NINE.

I continue to vacillate over it. The kids enjoy it all, and I see no harm in trying a lot of stuff during one's brief childhood. Nobody (except maybe Duchess, faintly) has any delusions that anybody in our family is going to achieve fame and fortune or really anything** through pursuit of these activities. Everybody is allowed to quit stuff they don't want to do. Neither kid is at all inclined toward independent physical activity, so it seems good to have them engage in structured physical activity rather than lie on the couch all day. I think language is a good thing to learn early in your brain development. I think that sending Duchess off to middle school feeling like she can do dorky electronic things as well as the boys will be a good thing.*** I think that it could be useful that Duchess is learning how to wire a security system, should she choose a life of crime. I think that both my kids are going to need social connections that are not just school-based. I think that giving them a feel for moving through a learning curve and gaining competence is a good thing. But. But here I am dutifully toting my children around the neighborhood to do activities, like the kind of helicopter parent I never thought I would be, not leaving them to play independently and develop character and executive function like they should be, or having them develop competence in life skills rather than ballet.****

Oh well. It's a short window. Soon Duchess will be saying no to everything. (Possibly not. Duchess is a yes person to a degree that may overpower the adolescent instinct for no.) Skipper will probably be saying no to everything even sooner. And almost every one of these activities are located within walking or at least biking distance, so at least I'm not literally chauffeuring them around. So meh, we'll keep it up until we get sick of it, executive function be damned. And they probably won't need executive function when they're part of the matrix, though I imagine it could be valuable in a criminal career.

*By which I mean I, in the role of enabler to Duchess. Cook couldn't care less, though he's usually willing to schlep kids to their things, and Skipper would be perfectly happy, in a world without Duchess, to stay home all the time. 
** Though I admit I secretly hope that Duchess will somehow be influenced by her once-a-week parks and rec ballet class to have better posture. 
***Ultimate frisbee and electronics both turn out to be extremely boy-heavy environments. Ballet, gymnastics, and swimming are the opposite, however, so it probably balances out.
**** Though while we have long ago dropped the weekly dinner-cooking program, the girls clean the bathroom every weekend. Duchess cleans the toilet, thoroughly and usually without complaint, which I do find mildly impressive.


Skipper still only wears four t-shirts and four pairs of shorts. She's let the underpants battle go for now, and the sock battle has been totally ended by my incredibly brilliant purchase of a set of days-of-the-weeks socks. She won't wear any sweaters or jackets, or any longsleeved shirts. (Fortunately, the weather has been quite warm.) She hates wearing her glasses, and fights them all day long. She is very proud of her status as second-best reader in her kindergarten class. She has many strong opinions. She is rapidly improving her monkey bar skills, which is closely associated with success at recess in kindergarten at her school.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Quick update

It's finally really fall, and there's rain and the kids are realizing that this whole school thing is for real and will continue for quite a while.

Here's what's up, briefly, before I go to bed to sleep to wake up to another day of preparations, dropoffs, work, pickups, dinner, cleanup, bed:

My job was extended, and will probably last the rest of the school year. Our babysitter is working until the end of next week, so we've been trying to figure out an after - school plan for the kids. Skipper is now enrolled on a trial basis at the afterschool kung fu program that Duchess used to do. (Duchess still does evening classes there, but won't do the after school program because she has Mandarin and electronics classes after school three days a week, and will go to the onsite childcare the other days.) They don't usually take kindergartners, so we're all watching to see if this works. Skipper is worried about being behind in the class, but excited to leave the school classroom a few minutes early with the other Bus Riders.

Skipper had her first taiko class today. It was strict and very active and very loud, and Skipper was very worried about it, but it seems to have been a success.

I still like my job, though my new job description is still alarmingly vague. If I didn't have to wear work clothes, and had paid vacation time, it would be perfect. Stupid pants with inelastic waistbands.

Duchess has been reliably informed that a 5th grade boy has a crush on her. Duchess has also declared her intent to be more fashionable, and wants to get her ears pierced for her birthday present from me and Cook.

I'm still resisting accepting the new busy paradigm, and really haven't figured out how to get a decent dinner on the table every night. Tonight Cook and Duchess had burritos from the cart pod, and Skipper and I had cheese sandwiches and sliced bell pepper.

That's the news.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Words for living

My bike commute to work involves a long downhill stretch that is turning out to be a kind of barometer on how confident or optimistic I'm feeling each day. On Monday I barreled down the hill at (relatively) high speed, heedless of pavement imperfections and the possibility of getting t-boned by a driver making bad decisions. This delirious positivity was the result of a weekend that made things feel pretty good.

Here's what happened this weekend:
1) I recovered from the flu! The flu is terrible, and just the pleasure even of being able to lie in bed and NOT feel like a damp bag of scrap metal was pretty tremendous.
2) The girls and I went with friends to a Renaissance Festival. It was very hot, and I was still maybe slightly delirious from fever, but I can't even describe how weird that was. We saw a magic show, a rat circus, a falconry show, a joust, and, weirdly, an air show going on above the whole time, and it was all really fun and strange and disorienting. The girls loved it. Duchess wants to buy a corset. Skipper said later that she married one of the jousting knights.
3) I read three parenting books while lying in bed feeling like a damp bag of scrap metal, and found a strategy in one of them that seemed very silly, but, when I dutifully deployed it on Skipper, WORKED.  It worked, you guys. We finally have a way to help Skipper correct her own behavior, and it works at least a little bit some of the time. Yay!
4) On Monday morning, when Skipper came out in the kitchen seeking breakfast, I said, in greeting, "Hey, Skipper, what's the word?" (this sounds ludicrous but is a greeting I fairly frequently use because I am ludicrous), and Skipper said "Awake! Happy!" and I was so happy to hear that those were her Monday morning words. (Duchess, following in her wake, said "Sleepy! Zombie!" to balance it out.)

That's the words. Happy Tuesday!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Yesterday Skipper brought home a flyer advertising an after-school yoga class. I know that some of her friends are doing the class.
Me: Hey, Skipper, do you want to take this yoga class with Pitstock?
Skipper: Sure.
Me: Sure meaning yes or sure meaning I don't care?
Skipper: Well... I would really prefer to take a fighting class.
Me: A fighting class?
Skipper: Yeah, like martial arts.
Me: Oh.

Today, I picked up some books on hold at the library. Skipper examined them after school.
Skipper: Thanks for not getting me any more of those learn-to-read books!
Me: Yeah, I figured you're just never going to learn to read.
Skipper: Mom!
Skipper: I pretty much have to learn to read, don't I?
Me: Yup. It's very hard to go through life not knowing how to read.
Skipper: I would starve to death if I didn't know how to read! Unless I got married really soon.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Yeah, she has about ten different styles of underpants, including "boyshorts". None of them work. I can't tell how much of the problem is a legitimate sensory thing, and how much is control. I don't know how much it matters.

Anyway, I'm sitting here on the internet while Cook makes ice cream, so as my contribution to the household, I will now give you your official update on my kids' fascinating school experiences! Skipper has had art, PE, library, and music, and she likes all of them. Tomorrow her class has "social skills class" with the school counselor. Skipper will probably ace it, because she has made some big social strides lately. She has been speaking to the new (and excellent) babysitter. She greeted the grocery store checker with an unsolicited "hello" yesterday. She has been going to kindergarten EVERY GODDAMN DAY, you guys. That's nothing to sneer at, when you're dealing with horribly uncomfortable underpants and paralyzing social anxiety.

Duchess is still happy. Things are still mellow at school, with minimal homework, and she still likes her teachers and has had no social disasters yet. She gets more pre-adolescently snarky and volatile every day, but she's still basically cheerful about most things, so I think we'll get a year or two before everything is grumpy all the time. Maybe.

And Cook and I are still alive! Our teeth are crumbling out of our heads, and I was almost crushed by a falling branch while biking home from work in the gusty evening today, but we are alive!


Last night, after a long, fruitless discussion about the issues with each of her underpants  (too tight/too loose/too lacy/too ribbony/too scratchy/etc.), Skipper said angrily "Mom, what is the purpose of you? I've never understood that." And then she stomped off to the bathroom and said to Duchess, who was showering, "Duchess, what's the purpose of Mom? All she does is hang around."

Sunday, September 7, 2014

This is a small town.

Today Duchess "tried out" for one of the local fancy swim teams.* While I was standing around waiting to write down our contact info, I noticed a mother and daughter speaking French behind me. I surreptitiously studied them, and realized that they were there for the beginning of Duchess's swim career 5 years ago; I had sat by the pool for a week with brand-new Skipper, chatting with the mom while the daughter participated in the same swim lesson as Duchess.  I talked to them briefly (the mom is one of these super-physical people who wants to hold your hand while she's talking to you, which I find a little uncomfortable but also very endearing), and discovered that the daughter went to the school that Skipper now attends, before moving on to the middle school that Skipper and Duchess will both attend, AND that the mom is an assistant teacher at the same school where our lovable summer nanny teaches. In Portland, it's really more like 2 degrees of separation.

*They don't have space at most of the sites, and they don't actually kick anybody off the team once they're on, so it's more like an in-person application for the waitlist. However, Duchess is not particularly interested in escalating her swimming at this point, and Cook and I are not interested in adding another activity that requires time, money, and energy, so it was pretty much just a reconnaissance trip, in case she decides to quit kung fu and go for swimming in a serious way next year. It turned out to be a good reconnaissance trip, as the event included open swim time, so Duchess and Skipper both cavorted joyfully for an hour in the pool, and we even got some free pizza on our way out.

Friday, September 5, 2014

First day of kindergarten

It's over. I didn't take a photo this morning, because Skipper spent so much time crying about how she didn't want to go to kindergarten, and all her underpants squeeze her buttocks to death and all her socks are too tight* that by the time I got her out the door wearing enough clothes that I could take her to school without worrying about getting reported for neglect, there was no time for photos.

When I left her in her classroom, she was crying, which was of course extra-terrible for Skipper because when you're the only kid in the class crying, all the other kids stare at you, which is a thing she spends most of her energy trying to avoid. Other parents** said to me as I was leaving "Don't worry, she'll be fine!" which was of course true in the sense that she would stop crying, and get through her day. I was actually not distressed by the acute situation, as I know that Skipper is in some ways pretty tough, and has gotten through many things that were hard for her. However, it seems like an exaggeration to say she'll be fine. Skipper rarely lets anything be easy for herself, and her approach to life is not exactly a recipe for "fine." So their reassurances, meant to be kind and helpful, only highlighted for me the fact that the way Skipper gets to "fine" is usually paved with broken glass and cactus spines. And she's the one who does the paving.

However, she was of course fine. It sounds like she had a good day. I don't think she talked, but everybody's used to that. She described with great enthusiasm a classmate's "awesomest hairdo ever!" which sounds like a fauxhawk. I think that may have been a highlight of the day.

Also, a note on inner Southeast Portland in 2014: Duchess has two classmates named Calvin, and Skipper has two classmates (one male, one female) named Arlo.

Also, one last note on Skipper: she announced today while trotting off to the bathroom, "My butt poops out enormous turds ... and tiny birds!"

*This is not true. She has lots of clothes that fit her just fine.
** The ones whose blithe children who were happily yelling out "HI SKIPPER!!!! HI!!!!!!!!" while Skipper cowered and wept.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

First day of fourth grade (was yesterday)

Duchess loves the new school year. She loves being in fourth grade. She loves her locker. She loves her teacher. She loves her math teacher, who is French and loves nature.* She is amazed to have TWO male teachers this year (the only other male staff at the school are the custodian, two part-time janitors, and one educational assistant). The much-loathed music teacher has been replaced. The two kids she most wanted to NOT have in her class are not in her class. Everything is great.

Skipper, who attended kindergarten (with just a small group of classmates) for one hour and had her 30 minute "assessment" (to ascertain if she knows her colors and letters and can count to ten)** yesterday, is feeling cautiously optimistic. Everything is okay. Her first real day of school is on Friday.

* The math teacher pulls the 20 fourth-graders out of the classroom, leaving behind the 11 fifth-graders, and takes them to another room for their special fourth-grade math instruction.
** She does. She can. Cook says she refused to count out loud, but did report the final number correctly.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The day before the first day of school.

We cleaned the house. I read a book I really liked, and you should read it, too.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

We're alive. We got back from vacation, had three house guests, hired two babysitters, and managed a large pile of work crises. And Cook went on a camping trip. But things have since calmed down. A little. We're still working all the time, trying not to let the squalor rise above tolerable levels, and attempting to feed everyone food that isn't terrible for us.

In the last week, the kids have gone to an amusement park and gone berry-picking with a babysitter. And swum in the Willamette and many times at the pool. Their lives have been pretty great all summer - lots of swimming and adventures and snacks and reading and not doing anything they don't like to do. Duchess is very excited for school - she's in a combined 4th/5th-grade classroom, with a teacher she thinks she'll like, and I think she thinks it'll be more sophisticated with all those 5th-graders involved. (Hee.) Skipper, predictably, is freaking out at the prospect of kindergarten. She starts full-time next Friday, three days after Duchess (and none of the babysitters we hired can cover those days, so we're jury-rigging a complicated system of using our vacation hours and taking her to work with us for some hours, which makes things even more hectic). I am keeping my fingers crossed that the transition won't be maximally miserable.

Here's some of what we did this summer:
- In swimming, Duchess learned how to do a good flip turn
- In swimming, Skipper moved from reluctantly dipping her face in the water (when required) to enthusiastically plunging underwater and pretending to be a dolphin.
- Duchess decided she really likes gymnastics
- Duchess decided she really likes ballet.
- Duchess decided she really likes learning Mandarin.
- Duchess decided she really likes electronics.
- Duchess decided she really likes swimming.
- Duchess decided she loves the Wildwood trilogy.
- Skipper decided she does not like popsicles or blueberries.
- Skipper decided she loves the work of Roald Dahl and Robert McCloskey.
- Skipper decided she likes grocery shopping. But not leaving the house.
- We got new, bad neighbors who sit outside all the time smoking and having stupid conversations.
- We went on two camping trips (plus Cook's trip with friends)
- We went on a TWO-WEEK vacation!
- I stopped trying to learn to play guitar, but I am going to pick it back up again.
- I learned that I'm good at providing customer service to angry people. And that I am not completely unemployable.
- Cook learned that if you thread your pedal onto your bike pedal arm wrong, the threads will eventually be stripped away, and your pedal will fall off while you're riding home from work.
- We grew a lot of tomatoes and killed a bunch of other plants.
- We hired four babysitters.

And that's all I can think of off the top of my head. I can't believe summer's ending!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Since we're all just heaps of duft, we might as well enjoy our vacations.

We rounded out our vacation in Boston. In retrospect, spending two days together (based out of a single hotel room) at the end of a two-week vacation might not have been the greatest choice, as we all got pretty cranky, but we had a really nice visit regardless. The kids were excited to see the places they had read about, and Cook and I were excited to return to Boston, where we lived for a couple of years when we were young and foolish. I think we were all pretty satisfied. I was pleased to find that the subway system still smells the same. Duchess was pleased to see History. Skipper was pleased to see the ducks and know we were almost home. Cook was pleased to see the transportation improvements in the city.

We wandered around brick streets in Beacon Hill. Duchess was navigating.
We visited the ducklings at the Public Garden, in honor of Skipper's favorite author.
We took a picture of Duchess with a statue of George Washington.
This is the State House. I don't know who any of those other people are. 

We went to the Children's Museum for a brief break, deploying a free reciprocal membership with a local Portland museum. They have a very cool climby thing. And now Boston has connected itself to its waterfront, thanks to the Big Dig, and the waterfront is also cool. We did not go on the Tea Party ship, to Duchess's eternal disappointment.
We went to Faneuil Hall and took a picture of Duchess and Skipper with a statue of Sam Adams. 
We went to the Old North Church, and took a picture of Duchess with a statue of Paul Revere.

We met Mr. Otis at the Old State House. Duchess was enthralled. She wants to be a historical interpreter.*

And now we're home! I leave you with this heart-warming sentiment, courtesy of the Copp's Hill Burying Ground.  :

*"Not as a career, Mom. As a job when I'm not ready for a career yet."