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.