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.