Thursday, December 28, 2017


We had a lovely Christmas. It even snowed!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Limping into the end of 2017

(Hello! Everything is fine. I'm fine, Cook's fine. The girls are fine.)

This fall I tried something different. I've been watching Duchess enjoy playing ultimate frisbee, reminding me of what a fun game it is, and I've also been reflecting on the fact that the kids have lots of activities (well, not Skipper anymore) and I have none. So I signed up for exercise classes (I found a company that allows you to visit lots of different exercisey places, meeting my need for variety) and have been doing all sorts of novel barre and yoga and pilates and strength training things that are fun and hard. That's been great, though expensive.

I also signed up to play "goalty," a spin-off of ultimate. It turns out that it's a more compact, much quicker game than ultimate, and there are only 4 players per team on the field at a time (2 men and 2 women in this league). This means that even if you don't really understand the game, aren't very good at throwing and catching, and aren't particularly fit,* you can't dawdle confusedly in the background while other people make things happen - you have to actually participate. This would be okay if not for the fact that everybody in the league is much better than me AND have all been playing together for years (I was afraid they would all be young and obnoxious, but they're mostly my age-ish) AND are pretty intense and competitive. They were all nice to me, but I was very clearly deadweight. And that felt terrible. The first time I took the field, I literally fell down three times in a row (I think that was about playing on turf - I never fell down again after that) and I could almost feel all my teammates' horror radiating at me from the sidelines.

This experience made me think about Skipper a lot. I didn't want to go back after the first day. I knew I should, but I was dreading it. I went, but only to three out of the five sessions (three games to a session; ugh) and hated most of it. But I did it. I even caught a few scores and made some good catches and throws. I also dropped a lot of catches, threw away a lot of throws, and failed terribly and repeatedly at defense. I even knocked over the goal once. But I did it, which is something. I think the next new thing I try will be easier, though.

This experience also made me think about my dad, who played in a baseball league when he was in his forties - he complained a lot about how his "eyeballs jiggled" when he was running for the ball in the outfield. I thought that was hilarious, and I gave him a lot of shit. Jiggling eyeballs! Ridiculous! But when I was running around, trying to track changes in play direction and locate a flying frisbee, I really felt like my eyeballs were ... jiggling. A lot. Definitely more than they used to. Dad, sorry about that.

*Barre and yoga and pilates and strength training don't do much for one's cardiovascular fitness. And I wasn't ever very quick or dynamic even when I was in better shape. 

Sunday, November 26, 2017


Duchess turned thirteen. THIRTEEN!

Skipper lost another tooth.

The guinea pigs remain very strange. But they feel more comfortable with us. A little bit.

We went to Astoria! It's been nine years since we last visited, but we revisited some of our favorite sites.

The Maritime Museum, whre Skipper purchased herself a hat.:

A different hotel with a view of the bridge. Skipper, who has very little hotel experience, was thrilled with things like the elevator, the pool (a POOL!), the vending machine, and the room key card. "This is a life of luxury!" she said.

And Fort Stevens, where the camera ran out of batteries. It was very beautiful, I swear.

We also went to the Lewis and Clark Historical Site, and we ate dinner at a restaurant that had sea lions sleeping under the floor, visible through a viewing window. This was all very exciting.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Another photo

These photos were taken the day BEFORE Halloween, which is why she's smiling.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Question Maker

Last week I picked Skipper up from after-school care a little early, and watched the end of her kung fu class. As all the other kids gathered up their things and trooped out of the room to go to the main area, Skipper helped the teacher put away gear, in a companionable way that suggested she had done this many times before. Afterward, I asked her if she always helps the teacher, and she said she does. I asked why, and she said "I like it. It gives me a chance to ask her all the questions I have about forms, because of my One-Minute Question-Maker."

I had not heard of the One-Minute Question-Maker, and I was intrigued, so I interrogated her a little. Skipper explained that she thinks of at least one question a minute all day every day. Some of them she forgets before she can ask them, some are silly and she dismisses them. But mostly, she asks them. She asks and asks and asks. She stores them up and them they pour out.

Also, the guinea pigs are feeling more lovable. We finally figured out that they're a lot more fun to hold one at a time, because when they're together, Momo gets pissed off at Snufkin* and snaps at his face.

What else? Halloween happened. It was a bit of a debacle. Skipper decided she did want to have a costume, but didn't want to go trick-or-treating, because she gets pretty stressed asking strangers for things. We were fine with that - it's not a bad thing to have a realistic understanding of yourself and how you will experience things and what you will enjoy. (Skipper only rarely attends birthday parties these days, because she doesn't enjoy them. We try to follow up the declining of the invitation with a one-on-one playdate with the birthday kid instead, which Skipper does enjoy.) So she assembled a classic witch costume in which she would greet trick-or-treaters.

Duchess had said she's too big to trick-or-treat, and feels self-conscious about looming up on people's porches like an obnoxious teenager. We thought she would go out with friends, but somehow she ended up staying home. (She was also pretty sick.) Whatever the case, we ended up on Halloween night with both kids at home. Skipper decided she did want to trick-or-treat just on our block and then come home, and Duchess decided she would hastily put together a black cat costume and go along as Skipper's familiar. They went out together, which was delightful - I was pleasantly surprised by how smoothly and cheerfully that came together. They came back five minutes later, both very resentful and aggrieved. Skipper had decided she had had enough just as Duchess was picking up steam and starting to get really enthusiastic and happy about getting to trick-or-treat after all, and Duchess was angry at having her enthusiasm ruined, and Skipper was angry at being made to feel guilty for her decision. I have seen the adorable photos of my friends and coworkers' children in their costumes, and the only photographic evidence I have of Halloween 2017 are these photos of my two petulant children.

After they seemed to have recuperated a little, I took them both out again for a small-scale trick-or-treating. We stayed within two blocks of the house and went to a bunch of houses that weren't getting much traffic, and were happy to give large handfuls to Skipper. Duchess stayed on the sidewalk with me, but she was still pleased to get to go out and see the decorated houses and the kids' costumes. Everybody was fine with the evening, in the end, after muddling through the emotional muck.

*To be fair, it's understandable why she's pissed off at him. She's neutered, but he isn't, and he spends most of the time when they're together attempting to convince her that it's Sexy Time (which male guinea pigs do by making a funny chuckling noise and rolling their hips amusingly as they walk), and she spends all that time either running away from him or explaining to him at great length that It Is Not (in a torrent of irritated chirping noises and, if necessary, a sort of guinea pig hip check).

Saturday, October 14, 2017

People say that life is the thing.

Here's the long story of my trip to England. I know you have been waiting.

I went away for ELEVEN days. Skipper was sad about it, and I pointed out that she has been to summer camp, so it's not like we've never been apart. "Yeah," she said, "but that time I left YOU! This time, you're leaving ME."

I met my mom in Heathrow*, and we went straight to Oxford for a few days. We visited some colleges. (Duchess now wants to go to Oxford, so she can eat at a dining hall that makes her feel like Harry Potter.) These are dining halls in Oxford - I can't remember which colleges. (The dining halls at my college were mostly in basements. One had big windows, which made it very fancy.)

We even visited Balliol, which I knew only as the alma mater of the fictional Lord Peter Wimsey (the second person in a book I wanted to marry, after Sherlock Holmes - I have a type). We went to Evensong at Christ Church. We visited the Botanic Garden and climbed the tower at St. Mary's. We walked under the Bridge of Sighs. We walked past the Bodleian and the Radcliffe Camera and Oxford Castle. We even watched people punting. We went to the Ashmolean Museum and the Pitt Rivers Museum (I could have spent weeks at both those locations).
Oxford Castle. I am wearing my absolute favorite piece of clothing. My poor mother saw me wearing that wool hoody every single day of this trip.

Then we went to the Cotswolds, and walked bits of the Cotswold Way.The Cotswolds are so preposterously picturesque that I just kept taking photos, none of which did the place justice. Walking is the perfect way to see them. (Though I found that four straight days of Full English Breakfasts was three too many for me.) I can't recommend it more, though we lucked out on weather, and rain might have dimmed my enthusiasm. Should you wish an itinerary (because I really wanted to find one when I was planning the trip, seeking a lazy no-more-than-five-miles-a-day approach), here it is:
1) Train to Moreton-in-Marsh, which is where we learned that in the Cotswolds, traffic signs are funny, and all the buildings are made of yellow stone. The roofs are made of the same rock as the walls. In Moreton-in-Marsh, a lot of the roofs have little fences at the edges, presumably to catch the slates before they slide off onto your head.
My mom, being silly.

2) We took a taxi to Chipping Campden. (The bus doesn't run on Sunday. Because nobody without a car needs to get anywhere on a Sunday.) Chipping Campden was sunny and ludicrously charming.

This is the underside of the slate roof of that really old market hall.

3) Walked from Chipping Campden to Broadway. This walk was basically the definition of picturesque. The official end point of the Cotswold Way is at that market hall. I wish we had had time to go all the way to Bath.

My mom, being silly.

Dover's Hill, the site of the Olimpick Games. I'm pretty sure I'd be really good at the shin-kicking competition.

My mom, being awesome.
My mom, being silly.

4) Caught the bus to Toddington, walked to Winchcombe.

Hailes Abbey
Hailes Church

This polite notice is the most passive passive-aggressive thing I've ever seen. 

Downtown Winchcombe
St. Peter's Church in Winchcombe
Our hotel

The view from our room

Behind Sudeley Castle, which we did not visit.

5) Walked to Cleeve Hill, caught the bus to Cheltenham.

Belas Knap

Cleeve Hill

Cheltenham, as it turns out, is the birthplace of Edward Wilson, Robert F Scott's saving grace, and a hero of one of my absolute favorite travel book, The Worst Journey in the World.

Then we caught a train to London. London has a LOT of people in it. Also, a lot of art, and we saw ALL the art.**

I really liked this painting.

Portobello Market

This reminded me of Duchess.
Tate Britain

Piccadilly Square

Harrods, where I didn't buy you presents.

Whistlejacket at the National Gallery

The ceiling of the lobby of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The batshit weird Wallace Collection, which I tremendously enjoyed.

It was a fabulous trip. I missed Cook and the girls a lot; I was actually physically homesick for them, something I haven't experienced since childhood. However, I loved everything we visited, and I loved learning about new stuff,**** and I just felt really lucky.

*Heathrow is a terrible place.
**We did not see the portrait of Thomas Cromwell, which was disappointing to me, as I had picked up a used copy of Wolf Hall in the Powell's Books at the Portland airport and plunged into it with an immersive pleasure I did not expect*** and then been astonished and delighted to run into Thomas while walking in the Cotswolds. 
***This book, you guys. How did I go this long without reading this book? (What other books have I been overlooking? How many hours of my life have I wasted doing other stupid things when I could have been reading?!) Maybe I'm just at the right moment in my life to read it, but this book devastated me. I sat on the plane in the middle of the night, squished between two friendly Canadians, weeping desperately over the death of the daughters of a fictionalized version of a person who has been dead himself for nearly 500 years. I don't know. Something about life and death and love and the transience of everything, and the flickering attempts we make to mean something. Our almost-instincts are almost true.
****American history classes do not teach about the suppression of the monasteries, and all I knew about the Tudor period was pretty much "divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived," so I feel I've made leaps and bounds there. Also, I learned a little bit about the Arts and Crafts movement in England. Artists, man. They're so adorable.