Wednesday, August 30, 2017

First day!

First day of third grade. Skipper has been very stressed for a week or so, and expressing it through rage and meanness, lashing out like a cornered weasel at every perceived threat. So we were all pretty relieved to arrive at today, when we could pack the weasel off to school.

Said weasel had a pretty good day and feels cautiously optimistic* about the year. Duchess, who has her first day of school tomorrow, feels exceedingly optimistic.**

*This is as optimistic as said weasel ever gets.
**This is her normal state.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Still here

You've probably been waiting for this update. Here it is: we're alive!

Duchess had a wonderful time on her ultimate frisbee adventure to Minnesota. She loved everything. She loved playing (in spite of all the losing) and she loved staying with her teammate's relatives (canoeing, kayaking, swimming, and driving a golf cart), and everything went smoothly. One of her hosts even sent me a nice email saying what a lovely guest she was.

And school is starting! Duchess is very excited. Last weekend Skipper and I actually took her to the mall to meet up with her friends and shop for clothes. I'm not sure when I became a character in a sitcom, but it has happened. And I did appreciate how many people were at the mall in family groups, clearly enjoying themselves together - I enjoyed it, too! For a little while, at least. And then we bought a bunch of bulk candy and pried Duchess away from her friends so we could get out of there.

Here's something I've noticed about Duchess. (I should have realized this before, but I've been very busy worrying constantly about the end of the world.) She's a nice person (well, not always to her family members, but to others), and the thing she values above everything else in other people is that they are nice.

Skipper is a little worried about school, but also looking forward to it. She might actually be tired of doing nothing.

Because it's fall, it's time to assemble the hodge-podge of the year's extracurriculars. We're scaling down a bit this year, since Duchess wants more time to hang out with friends and Skipper wants more time to recuperate from everything. Duchess is doing gymnastics and ultimate, leaving kung fu behind. Skipper will still be doing the after-school kung fu program because she needs aftercare. She's signed up for ultimate, although she was dismayed to learn that she would have to participate in a tournament. (She said she likes running around, but she doesn't want to actually catch and throw during the games - it turns out that she thinks of herself as "a back-up," hovering around in case everybody else breaks their ankles. So we'll see how that works out...)

And Cook and I are trying not to panic about everything. It'll be okay, right? RIGHT?

Monday, August 21, 2017


We saw the eclipse. It was awesome. We didn't take any good photos.

We took the train to Salem at the crack of dawn. It was a beautiful day. There was an English family sitting across from us who were tackling their THIRD try at a cloudless experience of a total eclipse.

We tried to find breakfast, but the restaurant ran out of food. (There were a lot of people in Salem.) So we bought coffee and scones and planted ourselves in a little parklet. We tested our glasses. They were legit.

I had been kind of dubious about the utility of taking a day off work and schlepping to Salem, a town that is very pleasant but isn't exactly the stuff of exciting day trips, but I read something to the effect of "If you're anywhere near the totality, get your ass there, or you're an idiot," so I dutifully bought train tickets. It was worth it; I've seen a partial solar eclipse before, but I've never seen anything like the totality. My phone was not up to the task of photographing a hole in the sky, so you'll have to imagine it, or look at the bajillion excellent photos on the internet, or think back to your own memory of it.

These are the shadows. We kept going back to look at them, because I think they're such a cool part of an eclipse.

And then we went to a history museum and then we had a mediocre lunch (because all the good restaurants had hour-long lines) and then we went to the Capitol, because we were in Salem! And then we waited at the train station for our ride home, and Skipper fell asleep...

Keeping pedestrians safe in Salem apparently means making sure they don't get hit by... rollerblades.

And then we went home. A good day.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Summer winds down.

Hello from steamy Portland! We've been in an oppressive streak of hot days, which combined with a few days of terrible air quality to make a miserable end-of-last-week. But we survived. We try not to move very much. Skipper has been sleeping in the basement because the upper bunk in a west-facing bedroom is unbearable at her bedtime.*


1) We had our third weekend in a row of camping, and it was a lot of fun. The camera ran out of batteries, so I have no photographs. But it was fun. There were a LOT of my relatives, and dogs, and an adorable toddler, and there was river floating and swimming. The kids were thrilled. Duchess paddled an inflatable kayak by herself, and she loved that - she was afraid at first, and then super-pleased with herself for not falling out in one of the little rapids. Skipper got to ride in a canoe, and also was afraid at first and then delighted by the experience. And now we're home for a weekend, scrambling to catch up with all the stuff that went undone for nearly a month.

2) Duchess is gone, off in Minnesota competing in an ultimate frisbee tournament, under the quasi-supervision of some young volunteer coaches (thank you, volunteer coaches).** After the tournament, she's going straight off for a few days at a lake house with a teammate and the teammate's relatives. She'll be gone for a week total, and doing stuff that requires her to take more responsibility than she ever has before for both logistics and her own emotional and physical well-being. She seems to be having a great time so far, as far as we can glean from her cursory, infrequent communications.*** Cook and I fully expect she will return home completely converted to ultimate frisbee. Duchess was born to be part of a team,**** and ultimate has some fundamental characteristics that really appeal to her, plus she loves the people. One of her communications was pretty much a lot of squee over a player she thinks is AMAZING

3) Skipper has been muddling through all her activities in a storm of anger, fear, and resentfulness.  She's been struggling with swimming - she has missed so many practices due to vacations and camp that she hasn't ever really settled into it, and she still feels very uncomfortable. She has also continued to struggle with ultimate - she enjoys it but feels really uncomfortable because she's so bad at it. She went to her first ballet class today very anxious, and came through it okay. She's talking and thinking a lot now about her habitual thought patterns, though, which is potentially a very good development. (Actually, having Duchess gone is giving her a time and space to do a lot of interesting processing. Last night she asked me where love is stored in the heart - if there's like a big reservoir or what.)

That's pretty much it. We're turning the corner toward school now, and I think both kids are looking forward to settling back into it...

* I have also learned this week that Skipper is extremely embarrassed by the way I look in a tank top. I've been trying to explain to her that body-shaming is not okay, and also I'm HOT and I'm going to let my blotchy upper arms fly.
** To clarify, Duchess is now playing ultimate frisbee at an elite level not because she's good (she's mediocre, though being tall is helpful), but because teen girls who play ultimate even mediocrely are scarce in Portland, and an even smaller number of them have families who can be suckered into buying their kid a plane ticket to Minnesota.
***Either she's having a great time or she's joined a cult. I guess we'll find out when we go to pick her up at the airport.
**** Left alone, she's pretty much an inert lump. Put her in a team environment, and she instantly kindles into life and becomes an energetic, responsive, thoughtful, engaged participant. Take away the team, and you have a lump again. It's an amazing social alchemy.