Sunday, January 27, 2013

sister sunday - yesterday's papers edition

... or rather, last month's water taxi ride edition:

on the water taxi, 12/28/12

Friday, January 25, 2013

... she was an american girl...

... doll...

Or, how we managed to make a bad situation worse and then possibly better but we won't know for a minimum of 3 months and it could take up to a year.

Meet Saige. Get to know her. She'll be around a while
(unless she's not)

Recently (this last Christmas) our girls started being aware of American Girl dolls. Friends got them, catalogs ("magazines" in our household) arrived unrequested. We'd generally maintained a low profile on things American-Doll-related (not to mention Barbie, Disney and other over-marketed consumables. But the reality is that we live 1) with girls, and 2) in a world where information cannot be entirely controlled. Thus, we're now moving into the era of princesses and expensive dolls. And I'm going to do my best to, if not embrace it, at least accept it with something vaguely like grace (I hope).

So, in spite of our previously stated position that AGDs are for 8 year olds or older, we're now anticipating getting a couple of them in the next year. Here's how it's all gone down (so far):

1) Friends and cousins got AGDs for Christmas/Birthdays/etc. even though they weren't yet 8yo.
2) K&L noticed this.
3) M and I realized that we might need to capitulate on this age-line-in-the-sand
4) M came up with the idea that the girls could "earn" AMDs by giving up sugar.
5) K&L both thought this was a great idea.

Remember that K is not yet 7, but is quite reasonable and can look ahead and delay gratification, and that Miss L is only just 5 and thinks delayed gratification means waiting for 3 minutes before getting exactly what she wants.

The Plan (first edition)

The first plan M pitched to the girls was that, if they agreed to give up sugar for the year (2013), they would get AGDs for Christmas. Both girls nodded enthusiastically and said they were in. There were some contingencies - sugar could be had at a school birthday celebration, for example. But Easter candy, Halloween, these were out. Nods of agreement.

Later that same night, sitting in bed and having what approximates an in-depth conversation these days, M and I discussed "the plan" and the pitfalls it might contain. For example, it struck us both as problematic that a single slip (a lollypop at the doctor's office, say) would negate any effort the girls had made up to that point. It was an all-or-nothing sort of plan, which didn't bode well for any of us. So we come up with a modification.

The Plan (second edition)

The next day we laid out the new plan: For each day the girls did not have sugar, they would earn a point. When they'd earned 300 points they would get an AGD for Christmas from M and me. Again, nods of enthusiasm. We explained that this meant they could slip up (have sugar on a particular day) without ending the deal. (K: Oh, so it just means it takes a day longer? me (thinking "holy cow, this girl understands it better than *I* do!"): Right! Exactly! L (clueless, methinks): Ok!!)

Later that same night, again in bed. me: Do you think they're going to be able to do it? (M: I don't know. I have my doubts. me: Doubts! But I was amazed that K understood so quickly. M: L had no idea what was different. me: No idea!) Somehow we came up with another iteration of the plan: The girls would earn points for each day they went without sugar. Once they earned enough points to qualify for a doll (1pt = 1$), they'd get a doll for Christmas.

The Plan (third edition)

We explained this new twist the next morning, and again the girls were in, though I think by this time K was wondering why the ground rules were constantly changing. And I don't blame her. It's one thing to come up with a bad plan. It's another to keep modifying it. But at least (theoretically) we were improving her chances as success.

It might have been that night or another, shortly later, when M and I made another tweak to the rules:
We would promise them each an AGD for Christmas (no matter what, even if they started having soda on their CocoSugarBomblets for breakfast). They'd get the dolls. But all the accessories - those were what they were earning their points for.

You see, one of the points that we've struggled to get through to L was that even though each doll is shown in the "magazine" with scads of gear (canopy bed, jodpurs and polo mallet, vespa scooter, sailing yacht), each piece comes separately, at significant cost. And of course the girls wanted a lot of what was shown.

The Plan (fourth (final?) edition)

The next morning we told them we were ready to promise them AGDs for Christmas, independent of their sugar intake. I thought I saw a glimmer in Miss L's eye. She's inherited my achilles heel sweet tooth (to mix a couple of metaphorical concepts). We sat down with the girls and explained (again) that the accessories aren't actually included with the dolls but are purchased separately.

And once more, they agreed. I could see K looking askance at us, probably wondering what would change next. But she saw the benefit of the latest system and agreed.

Almost a Month In

So we've been proceeding with this variation, and so far things have gone well. The girls have amassed 20 or more points each, with L (shockingly) having not caved for sugar once. There was a night, a few days ago, when she pronounced herself willing to give up a point for that day, so she could have something out of her candy bag. M pressed her, asking if she really wanted to do that. She insisted she did, at least until I reminded her that she still had some vitamins to take, and, glory of glories, the calcium they take is a chewable, sugar-dusted gummy bear. Candy in other words. L: So that doesn't count? me: Nope. L: I want my vitamins!

Then last night K said that she wanted a piece of candy instead of a point. L: Then I'm going to get my American Doll before you! K: Yeah, but probably just a day before! L: I want my vitamins!!

K had her candy, L had her vitamins (she splits them between morning and night whereas K has been taking all of them in the morning, something she just changed this morning, seeing the wisdom of her sister's ways), and now L is one point ahead of her sister.

Looming Pitfalls

Besides the time between now and, say, April, when the girls could theoretically have enough points for a doll, there's an issue of which doll. The girls spend many many minutes reading and rereading the "magazines," noting what comes with the doll, and which pet they want, which bed, which.... All of this is fine, except that L, for the time being, wants Saige (see picture above), who happens to be the 2013 "doll of the year." And these dolls of the year have a tendency to sell out. And these girls of ours have a tendency to change their minds.

So we could buy Saige ahead of time, anticipating the moment when L will have earned enough points to get her. But if, between now and then, she changes her mind (L, not Saige - I have my doubts about just how much "mind" Saige comes with), we're left with an unwanted doll of the year.

To be continued....

.... who are you, who who...

or, modern-day texting challenges:

Late this morning I received this text. I didn't recognize the number, and didn't know who had sent it.

It was obviously someone who knew us (M loves lasagna) and has a sense of humor (knows we'd be willing to feed the girls bread and water in exchange for the chance to eat lasagna).

But how to respond?

"Uh, sure?"
"My mother taught me to never take lasagna from strangers!"
"What kind of bread?"

There was potentially the option of trying to tease the identity out:
"Super! What should we bring? And where?"
"Sounds good. Will it just be us?"
"What kind of bread?"

Eventually I decided to email one of the two most likely candidates (they happen to be married), and she replied that the number belonged to her husband. It's almost disappointing to have solved the mystery. But at least we'll know where to go to get our lasagna!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

sister sunday - frozen limb edition

it's another Sunday in January, which means that 1) M has to do some work, and 2) we have to get out of the house so we don't go stir-crazy! 1+2 = "let's go down to the beach." K: Uh, we're not walking, are we? me (pause): No. We'll drive. L: I want to wear shorts.

Well, it's foggy and roughly 39, with a "feels like"value of 20 degrees below you've-got-to-be-kidding! Shorts? Uh, no!

Start of a barrel race

M heads off to work, both girls are still in jammies and I'd like to take a shower before we go. I figure it'll take us about 45 minutes to get out the door. I'm wrong by a factor of 2. But I hadn't calculated in the total meltdown related to socks and bleeding into no good shirt to wear, exploding into Miss L pulling every single carefully folded shirt out of her drawer to throw down in a mess on the floor because one of them wasn't still folded like she and M had folded it yesterday (which was the first time I'd ever seen that drawer look like anything other than a pile of mashed laundry). I helped her refold and repack the drawer, where "I helped her" = me doing it while she wailed about not having the right shirt or the right socks or... I sort of stopped listening at some point soon after all the shirts hit the floor.

And here's the thing. I can handle the wailing, the meltdowns, the "You don't love me"s and I'm willing to refold laundry that I would never have folded in the first place. What really gets me is not knowing whether I'm enabling behavior that I don't want to encourage. If I knew that putting up with Tropical Depression L meant only that we'd grow out of the behavior in time and all will be well, I'd happily (?) do so. But I worry that I'm only making things worse by putting up with it, or comforting her, or....

I'm fairly certain that I've been through this line of anguish before, so maybe I should just shut up. But it's the not knowing whether I'm making things worse, or just easing us on toward more grown up behavior that really challenges me. And I feel fairly certain that I could find books that argue positions 180 degrees in opposition to one another.  So I stew. And we head to the beach.

I go down to the beach with 2 girls, and return with 2 wild horses I captured there. Not unusual if you know our family.

It was a given that they'd be horses. We speculated on the state of the tide, with K certain it would be in, and L saying that "maybe it won't be." It was in. But there was still enough sand to gallop on.

First we set up a barrel race course:

(those gopher-like holes in the sand are the "barrels")

And the girls ran the course a few times. But then fairly quickly the game morphed.

L: Pretend I'm a wild horse, right?
K: Yeah, and I'm a wild horse too, and you're the owner but you don't know us but you catch us....
L: Yeah, you catch us (piercing neigh which, in better weather, would have drawn at least a few curious glances) and we're wild and my name is Picasso and...
K: ... and my name is Steps Lively.
me (hands reddening in the bitter wind): Ok.
both girls run away from me and the barrel racing course.
K (over her shoulder): Daddy! You have to catch us!
L: Yeah, you have to!
me (loping slowly after them, wondering what the windchill is and how L can possibly stand to have her coat unzipped): Ok, swish swish.... I'm throwing my rope. Got you!
K&L: (loud neighs and stomping feet)
me: And I take you into the stable.
K: Yeah, and you feed us.
L: And pretend we know where the stable is, so you let us go.
me: How do you know where it is? Aren't you wild?
K: Well... we came here before, when we were with our band.
L: Yeah!
me: Ok, click click.... you're loose.
K (running ahead to the "barn"): And I go into my stall.
L (following closely behind her): Yeah, and I go into my stall....
me: And I close the door behind us because it's getting colder.
K: Pretend I can tell there's a blizzard coming but you don't know it and so ... (loud neighing and pawing at the ground)
L: Yeah, (neighing and pawing)!
me: Uh... ok. And I get you back into the stalls and close the bar up tight because, wow, that wind is howling now!
K: And I see some hay and I like hay so I jump out of my stall and eat it (moves past the line drawn in the sand by my boot heel and over to the bush)
L: And I do too (leaps over her stall "door" and stands beside her sister/horsemate)
me: And pretend you don't see the dog poop next to the hay.
K (sharp glance up): What?
me (pointing): There's dog poop there. Don't step in it.
K (gagging): Aaack! (moves away) And I go back to the stall....

This more or less captures our 40 minutes of "fresh air" and I like to believe the time offsets the 60 minutes of Martha Speaks they watched after we got home (me driving wild horses in my "horse trailer" made by Chrysler).

And this evening, though we had more melt downs because M was putting neighbor children to bed down the street and that meant one reader for the two girls, I managed to get 3 books read to L and then moved onto The Long Winter for K while L curled in protest against me until she was breathing hard and regular and her fully asleep weight rested hard and wonderful against my right side and it was all worth it, as long as I'm not making things worse, but how can I possibly know....

One last picture, this one from the morning, waiting for breakfast:

Reading Ivy and Bean on the couch

We have an arrangement now. The girls have a clock out in their room, and they're not to get up until 6am. Some mornings we hear them whispering to each other at 5.15. Other mornings it's clear that K has woken her sister up. Yesterday for example, which was an early morning after a very late evening. So I told K that this morning she was not to wake L up, and that if she was awake at 6a, to come and get me and we'd read together downstairs. So K came nearly silently into our room at 6:01am and she and I slipped down to the basement to read The Long Winter until the others were up.

And I'll be honest - I don't mind these mornings of reading together. Even on those mornings when I could use another 30 minutes of sleep.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

... skating away...

... on the thin ice of...Highland Ice Arena, or, when hell freezes over, sorta.

The girls have been wanting to go ice skating, something I haven't done in years.

Ice skate? Of course I know how to ice skate!

And for those of you following along at home, consider this - having been born in Hawaii, and not having left the islands for the first time until the summer after my sophomore year of high school, and then only for a 2 week hiking trip in Yosemite, and not again until I went away to college, I wasn't much exposed to ice in general and ice rinks in specific. Until I went away to college, where I did learn to skate, sort of.

But this was 30something years ago, and I haven't been on skates since sophomore year. Which hasn't kept me from trash talking with the girls when the subject comes up between their mother and me.

Let's see, where was I? Oh yeah, the girls have been wanting to go skating, which they imagined they understood from watching a few cartoons on the computer and reading Angelina Ballerina on Ice books. They were sure they would be great at it. And I was sure that I was close to 30 years past my prime skating.

We managed to dodge the issue a few times, and M even said once that we'd look into it. But we hadn't. And this morning while M was out shopping the girls brought it up again and in a moment of weakness I promised I'd see what options there were.

So I actually did it! I opened the MacBook and did a search and it turned out there were several rinks in town and that one had skating from 10-noon and then again from 1.30p - 5p and it was 9.45a and I figured we were probably good for about 30 minutes of painful wobbling, so we packed up* and headed to Highline Ice Arena in Shoreline.

Newly strapped into skates
and watching the Zamboni impatiently

*(note, this phrase doesn't begin to capture the whole of what it means to prepare for something like this. There is the clothing question (L: Is people going to laugh at me?), the snacking question (M: We have to bring them something to eat!), the warmth question (K: I don't have gloves I want to take. L: I don't want to wear a hat!), then let's-just-get-the-heck-into-the-car question (me: Why did we think this was anything remotely like a not horrible idea?!?) but I won't go into that.)

There was some nervousness. And even the girls felt it a bit. (K: Where is this place even? L: Yeah, where is it? me (turning in): Right here. K: What if it isn't open? Is it even open? Do you think it's open? L: Yeah, is it even open?!? me: I checked, I know it's open.)

But we badly needed to get out of the house, and it was dry and cold and the Seahawks were playing in the playoffs on TV so I found myself tying on skates for the first time since 1979 and muttering to M that "This falls into the category of 'never in a million years did I think I'd be doing this!' If I weren't one of those wonderful parents...."

And here's the thing - the girls had a blast. And we did too, more or less (sore muscles, sore knee).

They couldn't stay up by themselves of course, but we got onto the ice at 11a, just after the Zamboni refreshed it (see above photo), and it only took us until 11.23a to make a circuit of the rink. Seriously.

I took K while M took L, and we muddled along, the 4 of us, keeping more or less together. K was wobbly and stared down at her boots. At one point I heard M tell L to bend her knees and that seemed worth telling to K as well. I also noticed how she was focused on her feet and told her to look forward, and after this she did fairly well in terms of keeping her balance. We slide together and apart, sometimes pulling one another toward the ice. She fell more than once, while I managed to keep on my skates. Eventually she seemed to
find her balance, more or less, and we did fine.

When M and I traded girls, I found L tended to flop, expecting me to hold her up or catch her when she slipped, and she didn't seem to do much to avoid this when it happened. (Which, when I think of it, is not so different from how she lives the rest of her life.)

Occasionally M or I would ditch the child we had and take a turn around the rink to work the kinks out, and then we'd reattach.

I was pleased to find that 1) I could still skate, sort of, and 2) my balance practice while brushing my teeth (standing on one foot) seemed to have helped. I felt fairly stable, with the biggest issue (other than 45 pounds of flailing child) being that I'd never used skates with toe picks before, and at times I found these catching in the ice.

M, it turns out, had last skated when she was 7, and then only once or twice. I'm glad I  didn't know this beforehand, or I'd have really been talking smack and, as a result would have really needed to eat crow. She was, by a goodly margin, the best of our foursome.

After that, we got into a grove and started moving at speeds of up to 5 minutes per circuit. We're talking wind blowing through the hair speeds!

And around 11.40a we started taking the girls one at a time, holding them between us and skating around in about 30 seconds. They loved it. They were wobbly and slippy and imagined they were doing fantastically. L loved the speed. (Sample conversation: K (as I pulled her up after a fall): That was bad, but at least no one was around! me: I'm glad to see you fall. Those kids over there are falling because they're learning. That's how you learn. I think I probably fell maybe 40 times an hour when I was learning. K: Well, I probably fell about 4 or 5 times today. me: Yeah, probably.) But they kept wanting to continue. The biggest issue with this approach was that it meant one of the girls was waiting for her turn.

By the time noon rolled around, neither of the girls wanted to leave. L had to be dragged off the ice. And K skated with me to the door, her other arm out, pretending that M was holding her on that side. And they both felt it was a huge success.

K, putting up with me
("Daddy, come ON!")

Our drive home was dominated by discussions about who was the best skater in the family, which skater at the rink the girls liked best, why there were leggings that went below skates, what the covers were that the "real" skaters put on their blades.... the normal post-skating conversations. And at dinner tonight when I asked "who can tell me some of their favorite things from today?" K's hand shot up: Ice skating! L's hand shot up: Ice skating and watching the movie*. M: I'd have to say ice skating too. And the movie. me: Ice skating, the movie, and my walk with L to see the secret staircase."

Not so long afterward, Miss L fell asleep before reading was finished, and we all were exhausted. All in all, a successful day, I'd say.

*note: we watched The Princess Diaries for family movie afternoon, and I think it was over L's head, but K enjoyed much of the slapstick of it, and when we mentioned that the "queen" in the movie was the same woman as in Mary Poppins, her eyes got big as she tried to process that information. And of course M and I both teared up at the end, and K felt "embarrassed" which is a fairly typical reaction for mer, and something I'm still working to puzzle out, but I suspect means that she felt emotional as well, though we're still trying to sort that out.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

sister sunday, hair today edition

believe it or not, even 2013 has twisted sister sundays! who knew?!?

These particular pictures date way back to 2012 (December 3 to be exact), when Miss L had a birthday and that birthday included a hairband making set from her grandmother, and a big sister with whom to share that hairband making set.

Here the makers display their crafts. This was before the ice cream breakfast.