Thursday, December 22, 2011

... what a gas...

... you gotta come and see... at the zoo!

or, scrambling to close out the year with some backed up half-written posts, I found this one nearly complete so you're stuck with it. Besides, M is taking the girls to the zoo today, so it's apropos. Sort of...

Last Sunday Some time back in September (I think), we did a father-daughters trip to the zoo in order to get the girls out of the house, and all of us out of M's hair for a bit. It was cloudy and windy and seemed to be threatening rain, but this is Seattle and if you let those kinds of things change your behavior, you're going to be stuck inside for 9 or 10 months of the year.

We've got a zoo membership, which means we can come and go as we please. It also means there's much less pressure to "see all the aminals" because we can always come back, and it doesn't feel like we've spent money so we need to squeeze full value out. So, I do my best to let the girls call the shots.

Me, I would have liked to see the brown bears. It seemed like the sort of weather they might like, and I have seen them swimming in the "stream" right at the front of their exhibit. But, L wanted to ride the carousel and K wanted to see the penguins. And they both wanted to show me the
dinosaurs that were there the last time they visited.

Sadly, the dinosaur exhibit was over:

L: Daddy, they aren't real now. They used to move and make noise, but they're not doing that now.
me: Nope, the exhibit is closed now. But they weren't real before. They're models.
: Yeah, they're dead.
me: Well, no, not exactly. Dead means they were alive, but these were never alive.
: But dinosaurs were alive. They just aren't now.
me: That's right, they were. But these aren't real dinosaurs, they're models.
L: Yeah, they're pretend.
me: uh....

The weather and the early start on a Sunday meant that it was wonderfully quiet. We started at the penguins, which were hanging out next to the water. All except for one that was swimming (very quickly) and popping up out of the water and diving back down, zipping along. The girls thought it was grand.

Next, an unscheduled stop at the photo booth so L could go inside and sit and pretend to be... doing something:

L, in a photo booth, with impractically white shoes
(doing... something)

Then, a swing by the jaguar, into the rain forest exhibit where we saw a yellow anaconda, a poisonous snake, some birds and monkeys, and got too hot.

Back outside, L wanted to go one direction while K wanted to go see the jaguar licking its privates. First two-on-one issue of the trip. I left L, ran after K, observed the licking with her, then pulled her back toward L who was threatening to take off on her own.

Skip the gorillas, the lions, head for the....

me: Now what?
K: The penguins!
me: We just saw the penguins.
: No, uh, the... the...
me (wild guess): The flamingos?
: Yeah! The flamingos.

... flamingos where we briefly looked, then back toward the carousel. Still quiet, still calm, still manageable.

The carousel started as we got there, and L panicked briefly because we were missing it. I assured her that it would be stopping soon so we could get on. I bought tokens and gave them to the girls who each handed the man their two. And we chose our steeds.

K picked one whose name was Pal-o-mine, and L picked one called .... I'm not sure what its name was. But neither picked theirs by name, so it's not important.

K, well seated on Pal-o-mine

L, in heaven on who-knows-o-mine

I'd made clear to the girls that we'd do one ride and then go see the elephants and do another ride before we left. But sure enough, once it was over, L wanted to go again. We didn't. I reminded her of her agreement and we left, reluctantly, but we left.

On toward the elephants, but we passed the raptor center where a keeper had a big horned owl on her arm. We paused to listen to her say that you can identify them by their yellow eyes (the only other large owl we have around here is the barn owl, and they have black eyes).

Now to the elephants, which were outside enjoying the weather. And, glorious day!, pooping.

Freshly laid poop
(ELEPHANT poop!)

If you had to choose something to delight little children, a good choice would be animals pooping. And this is not just for little boys either. I've come to realize that little girls are as interested in bodies and bodily functions as little boys. I can imagine that the focus will change as we approach the teens, but right now there was general consensus that a pooping elephant was pretty darn hilarious.

And think about it - after watching and laughing, what would you do?

You'd check to see if the little girl watching nearby shared the same sense of humor as you and your sister. And she does! Of course!!

Does she...?

Next, dragging a bit, it's back toward the... carousel! After some snacks, and a turn with daddy's camera:

Photo by L
(photogenicity by K)

Photo by K
(attitude by L)

We went by way of the benches next to the bird area, where we happened on a flight show.

So we paused and found seats and watched as first a peregrine falcon flew around overhead, then a turkey vulture hopped out and flew back and forth, then 2 different owls. And all through this the keeper was telling us bits of information, like why the turkey vulture doesn't have any feathers on its head, and the difference between how the falcon and the turkey vulture fly (the falcon flaps a lot, the turkey vulture soars and glides). K seemed quite interested, but L was fading, so we compromised and watched the second owl fly and then headed slowly toward the carousel.

And when I say "we" and "slowly" I mean L and myself. K took off, running ahead out of sight.

I wasn't crazy about this, but couldn't do much about it, and figured she was relatively safe at the zoo on a Sunday morning. As we turned a corner in the path, a young woman with a Zoo shirt on asked if I was looking for a "little girl in red." I said I was and she said that she'd "gone that way." I told her we were headed for the carousel and that that little girl knew the way. The woman didn't seem to think much of my parenting approach, but all I could do was think "just you wait!"

By the time L and I reached the carousel building, K was inside.

Another ride apiece, and then we headed for the gate, the van, and some snacks. And home.

Something of note that happened later, when we were telling M about the things we saw, I realized that K was really paying attention during the flight demo. I mentioned that we'd learned things like why turkey vultures don't have features, and K said "Yeah, to keep their heads clean!" and when M asked why that mattered, K told her "Because they stick their heads into dead animals." Which is exactly right. She also remembered that the TV soared and glided while the falcon flapped a lot. It was very cool.

L remembered the elephant poop.

(Not that K forgot that...)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

... sleep keeps me awake ...

or, scenes from a bedroom:

M (after L has spent 10 minutes shifting and turning between us in bed): L, you need to close your eyes and go to sleep. Or you have to move back to your bed.
L: I'm sleeping with my eyes open.
me: (silence)

Not from a bedroom
(and not even from this month - so sue me)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

... thanks, thanks a lot....

I've got a lot to be thankful for, not the least of which are a warm, dry place to sleep tonight and plenty of food to eat. I'm safe and fed, which is better than a lot of people out there in rain and worse.

Here are just a few of the things I'm thankful for:

- my daughters:

thing one...

and thing two

- my wife:


- my family (here in washington, in hawaii, and in alabama), old friends (around the world), all the paddling folks I've met and the new friends I've made, and the opportunities I have to paddle.

I wish the best to all of you out there, both folks I know and folks I don't. We're all in this together, this "life" thing.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

... i stood stone-like at midnight...

(from an overheard conversation)

Not everything is a walk in the park!
Sunday, 11/20/11

scene: I've read the evening's books and have fallen near-asleep while telling a Belle story. K is lying next to me, and M is carrying L to bed.

L (suddenly teary): I don't want to grow up!
M: You don't want to grow up?
L (more teary): No!!
M (tucking her in): Why not? Why don't you want to grow up?
L: Because I don't want to have a baby!
me (half-asleep on our bed): ?!??
M: ?!?? What? Why not?
L (still teary): I don't want to have a baby!
M: You don't have to have a baby.
L: Cause I don't want to!!
M: Ok, that's fine. You don't have to have a baby.
L: Why?
M: Because you don't have to. You can decide. You have to try to have a baby.
L (apparently intrigued now): You have to try to have a baby?
M (relaxing, I imagine): Yeah. It's a choice. You have to try.
L: How do you try to have a baby?
me (slightly less asleep now): (snicker)
M: Uh...
L: Can you show me?
me (yikes! eyes tightly shut): (snort)
M: No, I can't show you.
L: Please, show me how to try and have a baby!
M: I can't show you how to try and have a baby, L.
L: Why not?
M: Because.
L: Well, how do you try to have a baby?
M: How?
L: Yeah.
M: Uh... parts from a man and parts from a woman... get together and start to grow a baby in the woman's tummy.
L: Parts from a man?
M: Uh huh.
L: And parts from a woman?
M: Uh huh.
L: But...
M: You don't have to have a baby.
K (lying beside me): That L!
me (awake): Time for you to get into bed too!

Friday, November 18, 2011

... aloha o'e...

or, watching as mommy's ferry disappears across elliott bay.

Last weekend we went to Jack Block park in West Seattle to spend some time before we could reasonably justify going to eat fish and chips. And while there, we were able to watch the ferry M was on crossing the bay.

It's a sad, poignant image, only slightly undercut by the fact that she was leaving us for something like 4 hours and during that time was never more than 6-8 miles distant. But still....

And then we climbed steps.

What passes for style when I'm in charge!

Windsprints! Ready... Go!!

And there were some fall colors.

That was last weekend. This weekend M is taking off for Portland for another trip without us. And this time she'll be gone overnight. Who knows what might happen!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

... have you heard, the word is...

... book!

This weekend we achieved a milestone: K read to L.
I don't think you understand, so let me repeat myself:

K read to her little sister!!!

And when I type "read" I mean READ. Like as in sounding out the words (for the most part) and getting them right (for the most part). Dang it, I'm starting to think this Montessori thing might be worth doing on a global scale!

In order to adequately capture just how important this feels to me, let me back up and say that one of my earliest and most precious (in the valuable sense, not in the excessively refined sense) memories is that of sitting on the couch in our house in Puunene, "reading" with my parents.

Both parents were book people. We didn't even have a T.V. for several years after I was born. I remember watching John F. Kennedy's funeral on a borrowed T.V., and then later, we had a television that possibly my grandparents bought us, which would shock you if you touched it (which, now that I think about it, is great motivation for just leaving the thing going all the time!). And kids, when I say "T.V." I'm talking about something about 3 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet that weighed about 300 pounds and showed grainy black and white moving images on a 9 inch by 9 inch screen. It was AMAZING! If you're having trouble getting the idea, and you've ever had to pretend to be impressed by an ultrasound of a 2 month old embryo, it was a lot like that. If someone told you what you were looking at, you could kind of imagine it, right there on the screen in your own living room! "See that? That's Captain Kangaroo's spleen. And there's his kidney...."

But I digress. My parents were both readers. I can remember the exciting evenings we had in that plantation house, sitting around reading. Seriously. After dinner my dad sat and read. Crazy, huh? And because both mom and dad were such readers, we kids wanted to read to. Oh how we wanted to read. And be read to. And pretend to be reading ourselves. And (eventually) actually read. "I am Cubby Bear. I can climb trees...."

Trust me, it may sound like a version of hell to you, but it was glorious and wonderful to me. Books opened up magical worlds and I still love to dive into them, and I still have some psychological issues admitting that maybe I don't actually "need" all the books I feel compelled to buy.

So, K has been learning her letters and her sounds, and has been pseudo-reading for a while now. But just recently M mentioned that she really was reading. I didn't necessarily entirely buy it, but then I got to sit with her and help her through Go Dog Go. And then she read it to her sister.

... two big dogs coming out...


Seriously! Wow!!

I understandably feel that my work as a parent is nearly done. And we managed quite admirably, if I do say so myself! And we'll just skip past the teenage years, if that's alright with all of you....

Friday, November 11, 2011

... and i thank you...

11/11/11 - Veterans Day

edit: Added a note at the bottom, about the girls' other grandfather, also a veteran.

Thank you, Dad, Grandpa Biddle, and all the other veterans, both in and out of my family, who believed in and fought for our country and the things that make it so great.

My father, late 1970s or early 1980s

Dad was 16 and attending Punahou in 1941 when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He told stories about seeing the puffs of dark anti-aircraft smoke over Honolulu, and about being torn regarding whether or not he should go to a previously scheduled appointment. This appointment was with some man and was related to Dad's Eagle Scout work. Everyone was supposed to stay off the streets and stay off the phones. Dad didn't want to leave this guy hanging, so finally called him. When he reached him, he was told "in nor uncertain terms that I should 'GET OFF THE PHONE!'."

The U.S. Army took over the Punahou campus, and Dad and his classmates attended school in temporary classrooms at.... Maryknoll? I'm not sure. And he went off to the Merchant Marine Academy after graduating, finishing up there in mid-1945 and expecting to be shipped out to the Pacific. I think he'd already been given his orders to report to San Francisco when the war ended.

He served in the Naval Reserve all the time I was a boy, and during that time I was vocally anti-military. This was the last 1960s and through the 1970s. Hippies and Woodstock and Kent State. Vietnam and Richard Nixon, the Paris Peace Talks, Chicago 1968.... I was now attending Punahou, and things were quite different, everyone was challenging the status quo. It was not the same place Dad had attended. (One year we had a chaplain who put Wonder Bread and Coke on the altar to represent in a modern way the staples of communion. I believe this guy was later charged with participating in the burning of the ROTC buildings on UH campus....)

I was young and though I may still believe some of what I argued then, I wouldn't argue it in the same way as I did. I'd like to think I'd be more understanding of Dad's perspective and his sacrifices.

It's only in the last 20 years or so that I've begun to get some understanding of what he must have felt, both as a citizen who witnessed Pearl Harbor, and as a father whose son resisted some of the things he believed in and stood up for.

Grandpa, on his Army horse, Oahu

Grandpa, Civilian Defense

My mom's father was in the Army, the Cavalry in fact. He was part of Pershing's push into Mexico, chasing Pancho Villa. He told wonderful stories about those experiences, nearly all of them tales of his own ineptitude. He was a good story teller. After that, he ended up in Hawaii in the Army, fell in love, and stayed.

Like my dad, Grandpa witnessed Pearl Harbor. He was a civilian by that point and living with my Grandmother and mom in Kaimuki. He immediately tried to reenlist, but they wouldn't take him. He was working for the phone company, and I believe it was a combination of his age and his work (vital to the war effort) that kept him out of the Army a second time. But he joined the Civilian Defense Corps and served at home.

I have enormous gratitude for my father and grandfather and wish they were here so I could tell them in person, as an adult. I can only hope they understood that a boy may not understand all that he is given by those who precede him. My personal goal is to aim for that kind of understanding with my own daughters as they begin to question what their old dad thinks and to challenge what he's done and is doing.

Note: I wanted to add that my father-in-law, the girls' other grandfather, also served in the Navy and was implicitly included in my gratitude. I don't have a photo of him to include here, and as this has generally been written from my limited point of view, I hadn't called him out. But I think I ought to, and am doing so now, because he too did his part and deserves our gratitude and understanding.

Monday, November 7, 2011

... time waits for no one...

... but this doesn't really seem to matter much to L.

L, on the beach w/ her uncle
(note the discrepancy between outfits)

The girl who, all summer long, insisted on long pants and long-sleeved shirts, not to mention often knitted hats, this icy weekend decided on shorts and a t-shirt when we went down to the beach. Photographic evidence to follow, but first, a recap of our weekend.

This was a special weekend for several reasons, not the least of which is I went out of my way to make my older sister feel good. I did this by making sure the house was a mess, with toys scattered hither and yon (me: Hey M, where's K's baby doll? M: It's in the corner. me: What corner? M: Yon corner!) and clutter piled everywhere.

I suppose a bit more background is necessary.

M had an event on Saturday night, which meant she was out of the house starting around 9.30a, and didn't return until after midnight. Which meant that I was on my own for... nearly (12 plus 3 minus 30.... hmm....) a bunch of time. Probably close to as long as she was on parenting on her own when I recently went back to Maui for 9 days. I'll leave anyone who is mathematically inclined to do the appropriate factoring, etc. Anyway, I was on my own, and frustrations were running high. The girls have gotten into a bad habit of wanting to watch a video and to eat candy. And nothing else. The house was a mess, the yard too. And Kim and Jim came up from Olympia to help distract us.

Which worked fantastically. The girls (and I) enjoyed their visit. And Kim got to say "Now I don't feel so badly. I used to think I was incompetent when I was juggling 2 young children, but...." And that empty space after her "but" implied that I was AT LEAST as incompetent as she had felt, which was good. Hmm....

Anyway, part of what we did on Saturday was to go down to the beach at Alki. It was sunny and windless and thus, beautiful. It was also freakin' cold. (There was ice covering the surface of the water table, if that helps put things in perspective.) Preparing to go down there, I needed to get the girls out of pajamas and into clothes. K took care of this herself. L took the opportunity to have a couple of breakdowns. Which we worked through, and she chose shorts and a t-shirt. Which I shrugged about and said "ok."

We went downstairs and Kim and Jim both started to say "Wow, aren't you going to be col..?" and I made the universal "we've discussed it and come to a common agreement!" gesture of slashing my hand across my throat and they got my drift and we were on to the beach.

Here's proof:

Drawing in the sand
(two distinctly different sized utensils)

A horse, running in her pasture

One definition of a "two horse race"

"Hurry! Hurry!!"

Later, the girls and I needed to do things like eat dinner, which was made possible by the shopping trip Kim and Jim did for me shortly after they arrived and discovered that I could offer them raw sugar and an onion for lunch. Which didn't strike them as entirely what they were craving (for some odd reason - she's my older sister, if that helps explain her behavior!). So they went out and bought bagels, cream cheese, milk, bananas, bread.... I thought about asking them to also take the car and get the oil changed, but that seemed like it might be pushing it.

So, after they left, we did bath and then dinner of grilled cheese and watched a video together and then it was time for bed, and they were sleepy and it was nearly 7.30p which was grand, except if you did that math I suggested above you probably also realized that Saturday night was when the switch from Daylight Savings back to ... Daylight Spending(?) took place, which meant that thought I was putting the girls to bed at 7.30p, they were going to sleep as if they went to bed at 6.30p, which meant that... well, L got up around 4.20a, K around 5a, and I took them downstairs because M had climbed into bed at 12.30-ish (11.30-ish) and wasn't quite ready to get up at 4a (lame-o!).

Sunday was a flurry of highs and lows (L) and K behaving remarkably mature, and M needing to cook and then go to a baby shower that afternoon. But before this, we decided to treat the girls to breakfast out, so went to Luna Park, which has a collection of lunch boxes on display (the Happy Days one is my favorite, I think), as well as a coin-operated Batman car ride, awesome milkshakes, jukeboxes, and booths. In short, a perfect place to go with kids. Except they didn't find anything they wanted to eat. L order a fruit bowl, K the Mickey Mouse pancakes. L saw the pancake and wanted one as well, K said the pancake didn't taste good and ate my bacon, L tried K's pancake and said it didn't taste good and pouted and M and I ate as quickly as we could and retreated. Not our best dining out experience!

The girls got to watch 3 Thomas the Tank Engine videos that morning (they're 12 minutes each, if that buys me any sympathy and/or understanding), and then I resisted the calls for more videos and/or candy. For the rest of the day!

Yay Daddy! Who's the man?

What we did, more or less chronologically (chronically):
  • had several breakdowns (L)
  • wanted candy (K&L)
  • had several other breakdowns (L)
  • made salad and muffins (M, for her shower)
  • had several.... (L) you get the idea
  • went upstairs (me & L after a breakdown and we lay in our bed and read until she fell asleep, at which point I went back downstairs and helped "explain" to K that she was not going to get any candy and/or videos.)
  • drove away (M, for her shower)
  • watched some horse videos on my computer, including a 2-part one of a colt being born. I hesitated, but K's already seen similar on Saddle Club, and we're getting to the point where she's curious and aware enough that I think it makes sense to let her see. I nervously waited for her to notice the other videos of horse sex and/or "How to deliver a baby in a car," neither of which I was excited about watching with (or without) my 5 1/2 yo daughter), and though she didn't notice (or want to see?) the horse sex one, she did ask for the delivery of a baby, which I hesitantly agreed to. But it was done using a life-sized model, and didn't interest her much. But she's a very aware girl, and I know more of it sank in than was immediately evident, so I'm trying to anticipate and prepare for questions, or at least get ready to redirect her in M's direction. (K&me)
  • cleaned the kitchen while K did more art (me)
  • woke up (L)
  • wanted candy or videos (K&L)
  • explained "No!" (me)
  • did art (K&L)
  • had several breakdowns (L)
But here's something else that happened:

After a ton of frustration with a bead project, during which L had several collapses, threw beads and crumpled up a drawing she'd done, she returned to the kitchen table and worked at it again and finished it. This was huge. She's at a stage where she gets very frustrated at not being able to do things as well as K can, and then throws stuff, breaks things, crumples papers.... So coming back and continuing to try... that's huge. HUGE!

We did bath, which involved a lot of mermaiding and some hairwashing and some photo ops:

two "mermaids" conversing(?)
the cool thing about this is that they put on their goggles
and submerge their heads and don't think about the fact
that they're holding their breaths.
I've counted to 20 before, and L can easily stay down that long!

Later, I cooked fish and made rice and the girls ate pretty well and M came home w/ some cupcakes from the shower and the girls got to have cupcakes and then L told me she was tired and rather than say something funny like "Well, why do you think that is?" I picked her up like she asked and we snuggled on the couch until M and K joined us and then we went upstairs where we finished the evening with some books, a brief Belle story (but this time K wanted to go back to the barn, a return to horses, which is a significant shift), and then bed.

But before bed, one last heart-warming (and representative) father-daughter exchange:

L (snuggled against me in bed): Daddy, why do we call it gath when we gath?
me (realizing this wasn't going to really explain anything): Uh... because it's gas.
L (uncomprehending but accepting): Oh. (pause) Daddy?
me (enjoying the snuggle): Uh huh?
L (grinning around her pacifier): I juth gathed.
me: I know.
K (laughing on the opposite side of the bed): Uh, we KNOW! Pa-lease!

Monday, October 24, 2011

you can ring my....

... Belle

Belle stories - we've got 'em. Oh boy have we got 'em!

Belle stories are a year old now and a staple of our bedtime routines, but they've evolved over the course of the last year.

Two "horses" galloping at the beach

These stories started as simple, ~5 minute tales about 2 girls (coincidentally named K & L) and a horse named Belle who followed them home one day. The girls want to keep the horse, and their parents think it's imaginary (though this is a subtle touch that seems to have passed over the heads of my usual listeners) so they say "fine." And the girls get to have a horse in the house. That was the beginning.

I'd already been contemplating writing a couple of short stories like this, when, a year ago, we were in the final hour of a 5 hour drive back from Walla Walla and the girls were done being in the car after being in a hotel room for 2 nights, and I started telling them about these 2 girls and a horse named Belle, and they wouldn't let me stop for the remainder of the ride. I think we did 4 or 5 different stories that first afternoon.

Since then, the stories have become a vital step in the bedtime process, coming immediately after toothbrushing which follows jammie-getting-into which follows bath.

The stories evolved into a more complex formula with 2 horses (Belle and Delilah, coincidentally sharing names with 2 of the Saddle Club horses) and a stable that was first in the backyard and then later moved up onto a hill behind the girls' house. They also grew from the original 5 minute tales to something over 20 minutes and occasionally more than 30 minutes. Various humorous and not-so-humorous happenings happened, including sleepovers, trailrides, encounters with other animals, horse shows, etc. Not so oddly, many of the supporting characters shared characteristics with Saddle Club characters, but I did my best to steer things toward new story lines and a new character or two.

We had a standard starting point each night: One morning K&L woke up and went to the window to see what the weather was. (The weather was generally dependent on our actual weather, but not always.) The girls get dressed and slip out of the house, early on with their dog, and later, after Lucy's death, on their own, and go up to the stables.

The girls, and K especially, insist on hearing a story every night. The nights I paddle are hard because she knows there won't be a story that night (though M has started telling stories about when she was a little girl, or when K or L was a baby, and that seems to be an acceptable substitute).

Over the last year, K's interest in Saddle Club and in horses in general has moderated a bit, and now there's a new focus on mermaids and so the Belle Stories have evolved into stories focused around a mermaid named K and another named Cassandra, and a third who is named L but who wanted to go home to her parents so isn't often included. There are no horses (excepting a seahorse that I, very creatively I thought, developed from Belle who needed to be turned into something sea-related when K turned into a mermaid from a little girl), and there is absolutely nothing named 'Belle,' yet these stories continue on as the Belle Stories.

Our bedtime routine lately has shifted: first I tell a story about something that happened to me when I was a boy (recent examples: when I went "scoopa" diving with sharks, getting my dog Debbie (best dog ever!)) - this is primarily a story for L, so she can then fall asleep during the Belle story, which she rarely has any interest in hearing, then books, usually one per daughter, then L curls up against me and sometimes falls asleep and sometimes just snuggles in (either way, I love this part of the evening) and I tell a Belle story to K, who is almost always interested and sometimes quite upset when I finish it up for the evening.

Things I've learned over the course of the last year of story telling: 1) just because I think I know where the story should go, this doesn't mean it's going to go there, 2) trying to resist the girls' ideas about where the story should go is futile, 3) letting the girls have some control (asking "what was K wearing?" and "what did L say?" "No, I'm Barbie, not L!" "Ok, what did Barbie say?") goes a long way toward keeping them engaged, and 4) sometimes the least expected turns end up being the most enjoyable/fruitful/interesting.

We're still refining the process, obviously, and I can imagine that L might decide she wants a different type of story tailored for her interests, now that Belle has become a variation of "Mermaid Island," though there are enough differences in personality between the girls that I wouldn't be shocked if L didn't follow K's lead regarding stories. (L is the one who likes to take books off by herself and "read" them aloud: "And then the bird said 'You can't go there because you can't go there and so you can't go there. And the bird didn't go there." Maybe she'll be my writer?)

Some evenings I dread the story telling. I don't particularly want to talk about mermaids, I don't want to have to come up with a story line that doesn't make narrative sense to me. And then I remember that all of this is a passing phase in this thing called life and I think about lying in the middle of my bed after dinner with one daughter on my right side and the other snuggled in on my left and I realize that it's just about the best place in the world I could be right then.

And so we start:

One morning, K was swimming in the lagoon with Cassandra as the sun made sparkles in the water, and Cassandra said to her, "Come, I want to show you something" so they ducked down and swam through the underwater tunnel with the dolphins and the seahorse until they were out beyond the island where the water was blue and clouds were white in the sky, and Cassandra pointed down and said "If we swim down there you'll see something you've never seen before...."

Monday, October 17, 2011

... oh we're going...

... to try out our new grass skirts....

I was recently on Maui, and while there, bought 2 gen-u-ine Hawaiian "grass" skirts, made in the Philippines and sold in a tacky tourist shop in Kaahumanu Center. But what the heck.

K&L were thrilled, at least for a few minutes, during which I managed to capture this short video:

Near the end of it, you'll see L beginning to have a collapse of some sort (not sure what it was about - after all, if I cataloged every collapse, my brain would overflow in a matter of hours - but it, combined with the general analysis that the grass was "pokey" meant that this was the only occasion they really spent much time in their outfits. Which is fine. Expected even.

Maybe next time I'll bring home one for M...

For comparison and contrast, here's a photo of my grandmother (Mom's mom) in a grass skirt, not having a breakdown, in front of a palm tree:

This would have been on Oahu, probably Waikiki in the early 1920s (other photos of her with my grandfather, both of them looking quite stylish and dashing in riding outfits, are dated 1924), and as a grandson all I can say is that the woman I knew never seemed the sort to try on a grass skirt, much less pose for a photo. Who knew!

Which only goes to underscore just how little we understand/appreciate our elders when we're little. Which is another way of saying that I'm sure there are photos K&L will find that will open their eyes about their parents and grandparents.

At least I hope so.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

... it's too late baby, now it's too late...

Note: I'm posting this from Haiku, Maui, where I'm taking care of some family business and generally not taking advantage of the tropical environment (though I did go paddling last Weds evening!). Which is to say, I'm missing M and the girls, and I found this, unposted, so decided to go ahead and use it. Nothing new here, but nothing out of date either.


One of the most amazing things about parenting is just how freakin' quickly the world changes, and when I say "the world" I mean the immediate world surrounding you. In other words, your children.

Sisters, First Day of School
Sept. 7, 2011

Which makes blogging a near-perfect technology for writing about parenting, because it allows you to change directions quickly, to post short, insightful tales, to keep up with the speed of change.

At least as long as you write and post your observations.

Unfortunately, to do that, you have to actually WRITE and then POST. Up with which I've not been keeping. So this is an attempt to catch everyone up.

Since the last significant post of any length, the girls and M have been to Birmingham (AL) and back, having spent a wonderful week+ with their grandmother and cousins. And from all accounts, it was a good visit that included a fair amount of swimming, some mani/pedicures that lasted through to their returns, a visit to the zoo, movies with the cousins, a brush with head lice and strep throat (neither of which seems to have made the trip back!), and a tropical storm that dumped enough rain that Grandmama's yard was under 15 inches of water. As I said, all in all a successful trip.

And one aspect of the trip that was especially heartening for me (and M, I'm sure) was that K and L were in good form, well behaved and charming. K is blossoming into quite a girl, at times becoming nearly responsible and considerate. At times. And L seems to be entering a phase of somewhat moderated tantrums. In fact both girls seem to be in pretty good "places" at the moment. Which makes life easier for M and me.

Except that I had a great, a witty and heart-warming and poignant post written up about how awful K was behaving towards her little sister. A post no one will read since it is now out of date. And will be until the next phase of the cycle....

Also since the last major post - school has begun, and we now have both a kindergartener and a preschooler. Both girls in school. Which, believe it or not, is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it's... sharp(?) because they're both in school all morning. And o the other hand, it's ... also sharp(?) because L is only 1/2 day, and thus, instead of 2 drives of 40 minutes total each, there are 3, the dropoff, the pickup and the secondary pickup. Still, it's pretty exciting to have them both in school. And we have the Montessori bills to prove it!

At the moment, the major news for me is K. She's somehow managed in the last couple of months to almost grow up. She looks and acts and sounds like nothing so much as a young girl who's .... well, growing up.

She helps her sister out, she offers comfort and reassurance, she watches over her (she's nothing if not an eldest child!) and does her best to keep her out of trouble. Except when she's stirring the pot herself, which she also does. But overall, she's lots of fun, and according to M, she was a joy to be around for much of the Alabama trip.

L too is growing up, though for the time being, the gap between 5.5 and 3.5 seems larger than it has before. L still seems like a toddler, and is responsive to the vagaries of toddlerhood, just as K was. She's easily frustrated (more so than K was, perhaps, because she sees no reason why she shouldn't be able to do exactly what K is able to do), loving and volatile, sweet and mean. She's exactly what she's supposed to be, in other words.

First Day of School
Sept. 7, 2011

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

... we've only just begun...

.. to adjust ...

Our Preschooler
(with kelp)

L has now been going to school officially for 2 weeks, and it's been an adjustment for us all. I don't mean in any huge blowout ways, but in small ways and in realizations that our baby is now pushed out into the hard mean world (the "hard, mean world" that is Montessori school, I should note, a very different hard and mean than other parts of this world).

She's been tired out by the experience, but we're all managing. She has her breakdowns, but always has, and to be honest, I don't notice anything hugely different in either frequency or depth of breakdown. She's begun bringing home some of her work, a calendar she made (this is huge, because she's watched now for 2 years while K has brought home calendars, and finally she's got one up on the "frigidator"), a couple of books she's made of basic letters. There's been her first permission slip for her first field trip.

And then there are the moments that touch a parent's heart, even if just momentarily:

M: What's your favorite thing about school?
L: Ummm.... the book loft.
(I can see this, since she loves books and will frequently take one off and "read" it out loud to herself)
M: Oh, do you go up in the book loft?
L: No.
M: No? Why not?
L: There's no one to help me down.
M&me: :<

me: Who did you play with today?
L: No one.
me: No one?
L: No.
me: What about K? Did you play with K at recess?
L: No. She was over there and I wasn't.
me: :<

me: What did you have for snack today?
L: Nothing.
M: Nothing?
me (to M): She ate her lunch in the van on the way home.
M: You didn't eat your lunch at school?
L: No.
me&M: Why not?
L: Because.
M: What was there for snack?
L: Carrots and Veggie Bootie.
M: Did you like that?
L: Yeah.
M&me: So you ate snack?
L: No.
me: Why not?
L: Because no one tapped me.
me: No one tagged you?
K: No, not 'tagged,' it's 'tapped' Daddy.
me: Oh, because no one tagged you, L?
L: Yeah, no one tagged me.
:< :< :<

She doesn't want to have grapes at lunch because she can't open the container without spilling them, so we've been giving her pluots. But she's not even eating these, often. At least not until we pick her up.

I think fundamentally she's still getting her feet under her, and I suspect she's just hanging low, trying to figure things out. And with Montessori there's a lot to figure out. It's self-driven to a large degree, so she doesn't get told what to do every minute. Thus, she doesn't do anything.

There's also the question of how reliable our information feed is. L will tell us first one thing and then another contradictory thing. Her teacher says she's doing well and is a "joy to have in class," but she also told me that L is "one of the quiet ones" which tells me she isn't yet being her full self. Ask anyone: L "quiet?" Ha!

M reminds me that K went through the same thing, and that she adjusted to the point that now she's got initiative and confidence. L will get there as well. It's just that it takes time for her father's chest to stop aching.

And the first kid that's openly mean to her will get a bop in the face. From me!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

definitions: dreamember / oak

dreamember - verb, to recall something that happened in a dream.

(bedroom door opens, revealing a disheveled little girl)
me: Ugh... what time...? Hi K.
K: Daddy?
me (whispering): Let's whisper so we don't wake up your sister.
K (whispering and coming closer): Daddy?
me: Yeah? Come snuggle in between us.
K (crawling into bed between M and me): Is it morning yet?
me: Sort of. It's 5. But it's 7 your time, so it's morning.
K: Well, Daddy?
me: Yeah?
K: I had a dream and it woke me up.
me (putting my arm around my oldest daughter and reveling in the facts that she is back home with her mother and sister, and that she's still young enough to want to crawl into bed with us): What happened in your dream? Do you remember?
K: Yeah, there was someone, I don't dreamember who, and they were in the swimming pool....

oak - noun, the middle part of an egg, especially a hard boiled egg
me: What are you going to eat for breakfast? K? K? Do you want a hard boiled egg? I made hard boiled eggs.
K: I only like the outside white part.
me: I know. I'll take the inside out.
L: I like the oak.
me: You want your sister's yolk?
L (nodding): I like the oak. (takes it from me as I also set a plate with the white in front of K)
K (starting to eat her white): I only like this part.
me: I know
L: I like both. I like the outside and the oak. (puts it into her mouth)
K (gagging at the sight): Ugh! I can't... yuck!
M and me: (laughter)
me: You don't have to eat it K.
K (still drive-heaving): I know but .... ugh!
L (grinning): Actually, I don't like the oak either.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

... keep me hanging on the telelphone...

Scenes from a Phone Call, vol. 2

Another snippet from a Birmingham-Seattle call:

M: ... and we went to the zoo, didn't we girls?
(chaotic speaking in the background)
M: The girls would like to talk to you.
K&L (on separate phones, a new phenomenon for them): Hi DaHiDadaddyCanyouhearcanmeyouhearme?
me: Uh, yeah! How are you.
K: Good Daddy. I miss you.
me: I miss...
L: I miss you too Dada!!
me: ... you. I miss you bo...
K: We went to...
L: We went... too.
K: ...the zoo. There's...
L: ... to the...
K: ... baby lions...
L: ... zoo, yeah, baby...
K: ... and we can name ...
L: ... lions. And we...
K: ... them what...
L: ... can name...
me: Whoa! What? Baby lions?
K&L: Yeah! And we can name them!!
me: What are you going to name them?
K: Well, they're boy lions Daddy.
L: Yeah, they're boy...
K: And we can name them.
L: .. lions. And we can
K: And I think maybe...
L: ... I think maybe...
me: What?
K: Maybe...
me: What about 'Paul?'
K: What?
L: What?!
me: What about 'Paul?'
K: What do you mean?
L: Yeah, what do you mean?!?
me: For the lion. As a name.
K: I don't...
L: Yeah, I don't... (pause, waiting for her sister)
K: ... I don't think...
L: Yeah, I don't think....
me: It's a good name. It's my name!
K: Oh yeah.
L (laughing): Oh yeah! I guess we forgotted!
slightly later
L: Daddy, how many phones do you think we're using?
me: Ummm, 2?
L (laughing): Yeth! How many phones are you using Dada?
me: 1.
L: What? That's rethponsible!!
me: I miss you girls. I love you!
K&L: We miss you too. We love you Daddy!!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

...suspended in my masquerade...

or, Scenes from a Phone call, vol 1

M and the girls were in Alabama for a week visiting her mother (Grandmama), while I stayed home and worked on getting our studio insulated, a long-delayed step in a project that started before K was born. Ultimately I'll move my office out of the dining room and into the studio. But this is going to take some doing, especially in terms of explaining things to the girls.

L: You working on the studio Dada?
me: Yup, while you're in Alabama.
L: What ith we going to use it for?
me: My office. I'll move my office into it.
L: But Dada, what will we use the dining room for?

uh... dining?

But we digress...

In any case, the separation meant that we had numerous phone "conversations," often early in the morning, my time. I was up early (5-ish) every day, heading to work on the 6.45a water taxi. Because I could. And because it meant that I could both get a good day's work in, and be home in time to work on the studio.

So one morning I got to talk w/ M and K, and I was struck by just how “growed up” K seems. She’s using the phone like a regular tool (L, in contrast, still uses it like a toy, nodding and/or shaking her head while I talk to her, rather than responding audibly).

She told me all about the things she'd been doing, swimming and diving "on the steps but not on the bottom step except Mommy threw the diving stick one time on the bottom step and I couldn't get it but then I did." Nice work! It was fun to actually be able to have a conversation with my eldest daughter, especially since this phase doesn't mean she's ready to push me away.

me (ending the conversation because my oatmeal is getting cold and my water taxi won't wait): I love you K. I miss you.
K: I love you too Daddy. I miss you.
me: I miss snuggling with you.
K: I miss snuggling with you too Daddy.

She even came back on after we’d said goodbye, to say “one more thing.”

K: Uh, Daddy?
me: Yeah K?
K: How is the studio going?

How indeed! Not as fast as you are apparently growing up!

It’s not hard for me to imagine her at 15 or 20, though if she’s as interested in me and what I’m doing at both those ages, I’ll be thrilled beyond speech. I have to steel myself for the reality that she and L are very likely to not really give a darn about their father for a period of 5 to 25 years, starting somewhere between 9 and 12, and lasting through somewhere between 15 and 39.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

definitions: day after yesterday / cocopugs

It's been a long time since I've managed to regularly post here. In that time the girls and M have been to Alabama and back, and have started school. I'm way behind, suspecting now that I'll never get caught up. I never did manage to post much about our trip to Maui in May.

But... it's Double Definition Tuesday once again, with some new words I learned during one of our Seattle-Birmingham phone calls.


day after yesterday
- noun, the day prior to the current day (also sometimes
referred to as "yesterday")

(phone call from Alabama)
M: We miss you too. Here, K wants to say hi. She's eating Cocopuffs.
K: Daddy, Daddy, we got me a new diaper bag and L a new princess dress and
we went swimming and got new water rockets and I like to dive to get the
rockets on the third step but once Mommy accidentally dropped the rocket
on the bottom steps and I got it.
me: Wow! Really?
K: Yeah. And L's dress is kind of too long but she could maybe wear it on
her birthday but it's pink and scratchy and she's wearing it right now.
me: Now?
K: Yeah. In bed. She's still sleeping.
me (trying to start my oatmeal): She is? That's good.
K: Yeah, but her dress is scratchy.
me: Scratchy? You mean the material?
K: Yeah. And it's really too long. It pretty much touches the ground. We
got our nails done yesterday.
me: Your nails done? What color are they?
K: Glittery on my fingers and pink on my toes with a flower on my toes. On
my big toes.
me: Pink with a flower?
K: On my big toes. Yeah.
me: Wow... All of this yesterday?
K: Yeah, the day... the day... the day after yesterday.
me: Right.

Cocopugs - proper noun, a type of breakfast cereal served to small
children by grandparents. Will turn standing milk brown and spike insulin

me (continuing above conversation): I love you K. I miss you.
K: I miss you too Daddy. And I love you. My Cocopugs are turning my milk chocolate.
me: Cocopugs, huh? You're really getting spoiled by Grandmama, aren't you?
K: No.
me: No?
K: I like getting spoiled by Grandmama.
me: Well, that's what grandmothers are supposed to do.
K: Bye Daddy! I love you.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

... why don't you come with me little girl...

(edit: added link to earlier post)

... on a water taxi ride!

So I'm waaaaaay behind with things, but rather than try to recap what's happened, I'll aim to get to things in bits and pieces and simply jump ahead to today, 9/11/11. It's an historically significant date, to be sure, but I'm going to sidestep the politics and just focus on a date spent with my younger daughter.

In the morning I'd dragged both girls to the beach to get some exercise and work off some energy (photos to follow in a separate post). Neither of them wanted to go, but M needed some time on her own and I packed them up and drove them down and then they didn't want to leave. But that was morning. This was afternoon.

K had a birthday party this afternoon, which meant some quality time for me and L. Which meant that she suggested "maybe we can do thomthing Dada, like... get a cupcake?" Precedent set (and apparently I failed to write about that, but I could have sworn there was an entry to link to....and there is. Right here)! But no, we weren't going to get a cupcake this time. Instead we were going to catch the water taxi over to the city and back. L was fairly excited about this option, which boded (bade?) well.

The arc of our afternoon went something like this:


The pictures show this:

Waiting for a... boat
(wearing slightly resort-y clothing)

Aboard and waiting to set sail
(with the prospect of sea lions in the offing)

We'd heard plenty of barking while we waited, and I knew the sea lions hung out at the buoy offshore, so I got us a seat on the starboard side of the boat, figuring we'd get close enough to see them. L told me she'd already seen sea lions at the Birmingham Zoo, but how much cooler to see them in the wild! I thought so, and convinced her the same.

She wanted to go upstairs, no, downstairs, by the window. She wanted the window seat. It was too sunny, where were the sea lions? When were we going to leave? There's the captain. What? There's our captain. What captain? The captain of the boat. Who? That woman. That woman? Yes, she's our captain. The's our captain? Yes.

And we did. We left. And we saw sea lions.

Sea lions splashing around the buoy, sea lions lying on the buoy, sea lions eating all the salmon in Elliott Bay!

Picture of Dada
(and she's turning into a decent photographer!)

One of the things I love is when L asks to use my camera. We gave her one when she turned 3, but she likes mine better, and takes fairly good photos with it. I want to encourage her, so I do my best to bite back my nervousness at handing my 3yo a not-cheap digital SLR. But when I do she fires off 5 or 10 shots in 4 or 6 seconds, and some of them turn out well. I think she's managed to get the best pictures of me that anyone has in the last couple of years.

On the way back to West Seattle,
(blood sugars low and tempers hot)

We rode, we saw the sea lions, we got close to downtown at which point L was hot and tired. She wanted to know what we were going to do. Well, get off the boat and stand in line to get back on. But what are we going to DO? I told her we were going to ride it back home and she slumped in her seat with arms crossed, muttering: "I don't like riding the water taxi!" When I asked why not, she said "Because it's boring!"

She perked up a bit when I told her she could sit in a row on her own. She sat behind me and held onto my arm (her default when she needs comfort). I could tell she was exhausted and probably needed to eat something.

Leaving the boat, she tripped on the gangplank going up to the dock while I was pulling her along and she tripped and fell and started crying and I carried her the rest of the way to the car. A woman walking behind us handed her a small American flag, which L held tightly while she cried into my shoulder.

L feel asleep on the 4 minute drive from Seacrest Park to home. This girl was running on empty!

Bed for both girls by 6.15p, and trust me, they need the rest! (So do we!!)

Monday, August 29, 2011

it's getting mighty.... quiet

M and the girls are out of town for a week, and the house is crazy quiet. You'd think I like that, and there's aspects of it that are nice (I don't have to tiptoe through the outer room on my way in/out of my bedroom, I can listen to music and read the paper at breakfast, I can shower without interruption, leave the house at the planned time....), but I miss my girls (all 3 of them) and am looking forward to their return. There's something about this time on my own that makes it even more of a contrast - it's the first since Lucy died. Our domain isn't named "loudlucy" for nothing. So I'm moving around, getting up in the morning and crawling into bed at night in a house even more library-like than the last time M took the girls to see her mother.

I've got tons of projects to finish up, and quite a bit of garden maintenance too, but in the morning when I wake up I'm aware of the emptiness around me, and realize just how much a part of my life these various females are. When everyone is home, it's crazy, yes. And yet here I am wishing I could see them.

Last night K got on the phone and asked "How is the studio going Daddy?"

When did she get that old, old enough to know that I'm supposed to be working on the studio while she's out in Alabama visiting her grandmother, old enough to remember and to ask me? I felt like I was talking to a 15yo rather than to a 5yo. L on the other hand, had missed dinner and fallen asleep half on K's bed and half on the floor. M said she just moved her into her own bed (a crib at Grandmama's house). She's a "growned up" 3, but she's still 3, and travel and visiting with cousins is hard work.

When I said goodbye I told K I loved her.
K: Goodbye Daddy. I love you too.
It doesn't get much better than that.

So for the next week, I'm working at work and working at home, I'm paddling and feeling like I shouldn't be doing that since there's so much to get done. But I know the week will zoom by and soon it'll be Tuesday and I'll be picking everyone up from the airport. Until then, it's good to be reminded that what I sometimes wish for in the chaos of day-to-day living (silence and peace) is not what I truly want. Sure it's nice to have now and then, for a few hours or maybe even a day at a time, but after that it's disconcerting. Now, time to get back to work!

Oh yeah, and one more thing - I know M is going to need a break when they get back. There's nothing like being the solo parent to drain parental resources. She does a fantastic job, though she'd sometimes claim otherwise, but she'll need some time to herself. To be reminded of how much she wants the chaos.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

.... so this old world must still be spinning round...

... and I still love you...

Post-ice cream

For me, just about the worst parenting situation is the one where I've lost complete control of one or both girls.

Neither M nor I manage particularly well with poorly behaved children. And part of being a child is being poorly behaved on occasion.

We don't like being those parents who overreact to behavior that probably should be ignored and/or dealt with using humor. Luckily, M is pretty good about using humor, and I've learned a bit from her about how to disarm seemingly humorless situations. But I haven't learned enough. Maybe when I'm 80.... (which reminds me of that Mark Twain quote: “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”)

Recently we've begun wondering if we're turning into "that couple" and "that family," the one that all the other parents talk about. ("Honey, I'd prefer if our kids don't go up there. They'll learn all sorts of bad habits and behavior from 'those girls.' I'm not sure what M&P imagine they're doing, but I couldn't live that way, children who show no respect, who've wrapped them around their grimy little fingers.").

We worry, are we raising out-of-control children who run roughshod over us? I'm (probably) overreacting/exaggerating (slightly). I hope. But that's what it feels like at times. Like a night last week.

We both knew that the girls were exhausted. They'd been going to a day-camp at their school, which means they've got to be "on" from 8.30a to 3p, which means they're drained by the time they get home, which means they tend to collapse over small things and/or get wound up in ways that are hard to diffuse.

So we knew they needed an early bedtime, and I had them in the tub by shortly after 6p, aiming for a 6.30 reading time. They didn't want to get out. They wanted to dry themselves. I'm working on giving them more freedom to do things they want to do, so I said they could dry themselves, even though I figured it would mean trails of soggy footprints leading from the bathtub across the living room and upstairs to their bedroom. But they came up, mostly dry, and then we struggled with getting them dressed. I'd already told them there would be no story. We were running too late. And if things were delayed much longer, there would be no books either.

K brushes her teeth and is on track to get dressed and snuggle in for a book. But not so much L. When I've brushed K's back teeth and am just sending her out to get some jammies, L is running naked, back and forth across the room. So K hops up and joins her little sister. And now I have 2 girls, one in diapers, one nude, both getting more and more wound up, right when things should be quieting down.

And the thing is, I can't help laughing when L races out of our bedroom, first naked and then wearing her bright red Monkey underpants, like some tiny superhero, intent on saving the world.

It's "nearly naked girl" to the rescue!!

I make sure to not be smiling whenever she ricochets back into our room. There's nothing that spurs her on like obvious enjoyment from her audience - which is part of the problem. K is a ready and willing appreciator, and L plays to her all the time. Including on this particular evening.

And where L will eventually wear herself out and collapse, K gets more and more wired the more exhausted she becomes, which, translated (and skipping a longer, boring description of the events) means that when it is tuck-in time, she isn't having it.

I do my best to get them into bed, suggesting bedtime songs, recommending lying quietly if they can't sleep, finally closing the gate at the top of the stairway to go downstairs in search of their mother, leaving the girls yelling and screaming alternately for me and M.

I let this go on a bit, having headed outside to find M and let her know that L&K want to say goodnight to her. She is over at the neighbors' watering, so I go back inside and after I'm good and fed up, head back upstairs where I tell the girls that it is past time to get into bed and be quiet.

K: "I can't sleep up here."
L: "I can't sleep up here either."
me: "It's time to go to bed."
K: "Can I sleep in the living room?"
L: "Me too?"
me: "No. Climb into bed and lie quietly.
L: "I want Mama!"
me: "She's out watering."
K: "I want Mama!!"
L: "I'm going to get her.
me (closing and locking the gate): "No, I'll see if she can come up. You get into bed."
K: "No!"
L: "No!!"
me: "Then you'll lose privileges." (this is our standard approach, which is probably not the best and is often not particularly effective any longer, and which I very likely pulled out much much too soon)
K: "I don't care."
me: "Ok, no sweets tomorrow. No juice, no dessert." (I've been feeling less and less comfortable with sugars in our diet anyway, so this was an easy call for me. But probably a mistake.)
K: "I'm not going to bed."
L (arms folded): "Me either!!"

Things deteriorated until M climbed the stairs and took over for me. She let them try to sleep downstairs in the living room. They each got up once to ask us something. Finally they both fell asleep there in the bright evening light, and I carried them one by one up to their beds.

Contemplative K, early July

I'm left wondering what I could have done differently. What do you do, once a child refuses, to your face, to behave? What effective punishment is there at this point? It's particularly difficult for me when faced with a "No!" yelled directly at my face.

Options are to leave them to scream and yell upstairs (but I wanted them to go to sleep), or to let them out and go into my own room and give them the run of the house (but, see the concern above about becoming "those parents"). The temptation is there to spank, but we're not spankers, and I don't see that as being particularly useful.