Archive for the 'they crack me up' Category

this lemonade stand is a classic silicon valley startup

Already a hour into our window of opportunity, we have no product to ship. The CEO is hand-watercolouring the sign. The only employee had to be wooed away from solving puzzles. It is left to the investors (me and @jsgf) to juice the lemons and buy plastic cups.


Lemonade stand

nerdcore family values

Jeremy and I have been watching Altogether Too Much Archer, with the result that every now and then one of us will shout:


Yesterday before camp, Julia piled all the cushions and blankets on the living room floor and rolled around on them, crying: “I am in the comfy zone!”

I said: “You’re going to have to get out of your comfort zone.”

Claire said: “And into the DANGERZONE!!!”

watching avatar, the last airbender

Claire: In real life there would be tons more benders. There would be over a hundred benders.

Jeremy: Technically it’s using “element” in a different sense.

Rachel: No! I’m with Claire! I wanna be a uranium bender!

Jeremy: I’d be a tungsten bender.

the children make their own dinner

We have a rice cooker – we bought it after the first Cambridge trip, when a rice cooker saved our lives – and last night I’d shown Claire how to make a cup of white rice with a pinch of salt, a glug of olive oil and a cinnamon stick.

There were leftover sausages, which Claire cut up.

Julia made Julia Salad:

A grated carrot
Corn kernels
Torn-up nori

Julia has a glass of milk, Claire is drinking mineral water and I am kicking back with a cold Marlborough sauvignon blanc. It’s a beautiful evening, the door’s open to the terrace, the Daleks are on the telly and all’s right with the world.

funny husband is funny

A Neapolitan mastiff slobbers on his jeans. The dog’s owner is apologetic.

“No, it’s fine, it’s lovely!” says Jeremy. “It comes in vanilla, chocolate and strawberry.”


We are lolling by Stow Lake, when the Segway tour passes. I do the “Squirrel!” thing from Up!, exclaiming:


Jeremy says: “Stop changing the subject.”


I quote a show we like, saying: “I will answer your question in the language of crows.”

Jeremy says: “This is murder.”

it all started with a kazoo

Someone who clearly wishes us harm gave Julia a kazoo, and so we woke at 7 this morning even though it is Saturday. We feigned death until it was time to go to wushu, then we visited Briar Rose the hamster who lives with Salome, Jack, Milo and Najah. To Metate for fish tacos and then down to San Bruno Mountain to hike the Saddle Loop Trail with Jamey and Rowan.

I was expecting the mountain to be as it looks from a distance – bare and raw – but in fact it is paths winding among masses of wildflowers, and beautiful forests, and an unfortunately named Bog Trail that winds through a little canyon so beautiful it reminded both me and Jamey separately of Glendalough.

From there to the opposite corner of the city for swimming lessons (the short people) and coffee (me and Jeremy.) Claire won a ribbon for her backstroke – she has very nearly topped out of the swim school – and we made it into Lucca’s delicatessen five minutes before it closed, so we’re having fresh ravioli and Doctor Who for dinner.

“I’m so tired. I had a long day,” I said to Jeremy.

“I know,” he said. “I was there! And it all started with a kazoo.”

It’s our twelfth wedding anniversary. I was campaigning to have this recognized as the horse anniversary, but the universe wants to make it all about kazoos.

and now, doctor who

After we got home from Claire’s fencing lesson, I translated Julia’s homework while Jeremy and Claire wrote a script in Python to generate 90 times-table problems.

Jeremy explained each part of the script to Claire, and Julia and I had a bath together. We played the game where I pretend to call her while she is away at college.

Me: “Whatcha doin’?”

Jules: “Studying biology.”

Me: “What’s your college like? Is it like Hogwarts?”

Jules: “Yeah but we don’t do magic. We do science. It’s Hogscience.”

We agreed that when she and I are both dead, we will have a little cottage in heaven with a pasture for Alfie and Bellboy to share. We will spend our afterlife gardening and teaching ourselves the rest of mathematics.

This is just to say that I love my little family, and I love our life together, here, now. I am so happy.

gratuitous kidbragging

1. We have given the girls an allowance, so Claire set up a Kiva account and made a loan.

2. Me to Julia, unjustly: Claire is so grumpy. She gets that from Bebe.

Julia, without hesitation: She gets it from you.

we circumnavigate strawberry hill in a game of our own devising

Sunday I was an hour and a half early to my lesson, to Jeremy’s infinite amusement. I hung out in the cafe in Ladera watching Men With European Cars. It was one of those meetings where they stand around looking at engines and discussing detailing. O the infinity of my scorn, but standing around discussing flexion and distances is the same exact thing. I am lucky, they are lucky, to be so fond of something so complicated.

I rode Austin, as I have not done in ages. I first rode him when I was still in my twenties and he was barely more than a colt. He’s my friend Beth’s horse and he’s one of the best horses in the world. I’d put my kids on him without hesitation, and yet I can ask him for flying changes and lateral work and he’ll give them willingly. That’s rarer and more precious than anything you can imagine.

I told Nicole I wanted to work on having a more consistent leg and a more following hand, which turned out to be a mistake, because she cranked up my stirrups to jockey length to stretch the tendons and everything still hurts. It worked, of course, and I went on to ride Austin really well, which is lucky because Beth came to watch. The last course we rode was good, and the last line especially good; I relaxed and sank into the saddle and Austin liked that.

I was sugar crashing when I got home and had to collect the Fitzhardinges. I desperately wanted the linguini and clams from Park Chow, as you do, but I knew I couldn’t make it that far. I was finding a place to park near Church and Market when Jeremy reminded me that there is another Chow right there. When my linguini appeared in front of me I was teary with the pleasure of a wish come true.

We met Gilbert and Heather and Heath and Ada in GG Park and rented paddleboats and had pirate and accordion battles all around Strawberry Hill. Then we climbed the hill, passing a drag queen photo shoot at the waterfall. In the ruins on the peak the four children fell into a complex and brilliant medieval castle game that I was sad to have to end, so we planned a picnic there next week for a rematch.

game theory

When the sibling rivalry was at its boringest late last year I tried a two-pronged approach. First, we instituted and enforced some non-negotiables: you will speak to one another with respect; you will respect one another’s personal space.

Second, shameless bribery. A child could report an act of kindness undertaken towards it by another child. On receipt of such reports, both children earned a point. No points were earned for self-reported acts of kindness. At some arbitrary threshold, points can be redeemed for valuable prizes (tea at Lovejoy’s.)

They earned eight and a half points non-ironically before Claire figured out how to game the system, conspired with Julia to perform a short role-play and presented us with the hilariously unconvincing spectacle of: “the children being nice to one another.” I kept a straight face and gave them each a point.

Tonight Claire and I were talking about some school exercises that bore her. I told her that the trick was figuring out how to hack them. We’re middle-class people. We have to jump through hoops to earn our bread. But we can at least jump through hoops in ways we find amusing. I used the sibling rivalry exercise, and the way she hacked it, as my example.

We’d had a perfect day. The weather was divine and we spent most of our time at Adventure Playground in Berkeley, which has got to be one of the nicest places in the world. But the no-contest awesomest moment of the day was Claire’s expression when she realized that I had tricked her and her sister into joining forces for a prank.

a grand day out

Al left this morning, but I did get to follow him all the way out to Cobbadah, which made me feel a bit less like crying. Mum and Jeremy and I were on our way to Upper Horton and the last day of the big New Year’s campdraft.

I had no idea what the rules are, but a really nice lady named Jen explained that each competitor cuts out a head of cattle from a herd of seven or eight in a small corral called the “camp.” Then they ask for the gate to be opened, and they race the cow (sorry, “beast”) out into the big arena, where they chase it around a figure eight and through a gate marked with road cones. (Not actually cones; it’s the tall cylindrical ones that Google says are called traffic delineators, but Sarah says if I use the word delineator in my blog it makes me a major wanker. Such are the perils of blogging at my sister’s house.)

Campdrafting? Is awesome. The horses are all compact little stock horses, with big butts but built uphill, light in front and high head carriage. When you see them working cows, you see why. They sink back onto their hocks and pirouette left, pirouette right. They keep the beast in that big high eye of theirs. Then when the gate opens, they take off like a rocket after the sprinting cow. The riders sit them like centaurs, riding in plain snaffles, and the horses pull up short when the rider so much as thinks about stopping.

Did I mention that this is awesome? It’s really, really cool to watch. You lean on the fence, while ten feet away the horses lock intensely onto the cows, and the cows spin and run. Mum and Jeremy enjoyed it, and I could have watched it for hours, except that I got hungry. We had sausage sandwiches and cups of tea. We’d watched this one epic run early on, a big guy on a lovely chestnut with a baldy face, and I was beyond thrilled when they packed up during lunch and presented awards, and my favourite chestnut walked away with the grand prize. Then we drove home the back way, which was SPECTACULARLY BEAUTIFUL, like a huge park; like you imagine the grounds of Pemberley.

There was a dead fox on the road which because I am my father’s daughter I felt obliged to move. (He frets when carrion birds are killed on the roadkill carcases they are eating.) Poor little fox; it was quite fresh. Not fresh enough, as we discovered when I got back in the rental car with a boot reeking of decomposing fox. I washed it with water from a bottle, and also stopped at the next river to wade around. These are my favourite Frye boots! I guess at least they’ve been blooded. I offered Mum the brush, but she politely declined.

Got back to Sarah’s to find that the children had had three bowls of Cocoa Bombs and were watching cartoons. It’s the best day ever.


“Once there was an evil witch and she made a spell that looked like blueberry juice. The people loved blueberry juice so much they drank it all up and then they were under the spell! The evil witch cackled and cackled. One young girl did not drink the blueberry juice because she did not like blueberry juice. Her name was Bella. The evil witch disguised herself. But she loved apple juice. The witch made the spell look like apple juice and taste like apple juice as well. The girl drank it all up!

“Then the little girl followed her everywhere and the other people did as well. Then she noticed something. That she was following the evil witch! And she told everyone! It didn’t curse her at all. It half-cursed her. Then Bella’s big sister Calypso became the new evil witch. The witch drank the evil spell. But! Calypso wanted a partner and she chose Bella. And her friend as well. Her name is Julia. But! Julia saw Bella and she really really really wanted to be a witch. But then Julia saw the old witch. She became a member of the Witch Family.

“And Calypso wanted her as a partner as well. And a speeding cheetah came to the castle! And gave them a potion! But! They all four of them drank it up together and went to show everyone in the entire city that they were best friends! In the entire world! Everyone yelled “We love the new witch Calypso!””

okay then

Claire: “Mama, what do you think is the most dangerous part of a lion or a bear? Lemony Snicket says it is the stomach, because by then you are already torn up and eaten. But I say that by the time you get to the stomach you are already dead, and so Lemony Snicket is not reasonable.”

lighter reading

I came across a notebook the other day with this written on the back:


i present the children with posters for colouring in

Me: “Do you know who she is?”

Claire: “She was the first woman computer programmer.”

Me: “Nuh-uh. She was the first computer programmer.”

Claire, wide-eyed: “Wow!”

Julia, reading: “A-da Love-lace.”

the adventures of pink tiger and princess, or, have you seized enough day today?

Saturday was epic: wushu, then Fairmount Fiestaval, then a dentist’s appointment, then the library. We were received with amused delight everywhere:

…which was great fun right up until their swim lesson, when the paint got washed off but on the bright side, Julia earned her red ribbon. Their swim school is wonderful at providing these regular positive reinforcements for swims well swum. As part of my program of feigning maternal competence, I have all their ribbons pinned to a notice board in the living room. The new ribbon was pinned up with great ceremony.

Then I abandoned the children with their father and put on a little black dress and went to Writers With Drinks with Rebecca and Yoz and Gilbert and Heather, which was fab. I picked up milk on the way home and was interrupted from complaining bitterly about Safeway only ever having two registers open, even when there are thirty-eight people in line, by Rocky, who is making Indian tacos at El Rio and wants to open his own place. “It’s all good,” said Rocky. “You’re right,” I said. “I totally have to seize more day.”

small good things

Claire in the back of the car with a notebook and pen. “Hey mama, guess what? The eighteenth binary number is 131,072.”

Sitting in the sun at the barn as a Dopey the half-Clydesdale is led past me, and seeing him as he really is: a huge strange alien beast with a vast wise eye. Like a dragon.

Going out on the harbour with Badgerbag in the Daisy, and the marine battery failing, and us having to row back to shore. Two fortysomething Internet feminists, in a boat, marooned, capable, happy.


Claire, in agony: I CAN’T EVEN FIND MY BOOTS!

Me: Are they near the bookshelf? Where you left them last night? Even though I asked you to put them away? Do you think maybe if we all put stuff back into its place we might be able to find it again the next time we need it? No, that’s crazy talk.

Jeremy: We should ask the Mythbusters.

maintain the rage

We had a huge bunch of friends and kids over on Sunday morning for pastries. Claire just wanted to hole up somewhere with a book, but littler kids kept finding her and invading her space. She was filled with impotent fury.

Moira: She reminds me so much of how you were when I first met you.

Me: …I was 22 years old.

Moira: Yep!

this is going in her permanent file

Andrew very kindly did a special screening of the 2008 Royal Ballet production of “The Nutcracker” for a certain small ballet-obsessed human of my acquaintance. The nice thing about having the entire cinema to yourself is that you can recline on floor cushions while said small human can join in the ballet. I watched her leaps in sillhouette against the screen.

Remember when Julia was a baby? That was, like, five minutes ago, right?