Archive for the 'children' Category

cité des sciences

We braved the Metro (Jeremy deftly blocking a pickpocketing attempt) out to Parc de la Villette to visit the Cité des Sciences et l’Industrie, which according to Wikipedia is the biggest science museum in Europe. It is pretty big! We bought tickets to all the temporary exhibitions, which was a bit of a misstep because the permanent exhibitions were exquisite and we didn’t get to spend anywhere near enough time with them.

As we were touring the Argonaut, a decommissioned submarine, I got mail from the neuroscientist in London who is writing the case study about Dad’s blog. We had hoped to move Dad’s brain to a brain bank for further study but unfortunately this won’t be possible. The neuroscientist reassured us that although Dad’s brain has already been embalmed and used to train surgeons, the resulting anatomical report will still be very helpful in establishing the diagnosis of fronto-temporal dementia.

Dad used to take us to the Observatory and the Australian Museum and the Powerhouse and its precursor, the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, all the time. He took us to Taronga and Western Plains Zoo and Tidbinbilla and Parkes. His factory built fire control systems for the Collins Class submarine. He would have loved the Cité. I feel a space where grief should be. Proposed Site for Grief. What happened to Dad is so huge and terrible I can’t even get there yet. All I have is these tiny, inadequate glimmers of what he was. Of all that we have lost.

city of light meals

A cool change blew through on our first night, thank the gods. The jetlagged girls couldn’t sleep, so I went out and lay on the sofa bed with them until the “Mama Bear is here” signal overwhelmed the “STRANGE ROOM” alarm in their reptile brains. Then I couldn’t sleep, so I climbed back in with Jeremy and his “Papa Bear” signal overwhelmed mine.

Saturday we found Kirsty outside the Louvre Pyramid, exchanged many kisses and saw the Nike of Samothrace (better than I ever dreamed), the Venus de Milo (quite lovely) and the Mona Lisa (whatevs.) I adored the Roman Egyptian mummy portraits and we all loved the Islamic art. I decided that Christian art is mostly sentimental rubbish. Jeremy says I’m going through a phase.

We had an insanely delicious lunch at the Bistro Richelieu. I had the confit de canard. It was the best thing I have ever put in my mouth.

We only see Kirsty every few years but on each occasion it is as though no time has passed.

Dinner at Vin et Terroir with Kirsty’s friends Justin and Peter. I had the lentil soup, which was the best thing I have ever put in my mouth. Sunday we did a little more Louvre, swung by the Musee d’Orsay and the Orangerie (Monet is amazing) and crossed paths several times with the end of the Tour de France. Hurrah for the sportspokes! Dinner at a City Crepes, where the grownups became perhaps too merry upon cider.

Today we walked across Ile St Louis to the Centre Pompidou.

Jeremy first went there when he was Claire’s age, and last time we visited, pre-kids, he said that if he ever did have children, he wanted to take them there.

They loved it. Renzo Piano also built the Cal Academy, their favorite place in SF, and Jan and Richard’s house was always full of bent wood furniture and Matisse prints, so it must have felt like home. Jeremy went into a full-on Art Dad fugue state and we stormed around for hours. (Matisse is amazing.)

Then we went to Au Petit Versailles du Marais for Kirsty’s farewell meal, which, wah. I wish London was closer to San Francisco. Saying goodbye is boring.

Julia ordered, and I finished, the Pyramid, a structure of passionfruit mousse with an apricot center and a macaroon base. It was the best thing I have ever put in my mouth.

getting a friday five in early

1. A recycled Twitter joke: I posted this last Tuesday and my friend Matthew asked whether the Kaiju were under water, so I said that they were, and that this picture was taken from Jeremy’s and my Jaeger, the Frock Advisory. Seriously, though, look at my beautiful city.

2. My big brother Alain arrived on Thursday and is now an essential member of the household and may not leave. We went out for margaritas with a bunch of folks on Saturday and all got thoroughly roaring and ordered Pizzahacker on the way home. Danny converted Al to the cult of Ingress and now he is part of the Resistance, firing energy weapons into interdimensional portals as he walks around the Mission. (It cracks me up that every technolibertarian and privacy activist I know is in thrall to this sinister surveillance weapon of a game.)

3. Nick-the-horse and I had a lesson with Colin in the Grand Prix arena and, in between very embarrassing refusals, jumped up to a meter ten. It’s the very lowest level of jumping that anyone takes remotely seriously, it’s my goal height and it scared the living crap out of me. But we jumped it. It turns out that my snuggly goober Nicky Boo Bear is an imported Dutch Warmblood from a stallion line that has produced (notoriously badly-behaved) Grand Prix horses in both jumping and dressage. A frog prince.

4. Jeremy and I went to NASA Ames to wait for the New Horizons spacecraft to phone home. That’s us in front of the beautiful Hangar One.

I love NASA as I love national parks and missile silos converted into marine mammal rescue centers, which is to say, immoderately. They kept describing the spacecraft as the size of a grand piano, so now that is how I picture it, a golden Steinway hurtling through the dwarf planet system, exploring strange new worlds, boldly going. A scientific instrument.

5. Ta-Nehisi’s new book is amazing.



Happy birthday, America! I love you for your Steve Rogers, Bree Newsome, health care, marriage equality and Oz Farm.

summer’s here and i’m for that

Media Gulch likes to cosplay as Rome:

And the Community Music Center as, I don’t even know, some kind of solarpunk Utopia:

Jules is making new friends, as is her wont:

Good coffee has made it to a sunny courtyard near my office in Palo Alto:

Alice and I share a fondness for sunbeams:

It’s my favorite time of the year, and I’m glad that it’s here.

adventure time 6: yosemite valley

So we went to see what all the fuss was about.

The first night, we stayed at the Wawona.

The absolute highlight of which was this handsome fellow vogueing in the shrubbery.

Next morning, brunch at the Ahwahnee.

Then El Capitan, or as I like to call him, Steve.

We stormed around the Merced River for a bit, which was painfully scenic.

Then I don’t even know, a meadow and some rocks and stuff.

A waterfall of excruciating beauty.

Tea back at the Ahwahnee with a mama mule deer and her twin fawns.

Pinot grigio on our balcony at the Yosemite Lodge, with our own personal mountain.

And our own personal sunset.

Glacier Point on the way home, for one last overdose on grandeur.

Buh-bye rocks and stuff!

I guess I would characterize all the fuss as “not wholly unjustified”.

julia and her gemma

bebe by claire

there was something about anarchy, i remember that much

Kirsty is a force of nature. I’ve been meaning to go up to Edinburgh since Alex and Ioanna moved there from Ireland years ago, but the details eluded me. When I mentioned it in passing to Kirsty the whole thing was organized in what seemed like sixty seconds. I flew in early for the London conference I come to every April, and Kirsty and I caught the train to Edinburgh.

The journey was gorgeous and fascinating. “Green and pleasant land,” I tweeted as we left London, then “dark Satanic Mills!” as we crossed the midlands and I saw four huge power stations (Eggborough and friends maybe?) belching steam into an otherwise cloudless sky. As we sped to Scotland we saw Durham Cathedral, the Angel of the North (which I have loved since first seeing pictures of it and which came as a completely unexpected treat), beautiful steampunk Newcastle, Lindisfarne like something from a Miyazaki film or happy dream, the sun sparkling on the mouth of the Tweed at Berwick, and the looming bulk of the Torness Nuclear Plant.

Motion sickness got to me after a while. (The hangover from the night before probably didn’t help. That was Grant’s fault.) I thought I was going to hurl all over Waverley Station. I took my first steps in Scotland trying not to puke and telling myself “Don’t mention their accents don’t mention their accents,” so of course when I called Alex I blurted out “you sound very Irish.” I guess at least I didn’t vomit?

When I had recovered myself somewhat Kirsty and I had fun storming Edinburgh castle, and when we finally did make it to Alex’s house the awkwardness of nine years’ separation did not survive its first encounter with a pretty decent Sangiovese I’d brought out from California. Alex made osso buco. It was delicious. Ioanna is delightful and their daughter Lena is so best. We figured out how to fix capitalism but I didn’t write it down, so that’s a pity.

claire, just sort of generally bein awesome

Claire’s sword set a video by yatima on Flickr.

She earned her first degree brown belt today. She also made the finals of the River of Words poetry contest, and won a medal for that.

“you’re funny, mama”

I drag a weeping child out on an errand and return with a child that is giggling.

Me: That was some good parenting there.

Julia: Huh?

Me: Admit it. Say, “Mama, you are wise.”

Julia: Mama, you are pies.

Me: What? There’s no such thing as pies!

Julia: Yes there is!

Me: I don’t believe in pies.

the fabulous flyinge fitzhardinges

boxing day, or in the tradition of my people, doctor who christmas special day

In Sydney. The flight over was great, because the girls are big now and self-entertaining, and because J gave me noise-canceling headphones so I slept nearly all the way to Auckland. A puddle jump to Sydney and then roast lamb and summer pudding and presents with the Fitzhardinges. Jan gave me a new piece by Rachel Honnery, to my delight. In the evening I looked over what Claire had packed for the trip, and as a result this morning we caught a taxi to Bondi Junction to stock up on clothes for her.

I’m chagrined to say that shopping in the Boxing Day sales has been one of the best parts of Christmas so far. We got Claire a super cute new wardrobe for basically no money. She bought a present for Jules. J and I got shorts and J got a new pair of shoes. We had flat whites and babycinos and talked about the likelihood of Cory Booker running for president in 2016. Bourgie enough for you?

It’s overcast and rainy but still way warmer than San Francisco. I am deeply, deeply tired, still shaking off the long tail of my cold and the end-of-year push at work, let alone the jetlag.

exploring westwood park at night with a wolf, a fairy, a ninja, the spider-man and queen nefertiti

NAJAH encounters a young fellow of similar age who is also dressed as the SPIDER-MAN.

ME, joyfully: Spiders-men!


NAJAH shakes his head.

YFOSA: No. Spider-man no scary!


CLAIRE: I’m not a cat. I’m a werewolf. I’m a werewolf! I’m not a cat! I’m not a cat, I’m a wolf.


ME, accompanying JULIA across a particularly terrifying front yard: There’s a severed limb! There’s another one! Tombstones! A giant rat! Are these demons guarding the door? OH MY GOD THERE ARE PEOPLE IN THERE WATCHING ‘HOME IMPROVEMENT.’ AAAARG NOW TIM ALLEN IS ON!

JACK: Hush.

ME: At least it wasn’t Shatner.


ADA: That lady said that my costume was “very creative.” It was either a compliment… OR AN INSULT.


DANNY: I’m afraid Ada’s Nefertiti hat will fill up with rain.

JEREMY: She should fill it up with candy.

ME: It’s the inundation of the Nile.

san francisco weather

It was hot and humid last night. Even so the morning went well and we were all bundled into the car in good time. At the Cortland and Mission lights, Jeremy said:

“I didn’t sleep well.”

“Me neither,” I said.

“Me neither,” said Claire.

“Neither did I,” said Julia.

I was dumbstruck. It was such a quotidian thing and yet it was the first time I had really felt the four of us as a family, individual people all living in the same house, sharing the same weather. I can’t put it into words.

adorable wrangling

This weekend, Jeremy’s mother is arriving but Jeremy will be spending the entire weekend wrangling adorable killer robots. That’s okay; I will take Jan with me to the girls’ piano, wushu, riding and swimming lessons, and to Najah’s birthday party. That’s assuming I finish the huge work deadline I am currently avoiding by writing this. Next weekend is not so bad – just a garden work day, school Fall Fun Festival and Julia’s birthday party, plus all the usual lessons, but at least I will have Jeremy around to help.

Sigh! I do love my wildly busy life. The girls and I have been doing a lot of cooking and drawing and reading. Julia has hugely enjoyed the beginning of piano and practices every day. Fourth grade at school comes with a choice of flute, violin or something else and Claire chose violin, which in practice means that she is trying to reproduce Zoe Keating songs at one-quarter scale. I am more than fine with that.

I am reading the Jenny Linsky stories with Jules and the Swallows and Amazon series with Claire. Jules is enormous fun to read with: every plot twist is a total shock to her. Claire likes to crochet or cross-stitch while I read, but will occasionally nudge me to ask a question or make an observation that makes it clear she has been hanging on every word. Curling up with them to read, usually with the cat walking over the mountain range of our knees, is the best part of every day.

salome is teaching riding

IMG_20120929_125536.jpg by yatima
IMG_20120929_125536.jpg, a photo by yatima on Flickr.

This is Claire on a Welsh cob and I am pretty sure I daydreamed the whole thing.

huge harry potter pretend game

IMG_20120923_115823.jpg by yatima
IMG_20120923_115823.jpg, a photo by yatima on Flickr.

a memorable fancy

Last night Claire and I went through her favourite cookbook and picked out the gnocchi, lasagne and baked peach recipes for her to make. Today after wushu we went to Lucca, the awesome Italian place on Valencia and 22nd, for pasta flour, amaretti and parmesan. (Some dulce de leche and tuna in olive oil snuck into my bag as well.) At the farmer’s market we found stone fruit, onions, spring onions, cilantro, kale, potatoes and Colin, who always has the best neighborhood gossip. At Good Life we bought meat, carrots and lemons. Right now I am baking paleo quiche (savory custard tarts in pancetta crusts) and the girls are about to make lemonade to sell at the street party around the corner.

It’s so rare that I find myself being more or less the mother I’d hoped I would be…

the shipping news

Another week; they flicker past. The big trade show of the year tired me out so much that I would come home and lie down on my bed for an hour after work. The first day I didn’t do that, the girls were surprised. A coworker said today he never thought of me as the sort of person who worried about client meetings. I said “Ever asked yourself why I do three hours prep for every hour face to face?”

Claire has a new violin. The school is giving lessons, free, so we rented this half-sized instrument from a place on Market. It’s adorable. I want to learn myself. The feel of the bow across the string is tantalizing.

Speaking of, Bella has a sore foot and I have been riding Jackson. He’s a big sour old Thoroughbred, scary sometimes to watch because of his repertoire of evasions. But when I ride him with my best self, I can get him forward and soft. I can only get it for a minute or so at a time: hence, tantalizing. I want to stretch out the nice moments so they get longer and longer. The trainers talk about the feeling of being “on rails”, when the horse’s hind legs are pushing along a straight line and the reins feel like train tracks and everything feels preordained. I’ve had that a couple of times on Bells, and now I can get it a little on Jacks. It’s quite a feeling to ride this huge horse over fences, fearless. Lopity lope.

When I get off him, it’s another six inches or something before I land, versus getting off little Bella. My eyes are probably sixteen hands or so off the ground, but his wither is above the top of my head. He’s vast and gentle.

I’ve been intermittently organizing around the house and I made my folding desk into a proper workplace for myself, with paints and sketchbooks and pens and pencils, so that even if I only have half an hour I can make a sketch or a watercolor. On Labor Day Monday I was in a bad mood for various reasons, but I did a painting and it helped me to feel better. I am completely amateurish, which is the point: I am letting myself learn to fail more. Julia loves to paint with me. Claire likes it but is also enjoying her piano. We’re the Austen sisters around here, I tell you what.

Speaking of, Claire has mastered the rice cooker and the kettle, and tonight’s stir fry with chicken, broccoli, green beans and carrots was mostly her work. She taught Julia to make the rice. Claire likes to bring me cups of tea, and has been offering to make me gins and tonic as well. Kid knows her mother.

Jeremy’s lovely but between his new startup gig and wushu, and my promotion and the horses, we sort of terrorist fist-bump in passing. But he did get a haircut and is looking totally awesome. I wonder if he would go out with me.