Monday, 28 May 2012

See No Evil

It is widely accepted that certain people in a child's life have the right to go against parents' express wishes, to a certain point. When they have the child in their custody, they are welcome to present cookies before dinner, buy toys or clothes the child doesn't need, and generally act in a deplorable (though harmless) manner. These people include grandparents, godparents/close family friends, and aunts/uncles.

Note that nannies do not make that list.

That's fine, of course. A nanny's job is to uphold the parents' wishes, not trample all over them. As a nanny, you don't work for a family with whom you do not agree on overall child-raising practices. So you never go against The Rules.

However, there is a beautiful grey area there. While I would never flout the family rules and expectations, I will happily involve the children in projects that fall in the "parents are fine KNOWING it happens, but don't want to SEE it" category. This can more easiy be summarised as "anything messy."

The other day, the children and I were playing with shaving cream-- squishing it, painting with it, dying it, you get the idea. It was a bit of a mess, friends, but a beautiful, fun, squooshy mess of joy. After everything was cleaned up and put away, K wandered into the kitchen. Spotting the [rinsed off, innocent-looking] shaving cream cans on the counter, he looked at me with apprehension.

"What are those for?"

"Don't worry," I quickly replied. "You already missed it."

Other things that fall in the "parents can know but do not want to see" category include:

Pollack-style painting

Hitting children in the face with pie pans filled with whipped cream
The dog thought this plan was pretty awesome

Papier mache
I cannot get this picture to upload the right direction. I have no idea why.

Enthusiastic cookie or cupcake frosting (which may or may not turn into frosting oneself) (This is not to be confused with demure cookie or cupcake frosting, which is an entirely different beast)

Equally enthusiastic baking

Body paint

Jumping, splashing, or rolling in puddles

Shaving cream shenanigans

Manners-free dinners (not pictured, because all photographs show the childrens' faces-- covered in food, but still visible. Also, they're kind of gross.)

Friday, 25 May 2012

A verbal tranche de vie

Overheard a few days ago...

Neptune (on a particularly chilly day): I wish we had a hot machine to make the world hot.
Clover: ...It's called global warming.

Neptune (referring to Dallas): If you go outside as a kid, sometime you are bound to get kidnapped. Or, if you're an adult, adultnapped.

Not only does that second quotation introduce a delightful word into the venacular, but also brings up some interesting questions about Dallas. While we were there, I assure you that there were people out and about. It's not as if folks just shut themselves inside for their whole lives. Where did this perception come from?

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Job Description

Sometimes "nanny" seems like a convenient way to sum up a series of jobs.

Here's what I've got so far:

Chauffeur (in a car that is generally decorated generously with gel gems, of course)
Chicken Farmer
Creative Problem Solver (I solve creative problems as well as creatively solve problems.)
Dog Nurse
Errand Runner
Life Coach
Whimsy Provider
Windowsill gardener

It's often busy, usually hilarious, frequently exhausting, always fascinating, and worth every single second of it all.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

ApisMellifica, Then and Now

Ok, ok. I've been making lots of references to ApisMellifica recently-- let me actually introduce you to her. Here she is:
What? You thought I had been talking about an ADULT? Oh, wait, I guess you're right. Here's a more recent photo:
You'll have to excuse my confusion. I had not actually seen ApisMellifica (or, actually, had much contact with her) for about 12 years, and she was solidly 11 years old in my memory, up until about a week ago.

Have I mentioned how much I love Facebook? It was through this marvelous nugget of the technological age that we managed to connect again after many years. We had met when I moved to the small mountain community of Evergreen, Colorado when I was 11 years old, but I moved away again shortly after I turned 13. I was barely there for 18 months, but that is plenty of time to find truly good people-- and she was one of them. I was delighted to see what she was doing with her life! For a long time, we casually checked out each other's accounts, left short notes on the other's wall ("Wow, it's been forever!"), and clicked through the posted pictures. She also read(s) my blog, which meant that she knew a LOT more about me than I knew about her, which I thought was unfair. Convenient... but unfair.

Then she started considering the University of Washington as a potential graduate school.

So she decided to visit.

This almost caused my head to explode. She asked if I'd like to meet up for a beverage of some kind. I agreed, of course... but then I asked if she'd like to stay with me, instead of in a hotel. She agreed.

I was excited, and really looking forward to learning more about this girl I had liked so much as a kid.

Then, mere moments before we would connect in the SEA-TAC airport, I experienced a degree of hesitancy. I had been saying that "anyone who is nice in 6th grade must just be a Nice Person. Middle School is the worst." And I stand by that. And yet... I did not know this girl, not really, not anymore. WHAT was I THINKING?

And then we found each other by the baggage claim, and all of my worries vanished.

She's still nice, guys! We have so much in common, and had a grand old time while she was here. I spent the whole time trying to convince her to move to Seattle... and may have made some headway. But shh... don't jinx it.

I showed her Seattle, and we ate like kings, played like children, laughed often, and had serious conversations about things that matter to us. I am so proud of 11 year old Blythe for making a friend like Apis. I'm very disappointed in my 13-year-old self for not staying in touch, but can be nothing less than elated with whatever weird swirl in the universe brought us together again. Yeah, that falling out of touch thing? Not happening again.

Especially because I'm making her move here.

Then-- note the kickass sense of style I exhibit. (When I showed Clover my sixth grade school pictures, she smiled at it, then reassured me. "It's ok, you were a kid. You're... better now." HA! I'm not showing her this picture.)

And Now. Can you understand my shock when I first saw her in the airport? She's not 11, guys, and I'm not 12.

Thursday, 17 May 2012


Sometimes I storm around, being Angry At Humanity. I'm Disappointed that Some People would be so stupid as to Think As They Do about (Education, Gay Marriage, Health Care, Social Responsibility, etc). I'm Horrified and Chagrined by the human race. I think in Capital Letters, damnit.

But then, something beautiful happens, and I am proved Wrong. I mean, I still maintain some resentment over all the People who don't Think As They Should, but it's hard to find that resentment under the thick layer of warm fuzzies.

I had just such an experience a few months ago at the Turkish Delight place down at Pike Place Market (ya know the one?). I go there allthetime, and eat lots of Turkish Delight. On one particular occasion, I was just headed out the door when a man came in. He carried a large backpack, and had an unkempt appearance. He approached me with deference. "Excuse me," he said, "Would you buy me some food?"

I reached for my wallet, and turned to face the counter. Behind it, I could see the woman who works there already scooping hot Turkish food into different containers. "I got it," she told me, and waved me away.

It's so little. It was a moment, nothing more than that. But it was so, so lovely. It was easy to share food, easy to give away just a small amount, and so she did. That was it.

Another lovely moment took place in my own kitchen, several years ago.

My sister has a lot of different challenges; physical, emotional, behavioural, you name it. Nothing comes easily for her, but she is a cheerful, friendly sort who is very kind and outgoing. A couple of years ago, I overheard a conversation between Glitter and a 7-year-old, River. I started paying attention just as Glitter was explaining, "I'm disabled." River looked over in surprise. "You are?" she asked. "Yes," my sister replied matter-of-factly. "Physically and mentally." I waited for River's response, anxious about what the answer might be. Would she recoil? Would Glitter's feelings be hurt? Would I have to lead a short seminar on the importance of respecting others?

River just nodded. "That's ok." she said. "I'm not very good at spelling."

That is kindness, guys. That is exactly what kindness is-- being accepting, respectful, and inclusive.

I'll just be spending the rest of my life weeping.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The Danger of Totes

When ApisMellifica visited recently, I couldn't stop coveting her beautifully large and spacious purse. There I was with my little (ADORABLE, by the way) handbag, occasionally overflowing and spilling, and my huge camera carried separately. I mean, it was fine and all. Maybe not Ideal, but certainly a looonnng way from Life Threatening.

And yet...


I watched her closely. She would reach inside, and come up with Useful Things-- her phone, her wallet, her CAMERA. I couldn't get over it. Her camera fit in her purse. (Incidentally, we have exactly the same camera. I was RELATING to this EXPERIENCE.)

I realise I am coming across as totally crazy, but that's what I was actually experiencing-- total craziness. It crept up on me, and then, without warning, I found myself consumed with longing for a Summer Tote Bag. It would be perfect, I assured myself. I could bring everything I could ever need with me! Wallet, camera, cell phone, calendar, pens... it was starting to get out of control... sunglasses, sun screen, iPod...ahh!...snacks, a book...

See, that's the Danger of Totes. With all of that space, how are you supposed to pass up the opportunity to bring EVERYTHING YOU CAN THINK OF?

And my tote bag has many POCKETS. Which makes it better.

Or maybe worse.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

The Luckiest Year

Remember that time I said that 2012 would be the best year ever? I was determined that it would be full of friends, adventures, health, and forward motion in terms of What I'll Be When I Grow Up.

So far, it's been a grand year in terms of visiting friends especially. You may remember that Aloha came to visit in January, which was an excellent start to the year.

In February, I had the pleasure of visiting Monica, Ginny, and Pearl.

Then in March I went down to Portland to hang out with Aslan and Wednesday, who was up visiting from the Bay Area. (Note the bottomless mimosas pictured in the photograph below.)

April brought a visit from Twirl (a friend from college) and her boyfriend. I had tremendous fun showing them what I believe to be the most important parts of Seattle-- including the Elliot Bay Bookstore, Archie McPhee, and the Fremont Troll. These stops have since become officially included in the "Blythe Tour of Seattle." Because they are awesome.

Immediately after Twirl's visit, Polka Dot arrived. She stayed for the weekend, and we packed as many adventures as possible into those two days-- trying on dresses at Anthropologie, playing at Archie McPhee, Elliot Bay, Pike Place Market, Alki Beach, the Seattle Art Museum, and the library (to name many, but not all, of the things we did).

Most recently, Apis Mellifera visited me this last week. I'll share more details of that visit in a future post, but here's a picture for now.

Later this year I'm expecting visits from Ginny, who will hopefully be in town some time this summer; Daisy, who will be here from July through September (!); and my cousin, who will hopefully be able to make it out here for a long weekend. (By then, I hope to have come up with a blog name for her.) I'm also planning on an adventure or two myself, and I hope those will come to pass.

Yes, it's a very promising year indeed.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Am I My Mother?

I hear of people becoming their mothers all the time. As we grow older, we adopt their reasonable views of the world, their khaki trousers, sensible shoes and-- if we are very lucky-- their patience, understanding, and tenacity. (But hopefully never their fanny packs. Really, Mom, what were you thinking?!)

Or maybe that is just me.

Seriously, though, the lessons my mom has taught me go far beyond "Do your best" and "Clean up the kitchen when you are done making brownies." The lessons I've learned from her are less direct, less explicit. I have to incorporate them into my life before I ever even notice I've learned them at all.

I have, though-- at least, some of them.
I hear her words when I speak to Clover and Neptune. "Let's find a compromise," I say. "Let's try it and see," I suggest. "I'd love to chaperone your field trip/volunteer in your classroom/listen to you practice your presentation for the 800th time!" I enthuse-- and I mean it sincerely. (Incidentally, I don't hear her when I say "I have asked you 6 times to put your shoes on! Why aren't you wearing shoes?!" What can I tell you? I'm a work in progress.)

I had a messy, creative, adventurous childhood, and it was the very best. I had space to create, to try, to make mistakes, to sing silly songs, to cry even if nothing truly terrible had actually happened.

She followed my lead when it came to my passions, but shared her own with me as well. She has given me kindness, a sense of humor, and the ability to laugh at my own mistakes. She has taught me to appreciate the small things, because sometimes that makes all the difference. The rest of my family (and many people in my life, actually) remain stunned by our joint ability to get joy out of just about anything.

I am still learning from her, and learning more about the lessons she instilled in me a long time ago. Listen to others-- adults, and children. Their thoughts and beliefs have value. Apologise when you do something wrong. Follow through on commitments. Keep your promises.

And, in case I didn't already appreciate the influence she has on me, I had a startling experience the other day. Waiting for Clover outside a dressing room, I glanced to my left and saw a mirror. In the reflection... My mother. Khaki trousers and cute shoes. I got the point.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Conversations with Clover and Neptune

Clover: "...and when I go to Scripps, I can take classes at the other schools! Like at Pitzer, and Claremont McKenna, and... It's not called Mud Bay, is it?"
Me: "No."
Clover: "What is it called?"
Me: "Harvey Mudd."
Clover: "Oh. Mud Bay is a dog store, isn't it?"
Me: "Yes."
Clover: "Not that."

Neptune: "Hey, so at school today--"
Me: "Hold on one sec, I need to finish this text to Ruby about picking you up from school."
Neptune: "Oh, ok.

Three seconds later

Neptune: "Would it be ok if---"
Me: "Neptune! Please! This will only take me a couple more seconds."
Neptune: "Oh, yeah. Sorry."

Half a second later:

Neptune: "Did you ever notice that these socks--"
Neptune: "Ok! Ok! I'm sorry!"

Two seconds later:

Me: "Ok! I'm ready. What's up?"
Neptune: "I forget."

Monday, 7 May 2012

Women's College

I attended a women's college. No, not a girls' school and no, not a convent. We were not a finishing school or any kind of marriage brokerage firm. I went to a women's college, and I graduated far more thoughtful, independent, resourceful, and well-informed than when I matriculated. As a psychology major, tour guide, theatre participant, and student at Scripps College, I learned more than I could ever have gotten from text books alone. The professors and other students challenged me in ways I loved, struggled with, and appreciated. And now, having attended Scripps-- a women's college, I might point out-- I have a particular response for a series of circumstances.

I went to a women's college.

Can I carry that bag for you, miss?
Oh, no. I went to a women's college. I've got it.

What's that you were saying about the intersection of race, class, and gender?
Oh, I went to a women's college. Let me explain it to you.

Are you sure you can do that?
I went to a women's college. Hell yes, I can.

Really, the truth of the matter is that, "I went to Scripps College" is more to-the-point. It's not just any women's college that affected me so deeply, it's Scripps. But that takes a little bit longer to explain.

Friday, 4 May 2012


Periodically, I find that it is important to introduce a New Rule to the young 'uns. The most recent rule is: You may only check out as many library books as you can carry. As this is approximately 20 books, I don't feel like I'm limiting anyone too much. (My mom, by the way, was horrified that I would put such restrictions on library book reading-- but let's be clear. I'd happily take the children to the library multiple times a week if they wanted to go that often. I'm not restricting reading, just the number of books that they can check out-- and lose-- in one go.)

So, logically, Neptune decided to push that limit to the maximum, because there were So Many Marvel Books he wanted to bring home.

Fair enough.

He struggled with the bags out of the library and all of the way to the car. As bags were splitting and books falling out, I asked him if he was going to try a different number of books next time, or if this was worth it to him. (Honestly, it was not a leading question-- I was genuinely curious.)

"Next time," he told me, "I'm going to get 5 books. And if that doesn't go well, I'll get 2 books the time after that."

Apparently this 20-book plan was proving to be prohibitively difficult.

I guess the option is a little red wagon.

Which I'm not ruling out.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012