our girls

The Dome

Anyone local has already heard lots about the reopening and rebranding of The Dome, so instead of a full account, I will simply direct you here. And to read more than I will write on Sunday's extravaganza, click here.

Mostly it was cool. Not an overly enthusiastic "cool", but an I'm-too-cool-to-get-excited sort of cool. There were some unbelievable street performers. I don't mean jugglers and knife throwers, nor do I mean that zip-code guy down on Pearl Street in Boulder. He's just impressive, but these were ACTS on a grand scale. There were insane-o blue hairdressers who cranked up the Bollywood music and spray painted audience volunteer's hair and bent it up in wires until it became rainbow platforms for bobble-headed elephants. Seriously insane. This being 2007, they have a website too.

The gigantic garden bugs were really cool, especially the millipede driven by just one slight young lady on a bicycle contraption underneath the bug's head. It was a shame to leave when the ants were fighting, but our girls were losing it. We found a space for them to run around, but I think didn't have the desired effect of wearing them out. So, now we had four seriously riled up girls to push against traffic through the throngs of people and then it happened. Despite careful planning to avoid the terrifying dinosaurs again, we ran smack bang into them. Sensible adults that we are, we immediately retreated and put our heads together. In the end we realised there was nothing to be done. None of the side doors was open, and there was no other way out. There was no food to be had within the building that wouldn't constitute an hour-long wait and at least £30 expenditure. We had to grab our babies and run!

I am very happy to say we got the children out unscathed. The (puppet) dinosaurs didn't even seem to notice them. We admitted defeat and grabbed snack bars from the newsagents in North Greenwich Tube station. It took less than a minute and cost less than a pound. I think we did pretty well!

It was a wild adventure, and I'm glad we went. Reading others' accounts convinces me we left at the right time. We still had lots of fun and saw enough to keep us talking for ages. I want to go back when it's quieter. There's supposed to be some sort of fake indoor beach for the kiddies in a few weeks. I think I'll take Buffy when Katie's at school (yes, she's still in school, my Yankee friends). I'm not convinced we need to see films on The Biggest Screen in Europe, and we aren't particularly tempted to go see Justin Timberlake or Barbra Streisand. My fingers are crossed that The Cure will pop by to play the little side stage one early evening when I can secure babysitting and be home in time for a good night's rest.

Ooh, and the girls made a music video.

We Love School

My deadline to go back to work is approaching, albeit slowly. I have about a year and a half to start earning, which gives me a year to train, which gives me a few months to decide what the hell I want to do with my working life. It's a stressful roller-coaster of a decision, and sometimes I think about forgetting it all, pulling the girls out fo school and homeschooling from a variety of exciting locations across the globe. It's a rich fantasy fuelled by my highly successful homeschooling neighbours. Every time I think seroiusly about homeschooling I am convinced my girls would love it and we would all thrive. That still doesn't mean it's the very best solution for us.

Two nights ago I went to an art exhibition put on by the senior school. (Our school takes girls aged 3-18 and splits them into two schools. Girls from the junior school are guaranteed entry into the senior school, but many change schools at that point. Obviously, it is in the school's interest to keep the retention rate high, so junior school parents often get invited to events like this.) I took a few art classes in high school, and I saw the work the higher-level art students were producing. Cool stuff, especially a photographer who turned professional straight after graduation. Nothing, and I mean nothing, was as good as the standard I saw at the senior school's art show.

The catalogue of work these girls had produced was overwhelming. I saw a self-published book of photographs that told the story of one girl's adventure in Finland. I was amazed by larger-than-life ceramic books propped up so their spines pointed to the sky. Across the spines snaked a ceramic human spine. I also loved the lovingly embroidered and perfectly fitted sofa covers which were gently decorated with flowers and meandering quotes from Romeo and Juliet. My absolute favourite was the professional-quality video of the fashion show. I cannot begin to think how many girls were involved in the production of this. Some designed the stage, others did the lights and music, others auditioned and were cast as models, and of course there were the designers themselves. These girls created a body of work that was absolutely amazing. They created everything from prom dresses to everyday tunics. There were lots of pretty corset-ties up the back which I just adore. Whatever classes these girls took, I want! Enroll me now!

The upshot of all of this is that I am newly smitten with Katie's school. Not only will she have access to resources beyond the average state school's wildest dreams, but the school specializes in building girls' confidence. As the headmistress said, good marks and test scores can only get you in the door. It's confidence that takes you up the ladder. She then pointed out a girl who had graduated two years ago. This girl is now a project manager in a construction firm. When the headmistress asked if it was difficult to manage so many burly men, the young lady laughed and said the guys try it on, but she has no problem standing up to them and putting them in her place.

Yes, we'll have two of those, please.

Katie Superstar

Yesterday after Green Club, Miss Fry came over and told me she really liked the farm picture Katie made for her. My look of surprise told her I had nothing to do with this picture, so she said she liked it even more. This morning I asked Katie to tell Daddy about the farm picture. Here is how I remember her description.

"I made a pig and a sheep and a cow. I didn't label them, because I wanted Miss Fry to guess what they were. I didn't label the sheep or the cow, but I did label the pig. In Chinese."

As you do.

Later this morning Katie went over to the keyboard to play her signature tune, "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star". A couple of weeks ago Andrew taught Katie the song in C. Earlier this week she worked out how to play it using the black keys. This morning she worked out a third way to play it. I think at this stage we can probably pick the starting note and she can work out the tune on her own. I marvel at this with bewildered awe. This is totally her dad's fault. Pick out a tune by ear? In any key? I so blame Andrew.

I think he's willing to shoulder that one.

Katie's school journal

Katie has to write about her weekend in a journal each Monday. This week she was thrilled to report she had written THREE PAGES! She is encouraged to fill one page, and with her handwriting, this takes no more than a sentence or three. We asked what she could possibly have written for three pages. I mean, we'd had an exciting weekend. We took a train to the Science Museum where we played with puppets, voice modulators, patterns, lights, sounds, and colours. There were mirrors, telephones, pullies, levers, and giant Lego. Katie also made games with wheelbarrows, bricks, shakers, toy houses, and a giant water table/chute thing that is totally amazing. It was a fantastic trip.

On Sunday we walked to school for a second-hand sale where I helped out here and there and Katie got to buy a doll. Afterwards we went to a cafe for ice cream and Katie left her doll there. That night she woke up screaming for her doll, but I had no idea where she was. Imagine my delight when I went back to the cafe on Monday for a latte and the lady behind the till held up the fairy doll. Katie explained today that it's because Isabella/Daisy/Crystal (her name changes often) can magic herself invisible. Fair enough.

So, what does Katie write in her journal? A page and a half about the shower she took before bed and the rest about the doll. And what about the Science Museum? Oh, I forgot.

Glad we're making memories for you, honeybunch.


Last night at dinner Buffy scoffed a big bite of food and then and then chewed it manically, almost hyperventilating, to make us laugh. It worked. As she exhaled a bit of corn came out of her nose. I went into Mommy mode and my first thought was it would rot away in her lungs. I tried to grab it, but it went back up into her nose. I told her to blow and grabbed it away as soon as she exhaled. Emotions came fast and furious: panic, relief, amusement, and finally and truly, disgust. I mean, like, ew! Seriously, eeeewwww!

Going for my £250

Over the last few weeks I have idly attempted to pull out the old video camera to film the girls. It hasn't worked because the battery hasn't been charged or I couldn't find a blank tape. Today, my lovely family gave me some time to deep clean the front room, and I made it my mission to uncover the video camera. I had planned to Clean (with a capital C) the whole front room, but quickly realised I would have to compromise. The girls were giving me some time to clean, it would not be indefinite. I stuck to cleaning the sofa. I bashed cushions, hoovered the seat, straightened out the rug, sorted out the rubbish and recycling, and hoovered and hoovered and hoovered the floor around the sofa. My god those back corners got filthy!

I am delighted to tell you all, that despite the disgusting number of moths (teeny ones) now sucked up into the belly of my Miele, I found ZERO rodent droppings. ZERO. If you caught our mouse problem from last year, you can appreciate how wonderful that is. Anytime I clean anything and find zero rodent droppings, I am a happy girl. I have been happy a lot this last year.

I would have kept cleaning, but Buffy came in to help me hoover. You might have guessed, but 21-month-olds are rubbish at vacuuming. In the end I had to give her an attachment so I could finish the job. It did help focus my mind on my objective: the video camera. How cute would it have been to capture Buffy's pathetic cleaning efforts on film? Well, now I can!

I found the camera, dusted it off, gave it a charge and sorted through the videos to find the tape with some empty space at the end. Of course I had to watch that last tape to figure out where it ended. That took me through Katie's first Christmas play. She was tiny and fat singing "Rock the Baby". Half the time she forgot to sing and played with her hair instead. The girls next to her sucked their fingers and lifted their skirts above their heads. Some just waved constantly at their mums. Ohmygod they were so cute! They were so little and useless. I really thought they were so grown up and amazing.

After the Christmas play I found lots of early Buffy-ness on the video. Buffy playing with some stacking cups until she fell over and couldn't get herself back up. She couldn't even sit up properly! Remember that? Because it seems I forgot. Then we had Buffy crawling! Her first halting efforts to get to Daddy's coffee cup. Bless her cotton socks, Buffy is still trying to get Daddy's coffee cup. Buffy watched these videos with me and commented on this scene, "Buffy coffee! Daddy's coffee, Buffy!" That's right, babydoll. Keep reaching for that rainbow.

The last bit on the tape is Katie's Christmas performance from this school year. She was a star or angel, depending on how much you need a Christmas play to be secular. I think Katie thought she was Ariel coming out of the sea on rightfully earned legs at the end of the film. I'm not sure what Jesus or Santa would make of that. Anyway, the girls looked far more mature in this performance. They knew the words and movements and did most of them most of the time. Of course I did catch Katie taking off her dress right in the middle of the stage like she'd slipped into her bedtime routine. Uh, not quite bathtime, honey. Why don't you finish your song?

Tomorrow I will film whatever hilarious antics my girls get up to. If one of them falls over in a ditch, I solemnly promise to hold the camera steady until I've got the money shot. I don't think You've Been Framed pays out £250 for overly anxious mothers. Get the shot, save the child later!

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