Madeline Dear

An encomium to Madeline:

Mannered

Attentive

Devoted

Eclectic

Loyal

Independent

Nuanced

Enigma

Lake has taken to calling her Madeline, dear as a cheeky term of endearment. We are thankful every day for Madeline choosing to be our au pair! Today she reminds me is our one year anniversary from our match date. So many hurdles to cross and so much determination and commitment on her part—to come and stay. In the beginning after we matched there was uncertainty of whether she would be able to obtain a NIE (national interest exception) visa at all. There was the huge relief when she got acceptance of her visa (she got it!), then: covid quarantines made it nearly impossible to meet other au pairs or make new friends once she arrived. Once she arrived to settle in she was met with a rough bout of homesickness adjustment for the first few months while Lady Kitty cried every day. Then along the way to add injury to insult, she suffered a sprained ankle, MVA whiplash from being rear ended, the death of her cat, and now the unexpected paralysis of her dog Bones. She has remained steadfast and dedicated to our home life and the children throughout, providing a solid addition to our family during this unprecedented year of social self-reliance. Thank you for toughing it out with us, Madeline. We appreciate your support here in our family every day! We wish you more fun adventures for the coming year… car and air travels and dinners out with friends. You deserve a break Madeline—enjoy it! First up, look out Hawaii… here she comes!

Also in the family news this week: Lady Kitty cut her ninth tooth, and Lake lost his first tooth!

Familie Circus

“Our Covid Quarantine Year” photo by Chamonix Browne, The Happy Film Company. Tolle wearing L.K. Bennett

Lately my family has been amused by the hilarity of names for goups of different types of animals. A herd of elk is familiar, but a tower of giraffes?! Really? Can it be? A smack of jellyfish! A conspiracy of lemurs. A crash of rhinoceroses. A scurry of squirrels. A wisdom of wombats. A zeal of zebras?! We laugh together with mouths agape in disbelief.

Seriously, is this stuff for real? What do you call a group of cats? A clowder. A clutter. A pounce. A dout. A nuisance. A glorying. A glare. Apparently any of the above are ligit. It’s so zany it resonates with our year. What do you call a group during Covid quarentine? A pod. A bubble. A household. A family circus.

As the vaccinated population (people poked) grows and expands around us like kernals of corn in a popcorn popper, the Covid-19 pandemic seems to be finally well and truly receeding. Days emerge where I find myself momentarily forgetting about Covid altogether before something prompts me to remember (walking from the early morning tennis court into the park bathroom–oh, right, mask up), and it’s like waking from a nice dream and crashing back into the reality of a crushing break-up. What a year it has been!

We were incredilbly blessed by the friends that emerged into our sphere. Our associations shifted somewhat to settle in to routines with those families and friends who were similarly aligned as we were. For these folks we are eternally grateful, especially Clarence, Tom and Mandy, NanaBaba, and the Lange Family.

As much as we tried to keep an even keel, there’s no denying Covid’s collective impact also reached our household as well. Even as we worked hard to maintain a steady sense of normalcy throughout the uncertainty and rapidly evolving guidelines, there were losses and challenges. It helped to have Michael near the front-lines, but not in the trenches, getting the most up-to-date information from infections diseases rounds.

The family circus that will be remembered as our year of COVID quarentine has been entertaining overall. It was Lady Kitty’s first year of life, and Lake grew from a toddler to a little boy. We were certainly never bored! Not with Lady Kitty astounding us every day (Michael said, “She’s fully engaged but can only grunt to get her point across. it’s like being in a different country), and Lake around slinging out memorable phrases like a firefighter with a drenching hose.

I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you a collection of recent quotes from our contemporary family circus. So, here you go… enjoy!

Lake loves cats. He is an assiduous student of cats and their various qualities and dispositions. He recently described our tortoiseshell neighbor cat, as his “fravrorite cat.” He described her coloring as “black with a shimmer of white. Like Missy but with less hair.” About Mr. Cat, Lake said, “Mr. Cat looks like a movie star, doesn’t he? He just needs some sunglasses.” He came up with that a few days after I had recounted an anecdote from the dentist office. Seeing Michael reclined in the dental chair, I said to him, “You look like a movie star, Michael! Must be the sunglasses.” “No,” Michael dead-panned, “I look like that all the time.” Now, Lake really wants to be a circus actor. “No, just a plain actor. A dramatic actor,” he clarified.

My angels.

Lady Kitty said, “wawawawawa”

Lake interpreted for us. According to Lake, Lady Kitty is saying, “My mommy’s the best! She’s the cook of my life!”

Those two have a really sweet relationship. Lake adores Lady Kitty and vice versa. He continues along this charming vein:

“Lakus Bakus has something to saykus…”

“Lady Kitty, it wouldn’t be the same without you.”

“We’re pals, right, Lady Kitty? We’re pals!”

“Lady Kitty, I’m voting for you, pal!”

“All I need is a Newfoundland. Lady Kitty hasn’t even had the experience of having a Newfoundland around. She hasn’t even had the experience.”

Instead, what she’s grown up with is a clutter of cats! In fact, Lake continued:

“Lady Kitty is going on a safari to look for cats!”

Lake gave Madeline a handful of foreign coins. “You’re so wealthy now. You have a collection of coins!” Then with the thinly veiled generosity of a four year old. He proclaimed “you can buy me Octonauts!”

The Vaccine Spring is lifting the mood of Covid Quarantine, and we’re looking forward to a cultural shift in precautions allowing us to travel to Port Townsend and Leavenworth and other favorite destinations to reunite with friends we haven’t seen in over a year.

“I can’t wait to get busy chopping wood with Baba at Newman Lake. We go out in his huge truck to get wood. And he has me in the front all the way to wherever the wood is, and back. Because it’s not very far.”

“Newman Lake is very deep in the woods. But Quinault is even deeper in the woods. There’s not even a single power cord. Tolle couldn’t even have a single movie to watch when she was there… nothing!” Lake is incredulous and perhaps a tiny bit proud.

It’s true Mama Tolle grew up without electricity and we learned keepin’ busy from a young age. No problems with boredom there!

One of Lake’s beloved family jokes is to ask: “What did you eat for dinner two days ago, Lady Kitty?!” when Lady Kitty has the hiccups. Madeline taught us a German technique for resolving hiccups. Ask the person “What did you eat for dinner two days ago?” The hiccups are stilled into submission by the concentration of remembering. We have all been pleasantly surprised how well it works. Try it!

There’s also plenty of minor disagreements along the way, feeling out our boundaries and continually learning how to get along. but that’s how we get to know each other’s needs and vulnerabilities so we can better be supported, and support each other, right?

Mama: It’s time to pick out your pajamas Lake.

Lake: That’s not something I’m going to offer to do.

Hmmm.

Lake responded with, “Now it’s getting complicated.”

In closing, I will include as a tribute some wise words from recently departed Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh. Many years ago, prior to meeting the Beatles in London at an awards ceremony in the Spring of 1964, Philip was asked if he thought the band was helpful or harmful to Britain. “Entirely helpful,” he answered. “I would much rather people make any noise they like, singing and dancing. What I object to is people fighting and stealing. It seems to me that these blokes are helping people to enjoy themselves.”

Thank you, Prince Philip, for sagely illuminating the fundamental ground rules of community fellowship in bespoke salty wry humor. I appreciate the Windsors’ clear eyed pragmatism. (Happy 95th Birthday, HRH Queen Elizabeth II!) They do inspire me to keep calm and carry on. And certainly share a bit of mirth along the way.

That’s mostly what has been going on during our Covid Quarantine year: a pod of people and a glare of cats living joyously together making a bunch of noise singing and dancing, and only rarely fighting or stealing. I’m grateful for everyone who has sustained us during Covid Quarantine in our bubble. We are looking forward to hopefully being able to pop the bubble soon! Ultimately each and every day has been a perfect day. I’m glad I spent it with you.

Sweet Peas

Both the kids love frozen peas.

“Peas, please,” is a common refrain around here. Lake delightfully took note “Peas and please rhyme!” as he asked for yet another serving.

I didn’t directly understand the appeal, so I embarked on an investigation. First I asked Lady Kitty.

“Why do you like the peas so much, Lady Kitty?”

“Huh,” she said. Then she laughed and cooed.

“Does it feel good to chomp down on frozen peas where you are teething?”

She smiled with all her eight teeth showing.

That’s right, it Must feel good to cool those erupting gums. Next I tried to find out some more information from Lake.

“I like to be cold,” he said.

I pressed further.

“When you chew them, their juice turns sweet in your mouth,” he said.

Pea juice, now why isn’t that more popular? Or frozen pea smoothies? Has anyone tried that? Let us know if you have any favorite recipes to share. In the meantime these kids are most satisfied with helping after helping straight out of the bag.

My sweetpeas.
PC Chamonix Browne, The Happy Film Company

I love my sweet peas and they love their frozen peas! A perfect day, I’m glad I spent it with you!

Lady Kitty Walker

Standing steady on her Nana’s birthday
PC Chamonix Browne, The Happy Film Company

Lady Kitty snuck in a few steps yesterday afternoon while she thought no one was watching. Were they her first two steps?! Or has she been surreptitiously practicing? Applying the principle of parsimony, it is likely they were her first steps. Madeline was the fortunate one who caught a glimpse in the mirror, and reported at dinner. “She’s not earthbound for much longer,” said Michael. Lady Kitty is set to launch.

Stay tuned for updates of Lady Kitty “Walker”!

Easter Greetings

“Which came first: the chicken or the egg?” said Jamma Julie to Lake.

“The egg,” he said without a moment of doubt.

“Well, I’m glad we finally got that sorted,” said Julie.

“Thank you for bringing the fun and joy, Jamma Julie!

“Come every Sunday! We’ll be covered with mud! We’ll be covered in pitch. We’ll be covered with cake—head to toe, we’ll be covered with cake. We’ll find the taste of candy in the air!”

Lake exuberantly invited Julie back to join us for weekly Sunday dinner. Does he think then there will be an accompanying egg hunt laden with treats? Or is the fun and joy of being all together what he’s craving to repeat? Or perhaps it’s simply time for resuming our pre-pandemic routines — maybe Lake is remembering what I barely can, that more than a year, and a lifetime ago Julie came on Sundays for dinner. What a lovely tradition.

May every Sunday have the Easter Sunday feeling. We rejoice in the rebirth of Spring, hope, faith and love. From our family to yours, sending Easter greetings!

Lake takes his Easter Egg hunt very seriously. He had utmost faith that the Easter Bunny (As tall as you Mama. Walks on his hind legs. With a backpack. All geared up. Gorgeous colors—pink, purple, blue, yeah, with spots all over. Dots yeah…) would have visited early Easter morning.
Lake and Tolle made a Vanilla Almond Easter Cake for afternoon tea with Jamma Julie
Hidden gems in Pritchard Island Beach Park
Lady Kitty finds her first egg hidden in the boxwood hedges.

Mumsy

Photography by Chamonix Browne, The Happy Film Company 2021
PC Chamonix, 2021
PC Chamonix 2021

Covid has gifted us the opportunity to truly lean-in to parenting. To domesticity. To home life.

When Lake was one year old, my position at work transitioned from being at the hospital five miles away and became based out of an office building a few blocks from our home. What fortune! At the time, I didn’t think things could get any better (or closer!) And then last year whilst on maternity leave with Lady Kitty, the novel coronavirus situation unfolded. The ensuing covid pandemic ultimately allowed for my work position to become available for WFH (work-from-home) accommodation. It’s been such a welcome and unexpected blessing, and has allowed me to support my devotion to both work and breastfeeding seamlessly.

These months my office, for better or for worse, has been a tiny closet (with a window) located off the living/dining room at the hub of our home. Michael calls it the grand central station of the house, allowing me to be immersed in my work and my children at the same time. Although it is not without the accompanying feelings of the working-mother guilt, am I focusing enough on my work? Am I focusing enough on my children? Yes, with Madeline on board as our au pair, I am present for both. Overall it is absolutely an agreeable situation—the major silver lining of an unfortunate global event.

Everyday these days is a perfect day to be mumsy!

April Fools!

Lady Kitty contemplates downclimbing a few days earlier.

The joke was on me this April 1st. My kids woke up at the crack of dawn and were wide awake. Usually I can cajole and convince them it’s still nighttime anytime before 7:30 am when our au pair Madeline starts her shift. This was not the case for April Fools. Lady Kitty had woken up early, and with her she brought Lake. And Lake was feeling fresh and chatty.

Often Lady Kitty sleeps straight through the night. They both do. Sometimes, (a few nights a week? it’s not a huge deal and comes with its own pleasantries) Lady Kitty will wake up for a night milk, or as more often is the case, an early early morning feed around 5 am. Then she’ll happily return to her peaceful baby slumber while I slip off to work. Lake typically will have remained alseep the whole time, none the wiser. This was not to happen on April 1st. April 1st was not to be a typical day.

After feeding Lady Kitty and tucking her in, thinking she would be utterly content, Lake hollered alarm bells to me. “Tolle! Tolle, Lady Kitty is out of bed!” Lady Kitty had indeed crawled right out of her bed, and as I returned to the scene, she dodged me. She zoomed underneath my feet and went straight for the stairs. She navigated her crawl purposefully over the baby gate without missing a beat. She paused to look over the edge. She had sometimes sat at the top of the stairs as if gazing down into the canyon from the rim, but never before had she attempted downclimbing. Today was different. After a short caluculating apprasial, she scooted herself around to where her backside was in the air, and began feeling her way down the stairs, feet exploring the way like antennae.

By the close of day, she was scooting up and down the stairs nonstop, even with favored objects in hand such as her calculator. Clack, thump, thump, slap. Clack, thump thump slap. She was thoroughly enjoying herself, full of confidence. The type of confidence that’s earned through the reward of having taken of a well calculated risk fueled by curiosity.

Focussed on the task at hand.

They both took monsterous naps later and the joke was all on me. What can I say? A perfect day. I’m glad I spent it with you.