Sep 2 2015

Bathroom Before-and-After

The bathroom remodel is done! HOORAY FOR INDOOR PLUMBING!

Here’s the “before” picture, taken when we bought the house:


And here’s what it looks like now!


Another angle, so you can see the decorative tile border just inside the threshold:


Detail of the wallpaper, “Japanese Carp” by Burrows Studio:


Detail of the tilework, from Heritage Tile:


I also want to put in a big plug for our contractor, William Arthur-Haynes of Infinite Builders Group. William is super communicative and always kept us updated with plans and scheduling. Even though our little bathroom was a small project for his company, we always felt like we had his full attention and that our bathroom was just as much a priority as any big corporate project (true story: IBG was also remodeling two floors of the Twitter building in downtown SF at the same time that our remodel was going on). He talked us through all the little choices and details—what color should the grout be, “dove grey” or “charcoal”? Do we want a marble threshold, or oak? We wanted oak, and William milled it himself and mixed the perfect stain to match our existing hardwood floors. And the remodel was completed on time and on budget.

“Communicative,” “reliable,” and “multi-talented” are all important qualities in a contractor. But most important of all, I’ve come to believe, is a deep Rolodex. Well, nobody uses Rolodexes anymore. But what I mean is that it’s not just the abilities of the contractor himself that are important, but the talents of his crew. William brought in dedicated, knowledgeable specialists to do the paper-hanging and tile-laying for us. We have a 1915 Craftsman bungalow and we wanted to bring the bathroom more into keeping with the character of the rest of the house, so William made sure to set us up with workers who knew a lot about that style and period. The fact that he had such good contacts was a huge factor in how smoothly the whole project ran.

And now I have the most beautiful bathroom in the world!

Aug 24 2015

First Day of School


Despite photographic evidence to the contrary, they didn’t actually go to school barefoot. The picture I tried to snap hurriedly outside of the school didn’t come out well, so I had to take another one after we got home, and the boys had already shucked their shoes. They agreed to put their backpacks back on for that touch of verisimilitude, though.

I was pretty worried about Davy’s first day of kindergarten, since he’s been struggling a lot with transitions lately. He never wants to go anywhere—not even places that are obviously awesome, like the beach or the zoo—and once he gets there, he never wants to leave. So basically every family outing is bookended by twin tantrums from Davy. He has also been expressing dubiousness about kindergarten all summer. He loved his preschool, and was not at all excited about the prospect of a new school. I finally made a deal with him: he’d try kindergarten for six weeks, and if he hated it, we’d work something else out.

But guess what? He had a great first day. He was really excited about the Montessori teaching materials and he says “Ms. Kristin is my friend.” I think it helped a lot that Robin was going to school with him. Robin had a good day too but I wasn’t at all worried on that front, as Robin’s going back to a teacher and a class that he loves. He’s in second grade now but since the lower elementary classrooms teach grades 1-3 together, he’ll get to spend three years with the same teacher and many of the same classmates. I asked him if it was nice to see all his school friends again and he said “yeah,” and then immediately proceeded to talk at length and with great enthusiasm about the new classroom pet, Brittany the gecko. It’s hard for ordinary second graders to compete with a leopard gecko, I guess.

Sol will be starting preschool this year too, but his school doesn’t open for another couple weeks. I can’t believe all my boys are getting so big!

Aug 18 2015


So sometimes, when you can’t sleep, you lie awake thinking about what you want on your epitaph. Right? It’s not just me?

Maybe it’s just me. Anyway, for a long time the top contender has been:

Shannon Phillips
She Ate Well

Because seriously I think that says a lot about how rich my life has been and how filled with happiness: like, if you think about it, we middle-class Americans live in the kind of luxury that Julius Caesar could only envy. Maybe he had a feast of peeled grapes and lark’s tongues, every once in a while? Dude, I eat bananas and coffee for breakfast. I can have grapes whenever I want. I can also have French cheeses and Swiss chocolate and Dungeness crab from the San Francisco Bay. Plus, I have indoor plumbing—well, not right now, but usually.

My life would make Julius Caesar weep with envy.

Sometimes, though, when I’ve had a hard day, I think maybe it should be something more like:

Shannon Phillips
She Did All Right

or maybe

Shannon Phillips
Could Have Been Worse

But honestly, for the record, I don’t care what happens after I die. I want my body parts to be donated anywhere they might do good, and I want my loved ones to ritualize my death in whatever fashion gives them the most comfort. And I don’t want them to spend a lot of money on it. Cremation sounds good. Maybe scatter my ashes somewhere and plant a tree, that would be nice.

Here, I guess, secretly, is the nicest memorial I can think of:

Jo Shannon Phillips
Greatly loving and much loved
She lived deep and died old

Aug 14 2015


We are just back from a week in Pacific Grove, on the Monterey Bay. The weather was beautiful and we really liked the town. It was a very nice vacation, although pleasure wasn’t our only motive for going away. We are having our bathroom renovated, and our contractor strongly urged us to vacate the premises—as we are unable to vacate within the premises until the toilet is reinstalled.

So watch this space for exciting pictures of the bathroom remodel! Meanwhile, here are cute pictures of boys at the beach:




And Sam took this one of me, in my floppy sun hat. It’s not really a beach vacation unless there’s a floppy sun hat involved, yeah?

Version 2

Aug 1 2015

Surgery Went Well

Davy’s hernia repair surgery went well yesterday and he’s back home now with only minor discomfort. He’s enjoying unlimited popsicles and video game time.

Sol, unfortunately, has figured out how to get his boot off so THAT’s a problem. Also my computer suffered a catastrophic hard drive failure yesterday; I’m posting from my tablet but updates are likely to be terse until I get a replacement.

Jul 30 2015

Flash Fiction: The Unicorn at the Clinic

“Hi,” says the unicorn kindly. “What brings you to see me today?”

“Um,” says Mary, shifting uncomfortably in her seat. She knows she needs to get those white bumps on her labia looked at, and the free clinic has good reviews on Yelp and is, you know, free, but… “Are—are you a doctor?”

“Nurse practitioner, actually,” the unicorn says. He doesn’t sound offended, but it’s hard to read an expression in those swirling opalescent eyes. “Don’t worry, I’ve been working here for years. I know it’s embarrassing but I promise that whatever your questions are, they aren’t stupid and they won’t shock me.”

“I’m not a virgin,” Mary blurts out.

“Okay, that’s good, let’s talk about your sexual history. When did you first become sexually active?”

“No, I mean, I thought—” Mary gestures helplessly towards the spiral horn. The lighting in the clinic is fluorescent and harsh, but the unicorn sheds a soft radiance that seems to concentrate most brightly along the length of his horn. “You know. Unicorns and, and virgins?”

“Oh,” he says. “No, actually, I’m much more interested in STD transmission vectors among vulnerable populations. But if you’d be more comfortable talking to a human staffer, I can fetch another nurse.”

Mary pauses, takes a deep breath. “No,” she says. “It’s fine. I guess the, um, symptoms first showed up about a week ago…”

Jul 30 2015

Give Em The Boot


Sol got his cast off today! He was sent home with this boot, which is a big improvement because the boot can come off. He’ll be taking a loooooong bath tonight!

And Davy goes in for surgery (if all goes well, knock on wood) tomorrow morning. I’ll be really happy to have that behind us.

Jul 27 2015

Coyote Hills Hullabaloo



This weekend our scout group hosted a campout for fifty people, including campers from three different regional BPSA groups: the 23rd Oaklanders, the 31st River Valley out of Sacramento, and the 4th Surf City up from Santa Cruz. It was the first time our kids had gotten to see BPSA scouts from other groups—wearing the same uniform, but with different-colored neckers. The big highlight of the weekend for me was watching how quickly the kids from different groups gelled and made friendships. Sam told me once that his best memories from his Boy Scout days were from the big Jamborees, and I feel pretty good about giving the kids in our group that same experience.

We had a great campfire with marshmallows and songs and skits. We had really fun hikes, amazing views, and delicious food—the Timberwolves made us fresh donuts in the morning and they were the best I’ve ever had.


I’m not blogging any of the big group shots because different families have different levels of sensitivity around photo sharing, but it was really awesome to watch three girls studiously building a big campfire or a bunch of older kids taking over the dinner prep jobs. I was also super proud because the dad of one of our families had never been camping before. And he’s African American, so from one of the demographics that’s really under-represented in national parks and outdoor groups (for reasons that become very obvious once you start looking at the shameful history of discrimination on public lands and in the scouting movement). He said it was “much more fun than I expected” and by the end of the weekend he was talking about shopping for a bigger tent! So, that felt pretty good.

We started the Oaklanders just because we wanted our sons to have a traditional scouting experience in an inclusive environment, but after running this group for a year I have realized that the potential impact is actually much greater than just a nice extracurricular for some middle class kids. There are other outdoor-focused youth groups that do great work, but because we are all-volunteer we are able to keep our costs much lower. BPSA scouting really is uniquely accessible, and because of that I think it has the potential to affect whole communities in a broader way. I have started to think that our little group can really contribute something to Oakland. This is not just for my own kids anymore—it feels like it could truly be something bigger.

Sam took this picture, and captioned it “His and Hers”:

his and hers

So I guess this is, like, our thing now? I married a Boy Scout. Sam married a Girl Scout. Now we are both Rover Scouts in the BPSA and so help me, I truly mean it when I hold up those three fingers and promise (on my honor, to do my best) to render service to my country, to help other people at all times, and to obey the Scout Law.

Jul 21 2015

Fae eBook is 99 Cents This Week


The electronic version of the Fae anthology is on sale this week; it’ll be 99 cents until the 29th. The promo image above links to Amazon but you can also buy it at Kobo or directly from the publishers at World Weaver Press. Just wanted to pass that on!

Jul 8 2015


Davy: “Mom, I want to draw something that starts with the letter H. What’s everything that starts with H?”

Me: “Well, H makes a “huh” sound, so think of things that start with “huh.” Horse, hat, house, happy…”

Davy: “Happy! So, I’ll draw us.”