And so that was Christmas

Here we are on Christmas Eve. Don't we look happy? There's a long story about footwear, and lack thereof, that I could go into here, but it would take too long and it's not really all that funny. Suffice it to say that it was a close thing that all of us ended up with appropriate shoes on our feet.

Here is Phoebe eating her weight in mashed potatoes at Christmas dinner:

Speaking of eating, these cinnamon rolls were delicious, but this apple pie wasn't worth the trouble.

Here's Mallory after writing a note for Santa Claus, in which she asked for a "baby kitchen." Which she got the next day! Boy is Santa smart!

Here is Phoebe on Christmas morning. She was terribly excited about presents:

The obligatory sleepy-eyed in pajamas on Christmas morning pic:

The kitchen, lovingly assembled in the dead of night by me and Chris. By the time it was put together -- the night before Christmas Eve -- we were too tired to hide it, so we just locked the door to the playroom and hid the key. The next day Mallory tried to get in the playroom and I said, very cunningly, "Huh. I can't find the key. Oh well, it'll turn up." She was much intrigued and told everyone about the "mystery of the door." Then on Christmas morning, when she'd unwrapped her last present and was looking around for more, I found an envelope on Santa's cookie plate. "It has your name on it, open it up!" I said. Mallory tore it open, and out fell the key. The note was from Santa, of course, and he said that he had not only found the key to the playroom door, he had left a surprise up there as well. Mallory was just ecstatic. And both of them love the kitchen.

Phoebe also loves this fake Dairy Queen shake; she carries it around everywhere proclaiming, "A cup! A cup!"

Mallory's first culinary creation from her new kitchen:

Mallory's second-favorite present was this Ariel Underwater Adventure castle. Phoebe likes it too:

Okay, that's it. We had a good one, hope yours was good too. Now on to 2007!


Christmas Wishes


May your children be nestled with visions of sugarplums, rather than restless with hacking coughs and stuffy noses.

May you not have to hear Barbra Streisand sing ja-Jingle Bells.

May you remember that Santa is always watching, but that he’s pretty forgiving.

May you not cut off and sell your beautiful long hair to buy your husband a watch fob, only to find that he’s sold his watch in order to buy you hair clips.

May your cinnamon rolls rise.

May snow fall, but not until you’re safe at home.

May your place of employ give you a better Christmas bonus than a coffee mug and a window cling. But if not, may you go with your co-workers to deliver Giving Tree gifts and realize how truly blessed you are anyway.

May you not have to go anywhere near a mall for the next two weeks.

May your car stop making that weird noise because there’s no money left.

May you and your loved ones be surrounded by loved ones.

May your 1-year-old with erratic sleep habits go to bed on time on Christmas Eve so that you can put together the wooden play kitchen that Santa dumped, unassembled, on your front porch last month. May the directions be easy to follow and the electric screwdriver fully charged. May your children like the kitchen better than the big box it came in.

May you wear elastic-waist pants for Christmas dinner.

May the children in your life have sparkly eyes, sticky fingers, and an undimmed sense of wonder. May they sit still for at least one good picture.

May there be peace on earth.

May you get your heart’s desire.

May all your Christmases be just right.
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I Got Nothin'

...so here's a really cute picture of my kid!


One thing I noticed whilst reading my diaries last week was that dudes, I used to be smart. I was all, "As Nietzsche said," or "As George Eliot so richly depicted in Middlemarch," or "I think I'm more of an Augustinian than a Pelagian." Huh? I want to know two things: What was I talking about, and where did all that knowledge go? Is it gone for good, or is it just lying dormant in my head, waiting to re-emerge once I no longer have to devote all my brain matter to calculating whether we have enough fruit snacks to last through the week, or contemplating what, exactly, is in that sippy cup behind Phoebe's bedroom door that I keep forgetting to retrieve, or wondering how I'm going to get Mallory to stop pinching me every time I tell her no? Will I ever quote anything besides Sandra Boynton or Dr Seuss again?

I mean, I guess it's worth the trade-off, but still. Dude. I miss my brain.
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An Annunciation and Other News

Yesterday was Mallory’s preschool Christmas pageant. It was cute; she was an angel (or dressed like one anyway); she sang, she signed “Jesus Loves Me,” she was one of four children specially selected to play the handbells. I briefly envisioned her choosing the handbells as her dedicated extra-curricular activity. Twelve years of attending handbell concerts would be better than twelve years of soccer, or debate, or I don’t know, wrestling. We shall see. I didn’t get any good pictures because I spent most of the event trying to keep Phoebe from climbing into the baptismal font.

After the pageant, I went to collect my angel, and her teacher greeted me with a huge beaming smile. “Is it true?” she said. “Is what true?” I asked. “At circle time, Mallory said that we should all pray for you,” Miss S. explained with a knowing grin. I immediately started saying, “No, no, no, and no,” and Miss S. said, “Oh, so you’re NOT having a new baby?”

No, I’m not, but for some reason Mallory told the entire class that I was. Her teacher said that maybe Mallory knows something the rest of us do not. I think Mallory was just lying. In fact I asked her about it later and she said, “I was just wondering what would happen if I said it.” I then asked her if she wanted another baby and she said that yes, a baby brother would be nice. Sorry, not going to happen.

I will say that I was absurdly flattered that her teacher was so excited about the prospect, and so disappointed when she found out that Mallory was a big fibber. I take that as a sign that she likes the kids I do have (she and her assistant always make much of Phoebe too). But we – as in me and Chris -- are quite happy with two. And Mallory can make do with just a sister.

In other news, Mallory has decided that her favorite Christmas song is “Go, tear it off the mountain.” (No, I haven’t corrected her – it’s too funny.) After one rousing rendition, she said, “You know the part where they say, ‘that Jesus Christ is born’?” Yes? “That’s the part where I make my praying hands.” Good for you!

She also announced that she has a boyfriend – James, a boy in her class. I had to squash my immediate response, which was, “James! He’s a troublemaker! How about Stephen, he seems very nice and quiet.” Funny how automatic that seemed. I asked her why James was her boyfriend and she said, “Me love him so so much!” Not ready for that at all…

And, last night she asked me, “Did you have a way to watch TV when you were a little girl?”


“How did you do it?”

“Well, we just…had a TV. We turned it on and watched it.”

“But I thought you grew up on a farm.”

“I did.”

“You had a TV on a farm?”

Yes, and running water too!

I feel compelled to add something about Phoebe…let’s see. Oh. If she wakes up and finds any matter of sheet, blanket, or other bedding encumbrance around her feet, she will yell, “Help! Help! Help!” until it is completely removed. She loves, loves, loves the game Hullaballo, which Mallory got for her birthday. In fact I had to hide it because if she sees the box, she will cry and cry until we get it out for her to play. She says, “Ho ho ho!” when she sees Santa. We went to the mall on Sunday to get Santa pics made (a bad idea, a very bad idea) but she had a complete meltdown after spending an hour in line (I sympathized) and my father-in-law just took her home. So we have a picture of Mallory in Santa’s lap, but no Phoebe. Maybe I’ll have Chris photoshop her in. A very digitally enchanced Christmas to you!


Thank you, thank you very much

One thing I dislike about the holidays is writing thank you notes. When I was little, a few days after Christmas, my mom would sit us all down at the kitchen table with a list of thank you notes to write and not allow us to get up until they were done. Actually it probably wasn't that draconian, but we were expected to get the notes completed without complaints or dawdling. Now, it was good and right and proper for my mom to make us do this, and to instill into us the thank you note habit, but I hated it then and I hate it now too.

The very thought of writing a thank you note just makes me feel weary. My wedding was the worst. I had four different showers, and then the wedding itself, and oh I had such a huge list of thank yous to get through. Deep dark confession: I never finished. I wrote five a night for about a month and then I just stopped. There were ten or twelve names still on the list. Luckily they were mostly people who worked with Chris at his old office and I'll never see them again, but I am still ashamed of myself to think of it. Sorry folks! We did very much appreciate the crystal candlesticks or the flatware set or whatever it was you gave us. Really! Thank you! Sorry!

Now I not only have to write thank you notes for myself, I have to write them for my children as well. I thought for a while that writing notes for the kids might be more fun, as I could adopt their personae and say charming funny things in their stead...but eh, they're still thank you notes and I still hate it. And although I know that Miss Manners has lately said that if you thank someone in person, then you don't necessarily have to write them a note as well...I worry that the gift-giver I'm choosing not to write to on the basis of this rule doesn't KNOW the rule and will still think of me as uncouth and ungrateful if I don't send the note, so I end up either sending a note and feeling all put out and resentful about it, or I don't send it but feel guilty for a year anyway. This etiquette stuff, it's just exhausting.

So, if I owe you a thank you note -- I do apologize. And you can think of me as lazy, but please don't think of me as ungrateful. And whatever you think, don't blame my mother, because she tried, she really did.


I Need a Little Christmas, obviously

Yesterday’s post was a bit of a downer, so today I’ll share with you some of my favorite things about Christmas, both past and present.

  • Cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. My mom made them every year (except that one awful year when she made egg casserole instead (ha – just kidding Mom)) and she’d put them in the oven to warm while we opened presents and it would smell just heavenly. Now, when we stay in NC for Christmas, I make the cinnamon rolls and I have to say, they’re my best “dish.” This year I’m going to try Alton Brown’s recipe.

  • Christmas dresses. We always had something new to wear on Christmas Eve, and up until I was, I think, a junior in high school, that “something” was handmade by my mom. She always sewed us the most gorgeous dresses, and we often all matched (well, not my brother, of course). I loved putting on my new dress and feeling pretty.

  • Christmas Eve services at our church back home. The church was always decorated with poinsettias and lit with candles. My mom would play something special on the organ, and the choir would sing. Then we’d all get to light our own candles and sing “Silent Night.” The “true meaning” of Christmas would always hit me right about then.

  • Chocolate crinkles and my mom’s spritz.

  • Grandma Shaffer’s noodles, which I haven’t had for a very long time. And, now, my mother-in-law’s pierogis – I was a bit suspicious of these the first couple of times I had Christmas over there, but now I love them. Well, except for the sauerkraut ones.

  • Scraps from my mom’s holiday baking. Mom makes everything from scratch. When she makes a pie crust, she takes the scraps and sprinkles cinnamon sugar on them and puts them in the toaster oven, and the resulting, um, “pie crust thingies” are delicious. And when she’d make cinnamon rolls, she’d always give us a little slice of dough before she put them in the pan.

  • My mom’s advent calendar, which she handmade with felt and little tiny sequins and beads. There was a tree on the top half, and 24 pockets on the bottom, each with an ornament inside. It was so much fun to take a “surprise” out of the pocket every night and pin it on the tree (even though it was hard to take turns with my siblings). I have a beautiful advent calendar now myself (which in fact my mom found for me), and Mallory loves it, but it’s not nearly as magical as that old felt and sequin one.

  • Have you noticed how many of these feature my mom and something special she did for us around the holidays? (Or, food?)

  • Decorating the Christmas tree. I received most of my ornaments through the years as gifts from my grandmothers, so it’s always fun to get the ornament boxes down from the attic and unwrap them all and remember who gave me what and when. It’s like opening a treasure chest. And I don’t hang this one up any more because it’s too fragile, but my very favorite ornament is a Dixie cup covered in fabric that my Great-Granddad Baize made for me in 1976, when he was in the nursing home.

  • The thing we do at my mother-in-law’s house before Christmas dinner which I can’t spell or pronounce. It’s a Polish tradition; basically we all get a piece of holy wafer and share it with each other and everyone hugs. It’s very nice.

  • “The Friendly Beasts.” We sang this song in our church Christmas pageants when I was a kid. Garth Brooks has a version of it too. It tears me up every time, especially this verse:
    I, said the dove from the rafters high,
    I cooed him to sleep, that he should not cry.
    We cooed him to sleep, my love and I.
    I, said the dove from the rafters high.

  • Going to Grannie’s house for Christmas Eve. Obviously we haven’t done this for a very long time. I still miss it.

  • Watching my kids celebrate Christmas. The first year Mallory really “got” Santa was after she turned 3…she woke up on Christmas morning and yelled, “It’s Sritmas! I’m going to run and see what he left for me!” She dashed to the top of the stairs and said, “Well, I think I’ll walk downstairs.” That was also the year I was pregnant, and I knew I was going to have a girl because every day, Mallory would go up to this Precious Moments ornament on our tree and say, “Hello, little sister, you look very pretty today.” Last year, she told her music teacher that Phoebe could be the baby Jesus in their pageant. This year, Phoebe is in awe of the Christmas tree – she laughs at it and says, “Pree!” for “pretty!” I know I buy them way more presents than I should, but I just love celebrating with them. I hope when they grow up, their Christmas memories are just as happy as mine are.

That’s much better.


Worse things


Thank you for all your supportive comments yesterday. I guess it is a silly thing to be worked up about. I think what really upset me about it is that I know that IF I could stay home with my kids, I’d be able to keep the diaper dream alive. And this week I’ve just been feeling bad about not being home with them, I think because the new year is approaching and I’m going to have to start working on Fridays again soon. That just makes me sad.

In fact, there’s just a whole list of things, in my mind, that would be better about life in general if I had more time at home with my kids. We’d eat better – we could have real dinners and homemade cookies instead of frozen pizzas and Chips Ahoy. (Although I love me some Chips Ahoy.) The house would not be such a horrible mess I can’t even stand to be in it. We’d read more books together. We could go to the park more often. I could attend all the special events at Mallory’s school. I might even be able to exercise. Maybe Mallory would be less freakin’ clingy. I wouldn’t have to hear about the cute things they do all day from other people because I would be there to see it all myself.

Yeah, I’m feeling a bit down today.

Then again…I have this friend who calls me every day at work, and she always fills me in on Weird News that she comes across. Today she was full of stories about children who were neglected, or abused, or otherwise in bad hands. And it kind of put things in perspective. My kids are healthy and happy and, even when I’m not with them, they are always in the presence of people who love them. So yeah, there are worse things than disposable diapers and working mothers.

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Warning: This Will Be Boring to Everyone Else

I'm feeling a bit disappointed in myself, and here's why: I think I'm going to abandon cloth diapering.

I started using cloth diapers for Mallory when she was 9 months old. She wore disposables to daycare and to my inlaws, but the minute she got home I switched her to a cloth diaper, and that's what we used all evening and overnight and on weekends, until she was almost 3. The idea of cloth diapering may sound daunting, but really, for her, it was easy. It was two extra loads of laundry every week and ten minutes of folding and putting away. It was no problem at all.

I planned to use cloth for Phoebe from the moment she was born. A few minutes after she was born -- well, okay, let's say a few days after, when we got home from the hospital -- I realized there were other things that took priority. Like sleeping. Like feeding her while trying to keep Mallory entertained. After a few weeks, I started with cloth, and it just wasn't as easy this time around. The extra laundry was much harder to deal with now that I had a second child, especially since Phoebe is a "heavy wetter" (as they call it in the cloth-diapering world) and leaked over everything a couple of times a day and every night.

But I stuck with it, more or less. Even when I went back to work, I tried to use cloth during the weekends, at least. But I couldn't use cloth when we went out anywhere, because they were too bulky to fit under Phoebe's clothes. And I never ever found anything that would work for her over night -- I tried one "superabsorbent" diaper but it was so ridiculously bulky that she couldn't even roll over. So it usually ended up that we were only using -- and washing, mind you, in hot water with an extra rinse -- six or eight diapers a week.

Then, this fall, she outgrew the diapers I had (which Mallory had used before her, so we certainly got our money's worth), and I placed an order for new ones, but the company was out of stock, and it was a month or more before I got the package. And the intervening month of not using cloth was kind of nice. And now I'm looking at the brand new diapers and thinking, Do I really want to do this again? Is it really worth it, if she's only wearing a few every week? And the answer I've come up with is, no, not really.

Understand that in normal circumstances I am a huge advocate of cloth. Disposable diapers are horrible for the environment, in every stage of their "lifespan." There's something like one cup of crude oil in every diaper, and their manufacture creates all kinds of waste from the bleaching and the pulping and whatnot, and then they're packaged in more plastic, and trucked all over the country, and then after a few hours of use they're sent to the landfill, little plastic-wrapped bombs of human waste. Nice! And the absorbent "gel" is full of chemicals which hasn't been proven to cause harms to little children, but it would be nice to keep as many chemicals away from children as possible, right? So I think cloth diapering is a wonderful thing.
It's just not working for us right now. And I feel really horrible about that, especially since I've just written that paragraph. Argh. I really can't see the value in using them as infrequently as I do, though. (And Phoebe has started to tell us when she "goes", so could it be that she's going to potty-train early anyway? What a lovely thought.)

As I said, I'm sure no one else cares about this. I just feel bad about going back to disposables when I know cloth can be so much better. Maybe I'll start using reusable grocery bags instead of plastic. Maybe that'll make me feel better.


In Twenty Years I May Feel the Same About this Blog

I’m out of books at my house (meaning, I’ve read them all, I haven’t had time to go to the library, and I can’t justify buying new books for myself two weeks before Christmas), so last night I got into bed with a few of my diaries from high school. As you may know, I published a compilation of my great-grandmother’s diaries, and I’ve often thought in the back of my mind that maybe I should try to do the same for my own. After last night’s reading, I just have to say, No. And also, Gah.

My diaries can be divided into two parts. Part the First was me whining incessantly about how unpopular I was and how much I wanted a boyfriend. Part the Second was me enthusing endlessly over how much I loved the boyfriend I finally got. I love him! I love him so much! I love having a boyfriend! Oh how I love him! We’re going to get maaarried and I love him! Every night, for two years, that’s all I wrote about. Well, then he went off to college and every night I wrote, I miss him! I miss him so much! I can’t stand being without him! I miss him! And I love him!


And it’s not that I don’t believe, now, that I really did love him. I did. He was (still is, I assume) a good guy and I think that without him I would’ve been pretty miserable those last two years of high school. There were a few things I read last night that made me think, “What? He said THAT to me? He did WHAT? I let him get away with THAT?”, but on the whole he was really pretty sweet. I just…outgrew him, I think, when I went away to college. (And I think he was on the verge of outgrowing me, too, he just wasn’t ready to admit it.)

It’s funny to wonder what might have been, though. What if I had gone to the same college as him? (That’s what he wanted me to do, but my mom wouldn’t let me. Ha! Actually, she did advise me against it, but I didn’t want to go to his school anyway.) What if he had been a little more persistent about trying to win me back? What if I’d ended up calling him the time I was driving home from San Antonio and my car broke down on the highway right outside Abilene and I couldn’t get hold of my parents? What if I had married him?

Of course what springs immediately to mind is that if I had married him, I would never have come to North Carolina, and I never would’ve met Chris, and we wouldn’t have our daughters. I never would’ve known what I was missing -- and I know that if I had married him and had his kids, I would’ve loved those kids with all my heart, but they wouldn’t be Mallory and Phoebe. And I can’t imagine a world without those two. And I know that Chris and I are infinitely better suited for each other than First Boyfriend and I were. So I think I’d still be wondering what might have been.

Just Finished Reading (over the past few weeks)

Digging to America by Anne Tyler
I got this book because it deals with international adoption (two couples adopting babies from Korea), which is a topic that’s been on my mind lately because I follow a blog about a woman who just adopted a little girl from China. As it turns out, the adoption and the babies were just kind of a subplot – the book is more about the grandmother of one of the girls. A good book nevertheless, but not one I was wild about. Actually I feel that way about all of the books by Anne Tyler that I’ve read.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
A fun read. I was kind of rolling my eyes during the first fifty pages or so because it was so pseudo-Gothic and a bit melodramatic, but then I got pulled into the story and ended up liking it quite a bit.

Naked by David Sedaris
Hilarious. And he grew up in Raleigh, so he mentions places I know – North Hills, Crabtree Valley Mall. I love finding familiar places in books. And music too – Amarillo by Morning is one of my very favorite songs, just because it has “Amarillo” in the title. I’m tempted to get the rest of Sedaris’s books and read them right away – he’s that funny. But I think I need to space myself. I made the mistake of reading all of the Jeeves and Wooster stories in a two-week timespan and by the end I was really sick of the Aunt Agathas and the old beans and the Wooster wackiness. Lesson learned: sometimes moderation is best.


Demanding Creatures

The only drawback to being married to a talented artist is that he sets the bar on doodling for the children way, way too high. Right now, for example, the kids’ bathtub is decorated with a gallery of Sesame Street muppets lovingly rendered in bath crayon. Last night I was giving Phoebe a bath and she picked up a crayon and said, “Draw!” “Yes, Phoebe can draw,” I said. She handed the crayon to me and said, a bit imperiously I thought, “Elmo!” So I sketched an Elmo for her on the side of the tub. She examined my effort, then glanced up at the obviously superior Elmo her daddy had drawn the night before. “Elmo!” she said again, pointing to a blank space on the tub, clearly indicating that I should try again.

Yes, my 16-month-old judged my artwork and found it wanting.

So I did try again. And she looked at Elmo2 and then said, hopefully, “Bi Bir?” I told her I was sorry, I was not capable of drawing Big Bird. “Oh,” she said, sadly. I wrote Big Bird’s name on the tub and she pointed to the letters and sang part of the ABC’s. At least I’m good for something.

Later, Mallory announced that she was very excited about going to bed, because Mary and Joseph were going to bring her a treat while she was sleeping. “What’s that?” I asked. “Mary and Joseph are coming tonight to bring me a treat!” she said. “Who told you that?” I asked. “Mama did!” she said, referring to my mother-in-law. “I’ve never heard of Mary and Joseph bringing treats,” I said, but Mallory was steadfast in her belief that this was going to happen.

After she was asleep, I called Claudia. She said that she absolutely had not told Mallory that Mary and Joseph would bring her a treat. She said I should leave a little something on Mallory’s pillow, so that she wouldn’t be disappointed. Yeah, I said, but what if tomorrow she tells me that the Angel Gabriel is going to come and leave her a candy bar? And the next night, that, I don’t know, Noah is going to bring her a pet lion? This is a slope I do not wish to start slipping down. So I took no action. At 4 am, I heard a little voice say, “Mommy? Can I go check and see what Mary and Joseph left for me?” I said no. And at 7:30, a very sad Mallory came into the bathroom and said, “Well, Mary didn’t leave me nothin’.”

I did find out, however, that yesterday Mallory’s class learned about the Annunication, and that her teacher may have used the phrase, “The Angel had a big surprise for Mary and Joseph.” AND, they also learned about St. Nicholas, whose feast day is December 6, and about how he left treats in the shoes of needy children. AND, I gave Mallory a Tooth Fairy pillow for her birthday, so she’s been thinking a lot about the tooth fairy coming. (She said, rather brilliantly I thought, that “The Tooth Fairy must have a magic TV so she can see what kids have loose teeth.”) So I think all these stories must have conflated in her mind to create the great Mary and Joseph myth.

Maybe I will leave a little something in her shoe tonight, in honor of the real St. Nicholas. I’m a little bit of a sucker after all.


The Birthday Report

Mallory woke up on her birthday and said, "How old am I?"

"You're five!" I said.

"Wow! You'd better measure me!" she said.

I did. And she's grown two whole inches she was a measly four years old, so it's a good thing we checked.

Then she discovered her art desk, which she loved:

She’s already spent a few hours at the desk, drawing or practicing letters. What did not occur to me was that providing Mallory easy access to her art supplies would also provide Phoebe easy access to same. All I can say is, thank you to whomever invented washable markers. (And yes, that huge box behind Mallory is her and Phoebe’s Christmas present. We have nowhere else to put it. I told Mallory it was shelves for our kitchen. If she ever makes the connection I’ll just say that it was too heavy for Santa’s sleigh. Or something.)

On our way to the birthday party, Mallory kept pressing her hand up to the car window and shouting, “I’m FIVE!” at passers-by. Phoebe kept chiming in, “Fi!” and trying to give her high-fives.

The birthday girl with a stack of presents.

My girl loves cake...

...but was a bit overcome by smoke from the candles.

The big hit of the day was a package of those foam capsules that “magically” turn into animals when placed in hot water. They were part of the “box o’ fun” that Auntie Mimi gave Mallory. All the girls were fascinated. They abandoned a huge stack of unopened gifts to go watch the foam expand. You never know what will impress kids.

Speaking of which, here is Mallory looking pretty unimpressed with what I thought would be her favorite present, an electronic keyboard. (But you can see Phoebe reaching for it in the background. Phoebe loves it.)

Later, I asked Mallory if she’d had a good birthday. She said yes, but then added, “But I didn’t get my birthday wish.”

“What was that?” I asked.

“That nobody give me any presents, just cake.”

Oh well, can’t win ‘em all.

Yeah...pretend that picture is rotated the right way.

(P.S. Abbey, hope all of your birthday wishes come true!)

And, here’s Mallory’s list of Favorites at 5. She answered the questions herself. On some of these, she was just fibbing, as she calls it, so I put the presumed correct answer in brackets.

Movie: Grease
TV Show: Franklin [The Wonder Pets is more likely]
Song: Elmo You Can Drive My Car
Book: Forgot to ask! Will ask tonight. [I asked...she said, "That book about the apples." I don't know which book she's talking about and I don't think she did either!]
Breakfast: Lego Waffles
Lunch: PB&J
Dinner: Rice potatoes [Huh? I don’t even know what that is. She does love Sesame Shrimp]
Drink: Water
Dessert: Ice Cream
Toy: Elmo
Game: Disney Princess Crowns & Gowns
Friend: Stephanie
Color: Blue
Thing to Do: Play outside
Thing About School: Playing with my friends

I asked her what she thought she'd be like at 5, and she said, "Naughty!" So it could be a rough year for us!



Dear Mallory:

Tomorrow you will be five years old. You can write your name (and mine); you can draw bunnies and spaceships and people and flowers; you can make yourself “go high” on the swings; you can get lost in the imaginary worlds you create with your dolls. You ask the strangest, most impossible questions; you beg for dessert seventeen times a day; you scream louder than I ever thought possible for a child. You can probably do many, many things that you claim that you can’t (pedal a bicycle, for example, or put on your own shoes). You love family hugs and ice cream, princesses and dancing, singing and “Pinky Dinky Doo.” You like to rhyme words, to do art projects, and to dictate elaborate notes to your friends. You love to play with your friends and get wild with excitement when we have visitors. You prefer dresses to pants and you don’t like to have your hair brushed. You have beautiful hazel eyes with long lashes and when you’re telling us something very, very important you squeeze your eyes together and curl up the left side of your mouth. You are a sweet, sweet big sister to Phoebe (when you’re not knocking her over). Your trademark phrases are “always remember that,” “are you telling the truth?” and “how do you know?” You’re not a baby anymore, but you still like to sit in my lap, and I’m always happy to have you there.

Five years ago, a few hours after you were born, you and I were all alone in our hospital room. You wanted to nurse and I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing, but somehow I got you latched on and you gave it a try and your little, dark blue eyes rolled back in your head and you smiled like you were in heaven. That’s when I fell in love with you, and I swore that I would do anything in my power to keep you just that happy for the rest of your life.

I learned soon enough that it would never again be quite that easy (although sometimes I have to remember that it’s not that hard, either – for as much as you love big spectacles like Sesame Street Live or Disney on Ice, you also love little things like surprise picnics in the yard, or just sitting down to read a story). But I’ve already failed spectacularly too -- lately another phrase you use often is, “Mommy, you’re mean!” You’ve had to learned – in some cases, earlier than I’d have liked – that you can’t always have what you want; that sometimes I have to leave you; that not everyone else in the world wants to be your friend (as impossible as that is for me to believe); that things don’t always work out the way you think they should. And what I’ve learned is that it’s my job as your mom not to make you happy, but to give you enough confidence and support and love so that you can create happiness within yourself.

One night, probably six months ago, we were coming home from someplace and you fell asleep in the car. I had to carry you through the garage, through the house, up the stairs, into your room, and then hoist you up onto your bunk bed. You’re a heavy kid and I wasn’t even halfway there before I realized I couldn’t carry you any further. My shoulders were singing, my back was on fire, my wrists were about to snap. But I held on, and I got you there, because the alternative was letting you fall.

And that’s what parenting is about – doing more, every day, than I consider myself capable of doing. It’s pouring endless cups of juice and making millions of peanut butter sandwiches. It’s reading “Max’s Dragon Shirt” over and over and over when I wish I could be reading The New Yorker instead. It’s listening to the same ridiculous Elmo tape every time we get in the car, for four years. Its countless bath times, and arguments about bedtime, and tedious explanations (every morning!) about what’s going to happen that day. It’s hundreds of reminders not to push your sister, or sit on the dog, or stand on the coffee table. It’s answering questions and playing games and complimenting artwork and finding socks (why can’t you keep those socks on?) and giving horsey rides and saying “Great job!” even when my patience is utterly exhausted. And it’s loving you more and more each and every minute of every day.

So here’s my new promise to you, my no-longer-a-baby girl. I have every confidence that you are smart and brave and strong enough to go down life’s road on your own two feet. But if you ever need me to, I will carry you as far as I can: and then I will carry you farther.

Happy birthday, ladybug. I love you!




Some of my favorite moments from our Thanksgiving trip:

1. Seeing Mallory snuggled up in bed with her cousin Noah.
2. My nephew Rhett's comment, when going to bed Wednesday night, that "I'm just trying to get through another night 'til Thanksgiving."
3. Phoebe shouting "Bounce! Bounce!" at the trampoline.
4. Mallory taking my dad's hand when she crossed the street.
5. My nephew Cameron coming to me for a hug when he hurt his finger.
6. Phoebe playing the "push-you-down" game with Aimee on the trampoline.
7. The enthusiasm with which Rhett and Nicolas greeted one another -- they're going to be best friends for life.
8. The look on the kids' faces when the fireworks started at the Christmas tree lighting.
9. Phoebe chasing after Grandmom yelling "Mom-mom-mom-mom!"
10. Mallory and Noah pretending to go on a "date" while Rhett and Nicolas dared them to kiss one another.
11. This conversation between Rhett & Nicolas. N: Texas is bigger than Oklahoma. R: Don't say that, I don't like it when you say things like that. N: Well, it's okay, because Oklahoma is bigger than Maine.
12. Mallory, Phoebe and Isabel sharing a bubble bath.
13. All the kids chanting "Phoe-be! Phoe-be! Phoe-be!" while they bounced around her on the trampoline.
14. Late night conversations with my sisters and brother.
15. Phoebe and Isabel running to me for kisses through the trampoline net. (Can you tell we spent a lot of time on the trampoline?)
16. Mallory saying "grace".

And that's just for starters. We had a wonderful time. I'm sad it's over. I can't wait to see everyone again. Posted by Picasa



Every afternoon when Mallory gets home from preschool, Phoebe just goes wild with excitement. She flaps her arms and squeals and says "Mal! Mal!" over and over again, and then Mallory comes to give her a big hug, and then they dance together for a few minutes. A few days ago my in-laws were having new blinds installed, and the installation guy witnessed this little scene and said, "I wish my kids would do that. That's the sweetest thing I've ever seen."

I hope they're always that happy to see each other after being separated.

I know I've going to be that happy tomorrow when we get to Oklahoma City.

Happy Thanksgiving!


There's Your Trouble

I'm too excited about our upcoming trip to Aimee's house to post anything coherent. But I have to tell you that in the past week, Mallory has referred to the Dixie Chicks as both the Chixie Sticks and the Shrinky Dinks. If the Chicks are shopping about for a name change, I think those are both excellent alternatives.

Also, in the continuing saga of words-Phoebe-uses-to-respond-to-questions, Phoebe can now say "Okay!" Yeah, no, okay -- she's got all the bases covered. And yeah, it's very cute coming from her little voice. On Saturday we were playing outside and Mallory got some sand in her eye and was whimpering, and Phoebe went and crouched down beside her and said, "Okay?"

And, because you're all dying to know, we decided NOT to get the art desk for Mallory for Christmas. We're getting it for her birthday instead! Ha! I hope it fulfills my expectations as being something useful instead of confirming my fears that it will just take up space. And I'm also going to order her a copy of And Tango Makes Three as a demonstration of my support of gay penguin rights! (The book is based on the true story of two male penguins in a zoo who adopted a baby penguin. Apparently some parents are protesting its inclusion in school libraries because, I don't know, they think the penguins are sinful or something. Geez. They're penguins!) We bought invitations for Mallory's birthday party this weekend and I was wondering aloud what time the party should start. Mallory said, "I think we should wake up on my birthday morning and have breakfast and get dressed and have the party right then!" Her enthusiasm was palpable and I hated to explain that very few other people would be excited about birthday cake and bouncy houses at 7:45 a.m. on a Saturday.

Mallory's birthday is on a Saturday this year; she was born on a Sunday. She's almost completed a calendar cycle (to use, I'm sure, the technical term for it). How did she get so old?


Shoulda Seen This One Coming

A few weeks ago I wrote about Phoebe's adorable "Yeah." Nowadays, she's expanded her affirmation repertoire to include "Ess" and "Ummm" accompanied by an emphatic nod of her head, but we still get a cute little "yeah!" a few times a day.

What I should have remembered is that when there is a yeah, "no" cannot be far behind.

Phoebe says "No" very nicely, and quite often, and sometimes when it's obvious she means the opposite, and sometimes when it doesn't even make sense. "Phoebe, should we change your diaper?" "NO!" "Phoebe, do you want juice?" "No!" she says, while gesturing frantically at the orange juice carton. "Phoebe, do you want to read this book?" "No!" she says, while thrusting the book into my hands and trying to climb up into my lap. "Phoebe, what are you doing in there?" I asked in the direction of the dining room this morning, when it had gotten a little too quiet. "No!" she replied.

We had a rough night a few nights ago -- she kept coughing, then her diaper leaked all over the sheets, then she just kept thrashing and flailing and moaning, and finally I -- whose font of patience is mere millimeters deep at 4:30 am anyway -- said, "Phoebe, you are driving me insane. Will you just go to sleep?"


I'm not sure why I bothered to ask!

Happy Birthday to my mom today (see Aimee's post for a tribute) and to my mother-in-law tomorrow!


Books, books, books

As I lamented in yesterday’s post, I love to read and I don’t get to do it enough lately. If I had to choose between giving up reading or giving up my kids, well, I’d sure miss my kids. I found this quiz on someone else’s blog and just had to answer it. Sorry it goes on and on and on and on…

1. A book that changed your life.

Well, there hasn’t been just one, so in chronological order: Nancy Drew and the Sign of the Twisted Candlesticks: this was the first “chapter book” I ever read (thanks to Gran Valoris for giving it to me for Christmas, 1979!) and reading it made me feel so grown up and smart. Ditto The Count of Monte Cristo, which was the first “classic” book I read (in the fifth grade.) Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier just amazed me. Mary Stewart’s Merlin Trilogy (which actually has four books – The Crystal Caves, The Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment, The Wicked Day) started my fascination with all things Arthurian, while Beryl Bainbridge’s The Birthday Boys sparked my interest in South Polar exploration. And The Sound and the Fury is the book that convinced me that I’ll never be a novelist (because if I can’t write that well, then what’s the point?).

2. A book you've read more than once.

I am a great re-reader and always have been. When I was 10 or 11, I must’ve read The Outsiders and The Westing Game forty times each. At least. I re-read less often now, but when I’m in the mood for an old favorite I usually pick up Anna’s Book by Barbara Vine or Talking it Over by Julian Barnes. The Solace of Leaving Early, by Haven Kimmel, is a book that I started re-reading the minute I finished it because I loved it so much.

3. A book you'd want on a desert island.

The Once and Future King by T.H.White. It’s a huge book, so it would keep me occupied for a long time; it’s funny, which is something you’d want on a desert island; it’s beautifully written so I don’t think I’d get tired of it if I had to read it over and over and over again.

4. A book that made you giddy.

I remember grinning like an idiot at the end of Catch-22. “Yossarian jumped.” Whether I understood the book as a whole or not is up for debate (I was, I think, in 10th grade), but that was some kind of perfect ending.

5. A book that you wish would be written.

What I want is a book that reveals age-old secrets and mysteries. What really happened to the Lindbergh baby? Did Jeffrey MacDonald (the Fatal Vision guy) really kill his family? What about OJ? I guess those aren’t so much age-old secrets, but you see what I’m getting at. A perfect book in this vein is The Romanovs: The Final Chapter, in which it is revealed that Anastasia did, in fact, die with the rest of the Royal Family, and the imposter who claimed to be her for fifty years was just that, an imposter. (And interestingly, the final proof of this – a lock of the imposter’s hair which provided a DNA sample – was found in an envelope in a box of books in a secondhand bookstore I used to frequent when I lived in Chapel Hill. Well, that was interesting to me at least.)

6. A book that wracked you with sobs.
Where the Red Fern Grows. And, hm, I don’t remember a recent book that’s made me cry (other than Dog Heaven). I think I got teary at the end of Atonement by Ian McEwan – so, so sad. But “wracked with sobs,” no.

7. A book you wish had never been written.
Well, I don’t want to wish any book out of existence. There are many books I wish I hadn’t had to read, including…well, here’s the thing. When I was, I don’t know, probably 6 or 7, we went on a family vacation to Ruidoso, NM. We stayed in my grandparent’s condo and for some reason there was a copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn lying around and one morning, because we had complained of being bored, my dad started to read it to me and Jana. (Okay, it’s possible that it was in fact The Adventures of Tom Sawyer instead, I don’t know.) Daddy read the section in which Tom and Huck were hiding somewhere, and they had to be very still and quiet so as not to be discovered, but they started to itch all over and it was tortuous to them that they couldn’t scratch. Dad was reading in a very animated way but Jana and I just didn’t get it and I’m sure he called us both knuckleheads for not appreciating this classic bit of humor. But ever since then, whenever I’m reading a book I absolutely hate, I think about that passage…because when I'm reading a book I loathe, I feel like my brain itches all over, and I feel mentally squirmy and sometimes I even get enraged at the awfulness of the book (yeah, I should calm down). Books that induce this feeling in me include:

Pamela by Samuel Richardson and Tom Jones by Henry Fielding, and really any piece of fiction written in the 18th century.

Ironically, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This may be because I had to read this book for a class almost every year, it seems, between 7th grade and my last year in graduate school. And I appreciate Twain’s intelligence and talent but oh how I hate the dialect, and the duke and the dauphin, and the feud, and the adventures in general, and just please, if I never have to read this book again I will die happy.

The Quincunx by Charles Palliser. I wanted so badly to love this book, and it has all the elements that I usually adore. It’s long, it’s faux-Victorian, it’s full of mystery and intrigue and old family secrets and hidden journals and lore…and yet I hated, absolutely hated, the whingy narrator, and I spent weeks and weeks reading his 4700 pages because in spite of everything I, too, wanted to find out who his father was and what was the big secret that had plagued his family for centuries…but at the end of the 6830 pages, guess what? He didn’t find out. Oh my god I have never been so mad in my life.

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing. I was reading this book because I thought I should, but I really disliked almost everything about it. Then one of the characters made some sort of statement about breaking free from expectations and rules and, among other things, not reading books because you thought you should, and I thought, okay then, and I stopped reading it. No regrets! And mostly I follow this rule – if I hate a book, I stop reading it (much easier now that I’m not in school).

And, most recently, The Ghost Orchid by Carol Goodman. I liked Goodman’s previous books but this one started out good and then spiraled into stupidity and I kept reading just because I had purchased it new! As a hardcover! And I wanted to get my money’s worth! But it was really awful. It was laughably bad. I hope she recovers before she writes another one.

I guess I would also include on this list the true-crime books Small Sacrifices and The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule. They were well-written but I really wish I didn’t know that there were such evil people in the world.

8. A book you are currently reading.
Digging to America by Anne Tyler.

9. A book you've been meaning to read.
Oh, this list is far too long. And so is this post so I’m going to stop now. But here’s your assignment – answer just one question from this list in the comments. If you want. Or if you have your own blog, you could answer them all!


Terms of Endearment

Last year, every day when I dropped Mallory off at preschool she’d ask for a “Big Queeze.” She’d “queeze” me and then “queeze” Phoebe too. This summer she went through a weird kissing phase – she’d come up to me and say, “Don’t kiss!” and then kiss my right cheek, say “Don’t kiss!” again and then kiss my left cheek (the point was that I was not allowed to kiss her). Lately she’s been requesting a “hug with arms” (because those armless hugs are no good, I agree). Yesterday she hugged me and then said, “Mommy, I just can’t stop hugging and kissing you!”

She’s been very affectionate, as well, in the notes she dictates. In the past week she’s had me write notes that say, for example, “Phoebe is my favorite kind of friend,” and “Phoebe and Mallory really really love Krista.” I can’t reveal too much about the note she dictated for my mom’s birthday card because it was just put in the mail today, but rest assured it’s full of lovey-dovey stuff too.

And it’s a good thing that she’s so full of affection lately, because she’s been a real pain in the neck lately too. On Saturday she drew, with marker, all over her bunk bed. She picks on Phoebe relentlessly. She whines incessantly, she pinches me when I thwart her, and she refuses to comply with basic requests (brush your teeth, drink your milk). And Saturday night she drew me into this conundrum:

“Mommy, do you love me?”

“Of course I do.”

“Do you love me all the time?”

“Yes, all the time, no matter what.”

“Even when I do bad things?”



“Yes. I don’t like the bad things you do, but I still love you no matter what.”

“Oh. So then it’s okay for me to do those bad things!”

“Well, no.”

“But you’ll forgive me, right?”

“Well, yes, but that doesn’t mean—“

“So then it’s okay!”

“Yes but….”

And she wasn’t really interested in hearing my thoughts on the matter after that. So I’m trapped! I’m doomed, as she is fond of saying, because I’m not quite able to explain the concept of goodness for goodness sake to my almost-5-year-old.

Just Finished Reading

Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land by John Crowley. I didn’t like this book well enough to do a review of it. If you feel you would enjoy reading a fake novel by Lord Byron, then have at it; if not, save your money or rest your library card. I just have to say that it’s a sad, sad thing that this is only the fourth book I’ve read since beginning this blog, way back in August. Four books in four months! I used to read four books a week. Darn kids!


Separation Anxiety

Today in an email to Aimee I made reference to my oldest child's stubbornness and added, "I may have to leave her in Oklahoma with you!" Naturally I would never do that (although today for the first time ever I threatened Mallory with spanking because she would not get dressed for school -- it worked but I wasn't very impressed with myself afterwards). But it reminded me of an unusual childcare decision made by a former supervisor of mine. Which I will share with you now.

This woman -- let's call her Sylvia -- was from Panama; she came to New York when she was 20, got married, got a job, had two kids. When her kids were still very young -- I think 3 and 1 -- she had to go back to work. She interviewed some nannies, she toured some daycare facilities, but nothing felt right to her. So she sent her kids to Panama to live with her parents. She didn't see her kids -- still babies! -- for months at a time, until the oldest one was old enough to start school, and then they both came back to America.

I hate to be judgmental of her, because she did what she felt she had to do, and being a working mom is hard enough without people judging your for it, as I well know -- but wow, can you imagine being away from your small children for that length of time? It boggles my mind. I feel guilty if I'm running 15 minutes late to pick the girls up after work. And I can't fathom missing those toddler/preschool years, despite those many moments of exhaustion and frustration. For the record, Sylvia now has an excellent relationship with both of her kids -- in fact, her daughter and the daughter's son now live with her (the daughter's fiance was murdered when the little boy was about 2 -- very sad story). So I guess those years apart didn't damage the mother/child bond in any serious way. It's still not something I would ever contemplate doing myself.

On a related note -- Phoebe, as I've mentioned, attends a Parent's Morning Out program at our church, one day a week for three hours. There are two "paid caregivers" and one mother volunteer each week. One of the caregivers is having a baby next month, so she won't be around much longer. The other caregiver is, well, mean. She's a mean lady. She has a set of twins in first grade and a 6-month-old baby, and, she told me a few weeks ago, wants to be pregnant again by Christmas (!), but every time I've seen her at church functions with her kids, she's yelling at them. In fact last weekend we were at the church’s Harvest Day fall festival and Mallory and I were in line to do “Plinko” behind her and her son, and she was yelling at him because one of his shoes had come untied. Another person nearby looked over and said to her, “Are you sure you want another one?” in a joking-but-not-really kind of way. The woman just rolled her eyes, but I was thinking, Exactly! I mean, every parents has moments of frustration, but she seems to have no patience whatsoever. And she’s in charge of a bunch of 1-year-olds! To be fair, yelling at your own kids is your own prerogative (boy does that look misspelled), and I’ve never seen her yell at any of the PMO babies – but I still feel funny leaving Phoebe with her. If it weren’t for the fact that there is always another mommy in the room, I might withdraw Phoebe from the program altogether. Maybe she will get pregnant and have to quit. Sigh. Why does everything have to be so difficult?

ART for the Day

At 16 months, Phoebe loves:

Talking on the phone (still!)
Playing outside (she calls her swing the “whee!”)
Orange juice
Shredded cheese (and what a huge mess THAT makes)
The bead loops on her busy box
Going “bump” down the stairs on her bottom
Saying “shh!” to the dog

Phoebe hates:

When her hands get stuck in her sleeves while getting dressed
Wearing socks
All vegetables, apparently
Having her face washed after a meal

She’s a great singer, too. Have I mentioned the Elmo tape we have to listen to every time we ride in the car? Otherwise known as the bane of my existence? Phoebe can chime in with the last word on almost every line of every song. She’s especially good with “Elmo’s Song” (all those la-la-la’s) and “Elmo You Can Drive My Car” – Mallory sings the Beep-beeps, and Phoebe delivers the big “YEAH!” at the end. It almost makes the tape bearable for me!

PS Thanks for all the help on the desk decision (NOT!). I still don't know what to do about that. I like Aimee's rolling-cart idea...maybe I'll go out at lunch and see what I can find.


Decisions, decisions

So I'm trying to decide if we should get this art desk, pictured at right, for Mallory for Christmas.

It's not exactly the most attractive desk, furnishing-wise, in the universe, but it holds a lot of stuff. And it looks sturdy, so Phoebe could use it when Mallory outgrows it. And it's not that expensive. And it holds a lot of stuff! Did I say that already?

Mallory has a ton of arts and crafts supplies and lately her very favorite thing to do is "projects." She asks to do a project about fifty million times a day. And we don't really have a good place for her to do these projects. We have a kitchen table, but, you know, we often have to eat there. We have a huge dining room table, but it's mostly covered with other kinds of junk and really, it's almost too big for her to sit at comfortably. So her art supplies are in constant movement between the kitchen and the dining room, or sometimes the living room, and I swear if she asks me one more time to find her markers or her paper or her "kid scissors" I will scream.

So I think she needs her own place. And I think she would actually really LOVE to have her own desk to work at. We could put it in our living room and she could project to her heart's content.

I'm just wondering if it would just become another horizontal surface to collect junk. I'm wondering if she would never use it at all. And then we'd have this unattractive plastic stuff-collector in our living room.

Your thoughts?


I'll save this post to show to her first boyfriend

I dreaded the prospect of toilet-training from the moment I discovered I was pregnant with Mallory. It just seemed to be a parenting challenge – necessitating routine-setting and negotiating and attention-paying -- that I wouldn’t be up to. Either I was right about myself, or Mallory absorbed my dread from the womb, because all my fears were realized in the struggle to get her out of diapers.

There was, in fact, a week when she was almost 2 ½ that I thought we’d conquered the whole thing effortlessly. She suddenly was going to the potty on cue, all by herself! I was thrilled! And smug. And promptly punished for my smugness, because for some reason I no longer remember, it was all over and we were back to square one. Then for the next year we bumbled along without much progress, in part because she was at daycare three days a week and at my in-laws two days a week and home the rest of the time and all of us caregivers never seemed to get our potty-training-Mallory-strategies aligned. And then I got pregnant and felt so miserable for about nine weeks that I didn’t care what she did so long as I didn’t have to clean anything up. And then suddenly she was 3 ½ and I started to panic because a) I was about to have another baby and b) she was starting preschool in August and HAD to be absolutely trained by that point.

Luckily, once Phoebe was born, something clicked in Mallory’s head and she left diapers behind. Well, except for nighttime, which, well, we’re still not ready to talk about that yet. And except for the fact that it always was, and still always is, a struggle to just get her to go pee, for heaven’s sake. For one thing, she has the bladder of a camel, apparently, and really only seems to pee about twice a day. But the main problem is that she has instituted a series of Condition That Must Be Met before she will even enter the bathroom, and these are enough to drive any loving parent up the freaking wall.

First, she developed what can only be explained as a pathological need for privacy. I’d ask her to go to the bathroom, and she’d say, “Are you going to hear me?” I’d say No, and then she’d ask everyone else in the vicinity (even wee little Phoebe) if they were going to hear her. Only after everyone had said No, would she actually go. Then, for extra fun, she started tacking on the disclaimer, “I’m just Mallory going potty,” except that she was still pronouncing her name “Wowee” at this point. This disclaimer was added at the height of her pretend-play phase, when she was always pretending to be Cinderella, or Sandy from Grease, or Snow White, or whoever – I guess she didn’t want anyone associating her fantasy selves with something as mundane as the potty. So -- “Are you going to hear me go potty?” she’d ask me. “No,” I’d say. “I’m just Wowee going potty!” she’d add, before moving on to someone else. It was even more fun when we were at my in-laws and she’d go through this routine with Chris’s grandmother, who is old and slightly deaf and also the slightest bit confused in general anyway. “Are you going to hear me?” she’d ask Gigi, and Gigi would say, “What? Hear you do what? What are you doing?” while the other grown-ups in the room, hip to the jive, would be frantically mouthing “Just say NO!” in her direction until she caught on, because otherwise we’d all be there all day and Mallory would be no closer to conceding to void her bladder.

Eventually she moved past of her fear of being overheard and moved on to a fear of bugs. “I’m going to go potty, will you come check for bugs?” she’d say. So I’d have to go inspect every inch of the bathroom for possible insects and spiders. There never was a bug, by the way, not even once.

Next up was a variation of the privacy requirement, updated with her favorite phrase. “I’m going potty,” she’d say. “Always remember don’t come in.” Or, “Always remember don’t unlock the door.” Or, “Always remember I want Mommy to help me wipe.” Or, charmingly, “Always remember don’t smell me.”

And by the way, if you can believe this of a four-year-old, she doesn’t at all respect other people’s need for privacy. Once she made me make a sign that said “PRIVATE!” and tape it to the bathroom door before she went in. A few days later I was in there and she came knocking at the door. “I’ll be out in a minute,” I said. “But I want to come in!” she said. “No, you need to wait,” I said. I heard the sound of ripping tape. “But I took down the private sign, so that means I can come in!” she said.

This weekend saw the return of the “checking for bugs” requirement. Sigh.

Diapers were easier.

ART for the Day

Phoebe has developed a habit that, while cute, is hauntingly reminiscent of Mallory’s pre-bathroom antics. When asked if she wants to take a bath, she flaps her arms in excitement and squeals and giggles and shouts “Ba! Ba!” to everyone in the room. “Ba!” she’ll yell at Chris. “Yes, a bath!” he’ll say. “Ba!” she’ll holler at Mallory. “Yes, a bath,” Mallory will say. “Ba!” she’ll say to me. “Yes, a bath!” I’ll reply. Then, suitably reassured then she will in fact be taking a bath, she’ll stop yelling “Ba!” at the top of her voice. Also, she’s started to say “Burp!” after she, well, burps, and she’ll keep saying it until someone acknowledges her and says, “Excuse you!” Which is also reminiscent of a part of my favorite scene from It’s a Wonderful Life, but that’s worth another post.


Tricks, treats, and a trip to the farm


Here's my dainty ballerina. About three-quarters of the way around our block while trick-or-treating, she decided that tennis shoes would be much more comfortable than her ballet slippers. Phoebe the lion did the rounds in her stroller, because when set free she ONLY wanted to walk in the middle of the street, and woe betide the adult who tried to hold her hand. She has developed quite the fondness for M&M's, so Chris and I have to be very secretive when we sneak things out of her bucket. (What, we should let a 1-year-old eat her own Halloween candy?)

Yesterday I accompanied Mallory's preschool class for an "educational tour" of a local pumpkin farm. The kids made butter and saw cows and chickens and ducks. At bedtime I asked Mallory what her favorite part about the farm was, and she said, "Well, at the farm, I didn't have to do any of those things I'm supposed to do at school."

"Like what?" I said.

"Like learn things," she explained.

Yes, heaven forbid we should learn things.

One of the features of the tour was "Milkshake," a month-old calf. He was being hand-raised because his mother had died. He was white with black spots and reminded me of Peanut, the third and last of the calves that Jana and I raised back on our farm. I remember that I was very excited when we got Blackie, our first calf, and that the excitement waned very quickly -- after about two days of getting up half-an-hour early, and mixing the vile-smelling formula, and then getting covered with calf slobber in the process of feeding, I told my dad, "I'm not going to feed Blackie anymore." He replied that it wasn't for me to decide. I was a bit shocked by that. Looking back, that's one of the defining moments of my childhood -- or, more specifically, one of the moments that define the end of my childhood (it was a long process, perhaps not even now fully complete).

By the way, I'm a bit relieved to find out that I'm not the only one who has problems with symbols. Maybe I'm not so deficient after all. Or if I am, at least I'm in good company!

ART for the Day

My mother-in-law just called and told me something that makes me so proud of my little girl. Mallory has a classmate who lives with her grandmother because both of her parents were killed in two separate car accidents about a year ago. (Is your heart broken already? All day yesterday at the field trip, I kept looking at this little girl and wanting to give her a big hug.) When Claudia went to pick Mallory up at school today, her teacher said that she overheard the little girl tell Mallory that she lived with her grandmother. "Where's your mommy?" Mallory asked, and the girl said that she died. "Well, where's your daddy?" Mallory asked, and the little girl said that he died, too. Mallory sat and thought about this for a minute, and then reached over and gave the girl and hug and said, "I am so sorry to hear that." The teacher said it brought tears to her eyes. I'm so proud of the way Mallory handled that; I couldn't have predicted that she'd behave so appropriately. I kind of hate that she now knows that it's possible to become an orphan at the age of four, but at least she responded in just the right way.
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Which End Up?

Last Friday I was supposed to work from home, but I encountered technical difficulties with my laptop. I called our Support Staff and a guy walked me through some steps to fix the problem, but none of his suggestions were working. After ten minutes of trying a certain thing over and over again I realized that part of the problem was that he was telling me to type “something something forward slash something else” and I was instead typing “something something back slash something else.”

That was kind of embarrassing, because I am after all a web designer and also somewhat intelligent, and you’d think that I’d know the difference between a forward slash and a back slash. But here’s a secret: I don’t! I mean: you have \ and you have /. I don’t understand what makes one forward and one back. I guess I can see that this one leans forward: / but doesn’t this one slope forward: \ ? So how do you tell which is which?

My slash confusion is part of a larger problem with my brain. I can’t think visually at all. My boss and I were working on something last week and he pointed out that a certain element on a page wasn’t centered. “It looks centered to me,” I said respectfully. He said, “It’s centered vertically, but it’s not centered horizontally.” I said, “Oh, okay” but I was thinking, “Huh?” It was only through a serendipitous click of the mouse that I was able to get it to look the way he wanted.

Don’t count on me to hold the elevator for you, if it’s an elevator that has symbols on the buttons instead of the more civilized buttons that spell out “Door Close” and “Door Open”. I have to stare at <> and >< a long, long time before figuring out which button will perform which operation. (This is in fact a serious problem for me; ever since I read about a doctor being decapitated by a hospital elevator in Texas a few years ago, I have been pretty freaked out by elevator doors, especially when the kids are with me. I’ll be glad when we can ditch the stroller and use escalators more often. Mallory calls both modes of vertical (is that right, or is it horizontal?) transport “alligators,” by the way.)

And don’t even remind me of the horrible weeks in elementary school that were spent on “greater than” and “less than.” Clearly I knew that 88 is greater than 73; did we have to bring the < and the > into it? And calling it a crocodile’s mouth, while whimsical, did not help much, but thanks anyway, Mrs. Neill.

I think someone else is going to have to be in charge of teaching my kids to drive.

Just Finished Reading

The Prestige by Christopher Priest. Here’s something you don’t hear every day: The movie was better. In fact, I bet when Christopher Priest saw this movie, he thought to himself, “Huh. Why didn’t I think of that?” It wasn’t a bad book, but it had a horrible ending, and lots of loose ends. So, again I say: See the movie! But don’t necessarily buy the book.


Good Dental Hygiene is Particularly Important for Lions


Phoebe is, as you can see, going to be a lion for Halloween. She's going to be a lion because Mallory said for two months that she wanted to be Dorothy for Halloween, and we thought it would be cute to have a theme going on.

Of course this weekend Mallory decided that she did NOT want to be Dorothy, how dare we even SUGGEST the wearing of the Dorothy costume, any mention of her being Dorothy was cause for tears and shrieking.

So now she's going to be a ballerina. "I'm going to be the kind of ballerina who has a pet lion!" she said, helpfully.

In preparation for Phoebe's lionhood, we taught her how to roar on cue. It's very cute. But you should also know that last week it rained a lot, and so Phoebe has also learned to say "rain" when we pull her jacket hood up. I'm sure you all know where this is going: I put Phoebe's lion costume on, pulled up the hood, and said, "Phoebe, what does a lion say?"

And Phoebe said: "Rain!" Posted by Picasa


This was fun

LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Clearly this isn't exactly right; obviously there is one person in the US with my name. It's just statistically unlikely that there is anyone in the US with my name, which is actually kind of cool. Same goes for Mallory and Phoebe; I think there were four Chris-es. There are three people with my maiden name, by the way.

Go try it for yourself!


A very special...Always Remember That

On Sunday, Mallory said to me, “I want to get a box and put stuff in it that I don’t want and give it to some other people.” Coincidentally, I had just read about a US soldier who was collecting stuffed animals to pass out to children in Iraq, so I found a box and we started filling it up. Because if there’s one thing we have too much of, it’s stuffed animals. (There is something way off, grammatically, about that sentence, but you get the idea.)

Mallory was not at all discriminatory about which stuffies she flung into the box. “Hold on,” I said. “You don’t have to give away any that are really special to you.” From that point on, she very earnestly said, “Well, this one isn’t special!” of each one before she consigned it to the pile.

It was on the tip of my tongue to protest. Not special? The ducky I bought when I found out I was pregnant? The doggie I bought for her when she had her first ear infection? The floppy bunny that sat in the corner of her crib? The bear with “2001 Baby” embroidered on its foot? The half-dozen Beanie Babies given to her and Phoebe by my grandmother? Of course those were special! Except they were special to me, not to her – she’s never been had a particular “lovey,” she’s equal-opportunity about which toy she sleeps with or hauls around throughout the day. (Phoebe, on the other hand, was watching us suspiciously while clutching tightly to her fuzzy Elmo. Not to worry, no Sesame Street stuffies made the cut.)

So now I have a huge box of bears and frogs and dogs and ducks and bunnies to send to Iraq. And I hope that each one becomes very special to a child over there.


Busy, busy, shockingly busy...

...much much too busy for you!

(That's from a Veggie Tales song. I hereby admit that I find Veggie Tales really, really charming. Mallory was never much into them. Oh well.)

Anyway, really busy at work this week but I can't neglect my adoring public. Ha! So here's something for you: You must go see The Prestige. Such a wonderful movie, the best I've seen in a long time. So good that I had to run right out and buy the book. Not, you know, that it takes a great deal of encouragement for me to run right out and buy any book. But -- excellent movie. Highly recommended. (Now you will all go see it and hate it and wonder what I'm going on about.)


A Picture Post

A poster Chris drew for the annual Harvest Day Bake Sale, proceeds to benefit Mallory's preschool:

A poster Chris drew for Mallory's class. What did Phoebe say when she saw it? "El-mo!" She's good at spotting that little red monster, even when he's not red.

Our beautiful new chair! Which actually matches our beautiful new couch!

Phoebe looking pretty.

Mallory looking goofy.

My girls.


A Hodge-podge. A mish-mash, if you will.


Words Phoebe Has Learned To Say Since The Last Time I Made Such A List:

Elmo (pronounced correctly)
Nurse (“urse” – yeah, I know, once they’re old enough to ask…)
I’m stuck
Who’s that?

Two Reasons Phoebe May Not Be My Actual Child

She doesn’t like doughnuts.
She does like raw onions.

What Mallory Said To Me After I Apologized To Her For Us Having A Rough Morning:

“It was rough because you’re mean.”

My Review Of The Make-Ahead Meal Experience

Excellent! Chris and I really liked the Taco Soup, Marinated Flank Steak, Chicken Enchiladas, and Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole. Chris liked the Cilantro Shrimp Scampi; I thought the seasoning was a bit weird, but it was all right. The Smothered Burgers were good but a lot of trouble to make. The Mini-Pizzas…it was nice to be able to customize toppings, but they didn’t taste any better than Target brand frozen pizzas, so, eh. We haven’t tried the Gruyere Quiche yet. But overall, it worked out really well and I’m going to sign up for another session this month. Hooray!

Something That Made Me Sad Today

A report on the radio about a lawsuit being filed against camel racers in the United Arab Emirates…apparently they’re using 3- and 4-year old children as camel jockeys, and making them live in really deplorable conditions. (The kids, not the camels.) Can you imagine these poor little kids having to ride on camels? Can you picture Mallory on a camel? (Actually, I’m sure they wouldn’t want Mallory, since she’s not exactly a lightweight, but still.) There are so many ways to harm children. It’s just depressing.

What We’re Going To Do This Weekend

Go to the pumpkin patch with my friend Julia and her kids. Possibly go see The Prestige.

My Goal For The Week

To clean one room of the house every night. Last night I tackled the dining room. We use the dining room for dining maybe three times a year; at all other times, the table is a repository for Mallory’s crafts, shopping bags, wrapping paper, and other junk. But right now it’s actually clean! I got a little carried away and threw out a whole bunch of stuff that maybe I shouldn’t have: greeting cards, jars of play-doh, perfectly good hair barettes and bows – just because I am so sick of all the excess crap in my house. Trust me, no one will ever miss the stuff I threw away. Tonight I’m going to scrub the bathrooms. Fun for me!

Something Mallory Said That Made Me Proud

She was playing with the 5-year-old girl who lives next door to my inlaws. This is a homeschooling, fundamentalist type family. The girl said to me: “Why is Mallory over at Miss Claudia’s so much?” I said, “Miss Claudia takes care of her while I go to work.” She said, “Well, my mother chooses to work at home so she can be with her kids. Why don’t you choose to do that?” I said, smiling very politely, “I choose to work in an office instead.” Mallory chimed in, “Yeah, and when I grow up I’m going to work in an office too!”

Things I Admire About My Siblings

Jana – Her determination (going back to school as a single mom is one example)
Aimee – Her creativity
Amy (my sister-in-law) – Her generosity
Casey – The excellent way he’s raising his son

Two Things That Will Make Me And Chris Laugh Like Loons (That No One Else Would Understand)

What? I want a jellybean!
All these lovers! Posted by Picasa


Mostly I Never Cry At All

This is one of my very favorite pictures. It was taken in October 2004 at a pumpkin patch farm near our house, just a few minutes after I realized I was pregnant again.

Whatever do I mean by that? Partly it was that – sorry, I hate this expression – we’d just started “trying” and conditions seemed favorable. But mostly it was that there was country music being playing in the background at the farm and I kept getting weepy. At one line in one particular song, something about “living here in Arkansas working at a Wal-mart” I got actual tears in my eyes. Because I’ve never lived in Arkansas, nor want to, nor worked at a Wal-mart, nor wanted to, I wondered at my bizarre sensitivity to this song for a few moments before thinking, “Hey! I must be pregnant.”

Crying at odd moments defines pregnancy, for me. (Although the first warning sign of Mallory was an out-of-the-blue craving for cocktail wienies.) One night when I was pregnant with Mallory, Chris and I saw a segment on a Food Network program about a dog who, every day, got an ice cream cone from his neighborhood ice cream truck driver. Something about this happy dog and his unconventional treat just really got to me and I just started to bawl. Chris has probably never laughed so hard at me. Fortunately he wasn’t around to witness what happened with Phoebe – I was driving to work one day and suddenly remembered that Cheerios Christmas commercial. You know the one, with the grandma sitting with a baby in his highchair, and she’s pushing Cheerios around saying, “This is your uncle in Dallas” and “Here’s your cousins in Cincinnati” and then she pushes two O’s together and says, “But we’ll always be together at Christmas.” Oh my how I cried at just the memory of that commercial.

Anyway, I was right, that day at the pumpkin patch – I was pregnant. And now we have two little girls to take to the pumpkin patch this year, and I couldn’t be happier.