They wouldn't have been as sweet

Had the choices been mine and mine alone, my daughters would've been named Bryony and Emmeline.

Had the choices been made back in 1986, my daughters would've been named Koryn and Acacia.

If I had a baby boy today, I'd name him Theo. Choices back in 1986 would have been Kellen or Damek.

I'm going to guess that everyone will concur that it's pretty lucky that my kids were a) girls and b) born in the 21st century and c) named with someone else's input.




As I have mentioned, Phoebe is in a Parent's Morning Out program at our church. This is a cooperative enterprise; each child's mother has to help out every eight weeks. Today was my day to be the helper.

There were eight 1-year-olds in class. One of them cried non-stop. For three hours. Three others cried about 75 percent of the time. The other four cried about half the time.

That's a lot of crying. That's also a whole lot of baby snot. Fortunately I brought a clean shirt to change into before I went to work.

Phoebe cried less than the others, unless she saw me holding another (crying) baby. At other times she was content to read books or play with trains. There was another little girl there who reminded me of my niece, Isabel. She was fine for a while but then started to cry because the other babies kept taking out the toys that she was trying to put away. "All done!" she would scream, snatching a toy out of the unsuspecting baby's hand and hurrying to stow it back in a bin. I got her to calm down by telling her that she was a very good helper. About ten times I said, "You're a good helper!" and she would nod and cry and say, "Toys all done!" Yikes.

The mom of the boy who cried the whole time asked the teacher if she should withdraw from the program. "Give him another month," the teacher suggested. Yikes again. A whole more month of crying? Maybe it does take that long for little kids to understand that mommy really will come back. Or maybe some little kids never get it. I don't know, I've always had to leave my kids so I think they're kind of used to it. But I also have pretty easy-going kids. I don't know what I would do if I had a child who just couldn't take being left somewhere.

The PMO class is planning a trip to a pumpkin patch in a few weeks. Am I a bad mom for not wanting to take Phoebe? I just don't see the point. She would probably have fun, but she'd also have fun just playing in our backyard. And that would be free. And it wouldn't involve driving 20 miles. Or spending the morning with a bunch of crying babies. I think I'll skip it. Posted by Picasa


Favorite Things


This is kind of lame but I need to get it down on paper, as it were. For each of Mallory's birthday (up until last year) I've written down a list of "stats" -- weight, height, and favorites. I never got Mallory's 4th bday stats written down, and I haven't done one for Phoebe's first bday either. So I'm writing them down today, sorry it's not more interesting.

Mallory at 4
Weight: 52 lbs
Height: 42 inches
Favorite Toy: Jessie & Woody dolls
Favorite Movies: Monsters Inc., Toy Story 2
Favorite TV show: Max and Ruby; Oobi (She called noggin.com the "oobiputer")
Favorite Food: Bowtie pasta, ice cream
Favorite Song: Hand Jive ("Danny dances with Cha-cha"), B-O-O-T-S

Phoebe at 1
Weight: 29 lbs
Height: 31 inches
Teeth: 7
Hair: Light reddish brown
Eyes: Blue
Favorite Toy: Anything small and clutchable
Favorite Movie: Baby Shakespeare
Favorite TV Show: Sesame Street, Miffy
Favorite Song: The ABC Song, Elmo's Song, Woo-hoo
Favorite Food: Strawberry yogurt, pizza crusts

Whew. I can now cross this off my to-do list.

ART for the Day
Last weekend I caught Mallory coming up the stairs carrying a carton full of eggs. "Hey! Whoa! What are you doing? Go put those back right now!" I said.

"But Mommy, I need them!" she protested.

"For what?"

"For juggling," she said.

Of course. Posted by Picasa


Phoebe's Busy Day

Or, why working from home isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Today, whilst I was "working," Phoebe did the following:

Climbed into and got stuck in a mesh laundry hamper. Once liberated, strew contents of hamper down the hall and throughout the bedrooms.

Stood at the front door banging on it and yelling "Ma! Ma! Ma!" at Mallory, who was playing across the street with her friends.

Threw terrible tantrum after I closed the front door so she could no longer see Mallory.

Watched "Franklin" on Noggin. (Why is it that Franklin is the only one of his friends to have a real name? Everyone else is "Bear" or "Goose" or "Badger" or "Snail." How did Franklin get so lucky?)

Ate Honey Nut Cheerios.


Pushed the button on her Elmo tractor that made Elmo sing "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" about 47 times.

Took a 2-hour nap. Hooray!

Ate an apple.

Read books with Mommy. Correctly identified a dog, a duck, and Cookie Monster, and meowed when shown a cat.

Liberated the contents of my wallet.

Said "poop!" when she pooped.

Opened the dog food bin and fed Finn bits of kibble, one by one, for I don't know how long before I looked up and discovered what was going on.

Screamed with rage when I tried to clean her runny nose (times twelve).

Screamed with rage because she kept dropping the passel of objects she was trying to carry around, including an Elmo figure, a Zoe figure, a book, a plastic cup, a toy lemon, a crumpled sticker, and a Winnie-the-Pooh ball.

Screamed with rage when I wouldn't let her try my Diet Coke.

Screamed with rage as I wrote this post.

Gave me two kisses.

Laughed her funny laugh.

Made me glad I was able to spend the day with her.


This one is for Aimee

...because only she will understand what I'm talking about.

Chris and I bought each other ipods for our anniversary last June. I mostly wanted an ipod because my car doesn't have a CD player and I am so, so sick of the Elmo's Greatest Hits tape that Mallory requests every time we're in the car. I figured I'd put a bunch of children's songs on the ipod and thus have a wider variety of Mallory-acceptable music while driving.

So yeah, how uncool is it that the first songs I put on my ipod were from Sesame Street, Laurie Berkner, and Disney CDs? I'd say decidedly uncool.

But it gets even lamer, because once I got all those songs on there, I then couldn't decide what songs of my own to upload. I really haven't bought any new music for myself in years. I went through my CD collection and it was all Crowded House and Mary Chapin Carpenter and They Might Be Giants -- and I love all that stuff, don't get me wrong, but there was nothing new there. But then I went browsing through the itunes music store and I didn't even recognize any of the "new" stuff that's out there.

So what's on my playlist, yo? Uh, Crowded House and Mary Chapin Carpenter. Oh, and soundtracks from Les Mis and Miss Saigon and Chess. Yeah, I radiate uncool.

In addition to my uncoolness, I'm also powerfully indecisive, so when I get in the car and plug in the ipod (and when the kids aren't with me), I usually can't decide exactly what I want to listen to. Plus I always feel slightly guilty when choosing a song from Les Mis over a Crowded House song. (I know that's weird. When I was little I had this odd rotational system which determined which doll I slept with every night. That way none of the dolls got their feelings hurt. This is really embarrassing.) So I circumvent the pain of choosing by putting the ipod on "Shuffle." This works out pretty well and at times it's even comical -- as when the dramatic finale to "Miss Saigon" is followed immediately by "Happy Tappin' with Elmo."

Anyway, the point is, today the song "Sean" by The Proclaimers came up. Listening to The Proclaimers always reminds me of two things: My freshman year in college, when I was introduced to their music by two really goofy guys named Brian and Danny (who also introduced me to peach schnapps); and the summer after my junior year in college, when I lived at home. Aimee and Casey and I spent a lot of time together, which was fun, and we listened to The Proclaimers a lot and we were, for a time, curious about the beginning line of "Sean," which says, "Sean I'd say the best one came from Tupelo, Mississippi." What did that mean, we wondered? (This was pre-Google, you understand.) Who came from Tupelo, Mississippi? What was he so good at?

Then one Sunday we were sitting around reading the Sunday paper and I happened to catch out of the corner of my eye a line in "Parade" magazine (what, you thought I was actually reading the news?) that mentioned the birthplace of (of course everyone else knows this) Elvis Presley. Illumination! "Elvis was born in Tupelo!" I shouted, and Aimee and Casey also saw the light and it was good.

And that was a really dumb story but I remembered it this morning and it made me smile.

Happy Birthday tomorrow, Aimee & Casey! In my opinion, some of the best ones come from Muleshoe, Texas.


Doing my part to save the world

Here are Ten Things to Do to help stop global warming, with commentary by me!

1. Change a light -- Switch from regular to compact flourescent lightbulbs. Am planning to do this as soon as my stock of regular lightbulbs runs out.

2. Drive less. Would love to, seriously, but I have a daily 60-mile commute. I am being more conscious of driving less on the weekends. And our next car will be a hybrid!

3. Recycle more. We're lucky; we have curbside recycling and they take just about everything except plastic bags.

4. Check your tires -- to improve gas mileage. I never think of doing this.

5. Use less hot water. We have low-flow showerheads (which oddly enough give really good water pressure -- they're of European design) and I wash almost everything in cold. Except myself. Ha!

6. Avoid products with a lot of packaging. I have more to say about this later.

7. Adjust your thermostat -- 2 degrees up in summer and 2 degrees down in winter. Ours is 78 in summer and 66 (I think) in the winter. I'm giving myself credit for that one already.

8. Plant a tree. Whoops -- we just lost one tree to lightning and cut another one down because I hated it. (It was a crepe myrtle tree and was shedding buds all over the deck, which the dog and kids tracked in and the buds were everywhere! everywhere!) But, I just ordered some stuff from Eddie Bauer and made a $1 contribution to their plant-a-tree fund. So I get credit for that one too.)

9. Turn off electronic devices when not in use. I used to leave my work computer on; now I shut it down every night. Woohoo for me.

10. Spread the word! Well, Number 10 is apparently going to see, or buying the DVD of, Al Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth; I got this list from the film's website. I haven't seen the film but I am concerned about global warming, so here I am spreading the word. Good for me!

Here's the original list.

I would write more but I have a cold and haven't slept for the past two nights. Neither have my kids! Hurrah! Being sick while your kids are also sick is really hard. Little kids don't want to lay down and rest when they're sick, oh no, they still want to run around and play. Good for them for being such little troopers, but also, leave me alone so I can nap.


It's what's for dinner

One of the things that I failed to appreciate about my mom until I left home is that she always made dinner (although I think we called it supper then), by which I mean, something hot, usually involving a vegetable. I don't remember my mom ever saying sheepishly to her hungry spouse and offspring, "I don't feel like cooking, how about a bowl of cereal?"

I hate making dinner. Haaate it. It's my least favorite chore. It's not necessarily because I can't cook. I can usually manage to create something edible, although I have yet to perfect the science of getting, say, the chicken and the broccoli and the rice and the rolls all ready at the same time. (There are those among you who may be surprised that I make and serve broccoli. It's true! It's best when roasted: Toss with olive oil and salt, spread on a baking sheet, put in 400 degree oven for about 8 minutes. It's delicious! Delicious as broccoli can be, at least.) It's also not necessarily that it's hard to cook when you have a 1-year-old clinging to your leg saying "Ma! Ma! Ma!" and a 4-year-old running about saying, "Mommy? Can I paint? Mommy? Can you open this play-doh for me? Mommy? Can I go outside? Mommy? Can I have a cookie? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy?"

I just find the whole process tedious and time-consuming and absolutely not what I want to be doing at 6:00 every night. And yet we all have to eat. What to do?

Well, I've found a solution and it is good. I signed up for a session at The Mixing Bowl. It's a meal-assembly-place wherein you choose a number of meals from their menu, they procure and prepare the ingredients (slicing and dicing and whatnot), you (meaning me) show up and assemble the meals, and then bring them home and pop them in the freezer and voila! Meals for the next two week. What could be easier? And it's all customizable (no mushrooms for me, no bell peppers for him) and fairly healthy -- everything's made from scratch. And not all that expensive, really, considering. I can serve a frozen dinner and a bag of salad and some milk (actually some Silk, which is the only kind of milk my daughters will drink, and although it tastes distinctly odd to me it's chock full of nutrients!) and I'm done. Woohoo! I guess the only problem will be if the meals turn out to be not very good. Or if certain Members of the Family do not like them. To which the solutions will be Peanut Butter and Jelly, which can be found on the second shelf of the pantry and the top shelf of the refrigerator, respectively.

What's definitely NOT for dinner is the item featured above. I'm never going to win an award for nutritional soundness but I long ago vowed never to give my children Lunchables, which seem to have negative nutritional value. (Plus I had one once and it was abysmally bad.) But they've reached a new low with this "Mess with your Mouth" crap. Sprinkle this processed chicken stuff with sour candy powder! Why? Mallory saw a commercial for these things and immediately desired them. I ignored her. Then we saw them at the store (while buying hot dogs, I admit shamefacedly, BUT! they were all-beef hot dogs with no byproducts!) and asked for them again. "Mallory, these are disgusting," I said. "You know what this is? It's a cold chicken nugget that you dip in sour powder. Does that sound good to you?" She admitted that no, it did not. "The commercials you saw want kids to think these are really good, but they're not. They're really horrible," I said. She pondered for a moment and said, "Why do they DO that to kids?"

Good question.

ART for the Day
Phoebe is clearly a genius. Last night she pointed to the letter "B" on her Learn-n-Play (or Kick-n-Learn or Something-n-Something) Piano and said, "Buh!"

The fact that she calls almost everything else "Buh" is immaterial. She'll be writing this blog within a few weeks, mark my words.




A very large bouncy house now resides behind my in-law's house. My father-in-law (let's call him Bob, because that's his name) bought it at the flea market last weekend. The girls, needless to say, love it. They've been bouncing all week (well, except when hindered by the rain). I love it too because now we have an excellent Birthday Party attraction at our disposal. And if I play my cards right we can have the Bouncy Birthday Parties at my inlaw's and I won't even have to clean my house!

(If I put as much effort into cleaning my house as I do into thinking of ways to avoid cleaning my house...well, my house would be clean.)

I worry that my girls are terribly spoiled. Is it right that they have their very own carnival-sized bouncy house? Not to mention the bikes, trikes, and scooters; the Barbies, the princess figurines, and the baby dolls; the train sets, the magic wands, the Magnadoodles...my kids have enough stuff for twelve children. (Which explains the messy house.) When I was growing up, I got new toys at Christmas and on my birthday, and that was just about it. (As far as I recall. We did get things like paper dolls and coloring books and real books more often than that.) Then again, we grew up in a small town with only a grocery store and a drug store. It makes a difference when you do most of your grocery shopping at Super Target, with the toy aisle just a few steps away from the ice cream...I mean the fruits and vegetables. I do my best to limit the toy-buying but sometimes it's hard.

It's also hard for me to concentrate on this right now because it's Thursday afternoon and I'm off tomorrow and I just want to leave! Just pretend that I made lots of profound points about consumerism and raising children to be happy with what they've got and all that stuff. And enjoy your weekend!

ART for the Day
If she happens to be up when I take a shower in the morning, Phoebe hangs around in the bathroom with me...playing in the trash, dropping toys into the bathtub, etc. As soon as I turn the water off she stops whatever she's doing and runs to bring me a towel. Who needs privacy when you can have your own little personal valet! Posted by Picasa


Sweet nothings


Last night Mallory whispered in my ear, "Mommy, you are my very best friend ever."

I hugged her and whispered back, "You're my best friend too."

She then looked very serious and said, "But when you were a little tiny baby and I was a little tiny baby I was sad because you couldn't be my mommy because you were so little."

I took a moment to untangle this, then tried to explain: "But when I was a little baby, you weren't even born yet."

"Oh." She didn't seem convinced. It reminded me of the weeks following Phoebe's birth, when, any time Mallory found herself alone in a room, she'd shout, "I'm all by myself in here!" During this time, for some reason I mentioned our wedding and Mallory asked if she'd been there. I said no, and she burst into tears and said, "But I must've been sad being all by myself!"

But back to last night. I told her, "You weren't born yet, but the whole time I was growing up, I wished that someday I would have a little girl like you. And now I do!"

"You wished for ME?" she asked.

"Yes, and my wish came true!"

Then, because things were getting entirely too sweet, Mallory said, "You sure didn't wish for Phoebe, did you?"

ART for the Day

I've entirely forgotten this feature of my blog, which is greatly ironic. But here's something: Mallory used to call the doorbell the dingbell, as in "I want to go ring the neighbor's dingbell." Now she has the noun right but not the verb; now she says, "I want to go ringding the doorbell." Ha!

Oh, and this one is starring my sweet nephew Rhett. It was a few days after Christmas, 2003, and his mom was telling him that it was time for them to leave Grandmom and Granddad's house and go back home. Rhett did not want to go at all and kept trying to convince Aimee they should stay. Finally he put his hands on her face and said very sternly, "Mommy. Listen to my eyes!"

As for the picture above...it's just evidence, as if evidence were needed, that 4-year-olds are weird. And also that I should mop more often. Posted by Picasa


About Zack

Yesterday was the anniversary of our dog's passing, but there was no way I was going to post not-really-a-tribute to not-really-a-bright-dog on 9/11. So here it is today instead.

Zack was, no bones about it, an annoying dog. We "rescued" him from a shelter so have no way of knowing if he was just born irritating or if Bad Things happened to him in his first home that made him so. He barked a lot, he followed me absolutely everywhere I went, he jumped up on counters and stole the food thereon, he had a pathological need to steal and eat kleenexes, he had to be carried bodily into the vet's office for every appointment. He did have one endearing trait -- if you scratched him on just the right spot on his neck, he'd go into a deep trance. Mostly he was a nuisance. We loved him, as people do love even annoying dogs, but I'm not going to pretend that he was the Best Dog Ever because he just wasn't.

The Sunday afternoon he died, I was sitting in the living room, no doubt feeding the baby and watching Noggin, which is how I had spent the previous nine weeks of my life. Suddenly I heard all the neighborhood dogs break into a howl. This happens fairly frequently, but usually only in the evening or the middle of the night, so I wondered what was up. About an hour later I went to call our dogs into the house and realized that Zack was dead. (I made Chris go out and confirm it. And Chris had to deal with taking Zack's body away, too. Thank you Chris, I know that wasn't fun.) I only remembered the howling dogs a few hours later. Coincidence? All of Zack's comrades announcing his ascent? I leave it to you to decide.

All things considered, we were glad that Zack had passed away quickly and quietly and in his favorite spot in the backyard instead of having some dread illness that would have dragged on for months. We did have him autopsied (although I think it's called a necropsy for dogs) but it was inconclusive, so we still don't know what happened.

Adding to the pall cast by his death was the fact that my maternity leave ended the very next day. I schlepped to the office and was dealing with a backlog of emails when the vet called and gave me the number of a pet crematorium, should I want Zack's remains returned to us. I called the crematorium -- a company called Faithful Friends -- and here's where the story might get entertaining. "I need to arrange for the cremation of my dog," I said, and the man on the phone said, "I'm so sorry for your loss. What can you tell me about your baby?"

I had a moment of complete cognitive dissonance because, as I'd said, I'd just returned from maternity leave and was of course worrying obsessively about Phoebe. I stared at the phone and wondered how on earth this cremater of dogs knew that I'd just left my baby behind for the very first time and how I was so so sad and how she wouldn't take a bottle and she'd probably be just starved by the time I got home, and then I realized he meant Zack. By "my baby" he meant my dog. So I collected myself and answered his questions and arranged for Zack's final, um, journey.

A week later he called me and said that Zack was...done. I said that I could come pick him up on Friday. I added, "I may have my 3-year-old daughter with me...will she be able to see anything that may upset her?" Because, you see, I had never been to a pet crematorium before and I wasn't clear as to the set up. "Oh no," he said. "It's just a storefront."

"Oh that's fine then," I said.

"We do all the cremating in the back," he said.

"All right," I said, not really needing more details.

"In fact, my 3-year-old daughter comes to work with me all the time!" he said jovially.

"Oh how nice," I lied.

On Friday I picked Mallory up from preschool and set off for Faithful Friends. We had, naturally, told her that Zack had died, and she had been sad for about ten minutes. I did not, also naturally, intend on telling her what had happened to Zack's body, so I just told her that we had to run an errand. "What kind of errand?" she asked. "Oh, I just need to pick up a package," I said. "What kind of package?" she asked. "Oh, just something," I said. "Is it for me?" she asked. "No, no, it's for me," I said. "But what is it?" she asked, and on and on and on and why are children always curious at precisely the worst times?

We got to the crematorium -- which was just a brick building with nothing sinister-looking about it -- and went inside the office. Mr. Friends greeted us and offered his condolences. I was trying really really hard to not mention "dog" or "death" or "Zack" or "ashes" because of Miss Little Pitcher. We sat down at his desk and conversed. He told Mallory that his daughter's birthday was the next day. Mallory asked if there was to be cake. I wondered if the daughter was lurking amongst the memorials in the showroom. Then Mr. Friends discreetly slid an invoice across the desk towards me. I equally discreetly wrote him a check (the going rate for cremating a 60-pound dog? $100). He said that attached to the invoice was a copy of "The Rainbow Bridge," but he suggested that I save it for later because it was a real tear-jerker. I said that I was familiar with the work, thank you. Then, as Mallory hung over my shoulder and wanted to know what we were talking about, Mr. Friends slid a velvet-encased box across the desk and said, "And here is Zack."

"Okay then!" I said loudly, standing up and pushing Mallory behind me. I don't know how it was that she didn't hear him say it, but she was luckily oblivious. I took the box, grabbed my purse, picked up Phoebe's carseat, grabbed Mallory's hand, and tried to beat a hasty retreat out of there. Unfortunately I didn't have any free hands to open the door. Mr. Clueless stood up and hovered around and said -- because obviously the panic wasn't showing on my face -- "Will you let me carry Zack to the car for you?"

My god! Shut up, dude! "Yes that's fine," I said, dragging my children to the parking lot. I opened the car door and stowed and buckled and seat-belted and I was just daring the guy (in my head) to mention my dead dog -- nay, the ashes of my dead dog -- in front of my little girl again. Because then I could have...well, I don't know what I could have done. I'm not one to, you know, beat people senseless or even give them a good tongue-lashing. I'm not even good at icy stares. But I woulda done something! Luckily for him and us, he didn't mention Zack again. I took the box and thanked him and off we went and Mallory never knew what had happened. And Zack now rests on a shelf in our garage. We've talked about burying the box in the yard and planting a nice tree or bush in the spot but we're not very good at growing things so that wouldn't be much of a tribute.

For months afterward Mallory would suddenly turn out her lip and say, "I'm really sad because Zack is dead." We got her an excellent book, Dog Heaven, which she asked to read every night for about three weeks. I defy anyone, anyone, to read that book without getting a little choked up, much less someone who just lost a dog that was fluffy and white like the dog in the pictures. By the end of the three weeks I could almost read this line, the best line, without crying: "Every dog becomes a good dog in Dog Heaven." For Zack's sake I hope that is true.


Oh, him

Well of course Phoebe can say "Dada." I didn't include that in the list because it just seemed so obvious, so hardly worth mentioning. In point of fact "Dada" was her very first word (well, it was either that or "dog.") So there!

My husband (Chris) pointed out to me that the only times I've mentioned him were to say that a) he eats Frosted Flakes and b) he lost his job. I said, "Yeah, so?"

But of course he is more than a sugary-cereal-eating, job-losing schmo. I haven't mentioned him yet because a) I've only written what, three whole posts anyway and b) I kind of think of him the way I do my right arm. Do I need to tell you people that my right arm is an essential part of my being? Do I need to tell you that I rely on my right arm for everything I do? Do I need to tell you that I would be absolutely lost without my right arm? No, I didn't think so. And so it is with Chris. (I can tell you now that he will be utterly unimpressed by this analogy and so I'll add for his benefit that yes, I would much rather be an amputee than a widow.)

I met Chris in a particularly unhappy point in my life. I was thousands of miles from home, working on a Master's degree that I'd already decided I didn't really want. I had Friends I Studied With and Friends I Worked in the Library With but no social life to speak of. The highlight of my week was Must-See-TV Thursday nights. I was a sad sack. But then there was Chris, and by about the third time I met him I'd decided that I would probably end up marrying him (and no, dear, by "end up" I don't mean that I was "settling," I just mean that I envisioned a future with you and it pleased me), and one night we spent about an hour trading Simpsons' quotes back and forth and laughing hysterically and I made him dinner (which became apparently the talk of my hometown) and he drove through a blizzard to pick me up from the airport that Christmas and now we've been married for eight years. And yes a whole lot of other stuff happened in there too. The salient point is that since I've met him, I've been happy. I'm a bit shy and socially awkward but I've always felt comfortable around Chris. He's like home. He's my best friend. And he's had a really rough year and I'm very proud of him for coming through to the other side. He's a great father to our girls and makes them laugh like no one else can. He teaches high school students and does things that makes them say "Oh, snap!" which I believe means that he impresses them, which in turn impresses me because I can't think of anything more terrifying than being around a bunch of teenagers all day. He's an excellent artist and he has pretty blue eyes and he's good with the comebacks. And I could go on but you get the idea. So there's my paean to my right arm.

Last Thursday Mallory came home from school with a sticker of the number 3 on her shirt. When questioned, she said that she got it because she was very good that day. "But why a 3?" we asked. "Because I'm special," she said.

Last night I got an class newsletter via email from her teacher, in which she explained that she had divided the class into three groups for ease of rotating them through the "centers." So Mallory's "3" just meant...that she got to do Science on Thursday. Special, indeed. I need to start questioning Mallory's assertions the way she does ours when we say something she's not sure about: "Are you fibbing or are you joking or are you teasing?"

I have the absolute best little sister and brother-in-law in the world. I love you both and I'll see you in 72 days!


To think that last year she was only 2 months old!


This post is about my funny fourteen-month-old daughter.

Phoebe loves to talk on the phone (see photo). She jabbers on and on and will occasionally even say something that resembles "okay" or "all right" or "who is it." She will talk for a minute, then frown, then break into her Webster-laugh. She gestures wildly, then talks some more. She almost always walks around in a little circle while she talks. (Clearly she is used to watching me wander around the house doing little chores while I talk on the phone.)

Phoebe can say the following words:

Ball, baby, book (these all sound the same but it's in the context)
Fish (for actual fish and the crackers)
Mama (although it's usually ma-ma-ma-ma and only when she's distressed)
Papa (for Grandpa, and she always whispers this for some reason)
Cheese (the other night I put her in her highchair and gave her some string cheese. She'd pick up a piece, say "Cheese!", drop it on the floor, and say "Dog!" as Finn scrambled to retrieve it.)
Cookie (meaning the monster)
Bird (for Big Bird)
Gogo (Elmo -- are we seeing a theme here?)

But her best word, my most favorite word, is "Yeah." Phoebe says the most heartfelt "yeah" in the world. It's more like "eeeeyeeaaahh," drawled out like a true Southern girl, and it's always accompanied by a big beaming grin. Even when she's crying! In the midst of a tantrum, I'll say, "Phoebe, do you want your cup?" and through her tears she'll smile and say, "eeeyeaaah!" and then resume crying. It's adorable.

Phoebe likes to dash across the room and then fall into a heap onto a pile of cushions. The other day I was up on Mallory's top bunk changing the sheets, and glanced down and discovered Phoebe on the third rung of the ladder. She dances by stomping her right foot on the floor and wiggling her hips. She blows kisses and claps whenever she hears the ABC song, and sings along with the Elmo tape we play in the car. If I'm sitting on the floor, she'll run over to me and push me on the chest and then giggle wildly when I fall over. She loves to wrestle with Mallory and to ride in her stroller. She'll take two "guys" (action figures, Barbies, whatever's handy) and make them have little conversations. She likes to watch our fish and to climb on our dog. She loves strawberries, Rice Chex, and tomatoes (not all at once). She can unfortunately scream just as loudly as her older sister. She bites when thwarted. She has perfectly straight hair and big blue eyes and very chubby thighs. If she sleeps for only 30 seconds past 5:00 on any given day, she'll be up until midnight that night. She has never (never!) slept through the night.

I can't wait to see what she'll learn next. Posted by Picasa


First Day of School!


Mallory started preschool today, hooray! You can tell by her shiny white sneakers. And Phoebe has her first Parent's Morning Out session tomorrow (baby school, we call it) so she got to be in the picture too. Phoebe's jacket was necessary because it's pouring rain and I have to haul her along while I walk Mallory into her class. Clearly I need to remember to brush my children's hair before taking photographs.

Mallory met her teachers last week and obviously they made a great impression on her. Last night she said, "I have a great idea. Whenever I need Ms Mary's help I'm just going to yell, 'Hey Redhair! Redhair!'" I told her that she should instead call the woman "Ms Mary" and she was crushed.

When we got to school Mallory's lip started to tremble and her eyes filled with tears. But she didn't cry. She hugged me and went to play in the "Domestic Area" with the toy kitchen. On the one hand I was proud of her for not crying. On the other hand it made me sad because being able to control her tears is a sure sign that she's growing up.

I tried to let Phoebe walk by herself as we exited the building and it took about thirty-seven minutes to get back to the car, what with the exploring and the stumbling and the veering off into the boy's bathroom and all. She's too heavy to carry for long distances and too stubborn to hold my hand so I guess we're just going to have to leave a bit earlier. Posted by Picasa




As you can see, one of our Bradford pear trees was struck by lightning a few weeks ago. And last nigt the wind howled and the rains came down as Ernesto passed through. (No damage.) And it's supposed to rain all weekend here.

Naturally this all makes me think of Katrina. Like our President, I was unaware of how bad things were in Louisiana and Mississippi until several days after the storm went through. My excuse is that I had a 7-week-old baby and a 3-year-old and was spending all my time feeding the baby or watching Grease or Noggin with the 3-year-old. Once I realized what was going on, I was, like everyone else, shocked and saddened and absolutely horrified that such suffering was happening in this country, just a few states away from me.

And because I did have a new baby, I was especially affected by the images of the children stuck at the Convention Center and the Superdome -- those poor hot, sweaty, listless babies. I couldn't stop thinking about what I would do if I was in such a situation with my kids. Phoebe would be okay as long as I was okay, because she was breastfeeding, but what about Mallory? How could I explain to her that I had no food or water to give her even though she was so terribly hungry and thirsty? What could I do to make her feel better? What would it be like to be in a position where you could do nothing to help your child -- when you honestly didn't know if you could keep your child alive? Argh, I'm getting teary just thinking about it, and in a way I feel that I have no business even speculating about it because no matter how bad I imagine it must have been, I'm sure the actual experience was a million times worse.

Anyway, it was certainly depressing, and it was in fact the beginning of a depressing time in our household. My maternity leave was ending, and I was so sad about having to leave my girls behind again. I was worried because Phoebe wouldn't take a bottle and wouldn't sleep anywhere but on my lap. I was afraid my inlaws wouldn't enjoy taking care of both girls at once. I was going to miss our long lazy days together. Then, the day before I went back to work, one of our dogs died. He was the second-favorite dog in the house (out of two) but it was still a shock and still hard to deal with. And the very day I went back, Chris found out that he was in danger of losing his job, and four very tense and miserable weeks later, he was in fact let go.

So it was not all fun and games in our household for several months. But we made it through and now Chris is working again and the girls are growing and thriving and it's much easier only having one dog and life goes on. And as a matter of fact I was able to remain pretty upbeat in spite of everything. A few months ago I read an article that explains why. Apparently everyone has an inborn "set point" of happiness, and life circumstances can't do much to push you away from that point. So if you're a generally happy person -- say, a 7 out of 10 -- and you're in a car crash and become a paraplegic, you may have a few bad months but eventually you'll get back to being a 7 most days. And if you're a generally unhappy person -- say a 3 -- and win a gajillion bucks in the Powerball, you may have a few good months but eventually you'll be miserable again. I guess this may be bad news for the constitutionally unhappy people but it's good news for me -- I think I'm probably a 6. Not that I don't have my bad days, and there have been times when I've had my bad weeks or months -- but I'm generally just pretty satisfied.

Of course I also have moments of "10-ness" which I think probably contribute to being able to stay at a 6. Recent ones...being on vacation with my family in Virginia, and looking around and realizing that almost all the people I love best in the world were right there in the room with me (except my brother and his son, who were missed). And a few weeks ago, on a Saturday afternoon in our living room, I was picking up all the scattered toys, Mallory and Phoebe were scattering more toys, Chris was eating Frosted Flakes and watching Vh1, and "Come on Eileen" came on and all four of us stopped what we were doing and started dancing around the living room together. Three-and-a-half minutes of pure joy. Minutes like those make life just perfect, no matter what storms may come. Posted by Picasa