Chris ran right upstairs last night when he heard Mallory shout, "Daddy, Daddy! I really need your help!"

When he came down a few minutes later, I asked what the problem was. He said, "Mallory was trying to teach Phoebe how to be a grown-up, and Phoebe wasn't learning right."

Perhaps Phoebe just didn't have a very qualified teacher.


Merry Christmas to Joey, too!

Scene: After the Christmas pageant.

Me: You did great, Mallory, we're proud of you!

Mallory: What was your favorite part?

Me: Hmm. I liked the "Whatcha Gonna Call That Baby?" song.

Chris: I liked that one too.

Me: But I also liked "Joy to the World."

Mallory: Joey in the world? What's that?

Me: No, joy to the world, the song you just sang.

Mallory: Oh yeah.

Me: That's one of my favorite songs.

Phoebe: A favorite song is a song that's your favorite and you like it and you sing.


Phoebe: And you dance.

Mallory, before the show, in front of our haphazardly decorated Christmas tree. Phoebe declined to be photographed.

All I was able to photograph of the event itself:

Phoebe, objecting to the camera's flash:

Now she closes her eyes before I snap every picture. Sigh.

But she's cute anyway! And so is Mallory! And their dresses match!

We're thinking Arby's:

Okay, that's it!

Recently read: The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife. Review over there. ----->


Much Going On, Little Time to Write

1. Mallory lost two teeth last week, if by "lost" you mean "yanked out by dentist when barely loose because of impending arrival of permanent teeth at odd angles". It was a bit traumatic, actually, but she probably got over it before I did. She displayed a Mallory-like misunderstanding of the Tooth Fairy that night when she said, "I need to leave something really nice in my pillow for the Tooth Fairy!" I said, "No, wait, the Tooth Fairy brings something for you." She said, "Oh...I hope it's M&M's!" I said, "Probably not. She usually brings money." She said, "Oh. Money," because she's 6 and what is money to her? But she was suitably impressed the next morning to find two dollars in her little pillow.

2. What Mallory learned about phonics last week: "When two letters go a-walking, the first one does the talking."

3. What's annoying: Needing 32 Christmas cards when the ones you like are sold in sets of 25. To those 7 people who didn't get a card this year: Merry Christmas! Maybe next year you'll move up on to the A list.

4. Also annoying: Buying a huge box of fabric softener sheets because you hate, hate, hate static cling...and finding out after one dryer cycle that the scent gives you a headache. Anyone need 299 dryer sheets?

5. Nice: When someone asks your 2-year-old what she wants from Santa and she answers with something you actually got her! That's great parenting, there. (It's a Wubbzy toy, if you're curious. What is Wubbzy? Well, since most of the people who read this blog will be there on Christmas morning, you'll find out then!)

6. Not nice: "Mallory hit me!" "Well Phoebe pushed me!" "Mallory hit me!" "But Phoebe pushed me!" "Mallory hit me!" And so on.

7. Very nice: Going to visit friends and being able to send all the kids, even Phoebe, to the basement to play. Woohoo!

8. Irritating: Second-guessing myself about our travel plans for Christmas. There are certain aspects that are less than ideal (very late arrival, sister leaving earlier than I'd thought) and I keep thinking "what if I'd just..." but the fact is, I bought the tickets that I could afford and that's just how it is. I need to let it go. Breathe in. Breathe out.

9. I haven't made any Christmas cookies this year and I probably won't at this point. And I only put about a quarter of the ornaments on the tree and I didn't get out the Santa figurines or the nativity set. I feel a bit lame about that but it's hard to make the effort on years that we travel.

10. Mallory's school Christmas program is tonight. One of her school friends has a birthday party this afternoon. What were THOSE parents thinking?

11. The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to here.

12. Or, even better, The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.



Last month I joined Curves, the gym where women change their lives 30 minutes at a time (according to the website, at least)! I've always disliked exercise, but the Curves set-up I can handle. It's a series of 12 resistance machines, each working a separate group of muscles; you spend 30 seconds on each machine interspersed with a 30-second "recovery" period in which you jog in place or dance around if you're not self-conscious. Anyway, I can handle just about anything for 30 seconds, so it's not a bad workout and my goal is to make it there three times a week.

I was weighed and measured the day I joined, and then again the day before yesterday on my one-month anniversary. And I've lost 4.5 inches! It's not noticeable, because it's an inch from my waist and half an inch from each leg and a quarter inch from my biceps and so forth, but it's nice to know that it's actually having an effect. Especially since I haven't changed my eating habits at all (what's the point, until January anyway)? Mostly I'm just pleased with myself for sticking with it.


But it's okay to brag about your kids

A few nights ago I was reading Mallory a book about a trio of ballerinas. There was Shy Di, who was, well, shy. There was Dizzy Izzy, who couldn't tell her left foot from her right. Then there was Showy Zoey, who was far too proud for the other's liking.

"What's proud?" Mallory asked.

"Proud is when...you feel good about yourself because you did something really well, or when you learn how to do something really hard," I said. "And it's okay to feel proud of yourself, but it's not okay to brag."

"What's brag?"

"Brag is when you talk too much about how good you are. It's okay to say, 'I learned how to write my letters!' But it's not okay to say, 'I can write my letters better than you.'"

"Yeah, or you can say, 'I can write my letters, and so can you!'" Mallory said.

And I was filled with pride for her, for getting it, for showing that deep down, and no matter how awful she acts sometimes, she really is turning out to be good people.

In the "good to know" category -- The first bullet point on the list of instructions for Mallory's new scooter was:

This is not a toy! This is an item for fun and activity.

Recently Read has been updated. Look right!


Like Chocolate? Grab a Pen*

Best cookies ever.

Chunky Chocolate Gobs**

3/4 c. unsalted butter, softened
1/3 c. butter-flavored shortening***
1 c. granulated sugar
2/3 c. firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 c. all-purpose flour
2/3 c. unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 c. Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped (16 cookies)
3 1.75 oz Mounds bars, chilled and chopped
1 c. semisweet chocolate morsels

Beat butter and shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugars, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, beating until blended.

Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Stir in cookies, candy bars, and chocolate morsels. Chill dough for 30 minutes.

Drop dough by 1/4 cupfuls 2" apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or until barely set. Cool on baking sheets 10 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Yield: about 2.5 dozen.****

*Or, use your printer!

**With the worst name.

***I used regular shortening and I swoon to think that these would be even better with butter-flavored. I did have butter-flavored, but apparently it had been in my pantry for a loooong time, because it was rancid. Do you know how bad rancid butter-flavored shortening smells? Very bad. Also it's sticky, as in leave-a-gross-residue-on-your-finger-sticky, so don't touch it.

****Enjoy! Save some for Santa, he'll like them too.



You know you've thrown a good party when, after the last guest has left, your daughter turns to you and says, "Can we do that all over again?"

Mostly, there was a newly-6-year-old little girl having a good time, and a mom who was very proud of the way she was taking turns, and making sure her friends were having fun, and saying not just "Thank you" but "What a nice present you gave me!" There were memories of this little girl being born, of the way she was so quiet and alert and interested in everything in the delivery room, and more memories of birthdays past: A one-year-old holding up one cake-smeared finger on her first birthday; a two-year-old hugging a pink plush pig; a three-year-old in pigtails demanding a Dragon Tales cake; a four-year-old dressed up like a princess; a five-year-old shouting, "I'm FIVE!" the minute she woke up. Now she's six, and she's one-third of the way grown up, and I've loved every minute of it -- 3,153,600 minutes, to be exact, as of 7:28 p.m. December 2.

Her best present, incidentally, was her American Girl baby doll, from Grandmom and her aunts:

Phoebe likes it too, which is unfortunate, because Mallory's not sharing. Phoebe will therefore pick up another doll, regard it for a moment, then throw it down and say, "I don't like this doll! She's not pretty." I think it is a good thing after all that Santa is bringing a new doll for Phoebe...

(I will probably take most of these pictures down tomorrow because I don't know if the parents of the other girls would want them posted...so take a good look while you can!)


Things You May Not Have Known

The scene: Last night, bedtime.

Phoebe: Mommy, are there monsters?

Me: No, no monsters.

Pho: There are no blue monsters to scare me?

Me: No, there are no monsters here at all.

Mallory: Phoebe, monsters aren't real. They're like vampires and unicorns and other things that aren't real.

Pho: Oh!

Mal: Mommy, what other things aren't real?

Me: Um, dragons.

Mal: Yeah. What else?

Me: Dinosaurs.

Mal: Dinosaurs are real!

Me: Well, you're right. They used to be real, but there are no live dinosaurs now.

Mal: I know what happened to them.

Me: You do?

Mal: Yeah! A big planet came and crushed them and they all ran away because they were scared and they died.

Me: Hm.

Mal: Is that right?

Me: No one knows for sure, but yes, many people believe that an asteroid, which is a big big big big rock from outer space, crashed into the earth and changed the weather so much that the dinosaur's food couldn't grow, and so the dinosaurs died.

Mal: Yeah, because if you don't have any food for a long long time, you die.

Me: Yes.

Pho: The dinosaurs didn't have any pancakes?

Me: No, no pancakes.

Pho: The dinosaurs didn't have any awfuls?

Me: No, no waffles.

Pho: The dinosaurs didn't have any French toast?

Mal: Phoebe, you're being silly. Mommy, what other animals aren't real?

Me: Um, woolly mammoths.

Mal: What else?

Me: Sabre-toothed tigers.

Mal: Oh yeah, they have really big sharp teeth. If they bite you, they will crush your bones.

Me: Uh huh.

Mal: Unless they're in a cage. Mommy, it's a good thing that all these really mean animals are dead, right? Is that why God let them all die, so they wouldn't be here to scare us?

Me: Well --

Mal: But if God wanted to, he could wish at them really hard and then they'd pop right up and be alive. And that would be scary! We might all be dead. Guess what? Ben in my class, his grandparents died before he was born! He never even saw them.

Me: That's too bad.

Mal:Yeah, and you know my friend Anna? Her mother died. And she has a baby sister, and they lived with their grandparents, but then one of those lions with the sharp teeth came, and crushed their bones and they died. So Anna has to take care of her sister now and they have to ride the school bus.


Mal: School buses are very dangerous.

Pho: Where's the lion?

Me: There's no lion. The only creatures in this house are you, me, Mallory, Daddy, and Finn.

Pho: Oh!

Mal: We're not creatures, we're people.

Me: All right.

Mal: Good night, Mommy.

Me: Good night.

Mal: I love you.

Pho: I love you too!

Me: I love you both.

Pho: Mommy, are there any blue monsters?


Yesterday afternoon Phoebe announced to my mother-in-law that she needed a clean diaper. Claudia said, "You know Phoebe, it's about time you started going on the potty. I have a potty chair for you. Where would you like me to put it so you can find it every time you need to go potty?"

Phoebe said, "On my butt!"


What Really Happened

My mom’s comment to yesterday’s post was that I have a good memory. To which I respond: How could a kid not remember that? But the truth is, I fudged the whole thing a bit for the sake of brevity. This is the true – and really not all that much more interesting – version, which may really make my mom marvel at my memory.

Christmas Day 1977 fell on a Sunday, and because my parents were evidently daunted by the prospect of getting four kids (8, 5, 3-month-old twins) up, Santa Claused, dressed, breakfasted, and out the door for services at my Grandma’s church, 30 miles away, they requested of Santa Claus that he visit us a day early. So I actually lost my tooth on December 23. On Christmas Eve morning, I woke up, found the Tooth Fairy’s offering, was suitably delighted, and trotted off down the hall to the bathroom. Moments later I heard my older sister shout, “Krista, guess who came last night?”

“The Tooth Fairy, I know, duh,” I replied. (Oh wait. That’s what my 5-year-old daughter would say, but I was raised right and was probably much more polite.)

“No, guess who else came!” Jana said, and then answered her own self: “Santa Claus! He came early!”

And that’s when I realized that Santa and the Tooth Fairy had both been in my very house on the very same night.

You’d think that I’d also remember when I realized that Santa Claus wasn’t “real,” but I don’t. According to family lore, it was when I was 8; my older sister came home distressed one day because her crotchety 4th-grade teacher had announced to the class that any one of them who still believed in Santa was a big fool. Apparently I already had an inkling, or didn’t care one way or the other (hey, presents are presents no matter who brings them), because I just don’t recall being the least bit distressed myself. We still had to pretend to believe, for many many years, for the sake of my little brother and sister. For me, it was just as fun to find opportune moments to sneak a peek in my parent’s closet, where the goods were hidden (Sorry, Mom!), as it was to believe in Santa.

We have some friends who don’t “do” Santa with their kids because they feel it constitutes a lie, and lying is, obviously, wrong. I guess if I’d ever known a kid who was really, really, truly and for all time emotionally traumatized by “the lie” I’d agree. I see Santa as more of a “let’s pretend” than a lie, though, and, as I said, since the end result is about wish-fulfillment and making your kids happy on Christmas morning, I don't see the harm. I do try to avoid the “Santa’s watching you” line because to me it WOULD be a lie to tell my kid that they’re getting nothing from Santa due to some misbehavior. (Although my brother did once get a jar of tears from Santa. Ha! Poor Casey.) Plus my kids never react the way they’re supposed to in these situations. Around this time three years ago, Mallory was acting up and I told her to watch it or she’d get a lump of coal in her stocking. “Ooo, what’s coal?” she asked. “It’s a rock,” I said, and for the entire Advent season she told very excitedly told everyone she met – teachers, friends, Target cashiers – that “Santa’s bringing me a rock!”

Plus, on a deeper level, I don’t want my kids equating “being good” with getting lots of presents because I don’t want them to ever think that children who are less fortunate than they are don’t get much because they’re “bad.” My mother-in-law gets around this one by saying that parents have to pay Santa for the toys he brings; I don’t know if I’ll go that far, but I do want Mallory and Phoebe to understand, eventually, that they have magical Christmas mornings not because of a fat man in a red suit, but because their parents are lucky enough to have good jobs and enough extra money to make it so. If Chris and I do our jobs right – as our parents did before us -- each year they’ll understand a little bit better what’s appropriate to ask for (a board game and a Barbie doll, yes; a trampoline and a pony, no), and that each gift is something to be appreciated, and that giving to others is important, too. And I hope they grow up and have just as much fun playing Santa with my grandkids as I am having now.

(I wish I had more time to spend on this because I feel that I could be much more eloquent than I have been. The words, they are not coming out the way I want them to today. Ho ho ho anyway!)


Worlds Collide

When I was 5-almost-6, I lost a tooth on Christmas Eve. And because my parents are awesome, yes, I had both a quarter under my pillow AND presents under the tree the next morning. When you're 5-almost-6, it just doesn't get any better than that.

I wonder if Santa shared the cookies with the Tooth Fairy?


The tension builds...

...as we start the countdown to Mallory's Sixth Birthday Celebration. This Saturday, an unknown number of little girls (do people not understand what RSVP means?) will converge upon my house for an Event which will include a Craft (yes, me, organizing a craft, what was I thinking?), a Tea Party (with real tea! and hot chocolate for those who don't like tea! and lemonade for those who don't like either!), and Cake. Yikes! I'm not sure if I'm up for this. My biggest dilemma is -- are the parents going to stay? Because they don't have to and in fact I'd prefer that they don't because X number of little girls plus X number of their mothers times the number of my chairs in my house equals not enough. But some of these moms don't really know me -- I mean, all they know about me is that I'm Mallory's mom, so maybe they won't feel comfortable dropping off their kid and leaving. I'm not sure what to do about that although it would help if they would CALL ME AND TELL ME IF THEIR KID IS COMING OR NOT IN THE FIRST PLACE.

I'm a bit on edge about it, actually.

But it will all be fine, I'm sure. And, as Phoebe said just the other day, "Everyone likes birthdays!"



Last night Mallory brought me a baby doll and said, "Ma'am, would you mind babysitting my daughter for a little while? Her name is Sarah and she's 2 months old."

"Certainly," I said.

"Thank you. I have a few more, wait right here." She subsequently brought me Elizabeth, Melissa, Molly, Mae, Snow White, Belle, Malilla, Zella, and another Sarah. The children, she explained, ranged from aged 1 month to 4 years and some of them were twins.

"That's a lot of children," I said.

"Yes, and I need you to babysit for me because I have to fly to Pennsylvania on an airplane to pick up my other daughter, Nyah." She added, "I only have girl children."

"Another daughter! Wow, you must be very busy with all these kids," I said.

She nodded, and sighed heavily. "I am very tired, all the days."

I am so thankful for my children. I am even more thankful that there are only two of them.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Who Were Jeannette and Isabella and why did they need a torch?

I need me some new Christmas music. I've been listening to the same stuff for about ten years now, and it's all stuff that was already kind of outdated, like, um, the Oak Ridge Boys and the Osmonds. (Now I'm all embarrassed for myself.)

I like Christmas music that's a bit zippy -- the Rat Pack Christmas album is good, for example (Chris is a Rat Pack fan). I bought Mallory the "Olivia Newton John Christmas Album" last week and Olivia's still got some pipes but wow, all the songs are really slow and dull. I like carols and non-secular songs equally, all other things considered.

"White Christmas" is my least favorite song.

So, any suggestions for me?

(Is my post title too obscure?)



When Phoebe was a baby I made up the Fee-fi-Phoebe song for her. It was no great feat of composition, I just improvised the lyrics of what is already a nonsense song -- the Fee-fi-fiddli-i-oh section of I've Been Working on the Railroad/Someone's in the Kitchen with Dinah. (Are those supposed to be two separate songs? I've never quite understood their relationship.) Thus:

Fee fi Phoebe i oh
Fee fi Phoebe i oh oh oh oh
Fee fi Phoebe i oh
Phoebe I love you so!

I sang it quite a bit when she was an infant, but she was never the type of kid who liked to be sung or rocked to sleep, so after a while it faded away. I revived during the great Tantrum Week of 2007 (the tantrums really did only last a week, go figure), and now Phoebe asks me to sing it to her, or can be heard singing it to herself.

The adorable part is that after I sing the last line, "Phoebe I love you so," Phoebe chimes in with, "Much!"

And it's true.

I sang to Mallory a lot; it was part of our bedtime ritual for many, many months. I always sang the same three songs: "I Don't Want to Live on the Moon" (from Sesame Street), "The Rainbow Connection", and Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Dreamland". I wonder if she remembers that: snuggled on my lap, rocking in the glider, being sung to sleep. Probably not. Maybe it's enough that I remember it.

Phoebe is a great singer; she can approximate the words for all of the songs we regularly play on the ipod while driving to school. For example, there's a Drake Bell song, one of Mallory's favorite, that goes: "Baby, give me a sign, give me a reason, make up your mind." Phoebe sings:

"Baby, give me a sign, give me a pizza, make up your mind."

I'd rather have a pizza too.



The other day Mallory came home from school and said that she hadn't gotten her hot lunch. The teacher said she wasn't on the list, so sorry, and poor Mallory was hungry all day long. Chris and I were all outraged and I stormed into the principal's office the next morning demanding why Mallory hadn't been fed and why no one had notified me of the problem. (Well, if you know me at all, you'll know that storming and demanding are not things that I do. I inquired without smiling. Take that!) The school secretary was concerned and promised to investigate and the upshot of it all was that Mallory lied. She completely lied. She did get her lunch, she ate some of it, but she was really hungry when she got home from school and wanted a really big snack so she just lied.

(The secretary was so nice about it. When she told me that Mallory did in fact have lunch I said, "I'm sorry that she's a big liar" and she said, "Oh no, I'm sure she was just confused!" Yes, we'll go with that. She also said that she'd make a point of checking on Mallory during lunch for the few weeks. So now Mallory is Problem Lunch Child.)

Mallory also told her best friend a few days ago that we were going to have a new baby. Also a lie! Very much a lie!

We've had, of course, the don't-be-a-big-liar talk with her. I'm trying not to worry too much about her becoming some kind of criminal. It must be kind of hard for kids to "get" that it's wrong to lie. We're always encouraging them to use their imaginations and to "go play pretend" and such like; but then we tell them that they must always tell the truth. Maybe she IS just confused. Yeah, we'll go with that.



I had a parent-teacher conference regarding Mallory's kindergarten progress last week. Mrs. F said that on the whole Mallory is doing very well, and that in fact sometimes she's surprised at how well Mallory is doing because it often appears that Mallory is off in outer space instead of paying attention. She said that Mallory consistently answers very hard questions correctly (regarding things like sequences and logic -- yeah, logic, in kindergarten!) but that sometimes still misses easy things like rhyming. She said Mallory is a mystery to her. I said to join the club. Oh, and Mallory is also consistently the slowest child in the class to accomplish tasks such as putting away crayons and packing up at the end of the day and often forgets things such as where to find her math workbook, which is in the exact same location every day. She asked if Mallory were this way at home and I said yes but I thought all 5-year-olds were that way. Apparently they are not and we need to work with Mallory on "timeliness" and "task completion." I wanted to say I would be happy to address those concerns once Mallory gets over "losing her temper when rushed" and "snotty comebacks to constructive criticism," but felt that would be inappropriate.

Anyway, Mallory is constantly displaying her kindergarten knowledge and I can tell that she really has soaked up a lot. She's always spelling out, and trying to sound out, words we see. "C - o - w. Is that c like k-k-clicking cameras or like s-s-sizzling sausages?" she'll ask. Or she'll sings songs about the animals assigned to the letters they're learning, like Sammy Seal and Tiggy Tiger and Mimi Mouse (who minds her manners in the house. When she drinks her milk she never makes a mess, mudpies never stain her dress!). She informed me that not everyone knows this, but when you count you should start with 0, not 1. "I know that because I'm in school," she said. The other day she suddenly exclaimed to me, "This doesn't make any sense! How can Phoebe's name start with the P and make the F sound?" When asked, in preparation to doing a "thankfulness project" for homework, what she was most thankful for, she answered, "Being able to go to school." (She later changed her answer to, "Being bigger than Phoebe.") She can write the words I, see, Friday, red, and my.

Mrs F asked if I had any concerns and I said not really. I am pleased with her education thus far. I think what I want most in respects to my kids' educations is that they never get tired of learning. It's early days of course but so far we're doing okay.


Is this silly?

My girls have millions of baby dolls. All shapes and sizes, ranging from a $2.99 Walmart special to a much more expensive Madame Alexander newborn. Neither girl has a particular favorite doll; if a baby is required at any given time, any baby will do, and it's always easy to find a baby doll as they're scattered all over the house, throughout the halls, in the laundry baskets, underneath the seats of the car.

In spite of the quite adequate supply of dolls in the house, and in spite of the fact that Mallory is getting a very special doll for her birthday next month from her grandmom and aunts, Mallory still wants a doll for Christmas. To be specific, she wants the doll that eats and wets and cries and pees and makes kissing noises and probably does your taxes for you as well.

It's tempting to just say no, that we have enough dolls. And in fact that's just what Chris does say.

And yet...I got a doll every Christmas until I was ten or eleven years old, and I remember every single one of them. There was Sherrie, of course, my first and best. There was Baby Bless You, which sneezed when her tummy was pressed. There was Baby Come Back, which toddled backwards and forwards. There was Dancerella, who piroutted with a smile on her face. There was Redhead Baby whose name I forget but who came with a baby seat and bibs and a clever spoon with a magnet so it looked like she was really eating.

I loved all these dolls, each and every one.* And I know that nothing would make my girls smile more than seeing a new baby under the Christmas tree.

So is it nuts that I'm thinking about, right now, placing an order for two very special baby dolls for my two very special little girls?**

*And I admit it -- I always wanted to eating-peeing-crying baby doll too, but I never got her. So it's not just Mallory's wishes I'll be fulfilling here.

**We're Christmasing out of town this year, so I have to arrange for Santa to send all the presents to Texas. Santa is going to have to put some postage money in my stocking to make up for this!

Ebay is amazing!

Baby Come Back


Baby Bless You


Vote For Me!!

This is kind of embarrassing, but, on a whim I entered my summer haiku in a contest sponsored by one of my favorite bloggers. And I'm a finalist! And if I win I get some kind of prize! So, if you have a minute, go vote for me!

And if you do, I'll stop using exclamation points!

PS Also read his blog, it's hilarious.


In My Head

In my head there's an ever-ticking clock which computes the number of minutes I spend with my kids. This clock tells me that it's okay to be fifteen minutes picking them up after work on Thursday, because they got an extra two hours with me on Monday because I worked from home. Or that I need to make sure to be a little early tomorrow, because I have a 30-minute meeting with Mallory's teacher in the evening. The clock ticks loudly at me when I go anywhere without the kids on the weekend. The clock reminds me not to be annoyed when my kids wake up extra early on the weekend, because that's extra time to spend together. The clock tells me that Phoebe and Mallory are without me about 8.5 hours a day, but seven of those hours don't count for Mallory because of school, and two don't count for Phoebe because of naps. Once, when I was having trouble falling asleep, the clock and I computed the total annual difference between the time I spend at work and the time I spend at home. (Home lost, by just a little bit.) Recently the clock is making me feel guilty for wanting to exercise for 30 minutes three times a week, because when you add in travel time and the time it takes to change close that's two extra hours the kids won't get to spend with me.

Sometimes I wish the clock would just shut up.


Proof, as if more was needed, that vegetables are evil

I recently decided to follow Aimee's lead and incorporate nu-tri-tion into my family's meals. Last week I spent a really, really long time steaming and pureeing a butternut squash, a food that I have never in my life willingly ingested. I stacked about a million little plastic containers of pureed squash in my freezer, where they awaited their introduction into spaghetti sauces and applesauce muffins.

A few days later, my freezer died.

Do you think that I'm going to dare to put pureed vegetables into the shiny new freezer that we'll be purchasing tonight?

Not a chance.

So should we go with stainless steel? It's pretty but I'm wondering if, since we are a household with children, it would just end up all smudged.

Incidentally, you know it's going to be bad when the repairman comes in, sees your non-functioning refrigerator, and says, "Huh. Frig.i.daire." Then he says, "How old is it?" and you say, "Seven years," and he says, "Uh huh." Who woulda guess that would be a bad brand of refrigerator? It has the word "frigde" right in its name! I think someone owes me an apology.

Also -- because apparently I just can't shut up about my refrigerator -- I am some kind of bad grocery shopper. In cleaning out the old, stupid fridge I found THREE bottles of mustard, two jars of mayonnaise, two bottles of Hershey's syrup, two jars of apricot preseves (which no one in my family likes) and three squeezie things of lemon juice. I vow to treat my shiny new fridge much better!


Everyone needs a Mimi

Remember the first season of Friends, when Ross's ex-wife has the baby and Monica holds him for the first time and tries to think of something profound to say, and finally blurts out, "I will always have gum!" ? Well, that's the kind of auntie my sister-in-law is.

Okay, Mimi might not always have gum, exactly, but that's okay because half of my children can't chew gum yet anyway. But Mimi always has something -- a little treat, a surprise, a few pictures to look at or a cool keyring to play with. Mimi is always available to take my girls to Dairy Queen for an ice cream cone. Mimi is excellent at arts and crafts projects. Mimi is always there on special occasions (like Trick or Treat!) but she's also always willing to drop everything and come over at 7:25 on a random Thursday evening, should Mallory decide she wants to see her.

Mimi has endured offenses ranging from copious newborn spitup to undeserved four-year-old snottiness, but she always forgives. Mimi gets more indignant than I do when my kids suffer an injustice or a slight. Mimi gives good presents and good hugs. Mimi loves my kids unconditionally.

[Incidentally, Mimi is also fun to shop with and always has answers to various wildlife questions (dog throwing up, bird with broken wing). So my kids aren't the only ones who benefit!]

Mimi is a good role model -- she works hard, she volunteers, she helps out, she cares very deeply for animals. And I think that in later years, my girls will be able to turn to Mimi when they have problems that Mom and Dad just don't understand. And I will appreciate Mimi more than ever.

I'm often sad that my kids are so far away from my side of the family. But I'm always glad they're so close to their Mimi.


Happy Hallo-whine

This was Mallory when she was...almost three, I guess:

It was then that I renamed the occasion "Hallo-whine," to the amusement of a few. (Apparently it wasn't as funny as the comment Chris made years ago to a group of finicky candy-grubbers who came to our door: "Hey, this is Trick or Treat, not Pick Your Treat!" But I'm losing my point.)

Mallory's Halloween demeanor wasn't too much different last night, except that now she's almost six and a bit better able to control herself. She looked lovely in her ballerina fairy dress:

...but the whining started as soon as we left the house and didn't stop til we got back. It was partially my fault; she wanted to trick-or-treat with the little girl next door, but I'm not much of a fan of the little girl next door, plus that little girl's mom (of whom I am less of a fan) was wearing a witch outfit that was freaking Phoebe out, so I held us back with a variety of excuses (oops, gotta go potty! oops, forgot the glow sticks!) until the neighbors were well ahead of us. I consoled Mallory by pointing out that a school friend of hers lived down the street we were taking and so maybe we'd run into her, and then Mallory became obsessed with finding Melanie and her house. "Is that Melanie's house? Where's Melanie's house? Let's go straight to Melanie's house without stopping anywhere else! I really really want to find Melanie's house!" Then she inexplicably became frightened by any house that had any kind of decoration. Then she said her feet hurt. Then she whined about other things. She finally said she wanted to go straight home without getting any more candy from anywhere, so we did. She looked kind of sad. And I was sad for her, because she'd looked forward to Halloween for so long, and for some reason it just wasn't working out for her.

But then we got back to the house and her across-the-street friends were on their porch handing out candy, and she ran over to help and from then on the night improved. She sat on their porch and yelled at all the kids passing by to "Hey! Come get some candy from me!" and even gave them candy from her own bucket. I guess she prefers the giving of candy to the collecting of candy. Maybe we'll just leave her on our front porch next year.

Phoebe, on the other hand, had a great time. She's been excited about Halloween ever since the decorations started to go up in our neighborhood. "Look, it's another Halloweens!" she'd say as we drove around, pointing out the pumpkins and the witches and the scarecrows and the ghosts-es-es hanging from the trees -- oh, and the vampires, which were her very favorite. As the second child, she had a vast assortment of hand-me-down costumes to choose from, but she rejected two princess dresses and an Elmo suit before declaring she wanted to be a froggy. A froggy is the one costume we didn't have on hand, so she just wore her pumpkin shirt instead.

She loved Trick or Treating. She tore up the pavement, carrying her glow stick and her candy bucket. She fell twice and popped back up, saying, "I'm okay! I got my bucket!" At one point I asked her if she were tired and she said, "No thank you!"

So I'd call our Halloween about 75% successful. Which isn't too bad, really.


She spins for thee

An optical illusion for you on Halloween:

Which way does the girl spin? Can you get her to "switch" and spin the other way?


More on less water

Aimee asked me how I planned to reduce our water consumption, and Amy wrote a good post on actions she's taking to do so. Way to go Amy!

I checked my consumption history through my online account with the City. It's a bit confusing, actually. For the Sept-Oct billing cycle our consumption was "4." Four what? It doesn't indicate how that translates into gallons, and I don't know if that's average or high or low or what. It's better than May-June, however, which was 8; but worse than Jun-July, which was a 3 -- but we were gone for a week at the end of June, so that does make sense. Jul-Aug and Aug-Sept were both 6 -- it just occurred to me that, except for our vacation, our water use would be higher in the summer because Chris and the kids are home all day; now that school's started, there's no one home to flush toilets and wash hands every weekday from 8:30 to 5.

So what can I do to get our consumption down to a 2, as the governor requested, other than leaving home for two weeks out of every month? Let's see...

We don't water our lawn or wash our cars. (Actually we never have. This was not a big lifestyle change for us!) We have low-flow toilets and showerheads. We follow the "if it's yellow, let it mellow" rule of toilet-flushing. I've started to shower only every other day (unless my hair looks really weird on the second day), and now that it's not so hot outside I may start bathing the kids only every other day as well. When I do shower, I turn the water off while shaving or soaping. I've thought about saving the "gray water" from baths and showers to use for toilet-flushing or filling up the washer, but I haven't got the logistics figured out and it kind of makes me nervous to think of leaving a tub full of water, what with the small children in the house. I only wash clothes that are noticeably dirty and run only full loads of laundry (even if it means mixing towels, sheets, and tshirts together). I've thought about switching to paper plates but haven't made that leap yet (it's a What Would Al Gore Do? kind of eco-dilemma), but I have started using plastic baggies for lunchboxes instead of reusable-have-to-be-washed containers; I also use wipes for the kitchen counters instead of a washcloth or sponge. I think the area in our house that needs the most attention is dish-washing -- I'm sure we need to be more conscious there.

Oh, I don't fill the dog's water dish anymore. We must all do our part, after all.

Kidding, of course.

So was this my most fascinating post ever or what? Honestly, it did help me evaluate areas that need improvement. I'll let you know how well we did when I get my next water bill. Until then, do a rain dance for us!


Am I Missing Something Here?

We are currently in the midst of an "exceptional" drought, which is the very worst kind of drought, apparently. It has been raining off and on for the past three days (yay!) but it's not going to be enough to pull us out of the crisis. Last week, the governor asked everyone -- businesses and homes -- to reduce water consumption by 50% by the end of the month.

There's an apartment complex right across the street from my office building. Right after the governor's annoucement, they posted a big sign, facing the street, which proclamed:


I can only guess that this sign is supposed to serve as some kind of justification for them to continue to water their flowerbeds and bushes and shrubs and things. (It's a very nicely landscaped apartment complex.) I guess they're saying, We're not using municipal water, so we're not obliged to follow the water restriction rules. (This is only a guess, but I can't imagine why else they'd post the sign.)

But the thing is -- even if you're using well water...well, it's still water, right? Water which is in very short supply 'round these parts lately -- unless they have some kind of magical well that refills every night regardless of whether or not it rains. I mean, it's great that they're not draining the municipal reservoirs to irrigate their flowers...but they're draining their own well to irrigate their flowers. Shouldn't they be conserving the water no matter what?

Or am I completely missing something here?



Haven't posted pictures for a while, so here you go.

Last weekend at the pumpkin patch:

Nap time:

Homework time:

Trying to reach the ice cream and about to throw a fit time:


Worse than Tantrums

Phoebe has recently started to utter the three little words I never want to hear from my child.

No, not “I hate you*.” Not “I failed algebra” or “The car’s totaled” or even “I do drugs.” Not “Oops, I’m pregnant” or “I’m in jail” or “He hits me” or “I’m a Republican.”** No, the words are:

“You play too!”

I don’t like to play with my children. There, I said it. I will read to my children, a million books a day. I will find markers and paper and I will open play-doh cans. I will push on the swings and spot on the slide. I will put movies in the DVD player and find favorites on the ipod. I will even stack blocks and play board games once in a while.

But tea parties with bears and Barbies – no. Don’t ask me to play school, or doctor, or pet shop. I don’t want to be a zookeeper, or the good fairy, or the boyfriend’s big sister. Don’t count on me to make up conversations with your dolls and for the love of all that’s holy, don’t ever, ever hand me a puppet.

Am I alone in this, am I awful? Seriously, sit me down with a bunch of Barbie dolls and my brain starts to fairly itch with boredom. I think whatever element of whimsy or imagination required to enjoy that kind of thing (and I did love that kind of thing when I was young) has long since died off, never to return.

Fortunately, Chris is really good at this type of stuff. In fact it perplexes me that both of my daughters are mama’s girls because really, Chris is the fun parent. I’m the one who brushes teeth and folds the laundry and supplies the snacks; Chris is the one who pretends to be a vampire and sets up the train sets and re-enacts favorite movie scenes and . . . well, lots of other things while I sneak away to vacuum the living room or, more likely, read a magazine.

Mallory, I think, has realized my limitations; she rarely asks me to play with her anymore. It’ll take a year or two before Phoebe clues in. Til then, I’m sorry, sweetie, but Mommy’s busy cleaning the kitchen.

*Mallory has actually said “I hate you!” to me and it didn’t bother me, I suppose because it was in the middle of a hysterical fit when nothing she said was making any sense. I guess if she came out with it in a cool, calculating way it would hurt a bit.

**I started making this list as a witty rhetorical device and was subsequently alarmed at how easy it is to invent calamities which may befall one’s children. The Republican thing is a joke, of course. Sort of.


What They Wouldn't Learn in Public School, Part II

Chris teaches art at a Catholic high school. Yesterday, to facilitate a new unit on Figure Drawing, he borrowed a human skeleton from the biology department. While discussing the anatomy, he made a comment about the shape of the pelvic bones and how they move apart during childbirth. All the girls in the class screamed at the thought.

Anyway, later in the day a kid came up to him and said, "Mr. K! I heard that you were talking about how babies were born in class!"

"Well, not really," Chris said.

"Yeah!" said another kid. "I heard that you said that when a baby is born, it EXPLODES out of the mother's hips!"

Chris denied saying any such thing. I dunno, maybe he should've stuck with that. It sounds like a pretty good incentive for contraception, to me.

Just remembered the "Sex Education" I received as part of my Home Economics class my senior year of high school. Irony: Two of the girls in the class were pregnant by the end of the school year.

Scary: Just realized that this means that their children are now 16 years old. Where does the time go?



The 2's were not at all terrible for Mallory. Now, three-and-a-half was pretty bad, and four was rough, and there are moments during five-and-three-quarters that make me want to ship her off to Kalamazoo, but when Mallory was two everything was sunshine and roses and kittens frolicking in...whatever kittens frolic in. (I'm a dog person.) I thought the terrible 2's were a myth, devised by parents who obviously just didn't know how to relate to their 2-year-olds.

Clearly I was a fool. My second 2-year-old -- who up until last week was going through life on a fairly even keel -- has been replaced by a whirling dervish who collapses into screaming rages if you look at her funny.

Since Saturday, Phoebe has had full-blown, fall-down-on-the-floor-and-kick tantrums because:

She wanted to go outside.
She wanted to come inside.
It was dark outside.
She wanted to take a bath.
She did not want to take a bath.
I let the water out of the bath.
She wanted "fre-sert" but did not want to finish her dinner.
I cut her toast into squares.
I poured milk into the wrong cup.
She wanted to watch TV.
She did not want to watch TV.
Her special "Halloweens" temporary tattoo washed off her hand.
She did not want to wear the shirt with the apples.
She did not want her diaper changed.
She wanted to take a nap (two minutes after waking up).
She did not want me to take a shower.

So it's been a loud, trying, tiring week in our household. And when even she has had enough of her yelling, she comes to me and lifts up her arms and says, "I need to rock, Mommy." So I take her to the big squooshy rocking chair in the living room and we rock for a while. I stroke her sweaty hair and rub her back as her shoulder-hitching sobs fade away. I sing the "Fee-fi-Phoebe-i-o" song. I feel exasperated because she's being so irrational. I marvel at how perfectly her little body fits against mine. I think that she really needs to save up all this rage for a time when her life really does get hard. I consider how frustrating it must be to be only two years old, to be shorter than everyone else, to be unable to reach the ice cream yourself, to have so little control over where you go and what you do. I think about how scary it must be to have your emotions spiral so completely out of control, how exhausting it must be to flail and cry for fifteen minutes at a time. I think of what a comfort it must be that even after you've behaved so very badly, there is still someone who will pick you up and hold you tight and say "I love you anyway."

I hope this phase passes quickly. I hope she saves up some of this fire and determination for the really important fights in her life. I hope she will always know that I am her safe place, no matter what.


I guess that's what they call irony

My mother pointed out, correctly, that one of the quotes I said was a misquote actually wasn't. Patrick Henry did say "Give me liberty or give me death!" However, Nathan Hale did not say "My only regret is that I have but one life to give for my country." Sorry, wrong patriot.

And in response to those who did not like The Power and the Glory -- neither did I! In fact I didn't much care for any of the books from which the quotes in my previous post originated. I find Jane Austen dull; I abhor D.H. Lawrence. One of Julian Barnes's books (Talking it Over) is one of my very favorites, Flaubert's Parrot is meh. I was inspired by certain passages of Middlemarch but on the whole it's a bit of a slog. So, um, there.

More later, busy at work and computer is very slow. News at our house: Mallory has strep, Phoebe has tantrums. Many of them. Whee!


Other People Say It Better

I have always been a quote collector. The walls of my bedroom used to be papered with quotations (usually printed out in whatever cool fonts were available on our Apple IIE computer). When I got my own apartment in NC, I hung quotes up all over my "dining area" -- something that Chris later told me he found "weird."

I recently read a funny article in the New Yorker about quotes. Apparently many famous quotes were never actually quoted by the people they're attributed to; for example, Patrick Henry probably did not say "Give me liberty or give me death." And, um, well, other people did not say things we think they said but I don't have the magazine in front of me so you'll just have to wonder. Sorry, how lame am I?

In the meantime, here are some of the quotes that got me through college and graduate school:

"But it is very difficult to be learned; it seems as if people were worn out on the way to great thoughts and can never enjoy them because they are too tired." -- George Eliot, Middlemarch

"Books say: She did this because. Life says: She did this. Books are where things are explained to you; life is where things aren't. I'm not surprised some people prefer books. Books make sense of life. The only problem is that the lives they make sense of are other people's lives, never your own." -- Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot

"This was torment, indeed, to inherit the responsibility of one's own life." D.H. Lawrence, The Rainbow

"One mustn't have human affections -- or rather one must love every soul as if it were one's own child." -- Graham Green, The Power and the Glory

"It may be possible to do without dancing entirely." --Jane Austen, Emma

That's not all! Stay tuned for more, on another day when I feel I should post but have nothing much to say!


Something She Wouldn't Learn in Public School

Mallory came home yesterday wearing a "Faith" bracelet she'd made in Religion class. It was made of several colored beads on a black cord. I asked her to tell me about it and she said, "Well, the blue bead is for water, the green bead is for trees, the yellow bead is for the sun, the brown bead is for the earth. And the red bead is for Jesus' blood, and the black bead is because Jesus died."

I was a bit taken aback by the last two beads (not in a bad way, please understand, it's just that I'm as new to Catholic school as Mallory herself is), but I said, "Well, that's a great bracelet. All the beads stand for something very special."

"It's not so special that Jesus died," she protested.

"Actually it is. Haven't you learned yet why Jesus died?"


"Well, Jesus died so everyone can go to heaven," I said, after a moment of wondering how to explain it best. And immediately regretted even beginning this line of conversation, because millions of questions followed. Where is Jesus now? (Heaven.) Who takes care of him in heaven? (God does.) What will happen to him when God dies? (God doesn't die.) Why doesn't God die, everyone dies? (God is not a person.) What is God if he's not a person? (He's God.) But what does that mean? (Eat your dinner.)

Theological conundrums aside, Mallory is doing very well. The troubles she was having a few weeks ago have cleared up; I had a really nice discussion with her teacher and am pretty much convinced that she is not, in fact, mean to the kids. Mallory was apparently having a hard time making the transition to her hugs-and-kisses, sunshine-and-roses preschool teachers, in a preschool class where no one every told you you were doing anything wrong, to her more blunt, matter-of-fact kindergarten teacher who has fairly high expectations and is a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to things like holding pencils and forming letters and numbers. I had to explain to Mallory that Mrs F is not necessarily mad at her when she tells her to keep her M's within the lines or to not use a big ol' circle to dot her lower case i's or to pay attention to worksheet directions. And apart from one meltdown last week (she woke up and said she wasn't going to go to school, I left her crying in her room, she finally came downstairs and confessed, "I can't go to school because it's K day and I don't know how to make a K!" So we spent five minutes practicing K's before breakfast,and all was well), she's doing much better. I talked to Mrs F again this week and she said Mallory is really blossoming and is even answering some "tough questions" in class. Whatever that may mean; she's happy, so I'm happy.

She's learning a lot too. She's very into spelling especially: "What does S T O P spell?" or "I know how to spell Gorilla! M O N K E Y!"; she also now understands number sequences: "Mommy, the clock says 7 11. Next it will say 7 12. Then it'll be 7 13. Then..."

It's fun, watching her learn.


Ad Nauseam

My children are incapable of saying anything just one time, and I am in the process of losing my mind. Phoebe repeats everything she says at least three times: "It's too early for a nap, Mommy, it's too early, it's too early for a nap." Mallory repeats all of her demands over and over again even AFTER I've told her yes, or no; "Can you help me find my shoes?" "Yes, just a minute please." "Help me find me shoes, Mommy, can you help me NOW please find my shoes, where are my shoes?" The other day both of them were asking something of me "Want a drink, Mommy, a drink, a drink Mommy, want a drink" at the same time "Mommy can I watch Nickelodeon now? Can I? Can I watch Nickelodeon Mommy? Mommy can I?" without even giving me a chance to answer, much less find a sippy cup or the remote, and I just lost it and yelled at both of them: "STOP ASKING ME THINGS OVER AND OVER AGAIN! I HEARD YOU THE FIRST TIME! SIT DOWN AND BE QUIET BOTH OF YOU!"

Which had no effect, of course. At a calmer moment I told them that they needed to work on being patient, and polite, and to remember that Mommy can't do everything they want her to do the very second they ask, but her hearing works quite well nonetheless, so stop with the repeating of things, please. Which has had little effect as well.

So when, on Saturday night, I sat down for a few moment's peace in front of the TV, I felt perfectly justified to ignore Phoebe's repeated requests to "Come see, Mommy, come see, Mommy, look, Mommy, look!"

And then, I remembered that she didn't have a diaper on.

Last night, I started to tell my in-laws about what Phoebe, Diaperless, Did To the Chair. Phoebe, who was sitting on my lap, immediately said, "Don't talk, Mommy! Don't talk about it!" and tried to cover my mouth. So at least she has the grace to be embarrassed about the whole sordid incident.


Sisters and Brothers

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while, but it feels vaguely maudlin and also vaguely like plagiarism. But, it’s Friday afternoon and I have no real work to do, so here goes anyway.

I mentioned that our friend Mike died last month. Chris and I went to his funeral, of course, and, as funerals go, this one was…quite wonderful, really, if such can be said about a funeral. The family invited Mike’s friends to come forward to share stories and memories about Mike’s life, and of the twelve or fifteen people who came forward, most of them began by saying, “Mike was one of my very best friends…” and if that’s not the marker of a successful life, I don’t know what else would be.

But it was Mike’s younger brother’s eulogy that touched me the most, and that I still think about almost every day. The recurring theme of the speech was that as they were growing up, Matt wanted to do everything his big brother would do, and that Mike would call him on it. “You just want to read comic books because I am,” Mike would say, and Matt told us, “And he was right”; or, “You just want to draw because I’m doing it,” and Matt affirmed, “And he was right.” So at the end, Matt said something like this: “I don’t know if there is a heaven, but if there is, I’m sure that Mike is there now. And if I’m lucky enough to make it up there when I die, I know I’ll see Mike there. And he’ll come over and give me a big hug, and then he’ll say – ‘You just came up here because I’m here.’ And he’ll be right.”

That’s exactly how I feel about my sisters and brothers, and how I hope my daughters will always feel about one another.


Again with the juice

Last night Mallory poured herself a glass of grape juice. Before taking a drink, she asked, "Mommy, does juice have cabizees in it?"

"Cavities?" I said.


"No...it has sugar which can cause cavities, though."

"Oh." She thought. "No, I mean, you know, cabizees."

"Um...do you mean calories?"


"Yes, it does have calories."

"So, if I drink this I won't be able to go to sleep tonight?"

"Wait, do you mean caffeine?"

"Is caffeine what makes you not able to sleep?"


"Okay, that's what I mean."

"Well, juice does not have caffeine."

"That's a relief."

It certainly is.


Kindergarten Blues

I was going to do a whole long post about Mallory's Kindergarten Troubles, but I've been talking or emailing about it to various people all morning and now I don't feel like rehashing it again (although I am certainly going to bore my mom and sister with it on Friday!). I will instead ask these two questions:

1. If you're a mean person, why would you want to be a kindergarten teacher?

2. How do you explain this to a 5-year-old: Some people are just mean. You just have to toughen up and deal with it. Oh, and welcome to the rest of your life.

Holly, thanks for the tips. It is federal court that I was summoned to. I guess I won't smuggle in a book after all (sob!). And I'm really hoping I'm not assigned to a 3-week trial...Oh, and I sympathize with your heartburn. I had such awful heartburn with both my pregnancies (and both babies were born with a lot of hair, giving credence to that old wives' tale). In fact my three reasons for not having a third child are: 1. Not enough money; 2. Not enough time; 3. Heartburn.


Work, Vampires, Kings & Queens

I've been called to jury duty. I met this summons with a groan but also with a touch of curiosity. I've never been called before; I wonder what it's like. I was alarmed, when reviewing my Juror Information, to read that I should NOT bring any reading material into the courthouse. From what I understand there's a lot of sitting about and waiting during jury selection. I can't possibly be expected to sit around without a book. Perhaps I'll bring a large purse and "accidentally" slip in a paperback.

Another part of the summons amused me greatly. There's a section on what constitutes a "hardship" which would get you excused from duty. The accepted hardships are age (over 70); prior service in the past two years; medical condition. Then there was this line:

"Please note that work is usually considered a hardship for everyone."

Were truer words every written?

Chris has been playing "vampire" with the girls lately. How they love it when he swoops down and "attacks" them. This usually creates much screaming and dashing about and gives me the perfect excuse to leave the room for a while. Anyway, on the heels of this, Phoebe has been very concerned with things that are "scary." "Monsters are scary," she'll say; or, "That's Elmo. Elmo's not scary!" Yesterday she saw a book with a picture of two bats. "Ooh, that's scary, Mommy," she said. "Is it?" I said. "Yes, that's vewy scary." Then she paused and looked again. "Wait a minute. That's a mommy and a baby. That's not scary!" I was pleased with her reasoning.

Just finished reading...two by historian Antonia Fraser.

Marie Antoinette: The Journey - Poor Marie Antoinette, she was much maligned both by her subjects and by history. Fraser's book is quite sympathetic to the woman who never said "Let them eat cake." She was extravagant, yes, and frivolous, but in her defense she'd also been poorly educated (she was the tenth daughter and hadn't been expected to make a great marriage; then three of her older sisters either died or were disfigured by smallpox, moving her up the chain); and royals were supposed to live large; her vast purchases of dresses and shoes and dishes and jewels kept the silk and porcelain and other artistic industries in business. I hadn't realized that her marriage was not consummated for over seven years, in part, it seems, because neither she nor the King knew exactly what they were supposed to do with themselves. She was devoted to her children and it was heartbreaking to read of their separation at the end of her life, and of how badly things turned out for her sole surviving daughter. I was almost moved to tears when the Queen stepped up to the guillotine. I liked the book, and Fraser's style, enough to move on to:

The Wives of Henry VIII -- So Henry VIII - not a nice guy. I enjoyed this book too; one of the most interesting points made was that although men, especially noblemen, especially Kings, were obsessed with having sons to continue their bloodlines, women were often content to remain childless due to the high chance of dying after giving birth. (Two of his wives died of infection, quite in accordance with the given odds.) I hadn't realized (again -- there's so much I don't know! When will I ever learn it all?) that he was married to his first wife for 24 years. Then all the trouble began.

Now I want to read about Mary Queen of Scots and Lady Jane Grey. To the library! (And can I add that I am going to visit Aimee this weekend alone, without children, which means that for the first time in five and a half years I'm going to be able to read a book on the plane! Yay! I'm excited about seeing Aimee but I confess the thought of uninterrupted reading is exciting to me too!)


And speaking of juice...

Have you noticed the absolute wealth of orange juice varieties lately? One can stand, paralyzed with indecision, in front of the juice case for hours. There's juice with extra-antioxidants, extra calcium, extra Vitamins; there's juice with low acid, low sugar, and low pulp. My criteria is: Must be on sale, and must have no pulp. (It's not so much that I dislike pulp; it's that my little brother used to call pulp "zits," as in, "Ewww, there are zits in my juice." See, now you don't want to drink juice with pulp either, do you?)

So that is how I ended up purchasing orange juice with added Omega-3 this week. After I got it home I glanced at the ingredients, wondering exactly how they got the Omega-3 into the juice anyhow. The list was: Orange juice from concentrate, anchovy and tilapia oils. These last had an asterisk which led to the following helpful note:

"Ingredients not found in regular orange juice."



A Cup of Juice

Mornings do not always go smoothly in our house. This morning, for example, my girls ate dry pancakes for breakfast. In the car. On the way to school. Because I overslept by ten minutes and then they overslept by a lot -- they were very sleepy today. ("Phoebe, it's time to get up!" I said, to which she replied, "I'm sleeping!")

Things are not always quite that bad, but neither are they as organized as one might wish. And I do everything that people suggest: I lay out the clothes the night before, I pack the backpacks, I make the lunches. But in the morning there are still water bottles to be filled (for me, Mallory, Phoebe on days she has Parents Morning Out, and the dog if she's fortunate enough to be remembered) and teeth to be brushed and shoes to be found and, sometimes, depending on the whimsy of my children, menus to be written ("Mommy, you have to write down everything we have for breakfast before I can choose what I want!" says my child who can't even read yet) and dolls to be dressed ("Put on the shiny one!" says my other child, still in her nightshirt, holding up a Polly Pocket princess and its rubbery, glittery "gown"). This week there is also medicine to be given (Mallory is taking antibiotics for a UTI; she so hates the taste that she actually threw the bottle in the trash on Friday night; luckily I found it before too much time had elapsed). I usually eat my breakfast standing up at the kitchen counter while dispensing toast and forks and drinks and napkins and toothbrushes to the kids; we stumble out the door, laden with lunchboxes and backpacks and Snow White dolls and My Little Ponys, just in the nick of time. So to sum up: Mornings, ugh. My fondest wish is to have a morning nanny.

In contrast. Every morning of my childhood, I went to the breakfast table to find a cup of orange juice at my place. Every single day. Even on weekends. Even when I was old enough to pour my own orange juice. Even when I went through a phase of not really liking orange juice that much. Who was I to confess that I didn't want the juice, when my mom went to the trouble to pour it for me every single day? (Not just for me, of course; we all got the juice.) I knew there would be juice at my place just as sure as I knew that there would be cereal on Mon-Wed-Fri, biscuits on Tues-Thurs, and clean sheets on the bed every Thursday night. I don't know how my mom did it, and I certainly don't know what I have to do to attain that level of order and consistency in my own house.

Of course I know, even when I'm feeling guilty about being a little too rushed and harried with my kids in the morning, that being disorganized doesn't necessarily make me a bad mom. I know that I don't have to be exactly like my own mother in order to be a good mother. But I also tend to believe that organization and consistency just may foster security and harmony, and it wouldn't hurt me to try a little bit harder.


The Dreaded Mumble

My father has always accused me and one of my sisters (to protect her identity, I won't say which one) of mumbling. I think that both of us used to respond to this criticism with a "Daa-aad! I don't mumble!" but over the course of time I have come to accept the fact that I really can be a mumbler. I am trying to overcome this deficit, not least because I get irritated when I'm asked to repeat myself. (Maybe I just don't like speaking out loud in general.)

At any rate, I seem to have passed the mumbler gene along to my oldest daughter. Lately she is mostly incomprehensible. Last night I asked her how school had been and the answer was: "We mumble mumble gym mumble marble mumble mumble and then mumble mumble celebrate mumble mumble mumble with a mumble party."

"Huh?" I said, and got an exasperated "Mommy!" in reply. At least that came out loud and clear.

Recently read:

The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue. This was an odd book, both in subject matter (changelines, faeries) and in writing style. I liked the story but something about the way the guy wrote bored me intensely.

Pretty Little Mistakes by Heather McElhatton. Remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books? How I loved them when I was ten! This is a Choose Your Own Adventure book for grownups and I was all prepared to love it as well. However, although the writing is great, I got a bit bored with it after only a few adventures. And it's incredibly long so in order to go through all the adventures you have to reread pieces of it, and remember which choices you've already made, and then go back to page 54 and choose the second choice instead and...I got kind of tired just thinking about the work it would take to actually read every page and I quit. I guess I'm officially not ten anymore. If the author ever writes a more traditional book I'm there, because she is very funny. (This line made me laugh out loud: "Why was life so hard? It struck you as an excellent question." Okay, not so funny out of context. I seem to have written an awful lot about this book which I didn't even finish.

Abundance, a novel of Marie Antoinette by Sena Jeter Naslund. Am now infessed (tm Rhett) with Marie Antoinette.


Forgotten Funnies

...because my memory is not what it used to be.

We were at a playground a few weeks ago and Phoebe left her special puppy, her pink one puppy, on a bench. A little boy grabbed it, Phoebe saw him, and I expected a major contretemps to ensue. Instead she said, "It's okay. You can hold it. Don't worry! You can squish it too."

My in-laws overheard this conversation Phoebe was holding with two of her dolls: "Where's Mommy? Oh, she's not available right now."

Chris greeted us when we came home yesterday afternoon and Phoebe responded: "Hi Daddy! I'm Phoebe! And this is my mommy!"


"I did really good at maths today," she said. I asked her what exactly she did in "maths." "I don't know," she said, "but I was really good at it."

Later: "Two kids in my class cried today," she told me. "Annie cried because she missed her mom, and Molly cried because she didn't like the drill."

"The drill?" I said. "Oh, did you have a fire drill?"

"Yeah...no, actually, it was a tomato drill."

Beware of those tomatoes!


Summer, summed up

Two little girls, feet
in matching pink Crocs, fingers

(It's a haiku!)


As promised, Phoebe funnies

One wonderful thing about parenting is when you realize that you love your kids not just because they are your kids, but also because they happen to be great kids. (Of course you have to have something in reserve for those moments when they’re just horrible.) Even as a baby, Phoebe had a pretty strong personality, but lately she’s really come into her own and she’s a definite person now. I think what I love most is how self-assured she seems; everything she does, she does with a great deal of determination and sense of purpose. Everything she says, she says with a sense of the worth of her own words. Which is not to say that she can’t be goofy and spontaneous; she often is, but she flings herself into goofiness with her whole being as well.

It’s hard to convey what I mean with a few snippets of conversation; nonetheless, here are some of the funny things she’s said in the last week or so.

One night she threw a paperback book at Mallory. Chris scolded her; she picked up another book and said, “I’m trying to read, okay?” She will often respond to a “Just a minute” or “No, not now” by saying “Fine!” and flouncing away. Hmm, wonder where she learned that? And if I reprimand her, she will shout, “’Stand?” back at me (shorthand for “Do you understand?”) It’s hard to reach respect to a 2-year-old, especially when the disrespect is so funny.

Last Saturday we were driving home; the moon was almost full. Phoebe kept seeing it at different angles from her window and apparently thought it was a new moon each time. “It’s another moon, Daddy!” she would say. Then, inexplicably, she would add, “That’s a green one!” or “That one’s purple!”

Late one night, lying in bed with her, I asked her why she wouldn’t go to sleep. She said, “Well, Mommy…” and I waited for something very profound. She concluded, “Somewhere…there are apples.”

She has a great vocabulary. When she puts on a dress, she declares herself “Bee-ful.” We were playing with trains the other day and each time she’d pick up a different engine or piece of track she’d say, “This one is per-tet” (perfect). We were looking at an alphabet book (not the dreaded Bizarre Animal Alphabet that so befuddled Mallory) and she identified an um-bella, an efenant, an octopus, and a piano with no trouble. On the other hand, her syntax can still be a bit confused: “I’m stuck! I really do am stuck!” she’ll say; or, “Mommy, I carry you me!”

Mallory, as I mentioned in my last post, has claimed Drake Bell of the show "Drake and Josh" as her new boyfriend; she says that Phoebe’s boyfriend is Josh. Drake is the cool kid on the show and Josh is a bit of a dork; I sympathize with Phoebe in this, because my older sister, when we played pretend, would make me be Helen Reddy while she got to be the more glamorous Olivia Newton John, or; even worse, she’d get to be Cher while I was stuck being Sonny. Anyway, the other day in the car Mallory said that maybe her best friend’s little brother could be Phoebe’s boyfriend instead. “No, I don’t want to,” Phoebe said. “Then who is your boyfriend?” Mallory asked. Phoebe cut her eyes over at Mallory and said, “Drake Bell!” It could not have been a more deliberate attempt to irritate her big sister.

It’s so much fun, having her around. She is bee-ful and pertet herself.

Phoebe’s Favorites at Two
Food: Strictly vegetarian! Tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, yogurt, and Goldfish
Book: Max’s Chocolate Chicken
TV Show: "Ruby and Max"
Song: Jingle Bells, Tomorrow
Movie: Annie
Toy: “Beebies”

And, as a bonus, here’s something funny about my other child. For about a year, Mallory has been writing her name like this:

M A l l O R Y (note the lower-case L’s)

I guess they learned about lower case letters in school, because now she’s writing her name like this:

M a L L o r y



My Favorites

Lately, Phoebe has a lot of favorite things. "Read this book, Mommy," she'll say, "it's my fave-wit." Tomatoes are also her favorite, as are grapes and yogurt. Her blue shirt is her favorite until she changes into a pink one. Her little puppy pink one is her most favorite of all. ("Where my puppy pink one? It's my fave-wit.") Here are a few of my favorite things about the last few days.

Mallory and I made this together:

It's to display all her school papers and artwork. She painted most of it; I helped a bit and glued on the clothespins. I may choose the new colors for our kitchen around it, as the only good place to hang it up is on the kitchen wall.

(I was going to just let you wonder about the fortune cookies, but I'll go ahead and add that the cookies were entirely Mallory's idea. And when Phoebe does anything particularly pleasing Mallory will say, "You can go get a fortune cookie off the board!" Although once she got one just because it was August. My girl. Always thinking outside the box. Or about cookies.)

I am also loving our new lunch boxes:

I want to pack an interesting, nutritious lunch for Mallory each day without using any plastic bags. I have a bunch of containers but I'm always losing the lids, plus I can't always get them arranged to my satisfaction. This lunchbox solves these problems. It comes with these four containers (plus a wee one for dressing or dips) and it all closes up and fits into this:

...which also has space for a water bottle and an ice pack. This was her first-day lunch -- a ham sandwich, strawberries, carrots, and part of a 100-calorie pack of Oreos. Today she had a pb&j, watermelon, popcorn, and carrots. The parent handbook states that all lunches will be "evaluated for nutritional value" so I hope I'm passing the test. I'd hate for the nuns to come after me. (Joke. Mallory is going to a Catholic school but there are no nuns. In fact her teacher is Baptist.) I bought one of these cool lunch boxes for myself too, in fact. It makes packing lunch fun! (Actually it doesn't really. It's been three days and I'm already sick of packing lunch. Oh well.)

In other news, we had Phoebe's picture taken and she actually smiled! Here's proof:

Sorry for the quality; my scanner is on the fritz so I had to take pictures of the pictures. But they're pretty cute, aren't they? She was having a fabulous time. I have lots of funny Phoebe stories to share. Perhaps tomorrow.

Here's something not on the favorite list:

If you're looking for a nice sturdy shade tree, do not choose the Bradford pear.

Mallory has a new favorite:

She is recently obsessed with the Nickelodeon show "Drake and Josh." Drake, one of the stars (all three of whose pictures she cut out of a magazine and GLUED to the door, as you can see), is her new boyfriend. The Drake obsession is rivaled in intensity by the Grease obsession of '05. Sometimes I wish she would become obsessed with multiplication tables, or state capitals, or putting things away.

Oh, and baby wipes are Phoebe's fave-wit.



"How was your first day of school?" I asked.

"Great!" she said. Then added, "That means really good, you know."

"I want juice, Mommy!"

"No, it's almost bedtime. You can have some water."

"But juice is my favorite!"

I'm taking the rest of the week off. Woohoo! In the next three days I have to:

  • Attend Parent Orientation for Mallory's school and Phoebe's Parent's Morning Out program.

  • Take kids to dentist.

  • Get car inspected.

  • Take kids to bouncy house fun place because we saw one the other day and Mallory threw a huge tantrum because I wouldn't take her RIGHT AWAY so I promised we'd do it at a later date.

  • Take Phoebe for her two-year portrait. If she actually smiles, I will buy said portraits, but I'm not holding my breath.

  • Clean up my kitchen. I have to make space for lunch-making apparatus (apparati?) and otherwise declutter because I MUST get started on the great wallpaper removal/painting project. I really want to get that done by the end of the year.

  • Try not to melt in the 100 degree heat.

  • Make banana bread with the bunch of near-rotten bananas on my counter. Remember not to buy any more bananas for a while because no one ever eats them.

Aimee & Seth
Happy Anniversary, you two!


Mallory, in Kindergarten

Here she is, all uniformed-up:

Here she is at her desk:

She looks a bit drowsy, doesn't she? Two reasons: Despite my best intentions, I wasn't able to get the kids on a back-to-school bedtime schedule last week, so she's not quite used to getting up at 7:00 yet. Also, her allergies have been pretty bad this week. The only hitch in an otherwise-smooth morning was when I tried to give her some Claritin. "I don't want medicine! What flavor is it?" she asked, and I told her. She started to cry. "I don't want it if it's poop-flavored!" "Not poop, fruit!" I said, and all was well.

She's so excited about school, I hope she loves it. She was a bit relieved to learn that there will probably be no homework for a few months. She didn't impress me with her back-to-school assignment; she was to draw a picture of her favorite summer activity. She procrastinated and put it off until yesterday afternoon, when I told her she couldn't watch her favorite show unless she did it. She sat down at her desk and asked me to draw an airplane for her. "No, it's your homework, you have to do it," I said. She sighed heavily. "How do you spell vacation?" she asked. I told her. She wrote "Vacation" across the top of the page and then drew two stick figures. "Who's that?" I asked. "I don't know, someone we saw on vacation," she said. "I'm done now!" It was not her best effort, needless to say. I hope she gets more motivated as the year goes on!

Phoebe is really going to miss her sister. All the way back to the car this morning she was saying, "Me too! Me too! I go to school too!" Poor girl. She might also benefit from a uniform, incidentally:

I can't believe I have a child in school. I didn't think it would upset me, but I got teary in the classroom and probably would've cried all the way to work if I'd allowed myself to. I just want her to be happy, all the time.



My friend A has a son, G., whom I consider my first baby. He's ten now, but he was born (ten years ago, obviously) before Chris and I got married, when we had plenty of time on our hands, and I hung out with A and G almost every weekend. Then both of our families moved to new houses and weren't able to visit as often, but A and I still talk on the phone almost every day. (G apparently loves it when A relays to him funny stories about Mallory and Phoebe.)

When Mallory was 8 or 9 months old, we had a daycare crisis and A babysat for a day or two. During her naps, G sat outside the bedroom door with a plastic baseball bat in his hands, just in case bad guys came to get her.

A few days ago, A told G that Mallory would be starting kindergarten soon. G asked if she'd be going to his school and A said no. G said, "That's too bad. If she came to my school, she'd have someone to take care of her. She wouldn't have to worry about a thing."

I'm a little sad that our families have grown apart and we don't see each other very often. But it's nice to know that G will always be there for Mallory anyway.