I had a conference with Mallory's pre-school teacher the other day. I always enjoy these; it's fun hearing about one's child from someone else's perspective. (I guess this may change if I ever have to start hearing about my child from, say, a juvenile court judge.) According to Miss Suzanne, Mallory is a sweet, bright little girl, completely ready for kindergarten. However...

"I was actually a bit surprised at how well she did on her 'test," Miss Suzanne said. The "test" required Mallory to draw shapes and identify her letters and numbers. "She got everything right, and I wasn't expecting that, because although I know she's bright, she also seems to be in her own little world much of the time."

I wasn't too surprised with that assessment. Mallory has never been one to perform on demand. One day I caught her in her room doing addition -- holding up her fingers and saying, "Two and two is four! Two and three is five!" And so on. A little while later I said to her, "Hey Mallory, what's two and two?" She said, "I'm not going to TELL you!" This was typical. As is the fact that she still refuses to pedal a bicycle because at one point someone told her it was the best way to make it go. It wasn't her idea to pedal the bicycle, therefore, she will probably NEVER pedal the bicycle. What this trait of hers will mean when she gets to "real" school is something I dread finding out.

Miss Suzanne also said that Mallory was very social (yes) and very sensitive (yes) and that, when someone hurt her feelings, she keeps going back for more. I recognized this too. For example, we live next door to a 7-year-old girl and her 10-year-old brother. The girl will come to play with Mallory only if she doesn't have anything better going on; the boy, of course, wants nothing to do with her. I can't tell you how many times Mallory has leaned over the fence and called, "Hey Travis, do you want to play with me?" and when Travis says no, she just keeps going. "Why don't you? Can't you come over and play for a little while? How about tomorrow? Don't you want to swing with me? Please?" She just won't give up, and I'm standing beside her just cringing because it's making me so uncomfortable. Apparently Mallory does the same thing to a little girl in her class. Every day Mallory asks Juliana if she wants to play. Every day Juliana says no. So Mallory asks again. And again. And finally after much trauma she gives it up. (Meanwhile, says Miss Suzanne, Mallory's true best friend Stephanie stands off to the side waiting, with a "Here we go again" look on her face.)

I can't believe she's going to start kindergarten soon. That seems like something that other people's children do, not my own. Where does the time go?


Kids are Weird, Part 72

Last night Mallory instructed Chris to "act like a baby." After some protest, he obliged by snuggling next to me and making baby noises. Mallory leaned in and, with a gleam in her eye that suggested she was about to deliver the best joke ever, said, "Hey, baby! You married your own mommy!"

Later I heard Phoebe saying to herself, "Boy or girl? Boy or girl?"

I said, "Phoebe, are you a boy or a girl?"

"I boy!"

"You're a boy?"

"Noooo!" she laughed. "I not!"

"Are you a girl?"

"Noooo! I not!"

"Then what are you?"

"I Beebee!"

Just Finished Reading
...four excellent books:

Adverbs by Daniel Handler
The Center of Winter by Marya Hornbacher
Me Talk Pretty Some Day by David Sedaris
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl



My car's been in the shop for the past two days (brakes, tires) so unfortunately, I've had to drive my mother-in-law's Mustang Convertible to work. This is an older car, a '92 I think, with only about 75,000 miles on it because Claudia doesn't drive much. She's mentioned that they're going to give this car to Mallory when she gets her driver's license.

I have to say, I think this car is way too fun for a teenage girl. (And also, my hair is a fright from riding with the top down.)

Then again, I drove a "classic" Mustang when I was in high school -- a '75, the only year Ford made an ugly Mustang, according to my dad. I believe Aimee drove this car too. It had been rebuilt by my granddad and he gave it to me because I proved unable to drive the classic car that my dad had rebuilt for me, a '65 Corvair. The Corvair was very cute, I liked it a lot, but it was a stick shift and I never quite got the hang of it. Plus the gas gauge didn't work and although you'd think I would be smart enough to just fill it up every week or so, well, I never was that smart so I kept running out of gas.

Anyway, my Mustang was a pretty fun little car and never gave me any trouble. Until the day I was driving to school after a piano lesson and suddenly the brakes stopped working entirely. And here's further proof that I wasn't very smart -- I drove for several blocks, all the way to school, after realizing the brakes didn't work. I'm not sure what I was thinking. Perhaps I was in panic mode and not thinking of all. I just steered and coasted and prayed and finally bumped to a stop by the curb in front of the school. Then I went inside and found my boyfriend and he said, "You're white as a sheet. What's wrong?" I said, "My brakes went out! I couldn't stop the car!" and he said, "So you used the emergency brake, right?"


Considering, though, the lack of traffic and perfectly flat streets in my hometown, driving without brakes wasn't really all that dangerous. Here's the story of a time I really could have died while driving. Summer, 1991, my first year of college over with, I was driving back to San Antonio after spending a week at home. I was about to start a job as a camp counselor and it would end up being the worst summer of my life, but that's another story. I had just gotten into San Antonio proper, on, what's the name of the highway, I-10, I think. It was almost rush hour and traffic was really heavy. And suddenly my eyes started to burn and tear and itch like mad. I could barely keep them open and I couldn't see at all. Somehow I managed to cross three lanes of traffic, squinting and crying, and get off the highway and into the parking lot of a Wendy's, where I ran in and washed my face. Okay, now that I've written it down it doesn't sound all that dramatic but it was quite terrifying at the time. (By the way, I think it was a mascara allergy -- it still happens occasionally, although it's never happened again whilst driving.)

Drive safely this weekend!



I added two more bits to Mallory’s letter, things that occurred to me last night while getting Phoebe to sleep (which is where I come up with most of my posts, and hope they stay in my head for the next twelve or so hours). Then I started to wonder if I was being mean, making too much fun of her. I hope not. I do find her charming. Of course I find some of her antics annoying too but mostly the charming wins out. I hope that’s apparent.

But it reminded me of something that I realized last week that I need to stop doing. (Wow, what a sentence.) I was dropping Mallory off at school and on my way out, her teacher stopped and told me how cute Phoebe was looking that day. I said, “Yeah, she really needs a haircut!” I do that all the time, turning compliments around. Phoebe’s cute – but she needs a haircut. Mallory’s funny – but she’s a real handful. I shouldn’t do that. Maybe it’s just a misplaced sense of modesty, of not wanting to brag too much on my kids, but I need to stop it. I’m very proud of my kids, I do think they’re cute and wonderful, I should be able to accept the compliment and move on.

Chris told me last night about a student he met while on hall duty that day – a very quiet girl, studious and mature, with apparently no friends. I feel sad for her. I hope my girls don’t have a hard time in high school. Pre-marriage, I used to think that I shouldn’t have kids because growing up was so hard and I didn’t want to inflict that on a child of mine. Obviously my mind changed, but now in a way I’m even more worried about it. Because now “kids” are not just an abstract idea; they are two particular little girls whom I love more than anything else in the world. And I know precisely what hurts them, and precisely how they react when they’re upset, and it makes the possibility of them coming to harm even harder to bear.

Well, that’s depressing.

So, um, here’s two funny things. Phoebe calls Sesame Street “the Dreet!” as in “Want to dance to the Dreet!” while pointing to an Elmo CD. And today she found a bottle of hairgel in a bathroom door and said, “It’s Gweese!”


Dear Mallory

You are a good, sweet girl. I love that you like to help your little sister. However, I don’t love that you think it “helps” when you wake Phoebe up in the morning, drag her out of bed, and lead her down the hall to the bathroom while I’m taking a shower. It would be far more helpful if you would just let her sleep.

You have imagination to spare and it’s nice to see you getting so involved in the books you read and the movies you watch. It’s not so nice when you choose to re-enact certain scenes. For example, you didn’t really need to use a green and red magic marker in an attempt to paint your face like Mulan’s in her matchmaking scene. And you don’t need to tell me, every time we hear “A Whole New World,” that Aladdin is really your boyfriend Skyler or that Jasmine is really you. You’ve told me numerous times and I don’t forget that easily.

You are brimming with generosity and you love to celebrate with your family and friends. It’s very cute that you label every day someone’s pretend birthday. However, I don’t know if I need any more pretend birthday presents, aka shopping bags filled with random household items (paperback books, the sewing kit, one glove, an orange). Also, I’m not sure if the neighbors would understand if I let you put “presents” in each of their mailboxes.

You love to play pretend and that’s a wonderful thing. I’m honored when you ask me to pretend along with you, but frankly it’s a bit tiresome when you dictate every single thing I’m supposed to pretend to say and do. Also, sometimes I’d just like to eat lunch rather than pretending that I’m the baby and you’re the mommy and Phoebe’s the sister and we’re having a lemonade stand so where’s the money?

Inquisitiveness is a fine character trait, but you need to learn that sometimes the final answer is, "This is none of your business" or "I don't know" or "No." In these cases it does not help to ask the question repeatedly in a shrill voice. Nor does it help when you declare that you will keep asking until you receive the answer you desire.

I understand that affirmation is really important to you, but I do wish that you would understand that I can’t respond to everything you say, especially not the exact instant after you say it. Also, please accept alternate responses. When you say, “This is Skyler singing in this part, okay Mommy?”, it should be acceptable for me to say, “Uh huh,” or “Yes,” or even just nod my head. If I do use one of these alternate affirmations you should just move on instead of repeating, “Okay Mommy? Okay Mommy?” until I say, “Okay” as well. Honestly sometimes I get tired of saying “Okay” back to you.

It’s nice that you say your prayers by yourself every night and rather touching that you whisper them. A personal relationship with God is very important. However, it is not necessary to follow up each night by loudly inquiring, “Mommy, did you HEAR me whispering my prayers?” I never hear you and at this point I don’t even want to. Please stop asking.

Also: The thing on your bedroom ceiling that you think is a bug is actually a shadow of the fan pull cast by your nightlight. This is true every night. And finally, the people on TV cannot see you. Not the good guys, not the bad guys, not the in-between-guys. No one on TV can see you. You can stop asking about that because the answer is not going to change.

I love you!


And an open postscript to all members of my family:

I place a handtowel on the oven door handle for a purpose. That purpose is so that there will always be a towel in a specific place when I need to dry my hands. I’m not sure why all of you are so intent on thwarting this purpose. I know that the shortest one of you thinks it’s fun to repeatedly pull the towel off the handle and throw it on the floor, but the rest of you have no excuse for not returning the towel to its proper position after you use it. Thank you for your assistance in this matter.


Karma. She'll Get You Every Time.

I got my first-ever ticket last night.

I got pulled over as I was going to pick up the girls, and because I am a safe and cautious driver I was genuinely bewildered as to why I had been stopped. The officer came up to my window and said, “I was behind you at a stoplight and punched in your license plate [can they just do that? Randomly and without cause? I guess they can], and it came up that your registration is expired.” I knew this to not be the case. He continued, “But then once you were pulled over I looked down and saw that I’d transposed some numbers. Your registration is up to date.” Then he smiled and I thought he was going to let me go. But there was more: “But THEN I noticed that your driver’s license is expired.”

Busted. It expired on my birthday, back in January, and I keep forgetting to get it renewed. I’ve thought about it at impractical times, like at 9:30 pm while I’m brushing my teeth. And in my (pathetic) defense, I have to add that when you work 9-5 every day, and rarely take a lunch hour, it’s difficult to find the time to get to the DMV. But it’s totally my fault and I feel stupid and sheepish and all that.

However, I think he should’ve just let me go when he realized that his original reason for pulling me over wasn’t valid. Argh!

And this is a story about parental karma, or at least a lesson in parental humility (and believe me, as a parent I’ve had plenty of those).

Aimee, Seth and Rhett came to visit us when Rhett was about 20 months old – same age Phoebe is now. Rhett was even more verbally precocious than Phoebe is, and he was such a cute, cute little guy. Mallory was 9 months and had just learned to crawl; rather, she had just learned to drag herself across the room with her elbows (she never did learn how to get up on her knees, in fact). The first time Rhett witnessed this commando-crawl he said, “What is she doing?” and then knelt down and asked her very gently, “Baby, are you okay?”

Anyway. We went out to dinner several times during their visit and Rhett was, well, Rhett was 20 months old. He was absolutely not BAD, there were no tantrums or fits; it’s just that Aimee and Seth had to work really hard to keep him entertained and happy while we sat there and ate.

And I admit that – although I must emphasize that I did not think that Rhett was being a bad kid – I felt just the teensiest bit smug at how nicely Mallory behaved at restaurants. She just sat there in her high chair and ate her applesauce and charmed the waitresses and was a perfect little sweetheart.

Well. Fast forward one year. Mallory got to be Rhett’s age, and Chris and I couldn’t take her anywhere for about six months. And ever since, while I am always pleased when my children do behave nicely, I never take it for granted. Or feel pleased with myself for their behavior either. Because sooner or later, it’s gonna change. Lesson learned!


100 Words or More

I took Phoebe for her 18-month checkup last week. (We were two months late. Not only that, but I completely forgot that she was supposed to go in for a 15-month checkup as well. She's definitely the second child!) The doctor said that she should have a vocabulary of at least 10 words by now.

That's no problem.

Phoebe likes to eat her unch on a cate with a bork, but she prefers to eat her i-seem in a bote with a boonse.

When she does something she's particularly proud of, she lifts her arms up and says, "I did it! Oo-ray Beebee!"

When she's hungry, she opens the door to the pantry and says, "Hmmm. How 'bout..." Her favorite food is "pop-orn."

Yesterday my mother-in-law suggested that she pick up some of her toys, and Phoebe said, "No. I don't want to!"

We were out in the yard Saturday night and heard an owl. Phoebe said, "What's the hoo-hoo?" I said, "It's an owl." She said, "I see it?" I said, "I don't know where it is." She said, "I want to go look!"

We went to Petsmart the other day and she had fun watching the "bish," the birds ("twee-twee!") and the cats ("mow!"), but her favorite was the mouse (actually a guinea pig) eating the "arnsh" (an orange).

If she wants to be held, she holds up her arm and says, "Carry me!" Once I told her that she could walk instead, and she said, "No. I can't."

She calls every monkey a "Georsh." Last week she got a pair of Mallory's Curious George underpants out of the dresser and carried it around for a few hours. I tried to get it away and she said, "No I want Georsh pants!" "Georsh" is also what she calls the movie Stuart Little (his brother is named George).

She consistently uses b's for f's, so she's Beebee, the dog is Binn, fish are bish, and her shoes go on her beet.

She's full of questions. "What dweeng?" she asks me (What are you doing?). What noise? Where go? Where Daddy? What's this?

And, somewhat unfortunately, she's started to repeat everything that Mallory says. This morning I told Mallory that I'm going to get a haircut after work today, and Mallory said, "Why do you need a haircut? Do you think your hair looks stupid?" I said no, not exactly, I just needed a trim. "Well good," Mallory said. "Because I really don't think your hair looks stupid."

Thanks. And thanks again, because the whole drive to school Phoebe was kept saying, "Stoop!"


An Ugly Scene

We’ve been talking about going to visit the family in Texas this summer. Last night Mallory said to me, “When you go visit Grandmom in Texas, is it okay if I stay home?”

I said, “No, it’s not,” and she fell on the floor and started weeping hysterically. And loudly. (Phoebe helpfully pointed out, “My ky-ing!”)

I finally got her to explain that she didn’t want to go to Texas because she’s afraid that her ears will hurt on the airplane. Even though she’s flown, I don’t know, at least ten times in her life already and her ears have never hurt on the airplane before.

I told her that everyone would miss her if she didn’t come along. I told her that she would miss me if she didn’t come along. I told her that she wouldn’t have any fun if she stayed at home. I told her that her other grandparents (where she suggested she would stay) had not invited her to stay at their house for a week. I told her that we could give her chewing gum to help with the ear thing. I told her that we could talk to her doctor about ways to keep her ears from hurting. I told her everything except what she wanted to hear, which was that she had my permission to stay behind.

The crying continued. (“My aw-right?” Phoebe asked.) The phone rang. As I went to answer, Chris told her, “Fine! You can stay home! Now stop crying already.”

Unfortunately, that didn’t help either. Mallory has always needed affirmation from both of us. (Mommy, can I have a drink of water? Yes. Daddy, Mommy says I can have a drink of water. Is that okay? Yes!) “Mommy, Daddy says I can stay home. Is it okay with you?” she asked me tearfully.

I just couldn’t say yes. If she’d been a little bit younger, I might have been able to tell the lie just to shut her up, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it last night. I said no. More crying. Unbelievable amounts of crying. Finally she said, “Are we going to go the very first day of summer?”

“No, it’ll be probably in the middle of the summer,” I said.

And with that, she stopped crying and dropped the subject.

Kids are so weird.

PS Holly, thanks for your comment. You’re right that I need to focus on the long-term rather than the short-term. Congrats on your five pounds!



Last night I read the chapter in David Sedaris’s Me Talk Pretty Some Day about Sedaris’s brother, Paul. It’s really, really funny; his brother refers to himself as “The Rooster” and, well, this is a family website so I can’t repeat what he says cannot happen to The Rooster. Just take my word for it, it’s funny. Anyway, the Sedaris family is from Raleigh and the author mentioned that his brother is the only one of his siblings to remain here, and that he runs a flooring business.

This morning on my way to work I passed a van painted with the words, “Sedaris Hardwood Floors.”

Right before Christmas I took the kids to the library. We hadn’t been for a couple of months and I was surprised to see that the nice swath of pine forest that originally surrounded the library had been cut down. “Oh man!” I exclaimed in disgust. Mallory wanted to know what was wrong and I pointed out the clearcutting and said that soon we’ll have to just call our town “Wake” instead of “Wake Forest” because all the trees will be gone. Then the two of us said “Oh man!” a few more times and Mallory later relayed the story to Chris and her grandparents.

For the past three days, as I’ve driven the kids to school, Phoebe has said, “Oh man!” as soon as I’ve turned onto a particular street. Today it occurred to me that she’s saying it just as we pass by yet another patch of land that’s been recently clear-cut of its trees.

Trying to lose weight may be the hardest thing I’ve ever done, with the possible exception of raising children and, uh, trigonometry. Oh, and sitting for my Master’s Exams wasn’t that easy either. It’s very frustrating. I like to eat. I like to eat things that are bad for me. I get kind of depressed when I realize that if I want to be thin, I’m going to have to eat foods that I don’t really like all that much, and not that much of them, for the rest of my life. I’m having a hard time staying motivated. Big sigh.


Best Book Dedication Ever

To Her

Hand in hand we come
Christopher Robin and I
To lay this book in your lap.
Say you're surprised?
Say you like it?
Say it's just what you wanted?
Because it's yours --
Because we love you.

Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne


Weekend Report

This was a very child-intensive weekend, for me, in that I spent almost every waking moment with the kids. I guess that's actually true of every weekend, it just felt even more so this time. We had fun, though; we went to the park, we played, we watched Grease (of course...now even Phoebe is asking to watch Guh-weese), we went shopping. I did two things all by myself -- went to get takeout on Saturday night and, on the way home, had a great view of the lunar eclipse. In fact people were parked on the median of the highway to see the eclipse. (At least, I assume that's why so many people were parked on the highway.) It was pretty amazing. We tried to get a picture of it when I got home but, well, it's hard to take a picture of the moon. Then on Sunday I went to the carwash because, due to my making a very sudden left turn, Mallory spilled an entire bottle of strawberry milk all over the floor of the car (Mallory's reaction: "Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh Mom you won't believe this!" Phoebe's reaction: "A mess! A mess!"). I still don't think I got it all up; there is still a residue of Quik odor in the car.

Anyway, none of that is very exciting, so here are some pictures!

Phoebe modelling a new spring outfit:

Mallory squished in a box:

Phoebe saying "Cheese":

Mallory dressed up as Dorothy, for reasons known only to her:

Mallory squished in the trash can:

Phoebe in the wind:

So, Mallory's kind of weird, and Phoebe's pretty cute...everything's proceeding as normal.


Hopelessly De-Boated to You

Mallory has become re-obssesed with the movie Grease. For the past week or so, we’ve been watching Grease once a day, we’ve been listening to Grease music in the car, we’ve been dancing to "Summer Lovin’" before bedtime, we’ve been re-enacting scenes with her Barbie dolls. And when Mallory gets really angry with us, or with Phoebe, she’ll shout the words that Sandy shouted at Danny: “You’re a fake and a phony and I wish I’d never laid eyes on you!” (Except it actually comes out, “You’re a fake and a forner and I wish I never had ice by you!”)

On a totally related note, Mallory has found a new boyfriend. When we entered her classroom on Monday morning, she clamped her hand over her mouth and started giggling like mad. “What’s up?” I asked, and she pointed to a boy standing by the blocks. “That’s Skyler! That’s my boyfriend!” she said, and resumed giggling. Her teacher overhead and commented, “Skyler’s not a bad choice!”

Mallory gives me regular updates on the progress of their relationship. “Guess what Mommy?” she said yesterday. “In circle time, when Miss Suzanne isn’t watching, I put my head on Skyler’s shoulder! Because he’s my boyfriend.” This morning she said, “You know in Grease when Sandy and Danny hug like this?” and wrapped her arms around herself. “That’s what me and Skyler do.” On the way to school she was singing “You’re the One that I Want,” and would occasionally interject, “That’s Skyler singing to me, not Danny singing to Sandy,” or “Now I’m singing that part to Skyler.”

I would be a little concerned about her level of involvement with Skyler, except for the fact that I was a volunteer at school yesterday and at no point during the time I was there did Mallory and Skyler actually interact.

And speaking of wishful thinking…the other night at dinner, Phoebe pointed to my glass and said, “Coffee!”

“No, that’s not coffee,” I said. “Who does drink coffee?”

“Papa!” she said, meaning her grandpa.

“That’s right. And what does Mama drink?”

“Tea!” she said.

“Yes! And what does Mallory drink?”


In point of fact, Mallory prefers “pecial milk” (soy milk, which is much more special than cow’s milk apparently) to juice, but I let her have that one. “And what does Phoebe drink?”

Phoebe pointed to her daddy’s glass of Coke. “That!”