Not the Weekend I Had Planned

Friday night. We took the kids over to my in-laws because Mallory had expressed her desire to have a sleepover. Since Chris and I are planning to go out of town without either child in June (not a moment too soon might I add) and Phoebe’s never been left before, we figured we might try to leave Phoebe overnight as well to see how she handles it. I felt a bit conflicted about this, however, since I had been at work all day and hadn’t been able to spend any time with her. So we went out to dinner, bummed around for a while, and went back to Chris’s parent’s house around 9. I figured if Phoebe was already asleep, we’d leave her there; if not, we’d just take her home.

Well, both children were still awake, and not only did we have to take Phoebe home with us, but Mallory decided that she didn’t want to have a sleepover after all. So we didn’t get rid of either kid that night. Bummer.

Saturday morning. My friend Julia had planned to bring her two girls over because she and her husband are building a house and had to talk to the flooring people and so forth. But Mallory woke up with an infected tick bite – the area around where the tick had been was bright red, swollen, and hot to the touch. Plus she had a weird rash on the back of her neck. So we go off to Pedicatric Urgent Care and not only got a prescription for antibiotics for the tick bite, but also learned that Mallory has chicken pox. Again. Of course Julia and Paul and the girls got to our house the very instant I called Chris to let him know. And of course they couldn’t stay because we didn’t want to give them chicken pox. And of course Mallory couldn’t play with any of her other friends either because of the stupid chicken pox. And she couldn’t go to school today. And I really regret that I had both her and Phoebe vaccinated for chicken pox because apparently it’s not a very effect vaccine! Argh.

Luckily the weather this weekend was just gorgeous and Mallory, apart from some itching, didn’t feel at all sick, so things weren’t all bad. But still.

And speaking of unexpected – Mallory’s new favorite movie is “Night at the Museum.” The character Ben Stiller plays is divorced, with a son, so we had to explain to Mallory many times why the mommy and daddy don’t live together, why the son doesn’t live with his daddy, and so forth. After one such explanation, Mallory got a very solemn look on her face and I steeled myself for the question – “Are you and daddy ever going to not be married any more?” But what she said instead was, “So, when are you and daddy going to split up?” As if it was something everyone did eventually. She went on to say that she thought it would be fun to live in two different houses. I tried to explain that divorce is really not a happy thing, but I don’t think she quite gets it.

As for Phoebe…for a while Phoebe was saying “Carry me!” whenever she wanted to be picked up. Now, for some reason, she says, “I carry you!” instead. I remember Mallory would say, “Pick you up” when she wanted to be held. I wonder why babies reverse their pronouns like that.

Hope your weekend was pox-free!


Expecting Adam

Expecting Adam, by Martha Beck, is the best book I’ve read in a long time. And I read a lot of good books, so, you know, you should rush out and read it yourself immediately. Beck and her husband were Harvard graduate students when she became pregnant with their second child. They were both driven, ambitious, pragmatic people and were very concerned about how the new baby would affect their career paths – especially when Beck became very ill during pregnancy, and even more so when they found out that the baby had Down Syndrome. Everyone around them assumed they would terminate the pregnancy. But ever since she became pregnant, Beck started having inexplicable but comforting “spiritual” experiences – a friend suddenly showing up at the door with groceries when Beck herself was too ill to get off the couch and feed herself and her daughter; a mysterious stranger helping her and her daughter down the stairs when their apartment building caught fire; the ability to “see” her husband as her traveled for business in Asia. It sounds hokey when I describe it, but the great thing about the book is that Beck admits that it is hokey, that even while she was experiencing these thigns, part of her was protesting that there are no such things as angels or signs or premonitions – and yet they were happening to her anyway. As she and her husband come to terms with the prospects of having a less-than-perfect son, they also re-evaluate the choices they’ve made and the plans they have for the future. She’s a wonderful writer, and the book is funny and moving and smart and honest. Here’s how she describes what she’s learned from Adam since his arrival:

Living with Adam, loving Adam, has taught me a lot about the truth. He has taught me to look at things in themselves, not at the value a brutal and often senseless world assigns to them. As Adam’s mother I have been able to see quite clearly that he is no less beautiful for being called ugly, no less wise for appearing dull, and no less precious for being seen as worthless. And neither am I. Neither are you. Neither is any of us.

Read this book. It’s wonderful.

Also wonderful was my mom’s visit. It was really good to see her. The day after she left Mallory behaved absolutely beastly and has asked at least twenty times when she’s coming back. (Phoebe echoes, “Where’s Grandmom?”) We miss you already, Mom!



As the second child, Phoebe has been exposed to certain things at a far earlier age than Mallory was. For example, Phoebe already knows that she can ask for ice cream when she's done with dinner (we kept dessert a secret from Mallory for at least two years, I think). Phoebe plays with Barbies, whereas at this age Mallory was still playing with Little People. Phoebe's favorite movies are Stuart Little and Grease; at that age, Mallory had only seen Sesame Street and Baby Einstein.

And I'm thrilled to report that Phoebe can already say, "I FIRST!" and "Mine!" (although she pronounces it "mines" which is pretty funny), and, my very favorite, "Why?" Yeah, she's asking "why." The problem is -- beyond the problem that being asked why a million times a day is just annoying -- that she isn't quite able to understand any answer we give her. So she just keeps repeating "Why? Why? Why?"

But here's a lesson I'm glad she's learned. Yesterday, at her Parent's Morning Out class, Phoebe was standing near another baby who started to cry for her mommy. The teacher came over and said the usual thing: "It's okay, Mommy will be back soon!" Phoebe looked over and said, "I know that!"



I mailed our taxes off late Thursday afternoon.

My check to the IRS cleared yesterday.

That strikes me as being really, really quick. Almost impossibly quick.

Wonder if they would've sent a refund that fast.



My mom is coming to visit us on Saturday. Yay! As much as I love it when my whole family gets together, I also love it when it’s just my mom, when she can spend one-on-one time with my girls. (I guess it’s one-on-two time, now.) And I’m glad that she’ll get to see Phoebe on her “home turf,” since last time we went to visit, Phoebe was pretty overwhelmed and crankety and wouldn’t let me put her down. So I’m looking forward to this visit.

So is Mallory. She keeps asking when exactly Grandmom will be here, how long it will take her to get here, where she will sleep, who else will be here, how long she will stay, what we will give her for dinner, and how many days again is it til she gets here?

This morning she got to preschool and announced to her teacher, “My grandmom is coming in five days! And she’s taking two planes!”

I’ll be glad when Grandmom gets here just so the questions will stop! Of course, they’re bound to be replaced by others, but at least Mom can provide the answers for a couple of days!


Almost Two

This weekend I caught myself telling someone that Phoebe was "almost two." It caught me off guard. It's true, of course, and it's much more precise than just saying she's "one," but I was still surprised to hear it coming out of my mouth. Almost two! My baby!

The truth is, I'm only the teensiest bit nostalgic for her babyhood. I love the age she's at now.

When I come home from work she runs to me and says, "Mommm-ie!" with a huge smile, and when I pick her up she wraps her arms tightly around my neck. This greeting almost makes going to work worth it.

She can count to ten -- "Wan. Two. Free. Four. Fize. Sik. Senen. Eat. Nahn. Ten!" But if she hears someone else counting, she'll hide her eyes, then say, "Here I come! Where are you?"

She loves her baby dolls. She carries them around, she hugs them, she feeds them "juice." If she drops a doll, she picks it up and says, "I sowee! Okay?" She also says "I sowee!" whenever she hurts herself.

She can sing Twinkle Twinkle, The Wheels on the Bus, and Happy Birthday.

She's very precise in her commands. If I'm blocking her way, she'll say, "Push!" If she wants me to come with her, she'll say, "Walk!" If she wants something out of reach, she'll say, "I touch that!" If she wants to be picked up, she'll say, "Carry me!" We also hear a lot of "Stop!" if Mallory is in her vicinity. She will often congratulate herself for following the commands of others -- e.g., if I tell her to sit down in her highchair, she'll do it and then say, "Good girl!"

Her favorite movie is "Lellow," aka Stuart Little.

She loves lollipops (pop-pops), cucumbers (which she calls celery), tomatoes, and French fries. In fact the instant we walked into a restaurant last Saturday night she said, "Yay! Fries!" (Unfortunately it was a Tex-Mex place so she had to settle for chips.)

When Chris tells her goodnight, she blows him two kisses. Every night, it's two kisses.

She is very attached to a wool hat that my mother-in-law knitted. Whenever she sees it she happily yells, "Hat!" and wears it around for a while. Even when it's really hot, or her hair is wet from her bath, or at other times that you wouldn't think would be conducive to wool-hat-wearing.

She also occasionally uses a pacifier, which she calls her "mouse," a mispronunciation for mouth.

She likes to recite the names of her Parent's Morning Out friends: "Gabi...and Joffie (Jeffrey) and Nenna (Sienna)..."

She doesn't much like to be cuddled. She's very stubborn. She has the funniest laugh I've ever heard. She's almost two.


24,000 Easter Pictures

Mallory has developed the habit of exaggerating quantities -- "I want 18 million pancakes for breakfast! I want to play outside for 28 thousand hours!" And since last week I have picked up 12 billion strands of Easter grass and stepped on 14 hundred plastic eggs. Oh, and I took lots of pictures too.

Egg dying. (No eggs died!) Incidentally, Mallory told me not to take pictures of her because her clothes didn't match. This from a child who once purposely wore a Halloween shirt with candy-cane pants and summer sandals.

Phoebe received this Elmo bubble machine from the Easter bunny. Bubble-blowing Elmo is very loud and wastes lots of bubble liquid. Phoebe likes him anyway.

Phoebe did not like having to have her picture taken in her Easter dress.

Still not liking it:

Nope, not liking it now either:

A bit happier, with a "pop-pop" and grandparents:

Hunting for Easter eggs:

"Easta-weggs! I find! All done!"


Songs I've Sung

A few nights ago Mallory asked to take a shower rather than a bath. This was surprising – Mallory usually hates getting her face wet in any way, and the few times we’ve attempted to give her a shower have been disasters. “I don’t think you’ll like it,” I said dubiously, but she insisted (loudly and tearfully), so I relented.

And she did fine. “I really like showers!” she announced when she got out. “Hey Daddy!” she called across the house. “I like showers!”

I was chalking this up as yet another inexplicable whim when Chris said, “Hey, Mallory, let me ask you something. Do you like showers now because of the Sandy video we saw on TV?”

Mallory blushed, giggled madly, and said, “Um, yes. And I really like showers!”

This is what happened. She and Chris had caught the tail end of Grease on TV the other night, and for some reason the station played Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” video right afterward. As you may know, Olivia (or Sandy, as we know her) is in a gym with a bunch of guys and takes a shower (still wearing her 80’s headband) after doing her “aerobics.” And this was enough to spur Mallory to change her shower-hating ways. Since then we’ve found the video on Youtube and have watched it many, many, many times.

Yes, it is a bit disconcerting to hear my 5-year-old sing, “Let me hear your body talk, your body talk,” but overall I’m a bit pleased. She comes by her Olivia-obsession naturally. My big sister and I used to spend hours singing along with Olivia (after first tying towels around our heads to simulate her long, flowing hair). This was before Grease, in Olivia’s country stage. Our absolute favorite song was “Please Mister Please”:

Don’t play B-17
It was our song, it was his song
But it’s o-over.

We also liked Helen Reddy’s “Delta Dawn,” Charlie Rich’s “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” and B.J. Thomas:

Say, won’t you play
Another somebody done somebody wrong song?
And make me feel at home
While I miss my baby,
While I miss my baby.

A few years later we discovered Tony Orlando and the Dawn:

Knock three times on the ceiling if you love me!
Twice on the pipes,
If the answer is no.

Neil Diamond was a big favorite as well:

Money talks,
But it don’t sing and dance and it don’t walk.
Long as I can have you here with me,
I’d much rather be
Forever in blue jeans.

The Urban Cowboy soundtrack was also a hit:

I’ve been lookin’ for love
In too many places
Lookin’ for love
In too many faces,
Searching their eyes,
Looking for traces
Of what I’m dreamin’ of…

I guess you could say we didn’t have the most sophisticated taste in music, but we certainly had fun singing along.


Places I've Been

(Alternate title: How to waste a whole lot of time at work, thanks to Google Earth)

Here's where I grew up. That's right, no pavement!

Then I went to Trinity University in San Antonio. Lots of pavement and red brick. Spent most of my time in the rectangular building at the top, near the parking lot -- the library.

I spent a semester here. My dorm was one of the squiggly white buildings. England was on the whole beautiful; the campus of UEA was not.

After graduation I moved to North Carolina and lived in this apartment:

Then Chris and I bought our first house in Durham. House was cute (but very small), neighborhood was beautiful (but close to some undesirable parts of town); we only lived there for two years.

I couldn't get a clear image of our present home, but here's where I spend every working day. Our office is in the one towards the bottom. Oh, and all those trees to the right? Gone, as of last week.

Where've you been all your life?


Mama Guilt, Twice

1. We had a trip to the zoo planned for last Saturday -- we being Chris and the girls and I, plus his parents and sister, whose birthday it was (Happy Birthday Mimi!). However, to make a long story short, Chris woke up with a a bizarre throat problem and he and I ended up spending the morning at the doctor's office, while everyone else went to the zoo without us. (Chris is fine -- well, he's not sick. He has a swollen uvula, probably caused by allergies and/or sleep apnea, which makes it difficult for him to talk or swallow. Not life-threatening, just very unpleasant.)

After we were reassured that Chris was not going to require an emergency tonsillectomy, I was actually a bit pleased with how things had turned out. I got a day to myself! I went home and cleaned the kitchen, including under the oven (disgusting) and behind the fridge (horrifying). I even took down the curtains and washed them (and will probably not put them back up -- I never liked them much. I've kind of lapsed on the home decoration front but the kitchen may be next.). Then Chris and I cleaned the girls' playroom and bedroom, boxing up and/or throwing out some outgrown toys and dilapidated art projects. (When Mallory saw her bedroom that night she said, "Wow! It's so clean! It's like a hotel!")

And the thing is, I didn't feel a bit guilty for missing the zoo trip. I knew the girls were in good hands and having a fabulous time without us.

But I did feel guilty for not feeling guilty.

2. Chris and I are thinking about asking his parents to watch the girls one weekend this summer so we can go out of town. Specifically, we'd be going to the annual comic book convention in Charlotte. Not everyone's idea of a romantic weekend, but it would mean that Chris and I could have time together alone, Chris could hang out with some friends he doesn't get to see very often, and I could spend an entire day in a hotel room ALL BY MYSELF. Mallory has had sleepovers with Chris's parents, Phoebe has been away from me for one disastrous night when I had to travel for a training seminar. We've never left the both of them for the weekend. Repeat: It's been 5.5 years since we've gone anywhere by ourselves. I think it's time.

But I feel guilty about this too. Not for leaving them, because I know they'll be fine (even though Phoebe still doesn't sleep through the night). No, I feel guilty because last year we went to Charlotte as a family and, while Chris was at the convention, the girls and I had a nearly perfect day together. We didn't do anything all that exciting -- swimming, splashing in a fountain, Build-a-Bear, a carousel ride -- but we still had a great time, and it's one of my fondest memories. So even though I know there's no way we could repeat that day anyway -- that this year we could try to do all those same things again but there would be tantrums, or rainstorms, or other difficulties -- I still feel bad for not trying to recreate the magic.

I need to get over that.

By the way. Thinking about moving to North Carolina? Consider this:

See that yellow dust? That would be pine pollen, and for about two weeks every spring, it's everywhere. It's particularly bad this year. Yesterday the girls were playing outside and little clouds of pollen puffed up every time they took a step. My pants (navy blue) and shoes (black) were coated with yellow dust when we went inside. It makes me itch all over, and it's making the girls all stuffy and sneezy. Hooray for spring!