5/31/07

Nice to hear

On the last day of school, Mallory's teacher said to me: "I just love Mallory. If I had to become a kid again -- god forbid -- I think I'd want to come back as Mallory."

I can't think of a nicer compliment.

5/30/07

And having posted this, I'm off to the vending machine for some M&Ms

A few weeks ago I read Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia by Marya Hornbacher. And of all the things that I don’t want happening to my daughters as they grow up, I think first on that list is having an eating disorder.

The author first decided she was fat at the age of five. By nine, she was making herself throw up once a day. She was in and out of hospitals and mental institutions throughout high school and college. At the age of 20, she weighed 52 pounds. 52 pounds – that’s less than Mallory weighs now.

Eating disorders are so insidious. They’re so hard to control, to recover from. Even while writing her book, Hornbacher insisted that she wasn’t cured. (And the disease has had long-term repercussions on her health – she can’t have babies, she has depleted bone and muscle mass, her immune system is shot.) There is no cure, there is only coping. It’s not like alcoholism or drug abuse – everyone has to have some kind of relationship with food. I think in this culture it’s extremely difficult to make that relationship a healthy one.

I first remember thinking I was “fat” in fourth grade, when I joined the “Little Dribblers” basketball team. All of us little girls would sit around the locker room and compare the size of our thighs. I considered myself fat all through junior high school and most of high school, in fact – although I never was. I distinctly remember wearing a size 4 as I entered college – I was anything but fat. Now I am definitely overweight (funny, I find it hard to say “I’m fat” now that I actually am) and it’s because I really don’t have a healthy attitude towards food. I eat when I’m bored, when I’m stressed, when I’m celebrating, and I make poor choices. And every couple of months (remember last January?) I decide that I’m going to lose the weight, no matter what it takes! And it takes all of a week for me to decide that I don’t really care enough to stick with it.

In part, that’s just because I like to eat. But I also find myself resenting – after a day or two of “being good” which also means being hungry – the fact that I feel the need to be thin. Whose standards am I trying to live up to? Whose idea was it that thinness is more attractive than plumpness? (There were times in history that I would’ve been the ideal womanly shape – perfect for bearing and feeding babies.) And who am I trying to impress, anyway? I think I also realize that I tend to blame things that are going wrong in my life on my weight. If I could only lose weight, I wouldn’t be so shy. I’d make more friends. I’d get a better job. And so on. And none of that is true. I’m who I am, no matter what size I am.

Certainly it’s true that I want (and need) to be healthier than I am. I am trying to change my diet to include more nutritious food, need to change my lifestyle to include more exercise. But as far as losing weight just so I can say that I’ve done it – I just don’t think it’s going to happen.

But the rub is – I also have to set a good example for my kids. Not only in what I eat, but in how I feel about myself and my body. I don’t want my kids to be overweight, but I don’t want them to be fearful of being “big,” either. From a genetic standpoint, they’re just never going to be the skinniest kids in the class. They may never, in point of fact, be skinny at all. I hope that I can instill enough self-confidence in them so they can accept themselves as they are, and not fall prey to the voices around them telling them that thin is the only way to be.

Also just finished reading:

The Uses of Enchantment by Heidi Julavits
Family Man by Calvin Trillin
Eye Contact by Cammie McGovern
A Wild Ride Up the Cupboards by Ann Bauer

5/25/07

Summertime!

I’m glad it’s summer. For one thing, it means the end of the morning rush to get the kids up, dressed, fed and out the door at a specific time. I’m really bad at that so it’s nice to have a three-month reprieve. For another thing, it means that the girls will have a lot more time to spend together, and that’s nice because they’re finally at the stage that they can actually play together and have real conversations.

For example, the other morning I was up getting dressed while the kids slept. I heard Phoebe making noises so I went down the hall to get her. Then I stopped outside the door because she wasn’t actually calling for me, she was singing a song. I listened for a minute, and then I heard Mallory say, “Phoebe, are you singing?”

“Yeah!” Phoebe said.

“What are you singing about?”

“My toes hurt!”

“Your toes hurt?”

“Yeah.”

“Why do your toes hurt?”

“A-cause.”

“Well, I’m sorry about that.”

“My-ee’s toe hurts?”

“No, my toes are okay.”

“Oh. Good!”

They like to play Barbies together too – or rather, they play Barbies in the same room, and Phoebe echoes the conversations that Mallory makes up with her dolls. So Mallory will have one doll say to another: “Hello Seeping Bleauty*, that’s a pretty dress, would you like to marry me today?”, Phoebe will have her doll say, “Hello, dress, today!” Then Mallory says, “No, I don’t want to marry you because I’m going to marry Aladdin,” and Phoebe will say, “No, I don’t want, Aladdin!”

They also like to chase the poor dog around, and to pile pillows up at the bottom of the stairs and jump (Mallory shouting “Rocketship!” and Phoebe shouting “This fun!”). And the other day while I was half-asleep in a cold-induced haze, they spent thirty minutes in their playroom giggling and shrieking and doing something entirely** fun which involved, I later discovered, the smashing up of many many crayons into the carpet.

It’s nice that Mallory is getting along so nicely with Phoebe (except when she doesn’t) because she’s certainly pushing her parent’s buttons a lot lately. On Wednesday she insisted on staying in the bedroom where I was trying to put Phoebe down for a nap. She claimed to be sleepy too, but she wouldn’t stop talking. I told her she had to settle down. She wouldn’t. I said, “Mallory, if you don’t stop arguing with me you’ll have to leave the room.” She said, “If I leave the room, I’ll have no one to argue with!”

She’s developed a cast of imaginary friends with very convenient characteristics. For example, her friend Madeline “never has to buckle her seat belt, and the police do not care one bit. True!” And last night she told me about her friend Ashley. “You know my friend Ashley? Well, her parents wouldn’t let her leave her closet light on all night, and she definitely died. She did!”

Phoebe, on the other hand, is very polite. She says “Take-you” and “No-take-you” and “Please” and something resembling “You’re welcome.” She asks for hugs and kisses and says “I you!” for “I love you.” She does get a bit impatient with me when I can’t quite decipher what she means. The other night she was asking for a book off the shelf. “This one!” she said. I pointed to one. “This one?” I asked. “No! This that one!” she clarified. Later I asked if she needed help doing something and she said, “No, I don’t want Mommy help you!” Her favorite thing is her daddy’s “mean monkey” routine which really you have to see to understand.

It should be a fun summer.

*Seeping Bleauty is my all-time favorite kid-pronunciation. In fact Mallory now says this correctly, but I needed to record it for posterity.

**Mallory uses the word “entire” or “entirely” when she means “actual” or “really.” It’s too funny to correct and I’ve kind of internalized it and find myself using “entirely” when it’s not…entirely….appropriate.

5/24/07

My babies, a little bit grown up

Today was Mallory’s last day of preschool. Here she is posing with Phoebe. Ignore Phoebe, who as usual was refusing to cooperate.




Here she is on her very first day, two years ago:



Look at that face!

I’ve loved her preschool. I can’t think of one complaint I had in the two years she was there. I hope she fares as well in “big school.”

Their closing program was last night. Can you see her, way in the back? (Yeah, she's the tallest child in preschool.)



The kids sang one of my favorite songs -- “This Little Light of Mine” -- (I have an odd memory of me, my brother and sisters, and my mom singing that song in front of the whole church while my mom played guitar. Did that really happen?) although they didn’t sing my favorite verse, “Don’t let Satan whoosh it out! I’m gonna let it shine…” Maybe they don’t teach kids about Satan anymore. Anyway, I’m proud of my little light. She’s learned and grown so much in the past two years, it’s hard to believe. I was a bit teary all day, and it’s not just because I have a cold.

I also got misty while walking into school yesterday, with Phoebe charging along beside Mallory. The preschool director saw us and said, “Well, no one has to carry Phoebe into school anymore!” When Mallory started in 2005, Phoebe was a little tiny thing (insofar as she was ever really tiny); I carried her down to Mallory’s room in the crook of my arm all year long. This year, up until a few weeks ago, she usually still preferred to be carried down the hall most days, but would wriggle down once we got to Mallory’s class and make a beeline for the bookshelf and the little red rocking chair and sit and rock while I hung up Mallory’s things and said goodbye. She’s growing up too. She’ll start preschool in the fall of 2008…so I only have a year and three months to get her potty-trained. Yikes.

Anyway. This is very disjointed (see: cold). My girls are getting so big. I wish I could freeze them in time, because they’re just perfect right now.

5/18/07

7 Things

Everyone else with a blog is doing this, so why not me? Here are 7 things you may not know about me.

1. I often get obsessed with topics and spend weeks reading everything I can find about them. This happened much more often in college and graduate school, mostly when I was procrastinating doing my actual schoolwork. Examples include: the fate of the Romanov family (Anastasia did, sadly, die with the rest of them); the Lindbergh kidnapping (I don’t think Hauptmann did it); and Robert Falcon Scott’s expedition to the South Pole (I don’t think he was a great leader, but I also think he had some really bad luck).

2. I have breastfed both of my kids well into toddlerhood. I know that’s out of the ordinary and it’s nothing I really planned to do; it’s just that we kept hitting the “usual” cut-off dates (6 months, 9 months, 1 year) and I couldn’t think of any real good reason to stop. Mallory nursed until she was 32 months (although only for naps and bedtime for about the last six months of that); Phoebe is almost two and still nursing. (She’s much more intense about nursing than Mallory ever was.) There are lots of good reasons to nurse past infancy, as the benefits of breastmilk continue to apply – it supports the immune system, it decreases the risks of diabetes, ear infections, and other diseases, it helps with proper jaw/teeth development – and it’s still, of course, extremely nutritious, which is handy on those days when, for example, Phoebe eats nothing besides a handful of raisins, a piece of toast, and a lollipop. It’s good for bonding, too, which obviously means a lot to me as a work-outside-the-home-mom. I would like to become involved somehow in breastfeeding advocacy; I believe that every woman should at least try to breastfeed in the beginning, but I also know that even though it supposed to be “natural,” it can be very difficult and painful, and that oftentimes women don’t have the support/information necessary to be successful.

3. Okay, this one needs to be much shorter…so, the first thing I do when I come home from work every day is remove my jewelry and my bra (see #2, above. Ha!). I can’t stand to wear those items in the house.

4. I hate calling strangers on the phone – things like making a doctor’s appointment, placing a take-out order, and so forth make me really nervous.

5. I am against capital punishment but for abortion rights, and yes, the inconsistency of that does bother me.

6. I didn’t know about the Oklahoma City bombing until the day after it happened. I was in graduate school at the time and had a term paper due. I spent all day in the library, rode the bus home, watched Simpsons and Seinfeld reruns while I ate dinner, and then spent all night on the computer. Imagine my surprise when I picked up a newspaper the next morning.

7. When I was younger – 11 or 12 – I spent a whole summer trying to “become” left-handed, or at least ambidextrous. To my disappointment, it didn’t take.

5/17/07

Sorry for the suspense...

Chris's kidney stone exited on Tuesday and he is all better now. Hooray!

I have not been very bloggy lately. I have thoughts in my head but not much motivation to write them out. Perhaps I'll try harder next week. Perhaps not. In the meantime, here are some recent Phoebe funnies:

Yesterday morning while my back was turned, Mallory poured syrup all over Phoebe's waffle. Phoebe cried: "I don't like syr-sup! Mommy! Affle broke!"

We had this conversation over and over yesterday:

P: How are you Mommy?
Me: I'm fine, Phoebe, thanks! How are you?
P: Good! Thank you! How are you Mommy?
Me: I'm fine, Phoebe, how are you?
P: Good! How are you Mommy?

Last night with Mallory:
P: My-ee! My-ee! My-ee!
Mallory (finally): What?
P: Um...eight nine ten elenen, My-ee!

After taking a sip of Chris's soda: "Delicious!"

P: Watch this Mommy! Watch this Mommy!
Me: Okay, I'm watching.
P: (takes a big step) I jumped, Mommy! Hooray Phoebe!

If she wants something but doesn't know the name for it, she'll try to identify it by color. So she'll say, "I touch pink!" If I say, "What pink thing?" she'll try again: "I touch pink! No, I touch geen! No, I touch geen blue lellow!"

Anyway, she makes me laugh.

5/11/07

Poor Guy

Chris has a kidney stone, so he now has an inkling of what I went through to bear his children. However, saying cheerily, “Now you know how labor feels!” to someone who has a kidney stone isn’t really recommended. At least not until the drugs kick in.

We spent the morning in the ER. Then I had to run in to work while Chris stayed home all doped up. We hope this passes quickly, but your kind thoughts are appreciated.

In totally unrelated news: Last night I got home and just didn’t feel like making dinner, so I suggested we get dinner from the Sonic that just opened down the street from us. “What’re we gonna do, eat in the car?” Chris asked skeptically. “Yeah!” I enthused. “I loved eating Sonic in the car when I was a kid, it’ll be fun!”

I soon learned that eating Sonic in the car isn’t so much fun when you’re a parent. Although I did forget to try to convince Mallory that there was a little man in the speaker box that ran the order back to the restaurant, as my dad convinced me so long ago. I’m sure that little gem would’ve added a spark to the evening.

This was cute, however. I asked Phoebe if she wanted a hamburger or a hot dog, not really expecting an answer. But Phoebe said, “Ummm…a hog-og!” and we all laughed. Then Mallory sighed and said, “I just love my sister!”

And one more anecdote: Last weekend, in another example of how I’m doing my best to feed my children well, we went out for ice cream. I ordered a cone for Mallory, and another one for me and Phoebe to share. I held the cone out for Phoebe to take a lick and she said, “I do it!” I said that I needed to hold it and she said, quite enraged, “No, I touch the Phoebe’s!” Which has become my catchphrase this week, whenever I need a laugh.

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there. Here's all the present I'll ever need...



...but chocolates would also be appreciated.

5/9/07

Why was I not consulted beforehand?

Chris and I are going away for a "romantic weekend" in June, which means, in part, that I'm going to have a whole day to myself in a hotel room. I'm so excited about this, I can hardly type. I do have one complaint, however: Why oh why can't the new Harry Potter book come out that weekend, instead of one month later in July? It's not that I'm all that into Harry Potter, but I do want to read the new one, and I know that once I start reading the new book I won't want to put it down. So that weekend in June would be perfect. I wonder if I could plead my case to the publisher, maybe they'll slip me an advance copy?...Yeah, probably not.

This mis-scheduling happened with Harry Potter 6 too. It came out in July 2005, ten days after Phoebe was born, and the only time I was able to read it was when Phoebe was nursing and Mallory was otherwise occupied. Now, when Mallory was a newborn reading and nursing was a cinch, because she was an easy baby and just lay there cooperatively on her Boppy as she ate and then fell asleep; I could just hold the book with my opposite hand and life was swell. Phoebe was much more difficult to get settled and I had to support her head in bizarre ways, and she didn't much like being on the Boppy. I still tried valiantly to make it work; however, I think I did permanent damage to the nerves in my shoulder from trying to balance a 10-pound baby and that 10-pound-book in my lap all at once. So an earlier publication date for that book would've been helpful too.

It's so irritating, when the world doesn't revolve around you.

5/3/07

Submission Guidelines

I’ve had such an interesting day at work. I don’t want to reveal too much about my job, so let’s say, hypothetically, that I create html newsletters for hamster owners. And let’s say that in our last issue we invited our loyal readers to submit their very best picture of their hamster for possible publication in our next issue. Let’s say that we have received, to date, over three thousand pictures of hamsters that I now have to sort through. And let’s say that some of these pictures are alarmingly bad, so much so that I have decided that next year, when we once again open our inbox for reader photos, I’m going to include these guidelines:

1. Please submit only photos that are in focus.
2. Please fix any hamster red-eye before submitting photo.
3. Even the cutest hamster does not look all that cute when sitting on a couch with busy upholstery.
4. Or when sitting on dirty linoleum.
5. Photos of your hamster’s nether regions are not desirable.
6. Photos of your hamster snuggling into your cleavage are even less desirable.
7. “Glamour shots” of you and your hamster – again, no.
8. As we are one of the leading public advocates for hamster welfare, we cannot publish photos featuring your hamster perched on a jet ski. Or tangled up in electrical cords.
9. Please remove all sunglasses and funny hats from your hamster before taking the photo.
10. Please do not add captions such as “Hamster Love” or “Cutie-Pie!” to your photo. Leave the editorializing to us, the editors.
11. We stated that we wanted your “best” photo. “Best” means one, not five, not fifteen, not fifty-three. No, they’re not all so cute. Yes, you should be able to decide. Just pick one!
12. To the person who submitted the same picture 1200 times – seriously, what was that all about? Don’t do that. And your persistence, incidentally, did not pay off. Don’t watch for your hamster in our next issue, cause he’s not going to be there!

5/1/07

Why Apostrophes Matter

Mallory has recently been obsessed with caterpillars. Every day she's out scouring the yard for another caterpillar to put in her caterpillar bucket (the scene of many untimely caterpillar deaths, sadly, because she insists on leaving them there overnight and I always forget to go release them so they won't get too cold. Or hot. Or whatever problem they have with the bucket that causes them to die overnight. Anyway.). A few days ago she looked up from her caterpillar observing and said: "Mommy, are caterpillars gods?"

"Gods?" I repeated blankly.

"Yeah, you know, gods," she said.

I stopped to think. I imagined a Caterpillar on a cloud hurling lightning bolts, like Zeus. I imagined a Caterpillar in a manger. I imagined a Caterpillar sitting Buddha-like on a mushroom a la Lewis Carroll. What I could not imagine was why Mallory was asking this particular, peculiar question.

"I'm not sure what you mean," I finally said.

"You know, did God make them," she said.

"Oh! Are caterpillars God's," I said.

"Yeah. So are they?"

"Yes. Certainly they are."

Aren't they?




Just Finished Reading

The Ha-Ha by Dave King. This book is about a disabled Vietnam vet who gets a new lease on life, as they say, when he has to temporarily take care of a friend's little boy. Very well-written and sad.

Triangle by Katharine Weber. A novel based on the Triangle Factory Fire of 1910. For some reason I love to read about tragedies like that one. (I read The Circus Fire, however, mere days before going to see Sesame Street Live last year and got really freaked out by the crush of people as we were trying to leave.) This book was really, really lovely; I wish it had been longer.

Speak Softly, She Can Hear by Pam Lewis. A psychological thriller, if you're into that kind of thing. After a certain point I couldn't put this book down. A good weekend read.

The Effect of Living Backwards by Heidi Julavits. An excellent book, although it had a really conviluted plot which I'm still not sure I understood. I'm reading another book by Julavits now which is also very good.

(Ick, I need to find more adjectives. It was really good! It was very good! What a good book! Trust me, these books are much better than my reviews of them!)