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!)