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.