Everything's a Competition

Recently, whenever Mallory is reprimanded or denied something she wants, she zings back with this cutting retort:

“Well, I’m going to have more funner than you at school!”

Seriously. “Mallory, please don’t push your sister.”

“Well, I’m going to have more funner than you at school!”

Or, “No, you can’t have a piece of candy, it’s almost dinner time.”

“Well, I’m going to have more funner than you at school!”

Once she was arguing with Chris about something, and doing so a bit ineptly, and Chris said, “Mallory, you’re not even making sense.” And sure enough, here it came:

“Well, I’m going to have more funner than you at school!” Then she added, “What do you say about THAT?”

It’s funny, and it’s ridiculous, and it’s a bit poignant, as well. Poor child, she’s only six, she has so little control over her life. All she has going for her is that she gets to go to kindergarten, and I suppose that I’m glad that she perceives school as “funner” than anything the rest of us get to do.

She had to turn in a drawing for a coloring contest at school, in celebration of Catholic Schools Week. I didn’t tell her it was for a contest; I just said that her drawing and her classmates’ would be displayed for visitors to see, so she needed to do her very best. Lately she cries if she has to erase too much on her handwriting homework, or if she can’t get something just right in a drawing she’s working on, so I thought the idea of a contest would be too much pressure for her. I think she’ll be very disappointed if she doesn’t win -- and she won’t, I saw the other drawings and hers was not the best. (I think, in fact, that her best friend’s drawing will win.) It seems so unfair; she’s only six. I want to tell the judges that she worked really, really hard, that she did give it her best effort, but obviously I can’t.

My own personal history comes in to play here, as it always does. In second grade, I received the Art Award at the end-of-year Awards Assembly. How I rated this honor is one of the enduring mysteries of my life, as I have never been artistically inclined. My best guess is that I got it because I was neat and quiet, qualities that must have appealed to the art teacher, who was the meanest woman alive. Anyway, I was delighted to be called up on stage to receive my award, and I went back to my seat and beamed and held up my certificate for my best friend to see. And she looked at it and then looked away, and her eyes were full of tears. And I was crushed. I was so sad that I had won something and she hadn’t, and I wanted to tell her that I didn’t care about the award, and that she was my best friend ever no matter what. But I couldn’t think of a way to say that, so I just sat there and glared down at my certificate and thought, “You just broke her heart.” And that’s a terribly melodramatic memory, but it’s stayed with me, and I just hate to think of my kids being on either side of that situation.

Do you ever get over wanting to protect your children from every little hurt?


The tree jumped out at me, I swear!

It was just a matter of time, really, before I ran into a tree at my in-law's house. They have a long, narrow, snaky driveway that is lined by trees on both sides. Mostly I try to NOT go in reverse in their driveway at all. Last night I didn't have a choice, and my number came up.

I heard the crunch, and then I heard what sounded like raindrops -- a tinkling noise coming from the rear of the car. I thought, okay, I hit a tree, and now things -- pine cones? acorns? squirrels? -- are falling out of the tree onto my car. I raised my head and looked back, to discover that 1) yes, I HAD hit a tree and 2) the things that were falling were pieces of my shattered back windshield.

My sister-in-law, Amy, was with me; we got out, surveyed the damage, and then went into the house to tell Chris. "You're back so soon?" my mother-in-law asked when we walked through the door. Amy mouthed the words, "Krista hit a tree." Mallory, who was ACROSS THE ROOM, somehow deciphered this and bellowed, "My MOMMY hit a TREE with her CAR!" Thanks! See if I cover up for YOU when you wreck YOUR car for the first time, kiddo!

Anyway, as accidents go, this one wasn't all that bad. No one was hurt; even the tree was unscathed. My children were not in the car, which is particularly good because I was certainly letting the profanity fly when it all first happened. The tailgate has a small dent, the back windshield needs replacing, but it'll all be covered by insurance, so no problem. It's an annoyance because I have to miss work to go get estimates and so forth, and it's no fun driving around with a big piece of plastic on the back of your car (you don't realize how much you use your rearview mirror until you no longer can), but it's not that serious.

Probably the worst part of it is that I feel like a complete idiot.



I signed Phoebe up for preschool today. Phoebe! Preschool! Impossible! And yet it's not, she'll start in the fall. If, that is, she's potty-trained. So far she's been pretty adamant about NOT using the potty and NOT wearing underwear and NOT being a big girl. Luckily, we have seven months to work on that.

Other parents in my community camped out last night to ensure that their children would get preschool slot for the fall. For the record, it was 19 degrees here last night. Also for the record, these parents are crazy. And also, too many people are moving to my community. Go away, we're full!

Mallory's tooth was so loose last night that she was swiveling it around with her tongue. We suggested that she pull it so that she didn't swallow it during the night, and she commenced screaming and thrashing because it would hurt, it would hurt so badly! Amidst all the screaming the tooth fell out unassisted. Whew. So now she's adorably gap-toothed. And a dollar richer.


All Gone

Oh hey, did you notice they wallpaper in the pictures from my last post?

GONE! If all goes well we'll start painting this weekend.

Oh, and Mallory's left front tooth?

GONE! And the other one is barely hanging on.

More photos as events warrant or toothless child cooperates.


Everyone's a Critic

Me: I rented a movie for tonight.

Chris: Oh yeah? Which one?

Me: Once.

Chris: Once? I've never heard of it.

Me: It's supposed to be really good, it was on a lot of Top 10 lists for the year.

Chris: But what's it about?

Me: It's kind of a musical.

Chris: A musical?

Me: Yeah. And it's Irish.

Chris: Uh-huh.

Me: Or maybe Scottish.

Chris: Like that will make a difference.

Me: Oh, who knows, you make like it. Anyway, maybe the weather will clear up and we can go see a real movie tonight...I'd like to see Atonement. Or Juno.

Chris: How about Cloverfield?

Me: Ugh, no. I heard a review on NPR last night, they said it was awful.

Chris: Well, NPR can be kind of snooty in their movie reviews.

Me: NPR liked Once.

Chris: I rest my case.



After I turned 30, I started having trouble remembering how old I was, because really, once you're 30, who cares anymore? And all this year, anytime I had to think about my exact age, I'd think -- "I'm 35, right? Am I? Oh my God, maybe I'm 36! No, I can't be 36, that seems so OLD! Let me do the math -- 1972, oh, good, I AM still 35."

The other night Mallory asked me how old I was going to be on my birthday. I almost said, "Thirty-seven," and then I freaked out, internally. Thirty-seven is so OLD! I can't possible by thirty-seven...oh wait, I'm not. I'm only going to be 36! What a relief!

The mind, it does play wonderful tricks.

So yes, I'll be 36. Tomorrow, and all year long. And as they say, the only thing worse than getting older is not getting older, so I'll take it.

Plus, there will be cake. And who doesn't like cake?


How they get you

Last night my children would not go to sleep. They shrieked, they giggled, they flailed, they told knock-knock jokes (badly), they whispered, they jumped around, but fall asleep they did not. After over an hour of unsuccessfully alternating between reprimanding, cajoling, threatening, and pleading, I stormed out of their bedroom and said, "I'm DONE! It's your turn!" to Chris.

Chris went in and sat down on Phoebe's bed. She looked up at him with her big blue eyes and said, "Mommy's really mad at me."

"She is?" Chris said.

"Yeah, and I'm really sad about it," she said.

After hearing this pathetic little exchange, guess who went back in the bedroom. Me, of course.

I'm such a sucker.


Telling it like it is

This morning, while looking at a book of princess stories, Phoebe said, "Mommy, I see Snow White!"

"You do?" I said. "Is she with the seven dwarves?"

"No," Phoebe said, "she with the Wicked Bitch."


Picky, picky

A few years ago, when Mallory was still very small and I still thought I knew what I was doing as a parent, I came across a parenting advice column in which the advice seeker was concerned that her toddler wouldn’t eat meat. I don’t remember the details of the answer, except that the parent was advised to try bacon as an alternate meat source.

Bacon! I was full of derision for this ridiculous advice. Bacon is one of the worst-for-you foods on earth! What a dumb thing to say! Bacon for a toddler!

Would you now care to guess the only kind of meat my 2-year-old will eat? Yeah. Bacon.

I feel that I have failed, in some real way, in the area of proper feeding and nutrition for both my kids. That Deceptively Delicious book? Where you sneakily add pureed vegetables to your kids’ food? A total failure in my house because my kids won’t anything that you could conceivably add a puree to. Macaroni and cheese – no. Tacos – no. Soup – no. Chili – no. My kids will not eat pizza. Pizza! Everyone on earth likes pizza, except the two children who sit at my dinner table every night.

On the other hand, I have a friend who has two girls the same age as mine, and they eat EVERYTHING. Their favorite food is sushi. When they come over and play with our pretend kitchen, they pretend to make salmon and artichoke hearts. They not only eat pizza, they eat pizza with black olives and onions and peppers. Onions! Olives! Clearly these children were raised correctly, and mine were not.

In addition, my children will not drink milk, and will not even eat cereal with milk. This requires me to put more thought into breakfast than I would like to. In fact I am constantly having to put more thought into meal planning than I would like to because there’s such a small range of foods that my kids will eat.

Here’s what Mallory will eat: Chicken nuggets, but only if they’re not too “spicy”. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Ham sandwiches with pickles, sometimes with a slice of provolone. Provolone is the only cheese she will eat, by the way. Hot dogs and corn dogs. Plain chicken, sometimes, but it has to be with ketchup. Spaghetti – that’s the only thing with any kind of sauce that she’ll eat. Plain hamburgers. Baby carrots. A smattering of fruits. And, of course, anything sweet.

Phoebe’s even worse. No meat, like I said, except bacon. Tomatoes, cucumbers, cantaloupe. Cheerios. Waffles. Toast. Plain noodles and plain rice. Occasionally she’ll eat some yogurt. Uh, the end.

Phoebe tricks us, too. One night we went out for Chinese food and she ate her weight in steamed broccoli. She couldn’t get enough broccoli, and the whole time she was eating it, she was saying how much she loved it. I was thrilled. Broccoli! She loves broccoli! Awesome! Two nights later I made broccoli for dinner and she wouldn’t even touch it. She’s done the same thing with scrambled eggs and green beans. She’s clearly trying to drive us all crazy.

It’s really getting on my nerves.


(Mom, you may want to skip this post until you’ve read all three books.)

So here is my slap-dash review of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials books. In brief, I loved them, I thought they were great. (The Golden Compass is the best of the series, I think.) Altogether a satisfactory reading experience, all highly recommended.

I read these books specifically because they’ve been banned from my daughter’s school library for being “anti-religious.” I am considering writing a letter to the school in the books’ defense, in part because I don’t agree with banning books, and in part because the charges against the book are, I believe, way overblown.

That’s partly because the “rebellion against god” storyline is, in my opinion, the weakest and least interesting part of the book; every time the scene switched to Lord Asriel’s fortress I was immediately bored. Maybe it was because I was bored, but parts of it didn’t even make sense to me – storylines were dropped or wrapped up too abruptly, and the end was a huge anticlimax. Further, Lord Asriel himself was such an unsympathetic character that I kept forgetting that the rebellion was meant to be a good thing; when characters I liked, such as Lee Scoresby or the armored bears, announced their intention to go join Lord Asriel, my first response was, “Wait, why would you want to do that?”

Similarly, the one character in the book who openly says, “Christianity is a mistake and a lie,” feels a profound sadness about that statement; her previous belief in God had given her a sense of connectedness and belonging with the universe which she now lacked. So you certainly don’t walk away from the book feeling that atheism is a fabulous thing.

Most importantly, the major message of the book, as played out by the two central characters, Lyra and Will, is essentially that being “good” matters. The two children make their way through a terribly difficult journey and essentially “save the world” (or worlds, in fact) because they are kind, and noble, and courageous, and intelligent, and loyal, and willing to make tough choices and unthinkable sacrifices. They are fighting against not any specific god or religion, but against forces of oppression which are striving to hinder human beings from achieving peace both within themselves and with the universe as a whole.

I love these books; I will have no problem handing them to Mallory and Phoebe to read once I think they’re old enough to appreciate them.

(I don't plan to see the movie, however; I heard it was pretty awful. Also, it goes without saying, I don't think these books would appeal to everyone so, just as I don't think they should be banned, I certainly don't expect everyone to go out and read them just because I like them. I just think that those who DO wish to read them should have that choice.)


2007 in Review

Apparently the cool thing to do, when you have a blog, is to list the first sentence of the first post of every month. I'm even cooler than that; I've listed the first sentence of my favorite post of every month of last year.

January: Before she fell asleep the other night, Mallory said, “I’m afraid I’m going to dream about that scary monster in that movie I saw with Daddy.”

February: Last night I got a taste of what helping Mallory with her homework will be like in years to come. And I didn't much like it.

March: Best Book Dedication Ever -- because I didn't post much that month.

April: Mallory has developed the habit of exaggerating quantities -- "I want 18 million pancakes for breakfast! I want to play outside for 28 thousand hours!" -- mostly because the pictures are funny.

May: Mallory has recently been obsessed with caterpillars.

June: This sand is really gooshy today.

July: Mommy, will you read me this book?

August: One wonderful thing about parenting is when you realize that you love your kids not just because they are your kids, but also because they happen to be great kids.

September: My almost-award-winning-haiku!

October: The 2's were not at all terrible for Mallory.

November: The scene: Last night, bedtime.

December: Best cookies ever. -- because these really are very good cookies.

When I started blogging, I had fantasies of rising to the ranks of the famous A-list "mommy bloggers" and being read by leagues of fans every day. That hasn't quite happened, obviously, but I'm okay with that. In doing this review, I realized that I've captured some really great moments with my kids, and that's better than fame any day.

(Although I wouldn't turn down some riches.)


And we're back

Mallory wrote this report, unassisted, about her Christmas vacation:

The plan ez fieg. (The plane is flying.)

The plan ez cekg ef. (The plane is taking off.)

I like the plan. (I like the plane.)

First, it’s just adorable that she’s composing her own sentences now and I love her rudimentary grasp of phonics. Second, her last sentence is a complete lie. She does not, in fact, like the plane, and may never, of her own volition, get on a plane again in her lifetime. To the cosmic forces that aligned to give this child, who has had a year-long and seemingly irrational fear of flying because it might cause ear pain, a double ear infection the very day we left: You suck. To the cosmic forces that additionally caused the wrong antibiotic to be prescribed so that she still had the ear infection the day we came home: You also suck. To the woman in the row ahead of us on the plane from Houston who kept rolling her eyes and making comments about this child when she cried because her eardrum was getting ready to rupture: You really suck, and you’re ugly to boot. To the handful of people who smiled sympathetically as I dragged this sobbing child through the airport and down the jetway, and who said, “You should try giving her a stick of gum!”: You don’t suck, because you were trying to be nice, but we were so past a stick of gum that your suggestion just irritated me, so I’m sorry if I was less than polite to you.

To Mallory, who was really trying to be very brave in spite of everything: I’m sorry, honey. I have rarely felt worse in my life than I did when I realized what pain you were in, and then when I had to force you to get on the plane anyway despite your protests and your suggestions of alternatives (Call Papa to come and get me! Can’t I stay with Grandmom? Can’t we please just get a taxi?). I can’t promise you that you’ll never have to fly again, but next time we’ll take some sort of precaution (morphine, anyone?) so that it will never again be that bad.

To Phoebe, who entertained herself beautifully on the airplane, and who also tried her best to console her sister along the way (“Aw, it’s okay, Ma-wee! Don’t cry!”): Thanks for being such a sweetheart.

Apart from the ear trauma, we had a very nice Christmas. Mallory was not feeling very well on Christmas Day, but luckily she got a sleeping bag from Grandmom on which she could rest while her cousins leapt around her with their new light sabers. Phoebe responded to every present, with a long gasp and a “Look at that!” It was, obviously, wonderful to see my parents and siblings and nieces and nephews and grandparents. Then we came home to more presents from my inlaws -- in fact I think that my kids have had a present to open from somebody every day since December 22, which is excessive in anyone’s book. Phoebe was distraught when I took down the Christmas tree yesterday. “But I want to see my or-ma-mets!” she cried. But I’m back at work, and school starts back up tomorrow, and I guess it’s time for everyone to return to normal, and to wait and see what 2008 brings us.