Regardless of who you're voting for this election, you have to admit this is amazing:

Amanda Jones, 109, the daughter of a man born into slavery, has lived a life long enough to touch three centuries. And after voting consistently as a Democrat for 70 years, she has voted early for the country's first black presidential nominee.

Full story here.


Too tired to fix this

I wrote a post a few weeks ago but didn't publish it because I kept forgetting to upload the pictures off my camera. I finally got it done tonight but for some reason it posted it way down on the page without updating the date. If you'd like to read it, clic here.


Funny/Not Funny


According to Phoebe, the song goes: "On the elf day of Christmas, my julep gave to me..."

Phoebe said to Chris the other night, "Daddy, can you walk?"

"Can I walk? Sure."

"No, walk!"

"Do you mean, like, take a walk?"

"No, I mean, wock the paw-ty!"

Not Funny:

I have strep throat again.

One of the possible side effects of penicillin -- the development of a black, hairy tongue. This is "unusual, harmless, and will dissipate when the course of medication ceases" but still, ew. The way my luck is running, this will be the side effect that happens to me.

Also Not Funny:

Parents who ruin the Tooth Fairy for the rest of us. Not by denying its existence, but by overdoing the whole thing. Mallory lost a tooth yesterday; when she put it in her tooth pillow she said, "I really hope I get a Camp Rock microphone!" I said, "The Tooth Fairy doesn't bring toys, she brings money." Mallory said, "Well, she brought my best friend a microphone and that's what I'm wishing for too." Needless to say, she was horribly unimpressed to find a dollar in her pillow this morning. Fellow parents, for the sake of the cheapskate traditionalists amongst us -- stick to dollar bills!

This is funny:

Now is the time to donate. Let your support be known.

But it's not funny that Californians are voting to deny gays the right to legal marriage. I don't think anyone from California reads my blog, and obviously I can't vote on this proposition, and probably no one else cares what I think, but here's what I think anyway. If one of my children came to me, ten or twenty years down the road, and told me that she was gay, I wouldn't mind one bit. She would still be the same child, the same person, the same beloved daughter that she'd always been, and I would love her just as much as I did the instant she was born. What would bother me, what would bother me quite a lot in fact, would be those who discriminated against my child for her lifestyle, those who would deny her the civil rights she is entitled to as a citizen and as a human being. So I hope that "No on 8" prevails on November 4.


Public Service Announcement

[While getting into the car yesterday afternoon]

Mallory: Hey Mommy, did you know, that if you don't listen to Hannah Montana music on the ipod when you're the in car, you can listen to other stuff?

Me: I did know that.

Mallory: And sometimes, if you just turn on the radio, you can hear people talking about stuff.

Me: Yes?

Mallory: Yeah, they talk about important stuff, stuff that happens all over the world.

Me: Yes, that's called the news.

Mallory: Yeah, the news. And sometimes they will tell you things about those guys who are running for president.

Me: Yes, that's true.

Mallory: Well, I wanted you to know that, because I wouldn't want you to miss that stuff.

Me: Thank you.

Mallory: So, can we listen to Hannah Montana music now?

Me: ...Sure.

Early voting is happening right now in NC! I'm going to do a quick study of the local stuff on the ballot and try to vote tomorrow. Yay!


Our state fair, it's a great state fair

Much against our better judgment, Chris and I took the children to the State Fair yesterday afternoon. We had previously eschewed the experience, preferring to spend our money on things other than sketchily-maintained carnival rides and deep-fried twinkies, and not particularly enjoying being in the same square acre of land with eighty thousand other people at the same time. Alas, this year Mallory's class discussed the fair, bringing its existence into her awareness, so I capitulated to her demands to go.

Our State Fair experience began inauspiciously, with Mallory, Phoebe and I waiting for almost an hour for a bus in the Park and Ride lot, even though we arrived within minutes of the first scheduled shuttle. "When is the bus coming? Will it hurt my ears?" Mallory asked many times, while Phoebe whined that her legs were tired and she simply had to be held needed to "put my head on your shoulder, Mommy." The bus, once it arrived, featured a piercing alarm which did hurt Mallory's ears and which apparently signaled the craft's inability to keep its engine running while idling. Each time the engine shut off, helpful people in the back of the bus would shout, "Turn off the AC, that'll help!" or "We're close enough to walk now, just open the doors!" or "Give it a bit more gas!" What have I wrought, I wondered to myself.

However, once we arrived at the fairgrounds, things improved. We found the Kiddie rides and the girls rode the Hot Air Balloon Lift, the Dragon Wagon, the Jumpin Jalopy, and the Merry Go Round. Phoebe enjoyed every turn, swoop, and drop immensely; Mallory, not so much; I was alarmed at how very fast our ride tickets were disappearing.

Chris, who had walked over from his high school (a mere three blocks away), caught up with us and we decided to go to the farm exhibits. "Bring back memories?" he asked as we stepped into the Livestock Barn. "Smells like home," I replied, but memories of my rural childhood were betrayed by my oldest daughter, who kept pointing at cows and asking, "Is that a horse?" We did finally find a horse -- a giant horse, a draft horse, which was absolutely enormous, I had no idea horses could be that big (it brought to mind, in terms of scale, the skeleton of the giant sloth we saw at the Museum of Natural History in New York. Who knew that sloths were ever that big?) We also saw, in comparison, miniature donkeys which were oh so cute, and goats and sheep, and Phoebe was charmed by a black pot-bellied pig being led around by a leash. Then we saw the prize-winning vegetables, including a 200 pound watermelon and a pumpkin that weighed 637 pounds. "Whoa," was Mallory's comment.

The big thing about the fair, the thing that everyone talks about, is the food. Certainly there was a vast array of artery-clogging goodness to be had, but only if you wanted to pay $6 for an ear of corn, or $8 for a giant turkey leg. I was feeling frugal (seriously, I have no idea where my money went, it's like it evaporated as soon as I passed through the gate), so we just had corn dogs and ice cream, oh, and I bought a cup of really good fresh-squeezed lemonade which Phoebe managed to steal from me. I suppose I could have tried a deep-fried Oreo, or a deep-fried Snickers bar, or even some deep-fried Coke (huh? I don't get it either), but...honestly those things don't even sound good in theory to me, and I have about the biggest sweet tooth in the universe.

After a few more rides (not including the ferris wheel, because Mallory turned chicken, although Phoebe would have gone on it and the Hammer and every other gravity-defying whirligig), we were out of tickets and ready to leave (by "we" I mean Chris and me, the girls would've stayed forever). We decided that we should all walk back to Chris's car instead of waiting for another bus. This was an experience in itself because Phoebe is incapable of walking in a straight line. I don't know if I've mentioned this, but Phoebe spends about two-thirds of her time in the Land of Make Believe, and she was in that mode last night. She skipped sideways, she twirled, she danced in a circle, she walked straight in to other people and signs, all the way carrying on an esoteric monologue about the friends she was going to meet at a birthday party in a couple minutes. Chris finally picked her up and put her on his shoulders because we were tired of telling her to watch where she was going. Mallory, on the other hand, was a real trooper and didn't utter one complaint on the long walk back, which is some kind of record for her.

"The fair was awesome," Mallory said when we got home, "let's go again tomorrow!" Phoebe concurred, and said that her favorite part was the merry-go-round. I'm glad they had fun; I'm glad we could give them that experience. And I'd bet you'd like to see pictures, wouldn't you, of the kids on the Dragon Wagon or standing next to the giant pumpkin or eating their cotton candy. Well, so would I, but as soon as we arrived I discovered that my camera (my new camera, just purchased to replace the camera I lost in New York), was not working. I feared it was because it had gotten wet when my water bottle leaked all over my bag, but I think it was just the battery, because it's working fine today, when we are most assuredly not at the State Fair. So I guess we'll have to go back next year to get those shots. Or...not.


Scenes from a Wedding

Several weekends ago, our little family traveled to historic Belmont, North Carolina, to attend the wedding of some friends. The wedding itself was lovely and featured the most original entertainment I’ve ever beheld at a matrimonial event. It was, however, the comments of my children that made the event truly worthwhile (that seems to be the case with most things, actually). For example:

Mallory showed her deep love of hotels by taking a deep breath and exclaiming, every time we entered the lobby: “Smell that hotel goodness!”

Whilst driving through the unfamiliar streets of Belmont on the way to the rehearsal dinner, Mallory spied a Burger King. “Ugh!” she said. “I hate Burger King fries!”

“Yeah!” said Chris, agreeing heartily. “Burger King fries are the worst.”

“They’re yucky!” Mallory said.

“They’re disgusting!” Chris added.

“Actually,” Phoebe interjected, “I like Burger King onion rings.”

“Now the onion rings are okay,” Chris conceded.

“Yeah, but not the fries. Ewww,” Mallory said.

“Their burgers aren’t too bad,” Chris said.

“Yeah, what I like to do?” Mallory said, “I like to get a burger at Burger King and then go to McDonald’s for fries. Cause they have the best fries.”

“When have you ever done that?” I asked, rather stupefied by this display of fast-food connoisseurship.

“Oh, you know,” Mallory said vaguely. A few minutes later, she said, “You know what? Every girl in my class likes Hannah Montana except for Jane.”

“I bet Jane likes Burger King fries,” Chris said without missing a beat, and Mallory laughed her head off.

Upon arrival at the rehearsal dinner, we gave the kids a mini-talking-to about our expectations for their behavior. “It was very nice of Millie and Warren to invite us to this dinner,” I said, “so you both need to use good manners and act nice. Understand?”

They understood. We went in the restaurant, we mingled, we found our seats. A waitress approached and asked if we needed drinks. “I’d like an iced tea, please,” said Mallory, and then said, “Thank you very much” when she received it. I patted her on the shoulder and smiled to show her I approved of her manners. She leaned over and whispered, “You wanted a good attitude? Well there you go.”

Phoebe developed an irrational fear of the painting in our bathroom:

We had to cover it with a towel for the duration of our stay.

Mallory, for her part, developed a Howard-Hughes-ish fear of germs. “Is this a real glass?” she asked at the restaurant, pointing to her drink. I said yes. “Do you think it’s a new glass?” she asked. I said likely not. “Well, I’m not drinking out of a glass that other people have used,” she said, pushing it away. The next morning at our complimentary hotel-lobby breakfast, she looked approvingly at the paper plates and cups. “This is the kind of restaurant I like,” she said.

When I emerged in my wedding finery, Phoebe gasped and pointed at my legs. "Mommy, what are those?" she asked in great concern, and I explained the concept of pantyhose. We obviously don't get out much.

The girls in their finery. Phoebe being uncooperative as usual.

“That was a nice wedding, wasn’t it?” I asked when it was over.

“Yeah,” Mallory said. “Someday I’m going to get married, you know.”

“That’ll be nice,” I said.

“But I’m not marrying a boy,” she added.

“Oh? Why not?”

“Mommy. Do you really think I want to marry someone who pees standing up? Gross!”

I could think of no suitable response to that one.


First, thank you all for your kind words about Finn. The girls have been pretty unconcerned about her absence, which is kind of a relief. I'm sadder than I ever thought I would be and keep expecting to see her when I glance out the back door or open the dishwasher (she liked to lick up the crumbs), and I certainly miss her when Phoebe spills crumbs all over the floor. It's odd to be a dogless family now.

But, we go on. And I have a pressing question about making quick breads -- banana, pumpkin, and the like. Whenever I make these concoctions, they turn out kind of...flat. A loaf of my banana bread is only about two inches high, which just seems a bit wrong. What am I doing wrong? What can I do to get it to rise higher in the pan? Advice appreciated.


Goodbye, Finn

When we brought you home from the shelter, eight years ago, you were very timid. I'm not sure what your former owners did to you, other than abandon you, but it took you a while to trust that you were with us to stay. After a few weeks, you began to play, and give us kisses, and you loved our walks around the neighborhood. You were the prettiest dog on the block; everyone said so. When our down-the-street neighbor said, "You're doing a great job with her, she's come a long way," I was filled with pride for you.

One night you ran away from home. We looked for you for hours, up and down the streets of downtown Durham, and then went home, bereft. At 3 a.m. we heard a wild barking at the front door, and there you were, covered in mud and wagging all over. I don't know if you were so happy because of your romp or because you'd managed to find your way home.

We loved you so much we decided to get another dog just like you. What we ended up with was Zack. Zack was in every way your pesky little brother. He was faster and stronger, but you were smarter, and you were eternally stealing his food and taking away his bones. You two got into snarling wrestling matches at least once a day, but there were other times when you would, in unison, run across the yard together just for the joy of it. There was nothing more beautiful than those two flashes of white fur against the green grass.

I took you to obedience school; you did not graduate at the top of the class. You learned most of the commands, but in a half-hearted way. You were stubborn and independent and clearly did not see the point in sitting for a biscuit; you knew that eventually I'd give you the biscuit anyway. Similarly, any time I threw a ball for you to fetch you'd look at where it landed, look back at me, and lay down, as if to say, Why should I run after something you just threw away? On the other hand, you had me well-trained: Every time you went to the back door to go out, you'd stop right at the threshold until I gave you a treat. I don't think you every crossed the doorway without a biscuit in your mouth.

You had a purple cow with a crazy-sounding squeaker that was your very favorite thing.

The four or five times we got a really good snowfall, you were in heaven.

You lost a lot of attention when the girls came along, but you never seemed to mind. You loved the girls due to their habit of dropping food around the house, and you were so patient with them, enduring fur-pulling and attempted pony rides with nary a twitch or a growl.

You always picked the worst spot to lay down in -- in front of the refrigerator, at the very bottom of the stairs, right behind the kitchen chair someone was sitting in.

And then you got sick, and then you got sicker. We could see that you weren't getting much pleasure out of life anymore. A night or two ago, I found you laying in the grass. I asked you if you wanted to come inside, and you thumped your tail once and sighed, as if to say, "I'd like to follow you, but it's gotten too hard." This morning, you barked -- a weak, frightened bark -- every time I left your sight. I think you were saying, Stay with me. Help me.

So I helped you the only way I knew how. I sat with you on the deck and stroked your head. I fed you crusts of toast and Snausages and popcorn. Then I took you to the vet and I stayed with you until you were gone.

"You did the right thing," the vet said. I'm not sure. I wonder if you would have preferred hanging around for a while longer. But Chris and I decided that we'd rather let you go a day or two too early than have you linger here, hurting, for too long.

We'll miss you, Finn. We'll miss your fluffy tail and your pretty brown eyes and especially your funny roo-roos. I hope you're in a place now where you can have all the biscuits you want, and a nice spot to nap in, and someone to scratch your chest in just the right spot all day long. You're a good, good girl.


One less thing to fret over

This post is going to make me look a bit like a neurotic idiot, but the truth had to come out sometime, right?

Three years ago, I took Mallory to her preschool orientation. Phoebe was a wee little thing, about two months old, and I toted her along in a sling. (Loved the sling, by the way; I think Phoebe spent much of the first four months of her life in that thing.) A mother of one of Mallory’s new classmates approached me and cooed over Phoebe, and then mentioned that she had a month-old baby at home. (Let’s call the mom Anne and the baby Sarah. Because why not.) Then she said, “I love your sling…is it easy to nurse while you wear it?”

“Actually, I don’t –“ I began, and she cut in and said, “Oh, you don’t—“ and then Mallory came over and needed me and I never got to finish the conversation with Anne.

And for three years, I’ve worried about that conversation. What I had been planning to say was that I never nursed Phoebe in the sling because nursing Phoebe successfully required a stack of pillows, a chair with arms, both hands, and lots of patience. But I was afraid that Anne thought I meant that I didn’t nurse at all. Now I know, or I tried to convince myself, that in the grand scheme of things it didn’t matter what Anne thought about how I fed my baby. I certainly wouldn’t judge another mother for nursing or not nursing or wearing a sling or not or any of those things. Maybe it was because Phoebe was so difficult to nurse, and because I was proud of sticking with it regardless, that I didn’t want Anne to have the wrong idea. Maybe I’m just a freak. But every time I saw Anne – and I’ve seen her a lot, since our kids are in the same school – I’ve wanted to go up to her and say, “You know, I really did nurse Phoebe! Really! I did!” – but I never did, because obviously she would think I was nuts.

You will be glad to know that this story has a happy ending. Sarah and Phoebe are now in the same preschool class, and we went on a field trip last Friday. Whilst listening to a park ranger talk about trees and roots, I noticed another class mom nursing her small baby. I glanced over and happened to catch Anne’s eye, and we both smiled at the baby, and then Anne whispered, “Brings back memories, doesn’t it?” I said yes, and then she said, “How long did you nurse Phoebe?” I told her, and she said that Sarah had nursed for about the same length of time, and we talked about how special that was. So, hooray! I no longer have to worry about what Anne’s mother thinks about me! And obviously, since she asked the question first, I should have never worried about it to begin with, which, really, is the moral of the story.


Something happy, for a change

Some shots with my new camera.

Phoebe has amazing powers of concentration for a 3-year-old. She sat working on her chalk painting for twenty minutes, oblivious of everything going on around her, talking to herself to whole while. Her teachers say she loses herself in her imagination more intensely than any other child in her class.

Mallory is in a very awkward stage of growing out her bangs. When she lets me put her hair up, she looks adorable. Is it awful of me to say that I think I have pretty daughters? I guess the contrary is true; they should never doubt that I find them beautiful.