11/30/08

Wrapping it up

My kids are always saying funny things; oftentimes after something particularly amusing, Chris will say, "You're going to blog about that, right?" And I usually mean to, but then sometimes I sit down and try to write it down, and whatever it was that made us laugh so hard loses something in the translation.

This is one example:

Tonight at dinner, Mallory said, "What's a cornucopia?"

"It's a horn-shaped basket," Phoebe said promptly and matter-of-factly, and we just died laughing. When the giggles had died down, Chris said, "Yes, and it's usually filled with fruits and vegetables."

"No," Phoebe said in disgust. "It's filled with pumpkins and leaves and pine cones." And we died laughing again.

Trust me, it really was funny.

So that wraps up Thanksgiving, and that wraps up NaBloPoMo as well. I did it! Thirty days, thirty posts, go me.

11/29/08

On the other hand...

...going up and down the attic stairs to retrieve the boxes of ornaments, and then back up and down the attic stairs to return the boxes, is a real pain in the neck.

11/28/08

The Reason

"Why does Jesus get a tree for his birthday?" Mallory asked.

"That's a good question," I said, because I didn't feel like getting in to the druids and the solstice and all the other things that culminated in us putting up a plastic fir tree in our dining room on the day after Thanksgiving.

But here's why.

We put up the tree so grown-up children can open up a box of ornaments and be flooded with memories:

From 2008-11


(There's one of many gold filigree ornaments my grandma gave me throughout the years, one for each Christmas. There's the Santa I bought on our trip to San Diego in 1999. There's one of the red prisms Chris's grandma gave me on my first Christmas in North Carolina.)

We put up the tree for little girls who exclaim with wonder over each ornament they find. "Is this one mine?" they ask, or "Where should this one go?" or "Isn't this the prettiest one ever?"

From 2008-11


From 2008-11


We put up the tree even though the room around it is a mess and there are a million other things needing to be done.

We put up the tree because our parents did it for us.

We put up the tree because it means that for an hour, we can turn off Nickelodeon and listen to Christmas music.

We put up the tree so every day for a month, we can stop and see something unexpected and beautiful in an ordinary spot.

From 2008-11


We put up the tree, and we don't mind that one strand of lights won't light, and that a great majority of the ornaments are clustered in one spot, the spot the 3-year-old could reach.

We put up the tree to hear our children say, "It's awesome!" and "It's so gorgeous!"

That's the reason why.

11/27/08

Retro Thursday: Food Edition

In honor of all those who slaved over a hot stove this Thanksgiving day, I present this:



This is me, age 10, at the 4-H Food Fair -- in a very rare foray into domesticity. For my entry, I cut up, as you see, broccoli and caulifower, put them on a plate, stuck them next to a little flower arrangement -- and I won first prize! There may also have been a dip involved. The dish was an odd choice for me, a child who never willingly ate a vegetable.

Hope your Thanksgiving meal was better than that.

11/25/08

Quite a Performance

Last night, Phoebe unearthed a stuffed bear that had been moldering, unloved and unwanted, in the stuffed animal pile for at least a year. Mallory saw it and shouted, "I want to sleep with that bear tonight!" Phoebe protested that she wanted the bear to cuddle, and since she was the one who found it, I awarded her the cuddling privileges.

Mallory was inconsolable. She went to bed and cried for five minutes, declaring over and over again that "It's not fair! I never get a chance! Phoebe's so mean!" Then, realizing that the standard fare was having no effect, she changed tack.

"I know why Phoebe won't give me the bear," she said in a quavery voice. "It's because I'm nothing but a big jerk."

"What?" I said, startled.

"It's true. I'm a bad big sister. No wonder she doesn't like me. I never do anything nice for her. Even at school, I'm a bad person. I'm always the last to pack up my backpack when it's time to go. When people are mean to me on the playground, it's just what I observe."

"What?" I said again.

"I observe it when people are mean to me," she continued, and I realized that she meant "deserve." "I totally observe it because I'm a big jerk."

"Now Mallory," I said, "this is just not true. You're not a big jerk. You're a good big sister and a good friend and lots of people love you."

"I just don't know how much more I can take," she said in despair. "This life, it's just so hard for me."

This went on for some time. I was trying to decide whether to laugh or to be concerned about her mental well-being when she played her final card.

"Do you know what would make me feel better about this hard life that I have?" she asked weepily.

"No, tell me," I said.

"If Phoebe...would just...give me the bear!"

Phoebe did not give her the bear. But if I'd had one handy, I would've given her an Oscar.

11/24/08

Five more things about Phoebe

1. Phoebe's imaginary friends are named Apple, Rainbow, and Ellis.

2. At her preschool Thanksgiving feast today, Phoebe ate half a roll, two grape tomatoes, and one baby carrot.

3. Phoebe has a mental catalog of what she was wearing at important times in her life, and she requests certain outfits accordingly. "Today I would like to wear the purple dress I wore to the strawberry patch," she'll say, or, "today I want to wear the red dress I was wearing when Papa filled up his swimming pool."

4. Phoebe will ask for a kleenex, hold it to her nose, and sniff deeply.

5. Phoebe says "loosic" for "music," and "woovie" for "movie," just like her big sister did.

11/23/08

Apparently it's a bigger problem than I thought

Chris says I'm wrong about this:

And to learn, as well, that a certain melancholy letdown is part of the Christmas experience, and that maturity means letting it go and realizing that what we get is not what the holiday is all about anyway.


We discussed it at length last night, and then again this morning, and it was as though we were speaking Portuguese to one another. Rather, that I was speaking Portuguese and he was speaking Dutch. In other words, there was no meeting of the minds.

To clarify -- I had happy Christmases as a child, each and every one. I got what I wanted. I was sleepless with anticipation on each Christmas Eve and went to bed satisfied each December 25th. I still remember the joy of unwrapping the Sunshine Family, and the Speak and Spell, and the Atari 5200. In addition, I learned to say thank you and I learned that giving gifts was important too. But I also learned, and I think this is what I was trying to get at last night, I learned that Christmas is not about getting absolutely EVERYTHING you could imagine wanting. I learned fairly early to...moderate my desires. To NOT ask for a trampoline, for example. Or, to use an example from my own home, to not ask for a Hannah Montana beach house AND a Hannah Montana guitar AND a Barbie cruise ship AND some Camp Rock singing dolls AND four different Webkinz AND a Pixo machine AND a Stylin Fun Studio AND a butterfly house with live cocoons. I guess that's what I need for my kids to learn (and soon!) -- that they can't ask for the world, or they WILL be disappointed. And I, myself, need to give them the chance to learn that, by not indulging their every desire.

I don't think, incidentally, that Chris disagrees with that. He thought that I was wrong about melancholy and Christmas going hand in hand. But by "melancholy" I didn't mean any great sadness or heartbreak or crushing depression. I just meant that feeling of letdown that you get when you realize that the day that you've anticipated for so long -- Christmas! -- is over after only twenty wild minutes of unwrapping. And I don't think that feeling and general Christmas satisfaction are mutually exclusive.

Does that make more sense? Less? Am I as weird as my husband thinks I am?

Ho ho ho!

11/22/08

I have a problem

I tend to buy way too much for my kids at birthday and Christmas time. I overdo. And I know why it is. It's because I remember that feeling that I had, as a child, on every birthday and every Christmas morning, of unwrapping the last present and then looking up and thinking, Is that it? Isn't there something else? That feeling of disappointment that it was over (even though, I hasten to add, I always got very nice presents and I was never deprived of the things I really really wanted, except for maybe the Baby Alive doll). I don't like to think of my children having that feeling.

That's ridiculous, of course, and I need to get over it. Kids need to know that there are limits, that sometimes what their hearts desire isn't deliverable. Plus, in my heart of hearts I know that it's not my job to never disappoint my children; my job is to help them learn to cope with disappointment. And to learn, as well, that a certain melancholy letdown is part of the Christmas experience, and that maturity means letting it go and realizing that what we get is not what the holiday is all about anyway.

So I'm trying. There's one thing that Mallory has asked for several times and I'm just not getting it for her. She'll have plenty of other presents, more than she's asked for in fact, and it'll be fine. Her character -- and my credit card balance -- will be the better for my saying no.

11/21/08

Adventures in Babysitting

Amy hosted a jewelry party last week; Mallory and Phoebe came along with me and were pleased to find another three-year-old girl, Lydia, there as well. We sent them upstairs to play and asked Mallory to keep an eye on the younger two. Throughout the evening, she provided us with these dispatches:

I'm working very hard and not having any fun myself. The important thing is that Phoebe and Lydia have fun.

These girls are playing so nicely together.

This babysitting is wearing me out.

These girls are so cute, I could just cry for happiness.

Lydia is perfect. Phoebe is a handful.


We were all very careful not to laugh until she was out of earshot. She was so earnest. She did a fine job, for her first time babysitting.




I didn't babysit much in high school, and hated it the few times I did, but in my last two years of college I was Babysitter Extraordinaire, the favorite child care provider for a handful of professors in the Fine Arts department. Those professors -- and they were almost all two-professor families -- gave me my first insight into what is now called "Attachment Parenting": they were breastfeeding, cloth-diapering, co-sleeping, whole-grain-eating, PBS-only-watching families. (So are we, might I add, except for the whole grains and the PBS. And the other three don't apply much anymore.) I loved all those kids -- Stephanie and Ross, Anna and Austin, curly-haired Sam, Adrien and James, Emily and Matthew -- and it's almost impossible to believe that they are all now in high school, that they're not the same cute kids I left behind in San Antonio in 1994. Emily and Matt were by far my favorites. Emily was four and had perfect pitch. She'd never even had music lessons, but I could hit a key on the piano and she'd shout, "G!" or "B flat!" and she was always right. Matt was two, and had the chubbiest cheeks and the sweetest smile. He got his consonants all mixed up; one day when I fed him lunch he said, "Frista, I'm just frazy about komatoes!" This is a bit embarrassing to admit, but one day when I was really bored, I googled them. Emily is apparently a very accomplished viola player and poet; Matt is a champion squash (or raquetball?) player. I'm proud of them, my first kids. I wonder if they remember me.

11/20/08

Retro Thursday: Christmas Edition

Another trip down memory lane, via a one-horse open sleigh.

We spent every Christmas Eve at my Grannie and Granddad Renner's house. Every year, someone received, in a gaily wrapped box, a picture of a truly hideous old man. "It's the picture!" the recipient would howl, and everyone would laugh and laugh. Grannie was obviously the gotcha this year. The child in the too-short dress and the bow on her head, to the extreme right of the photo, would be me.



1973. Granddad made, by hand, a dollhouse for Jana and a cradle for me.



1975. I used to be blonde! Note my dress, which, like all my Christmas outfits, was sewn by my mother. I wish I had a picture of the matching, quilted dresses she made for herself, me and Jana when I was around three. They were something. The baby in this picture is my cousin Annie. Also, in the background is the wooden church that Granddad also made by hand, which was brought out every Christmas. I don't know where it is now.



1977. Awww. Please realize that my mother must have made these dresses while she was either vastly pregnant with twins, or the mother of newborn twins. The mind boggles. Also made by hand, by my mother (although not that year): the sequin-y stockings and the advent calendar. I LOVE that advent calendar.



1978. Another Christmas Eve, another Christmas dress, a Dorothy Hamill haircut. I was handing out gifts, a coveted task at Grannie's house. That's my Granddad in the plaid pants, and half of my cousin Caleb.



Best Christmas present ever:



Until this:



1990. My siblings will love me for this one. Aimee is obviously the only one happy to be up so early.



Doesn't that get you in the Christmas spirit?

11/19/08

Yikes

What a crazy day, both in and out of the office. No time for a real post, but here, as promised, is the outfit Phoebe picked out yesterday:

 


Perc-fect, right?
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11/18/08

Two Years On...

and working from home with Phoebe in the house isn't much easier. Here's a snapshot of our day:

Phoebe: Mommy, what are you doing on your computer?

Me: I'm working.

Phoebe: Can I go on bluesclues.com?

Me: Not now, I'm working.

Phoebe: Can I go on cheetahgirls.com?

Me: Not now, I'm working.

Phoebe: Can I go on pixiehollow.com?

Me: Not now, I'm working.

Phoebe: But I really really want to see my pages!

Me: Honey, not now. Why don't you go do a puzzle?

Phoebe: O-kay.

(Moments later)

Phoebe: Where is my princess puzzle?

Me: Did you look in the puzzle cabinet?

Phoebe: It's not here!

Me: Which princess puzzle are you talking about?

Phoebe: The princess puzzle that I liked to play with when I was just a little girl!

Me: I am still not sure which one you mean.

Phoebe: The one I played with all next week!

Me: Yeah, that doesn't help me either.

(Later)

Phoebe: Mommy, I'm really hungry.

Me: Would you like some lunch?

Phoebe: No, I don't like any kind of lunch. I want a snack.

Me: How about some fruit?

Phoebe: Do you have strawberries?

Me: No.

Phoebe: Do you have waterlemon?

Me: Watermelon and strawberries are hard to find in winter, honey. I have grapes, apples, and bananas.

Phoebe: I know, could I have grapes cut up and bananas cut up and apples cut up in a bowl?

Me: A fruit salad?

Phoebe: Yeah! Fewoot salad!

Me: Okay. (Chops fruit) Here you go.

Phoebe: Yum!

(Later)

Phoebe: I don't want the grapes or the bananas.

Me: Then don't eat them.

Phoebe: But can you take them out of the bowl?

Me: (Sighs and complies)

Phoebe: Yum! Now I have an apple fewoot salad!

(Later)

Phoebe: Mommy, can I change my clothes?

Me: Why?

Phoebe: Because I need to! New clothes would be percfect for me.

Me: Okay, go pick something out.

(And here's where it would have been funny to insert a picture of the ridiculously mismatched outfit she picked out, but my camera battery is dead. Come back later!)

You get the idea. I'm still glad I get to spend the day with her.

Edited to add: It just snowed for, like, two minutes. Bizarre.

Also: Happy birthday to my mother-in-law!

11/17/08

Happy Birthday, Mom!

...there's nothing like being a parent to put the past in a new light. When you experience what it takes to get one child through one day, you get a little dazzled realizing you were the beneficiary of that, too -- this long chain of giving and receiving. -- Louis Bayard

11/16/08

Two Things About Phoebe

 

1. Phoebe removes her shoes immediately upon entering the house. Even if she's fallen asleep in the car, and I'm carrying her, still sleeping, into the house, her shoes hit the floor within a few steps of crossing the threshold.

2. Phoebe is never still. If she's sitting in "her" chair watching TV, she has to be scraping something around on the floor with her toe, or banging the doors of the TV cabinet, or fiddling with the blinds. If she's on my lap, she squirms and twitches, or she digs her toes into my legs to maneuver into a different position. If she's on my lap, watching TV, and eating popcorn, she rustles around in the popcorn bowl, lets it spill between her fingers, crumples up each piece, tries to cram kernels in my mouth. In her car seat, she zings the seat belt beside her back and forth, back and forth. In bed, she twists and flops and flips her pillow over and then over again and kicks off her blankets and pulls them back up. It is such a relief when she finally falls asleep. About an hour before she wakes up for good, though, she starts the flopping and flailing and rustling and turning all over again. And then she gets up for another non-stop, skip-hoppy day.
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11/15/08

Love is a battlefield

Mallory asked, "Phoebe, who do you love better, Mommy or Daddy?"

"Mallory, that's not really a nice question," I said. "Love isn't a contest."

"I don't love Mommy or Daddy the best," Phoebe said.

"You see, that's nice," I said, "you should love everyone the same--"

Phoebe continued, "I love my papa the best."

Oh.

Planning Presents

I am so ridiculously excited about the Christmas present I'm getting from my husband and in-laws that I can't stand it. No, I'm not going to tell you what it is. That would spoil the surprise.

I have Mallory just about covered, birthday and Christmas wise, and now just have to hope that she doesn't radically change her mind in the next six weeks. Phoebe is both tougher (because she wants everything she sees, and won't commit) and somehow easier (because she's delighted with anything anyone gives her). The really difficult thing about Christmas and having kids is that you have to plan what you're going to get them and let everyone else (grandparents, aunts, etc) know what to get them as well.

This is turning into a really boring post. I have something else in mind but I wanted to get this posted before time got away from me. I may come back, if children cooperate. Happy Saturday!

11/14/08

Time is money

I bet you thought, when I said I'd be posting every day this month, that I'd be posting something of value every day. Ha! Fooled ya!

Anyway. As the year winds to a close, I find myself sitting on 7 vacation days. I definitely need two days for Christmas. I could take the others any time I wanted -- the week before Thanksgiving, for example, the better to make pies, or a few days in December, the better to go shopping while the children are in school. I could take a day to decorate the house for Christmas. You get the idea.

Or, I could cash in five days and, in essence, receive a bonus week's pay. Which would pretty much almost pay for the plane tickets I just bought.

Time? Money? Which would you choose?

11/13/08

Retro Thursday: Family Edition

Pardon the quality of these pictures. They're old, because so am I.

The one and only picture of me looking cute in a swimsuit.



1974. The corn was as high as an elephant's eye.



My big sister Jana and I discuss how nice it is to not have any younger siblings.



Oops!




Easter Sunday, 1978. Ignore the adorable children and focus, if you can, on my father's suit.



Aimee, in Underoos!



The twins hamming it up. Love the patches on my brother's jeans.



First day of school, 1984...I guess that would be 7th grade for me. Aimee has no front teeth (aw). Jana is way too cool for school. I don't know why I'm clutching my brother in that way. Perhaps because I'm being swallowed by my puffy pink shirt.



Christmas 1988. Nice buzz cut on Casey. I believe Jana and I were both wearing new clothes from The Limited, the coolest store in town. (Figuratively speaking; our town had no stores.) You can't see them very well, but Jana's shoes, being two-toned, were considered scandalously wild at the time.



That's it for this week! Stay tuned for a very special Retro: Christmas Edition next Thursday.

11/12/08

Just Desserts

About a year after I started dating Chris, I was dubbed the official dessert-maker for all family get-togethers. This suited me fine, as dessert is my favorite part of every meal. Usually for Thanksgiving I make a caramel apple pie. Last night I wondered aloud what else I should bring.

"How about an apple pie and a cherry pie," Chris said.

"No, how about an angel food cake with strawberries?" Mallory suggested.

"Strawberries are not exactly an autumn fruit," I said.

"Well, then, how about a chocolate cake?" she said.

"That would be okay. I wish I could make an Italian Cream Cake like Grandmom does. That's my favorite cake, but mine never turns out as good as hers does."

"Have I ever had that kind of cake?" Mallory asked.

"I think so. I think she made it last Christmas."

"Oh yeah!" Mallory's eyes gleamed. "That was good! Eating it was like...like sliding down a rainbow!"

No one has ever been quite that rapturous about any dessert I have made. Actually some members of Chris's family don't even eat dessert, which I find hard to understand. My caramel apple pie is good, it's fine, except that I don't make my own pie crusts. No one cares except me, and I only care because my mom always makes her own pie crusts, and they are so much better than the store-bought ones. Mom also makes a fruit salad which is divine and which cannot be replicated (I think both of my sisters and I have all tried without success). I'm not sure what I did the one time I tried to make an Italian Cream Cake, but it certainly wasn't the same.

I wonder if, in years to come, my daughters will say to their daughters, "I wish I could make a _______ as good as your grandma does."

Somehow I'm doubtful.

Anyway, what desserts are you bringing, or expecting, or craving this Thanksgiving? I need some inspiration.

11/11/08

Fall

"Look at that, Mommy!" Mallory shouted when we stopped at a red light on the way to school.

I glanced out of the window. "Oh, wow!"

"What is it?"

"It's geese! They're flying south for the winter. They're in a perfect V shape right now."

"What are you talking about?"

"The geese."

"What geese?"

"...Okay, what are you talking about?"

"The pink clouds over there. What is it?"

"Oh. Oh, that's the sunrise. It's pretty, isn't it?"

"It's beautiful."

From the backseat, Phoebe said, "See that red leaf up there, on that tree? It's the only one left on its stick."

11/10/08

Somehow

Somehow this sign, which was posted today in my office break room, was not reassuring:

"SAFE LOCATION'S FOR TORNADOE'S"

Somehow it's hard to be annoyed when your six-year-old wastes several inches of precious label-making tape on this message:

"God is in hven and he loves you frever and he wochis over evryone."

Somehow you have to stop yourself from laughing when the same six-year-old makes her auntie guess this in a game of Hangman:

ILICKYOUMIMI

(that's supposed to be like, not lick, just so you know)

Somehow you feel a bit disappointed when your three-year-old calls you over to see how she's spelled her name in Bananagram tiles, and instead of P-H-O-E-B-E you see:

JXOIHLMQ

Somehow, you still believe that your children will eventually display the good spelling genes you and your husband have passed on (he, a spelling bee whiz, you, the District Spelling Champion three years running). As for the geniuses in your HR department, they're on their own. Look out for tornadoe's.

11/9/08

Possible

Today I found my copies of Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic in the, well,attic, and called the girls over to read. I read these poems over and over again as a child, and I remember the funny ones -- "Sick", and "Lazy Jane", and "How Not to Wash the Dishes". The girls loved "Sick", and Mallory found "Dreadful" hilarious in the way only an older sibling would ("I simply can't imagine who/would go and (burp) eat the baby.") I had forgotten his sad poems, like the one about the long-haired boy, and "Hector the Collector". I had forgotten this one too:

Listen to the MUSTN'TS, child,
Listen to the DON'TS
Listen to the SHOULDN'TS
The IMPOSSIBLES, the WON'TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me --
Anything can happen, child
ANYTHING can be.

That one is my favorite, now.

11/8/08

The Ipod Shuffle Post

Here are the ten songs that showed up when I put my ipod on "Shuffle" this morning.

1. Once in Royal David's City -- Mary Chapin Carpenter. I was excited to see that Mary Chapin Carpenter had a Christmas album out; I've already listened to it a few times, even though it is only November 8. I love MCC; however, I admit that some of her songs tend to be a bit slow and ponderous. Almost all of the Christmas songs fall into this category; it's not a very upbeat album. Can't go wrong with her lovely voice, though. My favorite is "Children, Go Where I Send Thee."

2. Pity the Child -- Chess. Chess is an '80s rock opera about...chess. I was very much into Broadway musicals when I was in college--Chess, Phantom, Les Mis, Miss Saigon -- all those classics. It's weird when one of the songs comes up on shuffle, though; out of context, I readily admit that there's a high cheese factor going on.

3. Nightswimming -- REM. My very very favorite REM song. Listening to REM always makes me think of my and Chris's date, which was, in fact, twelve years from next Monday. We went to an REM concert. We held hands. We fell in love. Aw.

4. That Teenage Feeling -- Neko Case. Neko Case describes herself as "country noir." She has a great voice and I love her lyrics; she can paint a picture with just a few words. Example from her song "Margaret and Pauline": "One left a cashmere sweater on a train, the other lost three fingers at a cannery." Sums up precisely how different two girls can be.

5. The Nightmare -- Woman in White. The Woman in White is the latest, I believe, musical from Andrew Lloyd Weber. It wasn't terribly successful, but I had to check it out because it's based on one of my favorite Victorian novels. The music is not quite as catchy as the musicals of the 80s and 90s (see 2, above), but it's very atmospheric.

6. Big Tall Man -- Liz Phair. REM reminds me of our first date, Liz Phair makes me think of our honeymoon, when Chris and I listened to this album (whitechocolatespaceegg) all the way to Washington, DC, and sang "Polyester Bride" to each other on the Metro. This song also has the great line "I wanna be cool, tall, vulnerable, and luscious; I would have it all if I only had this much." Don't you feel that way, sometimes? (Unless, of course, you are all those things already, and know better.)

7. I'm On My Way -- The Proclaimers. Uh huh, uh huh, uh huh, uh huh.

8. Down Down Baby -- Laurie Berkner. Laurie Berkner is kids' music that doesn't make me want to stick a fork in my ear. Mallory spent a long weekend, when she was about 2.5, asking to hear the "tinker dat" song, and she was so frustrated when we couldn't figure out what she meant. Finally it dawned on us that she meant Berkner's song "We are the dinosaurs," which has the line "Whaddya think of that?" Tinker dat. Phoebe calls the song "March." Every time we get in the car there is an argument over whether we're going to listen to "March" or Hannah Montana.

9. While My Guitar Gently Weeps -- The Beatles. It's the Beatles, what can I say?

10. Here I Am -- Mary Chapin Carpenter. MCC again. I actually suggested to Chris that we name our first born Mallory Chapin. He actually agreed, one day when I was moaning about being hugely pregnant. I thought better of it, but that's how much I like her music.

11/7/08

An etiquette question for you

I have decided that I'm going to try to wrap the majority of my Christmas presents in reusable bags like these. (Wouldn't you like a gift wrapped like that? Is it not adorable?) I wish I could sew, so that I wouldn't have to blow most of my Christmas budget buying these bags, but what can you do.

Here's the question. The idea of using reusable bags is, of course, that they will not be thrown away, that they will be used next Christmas and the next and so forth. But, um, would it be rude to ask for the bag back so that I can reuse it next year, or should it just be part of the gift, and just be passed on so that hopefully that person will reuse it? I mean, obviously if I wrap a gift for, say, the girls' teachers in one of these I wouldn't ask for it back. But amongst family members, should I? Since only my family members read this blog, I suppose what I'm asking is -- if I give you your gift in this gift bag, could I have it back?

11/6/08

Retro Thursday

This daily posting is harder than I thought. So today, you get some pictures from days of yore.

Mallory, age 2



Phoebe, about 8 months:



Happy Hallo-whine:




Bonus! Can you tell which one is which?





More next Thursday!

11/5/08

Whew

When they called Pennsylvania, I knew.

When they called Ohio, I knew for sure.

But I still got chills up and down my spine when they called it for good. And I have tears in my eyes every time I think of his speech.

Last night, I attempted to explain to Mallory why this was such a big deal. (This was after a rather undignified few minutes during which she, Phoebe and I danced around the living room chanting Go-bama, Go-bama!) I tried to explain that not so many years ago, black people couldn't even vote, much less become president. She looked at me in great perplexity. She didn't get it. She didn't get racial prejudice. And now...well, it's not that I believe for a second that she and Phoebe will grow up in a world where prejudice doesn't exist. But they do live in a country where, for one election, it was transcended. This is their world now, and their history being made, and I...I'm just elated.

11/4/08

Hoping the vote-talliers have a better grasp of math

"Mommy, look what I have!" Phoebe said last night, coming into my bedroom carrying four books in her hand. "I have three books!"

"Are you sure?" I said. "Why don't you count them again?"

"Okay," she said. She spread them out on the bed and said, "Uno...dos...tres...quatro. Three!"

From 2008-10

11/3/08

Birth of a Democrat


Last week, I got a call from the Obama campaign asking me to help with the Get Out the Vote efforts that weekend. I said that I would try to make it. When I hung up, Mallory demanded to know where I was going and when.

"I might go help knock on doors and ask people to vote for Obama," I said.

"Can I come too?"

"No, I don't think so," I said. "I don't think it's something kids need to help with."

"Why not?"

"Well, for one thing," I said, "I've never done anything like this before and I don't really know how people will react. Some people might be rude to me, and I don't think you'd want to be there for that."

"How would they be rude to you?" Mallory asked.

Chris interjected, "They might call Mommy a liberal."




I realized that I was a Democrat in 1988, at the tender age of 16. Before that, I was fond of saying that I voted for the man, not the party, a claim borne out by my voting record -- in 1980, I helped Reagan win by a landslide in my 3rd grade class mock election; in 1984, I was a lone voice for Mondale in my 7th grade homeroom poll. There was also the day when, annoyed by the banter of the sportscasters calling the football game on TV, I ranted about how unfair it was that these idiots were making millions of dollars talking about football, while my dad, a farmer, who grew food to feed the masses, made no money at all. My dad laughed and said, "Good heavens, we've raised a populist!"

On this day in 1988, my debate coach arranged for the entire high school debate team to go see a speech by Robert Bork. The debate team consisted, incidentally, of myself, my best friend, my boyfriend, and my boyfriend's best friend, who was also dating my sister, who elected not to come see Robert Bork, and who could blame her. I remember not a thing about the substance of the Bork speech; I do remember being bored. Afterwards we went out for pizza and our coach asked us what we thought. "I didn't agree with This," I said, "and he didn't really explain That very well, and when he was questioned about The Other, he totally skirted the issue."

My boyfriend scoffed. "What are you talking about? He was totally right about This and That, and The Other was a trick question." The argument that followed concluded with my boyfriend saying, "You just don't have an open mind" and the impression that he was disappointed with me for not being a conservative, like him. (In spite of this conversation, it took me three more years to realize that the two of us were not MFEO -- made for each other.)

What I remember most about this incident is not just how completely I disagreed with Bork and Boyfriend, but also how astonished I was that not anyone disagreed with me. Not, I hasten to add, because I thought I was so smart or politically savvy or had all the answers, but because issues seemed so clear to me. I was as shocked at hearing that Boyfriend thought X about Y as I would've been if he'd suddenly said the sky was green, or the sun traveled clockwise around the earth. Sometimes I still feel that way about politics -- I have moments when, after cheering a poll that gives my candidate 52% of the vote, I wonder why on earth he doesn't have a bigger margin. What are people thinking? I think to myself. I just have an affinity for the liberal-leaning viewpoint; it's as natural to me as speaking English, as inborn as having hazel eyes. (In my defense, I will add that I don't accept anything blindly -- I do my best to educate myself on the issues, although one could say that my education is limited by the fact that my news comes from NPR, The New Yorker, and The Daily Show.)

So I have to remind myself, quite often, that for 48% (or more) of my fellow citizens, it's the opposite -- that they're drawn to conservative positions not because they wish me ill, or hate bunny rabbits, or insert tinfoil hat conspiracy here, but because they genuinely and instinctively feel that those positions better serve their interests and the interests of the country. We just see things differently, me and them, and that's cool, that's what America is all about.

And honestly, much as I like and admire Obama -- and just a plug here, not that it matters, but I've read part of his book The Audacity of Hope, and not only is he intelligent and articulate, but he seems completely committed to bringing people together, to listening to alternate viewpoints, to working with all sides and compromising to find solutions that benefit the greatest number of people -- much as I like him, as I was saying, I don't have great hopes that the world will change if he gets into office. He'll be inheriting a huge mess, for one thing, and improvement is going to come slowly no matter who's President. I'm not voting for him in hopes of a change in day-to-day living, but in hopes that he'll pave the way for a better world for my kids, eight or twelve years down the line. And also because, having been crushed by the defeat (or, um, theft) of Al Gore's bid in 2000, and depressed by the loss of Kerry (whom I wasn't even crazy about) in 2004, I just kind of feel like it's our turn.

I just can't express how nervous I am about tomorrow, in spite of the polls looking good. I hope, I hope, I hope. And I wish it was over already.

11/2/08

The Princess and the Rock Star





A good time was had by all on Halloween night, except for the handful of hapless children who tripped on the tether cords of our giant blowup pumpkin. The next day, I told Mallory she could have one piece of candy after lunch. She hunted through her bag for, seriously, about twenty minutes. "I just can't decide," she said, "I want something really really delicious." I sympathized. That's exactly how I feel when I go down the cereal aisle. So many choices, you'd think there one be at least one cereal that would jump out at you and make you think, Hey, that is exactly what I want to eat for breakfast tomorrow. That rarely happens, though, so I settle for the same old Rice Chex or Cheerios. Life is hard, isn't it.

Speaking of choices, Mallory asked me today to guess who her new boyfriend is. "Oliver," I said, naming a Hannah Montana character. "Mommy," she said. "I figured out that if I pick a boyfriend, it has to be somebody real," she explained. "I had Drake Bell as my boyfriend all last year and he never showed up! So I'm not going to have any more TV boyfriends." I said that was very wise, and didn't mention my ongoing crush on Daniel Day-Lewis (sorry, Chris).

Two days down!

11/1/08

NaBloPoMo

Or, National Blog Posting Month. A challenge to post once a day every day for the whole month. I'm in.

We should all hope that something interesting happens to me during this month, to make the posts worthwhile.