In pigheadedness and in health

We're sick. Mallory started it; she got the flu and missed an entire week of school. The very day she finally started to feel better, Phoebe succumbed. This weekend, Chris developed something which is not quite the flu, but which involves a terrible cough and a sore throat and other miseries. I don't know if I technically have the flu, but I certainly feel like I've been run over by a large truck. I can't sleep, breathing through my nose seems like a fond, distant memory, and when I lay down it feels like my blood turns to icewater.

Send help! Or sedatives.

What makes things worse is the fact that my children are...difficult. To venture here into a territory that the superstitious wouldn't dare go -- there are, it goes without saying, a whole host of reasons that I hope my kids never get a serious illness, but not least among those reasons is the fact that neither of my children would be, in their illness, raised to the status of a "brave little fighter" or a "dear sweet angel" like the poor sick children described in parent's magazines. No, my children would be the ones the nurses complained about behind our backs.

Mallory, for instance. Come towards Mallory with a syringe full of medicine, and the tears start, accompanied by the questions. "Noooo! What flavor is it? I'm scared! I'm scared it will taste bad! Have I had this flavor before? How old was I? Did I like it? Noooo! I'm scared! Did you have this flavor, when you were little? How old were you? Did it taste bad? Nooo! I'm scaaaared!" One night we spent twenty minutes convincing her to let us give her a squirt of nose spray, so she could, you know, breathe; after much sobbing and fighting and clawing and weeping, she finally consented, and then admitted it wasn't so bad. But! When we brought out the nose spray the next night -- we had the very same twenty minute fight. It makes you just not care if she can breathe or not.

Now that she's better, and has passed her pestilence on to us, she's very concerned about germs. She asked me to wear gloves when I made her lunch. Last night she didn't want me to wash her hair, for fear that I may contaminate her, even though I pointed out that, since I would be washing her hair, my hands would be covered with hot water and shampoo. "Could you wear gloves, too?" she asked.

Phoebe, on the other hand, prefers to deny. The day she fell ill, my mother-in-law saw her droopy eyes and flushed cheeks and said, "Oh, Phoebe, I think you're sick!" Phoebe collapsed into sobs. "I don't want to talk about it!" she cried. Every subsequent inquiry into her health has met the same tearful refusal to discuss it. She is similarly opposed to taking medicine; you should have seen her rage when I produced a jar of Vicks Vap-o-Rub.

My children: Consistently working against their own best interests.

But here's an anecdote that, more than anything else I can think of, sums up my oldest daughter's personality. Mallory has allergies; many mornings, especially in spring and fall, she wakes up with very stuffy nose. On some long ago occasion, someone suggested that it would help her to blow her nose, but this suggestion was met with great resistance. She prefers, instead, to spend about ten disgusting minutes sniffing everything back up into her head.

But the other night, Phoebe asked for a tissue, and blew her nose. Mallory, across the room, said: "Phoebe knows how to blow her nose?"

Because I know my daughter, I knew what was coming. I said, as neutrally as possible, "Yes, she does."

"Well. I know how to blow my nose too!" she said.

"Sure," I said, as if it was of no consequence to me.

Mallory proceeded to fill seven tissues in five minutes of exuberant blowing. She threw the tissues away and climbed into her bunk bed.

"You know," she said, "ever since I was very little, if I had boogers in my nose, I just blow it! Right there into a tissue. It's easy! It makes you feel lots better too."

"Um," I said.

"Everyone should just blow their nose if they need to," she continued. "It's the best thing to do! Just blow it, and you're done!"

Her monologue in support of nose-blowing continued for at least ten minutes before she fell asleep. Now she blows her nose regularly, upon waking and before going to bed.

It occurs to me that if she is not done in by her terrible lying, she will one day make a fine politician.

Yesterday she saw me blow my nose, and gave me an approving nod. "Atta girl, Mom!" she said.



See this? This picture was taken a long time ago. It is a picture of my children all ready to go to school. How I long for those days, when they actually went to school. When they didn't both have the flu, the dreaded, never-ending flu. Thanks a lot, flu!


A penny for them

Chris teaches at a Catholic high school, and Mass attendance is obligatory for him and for his students. Nevertheless, apparently, his students try to wheedle him into letting them skip the services every week. A few weeks ago they were even offering him money -- pulling dollar bills out of their wallets as if this would convince someone who earns a high-paying salary as a Catholic school teacher. (Ha! and Ha! again) One kid took out a dime, rubbed it between his fingers, and said, "Could I interest you in my friend Grover Cleveland here?"

Chris told me this story and we laughed and laughed. "Grover Cleveland!" I snorted.

"I know!" Chris said. "Who doesn't know that it's Teddy Roosevelt on the dime!"

I stopped laughing. "Wait a minute. It's not Teddy Roosevelt."

"It's not?"

"No, of course not."

"Well then who is it, smarty?"

"It's, um," I said. I fished around in our coin jar for a dime. "It's...isn't this...isn't it Lyndon Johnson?"

"Lyndon Johnson? No." He took the dime from me. "It's Franklin Roosevelt, then."

"I don't think that's any kind of Roosevelt."

"Well then..it's Woodrow Wilson, maybe?"

And the lesson of this story is not that Chris was (eventually) correct that FDR is on the dime; it's that you shouldn't laugh too hard at high school students, no matter how dumb you think they are.

Speaking of coins...I read a fascinating article a few months ago about the cost of coin production. Did you know that it takes five cents to make one penny? And ten cents to make one nickel? Doesn't it seem that there's something really wrong with that math? Apparently there's a movement to do away with the penny, although doing away with the nickel would seem to make more fiscal sense. I was startled to find, in my coin jar, about five different versions of the nickel. I somehow missed the news about the "Westward Journey" nickel updates of the past few years. I haven't even kept up with the state quarters. Are those done yet? I have a vague memory of being pleased that the North Carolina quarter came out the same year as Mallory's birth, but I think that's the last time I paid attention. Clearly I'm a bit coinage-oblivious.


25 Things about Phoebe

There's a thing going around facebook lately -- you're supposed to post 25 random things about yourself. I haven't done it, but just for fun, here's 25 random things about Phoebe instead:

  1. Phoebe is exactly the same age today – 3 years, 7 months, 5 days – as Mallory was the day we brought Phoebe home from the hospital.

  2. At that age, Mallory was obsessed with babies (and not just because we were having a new one); Phoebe never has been.

  3. That’s one reason – but not the main reason – why Phoebe will never be a big sister.

  4. Phoebe’s best friend from school is the second-shyest girl in the class (guess who’s the shyest). When they see each other in the morning, they smile, run toward each other, and then stop and avert their eyes for a few seconds before deciding it’s okay to start playing.

  5. When Phoebe gets hurt, she will do everything in her power to not let anyone know about it. She does not want kisses or hugs or, god forbid, band-aids. She’d rather cry to herself and move on.

  6. Phoebe just learned how to ride a tricycle.

  7. Phoebe often tells long, involved stories to herself or to her dolls, and incorporates what’s going on around her into these stories – including once when she tripped going down the stairs. This is what I heard from the kitchen: “…and then it was time for Rainbow and her friends to have a tea party downstairs, so they all packed up to go. It was going to be a nice tea party and –“ [thud] [pause] – “oops, then Rainbow slipped and fell down the steps. But she was okay, so she got up and brushed herself off and went on her way.”

  8. Phoebe is one of the only children in her class who can’t write her own name.

  9. However, she’s tops when it comes to enunciation and reading comprehension.

  10. Phoebe loves to sing and can memorize all the words to a song after hearing it only once or twice.

  11. We have to be very careful not to laugh while she’s singing; this will make her stop.

  12. Nothing makes Phoebe cry more than when her big sister calls her “mean.”

  13. Every morning Phoebe tells me to pick out her clothes, and then tearfully rejects the first three outfits I suggest.

  14. Phoebe is not a morning person.

  15. Phoebe eats almost nothing that isn’t a carbohydrate.

  16. Phoebe often replies to our questions with “Uh, yeah,” delivered with spot-on teenage-level sarcasm.

  17. Phoebe is fond of relating plot points from episodes of Spongebob Squarepants.

  18. When faced with an array of something – crayons, Tinkerbell dolls, princess stickers – Phoebe will ask, “Mommy, which one do you love?”

  19. One strand of hair on the back of Phoebe’s head is prone to curling in a bizarre, cork-screwy way.

  20. Phoebe’s favorite stuffed animal is a little gingerbread girl named “Teddy.”

  21. Phoebe still loves to ride in her stroller.

  22. If Phoebe hears me spell a word with the letter “p” in it, she’ll protest: “No, I start with the letter P!”

  23. Even if she appears to be happily occupied, Phoebe will develop a sudden need to be with me within 20 seconds of my entering the bathroom.

  24. Phoebe shouts out the names of stores as why drive by them: “Target! Petsmart! Applebee’s! Walgreen’s!” Once we pulled up in front of the credit union and she yelled, “It’s…it’s…it’s the…it’s…it’s the BANK!”

  25. Phoebe likes to remind us that her nickname is “Pheebs.” In case we forget, I guess.


Please don't take my sunshine away

A few nights ago, Mallory asked if the sun would ever stop shining. Chris explained that yes, in a million billion years (approximately), the sun would in fact burnt out and do whatever stars do once they burnt out. They talked about this for a few minutes, and then I glanced over and saw Phoebe, quietly sobbing into a pillow.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"I don't want that to happen to the sun!" she cried.

And what do you say to make it better? "It's okay, honey, by the time this happens you'll be long dead anyway?" I just gave her a hug and told her not to worry, that the sun would be fine. Little darling.


Deja Vu

One night, when I was about three years old, my big sister crept into my room. We were both supposed to be asleep. "I need you to go check on Mommy," she said. "I'm afraid she's left us all alone."

"Okay," I said agreeably, not asking why this fear had surfaced. We had never been left all alone before, after all; but I was used to doing what Jana told me to do. So I slid out of bed and padded down the hall. I was probably carrying my beloved doll, Sherry, by the hair. (I often woke up in the middle of the night and cried because I couldn't find Sherry. My mom always came to help me locate her.) I peered around the corner into the living room. My mom was on the couch, watching TV and possibly needlepointing. It might have been Kojak or the Rockford Files on TV. She looked up and saw me.

"What are you doing out of bed?" she asked.

"Um," I said, not knowing exactly what to say. Should I rat out my sister? I decided not to. "I, um, wondered if you were still here."

"Of course I'm still here," she said. "Now go back to bed."

I went back to my room. "Of course she's still here," I told Jana. She said okay. She did not say "thank you." She went back to her bedroom, and I tried to go back to sleep, now vaguely worried about something I'd never worried about before.

Yesterday morning while I was getting dressed, I heard Phoebe calling me from her bedroom. "Mommy! Where are you?"

I was about to answer when I heard Mallory respond: "Phoebe, Mommy left us. She decided she didn't want us anymore and she left."

Phoebe wailed. I went down the hall, half-dressed, to scold the one daughter and comfort the other.

What is it with big sisters?


And more truth on top of that, too

To be completely honest, it drives me just a little bit nuts, having Mallory read aloud to me. She's a good reader, for a 7-year-old, but she has some frustrating traits. For example, she will read words like "discouraged" and "misunderstood" without hesitation, but then she'll stop and need help with words like "what" and "don't." Worse than that, though, is that her comprehension isn't quite up to par, and she'll often stop in the middle of a sentence and ask what's going on, a question that would be easily answered if she would only read the rest of the sentence. "'The polar bear was frightened because' -- why was the polar bear frightened?" she'll ask. And I'll say, "Finish the sentence!" and she'll say, "Mommy, would you just tell me about the polar bear!" and then I'll say something I regret.

When I was a child, I did my daily assigned reading to my young brother and sister, who were apparently delighted to sit and listen. Phoebe, however, and why am I not surprised, is not so accommodating.


More truth

Mallory is supposed to read aloud for 20-30 minutes every day. As Chris and I are working parents, that means we have to try to fit that half-hour of reading between 5:30, when we get home, and 9:00, when the kids (supposedly) go to bed. Along with dinner, and other homework, and bath, and Daisy scouts, and other stuff.

You would think that someone such as myself, who would rather read than do almost anything else in the world, would do everything in my power to foster such a love of reading in my children. You'd think that I'd make reading practice a Very High Priority.

The truth is...some nights, like tonight, I let Mallory play with her little sister instead. She has the rest of her life to be a reader. She only has a few short years to be here at home with Phoebe.

I don't feel the slightest bit of guilt about letting her skip reading practice. I do feel a little bit bad about forging the Reading Log that gets turned into her teacher every month. Let's just hope Mrs. T doesn't know about my blog.


Truth in Advertising

Me: You know what really annoys me?

Chris: What?

Me: I'm reading this magazine about storage solutions, right, about how to organize your closets and whatnot -- but look at the examples they use! All these closets are at least three times as large as ours, all of these kitchens have way more cabinets, all these living rooms have built in bookshelves -- what about getting organized when you have a tiny closet or an inadequate kitchen? What are ordinary people supposed to do?

Chris: Well, it is called Better Homes and Gardens, after all.