Would a thorn by any other name be as prickly?

It all began when Mallory, who had been serenely eating a peach, suddenly threw the fruit down on the counter with a heavy sigh and said, "What's the point of it all, anyway?" and stalked away.

"Pardon?" I said.

She stopped and spun around and grinned. "Oh, nothing. I'm just practicing for when I become famous."

"Ah. Well, right now you are not famous, and right now you are not allowed to fling fruit."

"Someday I'm going to be famous," she said.

"For what?"

"I'm going to be a superstar and be on TV. In fact I want you to take me to the TV place right now so I can have my own show!"

"It's not quite that easy, honey. You can't just demand that they give you your own TV show."

"Well, maybe next year. I'm going to have my own show and be famous and I'm going to call myself Megan O'Connor."

"Why not Mallory K____?"

She gave me an exasperated look. "You can't be famous with a name like that."

"Why not?"

"And anyway, I don't even like the name Mallory. I want to change it."

"Oh, I don't think so."

"Mommy, I do! I've wanted to change it for a long time. I don't want anyone to call me Mallory anymore."

"What do you want to be called instead?"

"Megan! Well, no. Actually, I want to be called by my middle name, Claire."

"Claire is a beautiful name, but I like Mallory even better."

"I don't! I don't like Mallory at all. And Mommy, I've lived with being called Mallory for as long as I can, for at least seven years, and I can't take it anymore."


"Mommy, stop laughing at me, I'm serious!"

"Honey, you can't just change your name when you're seven years old. It would be very confusing for everyone."

"What, do you think I'm dumb, like Patrick from Spongebob? I wouldn't be confused!"

"But all your friends would be, and your teachers, and everyone who's known you all your life. You are Mallory, and that's just how it is."

"But I don't like it. I even made up a song about it!"

"How does the song go?"

She sang: "Claire is a beautiful name...and Mallory isn't."

"That's very concise, at least," I said. "Why don't you like the name Mallory, anyway?"

"It's trashy."

"It's not trashy!"

"I think it is. I want to be called Claire."

"But honey, we chose the name Mallory for you while you were still in my tummy. As soon as you were born, we started calling you Mallory."

"Yeah, that's why I was crying all the time when I was a baby."


"Mommy, stop laughing!"

"I think this is going to have to be something we think over for a while."

"But I'm not going to change my mind. I don't like Mallory. Everyone else in school has a better name than me. I don't know anyone else in the world named Mallory!"

"Yes, because it's a very special name."

"No, because nobody else's parents like it."

"I'm going to change my name too," Phoebe piped up.

"Oh really?" I said.

"Yeah. I'm not going to be Phoebe K____ anymore. I'm going to be Phoebe Fifi!"


So...assuming she seriously keeps asking...should we let her switch to her middle name? What would you do?



Phoebe, being almost four and apparently convinced that she has the power to bend the world to her will, has taken to speaking to us like this:

Phoebe: Mommy, are you going to clean up the house today?

Me: No, I hadn't planned to --

Phoebe: You ARE going to clean! You ARE!


Phoebe: How much longer til we get there, Mommy?

Me: Ten minutes.

Phoebe: No, one minute! I said it's only one minute!


Phoebe: Let's go to Applebee's for dinner tonight!

Me: No, everybody else wants pizza.

Phoebe: No! We are going to Applebee's and you know it! How many times do I have to tell you that?

Mallory, on the other hand, is either being totally literal or totally cryptic. First, the cryptic:

Mallory: I saw a friend of mine at the park today.

Me: Really? Who?

Mallory: HOT.

Me: What?

Mallory: Don't you get it? HOT. You know. HOT.

Me: I don't...oh. You mean your friend Summer?


Mallory: Can I have dessert?

Me: What would you like?

Mallory: Cold. Smooth. Spoon.

It's like playing a continual game of Celebrity Password, only without the fabulous prizes.

Now the literal:

Mallory: You know the new principal of my school?

Me: Yes.

Mallory: She's a doctor.

Me: Well, she has a doctorate.

Mallory: Yeah, that's good. That means that if I fall and get a scrape on the playground, she can help me.

Me: No, she's not a doctor of medicine. She has a PhD. That's a degree you get if you go to school for a long long time and take a lot of exams and write a very long paper called a dissertation.

Mallory: I'll never do that!

Me: Never say never.

Mallory: Ouch. Pencil. Hand.

Me: What?

Mallory: Sore. Arm. Writing.

Me: What are you trying to tell me?

Mallory: Mom. I'll never do that because I don't want to write a long long paper because it would make my hand hurt. Geez. Don't you understand anything?

Confused. Tired. Children.


Pett Peave

I understand why people get vanity license plates, and I even understand the fun of getting a vanity license plate that is kind of hard to decipher, like NVERL8.

I don’t, however, understand vanity plates that are just plain old misspelled. I just saw one at lunchtime and of course now I can’t remember it. But, for example, oh, here’s one I recall: WULFPAC. Now what this is meant to signify is “Wolf Pack” – the NC State team – but WULFPAC is just wrong. No one spells Wolf Pack with a U and no K. It’s obvious that this person wanted “Wolf Pack” on his license plate but it had already been taken, so he settled for WULFPAC instead. But it looks ridiculous. As do, let’s see, TWINMOMM (because who spells Mom with two ms?) and LVHOCKY. You may love hockey, but there is no such thing as hocky.

This is a case where being offered second-best should be grounds for declining altogether. If I had filled out my children’s birth certificates only to be told by the governing authorities that yes, I could name my daughters Mallory and Phoebe, but I’d have to spell their names as Mellorie and Feibie, I would have chosen other names.

Whew. I’m glad I got that off my chest.


Sleep tight

For the past week, and for the first time in their lives, my children have been falling asleep without me in the room with them.

My children are seven-and-a-half and almost four, so I wouldn’t take it amiss if you were to say that this has been a long time coming.

Here’s the thing. Chris snores, which is not his fault, and I am a super-sensitive princess type who cannot handle any kind of noise whilst I try to sleep. So when we moved into our current house I started sleeping in the guest room. Around that time, Mallory, who was about seven months old, suddenly decided to stop sleeping through the night, or to let me return her to her crib after a period of rocking or nursing, so the easiest thing to do – since I had to be up early to get to work – was to just bring her in the guest bed with me. And eventually she stopped sleeping in her crib altogether, and subsequently also rejected the toddler bed we bought as a replacement, so it was the guest bed (the geen bed, she called it, because it usually had green sheets) for her all the way, and I stayed with her every night while she fell asleep and then went to my own bed but usually ended up coming back when Chris’s snoring drove me away sometime in the early hours.

And I realize that at any point during this time I could have put my foot down and found a way to “force” Mallory to sleep in her crib or in her little bed by herself. But this was during my hippie phase, as I call it in my mind – when I was breast-feeding beyond infancy, and using cloth diapers, and so forth, and co-sleeping fell very naturally into this way of life. I read lots of articles about the benefits of “the family bed,” and about how the United States is one of the only countries in the world in which babies are supposed to sleep by themselves, cold and lonely and afraid (not really), in their own rooms. I read that bed-sharing increases the rates of successful breastfeeding and may even reduce the risk of SIDS (although opinions on this vary widely, so please keep in mind that I’m not making any recommendations, standard disclaimer, etc.). I read that sleeping with a parent makes children happier, more secure, and more independent than children who are left to “cry it out” in their cribs. So I felt philosophically comfortable with my sleeping arrangement.

On the other hand, I also knew that I was following the path of least resistance. I did try the “cry it out” approach a couple of times with Mallory, and I always caved. It felt wrong to me. I don’t think I necessarily believe, now, what I read then about psychological damage and breaking the bonds of trust and all that – now that I am almost four years removed from infancy, I am far less judgmental about how other people care for their infants – but I just couldn’t handle it, letting her cry when I knew that what she wanted was ME. Maybe it was because I was a working mom: I couldn’t be there for her when she cried for me during the day, so I just couldn’t bear to let her cry for me at night when I was there.

When I got pregnant with Phoebe, however, it occurred to me that I had a problem. I had pretty much decided to co-sleep with the new baby for the first few months (so much easier, no matter what your philosophy, than getting up and out of bed every hour and a half), but how could I sleep with the new baby and Mallory? Honestly, I can’t even remember what we did the first few months of Phoebe’s life – Phoebe, who turned out to be a terrible sleeper anyway – but I think it involved a complicated nightly ritual of musical beds. Eventually we bought a twin-over-full futon bunk bed, put Mallory on the top and me and Phoebe on the bottom, and that’s how we’ve been sleeping ever since. And every night, I sit in the bedroom with them, reading my book while they go to sleep (and often falling asleep soon after they do).

But things must change, not least because the futon mattress is doing bad things to my neck and shoulders. At some point this summer I’m going to reclaim the guest bed (which is now unhandily located in Chris’s studio, and covered in stuff and dust) and leave the children in their room. (Let it not go unsaid that I would much prefer to be sleeping, you know, actually with my husband. Right now I have no solution to the snoring problem, though. First things first.) But the first step is to get the kids used to falling asleep without me sitting in the room with them.

We began last week, as soon as school was out. I said that they were old to go to bed by themselves, so we were going to do stories and a few minutes of snuggle time and that was it. I said that I had things I needed to do each night that were not getting done, but that Daddy and I would always be either down the hall or just downstairs and they should not worry. I said this was how it was going to be.

There were protests and tears. “I want to come with you when you go downstairs!” Phoebe wept. “What if I see a bug?” Mallory demanded. “I’m scared!” Phoebe howled. And so forth. Once they realized I was serious, Mallory asked if she could sleep on the bottom bunk with Phoebe, so they could keep each other company. I agreed (although this presents a problem when I come in later to go to bed – I have to wake her up and coax her over to and up the bunk bed ladder and it’s comically difficult to do so). It’s been a week now, and they’ve always managed to fall asleep within half an hour, but honestly, that half an hour hasn’t gotten any easier. There are still tears, there are still protests. Phoebe tries to make me promise to “just do one thing, and then come to bed with me!” Mallory announced: “We’ve been talking it over, and we feel that it’s not fair if you leave us in here just to go watch TV or something. We guess it’s okay if you really have to do the dishes or something, but if you’re just going to do something fun, that’s not right.” (My response to this was, “Excuse me, I am the mother. I get to choose what I do when you are in bed, not you.”) I haven’t caved yet, though, I’m sticking to my guns, so I’m hoping that in another week or two, or maybe a month, I’ll be able to kiss them goodnight and walk away without difficulty, just like every other parent in the world.

I brought this on myself, I know. I’m enduring the difficulty and the annoyance now because I wouldn’t do it when they were younger. But I have to say that I don’t regret it. I loved sleeping next to my babies when they were tiny. I never had to get out of bed and go down the hall to check if they were breathing; I just had to reach out my hand. I loved waking up to see a toddler’s smiling face right beside me. My kids are secure and happy and close, and I don’t know if it’s because we shared a room for so long, but I think it can’t have hurt.

And I’m going to miss staying in the room with them at night. That’s when Mallory tells me her secrets, and when Phoebe tells me stories. If I’d started just tucking them in and walking away two years ago, I would’ve missed the greatest conversation ever. I’m afraid about losing a little bit of closeness. But I know we all need for this to happen. And I’m going to love having that extra bit of time for myself.


Consumer Confidence

We told Mallory we would start giving her an allowance if she would perform certain chores every week (which have yet to be determined - I'm such a disorganized housekeeper I can't even think of any chores that I consistently do every week). She asked if she could spend the money on anything she wanted, and I said yes, but that she needed to plan ahead and save up if there was anything special she wanted and so on. She got a gleam in her eye and said: "I know just what I'm going to buy with my first allowance! A new Build-a-Bear, my own computer, and my very own cell-o-phone!"

I think she's going to be a little bit disappointed when she learns the true value of a dollar.


At least one of them was listening

In the midst of a squabble last night, I heard Phoebe say: "Mallowee, remember what Daddy always says? 'You have to be nice to your sister!'"

I have to say that it's awesome that not only did my mom and sister totally understand my concern about Visible Books yesterday, but they also came up with solutions for me. My family is cool. Nerdy, but cool.


A Drawback

I still love my Kindle and never want to be parted from it.

However, it's just the worst thing ever when I download a Kindle book and then end up hating it. When you hate a library book after 50 pages, no big deal -- you just return it. When you hate a book from the bookstore, it's a bummer, but at least you can pass it on to someone who might enjoy it or trade it in at the used bookstore or donate it to Goodwill or even just put it on your bookshelf* to add to the aura of high-brow literacy in your home.

A Kindle book, though -- you can't do anything with it. It just sits there in your account. You can't give it away. You can't trade it for something better. You can't even delete it -- it exists eternally in your Kindle memory, a reminder of the $9.99 that you'll never get back.

Fortunately this has only happened to me twice, in almost six months of Kindle ownership. But it rankles. Oh how it rankles.

*This is how weird I am. In my quest to rearrange my dining room/attic/playroom (which is all of a piece in a way that I don't have time to explain now) I realized that I could, with the purchase of just a few cheap bookshelves, store most of my books up in the attic -- especially since, due to the Kindle, I'm not really buying many actual books lately. But as I realized this, I thought -- But if I don't have any bookshelves downstairs, visitors to my home will assume I don't read. The horror! To be judged a non-reader! I've tried to talk myself out of this ridiculous worry haven't quite gotten there. (Never mind that most of the people who visit my house know me already and therefore know that I like to read, and those who don't know me that well -- why would I care?)

Maybe I should cross-stitch a little sampler and hang it on the wall where the bookshelves used to be: "My books are on my Kindle!" A step too far, perhaps.


Last Day of School Hooray

Well, that seemed to pass in the blink of an eye.

Here's Mallory on her first day of first grade:

Here she is on her last day of first grade:

The finger signifies that she's done with grade one, as she put it.

The uniform that was too short for her on the first day of school was replaced with her current uniform...which became too short for her in, oh, about December, but which I forced her to continue to wear for the rest of the year because those things are expensive and I didn't want to buy another one until I absolutely had to. Clearly I need to buy uniforms two sizes two big at the first of the year, so that there's a chance they'll continue to fit until the end of the year. Sigh.

Here's Phoebe, who decided to be a princess this morning:

"I'm closing my eyes because I'm happy," she explained.

And here are some entries from Mallory's journal. I find it funny that she can spell weekend correctly, but apparently just chooses not to. Most of these entries are true, but there are a few egregious lies, which I leave to you to sort out.

Feb 9: This weckind I wachd a faimaly video. Then I playd outside wene I went outside I saw tow gifts one for me and one for my sister it was a ds!

Feb 23: This weekend I went to my friends house her name is Bailey I had fun. We sang songs like the abcs and im a litel tea pot bofor I left we sang twinkle litel star.

Mar 9: This weekind My Dad and I went to the parck. We playd I spi and I went on the big slide. Then My family and I eat diner at My Gandparints hous.

Mar 16: This weekind I went to Graces birthday party. I made homead play boh. We saw little babby citins.

Mar 23: This weekind I playd outside with My Mommy and my sister. And We made a pickcher. I droe a flower and a rainbow hart. Then We stapeld them in our rooms.

Mar 30: This weekind I went to my freind Grace's party. We went to Kennie's. We jumped on the trampatein. We dived in the fome blocks.

Apr 6: This weekind I got a new white cat shining star. I went on the computer with it. We plad star mackover. We plad name that anamill too. Im so so so happy.

Apr 20: I playd with my frind Baily we playd fashin show. Then we playd bance gemastecks and sing. I won it was grait. Then we went home to eat our dener.

Apr 27: This weekind I went to eat brecktfest with my mama and papa and mis. haga came to. Then my mommy and my mimi went to the girl scout filld trip. We had fun.

May 4: This weekind I went to meet in the street. I went to face painting I got some flowers on my arm. Then I went in the bonce me house. It was fun.

May 11: This weekind I went to the daddy dahgter dance. It was my sissters first time to go. We danced we aet. We got face paintings. My sister got a heart. I got a panda and a penguin.

May 18: This weekend I went to Tiffany's 1rst cumunyn. She wore a butteful whigt dress. We saw her eat the bread. We gave her gefts at the end. We had cake and punch. It was cool.

May 26: This weekind I went to my grandma and grandpa's house to have a memeareall day feast. We had hot dog's and corn and the cobe. For desert we had twenkeis. Then we opend presents. I got a real pet puppy.

Now, seventy-four days of summer! (Yes, she's counted.)



I may have mentioned before that Phoebe is not a morning person. Every morning when I walk into the girls' bedroom and say, "It's time to get up!", she responds with some kind of complaint:

I'm too tiiired to get up


My eyes are burning


My stomach hurts


My legs are cramping

Today, however, she rolled over, sighed heavily, and then said in a pitiful whimper:

But Mommy, my heart is beating!

And was, of course, quite put out when both Mallory and I started to laugh.



This weekend I was, as Chris put it, a whirlwind of toil. I vacuumed, I mopped, I laundered, I swept, I scrubbed, I went to the grocery store. In addition, I took the kids to a carnival and worked on the attic, which is now about 75 percent cleared out, go me! And, most importantly, I found my camera, which had been missing for about a month. Which means that today I'm going to post some pictures.

Chris and the girls before the third annual Daddy-Daughter Dance, the first one Phoebe attended:

Phoebe has a huge quantity of fancy, ribbon-festooned dresses at her disposal, which she insists on wearing when we go to the store or out to the park. Before the dance, however, she pulled the oldest, most faded, most tight across the chest and short at the hem knit sundress out of her drawer and said: "All my other dresses are too itchy -- I want to wear this one." Children. Who can understand them?

It's not likely that the girls will be attending the fourth annual Daddy-Daughter Dance, since this one was, according to Chris, not a success. The building was not air-conditioned, Phoebe was whiny, Mallory only wanted to eat cupcakes.

Mallory did enjoy getting her face painted at the dance. On one cheek, her favorite animal, the panda:

On the other cheek, my favorite animal, the penguin:

Speaking of penguins, in my cleansing of the attic I found a huge box of penguin figurines and collectibles which I had forgotten I owned. I amassed them pre-children, when I actually bought such things for myself, and then never unpacked them when we moved into our house seven years ago. Now I'm wondering what to do with them. I could buy a shelf and display them in the kitchen or dining room, but I don't know if I necessarily want to be the Penguin Lady with a bunch of Penguins everywhere. I don't even remember why I started collecting penguins (although I remain very fond of them). A dilemma.

I did, however, hang these up on the kitchen wall (And yes, I was very excited to have found my camera, so I took lots of pictures this weekend.):

And then there's this:

It's a chicken! Made out of a gourd! I bought it at a craft fair a few weeks ago. I think it's adorable and it looks great with the colors in my kitchen. Bock!

Oh, I made cookies:

I used an Alton Brown recipe and they turned out much better than my cookies usually do. Ever so slightly crispier than I'd prefer, but I think I may have overbaked them a smidge.

What else? Here is Mallory in her Daisy Scout uniform, right before "bridging" to Brownies (this was actually taken by my cell phone camera, hence the fuzziness):

And here is Phoebe in her classroom during a "Moms and Muffins" party:

Perhaps that's it for now. I'm tired from the weekend. Mallory has four more days of school. It's getting very hot outside. But I found my camera!