My winter coat has these care instructions:

Do not wash.
Do not dry-clean.
Do not spot clean.

It limits the options, rather.

When I was in fourth grade, my older sister asked our parents if she could join 4-H and get a sheep to take care of. I'm sure my parents were as excited about this request as I am when Mallory asks to take karate lessons, or to join a soccer team; the difference is, in this instance, my parents acquiesced. For some reason, it was decided that I, too, should join 4-H and get a sheep. And so it was that for about six months, Jana and I were shepherdesses, or at least, we had to wake up early each morning and feed these sheep, and break the ice on their trough, and we also had to muck out their stalls on the weekend, and we had to encourage them to "exercise" so that they, and we, could fetch a good price at the spring Stock Show. My sheep was of the Suffolk breed, reputed to be the most intelligent of the sheep breeds, so I named him Einstein.

It also happened that when I was in fourth grade, I had a faux rabbit-fur coat, in grey, which I thought was terribly stylish. It was my only outerwear that year, so I wore it anytime I had to go outside - including when I had to go take care of my sheep. Now, in those days, or at least, in my small town, there was no such thing as "before school care" -- if you had to be dropped off at school before school started, you just had to loiter around the schoolyard until the bell rang. If it was bitterly cold, students were allowed in the foyer, but absolutely could not enter the main hallways. So it was that one cold morning I found myself crammed into the foyer, cheek to jowl with my fellow fourth graders, and I noticed a peculiar odor. It was a very barnyard-ish odor. It was -- I realized with mounting horror -- the odor of MY barnyard, emanating from MY coat. My coat smelled like my sheep. I was mortified beyond belief.

And then...



Here's where I admit that this isn't much of a story. Evidently none of my classmates realized that my coat was smelly; no one started calling me Sheep-Dip Krista; no further trauma ensued. Perhaps I went home and said to my mother, Hey mom, my coat smells like sheep poo! and she washed it and all was well. Maybe it warmed up soon afterward and I never had to wear the coat again.



Oh, what happened to the sheep? It dragged me halfway across the arena during judging at the stock show, actually. An older boy grabbed its halter and the judge said to him, "That was very brave of you, son." I had sawdust down my pants. We came in last place. The sheep was purchased for 69 cents a pound. "I guess Einstein will be lamb chops soon," I noted in my diary, without too much sorrow.

The fate of the coat was not recorded.



Best thing about Halloween: Mallow-creme pumpkins

Worst thing about Halloween: Eating far too many mallow-creme pumpkins in a too-short period of time.


Hello there

I haven't posted much lately; I'm saving it all up for NaBloPoMo (or whatever the correct combination of letters is that signifies a vow to post every day) in November.

I give you this, though. Phoebe likes to have a story read to her, and then to read the story back to us, often with hilarious results. Last night I read a Max and Ruby story, "Bunny Party," to her. Her subsequent rendition began:

It was time for Grandma's birthday party and Ruby was setting the table. Max wanted his toys to be invited to the party. "No, Max," Ruby beplied. "Only my toys are invited," she suggested with her mouth open.

And so on to the end. It's awesomeness, as Mallory would suggest.


What's cuter than puppies?

My daughters cuddling puppies, of course!

What's that? Oh - no no, these are not OUR puppies. No no no, although the children certainly wish they did belong to us. No, these are puppies that Auntie Mimi is helping to care for, and that we visited this weekend. The girls, incidentally, have a penchant for naming animals after various food products. Suggested names included Milkshake, Hot Fudge, Vanilla Wafer, Strawberry Cream Puff, and Dark Mint.

They were cute as buttons. However, I for one am glad that our house is puppy-free -- for now, at least.



"Mommy, look!" Mallory said, stopping in the middle of the school parking lot. She was pointing at the front license plate of the car we were passing. "World's Greatest Grandma," it said.

"Do you think it's true that the person who owns this car is the world's greatest grandma?" I asked.

"No," she said.

"Then who is?" I asked.

"Well, there are two," she said. "Grandmom and Mama."

I smiled. And I thought, not quite.

The summer between seventh and eighth grade, my grandma tried to teach me how to sew. Grandma was an excellent seamstress, a talent she passed along to my mother (who made, among other things, all of my and my sisters' prom and wedding dresses) and to my older sister. Grandma was also a Home Economics teacher for many many years, so she had some experience at teaching people to sew.

I, however, was not a willing student. Apart from a vague desire to be able to do everything that Mom and Jana did, I didn't really want to learn how to sew. Precision work of any kind has never been a strong point for me, so the pinning, and the snipping, and the lining up of seams frustrated and bored me in equal measure. The sewing machine was my nemesis, forever thwarting my efforts by running out of thread at the worst possible moments. And that bobbin thing -- how many times did I get the bobbin thread snarled up in horrible tangled knots? Every time I lowered the presser foot, that's how often -- and that's something that I never saw happen to Jana.

I was making a pair of royal blue pants, I recall, with a patch pocket. When I got to the pocket, Grandma explained the steps to take to make it lay correctly -- to mitre it, I think is the term. It involved a lot of pressing things flat, and lining things up, and stitching and lifting and rotating the fabric and oh, I just didn't care. I went through the process with a surly haste. "There," I said when I was done. Grandma inspected it. It was crooked, of course, and one corner wasn't even sewn down properly. "Well, Krista," she said, "it's not perfect." I sighed heavily. "You don't have to take it out," she said. "But like I always told me students -- if you don't at least try to make it right, you'll never be happy with it."

I don't think I ever got that pocket to look right; I don't think I ever wore that pair of pants. But I remember those words, and they apply to a whole lot more than just sewing.

Happy 90th birthday, Grandma. I wish I could be at your party and tell you in person that I'm lucky to have you, and that I do think that you're the greatest. I love you!

I don't think it would be fair if I didn't mention that I also think that my other grandma is the greatest. She is! How lucky I am -- and how lucky my daughters are -- two have two awesome grandmas in our lives? That has to be pretty rare.

Also, happy birthday, Dad! You're also awesome! Especially since you taught me skills that I still use, like cribbage, and how to use an encyclopedia. And someday I'll get around to reading Death Comes for the Archbishop, I promise!


Communicating with extra-terrestrials might be easier

Chris: So how was school today, Mallory?

Mallory: Ooo-kay.

Chris: Good.

Mallory: Dude. Did you notice how I said ooo-kay? That means it wasn’t a good day at all.

Chris: Oh. Sorry. Why wasn’t it a good day?

Mallory: There are three reasons. And the first reason is something that makes ME sad but will probably make YOU happy.

Chris: What?

Mallory: A kitty died.

Chris: What kitty?

Mallory: A kitten that Mimi was taking care of. It died, and you’re probably glad.

Chris: I’m not glad that a kitten died! Why would that make me glad?

Mallory: Dude. You’re allergic to cats, right?

Chris: Well yeah, and that means I don’t want a cat in our house, but it doesn’t mean that I’m happy if one dies.

Mallory: Oh.

Chris: What’s the second reason?

Mallory: [some long story about how some of her friends got in trouble at school for leaving choir practice early, the details of which made no sense at all]

Chris: But you didn’t get in trouble, right?

Mallory: Dude. I would have told you if I got in trouble. I didn’t get in trouble because they were going really fast and I am very, very slow.

Chris: So your lack of speed saved you from getting into trouble?

Mallory: Dude. Yes.

Chris: And the third reason?

Mallory: My best friend is sad because her dad has been gone all week and he won’t be back until Friday.

Chris: Well, it’s Wednesday night, so she should be happy, because the week is almost over.

Mallory: Dude. She was crying.

Chris: Well, I’m sorry.

Mallory: And did you notice? When I say Dude, I mean it with a capital letter. Duh-ude.


Spoke too soon

At the risk of giving my loyal readers a case of whiplash, I have to announce that Mallory DID get back on her bike this weekend, and I DID get some pictures (taken with my cell phone, so they're fuzzy):

She goes very very slowly, and she sometimes needs a push if she's going uphill, and her legs are too long for this particular bike -- but she's riding. (Oh, and yes, she also needs a helmet -- we're taking care of that this week.)

Here is Phoebe on the same Radio Flyer tricycle that her Auntie Mimi and Daddy used to ride:

And here she is whizzing along on the big-girl bike:

Now I want a bike, too!


It was good while it lasted

Yesterday, Mallory fell off her bike and skinned her knee.

Now she says she's never going to ride again.

Guess I won't have a picture for you after all.


Why it's good to have a sister, part 2

When Mallory was 2, we got her a tricycle. She sat down on it and started pushing herself forward with her feet down on the ground. "Use the pedals!" we shouted, which startled her, and she has refused to ride anything with pedals from that day to this.

This is my quintessential Mallory story, and it's pretty much true. When she was four or five, she said that she wanted a bike, that she was finally ready for a bike, so we bought her a bike, and she tried riding it once and declared it too scary. So the bike has been sitting in my in-law's garage for years (they live on a cul-de-sac which is ideal for bike riding; we have a slopey driveway and no sidewalks).

Yesterday when I went to pick the girls up at my in-laws, Phoebe was riding the bike. All by herself. Having a marvelous time. I told her I was proud of her, and Mallory said:

"I want to ride it too!"

So she got on. We had to raise the seat up, and still her legs were a bit too long. But she started to pedal. She's not very good at it yet; she doesn't quite have the knack of standing up slightly on one leg to get started; she doesn't know how to hook her foot behind one pedal to get them aligned. (These are things that, presumably, would come naturally to her now had she learned to ride a trike.) But she did it. And she said:

"This is really fun!"

Thank you, Phoebe, for showing your big sister how to ride a bike.

I wonder what would happen if I could teach Phoebe how to tie her shoes...

(Yes, this post definitely needs a picture. I'll try to get one soon.)


Thoughts, notes

Phoebe uses the wrong pronoun for the female objective case (is that right, Mom?) – instead of saying, “I want to play with her,” she’ll say, “I want to play with she!” I don’t know why I find that adorable, but I do. She also says “Barnacles!” or “Darn its!” (yes, with a plural "its") when she’s frustrated.

I bought Mallory the Wizards of Waverly Place soundtrack (sigh) and she was so excited that she ripped it open, held up the torn cellophane, and said, “Do you know what this is? Crumpled joyousness!”

Re-reading Fatal Vision, and then spending a few hours reading about updates and theories about the case online on Friday night, is not conducive to sleeping well for the rest of the weekend. I was really interested in this case when I was in high school but hadn’t thought about it in many years. It’s much harder to think about – to imagine, to comprehend – now that I’m a parent. Gah. (And yes, I think he did it.)

We’re driving to Dallas this Christmas. I just looked at a map and realized that meant driving through North Carolina AND South Carolina AND Georgia AND Alabama AND Mississippi AND Louisiana AND Texas. That’s a lot of states to drive through. That’s, like, almost one-fifth of ALL the states. (Maybe. Or maybe not. I’m not so good at math. Or geography, apparently.)

I stupidly pulled out a couple of grey hairs right around my widow’s peak, and now, of course, they’re at a different rate of growth than the rest of my bangs, so they stick out and are even more obvious than they would have been had I not plucked them. I’m not aging well.

Mallory wants to have a Build-a-Bear party for her birthday, and I agreed, with the stipulation that she could only invite three friends. Then it struck me what a weird concept this is – buying toys for other children on my daughter’s birthday.

Phoebe told me that I should add some Beatles songs to my ipod. "Which album would you prefer?" I asked. She said, very seriously, "Well, 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' is my favorite song, so it would have to be Sgt Pepper."

Adding broccoli slaw to one’s salad gives it a very satisfying crunch.